Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Obituaries Refer to Addiction as Heroin Overdoses Increase

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pot Breathalyzer To Make Marijuana Legalization Safer

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

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hawaii First State to Raise Legal Tobacco Use Age to 21

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