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E-cigarette Alter Genes Involved In Airway Immune Defense

Author: Shernide Delva

When e-cigarettes entered the market, they were marketed as the revolutionary way of quitting traditional smoking. However, evidence has come out to state that e-cigarettes may be just as unhealthy as cigarettes. Recent articles we have written on the manner mention the side effect of “popcorn lung.”  Popcorn lung gets its name from popcorn factory workers who  started to get respiratory issues from breathing in the artificial popcorn flavoring. The condition is officially known as Bronchiolitis obliterans, and recent studies have shown that the artificial flavoring in e-cigarettes could result in the same side-effect.

Now, more research is revealing the harmful effects of smoking e-cigarettes. While the long-term effects of e-cigarettes remain unknown, toxicologists at UNC are uncovering how e-cigarettes affect genes involved in the upper airway immune defense.  So far, what they have found is not promising.

Smoking cigarettes have been known to alter dozen of genes important for immune defense in the respiratory tracts. These changes to our respiratory tract increase our risk of bacterial infections, viruses, and inflammation. Now, scientists are reporting that e-cigarettes are altering hundreds of genes, including the same ones that smoking suppresses.

UNC School of Medicine conducted the study, and it confirmed that e-cigarettes and cigarettes both alter genes important for immune defense in the upper airway.

“I was really surprised by these results,” said lead researcher Ilona Jaspers, professor of pediatrics, and microbiology and immunology at UNC. “That’s why we kept going back to make sure this was accurate.”

The findings, published in the American Journal of Physiology confirmed that inhaling vaporized flavor liquids in e-cigs are not without consequences. When it comes to epithelial cell gene expression, there is damage that occurs. Smoking e-cigarettes pose harm to the critical process in which our genes give rise to protein important for various functions in cells.

Despite these new studies, UNC researchers warn that e-cigarettes are not yet associated with long-term cigarette smoking risks such as cancer, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are not fully known.

“We honestly do not yet know what long-term effects e-cigarettes might have on health,” said Jaspers, senior author, and director of UNC’s toxicology curriculum. “I suspect that the effects of e-cigarettes will not be the same as the effects of cigarette smoking.”

Still, so far the evidence suggests that long-term e-cigarettes use are not harmless.

E-cigarettes have only been on the market in the United States since 2006. Usage skyrocketed only a few years ago. The FDA currently approves more than 7,000 flavors however that approval remains based on data generated for oral consumption, not inhalation.

The study conducted at Jaspers’lab in collaboration with the University of California at San Francisco yielded these results. Together, they recruited 13 non-smokers, 14 smokers, and 12 e-cigarette users. Each participant kept a journal documenting their cigarette or e-cigarette use. The team later analyzed participant’s urine and blood samples to confirm nicotine levels and biomarkers relevant to tobacco exposure.

After about three weeks, researchers took samples from the nasal passages of each participant. They wanted to analyze the expression of genes crucial for immune responsibly. Visually and functionally, the epithelial layers along our airways need to function properly to trap and dispatch particles and pathogens, so we do not get sick. It is known that cigarettes smoking modify this gene expression which is why researchers believe cigarette smokers are more prone to respiratory problems.

Non-smokers were the baseline comparison group. Jaspers’ team found that smoking cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 53 genes important for the immune response of the epithelial cells. However, e-cigarettes decreased the gene expression of 358 genes important for immune defense including the 53 genes implicated in the smoking group!

“We compared these genes one by one,” Jaspers said, “And we found that each gene common to both groups was suppressed more in the e-cigarette group. We currently do not know exactly how e-cigarettes do this.”.

This does not necessarily mean that smoking e-cigarettes are worse than smoking cigarettes,

“I think it is a mistake to try to directly compare cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use,” Jaspers said. “We shouldn’t ask ‘smoking causes cancer; do e-cigarettes cause cancer? Smoking causes emphysema; do e-cigarettes cause emphysema?'”

