December 4, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009
New research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that ecstasy, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) use increases the risk of developing sleep apnea among healthy young adults.

What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug that causes both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects. It was developed in Germany in the early twentieth century as an appetite suppressant, but today it is consumed for its hallucinogenic and stimulant effects.

Who uses ecstasy?

Most MDMA users are teenagers or young adults. More than 10% of high school seniors have tried MDMA at least once, and more than 2% have used the drug in the past month, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey. MDMA users typically come from middle- and upper-class households. MDMA is inexpensive. The average retail price of an MDMA tablet is between $20 and $30 making it attractive and accessible to younger users.

What are the potential risks of ecstasy use?

The effects produced by consuming MDMA can last for 4 to 6 hours, depending upon the potency of the tablet. Using the drug can cause confusion, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, craving for the drug, and paranoia. Use of the drug also may result in muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, tremors, rapid eye movement, sweating, or chills. People who have circulatory problems or heart disease face particular risks because MDMA can increase heart rate and blood pressure.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Clinically significant levels of sleep apnea are defined as five or more episodes per hour of any type of apnea. There are three distinct forms of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and complex (a combination of central and obstructive). Breathing is interrupted by a lack of respiratory effort in central sleep apnea, while breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort in obstructive sleep apnea. In complex (or "mixed") sleep apnea, there is a transition from central to obstructive features during the events themselves.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious breathing problem that interrupts your sleep. It means you have short pauses in your breathing when you sleep. These breathing pauses – called apneas or apnea events – last for 10 to 30 seconds or longer. People with obstructive sleep apnea can stop breathing dozens or hundreds of times each night.

Obstructive sleep apnea (also called OSA or obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome) stops you from having the restful sleep you need to stay healthy. If it’s not treated, sleep apnea can lead to major health problems, accidents, and early death.

The two main symptoms of sleep apnea are:
  • You’re very sleepy during the day, but you don’t know why.
  • You snore and have pauses in your breathing while sleeping.
Some other signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are:
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You’re irritable.
  • You gasp or choke during sleep.
  • You’re very tired (you have fatigue).
  • You’re depressed.
  • You can’t concentrate.
  • You have morning headaches.
  • You have memory problems/ memory loss.
  • For men: you have impotence (difficulty keeping an erection).
How is Sleep Apnea treated?

The best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (C.P.A.P.). CPAP is the first choice treatment for all mild and moderate sleep apnea. It's the only effective treatment for severe sleep apnea.

If you have mild or moderate sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend one of these alternate treatments instead of CPAP:
  • Making lifestyle changes: losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives
  • Dental appliances
  • Surgery, including tonsillectomy and UPPP (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty)
Sleep apnea can lead to various health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, neurological problems, cognitive deficits, impulsive behaviour and altered brain wave patterns during sleep.

This study included 71 MDMA users that were recruited from newspaper and flyer ads seeking “club drug users”. The MDMA users had all used at least 25 times in their past. This amount appears to be significant enough to cause lasting effects on serotonin levels. Researchers also recruited 62 participants with similar patterns of illegal drug use. All of the volunteers were physically and psychologically healthy and had abstained from using for at least 2 weeks prior to participating in the study.

During the study subjects were hooked up to various machines that measured breathing such as air flow monitors in the nose and mouth and bands around the chest and abdomen.

“The researchers diagnosed sleep apnea by counting the rate of incidences of shallow or suppressed breathing, with mild apnea requiring five to 14 of these incidences, moderate apnea requiring 15 to 29, and severe apnea requiring 30 or more.”

Results of mild sleep apnea were similar in both groups where 15 MDMA users and 13 of the control group were affected. There were 8 MDMA users that had moderate sleep apnea and one had the most severe form of the disorder. Most shocking is that of the 24 with sleep apnea, 22 were 31 years of age or younger. The control group had no participants that fell into the moderate or severe forms of this disorder. In addition, it seems the amount of MDMA use is associated with the severity of sleep apnea as those who had used more in the past had more severe forms of the disorder.

“Though the researchers suspect that the cause for the MDMA users' sleep apnea centers on affected serotonin neurons, the exact mechanism remains a mystery. McCann explains that these neurons appear to help sense blood oxygen levels, control airway opening and generate breathing rhythms. Any of these pathways could be separately influenced by ecstasy use, she says.”

Ecstasy Use May Lead to Sleep Apnea: Illegal 'Club Drug' Poisons Neurons Involved in Control of Breathing during Sleep

Sleep Apnea

Canadian Lung Association

National Drug Intelligence Center


November 13, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009
“It’s called paraskevidekatriaphobia: a morbid or irrational fear of Friday the 13th. It's believed that as many as 25 million Americans will change their behavior today because of superstition: They’ll stay away from shopping malls and won't set foot on airplanes. The cost of all this fear comes close to $800 million per day in lost business, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina.”

The word is derived from three Greek words: paraskevi meaning Friday, dekatrels meaning thirteen and phobia, which means fear. From a mental health perspective, a phobia is an intense irrational fear of objects, events or situations.

Friday the 13th appears to be safer than any other typical Friday according to Dutch researchers with the Center for Insurance Statistics as results show that traffic accidents, fires and thefts seem to be fewer on these superstitious days.

A “Finnish study in 2002 found that women have a 63 percent greater risk of dying in traffic accidents on that date.” It seems the reasoning behind this statistic is that a fear that something bad will happen actually increases the likelihood that a person will crash. The British Medical Journal studied traffic accidents on Friday the 6th versus Friday the 13th and concluded that “The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

University of California Professor David Phillips has found no significant increase in deaths on Friday the 13th when analyzing death certificates. He did, however, notice an increase of deaths among Americans of Japanese and Chinese ancestry on the 4th of every month. The number 4 is considered an unlucky number among the Chinese and Japanese as this number sounds almost exactly like the word death in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese. “Across the United States, he found 13 percent more Asian American cardiac-related deaths on the fourth than expected. In California, where these populations are concentrated, he discovered 27 percent more deaths“.

