Monday, October 22, 2018

Fall Safety Tips

As the weather changes, keep in mind some of the safety issues that come with the change in seasons. These tips will help you start off the season on a safer note.

1) Drive Carefully

Fall brings more driving hazards, wet pavement, darker roads earlier, falling leaves, and condensation. Take extra care when driving and allow for more time to get to destinations.

2) Service Furnace

Before the cold winter weather sets in, make sure to call your heating and cooling company to service your furnace. The technician will check for leaks and ensure that it is in working order.

3) Clear Walkways

Falling leaves and wet pavement doesn't just apply to the roads, your walkways are at risk too.

4) Flu Prevention

Protect your health. Get a flu shot, make sure to clean communal spaces, avoid contact with those who are sick, and try and stick to a healthy diet and exercise. Also practice frequent hand washing, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and stay home if you get sick.

5) Test and Replace Batteries

The clocks "fall back" this season. With the time change it's also a great time to check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

5 Tips to Stay Healthy During Flu Season

1) Get a Flu Shot

This is the best defense available against the flu.

2) Practice Frequent Hand Washing.

Hand washing should occur after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, being with ill people, and especially before you eat.

3) Avoid Contact With People Who Are Sick.

Flu transmission can happen via many different points of contact. For example if someone you come into contact with is starting to get sick avoid contact like shaking hands, and keep your hands away from your face so that viruses do not invade the mucus membranes in your nose, eyes, and mouth.

4) Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle.

Eat right, exercise regularly, and get an adequate amount of sleep. Monitor your stress levels and try and take steps to reduce them.

5) Clean Communal Areas Frequently.

Keeping your surroundings clean can Spaces like telephones, desks, doorknobs, shopping cart handles, kitchen counters and computer keyboards should be wiped regularly with disinfecting wipes or solutions. Dispose of tissues used for coughs and sneezes immediately and appropriately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It's Time to Consider Updating Your Marijuana Policy

27 states have now legalized some degree of medical marijuana. With this legalization comes the challenge of figuring out how to accommodate employees while dealing with the safety and health implications. Here are some steps that can be taken.

1) Plan out a strategy on how to enforce or accommodate medical marijuana use. There are two routes most employers can take. 1) Banning marijuana in the work place. Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, federal regulations allow for employers to prohibit despite different state regulations. 2) Allowing medical marijuana with restrictions. Employees may argue for their right to use the substance off-duty as prescribed, but since employer policies can trump state laws, it is important that you communication expectations to employees. If a company does decide to allow medical marijuana usage, it is important to add a medical marijuana policy as well. Employees should report changes to the product, dosage, frequency, scheduled use or route of administration they are prescribed. Employers should then create rules such as: documentation of workers medical conditions, compare schedule of use to work schedule, and outline the responsibilities of both the employer and employee (ex: mandatory reporting). Employers should also work with a Medical Review Officer (MRO) to verify the legitimacy of the prescription.

2) Make Sure Your Policy is in Writing. Is it really a policy if it is not in writing? Policies should include knowledge of state and federal laws and also be reviewed at least once a year.

3) Put a Drug Testing and Employee Assistance Program into Place. Drug testing commonly happens before companies hire an employee, after an incident, and with reasonable suspicion.

4) Education. As important as the other steps are, you must make employees knowledgeable about the company policy on medical marijuana in order for it to be effective.

To learn more click HERE and HERE

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dangerous New Drug Trend "Wasping" Emerges

Authorities around the country are starting to see signs of dangerous new drug trend called "wasping". "Wasping" is an abuse of the active components in insect killer, most commonly wasp killer spray, to achieve a high. In most cases it has been found to be abused in combination with methamphetamines or used as a meth substitute. According to ABC News, "The active ingredient in pesticides is a class of molecules known as pyrethroids, which penetrate the insect’s nervous system. In insects, pyrethroids stun and then kill. In humans, they block normal nerve signaling, causing abnormal sensation and, in the worst cases, seizures or even paralysis." Additional extreme physical responses to wasping have been reported. Side effects include: respiratory failure or paralysis, headache, nausea, incoordination, tremors, facial flushing and swelling and burning and itching sensations. Large scale side effects and toxins have yet to be seen as this a relatively new trend. The main concern comes from the known warnings on the wasp killer spray: the product is dangerous when inhaled. Insect killer is known to have lead to severe illness in approximately 4 to 14 percent of inhalation cases and on rare occasion, it can lead to death in people with pre-existing lung conditions such as asthma. Adding these risks with methanphetamines, which already cause psychotic behaviors, paranoia, and even violence can cause even more risk. Read more HERE and HERE

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Cuyahoga County, Ohio Seeing Concerning Trends in Drug Overdoses

In early August 2018, Cuyahoga County, Ohio saw 14 people die from drug overdoses in a span of five days. Between August 2nd and August 6th the youngest person to overdose was 21 years old, the oldest one was 72 years old. Out of the 14 people 50% of them were 60 or older. Considering that the largest population of overdose victims typically ranges from 45-55 years old and that overdose deaths in Cuyahoga county in 2018 are projected to reach 727 deaths, this large amount of deaths in a short period of time is concerning to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. "This is a concerning trend. The county is working with our local and federal partners to analyze it and identify its source," said Dr. Thomas Gilson, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Large Employers Seeing an Increase in Cost to Treat Worker Opioid Misuse

According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Family Foundation, large employers are currently experience a large increase in costs related to treating opioid addiction and overdoses for workers and their families. This comes despite a decrease in opioid prescriptions and overall opioid use being down. The cost of treatment is rising as well, the annual inpatient cost for opioid addiction treatment averaged $16,104 in 2016 up from $5,809 in 2006. "About four in ten people addicted to opioids are covered by private health insurance and Medicaid covers a similarly large share. Despite declining rates of opioid prescribing to those with employer coverage, spending on treatment for opioid addiction and overdose has increased rapidly, potentially tied to growing illicit use and increased awareness of opioid addiction. Opioid addiction and overdose treatment – the bulk of which is for dependents of employees – represents a small but growing share of overall employer health spending," the study states. Read the full study HERE.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Positive Drug Tests Remain at 13-year High for U.S. Worker

After analyzing more than 10 million drug tests, Quest Diagnostics released their annual Drug Testing Index, which revealed that workforce drug positivity is at its highest rate in a decade. 4.2 percent of the combined U.S. workforce tested positive in 2017. These findings also showed increases in cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use. Marijuana positivity was up the most in states with new legalization statutes. While cocaine and methamphetamine use increased, prescription opiates have seen a decline.

“It’s unfortunate that we mark 30 years of the Drug-Free Workplace Act with clear evidence that drugs continue to invade the country’s workplaces,” Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics, said in the report. “Not only have declines appeared to have bottomed out, but also in some drug classes and areas of the country drug positivity rates are increasing. These changing patterns and geographical variations may challenge the ability of employers to anticipate the ‘drug of choice’ for their workforce or where to best focus their drug prevention efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.”

Read the Quest Diagnostics report on the findings here.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Benzodiazepines: the new drug crisis?

While our country faces the harsh realities of the opioid epidemic, benzodiazepines are also emerging as popular drugs of abuse. Bloomberg dubbed benzodiazepines, sometimes called “benzos,” as American’s next big drug problem, citing that prescriptions have increased nearly 70% this century. Last month, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that more than 30% of opioid overdoses also involve benzodiazepines. These drugs are not opioids. Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. If taken over time, people can develop a tolerance to these sedatives, introducing the potential for symptoms like panic attacks to worsen, The Chicago Tribune. Benzodiazepine prescriptions have been steadily climbing over the past 2 decades. Dr. Anna Lembke, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences with the Stanford University School of Medicine, is studying the relationship between prescription drugs and addiction and published her latest findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. She said, “These are highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs, and many people don’t know that. Sadly, most physicians are also unaware of this and blithely prescribe them without educating their patients about the risk of addiction.” The data showed that overdoses involving benzodiazepines multiplied 7-fold between 1999 and 2015, increasing from 1,135 to 8,791 deaths. Dr. Lembke advises working with a physician to taper off long-term benzodiazepine use in a safe way. Patient education and awareness about the proper use of benzodiazepines can help to prevent future substance-use disorders. Physicians, law enforcement, and lawmakers also continue to examine trends, study health data, patrol the illicit drug trade, and monitor overprescribing.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Number of Drivers Who Die While Under the Influence of Drugs Rises

A new study finds the number of drivers fatally injured in automobile accidents who tested positive for one or more substances is rising, according to U.S. News & World Report. The study, by the Governors Highway Safety Association, found that 44 percent of fatally injured drivers with known test results tested positive for drugs in 2016, up from 28 percent a decade earlier. More than half of the drivers had marijuana, opioids or a combination of the two in their system, the study found. Thirty-eight percent tested positive for marijuana, 16 percent tested positive for opioids and 4 percent tested positive for both. Among the drivers tested for alcohol, 37.9 percent tested positive in 2016, down from 41 percent in 2006. MAY 31, 2018 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rise in Drug Overdose Deaths Contributes to Increase in Organ Transplants