Smoking cigarettes and inhaling vaporized flavored liquids in e-cigarettes are completely different from each other. Furthermore, it is more likely that e-cigarettes could influence biological changes and play different roles in respiratory problems

“We know that diseases like COPD, cancer, and emphysema usually take many years to develop in smokers,” Jaspers said. “But people have not been using e-cigarettes for very long. So we don’t know yet how the effects of e-cigarette use might manifest in 10 or 15 years. We’re at the beginning of cataloging and observing what may or may not be happening.”

The next study is to understand how epithelial cells in e-cigarette users respond to a flu vaccine. This could help her team understand the immune response of epithelial cells in smokers, non-smokers, and e-cigarette users.

“We just finished our collection of samples,” Jaspers said. “We’ll see.”

While we do not know the long-term effects of smoking, it is clear that any form of smoking is detrimental. Therefore, quitting is always the ideal solution. If you are struggling with stopping any form of drug use, give us a call. We can help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Darkness After the Diploma: 7 Ways to Overcome Post-College Depression

Darkness after the Diploma: 7 Ways to Overcome Post-College Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Yay! You graduated college!  Diploma in hand ready to go…

Wait, now what?

That exact question is what college graduates struggle to cope with. Post-college depression is an issue often underestimated and not discussed enough. However,post-college depression can lead to many unhealthy behaviors because of the insecurity and disappointment of entering the real world.

For many, college is a time to make friends, socialize and finish school. Your life is a bit of an educational bubble. You are an adult, yet your routines revolve around your class schedules.  There is no need to think about major life decisions, and maybe you brushed things off declaring that you would face those obstacles “after graduation.”

Then graduation happens and the questions swirl. “What am I going to do with my life?” Alternatively, “Will I ever be able to support myself financially?” and even worse “Was this investment worth it?”  Of course, everyone is different. Personally, I have no regrets about going to college, but I do struggle with patience and motivation.

Post-college depression is unlike regular depression. Typically, post-college depression has different symptoms than actual clinical depression. Nonetheless, if left unaddressed, it becomes harder to overcome.

Symptoms of Post-College Depression

  • Addiction:  In college, it may have been normal to go to the occasional crazy party, however after college; some people become addicted to drugs and alcohol to fill the voids in their life. Drinking and drugs become more than just a fun night out. It becomes a full blown addiction.
  • Fear:  After college, many hesitate to take the next step into their career. For example, you may feel the fear that you will fail and not be successful. Because of this fear, you may avoid getting a stable job, buying a house or making major career decisions. Ultimately, fear prevents you from moving forward. Depression can become worse once a person realizes it has been a year or two post-college and little has been accomplished.
  • Loneliness:  It is very common to feel lonely after college.  In college, you may have had a group of classmates you saw on a daily basis. Maybe you were in clubs and loved going to the campus gym. Now college is over, and your life is nowhere near the same. Your classmates are moving away for job opportunities, and life is staring you in the eyes. Feelings of intense loneliness can be overwhelming during this timeframe.
  • Unemployment: The biggest reason for depression after college is the lack of a job. This is a very common symptom. Learning your major was one thing, finding a job in your major is whole other ball field.  When the economy is on a decline, it can feel overwhelming trying to find a financially stable job in your major. After months of trying, depression may set in, and you feel hopeless and like a failure. Hang in there and keep trying. This is a very common symptom and just means it is time to consider all your options, even options you would never have considered before. Opening your mind is crucial during this time.

After college, the structure and stability you’ve grown accustomed to are over. The transition can be a piece of cake for some; however others struggle with functioning after college is over.  Also, college is a time where depression rates peak and leaving college can make pre-existing clinical depression worse.

How to Overcome Post-College Depression

Now that we know all the reasons for post-college depression, the next step is to understand how to overcome it.  Here are seven suggestions to get you on the right path:

