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May 06, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- MARIJUANA MORE POTENT, MORE ABUSED

Marijuana is more potent than in the past -- part of the reason for increases in its abuse, despite little overall change in usage, a report says. National Institutes of Health researchers say over the past decade the rise in abuse and dependence has been greatest among young African-American men and women and young Hispanic men. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism compared data from surveys of 42,862 adults from 1991-1992 and 43,093 similarly aged men and women from 2001-2002. Self-reported use of the illegal substance remained stable, but abuse or dependence rose by 22 percent. Abuse and dependence were more common among whites in 1991-1992, but by 2001-2002, abuse and dependence among black men and women ages 18-29 had increased 224 percent, and 148 percent among Hispanic men ages 18-29. Cultural, economic and lifestyle changes also helped to account for the change, researchers said.


Researchers have linked the amount of time workers and residents spent in the collapsed World Trade Center's dust to poor respiratory health. The longitudinal study by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University, New York University and others revealed that firefighters, rescue workers and other personnel who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack developed increased cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and bronchial spasms more than 2.5 years later. Babies of pregnant women who were in or near the buildings at that time were found to be unusually small. The 10,116 firefighters evaluated were found to be in the worst health, with 332 displaying persistent cough and a hypersensitivity to other pollutants, such as car exhaust. Many residents within a mile of the site developed coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. The collapse released thousands of tons of cement dust, glass fibers, asbestos, lead and other compounds into the air.


Physicians have been issued new guidelines for pediatric blood pressure to keep pace with hypertension's steady increase among adolescents. A study on blood pressure trends among 5,582 teens by researchers at Tulane University and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute revealed teenage hypertension is steadily on the rise, which in turn increases chances of heart disease and stroke later. Between the initial 1988-1994 study and 1999-2000, the average systolic (upper) rose from 104.6 to 106 mm Hg, while diastolic (lower) increased from 58.4 to 61.7 mm Hg. Hypertension has been associated with obesity, which is also increasing among teens. The NHLBI, which previewed its revised blood pressure tables May 1, plans to publish them in full this summer with recommendations for lifestyle and drug therapies.


Sunscreen can lower the risk of skin damage, wrinkles and skin cancer, but it only works when used correctly, a dermatology professor says. Regardless of skin type and ethnicity, everyone should use sunscreen of Sun Protection Factor 15 or more year-round when in the sun for 20 minutes or more, said Dr. Zoe Diana Draelos, a clinical associate dermatology professor at Wake Forest University. The best sunscreens are water resistant and are broad-spectrum, blocking UVA and UVB rays. SPF numbers apply only to UVB rays, which cause sunburn, but don't measure UVA protection. SPF numbers do not increase proportionally -- so SPF 30 absorbs only 4 percent more burning rays than SPF 15 and does not protect longer. Draelos says to reapply sunscreen every two hours, seek shade and wear protective clothing.

(EDITORS: For more information about MARIJUANA, contact Blair Gately at (301) 443-6245. For DUST, John Peterson at (919) 541-7860. For PRESSURE, NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236. For SUNSCREEN, Jennifer Allyn or Kristin Lubeck at (847) 240-1730 or or

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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