Commentary Health and Disease

The Effect of Substances During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are told to not do multiple things, they are restricted from a lot of actions. Why is that, some may question? When with a baby, everything that goes into your body has the same effect on your fetus, or your unborn baby. The adage “You are what you eat” has probably been said to you before. The same idea, however, may be extended to expectant mothers because it is their unborn children who are influenced by what is consumed. Every single thing a pregnant woman consumes, drinks, or uses is somehow passed on to her unborn child. Alcohol and hard drugs are not an exception. These drugs may cross the placenta, enter a mother’s circulation, and then reach her developing child. These toxins can also be transferred to a newborn through breast milk if a mother is nursing.

What is a Placenta? 

The placenta is an organ that grows in the uterus during pregnancy. A developing newborn receives oxygen and nutrients from this structure. It also cleans the baby’s blood of waste materials. The baby’s umbilical cord grows from the placenta, which is attached to the uterus’ wall throughout pregnancy. Typically, the organ is affixed to the uterus’s front, rear, side, or top. Rarely, the placenta may connect in the uterine cavity below. This situation is known as a low-lying placenta (placenta previa).

What are Some of the Effects the Unborn Baby Goes Through?

According to recent studies, consuming illegal drugs, prescription painkillers, tobacco or marijuana during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth (the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery) by a factor of two to three. About 5% of pregnant women, according to estimates, use one or more addictive substances. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), in which the newborn experiences withdrawal, can be brought on by the regular use of particular medicines. Opioid impacts have been the subject of the majority of this field’s research (prescription pain relievers or heroin). However, research has indicated that consuming coffee, alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines while pregnant may also result in withdrawal symptoms in the newborn. The drug(s) taken, the length of time and frequency of usage, the way the birth mother’s body processed the drug(s), and whether the child was born at full term or preterm all affect the type and intensity of the infant’s withdrawal symptoms.

Risks of Stillbirth from Substance Use in Pregnancy

Tobacco use—1.8 to 2.8 times greater risk of stillbirth, with the highest risk found among the heaviest smokers

Marijuana use—2.3 times greater risk of stillbirth

Evidence of any stimulant, marijuana, or prescription pain reliever use—2.2 times greater risk of stillbirth

Passive exposure to tobacco—2.1 times greater risk of stillbirth

Source: Tobacco, drug use in pregnancy, 2013

Opioids and pregnancy 

Opioids are a group of medications that are used to treat pain, but they also carry significant hazards, such as addiction. Opioids can be obtained legally or illegally. Doctors may recommend prescription opioids to treat moderate to severe pain. A prohibited opioid is heroin. An opioid with a prescription, fentanyl can be used to relieve really bad pain. But fentanyl has also been produced illegally, and it is now more widely available. Opioid use disorder is an opioid use habit that can lead to health issues, incapacity, or the inability to fulfill important obligations at work, school, or home. Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are examples of opioid drugs that may be used in medication aided therapy (MAT), in addition to counseling and behavioral therapy, to treat opioid use disorder. In the United States, opioid use disorder in pregnant women is a serious public health issue. According to a recent CDC investigation, the proportion of pregnant women with opioid use disorder at labor and delivery more than doubled between 1999 and 2014. Preterm birth, stillbirth, maternal death, and neonatal abstinence syndrome are just a few of the major unfavorable health outcomes associated with opioid use disorder during pregnancy for both pregnant women and unborn children (NAS). When pregnant women are exposed to opioids, a collection of withdrawal symptoms known as NAS is most frequently experienced in newborns.

Aamuktha Yalamanchili, Youth Medical Journal 2023


Commentary Health and Disease

Pills Kill.

     The pills, they kill. Drugs can have a variety of affects depending on the drug, the user, and their circumstances. Learn about the short- and long-term consequences of medications as well as how your body processes them. Drug use can have an impact on not only your physical and emotional health, but also your entire life. One tablet can be fatal.

Chemicals that have an impact on the body and brain are drugs. Drugs can have a variety of impacts. Long-lasting and permanent health problems are among some of a drug’s side effects. Even after the person has stopped using the drug, they may still go on. 

The three main methods of drug consumption are injection, inhalation, and ingestion. The way a medicine is administered affects your body differently. For instance, although ingesting a medicine has a delayed effect, injecting it directly into the bloodstream provides an immediate effect. However, the brain is impacted by all medicines that are overused. They cause the brain to experience a “high” by flooding it with a lot of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control our emotions, motivation, and pleasure experiences. Drugs have the potential to alter how the way the brain functions can affect a person’s capacity for decision-making, resulting in strong cravings and compulsive drug usage. This conduct has the potential to develop into a drug addiction over time. 