  1. Get a Job: I know, easier said than done. However, this is a crucial problem holding you back from feeling secure in your life. If you have not found a way of making income, take the time to figure out how to do so. Your first job out of college may not be in your field, and that is okay. Life may go in another direction from what you studied at first, but the important thing is to keep your mind open to opportunities. Be creative and find something for now.
  2. Meet New People: Losing friends after college can be a bummer. The good news is you can still meet new people outside of campus. Work on your socialization skills during this time. Not only is it perfect for making new friends, but it helps with networking. Putting yourself out there is a significant step in overcoming the post-college blues.
  3. Join Clubs: You can still be in clubs even outside of college. There are plenty of adult groups you can find on social networking websites like Facebook and Meetup. Find a weekly group that focuses on an interest you have. Join a yoga class or volunteer in your community. There is no reason that these activities should stop once you are handed your diploma.
  4. Set Goals: Setting goals is the best way to overcome depression because it gives you a perspective on where your life is headed. Start out by setting small goals and accomplish them. Then set bigger goals and make a schedule on how to work on those goals each day. Goals help you feel a sense of purpose in your life, instead of feeling hopeless.
  5. Check in with Old Friends: Guess what? If you are feeling this low after college, chances are your friends are too. Try talking to old friends. Go out for dinner or coffee with some classmates and talk about the challenges you all are having with life after college. You all are going through the same thing and can help each other deal.
  6. Focus on the Present: Staying in the present is the best thing you can do for yourself. Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster. Someone is always going to be doing better, and vice versa. Think about what you can do in the moment to make yourself happier. Maybe travel for a day or go to the beach. Just because your life is not where you wanted does not mean you cannot enjoy where you are now.
  7. Try Therapy: If your depression is becoming unmanageable, seek help. There is no reason to live life in darkness. People around you may think you are going through a normal phase of post-college life, but you know if your symptoms are becoming severe. There is no shame is seeking help from a professional. Medication may be an option for you if you need it. If you are more into natural routes, try to look up holistic treatment options for depression.  There is no shame in feeling out of control. You are not alone.

Overall, if you are struggling with post-college depression, understand that plenty of people struggle with this condition. Post College is a fantastic time because you are growing and learning about yourself. It can also be a struggle. Do not fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms. Talk to someone about your depression and addiction issues. We can help.  Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Naloxone Kits Arrive at Indiana University

Naloxone Kits Arrive at Indiana University

Author: Justin Mckibben

Thanks to a steady rise in prescription drug abuse, along with the continued increase in heroin addiction and the progress of fentanyl abuse, the opiate outbreak in America has fueled an overdose death epidemic that has consistently surpassed itself each year. College campuses are not immune to drug abuse, so of course students should be made aware of the risks and given more resources. Now in Indiana officers on Indiana University campuses will be equipped with naloxone as an added measure.

While the IU campuses haven’t stood out in particular as having many heroin or other opioid overdoses, higher opiate abuse and heroin addiction has become a trend nationwide and in Indiana, so lawmakers are doing their part to try and progress ahead of the issue.

Prepping the IUPD

In January of this year training sessions began in order to properly inform officers how to use the overdose antidote, and after many months of working to get naloxone kits, this week Indiana University Police Department (IUPD) has finally received shipments of naloxone for all IU campuses.

Naloxone is the opiate overdose antidote and next to Narcan policy makers and other politicians have been working over the past few years to expand access to naloxone. This medication allows law enforcement officers to help save the lives of people who overdose on opioids, as explained by IUPD Lt. David Rhodes, who said:

“When someone goes down from an opioid overdose, they’ll stop breathing. When you administer the naloxone, it can replace the inhibitors that made that happen and get the person breathing again.”

Rhodes added that while IUPD officers have already received initial training they will be more thoroughly educated on how to use naloxone in the next week. After training, a naloxone kit will be kept in each patrol car in an automated external defibrillator kit for officers 
to use. Another aspect of the initiative that Rhodes wanted to note was for those concerned this medication would be too dangerous to keep around campus- if naloxone is used on someone who isn’t actually having an opioid overdose, the drug doesn’t harm the individual.

“I could send naloxone up my own nose at this very moment, and it wouldn’t do anything,” Rhodes said. “It’s a great tool for us to have and is very safe to use.”

IUPD Chief Laury Flint stated in regards to the naloxone kits,

“Our first concern was that we don’t have medical training or that we wouldn’t use the knowledge often enough to use the naloxone kits correctly. But this is very simple to use, and it seems to me that anybody could do it, which appears to be the whole idea behind the program.”

This newest initiative was thanks to the Indiana Naloxone Project, and the efforts of the IUPD working with the attorney general’s office to get naloxone distributed 
to IUPD.