If anything people should fear those who are superstitious instead of the superstition itself. Results seem to suggest that it might be best to avoid people with paraskevidekatriaphobia as their fear may be the very cause of their own misfortunes.

Should you be afraid of Friday the 13th?

Friday the 13th


November 7, 2009

Saturday, November 07, 2009
The recent tragedy in Fort Hood illustrates the dire need for mental health professionals in the military. “More than two years after the nation's political and military leaders pledged to improve mental-health care, their promises have fallen short at military hospitals around the country, according to mental-health professionals, Army officials, and wounded soldiers and their families.”

This deficiency in staffing escalates all the way the very top where Ellen Embrey can be found temporarily fulfilling the position of assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. Many of her colleagues seem to lack confidence in her ability to improve health care in the military.

In addition, the principal deputy, the deputy for clinical programs and policy, and the chief financial officer post are currently vacant. These vacancies clearly need to be filled as the suicide rate among soldier continues to increase. So far there have been 117 soldiers that have committed suicide this year; already an increase from last year’s total of 103 soldiers.

Despite the clear shortage of appropriate professionals managing the health care in the military, the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, insists that more assistance is being offered than ever before. The problem lies in the way in which this help is communicated to those in need.

“Some 34,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since 2003, according to the Army surgeon general's office.” The amount of attention given to the mental health of soldiers has certainly increased since the Walter Reed scandal, where a series of allegations against the facility had been made because of unsatisfactory conditions and management.

Since then, the number of mental health professionals are said to have increased as well. According to the Washington Post, “200 behavioral-health personnel are deployed in Iraq and 30 in Afghanistan. The military has also hired 250 additional behavioral-health providers and more than 40 marriage and family therapists in recent months. The Army currently has 408 psychiatrists for its force of 545,000 people.” Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the facility that interned Major Nidal Malik Hasan, has increased their staff by 35% since 2007. That being said, do the numbers add up? Is there sufficient mental health staff available to treat 34,000+ soldiers with PTSD, not to mention the soldiers that may be dealing with other types of mental illness?

Due to such a shortage, many patients are stuck with whatever service they can get. Joe Wilson, a former social worker at Walter Reed, claims that soldiers have no choice but to stick with the psychiatrist they’ve been appointed because a switch could only make matters worse by delaying the determination of whether a soldier should remain in the service or not. This could force patients to keep quiet about poor or unsatisfactory service out of fear they may be deployed.

Not only are patient/doctor relationships somewhat of a dilemma, but many soldiers may have no choice but to accept pharmaceutical treatment because of the persistent shortage of mental health professionals available to treat the military. This leaves most soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder to be treated with medication such as sleeping pills and mood-altering drugs instead of one-on-one therapy.
The wife of an amputee soldier recovering at Walter Reed with traumatic brain injury and PTSD said that mental-health services are so uncoordinated and ineffective that the couple decided to pay for private psychotherapy sessions with a civilian provider at $130 an hour.

The couple sought private treatment elsewhere after spending a few minutes with a Walter Reed psychiatrist, who then referred the soldier to a social worker for treatment.

"It was a joke," said the wife, who asked not be identified because her husband, a sergeant, is still recovering at Walter Reed. "She was a lovely person, but we have a serious problem here and she just didn't get it . . . She essentially directed me to a Web site."
Many soldiers with mental illness may feel ignored in comparison to physically wounded soldiers. Sophia Taylor, a patient at Walter Reed that is currently being processed for dishonorable discharge, claims that amputees get treated, but those with mental illness lack appropriate treatment. “I have a lot of respect for them. But I lost my mind, and I couldn't even get a simple 'thank you for your service.' "

At Walter Reed, a palpable strain on mental-health system


October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009
Lead author, Sam Harris, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and co-lead author, Jonas Kaplan, research assistant professor at the USC's Brain and Creativity Institute, performed the first neuroimaging study to systematically compare religious faith with ordinary cognition.

The study has demonstrated that our brains respond differently to religious and nonreligious statements, however the information seems to get processed in the same brain regions. In other words, our judgement on the truthfulness of religious statements occurs within the same brain regions, despite whether we believe or not.

The study included 30 adult subjects, in which half were devout Christians and the remaining half were non-believers. All subjects judged the reliability of religious and non-religious statements while undergoing three functional MRI (fMRI) scans. The statements used were certain to generate agreement in both groups.

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), a brain region said to be involved with reward and judgements of self-relevance, showed increased activity when evaluating statements related to beliefs in God, the Virgin Birth and ordinary facts.

However, religious thought appears to be more associated with areas of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that govern emotion, self-representation and cognitive conflict in both believers and nonbelievers.

Conversely, our thoughts about ordinary facts seem more reliant upon areas associated with memory retrieval. This study helps to illustrate that no matter how much or how often religion is forced upon us, our brains still believe that religion is not based on factual knowledge.

Interestingly, “activity in the brain's anterior cingulate cortex, an area associated with cognitive conflict and uncertainty, suggested that both believers and nonbelievers experienced greater uncertainty when evaluating religious statements.”

This research suggests that one day it may be possible to distinguish religious belief versus disbelief via neuroimaging techniques. “These results may have many areas of application — ranging from the neuropsychology of religion, to the use of 'belief-detection' as a surrogate for 'lie-detection,' to understanding how the practice of science itself, and truth-claims generally, emerge from the biology of the human brain." In addition, this type of research could shed new light on the study of cult behaviours.

Where Religious Belief And Disbelief Meet


September 21, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009
ADHD is an extremely common disorder that is characterized by difficulty paying attention, distractibility and hyperactivity. And some say it's even more common than previously thought. For one, it's now believed to be common in adults - not just children - and that a diagnosis of ADHD doesn't always have all the symptoms commonly associated with it.

That means you don't have to be hyperactive to have ADHD, though what you have would then be characterized by ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, not Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

It turns out there are several types of ADHD each with its own criteria. There's the typical hyperactive form and then the inattentive form, characterized by poor attention. And then there's the combined form, which has both. That puts the total at three, but some have argued for the existence of six different types.

There are good and bad aspects to this wider approach. On the one hand, it means that effected adults will greater understand what's going on in their life and potentially get access to treatment. On the other, it's part of a trend that increasingly makes normal human experiences into mental disorders.

