Youth

May 29, 2024  Contact: Kristen Govostes  Phone Number: (617) 557-2100

BOSTON – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New England Field Division will team up with college esports teams from across New England to host the first of its kind, hybrid One Pill Can Kill Game Over Tournament. This event aims to meet a critical moment in time by using the esports platform to help educate young people about the dangers of fentanyl.

Twenty-two teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 die every week from a drug poisoning or overdose death, according to a recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine.  To more effectively reach this important audience, DEA has teamed up with actress, founder of the Devon Michael Foundation, and influencer Ava Michelle and eight esports teams across the region to take an innovative new approach to fentanyl outreach and awareness.  With an overwhelming 97% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 engaged in video gaming, DEA is looking to reach young people where they often spend time – in the virtual world.

The One Pill Can Kill Game Over Tournament will be hosted by Clark University Esports on Thursday, June 6, 2024, from 7 to 9 p.m. ET on Twitch (twitch.tv/onepillcankill).  Access to view the tournament will also be available at DEA One Pill Can Kill Game Over Tournament | DEA.gov.  Joining Clark University for this Rocket League battle will be esports teams from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston University, Emerson College, Post University, University of New Hampshire, and the University of Southern Maine.

DEA will host an in-person pre-tournament program and live gameplay for invited guests at the state-of-the-art gaming center, All Systems Go, on Thursday, June 6, 2024, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Attendees will include high school aged students, community groups and dignitaries.  Media should plan to arrive around 5:45 p.m. for b-roll opportunities ahead of the press event, which will include remarks from DEA Associate Administrator Jon DeLena, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Ava Michele and more. All Systems Go gaming center is located at 225 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester, Mass., 02604.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, which is now involved in a majority of drug poisonings and overdose deaths.  Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, and just two milligrams – the amount that can fit on the tip of a pencil – can be deadly.  Often, people buy what they think is a legitimate prescription pill like Percocet or Xanax on social media, but it turns out, they’ve unknowingly purchased a fentanyl pill.  DEA laboratory testing indicates 7 out of 10 fentanyl pills seized contain a potentially deadly dose.  In 2023, DEA seized approximately 15.7 million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl in New England alone.

“I am thrilled we are able to team up with these amazing esports teams to host this One Pill Can Kill Game Over Tournament in New England and increase awareness about the dangers of fentanyl,” said DEA Associate Administrator Jon DeLena. “This event is extremely personal to me.  I know how much my own kids enjoy playing video games, so knowing they are also learning valuable, life-saving information while doing what they love is so important. I want to encourage any family with a gamer to join us – either virtually or in-person – watch the competition and then talk about what you’ve learned. It could be the most important talk you have as a family.”

“Connecting with people in an environment where they are having fun and are open to learning has been an incredible experience. Raising awareness and providing education about the fentanyl epidemic is absolutely crucial—I genuinely believe we are saving lives.” –  Ava Michelle Cota, Actress, and Founder, Devon Michael Foundation.

The One Pill Can Kill Game Over Tournament in New England will be the third tournament in this series.  The first tournament was held in the DEA’s New Orleans Field Division in January and reached more than 285,500 viewers. The second tournament was hosted by DEA Philadelphia in March and was viewed by more than 146,800. B-roll and soundbites from the previous events is available here. The New England event is the first to offer an in-person outreach event ahead of the tournament.

DEA would like to thank the participating teams, All Systems Go, The Rendon Group, and the esports community for their involvement and support of DEA’s One Pill Can Kill Game Over Tournaments.

 

Drug Enforcement Administration

Stephen Belleau, Acting Special Agent in Charge – New England

@DEANewEngland

Source: https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2024/05/29/dea-brings-its-one-pill-can-kill-game-over-tournament-new-england-first

By

U.S. News & World Report

By Ernie Mundell HealthDay Reporter

 American teenagers cite stress as the leading reason they might get drunk or high, a new report reveals.

That only underscores the need for better adolescent mental health care, according to the research team behind the study.

Better “access to treatment and support for mental health concerns and stress could reduce some of the reported motivations for substance use,” concluded investigators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, a team led by CDC researcher Sarah Connolly looked at 2014-2020 data on over 9,500 people ages 13 to 18, all of who were being treated for a substance use disorder.

Teens were using a myriad of substances, including alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers (often opioids), prescription stimulants (for example, Ritalin), or prescription sedatives (such as Valium or Xanax).

The teens were also asked why they thought they were using or abusing substances.  Easing stress in their lives was the leading factor cited.

“The most commonly reported motivation for substance use was “to feel mellow, calm, or relaxed” (73%), with other stress-related motivations among the top reasons, including “to stop worrying about a problem or to forget bad memories” (44%) and “to help with depression or anxiety” (40%),” Connolly’s team reported.

Stress relief wasn’t the only motivator, of course: Half of the teens reported using substances “to have fun or experiment.” This reason for using substances was more often cited for alcohol or nonprescription drug use than it was for the use of marijuana or other drugs.

Substance abuse with the aim of easing stress was most often cited for marijuana (76% of teens), prescription pain meds (61%) and sedatives/tranquilizers (55%), the study found.

Half of the teens surveyed said they often used drugs or alcohol alone, but 81% said they also used them with friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend (24%), or “anyone who has drugs” (23%).

According to the researchers, prior data has long shown that “anxiety and experiencing traumatic life events have been associated with substance use in adolescents.”

But with burgeoning rates of substance abuse and related overdoses, the consequences of turning to substances to ease stress can be tragic.

“Harm reduction education specifically tailored to adolescents has the potential to discourage using substances while alone and teach how to recognize and respond to an overdose in others,” the team said.

Such interventions might “prevent overdoses that occur when adolescents use drugs with friends from becoming fatal,” they added.

If you or a loved one is stressed by a mental health crisis, confidential 24/7 help is on hand at the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

The findings were published in the Feb. 9 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

There’s tips to identifying stress in your teen at the American Psychological Association.

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Feb. 9, 2024

Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Tags: parentingdrug abuseanxietystressalcohol

Source: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2024-02-09/stress-main-factor-driving-teens-to-abuse-drugs-alcohol

 

A Research Letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) raises alarms about administering melatonin gummies to children. Between 2012 and 2021, reports to U.S. poison control centers regarding pediatric melatonin ingestions surged 530% and were linked with 27,795 emergency department and clinic visits, 4,097 hospitalizations, 287 intensive care admissions, and tragically, 2 fatalities. Investigation into melatonin products’ labels revealed widespread inaccuracies relating to the presence of both melatonin and cannabidiol (CBD).

 

An examination of 25 melatonin gummy products obtained from the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Supplement Label Database revealed that a staggering 88 percent of these products had inaccurate labels, ranging from one product containing no melatonin to the others containing anywhere from 74 percent to 347 percent of the stated amount. Among the five products containing CBD, the measured CBD amounts varied from 104 percent to 118 percent of the labeled quantity.

 

This is extremely concerning as administering melatonin gummies to children can expose them to enormously high amounts of melatonin and CBD. Combining melatonin and CBD can lead to potential moderate interactions, intensifying effects like dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. These products often claim to aid in sleep, stress, and relaxation, making it imperative to inform parents and caregivers that despite product claims, neither melatonin nor CBD has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in healthy children.

 

Source: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2804077

https://www.drugs.com/interactions-check.php?drug_list=1548-0,3919-0

Understanding motives for cannabis use is important for addiction prevention and intervention

(SACRAMENTO)A study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors by researchers at UC Davis Health and the University of Washington surveyed teens over a six-month period to better understand their motives for using cannabis.

The researchers found that teens who have more “demand” for cannabis (meaning they are willing to consume more when it is free and spend more overall to obtain it) are likely to use it for enjoyment.

Using cannabis for enjoyment (“to enjoy the effects of it”) was linked to using more of it and experiencing more negative consequences.

Teens who have more demand for cannabis were also likely to use it to cope (“to forget your problems”). Using cannabis to cope was linked to experiencing more negative consequences, as identified by the Marijuana Consequences Checklist. Examples of negative effects include having trouble remembering things, difficulty concentrating and acting foolish or goofy.

Cannabis — also called marijuana, pot or weed — is the most used federally illegal drug in the United States. As of November 2023, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational use. At the federal level, marijuana remains a Schedule One substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

“Understanding why adolescents use marijuana is important for prevention and intervention,” said Nicole Schultz, first author of the study and an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “We know that earlier onset of cannabis use is associated with the likelihood of developing a cannabis use disorder. It is important we understand what variables contribute to their use so that we can develop effective strategies to intervene early,” Schultz said.

We know that earlier onset of cannabis use is associated with the likelihood of developing a cannabis use disorder. It is important we understand what variables contribute to their use so that we can develop effective strategies to intervene early.”Nicole Schultz, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Cannabis a public health concern

Cannabis is the most used psychoactive substance among adolescents. In 2022, 30.7% of twelfth graders reported using cannabis in the past year, and 6.3% reported using cannabis daily in the past 30 days.

The increased use is a public health concern, as cannabis can have significant impacts on teen health. A study earlier this year from Columbia University found teens who use cannabis recreationally are two to four times as likely to develop psychiatric disorders, such as depression and suicidality, than teens who do not use cannabis. Teens are also at risk for addiction or cannabis use disorder, where they try but cannot quit using cannabis.

When talking about prevention and intervention with addictive substances, it is essential to know why people use the substances, according to Schultz.

“The reasons often change over time. At the beginning, someone might use a substance for recreational reasons but have different motives later when the substance has become a problem for them,” she said.

For the study, the researchers used mediation analysis to focus on two motives: enjoyment and coping. They examined how these two motives explained the relationship between cannabis demand — a measure of how important or “reinforcing” cannabis is to the user — and cannabis-related outcomes, which included negative consequences and use.

Study participants were between the ages of 15 and 18. Participants completed an initial survey and follow-up surveys at three months and six months. High school students comprised 60.7% of the participants, and four-year college students comprised 24.7%. All lived in the greater metropolitan area of Seattle, where the legalized age for recreational cannabis use is 21 and older.

Of these participants, 87.6% identified as white, 19.1% as Asian or Asian American, 16.9% identified as Hispanic or Latinx, 4.5% as Black or African American, 3.4% as American Indian or Alaska Native and 3.4% identified with another race. Participants could choose more than one selection for race.

The researchers found that greater cannabis demand was significantly associated with using cannabis for enjoyment. Using for enjoyment was also significantly associated with cannabis use for the young study participants.

“This finding makes sense because using for enjoyment is typically related to the initiation of use versus problematic use. And given the age of the participants in this study, they may have short histories of use,” Schultz said.

Being willing to consume more cannabis at no cost, spend more money on cannabis overall, and continue spending at higher costs was positively associated with using cannabis for coping reasons.

Participants who used cannabis for coping and enjoyment both reported experiencing negative consequences from cannabis use. These included feeling increased anxiety, making decisions that were later regretted and getting in trouble with school or an employer.

The researchers noted several limitations of the study, including a lack of diversity, with nearly 88% of the survey participants identifying as white. Another limitation was that the participants’ cannabis usage was self-reported. The study results may also be specific to regions like Seattle, where cannabis has been legalized for adults.

“The current study suggests that encouraging substance-free activities that are fun for adolescents and help adolescents cope with negative feelings may help them use less cannabis and experience fewer negative consequences from use,” said Jason J. Ramirez senior author of the study. Ramirez is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and a faculty member of the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors.

Additional authors include Tessa Frohe from the University of Washington and Christopher J. Correia from Auburn University.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a website and a national hotline, at 1-800-662-4357, for individuals and families facing substance use disorders. Information about cannabis use disorder is available on the Centers for Disease Control webpage.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R21DA045092) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (F32AA028667, T32AA007455, K01AA030053)

Source: https://health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/teens-use-cannabis-for-coping-enjoyment/2023/12

Ten years after cannabis was first legalized for casual use in adults, scientists are struggling to provide evidence-based recommendations about the risks to young people.

Krista Lisdahl has been studying cannabis use among adolescents for two decades, and what she sees makes her worried for her teenage son.

“I see the data coming in, I know that he is going to come across it,” she says.

As a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, she sees plenty of young people who have come into contact with the drug to varying degrees, from trying it once at a party to using potent preparations of it daily. The encounters have become more frequent as efforts to legalize cannabis for recreational use intensify around the world. In some of her studies, around one-third of adolescents who regularly use cannabis show signs of a cannabis use disorder — that is, they can’t stop using the drug despite negative impacts on their lives. But she wants more conclusive evidence when it comes to talking about the drug and its risks to young people, including her son.

Deciding what to say is difficult, however. Anti-drug messaging campaigns have dwindled, and young people are forced to consider sometimes-conflicting messages on risks in a culture that increasingly paints cannabis and other formerly illicit drugs as harmless or potentially therapeutic. “Teenagers are pretty smart, and they see that adults use cannabis,” Lisdahl says. That makes blanket warnings and prohibitions practically useless.

It’s now a decade since the drug was officially legalized for recreational use by adults aged 18 and older in Uruguay, and aged 21 and older in the states of Colorado and Washington. Many other states and countries have followed, and researchers are desperately trying to get a handle on how usage patterns are changing as a result; how the drug impacts brain development; and how cannabis use correlates with mental-health conditions such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

The data so far don’t tell clear stories: young people don’t seem to be using in greater numbers than before legalization, but there seem to be trends towards more problematic use. Frequent use also coincides with higher rates of mental-health issues and the risk of addiction, but there could be other explanations for these trends. Experimental studies in humans and animals could help, but they are stymied by the fact that cannabis is still illegal in many places. And it is difficult to study the same products and potencies that people can now readily access.

As a result, some researchers worry that society is stumbling, unaware, into a big public-health problem. “I am concerned that this will hit us like tobacco hit us,” says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland. Even if the risks of cannabis use are small, “it’s like playing roulette,” she says.

In the hope of getting a better handle on the situation, her agency funded the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Started in 2015, ABCD recruited more than 10,000 children aged 9 and 10, with the goal of taking annual images of their brains to monitor how different factors affect their development. Participants are now between 16 and 18, and some are starting to come into contact with the drug, says Lisdahl, who co-leads the project. “So we should be able to really measure the impact of starting cannabis,” she says.

Changing patterns of use

Medicinal cannabis has been legal in some parts of the United States since 1996, but Colorado and Washington led the way on legalizing its recreational use when the issue was put to public votes in 2012. Uruguay was the first country to legalize the sale of the drug for recreational use the following year. There were fears that legalization would result in a flood of adolescent users, but so far, this doesn’t seem to be the case, says Angela Bryan, a neuroscientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “Paradoxically, the legalization of cannabis has decreased use among adolescents”, at least in her state, she says.

A series of biennial surveys by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that cannabis use among students aged 14–18 declined from a stable rate of about 21% during 2005–19 to 13% in 2021 (see go.nature.com/47yojx9). Nationwide usage patterns seem to show a similar dip, which one study associated with the COVID-19 pandemic1.

But legalization is bound to have varying effects in different areas, says James MacKillop, a clinical psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. There was no initial spike in cannabis use among adolescents when it was legalized in Canada for adults aged 18 and older 5 years ago. But there was a rise in use when illegal cannabis stores that are not licensed by the government began to open, he says.

Now, “There are more cannabis storefronts than there are Tim Hortons,” says MacKillop, referring to a famously ubiquitous Canadian coffee shop. Some negative consequences might also be emerging. A recent study in Ontario found that residents who were within walking distance of a cannabis dispensary were more likely to attend a hospital for treatment of psychosis2 — which is increasingly being linked to high-potency cannabis products.

A hemisphere away, Uruguay saw an initial spike in usage among those age 18 to 21 as legalization rolled out in 2014. But usage quickly went back to pre-legalization levels, according to survey results3. The survey also found no increase in adolescents developing addiction or having more problematic use of cannabis. This could be because of a slew of factors, says Ariadne Rivera-Aguirre, a social epidemiologist at New York University, who led the survey. These include the fact that Uruguay has set limits on the potency of products sold legally, banned advertisements on packaging and only permits the sale of cannabis flower products — no edibles or concentrates.

Rivera-Aguirre measured not just how many adolescents were using cannabis, but also how many were using it at problematic levels, which she says many past surveys haven’t taken into account. The spike in use might have been the result of increased discussion and media attention surrounding legalization, Rivera-Aguirre says. Many others are also interested in understanding when casual use becomes problematic. “That’s where I think the research needs to focus, rather than worrying about the typical 17-year-old who has a joint at a party,” says Bryan.

Whereas use hasn’t exploded in people under 21, there are concerns about the types of product being sold. Increasingly, what is available at dispensaries — at least outside Uruguay — has much higher concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in cannabis. “The cannabis of today is not the cannabis of yesteryear,” says Ryan Sultan, a clinical psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York City. The THC concentration in products obtained by the US Drug Enforcement Administration has increased by more than threefold since 1996 (see go.nature.com/3r7fmbm), and many dispensaries sell vaping fluids and products for ‘dabbing’, a method of consuming concentrated THC that can deliver large amounts of the drug into a person’s lungs.