Indiana Naloxone Project

There are a few reasons the Indiana Naloxone Project promotes expanding access to the overdose antidote as a tool to utilize against the opiate epidemic. According to the Indiana Naloxone Project some important points about naloxone are:

  • It has no potential for addiction or abuse
  • It can be administered with very little training
  • It wears off after about 20 

IUPD Chief Laury Flint explained that the grants from the attorney general’s office and the Indiana Naloxone Project’s program have made it easier for departments around the state to start 
using naloxone.

Flint also made a point to talk about how opioid overdoses are often more time-sensitive than other medical 
emergencies, and so having expanded access means getting someone help even sooner than relying on other first responders, stating,

“With opioids, a few seconds can make a life or death difference.”

IUPD Lt. David Rhodes acknowledged the reality of the opiate epidemic being more prominent than ever, and that people are wrong to expect an opiate overdose to only happen to a certain kind of person. Rhodes knows that while they may not be experiencing heightened numbers of overdoses on college campuses yet the point is to be ready in case it does.

“Right at this moment we don’t have a lot of contact with these overdoses, but there is a returning epidemic of heroin across the country. We live in a city, so it’s only a matter of time.”

While IUPD gears up to fight for the lives of addicts on campus, other lawmakers and police departments around the country are also stocking up on the life-saving antidote in order to be ready for the rising overdose rates. People have begun to take notice that opiate overdose doesn’t just happen to one kind of person, and the more willing people are to see this the more can be done to prevent loss of life.

Naloxone is one of the most vital weapons we have in the war against the opiate overdose epidemic in America. While times get harder and more people work to prevent overdose, we also have to work to provide safe and effective treatment that creates lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Why College Students Are Smashing Their Scales

Why College Students Are Smashing Their Scales

Author: Justin Mckibben

For some people, bathroom scales represent a lot more than just tools for measurement… a scale can actually become a symbol of self-sabotage and emotional atrophy due to a traumatic experience or the gradual development of unhealthy self-image. Looking a little closer, the statistics can say it all. According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):

  • Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • 25% of college-aged women admitted to binging and purging as a weight-management technique.
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder.
  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment.

For many who suffer from eating disorders, the scale is more of a shackle that keeps them hitched to the destructive habits and head space that embody their eating disorder. Now one woman has inspired a movement to break the grip of this triggering mechanism by shattering the scale.

McCall Dempsey struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years, and today she has taken to spreading eating disorder awareness through a body positivity campaign she started on campus at several southern universities.

The Southern Smash

McCall’s movement is cleverly called the Southern Smash and the idea is for people to literally “smash” the body pressure away by taking a baseball bat and smashing their scales. The Southern Smash campaign’s latest event, which took place at the University of Virginia’s South Lawn on Tuesday, was just one of many gatherings for people trying to raise awareness about the impact of eating disorders by attacking one element of the negative body-image. Talking with the university’s student-run newspaper about the event Dempsey stated,

“I think everyone no matter what age lives in a world where we feel so pressured to look a certain way, be a certain way, dress a certain way, and this lets us smash all of those standards,”

“It’s a silent epidemic that is plaguing our country, and there is not enough discussion about them. There is so much shame and secrecy around them, so we smash scales to catch people’s attention about doing something fun and then really opening the conversation and educating students.”

Tuesday’s event was hosted by the UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns and Durham-based treatment center Carolina House. It gave students the opportunity to smash scales of their own, and the disheartening association attached to it.

Destroying scales wasn’t the only way to participate in the event. Students also wrote their perfect numbers on balloons, referring to:

  • Grades
  • Calories
  • Weight

The students then let the balloons go. They also wrote a “scale tombstone.”

Fighting Stigma on Campus

College campuses all across the country can present a competitive and intimidating environment. Stress from studies and peer pressures can weigh down on students and according to Melanie Brede, chair of UVA Coalition on Eating Disorders and Exercise Concerns, many students who experience a hardship, including mental health disorders and addictions, don’t feel comfortable sharing their struggle with their peers.

