Education Sector

The program focuses on giving Icelandic youth “better options” than drugs and alcohol.

In 1999, a study following the long-term impact of D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) concluded that the popular anti-drug program did little to prevent American youth from experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

That same year, the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) was born. The institute went on to develop Iceland’s own anti-drug strategy, which did away with old and ineffective strategies (like D.A.R.E.) and instead focused on access to sports, music and art, and parental involvement.

A recent feature by AP News explored the impact of Planet Youth, one of the most successful youth drug and alcohol prevention programs in the world.

The Program’s Approach

“The key to success is to create healthy communities and by that get healthy individuals,” said Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, who founded Planet Youth (formerly “Youth of Iceland”).

Iceland has invested in providing activities (sports, music, art) and facilities (youth centers) to “give kids alternative ways to feel part of a group, and to feel good, rather than through using alcohol and drugs,” according to the Planet Youth website.

The program “is all about society giving better options,” said Reykjavik Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson.

Prior to Planet Youth, Iceland, too, was contending with problematic substance use among its youth. The government tried to discourage drug and alcohol use through anti-drug “education” (like D.A.R.E.) that we’ve seen for a long time in the United States. But after observing the inefficacy of this approach, Iceland changed course. Rather than fixating on the potential harms of using drugs and alcohol, Planet Youth emphasizes interesting activities and better ways to spend one’s time.

“Telling teenagers not to use drugs can backlash and actually get them curious to try them,” said Sigfusdottir.

Today, Icelandic youth have among the lowest rates of substance abuse in Europe.

Other strategies employed by the Icelandic government to address youth substance abuse include imposing curfews for those under age 16, getting parents more involved in their kids’ lives, banning tobacco and alcohol advertising, and evolving the program based on current data.

The success of Planet Youth has gained the attention of other countries.

According to AP News, ICSRA currently advises 100 communities in 23 countries. Cities in Portugal, Malta, Slovakia, Russia and Kenya have also learned from the Planet Youth model.

Source:  8/01/19

By Kathy Gyngell Posted 12th September 2014

For years the great and the good of the drug legalising world – including members and former members of the Government’s own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs – have consistently denied that cannabis is a gateway drug or addictive. They have downplayed its devastating consequences for adolescents. They have derided or ignored cannabis prevention campaigners and the evidence presented to them.

It is time for them to recant  – now and publicly – for their misleading and casual advice.

They can no longer remain in denial about the drug they have appeared so keen to defend, to normalise and to claim is less harmful than alcohol.

Irrefutable evidence of its damaging consequences for adolescents was published yesterday, in a new study of adolescent cannabis use , in The Lancet Psychiatry  –  a study in which almost  3,800 people took part.

Its objective was to find out more about the link between the frequency of cannabis use before the age of 17 and seven outcomes up to the age of 30, such as completing high school, obtaining a university degree and cannabis and welfare dependence.

The researchers found that the risks increased relative to dose, with daily cannabis users suffering the greatest harm.

They found that teenagers who smoked cannabis daily were over 60 per cent less likely to complete school or get a degree than those who never had. They were also 60 per cent less likely to graduate college, seven times more likely to attempt suicide, eight times as likely to go on and use other illegal drugs, and 18 times more likely to develop a cannabis dependence.

To its shame, the Washington Post described these findings as ‘startling”.  The fact is that they only reflect numerous previously published studies and surveys.

However, let’s hope that the that self-styled Global Commission on Drugs Policy and its leading light, Sir Richard Branson, will take note that Professor Neil McKeganeyrightly excoriated them on Tuesday   for promoting the legalisation of all currently illegal drugs.

It should be concerned and reflect on its gung-ho recommendations in light of this catalogue of damage; and so should President Obama – who seems to think kids smoking dope is OK.  He should really be worrying for under the lax approach of his administration cannabis use, or marijuana as Americans call it, has risen 29 per cent in six years, that is nearly a 5 per cent increase per year.  It is difficult to detach this rise from the effective decriminalisation of the drug in 23 states under so called medical marijuana legislation.  And the US is yet to see the full effects of the January 2014 initiation of legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington on the rest of the nation.

Thankfully, in the UK the number of 11–15 year olds who say they’d used cannabis in the past month (4 per cent) has been dropping consistently over the last 13 years or so.  The number significantly less than in the US where a worrying 7 per cent of high-school seniors (aged 17-18) are daily or near-daily users.

Richard Mattick, the study author and Professor of Drug and Alcohol Studies at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, in Australia, is right to stress: “Our findings are particularly timely given that several US states and countries in Latin America have made moves to decriminalise or legalise cannabis, raising the possibility that the drug might become more accessible to young people.”

The cat is out of the bag in the US. Let’s hope here in the UK, those seeking to normalise cannabis use, including the Lib Dems, several members of the ACMD and a number of Government-funded charities will finally see how irresponsible they have been and are.

Source:  www.conservativewoman   12th Sept. 2013

The surrender of more than 2,000 minors involved in drugs in Cebu shows the need to step up efforts to educate the youth on the ill effects of illegal drugs. The Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office has produced a module on this for integration in Grades 7 to 9 classes starting this school year.

Jane Gurrea, Education Supervisor I of the Department of Education’s Division of Cebu Province, says anti-drug activities in schools have been strengthened by a memorandum issued by the department mandating the establishment of Barkada Kontra Droga chapters in schools.

Barkada Kontra Droga is a preventive education and information program to counter the dangers of drug abuse. HALF of the 2,203 minors rounded up under Project Tokhang were out-of-school youth, according to data collected by the Police Regional Office 7 from July 1, 2016 to Feb. 2, 2017.

Tokhang is the Philippine National Police’s program to knock on the doors of homes to persuade those suspected of involvement in illegal drugs to surrender. Some 2,166 of the minors in Cebu were drug users, 28 were sellers, while nine were mules. Could the rampant involvement of out-of-school youth in drugs have been prevented if Section 46 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 had been implemented?

Section 46 requires the establishment of a Special Drug Education Center (SDEC) for out-of-school youth and street children in every province to implement drug abuse prevention programs and activities. The SDEC should be led by the Provincial Social Welfare Officer. “Cebu Province still has to establish one,” however, said Grace Yana, social welfare officer  in charge of social technology unit of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) . But areas in Cebu with active Pag-Asa Youth Association of the Philippines (PYAP) chapters, like Talisay, Naga, Danao and Mandaue cities, already have SDECs, she said. PYAP is the organization of out-of-school youth organized by the local government units.

“When the local government units hear the word center, they think they will need a building, and it needs a budget. So we tell them, even if it’s just a corner,” Yana said of the challenges of setting up the SDEC. Cebu Province may not have an SDEC, but the Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office (Cpadao) unveiled last November Project YMAD (Youth Making a Difference) that aims to provide out-of-school youth with socio-economic, physical, psychological, cultural and spiritual support through the PYAP.

Barkada Kontra Droga For in-school youth, the Cpadao is facilitating the implementation of the Barkada Kontra Droga drug prevention program, said Cpadao executive director Carmen Remedios Durano-Meca. Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation 5, Series of 2007 calls for the institutionalization of the Barkada Kontra Droga (BKD), a preventive education and information program to counter the dangers and disastrous effects of drug abuse. It empowers the individual to be the catalyst in his peer groups in advocating healthy and drug-free lifestyles, the regulation says. “Cpadao is the one facilitating that this be implemented in every school,” Meca said. “We tap the Supreme Student Government officers. We have a Student Assistance Program (SAP) designed to help children who get into trouble with drugs in the school setting.”

SAP includes an intervention program to reduce substance abuse and behavioral problems by having the parent-teacher association take up school and home concerns. Under SAP, which will be established through the guidance office, the school will establish drug policies and regulations.

In addition, Cpadao made a module, which it has given to the Department of Education (DepEd) to distribute to schools. “It’s been agreed to be integrated in the Grades 7, 8 and 9 classes starting school year 2017. It will be one hour a week from MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health) for the whole school year. Later, we plan to teach it to the younger children, like Grade 4,” she said. “We’ve had a review of the module,” Jane Gurrea, Education Supervisor I of DepEd’s Division of Cebu Province, said last month. “If we receive that module, this will be integrated initially for public schools as additional reference materials.”

The DepEd Division of Cebu Province covers the 44 towns in Cebu. This month, the division will have a training of teachers for the integration of drug abuse prevention education, which will include a discussion of the Cpadao module. But even now, under the present K to 12 curriculum, basic concepts on illegal drugs can already be tackled as early as in Grade 4, as teachers could integrate these concepts in subjects like Health, when the subject of medicine use and abuse is discussed, she said. Gurrea, who is also the National Drug Education Program coordinator in the Division, said drug prevention education can be taught in subjects dealing with values education, social studies or MAPEH. “For music, students can write a poem or song on drug use prevention. They can have role playing. In art, they can do drawing (on drugs).”

Additionally, under Section 42 of the Dangerous Drugs Act, all student councils and campus organizations in elementary and secondary schools should include in their activities “a program for the prevention of and deterrence in the use of dangerous drugs, and referral for treatment and rehabilitation of students for drug dependence.” It is unclear how actively these student groups have campaigned against illegal drugs, but Gurrea said that every third week of November, students join the celebration of Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Week under the Supreme Student Government.

“The officers have to campaign room to room to talk about issues related to prevention of drug use. In the public schools in rural areas, you can see signs on fences or pergolas saying, ‘Get high on grades, not on drugs.’ They invite speakers for drug symposiums, like the police,” she said. The Supreme Student Government is for high school, while the Supreme Pupil Government is for elementary school. “In every town, we have a federated Supreme Student Government (SSG) and Supreme Pupil Government (SPG), and also a Division Federation of SSG and SPG. One of the programs is drug education,” Gurrea said. The Department of Education mandates all schools to have a student council organization strengthened. Gurrea said the anti-drug activities in schools were already there, but the term Barkada Kontra Droga was not used then. It was only when the DepEd coordinated with Cpadao that the term BKD was used. With the assistance of Cpadao that spent for resource speakers and meals of the students last year, BKD was institutionalized. BKD was strengthened further by DepEd Memorandum 200, Series of 2016 issued on Nov. 23, 2016 mandating the establishment of BKD chapters in schools, Gurrea said. “With this institutionalization, on the part of the budget for activities, students now have access through the Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (Madac).

So instead of spending their SSG funds for their activities, they can present their planned activities to the Madac, from which they can seek financial or other assistance (like for speakers),” she said. With the memo, the SSG has been recognized as an entity, enabling it to connect with the community, such as with agencies and non-government organizations for anti-drug activities, she said. “We have continuous advocacy and awareness programs. Some schools have a walk for a cause or caravan,” Gurrea said. The public schools in the division also have their student handbook. “One thing stipulated there is that no student is allowed to be involved in illegal drugs. There are schools that let students sign that piece of paper containing the rules and regulations, for their commitment to follow the rules in that handbook,” she said.

So if awareness of the dangers of illegal drugs is not the problem, what accounts for the high number of minors involved in drugs? “We are looking at peer pressure or circumstances in the family,” Gurrea said.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:  Dec. 2016  For more information about marijuana use and its effects, see

In the spring of 2013, Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse, Inc. (NASA) in Greenfield, Indiana, knew that it had an escalating problem on its hands. Alcohol, tobacco, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and marijuana use were all on the rise among its youth in Hancock County, the coalition’s service area. One major concern was the inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws and school policies countywide. So NASA decided to create an Underage Drinking Task Force, a partnership of law enforcement agencies, schools, probation, judges, the prosecutor’s office, and the coalition to help rectify the situation.

“Together we examined the problem from the perspective of each of the stakeholders, and then we developed common goals and practices,” explains Tim Retherford, Executive Director of NASA. “What this did was to unify the County’s underage drinking efforts so that it was treated consistently.”

With a population of 72,000, Hancock County consists of several small cities and towns; Greenfield, the County Seat has 21,000 residents. The county also has four public school corporations, including four public high schools with about 4,000 students. Although Hancock County is just 30 minutes from Indianapolis, it is primarily a rural, farmland community.

With reducing underage drinking as its primary goal, the Task Force created a broad range of initiatives.  Among them:

* An MOU signed by all eight law enforcement departments, making policies dealing with underage drinking uniform countywide; Indiana State Police signed the MOU as well.

* The Underage Drinking Task Force established a group of police officers (from the eight departments and the State Police) who work overtime to enforce underage drinking in Hancock County

* Enforcement of underage drinking laws now uniformly imposed, including zero tolerance laws

* Overtime payment for Underage Drinking Task Force police paid for by local funds and by Justice Assistance Grants (JAGs) from the state of Indiana

* Regular “Party Patrols” by Underage Drinking Task Force police across the county

* Agreement by Hancock County’s school corporations to impose consistent consequences and penalties for youth caught drinking

* For youth caught drinking, County Probation Department requires them to attend an alcohol educational class and complete community service and a brief assessment is conducted by a treatment professional (if it is determined necessary) who is a probation officer and who can recommend further treatment by a local alcohol treatment office

Data shows that enormous progress has been made. For example, in a study prepared by the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University, in June of 2013, 34.1 percent of Hancock County’s high school seniors, said that they had consumed alcohol during the previous 30 days, compared with 22.3 percent in 2014; 21.1 percent in 2015; and 19.7 percent in 2016. Furthermore, from 2013-14, there were 123 Underage Drinking Task Force arrests, and from 2015-16, there were just 52.

NASA is also working on many other fronts, including involving youth to develop innovative ways to communicate its substance use messages.

“Our Youth Council is one important key to our continued success, as they know best how to design messages to their peers,” Retherford says. “For example, they let us know they want to learn in a fun, interactive way.”

So NASA has brought entertaining, motivational speakers to the middle and high schools. Among them was Craig Tornquist, an Indiana stand-up comic. Dressed in his best “Elvis” garb for part of his presentation, he talked to students about the dangers and consequences of alcohol and drugs, and how substance use can ruin lives, calling attention to celebrities such as Robin Williams, Prince, and Whitney Houston.

The teens also coordinated a “being in the majority campaign.” As a part of that, they designed baseball card-size cards with statistics about the numbers of students who don’t do drugs or drink alcohol.

The coalition also uses different strategies to communicate its message to adults in Hancock County. For this population, it has developed a traditional media campaign using TV and print ads in the local newspaper. One TV ad featured a dozen teenagers saying individually, “I am one.” The camera then pulls out to reveal the entire group, and they all say, “We’re one of 65 percent of the youth in our community who don’t use drugs.”

Recently, the coalition also brought a representative from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to Greenfield to meet with professionals in the county to discuss the effect legalization of marijuana has had on Colorado. “We are doing everything we can,” added Retherford. “Beginning with working with so many partners in our community, to create a safer place to raise our families.”

Source:   22nd September 2016A

Filed under: Education Sector,Parents,USA :

Daily marijuana use among college students is the highest it’s been in more than three decades, and 51 percent of all full-time college students have admitted to smoking pot at some point in their lives.

The group of University of Michigan scientists who conduct the nationwide Monitoring the Future study says illicit drug use has been rising gradually among American college students since 2006, when 34 percent indicated that they used some illicit drug in the prior year.  By 2013, that rate was up to 39 percent, meaning that 429 of the 1,100 students surveyed said they had used one or more drugs in the 12 months preceding the survey.

The study pointed out that daily or near-daily use of marijuana – defined as 20 or more occasions of use in the prior 30 days – has been on the rise. The recent low was 3.5 percent in 2007, but the rate had risen to 5.1 percent by 2013.  “This is the highest rate of daily use observed among college students since 1981 – a third of a century ago,” Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the MTF study, said in a statement.

“In other words, one in every 20 college students was smoking pot on a daily or near-daily basis in 2013, including one in every 11 males and one in every 34 females. To put this into a longer-term perspective, from 1990 to 1994, fewer than one in 50 college students used marijuana that frequently.”

The survey is part of the long-term MTF study, which also tracks substance use among the nation’s secondary students and older adults under research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana has remained the most widely used illicit drug over the 34 years that MTF has tracked substance use by college students, but the level of use has varied considerably over time.  In 2006, 30 percent of the nation’s college students said they used marijuana in the prior 12 months, whereas in 2013 nearly 36 percent indicated doing so.

Nonmedical use of the amphetamine Adderall, used by some students to stay awake and concentrate when preparing for tests or trying to finish homework, ranks second among the illicit drugs being used in college.  According to the study, 11 percent of college students in 2013 indicated some Adderall use without medical supervision in the prior 12 months.

The use of psycho-stimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin, has nearly doubled since the low point in 2008, but their illegal use remained steady between 2012 and 2013.

The next most frequently used illegal drugs by college students are ecstasy, hallucinogens and narcotic drugs other than heroin. About 5 percent of college students reported they had used one of these in the prior 12 months.

Ecstasy use, after declining considerably between 2002 and 2007, from 9.2 percent annual prevalence to 2.2 percent, has made somewhat of a comeback on campus, the study showed.

Nearly 6 percent of students – 5.8 percent – said they had used ecstasy in the prior 12 months in 2012, and was at 5.3 percent in 2013. Hallucinogen use among college students has remained at about 5 percent since 2007, following an earlier period of decline.

The use of narcotic drugs other than heroin, like Vicodin and OxyContin, peaked in 2006, with 8.8 percent of college students indicating any past-year use without medical supervision. Past-year use of these dangerous drugs by college students has since declined to 5.4 percent in 2012, where it remained in 2013.

Use of synthetic marijuana – which used to be legally available and was sold over the counter in convenience stores and other shops – ranked fairly high in 2011 with past-year use at more than 7 percent of college students that year. Just over 2 percent admitted use in 2013.

Fewer than 1 percent of college students in 2013 admitted to using inhalants, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, “bath salts,” GHB and ketamine in the previous 12 months.

Conversely, alcohol use has declined some on campuses in recent years. In 2008, 69 percent of students said they had at least one drink in the prior 30 days, whereas in 2013 that number had dropped to 63 percent.

Similarly, the percent indicating that they got drunk during that period fell from a recent high of 48 percent in 2006 to 40 percent by 2011, where it then remained through 2013.

Overall, about three quarters – 76 percent – of college students indicated drinking at least once in the past 12 months, and 58 percent sad they had gotten drunk at least once in that period.

Source:    8th Sept. 2014

BRIDGEPORT — A drug-prevention organization uses reverse peer pressure to persuade teenagers to steer clear of controlled substances, Bridgeport City Council learned Monday night. Angie Ferguson, executive director of Drug Free Clubs of America, said teens who join the organization agree to undergo random drug testing and receive rewards for being members.

The rewards range from school field trips to special deals at local businesses, Ferguson told city council during a work session that preceded the regular meeting at Bridgeport City Hall. “That makes the other kids jealous, and they want to join,” she added.

Drug testing is the centrepiece of the organization’s drug-prevention efforts, Ferguson said.

Teens who agree to join consent to an initial drug screen and receive a photo identification card upon passing the test, Ferguson said. They also know they could be randomly tested throughout the year, Ferguson said. “If somebody offers you something, you can say, ‘I can’t because I might be drug-tested,’” she said. “And there’s no comeback for that.”

Ferguson said Drug-Free Clubs was started by her father, a retired Cincinnati firefighter.

He and another firefighter were brainstorming how to reverse the devastation that drugs were wreaking on their community, Ferguson said. They settled on drug testing, with those testing negative receiving recognition and positive reinforcement, Ferguson said.

Drug testing is seen as something punitive and heavy-handed, but it doesn’t have to be leveraged like that,” she said. “Drug testing works all the time. That’s why we do it in business.”

Forming a local Drug Free Club requires a buy-in by the schools, students, parents and the community, said Ferguson, who also gave a presentation during the council meeting.

Drug test results are shared only with the parent, with membership at stake should a test return positive, Ferguson said.

The cost to join is $67 per student per year, Ferguson said.

Councilwoman Melissa Matheny expressed concerns about students whose parents might not have the means to pay the membership fee. The organization never launches a chapter without a plan for those who can’t afford the fee, Ferguson replied.

Source: 13th May 2015

This is a good example of positive prevention. When local businesses agree to be involved, more teens agree to sign up. Offers of free cinema tickets, entry to skating rinks, meals at McDonald’s and similar encourage drug free youngsters to remain clean.

Whilst students already using heavily might not want to join, the school would then be able to keep a watchful eye on those refusing membership and identify users early on; this would enable helping strategies to be used for such pupils. Fewer users in an area results in safer communities, better academic results in schools and would be a win-win situation all round. NDPA

The overdose antidote is being offered for use in High Schools and is a sad indictment of the situation in the USA where lax drug policies have resulted in huge increases in drugs use – including heroin even amongst youth.

The opioid overdose antidote naloxone is being offered free to high schools around the country by the drugmaker Adapt Pharma, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, quickly reverses overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers. Naloxone will be offered in nasal spray form to high schools through state departments of education. The Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative is collaborating on the project.

Many states do not have rules that would permit high school staff to administer naloxone in an emergency without facing liability from parents or guardians, the article notes. There are significant variations in state and local rules about whether staff is allowed to administer medication to students. In some school districts, medication can only be administered by school nurses, who often work at more than one school.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) in June said that “incorporating use of naloxone into school emergency preparedness and response plans is a school nurse role.” In a statement, the group said “the safe and effective management of opioid pain reliever-related overdose in schools [should] be incorporated into the school emergency preparedness and response plan.” Last year, New York joined at least four other states in allowing public school nurses to add naloxone to their inventory. Other states with similar policies include Vermont, Massachusetts and Delaware.

Adapt Pharma is also providing a grant to NASN to support their education efforts concerning opioid overdose education materials. In a news release from the company, NASN President Beth Mattey said school nurses act as first responders in schools. “We educate our students, families, and school staff about prescription drug and substance abuse, and help families seek appropriate treatment and recovery options,” she said. “Having access to naloxone can save lives and is often the first step toward recovery. We are taking a proactive approach to address the possibility of a drug overdose in school.”

Source:  26th Jan. 2016

Two recent measures of educational performance, one at the national level (National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NEAP) and one among 11 regional states and the District of Columbia showed not only poor and deteriorating performance for all students, but staggering differences between white students and black students.

At the national level, the NEAP reported that 66 percent of all 8th graders were “not proficient” in reading, rising to 67 percent in math. But for black 8th graders, fully 84 percent were “not proficient” in reading, with 87 percent “not proficient” in math.

And the report on students in the District of Columbia revealed an educational disaster. In 3rd through 8th grade, only 79 percent of whites were “proficient” in English, with 70 percent so for math. For black students, proficiency in either skill fell to 17 percent.

In high school, it got worse. Only 52 percent of whites were proficient in geometry, compared to four percent of blacks. In English, only 20 percent of black students were proficient, compared to 82 percent of whites.

Importantly, the blame falls not on the expectant students. It falls squarely on the institutions—and the adults—entrusted with the task of educating them. (The District spent $17,953 per pupil, outranking all states but Alaska, in the most recent, reported year.) Teaching youth is the most fundamental operation of any culture, upon which acquisition of other capacities will depend. If they can’t read, write, or calculate, we are failing to render self-sufficient in the tools of daily life the coming generation.

We may not have the power to fix all the things that are wrong with public schools. But surely we have the power, and the responsibility, to not make things worse, particularly for those already struggling. And making things worse is just what the District, and now other places in America, are doing, by making marijuana use more normalized and widespread.

According to the latest results from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), marijuana use doubled between the period 2001-2002 and the most recent wave of findings, the years 2012-2013. There was also a near-doubling of “marijuana-related disorders,” such that three-in-ten users now suffer problems.

But an equally troubling finding was what NESARC termed “significant increases across demographic subgroups.” In fact, “Black and Hispanic individuals showed especially notable increases in the prevalence of marijuana use and marijuana use disorders, trends consistent with other studies showing that marijuana use is now more prevalent in black than white individuals.”

These disturbing results for marijuana only add to the bad news, which most affects youth — and perhaps critically affects disadvantaged youth.   No one says that drug use is the single factor “causing” student failure; there are documented institutional and social deficiencies enough for that. But who will not face that marijuana use will most penalize those most at risk? Minority youth are both using more dope and suffering more of the consequences, and the impact hits hardest those without support.

The clear science on adolescent marijuana use and school failure is undeniable. The loss of 8 IQ points from heavy use, the measurable detriment to memory and learning, the risks of depression and psychosis for the vulnerable, the greatly increased risk of school drop-out; these are now well-established associations, and they seem to worsen as marijuana potency skyrockets, while dependency becomes “more severe.”

We can anticipate the objections from legalization advocates. Under the District’s rules, marijuana is still illegal for kids. But there is strong evidence showing that where marijuana is legalized and normalized, youth use soars, damaging learning and bringing addiction to the young.

It could also be that the “causation” is reversed; the reason that those failing in school are turning to marijuana is because they’re already failing in school. It’s possible, and may be true for some facing social disadvantage and psychological co-morbidities.  But surely that is no argument to therefore make dope wall-to-wall. One-in-every-eight high school kids in Colorado is now a current marijuana smoker. Moreover, teachers tell routinely another tale, of the high-performing youth who in a single semester changes dramatically—for the worse—and becomes a “stoner.” And then they lose them.

We should at least examine the true nature of the impact, and plan a response. We could explore programs like in-school screening for at-risk kids; if they’re starting to use drugs, it could be a chance to intervene and bring help.  Fixing this will require serious educational reform. Instead, inexplicably, the District determined to take us in the wrong direction – they legalized.

