The Importance of Washing New Clothes Before Wearing Them

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of bringing home a new shirt or pair of pants from the store and wearing them, sans washing. It’s very common, maybe even typical, as many fabrics look pristine when they’re fresh off the rack.

Buying New Clothes

Story at-a-glance

  • New clothing items may contain respiratory secretions, skin flora, fecal flora, yeast and vaginal organisms
  • Although it’s not likely to become sick from trying on new clothing, it is possible; lice and scabies may also be transmitted
  • New clothing may also contain chemicals used during the manufacturing process
  • Wash new clothing at least once, and maybe even twice, before wearing

You probably assume they’re clean or at least relatively so, but tests conducted by Philip Tierno, Ph.D. director of Microbiology and Immunology at New York University, at the behest of Good Morning America, uncovered some disturbing compounds lurking on clothing.

And this is only one reason to consider washing before wearing. Many clothing items are also contaminated with chemicals and dyes that may lead to irritation or other health issues.

Even insects (like lice) could potentially be transmitted on new clothes. If you’re currently not a washer-before-wearing type, you may change your mind by the end of this article.

Feces, Respiratory Secretions, Vaginal Organisms and More

Tierno tested pants, blouses, underwear, jackets and other clothing items purchased from chain clothing stores (including both high-end and low-end options). The tests revealed a number of unsavory compounds lurking on the “new” clothes, including:1

  • Respiratory secretions
  • Skin flora
  • Fecal flora
  • Yeast

Perhaps not surprisingly, swimsuits, underwear and other intimate items were the most heavily contaminated. Tierno told ABC News:2

Some garments were grossly contaminated with many organisms … indicating that either many people tried it or … someone tried it on with heavy contamination …

In a sense, you are touching somebody’s arm pit or groin. So you want to be protected that’s all … You may not come down with anything and, most cases you don’t, but it’s potentially possible.”

What types of illnesses could you potentially get from trying on contaminated clothes? Organisms that cause hepatitis A, traveler’s diarrhea, MRSA, salmonella, norovirus, yeast infections and streptococcus are all fair game when it comes to clothing items tried on by multiple people.

Even lice and scabies could potentially be transmitted by trying on clothes. Is it likely? No. Possible? Yes, particularly if your immune system is not functioning up to par. Tierno told The Huffington Post:3

“The good thing is that most people have a very robust immune system, so they can usually fight off the small number of organisms they may get on their body … The fact that you come into contact with one doesn’t mean you’re going to get sick.”

Chemical Contaminants: Another Reason to Wash New Clothes

Depending on what country your new clothes were manufactured in, they may contain multiple chemicals of concern. Among them are azo-aniline dyes, which may cause skin reactions ranging from mild to severe.

If you’re sensitive, such dyes may leave your skin red, itchy and dry, especially where the fabric rubs on your skin, such as at your waist, neck, armpits and thighs. The irritants can be mostly washed out, but it might take multiple washings to do so.

Formaldehyde resins are also used in clothing to cut down on wrinkling and mildew. Not only is formaldehyde a known carcinogen, but the resins have been linked to eczema and may cause your skin to become flaky or erupt in a rash.4

Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), meanwhile, is a toxic endocrine-disrupting surfactant used to manufacture clothing.

You certainly don’t want to be exposed to NPE if you can help it, but when consumers wash their clothes, NPEs are released into local water supplies where wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove them.

When NPEs enter the environment, they break down into nonylphenol (NP), a toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical that accumulates in sediments and builds up in fish and wildlife.

Chemicals May Lurk in Your Clothing Even After Washing

Unfortunately, washing won’t remove all the chemicals in your clothing. For instance, the antimicrobial triclosan is sometimes added to fabrics, including clothing. Research has shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation and may interfere with fetal development.

Animal studies have also raised concerns about its ability to affect fertility, and bacteria exposed to triclosan may also become resistant to antibiotics. Even an increased cancer risk has been suggested.

Stain-proof clothing, meanwhile, is a common source of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which are toxic to humans and the environment. You’ll most often hear about PFCs in relation to non-stick cookware, but they’re also common in fabrics.

Unless the clothing you buy is organic, it also is likely made from genetically engineered (GE) cotton that is heavily treated with pesticides and other chemicals during production. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) explained:5

The chemicals used in cotton production don’t end with cultivation. As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier.

Producing a textile from the plants involves more chemicals in the process of bleaching, sizing, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, mothproofing, and static- and wrinkle-reduction.

Some of these chemicals are applied with heat, thus bonding them to the cotton fibers. Several washings are done throughout the process, but some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product.

Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines.

Some imported clothes are now impregnated with long-lasting disinfectants which are very hard to remove, and whose smell gives them away. These and the other chemical residues affect people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.

Also, people have developed allergic reactions, such as hives, to formaldehyde through skin contact with solutions on durable-press clothing containing formaldehyde.”

Conventionally Grown GE Cotton Is the ‘World’s Dirtiest Crop’

You might be surprised to learn that cotton is considered the world’s dirtiest crop due to the cotton industry’s heavy use of hazardous herbicides and insecticides, including some of the most hazardous insecticides on the market. According to the Organic Trade Association:6

Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop.

Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production.

All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous.

Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.”

As you might suspect, this is hazardous on multiple levels — for the farmers working with these chemicals, the people living nearby, the consumers buying the cotton and virtually everyone else, who will eventually be impacted by this widespread environmental pollution.

This is one reason why I strongly encourage you to choose organic cotton clothing whenever possible — it will not be genetically engineered and subject to this onslaught of toxic exposures.

