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Canadians with a history of drug dependence more likely to have mental illness, finds study



A new study published online in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction found that Canadians with a history of drug addiction were much less likely to have thriving mental health and more likely to have mental illness.

Researchers compared a nationally representative sample of 460 Canadians with a history of illicit drug addiction (excluding cannabis) to 20,305 Canadians with no history of illicit drug addiction, using data from Statistic Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

While 80% of the patients with a drug addiction were in remission in the past, more than half (52.1%) still suffered from a mental illness. In addition, only 37.9% were in excellent mental health, which is significantly lower than the 74.1% of Canadians without a history of drug addiction who had excellent mental health.

To maintain excellent mental health, participants were required to report: 1) freedom from mental illness in the previous year (ie substance addiction, psychiatric disorders, suicidality); 2) almost daily happiness or life satisfaction in the past month; and 3) high social and psychological well-being in the past month.

Remission from addiction is an important factor in the recovery process, but we also want to consider the psychological consequences beyond abstinence. We want to think about how we can support the psychological and social well-being of people recovering from drug addiction. “

Andie MacNeil, lead author of the study and a Master of Social Work graduate, University of Toronto

The current study found several factors associated with excellent mental health in those in remission from drug addiction, including older age and social support.

“As people age, they often experience a decline in impulsiveness and increased role responsibility in their personal and professional lives,” says senior author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and director of the institute for resume and aging. “Older people often move away from social circles and contexts where drug use is more common, which in turn can aid their recovery.”

Post-secondary education, marriage, and no lifelong history of major depression or generalized anxiety disorder were among the other factors associated with both drug addiction remission and excellent mental health.

Although the Statistics Canada survey used for the study did not collect information about interventions that participants may have used to aid their recovery, other research suggests that various psychosocial approaches (such as motivational interviews, cognitive behavioral therapy) and pharmacological approaches (such as opioid Agonist Therapy) can help individuals reduce drug use and recover from addiction.

Drug addiction is a major public health crisis, with drug overdoses being a leading cause of death for adults under 50 in the United States today. Although opioids are typically the driving agent for overdose deaths, there has been a significant increase in cocaine and psychostimulant deaths in recent years. In the United States, illicit drug use is estimated to be responsible for an estimated $ 193 billion annually due to health expenditures, criminal justice costs, and lost productivity.

“Given the huge loss of life from drug addiction and the economic consequences that it entails, there is a need to better understand the factors associated with both remission and other aspects of recovery, such as mental well-being,” says MacNeil.


Journal reference:

MacNeil, A., et al. (2021) Factors Associated with Recovery and Thriving Mental Health in a National Sample of Canadians with a History of Illicit Drug Addiction. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.

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The link between cytokine storms and cardiovascular problems in COVID-19 patients



Increased inflammation from cytokine storms has led to several heart complications in infections with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). But to treat these cardiovascular problems, doctors need to better understand the relationship between cytokine storms and cardiovascular proteins.

New research suggests that the Th1, Th2, and Th17 inflammatory pathways are involved in the overproduction of cardiovascular proteins in COVID-19 infections. Th1 cytokines have an established role as mediators against viral infections. Th2 and Th17 inflammatory pathways are signals during a severe autoimmune reaction.

The results can help clinicians select effective treatment regimens for patients with cardiac complications. They suggest using immunomodulators to reduce cardiovascular inflammation and prevent the immune system’s ability to fight the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Study: Th1, Th2 and Th17 inflammatory pathways correlate synergistically with cardiometabolic processes. A case study on COVID-19. Image source: Corona Borealis Studio / Shutterstock

The study was recently published on the preprint server bioRxiv *, while the article is being peer-reviewed.

Cytokine levels in T helper cell signaling pathways

The researchers compared the cytokines in patients who were or were infected with SARS-CoV-2. In COVID-19 cases, an increasing trend in protein expression was seen in most Th1 and Th17 mediators (and in more than half of Th2 mediators). Protein levels rose from non-severe infections to patients who died from COVID-19 illness. Deceased COVID-19 patients had significantly high Th1, Th2, and Th17 levels. Patients with non-COVID respiratory infections did not show increasing trends in protein expression in inflammatory pathways.

Relationship between cardiometabolic protein and COVID-19 disease severity

In the second research phase, every existing relationship between cardiometabolic protein and COVID-19 infection was examined. Of the 335 cardiometabolic proteins examined, around 35 were strongly linked to the severity of COVID-19 disease. In addition, all 35 proteins were expressed at significantly increased levels in patients who died of COVID-19 disease. Ten cardiometabolic proteins were highly expressed in intubated patients with COVID-19 compared to patients with mild disease.

