Risk

Magic Mushrooms Are the Safest Recreational Drug, Says New Study

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A large new study claims that among recreational drugs, magic mushrooms seem to be the safest to use. This was based on the statistic that only .2% of nearly 10,000 people who used psilocybin-containing mushrooms in 2016 went to emergency room.

The annual Global Drug Survey involved over 120,000 participants from 50 countries and concluded that as far as ending up in emergency rooms afterwards, taking MDMA, LSD, alcohol and cocaine made that five times more likely. The drug causing the most emergency visits – methamphetamine, followed by synthetic cannabis.

“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” said Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and the founder of the Global Drug Survey in an interview with The Guardian.

global survey
global survey

Winstock thinks the biggest…

Passive Income Streams: What They Are and Where to Find Them

Passive income is money received on a regular basis that requires little effort to maintain. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

passive income

Generating passive income is a great financial goal because it’s a smart way to build wealth. One thing to realize is that creating passive income requires an upfront investment — whether it’s money or time. You’ll need to be committed in order to be successful at creating a passive income stream. Here are three passive ideas and how they work:

Idea #1: Investing

Investing is a tried and true way to make passive income. Of all the passive income ideas, investing is probably one of the most passive. The most significant investment you’ll make is your money upfront. There isn’t much upkeep after that.

Whether you’re starting out with $1, 000 or $100, 000, you can make money in the stock market. The important thing to know is that investing doesn’t come without its risks. The value of your stock portfolio will continue to fluctuate as long as you own it. If you’re in it for the long haul, however, you can ride out those fluctuations and see profits over time.

There are many methods for investing your money in the stock market. One way is to invest in dividend-paying stocks. A dividend is a payout some companies provide to shareholders on a regular basis. Dividend yields vary from company to company, so keep that in mind.

It’s important to not merely go after stocks with the highest dividend yield. Instead, focus on companies that have a proven track record of increasing dividend payouts over the years. You can either receive your dividend payouts as cash or choose to reinvest them in the same stock. The latter is known as DRIP, a dividend reinvestment plan.

One way to invest your money that doesn’t involve the stock market is peer-to-peer lending. Peer-to-peer lending involves funding personal loans to borrowers through an intermediary like Prosper or LendingClub. As a lender, you make money through interest payments on the personal loans.

Although peer-to-peer lending doesn’t have the risk of stock market fluctuation, your money isn’t completely secure. Borrowers have the ability to default on loans. To mitigate this risk, you can diversify your portfolio with multiple personal loans. You can also review personal loan requests and decide which ones you’d like to fund. For example, you can review criteria such as credit worthiness and the reason for the loan.

Idea #2: Rental…

Why using AI in policing decisions risks racial bias

Karma police?
Karma police?

AI is rocking the world of policing — and the consequences are still unclear.

British police are poised to go live with a predictive artificial intelligence system that will help officers assess the risk of suspects re-offending.

It’s not Minority Report (yet) but certainly sounds scary. Just like the evil AIs in the movies, this tool has an acronym: HART, which stands for Harm Assessment Risk Tool, and it’s going live in Durham after a long trial.

The system, which classifies suspects at a low, medium, or high risk of committing a future offence, was tested in 2013 using data that Durham police gathered from 2008 to 2012.

Its results are mixed.

Forecasts that a suspect was low risk turned out to be accurate 98 percent of the time, while forecasts that they were high risk were accurate 88 percent of the time.

That’s because the tool was designed to be very, very cautious and is likely to assign someone as medium or high risk to avoid releasing suspects who may commit a crime.

A self-learning system

According to Sheena Urwin, head of criminal justice at Durham Constabulary, during the testing HART didn’t impact officers’ decisions and, when live, it will “support officers’ decision making” rather than define it.

Urwin also explained to the BBC that suspects with no offending history would be less likely to be classed as high risk — unless they were arrested for serious crimes.

Police could use HART to decide whether to keep a suspect in custody for more time, release them on bail before charge or whether to remand them in custody.

However, privacy and advocacy groups have expressed fears that the algorithm could replicate and amplify inherent biases around race, class, or gender.

“This can be hard to detect, particularly in self-learning systems, which carry greater risks,” Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, told Mashable.

