Europe

A new study provides credible evidence that marijuana legalization will lead to decreased academic success. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

The most rigorous study yet of the effects of marijuana legalization has identified a disturbing result: College students with access to recreational cannabis on average earn worse grades and fail classes at a higher rate. Economists Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz took advantage of a decision by Maastricht, a city in the Netherlands, to change the rules for “cannabis cafes,” which legally sell recreational marijuana. Because Maastricht is very close to the border of multiple European countries (Belgium, France and Germany), drug tourism was posing difficulties for the city. Hoping to address this, the city barred noncitizens of the Netherlands from buying from the cafes.

This policy change created an intriguing natural experiment at Maastricht University, because students there from neighboring countries suddenly were unable to access legal pot, while students from the Netherlands continued.

The research on more than 4,000 students, published in the Review of Economic Studies, found that those who lost access to legal marijuana showed substantial improvement in their grades. Specifically, those banned from cannabis cafes had a more than 5 percent increase in their odds of passing their courses. Low performing students benefited even more, which the researchers noted is particularly important because these students are at high-risk of dropping out. The researchers attribute their results to the students who were denied legal access to marijuana being less likely to use it and to suffer cognitive impairments (e.g., in concentration and memory) as a result.

Other studies have tried to estimate the impact of marijuana legalization by studying those U.S. states that legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana. But marijuana policy researcher Rosalie Pacula of RAND Corporation noted that the Maastricht study provide evidence that “is much better than anything done so far in the United States.”

States differ in countless ways that are hard for researchers to adjust for in their data analysis, but the Maastricht study examined similar people in the same location — some of them even side by side in the same classrooms — making it easier to isolate the effect of marijuana legalization. Also, Pacula pointed out that since voters in U.S. states are the ones who approve marijuana legalization, it creates a chicken and egg problem for researchers (i.e. does legalization make people smoke more pot, or do pot smokers tend to vote for legalization?). This methodological problem was resolved in the Maastricht study because the marijuana policy change was imposed without input from those whom it affected.

Although this is the strongest study to date on how people are affected by marijuana legalization, no research can ultimately tell us whether legalization is a good or bad decision: That’s a political question and not a scientific one. But what the Maastricht study can do is provides highly credible evidence that marijuana legalization will lead to decreased academic success — perhaps particularly so for struggling students — and that is a concern that both proponents and opponents of legalization should keep in mind.

Source:https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/25/these-       college-students-lost-access-to-legal-pot-and-started-getting-better-grades/?   

ABSTRACT

PURPOSE:

Nationwide data have been lacking on drug abuse (DA)-associated mortality. We do not know the degree to which this excess mortality results from the characteristics of drug-abusing individuals or from the effects of DA itself.

METHOD:

DA was assessed from medical, criminal, and prescribed drug registries. Relative pairs discordant for DA were obtained from the Multi-Generation and Twin Registers. Mortality was obtained from the Swedish Mortality registry.

RESULTS:

We examined all individuals born in Sweden 1955-1980 (n = 2,696,253), 75,061 of whom developed DA. The mortality hazard ratio (mHR) (95% CIs) for DA was 11.36 (95% CIs, 11.07-11.66), substantially higher in non-medical (18.15, 17.51-18.82) than medical causes (8.05, 7.77-8.35) and stronger in women (12.13, 11.52-12.77) than in men (11.14, 10.82-11.47). Comorbid smoking and alcohol use disorder explained only a small proportion of the excess DA-associated mortality.

Co-relative analyses demonstrated substantial familial confounding in the DA-mortality association with the strongest direct effects seen in middle and late-middle ages. The mHR was highest for opiate abusers (24.57, 23.46-25.73), followed by sedatives (14.19, 13.11-15.36), cocaine/stimulants (12.01, 11.36-12.69), and cannabis (10.93, 9.94-12.03).

CONCLUSION:

The association between registry-ascertained DA and premature mortality is very strong and results from both non-medical and medical causes. This excess mortality arises both indirectly-from characteristics of drug-abusing persons-and directly from the effects of DA. Excess mortality of opiate abuse was substantially higher than that observed for all other drug classes. These results have implications for interventions seeking to reduce the large burden of DA-associated premature mortality.

Source:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28550519   May 2017

Highlights

· •Cannabidiol appears often in Norwegian THC-positive blood samples.

· •Cannabidiol does not appear to protect against THC-induced impairment.

· •Cannabidiol may be detected in blood for more than 2 h after cannabis intake.

· •Hashish has revealed far lower THC/cannabidiol ratios than marijuana in Norway.

Abstract

Background and aims

Several publications have suggested increasing cannabis potency over the last decade, which, together with lower amounts of cannabidiol (CBD), could contribute to an increase in adverse effects after cannabis smoking. Naturalistic studies on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD in blood samples are, however, missing. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between THC- and CBD concentrations in blood samples among cannabis users, and to compare cannabinoid concentrations with the outcome of a clinical test of impairment (CTI) and between traffic accidents and non-accident driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)-cases. Assessment of THC- and CBD contents in cannabis seizures was also included.

Methods

THC- and CBD concentrations in blood samples from subjects apprehended in Norway from April 2013–April 2015 were included (n = 6134). A CTI result was compared with analytical findings in cases where only THC and/or CBD were detected (n = 705). THC- and CBD content was measured in 41 cannabis seizures.

Results

Among THC-positive blood samples, 76% also tested positive for CBD. There was a strong correlation between THC- and CBD concentrations in blood samples (Pearson’s r = 0.714, p < 0.0005). Subjects judged as impaired by a CTI had significantly higher THC- (p < 0.001) and CBD (p = 0.008) concentrations compared with not impaired subjects, but after multivariate analyses, impairment could only be related to THC concentration (p = 0.004). Analyzing seizures revealed THC/CBD ratios of 2:1 for hashish and 200:1 for marijuana.

Conclusions

More than ¾ of the blood samples testing positive for THC, among subjects apprehended in Norway, also tested positive for CBD, suggesting frequent consumption of high CBD cannabis products. The simultaneous presence of CBD in blood does, however, not appear to affect THC-induced impairment on a CTI. Seizure sample analysis did not reveal high potency cannabis products, and while CBD content appeared high in hashish, it was almost absent in marijuana.

Source:  http://www.fsijournal.org/article/  July 2017 Volume 276, Pages 12–17

Highlights

* •The THC content in French cannabis resin has risen continuously for the last 25 years.

* •The emergence of a new high potency cannabis resin in France is shown by the monitoring of THC content and THC/CBD ratio.

* •The THC content in French herbal cannabis has known three stages of growth for the last 25 years.

* •The rise of potency and freshness of French herbal cannabis may be correlated to the increase of domestic production.

Abstract

Cannabis contains a unique class of compounds known as the cannabinoids. Pharmacologically, the principal psychoactive constituent is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC in conjunction with selected additional cannabinoid compounds (cannabidiol/CBD, cannabinol/CBN), determines the strength or potency of the cannabis product. Recently, reports have speculated over the change in the quality of cannabis products, from nearly a decade, specifically concerning the increase in cannabinoid content. This article exploits the analytical data of cannabis samples analyzed in the five French forensic police laboratories over 25 years. The increase potency of both herbal and resin cannabis in France is proved through the monitoring of THC content.

For cannabis resin, it has slowly risen from 1992 to 2009, before a considerable increase in the last four years (mean THC content in mid-2016 is 23% compared to 10% in 2009). For herbal cannabis, it has known three main stages of growth (mean THC content is 13% in 2015 and mid-2016 compared to 7% in 2009 and 2% in 1995). The calculation of THC/CBD ratios in both herbal and resin samples confirms the recent change in chemotypes in favor of high potency categories. Finally, the CBN/THC ratios in marijuana samples were measured in order to evaluate the freshness of French seized hemp.

Source: source: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2017.01.007 March 2017Volume 272, Pages 72–80 

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Europe :

Australia21 and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) have been telling politicians and the media of the ‘success’ of Portugal’s decriminalisation of all drugs.[i],[ii]  Their claim is that decriminalisation will not increase drug use. But here is what is really happening in Portugal.

Implemented in 2001, drug use in Portugal is reported, as with every other country in the European Union according to the requirements of the REITOX reporting network controlled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.[iii]These reports are readily available on the worldwide web and are referenced below.

According to the first 2007 national survey in Portugal after decriminalisation, Portugal’s overall drug use rose, with a small rise in cannabis use but a doubling of cocaine and of speed and ice use as well for those aged 15-64.[iv] For those under the age of 34, use of speed and ice quadrupled. Admirably, heroin use decreased from the highest level in the developed world at 0.9% in 1998 to 0.46% by 2005, however much of these decreases already predated decriminalisation, moving to 0.7% by 2000, the year before decriminalisation.[v] It is important to note that use of all other illicit drugs in Portugal, other than heroin, had been well below European averages before decriminalisation.[vi]

In the second Portuguese national survey in 2012 overall drug use decreased 21% below 2001 levels for those aged 15-64. This is what prompts the campaign by Australia21 and NDARC. What they fail to mention is that the decreases are not as significant as for various other European nations at that same time.[vii]

Italy – Opiates                    0.8% (2005)                         0.48% (2011)

Spain – Opiates                  0.6% (2000)                         0.29% (2012)

Switzerland – Opiates     0.61% (2000)                      0.1% (2011)

Italy – Cocaine                    1.1% (2001)                         0.6% (2012)

Italy – Speed/Ice               0.4% (2005)                         0.09% (2012)

Austria – Speed/Ice         0.8% (2004)                         0.5% (2012)

They also fail to mention the alarming 36% rise in drug use by high-school-age children 16-18 years old from 2001 to 2011, accompanied by a smaller rise in drug use by 13-15 year olds off 2001 levels.[viii]

By comparison Australia’s Tough on Drugs policy, without decriminalisation of all drugs running interference as in Portugal, decreased overall drug use from 1998 to 2007 by 39%.[ix]

Decriminalisation has not worked for Portugal, whereas Tough on Drugs, which maintained criminal penalties as a deterrent to drug use, did.

We encourage all Australian Parliamentarians to check each of the references cited below, and also see Drug Free Australia’s evidence in ‘Why Australia Should Not Decriminalise Drugs’ indicating that drug use normatively increases after decriminalisation, whether in Australia or overseas at:   http://drugfree.org.au/images/13Books-FP/pdf/Decriminalisation.pdf.

Source:  Gary Christian , Secretary Drug Free Australia  Feb.2017

[i] https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/ndarc/resources/Decriminalisation%20briefing%20note%20Feb%202016%20FINAL.pdf

[ii] https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/ndarc/resources/Australia21%20background%20paper%20July%202012.pdf

[iii] http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/695/EMCDDA_brochure_ReitoxFAQs_EN_326619.pdf

[iv] See REITOX report 2014 graphs (p 36) comparing surveys of drug use in the previous 12 months in 2001, 2007 and 2012  http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/996/2014_NATIONAL_REPORT.pdf

[v] See World Drug Report  2004 http://www.unodc.org/pdf/WDR_2004/Chap6_drug_abuse.pdf

[vi] See United Nations’ World Drug Report 2004 tables for drug consumption pp 389-401 http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR-2004.html

[vii] Figures below are taken from United Nations’ World Drug Report drug consumption tables from various years from 2000 through 2013 https://www.unodc.org/wdr2016/en/previous-reports.html

[viii] Compare Portugal’s REITOX National Report 2008 for school age children’s use in the last month (p 23) http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/522/NR_2008_PT_168550.pdf with 2014 (p 37)  http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/996/2014_NATIONAL_REPORT.pdf

[ix] See Table 2.1 (p 8) –  ‘Any illicit’ comparing 1998 with2007 http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737421139&libID=10737421138

Germany’s lower house of parliament has passed a law legalising the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

People with serious illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain, or a lack of appetite or nausea, could be offered marijuana under the law.  Patients will only have the right to be treated with cannabis “in very limited exceptional cases” and they will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis, according to the bill.

The health minister, Hermann Gröhe, said: “Those who are severely ill need to get the best possible treatment and that includes health insurance funds paying for cannabis as a medicine for those who are chronically ill if they can’t be effectively treated any other way.”

A health ministry spokeswoman said cannabis would only be used as a last resort. She said a scientific study would simultaneously be carried out to assess the effects of cannabis use in such cases.  Until now, patients have only been able to access cannabis for medicinal purposes by special authorisation, making the process complicated. Now they will be able to get a prescription from their doctor and a refund for the upfront cost from their health insurance, she said.

The spokeswoman said the law was likely to take effect in March after a procedural reading by the upper house of parliament.  Until state-supervised cannabis plantations are set up in Germany cannabis will be imported.

Other European countries that allow cannabis to be used for medical purposes include Italy and the Czech Republic.

Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/19/german-mps-vote-to-legalise-cannabis-for-medicinal-purposes

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

The number of school-children who have used cannabis has doubled in the European country that decriminalised drugs, according to a major international survey.

Number of pupils taking cannabis doubles under softer drug laws in Portuguese system hailed by Nick Clegg

*  Fifteen per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds in Portugal admitted to use of drug

*  In 1995, when tougher drug laws were in place, it was just 7 per cent

*  Findings led to fresh warnings Britain should not follow decriminalization

Portugal’s liberal policies, which mean those caught with drugs for personal use are no longer treated as criminals, have been hailed by campaigners including former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

Fifteen per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds in Portugal admitted having used the drug in the survey carried out last year.  In 1995, when tougher drug laws were in place, the number of teenagers in the country who had used cannabis was just 7 per cent.

Portugal’s liberal policies, which mean those caught with drugs for personal use are no longer treated as criminals, have been hailed by campaigners including former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, tycoon Sir Richard Branson, and even Home Office civil servants.

But the findings on the Portuguese experiment led to fresh warnings yesterday that Britain should not follow the decriminalisation lead.   In contrast to Portugal, the number of teenagers who use cannabis in Britain – where laws against drug abuse are frequently criticised by reform campaigners – has more than halved over the past 12 years.

Kathy Gyngell, a fellow of the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, said that the Portuguese outcome was entirely predictable.

She added: ‘It is what happens when you remove sanctions. It is a disaster for young people in Portugal, and it would be a disaster for young people in this country if the Portuguese example were ever followed here. ‘Even though our laws against cannabis and other drugs are hardly enforced, removing them would send a highly damaging signal. It would be playing Russian roulette with the lives of young people.’

In Britain, according to government-backed studies, 30 per cent of school pupils between 11 and 15 had tried illegal drugs in 2003. But by 2014 the level was down to 11 per cent of 15-year-olds who had tried cannabis, and 2 per cent any other illegal drug.

The findings on cannabis in Portugal come from the respected European School Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), which carried out a survey last year in 35 European countries. Nearly 3,500 Portuguese schoolchildren took part.

But the findings on the Portuguese experiment led to fresh warnings yesterday that Britain should not follow the decriminalisation lead

Portugal brought in its decriminalisation law in 2001. Instead of being arrested, those caught with drugs for personal use are considered to have a health problem and are required to appear before a committee which considers the best treatment.

In 1999, the number of 15 and 16-year-olds in Portugal who had used cannabis was 9 per cent. According to the ESPAD survey, this rose to 15 per cent in 2003, dropped to 13 per cent in 2007 and, in 2011, rose again to 16 per cent.

The latest finding shows that cannabis use among pupils has remained at around double mid-1990s levels consistently for a dozen years.

