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Teen Smoking: Designing a School Anti-Smoking Publicity Campaign

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher-created lesson in which students create the visuals for the campaign, based on their research into the effects of smoking.

This Google Glass Owner Only Took His Device Off to Sleep And Shower

Smithsonian Magazine

The patient checked into the Navy's Substance Abuse and Recovery Program to get treatment for alcohol abuse. But while he was there, his doctors noticed something strange, the Guardian reports—the man "repeatedly tapped his right temple with his index finger." It was, he told the doctors, an involuntary movement, one he had been making dozens of times a day to use his Google Glass. 

The Guardian:

The man had been using the technology for around 18 hours a day – removing it only to sleep and wash – and complained of feeling irritable and argumentative without the device. In the two months since he bought the device, he had also begun experiencing his dreams as if viewed through the device’s small grey window.

 "To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of IAD"—internet addiction disorder—"involving problematic use of Google Glass™," a group from the Naval Medical Center San Diego reported in the journal Addictive Behaviors

Internet addiction was first discussed as clinical disorder in the late '90s, but psychologists are still debating and researching whether it is a unique disorder or a symptom of other problems. In America, the 2013 version of the DSM "included 'Internet Gaming Disorder' in an appendix, but called for more research," the New Yorker's Evan Osnos reported. But in other countries, including China, it's already considered and treated as disorder—although, as Osnos writes, the Chinese government may have political motivations for this decision. 

Although it's certainly possible to spend 18 hours a day staring at a phone or computer screen, it's probably easier to become a constant user of Glass—if only because it's right there on your face. The patient who came the Navy's substance abuse program did improve, though: after 35 days in the treatment program, he was less irritable, had better short-memory and stopped touching his forehead quite so much. This might be the first reported case of Google Glass addiction, but most likely it will not be the last.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 05: Q & A

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section Tom Belt (Cherokee), Beverly Cook (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk), and Louise McDonald (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk) answer questions from the audience. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 07: The Medicine of Food

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section, Renee Dufault speaks on The Medicine of Food:The Primary Relation. Renee Dufault served in the Navy as an Industrial Hygiene Officer and in the Public Health Service (PHS) as an Environmental Health Officer. During her PHS career, she worked at the National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, and the Food and Drug Administration where she provided expertise in the areas of toxicology, environmental health, and industrial hygiene. In 2008 she retired early from federal service after 20 years to publish her findings of mercury in high fructose corn syrup and continue her research with collaborators on the role toxic food ingredients play in the development of disease conditions. Her most popular article, published in the Clinical Epigenetics Journal, explores the gene-environment interactions responsible for the autism epidemic in the United States. She was a distinguished keynote speaker at the 2013 Clinical Epigenetics meeting in Germany. Dufault now serves as the executive director of the Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute and works as an adjunct professor at United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, North Dakota. Website: http://www.foodingredient.info/ Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 06: Environmental Health in Eco-connection

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section Jennie R. Joe (Navajo) speaks on Environmental Health: Healing in Eco-connection. Jennie Joe (Navajo) is a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, and directs the Native American Research and Training Center. She is also a faculty member in American Indian Studies. In addition to a number of research reports, articles, and book reviews, Joe also has over 20 chapters published in edited books. She serves on a number of national and international committees and boards. American Indian Studies courses she has taught include: Living in the Place of the Sacred, Research Methods and Health Research, Health Policies and Indian Health, and Health Policies and Culture: The Navajo Example. As a researcher, she has been and continues to be involved in a number of health-related studies that are conducted in cooperation with tribal groups throughout the country. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 04: Prayer and the Spiritual in Health Ways

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section, Tom Belt (Cherokee) speaks on Prayer and the Spiritual in Health Ways. Tom Belt is coordinator of the the Western Carolina University Cherokee Language Program. He is working to create a state-of-the-art Cherokee language program at the university level. Belt teaches the first four semesters of Cherokee language and teaches courses on Cherokee grammar and Cherokee language literature. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, he is a fluent Cherokee speaker and works closely with speakers from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to produce culturally based Cherokee language learning material. Before joining the Cherokee Language Program, he worked as a counselor's aide in a local treatment center for Native youths with chemical dependencies. He attended the Universities of Oklahoma and Colorado and taught the Cherokee language at the Cherokee elementary school in Cherokee, North Carolina. Belt has also served as a consultant to various cultural archives and indigenous language programs in public schools and on the post-secondary level. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 10: Closing Remarks and Songs

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section Katsi Cook and Gwyneira Isaac provide some closing remarks and acknowledgements. Then Katsi Cook and Beverly Cook share four of their Mohawk songs. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 08: Environmental Degradation and Mental Health

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section, Rosemary Ahtuangarauk (Inupiaq) speaks on Environmental Degradation and Mental Health. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak is an Inupiaq activist and Tribal Liaison for the Alaska Wilderness League in Barrow, Alaska. A graduate of the University of Washington Medex Northwest Physician Assistant Program, she has fought tirelessly for the health and protection of her people and of the Arctic's unparalleled wilderness that has sustained her culture for thousands of years. She is a former mayor of Nuiqsut and served on the regional tribal council for 15 years, as well as serving on the tribal and city council in Nuiqsut for many years. She is an advisor for the executive council and staff for the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council. Ahtuangaruak currently participates with the National Tribal Environmental Health Think Tank with the Office of Tribal Affairs of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She is co-chair for the North Slope Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council and a founding board member of REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands). Please see the YouTube.com video of an interview with Ahtuangaruak at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjKblFD_oLY. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Andromeda Transcultural H.M.H.C

