Monday, August 25, 2014

ER Visits Involving Sleep Drug Overmedication Almost Doubles /By Join Together Staff August 12th, 2014 The number of emergency department visits involving the sleep drug zolpidem (the active ingredient in Ambien) almost doubled over four years, according to a new government report. Zolpidem-related ER visits rose from 21,824 in 2005-2006, to 42,274 in 2009-2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found. In 2010, females accounted for two-thirds of zolpidem-related ER visits involving overmedication. The largest number of visits related to overmedication with the drug involved patients ages 45 to 54. More than half of zolpidem-related ER visits also involved other prescription drugs, including other anti-anxiety and insomnia medications and narcotic pain relievers. In addition, 14 percent of visits involved alcohol combined with zolpidem. Almost half of ER visits related to zolpidem overmedication resulted in either a hospital admission or a transfer to another medical facility. About one-quarter of these more serious cases involved admission to a critical or intensive care unit, the report noted. CBS News reports that hospital ER visits involving drug-related suicide attempts in people ages 45 to 64 doubled from 2005 to 2011. In 2010 there were almost 5 million drug-related visits to emergency departments throughout the country, according to SAMHSA. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required manufacturers of drugs containing zolpidem to reduce the recommended dose by half for females, in response to increasing numbers of reports of adverse reactions. The FDA suggested drug makers also reduce the recommended dose for men. Zolpidem’s side effects can include daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, dizziness, agitation and sleepwalking. When combined with other substances, the sedative effects of zolpidem can be dangerously enhanced, SAMHSA noted in a news release.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Workplace Drug Testing — Helping Stop Accidents Before They Happen Posted Jul 29, 2014 Many people who have made it to the final stages of the job application process are familiar with pre-employment drug screening. Post-accident, random, return to duty, and reasonable suspicion are also reasons why an organization might drug test its employees. Why all the testing? To put it plainly, drugs and jobs just don’t mix. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) lists some job performance issues no employer wants to see at their sites: • Inconsistent work quality • Poor concentration and lack of focus • Lowered productivity or erratic work patterns • Increased absenteeism or on the job “presenteeism” • Unexplained disappearances from the jobsite • Carelessness, mistakes or errors in judgment • Needless risk taking • Disregard for safety for self and others- on the job and off the job accidents • Extended lunch periods and early departures Now, you can imagine that bullet point about “disregard for safety” struck a nerve. As safety professionals, you do your best to create a workplace safety culture that gets everyone home safe after their shift. You try to control potential dangers and make sure everyone knows what they need to know to safely perform all their job duties. Adding impaired workers into the mix only makes matters so much more difficult for employers, co-workers, and the abusers themselves. A workplace testing program, and employees who understand the rationale behind it, can help alleviate many of these concerns. NCAAD provides a downloadable fact sheet filled with stats that make the case for workplace testing: • Up to 40% of industrial fatalities and 47% of industrial injuries can be linked to alcohol consumption and alcoholism. • 21% of workers reported being injured or put in danger, having to re-do work or to cover for a co¬worker, or needing to work harder or longer due to others' drinking. • Absenteeism among alcoholics or problem drinkers is 3.8 to 8.3 times greater than normal and up to 16 times greater among all employees with alcohol and other drug-related problems. Drug-using employees take three times as many sick benefits as other workers. They are five times more likely to file a worker's compensation claim. • Shortfalls in productivity and employment among individuals with alcohol or other drug-related problems cost the American economy $80.9 billion in 1992, of which $66.7 billion is attributed to alcohol and $14.2 billion to other drugs. A 2011 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in collaboration with and commissioned by the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), offers these findings for consideration as well: • A fifth of organizations (19 percent) reported seeing an improvement in productivity. • Four percent of employers said they had high absenteeism rates (more than 15 percent) after implementing drug testing programs compared to 9 percent before beginning programs, a decrease of more than 50 percent. • Six percent of organizations saw workers’ compensation incidence rates of more than 6 percent after implementing programs compared to 14 percent before starting drug testing programs, a decrease of more than 50 percent. • For employers with drug testing programs, 16 percent reported a decrease in employee turnover rates, while 8 percent reported an increase, after the implementation of a drug testing program. Mobile Medical Corporation provides testing and training that will educate the employer and employee on: • When testing needs to occur, including pre-employment, random, post accident, reasonable suspicion, return to duty, and follow-up testing • Why testing for alcohol and other drugs is required for transportation workers • Importance of maintaining a drug- and alcohol-free workplace Call Today: 888-662-8358 for more information

