Church daycare investigated for using melatonin on kids.

I realize that kids can be a lot to handle and that this is doubly so in a daycare environment, but it’s probably going a bit too far when you attempt to drug them into sleeping:

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office and Springfield Township police are probing the daycare at Covenant Apostolic Church, 7630 View Place Drive, according to a letter Police Chief David Heimpold sent to children’s parents on Monday. Police also personally called each parent.

At issue is whether workers gave children Melatonin to help them sleep during the daycare’s naptime, according to the chief.

“The investigation has just begun and the Springfield Township Police Department does not know definitively at this time which staff members were involved in providing the dietary supplement to the children and which children were given (it),” the chief wrote. “However, we are providing this information to you at this time so that you can take whatever actions you deem necessary to protect your child or children in the event that they were given Melatonin on one or more occasions.”

The letter urges parents to contact their family physicians or the Poison Control Center to learn basic information about the drug.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound in plants, animals, and microbes. In animals it plays a role in regulating the circadian rhythms of a number of biological functions. In humans it’s produced by the pineal gland and it forms part of the system for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Production of melatonin is inhibited by light and permitted by darkness and it’s onset each night is called the Dim-Light Melatonin Onset (DLMO). Melatonin has been marketed as a natural form of sleeping pill. The idea seems to be that if you’re having trouble falling asleep then just dope yourself up with the hormone that puts you to sleep. Overall most studies seem to indicate that it’s safe to use at low dosages for three months or less.

The problem with dietary supplements (read: “drugs” not under the FDA’s jurisdiction) is that there’s no real regulation or quality requirements so how much of dose you’re taking can vary wildly between manufacturers. Add to that the fact that, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the 3 milligram pills most commonly sold are way more melatonin than is actually needed. They found that a mere 0.3 mg is enough to do the job. Then there’s the fact that at high doses it can be counter-productive and can include side effects such as headaches, nausea, next-day grogginess or irritability, hormone fluctuations, vivid dreams or nightmares and reduced blood flow. Now stir in the fact that most people (read: idiots) see the word “natural” and assume it means 100% completely safe and will never harm you now matter how much you consume and you can begin to see why feeding this to kids may not be a great idea.

In all fairness, we keep a bottle of melatonin on hand in the house ourselves and it does help on those occasions when insomnia has me in its grip, but I’m an adult who has taken the time to research what it is and what it does and what the risks are and make an informed choice on whether to take it. There’s no way in hell I’d put my kids in a daycare that was feeding it to the kids. In part because most kids don’t need it as they produce melatonin just fine (Here’s a hint: try drawing the shades and turning off the lights). More importantly, though, is if they’re giving the kids melatonin then what the hell else are they giving them that I don’t know about?

Fortunately for me, my kid is 19 and well out of daycare.

Are people really that worried about the length of their eyelashes?

The other day I’m sittin’ on the couch watching something I can’t recall at the moment, probably How It’s Made on the Discovery Channel, when an advertisement for something called Latisse comes on during a break. The ad features Brook Shields in what starts off looking like your typical push for a mascara product, but she ain’t shillin’ for mascara this time. No, Latisse is a drug that’s supposed to give you longer and fuller eye lashes. They bill it as the first FDA approved drug to treat, and I quote, “inadequate or not enough eyelashes.” According to their website the technical term for this condition is hyptrichosis, but according to the folks at the American Hair Loss Association I just linked to, that term is used by dermatologists to describe a condition of no hair growth. Which I suppose would be pretty inadequate eyelashes.

So I’m watching this ad unfold as they explain that you apply it to the base of your lashes on the upper eyelid and in a few weeks you’ll have eyelashes you could beat a horse to death with. Then they get into the traditional Listing Of The Side Effects phase of the ad. As they list off the numerous things that could go wrong my jaw slowly hit the floor. Here’s the official list directly from their website:

If you are using prescription products for lowering eye pressure or have a history of eye pressure problems, only use LATISSE® under close doctor supervision. May cause eyelid skin darkening which may be reversible, and there is potential for increased brown iris pigmentation which is likely to be permanent. There is a potential for hair growth to occur in areas where LATISSE® solution comes in repeated contact with skin surfaces. If you develop or experience any eye problems or have eye surgery, consult your doctor immediately about continued use of LATISSE®. The most common side effects after using LATISSE® solution are an itching sensation in the eyes and/or eye redness.

