Electronic Cigarettes May Hold Hidden Dangers

It’s the first I’ve heard, but apparently, electronic cigarettes have been sold for a while. These objects look like a cigarette, but they are made of metal, usually stainless steel and wrapped like a cigarette. Inside is a cartridge containing liquid nicotine. When it is heated, users can inhale the vaporised droplets and breath out a mist. It is heated using batteries. These cigarettes became popular as a way to circumvent the No Smoking rules. Initially sold on the internet, they are now being seeing on street markets and retailers.

Though it may sound like a good idea, there are some concerns. Reports state that the amount of nicotine present is ‘highly toxic’ and its use has been banned in Australia. Opponents also point out that young children can accidentally swallow the cartridges, which would be extremely dangerous. The director of the company that manufactures the cigarettes has said that tests done on mice have shown that the product is safe, but no human studies have been done. The other big concern is that the product is made in China, where standards are not good.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that there is no government regulation on the sale of these cigarettes. Anyone can buy them. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, yet because it is not an illegal drug, per se, there are no rules against its use. If the government restricts the use of regular cigarettes, it should do so with these electronic ones as well. It is a bad habit and nicotine does have negative effects. Furthermore, they should investigate these legitimate concerns before they can allow it to be sold to the public.

The “medicalisation” And Overmedication Of Life

Two interesting articles I read today have prompted me to comment. Though the articles are unrelated, my comments pertain to both. One article discussed the “medicalisation” of life, while the other introduced a new “polypill”.

Coming from the US, I have experienced the information overload from television ads for every prescription medication under the sun. Of course, most of the ads are for the most prevalent or popular conditions being discussed at the time. And it does seem that certain conditions become fads, which fade into posterity, only to make room for the next prominent diagnosis and pill to treat it.

The profit-hungry drug manufacturers are major contributors to this “health conscious” public. They claim that people need to be informed about medical problems and potential treatment. They argue that an informed public will seek medical treatment for conditions which, if unrecognised and undiagnosed, may lead to negative outcomes. The public, of course, love to hear that someone is fighting for their good, so they agree with that. Hence, the free rein for drug companies to advertise all their products to the unsuspecting consumer. But time has revealed that “a little knowledge can be dangerous” and doctors have been bombarded with patient questions regarding new medications. Many of them try to convince their doctors that they need such and such a pill because the ads said so. Granted, a few people might actually have the condition for which the pill addresses, but imagine all the other people who would not only not benefit, but may actually be harmed if they used such a medication. There is no one available to protect the consumer from him/herself.

Dr. Louise Foxcroft pointed out the series of diagnoses that have been given out throughout history. Today, we may laugh at what was defined as physical and mental illness and the treatments provided, but future generations will probably do the same to us. We are in danger of promoting new illnesses by constantly pursuing new diagnoses, all at the demand of drug companies. Also, many are persuaded to blame all their problems on these new diagnoses. There are countless instances I have witnessed of inappropriate medication, in my opinion. These mostly relate to depression. Practically all of us have experienced feeling down once in a while in our lives. It is normal. It may be a reaction to the various stresses in our lives. Most of us have developed means to address and overcome these feelings. To classify it as a mental disorder and give it a medical terminology allows people an outlet for blame. It’s a cop-out and in this “scapegoat” world, it is easy to accept. For those who want to dull all their senses so that they cannot feel grief, sadness, or anger, it is a deprivation of a life experience. I do not dispute that there are many cases of real “depression” out there, but the numbers provided for research purposes by drug companies are over-inflated.

I completely agree with Dr. Tim Kendall that we have become a society that likes to categorise people into medical problems. Everything that is part of life has now become a medical issue and pills are continually being manufactured to combat all of life’s “problems”. Even menopause is a medical diagnosis. The public needs to accept that we are born, we live and we die. We cannot stop that (even though some scientists are trying to develop ways to make us live forever). While we live, our bodies undergo natural changes. Sometimes, these natural changes go out of control and we may need help to fix it. Sometimes, that is not possible. That is why our bodies die, some old, some young.

While we live, we have the opportunities to take care of our health as best we can. This includes eating right, exercising, and avoiding all the unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, not everyone listens to this sound advice. In fact, more and more people are listening less and less. That is why there is a growing problem with obesity, resulting in diabetes and increased heart disease. But science refuses to stop and encourage people to change their habits. No, they would rather create more medications to address the new and real medical conditions that have arisen. As more and more medications become available, there is the danger that someone can require too many pills. Polypharmacy has been a major issue for some time and the risk of adverse side effects and interactions of medications is very serious. So drug companies have turned to making “polypills” – those two-in-one drugs that have now been extended to five-in-one in the latest research. These polypills only encourage bad behaviour as people view these as a “cure-all” for all their problems. Unfortunately, what they do not realise is that all five may not be necessary for what they need.