Health impacts

High-potency preparations carry much higher risks of inducing psychosis, and some researchers fear that this could have long-term effects. “The thing that the psychiatric community is scared to their bones about is the link between cannabis and schizophrenia,” says Sultan.

A study of more than 40,000 people with schizophrenia in Denmark, where cannabis has been legal since 2018, found that around 15% of cases could be tied to cannabis use disorder, with that figure being even higher in young men4.

But it is unclear whether the association in Denmark is causal or not, says Carsten Hjorthøj, an epidemiologist at the University of Copenhagen who led the work. It could be that those with schizophrenia are seeking out cannabis to self-medicate. There are similar issues in clarifying the connections between cannabis and depression and anxiety, but the associations are there.

In a study of almost 70,000 adolescents in the United States, Sultan found that around 1 in 40 were addicted to cannabis. Another 1 in 10 used cannabis but were not addicted. Even in this group, young people were twice as likely to experience bouts of depression along with other negative outcomes, such as skipping school, having lower grades than non-users and being arrested5.

Some researchers are working on establishing possible mechanisms by which cannabis can affect mental health, and others are finding connections through surveys and health records. Many are hoping that more conclusive results will come from long-term studies such as ABCD.

Studies that just look at connections at a single point in time are limited. “You have to wonder, what is the reason that you find that adolescent cannabis users show higher levels of depression?” asks Madeline Meier, a clinical psychologist at Arizona State University in Tempe. “Is that because the cannabis caused depression in these adolescents, or is it because adolescents with depression selectively seek out cannabis? Or is there some third variable?”

What’s going on in the brain?

Cannabis works by mimicking natural cannabinoid neurotransmitters in the body, which can activate a handful of receptors in the brain. “It’s mimicking that system, but it’s cheating the system,” Lisdahl says, because high-potency THC products are stimulating receptors much more than everyday activities would.

In adolescents, one of the main concerns is THC’s ability to bind easily to one receptor, called CB1. These receptors are found all over the brain, but they are particularly common in areas associated with reward and executive functioning — which includes memory and decision-making. CB1 is more abundant in adolescent brains than in adult ones.

Researchers are trying to see how the prolonged use of cannabis, especially products with high concentrations of THC, can affect mental health or cognitive function. Meier and her colleagues analysed the effect of cannabis use into adulthood for a group of around 1,000 people born between 1972 and 1973. They found that those who used cannabis consistently scored lower, on average, on IQ tests than did those who used cannabis less frequently or not at all. And this effect was most pronounced in people who started using cannabis in adolescence6.

Meier says her work points to infrequent cannabis use in adolescence not leading to significant cognitive decline. But, she says, “it’s enough to urge caution against using.” The bigger issue, to her, is that people who start using during adolescence are at a higher risk of long-term use.

One criticism of her team’s study, Meier says, is that it didn’t account for other factors that affect cognitive function, such as genetics and socio-economic status7.

These criticisms were all considered when designing the ABCD study, Volkow says. By recruiting 10,000 children from various backgrounds, the study is likely to include a sufficiently large and diverse group of frequent cannabis users. Over the course of the study, researchers will be imaging participants’ brains, tracking academic test scores and measuring cognitive function, all while interviewing them about their contact with drugs. Many think that it will be able to paint as accurate a picture of the effects of cannabis as one study can.

And its timing should also help researchers to understand the long-term effect of high-potency THC products, because many of the participants are likely to end up trying these. Efforts to study such products in the United States have been hampered by the fact that cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Publicly funded research institutions can access only one strain of cannabis, and it is notoriously weaker than the products sold in dispensaries or on the street.

“Certain kinds of research are not being done because it takes so many complicated steps,” says R. Lorraine Collins, a psychologist at the University at Buffalo in New York. “It adds extra costs and extra staffing.” And as for research-grade cannabis, study participants “don’t like it at all”, says psychiatrist Jesse Hinckley, who specializes in adolescent addiction at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Some researchers have created workarounds to study cannabis on the streets. Bryan and others in Colorado have fashioned several vans into mobile laboratories, which they call canna-vans, to allow them to test the blood of cannabis users before and after they take the drug. The researchers have begun to expand their work to adolescents.

Volkow is working to make research on cannabis relevant to the current landscape — one rife with vaping, dabbing, edibles and other products. And Lisdahl is gearing up for the next stage of the ABCD study. Most of her cohort is now aged between 16 and 18 — the point at which she and others are expecting that some will begin using cannabis. When Lisdahl talks to the young people in her study and their parents, she worries that there’s little concrete guidance on cannabis safety — so she has to give advice on a case-by-case basis.

“I would just like to have information for the teens and for the adults to make better decisions for themselves,” Lisdahl says.

She also hopes to nail down how much cannabis is too much, and what contributes to the risk of developing a cannabis use disorder. This might differ from person to person, and could involve genetics and even the structure of the brain. All of this could help her in conversations with her own son. “He has lofty academic goals and I’ve seen that cannabis disrupts things like speed of thinking, complex attention and short-term memory, and it affects grades negatively.” For now, she hopes that pointing this out will make a difference, or at the very least, keep him informed of the risks.

Source: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-023-03860-3

Navigating the Adolescent Overdose Crisis: Insights and Prevention Strategies

An Alarming Rise in Adolescent Drug-Related Mortality

Recent years have seen a worrisome increase in drug-related fatalities among adolescents in the United States. As relayed by Dr. Joseph R. Friedman, this alarming trend necessitates a more aggressive approach to overdose prevention. While the reasons behind this rise are multifaceted, the surge in opioid-related deaths, particularly due to fentanyl poisoning, is a crucial factor to consider.

The Overdose Crisis among U.S. Adolescents

In 2022, an average of 22 adolescents aged 14 to 18 died each week in the U.S. from drug overdoses, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. This death rate is more than double what it was in 2018, with 75% of these drug overdose fatalities attributed to fentanyl poisoning. This issue became particularly pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, with states like Arizona, Colorado, and Washington identified as hotspots for adolescent drug overdose death rates.

Addressing the Crisis: Naloxone in Schools

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has taken proactive measures against this crisis by offering naloxone to all public high schools across the state. This initiative aims to combat the surge in opioid-related fatalities among adolescents by providing access to naloxone, a substance capable of reversing the harmful effects of an opioid overdose. The initiative also aligns with a recent directive from the U.S. Department of Education and the White House drug policy office, urging schools to train staff and students on the use of naloxone and keep it on hand.

The Role of Education and Awareness

Equipping adolescents with the knowledge and tools to keep themselves safe from drug overdose is paramount. Parents are encouraged to discuss the dangers of counterfeit pills, which often contain lethal amounts of fentanyl. Additionally, they are advised to keep Naloxone or Narcan, an over-the-counter overdose reversal medication, readily available at home. Efforts have been made on this front through the X Foundation, established in honor of a teenager who died of fentanyl poisoning. The foundation aims to raise awareness and provide education about the epidemic.

The Take-Home Naloxone Program: A Potential Lifesaver

The take-home naloxone program, studied by ScienceDirect, has shown potential in reducing the number of opioid-related fatalities. The program focuses on distributing naloxone to people at risk of overdosing, especially those who frequently use opioids alone. However, the study underlines the need for multifaceted interventions, highlighting that naloxone distribution should go hand-in-hand with overdose prevention education.

Conclusion

The rise in adolescent drug-related mortality is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention. While the distribution of naloxone in schools and overdose prevention education play significant roles in combating this crisis, a comprehensive approach is necessary. This includes proactive measures at home, open discussions about the dangers of drug misuse, and accessibility to life-saving medications. Together, these efforts can help turn the tide against the alarming trend of adolescent drug overdoses.

 

Source: https://medriva.com/addictions/navigating-the-adolescent-overdose-crisis-insights-and-prevention-strategies/

ORLANDO, Fla.Jan. 24, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Victoria’s Voice Foundation, a nonprofit providing evidence-based drug education and addiction prevention support for families, marked a major milestone yesterday, surpassing one million children and parents impacted through its education programs – with a school assembly in Nashville on the dangers of vaping and drug use. The event was held at Davidson Academy for 375 students in grades 7-12.

During the assembly, Michael DeLeon – director of youth outreach and school programs for Victoria’s Voice and founder of Steered Straight, a drug prevention program for school systems nationwide – discussed vaping, stressing the escalating incidence of overdose deaths from vapes laced with fentanyl, as well as drug use information, associated risks, and tools for prevention. DeLeon also shared his personal story of addiction, incarceration and recovery, and reinforced with students the importance of making responsible, informed choices.

“We are very proud to achieve this important milestone,” said Victoria’s Voice co-founders Jackie and David Siegel, who were on hand at the Davidson assembly. “This marks a significant step in our ongoing efforts to educate and empower families about drug use and addiction. It is our life’s work to spare other parents the pain and grief we experienced.”

Victoria’s Voice has created a diverse and versatile collection of education and prevention programming to meet the needs of communities and at-risk populations nationwide. The foundation’s live school speaker series encourages students to live drug-free. The series also includes prevention resources and activities to engage students year-round, programming tailored for parents and educators, and complimentary copies of Victoria’s Voice, the powerful, personal diary of the Siegels’ late daughter, Victoria.

The foundation also offers Vital Signs, a free program that prepares parents to recognize the early signs of drug use in their children; a community speaker program; free video programming for life skills and drug prevention; and Victoria’s Voice, which the foundation provides for free to schools and other organizations.

About Victoria’s Voice Foundation
Victoria’s Voice Foundation was established in 2019 by Jackie and David Siegel after losing their 18-year-old daughter to an accidental drug overdose. Victoria’s Voice is dedicated to providing evidence-based drug education and addiction prevention support for families, including access to Naloxone. Since its founding, Victoria’s Voice has positively impacted more than one million parents and children through its education programs. For more information about Victoria’s Voice, please visit www.victoriasvoice.org.

Source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/victorias-voice-foundation-marks-milestone-194100724.html?

The lowered rates of substance use that youth reported after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic remained steady into 2023. However, the rate of fatal drug overdoses among youth, which rose in 2020, remained increased well into 2022.

After the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated school closures began in 2020, youth reported that they were using illicit substances significantly less, according to the 2023 Monitoring the Future survey. Among 12th graders, use of any illicit substances in the previous year fell from 36.8% in 2020 to 32% in 2021. Among 10th graders, the rate fell from 30.4% to 18.7%, while it fell from 15.6% to 10.2% among 8th graders.


Rate of Reported Past-Year Illicit Substance Use Among 8th, 10th, and 12th Graders.

Many schools have returned to in-person learning since the fall of 2021, and yet the percentage of students reporting any illicit substance use in 2023 has held steady at the lowered levels reported during the pandemic, according to the most recent Monitoring the Future survey. In 2023, 31.2% of 12th graders, 19.8% of 10th graders, and 10.9% of 8th graders reported any illicit substance use in the past year.

Monitoring the Future has tracked national substance use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders at hundreds of schools across the country annually since 1975. It is conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Addressing substance use among youth, especially with regard to prevention, should involve not only reaching out to institutions like schools, but also connecting with families to engage them, said Anish Dube, M.D., M.P.H.

“This is encouraging news,” said Anish Dube, M.D., M.P.H., chair of APA’s Council on Children, Adolescents, and Their Families. “Peers have a huge influence on young people and the types of decisions they make. For better or worse, the pandemic limited the amount of time young people physically spent with their peers, and this may be at least one reason why we saw less risk-taking behavior among youth.”

Youth who responded to the survey most commonly reported drinking alcohol, vaping nicotine, and using cannabis in the past year. Compared with 2022 levels, past-year use of alcohol fell among 12th graders and remained stable for 10th and 8th graders. Nicotine vaping declined among 12th and 10th graders and remained stable among 8th graders. Finally, cannabis use remained stable among students in all three grades.

Unintentional Drug Overdose Death Rates Among U.S. Youth Aged 15-19.

Simultaneously, however, in recent years the rate of fatal overdoses among youth has increased. A 2022 study published in JAMA found that, beginning in 2020 until June 2021, adolescents experienced a greater relative increase in overdose mortality compared with the overall population. An analysis by NIDA published last December found that the upward trends previously reported continued into the summer of 2022. Between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the rate of unintentional overdose deaths per 100,000 population among youth aged 15 to 19 rose from 0.89 to 1.32. The rate has not declined since that increase. In the summer of 2022, the rate was 1.63.

“In my own clinical experience, one of the biggest challenges has been the widespread availability of fentanyl and its derivatives, their lethality, and the ease with which they can be laced into other substances that young people are trying,” Dube said.

When youth weren’t seeing their friends during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, they did not have the peer interactions that may lead to substance use, said Oscar Bukstein, M.D., M.P.H.

The illicit substances available now are highly addictive and can provide a quick and intense high, said Oscar Bukstein, M.D., M.P.H. That is part of the reason the rate of overdose deaths among adults is so high, and the same is likely true for youth.

“Young people in particular are usually novice drug users,” Bukstein pointed out. Just like younger adolescents are more likely to experience alcohol poisoning, youth who are using other illicit substances may similarly be unaware of the true danger of what they are using, he explained. Bukstein is a member of APA’s Council on Children, Adolescents, and Their Families and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Bukstein also noted that, because Monitoring the Future surveys youth in schools, those who are not in school due to high-risk behaviors such as truancy or dropping out are less likely to be included. That means the survey may not capture youth who are at the highest risk for substance use. These youth need far more resources than are available to them, such as residential treatment for those who need more than intensive outpatient care, Bukstein said.

Overall, Bukstein is optimistic about Generation Z, he added. “I’ve noticed that there’s a greater sense among the general adolescent population that they want something out of life,” he said. “They know these substances are dangerous, that they are not going to get them where they want to go, and they don’t need them.”

Source: https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.pn.2024.03.3.10

Washington tribal leaders are looking at an overseas model to combat the rise in opioid use among teens.

It’s called the Icelandic Prevention Model, and it’s helped slash alcohol use among Icelandic 15- and 16-year-olds from 77% to 35% in 20 years.

“There’s no other model in the world that has that kind of turnaround in the community,” said Nick Lewis, councilmember of the Lummi Nation and chairman of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board.

Washington has dubbed its effort the “Washington Tribal Prevention System” and the Health Care Authority, along with five tribes, will partner with Planet Youth, a non-profit bringing the Icelandic Prevention Model to other places.

The model involves re-thinking how to discourage drug use by placing responsibility on the community, rather than the individual. Instead of asking kids to “just say no,” the Icelandic Prevention Model calls on the adults in a child’s life to create an environment without drugs and alcohol, said Margrét Lilja Guðmundsdóttir, chief knowledge officer at Planet Youth.

“The child should never be responsible for the situation in the community,” Guðmundsdóttir said.

The Washington Tribal Prevention System officially kicked off its ten-year pilot program with the ceremonial signing of contracts on Feb. 14. The five tribal governments participating are Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Lummi Nation, Tulalip Tribes, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Colville Tribes.

In Washington, American Indian and Alaska Native residents have the highest rate of death from opioid overdoses, far outpacing other races and ethnicities, according to state Department of Health data. 

“Our stories might be different,” Lewis said. “But if they can turn things around, we can too.”

The first two years, the Health Care Authority officials said, are just administrative planning, which will cost $2 million to $3 million a year. Gov. Jay Inslee has called for $1 million for the project in his supplemental budget proposal this year, and the rest of the money would come from federal grants.

Whether lawmakers will provide the $1 million Inslee requested or some other amount for the program will become clearer in the days ahead as the Legislature irons out budget legislation.

When the program moves out of the planning phase – scheduled to happen in its third year – costs are expected to go up dramatically. But Aren Sparck, tribal affairs administrator for the Health Care Authority, said he’s optimistic about finding funding from both private and public entities because of how much interest there is in the model.

Sparck also said the program could be adopted by other tribes and communities. “I think this is going to be a test for the entire state,” he said.

What exactly is the Icelandic model?

In Iceland, youth, parents, schools, the government and other community members work in tandem to create an environment that discourages drug use.

For example, the country has free after-school activities funded by the government. Kids are bussed directly to those activities. Youth councils help shape what activities happen, so teens are actually interested. It’s about making drug-use prevention a lifestyle, said Loni Greninger, tribal vice chair at Jamestown.

Last year, Health Care Authority officials and several tribal delegations visited Iceland to see the model for themselves. Sparck said he was skeptical at first — but when he saw the model in person, “jaws were on the floor.” The way Iceland has managed to make its model just a part of daily life, Sparck said, is exactly what he wants to see in Washington.

“I was talking to some of the youth and asking them, ‘What’s it like to be in the world’s most successful prevention model? And they asked us, ‘What’s the Icelandic Prevention Model?’” Sparck said.

Sparck said one of the things he learned about was a large dance party that young people in Iceland helped plan. Students invited one of the well-known DJs in Europe and policed each other, ensuring there were no drugs and alcohol at the event.

