Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

For more information about prescription drug overdoses, please visit www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Poisoning.

Monday, July 1, 2013

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

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

Updated Results From DEA’s Largest-Ever Global Synthetic Drug Takedown Yesterday
Nationwide enforcement actions targeted dangerous new and emerging class of chemicals from overseas JUNE 27 (WASHINGTON) – Yesterday the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its law enforcement partners announced enforcement operations in 35 states targeting the upper echelon of dangerous designer synthetic drug trafficking organizations that have operated without regard for the law or public safety. 
These series of enforcement actions included retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. In addition, these investigations uncovered the massive flow of drug-related proceeds back to countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Since Project Synergy began December 1 of 2012, more than 227 arrests were made and 416 search warrants served in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries, along with more than $51 million in cash and assets seized.   Altogether, 9,445 kilograms of individually packaged, ready-to-sell synthetic drugs, 299 kilograms of cathinone drugs (the falsely labeled “bath salts”), 1,252 kilograms of cannabinoid drugs (used to make the so-called “fake pot” or herbal incense products), and 783 kilograms of treated plant material were seized.
Project Synergy was coordinated by DEA’s Special Operations Division, working with the DEA Office of Diversion Control, and included cases led by DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI, and IRS.  In addition, law enforcement in Australia, Barbados, Panama, and Canada participated, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members.
“Shutting down businesses that traffic in these drugs and attacking their operations worldwide is a priority for DEA and our law enforcement partners,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.  “These designer drugs are destructive, dangerous, and are destroying lives. DEA has been at the forefront of the battle against this trend and is targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative, and investigative tool at our disposal.”
“CBP and DEA enjoy a close working relationship that was further enhanced through the collaboration of the National Targeting Center and CBP officers in the field at express consignment hubs during this operation to target, test and detain shipments of synthetic drugs, as well as precursor herbs used to manufacture synthetic marijuana,” said CBP David Murphy, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Field Operations.
“The criminals behind the importation, distribution and selling of these drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits,” said Traci Lembke, HSI Deputy Assistant Director of Investigative Programs.  “For criminal groups seeking to profit through the sale of illegal narcotics, the message is clear: we know how you operate; we know where you hide; and we will not stop until we bring you to justice.”
“The harm inflicted by these designer drugs is matched only by the profit potential for those who sell them,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation.  “Today’s enforcement actions are the culmination of a multi-year effort in which IRS-CI worked with its domestic and global law enforcement partners to disrupt the flow of money - the lifeblood that allows these multi-million dollar organizations to proliferate.”
“On behalf of the Australian Government, I congratulate the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Project Synergy. This is a significant seizure of synthetic drugs and is a terrific result for our respective law enforcement agencies. Australia remains committed to sharing intelligence with its U.S. partners to combat transnational crime across international borders. This is a win for our collective communities,” Australia’s Acting Ambassador to the United States, Graham Fletcher, said.
Background on designer synthetic drugs
Designer synthetic drugs are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food, and have caused significant abuse, addiction, overdoses, and emergency room visits. Those who have abused synthetic drugs have suffered vomiting, anxiety, agitation, irritability, seizures, hallucinations, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. They have caused significant organ damage as well as overdose deaths.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana.  These products consist of plant material that has been impregnated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet.   Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose. In 2012, a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported 11,406 emergency department visits involving a synthetic cannabinoid product during 2010. In a 2013 report, SAMHSA reported the number of emergency department visits in 2011 involving a synthetic cannabinoid product had increased 2.5 times to 28,531. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 5,205 calls related to human exposure of synthetic cannabinoids.
For the past several years, there has also been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 2,656 calls related to synthetic cathinone (“bath salts”) exposures in 2012 and overdose deaths have been reported as well.
These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols of employers and government agencies to protect public safety.  They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Project Synergy are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows many of these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.  A number of cases that are part of Project Synergy will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which is being utilized to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.
DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called “bath salts” with names like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA in 2012.
More information about synthetic designer drugs can be found on the Drug Fact Sheets.
B-roll from Project Synergy is available at: http://www.dvidshub.net/video/294719/cbp-dea-project-synergy-b-roll
Photos from Project Synergy can be found here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Drug Abuse Hikes Workers’ Comp. Risks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

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

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

Read more at http://www.virtual-strategy.com/2013/06/14/singlesource-background-screening-cautions-employers-against-making-three-most-common-dru#dfRLupAHQ5uMA66a.99

Read more: http://www.virtual-strategy.com/2013/06/14/singlesource-background-screening-cautions-employers-against-making-three-most-common-dru#ixzz2WUhyB0s1

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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

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

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