Stories tagged drugs


Mo money, mo problems
Mo money, mo problemsCourtesy Acomment

Go ahead and take a quick look in your wallet or your purse. Do you have a dollar bill in there? Well 9 chances out of 10 you also are in possession of cocaine.

Think my claim is outrageous? Think again. In a current study conducted by the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, research has shown that cocaine is present in up to 90 percent of paper money in the United States. The reports were presented at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society this month and suggest that cocaine use is still extensive and could possibly be on the rise.

Scientists tested banknotes from over 30 cities in five countries including Brazil, China, Japan, Canada and the U.S. of which the Chinese and Japanese currencies held the lowest rates of contamination (between 12 to 20 percent) while the U.S. and Canada were reaching rates from 85 to 95 percent. For the U.S., this percentage of contaminated banknotes is a 20 percent jump of contamination in comparison to a study done two years prior.

Yuegang Zuo, the sudy leader says, “I'm not sure why we've seen this apparent increase, but it could be related to the economic downturn, with stressed people turning to cocaine.”

The current study also used a new method of measurement. Previous techniques destroyed the currency, but by using a modified form of gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, a faster, simpler and more accurate measurement is obtained while maintaining the banknote. Using the GC-MS, 234 banknotes from the U.S. were analyzed and found that traces of cocaine range from .006 micrograms (several thousand times smaller than a grain of sand) to 1,240 micrograms (roughly 50 grains of sand).

But don’t get carried away, the amount of cocaine found on dollar bills is so small that there is zero chance of health or legal concerns. But if you feel the need to get rid of all of your paper money, feel free to send it my way:

Science Museum of Minnesota

(Attn: trans-2-butene)
120 W. Kellogg Blvd.

St. Paul, MN 55102


Crestor: :Rosuvastatin
Crestor: :RosuvastatinCourtesy Mykhal
The drug company, AstraZenca, makes a drug called Crestor and also receives royalties from a particular blood test (hsCRP) which detects C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of infection.

AstraZenca funded a study which found that their product, Crestor, when given to patients identified as having infection via their blood test (hsCRP), "slashed the risk (of heart attack or stroke) of those flagged by the test by about half -- even if their cholesterol was normal".

Infection's role in cardiovascular risk

Why people with normal cholesterol levels suffered heart attacks or strokes has been puzzling. In the study,

either 20 milligrams of the statin Crestor or an inert placebo (was given) daily to 17,802 middle-aged and elderly men and women who had what are considered safe cholesterol levels but high CRP -- 2 milligrams per liter of blood or above.
(They)stopped the trial ... after an average follow-up of less than two years, concluding that the benefit was so striking that it would unethical to continue withholding the real drug from those taking the placebo.
Compared with those getting the placebo, those taking Crestor were 54 percent less likely to have a heart attack, 48 percent less to have a stroke, 46 percent less likely to need angioplasty or bypass surgery to open a clogged artery, 44 percent less likely to suffer any of those events and 20 percent less likely to die from any cause, the researchers reported yesterday. WashingtonPost

Costs, benefits, and alternatives

For every 1000 people in this study who took Crestor, there were about 2 who had heart attacks compared to about 4 in the placebo group (per year).

Some skeptics, however, argued that the actual risk reduction for an individual would be very small, given the relatively low risk for most middle-aged people, so the benefits easily could be outweighed by the costs of thousands more people taking tests and drugs and being monitored by doctors.

The risks from extended use of Crestor by millions of patients is unknown. We do know that lifestyle interventions are effective.

Join the discussion, learn more

Washington Post Staff Writer Rob Stein will be online Monday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss a new study that could transform efforts to prevent heart attacks and strokes. You can discuss whether you think drugs and money or lifestyle changes are best for our future there or in comments below.

