Friday, November 23, 2007

Nurses and addiction

One of the leading stories in Montreal yesterday was the temporary license suspension of two nurses who were found guilty of diverting morphine from their patients: Two Montreal nurses suspended for using morphine. Sadly, this does happen – nurses have access to these types of medications and if they are drug-dependent, the temptation may be too strong for them to resist.

There was an outcry on one of the talk radio stations; the host felt that the nurses should never be allowed to get their license back – that they should be banned from working as a nurse forever. He blamed the union for the nurses to be allowed to one day regain their license.

I’m of two minds about this. I do see where the radio host was coming from. The news reports stated one of the nurses injected patients with saline in order to keep the narcotic for himself. I can only imagine the pain the patient must have been experiencing and how awful it must have been to be unrelieved. The anger the host had for this act was understandable. After all, this calls into question if this could ever happen to us.

But the other side of the story is, what if nurses successfully complete drug rehabilitation – should they be forever banned from earning a living in their profession? Isn’t that the point of rehabilitation? This particular story says that the nurses have been clean now since they were caught.

Is it really a one or the other option? Or is there another option; is it possible that nurses who have abused drugs can work again but without access to narcotics? Does such an option exist?

My fear for allowing recovering addicts to return would be the temptation that they may fall into. As successful as a rehab can be, if the temptation is there in front of the nurses every day, how easy might it be to fall back under the spell of the addiction? Did those nurses develop this problem after they were nurses or did they enter the profession with this addiction already? This could make a difference.

There are no easy answers.

News for Today:

Thalidomide resurfaces as treatment for multiple myeloma
B.C. community pleads for help to halt suicide 'epidemic'
Two Montreal nurses suspended for using morphine
Mirror helps relieve phantom limb pain

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Portion control!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Today, millions of people in the US will be tucking into their favourite meals. Whether you are a turkey lover or a non-traditionalist, hopefully you will get to enjoy yourself.

Many websites have tips on how to avoid overeating at this time of year, how to watch your weight, how to avoid fat and all that stuff. I figure, as long as this type of eating is a special event, there isn’t too much wrong with taking part. Moderation – portion control – is the ticket though. Have a bit of everything and enjoy it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a regular health post.

News for Today:

More Americans exercising, though obesity rates going nowhere: study
Arterial vascular disease underdiagnosed, undertreated in older US women
Lung transplants bring more harm than good to children with cystic fibrosis

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Long-last effects of smoke exposure

The article on chronic lung disorder touches home for me Canadians at risk of chronic lung disorder: survey. I fall into the age group since I’m 46 and I do have problems with my lungs. They tighten up easily and I have had problems over the past years. I was from that generation when my father smoked his pipe in the car with the windows closed. I hated it, but I didn’t have much say in it, unfortunately.

The American Lung Association has an interesting fact sheet that lists the many dangers of second-hand smoke. Reuters Health carried this article last week: Nicotine byproduct found in babies of smokers.

I do realize and understand that smokers are feeling attacked – they can’t do a legal activity in many places; they are reviled by many because of their smoking. And, even as a non-smoker, I can understand that. If smoking is legal, it does seem to be contradictory to be forbidding it in so many places. The problem is though, where does their right to smoke end and my right to not breathe in their smoke begin?

What I don’t understand is why the kids are still beginning to smoke. Most kids I know have been told all their young lives how horrible smoking is – and yet they still begin. In Quebec, cigarettes are really expensive – so not only are they taking part of a habit that is ultimately health destroying, it’s hard on the pocketbook.

People who are heavily addicted are forced to stand outside in nasty, cold weather to get their cigarette fix, but where is the appeal for the teens who aren’t yet addicted? Is it still considered cool to smoke?

News for Today:

Canadians at risk of chronic lung disorder: survey
Trauma may alter the stress response, even in healthy people, Cornell study shows
Methadone alternative to hit Canadian market
Skin injuries to patients can be avoided when radiation dose is monitored
Illicit drug use among students steady, but painkiller use of concern: report
Post-treatment PET scans can reassure cervical cancer patients
Heart disease kills more U.S. women under 45

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Osteoporosis - truly a silent killer

Osteoporosis is a major health problem in North America – affecting both men and women According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 8 men over 50 years of age have osteoporosis. In the United States, The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that 8 million women and 2 million men are estimated to already have osteoporosis, and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.

