Young, Assured and Playing Pharmacist to Friends
Wednesday 16 November 2005
Nathan Tylutki arrived late in New York, tired but eager to go out dancing. When his friend Katherine K. offered him the Ritalin she had inherited from someone who had stopped taking his prescription, he popped two pills and stayed out all night.
For the two college friends, now 25 and out in the working world, there was nothing remarkable about the transaction. A few weeks later, Katherine gave the tranquilizer Ativan to another friend who complained of feeling short of breath and panicky.
"Clear-cut anxiety disorder," Katherine decreed.
The Ativan came from a former colleague who had traded it to her for the Vicodin that Katherine's boyfriend had been prescribed by a dentist. The boyfriend did not mind, but he preferred that she not give away the Ambien she got from a doctor by exaggerating her sleeping problems. It helps him relax after a stressful day.
"I acquire quite a few medications and then dispense them to my friends as needed. I usually know what I'm talking about," said Katherine, who lives in Manhattan and who, like many other people interviewed for this article, did not want her last name used because of concerns that her behavior could get her in trouble with her employer, law enforcement authorities or at least her parents.
For a sizable group of people in their 20's and 30's, deciding on their own what drugs to take - in particular, stimulants, antidepressants and other psychiatric medications - is becoming the norm. Confident of their abilities and often skeptical of psychiatrists' expertise, they choose to rely on their own research and each other's experience in treating problems like depression, fatigue, anxiety or a lack of concentration. A medical degree, in their view, is useful, but not essential, and certainly not sufficient.
They trade unused prescription drugs, get medications without prescriptions from the Internet and, in some cases, lie to doctors to obtain medications that in their judgment they need.
A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration says it is illegal to give prescription medication to another person, although it is questionable whether the offense would be prosecuted.
The behavior, drug abuse prevention experts say, is notably different from the use of drugs like marijuana or cocaine, or even the abuse of prescription painkillers, which is also on the rise. The goal for many young adults is not to get high but to feel better - less depressed, less stressed out, more focused, better rested. It is just that the easiest route to that end often seems to be medication for which they do not have a prescription.
Some seek to regulate every minor mood fluctuation, some want to enhance their performance at school or work, some simply want to find the best drug to treat a genuine mental illness. And patients say that many general practitioners, pressed for time and unfamiliar with the ever-growing inventory of psychiatric drugs, are happy to take their suggestions, so it pays to be informed.
Health officials say they worry that as prescription pills get passed around in small batches, information about risks and dosage are not included. Even careful self-medicators, they say, may not realize the harmful interaction that drugs can have when used together or may react unpredictably to a drug; Mr. Tylutki and Katherine each had a bad experience with a medication taken without a prescription.
But doctors and experts in drug abuse also say they are flummoxed about how to address the increasing casual misuse of prescription medications by young people for purposes other than getting high.
Carol Boyd, the former head of the Addiction Research Center at the University of Michigan, said medical professionals needed to find ways to evaluate these risks.
"Kids get messages about street drugs," Ms. Boyd said. "They know smoking crack is a bad deal. This country needs to have a serious conversation about both the marketing of prescription drugs and where we draw the boundaries between illegal use and misuse."
To some extent, the embrace by young adults of better living through chemistry is driven by familiarity. Unlike previous generations, they have for many years been taking drugs prescribed by doctors for depression, anxiety or ADHD (attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder).
Direct-to-consumer drug advertising, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997, has for most of their adult lives sent the message that pills offer a cure for any ill. Which ones to take, many advertisements suggest, is largely a matter of personal choice.
"If a person is having a problem in life, someone who is 42 might not know where to go - 'Do I need acupuncture, do I need a new haircut, do I need to read Suze Orman?' " said Casey Greenfield, 32, a writer in Los Angeles, referring to the personal-finance guru. "Someone my age will be like, 'Do I need to switch from Paxil to Prozac?' "
For Ms. Greenfield, who could recite the pros and cons of every selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor on the market by the time she graduated from college, years of watching doctors try to find the right drug cocktails for her and for assorted friends has not bolstered faith in their expertise.
"I would never just do what the doctor told me because the person is a doctor," said Ms. Greenfield, who dictates to her doctors what to prescribe for her headaches and sleep problems, and sometimes gives her pills to friends. "I'm sure lots of patients don't know what they're talking about. But lots of doctors don't know what they're talking about either."
Prescriptions to treat attention deficit disorder in adults age 20 to 30 nearly tripled from 2000 to 2004, according to Medco, a prescription management company. Medications for sleeping disorders in the same age group showed a similar increase.
Antidepressants are now prescribed to as many as half of the college students seen at student health centers, according to a recent report in The New England Journal of Medicine, and increasing numbers of students fake the symptoms of depression or attention disorder to get prescriptions that they believe will give them an edge. Another study, published recently in The Journal of American College Health, found that 14 percent of students at a Midwestern liberal arts college reported borrowing or buying prescription stimulants from each other, and that 44 percent knew of someone who had.
"There's this increasingly widespread attitude that 'we are our own best pharmacists,' " said Bessie Oster, the director of Facts on Tap, a drug abuse prevention program for college students that has begun to focus on prescription drugs. "You'll take something, and if it's not quite right, you'll take a little more or a little less, and there's no notion that you need a doctor to do that."
