By Dr. Mercola
One in four teens has misused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, according to new survey results from the partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation.1
This represents a 33 percent increase in the past five years!
Among one of the most commonly abused class of drugs are stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, of which one in eight teens (13 percent) said they had taken even though it wasn’t prescribed to them.
Prescription drugs don’t hold the same stigma as illegal recreational drugs, even though they can be just as deadly, leading teens to regard them as a “safe” way to get high.
In many cases, parents only add to this assumption, not only because they may take multiple prescription drugs themselves but also, as the survey reported, because close to one-third of parents believe prescription stimulants can improve their teen’s academic performance.
One in Six Parents Believe Prescription Drugs Give a Safer “High” Than Street Drugs
Another shocking belief held by one in six parents was that using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using street drugs. This might explain why 86 percent of teens said their parents had not talked to them about the risks of abusing prescription drugs. In fact, it’s often the parents’ own medicine cabinets that become their children’s “drug dealers” …
Some teens even describe having “skittles parties,”2 where they combine a mix of pills they took from their parent’s medicine cabinet into one big bowl, then take a few just for fun.
Sadly, some teens pay for this one “bad” decision with their lives. Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, and these drug-induced fatalities are not being driven by illegal street drugs.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the most commonly abused prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.3 As written in the Baltimore Sun:4
"According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drugs are second to marijuana as the drug of choice for today's teens. In fact, seven of the top 10 drugs used by 12th-graders were prescription drugs.
More than 40 percent of high school seniors reported that painkillers are "fairly" or "very" easy to get. They also reported that they believed that if they were to get caught, there was less shame attached to the use of prescription drugs than to street drugs. This mirrors the perceptions of their parents, who when queried said that they felt prescription drugs were a safer alternative to drugs typically sold by a drug dealer."
There’s Nothing “Safe” About Prescription Drug Abuse
If you have a teenager or pre-teen in your life that you care about, please make it a point to sit down and talk to them about the dangers of taking prescription drugs just “for fun.” Far from being “safer” than illegal street drugs, they can sometimes kill in just one pill.
Be sure to let them in on this simple fact: in many cases there's no difference between a recreational street drug and a prescription drug. For example, hydrocodone, a prescription opiate, is synthetic heroin. It's indistinguishable from any other heroine as far as your brain and body is concerned. So, if you're hooked on hydrocodone, you are in fact a good-old-fashioned heroin addict.
Worse, pain-killing drugs like fentanyl are actually 100 times more potent than natural opioids like morphine, making the addictive potential and side effects associated with prescription drug use much higher. Among the most commonly abused prescription medications, along with their risks, which you can share with your teen, include:
Morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl all fall into this category. These drugs are not only addictive, they can lead to slowed breathing and death if too much is taken.
These include drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall (the latter of which actually contains amphetamine, known and sold on the street as "speed" or "crank"), which are often used to teat ADHD, narcolepsy and even sometimes depression. Along with being highly addictive, stimulants sometimes lead to feelings of hostility and paranoia, along with risks like irregular heartbeat, heart failure and seizures.
When a stimulant is combined with another medication, such as an over-the-counter cold medicine that contains a decongestant, it can cause dangerously high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms.
Used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, medications such as Valium, Xanax, Ambien, and Sonata are also addictive, and cause side effects like confusion, drowsiness and impaired coordination. This can be especially risky among teens if they then get behind the wheel to drive, as it increases the risk of accidents. Further, if these drugs are combined with alcohol or pain medications, the results can be deadly.
In the Popular Science infographic above,5 you can see rankings of some of the deadliest drugs in the US, according to data from the CDC. What is striking about this graphic is not only the steady rise in drug-related deaths, but also the fact that close to 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths involve pharmaceutical drugs such as opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone), anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs – the very same drugs often preferred by teens for a “safer” high.
Politicians are Worried About Soda … but What About Prescription Drugs?
Soda taxes and other measures to lower soda consumption is a hot topic among politicians. Obviously, helping teens to drink less soda is an admirable and important public health goal, but what about the abuse of prescription drugs? One American dies every 19 minutes from an accidental prescription drug overdose,6 a phenomenon now being described as “the biggest man-made epidemic in the United States.”7 Yet, this is a soaring public health epidemic that receives far too little attention from the media and lawmakers alike.
Unfortunately, we’re living in an era when the drug industry is praised and revered for their “life-saving” medications, when in reality even their proper use often takes lives unnecessarily. Drugs are known to cause well over 125,000 deaths per year in the US when taken correctly as prescribed – and still the FDA allows fast-track approvals and countless new additions of poorly tested drugs to the marketplace that must later be withdrawn due to their lethal consequences.
This “FDA approval” makes teens believe that taking a few pills here and there is no big deal, and parents add to this flawed belief by often giving medications to their kids when they’re not really necessary – a practice that often starts at a very young age.
