Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shootings, Violence, and Young People - One Causative Factor & Solutions

The Issue
Shootings/violence by young people often have commonalities that never get proper attention. People use these terrible situations to further their political causes rather than trying to get to the causative factors of the violence. For this reason, when one of the causative factors of these shootings is brought up, it usually gets swept under the rug. So, I decided to take a closer look at one of the common factors that I think is key. Something many of these young people have in common is that they are on a medication for depression. Usually that medication is an SSRI. Could it be the drugs that tip them over the brink?  I realize that these drugs are a symptom of even a deeper issue, which I will dig into at a later date, but currently I want to point out that this seems to be a common factor.

SSRI's as a Correlative Factor
SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs block the reabsorption or reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter (nervous system chemical) that is used by brain cells to communicate. As SSRIs mainly affect the levels of serotonin and not levels of other neurotransmitters, they are referred to as “selective.”

Serotonin influences many cognitive functions including mood, social behavior, impulsive behavior, and decision-making. Disorders in serotonin are linked to such clinical issues as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

SSRIs are thought by mainstream practitioners to be very effective and to have fewer side effects than other antidepressants. However, I would disagree with this well accepted idea by the industrial medical model. First they are not much more effective than placebos. Second, Dr. Paul Andrews pointed out in 2015 that the role of serotonin in depression and use as an antidepressant has not been elucidated. He completely negates the idea that serotonin is lowered in the population of depressed people and you can find his research article here. Besides the fact that low serotonin may or may not be the issue, I think there is enough evidence to show that SSRIs may be involved in additional violence including suicide and murders.

The following antidepressants are included in the SSRI category.
Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox) Fluvoxamine CR (Luvox CR), Paroxetine (Paxil), Paroxetine CR (Paxil CR), Sertraline (Zoloft).

Support For The Idea That SSRI's Are Linked to Increased Violence
I first searched the internet for any data I could find in the incident of shootings linked to SSRIs. I knew that I had heard over and over again that these young shooters were on an antidepressant. The question was how many of them were related to SSRIs and were they all SSRIs? I found many links to supportive data. This is just a drop in the bucket.
This link has a list of 66 school violence incidents being related to SSRIs.
This link has a list of various stories on school shootings/violence and includes data on the antidepressants, usually SSRIs.
Another list similar to the first one is at this link.

In a 2016 meta-analysis of scientific research the reviewers found "Treatment of adult healthy volunteers with antidepressants doubled their risk of harms related to suicidality and violence."

A 2015 study examined SSRI effects related to age. They concluded " With age and sex stratification, there was a significant association between SSRIs and violent crime convictions for males aged 15 to 24 y (HR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.13-1.73, p = 0.002) and females aged 15 to 24 y (HR = 1.75, 95% CI 1.08-2.84, p = 0.023). "

There appears to be a correlation between the SSRI drugs these young people are taking and the violence that ensues. However, correlation does not always mean causation and this is what supporters of these drugs attempt to point out.

Who are the companies or individuals who take our attention away from this correlation? They would be drug companies and people with private agendas. Please do not let them take your focus off of the issue of these SSRIs and move it to guns. If you have an issue with guns, and turn your own attention onto the guns, please look a little deeper at the person using the gun and what is driving them to use it in this way.

More on SSRIs
So, it is obvious there is a correlation of SSRIs and violence if you look at the studies. A number of studies have indicated that SSRIs may have different effects in the young compared to adults. There has been a consistent indication in research that children and adolescents treated with SSRIs may experience higher rates of suicidal ideation. There are also clinical trials that suggest an association between SSRIs and an increased risk of violence in children and young adults.

Young people still have developing brains. None of the antidepressants were tested on children, but they are used on them. In animal research with antidepressants used in early development, the animals showed increased depression and anxiety in later life.

