The new high

The next time you pay for gas or buy a lottery ticket, have a look around the counter.  You may see some of the newest, albeit quasilegal, drugs of abuse. There are two basic types, one a marijuana-like herbal labeled as “incense and not for ingestion,” often sold under trade names such as K2 or Spice. The other, a stimulant-like knock-off sold as “bath salts,” has a variety of trade names, including Vanilla Sky, Purple Wave, and Bliss.

The “incense” is made of various herbal substances laced with synthetic cannabinoids that are chemically similar to the compounds in marijuana and mimic its effects when smoked. Many of these chemicals have been produced in labs. Although the sale of K2 and similar products was banned in New York as of March 29, 2012, they are still sold in neighboring states and can easily be obtained online. 


When one thinks of Dutchess, Columbia and Litchfield counties, one probably thinks of green hills, horses and cows, and tidy villages not rampant heroin and opioid addiction.  However, “the big thing now is prescription painkiller use,” notes John Sabia, MD, director of emergency services at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck. 

Moreover, the cheaper alternative, heroin, is also making a comeback according to Captain Michael Jankowiak at Troop K in Millbrook. “Although the percentage of teens using illegal drugs appears down,” he says, “the number of teens abusing prescription medication and over-the-counter drugs appears to have drastically increased.” And these drugs are everywhere—at workplaces and even in the schools. 

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While we all need year-round sun protection for our faces at the very least, the unusually warm weather that leads to the baring of arms and legs mandates a switchover to more serious sun protection. This means the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (“sun protection factor”) of at least 30. “Broad spectrum” means that a product confers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. 

The easiest way to remember the difference is that UVB are Burning rays that produce redness on the skin’s surface, while the longer UVA rays are actually more damaging because they penetrate deeper into the skin. Both UVB and UVA can cause skin cancers by damaging cellular DNA. But malignant melanoma—the most deadly kind of skin cancer—is caused by indirect DNA damage that occurs when UVA rays lead to the production of unstable molecules, known as free radicals, that bombard DNA in the skin. 


looking younger

While most people are familiar with acupuncture for the treatment of pain, it is actually a whole-body treatment used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to rebalance and redirect qi. Qi ( pronounced “chee”) is the life energy that, according to TCM, flows from within the body through pathways known as meridians. Acupuncture therapy is based on the balancing of specific patterns of disharmonies of qi that correspond with particular disease states.

Even a basic explanation of how acupuncture may work is well beyond the scope of even a large book, so this article will introduce readers to an application of acupuncture that is gaining attention among baby boomers who are searching for ways to reverse, in a subtle, noninvasive way, some of the changes due to aging, stress, and sun damage that are depressingly visible in their mirrors. This technique is called acupuncture facial rejuvenation.

Our first article on how to find affordable health insurance raised further questions about health insurance, so we went back to interview Ed Petruska, a Patient Benefits Specialist with New England Patient Resources, LLC.  MW: The overriding question is: do we really need health insurance? Our parents often didn’t have it, our grandparents surely did not.  EP: The number one reason to have health insurance is the skyrocketing cost of health care. If you don’t have health insurance and you have an accident or develop a serious illness, you could very well be looking at bankruptcy. In fact, a recent Harvard University study showed that 62 percent of bankruptcies are the result of unpayable medical bills. And of that 62 percent, 78 percent had some sort of health insurance. It just wasn’t enough.    
The northeastern U.S. should prepare for a surge in Lyme disease this spring. According to Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, this surge is not owing to the mild winter we have had but to fluctuations in acorns and mouse populations.   Acorn crops which vary from year-to-year, influence the winter survival and breeding success of white-footed mice. Not only are these small mammals the preferred hosts for black-legged ticks, but they are very effective at transmitting Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.    

For those of us who own pets or farm animals, our animals' health is as important to us as our own. Moreover, quality research is showing that our own good health may be enhanced by having pets in our lives—and not only the extraordinary dogs who can tell in advance when their owner is about to have a seizure. A pet is now often prescribed for those whose blood pressure needs lowering.  

A 2008 study showed that prenatal exposure to a pet in the household may help strengthen a baby's immune system by decreasing the production of antibodies in the umbilical cord in response to pet dander and hair. The baby, when born, is less apt to develop allergic responses to irritants such as asthma and eczema. So it seems appropriate for the Health Page to cover animal health issues from time to time. With the cost of pet ownership so high, many of us wonder where we may safely cut costs without compromising our pets' health.