After all, it's only human to occasionally feel restless, unable to focus, or distractible. And despite claims of some ADHD proponents, there's still no real test for ADHD like there is for Diabetes. There are diagnostic lists, but ultimately no black and white physical signs of the condition.

Yet there is research being done into this, and the signs seem to be that there is some evidence on a neural level for ADHD. Importantly, ADHD is genetic, meaning it runs in families.

Treatment for ADHD is no simple matter. Although the medications seem to be safe, they are potent stimulants, all of which have been used as street drug. Adderall, for instance, is also popular as "speed." While medications work most of the time, especially when combined with supportive therapy, it's not clear what that means.

Stimulant medications are, after all, also used by college studies to cram for tests. Some say that they would help anyone focus and be less impulsive. Proponents respond that stimulants seem to have a paradoxical calming effect on people with ADHD. Instead of making them hyperactive and energetic, stimulants might calm them down and help them be focused.

Ultimately, everyone is a little ADD. Just like everyone is occasionally a little depressed, a little anxious. It's when the symptoms are serious that treatment is called for.

By line:
Author David Gurevich is a entrepreneur with a love for biology. You can catch him at his site, Health and Life, a Medical Blog where he talks about subjects like Comparing Zoloft vs Prozac.


August 23, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009
Psychologists at UCLA have concluded, in the August 14th online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that there is a genetic link between sensitivity to physical pain and social rejection. A gene that regulates the mu-opioid receptors in the brain that alleviates physical pain also kills the pain of social rejection.

“Their study indicates that variation in the mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1), often associated with physical pain, is related to how much social pain a person feels in response to social rejection. People with a rare form of the gene are more sensitive to rejection and experience more brain evidence of distress in response to rejection than those with the more common form.”
Researchers examined the responses of 122 participants from self-report surveys on sensitivity to social rejection, after having collected and assessed their saliva to determine which OPRM1 gene they possessed. At the same time, 31 of the participants were examined through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while playing a virtual game of catch. They were told that they were tossing a ball back and forth with 2 other players who were also hooked up on fMRI machines; however the other players were computer generated. Eventually the computer players stopped tossing the ball to the subject.

"What we found is that individuals with the rare form of the OPRM1 gene, who were shown in previous work to be more sensitive to physical pain, also reported higher levels of rejection sensitivity and showed greater activity in social pain–related regions of the brain — the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula — in response to being excluded," said Naomi Eisenberger, co-author and UCLA assistant professor of psychology and director of UCLA's Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory.
Baldwin Way, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar and the lead author, states that the findings of this study suggest that feelings of social rejection may occur in the same neural connections that are alleviated by pain killers such as morphine.

Could such findings help to explain the complexities of addiction and lead to the development of more promising treatment options?

Genetic Link Between Physical Pain And Social Rejection Found


August 4, 2009

Tuesday, August 04, 2009
“Since 2007, the city has quietly arranged airfare or bus tickets – one-way – for 550 homeless families. They have been sent as far away as India, Russia and Peru, although the bulk have been dispatched southward, to Florida and Puerto Rico. Recipients must demonstrate they have a family somewhere that is willing to take them in, and they are free to choose whether they want to participate in the program”. This “Greyhound Therapy” is not new and it is clearly being utilized in many other parts of the world on a smaller scale, but regardless, I simply cannot perceive that the intent is to benefit the homeless.

Besides the fact that homelessness exists in part due globalization, mass immigration, a declining economy and other such issues, an important factor to consider is that many homeless people have existing untreated mental health problems; therefore this solution doesn’t help them to get better and it most certainly maintains the stigma that the homeless and mentally ill are disposable. Instead this approach simply transfers a problem to another city to solve. It seems that the possibility of truly helping the individual is completely overlooked. For instance, with proper medication a schizophrenic could be reintegrated into society as an upstanding citizen.

However, New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg insists that housing the homeless costs far more money than a plane ticket. This may be true, but at what cost to the individual? Bloomberg is taking it even further by imposing a rental fee for some shelter residents and evicting others who disobey the newly implemented shelter rules.

“Recipients must demonstrate they have a family somewhere that is willing to take them in, and they are free to choose whether they want to participate in the program”. Where have these family members been all along that they so eagerly take them in at the call of duty? And, who will judge whether this so-called choice to participate is a well-informed one?

One would expect a better solution from the city that lays claim to the country's first homeless shelter in 1872, the New York City Rescue Mission. Let’s hope for more innovative solutions.

N.Y.'s homeless solution: a one-way ticket


July 12, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009
There was a time in my life when nothing seemed to interest me anymore, when life just did not seem worthwhile. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years, and the pain of the separation made it hard to even get out of bed every morning. That is, until a friend forced me into getting up and jogging with her one morning. I was not at all enthusiastic at first, and went along just to avoid hurting her feelings. But, boy oh boy, a few laps around the park, and I could feel my energy levels soaring and felt as if I had wings and could fly.

Exercise does that to you; it has been proven to get you out of a blue funk, no matter how bad it is. And if you’re wondering why, read on to learn about the connection between physical and mental health:

  • Your endorphin level goes up: When you exercise, both during and after your workout, you feel good because you boost the production of endorphins in your body. Endorphins provide effects similar to that of pleasure-enhancing drugs and act as natural painkillers, and this means that you get a natural and completely healthy high after you’re done exercising.

  • You begin to lose weight and look better: And because we human beings are vain creatures who are obsessed with the way we look, weighing a few pounds less makes us feel good about ourselves. We can fit into clothes that are a size smaller, we can bask in the attention of all the compliments that come our way, and we can take pride in flaunting our new and improved look. This makes us feel immensely better and lifts our mood to new levels of happiness.

  • You become healthier: If you suffer from diseases like hypertension and diabetes, exercise can help keep them in check and make you a healthier person. When you’re physically healthy, your mental health also improves significantly.