In Britain brief experiments with drug liberalisation under Tony Blair’s government led to indicators of rising cannabis use among the young.  However levels appear to have more than halved since 2003, matching falls in smoking and drinking among young people, and, since 2008, record falls in numbers of teen pregnancies.

The increasing number of clean-living teens in Britain has been associated with the rise of social media and the development of a ‘Facebook generation’ more likely to be exchanging messages from their bedrooms than hanging around on the streets.

Portuguese drug policies were praised in a 2014 Home Office report, inspired by Lib Dem Coalition ministers, which said the country had seen ‘improvement in health outcomes for drug users’.

In 2012 the Commons home affairs select committee, then led by recently-disgraced MP Keith Vaz, said it was ‘impressed’ by Portuguese policies and that the country had ‘a model that merits significantly closer consideration’ in this country.

Even last week Mr Clegg was praising the Portuguese example, saying that ‘there have been dramatic reductions in addiction, HIV infections and drug-related deaths. In other words, you don’t need criminal penalties in order to intervene and change people’s drug habits’.

Cannabis has been assessed as increasingly dangerous in recent years as stronger variants of the drug, such as ‘skunk’, have become more widely available. Cannabis use is also increasingly associated with violent crime.

And an inquiry by Manchester University published in May found that nearly a third of the children and young people who commit suicide have been taking illegal drugs.

Source:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3801297/Number-pupils-taking-cannabis-doubles 22.09.16

Latest statistics show 305 admissions were diagnosed as drugs misuse in the year 2011/12 — compared to 97 in 2007/08.

Across NHS Tayside as a whole the number has more than doubled, with an increase from 244 five years ago to 512 last year.  Doctors have warned there is now a “constant background level of recreational drug use” in the region’s Accident and Emergency departments.

A&E consultant Dr Julie Ronald said people come in with drugs-related problems most weekends.  She said: “We deal with a lot of drugs-related admissions. It can be very time consuming — especially if patients cause disruption to the rest of the department.

“It’s something we see most weekends of some variety. The vast majority are brought in by ambulance.  Usually someone has been with the patient or found them and decided they require medical attention.”

Across Tayside, opioids — such as heroin — were the cause for more than 80% of admissions over the period.  Of these, 60 were categorised as resulting from multiple drugs or other less common drugs.

And 468 — more than 90% — were classed as emergency admissions. Also last year, 28 of the admissions were for cannabis-type drugs, nine were for cocaine, eight for sedatives or hypnotics and seven were for other sedatives.

Dr Ronald, who works in the A&E departments at Ninewells Hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary, said there has been a noticeable increase in younger patients for drugs misuse .She said: “There is a constant background level of recreational drug use. We’re always coming into contact with it. We do see heroin misuse. What we have certainly seen is more recreational legal high-type drugs.   A lot of teens and people in the younger age groups are coming in who have taken party drugs, such as bubbles or MCAT.”

Some 89 of the admissions for 2011/12 had to stay in hospital for a week or longer. Dr Ronald said: “A&E look after the vast majority of people coming in with recreational drug misuse. We tend to keep them in for a few hours for observation, or overnight if they need to be monitored for longer.”

Source:  www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk   15th June 2013

Two groups of legal highs that imitate the hallucinogenic effects of LSD and of heroin are to be banned as class A drugs on the recommendation of the government’s drug advisers.

The home secretary, Theresa May, is expected to confirm that AMT, which acts in a similar way to LSD, should be banned along with other chemicals known as tryptamines that have been sold at festivals and in head shops with names including “rockstar” and “green beans”.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said the tryptamine group of chemicals had become widely available in Britain. The experts said four deaths in 2012 and three deaths in 2013 in Britain were attributed to tryptamines. The ACMD also said a synthetic opiate known as AH-7921, sometimes sold as “legal heroin”, should be class A. It follows the death last August of Jason Nock, 41, who overdosed on AH-7921 after buying the “research chemical” on the internet for £25 to help him sleep.

Professor Les Iversen, the ACMD chair, said the substances marketed as legal highs could cause serious damage to health and, in some cases, even death.

He said the ACMD would continue to review new substances as they were picked up by the forensic early warning system in Britain.

“The UK is leading the way by using generic definitions to ban groups of similar compounds to ensure we keep pace within the fast moving marketplace for these drugs,” said Iversen.

 

Source:   theguardian.com 10th June 2014

Dublin city coroner Dr Brian Farrell is to write to the Department of Health to highlight a link between methadone use and heart failure following an inquest into the death of a 30-year-old man.   Philip Wright of Celbridge, Co Kildare, died on December 13th, 2011, having collapsed after taking heroin.

He had discharged himself on December 12th from Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown where he had been taken off methadone, a heroin replacement drug, because of the dangerous effect it was having on his heart. Mr Wright had attended the hospital on December 9th after collapsing at home. He was also on antibiotics for a chest infection.

Dr Joseph Galvin, consultant cardiologist at the hospital, told the coroner an electrocardiogram (ECG) carried out on Mr Wright picked up a problem with his heart and his methadone was stopped on December 11th. He said the drug could put the heart out of rhythm by changing its electrical properties “in a dangerous way”.

Mr Wright’s heart returned to normal after he was taken off methadone, he said. Recent studies had shown up to 18 per cent of people on methadone had experienced the same heart problems, he said.   The doctor recommended that anyone who collapsed while using methadone should have an ECG carried out. “It is not as benign a drug as was first thought,” Dr Galvin said.

He also said he had recommended an alternative drug for Mr Wright to replace the methadone: buprenorphine.  By lunchtime on Monday, December 12th, Mr Wright had not received the drug. His father, James Wright, told the coroner his son feared he would go into severe withdrawal without it.  He discharged himself from hospital against medical advice and obtained heroin. He died of respiratory failure in the bathroom of his parents’ home the following day having injected the heroin.

Evidence was also given that the pharmacy in the hospital did not receive a request for buprenorphine for Mr Wright and there were issues around access to the drug.

There was also a recommendation that there should be an interval between the time methadone is stopped and buprenorphine is given.  Returning a verdict of death by misadventure, Dr Farrell said he would write to the department and to methadone maintenance authorities and clinics about the potential cardiac effects of methadone.

He would also raise the issue of availability of buprenorphine.

Source: www.irishtimes.com Sat. 5th Jan

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are synthesized compounds that are not usually covered by European and/or international laws. With a slight alteration in the chemical structure of existing illegal substances registered in the European Union (EU), these NPS circumvent existing controls and are thus referred to as “legal highs”. They are becoming increasingly available and can easily be purchased through both the internet and other means (smart shops). Thus, it is essential that the identification of NPS keeps up with this rapidly evolving market.

In this case study, the Belgian Customs authorities apprehended a parcel, originating from China, containing two samples, declared as being “white pigments”. For routine identification, the Belgian Customs Laboratory first analysed both samples by gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry and Fourier-Transform Infrared spectroscopy. The information obtained by these techniques is essential and can give an indication of the chemical structure of an unknown substance but not the complete identification of its structure. To bridge this gap, scientific and technical support is ensured by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) to the European Commission Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Unions (DG TAXUD) and the Customs Laboratory European Network (CLEN) through an Administrative Arrangement for fast recognition of NPS and identification of unknown chemicals. The samples were sent to the JRC for a complete characterization using advanced techniques and chemoinformatic tools.

The aim of this study was also to encourage the development of a science-based policy driven approach on NPS.

These samples were fully characterized and identified as 5F-AMB and PX-3 using1H and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), high-resolution tandem mass-spectrometry (HR-MS/MS) and Raman spectroscopy. A chemo-informatic platform was used to manage, unify analytical data from multiple techniques and instruments, and combine it with chemical and structural information.

Source:    http://www.fsijournal.org/   August 2016   Volume 265, Pages 107–115

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.01.024

For decades, the Netherlands has been known for its tolerant cannabis laws – the poster nation for pro-pot advocates. Cannabis users from across the world have flocked to Amsterdam to patronize its many cannabis-selling “coffee shops.” Throughout this time cannabis has remained illegal in the Netherlands; although, the Dutch have not prosecuted anyone in possession of less than five grams of cannabis for personal use. This distinctive drug policy of tolerance toward cannabis is called gedoogbeleid, and known as the “Dutch model.”

Now, the U.S. now is the first, and so far the only, nation in the world to have fully legal production, sale, promotion, and use of cannabis for people 21 an older. In stark contrast, the Dutch are moving in the opposite direction, limiting the growth, distribution, and use of cannabis and showing no interest in “medical marijuana.” Cannabis with a THC level of more than 15 percent is now under consideration to be reclassified as a “hard drug.” In the Netherlands, that designation comes with stiff criminal penalties. Furthermore, the nation once had more than 1,000 coffee shops, 300 in Amsterdam alone. Now, there are fewer than 200 in the city and 617 nationwide. This is the result of the government’s actions to force coffee shops to choose either to sell alcohol or marijuana. Notably, many are choosing to sell alcohol.

While it has always been illegal to grow cannabis in the Netherlands, for years police acted as if they didn’t know where the shops were getting the drug. This is no longer the case. Now, new laws target even the smallest cannabis growers. In the past, anyone could grow up to five plants without fear of penalty. In 2011, the government issued new police guidelines declaring that anyone who grew cannabis with electric lights, prepared soil, “selected” seeds or ventilation would be considered a “professional” grower. This is a significant change because professional growers risk major criminal penalties, including eviction and blacklisting from the government-provided housing in which more than half of the country’s citizens reside.

What made the Netherlands make such a strong shift in its cannabis policy? The overall drug policy of the Netherlands – not just for cannabis but including cannabis – has four major objectives:

1. To prevent recreational drug use and to treat and rehabilitate recreational drug users.

2. To reduce harm to users.

3. To diminish public nuisance by drug users (the disturbance of public order and safety in the neighborhoods).

4. To combat the production and trafficking of recreational drugs.

The Netherlands has determined that its relaxed cannabis laws were a threat to these expressed public health objectives. The nation’s new, more restrictive laws on cannabis, including the banning of cannabis with THC levels of 15 percent or more, demonstrate that the government wants to reduce cannabis sale and use for reasons of public health.

As the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana spreads to more states in the U.S., we need to look anew to the Netherlands. The U.S. can benefit from what the lessons the Netherlands has learned about cannabis over the past four decades. How surprising is it that the American media frequently praised the Dutch cannabis policy when it seemed permissive but now that Dutch have become more restrictive their new cannabis policy is ignored?

Robert L. DuPont, M.D.

President, Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc.

Former Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-1978) Former White House Drug Chief (1973-1977)

Source: www.ibhinc.org 15th March 2015

Teen Marijuana Use And The Risks Of Psychosis

Doctors in Germany have noted an alarming rise in psychotic episodes linked to excessive marijuana use among young people, which follows other studies around the world raising alarms.

BERLIN — Miklos has survived the worst of it. He doesn’t hear voices anymore. And if he did, he’d know it’s just an hallucination. “This isn’t real,” he would tell himself.

The 21-year-old can also interact with people again — even look them in the eye. As soon as his therapist enters the room he starts smiling. This would have seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. Miklos was admitted a while back to the psychiatric ward of the Hamburg University Hospital, which diagnosed him as having suffered from an “extreme psychotic episode after abuse of cannabis.”

Initially the help he received there seemed to have little effect. He suffered from paranoia, and even broke out of the hospital and caused a major traffic accident while on the run. He had frequent violent outbursts, refused to speak to anyone, and was fixated on just one thought: “I want to leave, just leave, leave, leave.” But he eventually came to embrace his treatment.

Miklos had slid into addiction three years earlier. Nothing in his life seemed to be working at the time. A girl he liked laughed in his face when he confessed his love for her. His math teacher let it be known she thought he was a failure. He was in constant conflict with his parents. “Every time things went wrong, I would hide in my room and smoke weed,” he recalls.

Miklos smoked with a bong, or water pipe, so the relaxing effect of marijuana would kick in faster. He’d take his first puffs as soon as he woke up in the morning. Smoking pot became his full-time job.

Miklos stopped going to school and ended up failing his final exams. He became indifferent, avoided his friends and ultimately had virtually no social connections. And then the voices appeared. “Oh good God, you are such a loser, you never do anything right,” they would say. Finally, he turned to his parents for help and was admitted to the university hospital.

Playing with fire

The number of patients admitted with psychotic episodes after having consumed cannabis has more than tripled in Germany over the last 15 years, from 3,392 in 2000 to 11,708 in 2013. More than half of the patients are younger than 25.

Andreas Bechdolf is the chief of medicine for psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Berlin Urban Hospital and heads a two-year-old facility called the Center for Early Intervention and Therapy, or FRITZ, which focuses specifically on adolescents. It is the country’s only such project to date. “All major psychological disorders usually begin in adulthood,”
Bechdolf says. “But until now the welfare system has paid very little attention to young adults.”

FRITZ employs psychologists, psychiatrists, care providers and social workers as well as young people who cannot, at first glance, be distinguished from patients. They don’t wear white clothing. Some have nose piercings or large rings inserted in their earlobes. And they are purposely informal in how they relate with the patients. Bechdolf calls this a “subcultural” strategy.

“The truly awful thing is that it often takes years before young adults with psychoses receive treatment, and many feel stigmatized,” Bechdolf says. “It often takes another year from the point they start hearing voices before they finally take the step to open up to a doctor.” This is something FRITZ aims to change.

The program works with several hundred patients between the ages of 18 to 25. Some spend several weeks in the hospital ward. Others are outpatients, and some are treated at home. The vast majority (between 80% and 90%) were smoking marijuana on a regular basis before their treatment began. “Not all of them are addicted, but many of them are,” Bechdolf says.

Those who start smoking marijuana on a regular basis before the age of 15 are six times more likely to suffer from psychosis in later years. Adolescent cannabis consumers suffer from more anxiety and depression than their non-consuming counterparts. Cognitive performance is diminished and the loss of concentration is a common side effect. Quite often, these adolescents are unable to recall the content of a text they read only a few days before.

British scientists have established that people who smoked cannabis on a regular basis when young ended up, 10 years later, in a lower social standing, had worse academic results and a lower income than people who didn’t smoke.

“Dramatic effects”

The active ingredient is cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has been shown to inhibit brain maturation. The connecting of nervous cells in the brain takes place until about 25 years of age. THC impedes certain connections and certain areas remain underdeveloped while others connections are made by mistake.

A University of Melbourne study has even shown that the amygdala area of the brain, responsible for regulating the feelings of anxiety and depression, shrinks with regular cannabis abuse.

The abuse of marijuana also causes an unusually large amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine to be distributed throughout the brain. This in turn causes the feeling of relaxation but can, if abused over a long period of time, lead to hallucinations. The THC content in artificially cultivated cannabis, the most common form of cannabis production nowadays, is often quite high, up to 20%.

“This cannot be compared to the joints that were smoked in the 1960s and 1970s,” Bechdolf says. “The THC content of cannabis back then may have been only as high as 5%. But the cultivation of cannabis has become an industry that strives for optimization.”

High TCH levels are less of a problem for older people. “Those who are in their late 40s and smoke the occasional joint on the weekends don’t need to fear any repercussions,” the FRITZ head explains. “But the regular consumption of cannabis can have very dramatic effects on a 14- or 15-year-old.”

