Social Affairs

Neil McKeganey fears police are not as interested in cracking down on heroin any more SCOTLAND’S efforts to tackle its status as Europe’s worst drugs blackspot has been branded a “record of failure not success” by one of the country’s a leading drugs experts.

The Scottish Government’s flagship “Road to Recovery” strategy has not had any “marked impact” on drug abuse, according to Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse research.

He also hits out at failures among local Alcohol and Drug partnerships (ADPs) to deliver on the ground and fears police are not as interested in cracking down on heroin any more as cocaine.

“It is not a lack of knowledge (although there are significant gaps in knowledge) that has truly hampered efforts at tackling Scotland’s drugs problem,” he states in a new essay.

“Rather there appears to have been successive shortcomings in the capacity to combine drug policy at the strategic level with a clear mechanism for implementation at the `street level.’”

The criticism has been published in a new booklet published by the Conservatives entitled Justice Matters.

Dr McKeganey also warns there are “very real concerns” at the way Scotland’s methadone programme is being used, with a lack of information about those on the programme and those leaving it drug free.

“Half of all drug deaths in Scotland are now linked to methadone compared to a figure of 14% in England” he adds.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the booklet sets out “straightforward, no-nonsense Conservative policies that reflect the concerns of mainstream Scotland.”

She added: “Our aim is to cut crime and anti-social behaviour, make our communities safer and improve the quality of life for ordinary Scots.”

Source: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/scotland-s-war-on-drugs-is-a-record-of-failure-1-3665809  19th Jan.2015

The BBC Today programme has long been a shill for liberalising the drug laws. This morning’s edition, however, ran an item at 0810 which almost caused me to fall off my chair.

The item was pegged to the collapse of the prosecution case against people accused of supplying nitrous oxide (the “laughing gas” used by dentists). This has called into question a law passed last year banning such so-called “legal highs” which are considered a loophole in the drug laws. All too predictably, the discussion was soon steered from this specific issue into “bringing fresh thinking to bear on the whole problem” (code for drug liberalisation).

What was startling was the choice of interviewees and the way in which they were introduced by the Today anchor, John Humphreys.

The first, Kirstie Douse, was described as “head of legal services for Release, that’s an organisation that campaigns on drugs and drugs law”.

Humphrys didn’t say whether Release campaigned for drug liberalisation or further restriction. But Release is Britain’s veteran drug liberalisation campaign group which for decades has been at the centre of attempts to liberalise the drug laws. So why so coy?

The second interviewee in such a discussion would normally be expected to provide balance through an alternative view. The person chosen for this role turned out to be Mike Trace. Humphrys introduced him with these words: “Mike Trace, the former deputy drugs czar”. That was it.

What was not revealed was that, in 2003, Trace was outed in a newspaper article as a pro-drug legalisation mole who had just been appointed to a key position in global anti-drug strategies which he was helping to undermine.

I know this because I was the journalist who outed him.

Trace was appointed deputy drug czar in Tony Blair’s government. For a time, he occupied a position of great influence in the drugs world. He was Director of Performance at the Government’s National Treatment Agency. He was chairman of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, (ENCDDA) the body which effectively draws up EU drug policy. And he was appointed Head of Demand Reduction at the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime. In all these posts, he was supposed to be upholding laws to reduce drug use.

In 2003, however, he was forced to resign from his new role as the UN’s Head of Demand Reduction after I exposed him helping assemble a secret network of lobbyists working to subvert the UN drug control laws — which underpin the use of criminal penalties for the drug trade — and pressurise governments into legalising drugs.

Trace was — in his own words — a “fifth columnist”: an underground agitator who was supposed to be upholding the laws to reduce drug use but who was a key player in a co-ordinated international effort to disband the world’s anti-drug laws by stealth – and who was being secretly paid to do so by notorious international legalisers.

The legalisers’ main obstacle was the UN conventions on drugs which require countries to prevent the possession, use, production and distribution of illegal narcotics. I discovered that Trace was at the heart of a network operating covertly to undermine those conventions.

The British headquarters of his operation was to be financed in part by the Open Society Institute, funded by the billionaire financier George Soros, which openly campaigns for “harm reduction” and legalisation on the grounds that the war on drugs causes more harm than drugs themselves. I wrote:

“But that’s not all. For Mr Trace’s attempts to obtain additional funds from European sources disclose a vast and intricate web of non-governmental organisations, all beavering away at drug legalisation.

“In particular, Mr Trace sought funding from the Brussels-based Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation (NEF). This innocuous-sounding grant-giving body has actually spawned a proliferation of drug legalisation efforts through its offshoot ENCOD, the European NGO Council on Drugs and Development.

“ENCOD says that ‘drug use as such does not represent the huge threat for society as it is supposed to do’. The real threat, it says, is posed by the war on drugs to the ‘millions of peasants in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia’ — the people cultivating the drug crops! So it wants a legal framework to bring about the industrialisation of drug production, no less. And to achieve this, it proposes that public opinion should be softened up by ‘harm reduction’ policies which will pave the way to eventual legalisation.”

Subsequently, Trace claimed he had been selectively quoted, that he had used the term “fifth columnist” as a joke and that the idea of some organised conspiracy was “completely insane.”

But I had drawn my revelations from a cache of Trace’s email correspondence detailing this huge covert attempt to subvert the UN drug laws. Here are some extracts from that correspondence.

“In terms of my own involvement”, Trace wrote, “I think that it would be of most use providing advice and consultancy from behind the scenes, in the light of my continuing role as chair of the EMCDDA, my association with the UK government and some work I am being asked to put together by the UNDCPD in Vienna. This ‘fifth column’ role would allow me to oversee the setting up of the agency – while promoting its aims subtly in the formal governmental settings.’

In another message, he wrote: “The host organisation in London [to challenge the UN drugs conventions] will be Release, a long established drugs and civil liberties NGO.”

He wrote to Aryeh Neier, president of Open Society Institute New York: “The basic objectives remain the same – to assemble a combination of research, policy analysis, lobbying and media management that is sufficiently sophisticated to influence governments and international agencies as they review global drug policies in the coming years. The key decision points remain the reviews of the European Union Drug Strategy in 2003 (and again in 2004), and the political summit of the UN Drug Programme in Vienna in April 2003.”

His involvement was kept secret and advice was given about the line to take to conceal it. One meeting minuted thus: 

“Mike to remain on the group, and contribute to the initiative, but members need to ensure that, externally, the line is that he gave advice on policy and lobbying in the summer but is no longer involved.”

Trace himself wrote: “Now I have taken up my post at the UN, I absolutely cannot be associated with a lobbying initiative – the line I am using is that, through the summer, I gave advice to several groups on how the EU and UN policy structures worked, but am now no longer in contact.” He also warned a colleague: “A small but crucial point – can I from now on not be referred to by name in any written material.”

He also wrote: “Finally, I have been offered the post of Head of Demand Reduction at the UN, and intend to accept it. The Executive Director, Antonio Costa, is, at least for the moment, asking me for guidance on how to handle the April meeting, so I have the opportunity to influence events from the inside, while continuing to work on this initiative.”

I put a stop to that. Now the BBC is adding its own underhand efforts to this sinister, and sinisterly sanitised, cause.

Source:  http://www.melaniephillips.com/no-trace-objectivity/31st August 2017

Kevin Sabet, the president and CEO of Virginia-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana, has become arguably the most influential critic of marijuana legalization in the United States. But in an extended interview on view below, he fights against the perception that he’s a one-dimensional prohibitionist along the lines of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sabet stresses that he and his organization, shorthanded as SAM, take what he sees as a sensible approach to cannabis by arguing in favor of treatment rather than jail time for users in trouble and advocating for greater study of the substance to determine the best ways to utilize it medically.

We first spoke to Sabet in January 2013, just prior to SAM’s launch in Denver, when he appeared alongside co-founder Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island and a member of the Kennedy political dynasty. Sabet’s background is similarly stocked with connections to heavyweights. The author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, he served stints in the Clinton and Bush administrations and spent two years as senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s drug-control director before taking on the SAM cause.

In the more than four years since then, he’s made countless media appearances while lobbying behind the scenes to try and stop the momentum generated by the pot legalization bandwagon.

Sabet, who says SAM’s funding mainly comes from small donors and grants as opposed to hard-core drug-war groups or Big Pharma, doesn’t think it’s too late to accomplish this goal, in part because only a relatively small percentage of the populace actually uses marijuana. Moreover, he feels that plenty of those who abstain will more actively fight against pot’s normalization if public use (and its attendant smoke and scent) becomes more prevalent in cities such as Denver, which he sees as having been demonstrably harmed by legalization. He blames cannabis for turning the 16th Street Mall into a homeless haven that visitors actively avoid and suspects that in his heart of hearts, Governor John Hicklenlooper knows legalization was a terrible mistake but can’t admit it publicly because the right to toke is enshrined in the state constitution.

Likewise, Sabet considers it inarguable that the marijuana industry is targeting young people with colorfully packaged pot edibles and argues that simply keeping cannabis away from kids isn’t enough. He cites studies showing that the brains of 25-30 year olds are still developing — and can still be harmed by weed.

Continue to learn more about Sabet’s cause and the arguments he makes to support it.

Westword: SAM recently put out a release about the amount of tax revenue Colorado has collected as a result of the marijuana industry [in reference to a VS Strategies report estimating that the state has generated more than $500 million in cannabis revenue since legalization]. In it, you talk about how drug use and its consequences cost taxpayers $193 billion per year, with Colorado’s annual share being approximately $3.3 billion. But that’s for all drugs, correct?

Kevin Sabet: Oh, yeah, absolutely. But you need to look at the fact that marijuana is used far more than any of the other drugs, and look at the costs associated with driving, crashing, mental illness — and long-term costs we’re not able to account for. Marijuana isn’t correlated with mental illness overnight. If often takes time. And so the cost of that can’t be calculated in any way. There was a study done a few weeks ago by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction finding that just in

Canada alone, a much smaller country than the U.S. in population, marijuana-related car crashes cost a billion dollars. That’s just the car crashes, and those were directly related to marijuana. And the report came from a government think tank, not any kind of anti-drug group.

I honestly think it isn’t surprising coming from this group [VS Strategies]. It’s an industry group that wants to basically make money from marijuana — much more money than the State of Colorado will make after you account for costs. When you look at the actual number and context of just education alone, the marijuana revenue is barely newsworthy. The Department of Education in Colorado says they need $18 billion in capital construction funds alone. The reality is, the Colorado budget deficit is actually rising, not falling. This isn’t plugging a hole in the deficit. It’s actually costing money. There’s one area where I’d agree with [former Colorado Director of Marijuana Coordination] Andrew Freedman: You don’t do this for the money. But it’s a great talking point, and it polls well, just like the talking point of it being safer than alcohol polls well. This polls well, too, so you’re going to have an industry group that thrives off commercialization touting the numbers. That’s not surprising at all.

SAM is usually described as an anti-marijuana organization. Is that an accurate description from your viewpoint? Or is it pejorative in some way?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s pejorative, but I think it’s overly simplistic. It’s true that we don’t want to see the legalization of another illegal substance. We think that our experience with pharmaceuticals, which are, of course, legal, as well as alcohol and tobacco, has been an utter disaster from a public cost and public-policy point of view. We’ve never regulated those drugs in a responsible way. Lobbyists and special interests own the rule-making when it comes to these drugs. And what we’re saying is, do we really want to repeat history once again? It just happens to be marijuana. It really could have been any substance. And we will be talking about the legalization of other drugs if marijuana goes through. Because it doesn’t stop with marijuana in terms of the policy goals of many of these organizations. So I think it is overly simplistic. And we’re very concerned about commercialization.

Also, we don’t want to see a return to an enforcement-heavy policy that throws everybody behind bars or saddles young people, especially, with criminal records that prevent them from getting a job or being able to access public benefits or being able to go to school. We want to see people given another chance. But we also want to see this treated as a health issue, and you don’t treat marijuana as a health issue by ignoring it or facilitating its use. You do brief interventions if they’re needed, treatment if it’s needed. I don’t think everyone who uses marijuana needs treatment, just like everyone who drinks or uses other drugs doesn’t need treatment. But some people are using it in a way that is problematic, and they need an early intervention, perhaps, to prevent them from moving on to a substance-use disorder — or they need more intense treatment. It really just depends.

We also want to see research into components of marijuana that may have therapeutic value. We don’t want to see people needlessly suffering. But if Perdue Pharma or Pfizer said tomorrow that they have a new blockbuster drug but they don’t want it to go through the FDA and instead want to put it up to a vote, we’d be up in arms. And rightfully so. Everybody would be up in arms. And we don’t think marijuana should get a free pass because there are stories of it helping people. I don’t doubt that it helps some people — things like cannabidiol oil, etc., or even smoking marijuana to relieve pain. I don’t doubt that it helps some people. But we don’t want to turn back the clock to pre-FDA days, where we had snake-oil salesmen and wild claims about drugs. We want to put it through the same system, and if that system is problematic and difficult, then let’s look at what those barriers are and resolve them.

So I think we are a sensible organization that takes our cues from science. That’s why, on our board, you don’t see people benefiting from the policy position that we take. If anything, people like the doctors from Boston Children’s Hospital who are on our advisory board, or Harvard professors, they’re going to have more business if marijuana is legal, because they’re going to have people with more problems. We’re working counter to their self-benefit, if you think about it. That’s why we’re led by the science. And the reason we started this…. I left the White House and saw there was a huge disconnect between the public’s understanding of marijuana and what was being told to them by various sources, and we’re trying to bridge that gap. Many of the things you just touched upon are on the four items in the “What We Do” section of your website. But some things, such as “To promote research on marijuana in order to obtain FDA-approved, pharmacy-based cannabis medications,” we don’t hear your organization talking about very often. Is that the fault of the media, because they’re only focusing on the legalization-is-bad angle? Are you giving equal weight to some of these other goals?

I think that’s just people looking through the glasses they want to look through. I think the legalization groups are threatened by a sensible organization led by Harvard doctors that doesn’t want to put people in prison, so they want to paint us as the most irrational dinosaurs from the Stone Age on these issues. The reality is, we spend a lot of our time on all of these issues. In fact, we have released the most comprehensive document that any policy organization has released, I think, on the hurdles of medical marijuana research. That’s right on our website — the six-point plan. And we’ve also done a CBD guide — everything you need to know about CBD. After the guide to everything you need to know about CBD, we did a report on research barriers, and we got a lot of people from both extremes that didn’t like it. John Walters, my former boss, wrote a scathing editorial, saying we were off the mark in calling for more research. When we get criticized from multiple angles, I think people can decide for themselves whether that’s credible or not….

It’s just not sexy, though. I can’t remember the last time that someone from USA Today or Huffington Post said, “Oh, we want to cover the fact that you released a wonky policy document aimed at FDA senior scientists with ten letters after their name.” They’re not banging on the door to get that story. Instead, they’re banging on the door to say, “The governor of Nevada has just declared a state of emergency on pot. What do you think?”

I’m not going to say it’s the fault of the media. I think that’s overused these days. But we’re doing our best, and whether it’s noticed by USA Today or the Huffington Post or the Washington Post or not, that doesn’t matter as much. We’re getting it out there, and I know that hundreds of lawmakers have read it. In fact, three out of our six recommendations have been adopted since we released that report. I don’t think we’re the only reason they’ve been adopted, but I think us pushing and prodding and putting it down on paper gave some political cover to some people who may not have supported it in the past, and I’m very proud of that. I know it doesn’t satisfy Medical Marijuana Inc. or these hundreds of CBD manufacturers who are selling God knows what because they don’t get it looked at by the FDA; they’re not going to be happy about that. But I think the science speaks for itself, and scientists and others have noticed. That’s why they’ve asked to join my advisory board — top researchers who want to be part of this team not because we’re zealots, but because we look at the science and are able to get it out there….

Another of the talking points on your website says, “Alcohol is legal. Why shouldn’t marijuana be legal?” How do you answer that question?

To me, saying, “Alcohol is bad and it’s legal, so why shouldn’t marijuana be legal?” is like saying, “My headlights are broken, so why don’t we break the taillights, too?” It doesn’t make much sense. First of all, alcohol and marijuana are apples and oranges in many ways. They’re different just because of their biology and their pharmacology, but they’re also different in their cultural acceptance and prevalence in Western society. Alcohol has been a fixed part in Western civilization since before the Old Testament. The reason alcohol prohibition didn’t work — and that’s debatable….

What’s the debate?

If you look at scholars who studied Prohibition much more than I have, there is a vigorous debate. Alcohol use fell during Prohibition, harm fell as well. Cirrhosis of the liver, which is a top-ten killer of white men, wasn’t a top-ten killer. Organized crime had been in place, and obviously it was strengthened from Prohibition, although it isn’t like it caused it, and it certainly didn’t go away when Prohibition ended…. But it’s very difficult to prohibit something that 60 to 70 percent of the population are doing on a regular basis. Marijuana is still used by fewer than 10 percent of the population monthly, and so the idea that it’s the same in terms of acceptance is wrong. Right now, those 10 percent of users have convinced 55 percent of Americans that this is a good idea.  HOW

That also points to the fact that I think support for marijuana is very soft. I think the industry has overplayed its hand about things like public nuisance, public use, secondhand smoke, car crashes. Once these things become greater in prevalence, which they inevitably will if more states legalize and commercialize, then I think you’re going to have the backlash I think will come, and it will come because of the increased problems….

Alcohol is such an accepted part of society. We accept the negative consequences. Alcohol is not legal because it’s safe. Alcohol isn’t legal because it’s so good for you. Alcohol is legal because it’s been a fixed part of Western civilization for millennia. Marijuana has not been. Of course it was used thousands of years ago. Was it used by certain cultures? Absolutely. But there’s no comparison, complete apples and oranges, when it comes to alcohol’s culture acceptability. So that’s why alcohol is legal — not because we love the effects it has on society. No parent, no teacher, no police officer, says, “I’d be better if I was drinking all the time.” No police officer says, “Man, I wish more people drank.” No parent says, “I wish my kid drank more.” That’s not why it’s legal, because it’s so great.

And alcohol has done very little for our tax base. One of the reasons Prohibition was repealed was because the industrialists were convinced that it would help eliminate or mitigate the corporate tax or even the personal income tax. That’s laughable today. It doesn’t do that at all. Instead it costs us way more money than any revenue we bring in. I think marijuana would be the same story. It affects our bodies differently.

Alcohol affects the liver, marijuana affects the lungs. Alcohol is in and out of your system quite rapidly, but marijuana lingers in the system longer, and according to studies, the effects also linger for longer. They affect different parts of the brain. So they’re different in many ways, but in some respects, they’re the same. They’re both intoxicants, and unlike tobacco, they specifically cause changes in behavior. And that’s a difference with tobacco, another legal drug. Tobacco isn’t correlated with paranoia or obsessiveness or mental illness and car crashes, and obviously, marijuana is.

In some ways, legal drugs offer an interesting example. I think they offer an example of the sort of social and financial consequences that would come with legalizing other drugs.

Source:  http://www.westword.com  14th August 2017

Key Points

Question  Are US state medical marijuana laws one of the underlying factors for increases in risk for adult cannabis use and cannabis use disorders seen since the early 1990s?

Findings  In this analysis using US national survey data collected in 1991-1992, 2001-2002, and 2012-2013 from 118 497 participants, the risk for cannabis use and cannabis use disorders increased at a significantly greater rate in states that passed medical marijuana laws than in states that did not.

Meaning  Possible adverse consequences of illicit cannabis use due to more permissive state cannabis laws should receive consideration by voters, legislators, and policy and health care professionals, with appropriate health care planning as such laws change.

Abstract

Importance  Over the last 25 years, illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders have increased among US adults, and 28 states have passed medical marijuana laws (MML). Little is known about MML and adult illicit cannabis use or cannabis use disorders considered over time.

Objective  To present national data on state MML and degree of change in the prevalence of cannabis use and disorders.

Design, Participants, and Setting  Differences in the degree of change between those living in MML states and other states were examined using 3 cross-sectional US adult surveys: the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; 1991-1992), the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; 2001-2002), and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III (NESARC-III; 2012-2013). Early-MML states passed MML between NLAES and NESARC (“earlier period”). Late-MML states passed MML between NESARC and NESARC-III (“later period”).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Past-year illicit cannabis use and DSM-IV cannabis use disorder.

Results  Overall, from 1991-1992 to 2012-2013, illicit cannabis use increased significantly more in states that passed MML than in other states (1.4–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .004), as did cannabis use disorders (0.7–percentage point more; SE, 0.3; P = .03).

In the earlier period, illicit cannabis use and disorders decreased similarly in non-MML states and in California (where prevalence was much higher to start with). In contrast, in remaining early-MML states, the prevalence of use and disorders increased.

Remaining early-MML and non-MML states differed significantly for use (by 2.5 percentage points; SE, 0.9; P = .004) and disorder (1.1 percentage points; SE, 0.5; P = .02). In the later period, illicit use increased by the following percentage points: never-MML states, 3.5 (SE, 0.5); California, 5.3 (SE, 1.0); Colorado, 7.0 (SE, 1.6); other early-MML states, 2.6 (SE, 0.9); and late-MML states, 5.1 (SE, 0.8). Compared with never-MML states, increases in use were significantly greater in late-MML states (1.6–percentage point more; SE, 0.6; P = .01), California (1.8–percentage point more; SE, 0.9; P = .04), and Colorado (3.5–percentage point more; SE, 1.5; P = .03).

Increases in cannabis use disorder, which was less prevalent, were smaller but followed similar patterns descriptively, with change greater than never-MML states in California (1.0–percentage point more; SE, 0.5; P = .06) and Colorado (1.6–percentage point more; SE, 0.8; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance

Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.

Source:  JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(6):579-588. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0724

LOWELL, Mass. — They hide in weeds along hiking trails and in playground grass. They wash into rivers and float downstream to land on beaches. They pepper baseball dugouts, sidewalks and streets. Syringes left by drug users amid the heroin crisis are turning up everywhere.

In Portland, Maine, officials have collected more than 700 needles so far this year, putting them on track to handily exceed the nearly 900 gathered in all of 2016. In March alone, San Francisco collected more than 13,000 syringes, compared with only about 2,900 the same month in 2016. People, often children, risk getting stuck by discarded needles, raising the prospect they could contract blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis or HIV or be exposed to remnants of heroin or other drugs.

Activist Rocky Morrison, of the “Clean River Project,” holds up a fish bowl filled with hypodermic needles, that were recovered during 2016, on the Merrimack River. Charles Krupa / AP

It’s unclear whether anyone has gotten sick, but the reports of children finding the needles can be sickening in their own right. One 6-year-old girl in California mistook a discarded syringe for a thermometer and put it in her mouth; she was unharmed.

“I just want more awareness that this is happening,” said Nancy Holmes, whose 11-year-old daughter stepped on a needle in Santa Cruz, California, while swimming. “You would hear stories about finding needles at the beach or being poked at the beach. But you think that it wouldn’t happen to you. Sure enough.”

They are a growing problem in New Hampshire and Massachusetts — two states that have seen many overdose deaths in recent years.  “We would certainly characterize this as a health hazard,” said Tim Soucy, health director in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, which collected 570 needles in 2016, the first year it began tracking the problem. It has found 247 needles so far this year.

Needles turn up in places like parks, baseball diamonds, trails and beaches — isolated spots where drug users can gather and attract little attention, and often the same spots used by the public for recreation. The needles are tossed out of carelessness or the fear of being prosecuted for possessing them.

One child was poked by a needle left on the grounds of a Utah elementary school. Another youngster stepped on one while playing on a beach in New Hampshire.

Even if adults or children don’t get sick, they still must endure an unsettling battery of tests to make sure they didn’t catch anything. The girl who put a syringe in her mouth was not poked but had to be tested for hepatitis B and C, her mother said.

Some community advocates are trying to sweep up the pollution. Rocky Morrison leads a clean-up effort along the Merrimack River, which winds through the old milling city of Lowell, and has recovered hundreds of needles in abandoned homeless camps that dot the banks, as well as in piles of debris that collect in floating booms he recently started setting.

He has a collection of several hundred needles in a fishbowl, a prop he uses to illustrate that the problem is real and that towns must do more to combat it.

“We started seeing it last year here and there. But now, it’s just raining needles everywhere we go,” said Morrison, a burly, tattooed construction worker whose Clean River Project has six boats working parts of the 117-mile river.

Among the oldest tracking programs is in Santa Cruz, California, where the community group Take Back Santa Cruz has reported finding more than 14,500 needles in the county over the past 4 1/2 years. It says it has gotten reports of 12 people getting stuck, half of them children.

“It’s become pretty commonplace to find them. We call it a rite of passage for a child to find their first needle,” said Gabrielle Korte, a member of the group’s needle team. “It’s very depressing. It’s infuriating. It’s just gross.”

Some experts say the problem will ease only when more users get treatment and more funding is directed to treatment programs.  Others are counting on needle exchange programs, now present in more than 30 states, or the creation of safe spaces to shoot up — already introduced in Canada and proposed by U.S. state and city officials from New York to Seattle.  Studies have found that needle exchange programs can reduce pollution, said Don Des Jarlais, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital in New York.

But Morrison and Korte complain poor supervision at needle exchanges will simply put more syringes in the hands of people who may not dispose of them properly.

After complaints of discarded needles, Santa Cruz County took over its exchange from a non-profit in 2013 and implemented changes. It did away with mobile exchanges and stopped allowing drug users to get needles without turning in an equal number of used ones, said Jason Hoppin, a spokesman for the Santa Cruz County.

Along the Merrimack, nearly three dozen riverfront towns are debating how to stem the flow of needles. Two regional planning commissions are drafting a request for proposals for a clean-up plan. They hope to have it ready by the end of July.

“We are all trying to get a grip on the problem,” said Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini. “The stuff comes from somewhere. If we can work together to stop it at the source, I am all for it.”

Source:  http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/americas-heroin-epidemic/discarded-syringes-heroin-crisis-create-health-environmental-problems-n783671  July 2017

 

A study by researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) that followed a sample of almost 2000 Victorian school children from the age of 14 until the age of 35 found that social disadvantage, anxiety, and licit and illicit substance use (in particular cannabis), were all more common in participants who had reported self-harm during adolescence.

The longitudinal study, the Victorian Adolescent Health Cohort Study, was the first in the world to document health-related outcomes in people in their 30s who had self-harmed during their adolescence. Until now, very little has been known about the longer-term health and social outcomes of adolescents who self-harm.

Published in the new Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, the study found the following common elements:

· People who self-harmed as teenagers were more than twice as likely to be weekly cannabis users at age 35

· Anxiety, drug use, and social disadvantage were more common at age 35 among participants who had self-harmed during their teenage years. While most of these associations can be explained by things like mental health problems during adolescence and substance use during adolescence, adolescent self-harm was strongly and independently associated with using cannabis on a weekly basis at age 35 years

· Self-harm during the adolescent years is a marker for distress and not just a ‘passing phase’

The findings suggest that adolescents who self-harm are more likely to experience a wide range of psychosocial problems later in life, said the study’s lead author, Dr Rohan Borschmann from MCRI. “Adolescent self-harm should be viewed as a conspicuous marker of emotional and behavioural problems that are associated with poor life outcomes,” Dr Borschmann said.

The study found that anxiety, drug use, and social disadvantage were more common at age 35 among participants who had self-harmed during their teenage years. “While most of this can be explained partly by things like mental healthduring adolescence and substance use during adolescence, adolescent self-harm was strongly and independently associated with using cannabis on a weekly basis at age 35 years,” Dr Borschmann said.

Interventions during adolescence which address multiple risk-taking behaviours are likely to be more successful in helping this vulnerable group adjust to adult life.

More information: Rohan Borschmann et al. 20-year outcomes in adolescents who self-harm: a population-based cohort study, The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S2352-4642(17)30007-X

Source:  https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-07-twenty-year-outcomes-adolescents-self-harm-substance.htm

 

In the first 5 months of this year,  nine children had been treated at the Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora for ingesting marijuana.  Seven of these children were in intensive care.    By August, at least 3 more children had been in emergency treatment for marijuana at the same hospital.

The first stores for recreational marijuana opened in January, 2014.  Marijuana overdoses in children began October, 2009, when medical marijuana suddenly exploded in Colorado.  There were no such incidences recorded between 2005 and 2009, according to Dr.George Wang, head of emergency services at Colorado Children’s Hospital.  He explained the problem in a Colorado Public Radio interview last year.   Colorado’s medical marijuana was approved by voters in 2000, but the expansion of medical marijuana in 2009 caused the new problem.  The pace doubled this year, as a commercialized marijuana industry started selling new products.  “Legalizing creates greater promotion…. and also legitimizes the drug,” according to Bob Doyle, who was featured in a video we shared.

In response to two deaths from edible marijuana, the governor signed legislation to regulate marijuana in May.  The laws will go into effect in 2016.  Edible pot will require child-proofing, as is required for pharmaceutical and over-the-the-counter medicine.

Despite labels, many of the children who have been hospitalized were too young to read.

A TV investigation showed that most children can’t tell the difference between the “adult candies” and those that are only for children.  Previously, we published pictures of commercial pot candies available in Colorado, and in California.  Here’s an additional sampling.

Even when parents try to keep it away from them, children go for sweets.  Cartoon-like characters and bright colors will always attract children.   It’s logical that school-age children could be so attracted to the packaging that they would not bother to read.

Both the manufacturing of marijuana sweets and the packaging make them so appealing.  Edible pot processors make products that closely imitate familiar products, like Cap’N Crunch cereal and Pop Tarts. One company’s Pot-tarts are hard to distinguish from Kellogg’s Pop-tarts.

The Hershey Co. has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Tincture Belle, a Colorado marijuana edibles company, claiming it makes four pot-infused candies that too closely resemble iconic products of the chocolate maker.

The specific products which mimic the look of Hershey’s candies are: Ganja Joy, like Almond Joy; Hasheath, which looks like Heath Bars; Hashees which resemble Reese’s peanut cups, and Dabby Patty, made to look like York peppermint patties.  The company’s website says its products “diabetic safe and delicious” and helpful with a variety of issues, including pain, headaches and insomnia.

Hershey says the products are packaged in a way that will confuse consumers, including children. The lawsuit alleges that Tincture Belle “creates a genuine safety risk with regard to consumers” who may inadvertently eat them thinking they are ordinary chocolate candy.   Other pot candies that look like Kit Kats, Milky Ways, Nestle’s Crunch and Butterfingers.  Will other candy companies like Nestles or Mars file a lawsuits, also?

Source:  http://www.poppot.org/2014/08/24/new-marijuana-candy-tricks-kids/

Mass Illness from Marijuana Edibles in San Francisco There’s more potential for overdose from edibles than smoked marijuana, although the teen in Seattle who jumped to his death last December did it after smoking pot for the first time.  Two shocking incidents in California suggest that overdose emergencies will increase if that states vote to legalize marijuana in November.  Here’s a summary of recent cases of toxicity from edibles:

· 19 people were hospitalized in San Francisco on August 7 from THC, after attending a quinceañera party.  The source is believed be marijuana-infused candies, perhaps gummy bears. Several children were among those poisoned, one as young as six.  A 9-year-old had severe difficulty breathing.

· Pot brownies sent a bachelorette party to the emergency room in South Lake Tahoe over the weekend of July 30-31. Eight of the 10 women were admitted to the hospital according to the City of South Lake Tahoe’s website.

· A JAMA Paediatrics article explains the dramatic rise in children’s hospitalizations related to marijuana in Colorado since legalization.  In 10 cases, the product was not in a child-resistant container; in 40 scenarios (34%) there was poor child supervision or product storage.  Edible products were responsible for 51 (52% ) of exposures.  The report claimed that child-resistant packaging has not been as effective in reducing kids’ unintended exposure to pot as hoped.

· The report mentions the death of one child, an 11-month-old baby.  Nine of the children had symptoms so serious that they ended up in the intensive care unit of Colorado Children’s Hospital.  Two children needed breathing tubes.

· The state of Washington has a similar problem with edibles, as reported on the King County Health Department’s website.  From 2013 to May 2015, there were 46 cases of children’s intoxications related to marijuana edibles reported in Washington.  However, reporting is voluntary and the state estimates that number could be much higher.

·  In May, a father plead guilty to deliberately giving his 4-year-old daughter marijuana-laced cake in Vancouver, Washington.  He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Intoxication from marijuana edibles has risen steadily since legalization. Source: King County Department of Health. Top photo: AP

· In Hingham, MA, there was a 911 related to teen girl who ingested marijuana edibles.  The candies were in a package labelled Conscious Creations, which didn’t disclose ingredients.   Massachusetts has a medical marijuana program, but it is not clear how or to whom they were sold or dispensed.

 

· July, 2016: Two California teens were hospitalized after eating a marijuana-laced cookie. The teens reported purchasing the cookie from a third teenager who was subsequently arrested.

· July, 2016: A California man was arrested for giving candy laced with marijuana to a 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old boy; the 6-year-old was hospitalized for marijuana poisoning.

· July, 2016: Police in Arizona arrested a mother for allegedly giving her 11- and 12-year-old children gummy candy infused with marijuana. Police say the marijuana-infused candy was originally purchased by an Arizona medical marijuana user, but was illegally transferred to the mother in question.  (State medical marijuana programs have poor track records of assuring the “medicine” goes to whom it is intended.)

· On April 27, a Georgia woman was arrested after a 5- year-old said he ate a marijuana cake for breakfast.  The child was taken to the hospital for treatment following the incident; according to officials, his pulse was measured at over 200 beats per minute.

· Last year there were more than 4,000 treatments at hospitals and poison center treatments in the US related to marijuana toxicity in children and teens.

Growth of marijuana edibles intoxication by age. Source: King County, Washington

Edible marijuana poses a “unique problem,” because “no other drug is infused into a palatable and appetizing form” – such as cookies, brownies and candy.    Many household items cause poisonings, but marijuana edibles are different because they’re made to look appealing and they appeal to children.

 

Source:  http://www.poppot.org/2016/08/08/latest-child-dangers-marijuana-e

A volunteer non-partisan coalition of people from across the US and Canada who have come to understand the negative local-to-global public health and safety implications of an organized, legal, freely-traded, commercialized and industrialized marijuana market. Here’s What’s Coming to Your Back Yard — A tour of a Colorado Commercial Marijuana Operation

Our colleague,  Jo McGuire, in Denver was recently asked to accompany a group of delegates from other states investigating commercial marijuana legalization on a tour of the Colorado marijuana industry. Here’s her account of what they observed:

A delegation from out of state came to Denver in late April to see how the Colorado marijuana industry is working. I was asked to help guide the tour and ask questions of the industry leaders.

This was an all-day experience, so I will give you the highlights that stand out to me.

After the delegation heard a bit about my experience and area of expertise in safe & drug free workplaces, we were given a presentation by two officers of the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado.

They started off the presentation by repeating how utterly impossible it is to regulate marijuana and keep all the rules and know all the enforcement measures they are supposed to follow (these are the people overseeing enforcement for the whole state.) They bragged that they now have 98 people in their office overseeing regulation but later in the day admitted that only 25% of those do on-site inspections statewide (3,000 facilities), the rest are trying to keep up with paperwork.

They cannot get to every site in the state for inspections (again – impossible) so they respond to complaints, spot-check and rely on other community entities to report anything they may find or see. The largest amount of complainants come from other MJ facilities trying to get their competition shut-down.

The greatest violations are: 1. Using pesticides banned in the U.S. 2. Not using the proper inventory tracking system 3. Waste disposal violations 4. Circumventing the required video-monitoring system

They were asked how potency of marijuana is determined and they said, “It is impossible to determine potency.” When challenged – they were adamant that it is not possible.

When asked how their office is paid for (marijuana money? state coffers?) they did not know. (It’s state coffers – I was on the committee.)

After their presentation, we headed to a marijuana grow facility in downtown Denver. You could smell it from a block away. They grow over 600,000 plants at this one location.

Guards with guns let us into the gate and gave us security badges, telling us that no photos were allowed and we would be on-camera at all times, escorted out if we broke any rules.

First we were shown a tray of baby plants with no tags. There is supposed to be a seed-to-sale tracking system. They said, “Well you can’t track every single one, so we track them in batch numbers when they are less than 8 inches high and then they get individual tags after that.” (More on that later).

This facility does not use “seeds” anyway. They clone their grows from mother plants – so their system is completely different.

They ship dirt over from Sri Lanka because the coconut shells are natural fertilizer for marijuana. So they have a huge room that smells like elephant poo with pallets of dirt “squares” stacked 20 feet high. What else is in it? Is it subject to inspection? No one knew. We were told, “If there were harmful bugs, we would find out eventually.”

Into the first state-of-the-art grow room. There were plants labelled “REC” and “MED”. When asked the difference between recreational and medical marijuana the grower said, “The tags and the tax rates.”

There was an environmental researcher on the tour who asked if the …. 6 gallons of water per plant per day …. is being recycled. The grower said they could not possibly store the massive thousands of gallons it would take to recycle the water. The researcher asked if Denver has any plan in place to test the water for contaminants because many contaminants have been found at both legal and illegal grow sites in northern California and the Enforcement Officers said, “We hadn’t really thought about that.”

When asked if they recycle the dirt, the grower said, “No way. My quality of production ensures every plant has fresh dirt.”

(A side note – the researcher told us later that he expects the contaminants from marijuana will impact our communities for generations on a level similar to DDT exposure.) His research is another story for another day.

Next we passed through the processing area where the trimmers, dryers and baggers were working. Employees are mostly young or people who can’t find jobs elsewhere. They used to have to pass a federal background check (no felonies allowed) but the enforcement guys said, “That was too hard, so we don’t have that requirement anymore.”

An employee perk is “highly discounted product“. They make minimum wage with no benefits, but “everyone is happy”. They discourage Work Comp claims (trimmers get carpal tunnel) because “they would melt the drug cup.” He said they have very high employee turn-over. Some were wearing hazard gear and some were not. Some were wearing protective gear and some were not. This owner also keeps his 11 locations under 11 separate LLC’s so that he can maintain “Eleven separate small businesses” so that he is not to subject to requirements that large employers must meet for employee volume.

I saw rolls of un-printed bags and asked how they determine the potency of their weed. This owner voluntarily sends random samples (of each strain) to a 3rd party lab twice a year. When the lab tells him the approximate potency – correct within 4 nanograms – they print their labels according to that potency until the next random sample is sent in.

GET THIS: He has had product labelled at 18% but the next batch came back at 30%. He said that people know it’s a guessing game and you don’t expect accuracy in

the labelling – just that it’s labelled and it may or may not be close. Also – the product in the package doesn’t necessarily have to be what is printed on the label, as long as he is volunteering for the lab spot checks.

Not all facilities submit to the spot checks that regularly. Remember – we are at this particular place because this business owner is cream-of-the-crop. And by the way, ALL products in the state to include edibles are only subject to random spot checks for quality and potency. That having been said, each brand begins with a lab analysis in order to create the initial labels – but once the creation has been approved – they move full steam ahead with mass production, inspection free (unless it’s voluntary quality checks or complaints are filed).

Also – the labs are not state-owned or run. They are independently owned and operated by “other marijuana industry investors” and they just choose who is cheapest and fastest. For quality checks.

Next we went into the drying room and I asked about how he prevents mould. He doesn’t. It happens. They remove it by hand when they find it. (Pesticides to remove it are illegal and lights are ineffective). At one point he took a few of us down a row to see the dried buds in hundreds of rows of trays … where the labels went from individual plants back to mass batches. Why is this important? Voters believe in “seed-to-sale” tracking but no one knows how much one plant will produce. Will it produce 10 buds or 50 buds? 50 buds cannot have “one” label so this goes in batches. How do you know if buds come up missing from the tracking system? You don’t.

As we were asking these questions and I was curious about some of his branding – he speaks in a very low voice to us while we were rows away from the enforcement team. “Listen, you’re safe in my facility because I am the one that follows the rules – thus why you are here, right? But if you go to any other place, don’t touch anything, don’t go near any equipment and be careful of anything that could contaminate you“. This business is filthy, dirty, scummy, underhanded and full of cheaters, liars and the majority of this industry is shady as hell. Just be careful.”

On to the BIG grow room ….

I thought I had seen and heard everything up to this point.

We walked into one of the rooms where mature “plants” (TREES) are growing and I saw buds that were the length of my entire forearm. He said, “That’s nothing, I’ve got some as big as your whole arm!” And these trees have so many of these HUGE, heavy buds, they are drooping down and propped-up with dozens of bamboo sticks. One bud by itself can bring in hundreds of dollars … and the seed-to-sale tracking system has loopholes bigger than the buds.

One of the enforcement officers shared, “Now these are labelled with THC-A … which is not impairing and has no euphoric effect unless and until it’s smoked.” (I am not sure what comment to place here … but imagine every policy maker outside of our state getting this “sell”.)

I asked a lot of questions to make sure that what I say in my presentations are accurate – I had heard natural marijuana could not grow over 22% – he said he regularly grows it at 33% with no additives. I have been told that I was lying when I said “it is impossible to test every single product that is sold” and this young man laughed and said, “Here is my card, I will go with you and tell them you are right and back you up all the way. If you want them to hear it straight from my mouth – call me.”

Onto the retail store where two ATM’s sit side-by-side in the lobby. This is a cash only business and banking is not allowed, no credit-cards or checks, etc. So the “work-around” is that the Marijuana Facilities take the cash they get from customers and load-up their own ATM’s so electronic transactions go to their separate non-marijuana LLC

and they can deal through the banking system that way. In law enforcement circles this is called money laundering.

The store products ranged from stash devices to pipes and rigs, to intimacy “helpers”, candies, gums, mints and apparel, to a filled syringe and a 90% THC wax product, etc. There are pictures on my FB page … you should check them out.

The store staff are extremely friendly, proud of their work, answer all questions without hesitation and often let slip very damning information without even realizing it’s coming out of their mouth. So interesting.

When we returned to the van, there were people who were stunned to near tears because they truly didn’t believe what they had heard – how it really doesn’t and cannot work successfully, but we are simply doing the best we can at lightning speed. The shock was palpable. Some were extremely angry.

Another interesting tidbit: Colorado just outlawed gummy bears because they are too attractive to children. So we asked what the new rule means for the production of gummy candies. “That’s easy – you can’t use shapes of people, animals or fruit – but vegetables are o.k. because kids hate those and geometric designs are o.k. You know, like Lucky Charms!” They have a year to “sell” all of the candies “attractive to children” before they have to get them off the shelves.

As an aside, I discovered later that evening that I had broken out in hives wherever my skin was exposed and itched terribly for days after this trip.

I know that many other states are “new” to legal pot and if any of your states delegations here for this same tour – PLEASE – make sure I am notified and either I, or one of my colleagues, accompany them. Jo McGuire jo@jomcguire.org

Source:  http://marijuana-policy.org/heres-whats-coming-back-yard-tour-colorado-commercial-marijuana-operation/   2nd July 2017

La Porte, Ind. – Authorities with the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office say 11 teens from Fishers were hospitalized after eating gummy bears laced with THC, an active ingredient found in marijuana.

Police began investigating the incident just before midnight on Thursday after they were dispatched on a medical call to the 5200 N block of CR 325 W.

A 19-year-old male at the scene told a deputy that he became ill after ingesting drugs, and he needed to go to the hospital. He said he was in the area camping with friends, and they also ingested the drugs.

Several more sheriff’s deputies arrived and found 10 other teens that all said they were suffering from a rapid heart rate, pain in their legs, blurred vision, and hallucinations.

According to the sheriff’s office, a deputy determined that they each ate one half of a gummy bear that supposedly contained THC.

Three ambulances arrived at the scene to transport all 11 teens to two local hospitals.

All of the teens were from Fishers, and they are believed to have been staying at a relative’s home. Nine of the teens are 18-years-old and two were 19-years-old; six were males and five were females. Two of the patients were tested and were found to have high levels of THC in their system.

Police are still trying to determine where the teens got the drugs.

Source: http://fox59.com/2017/07/07/police-11-fishers-teens-hospitalized-after-eating-thc-laced-gummy-bears/

It comes as no surprise that the prevalence of marijuana use has significantly increased over the last decade. With marijuana legal for recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia and for medical use in an additional 31 states, the public perception about marijuana has shifted, with more people reporting that they support legalization. However, there is little public awareness, and close to zero media attention, to the near-doubling of past year marijuana use nationally among adults age 18 and older and the corresponding increase in problems related to its use. Because the addiction rate for marijuana remains stable—with about one in three past year marijuana users experiencing a marijuana use disorder—the total number of Americans with marijuana use disorders also has significantly increased. It is particularly disturbing that the public is unaware of the fact that of all Americans with substance use disorders due to drugs other than alcohol; nearly 60 percent are due to marijuana. That means that more Americans are addicted to marijuana than any other drug, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

Stores in Colorado and Washington with commercialized marijuana sell innovative marijuana products offering users record-high levels of THC potency. Enticing forms of marijuana, including hash oil used in discreet vaporizer pens and edibles like cookies, candy and soda are attractive to users of all ages, particularly those underage. The legal marijuana producers are creatively and avidly embracing these new trends in marijuana product development, all of which encourage not only more users but also more intense marijuana use.

Yet despite the expansion of state legal marijuana markets, the illegal market for marijuana remains robust, leaving state regulators two uncomfortable choices: either a ban can be placed on the highest potency—and most enticing—marijuana products which will push the legal market back to products with more moderate levels of THC, or the current evolution to ever-more potent and more attractive products can be considered acceptable despite its considerable negative health and safety consequences. If tighter regulations are the chosen option, the illegal market will continue to exploit the desire of marijuana users to consume more potent and attractive products. If state governments let the market have its way, there will be no limit to the potency of legally marketed addicting marijuana products.

The illegal marijuana market thrives in competition with the legal market by offering products at considerably lower prices because it neither complies with regulations on growth and sale, nor pays taxes on sales or their profits. Unsurprisingly, much of the illegal marijuana in the states with legalized marijuana is diverted from the local legal marijuana supply. It is troubling that in response to the decline in demand for Mexican marijuana, Mexican cartels are increasing the production of heroin, a more lucrative drug.

When alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, bootlegged alcohol gradually and almost completely disappeared. Those who favour drug legalization are confident that the same will occur in the market for drugs; they argue that legalizing drugs will eliminate the illegal market with all its negative characteristics including violence and corruption. The initial experience with marijuana legalization shows that this is dangerous, wishful thinking. Why doesn’t legalization now work for marijuana as it did for alcohol 80 years ago? One obvious reason is that there is little similarity between the bootleg industry of alcohol production that existed during prohibition and contemporary drug trafficking organizations. Today’s illegal drug production and distribution system is deeply entrenched, highly sophisticated, and powerfully globalized. Traffickers are resourceful and able to rapidly to adjust to changes in the market, including competing with legal drugs.

The legalization of marijuana or any other drug is making a bargain with the devil. All drugs of abuse, legal and illegal, including marijuana, produce intense brain reward that users value highly—so highly that they are willing to pay high prices and suffer serious negative consequences for their use. Marijuana users’ brains do not know the difference between legal and illegal marijuana, but, as with other drugs, the brain prefers higher potency products. Drug suppliers, legal and illegal, are eager to provide the drugs that users prefer.

The challenge of drug policy today is to find better ways to reduce drug use by using strategies that are cost-effective and compatible with modern values. Legalization fails this test because it encourages drug use. Most of the costs of drug use are the result of the drug use itself and not from efforts to curb that use. It is hard to imagine a drug user who would be better off with having more drugs available at cheaper prices. Supply matters. More supply means more use. Drug legalization enhances drug supply and reduces social disapproval of drugs.

Our nation must prepare itself for the serious negative consequences both to public health and safety from the growth of marijuana use fuelled by both the legal and the illegal marijuana markets.

Source: http://www.rivermendhealth.com/resources/marijuana-legalization-led-use-addiction-illegal-market-continues-thrive/    June 2017  Author: Robert L. DuPont, M.D.

Drug trade’s efforts to launder profits by creating agricultural land results in loss of millions of acres, researchers say.

A hillside in Jocotán, eastern Guatemala, damaged by deforestation. Photograph: Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images

Cocaine traffickers attempting to launder their profits are responsible for the disappearance of millions of acres of tropical forest across large swaths of Central America, according to a report. The study, published on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that drug trafficking was responsible for up to 30% of annual deforestation in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, turning biodiverse forest into agricultural land.

The study’s lead author, Dr Steven Sesnie from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said: “Most of the ‘narco-driven’ deforestation we identified happened in biodiverse moist forest areas, and around 30-60% of the annual loss happened within established protected areas, threatening conservation efforts to maintain forest carbon sinks, ecological services, and rural and indigenous livelihoods.”

The research, which used annual deforestation estimates from 2001 to 2014, focuses on six Central American countries – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It estimates the role of drug trafficking, as opposed to drug cultivation, in deforestation for the first time.

“As the drugs move north their value increases and the traffickers and cartels are looking for ways to move this money into the legal economy. Purchasing forest and turning it into agricultural land is one of the main ways they do that,” said Sesnie. He said the US-led crackdown on drug cartels in Mexico and the Caribbean in the early 2000s concentrated cocaine trafficking activities through the Central American corridor.

“Now roughly 86% of the cocaine trafficked globally moves through Central America on its way to North American consumers, leaving an estimated $6bn US dollars in illegal profits in the region annually.”

This had led to the loss of millions of acres of tropical forest over a decade as drugs cartels laundered their profits, Sesnie said.

“Our results highlight the key threats to remaining moist tropical forest and protected areas in Central America,” he said, adding that remote forest areas with “low socioeconomic development” were particularly at risk.

The report calls for drugs and environment policy – nationally and internationally – to be integrated “to ensure that deforestation pressures on globally significant biodiversity sites are not intensified by … supply-side drug policies in the region”.

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/16/drug-money-traffickers-destroying-swaths-forest-central-america    

 

Addiction Advocacy Needs A Bill Gates, David Geffen, Warren Buffett, Or Tom Steyer

Addiction doesn’t need someone to put their name on a building, or name a research institute. Addiction desperately needs bold philanthropists who want to leverage the people power of the grassroots. Addiction and drug overdoses claim one life every four minutes in America. In the time it takes to order a latte, someone dies—from an illness that is highly treatable. The addiction crisis is the result of social prejudice; criminal justice policies that incarcerate people with addiction instead of giving them treatment; health care policies that make it difficult or impossible to get medical help for substance use disorders; ignorance; and “abstinence-only” drug policies that are ineffective and backwards.

The fact is, people who struggle with substance use disorder are treated like second-class citizens. Admitting there’s a problem can mean losing your job, home, and custody of your children. That makes addiction a civil rights issue. And, thanks to the work of advocates across the nation, it’s finally being recognized as a moral issue, as well. Thought leaders like Tom Steyer are helping to drive this message home. I first met Tom during the Democratic National Convention. I had just shared my experience with addiction and recovery when Tom approached me. I was taken aback by the story he shared. He, too, lost someone very dear to him due to addiction: his best friend, who struggled with addiction for decades. His friend contracted HIV and Hepatitis C through drug use, and died of medical complications due to his illnesses. A few months later, Tom joined me at the Facing Addiction in America summit in Los Angeles, where we invited him to share his story on stage with the U.S. Surgeon General. As Tom talked, tears filled my eyes. He said, “We must embrace our shared humanity and recognize that addiction is a deadly, chronic illness, not a personal failing.” I’d lost friends, too. I was at risk, too. It was time to bridge the gap between policies and public awareness.

People like Tom Steyer and other pioneering philanthropists, who give tens of millions to progressive causes such as medical research, environmental causes, and water quality, must also step up to end the addiction crisis in America. Our fight is America’s fight. The sooner they do, the quicker we can heal this nation from our generation’s most urgent public health crisis.

Working alongside lobbyists, nonprofit groups, social organizers, and peer recovery groups, they can help fill the gaps left by policies and laws that omit or punish people with substance use disorder. As the current administration takes steps toward a health care bill that will leave people suffering from addiction without medical care, these philanthropic giants are in a unique position to help. Why? Because their involvement would not be tied to political party or personal gain. Rather, they would focus on the solution, plain and simple.

Addiction should be one of the issues on the list of social problems we urgently address, next to finding a cure for cancer and ending childhood hunger. Addiction permeates the social fabric of America. Nobody is exempt. As many people suffer from addiction as diabetes; more people use pain medications than tobacco products. For every person who’s developed full blown substance use disorder, another dozen are on the road to addiction. Substance use disorder affects every corner of society, including our collective health, family unity, the economy, workplace productivity, and our reliance on social programs. It also keeps jails full of people who may struggle to find jobs to support their families once they’re released, and will never be able to vote again.

The recovery advocacy movement has been built slowly, through the efforts of individuals and highly fragmented groups. We have an incredible grassroots movement that addresses an issue that directly impacts one in every three families in America, and indirectly touches all of us. But fundraising for recovery advocacy has been largely through family and friend donations—which, although heartfelt, aren’t sufficient to fund serious research, create desperately needed social infrastructure, or provide education about the true nature of addiction. While organizations dedicated to battling cancer, heart disease, and diabetes raise hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the “addiction field,” such as it is, raises perhaps $25 million from private sources. This is unconscionable.

Gates, Geffen, Buffett, Steyer, and other philanthropic giants have the potential to be visionaries in this space. They could quickly stem the addiction epidemic without waiting for policy makers to hammer out yet another law that places people’s recovery at risk. They could find the solution that keeps families intact. With their help, nobody will lose another friend to this disease or the health problems that come with it. Bob and Suzanne Wright demonstrated the power and possibility of this kind of giving when they funded Autism Speaks. Their philanthropy helped move autism front and center: why not do the same for addiction?

What will our society, our culture, be like when we finally take addiction out of the equation? For many people, and their families, the answer is coming much too slowly.

It’s time to apply our knowledge, build a coalition, and offer the solutions our country so desperately needs. It’s time to change the framework of this crisis and confront our deepest values. Instead of punishment, we need to help the people who are sick—dying from this illness. It’s time to work together and end America’s addiction crisis for good.

What we need now is for America’s philanthropic visionaries to step up to help us dramatically accelerate the pace of progress in this urgent effort. Addiction doesn’t need someone to put their name on a building, or name a research institute. Addiction desperately needs bold philanthropists who want to leverage the people power of the grassroots. Ryan Hampton is an outreach lead and recovery advocate at Facing Addiction, a leading nonprofit dedicated to ending the addiction crisis in the United States.

Source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/addiction-advocacy-needs-a-bill-gates-david-geffen_us_592ddfaae4b075342b52c0f5   30th May 20127

 A New Agenda to  Turn Back the Drug Epidemic

Robert L. DuPont, MD, President , Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.

A. Thomas McLellan, PhD, Senior Strategy Advisor , Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.  May 2017

Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. , 6191 Executive Blvd , Rockville, MD 20852 , www.IBHinc.org 1

Background 

The Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH) is a 501(c)3 non-profit substance use policy and research organization that was founded in 1978. Non-partisan and non-political, IBH develops new ideas and serves as a force for change.

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health was published in November 2016. Four months later, in March 2017, IBH held a meeting of 25 leaders in addiction treatment, health care, insurance, government and research to discuss the scope and implications of this historic document. The US Surgeon General, VADM Vivek H. Murthy, MD, was an active participant in the meeting. The significance of this new Surgeon General’s Report is analogous to the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report, Smoking and Health, a document that inspired an extraordinarily successful public health response in the United States that has reduced the rates of cigarette smoking by over 64% and continues its impact even today, more than 50 years following its release.

The following is a summary of the discussion at the March 2017 meeting and the conclusions and recommendations that were developed.

Introduction: The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report 

The two primary objectives of the US Surgeon General’s Report of 2016 are first to provide scientific evidence that shows that in addition to nicotine, other substance misuse and addiction issues (e.g., alcohol, opioids, marijuana, etc.) also are best understood and addressed as public health problems; and second to encourage the inclusion of addiction – its prevention, early recognition and intervention, treatment and active long-term recovery management – into the mainstream of American health care. At present these elements are not integrated either as a stand-alone continuum or within the general medical system. As is true for other widespread illnesses, addiction to nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine and other substances is a serious chronic illness. This perspective is contrary to the common perception that addiction reflects a moral failing, a personal weakness or poor parenting. Such opinions have stigmatized individuals who are suffering from these often deadly substance use disorders and have led to expensive and ineffective public policies that segregate prevention and treatment outside of mainstream medical care. A better public health approach encourages afflicted individuals and their family members to seek and receive help within the current health care system for these serious health problems.

An informed public health approach to reducing the prevalence and the harms associated with substance use disorders requires more than the brief treatment of serious cases. Particularly important are substance use prevention programs in schools, healthcare and in all other parts of the community to protect adolescents (ages 12 – 21), the group most at risk for the initiation of substance-related harms and substance use disorders.  Importantly, abundant tragic experience and accumulating science show that substance use disorders are not effectively treated with only short-term care. Because substance use disorders produce 2 significant long-lasting changes in the brain circuits responsible for memory, motivation, inhibition, reward sensitivity and stress tolerance, addicted individuals remain vulnerable to relapse years following specialized treatment.1, 2, 3 Thus, as is true for all other chronic illnesses, long periods of personalized treatment and monitoring are necessary to assure compliance with care, continued sobriety, and improved health and social function. In combination, science-based prevention, early intervention, continuing care and monitoring comprise a modern continuum of public health care. The overall goals of this continuum comport well with those of other chronic illnesses:

1 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Chapter 2. The Neurobiology of Substance Use, Misuse, and Addiction. In: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS. Available: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/

2 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Chapter 5. Recovery: The Many Paths to Wellness. In: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS. Available: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/

3 Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel. (2007). What is recovery? A working definition from the Betty Ford Institute. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33(3), 221-228.

4 White, W. L. (2012). Recovery/remission from substance use disorders: An analysis of reported outcomes in 415 scientific reports, 1868-2011. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

· sustained reduction of the cardinal symptom of the illness, i.e., substance use;

· improved general health and function; and,

· education and training of the patient and the family to self-manage the illness and avoid relapses.

In the addiction field achieving these goals is called “recovery.” This word is used to describe abstention from the use of alcohol, marijuana and other non-prescribed drugs as well as improved personal health and social responsibility.3,4 Over 25 million formerly addicted Americans are in stable, long-term recovery of a year or longer.4 Understanding how to consistently accomplish the life-saving goal of recovery must inform health care decisions.

The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report offers a science-informed vision and path to recovery in response to the nation’s serious addiction problem, including specifically the opioid overdose epidemic. Research shows that it is possible to prevent or delay most cases of substance misuse; and to effectively treat even the most serious substance use disorders with recovery as an expectable result of comprehensive, continuous care and sustained monitoring. To do this, substance use disorders must be recognized as serious, chronic health conditions that are both preventable and treatable. The nation must integrate the short-term siloed episodes of specialty treatment that now are isolated from mainstream healthcare into a fully integrated continuum of care comparable to that currently available to those with other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and chronic pain.

Meeting Discussion and Conclusions 

The Surgeon General’s Report and the meeting convened by the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH) to promote its recommendations are significant responses to the expanding epidemic of opioid 3 and other substance use disorders, an epidemic that struck nearly 21 million Americans aged 12 and older in 2015 alone.5 That year saw more than 52,000 overdose deaths.6 This drug epidemic has devastated countless families and communities throughout the US. Unlike earlier and smaller drug epidemics, the current opioid epidemic is not limited to a few regions or communities or a narrow range of ethnicities or incomes in the United States. Instead it afflicts all communities and all socioeconomic groups; its impacts include smaller communities and rural areas as well as suburban areas and inner cities. Fuelled by the suffering of countless grieving families, the nation is in the early stages of confronting the new epidemic. A growing national determination to turn back this deadly epidemic has opened the door to innovation that is sustained by strong bipartisan political support for new and improved efforts in both prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

5 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50). Available: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/

6 Rudd, R. A., Seth, P., David, F., & Scholl, L. (2016, December 30). Increases in drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths – United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(50-51), 1445-1452. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm

7 Levy, S. J., Williams, J. F., & AAP Committee on Substance Use and Prevention. (2016). Substance use screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. Pediatrics, 138(1), e20161211. Available: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/1/e20161211

8 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Chapter 3. Prevention Programs and Policies. In: Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. Washington, DC: HHS. Available: https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/

Abstinence is an Achievable Goal, both for Prevention and for Treatment 

Embracing and synthesizing the 30 years of science supporting the findings of the 2016 Surgeon General’s Report, the group discussed a single goal for the prevention of addiction: no use of alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other non-prescribed drugs by youth for reasons of health. This goal should be the core prevention message to all children from a very young age. Health care professionals, educators and parents should understand the importance of this simple, clear health message. They should continue to reinforce this message of no-use for health as children grow to adulthood. Even when prevention fails, it is possible for parents, other family members, friends, primary care clinicians, educators and others to identify and to intervene quickly to stop youth substance use from becoming addiction.7

The science behind this ambitious but attainable prevention goal is clear. Alcohol, nicotine products, marijuana and other non-prescribed drug use is uniquely harmful to the still-developing brains of adolescents. Thus any substance “use” among youth must be considered “misuse” – use that may harm self or others. The goal of no substance use is not just for the purpose of preventing addiction, though that is one clear and important by product of successful prevention. Addiction is a biological process that can take years to develop. In contrast, even a single episode of high-dose use of alcohol or other substance could immediately produce an injury, accident or even death. While it is true that most episodes of substance misuse among adults do not produce serious problems, it is also true that substance misuse is associated with 70% or more of the injuries, disabilities and deaths of young people.8 These figures are even higher for minority youth. Many adolescent deaths are preventable 4 because most are related to substance use – including substance-related motor vehicle crashes and overdose.9

9 Subramaniam, G. A., & Volkow, N. D. (2014). Substance misuse among adolescents. To screen or not to screen? JAMA Pediatrics, 168(9), 798-799. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827336/

10 Data analyzed by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. CBHS. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15- 4927, NSDUH Series H-50).

11 2014 data obtained by IBH from the Monitoring the Future study. For discussion of data through 2013 see DuPont, R. L. (2015, July 1). It’s time to re-think prevention; increasing percentages of adolescents understand they should not use any addicting substances. Rockville, MD: Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. Available: https://www.ibhinc.org/s/IBH_Commentary_Adolescents_No_Use_of_Substances_7-1-15.pdf

Youth who use any one of the three most common “gateway” substances, i.e., alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, are many times more likely than those who do not use that single drug to use the other two substances as well as other illegal drugs.10 The use of any drug opens the door to an endless series of highly risky decisions about which drugs to use, how much to use, and when to use them. This perspective validates the public health goal for youth of no use of any drug.

Complete abstinence from the use of alcohol or any other drug among adolescents is not simply an idealistic goal – it is a goal that can be achieved. Data were presented at the meeting from the nationally representative Monitoring the Future study showing that 26% of American high school seniors in 2014 reported no use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other non-prescribed drugs in their lifetimes. 11 This is a remarkable increase from only 3% reported by American high school seniors in 1983. Moreover, in the same survey, 50% of high school seniors had not used any alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other non-prescribed substance in the past 30 days, up from 16% in 1982. These largely overlooked and important findings show that youth abstinence from any substance use is already widespread and steadily increasing.

In parallel with the goal of abstinence for prevention, the recommended goal for the treatment of those who are addicted is sustained abstinence from the use of alcohol and other drugs, with the caveat, explicitly acknowledged by the group, that individuals who are taking medications as-prescribed in the treatment of substance use disorders (e.g., buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone) and who do not use alcohol or other non-prescribed addictive substances – are considered to be abstinent and ”in recovery.” Abstinence from all non-prescribed substance use is the scientifically-informed goal for individuals in addiction treatment. This treatment goal is widely accepted in the large national recovery community. The long-lasting effects of addiction to drugs are easily seen among cigarette smokers: smoking only a single cigarette is a serious threat to the former smoker, even decades after smoking the last cigarette. There is incontrovertible evidence from brain and genetic research showing the long-term effects of substance misuse on critical brain regions.2 It is unknown when or if these brain changes will return to being entirely normal following cessation of substance use; however, it is known that the recovering brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of return to any substance use, often leading to overdose or rapid re-addiction. 5

Participants in the IBH meeting supported the idea that abstinence is the high-value outcome in addiction treatment; and that while any duration of abstinence is valuable, longer-term, stable abstinence of 5 years is analogous to the widely-used standard in cancer treatment of 5-year survival. The scientific basis for the value of sustained recovery is validated by the experience of the estimated 25 million Americans now in recovery. This increasingly visible recovery community is a remarkable and very positive new force in the country.

Measuring and Attaining these Goals 

The mantra from the IBH meeting was, if you don’t measure it, it won’t happen. The group of leaders recognized the paucity of current models for systematic integration of addiction treatment and general healthcare. The group encouraged the identification of promising models and the promotion of innovation to achieve the goal of sustained recovery. Even programs that include fully integrated care of other diseases, managed care and other comprehensive health programs do not reliably achieve the goal of sustained or even temporary recovery for substance use disorders. The meeting participants noted the absence of long-term outcome studies of the treatment of substance use disorders and encouraged all treatment programs not only to extend the care of discharged patients but also to systematically study the trajectories of discharged patients to improve their long-term treatment outcomes. The increasing range of recovery support services after treatment is an important and promising new trend that is now actively promoting sustained recovery.

Meeting participants noted one particularly promising model of public health goal measurement and attainment – the 90-90-90 goals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS: 90% of people with HIV will be screened to know their infection status; 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90% of all patients receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression (i.e., zero viral load).12 These measurable goals provide an operational definition of public health success for the country, states and individual healthcare organizations.

12 UNAIDS. (2014). 90-90-90: An Ambitious Treatment Target to Help End the AIDS epidemic. Geneva, Switzerland: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Available: http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/90-90-90_en_0.pdf

With this model as background, the IBH group concluded that a similar public health approach and similarly specific numeric goals should be established for preventing and treating substance use disorders. Examples of parallel national prevention goals could include 90% rates of screening for substance misuse among adolescents; 90% provision of interventions and follow-up for those screening positive; and 90% total abstinence rates among youth aged 12-21. While these are admittedly ambitious prevention goals, adoption of them could incentivize families, schools and communities to increase the percentage of youth who do not use any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs every year.

A similar approach was adopted by the IBH group to improve the impact of addiction treatment. Again, there would be significant public health value if the US adopted the following goals: 90% of individuals aged 12 or older receive annual screening for substance misuse and substance use disorders; 90% of those who receive a diagnosis of a substance use disorder are referred and meaningfully engaged (at 6 least three sessions) in some form of addiction treatment; and 90% of those engaged in treatment achieve sustained abstinence as measured by drug testing, during and for six months following treatment.

Source:  IBH-Report-A-New-Agenda-to-Turn-Back-the-Drug-Epidemic  May 2017

In Southern Ohio, the number of drug-exposed babies in child protection custody has jumped over 200%.  The problem is so dire that workers agreed to break protocol to invite a reporter to hear their stories.  Foster care placements are at record levels, and the number of drug-exposed newborns in their custody has jumped over 200% in the past decade

Inside the Clinton County child protection office, the week has been tougher than most.

Caseworkers in this thinly populated region of southern Ohio, east of Cincinnati, have grown battle-weary from an opioid epidemic that’s leaving behind a generation of traumatized children. Drugs now account for nearly 80% of their cases. Foster-care placements are at record levels, and the number of drug-exposed newborns in their custody has jumped over 200% in the past decade. Funding, meanwhile, hasn’t budged in years.