I concede that the drug companies would argue that putting all five medications into one pill makes it easier on the patient, and they would not release it unless it was deemed safe. However, we have seen time and time again that what happens in research does not always translate into what happens in real life. Test subjects are not the same as real patients. It would certainly help if people can accept the facts of life, make life changes appropriate to their needs and only take medications when absolutely essential. It would also help if drug companies adopted the same stance.

Have Advances In Medicine Caused People To Become Complacent?

We always greet advances in medicine with enthusiasm. We hope and pray for new treatments for serious health problems.  We are grateful for technology that saves lives.  Yet, there is a downside to all this technology.

We have extended lives and in doing so, we have created new problems, new illnesses. Take Alzheimer’s, for example.  When people started living longer, we began to see a rise in what was initially thought to be senility.  Now we have multiple diagnoses for dementia, one of which is Alzheimer’s.  We have machines to keep people alive.  Now we’ve run into ethical issues regarding end-of-life and right-to-die.  When is it permissible or ethical to turn off the ventilator or remove the feeding tube?  But another serious issue is that people start thinking that they can ignore serious health consequences because there are means of overcoming them.

I read an article about an HIV/AIDS survivor who expressed his concerns that young people are taking chances with their lives because they are no longer scared of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.  Had they witnessed first hand all the horrific side effects of HIV, they would not be so complacent.  As it is, HIV treatment has allowed many survivors to live normal lives.  Of course, this only applies to those who are being treated.  But it is rare for young people in developed countries to see the consequences of AIDS. Perhaps, they need to visit Africa and see the devastation there.

Now, I’m not saying that medical advances are bad.  They’re not.  It’s great that we can conquer illnesses, but the fight is never won.  The battle is never over.  There will always be obstacles.  Unfortunately, we shouldn’t have to keep fighting so many battles.  If people could take responsibility for their actions, we might prevent disease, rather than have to tackle them afterwards.  HIV/AIDS is still a major issue, but it does not attract attention as it did in the 1980s.  People have forgotten how scary it was when we first heard about it.  Young people today were  not around to experience it.  So, they ignore it.  If they were to receive the diagnosis now, they probably would shrug it off and ask for the treatment.  Their complacency means that they might not be compliant with the treatments.

Constipation, Bloating And Farting Go Hand In Hand

One of my most common complaints, though not a serious health issue, is constipation.  Now, I realise that to actually have a diagnosis of constipation it should be a change in bowel pattern, such that it is not normal to myself.  Everyone’s bowel habits are different – some go twice a day, while others may not go more than once a week.  I fall somewhere in between, but there are other symptoms I suffer when I know I have constipation.  One of those symptoms is bloating.  And last night was one of those severe nights of bloating.

I was unable to sleep because every position was uncomfortable.  I felt I needed to vomit to release everything inside my stomach.  The stretching of the bowels was painful and as I rubbed my belly for comfort, it felt like I was distended from pregnancy.  A large, loud burp relieved some of the pain and distention, but immediately, it would build up again.  I had to sit, leaning forward to ease some of the pain.

In the past, I would turn to liquid antacids for relief.  It did not always help and for many years, I have taken nothing.  Yet, last night I was wishing for some.  I had to turn to a peppermint lozenge.  Why?  Because I know that mints are one of the no-nos for people who suffer from acid reflux.  (It may be that I have a problem with acid reflux due to my love of mints, which may be the culprit for all this bloating.)  However, I understand that the mechanism of action is that mints lower the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter, that muscle that separates the end of the esophagus and the stomach.  This muscle relaxes in order to allow food to enter the stomach and contracts to prevent food from returning to the esophagus.  Mints act to relax the muscle, which exacerbates acid reflux.  However, I felt I needed it to relax to release all the trapped air.  Whether or not it worked, or whether the gas finally dissolved on its own, I cannot say.  But, I do know that eventually, I felt sufficiently comfortable to return to bed.

Now, I’ve tried to identify the triggers for the bloating, but it never is constant. I can be eating the same thing day after day and not have a problem and then bang! I’m bloated.  The one thing I can associate it with is constipation.  If the bowels are blocked up at one end, gas cannot pass through that end.  So, when I feel bloated, I try to burp.  Excessive burping warns me that my bowels are blocked.

People may not find passing gas very pleasant, but it is a necessary and vital part of life.  Kids love it, though – they think it’s hilarious.  Now, one should be careful not to encourage them to fart too loudly in public or amongst crowds, but one should not discourage them from relieving themselves when necessary, either.  They should do it tactfully and others should tactfully try to ignore it.