Bechdolf believes that nearly 20% of people who suffer from psychoses — extreme psychological disorders and loss of the concept of reality — could be healthy had they not smoked cannabis.

Trying to refocus

Psychoses often develop over several years. At first people have difficult concentrating and putting thoughts together. Things that used to be second nature become increasingly difficult. People are unable to understand the meaning of once-familiar words. Perceptions begin to change. Colors become more intense. A car that is 10 meters away might seem to be right in front of you.

“Those are the early symptoms,” Bechdolf explains. “This stage develops at a very slow pace over three or four years.” Then, when the psychosis manifests itself perceptively, acoustic hallucinations are added to the mix. Often the voices divulge secrets or utter a running commentary on the person’s shortcomings. People also feel they are being constantly followed or spied on.

The prognosis with a so-called substance-induced psychosis is usually relatively good. “Those who stop smoking pot have a very good chance of being healed,” Bechdolf says. Continued outpatient therapy after being released from the hospital is part of this healing process. Instead of going back to thinking, “If I have a joint, everything will be fine,” patients need to find a different approach to tackling their issues. “It is a huge challenge for those affected to re-learn how to deal with problems,” he says.

For Miklos, that’s meant nurturing a passion for longboarding. “It doesn’t give you the same kick as smoking pot, but it’s still pretty cool,” he says.

If his condition continues to be stable for the next two weeks, he will be discharged from the clinic and will have sessions with his therapist twice weekly. Miklos will not be moving back in with his parents when he’s discharged. Instead, he’ll be going to a supervised communal residence.

He even wants to try to repeat his final exams during the summer. Miklos says he’s also now able to appreciate the help he’s getting from the hospital’s doctors and social workers. “I know that I never would have been able to get better without them.”


Source: worldcrunch.com 3rd May 2015

Increasing numbers of Belgian teenagers are seeking help for cannabis use, De Standaard reported on Monday.

According to a report by the Flemish Association of Addiction Treatment Centres Care (VVBV), in 2013 495 boys and 78 girls aged between 15 and 19 sought assistance over continued use of the drug.

In addition, 36 children under the age of 15 also asked for help.

The report also found that more and more women are seeking help for heroin and cocaine use.

Counselling services are now been targeted at the young.

“Young men with a cannabis addiction used to be all in their twenties before they took the step to recovery.

In recent years, more and more 15- to 19-year olds are added, and they became a separate group in health care,” said VVBV Chairman Dirk Vandevelde.

“Based on these figures, it is difficult to estimate whether it is youth who are experimenting or already have an advanced addiction, and how long they remain in counselling,” he said.

Last week, a law allowing for the sale of medical marijuana was published in Belgium.

The law will come into effect at the beginning of July.

Amongst the drug’s medical properties is the alleviation of pain for sufferers of conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Source:

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-06/15/c_134328368.htm  15th June 2015

 

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

 

 

Abstract

Background and Purpose

An increasing number of case reports link cannabis consumption to cerebrovascular events. Yet these case reports have not been scrutinized using criteria for causal inference.

Methods

All case reports on cannabis and cerebrovascular events were retrieved. Four causality criteria were addressed: temporality, adequacy of stroke work-up, effects of re-challenge, and concomitant risk factors that could account for the cerebrovascular event.

Results

There were 34 case reports on 64 patients. Most cases (81%) exhibited a temporal relationship between cannabis exposure and the index event. In 70%, the evaluation was sufficiently comprehensive to exclude other sources for stroke. About a quarter (22%) of patients had another stroke after subsequent re-exposure to cannabis. Finally, half of patients (50%) had concomitant stroke risk factors, most commonly tobacco (34%) and alcohol (11%) consumption.

Conclusion

Many case reports support a causal link between cannabis and cerebrovascular events. This accords well with epidemiological and mechanistic research on the cerebrovascular effects of cannabis.

  1. Daniel G. Hackam, MD, PhD, FRCPC

+Author Affiliations

  1. From the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

  1. Correspondence to Daniel G. Hackam, MD, PhD, FRCPC, 1400 Western Rd, London, Ontario, Canada N6G 2V2. E-mail dhackam@uwo.ca

Source: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2015/02/19

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

 

Low achievers, women and those who did courses involving maths most benefited from being banned from coffeeshops . The ‘partial-prohibition’ sought to ban smokers from France and Luxembourg

Students who were banned from smoking legal cannabis in Dutch coffeeshops were found to be more likely to pass exams, specifically maths-based ones, according to researchers. The findings were worked out during a temporary “partial-prohibition” of cannabis cafes in the city of Maastricht, in which people were not allowed to enter on the sole basis of their nationalities.

Students who were banned from the 13 coffee shops in the city have been 5.4 per cent more likely to pass their courses, economists at the University of Maastricht found. The effect is “five times larger” for courses requiring quantitative thinking and maths-based tasks, the researchers wrote.

Lower performers – who had a pre-study GPA below the median of 6.62 – were most impacted by the ban with a 7.6 per cent increase in probability of passing a course.  This may be down to ‘high’ achievers already getting top grades, regardless of cannabis consumption, they added.

The study comes after 20 US states legalised the use of medicinal cannabis and 14 others took some steps to decriminalise possession. Uruguay is planning to become the first nation in the world to fully legalise all aspects of the cannabis trade. Women were also found to have higher improved grades than men, which researchers Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz believe is down to differences in processing high amounts of THC found in Dutch weed, which is often twice as strong as that in the US.

They also claim that grade improvements are not in correlation with any increases in effort or amount of study hours. The undergraduates have a median age of 20.6, and most of the improvements were also found in those who were the youngest.

Online evaluations filled in by the students showed that overall understanding of their courses improved the most when they did not smoke in coffeeshops.“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.”  The seven-month policy implemented by the Maastricht association of cannabis-shop owners (VOCM) from October 2011, after pressure by local authorities, had sought to control weed smoking by “drug tourists” from neighbouring countries.

People from France and Luxembourg were found to be the “bad tourists,” according to the study, as they had been “creating the most nuisance” for the city’s residents.  Belgian and German citizens were allowed to use cannabis cafes and, including Dutch people, they comprise 90 per cent of all customers – which shows that the “partial prohibition” was only carried out on a minority of people.

Researchers admit that students who were banned could have got hold of cannabis illegally through friends and dealers, however they believe that the findings are significant enough to be considered when international drug laws are amended.

More than 54,000 grades were analysed of around 4,200 students.  Fifty-two per cent were German, 33 per cent Dutch, six per cent Belgian and remaining eight per cent listed as “other”.

Source:  http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/students-banned-from-cannabis-coffee-shops-more-likely-to-pass-exams-a-dutch-study-claims-10169625.html

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

A new political party is planning to field as many as 100 candidates at the general election to force the issue of cannabis legalisation centre stage.

Cista – Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol – is inspired by legalisation of the drug in some US states. The party’s election candidates will include Paul Birch, who co-founded Bebo before it was sold to AOL for $850m (£548m) in 2008 and says he is investing up to £100,000 in the venture.

Other candidates around the UK are soon to be named; this week the party said Shane O’Donnell, a former Conservative party activist, would stand against Labour’s Keir Starmer and the Green party leader, Natalie Bennett, in the London constituency of Holborn and St Pancras.

According to YouGov polling commissioned by Cista and provided to the Guardian, 44% of voters support the legalisation of cannabis against 42% who don’t (with 14% undecided).

The two mainstream parties with the most to lose from some voters being tempted to opt for Cista in marginal constituencies are the Greens, which supports decriminalisation, and the Liberal Democrats, which has been looking at the decriminalisation of all drugs for personal use and allowing cannabis to be sold on the open market.

However, Birch’s party has made a policy decision not to run in Brighton, where the sole Green MP Caroline Lucas is defending her seat, and in constituencies with incumbent Lib Dem MPs. The decision was taken after Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, one of parliament’s most visible advocates of the decriminalisation of drugs, raised the issue of a candidate from Cista standing against him.

Birch said that in the main the other parties were keen not to talk about the issue of legalisation because they were embarrassed by it. “In the absence of this party forming I doubt that it would be an election issue. The Greens are the most explicit but even they don’t make it a prominent issue,” he added.

“With what has been happening in US states though, it now feels like it’s within touching distance. It’s like this is the final push and the time is right.”

Birch suggested that parallels with the road to legalisation in US states were forming on the basis of another of his party’s YouGov poll findings, which was that 18% of people believed that cannabis was safer than alcohol, while more than half thought that they were the same in safety terms.

He said: “In Colorado [one of the first US states to legalise the recreational use and sale of marijuana] the basis of their campaign was to juxtapose cannabis and alcohol. They knew that once they moved people to understand that it was safer then people would be happy to legalise it.”

Principally, Birch has faith that the public will come around to the idea in greater numbers as a result of becoming ever more informed. Of a recent experiment where the Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow took large amounts of skunk-type cannabis, resulting in him feeling “as if his soul had been wrenched from his body”, Birch said that this was akin to forcing a teetotaller to down a bottle of illegally distilled moonshine. In a regulated industry, he argued, the risk to consumers could be considerably reduced.

Cista’s candidates will campaign for a royal commission to review the UK’s drug laws relating to cannabis – a relatively modest initial aim calibrated to maximise its appeal. They will also push the economic argument for legalisation, which the party argues could net the exchequer as much as £900m if cannabis were legalised and properly controlled.

The party, which is keen to establish itself as a professional outfit in contrast to previous electoral attempts at highlighting the decriminalisation cause, is signing up members and candidates using online forms. It is eager to push back against stereotypes and, in particular, encourage women to become involved.

Five candidates, including Birch, are signed up to stand for election on 7 May, while he and his team will this week begin travelling around the UK in search of other candidates who they expect will include academics, existing campaigners, students and people who work or have experience of working in the criminal justice system.

Source:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/25

Several independent scientific study’s using the latest Brain Scan technologies have confirmed without a doubt that marijuana abuse causes great harm and devastation to the human brain. Some of the the most recent studies reported are:

And now we have another important scientific study regarding the damage that marijuana abuse does to the human brain; by the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (KOKI).

Hungarian Scientists Prove Devastating Effect Cannabis Use Has On The Brain

Smoking cannabis dramatically reduces the number of molecules ensuring the fine-tuning of brain functions and can significantly interfere in the two-way communication between neurons, according to the result of research spanning several years carried out by the Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (KOKI), published in the world’s most highly acclaimed neuroscience journal, Nature Neuroscience.

A statement issued by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reminds that a study arriving at the same conclusion, authored by Hungarian neuroscientists István Katona and Tamás Freund, deputy chairman of the Academy (MTA) and head of the Institute of Experimental Medicine), had already been published in the U. S. Journal of Neuroscience in 1999.

According to the latest results of Mr. Katona’s team, recreational cannabis gravely interferes with the two-way communication between neurons.

The discovery, revealing the gravity of the effect cannabis use has on a molecular level, shocked both the researchers and their colleagues, Mr. Katona said, adding that decision-makers must seriously consider the permitted THC content of cannabis products during increasingly widespread legalisation of the drug.

Research has shown that the number of receptors in synapses receiving endocannabinoid molecules decreased dramatically, by around 85 per cent, after a six-day THC treatment, with total regeneration taking as long as six weeks, the MTA statement reads.

The primary authors of the study published in Nature Neuroscience are junior MTA researcher Barna Dudok, László Barna, leader of the Nikon-KOKI Microscope Centre and Italian guest researcher Marco Ledri.

Source: http://hungarytoday.hu

http://www.nature.com March 2015

Marijuana Use and Mania

 As the debate continues to rage over the possible risks or advantages of smoking marijuana, new research out of Britain’s Warwick University has found a “significant link” between marijuana use and mania, which can range from hyperactivity and difficulty sleeping to aggression, becoming delusional and hearing voices.

Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the study of more than 2,000 people suggested potentially alarming consequences for teenagers who smoke the herb. 

“Cannabis [marijuana] is the most prevalent drug used by the under-18s,” said lead researcher Dr Steven Marwaha. “During this critical period of development, services should be especially aware of and responsive to the problems cannabis use can cause for adolescent populations.”

Researchers examined the effect of marijuana on individuals who had experienced mania, a condition that can include feelings of persistent elation, heightened energy, hyperactivity and a reduced need for sleep. On the other side of the coin, mania can make people feel angry and aggressive with extreme symptoms including hearing voices or becoming delusional.

“Previously it has been unclear whether cannabis use predates manic episodes,” Dr Marwaha said. “We wanted to answer two questions:

1.      Does cannabis use lead to increased occurrence of mania symptoms or manic episodes in individuals with pre-existing bipolar disorder?

2.      “But also, does cannabis use increase the risk of onset of mania symptoms in those without pre-existing bipolar disorder?”

Dr Marwaha found that marijuana use tended to precede or coincide with episodes of mania. Representing what the lead researcher referred to as “a significant link,” there was a strong association with new symptoms of mania, suggesting that these are caused by marijuana use.

The researchers also found that marijuana significantly worsened mania symptoms in people who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “There are limited studies addressing the association of cannabis use and manic symptoms which suggests this is a relatively neglected clinical issue,” Dr Marwaha said.

However, our review suggests cannabis use is a major clinical problem occurring early in the evolving course of bipolar disorder.   More research is needed to consider specific pathways from cannabis use to mania and how these may be effected by genetic vulnerability and environmental risk factors.”

These findings add to a body of previous studies that have linked marijuana to increased rates of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, psychosis and schizophrenia, and have suggested that the herb is addictive and opens the door to hard drugs.

A study which was published in the journal Neuroscience earlier this month nevertheless found that marijuana could be used to treat depression.

Scientists at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions said molecules present in marijuana could help relieve the depression resulting from long-term stress.

 Source: Journal of Affective Disorders Feb 2015

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

This article shows how drug use in an area can impact more than the individual and their families and friends.  The local economy and small businesses are having to cope with lower productivity due to ‘functioning’ drug dependents in the workforce.    NDPA

New Hampshire drug czar: Addiction dragging state’s economy down

Providing more treatment and recovery options for drug addicts is as much about the addicts as it is about helping spur the state’s economy, said the state’s new drug czar.

“For me, it’s all about the money,” said John G. “Jack” Wozmak, senior director for substance misuse and behavioral health.  Wozmak was appointed in January by Gov. Maggie Hassan. The position is funded by a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Wozmak spent nearly a decade as the administrator of the Beech Hill substance abuse treatment facility in Dublin, and since 1998 had been the Cheshire County administrator.

“With a broad range of experience dealing with substance misuse through his roles in the public sector and in private substance abuse treatment, Jack will help strengthen our efforts to improve the health and safety of Granite Staters, and I thank him for his commitment to serving the people of New Hampshire, as well the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for making his position possible,” Hassan said in a statement.

Wozmak’s task: Get a host of agencies and organizations to work together to reduce the state’s drug abuse, particularly heroin addiction.  Wozmak takes the post at a time when heroin overdoses and deaths are at an all-time high in New Hampshire. The Centers for Disease Control reports that New Hampshire is among 28 states that saw big increases in heroin deaths.

But Wozmak said drug addiction is more than the headline-generating heroin overdoses and drug-related burglaries and robberies that dominate the news.
“Yes, the number of heroin deaths is doubling (from the previous year). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg” of the state’s drug epidemic, he said.