“Many of our children have experienced such high levels of trauma that they can’t go into traditional foster homes,” said Kathi Spirk, director of Clinton County job and family services. “They need more specialized care, which is very expensive.”

The problem is so dire that workers agreed to break protocol and invite a reporter to camp out in a conference room and hear their stories. For three days, they relived their worst cases and unloaded their frustrations, in scenes that played out like marathon group therapy, for which they have no time. Many agreed that talking about it only made them feel worse, yet still they continued, one after another.

Hence the bad week.

Given the small size of their community, they asked that their names be changed out of concern for their own safety and the privacy of the children.

The caseworkers, like most, are seasoned in despair. Many worked in the 1990s when crack cocaine first arrived, followed by crystal meth in the early 2000s. In 2008, after the shipping giant DHL shuttered its domestic hub here in Wilmington and shed more than 7,000 jobs, prescription pill mills flourished while the economy staggered. Back then, a typical month saw 30 open cases, only a few of them drug-related. But the flood of cheap heroin and fentanyl, now at its highest point yet, has changed everything. A typical month now brings four times as many cases, while institutional knowledge has been flipped on its head.

“At least with meth and cocaine, there was a fight,” said Laura, a supervisor with over 20 years of experience. “Parents used to challenge you to not take their kids. And now you have them say: ‘Here’s their stuff. Here’s their formula and clothes.’ They’re just done. They’re not going to fight you any more.”

Heroin has changed how they approach every step of their jobs, they said, from the first intake calls to that painstaking decision to place a child into temporary foster care or permanent custody. Intake workers now fear what used to be routine.

“Occasionally, we’d get thrown a dirty house, something easy to close and with little trauma to the child,” said Leslie, another worker. “We’re not getting those any more.

Now they’re all serious, and most of them have a drug component. So you may get a dirty house, but it’s never just a dirty house.”

‘I had a four-year old whose mom had died in front of her and she described it like it was nothing’ Children come into the system in two ways. The first is through a court order after caseworkers deem their environment unsafe, and if no friends or family can be found.

Because of the added trauma, removing a child is always the last option, caseworkers said. But in a county with only 42,000 people spread out over 400 square miles, the magnitude of the epidemic has compromised an already delicate safety net. Relatives are overwhelmed financially. Multiple generations are now addicted, along with cousins, uncles, and neighbors. In many cases, a safe house with a grandparent or other relative will eventually attract drug activity.

Law enforcement will also bring children in, usually after parents overdose. These cases often reveal the most horrendous neglect: a three-year old who needed every tooth pulled because he’d never been made to brush them, or kids found sleeping on bug-infested mattresses, going to the toilet in buckets because the water had been shut off. Children are coming in more hardened, they said, older than their years.

“I had a four-year-old whose mom had died in front of her and she described it like it was nothing,” said Bridgette, another caseworker. “She knew how to roll up a dollar bill and snort white powder off the counter. That’s what she thought dollar bills were for.” She added that many of the children could detail how to cook heroin. One foster family had a five-year-old boy who put his medicine dropper in his shoe. “Because that’s where daddy hid his needles,” she said.

“The kids are used to surviving in that mess,” added Carole, another veteran. “Now all the sudden the system is going in and saying it’s not safe. All their survival instincts are taken away and they go ballistic. They don’t know what to do.”

During the first weeks of foster care, meltdowns, tantrums, and violence are common as children navigate new landscapes and begin to process what they’ve experienced.

One afternoon, the caseworkers brought in a foster couple who’d taken in two sisters, an infant born drug-exposed, and her four-year old sister. The baby had to be weaned off opioids and now suffered chronic respiratory problems. Part of her withdrawal had included non-stop hiccups. The older girl had lived with her parents in a drug house and displayed clear signs of post-traumatic stress. Once, a family friend sitting next to her in a car had overdosed and turned purple. She’d witnessed domestic abuse, and one day a neighbor shot and killed her dog while she watched (she’d let the dog out). After a meltdown at a classmate’s pool party, over a year after entering foster care, she revealed having seen a toddler drown in a pond while adults got high. Through therapy, she’d also revealed sexual assault. The foster mother described how the girl suffered flashbacks, triggered by stress and certain anniversaries, like the day of her removal, and other seemingly random events. When this happened, she slipped into catatonic seizures.

“Her eyes are closed and you can’t wake her,” she said. “It’s like narcolepsy, a deep, unconscious sleep. We later discovered it was a coping mechanism she’d developed in order to survive.”

Despite what they’ve endured, most children wish desperately to return to their parents. Many come to see themselves as their parents’ caretakers and feel guilty for being taken away, especially if they were the ones to report an overdose, as in the case of a four-year-old girl who climbed out of a window to alert a neighbor. “She asked me: if I took her away, who was going to take care of mommy?” Bridgette remembered.

For caseworkers, reunification is the endgame. After children enter temporary foster care, the agency spends up to two years working closely with the family while the parents try to stay sober. The only contact with their children comes in the form of twice-weekly visits held in designated rooms here at the office. Each contains a tattered sofa and some second-hand toys. Currently, the agency runs about 200 visits each week. The encounters are monitored through closed-circuit cameras. For everyone involved, it can be the most trying period.

Many parents use the time to build trust and re-establish bonds. “During those first four years, a child gets such good stuff from their parents,” said Sherry, the caseworker who monitors the visits. “The kids are just trying to get that back.” Some parents bring doughnuts and pictures, while others need more guidance. Caseworkers hold parenting classes. Some moms lost newborns at the hospital after they tested positive for drugs; workers teach them how to feed and hold the child, and encourage them to bring outfits to dress their babies.

For other children, the visits trigger a storm of emotion that churns up the trauma of removal. “We had one girl who’d scream and wail at the end of every visit,” Laura, the supervisor, remembered. “Each time she thought she’d never see her mother again. We’d have to pry her out of mom’s arms and carry her down the hallway.”

“We’d sit in our offices and just sob,” added another worker. “But that girl’s cries weren’t enough to keep Mom off heroin.”

The number of available foster families is dwindling, while the cost of supporting them has never been higher

Perhaps the greatest difference with heroin and opioids, caseworkers said, is their iron grasp. Staying sober is a herculean task, especially in this rural community short on resources, where the nearest treatment facilities are over 30 miles away in Dayton, Cincinnati, or Columbus. At some point, nearly every parent falls off the wagon. They disappear and miss visits, leaving children to wait. One of the hardest parts of the job is telling a child that mom or dad isn’t coming, or that they can’t even be found.

“You see the hurt in their eyes,” Sherry said. “It’s a look of defeat, and it just breaks your heart.” She remembered a mother who’d failed to show up for months, then made it for her twin boys’ birthday. “The next day she overdosed and died.”

A tally sheet is used to track how many times prospective clients waiting to enter the program call a detox center, in Huntington, West Virginia. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

When parents fail drug screenings during the 18-month period, caseworkers use discretion. Parents might be doing better in other areas like landing a job, or finding secure housing, so workers help them to get back on the wagon. “It’s all about showing progress,” Laura said. Some parents make it 16, 17 months sober and fully engaged. “And they’re the toughest cases, because we’ve been rooting for them this whole time and helping them. We’re giving kids pep talks, saying: ‘Mom’s doing great, she’s getting it together!’ They’re so happy to be going home. And then it all falls apart.”

With heroin, defeat is something the workers have learned to reckon with. Lately they’ve started snapping photos of parents and children during their first visit together, getting medical histories and other vital information – something they used to do much later. “Because we know the parents probably aren’t going to make it,” Laura admitted. “And if we never see them again, this is the info we need.” When asked how many opioid cases had ended in reunification, only two workers raised their hands.

The repeated disappointments come as resources and morale have reached their tipping point. The number of available foster families is dwindling, they said, while the cost of supporting them – over $1.5m a year – has never been higher.

Spirk, the agency’s director, said that all the agency’s budget was paid for with federal dollars and a county tax levy, although they’ve been flat-funded for nearly 10 years. The state contributes just 10%. When it comes to investing in child protection, Ohio ranks last in the country – despite having spent nearly $1bn fighting its opioid problem in 2016 alone.

The Ohio house of representatives recently passed a new state budget with an additional $15m for child protective services, but the state senate has yet to pass its own version. The only bit of hope came in March, when the Ohio attorney general’s office announced a pilot program that will give Clinton County, along with others, additional resources to help treat children for trauma, and to assist with drug treatment. It starts in October.

The epidemic’s unrelenting barrage has also taken a toll on mental health. “Our caseworkers are experiencing secondary trauma and frustration at not being able to reunify children with their parents because of relapses,” Spirk said.

Almost every caseworker said they had experienced depression or some form of PTSD, although no one had sought professional help. The privacy of their cases also means that few can speak openly with friends or family members. Some chose to drink, while others leaned on their faiths. But most said coping mechanisms they once relied on had failed.

“I used to have a routine on my drive home,” Laura said. “I’d stop in front of a church, roll down my window, and throw out all the day’s problems. The next morning I’d pick them back up. These days, I can’t do that anymore.”

“There’s no more outlet,” added Shelly, another supervisor. “You think you’re able to separate but you can’t let it go anymore. You try to eat healthy, do yoga, whatever they tell you to do. But it’s just so horrific now, and it keeps getting worse.”

At some point, the inevitable happens. When a parent can’t stay sober, or stops showing progress, the decision is made to place the child into permanent custody and put them up for adoption. For everyone, including caseworkers, it’s the most wrenching day.

The final act of every case is the “goodbye visit”, held in one of the nicer conference rooms. It’s a chance for parents to let their children know they love them and will miss them, and that it’s time to move on. Adoptive parents can choose to stay in contact, but it isn’t mandatory.

To make the time less stressful, Sherry, the worker who monitors the visits, has them draw pictures together, which she scans and gives to them as mementoes. She also tapes the meetings for them to keep. Watching from her tiny room full of TV screens, she can’t help but cry. “What people don’t realize is that when a baby comes into our custody, they’re still in a carrier seat. By the time the case is over, we’ve helped to potty train them. Two years is a very long time with a child. So in a way, it’s like my goodbye visit, too.”

Caseworkers have started making “life books” for kids once they come into the system. It’s where they put the photos they’ve taken, plus any pictures of birth parents or relatives they can find, report cards, ribbons and medals – the souvenirs of any childhood.  “It’s their history,” Sherry said, “so that one day they can make sense of their lives.”   She noted that one kid, after turning 18, tore his to pieces, taking with him only the good memories.

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/17/ohio-drugs-child-protection-workers

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven. Keep me in temper and keep the Liberal Democrats away from government. For they would make us all mad.

On Friday, new meaning was given to the Progressive Alliance. Maybe the Lib Dems have taken pity seeing Labour struggling to convince even the BBC that the nationalisation of everything can be paid for just by whacking more taxes on the rich. That was my first thought on reading of their pledge to completely legalise cannabis.

In the spirit of cooperation, I thought they have dreamt up a way to raise a billion quid of Labour’s shortfall. People won’t notice, not when they are stoned anyway.

Yes, the Lib Dems’ great money-raising wheeze depends on getting all us puffing away on the weed, just like we knock back the alcohol or used to grab a fag at the first excuse. Why not? Cigarettes and alcohol have always proved nice little earners, even if smuggling went up with every tax hike.  So why not add dope and kill two birds with one stone (no pun intended) and make yourself popular with all those ageing liberal hippies like Simon Jenkins, Mary Ann Seighart and Camilla Cavendish, former head of David Cameron’s policy unit, who are all forever bellyaching on about accepting drugs as part of the fabric of life and restoring sanity to society.

Hang on a minute – that’s the Lib Dem plan! It’s nothing to do with helping Labour out of a hole. It’s to finance their own mental health programme. Yes, you have read that. Wasn’t it last week that the well-meaning Norman Lamb earmarked, guess what, but a billion quid to fight that historic injustice, he says, is faced by people with mental ill health? An historic injustice that goes back all of 2 years.

‘Under the Conservative Government, services have been stretched to breaking point at a time when the prevalence of mental ill health appears to be rising.’

It is more than bizarre that the Lib Dems fail to join up the dots of mental illness and treatment (on which they have been campaigning vigorously) with increased use of drugs, particularly cannabis (which is what legalisation means).

Have they missed entirely the connection between cannabis use and mental ill health? Are they unaware that cannabis use triples psychosis risk? And from 17 to 38 can lose you 8 IQ points? Perhaps they are suffering that IQ loss already.

In Lib Dem happy land, everything can be squared – even Tiny Tim’s evangelical religious beliefs with gay marriage – and on drugs it is back to the future of hippy protest.

They have all been out straggling the airwaves, forgotten but former Lib Dem MPs – Dr Evan Harris (Dr Death as he was better known) and Dame Molly Meacher’s former sidekick Dr Julian Huppert – emerging into the daylight blinking to press their old cause, along with their Frankenstein master, the suitably named Professor David Nutt, of magic mushroom and alcohol antidote research fame.

One wonders whether the God-fearing Tim knows what he’s conjured up.  As a concerned parent, he should know that if legalisation means anything at all it means drug use going up as the latest stats from Colorado underline. Past-month marijuana use among 12-to-17 year-olds there has increased from 9.82 per cent to 12.56 per cent, according to the most recent year-by-year comparison looking at pre-legalisation data.

Well I for one am looking forward to seeing the contortions he’ll have to go through to join up the dots on his mental health and drugs legalisation policies. I suggest before he finds himself being asked to justify adding to our already overcrowded and underfunded secure psychiatric units – peopled with male psychotics addicted to cannabis – he reads one of the many comprehensive reviews of the link between cannabis and mental illness.

However, I am not holding my breath that Andrew Marr or any other progressive liberal BBC interviewer will press him on it.

Source:  http://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/kathy-gyngell-potty-lib-dems-want-legalise-cannabis-boost-mental-health/   14th May 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s being called “gray death” — a new and dangerous opioid combo that underscores the ever-changing nature of the U.S. addiction crisis.

Investigators who nicknamed the mixture have detected it or recorded overdoses blamed on it in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio. The drug looks like concrete mix and varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder.

The substance is a combination of several opioids blamed for thousands of fatal overdoses nationally, including heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil – sometimes used to tranquilize large animals like elephants – and a synthetic opioid called U-47700.

“Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said.  Gray death ingredients and their concentrations are unknown to users, making it particularly lethal, Kilcrease said. In addition, because these strong drugs can be absorbed through the skin, simply touching the powder puts users at risk, she said.

Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration listed U-47700 in the category of the most dangerous drugs it regulates, saying it was associated with dozens of fatalities, mostly in New York and North Carolina. Some of the pills taken from Prince’s estate after the musician’s overdose death last year contained U-47700.

Gray death has a much higher potency than heroin, according to a bulletin issued by the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Users inject, swallow, smoke or snort it.

Georgia’s investigation bureau has received 50 overdose cases in the past three months involving gray death, most from the Atlanta area, said spokeswoman Nelly Miles.

In Ohio, the coroner’s office serving the Cincinnati area says a similar compound has been coming in for months. The Ohio attorney general ‘s office has analyzed eight samples matching the gray death mixture from around the state.

The combo is just the latest in the trend of heroin mixed with other opioids, such as fentanyl, that has been around for a few years.  Fentanyl-related deaths spiked so high in Ohio in 2015 that state health officials asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send scientists to help address the problem.

The mixing poses a deadly risk to users and also challenges investigators trying to figure out what they’re dealing with this time around, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican.

“Normally, we would be able to walk by one of our scientists, and say ‘What are you testing?’ and they’ll tell you heroin or ‘We’re testing fentanyl,’” DeWine said. “Now, sometimes they’re looking at it, at least initially, and say, ‘Well, we don’t know.’”

Some communities also are seeing fentanyl mixed with non-opioids, such as cocaine. In Rhode Island, the state has recommended that individuals with a history of cocaine use receive supplies of the anti-overdose drug naloxone.

These deadly combinations are becoming a hallmark of the heroin and opioid epidemic, which the government says resulted in 33,000 fatal overdoses nationally in 2015. In Ohio, a record 3,050 people died of drug overdoses last year, most the result of opioid painkillers or their relative, heroin.

Most people with addictions buy heroin in the belief that’s exactly what they’re getting, overdose survivor Richie Webber said.  But that’s often not the case, as he found out in 2014 when he overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin. It took two doses of naloxone to revive him. He’s now sober and runs a treatment organization, Fight for Recovery, in Clyde, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Toledo.

A typical new combination he’s seeing is heroin combined with 3-methylfentanyl, a more powerful version of fentanyl, said Webber, 25. It’s one of the reasons he tells users never to take drugs alone.

“You don’t know what you’re getting with these things,” Webber said. “Every time you shoot up you’re literally playing Russian roulette with your life.”

Source:  https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/04/opioid-gray-death-overdoses/  4th May 2017

The opioid epidemic has led to the deadliest drug crisis in US history – even deadlier than the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

Drug overdoses now cause more deaths than gun violence and car crashes. They even caused more deaths in 2015 than HIV/AIDS did at the height of the epidemic in 1995.

A new study suggests that we may be underestimating the death toll of the opioid epidemic and current drug crisis. The study, conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at 1,676 deaths in Minnesota’s Unexplained Death surveillance system (UNEX) from 2006 – 2015. The system is meant to refer cases with no clear cause of death to further testing and analysis. In total, 59 of the UNEX deaths, or about 3.5 percent, were linked to opioids. But more than half of these opioid-linked deaths didn’t show up in Minnesota’s official total for opioid related deaths.

It is unclear how widespread of a problem this is in other death surveillance systems and other states, but the study’s findings suggest that the numbers we have so far for opioid deaths are at best a minimum. Typically, deaths are marked by local coroners or medical examiners through a system; if the medical examiner marks a death as immediately caused by an opioid overdose, the death is eventually added to the US’s total for opioid overdose deaths. But there is no national standard for what counts as an opioid overdose, so it’s left to local medical officials to decide whether a death was caused by an overdose or not. This can get surprisingly tricky – particularly in cases involving multiple conditions or for cases in which someone’s death seemed to be immediately caused by one condition, but that condition had a separate underlying medical issue behind it.

For example, opioids are believed to increase the risk of pneumonia. But if a medical examiner sees that a person died of pneumonia, they might mark the death as caused by pneumonia, even if the opioids were the underlying cause for the death. “In early spring, the Minnesota Department of Health was notified of an unexplained death: a middle-aged man who died suddenly at home. He was on long-term opioid therapy for some back pain, and his family was a little bit concerned that he was abusing his medication,” said Victoria Hall, one of the study’s authors.

“After the autopsy, the medical examiner was quite concerned about pneumonia in this case, and that’s how the case was referred to the Minnesota Department of Health unexplained deaths program. Further testing diagnosed an influenza pneumonia, but also detected a toxic level of opioids in his system. However, on the death certificate, it only listed the pneumonia and made no mention of opioids.”

Since this is just one study of one surveillance system in one state, it’s unclear just how widespread this kind of underreporting is in the United States. But the data suggests that there is at least some undercounting going on – which is especially worrying, as this is already the deadliest drug overdose crisis in US history. “It does seem like it is almost an iceberg of an epidemic,” said Hall. “We already know that it’s bad. And while my research can’t speak to what percent we’re underestimating, we know we are missing some cases.” In 2015, more Americans died of drug overdoses than any other year on record – more than 52,000 deaths in just one year. That’s higher than the more than

38,000 who died in car crashes, the more than 36,000 who died from gun violence, and the more than 43,000 who died due to HIV/AIDS during that epidemic’s peak in 1995.

See more: • The Changing Face of Heroin Use in the US study • Today’s Heroin Epidemic – CDC

Source:  Prevention Weekly. news@cadca.org  May 2017

Fifty years on, I still wince in recalling those two frightened high school kids I saw hauled into an Oshawa courtroom and handed stiff jail terms, two years less a day, for possessing miniscule amounts of marijuana.

They weren’t dealers. They were just teens dabbling in the latest thing, but they had the misfortune of being the first “drug arrests” in a tough, beer-swilling automotive city that was close to hysteria over the arrival of dirty, long-haired hippies and their damn weed.

Those kids would be senior citizens now, but I still wonder what became of them. Were their lives ruined by that jail time and the criminal records that followed them everywhere? Or did they move on and become brain surgeons and bank presidents?

I get the argument behind decriminalizing marijuana consumption. Nobody should do jail time for simply consuming a product less damaging, at least to the liver, than alcohol. If deterrence was the intent of those harsh marijuana sentences, they utterly failed. By the early 1970s, it was all but impossible to attend a social gathering without being handed a joint and expected to partake, at least a polite puff or two, or be labelled a pariah.

But the pendulum has swung. The anti-weed hysteria of the late ’60s has become raging 21st-century fury that anyone would dare voice concerns about the fallout of Justinian Canada becoming only the second nation to give marijuana its full blessing.

Mayor Drew Dilkens ran afoul of the pot crusaders and their missionary zeal three weeks ago when he described, in this space, how a trip to Denver, Colo., where marijuana was legalized four years ago, left him worried about the possible impact on a border city like Windsor. On the 16th Street pedestrian mall, he had encountered throngs of aggressive “riff-raff and undesirables.” Denver’s mayor has gone even further, decrying the area’s “scourge of hoodlums.”

Enraged readers dumped on Dilkens. They ripped him for being out-of-touch with the times and failing to recognize a potential tourism bonanza for our downtown. They mocked him for being concerned for his safety in Denver and wailed that he was trying to deny them their precious medicinal marijuana.

Never mind that Dilkens never mentioned medical marijuana and didn’t say whether he’s for or against legalization. Facts don’t matter. All that matters is that he wasn’t out front leading the marijuana welcoming parade, pompoms in hand, and that merited condemnation.

The most interesting message Dilkens received after the column appeared came from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

“As a Colorado sheriff who’s had to deal with the impacts of commercialized marijuana, I will tell you that your concerns are warranted,” wrote Justin Smith, the outspoken sheriff of Larimer County, population 334,000, an hour’s drive north of Denver.

“Since we approved commercial marijuana production and sales, we’ve been overrun by transients and transient-related crime. In the last three years my jail population has soared by more than 25 per cent. Six years ago, transients accounted for one-in-eight inmates in my jail. Today, they account for one-in-three inmates and many have multiple pending cases. Our county prosecutor predicts a 90 per cent increase in felony crime prosecutions over the last three years.

“Decriminalized marijuana has proven to be anything but safe and well-regulated in my state,” the sheriff warned. “If I could give your country any words of wisdom, they would be, don’t sell the future of your country to the pot industry.”

Too late, sheriff. The industry, now in the clutches of powerful corporations and feverish investors, is slathering over the immense profits to be made now that our flower child PM has given them the all clear.

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel joked a few nights ago that Canada is becoming “the stoner in America’s attic.”

Funny, yes.   But insightful as well.  Next summer, when the stoners and those who feed off them occupy our downtown, which will be enveloped in the acrid stench of burning weed, we’ll see who’s laughing.

Source:http://www.theprovince.com/opinion/columnists/henderson+laughing+when+recreational+legalized/13316471/story.html

A disturbing majority of businesses in the U.S. are being negatively impacted by prescription painkiller abuse and addiction among employees.

A survey recently released by the National Safety Council reveals more than 70 percent of workplaces are feeling the negative effects of opioid abuse. Nearly 40 percent of employers said employees are missing work do to painkiller abuse, with roughly the same percent reporting employees abusing the drugs on the job. Despite the prevalence of addiction in offices across the country, employers are doing little to mitigate risk. Record pill abuse in workplaces is coming at a time when Americans are taking more opioids than ever before, reports The Washington Post.

A recent survey from Truven Health Analytics and NPR reveals more than half of the U.S. population reports receiving a prescription for opioids at least once from their doctor, a 7 percent increase since 2011. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Friday reveals that almost half of non-cancer patients prescribed opioids for a month or more are still dependent on the pills a year later.

Experts say that current opioid and heroin abuse is driven in large part by the over-prescribing of pain pills from doctors. Despite the problems opioid abuse is causing in the workplace, many employee drug tests do not look for the substance. Fifty-seven percent of businesses test for drugs, but 41 percent of those businesses do not test for opioids.

“Employers must understand that the most dangerously misused drug today may be sitting in employees’ medicine cabinets,” Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said in a statement. “Even when they are taken as prescribed, prescription drugs and opioids can impair workers and create hazards on the job.”

Among people not currently taking opioids, nearly half view addiction as the biggest threat from using painkillers. Among current patients on opioids, fears over unwanted side effects still dwarf fears about long-term dependence and addiction. Medical professionals say doctors need to start by prescribing the least potent and least addictive pain treatment option, and then cautiously go from there.

Experts also say the patient must take greater responsibility when they visit their doctor and always ask “why” before accepting a prescription.

Addicts may begin with a dependence on opioid pills before transitioning to heroin after building up a tolerance that makes pills too expensive. States hit particularly hard by heroin abuse are beginning to crackdown on doctors liberally doling out painkillers.

“When four out of five new heroin users are getting their start by abusing prescription drugs, you have to attack the problem at ground zero – in irresponsibly run doctors’ offices,” New Jersey Attorney General Porrino said in a statement March 1. “Physicians who grant easy access to the drugs that are turning New Jersey residents into addicts can be every bit as dangerous as street-corner dealers. Purging the medical community of over-prescribers is as important to our cause as busting heroin rings and locking up drug kingpins.”

A record 33,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses in 2015, according to the CDC. Opioid deaths contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2015. Combined, heroin, fentanyl and other opiate-based painkillers account for roughly 63 percent of drug fatalities, which claimed 52,404 lives in the U.S. in 2015.

Source:  http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/19/opioid-addiction-is-infiltrating-a-majority-of-us-workplaces/

Substance use disorders affect businesses in surprising ways. Although there are obvious signs that an employee is struggling with a substance use disorder, there are other factors affecting their workplace performance that may be less obvious. Unfortunately, a survey from the National Safety Council found that employers underestimate how prescription drug abuse affects their businesses. Employers may not realize some of the facts illuminated in the study, such as:

• Employees with substance use disorders miss nearly 50 percent more days than their peers and up to six weeks of work annually.

• Healthcare costs for employees who misuse or abuse prescription drugs are three times the costs for an average employee.

• Getting an employee into treatment can save an employer up to $2,607 per worker annually.

The survey serves as a reminder that although some employees need support, they may not ask for it. “Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business.”

The National Safety Council alongside NORC at the University of Chicago and Shatterproof created a tool to show how the substance use disorder crisis can affect your workplace.

The Substance Use Cost Calculator is a quick and easy way to track the potential cost of substance use disorders. Employers input basic statistics about their workforce, such as industry, location, and number of employees. The tool then calculates the estimated prevalence of substance use disorders among employees and dependents. Once you have all that information on hand, you can figure out a way to prioritize helping those who are struggling with a substance use disorder. If you are worried about addressing such a difficult problem, remember that leaders ask how they can help others and utilize subject-matter resources.

Source:  https://images.magnetmail.net/images/clients/CADCA/attach/SubstanceUseCosts.pdf April 2017

Filed under: Economic,Social Affairs,USA :

The country with the biggest weed habit?    That might surprise you

Though cannabis is not actually legal in the Netherlands, it can be widely consumed in the country’s infamous coffee shops.

However, despite the ubiquity of the drug, Dutch citizens are not the world’s biggest tokers: according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), that dubious distinction goes to Iceland.

Top 30 cannabis consuming countries

1. Iceland – 18.3% (prevalence of use as percentage of population)

2. US – 16.2%

3. Nigeria – 14.3%

4. Canada – 12.7%

5. Chile – 11.83%

6. France – 11.1%

7. New Zealand – 11%

8. Bermuda – 10.9%

9. Australia – 10.2%

10. Zambia – 9.5%

11. Uruguay – 9.3%

12. Spain – 9.2%

13. Italy – 9.2%

14. Madagascar – 9.1%

15. Czech Republic – 8.9%

16. Israel – 8.88%

17. St Lucia – 8.87%

18. Belize – 8.45%

19. Barbados – 8.3%

20. Netherlands – 8%

21. Greenland – 7.6%

22. Jamaica – 7.21%

23. Denmark – 6.9%

24. Switzerland – 6.7%

25. Egypt – 6.24%

26.UK – 6.2%

27. Ireland – 6%

28. Estonia – 6%

29. Bahamas – 5.54%

30. Sierra Leone – 5.42%

The UNODC’s data suggests that cannabis is used by 18.3 per cent of Iceland’s population (aged 15-64). The US (16.2 per cent) and Nigeria (14.3 per cent) had the second and third highest rates of consumption; the UK came 26th on the list, followed by Ireland. And the Netherlands? It came 20th.

Data is not available for all of the world’s countries – and some figures have been updated more recently than others – meaning caution should be exercised when drawing comparisons.

Source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/mapped-the-countries-that-smoke-the-most-cannabis/    1st Dec. 2016

Whether it’s knocking on a nearby door, making a quick call, or agreeing a deal on the way to school, there’s no ID necessary and no questions asked: teenagers in London never have to venture too far to find skunk.

In fact, they find the highly potent form of the Class B drug cannabis much easier to buy than both alcohol and cigarettes, where regulation steps in and requires them to prove that they are old enough.  No such barriers seem to exist when it comes to buying cannabis.

The country’s most popular illicit drug, the average age people start smoking it is 14.

But, for most young people today, it is the stronger, more harmful and seemingly ubiquitous variety of cannabis, high in the cannabinoid THC and low in CBD, and known universally as skunk, that is finding its way into their hands.  To investigate how easy it is for young people to buy cannabis and the risks that come with this, Volteface carried out a nationwide survey and spoke to a group of users and non-users, aged 15-17, from London.

Without chemical analysis, we can’t know for certain what type of cannabis young people are consuming, but we could find out what they thought it was, and the overwhelming majority of people said they used skunk, with many reporting that was the only form of cannabis they could get. And when it comes to getting skunk, it is very easy for young people, particularly in urban areas, to get hold of it.

Indeed, when asked how easy it is to buy cannabis, how often they smoked it or whether any of them had ever had any trouble getting the drug because of their age, the teenagers Volteface interviewed collapsed into laughter at how “ridiculous” these questions were.

In their world, these aren’t things they need to think much about, they’re a given.

The cannabis most commonly smoked in the UK in and before the 1990s was the low-potency hash. This changed as the decade progressed and the development of high potency strains such as skunk came to dominate the market in the Netherlands – a trend which found its way here.

With this in mind, Volteface’s research raises important questions about how much autonomy young people living in areas like London really have when it comes to the cannabis they are smoking.

Unlike previous generations, skunk and closely related strains, high in THC and low in CBD, is perhaps all they will have known, with these varieties accounting for 80-95 percent of the cannabis sold illegally on Britain’s streets according to most recent analyses.

How clued-up are today’s young cannabis users as to where and how to find regular weed and safer strains and the benefits of why they might want to do this?

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, anyone caught in possession of cannabis could (in theory, but rarely in practice) face five years in prison or an unlimited fine.  Deterrence and censure – the law’s intentions are clear, and young people are well aware of the prohibition. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop them from wanting to buy cannabis.  76 percent of those who completed Volteface’s survey, and several of the teenagers interviewed, said they were worried about getting into trouble with the police.

But, one 16-year-old Volteface spoke to was still smoking it, despite one occasion on which “I went straight to the cells for having 0.6 grams of weed on me” and his mother being called to collect him.

It appears that the only real barrier when it comes to young people getting cannabis is money.

The rest, they don’t have to worry about – the supply comes to them.  “If you’ve got the money, you can get cannabis, no problem,” said a 17-year-old user from London.  A 16-year-old added: “When we’re walking to school people come up and ask if we want to buy weed.  “If they think you’re the kind of person who smokes weed, they might just come up to you and ask you to take their number and then you just call them,” said another.

One teenager said that if a group are seen smoking cigarettes, they could be approached by cannabis dealers.  Although those interviewed in London for our research said cigarettes were seen as the most “socially acceptable” substance, most said it was still much easier to buy cannabis than tobacco.

As regulated products with a minimum age requirement, young people wanting to buy alcohol and cigarettes from any retail outlet must be able to show they are at least 18.

With cannabis, no such difficulty gets in the way.

96 percent of those who completed Volteface’s nationwide survey and said it was “extremely easy” for them to find cannabis were from cities.  “Getting tobacco is harder than getting cannabis, 100 percent,” said one of the group interviewed.   “It’s too easy.”“Knock on a door,” said one 16-year-old.

“It’s legit if you have the money. There’s times when you got the money for tobacco, but you’re not going to get served inside the shop as you’re too young.”  “Weed is the easiest thing out of cannabis, cigarettes and alcohol to get because you don’t have to have ID.”

Some of the teenagers said they sometimes tried their luck by asking an older young person standing outside the shop to go in and buy some drinks for them, but that this was rare.

In any case, as some of them pointed out, shops shut.

Dealers don’t close for business at 11pm on a Friday night.

Cannabis, more than cigarettes and alcohol, is seen as a greater part of the ‘every day’ lives of the young people smoking it, our research showed.

“You don’t need a motive to smoke it” is how one 16-year-old from London summed up its popularity.

“When I wake up, at lunch… any time I can” said another teenager about when they smoked it. “If I’m not doing anything and I’ve got money, I’ll buy some and smoke it”.  “It just chills you out,” another added.

Whereas, other drugs such as LSD, ecstasy and magic mushrooms, as well as alcohol, are used by young people “every few weeks” at parties or on nights out, the young people we interviewed said they often smoked a joint while listening to music, gaming, relaxing by themselves or with friends.

Most of the teenagers we spoke to in London said they smoked cannabis more commonly on weekends and week nights, but some said they smoked it during school hours, with one 16-year-old stating: “I smoke when I wake up”.

On average, the group spent £30 every three days on the drug. In fact, this seemed to be the group’s biggest problem with cannabis, someone commenting “If I think about all the money I could have saved by now…”

Another added: “We get deals init, so our dealers bus us a gram for £10, a z [ounce] for £200, should be £240.”

The most striking finding confirmed by Volteface’s research was the extent to which young people, to their knowledge at least, are smoking skunk, rather than any other form of weed.

The majority of the teenagers Volteface interviewed in London said they smoked skunk, which has come to dominate the market as the cheapest way to get really high.

Cannabis, made from a natural plant, contains two important ingredients: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC gets smokers ‘high’. It has also been correlated, particularly when consumed in high concentrations, with greater incidence of psychosis and development of dependence. CBD while not psychoactive itself, modified the effects of THC, including reducing its anxiety and paranoia inducing effects. It also, crucially, drastically lessens both the incidence of psychosis when people consume it alongside THC, and seems to make cannabis less dependence forming.

Whereas other forms of weed often contain the two substances in more equal ratios, skunk tends to contain solely high amounts of THC and hardly any CBD.

Significantly, the teenagers Volteface interviewed were aware of the distinction between weed and skunk, and the difference in their potential harmfulness, but the sheer ease of availability of the latter meant they were continuing to smoke it. Convenience trumps effort.

“We don’t smoke weed, we smoke skunk. But skunk is more available,” one 16-year-old said. “Skunk is bare chemicals and THC to make it stronger. It’s much more available,” another added. One 17-year-old said: “I don’t even think it’s that great, but it’s all you can get, there’s just bare THC in it.”

“My mum thinks I should smoke Thai because skunk will make you crazy,” said another 17-year-old.  A 16-year-old agreed: “My mum says I should smoke high grade rather than skunk because it’s gonna turn me mental.”

“When you first start buying weed, you don’t actually know what you’re buying. Now you can ask them what it is and they’ll tell you,” another teenager added.

In a 2015 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, scientists from Kings College London found that 24 percent of all new cases of psychosis are associated with the use of skunk and the risk of psychosis was three times higher for skunk users and five times higher for those who use it every day. No increased risk of psychosis was found for those regularly smoking other forms of cannabis.

The causality between cannabis use and psychosis has been questioned though, with the possibility that those more likely to take the drug are also more prone to psychosis in the first place.

When asked whether they worried about the effects of skunk on their mental health, one teenager said: “Yeah – it’s when I’m older isn’t it? Long-term effects.”  But another added: “I can’t see myself getting something like depression.”

Some said they could feel cannabis having a negative effect on their physical health, with their ability to run and play sports affected.

After getting stopped by the police, parents were the second biggest concern for young cannabis users who participated in Volteface’s research, but this was mainly the case in non-urban areas and those outside of London.

For most of the young cannabis users interviewed in London, their parents were not so concerned as to stop them smoking it, although they did try to advise their children against smoking stronger strains.  “I think part of the reason my mum is okay with me smoking is because I do well in school,” one 17-year-old told us.

Another said: “They lecture me about it but they don’t try and stop me taking it. If my mum found weed in my room she probably wouldn’t take it.”

Skunk is in the lives of young people because it’s in the dealers’ interest to keep it there.

The environment in which they are operating, particularly in urban areas such as London, mean teenagers are regularly smoking a highly potent strain of a drug, which can result in severe mental health problems in later life, even though much less harmful strains are available.

As Volteface’s research suggests, young people today don’t have much control over the quality or type of the cannabis they are smoking. They only know the dealers they know, many of whom will have targeted them specifically.

When something is so easy, the incentive to look elsewhere and acquire knowledge about other options diminishes. We are also creatures of habit – the behaviours we start with and become accustomed to, we come to accept as a part of our lives. Particularly if any adverse effects of these behaviours fail to manifest themselves in the here and now. Make hay while the sun shines.

In young people, dealers seem to have found an ideal target market to push skunk and make a tidy profit, all within a context which runs counterintuitive to what many of us may believe: that making something illegal is keeping us safer.  Teenagers may be laughing at our ignorance on this issue now, but it’s skunk’s dexterous dealers who may well be having the last laugh in the end.

Source:  http://volteface.me/features/easy-young-people-access-skunk-uk/   April 2017

* Waste firm Businesswaste.co.uk claims it is getting reports of bins being burned out across the country

* It believes youngsters are getting high from the fumes the burning bins create

* Certain dyes that makes the bins green can help people ‘get wasted’

* It’s 10 years since this ‘craze’ was last seen in the UK, when it his south Yorkshire

Children are burning bins and ‘getting high off the fumes’ in the latest drug craze which could be more dangerous than sniffing glue or petrol.

According to a waste management company, kids are setting plastic wheelie bins alight and then getting high on the fumes.  The experts say there are certain fumes created in the bin by the dyes which users can ‘get wasted’ from.

Officials at the firm say they have had reports from around Britain of youths burning wheelie bins to sniff the smoke.   Mark Hall, from waste firm businesswaste.co.uk, said cases were up 100 per cent in the last few months.  He said: ‘We’ve seen reports from Wolverhampton, Hull, Glasgow and Swindon over recent weeks, and they’re all the same.

‘Idiots stealing wheeled bins from outside homes and businesses, taking them to waste ground or parks, and torching them for whatever kicks they can derive.  ‘While some of them could just be arson, others include quotes from police officers who acknowledge that they’re doing it for weird drug-related kicks.’

The company has received ‘hundreds’ of reports from clients who discovered ruined bins.

He said ‘There was a craze about ten years ago and it died out.  ‘All of a sudden we are getting reports again. We have got a huge amount of them being burnt at the moment.  ‘It is growing – there is 100 per cent more than there was last month.’

The trend surfaced a decade ago in South Yorkshire but appeared to have made a revival, he said.  In 2007 South Yorkshire Police issued a warning to leave bins alone after 40 bins went up in smoke in the space of four months.

The risk of aerosol cans being contained in the rubbish, which could explode if they came into contact with fire, is high, particularly on business premises.  Anti-solvent abuse charities said inhaling the bin fumes could be more dangerous than sniffing glue or petrol.

Mr Hall said many people were not reporting the bin fires to police, making it hard to provide statistics on the crimes.  He said: ‘Just one aerosol might cause a potentially fatal explosion.’ And bins stolen from business premises could contain just about anything that can cause fatal injury to the unwary.  ‘Our people are sick of having to scrape melted plastic from pavements and parks, and our clients hate the inconvenience of having their bins stolen.’

The trend first surfaced about 10 years ago, and was a particular problem in south Yorkshire, but died out. It appears to have reared its head again

Stephen Ream, a spokesman for solvent abuse charity Re-Solv, said: ‘It would be very dangerous, it sounds like it would make you sick before you got high. ‘The fumes it would give off would be toxic.’

In 2007 it was reported that in Scotland it is known for people to burn bus shelters to get the same effect.   The craze was behind more than fifty bin fires in Barnsley, Yorkshire.

PC Jonathan Reed, of South Yorkshire Police, said in 2007 that officers were looking at ways to lock up the bins.  He said: ‘It is the drug of choice, setting fire to the bins and inhaling the fumes.  ‘The health and safety implications are terrible. It is only a matter of time before someone harms themselves.’

Wheelie bins are made from high density polyethylene – composed of double-bonded carbon and hydrogen molecules.  Burning an empty one releases carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

These deadly gases starve the brain of oxygen, giving a headache-heavy short high.

Source:  businesswaste.co.uk   23rd  March 2017 

Ontario opted not to follow B.C.’s lead on harm reduction, rejecting the idea of creating safe injection sites similar to the one in Vancouver. Postmedia News files

In December, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-37 in response to an epidemic of illicit drug use. The bill facilitates the creation of additional supervised injection sites by reducing previously established restrictions.

The decision to promote supervised injection sites is in line with the latest philosophy guiding addiction management — that of harm reduction. Proponents claim harm-reduction institutions will save lives while averting hundreds of thousands in medical and criminal-legal expenses.

Much in the harm-reduction philosophy is laudable — the desire to destigmatize and protect those with severe illnesses for one — but the field is slipping into dangerous, almost Brave-New-World territory.

In Toronto and Ottawa, supposedly inveterate alcoholics receive calculated amounts of alcohol hourly throughout the day at designated wet shelters and managed alcohol programs. Residents line up on the hour to receive just enough house-made wine to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. Some drink almost three bottles of wine daily with little to do in between scheduled drinks.

Vancouver, which was Canada’s first city to establish a safe injection site in 2003, has now progressed to experimenting with “heroin-assisted treatment” as a means of further protecting addicts from the harms of tainted street drugs. Participants receive pharmaceutical-grade heroin injections two to three times daily. Recently, in place of heroin, the more innocuous-sounding but no less potent opiate, hydromorphone, is being administered instead.

Is their drug use no longer a problem because they’re off the street? And where exactly do the patients go from here?

Most lay supporters of harm-reduction policy assume a gradual attempt is made to wean the addict off the substance of abuse. Proponents claim that harm reduction isn’t about “giving up” on the addict but is actually a temporary stepping stone towards the ultimate goal of recovery.

But the reality is different.

Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, who established Ottawa’s managed alcohol program, offers a more sober portrayal of the goals of harm reduction. In a Fifth Estate documentary, he compares his program for those with chronic and severe addictions to palliative care. He agrees his facility is a place for alcoholics to “die with dignity” as opposed to dying on the streets. One resident featured in the episode had been using the program’s services for four years; he was only 24 when he first entered the managed alcohol program.

No doubt, the medical community is frustrated by the high failure rates associated with abstinence-based treatment programs but the criteria for determining when an addict now warrants a harm-reduction approach is unclear. Addiction does not follow a linear natural history akin to metastatic cancer; rather, there exists a variable trajectory and the possibility for recovery is always there.

However, Turnbull’s admission points to an uncomfortable belief underlying the harm-reduction philosophy — the view that some addicts are without hope of ever leading a full, productive life free of drug use.

It may be true that, for some, the best we can do is safe, controlled sedation. But the medical community and society should not be so quick to condemn many others to the compromised mental prison that is the life of the addict.

Proponents argue that harm reduction and abstinence are not mutually exclusive, and some even suggest that harm-reduction institutions actually improve recovery rates. But this is a fiction and is without evidence.

Harm-reduction researchers have conveniently neglected to investigate any potentially negative findings of their policies. Their studies focus exclusively on the obvious benefits such as decreased overdose deaths, cost savings, and so-called “treatment retention.” That addicts will remain “in treatment” longer when freely administered their drug of choice is not surprising, but that this is in their best interests is highly questionable.

Politicians insist supervised injection sites and managed substance programs are effective “evidence-based” interventions, but these assertions are problematic when the evidence only tells half the story.

Canada is quickly moving towards an addiction defeatist infrastructure. Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Victoria are all following Vancouver’s lead in constructing further supervised injection sites. Widespread creation of managed substance programs is the next logical step of the harm-reduction approach. Unless vigilance is exercised, we risk relegating addicts to a half-conscious state whereby life is maintained but not really lived.

It is both tragic and ironic that the activist responsible for implementing widespread harm reduction policies in Toronto, Raffi Balian, recently died from an accidental overdose while attending a harm-reduction conference in Vancouver. His death highlights the inadequacy of half measures when dealing with the insidious and powerful disease that is addiction.

Jeremy Devine is a medical student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine and a CREMS research scholar in the medical humanities and social sciences

Source: http://www.nationalpost.com/m/search/blog.     2nd March 2017

A GP behind a ground-breaking, multi-award winning alcohol treatment service has said he almost feels like quitting after the scheme was decommissioned in an NHS cost-cutting drive, warning the decision suggests there is ‘no point innovating’.

NHS commissioners in Cambridgeshire have said they will no longer fund the innovative Gainsborough Foundation alcohol treatment service despite claims it reduces hospital admissions and saves the health service six-figure sums each year.

The service, which covers 26 GP practices in Huntingdon and treats 200 new patients a year, will close in April after the local CCG withdrew funding.

A letter from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said that it could no longer afford to support the community recovery and detox service because it is not a statutory requirement. The CCG has previously acknowledged that the Gainsborough service had reduced emergency hospital admissions and reduced NHS costs.

GP alcohol service

Dr Arun Aggarwal, the GP who founded the service at his practice with a recovered alcoholic in 2000, said that while neighbouring areas had seen alcohol-related admissions grow by 6% a year, admissions in Huntingdon were falling. The £200,000-a-year programme was saving £670,000 on hospital billed activity every year, he told GPonline. In just three months of 2015, CCG documents show, the service saved almost £100,000 on emergency admissions alone.

But in a letter to Dr Aggarwal, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG chief officer Tracy Dowling said there was no evidence the alcohol service had reduced admissions.  The CCG continued to support the service after responsibility for alcohol treatment passed to local authorities under the 2013 NHS shakeup. Now commissioning bosses, who reported an £11.5m deficit last year and are planning cuts of £44m, have said they will no longer support the service.

From April practices will have to refer patients with alcohol dependency to the existing local authority-commissioned service. But Dr Aggarwal said his programme is more successful.

Detox treatment The Gainsborough Foundation, which was awarded the 2014 GP Enterprise Award, as well as a BMJ and an east of England innovation award, uses non clinically qualified recovered alcoholics to provide recovery and detox treatment in patients’ homes. The service has, said Dr Aggarwal, a 60% success rate breathalysed dry at two months, while patients are seen much quicker than in traditional services.  A survey of local GPs showed 73% believe the Gainsborough service is ‘invaluable’ while 83% rate is as more effective than the local authority service.

‘There have been no arguments about its efficacy or safety or outcomes,’ said Dr Aggarwal. ‘They have all been ignored.’

The GP said the CCG’s decision was short-sighted and would do little to help resolve the local NHS’s finance problems which were the consequence of unfair funding.

‘I think they have had management teams coming in saying the only way to solve your funding formula problem is to cut everything you are not statutorily responsible for’, he said.

GP innovation

Dr Aggarwal said the decision was ‘totally demotivating for GPs trying to be innovative’.

‘The combination of … this cut in the alcohol service and other hassles …  is almost enough to make me hand in the keys,’ he said. ‘In this current era there is no point innovating.’

In a statement on its website Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG chief officer Tracy Dowling said: ‘The CCG has taken the decision to serve notice on the alcohol support service provided by the Gainsborough Foundation for patients in the Huntingdon area.

‘Although the CCG has previously funded alcohol support services from Gainsborough Foundation Trust in the Huntingdon locality, the funding and Responsible Commissioner duties for Drug and Alcohol Services transferred to Cambridgeshire County Council Public Health commissioners in 2013. Inclusion is the organisation commissioned by CCC to provide these services across all of Cambridgeshire.

‘The CCG receives a fixed budget to buy and provide health services for the entire local population. Like all CCGs up and down the country, there is greater demand on our budget than we have the budget to spend. We need to look at all our services, and can only commission those we have the funding and responsibility for.

‘Our priority is to ensure that patients can continue access to support services when they need and will work with our partners and service users to ensure this happens.’

Source:  http://www.gponline.com/gps-award-winning-alcohol-service-scrapped-despite-saving-nhs-500000-year/article/1424309   Feb.2017

I totally agree that we all need to let Attorney General Jeff Sessions know that the majority of Americans suffer because of marijuana …. whether they choose to use it or not.  It is a factor in crime, physical and mental health, academic failure, lost productivity, et al.  American cannot be great again if we continue to allow poison to be grown and distributed to the masses.

The President has taken a position that “medical marijuana” should be a State’s right, because he is not yet enlightened on the reality of what that means.  If asked to define “medical marijuana” that has helped his friends, I doubt that he would say gummy bears, Heavenly brownies and other edibles with 60 to 80% potency, sold in quantities that are potentially lethal; smoked pot at 25% THC content; or waxes and oils used for dabbing and vaping that are as high as 98% potency that cause psychotic breaks, mental illness, suicides, traffic deaths and more.

Further, if states are to have a right to offer “medical marijuana”, it has to be done under tightly controlled conditions and the profit motive eliminated.  Privately owned cultivation and dispensaries must be banned … including one’s ability to grow 6 plants at home.  6 plants grown hydroponically with 4 harvests a year could generate 24 lbs of pot, the equivalent of about 24,000 joints. That obviously would not be for personal use.  We would just have thousands of new drug dealers, with more crime, more child endangerment, more BHO labs blowing up, more traffic deaths, et al.

Source:   Letter from Roger Morgan to DrugWatch International  Feb. 2017

UC Davis researcher Dr. George Thompson advises cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems to avoid vaping or smoking marijuana.

In uneasy news for medical marijuana users, UC Davis researchers have identified potentially lethal bacteria and mold on samples from 20 Northern California pot growers and dispensaries, leading the doctors to warn patients with weakened immune systems to avoid smoking, vaping or inhaling aerosolized cannabis.

“For the vast majority of cannabis users, this is not of great concern,” said Dr. George Thompson, professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. But those with weakened immune systems – such as from leukemia, lymphoma, AIDS or cancer treatments – could unwittingly be exposing themselves to serious lung infections when they smoke or vape medical marijuana.

“We strongly advise them to avoid it,” Thompson said.

The study’s findings were published online in a research letter in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.  It comes as California and a majority of states have eased laws on medical and recreational marijuana use, and a majority of U.S. doctors support the use of medical marijuana to relieve patients’ symptoms, such as pain, nausea and loss of appetite during chemotherapy and other treatments.

Typically, patients with lower-functioning immune systems are advised to avoid unwashed fruits or vegetables and cut flowers because they may harbor potentially harmful bacteria and mold, or fungi. Marijuana belongs in that same risk category, according to Thompson.

“Cannabis is not on that list and it’s a big oversight, in our opinion,” Thompson said. “It’s basically dead vegetative material and always covered in fungi.”

The study began several years ago after Dr. Joseph Tuscano, a UC Davis blood cancer specialist, began seeing leukemia patients who were developing rare, very severe lung infections. One patient died.

Suspecting there might be a link between the infections and his patients’ use of medical marijuana, Tuscano teamed with Thompson to study whether soil-borne pathogens might be hiding in medical marijuana samples.

The marijuana was gathered from 20 Northern California growers and dispensaries by Steep Hill Labs, a cannabis testing company in Berkeley. It was distilled into DNA samples and sent to UC Davis for analysis, which found multiple kinds of bacteria and fungi, some of which are linked to serious lung infections.

There was a “surprisingly” large number of bacteria and mold, said Donald Land, a UC Davis chemistry professor who is chief scientific consultant for Steep Hill Labs. The analysis found numerous types of bacteria and fungi, including organic pathogens that can lead to a particularly deadly infection known as Mucor.

“There’s a misconception by people who think that because it’s from a dispensary, then it must be safe. That’s not the case,” said UC Davis’ Tuscano. “This is potentially a direct

inoculation into the lungs of these contaminated organisms, especially if you use a bong or vaporization technique.”

Patients with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to infections, usually acquired in their environment or in the hospital. But given the testing results, Tuscano said, it’s possible that even some of the more common infections, such as aspergillus, could also be attributed to contaminated medical marijuana.   Tuscano emphasized that until more research is done, he can’t be 100 percent assured that contaminated cannabis caused the infections, but “it’s highly suspicious.” Under California’s Proposition 64, the voter-approved initiative that eased restrictions on personal marijuana use, the state is expected to have cannabis testing regulations in place for medical marijuana by Jan. 1.

“Patient safety is one of our chief concerns in this process,” said Alex Traverso, spokesman for the state Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, in an email. He said the state’s new medical-marijuana testing standards will soon be available for public review. “We welcome everyone’s input to ensure that testing standards are as strong as we need them to be.”

Until then, consumers are largely on their own.  The vast majority of cannabis sold in California is not tested, according to Land.

“You can’t tell what’s in (a marijuana product) by looking at it, smelling it, feeling it, or a person in a dispensary telling you it’s safe or clean,” he said. “The only way to ensure you have a safe, clean product is to test it and be sure it’s handled according to good manufacturing practices.”

Some medical marijuana clinics already do voluntary testing of their products. Kimberly Cargile, director of A Therapeutic Alternative, a medical marijuana clinic in Sacramento, said a sample from every incoming pound of pot is sent to a local, independent testing lab.

“It’s for consumer protection. It’s a healthy first step,” Cargile said.

To avoid the risk of exposure to severe lung infections, Thompson and Tuscano advise cancer patients and others with hampered immune systems to avoid smoking, vaping or inhaling aerosolized cannabis altogether. Cannabis edibles, such as baked cookies or brownies, could be a safer alternative.  Theoretically, Thompson said, the consumption of cooked edibles seems safer than smoking or vaping, but it’s not scientifically proven.

“I give that advice with a caveat: We don’t know it’s safer; we think it probably is,” he said.

For patients heeding the UC Davis advice to avoid smoking or vaping medical marijuana, “it’s always better to err on the side of caution,” said medical marijuana advocate Cargile. There are plenty of alternatives, she noted, including cannabis salves, lotions, sprays, tinctures and suppositories.

Source:  http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article131391629.html Feb.2017

A medical marijuana patient in Lower Sackville, N.S., said he’s worried after the marijuana he consumed for nearly a year was recalled by Health Canada because it was grown with two pesticides that, if heated, can emit hydrogen cyanide.

John Percy, 67, smokes, vapes and bakes his cannabis to control pain in his hip caused by osteoarthritis. The former Green Party leader had been ordering his medical marijuana from OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., the only licensed producer in Atlantic Canada.

He said his pain was an “eight out of 10.”

“I was shocked,” said Percy, when he first learned of the voluntary recall in late December. The letter said the marijuana he consumed “tested positive for bifenazate and/or myclobutanil, both unapproved pesticides and not registered for use on marijuana.”

“I assumed like most patients that the product would be organic,” he said.

According to Health Canada hydrogen cyanide interferes with how oxygen is used in the body and may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Larger concentrations may cause gasping, irregular heartbeats, seizures, fainting, and even death.

‘I got angry’

He said he was willing to take a wait-and-see approach. But less than two weeks later, there was another, higher-level recall notice from OrganiGram saying all products manufactured since February had been recalled.

“That’s when I got angry and I started to consider what the effects on me have been,” said Percy, who also sits on the board of Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana.

He said he plans to talk to his doctor about whether the recalled medical marijuana he’d been consuming, about three grams a day, has adversely affected his health.

‘Patient safety at risk’

Percy said he’s upset that Health Canada did not issue a mandatory recall. Health Canada said no cases of adverse reactions have been reported.

“Putting patient safety at risk is unacceptable, and for a government department that is supposed to take care of people’s safety, I think they’ve fallen down on the job,” said Percy.

He said he’s written to the health minister and to members of Parliament. He believes Health Canada should test marijuana for more than 13 compounds to ensure it’s safe for consumption.

Percy said he and other licensed medical marijuana patients have discussed starting a class-action lawsuit.

Without a licensed producer, he’s going to an illegal dispensary — and paying 30 per cent more for his medication. There’s no compassionate pricing at the illegal spot, so his monthly marijuana budget has shot up to about $850 from $600. “It hurts, it hurts,” he said.

He said getting a prescription filled for another one of the 30-plus licensed producers in Canada would take months, but didn’t want to wait in pain.

Source:  https://ca.news.yahoo.com/medical-marijuana-user-shocked-recall-120500202.html

FRAMINHAM, Mass. – A Framingham middle school student was hospitalized Monday after he and another student ate a marijuana edible on the school bus, according to a letter released by Fuller Middle School.   School officials are trying to find out who brought the edibles on the bus and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Stacy Velasquez says her 12-year-old son was riding the bus to school Monday morning when he found a container of gummy bears that got him very sick.   He called her crying.

“He said, ‘I ate something.’ I said, ‘what did you eat?’ He said candy. Where did you get it? He said he found it on the bus,” Velasquez explained.   When she arrived at Fuller Middle School, she says he was in a trance-like state, barely able to speak. She rushed him to the emergency room, snapping a video of his behavior.

“Once the tox screen came back, they said they’d never seen this before in a child so small, like an overdose so to speak of marijuana, but basically it would run its course and he would sleep it off.  And that’s what he did last night,” said Velasquez.

The district superintendent says they have no comment in regards to what happened, just that the police are now investigating.   Though marijuana is now legal in the state of Massachusetts, it’s not legal for anyone under the age of 21 to handle or ingest the drug.

“I would just like someone to make sure the school is doing their part and the bus drivers are doing their part to make sure the children get to and from school safely and that something like this doesn’t happen to someone else’s child,” Velasquez said. “I think the teenager involved [should be charged], because right now, it’s expected to be one of the high schoolers.”

Velasquez said her son is doing fine, he’s just embarrassed about what happened.   As for possible charges, police are looking through video taken on the bus to see who the edibles link back to.

Source:  http://www.fox25boston.com/news/framingham-middle-schooler-hospitalized-after-eating-marijuana-edible-on-school-bus/483211673?utm_source=January 11th 2017

This Report reviews what we know about substance use and health and how we can use that knowledge to address substance misuse and related health consequences.

First, a general Introduction and Overview of the Report (PDF | 1.5 MB) describes the extent of the substance use problem in the United States. Then it lays a foundation for readers by explaining what happens in the brain of a person with an addiction to these substances.

Chapter 2 – The Neurobiology of Substance Use, Misuse, and Addiction (PDF | 6.0 MB) describes the three main circuits in the brain involved in addiction, and how substance use can “hijack” the normal function of these circuits. Understanding this transformation in the brain is critical to understanding why addiction is a health condition, not a moral failing or character flaw.  Few would disagree with the notion that preventing substance use disorders from developing in the first place is ideal. Prevention programs and policies are available that have been proven to do just that.

Chapter 3 – Prevention Programs and Policies (PDF | 1.5 MB) describes a range of programs focused on preventing substance misuse including universal prevention programs that target the whole community as well as programs that are tailored to high-risk populations. It also describes population-level policies that are effective for reducing underage drinking, drinking and driving, spread of infectious disease, and other consequences of alcohol and drug misuse.

If a person does develop a substance use disorder, treatment is critical. Substance use disorders share some important characteristics with other chronic illnesses, like diabetes. Both are chronic conditions that can be effectively managed with medications and other treatments that focus on behavior and lifestyle.

Chapter 4 – Early Intervention, Treatment, and Management of Substance Use Disorders (PDF | 629 KB) describes the clinical activities that are used to identify people who have a substance use disorder and engage them in treatment. It also describes the range of medications and behavioral treatments that can help people successfully address their substance use disorder.

As with other chronic conditions, people with substance use disorders need support through the long and often difficult process of returning to a healthy and productive life.

Chapter 5 – Recovery: The Many Paths to Wellness (PDF | 335 KB) describes the growing array of services and systems that provide this essential function and the many pathways that make recovery possible.  Responsive and coordinated systems are needed to provide prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Traditionally, general health care and substance use disorder treatment have been provided through distinct and separate systems, but that is now changing.

Chapter 6 – Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders (PDF | 1.3 MB) explains why integrating general health care and substance use services can result in better outcomes and describes policies and activities underway to achieve that goal.

The final chapter, Chapter 7 – Vision for the Future: A Public Health Approach (PDF | 255 KB), provides concrete recommendations on how to reduce substance misuse and related harms in communities across the United States.

Source:  https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/executive-summary/report

As well as targeting children with ‘marijuana edibles’ children’s books are now being used as ‘a tool in (his) campaign for legalisation’.  Cannabis is addictive and the younger a person is when they begin to use the more likely they are to have problems later.

The author of ‘Hairy Pothead’ and ‘Green Buds and Hash’ explains why children’s books are the perfect way to make weed approachable.

When marijuana activist Dana Larsen first started writing his pot-themed fan fiction, he just thought it would be fun for other cannabis users to read. But after years of selling thousands of copies of his parody children’s stories like Green Buds and Hash and Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone, Larsen realized they could be more: a tool in his campaign for legalization.

In Canada, where Larsen lives, a nationwide legalization policy probably isn’t far off. Possessing and selling weed is still illegal across the country, but this spring, the Canadian government will propose new laws that could make it the first major country to legalize marijuana across the board. Marijuana activists hope that this shift in regulation up north will trickle down to the United States—and eventually the rest of the world—in a major victory against the war on drugs.

That’s where Larsen believes his books come in. And he’s not the only one: An emerging collection of books—from It’s Just a Plant to If a Peacock Finds a Pot Leaf—are looking to make marijuana part of children’s literature. We talked to Larsen about how he believes his children’s book parodies can open up new dialogues about cannabis and can help usher in a new era of legalized, normalized weed.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VICE: So how did this all start?

Dana Larsen: Well, I wrote the Hairy Pothead book quite a few years ago. It came out in 2008, and it’s been re-published a couple of times since then. I read the Harry Potter books to my daughter and thought they were quite good. When I was reading them, I could just see this whole parallel world of it all being cannabis related. I just wrote it all down, and people liked it. I’ve got a sequel to that coming out, but it’s taking a bit. I’m hoping to put out  Hairy Pothead and the 420 Code next year sometime. I wrote the Green Buds and Hash poem quite a few years ago, and I just posted it online. It picked up a lot of traction, and I thought, Well, this should be a book.

Are these books meant to be for children?

I didn’t really write them for kids. I write them because they amuse me, and I enjoy them. What actually struck me—especially with the Green Buds and Hash book—is how many parents do read it to their kids, and often it’s because either the parent or the child is a medical-marijuana user. It’s a way for them to have this dialogue in a non-judgmental way with their kid. There are plenty of children who I know that who have epilepsy and use cannabis medicinally or their parents do, and I’ve had some kids send me drawings of characters from the book that say, “My daddy’s medicine,” or something. That’s not what I expected when I wrote it. I don’t really write these for kids,

but I don’t see any harm in anybody of any age reading a story or thinking about these ideas. I don’t think that an eight-year-old is going to read this book and start lighting up a joint or whatever.

Are you hoping your market shifts toward more children in the future?

I have had many parents tell me they read my books to their kids, or that they’re buying them for their kids to read. But usually those kids are teenagers or older, and not children. If I had written Green Buds and Hash for children, I wouldn’t have had lines like, “Do you suffer from sclerosis, epilepsy, or neurosis?” I doubt many pre-teens know what those words mean. However, that book does get read to some young children, and it does please me to know that some parents are using my books—and that one especially—as a way of talking to their kids and teaching them about marijuana medicine. Especially when parent or child is a medical cannabis user themselves.

I don’t think reading Hairy Pothead will make someone start smoking pot, any more than reading Harry Potter will make them start practicing witchcraft. Right now, I have four books, and I do see an age progression in them. Green Buds and Hash is the early reader; The Pie Eyed Piper is for elementary school age. Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone is for teens, and the Cannabis in Canada history book is for young adults and up.

If children are reading these books, how does that help normalize weed?

Much of the information that we get about cannabis is government and corporate propaganda against it. Cannabis and cannabis users are regularly demonized and mocked in the mainstream media. Even pro-cannabis media often portray cannabis users as dopey, lazy, and ignorant. In my stories, cannabis users are usually a little smarter than non-users—like they’re part of a secret group that has extra insight and wisdom. My stories portray cannabis as a magical substance with many uses and transformative powers, which I think is a valid assessment. Although the stories are fantastical, the cannabis information is accurate, and the stories can be educational.

The first Hairy Pothead book is 242 pages long—that’s close to the same length as the original. How long did that take you to do?

It took me about a year to write it. The sequel has been taking me a while because it should be about double the length. I’m also working on a new series coming out next year called, The Hash-tastic Voyages of Sinbad the Strain Hunter. He goes around finding giant cannabis plants that are hundreds of feet tall or finding little, tiny microscopic ones or other crazy adventures that sort of parallel all those stories from The Arabian Nights. I’ve got Jack and the Hemp Stalk and Little Green Riding Hood. I’m hoping to put out some of those stories next year as well.

Are you smoking pot every time you sit down to write?

Yeah. I smoke pot all day, every day, pretty much. I’m a very chronic cannabis user and have been for the past 20 years or so. I run dispensaries in Vancouver and do a lot of political activism work, so writing is not really my main focus. Most of my work is more like, I led a big referendum campaign in 2013 to collect signatures to try to force a vote here. We didn’t hit the signature target because it’s brutally hard in British Columbia compared to any American state. I work with the New Democratic Party; I do a lot of political stuff, and I’m a big part of the dispensary movement here in Canada.

What are your goals for legalization, and how do you see it playing out?

I think that legalizing cannabis is going to be the first step in a bigger shift to ending the whole global war on drugs. I think it’s going to take many years for all of this to play out, but to me, the war on drugs is really a war on the world’s best, most medicinal and culturally relevant plants—opium, poppy, coco, mushrooms, peyote, cactus, cannabis flowers, etc. These are things that are safest and most beneficial in their natural forms, and it’s really prohibition that makes them dangerous. My work has been focused on cannabis because although users of other drugs might have it worse in some ways, most of the policing, most of the enforcement, most of the money in the war on drugs goes against cannabis users because there’s more of us. I think that comes out in my fiction a lot, where a lot of my fairy tales end up in a transformative kind of way where everything changes because the metaphor of prohibition in that story is eliminated in some way.

It’s really a testament that Canada [could be] the first major country [to legalize marijuana nationally]. People will look to Canada and see what we do here, and it will definitely have an influence around the world with what other models come out there. Canada will hopefully be an example, and we’ll keep pushing here. Once it starts to happen, it’s going to happen everywhere.

Do you think educational tools like your books will help transform the overall perspective on pot over time?

Yeah. These things can be dangerous and risky, but they can also be wonderful and positive. I think a thing to compare that to, in a way, is sex. You want to be honest with your kids about sex and want them to understand how it works. We have sex-education classes in school. You might tell your children that abstinence is better, and you’d prefer them to be abstinent, but if you’re going to have sex, it’s better in a loving relationship, and it’s better if you use condoms or birth control. I don’t see any dichotomy or contradiction between those things, between encouraging abstinence and also saying, “If you’re going to do it, here’s a way to not kill yourself and to be safer.” With cannabis and drug use, that message can be there, too. You might not want your kid taking anything, but if you’re going to use something, cannabis is a lot safer than other substances.

