Mar 27, 2013
Everyone knows Australians love a drink with their mates, and then to have a not so friendly little punch-up. But now doctors, police and paramedics have called “time”, warning that alcohol-fueled violence has reached crisis levels.
Mar 27, 2013
Everyone knows Australians love a drink with their mates, and then to have a not so friendly little punch-up. But now doctors, police and paramedics have called “time”, warning that alcohol-fueled violence has reached crisis levels.
From the recent announcement of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative to the Technicolor brain scans (“This is your brain on God/love/envy etc”) on magazine covers all around, neuroscience has captured the public imagination like never before.
Understanding the brain is of course essential to developing treatments for devastating illnesses like schizophrenia and Parkinson’s. More abstract but no less compelling, the functioning of the brain is intimately tied to our sense of self, our identity, our memories and aspirations. But the excitement to explore the brain has spawned a new fixation that my colleague Scott Lilienfeld and I call neurocentrism — the view that human behavior can be best explained by looking solely or primarily at the brain.
The critical question, though, is whether this neural disruption proves that the addict’s behavior is involuntary, and that he is incapable of self-control. It does not.
Sometimes the neural level of explanation is appropriate. When scientists develop diagnostic tests or a medications for, say, Alzheimer’s disease, they investigate the hallmarks of the condition: amyloid plaques that disrupt communication between neurons, and neurofibrillary tangles that degrade them.
Other times, a neural explanation can lead us astray. In my own field of addiction psychiatry, neurocentrism is ascendant — and not for the better. Thanks to heavy promotion by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, addiction has been labeled a “brain disease.”
The logic for this designation, as explained by former director Alan I. Leshner, is that “addiction is tied to changes in brain structure and function.” True enough, repeated use of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol alter the neural circuits that mediate the experience of pleasure as well as motivation, memory, inhibition, and planning — modifications that we can often see on brain scans.
The critical question, though, is whether this neural disruption proves that the addict’s behavior is involuntary and that he is incapable of self-control. It does not.
Take the case of actor Robert Downey, Jr., whose name was once synonymous with celebrity addiction. He said, “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger’s on the trigger, and I like the taste of gunmetal.” Downey went though episodes of rehabilitation and then relapse, but ultimately decided, while in the throes of “brain disease,” to change his life.
Tobacco smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada.
For the past 25 years, May 31 has been World No Tobacco Day, as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO), with a different theme from year to year. This year’s theme is a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
To mark the day, we’ve pulled together some numbers on tobacco use and its consequences in Canada and around the world.
Among Canadian provinces, smoking rates vary from a low of 15.8 per cent in B.C. to 23.8 per cent in Saskatchewan, according to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey for 2011. As the map above shows, the numbers for Canada’s North are significantly higher.
Smoking rates have been falling for the last quarter-century, but since 2009 the rate of decline has levelled off. In 2011, 5.8 million Canadians 12 years and older smoked, a rate of 19.9 per cent.
Worldwide, there are about 1.1 billion smokers. About 80 per cent live in low- or middle-income countries.
Our graph showing the total percentage of smokers in Canada by year goes back to 2003, when the rate was 23 per cent, but smoking rates have declined considerably from nearly a half-century ago. In 1966, 41 per cent of Canadians 15 years and older were smoking.
Significantly more men than women smoke in all age groups, 22.3 per cent compared to 17.5 per cent. However, in the youngest age group, the male and female rates are almost the same.
According to U.S. data, about 80 per cent of high school students who smoke will smoke into adulthood.
The smoking rate in Canada is highest in the 20-24 year age group, for both men and women.
Worldwide, the number of male smokers is about four times the number of female smokers.
Total cigarette sales in Canada numbered 31.1 million in 2011. That’s down from the 31.7 million cigarettes sold the year before but higher that the 30.2 million sold in 2006.
Unlike Canada, worldwide cigarette consumption has been increasing. “Smokers consumed nearly 5.9 trillion cigarettes in 2009, representing a 13 per cent increase in cigarette consumption in the past decade,” according to the Tobacco Atlas, by the World Lung Foundation .
In Canada, three manufacturers control 99.5 per cent of the Canadian tobacco market:
The big three are all owned by multinational corporations. And those three multinationals are highly profitable. For example, British American Tobacco, which owns Imperial Tobacco, had profits totalling $8.3 billion US in 2012.
