Thursday, December 22, 2016

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

WISCONSIN WELFARE RECIPIENTS – DRUG TESTING STARTS MONDAY

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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Drugged Driving On The Rise

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

DRUG CARTELS SUBSTITUTING FENTANYL FOR HEROIN

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Medical Marijuana and its IMPACT on OHIO's BWC

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 31st International Overdose Awareness Day

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

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

Thirty-three people were taken to the hospital Tuesday morning after authorities responded to calls of people overdosing on K2 near a Brooklyn intersection that has been called one of the worst spots in New York City for synthetic drug use. Authorities said that it wasn't clear what drug the people who were transported to hospitals had ingested, but the NYPD said that at least five were reportedly smoking the cheap synthetic cannabinoid commonly called K2 outside a building on Stockton Street. The woman who called 911 to report the men smoking told NBC 4 New York they were vomiting and urinating. Witnesses told DNAinfo that the victims collapsed on the sidewalk and subway platforms. Since 2015, there have been more than 6,000 K2-related emergency room visits in New York City, according to the city's health department. There have been two confirmed deaths associated with the drug. Source: 33 Hospitalized After Calls About Mass K2 Overdose in Brooklyn: NYPD | NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/K2-Mass-Overdoses-Brooklyn-Bedford-Stuyvesant-NYC-386499841.html#ixzz4EOm5ia00 Follow us: @nbcnewyork on Twitter | NBCNewYork on Facebook

Monday, June 20, 2016

Random Drug Testing Benefits Employers

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Employers Struggle to Find Potential Employees Who Can Pass Drug Test

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

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

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

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

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

DEA: Deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin surging

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

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

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Prescription Drugs in the Workplace

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Sedative-Related Overdoses on the Rise

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

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

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

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

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

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

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