How can we win the battle against Ebola? This talk by Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization’s Polio and Emergencies Cluster, explains positive strategies to combat the epedemic.
How can we win the battle against Ebola? This talk by Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization’s Polio and Emergencies Cluster, explains positive strategies to combat the epedemic.
Do we need to alter our understanding of addiction to tackle it effectively as a society?
This article from the Irish Examiner explores alternative perceptions of addiction and interviews people who have conquered their addiction. The original article can be also read here.
As addiction insidiously strangles our streets and often targets vulnerable youth, new perceptions of addiction, and policies designed to target it are gaining international traction.
Portugal has de-criminalised all drug possession to seemingly positive effect, and even some US states are de-criminalising and legalising drug use amid a growing realisation that the ‘war on drugs’ is failing.
Recently even a fashion trend that was criticised for glamourising everything from drug-use to dirty hair, extreme skinniness to extreme kohl eyeliner has influenced an effecting video project which adds to these new narratives on addiction.
Downtown Divas contrasts the high fashion photographed in the ‘Heroin Chic’ look that dominated the 90s with real-life contemporary heroin addiction and the physical, mental and emotional toll that the drug takes on users.
Gigi Ben Artzi and Loral Amir’s project shows women in designer clothes talking about their hopes and dreams, their loves and memories. (https://vimeo.com/108770583 )
These women are addicted to drugs, living dangerous and chaotic lives but the project focuses on their humanity rather than reducing them to their addiction or to the prostitution which helps fund it.
This intimacy and honesty helps viewers to break through the wall that addiction can erect around an individual, which often bars us from recognising our similarities and shared vulnerabilities. Fashion is used as a vehicle to re-contextualise these women’s stories and to subvert prejudices, and the concept of fashion, which is so often concerned with escapism ironically resonates with the escapism inherent in drug use while temporarily allowing these women to escape from their dangerous lives.
Heroin Chic as a sartorial trend originally arose in the 90s as a stark reaction to the glamour-on-amphetamines, hyper-consumerism of the 1980s.
Created largely by fashion photographer Corrine Day and the then adolescent Kate Moss, the photographs that started the ‘Heroin Chic’ aesthetic were often shot in dingy apartments and began Moss’ speedy rise to become arguably the iconic face of that generation and the next.
That it is still spawning influences now, from the resurgence in 90s fashion in 2014 to this intimate portrayal of women suffering from heroin addiction is a reminder of the potency that images can have when they tap into the zeitgeist, especially in today’s hyper-mediated societies where images have become so dominant that we’re arguably moving towards a hybrid form of hieroglyphic communications.
And perhaps this honest and intimate glimpse inside the minds of some of the most marginalised in our society can remind us of our shared humanity and help mount pressure to improve services and perhaps to better understand and relate to addiction.
Tony Duffin, Director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project which is currently calling to legalise medically supervised centres where addicts can inject and have their habits better monitored (and hopefully reduced) while also taking needles and drug use off the streets, believes that such portrayals may be useful.
“We work with thousands of people who are affected by addiction in Ireland and they all have hopes, fears and dreams like anyone else. People who use drugs need to be portrayed as human beings and not merely as drug users.
It is important that the lived experience of people affected by addiction is portrayed and the stigma they encounter is challenged. It is also important that this is done in such a way that promotes the dignity and respect of those people who are telling their story,” says Duffin.
James from Cork, now 18 months free from heroin, also believes that it is important to amplify marginalised voices in our community.
“Hearing people’s stories allows to you to empathise with those people on the streets who are often easy to ignore. When you hear their stories you recognise that it could have been you, had your circumstances been different.”
Bruce Alexander, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University, Canada has found that it may be those societal circumstances that predict addictive behaviours in the first place.
He conducted experiments which contradicted contemporary orthodoxies about addiction as far back as the 1980’s. Up until that point, studies on addiction had found that when rats isolated in cages were given access to morphine they would quickly develop addictions and consume the drug until it killed them.
This finding formed the still largely dominant theory that physically addictive substances such as opiates (like heroin) will turn most users into addicts.
Alexander interrogated this study by creating ‘Rat Park’, a veritable rat heaven where rats could play, mate, rest and feed in a pleasant, stimulating, clean environment. Rats were given access to two water sources, one contained morphine and one contained plain water.
