The Other Heroin

Maybe it’s first prescribed to you for a bad back. Or maybe your friend had wisdom tooth surgery and had a couple pills left over, giving you one to help you relax. At first, you’re fine with just a pill or two, taking them occasionally on the weekend to celebrate or to help you unwind. Then it becomes a regular thing in the evening after work – just like a glass of wine, right?

But then one isn’t quite doing it for you, you’re starting to lose that blissful initial buzz as your tolerance starts to kick in. So you up it to two. Just two, that’s not bad, right? And then someone tells you – you’re not sure who, or maybe you read it on the internet – that if you crush them up and snort them you can get that quick burst back like you used to have.

Fitter, Happier

Have you ever heard that Radiohead song with the creepy computer voice telling you how to live a “fitter, happier, more productive” life? Regular exercise, not drinking too much, eating well, getting on better with your associates. Sardonic or not, it seems like we’re constantly inundated with recommendations for healthy living: eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day, get 150 minutes of exercise every week, don’t drink more than two glasses of wine a night.

The big question though, is, does anyone actually follow these guidelines?

Beating the poppy seed defense

During my PhD, one of the research projects I was involved in was a relapse prevention study testing individuals who had previously been addicted to alcohol, cocaine or heroin, but were no longer using any drugs.

One participant who took part in the study — I’ll call him Dave — was a young guy who was dependent on alcohol, but swore up and down he had never abused any drugs. Dave was three weeks into the study and doing well, staying abstinent and remaining cheerful and cooperative throughout the sessions. However, one morning when Dave came in and went through his usual drug screen, he tested positive for heroin, something he claimed (and I believed) he had never taken.

A new year brings a new drug law - and the need for a new drug test

One of the biggest stories kicking off this new year is the execution of the Colorado law legalizing marijuana. The historic ruling went into action yesterday to much fanfare, some dubbing the momentous occasion “Green Wednesday”. The day went off without a hitch, with police officers and state officials on-hand to make sure the crowds lining up to be the first to buy bud didn’t get too rowdy. However, one of the biggest controversies stemming from the law is not the purchasing of marijuana itself, but what smokers will do with it when they need to get home.

Keeping hope alive: Brain activity in vegetative state patients

Thirteen year-old Jahi McMath went into Oakland Children’s Hospital on December 9 for a tonsillectomy. Three days later she was declared brain-dead. Severe complications from the surgery resulted in cardiac arrest and the eventual tragic demise of Ms. McMath; and while neurologists and pediatricians at the hospital have declared Jahi brain-dead, her family refuses to accept the doctors’ diagnosis, fighting to keep her on life support.

This heartrending battle between hospital and family is sadly not a new one, and there is often little that can be done to compromise the two sides. However, neuroscientific research in recent years has made substantial developments in more empirically determining if there are still signs of consciousness in vegetative state patients, which can either bring hope to a desperate family, or provide stronger footing for doctors trying to do the more difficult but often more humane thing.

Pop a squat

Today is World Toilet Day!

Seriously.

And toilets these days are big business.

Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced the prize for their highly publicized competition to Reinvent the Toilet, awarding the honor (and $100,000) to a team from the California Institute of Technology for a lavatory that runs on solar power and converts our “contributions” into hydrogen and electricity.