Canada’s three tobacco giants are currently defending themselves in a $27-billion class-action lawsuit in Montreal.
The manufacturers have more than one brand, of course. The top ten brands accounted for 86 per cent of cigarette sales in Canada in 2011. The three top-selling brands are manufactured by Imperial Tobacco:
According to a 2007 study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, smoking is responsible for 16.6 per cent of all deaths in Canada.
The study, based on 2002 data, found that 21 per cent of deaths in men and 12.2 per cent of deaths in women were attributable to smoking.
The authors estimate that the smoking-attributable deaths that year resulted in Canadian residents losing a total of 515,608 years of life.
They report that for the 37,209 deaths they attribute to smoking:
Tobacco is responsible for killing one in 10 adults worldwide, according to the WHO.
The organization claims that tobacco caused about 100 million deaths in the 20th century. Based on current trends, they estimate that tobacco “may cause about one billion deaths in the 21st century.”
WHO estimates that second-hand smoke causes 600,000 premature deaths per year, with children accounting for 28 per cent of those deaths.
U.S. data shows an estimated 50,000 deaths per year as attributable to second-hand smoke, mostly from heart-disease.
In Canada, according to the 2011 StatsCan survey, 15.1 per cent of Canadians 12 years and older were exposed to second-hand smoke at home.
WHO estimates that comprehensive national smoke-free laws protect just 11 per cent of the world’s population but “the number of people protected from second-hand smoke more than doubled to 739 million in 2010 from 354 million in 2008.”
A 2004 report by the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that for every death attributable to tobacco, 20 people are living with a tobacco-caused disease.
WHO has also looked at the effectiveness of various methods of tobacco control. It claims that:
WHO says that their Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been in force since 2005, is “one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of the United Nations.” Canada is a signatory.
In 2010, over 60 per cent of Canadians who had been smokers had quit.
One year after someone quits smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease falls by half.
About 10 years after someone quits, the risk of dying from lung cancer falls by half.
The major sources for this story are Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey, a study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, The World Health Organization and The Tobacco Atlas from the World Lung Foundation and the American Cancer Society. See the external links in the left column in some browsers.
Researchers say women are more likely to have depression and anxiety, while more men report substance abuse
Women are up to 40% more likely than men to develop mental health conditions, according to new analysis by a clinical psychologist at Oxford University.
The finding, based on analysis of epidemiological studies from the UK, US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has significant consequences for public health, according to Prof Daniel Freeman, who said that as millions of people in the UK alone were affected by mental illness, the consequences of gender disparities were widespread. Mental health campaigners said GPs needed to be aware of such disparities when deciding how to commission resources for treatment and support.
According to Freeman’s study, women are approximately 75% more likely than men to report having recently suffered from depression, and around 60% more likely to report an anxiety disorder.
Men are more likely to report substance misuse disorders – around two and a half times more frequently than women. Conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and schizophrenia did not have statistically significant differences between genders in adults.
Freeman said that because the conditions most affecting women were more common than those affecting men, overall mental health conditions were more common in women than in men, by a factor of 20% to 40%.
The result is based on analysis of 12 large-scale epidemiological studies carried out across the world since the 1990s, for Freeman’s new book The Stressed Sex, published by Oxford University Press. The analysis used only large-scale studies, which looked at the general population, to control for men being less likely to seek help for psychological disorders than women.
However, while pre-set criteria were used to select which studies to include and exclude, the research is not a formal meta-analysis, regarded as the gold standard of evidence.
Freeman said the differences in the types of conditions reported by genders was interesting.
“There is a pattern within – women tend to suffer more from what we call ‘internal’ problems like depression or sleep problems,” he said. “They take out problems on themselves, as it were, where men have externalising problems, where they take things out on their environment, such as alcohol and anger problems.”
He added that there was likely a complex mixture of factors contributing to the differences between the genders – related not only to physiological or biological factors, but society, too.
“Because mental health problems are extremely prevalent, if you do see an imbalance, it’s an imbalance that concerns millions of people, so it’s a major public health issue. The initial things we need to do is establish this fully in the UK, but also crack the issues of why,” he said.
“Mental health issues are complex, they do arise from a range of factors, but we should highlight the environment, because we know discrepancies are greatest where the environment has the greatest role,” he said. “Where we think it has an effect is particularly on women’s self-esteem or self-worth: women tend to view themselves more negatively than men, and that is a vulnerability factor for many mental health problems.”