For education advocates and those of us especially concerned by the worsening failure of at-risk Americans in the classroom, it is time to recognize that the brain-altering effects of marijuana are now a dangerous and growing educational threat. David W. Murray

David W. Murray


Piscataway, NJ – Although there have been calls to lower the legal drinking age from 21, a new study raises the possibility that it could have the unintended effect of boosting the high school dropout rate.

The report, published in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, looked back at high school dropout rates in the 1970s to mid-80s — a time when many U.S. states lowered the age at which young people could legally buy alcohol.

Researchers found that when the minimum drinking age was lowered to 18, high school dropout rates rose by 4 to 13 percent, depending on the data source. Black and Hispanic students — who were already more vulnerable to dropping out — appeared more affected than white students.

The findings do not prove that the 18 drinking age was to blame, according to lead researcher Andrew Plunk, Ph.D., an assistant professor of paediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk. However, he said, state drinking-age policies would likely be unrelated to the personal factors that put kids at risk of drinking problems or dropping out.

Plus, Plunk explained, states made those policy changes based on national trends at the time — mainly, the belief that with the voting age lowered to 18, the legal drinking age should drop, too. So it’s unlikely that other events happening within states would explain the connection to high school dropout rates.

And why would the legal drinking age matter when it comes to high school dropout rates?

“The minimum legal drinking age changes how easy it is for a young person to get alcohol,” Plunk said. “In places where it was lowered to 18, it’s likely that more high school students were able to get alcohol from their friends.”

And for certain vulnerable kids, that access might lower their chances of finishing high school. Policies that allowed 18-year-olds to buy alcohol showed a particular impact on minority students, as well as young people whose parents had drinking problems. In that latter group, the dropout rate rose by 40 percent.

In the mid-1980s, federal legislation returned the legal drinking age to 21 nationwide.

However, there is an ongoing debate about lowering it again — largely as a way to combat clandestine binge drinking on college campuses. The argument is that college students who can legally buy alcohol at bars and restaurants will drink more responsibly.

But Plunk said that debate is missing something: What might the effects be in high schools?

“I think this study gives us some idea of what could happen if we lower the legal drinking age,” Plunk said. “It suggests to me that we’d see this same dropout phenomenon again.”


Plunk, A. D., Agrawal, A., Tate, W. F., Cavazos-Rehg, P., Bierut, L. J., & Grucza, R. A. (September 2015). Did the 18 drinking age promote high school dropout? Implications for current policy.  76(5), 680-689.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs is published by the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-related journal published in the United States

Source: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs,  28th  September 2015

Research Summary

Observational studies suggest that heavy, habitual marijuana use in adolescence may be associated with cognitive decline and adverse educational outcomes. However, conflicting data exists. The authors of this study used data from a large population-based prospective cohort of 1155 individuals from the United Kingdom to investigate the effects of cannabis use by age 15 on subsequent educational outcomes. They also explored the relationship between tobacco use and educational outcomes to assess for possible bias. The primary educational outcomes were performance in standardized English and mathematics assessments at age 16, completion of 5 or more assessments at a grade level C or higher, and leaving school having achieved no qualifications. Exposure was measured by self-report and serum cotinine levels.

* In fully adjusted models both cannabis and tobacco use were associated with adverse educational outcomes.

* A dose response effect was seen with higher frequency of cannabis use associated with worse outcomes.

* Adjustment for other substance use and conduct disorder attenuated these effects and tobacco had a stronger association than cannabis.


This data sheds more light on a possible association between early exposure to cannabis and tobacco and subsequent poor educational outcomes. However, given the nature of the analysis, causality cannot be implied. Further research is needed at longer follow-up periods to gain more understanding of the relationship between cannabis use in adolescence and educational outcomes.  Jeanette M. Tetrault, MD

Source: Addiction. 2015;110(4):658–668.

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”.


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.”

December 16, 2014

At the end of a year that has seen further tragic deaths from addiction and new designer drugs that put young people at risk, today’s results from the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use among adolescents provide a dose of welcome optimism. No major drug use indicators increased significantly between last year and this year; use of alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit and prescription drugs either held at the same level or, in many cases, declined among American teens.

Particularly heartening was the fact that students’ marijuana use has not increased in the past two years: This year, 21.2 percent of seniors, 16.6 percent of 10th graders, and 6.5 percent of 8th graders used marijuana in the past month—high percentages, but not significantly different from 2013. Cigarette and alcohol use (including binge drinking) continued their steady downward trend that we’ve seen for several years now. Abuse of prescription opioids also declined since 2013 and is down by a third to a half over the last 5 years (depending on the opioid and the grade).

We have also seen diminished abuse of inhalants by the youngest teens, who historically are most likely to abuse these readily available substances, as well as diminished abuse of over-the-counter drugs like cough syrups. And although synthetic cannabinoids like “K2” and “Spice” (also known as “synthetic marijuana”) have only been tracked in the survey for the past two years for all three grades, use of these very dangerous and unpredictable drugs is also down from last year.

Although there are no doubt many possible contributing factors to these trends, I like to think that prevention messages are making an impact. Teens are getting the message from various sources that drugs are not good for their developing brains, and there are much better, healthier, and more enjoyable ways to spend their time.

An exception to the good news may be teens’ perception of the risks associated with marijuana. Although use has not increased since 2012, the numbers of teens who believe marijuana is not harmful continued the steady decline we have seen for a decade; this perception of safety could be linked to the drug’s greater visibility and public debates over its legality and its possible uses as medicine.

The survey also showed that edibles are popular among teen marijuana users, especially in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Forty percent of seniors who had used marijuana in the past year in medical marijuana states reported having consumed it in an edible form, versus 26 percent in non-medical marijuana states. With edible marijuana products there is a great danger (to both adults and kids) of ingesting high doses of THC without intending to, making it very important that these products be properly regulated and labeled.

Scientists and policymakers may endlessly debate the degree of long-term harm marijuana poses, but while there is much we still do not know about the drug’s effects, all available evidence points to significant interference in brain development when marijuana is initiated early and used heavily. In 2014, 5.8 percent of 12th graders reported daily or near-daily use of marijuana, which may impact this segment of youth for the rest of their lives. (With the collaboration of other NIH institutes, NIDA is planning a major longitudinal study that will examine the effects of teen marijuana and other drug use more closely over the next decade.)

A brand-new area of concern reflected in the MTF survey is the surprisingly high use of e-cigarettes, which were included for the first time in this year’s survey (thus trend data are not available). The survey showed 17.1 percent of seniors, 16.2 percent of 10th graders, and 8.7 percent of 8th graders report past-month use of these devices, whose health effects are at this point virtually unknown.

Although e-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco and thus produce no tar, there may be other harmful chemicals in the vapor they produce, and products that deliver nicotine (which depend on the fluid used) can be addictive. Thus it will be very important in coming years to monitor e-cigarette use by young people and learn more about their health effects.

While overall the MTF data this year are encouraging, we of course cannot relax our efforts in educating teens about the dangers of the drugs they encounter now and will continue to encounter as they grow older. The message should be clear and unequivocal: For teens and young adults, whose brains are still not finished maturing and thus can be readily altered in their development by any substance exposure, there are simply no safe drugs.

Several students and visitors from Wesleyan University were hospitalized on February 22 after taking the club drug MDMA. U.S. DEA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/REUTERS

At least 11 people from the Wesleyan University campus in Middletown, Connecticut, were hospitalized on Sunday with symptoms consistent with drug overdoses. School officials and emergency responders are blaming MDMA, also known as Molly, a form of the drug ecstasy that medical experts say has become increasingly popular on college campuses.

Though some reports said 11 people had received medical treatment, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth put the number at 12 in an email to students on Monday. That includes 10 students and two visitors.

“I ask all students: Please, please stay away from illegal substances, the use of which can put you in extreme danger. One mistake can change your life forever,” Roth wrote. “And please keep those still hospitalized in your hearts and minds. Please join me in supporting their recovery with your prayers, thoughts and friendship.”

In a statement on Monday, a Middletown Police Department spokeswoman, Lieutenant Heather Desmond, wrote that her department would be involved in an investigation into “the origin of the drugs taken” and to “determine the extent of the criminal involvement in the case.”

A spokeswoman for Middlesex Hospital tells Newsweek it treated 11 people, three of whom are still there and four of whom were airlifted by helicopter to Hartford Hospital. She could not comment on the conditions of the three patients there. A spokeswoman for Hartford Hospital confirmed that four people were there. She too could not speak to their conditions. The police spokeswoman wrote that two individuals are in critical condition and two are in serious condition.

Middletown Fire Chief Robert Kronenberger tells Newsweek his department made seven runs to Wesleyan related to the incident on Sunday after receiving calls between 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. It rendered aid to eight individuals, including two people in a single dorm room. “We saw the trend and we worked with the university and the police department to notify them of the trend,” Kronenberger says. “We’ve never had anything to this extent,” he says, referring to health and safety issues at Wesleyan. “A couple of them were in some serious dire straits,” he says about the students, adding that they were cooperative. “As a parent of two college-age students, this definitely concerns me and hopefully something to this extent will open eyes,” he says.

Wesleyan’s student newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus, first reported about the incident on its website on Sunday after the school’s vice president for student affairs, Michael Whaley, sent a series of emails to students.

Medical experts say MDMA use on college campuses has grown in recent years, and while there have been reports of bad reactions to the drug, it appears the Wesleyan incident is the most widespread.

In 2013, a University of Virginia sophomore collapsed at a nightclub after taking MDMA and later died. Students at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York; Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire; and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas have also died after taking the drug. In 2013, organizers of the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City cut the event short after two people died while taking MDMA, including a University of New Hampshire student.

“This age group is a risk-taking group that is willing to follow their friend wherever they go, and if the person next to them is popping a pill, then they’re going to do it too,” says Dr. Mark Neavyn, director of medical toxicology at Hartford Hospital, who treats patients there for MDMA overdoses.

“I think the popular culture engine kind of made it seem safer in some way,” Neavyn says, referring to references to the drug by the singers Miley Cyrus and Madonna that made headlines.

But when it comes to MDMA, people are rarely taking what they think they’re taking, the doctor says.

According to Neavyn, symptoms of an MDMA overdose include fast heart rate, high blood pressure, delirium, elevated body temperature and alterations in consciousness. Extreme cases could involve cardiac arrhythmia and seizures.

Wesleyan, which has about 2,900 full-time undergraduate students and 200 graduate students, also apparently dealt with MDMA-related issues last semester. As the Argus reported, the school’s Health Services Department emailed students on September 16 following a series of MDMA-related hospitalizations.

One former Wesleyan student from the class of 2011, who requested anonymity when discussing drug use, says the news is not surprising, given the prevalence of drugs on campus. “Anything you can imagine…would be readily available there,” the person says. “I don’t think at Wesleyan you need [a campus event] to take drugs. If it’s sunny, there’s probably a good percentage of people that are taking something.”

The campus activities calendar did not show any major events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday.

Another former Wesleyan student from the class of 2012, who also requested anonymity, says the drug culture at Wesleyan is comparable to that at similar schools. “It’s one of those things where, much like at those schools, you kind of have an understanding of where you can go to get it and who had it,” the person says. “If there’s a will there’s a way.” weds Feb. 2015

It started with a wine cooler, said Paige Cederna, describing that first sweet, easy-to-down drink she experienced as a “magic elixir.” 

“I had no inhibitions with alcohol,” said Ms. Cederna, 24. “I could talk to guys and not worry about anyone judging me. I remember being really proud the day I learned to chug a beer. I couldn’t get that feeling fast enough.” But before long, to get over “that feeling,” she was taking Adderall to get through the days.

But it was now more than three years since she drank her last drop of alcohol and used a drug for nonmedical reasons. Her “sober date,” she told the group, many nodding their heads encouragingly, was July 8, 2011.

Ms. Cederna’s story of addiction and recovery, told in a clear, strong voice, was not being shared at a 12-step meeting or in a treatment center. Instead, it was presented on a cool autumn day, in a classroom on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, to a group of 30 undergraduate students in their teens and early 20s.

On the panel with Ms. Cederna were two other Michigan graduate students. Hannah Miller, 27, declared her “sober date” as Oct. 5, 2010, while Ariel Britt, 29, announced hers as Nov. 6, 2011. Like Ms. Cederna’s, Ms. Britt’s problems with drugs and alcohol started in her freshman year at Michigan, while Ms. Miller’s began in high school. All three are participants in a university initiative, now two years old, called the Collegiate Recovery Program.

Staying sober in college is no easy feat. “Pregaming,” as it is called on campus (drinking before social or sporting events), is rampant, and at Michigan it can start as early as 8 a.m. on a football Saturday. The parties take place on the porches and lawns of fraternities, the roofs and balconies of student houses, and clandestinely in dormitories — everywhere but inside the academic buildings.

For this reason — because the culture of college and drinking are so synonymous — in September 2012 the University of Michigan joined what are now 135 Collegiate Recovery communities on campuses all over the country. While they vary in size from small student-run organizations to large embedded university programs, the aim is the same: to help students stay sober while also thriving in college.

“It shouldn’t be that a young person has to choose to either be sober or go to college,” said Mary Jo Desprez, who started Michigan’s Collegiate Recovery Program as the director of Michigan’s Wolverine Wellness department. “These kids, who have the courage to see their problem early on, have the right to an education, too, but need support,” she said, calling it a “social justice, diversity issue.” Matthew Statman, the full-time clinical social worker who has run Michigan’s program since it began in 2012, added, “We want them to feel proud, not embarrassed, by their recovery.”

At the panel presentation, Ms. Britt, who temporarily dropped out of Michigan as an undergraduate, shared with the students her anxiety when she finally sobered up and decided to return to campus. “I had so many memories of throwing up in bushes here,” she said. “I wanted to have fun, but I also had no idea how to perform without partying.”

Ms. Cederna also remembers what it felt like to return to Michigan sober her senior year. Not only did she lose most of her friends (“Everyone I knew on campus drank,” she said), but she also dropped out of her sorority (“I was only in it to drink,” she said). “I ended up alone in the library a lot watching Netflix,” she said. Molly Payton, 24 (now a senior who once fell off an eight-foot ledge, drunk and high at a party), said, “I read all the Harry Potter books alone in my room my first months clean.”

Everything changed, however, when these students learned there were other students facing the same issues. Ms. Cederna first found Students for Recovery, a small student-run organization that, until the Collegiate Recovery Program began, was the only available support group on Michigan’s campus besides local 12-step meetings, most of which tend toward an older demographic.

“Through S.F.R., I ended up having five new friends,” she said of the organization, which still exists but is now run by the 25 to 30 Collegiate Recovery Program students; both groups meet every other week in the health center. The main difference between the two is that students in the Collegiate Recovery Program have to already be sober and sign a “commitment contract” that they will stay clean throughout college through a well-outlined plan of structure. Students for Recovery is aimed at those who are still seeking recovery, may be further into their recovery or want to support others in recovery.

When a young student incredulously asked the panel, “How do you possibly socialize in college without alcohol?” Ms. Britt, Collegiate Recovery Program’s social chairwoman, rattled off a list of its activities — sober tailgates, a pumpkin-carving night, volleyball games, dance parties, study groups, community service projects and even a film screening of “The Anonymous People” that attracted some 600 students. “But we also just hang out together a lot,” she said.

Indeed, looking around the organization’s lounge just before the holidays (a small, cordoned-off corner on the fourth floor of the health center, minimally decorated with ratty couches, a table and a small bookshelf stocking titles like “Wishful Drinking” and “Smashed”), it was hard to believe some of these young adults were once heroin addicts who had spent time in jail. On the contrary, they looked like model students, socializing over soft drinks and snacks as they celebrated one student who had earned back his suspended license.

“By far the biggest benefit to our students in the recovery program is the social component,” said Mr. Statman, who is hoping a current development campaign may provide more funding. (The program is currently supported by a mandatory student health tuition fee.) “Let’s just say, we all wish we could be Texas Tech,” he said.

The Collegiate Recovery Program was established at Texas Tech decades ago, and it is now one of the largest, with 120 recovery students enrolled (along with Rutgers University and Augsburg College in Minneapolis). Thanks to a $3 million endowment, the Texas Tech program now offers scholarships as well as substance-free trips abroad. The students there have access to an exclusive lounge outfitted with flat-screen TVs, a pool table and a Ping-Pong table, kitchen, study carrels and a seminar room. Entering freshmen in recovery even have their own dormitory.

“We found that simply putting them on the substance-free halls didn’t work,” said Kitty Harris, who, until recently, was the director for more than a decade of Texas Tech’s program (she remains on the faculty). “Most of the kids on substance-free floors are just there to make their parents happy.” (The Michigan students in the recovery program mostly live off campus for the same reason; they do not have their own housing.)

“Most students begin experimenting innocently in college with drugs and alcohol,” said Mr. Statman, who just celebrated his 13th year in recovery. “Then there are the ones who react differently. They are not immoral, pleasure-seeking hedonists, they are simply vulnerable, and for their whole life.”

Rates of substance-use disorders triple from 5.2 percent in adolescence to 17.3 percent in early adulthood, according to 2013 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It thus makes this developmental stage critical to young people’s future.

It is at the drop-in Students for Recovery meetings where one often sees nervous new faces. At the beginning of one meeting at Michigan last semester, a young woman introduced herself as, “One day sober.” Shortly afterward, a young man spoke up, “I am five days sober.” Danny (who asked that his last name not be published), a graduating recovery program senior applying to medical schools, later explained an important tenet all of them know from their various 12-step programs. “The most important person in the room is the new person,” he said, adding that after the Students for Recovery meetings, members try to approach any new participants, directing them to the C.R.P. website and to Mr. Statman, who is always on call for worried students.

“In the same way a diabetic might not always get their sugar levels right, part of addiction is relapsing, and we really don’t want our students to see that as a failure if it happens,” said Mr. Statman, adding that it is often the other students in the program who tell him if they suspect a student is using again.

Jake Goldberg, 22, now a junior, arrived at Michigan three years ago as a freshman already in recovery. “I did really well the first five months,” he said. “I was sober. I was loud and proud on panels, but I had internal reservations. I had few friends and felt like I wanted to be more a part of the school.” He recalled that in the spring of his freshman year, he suddenly found himself trying heroin for the first time. “I should have died,” he said, remembering how he woke up 14 hours later, dazed and bruised.

After straightening up, Mr. Goldberg relapsed again his sophomore year when he thought he might be able to have just one drink. “That drink led to drugs and to more drinking,” he said, remembering how Mr. Statman and Ms. Desprez called him into their office one day. “They told me this is not going to end well,” he said. Now sober two years, Mr. Goldberg said: “I now live recovery with all the structure, but I also am in a prelaw fraternity. When they drink a beer, I drink a Red Bull.”

Ms. Miller echoed Mr. Goldberg’s feelings over coffee one day on the Michigan campus. “Most of us did not get sober just to go to meetings all the time,” she said. “We want to live life too.” She also said that socializing with nonrecovery students is still challenging. “I went to a small party recently where everyone was eating pot edibles and drinking top-shelf liquor,” she said. “I got a bit squirrely in my head and had to leave.”

But now students in the Collegiate Recovery Program have a new place in Ann Arbor they can frequent: Brillig Dry Bar, a pop-up, alcohol-free spot that serves up spiced pear sodas and cranberry sours and features live jazz. And in March, four of the students in the program are joining dozens of recovery students from other colleges on a six-day, five-night, “Clean Break” in Florida, arranged by Blue Community, an organization that hosts events and vacations for young adults in recovery. (The vacation package includes music, guest speakers, beach sports and daily transport to local 12-step meetings.)

“My hope is that we continue to get more students who need a safe zone to our social events,” said Ms. Britt, who is about to publicize a “sober skating night” in March at the university ice rink. “They would see you can have a lot of fun in college without drinking.

“And honestly, we really do have fun.”


More media stories of addiction being successfully treated would reduce stigma and ease social reintegration and recovery, suggests this innovative study. Reading just one such story made a national US sample more willing to work with former dependent users of illicit heroin or prescription painkillers and accept them into their families. 

SUMMARY Stigma toward people with mental illness and substance use problems is substantial and widespread. Enduring social stigma is linked to discrimination, under-treatment, and poor health and social outcomes, including difficulty finding and maintaining housing and employment. For example, studies have found that a third of the US public think people suffering from untreated major depression are likely to be violent toward others, as did 60% in respect schizophrenia and 65% and 87% in respect alcohol and cocaine dependence. Expectations that stressing a biological basis for mental illness would defuse stigma have not been realised.

Key points 

A nationally representative sample of the US public read short vignettes either neutrally portraying a woman, portraying the same woman as drug dependent or mentally ill, or as having had these disorders but now in remission through treatment.

Then they answered questions which assessed different dimensions of stigma to people with these disorders.

Vignettes of untreated, active heroin addiction or mental illness – but not untreated addiction to pain medication – heightened the desire be socially distant from addicted or mentally ill people.

In contrast, portraying the same person as in remission from addiction did not exacerbate any negative attitudes, and on some measures actually led to more positive attitudes than the neutral depiction.

For the researchers these results suggest that portraying people who have successfully been treated for mental illness or drug addiction may be a promising strategy for improving public attitudes toward these groups.

These findings are largely based on reactions to written vignettes portraying an addicted or mentally ill person. However, many for whom effective treatment has led to symptom control and recovery bear little resemblance to the untreated, symptomatic individuals portrayed in the vignettes. Such portrayals in the media may spread and intensify social stigma toward these groups. In contrast, portrayals of successfully treated patients may elicit more positive attitudes. Research on other stigmatised health conditions such as HIV infection suggests increased public recognition of their being treatable has reduced stigma and discrimination. 

The featured study was the first to examine whether levels of stigma are influenced by portrayals of untreated, symptomatic sufferers versus those who have successfully recovered through treatment. It did so for schizophrenia, major depression, addiction to prescribed painkillers, and heroin addiction, in each case portraying people whose symptoms met US diagnostic criteria. To eliminate the potentially confounding influences of race, gender, and education, each vignette ( samples) portrayed the same, college-educated, white woman – ‘Mary’. This account focuses on reactions to the addiction vignettes.

Selected from a national US panel, the 3,940 (70% of those asked to join the study) respondents were very similar to the overall US population. In 2013 they were randomly allocated to read either a neutral depiction of Mary, one of the depictions of her as actively suffering one of the untreated conditions, or one of her having recovered from a condition through treatment. Participants who had read about one of the addiction conditions were then asked a series of questions which tapped different dimensions of stigma to a “person with a drug addiction”. Participants who had read the mental illness vignettes were asked corresponding questions about a person with mental illness. Half those who had merely read the neutral depiction of Mary were asked the addiction questions, half the mental illness ones. This methodology made it possible to test the impact on stigma-related beliefs and attitudes of attributing untreated or successfully treated addiction or mental illness to Mary.

Sample vignettes

Neutral Mary is a white woman who has completed college. She has experienced the usual ups and downs of life, but managed to get through the challenges she has faced. Mary lives with her family and enjoys spending time outdoors and taking part in various activities in her community. She works at a local store.

Untreated heroin addiction Mary is a white woman who has completed college. A year after college, Mary went to a party and used heroin for the first time. After that, she started using heroin more regularly. At first she only used on weekends when she went to parties, but after a few weeks found that she increasingly felt the desire for more. Mary then began using heroin two or three times a week. She spent all of her savings and borrowed money from friends and family in order to buy more heroin. Each time she tried to cut down, she felt anxious and became sweaty and nauseated for hours on end and also could not sleep. These symptoms lasted until she resumed taking heroin. Her friends complained that she had become unreliable – making plans one day, and cancelling them the next. Her family said she had changed and that they could no longer count on her. She has been living this way for six months.

Treated heroin addiction [As above up to “…Her family said she had changed and that they could no longer count on her.”] She had been living this way for six months At that point, Mary’s family encouraged her to see a doctor. With her doctor’s help, she entered a detox program to address her problem. After completing detox, she started talking with a doctor regularly and began taking appropriate medication. After three months of treatment, she felt good enough to start searching for a job. Since then, Mary has received steady treatment and her symptoms have been under control for the past three years. She lives with her family and enjoys spending time outdoors and taking part in various activities in her community. Mary works at a local store.

The questions participants were asked were: 

• Desirability of social distance: how willing they would be to have a person with addiction or mental illness marry into their family or start working closely with them;
• Perceptions of treatment effectiveness: whether they saw the treatment options for that condition as being effective, and whether with treatment most can get well and return to productive lives;
• Willingness to discriminate: whether they agreed that discrimination against people with mental illness/drug addiction is a serious problem, that employers should be allowed to deny employment to these people, and landlords deny housing;
• Endorsement of supportive policies: whether for or against requiring insurance companies to offer benefits for treatment equivalent to those for other medical services, and whether they would support increased government spending on treatment, housing subsidies, and on programmes that help these groups find jobs and offer on-the-job support.

Main findings

Relative to the neutral depiction, vignettes of untreated, active heroin addiction or mental illness heightened the desire to be socially distant from such people, but this was not the case after reading about untreated addiction to pain medication charts. Other stigma dimensions (perceptions of treatment effectiveness; willingness to discriminate; endorsement of supportive policies) generally were not significantly affected. An exception was that respondents who read the untreated heroin addiction vignette were more willing to endorse discrimination against people with drug addiction.


