Florida shooting raises awareness of stigma attached to mental illness

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Following Wednesday's shooting rampage at a South Florida high school by a 19-year-old suspect that left 17 dead -- the deadliest school shooting in five years -- Americans are scrambling for answers to make sense of the tragedy.

Interviews after the massacre cast alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz as a troubled loner who made disturbing comments on social media. He told investigators that he heard voices in his head, giving him instructions on what to do to conduct the attack, law enforcement sources told ABC News. The voices were described as "demons" by law enforcement sources. And an attorney for the family who had taken Cruz in after his adoptive mother died said he was "depressed" following her death but had been going to therapy.

Though there may be red flags that predict violence, many are zeroing in on what is assumed to be mental illness. But it's not unusual for a newly orphaned young man to have depressive symptoms. In this situation, seeking mental health care is not only appropriate, but responsible. And though he was expelled from school, thousands of students are asked to leave school each year. It does not mean they return with a gun.

Nevertheless, while tweeting his thoughts and prayers, President Donald Trump wrote, "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

Florida Governor Rick Scott vowed to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illness. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed to “study the intersection of mental health and criminality and identify how we can stop people capable of such heinous crimes.”

Dr. Liza Gold, a forensic psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, disagrees with the snap diagnosis that many have made.

"It's not a mental health problem," Gold said. "It’s a disgrace that our leaders don’t take corrective action and their knee jerk reaction is to go to mental health."

It’s a reaction, Gold believes, that means that fewer people seek help. "They’re a disenfranchised population that is very easy to go after. The stigma attached to mental illness increases so the people who do need help are less forthcoming."

Public opinion and medical research are far apart when it comes to the intersection of mental illness and criminality. A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the discrepancy: 75 percent of people view those with mental illness as dangerous, and 60 percent believe that those with schizophrenia are more likely to commit violent acts. But those numbers have nothing to do with real-world statistics.

The study showed that severe mental illness is quite common, with almost 11 percent of study participants diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder. These people are not at increased risk of committing violent acts (though the mentally ill who also abuse substances are).

But the numbers have told us, for years, that mental illness is not generally linked to violence against others, but to self-harm. "Although it is not uncommon that the perpetrator of a mass shooting has a mental illness, it is uncommon for persons with a mental illness to engage in violent behaviors,” Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, clinical professor of psychiatry at University of Colorado School of Medicine and court-appointed forensic psychiatrist in the Aurora theater shooting case, told ABC News. "Further studies are not needed -– adequate funding is needed."

“The mental health system is under-resourced and over-burdened," said Jeffrey Swanson, PhD, sociologist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. "It’s held together by duct tape."

Even a rise in funding for mental health would not be enough, Gold cautions. “You can dump all the money you want into mental health and you are likely to bring down firearm suicide rate,” she said. “But it won’t make a dent in other types of violence, including mass shootings.”

The majority of gun deaths -– two-thirds -– are from suicide, with mental illness as the strongest causal factor, Swanson said. Of the remaining gun deaths due to violence, only 2 percent can be attributed to mass shootings. The other 98 percent is due to domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence, Gold added. “People are missing the forest for the trees. If you do that, you can’t design effective policy,” she said.

These experts argue that there needs to be better gun control policy, saying while the United States Constitution protects Americans’ right to bear arms, there are many levels of intervention that do not infringe on this right.

“I don’t know how many more times it has to happen -– mass shootings, school shootings, etc.," Gold said. "It’s clear that the problem is not being addressed. The government is sending a message to the American people that we’re all potential victims and there’s nothing we can do about it. But there are many things we can do. People in crisis should not have access to firearms. There’s lots of information about risk factors and none of it is being used to craft evidence-based policy that might potentially be effective.”

Swanson said that there are already effective policies in certain states that could be applied elsewhere, identifying Connecticut as a “pioneer” in instituting a law to allow police to temporarily remove guns from those determined to be at imminent risk of harm to self or others. Another solution, Swanson said, would be to develop better criteria at the point of sale, such as limiting gun sales in those with violent misdemeanors or those with temporary orders of protection against them.