  • Your energy levels are boosted: You feel naturally energetic after regular sessions of exercise, and when you don’t feel tired during the day, you don’t tend to nap. You also get more work done and this makes you feel good about yourself. And at the end of the day, the natural tiredness makes you fall asleep immediately and enjoy a good night’s rest, all of which are important for you to be in a good mood when you wake up.

So if you’re looking for a way to beat the blues put on your workout clothes and hit the gym – it’s the best way to get more than one benefit.

This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of pharmacist technician certification at her blog The Pharm Tech Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:


July 2, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada has recently put forth staggering research results revealing that 1 in 25 deaths worldwide are directly linked to alcohol consumption. Furthermore, in Europe, 1 in 10 deaths are directly related to alcohol consumption.

Europeans drink on average 13 drinks per week, North Americans tend to drink about 11 drinks per week, and Canadians drink roughly 9 drinks on any given week. The national average stands at about 7 drinks per week. In the study, 1 drink is equivalent to the alcohol content of 1 beer, 1 glass of wine, or 1 shot of spirits, each of which contain 13.6 grams of pure ethanol.

"Globally, the effect of alcohol on burden of disease is about the same size as that of smoking in 2000, but it is relatively greatest in emerging economies."

This statement begs the question; why do we not see more anti-drinking ads? Society could not be more fully aware of the devastating affects of smoking, but drinking, the socially acceptable habit, takes far less slander. Research such as this could be used to inform the public of the dangers of repeated excessive alcohol consumption.

That being said, it seems difficult to comprehend the rates of disease worsened by alcohol consumption without knowing the quality of health care among the countries being compared.

“CAMH's Dr Jürgen Rehm and his colleagues found that alcohol-attributable disorders are among the most disabling disease categories within the global burden of disease, especially for men. And in contrast to other traditional risk factors for disease, the burden attributable to alcohol lies more with younger people than with the older population.”

Clearly, knowledge gained from this research should be targeted toward the younger population since they typically make up the highest portion of drinkers. This kind of research can have powerful effects on society through various avenues that may indirectly reduce such statistics. For example, recent changes to Ontario’s drinking and driving laws ensure that a mere .05 blood alcohol level will get your licence suspended. Research, such as this, could be put to good use to help treat and prevent social and economic crises.

Personally, these statistics would be much more powerful if mental illness and concurrent substance abuse disorder had been examined separately in relation to alcohol consumption on burden of disease.

One In 25 Deaths Worldwide Attributable To Alcohol


June 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
With all of the check-ups, pills, exercise and dieting that we do in the name of protecting our health, it might seem confusing that something as easy and enjoyable as hanging out with friends and family is also good for us. But researchers believe that for teens, adults and senior citizens, regular social interaction is crucial for preserving mental health. Here's why:

1. Reduces stress: It sounds simple, but getting face time with friends and family reduces stress, which is good for your mental and emotional well-being. Whether you're ranting about work, getting perspective on a personal problem you have, or just tuning out all of the things that make you stressed or worried on a regular basis, time spent with friends and peers helps relieve tension and boosts your mood.

2. It helps you feel connected: If you're out at parties, restaurants, clubs and other social events, you're more likely to feel connected and like you're contributing to the greater community. This sense of self is important when evaluating risk factors for depression and even adopting a healthier lifestyle overall.

3. It strengthens your immune system: People who have a strong base of meaningful relationships are generally more happy, and that means a more sufficient immune system. Sad and lonely people, conversely, generally show signs of a weaker immune system.

4. Longer life: Those who have both a broad social circle and frequently spend time with lots of different kinds of people as well as a close confidant or spouse are likely to live longer than those who have no one to care for them or even interest them.

5. Socializing regulates your vitals: Studies have shown that seniors who socialize regularly have lower cholesterol and more stable blood pressure.

This evidence should help you feel better about managing stress and taking time to enjoy life, especially as you age. Isolation doesn't just equal boredom: it can also mean lower self esteem, which translates into higher stress, loneliness, depression, poor physical health and cognitive decline. Make a point to join clubs, attend church or spiritual events, exercise with a group, or just meet a friend for coffee a couple of times a week. You'll thank yourself for it.

This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the masters of healthcare degrees. She welcomes your feedback at MeredithWalker1983 at


June 2, 2009

Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Former MP John Reynolds believes that Canada should start medicating addicts with prescription heroin; in the same manner it would any other health condition that is controlled with medication. Clearly, convincing Canadians of this presumption will not be an easy feat as addiction is hardly comparable to conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.

“Mr. Reynolds, a member of the InnerChange Foundation in Vancouver, applauded the research arm of Health Canada for financing the Study to Assess Longer-term Opioid Medication Effectiveness (SALOME), which will offer heroin and a legal substitute, Hydromorphone.”

And…“In a secondary phase, some of the 200 addicts who will be recruited to the program will be offered heroin in a pill form - another way of reducing the stigma and health risks associated with injecting drugs.”

"We really hope with SALOME that, if we can show (Hydromorphone) is as effective, there will be so many fewer obstacles to treatment - because it is not called heroin."

Surely society can perceive the benefits for the addict and the community as a whole; however the pill is not the answer. The addict no longer has to commit crimes and suffer various traumas associated with obtaining drugs. The addict can be slowly weaned off drugs in a more controlled manner with the assistance of health professionals in order to ease themselves into proper treatment. The addict would have much needed support during the path to recovery.

No one can deny these benefits; however is the main objective here not to make drug use safer and reduce crime? Many people, including addicts, will view this method as replacing one drug with another, therefore maintaining psychological dependence. In addition, side effects and withdrawal symptoms are not all that unlike those of heroin, morphine or other opiods. Although studies have shown that Hydromorphone can be more successful than methadone, the latter has also not proven to be the much needed solution for many addicts.

I must say that I’m not sold on the idea that addiction is merely a physical condition needing medication, Mr. Reynolds. Recovery requires treatment of both physical and psychological aspects, especially when addiction is so often combined with other mental health conditions.

Prescribe heroin to addicts, former Tory MP says


May 31, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) has designed a pair of goggles that deliver blue light directly into the eyes. This new device is said to improve the quality of sleep for older adults. Many elderly suffer from serious sleep disturbances often times as a result of changes to their circadian rhythm. In brief, the circadian rhythm refers to the body’s 24 hour sleep/wake cycle, which relates to one’s exposure to light and shifts in hormone levels.