Anacostia Community Museum Archives
Andromeda Transcultural Health is a nonprofit community healthcare organization located in the Sixteenth Street Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

They offer a wide range of programs and resources such as mental health counseling, HIV testing and prevention, and substance abuse counseling services to underserved populations. Their services were first directed to Latinos and later grew to serve the HIV/AIDS and African American communities. Sixteenth Street Heights is a part of Ward 4, located in Northwest Washington, D.C. According to 1990 census data, Ward 4 had a population that was 4.2% Latino and 79% Black Non-Hispanic.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 09: The Health of Men

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section, Mose Herne (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk) talks on The Health of Men: Values and Behavioral Health. Mose Herne is a citizen of the Mohawk Nation (Turtle Clan). He grew up on the Nation until enlisting in the U.S. Navy Nuclear Propulsion Training Program. After his military service, Herne completed his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and neurobiology at Clarkson University. He then moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he completed the Master of Science degree program in Experimental Neuroscience at Brandeis University and the Master of Public Health program at the Boston University School of Public Health. Herne then completed the coursework and qualifying exams for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in environmental health sciences, in the area of behavioral neurotoxicology. He is the director of Planning, Evaluation, and Research, Office of Public Health Support, Indian Health Service. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 03: Ohero:kon

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In section 3, Louise McDonald (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk) speaks on Ohero:kon: Orientations in the Values of Traditional Ritual Cycles of Life. In her presentation she speaks of community-based programs to promote wellbeing. Tewakierahkwa (Louise McDonald) is a Bear Clan Mother of the Mohawk Nation from the territory at Akwesasne, condoled in the traditional Chieftainship title of Tehanakarine (Dragging Horns) since 2005. The title has been in her family for almost 100 years. She is also a ceremonialist in moon-based rituals as well as lodger leader/conductor of the Moon Lodge Society. Working with women of all ages and tending to maternal and child wellness in her community, she conducts a coming of age ceremony called Ohero:kon ("Under the Husk") for adolescent youth in her community every spring. As clan mother, she bestows ancestral names upon newborns in her clan and has the vested matrilineal authority to select a man into chieftainship title. She works as a Healing Master for the St Regis Mohawk Tribe in a Remediation Project focused on cultural restoration. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Robin Williams

National Portrait Gallery
Born Chicago, Illinois

Robin Williams was a madcap genius in performances of all types of entertainment, from stand-up to feature films. Known initially as a comedian, he surprised with his ability to play serious dramatic roles. His breakthrough came in the 1970s TV comedy Mork and Mindy; as the alien Mork, much of Williams’s dialogue was improvised, as would be the case in most of his comedic roles. Once established, Williams worked tirelessly in show business, going on to appear in many feature films, including Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993); he won an Oscar for his role as the psychologist in Good Will Hunting (1997). He also did voiceover work in animated films and returned to television with The Crazy Ones (2013). Williams battle substance abuse for years; he made serious fun of his struggle in his comedic monologues.

Addict Ants Show That Insects Can Get Hooked on Drugs, Too

Smithsonian Magazine

The temporary euphoria associated with opioids comes at a steep price: heroin, oxycodone, opium, morphine and other painkilling drugs are some of the highly addictive culprits fueling the drug epidemic that is sweeping America. On average, opioids claim the lives of 78 people in the U.S. each day. Now, in a bid to understand more about substance abuse and how it affects people neurochemically, researchers are turning to some unlikely addicts: Ants.

As it turns out, humans aren’t the only animals who can fall hard for these drugs. Ants love them, too—maybe even more than sugar. In a paper published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers show for the first time that a social insect can form a drug dependency—a finding that they believe can help us better understand how addiction affects human communities.

“Now that we’ve proven we can addict ants and that the neurochemical pathways are similar to mammals, what’s most exciting to me is the next step,” says Marc Seid, a neuroscientist at the University of Scranton and the study’s senior author. “We can addict individual (ants) and see how that affects the ants’ social network, which is somewhat like humans'.”

When it comes to studying substance abuse, getting humans addicted to drugs isn’t an option. So researchers have long turned to rodents, finding that addicted rats, for example, will chose cocaine over food. But while rats have a relatively similar physiology to people, they are quite distinct socially. They do not form complex, interdependent groups in which other individuals will be affected if someone they know suddenly forms a serious drug habit. Ants do, making them an ideal—if improbable—subject for investigating the cascading effects addiction can have on a society.

First, researchers had to determine if ants could indeed form addictions to drugs. To find out, they set up a classic “sucrose-fading procedure.” This method involves presenting two groups of ants with a bowl of sugar water, and then gradually lowering the concentration of that sweet treat over the course of four days. One of the ant group’s bowls also contained a second treat, which did not diminish in concentration: morphine.