None of these rats developed heroin habits despite having ready access to the drug. Even when Alexander and his team added sugar to the morphine laden water source, rats still chose the clean water.
And after he force-fed the rats morphine for two months they reverted to the clean water supply when given the choice, despite exhibiting withdrawal symptoms.
Alexander simultaneously monitored rats kept isolated in cages and these less fortunate subjects consistently chose morphine over clean water, leading Alexander to the conclusion that happy rats (and as a likely extension happy humans) choose to avoid opiates even when introduced to them, but isolated, unhappy rats self-medicate and presumably escape their miserable reality through addiction.
These findings led Alexander to theorise that addiction is caused by social fragmentation. As the historically close ties to family, culture and spirituality are loosened by a modern global society focused on individualism and unrelenting competition, his thesis contests that people adapt to this dislocation by finding substitutes which often manifests as addiction in all its chameleon guises.
So although differences in vulnerability are partially dictated by genetics, individual experiences and character, addiction in his view is more of a social problem than an individual disorder, caused by wider societal, cultural and political pressures.
And perhaps this is a more useful paradigm to help us understand (and hopefully tackle) addiction.
Brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to grow and change – was only fully accepted and understood in the past decade, so it seems conceivable that with the right support and will people can re-wire their brains to break addiction’s insidious grip.
James sees merit in Alexander’s theory.
“I remember looking in the mirror with tears rolling down my face, not wanting to use heroin but still feeling this compulsion to use. When I moved to a treatment centre in Carlow we were taught Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), we had councillors who helped us challenge our thought processes in a calm, peaceful environment on a farm close to nature. I didn’t feel that compulsion to use there.”
On leaving the treatment centre he was homeless.
“Cork Simon had just opened a rehabilitation house for recovering addicts. They took me in and they gave me work to do in the organisation. I would have been lost without them.” James is hugely grateful to Cork Simon.
He is now studying Social Studies and Applied Psychology (in the Cork College of Commerce) and plans to continue his studies in Social Science at UCC specialising in Youth and Community, so that he can use his experiences to help other young people.
James feels that the very nature of addiction depends on isolation.
“Addiction wants you alone and dead. And it’s the same mentality regardless of what you’re addicted to, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, food, whatever. That’s how my addiction was, I’d use alone and have suicidal thoughts but through Narcotics Anonymous (NA) I learned to control my thoughts which empowered me. Now I’m in college and the world is my oyster.”
Áine Duffy speaking for Alone, a charity that addresses homelessness and also recognises the link between social isolation and addiction.
“Studies show that isolation and loneliness makes it harder to regulate behaviour,” says Duffy.
Philip McCarthy, a successful film maker who beat a heroin addiction agrees.
“Even when I was young I had the makings of an addict but I didn’t recognise it. I had the best parents in the world but I always felt like I was an outsider looking in at my happy family, I didn’t really feel part of it.”
McCarthy says that suffering sustained sexual abuse and not telling anyone due to threats from the abuser from the age of nine made him turn to drugs to deaden the pain and confusion that the abuse caused. Both McCarthy and James are emphatic that heroin is unfortunately here to stay, and that the only way to prevent new users is through education and support.
“We need more workshops to make kids aware. Many now think that smoking heroin is ok, that you have to use needles to be an addict which is not true. If you have awareness you have choice,” says James.
McCarthy believes that it is vital to get people who have battled addiction and managed to turn their lives around into schools to talk to youths.
“I spoke to kids in Deerpark CBS in Cork and you could hear a pin drop. They listen to you because they know that you’ve been there. All kids will experiment so we need to give them the tools to deal with it,” says McCarthy.
He pours his energy into his films now, he is currently in pre-production on a film about gangland Ireland and he has already cast some Hollywood names and a few members of the RTÉ series Love/Hate in the production which is due to start filming in Cork this summer, and he is also writing his first book.
“The sense of achievement of seeing my films and all that hard work come alive on a screen gives me a rush that no drug ever could,” says McCarthy.
“That sense of achievement is unbeatable and utterly priceless.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
How smart are children??!! Exceedingly as this great video from Sugata Mitra will point out.
I encourage every parent and every teacher to watch this video. Hope you enjoy it!
Looking for some inspiring ideas to stimulate those grey cells and get the imagination going? Well here are some TEDtalks to do just that. Hope you enjoy them!
