Not Just Any News

Medical news that has an impact on your life. 

Results from a study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Vienna created a buzz in medical news recently. The study was done at the University of Siena College of Medicine, and Dr. Andrea Fagiolini was the lead investigator. The study found that serum testosterone levels, and therefore sexual desire, significantly increased in men after 2 weeks of exposure to a light box for 30 minutes per day.

The study included 39 men who had been referred for treatment for hypoactive sexual desire. Their testosterone levels were measured prior to start of the study. The men were given the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM 5 sexual disorders and a rating scale for sexual satisfaction. They were divided into 2 groups. One group received active treatment which consisted of 30 minutes upon rising in the morning sitting in front of a light box at one meter from the cornea with a UV filter rated at 10,000 lux. The placebo group also spent 30 min. in front of a light box, but the intensity was only 100 lux. After 2 weeks, testosterone levels had risen significantly in the active treatment group, while there was no change in the placebo group. The men in the active treatment group reported an increase in sexual satisfaction.  By scientific standards, the change was considered significant.

According to Dr. Fagiolini, testosterone levels naturally decline during the winter months in the northern hemisphere.  Therefore, it makes sense that testosterone levels are somewhat influenced by light.

Certainly the study does have limitations. There were a small number of study subjects. It needs to be replicated. It would be interesting to know how long the increased libido lasted after the study was completed.  Also, does the effect continue if the light therapy is continued longer term?

Light therapy has been shown to be effective for depression, particularly seasonal depressions that are worse in winter. Is it possible that some of these men were depressed? That was not evaluated. Perhaps now there is more than one benefit from light therapy at least for men. Could that benefit extend to women?  A cheap alternative to Viagra would be welcomed by men and women.

The above study was reported by Liam Davenport at on Sept. 20, 2016.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for formal restrictions on the use of codeine in children. The FDA issued a safety alert on codeine in 2012, and required a black box warning in 2013. There have been serious, adverse respiratory reactions in children using codeine for pain or in cough syrup.  Codeine is converted to morphine when metabolized. There is a lot of genetic variability in how this drug is metabolized; some patients are ultra-rapid metabolizers, therefore their blood levels will rise quickly. They are very susceptible to respiratory depression (slowed breathing which can lead to low oxygen and death). Children and people with sleep apnea are especially likely to be ultra-rapid metabolizers.

Surprisingly, codeine is available without a prescription in cough medicine in 28 states.  So the message here is to avoid using codeine containing cough medication for your children and ask questions even when your pediatrician wants to prescribe it.

You can read more about this study, reported by Troy Brown, RN, at




It’s National Recovery Month



September is National Recovery Month.   It’s sponsored annually by the government agency SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration).  National Recovery Month celebrates recovery from mental illness and addiction.

How do we define Recovery? SAMHSA has identified four dimensions of Recovery: 1. Health, 2. Home, 3. Purpose, 4. Community.  The ability to manage one’s disease symptoms by making healthy choices with regard to diet, taking medications as prescribed, and abstaining from substances and activities that do not promote well- being fall within the health dimension.

The home dimension emphasizes the importance of a safe and healthy place to live for recovery to take place. SAMSHA defines purpose as “Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society.”1  

Last of all, the community dimension speaks to the importance of having a support system consisting of family and friends that provide love and hope.

Notice that the SAMHSA definition of recovery doesn’t say anything about being “normal.” We can’t define normal. People who recover from a serious mental illness or addiction are usually changed in significant ways.  Recovery doesn’t require the person to be exactly as they were. You can’t go through the experience of dealing with a mental illness or addiction without becoming an emotionally deeper, stronger person. It also doesn’t require that the person be totally free of the illness.   People with mental illness and/or addiction (you can have both) are always vulnerable. I particularly like the SAMHSA definition of the health dimension – the ability to manage symptoms by making good choices, not necessarily to be totally without symptoms.

Many people, with and without serious illness, struggle with finding meaning and purpose in life. I like the SAMHSA examples of purpose – having meaningful daily activities such as a job, caretaking, volunteering, being creative.  Living life as best you can meets the definition of purpose in my opinion.

People with mental illness and/or addiction can recover.  If you know someone working to recover, the most important thing you can give them is hope.


Check out the resources on


1 SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery, download PDF at