Friday, March 2, 2012

The Black Bag: Odds and Ends


Drug news from the world of science and medicine.


--How Marijuana Impairs Memory

Mo Costandi at the UK Guardian expands on his Nature article about the mechanisms that result in memory impairment when people smoke marijuana. Memory formation depends on the neurotransmitter glutamate. What goes wrong when you smoke pot? Enter the astrocyte…

--Coffee Will Disrupt Your Sleep—Unless You’re a Night Owl

From Scientific American comes the news that your “chronotype”—the chronological patterns you naturally favor—may determine whether or not caffeine keeps you tossing and turning and night. Morning people, or “larks,” had more periods of wakefulness during sleep hours than night people, or “owls.” The findings, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, show that “for the early risers, the more caffeine in their bodies, the more time they spent awake during the night after initially falling asleep. This was not seen in the night owls.”

--Brain Scans Get Better

You wouldn’t know it from all the bad press about moving heads and specious interpretations, but fMRI technology continues to improve. Time Healthland reports that new machines will be able to do a better job spotting traumatic brain injury in military personnel, athletes, and accident victims. High-definition fiber tracking, as this article in the Journal of Neurosurgery explains, will allow medical staff to better assess damage to nerve fibers deep in the brain, due to technological improvements in “assessing white matter injuries that are not apparent in standard anatomical imaging.”

--Cig Makers Trump FDA on Free Speech Grounds

The FDA maybe didn’t think this one through quite as thoroughly as they should have. Reuters reports  that a U.S. judge “sided with tobacco companies on Wednesday, ruling that regulations requiring large graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging and advertising violate free-speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.” Evidently, FDA officials didn’t see the 1st Amendment argument coming. By mandating grisly pictures of diseased lungs, rotting teeth, and dying smokers on cigarette packs, “the government has failed to carry both its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest and its burden of demonstrating that the rule is narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech," U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said.

--Meth Head Burns Down Tree Older Than Jesus

And finally, as if we needed any more evidence, here’s a story about bad decision-making among the meth head crowd: WFTV reports that a female meth addict in Seminole County, Florida, burned down a historic cypress believed to have been the world’s 5th oldest tree. Authorities learned that the woman and a friend had been cooking methamphetamine under the 3,500 year-old tree. Officials said the woman took pictures of the disaster with her cell phone, and was quoted saying: "I can't believe I burned down a tree older then Jesus."

Photo Credit: http://www.squidoo.com 

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