Category Archives: drugs

Marijuana reduces Intelligence Quotient in adolescents

The opium poppy and marijuana have been used for millennia in traditional medicines for the relief of pain and serious illnesses. However, their potential for addiction and the social problems that they cause has led to government regulations that make the possession of these herbal products illegal.  Morphine, which is generally 8 to 14 percent of the dry weight of opium, is a powerful analgesic that is used in modern hospitals to control pain for dying patients and for patients with serious injuries.

Marijuana, a variety of hemp plant, has had a more difficult transition into the modern medicine chest because it is often abused as a recreational drug.  The active components of marijuana are called cannabinoids.  Hashish is produced from Cannabis indica plants that are traditionally cultivated in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.  Cannabidiol (CBD) is a main psychoactive component of hashish.  Marijuana is produced from Cannabis sativa and its main active component is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


Medical cannabis has been documented as an effective treatment for nausea, vomiting, neurogenic pain, glaucoma, and many other conditions.  Cannabidiol has also been found effective at stopping breast cancer from spreading throughout the body.  Several states, like Colorado and Washington, have legalized the purchase and possession of marijuana, but it is still banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Approximately 1100 metric tons of marijuana are smuggled each year from Mexico to supply the recreational drug market, and large quantities are also grown within the United States.  Young people often believe that regular marijuana use is not harmful, and many high school age students use cannabis on a daily basis.  A study at Duke University[1] followed 1037 individuals from age 13, before initiation of cannabis use, to age 38.  Neurophsychological testing found that persistent cannabis use was associated with a broad decline in cognitive function.  Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. The changes were permanent.  Cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users.

Learn more about drug addiction

[1] Madeline H. Meier, et al., Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife, PNAS, October 2, 2012, (109) 40, E2657–E2664, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1206820109


Vitamin E supplements may increase risk of stroke

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient found in spinach, watercress, mustard greens, and many green leafy vegetables. Good sources of Vitamin E are oily plant seeds such as peanuts and sunflower kernels. Vitamin E acts like an antioxidant, and a deficiency of this vitamin causes degeneration of nerve cells and fragility of red blood cells that is generally diagnosed as hemolytic anemia. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for d-alpha-tocopherol, which is the biologically active form of Vitamin E, is 15 mg (22.5 IU) for adolescents and adults.

Many people take Vitamin E supplements because consumption of antioxidant vitamins may reduce the risk of certain cancers.  The supplement are usually sold in capsules of doses of 200, 400 and 1000 IU, but more is not better.  A recent study of 118,765 subjects split relatively evenly between the placebo and vitamin E groups found that overall, supplemental vitamin E had no effect on the risk for total stroke; however, when examining the stroke subtypes, there was a 22 percent increase in risk for hemorrhagic stroke (intracranial bleeding), and a 10 percent decrease in ischemic stroke (blockage of the blood supply by a clot).[1]

It is not necessary to take Vitamin E supplements if you eat a nutritious diet with plenty of leafy greens and some nuts.

Learn more about vitamins

[1] Markus Schürks, et al., Effects of vitamin E on stroke subtypes: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, BMJ 2010; 341:c5702

Dangerous Prescription Drugs

The TV advertisements by lawyers always seem to be at the forefront of news about bad side effects of prescription drugs.  Like buzzards circling over a carcass, lawyers are following the news that the diabetes medicine Avandia was associated with increased risk of heart attacks.  The interesting thing is that drug companies sometimes market drugs which can cause harm to recover their research costs and make a profit.  They figure that by the time the customers and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) find out about the side effects, they will have made a lot of money even if they have to pay some claims for injuries caused by their product.  Many of the late night commercials by lawyers are targeted at the following three drugs.

Avandia (Rosiglitazone) is used along with a diet and exercise program and sometimes with Avandryl and Avandamet to treat type-2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes.  Avandia is made by the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham which found as early as 1999 that the medicine posed risks to the heart, but the information was never made public.  On May 21, 2007, the FDA issued a Safety Alert regarding Avandia.  A study concludes that patients taking Avanida face a 43% increased risk of heart attack, and a 64% increased risk of dying from heart related (cardiovascular) disease, such as congestive heart failure.

