Harm Reduction

It should come as no surprise that drug traffickers are quite creative about distributing their du jour illicit product. Most recently, multiple agencies including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Homeland Security, intercepted an operation using legitimate Disney Donald Ducks and Winnie The Poohs as a cover for their imposter shipments of non-ceramic wax figurines replete with 500 lbs. of meth (estimated to be worth $2 million).

Drugs notoriously have been transferred for distribution using all sorts of vehicles intended to bypass discovery radars. The human body has been among the most dangerous ones. When a person swallows a bag of...

In a rapid series of progressively escalating press releases by the Illinois Department of Public Health, it appears that a dangerous synthetic cannabinoid product called K2, spice, synthetic marijuana, legal weed or fake weed has now claimed its latest victim in an outbreak currently totaling 38 people whose severe bleeding is linked to exposure of this substance. The state division just announced the first death in this cluster. Over recent days, the toll of those harmed continues to increase with all being hospitalized for spontaneous excessive bleeding, including but not limited to coughing up blood, urinating blood, bloody stools, bleeding from the eyes, ears,...

Climate change has been with us forever. Leave aside the current rancorous “debate” about the causes of our current climate, is there anything history can teach us about how human society copes when the weather around them change? John Haldon, a historian, and his colleagues mash up history, archeology and palaeoenvironmental [1] science to provide some clues. Society is a complex structure, and the ability to respond to environmental changes has varied over time. By combining information from archeologic findings, sampling our ecological history through techniques like core samples and tree rings (admittedly a simplification) as well as our historical record they believe a more layered understanding of the interaction of society and the environment can be achieved.

The point of...

I had the distinct pleasure of being a reviewer for the 2018-2019 Community Grants program for Komen this Fall. The experience gave me a fresh perspective on the process and affirmed the organization’s dedication to getting it right with respect to women’s health, optimizing breast cancer understanding as well as facilitating early diagnosis, screening, monitoring and treatment. Fulfilling a core commitment to reducing barriers and expanding access, especially for those most challenged and underserved, this funding is particularly important to curtail late stage diagnosis which can adversely impact survival.(1)

Here are some pearls of wisdom I can now pass along.

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The media and Twittersphere are full of articles and comments on the recent fatal crash involving an Uber vehicle and pedestrian in Arizona. I will leave the National Highway, and Transportation Safety Administration and the National Highway and Transportation Safety Board investigate the accident and publish their findings. But I feel compelled to point out a few salient points about autonomous technologies.

The Society of Automotive Engineers has published a classification of autonomous vehicles. Most cars currently on the road are at level 2, e.g., lane and cruise control – to be used in conjunction with an active driver, supervising and monitoring the environment. At the next level, the level of aircraft automation the pilot or drive cedes “full control of all safety-...

Six years after the last update, a national panel of health experts focusing on disease prevention just determined that revised skin cancer guidelines were warranted.

The most significant change extends its recommendations on sun protection to young children for two reasons: (1) Because being badly sunburned at an early age increases the chances of developing skin cancer later, and (2) kids are more likely to incorporate sun-safe precautions into their lives the earlier they are exposed to them.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force this week recommended that all light-skinned children beginning at the age of six months receive skin-cancer prevention guidance, which is a stark shift from its 2012 recommendations when the panel advised this training start at age 10....

There is a stunning lack of practicality in modern-day America. This is reflected not only by our hyperpartisan politics -- in which politicians refuse to endorse good ideas if they come from the "other side" -- but in the never-ending culture wars.

Previously, the culture wars focused on topics such as gay marriage and abortion, but recently, it has shifted to things like sugar, "chemicals," obesity, and smoking. There is a large contingent of Americans who believe they have the right to dictate what you put into your body. Worse, some pass moral judgment on people who do not share their lifestyle. Smokers aren't simply engaging in harmful behavior; instead, they're fundamentally bad people.

Such beliefs appear to be gaining popularity. A...

It was bound to happen eventually. A self-driving car has killed a pedestrian, and even before the accident has been fully investigated, there are calls to stop testing self-driving cars.

On CNBC, Duke engineering professor Mary Cummings -- who is generally in favor of the technology and wants them on the road before her child turns 16 years old -- said that self-driving cars currently should not be tested in public because it is tantamount to treating people like "guinea pigs." Her argument, however, is misguided for four reasons.

First, and most importantly, there is no adequate way to test cars in a controlled environment. Real life, particularly in a major city, is unpredictable and chaotic. A self-driving car must know how to cope with these conditions, which cannot...

The opioid epidemic is center stage when it comes to political agendas, media stories and national discussion. However, very little of this outrage shines any spotlight on the adverse impact this public health crisis has on children and adolescents. It is unfortunate since efforts to break the cycle of addiction must extend to the family unit or long-term progress and solutions will never endure. Considering opioid-related hospitalizations warranting the highest level of intensive care unit admission doubled between 2004 and 2015 in this population and much of the pediatric problems arise from accidental ingestion from adult use, comprehensive strategies haven’t but need to include our most...

There's no doubt about it. E-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives.

What makes smoking so dangerous isn't the nicotine, per se. Nicotine is an addictive alkaloid, just like caffeine. (Believe it or not, plants produce both compounds because they are insecticides.) The addiction makes people want more tobacco, but the molecule itself isn't all that harmful.

Tobacco is lethal because of the smoke. A lit cigarette releases known chemical carcinogens and tiny bits of particulate matter, which are incredibly damaging to the lungs. Setting anything on fire, not just tobacco, and inhaling the fumes is a bad idea. That's why innovative ways to get...