I hope that my books and stories help normalize cannabis, because cannabis is normal. Especially in the Hairy Pothead book, as Hairy goes through his time at Hempwards School of Herbcraft and Weedery, you learn along with him. You learn a lot about hemp and cannabis and extracts and all the different classes. I sneak in a lot of learning and information in there. If people learn a little bit while they’re laughing and enjoying my stories, that is exactly what I want.

Source:  https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/childrens-books-are-the-new-frontier-in-weed-normalization

Governor says other states should learn from Colorado’s example, noting that state initially failed to regulate edibles strongly enough

States preparing to legalize cannabis for recreational use in 2017 have been warned to impose strong regulations on edible products, in order to help prevent children mistaking the drug for candy. John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado, which pioneered legal cannabis for recreational use in 2014, said other states should learn from his state’s example.

“We didn’t regulate edibles strongly enough at first,” he said this week, at a gathering of the Western Governors’ Association.  Colorado has seen a rise in numbers of children taken to the hospital after eating marijuana products. California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine are the latest states to legalize recreational cannabis, after voters passed ballot measures in the November elections.

Recreational use is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. More than half of the 50 states now allow marijuana for medical use.  Los Angeles could become the weed capital of the world, one industry insider has predicted, estimating that the southern California city already generated close to $1bn in annual medical marijuana sales.

The whole of Colorado had just under $1bn in sales in 2015, on which the industry paid $135m in taxes and fees to the state. Revenues are likely to grow to $1.3bn in 2017, according to the state department of revenue. Hickenlooper, who said he had been fielding calls from governors asking for his advice, California’s Jerry Brown among them, opposed legalizing recreational pot. The drug nonetheless became legal for leisure use in Colorado in January 2014. The state has since been forced to toughen regulations, particularly on edible products, because many emerged that looked exactly like non-cannabis-containing products such as gummy bears, lollipops, brownies, cookies and chocolates. Lawmakers in Colorado passed rules requiring manufacturers to improve child-proofing on packaging and use better labelling,  including stamps on food to say it contains pot.  Recent measures will prohibit animal and fruit-shaped edibles. The state also started a public education campaign aimed at teens and children.  Hickenlooper, speaking in California, said that in a few cases children had died. There are, however, no confirmed statistics or details available for the state.

Hickenlooper spokeswoman Holly Shrewsbury told the Guardian there have been no such deaths of under-18s and the governor was including young adults in his reference to children, without citing exact numbers. A study by the University of Colorado published last July reported that in 2015, 16 children under the age of 10 were admitted to the emergency room of the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, in Aurora, with edible-related complaints.

In the same year, state poison control authorities received 47 calls about children falling sick after taking pot. Around half of those incidents involved edibles. In 2009, there were nine such calls to poison control.  It’s more regulated than plutonium at this stage but I’m in favour of common sense rules backed by science, not fear.  Most children affected became drowsy and recovered after a few hours. A small number became seriously ill and ended up in intensive care.

Julie Dooley, who owns Julie’s Natural Edibles, a Denver company that makes cannabis-infused granola, echoed the governor’s advice that states should regulate better from the start of legalization, rather than bring in laws retroactively.

“It’s important to regulate ahead of time,” she said. “We’ve just gone through our fourth round of regulation since legalization and it’s very expensive having to change the labelling and packaging all the time.   “It’s more regulated than plutonium at this stage, but I’m in favour of common sense rules, backed by science, not fear.”

Dooley said it was incumbent on parents to store cannabis and cannabis products safely away from children, but said the state should do “a lot more” to educate the public.  Hickenlooper said that if he could have had a magic wand in 2013, he would have reversed Colorado’s legalization vote.

“Now if I have that magic wand, I probably wouldn’t,” he said. “I would wait and see if we can make a better system.”  He described America’s wider policy of waging a law enforcement “war on drugs” as “a train wreck”.  “It didn’t work, so it remains to be seen whether the new system is actually going to be better,” he said.

Last week, Colorado announced $2.35m in funding for research grants to look into the effects of cannabis on driving ability and cognitive functioning.  Henny Lasley, executive director of Smart Colorado, an advocacy group that campaigns for better protections from cannabis for youth, said: “Cannabis products should not look like candy, or like anything a child would pick up and eat.”

She called for more research and data at the state level and warned about the strength of highly concentrated pot coming on to the market for recreational use.  “I would like states to limit the potency of the products,” she said.

Source:   https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/18/recreational-marijuana-legalization-states-edibles-candy

Illegal cigarettes and alcohol seized by police have been turned into electricity at a special recycling plant Almost 150,000 cigarettes and tonnes of illegal alcohol seized during raids in Lincolnshire have been turned into electricity.

The substances were taken to a specialist recycling centre where the cigarettes were broken down and the energy fed into the National Grid.

The counterfeit liquid is mixed with foodstuffs and enzymes to create gas. This gas is then burned to produce electricity, which is then also fed into the National Grid

Emma Milligan, principal trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Tackling the sale of counterfeit and illegal cigarettes and alcohol is a priority. Some cigarettes are not self-extinguishing and therefore extremely dangerous.

“Illegal brands, such as Pect and Jin Lings, don’t comply with the UK safety standard of Reduced Ignition Propensity, meaning they don’t go out when not actively being smoked.”

She explained that many bottles of alcohol were seized for non-payment of duty, while others were seized as they were counterfeit or fake and potentially very dangerous. They can contain industrial alcohol which is unfit for human consumption.

Emma said: “The cigarettes and alcohol being destroyed today have been seized in several operations involving Lincolnshire Trading Standards and Lincolnshire Police. Tobacco detection dogs are often involved, supported by the Smoke Free Alliance.

“With such potential dangers to the public, it’s vital that these products are taken off the streets. I’m glad we can put the cigarettes and alcohol to use in a productive way.

“If you do suspect anyone of selling cheap, illegal cigarettes or alcohol, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 to avoid tragic cases in the future.”

Source: at http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/illegal-alcohol-and-cigarettes-seized-by-police-turned-into-electricity/story-30016023-detail/story.html#B9POiDF9gKweB85K.99

Filed under: Nicotine,Social Affairs :

THE level of people being hospitalised after taking cannabis and related ‘legal highs’ has reached a 10-year peak, according to official figures from the Scottish Government.  More than 900 acute stays in general hospitals – as opposed to psychiatric admissions – involved the drug last year.

The Scottish Tories said the data showed cannabis was not the benign drug some claimed.

The latest figures show that in 2015-16 there were 7537 hospital stays in Scotland with a diagnosis of drug misuse, involving 5922 people, some admitted more than once.

Of these stays, 913 or 12 per cent, involved “cannabinoids”, which include synthetic highs such as Spice as well as the plant form of cannabis.   This was the highest percentage involving cannabinoids since 13 per cent in 2005-06.

Cannabinoids were the most common cause of drug stays among children – accounting for 45 per cent of cases involving under-15s.

The health boards with the most stays were NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (306), NHS Lothian (165) and NHS Lanarkshire (106).  Although still sometimes called a legal high, synthetic cannabis was criminalised last May, with its production and sale made punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Hospital admissions associated with cannabis were almost double those linked to cocaine.

Acute stays involving cocaine were at their highest since 2008-09 last year, but involved 553 admissions, or 7 per cent of all general drug-related cases.

The drugs most associated with hospital admissions were opioids, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl.

Last year, opioids were behind 4656 stays, or 62 per cent of the drug-related total.  The number and prevalence of opioid admissions has increased hugely in the last 20 years.  In 1996-97, opioids accounted for just 791 stays, then equal to 34 per cent of drug admissions.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Douglas Ross criticised campaigns to decriminalise cannabis and Police Scotland taking a soft touch approach to its use.  The force said in 2015 it might give people caught with cannabis on-the-spot recorded warnings as an alternative to prosecution.   Mr Ross said: “It’s quite alarming that quite so many people are being hospitalised through using cannabis, a drug many people feel authorities are going soft on.

“Not only is it dangerous in its own right, as these statistics prove, but it’s a gateway drug to even more harmful substances.

“We have a massive fight on our hands in Scotland both with illegal drugs and so-called legal highs.   “Now is not the time to give in and wave the white flag.  “We need to crack down on those circulating drugs of all kinds on our streets, and reinforce the message about just how damaging taking these substances can be.”

Scottish LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was a concern that the figures were rising, but said the Conservatives’ solution was “completely wrong and regressive”.  He said: “If anything these figures show that the LibDems have been right in calling for this dark market to be brought out of the shadows.  “If the Tories had their way then they would drive the market further underground exposing people to more dangerous drugs and endangering more lives leading to more hospitalisations.

“The answer is to educate and regulate not to punish as the Tories want to do.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said drug use continued to fall in the general population.  She said: “We have greatly reduced drug and alcohol waiting times with 94 per cent of people now being seen within three weeks of being referred.

“We have also invested over £630m to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008 and over £150m over five years to improve mental health services in Scotland.”

Source: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15005884.Hospital_stays_linked_to_cannabis_at_10_year_high/   Jan,2017

ABSTRACT

Objective:

To evaluate the association between drug use and parenting styles perceived by Brazilian adolescent children.

Methods:

This cross-sectional study enrolled adolescents aged 14 to 19 years that used the Serviço Nacional de Orientações e Informações sobre a Prevenção do Uso Indevido de Drogas (VIVAVOZ). A total of 232 adolescents participated in the study. Phone interviews were conducted using the Parental Responsiveness and Demandingness Scale, which classifies maternal and paternal styles perceived by adolescent children as authoritative, neglectful, indulgent or authoritarian. Socio demographic variables were collected and an instrument was used to assess monthly drug use and abuse.

Results:

Maternal and paternal parenting styles perceived as neglectful, indulgent or authoritarian (non-authoritative) were significantly associated with drug use (odds ratio [OR] = 2.8; 95% confidence interval [95%CI], 1.3-5.7 for mothers and OR = 2.8; 95%CI, 1.3-6.3 for fathers). Non-authoritative styles also had a significant association with tobacco use in the previous month in the analysis of maternal (OR = 2.7; 95%CI, 1.2-6.5) and paternal (OR = 3.9; 95%CI, 1.4-10.7) styles, and use of cocaine/crack in the previous month (OR = 3.9; 95%CI, 1.1-13.8) and abuse of any drug (OR = 2.2; 95%CI, 1.0-5.1) only for the paternal style. Logistic regression revealed that maternal style (OR = 3.3; 95%CI, 1.1-9.8), adolescent sex (OR = 3.2; 95%CI, 1.5-7.2) and age (OR = 2.8; 95%CI, 1.2-6.2) were associated with drug use.

Conclusions:

Adolescents that perceived their mothers as non-authoritative had greater chances of using drugs. There was a strong association between non-authoritative paternal styles and adolescent drug abuse. PMID:  21556486   DOI:   doi:10.2223/JPED.2089

Source:  J Pediatr (Rio J). 2011 May-Jun 8;87(3):238-44.doi:10.2223/JPED.2089. Epub 2011.

Filed under: Parents,Social Affairs :

Chandigarh: In a first of its kind strike in Punjab, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Tuesday raided a wholesaler of ayurvedic drugs in Amritsar and recovered over 1,600 tablets of a drug called ‘Kamini’ containing afeem (laudanum), the purest form of opium. In the run-up to the elections, the Election Commission is keeping a close watch on drug abuse in the state.  Apart from Kamini Vidrawan Ras, which is sold at chemist shops as a herbal formulation, 44 small packs of Barshasha, a Unani preparation that contains pure opium, were also recovered from S A Medicine Center at Galia Road in Amritsar. Though the quantity of the drug recovered is not high, NCB zonal director Kaustubh Sharma confirmed that this was first such bust aimed at curtailing the misuse of ayurvedic drugs in Punjab.

“We had written to the ayurvedic department of the state government stating that some chemists were selling these drugs without maintaining proper records. Acting on a specific input we raided the wholesaler and found that he did not even have authorization to stock the medicine,” Sharma said.

Till late evening on Tuesday, officials were checking the records to find out how much drug the wholesaler was selling on a daily basis. An ayurvedic practitioner can prescribe the medicine and the chemist has to get a ‘Form C’ filled before selling the drug and maintain a record of the same. Though, the sale of these medicines is regulated by the ayurveda department of the state government but the chemists have to take authorization from the state drug controller (SDC) office as well.  After TOI reported unmonitored production of opioid-based painkiller tramadol, which is not covered under the NDPS Act, this is second major incident of medicine meant of other purposes being abuse by addicts.

In June 2015, TOI had first reported misuse of these ayurvedic formulations by drug addicts in Punjab, citing a study by PGI, Chandigarh. There had, however, been no major action taken by the authorities since.

Source:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/ayurvedic-chemist-selling-afeem-meds-raided-in-pb/articleshow/56331364.cms

Two thirds of drug-misuse patients in the health service in Northern Ireland last year had taken cannabis, new figures show.

From a total of a total of 2,229 people presenting to health services here with problem drug misuse, almost 66% were cannabis users.

The figures are contained in the Department of Health’s Northern Ireland drug misuse database.   Cannabis was by far the most commonly-used substance amongst problem drug-misuse patients here, according to the database.

Benzodiazepines, a class of drug with a host of medical uses that is commonly prescribed to patients suffering from anxiety, was the next most commonly used drug with just over 37% reporting having taken benzodiazepines.

The next on the list is cocaine with more than a third of those in the database (almost 35%) having taken it.  That represents a significant increase in the number of people who said they took cocaine. Last year it was 25%.

The use of ecstasy dropped substantially, from 26% last year to 10% this year, while heroin use has also fallen, from 13% to 10%.

One-in-20 said they had injected themselves with drugs.

The database also shows that most (60%) of those presenting for treatment took more than one drug. A fifth (23%) took two drugs, while another fifth (19%) said they took at least four different drugs.

Almost half (46%) said they took stimulants; this type of drug includes cocaine and amphetamines.  Just over a quarter (26%) said they used at least one opioid analgesic drug – a class of drugs used in medicine to relieve pain, that also includes the illegal drug heroin.  A fifth (20%) of all those who said they used these type of drugs also said it was their “main drug”.   The figures also showed a clear gender divide with males making up 79% of patients.

The Department of Health say they hold “information relating to 2,340 individuals that presented to drug misuse treatment services in 2015/16”.  The figures quoted in this article are based on 2,229 of those individuals who agreed to be included in the database.

Tobacco and alcohol misuse is excluded.

Source:  http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/crime/two-thirds-of-mental-health-drug-patients-used-cannabis-   23rd December 2016

Fentanyl is a painkiller that is 50 times stronger than heroin. It has already killed thousands, including Prince. Chris McGreal reveals why so many are playing Russian roulette with this lethal drug Natasha Butler had never heard of fentanyl until a doctor told her that a single pill had pushed her eldest son to the brink of death – and he wasn’t coming back. “The doctor said fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. I know morphine is really, really powerful. I’m trying to understand. All that in one pill? How did Jerome get that pill?” she asked, her voice dropping to a whisper as the tears came. “Jerome was on a respirator and he was pretty much unresponsive. The doctor told me all his organs had shut down. His brain was swelling, putting pressure on to the spine. They said if he makes it he’ll be a vegetable.”

Painkiller addiction claims more lives in the US than guns, cutting across class, race and region

The last picture of Jerome shows him propped immobile in a hospital bed, eyes closed, sustained only by a clutch of tubes and wires. Natasha took the near impossible decision to let him die.  “I had to remove him from life support. That’s the hardest thing to ever do. I had him at 15 so we grew together. He was 28 when he died,” she said. “I had to let him die but after that I needed some answers. What is fentanyl and how did he get it?” That was a question asked across Sacramento after Jerome and 52 other people in and around California’s capital overdosed on the extremely powerful synthetic opioid, usually only used by hospitals to treat patients in the later stages of cancer, over a few days in late March and early April 2016. Twelve died.

Less than a month later, this mysterious drug – largely unheard of by most Americans – killed the musician Prince and burst on to the national consciousness. Fentanyl, it turned out, was the latest and most disturbing twist in the epidemic of opioid addiction that has crept across the United States over the past two decades, claiming close to 200,000 lives. But Prince, like almost all fentanyl’s victims, probably never even knew he was taking the drug.

“The number of people overdosing is staggering,” said Lieutenant Tracy Morris, commander of special investigations who manages the narcotics task force in Orange County, which has seen a flood of the drug across the Mexican border. “It is truly scary. They don’t even know what they’re taking.” The epidemic of addiction to prescription opioid painkillers, a largely American crisis, sprung from the power of big pharmaceutical companies to influence medical policy. Two decades ago, a small family-owned drug manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, unleashed the most powerful prescription painkiller yet sold over the pharmacist’s counter. Even though it was several times stronger than anything else on the market, and bore a close relation to heroin, Purdue claimed that OxyContin was not addictive and was safe to treat even relatively minor pain. That turned out not to be true.

It spawned an epidemic that in the US claims more lives than guns, cutting across class, race and geographic lines as it ravages communities from white rural Appalachia and Mormon Utah to black and Latino neighbourhoods of southern California. The prescription of OxyContin and other painkillers with the same active drug, oxycodone, became so widespread that entire families were hooked. Labourers who wrenched a back at work, teenagers with a sports injury, just about anyone who said they were in pain

was put on oxycodone. The famous names who ended up as addicts show how indiscriminate the drug’s reach was; everyone from politician John McCain’s wife Cindy to Eminem became addicted.

Clinics staffed by unscrupulous doctors, known as “pill mills”, sprung up churning out prescriptions for cash payments. They made millions of dollars a year. By the time the epidemic finally started to get public and political attention, more than two million Americans were addicted to opioid painkillers. Those who finally managed to shake off the drug often did so only at the cost of jobs, relationships and homes.

After the government finally began to curb painkiller prescriptions, making it more difficult for addicts to find the pills and forcing up black market prices, Mexican drug cartels stepped in to flood the US with the real thing – heroin – in quantities not seen since the 1970s. But, as profitable as the resurgence of heroin is to the cartels, it is labour intensive and time-consuming to grow and harvest poppies. Then there are the risks of smuggling bulky quantities of the drug into the US.

The ingredients for fentanyl, on the other hand, are openly available in China and easily imported ready for manufacture. The drug was originally concocted in Belgium in 1960, developed as an anaesthetic. It is so much more powerful than heroin that only small quantities are needed to reach the same high. That has meant easy profits for the cartels. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has said that 1kg of heroin earns a return of around $50,000. A kilo of fentanyl brings in $1m.

At first the cartels laced the fentanyl into heroin to increase the potency of low-quality supplies. But prescription opioid painkillers command a premium because they are trusted and have become increasingly difficult to find on the black market. So cartels moved into pressing counterfeit tablets.  But making pills with a drug like fentanyl is a fairly exact science. A few grammes too much can kill. “It’s very lethal in very small doses,” said Morris. “Even as little as 0.25mg can be fatal. One of our labs had a dime next to 0.25mg and you could barely see it. It’s about the size of the head of a pin. Potentially that could kill you.”

The authorities liken buying black market pills to playing Russian roulette. “These pills sold on the street, nobody knows what’s in them and nobody knows how strong they are,” said Barbara Carreno of the DEA.

After Prince died, investigators found pills labelled as prescription hydrocodone, but made of fentanyl, in his home, suggesting he bought them on the black market. The police concluded he died from a fatal mix of the opioid and benzodiazepine pills, a particularly dangerous combination. It is likely Prince did not even know he was taking fentanyl.  Others knowingly take the risk. In his long battle with addiction, Michael Jackson, used a prescription patch releasing fentanyl into his skin among the arsenal of drugs he was fed by compliant doctors. Although it was two non-opioids that killed him, adding fentanyl into the mix was hazardous.

Jerome Butler, a former driver for Budweiser beer who was training to be a security guard, thought he was taking a prescription pill called Norco. His mother’s voice breaks as she recounts what she knows of her son’s last hours. Natasha said she was aware he used cannabis, but had no idea he was hooked on opioid painkillers. She said her son at one time had a legitimate prescription and may have become addicted that way. She has since discovered he was paying a doctor, well known for freely prescribing opioids, to provide pills.  “I didn’t even know,” she said. “You find stuff out after. It’s killing me because they’re saying, ‘Well, yeah, Jerome was taking them pills all the time.’ And I’m like, ‘He was doing what?’”

Jerome may have had a prescription, but like many addicts he will have needed more and more. The pill that killed him was stamped M367, a marking used on Norco pills made of an opioid, hydrocodone. It was a fake with a high dosage of fentanyl.   This is fentanyl. The first time you take it you’re not coming back. You’re gone

“If Jerome had known it was fentanyl he would never have took that,” said Natasha. “This ain’t like crack or a recreational drug that people been doing for so many years and survived it but at 60 or 70 die from a drug overdose because their heart can’t take it no more. This is fentanyl. The first time you take it you’re not coming back. You’re gone.”

That wasn’t strictly true of the batch that hit Sacramento. It claimed 11 other lives. The youngest victim was 18-year-old George Berry from El Dorado Hills, a mostly white upscale neighbourhood. The eldest was 59. But others survived. Some were saved by quick reactions; doctors were able to hit them with an antidote before lasting damage was done. Others swallowed only enough fentanyl to leave them seriously ill but short of death.

It was a matter of luck. When investigators sent counterfeit pills seized after the Sacramento poisonings for testing at the University of California, they found a wide disparity in the amount of fentanyl each contained. Some pills had as little as 0.6mg. Others were stuffed with 6.9mg of the drug, which would almost certainly be fatal. The DEA thinks the difference was probably the result of failing to mix the ingredients properly with other powders, which resulted in the fentanyl being distributed unevenly within a single batch of counterfeit pills.

That probably explains the unpredictable mass overdosing popping up in cities across the US. In August, 174 people overdosed on heroin in six days in Cincinnati, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the Midwest. Investigators suspect fentanyl because the victims needed several doses of an antidote, Naloxone, where one or two will usually suffice with heroin. The same month, 26 people overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin in a four-hour period in Huntington, a mostly white city in one of the poorest areas of West Virginia. In September seven people died from fentanyl or heroin overdoses in a single day in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The US authorities don’t know for sure how many people fentanyl kills because of the frequency with which it is mixed with heroin, which is then registered as the cause of death. The DEA reported 700 fatalities from fentanyl in 2014 but said it is an underestimate, and rising. In 2012, the agency’s laboratory carried out 644 tests confirming the presence of fentanyl in drug seizures. By 2015, the number of positive tests escalated to 13,002.

The police did not have to look far for the source of the drug that killed Jerome. He and his girlfriend were staying at the house of her aunt, Mildred Dossman, while they waited for their own place to live. Jerome was smoking cannabis and drinking beer with Dossman’s son, William. Shortly before 1am, William went to his mother’s bedroom and came back with the fake Norco pill. Jerome took it and said he was going to bed.  Jerome’s girlfriend was in jail after being arrested for an unpaid traffic fine and so he was alone with their 18 month-old daughter, Success, lying next to him.

“The doctors explained to me that within a matter of minutes he went into cardiac arrest,” said his mother. “Then as he lay there that’s when time progressed for the organs to be poisoned by fentanyl. He was dying with his daughter next to him.” Natasha said other people in the house heard her son in distress, complaining his heart was hurting. But they did nothing because they were afraid that calling an ambulance would also bring the police.

It was not until 10 hours later that the Dossmans finally sought help from a neighbour who knew Jerome. He tried CPR and then called the medics. The police came, too, and in time Mildred Dossman, 50, was charged with distributing fentanyl and black market opioid painkillers. She was the local dealer.

The DEA is tightlipped about the investigation into the Sacramento deaths as its agents work on persuading Dossman to lead them to her suppliers. But it is likely she was getting the pills from Mexican cartels using ingredients from labs in China where production of fentanyl’s ingredients is legal.  Carreno said some Mexican cartels have long relationships with legitimate Chinese firms which for years supplied precursor chemicals to make meth amphetamine.

Packages of fentanyl are often moved between multiple freight handlers so their origins are hard to trace. Larger shipments are smuggled in shipping containers. Last year, six Chinese customs officials fell ill, one of them into a coma, after seizing 72kg of various types of fentanyl from a container destined for Mexico. American police officers have faced similar dangers. In June, the DEA put out a video warning law enforcement officers across the US that fentanyl was different to anything they have previously encountered and they should refrain from carting seizures back to the office.   “A very small amount ingested, or absorbed through the skin, can kill you,” it said.   A New Jersey detective appears in the video after accidentally inhaling “just a little bit of fentanyl puffed into the air” during an arrest: “It felt like my body was shutting down… I thought that was it. I thought I was dying.”

Along with the Mexican connection, a home-grown manufacturing industry has sprung up in the US. Weeks after Jerome died, agents arrested a married couple pressing fentanyl tablets in their San Francisco flat.

Candelaria Vazquez and Kia Zolfaghari made the drug to look like oxycodone pills. They sold them across the country via the darknet using Bitcoin for payment – on one occasion Zolfaghari cashed in $230,000. The couple shipped the drugs through the local post office. Customers traced by the DEA thought they were buying real painkiller pills. The couple ran the pill press in their kitchen. According to a DEA warrant, a dealer said Zolfaghari made large numbers of tablets: “He could press 100 out fast as fuck.”

The pair made so much money that agents searching their flat found luxury watches worth $70,000, more than $44,000 in cash and hundreds of “customer order slips” which included names, amounts and tracking numbers. The flat was stuffed with designer goods. The seizure warrant described Vazquez’s shoe collection as “stacked virtually from floor to ceiling”. Some still had the $1,000 price tags on them. Zolfaghari was arrested carrying a 9mm semi-automatic gun and about 500 pills he was preparing to post. The dealers made so much money that their flat was stuffed with luxury goods and cash.

Even as Americans are getting their heads around fentanyl, it is being eclipsed. In September, the DEA issued a warning about the rise of a fentanyl variant that is 100 times more powerful – carfentanil, a drug used to tranquilise elephants.

“Carfentanil is surfacing in more and more communities,” said the DEA’s acting administrator, Chuck Rosenberg. “We see it on the streets, often disguised as heroin. It is crazy dangerous.”

The drug has already been linked to 19 deaths in Michigan. Investigators say that with its use spreading, it is almost certainly claiming other lives. Dealers are also getting it from China, where carfentanil is not a controlled drug and can be sold to anyone.

Natasha Butler is still trying to understand the drug that killed her son. She wants to know why it is that it took Jerome’s death for her to even hear of it. She accuses the authorities of failing to warn people of the danger, and politicians of shirking their responsibilities.   A bill working its way through California’s legislature stiffening sentences for fentanyl dealing died in the face of opposition from the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, because it would put pressure on the already badly crowded prisons.

“I’m so dumbfounded. How does that happen?” says Natasha. Her tears come frequently as she sits at a tiny black table barely big enough to seat three people. She talks about Jerome and the tragedy for his three children, including Success, who she is now raising.

But some of the tears are to mourn the devastating impact on her own life. “Look where I’m at. I was in Louisiana. I had a house. I had a job. I had a car. I had a life. I worked every day. I was a manager for a major company. I came here, I became homeless. I had to move into this apartment to help out my granddaughter,” she said. “You see me. This is what my kitchen table is. My son is dead. He had three kids and those two mothers of those kids are depending on me to be strong. I want answers and help. I say, you got the little fish. Where did they get it from? How did they get it here? You are my government. You are supposed to protect us.”

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/dec/11/pills-that-kill-why-are-thousands-dying-from-fentanyl-abuse–

States with Lax Marijuana Laws Also Show Higher Marijuana “Edible” Use than Other States

[WASHINGTON, DC] – The nation’s annual school survey of drug use, Monitoring the Future (MTF), shows marijuana use among adolescents, including heavy marijuana use, remaining stubbornly high and higher than ten years ago — despite reductions across the board among other drugs. Past year and past month marijuana use among high school seniors is up versus last year, and marijuana use among almost all categories is higher than ten years ago. And students in states with lax marijuana laws are much more likely to use marijuana in candy or edible form than students in other states.

“Why would marijuana use not be falling like the use of other substances? The answer is likely marijuana commercialization and industrialization, spurred by legalization initiatives,” said Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor and President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “It also might explain why six percent of high school seniors use marijuana daily. Moreover, this study does not include kids who have dropped out of school — and are thus more likely to be using drugs than the study’s sample.”

Additionally, the MTF showed differences between students in states with loose marijuana laws and students in other states. Students in lax policy states were much more likely to use marijuana, and also more likely to use edibles. Among 12th graders reporting marijuana use in the past year, 40.2 percent consumed marijuana in food in states with medical marijuana laws compared to 28.1 percent in states without such laws.

“While drug, cigarette, and alcohol use are falling almost across the board, due to decades of work and millions of taxpayer dollars, kids are turning more and more to marijuana,” said Jeffrey Zinsmeister, SAM’s Executive Vice President. “It’s unsurprising now that the marijuana industry — following in the footsteps of the tobacco industry — is pouring millions into marketing kid-friendly edible products like pot candy to maximize their profits.”

According to statements from the American Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American Psychiatric Association, marijuana use, especially among youth, should be avoided, and legalization efforts opposed.

“Medical research is very clear that marijuana is both addictive and harmful,” noted Dr. Stu Gitlow, immediate past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “One in six adolescents that use marijuana develop an addiction, and use is associated with lower IQ, lower grades, and higher dropout rates in that same population. It is therefore of significant concern that this year’s study may actually underreport marijuana use and downplay its impact.”

Meanwhile, the toll of legalized marijuana continues to climb in Colorado and Washington. For example, the AAA Foundation reported earlier this year that the percentage of fatal crashes in the state of Washington linked to drivers who had recently used marijuana more than doubled the year marijuana retail sales were authorized. Similarly, cases of marijuana poisonings are up 108% in Colorado after legalization, and up 206% among children ages 0 to 8 years old. (More data on these trends is available in SAM’s recent report on legalization in both states.)

Source:  jeff@learnaboutsam.org  Dec. 2016  For more information about marijuana use and its effects, see http://www.learnaboutsam.org.

Examining the data closely and correctly.

By:  By DAVID W. MURRAY, BRIAN BLAKE, JOHN P. WALTERS

The closing reports on the Obama administration’s drug policy were delivered this week. Drug-induced deaths for the year 2015 were reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on December 8, and the youth school survey of drug use for 2016, Monitoring the Future (MTF), was just released by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The findings document Obama’s eight years of unbroken failure.

Simply put, it appears inescapable that the two sets of findings are related, in that the flood of commercial, high-potency marijuana unleashed by legalization in the states has served as a “gateway” to the opioid problem, both by priming greater drug use by those who initiate with heavy, developmentally early marijuana use, and further by empowering the illicit drug market controlled by criminal cartels.

Both data releases were somewhat muddled in the offering, neither of them being presented with public briefings at venues such as the National Press Club, as was common in the past.

Instead, the MTF data were only presented in a teleconference for reporters, while the CDC at the last minute determined that the official data for drug overdoses would not be ready until next year, instead directing researchers and the press to their online data system, WONDER, where searchers could uncover them for themselves.

These data releases are bookends—the youth survey showing us the likely future patterns of drug misuse as the high-school-aged cohort ages through adulthood, while the CDC overdose death data are retrospective, revealing where the worst drug epidemic in American experience was more than a year ago.

Data on deaths for 2016, which by all indications from states and municipalities are accelerating upward even more sharply, have not even been analyzed yet (their release is scheduled for December 2017), and will no doubt surface as a further shock in a succeeding administration.

Because there has yet to be a formal report of 2015 final numbers, the precise CDC figures for overdoses by drug remain troublingly vague. That said, the increases are shocking. There were 52,404 overall drug-induced deaths for 2015. That figure has climbed from about 38,000 (and stable) as recently as 2008. For 2015, fully 33,091 deaths were attributable to the opioids, alone (up from 28,647 in 2014, the toll rising most steeply dating from 2010).

Regarding the recent increase, the head of death statistics at the CDC stated; “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. Certainly not in modern times.”

For the MTF survey, marijuana use rose between 2015 and 2016. High school seniors saw their past month (or current) use rise to a rate of 23 percent, (up from 21 percent in 2015), while past year use rose to 36 percent (up from 35 percent). For the past year category, the rise since 2007 exceeds a 12 percent increase, but most of that rise took place earlier in the Obama years, peaking in 2011-2012 and then stabilizing at the higher level.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the anticipated impact of commercial legalization of marijuana in some states in 2014, with yet other states being added in this last election cycle, the overall impact on youth marijuana use appears modest, especially when compared to the wider data showing steep increases in young adults and those 26 and older, from other national surveys.

There are two immediate cautions in reading these data, however. The first is that many teens are now consuming marijuana in forms other than smoking; that is, as edibles and drinks, which this survey has difficulty detecting. In other words, there may be a hidden dimension of use of what is now a drug of unprecedented potency and availability. The second caveat is the known impact of marijuana use on high-school drop-out rates, pushing them higher. The effect is that the very students most at risk of heavy use are no longer captured in this school-based survey, which might be systematically understating actual prevalence increases because we have lost our ability to capture them.

The real drug use stunner lies elsewhere, largely in the CDC overdose data. The United States is in the grip of a wide and deepening drug use crisis, the most visible alarm being the opioid overdose contribution to the overall drug-induced death data, which by 2015 were sufficient to show up in general health data as driving a decrease in American life-expectancy tables.

Moreover, it is clear that the situation will worsen quickly, for both opioids and for newly resurgent cocaine use, which also registered as an increase in drug overdose deaths, and in recent measures of college-age youth, where use of cocaine, after steep declines, suddenly shot up 63 percent in a single year, 2013-2014, and remained high.

Coupled with the nationwide spread of adult commercial marijuana use and the still surging methamphetamine crisis, the situation is dire across all the major illicit drugs.

The opioid crisis has two dimensions, only one of which has received administration attention. The epidemic has been driven by misuse of prescription opioids, which climbed steadily for several years, and by the emergence of surging illicit drugs, both heroin and new synthetics like fentanyl and its analogs, from illicit rogue labs and smuggled into the United States.

Curiously, even though production increases of heroin and of cocaine have shot up in source countries such as Mexico and Colombia, and as synthetic opioid seizures have rocketed up in border seizures, the administration and the press seem seized by the prescription overdose dimension, which has begun to slow and even abate.

For instance, outlets such as the Washington Post continue to misstate the actual data. In a recent editorial, they insist that “the prescription opioid category accounted for the largest share of deaths, at 17,536.” Accordingly, they urge further policy attention to doctor prescribing practices.

But the latest data show otherwise. According to the CDC WONDER database, there were 19,885 deaths from illicit opioid production, heroin/illicit fentanyl and analogs. And that latter category is the one surging, rising 23 percent for heroin and a stunning 73 percent for synthetics from 2014 to 2015, while strictly prescription deaths rose only 4 percent.

Apparently, the blind spot for the administration (and the press) is that to address the real engine of overdose deaths, they must confront international and cross-border production and smuggling, an understanding of the problem that the Obama administration has abjured, since it requires the forces of law enforcement, national security, and reductions in illicit drug supply.

Two final notes on the 2015 opioid data, which are but harbingers for the hurricane of use and deaths already being seen in the states for 2016.

First, the steep line of ascent for overdose deaths can be closely paralleled by the administration’s mainstay, the insistent distribution and use of naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote medication. Without that reversal drug being deployed, the true death toll would be much worse. But it also means that simply giving out more and more naloxone cannot be a solution to the crisis, as deaths have accelerated away in spite of a reliance on such measures, which prove ineffectual in the long run and faced with new potencies.

The second sobering realization can be found in an analysis we published on the crisis in November, where we noted that for 2014, heroin overdose deaths were now comparable to those from gun homicides nationwide, both standing at 10,500 per year. The point may have been an inspiration for the Washington Post article on CDC WONDER data for 2015, proclaiming that heroin overdoses now exceeded gun homicide deaths (12,989 to 12,979, respectively).

The fact is true, but what is remarkable is the deep parallel in the rise of the respective figures in a single year, both keeping pace by climbing at a nearly identical rate.

It’s almost as if the trafficking in heroin driving the overdoses is itself tied to the emergent gun homicide crisis surging in our major cities. Those who lived through the violent 1980s and early 1990s will remember the connection well.

The Obama drug policy began with unilateral executive action opening the floodgates to marijuana commercial legalization and it is closing with never-before-seen death rates from drug use. The Trump administration faces a drug death epidemic worse than the crisis the Reagan administration inherited from President Jimmy Carter—and that contributed to even greater levels of violence and addiction before the Carter legacy was reversed.

David W. Murray and Brian Blake are senior fellows at Hudson Institute’s Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research; both served in the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the George W. Bush administration. John P. Walters is Hudson’s chief operating officer and former director of drug control policy for President George W. Bush.

Source:  WEEKLY STANDARD  DEC 15, 2016

National statistics show 2,367 users aged 18 to 24 sought treatment in 2015-16 as drug becomes increasingly unfashionable.   A total of 149,807 opiate addicts came for treatment in England during 2015-16, down 12% on a peak of 170,032 in 2009-10.

The number of 18 to 24-year-olds in England entering treatment for addiction to heroin has plummeted 79% in 10 years, as the stigma surrounding the drug and changing tastes in intoxication have made it increasingly unfashionable.

In the year to March, 2,367 people from that age group presented with heroin and opiate addiction at the approximately 900 drug treatment services in England, compared with 11,351 10 years earlier, according to statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS).

They constituted a tiny fraction of the 149,807 opiate addicts who came for help to kick their habit throughout the year, a number that is itself 12% down on a peak of 170,032 who came for treatment in 2009-10. The median age of those users was 39, the statistics showed.  Michael Linnell, the coordinator of UK DrugWatch, a network of drug treatment professionals, said many of the heroin users currently accessing treatment would have become addicted during a boom in the drug’s popularity in the late 1980s. Young addicts were “as rare as hen’s teeth”, he said.

Our neglect of ageing heroin users has fuelled the rise of drug-related deaths

“For the Thatcher generation who didn’t see a future and there were no jobs or employment and the rest of it, it was an alternative lifestyle in that you were really, really busy being a heroin user: getting up, scoring, nicking stuff to get the money to score and the rest of it,” Linnell said.

“There was a whole series of factors until you got to that point where people from those communities – the poorest communities – where you were likely to get heroin users, could see the visible stigma of the scarecrow effect, as some people called it.

“They didn’t want to aspire to be a heroin user because a heroin user just had negative connotations, rather than someone who was rebelling against something.”

Overall, 288,843 adults aged 18 to 99 came into contact with structured treatment for drug addiction during 2015-16, 52% of whom were addicted to heroin or some other opiate. Among opiate addicts, 41% were also addicted to crack cocaine, with the next highest adjunctive drugs being alcohol (21%) and cannabis (19%).

About half of those presenting to treatment – 144,908 – had problems with alcohol, a fall of 4% compared with the previous year. Among those, 85,035 were treated for alcohol treatment only and 59,873 for alcohol problems alongside other substances.

The most problematic drug among the 13,231 under-25s who came into contact with drug treatment services in the past year was cannabis, which was cited as a problem by 54%, followed by alcohol (44%) and cocaine (24%).

The numbers from this age group accessing treatment had fallen 37% in 10 years, which the Public Health England report accompanying the statistics said reflected shifts in the patterns of drinking and drug use over that time, with far fewer young people experimenting with drugs than in the past.  Karen Tyrell, the spokeswoman for the drug treatment charity Addaction, said the decline in problem drug use among young people reflected what drugs workers see on a daily basis, and credited evidence-based education, prevention and early intervention programmes for the change.

The shift, though, was precarious, Tyrell said, warning that yearly spending cuts to treatment services risked reversing the gains.

She added: “Of course, what this also means is that we have an ageing population of heroin users, many of whom have been using since the 80s or 90s, and who are now dealing with poor physical health and increasing vulnerability. In an environment of ever rising drug-related deaths, it’s imperative we don’t lose sight of their needs.”

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/03/

By Robert Charles

The Christmas carol is poignant – reminder of Christmas, and beyond.  “What child is this, who, laid to rest …” the carol begins.  “Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?” it continues.  The stanza ends, “Haste, haste ….”  Lovely, lilting, full of promise – like the birth of a child.  Here, a special child – but also every child.

In a season of joy, it is a message of joy.  But the mind wanders, to our mortal world.  New numbers on drug addiction and drugged driving death, so many lost souls – mitigate the joy.   They caught me off guard this week. My brother, a high school teacher, shared with me the loss of another student, another fatal crash, as drugged driving numbers rise.  What is the season for heartbroken parents – but a season of loss?  Each year, upwards of 100,000 parents lose a child to drug abuse.

What child is this?  It is America’s child, and America’s childhood.  How is it that we have, collectively, forgotten to keep watch over those entrusted to our watch – especially from high office?  Last year, 47,055 Americans, most of them young, were lost to drug abuse – just statistics now.  Why?

In part, because so many Americans have heard a mixed message from their leaders – with devastating effects. Led to believe drugs are “recreation,” something not different from beer or wine, kids try and die.  Synthetic opioids, heroin, cocaine, high potency marijuana – then to ER, or not even, and mortuary. Numbers do not lie.

Drugged driving is now another epidemic.  Drivers and helpless passengers are all at risk, along with everyone on the road.  Near home, not long ago, several kids died in a terrible car crash.  They missed a bend and hit a tree.  The sister of a child known to my son was almost in that car – but courageously declined the ride.  She knew the driver was compromised.  That decision saved her life.  Unfortunately, the searing truth caught others off guard.  Drugged driving is death on wheels, period.  Drug legalization is the unabashed promoter of that death.  So, where are the shepherds?  Where are the outspoken leaders, why silent?

What child is this, who starts with marijuana, soon is addicted, ends overdosing on opiates or as a roadside cross?  What child is this, who needed knowledge from someone they trusted – but got misinformation?  What child is this, who is force-fed popular lies, that drug abuse is “recreation?”

And what child is this, “greeted by angels,” who was forsaken here – by leaders for political advantage?  “Laid to rest” by parents’ inconsolable hands?  Where were those leaders, a thoughtful president, governor, congressman, legislator, mayor?  How could we, in a blink, give up 50,000 souls – this year, again?  Silence is not just holy – it can also be complicit.  Permitting legal expansion of drug abuse, legalized money laundering, an insidious tax grab, or turning a Federal blind eye – comes at the expense of young lives.  That is the truth.

Needed in this season of change are new national and community leaders, who are unafraid to say:   Do not compromise your future.  Do not risk everything for nothing.  Do not break faith with yourself, or those who are counting on you.   The mind wanders … from a Christmas carol to those not here to celebrate.  To parents, siblings, friends and teachers sadly asking “what if…”  And bigger questions:  What if the legalization pabulum and knowing disinformation were stopped?  What if drugs sure to addict and kill were less available?  What if policy indifference turned to saving young lives, not putting them at risk?

Said Henry David Thoreau, every child is an “empire.”  But today, these empires are falling fast.  Risk is inherent in our indifference, disinformation, disregard for truth, and treating death as recreation.  Addiction’s darkness comes on so fast, too.  A life soon narrows, ambitions die, dependence rises, users feel boxed in, relationships and functions are degraded, nightmares start, and then an awful and big question – who cares?

These days, few seem to – not this President, Congress, many of our State “leaders.”  They just go along.  Meantime, more families are drained and left alone – victims of accelerating drug abuse, drugged driving, drug-related crime, and life-changing addiction.  The Trump team has a chance:  To say enough, this experiment is over.  That would help American families stop grieving, save kids from this unparalleled dance with false information and societal indifference.  That would be real leadership – and long overdue.  So, pull the Drug Czar back up to Cabinet rank, put Federal resources and smart people into enforcing the law, and re-educate the country.

“What child is this?”  It is America’s child.  With new hope and real leadership, may we have no more compromises with evil.  Instead, truth spoken to power, power asserted by well-informed people.  Let us stand watch, shepherds for young America.  “Haste, haste …” in this, and in all seasons.  Here may be a resolution for the new year.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement under George W. Bush, former Naval Intelligence Officer and litigator, who served in the Reagan and Bush 41 White Houses.  He wrote the book “Narcotics and Terrorism,” and writes widely on national security and law.

Source: townhall.com/columnists 10th December 2016

Homeless people in the streets are a staple of the landscape in downtown areas of Colorado Springs, Denver and most other Colorado communities. Visitors from other states are struck by the dilemma, even when visiting from large cities on the coasts. Experts on homelessness point to marijuana.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday confirmed a homeless phenomenon anyone can see.

HUD ranks Colorado fourth behind California, Washington and the District of Columbia for its absolute increase in the homeless population this year. All four jurisdictions have legalized recreational pot.

Colorado’s growth in homeless veterans leads the nation, at 24 percent. Other states averaged a decrease of 17 percent in veteran homeless populations. They are leaving other states and moving to Colorado.

To put this in perspective, compare Colorado and New York. Colorado has a general population of 5.4 million. New York has general population of 20 million. The number of homeless veterans is nearly identical in the two states.

“While most states saw their homeless veteran populations drop an average of 17 percent in the past year to a total of 39,471, Colorado was one of only eight states going in the opposite direction with increasing numbers,” explained The Denver Post.

Daniel Warvi, spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Post how veterans come to Colorado hoping to work in the marijuana industry. Few come here knowing they must prove a year of residence before the law allows them to work in marijuana-related jobs.

“They don’t have a plan B,” Warvi told the Post. Those who find employment typically cannot afford the state’s soaring housing costs.

Larry Smith, executive director of Catholic Charities of Denver, said his staff sees “a direct correlation” between marijuana migration and increasing homelessness. Smith oversees the 380-bed Samaritan House homeless shelter, three other major homeless shelters in northern Colorado, single-family shelters and multiple food pantries and soup kitchens.

“It’s epidemic,” Smith told The Gazette. “We’ve never seen the kind of street living, and camping, that we’re seeing. It is exploding this year, and it is a different type of homeless population. They won’t come in. They won’t take a bed and a shelter, and there are beds available. It’s a different behavior and mentality. They are more aggressive, much more agitated. A large part of that is due to marijuana. This is insanity.”

Even impassioned advocates of legalization should be concerned when professionals link marijuana to increasing homelessness. If the connection is proved, the marijuana industry should take responsibility for some of the social costs.

When states determined the tobacco industry strained Medicaid resources, Big Tobacco agreed to mitigate burdens associated with its trade. In a settlement, states won a minimum $206 billion settlement and concessions that curtail the industry’s marketing practices.

Colorado has long attracted the homeless, for reasons it attracts other demographics. It would be a stretch to blame all new homelessness on legal marijuana. It is reasonable to heed the increasingly impassioned warnings of social workers who say marijuana plays a big role in the recent surge.

When the General Assembly convenes in January, legislators should cooperate to commission a nonpartisan study that assesses the suspected link between marijuana and homelessness. From there, non-profits, politicians and businesses can determine the scope of a constructive and compassionate response.

The Gazette editorial board

Source:  http://gazette.com/editorial-experts-link-homeless-surge-to-pot/article/1590734 Nov. 22nd  2016

Blames it in part for scores of deaths around the U.S.

The Drug Enforcement Administration placed a synthetic opioid called U-47700 on the most restrictive list of controlled substances, calling the drug a threat to public health and blaming it in part for scores of deaths around the U.S.

The ban, which is scheduled to take effect Monday, is the latest action by the DEA to try to crack down on the growing peril of synthetic narcotics. Unlike opioids such as heroin and the painkiller oxycodone that derive from the opium poppy, synthetic narcotics can be produced more easily and more cheaply in labs. They are worsening the country’s already severe crisis of opioid abuse, which killed more than 28,000 people in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The designer drugs come mostly from Chinese labs, many of which sell them openly online and dub them “research chemicals” to provide a patina of legitimacy, according to the DEA. Many of the substances are variants of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

The labs can rely on existing scientific papers and patents to produce new drugs. That was the case with U-47700, a relic of 1970s pharmaceutical research that never made it to market and was the subject of an investigation by The Wall Street Journal published last week. When law enforcement moves to ban one substance, the labs can simply turn to another that hasn’t been restricted yet.

“Because substances like U-47700 are often manufactured in illicit labs overseas, the identity, purity and quantity are unknown, creating a ‘Russian Roulette’ scenario for any user,” the DEA said in a news release announcing the ban. The agency placed the drug on Schedule I, the category for chemicals the DEA says have no medical purpose and present high potential for abuse.

U-47700 was associated with 46 fatalities in 2015 and 2016, according to the DEA. The Journal investigation noted that NMS Labs, a major private lab outside Philadelphia that works with states, tallied 105 overdose deaths related to U-47700 just this year, through September. Axis Forensic Toxicology, a private lab firm in Indianapolis, linked another 20 deaths to the drug. The fatalities occurred in at least 31 states, from Alaska to Florida.

Some users take U-47700 knowingly. They can frequent online drug forums to discuss the drug and its effects. And they can order it online from Chinese labs or intermediaries and have it shipped directly to their homes. In interviews with the Journal, users have said U-47700 provides a euphoric high but is short-lasting and can quickly create intense cravings.

Other users, however, may take U-47700 unknowingly, the DEA said. Dealers sometimes mix it with other opioids and it also has appeared in counterfeit prescription painkillers.

Source:  (Wall Street Journal, 11/12/16)

Filed under: Social Affairs,Synthetics :

VICTORIAN paramedics are being called to an average of almost 60 alcohol-related and 25 drug-affected patients a day.

A surge in ice-related call-outs is a main cause of an increase in attendances of almost 30 per cent on the year before.

Prescription medication — mostly sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety medication benzodiazepines — continue to be involved in more ambulance call-outs than illicit drugs.

But a Turning Point report shows that the proportion of illicit drug misuse has dramatically increased.

Attendances for crystal methamphetamine or “ice” almost doubled in 2014-2015. The 2271 attendances a year, or six a day, is an eightfold increase since 2010-2011.

The Ambo Project, a summary of Victoria’s drug and alcohol related ambulance attendances, shows that alcohol-related harm is the most common problem: there were 21,602 call-outs compared with 9038 for illicit drugs and 9941 for prescription medications.

The number of alcohol-related cases increased almost threefold in the past six years; paramedics now attend 57 cases daily; in 49, it is the only drug involved.

Turning Point lead researcher Belinda Lloyd said ambulance call-outs for prescription medications, including antidepressants, anti-psychotics and painkillers, were higher in regional areas per rate of population.

“This is no longer a problem for major cities and entertainment precincts,” Ms Lloyd.

“We need more awareness about how to minimise the harm from drugs.”

Ambulance Victoria general manager of emergency operations Mick Stephenson, said the increase in drug call-outs, particularly amphetamines, meant paramedics more frequently sedated patients to prevent self-harm and protect health workers.

“They take this stuff at their peril because they don’t know what’s in it and nor do we.”

Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said training of almost 40,000 frontline health workers in dealing with ice-affected patients started today.

Opposition health spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge said alcohol and drug-fuelled harm continued to put paramedics and others at risk.

Source:  http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/ambulance-callouts-soar  7th Nov 2016

No on Prop 205 highlights dangers of edible marijuana

PHOENIX (Oct 4) – In states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, accidental marijuana ingestion by kids has risen by 600 percent, according to a study of the National Poison Data system. Poison Control centers across the country reported more than 4,000 children exposed to marijuana in 2015. Watch more here.

Perhaps that’s because, in states like Colorado, almost half of the marijuana market is the sale of highly-concentrated edibles – packaged to look like your kids’ favorite after-school treat.

Of the many disturbing provisions buried in Proposition 205, one of the most troubling is not only that it would allow the production and sale of edible marijuana in Arizona, but also would allow such with no restriction on potency.

Edible marijuana in the form of candies, gummies, cookies, and sodas would be blatantly advertised and sold out of current medical marijuana dispensaries, as detailed in the proposition language.

This is what today’s marijuana looks like:

email_banner-1-300x200

In Colorado, lawmakers recently banned the production of edible marijuana in the shape of animals or people, so as to diminish its marketability toward youth. Due to the Voter Protection Act paired with Prop 205’s sneaky language, Arizona wouldn’t be able to protect our kids by limiting edibles in any way.

Poison Control centers across the country reported more than 4,000 children exposed to marijuana in 2015. Watch more here.

Source: https://noprop205.com/marijuana-marketed-kids/   4th Oct.2016

Like the viral dance move of the same name, using marijuana by “dabbing” is having a moment.

The latest marijuana-consumption craze has users chasing bigger highs through a process called “flash vaporization.” But unlike the dance, marijuana dabbing poses some major health and safety risks, according to both anecdotal evidence and experts, and is illegal in some states. Dabbing is when you take a marijuana concentrate, a waxy or butter-like substance that contains highly concentrated amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive ingredient in weed — apply it to a hot surface to create smoke, and inhale to get high. There are countless ways to heat the material, from burning in it an electronic vaporizer to lighting it on fire with a blowtorch over a glass bong piece called a nail, and it’s up to user preference.

When the internet tells you dabbing gets you high, it means really, really high. The potency of dabs can cause users to pass out, become uncomfortably stoned, or even experience psychedelic effects that border on hallucinations, with one too many rips from a bong. Marijuana concentrates pack a punch no matter how you ingest them. They’re made from blasting a solvent, like butane or carbon dioxide, through marijuana plant matter to extract the THC, then letting the solvent evaporate. The yellow, gooey substance that remains has a THC concentration that’s four times stronger than the plant itself, The New York Times reports.

“Marijuana is the beer of THC, as dabbing is to vodka,” as one New York City teenager seen dabbing down Fifth Avenue put it to The Times.

In pot-friendly Colorado, where weed is sold legally for recreational purposes, concentrates make up about one-third of overall marijuana sales, the Marijuana Business Daily reports. Some industry insiders are calling concentrates “the future of the industry.”

Not everyone is on board with the dabbing craze.

For starters, dousing marijuana in butane, a highly flammable gas, can cause explosions when it meets an ignition source. As dabbing becomes popular, more amateurs turn to the internet for DIY tutorials on how to extract concentrates. But these at-home operations have led to explosions and deaths in recent years, especially when run indoors without proper ventilation.

Dabbing itself appears to be less dangerous than making the supplies, though the risks are still known. Research on how marijuana concentrates affect the body is slim.

“There is some evidence to suggest that the outcomes, like the effects, may be supercharged,” Emily Feinstein, director of health law and policy for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, tells The Times. “Side effects can include: a rapid heartbeat, blackouts, psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations that cause people to end up in psychiatric facilities.”

The negative side effects often last longer than the high.

Dr. Michael Miller, the ex-president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, tells L.A. Weekly that if you have a predisposition for addiction, the intensity and swift kick of the high that dabbing produces may trigger cravings and cues to use again.

More research around the health risks of dabbing is required, along with better regulation to squash the at-home operations that threaten to undermine the industry’s legitimacy.

Even the name, dabbing, has caused confusion among some.

When a news reporter asked two Seattle Seahawks football players, “Do either of you guys dab?” at a press conference in January, they tripped and fumbled over their answers.

“That’s illegal in, in … no, actually it’s legal in Washington!” Michael Bennett exclaimed.

Of course, the reporter was referring to the viral dance move, made popular by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. It looks like you’re sneezing in your arm.

Source:  http://uk.businessinsider.com/what-is-marijuana-dabbing-2016-9?r=US&IR=T  2nd Oct. 2016

To watch the video  ‘This is how long drugs actually stay in your system’ click on thesource link above and then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the video.

Chelsea Clinton recently suggested that marijuana might be deadly when taken with other drugs. But is this really true?

Although marijuana can interact with other drugs, there do not appear to be any reports of deaths that directly resulted from taking marijuana in combination with other drugs.

While speaking in Ohio on Sept. 24, Clinton was asked whether her mother, Hillary Clinton, supports changing the way marijuana is categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration so that it would be easier for researchers to conduct studies on the drug. Chelsea Clinton replied that her mother does support research on marijuana. Then, she added, “But we also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado, where some of the people who were taking marijuana for those purposes, the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking.”

A spokesperson for Clinton later said Clinton “misspoke about marijuana’s interaction with other drugs contributing to specific deaths,” according to The Huffington Post.

By itself, marijuana is not known to have direct lethal effects. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, no overdose deaths from marijuana have been reported in the United States.

In addition, the evidence that marijuana may interact with other drugs is limited, according to a 2007 review paper in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

Still, marijuana does appear to interact with a number of drugs, the review said. If marijuana is taken with alcohol, benzodiazepines (drugs that treat anxiety) or muscle relaxants, the combination can result in “central nervous system depression,” the review said, which means that people can experience decreased breathing and heart rate, and loss of consciousness. [How 8 Common Medications Interact with Alcohol]

There also have been reports of people experiencing a rapid heart rate and delirium after using marijuana while taking older forms of antidepressants (known as tricyclic antidepressants), the review said.

Marijuana may also interact with drugs that are broken down by enzymes in the liver known as cytochrome P450 enzymes, according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s because a compound in marijuana called cannabidiol can inhibit these enzymes. Therefore, marijuana may prevent other drugs from being broken down properly, and as a result,

levels of these other drugs may be increased in the blood, which “may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions,” the Mayo Clinic says.

One example is the drug sildenafil, commonly known by the brand name Viagra, which is broken down by cytochrome P450 enzymes. In 2002, researchers in the United Kingdom reported that a 41-year-old man had a heart attack after taking marijuana and Viagra together. This report could not prove that the marijuana-Viagra combination was definitely the cause of the man’s heart attack. However, the researchers said that doctors “should be aware” of the effects of inhibiting cytochrome P450 enzymes when prescribing Viagra.

Still, Live Science could not find any scientific or news reports of people who have died as a result of marijuana interacting with another drug.

But that doesn’t mean marijuana is harmless — the drug can impair coordination and slow down reaction time, and it has been linked with fatal car crashes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). A 2011 study found that people who reported driving within 3 hours of using marijuana, or drivers who tested positive for the drug, were more than twice as likely to be involved in a car crash compared with other drivers.

The Mayo Clinic says marijuana can increase the drowsiness caused by some drugs, including diazepam (Valium), codeine, antidepressants and alcohol, and so people need to be cautious if they drive or operate machinery after using these drugs with marijuana.

People who take high doses of marijuana may experience anxiety attacks or hallucinations, according to the NIDA. In some rare cases, intoxication with marijuana has been linked with suicide. In 2014, researchers from Germany reported that two men died from heart problems that were brought on by smoking cannabis. But marijuana may have a benefit in terms of reducing deaths from opioid painkillers. A 2014 study found that rates of overdose death from opioids were lower in states where medical marijuana is legal. Another study, published earlier this month, found that rates of opioid use decreased among younger adults in states that had legalized medical marijuana. It’s possible that people are substituting medical marijuana for opioids to treat chronic pain, the researchers said.

Source:http://www.livescience.com/56356-marijuana-drug-interactions.html

3rd Oct.2016

As a parent and grandparent, I believe legalizing recreational marijuana would result in serious harm to public health and safety, and urge my fellow Californians to vote “No” on Proposition 64 on Nov. 8.

Marijuana is a complicated issue. I support its medicinal use and have introduced federal legislation to make it easier to research and potentially bring marijuana-derived medicines to the market with FDA approval.

I also recognize that our nation’s failure to treat drug addiction as a public health issue has resulted in broken families and overcrowded prisons. That’s why I support the sentencing reform that would reduce the use of mandatory minimum sentences in certain drug crimes, give judges more flexibility to set sentences and promote treatment programs to address the underlying addiction.

But Proposition 64 would allow marijuana of any strength to be sold. It could make it easier for children to access marijuana and marijuana-infused foods. It could add to the already exorbitant costs of treating addiction. And it does not do enough to keep stoned drivers, including minors, off the roads.

With 25 million drivers in our state, that should set off alarm bells. While we do not fully understand how marijuana affects an individual’s driving ability, we do know that it significantly impacts judgment, motor coordination and reaction time.

In Washington, deaths in marijuana-related car crashes have more than doubled since legalization. In Colorado, 21 percent of 2015 traffic deaths were marijuana-related, double the rate five years earlier – before marijuana was legalized.

In California, even without recreational legalization, fatalities caused by drivers testing positive for marijuana increased by nearly 17 percent from 2005 to 2014. While the presence of marijuana does not prove causation, these numbers are concerning. A study on drugged driving and roadside tests to detect impairment required by Proposition 64 should be completed before, not after, legalization goes into effect.

Proposition 64 does not limit the strength of marijuana that could be sold. Since 1995, levels of THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana – have tripled. Increased strength can increase the risk of adverse health effects, ranging from hallucinations to uncontrollable vomiting.

We’ve already seen examples of harm. This summer in San Francisco, 13 children, one only 6 years old, were taken to hospitals after ingesting marijuana-infused candy – a product permitted under Proposition 64.

The combination of unlimited strength and the ability to sell marijuana-edibles should concern all parents. So should the risk of increased youth access. Age restrictions don’t prevent youths from using alcohol; marijuana will not be any different.

Nearly 10 million Californians are under age 18. Studies show that marijuana may cause damage to developing brains, and one in six adolescents who uses marijuana becomes addicted.

While more research on prolonged use is needed, a large-scale study found that people who began using heavily as teens and developed an addiction lost up to eight IQ points, which were not recoverable.

This means that a child of average intelligence could end up a child of below-average intelligence, a lifelong consequence.

The proposition could also allow children to see marijuana advertisements, making it more enticing for them to experiment.

In fact, Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang ruled that Proposition 64 “could roll back” the prohibition of smoking ads on television. Even though it is against federal law, the proposition explicitly permits television and other advertisements, provided that three in four audience members are “reasonably expected” to be adults.

We need criminal justice reform and a renewed focus on treatment. But legalizing marijuana is not the answer, particularly in the nation’s largest state. Proposition 64 fails to adequately address the public health and safety consequences associated with recreational marijuana use.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the senior senator from California.

Source:  http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/article104501076.html#storylink=cpy

There is renewed interest in the role of sex or gender in drug use. Two recent publications stand out, the first is an editorial from the journal of Addiction which argues that females have been under represented in many disciplines including addiction research (Del Boca, 2016). This not only impacts on females but may have implications for males. For example, men may be more stigmatised or viewed as vulnerable to drug related problems as a consequence of research attention and reporting. In effect, both groups have been disadvantaged by this phenomenon.

The second article from the sister publication (Addiction Biology) explores the differences and similarities between the sexes in relation to starting drug use and the risk of developing problems (Sanchis-Segura et al, 2016). As the journal title implies this is through a more biological lens with a brief nod to other factors. They conclude that it is important to report sex sameness as well as sex differences in research findings. Highlighting the lack of any attention given to reporting of sex in some studies.

The recent attention given to such a basic factor reveals the state of our collective knowledge about who is at risk of developing problems as a result of drug use. To be blunt, we know very little. So it is good to see that our ignorance is being acknowledged in the academic literature.

How has this happened?

It seems staggering that we have ignored this very basic variable in addiction research. Is it deliberate, or accidental?

In some ways it has been deliberate as it is more convenient to recruit participants from treatment settings. Unfortunately these settings tend to have more men. But that shouldn’t be interpreted as men necessarily having a greater need than women for treatment. This phenomenon needs greater scrutiny as it may be that females avoid treatment fearing that there will be consequences for their role as a mother (Lott-Lavigna 2016). Also it is possible that they perceive treatment to be dominated by males and not an environment they would feel safe in (Torrence, J 2016).

So we need to consider how females start their journey into a career of problematic drug use and how this progresses. As it stands, if we carry on recruiting research participants via treatment settings we will perpetuate a tradition that has left us ignorant of the female journey.

Cannabis and psychosis

Whether male or female, millions worldwide use cannabis. So it is important to understand and communicate the risks to mental health of using the drug. But this is an area that exemplifies the problems we have as a result of not attending to sex.

Cannabis use has been associated with psychosis for some time, but has there been equal attention given to the sexes? In short no, the seminal study by Andreasson of Swedish conscripts included no females, this study has been hugely influential in research, cited more than 1,000 times by research that followed its publication in 1987 (Andreasson et al, 1987).

Unfortunately this trend in over sampling of males has continued since this point; the only Medical Research Council funded trial in the United Kingdom on this issue included a sample of over 80% of males (Barrowclough et al, 2010).

Yet there are only twice as many men admitted to hospital with psychosis and schizophrenia as women. This potentially distorts the attention given to males and certainly limits the intelligence we gather about females (Hamilton et al 2015).

One of the few studies that does provide some information about gender differences and the risks of developing cannabis psychosis found a risk ratio of 2.6 males to every female, although this was based on data from the late 1990s. This matters as cannabis potency has changed over time, which might also increase the risk of developing psychosis for both sexes.

Sex matters

All this matters as research informs treatment, policy and commissioning of services. If we ignore females in research it is likely this has a consequence for the way mental health and addiction treatment is organised and delivered. But most importantly, it leaves men and women with inadequate information on the potential risks of using substances.

Research needs to look beyond the treatment setting, challenging as this might be, there is a pressing need for equality.

Source: http://www.nationalelfservice.net/mental-health/   21st Sept.2016

Filed under: Addiction,Social Affairs :

An ITV News investigation has uncovered how children as young as 12 are being ruthlessly groomed and exploited by organised crime groups who send them the length and breadth of the country to carry drugs and money.

Working round-the-clock as a 14-year-old drugs mule

ITV News has seen an internal Home Office document which describes this as a “new type of organised crime” that is “unreported”.

It also suggests the number of kids involved is “unrecorded”. And it contains a stark warning; suggesting that current government practice – including the inability of public services to work together – “might be making it easier for criminal gangs to exploit  vulnerable people”.

 Warning signs that your child may be involved in a gang

Speaking to ITV News, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield called for the same “mindset change” about these young adults being groomed to run drugs by gangs as that after child sex exploitation was uncovered across Britain in 2014.

One teenager described to ITV News how he was groomed by drug gangs.   We spoke to one 15-year-old boy, caught up in this dangerous world since the age of 13.

Daniel described how drug dealers groomed him, gave him gifts and made him feel part of their group.

“They’d pick me up around the corner from my house. They’d give me a lift to school and I’d get out and you just felt like you were important getting out of a nice big car.”

“Anything I ever wanted I got given and I thought it was all for free,” Daniel added.

But he soon realised they wanted something in return. They asked him to deliver shoeboxes of class A drugs and bags of pills, often having to travel long distances from home.

Daniel is still trying to escape this life.

And he’s not alone. We’ve discovered that young boys and girls are being sent out from major cities including Liverpool, London, Manchester and Birmingham to towns and coastal resorts right across Britain.

Others are directed from the capital to Winchester, Peterborough and towns along the south coast.

Children as young as 12 are being sent out from major cities. Credit: ITV News

We heard of boys being sent from Manchester to Aberdeen and Grimsby and teens from Liverpool turning up in Essex and Exeter. The police call it “county lines”, the children call it “going country”.

Home Office documents seen by ITV News describe it a “new type of organised crime” that is “unreported” and “unrecorded”. The department said the number of kids involved is “unrecorded” but our research suggests it runs into thousands.

Stephen Moore, a former senior detective at Merseyside Police and an expert in organised crime, says the drug syndicates see this as a business and children represent cheap labour, easy to exploit and easy to replace if anything happens to them.