Now, Going Online for Pills
The new crop of amateur pharmacists varies from those who have gotten prescriptions - after doing their own research and finding a doctor who agreed with them - to those who obtain pills through friends or through some online pharmacies that illegally dispense drugs without prescriptions.
"The mother's little helpers of the 1960's and 1970's are all available now on the Internet," said Catherine Wood, a clinical social worker in Evanston, Ill., who treated one young client who became addicted to Xanax after buying it online. "You don't have to go and steal a prescription pad anymore."
In dozens of interviews, via e-mail and in person, young people spoke of a sense of empowerment that comes from knowing what to prescribe for themselves, or at least where to turn to figure it out. They are as careful with themselves, they say, as any doctor would be with a patient.
"It's not like we're passing out Oxycontin, crushing it up and snorting it," said Katherine, who showed a reporter a stockpile that included stimulants, tranquilizers and sleeping pills. "I don't think it's unethical when I have the medication that someone clearly needs to make them feel better to give them a pill or two."
Besides, they say, they have grown up watching their psychiatrists mix and match drugs in a manner that sometimes seems arbitrary, and they feel an obligation to supervise. "I tried Zoloft because my doctor said, 'I've had a lot of success with Zoloft,' no other reason," said Laurie, 26, who says researching medications to treat her depressive disorder has become something of a compulsion. "It's insane. I feel like you have to be informed because you're controlling your brain."
When a new psychiatrist suggested Seroquel, Laurie, who works in film production and who did not want her last name used, refused it because it can lead to weight gain. When the doctor suggested Wellbutrin XL, she replied with a line from the commercial she had seen dozens of times on television: "It has a low risk of sexual side effects. I like that."
But before agreeing to take the drug, Laurie consulted several Internet sites and the latest edition of the Physicians' Desk Reference guide to prescription drugs at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Union Square.
On a page of her notebook, she copied down the generic and brand names of seven alternatives. Effexor, she noted, helps with anxiety - a plus. But Wellbutrin suppresses appetite - even better.
At the weekly meetings of an "under-30" mood-disorder support group in New York that Laurie attends, the discussion inevitably turns to medication. Group members trade notes on side effects that, they complain, doctors often fail to inform them about. Some say they are increasingly suspicious of how pharmaceutical companies influence the drugs they are prescribed.
"Lamictal is the new rage," said one man who attended the group, "but in part that's because there's a big money interest in it. You have to do research on your own because the research provided to you is not based on an objective source of what may be best."
Recent reports that widely prescribed antidepressants could be responsible for suicidal thoughts or behavior in some adolescents have underscored for Laurie and other young adults how little is known about the risks of some drugs, and why different people respond to them differently.
Moreover, drugs widely billed as nonaddictive, like Paxil or Effexor, can cause withdrawal symptoms, which some patients say they only learned of from their friends or fellow sufferers.
"This view of psychology as a series of problems that can be solved with pills is relatively brand new," said Andrea Tone, a professor of the social history of medicine at McGill University. "It's more elastic, and more subjective, so it lends itself more to taking matters into our own hands."
To that end, it helps to have come of age with the Internet, which offers new possibilities for communication and commerce to those who want to supplement their knowledge or circumvent doctors.
Fluent in Psychopharmacology
People of all ages gather on public Internet forums to trade notes on "head meds," but participants say the conversations are dominated by a younger crowd for whom anonymous exchanges of highly personal information are second nature.
On patient-generated sites like CrazyBoards, fluency in the language of psychopharmacology is taken for granted. Dozens of drugs are referred to in passing by both brand name and generic, and no one is reticent about suggesting medications and dosage levels.
"Do you guys think that bumping up the dosage was a good idea, or should I have asked for a different drug?" someone who called herself Maggie asked earlier this month, saying she had told her doctor she wanted to double her daily intake of the antidepressant fluoxetine to 40 milligrams.
In another recent posting, a participant wrote that his supply of the beta blocker Inderal, acquired in Costa Rica, was running out. He uses the drug for panic attacks, he said, but he has not told his doctor about it. "What do I do/say to get her to prescribe me some?" he asked.
"CraZgirl," who said she was not currently taking any medications, received a resounding "yes" to her posting that asked, "If you wouldn't go on meds for yourself, is it reasonable to do it to keep your marriage intact?"
Still, for some young adults, consulting their peers leads to taking less medicine, not more. When Eric Wisch, 20, reported to an anonymous online group that he was having problems remembering things, several members suggested that he stop taking Risperdal, one of four medications in a cocktail that had been mixed different ways by different doctors.
"I decided to cut back," said Mr. Wisch, a sophomore at the University of Rochester who runs www.thebipolarblog.com, where he posts his thoughts on medications and other subjects. "And I'm doing better." Despite frequent admonitions on all the sites to "check with your Pdoc," an abbreviation for psychiatrist, there are also plenty of tips on how to get medications without a prescription.
"I know I shouldn't order drugs online," one participant wrote in a Sept. 26 posting on the Psycho-babble discussion group. "But I've been suffering with insomnia and my Pdoc isn't keen on sleep aids."
What should he do, the poster wanted to know, after an order he placed with an online pharmacy that promised to provide sleeping pills without a prescription failed to deliver?
Another regular participant, known as "med-empowered," replied that the poster was out of luck, and went on to suggest a private e-mail exchange: "I think I know some sites where you could post your experience and also get info about more reliable sites."
For a hefty markup, dozens of Web sites fill orders for drugs, no prescription required, though to do so is not legal. Instead, customers are asked to fill out a form describing themselves and their symptoms, often with all the right boxes helpfully pre-checked.