Top Tips for Safer Clothing

Looking for clothing made from organic cotton is an excellent start to finding safe, non-toxic clothing (for you and the environment). You can also look for the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 label, which is indicative that it has been tested by an independent laboratory and found to be free of harmful levels of more than 100 substances, including:

  • Azo dyes
  • Phthalates
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Allergenic dyes

Finally, many experts do recommend washing new clothes when you bring them home from the store, maybe even twice. If the article of clothing cannot be machine washed, consider running it through a cycle in a hot dryer before wearing it.

You may also want to keep on some clothes while trying on new clothing at a store (at least leave on your undergarments, and then wash those too when you get home). Washing your hands after shopping is also a good idea, as you’ve been handling clothing that could have any number of chemicals and other contaminants on them.

Your Brain on LSD: Why Acid Trips Last So Long and Make Everything Seem So Meaningful.

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While LSD has been around since 1938, when it was synthesized by the Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman, how exactly it works has continued to be a mystery. As LSD research has picked up, two new studies provide insight on what happens to the brain on LSD, the common name for Lysergic acid diethylamide. One group of scientists figured out the structural changes LSD makes in the brain while the other looks at how LSD makes people create meaning.

Research published in Cell zeroed in at what LSD looks like when attached to a brain receptor.

The team led by Bryan L. Roth, MD, PhD from the UNC School of Medicine used x-ray crystallography to “freeze” and capture images of LSD attached to a serotonin receptor (a protein that senses serotonin, a chemical messenger). The researchers found that the LSD molecule is essentially locked on to that part of the brain as the receptor folds over it like a lid. This explains why the effects of an LSD trip last so long, lingering for 12 hours or more even if LSD molecules are known to clear from the blood in a few hours.

“We think this lid is likely why the effects of LSD can last so long,” said Roth, “LSD takes a long time to get onto the receptor, and then once it’s on, it doesn’t come off. And the reason is this lid.”

The answers his team was able to get clears up the question Roth held from his youth.

“When I was younger, and The Grateful Dead was still around, I would occasionally go to Grateful Dead concerts. A lot of people took LSD and similar drugs during concerts, and it would be interesting to be in the parking lot hearing people wondering when their LSD experience was going to end,” said Roth. “A lot of people who take the drug are not aware of just how long it lasts.”

LSD molecule

A molecule of LSD bound to a larger serotonin receptor. The ‘lid’ that keeps LSD bound so long is the orange bar running through the center. Credit: Lab of Bryan Roth, UNC School of Medicine

The trip ends when LSD molecules get off their receptors, while brain cells eventually pull the receptors into the cell, where they (along with the LSD) get degraded or recycled.

The scientists think their research will help in the development of new treatments, especially considering the recent popularity of LSD microdosing to combat depression or increase creativity.

Another study, this one published in Current Biology, looked at how LSD affects perception. They found specific neurochemicals and receptors in the brain responsible for “loosening” the boundaries of the self and creating a sense of meaning while on an LSD trip. What they were after is to understand why people on LSD paid so much attention to details or objects which normally would not elicit such a focus.

“Our results increase our understanding of how personal relevance attribution is enabled in the brain,” said Katrin Preller of the Zürich University Hospital for Psychiatry. “[We now know] which receptors, neurotransmitters, and brain regions are involved when we perceive our environment as meaningful and relevant.”

In particular, the researchers studied a group of people on LSD versus a group on placebos, having them rank the meaning of specific songs or musical compositions. It turned out that songs which previously didn’t mean much became very significant to the subjects on LSD. Doing this, while scanning the brains of the participants, allowed the scientists to identify the specific receptors involved in creating that meaningfulness.

“By combining functional brain imaging and detailed behavioral assessments using a specific experimental paradigm to investigate personal relevance or meaning of music pieces, we were able to elucidate the neurobiological correlates of personal relevance processing in the brain,” explained Preller. “We found that personal meaning attribution and its modulation by LSD is mediated by the 5-HT2A receptors and cortical midline structures that are also crucially involved in enabling the experience of a sense of self.”

Further studies of the identified 5-HT2A receptors may lead to understanding how “excessive stimulation” of these receptors can be responsible for the peculiar feelings and sensations of people on a psychedelic trip. The goal is to develop new treatments for psychiatric illnesses.

How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

system featured How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

The amount of time that weed stays in your system depends on the user and how frequently they smoke. There are other factors involved, too, such as how it is being tested. THC binds the longest to the hair follicle and to saliva for the least amount of time. 

THC has a cumulative effect in the body and includes other factors such as the metabolic rate. However, as a general rule of thumb, this is how long cannabis stays in the system.

THC in urine

system times How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

The most common way to test for THC is in the urine because it is the cheapest method and has a long detection period. However, the length of time will vary depending on the frequency of use because of the cumulative effect of THC.

  • Someone who has smoked for the first time can test positive for THC for up to 8 days in urine.
  • Someone who smokes frequently can test positive for THC for up to 15 days in urine.
  • Someone who smokes heavily can test positive for THC for up to 30 days in urine.
  • Some heavy marijuana smokers have been tested positive for up to 45-90 days in urine after stopping smoking cannabis.

As a guide, if you´re a heavy smoker, chances are THC will remain in your urine for up to a month after stopping. This is also the most likely way you’ll be tested for weed in your system.

THC in saliva

system saliva How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

THC lasts the shortest time in the saliva. This is the method most often used by road police in checking for drugged drivers. It starts to test positive about 1 hour after smoking and can remain positive in saliva for up to 12 hours.

THC in hair

system hair How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

In the case of hair follicles, THC binds for the longest period of time. A single use of cannabis can test positive in the hair for up to 7 days, and most hair follicle tests are for a 90 day period. However, it is not always certain that cannabis actually binds to the hair follicle, so this method is hardly ever used.