In contrast, portraying Mary as having overcome her problems through treatment did not exacerbate any negative attitudes, and on some measures actually led to more positive attitudes than the neutral depiction. In particular, portrayals of successfully treated addiction to heroin or prescribed painkillers led fewer respondents to reject the prospect of working with someone with addiction or having them marry in to the family. Again relative to the neutral depiction, vignettes of successful treatment made respondents more likely to believe treatment can effectively control symptoms. However, in general these successful-treatment vignettes did not weaken preparedness to endorse discrimination or bolster enthusiasm for supportive policies.

Given these different and sometimes opposing effects relative to the neutral depiction, not surprisingly, the effects of portraying an untreated, active disorder differed from those of portraying the same disorder successfully treated. After reading the depiction of successful treatment, significantly fewer respondents wanted to maintain social distance ( charts), more believed in the effectiveness of treatment, and fewer were willing to endorse discrimination. However, beliefs that with treatment most sufferers can get well and return to productive lives were unaffected, as generally was endorsement of supportive polices. Of the two addictions, differences between reactions to treated and untreated vignettes were more consistent and larger after portrayal of heroin addiction than after portrayal of addiction to prescribed painkillers.

As other studies have found, even after reading a vignette portraying successful treatment, more people were willing to work with someone with addiction or mental illness than to welcome them in to the family, and respondents desired more social distance from people with drug addiction than from those with mental illness. For example, 34% and 42% of respondents who read the treated schizophrenia and depression vignettes were unwilling to work closely with a person with mental illness. In contrast, for the prescription painkiller and heroin vignettes, the corresponding figures were 70% and 64%.

The authors’ conclusions

As hypothesised, portrayals of untreated, symptomatic mental illness and drug addiction, characterised by abnormal behaviour including deterioration of personal hygiene and failure to fulfil work and family commitments, heightened desire for social distance from people with mental illness or drug addiction. In contrast, adding a paragraph depicting transition to successful treatment improved some attitudes, even relative to a neutral depiction which did not mention these conditions at all.

These results imply that portraying people who have successfully been treated for mental illness or drug addiction may be a promising strategy for improving public attitudes toward these groups. Exposure to a single, one- or two-paragraph vignette, led to significant movements in public attitudes, suggesting in turn that repeated such depictions presented through the news media, popular media, and other sources, are important influences on public attitudes. The implication is that a shift in emphasis away from portrayals of symptomatic, untreated individuals, and toward portrayals of those who have successfully been treated, could reduce public stigma and discrimination toward people with these conditions.

Rather than seeking directly to influence the media, national stigma-reduction campaigns may be a more feasible route to widespread dissemination of portrayals of successful treatment. In addition, expanding access to effective treatments and encouraging treatment entry is likely be a critical way to reduce public stigma and discrimination. Longstanding social stigma has led current and former sufferers to conceal these conditions; even family members sometimes don’t know that a loved one is an exemplar of successful treatment. Driven by stigma, concealment probably also perpetuates stigma by preventing family members, friends, and acquaintances becoming aware of the possibility of successful treatment.

The findings may help explain why emphasising an inherent biological basis for mental illness and addiction does not reduce stigma. Seeing these conditions as inherent flaws (moral or biological) is not, however, cemented into the public psyche. Portrayals of successful treatment lead to improved public attitudes, suggesting many Americans are receptive to the idea that mental illness and drug addiction are treatable conditions.

Despite other positive changes, the vignettes portraying successful treatment did not increase support for public policies which benefit people with mental illness and drug addiction. Support for increased government spending is in the USA strongly related to political ideology and party identification, affiliations which may have overpowered the influence of portrayals of successful treatment. It is also possible that the vignettes led respondents to believe that supportive policies are not needed.

The results of this study should be interpreted in the context of several limitations. Among these are that exposure to a single, one- or two-paragraph vignette portraying a person with mental illness or drug addiction is not how the public typically experience these conditions, either personally or through the media. Personal experience probably elicits a stronger emotional response, and rather than a single vignette, the news media exposes Americans to multiple, competing portrayals. The effects of the vignettes were assessed immediately after exposure; it is unclear whether these effects persisted. Results may have been different if the portrayed individual had different demographic characteristics.

Source:  Portraying mental illness and drug addiction as treatable health conditions: Effects of a randomized experiment on stigma and discrimination.

McGinty E.E., Goldman H.H., Pescosolido B. et al.
Social Science and Medicine: 2015, 126, p. 73–85.


Botticelli on marijuana: “Just to be clear, this administration, this office, is opposed to legalization. From the time that I have been in this job, the time that I’ve been in Massachusetts, I’ve never been in favor of either medical marijuana or legalization….you can begin to see that the exact same things that we had to undo with the tobacco industry are now happening with the commercialization of marijuana.”

Botticelli on Colorado: “We’re beginning to see an emerging picture, particularly in Colorado around that… Clearly, there have been some challenges.

About D.C.’s legalization efforts: “My comments were taken out of context by some as a way to say that I supported marijuana legalization. Nothing can be further from the truth…so I feel like that was a little bit disingenuous and a little bit taken out of context in terms of what those comments were.

About the Recovery Community: “I do wish the recovery community was much more involved in (anti-legalization efforts).

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, in the first of a new series of interviews Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) representatives will conduct with key leaders, SAM President Kevin Sabet sat down with Michael Botticelli, the recently confirmed director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in Mr. Botticelli’s office at the Executive Office of the President. The interview was a candid conversation about drug policy — especially as it pertains to issues related to marijuana legalization.

Director Botticelli was refreshingly candid during our interview,” Dr. Sabet said. “He very clearly outlined his unequivocal opposition to legalization and, even more interestingly, he used his own personal, past struggle with addiction to call for the recovery community to speak up about this issue.” The interview can be seen below.

SAM is a non-profit, science-oriented, public health organization dedicated to getting the science out about marijuana and stopping Big Marijuana. It advocates for a health-first approach, and boasts numerous top public health researchers on its advisory board.



Kevin: I’m here with Director Botticelli. Michael, thank you so much for being with me. This is the first episode of Face-to-Face with SAM, so thank you for doing this. How do you like it here? You’re getting used to the offices and the digs. What surprised you about your first couple of weeks as director?

Michael: One is that there is a level of authority that confirmation brings that I don’t think I really anticipated until it actually happened. I feel I’ve been given a unique opportunity here to use the next couple years to think about how we advance good science and evidence-based drug policy in the United States. We’re facing some really critical issues, but we also have incredibly exciting opportunities when we think about Criminal Justice Reform and the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Part of the reason I love this job is I feel like there have been very few times over the past thirty years where we’ve had this confluence of better science and better data, better medications, better insurance coverage, parity for insurance coverage. That’s all offset by clearly some urgent and pressing issues that we have before us. It’s one of those things that sometimes I wake up at 3 o’ clock in the morning and say, “Oh, my God. They picked the wrong guy.” But it’s great to be here. It’s great to be having the support of not only ONDCP staff, but also a tremendous amount of supporting partnerships with many organizations on the outside. The continuing focus is how do we make sure we’re all moving together for a common purpose?

Kevin: That’s a very glass-half-full perspective, which is helpful. A pessimist would look at the glass half empty and say this is a very challenging time for drug policy, especially with regard to marijuana and just legalization in general. They would say maybe ONDCP is less relevant than during the crack epidemic, when Congress demanded this kind of coordination. Before asking your opinion on things or the position, how do you see things right now with marijuana? When you think about marijuana, what comes to your mind?

Michael: There are a number of issues. Just to be clear, this administration, this office, is opposed to legalization. This is not from an ideological perspective. When you look at the research, the science, and the data behind the health harms of marijuana, particularly as it relates to youth in this country, I think we have some real challenges and hurdles facing us. The American Academy of Pediatrics did a very thoughtful piece a number of weeks ago. They came out against medical marijuana and legalization, and they did it by looking at all the attendant health harms, particularly as they relate to youth. They said that for any policy position, the most salient criteria should be what its impact is on youth in this country. That I think is where the basis of our policy comes from. We’ve made substantial gains in many areas around public health and substance use in this country when you look at youth who smoked tobacco, youth who used other substances. But unfortunately, marijuana is going in the opposite direction. Clearly, that is tagged to their perception of risk, to the messages.

Kevin: Why do you think it’s gone up?

Michael: Clearly, youth are getting messages that marijuana is a benign substance and in many cases helpful because of medical marijuana. It is astounding to me the speed with which it’s been engrained in popular culture. So it’s hard to turn on a TV show these days and not hear people making jokes about smoking marijuana. So they are getting messages that are very disingenuous and are really not speaking to them about what the health harms are. I’ve talked to many kids across the country, and I often ask them what they think about things, like what do they think about tobacco, and universally kids don’t want to smoke because they know it’s harmful. They’re worried about the chemicals that are in them. But when I ask them about marijuana, it’s the exact opposite. They think it is helpful, so they’re buying into all of the messages that unfortunately legalization efforts have said. I’ve been doing public health work for a long time, and it took us 50 years to undo what the tobacco industry did. I think many of us are concerned that Big Marijuana is using the same strategies. So if you think of what Big Tobacco did, they said, “Our product is helpful. It relaxes you. It makes you feel better.” They had physicians promoting it. They used very funny cartoon characters to market their products and they refused to reveal the ingredients of their products. And I think you can begin to see that the exact same things that we had to undo with the tobacco industry are now happening with the commercialization of marijuana.

Kevin: I have to push back a little bit. People would say, “That’s good. That’s the administration’s position, but we have federal law that covers Colorado. It’s not being enforced. Why not?” It’s a little unfair since you’re new to the position, but you do represent the administration, so why not? What’s going on, as the Control Substances Act, given that it hasn’t changed, why isn’t it (the Controlled Substances Act) being enforced?

Michael: The Department of Justice issued guidance that with limited federal resources we’re not going to go after low-level offenders for this issue. I think they have sent a message to Washington and Colorado via their Cole memo of their eight public health and public safety priorities and they are monitoring the situation to make sure that Colorado and Washington are complying with those. I just spent some time with Colorado Gov. (John) Hickenlooper who quite honestly has not been a supporter of legalization. We’re beginning to see an emerging picture, particularly in Colorado around that. The Department of Justice has clearly said, “We’ll continue to go after what we believe are egregious cases as it relates to public health and public safety issues.” They’ll continue to prosecute those cases where they find them.. I think people conflate sometimes what the Department of Justice will use their limited enforcement resources for versus whether the administration supports legalization.

Kevin: How is that in terms of the monitoring? You’re saying the emerging picture doesn’t look good. Is this something that you and your Justice colleagues are looking at closely?

Michael: Actually, ONDCP has been leading a Federal Interagency [Working] Group to look at federal state and local data to have a much more accurate picture. I think none of us want to react to anecdote, so we want to make sure we have the most robust data that we can to really look at in terms of what is happening in Washington and Colorado. Clearly, there have been some challenges, and I think even Colorado has focused on edibles as a significant issue with emergency department mentions particularly among kids. So even Colorado is understanding that particularly edibles are presenting a problem. There are instances of increased calls to the poison control lines, increased emergency department visits, increases in drugged driving arrests. I think that we again have to continue to rely on the data to give us an accurate picture of what we have.

Kevin: Is there a trigger for enforcement or is there a world where we can imagine one day, it’s going to say, “Oh, we see this x number of increase in problems, and DOJ is going to say, “Great, we’re going to enforce the law now…” Do we know?

Michael: Beyond the eight enforcement priorities in the Cole memo, I don’t think there’s a bright line that’s been determined by the Department of Justice at which point they are going to say we need to take subsequent actions on this. We see our role in terms of making sure that we have the best accurate picture to make that determination.

Kevin: Let’s talk about D.C. You made some comments. A legalization advocate asked you what you think about D.C. and marijuana. And you’re a D.C. resident, and you basically articulated the President’s budget position, which was that we’re not going to interfere in D.C. home rule. Some people interpreted that – and the legalizers certainly did – that federal law doesn’t matter and it is a home rule issue. Here’s a chance to clarify.

Michael: A couple things. One is when we look at how the President has used his budget authority, clearly, he has used home rule and home rule law as a way to continue to make sure that the District doesn’t use federal funds in ways that are against federal policy. For instance, where there have been attempts by Congress to institute restrictions on abortion funding and contraception the President has used the home rule as a way to challenge that. This was standard operating procedure as it relates to the federal budget and putting restrictions on how the District spends its dollars. In those comments I said I was opposed to legalization. My comments were taken out of context by some as a way to say that I supported marijuana legalization. Nothing can be further from the truth. From the time that I have been in this job, the time that I’ve been in Massachusetts, I’ve never been in favor of either medical marijuana or legalization, so I feel like that was a little bit disingenuous and a little bit taken out of context in terms of what those comments were.

Kevin: We’ve seen that, because the narrative the legalization advocates want to paint is that everyone is on their side, and now they can say, “Hey, even the new progressive drug czar’s on our side.” I think that’s something that they love to do. They want to mainstream their message. It’s their press posture M.O. nowadays.

Michael: It was very clear if you look at my entire comments during the course of that whole symposium, and even in the context of those comments, that we continue to oppose legalization.

Kevin: As the first director in recovery, how does this issue and should it affect the recovery community? When I say this issue, I mean legalization because I’ve kind of gotten this sense that it’s easier to ignore the issue for a lot of outside NGOs, frankly. Tell me what you think about that and also how you think this issue affects recovery policy but also recovery from an individual point of view.

Michael: I’ll talk from an individual perspective. I think people in recovery should take their own action. It’s been a long time now, but I think back to my early days of recovery, and I remember how hard it was for me to do things like walk down the street and walk near the bars that I used to hang out. I used to cross the street. And I think we know for people in early recovery, there are lots of triggers, and part of that learning curve of recovery is to learn how to understand what those triggers are. But even 26 years out, it’s a lifelong illness. As a person in recovery, I don’t want to be walking down the street and smell marijuana smoke. I don’t want to be walking down the street and see one more temptation because there is a marijuana dispensary down the street. We are already inundated through every vehicle in this society about issues around substance use and using drugs. I, as a person in recovery, don’t want more of that. I want less of it. I want to live in a healthier community and, quite honestly, I make those choices as a person in recovery. I choose to live in places, specifically in those communities, that are going to support my recovery. It’s a real challenge. There are so many people who don’t make it to long-term recovery. And I think assaulting people with seeing people smoke, and the smell and dispensaries and advertisement is yet one more thing that people, particularly people in early recovery, have to deal with and struggle with. I find it really tragic, quite honestly, that our communities now are making it harder for people particularly in early recovery to sustain that kind of lifestyle.

Kevin: Absolutely. I have a friend, 18 years in recovery, who had to leave a movie theatre in Colorado the other day and call his sponsor because of the smell. It’s amazing.

Michael: It’s very disturbing. On a personal note, I do wish the recovery community was much more involved in this, because I do think a lot of people probably feel the same way that I do. I’ve talked to other people in recovery who do feel the same way. I think our entire movement around recovery community organizations and recovering communities is precisely about how do we create communities that support and sustain people in recovery. I feel like their needs have not been heard and attended to as we think about what’s right to do for our communities. I agree that we’ve got to look at disproportionality in our criminal justice system, but how do we attend to the needs of everybody in our community, and I think the recovery voice often is not vocal. It’s clearly not heard as we’re thinking about, quite honestly, the commercialization.

Kevin: Absolutely. It’s very possible you could serve as a long-serving drug czar, but it’s also possible you will also be one of the shortest given the length of the current administration. Everyone who is in this office, sitting in these chairs, realizes there is a finite amount of time and thinks about, “What do I want to get done?” What are you thinking about as you’re beginning in terms of when you leave in two, five, eight, ten years? What do you want to get done? What do you want to be focusing on?

Michael: One of the biggest challenges that I had to come to terms with when I first came here even as a deputy is to really retrain my mind that I’m here for a time-limited period. I worked for the public health department for twenty years. I was the director in Massachusetts for nine years. So you can think about short-term, medium, long-term goals. But I think about it in a number of ways, and I think there are some things that we can do now that could really impact the trajectory of how we think about substance use issues. Over the next couple years in partnership with many of our partner organizations, I fundamentally believe that we can continue to reframe how people with substance use disorders are perceived in the United States. I really do. We’ve come a long way. I know that lots of polls show that people would rather see people get treatment rather than incarceration, but I also know there are still significant stigma, and people still feel like this is a moral issue. I think that we can really continue to change the way we think about this illness.

Clearly dealing with the prescription drug, heroin and overdose issue is something that I feel particularly important for me and our office. When you look at the morbidity and mortality, we have to focus a lot of time and energy on this. In doing so, I think we can use these opportunities to engage people who have really never cared about drug policy issues before. One of the beneficial things around the magnitude of the opioid issue is that there are a lot more people now at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level who are really concerned about this. I think we should use that as an opportunity to focus on solutions not just specifically as they relate to the heroin and prescription drug issue but that we really begin to implement the systemic changes that we’ve known for a long time need to be put in place. Let me give you an example. Colleagues in Massachusetts have done a great job at making sure that private insurance companies are meeting the requirements of parity, that they’re implementing good, evidence-based programs, that they’re really stepping to the table to do that. It’s those kinds of solutions that I think can work for everybody. The last piece, I give a lot of credit to this administration of focusing on Criminal Justice Reform. I think there are some substantial changes we already have made and that we can continue to make over the next couple years as we think about particularly dealing with people with substance use disorders as it relates to intersection with the criminal justice system.

Kevin: How do we talk about that issue in the nuanced way that it deserves, because clearly, I think it’s oversimplifying when we just say everyone who’s a drug user enters the criminal justice system, it’s only “treatment over incarceration,” because if there’s a crime involved, I think, people are saying there should be some kind of penalty for that in conjunction with treatment. It’s not always treatment over incarceration for a user if they’re there for something other than use.

Michael: I think of it in three buckets. One is we know there is a huge and extraordinary number of people who are intersecting with the criminal justice system largely as a result of their substance use disorder. Only one in ten people [is] getting access to treatment historically.

Kevin: These aren’t people that are in there for drug offenses. These are people that are there, committed their crimes, and they have a drug problem, correct?

Michael: And they have a drug problem, so how do we through policy and practice divert people away? For example, the commissioner of police in New York City has actually begun to open assessment in triage centers. So cops on the beat actually have some place to take someone with a substance use disorder rather than sending them to Rikers Island, which I think is great. So there are things we can do on the policy and practice level to be able to do that. There are certainly those people that you mentioned who need to be incarcerated but also have a substance use disorder, so we want to make sure there’s good, effective treatment behind the walls. We also know that the vast majority of those people are coming back to our community. So how do we make sure we have good reentry services, that we’re linking people to care, that we don’t continue to have real legal and other barriers for people to reengage with their community? No matter where I go across the country, the two biggest issues I hear in terms of people supporting long-term recovery are stable housing and stable employment. If you have a criminal record, your chances are minimal in terms of finding that, so there’s been a lot of work happening particularly through the Reentry Council at the White House as well as at the Department of Justice about how we think about diminishing those real barriers that people have to sustain their recovery.

Kevin: And one of the things that SAM talks about is we don’t need to penalize somebody for life and give them the criminal records, so they can’t go and become productive members of society, because the original intent of these things is to deter.

Michael: Generally, if people don’t commit another crime within three years, there’s very little likelihood for the rest of their life, but often, criminal records are used for much longer periods of time in an effort around public safety. One of the things that I think is really helpful here, is that we really have bipartisan support within Congress, within states for wholesale Criminal Justice Reform. So we have some very conservative states, like Texas and Kansas, who basically realize we cannot sustain these correctional costs, and they’re implementing a wide variety of what we know to be effective practices to keep people out of incarceration.

Kevin: Our field’s challenge is to define that criminal justice reform not by legalization, which is what some people want to define it as, but as real strategies and programs.

Michael: We need trusted messengers in this discussion. I think that there are some people who will always cast a degree of skepticism as it relates to government and what our messages are, but we also want to make sure that we have trusted messengers in the medical field, in all of the areas that we need to do this work, because I think it’s really important for us to make sure that not only are we educating the public but [also] we’re educating other stakeholders in terms of what are the issues that we have here and what do we know to be effective in the work that we do.

Kevin: Director, thank you so much for doing this.

Michael: Thank you, Kevin, and thank you for your efforts.

Source: 4th March 2015

Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Joeseph K. Reeder and Putnam County Adult Drug Court Probation Officer LaKeisha Barron-Brown applaud the accomplishment/graduation of Stacy Casto Wednesday at the Putnam County Judicial Building in Winfield. Casto was quoted by Judge Reeder as she was being introduced saying, “Judge, I’m gonna graduate and I want my picture in the paper with you.”


Putnam County Drug Court Graduates Lindsey Eddy and Stacy Casto sit relieved and all smiles at their accomplishemnt Wednesday at the Putnam County Judicail Building in Winfield. Bob Wojcieszak/Daily


With a picture of his mug shot on the screen before him, Putnam County Drug Court Graduate Craig Owens goes through the circumstances in his life that forced him to take a long look at where he was going and what made him seek out Putnam County Circuit Judge Joeseph K. Reeder to sign up for drug court and change. Having been arrested twenty one times in his past, Owens used the Putnam County Drug Court to change his life. Behind him is Judge Reeder. Bob Wojcieszak/Daily Mail


Having been involved with drugs since the age of twelve, twenty-year-old Putnam County Drug Court Graduate Lindsey Eddy looks at a composity picture of who she was when she was arrested and what she looks like clean and sober during Putnam County Drug Court Graduation ceremonies Wednesday at the Putnam County Judicial Building.

A drug addict of more than 30 years, Stacy Casto was facing felony drug charges when she was given a second chance in Putnam County’s new adult drug court program.

Putnam Circuit Court Judge Joseph K. Reeder met with the first class of offenders more than a year ago to explain how intensive drug court would be; constant drug testing, home visits, counselling and curfews.

“(Casto) was the first person who spoke up, and when she did, she said ‘Judge, I’m going to graduate and when I do I want my picture in the paper with you,’” Reeder said.

Casto, of Hometown, was among the first five graduates of Putnam County’s adult drug court program. Casto, Lori Hodges, Craig Owens, Lindsey Eddy and Jacob Pauley were honored during a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield.

Family and friends packed a courtroom as Reeder spoke about each graduate’s transformation. Many admitted they believed they would have been dead today if it weren’t for drug court.

Lindsey Eddy, 21, of Hurricane, starting using heroin when she was 12 years old. She had been through the juvenile court system and was most recently arrested for violating her probation order from felony drug charges she received when she was 18 years old.

As of Wednesday, Eddy had been drug-free for 221 days.

“Before, my life was hectic,” Eddy said. “I was always worried about my next high or what I was going to do for my next high. I never really imagined life without drugs. I tried rehabs and regular probation and I failed at that, and until I was entered into the drug court problem, this was the only thing that’s worked for me and it’s helped me out tremendously. I’m responsible now and I have a full time job, and I’ve been sober.”

Putnam adult drug court probation officer Lakeside Barron-Brown said Putnam’s program began in November 2013. She said candidates for the program have had drug-related charges or convictions, and must be willing to work toward a drug-free life.

“Once accepted into our program, they then come into a very intensive, therapeutic setting within our court system,” Barron-Brown said. “They are placed on home confinement, and the judge determines when they should be released.”

Offenders go through three phases, each lasting at least four months. During the first phase, they’re subjected to multiple drug tests and home visits a week. They attend group and individual counselling, put in community service hours and abide by a curfew.

During the second phase, drug court offenders receive help looking for and obtaining a job. In the third phase, Barron-Brown said offenders are given “a little more room” to become stabilized for society.

Barron-Brown said all five graduates had obtained jobs during the program and are still working those jobs to this day.

“We have five graduates here that when they first started, they were apprehensive about not knowing what to expect — the same as when you go into a college class and the professor says ‘Here’s a syllabus, you have a test’ and not knowing what the test is like until you’ve taken the test,” Barron-Brown said. “I think that’s what drug court has been for our clients. It’s a test of seeing how confident they can become and seeing how much self-esteem and self-worth they can gain. Obviously, all of them have shown they can be successful and they can be drug-free.”

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Brent D. Benjamin congratulated the five men and women for turning their lives around. He pointed out that West Virginia’s adult drug court system is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and that 1,000 adults and juveniles have successfully completed drug court programs in West Virginia.

“What you’ve done is something a lot of people can’t do or haven’t done,” Benjamin told the graduates during the ceremony. “Thankfully we have a state in which you have an opportunity to do this.

“You’re in control of your lives now, and you weren’t before. And now you have the opportunity that not many people have; to turn around to the next drug court class and help them,” Benjamin said.

Reeder said offenders can get into the drug court by either entering a hybrid or conditional plea that allows for their charges to be lessened or dropped upon successful completion of the program, or by accepting drug court as a sentence in lieu of prison time. He said drug court is a good alternative to prison, but it takes a lot of work and responsibility for those who go through the program.

“I think it’s very important not just for the graduates involved, but it’s also important for Putnam County and our community because drugs have become such a problem in our society,” Reeder said. “It’s good that a program like this does give these folks a chance to rehabilitate and to get back on track.”

Casto said drug court “completely saved my life” because it gave her the ability to get help to fight her addiction ­— something she says prison time wouldn’t have done. Now that she’s sober, Casto said she would like to help juveniles who are battling addiction problems.