As the population ages, the number of people with osteoporosis will rise.

The Osteoporosis Foundation of Canada offers this very interesting FAQ on the disease. It reviews risk factors, how to prevent the onset or worsening of osteoporosis, and the importance of exercise, among other issues.

Prevention osteoporosis and the resulting problems is something that needs to be taken seriously. As the article, Osteoporosis a silent killer, explains, osteoporosis not only causes pain and discomfort, it can cause death.

The well-known “hump-back” that many older people have is the result of osteoporosis. The bones (vertebrae) in the spine are collapsing and breaking, causing this humped appearance. This can affect mobility and cause pain but, importantly, it can affect breathing as the lungs don’t have the space to expand properly. We also have heard many stories about a senior being seemingly perfectly healthy until they fall and break a hip – then they deteriorate to not being able to live alone or die. The issue wasn’t the actual fall and broken hip, it is often the osteoporosis that made the break possible and healing impossible.

Here is a good quote, taken from the Osteoporosis Foundation of Canada: “Osteoporosis has been called a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences.” The time to begin preventing osteoporosis is from childhood. If a child receives the proper nutrients to build stronger bones, this will help him or her later on in life.

News for Today:

Teenage girls, and increasingly boys, dieting to stay thin: study
Migraine sufferers' brains show changes in pain-sensing areas: researchers
Thyroid cancer numbers way up, study finds
Sinus problems are treated well with safe, inexpensive treatment
Working with depression
For Men, a Simple New Test of Bone Strength
Osteoporosis a silent killer

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blood thinners - life saving medications

Medications to thin the blood (anti-coagulants) are a fact of life for many people. These medications are very serious drugs – too much and it becomes too difficult for the blood to clot, too little and it the drugs can’t do their job. If you are receiving injections, it is most likely that you are getting heparin; if you are taking pills, this is warfarin (Coumadin®)

Who has to take a blood thinner? Many people have to take them, but the most common reasons are if you have had:

- a stroke caused by a blood clot (not caused by a bleed)
- any type of clot in the blood system that did or may have caused a stroke or a pulmonary embolism
- a joint replacement
- a heart valve replacement

One of the most important issues when taking a blood thinner is to be sure you’re taking the right dose. For this reason, you need to have frequent blood tests to measure how quickly your blood is clotting; your dosage is often adjusted following these tests, particularly when you first begin taking the medication. The problem is, this can be really inconvenient for a lot of people – taking the time to go for these blood tests. That’s why this article was interesting: Home testing of blood thinner levels superior.

Because of the seriousness of warfarin, it's important that you take certain precautions while taking it. First of all, you should make sure that emergency personnel know you are taking warfarin in case of emergency; this means wearing a MedicAlert® bracelet, keeping a card in your wallet, and making sure that the people around you know that you are taking the medication. This is particularly important because if you have an accident at work or out with friends, like falling on the stairs, cut yourself, or break a limb, for example, your blood may not clot as quickly as it should and could cause serious problems.

You may experience some slight bleeding, such as when you are brushing your teeth or a menstrual period heavier than you are used to; however, if you experience any of the following, contact your clinic, healthcare professional, or go to the emergency room immediately (copied from

· Red, dark, coffee or cola colored urine
· Bowel movements that are red or look like tar
· Too much bleeding from the gums or nose.
· Throwing up coffee colored or bright red substance.
· Coughing up red-tinged secretions
· Severe pain (such as headache or stomachache).
· Sudden appearance of bruises for no reason.
· Excessive menstrual bleeding.
· A cut that will not stop bleeding within 10 minutes
· A serious fall
· Hitting your head

The document lists many issues to keep in mind, such as how to prevent injury, using other medications, and side effects, to name a few.

Warfarin and heparin are life savers, but they have to be used with caution.

News for Today:

Retraining promotes physical fitness in seniors: study
Home testing of blood thinner levels superior
FDA Approves Mircera: First Renal Anemia Treatment In The US With Monthly Maintenance Dosing