The “Baby Blues”

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Psychology, Webinars

mother-589730_640 “Baby blues” is the term used to describe the mood swings that the majority of women—approximately 85 percent—experience during the first two weeks or so after giving birth. The baby blues are considered a normal biological reaction to childbirth and tend to resolve rather quickly.

Although Post-Partum Depression and baby blues share many of the same symptoms, they are not identical. With the baby blues, symptoms such as weepiness and anxiety come and go and are interspersed with periods of happiness and contentedness. In contrast, Post-Partum Depression is a far more serious condition that involves negative symptoms and unrelenting feelings. Post-Partum Depression is also much more debilitating; with the baby blues, the new mother is still able to take care of  herself, her new baby, and any other children.

Symptoms of the baby blues include irritability, rapid mood swings, tearfulness, and anxiety, usually beginning about two days after delivery. They tend to be mild and last about two weeks, roughly until the woman’s hormones return to normal levels. The baby blues resolve relatively quickly, and no medication or therapy is needed. However, if the “normal” baby blues symptoms last longer than three weeks, get worse instead of better, or more serious symptoms like intrusive thoughts arise, it is possible that what started as the baby blues may now be a case of Post-Partum Depression.

Neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine points out that a negative aspect of breast feeding can be a lack of mental focus, or a feeling of being fuzzy and absentminded. The parts of the brain responsible for focus and concentration are preoccupied with protecting and tracking the newborn for the first six months or so after birth. Lack of sleep contributes to the mental fog, and a woman’s brain does not return to normal until six months post-partum.


Treating Drug Overdose

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Homestudy, Seminars, Webinars

52118By Barbara Sternberg, Ph.D.

Overdose (OD) occurs when a toxic amount of a drug or combination of drugs overwhelms the body. Many substances can be involved in overdosing, including alcohol, opioids, and a combination of drugs. Mixing heroin, prescription opioids (such as morphine, Vicodin®, Percoset®, etc.) and other downers such as alcohol and benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax®, Klonopin®, Valium®, Ativan®, etc.) is particularly dangerous because they all affect the body’s central nervous system.  The nervous system slows breathing, affects blood pressure, and slows heart rate — in turn, reducing body temperature. Stimulant drugs like speed, cocaine, and ecstasy raise heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature and speed up breathing. The result can be seizure, stroke, overheating, or heart attack. “Overamping” is the term that is now being used to describe an overdose of speed.

Opioid overdose occurs when the level of opioids, or combination of opioids and other drugs in the body cause a person to become unresponsive to stimulation  or cause his or her breathing to become inadequate. This happens because opioids fit into the same brain receptors that signal the body to breathe. In that case, oxygen levels in the blood decrease, and the lips and fingers turn blue (cyanosis). Oxygen starvation will eventually stop vital organs like the heart and then the brain and can lead to unconsciousness, coma, and possibly death.

In the case of opioid overdose, survival or death depends completely on maintaining the ability to breathe and on sustaining oxygen levels. Fortunately, the overdose process takes place over time, with most people stopping their breathing gradually — minutes to hours after the drug or drugs were ingested. In most situations, there is time to intervene between the beginning of an overdose and before a victim dies. Even if an overdose takes place immediately after drug ingestion, proper response can reverse the overdose and keep the person breathing and alive.


Also known by the brand name Narcan®, naloxone is an opioid antagonist used to counter the effects of opioid overdose, specifically, to counteract the life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, making it possible for an overdose victim to breathe normally. Naloxone is not a controlled substance, and it is only effective as an antidote to opioid overdose. Naloxone has a stronger affinity for the opioid receptors than many opioids, so it is capable of knocking the opioids off the receptors for a short time, allowing the person to breathe again and reverse the overdose. Traditionally administered by emergency response personnel, naloxone can be administered by minimally trained laypeople. Naloxone is administered via injection  or nasal spray.

Many people who have died from opioid overdose have failed to receive proper medical attention because a person who was with them delayed or did not call 911 for fear of police involvement. While not all opioid overdoses are fatal, the administration of naloxone by laypeople to an overdosing person saves hundreds of lives each year. Timely provision of naloxone may also help reduce some of the morbidities associated with non-fatal overdose, such as brain damage and other dangers.

In most jurisdictions, naloxone is only used in hospital settings or by emergency medical personnel.  Naloxone can be made available to people experiencing an overdose if and when emergency medical services are accessed. Recently, take-home naloxone programs are being established in communities throughout the United States. These programs expand naloxone access to drug users and their loved ones by providing training on overdose prevention, recognition, and response.


