A Guided Tour of the ‘Pleasure Highway’

Cleveland OpioidsWhile we all continue to struggle to understand the scope and societal impact of the opioid epidemic in this country, one of the more vexing questions is why people misuse drugs in the first place. That’s what PBS Newshour reporters Nsikan Akpan and Julia Griffin set out to explain in a report last week called “How a brain gets hooked on opioids.” They describe the two types of physical pain that humans experience, how the body reacts to each and how painkillers trigger relief and pleasure within an individual. The report is fairly detailed, but it is fascinating and thoroughly accessible to nonexperts like me as it guides us along what Akpan and Griffin call the “pleasure highway” until we reach “The Opioid Pendulum: When feeling good starts to feel bad.” It concludes by posing the most vexing question of all: Can the brain swing back?

Anonymous Gift to Help Babies Exposed to Drugs

Anonymous gift to fight opioidsOne of the most heart-rending facts about the opioid nightmare is that more and more babies are at risk of exposure to drugs. Thanks to an anonymous $3 million gift to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Concord Hospital and other organizations in the Granite State will intensify efforts to help those kids by reaching out to pregnant women and new mothers who misuse drugs. As reported by Leah Willingham in the Concord Monitor, 470 babies were exposed to drugs in New Hampshire last year — up from 367 in 2014 — and the number of infants exposed to drugs in the womb is also increasing. Concord Hospital, which saw 70 substance-exposed births in 2016, will use its share of the gift to add a part-time social worker focusing on high-risk obstetric cases.

An Eye-opening Classroom Experiment in Hand-washing

Handwashing experimentIf health care providers and other grown-ups ever need evidence that proper hand-washing is important, a grade school experiment in Virginia might provide it. When 90 second-grade pupils participated in the experiment led by Kavita Imrit-Thomas, D.O., of LifeNet in Virginia Beach, Va., the results were remarkable. Michael Smith reports in MedPage Today that the kids were taught how to wash their hands following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and how to take culture samples from their hands. More than 91 percent of the students found reduced microbial growth after properly washing their hands. More startling: Absenteeism went down significantly. Prior to the experiment, the kids involved were absent because of illness a cumulative 126 days; in the 30 days after the experiment, that number fell to 37 days. And when kids avoid infections, they also avoid infecting the rest of the family.