We do know that low serotonin levels appear to be linked to aggression. Especially the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. Research has found long-term use of SSRis can reduce the levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. There is even a possibility that these young people treated with SSRIs are having violent episodes when they have dips in their serotonin due to the SSRI having a short half-life. So, it may have something to do with enhancing the amount of serotonin and then getting sudden dips due to the difference in the adolescent brain, increased metabolism of the drug in young people and a shorter half-life of the drug. However, there are other methods that can be used to support serotonin rather than using SSRIs. These should also be examined as possible safer choices.

I would also point out another possibility is that a lack of sulfation of serotonin may be the issue for increased anxiety and aggression seen in these young people, rather than a lack of enough serotonin. Mice engineered with a knockout gene for 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase (MST) exhibited increased anxiety along with elevated levels of serotonin in the brain. (Nagahara N, et. al., 1986.) MST can produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which can subsequently be oxidized to sulfate, so it probably plays an important role in the production of serotonin sulfate and therefore in serotonin transport. Its deficiency would be predicted to result in an accumulation of unsulfated serotonin. This also suggests that it is a deficiency in serotonin sulfate rather than a deficiency in serotonin that leads to anxiety, and this could explain contradictory research results seen on the relationship between serotonin and anxiety. (Morley, Seneff, 2024)

In a recent Swedish sudy of 850,000 individiduals, they found SSRI use was linked to 43% increased risk of violent crimes in 15 -24 year old young people.  This association was not found to be significant in older individuals.

Among individuals 15 to 24 years old, there were significant associations between SSRI use and arrests for violent crimes with preliminary investigations (HR, 1.28; P <.001), nonviolent crime convictions (HR, 1.22; P <.001), nonviolent crime arrests (HR, 1.13; P <.001), nonfatal injuries from accidents (HR, 1.29; P <.001), and emergency inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcohol intoxication or misuse (HR, 1.98; P <.001). The researchers also found that the association between violent crime and SSRIs remained significant among individuals 15 to 24 years old after analyzing the results with regard to gender (among boys and young men: HR, 1.40; P =.002; among girls and young women: HR, 1.75; P =.023). The researchers pointed out that there were other things going on in the lives of these people that could be confounding the data. However, I believe with the current research and the fact that many violent crimes by young people are associated with SSRIs, this should give us cause to take a closer look at these drugs and consider reevaluating their use or how they are used. At the same time we should examine the reason for depression in our society at large. Depression is an emotional response to complex problems and those issues are not solved with a drug.

Suggestions For Therapists and the Medical Establishment to Consider For Diagnosed Depression

  Cognitive Therapy or some other type of  "Talk Therapy" Both cognitive therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy have proven to be as effective as medications in treating major depression. A book that you can suggest to patients is "Feeling Good" by David Burns.

• Examine genetic predispositions towards depression and use nutrigenomics to make changes. Serotonin is not the only neurotransmitter and there may be predispositions to instability of various neurotransmitters.

  Sleep must be considered: Low serotonin if it exists leads to low melatonin and sleep issues. Melatonin can be used for sleep. Doing this also helps save the serotonin to be used for other things. However, additionally L-tryptophan or 5-HTP can be used as precursors to making serotonin and then melatonin.  L-tryptophan is used to make 5-HTP and then 5-HTP is used to make serotonin and serotonin is used to make Melatonin. For more details on natural methods to support melatonin levels go to this link.

• Exercise is helpful. It has been shown to be as beneficial as Zoloft in Duke University Medical Center trials.

• Eat high nutrient, organic foods.

• Supplements to support normal serotonin levels, happiness and a good functioning brain include Vitamin D: Vitamin D regulates the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. (Vitamin D levels should be measured before supplementing.)

• Omega-3-fatty acids: One type of fatty acid called ecosapentanoic acid, facilitates serotonin release from brain cells into synapses by reducing E2 series prostaglandins. These inflammatory prostaglandins can negatively impact the serotonin in the brain cells and block the release of serotonin into the synapses between the brain cells. The omega-3-fatty acid called docosahexanoic acid influences serotonin receptors by increasing cell membrane fluidity in postsynaptic neurons, which makes the receptors more accessible.