Nearly Half of Parents Give Cold Meds to Kids When They Shouldn’t
In children under the age of 4, common over-the-counter cough and cold medications can lead to allergic reactions, increased heart rate, slow breathing, confusion, hallucinations, drowsiness, sleeplessness, convulsions, nausea and constipation. This is why, since 2008, labels on these drugs state that they’re not intended for children under 4. Yet, according to a new survey, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, more than 40 percent of US parents give these cough and cold medications to their children aged 3 and younger.8
There is a common perception that if you’re coughing, sneezing or have a low-grade fever, you must take a medication to get rid of it. In reality, coughing and sneezing are tools your body uses to get rid of viruses and irritants, and fever also helps to kill bacteria and viruses.
So if you take a drug to stop these natural protections, you are actually stopping your body’s healing process -- and in the long run it will likely take you even longer to feel better. That, combined with the serious risks these drugs can pose to children, makes a strong case against their use … yet many parents still reach for such medications at the first hint of a sniffle. For kids, this sends the message that drugs are necessary to make you “feel better” – a belief they may keep when they reach their teenage years …
Novartis Drug Company Being Sued for Illegal Kickback Scheme
You probably wouldn’t trust that a drug dealer on the street had your best interests at heart … you would assume they’re mostly interested in making a profit. But make no mistake – the leading pharmaceutical companies are also among the largest corporate criminals in the world, behaving as if they are little more than white-collar drug dealers.
In one of the most recent examples, the US government sued the drug company Novartis for giving pharmacies discounts and rebates to switch kidney transplant patients from competitors’ drugs to their own anti-rejection drug Myfortic. Medicare and Medicaid reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars in reimbursements to the pharmacies as a result of the illegal kickback scheme, which has reportedly been going on since 2005.
This is not an isolated incident, either. A 2010 study analyzed trends in criminal and civil actions against drug companies, and revealed that the drug industry is the biggest defrauder of the federal government under the False Claims Act.9 Despite stiffer financial penalties, criminal activity has increased dramatically in recent years. These white-collar criminals are the same ones behind the supposedly “safe” medications sitting in your medicine cabinet; if they’re willing to defraud the federal government, what makes you think they’re not willing to defraud you, too?
12 Signs Your Teen May be Abusing Prescription Drugs
Prescription drug abuse often goes unnoticed by parents until it’s too late, so be sure to keep a close eye out for the following signs that your teen may be abusing prescription drugs:
Changes in sleeping habits or energy level Changes in mood or personality Changes in personal hygiene or appearance Changes in friends Loss of appetite Changes in grades or dedication to schoolwork Constricted eye pupils (“pinpoint pupils”), which may be a sign of opiate use Poor decision making Restlessness or impulsive behavior Missing medications around your home Loss of interest in activities, sports, etc. Sudden weight loss
If you notice these signs or otherwise suspect that your teen may be abusing prescription drugs, talk to them immediately about the dangers and seek professional help if necessary.
The New Epidemic Sweeping Across America (and it's Not a Disease)
The Scary Trend Of Boomer Addiction
By Dr. Mercola
Yep, it’s time for yet another pandemic flu drill... “WHO says new bird strain is "one of most lethal" flu viruses,” Reuters1 recently declared.
Every few years, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and related agencies drum up another flu emergency; each promised to be worse than the last, and this year you’re likely to start hearing a lot more about “lethal bird flu” again.
What many don’t realize is that these agencies actually need these faux flu emergencies to practice — to fine-tune their strategies and test the latest disease surveillance systems.
They also need them to justify their own existence, not to mention growth and expansion. As noted in a recent article by Medical News Today2:
“After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and the potential threat of bioterrorism, many new advanced systems for disease surveillance and notification have been developed and implemented throughout the world.
The goal of these systems is not only to detect a possible biological attack, but to characterize emerging pathogens so that a public health response can be implemented rapidly.
'You can't test these systems on a day-to-day basis,' says... Michael A. Stoto, PhD... 'The only way to test these systems is how they perform in a real public health emergency.'
... 'What really made a difference in 2009 was that people from the US and Mexico talked to each other through a formalized system of communication,' he says. 'I think taxpayers and policymakers want to know if the billions invested after 9-11 to prepare for a biological event is paying off. I think the answer is 'yes.'"
One Profitable Flu Hoax After Another...
So far, these pandemic threats have never been anywhere near as lethal as predicted. Unfortunately, many are still hopelessly addicted to fear, so these dramatic warnings will likely continue to be successful in enabling WHO and CDC health officials to accumulate more power and control.
Hyping fear of microorganisms has already led to an increase in the numbers of state vaccine mandates, which are now threatening people’s health and right to get an education or keep a job.
In recent years, we've seen a number of aggressively hyped flu pandemics that were based more on media spin than on hard science and never materialized.
While it's prudent to be aware that a pandemic involving a mutated, lethal microorganism could occur in the future, what we've repeatedly seen is that the possibility has been massively over-sold in the past, allowing drug companies to rake in billions of dollars for fast-tracked, inadequately tested vaccines and other dangerous and/or ineffective anti-viral drugs.
Sadly, each time a greater number of people tend to end up being harmed by the drugs and ”pandemic” vaccines than actually succumb to the viral infection.
