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Is less obesity a benefit of casinos on tribal lands?

Living in a community where a casino has opened or expanded may be linked to increased income, lower poverty rates, and decreased child obesity rates among Native Americans, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Researchers looked at body mass index scores calculated from fitness tests of more than 20,000 American Indian children ages 7 to 18 across tribal lands in California between 2001 and 2012. They compared the data from 57 school districts in areas that gained or expanded a casino with data from 24 school districts in places that already contained a casino and 36 districts where no casino existed.

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Children who lived in a community where a casino was built or expanded were on average 5 percent less likely to be overweight or obese compared with children who lived in an area with no casinos. Because obesity is more common among low-income children, the authors speculated that higher incomes from casinos contributed to the drop in obesity rates.

BOTTOM LINE: Living close to where a casino has opened or expanded may be linked to decreased obesity rates among Native American children.

CAUTIONS: The researchers did not explore whether other environmental reasons may have contributed to the lower obesity rates.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5

Source of pain pills shifts as abusers use them more

Many people who abuse prescription painkillers begin by getting the drug free from family or friends, but a new study suggests that the more people use the drugs, the more likely they are to turn to doctors or dealers for their supply.

Researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2008 and 2011, found 12 million people age 12 and older, most of them men, reported using painkillers at least once for nonmedical reasons.

Among those, the most frequent users — those who took these pills between 200 and 365 days a year — were three times more likely to have used a dealer to get the drug. One-third of those frequent users had a prescription for the drug, compared with one in five of those who took the drug less than 30 days in a year. Sixty-two percent of less frequent users got the drugs from people they knew compared with 26 percent of “high use” abusers.

The findings suggest that abuse-prevention programs focus on prescribed pain medications and the need for physicians to judiciously prescribe them and follow up with their most frequent users.

BOTTOM LINE: The more people abuse prescription painkillers, the more likely they are to turn to doctors or dealers for their supply.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on self-reports, which might not be entirely accurate.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Internal Medicine, March 3

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