Health Buzz: Paralysis Survey and Other Health News

Spinal-cord injuries, video-game addicts, and coming down from the high of 4/20 day.

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Spinal-Cord Injuries Affect More Than Previously Believed

Nearly 1.3 million people in the United States have a spinal-cord injury, which is five times more people than suggested by previous estimates, according to the Associated Press. About 5.5 million Americans have some form of paralysis because of neurological problems such as multiple sclerosis and strokes. Until now, only those with the worst spinal-cord injuries were likely to be counted, concludes a new survey of 33,000 U.S. households by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. The report suggests not only that less extensive injuries have often gone uncounted but also that people are living longer with paralysis—and are now starting to face the added complications of aging on top of a disability.

Read about the late Christopher Reeve's struggle with paralysis. Recent research reports describe patients with spinal-cord injury and multiple sclerosis who are benefiting from adult stem cell therapy.

Is Your Kid a Video-Game Addict?

Are nearly 10 percent of kids and teenagers who play video games showing signs of addiction? That's the word from a report in the journal Psychological Science , which says that 8.5 percent of the 1,178 kids ages 8 to 18 who were randomly sampled by a 2007 Harris poll showed at least six of 11 addiction symptoms. If 8.5 percent of American children and teens are addicted to video games, that would add up to 3 million kids. But don't trash the Xbox just yet. First of all, the addiction symptoms included skipping household chores or homework to play, playing games to escape problems, and lying about length of playing time, Nancy Shute reports. And just spending a lot of time gaming doesn't mean a kid is in trouble, notes David Gentile, the Iowa State University psychologist who conducted the study.

Explore why addiction to video games is a growing concern, and check out these resources offor video-game addiction.

Coming Down From the High of 4/20 Day

Yesterday was 4/20 day, a counterculture holiday for potheads to light up and celebrate their favorite mind-altering drug, marijuana, Nancy Shute reports. (Theories about the origins of the name, which also can be written 4:20 or 420 day, are diverse.) Last year, on April 20, 10,000 people convened at the University of Colorado's Boulder campus for the impromptu WeedFest.

Kicking addiction is a struggle under the best of circumstances, and there's mounting evidence that the earlier a kid gets a drug habit, the harder that struggle becomes. In the past 10 years, scientists have learned a lot about how the human brain makes huge leaps in growth and learning in the teenage years. The theory is that the teen brain's talent for learning makes it easier to "learn" to be addicted to any drug, be it marijuana, meth, tobacco, or alcohol.

Read about research on how marijuana affects the brain; it's particularly useful for us moms and dads whose memories of high school pot smokers are pretty benign. And Bernadine Healy, a former director of the National Institutes of Health, explains why Obama shouldn't legalize marijuana.

—January W. Payne

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