THC in blood

system blood How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

THC is hardly ever measured from the blood because the metabolite of THC doesn´t bind to the blood for very long. As a result, testing cannabis in the blood only detects recent use.

How to pass a urine test

system urine test How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System?

Unfortunately, there´s no certain way to pass a urine test if you´re a heavy smoker. There are products that can be purchased solely for the purpose of cleansing urine, but their reliability is questionable.

The most scientific way to pass a urine test is to drink a lot of cranberry juice or a lot of fluids. Adding more water to the system will naturally dilute whatever is in your urine.

But the surest way to pass a urine test is to stick safely and generously to the time guidelines!

How long other chemicals stay in the system

While on the topic, it´s interesting to note how long other chemicals remain in the system after use.

  • Heroin can be detected in blood and saliva for up to 12 hours, and in urine for up to three days.
  • Amphetamines can be detected in blood and saliva for 12 hours after use and in the urine for 1-2 days after use.
  • A standard drink of alcohol can be detected in the body for only about 5 hours after use (the more that is consumed, the longer the it takes to metabolize, but is the shortest detection time of them all).


So many employers these days are testing their employees for drugs. However, it is easier to get away with having a problem with amphetamines than it is to be a cannabis smoker. Given the technology that is available, shouldn’t there be some leniency towards frequency of use with cannabis? It is legal now, after all. In fact, after legalization, the risk to the workforce if drug testing is not altered is extreme. It could result in a giant loss for the workforce in the USA.

Cannabis stays in the system longer than almost all other chemicals in the body because of it´s cumulative effect. However, everyone knows that you´re not necessarily high 12 hours after use. The best advice to smokers out there afraid of the ever prevalent urine test, stick to jobs that don´t require it!

Here’s how long various drugs stay in your body.

Long after the initial effects of a drug wear away, its byproducts can linger in our blood, urine, and hair. And contrary to what many advertised drug tests might promise, not all substances leave their chemical signature in the body for the same amount of time.

How long drugs stay in your body

Astronomers aren’t sure if TRAPPIST-1’s planets are habitable after all.

But there’s still some hope!

In what is becoming a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, it seems that at least a couple – if not all – of the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system could have already been stripped of their atmosphere by the star’s radiation, making it unlikely that liquid water could flow on their surfaces after all.

But hold onto your tears; researchers studying TRAPPIST-1’s spectral emissions have found evidence that the star might just be young enough to not have had time to blow away their atmospheres quite yet, meaning we can still dream of life on those far distant worlds a little longer.

 Astronomers from the University of Geneva Observatory in Switzerland have compared the two types of radiation being emitted from the ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, and concluded the star doesn’t seem to be “extremely old”,

That brings into question just how much atmosphere still clings to the surfaces of the star’s beloved family of rocky planets.

For those of you who missed the fuss, TRAPPIST-1 is a star about 39 light-years away that was discovered to have at least three planets last year. At the time, that didn’t seem so remarkable, but then last month, NASA made a much-hyped announcement that TRAPPIST-1 actually hosted a seven-planet system

Nicknamed our sister star system, it’s believed to consist of a large family of seven small, terrestrial bodies occupying tight orbits relatively close to their star.

Last month, astronomers announced that those planets actually consisted of a large family of seven small, terrestrial bodies occupying tight orbits relatively close to the star.

Early speculation suggested that at least a few of the planets could sit within a ‘Goldilocks zone‘, where liquid water might pool on their rocky surfaces, and life could therefore have hypothetically evolved in its tepid oceans.

 The exciting news inspired NASA to release fan art and travel posters displaying planets that appeared larger than our Moon in classic sci-fi styles, all to set our imaginations blazing.

Of course, we should have prepared for broken hearts. The signs were all there.

Orbiting so close to their parent, the planets are more than likely tidally locked, meaning one hemisphere constantly faces their sun while the other side is in perpetual darkness.

Only last month, we were somewhat dismayed to learn that the nearest known planet outside our own Solar System, orbiting Proxima Centauri, is probably just a hunk of bare rock polished of any atmosphere by bursts of radiation from its red dwarf star.

In these cases, radiation from the star ionises gases in the planet’s atmosphere, allowing the particles to be pushed up and away from the planet’s surface on streams of solar wind.

Last year, astronomers considered whether TRAPPIST-1 was another rather temperamental parent, calculating that the inner planets might have lost as much as 15 Earth-oceans of water to this solar scouring effect over the course of their lifetime.

Of course, it would depend on what “lifetime” meant.

In this most recent research, astronomers compared two types of radiation emitted from the dwarf star: X-rays shed by the star’s wispy corona, and ultra-violet light called Lyman-alpha radiation, which comes from the hydrogen atoms from the chromosphere layer just beneath the corona.

It seems TRAPPIST-1 emits less than half as much Lyman-alpha radiation as Proxima Centauri, which is to be expected, since it’s a cooler star.

But the two stars emit about the same amount of X-rays, which, all things considered, is kind of odd, since the X-ray and ultra-violet radiation output for this category of star both decrease over time, with the X-rays fading a lot faster.

“The fact that TRAPPIST-1 emits nearly three times less flux at Lyman-alpha than in the X-ray would thus suggest it is still relatively young,” the researchers write in their paper.

With a fair bit of hand-waving, it seems that “relatively young” could mean anything up from about half a billion years old.

The fact that it spins quite quickly also adds weight to the conclusion that it’s not an extremely old star.

Yet it also means the X-ray emissions were stronger in the past, since they have decreased over time.

Since it’s predicted that the blasts of radiation would blow away any Earth-like atmosphere from the inner two planets within 1 to 3 billion years, and could take between 5 and 22 billion years to strip the rest of the family, there could still yet be liquid water up on those rocks if TRAPPIST-1 is indeed little older than 500 million years old.