Functioning addicts

The underlying problem – and what the drug czar said will help him get more money for treatment and prevention efforts from state legislators – is the thousands of drug abusers who do not necessarily overdose but drive up costs for employers, he said.
“You don’t hear about the day-to-day drug exposure that companies have because it’s all below the surface, like an iceberg,” he said.

Employers see everything from diminished production to having to overstaff or pay overtime to cover for employees addicted to drugs who miss work, he said. This hurts profit and, in turn, decreases the state’s revenue from business profits taxes. He said estimates from the state’s hospitality sector indicate that as many as 20 percent of that field’s employees may have drug addiction issues.

“I want to increase jobs and this is getting in the way,” he said. “It’s just interfering with productivity. It’s interfering with the economy.”  Wozmak said the drug problem as been exacerbated by a myriad of issues, including budget cuts for treatment programs, along with insurance companies cutting or capping policy coverage for substance abuse treatment.

In the 1980s, he said, the state had more than 600 beds at six private centers providing treatment for substance abuse. After all the cuts by insurance companies, the state now has 62 beds available, he said.

Further, the state ranks second-to-last – after Texas – in providing treatment for drug addiction and has the lowest rate in the country – 6 percent – of people who get treatment for their addictions.  “We have decimated the system of treatment and recovery, and we have to rebuild it,” he said. “Imagine the outrage if diabetes were treated this way.”

More money

Hassan has proposed more than tripling the state’s spending for the Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery in her proposed two-year budget, from a total of nearly $2.9 million in the 2014-15 budget, to nearly $9.6 million in 2016-17.

The way to convince legislators that the funding is necessary is by appealing to their desire for job growth in a state that has had anemic population growth, Wozmak said.  To get population and job growth, he said, the state has to make its work force healthier and the best way to do that is to reduce drug addiction.

“If you ran on a platform of job growth, you have to deal with this issue,” he said. “If (job growth is) not going to be from people moving here, then you have to improve the work force that’s here.  “If you’re not looking to take care of this problem, then you’re falling down on your promise,” he said. “If you want to create jobs, you have to make the work force more viable.”

Wozmak said the problem can be solved. He said his role includes getting the affected parties – including law enforcement, public resources, private or nonprofit organizations, charities and treatment facilities – working together. He said a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurers to cover substance abuse again should help spur private investment in treatment and recovery facilities.

“There is no easy answer, but I believe there are many opportunities to make the change now on a variety of levels and a myriad of fronts,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of success.”  He said getting help from the state’s medical professionals will also be key, as most heroin addicts, he said, start with addictions to prescription painkillers. He said medical professionals are “not the sole source” of the issue, but could be involved in changing the way pain is managed to help prevent addictions.

“None of them wanted to become addicts,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.unionleader.com/article/    8th 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/

Nick Clegg’s most recent contribution to the drugs debate has been to call for an end to imprisonment for the possession of drugs for personal use, and to move leadership of the UK drug strategy from what he sees as an enforcement obsessed Home Office to a treatment focused Department of Health. His rationale for this is that we are currently wasting resources locking up the ” victims “of the drug trade while allowing “health harm to go untreated”. 

Ending the use of imprisonment to protect people from themselves has much to commend it. The detailed legal drafting will be trickier than the deputy PM seems to realise, and it is unlikely to free up much resource, given the small numbers involved and the short periods actually served in custody. Nevertheless this reform, particularly if it were allied to amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to prevent minor convictions having a disproportionate impact on people’s future life chances, offers a sensible measured step to correct the negative consequences of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Furthermore this could be achieved without opening the Pandora’s box of legalisation, from which may flow increased drug use, and increasing harm, reversing the trend of young people turning away from drugs we have seen over the last decade.

So three cheers for proposal number one. Proposal number two, at first glance seems like common sense. If you want to focus on treatment the Department of Health is the obvious home for policy. My view based on 12 years in Whitehall responsible for the English treatment system is that it could be a disaster. Here is why.

Drug policy and drug treatment has never been a priority for the Department of Health or the NHS. The financial crisis, the interface between health and social care, waiting times, cancer, dementia, and a host of other issues dominate the DH/NHS agenda. Even when policies focus on the wider social determinants of health in an effort to reduce the burden on scarce NHS resources the priorities are :smoking: 80,000 deaths a year, obesity 30,000 deaths a year, alcohol 6500 deaths a year, not illegal drugs: 2000 deaths a year. Drug use simply doesn’t kill enough people or cause as much ill-health as over risky behaviours, and the priority accorded to it by successive Health leaderships reflects that.

Although illegal drug use causes less health harm than either alcohol or tobacco it is neither safe nor harmless. Overall, government estimate drug misuse causes £15 billion worth of harm to society, dwarfing the 5 billion of health harm from smoking. 13 billion of this is the cost of drug-related crime. Home Office research estimates that 50% of the marked rise in crime that occurred in the 1980s and 90s is attributable to the successive waves of heroin epidemics that swept over the country during those decades. Addressing this escalation in criminality by making treatment readily available across the country was the rationale behind the government’s hugely increased investment in treatment following 2001, up from 50 million a year to 600 million. Public Health England estimate that providing rapid access to treatment for around 200,000 individuals, more than twice as many as in 2001, currently prevents almost 5 million crimes each year.

Given the Home Secretary’s responsibility for crime it is not surprising that the Home Office have a very different view of the priority of drug treatment to the Department of Health. The private view in the Department of Health is that the current level of drug spend is a misdirection of scarce health resources which are needed to respond to more pressing health priorities. The Home Office view is that the current spend on treatment is cost-effective yielding, according to the National Audit Office, £2.50 worth of value for the taxpayer from every £1 invested, largely from reduced crime.

Put simply the Home Office see drug treatment as value for money the Department of Health see it as a misallocation of resources. On a number of occasions over the last decade the Department of Health has sought to disinvest from drug treatment, only stepping back when this has been resisted by successive Home Secretaries. These different orientations are particularly important at the moment as the resources currently spent on drug treatment across England come under threat of disinvestment by hard-pressed Local Authorities(who were given responsibility for drug treatment under the Lansley NHS reforms) looking to raid their public health grants to prop up core services.

So what may appear at first sight as commonsense will be very likely to result in drug policy becoming the responsibility of a department that isn’t very interested, has a wealth of competing priorities, and a track record of seeking to disinvest from the very intervention that the proposal is designed to promote. Meanwhile a department that has a powerful rationale for championing treatment, and a track record of doing so, is sidelined. If Mr Clegg is as committed to drug policy based on evidence as he maintains, perhaps he needs to reconsider.

Source:  www.huffingtonpost.co.uk  9th March 2015

A speaker at yesterday’s drugs conference has accused its organisers of being biased in favour of those who want to legalise all drugs. 
Speaking at Homerton College yesterday, Neil McKeganey told those at the Home Affairs Select Committee’s drugs conference that too many of the selected speakers were those who wanted to push forward drug law reform.  Mr McKeganey, of the centre for drug misuse research, asserted the conference programme was “overwhelmingly skewed” in favour of those who hope to see drugs legalised, particularly for medicinal purposes.
He said: “Their programme is so overwhelmingly skewed in favour of those in favourof drug law reform it has to be a fundamental compromise of that principle of the select committee.
“There’s no way with any justification whatsoever that the range of speakers overwhelmingly in favour of legalisation should stand as a contribution of the select committee’s discussion of drug misuse.  The case for drug policy reform is based on the drug laws having failed. In actual fact drug policies in the UK have not failed.
“We have witnessed the most substantial reduction in the prevalence of illegal drug use since records began. The statistics here are very clear. It’s completely dishonest to present that situation as indicative of government failure.”
Mr McKeganey continued that it was “preposterous” to suggest that existing drug policies were doing more harm than illegal drugs themselves.  He added: “It is said it is more effective to set up a regulated market.   That is said by people who are not considering the evidence of the impact of a regulated market.
“How on earth do you propose to regulate an unregulated market? There will still be illegal suppliers of drugs – how do you propose to regulate those individuals?”
However opinion at the drugs conference remained divided, with several speakers giving whole-hearted support to drug law reform.  The safety of drug users was one of the key reasons cited, with claims that regulating drug use would help prevent people from taking drugs which had been mixed with harmful cutting agents.
Health problems are also caused by cutting agents used to make the drug more profitable – including levamisole used to worm sheep – which can lower blood cell numbers and phenacetin which can cause kidney problems.
Imperial College London academic Prof David Nutt, who is also the chair and founder of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, was one of those who spoke out in favour of drug law reform.   Prof Nutt told the conference that almost everything which had been done in the past 30 years to tackle drugs had led to greater problems.
He said: “Prohibition of cannabis has driven us into much more dangerous drugs.
“It’s the same with MDMA. The prohibition of MDMA has led to the massive rise in deaths from PMA.  The perverse consequences of the laws must be taken account of. You cannot think there is a simple solution.
“I am very sympathetic to the idea of recovery but the abstinence recovery programme will lead to more deaths.  A policy which focuses simply on reducing use but does not take account of deaths is missing the key element of drugs policy.”
Sarah Graham, an addictions therapist and member of the advisory council on the misuse of drugs, also lent her support to the government regulating drugs.  Ms Graham said she agreed with the argument that drug users should not be criminalised.
The support for drug law reform comes after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in a report into the use of powdered cocaine in the UK and its impacts on society.
The report suggests powdered cocaine use remains most common among 20 to 29-year-olds.
 Source: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cambridge-drugs-conference-accused-8216/story-26163142-detail/story.html#LvCZKJOoxrosfdYp.99

In 1990s Britain a common reaction to allocating resources to treating cannabis users was, ‘Why bother? We have more than enough patients with problems with serious drugs like heroin.’ Calls for a treatment response were seen as pathologising what in many societies is both normal and in some ways desirable youth development: trying new experiences, challenging conventions, exposing the hypocrisy of alcohol-drinking adults. The typically calming use of the drug by adults was seen as preferable to the main alternative, alcohol and its associated violence and disorder. 

Those views retain some validity for the vast majority of cannabis users, but this has become, and/or become seen more clearly as, a drug with a problem tail which justifies therapeutic intervention. As heroin use and treatment numbers fall way, cannabis treatment numbers are on the rise – not, according to Public Health England, because more people are using the drug, but perhaps because services relieved of some of the recent pressure of opiate user numbers are giving more priority to cannabis, because they are making themselves more amenable to cannabis users, and because stronger strains of the drug are creating more problems.

Cannabis accounts for half of all new drug treatment patients

Whatever the causes, across the UK figures submitted to the European drug misuse monitoring centre show that the proportion of patients starting treatment for drug problems who did so primarily due to their cannabis use rose steadily from 11% in 2003/04 to 27% in 2013, that year amounting to about 27,270 individuals. Among first ever treatment presentations, the increase was more pronounced, from 19% to 49%, meaning that by 2013 their cannabis use had became the main prompt for half the patients who sought treatment for the first time  chart right. Showing that more users was not the reason for more starting treatment, over about the same period, in England and Wales the proportion of 16–59-year-olds who in a survey said that had used cannabis in the past year fell from about 11% to about 7% in 2013/14, having hovered at 6–7% since 2009/10.

The treatment figures largely reflect trends in England, where in 2013/14 the number of patients starting treatment due primarily to their cannabis use had continued to rise to 11,821, 17% of all treatment starters, up from around 7,500 and 9% just seven years before. The greater ‘stickiness’ of opiate use meant that in the total treatment population – new and continuing – the proportionate trends were less steep, cannabis numbers rising from around 11,000 in 2005/06 to 17,229 in 2013/14, and in proportion from 6% to 9%. Among younger adults, cannabis dominates; in 2013/14, far more 18–24s started treatment for cannabis than for opiate use problems – 5,039 versus 3,142 – and they constituted 43% of all treatment starters.

Further down the age range, among under-18s in treatment in England, cannabis is even more dominant. In 2013/14, of the 19,126 young people who received help for alcohol or drug problems, 13,659 or 71% did so mainly in relation to cannabis, continuing the generally upward trend since 2005/06.

Though the crime reduction justification for treating adult heroin and crack users is not so clear among young cannabis users, still immediate impacts plus the longer term benefits of forestalling further problems has been calculated to more than justify the costs of treating under-18 patients, among whom cannabis is the major player.

Cannabis users rarely stay in long-term treatment

Relative to the main legal drugs, at least in the USA dependence on cannabis is more quickly overcome. A survey of the US general adult population found that within a year of first becoming dependent, 3% each of smokers and drinkers were in remission and remained so until they were surveyed. For cannabis the figure was nearly 5% and for cocaine, nearly 9%. After ten years the proportions in remission had risen to 18% for nicotine, 37% for alcohol, 66% for cannabis and 76% for cocaine  chart right. About 26 years after first becoming dependent, half the people at some time dependent on nicotine were in remission, a milestone reached for alcohol after 14 years, for cannabis six years, and for cocaine, five.

Unlike heroin users, regular users of cannabis have been seen as sufficiently amenable to intervention to warrant trying brief interventions along the lines established for risky but not dependent drinkers, and sufficiently numerous in some countries to make routine screening in general medical and other settings a worthwhile way of identifying problem users. When the World Health Organization trialled its ASSIST substance use screening and brief advice programme in Australia, India, the United States and Brazil, just over half the identified patients (all had to be at moderate risk of harm but probably not dependent) were primarily problem cannabis users. Among these, risk reduction in relation to this drug was significantly greater among patients allocated to a brief advice session than among those placed on a three-month waiting list for advice. In each country too, risk reduction was greater among intervention patients, except for the USA, where the order was reversed. Suggesting that severity of use was not a barrier to reacting well to brief intervention, only patients at the higher end of the moderate risk spectrum further reduced their cannabis use/risk scores following intervention. The ASSIST study was confined to adults, but young people in secondary schools in the USA whose problem substance use focused mainly on cannabis also reacted well to brief advice.

In some studies brief interventions have been found to work just as well as more intensive treatment, but when the patients are heavily dependent, and the most difficult cases are not filtered out by the research, longer and more individualised therapies can have the advantage. These studies on adults might not translate to adolescents, for whom approaches which address family, school and other factors in the child’s environment are considered most appropriate for what are often multiply troubled youngsters.

The relative persistence of opiate use problems and transitory nature of those primarily related to cannabis seemed reflected in an analysis of treatment entrants in England from 1 April 2005 to the end of 2013/14. At the end of this period just 7% of primary cannabis users were still in or back in treatment compared to the 30% overall figure and 36% for primary opiate users. The figure peaked at 43% for users of opiates and crack. Over half – 53% – of primary cannabis users had left treatment as planned, apparently having overcome their cannabis problems, compared to 27% of primary opiate users and just 20% with dual opiates and crack use problems. Another 40% of cannabis users had left treatment in an unplanned manner not having overcome their dependence, a slightly higher proportion than among opiate users. The figures tell a tale of relatively high level of success which enables cannabis users to leave treatment, though even in the absence of recorded success, few stay long-term.

However, the forms patients in England complete with their keyworkers while in treatment seem to tell a different story. Compared to how they started treatment, around six months later 45% of primary cannabis users were assessed as using just as often (including a few using more), compared to 29% of opiate users and 38% whose main problem drugs were both opiates and crack, suggesting more rapid and/or more complete remission for opiate users than for cannabis users. One interpretation is that the widespread use of substitute drugs like methadone more reliably reduced the illegal opiate use of opiate users and also helped retain them in treatment, while cannabis users tended quickly to leave treatment, having done well or not. However, these figures relate only to patients who completed the forms at their six-month review, which in practice could have happened anywhere from about one to six months after their assessment for treatment. What proportion of primary cannabis users were still in treatment at that point and available to complete the forms is not clear, but they may have been the patients whose problems were deep seated enough to require extended treatment.

