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drug testing

8/14/14 8:30am

Pennsylvania Parents Outraged Over School Drug Testing

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Students and parents of a Pennsylvania school district are outraged over mandatory drug testing being administered to pre-teens and have recently spoken out to stop it.

The Perry County school district has required drug testing for any student who either drives or participates in an extracurricular school activity. Natalie Cassell, 10, was drug tested three times this past year at Susquenita Middle School because she is part of a leadership club.

"It was just kind of annoying because it was like, 'I already told you I'm not taking drugs,'" she said. "Instead of saying, ‘These activities are fun, you should do them, we need people to join,’ it’s just making people not want to do them."

Her mother, Kristin, was among the parents who spoke out at a recent school board meeting. She said it was "ridiculous" for a 10-year-old to be drug tested and expressed outrage that she wasn't notified when one of the tests took place. School officials said that a nurse is required to inform parents that their child is being drug tested, but doesn't have to wait for them to respond back.

Superintendent Kent Smith justified the testing by saying that drug use increases during middle school years and that the problem is already "prevalent" within the county. A 7-2 vote rejected a proposal to suspend the policy, but the Susquehanna school board president has agreed to revise the policy. Two meetings need to take place before any proposed revisions can be implemented; the next one is scheduled for Sept. 9.

Like it or not, student drug testing is becoming increasingly common across the country. Three Catholic high schools in the Cleveland area announced in April that all students will be required to undergo drug testing starting this fall, while other schools across the state have already implemented similar programs. However, many of the programs have been a bust. Approximately 750 students were tested over the last year at the three public high schools in Edmond, OK, but only eight recorded positive tests.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/14/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 14, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

research study

8/13/14 7:30pm

Italian Research Team Develops New Method For Testing Meth

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Researchers in Italy have succeeded in creating an innovative way for authorities to identify the methamphetamine molecule and accurately detect the presence of the drug.

A team of chemists invented a system that has the capacity to analyze all varieties of methamphetamine formulations, as opposed to a single recipe by focusing on a universal element. Led by Enrico Dalcanale of the University of Parma and Paolo Bergese of the University of Brescia, the Italian research team developed a molecular sensor that responds to the part of the methamphetamine molecule that is common to virtually all formulations of the drug.

Researchers first published this innovative method in the Italian chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie. It was later reported on in Scientific American, where the Italian team explained how their concept ultimately has the ability to remove the difficulties associated with detecting the subtle changes dope cookers are making in methamphetamine formulations. The peculiar recognition ability of the artificial receptor works with precision when combined with suspected meth in water.

Dalcanale described the success of his research team’s discovery. “We have demonstrated that it is possible to build a device which is capable of detecting the entire class of methamphetamines with extremely high selectivity in water.” The core of the sensor consists of a bowl-shaped supramolecular structure that is capable of acting as a host to a variety of guest molecules. X-ray diffraction demonstrated how the new molecular sensor distinctly recognizes a common structure of methamphetamine salts.

Using samples of drugs seized by police on the streets, the system responded to a number of methamphetamine formulations and could respond potentially to cocaine as well. What proved intriguing was the sensor does not react to substances that the drugs are often ‘cut’ with, such as caffeine or sugars or baby laxative. If the new approach to identifying meth is effective, it could be employed to further identify a variety of new synthetic designer drugs where minor molecular modifications are constantly being made to derail police investigations.

Dermot Diamond, director of the National Centre for Sensor Research in Ireland, wondered how effective the Italian teams impressive breakthrough actually will turn out to be in practice. "Detecting illicit drugs and their residues in wastewater is a very challenging proposition for a sensing device of the type they have produced. This is because the complexity of the same, and the range of potential interferents, goes way beyond what the authors have tested."

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By John Lavitt

up in vapor

8/13/14 5:30pm

Toronto Considers Electronic Cigarette Ban

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Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, is moving to ban the use of electronic cigarettes wherever cigarettes are also currently banned. 

