Marijuana and Alcohol Influence Half of Fatal Crashes Involving Young Drivers
Jan14

Marijuana and Alcohol Influence Half of Fatal Crashes Involving Young Drivers

Half of the young victims involved in fatal crashes in nine U.S. states were under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or both, according to a new study published in the journal Injury Epidemiology. Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health researchers analyzed 7,191 fatal accidents from 1999 to 2011 involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 who died within one hour of the crash, in order to gauge how potential policy changes might influence substance use among adolescents and young adults. The nine states examined — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington State and West Virginia — each routinely perform toxicological tests on the blood or urine of fatal accident victims. “Policies related to the use of substances in the United States remain in flux; the rapid changes in marijuana use policy are a good example of this,” said Katherine M. Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology and lead author, in a press release. “It’s imperative to know whether there will be unintended consequences of changes in policies, including increases or decreases in harm related to other substances that are not the focus of the policy.” The study found that, overall, more than half (50.3%) of those who died had alcohol, marijuana, or both in their systems at the time of the accident. Of those who did, 7.6% were under the influence of both, 5.9% were under the influence of marijuana and 36.8% were under the influence of alcohol, which also happens to be the number one drug problem affecting the country. The researchers then examined whether 21-year-olds, who were allowed to consume alcohol legally, used substances differently than their underage counterparts. They found that while alcohol consumption had increased by 14%, marijuana usage had actually decreased among those who had only the drug. The use of both marijuana and alcohol at the same time had increased only marginally. “Taken together, we found no significant substitution effect between alcohol and marijuana,” said the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention’s director and co-author of the study Guohua Li. “Rather, an uptick in availability seems to increase the prevalence of concurrent use of alcohol and marijuana.” Essentially, the more available the substance, the more likely it is to be used, but there’s no significant substitution between the two. It seems that people aren’t substituting one for the other or vice versa based on legality or any other...

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New Study Reveals the Unexpected Costs of Psoriasis
Jan14

New Study Reveals the Unexpected Costs of Psoriasis

An estimated 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis, a chronic condition that is caused when skin cells divide too quickly. A number of symptoms are associated with this common problem, including thick red or scaly patches on the skin and even inflammatory arthritis. However, another, less often discussed consequence of the disorder is the cost of treating it: a new study reports that psoriasis may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars a year. In a review led by Dr. Elizabeth Brezinski of the University of California, Davis, Sacramento, researchers analyzed 22 studies on the costs associated with psoriasis. According to their study, published in JAMA Dermatology on January 7, the direct expenses related to psoriasis range from $52 to $63 billion a year. However, this number refers only to the prices of medication and treatments: other costs, derived from related conditions, lost work and more, exceed $50 billion. These high estimates are likely due to psoriasis’ status as a chronic condition, as well as the fact that there is no permanent cure or treatment. The methods used include over-the-counter moisturizers to prevent cracking, ultraviolet light therapy, medications, biologic drugs which target the immune system, and other options. Unfortunately, none of these treatments deliver effective results for all patients, and they are also extremely expensive: in an interview with NPR, patient Todd Bellos said that one biologic medication cost as much as $25,000 over five years, a prospect he argued would be impossible for patients without health insurance. Since his diagnosis in 1992, Bello has undergone a variety of different treatments, none of which has had long-term results. The treatments have also had some dangerous side effects, such as an increased risk of brain infections and kidney problems. And yet going without these treatments is rarely an option. Psoriasis is both physically uncomfortable and embarrassing, causing the skin to crack and bleed or form in patches that can make others squeamish. In his interview, Bello spoke about how he had to retire on disability when his symptoms worsened, and mentioned being asked to leave a hair salon due to the appearance of his skin. To make matters worse, psoriasis is also associated with several other conditions, including heart disease and depression. Fortunately, research on the disorder may have revealed a solution: several pharmaceutical companies are currently testing drugs that target a molecule in the immune system, interleukin 17, which has been linked to the inflammation associated with psoriasis. Until this product or another is revealed to be successful, however, the U.S. will continue to spend billions of dollars on this surprisingly expensive and harmful...

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