Unlike the ants in the water-only control group, by day five, the ants in the morphine group had returned to their now-sugarless bowl, seemingly to lap up the drug. To see how deep their potential addiction went, the researchers gave both junkie ants and a new group of untrained control ants two options: a sugar-only bowl or a morphine-only bowl. Sixty-five percent of addict ants went for the morphine bowl, while most control ants chose sugar.

“As anyone who’s ever had ants in their kitchen knows, ants really like sugar,” Seid says. “But we showed that [the addict group] foraged much more on morphine than on their natural reward, sugar.”

After the sugar-morphine experiment, the team extracted the insects’ brains to see how their addictions had changed their neurochemistry. They used a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography to detect chemicals in each brain sample. Compared to the control ants, the morphine addicts had significantly higher levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine plays a significant role in addiction in both humans and rodents. 

While past studies showed that Drosophila flies can become addicted to alcohol, those studies always coupled the drug with an extra perk like sugar. The new study, as far as Seid knows, represents the first time researchers have demonstrated drug self-administration without a caloric reward in a non-mammalian animal.

“The results are very interesting, but perhaps not unusual given the deep history of animals using plant-derived compounds, including alkaloids like caffeine and morphine,” says James Traniello, a biologist at Boston University who was not involved in the research. For example, he says, honey bees exhibit improved short term memory when they feed on plant nectar containing caffeine. “So the result in ants is quite novel, but perhaps not terribly surprising in light of the broader evolutionary picture,” Traniello says.

Not everyone is convinced that the ants in the experiment formed a true addiction, however. “It is possible that the ants in the study got addicted to morphine, but the authors don’t show evidence for addiction,” says Wulfila Gronenberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona who also was not involved in the research. The findings show that morphine interacts with the dopamine system, as it does in other animals, he says. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have developed a true substance dependence, which includes tolerance, withdrawal and behavioral effects.

“I find the paper interesting,” he said, “but this is a very preliminary study.”

Seid plans to follow up on his findings by mapping specific neurons activated by dopamine in the brains of ants. He is also collaborating with a mathematician to create models of ant social networks, to see how connections are affected when individuals in that system become addicted. “We can have a society in a microcosm,” he says. “We can dissect pieces of these networks and manipulate individuals to get a better idea of addiction’s down-cascading effects.” 

Who knows—someday, this kind of research might even help us find an ant-idote to one of society’s most entrenched problems.

Marvin Gaye at the recording session for "Let's Get It On"

National Portrait Gallery
Marvin Gaye brought political consciousness and sexual healing to the Motown sound as a soul singer and songwriter. Raised by an abusive father, Gaye first found his voice in gospel and doo-wop groups. While working as a session drummer for Motown, he crafted a vocal style indebted to Frank Sinatra and the black church but with a three-octave range. Whether swinging a raspy gospel tenor or a lover-man falsetto, Gaye expressed both sweetness and grit in the same note. After a series of hit duets for Motown, he rebelled against the label’s apolitical stance and released What’s Going On (1971)—an album of dense Afro-Latin rhythms, black pride and protest, and ambient sounds. In his last decade, he alternated albums of social protest with song cycles of sex and seduction while coping with substance abuse and personal troubles. Rolling Stone ranks Marvin Gaye as number six on its list of greatest singers and number eighteen on its list of greatest artists.

In the U.S., Few Heavy Drinkers Are Actually Alcoholics

Smithsonian Magazine

If you have a glass of wine most nights and a few more drinks on the weekend, you might be skirting dangerously close to being what researchers call an excessive drinker. You may not recognize this because, after all, you don’t have the hallmarks of an alcoholic: increased tolerance, withdrawal or inability to cut down or stop drinking. Turns out, this is a common situation, reports David Beasley for Reuters.

A new study shows that 90 percent of excessive drinkers are not dependent on alcohol. The survey of 138,100 adults in the United States was conducted by the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

However, about one in three adults drinks excessively, the researchers found. To meet that threshold, women need to be downing eight or more drinks per week. For men, it's 15 or more. The survey respondents also reported a similar prevalence of binge drinking (27 percent), which is defined as four or more drinks at a time for woman and five or more for men.

The overall number of excessive and binge drinkers may even be higher. People tend to under-report this kind of behavior, the researchers note. 

Being free of alcoholism doesn’t mean that all those excessive drinkers are off the hook. As the name implies, the pattern isn’t a good one, reports Allison Aubrey for NPR. She interviewed Robert Brewer, a study co-author and epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control:

[From] a health perspective, the more people drink to excess, the higher their risks. Brewer points to a host of diseases that are linked to excessive alcohol use over time. "This could include breast cancer, for example, liver disease, liver cancer, heart disease," to name a few.

