Americans & Marijuana

More and more Americans are smoking pot—how can that possibly be a good thing?

The number of Americans who smoke marijuana is on the rise, while the popularity of some other illegal drugs has stayed constant or is declining.

The Associated Press is reporting on the results of the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which was just released.  It estimates that the percentage of Americans age 12 and older who are current marijuana users has increased from 5.8 percent in 2007 to 7.3 percent last year.

The number of total users increased from 14.5 million to 18.9 million.

And get this, the number of Americans who smoke marijuana daily or almost daily increased is now at 7.6 million.

The survey also found a bit of good news–that regular use of cocaine and prescription pain relievers has declined.  The use of methamphetamine and LSD has remained about the same.

Along with the increase in marijuana use, the number of Americans who used heroin at least once during the year of the survey increased from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012. That’s pretty scary.

The results of the study come just one week after the federal government announced that it does not plan to sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from allowing recreational marijuana use.

Those states are the first two in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana use, but 20 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana use.

If you or someone you love thinks that smoking marijuana doesn’t have any negative effects, let me encourage you to visit the website for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.  The Center is located at Columbia University and you can find them at

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Diagnosing Diabetes

Roughly twenty six million Americans have diabetes, and that number could double within the next twenty years.

There’s no sugar coating on reports that many people aren’t managing their disease well or getting proper care.

Diabetes can cause blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and much more. Doctors recommend screening for diabetes with a simple blood test if you are obese, have high blood pressure, or are fifty-five or over.

Many complications from diabetes can be prevented—but it’s up to you and your doctor. Keep tabs on your weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Plus get regular preventive exams.

The number of diabetics may be growing, but the problems from it don’t have to.

If you have a comment or question for the New Shine.FM wellness expert Dr. Walt Larimore, visit the wellness expert page at Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Did You Know the Music Your Teen Listens to Could be Dripping with BOOZE?


Did you know the music your teen listens to could be dripping with BOOZE?

Researchers from Boston University and Johns Hopkins’ have analyzed the lyrics from 720 hit songs from the past few years. Of those tunes, one out of four contained alcohol references, and some even called out brands by name.

Brand references were most frequent in hip-hop, rap and R&B, followed by country and pop music.  Rappers were more likely to name-drop tequila, cognac and vodka brands, while country crooners and pop stars were more likely to mention beer or whiskey.

Study co-author David Jernigan says “Given the heavy exposure of youth to popular music, these results suggest popular music may serve as a major source of promotion of alcohol use.”

On a different topic, an expert on youth culture says that parents shouldn’t be surprised by the recent outlandish performances at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, says “There was nothing at all surprising about the awards.  Not one thing.”

“If you’ve been watching culture for any length of time it should come as no surprise that what you saw is not only all around us, but it’s reflective of who we are. It is the soup that our kids swim in every day. It shapes their values, their attitudes, and their behaviors.”

Mueller cautions that we are reaping what we’ve sown and that our culture is not only on a step-by-step progression downward, but it’s quote “moving faster and faster as time passes.”

As we seek to guide our kids through the landmines of today’s youth culture, remember Paul’s words from Philippians chapter 4:  whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

New Research On Sleeping Pills

Are you having trouble sleeping?  You’re not alone.  A story in the LA Times reports that Nearly 9 million U.S. adults resort to prescription sleeping pills. Millions more try options like over-the-counter medicines or chamomile tea, or simply suffer through sleepless nights.

A recent study found that 4 percent of adults said they’d taken a prescription sleeping pill or sedative in the previous month.

Experts say there has been a definite increase in insomnia in recent decades.

That could be due to a number of factors, including obesity-related sleep apnea, and the rise of social media and other electronic late-night distractions.  Another factor could be financial stress from the recent recession.

Earlier studies have tried to track pill use through prescription sales, but that offered a flawed view.

For adults, the recommended amount of sleep is 7 to 9 hours each night. Previous research suggests at least a third of adults get less than that.

It’s believed that early 10 percent of Americans suffer chronic insomnia and may seek a physician’s help.  Inadequate sleep has been tied to the start and worsening of a range of diseases and conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression.

The new study from the CDC found that women are more likely than men to take sleeping pills, 5 percent versus 3 percent.  It also found that prescription use increases with age.