A new study finds the rise in drug overdose deaths in the United States has contributed to an increase in organ transplants, CNN reports. Overdose death donors accounted for 1.1 percent of donors in 2000 and 13.4 percent in 2017, representing a 24-fold rise, the researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study also found many organs from overdose-death donors were not used to save lives when they could have been. “The current epidemic of deaths from overdose is a tragedy. It would also be tragic to continue to underutilize life-saving transplants from donors,” said lead researcher Dr. Christine Durand of Johns Hopkins University. “We have an obligation to optimize the use of all organs donated. The donors, families and patients waiting deserve our best effort to use every gift of life we can.” APRIL 19, 2018 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April is Alcohol Awareness Month "One in Six American Adults Binge Drink"

One in six American adults—37 million—binge drink about once a week, a new study finds. They average seven drinks per binge, HealthDay reports. In 2015, American adults consumed more than 17 billion binge drinks, according to the researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “This study shows that binge drinkers are consuming a huge number of drinks per year, greatly increasing their chances of harming themselves and others,” study co-author Dr. Robert Brewer said in a CDC news release. “The findings also show the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to prevent binge drinking, focusing on reducing both the number of times people binge drink and the amount they drink when they binge.” The findings appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Deaths Due to Drug Use Rose More than 600 Percent in 35 Years

A new study of every county in the United States finds deaths due to drug use increased more than 600 percent between 1980 and 2014. Almost 550,000 deaths were attributed to drug use over the study’s 35 years. In some counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and eastern Oklahoma, increases in drug-related deaths exceeded 5,000 percent, according to ABC News. The study did not distinguish between illegal and prescription drugs. Death rates decreased for alcohol use disorders, self-harm, and interpersonal violence at the national level between 1980 and 2014, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “To our knowledge, this study is the first at the county level to consider drug use disorders and distinguish between intentional and unintentional overdoses,” lead researcher Dr. Laura Dwyer-Lindgren of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said in a news release. MARCH 15, 2018 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF

Friday, February 16, 2018

Meth Makes a Comeback Around the Country

Meth is making a comeback around the country, say experts who note the drug is more pure, cheap and deadly than ever. Although the number of domestic meth labs has greatly decreased, agents at the U.S. border are seizing 10 to 20 times the amounts of meth they did a decade ago, The New York Times reports. In the early 2000s, domestic labs made meth from the decongestant pseudoephedrine. In 2005, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Act, which made it more difficult to purchase pseudoephedrine. In response, Mexican drug cartels stepped up production. There is now so much pure, low-cost meth that dealers are offering the drug on credit, the article notes. Little is being done to combat the increase in meth because it has been overshadowed by the opioid crisis, according to public health experts. There is no drug to reverse meth overdoses, or drug treatments to reduce meth cravings. FEBRUARY 15, 2018 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF

Thursday, February 8, 2018

FDA Calls Kratom An Opioid

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that the supplement known as “kratom” is an opioid and has been linked with 44 deaths, The Washington Post reports. Kratom, an unregulated botanical substance, is used by some people to relieve pain, anxiety and depression, as well as symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The FDA recently conducted a scientific analysis that provided even stronger evidence of kratom’s opioid properties, the agency said in a statement. “We have been especially concerned about the use of kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms, as there is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder and significant safety issues exist,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The analysis has “contributed to the FDA’s concerns about kratom’s potential for abuse, addiction, and serious health consequences; including death.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

‘Tragic trend’: On-the-job deaths at highest level since 2008, BLS reports

Washington — A total of 5,190 workers died from on-the-job injuries in 2016 – a 7 percent increase from 2015 and the highest number of fatalities since 5,214 workers died in 2008, according to data released Dec. 19 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data also shows that the overall rate of fatal workplace injuries climbed to 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2016 from 3.4 per 100,000 FTE in 2015. Also notable: Transportation-related fatalities – which increased slightly to 2,083 – accounted for 40 percent of all fatal work-related injuries in 2016. Among workers 55 and older, 1,848 deaths occurred – the highest total among this demographic since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries began in 1992. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers experienced 918 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation, while logging workers had the highest rate of fatal injuries, at 135.9 per 100,000 FTE. The number of fatalities among loggers increased to 91 in 2016 from 67 in 2015. Fatal injuries among leisure and hospitality workers were 32 percent higher in 2016 than 2015. Fatal injuries among the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry fell by 26 percent in 2016. Texas had the most worker deaths – 545 – followed by California (376), Florida (309) and New York (272). In all, 36 states experienced increases in deaths attributed to workplace injuries in 2016. The number of fatalities rose for the third consecutive year – a development Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Loren Sweatt called a “tragic trend.” “America’s workers deserve better,” Sweatt said in a Dec. 19 press release. “The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to finding new and innovative ways of working with employers and employees to improve workplace safety and health. OSHA will work to address these trends through enforcement, compliance assistance, educating and training, and outreach.” The data release is the second of two annual BLS reports. The first, released in November, highlighted nonfatal injury and illnesses among private-sector employees.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cashing in Gift Cards to Pay for Opioids Becoming More Common

DECEMBER 14, 2017 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF Law enforcement officials report an increase in cases of people are stealing items from major retailers, returning them for gift cards, and cashing in the cards to pay for opioids, CNBC reports. People steal items and return them to another store without a receipt, and receive a gift card in return. They sell the gift card to a pawn shop or secondary store at a discount. The cards are then resold to an online exchange. In Knox County, Tennessee, police found 16 of 19 drug overdoses were linked to the sale of gift cards during a one-month period this year. In the city of Knoxville, police linked almost 100 overdoses to gift cards during a three-month period.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Alcohol Use and Misuse Up Among Older Adults

Recent news reports in various media outlets have noted that across the country, alcohol use — and misuse — have gone up among USA older adults. According to NewsWorks, the online home of WHYY, a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that between 2001 and 2012, increases in alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and alcohol use disorder among older adults were substantial, said the study's authors. So much so that they call the change "unprecedented." According to George Koob of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), "Almost everybody over 65 is taking a lot of pills and a number of those pills can actually potentiate the action of alcohol." He also noted that the health risks for drinking among this age group are different than for younger people. Taken together, the drugs have a stronger effect — and alcohol can interfere with other prescription drugs. "For example," he said, "If you take alcohol with an opioid, like a painkiller, you can kill yourself at doses lower for both the pain killer and the alcohol." The article in NewsWorks goes on to note that Older Americans tend to take more prescription medications than younger adults. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that excessive alcohol consumption costs the American economy billions each year. "The numbers we have are about $250 billion a year in health care costs and social costs. And drunk driving costs and every which way," said Koob. "It doesn't matter what age you are. The earlier you intervene the more likely you're going to have some success," he said.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

App to Help Treat Substance Use Disorders

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted marketing of the first mobile app to help treat substance use disorders (SUD). The app is designed to be prescribed by a doctor and used along with counseling, CNBC reports. The Reset device delivers cognitive behavioral therapy to patients to teach skills that aid in the treatment of substance use disorders, the company says. These skills are “intended to increase abstinence from substance abuse and increase retention in outpatient therapy programs,” according to a news release from the FDA. The agency said the Reset device is indicated as a prescription-only adjunct treatment for patients with SUD who are not currently on opioid replacement therapy, who do not abuse alcohol solely, or whose primary substance of abuse is not opioids.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Trucking Contemplates Drug Policies in Age of Legal Pot

As more states legalize marijuana, it’s becoming a growing issue for the trucking industry. Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2014, and drug tests indicate more drivers and job applicants are using the substance. Even as more trucking companies and commercial driver’s license schools are telling candidates not to fill out applications if they’re going to test positive, failure rates are still as high as 60 percent, said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Assn. It’s hurting the ability of some companies to grow, said Fulton. “It’s just so much more prevalent. It’s in cookies, muffins, bread, candy. More people are testing positive. People say they were at a party and just didn’t know.” Recreational marijuana is now legal in Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana is also legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and a 2016 survey from Gallup revealed that 13 percent of Americans said they use marijuana, up from only 7 percent in 2013. Still, trucking companies won’t be changing their zero-tolerance policies anytime soon, in part because marijuana remains illegal under federal law and Department of Transportation regulation.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Opioid Misuse on the Rise Among Older Americans: Report

Misuse of opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, has risen among adults 50 and older, according to a new government report. Rates of opioid misuse have decreased among young adults. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found opioid misuse rose from 1 percent to 2 percent among older adults from 2002 to 2014, while rates decreased from 11.5 percent to 8 percent during the same period, HealthDay reports. Overall, 9.5 million adults misused opioids in the past year, SAMHSA found. “The high rates of [multiple] illnesses in older populations and the potential for drug interactions has profound implications for the health and well-being of older adults who continue to misuse opioids,” Dr. Kimberly Johnson, Director for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, said in a news release. JULY 27, 2017 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF

Thursday, June 29, 2017

People With Anxiety and Depression Have High Rate of Prescription Opioid Use

People with anxiety and depression have a high rate of prescription opioid use, a new study finds. Almost 19 percent of the estimated 38.6 million people diagnosed with anxiety and depression received at least two prescriptions for opioids in one year, the study found. More than half of opioid prescriptions went to people with these mental health disorders, according to The Washington Post. People with anxiety and depression may feel pain more acutely, or may be less able to cope with the pain, leading to increased requests for opioids, said lead researcher Brian Sites of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. Pain that “you may report as a two out of 10, someone with mental health disorders — depression, anxiety — may report as a 10 out of 10,” Sites told the newspaper. He added that opioids may improve the symptoms of depression for a short while. This may lead patients to ask for additional refills. The study will appear in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Drug Overdose Deaths Rose 19 Percent in 2016