Excessive alcohol consumption causes 88,000 deaths each year. "[The] study shows that combating excessive drinking as a public health problem needs to go beyond focusing only on alcoholism, a chronic medical condition," writes Elahe Izadi for The Washington Post

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 01: Welcome and Thanksgiving Address

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. In this first section, symposium moderator José Barrreiro welcomes the audience and Louise McDonald (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk) gives an address of thanksgiving to our connectedness to creation. José Barreiro is assistant director for research and director of the Office for Latin America within the Museum Scholarship Group at the National Museum of the American Indian. His research interests focus on Caribbean studies, indigenous social movements, oral narratives, and indigenous community development. Barreiro helped establish the American Indian Program at Cornell University, serving as associate director and editor-in-chief of Akwe:kon Press and the journal Native Americas throughout the 1980s and '90s. In 2000, he joined the staff of Indian Country Today as senior editor. He continues to serve as a member of the editorial board of Kacike: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology. He is the author most recently of Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader (2010) and the novel, Taino: The Indian Chronicles (2012). Tewakierahkwa (Louise McDonald) is a Bear Clan Mother of the Mohawk Nation from the territory at Akwesasne, condoled in the traditional Chieftainship title of Tehanakarine (Dragging Horns) since 2005. The title has been in her family for almost 100 years. She is also a ceremonialist in moon-based rituals as well as lodger leader/conductor of the Moon Lodge Society. Working with women of all ages and tending to maternal and child wellness in her community, she conducts a coming of age ceremony called Ohero:kon ("Under the Husk") for adolescent youth in her community every spring. As clan mother, she bestows ancestral names upon newborns in her clan and has the vested matrilineal authority to select a man into chieftainship title. She works as a Healing Master for the St Regis Mohawk Tribe in a Remediation Project focused on cultural restoration. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Dolphins Seem to Use Toxic Pufferfish to Get High

Smithsonian Magazine

Humans aren't the only creatures that suffer from substance abuse problems. Horses eat hallucinogenic weeds, elephants get drunk on overripe fruit and big horn sheep love narcotic lichen. Monkeys' attraction to sugar-rich and ethanol-containing fruit, in fact, may explain our own attraction to alcohol, some researchers think.

Now, dolphins may join that list. Footage from a new BBC documentary series, "Spy in the Pod," reveals what appears to be dolphins getting high off of pufferfish. Pufferfish produce a potent defensive chemical, which they eject when threatened. In small enough doses, however, the toxin seems to induce "a trance-like state" in dolphins that come into contact with it, the Daily News reports:

The dolphins were filmed gently playing with the puffer, passing it between each other for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, unlike the fish they had caught as prey which were swiftly torn apart.

Zoologist and series producer Rob Pilley said that it was the first time dolphins had been filmed behaving this way.

At one point the dolphins are seen floating just underneath the water's surface, apparently mesmerised by their own reflections.

The dolphins' expert, deliberate handling of the terrorized puffer fish, Pilley told the Daily News, implies that this is not their first time at the hallucinogenic rodeo.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Pufferfish's Deadly Toxin Could Help Chemo Patients 
Pufferfish Create Underwater Crop Circles When They Mate

Betty Ford

National Portrait Gallery
Born Chicago, Illinois

When Gerald Ford became president on August 9, 1974, he said, “I am indebted to no man and only one woman, my dear wife, Betty.” An outspoken and inspirational first lady, Betty Ford unflinchingly embraced such hot-button issues as the Equal Rights Amendment and legalized abortion. Most important, she destigmatized attitudes about two illnesses that struck her during her very public life: as first lady, she talked openly about her battle with breast cancer; in 1982, after conquering her own addiction to alcohol and drugs, she founded the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse. Her post–White House life set a standard for future first ladies, and in 1991 President George H.W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her continuing contribution to American life and culture.

Sewage May Hold the Key to Tracking Opioid Abuse

Smithsonian Magazine

The city of Cary, North Carolina, is a charming town of 130,000 in the state’s Research Triangle. With its tree-lined streets and parks, job opportunities, well-ranked schools—not to mention its residents' relatively high levels of education and its low crime rate—it's not surprising that it's ranked high on lists of best cities to live in the U.S. for years. (In 2004, it even ranked as the number-one town in America, according to Money magazine.)

So Cary is the last place that you would expect the opioid crisis to hit home.

Yet last year, 60 Cary residents overdosed on opioids—a 70 percent spike from the year before—and 11 people died. The city decided it was time to take action.

"As Mayor [Harold] Weinbrecht says, while we're not necessarily in a crisis, what city is better positioned to do something proactive about this than Cary?" says deputy town manager Mike Bajorek.

That "something" is a project that will monitor and track the use of opioids, neighborhood by neighborhood, by analyzing the town's sewage.

Funded by a Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge grant, Cary has partnered with the startup Biobot Analytics to pilot a project where portable sampling stations suck up sewage from pipes. In the lab, analysts scan it for 16 different opioid metabolites—substances produced by the body once a person ingests or injects an opioid, ranging from legally prescribed drugs to heroin. The city hopes that the data will help pinpoint where opioid abuse is happening so it can better deploy education and resources.

Each sampling station is lowered into a pipe through a manhole, and scans between 4,000 to 15,000 people's worth of sewage. The resulting data will help the city get a neighborhood-level view of opioid abuse. Combined with other demographic data or data from the state's Controlled Substances Reporting System, which tracks when and where prescriptions are dispensed, could help the city further drill down into how drug abuse is taking place.