“This is like mill owners using kids in Victorian times or sending kids down mines – cheap, easily replaceable labour, ” Mr Moore said. The gangs prey on school children but the Home Office documents warn they particularly target vulnerable young people from children’s care homes, or those who have been excluded from mainstream education.

It’s a growing problem. In just one small area of Essex around Clacton-on-Sea, police say there are as many as 19 ‘county lines’ running from Liverpool, London and Manchester Caroline Shearer runs the charity Only Cowards Carry, which works with young people to keep them safe.

“Once a child is in a drug ring it’s very hard to get out,” she told ITV News.

Really there’s three ways. You can run away and hope that nobody ever finds you. You can go to prison, which is probably the best bet to help you get out of it, unfortunately. You can die because you will not get out of it. And unfortunately this is something that most people don’t understand.

– CAROLINE SHEARER, CHARITY OWNER

Experts think many of the children who go missing every year in this country may have actually have “gone country”. In one London borough, Lewisham, the local authority believes half of its missing children have been groomed to carry drugs.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said there are parallels with child sexual exploitation and action is urgently needed to protect boys and girls.  The Children’s Commissioner said a mindset change is needed to tackle the issue.

“I think as a country we have had a very serious and overdue wake-up call about child sexual exploitation and saw that very starkly in areas such as Rotherham,” she said.

“There are youngsters involved in gangs who are in every other sense being groomed into that situation and being exploited and if we are going to protect them and prevent them being in those gangs and coming to harm we need that same scale of mindset change about them.”

It appears the UK’s drug trade has reinvented itself, expanding from inner cities to parts of the new country and exploiting children has allowed it to do this without detection.

In January we announced our Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation approach, which includes specific action to tackle county lines, protect vulnerable locations and safeguard gang-associated women and girls. The National Crime Agency published its first threat assessment of ‘County Lines’ in August 2015 and is working closely with the National Policing Lead for Gangs to ensure there is a national, coordinated response from law enforcement.

– HOME OFFICE STATEMENT

Source: http://www.itv.com/news/2016-09-29/going-country-itv-news-reveals-the-scale-of-children-being-exploited-and-sent-around-britain-to-carry-drugs/ 

Drug misuse causes 10 times as many deaths as collisions on the roads in parts of England and Wales.

Analysis by BBC News has found drug misuse deaths outnumbered road fatalities in three quarters of local authority areas between 2013 and 2015.  The number of people dying of drug misuse has recently reached a record high.

Public Health England (PHE) said it needed to ensure the most vulnerable drug users could access treatment. Analysing data from the Office for National Statistics BBC News has found that that 75% of all local authorities in England and Wales have seen more people die because of drug misuse than on the roads. Get the data here

There were 6,648 drug misuse deaths recorded compared with 4,683 road deaths between 2013 and 2015.

A drug misuse death is recorded when someone dies after abusing a substance or when they are poisoned by an illegal drug.   Portsmouth saw the highest drug to road death rate, where 18 people died because of drug misuse for every one recorded road fatality.

Other parts of the country such as Blackpool, South Tyneside and Brighton and Hove recorded more than 10 times as many drug deaths in comparison to road deaths.   The rise in drug misuse deaths is being attributed to the greater availability and strength of drugs like heroin.

Ian Hamilton, from the University of York, said it was “horrifying” the number of people dying has continued to rise.   “What this shows is that the issue of drug deaths is not just confined to certain areas but is in fact affecting nearly every part of the country”.  The lecturer in mental health and addiction studies says a decision in 2010 to end a treatment process that saw addicts often prescribed replacement substances like methadone has had unintended consequences.

“Since a policy of total abstinence was introduced we’ve seen the number of people dying of drugs increase every year, I don’t think that’s a coincidence”.  Public Health England says there is no evidence to suggest that changes in drug policy have contributed to an increase in drug deaths.

“Reassuringly, overall drug use has declined” said Rosanna O’Connor, from PHE.

“There is though a need to ensure the most vulnerable can access treatment. We know that the majority of those dying from opiates like heroin have never been involved with treatment services”.

Source:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37374513   27th September 2016

Born in Massachusetts, our son started out life with a very bright future.  As a toddler he was interested in things with wheels, and anything his big sister was doing. As he got older, Lego was his obsession. In his early school days he tended to get really into a subject, even those of his own choosing. For a while it was Russian language and then it was the Periodic Table.  He begged me to buy him a 2½-inch thick used Chemistry textbook before he was a pre-teen. I did.

I was able to be a stay-at-home parent until our son was 8. I tried to do all the right things. We played outside, limited screen time, and got together with other little ones and their moms for play groups. I read to him and his sister every night until they both reached middle school and wouldn’t let me anymore. Our son routinely tested in the 99th percentile on standardized tests and at least 3 grade levels above. Now, at age 17, he has dropped out of high school.

My husband and I both have Master’s degrees, and my husband is a public school administrator. His father is a retired architect. My mother is a retired elementary school teacher. Our family believes in education, we believe in learning and growing.     When asked why he continues to use drugs, mostly marijuana, my son said, “I think it’s because of the people we’re around.”

In reflecting back on “What happened?”   I blame marijuana. We now live in Colorado, where marijuana is legal and widely available to everyone.  What if we had never moved here?

How it All Began

My son’s first time using was in 7th grade when marijuana was legal only if used medicinally with a “Red Card,” if recommended by a physician.   Coloradans voted on legalization in November 2012 and marijuana stores opened in January, 2014. But back in 2012, he and some buddies got it from a friend’s older brother who had a Red Card.  From what I can tell, the use just kept escalating until his junior year in high school when he was using at least once a day…and when he attempted suicide.

Between that first incident in 2012 and the suicide attempt in 2015, his father and I waged an all-out battle on the drug that was invading our home. We grounded him; I took to sleeping on the couch outside his bedroom because he was sneaking out in the middle of the night; we yelled and screamed; I cried, we cajoled and tried to reason with him: ”You have a beautiful brain! Why are you doing things that will hurt your brain?”

We did weekly drug tests, we enlisted the school’s support, we enlisted our family’s support and we even tried talking to his friends.

But nothing worked. Our son was in love with marijuana. Our sweet, smart, funny, sarcastic, irreverent, adorable boy was so enamoured with this drug that nothing we did — NOTHING — made any difference. And we slowly lost him.

At the same time I was battling marijuana at home, I was also leading a group in our community to vote against legalizing it in our small town.  I had teamed with a local business-owner and a physician and the three of us got the support of many prominent community members, including the school superintendent, the police chief, and the fire chief. We ran a full campaign, complete with a website where you could donate money, a Facebook page, and yard signs.

Why does he continue to use marijuana? “I think it’s because of the people we’re around.”

My son’s use isn’t the reason I got involved. I had started advocating against marijuana legalization long before I even realized he had a problem. My background is in health communication and I work in the hospital industry.  I sit on our local Board of Health, so allowing retail stores to sell an addictive drug just doesn’t make any sense. I did think about my children; what I was modeling for them; what kind of community we were raising them in, and the kind of world I envisioned for their future. Those are the reasons I got involved. My son’s use is actually the reason that I’ve pulled away from any sort of campaigning.

Unfortunately, we lost our fight. So in 2014, it became legal in our small town to purchase pot without a Red Card. And the following year, his junior year, he almost slipped away from us forever.

It Got Scarier and Scarier

His use by then had escalated to daily (and I suspect often more than once a day). Pot seemed to be everywhere! We found it hidden all over the house — in the bathroom, on top of the china cabinet, in his closet, outside, even in his sister’s bedroom. It’s a hard substance to hide because of the strong smell. Even in the “pharmacy” bottles and wrapped in plastic bags, the skunk stench still manages to seep out. But it sure seemed easy for a young boy to get!

He started leaving school in the middle of the day, or skipping school altogether, and his grades plummeted. Where he was once an A/B student and on the varsity cross-country team, he was now failing classes and not involved in anything. This boy who had tested in the 99th percentile was failing high school. And this boy who had once been the levity in our home, who used to make me laugh like no one else could or has since, this boy became a stranger.

Our son withdrew from everything except his beloved drug. His circle of friends (never big in the first place), was reduced to only those who could supply him with marijuana.

His relationship with his older sister all but disappeared. And his relationship with his father has been strained beyond almost all hope of repair.

Then in late 2015 our son attempted suicide. He was hospitalized, first overnight at the very hospital where I work, and then for a 3-day locked psychiatric unit stay. I remember very little from this difficult (and surreal) time except learning that it wasn’t his first attempt, and that he blamed us for how awful he felt. He started taking an antidepressant and after he was released we took him to a drug counselor for a total of three visits but after that he refused to go — he threatened to jump out of the car if we tried to take him. We tried a different counselor and that only lasted for one visit.

Changing Strategies and a Truce

At this point I convinced my husband that we had to approach things differently, because obviously what we were doing wasn’t working. We stopped the weekly drug tests (we knew he was using so there seemed to be no point anyway). We stopped yelling and punishing. And basically my husband stopped talking to our son altogether — they are both so angry and hurt that any communication turns toxic very quickly. He refused to go back to school so we agreed that he could do online classes.

More and more, our son is feeling isolated from the rest of his family.

There is an uneasy truce in our home right now. Now it just feels like waiting. Waiting for what will happen next. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Our son, 17, still lives with us.  His sister left for college this past summer. I acknowledge that he uses pot and doesn’t want to quit, but I continue sending the message that it’s not good for his brain. The one thing my husband and I won’t bend on is no drugs on our property. He has started five different online classes, but has so far finished only one. He doesn’t feel any pressure to finish school — he says he’ll get a GED, but hasn’t made any effort towards that end. He doesn’t drive and doesn’t express any desire to learn, which is probably good because I doubt he could be trusted to drive sober. He started working at a local restaurant recently and has been getting good feedback from his managers, which I take to be a positive sign.   (I’ll take any positive signs at this point!)

Trying Something Else and Blacking Out

I don’t know if the suicide attempt and hospitalization were rock bottom for our family, but I suspect not. Just this past weekend our son came home and I could tell he was on something — and it wasn’t marijuana or alcohol. I checked him periodically throughout the night and in the early morning he was awake and asked me how much trouble he was in. I replied that it depended on what he had taken. He said Xanax. He also said that he had blacked out and couldn’t remember anything that had happened from about an hour after he took it.

Later in the morning, when we were both more awake, I asked him about the Xanax (he got it from someone at the restaurant) and the pot use and what he saw for his future. He has no plans to stop using, but said that he probably wouldn’t take Xanax again (he didn’t like blacking out). He said that he’s very happy with his life right now, that he knows a lot of people who didn’t go to college who work two or three jobs and live in little apartments, and that he’s happy with that kind of future for himself.

I tried not to cry.  Imagine that as the goal for a boy who started life with so much curiosity and such a desire to learn.

It’s not that I don’t think he can have a good and decent life without a college education. But I know that he’ll have a much harder life. Statistically, Americans with fewer years of education have poorer health and shorter lives (partly due to lack of adequate health insurance), and Americans without a high school diploma are at greatest risk.   It’s not just life without a college education, but it is life with a brain that has been changed by marijuana.  Will he be able to give up pot?  If he does give up pot, will he recover the brain he had at one time?  Will he lose motivation?

I asked him why he used pot when he knew how his father and I felt about it and when we had tried so hard to steer him in a different direction.

He said: “I think it’s because of the people we’re around. And all the drugs that are around.”

I’ve finally accepted that his use is not in the range of normal teenage experimentation, and I’m barely surviving on the hope that he’ll eventually grow out of it…and that he doesn’t do any permanent damage.  In the meantime, I’m sorry that we ever moved here.

Parents Opposed to Pot is totally funded by private donations, rather than industry or government. If you have an article to submit, or want to support us, please go to Contact or Donate page.

Source:  http://www.poppot.org/2016/09/19/colorado-move-larger-forces-she-cant-control/#comments

Industry Taking Advantage of Opiate Problem to Entrap More People

Medical marijuana proponents have a nationwide effort to add opiate addiction to the list of conditions for medical marijuana.  They aren’t just saying medical marijuana is a replacement for opiates; they are now pitching it as a medical treatment for opiate addiction.  The marijuana industry’s savvy marketing campaign is bigger, trickier and even more devious than Big Tobacco and Big Pharma ever dreamed.   Yet people who get addicted to opiates were already addicted to drugs via marijuana. Mixing marijuana with other drugs is becoming so routine that “drugged and stoned” is a new normal.  When Pennsylvania college student Garet Schenker of Bloomsburg University recently died, it was the combination of marijuana wax and Xanax that killed him.   References to  his death and the toxicology report have been removed from the Internet.  Just because another person didn’t die  from doing  “dabs” and mixing it with Xanax doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn our children of this dangerous practice. Justin Bondi, one of the young men who died in Colorado last year, was a hiker and adventurer who also mixed marijuana with Xanax and other drugs.   In fact, marijuana users have such an affinity for Xanax that doctors should be questioning patients about marijuana use  and wonder if marijuana is the primary cause of the anxiety. The addiction-for-profit industry, i.e., the marijuana industry, is trying every tactic imaginable to promote drug usage.  The current propaganda that pretends marijuana is treatment to opiate abuse is EVIL.  We condemn those shameless promoters who encourage people to use marijuana based on the theory that it doesn’t cause toxic overdose deaths.   Recent deaths have put a dent into that theory, however.   In Seattle, Hamza Warsame jumped six stories to his death, after he the first time he tried marijuana in December, 2015. Drugged and Stoned Many marijuana driving fatalities are caused by drivers on a cocktail of drugs in addition to pot.  The driver that killed two and injured several others in Santa Cruz had marijuana and an unnamed prescription drug.  The driver responsible for a 3-car crash in Indiana had marijuana, Xanax and drug paraphernalia on him.

Demolished building in Philadelphia, July, 2013. A crane operator was impaired from mixing marijuana with codeine. Six died and 13 were injured in the accident. Photo: AP  A crane operator in Philadelphia killed 6 people while high on marijuana and a codeine painkiller pill, in July 2013.  This accident highlights the inability to see accurate perception of depth when stoned.  The crane operator hit the wall of the Salvation Army thrift store next to the  building he was demolishing. He had no intention to harm people.  Operating any type of heavy machinery under the influence of drugs puts all of us in danger. Diane Schuler  The worst car accident by a driver in recent memory was caused by a driver who used both marijuana and alcohol.  Driver Diane Schuler killed 8, including 5 children, in the Taconic State Parkway crash in New York on July 26, 2009.   It appears that the driver was in pain.  Schuler, three of her nieces, her 2-year old daughter and three men in the oncoming minivan died.   Schuler used marijuana regularly to deal with insomnia.  (Insomnia is a condition promoted by medi-pot advocates.)  Marijuana lobbyists try to portray marijuana customers as single drug users.  This is an entirely false characterization.   Multi-substance addiction is the norm today.   STOP THE LIES! Parents Opposed to Pot is totally funded by private donations, rather than industry or government. If you have an article to submit, or want to support us, please go to Contact or Donate page.

Source:  http://www.poppot.org/2016/05/23/drugged-stoned-deadly-combination/

More of the U.S. workforce is testing positive for drugs, according to lab tests at Quest Diagnostics.

For the fifth straight year, the detection rate of amphetamine and heroin rose, while marijuana increased by 47 percent since 2013.

The analysis of 11 million workforce drug test results from 2015 shows a steady increase or a 10-year high in positive results, Quest said in a statement.

Here are some of the insights from the test results:

* Positivity rate was 4 percent in 2015, compared to 3.9 percent in 2014 for urine tests.

* The last year that positivity rate for urine tests was at or more than 4 percent was 2005.

* Post-accident urine test have been increasingly positive for drugs, from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 6.9 percent in 2015.

* An increase from 6.7 percent to 9.1 percent in marijuana positivity.

* Almost 45 percent of workforce tests were positive for marijuana in 2015.

“This report shows a welcome decline in workplace drug test positives for certain prescription opiates but a disturbing increase in heroin positives. This rise in heroin should concern both policymakers and employers. Substance abuse is a safety risk for everyone. This new workplace evidence is an additional sign of the rising national heroin problem, this time in the workplace,” said Robert DuPont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement through Quest.

Mark de Bernardo, executive director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, said the numbers underscore the threat to employers and employees from drug abuse and should provide a wake-up call to all.

Source: http://www.njbiz.com/article/20160916/NJBIZ01/160919875/greater-number-of-us-workforce-is-testing-positive-for-illegal-drugs     Sept.16 2016

A drug so powerful that it is normally used to tranquillize large animals like elephants has turned up in the streets of Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida.

The drug, carfentanil, is thought to be the cause for a record spike in drug overdoses there. It can be manufactured inexpensively and easily laced with other drugs such as heroin. Officials in Ohio have declared this a public health emergency, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that communities everywhere should be on alert about this dangerous drug.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid in the same drug class as heroin, fentanyl, and prescription drugs like Oxycodone. The drug is so strong that just a few granules the size of grains of table salt can be lethal. It is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the prescription painkiller which led to the recent death of the pop star, Prince.

In the past few years, drug traffickers increasingly substituted fentanyl for heroin and other opioids. But now carfentanil, which the DEA says is most probably imported illicitly from China, is being sold on American streets, either mixed with heroin or pressed into pills that look like prescription drugs. Many users don’t realize that they are buying carfentanil, and this has led to deadly consequences.

“Instead of having four or five overdoses in a day, we’re seeing 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50,” said Tom Synan, Chief of Police in Newtown, Ohio, and who also directs the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force in Southwest Ohio.  Synan said in a NPR article that carfentanil turned up in Cincinnati in July, and that the number of overdoses has overwhelmed first responders.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram further explained in the same article that, “It can take hours for the body to metabolize carfentanil, far longer than for other opioids. That means a longer-lasting high. But it also means that when someone overdoses, it is more difficult to revive them with naloxone, the emergency medication used to block the effects of opioids.” Ingram has received reports that emergency rooms are using two or three doses to bring people back, and therefore are trying to distribute a more concentrated version of naloxone.

There is no approved human use for carfentanil, and in fact, it is highly restricted even for veterinarians, who can use it legally only to sedate large animals. First responders and emergency room workers are being told to wear protective gloves and masks because carfentanil is so potent, that it can be dangerous to someone who simply touches or inhales it.

Learn more about the abuse of this drug: CBS News’ Dozens of Ohio Overdoses blamed on heroin mixed with elephant tranquilizer

Source:   Newsletter CADCA September 2016

By Bartow Jerome Elmore Assistant Professor of Environmental History at The Ohio State University and Author of Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism

When news broke yesterday about the discovery of $56 million worth of cocaine at a Coca-Cola plant in France, the press was all abuzz. But as it turns out, this Cocaine-Cola connection is not entirely new; Coca-Cola has been intimately linked to domestic manufacture of cocaine in the United States for years.

A little glimpse into Coke’s history reveals all.

Yes, most people know that Coca-Cola’s first president Asa Candler became concerned about cocaine in the early 1900s and decided to remove any trace of the drug in the company’s famous drink, but few people know that Coke continued to use what is called “decocainized coca leaf extract” in its signature beverage. In company ledgers, this―mixed with kola nut powder― is what is known as Merchandise #5, one of the “secret ingredients.”

Here’s how the process works. Beginning in the early 1900s, Coca-Cola partnered with a company called Maywood Chemical Works based in Maywood, New Jersey (now the Stepan Company) to import coca leaves (which contain small quantities of the alkaloid found in purified cocaine powder) from Peru for Coca-Cola. The company removed the cocaine alkaloid from these leaves and then sold Coca-Cola the leftover extract. As per the cocaine, Maywood sold it under close federal supervision for approved medical uses.

Federal law sanctioned this practice. Legislators wrote a special exemption into the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, the Jones-Miller Act of 1922, and subsequent counternarcotics legislation that allowed “decocainized coca leaves or preparations therefrom” to be sold in the United States. Some lawmakers called this clause the “Coca-Cola joker” because it was clearly designed to protect Coke’s secretive coca business.

Over time, Coke’s demand for coca leaves grew so great that legislation had to be passed to allow leaves to come into the country beyond what was needed for the manufacture of cocaine for medicinal purposes. These laws specified that alkaloids extracted from these coca leaves had to be destroyed with federal officials bearing witness.

All was well for Coke for many years under this arrangement, but in the 1960s, the company got a crazy idea: why not grow coca leaves secretly in the United States? That way the company would have a domestic source of supply.

It may sound outlandish, but that’s exactly what happened. In the 1960s, Coca-Cola, working with its partner, the Stepan Company, gained federal approval to begin a secret coca cultivation operation in Hawaii called the “Alakea” project. University of Hawaii scientists agreed to participate in the project but were prohibited from publishing any reports about their work because Coke did not want the public to know about its relationship to these coca leaves.

Within months, those working on Alakea could happily report that coca shrubs were growing in Hawaii, but celebrations lasted only so long. Soon a fungus wiped out the entire crop and the project was abandoned.

The failure of Alakea was really no matter for Coke, which simply continued sourcing leaves from Peru. All of this was channeled through Stepan, a third-party buffer that helped keep Coke’s coca trade out of sight. Import records show that Stepan is still happily bringing in coca leaves in the 2010s.

David Mercado / Reuters

What’s problematic about all this is that cocaleros, coca farmers in Peru, have been getting a raw deal. For years, Coca-Cola has enjoyed exclusive access to coca leaves coming into the United States and cocaleros have been prohibited from selling other coca products—teas, candies, and flours—to American markets. Coke has no doubt liked it this way because competition for coca leaves would drive up prices, which is never good for business.

But cocaleros see it differently. Peruvians with intimate knowledge of coca production in the Andes told me back in 2012 that coca farmers would love nothing more than to “revalorize” the coca leaf and once and for all quash the misconception that the coca leaf and purified cocaine are the same thing. Then cocaleros might experience a commercial boon that would allow them to abandon exploitative relationships with drug lords and monopolistic buyers.

Today, if I were to travel to Peru and try to return home with a small batch of coca leaves (perhaps to brew tea), I would be detained by border officials.

So here’s the essential question: if Coke can work partnerships to bring coca leaves into the United States, why can’t the rest of us? That’s the real story behind the Cocaine-Cola connection.

Source:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/coca-cola   1st Sept. 2016

 

By Christopher Ingraham

Source: Washington Post

USA — An appeals court ruled last week that a federal law prohibiting medical marijuana cardholders from purchasing guns does not violate their Second Amendment rights, because marijuana has been linked to “irrational or unpredictable behavior.”

The ruling came in the case of a Nevada woman who attempted to purchase a handgun in 2011, but was denied when the gun store owner recognized her as a medical marijuana cardholder, according to court documents. S. Rowan Wilson maintained that she didn’t actually use marijuana, but obtained a card to make a political statement in support of liberalizing marijuana law.

Federal law prohibits gun purchases by an “unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance.” In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms clarified in a letter that the law applies to marijuana users “regardless of whether [their] State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.” Though a growing number of states are legalizing it for medical or recreational use, marijuana remains illegal for any purpose under federal law, which considers the drug to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the federal law passes muster with the Constitution, as “it is beyond dispute that illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior.”

The court then concluded that it is reasonable to assume that a medical marijuana cardholder is a marijuana user, and hence reasonable to deny their gun purchase on those grounds.

From a legal standpoint, the nexus between marijuana use and violence was established by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Virginia, in the 2014 case of United States v. Carter. That case cited a number of studies suggesting “a significant link between drug use, including marijuana use, and violence,” according to the 9th Circuit’s summary.

In the words of the 4th Circuit, those studies found that: “Probationers who had perpetrated violence in the past were significantly more likely to have used a host of drugs — marijuana, hallucinogens, sedatives, and heroin — than probationers who had never been involved in a violent episode.”

“Almost 50% of all state and federal prisoners who had committed violent felonies were drug abusers or addicts in the year before their arrest, as compared to only 2% of the general population.”

“Individuals who used marijuana or marijuana and cocaine, in addition to alcohol, were significantly more likely to engage in violent crime than individuals who only used alcohol.”

Among adolescent males, “marijuana use in one year frequently predicted violence in the subsequent year.” The 4th Circuit argued that, on the link between drug use and violence, the question of correlation vs. causation doesn’t matter: “Government need not prove a causal link between drug use and violence” to block firearms purchases by drug users. A simple link between drug use and violence, regardless of which way the causality runs, is grounds enough. Still, the 9th Circuit did suggest causation was part of its decision, saying that irrational behavior can be “a consequence” of marijuana use.

This argument — that substance use increases risky behavior — applies to plenty of other drugs, too, and not just illegal ones. For instance, drug policy researchers Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken have pointed out that tobacco users also are more likely to engage in crime relative to the general population. “Compared with nonsmokers, cigarette smokers have a higher rate of criminality,” they wrote in their 2011 book Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know. “Smoking in and of itself does not lead to crime, but within the population of smokers we are more likely to find individuals engaged in illicit behavior.”

The authors also point out that there’s a much stronger link between violent behavior and alcohol than there is for many illegal drugs: “There is a good deal of evidence showing an association between alcohol intoxication and pharmacologically induced violent crime,” they write. They added: “There is little direct association between marijuana or opiate use and violent crime. … it is also possible that for some would-be offenders, the pharmacological effect of certain drugs (marijuana and heroin are often given as examples) may actually reduce violent tendencies.”

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Source: Washington Post (DC) September 7, 2016: 

NATIONAL FAMILIES IN ACTION RELEASES
WHITE PAPER ON LEGALIZED MARIJUANA

national-families-in-action

 

Paper Addresses Impact of Legalized Marijuana on Employers


Atlanta, Ga.– What effect will legalized marijuana have on employers? National Families in Action, a drug policy and education organization, is releasing a White Paper that examines problems employers are facing in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or retail use.

The paper addresses how marijuana laws are changing, how these laws will affect employers’ ability to conduct business, and what employers can do to protect that ability.It was written by Sue Rusche, president and CEO of National Families in Action and Kevin Sabet, PhD, president and cofounder of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Guided by an advisory group of experts representing diverse fields, from employment law to occupational nursing to company executives to drug policy, the White Paper asks tough questions informed by events transpiring in legal marijuana states.

The paper addresses issues such as:
• Will employers be able to maintain a drug-free workplace?
• How will employers accommodate employees who use medical marijuana?
• How can employers with employees in multiple states comply with drug laws
that differ from state to state?
• Will employers be able to shift employees who use marijuana to other jobs?
• Will employers have an adequate supply of qualified workers?

Lawsuits have already begun in states with legalized marijuana as employees try to establish various rights that clash with employers’ commitments to maintain drug-free workplaces mandated by federal funding and federal contracts, to conduct business with conflicting laws from state to state, and to protect employees and the public from the consequences of increased marijuana use and related problems.

The White Paper examines some of these lawsuits and provides a scientific evaluation of the consequences of marijuana use to alert employers about what lies ahead if marijuana is fully legalized. It also suggests steps employers can take to protect safety, productivity, and the bottom line.

What Will Legal Marijuana Cost Employers can be found on National Families in Action’s website here.

Source: http://nationalfamilies.org/reports/What_Will_Legal_Marijuana_Cost_Employers

March 30, 2015

In Illinois in the USA, randomly allocating towns to enforce laws against youth smoking in public led not just to fewer youth smoking but also fewer drinking or using and being offered illegal drugs – did anti-tobacco policing spill-over to create an environment unfriendly to drinking and illegal drug use?

Summary The featured report drew its data from a study which randomly assigned 24 towns in the US state of in Illinois to either more vigorously enforce laws prohibiting under-age possession and use of tobacco, or to continue with existing low-level enforcement practices, a study which showed the intended effects on youth smoking. The issue addressed by the featured report was whether this spilled over to affect other forms of substance use and availability.

The towns selected for and which (via their officials) agreed to participate in the study were also all engaged in a state-sponsored programme intensifying enforcement of the ban on commercial tobacco sales to youngsters under the age of 18. The difference in the 12 towns allocated to enhanced enforcement was that this was supplemented by intensified enforcement of laws against young people having or using tobacco, in particular by levying civic fines against minors caught using or possessing tobacco in public. By design, at the start of the study all the towns only infrequently enforced these laws, a situation continued in the 12 control towns not allocated to enhanced enforcement.

Assignment had the intended effect; over the four years of the study, the average yearly number of anti-tobacco citations issued to minors was significantly higher (17 v. 6) in towns assigned to enhanced enforcement than in control towns.

Earlier reports on the study also showed the intended impact on youth smoking, which increased at a significantly slower rate for adolescents in towns where enforcement was extended. The researcher-administered, confidential surveys of school pupils which established this also asked about current (past 30 days) and ever use of substances other than tobacco. The key statistics for the study were the total number of different types of drugs the student had recently or ever used, averaged over pupils in the same town to assess the impacts on youth in the town as a whole. Pupils were also asked how many times over the past year someone had tried to give or sell them illegal drugs. These surveys were administered in four succeeding years to students from grade seven (age 12–13) up to grade ten in 2002, 11 in 2003, and 12 in 2004 and 2005, meaning that in each year some of the same pupils but also many new ones were sampled.

Across the four waves of data collection 52,550 pupils were eligible to be surveyed of whom 29,851 (57%) completed at least one survey. From these were selected only the 25,404 pupils (who completed 50,725 surveys) living in the 24 towns in the study.

Main findings

At the start of the study towns in the two sets of 12 did not differ in the number of substances currently or ever used by their pupils. As the different tobacco enforcement policies were implemented, over the succeeding three years the number of different drugs that a pupil currently or had ever used increased significantly less steeply in towns assigned to enhanced tobacco enforcement. There was a similar and also statistically significant result for offers of illicit drugs.

Use of substances other than tobacco was dominated by alcohol, so a further analysis focused on this substance alone. Again, increases in the average proportions of pupils who had recently or ever drank alcohol were significantly less steep in towns assigned to enhanced tobacco enforcement.

Though differences between the two sets of towns were statistically significant they were modest, and in both sets most substances had or were being used by few pupils.

The authors’ conclusions

In this study, towns allocated to heightened enforcement of laws prohibiting youth possession and use of tobacco experienced relatively lower increases in the probability that their young people had or were using a number of different substances or had been exposed to an offer of illicit drugs, providing preliminary evidence that police efforts to reduce specific substance use behaviours might have a positive spill-over effect on other high-risk activities. Given the co-occurrence of different forms of substance use, strategies that strengthen community norms against youth tobacco use might work synergistically to help reduce youth drug use and illicit drug offers.

How did an enforcement effort focused exclusively on tobacco affect use and availability of other substances? There are several possible explanations. Being punished for tobacco-related crimes might deter individual children from possessing and using other drugs, and the knowledge that police in enforcement towns approach youngsters to enforce anti-tobacco laws may deter young people and even adults from selling drugs in these communities. Possibly relevant too is the ‘broken window’ approach to enforcement, supported by studies which have shown that enforcement of laws against lower-level crimes can deter more serious offences. According to this theory, creating an environment where youth cigarette use is not tolerated might create an unfavourable environment for drug use. More directly, greater contact between young people and police enforcing underage tobacco laws might give police more chances to search for and confiscate illegal drugs.

Police believe that publicly smoking cigarettes acts as a signal to drug dealers that a young person might also be in the market for drugs. If so, making youth smoking less visible in a town may also make that town less attractive to dealers. Reduced visibility may also minimise the perception that illegal behaviour is normal and acceptable in that community. The effect could be to reduce sales attempts by make potential young customers less obvious and by making the entire town seem an undesirable dealing location. Alternatively, the findings might reflect reduced offers of alcohol or other drugs from friends rather than drug dealers, because reductions in use of tobacco spread to other substances, especially alcohol.

However, alcohol not illegal drugs might account for the bulk of the findings. Use of tobacco and alcohol tend to go together, so if police crack down on tobacco, they might also discourage drinking.

Source: Journal of Community Psychology: 2010, 38(1), p. 1–15.

A study that followed children from birth to midlife found that heavy marijuana users who smoked for years often fared worse as adults than their parents: Many ended up in jobs that paid less, required fewer skills and were less prestigious.

That wasn’t so much the case for other people.

“The rest of the people in the study who were not regular and persistent cannabis users ended up in a higher social class than their parents,” said Magdalena Cerda, lead investigator and associate professor at the University of California, Davis.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, also found that marijuana users who smoked at least four times a week experienced more financial difficulties, such as problems with debt and food insecurity, than their parents. Their lives were fraught with more social problems, too.

“They experienced more antisocial behaviour at work such as lying to get a job or stealing money and more relationship problems such as intimate partner violence or controlling behaviour towards their partner,” Cerda said.

Other studies have associated heavy and persistent marijuana use with problems in adulthood but haven’t always ruled out other factors. This research tried to do that by tracking and comparing variables such as intelligence, family structure, gender, ethnicity, parental substance abuse, criminal convictions and antisocial behaviour and depression in childhood.

In accounting for so many variables, researchers made the study’s conclusions stronger, Cerda said, acknowledging that there may be unknown factors that they didn’t track.

Dr. Colin Roberts, a paediatric neurologist at Oregon Health & Science University and a member of Oregon’s Cannabis Research Task Force created to study medical marijuana, said the findings are worth considering.

“It’s a good study,” Roberts said. “They established an association that’s pretty compelling.”

The study’s sample size, almost 950 people, also gives it heft, he said.

The study is based on four decades of data collected in New Zealand, where marijuana is illegal. Investigators have been following people born between 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin, the second largest city on the South Island. The participants in the study come from a range of socio-economic classes, from professionals to unskilled labourers, who had physical, psychological, social and financial assessments at birth and ages 3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, 26, 32 and 38.

“There was a large number of people that were looked at which is really important,” Roberts said. “We can’t do studies like this in the U.S. because it’s really hard to collect information on people over that period of time. We don’t have a central source for people’s medical records.”

The study analyzed the data from the childhood evaluations to determine pre-existing conditions that might cause financial or social problems later in life. Then it evaluated the marijuana use of people starting at age 18 through 38 and financial and social problems at age 38. It found that 15 percent were frequent users, which they defined as smoking marijuana four or more times a week.

The longer those people smoked, the worse their problems in midlife.

That’s consistent with what professionals like Dr. Kevin Hill see in their practices. He’s the author of “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed” and an addiction psychiatrist at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.

“This paper supports what we see clinically,” Hill said. “If you’re using at a level that’s consistent with cannabis addiction, you will have problems in multiple spheres – work, school and relationships.”

Not everyone who smoked marijuana four times or more a week for years experienced downward mobility and not everyone who abstained fared better than their parents. But a higher proportion of the former group – nearly 52 percent – had a worse outcome compared with 14 percent of the latter.

The study also looked at alcohol use. Those with an alcohol dependency experienced more social problems than their parents and landed lower-paying jobs. But the marijuana users who were dependent on the drug had even more financial worries than those addicted to alcohol.

“Those of us in the field know that cannabis is potentially dangerous but the same argument should be made with alcohol,” Hill said. “We have 22 million Americans who used cannabis last year and yet we rarely talk about cannabis being dangerous and we should.”

Yet he cautioned that people who are dependent on marijuana remain in the minority, just as those who abuse alcohol are.

Alcohol remains the bigger problem because it’s more widespread, Cerda said, but she added that the increasing acceptance of marijuana could increase the cost to society. Oregon is one of 23 states where marijuana is legal for medical use and four states that have approved recreational marijuana use.

The study points to a need for investment in prevention and treatment, she said.

“If we do that, it may have long-term consequences for the potential burden that this may place on communities, families and on the broader social welfare system,” Cerda said.

Source:  http://www.oregonlive.com/marijuana   23rd March 2016

A backlash is growing in a state where marijuana has quickly become a $1 billion legal business. For months, Paula McPheeters and a handful of like-minded volunteers have spent their weekends in grocery-store parking lots, even in 95° F heat. Sitting around a folding table draped with an American flag, they asked passing shoppers to sign a petition. Inevitably a few sign-wielding young protesters would show up to argue that McPheeters’s group was dead wrong. With the two sides often just yards away from each other, shouting matches erupted. “We’re peaceful people,” one woman yelled. “You’re drugged out,” countered an angry man. Threats and phone calls to police became the norm.  The wedge dividing the people of this small blue-collar city of Pueblo, Colo.?   Legal marijuana.

Colorado gave the green light to recreational marijuana back in 2012, when it passed a law to make nonmedical pot sales legal starting Jan. 1, 2014. But now opposition is rising in communities across the state. Colorado has become a great social experiment, the results of which are still not clear. “The jury is still out as to whether this was a good idea,” says Colorado attorney general Cynthia Coffman.

What’s undeniable is this: Legal marijuana is in high demand in Colorado. Only three other states—Alaska, Washington, and Oregon—plus the District of Columbia currently permit recreational adult use of cannabis. (It’s legal for medical use in another 19 states.) Of that group, Colorado led the way in 2015 with $996.5 million in licensed pot sales—a 41.7% jump over 2014 and nearly three times the figure in Washington State. Recreational sales made up nearly two-thirds of the total.

Now, as citizen groups attempt to put the brakes on the growing industry, a heated debate has emerged about the drug’s societal impact. Doctors report a spike in pot-related emergency room visits—mostly due to people accidentally consuming too much of potent edible pot products. Police face new cartel-related drug operations. Parents worry about marijuana being sold near their homes and schools. And less affluent communities like Pueblo struggle with the unintended consequences of becoming home to this emerging and controversial industry.

Amendment 64 decriminalized marijuana statewide, but Colorado’s cities and counties still decide if the drug can be grown and sold locally. At least 70% of the municipalities in the state have banned commercial operations, either by popular vote or board decisions.

Many other communities have begun pushing back. Last fall, controversy arose in the small western Colorado town of Parachute when an antipot group attempted to recall members of the town council who had welcomed pot shops. (Voters defeated the recall 3 to 1.) Debate has since emerged in Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Littleton, and Rifle over the number, location, smell, and mere existence of retail and cultivation facilities. Citizens in the San Luis Valley, in the southern part of the state, say their schools and social services have been overwhelmed by a flood of newcomers coming to grow cannabis on cheap land, despite limited water. And just this spring officials in Colorado Springs and Englewood opted to ban pot social clubs, which are akin to lounges in which people can legally smoke weed in public.

“I’m getting calls now from people who voted for legalization thinking it wouldn’t affect them,” says Kevin Sabet, co-founder of national antimarijuana legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “They’re surprised to see these are sophisticated businesses opening up next to their schools selling things like marijuana gummy bears. And they’re angry.”

Officials in Denver, which is home to one-third of the state’s cannabis market, moved this spring to rein in pot capitalism. The city passed an ordinance capping the number of dispensaries and grow facilities at the present level. But discontent continues to fester in poorer communities, where many of these operations inevitably land. “We were told that legalization would take drugs out of our community,” says Candi CdeBaca, a community activist who grew up in the mostly Latino and poor Denver neighborhood of Elyria-Swansea. “The drugs stayed—and the drug dealers changed.”

CdeBaca points to, for example, an increase in school suspensions related to marijuana. And unlike the meatpacking plants and refineries that once dotted the area, CdeBaca says, this new industry hasn’t brought her neighbors jobs. Instead, the money is flowing to outsiders.

“It’s the Wild West, and the well-funded marijuana industry has dominated the regulatory process, and people are finally speaking up,” says Frank McNulty, a lawyer for Healthy Colorado, which plans to put a measure on the November state ballot—an easier task in Colorado than in many other states—that would limit the active drug ingredient THC in cannabis candy and concentrates and require health warnings on packaging. The marijuana industry has objected to the proposal, and the issue is now before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Cannabis backers bristle at the pushback, calling it a back-door effort by prohibitionists who simply disagree with the legalization of the drug. Mason Tvert, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which leads legalization efforts nationwide, cites studies showing minimal impact on society and no harm to Colorado’s growing economy. Says Tvert: “Anyone who says it’s caused an increase in this or that [problem] is full of shit.”

What plays out in Colorado may influence what happens across the nation. Pot remains illegal under federal law. But legalization of recreational marijuana for adult use will be on the November ballot in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and likely in Arizona and Maine too. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, and Missouri will be voting on whether to approve it for medical use. The growth of the cannabis industry has begun to attract the interest of big companies. Microsoft announced in mid-June that it has developed a software product to help states track marijuana growth and sales.

In a recent appearance on CNBC, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper offered this advice to other states considering legalization: “I would suggest wait a year or two and see how it goes.”

Nowhere has the impact of legalization in Colorado been felt more powerfully than in the small community of Pueblo, located 114 miles south of Denver. At least 20 dispensaries and 100 growing facilities with 4 million square feet of cultivation now dot the highways near this town of 160,000, which has aggressively embraced the budding industry, making it the top cultivation spot in the state. “We’re sort of like the Napa Valley of cannabis,” says Pueblo County commissioner Sal Pace.

Pueblo has struggled for decades, ever since the 1983 recession, when most of the jobs at the local CF&I steel mill disappeared. Today the community is dealing with failingschools, rising gang activity, and increased crime. With a total of 26 homicides in 2014 and 2015, Pueblo earned the highest per capita murder rate in the state.

When the county’s three commissioners approved licenses for marijuana operations in 2014, Pueblo’s problems got worse, argues McPheeters, a Pueblo mom and community-college budget manager who is the driving force behind a group called Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo. “The promises of marijuana have not come true,” she argues. After weeks of contentious petition drives, McPheeters’s group believes it has gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the November ballot to revoke all the recreational marijuana licenses in the county. Marijuana industry groups, however, have sued, arguing that the number of signatures falls short under a new state law. A judge is set to decide in July.

Groups serving the poor in Pueblo report a flood of homeless people arriving from other states. Local homeless shelter Posada, for instance, has witnessed a 47% jump in demand since 2014, including 1,200 people who reported to shelter workers that they came to smoke pot or get jobs in the industry, says Posada’s director, Anne Stattelman. She says her funding is tapped out. “It’s changed the culture of our community,” she says.

The city’s three hospitals officially threw their support behind the antipot ballot measure after reporting a 50% spike in marijuana-related ER visits among youth under age 18 and more newborns with marijuana in their system. A number of local businesses are also backing the ban after struggling to find sober employees.

Commissioner Pace, in particular, has emerged as a target of criticism for citizens hoping to rid Pueblo of legal marijuana.  As a state legislator he drafted early pot regulations and then as commissioner led local efforts to launch the industry in Pueblo County after 56% of voters in the city approved Amendment 64. “It will take time to change some people’s opinions that pot is bad,” he says.

The pro-marijuana contingent in Pueblo say critics are misplacing blame for the area’s problems. They argue that the pot business has generated jobs and taxes as well as a college scholarship and a local playground. Revoking the licenses of cannabis shops, they say, will only fuel the black market. Says Chris Jones, an employee at a local dispensary clad in a Bob Marley T-shirt: “We already voted on this one time. Let it stand.”

Both antipot groups and marijuana advocates tend to cherry-pick data to support their claims. However, Larry Wolk, chief medical officer for the state department of health, says it’s too early to draw conclusions about the true social and health impacts on Colorado.

Marijuana-related hospitalizations have tripled in Colorado since legalization, and emergency room visits have climbed 30%, according to a state report released this spring. And pot-related calls to poison control have jumped from 20 to 100 a year, says Wolk. Drug-related school suspensions have also climbed. Yet teen usage hasn’t shot up dramatically, and crime has remained fairly stable. Marijuana-related DUIs increased 3%, and traffic fatalities involving THC increased 44%—but the absolute numbers were small in comparison to those that involved alcohol, according to the report.

The data is tricky, Wolk says, because Colorado didn’t track these numbers the same way prior to legalization. Are there more suspensions, he asks, because teachers are more aware? Are doctors now asking about marijuana at hospitals when they didn’t previously? “It may be a year or two before we’ll really have good answers,” says Wolk.

Marijuana legalization has delivered some surprises statewide to regulators, police, and citizens alike. For instance, many people thought legalization would quash the black market for the drug. “That’s been a fallacy,” says Coffman, Colorado’s attorney general. Legalization of cannabis stores and grow operations has drawn more drug-related crime, she says, including cartels that grow the plant in Colorado and then illegally move it and sell it out of state. “They use the law,” she says, “to break the law.”

Since 2013, law officials say, they have busted 88 drug cartel operations across the state, and just last year law-enforcement made a bust that recovered $12 million in illegal marijuana. Adds Coffman: “That’s crime we hadn’t previously had in Colorado.”

The state legislature is trying to play catch-up. Last year it passed 81 bills enacting changes to drug laws, prompting state law-enforcement groups to request a two-year moratorium on new laws so that they could have time to adjust. Lawsuits are also flying—including one from Colorado’s neighbors. Nebraska and Oklahoma have sued Colorado, claiming that it is violating federal drug statutes and contributing to the illegal drug trade in their states.

Another surprise to many Coloradans is that a promised huge tax windfall to benefit schools hasn’t materialized. Of the $135 million generated in 2015, for example, $20 million goes to regulatory and public-safety efforts related to cannabis, $40 million funds small rural school construction projects, and the rest goes to youth drug prevention and abuse programs. That’s a drop in the bucket for a $6.2 billion education budget.

A third revelation to parents in particular is the potency of today’s pot, says Diane Carlson, a mother of five who started Smart Colorado to protect teens from the drug. The weed, edibles, and concentrates sold in stores have THC levels that average 62% and sometimes as high as 95%, according to a 2015 state report. That compares with levels of 2% to 8% in the 1990s. “We passed this thinking it was benign, that it was the stuff from college,” says Carlson. “The industry is just moving too fast, and we’re playing catch-up while the industry is innovating.”

Sitting in a Denver café, Carlson compares marketing by the marijuana industry to that of Big Tobacco in the 1950s, portraying the product as a harmless cure-all for everything from ADHD to anxiety. Yet research shows that marijuana is harmful to the developing brain. She supports Healthy Colorado’s ballot initiative to limit the active drug ingredient in THC in marijuana edibles, candy, and concentrates to 17%.

The backlash worries Mike Stettler, the founder of Marisol, one of Pueblo County’s largest dispensaries, which has been endorsed by comedian and weed smokers’ icon Tommy Chong. The onetime construction worker fears that Pueblo’s pushback against pot will shut down his entire recreational dispensary and its 10-acre grow operation,

which generated $4.5 million in revenue last year. “I’m hoping and praying this thing doesn’t go through, but you don’t know,” he says.

He says he has invested millions in his business and has more plans for growth. In May he flew to Las Vegas to discuss a partnership with famed guitarist Carlos Santana to create a Santana brand of weed called Smooth, named after the artist’s hit song.

Inside, Marisol is a veritable wonderland for cannabis enthusiasts. Customers can consult a “budtender” for advice on the right weed for energy, sleep, or relaxation. They can also choose from a seemingly boundless variety of marijuana merchandise—from vegan “dabbing” concentrates for water pipes to pot-infused bottled beverages to peanut-butter-and-jelly-flavored THC candies. There are even liquid products designed to alleviate marijuana overdoses.

Giving a tour of the store, employee Santana O’Dell, clad in green tights with tiny marijuana leaves on them, sighs as a beatific smile appears on her face. “This is freedom,” she says.

For a growing number of her neighbors, however, legalized marijuana is starting to feel like a really bad high.

Source:  a version of this article appears in the July 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.

A new study, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior by researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), compared self-reported sexual experiences related to use of alcohol and marijuana. Since marijuana has increased in popularity in the U.S., the researchers examined if and how marijuana use may influence risk for unsafe sexual behavior.

“With marijuana becoming more accepted in the U.S. along with more liberal state-level policies,” notes Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, an affiliate of CDUHR and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), “it is important to examine users’ sexual experiences and sexual risk behavior associated with use to inform prevention and harm reduction.”

In this study, the researchers interviewed 24 adults (12 males and 12 females, all self-identified as heterosexual and HIV-negative) who recently used marijuana before sex. Compared to marijuana, alcohol use was more commonly associated with social outgoingness and use often facilitated connections with potential sexual partners; however, alcohol was more likely than marijuana to lead to atypical partner choice or post-sex regret.

Alcohol was commonly used as a social lubricant to meet sexual partners, and this was related, in part, to alcohol being readily available in social gatherings.

“Interestingly, some users reported that the illegality of marijuana actually facilitated sexual interactions,” notes Dr. Palamar. “Since smoking marijuana recreationally is illegal in most states and smoking it tends to produce a strong odor, it usually has to be used in a private setting. Some individuals utilize such private or intimate situations to facilitate sexual encounters.”

While users often described favorable sexual effects of each drug, both alcohol and marijuana were reportedly associated with a variety of negative sexual effects including sexual dysfunction. For example, marijuana use was linked to vaginal dryness and alcohol was commonly described as increasing the likelihood of impotence among males.

The researchers noted that the sexual effects tended to be similar across males and females, and both alcohol and marijuana were generally associated with loss of inhibitions. Both drugs appear to be potentially associated with increased feelings of self-attractiveness, but possibly more so for alcohol, and participants reported feelings of increased sociability and boldness while consuming alcohol.

While some participants reported that marijuana use made them more selective in choosing a partner, many participants— both male and female—felt that their “standards” for choosing a partner were lowered while under the influence of alcohol.

“It wasn’t surprising that alcohol use reportedly led to less post-sex satisfaction than marijuana,” said Dr. Palamar. “Participants reported feelings of regret more frequently after sex on alcohol, but compared to alcohol they generally didn’t report poor judgment after using marijuana.”

When smoking marijuana, participants tended to reported increased feelings of anxiety or a sense of wariness in unfamiliar situations that they did not generally seem to experience after using alcohol. Therefore, these drugs appear to have different effects with regard to socialization that may precede a sexual encounter.

“Sexual encounters on marijuana tended to be with someone the individual knew,” comments Dr. Palamar. “Sex on alcohol was often with a stranger so the situation before sex may be much more important than the drug used.” Marijuana and alcohol are associated with unique sexual effects, with alcohol use reportedly leading to riskier sexual behavior. Both drugs appear to potentially increase risk for unsafe sex.

“Research is needed continue to study sexual effects of recreational drugs to inform prevention to ensure that users and potential users of these drugs are aware of sexual effects associated with use,” emphasizes Dr. Palamar. “Our results can inform prevention and harm reduction education especially with regard to marijuana, since people who smoke marijuana generally don’t receive any harm reduction information at all. They’re pretty much just told not to use it.”

More information: Joseph J. Palamar et al. A Qualitative Investigation Comparing Psychosocial and Physical Sexual Experiences Related to Alcohol and Marijuana Use among Adults, Archives of Sexual Behavior (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s10508-016-0782-

Source:  http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-08-drunk-stonedcomparing-sexual-alcohol-marijuana.html   4th Aug.2016

Your nail polish may soon be able to do more than just make a fashion statement. 

The innovative new polish called Undercover Colors would work by changing color when it comes in contact with any date rape drug, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The hope is that a woman will be able to check the safety of a drink by discretely dipping her finger in it.

The product is the brain-child of four male undergraduate students at North Carolina State University who say “Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

Although Undercover Colors polish is still in development, it already has thousands of likes on its Facebook page, which describes it as the “first fashion company working to prevent sexual assault.”

Nearly one in five women experience rape at some point in their lives, with 1/3 of those rapes occurring in college aged females, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Date rape drugs like Rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyric (GHB) and ketamine can be easily slipped into a person’s drink because they have no color, smell or taste, and can cause weakness, confusion and even loss of consciousness, according to Womenshealth.gov.

“Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught,” the product creators said.

Undercover Colors is still in development and there is currently no date for when the product will become available.

Source:  foxnews.com  25th August 2014

Filed under: Ketamine,Social Affairs,Youth :

Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur building a women’s business mentoring group, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught.

“You almost wake up and get this haunting feeling, this horrible feeling that my God, I just wish I wasn’t going to live today,” said Theodosiou, a mother of four from Davie, Florida. “Not that you would take your life but you’re so scared.” Petrified, really, but not for herself. For her children.  Theodosiou learned two of her four kids were addicted to drugs.

“I found out within six months that both my sons were addicts and like every other mother, I just wanted to go into bed and never get out.”  Her older son, Peter, now 25, took prescription drugs and then escalated to heroin. Her younger son, Daniel, now 22, started what’s called robotripping, where he would take large quantities of cough medicine to get high.

Barbara Theodosiou first noticed her son Daniel might have a problem with drugs when he was 16.  She says she first noticed signs of problems when her younger son was 16.  “I was taking Daniel to school one day and he was just like almost choking. I thought he was having a panic attack,” she said. A short time later, the school called and said staff members thought Daniel was on drugs.  “I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ … I have talked to my children my whole life about drugs.” 

Within just months, after a call from her son Peter’s roommate, her husband went to his house and found needles all over the place.  “If you know about addiction then when you find this out, you realize not only are you in for the fight of your life, but this is not something that gets fixed in six months. This could go on,” she said.

Barbara Theodosiou’s son Peter was addicted to heroin. He has been in recovery for 3½ years. “It’s like having someone punch you in the stomach. … You’re never the same from the second you find out.”

How does the mother of an addict cope? How does she juggle the incomprehensible challenge between supporting a loved one and not enabling their habit? And how does she deal with the stigma of having a child who is an addict?

In my in-depth interviews with Theodosiou and other mothers of addicts across the country, they made it very clear that being the mother of an addict is an incredibly lonely and isolating place, and that often the only people who understand what they’re going through are other mothers who are going through it themselves.

The fear of getting the call  

Theodosiou’s son Daniel overdosed three times that first year she realized he was using and nearly died each time.  One day, she returned to her house and saw police officers out front. “I remember pulling up and my heart was beating … I was just going to faint right there.”The police officer asked if she was Daniel’s mother. “For sure, I thought he was going to tell me Daniel was dead, and it ended up Daniel overdosed again, and again he was in the hospital.”

Melva Sherwood’s son Andrew died from a heroin overdose in October 2012. He was 27. 

Melva Sherwood of Vermilion, Ohio, got that unimaginable call on October 3, 2012. Her son Andrew, 27 at the time, died of an overdose of heroin. It was his son’s fifth birthday. “It was 11:30 at night. I was sound asleep and it was October. All the windows were open, and the entire neighborhood knew what had happened,” said Sherwood, who says she screamed “at the reality of it, that it was over, that it was done.”  “I have a friend who lives down the street, and she said it was horrifying to hear.”

The blame game 

Many mothers immediately beat up on themselves when they learn their children are battling addiction.  Brenda Stewart with her sons Richard and Jeremy, who both battled addiction and are now doing well.

Brenda Stewart of Worthington, Ohio, says it was heartbreaking realizing two of her three kids were addicts. Her son Jeremy, now 29, used prescription drugs and then heroin, and the drug of choice for Richard, now 31, was crystal meth, she said.

“I’ve been going to counseling for years to figure out what I did wrong. It’s just like, ‘What did I do?'” said Stewart, who has adopted Jeremy’s two children, ages 5 and 7. “And then you come to find out through tons of counseling and parents’ groups and everything else that this is something you didn’t do to your children. And that’s the hardest thing to get away from because you always feel responsible.”

 

Debbie Gross Longo’s son started taking prescription drugs at 15.  Debbie Gross Longo, whose son started using drugs at 13 and taking prescription drugs at 15, says the powerlessness of being an addict’s mom is worse than people might imagine. “As a mother, it’s been hell,” said the mom of four in Stony Brook, New York. “It’s like having a child that you cannot help and sitting on the edge of your seat all at the time because you know something might happen.” 

Viewing addiction as a disease was instrumental, many mothers say, in helping understand they didn’t cause their child’s addiction and couldn’t fix it either.  “When you really start to understand that it is a disease … you can start looking at your child in a different way, loving them for who they are and hating the disease,” said Stewart.

Sadly, the stigma of having a child with addiction is all too real and incredibly painful. Announce to your community your child has a disease like cancer and people will jump to help, said mothers I interviewed. Not so when you tell them your child is an addict.”There are no little girls selling cookies for addiction. Nobody has bumper stickers on their car,” said Theodosiou.  Her son Daniel was in the church group. “When they found out he was an addict, the entire church shunned him. He was completely not invited anywhere.”

‘The hardest thing in the entire world’ 

Every mom I spoke with talked about the intense struggle between supporting their addicted child or children and not enabling their destructive habit.   It is “the hardest thing in the entire world,” said Theodosiou, who said it was only after seven years and 30-plus stints in rehab that she knew she had to make a drastic change.  “All of these people were telling me you have to stop enabling Daniel. You need to let Daniel go. You need to just stop. … I had to actually face leaving Daniel on the street,” she said.  “I finally spoke to a pastor and an addiction specialist who told me that … the last person in the world who could ever help Daniel is me.”

 

Melva Sherwood’s son Aaron works full-time in marketing and sales and may pursue a career in nutrition.  Sherwood, who lost one son to a drug overdose and has another son who battled drug addiction, said she was never able to cut off her children completely, but she set limits.

“As far as enabling, I think you need to lay it on the table for them. This is what you can do. Here are your options but I’m not going to sit here and let you take advantage of me and lie to me,” said Sherwood, who is a registered nurse and the owner of a business providing caregivers for in-home assisted living.

Stewart, whose two sons were addicts, said she eventually realized the longer she enabled her children, the longer they weren’t going to face the consequences.  “It took the line in the sand, telling them I love them and if they were ever ready to get the help and really wanted it that I’m here for them … but I’m not going to set up another appointment,” she said.   But the enabling isn’t just about the addicts, said Stewart. Parents need to realize they are enabling themselves and are risking losing everything by thinking they can save their children.

“There are moms losing their lives to save their children. … They’re spending their whole paycheck trying to take care of their child. They’re not taking care of themselves. That’s just a ripple effect.”

Finding support from other moms 

Theodosiou went through the range of emotions that most mothers of addicts experience: the guilt followed by the intense sadness and then the anger.

“It’s just a very, very sad and a very lonely place,” she said.

Then, one day about a year and a half into her new kind of normal with two sons who were addicted, she had a conversation with God.  “I said, you know, God, if my sons are going to be living this life and be destroyed by this, I’m going to tell every mother and help every mother I can think of. I’m not going to keep it a secret.”

She headed to Facebook and started a group called The Addict’s Mom in 2008.

Her friend thought she was insane.  “She was like, ‘Are you crazy? You are going to go on Facebook and say that you are an addict’s mom?’ And I said, ‘You know what, I am and I know there have to be a million mothers just like me who are addicts’ moms.'”

CNN”s Kelly Wallace did lengthy interviews with mothers across the country whose children battled addiction.

Six years later, The Addict’s Mom, with its Facebook group, its fan page and its online community, has more than 20,000 members, with chapters in every state. Stewart is the state coordinator in Ohio for The Addict’s Mom.

“It’s given me a place that I feel at home, a place that I feel I can give back,” she said. “I also understand the parent’s pain and for me if I can help one parent ease that pain, then I’ve done something.”  Sherwood, who’s an administrator for the Facebook group, said the online community was an “unbelievable eye opener.”

“It was just like somebody turned on the light in the closet,” she said. “It gave me such comfort to … be able to put something out there online at any time during the day and have 20 people respond back with, ‘Hey, we know. We’ve been where you’re at. We feel for you. We’re praying for you.’ ”  “It definitely was a life-changing experience.”

‘If you can’t afford it, jail is your treatment’ 

Besides providing invaluable comfort and support, The Addict’s Mom is a resource center with information on low and no-cost rehabs, psychologists and sober living environments. This month, the group is launching weekly online video meetings where mothers can call in from all over the country and talk with experts on addiction.

The group has also launched offshoots, including The Addict’s Mom Healthy Moms, where the focus is solely on helping the mom live a healthy life (“We don’t even talk about the addict there,” said Theodosiou) and The Addict’s Mom Grieving Moms for mothers who lost children to addiction. It’s also started The Addict’s Dad for fathers and a group called The Addict for the addicts to talk directly with each other.

A big focus now, the moms I interviewed said, is raising awareness about the problem of drug addiction and finding affordable solutions.

“There is treatment if you’re rich and if you can afford it,” said Theodosiou. “If you can’t afford it, jail is your treatment.”  The Addict’s Mom is starting programs in states including New York, Kentucky and Ohio, where moms go into schools and educate students about addiction. The member moms are also flexing their lobbying muscles, advocating for laws such as legislation that allows a judge to order a person into treatment if a family member feels that person is a danger to himself or others.

“Our children are dying and at such an alarming rate,” said Theodosiou, noting how the day before our conversation there were two posts on The Addict’s Mom with reports that two children died.  “We are seeing an alarming rate of death in our society. We have to break the stigma. It’s a disease,'” said Theodosiou. “They are not bad people. We have to get the word out.”

Looking forward  

Raising awareness and helping other mothers drives members of The Addict’s Mom, but they are also always mindful of the lifelong battle their children are facing.  Sherwood’s surviving son is doing well, she said, working full-time in marketing and sales, and planning to take a nutritional coaching course for a possible career in nutrition.

“Today, I have my son back as he learns and implements the plan he has put into place with nutrition, exercise and being with those that truly love him and support his journey toward a better life,” said Sherwood. “What more could a parent ask for!”

Stewart’s son Jeremy has been in recovery for over two years. He’s engaged, is getting ready to buy a house and is very active with his two children. “Our hope is that in the very near future they are back with their father,” said Stewart, who currently cares for her son’s kids. Her older son, Richard, is also doing well, and has been in treatment since the end of June.

Gross Longo’s son, now 25, had been in recovery for six months and just recently relapsed. He entered a detox program and is starting again on the road to recovery, his mother said. “I am once again heartbroken,” she said. “(My son) is doing what he needs to do to get well, but do you understand how this is a day-to-day, year-to-year fight?”  Before her son’s relapse, Gross Longo told me she was so pleased about his recovery but also very cautious.

“They could change on a dime,” she said. “They could be doing wonderful for five years … and then one evening it’s gone.”  Theodosiou’s older son, Peter, has been in recovery for 3½ years and is a recent college graduate. He will soon begin a master’s program in speech pathology.  Her younger son, Daniel, had been in rehab for five weeks — his longest time ever in treatment — but recently relapsed, breaking the condition of his release from jail so he is back behind bars.   “I am really sad about Daniel,” said Theodosiou.

Despite her son’s setback, she continues to advocate for other moms of addicts, but also gets some much needed help for herself.   A few days before our conversation, a member of The Addict’s Mom called her and expressed concern.

“She said, ‘Barbara, we’re worried about you.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because you have to take care of yourself. You help so many other people.  I still struggle with being OK and with my own issues and they help by reminding me, by being there, by being able to talk to them, by sharing resources and supporting me.”

Source:   http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/26/living/addiction-parents/  26th August 2014

Daily marijuana use among college students is the highest it’s been in more than three decades, and 51 percent of all full-time college students have admitted to smoking pot at some point in their lives.

The group of University of Michigan scientists who conduct the nationwide Monitoring the Future study says illicit drug use has been rising gradually among American college students since 2006, when 34 percent indicated that they used some illicit drug in the prior year.  By 2013, that rate was up to 39 percent, meaning that 429 of the 1,100 students surveyed said they had used one or more drugs in the 12 months preceding the survey.

The study pointed out that daily or near-daily use of marijuana – defined as 20 or more occasions of use in the prior 30 days – has been on the rise. The recent low was 3.5 percent in 2007, but the rate had risen to 5.1 percent by 2013.  “This is the highest rate of daily use observed among college students since 1981 – a third of a century ago,” Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the MTF study, said in a statement.

“In other words, one in every 20 college students was smoking pot on a daily or near-daily basis in 2013, including one in every 11 males and one in every 34 females. To put this into a longer-term perspective, from 1990 to 1994, fewer than one in 50 college students used marijuana that frequently.”

The survey is part of the long-term MTF study, which also tracks substance use among the nation’s secondary students and older adults under research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana has remained the most widely used illicit drug over the 34 years that MTF has tracked substance use by college students, but the level of use has varied considerably over time.  In 2006, 30 percent of the nation’s college students said they used marijuana in the prior 12 months, whereas in 2013 nearly 36 percent indicated doing so.

Nonmedical use of the amphetamine Adderall, used by some students to stay awake and concentrate when preparing for tests or trying to finish homework, ranks second among the illicit drugs being used in college.  According to the study, 11 percent of college students in 2013 indicated some Adderall use without medical supervision in the prior 12 months.

The use of psycho-stimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin, has nearly doubled since the low point in 2008, but their illegal use remained steady between 2012 and 2013.

The next most frequently used illegal drugs by college students are ecstasy, hallucinogens and narcotic drugs other than heroin. About 5 percent of college students reported they had used one of these in the prior 12 months.

Ecstasy use, after declining considerably between 2002 and 2007, from 9.2 percent annual prevalence to 2.2 percent, has made somewhat of a comeback on campus, the study showed.

Nearly 6 percent of students – 5.8 percent – said they had used ecstasy in the prior 12 months in 2012, and was at 5.3 percent in 2013. Hallucinogen use among college students has remained at about 5 percent since 2007, following an earlier period of decline.

The use of narcotic drugs other than heroin, like Vicodin and OxyContin, peaked in 2006, with 8.8 percent of college students indicating any past-year use without medical supervision. Past-year use of these dangerous drugs by college students has since declined to 5.4 percent in 2012, where it remained in 2013.

Use of synthetic marijuana – which used to be legally available and was sold over the counter in convenience stores and other shops – ranked fairly high in 2011 with past-year use at more than 7 percent of college students that year. Just over 2 percent admitted use in 2013.

Fewer than 1 percent of college students in 2013 admitted to using inhalants, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, “bath salts,” GHB and ketamine in the previous 12 months.

Conversely, alcohol use has declined some on campuses in recent years. In 2008, 69 percent of students said they had at least one drink in the prior 30 days, whereas in 2013 that number had dropped to 63 percent.

Similarly, the percent indicating that they got drunk during that period fell from a recent high of 48 percent in 2006 to 40 percent by 2011, where it then remained through 2013.

Overall, about three quarters – 76 percent – of college students indicated drinking at least once in the past 12 months, and 58 percent sad they had gotten drunk at least once in that period.

Source:  http://www.mlive.com/    8th Sept. 2014

Underage youth who cite alcohol marketing and the influence of adults, movies or other media as the main reasons for choosing to consume a specific brand of alcohol are more likely to drink more and report adverse consequences from their drinking than youth who report other reasons for selecting a specific brand, new research suggests.

The findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, add to a growing body of research suggesting youth exposure to alcohol marketing affects their drinking behavior. The study was conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth and the Boston University School of Public Health.

The researchers conducted an Internet survey in 2012 of 1,031 people between the ages of 13 and 20 who reported having consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days. Of those, 541 reported having a choice of multiple alcohol brands the last time they drank and researchers wanted to know why they chose the brand they did. They classified the underage drinkers into five groups:

· Brand Ambassadors, who selected a brand because they identified with its marketed image (32.5 percent of respondents)
· Tasters, who selected a brand because they expected it to taste good (27.2 percent of respondents)
· Bargain Hunters, who selected a brand because it was inexpensive (18.5 percent of respondents)
· Copycats, who selected a brand because they’d seen adults drinking it, or seen it consumed in movies or other media (10.4 percent of respondents)
· Others (11.5 percent of respondents)

“Almost one in three underage drinkers reports choosing a brand of alcohol to drink based on branding and marketing,” says lead study author Craig Ross, PhD, president of Fiorente Media, Inc. and a consultant to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. “These findings suggest that alcohol advertisements, media portrayals of alcohol use, and celebrity endorsements play a significant role in alcohol brand selection among young people.”

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among youth in the United States and is responsible on average for the deaths of 4,300 underage persons each year, researchers say. Approximately 33 percent of eighth graders and 70 percent of twelfth graders have consumed alcohol, and 13 percent of eighth graders and 40 percent of twelfth graders drank during the past month.

