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Driving after drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, even in low amounts, is very dangerous, according to new research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. The combination minimizes the ability to navigate a straight path in the middle of a lane and observe speed limits, says Prof. David Shinar, head of the university's engineering lab in charge of studying human factors in road accidents, with Dr. Adi Ronen.
The researchers, who conducted their study for the Israel Anti-Drugs Authority, said that being under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is one of the main causes of road accidents. The problem is serious even in those who use the drugs in small doses. The active substance in marijuana combines with alcohol to have this magnified effect.
The study included 12 social users of marijuana (seven men and five women aged 24 to 29) who took part in five sessions. A control group smoked cigarettes and drank juice without alcohol. Others drank alcohol and smoked tobacco, while the study group smoked marijuana and drank alcohol. They were tested cognitively 24 hours later.
The volunteer subjects were asked to drive a car using a computerized simulator with straight and crooked sections that were level and descended and under foggy conditions. Before and after driving, they were asked to solve two-digit addition and subtraction problems. Even a low dose of THC plus alcohol affected their driving abilities and math skills.
The researchers noted that most people who combine alcohol and "pot" do so at night, making driving even more dangerous. Further research will compare the effects of this "cocktail" on women and men.
POST-NATAL DEPRESSION HITS 1 IN 10
Almost one in 10 women suffers from post-natal depression requiring treatment, while 75% of new mothers have unusual symptoms such as anger, sleep problems, hunger and hot flashes. The amount of the female hormone progesterone, which is found in the placenta and calms pregnant women, declines after birth, and this decline is responsible for these symptoms, according to a study of 120 women by Esther Gueta of the University of Derby-Israel branch. The decline in progesterone as well as great tiredness from feeding and taking care of the baby combine to cause depression in some women. According to Dr. Yisrael Yaffe, an expert in hormone treatment, taking hormone pills after delivery can help susceptible women avoid depression. Only a fifth of the women who suffered from depression after delivery took medication to relieve it, according to Gueta, who interviewed the mothers. Nearly 30% said they slept more than usual after the delivery, 26% lost control due to anger, 12% said they were apathetic, and just four said they felt so bad that they were unable to take care of their babies.
The majority of women felt either that post-natal depression was "natural" or "nothing to be ashamed of."
RELIEF FOR PREMIES
The serious shortage of neonatal intensive-care hospital beds has been relieved somewhat by the opening of a NIS 3 million unit at the Ma'ayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak. On the day the facility opened, the obstetrics department marked the birth of its 100,000 infant since the hospital opened in 1990. The voluntary hospital began in the mostly haredi city solely as an obstetrics facility, but gradually expanded to include other departments.
The previous facility had only eight beds for premature babies; the new one adds 16. When premies are able to breathe on their own, they can be moved to a sub-department that offers a lower degree of intensive care. Some 500 premies weighing an average of 1 kilo to 1.2 kilos are born there every year. It costs a hospital NIS 7,000 to treat a normal baby until he or she is discharged, while the cost of treating a premature baby averages NIS 110,000 (with National Insurance Institute subsidies). The equipment in the new unit is advanced with resuscitation, monitoring, and open and closed incubators.
The neonatal nurses say every discharge of a premie is a happy event. Recently, they sent home twin girls who were with them for two months after being born to a couple that had undergone fertility treatment for years. At the twins' discharge, there wasn't a dry eye in the place.