JUNE 8, 2017 BY PARTNERSHIP NEWS SERVICE STAFF Drug overdose deaths increased 19 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to a preliminary analysis of data by The New York Times. Evidence suggests the problem, driven by opioid addiction, has continued to worsen this year. An influx of fentanyl and similar drugs is escalating the death count. Drug overdoses are currently the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50, the article notes. Large increases in drug overdose deaths were seen last year in Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, overdose deaths rose by more than 25 percent. The New York Times came up with its estimate based on drug overdose statistics from state health departments, county medical examiners and coroners’ offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will calculate final 2016 overdose totals in December.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Drivers Killed in Crashes More Likely to Have Used Drugs Than Alcohol

May 10, 2017 For the first time, U.S. drivers killed in crashes in 2015 were more likely to have used drugs than alcohol, according to a new study. The study found 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, compared with 37 percent who showed alcohol levels above a legal limit, Reuters reports. Among drivers who died in crashes who tested positive for drugs, 36.5 percent had used marijuana, while 9.3 percent used amphetamines. The report was released by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a nonprofit funded by distillers. “People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability,” said Jim Hedlund, a former official at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, who wrote the report. “If you’re on a drug that does so, you shouldn’t be driving.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Substance Use Disorders Could Be Costing Your Business More Than You Think

Substance use disorders affect businesses in surprising ways. Although there are obvious signs that an employee is struggling with a substance use disorder, there are other factors affecting their workplace performance that may be less obvious. Unfortunately, a survey from the National Safety Council found that employers underestimate how prescription drug abuse affects their businesses. Employers may not realize some of the facts illuminated in the study, such as: • Employees with substance use disorders miss nearly 50 percent more days than their peers and up to six weeks of work annually. • Healthcare costs for employees who misuse or abuse prescription drugs are three times the costs for an average employee. • Getting an employee into treatment can save an employer up to $2,607 per worker annually. The survey serves as a reminder that although some employees need support, they may not ask for it. “Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business.” The National Safety Council alongside NORC at the University of Chicago and Shatterproof created a tool to show how the substance use disorder crisis can affect your workplace. The Substance Use Cost Calculator is a quick and easy way to track the potential cost of substance use disorders. Employers input basic statistics about their workforce, such as industry, location, and number of employees. The tool then calculates the estimated prevalence of substance use disorders among employees and dependents. Once you have all that information on hand, you can figure out a way to prioritize helping those who are struggling with a substance use disorder. If you are worried about addressing such a difficult problem, remember that leaders ask how they can help others and utilize subject-matter resources.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Canada announces legislation to legalize marijuana

April 13, 2017: MONTREAL — The Canadian government on Thursday announced new legislation legalizing marijuana, fulfilling one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s major campaign promises. Canada has anticipated the law will take effect in the summer of 2018. The new federal laws will make the possession of small amounts of pot legal throughout the country and will also establish broad guidelines concerning who can grow, sell and buy the drug. Many specifics regarding who can possess or sell will be left to the individual provinces. Canada legalized marijuana for some medicinal uses in 2001.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Christie Appointed to Lead White House Commission to Combat Drug Addiction

March 30, 2017 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been appointed to lead the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, the White House announced Wednesday. President Trump said he will increase drug abuse prevention and law enforcement efforts, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I made a promise to the American people to take action to keep drugs from pouring into our country and to help those who have been so badly affected by them,” Trump said in a statement. “Governor Christie will be instrumental in researching how best to combat this serious epidemic and how to treat those it has affected. He will work with people on both sides of the aisle to find the best ways for the federal government to treat and protect the American people from this serious problem. This is an epidemic that knows no boundaries and shows no mercy, and we will show great compassion and resolve as we work together on this important issue.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Study Finds Patients Receiving Longer Treatment for Alcohol-Drug Misuse Have Significantly Higher Success Rate

A new study suggests that the longer patients are enrolled in treatment, the better chance they have of successful recovery after treatment. The study, published in the current issue of Open Journal of Psychiatry, followed 72 patients with a variety of addiction types over the course of a year. Patients were nearly divided evenly by gender with the mean average age about 30 years old. The patients were treated for a number of chemical dependencies, including alcohol, amphetamine, benzodiazepines and opioids. Those patients undergoing an industry standard 30-day treatment program exhibited a 54.7 percent treatment success rate after one year. In contrast, patients that participated in a treatment program lasting more than 30 days experienced a success rate of 84.2 percent. The study is significant, as most private and government insurance programs only reimburse the patient for 30 days of addiction treatment. “Aftercare is crucial once an individual has completed drug or alcohol treatment and is in recovery. There is a continuity of care that should be followed once initial treatment is completed. This usually involves a lower level of treatment such as outpatient care and a sober living environment. Our study shows that the absence of such treatment after 30 days significantly reduces the chances of the patient maintaining their sobriety,” said Akikur Mohammad, M.D., lead researcher.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Percentage of Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Heroin Tripled in 5 Years

March 2, 2017 A new government report finds 25 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2015 involved heroin, triple the percentage in 2010. The National Center for Health Statistics found the percentage of overdose deaths from prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone decreased to 24 percent in 2015, from 29 percent in 2010, Reuters reports. Cocaine was associated with 13 percent of overdose deaths in 2015, up from 11 percent in 2010. The four states with the highest drug overdose deaths in 2015 were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio. Overdose death rates increased for all groups, but the sharpest increase was among those ages 55 to 64.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Overdose Deaths From Fentanyl are on the Rise: What You Should Know

January 18th, 2017 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that 33,091 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015, which accounts for 63 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the same year. A recent report from the CDC found that drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, other than methadone, rose 72 percent in just one year, from 2014 to 2015. Last year, the death of music icon Prince was linked to fentanyl and the prescription drug has become a source of concern for government agencies and law enforcement officials alike, as death rates from fentanyl-related overdoses and seizures have risen across the country. What exactly is fentanyl? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine – but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a schedule II prescription drug, and it is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. In its prescription form, fentanyl is known by such names as Actiq®, Duragesic® and Sublimaze®. Like heroin, morphine and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. When opioid drugs bind to these receptors, they can drive up dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation. But fentanyl’s effects resemble those of heroin and include drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, tolerance, addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, unconsciousness, coma and death. So why is abuse and misuse of fentanyl so dangerous? When prescribed by a physician, fentanyl is often administered via injection, transdermal patch or in lozenges. However, the fentanyl and fentanyl analogs associated with recent overdoses are produced in clandestine laboratories. This non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is sold in the following forms: as a powder; spiked on blotter paper; mixed with or substituted for heroin; or as tablets that mimic other, less potent opioids. Fentanyl sold on the street can be mixed with heroin or cocaine, which markedly amplifies its potency and potential dangers. Users of this form of fentanyl can swallow, snort or inject it, or they can put blotter paper in their mouths so that the synthetic opioid is absorbed through the mucous membrane. Street names for fentanyl or for fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Tango and Cash. Can misuse of fentanyl lead to death? Opioid receptors are also found in the areas of the brain that control breathing rate. High doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl, can cause breathing to stop completely, which can lead to death. The high potency of fentanyl greatly increases risk of overdose, especially if a person who uses drugs is unaware that a powder or pill contains fentanyl. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert in 2015 about the dangers of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues/compounds. Fentanyl-laced heroin is causing significant problems across the country, particularly as heroin use has increased in recent years. Take Action: Learn more about opioids and the risks of opioid abuse. Learn more about how to take action to prevent medicine abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or addiction, please call the Parents Toll-Free Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE. Sources: National Institutes on Drug Abuse, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drug Enforcement Administration

Thursday, December 22, 2016

FMCSA to establish database of CMV drivers who fail drug, alcohol tests

Washington – Commercial motor vehicle drivers who fail a drug and alcohol test will be listed on a national clearinghouse to be created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to a final rule published Dec. 5. Once established, the clearinghouse will include records of violations of FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing program. Motor carriers will need to search the system for information related to current and prospective employees who might have unresolved violations that prohibit them from driving. Employers and medical review officers also will be required to report information about drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol; refuse to comply with drug and alcohol testing; or participate in the return-to-duty drug and alcohol rehabilitation process. Federal regulations require employers to conduct pre-employment drug testing, in addition to random testing. Employees who test positive are not allowed to perform safety-sensitive functions, which includes driving a CMV. “An overwhelming majority of the nation’s freight travels by truck, and millions of passengers reach their destinations by bus, so creating a central, comprehensive, and searchable database of commercial motor vehicle drivers who violate the federal drug and alcohol testing requirements has been a departmental priority,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a Dec. 2 press release. “This system will be a new technological tool that will make our roads safer.” The final rule is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 4, with a compliance deadline slated for January 2020.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Wisconsin will start drug testing welfare recipients starting Monday. Governor Scott Walker signed off on the rule, as-written by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. The rule requires testing able-bodied adults seeking certain benefits. Walker issued a statement today saying, “Employers across the state frequently tell me they have good-paying jobs available in high-demand fields, but need their workers to be drug-free. These important entitlement reforms will help more people find family-supporting jobs, moving them from government dependence to true independence.” DCF’s newly-approved rule is the next step in the process as they develop and implement their drug screening and testing for certain able-bodied adults seeking benefits and/or training through Transform Milwaukee, Transitional Jobs, and noncustodial parents in the W-2 program. Under the plan, individuals who test positive for a controlled substance without a prescription would be eligible for a drug treatment plan.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Drugged Driving On The Rise