“What we saw was empowering the youth to make their decisions together. So they own this, and they’re a part of it and invested in it,” Sparck said.

Putting trust in youth to help create an alcohol and drug-free environment is also a big part of the model, officials said.

“A child wants a healthy environment,” Lewis said. “A child wants to grow up and be healthy. You never hear a child say ‘I want to grow up and be a drug addict.’”

The tribal model

The Icelandic Prevention Model relies on cultural practices within Iceland. Planet Youth works with its partners to translate the model into their own cultures, Guðmundsdóttir said.

While this is the first time Planet Youth has worked with tribal governments, Guðmundsdóttir and tribal leaders said Iceland and Washington’s tribes share a lot of values in common — namely the belief that it takes a community to raise a child.

“You’re literally wrapping your arms around these kids in everything prevention and wellness,” Greninger said about Iceland’s model.

“That’s what we tribes aspire to do,” she said. “But when you are working with separate entities, we all have our own visions and missions and agendas, we’re all busy every single day. It’s hard to line up all of that.”

Planet Youth — and efforts to implement Iceland’s model in other places — are relatively new, and it took Iceland decades to get where it is now. But there’s already research suggesting Iceland’s model is transferable.

“It’s not a quick fix,” Guðmundsdóttir said. “It’s a never-ending story. You will always have new kids, new parents, new kinds of substances.”

“It’s not a one-year project. It’s a long-term way of thinking,” she added.

When Lummi Nation policymakers presented the Iceland Prevention Model to Lewis, he said he recognized it as just another name for what his tribe is already doing, but without the resources they need to implement it at the level Iceland has.

According to Lewis, it’s often difficult to get funding for tribal drug treatment practices because they aren’t always considered evidence-based — and it’s almost impossible to gather enough proof that a tribal practice works because tribal populations are so small.

The Icelandic Prevention Model, to Lewis, proves that what tribes have already been trying to do works when it’s fully resourced. He hopes using Iceland’s model will help raise the funding needed and remove the silos between different efforts in Washington.

“If we’re going to break this cycle, we need to go back to creating healthy environments and get back to the values that bring people together,” Lewis said.

Source: https://www.anacortesnow.com/news/health/5285-washington-tribes-look-to-iceland-for-help-getting-teens-off-drugs

“I never imagined that sports could do this”: UNODC celebrates the power of sports in preventing violence, crime, and drug use among youth on the International Day of Sports

 

Alice*, a 15-year-old living in a rural area in Nigeria, was struggling. Feeling lonely at home, subjected to punishment for the smallest of reasons, she had tried everything in an effort to cope. Running away from home. Cutting her wrists with a razor in a failed suicide attempt. Drinking alcohol. Taking too many sleeping pills.

Her drug use, once discovered by her father, threatened to further derail her young life, for he would delay paying her school fees, claiming her education had been a wasted investment. Cut off from her friends, Alice’s isolation deepened.

Eventually, Alice returned to school, where she was enrolled in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s “Line Up Live Up” (LULU) programme. LULU uses sports-based life skills training to empower youth and enhance their resilience to violence, crime, and drug use.

The programme struck a chord with Alice, who reported that the “LULU programme gave me a whole new meaning and understanding of life.” Alice recalled several lessons that stuck out for her during LULU, including one which required the students to run to the opposite side of the hall without being hit by balls flying from all directions. Each time the students were struck, they would have to start all over again.

Alice noted that at first, she was embarrassed each time a ball would hit her. It reminded her of the shame she had felt facing her friends after her father reported her drug use to the school. “I kept having to start all over again,” she said, but “I succeeded at the tail end and it taught me to never give up.”

Youth face many challenges that make them vulnerable to crime, violence, and victimization. Sports can offer vulnerable youth a sense of identity and belonging while also enhancing their physical and mental health and wellbeing. When used in an intentional, well-designed manner, sports can serve as a useful vehicle for cognitive, social, and emotional learning and key life skills. They can challenge harmful stereotypes and normative beliefs linked to violence and crime, including gender-based violence. Finally, sports can create safe spaces for young people and local communities to positively interact, promote tolerance, and contribute to building safe, just, and fair societies.

The UNODC Global Initiative on Youth Crime Prevention through Sport promotes the effective use of sport as a tool for addressing known risk and protective factors to youth violence and crime in order to reduce juvenile delinquency and offending and prevent drug use. It also supports the design and delivery of tailored sport-based interventions to prevent youth victimization and recruitment by organized criminal groups, including from gangs and violent extremist groups.

Alice’s principal attested to the transformation she witnessed among her students. “I thought that the LULU programme would be targeting drugs and academics,” she said. “Little did I know that this knowledge could be transferred to other, deeper personal and social life situations. The program digs for the biggest problems in the student’s lives and helps them solve them in their own ways.

Truly, I never imagined that sports could do this.”

 

Source: https://www.unodc.org/conig/en/stories/i-never-imagined-that-sports-could-do-this_-unodc-celebrates-the-power-of-sports-in-preventing-violence–crime–and-drug-use-among-youth-on-the-international-day-of-sports.html

Abstract and Figures

In 2017 Iceland received word-wide attention for having dramatically reversed the course of teenage substance use. From 1998 to 2018, the percentage of 15-16-year-old Icelandic youth who were drunk in the past 30 days declined from 42% to 5%; daily cigarette smoking dropped from 23% to 3%; and having used cannabis one or more times fell from 17% to 5%. The core elements of the model are: 1) long-term commitment by local communities; 2) emphasis on environmental rather than individual change; 3) perception of adolescents as social attributes. This presentation describes how the Iceland prevention model is built upon collaboration between policy makers, researchers, parent organizations, and youth practitioners. These groups have created a system whereby youth receive the necessary guidance and support to live fun and productive lives without reliance on psychoactive substances. The Model is being replicated in 35 municipalities within 17 countries around the globe. The Icelandic Model: Evidence Based Primary Prevention – 20 Years of Successful Primary Prevention Work was featured for the past two years at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330347576_Perspective_Iceland_Succeeds_at_Preventing_Teenage_Substance_Use February 2019

US DRUG CZAR EXPLAINS CAUSES AND RSDT TOOL TO PREVENT TEEN DRUG USE AND OVERDOSE DEATH INTERVIEW WITH U.S. DRUG CZAR JOHN WALTERS

Introduction:  In response to recent news of a huge increase in drug overdose deaths and arrests for drug trafficking among Fairfax County youths, Fox News TV5 reporter Sherri Ly interviewed U.S. Drug Czar John Walters for his expert views on the cause and potential cure for these horrific family tragedies.  Following is a transcript of that half-hour interview with minor editing for clarity and emphasis added.  The full original interview is available through the 11/26/08 Fox5 News broadcast video available at link:

WALTERS:  Well, as this case shows, while we’ve had overall drug use go down, we still have too many young people losing their lives to drugs, either through overdoses, or addiction getting their lives off track.  So there’s a danger.  We’ve made progress, and we have tools in place that can help us make more progress, but we have to use them

Q 1:  You meet with some of these parents whose children have overdosed.  What do they tell you, and what do you tell them?

WALTERS:  It’s the hardest part of my job; meeting with parents who’ve lost a child.  Obviously they would give anything to go back, and have a chance to pull that child back from the dangerous path they were on.  There are no words that can ease their grief.  That’s something you just pray that God can give them comfort.  But the most striking thing they say to me though is they want other parents to know, to actAnd I think this is a common thing that these terrible lessons should teach us.

Many times, unfortunately, parents see signs: a change in friends, sometimes they find drugs; sometimes they see their child must be intoxicated in some way or the other.  Because it’s so frightening, because sometimes they’re ashamed – they hope it’s a phase, they hope it goes away – they try to take some half measures.  Sometimes they confront their child, and their child tells them – as believably as they ever can – that it’s the first time.  I think what we need help with is to tell people; one, it’s never the first time.  The probability is low that parents would actually recognize these signs – even when it gets visible enough to them – because children that get involved in drugs do everything they can to hide it.  It’s never the first time.  It’s never the second time.  Parents need to act, and they need to act quickly.  And the sorrow of these grieving parents is, if anything, most frequently focused on telling other parents, “Don’t wait: do anything to get your child back from the drugs.”

Secondly, I think it’s important to remember that one of the forces that are at play here is that it’s their friends.  It’s not some dark, off-putting stranger – it’s boyfriends, girlfriends.  I think that was probably a factor in this case.  And it’s also the power and addictive properties of the drug.  So your love is now being tested, and the things you’ve given your child to live by are being pulled away from them on the basis of young love and some of the most addictive substances on earth.  That’s why you have to act more strongly.  You can’t count on the old forces to bring them back to safety and health.

Q 2:  When we talk about heroin – which is what we saw in this Fairfax County drug ring, alleged drug ring – what are the risks, as far as heroin’s concerned?  I understand it can be more lethal, because a lot of people don’t know what they’re dealing with?

WALTERS:  Well it’s also more lethal because one, the drug obviously can produce cardiac and respiratory arrest.  It’s a toxic substance that is very dangerous.  It’s also the case that narcotics, like heroin – even painkillers like OxyContin, hydrocodone, which have also been a problem – are something that the human body gets used to.  So what you can frequently get on the street is a purity that is really blended for people who are addicted and have been long time addicted.  So a person who is a new user or a naïve user can more easily be overdosed, because the quantities are made for people whose bodies have adjusted to higher purities, and are seeking that effect that only the higher purity will give them in this circumstance.  So it’s particularly dangerous for new users.  But we also have to remember, it almost never starts with heroin.  Heroin is the culmination here.  I think some of the – and I’ve only seen press stories on this — some of these young people may have gotten involved as early as middle school.

We have tools so that we don’t have to lose another young woman like this– or young men.  We now have the ability to use Random Student Drug Testing (RSDT) because the Supreme Court has, in the last five years, made a decision that says it can’t be used to punish.  It’s used confidentially with parents.  We have thousands of schools now doing it since the president announced the federal government’s willingness to fund these programs in 2004.  And many schools are doing it on their own.  Random testing can do for our children what it’s done in the military, what it’s done in the transportation safety industry– significantly reduce drug use.

First, it is a powerful reason not to start.  “I get tested, I don’t have to start.”  We have to remember, it’s for prevention and not a “gotcha!”  But it’s a powerful reason for kids to say, even when a boyfriend or girlfriend says come and do this with me, “I can’t do it, I get tested.  I still like you, I still want to be your friend; I still want you to like me, but I just can’t do this,” which is very, very powerful and important.  And second, if drug use is detected the child can be referred to treatment if needed.

Q 3:  Is the peer pressure just that much that without having an excuse, that kids are using drugs and getting hooked?

WALTERS:  Well one of the other unpleasant parts of my job is I visit a lot of young people in treatment; teenagers, sometimes as young as 14, 15, but also 16, 17, 18.  It is not uncommon for me to hear from them, “I came from a good family.  My parents and my school made clear what the dangers were of drugs.  I was stupid.  I was with my boyfriend (or girlfriend) and somebody said hey, let’s go do this.  And I started, and before I knew it, I was more susceptible.

We have to also understand the science, which has told us that adolescents continue to have brain development up through age 20-25.  And their brains are more susceptible to changes that we can now image from these drugs.  So it’s not like they’re mini-adults.  They’re not mini-adults.  They’re the particularly fragile and susceptible age group, because they don’t have either the experience or the mental development of adults.  That’s why they get into trouble, that’s why it happens so fast to them, that’s why it’s so hard for them to see the ramifications.

So what does RSDT do?  It finds kids early–­ if prevention fails.  And it allows us to intervene, and it doesn’t make the parent alone in the process.  Sometimes parents don’t confront kids because kids blackmail them and say “I’m going to do it anyway, I’m going to run away from home.”  The testing brings the community together and says we’re not going to lose another child.  We’re going to do the testing in high school – if necessary, in middle school.  We’re going to wrap our community arms around that family, and get those children help.  We’re going to keep them in school, not wait for them to drop out.  And we’re certainly not going to allow this to progress until they die.

Q 4:  And in a sense, if you catch somebody early, since you’re saying the way teenagers seem to get into drug use is a friend introduces it to a friend, and then next thing you know, you have a whole circle of friends doing it.  Are you essentially drying that up at the beginning, before it gets out of hand?

WALTERS:  That is the very critical point.  It’s not only helping every child that gets tested be safer, it means that the number of young people in the peer group, in the school, in the community that can transfer this dangerous behavior to their friends shrinks.  This is communicated like a disease, except it’s not a germ or a bacillus.  It’s one child who’s doing this giving it behaviorally to their friends, and using their friendship as the poison carrier here.  It’s like they’re the apple and the poison is inside the apple.  And they trade on their friendship to get them to use.  They trade on the fact that people want acceptance, especially at the age of adolescence.  So what you do is you break that down, and you make those relationships less prone to have the poison of drugs or even underage drinking linked to them.  And of course we also lose a lot of kids because of impaired driving.

Q 5:  And how does the drug testing program work, then, in schools– the schools that do have it.  Is it completely confidential?  Are you going to call the police the minute you find a student who’s tested positive for heroin or marijuana or any other illicit drug?

WALTERS:  That’s what is great about having a Supreme Court decision.  It is settled – random testing programs cannot be used to punish, to call law enforcement; they have to be confidential.  So we have a uniform law across the land.  And what the schools that are doing RSDT are seeing is that it’s an enormous benefit to schools for a relatively small cost.  Depending on where you are in the country, the screening test is $10-40.  It’s less than what you’re going to pay for music downloads in one month for most teenage kids in most parents’ lives.  And it protects them from some of the worst things that can happen to them during adolescence.  Not only dying behind the wheel, but overdose death and addiction.

 Schools that have done RSDT have faced some controversy; so you have to sit down and talk to people; parents, the media, young people.  You have to engage the community resources.  You’re going to find some kids and families that do have treatment needs.  But with RSDT you bring the needed treatment to the kids.

I tell, a lot of times, community leaders – mayors and superintendents, school board members – that if you want to send less kids into the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system, drug test — whether you’re in a suburban area or in an urban area.

What does the testing do?  It takes away what we know is an accelerant to self-destructive behavior: crime, fighting in school, bringing a weapon, joining a gang.  We have all kinds of irrefutable evidence now – multiple studies showing drugs and drinking at a young age accelerate those things, make them worse, make them more violent, as well as increasing their risks of overdose deaths and driving under the influence.  So drug testing makes all those things get better.  And it’s a small investment to make everything else we do work better.

Again, drug testing is not a substitute for drug education or good parenting or paying attention to healthy options for your kid.  It just makes all those things work better.

Q 6:  And I know you’ve heard this argument before, but isn’t that big brother?  Aren’t there parents out there who say to you, “I’m the parent: why are you going to test my child for drugs in school; that’s my job?” 

WALTERS:  I think that is the critical misunderstanding that we are slowly beginning to change by the science that tells us substance abuse is a disease.  It’s a disease that gets started by using the drug, and then it becomes a thing that rewires our brain and makes us dependent.  So instead of thinking of this as something that is a moral failing, we have to understand that this is a disease that we can use the kind of tools for public health – screening and interventions – to help reduce it.

Look, let me give you the counter example.  It’s really not big brother.  It’s more like tuberculosis.  Schools in our area require children to be tested for tuberculosis before they come to school.  Why do they do that?  Because we know one, they will get sicker if they have tuberculosis and it’s not treated.  And we can treat them, and we want to treat them.  And two, they will spread that disease to other children because of the nature of the contact they will have with them and spreading the infectious agent.  The same thing happens with substance abuse.  Young people get sicker if they continue to use.  And they spread this to their peers.  They’re not secretive among their peers about it; they encourage them to use them with them.  Again, it’s not spread by a bacillus, but it’s spread by behavior.

If we take seriously the fact that this is a disease and stop thinking of it as something big brother does because it’s a moral decision that somebody else is making, we can save more lives.  And I think the science is slowly telling us that we need to be able to treat this in our families, for adults and young people.  We have public health tools that we’ve used for other diseases that are very powerful here, like screening – and that’s really what the random testing is.  We’re trying to get more screening in the health care system.  So when you get a check up, when you bring your child to a pediatrician, we screen for substance abuse and underage drinking.  Because we know we can treat this, and we know that we can make the whole problem smaller when we do. 

Q 7:  You have said there were about 4,000 schools across the country now that are doing this random drug testing.  What can we see in the numbers since the Supreme Court ruling in 2002, as far as drug use in those schools, and drug use in the general population?

WALTERS:  Well, what a number of those schools have had is of course a look at the harm from student drug and alcohol use.  Some of them have put screening into place, random testing, because they’ve had a terrible accident; an overdose death; death behind the wheel.  What’s great is when school districts do this, or individual schools do this, without having to have a tragedy that triggers it.  But if you have a tragedy, I like to tell people, you don’t have to have another one.  The horrible thing about a tragic event is that most people realize those are not the only kids that are at risk.