- The 2005 bird flu hoax: Headlines warned the U.S. was facing a cataclysmic extermination event, with a projected two million Americans at risk of potentially succumbing to the bird flu. The best case scenario had public health experts warning that the bird flu could kill at least 200,000 Americans. Then, as now, constant references to the tragic 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic heightened the fear factor to a fever pitch, despite the fact that the scientific data did not support any of these hyped claims.
Of course, 200,000 people in the US did not die from bird flu in 2005. The number was zero. I even wrote a NY Times best seller book on the topic, The Great Bird Flu Hoax.
At that time, they mysteriously translated the minuscule number of deaths of bird handlers that had occurred worldwide into an impending extermination-level event from a virus that did not — and still does not — readily spread from birds to humans, nor between humans.
Most of the people who acquire the infection were, and still are, bird handlers in continuous contact with sick birds. How anyone in their right mind could envision similar circumstances among the general population of the United States is a mystery, but it goes to show that it's unwise to throw common sense to the wind...
- Bird flu hoax repeats: In 2006, 2007, and again in 2008, hyped warnings over the bird flu were repeatedly exposed as little more than a cruel hoax, designed to instill fear and line the pocketbooks of industry and various vested individuals.
- The 2009 swine flu hoax: After four consecutive years of bird flu warnings that just refused to come to fruition, the H1N1 swine flu became front-page news again. This turned out to be yet another faux threat that cost tax payers billions for fast-tracked vaccines, which wrought havoc across the world. Ironically, the 2009 H1N1 "pandemic" actually turned out to be one of the MILDEST flu seasons in recent years with a low number of reported influenza-related deaths.
Meanwhile, the fast-tracked 2009 H1N1 vaccine turned out to be the most reactive flu vaccine ever created, harming far more people than the virus itself.
- The dire predictions of 2012: The summer of 2012 was filled with dire predictions of bird flu sufficiently mutating to cause a human pandemic, immediately followed by urgent calls for fast-tracked vaccines.
New Bird Flu Strain ‘One of the Most Lethal’ WHO Claims
If we are to believe recent reports3, a new more easily transmittable strain of bird flu has emerged in China, reportedly killing 22 people since its discovery in March. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson, the strain is far more lethal than another strain of bird flu that has “killed hundreds” since 2003. According to the featured article4:
“The H7N9 flu has infected 108 people in China since it was first detected in March, according to the Geneva-based WHO. Although it is not clear exactly how people are being infected, experts say they see no evidence so far of the most worrisome scenario — sustained transmission between people. An international team of scientists led by the WHO and the Chinese government conducted a five-day investigation in China, but said they were no closer to determining whether the virus might become transmissible between people.
... Another bird flu strain - H5N1 - has killed 30 of the 45 people it infected in China between 2003 and 2013, and although the H7N9 strain in the current outbreak has a lower fatality rate to date, Fukuda said: 'This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses that we've seen so far.' ... Based on the evidence, 'this virus is more easily transmissible from poultry to humans than H5N1...'"
While each death is tragic, flu death statistics can’t compare to the death toll wrought by pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. If you want to protect your health, at least compare the odds. In 2009/2010, many who gambled on the fast-tracked pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine sacrificed their health and in some cases their lives to what at final count turned out to be one of the mildest flu seasons in years. An estimated 125,000 people die each year in the US from prescription medications taken correctly as prescribed. And in just six years (from 2006 to 2013), more than 100 deaths were reported after vaccination with the HPV vaccine Gardasil.
No investigation or remedial action whatsoever has been launched by public health authorities in response to these “lethal medicine” statistics. Yet, each time a new influenza virus is identified, we’re supposed to “do the right thing” without asking any questions —meaning, “just get your damn vaccine,” as so bluntly stated by NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman during the 2009 swine flu pandemic debacle. That wouldn’t be such a problematic demand were it not for the fact that pandemic flu vaccines are virtually untested in adequate clinical trials before they are released to the public, and therefore carry unknown risks over and above the “normal” risk you take with any vaccination.
H7N9 Vaccine At Least 6 Weeks Away
To further feed people’s stomach-churning anxiety over potentially lethal bird flu viruses proliferating and mutating, current media articles warn that the remedy, an H7N9 vaccine, is still several weeks away from being developed.
“If the strain proves to be a candidate for a pandemic outbreak, it might be a while before health professionals have a vaccine to protect against the strain, according to Joseph Kim, president of Inovio, a California-based company that is currently in the initial stages of developing an H7N9 vaccine,” US News writes5.
'The fastest we'd be able to have a vaccine to test in animals for H7N9 would probably be 4-6 weeks from now,' he says.... Under normal circumstances, the path from animal testing to 'small scale human tests' to full approval takes another couple months 'in an accelerated path,' Kim says.
But in the case of a pandemic, the animal testing stage is sometimes skipped and the vaccine is immediately used to treat humans. 'In a pandemic setting, you can potentially grow the vaccine and use them without human testing in emergency cases,' Kim says.” [Emphasis mine]
And therein lies the rub. Pandemic vaccines are among the most high-profit and low-risk business ventures for vaccine makers. They stand to make billions of dollars in revenue while being completely shielded from liability if the vaccine turns out to be hazardous, like it turned out to be in 2009. Not to mention they save a ton of money on development, since drug companies can duck under FDA standard pre-licensure testing regulations and skip certain types of either animal or human testing—or BOTH! It’s a triple-win for liability free vaccine manufacturers assured of big profits and a risky game of Vaccine Roulette for you.