The researchers also examined whether different reasons for selecting a brand of alcohol were associated with riskier drinking behaviors. Brand Ambassadors and Copycats reported consuming the largest amount of alcohol and were most likely to report both heavy episodic drinking and negative alcohol-related health consequences, such as being injured while drinking or suffering an injury serious enough to require medical attention.

“The prevalence of heavy drinking among these two groups and the high rates of negative health consequences they report are of particular concern,” says study author David Jernigan, PhD, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Further research to explore methods of offsetting negative influences of alcohol marketing and promotion on our children’s health is sorely needed, as are more effective restrictions on advertising placement to reduce youth exposure to alcohol marketing and promotion.”

Alcohol advertising in the U.S. is primarily regulated by the industry itself. Several leading public health groups and officials, including the National Research Council, the Institute of Medicine and 24 state and territorial attorneys general, have called upon the alcohol industry to strengthen its standards to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing.

“Selection of Branded Alcohol Beverages by Underage Drinkers” was written by Craig S. Ross, PhD, MBA; Josh Ostroff; Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH; William DeJong, PhD; Michael Siegel, MD, MPH; and David H. Jernigan, PhD. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01AA020309-01).

Source: www.newswise.com 20th April 2015 Journal of Adolescent Health, May 2015

If you had to guess which country had the most marijuana users, which would it be? It’s not the Netherlands—they’re not even in the top five. This map, courtesy of Conrad Hackett and UNODC, shows where marijuana use is most widespread.

Per capita, Iceland leads the pack:

1. Iceland

2. United States

3. New Zealand

4. Nigeria

5. Canada

You can read the UN’s full report on cannabis here (PDF).

Source: UNODC April 2015 http://www.unodc.org/

Researchers argue that the lack of available treatment and understanding around cannabis dependency is a major public health concern, with users often being ignored

Health experts have warned that the public health care system is unprepared and ill-equipped to provide help for cannabis users, despite a rapid increase in the number of people seeking treatment for problems relating to the drug.

Researchers gathering at a conference at the University of York highlighted the discovery of “concerning, unexpected” new symptoms reported by intensive users of cannabis and synthetic alternatives, including agitation and impulse control problems, contradicting the perception of cannabis as a suppressive drug.

One new study presented to the group demonstrated that while the use of cannabis has fallen in recent years, those smaller numbers of people are using the drug more intensively, with 73 per cent of all cannabis consumed by 9 per cent of users.

We’re effectively seeing a surge of people presenting for treatment but centres are not sure what to do with them,” explained Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health in the Department of Health Sciences at York University, a member of the research group. “It’s like going in for heart surgery but finding the doctors don’t have the necessary equipment to do it.”

While previous studies show that one in 10 dependent cannabis users now seek treatment, researchers at the Cannabis Matters meeting said access and routes into treatment remain unclear and even when they could be traced they were varied.

“We noticed something strange going on with the drug statistics,” said Mark Monaghan, a Social Sciences researcher at Loughborough University. “While fewer people were seemingly using cannabis, more people were lamenting to treatment services to cannabis related problems, but when we started to explore the literature around this, it was pretty unclear as to why this was happening – and what was happening to users once they were getting into treatment.”

Another pattern acknowledged by the researchers was that an increasing number of people seeking help for drug use are citing cannabis as their primary problem, yet the drug is still not taken seriously by many healthcare professionals.

“At a time when cannabis treatment demand is rising there is also increasingly competitive tendering between treatment providers for these contracts,” said Mr Hamilton. “This has created a disincentive for services to share intelligence with each other about good practice and potential solutions with their competitors.”

“Once in treatment it was clear that the response users had was variable in terms of interventions, in particular how seriously cannabis problems were viewed by treatment staff, with the consistent view being that cannabis was a benign drug.”

“It was people using cannabis who had the knowledge and expertise of the drug and its effects, rather that the treatment staff.”

The group of researchers argue that the lack of available treatment and understanding around cannabis dependency is a major public health concern, and should be treated on the same level as alcohol or smoking addiction. The health risks for cannabis

are exacerbated by the fact it is often used in conjunction with tobacco, putting users at increased risk of nicotine addiction and other associated health problems.

“Despite the success of initiatives to reduce tobacco use in the general population, cannabis users have largely been ignored,” The researchers said. “Treatment may offer an opportunity to intervene on both tobacco and cannabis use.”

Of those seeking treatment for drug use in 2014, 43 per cent of the 18-24 age group named cannabis as their primary drug, compared to just 16 per cent for opiates including heroin.

Synthetic cannabinoids such as ‘spice’ have also been named as a potential factor for the suggested increase in dependency among intensive users. According to Professor Harry Sumnall from the Centre for Public Health, SCRAs – which are now banned under the psychoactive substances act – work differently to organic cannabis, their chemicals acting on different neuro-receptors to produce distinct physical and psychological effects.

Over half of those using SCRAs more than 50 times in last year who tried to stop reported withdrawal symptoms, according to the most recent Global Drug Survey.

Synthetic cannabinoids are more likely to lead to emergency medical treatment than any other drug, with one in eight weekly users seeking emergency medical treatment.

In a statement, Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco at Public Health England said: “It is clear that while substance misuse treatment is working well for many, there is a need for increasingly specialist approaches to support a range of complex needs, especially among the more vulnerable in our communities.”

“It’s vital that local authorities continue to invest so those in need of help are supported on the road to recovery, giving them the best possible chance of living a better, healthier life. Public Health England continues to support local areas in delivering effective tailored services, which increasingly need to meet the needs of older drug users and younger people for whom drug use is just one of many problems.”

Source:  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families   25th June 2016

Introduction

This essay is about the drug problem in society, particularly in the United States. By “drug” I mean alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs such as marijuana, hallucinogens, stimulants, depressants, and opiates. In regard to youth, inhalants (household chemicals inhaled to get a “high”) are also included.

This is not about the struggles faced by individuals who are addicted, or who struggle with any of the many life problems that can arise from drug use. Others are well addressing those issues in the treatment programs they offer and the publications they write. That society should be more diligent in ensuring availability of treatment for all who need it has been well stated by others. This essay is not about people’s drug problems so much as society’s drug problem.

The problem is that drugs are significantly decreasing our collective quality of life: decreasing our capacity to solve the problems that we collectively face in living. Whether you turn to issues of economics, health, social justice, family life, or the strength of the work force, the magnitude of the damage done by drugs is striking:

  • The number of deaths due to drugs in the United States alone each year exceeds 400,000 from tobacco, 100,000 from alcohol, and 35,000 from other drugs.
  • The most recent estimate of cost to U.S. society (not to users) of alcohol and other drug abuse was 246 billion dollars: 148 billion from alcohol abuse and 98 billion from other drug abuse.
  • A large percentage of health problems and health care costs are due to alcohol or other drugs.
  • Substance abuse in a single year costs American businesses 37 billion dollars due to premature deaths and another 44.6 billion dollars due to employee illness. Drug dependence and alcohol together cost businesses 200 billion dollars. A majority of the alcohol problems are caused by light and moderate drinkers, rather than alcoholics.
  • A high percentage of child abuse and neglect is associated with parental AOD (alcohol or other drug) abuse.
  • A recent study of teen marijuana users found they were 4 times more likely than non-users to attack someone, 3 times more likely to destroy others’ property, and 5 times more likely to have stolen things.
  • The combination of alcohol-related accidents, assaults, and suicides makes alcohol the leading risk factor for adolescent death and injury.

Whether or not you have directly experienced a drug problem in your life, society’s drug problem is shared by all of us. Most of the people who are aware of the impact of drugs on families and other relationships would argue forcefully one person’s drug use hurts more than just that person. The issue may be debatable in the case of any single individual, but collectively there can be no doubt: the drug problem is a problem for all of us.

In the twelve years I have worked in drug prevention, I have learned a lot about how drug use develops, and how it can be prevented. I have discovered that there is tremendous energy and potential in drug prevention, but progress has sometimes been slow, for good reason. The reason is that the general public, and in some cases even prevention professionals, hold some core assumptions about the drug problem that are actually incorrect. As a result, much of the effort put into prevention strays slightly, but significantly, from what is needed.

This essay is an attempt to identify, describe, and correct those faulty assumptions. This is not a “how to” book on prevention. I have written such a book (Best Practices in ATOD Prevention, 1997), with much help. But having the right tools are not enough to become a builder. To be successful with “how to,” you have to start with, “what’s that?” This essay is about understanding the drug problem: what causes it and what is needed to stop it. The application of this knowledge is up to each reader. I hope you find some valuable insights here, or perhaps find support for some of your own observations.

I am convinced that if we stop going down dead-end streets, we can really get places in prevention. Thanks for letting me share the results of my explorations in drug prevention.

Fallacy #1: The primary target of drug prevention should be hard-core drug abuse.

This fallacy has three main parts: (a.) which drugs are the problem, (b.) which drug users are the problem, and (c.) the relation of addiction to drug abuse.

a. “Shouldn’t crack, speed, and heroin be our number one concern?”

No. Ounce for ounce these drugs are certainly among the most potent, but they are (or should be) of secondary concern to drug prevention because of the developmental nature of drug abuse, the limitations of prevention, and the greater amount of societal problems associated with other drugs.

Development of Drug Abuse

It is exceedingly rare for an adult who has never used any drug to use drugs like cocaine or heroin. Nearly as rare is a youth or adult who uses one of these drugs without a history of use of at least one, and often all three, “gateway” drugs: alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.

Don’t misunderstand the gateway drug phenomenon: obviously not all people who use alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana progress to other drug use. But, the odds of other drug use depend on gateway use because those who don’t use gateway drugs are so extremely unlikely to use other drugs.

The gateway phenomenon includes two other notable features in addition to the issue of whether or not gateway drugs are used. One is that the younger a person is when they begin gateway use, the greater their likelihood of drug problems (with gateway and other drugs) later in life. The other is that people who use two or three gateway drugs are more likely to progress to other drugs than people who use one (use of all three is most significant).

So alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are truly “gateways” to other drug use. Although most of the people who go through the gate don’t do on to other drug use, nearly everyone who goes on to other drugs passes first through the threshold of gateway use. This alone doesn’t conclude the case for where to direct drug prevention, but sets the stage for two other two facts.

Limitations of Prevention

Prevention is just one of the major strands of anti-drug efforts. The other two are treatment and legal restrictions (regarding use, possession, and sale of drugs). To a great extent the target population for prevention and the target for treatment are opposite. By the time people go through gateway use and begin using other drugs, they have become (due to some combination of self-selection and the results of earlier gateway use) fairly habituated to drugs. In many cases they are already addicted. The habit formed from regular drug use is hard to break. When addiction is also present, the strong forces involved are not only psychological but also bio-chemical. We like to think our minds are in control, but addiction can rule behavior at a level so deep and powerful that rational thought pales in comparison.

As a result, prevention efforts that may be appropriate for youth who are non-users or experimenters with drugs are simply not effective with more committed users, and certainly not with addicts. Addiction calls for drug treatment: prevention is inadequate for those trying to back away from heavy drug use.

On the other hand, treatment is not appropriate for first-time experimenters. The treatment process is not designed for that population, and the cost of providing such intensive services is neither justified for the individual drug experimenter nor remotely available for the whole population of experimenters. For them and for those who are yet to experiment, prevention is the key.

Of those who use gateway drugs, some require treatment (or cessation aid, in the case of tobacco), but most do not. Of those who use other drugs, a large proportion requires treatment, and few would benefit from prevention. This strengthens the case for targeting gateway drugs in prevention, and leads to the third point.

Societal Cost of Gateway Drug Problems

Recall that ounce per ounce, gateway drugs are not as destructive as crack, crank, and heroin. But the scope of any one drug’s impact on society depends on the amount of use (including number of users and degree of use by each) as well as the drug’s dangers. Unlike crack and heroin, gateway drugs are used by a large portion of the population. And, though gateway drugs seem less dangerous than so called “hard” drugs, research and bitter experience have shown that the gateway drugs are dangerous enough:

  • Tobacco kills four times as many Americans as does alcohol, and alcohol kills three times as many as all illegal drugs combined.
  • Alcohol seems to be the leading cause of teen deaths, based on the high percent of instances in which alcohol is a major factor in car crashes, suicides, homicides, drownings, and other unintended injuries.
  • Marijuana combines the cancer potential of tobacco with the cognitive impairment of alcohol, except that impaired thought lasts longer after each marijuana use than after each alcohol use.

As a result, the benefit to society of cutting gateway drug use in half would be much greater than cutting other drug use in half. Combine this point with the point about prevention’s limits and the point about the development of drug abuse, and you get a strong case for making gateway drug use (particularly by youth) the prime target of prevention.

b. Shouldn’t prevention always target “high risk” youth?

No. Although it may be appropriate to devote extra preventive effort to some groups of youth, conceiving ATOD prevention in only those terms is problematic for reasons that include the breadth of risk, the importance of environmental risk, and the need for different approaches according to the nature of different risk conditions.

Breadth of Risk

While some characteristics act as “risk factors” for youth ATOD use, the absence of those risk factors doesn’t guarantee a drug-free youth. To some extent, everyone is at risk. The older a persons gets without using, the lower the risk that they will use. Furthermore, while the primary aim of ATOD prevention is to prevent use, an important secondary function is to help prepare all youth for addressing the drug problem in society: as family members, co-workers, or citizens. We are currently a society at risk.

This is not to say that community risk conditions shouldn’t be considered, nor that “selective” ATOD prevention efforts can’t be done for groups of medium risk youth or families. I use the term “medium risk” to refer to youth who haven’t begun ATOD use, but whose family or personal characteristics include some risk factors (e.g., poverty, low academic achievement, parental drug use or addiction, etc.) for youth ATOD use. But these efforts are a supplement to prevention efforts for all youth, rather than a replacement.

Environmental Risk

Preoccupation with risk profiles of individual youths, or even groups of youths, diverts attention away from the strongest influences of whether most youth will try drugs or avoid drugs. The combination of youths’ peer social environment, family environment, school environment, media environment, and their community’s adult social environment account for the vast majority of variation in youth drug behavior. A “low risk” youth who enters a “high risk” environment (e.g., a “no-use” youth who moves to a school where drinking is the norm) is no longer low risk.

Prevention planners who only look at what’s “inside” youth can miss the environmental factors (including media influences) that shape youths’ attitudes. If not directly addressed, these environmental factors can misdirect youths’ attitudes and behaviors as fast or faster than youth-focused programs can positively affect them.

Different Risks – Different Approaches

The risk factor that is most important to the largest number of youth in regard to initiation of gateway drug use is their perception of peer attitudes about drugs, as will be discussed in regard to “Fallacy #3.” However, for a smaller number of youth other factors play a major role. For example, children raised in households with parental violence, neglect, or addiction are more likely than average to develop their own problems with alcohol or other drugs. The number of children in this kind of situation, though much larger than it should be, is small compared to the overall number of children and families.

For a child in a household with parental violence (domestic violence and/or child abuse), what happens to that violence may be the most important “risk factor” for their future mental health, including their relation to drugs. Their greatest need may have little to do with drug prevention, and everything to do with appropriate resolution of the violence.

For a youth failing school, the greatest need may be assistance with whatever is interfering with school achievement.

In each case, the most effective form of drug prevention may be to resolve the problem(s) that increase risk for drug use, rather than to directly address the issue of drugs. On the other hand, a youth who has started to experiment with drugs may need intervention services, sometimes called “indicated prevention”, but actually more closely akin to some forms of substance abuse treatment counseling. In all these instances, the kinds of programs that constitute “universal” drug prevention programs may be less relevant. So, these kinds of “high risk” youth need more focused and intensive assistance than is available through what I am calling drug prevention, i.e. programs designed to impact the gateway drug attitudes and behaviors of large groups of youth. They may be helped somewhat by such programs, and so should not be excluded, but to limit participation in prevention programs only to such “high risk” youths is probably not appropriate, particularly given the risk of a norm of gateway drug use arising among program participants if all are “high risk.”

c. Isn’t addiction prevention the main goal of substance abuse prevention?

No. Addiction is one major outcome of drug use, but the impairment of rational thought, the plethora of anti-social and injurious behaviors caused or heightened by that impairment, and the direct toxic effects of drugs are all substantial societal problems worthy of prevention. Addiction increases these other problems, but a person need not be addicted in order to seriously injure of kill themselves or others while impaired, typically due to negligence (as in DUI crashes) rather than violent intent.

Further, since the number of alcohol or other drug users at any given point in time far exceeds the number of addicts (including alcoholics), the societal damage done by non-addicted persons can cumulatively exceed the damage done by addicts. Even though individual addicted persons are more problematic to society than individual non-addicted AOD (alcohol and other drug) users, the much larger number of non-addicted users makes them a major part of societal AOD problems.

Efforts to make the public more aware of realities of addiction should continue, but preventing addiction is one main goal of drug prevention: not the main goal.

Fallacy # 2: Alcohol and other drug problems are mainly a result of other problems, and drug prevention can best be accomplished by addressing those other problems.

Drug abuse has multiple causative factors: this has become an oft stated truism. Unfortunately, people tend to notice and magnify the causative strand that is most evident in their personal or professional experience. Their observations are strengthened by studies which demonstrate the connection between each of a variety of “risk factors” and drug abuse, but which fail to consider the larger context of the societal drug problem, including which of the many risk factors play the most important roles within the largest numbers of people. Rather than starting with convergence on the most prevalent and powerful risks, people therefore tend to diverge into various less central issues:

  • Persons who focus on poverty see poverty as the main root of drug problems.
  • Persons concerned with stimulating positive youth development see their work as the best form of drug prevention.
  • Persons familiar with dysfunctional family systems see family dysfunction as the main root of drug problems.

Attention to this whole range of negative factors may be appropriate, but mistaking any one of these for the “main” cause of drug problems is not. One person or subgroup may be profoundly influenced by one of these factors, but the prevalence of each factor in the population is far less than the prevalence of drug problems.

Family Dysfunction: Major dysfunction (such as family violence) greatly heightens the chance of youth drug problems, but the majority of youth AOD users (and hence, most of the future AOD abusers) do not come from dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional family life is a potent risk factor but not a prevalent one, in comparison to the scope of youth AOD problems.

Poverty: Poverty makes drug problems more likely, but only slightly more likely: a large number of well-to-do people are among those who children use and abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Positive Youth Development: Policies that empower youth development are a good idea, but aren’t sufficient to prevent youth drug use. The notion that positive youth development can substitute for specific attention to drug prevention is similar to the 1970’s notion that good self-esteem is the key to drug prevention. Unfortunately, ignoring drug prevention in favor of self-esteem tends to produce drug users with high self-esteem. Self-esteem doesn’t protect from the destructive effects of drugs. Youth development programs can be an important aid for youths who lack key developmental assets, but will only impact drug use if:

  1. anti-drug norms are already present in the lives of those youth, or
  2. the youth development program includes building anti-drug norms as part of its mission.

Two kinds of problems arise from the mis-attribution of heightened importance of these factors as causes of substance abuse:

  1. More global causes of ATOD problems, such as youths’ and parents’ attitudes about drug use, may be glossed over in the design of prevention strategies. In other words, potentially efficacious approaches to prevention may be ignored in favor of less broadly effective approaches.
  2. Parents may believe that avoiding family dysfunction is sufficient to prevent youth drug problems.

The worst instances of this fallacy in action have parents or other adults allowing and enabling youth alcohol or other drug use under the misguided notion that only troubled individuals abuse substances. Statements like, “It’s no big deal,” or “They’re just going through a phase,” or “It’s part of growing up” tend to be evidence of this. While it’s true that troubled youth are more likely to develop a drug problem, also true is that alcohol or other drug use can cause a person to become troubled – especially if addiction is involved.

Youth alcohol and other drug use is a bad idea no matter how positive an individual’s circumstances. Youth with substantial personal or family problems are more likely to experience significant problems with drugs, but the initial absence of personal disturbance is no insurance policy against addiction or other ATOD problems. And, although family problems constitute a risk factor for youth ATOD use, family wellness is not a sufficient protective factor to counter other negative influences on youth ATOD decisions. Parents who don’t have general problems with family management can take steps (particularly in regard to monitoring youth activities) to decrease their children’s likelihood of ATOD use, but just being a “good” parent isn’t a cure-all. Drug prevention needs to go beyond the foundation of healthy families and positive youth development, to build attitudes and behaviors that especially counter ATOD influences in society.

Fallacy #3: The main essence of successful drug prevention is communication about the dangers of drugs.

This very common misperception probably sidetracks more prevention efforts than any other single error. Actually the essence of success in preventing youth use of gateway drugs is making drug use unpopular: destroying the myth that peers approve of drug use. This can be supplemented by fact-based approaches and parent programs, but the most basic reason youth as a whole start gateway drug use is because they believe their peers approve of it. No matter how dangerous they are told drug use may be, if they think many others are doing it they will tend to do the same, unless they consistently see very negative effects on those believed to be using.

There are two reasons I see for the continuing strength of Fallacy #3 in spite of evidence to the contrary. The first is our nature as human beings. We like to think we are logical, sensible beings. To some extent we are, but most of us, and especially children and youth, base our actions first on what we observe from those around us, and only secondly on what we believe.

Remember that we are talking about society as a whole here: there are certainly some people who are less prone to be influenced by others (psychology calls them “field independent” as opposed to field dependent), and all of us vary in our susceptibility. But as a whole, we’re just not as logical as we like to think. To be human is to be influenced by our observations of others.

The second reason for the fallacy is a more complex one having to do with the nature of scientific studies of youth alcohol and other drug use. Common scientific method in the social sciences involves looking for things that go together in large populations. The question is what “factors” tend to go with, and particularly to predict, youth ATOD use. A basic premise is that correlation does not necessarily equate to causation, especially in cross-sectional one-time studies. However, when a factor such as “perception of harm” is closely matched with drug use over a period of years, as has been the case in the national “Monitoring the Future” study, observers are hard pressed to ignore the likely conclusion that changing perception of harm is the key to prevention.

The problem is, how does one change perception of harm? The common assumption is that you do this by communicating drug dangers. Often overlooked is that there is an equally strong association with perceived peer approval or disapproval for use of drugs: what youth believe their peers think of drugs. I think that, contrary to common assumptions, the perception of peer attitude drives youths’ own attitudes about drugs (both perceived harmfulness and intent to use). Perception of harm then ends up being a strong indicator of whether a youth will use a drug, especially because it is probably also affected by other risk factors. But the route to turning around perception of harm usually has to go through perceptions of peer approval/ disapproval. When we present logical facts about drug dangers to youth, if they think most of their peers approve of drug use, and indeed use drugs, then the warnings seem ungrounded and are easily ignored.

I base this point on a variety of research, but some of the most striking and easiest to communicate is research about what works in prevention. Of all the things that have been tried in prevention curricula for young teens, the most powerful is simply to correct their typically exaggerated assumptions about how many peers use drugs. When they are shown that far fewer than thought peers use, their attitudes change to a degree not seen with mere truth about drugs.

This is not to say that education about drug dangers is not important for youth: it is! These facts back up the facts about peer attitudes, and may be especially important for some youth who are able to base their behavior on rational truth about drug dangers. Even if this weren’t the case, it would simply not be right to let youth grow up in this society without exposing them to the truth about drugs. But to assume that exposure is the key element of prevention is to severely limit the effectiveness of one’s prevention efforts.

One of the important implications of this is that the images presented by mass media, especially in regard to images of youth attitudes and behaviors, should be a vital concern of prevention. We all like to think that we are too sophisticated to be influenced by the images of television and other media, but it’s just not so. We are influenced. That’s why advertising works. While any one youth may be more influenced by their parents than by the media, youth as a whole are dramatically influenced (as has been demonstrated by studies showing that youth smoke those cigarette brands that are most heavily advertised to youth). Media plays the role of a “super-peer,” playing directly into the heart of youth decisions by telling them what is cool and what isn’t. Prevention cannot afford to ignore this. Luckily, the same principles currently used by alcohol and tobacco advertisers to snare youth users can also be used in prevention. But, first we have to get past this fallacy that drug facts are the key.

Fallacy # 4: Making and enforcing laws against the use of drugs, and against underage use of alcohol and tobacco, is contrary to prevention and treatment of drug use.

This premise has been advanced by legalization groups, claiming all would be well if we did away with laws against drug use and relied solely on prevention and treatment. But the truth is that prevention, treatment, and legal barriers to use all depend on each other for effectiveness. The kind of “prevention” touted by legalization groups is not prevention of use but facilitation of “safe” use, called “harm reduction.” The role of prevention in this scenario is to teach people how to use drugs safely. The problem with this is that the laws against each particular drug are enacted because its use is inherently unsafe. An analogy would be explosives manufacturers lobbying to take the funds used to enforce laws against possessing bombs and instead just teaching youth how to use them “safely,” and of course not until they were 18 or 21. Would the public stand for that? Would even the most avid libertarians be crazy enough to support it? Legalizers suggest that drugs hurt only the user, but impacts of our society’s drug problem go far beyond the circle of users, as was discussed earlier.

Even if, after legalization, the current drug-free message of prevention were maintained, a country that tolerates drug use would be giving a strange message that would undercut any such “no-use” message. “Drugs are dangerous and hurt society, but you can go ahead and do them if you want.” Use would soon rise, not so much from drug-free adults starting use but from every new generation of teens becoming more and more enmeshed in drug use, in spite of any legal age restrictions. This is what has happened when legalization has been tried. Similarly, the number of people entering treatment, cooperating with treatment, and avoiding relapse would be far less without the force of law to compel users to quit.

High quality drug prevention and treatment are currently vital to our society, but their success would be lessened, not increased, if legal sanctions against use were eliminated. The specific workings of the legal and criminal justice system in regard to drug use can always be examined for improvement, but most groups who currently call for drug law “reform” are using the term as a euphemism for legalization.

Fallacy # 5: Marijuana is not dangerous.

We tend to think of drugs as poisons to the body, and measure the potency of a drug by how fast and how completely it can interfere with physical health. We are less quick to recognize that the most crucial characteristics of drugs are their “psychoactive” effect: their alteration of thought, feelings, and behavior. Measured by physical effects only, marijuana is not as dangerous as many other drugs (though it has the potential to kill as many people as tobacco does, if it were as popular as tobacco). But, examined for its behavioral effect, marijuana is quite potent. The subtlety with which it alters behavior, typically over a period of weeks or months, makes it all the more effective as a behavioral change agent. The data that has begun to emerge as younger teens and pre-teens smoke more potent marijuana shows a devastating effect on the social functioning of many users. Some users may have been self-centered when they began use, but marijuana heightens that characteristic, killing the empathy and capacity for altruism that embody the best qualities of society. What is left is a person addicted to marijuana and concerned about marijuana, but not so much about relationships, achievement, or even obeying the law. People sometimes discount the effects of marijuana because many users do not seem to be greatly impaired, but the luck of some in warding off clear impairment is a poor balance to the studies and accumulated life experiences of those who have been severely changed by marijuana use.

Fallacy # 6: Anti-drug laws and anti-drug law enforcement is driven by national bureaucracy and the zealousness of federal officials.

People who travel in a sub-culture of drug tolerance tend to perceive the government’s anti-drug actions as being out of touch with the populace, but polls show that a large majority of the American (and other) public opposes drug legalization. The greatest passion in favor of enforcing drug laws comes not from any government but from families that have seen the worst that drugs do. The proper balance between society’s interest in stopping drugs and the freedom of individuals becomes clear when one has witnessed a family or community ravaged by drug use and addiction. The social value of drugs is far below zero. Any loosening of restrictions on drug use has tended to lead to a cycle of increased use, increased damage to society, and a resulting determination to toughen enforcement of laws against drug use. Ultimately, the source of calls for strict enforcement of laws against drugs come not from any one group but from the power of drugs to damage people, and damage society.

Alan Markwood is the Prevention Projects Coordinator at Chestnut Health Systems, Inc. in Bloomington, Illinois. Responsibilities include:

  • Participating in prevention research, development, and training projects as a contractor to the Illinois Department of Human Services.
  • Directing prevention coalitions in three counties, funded by the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Illinois Department of Human Services under grants he wrote.

Mr. Markwood is the principal author of the Best Practices in ATOD Prevention Handbook (1997), and has managed a series of statewide studies on youth substance use in Illinois. He served as InTouch Area 14 Prevention Coordinator at Chestnut Health Systems from 1987 until promoted to his current position in 1995. Prior to his work in prevention, he worked as a School Psychologist for seven years in Illinois and Massachusetts. He has a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Alfred University and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Education from Boston University.

Source: www.drugwatch.org Sept.1999

Attempts to tackle sales threat by framing criticism of smoking as fundamentalist fanaticism are outlined in cache of documents from 1970s until late 1990s

The tobacco industry attempted to reinterpret Islamic teaching and recruit Islamic scholars in a bid to undermine the prohibition on smoking in many Muslim countries, an investigation has shown.

Evidence from archived industry documents from the 1970s to the late 1990s shows that tobacco companies were seriously concerned about Islamic teaching. In 1996, an internal document from British American Tobacco warned that, because of the spread of “extremist views” from fundamentalists in countries such as Afghanistan, the industry would have to “prepare to fight a hurricane”.

We had tobacco industry lawyers actually developing theological arguments’ Prof Mark Petticrew

BAT and other companies, which were losing sales in affluent countries where anti-smoking measures had been introduced, devised strategies to counter this perceived threat to sales in places such as Egypt, Indonesia and Bangladesh, which have large populations of young people who smoke.

The industry was concerned that the World Health Organisation was encouraging the anti-smoking stance of Islamic leaders. A 1985 report from tobacco firm Philip Morris squarely blamed the WHO. “This ideological development has become a threat to our business because of the interference of the WHO … The WHO has not only joined forces with Moslem fundamentalists who view smoking as evil, but has gone yet further by encouraging religious leaders previously not active anti-smokers to take up the cause,” it said.

 A No Smoking sign in Syria Photograph: Alamy

A Moslem who attacks smoking generally speaking would be a threat to existing government as a ‘fundamentalist’ who wishes to return to sharia law,” says one of the archive documents. It adds: “Our invisible defence must be the individualism which Islam allows its believers … smoking and other signs of modern living should encourage governments to a point at which it is possible quietly to suggest their benefits.”

It adds: “With Islam we might ask what other aspects of modern living are similarly open to extremist demands for prohibition under strict interpretation of sharia: motion pictures, television, and art depicting the human being? Use of electronic amplification by muezzin calling from a minaret? The education of women?” the document says.

The earliest fatwa against tobacco was in 1602, but many scholars believed smoking cigarettes or taking tobacco in water pipes or other forms was harmless until evidence of the dangers to health began to emerge in the mid 20th century. Jurists pronounced that tobacco use was makrooh(discouraged). In many Islamic countries, a harder line was taken, with smoking prohibited on the grounds that the Qur’an does not permit self-harm or intoxication.

The WHO negotiated the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, starting in 1999, in response to what it describes as the “explosive increase in tobacco use”. The convention, which outlines strategies intended to reduce demand, was adopted in 2003.

This is an issue to be handled extremely gingerly and sensitively’

BAT internal document

A report in 2000 from the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (Cora) department at BAT after the first international negotiations said: “It appears that the WHO’s efforts to link religion (specifically Islam) with issues surrounding the use of tobacco are bearing fruit … We will need to discuss separately how we might understand and manage this aspect in line with the Cora strategy.”

The tobacco industry attempted to re-interpret anti-smoking Islamic teachings. A 1996 BAT memo suggests identifying “a scholar/scholars, preferably at the Al Azhar University in Cairo, who we could then brief and enlist as our authoritative advisers/allies and occasionally spokespersons on the issue.

We agreed that such scholars/authority would need to be paired up with an influential Moslem writer/journalist … such advice would present the most effective and influential opinion able to counter extremist views, which are generally peddled by Islamic fundamentalist preachers largely misinterpreting the Koran … This is an issue to be handled extremely gingerly and sensitively … We have to avoid all possibilities of a backlash.”

Tobacco industry lawyers were also involved in this attempt at revision. A presentation from 2000, prepared by the firm Shook, Hardy and Bacon, gave an overview of the background to Islam and smoking, with slides stating that there is no prohibition on smoking in the Qur’an – and that “making rules beyond what Allah has allowed is a sin in itself”.

Prof Mark Petticrew from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the research, said he was amazed by what researchers had found in the archives. “‘You couldn’t make it up’ comes to mind,” he said. “The thing that jumps out at me from all this is the fact that we had tobacco industry lawyers actually developing theological arguments. That was pretty surprising.”

A document suggest Philip Morris wanted to try to recruit Islamic scholars at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. A representative of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council “agreed to make exploratory contact”, it says. Petticrew and his team do not know whether they were successful. “We couldn’t find the papers,” he said.

The tobacco industry is still heavily promoting smoking in countries such as Bangladesh and Egypt, which are predominantly Muslim and have high proportions of smokers.

Its marketing is generally adapted to the “not overly devout”, says the study. The authors call for further research to find out how the industry had approached other faiths.

The launch of the Faith Against Tobacco national campaign by Tobacco Free Kids and faith leaders in the US, for example, brings together Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths ‘to support proven solutions to reduce smoking’. Understanding efforts by the industry to undermine the efforts of other faith communities brings to light a broader strategy to marginalise tobacco control in diverse communities, and refocuses the problem on tobacco-related health harms,” says the paper.

BAT told the Guardian. “This study, which concerns material written nearly 20 years ago, does not represent the views, policies and position of British American Tobacco. We are a global business that holds itself to strict standards of business conduct and corporate governance, manufacturing and marketing our products in accordance with domestic and international laws and observing the cultural and religious beliefs in the 200 countries in which we operate.”

Philip Morris did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/apr/20/

Filed under: Nicotine,Social Affairs :

It’s the largest cash crop in the United States…

Bigger than corn, bigger than wheat, and bigger than cotton.

From 2013 to 2014, it experienced a growth rate of 77%, and an estimated 700% growth rate is anticipated by 2018.

I’m talking about cannabis, and if you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know I’m extremely bullish on the potential of this burgeoning market.

That being said, we’re still in the earliest stages, and right now there are a lot more pitfalls than profits — one of which is the direct result of the federal government’s labelling of marijuana as a schedule 1 substance.

As a schedule 1 substance, it is illegal for any person to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana. As a result, almost every bank in the nation refuses to do business with the cannabis industry due to fear of being shut down by the feds.

So because of the federal government’s insistence on continuing the drug war and denying citizens the right to medicate and recreate as they wish, marijuana dispensaries and growers are unable to conduct business with commercial banks. All transactions must be done in cash, and security companies must be used to move and store this cash. This impediment alone is one of the biggest hurdles for the industry. But if and when that hurdle can be crossed, prepare to see the cannabis market get a major shot of steroids.

Sin is in!

A few months back, while attending a cannabis investment summit, groups of lawyers, accountants, and entrepreneurs devoted hours upon hours to discussing possible solutions to this problem. There was a lot of head scratching and a lot of frustration.

To be honest, after conducting a few interviews, I was at a loss as to how this problem could be rectified in the absence of the federal government re-scheduling marijuana.

But then, last week, a potential solution was found. And it was found in a place where out-of-the-box thinking spawned an oasis of wealth creation and greed.

 

I’m talking about Nevada, home of legalized gambling and legalized prostitution — two “sin” industries that have turned risk-taking entrepreneurs into multimillionaires. And now, it looks like the Silver State may be ready to facilitate the growth of the marijuana industry by creating new banks that could solve a lot of the banking issues dispensaries and growers face today.

Change the rules

Right now there’s an amendment to a mortgage lending bill that, according to Marijuana Business Daily, would change the rules so savings and loan companies wouldn’t have to obtain insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The legislation would also remove a provision from state law that limits the operation of savings and loan companies (called “thrifts” in the banking world) to those that received a license prior to 1997:

Thrifts could potentially become the go-to financial institutions for cannabis companies – and if the experiment works in Nevada, other states might adopt similar legislation.

Under the amendment, thrifts would be allowed to seek deposit insurance from private insurers rather than the FDIC, and more closely resemble credit unions than traditional banks.

To be sure, non-traditional banking hasn’t exactly been the saviour for cannabis companies, as some credit unions have failed at attempts to work within the industry. They must also have in place agreements with the U.S. Federal Reserve to take their cash, which can prove problematic.

Still, if they work as well as the amendment’s co-sponsors hope, savings and loan companies could potentially alleviate a very large problem for cannabis businesses that are about to open in the state since banks aren’t openly taking deposits from marijuana companies.

Mark my words: If this works out, other states will follow. And so, too, will savvy investors.

Source: THECHERRYCREEKNEWS.COM 10th June 2015

Dakof G.A., Cohen J.B., Henderson C.E. et al.

Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment: 2010, 38, p. 263–274..

US researchers may have found a better way to support mothers at risk of losing custody of their children so they engage in and benefit from substance use treatment and meet family court requirements, meaning more children can safely stay with their parents.

SUMMARY The family environment of the children of problem substance users is often compromised by instability, neglect, and poor parenting. Improving parental functioning – especially reducing substance use – makes children safer and improves child welfare outcomes. However, substance use treatment completion rates among parents who come into contact with the child welfare system are low. For solutions to these problems, many communities have turned to family drug courts. Adapted from the adult drug court model, family drug courts were established to enhance the effectiveness of child welfare agencies by increasing enrolment and retention in substance use treatment, motivating parents to address their addiction, and coordinating the many services needed to stabilise families. Unlike typical drug courts, these courts do not operate in the criminal justice system, most participants are women, and the court addresses the dual issues of parental addiction/recovery and child safety and custody. Most family drug courts employ court counsellors who refer clients to substance use treatment and other services, develop a recovery plan, and monitor and report clients’ ongoing progress to the court.

 

Key points 

Family drug courts aim to enhance the effectiveness of child welfare agencies by promoting engagement in substance use treatment, motivating parents to address their addiction, and coordinating the services needed to stabilise families. 

To further promote treatment engagement and family court compliance of mothers facing loss of custody of their children, a programme was developed for court counsellors which involved the mother’s family and other significant figures in their lives. 

Compared to a more typical case management role, the tested programme led to more mothers retaining their parental rights and greater improvements in substance use, health, family functioning, and risk of child abuse. 

However, samples were small and by the end of the study several of the differences between the two sets of mothers were also small. 

The Engaging Moms Program – the focus of this study – is a family-oriented intervention shown to have succeeded in its objectives of facilitating treatment entry and short-term retention among mothers of infants who have been exposed to parental substance use. It was then adapted for use in a family drug court context and (relative to usual case management services) found in a non-randomised trial to improve completion of the drug court programme (72% versus 38%) and the proportion of mothers reunited with their children (70% versus 40%). Although the results were encouraging, this study had several limitations, leading to the current randomised trial comparing in a family drug court context the effectiveness of the Engaging Moms Program versus intensive case management of the kind recommended for such courts.

During the recruitment period of the trial, 62 of the 69 mothers who attended a family drug court in Miami in the USA agreed to join the study. They averaged 30 years of age, were mainly black or Hispanic, poor, unemployed and poorly educated. Just 1 in 10 were married. As children, many had been victims of physical and sexual abuse and most currently suffered serious mental health problems. They used a mixture of drugs including alcohol and cocaine and averaged about three lifetime arrests.

Mothers in the study were subject to the usual 12–15 month regimen of court hearings, supervision and support. Additionally, court counsellors were specially trained and supervised to deliver one of the programmes being compared as alternative ways to engage and retain these mothers in substance treatment and improve child and parental outcomes. The 62 women were randomly selected such that equal numbers were allocated to the Engaging Moms option or the comparator.

Neither option was a treatment in its own right, but sought to promote treatment entry, retention and benefit, as well as satisfactory completion of the drug court programme. Intensive case management counsellors aimed to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with the mother, assess her needs, plan support, link her to services, monitor progress, and advocate on her behalf. In contrast, the Engaging Moms Program (based on  multidimensional family therapy) engaged not just with the mother and with services but with the mother’s social network, especially her family. For example, in stage two of the programme focused on changing behaviour, counsellors conducted individual and joint sessions with the mother and her family and or partner. These dealt with: the mother’s motivation and commitment to succeed in drug court and to change her life; the emotional attachment between the mother and her children; her relationships with her family of origin; her parenting skills; her romantic relationships; and emotional regulation, problem solving, and communication skills. Considerable attention was devoted to repairing the mother’s relationship with her family, often damaged by hurts, betrayals, and resentments. Also the counsellor facilitated the mother’s relationship with court personnel and service providers and helped prepare her for court appearances, during which they advocated for the mother.

Regardless of the approach to which they had been allocated, during the trial mothers saw their counsellors for on average about 40 hours, but the Engaging Moms Program included seven hours of family sessions versus just under four in the case management option.

Research workers assessed the mothers several times up to 18 months following drug court intake (97% of assessments were completed), when information on child welfare status was extracted from court records. This primary outcome was defined as positive if the mother retained her parental rights, either having sole or joint custody of the children, or when the children were under the guardianship of a relative. Other outcomes considered not to be positive involved termination of the mother’s parental rights and the child being placed with a relative or in foster care.

The small number of mothers in this pilot study limited the chances of statistically significant findings, so the focus instead was on whether the differences between outcomes from the Engaging Moms Program and case management were large enough that with a bigger sample they might have proved statistically significant.

Main findings

Of the 31 Engaging Moms mothers, 24 had retained their parental rights compared to 17 of the 31 case management mothers, an advantage for Engaging Moms which narrowly missed the conventional criterion for statistical significance. These figures included 16 Engaging Moms mothers who had sole custody of their child compared to 12 allocated to case management. Over twice as many case management mothers had their children removed to foster care – 9 versus 4. Two-thirds of Engaging Moms mothers satisfactorily completed the drug court programme compared to about half the case management mothers.

Over the first three months both sets of mothers significantly improved in terms of their substance use, mental and physical health, family functioning, risk posed to child, and employment, improvements maintained or augmented through the remainder of the 18-month follow-up. In no case were these improvements significantly greater among Engaging Moms mothers, but several outcomes substantially favoured these mothers. They were more likely to further reduce their drinking, experience greater improvements in mental and physical health and family functioning, and more steeply decreased their risk of child abuse. At the three-month follow-up, on all three relationship dimensions they also reported significantly stronger therapeutic relationships with their counsellors.

The authors’ conclusions

The Engaging Moms Program delivered in the context of a family drug court increased the likelihood of positive outcomes for mothers (retention of parental rights and improved welfare and functioning) in comparison to intensive case management. In all domains of functioning, families assigned to Engaging Moms showed improvement that was equal to or better than families assigned to case management. Arguably the primary mechanisms leading to better results were a stronger therapeutic alliance with the counsellor and more extensive family involvement.

Although the results of this pilot study are encouraging, there are important limitations. The primary one is that a small sample size limits the scope for testing differences between outcomes in the two sets of mothers and weakens the reliability of the results; different results might be obtained with larger samples.
COMMENTARY Commending the Engaging Moms Program is its apparent non-punitive humanity and the plausibility of its strategy of repairing what may have been a damaging social network and engaging it in supporting the mother, promising not just the short-term gains which the study was able to document, but a more stable, long-term future for mother and child. Particularly encouraging is the non-diminution of the gains and sometimes their augmentation over the period after the interventions ended. As well as benefiting the families involved, long-term reduction in social costs can be expected. With family drug and alcohol courts spreading in the UK, the Engaging Moms model might be adapted to further improve their outcomes for parent and child.

However, convincingly demonstrating the advantages of the approach for maternal and child welfare is a difficult task when so much else is going on in the mothers’ lives, when the basic family drug court programme is the same for both intervention and comparison mothers, and when the comparator is itself seemingly a humane and well structured approach. Details below.

As the authors observed, if replicated with a larger sample, the difference in the retention of parental rights, and probably too in resort to foster care, would have been statistically significant, but also a larger sample may show these to have been unreliable findings. On the other measures of maternal welfare and family functioning and safety, though there were substantial extra improvements among the Engaging Moms group, in some cases this mainly reflected a drop from an initially higher level of severity. By the end of the study the differences in absolute terms between the two sets of mothers were generally very small. Several of the researchers were involved in developing the programme they evaluated, raising the possibility of their somehow favouring the programme, a  risk endemic  in substance use research. Also it has to be acknowledged that termination of a mother’s parental rights and placement of the child elsewhere is not necessarily a negative outcome from the point of view of the child’s long-term welfare. On this issue we can only rely on the professionalism and child-centredness of the Engaging Moms counsellors, and on the presumption that if there had been over-enthusiastic advocacy, the court would not have been unduly swayed.

UK research and practice

The first family drug and alcohol court in Britain was piloted at an inner London family court initially for three years to the end of 2010. Researchers concluded that more parents seen by these specialist courts than by comparison courts had controlled their substance misuse by the end of proceedings and been reunited with their children. They were also engaged in more substance misuse services over a longer period. Evidence of cost savings were noted in relation to court hearings, out-of-home placements, and fewer contested proceedings. Parents and staff felt this was a better approach than ordinary care proceedings. A  later report  from the same study with a longer follow-up of more families reinforced the earlier findings. More family drug and alcohol court parents had stopped misusing substances and dealt with other problems, and more mothers had been reunited with their children, but this 36% v 24% gap was not statistically significant.

The main weakness of this UK study is that in some known respects and perhaps in others not known, the comparison families differed from the family drug court families in ways which might have affected child welfare outcomes, regardless of the type of court proceedings. Also, through a preceding feasibility study the researchers had been involved in developing the programme they evaluated. As with the featured study, this raises the possibility of their somehow favouring the new intervention they helped to create.

Three NHS professionals who helped develop the first court in London  have explained that it differs from normal family courts in its multi-disciplinary assessment and intervention team made up of both child workers (child protection social workers and a child and adolescent psychiatrist) and adult workers (substance misuse workers and an adult psychiatrist), plus volunteers with personal experience of overcoming substance misuse, some of whom are court ‘graduates’. Court proceedings form an integral part of the treatment process. The family works with the same judge throughout and compared to normal courts, the court takes a less adversarial approach to care proceedings, the parent speaking directly to the judge in the absence of lawyers.

Similar courts have now opened in Gloucestershire and Milton Keynes and  as reported  in 2015, more were due to open in 2015/16 in areas including East Sussex, Kent and Medway, Plymouth, Torbay and Exeter, and West Yorkshire, funded by the Department for Education. Despite this significant expansion, as in London, these courts  will sit  once a week and hear relatively few cases.

Large-scale US evaluation

From the USA the  first large-scale outcome study  of a family drug court compared the progress (as revealed by court and administrative records) of mothers and children processed through three such courts with those processed through normal channels either in the same areas or in similar areas without a family drug court. An attempt was made to statistically even out relevant differences between the two sets of families. Findings favoured the family drug courts. Mothers processed through these courts were more likely to be unified with their children, who spent less time in out-of-home placements. More drug court mothers entered substance use treatment and they did so more rapidly, stayed longer and were more likely to complete the programme. However, the relative benefits arising from the family drug courts were at best a minor influence on child custody outcomes, and the study could not be sure that all relevant differences between the two sets of families had been accounted for.

An Effectiveness Bank hot topic  has explored  the issues involved in protecting children and offers one-click access to all Findings analyses relevant to child protection.

Source:   A randomized pilot study of the Engaging Moms Program for family drug court http://findings.org.uk/PHP/dl.php?file=Dakof_GA_2.txt Last revised 28 May 2015. First uploaded 20 May 2015

Freisthler B1Gruenewald PJ2Wolf JP2.

Abstract

The current study extends previous research by examining whether and how current marijuana use and the physical availability of marijuana are related to child physical abuse, supervisory neglect, or physical neglect by parents while controlling for child, caregiver, and family characteristics in a general population survey in California.

Individual level data on marijuana use and abusive and neglectful parenting were collected during a telephone survey of 3,023 respondents living in 50 mid-size cities in California.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services data were obtained via six websites and official city lists. Data were analyzed using negative binomial and linear mixed effects multilevel models with individuals nested within cities.

Current marijuana use was positively related to frequency of child physical abuse and negatively related to physical neglect.

There was no relationship between supervisory neglect and marijuana use. Density of medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services was positively related to frequency of physical abuse.

As marijuana use becomes more prevalent, those who work with families, including child welfare workers must screen for how marijuana use may affect a parent’s ability to provide for care for their children, particularly related to physical abuse.

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Source:  Child Abuse Negl. 2015 Jul 18. pii: S0145-2134(15)00237-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.07.008.  [Epub ahead of print]

Rancho Mirage. It is so unbelievably hot here it’s well, it’s unbelievable. That’s how hot it is. 106 degrees with no breeze at all.

I am not at all sure why we are even here, but the son of a close relative is visiting and he had expressed an interest in playing golf. We have a super course here at the Club at Morningside and we might have played a few holes but it’s far too hot now. It is heat stroke, sunstroke weather. Cruel.

As I drove our guest to dinner, on my disk of Civil War songs, what should we hear but the stirring strains of “Dixie.” Our guest, age 27, a family man who had gone to college in the deep, rural south, and who now lives in the deep, semi-rural south, had no idea of what the song was or what it represented. None at all.

This young man, extremely eloquent with language, is high all day long. Literally there is no waking moment when he is not high. He smokes powerful pot all day long and late into the night. He used to have a great high school athletic career and intellectual ambitions. Then, in 11th grade, he discovered marijuana and all of his drive, all of his motivation, all of his discipline disappeared.

Marijuana ate this young man’s soul. It was very much like that movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where space aliens invade the bodies of humans. I have never known any chronic user of the chronic whose ambitions and good sense have not been either demolished or very substantially lessened by the use of the weed. It is eating up the soul of the nation altogether.

The most bitter enemies of the United States could not have imagined a more wicked attack on a society based on individual initiative than the mass use of marijuana. To think we have a President in favor of its legalization, a Mayor of Gotham who is a huge proponent of the poison, a rap culture that celebrates this vile poison, is heart breaking.

At dinner, our guest had to excuse himself from the table repeatedly. Each time, he came back smelling like reefer. He was far too stupefied to make conversation. The other people at the table began to talk about a nearby retirement community called “Sun City.” Meals available. Nurses available. Shuffleboard. Many channels of cable TV.

“That sounds perfect for me,” said our young guest. “I could just spend all day getting high.”

We stared at him. “You’re twenty-seven,” I said to this former high school football star.

“I know,” he answered. “Hospice sounds even better. Just a slow morphine drip until I die, with everyone bringing me food and a remote control in my hand for The Simpsons. High on morphine all of the time. Can you believe how great that would be? Like for forty years.”

If ISIS could have its fondest wishes granted, it could ask for no more ruinous fate for America than a drug addicted last, formerly best hope for mankind.

Late that night I spoke to a super-smart friend who has a Ph.D. in psychology from UC. “There used to be studies about how marijuana use destroys motivation,” he said. “They aren’t allowed to do them any longer. It isn’t PC to even question what marijuana use does to young people. Cannot even be questioned.”

By the way, how did our young guest — who stayed at a hotel — get his super-strong ganja? One 20-minute visit with a “pot doctor” he had never seen before out here in the desert. Then a five-minute visit to a “dispensary.”

“All I had to do,” said the guest, “was tell him I had trouble sleeping.”

So much for pot as a salvation in terminal cancer. Pot is the cancer.
Read more at http://spectator.org/articles/62926/marijuana-cancer

 

USE of illicit drugs in the country is increasing at an alarming rate, with cannabis and heroin being the most commonly used, hence the need for the government to embark on immediate strategies to tackle the problem.

A study conducted in 12 regions has shown an increase in illicit drug use, especially along major transport corridors. The trend poses a serious danger to future generations who are being lured into the vice.

The study was conducted by 14 experts from the Drug Control Commission (DCC), the University of California, San Francisco and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Tanzania, who presented the findings yesterday in Dar es Salaam.

Among recommendations presented by the researchers include provision of a range of services including advocacy and sensitisation activities, provision of primary drug use and HIV risk prevention strategies for all groups.

The services also envisage strengthening coordination and governance of community and government resources for drug-use interventions, carrying out additional studies to measure HIV prevalence and associated behaviour among PWUD and provision of more education on types of drugs as well as their effects and consequences.

The study; ‘ mapping of people who use drugs (PWUD) and people who inject drugs (PWID) in the selected regions of Tanzania’, sought to understand the scope and magnitude of non-injection and injection use of illicit drugs among the two groups.

The study was conducted between July 2013 and August 2014 in 12 regions which are Mtwara, Dodoma, Morogoro, Coast, Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Arusha, Mwanza, Mbeya, Shinyanga, Geita and Kigoma. The majority of the PWUD engage in smoking a ‘cocktail,’ which is a combination of cannabis dust, tobacco and heroin, while those identified as PWID appeared to inject heroin.

One of the researchers, Ms Moza Makumbuli, noted that within all 12 regions, several primary and secondary key informants could not distinguish heroin from cocaine by name but instead use a local term ‘unga’. “In all regions needle sharing was high among the small number who engaged in injection drug use.

Risky sexual behaviour also appeared high among people who use drugs,” she explained. In Tanga the findings shows that drug use has spread to small towns and villages outside the regional capital along the Tanga-Segera highway, with drug pushers supplying from Tanga City.

Of the regions studied Tanga appeared to have the most drug pushers, with PWUD moving from one hotspot to another depending on where drugs or quality drugs were available.

Mtwara had the lowest estimated number of PWUD with drug use concentrated in Mtwara Municipality, but was also reportedly present in Masasi town as well, according to the study.

Generally the study estimates that the number of PWUD across the regions were 5,190 in Tanga, 3,300 in Mwanza, 2,700 in Arusha, 1,539 in Coast, 1,500 in Morogoro, 1,096 in Dodoma, 820 in Mbeya, 563 in Kilimanjaro, 319 in Shinyanga, 108 in Geita, 100 in Kigoma and 65 in Mtwara.

The PWID was 540 in Tanga, 300 in Mwanza, 297 in Morogoro, 230 in Arusha, 164 in Coast, 133 in Dodoma, 107 in Kilimanjaro, 64 in Mbeya, 25 in Shinyanga, 7 in Mtwara, 3 in Geita and 0 in Kigoma.

In his opening remarks, the DCC Commissioner, Mr Kenneth Kaseke, said there is very little data about injection drug use in the rest of the country, apart from Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, which prompted the qualitative study.

Although the study is not representative, meaning it does not reflect the real situation in the whole country, Mr Kaseke said this gives a clear picture of the extent of the problem and calls for the need for in-depth research to represent the whole country.

“Despite limited resources, Tanzania is determined to combat the growing problem of drug abuse and HIV transmission by providing a comprehensive package services for IDUs and their injecting or sexual partners,” he explained.

The Zanzibar Executive Director, Anti-Drug Commission, Ms Kheriyangu Khamis, said the study shows that the situation on the ground is alarming and that illicit drug abuse is spreading rapidly in the region.

“We must use the research findings in our development plans, so we can come up with the right strategies that are needed on the ground,” she explained.

Source:  http://www.dailynews.co.tz/   1st August 2015

Students demonstrating better prosocial behavior were more likely to have graduated college, to be gainfully employed and to not have been arrested than students with lesser prosocial skills. Image: © iStock Photo Christopher Futcher

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kindergarteners’ social-emotional skills are a significant predictor of their future education, employment and criminal activity, among other outcomes, according to Penn State researchers.

In a study spanning nearly 20 years, kindergarten teachers were surveyed on their students’ social competence. Once the kindergarteners reached their 20s, researchers followed up to see how the students were faring, socially and occupationally. Students demonstrating better prosocial behavior were more likely to have graduated college, to be gainfully employed and to not have been arrested than students with lesser prosocial skills.

“This research by itself doesn’t prove that higher social competence can lead to better outcomes later on,” said Damon Jones, senior research associate, Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. “But when combined with other research, it is clear that helping children develop these skills increases their chances of success in school, work and life.”

Jones and colleagues analyzed data collected from more than 700 students who were participating in the Fast Track Project, a study conducted by four universities — Penn State, Duke University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Washington. The Fast Track Project is a prevention program for children at high risk for long-term behavioral problems. The individuals studied for this research were part of the control group and did not receive any preventive services. Overall, the sample was representative of children living in lower socio-economic status neighborhoods.

Kindergarten teachers rated students on eight items using a five-point scale assessing how each child interacted socially with other children. Items included statements such as “is helpful to others,” “shares materials” and “resolves peer problems on own.”

The researchers compared the teachers’ assessments to the students’ outcomes in five areas during late adolescence through age 25 — including education and employment, public assistance, criminal activity, substance abuse, and mental health. Jones and colleagues report their results online and in a future issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Overall, the researchers found that a higher rating for social competency as a kindergartener was significantly associated with all five of the outcome domains studied. For every one-point increase in a student’s social competency score, he or she was twice as likely to graduate from college and 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by the age of 25.

For every one-point decrease in the child’s score, he or she had a 67 percent higher chance of having been arrested and an 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25. The study controlled for the effects of poverty, race, having teenage parents, family stress and neighborhood crime, and for the children’s aggression and reading levels in kindergarten.

“The good news is that social and emotional skills can improve, and this shows that we can inexpensively and efficiently measure these competencies at an early age,” said Jones. Evidence from numerous intervention studies indicate that social and emotional learning skills can be improved throughout childhood and adolescence.

Jones and colleagues plan to continue this work in order to further understand how social competency can predict future life outcomes, and further understand intermediary developmental processes whereby early social-emotional skills influence long-term adult outcomes.

Jones is also a research assistant professor of health and human development at Penn State. Mark Greenberg, the Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research, founding director of the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center and professor of human development and family studies; and Max Crowley, assistant professor of human development and family studies, both at Penn State, also worked on this research.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported this research. The Fast Track Study also received grant support from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Source: http://news.psu.edu/

A woman who was admitted to rehab three times because of her severe drug addiction has turned her life around by becoming an addiction therapist helping others going through what she did.

Vicky, from Hale, Manchester, reveals that her drug addiction started at a young age; she was smoking weed when she was 11 and took acid and mushrooms by the age of 16.

The 49-year-old, who attended Altrincham Grammar School, comes from a wealthy background and was expected to go into medicine or dentistry.

However, her parents split when she was young and she hasn’t seen her biological father since she was seven years old. The breakdown of the family unit, she explains, led her to feel as though there was a deficit in her life.

As a result, she began to use food, substances and sex to fill the void to help her feel better about herself.

Vicky explains that she’s had obsessive behaviours towards food – often bingeing on a whole box of crisps at once – since a young age.

At the age of 11 she moved to Canada for six months to live with relatives where she started smoking cannabis. By 16 she was aware her drinking habits weren’t ‘normal’. Vicky felt she had no cut off point and regularly had memory loss. She also started taking what she considered to be recreational drugs: cannabis, acid and mushrooms.

When she was 17, she was introduced to amphetamine. Looking back, Vicky says she considers that her recreational drug use was about helping her to feel better about herself.

After college, Vicky flitted between working for her mother’s business and restaurants jobs in Hale, during which time the Cheshire-set friendships and free-flowing champagne encouraged her drinking and drug taking habits.

She admits that she was living for the moment, seeking fun and excitement but her lifestyle choices were slowly ruining the opportunities she had been given. When she was 20, Vicky returned to Canada and dated a cocaine dealer – a time that she describes as her ‘Nirvana’ with cocaine on tap.

When her visa expired, she moved back to the UK and began dating someone who had a similar background of drug misuse. She started using heroin and crack for two years and whilst she was able to hold down a job, she admits she started to function less and less.

She started to steal to pay for drugs, received a drink driving conviction at aged 22 and received multiple cautions for drug possession and related incidents. Vicky believes she was merely given a slap on the wrist due to her background.

Aged 23, Vicky felt very isolated and ended up living back at home at which point her parents became aware there was a problem. They called a psychiatrist for help and Vicky was admitted to rehab for eight weeks in 1988, she returned on two more occasions.

Following Vicky’s third admittance to rehab, the alcohol and drug induced death of a close friend and former boyfriend on her 25th birthday hit Vicky very hard. She reached her lowest point and attempted suicide more than once. However, she began to turn her life around.

She had to sign a contract to agree to secondary care treatment at a female-only facility where she was taught to take personal responsibility for her own happiness.

Vicky, who now lives with the father of her two youngest children that she met in recovery 18 years ago, studied for a Diploma in Counselling at the University of the West of England and a Masters at Bristol University; she has been qualified as a counsellor for 18 years.

She met her partner and father of her two youngest children in recovery 18 years ago. Vicky is dedicated to helping others affected by addiction, and has a particular passion for helping and working with families and the ‘forgotten others’. Helping others through her own business, Victoria Abadi Therapies, has helped Vicky’s own recovery.

She said: ‘I had always thought I was fascinated by substances and drugs, but over the years I’ve come to realise that what really interests me is addiction itself. I knew from as young as 21 that I wanted to be an addiction therapist. A lot has changed since my days in detox and rehab, we know so much more about addiction but there’s still more to learn.

‘My main advice to anyone affected by addiction, whether it’s yourself or someone you care about, is to talk. It might seem obvious but it’s not always easy to reach that stage.

‘Once you reach the point of realisation that addiction is a medical issue not simply a moral choice the path to recovery will come easier. Likewise, for families shedding the shame and stigma by talking about your experience will open up the possibility of helping your loved one through it.

‘There are some great impartial services, such as Port of Call, who can help with pointing you in the right direction and getting you or a loved the help they need. ‘The best thing that comes out recovery is the ability to have close meaningful relationships.’

For help and advice on addiction recovery visit Port of Call, Victoria Abadi Therapies or call 0800 0029010.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

PRESS RELEASE                                                                    
September 25, 2015                                                       

 

Millions of Americans Turn Out to See the World’sMost Prominent Opponent to Marijuana Legalization-

Pope Francis

A mid the headlines highlighting the Pope’s stances on an array of hot button political issues like climate change, immigration, poverty, the death penalty and capitalism, we would like to highlight one of his positions that is perhaps less well-known –  

Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.   – Pope Francis 

In his address to the  International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome held in June of 2014,  Pope Francis could not have been any clearer. He emphasized his opposition to legalization saying,“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!”

 

Pope Francis says he opposes making recreational drugs legal

 

Pope says nope to dope – that is, legalized marijuana


 

Pope Francis Condemns Legalization of Marijuana

 

Pope Francis condemns ‘evil’ marijuana

Pope condemns efforts to legalize marijuana

Pope Francis Speaks Out Against Legalization of Marijuana and Other Drugs

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About SAM

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens opposed to marijuana legalization who want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. SAM has affiliates in 30 states.

 

Source: www.learnaboutsam.org  25th September 2015 Contact: Will Jones

From time-to-time proponents of marijuana legalization throw out some fuzzy statistics claiming no one has ever died from marijuana.

Case-in-point, earlier this month a group in Arkansas advocating major changes in our state’s marijuana laws tweeted the following:

“No one has ever died from cannabis.” Let’s investigate this claim.

Unpacking the Statistics on Alcohol and Marijuana

In the tweet above, Arkansans for Compassionate Care is apparently citing a statistic from the Center for Disease Controlon the number of deaths from alcohol every year (88,000, on average). If we read how the CDC arrived at that figure, we see it was by calculating the number of alcohol-related accidents and health problems.

In other words, it isn’t simply that 88,000 people die from blood alcohol poisoning (which some might describe as an “alcohol overdose”) each year. Alcohol is contributing to the deaths of about 88,000 people each year in the form of heart and liver problems, car crashes, and so on.

These are what the CDC calls “alcohol attributable deaths” (you can see a full list of them here). They are deaths caused by something that was a direct effect of alcohol use.

So let’s take a look at marijuana-attributable deaths. Has marijuana really never killed anyone, as so many of its proponents claim?

Kevin Sabet with Smart Approaches to Marijuana did an interview with The Daily Signal last year in which he took the claim to task, saying,

“Saying marijuana…has never killed anyone is like saying tobacco has never killed anyone. Nobody dies from a tobacco overdose. You can’t smoke yourself to death. And yet nobody would dispute that tobacco causes death. … You die from lung cancer–you don’t die from smoking. You die from what smoking did to your lungs, which is a direct effect from smoking. And so in that same way marijuana does kill people in the form of mental illnesses and suicide, in the form of car crashes. … You can’t say marijuana doesn’t kill.”

Marijuana-Attributable Deaths

A little research reveals news articles, police reports, and academic studies on a number of marijuana-attributable deaths:

1. December, 2014: The National Institute on Drug Abuse updated its marijuana research paper, saying, “Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in accidents, including fatal ones,” and citing research that marijuana is increasingly detected in fatal vehicle accidents.

2. December, 2014: Oklahoma authorities reported a man with marijuana both in his system and on his person drove into oncoming traffic, crashing into another vehicle and killing its driver.

3. May, 2014: A study published by the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that, “the proportion of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in Colorado has increased dramatically since the commercialization of medical marijuana in the middle of 2009.”

4. April, 2014: A 47-year-old Denver man allegedly shot his wife while she spoke with a 911 dispatcher over the phone. According to various reports, the wife called 911 after her husband consumed candy laced with marijuana and began hallucinating and frightening the couple’s children. Some sources indicate the man may have taken prescription drugs with the marijuana. CBS News reports that 12 minutes into the call with 911, the wife “told dispatchers her husband was getting a gun from a safe before a gunshot sounded and the line went quiet.” The marijuana candy had, apparently, been purchased a licensed shop in the Denver area.

5. April, 2014: Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Heart Association investigated marijuana’s effects on cardiovascular health. They reviewed 1,979 incidents from 2006 to 2011, and found, “there were 22 cardiac complications (20 acute coronary syndromes), 10 peripheral complications (lower limb or juvenile arteriopathies and Buerger‐like diseases), and 3 cerebral complications (acute cerebral angiopathy, transient cortical blindness, and spasm of cerebral artery). In 9 cases, the event led to patient death.” (Emphasis added).

6. March, 2014: A 19-year-old college student jumped to his death after eating a marijuana-laced cookie purchased at a licensed marijuana store in Colorado. Reports indicate the man began shaking, screaming, and throwing objects in his hotel room after eating the marijuana “edible.” He ultimately jumped over the fourth-floor railing, into the lobby of the hotel at which he was staying. According to CBS News, the autopsy report listed marijuana as a “significant contributing factor” to his death.

7. February, 2014: researchers from Germany determined the deaths of two apparently-healthy, young men were in fact the result of marijuana. According to their article published in the journal Forensic Science International. Researchers concluded, “After exclusion of other causes of death, we assume that the young men died from cardiovascular complications evoked by smoking cannabis.”

8. November, 2013: Seattle news outlets reported an elderly Washington resident was killed after a neighbor’s apartment exploded as a result of a hash oil operation. Hash oil is a highly-potent extract produced from marijuana using flammable chemicals such as butane.

9. June, 2013: A 35-year-old Oregon man died as a result of an explosion and fire caused by a hash oil operation he and a friend were conducting in a garage.

10. October, 2011: The Office of National Drug Control Policy released a report analyzing traffic accidents from 2005 – 2009. The report noted, “Among fatally injured males who tested positive for drugs, 28 percent tested positive for cannabinoids compared with 17 percent of females,” and that, “Cannabinoids were reported in 43 percent of fatally injured drivers under age 24 who tested positive for drugs.”

11. 2004: A study in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics examined case studies of three otherwise-healthy adolescent boys who were admitted to hospitals due to stroke following heavy marijuana use; two of the boys ultimately died, and the study concluded marijuana may cause stroke and death.