The percentage of traffic deaths in which at least one driver tested positive for drugs has nearly doubled over a decade, raising alarms as five states are set to vote on legalization of marijuana. Amid a disquieting increase in overall U.S. traffic fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tracked an upswing in the percentage of drivers testing positive for illegal drugs and prescription medications, according to federal data released to USA TODAY and interviews with leaders in the field. The increase corresponds with a movement to legalize marijuana, troubling experts who readily acknowledge that the effects of pot use on drivers remain poorly understood. Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, even as it remains outlawed on a federal level. Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — are set to vote on legalization. It's "very probable" that Colorado's move to legalize recreational marijuana has caused an increase in fatal crashes, said Glenn Davis, the state's highway safety manager. In 2015, 21% of the 31,166 fatal crashes in the U.S. involved at least one driver who tested positive for drugs after the incident — up from 12% in 2005, according to NHTSA. The rate rose in 14 of the last 15 years, falling for the first time last year. It was down less than one percentage point compared with 2014.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


October 13th, 2016 Drug cartels are selling lethal doses of fentanyl disguised as street heroin and counterfeit OxyContin pills, two U.S. government agencies are warning. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Justice are cautioning people who buy illegal drugs and painkillers on the street or in Tijuana, Mexico, that cartels are using fentanyl because they can produce it more cheaply. Just a few grains of fentanyl can be lethal, the agencies said. In September, authorities confiscated more than 70 pounds of fentanyl and 6,000 counterfeit pills. “It’s extremely profitable for the cartels. They aren’t having to wait for harvest. They aren’t having to harvest the poppy plants. They’re not having to manufacture that paste into heroin. They are literally just getting a chemical from China,” stated DEA spokeswoman Amy RodericK.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Medical Marijuana and its IMPACT on OHIO's BWC

The impact of the new law, House Bill 523, effective September 8, 2016, legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio for certain medical conditions, is limited in regard to the Ohio BWC. It does not adversely affect the Drug-Free Safety Program, will not require BWC to pay for patient access to marijuana, and expressly states that an employee under the influence of marijuana is not covered by workers' compensation. Specifically: * Nothing in the law requires an employer to accommodate an employee's use of medical marijuana; * the law does NOT prohibit an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, or taking an adverse employment action because of a person's use of medical marijuana; * the law specifies that marijuana is covered under "rebuttable presumption." In general, this means that an employee whose injury was the result of being intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana is not eligible for workers' compensation. This is the case regardless of whether the marijuana use is recommended by a physician; * While the law does not specifically address reimbursement for medical marijuana recommended for injured workers, Ohio law already has rules and statutes in place that limit what medications are reimbursable by BWC. Administrative code provides that drugs covered by BWC are limited to those that are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana has not been approved by the FDA and remains a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law. BWC funded prescriptions must be dispensed by a registered pharmacist from an enrolled provider. Medical marijuana will be dispensed from retail marijuana dispensaries, not from enrolled pharmacies. What can employers do? The best way employers can protect their workers and themselves is to establish a drug-free work place, or if they already have one, to review and update it if necessary. This is important because certain sections of the new law reference the use of medical marijuana in violation of an employer's drug-free workplace policy, zero-tolerance policy or other formal program or policy regulating the use of medical marijuana. For what this means to your specific workplace, consult your human resources or legal department

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Doctors Feel Ill-Equipped to Counsel Patients About Medical Uses of Marijuana

Many doctors feel ill-equipped to counsel their patients about the potential medical uses of marijuana, USA Today reports. Some states are establishing physician training programs to address marijuana’s health effects. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana. Some states are starting to require doctors to take continuing medical education classes that discuss how marijuana interacts with other medications and affects the nervous system. In most states that allow medical marijuana, patients with qualifying medical conditions must receive certification from a doctor. Many doctors say that without knowing the health effects of marijuana, they are uncomfortable writing a certification. Many also say they are uneasy about dealing with medical marijuana because the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 31st International Overdose Awareness Day

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is a global event held on August 31st each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. Overdose Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. Wear Silver to show your support.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

33 Hospitalized After Calls About Mass K2 Overdose in Brooklyn: NYPD

Thirty-three people were taken to the hospital Tuesday morning after authorities responded to calls of people overdosing on K2 near a Brooklyn intersection that has been called one of the worst spots in New York City for synthetic drug use. Authorities said that it wasn't clear what drug the people who were transported to hospitals had ingested, but the NYPD said that at least five were reportedly smoking the cheap synthetic cannabinoid commonly called K2 outside a building on Stockton Street. The woman who called 911 to report the men smoking told NBC 4 New York they were vomiting and urinating. Witnesses told DNAinfo that the victims collapsed on the sidewalk and subway platforms. Since 2015, there have been more than 6,000 K2-related emergency room visits in New York City, according to the city's health department. There have been two confirmed deaths associated with the drug. Source: 33 Hospitalized After Calls About Mass K2 Overdose in Brooklyn: NYPD | NBC New York Follow us: @nbcnewyork on Twitter | NBCNewYork on Facebook

Monday, June 20, 2016

Random Drug Testing Benefits Employers

Drug testing programs aim to prevent the hiring of drug-using applicants while deterring drug use among current employees. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 21.4 percent of employed adults used illicit drugs within the past month. Results from the 2014 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) show that, in the general U.S. workforce, random urine drug test positivity rates are higher (5.7 percent) than they are for pre-employment (4.0 percent) or periodic (1.6 percent). Random or “spot” drug testing works as a drug use deterrent because these programs are conducted in an unannounced and unpredictable manner. Utilizing a random drug testing program may help employers by: Deterring current employees from engaging in drug use Preventing the need for substance abuse recovery programs Helping reduce health insurance costs Improving attendance and employee productivity Providing a safer workplace with reduced accidents However, setting up a random drug testing program isn’t as simple as drawing names from a hat. The key to running a successful random testing program lies in the employee selection methodology. Employers should adopt reliable, repeatable processes to ensure accuracy and fairness for their program’s selection process. When administered properly, the operative word ‘random’ will hold true and individuals in the program will not know if and when their drug test will occur. This element of chance and risk acts as the drug use deterrent. For more information on random program administration call Mobile Medical Corporation 888-662-8358.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Employers Struggle to Find Potential Employees Who Can Pass Drug Test

Employers report they are having difficulty finding workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test, The New York Times reports. Drug testing is becoming increasingly common at companies of all sizes. In some industries, such as trucking, drug testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons. The trend reflects an increase in the use of marijuana, as well as heroin and other opioid drugs, the article notes. In June 2015, Quest Diagnostics found the percentage of American workers testing positive for illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine increased for the second consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce. The positivity rate for approximately 6.6 million urine drug tests increased to 4.7 percent in 2014, compared with 4.3 percent the previous year. Dr. Barry Sample, Quest’s Director of Science and Technology, said the problem used to be worse. “If we go back to 1988, the combined U.S. work force positivity was 13.6 percent when drug testing was new,” he said. Sample added he considers two consecutive years of increases to be worrisome. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2014, one in 10 Americans ages 12 and older said they had used illicit drugs in the past month—the highest percentage since 2001. According to John Sambdman, who employs about 100 people in Atlanta at Samson Trailways, many potential employees “just don’t bother to show up at the drug-testing place.” Last August, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said he would develop a program to help because so many business owners complain “the No. 1 reason they can’t hire enough workers is they can’t find enough people to pass a drug test,” he said. The program is still being discussed.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Most States Do Not Require Employers to Accommodate Use of Medicinal Marijuana