These are some of the issues thrown up by a set of patients and a set of interventions rather different from those associated with the drugs treatment in the UK has normally focused on. If current trends continue, understanding the findings of these and other studies will become yet more important to British treatment services.

Source:  www.findings.org.uk     03 March 2015

Teens Affected by Addiction is a project aimed at raising awareness about the impact of alcoholism on families – here, they share some personal stories. 

Here, four people who grew up with an alcoholic parent share their stories.  These stories have been collected by ‘Teens Affected by Addiction’, a Young Social Innovators project from Mount Mercy College in Cork, Ireland,  with the aim of raising awareness about how addiction impacts children.

“I will never get my childhood back”

“My life as a child of an alcoholic parent was frightening and lonely. My dad was a chronic alcoholic. I had a different childhood to all my friends: no birthday parties, couldn’t invite friends over to the house, and Christmas was a nightmare.

There was no one I could talk to and no one could help me, I just had to put up with it.

When I was 17 I had no choice but to leave home. I had to live my own life. My mother was heartbroken but she knew I had to go.

When I was 18, I was able to get counselling which was a great help to me. I was able to understand that alcoholism was an illness. A few months after leaving home my dad turned his life around and stopped drinking.

I will never get my childhood back but I now have a great relationship with my father and my mother now has the life she deserves. I hope this story can give other children some hope and let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

*******

“Missing you”

The following is a short poem a woman sent to us about her father’s alcoholism.

I don’t miss the sense of invisibility to you, 

I don’t miss listening constantly for the front door,
I don’t miss watching your face to decipher your mood,
I don’t miss dodging your verbal assaults,
I don’t miss the sense of being so small,
I don’t miss the enormity of you and your drink,
I don’t miss the deep shame,
I don’t miss everyone covering up for you,
I don’t miss everyone knowing but me,
I don’t miss the smell of drink,
I don’t miss the fear of drink,
I don’t miss my friends knowing,
I don’t miss no-one caring about me,
I don’t miss fear,
I don’t miss loving you,
I don’t miss hating you,
I don’t miss you.

******* 

 “We had food in the house but it wasn’t for us – it was for the social worker to see.”

“My alcoholic parent was my mother. She always drank. She started when she was young. When she was a child her father abused her and her brothers. They were battered by their father constantly. They locked their doors every night to keep their father out. She was beaten badly and was always expected to act like a lady. She started drinking to forget the pain she had to go through. This doesn’t make what she did to her children any bit forgivable.

When I was a child my uncle and aunts tried to take me away from my home by taking me on day trips with my sister. Back then I thought my mother would heal. My sister and I used to beg my uncle and aunts to bring us home so we could mind our mother. We didn’t want to upset her by being away for too long. One of my uncles was like a father to me. His oldest daughter and I look like brother and sister. We are just as close too. They tried to help me and give me a better life but they couldn’t.

My mom had a lot of ‘boyfriends’. They never really stayed too long. A small few used to beat me. These men were constantly in our house so we never really questioned a strange man in our house. It was normal for us.

At 15 years old I would come home from school and meet up with my mother and grandmother in the pub. My mother would buy me beer and I would sit in the pub with my drunken mother and help her get home. My home was filthy. There used to be dogs running through the house constantly and the house was never cleaned. We had food but it wasn’t for us. The food was perfect but we were not allowed eat it as it was only for when the social workers called so it would look like she was feeding us. In reality we were starving.

I started hanging out with a very rough group where I lived. They were drinking constantly and doing drugs. Eventually, I got away from them and my mother. I ran from Ireland at 16 to the States to my father. My sister was so upset with me for leaving her with my mother back in Ireland.

Now I’m living in America with a beautiful wife and three amazing children. Sometimes what happened still affects me but I try to block it out and ignore it and carry on. I’m honestly not recommending running away. I am planning on coming back to Ireland soon to sort out a few things with my mother.

*******

“I’ve never not known Mum to have her cans by her chair and her vodka stashed away under the bed”

Well to begin with there’s a common misconception that men are generally the alcoholics in a family but when it’s the mother, the nucleus of the family is destroyed and everything falling apart becomes an inevitable fate. I come from a small family with it just being my mum, dad and my brother and I. We’ve been battling with my mother’s alcoholism for as long as I remember, I’ve never not know her to have her cans by her chair and her vodka stashed away under the bed. It wasn’t that I always saw it as the norm but when you don’t know any different it does tend to be a bit more difficult to imagine the situation differently. I’m actually very happy to see the back of 2014 as from December 2013 my whole family spiralled out of control and I spent more times in hospital than anywhere else. My parents split in December 2013 after 21 years married (I am 20 years old) my mum’s alcoholism was at its peak. Having been in and out of hospital for the past six years due to liver failure, she was on a path to destruction. In those months, mum had fallen whilst drunk and tried to hit my father with a golf club and broke her femur. She had several serious operations and she nearly died as her blood is extremely thin due to medication and alcoholism. Mum came out of hospital and continued to drink and began running around saying that she was fine and could walk. She fell hundreds of times and it became so bad she now can’t walk properly. I live with my grandmother, having left school at 17 as I suffered from depression and I went back to do my Leaving Cert and moved out of my home. Within months a series of events led to both my father and brother leaving and moving into an apartment and my mum was left wallowing in her drunken states ringing and abusing everybody (she still does this).I contacted the HSE in January 2014 with several emails sent to all organisations that support victims of alcoholism, I got a lot of reaction. I was furious that I spent years sitting in my mothers’ doctor’s surgery with my dad begging for ways out. They would always look at us helplessly and say “move out”. I felt embarrassed and as if there were no light at the end of the tunnel. My grandmother who I live with and who’s been a mother to me all my life has had a nervous breakdown and right now I spend my days working eight hour shifts as a photographer in a studio and then I go home to this mess. 

My mum has been in hospital about eight times since February 2014 when a stomach ulcer burst and she was found in a pool of blood by my grandmother. I soon lost faith but I always tried to get help; my letter to the HSE got me six months with a councillor but I was so busy with my Leaving Cert and everything I just couldn’t find time to go.

Now I am still living with this situation but I try my very best to overcome it every day and I refuse any kind of medication such as an “anti depressant” as I believe it’s just a easy way for doctors to dose people up and make money. I wish to study politics and history and possibly then business in university in the future and I hope that one day I can actually help people.

These stories are shared by ‘Teens Affected by Addiction’, a Young Social Innovators project from Mount Mercy College in Cork. The students have recently received funding from the YSI Den to publish a book with the stories of adults who grew up with an addict in the home. 

 Please see www.teensaffectedbyaddiction.com or email:  affectedbyaddictionysi@gmail.com if you would like to share your story.

Follow Teens Affected by Addiction on Twitter: @affbyaddiction

Source:   www.thejournal.ie    March 2015

Young men who use cannabis may be putting their fertility at risk by inadvertently affecting the size and shape of their sperm, according to new research. In the world’s largest study to investigate how common lifestyle factors influence the size and shape of sperm, a research team found that sperm size and shape was worse in samples ejaculated in the summer months, but was better in men who had abstained from sexual activity for more than six days.

(Stock image) Credit: © milkovasa / Fotolia

In the world’s largest study to investigate how common lifestyle factors influence the size and shape of sperm (referred to as sperm morphology), a research team from the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester also found that sperm size and shape was worse in samples ejaculated in the summer months but was better in men who had abstained from sexual activity for more than six days.

However, other common lifestyle factors reported by men, including smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, appeared to have little effect.

The study, published in the medical journal Human Reproduction, recruited 2,249 men from 14 fertility clinics around the UK and asked them to fill out detailed questionnaires about their medical history and their lifestyle. Reliable data about sperm morphology was only available for 1,970 men and so the researchers compared the information collected for 318 men who produced sperm of which less than four per cent was the correct size and shape and a control group of 1,652 men where this was above four per cent and therefore considered ‘normal’ by current medical definitions.

Men who produced ejaculates with less than four percent normal sperm were nearly twice as likely to have produced a sample in the summer months (June to August), or if they were younger than 30 years old, to have used cannabis in the three month period prior to ejaculation.

Lead author Dr Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our knowledge of factors that influence sperm size and shape is very limited, yet faced with a diagnosis of poor sperm morphology, many men are concerned to try and identify any factors in their lifestyle that could be causing this. It is therefore reassuring to find that there are very few identifiable risks, although our data suggests that cannabis users might be advised to stop using the drug if they are planning to try and start a family.”

Previous research has suggested that only sperm with good sperm morphology are able to pass into the woman’s body following sex and make their way to the egg and fertilize it. Studies in the laboratory also suggest that sperm with poor morphology also swim less well because their abnormal shape makes them less efficient. Dr Andrew Povey, from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Population Health, said: “This research builds on our study of two years ago which looked at the risk factors associated with the number of swimming sperm (motile concentration) in men’s ejaculates.

“This previous study also found that there were relatively few risk factors that men could change in order to improve their fertility. We therefore have to conclude again that there is little evidence that delaying fertility treatment to make adjustments to a man’s lifestyle will improve their chances of a conception.”

Although the study failed to find any association between sperm morphology and other common lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption, it remains possible that they could correlate with other aspects of sperm that were not measured, such as the quality of the DNA contained in the sperm head.

Professor Nicola Cherry, originally from the University of Manchester but now at the University of Alberta, commented on a recent companion paper published by the group in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: “In addition to cannabis exposure shown in this paper, we also know that men exposed to paint strippers and lead are also at risk of having sperm with poor morphology.”

Source:

University of Sheffield. “Sperm size, shape in young men affected by cannabis use.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140604202946.htm>.

Moderate alcohol intake of at least 5 units every week is linked to poorer sperm quality in otherwise healthy young men, suggests research. And the higher the weekly tally of units, the worse the sperm quality seems to be, the findings indicate, prompting the researchers to suggest that young men should be advised to steer clear of habitual drinking.

They base their findings on 1221 Danish men between the ages of 18 and 28, all of whom underwent a medical examination to assess their fitness for military service, which is compulsory in Denmark, between 2008 and 2012.

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As part of their assessment, the military recruits were asked how much alcohol they drank in the week before their medical exam (recent drinking); whether this was typical (habitual); and how often they binge drank, defined as more than 5 units in one sitting, and had been drunk in the preceding month.

They were also invited to provide a semen sample to check on the quality of their sperm, and a blood sample to check on their levels of reproductive hormones.

The average number of units drunk in the preceding week was 11. Almost two thirds (64%) had binge drunk, while around six out of 10 (59%) said they had been drunk more than twice, during the preceding month.

The analysis showed that after taking account of various influential factors, there was no strong link between sperm quality and either recent alcohol consumption or binge drinking in the preceding month. But drinking alcohol in the preceding week was linked to changes in reproductive hormone levels, with the effects increasingly more noticeable the higher the tally of units.

Testosterone levels rose, while sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) fell; similar associations were also evident for the number of times an individual had been drunk or had binge drunk in the preceding month. Almost half (45%, 553) of the men said that the quantity of alcohol they drank in the preceding week was typical of their weekly consumption.

And in this group the higher the tally of weekly units, the lower was the sperm quality, in terms of total sperm count and the proportion of sperm that were of normal size and shape, after taking account of influential factors. The effects were evident from 5+ units a week upwards, but most apparent among those who drank 25 or more units every week. And total sperm counts were 33% lower, and the proportion of normal-looking sperm 51% lower, among those knocking back 40 units a week compared with those drinking 1-5. Habitual drinking was associated with changes in reproductive hormone levels, although not as strongly as recent drinking, while abstinence was also linked to poorer sperm quality.

This is an observational study, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. And the researchers point out that the findings could be the result of reverse causation — whereby men with poor quality sperm have an unhealthier lifestyle and behaviours to start with. But animal studies suggest that alcohol may have a direct impact on sperm quality, they say.

“This is, to our knowledge, the first study among healthy young men with detailed information on alcohol intake, and given the fact that young men in the western world [drink a lot], this is of public health concern, and could be a contributing factor to the low sperm count reported among [them],” they suggest.

And they conclude: “It remains to be seen whether semen quality is restored if alcohol intake is reduced, but young men should be advised that high habitual alcohol intake may affect not only their general health, but also their reproductive health.”

Source:

BMJ-British Medical Journal. “Moderate weekly alcohol intake linked to poorer sperm quality in healthy young men”ScienceDaily,2October2014.      <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002221232.htm>.

International Narcotics Control Board report says US and Uruguay are breaking drug treaties and warns of huge rise in abuse of ADHD treatment Ritalin

The United Nations has renewed its warnings to Uruguay and the US states of Colorado and Washington that their cannabis legalisation policies fail to comply with international drug treaties.

The annual report from the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board, which is responsible for policing the drug treaties, said it would send a high-level mission to Uruguay, which became the first country to legalise the production, distribution, sale and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes.

The UN drug experts said they would also continue their dialogue with the US government over the commercial sale and distribution of cannabis in Colorado and Washington state.

The possession and cultivation of cannabis became legal on 26 February inWashington DC. Voters in Oregon and Alaska have also approved initiatives to legalise the commercial trade in cannabis for non-medicinal purposes.

The INCB said it “continues to engage in a constructive dialogue” with the US government on cannabis developments and it is clear the UN is putting strong pressure on the US government to ensure that the drug remains illegal at a federal level.

The US government has issued new guidance to banks on their provision of services to marijuana-related businesses and all state attorneys have been reminded of the need to investigate and prosecute cannabis cases in all states.

The INCB said it was aware that the US government intended to monitor the impact on public health of legalising cannabis and has again reminded the Obama administration that the position in Colorado and Washington meant the states were failing to comply with the treaties.

Lochan Naidoo, the INCB president, said the limitation of use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances to medical and scientific purposes was one of the fundamental principles underpinning the international drug control framework. “This legal obligation is absolute and leaves no room for interpretation,” he said.

The UN body also renewed its call for the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences and voiced concern that Oman was proposing to make use of the death penalty for drug-trafficking offences.

The INCB’s annual report records a further rise in the number of new “legal highs” or psychoactive substances that have been identified. The number has risen from 348 to 388 in the past year – an increase of more than 11%. More than 100 countries are taking action against “legal highs” and the INCB has welcomed moves by China, considered by many to be one of the main sources, to start banning these synthetic substances that imitate the effects of traditional drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy.

The UN drug board also warns of a 66% increase in the global consumption of a stimulant, methylphenidate, which is primarily used in the treatment of ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is better known by one of its trade names, Ritalin. The rise has been seen in its use by teenagers and young adults in the US, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Australia.

It also highlights the lack of access for 5.5 billion people to medicines containing drugs such as codeine and morphine, which means that 75% of the world’s population do not have access to proper pain-relief treatment.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/society 3rd March 2015

An ITV documentary will take a look at the impact of drinking alcohol in pregnancy as one in 100 babies are born in Britain each year brain-damaged with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

These babies will go through life with a range of developmental, social and learning difficulties. A few will have tell-tale facial features which will make it easier to get a diagnosis and access support, but the majority will battle with an invisible disability.

What is FASD?

