Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Told you so . . .

Just a little follow up to the "Drugs for Everybody" post. In that post, we talked about an article entitled, Feed brain with pills, published in Newsday, where so-called experts stated that “’[w]e should welcome” the idea of allowing otherwise healthy people to take powerful, psychotropic, Class II narcotics in the hopes of “improving our brain function.” That sentiment appeared in an opinion article published in the journal Nature.

Now, in an article entitled "'Smart Drug' Might Be Addictive, Experts Say," also published in Newsday, it turns out that one of the drugs that the above-noted Nature opinion article was pushing - Provigil (also known by its generic name, Modafinil) - causes "changes in the brain's pleasure center, very much like potentially habit-forming classic stimulants."

The Newsday article goes on to state that "Modafinil once was thought to be safer than conventional stimulants because it was believed that it did not engage the brain's dopamine system, which is linked with addiction. Studies in mice and monkeys have suggested otherwise. The new study [in the Journal of the American Medical Association] is the first human evidence that a typical dose of modafinil affects dopamine as much as a dose of Ritalin, a controlled substance with clear potential for dependence."

"It would be wonderful if one could take a drug and be smarter, faster or have more energy," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who led the study with a team that included several members of Brookhaven National Laboratory. "We currently have nothing that has those benefits without side effects."

But, here's the best part . . .
"One author of [the Nature opinion letter], brain scientist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania, said the new study "goes to show that we need a little caution and a little humility when we're messing around with our brain chemistry."

Really?? Did you just think of that? For how many years have drugs like Ritalin been pushed on our kids, and it's just NOW that you experts think some "caution and humility" are in order?


Monday, March 16, 2009

Heal Thyself!

Came across two interesting articles about "natural cures". The first was a post about vitamin supplements that appear to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

"According to researchers, . . . it may be possible to create a pill that protects against noise-induced and even age-related hearing loss in humans."

My immediate thought was, "Uh-oh. A new med for 'NIHLD' ('noise-induced hearing loss disorder'(not a real disorder, I just made that up (or did I?))).

Cynicism (as one psychologist so eloquently put it, "the world is always warped by the lens we are looking through")? No, there was an earlier article that reported our auditory systems can actually adjust themselves to filter out damaging noises to which they are repeatedly exposed in order to prevent long-term damage. (This, by the way, offers fascinating support for auditory training programs like The Listening Program ()(Yeah, I know it's a plug, but it's a good plug)). Anyway, the article then went on to suggest that this finding would point to new treatments for hearing loss prevention. I expected to then read about auditory training programs, and the like, but no, the excitement was about using this research to create new "MEDICATIONS"!

But, much to my surprise, the "pill" the latest article was talking about was not medication related at all. It was about natural supplements!

"Two studies found that giving supplements containing antioxidants [beta carotene and vitamins C and E] and the mineral magnesium to test animals before they were exposed to a loud noise prevented both temporary and permanent hearing loss.

In the first study, vitamin supplements protected guinea pigs exposed to four hours of 110-decibel noise, similar to levels reached at a rock concert. In the second study, vitamin supplements prevented hearing loss in mice exposed to a single loud noise. . . . Previous research showed that antioxidants can also protect hearing days after exposure to loud noise.

What is appealing about this vitamin 'cocktail' is that previous studies in humans, including those demonstrating successful use of these supplements in protecting eye health, have shown that supplements of these particular vitamins are safe for long-term use,' according to University of Florida researcher Colleen Le Prell, senior author of the studies.


The second article appeared today in Newsday, and was about fighting (dare I say, "curing") peanut allergies. What was done? Under close medical supervision, incredibly minute amounts of peanut/peanut flour were given to allergic children over time [WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME! There's no way to dice a peanut as small as the treatment doses required!]. Eventually, over several years, the children's bodies learned to tolerate peanuts.

So, basically the doctors helped these children's bodies to "heal themselves" without resort to medication.

This, by the way, is what much of the nutrition intervention practiced by our nutrition counselor, Tina Stevens, BS, MS clinical nutrition, is all about (yeah, yeah, another plug. Shoot me.)

Heal the gut, heal the immune system. Strengthen the body, and what was once troublesome may not present trouble anymore.

Of course, because doctors were involved, the peanut treatment gets a neat name: "oral immunotherapy".

I kid you not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How NOT to diagnose ADD

Got a call from a mom the other day. Concerned that her son might have ADD, she brought him to the family pediatrician. However, the doctor said he could not diagnose ADD with certainty. Instead, Mom told me the doctor said, "he would prescribe the ADD medication, and if it worked [?], then they would know for sure her son had ADD."

My jaw dropped into my lap. This is so wrong, that in my humble opinion, it borders on malpractice.

First, how on Earth can you prescribe a powerful, psychotropic drug to a child without having at least a reasonable certainty that the child suffers from the disorder which that drug is supposed to treat? These are serious drugs with serious known side-effects we're talking about!

Imagine fearing you had cancer, and you seek a diagnosis from your doctor. Your doctor says he can't tell for sure whether you have cancer, but, he'll start you on chemotherapy. If it works -- whatever that means -- then you'll know you had cancer.

Sound right to you?

Second, using drugs to diagnose ADD was rejected as an approach over a decade ago! The fact of the matter is, when given in prescription appropriate doses, these drugs have the SAME effect on "normal" folks as they do on those with ADD. Thus, the drugs "work" no matter to whom they are given.

Finally, has this mom's doctor not read anything about these drugs being abused on college campuses by students seeking an edge? If these students are using these drugs to enhance their attention and studying skills, how can you possibly use them as a diagnostic tool?

When did the prescription of these drugs become so commonplace, so automatic, so nonchalant, that we forget that there are dangers attached to the practice? That it is not "normal" to need these drugs? That we are doing no more than putting these poor children into a drug-induced state?

Again, I understand the use of medications. When you've tried everything else, and nothing is working, and you are desperate for your child to have a happy, successful life. I get it. I've been there. I've done that.

But, it is a last resort! One taken after very careful consideration. You would think a doctor would know that.