“Why would someone like that be able to legally buy an automatic rifle? Why is someone able to buy military weapons that are only used to kill people? Not all guns are the same,” Gold said. “You can have guns to hunt with, unless you’re hunting people.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Pros and cons of plant-based milks: Is a plant-based milk right for you?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There is no shortage of non-dairy milk alternatives on the market these days, from soy to almond, cashew, coconut and even peanut milk.

One thing to get clear: These aren’t really “milks” but rather liquids that mix ground nuts and water and can substitute for cow’s milk.

Soy milk is the most nutritionally-balanced of the plant-based milk alternatives, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at Canada’s McGill University, compared the nutritional values of almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk to cow’s milk.

It found cow’s milk to be the most nutritional option, followed by soy milk, which had the most protein and tied for the most calcium per serving among non-dairy alternatives.

The study identified the pros and cons of each alternative milk, including soy.

How do you know if a plant-based “milk” is right for you?

If you need or choose to try plant-based milk, the one you choose should depend on a combination of factors including allergies, taste and your diet, according to Cynthia Sass, a New York City-based registered dietitian and the author of "Slim Down Now."

Read below for the pros and cons of different types of plant-based milk, as identified by McGill University researchers, along with Sass's perspective on each.

Soy milk: Great for vegans

Pros: Rich in protein and promotes a balanced diet.

Cons: A beany flavor and the presence of “anti-nutrients," defined in the study as substances that reduce nutrient intake and digestion.

Dietitian's take: Soy is one of the common eight allergens. It can also trigger unwanted symptoms in people who are soy intolerant or soy sensitive, including bloating, digestive pain, fatigue, headache, and skin reactions. It may be best for vegans, who have more limited protein sources (as long as they aren’t allergic or intolerant).

Almond milk: Great for calorie-watchers

Pros: Almonds have a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that are considered helpful in weight loss and weight management.

Lacks some essential nutrients.

Dietitian's take: Unsweetened almond milk can provide as few as 30 calories per cup and just one gram of carbohydrates. Most brands are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D. It’s a great replacement for milk in cereal, smoothies, and coffee for people who get plenty of protein from other sources and are watching calories and carbs.

Rice milk: Great for athletes

Pros: Lactose-free and can act as an alternative for patients with allergy issues caused by soybeans and almonds.

Cons: Rice milk varies widely in its nutrient profile, putting infants at risk for malnutrition.

Dietitian's take: Low in protein and fat, rice milk’s calories primarily come from carbohydrates. It’s a good option for athletes or active people, especially pre-exercise (in smoothies, oatmeal, or cold cereal), particularly those with nut, dairy, and soy sensitivities.

Coconut milk: Great for cooking

Consumption can help reduce levels of harmful low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) that are associated with cardiovascular diseases.

No proteins, rich in (saturated) fat.

Dietitian's take: The richness of coconut milk makes it an ideal dairy replacement for certain recipes, like, soup, cream sauce, pudding, and ice cream. Great for people who enjoy cooking rich dishes but are trying to consume more plant-based meals and less animal fat.

More plant-based alternatives to know about.

Cashew milk: Great for calorie-watchers

One cup of unsweetened cashew milk is low in calories, typically around 25 calories, and fat, usually just two grams.

Cashew milk does not contain the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein found in a handful of cashews though because all that disappears when the pulp is strained from the milk.

Dietitian's take:
Unsweetened cashew milk is one of the lowest calorie plant options with just 25 calories per cup. Most brands are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Like almond milk, cashew milk is a good alternative for those watching calories and carbohydrates who aren’t looking for protein from their milk substitute. Some may prefer the flavor of cashew milk over almond milk if they prefer cashews to almonds.

Peanut milk: Great for fish eaters

Elmhurst, a family-owned company, sells what it bills as America's first peanut milk. The peanuts come from Georgia peanut farms and pack six grams of protein in every eight-ounce glass, according to the company's website.