This macabre situation was created in the U.S. when Congress passed the 2006 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the PREP Act), which is part of the “Bioshield” legislation Big Pharma lobbied for and was enacted following 9-11 reportedly to address national “biosecurity” concerns. The PREP Act removes your right to a trial jury in a civil court unless you can provide clear evidence of willful misconduct by the vaccine maker that resulted in death or serious physical injury. But first, you must apply for and be granted permission to sue by the DHHS Secretary.
The most problematic aspect of the PREP Act is that it removes all financial incentive to make a safe product in the first place. In fact, vaccine makers now have a negative incentive to test it for safety, because if they are aware of problems, then they could potentially be held liable for willful misconduct! As long as they can prove they "didn't know" of any problem — a statement widely used during the 2009/2010 season — they will not be liable for damages. Hence it's in their best interest to know as little as possible about the adverse reactions it might cause.
How to Protect Yourself Against the Flu Without Vaccination
Be prepared to hear more fear mongering about the H7N9 bird flu. In the meantime, I'd like to remind you that a healthy immune system is your best and primary defense against any viral threat. Following these simple guidelines will help you keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with. Or, if you do get sick with type A or B influenza, you are better prepared to recover without serious complications—which by the way will give you a longer lasting naturally acquired immunity to the strain of influenza you experienced.
- Optimize Your Gut Flora. This may be the single most important strategy you can implement as the bacteria in your gut have enormous control of your immune response. The best way to improve your beneficial bacteria ratio is to avoid sugars as they will feed the pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, processed foods and most grains should be limited and replaced with healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, olives, olive oil, butter, eggs and nuts. Once you change your diet, then regular use of fermented foods can radically optimize the function of your immune response.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. As I've previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency may actually be the true culprit behind the seasonality of the flu – not the flu virus itself. This is probably the single most important and least expensive action you can take. Regularly monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm your levels are within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.
Ideally, you'll want to get all your vitamin D from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, but you can also take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. According to the latest review by Carole Baggerly (Grassrootshealth.org), adults need about 8,000 IU's a day to reach a serum level of 40 ng/ml. Be sure to take vitamin K2 if you are taking oral vitamin D as it has a powerful synergy and will help prevent vitamin D toxicity.
- Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods. Sugar impairs the quality of your immune response almost immediately, and as you likely know, a healthy immune system is one of the most important keys to fighting off viruses and other illness. It also can decimate your beneficial bacteria and feed the pathogenic yeast and viruses. Be aware that sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice. If you are healthy, then sugar can be consumed but the LAST thing you should be eating when you are sick is sugar.
- Get Plenty of Rest. Just like it becomes harder for you to get your daily tasks done if you're tired, if your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my article Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for some great tips to help you get quality rest.
- Have Effective Tools to Address Stress. We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.
- Get Regular Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of responding to infection before it spreads. Be sure to stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids, especially water. However, it would be wise to radically reduce the intensity of your workouts while you are sick. No Peak Fitness exercises until you are better.
- Take a High-Quality Source of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils that are trans fats and in processed foods as it will seriously damage your immune response.
- Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap for this – antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple chemical-free soap that you can switch your family to.
- Tried and True Hygiene Measures. In addition to washing your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If possible, avoid close contact with those, who are sick and, if you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
- Use Natural Immune Boosters. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, these do not appear to lead to resistance, so they can be used again and again.
- Avoid Hospitals. I'd recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you're having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds. The best place to get plenty of rest and recover from illness that is not life-threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.
Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Defend Vaccine Exemptions
With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it's critical to protect your right to informed consent to vaccination and fight to protect and expand vaccine exemptions in state public health laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and the leaders in your community.
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY.
Mass vaccination policies are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level. It is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights can have the greatest impact. It is critical for EVERYONE to get involved now in standing up for the legal right to make vaccine choices in America because those choices are being threatened by lobbyists representing drug companies, medical trade associations and public health officials, who are trying to persuade legislators to strip all vaccine exemptions from public health laws.
Signing up for NVIC's free Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org gives you immediate, easy access to your own state legislators on your Smart Phone or computer so you can make your voice heard. You will be kept up-to-date on the latest state bills threatening your vaccine choices and get practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community. Also, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips..
So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.
Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know
If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury or death, please talk about it. If we don't share information and experiences with each other, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story.
I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the "other side" of the vaccine story. Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it.
We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies or public health officials promoting forced use of a growing list of vaccines to dominate the conversation about vaccination. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than "statistically acceptable collateral damage" of national one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We shouldn't be treating people like guinea pigs instead of human beings.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
I encourage you to visit the following web pages on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) website at www.NVIC.org:
- NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
- If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
- Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment and sanctions by doctors, employers, school and health officials for making independent vaccine choices.
Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One that Will Listen and Care
If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don't want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination.
However, there is hope.
At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they're starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.
So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child.