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One in five workers drunk on the job by Janie Smith | 04 Jul 2014 Workplace drug testing gets a fair amount of media coverage, but there is a potentially far larger issue that employers need to be aware of – alcohol. A survey conducted by the Australian Drug Foundation found that nearly one in five employees had performed work duties while drunk or tipsy. A similar number admitted to pulling a sickie due to the effects of alcohol, while about 40% said they’d gone to work while still feeling the effects of their drinking. According to the foundation, alcohol and other drugs cost Australian businesses $6 billion per year in lost productivity and absenteeism, with alcohol use contributing to five per cent of workplace deaths and 11 per cent of accidents. Phillip Collins, the foundation’s head of workplace services, told HC that employers needed to realise that drinking was not an “at-home issue”, even though the majority of alcohol is consumed outside of office hours. “People don’t really understand the knock-on effect of alcohol. They think you can have a party at night and come to work the next day and be fully functional. But the truth is, alcohol takes a lot longer to get out of the system than people recognise. It impacts your performance.” Collins said studies showed that a blood alcohol concentration of 0.09, nearly double the legal driving limit of 0.05, caused a massive drop-off in cognitive skills and huge variations with regards to motor skills. “If you’re in a factory doing some assembly, there are big error rates that can occur. Or if you’re a manager doing cognitive work, you can make poor judgements. You might not feel over the limit or under the weather, but cognitively and motor skills-wise, you can actually be quite impacted.” He said organisations needed to have a robust alcohol and drug policy that wasn’t just a behavioural statement, but was ingrained in the business. It needed to cover things like what employees did in a social setting, how they interacted with clients and what the drinking cut-off rate was. “Are you going for zero tolerance, are you going for a three-strike policy? There are a lot of things in the policy that need to be addressed, not simply a throw-away line to say, ‘Hey, we’re banning alcohol’. “In certain settings, that’s actually a very difficult thing to do. If you’re in a sales environment, you may be called upon to entertain a client or to have a meeting over lunch or dinner and if you have a zero tolerance policy on alcohol, that’s not workable.” Collins said organisations had to look at the reality of their business to make sure its drug and alcohol policy was a good cultural fit and it was able to continue to do business while providing a safe working environment. Communicating the policy was also key, he said. “A lot of policies are created and put on the shelf where they collect dust and nobody actually knows about them until something goes wrong.” Reiterating the policy was particularly important around high-risk times like Christmas and the “silly season” period, when parties were more common. Legally speaking, dealing with employees who came to work under the influence was up to the organisation, said Collins. “Apart from them not being able to break any laws – so if they’re over the limit of 0.05 they can’t drive – there’s no legislation that tells an organisation, ‘This is what you have to do’. It’s really up to the organisation to set those boundaries.” Managers also needed to be educated on how to identify that someone is intoxicated. “You don’t want to identify someone who might look intoxicated but is actually on prescription medication. Organisations have to become a bit smarter about what they do and there hasn’t been any real skill set that’s been put into the HR space that allows everyone to be upskilled.” Are your employees up to speed with the company’s drug and alcohol policy?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Women and PPE: Finding the right fit Employers need to keep women in mind when purchasing PPE Thomas J. Bukowski June 22, 2014 ■PPE such as gloves, fall-arrest harnesses and safety boots that are designed for men may not fit women because of differences in average body dimensions. ■Some experts insist that employers should provide separate PPE for men and women rather than unisex PPE, which may not fit a woman properly. ■Employers should seek out distributors that offer a full range of PPE for both men and women, stakeholders say. Personal protective equipment is one of the last lines of defense for workers against injuries. However, in certain industries such as construction, women are less fortunate than men when it comes to finding gear that fits properly. “I am a woman under 5 feet [tall] and I can tell you, there isn’t much PPE that fits me properly.” – Leah Curran, an employee with New Castle, DE-based Tri-Supply & Equipment “I have had many difficulties in providing my female workers with properly fitting PPE. Anywhere from women’s fire-retardant clothing to gloves appropriate for the job.” – Jeannette Fletter, environmental, health and safety manager for Belectric, a Newark, CA-based renewable energy sources provider “When I first started and needed to wear a hard hat, I’d have to try three or four different models before finding one I was comfortable with.” – Jennifer Grande, safety coordinator with Collins, NY-based Gernatt Asphalt Products Inc. OSHA cites the lack of a full range of PPE sizes and types at the retail, wholesale and distributor levels – as well as employers’ limited knowledge of PPE designed for women – as some of the reasons for the difficulty women encounter with PPE. Another issue may be the low number of women in industries requiring PPE. According to OSHA, in 2010 about 9 percent of workers – or 818,000 – in the construction industry were women. Of those, only about 200,000 worked as laborers or in other positions at construction sites. “Since the industry is majority employed by men, the majority of PPE is going to fit men, but that doesn’t mean PPE shouldn’t be made to fit women,” said Curran, who also is the incoming safety chair for the Fort Worth, TX-based National Association of Women in Construction. “Women may face safety risks because PPE and clothing are often designed for the average-sized [man].” Ill-fitting equipment PPE cannot protect a worker from hazards if it does not fit. Equipment designed for men may not fit women properly due to differences in body size, height and composition, said Hongwei Hsiao, chief of the Protective Technology Branch with NIOSH’s Division of Safety Research. “Women are not just [the] ‘small size’ of men; their body configurations … are different from those of men,” Hsiao said. Grande pointed to gloves and hard hats as examples of how poor fit can affect safety. “If gloves don’t fit right – if they are too big – they’re clumsy, and you may not be able to do your job as well,” she said. “If your hard hat falls off every time you look up, that’s not a good thing either – you may need to use one hand to hold it on.” According to Ziqing Zhuang, the respiratory protection research team leader of the Technology Research Branch at the NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, women may have a hard time finding protective clothing, fall-arrest harnesses and gloves that are not too large. Safety boots may be one of the most difficult pieces of PPE for female workers to find, Zhuang said, and he disagrees with a common notion that women should simply wear a man’s boot that is “two sizes smaller.” According to a 2006 publication from the Industrial Accident Prevention Association and the Ontario Women’s Directorate, a typical woman’s foot is both shorter and narrower than a typical man’s foot, so a smaller boot may be the right length but not the right width. PPE tips for women A publication developed by the Industrial Accident Prevention Association and the Ontario Women’s Directorate in 2006 offers tips for women workers looking for personal protective equipment that fits. •Earplugs – Disposable, foam earplugs are more likely to fit women, who typically have smaller ear canals. •Hard hats – Adding a chin strap can help hard hats or caps fit better and not fall off. •Safety goggles – Beware of goggles that state “one size fits all” – some may be too large for a woman’s face and could allow objects, fluids or other hazardous materials to enter through gaps in the seals. •Protective clothing – Taking a man’s garment and modifying it to fit a woman, such as rolling up sleeves or pant legs, can be dangerous because the excess material can become caught in machinery. •Safety gloves – Ensure all exposed skin is covered; the gloves allow for a safe grip so tools will not easily slip out of the hands; and the finger length, width and palm circumference of the gloves match those of the hands.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Marijuana Use on the Rise in U.S. but Decreasing Globally: U.N. Report /By JOIN TOGETHER STAFF JUNE 26TH, 2014 Marijuana use is increasing in the United States as Americans change their attitude about the drug’s risks, according to a new report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Globally, marijuana use seems to be decreasing. The number of Americans ages 12 or older who used marijuana at least once in the previous year increased to 12.1 percent in 2012, from 10.3 percent in 2008, Reuters reports. More Americans are seeking help for marijuana-related disorders. It is too early to understand the impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state and Colorado, the report noted. “For youth and young adults, more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use, and lowered risk perception has been found to predict increases in use,” the UNODC wrote. The report also noted there has been a surge in opium production in Afghanistan, and a fall in the global availability in cocaine. Worldwide output of heroin increased last year. Overall, drug use prevalence is stable around the world, the report concluded. About 5 percent of the world’s population ages 15 to 64 used an illicit drug in 2012. “There remain serious gaps in service provision. In recent years only one in six drug users globally has had access to or received drug dependence treatment services each year,” Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said in a news release. He added that about 200,000 drug-related deaths occurred in 2012.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Harvard Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don't Look Good By Eileen Shim April 16, 2014 Harvard Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don't Look Good Image Credit: AP The news: Every day, the push toward national legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable. As more and more politicians and noted individuals come out in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing different amounts of pot, the mainstream acceptance of the recreational use of the drug seems like a bygone conclusion. But before we can talk about legalization, have we fully understood the health effects of marijuana? According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot recreationally and half of whom didn't. What they found was rather shocking: Even those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation. "There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana recreationally is not a problem — that it is a safe drug," said Anne Blood, a co-author of the study. "We are seeing that this is not the case." The science: Similar studies have found a correlation between heavy pot use and brain abnormalities, but this is the first study that has found the same link with recreational users. The 20 people in the "marijuana group" of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week. Those in the control group did not smoke at all. "We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues," said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study. Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants. These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions. "This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch," said Breiter. "I don't want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things." Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape. Those who smoked more had more significant variations. What will happen next? The study's co-authors admit that their sample size was small. Their plan now is to conduct a bigger study that not only looks at the brain abnormalities, but also relates them to functional outcomes. That would be a major and important step in this science because, as of now, the research indicates that marijuana use may cause alterations to the brain, but it's unclear what that might actually mean for users and their brains. But for now, they are standing behind their findings. "People think a little marijuana shouldn't cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school," said Breiter. "Our data directly says this is not so

Friday, June 13, 2014

Research on Marijuana’s Role in Car Crashes Expands as Drug Availability Grows /By Join Together Staff June 10th, 2014/ As marijuana becomes more readily available, a growing number of researchers are studying the possible link between marijuana and fatal car crashes, USA Today reports. A study published earlier this year by Columbia University researchers found marijuana contributed to 12 percent of traffic deaths in 2010. The study of almost 24,000 fatal car accidents found marijuana was linked to three times as many traffic deaths compared with a decade earlier. According to a 2010 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one in eight high school seniors said they drove after smoking marijuana. Almost one-quarter of drivers killed in drug-related crashes were younger than 25, the article notes. In addition, almost half of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were under age 25. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and NHTSA have been conducting a three-year study to determine how inhaled marijuana impacts driving performance. NIDA notes on its website, “Considerable evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences. Research shows that impairment increases significantly when marijuana use is combined with alcohol.” NIDA notes it is difficult to measure the exact contribution of drug intoxication to driving accidents, because blood tests for drugs other than alcohol are inconsistently performed, and many drivers who cause accidents are found to have both drugs and alcohol in their system, making it hard to determine which substance had the greater effect. Lawmakers in Washington state, where recreational marijuana use is now legal, are trying to determine how police officers can identify drivers impaired by marijuana use. There is no consensus on what blood level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, impairs driving, the newspaper notes. Breathalyzers cannot be used for marijuana.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Painkiller Overdose Deaths Have Tripled: Government Report By Join Together Staff | May 15, 2014 | Overdose deaths from prescription narcotics tripled from 2009-2010, compared with a decade earlier, according to a new government report. Almost half of Americans are taking one or more prescription medications, the report found. An estimated 10.5 percent are prescribed painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found among people ages 15 and older, painkiller use led to 6.6 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2009-2010, compared with 1.9 deaths per 100,000 in 1999-2000. According to the CDC, 17.7 percent of Americans take prescription medication for cardiovascular disease; 10.7 percent take cholesterol-lowering medication; 10.6 percent take antidepressants; and 9 percent take anti-acid reflux drugs, Time reports. The report found a large jump in the percentage of Americans taking prescription medication, according to HealthDay. From 2007 to 2010, about 48 percent of people said they were taking a prescription drug, up from 39 percent from 1988 to 1994. About 90 percent of adults ages 64 and older took prescription medication in the past month, while 25 percent of children did so. About 10 percent of Americans said they had taken five or more prescription drugs in the previous month. The rising use of medications has unintended consequences, including prescription drug abuse and antibiotic resistance. “Isn’t that the case with all forms of medical technology?” said Julia Holmes, Chief of the Analytic Studies Branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “It results in great benefit to people who are ill and disabled, but there’s always the potential for inappropriate use.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

