As the nation tries to come to grips with the opioid epidemic that’s killing thousands of Americans every month, parents and educators alike are seeking new ways to treat addicted teens. In central Ohio, for instance, advocates aim to launch a new “recovery high school” that helps young substance abusers kick their drug and alcohol habits, The Columbus Dispatch reports. There are already about 45 such institutions in the country that include recovery coaches and counselors on staff, less homework so kids can concentrate on rehab, and a focus on more supportive (less punitive) responses to misbehavior. Ohioans have become more open to recovery high schools recently, the Dispatch reports, with 3,050 individuals dying last year from drug and alcohol overdoses, almost triple that number from a decade earlier. Sarah Nerad, a former heroin addict who is now the program manager at The Ohio State University Collegiate Recovery Community, thinks such schools are essential to the healing process. “We’ve just got to get them going in the right direction and have their passion, energy and creativity being channeled into something positive,” she says. 

Is Bill Gates getting into health care?

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently visited Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., and says that some of the most interesting research was being done in health care, according to his Nov. 30 blog. He noted biology professor Bruce Hay’s work in studying mitochondria to slow the aging process, in the hope of preventing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases as some of the “most exciting.” Gates also wrote about his conversations with Caltech professors involved in biological engineering and the use of light to stimulate the brain — a new field called optogenetics. He also noted his conversations with researchers looking at Earth’s ancient bacteria in the quest to understand multidrug-resistant pathogens that infect patients with cystic fibrosis. While Gates is probably a little too busy to enroll in the spring semester, it’s encouraging that leaders in other fields are noticing the importance of health research for our future.  

Studies: Mushroom drug brings cancer patients relief

Two new studies have found that a drug found in “magic mushrooms” can counteract anxiety and depression in patients with serious illnesses. The studies, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and reported on in the Los Angeles Times, found that cancer patients felt less depressed and demoralized after receiving doses of psilocybin and that the therapeutic benefits lasted for months. The drug, a hallucinogen, occurs naturally in certain mushrooms long used in traditional ceremonies of various cultures before becoming popular in the 1960s counterculture for their psychedelic effects. Researchers hope that psilocybin can be used in the treatment of depression and anxiety among the terminally ill and those with life-threatening illnesses, and their work has implications for palliative and hospice care. The Phase 2 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials were conducted at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Drink a moderate amount of fluids

First, investigators blew our minds with the news that there is little evidence that flossing helps to prevent cavities. Now, a different set of researchers are suggesting that physicians and other providers dial back on the advice to the unwell that they drink plenty of fluids, according to BMJ Case Reports. The problem is that some people go overboard, drinking way too much, getting water intoxication, technically known as symptomatic acute hyponatremia. Since water intoxication can be fatal, the overall benefits of remaining hydrated among those who drink a normal amount of fluids might be outweighed by the increased mortality among those who drink too much.

New resources to ease physician burnout

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education announced a new collaboration with Mayo Clinic and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to share resources targeted at reducing physician and medical trainee suicide and burnout. ACGME’s new web page has all the resources to help promote a culture of well-being.