Reglan (metoclopramide) is used to relieve heartburn and speed the healing of ulcers and sores in the esophagus (tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) in people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  Reglan is also used to treat nausea and vomiting, and to facilitate gastric emptying in patients with gastroparesis. Another use for Reglan is as a treatment for migraine headaches.  On February 25, 2009, The FDA required the manufacturers of metoclopramide-containing drugs to add a “Black Box” notice warning about an increased risk of the development of Tardive Dyskinesia which is characterized by repetitive, involuntary, purposeless movements such as lip smacking, tongue protrusion, tremors, rapid eye blinking, and seizures.

Accutane (isotretinoin) is used to treat severe acne that has not been helped by other treatments, such as antibiotics.  Isotretinoin is in a class of medications called retinoids. Accutane has been linked to a variety of severe, life-threatening side effects including birth defects, depression, suicide, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.  On June 26, 2009 Roche Holding AG, the manufacturer of Accutane initiated a nationwide recall of the popular medication after stating that they have awarded over $33 million in lawsuits directly related to bowel disease claims.

Before taking any prescription drugs, we should always think very seriously about their side effects and whether we really need the medicines.  It seems that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

Alli diet pills

Orlistat is the active ingredient of alli

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved over-the-counter sale of the diet pill alli for use by overweight adults in conjunction with a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet.  The FDA also recommended that exercise should be part of the program.  The alli diet pill is a reduced strength version of the prescription weight loss drug Xenical, also known by the generic name orlistat.  GlaxoSmithKline, the marketer, claims that “alli helps people lose 50 percent more weight than with diet alone”.

Alli is a lipase inhibitor that works by partially blocking the breakdown and absorption of fat in the intestines.  This means that it also inhibits the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such vitamins A, D, E, and K.  One supplement tablet containing these vitamins should be taken daily, at bedtime, when using alli.  The primary side effects, or treatment effects, of alli are oily, loose stools with excessive flatulence due to unabsorbed fats reaching the large intestine.  Fecal incontinence and frequent or urgent bowel movements are also common.

Although alli appears to be safe for long-term use, most of the weight loss occurs within the first six months of using the drug, and the majority of users regain weight when they discontinue using alli.  The reason for regaining weight is that users depend on the pills and do not learn to reduce their calories sufficiently to maintain a lower body weight.  To lose weight and keep it off permanently, it is necessary to eat smaller portions while maintaining proper nutrition.

Learn more about weight control

Ginkgo Biloba does not improve brain function

Ginkgo biloba

The leaf of the maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, has been used as herbal medicine in China since the fifteenth century. The leaves were traditionally used for benefiting the brain and for treatment of lung disorders. In modern times, Ginkgo biloba is a popular supplement that is widely used for its potential effects on memory and cognition. A standardized extract is widely prescribed for the treatment of a range of conditions including memory and concentration problems, confusion, depression, anxiety, dizziness, tinnitus and headache.

The mechanism of action of Ginkgo is supposed to be due to components that increase blood supply by dilating blood vessels, reducing blood viscosity, and reducing free radicals, but recent studies show that the purported benefits of ginkgo for the brain are exaggerated and cannot be demonstrated scientifically. One study concludes that Ginkgo biloba appears to be safe in use with no excess side effects compared with placebo, but the evidence that Ginkgo has predictable and clinically significant benefit for people with dementia or cognitive impairment is inconsistent and unconvincing.[1] A second study shows that Ginkgo biloba taken at a dose of 120 mg twice a day was not effective in reducing either the overall incidence rate of dementia or Alzheimer disease incidence in elderly individuals with normal cognition or those with mild cognitive impairment.[2]

The good news is that Ginkgo is not harmful. The bad news is that many people have been wasting their money on an ineffective supplement.

The leaves of Ginkgo biloba trees turn bright yellow in the autumn. The trees are popular ornamental trees which are survivors from the days of the dinosaurs.

Here are some puzzles to exercise your mind

[1] Birks J, Grimley Evans J., Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD003120.

[2] DeKosky ST, Williamson JD, Fitzpatrick AL, et al., Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial, JAMA. 2008 Nov 19;300(19):2253-62.

