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Eating Disorders

7/03/12 3:12pm

Kids Battle Eating Disorders Ever-Younger

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Already looking to slim down.
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Parents may want to consider throwing out the bathroom scale, because the number of children suffering from unhealthy body image and eating disorders seems to be increasing. Approximately 80% of all 10-year-old girls have dieted at least once, says shocking new data released by the Keep It Real Campaign, an alliance of groups looking to improve body image issues in young adults. The "Eating Disorders Today—Not Just a Girl Thing" study also found that 53% of 13-year-old girls have issues with how their bodies look, compared to 78% of 17-year-old girls. Between 40 to 60% of children ages 6 to 12 are worried about their weight, and 70% would like to lose some pounds. “It’s bad out there, it’s brutal, it’s hard…[and] we’re seeing it younger and younger,” says Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eat Disorders Association (NEDA). “I’ve seen a girl as young as eight years old on a feeding tube. It’s a serious problem.” In the US, as many as 10 million women and one million men are struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia—and millions more are struggling with a binge eating disorder, claims research by NEDA. “It starts in the home. Magazines are lying around family’s houses…and at newsstands and check-out counters,” says Amy Zucchero, campaign director for Miss Representation. “You can’t go to the grocery store without seeing an altered picture of a woman.” In order to combat these statistics, the Keep It Real Campaign is asking beauty magazines to include at least one unretouched photo in their issues each month. But most importantly, parents should be involved with their children. "Parents need...to encourage healthy relationships with food, and make eating together a time of sharing, not a time of talking about grams or calories," says Grefe. "We come in different shapes and sizes."

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By Chrisanne Grise

Latin America

7/03/12 2:13pm

Colombia Decriminalizes Cocaine and Pot

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Under 20 grams means treatment, not jail.
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Colombia's Constitutional Court has approved the government's plan to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana for personal use. Anyone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or one gram of cocaine may receive physical or psychological treatment, but cannot be detained or prosecuted. The decision represents a shift in direction for Colombian drug policy—and the national perception of drug users—under President Juan Manuel Santos. The ruling also represents the growing trend of a Latin American rejection of US-back drug war. The government in Uruguay is seeking to regulate and sell pot while numerous Central American leaders, including Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, also support the decriminalization of all drugs. Portugal, which decriminalized drug possession in 2001, still stands out as the model for the implementation of such policies.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Corporal Punishment

7/03/12 1:11pm

Can Spanking Lead to Addiction?

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A future addict? Photo via

Spanking, slapping or hitting your kids may increase their risk of developing substance dependence or abuse and other mental disorders in adulthood, according to a recent study from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Researchers noted that the relationship between child abuse and mental disorders in adulthood has been well-established, but the effects of milder forms of punishments—like spanking—have long been disputed. This study, led by Dr. Tracie Afifi, was adjusted so as to exclude any victims of full-blown abuse or neglect—ultimately narrowing down to a pool of 20,607 random participants from a range of backgrounds. Participants were asked: "as a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?" Of the study participants, 5.9% reported physical punishment—they were dispropotionately likely to be black males with a history of family disfunction. The findings revealed that those who had been spanked as a child were at a 59% higher risk of alcohol abuse or dependence, and a 53% higher risk of drug abuse or dependence; they were also at a greater risk for major depression, mania and anxiety and mood disorders. According to Afifi and colleagues, the findings "prove evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is related to mental disorders."

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

drugs at work

7/03/12 12:17pm

A Million UK Workers Test Positive for Drugs

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Some can't wait until happy hour. Photo via

Nearly a million British workers—or one in 30—have tested positive for narcotics, cannabis, opiates, or cocaine while on the job, according to statistics from a UK drug-testing firm. Analysing results from 1.7 million workplace tests conducted over the past five years, researchers noted that the numbers of employees testing positive for drugs rose 50% from 2007-2011. Those most likely to test positive for UK government-defined "Class A" drugs—like heroin, amphetamines, methadone and cocaine—were aged 25-34, not under-25s as might have been expected. Workers were tested across a range of industries including policing, haulage, utilities, retail, occupational health, manufacturing, construction, commerce, and healthcare. A report also highlights recent drug trends—use of Class A drugs, for example, tends to peak years after entering the workplace because these drugs are generally more expensive, and therefore more accessible as a worker's disposable income increases. Researchers hope the report will help employers become more alert about substance abuse in the workplace. "Drug screening programs are a good way of identifying potential drug related issues in the workplace," says Dr. Claire George, who helped direct the study. "The introduction of a balanced policy which includes an employee assistance program providing support and education, as well as drug testing, has been proven to reduce the level of substance misuse in the workplace over time."

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By Valerie Tejeda

Drug Trials

7/03/12 11:13am

OxyContin Study Recruits Children

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Could chewable Oxy be next? Photo via

Purdue Pharma is recruiting more than 150 children, ages six to 16, to participate in a study to see what happens when kids are given its highly addictive painkiller OxyContin. Nevertheless, Purdue spokesman James Heins tells The Fix, "We are not seeking FDA approval for the use of OxyContin to treat children nor are we making a children’s version of the medication. Purdue does not promote OxyContin for use in children or adolescents." Rather, the spokesman said, "The studies are evaluating the safety of OxyContin tablets in these young patients and the way the drug is absorbed, broken down and eliminated to see if there are any significant differences from the way the drug is handled by adults." He added, "Secondarily, we will be studying if the drug works as well for pain relief as it does in adults."

What is the opinion of the medical community regarding this study? Andrew Kolodny, MD, chair of psychiatry at New York City's Maimonides Medical Center and president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, offers his view to The Fix: "If they are testing Oxy on children with a diagnosis of cancer and they are at the end of their life, I don't really have a problem with their study. If on the other hand they are testing Oxy on children with chronic pain, I think that's unethical. We don't have good evidence that putting people with chronic pain on opioids is effective. And with a higher-risk populace like children—if you get addicted to opioids, that could affect the rest of your life."

The driving factor behind Purdue’s pursuit of this Oxy-for-kids test is a potential six-month patent extension on the drug from the FDA, which in recent years has begun offering such extensions as incentive for drug manufacturers to conduct clinical trials on children, a previously neglected area of study. (At present, Purdue’s patent on Oxy is set to expire in April 2013, after which generic versions of the drug would proliferate, undercutting profits on what is the drug company’s top seller, raking in $2.8 billion in revenue last year.) But Dr. Kolodny isn't wholly inclined to believe that Purdue is not also interested in getting permission to market Oxy to children. "They are not the most trustworthy of companies," he says.

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By Hunter R. Slaton

Headlines

7/03/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: July 3, 2012

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President Nieto has vowed to help Mexico.
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By Gabrielle Wuhl

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