Today, one in four fatalities is related to the use of illicit drugs, and more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug disorder. In actuality, drug misuse is more closely linked to illnesses, disabilities, and fatalities than any other illness that can be avoided. Drug and alcohol addicts are more likely to sustain unintended injuries, be involved in accidents, and experience domestic violence.

Drugs affect your life. It’s not just your physical body and heath, they also impact your mental, social health along with how you manage your finances, relationships and sometimes can even lead to how you manage your criminal record. Depending on the drug’s kind, each one has a unique bodily effect. Some will energize you and awaken your senses. Others will make you feel at ease and at peace. Some affect how you perceive things and may result in hallucinations. Others might leave you cold. Larger doses and prolonged usage have side effects that can gravely hurt your health and even result in death. These effects include the danger of infection from sharing needles, lasting brain and organ damage, and illness risks.

So how does your body process these drugs?

The human body processes drugs in 4 unique stages:

  1. Absorption 
  • Drugs are absorbed into your bloodstream when you take them. The way you ingested the drug will determine how quickly this happens.
  1. Distribution
  • Once a drug enters your bloodstream, it circulates throughout your body, reaching your brain and various organs. Depending on the drug type, the drug alters brain chemicals and receptors to produce a variety of effects.
  1. Metabolism
  • The drug is then metabolized by your body or broken down into smaller molecules (known as metabolites) that may be excreted more quickly. These metabolites occasionally have an impact on your body as well.
  1. Excretion
  • Drugs that have been metabolized pass through your digestive tract and leave your body, typically in urine or feces. 
  • A drug’s elimination time in your body varies. It relies on a variety of elements, including the substance itself (the quantity, potency, etc.), as well as you personally (your metabolism, age, health, environment, etc).

The effects on the health 

There are several short- and long-term health repercussions of substance use disorders. They can differ based on the kind of medication, how much and how frequently it is used, and the patient’s overall condition. Overall, substance misuse and dependency can have significant negative impacts. They have the potential to affect practically all bodily organs. Death is one of the most serious effects of drug misuse on health. The greatest increase in deaths has been associated with heroin and synthetic opioids. 212,000 adults and children 12 and older consumed heroin for the initial time in the previous 12 months. Over 90 Americans lose their lives each day as a result of an opioid overdose.

Aaumuktha Yalamanchili, Youth Medical Journal 2023



The Minds of Serial Killers

Serial killers (individuals who murder multiple others and tend to have break or a “cool-off” period within their murders), and their stories constantly spur fascination among the public. But what do contemporary psychology and neuroscience have to say regarding what might be going on in these people’s heads? 

A common trait of serial killers is their lack of compassion for other people and their apparent lack of conscience. Nevertheless, a lot of people have a talent for appearing attractive on the surface, which enables them to draw unsuspecting others into their network of devastation. One explanation for this intellectual dishonesty is that serial killers have two minds at once. One is a rational self that can successfully navigate the complexities of acceptable social behavior and even charm and seduce, and the other is a much more sinister self that is capable of the most heinous and violent acts against others. However, on the contrary, there is very little evidence that serial killers do actually suffer from D.I.D. (Dissociative identity disorder), where people suffer from having two or more personalities co-existing in their mind, completely being nonchalant to one another. Instead, abuse victims who develop many identities as a coping mechanism for the traumas they have experienced are more likely to have DID than abusers. Of course, abusers can also be victims, and many serial killers suffered abuse as children, but generally speaking, these criminals don’t seem to have many personalities; rather, they seem to be mindful of the actions they are committing. Even so, there is undoubtedly a conflict in such people’s minds, which is perhaps best exemplified by US murderer Ted Bundy, who was “a charming, handsome, successful individual [yet also] a sadist, necrophile, rapist, and murderer with zero remorse who took pride in his ability to successfully kill and evade capture.”

