Thursday, November 15, 2012
What will legalizing marijuana do?

By Dr. Anthony Policastro One of the measures on election ballots in three states recently was a proposal to legalize marijuana. I frequently have quoted Santayana in the past. He said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This is the case related to marijuana. We have two good historical examples of legalization of substances that can be abused. The first of those occurred on June 30, 1906. That was the day that the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed. Up until that point in time, any drug could be purchased on the open market. While the exact numbers were not kept, there were two estimates that kind of tell the story. The first was that it was estimated that at the time of the passage of the law, 1 in 500 Americans had an addiction to some kind of narcotic preparation. The second is an estimate that the use of opiates dropped by 33% after the passage of the law. We know how much drug seeking is still present in our population. We have had the State of Florida make a major crackdown on pill mills. I sit on the Board of Medical Licensing and Discipline in Delaware. Monitoring physicians who overprescribe narcotics is an important role that the board plays. There is no question that if such a law was not in existence today, the number of drug abusers would be similar to what it was 100 years ago when the law was passed. The second example was related to Prohibition. Overall, prohibition of alcohol was a dismal failure. It was a social experiment that had to be repealed. There were many ways that people continued to drink alcohol during Prohibition. However, the positive accomplishment of Prohibition was that it reduced the death rate from cirrhosis of the liver by 10 to 20%. The expectations for marijuana use if it is legalized should be about the same as they were for both opiates and alcohol. Use will go up. With that increase of use, the side effects and complications related to marijuana will increase. There are three major areas of the body affected by marijuana. The first is the lungs. It has been estimated that the amount of damage to the lungs by one joint is similar to that done by one pack of cigarettes. With occasional use, that damage is minimized over time. However, if use is legalized, much more damage to the lungs of users can be expected. Over time, there will be a significant portion of that population with likely long term lung damage. The sexual effects of marijuana are well known. In males, it decreases sperm counts. In female monkeys it has been shown to be associated with infertility. There has not been enough use in the human female population to find out what other sexual effects are. However, if we use it enough, we are likely to find out. The third area is the effect on the brain. We know that current chronic marijuana users lose their motivation for work. It is kind of like the old song that goes, "I don't want to work at all. I want to bang on the drum all day." This is an issue with grades for users in high school. It will become an issue for society if the group of individuals who become regular users wind up being on unemployment and welfare. That is not necessarily a good use of taxpayer dollars. Those dollars will ultimately just go to buying more marijuana. History has shown us that while laws that are aimed at substance abuse are unpopular, they are also effective in reducing the number of individuals addicted to those substances. Sanatayana is probably looking down just thinking, "Here we go again."

It's lung cancer awareness month By Deb Brown President and CEO, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic
In a perfect world, lung cancer would not exist. We would not see our parents, our children, our husbands and wives, our friends and neighbors, suffer and die from this disease. We would not need to designate November as National Lung Cancer Awareness month. But this is not a perfect world. People are diagnosed with lung cancer every day. This year, it is estimated that 226,160 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed. That represents almost 14 percent of all cancer diagnoses. Lung cancer causes more deaths in America - an estimated 160,340 in 2012 - than the next three most common cancers - colon, breast and prostate - combined. With that many new cases of lung cancer diagnosed a year, you would think that every month, every day would be dedicated to lung cancer awareness. But there is a stigma attached to lung cancer. Too many people think that lung cancer victims were "asking for it" by being cigarette smokers. No one - regardless of whether or not they smoke - deserves lung cancer. And the fact remains that tens of thousands of lung cancer diagnoses each year are from causes other than smoking. Radon causes ten percent of lung cancer cases. Occupational exposures to carcinogens account for nine to 15 percent and outdoor air pollution causes one to two percent. In my role as president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, I often hear heartbreaking stories of loss from lung cancer. Just recently, I heard the story of Scott Garet, from Washington, Pa. Scott was a runner and he was pretty good. He ran his first marathon in May of 2011 and was happy to have finished in less than four hours. Not long after, he started feeling bad. An MRI in September of that year revealed a tumor in his back. More tumors were discovered and then the diagnosis came back as lung cancer. Scott had never smoked. He fought hard, but in the end, the cancer won. Scott was only 26 when he died. One thing that is certain is that too many Americans suffer and die from lung cancer each year. I said it earlier in this piece, lung cancer causes more deaths in America, an estimated 160,340 in 2012, than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and prostate). Yet funding for lung cancer research has always lagged behind funding for other types of cancer. It is a random, deadly killer. And it needs to be stopped. So, this November, send a donation to the American Lung Association or visit the local office to learn how you can volunteer to help fight this disease. You can learn more about lung cancer online, at If you or a friend or loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer, know that there are treatments and support available. To learn more about treatment options, support for people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, and support for caregivers, visit

DPH works on efficient reporting Another first occurred recently in Delaware with the successful electronic transmission of pediatric immunization records from a physician's office to the Division of Public Health (DPH) through the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN). "This is an important step in eliminating manual reporting and demonstrates that the systems can securely and efficiently share data," said Dr. Jan Lee, executive director of DHIN.

