Should the FDA Regulate Sex Toys?
It’s the most wonderful time of year—the time when we jam a bunch of random crap in an oversized sock in hopes that the person we love will sleep with us. Family members aside, nothing quite says I care like sex toys, right? Whether it’s a vibrator for your eternally single roommate or a cock ring for the dude you pork on the reg, sex toys stuff stockings (and other things) in all the right ways.
Except when they’re toxic. Nobody wants anaphylactic shock for Christmas, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates an average of 2,100 sex toy-related emergency room visits a year. Getting off just became pretty high stakes.
On the whole, sex toys hang out in regulatory limbo. The FDA only pays attention to them if they fall under the category of medical devices, which means the tiny handful of vibrators that are presented as therapeutic massagers. It’s the manufacturer’s decision to classify their toys as therapeutic or not, so the majority of vibrators—not to mention all other sex toys—elude the FDA’s gaze.
I Got My Personal Genome Mapped and It Was Bullshit
Last Friday, the FDA forced personal genomics company 23andMe to stop marketing its tests to the public in their current form. Before the order came in, customers would send a spit sample to the firm, who would sequence the DNA and look for genes indicating a risk of up to 254 diseases and conditions, providing a breakdown of any issues.
The FDA cited a lack of supporting evidence for some of the claims made and expressed particularly serious concern over their assessment of the BRCA gene, which is linked to breast cancer, suggesting 23andMe’s tests might result in false positives that could lead to women undergoing traumatic and unnecessary surgery. The FDA’s actions have led to an explosion of opinion across the science blogosphere, but in all of that commentary a big question remains unanswered: What exactly is the point of personal genomics?
My first experience with the industry came about three years ago, when I was offered the chance to have a test done with Navigenics, a firm since taken over by a biotech firm called Life Technologies. Being a curious sort of guy, I jumped at the chance. A sample tube arrived via Fedex a few days later, which I duly spat into and sent back for analysis.
The results came back in the form of a sort of “wall of death”—a breakdown of all the things that might harm or kill me over the coming decades, detailing how likely I am to have each condition. Drilling into the figures, I can see that I have a higher risk of prostate cancer than 95 percent of the population and a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s—twice the average risk. So I’ll probably get cancer, but on the plus side I’ll be too forgetful to care about it.
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia, but there are still use cases that are very controversial, like medical marijuana for children. Some claim it’s a wonder drug for epilepsy, severe autism, and even to quell the harsh side effects of chemotherapy, while others decry pumping marijuana into still-growing bodies. We went to the small town of Pendleton, Oregon, where medical marijuana is legal, to visit Mykayla Comstock, an eight-year-old leukemia patient who takes massive amounts of weed to treat her illness. Her family, and many people we met along the way, believe not only in the palliative aspects of the drug, but also in marijuana’s curative effect—that pot can literally shrink tumors.
Watch the documentary
If You Think You Can Survive on ‘Junk Food and Cigarettes’ You’re an Idiot
The Daily Mail has been trailing a new book this week by “leading science writer” Tony Edwards. Titled The Good News About Booze, which sounds like an off-license run by a Jehovah’s Witness, it tackles three of the middle class’s greatest obsessions: dying of cancer, mediocre sex, and drinks that middle-class people like. The first extract from the book, published last week, gave the paper a valuable opportunity to address the important question of whether red wine causes or cures cancer.
The book (or at least the extracts—the email I sent requesting a review copy remains unanswered) is exactly what you’d expect. Edwards claims to have conducted an “in-depth study of around half-a-million scientific papers about alcohol”, which is basically impossible unless he has an army of minions in his basement. In the best traditions of Malcolm Gladwell, he takes a banal and well-known truth—that drinking a moderate amount of red wine is healthy—and pretends it’s some kind of shocking revelation that some indefinable cabal of wine-hoarding misers don’t want you to know about. Throw in a few silly exaggerations for added measure, like “red wine may well be one of the most effective ‘medications’ in history” or “I’m just an averagely intelligent science journalist,” and you have a perfect piece of click-bait for the lazy editor to shove in the paper.
Can Making Patients Want to Kill Their Therapists Help Them?
When you think of psychotherapy, what likely comes to mind is an image of a cross-legged therapist in a dimly lit office who’s passively commenting on his patient’s neuroses while writing in a notepad. Maybe he even fixes his glasses and waits for a pause in the patient’s histrionic rant about his mother before saying something like, “And how does that make you feeeeeel?”
Now imagine a different type of therapist, one who purposely tries to upset their patient, pushing relentlessly through their tears and hysteria, escalating the situation until the patient either breaks down or flies into a murderous rage. While that type of antagonistic therapy sounds ridiculous, it’s a actually real method currently being taught and administered by Dr. Tewfik Said at McGill University in Montreal. It’s known as Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, or ISTDP for short, and naturally it’s pretty controversial.