“There are possible health risks associated with exposure to second-hand vapor,” wrote McKeown in a report that will be considered by the Board of Health on Monday.

The Toronto Public Health Board report said they reviewed “available evidence on e-cigarette use, safety, health effects, and potential as a cessation aid,” and felt there were concerns on the “impact on youth smoking initiation, and potential to normalize smoking behavior and undermine existing tobacco control legislation.”

To that end, McKeown said that the city should treat electronic cigarette smoking the same as traditional cigarette smoking, meaning no e-cigarettes near buildings, in parks, and restaurant patios.

Not everyone, however, has jumped on board with McKeown's proposed measure. “E-cigarettes produce some odor, but I’m not aware of any noxious effects,” said James Long, an 89 year old clinical forensic psychologist and part-owner of an e-cigarette company.

E-cigarette user Nicole Rogerson understood McKeown's concerns, but wanted lawmakers to believe there aren't health risks associated with secondhand e-smoke. “You’re just giving off the same vapor as clubs use in their smoke machines. I know it’s not unhealthy. It’s not putting any toxins in the air, like smoking a cigarette would.”

Other cities in Ontario have already placed their own bans in place, while the Toronto Transit Commission is considering banning e-cigarette use on its properties in the fall.

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By Bryan Le

about face

8/13/14 3:30pm

Pat Robertson Turns Tail on Legalizing Pot

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It was only two years ago that notorious televangelist Pat Robertson shocked both right and left when he announced his support for the legalization of marijuana.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Robertson said in 2012. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

That echoed similar comments he made in 2010 on his show, The 700 Club, which were largely dismissed by his followers at the time. But Robertson earned new disciples in the form of pro-legalization groups, who hailed the televangelist for saying that "I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up."

But now it appears that Robertson has forsaken pro-weed advocates with a recent condemnation of the legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington.

“The little kids are getting high,” Robertson said on his show this week. “Do you want your little 8th grader to be stoned when he goes to school? Well, welcome to Colorado, where pot is legal.”

He went on to claim that he supported decriminalization, not legalization, even though he was quoted in the New York Times as saying that he "absolutely" supported the ballot measures in Colorado and Washington.

Now, however, he is preaching a different sermon, saying that legalization has led to “the full-scale spread of this stuff, and it is not good for people’s health, it is destroying their minds and it is destroying their lungs and the addiction is pretty heavy.”

Check out Pat Robertson supporting legalization in 2010:

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By Shawn Dwyer

drugs in space

8/13/14 1:00pm

Majority of Sleep-Deprived Astronauts Take Sleeping Pills

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New research published in the Friday edition of The Lancet Neurology has found that NASA astronauts experience a significant decrease in sleep while in space, leading to a majority taking sleeping pills to cope with the problem.

Sleep deprivation is common among astronauts. In space, they are scheduled for 8.5 hours of sleep each “night,” but on average sleep only 5.96 hours on shuttle missions and just minutes more aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

This is a safety concern, said lead author Laura K. Barger, associate physiologist in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, because sleeping less than six hours is associated with performance detriments.

The 10-year study, which was partially funded by NASA, recorded data of over 4,200 sleep episodes in space and over 4,000 nights of sleep on Earth. The sleep problems typically begin before the astronauts even lift off. But once they've landed back on Earth, they tend to sleep more, Barger explained, just like many sleep-deprived workers do on weekends.

To manage their sleep deficiencies, 75% of crew members on space shuttle missions and 25% of crew members aboard the ISS use prescription drugs like Zapelon, also known as Sonata or Andante, and Zolpidem, or Stilnox and Ambien. The study found that either drug was used for more than half of the “nights” on space missions.

Barger warned against the use of sleeping pills in space, saying that the drugs could keep affected astronauts from optimal performance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that “the use of sleeping pills should be avoided by people involved in hazardous occupations requiring complete mental alertness or motor coordination,” which Barger included in her argument.

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By Victoria Kim

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