These are just a few reports on deaths linked to marijuana. According to well-publicized FOIA responses, from 1997 to 2005 the FDA recorded 279 marijuana-related deaths–long before Colorado voters decided to legalize the drug.

We have brought up many of these statistics before in our discussions on marijuana. Each time we did, marijuana supporters tried to evade by arguing that marijuana hasn’t caused as many deaths as other drugs. However, there is a world of difference between claiming marijuana has never killed a single person and claiming marijuana has not killed as many people as other substances.

Emergencies Caused by Marijuana

Besides death, marijuana has caused or contributed to many well-documented emergencies. Some of these emergencies easily could have resulted in death or serious injury.

Here are just a few examples of emergency situations caused by marijuana:

1. March, 2015: Four high school students were hospitalized after eating brownies laced with marijuana hash oil. One student was actually found unresponsive in a school bathroom after eating a marijuana-laced brownie.

2. February, 2015: A 20-month-old Canadian toddler overdosed after eating a marijuana-laced cookie authorities say his father baked. The child survived, but suffered seizures and had to be admitted to a hospital.

3. February, 2015: News outlets report guests at Colorado hotels often leave unused food and beverages as tips for housekeeping staff. However, with the legalization of marijuana–and marijuana-infused foods–in Colorado, some guests are leaving marijuana edibles behind. One Breckenridge hotel employee reported accidentally overdosing when she ate a candy she did not realize was laced with marijuana.

4. February, 2015: An explosion occurred at an Arizona apartment complex. Witnesses indicated one of the people involved in the explosion was attempting to extract hash oil from marijuana using butane.

5. January, 2015: News outlets in Oregon reported a woman overdosed after she ate three gummy candies laced with marijuana.

6. December, 2014: A high school teacher in Maryland was hospitalized after a student gave her a brownie containing marijuana.

7. December, 2014: Two middle school students in Oklahomawere rushed to the hospital after one of them reportedly passed out following marijuana-use at school.

8. November, 2014: A Connecticut teen was taken to the hospitalfrom school after she started having difficulty breathing following ingestion of a marijuana-laced gummy bear.

9. June, 2014: According to The Aspen Times, a seven-year-old girl was taken to the hospital after eating marijuana-laced candy her mother brought home from work at an area hotel. The candy was left by a hotel guest–presumably as a tip.

10. March, 2014: A Colorado man attempting to extract hash oil from his marijuana was taken to the hospital after the butane used to extract the oil ignited.

11. December, 2013: A two-year-old in Colorado overdosed and was hospitalized after eating a cookie laced with marijuana. News outlet indicate the girl found the cookie in the yard of an apartment complex.

Recurring Themes: Kids and Accidental Overdoses

A recurring theme in many of these news stories is that children and teens are becoming severely ill after ingesting marijuana-laced food (often referred to as “edibles”).

In July of 2013, researchers writing in JAMA Pediatrics determined accidental ingestion of marijuana by young children is on the rise and carries serious risks.

The greatest dangers appear to be toddlers and young children who accidentally find cookies or candy laced with marijuana and teens acquiring marijuana edibles at school without realizing how potent the drug-infused food is.

In both scenarios, children accidentally overdose on marijuana and must be taken to the ER. In some cases, as noted above, the children even pass out or become unresponsive.

A child who loses consciousness from marijuana overdose could easily fall and strike their head or suffer another serious injury. A teen who ingests a marijuana edible–without realizing its potency–before climbing behind the wheel of a car to drive away from school could easily be involved in a serious traffic accident.

Side-Effects May Including Exploding Apartments

A few of the cases we have cited include explosions caused by marijuana hash oil operations.

Many marijuana users produce their own hash oil at home by extracting the oil from marijuana using flammable chemicals like butane. In many cases, the room fills up with butane and is ignited by a stray spark, causing a serious explosion.

The people most at-risk are apartment dwellers. A person who lives in an apartment complex may have their home destroyed because a neighbor’s hash oil operation exploded. In Washington, at least one person was actually killed as a result of a hash oil operation that exploded in a neighbor’s apartment.

The legality of hash oil extraction is questionable under state laws in Washington, Colorado, and elsewhere. Colorado’s Attorney General released an opined in December that home production of marijuana hash oil is illegal. However, many people disagree. Regardless of its legality, it is clearly dangerous to the marijuana users and their family members and neighbors.

Conclusion: Marijuana Has Caused Far More Than 0 Deaths

Given the amount of evidence–both scientific and anecdotal–there simply does not seem to be any way around it: Marijuana is responsible for many deaths.

Moreover, marijuana has caused numerous medical emergencies that could have been fatal under different circumstances.

We continue to say it over and over again: Marijuana may be many things, but “harmless” simply

Source: www.familycouncil.org March 19, 2015 By Jerry Cox

 

A new report provides insight into how traffickers move cocaine to the lucrative European market, including the key trafficking routes and smuggling techniques criminal groups have adopted to skirt drug interdiction efforts.

The recently released 2016 EU Drug Trafficking Report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol explains Latin America’s role in the European cocaine industry, and the different routes and methods used to traffic the drug across the Atlantic (see map below).

Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela are singled out as “key departure points” for Europe-bound cocaine, from where the drug is smuggled out in vessels, private yachts or by air, among other methods.

According to the report, the increasing importance of Brazil suggests that Bolivia and Peru are expanding their role as suppliers for the European market. The traffic of Colombian cocaine into Venezuela across a “porous border” has similarly increased. From Venezuela, criminal groups use both flights and maritime routes — capitalizing on the busy traffic off the Venezuelan coast — to send the drugs to Europe.

Despite data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) suggesting otherwise, the report adds, Colombia is likely to continue being a key shipment point for cocaine heading to Europe, as evidenced by its growing production figures and continuing seizures. Ecuador and Argentina are also mentioned as departure points for the drug.

The Caribbean and West Africa are reportedly the two most common transit zones for cocaine moving across the Atlantic, and Central America appears to be becoming an increasingly important stop-off point. The Caribbean Sea’s main trafficking hubs are the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, although there have been reports that some activity has shifted to Caribbean countries further east.

Central America and the Caribbean was the only area to see a rise in cocaine seizures in 2013, with confiscations nearly doubling to 162 metric tons from 78 metric tons a year earlier, according to the EMCDDA. Behind the increase was a 800 percent spike in Dominican Republic seizures, which reached 86 metric tons in 2015. The apparent escalation of illegal trafficking through the Caribbean is described as a possible result of recent crackdowns in Mexico and Central America.

West Africa’s Bight of Benin — between Ghana and Nigeria — as well as the islands of Cape Verde, Madeira and the Canary Islands, make up the second major transit zone for cocaine heading to Europe. Nevertheless, the report points out that the Bight of Benin may be have lost importance in recent years.

Once on the other side of the Atlantic, cocaine continues its journey by sea, land or air, principally to western or southern Europe. In 2014, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy reportedly accounted for 80 percent of the 61.6 metic tons of cocaine seized in the European Union.

The largest ports on the continent — Rotterdam in Holland, and Antwerp, Belgium — are thought to be key entry points for cocaine. Dutch police estimated that 25 to 50 percent of all cocaine filtered into Europe through Rotterdam, following the seizure of 10 metric tons of the drug at the port in 2013. Of the 11 million containers that pass through the Rotterdam annually, only 50,000 are scanned (0.45 percent). Other key entry ports are Algeciras and Valencia in Spain, and Hamburg in Germany.

The EMCDDA expressed increasing concern over the use of existing trafficking routes for other drugs to move cocaine, including cannabis corridors in Morocco and Algeria and heroin corridors in Tanzania. The report warns that Tanzania may emerge as a new cocaine route to Europe, given an increase in seizures in East Africa and as a consequence of the Panama Canal’s expansion.

The vast capacity for moving drugs and diversity of routes offered by maritime transport makes it the preferred option for cocaine traffickers to Europe. Traffickers are increasingly hiding cocaine in shipping containers aboard commercial vessels, which makes it harder to detect. Seizures involving containers have reportedly gone up sixfold since 2006.

Colombian and Italian organized crime networks reportedly continue to dominate the cocaine trade in Europe, in cooperation with Dutch, British, Spanish and Nigerian groups. The Netherlands and Spain are primary distribution centers.

InSight Crime Analysis

One of the most interesting trends highlighted by the report is that traffickers prefer to transit through the Caribbean rather than Central America on their way to Europe. While this may appear to be the easiest route, in the past organizations were known to send drugs to Central American countries before crossing the Atlantic.

The theory that the Caribbean is re-emerging as a popular drug route as Central American traffic declines has been suggested since at least 2010, and evidence over the years has both supported and refuted this theory.

There is a general consensus that tougher interdiction in Central America and Mexico is behind the supposed revival of the Caribbean corridor that had been popular in the 1980s, although such predictions have mainly be applied to drug trafficking to the United States. Still, it appears that the Caribbean route is more significant for Europe-bound cargo, as Central America remains the main trafficking corridor for northbound narcotics.

Another revealing takeaway from the report is the evolution of trafficking techniques used by criminals to skirt interdiction efforts.

The growing use of shipping containers to move cocaine demonstrates how criminal organizations are taking advantage of increasing global maritime traffic to run their business. Part of this trend is the increasingly popular “rip-on/rip-off” technique, which relies on the use of corrupt port officials to slip drugs into legitimate containers by breaking and replacing the security seal at the point of origin. Concealing cocaine with perishable goods also ensures the drugs pass through controls faster.

It is unsurprising that traffickers should take advantage of shipping routes — maritime trade handles tremendous volume and is a sector often overlooked in the fight against organized crime, providing the perfect cover for drug smugglers.

In addition, corruption, informality and a lack of resources in many departure ports makes it easier for groups to smuggle their drugs onto ships. Such is the case in Peru, where Mexican traffickers reportedly control Pacific drug routes to Europe.

The report illustrates how criminal groups must be consistently creative to survive, noting new smuggling techniques used by drug mules that include ingesting liquid rather than powder cocaine, and concealing drugs in breast implants.

Europe’s relevance to the global cocaine trade is not to be underestimated. High profit margins for traffickers and a saturated US market are likely to increase its importance in the coming years.

Source:  http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/cocaine-trafficking-to-europe-explained-by-new-report  2016

 

 

Posh Spectator and Sunday Times journalist James Delingpole has got his Y-fronts in a twist over outing the PM as former closet stoner. His former mates in the PM’s inner circle don’t approve and have been letting him have it. I can imagine why he’s felt such an urgent need to justify breaking this public school ‘omerta’. He hadn’t anticipated the fall out, he says, in a mea culpa in the Sunday Times. He hadn’t anticipated the impact his revelation to Cameron biographer Isabel Oakeshott would have because he thought that ‘puffing on a reefer’ at Oxford  was no big deal. It was barmy that it was ever a criminal act, he argues in self defence. And he still thinks so.

So since the law’s an ass, what was wrong with putting up two fingers to it? Nor does he see any reason to change his mind about dope now, thirty years later:

“Marijuana is being decriminalised across the world. Quite soon we’ll find the idea that (it) was ever a criminal act about as barmy and illiberal as the notion, that, not so long ago, a man could be imprisoned for sleeping with another man.”

So ‘me lud’, he effectively argued in mitigation, under the impression that we all (not least Dave and his inner sanctum) share liberal views about dope smoking, his and the future PM’s casual disregard for the law (then) was OK.

And besides what was the worst that could have happened as a result of his revelation in today’s modern and progressive world? Dave looking a hypocrite if he ever votes against the decriminalisation of cannabis or Barack Obama cracking a few retro Cheech and Chong jokes next time he meets our PM for a hamburger/baseball love in?

Ho, ho – all very amusing and just about how flippant Mr Delingpole perceives drug use. He really didn’t need to tell us of the state of arrested adolescence he says he is in.

The irony of this self observation is that arrested development is indeed one of the effects of cannabis on the brain. It affects normal maturity (as any drug counsellor will tell you) and specifically the brain development of adolescents. It affects attention, memory and executive functions in the brain. Its use risks worse effects  – from psychotic episodes to full blown schizophrenia for those with a genetic vulnerability. Its victims often do not know until it too late.

Delingpole, although a journalist, seems blissfully unaware of these research findings. It is also hard to believe he is unaware of cases where this apparently ‘innocent’ activity has destroyed the lives of children from affluent families similar to those he and his former friend Dave hail from.

It is hard too to believe as a journalist he’s remained oblivious to the crisis of NHS mental health and psychiatric units, which are bursting at the seams with young male psychotic cannabis addicts –  many incurable.

Maybe it’s a matter of I’m all right Jack. Maybe, he has no children of his own to worry about. Maybe, he’s naive enough to think by some magic of making cannabis freely available these cases would not exist. I have no idea.

As a journalist he should, at the very least, acknowledge that cannabis is a dangerous and for young people, in particular, a very undesirable and addictive drug.

His self-serving attempt to claim the moral high ground (he is not a slave to anyone you’ll be pleased to hear; he does not ingratiate himself with the powerful and he deplores those who do and have compromised themselves to benefit from the Cameron regime) is no substitute for responsible  journalism.

Before he so blithely downplays this drug again and so casually assumes its eventual legalisation is a world wide done deal, I suggest he first acquaint himself with a few more facts and then attend this debate where Dr Kevin Sabet, author of Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana, President of Smart Approaches to Marihuana (SAM) and a former advisor on drug policy to President Obama will be speaking.

Source: By Kathy Gyngell www.conservativewoman.co.uk  Sept.2015

When the Reagans moved into the White House on Jan. 20, 1981, drug use, particularly among teenagers, was hovering near the highest rates ever measured. Of that year’s graduating class, 65 percent had used drugs in their lifetimes, and a remarkable 37 percent were regular drug users.

After the upheaval of the 1970s, Americans had chosen in Reagan a strong, optimistic leader to guide them to a more hopeful future. But there could be little real hope while one of the ’70s’ more damaging legacies—astronomic drug use—was consuming the rising generation.

Fortunately for that generation of young people, Ronald and Nancy Reagan were stronger than the threat.

Eight years later, when the Reagans left Washington, only 19.7 percent of 1989’s graduating class were regular drug users, a 47-percent reduction.

Eight years later, when the Reagans left Washington, only 19.7 percent of 1989’s graduating class were regular drug users, a 47-percent reduction. And the trend that began under their leadership persisted until it reached an all-time low of 14.4 percent in 1992, 61 percent lower than 1981.

While it is simplistic to credit Nancy Reagan alone with this downturn, it is impossible to ignore her leadership and the massive shift she led against the drug culture. Her off-the-cuff response to a young Oakland girl who asked her what to do if confronted with drugs became a clarion call: “Just say no.”

This clear, unequivocal stand against drugs galvanized the nation by placing a moral stake in the ground: Illicit drug use is wrong, harmful, and not compatible with a free society. It provided an example parents, teachers, community leaders, and especially young people could follow when confronting drugs.

Nancy Reagan succeeded in changing the culture. By the spring of 1989, illegal drugs were Americans’ number-one concern. Reagan’s call “to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs” was even taken up by Hollywood. The dangers of drugs became a common theme on television programs, particularly those with family audiences, spurring discussions between parent and child.

In the days since Nancy Reagan’s passing, those who seek to normalize drug use have been working to obfuscate the clear evidence of success of the Reagan-era anti-drug efforts. “Just say no” was futile, they claim, ignoring the clear downturns in drug use that occurred when Americans united against drugs. For those who think drug use should be accepted and even encouraged, the clear and simple truth must be suppressed. The reality of drug use that every family member of an addict knows must be ignored.

But Nancy Reagan achieved her goal. She sought to change the nation’s ambivalence about drugs, and attitudes clearly changed.

Since 1975, the Monitoring the Future study has tracked both teen drug usage rates and how teen attitudes about drugs have changed over time. Understanding attitudes is

critical to drug prevention, because it is a foundation of behavior change, for good and ill.

It is exceedingly difficult to look at the major changes in youth attitudes toward drugs, as measured through “perceived harmfulness,” and not see the fruits of the cultural shift Nancy Reagan led. To take one example, in 1980, only 50 percent of high school seniors thought using marijuana “regularly” was harmful. By 1988, it was 77 percent, where it remained until 1993 (not coincidentally, during the Clinton administration, when drug use started creeping up again).

This leads us to where we are today. Not surprisingly, after eight years of an administration that downplays the dangers of drugs, refuses to enforce federal drug laws, and tacitly endorses drug legalization “experiments” in a few states, America’s

young people see drugs in a much more positive light. Only 32 percent now perceive using marijuana “regularly” as harmful, a number even lower than the drug-soaked 1970s. As would be expected, teen usage rates have begun to increase, as shown in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Culture and Opportunity, with marijuana leading the way. This is happening at the same time that “commercialized” marijuana is breaking records for potency, and scientists are sounding the alarm about marijuana’s link to permanent neurological damage. Most concerning, heroin overdose deaths have increased a catastrophic 440 percent in the past eight years—and heroin use still, all too often, begins with marijuana use.

The “Just Say No” generation to whom Nancy Reagan dedicated herself can rightfully look back with gratitude for the protection she marshalled on their behalf.

In a 1987 letter to the actor Paul Newman, President Reagan extolled the first lady’s work on drugs: “I believe [Nancy] has done more and continues doing more than any other single individual, particularly with regard to young people to whom she is totally dedicated.” Her efforts resulted in millions of young people avoiding the lost opportunity, addiction, and even death that comes with drug use. In the face of today’s rising drug use and the accompanying increases in addiction and overdose deaths, political leaders and our cultural elites should revisit Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug legacy, for it offers a clear example of how powerful moral leadership can alter the fortunes of a generation. We would best remember her by following her example, right now.

Source: www.dailysignal.com 11th March 2016

Filed under: Social Affairs :

Law enforcement officials would love to have a clear way to tell when a driver is too drugged to drive. But the decades of experience the country has in setting limits for alcohol have turned out to be rather useless so far because the mind-altering compound in cannabis, THC, dissolves in fat, whereas alcohol dissolves in water.

And that changes everything. “It’s really difficult to document drugged driving in a relevant way,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist at Columbia University, “[because of] the simple fact that THC is fat soluble. That makes it absorbed in a very different way and much more difficult to relate behavior to, say, [blood] levels of THC or develop a breathalyzer.”

When you drink, alcohol spreads through your saliva and breath. It evenly saturates your lungs and blood. Measuring the volume of alcohol in one part of your body can predictably tell you how much is in any other part of your body — like how much is affecting your brain at any given time.

That made it possible to do the science on alcohol and crash risk back in the mid-20th century. Eventually, decades of study helped formulate the 0.08 blood alcohol limit as too drunk to drive safely. “The 0.08 standard in alcohol is from decades of careful epidemiological research,” says Andrea Roth, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

But marijuana isn’t like that. The height of your intoxication isn’t at the moment when blood THC levels peak, and the high doesn’t rise and fall uniformly based on how much THC leaves and enters your bodily fluids, says Marilyn Huestis, who headed the chemistry and drug metabolism section at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Because THC is fat soluble, it moves readily from water environments, like blood, to fatty environments. Fatty tissues act like sponges for the THC, Huestis says. “And the brain is a very fatty tissue. It’s been proven you can still measure THC in the brain even if it’s no longer measurable in the blood.”

From her research, Huestis found that THC rapidly clears out of the blood in occasional users within a couple of hours. While they’re still high, a trickle of THC leaches out of their brains and other fatty tissues back into the blood until it’s all gone.

That means a lab test would only find a trace amount of THC in the blood of occasional smokers after a few hours. “You could have smoked a good amount, just waited two hours, still be pretty intoxicated and yet pass the drug test [for driving],” says Haney.

And if you eat the weed instead of smoking it, Haney says, your blood never carries that much THC. “With oral THC, it takes several hours for [blood THC] to peak, but it remains very low compared to the smoked route, even though they’re very high. It’s a hundredfold difference,” she says.

But daily users are different. Huestis says that heavy smokers build up so much THC in their body fat that it could continue leaching out for weeks after they last smoked. These chronic, frequent users will also experience a rapid loss of THC from their blood after smoking, but they will also have a constant, moderate level of blood THC even when they’re not high, Huestis says.

It gets trickier when you try to factor in the chronic effect of smoking weed, Huestis says. “We found [chronic, frequent smokers’] brains had changed and reduced the density of cannabinoid receptors,” she says. They were cognitively impaired for up to 28 days after their last use, and their driving might also still be impaired for that long. “It’s pretty scary,” she says.

The attitude difference between stoned drivers and alcohol drivers seems clear, Huestis

says. Pot smokers, she says, “tend to be more aware they’re impaired than alcohol users.” Drunk drivers are more aggressive, and high drivers are slower. But in her studies, she found that being blazed enough, as when a smoker’s blood THC level peaks at 13 nanograms per milliliter, could be just as a dangerous as driving drunk. The marijuana advocacy group NORML emphasizes that driving high can be dangerous, and  advises people to drive sober.

This all translates into a colossal headache for researchers and lawmakers alike. While scientists continue to bang their heads over how to draw up a biological measurement for marijuana intoxication, legislators want a way to quickly identify and penalize people who are too high to drive.

The instinct, Huestis says, is to come up with a law that parallels the 0.08 BAC standard for alcohol. “Everyone is looking for one number,” she says. “And it’s almost impossible to come up with one number. Occasional users can be very impaired at one microgram per liter, and chronic, frequent smokers will be over one microgram per liter maybe for weeks.”

The shaky science around relating blood THC to driving impairment is unfair for people living in marijuana-legal states that have absolute blood THC limits for driving, says Andrea Roth, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In states like Washington, if a driver is found to have over 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood, they automatically get a DUI-cannabis. “If we are going to criminalize DUI marijuana, we need to take information from scientific studies and use it to decide if that risk is sufficiently high to be so morally blameworthy that we call it a crime. But we don’t, so picking 5 nanograms per milliliter is arbitrary,” Roth says.

The complicated biology of THC makes current DUI cases very tricky.

“Blood isn’t taken in the U.S. until 1.5 to four hours after the [traffic] incident,” Huestis says. By then, THC levels would have fallen significantly, and these people might have been impaired but passed the test. At the same time, a heavy user living in a state like Washington would get a DUI even if she or he hadn’t smoked in weeks.

As a result, it gets difficult to even understand how risky blazed driving is. Traffic studies that rely on blood THC measures could also be inaccurate if blood is drawn too late and THC has already left the system. And some state traffic databases, including Colorado’s, according to state traffic officials, link accidents to 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC, a byproduct of marijuana metabolism that marks only recent exposure and not intoxication. That might result in an overestimation of marijuana-related accidents.

In the meantime, Haney says, the challenge shouldn’t deter people from trying to find a marijuana DUI solution. People are working on breath tests, saliva, other blood markers and behavioral tests, just nothing that so far has stuck, she says. “We need something, because it’s an important public health issue. But how we’re going to get there? I just don’t know.”

Source:  http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/02/09/466147956  Feb.2016

Seeking a safe haven in Colorado’s legal marijuana marketplace, illegal drug traffickers are growing weed among the state’s sanctioned pot warehouses and farms, then covertly shipping it elsewhere and pocketing millions of dollars from the sale, according to law enforcement officials and court records consulted by The Associated Press.

In one case, the owner of a skydiving business crammed hundreds of pounds of Colorado pot into his planes and flew the weed to Minnesota, where associates allegedly sold it for millions of dollars in cash. In another, a Denver man was charged with sending more than 100 pot-filled FedEx packages to Buffalo, New York, where drug dealers divvied up the shipment. Twenty other drug traffickers, many from Cuba, were accused of relocating to Colorado to grow marijuana that they sent to Florida, where it can fetch more than double the price in a legal Colorado shop.

These cases and others confirm a longstanding fear of marijuana opponents that the state’s much-watched experiment in legal pot would invite more illegal trafficking to other states where the drug is still strictly forbidden.

One source is Colorado residents or tourists who buy retail pot and take it out of state. But more concerning to authorities are larger-scale traffickers who move here specifically to grow the drug and ship to more lucrative markets.

The trend also bolsters the argument of neighboring Nebraska and Oklahoma, which filed a lawsuit in late 2014 seeking to declare Colorado’s pot legalization unconstitutional, arguing that the move sent a tide of illicit weed across their borders. The Obama administration last month urged the Supreme Court to reject the suit, saying that the leakage was not Colorado’s fault.

No one knows exactly how much pot leaves Colorado. When illegal shipments are seized, it’s often impossible to prove where the marijuana was grown. But court documents and interviews with law enforcement officials indicate well-organized traffickers are seeking refuge in Colorado’s flourishing pot industry.

“There’s no question there’s a lot more of this activity than there was two years ago,” said Colorado’s U.S. attorney, John Walsh.

Some in the legal industry say police have exaggerated the problem and put unfair scrutiny on people who legally grow pot on behalf of patients. Lawmakers last year limited unregulated pot growers to no more than 99 plants in an effort to crack down on those selling untaxed pot.

The federal government allowed Colorado’s experiment on the condition that state officials act to keep marijuana from migrating to places where it is still outlawed and out of the hands of criminal cartels. Federal authorities acknowledge that both things are happening but say that, because the state is trying to keep its industry tightly regulated, there’s no reason to end the legal pot trade.

(MY NOTE: This is an insane position to take. The feds are allowing large-scale manufacturing and distribution to take place in Colorado and elsewhere. All of it is in violation of numerous federal laws that bring mandatory minimum sentences to traffickers. This administration’s absolute failure to enforce federal law is catamount to aiding and abetting drug traffickers on a scale seldom seen in the drug trafficking world prior to legalization. DOJ’s initial claim was that federal resources would not be used to prosecute “patients”

who are in compliance with state “medi-pot” laws. In order words, it was supposed to be about leaving users alone. Nothing about the current situation is about “patients.” It is about commercialization and trafficking, with legalized states producing high-grade pot for the rest of the country.

The feds could immediately stop 90% of this nonsense for the cost of postage stamps — sending letters written on DOJ letterhead that provide notice of impending forfeiture of all property used in furtherance of large-scale trafficking and money laundering. This would include all drug proceeds (and arguably would include the seizure of drug proceeds disguised as “tax revenue.” I spent more than 20 years doing these cases in federal court, so I know what I am talking about. Back to the article.  Monte Stiles)

The pot industry also acknowledges the criminal activity and insists it is doing all it can to keep legally grown weed from crossing state lines. Among other safeguards, Colorado law requires growers to get a license and use a “seed-to-sale” tracking system that monitors marijuana plants at every stage.

Many of the illicit growers come from elsewhere, never obtain a growing license and “don’t even attempt to adhere to the law,” said Barbra M. Roach, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver field division.

“It’s like hiding in plain sight,” she said.  (EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG)

Authorities in Washington state, which also allows recreational marijuana, have noticed more marijuana leaving the state. But more reports are coming from Colorado, which has the nation’s most robust commercial market and an international reputation for producing premium, high-potency pot.

“It’s a brand name now,” Roach said.

Jason Warf, head of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, said people are “coming from out-of-state, buying products from licensed stores and being arrested on their way home.”

That “is really hard to curb,” he said. “We can’t essentially babysit adults and their behavior.”

The Colorado Department of Revenue’s marijuana-enforcement division cites shops if pot is unaccounted for but “after it’s sold, we have very little control what happens to the marijuana,” Director Lewis Koski said.

Police agencies seized nearly 2 tons of Colorado weed from drivers who had intended to take it to 36 other states in 2014, the year legal pot shops opened, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federally funded drug task force. By comparison, they seized less than a ton in 2009.

U.S. postal inspectors seized about 470 pounds of Colorado pot from the mail in 2014, up from 57 pounds in 2010, according to the task force, whose findings are based on on voluntary submissions from law enforcement agencies and are largely anecdotal.

Some cases have comic overtones, like when a Wyoming patrolman discovered 7 ounces of high-grade weed in trick-or-treat bags the day after Halloween, or when police in northern Colorado seized stuffed animals full of marijuana destined for Florida.

Other operations are more sophisticated, like the one in which authorities say 32 people used skydiving planes and posed as licensed medical marijuana caregivers and small business owners to export tens of thousands of pounds of pot grown in Denver warehouses, usually to Minnesota. The organization made more than $12 million over four years, according to a state indictment.

When they busted illegal pot farms in southern Colorado in September, state and federal agents found 28 guns, more than 1,000 plants and $25,000 in cash.

A local UPS facility intercepts about 50 pounds of pot headed out of state each week, said Todd Reeves of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. “We don’t have the resources,” he said, “to be able to go after every single one of these cases.”

Source:   SADIE GURMAN, ASSOCIATED PRESS DENVER — Jan 28, 2016, 2:11 AM ET  http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/drug-traffickers-seek-safe-haven-amid-legal-marijuana-36564435

The overdose antidote is being offered for use in High Schools and is a sad indictment of the situation in the USA where lax drug policies have resulted in huge increases in drugs use – including heroin even amongst youth.

The opioid overdose antidote naloxone is being offered free to high schools around the country by the drugmaker Adapt Pharma, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, quickly reverses overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers. Naloxone will be offered in nasal spray form to high schools through state departments of education. The Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative is collaborating on the project.

Many states do not have rules that would permit high school staff to administer naloxone in an emergency without facing liability from parents or guardians, the article notes. There are significant variations in state and local rules about whether staff is allowed to administer medication to students. In some school districts, medication can only be administered by school nurses, who often work at more than one school.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) in June said that “incorporating use of naloxone into school emergency preparedness and response plans is a school nurse role.” In a statement, the group said “the safe and effective management of opioid pain reliever-related overdose in schools [should] be incorporated into the school emergency preparedness and response plan.” Last year, New York joined at least four other states in allowing public school nurses to add naloxone to their inventory. Other states with similar policies include Vermont, Massachusetts and Delaware.

Adapt Pharma is also providing a grant to NASN to support their education efforts concerning opioid overdose education materials. In a news release from the company, NASN President Beth Mattey said school nurses act as first responders in schools. “We educate our students, families, and school staff about prescription drug and substance abuse, and help families seek appropriate treatment and recovery options,” she said. “Having access to naloxone can save lives and is often the first step toward recovery. We are taking a proactive approach to address the possibility of a drug overdose in school.”

Source:  http://www.drugfree.org/join-together  26th Jan. 2016

Today, NFIA, in partnership with SAM, is publishing a preliminary list of more than 800 nonprofit organizations that are working to build marijuana-free and drug-free communities. The list can be accessed at The Marijuana Report.Org website on the Links page.

Organized by state, the list provides the name, location, phone number, and link to the website or Facebook page of each organization.

“No one had any idea how many organizations are concerned about the impact of marijuana legalization on our kids until we began putting this list together, not even us,” notes William F. Carter, NFIA’s Chairman of the Board.

Adds NFIA’s Senior Advisor, Kent “Oz” Nelson, retired Chairman and CEO of United Parcel Service, “The overwhelming misinformation about marijuana that legalization proponents are putting out there is influencing young people negatively,” he says. “Just last week we learned that daily marijuana use among the nation’s college students is the highest it has ever been since surveys began. It’s encouraging to learn there are so many groups dedicated to educating the public about marijuana’s effects.”

“Like the tobacco industry, which lied to Americans about the harmful effects of cigarettes for more than 50 years, the emerging marijuana industry is telling the same kinds of lies about marijuana,” said NFIA’s President and CEO, Sue Rusche.

Added Kevin Sabet, co-founder and director of SAM, “The public deserves to hear about the substantial science that defines marijuana’s harmful effects. We are delighted to discover how many groups are out there to counteract the marijuana industry’s lies.”

Explore list here.

Source: National Families in Action September 2015

Filed under: Social Affairs :

Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) report shows significant increases in traffic fatalities, child poison control exposures, hospitalizations, youth use, amongst other alarming data, detailing how Colorado’s experiment with retail marijuana regulation is a public health and safety failure.

DENVER, CO – The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) has released its updated report, The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado, The Impact, Volume 3,which outlines the most alarming data to date, demonstrating how Colorado marijuana legalization policies have harmed public safety and health.

 Highlights from the report show serious changes since 2014, when retail marijuana businesses began operating in Colorado, including:

·      Traffic deaths:  A 32 percent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths in just one year from 2013

·      Driving under the influence:  Toxicology reports with positive marijuana results of active THC for primarily driving under the influence have increased 45 percent

·      Marijuana use by children:  Colorado youth usage (ages 12 to 17) ranks 56 percent higher than the national average

·      ER visits:  A 29 percent increase in the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits

·      Hospitalizations:  A 38 percent increase in the number of marijuana-related hospitalizations

·       Poison control: Marijuana-only related exposures increased 72 percent in only one year

·       More marijuana trafficking: The yearly average interdiction seizures of Colorado marijuana increased another 34 percent

“This report serves as a wake-up call for all Coloradans,” said Bob Doyle, chair of Colorado SAM. “It is time to stop yielding to Big Marijuana special interests and put health and safety ahead of marijuana commercialization.”

“For too long, the marijuana industry has been telling Americans that ‘everything’s fine’ in Colorado. This data-driven report tells a very different story,” said Kevin Sabet, President of SAM and an assistant professor at the University of Florida.

Jo McGuire, co-chair of Colorado SAM added, “We are prepared to engage Colorado community members in conversations that will send strong messages to our state leaders that these outcomes are unacceptable and legalization clearly does not work.”

In August 2015, poll results showed that popularity for marijuana legalization amongst Coloradans is losing support over concerns of traffic problems, youth usage, child exposures and the proliferation of edible products.

Source: Press Release 15th September 2015 www.learnaboutsam.org

A new study has caused quite a stir among would-be marijuana cognoscenti because it contradicts major research about the impact of marijuana on physical and mental health. The Marijuana Report asked neuroscientist, Bertha K. Madras of Harvard Medical School, to look briefly at the study. Dr. Madras served as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at ONDCP.

Bertha K. Madras, PhD

A recent manuscript by Bechtold et al,1 describes a longitudinal assessment of a population of marijuana users which, after data collection, were divided into four user groups: (1) nonusers to low use (48%, n=186); (2) limited to adolescent use (10%, n=38); (3) late initiators and increasing (20%, n=76); and (4) early onset with chronic use (22%, n=86). Marijuana use was monitored from adolescence (age 15) into young adulthood (age 26). Ten years later, and ten years after the last determination of marijuana use, study authors asked the subjects, now at an average age of 35.8 years, to report their health status. Each of the four groups self-reported no differences in physical or mental health problems in their mid-thirties. The authors concluded that regardless of how much and how long marijuana was used, and regardless of race, the physical and mental health problems of these four groups were similar. That is, high marijuana use for prolonged periods was not associated with any physical or mental health problems. They also claimed that this is a definitive study because it was longitudinal and superior to other published reports on long-term health consequences of marijuana.

A critical evaluation of the validity of the findings and sweeping conclusions is essential, lest they are interpreted inappropriately. A perusal of the study and the authors’ stated caveats in the manuscript reveal significant weaknesses, with the use of an unrepresentative, possible archaic population, inadequate sample size, inadequate methodologies to assess mental health and physical problems, (self-reports, evaluation of psychiatric status without considering the “spectrum” nature of psychiatric conditions, and absence of addiction evaluation). The findings conflict with other well designed longitudinal studies that assess long-term consequences of marijuana use with early age of initiation of marijuana.

This type of study would not approach or fulfill rigorous criteria for longitudinal research, as exemplified by the 2014 NIDA funding opportunity with similar goals (see “An example of a well-designed study,” last section). The conclusions conceivably are compromised by the following perceived shortcomings of the study.

Population Concerns

  1. The sample size, 386 people, was too small to detect a marijuana effect on psychotic disorders or on other health conditions. NIDA recommends a sample size of 10,000 to detect differences (see final paragraphs). About 50% of the subjects – age 14 – were selected on the basis of their high scores on anti-social behaviors 1 (conduct problems) and the remainder from adolescents without high anti-social behavior scores, but it is not clear whether the drop-out rate from the study was equally represented by both categories. Did more people with early onset anti-social behaviors drop out and does this skew the conclusions? Was there under-sampling of a population at highest risk? There is strong and accumulating evidence that marijuana use is associated with psychosis, with earlier age of onset of schizophrenia, and with worsening of psychotic/schizophrenic symptoms. These association studies were gleaned from thousands of people, not from fewer than 400 subjects, especially when only 100 people are in the high risk group. The small sample size would also make it difficult to detect other serious marijuana-associated medical problems. Reporting of cardiovascular complications related to marijuana and the extreme seriousness of these events (death rate of 25.6%) is increasing, but this occurs in a small number of users (one estimate is 1.8%).

Marijuana is a possible risk factor for cardiovascular disease in young adults,6 with a temporal association between marijuana use and heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, and for stroke, transient ischemic attack, and marijuana-induced arteritis.7 Pulmonary symptoms attributable to marijuana use, even with less intense use, include chronic bronchitis, daily cough, and phlegm production (four quality studies document these findings). No power analysis indicates adequacy of sample size.

Think about this: The prevalence of schizophrenia is 1 in 100. If you sample only 86 subjects of the riskiest group, “early onset chronic users” category, it is unlikely that you can detect a significant increase in prevalence of psychosis or schizophrenia. Another example: a recent study found the incidence of serious cardiac effects of marijuana in 1.8% of heavy users. Was the sample of early onset chronic users (86 people) large enough to detect serous cardiac effects, especially from self-reports?

  1. The study does not have a drug-naïve population for comparative measures of outcomes. The authors report that the amount of marijuana used during adolescence and early adulthood had no effect on the occurrence of a range of health problems.

Think about this: The study has no group that controls for a general, representative population, a non-drug using population. Some other studies have shown different outcomes among youth or young adults who choose not to use, those who use occasionally, or heavy users. What populations are these groups compared to? Are the group sizes large enough to detect differences?

  1. The populations and use patterns investigated in this study are anachronistic and conceivably irrelevant for 2015. Subjects were initially screened in 1987-1988, with a majority of users recruited that did not fall into the heavy use range (daily or near daily use), a use pattern increasingly observed at the present time. The majority of subjects used marijuana during the 1990’s when the psychoactive THC content of marijuana was relatively low, compared with current concentrations.

Think about this: The most serious health outcomes associated with marijuana use, including addiction, occur in heavy users (daily or near daily use) using for long periods of time. Currently, marijuana access has risen rapidly as its legal status changes, its perception of harm has plummeted among youth, along with a rising perception that as a medicine it is safe and can be used daily. Daily use of high potency 2 marijuana among adolescents and young adults is near or at its highest level in nearly three decades. The populations of this study may be irrelevant to current trends, especially since 2009, as marijuana potency is at its highest level ever, availability is greater because of reduced federal and state oversight, as daily use increases, and perception of harm declines. These factors conceivably influence self-reporting of effects and their magnitude. Are the outcomes of this study relevant to current use patterns and marijuana potency?

  1. The population is not representative of the general population: (a) the prevalence of concussions (27.7%) is inordinately high. (b) Death by gunfire is inordinately high. No explanations are offered for the abnormally high prevalence of concussions or death by gunfire, and whether this population has a higher than average prevalence of cognitive impairment. Was there a relationship between concussions and marijuana use or self-reporting of adverse health problems?

Think about this: The overall rate of traumatic brain injury (concussions) presenting in emergency departments in the United States (recent CDC statistics) is 19 per 100,000 persons; for males in this age group, it is about 470 per 100,000 persons (or 4.7 for each 1,000 persons). A concussion rate of 27% of this population (270 per 1000 persons) is about 60 times higher than the general population within this age range. Some rigorous research criteria exclude subjects with traumatic brain injury because of the potential for cognitive impairment. The high numbers of concussions and deaths due to gunfire are anomalous if compared to statistics within the general population. Is this sample representative?

  1. Self-reported medical health problems by these subjects differ from population statistics, on the basis of occurrence by race. According to CDC statistics in 2010, the prevalence of diseases in the general population among African American (AA) adults compared to white (W) adults is different than reported in this study. The CDC ratios (AA:W) for the general population are: Diabetes, CDC = 1.6:1; this study = 4:0. Chronic kidney disease, CDC = 1.14:1, this study = 0:0.6. Sexually transmitted diseases, CDC = 4:1; this study = 0.5:1.1.

Think about this: The health problems self-reported by the African-Americans and white subjects may or may not be accurate, but they differ from the CDC prevalence data for the general population. Differences highlight the need for recruiting sufficiently large numbers of subjects to be representative of the population as a whole. Do differences reflect the unusual populations of this study, which may not generalize to the entire population?

Methodological Concerns: Outcome measures

6. The purpose of the study was to determine whether different patterns of marijuana use among youth affected mental and physical health. All findings are based on an inadequate method for measuring outcomes – self reports, because of potential bias, recall errors, and reliance on self-knowledge of medical conditions. The authors did not investigate medical records, did not confirm marijuana and other drug use with biometric tests, did not interrogate contacts, and did not inquire about sequence of use of other drugs.

Think about this: More than 75% of people harbouring a substance use disorder (SUD), based on objective DSM-IV criteria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV), do not think they have a SUD and do not seek treatment.2 To rely solely on self-reporting of mental or physical health problems with a questionnaire, raises doubts about the overall study design and conclusions. Other examples: Fifty percent of men who died of heart disease had no obvious symptoms. A diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure is made by biometric testing, not by self-reports. Without confirmation from medical records or physician-initiated tests, is it possible to know high blood pressure or diabetes with certainty?

7. Following from #6 above, there is no evidence that subjects reported health outcomes based on their medical records. Authors did not question whether study participants had visited a physician during the past year, past five years or ten years since the last contact. Confirmation of medical conditions by a medical record would strengthen the conclusions. The core outcomes of this study are mental and physical health. Knowing whether the mental and physical health of subjects in this study had been objectively diagnosed by a physician or specialist (psychiatrist, addiction medicine) is critical. The unknown medical record, combined with an assumption that subjects’ self-reports were accurate, diminish the convictions of the authors’ conclusions.

Think about this: Many health problems are not apparent to individuals until they are referred to, or measured by a professional; addiction, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive impairment. Were all subjects reporting results from a recent annual check-up? Unless this information and results are provided, can one assume that self-reports are accurate?

8. Following from #6, #7 above, mental health diagnoses were based on questionnaires, not on biometric testing or long-term assessment (mental health diagnosis requires more than a single session and long-term evaluation). The diagnosis of psychosis, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders, does not rely solely on a person’s response to a single oral or written questionnaire or impressions of their own health. Definitive diagnosis for a serious mental health problem such as schizophrenia, requires systematic questioning, and over a significant period of time to determine whether symptoms persist and are not temporary aberrations. Moreover, mental health problems including substance use disorders (addiction), occur along a continuum of mild to severe. It is possible that the focus on a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder in the current study limited their ability to detect subtle effects of marijuana use on brain function, thought processes, or early psychotic symptoms. Scores were not generated that reflect this continuum. Authors arbitrarily selected a cut-off point to rate the presence or absence of a diagnosis.

Think about this: It is simple to detect one’s own asthma or headache but, for many mental health problems, self-diagnosis may be inaccurate. Can one know if they are developing subtle signs of a mental problem or cognitive impairment unless measured objectively? Can one know if an early stage of cancer is present unless discovered by imaging, by biopsy, or gene expression profiling? Can one know if 4 asymptomatic heart disease is present without ECG testing? Is self-diagnosis of an early stage of mental illness reliable?

Methodological concerns: Marijuana use

9. The investigators divided marijuana users over time into four groups, using model fit statistics. The chart showing marijuana use over time for these four groups provides no error bars indicating whether these groups are significantly different at each age during the study.

Think about this: One would assume the groups were different, based on the four-group solution that was selected on the basis of model fit statistics, substantive interpretation, face validity of classes, parsimony, and consistency of findings with prior research. But, it would be helpful if error bars representing range of use at each age were included to assure the reader that the group divisions based on subjective criteria (interpretation, face validity of classes, parsimony, and consistency of findings with prior research) are transparently clear at each age.

Some data of the marijuana use component are missing: 46% of the subjects had voids in data. Almost half of the subjects did not report marijuana use at various times during the 10 years of survey. This partial set of data is problematic, even though authors claim missing data were from people similar to those who yielded full data sets, and it is possible to interpolate missing data. Reasons for these data gaps should be provided.

Think about this: If a segment of data is not available, does it invalidate or skew the chart showing trends of the four groups? Uncertain.

10. Marijuana use was not questioned at the end of the study (age 36 years). Strong longitudinal studies have shown that early onset and heavy use of marijuana is associated with or is a causative agent in long-term adverse effects on educational achievement, employment, welfare dependency, use of other illicit drugs, psychotic symptoms, I.Q. reduction, and others.3-5 This study provides marijuana use rates until age 26, measures life outcomes at age 36 but doesn’t ask subjects whether they used marijuana from age 26-36 and at age 36. Most users apparently were not consuming daily or nearly daily and three of the four groups had largely stopped using by the age of 26. Why was marijuana use not measured at the end of the study?

Think about this: It is critical to know whether the people using marijuana from age 15-26 years, were still using at age 36, at the time the health outcomes were questioned. If you are studying whether marijuana has interfered with the mental and physical health of subjects at the present time, is it not logical to interrogate whether they are currently using, or if they stopped and when they stopped? If they stopped 10 years before the study, then long-term consequences may be less likely.

11. Marijuana potency was far lower (1980’s to 1990’s) during the period of marijuana consumption of this population. This conceivably affects outcomes and consequences.5.

12 Quantity, frequency, and potency of marijuana use is a critical measure. Frequency and potency were not questioned. The main outcome measure was the number of times marijuana was used during the year. The patterns of use, number of times used each day, and potency, were not interrogated during each annual survey.

Methodological concerns: Outcomes not measured

13. Marijuana addiction (cannabis use disorder or CUD), among the most significant of the adverse effects of marijuana, was not interrogated. The prevalence of CUD is related to age of onset, quantity and frequency of use and is closely linked to other life outcomes.

Think about this: Addiction is among the most prominent effects of chronic marijuana use, and yet the study did not ask about addiction.

14. Life outcomes were not measured (employment, educational achievement) at the

end of the study. Other strong longitudinal studies have interrogated life outcomes and concluded that marijuana has adverse long-term effects on employment and educational achievement, and other social consequences, as a function of age of onset and quantity used.3-5

Think about this: Longitudinal studies indicate that heavy continuous marijuana use leads to lower socioeconomic status and achievement (e.g. college education, employment) than infrequent or no use. When an individual is using marijuana very frequently for a number of years, are they more or less likely to maintain a job, complete high school or college, or be on welfare?

15. Cognitive testing was not measured. Cognitive impairment is one of the hallmarks of acute and possibly long-term marijuana use. It is also associated with other adverse life outcomes.

Think about this: If you were designing a study to learn whether an intoxicant that is known to interfere with learning, memory, and executive function, would you omit evaluating learning and memory from the study?

16. A number of health problems questioned (e.g. cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes) arise later than the average age of the subjects (mid- 30’s). The health questionnaire was filled out by marijuana users in their mid-30’s, an age at which most significant health problems are not yet manifest.

17. Acute effects of marijuana were not asked: intoxication, accidents, emergency department mentions, unplanned pregnancies, and HIV-AIDS. For example, a recent European study collected Emergency Department data from 14 European centers for six months to determine acute toxicity of marijuana. Of the sample, 356 (16.2 %) involved marijuana alone or together with other drugs/alcohol and 1.6 % with marijuana alone. Of the 35 non-fatal lone marijuana presentations, the most commonly reported features were agitation/aggression (22.9 %), psychosis (20.0 %), anxiety (20.0 %), and vomiting (17.1 %). There was one fatality due to prolonged cardiac arrest, with no other drugs detected.6

Think about this: Acute marijuana toxicity can lead to emergencies requiring medical attention. Does omission of this from the questionnaire achieve a comprehensive view of medical consequences of marijuana?

Citations and Comparison with other Studies

18. Authors omit mention of important recent longitudinal studies that show different outcomes than their own study. Other carefully controlled and longitudinal studies have shown that early age of onset of marijuana use is associated with a number of mental and physical consequences, including addiction, cognitive deficits, mental health problems, educational and employment outcomes, and others. Citations 3 and 4 are not mentioned, others are dismissed with a list of weaknesses, even though the current study is fraught with significant weaknesses.

19. The authors attempt to support their conclusions by dismissing well designed reports by others. In the introduction, they do not discuss severe limitations of their own study: (e.g. daily use of high potency marijuana is currently at its highest level in 30 years of surveys, in contrast with their subjects; weaknesses of self-reported medical and psychiatric conditions, and others as stated above). Instead, the introduction curiously offers a critique, entitled Limitations in Prior Research. In it they conclude that “prior research has produced mixed findings regarding the associations between chronic marijuana use and indicators of physical and mental health, …and that individuals who begin using marijuana frequently during early adolescence and those who use at high frequencies throughout adolescence and young adulthood tend to develop more health problems (i.e., psychotic symptoms, respiratory problems) than infrequent/nonusers, in contradistinction to their own findings.

Think about this: In their critique:

(1) The authors claim this study is among a “handful of studies that have been able to prospectively delineate subgroups of individuals with varying developmental patterns of marijuana use from adolescence into young adulthood.” The strength of the present study was to document marijuana use, but not in depth and not confirmed by biometric testing, annually for the decade of life encompassing adolescence and early adulthood. Yet, other research has interrogated key variables, age of onset, frequency and quantity of marijuana use (confirmed with biometric testing), some in prospective, longitudinal studies, others in cross-sectional studies. The medical record at the study’s inception is of limited value because it is neither comprehensive nor independently verified. The initial assessment of 15-year-old boys was inadequate and was not followed by a longitudinal assessment, except for marijuana use. The 10 year hiatus in data collection is a weakness. Self-reports of mental and physical health are inappropriate.

(2) They claim that “few longitudinal studies have examined whether young men who exhibit early and chronic developmental patterns of marijuana use are more likely to exhibit both physical and mental health problems in their mid-30s.” Unfortunately, this study does not answer this question because of the quality of the outcome measures, no marijuana use patterns recorded for 10 years, and the only medical and 7 mental health outcomes are reported by mothers of the subjects around age 15 and by the subjects themselves at ~ age 36.

(3) They claim that “Many studies have failed to control for important confounding factors, such as health problems that predated the onset of regular marijuana use and co-occurring use of tobacco, alcohol, and hard drug.” Yet, the documented and age appropriate deficits associated with marijuana use, in-depth psychiatric status, cognitive impairment, declining academic performance, school drop-out rates, accidents, and others were not interrogated in this survey.

Limited references

1. Bechtold, J., Simpson, T., White, H. R., & Pardini, D. Chronic Adolescent Marijuana Use as a Risk Factor for Physical and Mental Health Problems in Young Adult Men Online First Publication, August 3, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/adb0000103 Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-48, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4863. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.

3. Fergusson DM, Boden JM, Horwood LJ. Psychosocial sequelae of cannabis use and implications for policy: findings from the Christchurch Health and Development Study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015 May 26. [Epub ahead of print]

4. Fergusson DM, Boden JM. Cannabis use and later life outcomes. Addiction. 2008 Jun;103(6):969-76; discussion 977-8.

5. Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, Harrington H, Houts R, Keefe RS, McDonald K, Ward A, Poulton R, Moffitt TE. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 2;109(40):E2657-64.

6. Dines AM, Wood DM, Galicia M, Yates CM, Heyerdahl F, Hovda KE, Giraudon I, Sedefov R; Euro-DEN Research Group, Dargan PI. Presentations to the Emergency Department Following Cannabis use-a Multi-Centre Case Series from Ten European Countries. J Med Toxicol. 2015 Feb 5. [Epub ahead of print]

7. Jouanjus E, Lapeyre-Mestre M, Micallef J; French Association of the Regional Abuse and Dependence Monitoring Centres (CEIP-A) Working Group on Cannabis Complications*. Cannabis use: signal of increasing risk of serious cardiovascular disorders. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014 Apr 23;3(2):e000638. doi:10.1161/JAHA.113.000638.

8. Thomas G, Kloner RA, Rezkalla S. Adverse cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular effects of marijuana inhalation: what cardiologists need to know. Am J Cardiol. 2014 Jan 1;113(1):187-90.

An example of a well-designed longitudinal study

NIDA Funding Opportunity http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-DA-15-015.html

Research Design and sample should describe the following:

• A longitudinal single-cohort design to prospectively examine the neurodevelopmental and behavioral effects of substance use from early adolescence through the period of risk for substance use and substance use disorders.

• Participants, approximately ages 9-10 at baseline, who are largely naïve to substance use at the time of study enrollment; the focus on a largely asymptomatic population at baseline provides the opportunity to define brain and behavioral risk factors and trajectories before the onset of substance use;

• A design with a sample size that is sufficiently large to achieve the study goals; preliminary estimates indicate a sample size of approximately 10,000 participants (combined across sites) at the end of the 5-year funding cycle would be needed, though a smaller sample can be proposed if justified by feasibility and statistical-power analyses;

• A sampling strategy designed to establish a community-based sample that is broadly representative of and generalizable to the U.S. general population as a whole, including males and females, as well as major racial, ethnic, and sociodemographic subgroups of the population; it is recognized that the level of precision achieved for various subgroups may vary, and that probability-based sampling and oversampling of certain demographic subgroups or geographical regions may be required;

• A sampling design that considers oversampling of population subgroups at greater risk for uptake of substance use during adolescence (e.g., positive family history of substance use disorders, externalizing psychopathology, disinhibitory traits, prenatal exposure to substances);

• A research approach that considers incorporating genetically informative designs (e.g., family based) or subjects (e.g., twins, siblings);

• A sampling design to produce geographical variation of macro-level factors associated with substance use (e.g., state-level policies concerning the permissiveness of marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco use; regional variation in prevalence of marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco use; rural, urban and suburban populations);

• State-of-the-art data-collection procedures (e.g., computer-administered/assisted interviews), practices (e.g., cultural matching) and quality-control processes (e.g., random verification, logic-checking);

• Standardized measures that, where possible, are compatible with data-harmonization efforts (e.g., PhenX Toolkit) and ongoing studies of substance use and neurodevelopment;

• Comprehensive multi-informant (e.g., respondent, parent/guardian, sibling, etc. as appropriate) assessment of substance use to permit estimates of prevalence, incidence, and change in use patterns (e.g., quantity, frequency) by specific substances (e.g., nicotine, alcohol, marijuana), products and product types (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, snuff, beer, liquor, joints, blunts), and modes of administration (e.g., inhalation, oral, drinking, nasal); measures of change should be sensitive enough to detect dynamic patterns among adolescents as they enter and pass through the period of risk for substance use;

Behavioral Measures and Biospecimens should describe the following:

• Comprehensive and multi-level assessment of predictors, mediators, moderators, and outcomes associated with substance use (e.g., demographics, pubertal status, personality traits, parental monitoring, peer group deviance, family structure, parent-child relationships, prosocial behaviors, romantic relationships, stressful events, availability of substances, state and local policies related to marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco use, educational attainment, learning 9 disability designation or receipt of services, crime, unemployment, experience and/or witnessing of trauma or violence);

• Assessment of concurrent and historical participation in interventions that may prevent or mitigate substance use and its consequences (e.g., pre- and post-natal prevention programs; Head Start; receipt of counseling, psychotherapy and other behavioral health interventions or services; family or classroom-based prevention interventions);

• Comprehensive measurement of confounders and other risk factors (e.g., prenatal exposure, abuse or trauma, drug availability, exposure to environmental risk factors, sport injuries especially to the head, etc.);

• Rigorous quantitative and categorical assessment of symptomatology and psychiatric disorders, including severity;

• Family history assessment of substance use disorders and other psychopathology;

• Age-appropriate assessment of HIV-risk knowledge and behaviors;

• Neuropsychological battery of tests that is developmentally sensitive and that allows for the assessment of major neurobehavioral dimensions associated with substance use (e.g., attention, information processing, learning and memory, cognitive control, motivation, emotional regulation, disinhibition, risk taking);

• Screening for drug intoxication prior to behavioral, cognitive, or functional imaging sessions and neuropsychological assessment, with delineated thresholds for inclusion/exclusion;

• Clear and justified inclusion/exclusion criteria to identify individuals unable to complete the assessment protocol for various reasons (e.g., use of certain prescribed medications, language/reading impairments, brain injury, severe mental illness, etc.);

• Detailed plans and procedures to collect, process, analyze, and store biospecimens (e.g., urine, blood, saliva, hair) indicative of substance exposure; • Additional biospecimens should be collected for subsequent research on genetic/epigenetic factors influencing or affected by substance use, with accompanying plans for analyses.

This wonderful book tells much of the story about cannabis that we are not allowed to hear.

I strongly commend it to you all. It does the neuroscience very well, and reviews much of the brain and neuroscience nicely and in a sensible and balanced way, and also indicates how the crazy side skews their presentation of evidence to aid and abet their grossly dishonest agenda. It actually gives a list of 21 social harms directly related to drug addiction – and then says that there are several dozen more which have not been mentioned!!!!

It is written by a senior practising psychiatrist majoring in addiction medicine, who was also a cannabis addict from 17-19 years of age. So he has known both sides of the fence.

Source: Book reviewed by Stuart Reece sreece@bigpond.net.au  Sept 2015

https://books.google.co.uk/

One evening in April, Ethan Darbee, a 24-year-old paramedic in Syracuse, responded to a call on the city’s south side: unknown man down. Rolling up to the scene, he saw a figure lying motionless on the sidewalk. Darbee raked his knuckles across the man’s sternum to assess his level of consciousness. His eyelids fluttered. Inside the ambulance, Darbee hooked him up to a heart monitor, and he jerked involuntarily. The odd reaction puzzled Darbee. Why would the guy recoil from an electrode sticker but not a sternal rub? The driver started for the hospital. Darbee sat in the captain’s chair in the back of the rig, typing on a laptop. Then he heard a sound no paramedic ever wants to hear: the click of a patient’s shoulder harness unlatching. Swivelling around, he found himself eyeball to eyeball with his patient, who was now crouched on all fours on top of the stretcher, growling.

That same evening, Heather Drake, a 29-year-old paramedic, responded to a call at an apartment complex on the west side. When she arrived, four firefighters were grappling with a 120-pound woman who was flailing and flinging vomit at anyone who came near her. A bystander shouted that the woman was high on ‘‘spike’’ — the prevailing local term for synthetic marijuana, which is more commonly known around the country as spice. But Drake didn’t believe it. Spike didn’t turn people into violent lunatics. Phencyclidine (PCP) or synthetic cathinones (‘‘bath salts’’) could do that, maybe even a joint soaked in formaldehyde — but not spike. Drake sprayed a sedative up the woman’s nose and loaded her into the ambulance. A mayday call from another crew came over the radio. In the background static of the transmission, Drake could hear Ethan Darbee yelling.

Darbee’s patient had sprung off the stretcher and knocked him to the floor of the ambulance, punching him repeatedly in the face. Darbee grasped the side-door handle and tumbled into the street. Within moments, the police arrived and quickly subdued the man. Two days later, 19 more spike overdoses would swamp local emergency rooms, more in one day in Syracuse than the number of overdoses reported statewide in most states for all of April.

Syracuse, where I’ve lived almost my entire life, has struggled with synthetic drugs before. William Harper, a local businessman and two-time Republican candidate for City Council, moonlighted as the kingpin of bath salts in New York for two years before the Drug Enforcement Administration took him down in 2011. Was there a spike kingpin out there now, flooding the street with a bad batch? Perhaps, but similar outbreaks occurred in several states along the Gulf of Mexico in April, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that between January and June, the nationwide number of synthetic marijuana ‘‘exposures’’ — that is, reported contact with the substance, which usually means an adverse reaction —

had already surpassed totals for 2013 and 2014, and that 15 people died from such exposure. Maybe there was a larger cause.

Every state has banned synthetic cannabinoids, the chemicals in spike that impart the high. Although the active ingredients primarily come from China, where commercial labs manufacture them to order like any other chemical, spike itself is produced domestically. Traffickers spray the chemicals on dried plant material and seal the results in foil pouches; these are then sold on the Internet or distributed to stores across the country, which sell them sometimes under the counter, as in Syracuse, or sometimes right by the cash register, depending on local laws. Unlike marijuana, cocaine and other naturally occurring drugs, synthetic cannabinoids can be tweaked on a molecular level to create novel, and arguably legal, drugs.

Since 2008, when authorities first noted the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in ‘‘legal marijuana’’ products, periodic surges in overdoses have often coincided with new releases, and emergency doctors have had to learn on the fly how to treat them. This latest surge is notable for the severity of symptoms: seizures, extreme swings in heart rate and blood pressure, kidney and respiratory failure, hallucinations. Many patients require such enormous doses of sedatives that they stop breathing and require intubation, and yet they still continue to struggle violently. Eric Kehoe, a shift commander at the Rural Metro ambulance company that employs Darbee and Drake, said bath-salts overdoses are easier to deal with. ‘‘You might find them running naked down the middle of the street,’’ he said, but ‘‘you could talk them down. These people here — there’s no point. You can’t even reason with them. They’re just mute. They have this look about them that’s just like a zombie.’’

Syracuse is one of the poorest cities in America — more than a third of the people here live below the poverty line. After I made a few visits to Upstate University Hospital’s emergency department, where most spike cases in the area end up, it became clear to me that the vast majority of serious users here don’t resemble the victims typically featured in reefer-madness-type stories about the dangers of ‘‘designer drugs.’’ They aren’t curious teenagers dabbling in what they thought was a legal high dispensed from a head shop. They’re broke, often homeless. Many have psychiatric problems. They’ve smoked spike for months, if not years. They buy it from rundown convenience stores and corner dealers in the city’s worst neighborhoods, fully aware that it’s an illegal drug with potentially severe side effects. Doctors could tell me what happened when people overdosed on spike, but they couldn’t tell me why anyone would smoke it in the first place, given the possible consequences.

‘‘It’s crazy,’’ was all that one overdose patient could tell me. ‘‘Syracuse is Spike Nation, man. I don’t know who called it that, but that’s what they’re saying.’’

Slide Show | Syracuse’s Spike Epidemic One of the poorest cities in America has become a hotbed for synthetic marijuana.

The visible center of Syracuse’s spike epidemic is the Mission District, a three-block wedge bounded by treeless boulevards and a red railroad trestle with the pronouncement LIVES CHANGE

HERE painted on it in huge white letters. Before urban renewal gutted the neighborhood in the 1960s, it was home to a typewriter factory and a rail yard surrounded by blue-collar homes and fringed by mansions that have long since been bulldozed or carved up into boarding houses. The sprawling Rescue Mission campus, which includes a men’s shelter and a soup kitchen, lends the district its name. The shelter explicitly forbids spike, along with alcohol and other drugs. But at any time during the day, a knot of people can be found under the trestle, dealing and smoking spike, and sometimes passing out from it. One unseasonably hot May afternoon, while I was combing a creek bank for discarded spike packets, a man shouted at me from a bridge: ‘‘That’s a lot of spike down there!’’

He introduced himself as Kenneth, a 44-year-old barber and spike addict with fingertips stained highlighter-yellow by spike resin. He had thin, expressive lips, and when he spoke, his words flowed in multiple stanzas. We sat in the shade under the trestle to talk. Kenneth was in prison when he first smoked spike, which he praised as a ‘‘miracle drug’’ because it didn’t show up on a drug test. ‘‘An addict is always trying to get slick, always trying to get over, always trying to beat a urine, always trying to beat a parole officer, always trying to get high without getting in trouble,’’ he said. ‘‘So I’m loving this drug! I come home, and it’s all over the place.’’

That was a year ago, after Kenneth got out of prison. For a time, he said, he considered dealing spike but decided that smoking it was all the trouble he could afford. Now he hated the stuff. Nobody he knew would choose it over real weed — if real weed were legal. In this way, spike was less a drug of choice than one of necessity. Now he was hooked, he said, and trying to quit. ‘‘It’s an annoying drug,’’ he said, comparing it to crack. ‘‘It’s great in the first two minutes. But then you got to keep lighting up, and lighting up, and lighting up. It’s not like marijuana, smoking a blunt and you’re high for two or three hours.’’

I asked him if he was afraid of landing in the hospital with a tube in his throat, or even dying. The risk of death isn’t a deterrent to an addict, he said — it’s a selling point. Take Mr. Big Shot, for example, a brand of spike that had a reputation on the street for knocking people unconscious. That’s the one everybody wanted, including Kenneth: ‘‘One joint lasted me six hours! I would light it up, take about three lungs, and turn it off. It was that strong. Even the guy in the store where I bought it from said, ‘Listen, smoke this in your house, don’t go into the street with this.’ ’’ If there was a spike dealer in the city selling bad stuff, Kenneth wasn’t aware of it, or he wouldn’t say. In his opinion, people were losing control on spike because they were smoking way too much of it. It was that simple.

‘‘That’s what all these guys do all day long,’’ he said, pointing to a group of loud-talking men hanging out at the other end of the trestle. ‘‘That’s what they’re doing right now.’’ (Kenneth, now 45, recently told me he had kicked his spike habit.)

Other spike users I spoke to in the Mission District made the same argument. One of them was Tyson, a 27-year-old drifter with shaggy brown hair who affected an air of party-dude bonhomie. He’d shot up, smoked, swallowed or snorted just about every drug there is, he said. Last fall, he started using spike for the same reason Kenneth did — to foil mandatory drug tests. Now he was living on the street, waiting for a bed to open up in a rehab facility. I bought him an iced coffee and a wedge of poundcake at the Starbucks in Armory Square, an upscale neighborhood of shops and restaurants three blocks from the Mission District. We sat on a sun-dappled bench, watching lawyers and insurance executives come and go. When I

asked him why so many people were overdosing on spike in Syracuse, Tyson blamed novice smokers.

‘‘The first week or so of smoking spike, there’s no control over it,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d smoke it and black out and come to three hours later, hugging a pole.’’

They can’t all be novices, I pointed out. Many of the spike users I talked to at Upstate University Hospital were plenty experienced, and they had ended up in the emergency room regardless. Tyson slurped a blob of whipped cream from his cup and reconsidered the question. His answer was rambling and profane, but it gave me deeper insight into how the spike economy works in Syracuse.

Spike, Tyson said, is a ‘‘poverty drug.’’ A five-gram bag goes for $10 in the store, but it is often subdivided and resold on the street as $1 ‘‘sticks,’’ or joints, and $2 ‘‘freestyle’’ portions — spike poured directly from the bag into the hand of the buyer. Many of the users I spoke to claimed that, in addition to being dirt-cheap, spike was addictive. There are no studies to back up this claim. Toxicologists know only that synthetic cannabinoids bind to certain receptors in the brain, and they understand nothing about the drug’s long-term health effects. Scientific proof aside, Tyson said he knew spike users who performed sex acts for a few dollars. ‘‘That’s how you know that spike is definitely addictive,’’ he said. ‘‘People are out tricking for it.’’

Tyson also explained how easy spike is to get in Syracuse. He ticked off the names of corner stores that sold it from behind the counter. Some required users to know code words — ‘‘Skittles,’’ for example — while others sold spike to anybody who asked for it, including children. Along with the stores, and the entrepreneurs peddling sticks to subsidize their own habits, street dealers offered bags of spike purchased in bulk from distributors in New York City.

‘‘That dude over there, with the headphones on?’’ Tyson said. ‘‘He does it.’’ He pointed his chin toward a young man in a leather coat crossing the street. ‘‘He’s got bags on him right now, but he does that pop-top.’’