Erin, 26, a slender hair stylist, remembers laughing to herself as she listed her weight as 250 pounds to order Adipex, a diet pill, for $113. One recent night, she took an Adipex to stay up cleaning her house, followed by a Xanax when she needed to sleep.
Like many other self-medicators, Erin, who has been on and off antidepressants and sleeping pills since she was in high school, has considered weaning herself from the pills. She wishes she had opted for chamomile tea instead of the Xanax when she wanted to sleep.
"I feel like I have been so programmed to think, 'If I feel like this then I should take this pill,' " she said. "I hate that."
But the problem with the tea, she said, is the same one she faces when she is coloring hair: "It's not predictable. I know how these drugs are going to affect me. I don't know if the chamomile tea will work."
Online pharmacies are not the only way for determined self-prescribers to get their pills. Suffering from mood swings a decade after his illness was diagnosed as bipolar disorder, Rich R., 31, heard in an online discussion group about an antidepressant not available in the United States. A contractor in the Midwest, Rich scanned an old prescription into his computer, rearranged the information and faxed it to pharmacies in Canada to get the drug.
"My initial experience with physicians who are supposed to be experts in the field was disappointing," Rich said. "So I concluded I can do things better than they can."
Even for psychiatrists, patients say, the practice of prescribing psychotropic drugs is often hit and miss. New drugs for depression, anxiety and other problems proliferate. Stimulants like Adderall are frequently prescribed "as needed." Research has found that antidepressants affect different patients differently, so many try several drugs before finding one that helps. And in many cases, getting doctors to prescribe antidepressants, sleeping pills or other psychiatric medications is far from difficult, patients say.
The result is a surplus of half-empty pill bottles that provides a storehouse for those who wish to play pharmacist for their friends.
The rules of the CrazyBoards Web site prohibit participants from openly offering or soliciting pharmaceuticals. But it is standard practice for people who visit the site to complain, tongue-in-cheek, that they simply "don't know what to do" with their leftovers.
The rest takes place by private e-mail. Sometimes, the person requesting the drugs already has a prescription, but because the medications are so expensive, receiving them free from other people has its merits.
A Post-Hurricane Care Package
Dan Todd, marooned in Covington, La., after Hurricane Katrina, said he would be forever grateful to a woman in New Hampshire who organized a donation drive for him among the site's regular participants.
Within two days of posting a message saying that he had run out of his medications, he received several care packages of assorted mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety drugs, including Wellbutrin, Klonopin, Trileptal, Cymbalta and Neurontin.
"I had to drive down to meet the FedEx driver because his truck couldn't get past the trees on part of the main highway," said Mr. Todd, 58. "I had tears in my eyes when I got those packages."
It doesn't always work out so well. When Katherine took a Xanax to ease her anxiety before a gynecologist appointment, she found that she could not keep her eyes open. She had traded a friend for the blue oval pill and she had no idea what the dosage was.
An Adderall given to her by another friend, she said, "did weird things to me." And Mr. Tylutki, who took the Ritalin she offered one weekend last fall, began a downward spiral soon after.
"I completely regretted and felt really guilty about it," Katherine said.
Taking Katherine's pills with him when he returned to Minneapolis, Mr. Tylutki took several a day while pursuing a nursing degree and working full time. Like many other students, he found Ritalin a useful study aid. One night, he read a book, lay down to sleep, wrote the paper in his head, got up, wrote it down, and received an A-minus.
But he also began using cocaine and drinking too much alcohol. A few months ago, Mr. Tylutki took a break from school. He flushed the Ritalin down the toilet and stopped taking all drugs, including the Prozac that he had asked a doctor for when he began feeling down.
"I kind of made it seem like I needed it," Mr. Tylutki said, referring to what he told the doctor. "Now I think I was just lacking sleep."
Monday, December 26, 2005
By Rob Zaleski
A senior state chemist, Wagnitz is making health experts uneasy because of his public statements urging people to think twice before getting a flu shot this season. He thinks the shots are especially risky for pregnant women and young kids.
Why? Because about 95 percent of the doses being distributed this winter contain thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative that Wagnitz and others believe is responsible for the startling increase in autism cases in the United States since the early 1990s.
The federal government says that's hokum, noting that despite years of study there's no scientific evidence that mercury in vaccines causes autism. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Public Health Service in the late 1990s asked manufacturers to start phasing thimerosal out of childhood vaccines.
In fact, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say flu shots are absolutely essential for pregnant women and infants 6 to 23 months old. As for potential risks, they claim that the amount of thimerosal in a child's dose is so tiny it poses virtually no risk at all - a claim Wagnitz says is "pure propaganda."
Still, health experts admit they have more questions than answers about autism. As the National Institute of Mental Health noted in its 2005 annual report on autism to Congress, "There are no effective means to prevent the disorder, no fully effective treatment and no cure."
Wagnitz, 52, has been speaking out about the possible link between vaccines and autism for several years now, ever since his daughter Josie, now 8, was diagnosed with autism in 2001.
To say he was shocked would be a colossal understatement, says Wagnitz, "because, frankly, I'd never even heard of autism before that. I was this trusting person who just did what the doctor told me to do."
Then he began doing some research, and the deeper he dug, the more troubled he became. After doing "some simple fifth-grade math," Wagnitz says he figured out that the amount of mercury in flu shots - 50,000 micrograms per liter in the multi-dose vials - is 250 times the amount that's considered safe for liquid hazardous waste.