Many recent studies over the past few years have demonstrated the effectiveness of blue light in stimulating the circadian system. All types of light travel through the retina to the circadian clock in the brain. Unfortunately, several changes to the eyes and brain as well as lifestyle adjustments come with age, which can seriously impact the amount of light stimulus reaching the retina, therefore affecting the circadian clock. In addition, our lenses thicken and our pupils shrink with age, hence further reducing the amount of light that can pass through the retina.

Furthermore, the elderly may suffer from mental health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that require even more light to keep the circadian rhythm in tact because of weaker neural connections in the brain. Less time spent outdoors also reduces the amount of daylight taken in preventing a good night’s sleep.

“The device was worn by eleven subjects between the ages of 51 and 80 years of age. Each subject was exposed to two levels of blue light (about 50 lux and 10 lux) from the personal light-treatment device for 90 minutes on two separate nights. Blood and saliva samples were collected at prescribed times to assess levels of nocturnal melatonin, a hormone used as a marker for the circadian clock, with high levels at night when a person is in a dark environment and low levels during the day."

The light-induced nocturnal melatonin was suppressed by about 35% with low levels of light exposure and about 60 percent with high levels of light after only one hour of wearing the glasses. Nocturnal melatonin appeared to be more rapidly suppressed and sustained with higher levels of blue light.

The study provides hope that a practical, comfortable, and effective solution may soon be available for those suffering from circadian sleep disorders.

Light-treatment Device To Improve Sleep Quality In The Elderly


May 10, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009
Kaspar is a child-sized humanoid robot, developed by the Adaptive Systems research group at the University of Hertfordshire, that assists in cognitive development research. KASPAR stands for Kinesics And Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics.

Currently Kaspar’s purpose is to encourage and instil appropriate social interaction skills in children with autism. In due time, Kaspar will be covered with a high tech roboskin developed by Dr Daniel Polani. This artificial skin will be embedded with tactile sensors that can provide feedback to autistic children as they interact with the robot.

“The goal is to make the robot able to respond to different styles of how the children play with Kaspar in order to help the children to develop ‘socially appropriate’ playful interaction (e.g. not too aggressive) when interacting with the robot and other people.”

What is autism?

Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.

What are the common types of treatment?

Occupational therapy helps improve independent function and teaches basic skills (e.g., buttoning a shirt, bathing).

Physical therapy involves using exercise and other physical measures (e.g., massage, heat) to help patients control body movements.

Applied behavior analysis is based on the theory that rewarded behavior is more likely to be repeated than behavior that is ignored.

Sensory integration therapy is a type of behavior modification that focuses on helping autistic patients cope with sensory stimulation.

Play therapy is a type of behavior modification that is used to improve emotional development, which in turn, improves social skills and learning.

Social stories are designed to help autistic patients understand the feelings, ideas, and points of view of others, or to suggest an alternate response to a particular situation.

Speech therapy may be used to help patients gain the ability to speak.

Picture exchange communication systems (PECS) enable autistic patients to communicate using pictures that represent ideas, activities, or items.

New Robot With Artificial Skin To Improve Human Communication

Other Sources:


April 26, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009
Mental Health Blog is proud to announce the launch of a new Psychology and Mental Health Forum called The aim of this forum is to share information, generate discussion and foster support with anyone interested in mental health and psychology.


April 25, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009
Walnuts are said to be rich in fiber, vitamin B, magnesium, and antioxidants such as Vitamin E. They are also loaded with more omega 3 fatty acids than any other types of nuts. Omega 3 fatty acid has been shown to lower cholesterol. In addition, walnuts assist in reducing the risk of heart disease by improving elasticity of blood vessels and reducing plaque accumulation.

Furthermore, the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts has conducted a study observing
the effects of walnut consumption on behavioural and motor skills.

Our brain ages with us and as such, changes occur that alter or impair neurons in our brain. The synaptic connections in the brain can become weak or change entirely altering the functions of relative connections. Increased oxidative damage to neural tissue also alters the way in which our brain functions. In the study, aged rodents displayed these types of changes behaviorally through impairments in performance on age-related tasks such as balance, coordination, and spatial working memory.

The study consisted of 4 distinct groups of aged rats of similar weight. The diet of the first group of rats consisted of a chow mix containing 2% walnuts, the second 6%, third 9% and fourth 0%. The rats were then subjected to a battery of memory and motor tests. In comparison, the group that ingested 6% walnut in their chow mix would be equivalent to a human eating 1 ounce or 7 to 9 walnuts per day.

“The study found that in aged rats, the diets containing 2 percent or 6 percent walnuts were able to improve age-related motor and cognitive shortfalls, while the 9 percent walnut diet impaired reference memory.”

It seems that a healthy diet and 7 to 9 walnuts per day could be beneficial in reducing the effects of aging on motor and behaviour skills.

Health Benefits of Walnuts
Adding Walnuts To Good Diet May Help Older People Improve Motor And Behavioral Skills


April 8, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Wise men tell you that it’s not good to let stress affect you, but there are times when you’re caught in a Catch 22 situation that puts you between the devil and the deep sea. You’re in a bind no matter which way you turn, like when you love your job but can’t stand your boss. You can’t quit because the pay’s good and because you really enjoy what you do, but it’s getting harder by the day to avoid the stress that your boss is causing by constantly looking over your shoulders, finding fault with you or waiting to do so, and belittling you at every chance he/she gets.

This and other similar situations can really play havoc with your mental health, and you find yourself getting angry for no reason at all, taking out your frustrations on other people and other situations, and building up your blood pressure in the process. If there are stressful situations that you can’t beat, you must find a way around them, with subtle nudges rather than brute force. And to do that, you need to learn how to:

  • Focus on the good parts: It’s always better to perceive the glass as half full rather than half empty. When you take an optimistic view and focus on all that’s good in your life, you don’t feel the effects of stress all that much. If your boss is the problem, do all it takes to shut him out mentally and concentrate instead on getting your work done. This way, you’re in a better frame of mind at the end of each day.