By Dr. Mercola
A new type of norovirus, named GII.4 Sydney because it was first detected in Australia, was the main culprit behind the norovirus outbreaks that sickened many Americans this past fall and winter.
According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of the 266 norovirus outbreaks reported between September and December 2012 were caused by GII.4 Sydney, which has now officially replaced the previously predominant strain GII.4 New Orleans.1
What is Norovirus?
Noroviruses are the leading cause of gastroenteritis -- or stomach flu -- in the US. They generally cause a nasty infection that leads to diarrhea, abdominal pain and vomiting within 24-48 hours of exposure.
Though the symptoms can be quite debilitating, most people recover on their own within a few days. Those most at risk of complications (typically dehydration) are infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Norovirus is spread through direct contact with an infected person as well as through contaminated food and water. The CDC estimated that most of the GII.4 Sydney outbreaks resulted from direct person-to-person contact while 20 percent were foodborne and 1 percent was waterborne.
The elderly living in nursing homes and children in day care facilities are often among those hardest hit, due to their close proximity with others and the highly contagious nature of these viruses.
That said, noroviruses are also a major food poisoning risk and are strongly associated with so-called "complex foods" – foods that contain a number of ingredients so that the specific culprit cannot be pinpointed. Often these foods came from restaurants, which suggests contamination may have occurred during preparation or cooking – all the more reason to prepare your own foods at home!
The CDC report noted that both long-term care facilities and restaurants were among the most frequently reported settings for GII.4 Sydney outbreaks in 2012.
Norovirus Now a Greater Threat Than Rotavirus
Rotavirus is another type of virus that causes stomach flu and its related symptoms like severe diarrhea and vomiting. It used to be the leading cause of stomach flu in the United States, but now a study funded by the CDC found that since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, norovirus has replaced rotavirus and become the leading cause of stomach flu in US children.2
This may sound like a grand triumph for the rotavirus vaccine (which was found to be contaminated with pig DNA in 2010 and is linked to fatal bowel problems), but instead what has happened is that another similar group of viruses has taken the rotavirus’ place. Are children really better off now that they’re being infected with norovirus instead of rotavirus?
Hardly, and of course the conventional “solution” is to state that we mustn’t worry because there are several norovirus vaccines in various stages of development, including one that is in phase III clinical trials.
A Vaccine for Every Virus?
The notion that we must develop a vaccine to protect children from every circulating virus is overly simplistic at best and potentially dangerous at worst.
The CDC stated that new norovirus GII.4 strains have emerged every two to three years, replacing previously predominant GII.4 strains. Similar to the flu vaccine, which has poorly demonstrated effectiveness, a new norovirus vaccine would need to be developed every couple of years to keep up with the rapidly changing strains.
And this is not taking into account the fact that when children are infected with several strains of rotavirus or norovirus in the first few years of life, they typically develop natural lifelong immunity. This is not the case for vaccine-acquired immunity, which typically requires “booster” shots to remain effective – if they are effective at all. According to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):
“Today, even though almost all US infants receive vaccines for rotavirus, and despite efforts to improve the management of childhood rotavirus-associated diarrhea, hospitalizations of children in the U.S. with the disease have not significantly declined in the past two decades.”
Certainly no parent wants his or her child to be sick with the stomach flu, but this “right of passage” provides natural immunity that will protect your child against that particular strain for life. While rotavirus and norovirus are very contagious and do cause hundreds of thousands of deaths in young children each year, this is mostly in developing countries where poverty contributes to poor sanitation, hygiene and nutrition.
In the US, rotavirus causes only 20 to 60 deaths among children under 5 each year3 while noroviruses cause just 800 deaths (among all age groups) in the US annually.4 Typically, when a child in the US contracts rotavirus or norovirus, and most do, only rest and fluids are required to recover.
Washing Your Hands is One of the Best Deterrents to the Stomach Flu
That age-old advice to wash your hands remains one of the best strategies for preventing the stomach flu. Washing your hands (and your children’s hands) with soap and water if you’ve been in a public place and before eating is essential. Be careful not to over-wash your hands, however, as this can create tiny cuts in your hands where a virus can enter. Other common sense measures for preventing the stomach flu include:
- Trying not to touch your eyes, mouth or nose (which is how the virus enters), especially if your hands are not clean
- Avoiding sharing utensils, drinking cups, hand towels, etc. with others
That said, Americans actually touch about 300 different surfaces every 30 minutes … so it's rather unrealistic to think that you can avoid ever coming into contact with an infectious virus. But this needn't send you into panic mode, as just because you're exposed to a virus does not mean you will get sick. The determining factor? The health of your immune system! So, along with the practical precautions mentioned above, preventing the stomach flu involves keeping your immune system healthy by following these five steps to boost your immune system health.
What to do if You Get the Stomach Flu
Even if you’re very healthy and very careful, there’s a good chance that you (and your kids) may come down with a case of the stomach flu at some point or another. If this happens, make sure the vomiting and diarrhea does not cause you to become dehydrated, as that can cause serious problems, even death.
If you begin to become dehydrated, it is vital that you go to an emergency room for evaluation. This is especially important for children who can become dehydrated much quicker than adults. At the emergency room they will typically insert an IV into your vein and provide rehydration fluids directly into your bloodstream, which rapidly eliminates the danger of dying from fluid loss.