Mariana Matus, who cofounded the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biobot with architect Newsha Ghaeli, says that the advantage of her company's system is that each sampler is portable—the size of a small carry-on bag, and easily carried by one person—and costs less than competitors, which run up to $10,000 each. (Biobot charges a subscription model, with fees based on the size and density of the city and the nature of the wastewater network, although Ghaeli and Matus declined to give specifics.) The lower cost makes it possible to deploy the "biobots" all over a city, rather than in one or two places at a time. Cary's pilot, fully funded by the Bloomberg grant, includes sampling at ten sites, though Bajorek says he hopes to someday expand the program "one hundredfold."

"We are collecting sewage within the city—not just at the treatment plant, but in areas within the city," Matus says.

Wastewater epidemiology is not an entirely new field. As Matus implies, others have been sampling sewage for clues into public health issues for at least a decade, mostly in Europe.

Rolf Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, says that the U.S. is "playing catchup with Europe on the drug front." His own lab studies chemicals, such as antibiotics, in wastewater, and is partnering with the city of Tempe to monitor for chemicals—including opioids—there.

Halden says that sampling wastewater at the mouth of the treatment plant is "the most convenient" way to do it. "You just go see the personnel and say, 'Give me a little.'" But time is not kind to the compounds wastewater epidemiologists want to sample. "The chemicals have traveled for a long time in the sewer pipe. Sometimes it takes eight hours [to go from toilet to treatment plant]. A lot of things can happen in eight hours...In terms of data quality, it is often more superior to move up the pipe [to] pump stations...or manhole covers," he says.

Matus says that the metabolites Biobot is measuring degrade in a matter of hours, which is another advantage of its samplers—the closer to the source they can be placed, the better data they can get.

Bajorek and Jason Wittes, pharmacy director for Wake County, emphasize that the Biobot pilot is in the proof-of-concept stage for now, meaning Biobot and city employees are learning how to best analyze, validate and present the data collected from sewage. It won't be until later that public health workers actually use the information to make decisions.

"As we find out things from law enforcement, social media, as there's different kinds of medication being used or abused, they can test for it, and to have near real-time data on that is pretty remarkable," Wittes says. "Usually you see a report and [the data in it] is already a year old." He mentions, for example, that recently, some drug abusers have begun combining opioids with Neurontin, a medication used to treat nerve pain, which enhances the high one gets from opioids. "To be able to test for that, it will tell us in real time where it's being used. That helps us because we can change resources and outreach programs to areas we might not have focused on in the past." The data could help the county decide where to deploy doses of Narcan, the drug that helps reverse an opioid overdose, or which neighborhoods public health educators and peer support specialists should focus on.

Even better, Wittes says, is the potential that unlocks if and when Biobot or a competitor starts working in multiple cities—and Biobot says it will announce a second partner city this year, chosen from "a large list of cities that have expressed interest to work with us," Matus says. Wittes believes Biobot would be able to "help put us in contact with another health department that has a similar patient population using similar medications...[we can share] tactics of combating the issue in near-real time." Instead of waiting until a public health department presents at a conference, for example, two cities with similar demographics could connect and share ideas right away.

Of course, Biobot still has to prove its stuff. The startup, which spun out of a project Matus was involved with at MIT, has been testing its technology in Cambridge, and Matus thinks they've got their technique down. "We're doing much better [analysis] than has been done before," she says.

Halden is not entirely convinced. "I applaud their ability to muster support and enthusiasm for doing these measurements, to convince communities to work with them," he says. "But this is not easy. It is relatively easy to find wastewater—it is not so easy to get permission to analyze it and it is really difficult to reliably analyze wastewater for public health indicators, then take into account all the factors that can compromise the quality of the data." Such factors include population density (the number of people who are excreting into that specific pipe), the volume of other wastewater (such as from laundry or showers) that flows through that pipe, how much the chemical of interest has degraded before it was measured, and so on. "Measuring opioids in wastewater is exceedingly difficult. It's not like you can just buy an instrument and stick it on a desk."

Biobot, for its part, says that its team has, collectively, decades of experience. "We're not new to the field," Matus, who earned her PhD in computational biology at MIT, says.

There's another reason Wittes and others are hoping that wastewater drug monitoring takes off in a big way, and that's the potential of removing the stigma from drug abuse.

Halden says he's run into this issue in the past. If a city spends public money on drug monitoring, that information becomes public information (or can be obtained using public records requests). That can be a thorny ethical issue if only one city is monitoring for a certain drug.

"If you have only one entity, then everyone's eye is trained on them, and you become the capital of whatever," he says. If only one U.S. city tracked traffic deaths, "nobody would visit that city—but if you have data [from multiple cities], you know there's a risk and you deal with it." Halden has gotten around this issue so far by pooling data from cities in a given region, which doesn't give any one city specific information, but helps the region coordinate on responses. This is, of course, very different from the Biobot approach, which aims to release very targeted data on specific locations.

Wittes thinks that as long as Cary and Wake County's public health department share data carefully, the pilot project won't lead to stigma. "The data is helping us reduce stigma," Wittes says. "[Opioid abuse] is a scary and taboo thing...but it's happening everywhere."

Bajorek adds that already the project has given the city "an opportunity to talk to people about how to protect their families." It’s started a conversation.