Each eight-ounce serving also contains 150 calories, five grams of sugar and 11 grams of fat.

Dietitian's take: Peanuts are a common allergen. Peanuts also provide more omega-6 fatty acids. An excess of these fats, unbalanced with omega-3s, may be tied to inflammation and obesity. If you prefer peanut milk, also include healthful sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

Hemp milk: Great for vegans

Hemp milk is made from soaking hemp seeds in water and grinding them. One eight-ounce serving has around 100 calories, five grams of sugar and three grams of protein.

Dietitian's take: Hemp isn’t a common allergen and while it’s not the highest in the protein of the plant options, hemp does contain complete protein, meaning it packs all of the amino acids needed for repair and healing of protein tissues in the body. The fat in hemp also includes both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Great for vegans who are soy intolerant.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Alzheimer's disease reversed in mice, offering hope for humans, new research shows

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "Remarkable" -- that’s how researchers are describing the results of a new study done on mice displaying traits associated with Alzheimer's disease.

The deletion of just a single enzyme saw the near total reversal of the deposition of amyloid plaques found in brains of those with Alzheimer's, improving cognitive functions in the mouse subjects, according to the study from researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, published Feb. 14 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

These promising research findings center around deleting a gene that produces an enzyme called BACE1, which helps make the beta-amyloid peptides that accumulate abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that stopping or reducing that enzyme’s activity dramatically reduces production of beta-amyloid peptides, which are toxic to the brain and lead to the symptoms -- including memory loss -- associated with Alzheimer's.

By using BACE1 inhibitors to gradually lower the enzyme's levels, researchers saw reduced neuron loss and better brain function in the mice, offering hope for human subjects down the line, according to the study.

However, researchers urge caution with the results as many Alzheimer’s discoveries seem to hold true in mice, then fail in people.

Cleveland Clinic researcher Riqiang Yan, Ph.D., an author on the study, told ABC News that in the mouse model, the gene that produces the enzyme was deleted, completely stopping the enzyme's production. But in humans, it’s unlikely that BACE1 inhibitors would totally halt the enzyme's production, Yan said.

Nonetheless, five BACE1 inhibitors are being tested in human subjects currently, Yan added.

“BACE1 inhibitors are still hopeful for AD patients if they have no unwanted side effects or can be tolerated for long-term use,” Yan said.

Yan added researchers are currently in phase II and, in some cases, phase III clinical trials for the various compounds.

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How to talk to kids and teens about the deadly school shooting in Florida

WPLG(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- In the wake of today's deadly shooting at a Florida high school, many parents are left grappling with how to explain the horrific act of gun violence -- at a setting where most kids spend a majority of their days -- to their children and teens.

"For the majority of teenagers, school is a safe and supporting environment," Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center, told ABC News today.

"So when a shooting happens at a school, it undermines our sort of worldview about where I can be that is a safe place," she added.
Gurwitch, a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, broke down how parents can discuss the news with their children, and how to help them to feel safe in the aftermath of the harrowing headlines.

Parents should initiate a conversation

Gurwitch stressed that in situations like this, it is "extremely important" for parents and caregivers -- especially those with children in high school -- to "be willing to bring this topic up."

"We really want to want to wrap our arms around them and make them feel safe," she added. "But part of being a parent is willingness to discuss difficult topics."

"To believe that our children don’t know that these events occur is wishful thinking," Gurwitch said. "We live in an age where we can go online and see live feed of people leaving the school, of responders, it's updated every few moments."

"When kids come home, parents can start the conversation, say, 'There was a school shooting, this time in Florida, what did you hear about it?'" she said. "This may already be blowing up their social media, this may already be a conversation on the school bus."

Gurwitch suggests that if you are watching the news with your children, turn it off and talk about the events calmly in order to get an idea of what they know, where they are coming from, and what misconceptions they may have already heard.