Other academics cast a note of scepticism on Freeman’s findings. Professor Kathryn Abel, of the centre for women’s mental health at Manchester University, said that when looking for studies to corroborate a particular thesis there was a risk of cherrypicking ones which backed it up.
Abel said that while disparities between rates of particular conditions were well-established in research, she had not seen evidence of significant differences in the overall rates of mental health disorders across lifetimes. She added that age was also a significant factor in different ratios, particularly given physical and social changes at different stages of life. She also noted that thanks to modern healthcare and society, particularly in the developed world where much of the data on rates of mental disorder comes from, “stress” by its formal definition (survival stress) is lower for women and men than at virtually any point in history.
She also considered whether some mental health conditions, though serious, were in part an effect of a relatively low-stress environment when compared with the past.
“In terms of survival, we’re not exposed to stress compared with our ancestors,” she said. “It is estimated that over their lifetime nearly a quarter of women will suffer a depressive illness. As a population, we are incredibly healthy, and in spite of continuing inequalities, we have never had it so good: women are living longer and more healthily than ever before – as are men.
“Some populations show lower rates of some of these arguably ‘stress-related’ disorders; in those countries women and men remain under far more hardship.”
Abel did also note that little good-quality evidence was available to allow us to make more sense of whether or how sex differences were related to any specific physiological factors in different mental health conditions in women, as not much specific research had yet been carried out.
European governments and the Obama administration are this weekend studying a “gamechanging” report on global drugs policy that is being seen in some quarters as the beginning of the end for blanket prohibition.
Publication of the Organisation of American States (OAS) review, commissioned at last year’s Cartagena Summit of the Americas attended by Barack Obama, reflects growing dissatisfaction among Latin American countries with the current global policy on illicit drugs. It spells out the effects of the policy on many countries and examines what the global drugs trade will look like if the status quo continues. It notes how rapidly countries’ unilateral drugs policies are evolving, while at the same time there is a growing consensus over the human costs of the trade. “Growing media attention regarding this phenomenon in many countries, including on social media, reflects a world in which there is far greater awareness of the violence and suffering associated with the drug problem,” José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, says in a foreword to the review. “We also enjoy a much better grasp of the human and social costs not only of drug use but also of the production and transit of controlled substances.”
Insulza describes the report, which examines a number of ways to reform the current pro-prohibition position, as the start of “a long-awaited discussion”, one that experts say puts Europe and North America on notice that the current situation will change, with or without them. Latin American leaders have complained bitterly that western countries, whose citizens consume the drugs, fail to appreciate the damage of the trade. In one scenario envisaged in the report, a number of South American countries would break with the prohibition line and decide that they will no longer deploy law enforcement and the army against drug cartels, having concluded that the human costs of the “war on drugs” is too high.
The west’s responsibility to reshape global drugs policy will be emphasised in three weeks when Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the president of Colombia, who initiated the review, arrives in Britain. His visit is part of a programme to push for changes in global policy that will lead up to a special UN general assembly in 2016 when the scenarios of the OAS are expected to have a significant influence.
Experts described the publication of the review as a historic moment. “This report represents the most high-level discussion about drug policy reform ever undertaken, and shows tremendous leadership from Latin America on the global debate,” said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Foundation’s Global Drug Policy Program, which has described its publication as a “game-changer”.
“It was particularly important to hear president Santos invite the states of Europe to contribute toward envisioning a better international drug policy. These reports inspire a conversation on drug policy that has been long overdue.”
The report represents the first time any significant multilateral agency has outlined serious alternatives to prohibition, including legal market regulation or reform of the UN drug conventions.
“While leaders have talked about moving from criminalisation to public health in drug policy, punitive, abstinence-only approaches have still predominated, even in the health sphere,” said Daniel Wolfe, director of the Open Society Foundation’s International Harm Reduction Program. “These scenarios offer a chance for leaders to replace indiscriminate detention and rights’ abuses with approaches that distinguish between users and traffickers, and offer the community-based health services that work best for those in need.”
In a statement, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which campaigns for changes in drug laws and is supported by the former presidents of several South American states, said that publication of the review would break “the taboo that blocked for so long the debate on more humane and efficient drug policy”. The Commission said that it was “time that governments around the world are allowed to responsibly experiment with regulation models that are tailored to their realities and local need”.