Homeopathic medicine is profitable quackery

Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that treats patients with drug or herbal preparations that are so diluted that the final solution may not contain detectable amounts of the drugs or herbs.  In fact, homeopathic remedies may be so diluted that they are just water.  Clearly, any benefit obtained from such medicines would likely be due to the placebo effect, which is the belief by the patient that he or she will get better.  This belief sometimes has a therapeutic effect.  Homeopathic remedies may be just water, but they can cause harm by preventing a sick person from seeking competent medical advice and being cured by verified conventional treatments.

Homeopathic remedies are a big business.  The market for homeopathic medicines is estimated to be 300 million euros in France, 200 million euros in Germany, over 26 billion Rupees in India, and $200 million Dollars in the United States.

Homeopathic products do not need to be tested for safety or effectiveness, but they must be labeled with a list of ingredients and the conditions for which they are used.  A 1938 law allows drugs listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States to be sold without the validation that governs standard medications.  In essence, homeopathic products are manufactured and distributed without FDA approval.

Some homeopathic products may actually contain harmful substances.  In June 16, 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to stop using and discard three zinc-containing Zicam intranasal products because the products may cause a permanent loss of sense of smell.[1]  The manufacturer of Zicam, Matrixx Initiatives, agreed to pay $12 million dollars in 2006 to settle 340 law suits by consumers who claimed that Zicam had ruined or destroyed their sense of smell.  FDA Inspectors are also investigating other homeopathic products that have caused allergic reactions from impurities introduced during manufacturing.

Just because a product is popular or heavily marketed, it does not mean that it is safe and effective.  Claims for herbal medicines are a big gray area.  There are many herbal medicines whose ingredients have been proven effective.  The antibacterial properties of garlic and the pain relief from chewing leaves of willow, which contain aspirin, have been known for thousands of years.  However, the claims made for many herbal medicines are not likely to be confirmed through research by pharmaceutical companies because there are no profits to be made from natural products that cannot be patented.  A successful economic model for new drugs requires identifying the active compounds in a natural product and then creating synthetic analogues that can be patented.

[1] FDA Warnings on Three Zicam Intranasal Zinc Products [link]

Spam e-mail is financed by illegal drug trade and scams

You probably received an e-mail asking for your help to transfer several million dollars on behalf of the daughter of an important Nigerian head of state.  This is a social engineering scam that takes advantage of your gullibility and greed.

Another message in your mail box probably says that your on-line bank account has been canceled and that you need to verify the account data to restore access.  This type of scam is called “phishing” and it is generally linked to a fake or “spoof” web site designed to steal your account information.  If you fall for the scam, you will become a victim of identity theft and your compromised bank account will be drained.

The majority of spam e-mail in your inbox is most likely about how to get drugs without prescription.  The drugs can be sedatives, diet pills, or medications like Viagra for improved sexual performance.  Here is a small sample of typical junk mail.  Many of the spam e-mails are purposely misspelled to try to avoid spam filters and guarantee that they land in your mailbox.

Woodrow Hanson, Need any of the 3?..ViagraXanax vicodin valium?, 4:01 AM 3KB
Elba Sheridan, Ambien, Soma, Phentermin, and more without a prescription!, 3:58 AM 2KB
Mildred Thorpe, tips that are good for bed, 3:50 AM 2KB
Leroy Rutherford, We have great anti anxiety medications!!, 3:42 AM 3KB
Maria Cunningham, Much bigger, than you used to have it!, 3:35 AM 2KB
Adela Britton, Get all the medications you want online!, 3:15 AM 3KB
Dee Amos, prosolution pill, 3:13 AM 2KB
Joan Carson, good news for the bed, Tue, 7/21/09 3KB
Raymond Rollins, Get Vicodin Online - NoPRESCRIPTION Needed!, Tue, 7/21/09 3KB
Young Spears, Buy Hydrocodone Online from a US Pharmacy, Tue, 7/21/09 3KB
Leigh Trent, Acai Diet, lose weight without impossible diets, Tue, 7/21/09 4KB
Harriett Park, ORder ALL YOUR favorite meds online NO_PRES needed!, Tue, 7/21/09 2KB
Rich A. Robison, great web offer, Tue, 7/21/09 3KB

What is likely to happen if you respond to one of these messages?  One possibility is that you will get bilked.  You send your money to buy some drugs and you never see the drugs or your money.  To whom are you going to complain?  Will you complain to the police or some government agency that you did not get your illegal drugs?  Not very likely.  Another possibility is that your e-mail address is harvested by mass marketers to send you some more spam e-mail.   A third possibility is that the drugs that you get are fake and not what you expected.  The best thing to do is just to delete the junk mail.