There are more kids at risk, obviously, in our communities in the Washington, DC area where this young woman died.  We know there’s obviously more children who are at risk of using in middle school and high school.  The fact is those children don’t have to die.  We cannot bring this young lady back.  Everybody knows that.  But we can make sure others don’t follow her.  And the way we can do that is to find, through screening, who’s really using.  And then let’s get them to stop – let’s work with their families, and let’s make sure we don’t start another generation of death.  So what you see in these areas is an opportunity to really change the dynamic for the better.

Q 8:  Now, although nationally drug use among our youth is going down – what does it say to you – when I look at the numbers specific to Virginia, the most recent that I could find tells me that 3% of 12th graders, over their lifetime, have used a drug like heroin?  What does it say to you?  To me, that sounds like a lot.

WALTERS:  Yeah, and it’s absolutely true.  I think the problem here is that when you tell people we are taking efforts that are making progress nationwide, they jump to the conclusion that that means that we don’t have a problem anymore.  We need to continue to make this disease smaller.  It afflicts our young people.  It obviously also afflicts adults, but this is a problem that starts during adolescence — and pre-adolescence in some cases — in the United States.  We can make this smaller.  We not only have the tools of better prevention but also better awareness and more recognition of addiction as a disease.  We need to make that still broader.  We need to use random testing.  If we want to continue to make this smaller, and make it smaller in a permanent way, random testing is the most powerful tool we can use in schools.

We want screening in the health care system.  We have more of that going on through both insurance company reimbursement and public reimbursement through Medicare and Medicaid for those who come into the public pay system.  That needs to grow.  It needs to grow into Virginia, it’s already being looked at in DC; it needs to grow into Maryland and the other states that don’t have it.  We are pushing that, and it’s relatively new, but it’s consistent with what we’re seeing – the science and the power of screening across the board.

We need to continue to look at this problem in terms of also continuing to push on supply.  We’re working to reduce the poisons coming into our communities, which is not the opposite of demand; that we have to choose one or the other.  They work together.  Keeping kids away from drugs and keeping drugs away from kids work together.  And where we see that working more effectively, we’ll save more lives.  So again, we’ve seen that a balanced approached works, real efforts work, but we need to follow through.  And the fact that you still have too many kids at risk is an urgent need.  Today, you have kids that could be, again, victims that you have to unfortunately tell about on tonight’s news, that we can save.  It’s not a matter we don’t know how to do this.  It’s a matter of we need to take what we know and make it reality as rapidly as possible.

Q 9:  Where are these drugs coming from?  Where’s the heroin that these kids allegedly got coming from?

WALTERS:  We do testing about the drugs to figure out sources for drugs like heroin.  Principally, the heroin in the United States today has come from two sources.  Less of it’s coming out of Colombia.  Colombia used to be a source of supply on the East Coast, but the Colombian government, as a part of our engagement with them on drugs, has radically reduced the cultivation of poppy and the output of heroin.  There still is some, but it’s dramatically down from what it was even about five years ago.  Most of the rest of the heroin in the United States comes from Mexico.  And the Mexican government, of course, is engaged in a historic effort to attack the cartels.  You see this in the violence the cartels have had as a reaction.  So we have promising signs.  There are dangerous and difficult tasks ahead, but we can follow through on that as well.

Most of the heroin in the world comes from Afghanistan; 90% of it.  And we are working there, of course, as a part of our effort against the Taliban and the forces of terror and Al Qaeda, to shrink that.  The good news is that last year we had a 20% decline in cultivation and a 30% decline in output there.  Most of that does not come here, fortunately.  But it has been funding the terrorists.  It’s been drained out of most of the north and the east of the country.  It’s focused on the area where we have the greatest violence today, in the southwest.  We’re working now – you see Secretary Gates talking to the NATO allies about bringing the counter-insurgency effort together with the counter-narcotics effort to attack both of these cancers in Afghanistan.  We have a chance to change heroin availability in the world in a durable way by being successful in Afghanistan.  We’ve started that path in a positive way.  Again, it’s a matter of following through as rapidly as possible.

Q 10:  Greg Lannes, the father of the girl in Fairfax County who died, told me that one of his main efforts, as you imagined, was to let people know that those drugs, they’re coming from where it is produced, outside our country; that they’re getting all the way down to the street level and into our neighborhoods– something that people don’t realize.  So when you hear that they busted a ring of essentially teenagers who have been dealing, using and buying heroin, what does that say to you as the man in charge of combating drugs in our country?

WALTERS:  Well again, we have tools that can make this smaller.  But we have to use those tools.  And we have multiple participants here.  Yes we need to educate.  And we need to make sure that parents know they need to talk to their children, even when their children look healthy and have come from a great home.  Drugs – we’ve learned, I think, over the last 25 years or more, drugs affect everybody; rich or poor, middle class, lower class or upper class.  Every family’s been touched by this, in my experience, by alcohol or drugs.  They know that reality– we don’t need to teach them that.

What we need to teach them is the tools that we have that they can help accelerate use of.  Again, I think – there is no question in my mind that had this young woman been in a school, middle school or high school that had random testing – since that’s where this apparently started, based on the information I’ve seen in the press – she would not be dead today.  So again, we can’t go back and bring her to life.  But we can put into place the kind of screening that makes the good will and obvious love that she got from her parents, the obvious good intentions that I can’t help but believe were a part of what happened in the school, the opportunities that the community has to have a lot of resources that she didn’t get when she needed them.  And now she’s dead.  Again, we can stop this: we just have to make sure we implement that knowledge in the reality of more of our kids as fast as possible.

Q 11:  Should anyone be surprised by this case?  And that such a hardcore drug like heroin is being used by young people?

WALTERS:  We should never stop being surprised when a young person dies.  They shouldn’t die.  They shouldn’t die at that young age, and we should always demand of ourselves, even while we know that’s sometimes going to happen today, that every death is a death too many.  I think that it is very important not to say we’re going to accept a certain level.  Never accept this.  Never!  That’s my attitude, and I know that’s the president’s  attitude as well here.  Never accept that heroin’s going to get into the lives of our teenagers.  Never accept that our children are going to be able to use and not be protected.  It’s our job to protect themThey have a role, also, obviously in helping to protect themselves.  But we need to give them the tools that will help protect them.

When I talk to children and young adults in high school or college, they know what’s going on among their peers.  And in some ways, when you get them alone and they feel they can talk candidly, they tell us they don’t understand why we, as adults who say this is serious, don’t act.  They know that we see children who are intoxicated; they know that we must see signs of this, because as kid’s lives get more out of control, they show signs of it.  They want to know why we don’t act.

We can use the tools of screening, and we can use the occasion of a horrible event like this to bring the community together and say it’s time for us to use the shock and the sorrow for something positive in the future.  I haven’t met a parent of a child who’s been lost who doesn’t say I just want to use this now for something positive.  And that’s understandable, and I think we ought to honor that wish.

Q 12:  Well, I guess I’m not asking should we accept that this is in our schools, but is it naïve for people not to understand or realize that these hardcore drugs are in our schools, and in our communities, and in our neighborhoods. 

WALTERS:  Yeah.  Where it is naïve, I think, is to not recognize the extent and access that young people have to drugs and alcohol.  I think we sometimes think that because they come from a home where this isn’t a part of their lives now, that it’s not ever going to be part of their lives.  Look, your viewers should go on the computer.  Type marijuana into the Google search engine and see how many sites encourage them to use marijuana, how to get marijuana, how to grow marijuana, the great fun of marijuana.  Go on YouTube and type in marijuana, and see how many videos come up using marijuana, joking around about marijuana.  And then when you start showing one, of course the system is designed to show you similar things.  Type in heroin.  See what kind of sites come up, and see what kind of videos come up on these sites.  Young people spend more time on these sites than they do, frequently, watching television.  Remember, there is somebody telling your children things about drugs.  And if it’s not you, the chances are they’re telling them things that are false and dangerous.  So there is a kind of naiveté about what the young peoples’ world, as it presents itself to them, tells them about these substances.  It minimizes the danger, it suggests that it’s something that you can do to be more independent, not be a kid anymore. 

We, from my generation — because I’m a baby boomer — unfortunately have had an association of growing up in America with the rebellion that’s been associated with drug use.  That’s been very dangerous, and we’ve lost a lot of lives.  We have to remember that it’s alive and well, and has become part of the technological sources of information that young people have.  I also see young people in treatment centers who got in a chat room and somebody offered them drugs or offered them to come and buy them alcohol and flattered them, and got them involved in incredibly self-destructive behavior.  The computer brings every predator and every dangerous influence into your own child’s home – into their bedroom in some cases, if that’s where that computer exists.  You wouldn’t let your kids go out and play in the park with drug dealers.  If you have a computer and it’s not supervised, those drug dealers are in that computer.  Remember that.  And they’re only a couple of keystrokes away from your child.

Q 13:  And you talk about the YouTube and the computers and all those things.  What about just the overall societal image?  Because we have this whole image with heroin, of heroin chic.  How much does that contribute to the drug use, and how difficult does it make your job, when a drug is being made out to be cool in society by famous people?

WALTERS:  There are still some elements of that.  It was more prominent a number of years ago.  I would say you see less of that now glamorized in the entertainment industry, or among people who are celebrities in and out of entertainment.  You see more cases of real harm.  But it’s still out there.  The one place that I think is replacing that, just to get people ahead of the game here, is prescription pharmaceuticals.  Those have been marketed to kids on the internet as a safe high.  They falsely suggest that you can overcome the danger of an overdose because you can predict precisely the dosage of OxyContin, hydrocodone, Vicodin.  And there are sites that suggest what combination of drugs to use.  We’ve seen prescription drug use as the one counter example of a category of drug use going up among teens.  We’re trying to work on that as well, but that’s something that’s in your own home, because many people get these substances for legitimate medical care.  Young people are going to the medicine cabinet of family or friends, taking a few pills out and using those.  And those are as powerful as heroin, they’re synthetic opioids, and they have been a source of overdose deaths. 

So let’s not forget – while this Fairfax example reminds us of the issues of heroin chic and of the heroin that’s in our communities, the new large problem today is a similar dangerous substance in pill form in our own medicine cabinets.  Barrier to access is zero.  They don’t have to find a drug dealer; they just go find the medicine cabinet.  They don’t have to pay a dime for it because they just take it and they share that with their friends.  We need to remember, that’s another dimension here.  Keep these substances out of reach – under our control when we have them in our home.  Throw them away when we’re done with them.  Make sure we talk to kids about pills.  Because people, again, are telling them that’s the place to go to avoid overdose death, is to take a pill.

Q 14:  When you see a lot of these celebrities checking in and out of rehab, does it sort of glamorize it for kids?  And teach them hey, you can use, you can check into rehab, you can come back, you can – you know.  Is there a mixed message there?

WALTERS:  There is.  Some young people interpret it the way you describe; of it’s something you do and you can get away with it by going into rehab.  We do a lot of research on young people’s attitudes for purposes of helping shape prevention programs in the media, as well as in schools and for parents.  We do a lot with providing material to parents.  I would say that compared to where we’ve been in the last 15 or 20 years, there’s less glamorization today.

I think we should also remember the positive, because we reinforce that.  A lot of young people – obviously not all or we wouldn’t have this death – believe that taking drugs makes you a loser.  They’ve seen that a lot of those celebrities are showing their careers going down the toilet because they can’t get away from the pills and the drugs and the alcohol.  And I think they see that even among some of their peers.  That’s a good thing.  We should reinforce that as parents: teaching our kids that drug and alcohol use may be falsely presented to you as something you do that would make you popular, make you seem like you should have more status in society generally.  But actually, look at a lot of these people; they’ve had enormous opportunities, enormous gifts, and they can’t stop themselves from throwing them away.  And they may not stop themselves from throwing away their lives. 

I think you could use these events as a teachable moment.  It can go two ways.  Help your child understand what the truth is here.  And I tell young people – and I think parents have to start this more directly – this is the way this is going to come to you:  Somebody you really, really want to like you; somebody you really, really like; someone you may even love — or think you love — they’re going to say come and do this with me.  If you can’t find any other reason to not do this with them, say, “Before we do this, let’s go to a treatment center.  Let’s go talk to people who stood where we stood and said it’s not going to happen to me.”  If everybody, when they got the chance to start, thought of an addict or somebody who was dead, they wouldn’t start.  The fact is that does not enter their mind. 

Many people in treatment centers understand that part of the task of recovery is helping other people avoid this.  So they’re willing to talk about it.  In fact, that’s part of their path of staying clean and sober, which not many kids are going to be able to do on their own.  But it makes them think that what presents itself as something overwhelmingly attractive has behind it a horrible dimension, for their friends as well as for themselves.  And more and more, I think kids understand this.

We can use the science of this as a disease, and the experience of many families.  Remember, uncle Joe didn’t used to be like this.  Especially Thanksgiving, when we have families getting together and all of a sudden mom’s going to get loaded and become ugly in the corner.  We also have to remember we have an obligation to reach out to those people, and to get them help.  We can treat them.  Nobody gets sober, in my experience, by themselves.  They have to take responsibility.  But you have to overcome the pushback, and addiction and alcoholism have, as a part of the disease, denial.  When you tell somebody they have a problem, they get angry with you.  They don’t say hey thanks, I want your help.  They don’t hit bottom and become nice.  That’s a myth.  They need to be grabbed and encouraged and pushed.  Almost everybody in treatment is coerced – by a family member, by an employer, sometimes by the criminal justice system.

So remember that, when you find your child using and they want to lie to you up down and sideways saying, “It’s the first time I’ve ever done it.”  No, no, no, no, no, that’s the drugs talking.  That shows you, if anything, you have a bigger problem than you realized and you need to reach out, get some professional help.  But don’t wait!

Source:    National Institute of Citizen Anti-drug Policy (NICAP)

DeForest Rathbone, Chairman, Great Falls, Virginia, 703-759-2215, DZR@prodigy.net

Nowadays, teaching your child to make healthy choices is crucial for their development and well-being. Understanding the importance of nutritious eating and an active lifestyle can set the foundation for a lifetime of health and happiness. This article, which has been developed by www.recoveryproud.com  links to a number of sites which can help young people to keep control of their lifestyles. Additionally, a large body of generic information can be derived by visiting the National Drug Prevention Alliance. 

Create a Supportive Environment for Healthy Choices

Make your home a haven for healthy choices. Keep nutritious snacks within easy reach and involve your child in meal preparation. This not only makes healthy eating more appealing but also instills a sense of responsibility and appreciation for wholesome food. It’s a practical way to teach them about nutrition and the benefits of eating well. By letting them assist in simple cooking tasks and making choices about the meals, you empower them with knowledge and skills that foster a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

 Talking to Your Child About Substance Abuse

 Talking to your kids about drugs is a crucial aspect of parenting that can help safeguard their future. Engaging in open and honest conversations about the dangers of drug use builds a foundation of trust and awareness. It empowers children with the knowledge to make informed decisions and resist peer pressure. This dialogue should be age-appropriate, focusing on the health risks, legal implications, and the impact on mental and emotional well-being. By fostering a supportive environment where children feel comfortable discussing their fears and curiosities about drugs, parents can guide their children towards healthy choices and provide them with coping strategies for dealing with life’s challenges.

Champion Physical Activity Over Screen Time

Limiting screen time is more crucial now than ever. Encourage your child to embrace physical activities, which are essential for their health and happiness. Present alternatives that divert their attention from screens, like outdoor adventures or sports. This not only fosters physical well-being but also teaches them to value real-world experiences over digital engagements.

 Nurture a Mindful Approach to Nutrition

Instilling the value of good nutrition in your child’s mind is vital. Explain how choosing foods wisely fuels both their body and brain, supporting their growth, learning, and play. This foundation of understanding encourages them to make healthy decisions that contribute to their overall well-being. By discussing the roles of different nutrients and how they affect the body, you can make the concept of eating well more tangible and engaging for them.

Don’t Forget to Declutter

 Teaching your kids about decluttering offers numerous benefits that extend well beyond a tidy home. It instills in them the value of organization and cleanliness, fostering an environment where they can think clearly and focus better on their tasks. So the next time you’re cleaning, get your kids involved. This process also nurtures decision-making skills, as children learn to differentiate between what is necessary and what is superfluous. Additionally, decluttering with your kids encourages mindfulness and appreciation for what they have, promoting a lifestyle of minimalism and sustainability. By understanding the importance of decluttering, children can develop healthier habits that contribute to their overall well-being and success in life.

Make Hydration a Habit

Water is the body’s best friend. It keeps everything running smoothly, from digestion to maintaining a healthy temperature. Encouraging kids to drink water throughout the day is pivotal to their overall health. Simple reminders and having water easily accessible can make all the difference.

 Embrace the World of New Foods

Encouraging your child to explore new foods is a journey of discovery. Introduce them to the diverse world of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, highlighting how each contributes to their health. This exploration is not just about tasting new flavors; it’s about teaching them the benefits of a varied diet, rich in nutrients, that powers their body and mind. By making this journey exciting, you help them develop a love for foods that are good for them.