DEA Arrests at Least 150 People in Synthetic Drug Operation in 29 States By Join Together Staff | May 8, 2014 | The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Wednesday it conducted a major crackdown on synthetic drugs that involved the arrest of at least 150 people in 29 states, and the seizure of more than $20 million in products and cash. Hundreds of thousands of packets of synthetic drugs were seized. The operation comes a week after more than 100 people in Texas became ill from synthetic marijuana, the Los Angeles Times reports. “There’s a cluster of people with severe anxiety, some with seizures, that could be because of synthetic cannaboids,” Dr. Miguel Fernandez, Director of South Texas Poison Center, told the newspaper. “I would caution people not to use them because they are not like typical marijuana.” Law enforcement officials and prosecutors have found it difficult to win convictions against makers of synthetic drugs, who are constantly changing the chemistry of the products to stay one step ahead of the law. In order to convict a synthetic drug maker, officials must prove the person sold the drug, and that the drug was substantially similar to a specifically banned substance. All a drug maker has to do is make small chemical changes to the products so they are not considered “analogues,” or chemical compounds that are similar to banned drugs. Last year, the DEA and authorities in three other countries announced the arrests of dozens of people involved in trafficking designer drugs such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana. In the United States, the enforcement operations took place in 49 cities, and targeted retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. The operations included more than 150 arrest warrants and almost 375 search warrants. In 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported 29,000 emergency department visits nationwide in 2011 resulting from use of synthetic marijuana, up from 11,000 in 2010.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Two States to Consider Banning Powdered Alcohol By Join Together Staff | May 1, 2014 | Legislators in Minnesota and Vermont have introduced measures that would ban powdered alcohol, The Washington Post reports. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved labels for a powdered alcohol product called “Palcohol,” but earlier this month said the approval was a mistake. Lipsmark, the company that makes Palcohol, has resubmitted an application, the article notes. Lipsmark says it plans to offer powdered alcohol in six varieties, including rum, vodka, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita and Lemon Drop. According to the company, a package of Palcohol weighs about an ounce and can fit into a pocket. It warns people not to snort the powder. Minnesota state Representative Joe Atkins this week introduced a bill that would ban powdered alcohol sales in his state. A similar bill is being considered in Vermont. Some health experts are afraid the product could be easily misused or abused. “Virtually every possible use for powdered alcohol is nefarious, not to mention potentially dangerous,” Atkins said in a news release. “The different flavorings make it appealing to children and students who could easily sneak packets into school. This powder could also be inhaled or snorted, bringing a whole new world of problems into play. With how quickly this is moving, we shouldn’t wait until next session to deal with this issue. We need to move quickly to protect public health.” Vermont state Senator Kevin Mullin, who introduced the measure to ban powdered alcohol in his state, told VPR News, “You can’t buy a bottle of gin at the liquor store if you’re 16. But there’s nothing that I can see in Vermont statute that would prohibit you from buying powdered alcohol, if it was available. So think about kids walking around with packets of powdered alcohol in their pocket – hard to detect.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Countering the Myths About Methadone By Edwin A. Salsitz, MD | August 6, 2013 | Filed in Addiction, Healthcare, Prescription Drugs & Treatment Methadone maintenance has been used in the United States for approximately 50 years as an effective treatment for opioid addiction. Yet many myths about its use persist, discouraging patients from using methadone, and leading family members to pressure patients using the treatment to stop. Dr. Vincent Dole of Rockefeller University in New York, who pioneered the use of methadone as an opioid addiction treatment, found his patients no longer craved heroin. They were able to return to work and school, and participate in family life and community affairs. As methadone’s use grew, the federal government decided it should only be dispensed in licensed treatment programs, which would provide a whole range of services such as counseling, vocational help and medical and psychiatric treatment. This creation of the clinic system developed into a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it was advantageous to have many services available in the methadone clinic, but very stringent regulations came along with the clinic concept, including the requirement that patients come to the clinic daily for their methadone. Clinic hours often conflict with patients’ work schedules, and make it very difficult to take a vacation. In some areas of the country, the clinics are few and far between, requiring traveling many miles each day. The biggest and probably most important obstacle has been the stigma associated with being seen entering or exiting a methadone clinic. In an attempt to reduce that stigma, I present the six most common myths about methadone and explain why they are incorrect. Myth #1: Methadone is a substitute for heroin or prescription opioids. Methadone is a treatment for opioid addiction, not a substitute for heroin. Methadone is long-acting, requiring one daily dose. Heroin is short-acting, and generally takes at least three to four daily doses to prevent withdrawal symptoms from emerging. Myth #2: Patients who are on a stable dose of methadone, who are not using any other non-prescribed or illicit medications, are addicted to the methadone. Patients taking methadone are physically dependent on it, but not addicted to it. Methadone does not cause harm, and provides benefits. People with many common chronic illnesses are physically dependent on their medication to keep them well, such as insulin for diabetes, inhalers for asthma and blood pressure pills for hypertension. Myth #3: Patients who are stable on their methadone dose, who are not using other non-prescribed or illicit drugs, are not able to perform well in many jobs. People who are stable on methadone should be able to do any job they are otherwise qualified to do. A person stabilized on the correct dose is not sedated, in withdrawal or euphoric. The most common description of how a person feels on methadone is “normal.” Myth #4: Methadone rots teeth and bones. After 50 years of use, methadone remains a safe medication. There are side effects from taking methadone and other opioids, such as constipation and increased sweating. These are usually easily manageable. If patients engage in good dental hygiene, they should not have any dental problems. Myth #5: Methadone is not advisable in pregnant women. The evidence over the years has shown that a pregnant woman addicted to opioids has the best possible outcome for herself and her fetus if she takes either methadone or buprenorphine. A pregnancy’s outcomes are better for mother and newborn if the mother remains on methadone than if she tapers off and attempts to be abstinent during pregnancy. Methadone does not cause any abnormalities in the fetus and does not appear to cause cognitive or any other abnormalities in these children as they grow up. Babies born to mothers on methadone will experience neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs in most newborns whose mothers were taking opioids during pregnancy. This syndrome is treated and managed somewhat easily and outcomes for the newborn are good—it is not a reason for a pregnant woman to avoid methadone treatment. Mothers on methadone should breastfeed unless there is some other contraindication, such as being HIV-positive. Myth #6: Methadone makes you sterile. This is untrue. Methadone may lower serum testosterone in men, but this problem is easily diagnosed and treated. These myths, and the stigma of methadone treatment that accompanies them, are pervasive and persistent issues for methadone patients. They are often embarrassed to tell their other physicians, dentists and family members about their treatment. They may feel they are doing something wrong, when in fact they are doing something very positive for themselves and their loved ones. These misperceptions can only be corrected with more education for patients, families, health care providers and the general public. Edwin A. Salsitz, MD, FASAM, is Medical Director, Office-Based Opioid Therapy at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Frequency of Energy Drink Use Linked with Risk of Abusing Prescription Drugs By Join Together Staff | April 3, 2014 | College students who consume energy drinks are more likely than their peers who don’t use them to abuse prescription drugs, a new study concludes. The more energy drinks a student consumes, the greater their risk. The study included undergraduate and graduate college students, who completed a web-based survey about their pattern of energy drink and prescription stimulant use. They were asked about medications prescribed to them, as well as drugs they took without a prescription. The more energy drinks students consumed, the likelier they were to illicitly use prescription stimulants. All students who had a valid prescription for stimulant medications said they mixed energy drinks with their stimulants. This is discouraged, because it can increase side effects, reports. The findings are published in Substance Abuse. “This article includes a needed review of the neurological effects of energy drink ingredients. It also provides practitioners with important information about the dangerous interactions that can occur when energy drinks are mixed with prescription stimulants or other pharmaceutical drugs,” lead author Dr. Conrad Woolsey said in a news release. “Ginseng, for example, should not be mixed with anti-depressant medications or prescription stimulants because this can cause dangerously high levels of serotonin (i.e., serotonin syndrome), which is known for causing rapid irregular heartbeats and even seizures.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vaporizers Gain Popularity Among Marijuana Smokers By Join Together Staff | March 18, 2014 | A growing number of marijuana smokers are choosing to use vaporizers, which are similar to e-cigarettes, according to USA Today. The popularity of the devices is changing the way marijuana is packaged and sold in states where it is legal. The vaporizers, known as “vape pens,” are compact and portable. Steve DeAngelo, a marijuana entrepreneur and activist who founded the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California, says his dispensary does about half of its business in raw marijuana leaf or flowers. The rest are sold as edibles or concentrates, some of which are prepackaged for use in vape pens. “The percentage of raw (pot) flowers we sell has been dropping steadily,” he said. “The percent of extracts and concentrates … has been rising steadily.” Some vape pens use concentrated marijuana extractions, while others use marijuana leaves and flowers. “This really portends the next generation of marijuana use,” John Lovell, a Sacramento attorney and lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers’ Association and California Police Chiefs Association, told the newspaper. His group is concerned about the high-strength concentrates used in vape pens. Concentrates can be composed of as much as 80 percent or 90 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Others are concerned that vape pens allow teens to smoke marijuana without being detected, because the pens leave no odor.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Advocates Urge FDA to Revoke Approval of Painkiller Zohydro By Join Together Staff | February 26, 2014 | More than 40 addiction treatment, health care and consumer groups are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its decision to approve the prescription painkiller Zohydro ER (extended release), CNN reports. The drug is a pure form of the painkiller hydrocodone. The FDA approved Zohydro ER in October for patients with pain that requires daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment that cannot be treated with other drugs. Drugs such as Vicodin contain a combination of hydrocodone and other painkillers such as acetaminophen. Zohydro ER is set to become available in March, the article notes. In December 2012, a panel of experts assembled by the FDA voted against recommending approval of Zohydro ER. The panel cited concerns over the potential for addiction. Zohydro is designed to be released over time, and can be crushed and snorted by people seeking a strong, quick high. The opioid drug OxyContin has been reformulated to make it harder to crush or dissolve, but Zohydro does not include similar tamper-resistant features. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the coalition of health groups, wrote, “In the midst of a severe drug epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous, high-dose opioid. Too many people have already become addicted to similar opioid medications, and too many lives have been lost.” The health groups include the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Public Citizen Health Research Group, Phoenix House, the Hazelden Foundation, and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. In December, 28 attorneys general wrote to Commissioner Hamburg, saying they believe the approval of Zohydro ER “has the potential to exacerbate our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic because this drug will be the first hydrocodone-only opioid narcotic that is reportedly five to ten times more potent than traditional hydrocodone products, and it has no abuse-deterrent properties.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

