Health Highlights: Oct. 23, 2008

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  • ADHD Increases Risk of Nicotine Addiction: Study
  • Scotch Tape Can Emit X-Rays
  • Serious Drug-Reaction Reports Hit Record High
  • Smokers Urged to Get Pneumonia Vaccine

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

ADHD Increases Risk of Nicotine Addiction: Study

Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases a young person's risk of nicotine addiction, according to a Massachusetts General Hospital study that included 166 participants, ages 15 to 25.

The researchers found that 69 percent of the 80 participants with ADHD had ever smoked and 41 percent were current smokers, while 44 percent of those without ADHD had ever smoked and 17 percent were current smokers, United Press International reported.

The ADHD patients who smoked began using tobacco more than a year earlier than smokers without ADHD. The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

"Knowing that ADHD increases the risk of more serious nicotine addiction stresses the importance of prevention efforts aimed at adolescents and their families," study leader Dr. Timothy Wilens said in a news release, UPI reported.

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Scotch Tape Can Emit X-Rays

U.S. researchers have discovered that Scotch tape emits X-rays if it's peeled off its roll in a vacuum, a finding that may lead to the development of inexpensive, portable X-ray machines for paramedics or for use in remote locations.

For the study, a machine was used to peel Scotch tape off a role in a vacuum chamber at a rate of about 3 centimeters per second. This produced rapid pulses of X-rays, each about a billionth second long, from the area where the tape was coming off the role, the Associated Press reported. The researchers even managed to make an X-ray image of a finger.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Nature.

"We were very surprised," researcher Juan Escobar, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP. "The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous."

Escobar noted that Scotch tape only produces X-rays in a vacuum, so normal use of the tape poses no health hazard.

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Serious Drug-Reaction Reports Hit Record High

A record number of serious drug-reaction reports were submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the first quarter of this year, according to an analysis by a health industry watchdog group.

Nearly 21,000 serious adverse reactions, including 4,800 deaths, were received by the FDA in the first three months of 2008, the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices said. The group analyzed yearly totals dating back to the 1990s, according to the Associated Press.

Two drugs accounted for a disproportionate share of the reports: the blood thinner heparin, and the Pfizer anti-smoking drug Chantix.

Chantix, which the FDA has warned may be linked to psychological problems including suicidal behavior, had more reports than any other drug. The medication is meant to affect the smoker's brain directly, easing withdrawal symptoms and inhibiting the pleasurable effects of nicotine.

While the FDA had no immediate reaction to the report, the AP cited a Pfizer statement that the company stood by Chantix and attributed the number of adverse-reaction reports to publicity about the drug's side effects.

Some adverse reports about heparin stemmed from a scandal earlier this year, in which global authorities identified contaminated heparin linked to 12 Chinese companies that were involved in the drug's manufacture.

A serious drug reaction is defined by the FDA as one that causes hospitalization, requires medical intervention, or is life-threatening. Since the agency relies on voluntary submissions from doctors, its tally is believed to represent a fraction of actual cases, the AP said.

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Smokers Urged to Get Pneumonia Vaccine

All adult smokers under age 65 should get a pneumococcal vaccine, an influential group of experts that advises the U.S. government is recommending.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization, noting that the nation's 31 million adult smokers are at higher risk of pneumococcal disease, voted 11-3 Wednesday to recommend that all adult smokers get the vaccine, the Associated Press reported. In addition to bacterial pneumonia, the shot would protect against other illnesses such as meningitis.