As you may have heard, some  tips for good sleeping include sticking to a regular bedtime schedule, getting exercise each day and avoiding caffeine and nicotine at night.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Does Depression In Men Look Different Than It Does In Women?

Could a man you know be depressed and not even know it?

The number of men in our society who experience symptoms of depression may be similar to the number of women with depression–at least when doctors look for “non-traditional” symptoms.

Fox News is reporting on a new study done by the University of Michigan.  It found that a full 1/3 of men and women met the criteria for depression when traditional and so called “alternative” symptoms were taken into account.

Currently, about 16 percent of Americans meet the criteria for depression.  Previous research has found women are about twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with the condition.

Other studies, however, have suggested that men don’t exhibit the same symptoms of as women. Or, they may not be as willing to divulge their symptoms to a doctor.

For example, previous studies found that depressed men are more likely to show signs of anger, self-destruction, self-distractions and irritability rather than outward sadness.

In the new study, Dr. Lisa Martin and her colleagues used a scale that was designed to assess depression symptoms common among men.  When they did, they found 26 percent of men and 22 percent of women met the criteria for depression.

When they used a scale that included both traditional and alternative symptoms, there was little difference between the two groups: about 1/3 of both men and women met criteria for depression.

In addition to decreasing quality of life, the US Centers for Disease Control has found that depression is linked to smoking, alcohol use, inactivity and trouble sleeping.

If you think you or your spouse might be depressed, visit the American Psychological Association’s website at

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The Link Between Exercise & The Quality Of Our SLEEP

What’s the relationship between physical exercise and the quality of your sleep?  Dr. Kelly Baron is a sleep researcher at Northwestern University and she decided to find out.

She learned that the influence of daily exercise on sleep habits is somewhat complicated.  In fact, in the short term, sleep may have more of an impact on exercise than exercise has on sleep.

The New York Times reports on Dr. Baron’s research, which looked at older people with insomnia, all of whom DIDN’T exercise.  Half of the people in the study began a moderate exercise program, consisting of three or four 30-minute exercise sessions per week.  The exercise program continued for 16 weeks.

At the end of that time, the volunteers in the exercise group were sleeping much more soundly than they had been at the start of the study. But the positive effects of exercise didn’t occur right away.

After the first two months of their fitness program, the exercising volunteers weren’t sleeping any better than at the start of the study.  It took four months of regular exercise before their insomnia improved substantially.

Dr. Baron also found another interesting connection between sleep and exercise. When the people in the study had a poor night of sleep, they were much less likely to get the full amount of exercise the next day.

According to Dr. Baron, at first glance, these results might seem “a bit discouraging.”  But she points out that the volunteers in this study already had sleep problems.  She says that people with chronic insomnia and other sleep disturbances tend to be “neurologically different.”

For most of us, better exercise during the day tends to lead to better sleep at night.  But don’t exercise too closely to bedtime.  Aerobic exercise raises the temperature of your body for a few hours, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Are Digital Devices Contributing To The Rise In ADHD?

Could ADHD be linked to smartphones?

About 6 million children in the United States—or about one out of every 10—have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.   Now, experts wonder whether the mobile devices we carry around might have something to do with that number.

According to a story on, research done by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that ADHD numbers began to surge just as smartphones hit the market.

And because kids engage with digital screens so much differently than they do with real-life activities, some experts believe all that screen time may negatively impact their ability to focus.

By the way, the amount of time people spend engaged in all forms of media has now risen to 11 hours, 52 minutes per day.  Clark Fredricksen, vice president of eMarketer says “It’s clear that time spent with media is still increasing as a result of multitasking.”

In other youth culture news, some disturbing new stats are out on dating violence. A nationwide survey on the issue was presented at a recent American Psychological Association conference.

The survey included more than 1,000 teens, and it found that 41% of girls and 37% of boys say they’ve been physically, emotionally or sexually abused on a date.

Here’s one surprising fact that reflects how our culture has been pushing girls to be more aggressive: more girls than boys said they had abused a dating partner.  35% of girls said they’d been abusive―compared to 29% of boys.