  • Keep yourself busy: When you have something to do all the time, you don’t let mental stress and anxiety get to you. You have less time to sit and brood over all that you think is wrong with your life. Besides, when you keep yourself busy, you feel a sort of achievement at the end of the day, an emotion that makes you feel good about yourself.

  • Do something you love: If you’re really stressed out, get out and do something you really love but have very little time for. It could be your treat to yourself. The only thing you have to remember is that this little treat shouldn’t be something that will end up making you feel worse once you’re finished doing it. If so, it’s back to square one all over again.

  • Sweat it out: There’s nothing like exercise to help you chase the blues away. You could hit the gym or take up a sport; either way, you’re going to feel great, lose weight, and get fitter in the process. Exercise helps you feel better when you’re down; it gives you enough energy to sustain you throughout the day; and it makes you feel good about yourself. So make some time to sweat it out every day or at least thrice a week.

Mental health is extremely important, because without it, we are nobody. And it’s up to us to keep ourselves in a positive frame of mind so that we’re able to tackle all that life throws at us, no matter what the circumstances.


This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of MRI technologist schools at her blog MRI Tech's Health Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:


March 30, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009
New research published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that action-based video games can improve vision. It is believed that human’s visual acuity cannot be improved significantly to differentiate among shades of gray. However, Professor Daphne Bavelier, of the University of Rochester, has shown that with much practice video games packed with action can improve this ability by up to 58 percent. This type of improvement is typically only seen with corrective lenses.

These action games appear to facilitate the processing of visual information and with practice visual improvements can be maintained for many months without continued gaming. Bavelier claims that playing action games can reduce visual crowding, which is the main factor restraining visual perception.

The study observed the contrast sensitivity of 22 students separated into two groups. The first group played 50 hours of Unreal Tournament 2004 and Call of Duty over 9 weeks, whereas the second group played 50 hours of Sims 2 over 9 weeks. Although Sims 2 is quite visual, it lacks the visual-motor coordination. Results showed a 43% improvement in differentiating shades of gray for those in the first group who played the action packed video games, while those who played Sims 2 showed no improvement at all.

"When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it, and we've seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over."

Video gaming has certainly taken its share of grief over the years. Research typically points toward the negative aspects of gaming such as photosensitive epilepsy, headaches, hallucinations, nerve and muscle damages, social problems, behaviour problems etc.; however the multi-million dollar industry has evolved to work against such claims and provide more therapeutic games that aim to rehabilitate and improve physical and mental abilities. Could the use of action-based video games be yet another therapeutic tool? A tool that can correct vision without the use of glasses?

Action Video Games Improve Vision, New Research Shows


March 14, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009
Imagine a home that turned its lights on or off when needed, turned taps off when left on, warned you that appliances were not shut off or remained hot, or one that encouraged you to go back to bed at night if you were caught wandering the house. Believe it or not, the University of Bath has developed this futuristic ‘smart home’, which uses cutting edge sensor, electronics and IT capabilities to revolutionize the lives of dementia sufferers.

Two nursing homes in the UK are currently using this new technology and have been for a year with great success. These trial homes will provide the necessary insight required for the conversion of regular homes to smart homes for those living on their own with dementia.

Professor Roger Orpwood, the lead scientist behind the systems' development, assures the public that this new technology seeks to solve unique problems affecting people in a way that empowers and enables them to maintain control of their own lives rather than taking away individual control.

An easy to use ‘plug in and use’ type of device will certainly prevent excessive feelings of helplessness and improve the quality of life for those living with dementia by allowing them to remain more independent. In addition, monitoring normally performed by family members will be taken over by this new system. Consequently, the extra burden on family members will be replaced with feelings of security. As well, the costs of homecare will be vastly reduced.

“The key will be to tailor them to individual requirements and ensure that they act as much like a live-in carer as possible. For example, voice-prompts can utilise the voices of relatives or friends to deliver reassuring messages, as well as to influence behaviour. The systems are also designed to be monitored remotely via computer by healthcare professionals” says Professor Orpwood.

These high tech renovations sound like a dream come true for people living with dementia, but how much could this dream home cost? Expense is an important factor as people tend to be surviving on limited income at the age where dementia typically sets in. Additionally, let’s hope this system can be transferred effortlessly to a new home since many elderly people, although independent; prefer the comforts of a condo to a large home. Nevertheless, the benefits seem far greater than any downfall or limitation of this new invention.

New 'Smart' Homes For Dementia Sufferers


March 9, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009
The Institute of Psychiatry and the University of Nottingham has demonstrated, through MRI, that stroke damaged brain tissue can be rejuvenated in only 7 days simply by inserting a tiny scaffolding with stem cells connected to it into the brain.

Existing research suggests that stem cells tend to latch onto healthy brain tissue all the while leaving a void where the stroke damage occurred. Basically, this newly discovered technique allows the stem cells to fill the void where it could not before.

“Using individual particles of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA that have been loaded with neural stem cells, the team of scientists have filled stroke cavities with stem cells on a ready-made support structure.” This process ensures that the support structure latches on to the surrounding health tissue in order to repair stroke damaged area.

As a result, within only days the cells can travel from the scaffold to form new brain tissue that very quickly adapts with the existing brain tissue. Over only a short time, the particles of the scaffolding biodegrade leaving space for more tissue, fibers and blood vessels to fill the gaps and repair the damaged area.

This research demonstrates yet again the miracles stem cells can produce. From improving the quality of life for stroke victims, to enormous savings in disability related costs, to a release of strain on the health care system, to relieving family member responsibilities who are coping with stroke, to saving lives. The benefits of this research are endless and immeasurable.

  • A stroke is a brain attack. It occurs when a blood clot interrupts blood flow to the brain, or when a blood vessel ruptures. Cells in and around the stroke site become damaged and begin to die. Part of the brain stops working as a result.

  • Stroke is the No. 1 cause of adult disability in Canada and the third leading cause of death.

  • In the United States, stroke kills over 150,000 people a year. That’s about 1 of every 16 deaths. It’s the No. 3 cause of death behind diseases of the heart and cancer.