That's when he got mad and began started asking some very pointed questions. So have a lot of other people - including Robert Kennedy Jr. who, like Wagnitz, believes that all vaccines should be thimerosal-free despite the higher costs involved.
They want to know why, according to some scientists, the estimated number of cases of autism has increased a mind-boggling 1,500 percent since 1991, when the number of childhood vaccinations doubled.
And they want to know why one in every 166 children has autism today compared to one in every 2,500 in 1991.
"The government says they're just doing a better job of noticing it," says Wagnitz. But anyone who's been around autistic kids and knows how loud and disruptive they can be finds that extremely hard to believe, he says.
"I mean, like Robert Kennedy Jr. said, 'Missing a kid with autism is like missing a train wreck.' So when they say they're doing a better job of finding them, I say, 'Then where are all the 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds with autism?'"
Though he certainly doesn't relish the criticism, Wagnitz says his skin is "thicker than leather right now" and that he'll continue to speak out until all vaccines are thimerosal-free.
"No one wants to talk about my message. All they want to do is destroy the messenger," he says. "I mean, liquid waste needs to go to a hazardous waste site if it contains more than 200 parts per billion of mercury. So anyone with common sense would say you don't want to be injecting people with 250 times more mercury than hazardous waste.
"What more do you need to know?"
NEWPORT NEWS, VA — The Pentagon never told Congress about more than 20,000 hospitalizations involving troops who took the anthrax vaccine from 1998 through 2000, despite repeated promises that such cases would be publicly disclosed. Instead, generals and Defense Department officials claimed that fewer than 100 people were hospitalized or became seriously ill after receiving the shot, according to an investigation by the Daily Press of Newport News.
Written policies required that public reports be filed for hospitalizations, serious illnesses and cases where someone missed 24 hours or more of duty. But only a few of the cases were actually reported; the rest were withheld from Congress and the public, according to records obtained by the Daily Press. Critics of the vaccine, veterans' advocates and congressional staffers say the Pentagon's deliberate low-balling of hospitalizations helped persuade Congress and the public that the vaccine was safe.
Withholding the full record contributed to a shorter list of government-recognized side effects for the drug, which gave patients and physicians a false idea of what might constitute a vaccine-related illness or problem. Repeated evidence of the same adverse side effect after a vaccination is one of the most telling signs of a systematic problem, vaccine safety experts say.
The newspaper found three cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig's disease, that the military hadn't reported. The disease destroys muscles and nerves, is always fatal, and rarely hits people younger than 45. One of the three cases involves Navy Capt. Denis Army of Virginia Beach, who died in 2000 after developing symptoms less than a week after his first anthrax vaccination.
His widow filed the first public acknowledgement of his death and its connection to the vaccine after talking to a Daily Press reporter and learning that she could file a report with the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
Col. John Grabenstein, director of the military's vaccine agency, said no one from the military intentionally misled Congress or the public. The 20,765 hospitalizations merely followed vaccinations in time, without documented proof of a cause-and-effect relationship, he claimed. However, the data that the Daily Press used to document the underreporting came from an unpublished report that Grabenstein supplied in response to its request.
Quarterly analysis of the vaccine's effects ended just as the nation's only manufacturer, BioPort, Inc. regained its license in 2002, after a 1998 shutdown by federal inspectors who found safety and other problems. The decision to discontinue the quarterly monitoring end systematic long-term studies of the health of those who have taken the drug, the newspaper notes. Most studies that the Pentagon cites as support for the vaccine's safety involve monitoring that lasted no longer than a few months.
After the quarterly reviews stopped, more than a million troops were forced to take the vaccine — until a federal judge ruled last year that the drug had never been adequately licensed for protection against anthrax use in warfare. He ordered the military to make vaccination voluntary. The Pentagon is appealing that ruling. A decision is expected by February.
Treatment Options for Mercury/Metal Toxicity in Autism and Related Developmental Disabilities: Consensus Position Paper
During the last several years, there has been growing clinical and scientific evidence that most children with autism suffer from mercury/metal toxicity. Furthermore, there have been many reports from physicians and parents that removal of mercury and other toxic metals can be very beneficial to children with autism, sometimes resulting in a major decrease in autistic symptoms. A wide variety of detoxifying agents and protocols have been used, and the purpose of this paper is to discuss the pros and cons of the different treatments available. Overall, our consensus position is that removal of mercury and other toxic metals is one of the most beneficial treatments for autism and related disorders. More research is needed, but effective treatments are available now. Each child is an individual, so this report presents general guidelines rather than specific recommendations.
Evidence of Mercury Toxicity in Children with AutismThere is extensive evidence that many children with autism suffer from mercury toxicity. Briefly, the evidence shows that children with autism have low levels of glutathione and cysteine (the pre-cursor to glutathione), which is the major pathway for removal of toxic metals like mercury. The children also often had excessive use of oral antibiotics, which greatly inhibits excretion of mercury. Due to their limited ability to excrete mercury, they have low levels in baby hair (an excretory tissue), high levels in baby teeth, and higher excretion when given DMSA compared to controls. The symptoms of autism are consistent with that of mercury toxicity. The epidemiology studies are mixed, but several published studies show a strong link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines. Overall, it appears that most children with autism suffer from mercury toxicity, and may potentially benefit from detoxification therapy.
continued at link
see also www.AutismResearchInstitute.com
Dec. 21, 2005 by Phyllis Schlafly
Federal judges have just hit parents with a triple-whammy. Two appellate
courts held that parents have no right to stop offensive,
privacy-invading interrogation of their own children in public schools,
and in a third case the Supreme Court indicated that it is not going to
do anything to protect parents' rights concerning schools.
