Are You Predisposed to Opioid Addiction?

In the US, there is an epidemic of painkiller and heroin addiction. One biotech company is developing a DNA test that can identify if you are predisposed to opioid addiction.

Pain-Relief Medicinal Risks

When using medication for pain, there is an assortment of side effects that can develop. Too much ibuprofen can cause rashes and stomach bleeding. Too much acetaminophen (especially if taken with alcohol) can cause liver damage. And these are over-the-counter medicines.

Doctors often prescribe opioid-based pharmaceuticals to treat moderate-to-severe pain. The writing of prescriptions was slackly distributed to patients young and old for too many years. In 2014, drug overdoses in America hit an all-time high. And according to the CDC, six out of 10 of those overdoses were opioid-related. Almost 19,000 people died from painkillers—most accidentally.

The Test

A cheek-swab DNA test has been created by a California bioscience lab called Proove. The physical test is combined with a patient questionnaire. One of the lead developers claims the results are about 93% accurate. The results depict a patient’s opioid addiction risk.

Some in the medical field doubt the efficacy of such a test. They believe that a good doctor monitors the patient’s symptoms and response to medication—and that’s the best “biomarker.”

Proponents of the DNA test feel this is advancement towards placing fewer people at risk of opioid addiction. Once the biotech company’s claims are peer-reviewed, more details regarding its success rate will be available.

Why Bother?

As mentioned, the numbers of opioid overdoses are staggering. But another crucial problem is the increase in heroin use. Prescription painkillers become addictive. Many heroin users begin using because it’s a similar high to the opiate-based pills, is cheaper, and more readily available.

We’re not just talking about adults here. Data collected between 2009 and 2013 from a survey of 15,000 high school students in an ongoing nationwide study was analyzed. The findings were that 75% of high school seniors who abuse opioid prescription drugs have used (or are still using) heroin.


If a swab DNA test can tell you if you’re predisposed to opioid addiction, you and your doctor probably won’t want you to take painkillers. There are synthetic prescription alternatives available for short-term use like Tramadol.

There are also non-medicinal pain-relieving options as well. Numerous studies, along with patient testimony, have given Tai Chi, yoga, and acupuncture their due place at the top of “modern” healing practices. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has publicly stated that non-drug approaches to pain management can be significantly beneficial.

In the best of all worlds, you wouldn’t suffer from unmanageable pain. Keeping our bodies healthy and making safe choices can help prevent illness and injury. If, however, you find that pain gets the best of you, give it some worthy thought before taking any opioid-based medicine.


Red Tea Detox
Red Tea Detox

Eye Test May Identify Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms Appear

Researchers may have discovered a way to identify early Alzheimer’s using a device that examines eyes.

Seeing a Connection

A study out of the University of Minnesota has linked what can be happening in the brain through the use of an eye test. So far, there hasn’t been a way to detect the onslaught of Alzheimer’s before the physical and behavioral symptoms appear.

When Alzheimer’s strikes, the brain, and the eye’s retina undergo similar changes. Scientists understand that Alzheimer’s patients possess an amyloid plaque build-up in the brain. That build-up causes progressive cognitive and memory decline. Until now, there’s been no way to view when that build-up begins. That would be the extremely early stages of the disease.

Detecting the very early stages (before symptoms even appear) can be crucial in the advancement of Alzheimer’s treatment.

Eye Spy

The eye exam measures change in the reflection of light off of the retina. The patterns of light changed progressively as Alzheimer’s further sets in. The experiment was done with mice.

The retina and the brain are connected as part of the central nervous system. So, as changes in the retina occurred, the researchers noted similar changes happening in the brain. Using a specialized device, they could more readily view changes through the eyes.

Fighting Plaque

Dr. Robert Vince, director of the Center for Drug Design, noted, “This technology is a noninvasive way to identify Alzheimer’s disease before plaque is formed.” What this means is that we may be able to test medications on Alzheimer’s patients before it’s too late. By the time a patient displays symptoms and a doctor makes a diagnosis, the plaque has already built-up.

Using this retina-imaging device, researchers plan to begin human clinical trials. It’s a fascinating way to make an early diagnosis in a noninvasive and relatively inexpensive way. The hope is to bring us closer to developing a treatment—one that can stop the progression of the disease and its symptoms.

For other articles relating to up-to-date research, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other health conditions, check out


New Device May Test For Cancer In 10 Minutes

A new portable device has been created, which can cut out the lab “middle man.” Diseases, viruses, and cancer may one day (not too far away) be detectable within a few short minutes.

Coming Soon to a Doctor Near You

Still, in its infantile stages, an easy-to-use, portable piece of medical equipment may soon be used in your very own doctor’s office. Researchers at UCLA have created a test that can check for disease biomarkers. Used in conjunction with each other, the device, plus the test should be able to detect potentially serious illnesses within minutes.

Currently, blood, saliva, and urine tests already exist that can send up warning flags for infection or illness. Those tests, however, require several steps to get results; those results are sometimes not available for hours, days, or weeks. (They’re also difficult to use.) This new UCLA technique cuts out complicated steps, time, and cost.

Benefit to Public Health

If this technique takes off, it can have a huge impact on public health overall. Reporting to patients, doctors, and public health facilities in a speedy manner can affect early treatment intervention. Also, when it comes to widespread disease or epidemics, up-to-date reporting is crucial.

