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WELL BEING; THE HEIGHT OF ROCK FOLLY.

Want to know my opinion on the pop scene? Of course you don't. I am a musical numbskull. My family don't even let me sing in the bath.

So my opinion on music is worthless.

But I do know about drugs. I've been prescribing them for more than 30 years and I spent seven years in drugs research, with a post- graduate diploma to show for it.

Which is why I'm mad with pop stars like Brian Harvey of East 17 and Noel Gallagher of Oasis who trivialise the issue and the users and pushers who believe it's "normal" and "safe" to use drugs.

Because youngsters ARE in trouble if they take drugs like cannabis and Ecstasy regularly.

I must stress that I'm not preaching, and I'm just laying out the facts, unlike users.

A main part of any addiction is that it makes you want to switch others on to your habit.

PEOPLE try drugs for several reasons:

THEY want to relieve anxiety, tension or depression

THEY seek "self knowledge" or some mystical or religious experience.

THEY are in despair against their environment.

THEY want to conform with their friends.

THEY just want to have fun, be excited, or are curious about a drug's effects.

EVERY drug causes a chemical change in the brain, so:

IT cannot remove the cause of your anxieties or tension,

IT is the absolute opposite of a mystical or religious experience. It only produces chemically-induced delusions.

IT can't change your environment, except for the worse.

IT will help you to conform, but to what? Look carefully at your user friends. Do you want to go where they're going?

IT may give you a little fun and excitement, when you first take it. But for many the effects are bad from the start. It is no fun to be brain- damaged for a few hours!

People divide drugs into hard, such as heroin, and soft, such as cannabis and Ecstasy. I don't think that's useful: many who start on the soft drugs graduate to the hard, and many who stay on the soft drugs are damaged by them.

It's ridiculous to say, like Noel Gallagher, that taking drugs is like having an early morning cup of tea. He was referring to Ecstasy - a drug that was invented more than 80 years ago for the German army in the First World War, and was abandoned because

it did so much damage to the troops!

But my real fear about Ecstasy is that we have no idea about how its users will fare in their middle age.

Because there is evidence that it concentrates and STAYS in the brain - and chemicals like it are known to cause early dementia.

We've also known for years that heavy use of cannabis injures the brain - it can create an illness like punch-drunkenness in boxers.

And think on this: exposing rats, rabbits and hamsters to cannabis produces disastrous defects in their offspring. The effect is like that of thalidomide. The active ingredient of cannabis, THC, causes changes in human cells in the laboratory, so they become similar to cancer cells. No new drug that caused these effects would ever be allowed to reach a prescription pad.

There may be a good case for giving cannabis to some people who are dying, and needing relief from pain and depression.

But the worst thing of all is that the people who use drugs are usually not old enough or mature enough to understand what they are risking.

They don't appear to care about the future. But 10 or 20 years on, it will be too late.

IT'S NO SWEAT

Do you have excessively sweaty palms and feet, so bad that you can't work? Then injections of botulinum toxin, the poison that causes the most severe (and usually fatal) form of food poisoning, may help.

German doctors have used it in one patient and it was very successful. Obviously, this treatment must be given with extreme care and in very selected cases, probably as a last resort.

UP 'N' DOWN

Anti-depressant drugs are often given for pain due to long-term nerve irritations - after shingles or diabetes, for example. They're not given for depression but for their action on nerve endings.

Now we know their chances of making a difference. Of every 100 people treated in a test, 30 had good pain relief, 30 had minor side-effects, and 40 had to stop the drugs because of side-effects.

oWE are going to hear a lot more about leptins, recently discovered natural substances that seem to control our weight.

The lower our blood levels of leptins, the easier it is, apparently, for us to gain weight.

It is too early to give leptins to people, but they're now the target of researchers seeking drugs that cause weight loss, without dangerous side- effects.

SURGERY

Q YOU said people can overdo cod liver oil. I have taken two teaspoonsful every day for years. Am I at risk?

A THE problem is vitamin D. You only need 400 international units (IU) per day. Check your bottle. If two teaspoons contain less, you're okay. But why take it at all? There's no health benefit in taking more than you get from normal food.

Q I'M a 26-year-old man and my life is being ruined by nerves and hot sweats, even when I relax. It's worse when I'm stressed. During my driving test the examiner stopped me five times to wipe the sweat from my forehead and face.

A IT seems the system of nerves that controls the flow of blood to your skin is too sensitive. Your doctor may suggest a betablocker drug after examining you for other conditions.

Q CAN hot flushes in an older woman be due to a poor diet?

A NO. In a woman, they are hormonal until proved otherwise, though they can also be caused by problems with the adrenal glands.

Q I HAVE been taking medication for an enlarged prostate gland for the last two years. I am now losing my hair. Could there be a link?

A NOT one that has been published anywhere - and that usually means there isn't. It may depend on the type of hair loss, for example whether it is more like alopecia than normal male baldness. But your doctor may wish to report it.

Q I'VE been taking quinine tablets for years for leg cramps. But now I've had bouts of cystitis. Should I stop taking the tablets?

A NOT without consulting your doctor. Quinine in the dose you take doesn't cause cystitis. You'll need a urine test to rule out infection, and maybe other tests if it proves negative.

Q I'M a singer and was given a sulphonamide drug for a throat infection. I haven't been able to sing since, because of thrush in the throat.

A THE drug may have been responsible. It could have knocked out your natural protective family of germs in the throat. There are now good treatments for thrush, so you should be able to get back to your singing soon.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Smith, Tom
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 9, 1997
Words:1178
Previous Article:UNSTRUNG HEROES; Tragedy of the kids who find it's tough at the top.
Next Article:THIS SURGEON'S A CUT ABOVE.


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