It has become painfully clear that many courts have adopted the notion
that the "village" (i.e., in these cases, the schools) should raise
children. Judges prefer to side with schools and against parents.
When a New Jersey mother was horrified to learn that her daughter and
classmates had been asked how many times they tried to kill themselves,
she filed suit to protect the rights of parents and pupils. She won on
the first appeal to the Third Circuit in C.N. v. Ridgewood Board of
Education, but the school was relentless in litigation to assert its
primary authority and the court finally ruled in favor of the school.
At issue was a 156-question survey called "Profiles of Student Life:
Attitudes and Behaviors," which probed students about their personal
lives and activities. The survey included questions about sex, drugs,
suicide, incriminating behavior, spirituality, tolerance, and other
Questions 92-93 in this survey given to Ridgewood children demanded to
know "how many times" they "had used cocaine" in their lives, or during
the last 12 months, and the answer choices were 0, 1, 2, 3-5, 6-9,
10-19, 20-39, and 40+. This gave students the false impression that
casual use of cocaine is common and acceptable.
Misleading questions can have a powerful effect. Our legal system
recognizes this by providing dozens of reasons for lawyers to object to
questions in court in order to protect their witnesses from having to
answer improper questions.
Children lack the maturity to tell the difference between questions they
should or should not answer. Children are trained in school that they
must answer the teacher's questions or face discipline or a poor grade.
Ask an adult when he stopped beating his wife and expect to be told to
get lost. Ask a child in the classroom how often he takes drugs or has
sex, and the child will think he ought to answer.
But judges who routinely uphold lawyers' objections to improper
questions in court think it is okay to ask offensive questions of
children in school. In the Ridgewood decision, the court agreed with the
parents that the students' participation in the survey may have been
mandatory, and conceded that the leading questions could be suggestive
to students, but nevertheless ruled that parents' and pupils' rights
were not violated.
The Ninth Circuit went even further, marking the school door as the line
where parents' rights end and the "village" takes over. In Fields v.
Palmdale School District in November, the judges ruled that the right of
parents "does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door."
Just last Term, the Supreme Court devoted time and energy to a silly
lawsuit over the replacement of a male teacher as coach of a girls'
basketball team. When a teacher has a complaint, the Supreme Court
springs to attention; but when a parent has a complaint about
indoctrination of her child, the Court doesn't even want to hear about it.
In the same 30 days as the Ridgewood and Palmdale cases, the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to review another parental rights case in Crowley
v. McKinney. The High Court is spending its time this Term on a slew of
cases about prisoners' rights (even about the alleged right of prisoners
to read pornographic magazines) rather than hear a single case about
parents' rights to raise their children.
In Crowley v. McKinney, the Seventh Circuit ruled against the parent,
saying that the school has a constitutional right of "the autonomy of
educational institutions." The parent had appealed to the Supreme Court
to recognize the "settled law" of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which in
1925 recognized the constitutional right of parents to control the
education of their own children.
Even though recognizing the Supreme Court's holding in Pierce that
"Oregon's project of forcing all children to attend public schools
implied a hostility to private education that had no footing in American
traditions or educational policy," the Seventh Circuit ignored its
application to the current case. Does forcing children to answer
questions about sex, drugs and suicide have a "footing in American
traditions"? Of course not.
It hasn't grabbed the attention of the Supreme Court that the Third,
Seventh and Ninth Circuits have ignored the settled law of Pierce. You
can bet the High Court would take a case that requires testing
schoolchildren for use of illegal drugs, yet the Court refuses to face
the issue of requiring schoolchildren to participate in a classroom
survey that suggests doing drugs is normal behavior.
Teachers are not required to answer these intrusive questions, so why
are our children? Evidently parents are the only ones who do not benefit
from equal protection of the law.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
By Tracy Staedter, Discovery News
Oct. 14, 2005- Just like the biological components inside a cell can replicate a segment of DNA and self-correct when something goes out of whack, so too can a newly developed set of miniature robots.
Created by a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the three-inch-long autonomous machines have mechanisms, both physical and computational, that allow them to meet up randomly, latch together, decide if they should stay connected, and then either let go or remain paired.
"The technique simultaneously addresses two of the most challenging requirements in nanoscale manufacturing: error-free assembly and massively parallel assembly of mechanical parts," said Robert A. Freitas Jr., a senior research fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in Palo Alto, Calif., and co-author of a recent book on self-replicating machines.
The new method, published by MIT's Joseph M. Jacobson in a recent edition of the journal Nature, could serve as the foundation for systems that assemble themselves, such as machines that break apart to explore tight places and then reassemble later.
To date, self-replicating machines have been realized, but have relied on the well-ordered input of building blocks and do not posses a self-correcting function.
But the approach taken by Jacobson and lead graduate student, Saul Griffith, functions more like a biological system.
For example, inside a cell's nucleus, particles including a variety of chemical compounds and proteins float around randomly.