May 18th, 2016/ As of May 2016, 25 states plus the District of Columbia allow the medicinal use of marijuana by patients suffering from certain debilitating medical conditions.[1] With perhaps 70-80 percent of marijuana patients between the ages of 18 and 60,[2] there may be upwards of one million users in the workforce at this time.[3] As recently enacted state laws come online and new states join, workforce numbers are expected to increase. Employers across the country, therefore, face the emerging issue of how they are allowed to manage the medicinal use of marijuana by their employees. One increasingly common question employers face is whether they can fire an employee, or rescind a prospective employee’s job offer, for failing a drug test caused by ingestion of marijuana away from work premises, or must they refrain from acting on the test and thereby accommodate the use? In most states, statutory language and court decisions do not require employers to accommodate. However, seven states impose more restrictions on employers, and at least four other states are considering changes to make their laws more employee-friendly. Termination for Off-Site Marijuana Use Statutes in 13 states expressly provide that employers are not required to accommodate the medicinal use or ingestion of marijuana at the workplace or during work hours.[4] In five of these states—California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Washington— which happen to contain two-thirds of all estimated marijuana patients, state supreme courts have held that employers may fire lawfully registered patient employees for failing drug tests caused by the off-site medicinal use of marijuana, albeit for somewhat differing reasons.[5] In six jurisdictions, state statutes do not address explicitly employer accommodation of the medicinal use of marijuana.[6] Nevertheless, in one of those states, New Mexico, a federal court recently held that absent such language in the law, the court would not require employers to do so for “a drug that is still illegal under federal law.”[7] States That May Be More Employee-Friendly on Marijuana Issue The statutory language in the remaining seven states is, or at least appears, more employee-friendly. In Connecticut, the law does not address accommodation, but does provide that an employer may not “refuse to hire a person or . . . discharge, penalize or threaten an employee solely on the basis of such person’s status as a patient.”[8] In Illinois, although the law allows an employer to adopt reasonable regulation regarding use and enforce non-discriminatory drug testing and drug-free workplace policies, the provision that the law does not prevent an employer from disciplining employees for failed drug tests appears to apply only in cases of federal employees or federal contractors.[9] The most employee-friendly state laws are in Arizona, Delaware, Minnesota, Nevada and New York. In Arizona, Delaware and Minnesota, an employer cannot discriminate against, or terminate, an employee who is a registered patient (other than a federal employee or federal contractor) because of a failed drug test unless the employee used, or was impaired, at work.[10] In Nevada, except for law enforcement agencies, employers must “attempt to make reasonable accommodations for the medical needs of an employee who engages in the medical use of marijuana if the employee holds a valid registry identification card,” provided that the accommodation poses no threat of harm to others, imposes no undue hardship on the employer and does not prevent the employee from fulfilling job duties.[11] Additionally, in New York, qualifying as a patient is sufficient to have a “disability” under New York human rights, civil rights and criminal procedure law,[12] thus requiring employer accommodation for use. Changing Landscape for Employers It should be noted that just because a state falls within a certain category now, the law can be changed. During the 2016 state legislative session, there have been bills pending in four states – Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey and Rhode Island—that would require more employer accommodation of registered marijuana users. BY JON WOODRUFF, Legislative Attorney for the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws [1] Pennsylvania becomes the 25th state once 2016 Pa. Act 2016-16 (2015 Pennsylvania Senate Bill 3) takes effect on or about May 17, 2016. [2] The percentage range is based on state-reported statistics in three states with mandatory registries containing more than 75,000 patients each (Arizona, Colorado and Oregon). [3] Estimates of the number of patients is imprecise, largely because neither California nor Washington have a mandatory patient registry. One organization estimates the current number of patients to be around 1.5 million. See [4] The states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington. [5] Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc., 42 Cal.4th 920, 174 P.3d 200 (2008) (fired employee had no cause of action for termination in violation of California public policy); Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, 350 P.3d 849 (Colo. 2015) (employee’s use of marijuana, which was “lawful” under Colorado but not federal law, was not a “lawful” activity for which an employer could not terminate); Johnson v. Columbia Falls Aluminum Co., 350 Mont. 562, 213 P.3d 789 (2009) (table decision) (employee’s claim that termination violated his civil rights failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted); Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 348 Or. 159, 230 P.3d 518 (2010) (en banc) (employee’s use constituted the illegal use of drugs under federal law, was thus he was entitled to accommodation); Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Management (Colorado), LLC, 171 Wash.2d 736, 257 P.3d 586 (2011) (en banc) (state’s medicinal use law does not regulate the conduct of a private employer or protect an employee from being discharged because of authorized use). [6] These jurisdictions are: District of Columbia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico and Vermont. [7] Garcia v. Tractor Supply Co., — F.Supp.3d —-, 2016 WL 93717 (D.N.M. 2016). [8] C.G.S.A. § 21a-408p(b)(3). [9] 410 ILCS 130/50(d). [10] A.R.S. § 36-2813(B); 16 Del.C. § 4905A(a)(3); M.S.A. § 152.32(3)(c). [11] N.R.S. 453A.800(3). [12] N.Y. Public Health Law § 3369(2).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Opioid Abuse Could Be Costing Employers as Much as $8 Billion Annually

Opioid abuse could be costing U.S. employers up to $8 billion annually, according to a report by the benefits firm Castlight Health. Employees who abuse opioids cost employers almost twice as much in healthcare expenses on average, compared with workers who don’t abuse opioids, the report found. The average healthcare cost for employees who abuse opioids is $19,450, compared with $10,853 for employees who do not abuse opioids. Castlight recommends employers, especially those with large and diverse workforces, analyze where lower back pain and depression—two conditions closely associated with opioid abuse—are most prevalent in their company. The company notes that employers may want to guide some employees away from unnecessary back surgery, which comes with opioid prescriptions. The report notes that “targeted educational content could help inform employees suffering from lower back pain that an opioid may not be the wisest option for them, or that physical therapy benefits are available.” Companies should also guide employees to benefit programs to make better health decisions related to opioid use, the report recommends. Castlight says employers may want to consider offering programs that provide access to opioid abuse treatment. “With this guidance, employers can help their employees easily find and access their health benefits, and avoid care choices that could require opioid use and lead to potentially abusive behavior,” according to the report, “The Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce.” The findings are based on data covering almost one million workers who used Castlight’s benefit platform between 2011 and 2015. According to CNBC, the report found that almost one-third of opioid painkiller prescriptions funded by employer plans are being abused. Castlight found 4.5 percent of workers who have received an opioid prescription have demonstrated a pattern of drug abuse. Among baby boomers, the rate was almost 7.5 percent.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

DEA: Deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin surging

A surge in overdose deaths around the country from heroin laced with the powerful narcotic drug fentanyl prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a nationwide alert and the overdoses continue to rise. "Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said. She called it a "significant threat to public health and safety." Fentanyl, a narcotic often used to ease extreme pain for patients in the final stages of diseases such as bone cancer, can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is the most potent opioid available for medical use. Doctors prescribe fentanyl in micrograms rather than larger milligrams. Law enforcement seizures of illegal drugs containing fentanyl more than tripled between 2013 and 2014. The National Forensic Laboratory Information System, which collects data from state and local police labs, reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013. DEA has also warned law enforcement to handle such seizures carefully because fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled. In New Jersey, state police have noted three spikes in fentanyl-related incidents since December 2013. The next summer, police responded to 58 incidents, including seven fatal overdoses in two coastal counties, says Lt. Juan Colon, assistant bureau chief of the information and intelligence support bureau at the regional operations intelligence center for the New Jersey State Police. The most recent spate occurred from Jan. 23 to Feb. 10 in Atlantic County, Colon said. In one 12-hour period, police responded to six overdoses, he said. "These drugs, opioids and opiates, are killing people, especially when you're buying them off the street. You don't know what you're getting," Colon said. "If you do drugs, you're taking a gamble." Prosecutors in New York last week charged two men with dealing heroin laced with fentanyl after one of their alleged customers in Hamburg, N.Y., overdosed and died on Feb. 28. Police found text messages from the alleged dealer, John Haak, 33, of Evans, N.Y., warning his customer to be careful with the heroin because of the fentanyl, court papers say. In October, a grand jury in Massachusetts indicted three men from the state's North Shore for dealing heroin and fentanyl. The charges stemmed from an investigation following a rash of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths in Salem a few months earlier. Police reported several major fentanyl seizures in 2014, including a 26-pound seizure in California that was traced to a Mexican drug cartel. Fentanyl-laced heroin caused an epidemic of overdoses between 2005 and 2007, when more than 1,000 people in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia died. The DEA traced the fentanyl to a single lab in Mexico, which was shut down.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Law Enforcement Sees More High-Potency Marijuana, Called “Shatter”

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Houston are seeing an increasing amount of a type of high-potency marijuana known as “shatter.” Some forms of shatter have as much as 90 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. That is about five times the potency of unrefined smoked marijuana. It is more powerful than standard hash oil. Shatter is a thin, hard layer that is similar to glass. It can shatter if dropped. The drug, also called wax or 710, is a concentrated form of marijuana oil. “If you’re looking at something that has three, five, seven, or nine percent THC content, that’s a drastic difference to somebody that is consuming something with 80 or 90 percent THC content,” said Wendell Campbell, DEA special agent. Houston DEA agents report an increase in marijuana concentrate seizures in the past year, the article notes. The concentrates are often hidden in beauty product containers. The Drug Enforcement Administration, in its 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment, said that marijuana concentrates are growing in popularity and that the drug’s ease of use through portable vaporizers presented new challenges to law enforcement. “Marijuana concentrates are extracted from leafy marijuana in many ways, but the most frequently used, and potentially most dangerous, method is butane extraction,” the DEA stated. “The butane extraction method uses highly flammable butane gas and has resulted in numerous explosions and injuries, particularly on the West Coast, where production is most common.” In December, The Washington Post reported shatter is appearing on the East Coast. The product is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, and is sold in medical marijuana dispensaries in other states, the newspaper notes. It is faster-acting and much more easily hidden than marijuana.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Prescription Drugs in the Workplace

