Health Scan: Beware of Internet addiction disorder!

Also, stem cells against chronic diseases and the HRT, breast cancer connection.

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December 30, 2006 20:14
3 minute read.
Health Scan: Beware of Internet addiction disorder!

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Obsessive use of the Internet can lead to addiction to drugs and alcohol, says Dr. Michael Rubinstein, a psychiatrist who treats addictions. Writing in the latest edition of Hacol Al Ha'alcohol, the newsletter of the Welfare Ministry's Unit for Alcohol and Gambling Addictions, Rubinstein said the American Psychiatric Association has recognized the problem and given it a name, Internet Addiction Disorder. The condition is very close to pathological gambling, he said, and includes other behaviors during which victims lose control over their urges. Rubinstein writes that he recently treated four Israeli university students who were referred to him by their worried parents. They spent as much as 10 hours a day surfing the Internet and checking their e-mail every few minutes. This behavior led to a decline in their academic work, nervousness, sleep disturbances and insolence when speaking with their family members. The students all denied they had a problem, saying they were in "full control" of their computer use. But Rubinstein found they all invested a great deal of energy in trying to hide their Internet addiction and obsessive e-mail use. The syndrome can lead to porn Web surfing, an urge to have virtual encounters with strangers, obsessive gambling, shopping or participation in public auctions, obsessive online gaming and Google searches. A University of Pittsburgh researcher, Dr. Kimberley Young, has prepared a nine-item questionnaire to detect Internet obsessions; if five answers are positive, the person is considered a sufferer. STEM CELLS AGAINST CHRONIC DISEASES Within a generation, medical science should be able to cure diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and diabetes with stem cell therapy, predicts Prof. Benny Reubinoff, director of human stem cell research at Hadassah University Medical Center. To bring this target closer, the medical center has launched a fundraising campaign to promote stem cell research at Hadassah. It was announced at a recent fundraising dinner in Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel in honor of Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef. "It's not today and it may not be tomorrow," Mor-Yosef told several hundred contributors at the dinner, "but human embryonic stem cells are a powerful tool" as they can be coaxed into producing endless supplies of any kind of cell in the body. A gynecologist by training, Mor-Yosef said Hadassah is a world leader in the field, and maintained numerous centers of excellence to benefit mankind beyond the greater Jerusalem area and Israel. Dr. Yair Birnbaum, director-general of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, joked that he risked dismissal by preparing a surprise PowerPoint presentation hailing Mor-Yosef and comparing him to King Solomon - except for the latter's hundreds of wives. Mor-Yosef, well known for avoiding celebrity, was forced into the limelight when he had to provide the world press with frequent reports on the health of Ariel Sharon after the then-prime minister was hospitalized at Hadassah for his strokes. Less HRT USE means LESS BREAST CANCER The Israel Cancer Association applauded the news that the incidence of breast cancer has been found in the US to drop significantly - by 15 percent - after decades of rising, apparently because many menopausal women have stopped taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and other institutions reported that 14,000 fewer American women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 than in the year before. HRT was widely used to treat menopausal symptoms, and was promoted for decades by the pharmaceutical industry as an alleged anti-ageing drug. Some doctors had also maintained that it prevented or minimized the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's and other chronic disorders, but subsequent research found that none of these claims is true. CLARIFICATION: The stent illustration used for last week's Health Scan was of a Dacron-covered stent for treating aortal aneurysm and not for a clogged coronary artery.

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