There’s further hope in the fact that the spacing of the planets indicates the possibility they migrated in close to their sun from further out in the solar system, subjecting them to intense blasts of radiation for even less time.

“If they migrated within a disk, typical time scales are about 100 million years, but that may not be valid for a system like TRAPPIST-1,” researcher Vincent Bourrier told Camille M. Carlisle at Sky and Telescope. “Uncharted territory here!”

TRAPPIST-1 is a bit of an odd duck, however; in spite of seeming young, its motion through space places it within an older crowd of stars, which is either coincidence or a sign that there is more to learn.

If you still feel any love for our distant dwarf star, NASA just released footage of changes in its brightness taken over an hour period on 22 February, providing a snapshot of one of its planets passing in front the star and dimming its light.

TRAPPIST-1 animation

While a block of blinking pixels might not seem all that exciting, keep in mind this animated image covers just 44 square arcseconds of the sky, which is about the same area as a grain of sand held at arm’s length.

So hold back from ripping down that fabulous TRAPPIST-1e poster … for now. The Brady Bunch of stars is weird enough that it might still have a few secrets up its sleeve.

Targeting Gut Bacteria May Be The Key To Preventing Alzheimer’s.

A new study suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseasesin America.
The report, published Feb. 8 in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrates that mice with Alzheimer’s have a different gut bacterial profile than those that do not have the disease.

The gut microbiome is highly responsive to dietary and lifestyle factors. This suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

“Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease and in the near future we will likely be able to give advice on what to eat to prevent it,” study author Dr. Frida Fak Hållenius, associate professor at the university’s Food for Health Science Centre, told The Huffington Post. “Take care of your gut bacteria, by eating lots of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.”

 In the new study, Hållenius and her colleagues revealed a direct causal association between gut bacteria and signs of Alzheimer’s in mice. When a group of bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of rodents with Alzheimer’s, they developed brain plaques indicative of Alzheimer’s. When the bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of the healthy rodents, however, they developed significantly fewer brain plaques.
Beta-amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain are a central marker of the disease. These sticky protein clumps accumulate between the brain’s neurons, disrupting signals and contributing to the gradual killing off of nerve cells.

“We don’t yet know how bacteria can affect brain pathology, we are currently investigating this,” Hållenius said. “We think that bacteria may affect regulatory T-cells in the gut, which can control inflammatory processes both locally in the gut and systemically ― including the brain.”

The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated.

The gut microbiome is intimately connected with the immune system, since many of the body’s immune cells are found in this area of the stomach, Hållenius added.

Anything that happens in the digestive tract can affect the immune system, she explained. “By changing the gut microbiota composition, you affect the immune system of the host to a large extent.”

The findings suggest that Alzheimer’s may be more more preventable than health experts previously thought. The composition of bacteria in the gut is determined by a mix of genetics and lifestyle factors. Diet, exercise, stress and toxin exposure all play a huge role in the gut’s bacterial makeup.

Now, the researchers can begin investigating ways to prevent the disease and delay its onset by targeting gut bacteria early on. And in the meantime, anyone can adopt a plant-based, whole foods diet and probiotic supplementation as a way to improve the health of their microbiome.

“The diet shapes the microbial community in the gut to a large extent, so dietary strategies will be important in prevention of Alzheimer’s,” Hållenius said. “We are currently working on food design that will modulate the gut microbiota towards a healthier state.”

The study is far from the first to show a connection between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s. In a 2014 paper published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, researchers listed 10 different ways that the microbiome may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, including fungal and bacterial infections in the intestinal tract and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.

“The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated,” that study’s authors wrote.

30 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because Of Your Depression.

I laugh, so that I don’t cry. Unfortunately, it’s all too true.

While most people imagine depression equals “really sad,” unless you’ve experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it’s different for everyone.

To find out how depression shows itself in ways other people can’t see, we asked our mental health community to share one thing people don’t realize they’re doing because they have depression.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “In social situations, some people don’t realize I withdraw or don’t speak much because of depression. Instead, they think I’m being rude or purposefully antisocial.” — Laura B.

2. “I struggle to get out of bed, sometimes for hours. Then just the thought of taking a shower is exhausting. If I manage to do that, I am ready for a nap. People don’t understand, but anxiety and depression is exhausting, much like an actual physical fight with a professional boxer.” — Juli J.

3. “Agreeing to social plans but canceling last minute. Using an excuse but really you just chickened out. It makes you think your friends don’t actually want to see you, they just feel bad. Obligation.” — Brynne L.

4. “Hiding in my phone. Yes, I am addicted to it, but not like other people. I don’t socialize, I play games or browse online stores to distract myself from my negative thoughts. It’s my safe bubble.” — Eveline L.

5. “Going to bed at 9 p.m. and sleeping throughout the night until 10 or 11 a.m.” — Karissa D.

6.Isolating myself, not living up to my potential at work due to lack of interest in anything, making self-deprecating jokes. I’ve said many times before, ‘I laugh, so that I don’t cry.’ Unfortunately, it’s all too true.” — Kelly K.

The excessive drinking. Most people assume I’m trying to be the ‘life of the party’. But my issues are much deeper than that.

7. “When I reach out when I’m depressed it’s ’cause I am wanting to have someone to tell me I’m not alone. Not because I want attention.” — Tina B.

8. “I don’t like talking on the phone. I prefer to text. Less pressure there. Also being anti-social. Not because I don’t like being around people, but because I’m pretty sure everyone can’t stand me.” — Meghan B.

9. “I overcompensate in my work environment… and I work front line at a Fitness Centre, so I feel the need to portray an ‘extra happy, bubbly personality.’ As soon as I walk out the doors at the end of the day, I feel myself ‘fall.’ It’s exhausting… I am a professional at hiding it.” — Lynda H.