• There are also herbs such as adaptogens, nootropics, and general nervines that may help these individuals. They should also have their biotransformation/detox system supported as needed and any other support specific to the individual. There is a lot that naturopathic medicine/functional medicine can offer these individuals.

For future discussion:
This is one area we need to focus our attention but there are others. You cannot solve a problem without finding out what the causes of that problem are. Otherwise you are simply attending to symptoms and will never eradicate the causal issue.  Ultimately, we need to dig deep and get to the cause of why we have an epidemic of depression and kids who do not value their life or the lives of others. Not just in young people, but in all citizens. 

I realize there are problems with programs at schools called "restorative programs" and "promise programs" which lead to schools not turning kids into the police for violent acts. This program is why Nikolas Cruz (most recent shooter in Florida) was not turned into the local police when he should have been for numerous previous violations. This would have put his name on a government list and kept him from being able to get guns when a gun-check was undertaken. 

I also realize there are problems with kids spending so much time on Facebook, watching TV, texting, playing videos and being in chat groups. They lack the real one-on-one socialization and replace it with a digital world. Face-to-face socialization is important to learn the real value of having friends, connecting and having a communication that leads to a real conversation and learning to value other human beings. 

Herbicides, pesticides, GMOs, sugar, food additives and hormones in the standard American diet do not build healthy bodies or minds. Add in a dash of alcohol, street drugs, and prescription drugs and things really get complicated.

I would add that many kids do not get out into nature enough or ever. This is important as  it is a way for them to connect with something that moves their soul. Even a kid that has trouble socializing can connect with nature in a way that can significantly touch their life. Taking kids to farms or the woods can allow them to connect in a "real" way if they have trouble connecting with other kids. It can be a step to connecting with other humans in a more meaningful way.

I think I will stop here as I don't want to simply list all the societal problems young people face these days. They are coming into a world that could use some improvement and I know the place I start with all improvements is usually with myself. So, perhaps I need to help a young person to live a more meaningful life this week.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Protect Yourself from Forest Fire Smoke

For individuals like myself living in Oregon, we are living in the new normal of constant smoke. We have dealt with fires and smoke every summer here in the Willamette Valley where I live, however, this year is REALLY bad. We have 20 fires raging in our state currently, so the level of smoke is no surprise.

I find although everyone is annoyed and some people are strongly affected by it, there are people simply ignoring it.

I am writing this to explain:
1.  Why you should not ignore the smoke.
2. What you can do to protect yourself.
3. How you can support your body.

All fires, including forest fires create toxic gases such as nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide as well as particulate air pollutants. Fires emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, plus nitrogen oxides that along with sunlight will make ozone. Ozone is very hard on living tissue. It has been found that ozone from fires is at higher levels in the countryside than in cities, so country folk need to worry even more about ozone. It is thought that the pollutant nitrogen dioxide which is higher in cities, reduces the efficiency with which ozone is produced.

Although the gases are an issue, the fine particulate matter is an even bigger health hazard. The fine particles in the smoke can penetrate deep inside your lungs. On its way there, it also penetrates into your nasal mucus membranes, and your throat. When you throat gets inflamed it can occlude the openings of your eustachian tubes to your ears, which causes plugged and even painful ears. These particles also cause burning eyes and a runny or stuffy nose. More serious matters are aggravation of asthma or other lung diseases as well as aggravation of chronic heart disease. 

Some groups of people are more susceptible to health effects from the smoke than others. These individuals will be those with heart or respiratory conditions as well as the elderly and children and even teenagers. People with diabetes are more affected as they often have underlying heart disease. Additionally pregnant women should be aware that the smoke affects both her and her developing fetus. However, everyone can be effected by the smoke. 

Staying indoors as much as possible with your windows and doors shut will help. Using air filtration units will help alleviate some of the smoke that comes through the cracks and gets indoors. Do not use air filtration units that generate ozone. Don't fry or broil food as it will add to indoor air pollution. Don't use the fireplace or gas stoves or even candles. Don't smoke. Don't vacuum as it spreads dust around and also adds to indoor air pollution. 