Cytokine storms contribute to COVID-19-related heart complications

Next, the research team tested its hypothesis that Th1, Th2, and Th17 cytokines are involved in altering cardiometabolic proteins. They grouped immune markers for each pathway and analyzed their frequency of expression for each cardiometabolic protein present in patients with COVID-19 infection.

The results showed 186 links between cytokines and cardiometabolic proteins expressed in COVID-19 infection. In particular, a synergistic effect between the immune pathways and proteins of Th1, Th2 and Th17 was observed.

The research stated that

Most of the compounds on our networks were positive compounds, suggesting that increased production of cytokines stimulates the overall production of cardiometabolic proteins. “

Of the 35 cardiometabolic proteins correlated with severe COVID-19 infection, 31 were predictive factors for cytokine storms. In fact, 20 of the 31 proteins have also been linked to cardiovascular inflammation and high blood pressure in other research studies. The 20 proteins were most strongly associated with IFNGR1 of the Th1 pathway. In the TH2 pathway, the most common association was with CCL11 and CCL7. In the Th17 pathway, the 20 cardiovascular markers were strongly linked to the cytokines PI3, LCN2 and IL6.

Study restrictions and future directions

The study used limited OLINK assay analysis to identify associations between immune mediators in inflammatory pathways and cardiometabolic proteins. An alternative technique that may have provided more descriptive and accurate results is whole genome sequencing.

A second limitation is that due to the many unknowns surrounding SARS-CoV-2 at the beginning of the pandemic, many COVID-19 cases were initially misdiagnosed. Incorrect diagnoses can alter the predictive power of cardiovascular markers with the severity of COVID-19.

Future research is needed to examine the relationship between helper T cells and heart inflammation. This should focus on a more detailed comparison between the cardiovascular and immune pathways and their interaction with viral infections beyond SARS-CoV-2.

Further studies examining the relationships between two systems could provide a complete picture of the immune-cardiovascular interaction in disease and health.

*Important NOTE

bioRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that have not been peer reviewed and therefore should not be considered conclusive, that guide clinical practice / health-related behavior or should be treated as established information.

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Students say that late penalties exacerbate mental health problems – The Varsity



As a result of online learning during the pandemic, some professors have reduced their late penalties, which can improve students’ psychological well-being.

Although many professors have changed their late penalty guidelines for the pandemic, some have reverted to those used for face-to-face teaching prior to March 2020. Students benefited from the looser guidelines, and now some of them are struggling to adjust to the late penalties before COVID-19.

Mental Health Effects

Many students continue to struggle with mental health, in part due to late penalty guidelines.

Anoosheh Ahmed, a freshman psychology student at UTM, said The varsity that she had to go to great lengths to get an extension while she was having anxiety attacks. She described the process of applying for an extension and said it was “a generally stressful process”. After Ahmed stated that she was scared, she said that she felt that her professors were being “neglected” [her]… to water [her] Heart out. ”

Ahmed also commented on the larger ones mental crisis at the U of T. “[You want to] to be treated like a person and not just one of the masses of students [at U of T],” She said.

The late penalties vary by U of T as there are no specific guidelines that professors must follow. It’s up to them to design their courses the way they want. Some professors do not allow extensions at all, as is the case with one of Ahmed’s courses.

For another of her courses, she had to go through a tedious renewal application process which she believes is unfair by the students, especially while there is a mental crisis at U of T.

Ahmed said that on the day of her deadline she was “feeling physically ill … from fear”. The late penalty for this course meant she lost five percent every day and was afraid of not finishing on time. When she reached out to the faculty, they asked her to fill out an absence form on Acorn, but did not provide proper instructions on how to access that form.

“We’re already struggling with mental health, especially when everything is online. And this class is asynchronous, which makes it a lot more difficult, ”said Ahmed.

Waiver of late penalties

Oliver Zhao is in his fourth year studying criminology and sociology, international relations and French. In an interview he said The varsity that last year he took some classes with Kerry Taylor, an assistant professor at the Center for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, where she had waived all belated sentences. There was a recommended date for assignments, but there was no late penalty for students who submitted assignments by the last day of class.

Zhao said these classes were less stressful. “[Taylor] realized that it was a difficult time for everyone, ”said Zhao

The varsity also spoke to Felan Parker, an assistant professor in the Department of Book and Media Studies at St. Michael’s College, who is penalized for not being late for assignments in his courses this year. He lifted all belated sentences for the first time in spring 2020 when the pandemic began. “It just didn’t seem fair at this point,” he explained.

Parker extended the same policy to the 2020-2021 academic year with no late penalties. He said, “It felt like a moral imperative to me not to punish students at such a difficult time.”

Parker stated that he initially waived belated penalties as an “emergency measure” but later wondered why he had to enforce belated penalties in the first place. “I think the pandemic made us as professors think about what we are doing and why we are doing it.”

In his experience, the majority of students submit within one week of the deadline. “If I didn’t have late penalties, it didn’t have a material impact on my grading schedules or how students submitted things.”