 Establish Restorative Sleep Routines

A consistent bedtime routine is key to your child’s health. Establish rituals that promote relaxation and signal to their body that it’s time to rest. Emphasizing the importance of quality sleep can help them understand how it supports their growth and readiness for daily activities, ensuring they prioritize it as part of their healthy lifestyle. This can include activities like dimming the lights, reading a story together, or practicing some gentle yoga, which can all aid in transitioning from the day’s excitement to a peaceful night’s sleep. 

Teaching healthy choices to kids lays the foundation for a lifetime of wellness. By leading by example and fostering an environment where making healthy decisions is both encouraged and celebrated, parents can significantly influence their children’s habits. This journey, while requiring patience and consistency, promises a rewarding outcome for the entire family.

 

Further guidance can be obtained by referring to www.recoveryproud.com  and to the National Drug Prevention Alliance.

 

Source: www.recoveryproud.com

 

Filed under: Education,Health,Parents,Youth :

Historically speaking, it’s not a bad time to be the liver of a teenager. Or the lungs.

Regular use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs among high school students has been on a long downward trend.

In 2023, 46% of seniors said they had had a drink in the year before being interviewed; that is a precipitous drop from 88% in 1979, when the behavior peaked, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey, a closely watched national poll of youth substance use. A similar downward trend was observed among eighth and 10th graders, and for those three age groups when it came to cigarette smoking. In 2023, just 15% of seniors said that they had smoked a cigarette in their life, down from a peak of 76% in 1977.

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Illicit drug use among teens has remained low and fairly steady for the past three decades, with some notable declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2023, 29% of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the previous year — down from 37% in 2017, and from a peak of 51% in 1979.

There are some sobering caveats to the good news. One is that teen overdose deaths have sharply risen, with fentanyl-involved deaths among adolescents doubling from 2019 to 2020 and remaining at that level in the subsequent years.

Dr. Nora Volkow has devoted her career to studying use of drugs and alcohol. She has been director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 2003. She sat down with The New York Times to discuss changing patterns and the reasons behind shifting drug-use trends.

Q: What’s the big picture on teens and drug use?

A: People don’t really realize that among young people, particularly teenagers, the rate of drug use is at the lowest risk that we have seen in decades. And that’s worth saying, too, for legal alcohol and tobacco.

Q: What do you credit for the change?

A: One major factor is education and prevention campaigns. Certainly, the prevention campaign for cigarette smoking has been one of the most effective we’ve ever seen.

Some of the policies that were implemented also significantly helped, not just making the legal age for alcohol and tobacco 21 years, but enforcing those laws. Then you stop the progression from drugs that are more accessible, like tobacco and alcohol, to the illicit ones. And teenagers don’t get exposed to advertisements of legal drugs like they did in the past. All of these policies and interventions have had a downstream impact on the use of illicit drugs.

Q: Does social media use among teens play a role?

A: Absolutely. Social media has shifted the opportunity of being in the physical space with other teenagers. That reduces the likelihood that they will take drugs. And this became dramatically evident when they closed schools because of COVID-19. You saw a big jump downward in the prevalence of use of many substances during the pandemic. That might be because teenagers could not be with one another.

The issue that’s interesting is that despite the fact schools are back, the prevalence of substance use has not gone up to the pre-pandemic period. It has remained stable or continued to go down. It was a big jump downward, a shift, and some drug use trends continue to slowly go down.

Q: Is there any thought that the stimulation that comes from using a digital device may satisfy some of the same neurochemical experiences of drugs, or provide some of the escapism?

A: Yes, that’s possible. There has been a shift in the types of reinforcers available to teenagers. It’s not just social media, it’s video gaming, for example. Video gaming can be very reinforcing, and you can produce patterns of compulsive use. So, you are shifting one reinforcer, one way of escaping, with another one. That may be another factor.

Q: Is it too simplistic to see the decline in drug use as a good news story?

A: If you look at it in an objective way, yes, it’s very good news. Why? Because we know that the earlier you are using these drugs, the greater the risk of becoming addicted to them. It lowers the risk these drugs will interfere with your mental health, your general health, your ability to complete an education and your future job opportunities. That is absolutely good news.

But we don’t want to become complacent.

The supply of drugs is more dangerous, leading to an increase in overdose deaths. We’re not exaggerating. I mean, taking one of these drugs can kill you.

Q: What about vaping? It has been falling, but use is still considerably higher than for cigarettes: In 2021, about one-quarter of high school seniors said that they had vaped nicotine in the preceding year. Why would teens resist cigarettes and flock to vaping?

A: Most of the toxicity associated with tobacco has been ascribed to the burning of the leaf. The burning of that tobacco was responsible for cancer and for most of the other adverse effects, even though nicotine is the addictive element.

What we’ve come to understand is that nicotine vaping has harms of its own, but this has not been as well understood as was the case with tobacco. The other aspect that made vaping so appealing to teenagers was that it was associated with all sorts of flavors — candy flavors. It was not until the FDA made those flavors illegal that vaping became less accessible.

My argument would be there’s no reason we should be exposing teenagers to nicotine. Because nicotine is very, very addictive.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: We also have all of this interest in cannabis and psychedelic drugs. And there’s a lot of interest in the idea that psychedelic drugs may have therapeutic benefits. To prevent these new trends in drug use among teens requires different strategies than those we’ve used for alcohol or nicotine.

For example, we can say that if you take drugs like alcohol or nicotine, that can lead to addiction. That’s supported by extensive research. But warning about addiction for drugs like cannabis and psychedelics may not be as effective.

While cannabis can also be addictive, it’s perhaps less so than nicotine or alcohol, and more research is needed in this area, especially on newer, higher-potency products. Psychedelics don’t usually lead to addiction, but they can produce adverse mental experiences that can put you at risk of psychosis.

c.2024 The New York Times Company

Source: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/teen-drug-habits-changing-good-142032071.html?

How families can help prevent teen substance use disorder

If you or someone you know is in immediate need of help for substance use, or any mental health crisis, the national 988 Lifeline is the best place to start. You can call or text 988 from any phone, or connect via webchat.

Recent studies, both nationally and at Michigan Medicine, report that alcohol, cannabis and nicotine vaping are the most commonly used substances among teens.

Aside from cannabis and prescription drug misuse, teens report relatively low use of illicit substances. Despite this, teen drug overdose deaths have been on the rise in recent years. Monthly overdose deaths among youth aged 10-19 more than doubled from 2019 to 2021.

Parents and caregivers should actively be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of substance use. Addressing substance use early on can help prevent addiction or other problems later in life.

An expert from the University of Michigan Addiction Center recently spoke about the impacts of teen substance use and what families can do to help youth who may be at risk or showing signs of addiction.

Trends in teen substance use

Meghan Martz, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of psychiatry, explains concerning trends surrounding adolescent substance use. Although levels have stabilized in recent years, there are new factors for parents to consider.

When it comes to alcohol use, binge drinking remains the leading concern. This harmful consumption pattern can lead to blackouts, vomiting, overdose and mental and physical health problems.

Vaping nicotine products also remains popular among teens. Martz says the flavored products cater directly to its young audience, posing a serious risk of addiction for adolescents.

As cannabis legalization has become widespread, perceptions of harm have decreased, and rates of cannabis use have increased tremendously. In 2023, 29% of 12th graders reported cannabis use in the past year.

“The level of THC is much stronger in cannabis products used today, and there is a direct link between higher potency and risk for disordered use,” Martz said, describing the substance in cannabis that causes most of the “high” sensation that users feel.

Parents should particularly monitor for opioids, even if the use rates are lower than other substances. Due to drugs laced with fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid, there has been a recent surge in overdose deaths.

Risk factors

The exact reasons for substance use can vary, “but teens are the most vulnerable population for disordered use,” Martz said.

It all starts with a curiosity about substances. Ten percent of 9- and 10-year-olds reported curiosity to use alcohol and nicotine, according to research Martz led. The desire to fit in socially can significantly influence the decision to try substances, and teens tend to overestimate the prevalence of substance use among their peers.

Factors that can lead to substance use in teens include:

  • A family history of substance use.
  • Associating with substance using peers.
  • Coping with mental health issues like anxiety, depression or ADHD.
  • Low parental monitoring.
  • Lack of school connectedness.

The adolescent brain

It’s important to remember that “the risk factors present in teens are associated with the development of the adolescent brain,” said Martz.

Three key functions of the brain are associated with substance use: reward, emotion and cognitive control.

The reward circuit involves the release of dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical attributed to feelings of pleasure. People become hooked to this false sense of happiness and develop an addiction to the drug supplying it.

Similarly, drugs can influence the emotion circuit by reducing feelings of anxiety, irritability and unease. The addiction is reinforced through a cycle of withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening complications.

But for adolescents, it is the cognitive control circuit that makes them most susceptible to substance use. This brain function is responsible for thinking, planning and problem solving.

“The cognitive control circuit is the last part of the brain to mature,” Martz said.

“This makes youth more prone to act on impulse and engage in risky behaviors, including substance use.”

Teens are also less likely to experience immediate consequences of substance use – such as hangovers – leading to greater consumption and more damaging neurotoxic effects.

Advice for families

Substance use and addiction prevention starts in the home. Parents are the first line of defense against potential drug use disorders.

There is no guarantee that your child won’t use substances, but it is less likely to happen if you:

  • Bring it up early – kids are curious from a young age.
  • Talk early and often about the dangers of substance use.
  • Set rules about substance use.
  • Focus on the biological impact to the brain and body, rather than moral or legal considerations.

As a parent, you may not be able to control the external influences, but you can certainly start the conversation early and set firm boundaries to protect your child from substance use,” Martz said.

 

Source: https://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/what-parents-should-know-about-teen-drug-and-alcohol-use

 

Teenagers across America were invited to submit 30-60 second video public service announcements that capture their unique voice in order to communicate the opioid epidemic as a national crisis.

The second-annual video challenge is a part of a joint nationwide education initiative titled Operation Prevention that educates students about the science behind addiction and its impact on the brain and body. Available at no cost, the initiative’s resources help promote lifesaving discussions in the home and classroom.

Teens are agents of change, and their actions speak volumes to peers. Together, we can work toward raising awareness, and most importantly, prevention, among our youth population, said Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson.   The video below was one of the entries and was powerful and instructive.

 

 

  Source:  https://www.operationprevention.com/competition/video/archives/2019  

Abstract

Background

Previous research suggests an increase in schizophrenia population attributable risk fraction (PARF) for cannabis use disorder (CUD). However, sex and age variations in CUD and schizophrenia suggest the importance of examining differences in PARFs in sex and age subgroups.

Methods

We conducted a nationwide Danish register-based cohort study including all individuals aged 16–49 at some point during 1972–2021. CUD and schizophrenia status was obtained from the registers. Hazard ratios (HR), incidence risk ratios (IRR), and PARFs were estimated. Joinpoint analyses were applied to sex-specific PARFs.

Results

We examined 6 907 859 individuals with 45 327 cases of incident schizophrenia during follow-up across 129 521 260 person-years. The overall adjusted HR (aHR) for CUD on schizophrenia was slightly higher among males (aHR = 2.42, 95% CI 2.33–2.52) than females (aHR = 2.02, 95% CI 1.89–2.17); however, among 16–20-year-olds, the adjusted IRR (aIRR) for males was more than twice that for females (males: aIRR = 3.84, 95% CI 3.43–4.29; females: aIRR = 1.81, 95% CI 1.53–2.15). During 1972–2021, the annual average percentage change in PARFs for CUD in schizophrenia incidence was 4.8 among males (95% CI 4.3–5.3; p < 0.0001) and 3.2 among females (95% CI 2.5–3.8; p < 0.0001). In 2021, among males, PARF was 15%; among females, it was around 4%.

Conclusions

Young males might be particularly susceptible to the effects of cannabis on schizophrenia. At a population level, assuming causality, one-fifth of cases of schizophrenia among young males might be prevented by averting CUD. Results highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of CUD and policy decisions regarding cannabis use and access, particularly for 16–25-year-olds.

Source: Association between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia stronger in young males than in females | Psychological Medicine | Cambridge Core May 2023

Drug Free America Foundation is launching its new digital advertisement campaign targeting viewers in Illinois. The digital animated ad is the second in a series titled “Marijuana…Know the Truth” and discusses the real dangers of marijuana use.  

As you know, Illinois is a state that is considering legalizing recreational marijuana this year. We hope this ad campaign will help address the misconceptions about the real dangers of marijuana use

This digital advertising campaign will utilize banner ads to drive viewers to our website where they can view the 2-minute ad. We are excited to say that through a generous donation, this campaign will provide over 10 million digital impressions in Illinois. We are hopeful that through additional donations, we are able to expand this campaign to other states and continue to spread the word on the dangers of marijuana.

Email from Drug Free America Foundation https://www.dfaf.org/ March 2019

Summary

Background

Adolescence represents a crucial developmental period in shaping mental health trajectories. In this study, we investigated the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance use during this sensitive developmental stage.

Methods

In this longitudinal, population-based study, surveys were administered to a nationwide sample of 13–18-year-olds in Iceland in October or February in 2016 and 2018, and in October, 2020 (during the COVID-19 pandemic). The surveys assessed depressive symptoms with the Symptom Checklist-90, mental wellbeing with the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, and the frequency of cigarette smoking, e-cigarette use, and alcohol intoxication. Demographic data were collected, which included language spoken at home although not ethnicity data. We used mixed effects models to study the effect of gender, age, and survey year on trends in mental health outcomes.

Findings

59 701 survey responses were included; response rates ranged from 63% to 86%. An increase in depressive symptoms (β 0·57, 95% CI 0·53 to 0·60) and worsened mental wellbeing (β −0·46, 95% CI −0·49 to −0·42) were observed across all age groups during the pandemic compared with same-aged peers before COVID-19. These outcomes were significantly worse in adolescent girls compared with boys (β 4·16, 95% CI 4·05 to 4·28, and β −1·13, 95% CI −1·23 to −1·03, respectively). Cigarette smoking (OR 2·61, 95% CI 2·59 to 2·66), e-cigarette use (OR 2·61, 95% CI 2·59 to 2·64), and alcohol intoxication (OR 2·59, 95% CI 2·56 to 2·64) declined among 15–18-year-olds during COVID-19, with no similar gender differences.

Interpretation

Our results suggest that COVID-19 has significantly impaired adolescent mental health. However, the decrease observed in substance use during the pandemic might be an unintended benefit of isolation, and might serve as a protective factor against future substance use disorders and dependence. Population-level prevention efforts, especially for girls, are warranted.

Funding

Icelandic Research Fund.
Source: Depressive symptoms, mental wellbeing, and substance use among adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iceland: a longitudinal, population-based study – The Lancet Psychiatry June 2021

A pilot study by Addiction Switzerland traced the alcohol incentives on the routes of 16 to 19-year-old adolescents in everyday life and in social networks. On average, the test subjects in the five largest Swiss cities encountered an alcohol incentive every five minutes. Alcohol was also omnipresent in social networks, transported by friends and influencers, who are often paid for it. The study showed the frightening normality of alcohol in the everyday life of adolescents.

 Alcohol marketing is aimed strongly at young people, as they are the customers of tomorrow. A pilot study by Addiction Switzerland , financed by the Federal Customs Administration, looked into the question of how much adolescents are actually exposed to alcohol stimuli. The study layout was partly based on an earlier study on tobacco marketing : Here, too, the typical routes and activities taken by young people in everyday life and when going out in Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Basel and Zurich were traced. All alcohol incentives encountered were systematically recorded. In addition, the alcohol incentives encountered by the young people in social networks were recorded.

At least half of the incentives are intentional

On average, the distances (including activities such as sports, cinema, restaurant, etc.) were covered within six hours each. 73 alcohol stimuli were recorded per trip, which means, on average, a reminder of the alcohol every five minutes! It should be said that the investigation in autumn 2020 came at a time when the Covid measures were becoming stricter again and the exit bars were closing again, and fewer events were taking place in public spaces. It can be assumed that advertising activity has been reduced accordingly during this period.

Half of the stimuli recorded related to alcohol advertising or the promotion of alcoholic beverages. The other half consisted of apparently random alcohol stimuli: Empty bottles and cans in public spaces, depictions of where alcohol plays a role (e.g. an occasion where people drink), what is offered on a menu card, etc.

In addition, all perceived prevention messages should be recorded. But it turned out that these were almost completely absent on the paths of the young people.

On social media: the power of images and influencers

Alcohol marketing has partly shifted to the internet. 85% of young people between the ages of 12 and 19 spent an hour or more per day on the Internet in 2019 , the majority of them are also on social networks, which has probably increased during the pandemic . On Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok in particular, they receive numerous pictures and messages from friends and acquaintances who have alcohol as their topic. The alcohol advertising by influencers is also noticeable.

