Teenagers and Alcohol

An Australian survey in 2013 found that the average age at which young people aged 14-24 first tried alcohol is 15.7. Approximately 86% of Australians 14 years of age and over have drunk alcohol at least once in their lives.

Alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The effect of alcohol comes from a combination of factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed and various other factors such as age, gender, body size, nutrition, and drinking experience. Alcohol consumption affects not only the person drinking, but everyone in the community. It is estimated that alcohol costs the Australian community over $15 billion a year. These costs relate to health problems, accidents, crime, violence, social issues, and loss of productivity.

teenagers drinking alcohol

The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol state ‘for children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option’ and that ‘children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking’. These guidelines are based on health risks to teenagers however there are also legal and social risks.

For adolescents, drinking alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death for this age group – unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. In addition, over 50% of alcohol-related serious road injuries occur in the 15–24-year-old age bracket. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), alcohol consumption in teenagers also contributes to physical injuries, risky sexual behaviour, antisocial behaviour, and poor academic performance. Studies show the earlier alcohol consumption starts, the greater the chance of developing problems with alcohol later in life, and the greater the likelihood of adverse physical and mental health conditions/consequences.

Every year, ‘schoolies’ events are covered in the media. Many of the incidents highlight the immediate negative consequences that can occur from binge drinking, such as physical injury from alcohol-fuelled violence. Developmental and social issues for the teenager, their peers, and their family can be less obvious as they arise over time.

Parents, and other significant adults, can positively influence teenagers to make wise choices regarding alcohol, and help them to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol. These adults can help even if the teenager has already started drinking.

Some useful tips include:

  • setting a good example through their own alcohol behaviours
  • rewarding responsible behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol
  • talking about strategies to deal with peer pressure regarding alcohol
  • discussing alcohol-related health issues as well as alcohol laws and the potential consequences for breaking them.

It is often said Australians love a drink. We can also show love for our children by helping them to avoid the harm alcohol can cause them when drinking starts at an early age.

At Fresh Therapeutics we have Pharmaceutical Society Self Care Fact Card entitled Alcohol and we can give you more information about the effects of alcohol, including interactions you’re your medicines, and where to seek counselling about alcohol-related problems.

Brain Awareness Week

This year, Brain Awareness Week is taking place on the 13th to 19th March. Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, and unites the efforts of organisations worldwide in celebrating the brain for people of all ages.

In Australia, the Brain Foundation is a charity that is dedicated to funding research around the country into neurological disorders, brain disease and brain injuries. This research aims to advance diagnoses, treatment and patient outcomes.

The brain is a large and complex organ, and is made up of more than 100 billion nerves communicating in numerous connections called synapses. Different parts of the brain work together, and control numerous aspects of daily living, including breathing, sleep, coordination and balance.

Brain Awareness Week

According to the Brain Foundation, there are a wide number of conditions, diseases and injuries classified as ‘brain disorders’. These conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis, and many others. Brain disease and injury affects millions of Australians and their loved ones.

The Brain Foundation also runs the Healthy Brain Program, which aims to assist Australians to keep their brains healthy into old age through providing community education and research. As people are living longer, the prevalence of degenerative brain disorders is increasing. This program aims to increase community awareness of the potential for improving long term brain health through lifestyle changes and risk reduction, promote the recognition of risk reduction strategies, and motivate changes to develop a healthy brain lifestyle. Some pointers to a healthy brain include:

  • Exercise and challenge your brain
  • Nourish your brain with a healthy diet and drink alcohol in moderation
  • Enjoy physical activity
  • Make ‘safety first’ a priority (head trauma is the silent epidemic)
  • Learn to manage stress and depression
  • Relax and sleep well
  • Have regular checks for blood pressure, diabetes, heart rate, cholesterol
  • Do not smoke or use illegal drugs

For Brain Awareness Week this year, the Brain Foundation is inviting Australians to host a ‘Big Trivia’, and help Australians with brain disease and injury. This is a great opportunity to gather your family and friends, test your brain power and raise money for brain research. It is easy to host your trivia event – information on how to host the event, access to trivia questions and answers, invitations and promotional material, as well as other resources are available. For more information visit: https://bigtrivia.org.au/

At Fresh Therapeutics as members of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Self Care program we can provide Self Care Fact Cards on a wide variety of health topics about brain conditions. Available Fact Cards include those titled Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy, Migraine, and many others.

