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 IS NATIONAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH

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 @ www.ncadd.org.

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 Legacy.com and ObitsforLife.com. “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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Heroin Use Surges Among Whites Who Abuse Prescription Painkillers

Efforts to curb illicit drug use should target this population, researchers say THURSDAY, April 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Heroin use rose among people who abuse prescription narcotic painkillers such as Oxycontin or Vicodin, a new study found. The most significant increase was a 75 percent jump in the number of white people using heroin in 2008 to 2011, researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health revealed. "The noteworthy increase in the annual rate of heroin abuse or dependence among . . . whites parallels the significant increase in nonmedical opioid [narcotic] use during the last decade and the growing number of heroin overdose deaths described for this race and ethnic group in recent years," study leader Dr. Silvia Martins said in a university news release. Martins is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. Heroin use also spiked among Hispanics, according to the study. The study included information from 67,500 people who answered questions about their heroin use. These findings could help public health officials develop programs to prevent heroin use, the authors suggested. The investigators found that the use or abuse of heroin, dependence on the drug, and the risk of past use of the drug increased along with the frequency of narcotic painkiller use between 2008 and 2011. "Individuals tend to use prescription opioids as a substitute for heroin when heroin is unavailable, to augment a heroin-induced 'high,' to 'treat' withdrawal symptoms, and to curb heroin use," Martins explained in the news release. The researchers also found more frequent heroin use for Hispanics who used prescription painkillers between one and 29 days in the past year. Significant increases in heroin use were also identified among blacks and whites who used prescription painkillers between 100 and 365 days in the past year. With the exception of Hispanics, the study found that anyone who frequently used prescription narcotics was at greater risk for ever injecting heroin, as well as for heroin abuse or dependence in the past year. "This is alarming and raises concern since injection drug use among prescription opioid users can contribute to the spread of HIV . . . as well as of hepatitis C," Martins concluded. The study was published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. More information The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about substance abuse. SOURCE: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, news release, April 27, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

“Flakka” is Latest Synthetic Drug to Worry Experts

April 21, 2015 A drug known as “flakka” is the latest synthetic compound to raise concern among public health experts, Fox News reports. Flakka is a tweaked version of bath salts. In some cases, Flakka can cause heart palpitations and aggressive, violent behavior, the article notes. Use of the drug can affect the kidneys, leading to kidney failure or death. Flakka use has recently been reported in Florida, Ohio and Texas. The name is derived from the Spanish word “flaca,” which means “skinny.” The drug is sold in other parts of the country as “Gravel.” In Florida, Flakka contains alpha-PVP, a substance that provides an instant sense of euphoria, according to Jim Hall of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. The drug also gives a boost in physical strength that is similar to other stimulants, such as Ecstasy and cocaine, he said. Hospitals in South Florida are admitting 20 new patients a day for Flakka abuse, Hall told Fox News. “One of the reasons we think alpha-PVP is such a problem is because it is extremely dose-specific, and even just a little dose will give a person the desired effect they want,” he said. “Just a little more can create a number of serious adverse effects to the point the user doesn’t even know.” Flakka, which comes in crystalline rock form, can be snorted, swallowed, injected or vaped in an e-cigarette. While its effects are generally felt for three or four hours, they can continue for days. It is being sold in Florida for $5 for one-tenth of a gram. “It’s cheap like crack cocaine,” Hall said. “This is as close as we’ve come to a crack cocaine problem since 1995 in terms of the severe reactions, low prices, and that it’s available to young kids, and even homeless populations are now impacted.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

