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Brain-altering cannabis, iPad neck and Chinese medicines on the NHS

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Wednesday 16 April.

Several of this morning’s papers report on new research suggesting that even casual use of cannabis damages the brain permanently. The Daily Telegraph quotes experts as saying that cannabis is far from being a ‘safe’ drug and no one under the age of 30 should ever use it.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in America carried out detailed 3D scans on the brains of 20 students who used cannabis casually and were not addicted and compared them with 20 of those who had never used it. The Daily Mail says the scientists found major differences in two brain areas, the nucleus accumbens and amygdala. Both are linked to emotions and motivation, and also associated with addiction.

In each case changes were seen that were directly related to how much cannabis was smoked.

The Mail quotes Professor Hans Breiter, one of the researchers from Northwestern University as saying: ‘This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use  is not associated with bad consequences.’

The Mail also covers research by the British Chiropractic Association suggesting four in ten teenagers have suffered back or neck pain from spending too much time slouched in front of the TV or a computer screen. A study revealed that more than one in seven parents said their son or daughter’s problem was a result of using a laptop, tablet or computer.

The survey of more than 460 parents of 11- to 16-year-olds also found that 23 per cent of teens are spending between two and four hours a day watching TV, while a quarter spend the same amount of time on a laptop, tablet or computer. Based on a two hour period, young people spend more time on games consoles (33 per cent) than doing an activity such as riding a bicycle (12 per cent), the Mail says.

When asked how much time their teenager spends on their bicycle, more than one in five parents (21 per cent) admitted that their child doesn’t even have a bike.

Meanwhile the Independent claims that the NHS has fewer hospital beds per person than any country in the Western world and is ‘stretched to breaking point’.

The paper quotes a new study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which says the UK now has the second lowest number of hospital beds per capita compared to 23 European countries.

Back at the Telegraph, the lead health story is that Chinese medicine could be available on the NHS if there is enough evidence to prove that it would benefit patients. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has indicated that the health service could look at integrating traditional Chinese medicines with Western medical techniques.

Mr Hunt said his frequent travels to China - his wife’s home country - had taught him that it is important to ‘follow the scientific evidence’ concerning Chinese medicine. He said that taxpayers’ money should never be spent on the traditional techniques if there was not ‘good evidence’ that they would be beneficial. He made the comments in the House of Commons on Tuesday in answer to a question from the Conservative MP David Tredinnick.

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