10. “The excessive drinking. Most people assume I’m trying to be the ‘life of the party’ or just like drinking in general. I often get praised for it. But my issues are much deeper than that.” — Teresa A.

11. “Hiding out in my room for hours at a time watching Netflix or Hulu to distract my mind or taking frequent trips to the bathroom or into another room at social gatherings because social situations sometimes get to me.” — Kelci F.

12. “Saying I’m tired or don’t feel good… they don’t realize how much depression can affect you physically as well as emotionally.” — Lauren G.

13. “Answering slowly. It makes my brain run slower, and I can’t think of the answers to the questions as quickly. Especially when someone is asking what I want to do – I don’t really want anything. I isolate myself so I don’t have to be forced into a situation where I have to respond because it’s exhausting.” — Erin W.

14. “Sometimes I’ll forget to eat all day. I can feel my stomach growling but don’t have the willpower to get up and make something to eat.” — Kenzi I.

15. “I don’t talk much in large groups of people, especially when I first meet them. I withdraw because of my anxiety and depression. People think I’m ‘stuck up.’ I’m actually scared out of my mind worrying they don’t like me, or that they think I’m ‘crazy’ by just looking at me…” — Hanni W.

16. “Not keeping in touch with anyone, bad personal hygiene and extremely bad reactions to seemingly trivial things.” — Jenny B.

17. “Being angry, mean or rude to people I love without realizing it in the moment. I realize my actions and words later and feel awful I had taken out my anger on people who don’t deserve it.” — Christie C.

18. “Purposely working on the holidays so I can avoid spending time with family. It’s overwhelming to be around them and to talk about the future and life so I avoid it.” — Aislinn G.

19. “My house is a huge mess.” — Cynthia H.

I smile all the time even though I don’t really want to, but I do it because I don’t feel like I’m allowed to be sad when I’m with other people.

20. “I volunteer for everything, from going to PTO meetings to baby sitting to cleaning someone else’s house for them. I surround myself with situations and obligations that force me to get out of bed and get out of the house because if I’m not needed, I won’t be wanted.” — Carleigh W.

21. “Overthinking everything and over-planning. The need to make everything perfect and everyone happy, even if it’s taking all my energy. As if validation from someone else will make it all better. Sometimes I start out on high power, then just crash and don’t even enjoy what I’ve spent weeks/months planning. And no one will see me for months after, as I retreat into my safe bubble.” — Vicki G.

22. “I smile all the time even though I don’t really want to, but I do it because I don’t feel like I’m allowed to be sad when I’m with other people. I also do whatever it takes to make someone else happy because since I don’t feel happy most of the time, it just makes me feel a little better seeing someone else happy. I also isolate myself even though sometimes I really just want someone around.” — Wendy E.

23. “People don’t realize I say sorry before I even think about expressing any opinions because that’s how worthless I feel. I’m apologizing for feeling anything about anything because that’s how little I feel I matter. They don’t just know I feel like apologizing for even breathing in their general direction. I even say I’m sorry before asking to use the bathroom no matter how long I’ve held it. I feel like a burden for biological needs I have no control over.” — Amy Y.

24. “Neglecting to do basic things like laundry, not wanting to cook a meal or eat. They think I’m being lazy.” — Rebecca R.

25. “Sometimes I’ll go days without speaking to anybody. People tend to believe I’m ignoring them on purpose when really I am just lost within myself. I don’t mean to seem like I’m pushing people away. Some days it’s hard when my thoughts consume me and when I can’t find the motivation to do simple things that others do on a daily basis.” — Alyssa A.

26. “People don’t realize I can’t say no without feeling guilty. I have to have a good enough reason for everything I do. I guess it’s customary to try and convince someone to change their answer, but people have no idea how much it takes for me to say no in the first place. I feel worthless so much that I feel guilty for even thinking of putting my needs or wants first. Then I just feel like a doormat when I cave into the pressure. It’s a never-ending cycle.” — Amy Y.

27. “I push away/cut off everyone who I care about because I can’t bear to be hurt by them! Everyone just thinks I’m mean and anti-social.” — Tina R.

28. “Going for late night walks by myself. My depression keeps me awake at night and my thoughts can get so overwhelming I feel physically crowded inside. Late night walks help me quiet the screaming in my head.” — Lynnie L.

29. “I have often been accused of having ‘no sense of humor.’ So wrong. Before depression took over my life I smiled and laughed as much as the next person. Now, having lived with depression for over 15 years, the humor I find in a joke or situation is rarely visible on my face or heard in my laugh. I feel humor, but it’s just too much effort to express it. I don’t have the energy.” — Martha W.

30. “Keeping the house dark is a comfort thing for me. People always point it out, like, ‘No wonder you’re so depressed. You need to let some light in.’ Darkness in my living space makes me feel comfortable, almost like I’m not alone. Good days, I’m all about the sunshine!”

CDC confirms lemon eucalyptus oil as effective as toxic DEET for repelling bugs

DEET, while amazingly effective at warding off mosquitoes, comes with its own dangers.

It’s a neurotoxin.  Found in most conventional, over-the-counter insect repellents, it can enter your bloodstream if it comes into contact with your skin.  Children with DEET toxicity have reported lethargy, headaches, tremors, involuntary movements, seizures, and convulsions.

It is, then, a refreshing admittance that lemon eucalyptus oil is as effective as this toxin in repelling mosquitoes.

“Oil of lemon eucalyptus [active ingredient: p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant- based repellent, is also registered with EPA. In two recent scientific publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the US it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET,” according to the article on Mattermore.