19 Percent of Americans Say They Take Some Sort of Drug Daily to Help them Relax

19 Percent of Americans Say They Take Some Sort of Drug Daily to Help Them Relax A new survey finds almost 19 percent of Americans say they take some sort of drug daily to help them relax. The rate of drug use varies widely by state, from 28 percent in West Virginia to 13.5 percent in Alaska. The findings come from an ongoing Gallup survey, conducted with health consultants Healthways, according to NBC News. The survey included calls to more than 176,000 adults nationwide. They were asked how often they use drugs or medications, including prescription drugs, which affect their mood and help them relax. Respondents were not asked about the types of drugs used. After West Virginia, the states with the highest daily drug use were Rhode Island (26 percent), Kentucky (24.5 percent), Alabama (24.2 percent), Louisiana (22.9 percent), South Carolina (22.8 percent), Mississippi, Missouri and Indiana (22 percent) and Oregon (21.9 percent). The states where the fewest people use daily drugs, after Alaska, are Wyoming (15.5 percent), California (15.8 percent), Illinois (16 percent), North Dakota (16.4 percent), New Jersey (16.5 percent), Colorado (16.7 percent), Texas (16.7 percent), Utah (16.8 percent) and Maryland (17.3 percent). People who take drugs daily to relax have an overall lower feeling of well-being, Gallup noted in a statement. "One possibility is that taking mood-altering drugs or medication nearly every day contributes to lower well-being," the organization noted. "But a more probable explanation is that Americans who already have lower well-being are more likely to use drugs or medication to relax or alter their mood, possibly to help cope with challenges related to their low purpose, social, financial, physical or community well-being."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Senate Bill Would End Federal Prohibition on Medical Marijuana MARCH 11TH, 2015 A bill introduced Tuesday by three U.S. senators would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana, The Washington Post reports.The bill was introduced by Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats, and Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, would reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs, which include heroin, have no accepted medical use in the United States. Schedule II drugs have a legitimate medical use but also have a high potential for abuse. The bill would permit Veterans Affairs doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans, and would make it easier for scientists to obtain marijuana for medical research. It would allow banks and credit unions to provide the same services to the marijuana industry as they do to other businesses, without the fear of federal prosecution or investigation, the article notes. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, banks have been reluctant to conduct business with marijuana-related companies. Banks have feared being accused of helping these businesses launder their money. The measure would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states, but would prevent federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in states that have their own medical marijuana programs. Currently 23 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. An additional 12 states have approved use of marijuana strains with high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), which does not produce the high associated with the drug, and is used to treat epileptic seizures. The measure would remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal definition of marijuana, to allow its use in treatment of intractable seizures. The bill’s fate in the Senate is unclear. /By JOIN TOGETHER STAFF

Friday, March 6, 2015

Heroin-Related Drug Deaths Highest Among Young, White Males in the Midwest MARCH 4TH, 2015 Heroin-related deaths are now most common among young, white male adults in the Midwest, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fifteen years ago, the death rate was highest among older black males in the West and Northeast. In 2013, there were 8,257 heroin-related deaths in the United States, up from 5,925 the previous year, CBS News reports. There were about 3,000 heroin-related deaths in 2010. The deaths have increased among both men and women, in all ages groups, and in whites, blacks and Hispanics, the article notes. In 2000, the highest heroin death rate was among blacks ages 45 to 64. By 2013, the highest rate was among whites ages 18 to 44. Drug overdoses are the number one cause of injury-related death in the United States, with 43,982 deaths occurring in 2013, according to the CDC. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, opioid use disorders often begin with a prescription or taking pills from a home medicine cabinet. Almost 68 percent of people who begin using prescription drugs non-medically for the first time get the drugs from a family member or friend. Many people who initially abused prescription painkillers shifted to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to obtain By: Join Together Staff

Thursday, February 19, 2015

“Therapeutic Workplaces” Aim to Help Employees Tackle Drug Addiction FEBRUARY 17TH, 2015 Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say workplaces designed to help employees who are addicted to drugs can help them tackle their addiction. These “therapeutic workplaces” have been shown in studies to increase abstinence from drugs and maintain abstinence over long periods. These workplaces require frequent drug tests, and give employees unlimited second chances, Scientific American reports. Employees who stay off drugs are given cash bonuses. Those who test positive are sent home, but can return the next day. If they test negative, they can work full-time for an hourly wage until their next drug test. Researchers initially were concerned that giving employees cash bonuses would tempt them to buy more drugs. Instead, workers who received the bonuses in addition to hourly wages are abstinent for longer than those who simply receive an hourly wage. Some studies of therapeutic workplaces included workers addicted to cocaine, while others included those addicted to opioids who were receiving medication-assisted treatments such as methadone or naltrexone. The studies found about 80 percent of employees in therapeutic workplaces remained abstinent and refrained from other addictive behaviors, compared with half of those who worked without cash bonuses, the article notes. Last year the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy honored Dr. Kenneth Silverman, who heads therapeutic workplace research at Johns Hopkins. The concept has not widely spread throughout the addiction community. Most businesses are not able to use the model because of the intense monitoring required. Dr. Silverman is working with the group American Substance Abuse Professionals to increase use of the technique. By: Join Together Staff