It's a national epidemic. Prescription drugs kill more people in the United States - about 47,000 people every year - than motor vehicle crashes. Opioid painkillers are the biggest culprit, killing 52 people every day, but antidepressants, sleeping pills and other drugs also are being misused at an alarming rate. You'd think such a widespread problem would be front-page news, but surprisingly, many people don't know about it, doctors continue to over-prescribe and the death rate continues to rise. Employers have a huge role in helping end these unnecessary deaths. Did you know employer-supported treatment yields better recovery rates than treatment initiated by friends and family members? Does that sound like a lot of responsibility for you as an employer? It is. Case Study: Indiana Eighty percent of Indiana employers have been impacted by prescription drug abuse in their workplaces, according to a survey conducted by the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. Two-thirds of employers believe prescription drugs are a bigger problem than illegal drugs, and drug poisonings have increased fivefold in Indiana since 1999. Interestingly, though 80% of employers have experienced this problem, only 53% have a written policy on prescription drugs. And of those who do drug testing, only 52% test for commonly abused opioids. While this survey specifically focused on Indiana employers, the results reflect national trends, according to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. In fact, most deaths from prescription drug overdose are working-age adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to safety concerns, there is a very real cost attached to drug misuse and abuse in the workplace: • Absenteeism • High turnover • Injury and accidents • Workers compensation costs • Healthcare costs • Theft Expanded Drug Testing and Policy Employer-initiated treatment does work. Employers in Indiana said they want to help their employees recover and come back to work; they're seeing addiction as an illness and not a personal failure, according to the survey. In addition to expanding drug testing panels to include opioids, training employees is key. • Form a team of both internal employees and external experts - doctors, law enforcement, wellness vendors, even a coroner who can speak to the death rates related to prescription drug overdose • Identify resources; how much money is in the budget for training? • Develop policies and procedures on drug testing, disciplinary action, education and training, and remember that doctors who treat your employees won't know your company policy • If an employee doesn't tell you they are taking prescription drugs, you won't know unless an accident occurs; engage employees so they will step up and identify concerning behavior • Maintain or develop a relationship with local law enforcement • Treat substance abuse as a disease • When an employee does return to the workforce, reintegration should involve continued treatment, random drug screening and limited stress in the workplace For more information on Drug Free Workplace Training or examples of drug panels that include expanded opiates contact Mobile Medical Corporation 888-662-8358 ext. 201.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Sedative-Related Overdoses on the Rise

Fatal overdoses from benzodiazepines—sedatives sold under brand names such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan—are on the rise, a new study finds. Overdoses from benzodiazepines accounted for 31 percent of the almost 23,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the United States in 2013, according to HealthDay. “As more benzodiazepines were prescribed, more people have died from overdoses involving these drugs,” said study author Dr. Joanna Starrels of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “In 2013, more than 5 percent of American adults filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines. And the overdose death rate increased more than four times from 1996 to 2013.” She noted while there has been a large public health response to the epidemic of prescription opioid use, addiction and overdose, there has not been much response to the increase in prescription benzodiazepine deaths. Dr. Starrels said the rate of deaths from benzodiazepines is still lower than deaths from opioid overdoses, but noted benzodiazepine deaths also involve opioids in about 75 percent of cases. She said benzodiazepines can slow breathing, “particularly when taken with alcohol or narcotics such as OxyContin or heroin.” Starrels and colleagues used data that tracks drug prescriptions and drug overdoses. They found the number of adults who used benzodiazepines rose from 8.1 million prescriptions in 1996, to 13.5 million in 2013—a 67 percent increase. The quantity of filled prescriptions more than doubled during that period. The overdose death rate for benzodiazepines rose from 0.58 deaths per 100,000 in 1996 to more than 3 deaths per 100,000 in 2013—a more than fivefold increase. While the overall number of overdose deaths has leveled off since 2010, the rate continues to increase among adults over 65, as well as among blacks and Hispanics. The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

President Obama Asks for More Than $1 Billion in New Funding for Opioid Addiction Treatment

President Obama is asking for more than $1 billion in new funding to address the opioid epidemic, USA Today reports. The funding would expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use. Under the proposal, the new funds would be used to help people with an opioid use disorder to seek and successfully complete treatment and sustain recovery. It would expand access to substance use treatment providers and to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. The funds will be included in the fiscal year 2017 budget request, the article notes. They include $920 million to support agreements with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States can use these funds to expand treatment and lower the cost of services. Fifty million dollars would be used to expand access to 700 substance use treatment providers in areas that need mental health treatment the most, while $30 million would be used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs using medication-assisted treatment. Those funds would also help identify opportunities to improve treatment for patients with opioid use disorders. The proposal also includes about $500 million to build on current efforts by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies. These funds would increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities. In a statement, the White House said the proposal “will not only expand access to help people start treatment, but help them successfully complete it and sustain their recovery. It will increase education, prevention, drug monitoring programs, and law enforcement efforts to keep illegal drugs out of our communities.”

Friday, January 15, 2016

Employers in states with legalized marijuana use have ‘limited tolerance,’ survey shows

Workers in states that have legalized marijuana should think twice before smoking the drug. A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management indicates many employers have continued a zero-tolerance policy. More than 4 out of 5 organizations with operations in states where recreational and medical marijuana use is legal bar workers from using the drug, survey respondents reported. Eleven percent of employers had exceptions for medical use. Two-fifths of respondents said their organization can subject employees to marijuana drug testing after an incident occurs, and one-quarter reported that all employees are subject to marijuana drug testing throughout employment – regardless of whether an incident occurred. About half of respondents said first-time violators of substance policies were terminated. “While marijuana use is legal in some states, it remains illegal under federal law,” Evren Esen, SHRM director of survey programs, said in a press release. “Substance use, disciplinary and hiring policies are all influenced by employers’ limited tolerance of marijuana use.” Marijuana is legal in 19 states for medical use only, and in four states and the District of Columbia for medical and recreational use. The drug can lead to impaired body movement and difficulty with problem-solving in the short-term, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states. Although the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the marijuana plant as medicine, it has approved medications containing synthetic marijuana chemicals. Additionally, research has indicated marijuana is effective in relieving symptoms of several diseases, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Blood-lead levels in working adults have dropped, NIOSH report shows

The prevalence of employed adults with high levels of lead in their blood has fallen since the mid-1990s, according to a new NIOSH report. NIOSH and 41 state health departments collected blood-lead level data on working adults from 1994 to 2012. The rate of adults with blood-lead levels equal to or greater than 25 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood dropped to 5.7 employed adults per 100,000 in 2012 from 14 in 1994. Among adults with levels at or greater than 10 µg/dL, the rate fell to 22.5 in 2012 from 26.6 in 2010. Most lead exposures are occupational in nature, according to the report. Between 2002 and 2012, occupational exposure accounted for nearly 95 percent of the annual proportion of blood-lead levels at or greater than 25 µg/dL in participating states. OSHA’s standards for lead set a permissible exposure limit at no greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8-hour period. No safe blood-lead level has been identified, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results were published Oct. 23, 2015, in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sobering Statistics On Holiday Drinking And Driving

This year, 1,200 people will lose their lives during the holiday season as a result of alcohol-related traffic accidents. The United States Department of Transportation reported that from 2001 to 2005, an average of 45 people died each day during the holiday season, with the largest number of drunk driving fatalities occurring during Thanksgiving. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), deaths from drinking and driving spike around the holidays, with alcohol being blamed for about 52 percent of fatal collisions on Christmas and 57 percent on New Years compared to a rate of 41 percent for the entire year. In addition to the more than 1,200 alcohol-related deaths that will occur on the road this holiday season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 25,000 people will be injured. Some Good News And Some Bad News The good news is that there has been a steady decline in the rate of alcohol-related deaths on the nation's highways during the holidays. Statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in 1982, there were more than 2,600 deaths due to drinking and driving -- accounting for 60 percent of all accident fatalities. Recent years, however, have witnessed about 1,200 fatalities, or roughly 40 percent. The discouraging news, however, is that underage drinkers are responsible for between 10 and 20 percent of all alcohol consumed and that, during the holiday period, 21- to 24-year-olds repeatedly make up the highest percentage of impaired drivers. Another negative trend is that arrests for women driving under the influence increased by 29 percent from 1998 to 2007, while DWI arrests for men fell by eight percent. However, the number of men arrested during that period was still four times that of women. Take Steps To Protect Yourself And Others Even with the steady decline in fatalities, the number of drivers with DWI arrests is on the rise. It is estimated that there are as many as two million drunk drivers with three or more convictions and more than 400,000 with five or more DWI convictions still behind the wheel. Here are five steps you can take to help avoid becoming a statistic: 1. If you drink, don't drive no matter how little you think you've had. 2. Don't let someone you know get behind the wheel if they've been drinking. 3. Avoid driving during early and late evening hours on holidays. 4. If you must drive, be cautious and watch for the erratic movements of drunken drivers. 5. Immediately report suspected drunk drivers to the police.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Adults in Their 50s Now Biggest Group Being Treated for Opioid Addiction: Study