■ The open letter from the Global Commission on Drug Policy is signed by George P Shultz, the former US secretary of state; Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US federal reserve, and the former presidents of Mexico, Chile and Colombia
Growing popularity of ‘cocaine of the poor’ in Athens has overwhelmed public health authorities already under strain
Nobody knows which came first: the economic crisis tearing Greece apart or shisha, the drug now known as the “cocaine of the poor”. What everyone does accept is that shisha is a killer. And at €2 or less a hit, it is one that has come to stalk Greece, the country long on the frontline of Europe‘s financial meltdown.
“As drugs go, it is the worst. It burns your insides, it makes you aggressive and ensures that you go totally mad,” said Maria, a former heroin addict. “But it is cheap and it is easy to get, and it is what everyone is doing.”
The drug crisis, brought to light in a new film by Vice.com, has put Athens’s health authorities, already overwhelmed by draconian cuts, under further strain.
The drug of preference for thousands of homeless Greeks forced on to the streets by poverty and despair, shisha is described by both addicts and officials as a variant of crystal meth whose potential to send users into a state of mindless violence is underpinned by the substances with which the synthetic drug is frequently mixed: battery acid, engine oil and even shampoo.
Worse still, it is not only readily available, but easy to make – tailor-made for a society that despite official prognostications of optimism, and fiscal progress, on the ground, at least, sees little light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is a killer but it also makes you want to kill,” Konstantinos, a drug addict, told Vice. “You can kill without understanding that you have done it … And it is spreading faster than death. A lot of users have died.”
For Charalampos Poulopoulos, the head of Kethea, Greece’s pre-eminent anti-drug centre, shisha symbolises the depredations of a crisis that has spawned record levels of destitution and unemployment. It is, he said, an “austerity drug” – the best response yet of dealers who have become ever more adept at producing synthetic drugs designed for those who can no longer afford more expensive highs from such drugs as heroin and cocaine.
“The crisis has given dealers the possibility to promote a new, cheap drug, a cocaine for the poor,” said Poulopoulos at a centre run for addicts in Exarcheia, the anarchist stronghold in Athens. “Shisha can be sniffed or injected and it can be made in home laboratories – you don’t need any specialised knowledge. It is extremely dangerous.”
Across Greece, the byproducts of six straight years of recession have been brutal and cruel. Depression, along with drug and alcohol abuse, has risen dramatically. Delinquency and crime have soared as Greece’s social fabric has unravelled under the weight of austerity measures that have cut the income of ordinary Greeks by 40%. Prostitution – the easiest way of financing drug addition – has similarly skyrocketed.
“Desperation is such that many women agree to engage in unprotected sex because that way they’ll make more money,” said Eleni Marini, a British-trained psychologist with Kethea. “Shisha has been linked to a very intense sexual drive but it attacks your ability to think straight and we’re seeing a lot more pregnancies among drug addicts who engage in prostitution.” Last year, two sex workers gave birth on the streets of Athens.
In a climate of pervasive uncertainty –where suicides have also shot up and the spread of HIV infections has assumed epidemic proportions – drug addicts (a population believed to be around 25,000 strong), have become increasingly self-destructive. And, experts say, young Greeks marginalised by record rates of unemployment – at 64% Greece has the highest youth unemployment in the EU – are leading the way.
“The crisis has created a widespread sense of pessimism,” said Poulopoulos. “For those who might have quit drugs there is now no incentive. Instead, there’s an atmosphere of misery where people knowing they won’t find work are becoming a lot more self-destructive. In Athens, where the economic crisis has hit hardest, shisha is part of that.”
Greece’s conservative-dominated coalition has tried to deal with the problem by driving drug users and other homeless people out of the city centre – a series of controversial police operations has swept central streets, clearing crowded doorways and malls.
“But with such actions, authorities are only sweeping the problem under the carpet,” said Poulopoulos, a UK-trained social worker whose oversight of Kethea has won plaudits internationally. “What, in reality, they are really doing is marginalising these people even more by pushing them into the arms of drug dealers who offer them protection.”
Just when the demand for help has never been greater, state-funded organisations such as Kethea have had their budgets slashed by a third at the request of the “troika” of — the EU, ECB and IMF — keeping the debt-stricken Greek economy afloat.