One perplexing element of serial killers’ minds is that they don’t seem to have—or have the ability to suppress—the emotional responses that in other individuals help us recognize and empathize with the agony and suffering of other people. A new brain imaging research revealed a potential cause for this deficiency. The amygdala, a part of the brain that absorbs negative emotion and those that cause scared reactions, and the prefrontal cortex, which analyzes amygdala responses, had less connection in criminal psychopaths. When there is poor connection between these two areas, the amygdala’s processing of unpleasant stimuli does not result in any strongly felt unpleasant emotions. This could help to explain why criminal psychopaths do not experience guilt from their actions, or even pity their victims. Serial killers also appear to have an increased emotional drive that motivates them to want to harm and kill other people. The apparent discrepancy in emotional responses still has to be neurologically explained. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t exclude societal effects as significant contributors to the emergence of such conflicting drives. It appears plausible that serial killers have acquired the ability to regard their victims as little more than objects to be abused or perhaps even as a collection of unrelated pieces. This may help to explain why certain killers engage in sexual activity with their deceased victims or even use their corpses as ornaments or useful objects, but it does not help to explain why they appear to be so motivated to harm and kill their victims. The latter tendency can be explained by the fact that many serial killers are insecure people who are driven to kill out of a neurotic dread of rejection. The fear of rejection appears to frequently be brought on by having been neglected or abused by a parent. A young serial murderer could feel driven by such anxiety to want to kill anyone they have feelings for. They could start to think that they might avoid being deserted, humiliated, or otherwise injured as they were as children by eliminating the person they desire.

Additionally, serial killers seem to have no social conscience. We learn to identify good from wrong from our parents, siblings, teachers, peers, and other influential people as we grow up. This is what prevents us from acting in an antisocial manner. Serial killers, though, seem to believe they are above the most fundamental societal rule of them all—never taking another person’s life.

Aamu Yalamanchili, Youth Medical Journal 2022

Health and Disease

The Role of Personal Hygiene in Preventing Bacterial Infections

Remember when your mom used to yell at you for not washing your hands before you eat? Or maybe not maintaining good hygiene? Well, she isn’t wrong. So, what is this key role of personal hygiene and how do you implement it?

The Key Role of Personal Hygiene 

Your chance of contracting diseases and ailments often spread by viruses and bacteria is reduced by practicing good hygiene. Every time you cough, use the toilet, pet your pet, or touch a surface that is often touched by others, like a stair railing, your hands come into contact with germs. This bacteria can grow if you don’t frequently wash your hands and body, which raises your risk of infection and other health issues. By keeping yourself clean and washing your hands frequently, you may get rid of bacteria that cause sickness and reduce your chance of getting sick. 

When wounds and skin irritation are present, maintaining good hygiene is essential to preventing infection. Poor hygiene can cause dirt and other germs to enter skin wounds and remain there, whereas proper hygiene can keep these bacteria at bay to avoid infection. Maintaining good hygiene helps you avoid infecting family, friends, and coworkers with bacteria and diseases.

Here are examples of conditions that you may develop if you have poor personal hygiene: 

  • Covid-19 
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Diarrhoea
  • Colds and flu
  • Scabies 
  • Threadworms 

Being around people who don’t practice excellent hygiene can make you feel uncomfortable because of things like body odor and poor breath, and it raises your chance of being sick and infected. Your social life and connections, especially professional ones, might suffer from poor hygiene. Many businesses encourage or demand that workers maintain proper hygiene, and they frequently prefer to recruit candidates who are tidy and who appear to have acceptable hygiene practices. Employers in the food and medical industries place a premium on good cleanliness because it can prevent contamination and the spread of illness. Children who maintain excellent hygiene will be less likely to experience bullying at school, since data points to poor cleanliness as one of the main causes of bullying. Parents who stress the value of excellent hygiene to their kids help them develop healthy habits early in life and shield them from bullies.

You may feel more confident and at ease, both physically and emotionally, by keeping yourself clean and well-groomed. Feeling filthy, greasy, and unclean not only compromises your physical health but may also lead to uncomfortable, agitated, and anxious feelings. Your mood, your interactions with others, and how you feel about yourself can all be affected by poor hygiene. 

Maintaining good hygiene may increase your self-worth, confidence, and make you appear more appealing to others. Maintaining good hygiene may help you succeed at work, at the gym, and in other situations when you need to be at your best.

How Can You Implement It?

Try to take a daily shower or bathe. Wash thoroughly, paying special attention to the areas surrounding your genitalia and anus. Maintaining cleanliness will eliminate microorganisms that produce body odor and stop skin irritations. Use soap, shower gel, or a hypoallergenic body wash to wash yourself. More bacteria can be removed using soap, but you might need to wash delicate body regions in plain water or salt water first. Use a fresh, moist towel or sponge to clean yourself if there isn’t any or very little tap water available.

Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds to prevent getting ill. 

  • Your hands should be wet. 
  • Use enough soap to completely coat your hands. 
  • Rub your palms together. 
  • Clean your hands’ backs and the spaces in between your fingers. 
  • If one is available, use a scrubbing brush to clean filthy nails. 
  • Rinse your hands well on both sides, ideally in a sink full of fresh water. 
  • Using a fresh towel, dry your hands. 
  • To turn off the faucet, use the towel. 

Hand sanitizer is an additional option. Be careful to apply enough of the ointment to completely cover your hands. Make careful to rub your hands’ palms, backs, and between your fingers.

Washing your hands after using the restroom is especially crucial since feces, which you may come into touch with, contain billions of bacteria. Wash your hands as well: 

Before and after contacting a sick person or cleaning up vomit or bodily fluids. Before and after blowing your nose. Before and after healing cuts or wounds. Before and after touching trash, unclean surfaces, or items. Before and after handling pets or farm animals.

The Medical Field and Personal Hygiene

Due to the physical contact that healthcare workers, patients, and family members have, microbes are easily transferred throughout the industry. The risk of cross-contamination and the spread of contagious illnesses is drastically decreased by practicing basic personal hygiene.

So the next time you get yelled for not washing your hands, do it. 

Aamu Yalamanchili, Youth Medical Journal 2022



The Science Behind Déjà Vu

Have you ever looked at something and have had an eerie thought of familiarity? “Wait, I feel like I have already been here before..”, “This is so weird, I swear I met you somewhere..”, or even something as simple as, “I felt like I already bought the groceries for this week.” So, what is this feeling? Will science be able to explain it? 

Carrie-Ann Moss, as “trinity in the matrix trilogy”, describes déjà vu as “a glitch in the matrix”. Is it really? Does this mean we, as humans, live in a simulation? Are we a video game? What even is this? This explanation is perfect for those late night thoughts and science fiction fans, as it doesn’t give a solid understanding of what it actually is! The sensation of déjà vu is brief and frequently unexpected, which is why we equate it with mystery and even the otherworldly. déjà vu intrigues us for the same exact reasons that make studying difficult. This oddity occurs in about 60% of the population. Because it is a transient sensation and there isn’t a definite trigger for it, déjà vu is challenging to investigate in the lab. Nevertheless, depending on their proposed assumptions, academics have employed a variety of methods to explore the phenomenon. Researchers may conduct participant surveys, research potentially associated processes, particularly those connected to memory, or develop additional experiments to test the phenomenon of déjà vu.

Regarding memory, most of the explanations surrounding this theory are built off the idea that you have experienced a situation in the past, or something very similar to it. You remember this situation with your unconscious mind, but forget it through your conscious mind. Therefore, giving that feeling of familiarity even though you don’t know why. For example, the single element familiarity hypothesis. The single element familiarity hypothesis proposes that if one aspect of the situation is familiar to you but you aren’t cognizant of it since it’s in a different location, such as if you see your doctor on the street, you will feel a sense of déjà vu. Even if you don’t recognize your doctor, your brain still associates that sensation of familiarity with the entire setting. This theory has also been expanded by other academics to include several components. The gestalt familiarity hypothesis concentrates on the arrangement of objects in a scene and how déjà vu happens when you see something with a similar layout. For instance, even if you haven’t seen your friend’s sofa in their living room previously, you may have seen a room with the same sofa in a different house. Having no memory of the other house, you have a sense of déjà vu. The gestalt similarity hypothesis has the benefit of being more easily verified. In one study, participants viewed virtual reality images of rooms before being asked how familiar a new space seemed and whether they felt like they were having déjà vu.  The researchers discovered that when the new room resembled the old ones, study participants who couldn’t remember the old ones tended to assume it was familiar and that they were having déjà vu. Additionally, these scores were higher the more similar the new space was to the old room.

According to some theories, déjà vu occurs when there is spontaneous brain activity unrelated to the current situation. You may experience a false sense of familiarity if that occurs in the area of your brain responsible for remembering. Some of the data comes from people who have temporal lobe epilepsy, which is characterized by aberrant electrical activity in the area of the brain that controls memory. These patients may have déjà vu when their brains are electronically stimulated as part of a pre-surgery examination. According to one study, déjà vu occurs when the parahippocampal system, which aids in recognizing familiar objects, inadvertently malfunctions and leads you to mistakenly believe that something is familiar when it isn’t. Others have argued that déjà vu cannot be attributed to a single system of familiarity, but rather incorporates a variety of memory structures as well as the relationships among them. 