“I knew I had to have something in my life in order to change my life,” Casto said. “They offered counseling, they offered classes on drug prevention, they offered all these different things that I knew prison wouldn’t do for me. I’ve been a drug addict for 30 years, but during this time, I’ve started going to church, I’ve given my heart to the Lord and my whole entire life has changed.

Barron-Brown said the graduates will go through six more months of “supervised release” from the drug court program until they are completely finished with the program. She said there are 19 people in Putnam’s adult drug court program, including the graduates.

There are 24 adult drug court programs in West Virginia serving 40 counties, and 16 juvenile drug court programs serving 20 counties with 581 people actively participating in the programs, the Daily Mail reported earlier this month. As part of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which was passed last year, adult drug courts will be in all of West Virginia’s counties by July 1 of next year.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or Follow him at

Source: 26th Feb. 2015

Our children are surrounded by books, magazines, fashion, television, movies, music and the ever present celebrities who extoll the virtues of pot. These factors, combined with the business of Big Marijuana, and pro-pot lobbying organizations that spend millions to sell the idea of surrendering to the drug culture, are undoing decades of drug education work in America – all while the federal government (and many states) turn a blind eye to the social, economic and legal chaos being inflicted upon us.

In a new study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, new evidence has emerged regarding the prevalence of pro-pot messages through Twitter and other social media outlets.

Youth regularly receive pro-marijuana tweets

Hundreds of thousands of American youth are following marijuana-related Twitter accounts and getting pro-pot messages several times each day, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

The tweets are cause for concern, they said, because young people are thought to be especially responsive to social media influences. In addition, patterns of drug use tend to be established in a person’s late teens and early 20s.

In a study published online June 27 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Washington University team analyzed messages tweeted from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, by a Twitter account called Weed Tweets@stillblazintho. Among pro-marijuana accounts, this one was selected because it has the most Twitter followers — about 1 million. During the eight-month study period, the account posted an average of 11 tweets per day.

“As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it is important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse,” said principal investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “I’ve been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous.”

Although 19 states now allow marijuana use for medical purposes, much of the evidence for its effectiveness remains anecdotal. Even as Americans are relaxing their attitudes about marijuana, in 2011 marijuana contributed to more than 455,000 emergency room visits in the United States, federal research shows. Some 13 percent of those patients were ages 12 to 17.

A majority of Americans favor legalizing recreational use of the drug, and 60 percent of high school seniors report they don’t believe regular marijuana use is harmful. A recent report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said that more Americans are using cannabis as their perception of the health risk declines. The report stated that for youth and young adults, “more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use.”

Cavazos-Rehg said Twitter also is influencing young people’s attitudes about the drug. Studying Weed Tweets, the team counted 2,285 tweets during the eight-month study. Of those, 82 percent were positive about the drug, 18 percent were either neutral or did not focus on marijuana, and 0.3 percent expressed negative attitudes about it.

Many of the tweets were meant to be humorous. Others implied that marijuana helps a person feel good or relax, and some mentioned different ways to get high.     With the help of a data analysis firm, the investigators found that of those receiving the tweets, 73 percent were under 19. Fifty-four percent were 17 to 19 years old, and almost 20 percent were 16 or younger. About 22 percent were 20 to 24 years of age. Only 5 percent of the followers were 25 or older.

“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”

Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.

“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”

The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.

“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics. The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.

“There are celebrities who tweet to hundreds of thousands of followers, and it turns out a Twitter handle that promotes substance use can be equally popular,” she said. “Because there’s not much regulation of social media platforms, that could lead to potentially harmful messages being distributed. Regulating this sort of thing is going to be challenging, but the more we can provide evidence that harmful messages are being received by vulnerable kids, the more likely it is we can have a discussion about the types of regulation that might be appropriate.”

This study was funded by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Since the drive to legalise medical marijuana began in the US in the 1990s, marijuana use doubled and the perception of its harm halved. As Colorado and Washington formally legitimise and sanction its recreational use, these dangerous inverse trends can only continue, Kathy Gyngell warns.

On 1 January, to much media fanfare, Colorado became the first state in the US to legalise smoking dope. Since then, our TV screens and newspapers have brought us the less-than-salutary sight of long lines of customers queuing for their ‘soma’, in freezing temperatures to boot, begging the question of whether the denizens of Colorado have nothing better to do with their lives. Out of sight are the financial vultures wheeling to cash in on this hot new market.  Price  – Colorado ran out of pot in the first week – is not putting off its addicted customers.

The ‘medical’ marijuana business was already worth about  $1.4billion dollars last year.  Once pot can be pushed legitimately, once banks decide that investing is this boom is not a moral bridge too far, the sky will be the ceiling on the value of this business.

This is why the recent research finding about teen marijuana use and their perceptions of risk are so worrying. The 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey (an annual survey of 8th, 10th and 12th-graders by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan) reports that far fewer teenagers in the US today view regular marijuana use as harmful as their counterparts did before the campaign to legalise medical marijuana began in the 1990s. Rising use has been accompanied by diminishing perceptions of harm. Evidence points to this being a direct outcome of legalising marijuana for purported medical use – the political sleight of hand used by 21 states to decriminalise it since 1996.

It is no coincidence that marijuana is the only drug in the US whose use is on the rise. This is in contrast to use of all other illicit drugs which are all in persistent decline, particularly cocaine, the use of which has dropped by 75% in 25 years, as the recent United Nation’s World Drug Reports confirm.

Marijuana alone is on a persistent incline upward – and not just for adults. Its use by high-school seniors has doubled since 1991. Last year, teen use rose again, from 11.4% to 12.7% (8th graders) and from 28% to just under 30% (10th graders). A worrying 36% of high-school seniors used pot in the last year.  One in every 15 of them (6.5%) used it daily.

What this latest survey exposes is the Pandora’s box of medical marijuana. Of the 12th graders sampled by the survey who had used marijuana in the 12 months prior to being questioned and who lived in states that passed such laws, one third of them (34%) said that one of their sources of marijuana was another person’s medical marijuana prescription. 6% reported getting it from their own prescription.

The States with medical marijuana laws have failed to prevent its diversion to young people. They have given adolescents another way of obtaining the drug, exposing them to more risk.

The knowledge of this, sadly, did not stop the selfish and dope-loving adult population in Colorado from voting for the drug’s full legalisation. Yet the impact on their teens was clear within two years of medical marijuana being legalised there in 2009. For in just those two years, regular (last month) high school drug use leapt from 19% to 30% and school expulsions rose by a third, marijuana being the first reason for them. Since full legalisation “pot problems” in Colorado’s state schools have reportedly got even worse.

“Kids are smoking before school and during lunch breaks. They come into school reeking of pot,” one school resource officer said. “Students don’t seem to realise that there is anything wrong with having the pot – they act like having marijuana was an ordinary thing and no big deal.” Marijuana is freely available in Colorado. Any resident can legally get two ounces of marijuana a day (at an average of $150 an ounce) and “self-medicate” for almost any reason though even a heavy marijuana user only would get through a quarter of an ounce a day.  Observers say that state “regulation” of the medical marihuana industry was a tragic joke. One group, Smart Colorado, reports that 700 medical marijuana licenses have already been issued in Denver; that legalisation means each of these license holders is now eligible to apply for a recreational license as well. To put this number into context, it compares with the approximately 201 liquor establishments and 123 pharmacies in the city of Denver. No wonder law enforcement officials report that more marijuana is flowing into the black market and out of Colorado in greater quantities than ever before.


Tina Trent, a local blogger on crime and justice issues, hopes that “the reality of legalisation” will be a wake-up call to people in Colorado and other places as they see “people smoking pot in public and every third storefront in the tourist district turning into a head shop”. How, she asks, do you address bus drivers legally smoking pot before their shifts start, and all sorts of people smoking ‘medicinal’ pot all day long, and then getting behind the wheel? Trent, who has written a major report on the drug legalisation movement in California, is urging the public to counter the propaganda from the “professional pro-drug groups funded by George Soros”. She adds that “Legislators need to seriously consider the facts about marijuana abuse by young people”.

Her plea has fallen on deaf ears. Despite significant increases in health detection rates of risky marijuana use in Colorado since 2009, despite sharp increases in school age marijuana use, despite evidence of significant diversion from adults to youth, despite the ever expanding body of scientific evidence charting the multiple and significant health and mental health harms… there has been no government response to this violation of federal drug laws.  It seems President Obama’s Department of Justice has decided to put up the white flag to drug use. Such liberality may appeal to the human rights lobby but it is priming a public-health time bomb.

How can he not be aware of the risks associated with early initiation and regular use of marijuana by young people? Given the now hard scientific evidence concerning marijuana’s impact on young people’s cognitive ability, executive functioning and long term IQ, as well as its risk of inducing psychosis and violence in anyone who takes enough, to say nothing of its enhanced cancer risks – surely this recent ‘normalisation’ of cannabis use would be of considerable concern to the Obama administration? It seems not.


But how long can the president, with teenage children of his own, remain so casual about rising teen pot use under his watch? That is my question for 2014.

Source:   January 2014

China is the most active nation in showing leadership in international cooperation on drug control, said Giovanna Campello, program management officer of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section.

Campello made the remarks at the three-day “Prevention Strategy and Policy Makers” Regional Seminar held by the UNODC which concluded on Nov 28 in Guiyang, Guizhou province.

Twenty officials from anti-drug agencies of nine ASEAN members attended the event.

As the problem of drugs spreads around the world and more people commit drug crimes at a younger age, a focus on drug prevention from childhood is critical in tackling the problem, Campello said.

“It’s the first time for UNODC to hold the seminar in China and it is of great importance for us to promote drug control work,” said Li Xianhui, deputy secretary-general of the China National Narcotics Control Commission.

Drug use in China was largely due to the worsening global drug situation, leading to a complicated scenario, Li said. Diversified drug sources, types and consumption at a young age are becoming more evident.

According to a report released by the China National Narcotics Control Commission, 4,334 school students in China were registered drug users. Of these 2,127 were methamphetamine abusers (accounting for 49.1 percent), 665 were ketamine users (15.3 percent) and 1,164 were opiate addicts (26.9 percent).

In tackling drug crimes, it’s hard to say whether a focus on prevention from an early age or turning to law enforcement is more important. Campello said people should put more focus on law enforcement.

“More and more countries are realizing the present situation,” Campello said. “China and other countries in the region can really show leadership, implement evidence-based programs and evaluate them with scientific evidence, so I think we are on the right path though there are still a lot to do”.

Source:   3.12.13

In two years of work as an undercover officer with a drug task force, Mike Dillon encountered plenty of drugs. But nothing has surprised him as much as what he has seen in schools lately.  Dillon, who is now a school resource officer with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, said he is seeing more and younger kids bringing marijuana to schools, in sometimes-surprising quantities. “When we have middle school kids show up with a half an ounce, that is shocking to me,” Dillon said. The same phenomenon is being reported around Colorado after the 2010 regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries and the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana. There are no hard numbers yet because school disciplinary statistics do not isolate marijuana from general drug violations. But school resource officers, counselors, nurses, staff and officials with Colorado school safety and disciplinary programs are anecdotally reporting an increase in marijuana-related incidents in middle and high schools.  “We have seen a sharp rise in drug-related disciplinary actions which, anecdotally, from credible sources, is being attributed to the changing social norms surrounding marijuana,” said Janelle Krueger. Krueger is the program manager for Expelled and At-Risk Student Services for the Colorado Department of Education and also a long time adviser to the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers. Krueger said school officials believe the jump is linked to the message that legalization (even though it is still prohibited for anyone under 21) is sending to kids: that marijuana is a medicine and a safe and accepted recreational activity. It is also believed to be more available.   Marijuana that parents or other adults might have kept hidden in the past may now be left in the open, where it is easier for kids to dip into it to sell, use or, in some cases, simply to show off, said school officials and law enforcement. “They just want to be cool,” said Dillon of some of the younger students he has seen with pot at school.  Krueger, who has been an adviser to resource officers across Colorado for 17 years, said she has heard many stories from officers about kids bringing pot to schools. One that an officer related at a meeting recently involved a student dropping a small baggie of marijuana from his pocket as he was walking down a school hallway. The school principal was walking past the student at the time and picked up the pot. He asked the student if it belonged to him. The student immediately admitted it was his and reached out to take it back from the principal. What struck Krueger and the officer about this incident was the fact that the student didn’t seem to realize that there was anything wrong with having the pot or that there would be any disciplinary consequence for it. The officer said the student acted like having marijuana was an ordinary thing and no big deal. Jeff Grady, a Grand Junction school resource officer who has spent 25 years working in schools, tells a story about sitting in his car at a park near Grand Junction High School one day watching groups of kids through binoculars because they come to the park to smoke on lunch breaks.  “Kids are smoking before school and during lunch breaks. They come into school reeking of pot,” he said. “They are being much more brazen.”  He said school officials call him and he talks to the kids, but it is a little more difficult now to cite them if they aren’t caught in the act. They can say that they were around an adult medical marijuana user and weren’t smoking themselves, Grady said.

The best quantifiable evidence the state has yet to indicate that marijuana is a significantly growing problem in schools comes from the 2012-13 report that documents why 720 students were expelled from public schools across Colorado. For the first time, marijuana was separated from other drugs when school officials were asked to identify the reason for students’ expulsions. Marijuana came in first. It was listed as being a reason for 32 percent of expulsions.   National statistics also point to marijuana being more prevalent in schools.  The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that marijuana use has climbed among 10th- and 12th-graders nationally, while the use of other drugs and alcohol has held steady or declined. Marijuana is the only drug showing steady increases, the ” Monitoring the Future” study showed. Christine Harms, director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, said the increase of marijuana in schools is not just a problem for school resource officers to grapple with. It was discussed when school psychologists met in Vail last week.  “They are seeing more incidents of kids smoking and thinking it is a safe thing to do. More kids are saying they are getting it from their parents,” Harms said. She said counteracting the message legalization is sending to kids is especially difficult now because federal grants for drug abuse prevention have been cut. She and other officials urge parents to take the lead with help from the Speak Now Colorado program that guides parents in how to talk about substance abuse.  “They need to know how destructive it is to the adolescent brain,” Harms said.

Source:  11.11.23

American middle and high school students seem increasingly taken with electronic cigarettes — and that alarms health officials who worry the devices will turn teenagers to regular cigarettes, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.


The battery-powered electronic devices are marketed as safer and more socially acceptable than regular cigarettes and come with “flavor cartridges” — cherry, chocolate and lime and coconut, to name a few — that could appeal to youngsters.


Teenagers’ use of the electronic devices — sometimes call e-cigs — in 2012 was about double what they reported in 2011.


About 10 percent of high school students reported they’d used the e-cigarettes in 2012 along with 3 percent of middle-schoolers.


The devices do not contain tobacco, so they are not regulated like traditional cigarettes and can be purchased by minors.


But health officials said they still deliver nicotine and other chemicals and can serve as the proverbial gateway to regular cigarettes and all of their known health hazards. They also say the devices have not been well studied, so there may be other health risks that are yet unknown.


“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, in a statement. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”


Source: Erie Times-News, October 3,2013

The NDPA notes that there is more drug use in USA schools since the legalisation of marijuana in two states. This item from Australia on drug use amongst students is shocking; in the UK we need to continue to keep firm drug laws and to promote drug prevention to our youth in order that the same situation does not occur in our schools.

THE Gold Coast region is the booming drug school capital of Queensland, according to confidential data. Exclusive statistics provided to the Bulletin show the number of students excluded from southeast district schools have more than doubled in the past three years. Those figures threaten to triple this year as the region — from the tourist strip, west to Beaudesert and north to Beenleigh and Logan — overtakes Brisbane’s combined northside and southside suburbs for young “stoners”. Police and welfare workers are convinced the Coast’s alarming youth drug trend is fuelled by the economic downturn. Unable to get work in the construction or hospitality industries, former students who began their dope habit back in the early years of secondary school are now returning to their old campuses to deal drugs. “They have fallen back on the only commerce they know — the drug trade,” a police source said. Welfare workers are aware of principals in the Beenleigh region who are banning ex-students from returning to the grounds in a bid to stop school-gate drug deals.. Documents obtained by Right To Information laws reveal many of the offenders are in Year 8, and more than 250 pages of “suspension” reports show increasing numbers of them are bullying females. They use either their mobile phones or Facebook to obtain “the happy drug” from dealers in houses near their schools. In a shocking incident, a student sold 160 tablets, suspected to be speed. Another student who took the tablets overdosed and was taken to hospital, authorities writing that his life was placed at risk. Other reports show students obtain drugs from dealers at Pacific Fair and other shopping centres, skate parks and train stations. However, most students are aware of the CCTV cameras at major business centres, and prefer carparks, skateparks, drains, hidden areas under bridges or bushland near schools to set up their bongs. The young dealers boast about selling weed for as little as $5. A bag of pot is worth $60. Police keeping watch on hotspot schools have found female students smoking an hour before classes. When a female student refused to get inside the police car, an officer was forced to “put her in a wrist lock” as they struggled to get to the deputy principal’s office. Student intelligence being fed to welfare workers suggests criminals are buying or renting homes near schools so “stoners” can gain easy access during lunch breaks. School suspension reports show students arriving at school preparing to party. They bring water-pipe bongs, grinders, clip-seal bags, scissors, pliers and garden hoses. Boys are hiding “the happy drug” in their shoes and toothpick holders, while girls place lighters down their bras. Glassy-eyed, barely able to stand, sometimes with their heads resting on their desks, they are nonchalant about their drug habit interfering with their education.
Asked why she squatted on a netball court to smoke weed, a female student told her deputy principal: “I’ve had a bad week.” A student who arrived at a new school after being excluded from another for drug-related activities brought “weed” on his second day. Before excluding him, his new principal told him: “You admitted to bringing a lunch box-size container of marijuana to school on the second day of attendance at our high school and daily thereafter. “You admitted to supply marijuana … you admitted to asking a student to hide your stash. The behaviour is so serious that suspension would be inadequate to deal with this behaviour.”

Source: 13th March 2013

Filed under: Australia,Education Sector :

When 13-year-old Tamara Chevez came home from school last October, she said she was going to her bedroom for a rest. A few hours later her family found her dead. Tests indicated that she had died from a mix of cocaine and sedatives, drugs she allegedly got while at school. Although it was not the first such death in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, what happened to Tamara sparked a media frenzy. For several weeks reporters carried out investigations in schools, uncovering cases of drug dealing among students.

Unlike neighbouring Colombia and Peru, the world’s largest exporters of cocaine, Ecuador is largely free of coca crops. However, the country is considered an important transit point for drug trafficking to North America and Europe. And that means drugs are available locally for relatively affordable sums. A few grams of marijuana cost as little as $0.50 (30p), while a dose of perica, a derivation of cocaine mixed with other substances, is sold for $1.

“Cartels pay intermediaries through money and drugs. These intermediaries distribute drugs to micro-traffickers who use vulnerable groups to sell the drugs, such as boys and girls that have been excluded from the educational system,” said Interior Minister Jose Serrano.

Security in and around Guayaquil’s high schools has been increased. Drugs are not just sold around schools but within them. According to one head teacher, students find any number of ways to smuggle them in – hidden in pens, in the folds of their uniform or in the pages of their notebooks.

“Drugs are present in schools, just like theft and violence, because they are present in society. All the things that are present in society are present in schools,” says Ricardo Loor, drugs prevention expert at the Guayaquil branch of Ecuador’s drugs agency, Consep.

Tamara Chevez’s death prompted calls for schools to take immediate measures against drug dealing. Many schools stepped up the checks on students entering and exiting the premises, often involving parents as monitors. Some Guayaquil schools asked the police to carry out bag inspections and do checks with sniffer dogs. Many head teachers also invited officers to come into classrooms to talk about the danger of drugs.

Responding to the high demand, Guayaquil’s anti-narcotics department trained community police officers to talk to schoolchildren, a project that is due to be expanded in 2013.

Monica Franco, vice-minister of educational management, said that these policies were not a response to the media outcry, but rather were part of the government’s ongoing prevention efforts. A project bringing police officers into schools to talk about drugs is set to be expanded in the coming year “There hasn’t been any drastic change,” says Ms Franco. “This issue has been exacerbated by the media who are opposed to the government.”

Whatever the reasons behind the media’s attention, drug trafficking, and its impact on public security, is a major concern for the Ecuadorean government. According to the 2012 US state department report on narcotics worldwide, Mexico’s Zetas, Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels, as well as Colombia’s Farc rebels, move cocaine through Ecuador.

There is also evidence that more cocaine is now being refined in Ecuador.

Some security analysts talk of a rise in crime connected to trafficking, although the country is far from being at the levels of drug-related violence associated with Mexico or Central America. In the past two years, the army has been deployed to the streets to support police work, while the police force has been revamped in a bid, according to officials, to enhance prevention and investigation techniques.

In one high school in Guayaquil, the authorities say they believe drug consumption has dropped in the last few weeks. The issue of drugs, and policing, inspired someone to paint this graffiti outside a school in Guayaquil

“At the beginning I thought that we could not eradicate this evil, but if we all contribute, we can lower the levels,” says head teacher Luis Benavides, whose school in Guayaquil has seen student-run prevention campaigns and workshops for parents. But others believe broader strategies are required. “The problem of drugs does not get resolved simply by a talk, workshop or contingency plan,” says Luis Chancay, a teacher and president of the local branch of the National Teachers Union. “We need to find ways to give young people future perspectives,” he says, tackling drug use as a social and health rather than a policing issue.

Tamara’s death shocked Ecuadoreans into talking about the drugs problem in schools; the challenge is to keep the anti-drugs efforts going once the media attention fades.

“They spent months campaigning, but then they leave it, until you have another case, and then they start up again,” said 18-year-old student Patricio. “In my view, it should be continuous so students my age realise that people worry about them and that they are not alone.” 3rd January 2012

“It’s extraordinarily simplistic for the Global Commission to advocate that decriminalising drugs will lead to reduced addiction rates and less crime.  The idea that drug abuse is a victimless crime is also hugely over-simplifying things.

In Scotland there is a huge problem with drug addiction and this has become dramatically worse over recent decades. Such is the scale of the problem now that we have a detection rate of just 1 per cent of all the heroin that’s consumed in Scotland.

That’s a figure we should be hugely discomforted by and it gives us an idea of the scale of the problem we’re facing. The Global Commission’s recommendations seem to have given up on the idea of getting addicts off drugs and seem to be accepting it’s a problem that’s here to stay.

As things stand, we are already leaving too many addicts for too long on methadone, for example. We need to have a policy of supporting people to move from increased stability to abstinence. Legalising drugs would open the floodgates to more drugs problems and would be a catastrophe for the country.

There are areas in Scotland where drug use is already rife, such as some estates in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. If drugs were no longer illegal this would spread rapidly and get out of all control very quickly, we would end up with a drug problem that’s of a similar scale to the one we currently have with alcohol.

The policy advocated by the Global Commission would also lead to higher levels of crime and would corrupt the economy, and there would be huge economic power left with these businesses selling drugs. The power of the drugs gangs would remain in place, but they would now be legitimate in the eyes of the law and would be more likely to diversify into other areas of crime.

We would also see some companies that are currently legitimate corrupted by their involvement in the drugs trade. This has already happened in Columbia, where the gangs have become more powerful and have influence over more parts of society.

Drug dealers and organised crime would all of a sudden have so much more influence and this would be hugely damaging to Scottish society as a whole. We have to look at how to solve the problems with drugs in a much more measured way and that means having joined up strategies in place to treat addicts, as well as an effective criminal justice system.

One of the biggest problems of all though is that we have become too accustomed to having a drug problem in Scotland over the past 20 years and have allowed the problem to get worse and worse. The last thing we want is any sort of knee-jerk reaction or a rushed decision that has come up with all the wrong sorts of ideas. Prevention of drug addiction through education and early intervention have got to be at the heart of any anti-drugs strategy.

But we need to be very clear that a 1 per cent detection rate for all the heroin use in Scotland is just not acceptable and needs to be dramatically improved.  The approach put forward by the Global Commission is certainly not the route to go down, as it would just escalate our problems with crime and addiction.

If we imagine just how bad things have become in Scotland with drug addiction and crime, we should stop to think how much worse they could be if these proposals to decriminalise drugs are introduced.  The crisis could get much worse unless we have a sensible approach that gets to the heart of the problem”.

lNeil McKeganey is a professor of drug misuse research at the University of Glasgow

Source: 2nd June 2011

The British Liver Trust however says the number now being admitted to hospitals because of alcohol is a big problem for the country and blames the problem on a combination of cheap drink and extended drinking times.

The charity figures show that more than 500 people a day are being admitted to hospital because of alcohol-induced accidents, violence and liver damage and the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has increased by almost a third since the licensing laws were relaxed almost two years ago.

According to NHS statistics the highest number is in the North East. NHS statistics show that in 2003-04 there were 147,659 admissions to English hospitals where alcohol was given as a cause.

In 2005-06, when the drinking laws were relaxed, the total was 193,637, or 530 admissions a day. 2nd Jan.2008

Position Statement – December 2011

The flawed proposition of drug legalisation

Various well funded pressure groups have mounted campaigns to overturn the United Nations Conventions on drugs. These groups claim that society should accept the fact of drugs as a problem that will remain and, therefore, should be managed in a way that would enable millions of people to take advantage of an alleged ‘legal right’ to use drugs of their choice.

