When spitting is good and sharing is bad

A nice contrast of articles in the Boston Globe this morning:

First, the good news. Saliva is replacing blood for an increasing number of diagnostic tests. Technology for detecting small quantities of genetic material is improving at a rapid rate, which means that many tests that used to require a blood draw can now be done with saliva. It’s cheaper and less painful to spit than to drain a vein, which will make it feasible to do more frequent tests for physiological changes and will encourage the needle shy to get the tests they now avoid. See Saliva may replace blood as test for disease.

Next, the bad news. It turns out many people are sharing their prescription drugs with others. Why is this occurring? The elderly and the poor do so to reduce costs, teenagers do it for fun, and people in general are overconfident of their ability to self-medicate. It can be a dangerous practice: efficacy is reduced for those sharing their pills and drugs may be given to people who should avoid them (e.g., Accutane to a girl who make get pregnant).

From Many who share drugs don’t know the dangers:

When it comes to prescription medications, many people embrace the adage to share and share alike. Armed with good intentions and largely unaware of the dangers, they gladly hand over leftover antibiotics, asthma inhalers, antidepressants, insulin and pain pills. After all, if the drugs worked for them, then perhaps they’ll help similarly suffering family members, friends or colleagues. And, considering the drugs’ expense, throwing away excess, out-of-date or ineffective pills can seem like a waste.

May 31, 2005

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