Adults ages 50 and older are the largest group seeking treatment for addiction to opioid painkillers and heroin in New York City, according to a new study. People ages 50 to 59 accounted for almost 36 percent of opioid treatment patients in 2012. In 1996, this age group accounted for only 8 percent of narcotic painkiller and heroin treatment patients, HealthDay reports. The study found a “pronounced age trend in those utilizing opioid treatment programs from 1996 to 2012, with adults aged 50 and older becoming the majority treatment population,” lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Han of New York University said in a news release. Patients ages 60 to 69 rose from 1.5 percent to 12 percent between 1996 and 2012, the researchers report in the Journal of Substance Use and Misuse. “These increases are especially striking, considering there was about a 7.6 percent decrease in the total patient population over that period of time, and suggests that we are facing a never before seen epidemic of older adults with substance use disorders and increasing numbers of older adults in substance abuse treatment,” Han said. While 56 percent of opioid addiction patients were 40 and younger in 1996, only 20 percent of patients fell into this age group in 2012. Among patients ages 60 and older, the researchers found a 10 percent increase in whites, a 4 percent increase in Hispanics, and a 14 percent decrease in blacks. Among patients in their 50s, the rate rose 9 percent for Hispanics, 6 percent for blacks and 3.5 percent for whites. The researchers said they believe the increase in older adults being treated in opioid addiction programs is likely to continue into the next decade. “Opioid dependence is a chronic condition that often needs life-long treatment, and therefore many individuals who are currently in treatment will remain in treatment as they age,” they wrote. /BY JOIN TOGETHER STAFF December 1st, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dark Web Marketplace Increases Availability, Acceptability of Drugs: Expert

November 4th, 2015 The popularity of the “Dark Web” for purchasing illegal drugs is especially worrisome because it is increasing the availability and acceptability of drugs, according to an addiction psychiatry expert. “After talking with people who use the Dark Web, I became very concerned that many of them have lost the appreciation that this is drug dealing, not just e-commerce,” says Karen Miotto, MD, Director of UCLA’s Addiction Psychiatry Service, who has studied the Dark Web, also known as the Deep Web or the Hidden Web. “Buying or selling heroin balloons in the park is clearly understood as an illegal activity; buying or selling drugs online may be construed as e-commerce without full appreciation that it is also illegal.” The Dark Web refers to illegal online marketplaces that can be accessed by downloading the anonymous browser called Tor, and purchasing the digital currently bitcoin. In addition to illegal drugs, these websites sell passports, pornography and weapons. The first and most well-known Dark Web site was Silk Road, which was shut down by the federal government in 2013. The ease with which people can buy large quantities of drugs is creating a system with mid-level drug dealers, said Dr. Miotto, who discussed the Dark Web at the recent California Society of Addiction Medicine annual meeting. She found people who use the Dark Web by asking students and colleagues for contacts, as well as through the website Reddit. “We have a new drug distribution system,” Dr. Miotto said. “People can get drugs sent to them in a FedEx box right to their door with a sense of anonymity and confidentiality. There’s a sense of intrigue and excitement about getting drugs this way.” Earlier this year, a study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers found illegal websites have sales that average $300,000 to $500,000 a day. The study found marijuana accounted for about one-quarter of sales, followed by Ecstasy and stimulants. These websites also sell significant amounts of psychedelic drugs, opioids and other prescription medications. Dr. Miotto found that hallucinogenic compounds advertised as research chemicals are popular on Dark Web sites. “Some people believe they are performing a service by experimenting with these drugs and going online and writing about their experience,” she said. When Silk Road was seized in October 2013, it had 13,000 drug listings. In June, the creator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, was sentenced to life in prison. The government said over Silk Road’s three years in business, more than 1.5 million transactions were conducted on the site. A number of new Dark Web sites have emerged since Silk Road was seized, including Open Bazaar, Silk Road 3.0 and Angora. “People write in testimonials about the drugs they purchase on these sites, just as you do on Amazon,” Dr. Miotto notes. She said parents’ and physicians’ ignorance of the Dark Web makes it easier for young people to participate in the online drug marketplace. “Young people don’t always appreciate the risk they are taking in engaging in these activities,” she said. Parents can check to see if a Tor browser has been downloaded on their teen’s computer. Check packages that come to the house, and don’t allow your teen to have their own Post Office box. If your teen asks about Bitcoin, find out what he knows about it and why he’s interested in it. “I worry about young people with disposable income and access to credit cards,” Dr. Miotto said. “Some of the most tragic cases I’ve seen are high school kids, or even younger, with a lot of discretionary income.” BY CELIA VIMONT

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


October marks the second annual National Substance Abuse Prevention Month an observance to highlight the vital role of substance abuse prevention in both individual and community health and to remember those who have lost their lives to alcohol and drugs. According the recently released 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.6 million Americans over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and drugs; 14.1 million alcohol, 3.9 million illicit drugs, no alcohol and 2.6 million, alcohol and illicit drugs. Plain and simple, underage drinking, alcohol and drug dependence, non-medical use of prescription drugs, abuse of over-the-counter medications, and illicit drug use take a devastating toll on our families and in our communities. For example, young Americans aged 12 to 20 account for 11% of the country's monthly alcohol consumption; and, approximately 23 million people aged 12 or older used illicit drugs in 2010. This abuse touches all aspects of our communities and contributes to an estimated $416 billion in crime, health care and lost productivity costs. This month let’s pay tribute to all those working to prevent substance use in our communities and rededicate ourselves to building a safer, drug-free America. For more information on Alcoholism and Drug dependence visit the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence web-site @

Thursday, September 10, 2015

CDC Announces $20 Million Program to Reduce Opioid Overdoses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will spend $20 million in 16 states to reduce opioid overdoses, UPI reports. Opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. In 2013, more than 16,000 people died of prescription opioid overdoses in the United States, according to the CDC. In addition,more than 8,000 people died of heroin overdoses that year. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled. “The prescription drug overdose epidemic is tragic and costly, but can be reversed,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a news release. “Because we can protect people from becoming addicted to opioids, we must take fast action now, with real-time tracking programs, safer prescribing practices, and rapid response. Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states.” The CDC will provide funding to Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The program will focus on improving prescription drug monitoring programs and increasing education and prevention efforts in communities. The CDC will work with doctors and health systems to help them make better decisions for patients, and to investigate the connection between prescription opioid abuse and rising heroin use. The CDC will award states between $750,000 and $1 million each year over the next four years. President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal includes a request to expand the program to all states.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Study Finds Places with More Marijuana Dispensaries Have More Marijuana-Related Hospitalizations

People who live in areas of California with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries experience a greater number of hospitalizations involving marijuana abuse and dependence, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis discovered. The National Institutes of Health-funded research, published online in the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, could be informative as more states consider legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. It is the first analysis of the statewide impact of marijuana dispensaries on abuse and dependence, as well as the first look at population characteristics associated with marijuana-related hospitalization rates. "As marijuana is approved for medical or recreational use, we need to carefully consider where we allow dispensaries to be placed," said lead author Christina Mair, Ph.D., in a news release. "Our study indicates that there are real problems associated with a higher density of marijuana dispensaries in neighborhoods. More study and monitoring, coupled with thoughtful legislation and community discussion, will be prudent to ensure that marijuana laws have the fewest negative consequences for vulnerable populations." In 1996, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, allowing physicians to prescribe the drug for medical purposes. Since then, 22 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted similar laws, and four of those states also have legalized recreational use. Pennsylvania doesn't allow either, though it is considering permitting medical marijuana. Mair and her team looked at data on California hospital discharges that had either a primary or secondary medical code for marijuana dependence or abuse with at least one overnight hospital stay. The research covered 2001 through 2012, the most recent years for which consistent data were available. Hospitalizations with marijuana abuse or dependence codes increased from 17,469 in 2001 to 68,408 in 2012. More than 85 percent of marijuana-related hospitalizations were coded as abuse, rather than dependence, and 99.2 percent were secondary codes, meaning the person was primarily hospitalized for something other than marijuana. When the research team mapped the location of marijuana dispensaries and cross-referenced it with the ZIP code of each patient's home, they found that each additional dispensary per square mile in a ZIP code was associated with a 6.8 percent increase in the number of hospitalizations linked to marijuana abuse and dependence. In addition, the team found that marijuana dispensaries and hospitalizations were more likely to be located in areas with lower household incomes and lower educational attainment. "It's unclear if the marijuana dispensaries are simply locating in neighborhoods that tend to be more disadvantaged and already have underlying problems with marijuana abuse, or if the presence of the dispensaries is causing an increase in abuse and hospitalizations," Mair said. "It could be a combination of both factors." Mair noted that research on the location of marijuana dispensaries has a parallel precedent in the location of liquor stores. This gives policymakers and public health practitioners the opportunity to learn from previous studies on the health effects of density and location of liquor stores in order to design studies that can provide similar data on marijuana dispensaries.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Obituaries Refer to Addiction as Heroin Overdoses Increase