“While…

Concerns explode over new health risks of vaping

exploding atomizer
exploding atomizer

Vaping is not risk-free, especially for kids and teens. A host of new studies have now uncovered worrisome health concerns. For instance, the atomizer shown here can make vapors hotter and riskier to health.

When Irfan Rahman talked to young vapers, some complained of bleeding mouths and throats. And these bloody sores seemed slow to heal. Such reports concerned this toxicologist at the University of Rochester in New York. So he decided to investigate what the vapors inhaled from electronic cigarettes might be doing to mouth cells.

Last October, his team showed those vapors inflame mouth cells in ways that could potentially promote gum disease. That gum damage can destroy the tissues that hold teeth in place. So severe gum disease could lead to tooth loss.

But that’s hardly the end of it.

Vapers inhale those same gases and particles into their lungs. Rahman wondered what effects those vapors might have on cells there. One gauge would be to test how long any lung-cell damage took to heal. And his latest data confirm that e-cigarette vapors also make it hard for lung cells to repair damage.

Students as young as 12 or 13 are now more likely to vape than to smoke. Many are under the impression that because e-cigs don’t contain tobacco, they pose little risk to health. Wrong.

Over the past few months, research has turned up evidence that vaping can pose many brand new risks. The vapors mess with immunity, some studies show. “Smoker’s cough” and bloody sores have begun showing up in teen vapers. The hotter a vaped liquid gets, the harsher its effects on human cells. And a relatively new vaping behavior called “dripping” ups the heat. This threatens to intensify a teen’s risks from those vapors.

Some new data even suggest that e-cig vapors may contain cancer-causing chemicals.

“There are a lot of potentially harmful substances in e-cigarettes. If you’re a teen with your whole life in front of you, why take that risk?” asks Rob McConnell. He’s an internal medicine specialist at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

The newly emerging data suggest that adolescents ignore these risks at their peril.

Cells in the body face constant damage from foreign substances, infections and injury. Most times, nothing bad happens to their host. That’s because the body has a system in place to heal itself. Most major organs have special cells — fibroblasts (FY-broh-blasts) — that repair damaged or injured tissue.

Fibroblasts make up the connective tissues that keep organs in place. But when injured, these cells morph into wound-healers. “If you cut your hand, fibroblasts are the guys that are going to come in and help heal it,” explains Rahman.

In their wound-healing form, fibroblasts at the edges of a cut will shrink. This causes the wound to close up. This squeezing or contraction of the skin takes a lot of energy. Fortunately, fibroblasts are powered by cellular engines. Called mitochondria (My-toh-KON-dree-uh), these tiny powerhouses turn food (sugar) into fuel.

fibroblast cells
Fibroblast cells (such as those seen here) repair damaged or injured tissues. The cells’ nuclei are colored blue. Their mitochondria are red. Filaments (green) help the fibroblast contract.

In the lab, Rahman and his colleagues grew lung fibroblasts in Petri dishes. Then they cut into the community of growing cells to mimic a wound. Afterward, they exposed the growing cells to e-cigarette vapors.

As expected, the fibroblasts morphed into wound-healing cells. But unexpectedly, they didn’t close up the cut. Curious, Rahman looked more closely at the cellular machinery. Some mitochondria had been destroyed. The fibroblasts simply had run out of the energy they needed before they could successfully squeeze the wound closed.

Rahman’s team described its findings March 3 in Scientific Reports.

It’s not clear yet if the fibroblast damage that Rahman showed in the lab signals that wounds will heal more slowly in people who vape. After all, in the lab, scientists can manipulate one variable at a time while holding other factors constant. But in the body, many processes will be at work all at once. This can make it harder to tease out whether such lab tests mimic well what would happen to an otherwise healthy person.

And that’s why Rahman now hopes to compare rates of wound healing in people who vape to rates in those who don’t. For now, however, he’s worried that what he saw in the lab may indeed mimic risks to people.

Smoker’s cough becomes vaper’s cough?