‘‘Pop-top’’ is slang for the local spike sold in resealable pouches, the cheapest of the cheap. ‘‘You don’t know where it’s been, who did what with it,’’ Tyson said. No brand of spike is tested for its pharmacological effects, but pop-top spike doesn’t even have the benefit of a street rep. It’s the ditch weed of Spike Nation: rank, wet and worst of all, weak — unless you get a ‘‘hotspot,’’ an unpredictably powerful batch. ‘‘Seventeen joints, you might be fine. Eighteenth joint might put you down for six hours,’’ Tyson said. ‘‘That’s probably going to be what’s going to give somebody a heart attack.’’

Tyson said he’d seen a pop-top operation once, in a dingy basement on Syracuse’s north side. Potpourri was spread atop silk screens on Ping-Pong tables, then doused with unknown chemicals from a spray bottle. What pop-top manufacturers lacked in quality control, they made up for in marketing talent. Their spike was even cheaper than the store-bought variety, and new brands hit the street every month. They also produced clever knockoffs, stuffing their inferior spike into pouches identical to popular store brands. ‘‘That’s the name of the game right now, dude,’’ Tyson said. ‘‘Who can have the best-looking bag.’’

Since the attack on Ethan Darbee, the number of spike overdoses in Syracuse has fallen by half, just as mysteriously as it rose. Maybe spike smokers are being more careful, or doctors are reporting overdoses less frequently. Maybe a bad batch of spike finally ran its course. The answer doesn’t really matter. In a year, or a month, or perhaps tomorrow, the chemicals will be completely different, and we’ll be talking about another surge in emergencies.

The problem is resistant to criminal prosecution, or even basic police work. The Syracuse Police Department has a cellphone video of a spike overdose that they use for training purposes. It was taken in the first week of the outbreak, when the police were responding to as many as 20 overdoses a day. A lieutenant played the video for me one afternoon on a computer at the police station. It starts with a man writhing on the floor in a corridor of an apartment building. The man isn’t under arrest, but his hands are cuffed behind his back, for his own safety, until an ambulance can get there. The man screams the same unintelligible words over and over in a hysterical falsetto. He bangs the back of his head against the wall and hammers his bare heels against the floor. Ragged flaps of pink skin hang off his kneecaps. His bottom lip is literally chewed away. The video ends abruptly with the man in mid-scream. The lieutenant jerked his thumb toward the computer screen. ‘‘Now,’’ he said to me, ‘‘try to get his name and phone number.’’

When the bath-salts outbreak peaked in 2012, the city passed an ordinance equating possession of synthetic drugs with minor infractions like loitering. It also gives the police the authority to confiscate spike from users and, with probable cause, from stores as well. But the ordinance, which pushed spike sales onto the street, did little to prevent the surge of overdoses that hit the city in April. Bill Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney, responded to the recent ‘‘crisis,’’ as he put it, by notifying store owners in May that he would charge them with reckless endangerment if they were caught selling spike, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. That was the extent of his authority. ‘‘What I would ask from the federal government is some sort of sanction against China,’’ a frustrated Fitzpatrick told me. ‘‘Forget about the doctrines of Mao Zedong or Karl Marx — what

better way to subvert American society than by shipping this garbage over here and making it attractive to our future generations?’’

In March, the D.E.A. did arrest one Chinese national, a suspected manufacturer who made the mistake of traveling to the United States on business. For the most part, though, federal prosecutors have focused on arresting United States distributors under the controlled-substance-analogue statute, which was designed specifically to target synthetics. According to the statute, prosecutors must prove that the cannabinoids are ‘‘substantially similar’’ to previously banned cannabinoids both chemically and pharmacologically, and that they’re meant for human consumption. That’s why every bag of spike carries the disclaimer ‘‘Not for Human Consumption’’ as a legal fig leaf.

Carla Freedman, assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of New York, has successfully prosecuted many synthetic-drug cases under the statute. She won convictions against not just Syracuse’s bath-salts kingpin but also the owner of a chain of upstate head shops and the members of a Syracuse family who cranked out 200 pounds of spike a month in a rented house with the aid of a cement mixer. ‘‘If you keep taking out smoke shop after smoke shop, you’re putting your finger in the dike,’’ Freedman said. ‘‘If you take out the manufacturer and shut his business down, you stop production for a while.’’

Her current case concerns three associates of a Los Angeles-based organization called Real Feel Products Inc., who are charged with conspiring ‘‘to distribute one or more controlled-substance analogues.’’ Real Feel has done its business in the open, and indeed claims on its website to rank as ‘‘the Top 5 counter culture distribution company in North America.’’ Since Freedman charged the defendants under the analogue statute, their most likely defense will be to argue that they have changed their products frequently enough to keep them within the realm of legality. It’s Freedman’s job to prove that they didn’t. If they had sold heroin instead of spike, they’d already be in jail, and none of this would be an issue. As if more evidence were necessary to prove that synthetic drugs are the new frontier, Real Feel was also at one point developing a reality television show about growing its business.

Neither Fitzpatrick nor Freedman nor Syracuse’s mayor, Stephanie Miner, had any idea who, or what, was causing the overdoses. In Miner’s view, spike was just the drug of the moment, as heroin was last year and bath salts the year before that. She said she believes the real problem is centered on ‘‘undiagnosed trauma’’ that drives people to use drugs — any drugs — in the first place.

‘‘You can’t arrest your way out of these problems,’’ Miner said. ‘‘If somebody thinks that you can use the law to correct behavior that results from mental health issues? Not gonna happen.’’

The next day I went for a ride along with Police Officer Jacob Breen. Just four years out of the academy, Breen still enjoyed patrolling a beat and showed a keen interest in the social fabric of the city’s tough south- and west-side neighborhoods. After decades of economic decline, Syracuse has become one of the most segregated cities in the country, with a predominantly black underclass trapped in the urban core and middle-class whites living in the suburbs. Onondaga County, where Syracuse is the largest city, also has the third-highest rate of ‘‘zombie homes’’ — abandoned by their owners but not yet reclaimed by the banks — in the state. Cruising from block to block, Breen glanced back and forth between the road and a laptop wedged between our seats that displayed mug shots of felons on open warrants, the majority of them young black men. We passed a dilapidated two-story house, its boarded-up windows tagged with graffiti. The front door was ajar. ‘‘Open for business,’’ Breen said, craning his head around to get a glimpse through the door.

What bothered Breen most about the spike problem was how little he could do about it. Dealers, he knew, didn’t care about being hit with an appearance ticket for violating the city ordinance. He had to spend much of his time running around the city to protect ambulance crews from being attacked by freaked-out spike heads — ‘‘a waste of police resources,’’ he said. Sure enough, around 5 p.m., dispatch put out a call regarding a spike overdose. Four officers were already on the scene when we arrived. They stood in the yard of a tidy white house, trying to coax a man down from a set of stairs. The man was in his 40s, with a shaved head and a scraggly beard. Oblivious to the officers, who seemed to know him, he stared at the sky, rolling his eyes.

‘‘Hey, Will, c’mon,’’ one officer said. ‘‘You want to crawl down?’’ Paramedics wheeled a gurney to the stairs, and the situation escalated quickly. When the police laid hands on him, Will began jerking spastically and didn’t stop, even after he was strapped to the gurney and loaded into the ambulance.

Nurses at the hospital discovered three bags of spike on Will. But there was also a sandwich bag filled with what appeared to be small stones. Breen took the spike and the ‘‘moon rocks,’’ as he called them, to the Public Safety Building downtown. While he went to fetch a drug-test field kit, the supervising officer, Sergeant Novitsky, examined the haul. The moon rocks baffled him. ‘‘I just don’t want to touch it,’’ he said.

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t spike. The kit returned negative results for amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, methadone, methamphetamine and PCP as well. Breen and Novitsky weren’t sure what to do next. Toss the rocks into an evidence locker? Send them to the crime lab? Neither possibility appealed to Breen. ‘‘The lab’s not testing anything we’re sending,’’ he complained. ‘‘They won’t unless it’s a criminal case.’’ Novitsky shrugged. Overdoses weren’t criminal cases. At my suggestion, Breen decided to take it to Ross Sullivan, an emergency-room doctor at Upstate who has been investigating the toxicology of synthetic drugs.

We parked outside the entrance of Upstate’s emergency department and waited in the dark for the handoff. This was how knowledge of synthetic drugs was being advanced — an ersatz drug deal between a rookie cop and a toxicologist, with a reporter acting as middleman. It was absurd, but it was also somehow fitting. The synthetic-drug industry, and the response to it, are based on improvisation. A molecule is tweaked in a Chinese lab, triggering a chain reaction that goes all the way down the line from dealers to users to paramedics and the police to doctors and lawyers. Just when everybody seems to have a handle on it, the molecule gets tweaked again, and the cycle begins anew. Whatever these rocks were, Upstate’s doctors might very well see a flood of overdoses on it next year.

For what it’s worth, the “moon rocks” described at the end of this article are likely methylone, an analog of MDMA that acts as a CNS stimulant and empathogen. User’s have described methylone’s effects as variously being similar to MDMA or LSD. A 2012 paper from The Annals of Toxicology describes 3 fatal intoxications:  Pearson JM, et al. Three fatal intoxications due to methylone. J Anal Toxicol. 2012 Jul;36(6):444-51.

Source:Search   http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/spike-nation.html?referrer=

Twenty years ago, drug dealers were seen as criminal elements in our society. They were shunned by the mainstream. Parents warned their kids to stay away from those known to use drugs.

But thanks to the marijuana lobby, what was once scorned is hyped and celebrated–even as the drug has become more potent, with THC, the intoxicating chemical, present at much higher levels than in the 1990s. Dealers run state-sanctioned dispensaries, lobby to further legalize their product, and receive positive media coverage when doing so.

The dangers have gone up and the stigma has gone down. And many in the Republican Party are aiding and abetting in this social collapse. Recently two California Republicans, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Tom McClintock, have taken the lead in helping reverse the long-standing consensus between both parties that marijuana and other drugs should remain illegal. A few of the potential 2016 Republican candidates for president are forcefully against legalization, but most have been all over the map on this issue.

As Ronald Reagan said in 1986, “Drug abuse is not a so-called victimless crime.” Indeed, it is not. We wish more of our current elected officials understood that fact.

Legalization is aimed at adult use, but how have age restrictions worked out in preventing teen and adolescent use of alcohol? According to the 2013 Household Survey issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 22 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds and more than 43 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds regularly drink alcohol. As for marijuana, in Colorado, where it became legal in 2012, teen use is 56 percent higher than the national average.

Furthermore, the science is overwhelmingly clear that marijuana use is harmful to human health, particularly among children and young adults. As the American Medical Association stated in 2013 when it came out against legalization, “Current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm.”

A 2014 study in the journal Current Addiction Reports found that regular pot use (defined as once a week), especially among teenagers and young adults, can lead to cognitive decline, decreased IQ, and poor attention and memory. This backs up a growing number of studies with similar findings, including a lengthy 2014 report in theNew England Journal of Medicine and another report from the same year by Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General/Harvard Medical School, showing a link between the recreational use of marijuana and significant brain abnormalities in young adults.

If conservatives believe the efforts to contain marijuana use have been too expensive or burdensome on our law enforcement and corrections systems (as is often claimed), we ask them to simply look at the numbers and costs associated with enforcement of the legal product they analogize it to so often, alcohol.

According to the FBI, arrests and imprisonments for alcohol and liquor violations (DUIs, drunkenness and liquor law violations) exceed arrests and imprisonments for all drug violations combined by nearly 500,000. Marijuana possession accounts for 40 percent of the drug violations. Why? One is legal and available, and one is still–mostly–illegal and less available.

As for any claim of unconstitutionality, there is no argument against the legal barring of marijuana that does not also apply to heroin, cocaine and meth. That is why some of the more honest proponents in the legalization movement will admit that marijuana legalization is but a first step toward the legalization of all drugs.

Abraham Lincoln said government’s “leading object is to elevate the condition of men … to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all.” Overseeing or encouraging more marijuana use is just about the last thing a government trying to elevate the condition of men and clear the path  of laudable pursuits would do. At stake is the safety of our youth, and that should be one thing both major parties can agree is precious.

William J. Bennett was the nation’s first drug czar, the secretary of Education from 1985-88 and is the co-author of Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana Is Harming America. Seth Leibsohn, radio host of The Seth Leibsohn Show based in Phoenix, is chairman of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy.

Source: Los Angeles Times   Editorial on 06/21/2015

Lawyer for Dish Network employee fired after using medical pot to treat muscle

spasms calls ruling “devastating”

Employers’ zero-tolerance drug policies trump Colorado’s medical marijuana laws, the

Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a 6-0 decision, the high court affirmed lower court rulings that businesses can fire

employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it’s off-duty.

With the ruling, which was a blow to some medical marijuana patients and a sigh of

relief to employers, Colorado became the first state to provide guidance on a gray area

of the law.

The decision came nine months after the state’s highest court heard oral arguments in

Brandon Coats’ case against Dish Network. Coats became quadriplegic in a car accident

and used marijuana to control leg spasms. He had a medical marijuana card and

consumed pot off-duty. He was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.

Coats, who was a customer service representative for Dish, challenged the Douglas

County satellite TV company’s zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal

under state law. His firing had been upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of

Appeals.

DOCUMENT: Colorado Supreme Court affirms ruling

When the case went to the state Supreme Court, legal observers said the case could

have significant implications for employers across Colorado. They noted that the ruling

also could be precedent-setting as Colorado and other states wrangle with adapting laws

to a nascent industry that is illegal under federal law.

At the crux of the issue was whether the use of medical marijuana — which is in

compliance with Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Amendment — was “lawful” under the

state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute.

That term, the justices said, refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law.

“Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is

permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute,”

Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion.

Current Colorado law allows employers to set their own policies on drug use.

Coats’ attorney Michael Evans, of Centennial-based The Evans Group, called the decision

“devastating.”

He said he does not plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“You need the Colorado Supreme Court to stand up for its own laws,” he said. “The U.S.

Supreme Court is not going to do that.”

Resolution at last

On Monday, Coats and his mother, Donna Scharfenberg, spent all morning refreshing the

Colorado Supreme Court’s website. When they finally read the ruling, there was 10

minutes of silence.

“It was just kind of shocking,” Coats said. “There was a silent moment there for a long

while.”

It was a disappointing resolution to what has been a five-year battle for Coats, who is unemployed. “This is a controversial issue,” he said. “This is a hard case, and it was going to be a hard case to win. I was definitely hoping it would go the other way around. “I was feeling like maybe, maybe, but it didn’t go that way.” Officials with Douglas County-based Dish lauded the decision. “We are pleased with the outcome of the court’s decision today,” the company said in a statement. “As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law.” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman said the decision gives companies the freedom to craft their own employment policies concerning marijuana. “Not every business will opt for zero-tolerance, but it is important that the latitude now exists to craft a policy that fits the individual workplace,” she said. A question for the legislature When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana last year, employers across the state increased their drug testing, said Curtis Graves, an attorney for Mountain States Employers Council, referencing a workplace survey at the time. A year later, and with an unemployment rate below 5 percent, some employers have loosened the reins. “We’ve seen a number of employers, particularly in hospitality … who are actually omitting THC from a pre-employment drug screen,” he said. The market might dictate a further shift in the future. Until then, people like Coats will have to consider other treatments or find a position that does not enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy, said Austin Smith, managing shareholder of employment law firm Ogletree Deakins’ Denver office. “It puts employees in a tough spot,” said Smith, who watched the case closely but was not involved. Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor, said the justices’ decision comes as no surprise. “It’s easy to make too much of this decision,” he said. “It really comes down to interpreting this one word (‘lawful’) in this one statute.” As a matter of statutory interpretation, the court got it right, he said. But for Coats and medical marijuana advocates, this is a blow, Kamin said. He said he thinks the state legislature will take up the issue. “I think (Coats’) case is very sympathetic, and I think his case would be quite compelling before the legislature,” Kamin said. Six of the seven justices decided the case. Justice Monica Marquez recused herself because her father, retired Senior Judge Jose D.L. Marquez, was on the Court of Appeals panel that upheld Coats’ firing. Alicia Wallace: 303-954-1939, awallace@denverpost.com or twitter.com/aliciawallace Excerpts from the Colorado Supreme Court decision • “Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law.”

• “Nothing in the language of the statute limits the term ‘lawful’ to state law. Instead, the term is used in its general, unrestricted sense, indicating that a ‘lawful’ activity is that which complies with applicable ‘law,’ including state and federal law. We therefore decline Coats’s invitation to engraft a state law limitation onto the statutory language.” • “Coats does not dispute that the federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits medical marijuana use. The CSA lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance, meaning federal law designates it as having no medical accepted use, a high risk of abuse, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” • “Having decided this case on the basis of the prohibition under federal law, we decline to address the issue of whether Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Amendment deems medical marijuana use ‘lawful’ by conferring a right to such use.”

Source: The Denver Post 06/15/2015

Filed under: Social Affairs :

On the heels of the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) second public workshop to explore the public health considerations associated with e-cigarettes, nonprofit research organization RTI International released a new research paper “Exhaled Electronic Cigarette Emissions: What’s Your Secondhand Exposure?,” which explores the composition of e-cigarette vapor and the potential health impacts of secondhand exposure.

“As proliferation of e-cigarettes surges, understanding the health effects of e-cigarette use and exposure to vapors is essential,” said Jonathan Thornburg, Ph.D., author of the study published by RTI Press, and director of Exposure and Aerosol Technology at RTI. “We need to be aggressively investing in and conducting research that answers lingering questions about the potential health impacts of secondhand exposure to e-cigarettes, while taking the necessary action to protect public health now.”

The study finds e-cigarette emissions contain enough nicotine, and numerous other chemicals to cause concern. A non-user may be exposed to secondhand aerosol particles similar in size to tobacco smoke and diesel engine smoke. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes are a rapidly growing business with annual sales doubling yearly to $1 billion in 2013, and a current lack of regulation that has allowed for a surge in marketing.

Because e-cigarette products are not yet regulated, the chemicals and devices involved vary widely, as may the potential health impacts. Many factors — including the specific device used — influence the chemical makeup and toxicity of e-cigarette emissions. The full scope of health impacts of e-cigarette smoke, as well as secondhand exposure’s impacts on children, is still unknown.

“Secondhand exposure to e-cigarettes is just one aspect of the research that must be considered as we make decisions about appropriate use of these products,” said Annice Kim, Ph.D., senior social scientist at RTI. “It is critical that we explore the role of e-cigarette marketing — especially to children and youth — so that we can better understand motivators for use and put public health safeguards in place.”

RTI hosted a press briefing today to answer questions about public health concerns associated with secondhand exposure to e-cigarette emissions and product marketing.

The briefing featured RTI experts Thornburg and Kim as well as Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and director, UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.  E-cigarettes are nicotine-delivering consumer products designed to closely mimic the experience of smoking conventional cigarettes. The courts have already determined e-cigarettes to be tobacco products, and the FDA has proposed following the same classification.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke from traditional cigarettes has killed 2.5 million adults who were non-smokers, in the past 50 years. Secondhand smoke from traditional cigarettes is associated with the top four causes of death in America.

To read the study “Exhaled Electronic Cigarette Emissions: What’s Your Secondhand Exposure?,” which is the 100th publication of RTI Press, and to access more research about e-cigarettes, visit http://www.rti.org/e-cigarettes and follow RTI on Twitter @RTI_Intl.

Source: RTI Press, March 2015  http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/631070/?sc=dwtn   12th March 2015

Sanjay Gupta, MD, has gone off the rails and taken CNN with him. To promote his third documentary on the subject, Weed 3, he wrote an article titled “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It’s time for a medical marijuana revolution” on CNN’s website datelined April 20. Yes, that 4/20, the day marijuana smokers nationwide gather outside to flout federal and state law by openly smoking pot. (Even the four states and DC that have legalized recreational marijuana prohibit smoking in public.)

In his call for a medical marijuana revolution, he morphs from less-than-objective reporter to shameless huckster, concluding, “We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now.”

As CNN’s chief medical correspondent, a practicing neurosurgeon, assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine, and associate chief of the neurosurgery service at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, he understands how medicine works.

In covering the admission of the nation’s first Ebola patient, American Dr. Kent Brantley who fell ill while caring for Liberians stricken with the disease and was flown to Emory University Hospital for treatment, Dr. Gupta noted how unusual it would be to administer an experimental drug that hadn’t gone through the rigorous FDA process, even to patients with an incurable disease.

But his infatuation with marijuana somehow enables him to suspend the tools of modern medicine that protect people from unsafe, ineffective drugs. Anderson Cooper interviewed Dr. Gupta to promote Weed 2 shortly before it aired last year.

“It’s really fascinating, Anderson,” Dr. Gupta said, “because we’re used to an FDA process where you have the trials that take place and then you’re given a certain dosage and all that stuff. That hasn’t happened with cannabis. What happens is you have these different strains [of marijuana] and they [the producers] will create these hybrids . . . and then, you know, the people who are the dispensers will often times be talking to the patients who come in, finding out what works for them . . . . But, you know, the trial and error of this just feels so nascent and new in what they’re trying to do and really something like this hasn’t been done before, at least not for a long time, in this country.”

Dr. Gupta fails to mention that the dispensers, called “budtenders” – the marijuana equivalent of bartenders – have no medical training whatsoever. Welcome to the brave new world of word-of-mouth medicine: tell me which marijuana strain relieves your (name any of the 50 illnesses legislators have approved marijuana to treat despite lack of FDA approval) and I’ll pass it on to the next person with a similar complaint.

It is the responsibility of all medicine makers, whether pharmaceutical companies or “medical” marijuana growers, to submit their medicines to FDA for approval before marketing them to the public. What Dr. Gupta fails to see is that if a government legalizes “medical” pot, marijuana growers are free to promote and sell their “medicines” without bothering to prove they are safe or effective. But then, when you are so enamored with “medical” weed that you call for it to be legalized, you can forget that love is blind.

Source: The MarijuanaReport.org 22nd April 2015

The methadone programme in Scotland is “out of control”, an expert has warned.

Prof Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said “it is literally a black hole into which people are disappearing”. Data obtained by BBC Scotland showed pharmacists were paid £17.8m for dispensing nearly half a million doses of methadone in 2014.

In response, the Scottish government said both doses and costs linked to opioid treatment had been dropping. Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse told the BBC: “Fewer Scots are taking drugs – numbers are continuing to fall amongst the general adult population, and drug taking among young people is the lowest in a decade.”

However, a lack of data to measure the programme’s impact was the focus of criticism from Prof McKeganey. He said: “We still don’t know how many addicts are on the methadone programme, what progress they’re making, and with what frequency they are managing to come off methadone.

“Successive inquiries have shown that the programme is in a sense out of control; it just sits there, delivering more methadone to more addicts, year in year out, with very little sense of the progress those individuals are making towards their recovery.”

But David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drug Forum, disputed claims that addicts were parked on the methadone programme. He said: “What we know is the level of methadone being dispensed continues at the same level, but it’s not the same individuals. “Our sense is that of the 20,000-plus people on methadone, it will be less than half who are on it for a very long period of time.” However Mr Liddell admitted that, unlike England, there is currently no data in Scotland on whether users are relying on the programme indefinitely.

Regional increases

In 2013, pharmacies claimed back more than £17.9m from the Scottish government for dispensing 470,256 doses of methadone – 22,980 doses more than in 2014.

But despite this overall decrease, new data – obtained from National Services Scotland through a freedom of information request – revealed the amount of methadone dispensed has increased in more than a third of Scottish local authorities over the last two years.

The Edinburgh council area saw the largest increase in doses (2,949), followed by Falkirk (421) and Argyll and Bute (405). The largest decreases were found in Renfrewshire (5,842), Inverclyde (5,611) and East Ayrshire (5,598).

And while fees paid to pharmacies for dispensing methadone have declined over a four-year period, Prof McKeganey said the average annual outlay does suggest users are parked on the drug.

Prof McKeganey said: “The aspiration contained within the government’s ‘Road to Recovery’drug strategy explicitly said that the goal of treatment must be to enable people to become drug-free rather than remain on long-term methadone. These figures show you that we are not achieving that goal – we are not witnessing large numbers of people coming off the methadone programme.”

New strategy

Methadone has been at the heart of drug treatment strategies since the 1980s, but its use has been widely criticised by recovering addicts and drugs workers.

Methadone is by far the most widely used of the opioid replacement therapies (ORT), with an estimated 22,000 patients currently receiving it, but some users take it for years without being weaned off it altogether. Howevera review commissioned by the Scottish governmentin 2013 concluded methadone should continue to be used to treat heroin addicts.

There are alternatives, including prescribing medical heroin, but many in the drugs field say the debate should move away from these to an examination of how the wider needs of drug users can be met. Prof McKeganey said methadone does have a role to play in helping addicts wean themselves off heroin, but it should not be prescribed as widely as it is now.

An estimated 22,000 people are currently on Scotland’s methadone programme

He said he would like to see a two-year reassessment implemented so that if the “highly addictive” methadone does not seem to be working for an individual, they can then either try the more expensive suboxone, or enter a drug-free residential home. “That seemed preferable to me than leaving people on a methadone prescription for years – and then the worry is that you’ve turned your heroin addicts into methadone addicts.”

Figures released by the NHS in 2012revealed that methadone-implicated deaths increased dramatically in cases where the individual had been prescribed the drug for more than a year.

Recent figures from the National Records of Scotland also revealmethadone was implicated in nearly the same number of deaths as heroin in 2013.

‘Methadone millionaires’

The methadone data obtained by BBC Scotland reveals how much each individual pharmacy claimed back in fees from the Scottish government.

Last year more than £102,000 was claimed by just one pharmacy on Glasgow’s Saracen Street in Possilpark – an area ranked the third most-deprived in Scotland. The largest claims were made by pharmacy giants Boots and Lloyds, who reclaimed £3.8m and £3.3m respectively from their hundreds of branches across the country.

The fees paid back to pharmacies are not only for the dispensing of methadone, but for oral hygiene services, and the services of a supervisor to ensure the dose is taken onsite and not sold on the street. Pharmacies apply to enter into a contract with their health board to provide methadone services and must justify the need for such a service within that locality. Pharmacists in Greater Glasgow are currently paid £2.16 for dispensing every dose of methadone and £1.34 for supervising addicts while they take it.

The fees are negotiated with individual health boards to suit local needs, and are lower than in England.

But a spokesman from Community Pharmacy Scotland dismissed the“methadone millionaire” tagplaced on such pharmacies in the past by certain media outlets.

He said: “Methadone is an NHS prescription medicine and as such a community pharmacy is obliged to provide it when it has been prescribed for a patient by a GP.

“While community pharmacists are paid to administer the program, the income is far outweighed by the time, administration and difficulties that can often be encountered by taking on a role in this difficult area. The argument is not a financial one – but a health and social issue.”

A statement by the Scottish government did not address the lack of data to prove the programme was enabling addicts to become drug-free. However, Mr Wheelhouse said: “Both the number of items and the number of defined daily doses of opioid treatment have dropped steadily over the past five years and the cost of methadone is down 19% since 2010-11. He added: “Independent experts advise that opioid replacement therapy is a crucial tool in treating opiate dependency. However, we believe it is important that there are a range of treatments available that suit the unique needs of individuals.

“Prescribing opioid replacement therapy is an independent decision for individual clinicians, in line with the current UK guidelines on the Clinical Management of Drug Misuse and Dependence.”

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-31943109 24th March 2015

“Even at normal doses, taking psychiatric drugs can produce suicidal thinking, violent behavior,  aggressiveness, extreme anger,  hostility, irritability, loss of ability to control impulses, rage reactions, hallucinations, mania, acute psychotic episodes, akathisia, and bizarre, grandiose, highly elaborated destructive plans, including mass murder.

“Withdrawal from psychiatric drugs can cause agitation, severe depression, hallucinations, aggressiveness, hypomania, akathisia, fear, terror, panic, fear of insanity, failing self-confidence, restlessness, irritability, aggression, an urge to destroy and, in the worst cases, an urge to kill.” -  From “Drug Studies Connecting Psychotropic Drugs with Acts of Violence” – unpublished.

My previous article on Global Research discussed the frustration of large numbers of aware observers around the world that were certain that Andreas Lubitz, the suicidal mass murderer of 149 passengers and crewmembers of the of the Lufthansa airliner crash, was under the intoxicating influence of brain-disabling, brain-altering, psychotropic medicines that had been prescribed for him by his German psychiatrists and/or neurologists who were known to have been prescribing for him.

These inquiring folks wanted and needed to know precisely what drugs he had been taking or withdrawing from so that the event could become a teachable moment that would help explain what had really happened and then possibly prevent other “irrational” acts from happening in the future. For the first week after the crash, the “authorities” were closed mouthed about the specifics, but most folks were willing to wait a bit to find out the truth.

However, another week has gone by, and there has still been no revelations from the “authorities” as to the exact medications, exact doses, exact combinations of drugs, who were the prescribing clinics and physicians and what was the rationale for the drugs having been  prescribed. Inquiring minds want to know and they deserve to be informed.

There are probably plenty of reasons why the information is not being revealed. There are big toes that could be stepped on, especially the giant pharmaceutical industries. There are medico-legal implications for the physicians and clinics that did the prescribing and there are serious implications for the airline corporations because their industry is at high risk of losing consumer confidence in their products if the truth isn’t adequately covered up. And the loss of consumer confidence is a great concern for both the pharmaceutical industry and its indoctrinated medical providers.

It looks like heavily drugged German society is dealing with the situation the same way the heavily drugged United States has dealt with psychiatric drug-induced suicidality and drug-induced mass murders (such as have been known to be in a cause and effect relationship in the American epidemic of school shootings – see www.ssristories.net).

The Traffickers of Illicit Drugs That Cause Dangerous and Irrational Behaviors Such as Murders and Suicides are Punished. Why not Legal Drug Traffickers as Well?

But there is a myth out there that illegal brain-altering drugs are dangerous but prescribed brain-altering drugs are safe. But anyone who knows the molecular structure and understands the molecular biology of these drugs and has seen the horrific adverse effects of usage or withdrawal of legal psychotropic drugs knows that the myth is false, and that there is a double standard being applied, thanks to the cunning advertising campaigns from Big Pharma.

But there is an epidemic of legal drug-related deaths in America, so I submit a few questions that people – as well as journalists and lawyers who are representing drug-injured plaintiffs – need to have answered, if only for educational and preventive practice purposes:

1) What cocktail of 9 different VA-prescribed psych drugs was “American Sniper” Chris Kyle’s Marine Corps killer taking after he was discharged from his psychiatric hospital the week before the infamous murder?

2) What were the psych drugs that Robin Williams got from Hazelden just before he hung himself?

3) What were the myriad of psych drugs, tranquilizers, opioids, etc that caused the overdose deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, etc, etc, etc (not to mention Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe) – and who were the “pushers” of those drugs?

4) What was the cocktail of psychiatric and neurologic brain-altering drugs that Andreas Lubitz was taking before he intentionally crashed the passenger jet in the French Alps – and who were the prescribers?

5) What are the correctly prescribed drugs that annually kill over 100,000 hospitalized Americans per year and are estimated to kill twice that number of out-patients?

(See http://www.collective-evolution.com/2013/05/07/death-by-prescription-drugs-is-a-growing-problem/)

Because the giant pharmaceutical companies want these serious matters hushed up until the news cycle blows over (so that they can get on with business as usual), and because many prescribing physicians seem to be innocently unaware that any combination of two or more brain-altering psychiatric drugs have never been tested for safety (either short or long-term), even in the rat labs, future celebrities and millions of other patient-victims will continue dying – or just be sickened from a deadly but highly preventable reality.

But what about “patient confidentiality”, a common excuse for withholding specific information about patients (even if crimes such as mass murder are involved)? It turns out that what is actually being protected by that assertion are the drug providers and manufacturers. Common sense demands that such information should not be withheld in a criminal situation.

America’s corporate controlled media makes a lot of money from its relationships with its wealthy and influential corporate sponsors, contributors, advertisers, political action committees and politicians, but, tragically, the media has been clearly abandoning its historically-important investigative journalistic responsibilities (that are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution). It is obvious that the media has allied itself with the corporate “authorities” that withhold, any way they can, the important information that forensic psychiatrists (and everybody else) needs to know.

We should be calling out and condemning the authorities that are withholding the information about the reported “plethora of drugs” that is known to have been prescribed for Lubitz by his treating “neurologists and psychiatrists”, drugs that were found in his apartment on the day of the crash and identified by those same authorities who have not revealed the information to the people who need to know. Two weeks into the story and there still has been no further information given, or as far as I can ascertain, or asked for by journalists.

So, since the facts are being withheld by the authorities, I submit some useful lists of common adverse effects of commonly prescribed crazy-making psych drugs that Lubitz may have been taking. Also included are a number of withdrawal symptoms that are routinely  and conveniently mis-diagnosed as symptoms of a mental illness of unknown cause.

And at the end of the column are some excerpts from the FAA on psych drug use for American pilots. I do not know how different are the rules in Germany, but certainly both nations have to rely on voluntary information from the pilots.

1) Common Adverse Symptoms of Antidepressant Drug Use

Agitation, akathisia (severe restlessness, often resulting in suicidality), anxiety, bizarre dreams, confusion, delusions, emotional numbing, hallucinations, headache, heart attacks  hostility, hypomania (abnormal excitement), impotence, indifference (an “I don’t give a damn attitude”), insomnia, loss of appetite, mania, memory lapses, nausea, panic attacks, paranoia, psychotic episodes, restlessness, seizures, sexual dysfunction, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, violent behavior, weight loss, withdrawal symptoms (including deeper depression)

2) Common Adverse Psychological Symptoms of Antidepressant Drug Withdrawal

Depressed mood, low energy, crying uncontrollably, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, agitation, impulsivity, hallucinations or suicidal and violent urges. The physical symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal include disabling dizziness, imbalance, nausea, vomiting, flu-like aches and pains, sweating, headaches, tremors, burning sensations or electric shock-like zaps in the brain

3) Common Symptoms of Minor Tranquilizer Drug Withdrawal

Abdominal pains and cramps, agoraphobia , anxiety, blurred vision, changes in perception (faces distorting and inanimate objects moving), depression, dizziness, extreme lethargy, fears, feelings of unreality, heavy limbs, heart palpitations, hypersensitivity to light, insomnia, irritability, lack of concentration, lack of co-ordination, loss of balance, loss of memory, nightmares, panic attacks, rapid mood changes, restlessness, severe headaches, shaking, sweating, tightness in the chest, tight-headedness

4) Common (Usually Late Onset) Adverse Psychological Symptoms From Anti-Psychotic Drug Use

Blurred vision, breast enlargement/breast milk flow,  constipation, decreased sweating, dizziness, low blood pressure, imbalance and falls, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, hyperprolactinemia (pituitary gland dysfunction), increased skin-sensitivity to sunlight, lightheadedness, menstrual irregularity (or absence of menstruation), sexual difficulty, (decline in libido, anorgasmia, genital pain).

The lethal adverse effects of antipsychotic drugs include Catatonic decline, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS, a condition marked by muscle stiffness or rigidity, dark urine, fast heartbeat or irregular pulse, increased sweating, high fever, and high or low blood pressure); Torsades de Pointes (a condition that affects the heart rhythm and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest”; Sudden death

5) Late and Persistent Adverse Effects of Antipsychotic Drug Use  (Some of these symptoms may even start when tapering down or discontinuing the drug!)

Aggression, akathisia (inner restlessness, often intolerable and leading to suicidality), brain atrophy (shrinkage), caffeine or other psychostimulant addiction, cataracts, creativity decline, depression, diabetes, difficulty urinating, difficulty talking, difficulty swallowing, fatigue and tiredness, hypercholesterolemia, hypothyroidism, intellectual decline (loss of IQ points), obesity, pituitary tumors, premature death, smoking – often heavy – (nicotine addiction), tardive dyskinesia (involuntary, disfiguring movement disorder), tongue edge “snaking” (early sign of movement disorder), jerky movements of head, face, mouth or neck, muscle spasms of face, neck or back, twisting the neck muscles, restlessness – physical and mental (resulting in sleep difficulty), restless legs syndrome, drooling, seizure threshold lowered, skin rashes (itching, discoloration), sore throat, staring, stiffness of arms or legs, swelling of feet, trembling of hands, uncontrollable chewing movements, uncontrollable lip movements, puckering of the mouth, uncontrollable movements of arms and legs, unusual twisting movements of body, weight gain, liver toxicity

6) Common Symptoms of Antipsychotic Drug Withdrawal

Nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, rhinorrhea (runny nose), heavy sweating, muscle pains, odd sensations such as burning, tingling, numbness,  anxiety, hypersexuality, agitation, mania, insomnia, tremor, voice-hearing

FAA Medical Certification Requirements for Psychotropic Medications

https://www.leftseat.com/psychotropic.htm

Pilots can only take one of four antidepressant drugs – Celexa (Citalopram), Lexapro (Escitalopram), Prozac (Fluoxetine) and Zoloft (Sertraline).

Most psychiatric drugs are not approved under any circumstances.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Abilify (Aripiprazole)
  • Effexor (Venlafaxine)
  • Elavil (Amitriptyline)
  • Luvox (Fluvoxamine Maleate)
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Paxil (Paroxetine)
  • Remeron (Mirtazapine)
  • Serzone (Nefazodone)
  • Sinequan (Doxepin)
  • Tofranil (Imipramine)
  • Trazodone
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Wellbutrin (Bupropion)

To assure favorable FAA consideration, the treating physician should establish that you do not need psychotropic medication. The medication should be discontinued and the condition and circumstances should be evaluated after you have been off medication for at least 60 and in most cases 90 days.

Should your physician believe you are an ideal candidate, you may be considered by the FAA on a case by case basis only. Applicants may be considered after extensive testing and evidence of successful use for one year without adverse effects. Medications used for psychiatric conditions are rarely approved by the FAA. The FAA has approved less than fifty (50) airmen under the FAA’s SSRI protocol.

After discontinuing the medication, a detailed psychiatric evaluation should be obtained. Resolved issues and stability off the medication are usually the primary factors for approval.

Dr Kohls is a retired physician who practiced holistic mental health care for the last decade of his family practice career. He writes a weekly column on various topics for the Reader Weekly, an alternative newsweekly published in Duluth, Minnesota, USA. Many of Dr Kohls’ weekly columns are archived at http://duluthreader.com/articles/categories/200_Duty_to_Warn.

Source:  http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-connections-between-psychotropic-drugs-and-irrational-acts-of-violence/5441484  April 08, 2015

 

Dutch study finds mathematics results suffer most from dope consumption – findings sure to fuel debate over steps towards legalisation If you want to do well in your exams, especially maths, don’t smoke dope.

This is the finding of a unique study that is likely to be fiercely debated by those in favour of and those against the liberalisation of cannabis laws.

Economists Olivier Marie of Maastricht University and Ulf Zölitz of IZA Bonn examined what happened in Maastricht in 2011 when the Dutch city allowed only Dutch, German and Belgian passport-holders access to the 13 coffee shops where cannabis was sold.

The temporary restrictions were introduced because of fears that nationals from other countries, chiefly France and Luxembourg, were visiting the city simply to smoke drugs, which would tarnish its genteel image.

After studying data on more than 54,000 course grades achieved by students from around the world who were enrolled at Maastricht University before and after the restrictions were introduced, the economists came to a striking conclusion.

In a paper recently presented at the Royal Economic Society conference in Manchester they revealed that those who could no longer legally buy cannabis did better in their studies.  The restrictions, the economists conclude, constrained consumption for some users, whose cognitive functioning improved as a result.

“The effects we find are large, consistent and statistically very significant,” Marie told the Observer.  “For example, we estimate that students who were no longer able to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass courses.

The grade improvement this represents is about the same as having a qualified teacher and, more relevantly, similar to decreases in grades observed from reaching legal drinking age in the US.”

For low performers, there was a larger effect on grades. They had a 7.6% better chance of passing their courses.  Interestingly, Marie and Zölitz found the effects were even more pronounced when it came to particular disciplines.

“The policy effect is five times larger for courses requiring numerical/mathematical skills,” the pair write.This, they argue, is not that surprising.  “In line with how THC consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that performance gains are larger for courses that require more numerical/mathematical skills,” Marie said.  THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – is the active ingredient in skunk cannabis, which some studies have linked with psychosis.

The ground breaking research comes at a significant moment.  The clamour for liberalisation of cannabis laws is growing.

In Germany, Berlin is considering opening the country’s first legal cannabis shop. Uruguay plans to be the first nation in the world to fully legalise all aspects of the cannabis trade. In the US, more than 20 states now allow medical marijuana use, while recreational consumption has become legal in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

But, as Marie and Zölitz observe in their paper: “With scarce empirical evidence on its societal impact, these policies are mainly being implemented without governments knowing about their potential impact.

“We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalisation and prohibition  decision-making,” Marie said. “In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behaviour is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before.”

The research is likely to be seized upon by anti-legalisation campaigners.  But Marie was at pains to say the research should simply be used to raise awareness of an often overlooked aspect of drug use: its impact on the individual’s cognitive ability.  “If marijuana is legalised like it is in many states in the US, we should at least inform consumers about the negative consequences of their drug choices.”

It will also feed into the debate about THC levels in cannabis, which are becoming ever stronger. Levels of THC in marijuana sold in Maastricht’s coffee shops are around double those in the US. “Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka,” Marie said.  History suggests that prohibition often results in the illicit drug or alcohol trade producing ever stronger products.

Campaigners for liberalisation argue that it could help bring THC levels down and allow users to know what they are buying. The authors concede that their findings could turn out to be different if they were to replicate their study in a country that did not have restrictions on cannabis use.  Marie said his work had helped inform his discussions with his teenage son.  “I have a 13-year old boy and I do extensively share this with him as a precautionary measure so that he can make the best informed choice if he is faced with the decision of whether to consume cannabis or not.”

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/11/cannabis-smokers-risk-poorer-grades-dutch-study-legalisation

Several students and visitors from Wesleyan University were hospitalized on February 22 after taking the club drug MDMA. U.S. DEA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/REUTERS

At least 11 people from the Wesleyan University campus in Middletown, Connecticut, were hospitalized on Sunday with symptoms consistent with drug overdoses. School officials and emergency responders are blaming MDMA, also known as Molly, a form of the drug ecstasy that medical experts say has become increasingly popular on college campuses.

Though some reports said 11 people had received medical treatment, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth put the number at 12 in an email to students on Monday. That includes 10 students and two visitors.

“I ask all students: Please, please stay away from illegal substances, the use of which can put you in extreme danger. One mistake can change your life forever,” Roth wrote. “And please keep those still hospitalized in your hearts and minds. Please join me in supporting their recovery with your prayers, thoughts and friendship.”

In a statement on Monday, a Middletown Police Department spokeswoman, Lieutenant Heather Desmond, wrote that her department would be involved in an investigation into “the origin of the drugs taken” and to “determine the extent of the criminal involvement in the case.”

A spokeswoman for Middlesex Hospital tells Newsweek it treated 11 people, three of whom are still there and four of whom were airlifted by helicopter to Hartford Hospital. She could not comment on the conditions of the three patients there. A spokeswoman for Hartford Hospital confirmed that four people were there. She too could not speak to their conditions. The police spokeswoman wrote that two individuals are in critical condition and two are in serious condition.

Middletown Fire Chief Robert Kronenberger tells Newsweek his department made seven runs to Wesleyan related to the incident on Sunday after receiving calls between 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. It rendered aid to eight individuals, including two people in a single dorm room. “We saw the trend and we worked with the university and the police department to notify them of the trend,” Kronenberger says. “We’ve never had anything to this extent,” he says, referring to health and safety issues at Wesleyan. “A couple of them were in some serious dire straits,” he says about the students, adding that they were cooperative. “As a parent of two college-age students, this definitely concerns me and hopefully something to this extent will open eyes,” he says.

Wesleyan’s student newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus, first reported about the incident on its website on Sunday after the school’s vice president for student affairs, Michael Whaley, sent a series of emails to students.

Medical experts say MDMA use on college campuses has grown in recent years, and while there have been reports of bad reactions to the drug, it appears the Wesleyan incident is the most widespread.

In 2013, a University of Virginia sophomore collapsed at a nightclub after taking MDMA and later died. Students at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York; Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire; and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas have also died after taking the drug. In 2013, organizers of the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City cut the event short after two people died while taking MDMA, including a University of New Hampshire student.

“This age group is a risk-taking group that is willing to follow their friend wherever they go, and if the person next to them is popping a pill, then they’re going to do it too,” says Dr. Mark Neavyn, director of medical toxicology at Hartford Hospital, who treats patients there for MDMA overdoses.

“I think the popular culture engine kind of made it seem safer in some way,” Neavyn says, referring to references to the drug by the singers Miley Cyrus and Madonna that made headlines.

But when it comes to MDMA, people are rarely taking what they think they’re taking, the doctor says.

According to Neavyn, symptoms of an MDMA overdose include fast heart rate, high blood pressure, delirium, elevated body temperature and alterations in consciousness. Extreme cases could involve cardiac arrhythmia and seizures.

Wesleyan, which has about 2,900 full-time undergraduate students and 200 graduate students, also apparently dealt with MDMA-related issues last semester. As the Argus reported, the school’s Health Services Department emailed students on September 16 following a series of MDMA-related hospitalizations.

One former Wesleyan student from the class of 2011, who requested anonymity when discussing drug use, says the news is not surprising, given the prevalence of drugs on campus. “Anything you can imagine…would be readily available there,” the person says. “I don’t think at Wesleyan you need [a campus event] to take drugs. If it’s sunny, there’s probably a good percentage of people that are taking something.”

The campus activities calendar did not show any major events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday.

Another former Wesleyan student from the class of 2012, who also requested anonymity, says the drug culture at Wesleyan is comparable to that at similar schools. “It’s one of those things where, much like at those schools, you kind of have an understanding of where you can go to get it and who had it,” the person says. “If there’s a will there’s a way.”

www.newsweek.com weds Feb. 2015


Source: https://learnaboutsam.org/

You would not tie an anchor to a drowning man and claim you were helping him swim. Yet the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has done something quite similar with a determination that Native American reservations may become centers for “legal” marijuana sales and use, notwithstanding that this policy stands in stark violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

This new push for expanding marijuana use is legally suspect. Prior DOJ memoranda suspending enforcement of federal drug laws, such as in Colorado, were contingent on the alignment of marijuana sales and use with prevailing state laws or regulatory regimes. But Native American reservations are not legally equivalent to states; rather, they are “dependent domestic sovereigns,” broadly subject to federal law.

But there is worse in store. The impact on both Native Americans and the broader principles of political and economic integrity will be deeply damaging.

Native American history teaches that many tribes have suffered as much from well-intentioned but devastating policies offered by “friends” as they have from malign attacks by those who sought to destroy their culture. To this litany of harm from good intentions can now be added “legal” dope and the fanciful notion that drug proceeds will lift Native American economies more than they will worsen their health and criminal-justice burden.

There is the threat to Native lives from substance abuse, which has a history of degradation, violence, and pathology for First Americans. Alcohol abuse is pronounced, while heroin and methamphetamine are established threats, especially for tribes adjacent to Southwest Border smuggling routes. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the Native American rate of past-month illicit-drug use is 29 percent higher than the rate for whites (12.3 percent vs. 9.5 percent), while the Native rate of past-year drug abuse or dependence is 77 percent higher (14.9 percent vs. 8.4 percent).

Such afflictions are worse for the vulnerable. Natives suffer disproportionately from the harms of drugs due to poverty, remoteness, and inadequate public-health resources, including the limitations of the Indian Health Service. Effective reporting from Sari Horowitz of the Washington Post documents the pathologies of reservation life among the 566 federally recognized Native groups (found in 35 states), including high rates of poverty, unemployment (reaching 87 percent at Pine Ridge, S.D.), domestic abuse, sexual violence, school dropout, early death, and suicide.

How conceivably could adding increased supply (and acceptability) of an addictive drug associated with psychosis, IQ and learning loss, increased susceptibility to suicide, school failure, and greater need for drug treatment be anything other than a needless disaster?

In addition to the damage from addiction, there is damage to the wider community. Internationally, “legal” drug markets are known to be accompanied by organized crime, prostitution, theft, violent coercion, neighborhood degradation, and economic loss, as documented by the Netherlands’ “cannabis cafes.” Meanwhile, Colorado is already experiencing lawsuits filed by businesses claiming harm from marijuana sales operations, based on racketeering and organized-crime statutes.

Consider that Southern California alone is home to nearly 30 recognized Indian tribes, with a total population of nearly 200,000. Were they to become purveyors of marijuana, by the experience of Colorado, they could quickly become smuggling centers for black-market marijuana distribution to surrounding communities and states. Reservation boundaries could turn into “domestic borders” comparable to international borders, where drug operations by criminal organizations thrive in driving illegal cultivation and trafficking.

This determination also presents an obvious course for fueling corruption in reservation politics, and equally worrying, U.S. financial affairs, for the emerging market in illicit drugs threatens our economic integrity nationwide. Not only has the DOJ set about dismantling, in states that have legalized, basic banking and money-laundering protections against criminal organizations penetrating the financial system, but there is further risk from another center of illicit finance and money-laundering: the cash business of casinos.

There are nearly 500 Indian “gaming” operations found in nearly 30 states, and while the revenues are great (estimated at $27 billion annually), many are in serious debt. What would another cash business, dealing in addiction and in violation of federal law, presumably paying no federal taxes, do to tribal integrity? What could this contribute to the power of transnational criminal cartels?

Already, marijuana-related law firms from Colorado are guiding those tribes with casinos in setting up high-potency marijuana operations. The potential for public corruption is high, as is the certainty of increased suffering among America’s longest victims.

Legal reservation dope is the most dangerous and shameful policy that has yet been proposed by the Obama administration.  By John P. Walters & David W. Murray

 

David W. Murray and John P. Walters direct the Hudson Institute’s Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research. They both served in the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the George W. Bush administration.

Source:

http://www.realclearpolicy.com/blog/legal_dope_for_native_americans_1226.html

10th March 2015

The information comes from the Indiana Youth Institute’s annual Kids Count report.

The data is worrisome to area health professionals, like Dr. Ahmed Elmaadawi, who says marijuana is mentally addictive. 

“Cannabis, in general, works in an area of the brain that’s responsible for judgment and well-being. We actually know if you use marijuana for a long period of time, it affects your judgment [and] self-esteem. And longtime use of cannabis can actually cause psychosis,” said Dr. Elmaadawi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Dr. Elmaadawi is concerned mainly for teen use. He says there is proven research marijuana can be healing to cancer patients and others suffering from chronic pain, but use for teens is dangerous. He says those who try the drug before age 18 are 67% more likely to continue using. The number drops to 27% for adults who try it for the first time.

“The pleasurable response is there. They want to have more to get that same feeling from the first time they used marijuana,” said Dr. Elmaadawi.

While health professionals are standing strong in the dangers, there is an overwhelming support for legalization at the national level. According to a Pew Research Poll, millennials are setting aside partisan politics with 77% of Democrats between ages 18-34 and 63% of Republicans agreeing laws that prohibit pot are outdated.

But, not all young people agree, including one local teen who struggled with abuse at an early age. The teen, called “John” for the purpose of this story, went to rehab at age 16. He started using pot at 13. His legal trouble started when he was caught on camera stealing from parked cars with a friend. Both were high and had a history of theft.

“There was an adrenaline part that didn’t make me worry about it. The money part is what made me do it, but the thrill is what didn’t make me afraid of it,” said John.

After his first arrest, John went to the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) for 10 days. After his release, he started using synthetic marijuana. His mom caught him sometime later, called his parole officer, and he was again arrested. This time, John went to JJC for a month and rehab for 6 months.

“I stopped mainly because it was hurting a lot of the relationships I had, and I wanted to do stuff for myself. I knew if I wanted to go as far as I wanted to, I was going to get backtracked all the time if I smoked weed,” said John.

An arrest record and rehab aren’t enough for everyone. The Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) says while overall substance abuse is declining in terms of alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana use is increasing in teens.

“A big key to being successful to keeping our kids away from any illicit substance is open communication with their parents and other caring adults in their lives,” said Bill Stanczykiewicz, the President and CEO at IYI.

Dr. Elmaadawi and Stanczykiewicz agree there are mixed messages about marijuana legalization and the longtime effects. They agree open communication and community resources are key in helping teens make tough choices. Dr. Elmaadawi says there needs to be more education in schools in addition to collaboration between the resources in the community. Stanczykiewicz says teens are most influenced in their personal decision making by people they know directly.

“Kids benefit when they hear consistent messages about right and wrong from all of the caring adults in their lives. There’s no 100% guarantee that kids are going to make good choices, but what we are trying to do is increase the odds,” said Stanczykiewicz.

To read the Kids Count Data, click here.

Source: www.wndu.com  9th March 2015

Charities warn against drug legalisation on eve of Clegg announcement. 

 A new poll of over 100 charities by the think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) found that:

69 per cent would be concerned if the Government decriminalised cannabis;

73 per cent were concerned of the effects that cannabis had on their clients and families.

Charities on the front-line of the battle against poverty are opposed to liberalising cannabis laws, a new think-tank survey finds. A new CSJ poll of over 100 charities – many of them are working directly to combat addiction or are supporting those with addictions back into education and work – has found over two-thirds (69 per cent) would be concerned if the Government decriminalised cannabis because they say it would lead to greater drug abuse. The poll comes on the eve of the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s announcement that the Liberal Democrats want to decriminalise cannabis.  

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of the charities surveyed by the CSJ were concerned about the effect cannabis use had on their clients and families. Over half (56 per cent) felt the decriminalisation of cannabis would lead to an increase in its use. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) thought it would not. 

Commenting on the findings, Christian Guy, Director of the CSJ said: “Drug addiction is ripping Britain’s poorest communities apart. Our network of 300 front-line charities sees this on a daily basis. Many are right to be worried that liberalising cannabis laws will lead to more people taking drugs and developing harder use.” Politicians need to listen to these experts. They are the people who witness the devastating impact of drugs in our poorest neighbourhoods day in, day out.”

While the survey was anonymous, a number of charities wanted to make their voice heard publically on this crucial issue. Andy Cook, CEO of Twenty Twenty, who work with disadvantaged young-people, said: “We are scared by the idea of liberalising cannabis laws. We work tirelessly to get the most disadvantaged and disengaged young people back into learning and to hold down jobs. If they are taking cannabis it makes it almost impossible to succeed – sapping their motivation and effectively tying our hands in the support we can give. Cannabis is ruining the life opportunities of those we work with, so the idea that society would be better off if this stuff was decriminalised is crazy. Making it more easily available and more culturally acceptable will mean that more of our young people would take it. The result will be that more of our young people would fail to make the most of their potential.”  

Data shows that cannabis addiction is a growing problem. In 2005-6, nine per cent of those presenting to treatment for the first time were doing so for a cannabis addiction. Data for 2013-14 show this has almost doubled to 17 per cent. Figures also suggest there is a particular issue with young people – 43 per cent of those aged 18-24 who were presenting to treatment for the first time were doing so due to a cannabis addiction. This report also comes weeks after an academic study found that: “the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three-times increase in users of skunk-like cannabis compared with those who never used cannabis”.

Source:  http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/

To go or not to go? That is the question when invited to take part in supposedly objective drugs conferences and television investigations, behind which  looms the constant presence of one Sir Richard Branson. Two seemingly flattering invitations to drugs policy events came my way this month.

The first was to be invited to a Home Affairs Select Committee event at the University of Cambridge’s Homerton College on March 12th.  At first sight, it felt a welcome recognition of my longstanding work in the field of drug addiction, and of my new recovery solutions service (DB Recovery Resources). Moreover, it seemed like an opportunity to guide and inform public opinion – even as far as the United Nations. But I was torn for days on whether to accept or not. Finally, I regretfully declined.

Why? The Home Affairs Select Committee’s invitation was entitled “The International Conference on Drugs Policy” and its findings at the end of the day were to be fed into the influential UNGASS, the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session on world drug problems in 2016. Tempting. But a closer look raised concerns. What exactly was a Parliamentary select committee doing hosting a drugs policy conference? Why had they chosen deputy prime minister Nick Clegg who, at the time of my invitation, was scheduled to chair it? He is a recognised proponent of drugs legalisation, going so far as to include it in his election pledge.

So I was aware of the agenda and bias of the conference before I was invited.  The list of speakers spoke for itself. Every single speaker bar one  – Sarah Graham, an addiction therapist – turned out to be  a high-profile legalisation campaigner, several from organisations funded by the convicted insider trader and fomenter  George Soros. Only after I had publicised the biased agenda on my daily newsletter did HASC kindly invited me to attend. They also at the same time added a second ‘non-legalisation’ speaker to their invite list: Professor Neil McKeganey. But I could see it was still skewed. We would be the minority underdog against high-profile and well-funded legalisation campaigners, like Dr Julian Huppert MP, Baroness Molly Meacher, Roberto Dondisch from Mexico, Danny Kushlick of Transform, Professor David Nutt, who famously said taking ecstasy was less risky than horse riding, former policeman and cannabis activist Tom Lloyd, and last but not least Mike Trace, who was forced to resign his UN role when the Daily Mail revealed him to be the driving force behind an effort to disband the world’s anti-drug laws by stealth.

What chance would I have to support my colleagues? Would this be like National Treatment Agency meetings I had attended too many times in the past (before it was abolished)  where vested-interest findings and recommendations were written before the meeting and then presented as an impartial consensus of all those present – and absent?

Would it be like the self-styled United Kingdom Drug Policy Commission meetings (before it closed) which exploited the names of attendees as supporting its predetermined ‘consensus agreement’, when in reality there was a dearth of support? Was I confident that any anti-legalisation points would be included in the final report to UNGASS? That I sadly declined the invitation gives you the answer.

No. The worry is now that UNGASS may believe this Home Affairs Select Committee report, that UK taxpayers are unwittingly funding, to be impartial.  Better to blog, I thought, and hopefully open their eyes to the truth.

The second ‘flattering’  invitation was to appear on Channel 4’s Cannabis Live programme on 3 March. Although warned in advance about its inherent bias – it was funded by both C4 and Soros-supported organisations, and known legalisation proponents were booked as its speakers – I decided to accept in the hope I would be able to capture some airtime for anti-legalisation views.

(Declaration: my view is informed by the basic laws of supply and demand: increased availability leads to increased consumption. In addition there is, to my very real knowledge, so much disinformation about pot in the public domain that few people can make an informed choice). It was the right decision; although it was questionable whether there was a need for a programme experimenting ‘live’ with substances that are already known to have significant and very negative side effects. It was also worrying that Professor Nutt was  an “independent” scientific expert on it, given his obsession with cannabis legalisation and his well known insistence that it is less harmful than alcohol.

A plus turned out to be Jon Snow’s and Andrew Marr’s very negative experiences when skunk was tested on them. Perhaps that’s why presenter Snow carefully inched my neighbour off his seat to interview me, allowing time for me to make some pivotal points.  These were particularly in response to Branson’s call for regulation [legalisation] of cannabis as a solution to the world’s drug problems. I pointed out  that tobacco is regulated yet kills  more people than any other drug in the world;   that alcohol, benzos and methadone are all regulated but follow tobacco in killing more people each than illicit drugs.

I also pointed out that the first paper linking cannabis and psychosis was published 170 years ago –  in 1845  – so this is not new. All my points were transmitted unedited. A number of ‘silent’ audience members in Narcotics Anonymous introduced themselves and thanked me as we were leaving the studio.  It reminded  me of  US drug czar Michael Botticelli’s recent comment: “I do wish the recovery community was much more involved in anti-legalisation efforts.

However the trouble with Cannabis Live – posing as science when it was exhibitionist entertainment, as one distinguished former Professor of pharmacology commented to me afterwards  – is that it provided a launchpad for the differences between “beneficent” hash and “nightmarish” skunk to be exploited by the legalisation lobbyists. Their hidden agenda. It was worrying that the programme ignored the harms from hash (as opposed to skunk):  yet these include the risk of psychosis, behavioural changes, lack of motivation, lowering of IQ, lung cancer, mouth cancer, motor crashes, lowering of fertility (a mixed blessing) – and the fact that pregnant women using hash can give birth to addicted babies with a range of mental-health problems and medical problems, including leukaemia.

At a press conference the next day, billionaire legalisation campaigner Branson was still calling for regulation (legalisation of cannabis) as a solution despite all the downsides he’d witnessed at Cannabis Live. Of course he did not mention that tobacco is regulated and it kills more people than any other drug in the world, for the simple reason that it is the most widely used drug in the world.

In his cloud cuckoo land, the 80 per cent of cannabis users who use skunk would downgrade to the milder version if they were both legal. I don’t think so. It’s against human nature. Finally, it was left to David Nutt to round up the programme – with his extraordinary recommendation that skunk should remain low in the index of drug harms, in cannabis’s current place, while hash should plummet to the lowest ranking. Maybe he was too close to the skunk factory set up beside his artificial brain in the studio. Had anyone in the audience changed their mind about being pro- or anti-legalisation, asked Snow at the end of the programme? Not one hand went up. I leave you to decide whether this infotainment fulfilled Channel 4’s mission to “keep public service values to the fore”.

Source:   www.the Conservative Woman.co.uk    7th March 2015

Has anyone been to Colorado recently? The majestic Rocky Mountains are rapidly becoming obscured by a cloud of smoke emanating from bongs, pipes, one-hitters and joints. Talk about a ‘Rocky Mountain high’ ! Colorado has become a magnet for people whose sole interest in life is smoking a joint and getting stoned.

Spending two years as an Intelligence Officer on the Southwest Border I’ve seen up close and personal the destruction and brutality taking place right across our border in Mexico. The wanton barbarism of those involved in the Mexican drug trade equals if not surpasses anything we have seen from al Qaeda or ISIS. Not just beheadings are taking place but the outright butchering of other human beings, much of it inflicted while the victim is still alive.

The cartels have also shown a complete disregard for our national borders, kidnapping American citizens here in the U.S., and bringing them back into Mexico where they are subsequently tortured and killed. Yes, most of those Americans have involved themselves in the drug trade and face the potential consequences of that choice, but the complete lack of respect for our national borders by the Mexican cartels should trouble every American.

Unfortunately the insatiable appetite Americans have for drugs fuels the violence south of our border. Some say the answer is the answer to legalize drugs in the U.S. Sorry, but if anyone thinks that will stop the violence they’re dead wrong. The cartels in Mexico are interested in the accumulation of power. They will continue to kill each other and the occasional American because power and control are what they crave. I doubt too that they’ll be willing to ‘legally export’ their deadly poisons into the U.S. and pay the necessary import fees and taxes. Conforming to the law isn’t something they’ve been much concerned about nor inclined to do in the past.

What should be of even more concerned to Americans is whether or not we want a country that’s stoned out of its’ mind half the time ? Or for that matter a single state, such as Colorado appears to be now ? There are those proponents of legalized drugs usage who want the Colorado ‘failed’ experiment to spread nationwide. Those that argue that marijuana use isn’t any worse than alcohol fail to acknowledge the medical research and evidence that proves otherwise. I won’t list all the health concerns proven to be caused by continued marijuana use, but suffice to say there is a mountain of medical evidence that marijuana is much more harmful to the human body than tobacco or alcohol. (Insert here the obligatory loud chorus of marijuana users who will argue against the factual scientific and medical evidence, since it doesn’t match their arguments.)

But in addition to the destruction of our society through substance abuse, there is clear evidence that the Mexican cartels have provided assistance to some Islamic terrorist groups who are bent on causing death and destruction inside the United States. Not to say that Mexican cartels are necessarily supportive of extremist Islamic causes, they’re just businessmen. Businessman who could care less about any threat to the gringos up north. Should groups like ISIS, Hezbollah, or Al Qaeda want to pay them for their assistance in getting terrorists across the border into the U.S., if the price is right the cartels will be happy to oblige.

So does the violence and drug trafficking occurring along our Southwest border impact us in the U.S. ? Does our insatiable appetite for marijuana and other drugs threaten our national security ? The answer to both questions is absolutely ‘yes’ !

Regardless of what goes on in Colorado the ‘War on Drugs’ will continue. But it will continue with the Mexican Cartels having the upper hand, since they have more allies on our side of the border than American law enforcement does. And people will continue to be butchered alive in order to satisfy the American appetite for drugs.

Source: http://townhall.com/columnists/dwwilber/2014/10/27/

Though many young people seem to perceive marijuana as harmless, its use may pose serious risk for adverse behaviors and health consequences.

An extensive research review published June 5 in the New England Journal of Medicineconcluded that marijuana use is linked to multiple adverse effects—particularly in youth.

“Despite some contentious discussions regarding the addictiveness of marijuana, the evidence clearly indicates that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction,” said lead author Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and three of NIDA’s top officials.

Stanimir G.Stoev/Shutterstock

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana is the most commonly used “illicit” drug in the United States, with an estimated 12 percent of people aged 12 or older reporting its use in the prior year. The 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey—supported by NIDA—found that 6.5 percent of 12th graders report daily or near-daily marijuana use, with 60 percent perceiving regular use of marijuana not to be harmful (Psychiatric News, February 6). Volkow and colleagues suggested that as more states move toward policies that legalize cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, rates for marijuana use among teenagers and young adults will increase, as will the negative health consequences associated with its use.

“The regular use of marijuana during adolescence is of particular concern, since use by this age group is associated with an increased likelihood of deleterious consequences,” Volkow and colleagues cautioned.

The review, “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use,” provided science-based reasoning to explain the onset of marijuana addiction and gave an overview of the adverse health consequences associated with marijuana use from data of 77 studies and literature reviews.

From animal studies, the authors concluded that exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis—in early life can recalibrate the dopaminergic system, the reward system of the brain, to become more sensitive to stimulation with drugs. The authors speculated that the findings may help to explain the increased vulnerability to abuse of marijuana and other substances in later life, which have been reported by adults who initiated cannabis use during adolescence.

The review also highlighted studies showing an association between marijuana use and impaired regions of the human brain, including the precuneas, a key node that is involved in alertness and self-conscious awareness, and the hippocampus, which is important in learning and memory. Other adverse consequences of cannabis use included impaired driving, lowered IQ scores into adulthood, and a potential risk to exacerbate psychotic symptoms in those with mental disorders. The review suggested that risks for adverse effects increase when the drug is used along with alcohol.

“Some physicians continue to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes despite limited evidence of a benefit,” noted Volkow and colleagues. “Because older studies are based on the effects of marijuana containing lower levels of THC, stronger adverse health effects may occur with the use of today’s more-potent marijuana.”

The authors emphasized that more research must be done on the potential health consequences of second hand marijuana smoke, the long-term impact of prenatal cannabis exposure, and the effects of marijuana legalization policies on public health.

“It is important to alert the public that using marijuana in the teen years brings health, social, and academic risk,” said Volkow. “Physicians in particular can play a role in conveying to families that early marijuana use can interfere with crucial social and developmental milestones and can impair cognitive development.”

Source: http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/ June 26, 2014

On Nov. 4, Alaskans will consider Ballot Measure 2, an initiative to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. And those who support that commercial trade are investing heavily in hoping you will vote “yes.” Make no mistake about it, marijuana — like tobacco and alcohol — is big business.