Finding natural solutions and substitutions for heavy chemicals and toxins is extremely important and being able to research them on the internet has allowed us to swiftly rectify any time this is the case.  Businesses and organizations have begun selling lemon eucalyptus oil repellents and the non-toxic movement has taken off.

The exact age when girls lose interest in science and math

Teenage girls can be a fickle bunch, especially when it comes to their interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

A new survey commissioned by Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) found that young girls in Europe become interested in so-called STEM subjects around the age of 11 and then quickly lose interest when they’re 15.

 “Conformity to social expectations, gender stereotypes, gender roles and lack of role models continue to channel girls’ career choices away from STEM fields,” said psychology professor Martin Bauer of the London School of Economics, who helped coordinate the survey of 11,500 girls across 12 European countries.

The survey also found that girls’ interest in humanities subjects drops around the same age but then rebound sharply. Interest in STEM subjects does not recover.

“This means that governments, teachers and parents only have four or five years to nurture girls’ passion before they turn their backs on these areas, potentially for good,” Microsoft said.

 science math teenager girlsA new Microsoft-commissioned survey shows European girls lose interest in STEM subjects around the age of 15.

Microsoft admitted it doesn’t have a comprehensive explanation for why 15-year-old girls lose interest in science and math. But it has uncovered some strategies to keep them engaged:

Promote female role models in STEM subjects: It’s much easier for girls to imagine a career in STEM subjects if they see successful examples.

Microsoft also found that girls are more likely to pursue a career in this area if they think men and women will be treated equally in the workforce.

“Perceived inequality [in the workplace] is actually putting them off further STEM studies and careers,” Microsoft said.

Six in 10 girls admitted they’d feel more confident pursuing a STEM career if they knew men and women were already equally employed in these fields.

Offer hands-on STEM exercises: These experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, can bring the subject to life. About four in 10 girls say they don’t get enough practical experiences.

Microsoft said it’s also important to show girls how the material can be applied in real-life situations, giving the topics more relevance in their lives.

More mentors: Having teachers who mentor and encourage girls in these subjects can have even more of an impact than parent encouragement.

It also helps if this teacher is female.

Top tech titans have been the target of criticism for years for their male-dominated working environments. High profile accusations of sexism and harassment are not uncommon.

Microsoft’s own 2016 global workplace report shows that just 26% of its employees are female and less than 18% of its engineers are women.

The company acknowledged in a report accompanying the survey that its success depends on the diverse skills and experiences of its employees.

“A diverse and inclusive workforce will yield better products and solutions for our customers, and better experiences for our employees,” it said. “When we encourage girls to pursue science and technology, we double our potential to solve problems.”

These are the biggest mysteries about marijuana that researchers are still trying to solve.

It’s weird how much we don’t know.

In many ways, it’s the age of access to pot. As of last November, more than 20 percent of Americans live in states that have voted to legalise recreational marijuana use. A majority live in states that allow access to medical marijuana.

In Colorado, cannabis aficionados can attend US$125 per person dinners, where multiple varieties of weed are paired with chef-prepared gourmet meals.

 In New York – a state with a relatively strict medical marijuana law – 98-year-olds like Ruth Brunn rely on cannabis oil to soothe the debilitating pains of neuropathy.

Weed’s more legally accessible now than it has been since the ‘Reefer Madness‘ era of the 1930s; the varieties available now, created with the aid of modern botany and chemistry, are unparalleled in history.

With that in mind you might think that scientific researchers would have a pretty good handle on exactly how regular or casual marijuana use affects humans, how medical marijuana should be best used, and what potential risks there may be to cannabis use.

But if you thought that the recent warming towards marijuana is fully backed by scientific understanding, you might be surprised.

“There are so many basic questions that need to be addressed,” says Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor of psychiatry who researches marijuana at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“The practical use and legalisation of these things is happening faster than the science can keep up.”

 Vandrey and a number of other experts interviewed by Business Insider say that even though we know far more about marijuana than we did just a few decades ago, there are important topics – ranging from questions about how marijuana affects the brains of different users to questions about how to make use of medical cannabis – where the legal policy has far outpaced the science.

It’s not about being anti- or pro-marijuana, it’s simply that scientists want to know more – especially now, when it’s such an important topic because of the wave of legalisation.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers marijuana a drug with no medical value, so it’s hard to get approval to research it and impossible to study the cannabis products most people use, since researchers can only give study participants cannabis grown at DEA-approved facilities.

“It’s pretty amazing” that we have so many unanswered questions, says Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital.

“It ain’t new, it’s been around for thousands and thousands of years, it’s not like we just made this in a lab.”

Many of the most common inquiries fit into three categories: questions about how recreational marijuana will affect users both young and old; questions about how medical marijuana affects patients; and questions about the marijuana plant itself.

And while marijuana is still distressingly hard to research, there are a number of ongoing studies that should help answer some of the most pressing questions.

Here’s what we’re learning from that research and what we still need to know.

A sacred plant, a casual vice, a risky drug, or a powerful medicine – what’s in the plant?

The cannabis plant itself is a fascinating organism, one that humanity has used for thousands of years for reasons ranging from religious rituals to performance enhancement to just plain partying.

But within that plant there are somewhere around 400 chemical compounds, more than 60 of which are special compounds known as cannabinoids. These bond with a relatively recently discovered system in our brain that interacts with naturally-produced cannabinoids.

In every animal, these natural (endogenous) cannabinoids play multiple roles, affecting mood, appetite, memory, consciousness, pain response, blood pressure, and more.

The cannabinoids from marijuana tap into that same system, which is why the plant has such wide-ranging effects.

We’re pretty far from fully understanding how that system works and even further from understanding all the compounds in marijuana.