Parker said he didn’t notice a difference in the average grades in his current classes, which use the new late-sentence guidelines, and pre-COVID-19 classes with more traditional guidelines. He continues to evaluate the usefulness of his current teaching practices. “This was an experiment, and it definitely remains an experiment … this is a transition year.”

In the wake of the pandemic, he also changed his policy. In spring 2020, he did not ask students for explanations or updates of their assignment submissions. Now he encourages students to let him or their teaching assistant know if they will be late in submitting their assignments, even though he doesn’t impose any default penalties on assignments, regardless of whether or not the teachers are notified of a late submission.

In general, Parker said he is also not in favor of requiring students to provide emergency proof in order to receive extensions or accommodation in their classes. “I don’t really think it’s appropriate that students should share medical or psychological circumstances or family tragedies, for example.” [with professors]. ”

Discussing his rationale for his current teaching policy, Parker said, “I don’t want my class to be the class that is ruining your week or month.”

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We are better off confronting public health issues as one race



From Tapiwa Gomo

It was an interesting fortnight. A fortnight full of drama, in which the new COVID-19 variant dominated the headlines. In fact, it wasn’t the new COVID-19 variant itself that stole the headlines, but the geopolitical drama that followed after the new variant was announced. It was a time when the world needed to be reminded of geopolitical ties in the context of a global public health pandemic.

On November 26, Botswana and South African scientists identified a new version of the coronavirus that they say is behind a recent surge in COVID-19 infections. By default, they immediately informed the World Health Organization (WHO) and the world.

On the same day, the WHO designated variant B.1.1.529, on the advice of the Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) of the WHO, as a variant of concern with the name Omicron.

That decision was based on evidence presented to TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that can affect its behavior, such as the rate at which it spreads or the severity of the disease it causes.

For Botswana and South Africa, information from WHO and the world was part of being transparent so that the world can better prepare for the new variant.

The response of some European countries and the United States of America has raised more questions than answers, raising concerns about apartheid and the stigma associated with Africa and global pandemics.

It later emerged that the Omicron variant was discovered in European countries before the announcement by Botswana and South Africa.

The key to these questions is why some Western countries have taken knee-jerk action against South African countries when they have had far fewer cases compared to some European countries and the US.

Indeed, the countries of southern Africa combined had fewer cases than the United Kingdom, yet the latter banned the former from traveling.

In the absence of any scientific case for these travel bans, most concluded that politics and racism influenced these decisions.

Along with other global diseases such as poverty, backwardness and darkness, Africa is known in the western world as the epicenter of all major diseases.

Malaria, for example, is known to be one of the most serious public health problems worldwide and one of the leading causes of death and disease in many developing countries in 2019.

In the same year, malaria is estimated to have caused 229 million clinical episodes, and Africa is responsible for more than 80% of the cases and more than 90% of the 409,000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). .

That is around 370,000 deaths annually in Africa alone and that makes the continent the epicenter of malaria. In Africa alone, it is estimated that more than a million adults and children die each year as a result of HIV / AIDS.

According to available research, HIV is believed to have been transmitted from chimpanzees to humans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Africa, in the 1920s.

They argue that this was because chimpanzees carrying Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, a virus closely related to HIV, were hunted and eaten by humans in the area or who visited the area.

But then in June 1981 the first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in the United States.

It remains a mystery how the chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo transmitted the virus to the United States in 1981 and how the virus later settled in southern Africa and became its epicenter.

As far as we know, the map used to depict countries banned from entering Europe and the US due to COVID-19 is the same as the map showing southern Africa as the epicenter of HIV / AIDS in the United States represents the last two decades.

And of course we cannot question science.

In the most recent case, there are two major differences between HIV and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For HIV and AIDS, Africa had neither a voice nor the ability to initiate and guide the narrative.

Sub-Saharan Africa accepted everything that was offered to it in the epistemological field without questioning it.

And with COVID-19, mostly the Omicron variant, southern Africa has shown leadership, showing that it is ahead of its game and has followed all protocols to ensure the world is informed and prepared for the new challenge.

In a way, it was supposed to be the moment of glory, but sadly, southern Africa was overwhelmed by doom and darkness with a spate of travel bans that have become too embarrassing to lift without justification.

In the struggle with the new variant, to what extent is the world prepared to accept that all people have the same genome with small deviations of 0.001% only limited to appearance and health?

The COVID-19 pandemic is designed to unite us as a people at risk, especially after we discover that a public health problem affecting one part of the world could potentially affect the rest of the world.

Getting everyone in Europe and the US vaccinated while the rest of the world isn’t does not make everyone safe.

Politicizing and arming public health concerns does not protect everyone. It is time to think and act as a human race.

  • Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He is writing here in his personal capacity.
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