The Zika Virus: A New Warm Weather Worry

Posted Posted in Pain, Seminars, Webinars

mosquito-542156_640It’s odd to think about mosquitoes in the middle of winter. However, in Brazil, it’s not the middle of winter.  The Zika virus, a potentially devastating illness, has captured medical headlines around the world.  Carried by mosquitoes, the Zika virus has been documented in Central and South America, the Caribbean and several southern states.  Apart from causing miserable flu- like symptoms, this unusual and worrisome virus can cause catastrophic birth defects.  In fact, as of January 31, 2016, the Brazilian government has traced over 3,000 birth defects to Zika virus exposure in utero.

Patients with Zika infection may experience high fevers, severe musculo-skeletal pain and profound malaise.  Symptoms are often similar to those caused by another warm weather mosquito-borne culprit, Chikungunya virus.  The word, “Chikungunya,” is a tribal word describing the acute, contorted, bent-over posture of people doubled-over with pain, as the illness strikes.  An intense, maculo-papular rash on the trunk and extremities is often present early on. Encephalitis, myocarditis, and hepatitis can develop.  The most recent outbreak of Chikungunya virus flared up in October, 2013 on the island of St. Martin.

Researchers believe the current outbreak of Zika virus can be traced to large crowds and warm weather at the most recent World Cup events.  The illness has now been confirmed in 24 countries. Nearly 40 cases are being evaluated in the United States, however, all of these cases are apparently related to exposure while traveling.

Zika virus in the expectant mother can result in severe birth defects, neurologic deficits, and even anencephaly in newborns.  The Brazilian government has taken the unprecedented measure of warning women not to get pregnant until the situation is controlled.  This is an extreme policy designed to prevent extreme tragedy.  The best advice for everyone combines current science and common sense:

  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid travel to endemic areas of infection.
  • Be careful around upcoming Mardi Gras and Carnivale celebrations.
  • If travel is essential to these areas, avoid camping, “jungle expeditions,” dense tropical vegetation, standing water, or other obvious exposures to mosquitoes.
  • Minimize outdoor exposures at dawn and dusk.
  • Keep arms and legs covered and use insect repellants properly.
  • If symptoms develop, seek medical attention promptly and give a precise travel history.

For now, staying informed and exercising common sense and good judgment is everyone’s best bet.


Anaphylaxis: Always an Emergency

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Seminars, Webinars

anaAbout 30 of every 100,000 people experience food-induced anaphylaxis.  An anaphylactic reaction should always be considered a medical emergency. Symptoms generally appear as soon as someone who is hypersensitive swallows a food allergen. The symptoms may not appear until up to four hours after exposure. How swiftly an anaphylactic reaction begins and how severe it becomes depends on:

  • the sensitivity of an individual to the allergen.
  • the amount of allergen swallowed.
  • how many different food allergens were consumed.
  • food preparation.
  • precipitating medical conditions.

An anaphylactic reaction may begin with tingling, itching, or a metallic taste in the mouth. Even the mildest symptoms can become severe within a short time. Anaphylactic reactions can go on for hours. They may include:

  • wheezing and other breathing problems.
  • swelling of the mouth and throat.
  • cramps and nausea.
  • rapid pulse and sudden drop in blood pressure.
  • hives and flushing.
  • itching of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
  • loss of consciousness.

Anaphylaxis can be a biphasic reaction: New, more severe symptoms sometimes appear as long as two to six hours after the initial wave of symptoms has receded. These recurring symptoms often involve the respiratory system and can be deadly.

Peanuts and tree nuts are the foods most likely to cause severe food-allergic reactions. The other most common causes of anaphylaxis attributed to food allergies are:

  • shellfish
  • fish
  • milk
  • eggs

People who have asthma and food allergies are thought to have a greater than average risk of developing a food-allergic anaphylactic reaction. Having experienced one or more severe allergic reactions also increases the likelihood that an individual will have an anaphylactic reaction in the future.

The risk of fatal anaphylactic reaction is greatest among adolescents who have asthma and allergies to peanuts and tree nuts but disregard early food allergy symptoms and do not have ready access to epinephrine. Used to halt the progress of an anaphylactic reaction and reverse its symptoms, this drug is self-administered by injection. Epinephrine is often prescribed for individuals with a history of severe allergic reaction