Inhaling pollution can irritate the lungs. And when the assaulting particles are breathed in regularly, the lungs tend to respond by triggering a cough that won’t go away, explains McConnell at USC. He has been studying the effects of air pollution in kids. Inhaling irritating particles or gases may lead to bronchitis (Bron-KY-tis). That’s when the airways that channel oxygen to the lungs become irritated and inflamed.

bronchitis girl
Researchers have found evidence that vaping can irritate the lungs and lead to chronic wheezing and coughs, a condition known as bronchitis.

Bronchitis may cause wheezing, too, and coughs that bring up thick mucus known as phlegm (FLEM). The germs that cause colds, flu and bacterial infections can sometimes trigger bronchitis. So can breathing in heavily polluted air, tobacco smoke or certain chemical fumes.

When these symptoms don’t go away, the bronchitis is called chronic (KRON-ik). And cigarette smoking is its most common cause. That’s why chronic bronchitis is typically referred to as “smoker’s cough.”

McConnell’s team decided to look for signs of bronchitis in vaping teens. After all, he explains, “There are a lot of these irritants in e-cigarette vapor.”

The researchers asked 2,000 students in the Los Angeles, Calif., area about their vaping habits. All were in their last two years of high school. The researchers also asked the teens about any respiratory symptoms. These could include coughs or phlegm.

Anyone who reported a daily cough for at least three straight months was judged to have chronic bronchitis. A student with persistent phlegm or congestion for three months or more…

Autism, ADHD risk not linked to prenatal exposure to antidepressants

pregnant woman
SEEKING TREATMENT Pregnant women coping with depression now may have one less thing to worry about: Prenatal exposure to antidepressants doesn’t raise autism risk, two new studies suggest.

Taking antidepressants during pregnancy does not increase the risk of autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, two new large studies suggest. Genetic or environmental influences, rather than prenatal exposure to the drugs, may have a greater influence on whether a child will develop these disorders. The studies are published online April 18 in JAMA.

Clinically, the message is “quite reassuring for practitioners and for mothers needing to make a decision about antidepressant use during pregnancy,” says psychiatrist Simone Vigod, a coauthor of one of the studies. Past research has questioned the safety of expectant moms taking antidepressants (SN: 6/5/10, p. 22).

“A mother’s mood disturbances during pregnancy are a big public health issue — they impact the health of mothers and their children,” says Tim Oberlander, a developmental pediatrician at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. About one in 10 women develop a major depressive episode during pregnancy. “All treatment options should be explored. Nontreatment is never an option,” says Oberlander, who coauthored a commentary, also published in JAMA.

Untreated depression during pregnancy creates risks for the child, including poor fetal growth, preterm birth and developmental problems. Some women may benefit from psychotherapy alone. A more serious illness may require antidepressants. “Many of us have started to look at longer term child outcomes related to antidepressant exposure because mothers want to know about that in the decision-making process,” says Vigod, of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

Previous studies indicated that the use of antidepressants came with its own developmental risks: autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, premature birth and…

Genetic risk of getting second cancer tallied for pediatric survivors

childhood cancer
RISK ROUNDUP Some pediatric cancer survivors carry genetic mutations that increase the risk of a later, second cancer.

WASHINGTON — A second cancer later in life is common for childhood cancer survivors, and scientists now have a sense of the role genes play when this happens. A project that mined the genetic data of a group of survivors finds that 11.5 percent carry mutations that increase the risk of a subsequent cancer.

“We’ve always known that among survivors, a certain population will experience adverse outcomes directly related to therapy,” says epidemiologist and team member Leslie Robison of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. The project sought “to find out what contribution genetics may play.” The team presented their work at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting April 3.

“This is a nice first step,” says David Malkin, a pediatric oncologist at the University of Toronto. “The results validate the thoughts of those of us who believe there is a genetic risk that increases the risk of second malignancies.”

Five-year survival rates for kids with cancer have grown to more than 80 percent. But “there are long-term consequences for having been diagnosed and treated for cancer as a child,” notes Robison. Some survivors develop a later, second cancer due to the radiation or chemotherapy that treated the first cancer (SN: 3/10/07, p. 157).

The researchers examined 3,007 survivors of pediatric cancer who routinely undergo medical evaluation at St. Jude. About a third had leukemia as children. By age 45, 29 percent of this group had developed new tumors, often in the skin, breast or thyroid.

The team cataloged…