  • About 700,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds.

  • Fifty thousand Canadians suffer from a stroke every year - one person every 10 minutes - and the incidence is increasing with Canada's aging population.

  • In the United States, about every 3 minutes, someone dies of stroke.

  • Of every 5 people who die from stroke in the United States, about 2 are men and 3 are women.

  • Stroke can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Approximately 300,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke.

  • For every 100,000 persons in the United States in 2004, about 50 people died of stroke. This is the age adjusted stroke death rate for the total population.

  • In Canada, one in five people who survive a stroke are at risk of another stroke or a heart attack within two years. And, after age 55, the risk of stroke doubles every 10 years.

  • Fewer than 50 per cent of stroke survivors return to work in Canada, leaving families with care giving responsibilities and the additional burden of lost income.

  • In adults, stroke is associated with risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure.

  • Americans paid about $63 billion in 2007 for stroke-related medical costs and disability.

Stem Cells Replace Stroke-damaged Tissue In Rats
Stroke Recovery Canada
American Heart Association


February 25, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Psychologist, Aric Sigman suggests that the use of social networking sites as opposed to face-to-face interaction could lead to major health problems. Dr. Sigman claimed in the British Journal, The Biologist, that spending too much time online could lead to social isolation, loneliness and a negative outlook. These types of psychological symptoms could eventually lead to more serious health concerns, such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.

Time that was previously spent interacting socially has increasingly been displaced by the virtual variety,” Sigman said in his article. “While the precise mechanisms underlying the association between social connection, morbidity and morality continue to be investigated, it is clear that this is a growing public health issue for all industrialized countries.

Internet psychology expert, Andrew Dillon, clearly believes that this is yet another new tool that is being used to create panic and predict the burden it may have on society; much like the criticism television has received over the years. Dillon attacks Sigman’s credibility and scientific methods, claiming that too much weight has been placed on evidence supporting his views, while purposely excluding information that might not support his claims. Of course, conclusions should always be drawn based on all evidence, for and against, however, if more evidence exists for a claim would one not be inclined to believe it?

I’m not sure where to stand in this debate, but I do know that I haven’t much faith in what Andrew Dillon has to offer after watching this video. He seems quick to criticize and incapable of supporting his own claims.

Sure, it seems plausible that in this day and age, people are spending more time online than in person and this could negatively impact our physical and mental health, but I would certainly need more convincing research to buy into the fact that it could lead to dementia or cancer.

Many studies exist that link internet use to mental health issues.
“After 1 to 2 years, increased use of the Internet was associated with decreased family communication and reduced size of local social circle. In addition, the participants experienced increased loneliness and depression. Increases in loneliness and decreases in social support were particularly pronounced for the youth.”

Conversely, there’s evidence suggesting that social networking online may have no effect and may even benefit individuals:
“The results show that the Internet was adopted sooner by individuals with high financial, human and social capital. Furthermore, the results suggest that Internet use is not associated with a reduction in respondents' networks or with the time they spent socializing with friends. Instead the findings suggest that the time users devote to the Internet is taken away from the time they spend on watching television.”

Despite the controversy, there is obviously a clear distinction between virtual and reality, but there is no conclusive evidence that suggests Facebook is neither harmful nor beneficial to one’s mental health at this point in time. I suppose, my humble opinion would be like anything else; all things in moderation.

An overview of Dr. Sigman’s findings can be read here.

Psychologist alleges that too much time online causes major health risks
Social Capital and the Internet: Evidence from Swiss Panel Data
The Relationship Of Internet Use To Depression And Social Isolation Among Adolescents


February 20, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009
The current issue of The Journal of Pain has published a guideline to assist clinicians in prescribing opioid pain medications for patients experiencing chronic non-cancer pain.

“To create this guideline, researchers in the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) at Oregon Health & Science University collaborated with the APS and AAPM for two years, reviewing more than 8,000 published abstracts and nonpublished studies to assess clinical evidence on which the new recommendations are based”.

An extensive literature review revealed that much research is needed in this area; however conclusive evidence suggests that opioids are safe and effective for certain patients, if carefully monitored.

The guideline consists of 25 recommendations, some of which consider the growing concerns for opioid abuse and addiction. Opioids, such as oxycontin and morphine, have gradually become more commonly prescribed and accepted for treating various sorts of pain, including chronic low-back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc., whereas previously opioids were mainly used for treating pain related to post-op, cancer and death.

This new guideline insists that clinicians rule out other possible medications as treatment options before prescribing opioids. However, if it is determined that opioid medication is the ideal choice, clinicians are expected to “conduct a thorough medical history and examination and assess potential risk for substance abuse, misuse or addiction”.

It is shocking to learn that this hasn’t already been considered common practice and that a guideline had to be introduced in order to put this in place! It’s no wonder there has been such an increase in opioid abuse and misuse. Seriously, is this not a typical task for a medical doctor? It seems like a fairly important step in any type of treatment.

Subsequently, with this guideline it will ensure that clinicians “continuously assess patients on chronic opioid therapy by monitoring pain intensity, level of functioning and adherence to prescribed treatments. Periodic drug screens should be ordered for patients at risk for aberrant drug behavior”.

The American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine have ensured that patients will be well monitored. To read more about other recommendations in this guideline regarding such topics as methadone use, high dosages, abusers, pregnancy, driving safety, and more, please view the following article: New Guideline For Prescribing Opioid Pain Drugs.


February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The University of Georgia has published a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology explaining that supportive parenting can actually counteract the effects of a genetic risk factor that increases the likelihood of substance use among youth. This long-term study examined how nature and nurture can influence the behaviour of youth with a genetic predisposition for substance abuse. “We found that involved and supportive parenting can completely override the effects of a genetic risk for substance abuse,” claims Professor Gene Brody.

The research focused on the 5HTT gene that transports serotonin in the brain. According to many studies, most people possess two copies of a long version of this gene, but the select few that possess one or two copies of a short version tend to be more likely to consume alcohol or other substances and partake in impulsive and risky behaviour.