It is important to note that international law makes a distinction between “hard law” and “soft law.” Hard law is legally binding upon the States. Soft law is not binding. UN Conventions, such as the Conventions on Drugs, are considered hard law and must be upheld by the countries that have ratified the UN Drug Conventions.

International narcotics legislation is mainly made up of the three UN Conventions from 1961 (Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs), 1971 (Convention on Psychotropic Substances), and 1988 (Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances):

• The 1961 Convention sets out that “the possession, use, trade in, distribution,import, export, manufacture and the production of drugs is exclusively limited to medical and scientific purposes”. Penal cooperation is to be established so as to ensure that drugs are only used licitly (for prescribed medical purposes).

• The 1971 Convention resembles closely the 1961 Convention, whilst
establishing an international control system for Psychotropic Substances.

• The 1988 Convention reflects the response of the international community to increasing illicit cultivation, production, manufacture, and trafficking activities. International narcotics legislation draws a line between licit (medical) and illicit (non-medical) use, and sets out measures for prevention of illicit use, including penal measures. The preamble to the 1961 Convention states that the parties to the Convention are “Recognizing that addiction to narcotic drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind”. The Conventions are reviewed every ten years and have consistently been upheld.

The UN system of drug control includes the Office of Drugs and Crime, the International Narcotics Control Board, and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The works of these bodies are positive and essential in international drug demand and supply reduction. They are also attacked by those seeking to legalise drugs.

It is frequently and falsely asserted that the so-called “War on Drugs” is inappropriate and has become a very costly and demonstrable failure. It is declared by some that vast resources have been poured into the prevention of drug use and the suppression of illicit manufacturing, trafficking, and supply. It is further claimed that what is essentially a chronic medical problem has been turned into a criminal justice issue with inappropriate remedies that make “innocent” people criminals. In short, the flawed argument is that “prohibition” monies have been wasted and the immeasurable financial resources applied to this activity would be better spent for the general benefit of the community.

The groups supporting legalisation are: people who use drugs, those who believe that the present system of control does more harm than good, and those who are keen to make significant profits from marketing newly authorised addictive substances. In addition to pernicious distribution of drugs, dealers circulate specious and misleading information. They foster the erroneous belief that drugs are harmless, thus adding to even more confused thinking.

Superficially crafted, yet pseudo-persuasive arguments are put forward that can be accepted by many concerned, well intentioned people who have neither the time nor the knowledge to research the matter thoroughly, but accept them in good faith. Frequently high profile people claim that legalisation is the best way of addressing a major social problem without cogent supporting evidence. This too influences others, especially the ill informed who accept statements as being accurate and well informed. Through this ill-informed propaganda, people are asked to believe that such action would defeat the traffickers, take the profit out of the drug trade and solve the drug problem completely.

The total case for legalisation seems to be based on the assertion that the government assault on alleged civil liberties has been disastrously and expensively ineffective and counter-productive. In short, it is alleged, in contradiction to evidence, that prohibition has produced more costs than benefits and, therefore, the use of drugs on a personal basis should be permitted. Advocates claim that legalisation would eliminate the massive expenditure incurred by prohibition and would take the profit out of crime for suppliers and dealers. They further claim that it would decriminalise what they consider “understandable” human behaviour and thus prevent the overburdening of the criminal justice system that is manifestly failing to cope. It is further argued irrationally that police time would not be wasted on minor drug offences, the courts would be freed from the backlog of trivial cases and the prisons would not be used as warehouses for those who choose to use drugs, and the saved resources could be used more effectively.

Types of drug legalisation

The term “legalisation” can have any one of the following meanings:

1. Total Legalisation – All illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana would be legal and treated as commercial products. No government regulation would be required to oversee production, marketing, or distribution.

2. Regulated Legalisation – The production and distribution of drugs would be regulated by the government with limits on amounts that can be purchased and the age of purchasers. There would be no criminal or civil sanctions for possessing, manufacturing, or distributing drugs unless these actions violated the regulatory system. Drug sales could be taxed.

3. Decriminalisation – Decriminalisation eliminates criminal sanctions for drug use and provides civil sanctions for possession of drugs. To achieve the agenda of drug legalisation, advocates argue for:

• legalising drugs by lowering or ending penalties for drug possession and use – particularly marijuana;

• legalising marijuana and other illicit drugs as a so-called medicine;
• harm reduction programmes such as needle exchange programmes, drug injection sites, heroin distribution to addicts, and facilitation of so-called safe use of drugs that normalize drug use, create the illusion that drugs can be used safely if one just knows how, and eliminates a goal of abstinence from drugs;

• legalised growing of industrial hemp;
• an inclusion of drug users as equal partners in establishing and enforcing drug policy; and

• protection for drug users at the expense and to the detriment of non-users under the pretence of “human rights.”

The problem is with the drugs and not the drug policies

Legalisation of current illicit drugs, including marijuana, is not a viable solution to the global drug problem and would actually exacerbate the problem. The UN Drug Conventions were adopted because of the recognition by the international community that drugs are an enormous social problem and that the trade adversely affects the global economy and the viability of some countries that have become transit routes.

The huge sums of illegal money generated by the drug trade encourage money laundering and have become inextricably linked with other international organised criminal activities such as terrorism, human trafficking, prostitution and the arms trade. Drug Lords have subverted the democratic governments of some countries to the great detriment of law abiding citizens.

Drug abuse has had a major adverse effect on global health and the spread of communicable diseases such as AIDS/HIV. Control is vitally important for the protection of communities against these problems. There is international agreement in the UN Conventions that drugs should be produced legally under strict supervision to ensure adequate supplies only for medical and research purposes. The cumulative effects of prohibition and interdiction combined with education and treatment during 100 years of international drug control have had a significant impact in stemming the drug problem. Control is working and one can only imagine how much worse the problem would have become without it. For instance:

• In 2007, drug control had reduced the global opium supply to one-third the level in 1907 and even though current reports indicate recent increased cultivation in Afghanistan and production in Southeast Asia, overall production has not increased.

• During the last decade, world output of cocaine and amphetamines has stabilized; cannabis output has declined since 2004; and opium production has declined since 2008. We, therefore, strongly urge nations to uphold and enhance current efforts to prevent the use, cultivation, production, traffic, and sale of illegal drugs. We further urge our leaders to reject the legalisation of currently illicit drugs as an acceptable solution to the world’s drug problem because of the following reasons:

• Only 6.1% of people globally between the ages of 15 and 64 use drugs (World Drug Report 2011 UNODC) and there is little public support for the legalisation of highly dangerous substances. Prohibition has ensured that the total number of users is low because legal sanctions do influence people’s behaviour.

• There is a specific obligation to protect children from the harms of drugs, as is
evidenced through the ratification by the majority of United Nations Member States of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Article 33 states that Member States “shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances”.

• Legalisation sends the dangerous tacit message of approval, that drug use is
acceptable and cannot be very harmful.

• Permissibility, availability and accessibility of dangerous drugs will result in
increased consumption by many who otherwise would not consider using them.

• Enforcement of laws creates risks that discourage drug use. Laws clearly define what is legal and illegal and emphasise the boundaries.

• Legalisation would increase the risks to individuals, families, communities and world regions without any compensating benefits.

• Legalisation would remove the social sanctions normally supported by a legal system and expose people to additional risk, especially the young and vulnerable.

• The legalisation of drugs would lead inevitably to a greater number of dependencies and addictions likely to match the levels of licit addictive substances. In turn, this would lead to increasing related morbidity and mortality, the spread of communicable diseases such as AIDS/HIV and the other blood borne viruses exacerbated by the sharing of needles and drugs paraphernalia, and an increased burden on the health and social services.

• There would be no diminution in criminal justice costs as, contrary to the view held by those who support legalisation, crime would not be eliminated or reduced. Dependency often brings with it dysfunctional families together with increased domestic child abuse.

• There will be increases in drugged driving and industrial accidents.

• Drug Control is a safeguard protecting millions from the effects of drug abuse and addiction particularly, but not exclusively, in developing countries.

• Statements about taxation offsetting any additional costs are demonstrably flawed and this has been shown in the case of alcohol and tobacco taxes. Short of governments distributing free drugs, those who commit crime now to obtain them would continue to do so if they became legal.

• Legalisation would not take the profit out of the drug trade as criminals will always find ways of countering legislation. They would continue their dangerous activities including cutting drugs with harmful substances to maximise sales and profits. Aggressive marketing techniques, designed to promote increased sales and use, would be applied rigorously to devastating effect.

• Other ‘legal’ drugs – alcohol and tobacco, are regularly traded on the black market and are an international smuggling problem; an estimated 600 billion cigarettes are smuggled annually (World Drug report 2009). Taxation monies raised from these products go nowhere near addressing consequential costs.

• Many prisons have become incubators for infection and the spread of drug related diseases at great risk to individual prisoners, prison staff and the general public. Failure to eliminate drug use in these institutions exacerbates the problem.

• The prisons are not full of people who have been convicted for mere possession of drugs for personal use. This sanction is usually reserved for dealers and those who commit crime in the furtherance of their possession.

• The claim that alcohol and tobacco may cause more harm than some drugs is not a pharmacokinetics of psychotropic substances suggest that more, not less, control of their access is warranted.

• Research regularly and increasingly demonstrates the harms associated with drug use and misuse. There is uncertainty, yet growing evidence, about the long-term detrimental effects of drug use on the physical, psychological and emotional health of substance users.

• It is inaccurate to suggest that the personal use of drugs has no consequential and damaging effects. Apart from the harm to the individual users, drugs affect others by addiction, violence, criminal behaviour and road accidents. Some drugs remain in the body for long periods and adversely affect performance and behaviour beyond the time of so-called ‘private’ use. Legalisation would not diminish the adverse effects associated with drug misuse such as criminal, irrational and violent behaviour and the mental and physical harm that occurs in many users.

• All drugs can be dangerous including prescription and over the counter medicines if they are taken without attention to medical guidance. Recent research has confirmed just how harmful drug use can be and there is now overwhelming evidence (certainly in the case of cannabis) to make consideration of legalisation irresponsible.

• The toxicity of drugs is not a matter for debate or a vote. People are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Those who advocate freedom of choice cannot create freedom from adverse consequences.

• Drug production causes huge ecological damage and crop erosion in drug producing areas.

• Nearly every nation has signed the UN Conventions on drug control. Any government of signatory countries contemplating legalisation would be in breach of agreements under the UN Conventions which recognise that unity is the best approach to combating the global drug problem. The administrative burden associated with legalisation would become enormous and probably unaffordable to most governments. Legalisation would require a massive government commitment to production, supply, security and a bureaucracy that would necessarily increase the need for the employment at great and unaffordable cost for all of the staff necessary to facilitate that development.

• Any government policy must be motivated by the consideration that it must first do no harm. There is an obligation to protect citizens and the compassionate and sensible method must be to do everything possible to reduce drug dependency and misuse, not to encourage or facilitate it. Any failures in a common approach to a problem would result in a complete breakdown in effectiveness. Differing and fragmented responses to a common predicament are unacceptable for the wellbeing of the international community. It is incumbent on national governments to cooperate in securing the greatest good for the greatest number.

ISSUED this 21st day of December, 2011 by the following groups:
Drug Prevention Network of the Americas (DPNA)
Institute on Global Drug Policy
International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse
International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy
People Against Drug Dependence & Ignorance (PADDI), Nigeria
Europe Against Drugs (EURAD)
World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD)
Peoples Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance (PREDA)
Drug Free Scotland

Following the Scottish example, England has piloted drug courts using specially trained magistrates to closely supervise treatment-based community sentences. This initial report found no major glitches but low throughput and uncertain cost-benefits.

Summary The Dedicated Drug Court framework for England and Wales provides for specialist courts which exclusively handle cases relating to drug misusing offenders from conviction through sentence to completion (or breach) of a community order with a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR). Two magistrates’ courts (Leeds Magistrates’ Court and West London Magistrates’ Court) have been piloting drug courts implemented in line with the Ministry of Justice’s framework.

The critical factors for implementation success are an understanding of local context and scale of need, the enthusiasm of the local judiciary and partner agencies, good partnership working, availability of resources to deliver the drug court and its associated treatment services, the depth of understanding by all staff of offender motivation and, in particular, recognition of the points at which an offender is most likely to make progress in reducing or stopping drug use. Continuity of judiciary is key to successful implementation of a drug court. It provides the focus for communication between the court and the offender and across magistrate panels. Continuity of judiciary was a strong planned feature of both courts. Based on analysis undertaken with data from the Leeds pilot, there is strong evidence that continuity of magistrates has a statistically significant impact on several key drug court outcomes. Greater continuity of magistrates experienced by offenders is associated with their being less likely to miss a court hearing, more likely to complete their sentence, and less likely to be reconvicted.

Break-even analysis showed that (compared to normal adjudication) an extra 8% of offenders seen by the courts would need to stop taking drugs for five years or more following completion of the sentence to provide a net economic benefit to the wider society, and 14% in order to provide a net economic benefit to the criminal justice system. A robust quantification of impact was not possible because of the difficulties in collecting sufficient data on a comparison group of offenders not processed through drug courts.

Findings Commissioned by the UK Ministry of Justice, the report describes the implementation rather than the outcomes of England’s pilot drug courts. In line with international understandings, the courts were intended to specialise in drug-related offenders, presided over by sentencers specially trained for this task who order treatment-based sentences and closely supervise the offender’s progress, aided by regular tests for illegal drug use. The aim is maximise the rehabilitative impact of the sentence by increasing compliance and engagement with treatment through criminal justice pressure (ultimately the prospect of receiving a more typical punishment-based sentence if the drug court’s order fails) and rewards (of which one of the most powerful seems to be the unfamiliar experience of being congratulated by a judge or magistrate).

The report identified no critical fault lines in the implementation of the courts. However, these were particularly promising sites: the Leeds court built on a pre-existing system and in London, court staff were enthusiastic about the proposal and had already been working towards creating a drug court. Nevertheless, offender throughput was lower than expected. Over the 17 months of the evaluation, the London court sentenced just 60 new offenders while in Leeds the total was 276. Low throughput raised costs per offender. Compared to a standard 12-month drug rehabilitation requirement order implemented through normal adjudication, supervising the order through the drug courts cost £4633 extra per offender.

With no comparison group of normally adjudicated offenders, the evaluation was unable to say whether this was money well spent. They were, however, able to calculate the drug use reductions the courts would have to ‘buy’ in order to meet their extra costs – as noted in the abstract, the answer was 8% of offenders ceasing drug use for at least five years compared to the numbers doing so on a normally adjudicated drug rehabilitation requirement order. This calculation though excludes the base costs of normal adjudication and of a normally supervised drug rehabilitation requirement order. This seems to mean that the 8% would also have to be over and above the proportion of offenders who remain abstinent after normal judicial processing. The report gives no indication of how much success would be needed to match the total costs incurred by the criminal justice system in implementing all the elements of a drug court-supervised drug rehabilitation requirement order.

The report’s emphasis on offenders seeing the same magistrate(s) for their sentencing and throughout subsequent progress reviews is backed by evidence from Leeds that continuity is substantially associated with better compliance and drug use and crime outcomes. Steps were taken to reduce the risk that continuity was caused by high compliance and good progress rather than vice versa. However, without actually allocating offenders at random to see or not see the same magistrates, it is impossible to eliminate this possibility. Assuming the effect was real, it is of concern that organising continuity was a challenge, and especially so for ‘breach’ hearings dealing with unacceptable failures to comply with the order, which national regulations required to occur within a set period. Unfortunately, these crucial junctures are just when continuity is most needed, requiring an understanding of whether the offender will do better on a revised order, or the order has failed and should be revoked, often resulting in imprisonment.

A final caution over any such report is that some leading criminologists accuse the UK government of manipulating and distorting criminological research for political gain, to the point where the professor of criminology at the Open University has called for a boycott of government-commissioned work. The featured report was commissioned by the UK Ministry of Justice, a ministry carved out in part from the Home Office, one of the main targets of these accusations.

Scotland preceded England in formally piloting drug courts in Glasgow from 2001 and in Fife the following year. As in England, implementation was not entirely smooth but better than might have been expected. There was a high but it was thought acceptable failure rate, probably aided by Scotland’s more flexible application of drug treatment and testing orders, predecessors to the drug rehabilitation requirements used later by the English courts. However, crime impacts were questionable. Within one year 50% of drug court offenders had been reconvicted and within two years 71%, and the average frequency of reconvictions only slightly dipped in the two years after the order was imposed compared to the two years before. There was no clear crime-reduction benefit from supervising the orders through the drug courts (at an average cost of nearly £18,500 per order) as opposed to normal adjudication. But, as in England, the costs imposed on society by persistent, high-rate offending and drug-related mortality and morbidity, are such that even modest improvements might be cost-beneficial overall.

International experience and research relating to drug courts suggests it is important for courts to emphasise rewards as well as punishments, see offenders frequently enough to apply these swiftly in response to progress, deploy a range of rewards and sanctions short of revocation which are consistently applied, have a strong and sure ultimate sanction when the programme fails, make these consequences absolutely clear to offenders, have rapid access to a range of treatment options, maintain continuity in the judge dealing with the case, and to attend to the range of the individual’s needs. Willingness to continue despite some initial offending makes the structure imposed by stringent requirements and monitoring a positive feature rather than one which leads most offenders to fail. Consistent judicial supervision, the fact that this forces addicts (back) in to treatment, and drug testing which provides a shared measure of how treatment is progressing, probably all play their parts.

Source: March 2009

Illegal drugs not only harm a user’s mind and body, they devastate families, communities, and neighborhoods. They jeopardize public safety, prevent too many Americans from reaching their full potential, and place obstacles in the way of raising a healthy generation of young people.

To address these challenges, today we are releasing the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy — the Obama Administration’s primary policy blueprint for reducing drug use and its consequences in America. The President’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new direction in our approach to drug policy. Today’s strategy builds upon that approach, which is based on science, evidence, and research. Most important, it is based on the premise that drug addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. Simply put, we are not powerless against the challenge of substance abuse — people can recover, and millions are in recovery. These individuals are our neighbors, friends and family members. They contribute to our communities, our workforce, our economy, and help make America stronger.

Our emphasis on addressing the drug problem through a public health approach is grounded in decades of research and scientific study. There is overwhelming evidence that drug prevention and treatment programs achieve meaningful results with significant long-term cost savings. In fact, recent research has shown that each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.

But reducing the burden of our nation’s drug problem stretches beyond prevention and treatment. We need an all of the above approach. To address this problem in a comprehensive way, the President’s new strategy also applies the principles of public health to reforming the criminal justice system, which continues to play a vital role in drug policy. It outlines ways to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and arrest by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment, bolstering support for reentry programs that help offenders rejoin their communities, and advancing support for innovative enforcement programs proven to improve public health while protecting public safety.

Together, we have achieved significant reform in the way we address substance abuse. And the Affordable Care Act will — for the first time — require insurers to cover treatment for drug addiction the same way they would other chronic diseases. This is a revolutionary shift in how we address drug policy in America.
Over the past three decades, we have reduced illegal drug use in America. Over the long term, rates of drug use among young people today are far lower than they were 30 years ago. More recently cocaine use has dropped nearly 40 percent and meth use has dropped by half. And we can do more. As President Obama has noted, we have successfully changed attitudes regarding rates of smoking and drunk driving, and with your help we can do the same with our illegal drug problem.

Source: R. Gil Kerlikowske
Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy 18th April 2012

Revealed: Government helpline tells children ‘cannabis is safer than alcohol’

Children calling the Government’s drugs helpline are being told that cannabis is safer than alcohol and that ecstasy will not damage their health, an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found.

 Advisers manning the Frank anti-drug helpline are telling children cannabis is safer than alcohol

Advisers manning the “Frank” helpline are informing callers they believed to be children as young as 13 that alcohol is a “much more powerful drug than cannabis” and that using the illegal drug recreationally is not harmful because it “doesn’t get you that high”.

Callers are also being told that taking ecstasy will not lead to long-term damage and that if they are in doubt, to “just take half a pill and if you are handling that OK, you can take the other half.”   They are even being told that they would be able to smoke a cannabis joint, on top of ecstasy, with no ill-effects.

The advice, given to reporters who rang the helpline posing as young people, has alarmed anti-drugs campaigners who branded it “scandalous” and “irresponsible.”   Health experts have condemned the advice given to children as “frankly appalling”, “factually incorrect” and “worryingly cavalier”.

After being presented with the findings, the Government last night said it had launched an immediate investigation into the Frank service, which is funded by three separate departments, and said it would be taking action advisers involved.

Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said: “The idea that the Government’s helpline should be saying to young people “go for it” and that cannabis should be class C when it has just been classified by the Government as class B, shows that the Home Office is all over the place in its approach to drugs.”

Professor Neil McKeganey, professor of drug misuse research, at Glasgow University, said: “Having read one of the transcripts, it is extraordinary that the Frank counsellor seems more concerned to place cannabis smoking in some kind of comfort zone of acceptable behaviour rather than address the risks of such drug use on the part of a 13-year-old child.”

Mary Brett, a spokesman for the Talking About Cannabis charity, said: “It is scandalous. These people are talking to kids, for goodness sake. Taking drugs can trigger all kinds of psychosis in people that have a genetic predisposition to it. Why are they not told that? Medical experts have said time and again that skunk, the newer type of cannabis that many young people are taking, is dangerous.

“These children are being told they can choose. But the risky bit of their brains develops before the inhibitory bit of their brain and they take risks.

“They have to be told ‘this is not for you’. When they hear fair, reasoned arguments against, they respond. It is obvious they are not hearing them from Frank.”

The helpline, established by the Government in 2003 with £3 million funding, was described in a Home Office drugs strategy recently as “the key channel by which Government communicates the dangers of drugs, including cannabis, to young people”.

But in calls to its helpline, manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, reporters posing as teenagers were told by different advisers that drug taking was not harmful.    At no point in the conversations did the Frank team try to dissuade the callers from taking drugs.

The effects on the body were played down to the extent that one adviser, referring to ecstasy, said: “At the end of the day I know where you’re coming from – doing a pill and it felt great.”

Another counsellor said that cannabis, a class B drug, should be regarded as class C and that “cannabis doesn’t really get you that high. You know you are always in control”.   A third adviser stated: “nicotine is physically addictive. Cannabis isn’t. You can stop smoking it any time you want.”

Alcohol was presented as a much greater danger than illegal drugs, including heroin, more expensive and with many more negative effects.   One adviser told a caller: “The withdrawals of alcohol are worse than heroin for example; people can die when they become addicted to alcohol and stop suddenly.”

The reporters were also told that the police “would not do anything” if they found a young person with cannabis and that if they are caught with pills, they should say they were for their own use to avoid being prosecuted as a dealer.

In one call, where the reporter claimed to be the friend of a 13-year-old boy who had started smoking cannabis, the adviser said: “He won’t get addicted, no. Tell him you spoke to Frank and they told me it’s not as dangerous as alcohol. Tell him they said by using it recreationally, it’s not as bad as alcohol, because that’s the truth in terms of the power of the drug.”

He went on to say that if alcohol was illegal, it would be a class A drug, the most harmful category, whereas “cannabis should just be a class C drug”.   Another reporter, posing as a 15-year-old girl who had taken her first ecstasy tablet, asked if it would affect her health in any way.

The response was “Nah”. He told the caller that he could not say “go and take Es, you’re absolutely fine”, but that “in terms of taking a pill like that, it’s not going to affect your health”.   He went on to say “obviously you had a really good experience. It’s like most things, if you do it in moderation, you lessen your chances.

“A good idea is if you don’t know what it is you are taking, take a half a one and see how you go and if you are handling that OK, you can take the other half.” The adviser was also unsure what classification the Class A drug was.

During a discussion where the adviser talked about mixing drugs, the reporter asked if it was safe to have cannabis after taking an ecstasy pill.

The adviser said: “Again, I’m not condoning it but it wouldn’t spin you out like another pill or powder. If you’re asking me if you could have a spliff with it, would it have any major affects, generally speaking, no, although people are individuals so what works for one might not work for another, but generally speaking, no, you’d be able to have spliff with it.”

An estimated five million people in the UK are users of illegal or street drugs. Health experts are growing increasingly worried about the affects on young people’s mental health. There is also growing evidence that contrary to earlier assumptions, cannabis can be addictive.

Varieties of skunk, which contain much higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical, are more dangerous than the cannabis used in the 1960s and 1970s but are now widespread and often the choice of young people.

Dr Zerrin Atakan, consultant psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry, said: “Any drug use while the brain is still developing may lead to structural or functional changes. One Australian study has shown that heavy cannabis users show clear structural abnormalities of the brain.

“Another recent study has also shown that cannabis use before 18 can lead to abnormalities in areas of the brain that control memory, attention, decision-making and language skills.

“Also, contrary to previously held beliefs, it is now considered that regular users can develop ‘tolerance’ to the drug, one of the main characteristics of addiction. Regular users require higher doses to become ‘stoned’. Some people find it very hard to give it up and become highly anxious if they do.”

According to the Home Office, drug use among all ages, including young people, has fallen in recent years. The Government, which downgraded cannabis to a grade C drug in 2004, has recently reclassified it to B.

A Government spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable for a Frank adviser to be giving out wrong, misleading and inaccurate information. We are urgently looking into the matter and will identify the person or persons involved and take action.