A society banalizing alcohol does not protect its youth

The results of this pilot study impressively show how strongly young people are already confronted with alcohol. It becomes normal for them to include alcohol. This is alarming in view of the around 400 young people who are admitted to hospital in Switzerland every year because of alcohol poisoning. A large part of these alcohol stimuli is consciously placed or at least it is tolerated that adolescents are also advertised. Sucht Switzerland therefore calls for the measures to be taken to protect young people to be stepped up. These include the restriction of alcohol advertising and thus the reduction in the attractiveness of alcohol among young people.

Source:   mportner-helfer @ suchtschweiz.ch May 2021

Filed under: Alcohol,Internet,Youth :

One way to deter harmful recreational drug use by teenagers is to treat them like adults. Rather than simply tell them to “Just Say No” to alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs, it may be more helpful to explain how these substances create unique risks for them risks that arise due to the changing state of the adolescent brain.

 

It’s an approach recommended by Dr. Robert DuPont, the first director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the second White House “drug czar” and the current head of the Institute for Behavior and Health.

 

Scientists have long recognized that people who use alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs while adolescents are far more likely to use more dangerous drugs in their 30s and 40s. Back in 1984, researchers writing in the American Journal of Public Health reported that “the use of marijuana is a good predictor of the use of more serious drugs only if it begins early” and that early drinking is a similar “predictor of marijuana use.”

 

It should come as no surprise, then, that Americans in their 30s and 40s who used recreational drugs as teenagers are the group most severely affected by opioid overdoses today.

 

Unfortunately, neither the media nor popular culture adequately informs young people about the neurological damage alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana can inflict on the brain. On the contrary, despite strong evidence that early recreational drug use increases the likelihood of future drug addiction, the media and today’s culture often describe marijuana use as an “organic,” “natural” approach to anxiety and stress management. Indeed, Northern Michigan University launched the nation’s first medicinal plant chemistry major, offering students the chance to focus on marijuana-related studies. What message does that send to the still-developing minds of college students?

 

One group is taking a non-traditional approach to convincing students otherwise.

 

One Choice is a drug prevention campaign developed for teenagers by the Institute for Behavior and Health. It relies on cutting-edge neuroscience to encourage young Americans to make decisions that promote their brain health.

 

Pioneered by Dr. DuPont, One Choice specifically advocates that adolescents make “no use of any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs” for health reasons. The theory is that adolescents who make the decision not to use alcohol, nicotine, or marijuana at all that make “One Choice” to avoid artificial, chemical brain stimulation are far less likely to wind up addicted to drugs such as opioids later on.

 

The One Choice approach is evidence-based. In 2017, scientists at Mclean Hospital and Harvard Medical School published their findings on the impact of early substance use on cognitive development. They explained that the brains of teenagers are still developing and can be negatively impacted by substance use. Adolescent brains are still forming the communication routes that regulate motivation, stress and habit-formation well into adulthood. As such, it is easier for substances to hijack and alter those routes in developing brains than in adult brains.

 

Hindering the vital attributes of habit formation, stress management and motivational behavior can drastically affect a young person’s academic performance. Collectively, and in the long run, that can impair the competitiveness of a national economy. Thus, it is crucial that young Americans learn to prioritize brain health.

 

The timing for the innovative One Choice approach is propitious. Today’s young Americans are more interested in biology, psychology and health sciences than ever before. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the field of “health professions and related programs” is the second most popular major among college students, with psychology and biological or biomedical sciences following as the fourth and fifth most popular, respectively. By explaining developmental neuroscience to teenagers, One Choice engages young people on a topic of interest to them and presents the reality of a pressing public health issue, instead of throwing moral platitudes and statistics at them.

 

Pro-marijuana legalization organizations, such as the Drug Policy Alliance, agree: “The safest path for teens is to avoid drugs, doing alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs outside of a doctor’s recommendations.” And certainly honesty, along with scientific accuracy, is critical if we are to persuade adolescents not to use drugs.

 

Brain health is critical to the pursuit of happiness. And leveraging scientifically accurate presentations and testimonies to convince young Americans to prioritize their own brain health early on can prevent future substance abuse.

Source: Using Neuroscience to Prevent Drug Addiction Among Teenagers | The Heritage Foundation January 2019

Side Effects Public Media | By Alex Li
Published March 13, 2024 at 1:49 PM EDT

In 2021, fentanyl was identified in more than three-quarters of adolescent overdose
deaths, but experts say schools are slow to adapt their prevention efforts.

Alex Li was a health reporter with Side Effects Public Media based at WFYI in Indianapolis, Ind.

Li was a young and bright journalist with contagious passion and commitment to his job.

He was a beloved part of the newsroom. Li died in December 2023 and this was his last story.

Photo: Bridgesward / Pixabay

 

The majority of adults with substance use disorders start during their adolescent years. That’s why experts say prevention efforts in schools are paramount, but many schools struggle with implementation.

According to a survey by the Education Week Research Center in 2022, 67% of school health workers say that dealing with students who are vaping and using alcohol, marijuana, or opioids is “a challenge” or “a major challenge.”

The moment to address a gap in school prevention could not be more prime for action, experts say, as more young people between the ages of 10 and 19 have died of overdoses across the U.S. The driving factor behind those deaths is fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid.

“In the era of fentanyl, with experimentation, plenty of kids die because they just don’t know that that’s a risk,” said Chelsea Shover, an epidemiologist who studies substance use at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Even a tiny amount of fentanyl can kill. In 2021, the synthetic opioid was identified in more than three-quarters of adolescent overdose deaths.

Some experts pointed out that children may purchase pain medication or prescription stimulant pills on social media, which –– unbeknown to them –– can be counterfeit and laced with fentanyl.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has seized a record 86 million fentanyl pills in 2023, which already exceeds last year’s total of 58 million pills.

Shover said, with this rapidly changing landscape, schools are slow to adapt.

“Your [school’s] alcohol and tobacco curriculum can probably stay pretty much the same. But your curriculum around opioids and overdose and street drugs needs to be updated to what’s actually happening,” she said.

Prevention sometimes takes a backseat

Schools often have more robust processes in place to react when a student is known to use substances – prevention often takes a back seat. 

The goal of these prevention efforts, experts say, should not be to tell kids to say no to drugs. Ideally, they would provide young people with facts about the health, social, and legal concerns that come with substance use and hone social skills and competencies that help kids cope with stressors.

Research suggests that social influences are central and powerful factors in both promoting and discouraging substance use among adolescents, and that many of them turn to substances to cope with anxiety or stress and some do it when they’re bored.

“When you’re talking about substance use prevention, what you’re really talking about is helping children develop the skills and competencies to withstand the pressures and to be able to prevent them from starting to use substances in the first place, or at least, knowing where to turn and those kinds of skills get built up very early,” said Ellen Quigley, vice president at the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. The foundation provides funding to 159 Indianapolis Schools through its Prevention Matters initiative.

Students who are not engaged in school or fail to develop or maintain relationships and those who fail academically are more likely to engage in substance use, one study found. Some of the crucial skills to teach as part of prevention efforts include conflict resolution, how to make friends, and how to deal with bullying, Quigley said.

Then, comes the messenger.

Experts say kids may be reluctant to ask for help from people who can get them in trouble like teachers and police officers. A report from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing found that only 17% of teenagers said they trust teachers or other educators. The report suggests that students have more trust in doctors, nurses and nonprofit workers.

“Drug education, it’s partly to tell students about what’s going on, and what tools are there, what risks there are, but it’s also to open a conversation for students who are struggling either themselves with substance use, or their friends are,” Shover at UCLA said.

Limited resources stand in the way

There has been substantial progress in developing and studying prevention programs for adolescent drug use, but challenges to effective implementation persist.

“While there was a lot of attention to treatment, which makes a lot of sense, there weren’t a lot of resources available for prevention,” said Quigley

Integrating prevention programs requires time and money, which some schools say they don’t usually have –– especially in lower-income communities where resources overall are limited.

One place where this is evident is Logansport School Corporation, the largest school district in Cass County, Ind. It’s a rural part of the state that is around an hour and a half north of Indianapolis, with a below-average income level. Major employers in the county are mostly manufacturing plants and meat processing facilities. Compared to most other rural communities in Indiana, the county has a large immigrant population.

Over the past few years, it has seen a steady increase in opioid use.

The school district has leaned in on peer mentorship as an approach for prevention and support to those who use substances, said Logansport School District Superintendent Michele Starkey.

“We know that those positive relationships are key to the success of students. And so that’s something that we have identified as being a huge need,” she added.

Experts say peer mentorship is a promising approach.

But the school district has had to halt other programs due to lack of funding, said Jennifer Miller, the principal of the Junior High.

“There used to be a program throughout the county that would specifically address substance abuse, vaping with the junior high level kids. And so, that doesn’t exist anymore. But there is such a need for it,” Miller said.

Tens of millions of dollars are coming to states across the country. It’s part of a major settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic. There’s also federal and state funding available.

Logansport school district and 4C Health, a federally qualified healthcare center, got a million dollars in federal funding a few months ago.

Lisa Willis-Gidley, the Chief Revenue Officer at 4C Health, said they depend on such grants because prevention programs are not covered by insurance. Still, she says implementing effective programs can be a challenge.

“Schools don’t have a ton of time,” she said. “They’ve got to focus on their goals and their academics. And so, you have to look at can we give them these pieces of valuable material in a manner that’s not going to be totally disruptive to their academic goals and performance?”

Experts say federal and state legislation can help set standards for substance use education and ensure enough funding for schools that need it.

One of the sources in the story works for Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, which is one of several financial supporters of WFYI. She was interviewed as we would any other source.

Side Effects Public Media is a health reporting collaboration based at WFYI in Indianapolis. We partner with NPR stations across the Midwest and surrounding areas — including KBIA and KCUR in Missouri, Iowa Public Radio, Ideastream in Ohio and WFPL in Kentucky.

Alex covers health for Side Effects Public Media and is based at WFYI in Indianapolis, IN. He has reported on a variety of public health issues for Reuters and Xinhua. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Government & History from Connecticut College as well as a Master’s degree in Journalism from New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

I, Surgeon General VADM Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of protecting our Nation from the health risks of marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy. Recent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.

BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE.

Background

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. It acts by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain to produce a variety of effects, including euphoria, intoxication, and memory and motor impairments. These same cannabinoid receptors are also critical for brain development. They are part of the endocannabinoid system, which impacts the formation of brain circuits important for decision making, mood and responding to stress.

Marijuana and its related products are widely available in multiple forms. These products can be eaten, drunk, smoked, and vaped. Marijuana contains varying levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component responsible for euphoria and intoxication, and cannabidiol (CBD). While CBD is not intoxicating and does not lead to addiction, its long-term effects are largely unknown, and most CBD products are untested and of uncertain purity.

Marijuana has changed over time. The marijuana available today is much stronger than previous versions. The THC concentration in commonly cultivated marijuana plants has increased three-fold between 1995 and 2014 (4% and 12% respectively). Marijuana available in dispensaries in some states has average concentrations of THC between 17.7% and 23.2%. Concentrated products, commonly known as dabs or waxes, are far more widely available to recreational users today and may contain between 23.7% and 75.9% THC.

The risks of physical dependence, addiction, and other negative consequences increase with exposure to high concentrations of THC and the younger the age of initiation. Higher doses of THC are more likely to produce anxiety, agitation, paranoia, and psychosis. Edible marijuana takes time to absorb and to produce its effects, increasing the risk of unintentional overdose, as well as accidental ingestion by children and adolescents. In addition, chronic users of marijuana with a high THC content are at risk for developing a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which is marked by severe cycles of nausea and vomiting.

This advisory is intended to raise awareness of the known and potential harms to developing brains, posed by the increasing availability of highly potent marijuana in multiple, concentrated forms. These harms are costly to individuals and to our society, impacting mental health and educational achievement and raising the risks of addiction and misuse of other substances.  Additionally, marijuana use remains illegal for youth under state law in all states; normalization of its use raises the potential for criminal consequences in this population. In addition to the health risks posed by marijuana use, sale or possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal law notwithstanding some state laws to the contrary.

Watch the Surgeon General Answer FAQs on Marijuana

Marijuana Use during Pregnancy

Pregnant women use marijuana more than any other illicit drug. In a national survey, marijuana use in the past month among pregnant women doubled (3.4% to 7%) between 2002 and 2017. In a study conducted in a large health system, marijuana use rose by 69% (4.2% to 7.1%) between 2009 and 2016 among pregnant women. Alarmingly, many retail dispensaries recommend marijuana to pregnant women for morning sickness.

Marijuana use during pregnancy can affect the developing fetus.

  • THC can enter the fetal brain from the mother’s bloodstream.
  • It may disrupt the endocannabinoid system, which is important for a healthy pregnancy and fetal brain development
  • Studies have shown that marijuana use in pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes, including lower birth weight.
  • The Colorado Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System reported that maternal marijuana use was associated with a 50% increased risk of low birth weight regardless of maternal age, race, ethnicity, education, and tobacco use.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists holds that “[w]omen who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use. Women reporting marijuana use should be counseled about concerns regarding potential adverse health consequences of continued use during pregnancy”. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that “…it is important to advise all adolescents and young women that if they become pregnant, marijuana should not be used during pregnancy”.

Maternal marijuana use may still be dangerous to the baby after birth. THC has been found in breast milk for up to six days after the last recorded use. It may affect the newborn’s brain development and result in hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences. Additionally, marijuana smoke contains many of the same harmful components as tobacco smoke. No one should smoke marijuana or tobacco around a baby.

Marijuana Use during Adolescence

Marijuana is also commonly used by adolescents, second only to alcohol. In 2017, approximately 9.2 million youth aged 12 to 25 reported marijuana use in the past month and 29% more young adults aged 18-25 started using marijuana. In addition, high school students’ perception of the harm from regular marijuana use has been steadily declining over the last decade. During this same period, a number of states have legalized adult use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, while it remains illegal under federal law. The legalization movement may be impacting youth perception of harm from marijuana. 

The human brain continues to develop from before birth into the mid-20s and is vulnerable to the effects of addictive substances. Frequent marijuana use during adolescence is associated with:

  • Changes in the areas of the brain involved in attention, memory, decision-making, and motivation. Deficits in attention and memory have been detected in marijuana-using teens even after a month of abstinence.
  • Impaired learning in adolescents. Chronic use is linked to declines in IQ, school performance that jeopardizes professional and social achievements, and life satisfaction.
  • Increased rates of school absence and drop-out, as well as suicide attempts.

Risk for and early onset of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. The risk for psychotic disorders increases with frequency of use, potency of the marijuana product, and as the age at first use decreases. 

  • Other substance use. In 2017, teens 12-17 reporting frequent use of marijuana showed a 130% greater likelihood of misusing opioids23.

Marijuana’s increasingly widespread availability in multiple and highly potent forms, coupled with a false and dangerous perception of safety among youth, merits a nationwide call to action. 

You Can Take Action

No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe. Until and unless more is known about the long-term impact, the safest choice for pregnant women and adolescents is not to use marijuana.  Pregnant women and youth–and those who love them–need the facts and resources to support healthy decisions. It is critical to educate women and youth, as well as family members, school officials, state and local leaders, and health professionals, about the risks of marijuana, particularly as more states contemplate legalization.

Science-based messaging campaigns and targeted prevention programming are urgently needed to ensure that risks are clearly communicated and amplified by local, state, and national organizations. Clinicians can help by asking about marijuana use, informing mothers-to-be, new mothers, young people, and those vulnerable to psychotic disorders, of the risks. Clinicians can also prescribe safe, effective, and FDA-approved treatments for nausea, depression, and pain during pregnancy. Further research is needed to understand all the impacts of THC on the developing brain, but we know enough now to warrant concern and action. Everyone has a role in protecting our young people from the risks of marijuana.

Information for Parents and Parents-to-be

You have an important role to play for a healthy next generation.

Information for Youth:

You have an important role to play for a healthy next generation.

Information for States, Communities, Tribes, and Territories:

You have an important role to play for a healthy next generation.

Information for Health Professionals:

You have an important role to play for a healthy next generation.

Source: Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use & the Developing Brain | HHS.gov August 2019

INTRODUCTION

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in fully regulating the marijuana market that now operates under state control.

In a Washington Post feature article on Uruguay’s cannabis laws, they reported that Uruguay is socially liberal and has a wide separation of church and state. Gambling and prostitution are legal and regulated. Uruguay is also the only Latin American nation outside Cuba that has broadly legalised abortion, and it was one of the first to recognize civil unions and adoption by same-sex couples. Uruguay also is accustomed to relatively high levels of regulation and a big state role in the economy, with an array of government-owned banks, gas stations and utilities. Over the years, activists began to argue: Why not weed?

As early as 1974, Uruguay decriminalised possession of “a minimum quantity [of illicit substances], intended solely for personal use.” Exactly what constituted a “minimum quantity” was never clarified, giving judges broad discretion in its interpretation.

