Health Buzz: Teen Drug Addiction and Other Health News

The germs on women's hands, adolescents who don't get flu shots, and the evolution of hospice care.

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Treating Drug Addiction in Teens

Teenagers who enter extended treatment programs, including a combination of detoxification medications, to address addiction to prescription painkillers or heroin are less likely to keep abusing drugs than those who receive short-term drug therapy, HealthDay reports. Buprenorphine, used to treat symptoms of withdrawal, and naloxone, which stops or reverses injected opioid effects, are considered effective in treating addiction to opioids but are used in a limited way for younger people.

In a new study, researchers found that teens who were randomly assigned to receive extended treatment ended up with more urine samples that tested positive for opioids at weeks four and eight than at week 12. Also, at week four of treatment, 26 percent of patients getting extended therapy had positive urine tests, while 61 percent of those getting short-term therapy had positive urine tests at week four. The study was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association .

In August, Lindsay Lyon described five ways teens might cheat on drug tests—and offered advice on catching them. Previously, U.S. News described how to protect your kids from substance abuse and discussed the types of questions teens pose about peer pressure and drugs. In April, Sarah Baldauf offered six questions that adolescents have about alcohol and some answers from experts.

More Types of Germs Found on Women's Hands Than Men's

Bacteria cover the skin, especially the palms of our hands—and women seem to have a greater diversity of germs than men, HealthDay reports. New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week found that the 51 college students studied had, on average, about 150 different bacteria species per hand. More than 4,700 species were found on all of the volunteers' hands combined. The researchers speculated that women may differ from men because of varying hand-washing habits and different levels of sweat production, hormones, and acidities. How often a person uses cosmetics or moisturizers may also play a role.

In September, HealthDay emphasized that regular hand-washing can help prevent the spread of colds and the flu.

Many Adolescents With Chronic Illnesses Not Getting Flu Shots

A new study finds that many adolescents with asthma, cardiac disease, and other chronic illnesses who should get annual flu shots don't get the vaccines. Researchers studied rates of vaccination from 1992 to 2002 among 18,703 adolescents with chronic conditions, HealthDay reports. Vaccination rates increased from 8 percent to 15 percent during the study period. Just 11 percent of patients studied got a flu vaccine during all four seasons from 1999 to 2002; more than 56 percent didn't get a flu shot at all during that time. The study appears this month in Pediatrics.

Last month, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz explored whether flu shots are necessary for kids. Nancy Shute offered advice in September on how to decide whether to vaccinate your child against the flu.

Hospice Care Is Evolving

Covered under Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans, hospice care is a swiftly growing healthcare field. About 1.4 million people received new or continuing hospice care last year, more than twice as many as did a decade ago, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the Alexandria, Va.-based industry group. Part of the rise in demand for hospice care reflects the needs of patients with dementia. In the final stage of Alzheimer's disease, patients' family members often need to turn to outside help like that provided by specialized hospice programs.

U.S. News offers detailed information on Alzheimer's disease and recently reported that music can be medicine for the brain.

—January W. Payne