“Frank is an important resource for young people who need help and advice about drugs. It is vital that Frank advisers give out correct and straight forward advice – we have therefore commissioned a review of the training advisers receive and will act upon it.”

Source:  l8th April 2009

A third of 14 to 16-year-olds drink every weekend.
Children should learn first aid skills to help friends who become dangerously drunk, the British Red Cross has said.
Its survey of 2,500 11 to 16-year-olds found 10% had been left with a drunk friend who was sick, injured or unconscious and 14% said they had been in an alcohol-related emergency.
The Red Cross wants to promote a broad range of first aid skills, but says the effects of alcohol are a key concern. The charity Drinkaware backed the call, but said parents needed to give advice.
Official figures show that there were more than 7,000 hospital admissions between 2006 and 2009 involving under-15s and alcohol.
Many youngsters told the survey that they drank – 23% of 11 to 16-year-olds said they have been drunk, while one in three 14 to 16-year-olds said they drank most weekends.
Many of those who said they had witnessed an alcohol-related emergency said they had panicked, or did not know what to do. Almost half said they were worried about their friend choking on vomit or simply not waking up.
Joe Mulligan, from the British Red Cross, said: “We need to ensure that every young person, irrespective of whether they have been drinking, has the ability and confidence to cope in a crisis.”
The agency hopes new online training materials, including videos on YouTube, will reach children directly. Its campaign, called Life – Live It, is also sending Red Cross trainers into schools and offering first aid packs to teachers.
Children can learn skills including the recovery position, to avoid someone choking on their own vomit, and resuscitation techniques.
Chris Sorek, from charity Drinkaware, said the findings reinforced the need for children of all ages to be educated about alcohol misuse. “It’s not surprising that children under 16 don’t know how to deal with alcohol emergencies. Ideally they should enjoy an alcohol-free childhood, so we wouldn’t expect them to know what to do.
“But with the young people who drink alcohol drinking at very high levels, it’s important they are equipped with the tips they need to keep themselves and their friends safe.”
But he said that parents played a vital role in educating their children about the dangers of alcohol misuse.
First aid has been part of the school curriculum for two years, but the survey also found that only 5% of those surveyed had received first aid training at school. As well as dealing with alcohol-related problems, the campaign aims to help teach children how to help people with asthma attacks, head injuries, choking and epileptic seizures.

Source: BBC News 13th Sept.2010

A third of 14 to 16-year-olds drink every weekend Children should learn first aid skills to help friends who become dangerously drunk, the British Red Cross has said.
Its survey of 2,500 11 to 16-year-olds found 10% had been left with a drunk friend who was sick, injured or unconscious and 14% said they had been in an alcohol-related emergency.
The Red Cross wants to promote a broad range of first aid skills, but says the effects of alcohol are a key concern. The charity Drinkaware backed the call, but said parents needed to give advice.
Official figures show that there were more than 7,000 hospital admissions between 2006 and 2009 involving under-15s and alcohol.
Many youngsters told the survey that they drank – 23% of 11 to 16-year-olds said they have been drunk, while one in three 14 to 16-year-olds said they drank most weekends.
Many of those who said they had witnessed an alcohol-related emergency said they had panicked, or did not know what to do. Almost half said they were worried about their friend choking on vomit or simply not waking up.
Joe Mulligan, from the British Red Cross, said: “We need to ensure that every young person, irrespective of whether they have been drinking, has the ability and confidence to cope in a crisis.”
The agency hopes new online training materials, including videos on YouTube, will reach children directly. Its campaign, called Life – Live It, is also sending Red Cross trainers into schools and offering first aid packs to teachers.
Children can learn skills including the recovery position, to avoid someone choking on their own vomit, and resuscitation techniques.
Chris Sorek, from charity Drinkaware, said the findings reinforced the need for children of all ages to be educated about alcohol misuse. “It’s not surprising that children under 16 don’t know how to deal with alcohol emergencies. Ideally they should enjoy an alcohol-free childhood, so we wouldn’t expect them to know what to do.
“But with the young people who drink alcohol drinking at very high levels, it’s important they are equipped with the tips they need to keep themselves and their friends safe.”
But he said that parents played a vital role in educating their children about the dangers of alcohol misuse.
First aid has been part of the school curriculum for two years, but the survey also found that only 5% of those surveyed had received first aid training at school. As well as dealing with alcohol-related problems, the campaign aims to help teach children how to help people with asthma attacks, head injuries, choking and epileptic seizures.

Source: BBC News 13th Sept.2010

Published: March 21, 2007
Teenage use of alcohol and drugs dropped significantly in New York City in 2005 compared with past years, and is lower than the national rate, but it remains disturbingly high, city officials said yesterday, citing the results of a recently released survey.

The city’s biennial survey found that in 2005, fewer students at the city’s public high schools were drinking or smoking marijuana than at any time since the surveys began in 1997. Use of most harder drugs was roughly unchanged.

But 1.8 percent of students surveyed in 2005 said they had tried heroin at least once, triple the number in 2001.

Lorna Thorpe, a deputy city health commissioner, said that it was not clear why there had been an overall drop in drug and alcohol use, but that it might be connected to a decline in teenage smoking. People who smoke are more likely to use other substances as well.

She said officials were equally unsure of the cause of the rise in heroin use, but that it coincided with a rise in emergency room visits and Emergency Medical Services calls involving heroin.

“That has raised a flag for us, and we’re watching it,” she said. She added that while the data are usually compiled slowly, over more than a year, officials will pay particular attention to the heroin figures as they conduct the 2007 survey.

The change could be tied to the fact that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan greatly curtailed the trade in opium, the raw material for heroin. But the drug became more readily available and cheaper after the regime was overthrown in late 2001.

In 2005, 14 percent of the teenagers surveyed said they had engaged in binge drinking — five or more drinks in the space of a few hours — in the previous month, down from 18 percent in 2001. And 35 percent said they had consumed some alcohol in the last month, down from 41 percent.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city health commissioner, said those numbers, though an improvement, were still worrisome, because using alcohol and other drugs raises the chance of risky behavior like unprotected sex.

White students were far more likely than their black, Hispanic or Asian classmates to engage in binge drinking or to use hard drugs, and a little more likely to smoke marijuana. Staten Island had much higher rates of binge drinking and drug use than the other boroughs.

Marijuana use fell more sharply than use of any other substance: 12 percent of students said they had smoked it in the previous month, down from 18 percent in 2001.

The portion of students who reported using cocaine (1.8 percent) and methamphetamine (2.5 percent) in the previous month was about the same as in earlier surveys.

The city’s survey, conducted jointly by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is patterned on a national survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

National surveys include students at both public and private schools, while the city’s cover only public schools, which include about 80 percent of the city’s high school population. Because use of alcohol and some drugs are more prevalent among white and affluent students, the city’s surveys may understate the overall rate.

But city officials say they are confident that inclusion of private school students would still show lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the city than nationwide. In particular, the most recent national surveys show binge drinking almost twice as common nationally as in the city, and methamphetamine use two to three times as common.

The city’s survey is conducted by choosing a sampling of high schools that is representative of all high schools, and then a representative sampling of classrooms within those high schools. In the selected classrooms, all students take the survey on paper, anonymously.

In all, 8,000 students took the survey in 2003 and 2005, with only 1,500 students taking the survey in earlier years.

Next Article in New York Region (15 of 28) »


Last week, it was announced that the Conservative government will soon unveil a new national anti-drug strategy. The plan is said to feature a get-tough approach to illegal drugs, including a crackdown on grow-ops and drug gangs. And while it will also (wisely) include tens of millions for rehabilitation of addicts and for a national drug prevention campaign, it is said to retreat from safe-injection sites and other fashionable “harm-reduction” strategies introduced by the previous Liberal government. To which we say: Good. This editorial column has long urged a softening of drug policy on marijuana and other non-addictive recreational substances. But heroin and similarly addictive drugs are a different story. Moreover, safe injection sites don’t work. And they send the wrong message, too, promoting disrespect for the rule of law by having government facilitating the consumption of illegal substances.


Safe-injection sites (SIS)– typically inner-city facilities where addicts may go to shoot up with clean needles under the watchful eye of medical specialists –are often said to work wonders. Benefits claimed on behalf of Insite, Canada’s one and only SIS in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside since 2003, include reduced needle sharing, reduced spread of deadly diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, fewer needles discarded in surrounding neighbourhoods and fewer addicts overdosing in alleys. Lives have been saved, advocates claim, the “well-being of drug users improved,” and all without increased street dealing around Insite.

 Too bad most of the proof to back these positive claims come from SIS proponents or the academics who devise harm-reduction theories. Police here, and in Europe (where they have lots of experience with SISs) tell a very different tale.

 When Insite applied to have its three-year licence renewed last fall, the RCMP told Health Canada it had “concerns regarding any initiative that lowers the perceived risks associated with drug use. There is considerable evidence to show that, when the perceived risks associated to drug use decreases, there is a corresponding increase in number of people using drugs.”

That has certainly been the case in Europe. Currently there are more than three dozen major European cities on record against SISs. Most have had such facilities and closed them because they found that drug problems increased, not decreased.

After an injection site was opened in Rotterdam in the early 1990s, the municipal council reported a doubling of the number of 15- to 19-year-olds addicted to heroine or cocaine. Over the 1990s, the Dutch Criminal Intelligence Service reported a 25% increase in drug-related gun murders and robberies in neighbourhoods housing one of that country’s 50 official methadone clinics or addict shelters. Zurich closed its infamous needle park in 1992, after the police and citizenry became fed up with public urination and defecation, prostitution, open sex, panhandling, drug peddling, loud fights and violent crimes.

Reports that the Harper government is preparing to announce changes to Canada’s outdated 20-year-old national strategy on illicit drug use should be reason for optimism.Source:Addiction & Recovery News May 2007


Source:Addiction & Recovery News May 2007









Filed under: Canada,Education Sector :

Teachers UK-wide given emergency training after some as young as 12 fall victim to £3-a-go ‘plant food’ drug linked to two deaths.

Teachers are dealing with the behavioural consequences in their classrooms of a new “legal high” – known as “meow meow” or “plant food” – which is being taken by pupils as young as 12 or 13.
Classroom staff are now receiving training in the dangers of the new craze after an explosion in its use and recent cases of children falling seriously ill after taking the drug, which is believed to have similar effects to ecstasy. While the drug is not illegal, its abuse in the hands of pupils has prompted officials around the country to add warnings about the substance to PSHE lessons. It has been linked to the deaths of Swedish teenagers and 14-year-old Gabi Price from Worthing last November.
“Meow meow”, or mephedrone as it is formally named, is marketed by suppliers as plant food to avoid detection and can be acquired for as little as £3 a hit (a gram, containing four capsules, costs £12).

In Brighton there are reports of children as young as 12 and 13 taking the drug on school buses. College students have even started a trend of trying to drive home after taking legal high drugs, with five teenage boys in County Durham taken to hospital after indulging – with one suffering a drug-induced high for 36 hours.
Police around the country worried about the trend have now started taking action. Pupils at Brighton schools have already begun learning about the dangers of the drugs in assemblies and through the PSHE curriculum, while children in Teesdale have been given information leaflets. Police are also working with Harrogate headteachers after a growth in legal-high use among the town’s young people.

“It’s clear that increased numbers of 14- and 15-year-olds started using ‘meow meow’ at the end of last summer and we have big concerns about this,” said Sam Beal, acting healthy schools team leader for Brighton and Hove City Council. “Teachers hear about this more and more and they are concerned that the drugs are being brought into schools.”
The symptoms of using meow meow can include nosebleeds, headaches and breathing problems. Limbs can also turn purple and the user may have trouble urinating, leading to stomach cramps.
“It seems when bought over the internet you get discounts for buying larger quantities,” said Sgt Geoff Crocker, safer neighbourhoods officer for Harrogate. “It’s easily available and cheap and we’ve seen enterprising pupils start selling it in school. Staff in our pupil referral unit service have noticed a very rapid physical and mental decline in pupils using legal high drugs – and some just aren’t there any more. One young girl we know is addicted to mephedrone and she is active sexually with a number of men for money to pay for it. I know our schools are concerned about this, and are working hard to deal with it.”

In County Durham, drug workers have been warning pupils that legal does not mean safe following the incident when five boys fell ill last August. This has also meant an increased local police interest in the issue. “We’ve mostly seen it used as part of a ‘risk-taking’ culture among young people, particularly in colleges,” said Darren Archer, manager of the County Durham drugs and alcohol action team. We’ve had anecdotal reports of it causing bad behaviour and now we are trying to offer comprehensive support to teachers and children.” It scared the life out of us, seeing him like that’
It was the wake-up call no teacher wants – but witnessing the distressing effects of legal high drugs has revolutionised one school’s drug education programme. Horrified teachers at Woldgate College, near York, watched as a sixth-form student became seriously ill after taking mephedrone off-site during lunchtime earlier this month. He was taken to hospital suffering from an irregular heart beat, chest pains and breathing problems. Headteacher Jeff Bower (pictured) is now calling for the drug to be made illegal.
“You can’t think anything else after seeing that young man struggling like that, it scared the life out of everyone here,” he said. We are not extremely receptive to this problem – it’s been a big wake-up call. It was the first time he had taken it and he admits it was because of peer pressure. This has just hit us completely between the eyes. We held a special assembly about the situation and built it into our drugs education programme. We have also been in contact with parents. This goes on out of school hours so it’s vitally important they know about the dangers.”
A correction to the above story:

The only link between the death of Gabi Price and mephedrone was made by some ill informed reporting in the Daily Mail, and the Sun and the Telegraph that reported that this was a drug death before the coroners report was published. The coroner in reality found no drugs in her body and that she died of broncho-pneumonia following a streptococcal A infection (see here ). Such is the nature of drug story reporting that none of the newspapers that ran the original story printed a correction or follow up.

It is also the case that the unregulated vendors of this drug reported a leap in sales when the (false) Gabi Price death story received free advertising (it works, its legal, its cheap, you can buy online) from the massive national tabloid coverage (and the broadcast coverage that followed).

This is undoubtedly a dangerous drug, and serious public health and regulation policy concern – particularly regarding young people, but that does not excuse
Steve Rolles 28th Jan 2010-01-29
Source: Jan 2010


Last year seven student-athletes at Green Valley High School tested positive for drugs or alcohol. This year? Zero.
Green Valley High School players cheer before the second half of their game against Bishop Gorman during the Nevada girls basketball state semifinals Feb. 26 at the Orleans Arena. Student-athletes at the school and other students engaged in extracurricular activities that involve travel are subject to random drug testing.
Green Valley High School administrators say the success of their year-old random drug testing program can be seen in the lower numbers of drug users they are catching.
But Taylor Ashton, a sophomore at the Henderson campus, said he has seen the changes in a more direct way — in the school’s “bathrooms and hallways.” A year ago, he explained, it wasn’t unusual to walk into a campus bathroom and smell smoke. He said he couldn’t be more specific about the type of smoke.
These days, even the talk about drugs — on campus, at the bus stop and at parties of Green Valley students — is down, he said. Green Valley students appear to be trying hard to avoid failing a test that an increasing number of Clark County schools are adding to their curriculums. Next month, seven additional Clark County high schools will begin randomly testing students for drugs.
In February 2008, Green Valley became the first public high school in Nevada to randomly test students for drug use. One of the reasons, Green Valley Principal Jeff Horn said, was that during the 2006-07 academic year, the school caught nearly 8 percent of its athletes using drugs or alcohol, more than twice the rate for the rest of the school’s student population.
This academic year, just two student-athletes have been referred to the dean’s office for offenses involving controlled substances, said Jackie Carducci, assistant principal for athletics and activities. That equates to less than a half-percent of the school’s student-athletes. Horn said the two were playing hooky when they were caught by Clark County School District Police and brought back to campus, where it was determined that they had been smoking marijuana.
The number of students who are flunking urinalysis is also down.
Through the end of the academic year in June 2008, seven of the 264 Green Valley athletes tested positive. From the start of the 2008-09 academic year through January, Green Valley tested 263 students with only four positive results. None of those were student-athletes. This year’s testing pool has been expanded to include students who participate in extracurricular activities that require travel, such as forensics and musical groups.
The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed random drug testing of students participating in sports or other school activities constitutional, but public schools cannot require testing of all students. At Green Valley, parents can opt to have their children added to the pool and more than 100 have, the principal said.
“Our community is behind us,” he said. “I would say things are going extremely well.”
Funding uncertain
In September, Coronado and Silverado high schools followed Green Valley’s lead. Since then, Coronado has tested 224 students and five student-athletes flunked the tests. Silverado has checked 100 student-athletes and five didn’t pass. The school is testing only student-athletes — a pool of about 500 — because that’s all it can afford.
And because it doesn’t have any external funding, Silverado’s program has an uncertain future, Principal Kim Grytdahl said. To cover the cost this year, he boosted the fee for athletic registration to $20 from $5. “With the way school budgets are right now, I don’t know that we can fund the program at the level that it needs to be, so that it does what it’s supposed to do,” Grytdahl said. “Given the economic climate, I don’t think it’s fair to pass any more of the price along to the children.”
At Green Valley, the program is covered by private grants and donations, enough to keep it going at least through 2010, Horn said.
A three-year, $450,000 federal grant is paying for the random drug testing that is to begin next month at Centennial, Del Sol, Desert Pines, Durango, Eldorado, Foothill and Mojave high schools. But whether additional federal money will be available to allow more high schools to start drug testing is unknown.
The Bush administration made random student drug testing a priority; opponents of such programs hope that “with a new administration that values evidence-based outcomes, … money will no longer be diverted from student-based programs to random drug testing,” said Jennifer Kern, youth policy manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Education Department said Tuesday that the new administration has not yet taken up the question of random student drug testing.
Proponents say random testing serves as a deterrent, helps schools identify students who need help and gives those students an excuse to say no to offers of drugs or alcohol, while opponents contend the at-risk students who often benefit the most from involvement in school activities and sports drop out rather than risk being tested.
Administrators at Green Valley, Coronado and Silverado all said, however, that student participation in sports or extracurricular activities has not declined since the random testing programs began. In fact, participation is up at Coronado, Principal Lee Koelliker said. The testing will continue at Coronado next year, he said.
“Our athletes as well as their parents understand that there is a drug problem in our schools, not only in the CCSD but throughout the country, and appreciate the fact that we are taking a stance to try and combat the use of these substances,” Koelliker said.
‘False sense of security’
Kern contends, however, that random testing gives parents a false sense of security that if there’s a drug problem at a school or with their child, campus administrators will catch it. “The prevention research out there shows what really works is helping students feel connected to school and getting them to believe there is an adult who cares about them,” she said. “With random testing, you’re treating students like they’re guilty until proven innocent.”
In addition to questions about the long-term efficacy of random testing, organizations such as the ACLU say the program raises serious concerns about privacy rights, and can serve only to diminish trust among students and school staff.
Leah Yaffe, a senior and president of Green Valley’s forensics team, said she doesn’t find the random drug testing policy intrusive. “I don’t see it as administrators trying to find out who the bad kids are,” she said. “It’s trying to find out who might have a problem.”
The program might be less of a deterrent to students who are regular drug users, especially those whose social group revolves around the behavior, Yaffe said. But for a student who might be considering experimenting, she said, the specter of the test offers “a viable excuse” for turning down an offer of drugs or alcohol — a way to deflate peer pressure without losing face.
Green Valley junior Asli Kupoglu, a starter on the varsity girls soccer team, had to pass the test twice in three weeks, and it was inconvenient and a little embarrassing. Still, Kupoglu said she fully supports random drug testing for students who represent Green Valley in extracurricular activities. The possibility of being called for a drug test has made some students rethink some of their choices, she said.
Kupoglu also said she would support expanding the testing pool to include all extracurricular activities, and not just the ones that involve travel. She pointed out that the Student Council members who weren’t in the testing pool voted to voluntarily add their names, to set an example.
“I was really proud of them for doing that,” Kupoglu said.
How the testing works
Green Valley, Coronado and Silverado high schools are all using Sport Safe, an Ohio-based vendor, for testing services.
Green Valley and Coronado require students who participate in athletics or extracurricular activities that require travel — music and vocal groups, forensics teams — to be part of the testing pool. Both schools also allow parents of students who don’t fall into those categories to sign their teens up for the program. Silverado currently tests only student athletes.
Sport Safe chooses the names of students to be tested at random, and provides the list to the school. Those students are escorted by a staff member from class to the nurse’s office, where they must provide a urine sample. Refusal to give a sample is considered a positive test.
The test covers a range of substances, including alcohol, nicotine, anabolic steroids, amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine. Nicotine is included on the list because the use of tobacco products is a violation of Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association regulations, even if the student is of legal age.
The sample is processed at a local lab, and the results go to Sport Safe. If a test is positive, Sport Safe notifies parents within 24 hours. The school’s principal is also notified.
Students who test positive for any banned substance are required to undergo drug counselling, and are restricted from participating in school activities, in keeping with the guidelines of NIAA. Students who test positive a second time are not allowed to participate in interscholastic competition for a minimum of six weeks and cannot practice with their teams or participate in offseason activities. Students who have a third positive drug test are ruled ineligible for interscholastic competition for the remainder of their high school careers in Nevada.
Students who test positive must also submit to five follow-up tests over the course of the academic year, and the school can charge them $35 per test.
Source Las Vegas Sun 6th March 2009


Filed under: Education Sector :

Four out of ten teenagers know someone with mental health problems caused by cannabis, a report shows. More than half of youngsters questioned also believed that those smoking the drug lose motivation and do badly at school.
The survey, by the Home Office funded drugs advice service Frank, is fresh evidence that the supposedly soft drug has harmed the health, education and careers of millions of teenagers. It comes a week after a study showed that even one-off users of cannabis show signs of behaviour linked to schizophrenia, with half of those tested having an ‘acute psychotic reaction’.
The results challenge the orthodoxy – followed by Frank in its guidance to youngsters – that cannabis is dangerous only to heavy users or those who already have mental health problems.
The advice service’s report showed that 42 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds knew someone who had suffered mental problems from the drug, including paranoia, panic attacks and memory loss. The figure suggests that 1.5million teenagers have had direct experience of the harm caused by cannabis.
It could be a reason why fewer youngsters have been taking the drug, with use falling since 2001. However, the number of under-25s smoking cannabis was still almost one in five last year. Among those who knew someone who had suffered damage from cannabis, 64 per cent said the harm took the form of panic attacks.
The survey of 28,000 teenagers, which was carried out through a social-networking website, also found that 56 per cent of those questioned ‘associate cannabis use with losing motivation and doing badly at school or college’. Almost 15 per cent said they used cannabis, which they claimed helped them cope with life. But only 11 per cent said they thought using the drug made them look cool.
The criminal status of cannabis was downgraded to Category C by Labour in 2004, meaning it ranked alongside performance-enhancing drugs used by cheating athletes. This meant users would be arrested only rarely if caught by police.
However, deepening concerns over the mental health effects of the drug – and the stronger varieties now sold on the streets – meant it was pushed back into the more serious Category B this year. But still only a few of those caught with cannabis will be arrested, with police more likely to use powers to hand out on-the-spot fines.
Frank spokesman Chris Hudson said: ‘The majority of teenagers don’t want to risk their health by using cannabis, however some people choose to take the risk.
‘Others wrongly believe cannabis is harmless because it is a plant. Cannabis messes with your mind – and reactions can be more powerful with stronger strains such as skunk, which is around twice as potent.’ The organisation is to start an anti-cannabis advertising campaign next week, timed to catch teenagers during their summer holidays when they may be tempted to use drugs.
The Frank website currently states that only regular use of cannabis is associated with the risk of mental illness. It also says that nobody knows whether stronger strains of the drug carry higher risks. Phone lines run by the advice organisation, paid for out of a Home Office subsidy of £6.5million a year, can be even less discouraging.
One caller was told earlier this year: ‘Alcohol is a powerful drug in what it does to your body and how many brain cells it kills and stuff. Cannabis is not to be taken lightly, but it’s a lot less powerful. If alcohol were illegal it would be a Class A drug. Cannabis should just be a Class C drug. In terms of its effects it’s a lot less powerful than drinking.’
Anti-drug campaigners welcomed the Frank research. Mary Brett of Europe Against Drugs said: ‘Frank has been stuck in a time warp. Their website still isn’t up to date. They have always said you should steer clear of cannabis if you have a history of mental illness. It doesn’t seem likely that the damaged people known to 42 per cent of teenagers all had a history of mental illness.’
Source: Daily Mail 6th Aug. 2009

No one wants others to suffer. That’s the “Chink in the Armor” that Serra talks of. There may be some maladies that can be helped by marijuana, even if it is only psychologically. Those who are ill have been catapulted into the middle of the debate … a war, by a heartless and cruel group of people who want to get high and those who will not go speechless to watch our loved ones become like them. There seems to be no middle ground for those on our side understand all too well what the wrong message and role-modeling wrong behavior means.
These days, people on both sides of an issue are so polarized they won’t talk to each other, much less listen. Our side, with some willing to listen and talk, allowed the legalizer’s side to take ground that didn’t belong to them and more of the youth and those ill, (the vulnerable) are being hurt because they are now addicted.
Talking with and listening is an important issue with me – one is often surprised where one finds truth.
A friend suggested I read Sun Tzu’s book for the perspective of “know your enemy”. Understanding this, plus at the prodding of those I work with against drug use, I began to learn about the legalizers – an interesting study.
And then tonight; it’s ironic sometimes what one stumbles upon, poking around on the net! I happened onto a site that offered schooling toward a Criminal Justice Degree. I paused as I perused it; something wasn’t right, but as I looked it over, I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was thinking their ad, offering a salary of $40,000 as a DEA agent, wasn’t much of a motivation – not much to put one’s life on the line for! Still, I couldn’t quite leave that site. That “something’s wrong feeling” was stronger every moment; maybe I was seeing it, but I couldn’t recognize it. As I decided to search for it, I found it, printed lightly – almost as if it were not meant to be noticed.
What I’d noticed was the logo of one of the five schools offering the degree, one I’d seen before, many times now in my study. Evidently this time, for me it had been subliminal . . . . the link probably won’t mean anything to someone who hasn’t studied the players in the legalization movement – “it’s near impossible to keep up on even most issues in this ‘age of information’. I wonder if the DEA knows about this?”, I thought as I shook my head and began to laugh. “I wonder if my prohibitionist friends know about this? Gotta be someone’s idea of a bad joke – a legalizer’s school teaching future DEA agents”, I told myself. “I’ll bet users have noticed, … some of them”.
The school offering the degree? It’s the University of Phoenix. The university’s founder is John Sperling – one of the three men in what I call the “Daddy Warbucks Cartel”, the three men most responsible for funding the ballot measures all across the nation for the legalization of marijuana. (no; they’re not local grass-roots [pun intended] campaigns.)
Another is Peter B. Lewis, of Progressive Insurance. Wouldn’t it seem fitting that the government require all the “medical marijuana users” who drive, to sign with Progressive for their auto insurance? Could be real revealing, couldn’t it? The third man, is George Soros – all three radical politicos.
Another interesting thing I found that ties in as well – on an OSI, Open Society Institute’s site, (one of Soros’ numerous non-profits), I listened to a panel discussion over the net – about how nations like Iran have been successful at shutting down communications and the internet – what works and what doesn’t in totalitarian nations.
I found it interesting that it’s just exactly how the government of Iran recently reacted, attempting to shut down the ability of the people to talk with each other after this fraudulent election. Does anyone else find it ironic that proponents of drug legalization are in bed with a man who (I believe) essentially plans to take away others’ freedom?
If all three groups won’t talk, won’t listen, won’t give, it’s a loose / loose / loose, for everyone! Again, our side gave up or lost too much ground here and all sides are willing to fight to the end.
Source: June 18th 2009

When I addressed an audience of fifth-graders at Beachland Elementary school in February, I was heartened by the response I received. One child wrote, “I learned that drugs are very, very harmful. I know that I’ll never do drugs.” Another penned, “I will make a promise that I will not take drugs. I learned a lot from you.”