Like alcohol and tobacco, the costs of marijuana to public health, public safety, our youth and lost productivity, are similarly high. It’s not surprising that Outside investors would regard Alaska as fertile territory for unconditional legalization.

In 1975, our Supreme Court found a right for Alaskans to consume small amounts of marijuana in their homes in the privacy provisions of the Alaska Constitution. And in 1998, Alaskans voted to legalize marijuana for medical purposes with 58 percent support. But Ballot Measure 2 is not about “medical marijuana,” nor is it necessary in order to protect adult Alaskans who consume marijuana in their homes from police intrusion. The measure is less about freedom than it is about profit at the expense of public health. That’s why I plan to vote “no” on Ballot Measure 2.

I came to this decision after careful consideration of the medical evidence. My guide through the scientific literature was Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Earlier this year, Dr. Volkow published a peer-reviewed paper about the health effects of marijuana in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the nation’s most eminent medical publications. Volkow directs a component of our National Institutes of Health which is, of course, neutral on state level policy initiatives. Fortunately for all of us, NIH does not prohibit its scientists from entering the discussion by objectively sharing the science with policymakers and the public.

Here’s what Volkow has to say about the state of the evidence: “The popular notion seems to be that marijuana is a harmless pleasure, access to which should not be regulated or considered illegal.”

However popular notions are not always correct. One of the detrimental effects is addiction. “The evidence clearly indicates that long term marijuana usage can lead to addiction,” Volkow states. “About 16 (percent) of those who begin marijuana usage as teenagers will become addicted. And there seems to be a strong association between repeated use and addiction. About a quarter to a half of those who use marijuana everyday are addicted. …Marijuana use by adolescents is particularly troublesome.”

Those who begin using marijuana as teenagers, when the brain is still developing, are two to four times more likely to demonstrate dependence symptoms within two years of first use than those who first use marijuana as adults. And since marijuana use “impairs critical cognitive functions … for days after use many students could be functioning at a cognitive level that is below their natural capability for considerable period of times,” according to Volkow.

These effects could be even longer lasting. Adults who smoked marijuana during adolescence have fewer fibers in specific brain regions that are important to things like alertness, self-consciousness, learning and memory.

NIDA-funded research provides some support for long standing fears that use of marijuana may be a gateway to use of other drugs with even greater known adverse health effects. Truthfully, the same may be said of alcohol and tobacco. Whether the mechanism is chemical, cultural or some combination of the two, is less well known. No evidence is cited to suggest that marijuana use keeps young people away from other drugs.

The prevalence of impaired driving in Alaska is well known and deeply troublesome. On this, Volkow observes that “both immediate and long term exposure to marijuana impair driving ability; marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently reported in connection with impaired driving and accidents, including fatal accidents.” Moreover, the mixing of marijuana and alcohol can further exacerbate the dangers to public safety.

Perhaps the most startling revelation of Volkow’s research is that all marijuana is not alike. The potency of marijuana is determined by its Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, content. Analysis of seized marijuana for sale on the street demonstrates that THC concentrations have been rising from about 3 percent in 1980 to about 12 percent today. Volkow suggests that this may be the reason for increased emergency room visits associated with marijuana and a higher level of fatal crashes. Also, the initiative specifically defines marijuana to include concentrates, which can contain 80-90 percent THC. Marijuana edibles would also be legalized and commercialized under the initiative. In Colorado, child-attractive edibles like lollipops, flavored drinks and gummy bears, with multiple doses of THC, are being sold.

Marijuana is a drug and with all drugs there are risks and benefits. Research suggests that use of marijuana or some of its component chemicals can be beneficial for the alleviation of a variety of medical conditions. But patients with these conditions benefit from discussions with their healthcare providers about the risks and benefits.

The state should examine the most appropriate access for this class of users. That said, the evidence that marijuana is harmful for non-medical use is growing. That should give Alaskans pause as we enter the voting booth.

I believe strongly in working for the health, safety, educational achievement, productivity and community welfare of Alaskans. That is why I am voting “no” on Ballot Measure 2.

Lisa Murkowski is a Republican U.S. Senator representing Alaska.

Source: www.juneauempire.com/opinion/2014-10-22

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies in between.

Pretty much everyone who has spent time smoking marijuana knows at least one diehard stoner. The guy whose eyes are always red, the girl who doesn’t use the term “wake and bake” ironically, the person who just can’t seem to ever get it together. These heavy smokers might work at a low-level job or they may be unemployed—but everyone who knows them well knows that they are capable of much more, if only they had any ambition.

Is this really addiction? I believe that it is (and I don’t think that’s an argument against legalization). In fact, the reasons why marijuana is addictive elucidate the true nature of addiction itself.  Addiction is a relationship between a person and a substance or activity; addictiveness is not a simple matter of a drug “hijacking the brain.” In fact, with all potentially addictive experiences, only a minority of those who try them get hooked—and people can even become addicted to apparently “nonaddictive” things, like carrots. Addiction depends on learning, context and psychology, not just neurotransmitters.

With two states having already legalized recreational marijuana use and several more considering doing so, understanding the nature of addiction is more important than ever. Partisans on both sides of the debate have made extreme claims here; some legalizers saying there’s no such thing as marijuana addiction, while some prohibitionists claim “cannabis as addictive as heroin.”

Our concepts of addiction, however, come primarily from cultural experience with alcohol, heroin and, later, cocaine. No one has ever argued that opioids like heroin don’t have the potential to cause addiction because the withdrawal symptoms—vomiting, shaking, pallor, sweating and diarrhea—are objectively measurable. Opioids cause physical dependence that is evident when they become unavailable. The same is true for alcohol, where withdrawal is even more severe and can sometimes even be deadly.

So early researchers focused on these measurable symptoms related to alcoholism and opioid addictions in defining addiction: Using a drug could lead to becoming tolerant to it, tolerance could lead to dose escalation, which could in turn lead to physical dependence, and then the addiction could be driven by the need to avoid the painful symptoms of withdrawal. It was simple and physical.

In this view, however, cocaine and marijuana were not “really” addictive. While people can experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, depression, craving and sleep problems when quitting these drugs, these are much more subjective and therefore can be dismissed as “psychological” rather than physical. You might really want coke or pot, but you didn’t need it like a real junkie, the thinking went.

And since most of us like to believe that we have much more control over our minds than we do over physical symptoms, “psychological” addiction is seen as far less serious than the “physical” type. It’s the remnants of this kind of thinking that mainly underlie the idea that marijuana addiction doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, that view of addiction is stuck in the 1970s.

In the 1980s—ironically, not long after Scientific American caused a big controversy by arguing that snorted cocaine is no more addictive than eating potato chips—entrepreneurs began marketing a ready-made smokeable form of the drug. The birth of crack shattered the idea that “physical” dependence is more serious than psychological dependence because people with cocaine addictions don’t vomit or have diarrhea when they quit; while they may appear desperate, it’s not in the physically obvious way of heroin or alcohol withdrawal. And so, if you are going to argue that marijuana is not addictive because you don’t get sick when you quit, you also have to argue the same for crack.

In the 1970s view, cocaine and marijuana were not “really” addictive: You might really want coke or pot, but you didn’t need it like a real junkie, the thinking went.

Good luck with that one, I say. Clearly, crack-addicted people are every bit as compulsive as those with heroin problems—and their criminal involvement if they can’t afford the drug is at least equally likely, though not as common as has been claimed. Crack dealt a deathblow to the “psychological” vs. “physical” distinction—and if it hadn’t, neuroscience was creeping up to show that the psychological and the physical aren’t exactly distinct anyway.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, researchers also began recognizing that simply detoxing heroin addicts—getting them through the two-week period of intense physical withdrawal symptoms—is not effective treatment. If heroin addiction was driven primarily by the need to avoid withdrawal, addicted people should be out of the woods after they complete cold turkey. But as those of us who have been through it know, that is far from the hardest part.

While kicking heroin isn’t fun, staying off it in the long run is the problem—those “mere” psychological cravings are what drive addiction. Physical dependence isn’t the main problem; it isn’t even necessary. Indeed, we now know that you can actually have physical dependence without any addiction at all: There are some blood pressure medications, for example, that can have deadly withdrawal symptoms if not tapered properly, but people on these meds don’t crave them even though they are quite dependent. Similarly, antidepressants like Paxil have physical withdrawal symptoms, but because they don’t produce a high, you don’t see people robbing drug stores to get them.

So what is addiction, then, if tolerance, withdrawal and physical dependence aren’t essential to it? All of these facts point to one definition that can sum up the problem: Addiction is compulsive use of a substance or engagement in a behavior despite negative consequences. (Put more in neuroscience, addiction is a learned distortion in the brain’s motivational systems that make us persist in pursuing things linked to evolutionary fitness like food and sex.) Anything that causes pleasure via these systems—and that’s basically anything that is possible to enjoy—can be addictive to some person at some time. And that includes marijuana (and, for that matter potato chips).

This doesn’t mean that marijuana addiction is necessarily as severe as cocaine, heroin or alcohol addiction—in fact, it typically isn’t. If given the choice, most families would vociferously prefer having a member addicted to marijuana rather than to cocaine, heroin or alcohol. The negative consequences associated with marijuana addiction tend to be subtler: lost promotions, for example, rather than lostjobsworse relationships, not no relationships. And of course, no risk of overdose death.

Marijuana addiction may quietly make your life worse without ever getting bad enough to seem worth addressing; it may not destroy your life but it may make you miss opportunities.

But this is also what can make it insidious. Marijuana addiction may quietly make your life worse without ever getting bad enough to seem worth addressing; it may not destroy your life but it may make you miss opportunities. With any pattern of regular drug use, it’s important to continually track whether the risks outweigh the benefits, keeping in mind that addiction itself may distort this calculation. This is especially true with marijuana.

However, as with all other drugs, only a minority of marijuana users ever struggle with addiction. Research suggests that about 10% get hooked—and on average, marijuana addiction lasts six years. Even more than other addictions, marijuana addiction seems to be driven by self-medication of mental health problems—90% of people with marijuana addiction also have another addiction or mental illness, typically alcoholism or antisocial personality disorder.

This suggests that exposing more of the population to marijuana won’t necessarily increase the addicted population. First, people with antisocial personality disorder, by definition, tend not to be law abiding, so most have probably already tried it. Second, the percent of people with other pre-existing mental illness will not change because marijuana becomes legal—in fact, in the UK, when they reversed their prior liberalization of marijuana law because of fears related to increased schizophrenia, psychosis rates actually went up. (The link probably wasn’t causal, but it does suggest that legal crackdowns on cannabis don’t prevent related psychosis).

If some people with alcohol, cocaine or heroin addiction switch to marijuana instead, overall harm would be reduced. As I and others have been reporting at least since 2001, using marijuana as an “exit” drug is a real phenomenon, both in cocaine and opioid addiction.

When we consider the risks of various substances, we tend to do so in isolation—but that’s not how choices are made in the real world. Most people would rather their partners have no addictions—but again, some are clearly worse than others. Marijuana craving is rarely as severe as crack craving, as is obvious.

Still, like anything that can be pleasurable, marijuana can be addictive. This doesn’t mean all addictions are the same or that it is as addictive as the currently legal drugs alcohol and tobacco—the data shows it is less so.

Pretending it can’t do any harm at all, however—or that there aren’t people who are addicted to it—does no one any good. If we want better drug policy, as with other types of recovery, we need to avoid denial.

Maia Szalavitz is one of the nation’s leading neuroscience and addiction journalists, and a columnist at Substance.com. She has contributed to Timethe New York TimesScientific American Mindthe Washington Post and many other publications. She has also published five books, including Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), and is currently finishing her sixth, Unbroken Brain, which examines why seeing addiction as a developmental or learning disorder can help us better understand, prevent and treat it. Her last column for Substance.com was about why the oft-documented fact that most people age, or grow, out of substance misuse is not common knowledge.

Source: www.substance.com 15th October 2014

Tough new laws, a boost to police to crush ice drug labs and better access to rehabilitation and needle exchange programs are central to the Andrews government’s $45.5 million plan to tackle Victoria’s ice epidemic. The package has been widely applauded as a positive first step by police and frontline social workers.

Premier Daniel Andrews said 80,000 Victorians used the highly addictive drug in the past year, which has driven up crime and made attacks on frontline service workers more common. The previous government introduced tougher sentences for people convicted of attacking emergency service workers, and Labor will spend $1 million to better protect and train frontline staff to deal with ice users. Mr Andrews said workers, including emergency services, had been getting by “on their wits” when dealing with ice users .

Under the $45.5 million package, $18 million has been allocated for more rehabilitation services, particularly in rural areas which have been struggling to keep up with demand. More users are now injecting the drug so existing needle and syringe programs will also be bolstered to reduce the danger of disease.

Labour will pursue four new laws in parliament, including punishing those who publish ice “recipe books” as well as those who push drugs near schools. Dealers who use stand-over tactics to force buyers to sell ice will also be punished as will landlords who allow manufacturing or dealing on their premises. “If you are a landlord or a nightclub owner and you turn a blind eye to the fact this poison is being manufactured in your premises or being dealt in your premises you are part of the problem.”

The $45.5million will be in May’s budget and will be spent over the next four years.

Police will receive a $4.5 million investment to expand the Forensic Drug Branch which will crackdown on clandestine drug labs, as well as increasing drug profiling and intelligence. A further $15 million will be spent on new drug and booze buses. Families of addicts will also receive a $4.7 million fund to help people identify users and direct them to services. Support for families will also be expanded and a dedicated Ice Help Line will be set up.

Sam Biondo, executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, said it was a “very positive move” to begin to address the complex problem. But Mr Biondo said there were still many issues that needed to be tackled, including looking at how the justice system approached the drug users.

He said the Napthine government’s  “tough on crime” rhetoric had helped exacerbate the problem, with Mr Biondo calling for a discussion on how people were rehabilitated. “There were a lot of words but the only actions were in corrections,” Mr Biondo said. He said diversion schemes would deliver far better outcomes than simply sending people into prison.

The Premier also flagged working with the Commonwealth and other states about stopping the importation of drugs as well as cracking down on “unexplained wealth” from suspected drug players.

The opposition welcomed the plan but also accused Labour of ripping out $5 million from community education forums and community grants programs.

“The fight against ice has bipartisan support, but Daniel Andrews’ record must be judged on his acts in cutting funding to ice programs,” opposition spokesman Tim Bull said. 

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/victorias-ice-crackdown 5th March 2015

ONDCP DIRECTOR BOTTICELLI SITS DOWN WITH KEVIN SABET OF SAM IN “FACE TO FACE” SERIES INTERVIEW

Botticelli on marijuana: “Just to be clear, this administration, this office, is opposed to legalization. From the time that I have been in this job, the time that I’ve been in Massachusetts, I’ve never been in favor of either medical marijuana or legalization….you can begin to see that the exact same things that we had to undo with the tobacco industry are now happening with the commercialization of marijuana.”

Botticelli on Colorado: “We’re beginning to see an emerging picture, particularly in Colorado around that… Clearly, there have been some challenges.

About D.C.’s legalization efforts: “My comments were taken out of context by some as a way to say that I supported marijuana legalization. Nothing can be further from the truth…so I feel like that was a little bit disingenuous and a little bit taken out of context in terms of what those comments were.

About the Recovery Community: “I do wish the recovery community was much more involved in (anti-legalization efforts).

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, in the first of a new series of interviews Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) representatives will conduct with key leaders, SAM President Kevin Sabet sat down with Michael Botticelli, the recently confirmed director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in Mr. Botticelli’s office at the Executive Office of the President. The interview was a candid conversation about drug policy — especially as it pertains to issues related to marijuana legalization.

Director Botticelli was refreshingly candid during our interview,” Dr. Sabet said. “He very clearly outlined his unequivocal opposition to legalization and, even more interestingly, he used his own personal, past struggle with addiction to call for the recovery community to speak up about this issue.” The interview can be seen below.

SAM is a non-profit, science-oriented, public health organization dedicated to getting the science out about marijuana and stopping Big Marijuana. It advocates for a health-first approach, and boasts numerous top public health researchers on its advisory board.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Kevin: I’m here with Director Botticelli. Michael, thank you so much for being with me. This is the first episode of Face-to-Face with SAM, so thank you for doing this. How do you like it here? You’re getting used to the offices and the digs. What surprised you about your first couple of weeks as director?

Michael: One is that there is a level of authority that confirmation brings that I don’t think I really anticipated until it actually happened. I feel I’ve been given a unique opportunity here to use the next couple years to think about how we advance good science and evidence-based drug policy in the United States. We’re facing some really critical issues, but we also have incredibly exciting opportunities when we think about Criminal Justice Reform and the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Part of the reason I love this job is I feel like there have been very few times over the past thirty years where we’ve had this confluence of better science and better data, better medications, better insurance coverage, parity for insurance coverage. That’s all offset by clearly some urgent and pressing issues that we have before us. It’s one of those things that sometimes I wake up at 3 o’ clock in the morning and say, “Oh, my God. They picked the wrong guy.” But it’s great to be here. It’s great to be having the support of not only ONDCP staff, but also a tremendous amount of supporting partnerships with many organizations on the outside. The continuing focus is how do we make sure we’re all moving together for a common purpose?

Kevin: That’s a very glass-half-full perspective, which is helpful. A pessimist would look at the glass half empty and say this is a very challenging time for drug policy, especially with regard to marijuana and just legalization in general. They would say maybe ONDCP is less relevant than during the crack epidemic, when Congress demanded this kind of coordination. Before asking your opinion on things or the position, how do you see things right now with marijuana? When you think about marijuana, what comes to your mind?

Michael: There are a number of issues. Just to be clear, this administration, this office, is opposed to legalization. This is not from an ideological perspective. When you look at the research, the science, and the data behind the health harms of marijuana, particularly as it relates to youth in this country, I think we have some real challenges and hurdles facing us. The American Academy of Pediatrics did a very thoughtful piece a number of weeks ago. They came out against medical marijuana and legalization, and they did it by looking at all the attendant health harms, particularly as they relate to youth. They said that for any policy position, the most salient criteria should be what its impact is on youth in this country. That I think is where the basis of our policy comes from. We’ve made substantial gains in many areas around public health and substance use in this country when you look at youth who smoked tobacco, youth who used other substances. But unfortunately, marijuana is going in the opposite direction. Clearly, that is tagged to their perception of risk, to the messages.

Kevin: Why do you think it’s gone up?

Michael: Clearly, youth are getting messages that marijuana is a benign substance and in many cases helpful because of medical marijuana. It is astounding to me the speed with which it’s been engrained in popular culture. So it’s hard to turn on a TV show these days and not hear people making jokes about smoking marijuana. So they are getting messages that are very disingenuous and are really not speaking to them about what the health harms are. I’ve talked to many kids across the country, and I often ask them what they think about things, like what do they think about tobacco, and universally kids don’t want to smoke because they know it’s harmful. They’re worried about the chemicals that are in them. But when I ask them about marijuana, it’s the exact opposite. They think it is helpful, so they’re buying into all of the messages that unfortunately legalization efforts have said. I’ve been doing public health work for a long time, and it took us 50 years to undo what the tobacco industry did. I think many of us are concerned that Big Marijuana is using the same strategies. So if you think of what Big Tobacco did, they said, “Our product is helpful. It relaxes you. It makes you feel better.” They had physicians promoting it. They used very funny cartoon characters to market their products and they refused to reveal the ingredients of their products. And I think you can begin to see that the exact same things that we had to undo with the tobacco industry are now happening with the commercialization of marijuana.

Kevin: I have to push back a little bit. People would say, “That’s good. That’s the administration’s position, but we have federal law that covers Colorado. It’s not being enforced. Why not?” It’s a little unfair since you’re new to the position, but you do represent the administration, so why not? What’s going on, as the Control Substances Act, given that it hasn’t changed, why isn’t it (the Controlled Substances Act) being enforced?

Michael: The Department of Justice issued guidance that with limited federal resources we’re not going to go after low-level offenders for this issue. I think they have sent a message to Washington and Colorado via their Cole memo of their eight public health and public safety priorities and they are monitoring the situation to make sure that Colorado and Washington are complying with those. I just spent some time with Colorado Gov. (John) Hickenlooper who quite honestly has not been a supporter of legalization. We’re beginning to see an emerging picture, particularly in Colorado around that. The Department of Justice has clearly said, “We’ll continue to go after what we believe are egregious cases as it relates to public health and public safety issues.” They’ll continue to prosecute those cases where they find them.. I think people conflate sometimes what the Department of Justice will use their limited enforcement resources for versus whether the administration supports legalization.

Kevin: How is that in terms of the monitoring? You’re saying the emerging picture doesn’t look good. Is this something that you and your Justice colleagues are looking at closely?

Michael: Actually, ONDCP has been leading a Federal Interagency [Working] Group to look at federal state and local data to have a much more accurate picture. I think none of us want to react to anecdote, so we want to make sure we have the most robust data that we can to really look at in terms of what is happening in Washington and Colorado. Clearly, there have been some challenges, and I think even Colorado has focused on edibles as a significant issue with emergency department mentions particularly among kids. So even Colorado is understanding that particularly edibles are presenting a problem. There are instances of increased calls to the poison control lines, increased emergency department visits, increases in drugged driving arrests. I think that we again have to continue to rely on the data to give us an accurate picture of what we have.

Kevin: Is there a trigger for enforcement or is there a world where we can imagine one day, it’s going to say, “Oh, we see this x number of increase in problems, and DOJ is going to say, “Great, we’re going to enforce the law now…” Do we know?

Michael: Beyond the eight enforcement priorities in the Cole memo, I don’t think there’s a bright line that’s been determined by the Department of Justice at which point they are going to say we need to take subsequent actions on this. We see our role in terms of making sure that we have the best accurate picture to make that determination.

Kevin: Let’s talk about D.C. You made some comments. A legalization advocate asked you what you think about D.C. and marijuana. And you’re a D.C. resident, and you basically articulated the President’s budget position, which was that we’re not going to interfere in D.C. home rule. Some people interpreted that – and the legalizers certainly did – that federal law doesn’t matter and it is a home rule issue. Here’s a chance to clarify.

Michael: A couple things. One is when we look at how the President has used his budget authority, clearly, he has used home rule and home rule law as a way to continue to make sure that the District doesn’t use federal funds in ways that are against federal policy. For instance, where there have been attempts by Congress to institute restrictions on abortion funding and contraception the President has used the home rule as a way to challenge that. This was standard operating procedure as it relates to the federal budget and putting restrictions on how the District spends its dollars. In those comments I said I was opposed to legalization. My comments were taken out of context by some as a way to say that I supported marijuana legalization. Nothing can be further from the truth. From the time that I have been in this job, the time that I’ve been in Massachusetts, I’ve never been in favor of either medical marijuana or legalization, so I feel like that was a little bit disingenuous and a little bit taken out of context in terms of what those comments were.

Kevin: We’ve seen that, because the narrative the legalization advocates want to paint is that everyone is on their side, and now they can say, “Hey, even the new progressive drug czar’s on our side.” I think that’s something that they love to do. They want to mainstream their message. It’s their press posture M.O. nowadays.

Michael: It was very clear if you look at my entire comments during the course of that whole symposium, and even in the context of those comments, that we continue to oppose legalization.

Kevin: As the first director in recovery, how does this issue and should it affect the recovery community? When I say this issue, I mean legalization because I’ve kind of gotten this sense that it’s easier to ignore the issue for a lot of outside NGOs, frankly. Tell me what you think about that and also how you think this issue affects recovery policy but also recovery from an individual point of view.

Michael: I’ll talk from an individual perspective. I think people in recovery should take their own action. It’s been a long time now, but I think back to my early days of recovery, and I remember how hard it was for me to do things like walk down the street and walk near the bars that I used to hang out. I used to cross the street. And I think we know for people in early recovery, there are lots of triggers, and part of that learning curve of recovery is to learn how to understand what those triggers are. But even 26 years out, it’s a lifelong illness. As a person in recovery, I don’t want to be walking down the street and smell marijuana smoke. I don’t want to be walking down the street and see one more temptation because there is a marijuana dispensary down the street. We are already inundated through every vehicle in this society about issues around substance use and using drugs. I, as a person in recovery, don’t want more of that. I want less of it. I want to live in a healthier community and, quite honestly, I make those choices as a person in recovery. I choose to live in places, specifically in those communities, that are going to support my recovery. It’s a real challenge. There are so many people who don’t make it to long-term recovery. And I think assaulting people with seeing people smoke, and the smell and dispensaries and advertisement is yet one more thing that people, particularly people in early recovery, have to deal with and struggle with. I find it really tragic, quite honestly, that our communities now are making it harder for people particularly in early recovery to sustain that kind of lifestyle.

Kevin: Absolutely. I have a friend, 18 years in recovery, who had to leave a movie theatre in Colorado the other day and call his sponsor because of the smell. It’s amazing.

Michael: It’s very disturbing. On a personal note, I do wish the recovery community was much more involved in this, because I do think a lot of people probably feel the same way that I do. I’ve talked to other people in recovery who do feel the same way. I think our entire movement around recovery community organizations and recovering communities is precisely about how do we create communities that support and sustain people in recovery. I feel like their needs have not been heard and attended to as we think about what’s right to do for our communities. I agree that we’ve got to look at disproportionality in our criminal justice system, but how do we attend to the needs of everybody in our community, and I think the recovery voice often is not vocal. It’s clearly not heard as we’re thinking about, quite honestly, the commercialization.

Kevin: Absolutely. It’s very possible you could serve as a long-serving drug czar, but it’s also possible you will also be one of the shortest given the length of the current administration. Everyone who is in this office, sitting in these chairs, realizes there is a finite amount of time and thinks about, “What do I want to get done?” What are you thinking about as you’re beginning in terms of when you leave in two, five, eight, ten years? What do you want to get done? What do you want to be focusing on?

Michael: One of the biggest challenges that I had to come to terms with when I first came here even as a deputy is to really retrain my mind that I’m here for a time-limited period. I worked for the public health department for twenty years. I was the director in Massachusetts for nine years. So you can think about short-term, medium, long-term goals. But I think about it in a number of ways, and I think there are some things that we can do now that could really impact the trajectory of how we think about substance use issues. Over the next couple years in partnership with many of our partner organizations, I fundamentally believe that we can continue to reframe how people with substance use disorders are perceived in the United States. I really do. We’ve come a long way. I know that lots of polls show that people would rather see people get treatment rather than incarceration, but I also know there are still significant stigma, and people still feel like this is a moral issue. I think that we can really continue to change the way we think about this illness.

Clearly dealing with the prescription drug, heroin and overdose issue is something that I feel particularly important for me and our office. When you look at the morbidity and mortality, we have to focus a lot of time and energy on this. In doing so, I think we can use these opportunities to engage people who have really never cared about drug policy issues before. One of the beneficial things around the magnitude of the opioid issue is that there are a lot more people now at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level who are really concerned about this. I think we should use that as an opportunity to focus on solutions not just specifically as they relate to the heroin and prescription drug issue but that we really begin to implement the systemic changes that we’ve known for a long time need to be put in place. Let me give you an example. Colleagues in Massachusetts have done a great job at making sure that private insurance companies are meeting the requirements of parity, that they’re implementing good, evidence-based programs, that they’re really stepping to the table to do that. It’s those kinds of solutions that I think can work for everybody. The last piece, I give a lot of credit to this administration of focusing on Criminal Justice Reform. I think there are some substantial changes we already have made and that we can continue to make over the next couple years as we think about particularly dealing with people with substance use disorders as it relates to intersection with the criminal justice system.

Kevin: How do we talk about that issue in the nuanced way that it deserves, because clearly, I think it’s oversimplifying when we just say everyone who’s a drug user enters the criminal justice system, it’s only “treatment over incarceration,” because if there’s a crime involved, I think, people are saying there should be some kind of penalty for that in conjunction with treatment. It’s not always treatment over incarceration for a user if they’re there for something other than use.

Michael: I think of it in three buckets. One is we know there is a huge and extraordinary number of people who are intersecting with the criminal justice system largely as a result of their substance use disorder. Only one in ten people [is] getting access to treatment historically.

Kevin: These aren’t people that are in there for drug offenses. These are people that are there, committed their crimes, and they have a drug problem, correct?

Michael: And they have a drug problem, so how do we through policy and practice divert people away? For example, the commissioner of police in New York City has actually begun to open assessment in triage centers. So cops on the beat actually have some place to take someone with a substance use disorder rather than sending them to Rikers Island, which I think is great. So there are things we can do on the policy and practice level to be able to do that. There are certainly those people that you mentioned who need to be incarcerated but also have a substance use disorder, so we want to make sure there’s good, effective treatment behind the walls. We also know that the vast majority of those people are coming back to our community. So how do we make sure we have good reentry services, that we’re linking people to care, that we don’t continue to have real legal and other barriers for people to reengage with their community? No matter where I go across the country, the two biggest issues I hear in terms of people supporting long-term recovery are stable housing and stable employment. If you have a criminal record, your chances are minimal in terms of finding that, so there’s been a lot of work happening particularly through the Reentry Council at the White House as well as at the Department of Justice about how we think about diminishing those real barriers that people have to sustain their recovery.

Kevin: And one of the things that SAM talks about is we don’t need to penalize somebody for life and give them the criminal records, so they can’t go and become productive members of society, because the original intent of these things is to deter.

Michael: Generally, if people don’t commit another crime within three years, there’s very little likelihood for the rest of their life, but often, criminal records are used for much longer periods of time in an effort around public safety. One of the things that I think is really helpful here, is that we really have bipartisan support within Congress, within states for wholesale Criminal Justice Reform. So we have some very conservative states, like Texas and Kansas, who basically realize we cannot sustain these correctional costs, and they’re implementing a wide variety of what we know to be effective practices to keep people out of incarceration.

Kevin: Our field’s challenge is to define that criminal justice reform not by legalization, which is what some people want to define it as, but as real strategies and programs.

Michael: We need trusted messengers in this discussion. I think that there are some people who will always cast a degree of skepticism as it relates to government and what our messages are, but we also want to make sure that we have trusted messengers in the medical field, in all of the areas that we need to do this work, because I think it’s really important for us to make sure that not only are we educating the public but [also] we’re educating other stakeholders in terms of what are the issues that we have here and what do we know to be effective in the work that we do.

Kevin: Director, thank you so much for doing this.

Michael: Thank you, Kevin, and thank you for your efforts.

Source: http://learnaboutsam.org/ 4th March 2015

Nick Clegg ignited a huge controversy last night by claiming that all drug users should be treated as ‘victims’. The Liberal Democrat leader said they should not be given criminal records for possessing illegal substances – even if they they are caught with ‘harder’ drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine.

Meanwhile, Sir Richard Branson made the astonishing claim that smoking powerful skunk cannabis does not cause ‘any harm’ – despite evidence that a quarter of new cases of psychosis are linked to it.  Announcing his party’s new drugs policy yesterday, Mr Clegg said: ‘We shouldn’t be treating the criminal “Mr Bigs” the same as the users. The latter are the victims of the former.’

But his comments were dismissed by the head of the Chatham House think tank Robin Niblett, who said: ‘Are all users victims or is there a large proportion of people who enjoy drugs and take them recreationally? It is a question of demand, rather than people who need to be treated for an addiction.’

Other experts have also questioned whether it is right to label all drug users as victims. Stuart Waiton, senior lecturer in sociology at Abertay University, said: ‘The problem we have today is that society finds it difficult to hold people to account for their actions.

‘The idea of moral responsibility is very weak because we assume that everyone’s a victim. People don’t need medical support – unless their bodies are falling to bits – they need to take responsibility for their own actions.’

The Lib Dems’ new policy would end prosecutions for people caught with small amounts of drugs for ‘personal use’. It would cover all drugs. Mr Clegg said the policy would be included in the Lib Dem manifesto.

It is widely seen as a pitch to win back young voters disillusioned by the party’s betrayal over university tuition fees.

The Liberal Democrat leader said drug users should not be given criminal records for possessing illegal substances – even if they they are caught with ‘harder’ drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine

With neither Labour nor the Tories backing decriminalisation, it is unlikely to become government policy even if the Lib Dems remain in power after the election.

Mr Clegg received a public endorsement yesterday from Sir Richard, who suggested that smoking skunk is safe.

The Virgin tycoon shared a platform with the Lib Dem leader to promote the party’s pledge. He said: ‘Of people taking hash [cannabis], something like 99 per cent do not have a problem … Take people taking skunk.

‘It’s slightly worse than alcohol. But there are a lot of people doing it for recreational purposes and they enjoy doing it and it’s not doing them any harm.’   A study last month by Kings College London found that 24 per cent of new cases of psychosis are linked to the use of skunk.

The report concluded that smoking skunk trebles the risk of someone having a psychotic episode.

Last night, Mr Clegg also insisted that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ was ‘not working’, although he was later forced to concede that official figures show drug use has been falling in Britain for years.

Downing Street rejected Mr Clegg’s analysis and said it was not supported by David Cameron.

Andy Cook, chief executive of charity Twenty Twenty, which works with disadvantaged young people, said: ‘Cannabis is ruining the life opportunities of those we work with, so the idea that society would be better off if  this stuff was decriminalised is crazy. ‘Making it more easily available and more culturally acceptable will mean that more of our young people would take it. The result will be that more of our young people would fail to make the most of their potential.’

Source:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2980158    5th March 2015

The Northern Grampians Highway Patrol said roughly one in two drivers tested positive for drugs like cannabis or methamphetamines.

Acting Sergeant Shaun Allen said they were disappointed in the results.

“They’re certainly over-represented now in our statistics and especially in relation to serious collisions, we’re finding that more and more are positive in regards to drugs,” he said.

He is urging people not to get behind the wheel if they have been using drugs.

“We random drug test drivers and if they become positive with our tests, they get sent away for a proper laboratory test and then if it comes back then we prosecute on that,” he said.

“There’s no level with drugs, you’ve either got them in your system or you haven’t.”

Source:  http://www.abc.net.au/   Feb.2015

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas.USA

Police say marijuana in the form of “wax” and “butter” now are among the contraband they’re keeping an eye out for in Friendswood. Police discovered the use of the different forms of marijuana during a traffic stop Friday evening in the 200 block of East Edgewood. An officer says he picked up the smell of air freshener and marijuana when he approached the driver, Damon Joshua Fraser, of Friendswood.  During a search of the vehicle, he found two brown, marijuana-smelling substances wrapped in white wax paper. A field test detected THC, the chemical that triggers marijuana’s psychological effects, in both substances.  It was later determined the hard, brown substance resembling broken glass shards is referred to as marijuana “wax,” and the pasty brown substance is called marijuana “butter.”  Fraser, 28, was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance in penalty group 2 and driving while license invalid. His bond was set at $26,000.

Source:  http://abc13.com/news/marijuana-butter-wax-debut  9th Feb  2015

Filed under: Social Affairs :

Powdered gelatin was invented in 1845, powdered fruit drink in 1928. Given the success of Jell-O and Kool-Aid, it’s strange that it took this long for powdered alcohol to show up. But “alcohol” is soon to be on the market, joining another ill-advised product, powdered caffeine. Both are highly concentrated forms of legal substances that carry substantial health risks. Lawmakers should move to ban both.

The inventor of Jell-O, when applying for a patent, called his substance “portable gelatin.” Similarly, the man behind Palcohol touts its portability and markets it like a health drink. “Palcohol is a boon to outdoors enthusiasts such as campers, hikers and others who wanted to enjoy adult beverages responsibly without the undue burden of carrying heavy bottles of liquid,” the website says. (Have these people not heard about flasks?)

It’s likely Palcohol will appeal more to teenagers and alcoholics than mountain climbers, who are more inclined to pack kale smoothies than bourbon and Coke. Its size and weight make it easy to hide; its portability screams potential for abuse.

Even worse is powdered caffeine, blamed for at least two deaths and dozens of hospitalizations for erratic heartbeat, seizures and vomiting. One teaspoon supplies the jolt of 25 cups of coffee. As a dietary supplement, powdered caffeine doesn’t need Food and Drug Administration approval, but in December the agency asked consumers to shun it because of the danger of overdose.

Several U.S. senators recently asked the FDA to ban sales of powdered caffeine, and the agency wants consumers to report adverse reactions. Palcohol should be banned outright, as six states have already done.

THIS editorial appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Feb. 12.

Source:  www.edmonds.com    16th Feb.2015

Filed under: Legal Highs,Social Affairs :

By Kathy Gyngell

I have always loathed cannabis and what I’ve seen it does to people. From my very first encounter at university when I watched the making and the passing of the spliff ritual, I thought it was pathetic and that the people doing it were boring.

I avoided them and their singularly ‘funless’ parties. Stoned, introverted and unattractive young men became even less attractive as they became more introverted. Maybe it helped their relations with men, but not with women.

Nor, in my early days working in TV, was I impressed to find food laced at parties – to have a bit of a laugh with non-using guests. The choice was made clear – between being stoned or stuffy. I chose stuffy. Why you had to be drugged up to socialise escaped me. It seemed to have the very opposite effect – dulling,  stupefying and rather unpleasant.

So when, as a mother,  I encountered teenage boys using the evil weed I was alarmed. These were no ‘uni’ students but little more than children. It did not take great powers of observation to see how it affected their behaviour, their motivation and how addictive it was. Worse, noxious skunk was beginning to dominate the market

I came down like a ton of bricks – boys who ‘did drugs’ were absolutely not welcome in my home.  I  ‘banned’, as far as I could, all social contact with families where the parents had a liberal attitude to drugs. It was a revelation to find myself  unpopular and on my own in daring to make my views public and clear.

Since then I have observed one tragedy after another: some in families anguished by their own naivety that they became aware of drug-taking or its risks too late; others distraught at the life-time sentences to which they and their sons had been condemned.

Their futures – with their sons’ lives suspended between secure mental units or so-called community care on compulsory injected anti-psychotics – were no future at all.  Only the very brave shouted  their plight from the rooftops to alert everyone else; for many the shame was too huge. And there was still denial too.

What is so shocking is that the science detailing these very real risks has been in the public domain for years,  that resistance to acknowledging it goes back years and right to the top of our political establishment. For a historical account, Peter Hitchens’s book is a must read.

As a result of this liberal ‘cannabis conspiracy’, over the years ever younger children have begun taking the drug and in ever stronger doses.

The extent of this silent cultural  revolution can be seen in a  Conservative-led Coalition  happy for children to be left to make their own ‘informed choices’ about  cannabis use.  Yes, the mantra of ‘informed choice’ is still official policy bleated out by every health minister since 2010.

What’s more, it is still based on outdated, inadequate (in places downright wrong) official information.  This is despite the persistent representations of the campaigner Mary Brett of the charity Cannabis Skunk Sense.

The simple fact the Government ignores is that children aged 12, 14 or even 16,  are not equipped to make such a choice. They are immature and their brains are still forming. So the question is whether new research, published this week, will make a difference and act as a wake-up call. It is the work of a team of 23 scientists under the direction of the impressive and indefatigable Sir Robin Murray, Professor of Psychiatric Research at King’s College, London.

It shows that cannabis use triples psychosis risk and that use of high potency strains is responsible for 24 per cent of new cases of psychotic mental illness.

It should, as Professor Murray says, see an end to the sceptics’ claim that cannabis use is not an important cause of schizophrenia-like psychosis.  It should alert government to the fact  that “we could prevent almost one quarter of cases of psychosis if no-one smoked high potency cannabis (saving) young patients a lot of suffering and the health services a lot of money.”

It should indeed.  But the jury is out on whether it will change the UK’s persistent culture of denial about cannabis,  which has peopled  mental health units with psychotic young men and which is still priming a public health time-bomb.

Depressed motivation, significantly lowered IQ, impaired cognitive functioning, cancer and paranoia are all outcomes of early and regular cannabis use, details of which research can be found on the new Cannabis Skunk Sense website.

Will this new evidence stop in his tracks our arch drug-liberalising deputy PM Nick Clegg, desperate in his search of the youth vote? It ought to. That is why I will be watching carefully when he gives keynote speech to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s ‘International Conference on Drugs Policy’ on March 12th. Will he even refer to this latest and most comprehensive and irrefutable of research?

Or following  HASC’s bizarre recommendation of two years ago to downgrade cannabis to Class C, will Clegg continue to bang the Lib Dem drum  for outright legalisation?

That, sadly, is my bet.

Source:  http://conservativewoman.co.uk/    17th Feb.2015

To go or not to go? That is the question when invited to take part in supposedly objective drugs conferences and television investigations, behind which  looms the constant presence of one Sir Richard Branson.

Two seemingly flattering invitations to drugs policy events came my way this month. The first was to be invited to a Home Affairs Select Committee event at the University of Cambridge’s Homerton College on March 12th.  At first sight, it felt a welcome recognition of my longstanding work in the field of drug addiction, and of my new recovery solutions service (DB Recovery Resources). Moreover, it seemed like an opportunity to guide and inform public opinion – even as far as the United Nations.

But I was torn for days on whether to accept or not. Finally, I regretfully declined. Why?

The Home Affairs Select Committee’s invitation was entitled “The International Conference on Drugs Policy” and its findings at the end of the day were to be fed into the influential UNGASS, the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session on world drug problems in 2016. Tempting. But a closer look raised concerns.

What exactly was a Parliamentary select committee doing hosting a drugs policy conference? Why had they chosen deputy prime minister Nick Clegg who, at the time of my invitation, was scheduled to chair it? He is a recognised proponent of drugs legalisation, going so far as to include it in his election pledge.  So I was aware of the agenda and bias of the conference before I was invited.  The list of speakers spoke for itself. Every single speaker bar one  – Sarah Graham, an addiction therapist – turned out to be  a high-profile legalisation campaigner, several from organisations funded by the convicted insider trader and fomenter  George Soros.

Only after I had publicised the biased agenda on my daily newsletter did HASC kindly invited me to attend. They also at the same time added a second ‘non-legalisation’ speaker to their invite list: Professor Neil McKeganey. But I could see it was still skewed. We would be the minority underdog against high-profile and well-funded legalisation campaigners, like Dr Julian Huppert MP, Baroness Molly Meacher, Roberto Dondisch from Mexico, Danny Kushlick of Transform, Professor David Nutt, who famously said taking ecstasy was less risky than horse riding, former policeman and cannabis activist Tom Lloyd, and last but not least Mike Trace, who was forced to resign his UN role when the Daily Mail revealed him to be the driving force behind an effort to disband the world’s anti-drug laws by stealth.

What chance would I have to support my colleagues?

Would this be like National Treatment Agency meetings I had attended too many times in the past (before it was abolished)  where vested-interest findings and recommendations were written before the meeting and then presented as an impartial consensus of all those present – and absent? Would it be like the self-styled United Kingdom Drug Policy Commission meetings (before it closed) which exploited the names of attendees as supporting its predetermined ‘consensus agreement’, when in reality there was a dearth of support?

Was I confident that any anti-legalisation points would be included in the final report to UNGASS? That I sadly declined the invitation gives you the answer.   No.

The worry is now that UNGASS may believe this Home Affairs Select Committee report, that UK taxpayers are unwittingly funding, to be impartial.  Better to blog, I thought, and hopefully open their eyes to the truth.

The second ‘flattering’  invitation was to appear on Channel 4’s Cannabis Live programme on 3 March. Although warned in advance about its inherent bias – it was funded by both C4 and Soros-supported organisations, and known legalisation proponents were booked as its speakers – I decided to accept in the hope I would be able to capture some airtime for anti-legalisation views. (Declaration: my view is informed by the basic laws of supply and demand: increased availability leads to increased consumption. In addition there is, to my very real knowledge, so much disinformation about pot in the public domain that few people can make an informed choice).

It was the right decision; although it was questionable whether there was a need for a programme experimenting ‘live’ with substances that are already known to have significant and very negative side effects. It was also worrying that Professor Nutt was  an “independent” scientific expert on it, given his obsession with cannabis legalisation and his well known insistence that it is less harmful than alcohol.

A plus turned out to be Jon Snow’s and Andrew Marr’s very negative experiences when skunk was tested on them. Perhaps that’s why presenter Snow carefully inched my neighbour off his seat to interview me, allowing time for me to make some pivotal points.  These were particularly in response to Branson’s call for regulation [legalisation] of cannabis as a solution to the world’s drug problems. I pointed out  that tobacco is regulated yet kills  more people than any other drug in the world;   that alcohol, benzos and methadone are all regulated but follow tobacco in killing more people each than illicit drugs.

I also pointed out that the first paper linking cannabis and psychosis was published 170 years ago –  in 1845  – so this is not new. All my points were transmitted unedited.

A number of ‘silent’ audience members in Narcotics Anonymous introduced themselves and thanked me as we were leaving the studio.  It reminded  me of  US drug czar Michael Botticelli’s recent comment: “I do wish the recovery community was much more involved in anti-legalisation efforts.

However the trouble with Cannabis Live – posing as science when it was exhibitionist entertainment, as one distinguished former Professor of pharmacology commented to me afterwards  – is that it provided a launchpad for the differences between “beneficent” hash and “nightmarish” skunk to be exploited by the legalisation lobbyists. Their hidden agenda.

It was worrying that the programme ignored the harms from hash (as opposed to skunk) : yet these include the risk of psychosis, behavioural changes, lack of motivation, lowering of IQ, lung cancer, mouth cancer, motor crashes, lowering of fertility (a mixed blessing) – and the fact that pregnant women using hash can give birth to addicted babies with a range of mental-health problems and medical problems, including leukaemia.

At a press conference the next day, billionaire legalisation campaigner Branson was still calling for regulation (legalisation of cannabis) as a solution despite all the downsides he’d witnessed at Cannabis Live. Of course he did not mention that tobacco is regulated and it kills more people than any other drug in the world, for the simple reason that it is the most widely used drug in the world.

In his cloud cuckoo land, the 80 per cent of cannabis users who use skunk would downgrade to the milder version if they were both legal. I don’t think so. It’s against human nature.

Finally, it was left to David Nutt to round up the programme – with his extraordinary recommendation that skunk should remain low in the index of drug harms, in cannabis’s current place, while hash should plummet to the lowest ranking. Maybe he was too close to the skunk factory set up beside his artificial brain in the studio.

Had anyone in the audience changed their mind about being pro- or anti-legalisation, asked Snow at the end of the programme? Not one hand went up. I leave you to decide whether this infotainment fulfilled Channel 4’s mission to “keep public service values to the fore”.

Source:   www.the Conservative Woman.co.uk    7th March 2015

Can you put two and two together? Have a try. The authorities, and most of the media, cannot.

Did you know that the Copenhagen killer, Omar El-Hussein, had twice been arrested (and twice let off) for cannabis possession? Probably not.

It was reported in Denmark but not prominently mentioned amid the usual swirling speculation about ‘links’ between El-Hussein and ‘Islamic State’, for which there is no evidence at all.

El-Hussein, a promising school student, mysteriously became so violent and ill- tempered that his own gang of petty criminals, The Brothers, actually expelled him. Something similar happened in the lives of Lee Rigby’s killers, who underwent violent personality changes in their teens after becoming cannabis users.

The recent Paris killers were also known users of cannabis. So were the chaotic drifters who killed soldiers in Canada last year. So is the chief suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013.

I might add that though these are all Muslims, who for rather obvious reasons are to be found among the marginalised in Europe and North America, it is not confined to them.

Jared Loughner, who killed six people and severely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011, was also a confirmed heavy cannabis user. When I searched newspaper archives for instances of violent crimes in this country in which culprits were said to be cannabis users, I found many.

One notable example was the pointless killing of Sheffield church organist Alan Greaves, randomly beaten to death by two laughing youths on Christmas Eve 2012. Both were cannabis smokers.

By itself, the link is interesting. I wonder how many other violent criminals would turn out to be heavy cannabis users, if only anyone ever asked. But put it together with The Mail on Sunday’s exclusive story last week, showing a strong link between cannabis use and episodes of mental illness.

And then combine it with the confessions of two prominent British Left-wing figures, the former Tory MP and BBC favourite Matthew Parris, and Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, who both tried ‘skunk’ cannabis (by far the most commonly available type in the Western world) for a TV documentary.

Mr Parris wrote: ‘The effect was stunning – and not (for me) in a good way. Short-term memory went walkabout. I would forget what I was talking about even while talking. I became shaky. Time went haywire.’

But immediate effects are one thing. What about long-term use? Mr Parris recounted that he had ‘too many friends’ for whom cannabis had seemed destructive. He quoted one as saying: ‘I think it changed me permanently as a person.’

He said his mainly socially liberal friends, including health workers, generally agreed that ‘heavy use of cannabis, particularly skunk, can be associated with big changes in behaviour’.

Jon Snow said simply: ‘By the time I was completely stoned, I felt utterly bereft. I felt as if my soul had been wrenched from my body.

‘There was no one in my world. I was frightened, paranoid, and felt physically and mentally wrapped in a dense blanket of fog. I’ve worked in war zones, but I’ve never been as overwhelmingly frightened as I was when I was in the MRI scanner after taking skunk. I would never do it again.’

This is not some mild ‘soft’ thing. It is a potent, frightening mindbender. If it does this to men in late middle age who are educated, prosperous, successful and self-disciplined, what do you think it is doing to all those 13-year-olds who – thanks to its virtual decriminalisation – can buy it at a school near you, while the police do nothing?

And yet it is still fashionable in our elite to believe that cannabis should be even easier to get than it already is.

It is hard to think of a social evil so urgently in need of action to curb it. Why is nothing done? Need you ask?

 Source: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2015/02

The last time Derrick Bergman came to Amsterdam to buy cannabis, he did so behind a locked door with a long, thick curtain obscuring his activity from the canal-lined residential street outside, in the quiet Lastage neighborhood. The secretary of the Netherlands’s Union for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition, Bergman comes here to weekly gatherings of a two-month-old—and seriously clandestine—“cannabis social club” called the Tree of Life, because it’s the only place in town he can find one of his favorite strains: Super Silver Haze.

Since 1976, authorities across the Netherlands have chosen to openly ignore that cannabis use is illegal here, and they prosecute no one in possession of less than five grams of marijuana for personal use. The policy, called gedoogbeleid, is known as the “Dutch model,” and it’s why hundreds of “coffee shops” sprung up across Amsterdam and the Netherlands, luring marijuana connoisseurs from across the globe to one of the few places they could roll and smoke a joint without fear. But that’s no longer the case.

Cannabis with more than 15 percent of the THC that makes it intoxicating is now under consideration to be reclassified as one of the “hard drugs” that come with stiff penalties. The government has also forced coffee shops where marijuana is sold to choose between alcohol and pot, prompting many to choose the former. Amsterdam once played host to nearly 300 coffee shops, of more than 1,000 scattered across the country. There are now fewer than 200 in the city and only 617 nationwide. While it’s always been illegal to grow marijuana in the Netherlands, authorities passively allow coffee shops to sell weed, often pretending not to know where the shops’ cannabis comes from.

But no longer. New laws target even the smallest of marijuana growers in Holland. In the past, people could grow up to five plants without fear of retribution. In 2011, the government issued new police guidelines and declared anyone who grew with electric lights, prepared soil, “selected” seeds or ventilation would be considered “professional.” It’s a significant change, as professional growers risk major penalties, including eviction and blacklisting from the government-provided housing in which more than half of the country’s citizens reside.

The result: Coffee shops are increasingly buying buds from criminal organizations willing to absorb the risk of prosecution by growing large amounts of cannabis in shipping containers buried underground, with little regard for quality or mold abatement. “It’s amazing how bad the quality has become,” says Bergman. “And the price is up. It’s what we’ve all predicted.”

That’s why Bergman travelled from his native Eindhoven to Amsterdam on a recent Monday, both to convene with other activists and to pick up five grams (the legal limit) of Super Silver Haze. Because the club is not-for-profit, its members can focus their efforts on finding and buying the best product and providing it to their members at much better prices than the coffee shops.  

Modelled after a proliferation of similar establishments in Spain, the social clubs offer a new way to subvert the harsher laws. As in Holland, cannabis is illegal in Spain, but the government doesn’t prosecute anyone for personal consumption and there’s no implicit limit on the number of plants a person can grow, meaning the government doesn’t care if you grow one plant or 15. In fact, signs point to the government not caring at all. Barcelona is developing a reputation as “the new Amsterdam,” meaning the old Amsterdam is losing out on a significant source of revenue: drug tourists.

Inside an Amsterdam coffee shop called The Rookies, 22-year-old John Bell rolls a spliff of tobacco and a strain called Dutch Kashmir, which Bell can’t find in his native Liverpool. Bell has been to Amsterdam 11 times in the past three years, not because it’s hard to find weed in the U.K., but because the quality here is better. He wouldn’t visit the city at all if not for these coffee shops and Amsterdam’s quasi-legal cannabis, adding: “It’s too expensive to drink here, for a proper night out.”

Such drug tourists represent a major element of the city’s economy. The union of coffee shops in Maastricht commissioned research in 2008 that found foreign visitors to the city’s coffee shops spent money in other businesses there as well: €140 million (approximately $170 million) annually. It’s a significant number and one of the reasons government officials in Amsterdam have fought to keep the coffee shops from going out of business.

About a third of all visitors to Amsterdam step into one of its coffee shops at some point; nationally, the number is one in five. Banning such visitors would hit tourism revenues hard, chasing off travellers who tend to be well-behaved. “If you’re really a deadbeat hippie punk, a no-money kind of guy, how are you going to afford a ticket to Amsterdam?” Bergman says.

Cities such as Maastricht, on the other hand, have banned foreigners from coffee shops since 2005. The result, insists Bergman and other critics, is a proliferation of street dealers. People still come from neighboring countries to score marijuana, but now they stock up and head back home in a day, instead of spending any time in local hotels and restaurants.

How did Holland get here? Some trace the backlash to 9/11. The world’s global panic about terrorism in the wake of the attacks on New York City and Washington led to a surge in the power of conservative political parties in places as far away as the Netherlands. Ever since Holland’s People’s Party for Liberty and Democracy began to consolidate influence here, its leaders have pushed for zero tolerance drug laws. “Our last prime minister [Jan Peter Balkenende] believed in his heart that weed comes from Satan,” says Mila Jansen, a legendary figure in Amsterdam, who once invented a way to make hash in a washing machine.

Other factors influencing the government crackdown are pressure from outside nations, especially France, which has pushed the International Narcotics Control board to sanction Holland for violating international treaties on drug laws with its permissive pot policy. Ironic, argues Bergman, because the rate of marijuana use is twice as high in France as it is in the Netherlands, and Holland has one of the lowest number of drug-related deaths in Europe.   

“Hard drugs are still illegal in Holland, but we also see that there are still many people who want to try drugs on occasion,” said the city’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, in a statement provided to Newsweek. “This is a reality we cannot ignore. And this is one of the key principles to our country’s drug policies: Drug use is first and foremost an issue of public health. By not focusing on the criminal aspects of drug use, as is the case in many other countries, we can be more effective when it comes to informing the public, testing drugs and prevention.”

Unfortunately, van der Laan’s federal counterparts don’t agree. They also don’t see that prohibition amounts to little more than, as they say here, “mopping with the tap on.”

Now, activists like Bergman are trying to convince Holland to consider the American model—the legalization and regulation of all components of marijuana cultivation and sale. Citing Oregon’s law, which allows residents to grow as many as four plants, Bergman says: “I’m sort of jealous.”

That’s because America seems to be learning from Holland’s mistakes. Holland’s passive-aggressive policy doesn’t stop illicit activity or drug tourism or make anyone safer, say activists: It actually has the reverse effect. Quasi-legalization leaves too many entry points for criminals to line their own pockets from the drug trade. State by state, the U.S. is legalizing pot with initiatives that clearly spell out who is allowed to manufacture, distribute and consume it. That’s the key to a successful policy, and it’s one Dutch activists are now working to implement in their own country, before things swing too far the other way.

This article appears in the latest Newsweek Special Edition, “Weed Nation: Is America Ready For a Legalized Future?” by Executive Editor Jeff Ashworth of Topix Media Lab.

 Source: http://www.newsweek.com/marijuana-and-old-amsterdam- 22nd Feb.2015

This is outrageous, but consistent with what is happening in other medi-pot states. Increased access and reduced perception of harm results in more abuse. So called ‘Medical marijuana’ was always about opening the floodgates to legal availability of the substance and this news item shows what is happening in many areas of the US.

Investigation Reveals Medical Marijuana Is Getting Into School Kids’ Hands

In a CBS2 News exclusive, Investigative Reporter David Goldstein uncovers medical marijuana being sold to school-aged kids in broad daylight, within walking distance of local schools. He reported the city was quick to act when he brought his disturbing findings to officials. Goldstein recorded many instances of adults buying the marijuana and quickly turning around and re-selling it to the underage kids. The students were shown, many times, smoking the pot minutes after leaving their schools. The student’s faces were covered because most appeared to be under 18 — the legal age for receiving doctor’s approval to buy medical marijuana without a parents’ consent. So exactly how did these kids get their hands on it?

Our hidden cameras caught the students paying someone else to get it for them — like this one man who didn’t want his face shown on TV. On most afternoons, residents of the area say kids like these gather on Barton Avenue, near Western in Hollywood. On a map, it’s easy to see the area is walking distance to several schools. With their sneakers, skateboards and backpacks, it looks like any afterschool meeting place. Until you see what’s taking place on the corner — Natural Remedies Caregivers, a marijuana dispensary. Goldstein reports, “we saw plenty of activity.”

In one instance, a group of young women is shown handing a man on a skateboard some money. He gets on the skateboard, then walks into the store. A few minutes later, he comes out carrying a white bag. He passes out what looks like pill jars to the girls on the street The jars are similar to one Goldstein found in the bushes near the dispensary. They’re used as containers for the pot. It says right on the label, “Not for children — Keep out of reach.”

But that didn’t seem to stop the seller or the buyers. The girls are shown opening up the jars and smelling their newly-purchased medical marijuana. Goldstein and his producer also observed a customer leaving the dispensary two times in one afternoon to hand off the contents inside his white bags.

The man is shown delivering the jars to two kids on the street — then he just crumples up the bag and throws it over his head. One teen is still holding his school notebook under his arm when he is shown tossing a jar to his friend who takes a whiff to check it out. On another occasion, Goldstein saw two teens buying and selling what appears to be medical marijuana — exchanged openly in broad daylight. On another day, our cameras caught a group of teens collect their money. Their connection comes up to grab it. He goes into the dispensary and comes out with the tell-tale white bag. He distributes the contents to his teenaged customers.

Goldstein then confronts the man. “You just went into the dispensary and bought pot for these guys, didn’t you?” he asks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man replies.Goldstein tries again. “We just saw you go in there and you bought pot for these guys.” This time the man hit our camera and also made an obscene gesture.

The teens also had nothing to say. “How old are you?” he asked several.

Goldstein then asked to speak to a manager at the dispensary. He was told the manager “wasn’t around” and that a security guard hired by the store to police the area said he didn’t see anything going on. “You are the security guard, you don’t see these people coming in here and then selling to kids right around the corner?,” Goldstein asks, “and you don’t see anything, right?” The guard closed the door.

Residents said they see it and complained to police and nothing was done. “Well, it’s very frustrating,” said resident Dazzier Jimenez, “because you know, we have kids around the area, so they see that. It’s a bad example for our youth.”

Goldstein asked City Attorney Mike Feuer why this dispensary was allowed to remain open. His office oversees LA’s Prop D marijuana law. He said the dispensary complies with all the written requirements, as far as being a safe distance from schools and parks. After we told him what was going on, authorities acted.

I can report that because you provided us with that location,” Feuer said, “the police conducted an investigation at the site and last evening they arrested an individual, an adult for allegedly selling medical marijuana to a minor just outside the facility.”

The manager of the dispensary also emailed Goldstein. “We are doing everything in our power to stop the illegal patient solicitations outside of the building and to also stop second-hand transactions from happening,” the manager wrote. Residents wonder why it took so long. “Why are there now arrests when there haven’t been any in the past?,” said Jimenez. “Quite frankly,” says LAPD Commander Andrew Smith,  “it was not a big problem location. It was not known to us as a problem location.”

Police and prosecutors told Goldstein that after seeing CBS2’s undercover video, they are now cracking down.

Source: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2015/02/25/only-on-2-investigation-reveals-medical-marijuana-is-getting-into-school-kids-hands/February 25, 2015 10:45 PM

Filed under: Social Affairs,USA :

A study on the perceived risk of regularly using cannabis and the characteristics associated with these perceptions found that non-white, low-income women over the age of 50 were most likely to perceive a risk in using the drug. Least likely were those 12 to 25 years old, with a high school diploma or more, and a total family income above $75,000. The study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health with colleagues at Johns Hopkins University is the first to describe changes across time in perceived risk of regular cannabis use in the U.S. population 12 years and older. Results are published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Data from 614,579 individuals who took part in the 2002-2012 National Survey on Drug Use showed that past-year daily cannabis use has increased significantly between 2002 and 2012. The results also show that in 2002 participants were significantly more likely to associate risk with regular cannabis use compared to individuals interviewed in the years 2008 through 2012. In 2002, 51 percent of all survey participants believed there was a great risk associated with regular cannabis use versus 40 percent of participants in 2012. Findings were adjusted for sex, age, race/ethnicity, education, total family income, past year cannabis use status, and survey year. Regular use of marijuana was defined as once or twice a week.

“The changing perception about marijuana risk may at least partially be explained by the increasing number of states that legalized medical marijuana during 2008 and after,” said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Females were nearly two times more likely to perceive risk in regular marijuana use compared with males, yet the perceived risk among women decreased from 59 percent in 2002 to 47 percent in 2012. The number of female users remained stable in 2012 compared to 2002, however the number of female regular users slightly increased in the same time period.

Non-daily cannabis use in the past year varied between 2002 and 2012, but did not change dramatically when comparing the years 2002 and 2012 directly (9.7 percent vs. 10.2 percent, respectively).

Users in the past year were less likely to perceive a risk from regular cannabis use. Daily users were 96 percent less likely than non-users, and non-daily users were 89 percent less likely than past year non-users to have this perception.

“The sex differences in perceived risk of regular cannabis use observed in our study are consistent with reports from others showing male-female differences in perceived risk of substance use in general,” said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. “In addition, interestingly, individuals with a high school education or greater were significantly less likely to perceive great risk of regular cannabis use than those with less than a high school education, findings partially corroborated by results from Gallup polls indicating that adults with a college education compared to those without are more likely to support legalization of cannabis.”

Regular cannabis use has been associated with financial difficulties, low energy levels, dissatisfaction with productivity levels, sleep and memory issues, and relationship and family problems. Most individuals receiving treatment for cannabis use disorder — defined as clinically significant impairment — report difficulty quitting, and experience a withdrawal syndrome after cessation.

“Perceived risk is an important factor in deciding whether or not individuals will engage in health-related behaviors, such as cigarette smoking or binge drinking, for example,,” said Dr. Martins. “Continually evolving regulations in the U.S. have the potential to impact perceived risk of cannabis use, which may influence individuals’ decisions to first try or use cannabis.”

A 2012 Mailman School study led by Dr. Magdalena Cerda showed that adults living in states with medical cannabis laws until 2004 had higher odds of cannabis use than residents of states without such laws. Prior to 2008, 11 states had legalized medical marijuana; today, an additional 12 states and Washington D.C. passed legislation regarding medical marijuana.

Source:   ScienceDaily, 25 February 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150225094420.htm>

As social acceptance and public policy around marijuana shift, and especially if legalized recreational use becomes more widespread, we will need to consider the influence and potential regulation of its marketing.  For this, we should use what we already know from the science to guide our decisions and policies to minimize harm, because inevitably, advertising is going to reach children and adolescents, people who are addicted to marijuana, and those of all ages who are on their way to becoming addicted.

Ads for addictive substances—including tobacco and alcohol and fattening foods—have the obvious intent of generating new customers as well as enticing current users to use more, but that’s not all they do. Marketers know that by associating such products with other pleasurable stimuli and situations, ads contribute to reinforcing those positive associations in the brains of users, and thus contribute to the process of developing an addiction. 

Drug addiction is a disease of learning—learning to associate drugs with positive feelings and to associate cues that signal drug availability with similar feelings, ultimately leading to craving for the drug.  This part of the addictive progression is known as conditioning, discovered in the 1890s by Pavlov. Today we also understand the brain mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon: Once a person becomes conditioned to drug-related stimuli, those stimuli independently become associated with increases in dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway (i.e., without the drug even being present). These dopamine bursts fuel drug-seeking and craving. The same process can cause such stimuli to act as triggers contributing to relapse in those who are already addicted and are struggling to recover.

When there are salient advertisements for a product, it’s very hard to contain them, because images don’t even need to reach the level of conscious awareness to stimulate the urge to use that product. Recent neuroimaging research has confirmed the brain’s extraordinary sensitivity to “unseen” rewarding stimuli: A 2008 fMRI study by Anna Rose Childress and colleagues confirmed that limbic circuitry respond to drug (as well as sexual) reward cues that are too fleeting to be consciously registered. Also, because of the reach of the Internet, it will be hard to restrict exposure to marijuana advertising just to people in states where it is legal, or just to people old enough to purchase it.

For decades we have seen the harmful effects that alcohol and tobacco ads can have, especially those that target young people; similar associations have been found between exposure to food advertising and obesity. The relative harm of marijuana compared to other legal drugs remains hotly contested, but its potential addictiveness—especially to young people—is undisputed. Thus, it is crucial that states consider the lessons learned from tobacco and alcohol policy research and restrict (or preclude) marijuana advertising to reduce as much as possible the development of newly addicted individuals and avoid inducing relapse in people who are already addicted.

Source: www.drugabuse.gov October 23, 2014

Because when it comes to weed, our vision may have gotten more than a little cloudy.

The author, Patrick J. Kennedy, is a former United States congressman from the state of Rhode Island.

There has been a lot of talk recently about marijuana legalization — increasing tax revenue for states, getting nonviolent offenders out of the prison system, protecting personal liberty, and the benefits for those with severe illnesses. These are good and important conversations to have, and smart people from across the ideological spectrum are sharing their perspectives. But one key dimension of the issue has been left out of the discussion until now: the marketing machine that will spring up to support these now-legal businesses, and the detrimental effect this will have on our kids.

Curious how this might work? Look no further than Big Tobacco. In 1999, the year after a massive legal settlement that restricted certain forms of advertising, the major cigarette companies spent a record $8.4 billion on marketing. In 2011, that number reached $8.8 billion, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. To put it into context, the auto industry spent less than half of that on advertising in 2011, and car ads are everywhere.

Why do we think the legal marijuana industry will behave differently from Big Tobacco?

At the same time, despite advertising bans, these notoriously sneaky tobacco companies continue to find creative ways to target kids. Data from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the most heavily marketed brands of cigarettes were also the most popular among people under 18. This is not a coincidence, and gets to the very core of Big Tobacco’s approach: Hook them young, and they have a customer for life.

Why do we think the legal marijuana industry will behave differently from Big Tobacco? When the goal is addiction, all bets are off. In Colorado, where there are new rules governing how legal marijuana is advertised in traditional media, there are still many opportunities to market online and at concerts, festivals and other venues where kids will be present. Joe Camel might be retired, but he’s been replaced by other gimmicks to get kids hooked — like snus and flavored cigarettes. The marijuana industry is following suit by manufacturing THC candies, cookies, lollipops and other edibles that look harmless but aren’t. Making marijuana mainstream will also make it more available, more acceptable and more dangerous to our kids.