Read the research paper: Rosuvastatin to Prevent Vascular Events in Men and Women with Elevated C-Reactive Protein


The cure for what ails you: But only if you can get it in time.
The cure for what ails you: But only if you can get it in time.Courtesy Destinys Agent

(With the Republican National Convention literally across the street, the Science Museum of Minnesota will be closed starting Friday, August 29. But Science Buzz marches on! To honor our convention guests, I’ll be posting entries focusing on issues where science and politics overlap. Hopefully this will spur some discussion. Or at least tick some people off. Previous entries here and here.)

Getting a new drug approved for use is a long and arduous process. As well it should be—we need to be sure not only that the drug works, but also that it doesn’t have any nasty, even fatal, side-effects.

Unfortunately, the process has gotten slower lately. The US Food and Drug Administration is approving only half as many drugs as it did a decade ago. Some observers believe the organization has grown gun-shy. After Vioxx and a few other high-profile drugs had to be pulled from the market over safety concerns, the agency has become a lot more cautious.

(The cynical among us might say the FDA is out to protect its own skin, regardless of how many lives are lost by withholding drug approvals. At the same time, one can argue that they agency has been forced into its current cautious approach by the media and Congress, who heap criticism and blame on the FDA for its few mistakes, but never offer any praise for its many successes.)

Another issue arises from the pre-approval trials. New drugs are tested on a small number of patients. Often there are more patients interested in taking part in the trial than there are slots available. This can be especially difficult for terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other treatment options – nothing has worked, and they are still dying. They would have nothing to lose, and potentially a lot to gain, from trying an experimental drug. The drug trial itself might benefit from having more subjects. It’s win-win.

But getting such patients added to trials has proven very difficult. In May, Sen. Sam Brownback (R., Kan.) and Rep. Diane Watson (D., Calif.) introduced a bill to open up access to trials for such patients. No action was taken before Congress recessed for the summer.

Researchers in London have found that oxytocin – a naturally-produced human hormone – can help combat shyness. They are also hoping to use it to address other conditions, including autism and depression.


Researchers at Swansea University, in the UK, are developing an antibiotic that can fight the MRSA superbug. And they're using superbugs to do it. OK, not superbugs. They're using the secretions from the maggots of the common green bottle fly.

A cage match I'm not sure I want to see: Maggots secrete a compound that can fight superbugs, including 12 strains of MRSA, E. coli, and C. difficile.
A cage match I'm not sure I want to see: Maggots secrete a compound that can fight superbugs, including 12 strains of MRSA, E. coli, and C. difficile.Courtesy National Institutes of Health

Super gross? Sure. And you won't see an ad for this antibiotic (Seraticin) on TV anytime soon. It takes some 20 maggots to make a single drop of the drug. So scientists have to fully identify it, figure out a way to synthesize it in the lab, test it on human cells, and put it through a clinical trial.

In the meantime, using live maggots on infected wounds is a time-tested way of beating infections. Dr. Alun Morgan, of ZooBiotic Ltd, told the BBC,

"Maggots are great little multitaskers. They produce enzymes that clean wounds, they make a wound more alkaline which may slow bacterial growth and finally they produce a range of antibacterial chemicals that stop the bacteria growing."

How effective are maggots? The University of Manchester has been doing research on diabetic patients with MRSA-contaminated foot ulcers. The patients treated with maggots were mostly cured within three weeks. Patients who got more conventional treatment needed 28 weeks.

So give maggots a big shout out. And then check these other stories:
"NHS 'needs to use more maggots'"
Prescription insects
Fun with beetles


Low-grade baby: but she seems to be enjoying it.
Low-grade baby: but she seems to be enjoying it.Courtesy ocadotony
I hope I don’t look like a chump. Because I’m no chump. I’m no chump, and I’m leaving this chump job. Goodbye, Chump Inc. Goodbye, Chumville. I’m starting an exciting new life, effective immediately, as a drug dealer.

And what poison will I peddle? What do I plan to sling on street corners and playgrounds? The worst and most deadly drug: pure, uncut baby.