Remember being told about the virtues of porridge when you were a sceptical child? Well those stories appear to be even more true than your parents and teachers may have predicted. New research is finding that the mighty oat could actually lower cholesterol and clean the arteries while delivering other powerful heart-protective qualities.
The article below is by LAURA DONNELLY for the Irish Independent.
Fans of porridge have long claimed that it gives them the best start to the day – but scientists say there is evidence that it could also have a special ingredient that actively cleans the arteries, protecting against cancer and heart disease.
A meeting of researchers says there is growing evidence that a bioactive compound contained only in oats may possess protective antioxidant properties.
Oats are the breakfast of choice for many athletes and dieters, who find the high fibre levels give them energy for longer. The combination of fibre, vitamins and minerals in whole grains has also been linked to a reduced risk of diseases.
One particular fibre found only in oats – called beta-glucan – has already been credited with lowering cholesterol.
But scientists at the annual conference of the American Chemical Society in Dallas, Texas, yesterday said there was growing evidence that the benefits of oats do not just come from the fibre.
Researchers said studies suggested that a bioactive compound called avenanthramide could stop fat forming in the arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Shengmin Sang, from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, said: “While the data to support the importance of oat beta-glucan remains, these studies reveal that the heart health benefit of eating oats may go beyond fibre. As the scientific investigators dig deeper, we have discovered that the bioactive compounds found in oats may provide additional cardio-protective benefits.”
Fat formation in the arteries can become a condition called atherosclerosis in which the arteries become clogged. This can lead to organ damage or blood clots that result in heart attacks or strokes.
Previous studies have suggested that the fibre contained in porridge can reduce cholesterol levels by as much as 23pc.
Studies on children have suggested the traditional breakfast dish can help to keep obesity at bay. Youngsters who eat oats regularly are 50pc less likely to be overweight, one study of 10,000 children found.
Oats can reduce high blood pressure, which is closely linked to stroke and heart disease. They are also a source of vitamin B1 (thiamin) which is crucial for the nervous system, and folic acid, which is essential for healthy foetal development.
In an attempt to increase folic acid levels, pregnancy advisers have joined doctors in urging the British government to fortify flour with the acid to cut the number of babies developing defects such as spina bifida.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has also said it is time recommendations to fortify flour with the vitamin were implemented in the UK.
At this time of year you may be energetically and economically burnt out so here at Dunphy Medical we’d like to share some easy and cost-effective tips to have you on-track for the new year.
1. Golden Honey – Honey is delicious and has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties and turmeric is an immune-boosting powerhouse, it is an excellent antioxidant and antibiotic; it has cancer-fighting properties and it is also anti-inflammatory. It has been used in Ayurvedic and eastern medicine for thousands of years, partly thanks to curcumin, it’s active phenol which also causes turmeric’s yellow colour.
Golden Honey is simply a mixture of these two ingredients, just mix 1 tbsp of tumeric powder with 100gr of raw organic honey, store in a clean glass jar, you can leave it at room temperature and take a spoon as needed.
http://www.WithFoodandLove.com recommends taking a spoonful directly in your mouth, or diluted as a drink with hot water, or taken as a spread on toast to ward off allergies in spring time.
And upon the first symptoms of colds and flu, http://www.BestHerbalHealth.com recommends keeping the Golden Honey mixture in your mouth until it completely dissolves for:
Golden Honey is also useful to combat respiratory diseases and it lowers blood pressure, and turmeric reduces blood sugar levels.
Turmeric also causes muscle contractions of the gallbladder so avoid turmeric if you suffer from gallbladder disease.
2. A turmeric, lemon, cinnamon and black pepper drink is delicious, quick, healthy, warming and cheering at this time of year.
Simply add a pinch (or two) of turmeric, a pinch of cinnamon and a grind or two of black pepper to some hot water with some sliced lemon. Stir occasionally as the spices can sink to the bottom.
Black pepper makes the wonder-spice turmeric more easily absorbed by the body and cinnamon, along with tasting yummy and festive, also boasts anti-inflammatory properties and helps regulate blood-sugar levels.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, cinnamon is used to help treat muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold, loss of appetite, and erectile dysfunction.
According to a study in Diabetes Care, cinnamon may help improve glucose and lipid levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, and at Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that cinnamon may help prevent Alzheimers disease.
