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While You Were Sleeping for July 2016 

The gist of what you may have missed.

click to enlarge Physcians are prescribing antidepressants for off label uses.
  • Physcians are prescribing antidepressants for off label uses.

A new study reveals that some physicians are prescribing antidepressants for off-label uses that are not depression-related. In the study, published in late May in the journal JAMA, researchers reviewed over 100,000 prescriptions for antidepressants. They found that almost 50 percent of the prescriptions were made for a disorder other than depression. Instead, prescriptions were made for ailments including anxiety, insomnia, pain, ADD, and even bulimia. Jenna Wong, a PhD candidate at McGill University in Montreal who led the study, concludes that antidepressants are used as a last-resort measure in many cases, but that scientists do not fully understand how antidepressants work for depression (let alone any other ailment).

Source: Time

For the past 30 years, Hudson Valley farmers have been cashing in their land for residential development. Since 1982, real estate development has bought up more than 471,000 acres of the state's farmland, according to data compiled by the American Farmland Trust, a preservation group. The most recent five-year census conducted by the Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in New York State went down from 38,264 in 1997 to 35,537 in 2012. "The risk to farmland is a risk to healthy food for New York City residents," Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, Democrat of Manhattan, said. For the first time, New York City lawmakers in partnership with Scenic Hudson, are proposing to set aside $50 million for a conservation easement program that would pay farmers the development value of their land and impose a deed restriction to permanently protect their land from development.

Source: New York Times

A new trial for the drug rapamycin, which improves heart health and appears to delay the onset of certain diseases in older mice, represents a new frontier in testing a proposition for improving human health and lengthening the human life span. In a 2014 study by the drug company Novartis, the drug appeared to bolster the immune system in older patients and the early results in aging dogs suggest that rapamycin is helping them too. While the leading causes of death in developed nations (such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cancer) have different and varying immediate causes, aging is a major risk factor for all of them. Epidemiologists say that even major breakthroughs in counteracting specific diseases will yield on average four to five more years of life, and some of them shadowed by illness. Working on anti-aging products may be the best solution to overcome ailments experienced by the elderly and allow for longer, healthier lives.

Source: The New York Times

In late May, Louisiana became the first state to expand hate crime law to protect a new group: police. The legislation comes at a time of fierce national debate over policing and race. The high-profile deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police have prompted intense criticism of law enforcement. In turn, law enforcement officials have cited two incidents when policemen were shot-to-death attributing the killings to the hatred of police. "Officers are under attack nationwide, and this is a reasonable response." says William J. Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, who lauded the new bill. However, violence against police officers is near an all-time low according to data kept by the FBI and private groups.

Source: New York Times

The first successful penis transplant in the US was performed on a man whose penis was removed because of cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in early May. In 2012, Thomas Manning, 64, was diagnosed with a cancerous growth on his penis and Doctors amputated most of his penis to save his life. About three years later, doctors agreed to perform Manning's experimental penile transplant procedure. The leading reconstructive surgeon of the penile transplant, Dr. Curtis L. Cetrulo says, "If all goes as planned, normal urination should be possible for Mr. Manning within a few weeks, and sexual function in weeks to months." Only two other penis transplants have ever been attempted before. One was performed in China in 2006 and failed. The other was performed in South Africa and has been a success: the former penis amputee fathered children after receiving his transplant in 2014.

Source: New York Times

According to a new census analysis by the Pew Research Center, adults today ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live with a parent than a significant other. Millennials are unlike prior generations: fewer young adults than ever are getting married by 25. "The really seismic change is that we have so many fewer young adults partnering, either marrying or cohabiting," says Richard Fry, the Pew economist who wrote the report. As a result, Pew projects that a quarter of millennials may never marry. These findings could be caused by a multitude of reasons. Some young adults may have failure-to-launch syndrome. Others are saving money while they plan for their future by going to grad school or getting the internships they need.

Source: New York Times

Recently released data shows a jump in homicide rates in over 20 US cities. In the first three months of 2016, there was a significant rise of homicide in six major cities: Chicago, Dallas, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Memphis in comparison to the same time period last year. Conversely, almost as many cities reported a substantial decline in homicide in recent months. Homicide rates in New York dropped by 25 percent—while homicides in Las Vegas almost doubled. Criminologist experts are struggling to find out whether the heroin epidemic, a resurgence in gang violence, economic factors, or a lack of policing could explain the cause of higher rates of homicide.

Source: New York Times

In 2014, more than 23,000 infants in the US died in their first year of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 other industrialized countries do better than the US at keeping infants alive. Some argue that because the US classifies premature births as infants the disparity isn't true—asserting that the US works harder to save preemies—hence our increased infant mortality isn't due to deficiencies, but differences in classification. Even though premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality, the US ranks poorly after premature births were excluded from the analysis.

Source: New York Times

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry finds that heavy marijuana usage doesn't seem to have much of a negative impact on the physical health of adults. The study analyzed data from a group of 1,037 New Zealanders. Researchers looked at whether cannabis usage from ages 18 to 38 was linked to several aspects of physical health, which were measured at several points during the years of the study through lab tests and self-reports. The only negative effects smoking marijuana appeared to have were on teeth. At age 38, people who used cannabis had worse periodontal health than their peers. In contrast, tobacco usage is connected to poor lung function, inflammation, and compromised metabolic health. The drawback of the study is that the health risks associated with marijuana could appear after the age of 38. "There are definitely health risks associated with heavy marijuana use, but there just aren't as many as we previously thought," says Dr. Kevin Hill, a marijuana addiction expert and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Source: New York Times

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