If you have to go outdoors, use particulate masks labeled as N-95 or P-100 masks to filter out the particles. Make sure they fit tight and you use them correctly.

For those of you who have already been exposed and have health effects from it, you need to evaluate if it is something serious or not. That is not something I can do for you in this blog of course, so if you  feel you have a condition needing attention, see a health practitioner right away. If you have a respiratory or heart condition that has worsened from smoke exposure, contact your health care provider immediately for guidance.

For those of you that do not feel you have a serious condition but you have a stuffy or runny nose, irritated eyes, or you feel a burning sensation or general irritation in your throat and lungs, and or plugged ears, there are things you can do to support your body. First of course, you need to remove the cause of the condition. This means either don't go out into the smoke or at least wear a mask when you do.

For those with plugged ears from the smoke, the reason your ears are probably plugged is that you also have an irritated throat and the inflammation has caused the throat tissue to swell and close over the openings of the eustachian tubes. These tubes drain fluid from your ears into your throat. When they are occluded such as happens during an inflamed throat, it causes pain from backed up  fluid. We want to decrease the inflammation and edema (excess fluid in tissues) in the throat and we also want to sooth and heal the irritated respiratory tract tissues. 

You can use astringent herbs and/or salt gargles to decrease the edema. Removal of this excess tissue fluid will result in opening the eustachian tubes back up, unless the swelling is really bad, in which case you will need to perform the gargles repetitively at least 3 times per day. You can gargle more often if you wish.

I am sure most of you have used salt-water gargles on an inflamed throat during a viral illness. The same salt-water gargle will decrease inflammation from smoke irritation. Additionally or as another alternative, astringent herbs can be made into a hot  cup of tea and that too can be gargled. Both the salt and astringent herbs remove edema in the throat tissue and this will decrease pain from edematous tissues and help open the eustachian tubes.

Salt-water gargles are made with warm to hot water and 1 teaspoon of salt to one cup of water. I have to admit I personally use more salt, but be careful about overdoing the salt. Don't swallow it, just gargle it. Salt in excess is unhealthy and in  excess has even killed folks. 

I would suggest Geranium, Yarrow, Sage, or Blackberry leaves/root as choices for a gargle.   You can however use your own favorite astringent herbs. Geranium has the least taste to it. Blackberry does not taste bad and Yarrow is by far the strongest and might bother some folks. However, Yarrow also is a great anti-inflammatory and will help the throat tissue to heal faster. Although many people have Sage handy in their kitchen, don't use the old Sage in your spice cabinet that you bought 10 years ago. It is no longer good. It should be only one year old at the most. You might add some rose petals in if you have them as they are a bit astringent but also contain mucilage which will additionally leave a healing coating on the throat to soothe and help stimulate healing of the irritated tissues.

If your nose is stuffy, you will find that gargling with these herbs will also help to alleviate the stuffiness. You can even snort the herbs/salt-water into your nose to help alleviate swelling of the nasal tissues by direct application. For people who have neti pots, you can use the neti pot for this application.

To support your entire respiratory system, including your irritated throat and lungs, make sure you drink enough water. Also be sure you are eating healthy food that includes a lot of fresh organic vegetables and fruits and getting healthy oils, such as in the form of nuts and seeds or cold water fish. Lay off of recreation drugs and any other vices that might not support your body. You can also use demulcent herbs which are herbs that are known to be soothing and healing to the respiratory tract. Examples of demulcent herbs would be Marshmallow, Plantain, Licorice and Slippery elm. I would give you a few words of caution here. Everything has its good and bad side to it. Marshmallow and Slippery elm are both VERY mucilaginous. They should be taken with lots of water. Please see the contraindications for mucilage below. Licorice will cause your body to hold onto water, which is good for some people but not so good for others.  It should not be consumed by people with some types of heart disease or kidney disease that causes them to hold water in their body. No one with high blood pressure should take Licorice unless under the supervision of a practitioner who advises it. I will list the contraindications below for Licorice too. For directions on how much herb to use in a cup of tea, you can go to Herbs by Common Name and look each of the herbs up. If you need directions for how to make the tea, you can go to Herbal Tea Making. Another method of using mucilaginous herbs is to use them as lozenges. Most health food stores sell slippery elm lozenges that can be sucked on to slowly release their healing powers. It is also easy to make a mucilaginous lozenge in your kitchen. I will give you directions to make a marshmallow lozenge in my next blog.