It is also critical to reassure children that parents and adults at their school "are going to do everything we can to make you safe," Gurwitch added.

"Let them know that their school has plans in place to do everything to the best of their ability to make them safe," she said.

Tweak the conversation based on your child's age

Gurwitch emphasized that the conversation about the news should vary based on the age of your child.

"I use the analogy it is the same as having a conversation about where do babies come from, it is a very different conversation if I'm talking to a preschool or elementary school student than if I'm talking to a high school student," Gurwitch said.

When it comes to children preschool age and below, she added that parents should limit their media exposure.

"Preschoolers may not understand instant replays," she said. "So that loop of children running out of the school, if they don't know that that's a replay, they think that school has thousands and thousands of students."

For high school and older middle school age students, Gurwitch recommends addressing the incident directly, saying, "I want to talk to you about a school shooting that happened in Florida, tell me what you’ve heard about it."

For children younger than that, Gurwitch recommended initiating the conversation by saying, "There was a very sad thing that happened at a school in Florida today, it is very sad because people were hurt and people were killed, and I just want you to know about it if you hear kids talking about it at your school, and if you have any questions, you can talk to me."

Regardless of your child's age, Gurwitch stressed that parents should "most importantly show a willingness to answer questions," and listen to their children's concerns.

"Younger children may ask the same question over and over again," she added. "That is how they process information."

How to respond if your child says they don't feel safe going back to school

If your child or teen says they do not feel safe going back to school, Gurwitch emphasized that it is important not to invalidate their feelings, but to talk about them.

"Say, 'Tell me what it is that you're worried about? What it is that you don’t feel safe about?'" she said. "Validate why your child may not feel safe, if we just discount it with a throwaway, 'You are going to be fine,' we shut down the conversation."

Gurwitch added that you can reassure your child that "nowadays schools do have safety plans, and schools do practice shooting drills."

"Some people are concerned about practicing these drills, but it's like fire drills, it doesn't make kids more scared that fires are going to break out, it makes students feel more secure that they have a plan in place," she said.

"Be patient and supportive as children are trying to make sense of how something so horrific can happen at a setting where I go to be with friends, to learn," she added.

Check back in

"I think that is really important to check back in tomorrow, to check back in the next day, to find out what are your friends talking about related to this school shooting," Gurwitch said. "It is very important to get an understanding of how children are coping."

"When there is a tragedy ... a one-and-done conversation is not sufficient," she added. "Let your child or teenager know that 'I really do care about you and I am open to having this discussion.'"

If you notice your child or teen is distressed for a longer period of time, and Gurwitch added this may show up in "problems with sleep, problems with attention and focus, and increased irritability," she recommends that parents reach out to their school guidance counselor, a local psychological association or even their pediatrician for further help.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


In light of Lena Dunham's decision to get a hysterectomy

iStock/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- What is Endometriosis?

The uterus is a small, hollow pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis. The medical term for the membrane that lines the inside of the uterus is endometrium.

So, what is endometriosis?

A normal endometrial tissue is inside the uterus. But sometimes a small amount of endometrial tissue can end up in the ovaries, bowel, diaphragm, or bladder. The endometrial tissue can then break down and “bleed” into places that it doesn’t belong -- and that can cause symptoms.

There is no one cause of this condition, but some things are linked to a higher risk: prolonged exposure to estrogen, heavy menstrual bleeding and high consumption of trans unsaturated fat.

How harmful is endometriosis?

It is a nonmalignant (non-cancerous) medical condition. But it does have serious effects; it has been reported in up to 50 percent of women with infertility, and it can be painful.

Some studies suggest that endometriosis affects anywhere from 1-7 percent of women. It is hard to say exactly how many women have the condition because about one-third have no symptoms, and may never know they have it.