But that isn’t the only valuable lesson these students will learn in their educational careers. One of the most important lessons they will inevitably learn involves the adage, “consider the source.”

Readers of Paul Armentano’s April 3 column, “Pull the plug on mandatory student drug testing,” should surely consider the source, since Armentano’s employer, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is a group dedicated to making drugs more available in our communities.

As a physician and public health official, by contrast, I have a duty to protect our communities from drugs. That is why I see student drug testing for what it is: a valuable tool that, when used in the context of broad drug prevention strategy, can deter drug use effectively and create drug-free environments in our schools.

Having visited with students and officials from private and public schools in Indian River County, it is apparent that drug use is a significant issue affecting lives and the learning environment. Indeed, it is a national issue. That is why many states, including Florida, are looking into the possibility of student drug testing for the purpose of deterring drug use and referring troubled teens to help.

The plague of addiction is a paediatric-onset disease that needs a public health response. In much the same way that school tuberculosis tests identify children who are sick and can spread a dangerous disease to other students, student drug testing helps identify kids who have a problem with drugs and prevents the spread of the disease of addiction.

Mr. Armentano opens his charge sheet against student drug testing by pointing to a widely publicized University of Michigan study showing little effect from student drug testing. That survey, however, was conducted in schools with different drug testing techniques ( i.e., drug testing for cause ) than those being proposed now ( i.e., random drug testing ).

Not only did the study cover a period ( 1998-2001 ) before the kind of testing allowed by the Supreme Court in 2002, but also the lead researcher himself declared, “One could imagine situations where drug testing could be effective testing kids and doing it frequently. We’re not in a position to say that wouldn’t work.

” Drug testing has proven remarkably effective at reducing drug use in American schools and businesses. As a deterrent, few methods work better or deliver clearer results. Drug testing of airline pilots and school bus drivers, for example, has made our skies and roadways much safer for travel. Schools are also safer with drug testing.

According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, a school in Oregon that randomly drug tested student athletes had a rate of drug use that was one-quarter that of a comparable school with no drug testing policy. After two years of a drug testing program, Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey saw significant reductions in 20 of 28 drug use categories, including a drop in cocaine usage rates of seniors from 13 percent to 4 percent.

Additionally, the United States military saw drug use rates drop from 27 percent in 1981 to 3 percent today, thanks to the introduction of a random drug-testing program. Random drug testing of students in extracurricular activities is effective because it demonstrates that the community has set a serious standard for its youth. In addition to creating a culture of disapproval toward drugs in the communities where it is employed, student drug testing achieves three public health goals:

* It deters children from initiating drug use.

* It identifies children who have just started using drugs so that parents and counselors can intervene early.

* It helps identify children who have a dependency on drugs so that they can be referred to effective drug treatment. These are outcomes we cannot afford to pass up. I hope that officials in Vero Beach want to provide their children every available resource possible to resist the temptation of using drugs. As one student wrote to me, “I learned that you should say no to drugs even if your friends do drugs.”

Experience shows us, however, that the decision to say no can often be a difficult one for a child to make. We owe it to our children to help them make that decision by implementing proven tools like drug testing in our schools.

Source: Author Andrea Barthwell published in Press Journal (Vero Beach, FL) Sat, 17 Apr 2004
Filed under: Education Sector :
YES: It reverses the spread of addiction

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/25/2004

Today in Atlanta, concerned parents will meet with regional school officials, drug prevention specialists and student assistance professionals to discuss the promise of a powerful new tool to fight drug use among America’s youth.

Building on the 11 percent decline in teen drug use America has witnessed in the past two years, random student drug testing — locally controlled, nonpunitive and designed to get help for those in trouble — can help consolidate and further our progress.

Addiction is a paediatric-onset disease that needs a public health response. In much the same way that school tuberculosis tests identify children who are sick and can spread a dangerous disease, student drug testing helps identify kids who have a problem with drugs and prevents the spread of the disease of addiction.

Each child prevented from using drugs means there is one fewer child able to pass the disease of addiction to his or her peers, and we know that if we can prevent children from using drugs in their teen years, they are much less likely to go on and use drugs later in life.

In the past decade, the nation’s acceptance of student drug testing has increased, hastened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling that drug testing students in extracurricular activities is constitutionally protected.

President Bush highlighted this policy as an effective prevention and intervention instrument during his State of the Union speech in January, and backed up his position with a call for increased federal funds for schools that would like to start these programs. This momentum in favour of student drug testing is based on the demonstrated effectiveness of random testing programs to deter use, and a more educated public understanding that student drug test results can only be used confidentially to help students, not to punish them.

Random drug testing of students in extracurricular activities is effective because it demonstrates that a community has set a serious standard for its youth. In addition to creating a culture of disapproval toward drugs, student drug testing also achieves three public health goals:

• It deters children from initiating drug use;

• It identifies children who have just started using drugs so that parents and counsellors can intervene early;

• It helps identify children who have a dependency on drugs so that they can be referred to effective drug treatment.

According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, a school in Oregon that randomly drug tested student athletes had a rate of drug use that was one-quarter that of a comparable school with no drug testing policy.

After two years of a drug testing program, Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey saw significant reductions in 20 of 28 drug use categories, including a drop in cocaine use by seniors from 13 percent to 4 percent. The U.S. military saw drug use rates drop from 27 percent in 1981 to 3 percent today, thanks to the introduction of random drug testing.

Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and regulated transportation industries have extensive experience in using this public health diagnostic tool. Every American who steps on an airplane or sends a child out to the school bus rests easier knowing that pilots and bus drivers are drug tested. Drug testing saves lives and we can no longer withhold the proven benefits of drug testing from the members of society that are most vulnerable to drugs’ destructive influence.


Filed under: Education Sector :

Making it easier for vulnerable people to use damaging addictive drugs is not often a campaign plank for politicians; nor does it turn up as a pronounced goal for health officials.

Yet that’s precisely the effect of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority scheme to give out free “safer-use crack kits” to crack cocaine users.

This is the taxpayer as enabler.

Opinions vary greatly about the idea of needle exchanges and “shooting galleries” for heroin users; these too enable addicts. They are defended by some on the grounds that a re-used injection needle is a superhighway for HIV and other dangerous viruses.

The Winnipeg medical officer of health, Dr. Margaret Fast, claims the same virtue for her crack kits – glass pipe, screens, alcohol swabs, matches, even a pipe cleaner – saying shared pipes, like shared needles, can spread disease. “If you’re sharing pipes or if you’re having oral sex with someone, that could lead to transmission of these agents.”

Maybe. But crack can also lead to death by overdose, suicide, accident, or confrontation with police.

And what a slippery slope! Should government also provide the drugs, so that addicts don’t have to meet dangerous and rapacious dealers?

Helping people to ruin their lives “safely” is not a suitable object of government policy.

Source: The Gazette (Montreal) September 7, 2004 Tuesday SECTION: EDITORIAL / OP-ED; Pg. A18


The recent furore about government-funded crack pipes says much more about the reduction of care than the reduction of harm.

My beef isn’t with the notion of curbing HIV and Hep C. I’ve seen the impact of both and don’t want to lose any more people to debilitating diseases.

But cheap pipes and chapped lips are just one of many ways people engaged in a deadly addiction contract deadly diseases. Many will still get, and many already have, the diseases.

What makes me increasingly suspicious is the very selective manner in which many addiction activists show their care for addicts.

They verbally and strenuously defend the distribution of government crack pipes. But they are strangely silent when government, via the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, cuts treatment programs for addicts. Addicts need help. They’re dying for it. But when they decide to get help, they are told about long waiting lines for treatment.

It’s ironic that an addict wanting to come into treatment might be told to wait two to four weeks but might immediately get a free government crack kit from an outreach worker encouraging him to get treatment.

How can anyone who professes care for addicts sit by silently while already inadequate services to addicts are cut? Where’s the indignation then? Where’s the public outcry?

True advocates for addicts would never accept the political doublespeak which asserts that closing treatment beds and laying off treatment workers does nothing to diminish care for addicts.

Can it be that these agencies and activists have been well trained not to bite the hand that feeds them? They all get their funding from government. Many live in fear of the WRHA, which has more of an interest in serving the health of its political masters than the masses.

No agency or activist seems willing to speak out against the hypocrisy of the funder to whom they owe their very existence. As a result, many dedicated professionals have stopped advocating for the addicts and have been reduced to facilitating a slightly less harmful addiction.

Addicts need treatment. But while they cut already inadequate treatment programs, the WRHA wants a medal for “reducing harm” with government-approved crack pipes! The WHRA’s approach to addiction is a mockery to any sense of intelligence or compassion.

This is one of the reasons I’m getting more and more concerned about the WRHA. A bureaucratic behemoth, it has been devouring an increasing number of mandates and agencies as a means of justifying the existence of obscenely salaried office staff. No one agency can deliver all that they purport to do for people. Especially not as a monopoly!

Harm reduction in this context is more a distraction than a service. The “crack kits” are a convenient red herring to distract us from decreasing options for treatment.

But those complicit in this conspiracy of distraction and silence are the helpers silenced by fear of their funder. The danger is that preservation of their own employment supercedes their care for addicts. The resounding silence of those who “care” for addicts is not adequately compensated for by funding distribution of government crack pipes.

Government is twisting the truism that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Harm reduction is good but it doesn’t replace treatment. Yet that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s like handing out Band-Aids to folks who need stitches and antibiotics. Harm reduction should not be used to distract the public from noticing the lack of treatment.

What disturbs me most is that I believe these people know better. Part of appeasing their guilty consciences is to narrow the definition of harm reduction and say that it applies primarily to preventing the diseases contracted and transmitted at the point of drug consumption. These harm reduction advocates are strangely silent about the countless incidents of harm before the sale, during the deal, while under the influence and while desperate for another dose.

Harm reduction without the possibility of harm elimination through treatment is no comfort for families of addicts lost to the drug or victims of addicts desperate to lie, cheat or steal their way to their next rock.

By the time addicts approach me about quitting, they’ve likely tempted death for a while. It’s not unusual for them to have lost their kids, been disowned by their families, perpetrated and suffered a wide variety of crimes, considered or attempted suicide and lost almost all hope of change.

So, when someone finally comes for help, it’s sickening to hear them being told to wait for weeks or months to get into a treatment program. They come looking for harm elimination through treatment, and it’s disgusting to think that all the WRHA is prepared to offer is a harm reduction “crack kit” while they’re waiting.

I’m not opposed to the prevention of HIV and Hep C. My beef is not necessarily about what’s being offered. It’s the sickening silence about what’s being withheld.

Source:Winnipeg Sun (Manitoba, Canada) September 5, 2004 Sunday Final Edition SECTION: COMMENT; Pg. C5


I finally got around to reading a so-called study on why giving out crack pipes to crack addicts is a good thing to do.

Proponents of free crack pipe kits have been telling me for days — since we found out last month that government was providing users with tools to feed their addiction — that they have studies on the benefits of taking this approach. I kept asking for the studies because I wanted to read them for myself.

Too often when groups and organizations say they have “studies” to back up what they’re pushing, the studies are either bogus or they don’t exist.

So I read one that was sent to me that was supposed to provide me with the empirical evidence that I was looking for.

And, as suspected, the study I was given — printed in the Harm Reduction Journal — is bogus.

It’s called “Does harm reduction programming make a difference in the lives of highly marginalized, at risk drug users?”

And while it has a lot of flowery academic language about “outcomes” and “feelings,” there is no data on whether the program lowered incidences of Hep C or HIV or whether it led towards successful treatment, which is supposed to be the benefit of this approach.

The study is flawed in a number of ways, including a high drop-out rate of drug addicts who participated in the evaluation. One phase of the study began with a sample of 261 drug users in the New York City area and fell to 96 participants by the end of it.

As a result, any data coming out of that phase is skewed and almost completely useless.

The study doesn’t tell me if crack pipes or pamphlets were given out. It doesn’t tell me how many received clean needles, if they kept them, used them, shared them, whatever. It doesn’t really tell me anything other than what some users perceive their condition to be based on 10 indicators.

I want to see a study where they can show me how free crack pipes and how-to pamphlets reduce the incidents of disease. This study doesn’t show that. Not even close. In fact, the authors themselves admit that “almost no research has tried to establish appropriate measures of harm reduction and evaluate its worth.”

And “little empirical research has been made available to judge its merits.” So what we have is a lot of “we think this” and “we believe that.”

And that doesn’t tell me anything.

Also, what no one seems to have studied is what impact this has on users in terms of encouraging drug use. I want to see empirical evidence that it helps users, including preventing the spread of disease.

But then I want to weigh that against how this tacit approval of doing drugs “in a safe manner” (as if there’s a safe way to smoke crack) encourages people to keep doing drugs or even start experimenting.

Proponents of this method tell you that they’re not encouraging people to do drugs, they’re just giving them survival skills.

But when I ask them, “how do you know you’re not encouraging some of them?” they say they don’t know.

So then how do you know that you’re not doing more harm than good?

They don’t know.

This is what happens when social workers hijack the political process. You get experimental public policy that is so out of whack with reality that it becomes a laughing stock.

Governments accept the untested policies because they want to be “forward thinking,” whatever that means. And the public gets really bad policy.

To date, I haven’t heard from a single user, reformed or otherwise, who thinks giving out free crack kits and how-to pamphlets is a good idea.

I’ve heard from many of them. And not one said this type of approach is beneficial.

The people who claim it’s beneficial are the ones in the health-care field who like to think they’re doing cutting-edge work. This is “progressive,” they say. Right.

I say show me the evidence. Show me the money. Show me how giving out crack pipes helps addicts.

Because so far, I still haven’t seen a shred of evidence to back up that claim.

I doubt I ever will.

Source:Winnipeg Sun (Manitoba, Canada) September 5, 2004
Filed under: Education Sector :


Remember the free crack pipe kits government is giving out to drug addicts?

Now they’re handing out detailed instructions — with diagrams — on how to shoot up, including where to stick the needle, how to prepare your drugs and neat tips on how to strain dope from one syringe to another.

It’s a pamphlet called Prevent and Protect Yourself & Others: Safer Injection Drug Use, and it’s handed out to addicts at clinics and other establishments.

“Choosing a Vein,” reads one header, where they give advice on how best to inject drugs into your system. “Rotate sites,” it says. “Try to use new sites, too much of one vein will cause it to collapse.” You may want to test your shots first before you take a full dose of dope if you’re “using a new dealer,” it continues. “Find a comfortable position, use tourniquet to tie off vein … insert needle into the vein at 45 degree angle. Bevel up. Untie tourniquet. Inject slowly.”

And my favourite:

“Give your veins a holiday once in a while!” it says. “Smoke, snort or eat your drugs instead.”

Wow. I am a wild party. How about: “Give your veins a holiday, don’t use drugs for a while.”


I guess that makes too much sense. I thought the crack kits were bad. This pamphlet takes the cake.

Nowhere in the brochure does it give tips or advice on how to quit drugs.

Instead, it gives you the ins and outs of drug use and it reads more like a Suzy Creamcheese homemaker magazine than medical advice on how to avoid contracting a disease.

“Split up drugs when dry,” it says. “Use your own spoon, filter and water.” “Don’t shoot up alone,” it says. What, bring a friend?

Don’t inject the needle into your head or wrists, it says. That’s good advice. But other parts of your body are OK, it says.

“If surface veins in the arms are good, use them but rotate sites regularly,” it recommends. “The veins on the back of the hand and the top of the foot are fragile, so inject slowly. It will hurt.”

I don’t get this much detail from my dentist on how to brush and floss properly. This is all part of some new-age approach to dealing with drug addicts called “harm reduction.”

It’s the same philosophy behind the crackpot idea of handing out free crack pipes to crack heads. We’re supposed to coddle the addicts and “bring them into the fold.”

When they’re “ready” for treatment — after we’ve given them five years supply of crack pipes, needles and how-to manuals — we then ask them if they would like treatment. Aren’t they dead by then?

What’s interesting is that every recovering addict who has called me over the past few days — in response to my columns on the subject last week — is against this approach. Most of them are enraged that government is doing this and they say all it does is encourage drug use and make it more difficult to quit.

Every time I ask proponents of this harm-reduction approach for scientific evidence to back up their claims that it helps reduce the spread of disease and does not encourage drug use, I never get any.

That’s because it doesn’t exist.

Source:Winnipeg Sun (Manitoba, Canada) September 1, 2004 Sunday Final Edition SECTION: COMMENT; Pg. C3
Filed under: Education Sector :

Starting next fall, St. Patrick High School in Chicago, will conduct mandatory drug testing of all students The school, attended by 1,000 boys, is the first high school in the Chicago area to require drug testing of the entire student body.  “Our only objective is to help students deal with societal pressures,” said Brother Konrad Diebold, president of St. Patrick High School. “We do know that kids are under pressure, and this gives them a chance to say no,’ and say no with integrity.” Parents of the students would pay $60 for the test. School counselors would collect hair samples for testing of marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy use. Students testing positive for drug use will meet with parents and school officials, but would not be disciplined. “Then it’s up to the parents to work something out with the kid,” said Principal Joseph Schmidt. However, he said a second positive test could result in suspension or expulsion.

 Reaction to the mandatory drug tests has been mixed among students. “The majority are against it,”  said Steven Rohlf, a senior at the school. “A lot of people have a privacy problem. I believe we benefit much more than its bad.” Many of the students parents support the testing program. “As a parent, it’s a great thing,” said Rose Mayerbock, mother of a St. Patrick junior. “There are parents that don’t necessarily realize that their child could be on something. For me, one of my biggest fears is if they are on drugs and alcohol. I am very lucky because I trust that my kids are not”.

Source: Chicago Tribune Dec 2003
Filed under: Education Sector :

He may look like a friendly pooch, but the presence of a 4-year-old black Lab called Puma at Penncrest High and Springton Lake Middle School will send a clear signal to students that Rose Tree Media District will not tolerate drugs in its schools.

The district is revising its policy on school searches to authorize canine searches of student lockers and student parking areas. The revised policy is aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff by reducing or discouraging the presence of drugs, as well as controlled substances, non-authorized medications, alcohol or weapons.

Interquest Canine Services, a national firm with a regional office, will provide a trained drug-sniffing dog to aid Rose Tree Media in enforcing its zero-tolerance policy. It will be the first school district in Delaware County to utilize canine searches, according to Interquest Canine Services owner/dog handler Stephanie Kramer.

“It’s a deterrent. It does work,” said Kramer about the canine searches.

She said the idea to use a trained dog in certain situations at the two schools originated with district Superintendent Dr. Denise Kerr. Before coming to RTM, Kerr was assistant superintendent for the Council Rock School District, which utilizes canine searches.

“We are bringing the program here to Rose Tree Media to send a serious message to our students and to our community that we will not tolerate drugs in our schools,” Kerr said. “The superintendent and school board feel strongly that this program will go a long way toward helping students understand the serious implications of drug abuse.”

To detect illegal substances, Puma is trained to sniff the air around vehicles, lockers, desks, book bags, backpacks, purses and other inanimate items that are on school property or at a school district sponsored event. The dog will not be used to search students.

The revised policy states that all lockers, desks and parking are the property of the school district. Book bags, backpacks, purses and other such objects are permitted in school and at events sponsored by the school district, as long as they are used for legitimate purposes.

The school district reserves the right to authorize its employees to inspect a student’s locker, vehicle, desk, and any personal item to determine whether it’s being improperly used for the storage of contraband or illegal substance. As a result, the policy says students should have no expectation of privacy regarding their lockers, desks or personal property while on school property or a district sponsored event.

Students are encouraged to keep their assigned lockers as well as other inanimate objects closed and locked against incursion by other students.

Random inspection by the search dog, at the discretion of the school administrator, may or may not be announced. Prior to a locker or vehicle search, the student will be notified and given an opportunity to be present. The school principal or representative is to be present whenever a student locker or vehicle is inspected.

Valerie Burnett, district director of pupil services, said the procedure would not be disruptive to the education process. Unlike at some schools, there would be no “lock down” and school would go on as usual.

She noted violators of the policy would be subject to firm disciplinary action. Also, in every instance, the violator will be referred to the district’s student assistance program.

In preparation for the approval of the revised policy and canine searches, last summer a “clean sweep” of all empty school lockers was conducted. Burnett said no problems were found.

The proposed revised policy received its first reading at the school board’s Sept. 22 meeting. A second reading is scheduled for the Oct. 27 meeting. In the meantime, there will be student assemblies and parent information sessions.

Following the second reading, the revised policy is expected to be adopted and will be effective immediately.

Source: April 2004

While needle exchange advocates claim that such programs effectively prevent the spread of blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, the latest report from Vancouver, which boasts the largest needle exchange program (NEP) in North America, suggest otherwise. In fact, this report’s ‘smoking gun’ is its finding that both HIV and Hepatitis C have reached ‘saturation’ among the injection drug using population, meaning few if any of who are not already infected are left to become newly infected.
Here are some of the reports specific findings: In 2002, nearly 3 million needles were distributed by NEPs in the City. Injection drug use was the main mode of HIV transmission in British Columbia from 1994 to 2000. Today injecting drug use and men having sex with men tie as the top risk factors for new HIV cases.

Vancouver began its NEP in 1988, and the number of new HIV infections among injecting drug users (IDUs) increased every year thereafter until peaking in 1996. A 1997 study of more than 1,400 Vancouver IDUs revealed an annual HIV infection rate of 18 percent– the highest level anywhere in the developed world and one of the highest incidence rates reported anywhere worldwide The number of new positive tests began to increase again in 2002 and estimates for 2002 anticipate a further increase. This report notes that many infected injecting drug users have not been tested, so these rates are likely to be higher. The current HIV prevalence among Vancouver IDUs is 35 percent.
The report attributes the HIV incidence peak in 1996 not to the success of needle exchange, but rather to ‘the near saturation’ of HIV infection among IDUs, meaning after 1996 there were few drug addicts left to become newly infected. Needle exchange not only failed to prevent HIV from reaching a saturation point among Vancouver IDUs, but also had the same lack of effectiveness if preventing the spread of hepatitis C (HCV). This report notes that like HIV, HCV has also reached a saturation point among Vancouver IDUs with over 80 percent infected with the incurable and deadly blood borne disease. Nearly two-thirds of Vancouver HCV cases are attributable to injection drug use with Vancouver’s HCV rate being nearly four-times higher than the rate for Canada as a whole.

In 1997, the reported rate of newly identified hepatitis B infections another blood born disease often spread by needle sharing– in Vancouver was eight times the rate for the rest of British Columbia and the highest rate in Canada. The leading cause of death of Vancouver drug addicts is overdose, accounting for 25 percent of deaths among those who are HIV-positive and 42 percent among those who are HIV-negative. Although the overall British Columbia crime rate has decreased over the past decade, drug offenses have increased by 63%. A study by the Canadian centre on Substance Abuse estimated that half of gainful crimes such as theft, break and enter, and robberies were attributed to substance abuse.
Source: Vancouver drug Epidemiology report 2003, Posted on

Marijuana use and Trends

What’s Down with Marijuana?