Other theories are based on the speed at which information moves through the brain. Your brain’s many “lower order” areas send information to “higher order” areas, which combine data to help you make sense of the outside world. Your brain perceives your environment inaccurately if this intricate process is somehow interfered with—for example, if one component delivers something slower or faster than usual.

Despite the fact that all of the aforementioned theories seem to share one element in common, an explanation for déjà vu has yet to be found. In order to be more certain of the proper explanation, scientists might continue to create tests that more directly examine the nature of déjà vu.

Aamuktha Yalamanchili , Youth Medical Journal 2022



The Brain: How does it actually work?

The brain, arguably it’s the human body’s most unexplored organ. That’s because it’s a very complicated organ that controls every possible aspect of our life. The way we think, how we feel, touch, see, and even something as simple as breathing, letting us stay alive every second. 

The brain is made of about 60% fat and the rest is water, protein, carbohydrates, and salts. Before understanding the way the brain works, understanding the anatomy of the brain is important. The most common misconception of the brain is that it is a muscle. However the brain is an organ made up of nerves. The brain appears to the untrained eye as a pink glob. If you simply look up the structure of a brain, you’ll see a pink glob with portions that are color coded and each of which is accountable for a specific function. That being, there are three main structures that make up the brain, the cerebellum, cerebrum, and brain stem. 

The cerebral cortex is a part of the cerebrum, which is the front of the brain. This section accounts for thinking, emotion, problem-solving, and personality. The folds of the cerebral cortex completely enclose the cerebrum. Additionally, this region of the brain accounts for 50% of the weight of the entire brain due to its huge surface area.

 The cerebral cortex covers the cerebrum and has four lobes. The frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobe. These lobes are in charge of their own activities in the brain. For example the frontal lobe is responsible for language, and other cognitive functions, the temporal lobe (which contains the wernicke area, helping humans understand language) plays a major part in visual perception and hearing, the parietal lobe porches what they see or hear, leaving the occipital lobe to interpret visual information as it also contains the visual cortex. The cerebral cortex’s right hemisphere, also referred to as the right side, governs the left side of the body, while the left side (or left hemisphere) governs the right side. The corpus callosum, a bridge of white matter, connects the two hemispheres (or sides) of the brain. The cerebrum and spinal cord are linked via the brainstem. The brainstem is made up of the midbrain, pons, and medulla. The midbrain aids in awareness and helps you respond to environmental changes, such as potential threats.

The pons have multiple functions, including blinking, facial expressions, and focusing vision. Ten cranial nerves arise from the pons which connect to the face, neck, and trunk. 

The medulla regulated the biological functions which are key for survival such as heartbeat, blood flow, and breathing. This part of the brain detects changes in blood oxygen and CO2 levels. Swallowing, coughing, and vomiting also originate from the medulla. 

Lastly, there’s another section of the brain called the cerebellum, also known as the “little brain”. It’s stuffed underneath the cerebrum at the back of the head. It regulates balance, and movements we’ve learned, like fastening buttons. However, it cannot initiate the movements, it just manages them. The cerebral cortex developed on top of the cerebellum, an ancient portion of the brain, as humans developed. 

There is no single “centerpiece” for the brain. No particular part of the brain acts as a control system that merges signals from various regions. However, instead, multiple connections form a dense network that overlaps between the different regions. Your brain contains billions of nerve cells that are arranged in patterns that coordinate actions and thoughts. Nerves work similar to an electrical circuit, if the brain is considered a big computer. The brain processes information that it receives from the senses and body and sends messages back to the body through the help of nerves. However, in biology, electricity is the movement of charged particles (ions) through a cell’s membrane, also known as the surface layer. An electrical wave travels the entire length of a neuron, also known as a nerve cell, due to the movement of ions. This neuron has longer branches that send messages and shorter branches that receive signals, resembling a tree (called an axon). And at the ends of axons known as synapses, electrical messages leap from one neuron to another. This results in the generation of a fresh electrical wave in that neuron via the release of chemical signals called neurotransmitters. The little chemical neurotransmitters are then released by the neuron in response to the electrical wave at the synapses, where they travel to other cells to connect proteins on their membrane-like cell surfaces. Our muscles receive instructions from our neurons about when to move in this way.