For the other two-thirds, some signs and symptoms include:

-- Heavy or irregular bleeding
-- Pain in the lower part of the belly
-- Pain with sexual activity or exercise
-- Pain with bowel movements, often with cycles of diarrhea and constipation
-- Bloating, nausea, and vomiting
-- Pain with urination or urinary frequency
Women should talk to their doctor -- they may be able to make a diagnosis based on a medical history and a clinical examination. But the only way to know for sure if it’s endometriosis is for a surgeon to look for endometriosis tissue outside the uterus.

How is endometriosis treated?

The treatment for endometriosis is individualized and depends on symptoms. Treatment is also based on whether or not you are trying to get pregnant.

Some treatment options include pain medications, medications commonly used for birth control, or different types of surgeries including laparoscopy or hysterectomy. In a hysterectomy, a woman’s uterus is removed. This is recommended if other treatment options fail (this can stop heavy bleeding and severe pain).

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Several 'unexplained injuries' to babies reported at Wisconsin hospital's newborn ICU: Police

UnityPoint Health-Meriter/Facebook(MADISON, Wis.) -- Several "unexplained injuries" to babies at a Wisconsin hospital's newborn intensive care unit are under investigation by the local police, according to authorities.

Authorities at Meriter Hospital in Madison reached out to the Madison police on Friday and detectives with the department's special victims unit have been investigating since then, police said.

No arrests have been made, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain told ABC News today, but one employee has been suspended, hospital spokeswoman Leah Huibregtse told ABC News, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

The hospital has implemented extra monitoring and security measures and is conducting an internal review, Huibregtse said in a statement.

"Nurturing and protecting the health of our patients is our highest priority, so we were heartbroken to recently learn of patient safety concerns regarding some of our youngest patients," the hospital statement said. "Our care team is keenly focused on supporting our patients and their families. Our determination to provide the best and safest care could not be stronger.

"We will continue to cooperate with all appropriate agencies and will do all we can to bring about a swift and appropriate resolution," the statement said, adding, "We are also updating the families involved in this matter."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Weight loss can be 'contagious' between partners

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Skipping the chocolate this Valentine's Day could have a "ripple effect" on your partner's weight loss, according to a new study.

The study, published this month in the research journal Obesity, found that when one partner commits to losing weight, the other partner is likely to lose weight too.

The six-month clinical trial looked at 130 couples in which one spouse was following Weight Watchers. The other spouse was given basic information on healthy eating but was not formally dieting, according to the study's lead researcher, a professor of behavioral psychology at the University of Connecticut.

The study, funded by Weight Watchers, found nearly one-third of the weight-loss program participants' spouses also had successful weight loss within six months, proving what the lead researcher called a "ripple effect."

The study also found the majority of partners leading the weight-loss charge were women.

Megan Murphy and her partner, Kevin Minnick, are marking this Valentine’s Day having lost a combined 120 pounds after Murphy joined Weight Watchers in 2016.

Minnick, 28, became inspired by Murphy, who has since lost more than 30 pounds, and began to focus on his own weight loss. He joined Weight Watchers a few months after Murphy, 29, and has lost 89 pounds.

Murphy said she was able to lose even more weight, after struggling with it for several years, when Minnick became motivated to do the same.

"Having this person there who supports me in all other aspects of my life walking this path with me made it sustainable," Murphy said.

How to create a 'ripple effect' in your relationship

The opposite of the "ripple effect" for couples can also be true, Mandy Enright, a New Jersey-based registered dietitian who specializes in helping couples with nutrition, told ABC News.

"I’ve had couples where one partner is ready to make a change and the other partner continues to buy items the other person doesn’t want in the house," Enright said. "The partner is continuing to be an instigator rather than a support toward their goals."

There are five simple steps couples can take to get on the same page when it comes to weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle, according to Ensign and Maya Feller, a New York-based registered dietitian.

1. Start with a plan.

Establishing a plan at the start of a couple's journey can "reduce power struggles" later, Feller said.

She described the process of changing eating and exercise habits as "partner work" and said couples can serve as each other's "peer counselors."

"There should be really clear expectations of how they're going to support each other," Feller said, citing examples of defining when grocery shopping will happen and who is going to prepare meals.