Got that? If you have a history of eye pressure problems then this drug could make them worse. It could darken up your eyelids so you look like you’ve got a couple of shiners from someone, but that may be, not necessarily is mind you, but may be reversible. It could also turn your eyes brown if they aren’t already and that’s not reversible. You could grow hair where you don’t want it to if you are sloppy in applying this product! Best of all it’s likely to make your eyes red and itchy like your allergies are acting up. But at least you won’t have inadequate lashes!

As it turns out, Latisse is actually just another drug, called Lumigan which is used to treat glaucoma, with a new name. One of the side effects of Lumigan is increased hair growth so it didn’t take much thinkin’ for someone to figure out that they could sell it to people who suffer from eyelash insecurity and make some extra bucks. If you go to their website they spend a lot of time downplaying the risks of the product, which should come as no big surprise.

The folks at the FDA, however, they ain’t too happy about that:

We’ve blogged about the new eyelash enhancement drug Latisse several times before. And we’ve talked about how the drug has some side effects that are rather serious for a cosmetic product, and that Allergan’s promotional materials tend to downplay such risks. Now the Food and Drug Administration has sent a warning letter to Allergan, saying that many claims on its website are misleading and, in fact, unlawful.

You can read the whole letter for yourself, but here some highlights.

Latisse’s Website says:
In the “Is Latisse safe?” section of the drug’s website: “The FDA reviewed clinical study results to verify the identity, potency, purity and stability of the ingredients, and demonstrated that the product is safe and effective for its intended use if used as prescribed.”

The FDA says:
This description is misleading and it fails to mention that Latisse may have side effects, or mention any of those side effects. It also implies, according to the FDA, that Latisse is “especially safe because the FDA has verified the identity, potency, purity, and stability of the ingredients.”

Latisse’s website says:
The site repeatedly mentions that the eye redness and itching that can accompany the use of Latisse are “not allergic reactions.”

The FDA says:
That’s misleading. In fact, allergic conjunctivitis is an adverse reaction reported with the use of the active ingredient, bimatoprost ophthalmic solution. Further, these symptoms are usually resolved only after discontinuing treatment with the drug. The FDA was particularly concerned about these claims, according to the letter, “because patients are highly unlikely to be able to differentiate between eye redness associated with conjunctival hyperemia, allergic reaction, or inflammation without the advice of a healthcare provider.”

The FDA lists off several misleading claims and has told the folks at Allergan they’d best be making some changes or they’ll be facing some fines.

If you watch the video you’ll be even more stunned to hear that it costs about $120 a month to use this drug and if you stop using it your lashes go back to their old wussy assed ways. So once you start I hope you can afford to keep using it while avoiding all those side effects. Now I’m no fashion diva, but that sounds like a lot to go through because you think some guy isn’t going out with you because your eyelashes are too thin and wispy.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: In all my 42 years of being a guy I have never once heard a man say to me: “Ya know, she’s got a great personality and a body that would make the Pope give up celibacy, but I just can’t get past her inadequate eyelashes!”

If you could take a drug that made you smarter, would you?

I found myself pondering this question after reading Johann Hari’s article titled My Experiment With Smart Drugs in which he tries out a drug called Provigil normally prescribed to narcoleptics, but which has been described by non-narcoleptics taking it as “Viagra for the brain.” Check it:

A week later, the little white pills arrived in the post. I sat down and took one 200mg tablet with a glass of water. It didn’t seem odd: for years, I took an anti-depressant. Then I pottered about the flat for an hour, listening to music and tidying up, before sitting down on the settee. I picked up a book about quantum physics and super-string theory I have been meaning to read for ages, for a column I’m thinking of writing. It had been hanging over me, daring me to read it. Five hours later, I realised I had hit the last page. I looked up. It was getting dark outside. I was hungry. I hadn’t noticed anything, except the words I was reading, and they came in cool, clear passages; I didn’t stop or stumble once.