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a series of preventable birth defects caused entirely by a woman drinking alcohol at any time during her pregnancy, often even before she knows that she is pregnant.

The term ‘spectrum’ is used because each individual with FASD may have some or all of a spectrum of mental and physical challenges. In addition each individual with FASD may have these challenges to a degree or ‘spectrum’ from mild to very severe.

These defects of both the brain and the body exist only because of prenatal exposure to alcohol.

What are the guidelines?

The Government’s current guidelines advise that those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid alcohol altogether – but then adds: “If women do choose to drink, to minimise the risk to the baby, we recommend they should not drink more than one to two units once or twice a week and they should not get drunk.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had taken a similar view, although they referred to one or two units a week as a safe amount.

Spokesman Dr Pat O’Brien said: “If nobody drank any alcohol in pregnancy there would be no Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and no Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. But on the other hand if you look at all of the evidence there appears to be a safe level of alcohol intake in pregnancy.”

However earlier this month they updated their advice, recommending that pregnant women do not drink alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy. The advice does say that drinking small amounts of alcohol after this time does not appear to be harmful for the unborn baby, but that pregnant women should not drink more than one or two units, and then not more than once or twice a week.

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, former Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Exposure to alcohol before birth is the single most important preventable cause of incurable brain damage. And it’s an issue which affects all of us in society.”

Source: http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/ 3rd March 2015

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 article originally appeared on VICE Romania

Ana Iorga is a Romanian neuromarketing pioneer, who specialises in market research using EEG sensorsbiometric measures and implicit-association testsAttending an advertising conference in Amsterdam last month, Ana staged an impromptu experiment to measure the effect that weed has on the brain using the EEG helmet she tends to carry around in her bag.

“I noticed how quite a few of the attendees grabbed a joint between breaks, and I kept wondering what goes on in their brains during those moments. Because I don’t possess any mind-reading techniques, I thought about comparing their brain activity before and after smoking,” she told me when she got back.

Two of her colleagues were kind enough to sacrifice themselves to the shrine of science; One evening, after dinner, one of them lit a spliff and the other got to munching on a space cookie.

 


The first participant – EEG trajectory before smoking

“Before consuming the products, we went to the hotel bar and I recorded their brain activity. After 15 minutes, I repeated the measures. I was convinced that I’d see a decrease in brain activity, because they said they felt slower, more absent and more relaxed. I was very surprised by the result.”

 


The first participant – EEG trajectory after smoking

Your brain contains billions of cells called neurons, which communicate with each other through electricity. The simultaneous communication between billions of neurons produces a large quantity of electric brain activity, which can be detected and measured through EEG technology. Because these electric impulses are triggered periodically as waves, they’re called “brain waves”.

EEG sensors measure the activity of neurons located on the surface of the cerebral cortex, and in the case of the two subjects, they showed a very high frequency and amplitude after smoking – the cerebral rhythm being visibly changed compared to the initial situation. This translates into a brain activity contrasting heavily with the participants’ mood (in stand-by mode and relaxed mode).

 


The second participant – EEG trajectory before eating the space cookie

Often, studies claim that THC has the effect of slowing down the cerebral rhythm when it is associated with a state of relaxation, and of speeding up when it is associated with visual hallucinations or tripping. With Ana’s two subjects, “it was clear that the cerebral rhythm was faster after smoking and that wave amplitude was larger – which doesn’t mean that things function chaotically, but that the brain is in a higher alert state. Maybe the guy was tripping or had some sort of bizarre feelings,” explains Laura Crăciun – a neurologist.

Crăciun emphasises that in the case of the first subject there is an imbalance standing out between the left hemisphere’s cerebral electricity [which deals with logic, language and math processes] and the right [where creativity, intuition, art and music processes take place] and along the sequence from the wave recording taken before smoking. That means that the imbalance is not exclusively determined by cannabis smoking.

Both subjects had consumed moderate quantities of alcohol at dinner, which didn’t interfere with the process very much. During the experiment, the two weren’t asked to perform any tasks, as their brain activity was measured in stand-by and relaxation mode.

 


The second participant – EEG trajectory after eating the space cookie.

“With the subject who ate a space cookie, the effect was both a slowing down [the basic wave frequency rhythm of both hemispheres went down] and speeding up of the amplitude, which is associated with a state of sleep-like, profound relaxation.”

“On the first recording, the cerebral rhythm is visibly faster – in the right hemisphere, because I can’t see a big difference in the left one – as well as less symmetrical and steady, but I wouldn’t say the effect is a “disturbance” over the brain waves, but more likely a state of awareness,” Crăciun added.

Source: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/ 15th Feb 2015

Health minister seeks court ban amid fears new cannabis-laced electronic cigarettes could incite further use of drug

Cannabis-laced electronic cigarette

Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in France.

France has sought to stamp out a new electronic cigarette containing cannabis, launched on Tuesday with the claim that it provides all of the relaxation but none of the mind-altering effects of the drug.

The health minister, Marisol Touraine, said the product would incite the consumption of cannabis and she intended to approach the courts to ban it. “I am opposed to such a product being commercialised in France,” she told RTL radio.

The product was launched by a French-Czech company called Kanavape which said it hoped to offer millions of people a legal and flavourful way to consume cannabis.

Smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping, is fashionable in France, and while people have long since figured out how to doctor them to smoke marijuana – as evidenced by hundreds of YouTube tutorials on the subject – Kanavape claims its product is legal.

The company extracts Cannabidiol – a compound in cannabis that does not contain the mind-altering THC ingredient – from hemp, a variety of cannabis grown for fibre and seeds.

The hemp is grown on farms in France, Spain and the Czech Republic without chemicals or fertiliser, the company claims on its website. “Kanavape provides you with a unique experience. Cannabidiol is a non-psychotic component of hemp. It does not have euphoric effects but helps you feel more relaxed,” it says.

Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in France, but the country allows the drug’s active ingredients to be used for medical purposes.

Source: The Guardian, Tuesday 16 December 2014 13.02 GMT

The drugs arrest case is a serious case of drug use/abuse in a work place and clearly reflects the seriousness of the local drug problem.

Already one of the defendants in the case has appeared in court and has volunteered to start a drug rehabilitation programme. This is another indication of the many people of all ages, all walks of life and employment in Gibraltar with drug issues who need help, where it has taken an arrest of this kind for that person to seek help.

The arrest of people at work, taking or abusing drugs should not shock those who know something about the local drug problem, because it has been a related drug issue that has grown on par with the general substance abuse problem. The fact that many people in Gibraltar prefer to bury their head in the sand and hope this serious social problem will go away has compounded many aspects of drug control locally.

Gibraltar’s Growing Drug Problem

The fact remains, the Rock has serious substance abuse problem that will continue to grow and blossom like a poisonous mushroom unless the Government takes immediate action in putting together a national plan to combat drug abuse in Gibraltar. People affected, individuals and whole families who are caught up in the lethal local drug syndrome as a whole, have not been effectively protected!

In fact Gibraltar cannot wait another year or when the government thinks it’s fit to unfold a substance abuse programme based on data taken from up to date research. This serious problem had been steadily creeping into local society, specifically attacking young people and the not so young. In fact, I go further, unless a determined and drastic action is taken, the Rock could lose the potential and the contribution of hundreds of young people and the fibre of the Gibraltarian family will be seriously impaired.

Nearly two decades have passed since the local drug problem really came into its own, what has wavered, and has been just as damaging as consuming drugs itself, is the manner Gibraltar has reacted to the problem. Over the years hundreds of young people have been asking and required help that never came. Many young people now adults were on their own or with their families struggling against the terrible habit, many are now paying dearly for the consequences. Too many young people are now going through the same cycle and like others in the same predicament, are going to waste.

What is Society Going to do About It!

What are we going to do about it? That “we” embraces the whole of society, from the law enforcers to the drug pushers and the drug abusers, to parents and their friends, their teachers, their employers, the owners of bars, nightclubs and squeaky-clean establishments or hotels where transactions are possible made, and where at some momentous times in their lives, youngsters or their elders take the horrendous decision to “try one, to see how it feels”.

It remains strange that a nation of the size of ours, the pushers and the traffickers and the big ones remain difficult to track down, although much has been done and is being done by the police. One big step remains to be taken: nailing down the Big Fish himself/herself to break the back of the drug problem in Gibraltar. Easier said than done; that much is obvious!

Its incredible, that the Government has not thought it important in nearly 3 years in office to compile Statistics to show the estimated number of problematic drug users, much of what we know in this sense is guesswork, empirically based or taken from police arrest and court attendance figures which has never been or will ever be an accurate picture of the real problem with drugs out there.

At the social level, the level of family, friendship and employment, that is, the habits of a “daily drug user” ought to be identifiable, his or her performance or behaviour at school or in the workplace ought to be detectable in one way or another: Lack of productivity, absence of concentration, inability to function normally to take but three characteristics that should show up. If I am correct, the implications are that there may be friends, teachers, parents and employers walking on the other side of the road, a morally and ethically alarming thought.

Everyone Should be Pulling at the Same Rope!

All Government agencies, organisations, NGOs, the Church, and schools should all be pulling the same rope and working closely together in a coordinated manner. Of course people who have overcome an addiction and are now rehabilitated would have an important story to tell.

For the above reason, I would also like to see more holistic and perceptive treatment of social welfare cases. “For instance, if a person applies for the social housing scheme, s/he should not simply be provided with a house. Further investigations should take place to determine whether the person in question has succumbed to additional problems, such as drug abuse etc. Because already in this sense, there have many problems regarding one relatively new estate where many social cases were transferred without properly looking into these social issues effecting them.

In my book, National Drug Policies should no longer be drafted solely by academics. Even after drafting and implementation, a national policy remains an on-going process, in need of constant evaluation. Aspects which are not working or having the desired effects should be identified and the authorities should have the courage to acknowledge the flaws and strive to find alternative strategies, this was never the case with the previous drug strategy that went flat before it even started.

Gibraltar Continues to Fail on this Important Social Problem

There are clear indicators that we’re failing somewhere. We therefore need more research to find out what’s really happening. It could be that 16-year-olds are emulating their peers and drinking alcohol because it’s the hip thing to do. But there could also be instances where this tendency has deeper roots…A properly coordinated outreach programme should get off the ground, with agencies actively seeking out those in need and not merely awaiting to be approached!

Employers should also be enticed to shoulder their responsibility by closely following their employees and identifying and referring cases such as drug abuse. They would be helping society as well as the workplace.

The Government recently informed Panorama “the strategic drug-working group focuses on substance misuse i.e. drug and alcohol not just drugs. We are committed to conducting a Drug Prevalence survey within the current term of office. Priority issues include reduction in drug consumption, emphasis on enforcement, increased awareness and comprehensive review of rehabilitation services. The strategic response (national drug strategy) is currently being developed to include all these issues many of which are interrelated and require clear coordination between different governmental bodies and statutory bodies”.

The Government further adding, “this is an important document, which needs to be done thoroughly but it will certainly be completed before the end of this term of office. The Government also confirmed that the public will be invited to contribute given this is an issue of general public concern as highlighted by successive Police Authority surveys”.

Frankly I do not agree that this serious social issue should have to wait until the end of the term of office of the present administration before a national drug strategy is in place, if that actually happens?

Because even today no one knows the real extent of the substance abuse problem in Gibraltar! Similarly, no one even now, appears to be in any great hurry to find out the extent of the problem either. A situation that is an incomprehensible because you would think that after nearly three years in office the Government would want to know what they are facing when it comes to drug abuse in Gibraltar.

Panorama has been asking for years for these important drugs findings to be carried out. Why should we have to wait a few months or weeks before an election to get this vitally important information? Data or research that may reveal that someone or vulnerable group in society requires immediate attention and not wait before the next election, which may be over a year away and come to late for the desperate person concerned!

Source:    http://www.panorama.gi/localnews/  05-09-14

One in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women are caused by drinking

  • The projected number of new cases of alcohol-related cancers in the Republic of Ireland is expected to double by the year 2020 for women and to increase by 81% for men during the same period (Source) 

  • Because alcohol consumption is higher among poorer people, their risk for alcohol-related cancers is also higher (Source) 

  • The National Cancer Registry has noted the correlation between higher incidence of head and neck cancers and lung cancer among males in the Republic of Ireland living in socio- economically deprived areas and the corresponding higher rates of alcohol consumption and tobacco use in these areas (Source)  

  • Alcohol is classified as a group 1 carcinogen and it is one of the most important causes of cancer in Ireland, being a risk factor in seven types of cancer

  • Cancers of the mouth, upper throat, larynx, oesophagus, liver, bowel and female breast have a causal relationship to alcohol consumption

  • The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) conducted research in 2012 to calculate Ireland’s overall cancer incidence and mortality attributable to alcohol consumption and found that approximately 5% of newly diagnosed cancers and cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol – that’s around 900 cases and 500 deaths each year

  • There is a risk relationship between the amount a woman drinks, and the likelihood of her developing the most common type of breast cancer. Drinking one standard alcoholic drink a day is associated with a 9% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, while drinking 3-6 standard drinks a day increases the risk by 41%

  • It is estimated that up to 20% of breast cancer cases in the UK can be attributed to alcohol

  • Three people in Ireland die from oral and pharyngeal cancer (OPC) every week – which is more than skin melanoma or cervical cancer. Two major risk factors for OPC are tobacco and alcohol consumption

  • Ireland has the second highest cancer rate in the world. Regular alcohol consumption is listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) as one of the factors contributing to the high cancer rates

  • Alcohol and tobacco together are estimated to account for about three-quarters of oral cancer cases in Europe

  • The risk of bowel cancer increases by 8% for every two units of alcohol consumed a day

  • Cancer risk due to alcohol are the same, regardless of the type of alcohol consumed and even drinking within the recommended limits carries an increased risk

  • A recent study on the burden of alcohol consumption on the incidence of cancer in eight European countries reported that up to 10% of all cancers in men and 3% of women may be attributed to alcohol consumption (Source) 

  • While moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a decrease in risk for cardiovascular disease, the overall net effect of drinking in relation to cancer risk, even of moderate drinking, has been shown to be harmful (Source)

Follow this link for research and reports on alcohol and cancer

Source:http://alcoholireland.ie/facts/alcohol-and cancer/#sthash.JUf1wiYP.dpuf

Filed under: Alcohol,Europe,Health :

Pro-legalisers often quote the so-called models of Portugal and the Netherlands – but more people in these countries want cannabis to be illegal.

In 2011, 52% of portuguese aged 15-24 years old argued that cannabis should remain illegal – that figure is now 66%. In the Netherlands the figures also rose by 14%. The direction is contrary to european countries whose policies have not experimented with it, where 53% of young europeans want to keep cannabis illegal, a fall of 6% from 2011.

Original story by Leonor Paiva Watson, with Anthony Soares in Jornal de Noticias 26 August 2014

Translation below.

The Portuguese trend “is surprising,” said Manuel Cardoso, deputy director general of the Department of Intervention in Sicad (Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies).  “But his reflects the work done to sensitise for youth risk behaviours.”

He recalls that SICAD recently undertook a study addressing on new psychoactive substances, verifying also that “most young people, even those that drank, did not agree with its legalisation… Consumption (in small quantities) is not a crime, but marketing is prohibited. People know that can hurt.”

Alongside Portugal are countries like the Netherlands (14% more than 2011), Belgium (plus 13%), Latvia (8%) and France (6% more than in 2011).