The initiative of marijuana regulation was by the then president José Mujica. Lawmakers in Uruguay (population: 3.3m) signed the country’s cannabis bill into law in December 2013 and pharmacies began selling two strains of legal marijuana cultivated by two government-authorised firms in July 2017.

The text of the law expresses its goals through three main objectives, which included reducing drug trafficking-related violence by taking cannabis off the black market, and promoting public health through education and prevention campaigns, thereby “minimising the risks and reducing the harm of cannabis use”.

Uruguay was the first country to leave behind the global ban on non-medical cannabis that began with the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and despite repeated criticisms from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), as in the Board’s report for 2016, which states:

The Board notes the continued implementation by the Government of Uruguay of measures aimed at creating a regulated market for the non-medical use of cannabis… [T]he Board wishes to reiterate its position that such legislation is contrary to the provisions of the international drug control conventions… according to which States parties are obliged to ‘limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs.’

Concerned that their policy would come under intense scrutiny from their neighbours and from the broader international community, Uruguayan authorities deliberately opted for a strict approach to regulation, such as a user registry and monthly sales limits.

In an attempt to reassure the international public opinion, President José Mujica, said that his government would not allow unlimited use of marijuana and illicit drug dealing: “And if somebody buys 20 marijuana cigarettes, he will have to smoke them. He won’t be able to sell them“.

And in order to convince the majority of the Uruguayan population, the President Mujica promised to launch at the same time “a campaign aimed at young people on how to consume marijuana. Avoid, for example, to smoke to not damage the lungs but inhale or consume it with food“.

In response to public opposition, the Open Society Foundation headed by the financier George Soros announced the launch of a massive media campaign across the nation to manipulate the public consensus. Time magazine (5 Aug 2013) reported that “a massive media campaign, with television ads funded partly by Soros’ Open Society Foundations group, were required to convince opponents of legalisation”.

STATE CONTROL – HOW IT WORKS

There are three ways to legally obtain cannabis in Uruguay. The first alternative is autocultivo, which allows individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants per household and yield an annual crop of 480 grams per year, or 40 grams per month. All individuals must register with the government agency for the regulation and control of cannabis—called the Instituto de Regulación y Control de Cannabis (Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute) to grow these plants in their home and no person may register more than one location for domestic growth. The second alternative is the Cannabis Club, which allows between 15 to 45 members of a duly-registered civil association to farm up to 99 marijuana plants in specific locations. Each club may not supply any individual with more than 480 grams of marijuana per year. The third alternative is sale through pharmacies. This alternative will allow a registered consumer to buy up to 40 grams of marijuana per month and 480 per year in person from pharmacies that are registered with the IRCCA and the Ministry of Public Health. On July 19, 2017, Uruguay launched the last remaining stage of the cannabis law, with sales finally beginning in 16 pharmacies across the country.

PUBLIC DISAPPROVAL

Public opinion surveys have consistently shown most Uruguayans to be doubtful about the government’s initiative.

According to the results of the 2014 AmericasBarometer survey in Uruguay, only 34% of Uruguayans approved the new regulations regarding the liberalization of marijuana use, while 60.7% showed their disapproval to the new policies. Perhaps not surprisingly, approval for the new regulation of cannabis is closely related to previous personal experimentation with marijuana and a history of marijuana consumption among relatives and close friends.

PUBLIC SKEPTICISM

As of 2014, most Uruguayans remained skeptical about the benefits the new regulation will bring. For instance, 42% of Uruguayans considered that the general situation of the country would worsen as a result of regulation, while only 19% believed that the situation would improve. Among the most negative opinions expressed, 70% of Uruguayans stated that public safety and public health conditions would either worsen or remain the same. The issue that seemed to generate the most positive opinions was related to the fight against drug trafficking organisations.

Source: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/insights/ITB020en.pdf

PUBLIC USAGE

In 20015.3% of the population admitted to having consumed marijuana.

By 2014, life prevalence had quadrupled with 22.1% of Uruguayans acknowledging some consumption.

Since Uruguay legalised the sale of marijuana, underage use increased from 14% to 21%. Use by those aged 19 to 24 increased from 23% to 36% Those aged 25 to 34 increased from 15% to 25%.

Source: https://wdr.unodc.org/wdr2019/prelaunch/WDR19_Booklet_5_CANNABIS_HALLUCINOGENS.pdf

TEENS

Prevalence doubled among secondary school students from 2003 to 2014. In 20038.4% of students had consumed marijuana during the previous twelve months. in 201417% had.

Almost a quarter of the high-frequency users of Montevideo had their first experience with marijuana before age turning 15 (24.1%).

Prevalence is also higher among 18-25 year-olds than other age categories.

NON-COMPLIANCE

As at February 2018, 8,125 individuals and 78 cannabis clubs with a total of 2,049 members were registered in addition to the 20,900 people registered through pharmacy sales for cannabis. The system potentially provides cannabis to around 30,000 of the 140,000 past-month cannabis users estimated in Uruguay in 2014.

A recent survey found that almost 40% said they would probably or definitely flout the law which requires registration. (19.6% state that it is not probable that they will register, and another 19.6% said that they are certain that they will not register.)

MONITORING AND EVALUATION

A 2018 Brookings Institute report details how the Ministerio de Salud Pública is required to submit an annual report on the impacts of the legalization since 2014 – but the ministry has only submitted such a report once, in 2016, and the findings were not made public.

According to a report by WOLA (funded by Open Society Foundations – aka George Soros) and posted on the Monitor Cannabis Uruguay site, in spite of President Vázquez’s support for monitoring and evaluation, his administration has provided the public with relatively little in the way of hard data on the early effects of initial implementation of the cannabis measure.

The IRCCA’s limited staff – it has a team of six inspectors who are responsible for ensuring compliance – does not realistically allow the institute to check the annual plant yields for all 8,000+ homegrowers and approximately 80 registered clubs.

 PRODUCTS

A recent study of marijuana consumers in Montevideo found that users had consumed it in several different ways during the past year, including vaporizers (15.7%), edibles, such as brownies, cakes, cookies (26.4%), and drinks, such as mate, milkshakes, daiquiris (9.4%).

PERCEPTION OF RISK

The study of marijuana consumers in Montevideo also found that users had a very low perception of risk associated with undertaking several activities while under the influence of marijuana. For instance: 21.4% of respondents drove a car under the influence of marijuana; 28.4% rode a motorcycle; 11.2% operated heavy equipment. More than half of the respondents (55.4%) declared that they consumed marijuana and went to work before four hours had passed.

More than one in every four of those women who were pregnant (26.1%) reported to having continued consuming marijuana while pregnant.

BLACK MARKET

Three years after legalisation, seven out of every ten cannabis consumers still acquire the product on the black market. Authorities admit that “street selling points have multiplied in recent years, along with criminal acts related to micro trafficking.”

Marcos Baudeán, a member of the study group Monitor Cannabis Uruguay, suggests it may be worse than that: “Consider the fact that there are 55,000 regular consumers who are responsible for 80% of the marijuana consumption in the country, but currently only 10% are consuming from the legal market, the rest are buying the drug off the illegal market.”

Others have pointed to the very low concentration of THC in the legal drug as another reason why some users may turn to the black market. Though the price may be higher — a gram of high-potency illegal marijuana can cost as much as $20— some users may be willing to pay this premium in exchange for access to a more powerful drug.

Because sales to tourists are prohibited, some Uruguayan homegrowers and clubs have attempted to get around the ban by offering ‘cannabis tours’, which are framed more as social and educational experiences, in which participants are free to sample cannabis while on a paid tour. Others simply sell directly to tourists behind closed doors, a grey market quietly operating via word of mouth.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

An unexpected consequence of Uruguay’s marijuana law is that the U.S. government invoked the Patriot Act which prohibits U.S. banks from handling funds for distributors of marijuana.  In Uruguay, this is by way of the pharmacies only.  International banks – both those with U.S. headquarters such as Citibank and European banks such as Santander have advised their Uruguayan branches that they are prohibited from providing services to the distributors of marijuana.

As a result, pharmacies tasked with the sale and distribution of marijuana have been cut off from the entire financial services market because the banks in Uruguay announced that every business associated with the newly legal marijuana industry risked being in violation of the U.S. drug laws and would lose their access to U.S. banks and dollar transactions.

SUMMARY

What we have learned from the data so far indicates that frequency of consumption has significantly increased, especially in the 15-24 age group. The perception of risk with drug use is low, and risky behaviours have increased with the frequency of consumption, including use of marijuana during pregnancy. The black market is alive and well. And the overwhelming support for the regulation among high-frequency marijuana users does not immediately translate into willingness to comply with it. Of most concern is that monitoring and reporting of the effects of legalisation is minimal, and not made public.

The drug-friendly website CannabisWire in July 2018 summed it up perfectly. “What Have We Learned From the First Nation to Legalize Cannabis? Not Enough.”

Source: Uruguay – Say Nope to Dope 2019

The title of “Cannabis in Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach” contains an irony. In chapter after chapter in this multi-authored book written predominately by providers associated with mainstream medical facilities in Colorado, the authors point out the inadequacy of the evidence we have and the absence of the evidence we need to determine how – or even if – cannabis has medical legitimacy. The foreword’s title, “Losing Ground: The Rise of Cannabis Culture,” sets the tone. David Murray, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, argues convincingly that “the current experiment with cannabis, underway nationwide [is] leading us towards a future of unanticipated consequences, a future already established in the patterns of use ‘seeded’ in the population but as yet unmanifested.” In other words, the cannabis horse has not only fled the barn but has been breeding prolifically to the point that we couldn’t get rid of it and its progeny if we wanted to!

The 20 chapters following the foreword are divided into basic science (three chapters) and clinical evidence (17 chapters) sections. Over and over in the clinical evidence chapters, individual authors remind the reader of the lack of quality control in production, the dearth of strong evidence from adequately designed research trials, and the intensifying potency of cannabis with attendant dangers, particularly for youth. The organization of this section lacks consistency in that some chapters focus on specialty (e.g. pulmonary medicine), others on patient groups (e.g. the pediatric and adolescent population), others on physiological implications (e.g. clinical cardiovascular effects; neuropsychiatric effects), others on specific diseases (e.g. gastrointestinal disorders; ocular conditions), and still others on public health topics (e.g. cannabis-impaired driving). While all are relevant, a specialty or organ system focus, with a separate public health section might lend the book more coherence. It would also be worth exploring how “cannabis culture” has become in essence a parallel medical system, with many of cannabis’s most ardent proponents as dropouts from establishment medicine after its nostrums for diagnoses like chronic pain, anxiety, and depression have failed to bring them relief.

I would have liked a chapter specifically grappling with the porous boundary between federal and state jurisdictions over cannabis as medicine and marijuana as recreational substance. Lawyer David G. Evans’ admirable chapter on “The Legal Aspects of Marijuana as Medicine” moves in that direction when he writes that, “‘medical marijuana’ is not a ‘states’ rights’ issue.” To wit, for no other drug than cannabis has the federal government ceded regulatory responsibility to states that are variably (but mostly not) equipped to handle it. The truth, complex in its contradictions and inconsistencies, is that in the United States, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug without recognized medical value; the Federal Drug Administration overseeing American pharmaceuticals throws roadblocks in the way of studying it, thereby interfering with the development of a robust evidence base; the federal government has looked the other way and even colluded with the states as one after another has legalized cannabis medically, recreationally, or both; and physicians risk their federal licenses to prescribe if they do more than recommend this drug. In a nutshell, any effort to impose logic is doomed because the American scene vis-à-vis cannabis is seemingly irretrievably illogical.

The editor of this volume, Kenneth Finn, MD, a PMR and pain management specialist in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is to be commended for encouraging individual chapter authors to develop encyclopedic bibliographies. The book can thus serve as a resource for practitioners wishing to delve into a vast and growing literature that continues to offer little that is conclusive. The book can also serve as a primer on what is known about cannabis as medicine, keeping in mind a slant throughout – not necessarily unjustified, at least from an allopathic or osteopathic perspective – that cannabis is neither legitimate as medicine nor safe, even for recreational use.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7723137/ Sept-Oct 2020

Researchers have found that even occasional cigarette use is enough to affect the volume and connectivity of developing brains

After decades of educational programming and advertising, regular cigarette smoking and sales in the United States have declined to their lowest levels in 50 years. But doctors and parents are now racing to deal with another health crisis that has popped up in its place: the meteoric rise of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) among adolescents.

This nicotine electronic delivery device was originally introduced to the market as a promising tool to aid smoking cessation among already current smokers. Yet, the lack of federal regulations, the appealing flavors available, and perceptions that these devices were less harmful than regular cigarettes have led to a worrying spike in use among U.S. adolescents. One in five U.S. high school students and one in 20 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette use among youth has skyrocketed in the past few years

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has declared e-cigarettes an epidemic among youth, stressing that e-cigarette aerosols containing nicotine increase the risk of addiction to nicotine and other drugs, and impact brain development which can induce mood disorders and lower impulse control. Now, new research led by Dr. Bader Chaarani of the University of Vermont and published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging has found adolescents that smoked only a few cigarettes had smaller and less connected brain areas than their peers who never smoked. This could mean that adolescent smokers’ brains will develop and function differently, which may affect decision-making and self-control in adulthood. 

Just like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a neuroactive chemical and an addictive component whose main target is the brain. Nicotine acts upon receptors in our brains -through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs)- to promote the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical, triggering a pleasurable response in our brains. When linked with the action of smoking, it plays a fundamental role in nicotine addiction.

Adolescence is a vulnerable developmental period during which exposure to nicotine can fundamentally alter how the brain is wired

Nicotine exposure among adults presents lower risks compared to adolescents. This is because our brains develop throughout our first three decades of life. During this maturation period, the brain circuits are being remodeled, especially those involved in reward function (dopamine) and cognitive function (acetylcholine). Therefore, adolescence is a vulnerable developmental period during which exposure to nicotine can fundamentally alter how the brain is wired, making young people even more vulnerable to future addiction. 

Previous studies have shown that adolescent smokers have reduced neural activity and show symptoms of nicotine dependency at lower nicotine levels than adults, and that individuals that begin smoking during adolescence are more likely to develop nicotine dependence than individuals that start in their late 20′s.

Studies of smoking’s effects on the brain have largely focused on adults, not youth – until now

One big gap in research observing the effects of cigarette smoking on brain volume, connectivity, and function to date is that such studies have been mostly performed on adult smokers rather than adolescent smokers. The majority have also focused on daily and heavy smokers, yet have overlooked occasional smokers, which is relevant due to common experimentation behaviors during adolescence

The new research by Dr. Chaarani and their team finally addresses these gaps by looking at the brains of adolescent light smokers. They found that just a couple of cigarette puffs can potentially alter the development of adolescent brain. 

The research team recruited over 600 14-year-old adolescents and calculated a cigarette-smoking score for each participant based on how many times, during their lifetime, they had smoked cigarettes. Participants ranged from young people who had never smoked to those who have smoked more than 40 times.

Smoking even a few times is significantly linked to a decreased volume of the gray matter and neuronal connectivity

The researchers also looked at the brain of each of the participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). These images were used to estimate the brain gray matter volume corresponding to the neuron bodies where synapses occur, and white matter connectivity, meaning the “telephone wires” that connect neurons and brain areas by carrying electrical signals. 

Interestingly, Dr. Chaarani and their team found that smoking even a few times was significantly linked to a decreased volume of the gray matter and neuronal connectivity. And the more teens smoked, the more the gray matter volume at the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), and the connectivity at the corpus callosum of their brains was reduced. Scientists have previously linked alterations in the vmPFC volume with a reduction in reward and with an increased risk of anxiety disorders. 

Moreover, reduction in the connectivity could indicate that nicotine induces axonal damage, meaning it may be altering the communication between brain areas. These alterations in brain connection have also been reported in individuals with substance addiction and alcohol dependence. While the research only showed a link between low doses of cigarette smoking and brain alterations, rather than a causal effect, these type of consequences have been consistently reported in many studies on brains of adult smokers.

E-cigarettes may look harmless, but they have lasting effects on developing brains

Although this study focused on adolescents who smoked traditional cigarettes, scientists have demonstrated that such risks are applicable to teenagers who vape using the popular JUUL brand of e-cigarettes since the two methods deliver similar amounts of nicotine.

Researchers are still working to understand the impact of nicotine in the brain of young smokers, particularly now that e-cigarette use among youth has increased rapidly. This new study could play a critical role in educational campaigns, and spur regulatory agencies, parents, and teachers to take an active role in preventing this newest addiction. 

Source:  https://massivesci.com/articles/smoking-vaping-risks-adolescent-brain-function-development-addiction-nicotine/   June 2019

Abstract

Objectives: 

E-cigarette use has increased dramatically among adolescents in the past 5 years alongside a steady increase in daily use of marijuana. This period coincides with a historic rise in depression and suicidal ideation among adolescents. In this study, we describe the associations between e-cigarette and marijuana use and depressive symptoms and suicidality in a large nationally representative sample of high school students.