Perplexed, I got up, made a sandwich – and I was overcome with the urge to write an article that had been kicking around my subconscious for months. It rushed out of me in a few hours, and it was better than usual. My mood wasn’t any different; I wasn’t high. My heart wasn’t beating any faster. I was just able to glide into a state of concentration – deep, cool, effortless concentration. It was like I had opened a window in my brain and all the stuffy air had seeped out, to be replaced by a calm breeze.

Once that article was finished, I wanted to do more. I wrote another article, all of it springing out of my mind effortlessly. Then I go to dinner with a few friends, and I decide not to tell them, to see if they notice anything. At the end of the dinner, my mate Jess turns to me and says, “You seem very thoughtful tonight.”

It seems the drug has become very popular on college campuses and has stirred up some debate on whether or not using it constitutes cheating in the same way steroid use by athletes is considering cheating. The drug isn’t a stimulant or an amphetamine and it doesn’t make you high or wired and it has only one known side effect in that it causes weight loss.

To many that may make it sound like the perfect drug. It makes you smarter and thinner? How could that possibly be bad? Hari seemed to be enjoying it:

The next morning I woke up and felt immediately alert. Normally it takes a coffee and an hour to kick-start my brain; today I’m ready to go from the second I rise. And so it continues like this, for five days: I inhale books and exhale articles effortlessly. My friends all say I seem more contemplative, less rushed – which is odd, because I’m doing more than normal. One sixty-something journalist friend says she remembers taking Benzadrine in the sixties to get through marathon articles, but she’d collapse after four or five says and need a long, long sleep. I don’t feel like that. I keep waiting for an exhausted crash, and it doesn’t seem to come.

[…] It’s hard to explain Provigil’s effects beyond that. Normally, one day out of seven I have a day when I’m working at my best – I’ve slept really well, and everything comes easily and fast. Provigil makes every day into that kind of day. It’s like I have been upgraded to a new operating system: Johann 3.0. On discussion boards, I talk to American student doctors taking the drug, who say they feel exactly the same way. “I keep thinking – where’s the catch?” one says. It turns out it is being given to US soldiers too.

It was then that I noticed: I just wasn’t very hungry. I am normally porcine; my ex once seriously considered having a trough made for me. But on Provigil, I was filled up by a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. I would feel stuffed half-way through my normal meals, and push the food away unfinished. One of my friends howled: “Who are you, and what have you done with the real Johann?”

The author goes on to note that we still don’t know what the long-term effects of the drug are. Who knows what toll will be exacted on healthy people using it when they don’t really need to? There’s also some concern that it could be addictive so Hari decides to quit for three days to see what happens:

It was easy. I painlessly sagged back to my former somewhat-depleted state, as though the Provigil had never happened. I worked in my usual stop-start bursts. I ate my usual portions-and-a-half. I stared sadly at the pack of Provigil, and every time I hit a mental stumbling block, I had to discipline myself not to crack out a Provigil.

It sounds like it might be psychologically addictive more so than chemically addictive, but that’s still an addiction. It’s at this point that Hari reflects on the ethics of the drug:

As soon as my three days were up and I started again, my brain revved back into super-speed and my stomach began to shrivel. But this time I began to worry about the ethics of it all. If this drug had been available during my A-Levels or finals, I would have been the first to guzzle it down. But isn’t that cheating? What’s the difference between Provigil for students and steroids for athletes? And if this drug becomes as popular as, say, anti-depressants or Ritalin, won’t there be a social pressure for workers to take it? Many parents feel intensely pressured by schools today to drug away their child’s disobedience; will they feel pressured by their bosses to drug away their natural fatigue?

Professor Anjan Chatterjee says, “This age of cosmetic neurology is coming, and we need to know it’s coming.” The use of Provigil and its progeny will be mainstream and mainlined in just a few years, he argues, and this made me feel excited by the prospect – and anxious. But all this raced through my brain as I worked faster (and ate less) than I ever have: it was hard to dwell on the drawbacks in those circumstances. As the end of my final five days approached, I had to decide what to do. Do I order another pack? Do I try to think all my thoughts at a faster pace from here on in with the power of Provigil?