The most famous cannabinoid, THC, is largely responsible for marijuana’s ability to get users high. Cannabidiol, CBD, is the next best known – it seems to be important for many medical uses of marijuana.

In one of the studies that Gruber’s team is working on at the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) center at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, researchers are testing to see if CBD can help reduce anxiety.

It also plays a role in pain relief and several of the other known medical uses of marijuana. But those are still just two components of the plant.

“We know a lot about THC and we’re starting to learn about CBD,” says Vandrey. “Out of about 400 [compounds] we know a decent amount about two.”

That means there’s a lot to learn about which compounds might contribute to psychoactive effects and which might potentially have medical uses.

Special strains and changing potency

Further complicating this question is the fact that growers create numerous strains of cannabis with different characteristics. We see this most frequently now with high THC strains of marijuana.

The data on this isn’t perfect, but it is true you can get stronger pot now than ever before, largely because of innovations in growing practices. About 20 years ago, a high THC concentration might have been 10 or 12 percent.

In legal shops in Colorado and Washington now, it’s not hard to find concentrations of 18, 24, or even 30 percent THC.

Every tweak is going to change the health effects of the plant. High THC plants tend to have low CBD, for example, according to Krista Lisdahl, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Lab at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

In general, THC potency keeps going up.

Lisdahl says this could be worrisome, since there is some research indicating that some of the brain changes seen in heavy marijuana smokers are not present in smokers who smoke higher CBD, lower THC strains.

This could make the trend away from CBD a negative for some medical users. Gruber wonders what will happen when THC concentration “goes up to 40, 50, 60 percent”.

People consume THC at those levels in some concentrated forms of cannabis, but we don’t know if that sort of consumption carries additional health risks or not.

On the one hand, high potency stuff may be worse for cognition, but on the other, Gruber says she’s had people tell her they smoke less when they use more concentrated products.

“We should probably be doing a better job of understanding what the effects are,” she says.

Common knowledge isn’t backed up by science

Even much of what we think we know isn’t really backed up with scientific evidence.

It’s commonly understood that cannabis can be broadly divided into indica and sativa strains, with indica providing more of the mellowing, body-high (theoretically better for relaxation) and sativa providing a more energising, creative high – and then there are hybrids of the two.

But there are no scientific studies that prove this, making it hard for recreational smokers to know exactly what they’re getting and what effect it will have.

Experienced users might find nothing to worry about here, but as weed becomes more accessible, these are some of the sorts of questions it’s hard not to have an answer to.

When we buy booze, the differences between a session beer, high ABV double IPA, and bottle of Scotch are all clearly defined.

This complicates using cannabis in a medical context.

When it comes to marijuana, “millions of people are using different types of cannabis products for supposedly therapeutic purposes,” says Vandrey.

Different, strains, different concentrations, all consumed in different ways.

At Johns Hopkins, Vandrey is studying the how different ways of consuming marijuana – orally, smoking, vaping – all affect the body. And while he says that not all of his work can be talked about yet, we do know that the mode of ingestion makes a big difference for how people feel the effects and how they manifest themselves.

Who sets the standards?

Many substances might fall under the medical cannabis umbrella, but depending on their specific cannabinoid content and the means through which they are ingested, they’re going to have different effects.

All those people using products for therapeutic purposes are “lacking information about which types of products to choose, what doses to use, and how cannabis compares to other medications,” according to Vandrey.

We do know that marijuana has legitimate medical uses – a recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found a number of ways in which marijuana seems to be medically effective.

But the report also noted that a lot more information about how marijuana and its various components affect users is needed.

At present, that’s hard to study. The marijuana that researchers can give people for experiments has to come from approved facilities and tends to be far weaker than what people actually use.

A researcher in Colorado can walk into a store and buy marijuana but they can’t get approval to give that product to participants in a study.

Partially because of that, it’s even hard to measure what’s in these products. There’s no one approved system for testing cannabis products, so people running two different tests on marijuana samples might get different results.

Those results might vary even more if they use a test meant for conventional marijuana (flower) on an edible. For those who really want to better understand the plant and to see how to use it most effectively to help people in a medical context, that’s a real problem.

“[One] thing that’s absolutely critical is the development of standards around product manufacturing and labelling,” says Vandrey.

Some states have started to require that marijuana products be tested for potency and to make sure they are free of contaminants – Colorado has rules that recreational and medical products be tested and Washington started to require testing after approving recreational marijuana, for example.

However, it’s not clear that a fully accurate means of testing cannabis products exists yet. One analysis of 75 medical marijuana products purchased in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle found that only 17 percent were accurately labelled.

Some sort of national standard might require devising more accurate tests.

How is using medical marijuana going to affect patients?

The unknowns about what various cannabinoids do and how they interact with each other create plenty of questions about the best ways to use medical marijuana.

But that doesn’t mean we know nothing. The aforementioned NASEM report did find that cannabis (both regular marijuana and various products derived from it) can effectively treat chronic pain along with other conditions, with pain being the reason most people seek it out.

Researchers have good reasons to think that in states where people switch from opioids to marijuana to manage pain, overdose and addiction rates are dropping.

Even though there’s much to be learned about what sort of cannabis best treats what condition, there are reasons to think it’s effective.

“You have to kind of respect the fact that there seem to be people who have very serious health problems and have found positive effects from the use of cannabis,” says Vandrey.

“It’s up to us to try to figure out how and why and to develop very specific targeted therapeutics based on what we can find out.”

But how is using medical marijuana regularly – especially to treat something like chronic pain, which may have no known cause and therefore no known end – going to affect the people using it?

The effects of a daily medical toke

We don’t have definitive answers yet, but Gruber’s MIND program in Massachusetts is doing a lot to figure that out. The early data is both surprising and encouraging.