Since the outbreak of the crisis in 2009, Kethea has lost 70 of its 500 staff.
The cuts come despite studies showing that for every euro invested in programmes such as Kethea, the state saves about €6 in costs to the criminal justice and healthcare systems. “The cuts we have witnessed are a false economy, a huge mistake,” said Poulopoulos.
On the streets of Athens, the breeding ground of shisha, there is rising fear that austerity not only doesn’t work, it kills.
• A note from Helena Smith on the spelling of shisha, which has been the subject of many comments below the line:
Glad to see this story is generating such debate! On the issue of nomenclature – as I see many comments have focused on spelling of the drug itself – I feel I should say that I opted for shisha as the head of Greece’s anti-drug unit, Charalampos Poulopoulos, who I interviewed for the piece refers to it as such, making the point that the word derives from the Persian word, shishe, which means glass and is popularly used to describe glass pipes in the Arab and African world.
Sisa appears to be a transliteration from Σίσα, as the drug is known in Greek slang. In Greek, as many will know, an “h” is not used and there is no letter that singularly conveys “sh” as it is pronounced in English.
At last, amid all the bleak news that comes from Afghanistan, there’s a success story to justify the British and American presence there.
Because one of the main aims of Western intervention in foreign affairs is to establish the sort of small-business, entrepreneurial spirit that can rescue a struggling economy. And according to the United Nations, there’s been another 18 per cent growth in the heroin trade, in just the past year.
It goes to show that, even in the most difficult circumstances, with a popular product and thoughtful marketing, there are always business opportunities for those with a flair for entrepreneurial vision. At the time of the initial invasion in 2001, Tony Blair insisted that one of the reasons for occupying Afghanistan was because “the Taliban are causing the deaths of young British people who buy their drugs on the streets”. But clearly some people misunderstood what Blair meant. They were saying that the Afghan heroin trade wasn’t fulfilling its potential, and with the right management they could treble it.
It will probably turn out Blair is getting £4m a year to sit on an advisory board to help them maximise growth. Spokesmen from companies with names like Kwik-Fix Global will appear on the business section of Sky News, explaining how their quarterly report reveals a 35 per cent rise in dividends, boasting about surveys that show that the Afghan brand earns positive feedback with 95 per cent of junkies, and hinting at diversification into other markets such as its own brand of needles so customers can enjoy the full Afghan warlord poppy experience.
Maybe the plan is that, by the time British troops leave, every district of Afghanistan has a thriving garden centre, where couples from Helmand province can potter around on a Sunday, arguing about which seeds will produce the most effective skag and enquiring about how to set up a poppy rockery.
Then there’ll be an Afghan Gardeners’ Question Time, with the audience asking: “This year, my poppy window-box became susceptible to mildew around springtime, so the opium was disappointingly soggy and hard to burn in the spoon. Has the panel any suggestions for how to prevent a recurrence?”
It could be claimed that the growth in heroin production would be even greater if the occupying forces hadn’t been in the country. But this would be to deny them the credit they’re due. Because it was also revealed this week that the office of Afghan leader Harmid Karzai has been regularly receiving envelopes stuffed with cash from the CIA, for the past 11 years. The New York Times reported that the money has come in “backpacks, suitcases and plastic bags”.
The allegations are denied by a Foreign Ministry spokesman, but Karzai explained the purpose of these payments was to “secure the support of those leaders who have been loyal”. One of the other reasons for the invasion, you may recall, was to stamp out corruption. That makes sense, because you can’t stamp out corruption without the support of honest, reliable officials, and you can’t expect them to stay honest and reliable for nothing so it makes sense to hand them envelopes stuffed with cash every couple of weeks.
The people the money has been handed to are local warlords, who won’t stay loyal unless they’re also allowed to carry on their legitimate business of growing poppies, so it all completes a neat business circle. To make it seem even more like a typical business arrangement, some of them have complained that the amount that the local farmers receive for their poppies is only 1 per cent of the eventual market value. You’d think that at least our Government would insist on an ethical poppy policy, encouraging dealers to pay a decent price so they could stand behind the bins on a council estate wearing a sticker saying “All our smack is Fairtrade”, next to a picture of a smiling warlord.
Once you add in the other reasons for occupying the place, the scale of the occupation’s success becomes even clearer. There was the Taliban’s “appalling record on human rights”, whereas Saudi Arabia, with which we’ve just concluded a £15bn arms deal, is just a constant hubbub of feminist this and lesbian that.