The Pediatric and Adolescent Center of Milton was the first to upload its immunization reports to DPH using an automated process within its electronic health record software. Other practices are set to follow in the coming weeks. "State law requires that immunizations be reported to the Division of Public Health by every healthcare provider," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "Until now, that information was prepared and sent manually; often a time-consuming task. With the electronic transfer of these records from the provider, through DHIN to the Immunization Information System, known as DelVAX, manual entry is eliminated. This is an important step in reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and meeting federal data requirements," she said. For more information about DHIN, visit or call 302-678-0220.

Nurse wins Peer Award For Bayhealth Medical Center Medical-Surgical Nurse Hope Squier, RN, latest winner of the 1A Peer Award at Kent General Hospital, nursing is all about family. While colleagues praise her dedication to her patients' loved ones, Squier considers the more than 60 nurses and nursing assistants on the 1A Unit her Bayhealth nearest and dearest. In nominations for the Peer Award, Squier's colleagues emphasized her willingness to assist at all times, no matter the need. They agreed that the team spirit and unity she fosters set a high standard for the whole unit. As president of the 1A Shared Governance Council, Squier leads monthly staff meetings, plans speakers and presentations, and coordinates follow-up. Squier joined Bayhealth in 2006 as a Certified Nursing Assistant on the 1A Unit, and then took a hiatus to earn her LPN and RN credentials. From 2008–2010, Squier worked with Dr. Sonal Pathak, an endocrinologist in the Bayhealth Medical Group. She returned to 1A in 2011. Given three times a year, the 1A Peer Award recognizes service excellence and exceptional teamwork.

Survivors of Suicide Program A National Survivors of Suicide Program will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. Presented by Delaware Hospice, the Delaware End-of-Life Coalition, and the Mental Health Association in Delaware, a National Survivors of Suicide Day for healing and hope, exclusively for suicide survivors, will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17, 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford. Local suicide survivors will participate in a Round Table Discussion, examining their experiences, strengths and hopes following the suicidal death of their spouse, parent, sibling or child. Participants will also watch a video produced by the AFSP. A lunch will be provided at no charge. Participants should bring a framed photo of their loved one for the Table of Remembrance. There is no charge for this program; however, registration is required as space is limited to 50 participants. Register by contacting Midge DiNatale, bereavement counselor, 302-416-0581, or

Beware of mold after Sandy The American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic sends thoughts out to all of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. With the passing of the hurricane, people are well aware of the damage a storm like this can have on their homes and neighborhoods, but it's also important to understand the harm a hurricane can do to a person's health. Damp basements and leaking roofs give mold a good chance to grow. Exposure to mold can trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms in people who are allergic to mold. Anyone, with or without allergies, may experience irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs when exposed to airborne mold particles. Breathing mold in is a hazard and could affect your family's lung health. Call a professional to help clean any mold growth that covers more than 10 square feet. For more information on your health after the storm, visit or the Hurricane and Flooding Resources page on the website.

Tobacco cessation classes Bayhealth's seven week Tobacco Cessation program offers support and guidance to help you quit using all tobacco products. The series of classes began Tuesday, Nov. 6 and is held every Tuesday for seven weeks, ending on Dec. 18. The class will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Rehab Conference Room at Bayhealth Milford Memorial. This series of classes offers strategies to improve your lifestyle through behavior modification, diet, stress reduction, exercise and nicotine replacement therapy. The "quit week" is the fourth week of the program. This program is free to all Delaware residents. Call 1-877-453-7107 to register. You must be at least 18 to register and be able to attend all sessions. For more info, or to register for the next series, call Bayhealth Clinical Educator Terry Towne, MSN, RN-BC, NE-BC, at 744-6724.

HIV/AIDS Support Group A new support group for HIV/AIDS will meet every other Wednesday, at 7 p.m., in the Branford Lounge at Epworth UMC at 19285 Holland Glade Rd., Rehoboth Beach. The group is sponsored by Epworth UMC, CAMP Rehoboth, the AIDs Delaware and Delaware HIV Consortium. For more information, contact David at

Parkinson's support group meeting The Nanticoke Parkinson's Education and Support Group will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on the third Monday of each month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m in the ballroom at the Nanticoke Senior Center. The public is welcome to attend the meeting and stay for lunch and a social time after the meeting.

HNMH offers CPR classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child, or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends, and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants ages 12 and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.