Initially, however, the following simple protocol is often very effective in clearing up the stomach flu long before you get to this point. If you have thrown up, put your stomach at complete rest for at least three hours. That means you should have absolutely nothing to eat or drink, including no water nor the folklore favorite of crackers and soda.
Once three hours have passed and no further vomiting has occurred then small amounts of water can be sipped slowly. Again, only after your stomach has stabilized and no additional vomiting is occurring, small amounts of water can be sipped and if that is tolerated you can gradually increase the water. Do this for one to two hours and if that is tolerated then you are ready for the final phase … large doses of a high-quality probiotic, taken every 30 to 60 minutes until you feel better.
What are the Most Common Food Infections?
Common Treatment for Stomach Flu Makes it Worse!
By Dr. Mercola
A recent report on causes of death shows that suicide has now overtaken traffic accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in the US. One reason for that is because car accident occurrences are down. But even so, the rate of suicide rose by an unhealthy 15 percent between 2000 and 2009, and poisoning (the number one cause of which is prescription drugs) rose by a whopping 128 percent.
Fatal prescription drug overdoses surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in 2007, according to the Department of Health. Many of the overdoses (36 percent) involve prescription opioid painkillers, which were actually the cause of more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
Some authorities believe many of these drug poisonings may actually be intentional suicides, even though they may have been classified as accidental. According to the study's author:
"Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe. There may be 20 percent or more unrecognized suicides."
If his estimation is correct, we may be looking at upwards of a 35 percent rise in suicide between the years of 2000-2009... It's estimated that a person commits suicide every 15 minutes in the United States.
For each of these suicide deaths, an estimated 8-25 people made suicide attempts.1 Taken together, the latest preliminary 2010 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists intentional self-harm, or suicide, as the 10th leading cause of all death in the United States.
Whatever means they use to commit suicide, the rapid increase of people reaching that level of desperation leave us wondering: Why?
Is a Crumbling Economy to Blame?
There's clearly evidence suggesting that economic recessions and financial hardships can be a significant contributing factor.2 According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates tend to rise and fall along with recessions and economic booms. For example, during the 1932 Great Depression, as many as 22 people per 100,000 committed suicide. The current economic collapse has also led to a well-documented rash of suicides across Europe.
According to the New York Times:3
"Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling 'suicide by economic crisis.'
...In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. In Ireland during the same period, suicides among men rose more than 16 percent. In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 percent, to 187 in 2010 – the most recent year for which statistics were available – from 123 in 2005.
...In Ireland, the phenomenon has been linked to what some therapists call Celtic Tiger depression, the period after 2008 characterized by an influx of middle-aged male patients who complained about sleeplessness and a lack of appetite in the aftermath of that nation's destructive boom-and-bust real estate market."
Other Contributing Factors to Rising Suicide Rates
As one person is quoted as saying in the New York Times, people don't kill themselves because they have debts, rather it's a combination of factors that lead to desperation. If you have a family history of suicide, have been exposed to suicidal behavior (such as from other family members or friends) or have suffered/witnessed physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence, your risk of suicidal behavior increases.
However, the primary risk factor for suicide is depression in combination with substance abuse, and this could include alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. It's estimated that more than 90 percent of those who end up taking their own lives fit into this category.4
Another important factor that cannot be overlooked is poor health, which can stretch already strained finances, family and living conditions to the very limit. And then there's the factor of taking too many different drugs simultaneously. While this certainly increases your risk of accidental overdose, polypharmacy in and of itself can have a devastating effect on both physical and mental health, including increased risk of depression, physical accidents like falls, and/or self-harm, along with symptoms that may otherwise exacerbate depression.
Common signs and symptoms that may be indicative of a detrimental interaction between two or more drugs include:
Tiredness, sleepiness or decreased alertness Confusion (chronic or intermittent) Weakness Anxiety or excitability Constipation, diarrhea or incontinence Dizziness and/or falls Tremors Skin rashes Loss of appetite Depression or lack of interest in your usual activities Hallucinations - seeing or hearing things Decreased or altered sexual behavior
Antidepressants May Be Fueling the Problem
Sadly, the knee-jerk conventional treatment for depression and suicidal tendencies is almost exclusively prescription antidepressants. Every year, more than 253 million prescriptions for antidepressants are filled in the United States, making them the second most prescribed drug class in the United States (second only to cholesterol-lowering drugs).5 But how effective are antidepressants in alleviating the symptoms of depression?
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that antidepressants are no more effective than a placebo, and in some case less effective. A study published in the January 2010 issue of JAMA concluded there is little evidence that SSRIs (a popular group of antidepressants that includes Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft) have any benefit to people with mild to moderate depression.6
The researchers stated:
"The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo... may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms."
SSRIs were found to be 33 percent effective, just like a sugar pill – but with far more adverse effects, including violence and suicidal thoughts and actions. Exercise actually outperforms antidepressants, but many still overlook this option.