Cinnamon may also help stop the destructive process of multiple sclerosis (MS) according to a neurological scientist at Rush University Medical Center, and Penn State researchers revealed that diets rich in cinnamon can help reduce the body’s negative responses to eating high-fat meals.
Lemon has antioxidants and vitamin C which is always useful, but it’s particularly great when the immune system is busy battling colds, flus and various bugs at this time of year.
3. Exercise! It boosts the immune system, causes a rush of endorphins and it is vital to balance your body and your brain to keep you healthy and happy. Here’s a favourite video of ours that nicely sums up the benefits of exercise.
4. Smile and Laugh! It floods the body with feel-good chemicals called endorphins, it relieves stress, boosts the immune system, relieves pain, improves heart health (it improves blood vessel function and increases blood flow) and it fosters social bonding.
And it’s 100% free, it has no side-effects (bar perhaps the odd wrinkle!) and almost everyone can do it almost everywhere, but best of all, it’s contagious! So by making yourself happier and healthier, you’re also helping others to do the same!
5. Remember the ratio 5:1 – Eminent psychologist Maureen Gaffney has found that the golden ratio of positive to negative thoughts that you need everyday to push (or keep) your life in a positive, fulfilling upward spiral is 5 positive thoughts to 1 negative. So keep that in mind throughout the day and pay attention to all the positives, there may be many more than you realise! For more tips on making 2015 your best year yet check out Gaffney’s book called ‘Flourishing’.
This video has some very inspiring ideas to start the new year with.
2015 is looking increasingly promising!
Could computers replace doctors? Are we entering a new age of exponential growth in artificial intelligence that far outstrips our own? Or are we entering an unprecedented phase of human advancement and an economics of abundance? Three inspirational videos pointing to a future of technological advancement, computer learning and very fast change.
Older people who are active internet users and who regularly indulge in culture may be better able to retain their health literacy, and therefore maintain good health, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as the degree to which a person is able to obtain, understand, and process basic health information so they can make appropriate decisions about their health.
Low levels of health literacy are associated with poorer self-care, higher use of emergency care services, low levels of preventative care, and an overall increased risk of death.
The most important factor governing a decline in health literacy in later years is thought to be dwindling cognitive abilities as a result of ageing, which gradually dulls the brain functions involved in active learning and vocabulary.
The researchers wanted to find out if regular internet use and engaging in civic, leisure, and cultural activities might help to maintain health literacy skills, irrespective of age-related cognitive decline. They therefore assessed the health literacy skills of almost 4,500 adults aged 52 and older, all of whom were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) between 2004 and 2011.
At the start of the study, around three out of four people (73 per cent) had adequate health literacy. After six years, scores fell by one or more points in around a fifth (19 per cent) of people, regardless of their initial score, while a similar proportion improved by one or more points.
There was a link between age and declining health literacy, and being non-white, having relatively low wealth, few educational qualifications, and difficulties carrying out routine activities of daily living.
Poorer memory and executive function scores at the start of the study were also linked to greater decline over the subsequent six years.
Around 40 per cent said they never used the internet or email, while one-in-three (32 per cent) said they did so regularly. Similar proportions said they engaged in civic (35 per cent) and/or leisure (31 per cent) activities over the six-year period.
Almost four out of 10 (39 per cent) said they had regularly engaged in cultural activities, such as going to the cinema, theatre, galleries, concerts or the opera, during this time.
Across all time points, internet use and engagement in civic, leisure, or cultural activities were lower among those whose health literacy declined.
J Epidemiol Community Health 2014;0:1–6. doi:10.1136/jech-2014-204733.
Despite huge increases in alcoholic liver disease in the last 10 years, particularly in younger people, a new study shows that many students are not concerned about the long-term health impacts of alcohol consumption.
The study found that twice as many college students were likely to reduce their alcohol consumption for cost reasons compared to those who would reduce consumption to prevent negative health impacts. As reported by the Irish Medical News, the study consisted of a survey of first year students at University College Cork.
According to the study, two-fifths (or 39%) of students surveyed admitted to going out with the intention of getting drunk, knowing that it would affect their duties the next day.
The study has prompted the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) to call for legislation to target alcohol consumption.
The ISG has warned that alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions continue to rise in Ireland, particularly in younger people and deaths related to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008.
Perhaps a public awareness campaign is needed to educate our young people that the health costs of over-zealous alcohol consumption are far more costly in the long run that the initial monetary outlay.