Wittes says, "This is just day one, really."

The Surprising History of Making Alcohol a Powdered Substance

Smithsonian Magazine

Palcohol—a new form of powderized alcohol—has gotten plenty of buzz (albeit perhaps not the kind it intended) from both fans and a number of alarmed scientists, politicians and parents after its label was temporarily approved by  the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

The product won't land on our shelves just yet (the product's application has been withdrawn, temporarily, because of an "error," manufacturer Lipsmark says). But either way, it turns out that despite the buzz, powderized alcohol isn't exactly new, though for what it's worth, Palcohol's product has made it farther than any other we can trace. 

The technology dates as far back as the 1970s, when Japan’s Sato Foods Industries began selling encapsulated alcohol as an additive in food processing. 

Lipsmark won’t discuss how its product is made, but the process typically involves suspending ethanol molecules inside a host sugar molecule—different than the freeze dried beer products, which are non-alcoholic, that have appeared on the market.

The motive, in Sato Food Industries’ case, was to use the powder on certain food products like fish and meat in order to mask the foods’ odor and also help retain their natural juices, keeping them tender, according to Sato Foods' website.  

But, of course, other companies went after the technique for other side effects of alcohol—namely, getting a buzz. Whether mixed up in a drink or simply eaten, the powder has the same effect in humans as consuming alcohol through a glass of beer or wine.

Efforts to bring the intoxicating dust to the U.S. market began as far back as 1974, when General Foods Corporation filed a patent for an "alcohol-containing dextrin powder." The inventors, like their Japanese counterparts, said their goal was in part to create a powder used to enhance food, namely, its flavor. But they also wanted to lay their claim on “a high ethanol-containing powder which can be used as a base for alcoholic beverages."

General Foods’ patented powder never materialized as sellable product. But in recent years, startups in Germanythe Netherlands and the U.S. have reportedly perfected their own consumer-ready formulations.

In 2005, an alcoholic powder product called Subyou emerged in Germany, at first online but soon for sale at gas stations, convenience stores and bars. Priced at $2 to $3 each, the product contained 4.8 percent dry alcohol—the equivalent of one and a half servings of liquor, according to news reports. The early success, though didn’t stick; Subyou disappeared, and  its website, subyou.de, has since been taken down.

Two years later, in 2007, five Dutch students from Helicon Vocational Institute invented Booz2Go as part of a school project and began to look for manufacturers, according to a report by Reuters. A spokesman for the Netherland's Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport said at the time that officials wouldn't prevent the product from entering the market, according to the Dutch Newspaper Het Parool, but seven years later, a commercial version has yet to be spotted.

As recently as 2010, a small company called Pulver Spirits sought the TBB's approval to market an alcohol powder, but decided "the regulatory hurdles were just too high at the time," Forture Magazine reported in an article that detailed company co-founder Anthony Trujillo attempts to bring the product to shelves.

The first step, he [Trujillo] said, would be to get past the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, an arm of the Treasury Department that regulates alcohol makers for tax purposes only (at least ostensibly). Alcohol products must adhere to closely scrutinized standards of labeling, packaging, and formulation. Although the bureau, which was part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms before that agency's enforcement division was moved to the Justice Department in 2003, doesn't approve or deny products based on health considerations or propriety, it can use its power to effectively deny problematic products. "That's where the hell can be," Trujillo said... And once past that bureau, a producer has 50 state governments to contend with.

In April, Lipsmark sought approval for Palcohol, a pocket-sized sealed pouch it claims can, when mixed with water, create a variety of cocktails instantly. It can also be sprinkled on foods like hamburgers and salads for an added "kick."  

The product, if it’s approved, will be made from either Puerto Rican rum or vodka. It will come in six flavors, each of them designed to produce drinks with about 10 to 12 percent alcohol, or roughly twice as much as a glass of many of America’s mass-produced beers.

And while the ring-shaped cyclodextrin molecules normally used to store the alcohol content can be found in prescription drugs and are generally considered safe, according to University of Sydney pharmaceutical chemist Nial Wheate, the Arizona startup hasn’t escaped widespread concern.

One of the largest:  the fact that granulized alcohol can be snorted. Wheate says consuming the product in this way can have more severe consequences than drinking alcohol in a glass of beer or wine, because  compounds are delivered straight to the brain in stronger doses.

"We don't know what the real risk of using alcohol in this way would be, as the research hasn’t been undertaken,"  he writes at The Conversation, "but as a worse-case scenario the alcohol may significantly impair judgment and motor skills at levels far below those which normally give this effect."

Regulators, such as Vermont Liquor Control director Bill Goggins, are particularly worried about the inconspicuous manner in which Palcohol can be sprinkled onto food or smuggled into restricted venues such as movie theaters and sporting events, making the product especially attractive to underaged teenagers, he tells WPTZ  TV.

For its part, the company says it has taken steps to discourage any potential misuse, such as increasing the volume of non-alcoholic sugars so that it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to snort an entire drink's worth of alcohol and warning potential buyers through their website to use the product responsibly. 

"We will do our best to inform the public about responsible and legal use of our product,"  Barbour says. "We believe Palcohol is not likely to be abused more than liquid alcohol."