Elsewhere in Europe, even in countries where the overwhelming majority do not want legalisation, the tendency is for fewer young people to think so. In Cyprus, for example, 72% of young people do not want the legalisation of cannabis, but that is 10% less than 2011. In Italy, for example, the figures are down 22%, Germany 14-17%, Austria and Slovenia least 13%. In the Netherlands (53%), Austria (53%), Slovakia (54%), Poland (55%), Ireland (57%), Italy (60%), Slovenia (64%) and Republic Czech (73%), most people want legalisation. It is noteworthy is that, although the Netherlands generally is perceived as wanting legalisation of cannabis, there is a 14% increase in those who defend the substance remaining illegal.

Source: dbrecoveryresources.com   27th August 2014

Barcelona City Hall has ordered the closure of almost 50 cannabis clubs in a bid to stem an industry that has the Catalan capital rivalling Amsterdam as a “potheads’ paradise”   Barcelona City Hall has ordered the closure of almost 50 cannabis clubs in a bid to stem an industry that has the Catalan capital rivalling Amsterdam as a “potheads’ paradise”.

Authorities, concerned about Barcelona’s fast-growing reputation as a weed smokers’ haven, ordered the closures after an inspection of 145 cannabis clubs in the city found a third of them had “deficiencies” in their management.  The clubs facing closure are accused of various violations, among them selling cannabis illegally, attempting to attract non-members onto the premises and poor ventilation.   The number of cannabis clubs in Spain has soared over the past few years, ballooning from an estimated 40 associations in 2010 to more than 700 across the nation, according to estimates by smokers’ groups.

Barcelona is home to more than half of these clubs, which vary from elegant cocktail-style bars to sparsely furnished basement rooms in apartment blocks.   They have sprung into existence because of a legal loophole which allows marijuana to be cultivated and distributed among members forming a not-for-profit association. Members must pay an annual subscription plus a variable fee to cover the cost of cultivating the cannabis they consume.

Without clear regulations in place, however, some clubs have ventured beyond the spirit of the law and actively encourage tourists by allowing them to sign up for club membership online ahead of their arrival in the city and to buy drugs when they visit.   Barcelona now tops the rankings on WeBeHigh, a travel advice website for soft drug users, beating traditional stoners’ favourite Amsterdam.

Earlier this year Barcelona’s city hall imposed a year moratorium on associations opening premises for smoking the drug and regional authorities also want new rules on cannabis.  Recent figures show that in Catalonia alone there are 165,000 registered members of cannabis clubs bringing in an estimated 5 million euros (£4 million) in revenue each month.

City Hall announced plans in June to tighten control of the cannabis clubs, which include ensuring that they do not open premises near schools and that they are well ventilated. Authorities are also seeking to control opening hours of club premises and set maximum membership numbers.

The associations themselves have also called for better regulations to be introduced to avoid malpractice such as leafleting on the street to lure in new members and dealing in black market cannabis rather than produce homegrown specifically for use by the association.

Martin Barriuso, the spokesman for the Spanish Federation of Cannabis Associations, acknowledged that some “bad practices” have emerged.  “We have reported them,” he told AFP last month. “But it is hard to control without a clear regulation that separates the wheat from the chaff.”

Following the closures on Wednesday, the Catalan federation of cannabis associations, CatFAC, appealed for dialogue between the authorities and the clubs.  “We are aware that the administration does its job well and ensures the common good but this situation would be easier if, before it acts, it set clear rules for all cannabis associations,” it said in a statement.

The more reputable clubs have doctors on hand to advise those who may be using marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as easing the side effects of chemotherapy.

Catalonia’s Ministry of Health will in September present a draft law to the regional parliament calling for the regulation of cannabis consumption.

Source:  www.telegraph.co.uk  14.08.2014 

Drug decriminalization in Portugal is a failure, despite various reports published recently all over the world saying the opposite.

There is a complete and absurd campaign of manipulation of Portuguese drug policy facts and figures, which some authors appear to have fallen for.

The number of new cases of HIV / AIDS and Hepatitis C in Portugal recorded among drug users is eight times the average found in other member states of the European Union.

“Portugal keeps on being the country with the most cases of injected drug related AIDS (85 new cases per one million of citizens in 2005, while the majority of other EU countries do not exceed 5 cases per

million) and the only one registering a recent increase. 36 more cases per one million of citizens were estimated in 2005 comparatively to 2004, when only 30 were referred ” (EMCDDA – November 2007).

– Since the implementation of decriminalization in Portugal, the number of homicides related to drug use has increased 40%. “Portugal was the only European country to show a significant increase in homicides between 2001 and 2006.” (WDR – World Drug Report, 2009)

“With 219 deaths by drug ‘overdose’ a year, Portugal has one of the worst records, reporting more than one death every two days. Along with Greece, Austria and Finland, Portugal is one of the countries that recorded an increase in drug overdose by over 30% in 2005”. (EMCDDA – November 2007)

The number of deceased individuals that tested positive results for drugs (314) at the Portuguese Institute of Forensic Medicine in 2007 registered a 45% raise climbing fiercely after 2006 (216). This represents the highest numbers since 2001 – roughly one death per day – therefore reinforcing the growth of the drug trend since 2005.

(Portuguese IDT – November 2008)

– “Behind Luxembourg, Portugal is the European country with the highest rate of consistent drug users and IV heroin dependents”. (Portuguese Drug Situation Annual Report, 2006)

– Between 2001 and 2007, drug use increased 4.2%, while the percentage of people who have used drugs (at least once) in life, multiplied from 7.8% to 12%. The following statistics are reported:

  • Cannabis:       from 12.4% to 17%
  • Cocaine:        from 1.3% to 2.8%
  • Heroin:          from 0.7% to 1.1%
  • Ecstasy:        from 0.7% to 1.3%.

(Report of Portuguese IDT 2008)

– “There remains a notorious growing consumption of cocaine in Portugal, although not as severe as that which is verifiable in Spain. The increase in consumption of cocaine is extremely problematic.” (Wolfgang Gotz, EMCDDA Director – Lisbon, May 2009)

– “While amphetamines and cocaine consumption rates have doubled in Portugal, cocaine drug seizures have increased sevenfold between 2001 and 2006, the sixth highest in the world”. (WDR – World Drug Report, June 2009)

– “It is difficult to assess trends in intensive cannabis use in Europe, but among the countries that participated in both field trials between 2004 and 2007 (France, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal), there was an average increase of approximately 20%”. (EMCDDA – November 2008)

The reality of Portuguese drug addiction seems to have been tampered with. The statistical results seem to have been manipulated by institutions controlled by the government.

The problem is serious and deserves consistent answers. The banner of “harm reduction” cannot be an ideology and an end in itself. It is extremely disturbing to promote the correct use of drugs “safely” (sic) integrating consumption into the habits (about 70% of Portuguese addicts scrutinized in the country are not in drug-free programs but in programs that, while called treatments, are actually “replacements” because these “treatments” substitute one drug for another) that is being made possible by public institutions (such as the Portuguese IDT), who submits with the support (sic) from the State, countless numbers of addicts to a life of dependency.

“Resounding success”? Glance at the results!

If facts are important, the Portuguese model is a mistake.

The example of CzechRepublic, Mexico and Argentina that adopted the sadly famous Portuguese drug decriminalization model should not be followed by anyone.

Manuel Pinto Coelho

(Chairman of APLD – Association for a Drug Free Portugal and member of International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy)

Source: DrugWatchInternational.  31st October, 2011

Cannabis use during adolescence and young adulthood increases the risk of psychotic symptoms, while continued cannabis use may increase the risk for psychotic disorder in later life, concludes a new study published online in the British Medical Journal.

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world, particularly among adolescents, and is consistently linked with an increased risk for mental illness. However, it is not clear whether the link between cannabis and psychosis is causal, or whether it is because people with psychosis use cannabis to self medicate their symptoms.

So a team of researchers, led by Professor Jim van Os from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, set out to investigate the association between cannabis use and the incidence and persistence of psychotic symptoms over 10 years.

The study took place in Germany and involved a random sample of 1,923 adolescents and young adults aged 14 to 24 years.

The researchers excluded anyone who reported cannabis use or pre-existing psychotic symptoms at the start of the study so that they could examine the relation between new (incident) cannabis use and psychotic symptoms.

The remaining participants were then assessed for cannabis use and psychotic symptoms at three time points over the study period (on average four years apart).

Incident cannabis use almost doubled the risk of later incident psychotic symptoms, even after accounting for factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, use of other drugs, and other psychiatric diagnoses. Furthermore, in those with cannabis use at the start of the study, continued use of cannabis over the study period increased the risk of persistent psychotic symptoms

There was no evidence for self medication effects as psychotic symptoms did not predict later cannabis use. These results “help to clarify the temporal association between cannabis use and psychotic experiences,” say the authors. “In addition, cannabis use was confirmed as an environmental risk factor impacting on the risk of persistence of psychotic experiences.”

The major challenge is to deter enough young people from using cannabis so that the prevalence of psychosis is reduced, say experts from Australia in an accompanying editorial.  Professor Wayne Hall from the University of Queensland and Professor Louisa Degenhardt from the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, question the UK’s decision to retain criminal penalties for cannabis use, despite evidence that removing such penalties has little or no detectable effect on rates of use. They believe that an informed cannabis policy “should be based not only on the harms caused by cannabis use, but also on the harms caused by social policies that attempt to discourage its use, such as criminal penalties for possession and use.”

Source:    ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301184056.htm>

Young Swiss men who say that they believe in God are less likely to smoke cigarettes or pot or take ecstasy pills than Swiss men of the same age group who describe themselves as atheists. Belief is a protective factor against addictive behaviour. This is the conclusion reached by a study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Karl Marx said that religion was the opium of the people. New figures now suggest that religion plays a role in preventing substance misuse. A research team led by Gerhard Gmel from Lausanne University Hospital has shown in the journal Substance Use & Misuse that, in Switzerland, fewer religious young men consume addictive substances than men of their age group who are agnostics or atheists.

At the army recruitment centre For their study on substance use in Switzerland, Gmel and his colleagues interviewed almost twenty-year-old men at army recruitment centres in Lausanne, Windisch and Mels between August 2010 and November 2011. The researchers have now evaluated the 5387 questionnaires completed by the young men. Based on the responses, the scientists split the young men into five groups: the “religious” believe in God and attend church services, the “spiritual” believe in a higher power, but do not practice any religion, the “unsure” do not know what to believe about God, the “agnostics” assume that no-one can know whether there is a God or not, and the “atheists” do not believe in God.

The researchers found that these groups deal differently with addictive substances. Among the 543 religious young men, 30% smoked cigarettes daily, 20% smoked pot more than once a week and less than 1% had consumed ecstasy or cocaine in the past year. Among the 1650 atheists, 51% smoked cigarettes, 36% smoked pot more than once a week, 6% had consumed ecstasy and 5% cocaine in the past year. The three groups that lay between these extremes were in the mid-range both regarding their religious beliefs and the consumption of addictive substances.

A protective influence for Gmel, these figures indicate that research into addictive behaviour should not only consider risk factors, but also protective factors. The results of his study show that belief is a protective factor when it comes to the consumption of addictive substances. Whether the differences between the groups can be attributed to the ethical values of the young men or to social control in the environments in which they live, remains unanswered.

Source: Religion Is Good, Belief Is Better: Religion, Religiosity, and Substance Use Among Young Swiss Men. Substance Use & Misuse, 2013; 48 (12): 1085 DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2013.799017

Drug tourism has always been a big issue, and a big business, in the Netherlands

That land of  “laissez-faire,” with its reputation as a haven of drug tolerance, is not only mired in internal political discord over a nationwide extension of the prohibition against “soft” drug sales to tourists but also facing serious border disputes around the development of “weed ghettos” in areas near its neighbors.

Currently, only the country’s southern provinces have implemented last year’s ban outlawing the sale of drugs to tourists by the infamous coffee shops and limited sales to government-issued “weed pass”-carrying locals.

But the law created conflict mainly with an active lobby of coffee shop owners who decided to openly defy the law, triggering month-long suspended jail sentences and fines during the summer.

The battle between coffee shop owners and Onno Hoes, mayor of Maastricht (the regional capital of the south) and a stalwart supporter of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, ended at the Supreme Court in The Hague, which last week invoked a Solomon-like compromise: Move the coffee shops from the city center to so-called “coffee corners” on the edge of town.

Three coffee shop owners agreed to relocate immediately to an industrial park near the Belgian border.

However, five nearby Belgian towns weren’t amused – and the mayor of one even threatened to close roads crossing the border due to “international risk.”

“I can make all the cars returning from Maastricht undergo checks,” he told local journalists.

The national law banning foreigners from buying weed at the legal coffee shops has been widely ignored in most of the country, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the two largest cities whose mayors refuse to comply with the central government’s decision.

The battle’s been most intense in Maastricht, where Hoes claims that the 1.6 million foreign “drugs tourists” visiting the city’s 13 licensed coffee shops every year created “an unacceptable nuisance” and brought filth, noise and crime to the city.

The coffee shop owners argue that the ban has devastated their business, damaged the local economy and led to an increase in illegal street dealing.

A Dutch News article comparing “police and city council figures“ reports that “the decision to ban foreigners not resident in the Netherlands from the country’s cannabis cafes has led to an ‘explosion’ in drug-related crime in the south of the country. The government’s decision to turn the cafes into “members’ only clubs” in the southern provinces last May led to a sharp rise in street dealing.

In Maastricht, at the forefront of efforts to reduce drug tourism, the number of drug crimes has doubled over the past year while in Roermond they are up three-fold with at least 60 active street dealers.”

According to other surveys recently published in the local Dutch press, two-thirds of the country’s 478 cannabis cafes continue to sell marijuana to tourists, creating a new and sharp north-south divide.

The ban appears to leave a loophole for a local, ‘tailor-made’ approach, permitting licensed coffee shops to continue selling small amounts of cannabis to any adult for personal use. And while possession is not legal, the police turn a blind eye to people with less than five grams.

Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, for example, has made clear that his city will not ban tourists from its 220 coffee shops because “the legislation makes it possible to take local circumstances into account.” The mayors of many other towns support and follow his position.

Although Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten declared his ministry is not yet planning to impose a deadline on city councils to implement the ban, he also warned that he will not tolerate mayors refusing to ban tourists from buying marijuana.

At least 10 of Netherlands’ local councils, among them some of the biggest cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague have called for regulated growing, arguing that legalized production would remove organized crime from the equation.

Minister Opstelten has already said he will not approve that plan either.