DEA Joins Investigation Into Source of Deadly Heroin That Killed 22 In Western PA By Join Together Staff | January 29, 2014 The Drug Enforcement Administration has joined an investigation into the source of a batch of heroin that killed 22 people in western Pennsylvania, The Wall Street Journal reports. The heroin involved in some of the deaths contained the synthetic opiate fentanyl, often used during surgery. “We do have a good idea where it’s coming from,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said of the drug mix. “We’re trying to find the source and get them off the street before there are any more deaths.” Dr. Karl Williams, medical examiner for Allegheny County, said 15 overdose deaths in the county appeared to be linked to heroin and fentanyl. In an average week, there are five overdose deaths in the county. More nonfatal overdoses were also reported. Officials found bags of heroin mixed with fentanyl at the scene of overdose deaths stamped with the names “Theraflu” and “Bud Ice,” the article notes. While most heroin is a tan color, these bags of powder were pure white, Williams said. “Clearly, someone has mixed up a big dose of it,” he said. Some local law enforcement and health officials are concerned that warning drug users about the dangerous heroin mix will encourage them to seek it out for a more potent high. “A lot will chase it, and demand goes up,” Neil Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center told the newspaper. “They will think those who died were just careless.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Drug use among U.S. workers declined 74% over past 25 years According to new analysis Drug use among U.S. workers declined dramatically over the past 25 years, although the rate of positive test results for certain drugs, including amphetamine and opiates, continues to climb, according to an analysis of workplace drug test results released by Quest Diagnostics, a provider of diagnostic information services. The release of the special 25th anniversary Drug Testing Index (DTI) coincides with the anniversary of the passage of the Drug-Free Workplace Act in 1988. The Act requires federal contractors and all federal grantees to agree to provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency. Although the Act did not require mandatory drug testing, federal agencies subsequently promulgated drug testing regulations affecting "safety-sensitive" employees and other federal employees. Many private employers also created policies consistent with the federal requirements in order to minimize the hazards of drug use in the workplace. The DTI analysis examined more than 125 million urine drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics forensic toxicology laboratories across the United States as a service for government and private employers between 1988 and 2012. The analysis examined the annual positivity rate for employees in positions subject to certain federal safety regulations, such as truck drivers, train operators, airline and nuclear power plant workers (federally mandated safety-sensitive workers); workers primarily from private companies (U.S. general workforce); and the results of both groups together (combined U.S. workforce). The index reports the percentage of results that tested positive for the presence of a drug or its metabolite, an adulterant, or that involved a specimen that was deemed to be unacceptable for testing ("positivity"). The company's testing services identify approximately 20 commonly abused drugs, including marijuana, opiates, and cocaine. Key findings from the analysis: • The positivity rate for the combined U.S. workforce declined 74 percent, from 13.6 percent in 1988 to 3.5 percent in 2012. • The positivity rate for the federally-mandated safety-sensitive workforce declined by 38 percent, from 2.6 percent in 1992 to 1.6 percent in 2012. • The positivity rate for the U.S. general workforce declined by 60 percent, from 10.3 percent in 1992 to 4.1 percent in 2012. • Despite the declines in overall drug use, the DTI analysis also found that the positivity rate for certain segments of drugs has increased. Positivity rates for amphetamines, including amphetamine and methamphetamine, has nearly tripled (196 percent higher) in the combined U.S. workforce and, in 2012, were at the highest level since 1997. The positivity rate for amphetamine itself, including prescription medications, has more than doubled in the last 10 years. Positivity rates for prescription opiates, which include the drugs hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone, have also increased steadily over the last decade - more than doubling for hydrocodone and hydromorphone and up 71 percent for oxycodone - reflective of national prescribing trends. This data is consistent with other studies, including a 2012 Quest Diagnostics Health Trends analysis of more than 75,000 test results from patients tested for compliance through the company's prescription drug monitoring services. This report found that the majority of Americans misused their prescription medications, including opioids and amphetamine medications. The DTI report also found that changing positivity rates often mirrored larger developments in drug use in the U.S. For instance, a decline in drug positives for methamphetamine observed in 2005 roughly coincided with federal and state efforts to crackdown on so-called "meth labs" and put over-the-counter medicines (such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) behind the pharmacy counter.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Surge in Synthetic Marijuana Emergency Room Visits Reported in Denver By Join Together Staff | January 23, 2014 Emergency rooms in Denver, Colorado reported a surge in visits related to synthetic marijuana in the late summer and early fall, according to the Los Angeles Times. Experts say similar patterns may emerge in other parts of the country. Between August 24 and September 19, area emergency rooms saw 263 patients, mostly young men, with symptoms related to synthetic marijuana. Most patients were treated in the emergency room, but seven were admitted to intensive care units. In a letter in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Andrew A. Monte of the University of Colorado School of Medicine writes synthetic marijuana appears to be growing more potent. “Although the effects of exposures to first-generation synthetic cannabinoids are largely benign, newer products have been associated with seizures, ischemic stroke and cardiac toxicity, possibly due to potency,” he wrote. Synthetic marijuana is sold under names including K2, Spice and Black Mamba. It is made with dried herbs and spices that are sprayed with chemicals that induce a marijuana-type high when smoked, the article notes. The products are widely available, despite laws prohibiting them. “These substances are not benign,” Monte said. “You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the Internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be — up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.” In September, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they were investigating whether three deaths and 75 hospitalizations were caused by synthetic marijuana. Short-term effects of using synthetic marijuana include loss of control, lack of pain response, increased agitation, pale skin, seizures, vomiting, profuse sweating, uncontrolled/spastic body movements, elevated blood pressure, heart rate and palpitations.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Colorado Addiction Treatment Centers Brace for More Teens Referred for Marijuana Use By Join Together Staff | January 7, 2014 | Addiction treatment centers in Colorado are bracing for an increase in teens referred for marijuana use, ABC News reports. The state began legal sales of recreational marijuana for adults last week. While only people 21 and older are allowed to purchase marijuana, some experts are concerned the law will allow the drug to more easily fall into the hands of teens. Dr. Christian Thurstone, who heads the teen rehabilitation center Adolescent STEP: Substance Abuse Treatment Education & Prevention Program, said 95 percent of patient referrals to the program are for marijuana use. In preparation for the new law, Dr. Thurstone has doubled his staff. He told ABC News that marijuana can be harmful for some teens, particularly those suffering from mental illness. He said that after Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2009, teens began to use much higher potency products. “Our kids are presenting more severe addictions; it takes them longer to get a clean urine drug screen,” he said. Higher-potency marijuana can increase the risk of psychotic episodes in some teens, Thurstone added. “Anecdotally, yes, we’re seeing kids in treatment here who have paranoia and seeing things and hearing things that aren’t there,” he said. “Adolescent exposure to marijuana [raises] risk of permanent psychosis in adulthood.” Ben Court, an addictions expert at the University of Colorado Hospital Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation, has also seen an increase in patients addicted to marijuana since the state approved medical marijuana. He says the younger people are when they start consistently using marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted. “Most people are going to smoke weed and it’s not going to be an issue. By 18 to 24, your odds are less than 1 in 10 that you’re going to be addicted,” he said. “If you start under 18, it’s 1 in 6.”