How Fresh Therapeutics Compounding Pharmacy Can Help A Person Living With Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's DiseaseParkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS), and it is one of many neurological conditions. Its cause is the loss of nerve cells in the brain due to a variety of reasons including age, hormones, and injury.

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease have insufficient levels of the chemical dopamine. Without dopamine, people cannot perform many of their normal daily activities at an expected speed. Their movements become slower and it takes longer to perform any task.

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DementiaDid you know that dementia is not a single condition or disease? In fact, the symptoms of dementia can be caused by over 100 different disorders that affect the brain.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. The brain’s function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social and working life.

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Should You Go Gluten Free?

The term ‘gluten-free’ appears everywhere in our modern society. Dietary gluten is often blamed for causing a variety of unpleasant symptoms, health problems, and weight gain. There is a range of expensive gluten-free products now on the market, and sales of these products are growing rapidly.

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Show You Care About Beating Cancer

beating-cancerOver time, the daffodil flower has been regarded as a symbol of rebirth – a sign of the new beginnings that come with spring.
The Cancer Council of Australia (www.cancer.org.au) chose the daffodil as a sign of new life and hope that a cure for cancer will be found. This Daffodil Day, 28 August 2015, will see a major fundraiser for the Cancer Council of Australia with the theme of ‘Show you care about beating cancer.’ Every daffodil and every donation grows hope – hope for better treatments, hope for more survivors, and hope for a cancer-free future.

Every day in Australia, about 300 people are told they have a life-threatening cancer. The Cancer Council says an estimated 124,910 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020. One in two Australian men and one in three Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.

The good news is that while cancer is on the increase, death rates are falling and today more than 50 per cent of all cancers can be successfully treated. The survival rate for many common cancers has increased by 30% in the past two decades. However, there is still a long way to go, and Daffodil Day is one way of raising the funds that are needed to further increase the survival rate from cancers.

In Australia the most common cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) are prostate, colorectal (bowel), breast, melanoma and lung cancer.

The Cancer Council estimates that each year in Australia more than 6,000 deaths from cancer can be attributed to three major risk factors – inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, inadequate physical activity, and being overweight and obese.

Tobacco is also a major cause of preventable disease. While Australia has been a world leader in tobacco control, thousands of people are still dying prematurely as a result of active and passive smoking.

Research highlights the need for behavioural and lifestyle changes as the key to cancer prevention. Developments and improved treatments for cancer have greatly improved health outcomes, but effective prevention strategies are the key to further improving these outcomes. Research shows that once cancer is diagnosed, modification of diet or the use of dietary supplements (such as vitamins or antioxidants) does not seem to alter the course of the disease.

At Fresh Therapeutics we provide advice on ways to keep healthy and prevent cancer. We can provide advice and support on how to achieve a healthy weight or how to quit smoking.

We have the ColoVantage Test Kit that is recommended by Bowel Cancer Australia as a screening test for bowel cancer. The test kit uses advanced scientific techniques to detect small amounts of bleeding in bowel movements, which may be an indication of colorectal disease (including bowel polyps). The recommendation for a positive test is for further investigation, often a colonoscopy.

We also stock Sunscreens and advice on how to prevent skin cancer in our Sense in the Sun Self Care Fact Card.

At Fresh Therapeutics we like to help our patients achieve a healthy lifestyle by making informed decisions about lifestyle choices.