“The reality is lots of people are struggling and being able to talk about it and have it be a common part of conversation makes it an opportunity for us all to be stronger together instead of struggling silently alone,”

The smashing of scales is just a catalyst, as the event was about a lot more than just getting together to break stuff in public. After the scales were effectively destroyed a panel discussion on eating disorders took place on campus where the discussion touched various topics concerning eating disorders and the importance of asking for help if someone is suffering a lone. A big part of the conversation was aimed to assure students that this doesn’t have to be a lonely fight, as was the point of inviting people impacted by the issue to shatter scales on campus in an act of solidarity against the stigma.

One college junior named Kendall Siewert shared her thoughts on the isolation an eating disorder can create, and how coming together as a community means a lot for the fight. Siewert stated,

“It is important for young women to understand their worth is not in their weight. It is never too late to ask for help. It’s never too late to find people and surround yourself with acceptance and work on that every day.”

By bringing students together to participate in a fun and entertaining activity, they hoped it would encourage a crowd that could ultimately extend the dialogue of addressing eating disorders, and showing how many others experience eating disorders. Other Southern Smash events are planned for this year at a number of colleges and universities to smash some scales in a few other states including:

  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Illinois

The Southern Smash campaign’s 2016 schedule can be viewed on its website, so there are plenty of chances for people in these areas to get involved.

Eating disorders are not always as easy to spot as an alcohol dependence issue, but they are both discrete and lethal illnesses, and they both effect more people than most would expect. Raising awareness about eating disorders can help destroy the stigma associated with them and lead to more people seeking the help they desperately need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

College Campuses Use Holistic Approach to Prevent Sexual Assault

College Campuses Use Holistic Approach to Prevent Sexual Assault

By Cheryl Steinberg

With all the recent reports of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, it’s become clear that it’s an issue that’s been ignored for far too long and it’s not going away. Not on its own, at least.

That’s why a new plan is in development that would be brought to college campuses. It’s a proactive, progressive approach to prevent sexual assaults on campus.

A New York-based health and wellness company is working to help change that. National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and evaluate an effective approach to preventing sexual violence.

The stark and disturbing truth is that as many as one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career. This is not something that can be ignored.

As it stands now, many colleges and universities have their own, private system when it comes to penalizing their students, ranging from academic infractions like plagiarism and cheating all the way up to actual criminal acts, specifically crimes involving sexual assault. That means that these cases don’t often get reported to the actual authorities; instead, the school’s administration decides the punishment, if any. In some cases of on-campus sexual assault, the perpetrator received only a slap on the wrist, still having the opportunity to graduate and walk in the ceremony.

College Campuses Use Holistic Approach to Prevent Sexual Assault

NHPA’s new program is designed for incoming college students and is based on the science of the Botvin Life Skills Training (LST) program. In more than 30 different studies and tests, which were peer-reviewed, LST has proven to radically cut down teen alcohol and drug abuse as well as violence, in some cases by as much as by 80%.

The research shows that the LST program produces reduced alcohol use, illicit drug use, and violence regardless of the population, provider, and delivery method. Furthermore, the studies show that these positive effects are long-lasting; lasting prevention effects carried over well into young adulthood.

The new sexual violence prevention program will take a holistic approach. Students will learn important life skills for handling the challenges of everyday college life, enhancing the development of general personal and social competence, and increasing overall resilience.

“We are excited about receiving this funding from NIH, and look forward to this opportunity to develop and test an innovative program that will stop sexual violence before it ever begins,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of the LifeSkills Training program, professor emeritus of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, and president of NHPA. “Since sexual violence often occurs while people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is important that prevention programs focus on alcohol and drug abuse as well as sexual violence.”

Dr. Kenneth Griffin, Senior Research Scientist at NHPA and director of the team developing the new program, added that “this new program will use a series of interactive web-based and face-to-face learning activities to change social norms surrounding alcohol/drug abuse and sexual violence, train bystanders to recognize and respond to high-risk situations, and help college students develop the kind of skills that lead to healthy relationships.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, dependence, abuse, misuse, or addiction please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. Palm Partners specializes in treating alcohol and other drug addiction, substance dependence, as well as treats the underlying causes of drug abuse. We also offer Rapid Trauma Resolution as well as a number of holistic treatments as a way of beginning the healing and recovery process.

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