Health and Science

Illinois remains lethargic on medical marijuana

By Ezra Kaplan

Marla Levi is a 52-year-old Chicagoan with multiple sclerosis. With the support of her doctor, she applied and was accepted into the state-funded Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. This means that she qualifies and has a medical need for medical marijuana. It has been nearly three months since she got her papers but she has yet to fill the prescription.

The law that allows medical marijuana also stipulates that it must come from the state. But Illinois hasn’t grown any marijuana.

Sound like a Catch-22?

It is.

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Bipartisan drug proposal garners praise from drug professionals

By Dani Anguiano

Drug policy experts and substance abuse professionals have called for strong action to tackle heroin abuse as well as expressed optimism about a $25 million legislative package to be proposed by Illinois lawmakers.

House Democratic Assistant Majority Leader Lou Lang, (D-Skokie), and state Rep. John Anthony, (R-Morris), recently announced their plan to propose legislation that will address what health-care professionals describe as a heroin epidemic. The legislation would require, among other things, the development of a drug prevention program for schools, the establishment of a medication take-back program, and increased access to drugs that fight heroin overdoses.
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GMOs: The scarlet letters of the grocery aisle?

By Shanley Chien

You walk down the aisles at Whole Foods spotting milk, cookies, pasta, and a variety of other products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. The label tells you the foods don’t contain genetically modified organisms  – GMOs.

But the image of a butterfly sitting on a blade of grass shaped like a check mark subconsciously reassures you that this product is “safe.” After all, if it’s safe enough for a butterfly, it’s safe enough for you and your family. You put it in your basket, perhaps because people like Dr. Oz and food blogger Vani Hari of Food Babe tell you GMOs are unhealthy.

GMOs add to the nutritional value and preservation of foods and most scientists vouch for their safety. But critics abound.

“We have the whole government working against us,” Hari said in an interview on the Carolina Connection Talk Radio. “They don’t want Americans to figure out that these could be causing health issues, that they haven’t been tested, and they are increasing pesticide and herbicide use.”

Organizations and advocacy groups such as the Non-GMO Project, Dr. Oz, Food Babe, and other anti-GMO crusaders say GMOs are unnatural and unhealthy, according to their websites. Continue reading

Weight loss surgery leads to longer life

By Jamie Friedlander

Tony Gambee, the CEO of a software company in Boulder, Colorado, used to be able to eat an entire slab of ribs in one sitting at his favorite barbecue joint.

Now, it’s two ribs and he’s full. His secret is gastric bypass, a type of weight loss surgery that promises dramatic results, but often involves a lot of maintenance afterward and some difficult side effects at first, such as vomiting.

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Indiana HIV Outbreak Continues to Grow

By Jamie Friedlander

Southeastern Indiana health officials confirmed today an HIV outbreak there continues unabated. As of March 6 there are 44 confirmed and 11 preliminary cases of HIV. The outbreak is connected to injection of the prescription drug Opana, an opioid painkiller that contains oxymorphone, a narcotic pain reliever.

State officials first reported the outbreak Feb. 25, after identifying  26 confirmed and 4 preliminary HIV positive cases since mid-December. These cases have been reported in Scott, Clark, Jackson, Perry and Washington counties. Continue reading

Social media creates solidarity for those affected by eating disorders

By Lucy Vernasco

Tweets lit up the emotional landscape for people affected by eating disorders. The messages surged through an hour session Sunday to kick off National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Social media outlets have become conversation spaces for providing support and a community oasis for those who the know the toll disordered eating can take on people’s lives. So on Sunday night, Adios Barbie, a media outlet celebrating healthy body image, hosted a party – the third annual #AdiosED twitter party. Body-image activists served as  “panelists” participating from their laptops included Sharon Haywood, Melanie Klein, Melissa A. Fabello, Dagan VanDemark and Gloria Tepiliuelia.

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VIDEO: Chicago’s food deserts still a problem

By Janel Forte

Imagine having to go further than 2 miles from your home to get fresh produce, and even then it’s not guaranteed that it’ll be affordable. That’s a reality for many people throughout the Chicagoland area.

Despite efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to cut the number of food deserts, many Chicago neighborhoods still don’t have accessibility to fresh produce, fruits and vegetables. Continue reading

Boys suffer from eating disorders too

By Priyam Vora

“The first time I made myself throw up was at age 14.

It was a Sunday night and my family was in the living room watching television. I sat in my room with a carton of sugar-free chocolate ice cream and a spoon, shoveling every drip of the quickly melting ice cream down my throat.

Eating in my room had become a daily habit over the years, especially after I started dieting around age 10. That particular week I was on a quick-fix diet that my stepmother had given me. The new diet was supposed to help me lose 10 pounds in one week. I was on day three and starving. I had lost four pounds already.

I ran to the bathroom to throw up that ice-cream. That would be a lot of calories, I thought to myself.”

– Zac Stafford, 26, survivor of anorexia. He is now a counselor helping boys in Chicago recover from eating disorders.

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Oil prices freeze the Illinois fracking boom

By Holly LaFon

Illinois may have missed the fracking boom, as oil prices simmer near $50 a barrel. But a heated drama to reclaim the gold rush is playing out downstate with a cast of environmental activists, big oil, farmers, politicians and Saudi Arabians.

Only one company, Strata-X signed up to apply for a permit to drill in Illinois to date. The boomtown era of just three years ago eroded rapidly over the past six months as oil prices lost half their value. Continue reading

VIDEO: Citizen Scientists Catch Clues about Star Formation

By Lizz Giordano

Citizen scientists are leading astronomers to new clues about star formation.

Citizen scientist volunteers discovered the more than 900 mysterious bright yellow objects that became the subject of recent paper in the Astrophysical Journal. Continue reading