Fatal car crashes rise on night of marijuana fest

April 20 has become known as a day to celebrate the pleasures of marijuana consumption with parties that traditionally begin at 4:20 p.m. 

But a study in JAMA Internal Medicine has found that the high spirits may have a price: a significant increase in fatal car wrecks after the “4/20” party ends. 

Researchers used 25 years of data on car crashes in the United States. They compared the number of fatal accidents between 4:20 p.m. and midnight on April 20 each year with accidents during the same hours one week before and one week after that date. 

Before 4:20 p.m. there was no difference between the number of fatalities on April 20 and the number on the nearby dates. But from 4:20 p.m. to midnight, there was a 12 percent increased risk of a fatal car crash on April 20 compared with the control dates. The increased risk was particularly large in drivers 20 and younger. 

“These crashes really don’t have to happen,” said the senior author, Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. “In the Netherlands, they’ve had legalized marijuana for years, but they have many more interventions — speed cameras, radar, sobriety checkpoints.”

— Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times

Do you have a social media-addictive personality?

The firm Cambridge Analytica used the "Big 5" or "Five Factor Model" personality test to target Facebook users with ads designed to influence the 2016 election. 

But the test scores on five traits — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — can predict a lot more, including how likely you are to even use Facebook. 

Research shows that people who score high on neuroticism, low on conscientiousness, and low on agreeableness are more likely to become addicted to social media, video games, instant messaging, or other online stimuli. Studies have also found that extraverts are more likely to become addicted.

According to a new study out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, specific combinations of those personality traits can mitigate or exaggerate one's propensity to addiction — which involves some degree of obsessive/compulsiveness, said the paper's co-author Isaac Vaghefi, an assistant professor of information systems.

Vaghefi estimated that around 20 percent of the population is addicted, but an additional 30 to 40 percent are in danger of it. 

"It's hard," he said. "Technology's becoming advanced. Facebook and these other companies are working to make people hooked and they're all improving their features. Most people don't realize they unlock their phone 200 times a day."

— Tara Bahrampour, The Washington Post 

Certain meds may raise allergy risk for babies

Babies given antibiotics or antacids in infancy may be at increased risk for allergies in childhood. 

Researchers retrospectively studied 792,130 infants covered by a health insurance program. Of these, 131,708 received antibiotics, 60,209 got histamine-2 receptor antagonists and 13,687 were given proton pump inhibitors. Both H2 blockers and PPIs are prescribed for gastroesophageal reflex, or GERD. 

The study, in JAMA Pediatrics, followed the children for an average of 4 1/2 years. It found that infants given H2 blockers or PPIs were more than twice as likely to have a food allergy; the risk was especially high for allergy to cow’s milk. Those given antibiotics were at a 14 percent increased risk for food allergy, a 51 percent increased risk for anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal type of allergic reaction), and more than double the risk for asthma. 

The authors suggest that both antacids and antibiotics disrupt the normal intestinal bacteria, and that this may explain the association. 

“Let’s not prescribe these medicines for things that are very common in babies,” said the senior author, Dr. Cade M. Nylund, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Uniformed Services University. “Just because a baby spits up doesn’t mean that it’s a disease.”

— Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times