2. Communication is key.

"You can’t have just one person doing it and the other person not playing a role," Enright said.

She recommends using both written and verbal communication to make sure each partner knows, for example, the meals that are planned. Enright's clients have found success displaying their weekly meal plan on a board in the kitchen and using apps that allow both partners to remotely contribute to a grocery list, she said.

Communication also comes into play when telling your partner your motivation behind the changes and old habits they may be continuing that are no longer helpful, the two dieticians said.

Feller recalled an experience with a client who was advised not to eat a certain baked good because of high cholesterol, but the person's partner had been stopping at a bakery for decades and bringing the item home.

"We had to communicate to say, 'I know you’re stopping to get this because it’s out of love, but let’s understand that when she eats this, it’s unhealthy for her,'" Feller recalled saying.

3. Know and share your motivation.

Focusing on weight loss to just satisfy your partner will likely not help you achieve success on your own, Feller said.

"You have to be really clear about why you’re doing this," she said. "You want to make the choice, ultimately, for yourself."

"Once you have come to terms with the fact that this is really about transforming yourself for you," Feller said, "then you can look outside yourself for the places you can come together."

Feller said she has also found in her own practice that clients find success when they focus on goals together -- like traveling or completing a race -- rather than the numbers on a scale.

"Sometimes couples will say, "I want to live longer with this woman,' or, 'I want to be retired at 70 and go on vacation and hike with you,'" Feller said. "That’s a beautiful way to look at it, from my perspective."

4. Be open to couples counseling.

A partner who is unwilling, or unable, to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle could be a sign of a bigger issue for the partnership or marriage, Feller said.

"If there’s a competitive or negative component within the relationship around food, I usually tell them maybe they want to seek couples therapy," she said. "That can’t be worked on from a nutrition perspective."

Partners sometimes see the other's efforts to develop healthier habits as self-centered behavior -- and have a negative reaction.

"They may feel something, or interpret their partner’s transformation or engagement in positive self-care as a commentary of what they’re not able to do," she said.

5. Find ways to eat and exercise together.

Murphy and Minnick start every day by having breakfast and coffee together, even if it means waking up at 4:30 a.m. to do so because of their schedules. They also exercise together and find new activities to try in their hometown of Louisville.

"We've made it really important to spend time together," Murphy said. "A typical weekend now is we wake up and work out together."

Enright also advises couples to eat meals at a table together without phones or television as distractions, saying it should be "bonding time."

She also recommends that couples try to follow the same weight-loss approach so one partner is not following, for example, the Keto diet, which is high in fat, while the other partner is following a low-fat diet.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'High Holiday' on 4-20 associated with increase in fatal car crashes 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though the counterculture “High Holiday” on April 20 at 4:20 pm is a play on the “420” police code for marijuana, new analysis found it might have some very serious effects.

A research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a 12 percent relative increase in fatal crashes on April 20.

"Twelve percent may not sound like much, but if you consider that a small proportion of Americans celebrate 4/20," the study's author Dr. John Staples said, "it suggests that participation in 4/20 is fairly risky."

He described the motivation for the research.

“I’m a doctor and I work at a hospital near where a 4/20 festival is held,” the clinical assistant professor of medicine at University of British Columbia said. “Every year, we brace ourselves for a potential surge of patient volume related to the festival. This was a great natural experiment for which we could look at the effects of the festival.”

Researchers are also looking at the effects of marijuana, as several states are considering marijuana legalization in 2018 and 61 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, according to the Pew Research Center.

Drivers appear to be using marijuana more, as well, according to the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers. The survey showed that THC, a psychoactive compound in cannabis, was elevated by 46.5 percent in blood and fluid levels between reports in 2007 and reports in 2013-14.

Holidays are often associated with higher rates of car crashes. A 2003 research letter to the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 27 Super Bowls and found a 41 percent relative increase in fatal crashes after the telecast. A 1991 CDC report showed a 64 percent relative increase in fatal crashes on New Year’s Day, in a review of 10 years of research.