Source: 24th Sept.2013 http://www.forbes.com/sites/ceciliarodriguez/2013/09/24/weed-ghettos-for-tourists-anger-netherlands-neighbors/

Filed under: Economic,Europe :

Abstract

As cannabis use is more frequent in patients with psychosis than in the general population and is known to be a risk factor for psychosis, the question arises whether cannabis contributes to recently detected brain volume reductions in schizophrenic psychoses. This study is the first to investigate how cannabis use is related to the cingulum volume, a brain region involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, in a sample of both at-risk mental state (ARMS) and first episode psychosis (FEP) subjects. A cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of manually traced cingulum in 23 FEP and 37 ARMS subjects was performed. Cannabis use was assessed with the Basel Interview for Psychosis. By using repeated measures analyses of covariance, we investigated whether current cannabis use is associated with the cingulum volume, correcting for age, gender, alcohol consumption, whole brain volume and antipsychotic medication. There was a significant three-way interaction between region (anterior/posterior cingulum), hemisphere (left/right cingulum) and cannabis use (yes/no). Post-hoc analyses revealed that this was due to a significant negative effect of cannabis use on the volume of the posterior cingulum which was independent of the hemisphere and diagnostic group and all other covariates we controlled for. In the anterior cingulum, we found a significant negative effect only for the left hemisphere, which was again independent of the diagnostic group. Overall, we found negative associations of current cannabis use with grey matter volume of the cingulate cortex, a region rich in cannabinoid CB1 receptors. As this finding has not been consistently found in healthy controls, it might suggest that both ARMS and FEP subjects are particularly sensitive to exogenous activation of these receptors.

University of Basel Psychiatric Clinics, Center for Gender Research and Early Detection, c/o University Hospital Basel, Petersgraben 4, CH-4031 Basel, Switzerland.

Source:  Psychiatry Res. 2013 Sep 17. pii: S0925-4927(13)00178-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.06.006.   ncbi.nlm.gov/pubmed/24054

The Dutch government said Friday it would move to classify high-potency marijuana alongside hard drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, the latest step in the country’s ongoing reversal of its famed tolerance policies.

The decision means most of the cannabis now sold in the Netherlands’ weed cafes would have to be replaced by milder variants. But skeptics said the move would be difficult to enforce, and that it could simply lead many users to smoke more of the less potent weed.  Possession of marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police do not prosecute people for possession of small amounts, and it is sold openly in designated cafes. Growers are routinely prosecuted if caught.

Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said weed containing more than 15 percent of its main active chemical, THC, is so much stronger than what was common a generation ago that it should be considered a different drug entirely.

The high potency weed has “played a role in increasing public health damage,” he said at a press conference in The Hague .  The Cabinet has not said when it will begin enforcing the rule. Jeffrey Parsons, a psychologist at Hunter College in New York who studies addiction, said the policy may not have the benefits the government is hoping for.  “If it encourages smoking an increased amount of low-concentration THC weed, it is likely to actually cause more harm than good,” he said, citing the potential lung damage and cancer-causing effects of extra inhalation.

The Dutch Justice Ministry said Friday it was up to cafes to regulate their own products and police will seize random samples for testing.   But Gerrit-Jan ten Bloomendal, spokesman for the Platform of Cannabis Businesses in the Netherlands, said implementing the plan would be difficult “if not impossible.”   “How are we going to know whether a given batch exceeds 15 percent THC? For that matter, how would health inspectors know?” he said. He predicted a black market will develop for highly potent weed.

The ongoing Dutch crackdown on marijuana is part of a decade-long rethink of liberalism in general that has seen a third of the windows in Amsterdam’s famed prostitution district shuttered and led the Netherlands to adopt some of the toughest immigration rules in Europe.

The number of licensed marijuana cafes has been reduced, and earlier this year the government announced plans to ban tourists from buying weed. That has been resisted by the city of Amsterdam, where the marijuana cafes known euphemistically as “coffee shops” are a major tourist draw. Marjan Heuving of the Netherlands’ Trimbos Institute, which studies mental health and addiction, said there is a growing body of evidence that THC causes mental illnesses.   She said it stands to reason “the more THC the body takes in, the more the impact.” But it has not been demonstrated scientifically that high THC weed is worse for mental health, she said.

Parsons of Hunter College said it remains difficult to be sure whether marijuana causes mental problems or whether people predisposed to, say, depression seek it out as a form of self-medication.

The Trimbos Institute says the average amount of THC in Dutch marijuana is currently around 17.8 percent. It has been declining since 2004 after increasing steadily from 4 percent or so in the 1970s.By comparison, in the United States the average level of THC in marijuana is around 10 percent and rising, according to the last measure released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2009.

Heuving agreed with Ten Bloomendal that determining THC levels outside of a laboratory setting would prove difficult, as exact content varies widely from batch to batch and even within a single plant.   “I don’t know of any home test,” she said. “How this is going to work in practical terms, I have no idea.”

Source:   www.independent .co.uk    Oct. 2011

Bipolar disorder patients who also have substance misuse disorders are at an increased risk of suicide compared with patients who are non- drug dependent or do not abuse drugs, suggest Canadian and Italian scientists.

It is estimated that between 25 and 60 per cent of patients with bipolar disorder make at least one suicide attempt during the course of their illness. Despite this, few studies have examined the clinical predictors of suicide attempts in these patients.

Researchers administered the Structural Clinical Interview for DSM-IV to 336 patients with a diagnosis of bipolar I, bipolar II or schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type).

The team, from the University of Toronto and the University of Milan, then compared clinical predictors of suicide attempts in attempters and non-attempters. They found that 26 per cent of the subjects had made at least one suicide attempt.

Lifetime co-morbid substance use disorders were diagnosed in 34 per cent of the subjects, while lifetime comorbid anxiety disorders were diagnosed in 26 per cent of the subjects.

Significantly, patients with a lifetime comorbid substance use disorder (that is, drug abuse and dependence) had a 40 per cent lifetime rate of attempted suicide compared with a rate of 24 per cent for those without the comorbidity.

The team speculates that the relationship between lifetime comorbid substance use disorder and suicide attempts may have a genetic origin and/or may be explained by severity of illness and trait impulsivity.

They add that further research is needed to examine severity of illness, impulsivity and the temporal link between substance use and suicide attempts.

Source: www.thealmagest.com  21.07.2013

Pro drug groups, or as they prefer to call themselves ‘drug policy reform groups’ are constantly

quoting the ‘success’ of Portugal’s more liberal drug laws.  They are not correct – the use of heroin

has tripled,  as the following figures from ‘Publico’ show:

 

 

“Publico” today´s edition: “regresso ao consume de heroína”

means ” return to heroin use has tripled”

1008 cases in 2010

1843 in 2011

2881 in 2012

Source : www.publico.pt    4th July 2013

Filed under: Europe,Social Affairs :

Espada J.P., Griffin K.W., Pereira J.R. et al.

Uniquely this Spanish study eliminated either problem solving or social skills training from secondary school drug education to see if these really were active ingredients in reducing substance use. Probably they were was the conclusion, though there were no statistically significant differences between the full programme and the excised versions.

Summary

Training in social skills and in problem-solving skills feature in many contemporary drug use prevention programmes. The former aims to promote assertiveness, empathy and social negotiation strategies, the latter, self-reliance and coping skills. Commonly these components are taught as generic skills first and then applied to situations related to substance use.

An example is the Spanish school programme Saluda which aims to delay the onset of alcohol and drug use. Its problem-solving components aim to help pupils understand and appreciate the advantages of non-consumption and the disadvantages of drug abuse by first applying problem-solving methods to everyday situations, and then specifically to substance use scenarios. The social skills components aim to help pupils develop skills related to active listening, initiating, maintaining and concluding conversations, expressing opinions and positive feelings, and defending one’s personal rights, such as saying ‘No’ and coping with peer pressure. Both types of components are taught mostly via skill-focused activities. Each is the focus of two different sessions of the 10-session programme, offering the opportunity to try variations which omit one but not the other as a way of testing which components are needed to generate the programme’s impacts. This was the strategy adopted by the featured study, which replaced the missing sessions with general discussion sessions not involving any skills training activities.

The study recruited 341 of the 358 students in 14 classes in two secondary schools. Whole classes were assigned to the full Saluda programme, to the programme with social skills but not problem solving training, to one with problem solving but not social skills training, or at random to education as usual until the final follow-up assessments had been completed a year after the Saluda lessons had finished.

Main findings

At the start of the study there were no statistically significant differences between pupils assigned to the different options. However, by the end questionnaires completed by the pupils revealed that those offered any version of Saluda had over the last month drunk alcohol significantly less often than pupils in education-as-usual classes. Though the biggest impact was seen with the full programme, there were no statistically significant differences between the three versions of Saluda. Similar findings emerged in respect to willingness to use alcohol or illegal drugs (actual use of the latter was too rare to be analysed), except that this pattern emerged in the surveys taken immediately after the lessons had ended as well as a year later.

The study also assessed the impact on the relevant skills of omitting lessons focused on these skills. In respect of problem solving skills, after the lessons ended both versions of the programme which had included the relevant training led to better skills (as assessed by a questionnaire) than among pupils not offered the programme at all, but this difference persisted to the final follow-up only after the full programme. In respect of social skills as reflected in reported difficulties with family, peers, or the opposite sex, on no measure were there any statistically significant differences between the three versions of the Saluda programme. Other findings revealed no obviously consistent pattern.

The authors’ conclusions

In general, findings indicated that the three versions of the Saluda programme were all significantly more effective at curbing drinking and intention to use substances than usual education only, but not significantly different from each other. However, there were indications that effectiveness may diminish unless training in both social and problem-solving skills is retained in the programme.

As assessed by average scores at the final follow-up, the largest advantages over usual education in drinking and in problem solving were seen after the full programme. In respect of problem solving, the full programme also bettered the version which included the relevant training, suggesting that social skills training acts synergistically with problem-solving training to improve problem-solving skills.

In terms of effects on skills, the programme without social skills training produced inconsistent changes in the relevant skills, as did the programme without problem solving skills training. It should be cautioned however that non-random assignment to the education options means the results may be due to differences between the pupils.

This draft entry is currently subject to consultation and correction by the study authors and other experts.

Source: Prevention Science: 2012, 13(1), p. 86–95.  June 2013.

The letter below was written by a Portuguese doctor to a Journalist from Der Spiegel who had printed an article about how successful Portuguese drug policy was. Dr.Coelho shows how the journalist clearly had pre-conceived ideas about the article he was writing and how he totally ignored evidence disputing many of his assumptions. Readers in Germany will not have been able to decide for themselves on evidence, having only read a biased and one sided version of events. The media worldwide have powerful influences on the public and we should, wherever possible, call them to task over inaccurate or downright untruthful reporting. Whether they would publish is another story……

Dear Wiebke,

Reading your article was, surprisingly, a disappointment. I´m sorry to say. You´ve come to Portugal to independently investigate and write a piece on the Portuguese drug policy experiment, but actually, after reading your article, one thing has become clear to me – impartiality is not your game.

What does one do when writing an impartial depiction on a given situation? One listens to every intervening party and to what they have to say and, then translate that to contextualized writing, allowing the essential juicy content about each party to surface in rigorous replication. And that…you did not do.

You have created a skewed depiction on this reality. If on one side of the scale you have placed a fairly detailed description about the official decriminalization policy, its origins, it´s protagonists, it´s numbers and statistics, it´s routines and philosophy; on the other side you were exceedingly scarce and vague with presenting information, the real objective information that contradicts the established thought current.

You´ve limited your words to just saying that there is an opposing character, me, who´s against it all. You say I´m against decriminalization. You say I´m at odds with former colleagues and with “the system”. You say my greatest concern is that my country has given up on the idea of a drug-free world. You say I´m fighting the extensive methadone program (which is actually an incorrect statement). You say that my critical perspective has made me an outsider in my own country. And you say that I don´t agree with Goulão about drug users not being criminals and being sick. And that is, unfortunately, how you´ve summarized my words. Other than that, there´s only you characterizing me with romanticized redundancies that, although perhaps entertaining for the reader, share absolutely NO real information about the issue at hand. And don´t get me wrong – I do not mind being shaped into a character, I get it, it´s more entertaining to read and it´s just a matter of style. What I do mind is when that is done at the expenses of vital core information not appearing. Because ultimately, that is what serving the public is all about, providing information so they can think and decide for themselves. And my filtered and randomly picked phrases or my persona are, absolutely not the point. They are secondary to the technical information I provide, So, where is it?

You see, I did not pick this side of the coin just because I like to contradict and annoy people. I simply cannot ignore the contradicting evidence that presents itself before my eyes and, I feel obligated to contribute with my accumulated knowledge because I feel my help can prevent a whole number of painful situations, which I see are being neglected. I feel it is my duty to act and inform. And I think that that should just as well be yours.

And then you do worse. The ONLY reference that you make to any documentation provided by me is in a description of me showing you a “brief and skeptically worded fact sheet”, “as if” I were “offering proof”, so you say. So, once again, absolutely no concrete data, no content whatsoever is being conveyed to the reader. Just a description of me

handing you sheets of paper. Is that an honest representation of what happened? Far from it. Is that valuing my contribution? Absolutely not. Misleading? Yes indeed.

You were at my house interviewing me for about 3 to 4 hours. I provided you with a whole amount of technical and statistical information, and plenty of documentation based on official sources. After that, you continued to ask questions by email, and I continued to provide you with answers and more documentation. And, of all that documentation and data, what was the only thing that you´ve found worthy of reference? That I have shown you a brief and skeptically worded fact sheet, “as if offering proof”. And let me tell you that I love your subtle vote of distrust in these words – “as if offering proof”. So, what you are saying is, that I might not be showing any proof after all, I´m just acting “as if” I were. Lovely.

A few further inaccuracies to be corrected: you say I fight the extensive methadone program. Not quite true. As I´ve told you before, I believe methadone to be useful in a whole variety of situations. What I absolutely cannot agree with is the decision of making it solely the only practice, applied to every opioid dependent. Making it close to impossible for full remissions and recoveries to happen. Do you realize what that means in someone´s life? It means they´ll be a dependent forever. They´ve changed drugs, but they continue being dependents. And that is a huge heavy burden to carry. They´re self-confidence is always shattered even if they don´t show it. They carry the stigma with them permanently in self-corroding secrecy, always self-conscious about it. Their functioning in the world is always compromised by that. It is quite ludicrous that something as simple as allowing a dependent to have a full drugless recovery, should be eradicated, just because it means more state money spent. In my opinion, the toll is much higher for everybody when such a large part of the population is being maintained in a state of numbness – an opioid is an opioid…

And when I say drugless recovery, I don´t mean “cold turkey” remission, which was another inaccuracy of yours. There is absolutely no need for the recovering dependent to experience the agony and pain of the chemical physical dependence during the remissive process, they already have them in large amounts in their “lives”, and I never did recommend it. So, once again, “cold turkey withdrawals” are not something I would recommend as being the best treatment.

So, to conclude, your article is biased, clearly favoring decriminalization and the Portuguese policy´s point of view. And that was something that you had already established long before meeting me. But just as basic academic rules dictate, you had to have a pinch of contradictory salt – the opposing character. Just a slight colorful adornment to the text to make it seem better founded. But my foundations were overlooked and disregarded, avoided. They were never your focus.

But I understand your context now. You have an agenda, just like Der Spiegel probably does. I noticed in another recent issue of the magazine, an article about how the German state spends 4 billion euros in fighting drugs, and mentioning how a lot of people now believe that decriminalization drug consumption is the way. I don´t condemn your points of view, it´s a current attractive trend, I´m aware of that, and everyone´s entitled to believe whatever seems better to their eyes. I just think that rigor and honesty should not be compromised when it comes to allowing different voices to be heard.

Having said that, if Der Spiegel should be interested in portraying the both sides of the coin more consistently, you are welcome to attend the “I International Congress on Drugs & Dependencies: Recovery is possible”, in Lisbon, next May 23, 24 and 25.

Sincerely at your disposal, Manuel Pinto Coelho

Filed under: Europe,