The proteins copy bits of DNA by assembling the compounds into a specific order. This is not an assembly line where parts are delivered in the correct sequence, yet nature has figured out a way to correctly order the components and self-correct any errors along the way.
"We wanted to mimic nature and make an analogy to the machinery in nature that copies itself," said Jacobson.
In the lab, his team built machines that come in two colors: yellow and green.
They attached five robots together, shoulder to shoulder, to make a "seed" string, for example green, green, yellow, yellow, green.
The seed string, which served as the starting point for assembly, was placed on an air hockey table with a bunch of individual robots.
Even though the robots in the string were attached shoulder to shoulder, the individual robots are designed to latch onto each other front to back.
The goal was to assemble identical rows of robots in the same color order: green, green, yellow, yellow, green.
As the air from the table jostled the little machines here and there, they randomly bumped into each other, as well as the components in the seed string.
When they attached, they automatically sent each other an electronic signal to identify whether they were of the same color. If they were, they stayed together. If they weren't, they released.
In tests, the team got perfect replication of the five-robot strings each time. If they turned off the error-correction program, strings replicated only three percent of the time.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
TOKYO (Nov. 12) - Two teenage boys who took the antiviral drug Tamiflu
exhibited abnormal behavior that lead to their deaths -- one jumped in
front of an oncoming truck and the other apparently fell from a building,
the Mainichi Shimbun reported Saturday.
Following the first incident, which took place last year, the prescription
drug in Japan began carrying a warning that says possible side effects
include "abnormal behavior" and "hallucinations," the major Japanese
This is the first time that deaths have been linked to the drug.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is aware of one of the cases. "As
a result of abnormal behavior, it could lead to an accidental death," a
ministry official said.
Rokuro Hama, the doctor who heads the Japan Institute of Pharmacovigilance
for Evidence-Based Healthcare, will present the cases at a meeting of the
Japanese Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases on Saturday in Tsu, Mie
Prefecture, the Mainichi said.
Hama, who runs the Osaka-based nonprofit group, was consulted by the boys'
families, according to the newspaper.
The first case occurred in February last year when a 17-year-old male high
school student in Gifu Prefecture was diagnosed with influenza and took a
regular dose, one capsule, of Tamiflu at home at around noon, the newspaper
When no one else was there, the teen, wearing pajamas and barefoot, left
the house, jumped over a fence around the house and ran in the snow, it said.
He then crossed over a guard rail near his home, jumped in front of a big
truck and died at around 3:45 p.m., it said.
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., the Japanese distributor of Tamiflu, produced by
Swiss drug giant Roche, reported the incident in July that year to the
health ministry as "a case where a causal link to the drug cannot be
denied," the Mainichi said.
In the second case, a 14-year-old male junior high school student in Aichi
Prefecture was diagnosed with flu on Feb. 5 this year and took one capsule
at around 4 p.m.
He went to his bedroom around 5:30 p.m. About 30 minutes later, the boy was
found lying barefoot in front of his condominium building, and later died,
the newspaper said.
Police said his fingerprints were found on a handrail on the ninth floor of
the building, and the boy is believed to have fallen after hanging onto the
handrail, according to the Mainichi.
Neither of them had exhibited any psychological abnormalities before taking
the drug, the newspaper said.
The government is planning to boost its stockpile of Tamiflu, generically
known as oseltamivir phosphate, amid growing fears about a possible
pandemic of a new type of influenza as bird flu deaths rise across Asia,
health ministry sources said earlier.
Tamiflu is used to inhibit the growth of a flu virus in humans.
11/11/05 21:21 EST
Monday, November 14, 2005
The headline of the AP story read:
Government to Unveil Super-Flu Strategy
Well, hallelujah. We're saved. The Feds are ready for this year's flu season
- they're on the case with all their needles and pinheads. Just like in
years past, now we can count on inefficient distribution, obsolete vaccines,
and marginal protection that breeds super-bugs and may actually do more harm
But hey, we've got a "strategy," right?
I've got a better one. Steer clear of the government's flu lines altogether.
You're far more likely to catch influenza from the sickies that flock to
these things than you are to get any actual protection from the flu.
So, how do you protect yourself? A great start is to make sure you get
enough vitamin C. I'm not talking eating an extra orange or about making
sure you get the "USRDA" of vitamin C from Centrum or some other
multivitamin. I mean aggressively and systematically stocking your body with
a daily supplementation of immune-boosting, free-radical fighting vitamin C.
How does flooding your system with vitamin C work to defeat infections?
It isn't because of the vitamin itself - not exactly, anyway. It's because
some of the substances we use to give ourselves extra vitamin C are rich in
extra electrons that bind up and neutralize free radicals in the body, the
source of most disease.
One of the best substances to do this with is sodium ascorbate (sometimes
called ascorbic acid). You can buy supplements of this substance, or you can
administer it intravenously, if you're comfortable with that (check with
your doctor first). Evidence shows that not only is sodium ascorbate
effective in helping people resist influenza and other types of infections,
but that it also is astonishingly effective at eliminating flu symptoms.
Even the American Cancer Society notes that dietary vitamin C "may have a
protective role" in reducing cancer risk. Heck, for them, that's a parade of
an endorsement! And in even more good news on the vitamin C front...
Reliving the 70s - in a good way!
New research shows that high doses of IV vitamin C (specifically from
ascorbate) can fight cancer, an effect first suggested back in the 1970s.
According to the study, published in a September issue of The Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences, intravenous Vitamin C (not oral!) led to
the formation of hydrogen peroxide in the blood. This process caused the
destruction of many cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone...