It is so liberal that it’s the only country where women get no extra penalty if they’re caught drinking and driving, as they get put in jail for either so they might as well do both at the same time. And the invasion was supposed to stop Afghanistan being a centre for al-Qa’ida, which has gone exceedingly well. Because now Afghanistan is only one place for the militant Islamist organisation, as they’ve grown in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Mali, and a variety of places where they didn’t exist before. Once they’ve taken control of Dorset County Council, I suppose the job will be complete.
When British and US forces first occupied Kabul in 2001, there was jubilation from those who’d supported the invasion, especially those who saw it as a humanitarian policy. Some day soon, I suppose they’ll accept it hasn’t all gone to plan as much as they thought. Or they might stick it out, following the Government’s line that we’re leaving because we’ve done an excellent job, and now the Afghans we’ve been giving stuffed envelopes to have learned enough from us that they can carry on from here.
If only Napoleon had thought of this tactic. He could have said: “Right, it’s all gone very well, but, if you Russians don’t mind, we’ve got other stuff to get on with, so you’re jolly well going to have to get on without us. Bye then, thanks for having us.”
03 May 2013
Doctors identified 10,068 new cases of breast cancer among under-50s in Britain in 2010, the first time the total has hit five figures, a report shows.
It represents an 11 per cent rise since 1995, when the number of diagnoses in the same age group was 7,712, or an increase from 38 to 42 cases in every 100,000 women.
The rise in younger patients developing breast cancer contributed to an overall increase in diagnosis rates among women of all ages from 37,107 cases in 1995 to a new high of 49,564 in 2010, figures released by Cancer Research UK show.
Higher alcohol consumption, a growing tendency to have fewer children, having them later in life, and use of the contraceptive pill were last night linked to the increase in cases among younger women.
Binge drinkers are most at risk, but every daily drink raises the risk of the condition even for women who are careful to stay within the Government’s recommended limits, experts warned.
Prof Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “The big issue is that a lot of people think there is a safe limit, particularly with cancer, and there isn’t.
“There is a substantive amount of breast cancer associated with what is often called ‘sensible drinking’, when people do not even think they are taking a risk … the risk starts pretty well from drinking any amount.
“Given what we know about the relationships between alcohol and cancers, an increase in breast cancers linked to increased alcohol consumption is inevitable.”
The number of women drinking more than 14 units of alcohol, or seven glasses of wine, per week increased from 15 per cent in 1998 to 18 per cent in 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Having fewer children and starting motherhood later in life can also raise the risk of breast cancer because of the effect on hormone levels.
Even taking the contraceptive pill can temporarily add to the chance of developing the condition.
Jessica Harris, the senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Because breast cancer is one [cancer] that tends to be related to your hormone levels it can have quite a strong impact. The more children women have and the earlier in age they have them, the lower the risk. So when there is a trend in society for women to have fewer children and have them later, that would impact on the risk of [breast] cancer.
“The Pill has a small effect: it does increase the risk of breast cancer, but only while women are taking it. At the age at which women tend to take the Pill the risk of breast cancer is low, so that’s why it has only a small effect.”
Official figures published last year show that the number of women giving birth after the age of 40 rose by 16 per cent between 2007 and 2012, and the average British family now has 1.7 children compared with two in 1971.
While postmenopausal women are most at risk of breast cancer, the new figures show that one in five cases of the disease now occurs in women under the age of 50.
The NHS routinely offers breast screening for over-50s, but the programme has not been extended nationally to the 40 to 50 age group because of concerns about the reliability of the results.
Cases of breast cancer in the under-50s have increased steadily in recent years, numbering 9,312 in 2008 and 9,528 in 2009 before reaching 10,068 in 2010.
Cancer Research UK said the figures alone could not prove what is causing the higher rate of cases among younger women, but that increasing alcohol intake is likely to play an important part.
Despite the increase in cases, death rates from the disease among under-50s fell from nine deaths per 100,000 women in 1995 to five per 100,000 in 2010 due to research, increased awareness and improved care.
The charity said that women of all ages should monitor alterations in size, shape or feel of their breasts and report any changes to their doctor, even if they have been screened for the condition.