Total Video Length: 00:54:26
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There is much evidence that antidepressants intensify violent thoughts and behaviors, both suicidal and homicidal, especially among children. And, since the late 1980s, there have been frequent reports of increased violent behavior, including homicides and suicides, among individuals taking antidepressant drugs.
Add to this a faltering economy and many literally feeling like they're "fighting for their livelihoods" and the safety of their family, and the use of antidepressants may very well be pushing people over the edge rather than keeping them from it... It all depends on how you react to them.
Red Flags: Is Someone You Know Teetering on the Edge?
If someone close to you has recently endured a hardship, or you have noticed a change in their behavior, how can you tell when ordinary stress or sadness has progressed to a potentially suicidal level? Besides straightforward or "sideways" comments about not wanting to live any longer, some of the red flags that a person has a high risk for self-harm include:
Acquiring a weapon Hoarding medication No plan for the future Putting affairs in order Making or changing a will Giving away personal belongings Mending grievances Checking on insurance policies Withdrawing from people
If you think someone is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal needs immediate professional help. Help the person to seek immediate assistance from their doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Eliminate access to firearms or other potential suicide aids, including unsupervised access to medications.
Are You, or Someone You Know Currently Struggling With Depression or Feeling Suicidal?
If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department.
I know firsthand that depression and suicide is devastating. It takes a toll on the healthiest of families and can destroy lifelong friendships. Few things are harder in life than losing someone you love, especially to suicide.
It's impossible to impart the will to live to somebody who no longer possesses it. No amount of logic, reasoning, or reminders about all they have to live for will put a smile back on the face of a loved one who is seriously contemplating suicide.
If you are currently the one struggling in a dark place, realize that oftentimes you cannot change your circumstances. You can, however, change your response to them. I encourage you to be balanced in your life. Don't ignore your body's warning signs that something needs to change. Sometimes people are so busy taking care of everybody else that they lose sight of taking care of themselves. Know that it's okay to take care of yourself. Putting yourself last is a serious mistake, as you need to find ways to "refill" and replenish your own energy stores or else you'll eventually burn out.
There really are no easy answers – especially when the troubles are related to crumbling finances, joblessness, or tumultuous family and living situations. So many seem to be suffering these days; emotional and mental pain really is epidemic. Knowing that others are suffering as well can be helpful to a degree, but overall, it may only add to the sum total of ones misery and adding to the feeling that there's no hope... One of the most effective ways of being supportive is perhaps to simply allow yourself to reach out and try to truly connect with the person who is suffering – even if it's a virtual stranger. Sometimes, having someone look you in the eye and asking you how you are, really meaning it, can be the lifeline needed in that moment...
Long-Term Strategies for Improving Your Mental Health
You can't make long-term plans for lifestyle changes when you are in a crisis, so clearly, the following recommendations are not meant to get you out of an acute situation. Rather, I invite you to take these lifestyle recommendations to heart as a preventive measure, before depression and other troubles set in.
Optimizing your health may actually be one of the most important things you can do to help you make it safely through financially hard times, as faltering health in combination with poverty can lead even the most level-headed people to the limit of what they can endure. My top tips to support positive mental health are as follows:
- Energy psychology is one of the most powerful tools for resolving emotional issues – specifically a technique called EFT. For serious problems like depression you do NOT want to perform EFT on yourself, you need to seek guidance from a skilled professional, ideally someone who is also trained in conventional methods. The effectiveness of any energy psychology technique will be significantly improved if you combine it with the tips that follow.
- Dramatically decrease your consumption of sugar (particularly fructose), grains, and processed foods. (In addition to being high in sugar and grains, processed foods also contain a variety of additives that can affect your brain function and mental state, especially artificial sweeteners.)
- Adequate vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through regular sun exposure. Vitamin D is very important for your mood. One study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.
The best way to get vitamin D is through exposure to SUNSHINE, not swallowing a capsule. Remember, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that we know is related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that the perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through sun exposure, or a safe tanning bed if you don't have regular access to the sun.
- Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are crucial for optimal brain function and mental health, and most people don't get enough from diet alone. So make sure you take a high-quality omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.
- Evaluate your salt intake. Sodium deficiency actually creates symptoms that are very much like those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt) however. You'll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients.
- Adequate daily exercise. Exercise is one of the best-kept secrets to preventing and treating depression.
- Make sure your cholesterol levels aren't too low for optimal mental health. I have been educating the public about the underreported, adverse effects associated with lowering cholesterol through drugs like statins for many years, but what many still do not know is that low cholesterol is linked to dramatically increased rates of suicide and parasuicide, as well as aggression towards others.
This increased expression of violence towards self and others may be due to the fact that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors in the brain (which is approximately 30% cholesterol by weight). Lower serum cholesterol concentrations therefore may contribute to decreasing brain serotonin, which not only contributes to suicidal-associated depression, but prevents the suppression of aggressive behavior and violence towards self and others.7
By Dr. Mercola
Only a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised all U.S. baby boomers to get tested for hepatitis C because it’s suspected that millions may be infected with it, a drug company with a hepatitis C treatment in the pipeline has suddenly abandoned the drug’s trials.
Bristol-Myers Squibb dropped the drug – called BMS-986094 – after one clinical trial patient died from heart failure and others were hospitalized with heart and kidney problems.
