Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How spending too much time online 'can increase the chances of your teenager taking drugs'

The authors believe that screen-time CAUSES risky behaviour. That may not be so. For instance: Maybe socially isolated kids spend more time online and socially isolated people are more likely to look for illicit "thrills".

So we see yet more epidemiologists who think they have a secret fountain of knowledge

Spending time online increases the likelihood of a teenager taking drugs or having unprotected sex, it has been claimed. Research revealed those who are regularly glued to their screens are far more likely to engage in risky behaviour than their peers.

The researchers from the Queen's University in Canada found that young adults who logged the most hours on their computers were 50 per cent more likely to engaged in a cluster of six 'multi-risk behaviours.' These included smoking, drunkenness, cannabis and illegal drug use, having unprotected sex and not using seat belts.

Research author Valerie Carson, said: 'This research is based on social cognitive theory, which suggests that seeing people engaged in a behaviour is a way of learning that behaviour. 'Since adolescents are exposed to considerable screen time - over 4.5 hours on average each day - they’re constantly seeing images of behaviours they can then potentially adopt.'

One explanation behind the findings is that a considerable amount of advertising that used to be shown on TV is now being shown on the internet. In addition, computer usage by adolescents has increased considerably in recent years.

'TV and video games have more established protocols in terms of censorship, but Internet protocols aren’t as established,' Ms Carson said. 'Parents can make use of programs that control access to the Internet, but adolescents in this age group are quite savvy about technology and the Internet. 'It’s possible that these types of controls aren’t effective in blocking all undesirable websites.'

The research, recently published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, suggests that future studies should examine the specific content adolescents are being exposed to in order to help strengthen current screen time guidelines for youth.


Hepatitis C breakthrough: Scientists discover drug that cures MORE patients in LESS time

More hepatitis C patients appear to have been cured in less time by a new drug than in the past 20 years, according to federal health officials. Boceprevir, produced by New Jersey-based Merck & Co, is expected to be recommended by an independent panel on Wednesday to the Food and Drug Administration.

If the drug gets the go-ahead, it will be the culmination of more than 15 years of research to find a better therapy for a virus that infects over three million people in the U.S.

Celebrities who accidentally picked up the virus include Pamela Anderson, The Last Samurai film star Ken Watanabe and Body Shop founder Anita Roddick.

On Thursday Vertex Pharmaceuticals will bring a similar drug called telaprevir before the FDA's panel.

Both tablets, which work by blocking the enzyme protease, which allows the hepatitis virus to reproduce, have the potential to rack up over a billion dollars in annual sales. They differ from the older medications - ribavirin pills and interferon-alpha injections - that are designed to boost the immune system.

Like HIV drugs, the new pills from Merck and Vertex will be prescribed as part of a cocktail with the two older drugs to help lower viral levels. The current two-drug treatment for the virus cures only about 40 percent of people and causes side effects like nausea, fatigue and vomiting.

But boceprevir has been shown to boost cure rates to between approximately 60 and 65 per cent when combined with the older drugs.

FDA scientists said the two studies submitted by Merck showed patients had undetectable virus levels six months, cutting the standard treatment time in half. But the FDA said in its review that some late-responding patients may need to take the drugs for eight months to eliminate the virus.

The agency also suggested that other groups of patients should receive longer therapy, including African Americans who had a cure rate 15 to 25 per cent lower than other racial groups.

African Americans make up more than one in five of hepatitis C carriers in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA said the primary side effect with Merck's drug was anaemia, or weakness and fatigue caused by a lack of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. It questioned the strength of Merck's evidence that boceprevir works for patients who have already tried and failed treatment with the two older drugs.

The FDA often follows the guidance of its panels, though it is not required to do so. The agency is scheduled to make a final decision on the drug in May.

Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver transplants and it kills about 12,000 U.S. patients a year, a number expected to triple by 2030 as baby boomers succumb to the disease. The disease is often associated with users of illegal injectable drugs like heroin, but it was also be picked up from blood transfusions before 1992, when testing of the blood supply began.

Most people with hepatitis C don't even know they have the virus until years later when liver damage has occurred. 'The liver has a huge capacity of going about its business until it fails,' said Dr. Eliav Barr, Merck's vice president for infectious diseases. 'So you have chronic damage that gets worse and worse but you yourself can't tell until a fair bit of damage is done.'

Merck was the first company to market a drug for hepatitis C in 1991 when it launched interferon-alpha. Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was founded in 1989 by a former Merck scientist.


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