One last herb I would mention is Calendula. Calendula will assist in removal of the particles in the lungs, but it does this by irritation, so it might be too much for some people if their lungs are really irritated. If so, stop using it and use  the demulcents by themselves. However, it can help to increase the amount of mucus that the lungs are producing and thereby help to remove the particles from your lungs. Additionally, it is an anti-inflammatory and healer of tissues. It will help heal the irritated respiratory tract tissues. You can make a nice tea mix of Calendula, Marshmallow and Licorice. If you have high blood pressure or edema, leave the Licorice out. It is best to make the Calendula as an infusion and the two roots (Marshmallow and Licorice) as a decoction. I would suggest 50% Marshmallow, 30% Calendula and 20% Licorice as a general anti-inflammatory and healing tea for the respiratory tract.

Mucilage contraindications: Mucilage (especially in powder form) has caused esophageal obstruction. This can be avoided by mixing it in plenty of water and allowing it to sit until it has fully absorbed the water. If necessary, more water can then be added to make sure it is not too thick. If obstruction is a concern, it is also best to stay away from capsule or tablet forms. Don’t take mucilage with other herbs, or drugs as it may decrease their absorption. Large, repetitive doses may also decrease absorption of other nutrients in food. It is best to take it separately from all other consumed products. 
If your body is hydrated and you are using cut herb as opposed to powdered herb to make tea, and you follow the directions on the link for how much to use, you should not have any issues with the Marshmallow or the Slippery Elm as you are drinking them in a cup of water. Plantain (leaf) and Licorice do not have mucilage, so you don't need to be  concerned about mucilage in these two herbs. They also will not coat your throat as the mucilaginous herbs will, but they are still healing demulcents. The mucilaginous herbs coating your throat is definitely an added bonus to decrease irritation. 

Licorice contraindications:   Licorice is contraindicated in high blood pressure, heart failure, left ventricular hypertrophy, kidney disease, liver cirrhosis and cholestatic liver disorders. The contraindication in liver stasis disease is due to choleretic action, although this action is minimal in comparison with other choleretic herbs. Chronic licorice use mimics aldosteronism by increasing sodium resorption and potassium excretion by the kidneys. This action is due to glycyrrhizic acid content. 185 deglycyrrhizinated (de-glycyrrhinized) licorice has been investigated for its clinical use and safety. Its use has been controversial. There is 2-9% glycyrrhizic acid (glycyrrhizin) in licorice root. The deglycyrrhizinated root extract has a maximum of 3% glycyrrhizic acid in it. 
The toxic symptoms are hypertension, edema, hypokalemia, vertigo and headache. This ceases when it is withdrawn or by concurrent use of antialdosterone agents. Doses of 3 or more grams a day should not be taken for more than 6 weeks unless monitored under the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner. Elderly people are more prone to pseudoaldosteronism due to a greater increase of glycyrrhetinic acid levels from increased production by their gut bacterial enzymes on glycyrrhizic acid. 365 Licorice potentiates the activity of anthraquinone drugs or herbs containing anthraquinones, like cascara and buckthorn, by increasing the wettability of the bowel contents because of the high surfactant activity of glycyrrhizin. It also potentiates the toxicity of cardiac glycosides like digitalis due to potassium loss in the urine. There may also be an additive effect with thiazide diuretics as far as potassium loss in the urine. When used with corticoid treatment, glycyrrhizic acid interferes with delta 4, 5 beta-reductase breakdown of corticosteroids, thus prolonging its biological half-life. 404 When someone discontinues the use of licorice after consuming it over a long period of time, they should withdraw from it slowly, unless they are discontinuing it due to side effects. In the case of dangerous side effects, they should immediately withdraw from its use.