Preventing Falls and Brain Injury

fall-and-brain-injuryThis month you may notice people walking around wearing distinctive bright blue beanies. Those people are joining BANGONABEANIE – a national campaign to raise awareness for Brain Injury Awareness Week, which runs from 17–23 August 2015.

The objective of Brain Injury Awareness Week is to increase education and awareness of brain injury, raise funds, and develop sustainable and mutually-beneficial partnerships with related organisations across the country.

Brain injury is common, affecting over 1 in 12 Australians, often with no visible signs that they are experiencing ongoing issues. While the outcome of the injury depends largely on the nature and severity of the injury itself, appropriate treatment plays a vital role in the level of recovery.

The terms ‘head injury’ and ‘acquired brain injury’ (ABI), are widely used to describe all types of brain damage which occur after birth (with the exception of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder – FASD).

ABI is a complex and individual condition. The damage can be caused through a variety of reasons including accident or trauma, stroke or other cardiovascular disease, alcohol or drug abuse. It can also occur through diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and dementia. ABI is distinct from intellectual disability. People with a brain injury may have difficulty controlling, coordinating and communicating their thoughts and actions but generally retain their intellectual abilities.

One of the biggest causes of ABI is accident or trauma – known as traumatic brain injury (TBI). Such injuries are the result of a blow to the head or other external force. While traffic accidents, sports injuries and assault account for some of these cases, a significant number of these injuries are caused by falls.

Falls are the most common accidents among older people. Changes to eyesight and balance, weaker muscles, stiff joints and slow reflexes can make people unsteady as they age. This can increase the many tripping hazards at home and in public places. It is important to ensure you have good lighting, wear supportive, non-slippery footwear and consider putting handrails around your home. Regular exercise at a moderate level on all or most days of the week is also important to improve flexibility, balance and muscle strength. As always, prevention is better than cure.

Certain medical conditions or medicines can also increase the risk of having a fall. There is a higher risk of falls when taking multiple medicines, starting a new medicine, or changing the dose of your medicine. Your pharmacist can help to identify medicine-related problems and provide advice on how to reduce or avoid side effects.

To reduce the chances of having a fall:

  • manage your medicines and medical conditions carefully
  • understand the effects of your medicines
  • move carefully – don’t rush
  • exercise regularly
  • wear supportive shoes
  • keep your home environment safe
  • ask for help if you feel unsteady
  • limit alcohol intake.

Falls are a major cause of brain injury and preventing falls is an important health consideration.

At Fresh Therapeutics we can sit down with you and your medicines and discuss which medicines may put you at risk of falls.  This is called a Medscheck. After the Medscheck we give you a print out of all the medicines you are taking including any you may have purchased from a Supermarket or Healthfood store. This list can be very helpful to have with you if you have to go to hospital or see other doctors.

We also have a Self Care Fact Card with more detailed information on preventing falls titled Preventing Falls. At Fresh Therapeutics we aim to help our patients lead a healthy life.

Understanding Medicines and Breastfeeding

medicine-and-breastfeedingThe first week of August, 1–7, is World Breastfeeding Week. In Australia, most babies (96%) are initially breastfed and it’s a key contributor to infant health. At this time, let’s consider taking medicines when breastfeeding.

Medicines can be defined as either prescription (only available with a prescription from a healthcare professional such as a doctor), over-the-counter (available without a prescription, often from a pharmacy) and complementary (e.g. herbal, natural and alternative medicines). Most medicines pass into breast milk but usually only in very small quantities. These quantities are generally too small to be harmful to the baby.

Many women will take some kind of medicine when breastfeeding. Some breastfeeding mothers may need to take medicine regularly to treat a medical condition. Others may take medicine occasionally when required to treat a sudden, limiting condition such as a headache, cough or cold. It is important when using any medicine while breastfeeding to consider the benefits to the mother compared with any risk it may pose to the baby. Discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.

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constipationConstipation is one of the most common bowel problems experienced by Australians and this condition can be distressing and debilitating.

Constipation is the term used to describe when your bowel motions are less frequent and you have trouble passing them as they are often hard and dry.