Chris Askew, chief executive of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, added: “These figures show that breast cancer still affects more and more families every year in the UK and the need for research into the disease remains vital.
“Although breast cancer is more common in older women, it’s worrying to see an increase in the number of younger women diagnosed with the disease. We must invest in vital research for new treatments and disease prevention.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is important that the signs of breast cancer are spotted early so women can start treatment and improve their chances of survival. That is why we encourage women of all ages to be breast aware, know what is normal for them, and report any changes to their GP as soon as possible.”
A small group of soldiers, police officers and sexual assault victims suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder will soon see if the rave party drug ecstasy can ease their symptoms.
The research group that will oversee the Vancouver-based study just received 9 grams of MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) from Switzerland after obtaining a long-awaited import permit for the prohibited drug.
Andrew Feldmar, a Vancouver psychologist who will help carry out the study with the synthetic drug — said there was a “whole hullabaloo” to meet the “Fort Knox” pharmacy-storage requirements.
“It’s as if the whole of Vancouver is waiting to see this drug and will rob the pharmacy to get it,” Feldmar told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.
He said it would be easy to get the ecstasy off the street — but researchers needed it to be “legal and pure.”
Studies using ecstasy to treat PTSD are already underway in the U.S. and Europe by the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. The Canadian pilot has taken years to get off the ground and win approval from Health Canada and the Institutional Review Board due to regulatory hurdles.
Feldmar said there has been much stigma and controversy around the ground-breaking study because ecstasy is known as a rave party drug and has been linked to several high-profile deaths. But he insists it’s an “incomparable experience” to use the drug in a therapeutic setting over a rave.
“The very same substance can be poison or medicine, depending on the dosage, depending on the circumstances in which it is ingested,” he told host Power & Politics host Hannah Thibedeau.
The study will work with 12 subjects who “have found no solace” — in other words, have suffered with the most severe, persistent symptoms of PTSD and have not responded to conventional pharmaceuticals or psychotherapy. About 40 potential subjects have already applied to participate in the Canadian study.
Ecstasy helps hurt and frightened patients address the root trauma and establish security and trust, Feldmar said.
“You’re shameless, your heart opens and you’re present” when taking the drug, he said.
Therapists will stay with the participants for eight hours after taking the ecstasy for each session.
Feldmar said the cutting-edge therapy could help a generation of Canadian soldiers who are battling PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. Eventually, he hopes ecstasy will become a prescription, rather than a prohibited, drug.
Having a bad Monday ? You could be in Ciudad Juarez.
It is a place at once thought of for its destitution, crime, and poverty – where a bitter conflict has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 Mexicans.
His photographs capture a rugged landscape thrown into a vicious war on the trade, and the people who have been affected by or succumbed to the overwhelming influence of the drug trade.
Mr Rochkind, who graduated from the University of Michigan and is currently based out of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, traveled to Mexico beginning in 2007 to photograph the series, shooting cartel members, addicts, inmates, and communities torn apart by the drug war.
Theseimages are only a small sampling of the collection or reportage appearing in his book.
Destitution: Photographer David Rochkind has captured a series of poignant images of Mexico’s devastating drug culture; here, a young girl walks by a caravan of police vehicles during a security sweep looking for criminals and drug dealers
Darkest before dawn: Police in Nogales perform a security sweep in the poor neighborhoods of the city looking for drug dealers and drug users
The only thing that matters: Here, a woman shoots heroin in front of her lover and a baby they are supposed to be caring for
Behind bars: A man arrested for drug possession stands in his jail cell in a small prison high in the hills of Nogales, Sonora
Lift thine eyes: Men pray at an evangelical church in Tijuana. Many churches in Tijuana are reporting increased membership as citizens seek refuge from all of the violence around them
Belly of the beast: Ciudad Juraez is at the center of Mexico’s violence, with more than 5,000 drug related murders over the past two years. President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of soldiers to the city to try to stem the violence, though after a short decrease in murders the violence blossomed once again. Here, soldiers search young men for drugs, weapons or signs of drug use
Telling the story: Members of a Norteño band sit in their tour bus after giving a show in Mexico City. Many Norteño groups sing corridos, or ballads, that tell a story
Long day’s journey into night: Central American migrants ride atop a freight train carrying cement as they head north in an attempt to enter the US. Traveling by train has become more dangerous as kidnappings and robberies have risen in recent years with increased drug cartel activity