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Alcohol-Related Car Crashes More Likely on New Year’s Eve Than Christmas Fatal car crashes are more likely to be caused by alcohol on New Year’s Eve, compared with Christmas, according to the National Safety Council. Bloomberg reports between 2007 and 2011, over the New Year’s holiday period—6 p.m. December 31 through 11:59 p.m. January 1—there were an average of 108 traffic deaths a day, with about 42 percent linked to alcohol. In contrast, there were 93 alcohol-related deaths between 6 p.m. December 24 and 11:59 p.m. December 25, with 35 percent linked to alcohol. This year, the group estimates that during Christmas, there will be 105 traffic deaths and 11,200 injuries requiring a medical professional, and 156 traffic deaths and 16,700 injuries during New Year’s. “The difference between the two holidays is that everybody on New Year’s Eve is going out to parties and at their parties, they’re having the alcohol,” Capt. Nancy Rasmussen, Chief of Public Affairs for the Florida Highway Patrol, told Bloomberg. Christmas is more of a “stay-in-the-house, do-the-family thing, so there’s less drinking,” she added. Traffic deaths are more likely during the July 4, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends than New Year’s, Thanksgiving or Christmas, the article notes. These warmer-month holiday periods average 140 traffic deaths each per day. The National Safety Council advises drivers not to get behind the wheel even if they think they’re “just a little buzzed.” Designate a non-drinking driver, or take a cab, and refuse to ride with an impaired driver, even if it’s a friend or spouse. By Join Together Staff | December 20, 2013 |