The test was conducted using streptavidin, a protein used commonly to test diagnostic experiments, and also a protein associated with influenza. Their technique worked beautifully and was able to detect the flu virus in minutes. More sophisticated blood samples will require further research to adapt this method. But, the groundwork has now been laid for other viruses and illnesses to be detected—just as quickly and simply.

Zika, Ebola, Cancer

With the continuing widespread of contagious diseases like Zika and Ebola, it’s essential that public health and medical officials receive prompt updates of new cases. It’s important for practitioners to get results as quickly as possible so as to treat the patient accordingly.

Additionally, a person with a contagious illness can keep the disease from spreading if he/she is alerted as soon as the test reveals positive for the strain. The Zika virus is transmittable through sexual intercourse. Because Zika often shows no symptoms, those carrying the virus do not know their status.

It is highly recommended that anyone in a Zika-mosquito-infested area gets tested, especially women who are pregnant or plan to be in the near future. Men also need to get tested as they can transmit the virus just as easily and without knowing.

The UCLA team plans to continue its research and development on their method of combining biomarker detection and the portable fluid-filter device. As the technique becomes more perfected, it will eventually enable doctors to read test results in less time than it takes to get a coffee at Starbucks. Those results will also be able to detect viruses like Zika and potentially killer diseases like cancer. Science can be great.


Déjà-vu is Really Just Your Brain at Work

Ever go somewhere for the first time and feel like you’ve been there before? Then you announce, “I’m having a déjà-vu!”

Been There, Done That

Having that sensation of déjà-vu is almost creepy. The place looks familiar, but you know you haven’t been there. Is something weird going to happen? Am I having a premonition?

Turns out, this fascinating experience is actually our brain checking its memory. Researchers at the University of Saint Andrews in the UK decided to conduct a study on the phenomenon of déjà-vu. Brain scans showed that during bouts of déjà-vu, it was the frontal area that was active.

The frontal area is more responsible for checking on information and decision-making. It was previously suspected that déjà-vu was a false memory—that would mean that the hippocampus would’ve been active in the scan. But it wasn’t. So really, the sensation is more about the brain checking up on itself, reviewing information. Déjà-vu is not a false memory.

A Tough Test

It was tricky getting the 21 subjects in the study to have a déjà-vu on cue. The scientists actually had to trigger the sensation. They used word associations and left out ”key” words. For example, they repeated words to the participants such as night, bed, pillow, and rest. When the subjects were asked to repeat back the words they remembered, many said “sleep” although that wasn’t one of the original words.

The brain thought it heard sleep because of the other associative words. With déjà-vu, the brain thinks it saw (or heard) something before, and may have, but it’s not there actually now. “It suggests there may be some conflict resolution going on in the brain during déjà vu,” says Stefan Köhler at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

How’s Your Memory?

This memory thing is kind of a nebulous area. If these findings about déjà-vu are accurate, then here’s what they’re now presupposing: If you experience déjà-vu, it’s a signal that your memory-checking system functions well.

If these findings are confirmed, they propose that déjà vu is a sign that your brain’s memory checking system is working well. So that’s saying that if you don’t ever have déjà-vu, your system doesn’t work as well. Conversely, if you don’t experience déjà-vu maybe your memory is so good, your brain doesn’t need to check it. We’ll have to wait on a new study for those answers.

If you want to read more about current research on the body and the brain, click here.

New Blood Test May Predict Heart Attack

Testing, Testing

Cholesterol and blood pressure levels are used as heart-attack risk markers, but a new blood test may tell more.

Silent and Scary

It’s been fairly well documented that the symptoms of an impending heart attack can be silent. Meaning, you didn’t really know it was coming. And for women, the signs can be very different and even subtler. It’s scary to wonder if you’re at high risk for having at heart attack. High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol have been concerns. Now, however, a new blood test may reveal that your risk of attack is low, even if you have those “other risk factors.”

The Blood Tells a Story

A team of researchers in London studied over 1700 people for more than five years. All of the participants were at risk for heart problems. 470 of those people suffered a stroke or a heart attack during the study period. The blood of those who had an attack was compared to those who did not. Those who had an episode were found to have low levels of antibodies.

Antibodies—molecules produced by the immune system—were found in abundance in those who did not suffer an attack. Hence, the stronger the immune system, the less risk of having a heart attack. Even with other risk factors, those with high levels of IgG antibodies remained heart-problem free.


IgG anibodies are found within all our bodily fluids. They protect our body against viruses and bacteria. Greater levels of IgG found in the blood tests linked to a lower risk of heart attack and even heart disease. This blood test could eventually become another predictor of heart attack risk.

Additionally, these research findings indicate that a stronger immune system protects against heart attack and stroke, even with other factors. So, for example, you have high cholesterol. If your IgG antibody count is super high, you are still at low risk (even with the cholesterol numbers.) That means certain cholesterol-lowering drugs many not be needed if the IgG theory holds true.

One expert explains, “These are very interesting findings linking the immune system to protection from heart disease.” More focus placed on strengthening the immune system may be the way to avoid heart attacks. This certainly seems positive and a greater holistic approach to health maintenance.


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