Hmmm. I wonder where the medical establishment has heard something like this
before? Could it have been from lil' ol' me?
As you probably know, I've been singing the praises of IV hydrogen peroxide
therapy for decades, and have used it in my travels to Africa and other
nations and eradicate much disease. It is truly miraculous treatment when
administered properly. And now it turns out that this exact compound may be
responsible for the eradication of cancer cells. Of course, the
establishment claims that more study is needed (especially on animals) to
prove these effects, but it sounds encouraging to me...
Heck, anytime the mainstream gets around to "proving" something I've been
saying for years, I'm encouraged.
This IV vitamin C story's developing - I'll keep you posted.
Always C-ing years ahead of the mainstream,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD
"New research shows that high doses of IV vitamin C (specifically from
ascorbate) can fight cancer, an effect first suggested back in the 1970s."
1) Why is it that, in a day's driving up and down the hill from Corrales
to Rio Rancho, I have: some groceries, a swim at the spa
and a mediocre meal - and I drove over 82 speed bumps for that?
It's true, I counted them. 82. By the way, nice work on the Alameda
intersection again, with no one working and hundreds of cars burning
useless fuel in orange barrel hell.
2) Why has no one told the MRGCD that the NM sunflower is an endangered
species, since they have systematically eradicated the sunflower, among
other wildflowers, by mowing and scraping the ditches every year
in September before the flowers go to seed? Can we give them $900K to
STOP doing that?
3) Why would anyone think it's not true that a
particularly horrible smell comes out of Intel late at night?
Are they hard of smelling? Who would make that up? It's bad, admit it.
Surely something can be done about fixing it.
4) Why would anyone state publicly in the paper that 2000 deaths in Iraq
(at the minimum) were 'negligible'- or that a piece of paper that says
"constitution" is worth all those deaths-- and those of more than 100,000
wounded and more than 100,000 dead Iraquis--that were murdered for a
piece of paper-- is'negligible' and does not deserve the front page headline
of another piece of paper? Why?
...And does the woman who wrote that letter know that the
second Article of the Iraq Constitution she holds in such regard will
criminalize secular clothing for women, and put them all back in the burqua?
Is that also 'negligible'?
5) Who is going to take the new train to work? We need more and smaller buses,
more routes, more stops and connections - rather than extra-big, mostly-empty
billboards, and millions spent on a train to nowhere, from nowhere... The train
station is a disgrace, and there's no excuse for it.
6) Do you find it odd that " a slow flu season " occurred in a year
when far fewer than usual got the flu shot? This year, as they pump out
millions of shots and pump up the volume on the Fear-O-Meter, watch out!
Better hope that echinacea isn't just a 'myth'...
7) Why is it that you need approval from P&Z to put a sign in front of
your home - but you can buy a piece of land and chop down every tree on
it,and don't have to ask permission from anyone to do that?
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Everyday Meditation In Repetitive Tasks
The idealized vision of a holy man sitting in deep meditation in a
cave can sometimes lead us to believe that in order to attain, or
maintain, enlightenment, we must abandon the commonplace world most
of us inhabit. But many realized men and women have attested to the
fact that the true test of enlightened awareness is the ability to
live the ordinary life in an extraordinary way; and that to live in
a spectacular world full of magic and beauty, we need only see the
world we live in with more open eyes.
We have a tendency to view many of the repetitive tasks that fill
our daily lives as something to be gotten through so we can get to
the experiences we consider desirable, or transcendental. But the
chores on our "to do" list, in and of themselves, are gateways to
the enlightened state of mind. Every moment is an opportunity to
It can be difficult to believe that brushing your teeth could be as
much fun as going to Paris, or as enlightening as a meditation
retreat, but maybe it can. For people in an expanded state of
awareness, every moment is miraculous and wild, and we all have
access to this state of mind.
A powerful way to open ourselves more deeply to the world we think
we know so well is to try to forget everything we think we know.
Imagine you just suddenly found yourself in your body and are
exploring the possibilities of having arms and legs for the first
time. Imagine you have never seen a toothbrush before, or a pen, or
a fork. Where did these things come from? The truth is, without even
having to pretend, there is a great deal we do not know, and
engaging with that mystery can imbue the cyclical tasks of our lives
with new life.
When washing dishes, for example, we can take the time to tune into
our breath and the sound of running water; the sensation of holding
a wet plate in one hand and scrubbing it with the other; the colors
and shapes of each item we wash. In this way, we transform a
recurring chore into an exploration and appreciation of the mystery
Monk's D.C. Lecture Links Mind, Matter
By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005; Page C01
In an unusual marrying of science and spirituality, the Dalai Lama
addressed thousands of the world's top neuroscientists yesterday,
telling them that society is falling behind in its efforts to make
sense of their groundbreaking research.
Speaking sometimes in Tibetan and sometimes in halting English to a
receptive audience at the 35th annual meeting of the Society for
Neuroscience, the Tibetan spiritual and political leader said
scientists and moral leaders need each other.
"It is all too evident that our moral thinking simply has not been
able to keep pace with such rapid progress in our acquisition of
knowledge and power," he said in a prepared text.
The speech at the Washington Convention Center had been opposed by
some members of the society who objected to a religious leader
addressing neuroscientists, who research the brain, emotions and
human behavior. Nearly 800 people had signed an online petition
demanding that the Dalai Lama's invitation be withdrawn.