What has the latest research shown us about marijuana? Among other things, marijuana has now been linked to violent teen behaviour, may be responsible for youth tongue cancer, and has been shown in weekly users to trigger suicidal depression. For those with a disposition toward other serious mental illness, marijuana has been found to unleash it.

Marijuana usage up somewhat

The myth among youth is that ‘everyone is doing it.’ In fact, the majority is not – 51 percent of high school seniors have never tried marijuana even once. However, 22 percent of seniors are ‘current’ (past month) users of marijuana. The hard-core, or daily marijuana users (20 or more times in the past 30 days) remain a small portion of youth: 5.8 percent of seniors, 4.5 percent of sophomores, and 1.3 percent of eighth graders.

New use and historical patterns

There have been ebbs and flows in use of marijuana over the past 40 years. About 2.4 million Americans tried marijuana for the first time in 2000. This was a substantial increase from 600,000 new users in 1965, However, initiation in the marijuana world peaked in 1976-1977 at 3.2 million, and dipped to its lowest figure in decades at 1.4 million in 1990. New users rose from there until hitting 2.5 million in 1996, where it has remained for half a decade.

Marijuana has been on the American scene for at least a century. In 1906, it was proscribed under the Pure Food and Drug Act. In 1914, Utah was the first state to pass anti marijuana legislation; by 1931, 29 states had prohibited the medical use of marijuana. In 1936, the government film, ‘Reefer Madness’ was released; it is still a cult film. In 1970. the Federal Government eliminated mandatory sentencing for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The peak year for teen use of marijuana was 1979. In 1985, synthetic THC, or Marinol, was produced to relieve the nausea of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously voted down medical marijuana laws. That same year, the #1 rap song “Because I Got High” by Afroman spoke about the destructive effects of marijuana

The prevalence of marijuana use among young people has risen rapidly in recent years, causing concern over the potential impact on academic performance of such use. While recent studies have examined the effect of alcohol use on educational attainment, they have largely ignored the potential negative effects of other substances, such as marijuana. This paper examines whether the relationship between the initiation of marijuana use and the decision to drop out of high school varies with the age of dropout or with multiple substance use. Data are from a longitudinal survey of 1392 adolescents aged 16-18 years. The results suggest that marijuana initiation is positively related to dropping out of high school. Although the magnitude and significance of this relationship varies with age of dropout and with other substances used, it is concluded that the effect of marijuana in on the probability of subsequent high school dropout is relatively stable, with marijuana users odds of dropping out being about 2.3 times that of non-users. Implications of these conclusions are considered for both policy makers and researchers.
Source: Author Bray, Zarkin et al Research Triangle Institute NC USA July 1999

Two 11-year-olds in every classroom are using drugs, according to official figures which show a rise’ in cocaine use among school leavers. Amid controversy about David Blunkett’s drugs strategy, data published by the Government’s statistical service showed that six per cent of 11-year-olds used drugs during 2001. The figure rose to 39 per cent among 15-year-olds, while a fifth of 11- to 15-year-olds in England used drugs in 2001 Cannabis was the most frequent drug used, with 13 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds smoking.
Peter Walker, adviser on drugs to the National Association of Head teachers, said, You show me a head teacher that says they haven’t got a drug problem and I will show you a liar. I mean infant schools, primary schools and secondary schools.
Source: Daily Telegraph, Womack, July 2002

Ads warning about the dangers of smoking pot or taking Ecstasy can persuade young people stay away from drugs, according to a study released by an advocacy group.A survey of teens conducted for the Partnership for a Drug Free America found kids who see or hear anti drug ads at least once a day are less likely to do drugs than youngsters who don’t see or hear ads frequently. Teens who got a daily dose of the anti drug message were nearly 40 percent less likely to try methamphetamine and about 30 percent less likely to use Ecstasy, the study found. When asked about marijuana, kids who said they saw the ads regularly were nearly 15 percent less likely to smoke pot.

The partnership produces most of the anti drug messages for the White House. Among them: one featuring a young man visiting the site where his brother was killed by a driver under the influence of marijuana. The difficulty is getting kids to see the ads and pay attention to them. A University of Pennsylvania study released last year found the ads are largely ignored by teens.

A spokesman for the government’s drug policy office, Tom Riley said the partnership changed the tone of the ads in the last year to make them harder hitting and punchier. The ads also play up the negative consequences of drugs more, he said.
“These ads have taught millions of teens the truth that marijuana is a harmful drug,” said Riley.

Barry McCaffrey drug czar during the Clinton administration said the anti drug ads are having a profound impact in a fundamental way, affecting not just adolescents but adults” as well including parents, pediatricians and teachers. The drop in drug use proves the ads are a key part in the battle, he said.
Source: Sunday Partnership for Drug free America 2003

What is preventive education for adolescents or children?
One of the most popular forms of ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs)prevention is preventive education for adolescents or children. Youth in classrooms or other community settings are presented with preventive lessons by a teacher, preventionist, trained police officer, or other authority. Often, trained teen volunteers may co-present a lesson. Lesson content may include ATOD information, life skills, or other components. (Note: Preventive education is just one way that schools play a prevention role. See the U.S. Dept. of Education’s list of “Characteristics of a Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free School,” in Appendix E of this Best Practices Handbook.)

Why does preventive education work?
Different kinds of curricula are based on different premises. Some seek to remedy a lack of drug information. Some seek to develop decision-making and resistance skills. Some seek to help adolescents counter pro-drug social influence as the youth establish their attitudes about ATOD. Research indicates that only some of these premises are valid.

How effective is preventive education for adolescents or children?
Preventionists have long been aware that preventive education alone is inferior to a more comprehensive approach that includes a focus on parents and community. Even so, preventive education as a sole approach has been one of the most heavily researched approaches to ATOD prevention. As a result of cumulative research, particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s, the evolving consensus of researchers in the field is that:

1. Given the correct curriculum, implementation support, and teaching approach, preventive education can have a significant positive effect in terms of delaying or preventing youth ATOD use.
2. Most currently used preventive education materials are NOT among the effective ones. But, they continue to be used due to political support, low cost, or other factors.
What else does research tell us about preventive education?
For adolescent education, two key research sources are Tobler and Stratton (1997) and Hansen (1996). Following earlier (1986 and 1992) meta-analysis studies of drug prevention programs, researcher Nancy S. Tobler conducted a meta-analysis of 120 experimental or quasi-experimental school-based adolescent drug prevention programs (5th-12th grade) that evaluated success on self-reported drug use measures. Each program was classified as either interactive (included guided discussion among students) or non-interactive (included only a lecture and discussion with the class facilitator).
Tobler found a tremendous difference in effectiveness, with non-interactive programs having little impact but the interactive programs having a substantial impact. Surprisingly, this impact on drug use occurred even when the average program length was only 10 contact hours.

Content categories of the various programs also played a role in effectiveness. Programs that focused only on intrapersonal skills such as decision-making, goal setting, and values clarification were ineffective. Effective programs may have had some intrapersonal skills, but included a strong interpersonal skill component focused on dealing with peer influence. Even with this content, programs delivered in a non-interactive way were substantially less effective, and frequently ineffective.

Another attribute, program size, was unexpectedly found to play a significant role in effectiveness. ‘Small” interactive programs did much better than “large” interactive programs, even though the latter did better than small non-interactive programs. The Tobler article does not define “small” and “large”, but a sub-analysis with “extremely large programs” may be used to infer a cutoff of about 1,000 students between the two categories.

Tobler’s meta-analysis used self-reported drug use as the sole measure of effectiveness, but “mediating variables” including knowledge and attitudes were also measured. An interesting point about the pattern of results on these measures is that interactive and non-interactive programs were approximately equal in producing knowledge gain, but interactive programs were superior in changing attitudes and decreasing use.

William Hansen’s summary of work in progress indicates that the three most powerful curricular elements in ATOD prevention are:

1. Normative Beliefs. Youth tend to greatly overestimate the percent of peers who use drugs. When given actual numbers, they apparently feel less deviant in their non-use.

2. Life Style Compatibility. In spite of hearing about the negative effects of drugs, many adolescents don’t necessarily see any threat by drug use to their desired lifestyle. When these connections are explicitly made, it has an impact.

3. Commitment. Opportunities for adolescents to make a personal, public commitment to avoiding ATOD use can lead to lower use rates.

For preventive education of younger (elementary school) children, the National Structured Evaluation indicates that a “Psychosocial Skill” approach is best. The approach is congruent with a “youth development” model, emphasizing affective, social, and other skills. It includes no didactic ATOD education. Examples of beneficial life skills for prevention include resistance skills, assertiveness, social problem solving, and decision-making.

Source: Best practices in ATOD prevention: US Dept. of Health & Human Services, National

Developed by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Stay SMART program is a drug prevention initiative that utilizes role playing, group activities, and discussions to promote social skills and increase knowledge about the health consequences and prevalence of substance use by youth and adults. The program curriculum calls for 12 sessions, each lasting for an hour or more.
SMART Leaders is a 2-year booster program aimed at reinforcing the skills and knowledge youths learned in Stay SMART. Five booster sessions last 90 minutes and focus on improving self-image, coping with stress, resisting media pressure, and providing education/ discussion modules on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Five Boys and Girls Clubs offered the SMART Leaders program to 13-year-old boys and girls of various ethnic/racial backgrounds living in public housing projects in Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Wisconsin, and Arkansas.

The SMART Leaders booster program was effective in maintaining and furthering gains made in the initial Stay SMART program. Self-reported questionnaires reflected significantly minimized drug-related behavior and fewer misconceptions regarding alcohol and marijuana use than in the control group. Tests also showed an increase in knowledge concerning the health consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.

The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) has long recognized the importance of minimizing risk and maximizing resiliency factors in children’s lives to prevent potential involvement with alcohol and drugs. But, many children live in precarious environments and need all the help they can get in order to lead healthy and productive lives. These children, identified by CSAP as youth at high risk for substance abuse, have one or more of the following factors in common:

• Parents who abuse alcohol and drugs
• Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse
• Truancy
• Teen pregnancy
• Economic disadvantage
• Neighborhood crime and violence
• Pre-adolescent and adolescent gang activity
• Involvement in violence or delinquency
• Suicide attempts or other mental health
• Placement in institutions, foster care, or
runaway/ homeless shelters

In order to learn more about ways to help these youths avoid substance abuse, CSAP initiated its High-Risk Youth Demonstration Grant Program, which was active from 1987 until 1995. CSAP awarded 130 grants to community based organizations, universities, and local agencies in the program’s first year.

Services offered by grantees helped parents, their children, and entire communities learn the skills to resist or cease using alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.

Many programs were successful in reducing the prevalence of substance use among youth in high-risk environments. Furthermore, these demonstration programs underscored the crucial need for young people to be involved in caring and supportive relationships, such as those involving mentors, peer groups, families, and communities. The human connection – the attention and time spent with youth – helps guide children in the right direction and creates buffers that help shield them from their high-risk environments. From the High-Risk Youth Demonstration Grant Program, some programs emerged as models, that is, well implemented, rigorously evaluated, effective programs that could be adapted for use in other communities. Following are brief descriptions of the eight model programs:

Parents play a key role in their children’s education and social development and therefore can be influential in educating their children about drugs. Despite this, there has been little research done to date that explores parents’ perceptions. This paper reports research from questionnaires, which sampled 947 parents of 14-to 16-year-olds; telephone inter views of 60 of these responses; and 6 focus groups of primary and secondary school parents. The issues explored included parent’s concerns, needs, and knowledge of drug issues in respect to their children as well as parents’ perspective on drug education. The results show that parents are concerned about drugs in relation to their children, and they report that drugs are easily available to young people and a part of the present youth culture. The study revealed that parents are largely misinformed about the drug situation and request accurate and up-to-date information. They are unaware of their children’s school drug policies and programs and feel the need for easier access to relevant services. Parents rate drug education as important and report that such education should begin during late primary school age. Parents predominantly want their children to be taught the ‘Just Say No’ message. Finally, issues of communication about drugs, between parents and their children, were raised. A number of implications of the results for drug education are presented.

Source: Mallick, J.; Evans, R; Stein, G., Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 5(2):169- 176, 1998. Availability: International Periodical Publishers, Carfax Company, P0. Box 25, Abingdon, Oxfordshire 0X14 EUE, United Kingdom.

Several reviews of the substance abuse prevention literature have concluded that social-influence-based prevention programmes can significantly delay the onset of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use and slow the rate of increase in substance use prevalence among entire populations of early adolescents. Less is known about the capacity of these and other primary prevention programmes to effect decreases in substance use. This is an important question, since some youth have already begun to experiment with drugs by the time that usual primary prevention programmes have reached them. Youth exhibiting early drug use relative to their peers are considered at higher risk for later drug use and abuse. The few studies that have investigated the effect of primary prevention programmes on those who have already begun using tobacco or other drugs have yielded equivocal results and have not systematically evaluated maintenance of decreases in use. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the secondary prevention effects of a primary prevention programme in reducing cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use among baseline users.

Objectives. This study investigated the secondary prevention effects of a substance abuse primary prevention programme.
Methods. Logistic regression analyses were conducted on 4 waves of follow-up data from sixth- and seventh-grade baseline users of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana taking part in a school-based programme in Indianapolis.
Results. The programme demonstrated significant reductions in cigarette use at the initial follow-up (6 months) and alcohol use at the first 2 follow-ups (up to 1.5 years). Models considering repeated measures also showed effects on all 3 substances.
Primary prevention programmes are able to reach and influence high-risk adolescents in a non-stigmatizing manner.
Primary prevention programmes have been criticized for affecting future occasional users but not youth at the highest risk for drug abuse (e.g., current users). In this study, we reported 3.5-year follow-up effects of a primary prevention programme in decreasing drug use among adolescents who were users at either sixth or seventh grade. With a very conservative criterion to define decreased use, the results indicate that the programme did effect reductions in use, especially cigarette and alcohol use. These secondary prevention effects were significant for cigarette users at the 6-month follow-up and marginally significant at the 2.5-year follow-up. Effects were also found among baseline alcohol users through the 1.5-year follow-up. Consistent with other prevention studies, the effect sizes were small for cigarettes (range: .05-.31) and alcohol (range: .08-.24) and medium for marijuana (range: .38-.58). Although no significant effects were detected among baseline marijuana users, it is important to note that the programme group consistently demonstrated greater reductions in all 3 substances across all follow-ups, except marijuana at the 3.5-year follow-up. When the secular trend was also considered, the Midwestern Prevention Project consistently showed significant secondary prevention effects on cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use.

There are several methodological limitations to this study. For example, a possible threat to the validity of the findings was the reliance on self-reported drug use. However, extensive research conducted on the validity of self-reported smoking dispels this concern, especially if a bogus pipeline activity is built into the procedures for data collection, as was done in the present study. Another possible limitation is that measurements were limited to a fixed point in time (previous month) from year to year, thus leaving open the possibility that the last reported use level may have been an under-estimate of actual normal use patterns. However, given that this study was fully randomized, the programme and control groups should have been equal in regard to their validity estimates of the point prevalence of drug use measured.

This research suggests that social-influence-based primary prevention programmes can have an impact on not only students who are nonusers at baseline but also those who have begun to use drugs. The advantage of such a primary prevention programme is that it may reach and affect a ‘silent’, not-yet-identified, high-risk population of early drug users in a nonstigmatizing , nonlabeling fashion at an age when youth are more easily persuaded (treating the young users, in effect, like nonusers contemplating use).

Source: Chih-Ping Chou, PhD, et al. American Journal of Public Health, June 1998, Vol.88, No6

In middle school 36% of students and 33% of teachers say the drug problem is getting worse compared to 10% of principals; in high school. 51% of students and 41% of teachers say it is getting worse compared with 15% of principals.

In high school. 50% of teachers and 48% of principals believe a team can smoke pot every weekend and still do well in school compared to 23% of teens.

71% of high school students think more than half the students tried pot: only 27% of principals and 26% of teachers do.

There is a dramatic difference between substance use by teens that attend religious services at least four times a month and those who attend less than once a month:

Only 8% who attend religious services at least tour times a month smoked cigarettes compared to 22% who attend less than once a month.

Only 13% who attended four times or more have smoked marijuana compared to 39% who attended less than once a month.

Only 20% who attend four times or more say at least half their friends drink compared to 38% who attend less than once a month.

Only 49% who attend four times or more know a friend or classmate who has used illegal drugs like acid, cocaine or heroin compared to 62% who attend less than once a month.

45% who never smoked pot rely most on their parents’ opinion compared to 21% who smoked it.

17% who never smoked pot hang out with friends after school compared to 1% who smoked pot.

Dear Mr. Soros:

I had the opportunity to attend your very interesting presentation on October 28th at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., and thereafter read your book, ‘The Bubble of American Supremacy.’ While there is considerable validity, in my opinion, to many of your concepts and philosophies, there is one area where I think you radically depart from reality and from your own guidelines for an open society. Drug policy!

My purpose in writing is not to critique your book, but to seek a better understanding of your position on the issue of Drug Policy Reform. One of your concepts of an open society is that “.…We must treat our beliefs as provisionally true while keeping them open to constant reexamination.” First hand experience of the death and destruction of numerous family members from drug dependence has led to my own rather extensive involvement in drug prevention activities. I have learned a lot about the causes, consequences and solutions to substance abuse. But, to the extent my beliefs are erroneous, maybe you can enlighten me. To the extent your position stems from only a superficial understanding of the devastating impacts of drugs on all societies in the free world, maybe my comments will change your position.

I would like to challenge the following comments or points in your book.

  • Drug Policy of The United States – On Page 26 and 27 of your book, your wrote “…When I decided to extend the operations of my Open Society Foundation to the United States, I chose drug policy as one of the first fields of engagement. I felt that drug policy was the area in which the United States was in greatest danger of violating the principles of open society. I did not claim that I had all the right answers, but I was sure of one thing: The war on drugs was doing more harm than the drugs themselves – and on that point the evidence is clear. Drugs kill a few people, incapacitate many more, and give parents sleepless nights. On the other hand, the war on drugs has put millions behind bars, disrupted entire communities, particularly in the inner cities, and destabilized entire countries.”

Substance abuse kills Americans at a rate in excess of 1,000 people per week. Drug induced deaths alone account for almost half. 9.4% of the population over 12 years old (almost one in ten) are dependent on drugs or alcohol. The parasitic nature of their existence and the wreckage they impose on society in the form of crime, health care, welfare, mental health, child care and education costs the other 90% of the taxpayers roughly $294 billion per annum. That’s about $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. The average addict commits 100 crimes per annum. 70% to 80% of crime is committed while people are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Mr. Soros, nothing in modern history compares with this rate of death and destruction. In comparison, it took 18 months to claim 1,000 American soldiers in Iraq. We lose that many Americans every week because of substance abuse. We lost roughly 3,000 people on 9/11. That many Americans die every three weeks from substance abuse. Drugs don’t just “…..kill a few people.” Drugs kill more people than any event in modern history. They kill more people than all other forms of terrorism combined.

Drugs don’t just “…..give parents sleepless nights.” Drugs cause immeasurable pain and suffering for parents whose children have died, and for those of us who endure the endless agony of watching our beautiful young people lose all of their potential for life, as drug addiction turns them to trash and leads them to an early grave. 5 million Americans today are raising their grandchildren, because their own adult children are incarcerated or otherwise incapable of raising their own children. Sleepless nights? Indeed!

Drugs are this nation’s biggest weapon of mass destruction. Why shouldn’t people who sell illegal weapons be incarcerated and treated as any other terrorist whose sole intent is to profit by killing or destroying others? This particularly pertains to those who market drugs to children.

Legalizing the sale of illicit drugs will not fix the problem of death and destruction. Making drugs more readily available will just exacerbate the problem, as we have seen from alcohol, which conquers more people than drugs.

Nor does providing clean needles to heroin addicts prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It only enables drug addicts to expedite their own demise, as 80% of them die from drug overdose. In the heat of feeding their passion for more and more of what is killing them, they frankly couldn’t care less about contracting a lesser disease. To use tax dollars to enable druggies to self exterminate is morally and legally wrong. And, for those who encourage and augment the addiction in the first place to claim some later form of compassion by helping addicts continue their addiction is highly hypocritical.

It is not the war on drugs that has caused this problem. It is the drugs, and those who sell them, that have caused this problem.

There are several concepts in the following quotes from your book that seem to be in direct conflict with your financial support to organizations that are trying to legalize and proliferate the use of drugs …. such as The Drug Policy Alliance. You stated:

• The Responsibility to Protect: Core Principles (Pages 104 and 105)

I.1. Basic Principles

A. State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself.

B. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to half or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect…

I. 2. Elements

A. The responsibility to prevent: to address both the root causes and direct causes of internal conflict and other man-made crises putting populations at risk.

B. The responsibility to react: to respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures, which may include coercive measures like sanctions and international prosecution, and in extreme cases military intervention.

C. The responsibility to rebuild: to provide, particularly after a military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation, addressing the causes of the harm the intervention was designed to halt or avert.

I.3. Priorities

A. Prevention is the single most important dimension of the responsibility to protect:< prevention options should also be exhausted before intervention is contemplated, and more commitment and resources must be devoted to it. …..

You have assailed the Bush Doctrine with regard to Iraq. Perhaps the Bush Doctrine with regard to Drugs deserves some accolades. Since the President has been in office, drug use has declined. Supply lines have been seriously interrupted in several key locations, such as Columbia and Mexico. Drug legalization efforts have been thwarted in many locations, in spite of being outspent 30 to 1. There are now more than 1500 Drug Courts whereby arrestees receive treatment in lieu of incarceration. Of greater importance, the President has recognized and allocated funds for drug prevention where it begins, with school age adolescents.

The President and John Walters, the Drug Czar, are responding to the compelling need to reduce harm by encouraging prevention activities that are known to work, where they need to work; with school age children. The Supreme Court decision in 2002 cleared the way for schools to implement random drug testing programs for athletes and extra curricular activities.

Random Drug Testing has reduced drug use by between 67% and 90% in the work place, schools (where tried) and the military. The vast majority of all those who die or have been destroyed by drugs got hooked between ages 12 to 17, according to the experts, where their bodies and brains are much more susceptible to harm and addiction than adults. Research has shown that if we get kids to adulthood prior to first significant use of alcohol or drugs, they should never have a problem. It behooves us then “… respond to situations of compelling human need with appropriate measures.” That would certainly include take all measures possible to safe guard our young people, and in turn the future of our nation.

If, as you have pointed out, “… Prevention is the single most important dimension of the responsibility to protect,” then it follows that our governments at all levels should mandate or at least encourage the use of the best known prevention tool ….. random drug testing.

“…To address both the root causes and direct causes of internal conflict and other man-made crises putting populations at risk…,” does it not follow that we, as a nation, must scrutinize closely not only those who are selling weapons that kill and destroy, but also those who actively corrupt the legislative process based on bribes and false pretenses?

Only in the last few months, actively working against California Senate Bill 1386, did I learn of the existence of the Drug Policy Alliance, and of your financial backing of this organization. This bill was corrupt in its origin (The Drug Policy Alliance) and its intent, which was to prevent local school districts from implementing random drug testing. Fortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, so more kids can be saved from the ravages of drugs.

The justifications given for SB 1386 were false. If as you say, “….The war on terrorism as pursued by the Bush administration cannot be won, because it is based on false premises,” than I would say to you that the subversive efforts of the Drug Policy Alliance to legalize and proliferate the use of drugs will not prevail either, because their arguments are based on false premises.

America, and all populations in the free world are “…..suffering serious harm.” The “….primary responsibility for the protection of its people does lie with the state itself.” If, however, the governing bodies in the United States don’t follow the President’s lead to preserve the health and safety of its young people and the future of this nation, ultimately the population will revolt. That would include the 5 million Americans raising their grandchildren; all those who have had children needlessly die or be destroyed because safeguards were not put in place; all those who are victims of the crimes associated with substance abuse; and the unwitting taxpayers who don’t yet understand that conservatively, on the average 13% of their state taxes are wasted on the painful aftermath of substance abuse, while only 1% is spent on prevention. This is horrible economic and social policy, and must change.

In your book, you said you were referred to as a “…..statesman …..a person with principles but no interests.” I have no doubt that in many cases your philanthropy has helped people. But I find it unimaginable that anyone as obviously successful as you could believe in and financially support organizations that promote death and destruction to a nation you have chosen as your primary home.

Please help me to understand.


Roger D. Morgan

ROGER MORGAN, Co-Founder of Californians For Drug Free Schools, is a San Diego businessman and entrepreneur, and former corporate executive with Volvo of America and Caterpillar Tractor Company. He was Founding Chairman of the Coronado SAFE Foundation, a non-profit dealing with drug prevention, and prior Board Member of the San Diego Prevention Coalition. Armed and repulsed by his experience with two stepchildren who became drug addicted at age 12 and 14 years old, roughly 25 years ago, and two newphews who died of drug related causes, he believes the only thing that could have saved these young people, and others, would have been drug testing. Unfortunately, this prevention tool was not understood or available back then.

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