Friday, November 15, 2013

NO EASY ANSWER TO OPIOID ADDICTION EPIDEMIC By Join Together Staff | November 13, 2013 There are no easy answers to solving the opioid addiction epidemic, according to experts at the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence annual meeting this week. Thomas McLellan, CEO of the Treatment Research Institute, told NBC Philadelphia a multi-faceted approach is needed. “You don’t have any alternatives [to opioids]. The only alternative is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory; well it’s got liver toxicity and it’s not all that potent. There’s nothing between that and a very powerful opioid,” said Dr. McLellan, who served as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “This is one of those problems that society has to manage. You can’t do away with it. Not with 70 million older Americans who vote and are aging and need them. You can’t ban them.” Doctors don’t have proper training to understand opioid addiction, Dr. McLellan noted. “They prescribe too much. They don’t manage them. About 70 percent of all the overdose deaths occur within 48 hours after the first prescription or after the first refill,” he said. He and Dr. Jeannemarie Perrone, Director of Toxicology in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Medicine Department, recommend that doctors follow national guidelines from the American Academy of Pain Management. These guidelines recommend that patients sign a usage contract, and submit to an annual toxicology screening test to confirm they are taking the medicine and not taking other drugs before the doctor issues a prescription. Patients also need to be part of the solution to opioid abuse, Dr. McLellan says. “It has to be the joint responsibility of the patients to take medication as prescribed. Don’t give them to your sister, don’t leave them in your medicine cabinet, don’t take more than you need,” he added.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WEED AND WEAPONS: WORKPLACE CHALLENGES BASED ON NEW LAWS By Mark A. Lies II & Kerry M. Mohan INTRODUCTION OSHA requires employers to provide a safe workplace for employees, which includes, among other things, ensuring employees are not impaired in a manner that creates a safety hazard to the employee and other employees, as well as protecting employees from workplace violence. However, new laws regarding medicinal marijuana and the right to carry firearms, including concealed firearms, have created additional uncertainty and anxiety for employers, human resource and safety professionals, and supervisors. These new laws have created uncertainty over a number of issues, including, but not limited to, when an employer can test an employee for suspected marijuana use, whether an employer can lawfully discipline employees for marijuana use, whether an employer can prohibit employees from bringing personal firearms to the workplace, and whether an employer can prohibit an employee from bringing personal firearms in company vehicles. This article addresses potential liability issues employers may face regarding employee drug use and testing and firearms in the workplace. Because each state has its own laws regarding these two issues, we have formatted the article to be questions and answers to provide basic knowledge on these issues. The authors have assisted employers in identifying the specific requirements of state law in these areas and advising about compliance requirements in particular situations. WEED IN THE WORKPLACE Q. Is medical marijuana legal where I live? So far, 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that decriminalize or authorize, to varying degrees, the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Under federal law, use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is still unlawful. Q. Can an employer prohibit its employees from using medical marijuana? Most states permit an employer to establish reasonable rules regarding the use of medicinal marijuana. However, the states with the most recent medicinal marijuana acts, such as Delaware, Illinois, and Arizona, have explicitly prohibited employers from discriminating against medicinal marijuana users on that basis alone. In those states, an employer is permitted to prohibit medicinal marijuana use and discipline an employee for failing a drug test if it would put the employer in violation of federal law or would cause the company to lose a federal contract or money. Q. Are medicinal marijuana users protected by disability discrimination laws? Medicinal marijuana users have continually challenged policies prohibiting marijuana use on the basis of disability discrimination. Thus far, federal courts have found that marijuana use is not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because marijuana use remains unlawful under federal law. Employers must be aware that if an employee discloses that he/she is legally authorized to use medicinal marijuana that such disclosure could also involve revelation of an underlying “disability” that is protected under the ADA. Thereafter, if the employer decides to take any form of adverse employment action against the employee, it must be prepared to demonstrate that the adverse action was based upon a legitimate business reason having no relationship to an actual or perceived disability. In addition, because states (and many municipalities) have their own anti-discrimination laws, an employer may run afoul of a state’s disability discrimination law by disciplining medicinal marijuana users for off-the-clock use. Finally, many state privacy laws can protect employees for lawful conduct outside of working hours at long as such conduct does not create a hazard or violate any legal obligations at the workplace. Q. Can an employer discipline an employee for having marijuana at the worksite or for being under the influence of medicinal marijuana while at work? Yes. Even the most pro-user medicinal marijuana statutes permit employers to properly discipline employees who are found to have medicinal marijuana at work or who are under the influence of or impaired by medicinal marijuana while at work. Q. How can an employer determine whether an employee is under the influence of medicinal marijuana? Obviously, medicinal marijuana use is easy to spot when an employee smokes or ingests marijuana in front of a supervisor, which is certainly not the typical scenario. However, determining whether an employee is under the influence or “impaired” may be difficult to do under the circumstances, and may be even more difficult for untrained staff. Thus, employers must train supervisors, managers, and foremen on how to identify behavior that demonstrates potential impairment and the proper procedures for responding to and investigating alleged instances of impairment. Further, employers should develop a written definition and understanding as to what constitutes an “impaired” employee. For instance, Illinois’ recent medicinal marijuana statute provides a comprehensive definition of when an employee is considered “impaired” when (s)he: manifests specific, articulable symptoms while working that decrease or lessen his or her performance of the duties or tasks of the employee’s job position, including symptoms of the employee’s speech, physical dexterity, agility, coordination, demeanor, irrational or unusual behavior, negligence or carelessness in operating equipment or machinery, disregard for the safety of the employee or others, or involvement in an accident that results in serious damage to equipment or property, disruption of a production or manufacturing process, or carelessness that results in any injury to the employee or others. The Illinois definition of “impaired” provides a broad spectrum of behavior that employer can consider to be suspicious, and employers should consider whether to adopt this definition for their own internal workplace drug programs. Many states have similar definitions that could be incorporated in the policy. If the employer has properly trained the supervisor on this type of definition and the supervisor properly documents the behavior that has been observed, the employer will be in a position to defend any adverse employment action that it may take against the employee. GUNS IN THE WORKPLACE Likewise, the subject of guns in the workplace raises certain issues. Q. What is a carrying concealed weapons law? A carrying concealed weapons (“CCW”) law sets forth the requirements for an individual to carry a concealed firearm in public. CCW laws vary by state and provide varying restrictions of where an individual can carry a firearm. For instance, many CCW laws prohibit firearms from being carried onto schools, hospitals, government buildings, and places that serve alcoholic beverages. Illinois has 23 identified places where concealed firearms are prohibited. Q. Do CCW laws affect workplaces? Yes. CCW laws vary state by state, and this is particularly true with their application to workplaces. Accordingly, employers must conduct a state-by-state analysis to determine what rights and restrictions employers may have to limit or exclude the carrying of firearms at the workplace, onto company premises, or in company vehicles. Q. Can an employer prohibit the carrying of firearms by employees? Many states have no law limiting an employer’s authority to limit the possession and carrying of firearms at the workplace, on company premises, or in company vehicles (i.e., Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, and New York). In those states, an employer can typically prohibit the carrying of firearms by employees. However, many other states, including Illinois, Michigan, Texas, and Florida, limit an employer’s right to prohibit employees from carrying firearms in certain circumstances when the employee possesses a lawful CCW license. Q. Can an employer prohibit an employee from carrying a firearm into the workplace? Of the states regulating an employee’s right to carry a firearm into the workplace, almost every one permits an employer to prohibit the carrying of the firearm in the actual workplace (i.e., factory, construction site, offices). Those states, however, also require that the employer clearly and conspicuously notify employees that firearms are prohibited, which is typically done through a sign of specified design and size. For example, the required signage in Illinois is specified to be 4” x 6” and must have the following symbol: Q. Can an employer prohibit employees from having a firearms in their personal vehicles in the company’s parking lot? Even though many states permit an employer to prohibit the carrying of firearms in the actual workplace, those same statutes often permit employees to carry firearms in their personal vehicles, even if they are located on an employer’s premises, such as a company parking lot. Depending on the state, however, the employer may be permitted to require that the employee place the firearm out of sight and/or lock the firearm inside the glove box, truck, or secured area within the vehicle. An employer may also be permitted to require employees carrying firearms to park their vehicles at a separate, but nearby, parking lot. Q. Can an employer prohibit an employee from carrying a firearm in a company-owned vehicle? Most, but not all, states, permit an employer to prohibit an employee carrying a firearm in a company-owned, leased, or rented vehicle. Q. Can an employer prohibit other devices that could be used as a weapon from being brought into the workplace? Yes. Employers should seriously consider prohibiting employees from bringing other devices, such as MACE and Pepper Spray, into the workplace. These devices have been used by employees against co-employees and have resulted in serious injury or death. CONCLUSION New medicinal marijuana and CCW laws have increased uncertainty and anxiety for employers nationwide. For instance, what may be lawful in one state is unlawful in another. Or, what is lawful under federal law may be unlawful under state law. For these reasons, employers must be aware of each state’s specific medicinal marijuana and workplace CCW laws to determine what rights and restrictions employers may have in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace and should consider: • developing separate policies to deal with each of these potential hazards that complies with the particular state law • train employees, with documentation, on the employer’s policies regarding the possession, transportation and storage of weapons and in the case of medicinal marijuana, the consumption, use and penalties for impairment • train supervisors in the requirements of these policies, particularly how to identify the signs and symptoms of impairment and how to properly document such observations • conduct a competent and documented investigation and discipline employees who violate these policies in a consistent manner and, in the case of violation of medicinal marijuana usage, ensure that any discipline is not based upon a known or perceived underlying disability If the employer follows these guidelines, it can greatly limit its exposure to these liabilities.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are Attitudes about Marijuana Changing in America In recent months, there have been notable developments in the national debate about use, abuse and the putative medicinal uses of marijuana. For many bystanders, there appears to be a tectonic attitudinal shift underway. The U.S. seems to be creeping towards a more acceptant stance on the use of pot. Especially with the millennials, there is a dissonance with this newly evolved marijuana perspective. Scientific research has offered up several very rigorous examinations of marijuana's impacts on human neuroanatomy. It's becoming abundantly clear that marijuana use in early years can lead to some severe mental illness in adulthood. We also are pretty clear on the fact that THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is an addictive substance-people can and do become physically dependent on pot. Regular smokers of marijuana are usually physically dependent on it; in other words, were a regular user to suddenly stop smoking "weed", he/she would experience physical withdrawal. And the withdrawals will persist for weeks, even months following the last bong hit. Marijuana is not a drug to be fooled with, just ask a marijuana addict who is now sober. Despite the slew of cautionary studies linking marijuana to a variety of psychiatric phenomenon, there seems to be a steady drum beat for decriminalization and expanded medical use. Over the last few years public health officials, addiction specialists and politicians have opined that the criminal justice system needs a paradigmatic shift, one that pushes it towards a treatment bias for those who come to the criminal justice system behind a drug possession arrest. In the U.S. attorney general's opinion, prisons are full of non-violent drug addicts whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the right time with a pocket full of drugs. Of course that is a fast and oversimplification of the situation, but the AG's opinion stands in stark contrast to all attorneys general who have preceded him. We've also heard from the governor of New Jersey and his call for utilization of medical marijuana to treat some forms of childhood epilepsy. He has said that he is favor of medical marijuana use in his state, he just wants there to be adequate controls instituted to manage it. Gallup and Pew research polls show that Americans are almost evenly split on the idea of relaxed marijuana laws. Several states (Washington and Colorado) have recently downgraded personal marijuana possession and have essentially legalized the use of the drug; there are more restrictions on tobacco in those states than there are controls on marijuana. At a time where abuse of prescription drugs is skyrocketing, marijuana continues to make inroads in the daily lives of Americans. With up to 3 out of 10 Americans being regular users of the drug, marijuana is on an inexorable path towards decriminalization and then ultimately, legalization. For those who believe that this is a bad idea, the time has come to take action. Our democratic form of government still works. It's time to communicate with state representatives about this phenomenon. If concerned folks don't speak up, and if they don't vote, they won't have any more ground to stand upon and complain.