Failed Hepatitis C Drug Will Cost $1.8 Billion
The new hepatitis C drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb was much anticipated, but now due to its apparently deadly risks, the drug will be discontinued and the company will take a $1.8-billion charge-off for it.
BMS-986094 was part of a new class of hepatitis C drugs, known as nucleotide polymerase inhibitors, or nucs, which work by targeting the polymerase enzyme that’s essential for replication of the hepatitis C virus.
Now trials for a separate drug in the same class, this one made by Idenix Pharmaceuticals, have been put on hold as participants have been reporting similar complaints to those suffered with the Bristol-Myers Squibb drug.
These newer drugs were supposed to be “game changers” in the treatment of hepatitis C, which typically involves weekly injections with interferon, a treatment that causes significant side effects including depression, paresthesia (changes in sensation), impaired concentration, amnesia, anxiety, immune system disorders, heart problems and more.
The newer drugs were supposed to provide an all-oral combination of pills that would cause fewer side effects than current treatments, but already at least one death has occurred before the trial could even be completed.
What makes these dangerous treatments, and the CDC’s new push to have all baby boomers (not just those who have risk factors) tested for hepatitis C, all the more concerning is that treatment isn’t always necessary for this disease.
What is Hepatitis C, and How Common Is It?
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that occurs when you’re infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Following initial exposure, you may get acute hepatitis C, which leads to flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In about 75-85 percent of cases, an acute infection may lead to chronic infection, which usually has no symptoms.
Since the hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with infected blood, it’s typically spread through sharing needles for drug use, from a needle-stick injury if you work in a health care setting, or being born to a mother who has hepatitis C. Prior to 1992, screening was not available for donated blood or organs, so the infection was also spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
More rarely, it’s also possible to get hepatitis C from sharing personal care items, such as razors or toothbrushes, or through sexual contact.
It’s estimated that 3.2 million people in the United States (2 million of them baby boomers) have chronic hepatitis C, but most are unaware since the disease typically causes no symptoms.
However, because the virus attacks your liver and leads to inflammation, it can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Liver disease is, in fact, often the first sign a person has that they have hepatitis C. While antiviral medications are often prescribed, not everyone with hepatitis C requires treatment. According to the CDC:1
“…approximately 15%-25% of people who get Hepatitis C will clear the virus from their bodies without treatment and will not develop chronic infection. Experts do not fully understand why this happens for some people.”
And according to the Mayo Clinic:2
“A diagnosis of hepatitis C infection doesn't necessarily mean you need treatment. If you have only slight liver abnormalities, you may not need treatment, because your risk of future liver problems is very low.”
So, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, a significant number of people who were once infected with hepatitis C no longer have any signs of the virus. Did they improve because they were given toxic chemicals or because their immune system fought the battle and won?
A Triple-Antioxidant Approach May Work Wonders for Hepatitis C
The current treatments for hepatitis C are seriously lacking. Interferon and antivirals have less than a 30% response rate,3 and if your liver is damaged enough to require a transplant, even this will not provide a cure, as the new liver will often become infected.
Dr. Burton M. Berkson was among the first to discover a natural treatment regimen. He is an internist and during his training was given several patients who were expected to die from hepatitis C. His job was to merely “babysit” them in the ICU and, basically, watch them die. He did not do that, but rather called his associate at the National Institutes of Health and used a combination of three natural antioxidants. These three patients, who were not expected to live more than a few weeks, completely recovered. What were the antioxidants?
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Silymarin (milk thistle)
Each possesses antiviral, free radical quenching and immune-boosting qualities. Dr. Berkson wrote:4
“The triple antioxidant combination of alpha-lipoic acid, silymarin and selenium was chosen for a conservative treatment of hepatitis C because these substances protect the liver from free radical damage, increase the levels of other fundamental antioxidants, and interfere with viral proliferation. The 3 patients presented in this paper followed the triple antioxidant program and recovered quickly and their laboratory values remarkably improved.
Furthermore, liver transplantation was avoided and the patients are back at work, carrying out their normal activities, and feeling healthy. The author offers a more conservative approach to the treatment of hepatitis C, that is exceedingly less expensive.
One year of the triple antioxidant therapy described in this paper costs less than $2,000, as compared to more than $300,000 a year for liver transplant surgery. It appears reasonable, that prior to liver transplant surgery evaluation, or during the transplant evaluation process, the conservative triple antioxidant treatment approach should be considered. If these is a significant betterment in the patient's condition, liver transplant surgery may be avoided.”
As with any viral infection, it is extremely important to nurture your immune system as much as possible. This includes:
- Avoiding foods that weaken your immune function, such as sugars/fructose, grains, and processed foods. Healthful foods that help boost your immune system include fermented foods and organic vegetables. (Here a list of the top 12 most beneficial foods for robust immune function)
- Optimizing your vitamin D levels
- Drinking plenty of pure water
- Avoiding alcohol, drugs and other toxic exposures
You will want to work with a holistic health care practitioner who can help you to not only eliminate toxic deposits from your body that may further stress your liver, but also help you with proper dietary choices and the use of herbal and other natural treatments.