A growing number of obituaries of people who have died of heroin overdoses refer to their addiction, The New York Times reports. In the past, these obituaries tended to say a person died “unexpectedly” or “at home.” More families are writing candidly about their loved ones’ struggle with heroin addiction in newspapers, on Facebook and on obituary websites like and “This is part of a trend toward a greater degree of acceptance and destigmatization about issues pertaining to mental illness, including addiction,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Chairman of Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He added, “If a family chooses to do this, they can have a cathartic experience that facilitates the grieving process. When the person was alive, they may have been enabling, and they couldn’t acknowledge it. But this allows them to begin that process of coming to terms with the fallibility of the family member and their own limitations in not having been able to deal with it while the person was alive.” When Wade B. Pickett Sr., 34, died of a heroin overdose, his wife, Tiffany, wrote in his obituary in the The Express-Times in Easton, Pennsylvania, “I am sorry if this obituary offends, hurts or shames some people. I hope that it might help save some people from the incredible heartache we are experiencing.” The family of Daniel Joseph Wolanski, 24, of Avon Lake, Ohio, wrote in his obituary, “Someone you know is battling addiction; if your ‘gut instinct’ says something is wrong, it most likely is.” Increasingly, drug abuse is considered a disease and a public health crisis, instead of a crime and moral failing, the article notes. While addiction obituaries do not seem to be the result of an organized effort, they are part of a movement that calls for better treatment options and changes in the criminal justice system.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pot Breathalyzer To Make Marijuana Legalization Safer

With marijuana becoming legal in more and more states across the U.S., concerns about road safety have taken center stage. As regulations regarding how much alcohol can be safely consumed before driving have been hammered into the public eye for years, many worry that newly legalized pot rules need to be paid the same attention. However, in order for law enforcement agencies to uphold the rules governing marijuana consumption while driving, an easy system to test the amount of cannabis a driver has ingested is necessary. For that reason, many companies are working to come up with a device that can detect marijuana the way that traditional breathalyzers measure a driver's alcohol level. Prototype Cannabix Technologies Inc., a Canadian-based firm, says it is nearing the final stages of developing a ‘pot breathalyzer". The device is still only a prototype, but once it becomes available for widespread use, it could revolutionize the way that police enforce marijuana laws. Will It Be Accurate Enough? While the advent of a pot breathalyzer would be a major step forward for marijuana legalization, experts say it won't be accurate enough to be used on its own at first. The device would detect whether or not a person has THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, in their system, but probably wouldn't be able to tell just how much. More Research Needed So far, there has been no consensus regarding what amount of THC, if any, is safe for drivers. In Washington and Montana, drivers must have less than 5 nanograms/milliliter, though Pennsylvania allows just 1 ng/ml and some other states don't allow any amount of THC at all. By Laura Brooks/ benzinga

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hawaii First State to Raise Legal Tobacco Use Age to 21

Hawaii has become the first state to raise the legal tobacco use age to 21. The law prohibits people under the age of 21 from smoking, buying, or possessing tobacco products. The law specifically includes electronic smoking devices, defined as "any electronic product that can be used to aerosolize and deliver nicotine or other substances to the person inhaling the device, an electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, or electronic pipe, and any cartridge or other component of the device or related product." The law was passed, in part, due to growing concerns about the prevalence of e-cigarette use among youth, noting that 29 percent of 9th and 10th graders in six Hawaii high schools report using these products at least once, and 18 percent report using them regularly, according to the state’s news release. "Partners statewide have come together to support this monumental legislation that once again puts Hawaii at the cutting edge of public health policy and protecting the health of our youth," the state's director of health, Virginia Pressler, said in a statement. Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed Senate Bill 1030 (Act 122) late last month. The law will go into effect Jan. 1. Lawmakers are also pushing to raise the tobacco use age in Washington State and California, where the state Senate passed a bill to raise the age last month, sending the legislation to the Assembly for a vote.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Workers' Drug Use On the Rise

Publication Date 06/02/2015 The share of U.S. workers testing positive for drugs appears to be on the rise, according to data from millions of workplace drug tests administered by one of the nation's largest medical-screening laboratories. Traces of drugs--from marijuana to methamphetamine to prescription opiates--were found in 3.9% of the 9.1 million urine tests conducted for employers by Quest Diagnostics Inc. in 2014, up from 3.7% in 2013. While the numbers might seem small, they reflect the reversal of a longtime trend of declining drug use among workers. Before 2013, positives had dropped nearly every year for 24 years, from 13.6% in 1988 to a low of 3.5% in 2012. Some of the positive results are later discarded if a worker produces a doctor's prescription for a legal drug, but the majority reflect illicit use, driven by increases in marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine positives, said Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology for Quest's diagnostics employer solutions business. The upturn mirrors higher levels of substance use in the broader population, said Dr. Sample. A survey by the Department of Health and Human Services found that in 2013, 9.4% of Americans age 12 or older had used illicit drugs in the month before the survey interview was conducted, up from 9.2% in 2012 and 8.7% in 2011. Experts are unsure why drug usage is rising. Researchers haven't been able to conclusively link drug consumption to economic cycles. A 2013 paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, for example, concluded that "the Great Recession did not generate a clear temporary or permanent pattern in rates of substance abuse." Legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use may explain some of the increase, said Mark de Bernardo, executive director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace and a senior partner with management-side law firm Jackson Lewis PC. "We have a greater tolerance--and it's an unfounded tolerance--for illicit drug use," he said. The drug most commonly found in workers' samples is marijuana, which accounts for nearly half of all positive tests. Other common substances were amphetamines, oxycodones such as OxyContin, and benzodiazepines like Xanax. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Colorado and Washington led the way in 2012, when voters approved initiatives allowing recreational use of the drug. Since then, employers have been managing a fast-moving and extremely uncertain legal landscape with drug-testing, said Jim Reidy, an attorney in the Manchester, NH office of law firm Sheehan Phinney Bass and Green PA. He has seen employers in Colorado and Washington adopt or expand testing policies, partly with the rationale that screening people out before they are hired puts firms in a less vulnerable position than firing marijuana users down the road--and possibly facing legal challenges based on the state laws. Quest's Dr. Sample noted that while test positives increased sharply in 2013 in Colorado and Washington relative to the rest of the country, in 2014 they were almost exactly in line with the national data. Use in those states may simply have "leveled off," he said. Workers in federally mandated safety-sensitive roles, such as truck drivers and pilots, are barred by federal law from using marijuana, even if it is legal where they live. Among those workers, who must undergo regular testing, Quest found that 1.7% of urine drug tests came back positive, flat with 2013. Dan Horvath, director of compliance at TransForce, Inc., a national staffing firm for truck drivers, said the company communicates regularly with drivers through safety meetings and mailers, reminding them that federal laws forbid them from smoking pot, even if their local governments allow it. "It's a lot more education material to drivers so they can't say they were not aware of testing rules." The overall Quest data reflect growing rates of some prescription drug use--and abuse. For example, even as use of many drugs has ebbed in recent years, positive tests for amphetamines, which includes prescription drugs such as Adderall, essentially doubled between 2008 and 2014. When tests show the presence of a prescription drug, the results are discarded if the individual can verify he or she was prescribed the medication by a doctor, said Dr. Sample, who added that independent studies show 65% to 80% of positive tests for legal drugs are ultimately disregarded for that reason. Employers are responding to the threat by screening for more prescription drugs. International Paper Co., a Memphis-based maker of paper and packaging, plans to add opiate derivatives like hydrocodone and oxycodone to its list. "It's preventative," said Kevin Mencke, chief counsel for employment and labor. "We're in manufacturing, so any drug abuse is a concern for us." At one location, the company experimented with using hair tests, which examine strands of hair and can detect drug use as far back as 90 days, compared with a few days or weeks for urine tests. International Paper's screening procedures found drug traces in about 1.4% of job candidates and 2% of employees tested randomly in 2014. Most employment-related drug tests are administered to job candidates, usually after an offer has been extended but before employment begins. More than half of all U.S. employers required tests for all post-offer job candidates in 2011, according to the most recent data available from the Society for Human Resource Management. In nearly all cases, employers decline to hire candidates with a verified positive result, said Mr. Reidy. Source: Dow Jones News Service By Lauren Weber

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Marijuana Edibles Being Transported Illegally Across State Lines

Law enforcement officials are reporting an increase in marijuana-infused edible products being transported illegally across state lines for resale. Edibles resemble candy or home-baked products, and often have no smell that indicates they contain marijuana, The New York Times reports. Missouri troopers confiscated 400 pounds of commercially made marijuana chocolate in February. New Jersey state police seized 80 pounds of homemade marijuana sweets. Oklahoma officers seized about 40 pounds of commercial marijuana products, including taffy-like “Cheeba Chews” and bottles of marijuana-infused lemonade. In Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal for adults 21 and over, edible marijuana products have become a popular alternative to smoking marijuana. Adults 21 and over can legally purchase marijuana edibles at state-licensed stores. Marijuana is now available in products ranging from candy to soda and granola. The amount of marijuana in edible products varies widely. In some cases, products contain levels so high that people experience extreme paranoia and anxiety. The high produced by edible products comes on more slowly than smoked marijuana. Inexperienced users may consume too much, causing severe impairment. Some experts are concerned that marijuana edibles smuggled into other states may appeal to teens. Colorado health officials are trying to find a way to prevent people from overdosing on marijuana edibles. The products have been implicated in two suicides and one murder in the past 13 months. Almost five million edibles were sold in Colorado stores last year. Marijuana edibles are also legal in Washington state, and will soon be legal in Oregon and Alaska. Edible products are also available to medical marijuana users in at least six of the 23 states with medical marijuana programs, the article notes.