Trust me; it’s the next big thing. I accept that my baby dealing operation will probably start out small (baby manufacturing is notoriously time-consuming), but before you know it gossip pages will be swimming in photos of starlets with babies peaking out of their handbags, or smeared on their upper lips. Why?

Because babies get you hiiigghhh!

Or at least they get mothers high, and that’s a market somewhat neglected by dealers. Cha-ching!

Research has shown that mothers, when shown pictures of their babies, experience strong brain activity in regions associated with reward and addiction—a natural high.

The strength of a mother’s reaction seems to depend partly on her baby’s expression. A crying baby, for instance, evokes a reaction little different from a mother seeing a stranger’s baby (ha!), whereas a smiling baby is like a spoonful of hot heroin. Relatively speaking.

That’s something I’ll have to factor into my operation—happy babies are the most potent, and I surely want to offer a high quality product. How do you make babies happy? It’s never really been my thing. Like…rattles, maybe? Cigarettes? I have the feeling that it’ll be a trial and error sort of thing.

Aside from inspiring a whole new career path for me, the research promises to be valuable in understanding some of the most basic elements of mother-child bonding, and why, in some cases, this bonding fails to occur. Neglect and abuse sometimes arises from such cases, and so, as a baby dealer, I think I would only be helping society by fixing up moms already jonesing for some baby, and encouraging the habit in others.


March 29 - April 4 are Nano Days at The Science Museum and other museums areound the country. To celebrate, here's a selection of recent nanotechnology stories in the news:

Japanese doctors are trying to build nano-scale robots to build custom-designed medicines,one molecule at a time.

Pharmaceutical companies are using nanotechnology to deliver more effective anti-cancer drugs.

Researchers at MIT are trying to develop an electric car with a battery using nanowires.

Engineers in California are looking for ways to use nanomaterials to store hydrogen, which may someday power pollution-free cars.

Scientists are using nanotechnology to develop more efficient solar panels.


Sure he's scary: But he's actually pretty docile when he's... like that.
Sure he's scary: But he's actually pretty docile when he's... like that.Courtesy seanP
People used to do all sorts of things. We used to make cars, vacuum floors, play violins, toast bread over fires… Now these activities are in the domain of robots. And, you know, that’s cool, because who likes vacuuming and toasting things manually? But it’s just the idea that bothers me; before you know it robots, synth-humans or robo-sapiens, if you prefer, will be doing all the stuff that makes us human, like abusing animals, or going to the bathroom, or paying to see Wayans brothers movies. What will we have left? Clinical depression and substance abuse?

Nope. Just clinical depression.

How can robots take substance abuse, that staple of humanity, away from us? By doing it better than we ever could.

A recent study by Health Canada has shown that smoked marijuana is, in some respects, even more toxic than cigarettes. Cannabis smoke contains “20 times more ammonia than cigarette smoke, five times more hydrogen cyanide and five times the concentration of nitrogen oxides, which affect circulation and the immune system.” And, because marijuana smoke is generally held in the lungs longer than cigarette smoke, the body’s exposure to these harmful chemicals is intensified. So don’t plan on replacing your vitamins with weed, because it’s just not that good for you.

This is all good information to have. But how it was obtained is more relevant to subject on hand: the Canadian researchers used special machines to “smoke” the marijuana, collect the fumes, and then analyze them. Smoking robots.

How could a human smoker ever hope to live up to that? Even the most committed potheads have difficulty keeping track of, say, their car keys, or the time of day, not to mention concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

What’s next, robots? Meth? Heroin? Would you take away all the junkies have? What else are they supposed to do?

I think we should start taking activities away from robots, and see how they like it. What would they think if we started doing long division again, or exploring deep-sea chasms on our own? Consider it, Buzzketeers, or consider becoming obsolete.

Medical researchers are developing nanorobots to deliver drugs directly where they are needed in the body.

Meanwhile, researchers in California are using bacteria to grow electronic circuits out of nanotubes.