Friday, October 4, 2013

POCT ORAL FLUID DRUG TESTING AND STATE LAWS THAT REGULATE USE By Bill Current One of the hot issues in this year's annual drug testing industry survey conducted by WFC & Associates was oral fluid drug testing. It stands to reason seeing as the federal government is inching its way through the process of writing regulations that will eventually permit lab-based oral fluid testing. The over-arching effect of this process is that many people are also asking about rapid-result oral fluid testing in addition to lab-based testing. However, it's important to note that the two testing methods can be very different in some key ways. Oral fluid testing, compared to urine testing, is easier to collect, considered by many to be less invasive, and much more difficult, if not impossible, to adulterate. Oral fluid can be used to reveal the presence of the same drugs detected with urine testing. The window of detection can be shorter with oral fluid compared to urine, but it begins almost immediately after ingestion of a drug making it ideal for reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing. The biggest difference, though not the only difference, is with rapid-result testing you get, well, a rapid result. For some companies and organizations an immediate result is important and it's worth whatever trade-offs that may be involved in not getting a lab-based result. There are two critical questions that must be thoroughly explored by any company planning to use rapid-result/POCT oral fluid testing: 1) is the device being considered FDA-cleared, and 2) are oral fluid testing and rapid-result testing permitted in the states where you are located? The answer to both questions must be "yes" before a company can implement a rapid-result oral fluid testing program. Remember, when it comes to state drug testing laws there are states with mandatory laws that apply to all employers who wish to conduct drug testing in a particular state, and states with voluntary laws that only apply to employers who are participating in a program that offers certain benefits to employers who comply with the state-regulated program. (There are also a handful of state with no drug testing statutes.) With that in mind, following is the status of POCToral fluid drug testing and state drug testing laws. States That Prohibit Oral Fluid Testing. The good news is that oral fluid drug testing is legal in virtually every state. Among states with mandatory drug testing laws only three prohibit oral fluid testing in the workplace: Hawaii, Maine and Vermont. Additionally, the territory of Puerto Rico requires urine testing. States That Prohibit Rapid-Result Testing. There are four states that prohibit rapid-result testing in the workplace and, as such, also prohibit rapid-result oral fluid testing. These states are: Kansas, Minnesota, New York and Vermont. (New York actually permits POCT but makes it nearly impossible for the average employer to qualify to use POCT devices on-site.) States That Require FDA-cleared Devices. Additionally, some states only permit FDA-cleared POCT devices for workplace testing. In Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey and Oklahoma you can use POCT oral fluid testing as long as the device being used is FDA-cleared. All other devices would not be permitted in the workplace. States with Voluntary Laws that Prohibit Oral Fluid Testing. Finally, among states with voluntary drug testing laws, these states do not permit any type of rapid-result or POCT devices in the workplace: Alaska, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee. Outside of the voluntary law in these states employers are not restricted from using POCT devices. Keep in mind that other procedural requirements in a state drug testing law typically apply to all forms of drug testing. For example, when a state regulates how collections must be conducted or how test results must be reported, these requirements will likely apply to oral fluid testing or POCT just as they do to lab-based urine testing. All of the state law information referred to in this article only applies to drug testing. Even if a particular state prohibits oral fluid drug testing it may very well permit saliva alcohol testing. Also, this article only pertains to workplace drug testing. Non-workplace organizations that conduct drug testing usually are not required to comply with the same drug testing laws as employers. Oral fluid testing and rapid-result testing are very common in the criminal justice and treatment markets, among others.
New Recreational Drug "MOLLY" Popular but Deadly! Molly,' short for 'molecule,' is the newest form of the recreational drug Ecstasy. Be on the alert for the word Molly. It's the name for a recreational drug popular in today's club scene. It's glorified by some high-profile entertainers. Miley Cyrus references the drug in her song "We Can't Stop": "We like to party, dancing with Molly, doing whatever we want. " The singer Madonna asked at a recent concert audience, "How many of you have seen Molly?" (Although when questioned about it she denied she was speaking about the drug and was instead referring to an actual person.) Molly, short for molecule, is the newest form of the recreational drug Ecstasy. It creates a feeling of euphoria and is very popular at techno clubs, raves and other concert-type events. Most users foolishly believe it is safe, non-addictive and without side effects. But that is not true. It's being linked to a string of overdoses, even deaths. Over the Labor Day weekend, a dance music festival in New York City ended early after the deaths of two young people, 23-year-old Jeffery Russ and 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo. "I just took six hits of molly,'' Rotondo reportedly told an EMS worker before collapsing in a seizure and dying. Molly causes the body temperature to skyrocket to 105-106 and makes individuals more prone to heat stroke. The huge multi-day "Electric Zoo Music Festival" was shut down after concert organizers learned the victims died after taking the drug Molly. Concert-goers were surprised to learn of the deaths. One unidentified audience member was quoted as saying, "Musta got a bad batch, or something happened bad, you know, you don't usually hear stuff about people dying over that kind of stuff." The most recent government statistics about Molly date back to 2009, and its popularity has exploded since then. But even four years ago, government data reported nearly 23,000 emergency room visits due to Molly overdoses, which was a 123 percent increase from 2005. In addition to the two deaths at the Labor Day concert, four others were rushed to the hospital for overdosing on Molly. They are expected to survive. A week earlier, in Boston, a 19-year-old girl died of a suspected overdose following a concert. In June, a man died and dozens more were treated for overdosing on molly at a music festival in Washington state. According to Dr. Jayson Calton, "While the drug makes you love life, it can also make you lose life."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Jul 11, 2013
Drug type: Prescription Drug
The number of prescription painkiller overdose deaths increased five fold among women between 1999 and 2010, according to a Vital Signs report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While men are more likely to die of a prescription painkiller overdose, since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was greater among women (400 percent in women compared to 265 percent in men). Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 48,000 women between 1999 and 2010.
“Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women (6,600 in 2010), four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Stopping this epidemic in women – and men – is everyone’s business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs.”

The study includes emergency department visits and deaths related to drug misuse/abuse and overdose, as well as analyses specific to prescription painkillers. The key findings include:
  • About 42 women die every day from a drug overdose.
    -Since 2007, more women have died from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes.
  • Prescription painkillers have been a major contributor to increases in drug overdose deaths among women.
    -More than 6,600 women, or 18 women every day, died from a prescription painkiller overdose in 2010.
    -There were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdose than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined in 2010.
    -In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency department visits for opioid misuse or abuse among women; about one every three minutes.

For the Vital Signs report, CDC analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System (1999-2010) and the Drug Abuse Warning Network public use file (2004-2010).

Previous research has shown that women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men. Studies have also shown that women may become dependent on prescription painkillers more quickly than men and may be more likely than men to engage in “doctor shopping” (obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers).

For more information about prescription drug overdoses, please visit

Monday, July 1, 2013

Updated Results From DEA's Largest-Ever Global Synthetic Drug Takedown Yesterday

June 26, 2013
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
(202) 307-7977

Updated Results From DEA’s Largest-Ever Global Synthetic Drug Takedown Yesterday
Nationwide enforcement actions targeted dangerous new and emerging class of chemicals from overseas JUNE 27 (WASHINGTON) – Yesterday the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its law enforcement partners announced enforcement operations in 35 states targeting the upper echelon of dangerous designer synthetic drug trafficking organizations that have operated without regard for the law or public safety. 
These series of enforcement actions included retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. In addition, these investigations uncovered the massive flow of drug-related proceeds back to countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Since Project Synergy began December 1 of 2012, more than 227 arrests were made and 416 search warrants served in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries, along with more than $51 million in cash and assets seized.   Altogether, 9,445 kilograms of individually packaged, ready-to-sell synthetic drugs, 299 kilograms of cathinone drugs (the falsely labeled “bath salts”), 1,252 kilograms of cannabinoid drugs (used to make the so-called “fake pot” or herbal incense products), and 783 kilograms of treated plant material were seized.
Project Synergy was coordinated by DEA’s Special Operations Division, working with the DEA Office of Diversion Control, and included cases led by DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI, and IRS.  In addition, law enforcement in Australia, Barbados, Panama, and Canada participated, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members.
“Shutting down businesses that traffic in these drugs and attacking their operations worldwide is a priority for DEA and our law enforcement partners,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.  “These designer drugs are destructive, dangerous, and are destroying lives. DEA has been at the forefront of the battle against this trend and is targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative, and investigative tool at our disposal.”
“CBP and DEA enjoy a close working relationship that was further enhanced through the collaboration of the National Targeting Center and CBP officers in the field at express consignment hubs during this operation to target, test and detain shipments of synthetic drugs, as well as precursor herbs used to manufacture synthetic marijuana,” said CBP David Murphy, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Field Operations.
“The criminals behind the importation, distribution and selling of these drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits,” said Traci Lembke, HSI Deputy Assistant Director of Investigative Programs.  “For criminal groups seeking to profit through the sale of illegal narcotics, the message is clear: we know how you operate; we know where you hide; and we will not stop until we bring you to justice.”
“The harm inflicted by these designer drugs is matched only by the profit potential for those who sell them,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation.  “Today’s enforcement actions are the culmination of a multi-year effort in which IRS-CI worked with its domestic and global law enforcement partners to disrupt the flow of money - the lifeblood that allows these multi-million dollar organizations to proliferate.”
“On behalf of the Australian Government, I congratulate the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Project Synergy. This is a significant seizure of synthetic drugs and is a terrific result for our respective law enforcement agencies. Australia remains committed to sharing intelligence with its U.S. partners to combat transnational crime across international borders. This is a win for our collective communities,” Australia’s Acting Ambassador to the United States, Graham Fletcher, said.
Background on designer synthetic drugs
Designer synthetic drugs are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food, and have caused significant abuse, addiction, overdoses, and emergency room visits. Those who have abused synthetic drugs have suffered vomiting, anxiety, agitation, irritability, seizures, hallucinations, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. They have caused significant organ damage as well as overdose deaths.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana.  These products consist of plant material that has been impregnated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet.   Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose. In 2012, a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported 11,406 emergency department visits involving a synthetic cannabinoid product during 2010. In a 2013 report, SAMHSA reported the number of emergency department visits in 2011 involving a synthetic cannabinoid product had increased 2.5 times to 28,531. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 5,205 calls related to human exposure of synthetic cannabinoids.
For the past several years, there has also been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 2,656 calls related to synthetic cathinone (“bath salts”) exposures in 2012 and overdose deaths have been reported as well.
These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols of employers and government agencies to protect public safety.  They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Project Synergy are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows many of these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.  A number of cases that are part of Project Synergy will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which is being utilized to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.
DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called “bath salts” with names like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA in 2012.
More information about synthetic designer drugs can be found on the Drug Fact Sheets.
B-roll from Project Synergy is available at:
Photos from Project Synergy can be found here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Drug Abuse Hikes Workers’ Comp. Risks

Many players in the workers’ comp system are failing to comply with guidelines that recommend periodic drug screening and psychological treatment.
David M. Katz

CFOs worried about mounting workers’ compensation costs at their companies should look closely at how freely — and chronically — doctors are prescribing narcotics to injured workers in states where the companies operate.