The Bristol Stool Chart describes the type pf stool that indicates constipation as either separate hard lumps like nuts (hard to pass) or sausage shaped but lumpy. (see https://www.continence.org.au/pages/bristol-stool-chart.html )

At times you may only be able to pass small amounts or have difficulty passing anything at all. Other signs of constipation may include pain, cramps or swelling in the abdominal area, or perhaps you leave the toilet feeling your bowel is not completely empty.

One of the common causes of constipation occurs because the colon (part of the digestive system) absorbs too much water from your food. If the food moves through the digestive system too slowly, too much water may be absorbed. The bowel contents at the end of the digestive process are then too dry and hard.

According to the Continence Foundation of Australia (www.continence.org.au) there are many things which can cause or worsen constipation including:

  • not eating enough fibre (fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread, high-fibre cereals)
  • not drinking enough water – always drink more when you increase fibre in your diet
  • not doing enough exercise
  • anxiety, depression, grief
  • delaying the urge to go to the toilet
  • using laxatives for a long time
  • the side effects of some medicines (even some common ones like pain killers or iron tablets)
  • pregnancy
  • being overweight
  • not being able to go to the toilet because of poor mobility
  • some nerve diseases
  • some bowel problems like haemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or diverticulitis
  • anorectal pain caused by haemorrhoids, fissures (tear in the skin of the anus) or birth trauma
  • a slow transit bowel which means it takes longer for the faeces to travel all the way to the rectum, so more water is removed over time and constipation is much more likely. This occurs where there is nerve damage such as with stroke, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or trauma.

Our pharmacists can recommend some ways to help. One way to treat constipation is by taking a ‘laxative’. There are various types of laxatives including include bulking agents, lubricants, and stimulating/irritant laxatives and they all work differently so it’s important to talk to your pharmacist or doctor to consider which one is right for you.

The condition of severe constipation is the most common cause of faecal incontinence (or bowel leakage), especially in older people. This can occur because hard bowel motions are difficult to pass and may cause a partial blockage high up the bowel, resulting in watery bowel motions flowing around the constipated stool without warning. This is sometimes mistaken for diarrhoea.

In addition, constipation can affect bladder control and urinary continence. If you sometimes leak urine or feel that you need to frequently visit the toilet to pass urine, it could be that constipation is involved.

Another effect of constipation can be on your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle strength is important for both bladder and bowel control. These muscles can be weakened by straining due to constipation, pregnancy and childbirth, or perhaps heavy lifting. Strong pelvic floor muscles are necessary for bladder and bowel control – the ability to ‘hold on’. At Fresh Therapeutics we stock the Epi-No Pelvic Floor Trainer (http://www.epi-no.com.au/) or Laselle Kegel Exercisers that may be used to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

You can also get more information on issues affecting your bowel such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Self Care Health Information on Fibre and bowel health, Constipation and Haemorrhoids.


travel-healthDue to a relatively strong Australian dollar and our well-known sense of adventure, more and more Australians are travelling overseas – often to exotic and remote locations. As the number of Australians travelling overseas increases, so do the number of travellers who become ill – sometimes fatally.

There are many things you can do to ensure you are a healthy traveller, and at Fresh Therapeutics we can assist with these preparations. First of all, visit your general practitioner for a thorough check-up to ensure there are no underlying health issues, which may affect your travels. Broadway General Practice next to Fresh Therapeutics Broadway has a travel clinic that can advise on issues such as vaccinations, travelling with medicines, and treating common travel illnesses.

Infectious diseases that cause some of the illnesses when travelling are often vaccine-preventable. Vaccinations may be an entry requirement for some countries so check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you are intending to visit, or transit through. In some countries, you may be refused entry or be required to have the vaccination at the border.

It’s never too late to vaccinate. However, some vaccines require a long period to take effect and more than one dose may be needed – so factor this time into your plans. You may also need boosters for childhood vaccines.