The Real Drunk History: Cider
Last year, I started living an alternative lifestyle. I unwillingly transformed into a gluten-free human being. Being gluten-free might not be as shameful as having a micro-penis or a father who is the BTK killer, but it’s close. It automatically excludes you from important things like pizza, sandwiches, and beer. The last one was the hardest life change to accept because of all the things that are associated with beer: Clydesdales horses, rocky mountains, Trappist monks, steins, hops, and neon signs. All of this was taken from me when I realized that drinking beer is not supposed to make you feel like you have a cold, give you a pounding headache after the third round, or have you shit your brains out after the fourth drink.
I thought that my days spent talking to friends from the seat of a barstool were over. Drinking beer allows me stay for hours—sipping my frothy beverage—all the while maintaining a somewhat sane level of sobriety during conversation. Once I was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant, I thought my former life was stripped away forever. That was until I decided to give cider that second chance. In the past, I figured that Woodchuck was reserved for dorks. English and Irish ciders that usually populate draft lines in bars seemed like they were reserved for cool old ladies and European soccer fans.
Motherboard’s Brian Merchant spent a month living on nothing but Soylent, the futuristic meal-replacement drink. Watch the documentary
The Act of Puking
Like many people over a certain age, vomiting no longer disgusts me. I’m not proud to admit it, but on occasion, I throw up after poisoning my body with too much alcohol. As a result, I’ve developed a handful of techniques that take me from retching to flushing without too much discomfort. Sometimes, when the first pangs of rusty saliva leak down my throat, I like to pretend that I’m an angry dragon, hurriedly flapping my wings to spray an unsuspecting porcelain city with waves of bilious puke-fire. It’s pretty awesome.
“Nausea and vomiting can be at the end of a whole buildup of things,” said Charles Horn, a neuroscientist who specializes in emesis, the clinical term for blowing chunks. “But the truth is, when you vomit, you feel better, almost every time.”
In fact, vomiting makes some people feel so good that they’ve devoted their lives to studying it. This year, along with another neuroscientist named Bill Yates, Charles co-hosted a two-day, single-track academic conference at the University of Pittsburgh, officially known as Biology and Control of Nausea and Vomiting 2013—the International Vomiting Conference for short. In attendance were 62 prominent doctors who share the goal of advancing research on the biological mechanisms that cause nausea and vomiting. Their ultimate goal is to answer the questions: Why do people blow their grits, and what are we to do about it? The answers are more complicated than one might think.
More and More Veterans Are Smoking Weed to Cure Their PTSD
In America, the relationship between doctors and the hegemonic pharmaceutical industry is fraught with painful, mind-numbing contradiction. There’s no better example of this than in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among US veterans and others around the country. Drugs like Risperdal, an antipsychotic, are said to be no more effective in the treatment of PTSD than a placebo. These drugs are widely distributed to treat the symptoms of PTSD, despite allegations that they’re ineffectual in treatment of the condition.
PTSD is a disorder, characterized by extreme emotional or mental anxiety, often the result of a physical or psychological injury. When confronted with a potentially deadly situation, it’s natural for humans to feel afraid—we’ve developed pretty sophisticated fight-or-flight responses to deal with real or perceived danger. PTSD arises when that response is damaged, and the patient feels stressed or frightened even when he or she is no longer in danger. The disease disproportionately affects soldiers deployed in war zones. Very often they are in situations so dangerous that they develop the condition, and return home as shell-shocked emotional cripples. Veteran’s Affairs claims that today, almost 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, although the number is likely much higher due to lack of diagnosis.
Natural Insemination Is Tinder for People Who Want to Get Pregnant
Procreation is a pretty vital aspect of human existence. But tragically, not all of us are equipped to pollinate and populate, whether that’s because our junk doesn’t work right or because we can’t find anyone who wants to make a baby with us. Luckily, science has done what it was invented to do and created a number of methods to help prospective parents get around those problems—methods like IVF, artificial insemination (AI), and surrogate motherhood.
However, for those who find the concept of stepping into a hospital and walking out with a baby in their womb a little too abstract, there is a less traditional, 100 percent more tangible alternative: natural insemination (NI).
NI is exactly what it sounds like: sexual intercourse that’s supposed to result in a pregnancy, a.k.a. having sex to make a new human being. Only, instead of being the planned outcome of a relationship or accidental result of an awkward hookup, it’s facilitated by the internet and allows you to meet up with a complete stranger with the specific aim of making a baby. It’s sperm donation for the Tinder generation.