Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Alcohol Bigger Threat Than Cocaine or Heroin: Study
A new study concludes that alcohol is more dangerous overall
than illegal drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin.
British researchers evaluated the dangers that a number of
substances -- including alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, heroin and
cocaine -- posed to individuals and society as a whole, the
Associated Press reported.
Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine (crystal meth) were
found to be most dangerous to individuals. Alcohol, heroin and
crack cocaine cause the most damage to society as a whole, the
Overall, alcohol was the most dangerous, followed by heroin and
crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored lower in terms of
The study, funded by Britain's Center for Crime and Justice
Studies, was published online Monday in
The Lancet, the
U.S. Women May Receive Free Birth Control
Free birth control may become available to American women under
the new health care law, the
Associated Press reported.
A federal government advisory panel of experts will meet this
month to begin discussions on what kind of no-cost preventive care
should be offered to women under the law. It's obvious that family
planning should be included in those free services, say many
medical and public health experts.
"There is clear and incontrovertible evidence that family planning saves lives and improves health," obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. David Grimes, an international family planning expert who teaches medicine at the University of North Carolina, told the AP.
"Contraception rivals immunization in dollars saved for every dollar invested. Spacing out children allows for optimal pregnancies and optimal child rearing. Contraception is a prototype of preventive medicine."
But strong opposition is expected from a number of groups. For
example, U.S. Catholic bishops oppose covering contraceptives or
sterilization as preventive care. They say pregnancy is a healthy
condition, not an illness, the
European Plagues Originated in China: Study
China was the source of bubonic plagues that twice devastated
Europe, according to new research.
The first plague occurred in the sixth century and killed
perhaps half the population of Europe. The second, called the Black
Death, began in Europe in 1347 and killed 30 percent or more of the
population. The plagues were caused by the bacterium called
Yersinia pestis. The disease was spread by rats and transmitted to people by fleas or, in some cases, directly by breathing, The New York Times reported.
Scientists analyzed genetic variations in living strains of
Yersinia pestis in order to construct a family tree of the
bacterium. They concluded that the two major European bubonic
plagues originated in China and likely reached Europe via the Silk
The researchers also said that a plague epidemic in East Africa
in the 1400s was likely spread by the voyages of the Chinese
admiral Zheng He, the
The study was published online Sunday in the journal
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