It is recommended you seek professional medical advice and have any vaccinations prior to leaving Australia. Doctors at the travel clinic can help to ensure you are aware of the required vaccinations for your trip, and any booster doses of childhood vaccinations.

Before travelling, visit your doctor and pharmacist for a supply of any prescription medicines you may need (checking with the relevant embassy or consulate in Australia to see if there are limitations on what you can take). Take enough medicine to cover the length of your trip. If you need to travel with large quantities of medicine, it’s good practice to divide portions among different pieces of your luggage in case bags go missing.

It is an offence to carry or send Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicine overseas unless it’s for your own personal use, or for the use of someone travelling with you. You could be fined $5,000 and spend two years in prison if you break the law. More detailed information is available on the Department of Health website or by calling the PBS information line on
1800 020 613.

The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website (www.smartraveller.gov.au) recommends carrying a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is, how much you’ll be taking with you, and stating that it’s for your own personal use.
Keep all medicine in the original container clearly labelled with your name and dosage instructions to avoid customs problems.

If you have to inject your medicine, it may be preferable to carry your own needles and syringes if permissible in the countries you’re visiting. If you buy needles and syringes overseas, ensure they are sealed and sterile.

It can be difficult to buy medicines and first aid supplies in countries where you do not speak or read the language. Your pharmacist can provide recommendations for over-the-counter medicines and first aid supplies which are useful to take with you. ‘Travellers’ diarrhoea’ is a common, but often preventable, problem for travellers and there are some simple medicines to take with you that can make a great addition to any travel insurance policy.

At Fresh Therapeutics we have a Traveller’s Checklist:

See your Doctor for:
 Vaccinations
 Antibiotics – travellers diarrhoea*
 Short acting sleeping tablets for jet-lag*
 Small molecular weight heparin if at high risk of DVT*
 Anti-malarials*
 Regular prescribed medicines*

* Make sure your have written instructions for use

Ask our Pharmacists about:

First Aid Items

 Adhesive tape, e.g. Micropore
 Antiseptic wound cleanser, e.g. povidone iodine solution (Betadine)
 Sterile dressings, bandages, eg. Postop Flexigrid, Melolin, PIC
 Blister strips eg. Scholl, Compeed
 Triangular bandage for sling
 Scissors, tweezers and safety pins (not in carry-on luggage)
 Clinical thermometer
 Lubricant eye drops, mist or gel
 Paracetamol
 Insect bite treatment –
o Antihistamines
o Anti-itch cream/lotion

Other items according to destination and personal needs
 Compression stockings and aspirin to prevent DVT
 Sunscreen (at least SPF 30+)
 Insect repellent eg Bushman’s DEET 30%
 Diarrhoea treatment –
o Oral rehydration sachets
o Anti-diarrhoea medicines
 Probiotic to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea
 Motion sickness tablets
 Vomit bags eg Chuckies
 Indigestion/dyspepsia tablets
 Antichafing balms eg Body Glide
 Antifungal powder/cream
 Cold and flu medicines
 Throat lozenges
 Condoms
 Adequate supplies of tampons/sanitary pads
 Earplugs
 Water purifier tablets, e.g. Aquatabs, MicroPur
 Spare pair of glasses, contact lens solutions, optical prescription
 Medical equipment as required, e.g. asthma nebuliser, insulin pen, blood glucose monitor
 Cooler bags to keep refrigerated items whilst in transit eg.medactiv Easybags

Ask our pharmacists about which of these may be best for you and/or which medicines are appropriate for you to take with any of your prescribed medicines.

If you need to purchase medicine at your travel destination, be careful to avoid imitation or counterfeit medicines (including prescription medicines), and always check the strength of a medicine with a doctor. Be aware that packaging and labelling may be similar to those available in Australia, but the strength and active ingredients can vary from country to country.
We also have more detailed information on travel health on the Self Care Fact Card titled Travel Health available at all Fresh Therapeutics Pharmacies.