In one of their studies at McLean Hospital, Gruber and colleagues are following a group of medical marijuana users over time (longer than a year) to see how their health changes.

By checking in on those users every couple months, they will see if the product is helping them, and they will also see how using marijuana is affecting the patients’ sleep, cognitive ability, and quality of life. Additionally, they’re tracking brain activity to see if any changes occur over time.

“I think this large scale observational study is the first of its kind and will really serve the public,” Gruber says.

It’s only with studies like this that track people over time that we really see what sort of effects the drug is having on patients’ lives.

And since this particular study is so thorough and focused on patients that are older than the participants in many other studies, it tells us more about how marijuana affects adults, especially adults using for a medical reason – we have lots of data on young users but little data on users like this, with an average age of about 48 or 49.

She stresses that it’s really early to draw conclusions from this ongoing work. But one of the first studies to come out of this particular project had an encouraging finding.

Their preliminary results showed that three months into their medical marijuana treatment, a group of users (24 people, still relatively small) showed significant improvement in tests of cognitive function.

Tests of heavy recreational smokers in the past have shown worse cognitive function. This was the opposite.

The imaging data they have seen so far also showed some interesting changes in brain activity. For patients like this, many of whom struggle with pain, previous brain scans showed abnormal blood flow when doing cognitive tasks.

After a few months of medical marijuana, that mental activity started to look like the activity in a healthy control population.

In a way, this isn’t surprising. If your mind is no longer struggling with constant pain or anxiety, cognitive tests might become easier.

But that had never been demonstrated before, which just shows how much we have to learn about the effects of medical cannabis use.

What about recreational users?

Recreational pot is still harder to come by than medical marijuana – the current political administration has implied that laws legalising it may be at risk.

So how much do we know about the recreational use of marijuana and what are the big questions? “We have no shortage of data from chronic, heavy users,” says Gruber.

But we know far less about occasional smokers, she says.

When we look at the ‘effects’ of recreational marijuana, it’s important to consider the context. It’s one thing to compare marijuana to hard drugs like opioids or to substances like alcohol.

Some research so far indicates that marijuana is ‘safer’ in many ways than these substances (people don’t overdose and even though marijuana can be habit forming it doesn’t seem to be as habit-forming as alcohol).

That doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

In studies of those chronic, heavy users, “we see marijuana users have slower processing speed, worse memory and learning scores on certain tests, poorer sustained attention,” says Lisdahl.

There are also links to depression and sleep problems in some of those users, and some heavy users show brain changes linked to poorer emotional control or memory. These changes have been particularly observed in people who began using marijuana before ages 16 or 17.

That’s not something unique to cannabis; many substances may harm the developing brain. When it comes to adolescent use, Lisdahl says that alcohol seems to be particularly bad, but that there are still some unique brain changes associated with marijuana use.

We still don’t know, however, whether marijuana causes those changes or whether certain people (with certain brains) are more likely to use marijuana in the first place.

What it looks like when kids first start trying pot

One research effort that Lisdahl is involved in right now could help change uncover some of these mysteries. The ABCD Study is “extremely exciting, not just for marijuana – there are hundreds of things we can look at”, she says.

ABCD is a research effort that will follow 10,000 kids around the country – starting when they are 9 or 10 years old – for 10 years. It’s coordinated out of UCSD and there are 21 different sites around the country.

For this study, researchers will analyse the schools kids are enrolled in, look at where they live, track images of their brains, see how much they exercise and sleep, and more. They will track everything from stress to puberty hormones to substance use.

They will also see them before and after they begin experimenting with any substances, including marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.

“It’s the first of its kind worldwide of this scope and depth,” says Lisdahl.

Following kids over a long period of time is probably the best way to understand when and why they start using a substance, according to Gruber.

When it comes to recreational substance use, we know a lot about alcohol – that it affects sleep, cognition, domestic violence likelihood, and other things. Researchers want to know answers to those questions about marijuana, too. From what we can tell, adult use seems to be less associated with brain changes, though that doesn’t mean there are no cognitive effects.

Even if it turns out that marijuana causes the negative effects on young brains that researchers think it may, that doesn’t mean prohibiting it completely was the most effective policy in the US (it certainly didn’t stop it from being available).

Legalisation doesn’t necessarily increase usage rates for kids based on what we’ve seen so far. Kids in Colorado and Washington aren’t using more after legalisation, though Lisdahl says that since those states already had the highest rates of youth usage, they don’t tell us whether or not, say, kids in Indiana will start smoking more pot if it’s legalised there. Education may help keep those youth usage rates down.

No matter what, these next few years of observing states with legal marijuana – and of researchers following thousands of kids – will tell us a lot.

Scratching the surface

These ongoing studies will help answer some of the most pressing questions, but it’s going to take some time.

It will be 10 years (or longer) before the ABCD study really starts to reveal how participants’ lives have changed over time. And even then, many of the questions asked in the study are only scratching the surface.

For instance, a lot of baby boomers have started smoking pot regularly since it was legalised – or started smoking again – and we don’t know much about the effects that might have.

It’s important to learn how safe marijuana is for pregnant women. There are connections between marijuana use, low birth weight, and time spent in the NICU for infants, so we certainly can’t say it’s safe, even if some women are already using it to control nausea.

Several of the researchers I spoke with say we need to know more about how marijuana affects what’s probably the most common user – the ‘casual’ user who doesn’t smoke every day or even every week, but just every so often.

None of this is meant to demonise cannabis or to call it a miracle plant – it’s just another substance out there, one that humans have used for a long time, one that can be used in ways with negative, positive, and neutral effects.

As Gruber explains it, “We’re not really after the good or the bad – we’re after the truth.”

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