And the 4/20 holiday is specifically connected to marijuana use. For either reason, experts say it may be wise to drive more carefully on April 20, especially for younger drivers.

"When we focused on a subgroup of drivers younger than 21 years old, they had a 38 percent higher risk on April 20," the study authors said. "This maps onto what we know of younger drivers being more vulnerable because of less experience and more risk taking behavior.”

The study looked at the connection between fatal crashes and the holiday 4/20, which is a modern invention that many say was popularized in a High Times article published in 1991.

Starting in 1992, researchers looked at 25 years of data from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They focused on fatal crashes where at least one person died within 30 days of the crash. Then, they compared the time between 4:20p and 11:59p on April 20 of each year to “control days” one week earlier and one week later.

What they found was the 12 percent increase in fatal crashes during the time period.

However, the research does have some limitations. The results do not prove that cannabis is the culprit behind the bump in fatal crashes on April 20.

Staples suggests several other possibilities -- participants may be ingesting other drugs or failing to wear their seatbelts, police may be emphasizing drug enforcement over traffic enforcement, and the festival could interrupt usual traffic flows, among other possibilities.

While there is a strong relationship between blood alcohol levels and impairment, the same may not be true for most psychoactive drugs, cautioned authors of the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey.

“At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment,” the authors said.

This new study provides some insight into the potential hazards of marijuana use on the 4/20 holiday for drivers, but the study authors say any drug use while driving is a concern.

“My main message to the public is that impairment with alcohol or other drugs increases the risk of crash. My main piece of advice is, ‘Don’t drive high,’” Staples said. “4/20 event organizers [need to offer] safer transportation as part of the festival plan in order to help attendees to get home alive. Doctors need to talk to talk to patients about impaired driving in clinical conversations. We need better traffic policies to eliminate impaired driving and reduce death and injuries.”

This article is written by Christy Duan MD for ABC News.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


College student organizes 25,000 sock donation to homeless shelters

Courtesy Triple S Day(BOSTON) -- More than 200 college students walked the streets of Boston to distribute 25,000 pairs of socks to the city’s homeless.

The day of service was the brainchild of Charlotte Kim, a sophomore at Harvard University.

Kim, 20, interned in New York City last summer for Bombas, a sock company that donates one pair of socks for every pair that is purchased.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of times college students don’t have a lot of exposure to the homeless population and a lot of college students feel they’re too busy to commit to volunteering,” Kim told ABC News. “I had the idea of bringing Bombas’ spirit to Boston.”

Socks are the most requested item at homeless shelters, according to Bombas’ research. The company agreed to donate 25,000 pairs of socks to Kim’s day of service.

"We started Bombas after learning that socks are the No. 1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters, with a mission of donating a pair of socks for every pair we sell," Dave Heath, Bombas' co-founder and CEO, told ABC News in a statement. "Homelessness remains an important cause to support within every community and we are thrilled that our mission has inspired some of Boston’s most caring students to join forces and make an impact.”

The need for socks for homeless people stems from the important role socks play in good health, experts say.

"Socks are definitely something that people who are living outdoors and on the streets are in desperate need of," said Megan Hastings, director for the National Coalition for the Homeless. "The reason behind this is you can imagine that somebody who doesn’t have a permanent home isn't doing laundry and isn’t changing their socks every day."

She continued, "Our feet are one of the things that are most susceptible to illness and spreading illness to the rest of our bodies. When you’re walking around in wet socks or ones with holes in them, it’s something that I think we all take for granted that is an absolute necessity."

With the Bombas donation in hand, Kim and six fellow college students recruited more than 200 students from nine universities throughout the Boston area, including Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, MIT, Wellesley and Tufts.

On Saturday, the students gathered at a charity pop-up in Boston, where they could learn about volunteering opportunities.

From there, the student volunteers set out in groups to visit two dozen homeless shelters throughout Boston and hand-deliver the socks.