The differences among states can be striking. At the top end, one in six injured workers in Louisiana and one in seven in New York were identified as “longer-term users of narcotics” on workers’ comp. claims made between 2009 and 2011, according to a 2012 study sponsored by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).

In sharp contrast, fewer than one in 20 workers prescribed narcotics were identified as longer-term users in Arizona, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana and Iowa, according to the study, which is based on data culled from nearly 300,000 nonsurgical workers’ comp claims involving more than seven days of work time. More than 1.1 million prescriptions for pain medications (including narcotic and non-narcotic drugs) were associated with the claims, which were made in 21 states.  
“If you are in one of those states [with the highest long-term narcotics use by injured workers], you will probably want to look into it and see how the problem can be addressed,” Dongchun Wang, a WCRI economist and co-author of the study, said during a recent webinar on the findings.
But regardless of the state where a company's operations are headquartered, the corporation runs the risk that its medical costs will rise over time because doctors may be over-prescribing narcotics to employees injured on the job. That's because many workers' comp health-care providers haven't been following recommended treatment protocols. Few injured workers who have used the drugs for years have been screened and tested for them or received psychological treatment for possible drug abuse, according to Wang.

The problem may stem from a bevy of “pain management” statutes and rules passed in a number of states in the 1990s, according to Dean Hashimoto, a doctor in the Partners HealthCare System and a member of the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Health Care Services Board. Fueled by the consequent growth of pain-specialty programs, practitioners began treating chronic pain “primarily through opioids,” he said during the webcast.

More recently, however, the abuse of painkillers has gotten a great deal of media attention. The issue of controlling the use of prescription narcotics gained currency on April 16, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved updated labeling for a time-release reformulation of OxyContin tablets, a powerful and much-abused narcotic pain killer. At the same time, the agency barred an earlier, fast-acting version of the drug that could be crushed for illicit inhaling and injection.

The FDA also said that it would not approve any generic version of the drug “that [relies] upon the approval of original OxyContin.” That move brought objections from pharmacy benefits managers and claims handlers, who contend that banning generics would merely raise costs for employers without addressing a more fundamental problem: excessive prescription by doctors of such narcotics.
Although the WCRI study did not address OxyContin specifically, it addressed a broader issue: Many players in the workers’ comp system are failing to comply with “medical treatment guidelines for chronic opioid management” that recommend periodic drug screening and psychological evaluation and treatment.

Indeed, the institute’s research suggests that the biggest potential for abuse and the highest potential costs stem from long-term use by the injured. In response to a question during the webinar, Wang estimated that over the first year or two of a claim, prescription may represent just 2 percent to 3 percent of all workers’ comp costs.   
But for claims stretching out six or eight years, for instance, “prescription drugs represent 15 percent to 20 percent of all costs,” she said, adding that she had not researched the percentages of opioid use in particular.

Nevertheless, “longer term use of opioids may lead to additional costs, loss of productivity [and] put people at higher risk of opioid misuse and abuse,” she said, as well as accidental death. (The study treats “opioids” and “narcotics” as synonyms, defining the words as synthetic and non-synthetic drugs that act through specific receptors in the nervous system.)

Under protocols in Colorado, a number of actions should accompany any prescription of an opioid, according to Kathryn Mueller, medical director of the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation, and a co-author of the study. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, for example) should be considered before narcotics are prescribed. But if opioids are prescribed, their use should be limited to three to 10 days.

The worker should return to work as soon as possible, with no bed rest but within appropriate restrictions on such activities as lifting and time spent sitting, Mueller said. There should be no MRIs or CAT scans unless there are neurological symptoms or if the worker is elderly. Finally, the worker should be provided with “education and reassurance,” she said. “The focus is not eliminating pain but managing pain to restore physical and mental function and quality of life.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Background Screening Cautions Employers Against Making Three Most Common Drug Testing Mistakes

Jacksonville Beach, FL (PRWEB) June 14, 2013
“The National Institute of Health estimates that drug and alcohol abuse costs the economy over $300 billion a year. The impact on the workforce in terms of increased accidents, medical costs, turnover and loss of credibility in the marketplace are enormous,” noted Don Dymer, president and chief executive office of SingleSource Services background screening company. Dymer discussed the impact on the workforce with colleagues during a recent SilkRoad conference in Hollywood, Florida.
Dymer explains, “The object of the recruitment process is to identify and hire the best qualified for the tasks of the job, but an even greater emphasis must be taken to ensure that the many dangerous characteristics an employee may bring to the workplace are identified and excluded. Here are some sobering facts from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2010:
●75% of all illegal drug users are employed (full or part time) and
●3% says they have used illegal drugs before or during work
●79% of heavy alcohol abusers are employed
●7% says they have consumed alcohol during the workday.
As a business owner or manager reading these statistics, this means that there are hundreds of thousands of workdays missed, many injuries that could have been avoided, and many additional workers compensation claims that could have been avoided. What can you do to protect yourself from an employee who engages in substance abuse or commits a crime after they are on your payroll?”
Pre-employment drug screening should be just the beginning. A comprehensive program should include provisions for post accident, with cause, and random drug screening. Post drug testing by employers is legal in most states and may be administered to an employee without having first observed erratic or questionable behavior. This on-site, random drug testing can be an effective tool for employers as a deterrent to preventing problems attached to illegal drug use.
“Drug testing as part of a pre-employment/volunteer screening process is serious business and is one of the biggest areas where employers make mistakes. Some of the most common mistakes we see include: 1.) Failure to have a written drug policy in place that outlines what type of testing will be required and including a policy that outlines the possible outcomes that may result of a verified positive drug test result. 2.) Employees who have not been properly trained and certified to perform testing 3.) Jeopardizing the confidentiality of the test taker, again by not having firm policies or the proper training in place.” explains Dymer.
“Each of these mistakes places the employer at double risk. The risk of civil damages could be in the hundreds of thousands or more, add to that state and federal fines, and a poorly executed drug testing program could cost you millions," concludes Dymer.
Regardless of how large or small your business or organization may be, drug testing coupled with a complete background screening program should be treated seriously. Don't assume you can do it yourself, or that you are exempt from litigation simply because you were ignorant of the law. An experienced background screening professional is your best defense and safeguards your business and your reputation," states Dymer.
SingleSource Services is a national employment screening company. The company provides screening services to more than 2,300 companies and non-profit organizations. If you are interested in learning more about drug testing, or would like to purchase on-site drug testing kits, please visit the company at


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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Phili Crane Operator In Building Collapse Had Pot, Painkiller In His System

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sources tell CBS 3 the excavator operator involved with Wednesday’s deadly building collapse in Center City will face six counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Sources tell CBS 3 that blood tests on the excavator operator, 42-year-old Sean Benschop, detected the presence of a prescription painkiller and marijuana.
The blood, along with urine, was taken from Benschop at the hospital approximately two hours after the collapse at 22nd and Market Streets, which killed six people and injured 13. (See Related Story)
Sources say investigators also noticed that Benschop, who has a history of 11 prior arrests, including a conviction for possession and dealing drugs, was speaking in what police considered an unusually slow, quiet way, “almost whispering,” according to a source.
Crane operator Sean Benschop.
Crane operator Sean Benschop.

Benschop also allegedly told investigators, according to a source, that he was in pain and taking pain medication after recently cutting his finger.
The crane operator, who CBS 3 was not able to contact for comment, is not charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the collapse.
Late Friday afternoon, a search warrant was executed on Benschop’s home.  Police took two computers and another box of unknown items.
CBS 3 reported Thursday that two top homicide prosecutors from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office were at the collapse scene conferring with investigators, along with crime scene specialists.
A source confirms a criminal investigation may be launched soon. However, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office replied Thursday that it is “too early” to speculate about any possible investigation.