Many of the petition signers were Chinese Americans, leading to
countercharges that they opposed him on political grounds. Relations
between China and once-independent Tibet have been badly strained
for a half-century, and the Dalai Lama is at the center of the
But except for minor protests yesterday -- one woman held a sign
that read "Dalai Lama not qualified to speak here" -- that conflict
was barely visible at the conference. Some attendees stayed away
from his talk, and others left early in what a few described as a
protest of sorts.
For most of the 14,000 conference participants who watched in the
lecture hall or from overflow rooms, the Dalai Lama's enthusiastic
embrace of science and promotion of meditation were warmly received.
His 10-day visit to Washington, which included a meeting with
President Bush last week, will continue today at MCI Center, where
he is scheduled to give a public talk on "Global Peace Through
The author of a new book on the convergence of Buddhism and science,
the Dalai Lama has met with prominent scientists around the world
for almost 20 years and has encouraged an increasingly fruitful
collaboration between brain researchers and Tibetan monks.
Because of the controversy over his speech to the neuroscientists in
Washington, his aides said he would keep to a prepared text,
something quite unusual for him. But he often diverged from the
text, despite saying with a smile that he was feeling
His talk focused on how he developed his interest in science as a
boy in Tibet, within a closed and isolated society, and on his view
that morality and compassion are central to science. He pointed out
in his prepared text, for instance, that although the atom bomb was
great science, it created great moral problems.
"It is no longer adequate to adopt the view that our responsibility
as a society is to simply further scientific knowledge and enhance
technological power and that the choice of what to do with this
knowledge and power should be left in the hands of the individual,"
"By invoking fundamental ethical principles, I am not advocating a
fusion of religious ethics and scientific inquiry. Rather, I am
speaking of what I call 'secular ethics' that embrace the key
ethical principles, such as compassion, tolerance, a sense of
caring, consideration of others, and the responsible use of
knowledge and power -- principles that transcend the barriers
between religious believers and nonbelievers, and followers of this
religion or that religion," he said.
He acknowledged that some might wonder why a Buddhist monk is taking
such an interest in science.
"What relation could there be between Buddhism, an ancient Indian
philosophical and spiritual tradition, and modern science?" he said.
His answer was that the scientific empirical approach and the
Buddhist exploration of the mind and world have many similarities.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, however, the Dalai Lama is known
as the reincarnation of a major force for compassion, and his
strongest words yesterday were directed at religious people who
might lack that trait.
"People who call themselves religious without basic human values
like compassion, they are not really religious people," he told the
audience, offering no names. "They are hypocrites." The words were
unusually critical for a speaker who likes to emphasize the positive
The single protester outside his follow-up news conference at the
convention center was Pei Wang, a neuroscience graduate student at
the State University of New York at Buffalo. "This is supposed to be
a scientific talk," she said. "If he is not presenting data, he
should not speak. This should be about research, not about some
politician giving a speech."
The Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, which will continue
through Thursday and has attracted 31,000 people, features scores of
papers on research into human behavior.
In keeping with the Dalai Lama's involvement with meditation and the
physical and mental implications of the contemplative life, one of
the higher-profile papers reports on how regular meditation appears
to produce structural changes in areas of the brain associated with
attention and sensory processing. An imaging study led by
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers showed that particular
areas of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, were
thicker in participants who were experienced practitioners of a type
of meditation commonly practiced in the United States.
"Our results suggest that meditation can produce experience-based
structural alterations in the brain," said Sara Lazar of the
hospital's Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and lead author
of the study, which will appear in the journal NeuroReport. "We also
found evidence that mediation may slow down the aging-related
atrophy of certain areas of the brain."
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Mercury Connection: Neurological/Immune Reactive Conditions/
Pervasive Developmental Conditions Affecting Millions of Children
Neurological and Immune Reactive Conditions Affecting Kids: The mercury connection to neurological pervasive developmental disorders(autism, schizophrenia, dyslexia, ADD, childhood depression, learning disabilities, OCD, etc.) and developmental immune conditions(eczema, asthma, and allergies)
by Bernard Windham- Chemical Engineer
The largest increase in neurological and immune conditions has been in infants (1,2,5-7,23,4,50,81), with an increase in autism cases to over 500,000 (1,2,23,22,86), an over 900% increase to a level of approx. 1 per 500 infants in the last decade(2ab), making it the 3rd most common chronic childhood condition. For 1999 through 2002, the number of professionally diagnosed in California with full syndrome autism has doubled(2e,86). There have been similar increases in ADD and dyslexia to over 10 million, similar large numbers(over 10%) with childhood depression or anxiety, and over 10 % of infants- approximately 15 million in the U.S. with systemic eczema(1,2,82). Studies researching the reason for these rapid increases in infant reactive conditions seem to implicate earlier and higher usage of vaccines containing mercury(thimerisol) as a likely connection (2cd,23,30,40,80,81). A recent study comparing pre- and post-vaccination mercury levels, found a significant increase in both preterm and term infants after vaccination(42), with post-vaccination mercury levels approximately 3 times higher in the preterm infants as compared with term infants. The study found mercury blood levels up to 23.6 ug/L and received an average dose of 16.7 ug/kg. Just this one vaccination gave an exposure to mercury that is many times the U.S. ATSDR adult minimum risk level(MRL) for mercury of .3/ug/kg body weight per day(41,81).