Results were compiled over 4 years from interviews of 253 rural African-American families. Those with the long version of the 5HTT gene comprised of 60% of these youth. Obviously, the remaining 40% were plagued with the short version and a genetic risk factor for substance abuse. Evidently, substance use increased with age. Youth with the short version of the gene that received only minimal supportive parenting used at rate three times more than youth who had high levels of parental support. “In families that were characterized by strong relationships between children and their parents, the effect of the genetic risk was essentially zero” said UGA Institute for Behavioral Research director Steven Beach.

Regardless of the fact that parenting should already be supportive, knowing which version of the 5HTT gene your child possesses could be very helpful in preventing substance abuse. Spending more time with a child, providing emotional support or encouraging better communication seems like very minimal effort to ensure that possible substance abuse is avoided.

Genetic Risk For Substance Use Can Be Neutralized By Good Parenting


Summit Helps Outpatient Treatment offers Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs for Adults and Adolescents.

January 26, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009
The US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to Geron to commence the world’s first clinical trial involving human embryonic stem cells. “By early summer, a handful of patients with severe spinal cord injuries will be eligible for injections of specialized nerve cells designed to enable electrical signals to travel between the brain and the rest of the body.”

During the initial phase of this trial, safety of the treatment will be assessed, before moving on to the potential discovery of a variety of therapeutic benefits. Prior benefits have already been revealed among rats who regained their ability to control their hind legs as a result of stem cell injections.

To begin with, what are embryonic stem cells?
These stem cells come from embryos that are four to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells. These are pluripotent (ploo-RIP-uh-tunt) stem cells, meaning they can divide into more stem cells or they can specialize and become any type of body cell. Because of this versatility, embryonic stem cells have the highest potential for use to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs in people.

Clearly, “anti-abortion groups have opposed the trial, and the Society for the Unborn Child even called the proposal ‘sick’. A spokesperson for the organization claimed that, “It involves cannibalising an unborn child”.

Many might claim that destroying human life in hopes of saving human life is unethical; however the benefits well outweigh the costs. For instance, stem cell research could potentially assist in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes (Type 1), birth defects, replacement or repair of damaged organs, and reduce risk of transplantation. Moreover, even if diseases are not cured, this research could lead to a more improved quality of life for many people. "I would absolutely love to see a quadriplegic regain use of their thumb," said UC Irvine neuroscientist Hans Keirstead.

Although controversial, would it not be reasonable to admit that we should work toward sustaining healthy lives with stem cell research as long as abortion remains legal?

Stem cell therapy to be tested on spinal cord injuries

New Stroke Research Trial Stirs More Controversy Over Stem Cells

Stem cells: What they are and what they do


January 19, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009
Professor and paediatrician, Dimitri Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, has published a summary of research findings in Acta Paediatrica that support the claim that television viewing for infants under the age of two actually does more harm than good.

Professor Christakis maintains that infant TV viewing is associated with delayed language, with shortened attention spans and with delayed cognitive development. This may be, in part, due to the overstimulation of the brain from TV programs flashing lights, quick screen changes, auditory cuts etc. Christakis reviewed 78 studies from the past 25 years and could not find one that actually provides supporting data that television can help the developing brain.

Some Key Findings:

  • 29% of parents in a 2007 American study allowed their infants to watch TV because they believed it would promote brain development, despite a lack of real scientific evidence.

  • Educational programs developed for infants can actually delay language development according to many studies.

  • Infants imitate what they see on TV, but learn better from live presentations.

  • A 2004 study of 1,300 children found a modest association between infant TV viewing and attention problems by age 7 while ruling out many factors.

  • School age children who watched a lot of TV as infants performed more poorly on reading and memory tests.

  • More than 1 in 5 parents in one study allowed their infants to watch TV because they needed time for themselves.

Evidently, companies in the educational TV programming business dispute these findings. With the average age where children begin watching TV dropping from 4 in 1971 to 5 months of age today, the exploitation of this demographic group likely runs parallel to this trend as companies like Baby Einstein and Baby Genius develop their TV shows that aim to support the developing brain. It’s not difficult to see how parents can be so easily deceived. After all, who wouldn’t want their child to excel? These companies work hard and spend a lot of money on marketing tactics in order to persuade parents that their products are beneficial. But, when the evidence doesn’t support the claims, parents need to be made aware of the damage TV can have on their children. Undoubtedly, more money is available to market the benefits of these products than there is available to fund research grants that prove these products have the exact opposite affect that they endorse.

The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages TV viewing in the first two years of life, but only six per cent of parents are aware of this advice despite ongoing publicity.

Letting Infants Watch TV Can Do More Harm Than Good
Baby TV time slows development: Research


January 5, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009
The government of British Columbia is hoping to pass a law that forces homeless people with mental illness to take shelter during extremely cold weather. Rich Coleman, B.C.'s minister of housing and social development said "there's no law that technically says you can make them go to a shelter, and I think we need a law to compel them to go". However, Coleman hopes to make changes to the section of B.C.'s Mental Health Act that outlines situations in which those with mental illness can have treatment forced upon them if they risk harming themselves or others.

Police officers in B.C. have embraced the idea suggesting that "it could give police officers a solution to the "revolving door" of mentally ill people they take to shelters but who end up back on the street within hours". Some authorities have even suggested that the ability to force people off the street will free up valuable emergency resources.

On the other hand, Kelly Reid, a manager of VIHA's Mental Health and Addictions department stated: "while the act is useful for people with clearly-defined mental illnesses, it is often difficult to apply to members of the street community who can have multiple illnesses and addictions and therefore be harder to diagnose".

This idea seems quite difficult to implement. How will police officers determine who is at risk of harm or who is mental ill for that matter? What about the most basic question of all: how cold is too cold? Where will police force these people to stay? Acting executive director, David Eby, of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association argued that due to lack of funding people cannot be forced into beds that do not exist!

It never ceases to amaze me that funding is continually pumped into policing rather than prevention. This very notion turns shelters into prisons, punishing instead of supporting. It would never occur to the government that extra funding could be more useful in helping the homeless with or without mental illness to secure and maintain their very own housing.

B.C. wants law to force mentally ill into shelters


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