Still, beverage industry attorney Robert C. Lehrman, who broke the news about  Palcohol's TTB certification on his blog, thinks that the makers will have an uphill battle against competing beverage companies, state regulators as well as retailers who may be a tad bit reluctant.

"What remains is the concealability and portability is on steroids," he tells CBS News.

On April 8, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol's packaging label, a surprising move that tiggered a wave of criticism on the dangers of crystallized mooch. 

The company, which says on its website that  it withdrew its application due to a mistake on the label that incorrectly reflected the amount of powder in each packet, plans to correct the mix-up and re-submit its application.

In a statement, Lipsmark also highlighted the other possible uses of a powdered alcohol substance in the meidcal, manufacturing and energy fields.

"We've had medical personnel contact us about using Palcohol as an antiseptic, especially in remote locations where weight and bulk make it difficult to transport supplies," the company wrote. 

It could also someday be used as a fuel source for camping stoves or even vehicles, the company says. 

But the product already faces renewed scrutiny: Minnesota state representative Joe Atkins has already introduced a proposal to ban sales of powdered alcohol within the state; the Vermont legislature is discussing a similar bill. Just recently, Senator Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.) asked the Food and Drug Administration for a ban on the substance.

If its application succeeds, Palcohol could be the product that finally makes it. If it fails, the product will likely join the ranks of the almost-to-market attempts before it—though if history is any indication, someone else is bound to give the concept a shot.

Krokodil, a “Flesh-Eating” Heroin Substitute Popular in Russia, Just Showed Up in the U.S.

Smithsonian Magazine

Several days ago, Krokodil, a cheap heroine substitute popular in Russia, reportedly made landfall in Arizona. The drug’s name means “crocodile” in Russian and is known for its flesh-eating tendencies. The impure street drug is often cut with household chemicals such as paint thinner, gasoline and lighter fluid, i09 explains, which sometimes cause a gangrenous infection and produce the the drug’s infamous dissolving effects. If the drugs is acidic enough, it just eats away at the skin, directly. In some cases, hydrochloric acid even finds its way into the concoction.

Until now, Krokodil was largely a Russian problem. But two patients in Phoenix turned up with Krokodil-like symptoms, setting off alarms among medical professionals. ABC 10 News reports:

When the facility warned other poison centers around the country about krokodil, some revealed they also had patients suffering from its apparent use, according to Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director at Banner Poison, Drug and Information Center.

“This is up there as one of the craziest new trends I’ve seen,” he said. “We’ve known about it in Russia, and we’ve known what it has done there. It’s really decimated whole cities there.”

Shelly Mowrey, an Arizona substance abuse and prevention expert, told ABC 15, our Scripps station in Phoenix, that the drug started in Siberia in 2002 before spreading across Russia’s transient and prostitute populations.

As it turns out, however, Krokodil did not originate in Siberia. It was first concocted by the U.S. in the 1930s as a potential morphine substitute, io9 reports, when it went by the name Desomorphine. Contrary to its chemists hopes, however, the new drug proved to be highly addictive.

Shortly after its discovery, desomorphine came to be used in Switzerland under the name of Permonid, where its effects were soon found to have a faster onset and shorter duration than those of morphine, while being several times more potent. Ironically, this made desomorphine a perfectly awful substitute for morphine; extreme potency, after all, combined with a short acting time, is a perfect combination for addiction.

Krokodil has yet to make the DEA’s controlled substance list, though a DEA agent did tell Mother Jones that the potential new trend “concerns us very much.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

Drugs’ Odd Side Effects  
Are Mind-Enhancing Drugs a Good Idea? 

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 02: Opening Remarks and Keynote

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section, symposium moderator José Barreiro introduces Gwyneria Isaac and Katsi Cook (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk), who provide some opening remarks and introductions. Then Beverly Cook gives the keynote address. Gwyneira Isaac is a curator in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History. Her research investigates knowledge systems and the relationships societies develop with their past, especially as to how this is expressed through material culture and museums. Central to this study is her fieldwork and ethnography of a tribal museum in the Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico, where she examined the difficulties faced by Zunis operating between Zuni and Euro-American approaches to knowledge.Through the book Mediating Knowledges: Origins of a Museum for the Zuni People (2007), she argues that the Zuni Museum reconciled the different approaches to knowledge both within its own constituency and cross-culturally, and consequently, that it took on the role of mediator between internal and external expectations about Zuni history. Katsi Cook of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne is program director for the First Environment Collaborative at Running Strong for American Indian Youth (/www.indianyouth.org). She is an elder Aboriginal midwife, a founding member of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives of the Canadian Association of Midwives, and is the founding Aboriginal midwife of the Six Nations Birthing Centre at Six Nations, Ontario. She works with tribal communities in the United States as well as First Nations communities in Canada to promote processes of care, both clinical and socio-cultural, that support Native women and girls in developing self-efficacy and control of their reproductive power; not just the reproduction of children but also the production of culture, knowledge, and the development of women's voices. She serves as a member of the Indigenous Peoples Working Group of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and the National Tribal Environmental Health Think Tank of the Office of Tribal Affairs at the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. Cook is nationally recognized for her work at the intersections of environmental justice and reproductive justice. Beverly Kiohawiton Cook is an elected Chief on the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council. A family nurse practitioner and sexual assault nurse examiner, she served as clinic coordinator at Saint Regis Mohawk Health Services (SRMHS). She led an innovative tribal healthcare facility and systems redesign from acute medical care to trauma-informed prevention and wellness. In 2010, she directed the implementation of Centering Pregnancy™ at SRMHS. Centering is an empowerment model of group pre-natal care that brings community members together for health assessment, learning, and support. Under her direct leadership SRMHS became the first tribally run, official Centering site in the United States in December 2011. In 2012, the program received a Local Impact Award from the National Indian Health Board. Until her election to Tribal Council in 2013, Cook was a participating member of St. Regis Mohawk Tribe's Healing to Wellness Drug Court, and the Multidisciplinary Team at the Partridge House, the only tribally run chemical dependency inpatient treatment facility east of the Mississippi. She was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader nominee in 2011. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