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Almost One-Third of Women of Childbearing Age Fill Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers January 27th, 2015 Almost one-third of women of childbearing age had an opioid painkiller prescription filled each year from 2008 to 2012, according to a new government study. These drugs can increase the risk for birth defects, The New York Times reports. The study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found 39 percent of women ages 15 to 44 on Medicaid, and 28 percent of women of the same age group with private insurance, filled an opioid prescription in a pharmacy each of those years. “These are dangerous drugs that are addictive, and we are substantially overusing them,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. He noted that women often do not know they are pregnant in the early weeks of a pregnancy, which is a crucial time for organ formation. If they take opioid painkillers, they could be “unknowingly exposing their unborn child,” he said. Opioid painkiller exposure can raise the risk for defects in a baby’s brain, spine, heart and abdominal wall, the article notes. Babies whose mothers take opioids during pregnancy are also at risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome. A baby with the syndrome experiences symptoms of withdrawal from medications or drugs taken by a mother during pregnancy. The researchers said it is not known why women on Medicaid had higher prescription rates than women with private insurance. “The higher opioid prescribing rates among Medicaid enrollees might be due to differences in the prescription medications covered under their health insurance plan, differences in use of health care services, or differences in the prevalence of underlying health conditions among Medicaid enrollees compared with persons covered by private health insurance,” the CDC noted in a news release. Oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine were the most frequently prescribed opioids for women with either public or private insurance.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Federal Judge to Rule on Whether Marijuana is Schedule I Drug /By JOIN TOGETHER STAFF JANUARY 15TH, 2015 A federal judge will rule later this year on whether marijuana should continue to be classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside LSD and heroin, according to the Associated Press. U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller agreed to consider marijuana’s drug classification under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. She held a five-day fact-finding hearing in late 2014. Final arguments are scheduled for February. Her decision to hold the hearing was in response to a pretrial defense motion in a federal case against alleged marijuana growers, the article notes. Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence,” the Drug Enforcement Administration notes on its website. If Mueller ruled that marijuana is not a Schedule I drug, it would apply only to the defendants in the case. It would almost certainly be appealed, according to the article. If the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law was unconstitutional, all the Western states would be affected. Lawyers for the defendants in the case say the federal marijuana law violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. They argue the government enforces marijuana law unevenly by permitting marijuana to be distributed in states where it is legal, while cracking down in states where it is illegal. Zenia K. Gilg, a lawyer for the growers, said the scientific understanding and public acceptance of marijuana have greatly increased since courts last considered the federal classification.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

DEA Cracks Down on Potent Marijuana Product Called “Wax” in California /By Join Together Staff Jan 6, 2015 The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is cracking down in California on a potent marijuana product called “wax,” according to ABC News. Wax is legal—and popular—in Colorado. Wax is a distillation of marijuana said to be so potent that a single hit will keep a person high for more than a day, the article notes. A person making wax uses the flammable substance butane to strip out the THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes a high. “There is no weed out there that possesses the punching power that the wax does,” an anonymous undercover DEA informant told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “And it’s like smoking 20 joints of the best grade of weed that you have into one hit of the wax.” Gary Hill of the DEA’s San Diego office said, “We have seen people have an onset of psychosis and even brain damage from that exposure to that high concentration of THC. Our concern is that this is going to spread before we get it under control.” In Colorado, wax is legal for anyone over the age of 21. It is sold in recreational marijuana dispensaries. A three-day contest called the X-Cup, held in Denver, is designed to determine who can make the most potent batch of wax.