The United States is the largest market for illegal drugs in the world.  America’s great hunger for drugs is what keeps the Mexican and Columbian drug cartels in business.  Many of the contacts for the distribution of illegal drugs start through the Internet using spam e-mail.

Learn about Drug Addiction

Nicotine is highly addictive

Today, President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.  The new legislation will put cigarettes under the control of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and will allow regulation of the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products.  The bill is expected to make it harder for minors to start smoking.

Before signing the bill at a White House ceremony, Obama said:

Almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday.  I know — I was one of these teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time.

President Obama has unsuccessfully fought against tobacco addiction.  His wife Michelle has asked him repeatedly to quit, but he has not been able to do it completely.  Obama has tried to quit smoking by chewing Nicorette Gum which contains nicotine.

Although nicotine is highly addictive, there are many social situations and daily rituals that establish Pavlovian reflexes and strengthen the urge to smoke.  Put a cup of coffee in front of a smoker, and immediately they reach for their cigarettes.  The nicotine addiction can be eliminated by gradually decreasing the daily dose, but the psychological factors that make it hard to quit require a radical restructuring of the smoker’s social life.

Learn about the psychological reasons for smoking

Earth Day: Poisons in our environment

The Washington Post reported that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac River are growing eggs, and after six years of searching, scientists still have not found the pollutants that are causing the abnormality.  The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which provides water to over 5 million people in the Washington metropolitan area says that the drinking water is clean, but the WSSC report for 2008 shows detectable levels of Dalapon (less than 1 microgram per liter), and Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (less than 2 micrograms per liter).[1]

Dalapon is a herbicide used to control grasses in a wide variety of crops.   Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) is a commonly used plasticizer in the manufacture of articles made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  DEHP is also used as a hydraulic fluid and as a dielectric fluid in capacitors.

Many organic chemicals mimic the effects of sex-hormones.  DEHP metabolites in the blood of pregnant women have been significantly associated with decreased penis size, shorter anogenital distance, and the incomplete descent of testes in newborn boys.[2]

[1] WSSC Tap Water Analysis – 2008, Potomac Water Filtration Plant

[2] Pelley, Janet (November 2008). “Plasticizer may make boys less masculine“. Environ Sci Technol.

You may be taking steroids and not know it

Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) has admitted that he took performance-enhancing drugs supplied by his cousin.  For  many years, Rodriguez denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but Sports Illustrated reported that he was on a list of 104 players who tested positive during baseball’s 2003 survey.   The New York Yankees star said that he was young and naive when he tested positive in 2003 for Primobolan and testosterone.  At least A-Rod has come clean.  There are many other professional sportsmen who continue to deny that they used drugs even when there is physical evidence that they did.

In today’s world, it is possible to be taking steroids and not realize it.  Many steroidal drugs are sold over the counter without the need of a prescription.  Some drugs such as DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) are sold as “dietary supplements” that may slow aging, although there is no scientific evidence that they do.  DHEA is produced naturally by the adrenal glands and its production decreases with age.  DHEA is metabolized to steroids like androstenediol and androstendione, which can undergo further conversion to produce testosterone and the estrogens estrone and estradiol.

If you watch some late night TV shows, you are bombarded by commercials for male enhancement supplements which include prescription medicines like Viagra or Cialis which are non-steroidal drugs.  There are also many commercials for ExtenZe that can be obtained without a prescription by mail and is promoted as an herbal pill that may increase penis size by 1 to 3 inches in just a few short weeks.  What the commercials do not tell you is that, in addition to some herbs, ExtenZe contains DHEA and Pregnenolone (3B-hydroxypregn-5-en-10-one) both of which are steroidal drugs.

If you consume any pharmaceutical products, nutrition supplements, bodybuilding supplements, or diet aids, you could be taking some steroids without knowing it.