By the way, if your son or daughter has experienced this kind of abuse,  I’d encourage you to contact my friends at Focus on the Family.  They operate a free telephone counseling service and can refer your family to a licensed Christian therapist in your area.  The number is 1-800-A-FAMILY.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

How To Reset Your Internal Clock & Become A “Morning Person.”

Are you a morning person?  Would you LIKE to be?  Well, go camping!

Researchers say that camping for a week can reset the biological clock that governs our sleeping patterns.

According to an article from the BBC, scientists argue that modern life disrupts our sleep through exposure to electric light and reduced access to sunlight.  But after spending time in the great outdoors, the body clocks of volunteers actually synchronized with sunrise and sunset.

Researchers have found that the widespread availability of electric lighting from the 1930s onwards has affected our internal circadian clocks, allowing us to stay up much later than nature intended.

The scientists in this study first analyzed a small group of volunteers as they went about their normal lives, and recorded their exposure to natural and artificial light.  By looking at levels of the hormone melatonin, they concluded that the lighting of our modern environment causes a two hour delay in our circadian clocks.

The researchers then took the volunteers camping for a week in Colorado. Flashlights and electronic devices were banned, the only night time light was the glow of a campfire.

The result was that the waking and sleeping patterns of all the volunteers synchronized with the rising and setting of the sun.

Since it’s not possible for us to go camping all the time, scientists suggest some small, simple changes to the way we live our lives.

First, start off your day with a walk outside.  At night reduce lights in the house, and dim computer and electronic devices. Even the light from a cell phone in the evening hours is a cue that pushes our body clocks to a later time.

I’m Bill Maier for

Listen to today’s audio here.

New Research On Kids & Choking

What’s the worst culprit when it comes to kids choking on something?  Would you believe it’s HARD CANDY?

Dr. Clare McCarthy writes the “MD Mama” blog and she reports on a new study just published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers looked at choking-related visits to the emergency rooms that involved food between for kids ages 0-14 years.

There were a lot of visits: more than 12,000 a year. While most of the children were treated and released, 10 percent were hospitalized. More than a third were children under a year, although the mean age was 4.5 years–so choking isn’t just something that happens to babies and toddlers.

Dr. McCarthy says this particular study only looked at non-fatal visits–they didn’t look at deaths from choking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 57 kids die from choking on food.

So moms and dads, listen up, here are the top five foods that kids choke on:

1. Hard candy

2. Other candy (like gum)

3. Meat

4. Pieces of bone

5. Fruits and vegetables

Interestingly, hot dogs were actually low on the list at number 11.  Part of the reason may be that this study only looked at non-fatal choking, and if you get a hot dog slice lodged in your throat, it’s more likely to kill you. But it could also be that parents have gotten the message that hot dogs are dangerous. That’s what so much of this is about: getting the message out, so that parents can keep children safe.

Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help prevent choking on food at any age:

  • Encourage children to chew their food well
  • Supervise meals
  • Insist that kids sit down when they eat
  • Don’t allow children to run, play or lie down with food in their mouths

I’m Bill Maier for

Listen to today’s audio here.

Important Information For Parents Who Are Smokers—or Former Smokers

Did you smoke when you were younger?  If so, your kids may be more likely to smoke themselves—even if you quit before they were born.

Lead researcher Mike Vuolo at Purdue University says the findings indicate that any amount of smoking could have an important influence on the next generation.

According to an article in, the study found that in homes with a persistent heavy-smoking parent, the oldest sibling is influenced to smoke.  In turn, that increases the chances that younger siblings will smoke by six times.

Dr. Vuolo says “We should educate young people that smoking at any time in their lives could have an influence on their children. Also, preventative efforts should target heavy-smoking households, trying to break the cycle of influence on the oldest siblings.”

Dr. John Spangler, a professor of family medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, believes there may be a genetic component to these findings.

Dr. Spangler says “This study confirms what we have already sensed, that there is a family history of tobacco use among many smokers.  We know that people are more likely to uses substances like alcohol based on family history, the same holds true for tobacco use.”

He believes there may be a genetic predisposition to metabolize nicotine differently.

The researchers say that parents who were former smokers should realize their child is more likely to become a smoker. These parents may want to discuss smoking with their children with an eye toward preventing it.

If you’re a smoker who is trying to quit, you can find help through the American Lung Association.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.