You’ll have to go read the rest yourself to find out what Hari decided. I found I could relate to his experience quite a bit because I’ve had similar thoughts about my time on prescription drugs to offset my ADD.

I haven’t used ADD drugs since I was laid off the first time in 2005 because I no longer had the insurance to cover the cost. Since starting the current job I could probably afford to get back on them, but I’m not sure I want to. Again the long-term effects of using drugs like Adderall to treat ADD aren’t well known and using the drugs isn’t really a cure for ADD, it just helps a bit. That said the difference in my ability to concentrate while on the drugs and when off them was noticeable and there are days when ADD is really impacting me that using the drugs would be very tempting, but they also changed my personality and made it harder to sleep at times. There’s all sorts of things I’ve been meaning to do that I haven’t done that I probably would have done had I been on the medication.

The idea of a drug that would open up my creativity and productivity with weight loss as a “side-effect” is quite tempting. Think of not only all the work I could accomplish at my job, but all the blog posts I could write! Then I think about how Hari got so caught up in reading a book that he didn’t notice the passage of time. I already do that without the aid of a drug. Books, TV, and particularly video games have all drawn me in to the point that I look up and see it’s 2:30AM and I need to get up for work in the morning. I can only imagine what might happen if I were taking Provigil.

Then there’s also the realization that I’m not sure if I want to be more productive. I will probably never be rich because I goof off too much, but at the same time my stress levels are much lower than a lot of other people I know and that’s probably because I goof off too much. I go into work, do my 40 hours, come home and forget about the fact that I have a job until Monday morning. I put in a solid effort when I’m at work, but I also try to avoid busting my ass anymore than is absolutely necessary. I work because I have to, not because I want to. If I ever manage to win the lotto with an amount that would ensure that I’d never have to work again then chances are I’d never work again. There are enough places in the world I’d enjoy visiting and things I’d enjoy doing that I don’t think I’d ever get to a point where work would seem attractive.

In general I’m pretty happy with who I am. There’s a few details I wouldn’t mind improving, and I’m working on those things, but overall I don’t have a problem with myself that taking a drug that could potentially make me into a different person seems necessary.  Of course the idea that taking the drug might make me productive enough to develop enough wealth that I wouldn’t have to work anymore and, by extension, not take the drug is somewhat attractive, but it’s also a gamble as there’s no guarantee that being more productive wouldn’t mean I’d just put out more crap nobody would really want.

At this point in time I have no desire to go back on my ADD drugs so I’d be unlikely to consider Provigil either. But could I rule it out completely? I’m torn on the idea myself. How about you?

A medical use for Marijuana that may be too important to ignore.

One of the bigger problems we’re beginning to face is the rise of drug resistant bacteria thanks to an overuse of antibioctics. MRSA is a particularly nasty bug that has been increasingly causing problems around the world and may be a sign of things to come. Now new research seems to indicate that Marijuana may be useful in killing it:

Researchers in Italy and the U.K. tested five major marijuana chemicals called cannabinoids on different strains of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). All five showed germ-killing activity against the MRSA strains in lab tests. Some synthetic cannabinoids also showed germ-killing capability. The scientists note the cannabinoids kill bacteria in a different way than traditional antibiotics, meaning they might be able to bypass bacterial resistance.

At least two of the cannabinoids don’t have mood-altering effects, so there could be a way to use these substances without creating the high of marijuana.

[…] In the study, published in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers call for further study of the antibacterial uses of marijuana. There are “currently considerable challenges with the treatment of infections caused by strains of clinically relevant bacteria that show multi-drug resistance,” the researchers write. New antibacterials are urgently needed, but only one new class of antibacterial has been introduced in the last 30 years. “Plants are still a substantially untapped source of antimicrobial agents,” the researchers conclude.

If the study is backed up by further replications then weed may finally have a reason to be at least partially legalized, though the form of any drugs created from it would probably not be such that you’d smoke it. Just the same there are laws that would have to be repealed in order to move forward with it as a medical treatment. Considering the threat posed by MRSA this is a welcome discovery indeed.