The students not only distributed the free socks but also spent the day helping the shelters make repairs, organize donations and clean.

“It was a different event because it wasn’t just sending over socks, but directly interacting with the residents and showing them that people do care about them,” said Kim, who hopes to turn it into an annual event. “The volunteers said handing the socks to residents were the most moving experiences, to see their reactions.”

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Husband continues sweet Valentine's Day tradition for wife with dementia after nearly 40 years

KOAT(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- Albuquerque resident Donna Kramer, 74, may have been diagnosed with dementia nearly four years ago, but that doesn't mean she's forgotten the sacred Valentine's tradition that began months before she married her husband, 77-year-old Ron Kramer, in 1979.

Ron has been recreating the couple's first Valentine's Day together for nearly 40 years, and he continues to do so now that Donna is residing in an assisted living facility.

The couple's love story began on Jan. 2, 1979, when Donna was going through a divorce and Ron -- then an insurance salesman for Prudential and five years divorced -- knocked on her door, Ron told ABC News.

Donna had just flown back from visiting family in Washington, D.C., and answered the door in a house robe and "Big Bird" slippers, Ron said.

"I was really sexy!" Donna told ABC Albuquerque affiliate KOAT.

The unusual outfit must have worked because a few days later, Ron went back to Donna's home and invited her and her daughter to the Ice Capades, he said.

It was still January when Ron asked Donna what kind of candy she would like for Valentine's Day, and from there, the tradition was born.

Donna informed Ron of her love for dark chocolate cremes from Buffet's Candies, a gourmet candy shop serving the Albuquerque area since the 1950s. When he got there, the clerk told him that if he brought the box back with him the next year, they would only charge him for the candy.

The pair wed less than five months after their fateful encounter, on May 8, 1979.

After that, every year on Feb. 1, Donna would ask Ron, "Do you have my chocolates yet?"

Ron would then retrieve the box from its hiding spot in the back of his closet, next to his sweaters, and head to Buffet's.

Donna limits herself to one chocolate indulgence per day, which means the chocolates usually last until May, Ron said. Once they're gone, the tin goes back into the closet until the next Valentine's season.

Donna was diagnosed with dementia in 2014 and moved to a nursing home the following year, Ron said, describing that day as "the saddest" of his life. Even before the diagnosis, Donna had "been through an awful lot," health-wise, which included a stroke due to an aneurysm and two battles with breast cancer.

Ron has been with Donna through it all and will never leave her side, he said.

"I made a commitment, and the commitment's gonna be for the rest of our lives," he said. "I've been with her. I'll never leave her."

Ron visits Donna every day at the assisted living facility, and he's never empty-handed. Every day, he brings her a small Coca-Cola, a piece of gum and a piece of fruit -- sometimes strawberries, sometimes raspberries and on Mondays, pineapple.

Since she moved there in August 2015, he's only missed three days -- when he went to visit his 96-year-old aunt in Nebraska last year.

Donna's long-term memory is still sharp, Ron said. She remembers almost everything, including the 25 cruises and trips they took over their married life, he said. Donna continues to struggle more and more with her short-term memory and will often ask him the same question 10 times, including what's on television during their nightly after-supper phone call.

Ron knows the condition will get "progressively worse" and said he has been going to support groups to help him prepare for the inevitable.

"She's going to forget who I am," he told KOAT. "So enjoy every minute you can have with them while they still remember you."

Ron said that his "biggest fear" is that something will happen to him because it is his "responsibility" to care for his wife.

On Saturday, Ron brought Donna her Valentine's box of chocolates for the 39th time. While it cost Ron $13 for the box and candy in 1979, this time around it cost a whopping $41. But he doesn't mind the premium price, he said.

"It's awful good candy," he said. "It's worth every dime of it."

Donna told KOAT that she knows she's lucky to have her husband.

"That's why I'm going to keep him. He's a keeper," she said. "I married him years ago, and I love him as much today as I did then."

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