The Modern Cost of Cattle Rustling

Smithsonian Magazine

A crime that seems more at home in a history book or a John Wayne movie—cattle rustling—still plagues the modern West. In Texas, ranchers loose millions of dollars every year to cattle thieves, Julián Aguilar and Miles Hutson report for the Texas Tribune.

The problem has been exacerbated by the threat of drought, which makes ranching an expensive, risky business. The price each animal can fetch on the open market, as well as the price of beef, has steadily climbed in recent years. "It has cycles just like any other crime where it goes up and down," Larry Gray, executive director of law enforcement and theft prevention for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, tells Aguilar and Hutson. "But cattle are at record levels as far as the prices go. That makes it very attractive to a thief to steal a load of cattle."

As Eric Benson reports for FiveThirtyEight, it's difficult to directly correlate the rising cost of beef with cattle thefts—but whatever the broad consequences of the crime, payouts for individual rustlers are high. A calf is worth nearly $1,000, according to the Cattle Raisers Association, while an uncastrated bull can sell for more than $2,800. That's a lot of money to tempt potential thieves.

NPR's Jacob McCleland suggests a different factor that may encourage cattle rustling: substance abuse. More than two-thirds of thefts are fueled by drug and alcohol addiction, John Cummings, a special ranger for the association, tells McCleland: "We've had cases where people have actually stolen cattle, taken them to a local person, put them on their land, and in exchange got drugs for those cattle," he adds.

While modern cattle rustlers have pulled off enormous heists—1,121 calves worth $1.4 million were stolen in the northeast Texas Panhandle last spring—thefts tend to involve only a few animals. However, any loss can be a devastating one for small ranchers like Susan Edmondson, who lost 12 cows and 16 calves from her Oklahoma ranch last winter. "It just puts me in a bind," she tells McCleland. "People don't think anything about it when they're like, 'Oh, somebody just stole a cow or this or that.' But when it's that big of a hit, I mean, I don't know if I can make my payment this year. It's devastating."

In some states, ranchers are required to brand or mark their cattle, which helps to identify stolen animals. Unfortunately, Texas doesn't have a similar rule. "If it ain't marked, you can get away with it," John Green, a cowboy serving 10 years in prison for cattle theft, tells the AP's Michael Graczyk. "That's the trick."

Even Climate Scientists Are Getting Depressed by Our Lack of Progress

Smithsonian Magazine

It may sound like a ridiculous complaint, but environmental scientist Nicole Thornton experienced distress caused by climate change firsthand.

She told The Sydney Morning Herald that, around the time of the 2009 United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, she would just start crying when discussing environmental issues. She had felt so personally invested in the conference's outcome that, when it ended without accomplishing much of anything, “It broke me...The trigger point was actually watching grown men cry. They were senior diplomats from small islands, begging larger countries to take action so that their nations would not drown with the rising seas.” 

The whole experience was odd and frustrating, she says.

But when you consider the connection we have with our environment, the studies showing the importance of green space and the struggles of people coping with natural disasters, the idea of being distressed by environmental change—whether you call it eco-anxiety, climate depression, apocalypse fatigue and solastalgia— starts to seem far from silly. Madeleine Thomas writes at Grist:

From depression to substance abuse to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged. For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties.

(Especially when the best hope that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report can give us is "we need to act immediately" — a daunting prospect when there are politicians refusing to acknowledge that climate change is happening.)

Experts are now recognizing these experiences and starting to create strategies to address them. "Living in a stable, predictable environment is obviously an important contributor to people’s mental health and well-being, and that has often had been underestimated," writes Susie Burke, an Australian psychologist whose work shows that loss of biodiversity and other effects of climate change strike blows against human happiness.

The American Psychological Association also released a report in June about the psychological impacts of climate change. "Well-being is more than just the absence of injury or disease; it is also about human flourishing and resilience," the report says.

Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist, has offered some tips on how to care for yourself when feeling climate change burn out. They include practical advice for anytime—exercise, spend time outside, eat healthy. Her tips also have some specific points for dealing with climate change anxiety: Recognize that your fears are realistic, but don’t give up. And "connect with your fellow climate warriors to laugh and play games." Just maybe keep the conversation clear from climate to keep the laughs coming.

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