Methods: 

We used data from the 2 most recent waves (2015 and 2017) of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Our sample (n = 26,821) included only participants with complete information for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and exposure to e-cigarettes and marijuana (89.5% of survey respondents). We performed multivariate logistic regressions to explore the associations between single or dual use of e-cigarette and marijuana and depressive and suicidal symptoms in the past year adjusting for relevant confounders.

Results: 

E-cigarette-only use was reported in 9.1% of participants, marijuana-only use in 9.7%, and dual e-cigarette/marijuana use in 10.2%. E-cigarette-only use (vs no use) was associated with increased odds of reporting suicidal ideation (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]:1.23, 95% CI 1.03–1.47) and depressive symptoms (AOR: 1.37, 95% CI 1.19–1.57), which was also observed with marijuana-only use (AOR: 1.25, 95% CI 1.04–1.50 and AOR: 1.49, 95% CI 1.27–1.75) and dual use (AOR: 1.28, 95% CI 1.06–1.54 and AOR: 1.62, 95% CI 1.39–1.88).

Conclusions: 

Youth with single and dual e-cigarette and marijuana use had increased odds of reporting depressive symptoms and suicidality compared to youth who denied use. There is a need for effective prevention and intervention strategies to help mitigate adverse mental health outcomes in this population.

Source: Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality in Adolescents Using e-C… : Journal of Addiction Medicine (lww.com) Sept/Oct 2019

Tragically, the last few months of music festivals repeatedly resembled scenes from a hospital emergency ward, witnessing this season’s highest number of drug related hospitalisations and the deaths of predominately young adults ranging from 19 to 25 years-old.
In the aftermath of these heart wrenching events, harm reduction advocates have taken to media on mass advocating for pill testing as the next risk minimisation strategy that could potentially save lives.
Often, supporters are quick to highlight that pill testing is “not a silver bullet”, just one measure among a plethora of strategies. But the metaphor is a false equivocation. Rather, pill testing is more like Russian Roulette.
Similar to Russian Roulette, taking psychotropic illicit drugs is a deadly, unpredictable high stakes ‘game’. It’s the reason they’re illegal. There is no ‘safe’ way to play.
But arguments and groups supporting pill testing construct this false perception, regardless of how strenuously advocates claim otherwise. Organisations such as STA-SAFE, Unharm, Harm Reduction Australia, the ‘Safer Summer’ campaign all exploit the context of harm and safety within an illicit drug taking culture.
To continue the metaphor of Russian Roulette, it’s rather like insisting on testing a ‘bullet’ for velocity or the gun for cleanliness and handing both back. It’s pointless. The bullet might not kill at first, but the odds increase exponentially after each attempt.

No Standard Dose Available and the Limitations of Pill Testing
In reality, no testing of the hundreds of new psychoactive substances flooding nations every year can make a dose safe.

As Drug Watch International succinctly puts it, “Most people have been conned into using the word ‘overdose’ regarding illicit drugs. No such thing. Why? Because it clearly implies there is a ‘safe’ dose which can be taken – and everyone knows that’s a lie. The same goes for the words, ‘use’ and ‘abuse’. Those terms can only be applied to prescribed pharmaceuticals because they have a prescribed safe dose. I have asked each jurisdiction in Australia if the legal amount of alcohol when driving, up to 0.49, is considered safe for driving. All said no – they would not state that.”
These substances remain prohibited because they are not manufactured to a pharmaceutical standard and are poisonous, unpredictable toxins that make it impossible to test which dose either in isolation or in a myriad of combinations proves fatal.
The limitations of pill testing4 have been discussed by Dr John Lewis (University of Technology Sydney) and prominent toxicologist Dr John Ramsey, emphasising that it is:
• Complex process
• Costly and time consuming
• Detects mainly major components of a sample that may not be the active substance
For example, even a relatively small amount of ingredients such as Carfentanil are lethal.
Speaking after Canberra’s pill trial in 2017, forensic toxicologist, Andrew Leibie, warned that pill testing trial is no “magic bullet” for preventing drug deaths but also expressed deep concern surrounding the freedom for scientific debate because public sector employees feared repercussions.

Leading harm reduction activist, Dr David Caldicott, in a 2015 interview admitted that the quality and type of pill testing would affect pill taking behaviour at festivals. When told that users potentially wouldn’t get their drugs back and the lengthy 45-minute process involved, “‘I think there’ll be a lot of people who will say forget it completely.’ His reasoning being that a lot of young people don’t have the money to spare a pill and it would slow down the momentum of the party.”

Could this be the motivation behind current trial of pill testing at Goovin’ the Moo where volunteering attendees where given the choice between testing the entire pill – effectively destroying it – or scraping the contents and handing back the remainder, despite the fact that the latter approach brings even less accuracy. This is another example of drug users, not evidence informing policy procedure.
The irony of course is that many of the advocates for pill testing would object to sugary drinks, foods and caffeinated energy drinks in school cafeterias on the basis these hinder the normal development of healthy children but do not object to the infinitely direr situation facing kids at music festivals.

Purity vs Contaminated – Another Misleading Contrast
The fallacious arguments surrounding safe dosage remain the same irrespective of whether the substance is tested as seemingly pure. Take MDMA that goes by various street names Molly and Ecstasy. It is the most popular recreational drug in Australia and was responsible for many of the deaths at music festivals.
In 1995, 15-year old, Anna Woods, died after several hours from consuming a single pill of pure MDMA at a Rave Party. Pill testing would not have changed this outcome. Anna’s case also highlights the idiosyncratic nature of drug taking in that while her three friends ingested the same tablets, Anna was the only one to have a reaction. Russian Roulette is again the most appropriate metaphor.
The Coroner’s report on Anna Wood’s death stated, “It is not unlikely that a tragedy such as this will occur again in N.S.W. In an effort to reduce the chance of that happening, I propose to recommend that the N.S.W. Health Department publishes a pamphlet, which will have the twofold effect of educating those who use the drug as to its dangers, and also educating the community as to the appropriate care of the individual who becomes ill following ingestion of the drug.”
Nearly twenty-five years later the fatalities involving MDMA keep mounting. In the only Australian study of 82 drug related deaths between 2001 to 2005, MDMA featured predominately. The fluctuating potency of this drug is further established as it is not only fifteen-year-old girls but grown men dying.

“The majority of decedents were male (83%), with a median age of 26 years. Deaths were predominantly due to drug toxicity (82%), with MDMA the sole drug causing death in 23% of cases, and combined drug toxicity in 59% of cases. The remaining deaths (18%) were primarily due to pathological events/disease or injury, with MDMA a significant contributing condition.”
The indiscriminate nature of MDMA was also witnessed with the latest fatalities at music festivals. For example, very different amounts of MDMA accounted for the five young people that died across New South Wales.
“In one case, a single MDMA pill had proved lethal while another young man who ingested six to nine pills over the course of the day had an MDMA purity of 77 per cent… (That is) a very high rate of purity,” Dr Dwyer said.”
Comparable stories are found all over the world including the UK case of Stephanie Jade Shevlin that is eerily similar to Anna Woods.
Drug dealers aware of the naïvely misleading narrative of pure and impure illicit drugs have been caught bringing pill testing kits to concerts in a bid to convince potential buyers of quality and hike up prices.

High Risk-Taking Culture

The prevailing culture at music festivals is one of blissful abandon and haste. It is a no longer fringe groups at the edges of society but the mainstream choice for generations of children and young adults fully embracing the legacy of, “tune in, turn on and drop out”.
Yet despite the prevailing culture, harm reductionists insist that pill testing will better inform partygoers of drug contents and provide the necessary platform for ‘further conversations about the drug dangers.’ (All of which of course can be achieved outside a venue.)
But this is conjecture and another attempt at experimental based policy.
As cited earlier, Dr Caldicott admitted, anything that stops the party momentum experience is likely rejected. This is because when dealing with high-risk behaviour removing too many risks takes away the thrill of reward.

In an age that has more educated men and women than ever before, it’s not the lack of information that is driving this level of experimentation but the growing indifference to it.
In the aftermath of the death of 25-year-old pharmacist, Sylvia Choi (2015), it was discovered that security staff at the Stereosonic festival were consuming and dealing drugs.
Further, the report often cited purporting to show a growing body of research for drug users wanting pill testing actually confirms that those with college degrees were less likely than those with high school qualifications to test their pills.
This seems to be a trend in Australia also with one judge fed up with groups of “well-off pill poppers” and “privileged” young professionals, including nurses and bankers – filling the court.
Another article describes the attitude of drug taking among festival goers (including University students) as not so much concerned about what is on offer but demand for cheap designer drugs.
The author notes, “A few deaths don’t deter experimentation, and if you’re going to experiment, you need to be sure you don’t die.”
But the determination for experimentation with different forms of self-destructive drugs is making staying alive increasingly less likely, as the levels of polydrug use is also on the rise.
According to Global Drug Survey, “Over 90% of people seeking Emergency Medical Treatment each year after MDMA have used other drugs (often cocaine or ketamine) and/or alcohol and more frequent use of MDMA is associated with the higher rates of combined MDMA use with other stimulant drugs and ketamine.”

Australia’s enquiry into MDMA supports this finding, “Nevertheless, the fact that half of the toxicology reports noted the detection of methamphetamine in the blood is consistent with the polydrug use patterns of living MDMA users.”

Pill Testing Overseas Failing to Stop Drug Demand and Supply

The push continues for Australia to adopt front of house or front-line pill testing at music festivals as in Europe and the UK. But not everyone is convinced of its resounding success.
Last year, UK’s largest festival organiser reversed its previous support for drug testing facilities. Managing director, Melvyn Benn, stating, “Front of house testing sounds perfect but has the ability to mislead I fear.”
Mr Benn details those fears, “Determining to a punter that a drug is in the ‘normal boundaries of what a drug should be’ takes no account of how many he or she will take, whether the person will mix it with other drugs or alcohol and nor does it give you any indicator of the receptiveness of a person’s body to that drug.”
In 2001, The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) produced its scientific report, On-Site Pill-Testing Interventions In The European Union.
Incomplete evaluation procedures have hindered the availability for empirical evidence on the effectiveness of pill testing. “The conclusions one can draw from that fact remain ambiguous.”
Perhaps the most disturbing feature of the report is the admission that decreasing black market activity isn’t within the scope of pill testing goals. “Overall, to alter black markets is ‘not a primary goal’ or ‘no goal at all’ for most pill-testing projects.” Within that same report drug users are classed as ‘consumers’ with an entitlement to know what their pills contain.
The report goes on to list the range of services offered alongside pill testing at venues. These include everything from: brain machines, internet consultations, needle exchange, presenting on-site results of pill-testings, chill-out zones, offering massage, giving out fruits, giving out free drinking water and giving out condoms.
And in another twist of just how far the common sense boundaries are stretched, for number of participating nations, tax payer funded pill testing is also offered at illegal rave venues.

Given the overwhelming lack of evidence that pill testing indeed saves lives, Australian toxicologist, Andrew Liebie’s claim is not easily dismissed, “the per capita death rate from new designer drugs was higher in Europe – where pill testing was available in some countries – than in Australia.”
The antipathy to drug taking was also witnessed by the Ambulance Commander at the latest pill testing trial, again in Canberra, Groovin’ the Moo.

No War on Drugs Just a Submission to Harm Reduction Promotion
The narrative for pill testing will at some stage mention the failed “war on drugs” and by association hard line but failing law enforcement measures either explicitly or implicitly such as in the statement below.
“Regardless of the desirability of treating it as a criminal issue rather than a health one, policing at festivals has limited impact on drug consumption, as research presented at the Global Cities After Dark conference last year suggests: 69.6 per cent of survey respondents said they would use drugs if police were present.”
But what this article completely fails to grasp is that police presence makes little impact because the law is rarely or, at best, laxly enforced and a climate of de facto decriminalisation has been the norm for decades. This was the situation with Portugal before finally decriminalising drugs for personal use in 2001.
Journalists for The Weekend Australian attempting to report events at a recent dance party stated sniffer dogs did nothing to stop the “rampart” stream of drugs. They described a scene of disarray; discarded condoms with traces of coffee grounds within toilets (believed to mask the smell of drugs), bodies strewn on the ground littered with drug paraphernalia, others were rushed to waiting ambulances, while one attendant told them “I got away with it” and another admitting popping two pills a night was “average”. Had they been allowed to stay longer maybe more party goers would be openly stating what many know, drugs supply and demand are at all-time highs irrespective of police presence.

Journalists instead were treated as criminal trespassers, threatened by security and ordered to leave under police escort.
The basis of Australia’s National Drug Strategy includes harm minimisation efforts as part of an overall strategy that also supports reductions in drug supply and demand.
The inadvertent admission that pill testing is not about curbing drug demand comes from another harm reduction stalwart, Alex Wodak, “It’s a supposition that this (pill testing) might increase drug use, but if it does increase drug use but decrease the number of deaths, surely that’s what we should be focusing on.”
In fact, Dr Wodak confirms that pill testing would incentivise drug dealers to provide a better product. “There was no commercial pressure on drug dealers to ensure their products were safe. But if we had testing and 10% of drug dealer A’s supply was getting rejected at the drug testing counter, then word would get around.”
A similar focus on consequences rather than causes is expressed by Dr David Caldicott, “I don’t give a s**t about the morality or philosophy of drug use. All I care about is people staying alive.”
In other words, take the pill, just don’t die…this time. What the long-term affects are to those drug users that survive hospitalisation, the impact on development, mental health, employment loss, families, the growing cost to taxpayers and the crushing weight on emergency services, hospitals and physicians let alone the constant appetite and entrenchment for more drugs will have to wait. Just don’t die.
The ongoing dilution of law enforcement is also seen by various experts all but demanding that police and sniffer dogs be removed entirely from music festivals. No doubt to be replaced with on-site massages, electrolyte drinks, brain machinery, chill out zones, fruit and more free condoms.
Prof Alison Ritter from the University of NSW and Fiona Measham from the University of Durham both agree that intensive policing combined with on-site dealing “could significantly increase drug related harm.” How intensive could police efforts be with such blatant on-site dealing was not explained.

The Unrelenting Push for Drug Legalisation
The real end game behind the dubious safety and harm messaging is drug legalisation. Pill testing, minus the caveat of being called a ‘trial’, would unlikely find full approval without a corresponding change in the law.
The limitations of pill testing and the legal ramifications in giving back a tested pill that proved lethal would become a public liability minefield.
This is clearly seen from the article in the Daily Telegraph, Pill Test Death Waiver Revealed, Jan 5, “The testing capabilities are so limited that revellers would be required to sign a death waiver, which includes a warning that tests cannot accurately determine drug purity levels or give any indication of safety.”
Later the article reports, “Mr Vumbaca said he had been given extensive legal advice to include the warnings on the waiver because of the limitations of testing information … we are not a laboratory and we have one piece of equipment … the test gives you an indication of purity, but you can’t tell the exact amount.”
The waiver would release everyone in testing from, “any liability for personal injury or death suffered … in any way from the services.”
Scattered within the pages of countless articles on pill testing released over the last few months, this admission of pill testing tied in within a broader agenda of drug legalisation is repeatedly made but easily missed among the hype.
Gary Barns from the Australian Lawyers Alliance said the latest deaths could be avoided or risk of death could be minimised with a “law change”.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers are more explicit, “And it seems clear that if adults were able to purchase quality controlled MDMA over the counter in plain packaging with the contents marked on the side, it would be far safer than buying from some backyard manufacturer with no oversight or guarantees.”
And disappointingly, even former AFP and DPP speaking on Four Corners state drug legalisation as a necessary public conversation.
It seems that these same advocates for policy and law change are willing to give a platform for the rights of those determined to self-destruct but not the rest of the law abiding community and their common good.

Pill testing – The Climate Change of Drugs
If comparing pill testing as a ‘silver bullet’ was an inaccurate metaphor, then the comparison to climate change shows the extent of not only erroneous but deliberate obfuscation. “This issue of pill-testing is climate change for drugs,” says Dr David Caldicott.
And yet the dark environment which produces the pills and wreaks so much unnecessary destruction to countless thousands of people all over the world is never fully understood or exposed to those that would blissfully take one small pill for a few hours of entertainment.
But talk of boycotting products that pollute the atmosphere, meat that is packaged from abused animals, clothing produced from exploited workers, or products genetically modified, most likely those same illicit pill takers would passionately relinquish and possibly even risk their personal safety to protest these injustices.
Yet, these are dwarfed by illicit drugs. The most barbaric network of human, economic and environmental exploitation.
Some of the social miseries are well known, including international crime syndicates and narco-terrorism. While others such as environmental damage due to deforestation, chemical waste and the recent drug toxicity detected in Adelaide waterways are often overlooked in an age of socially conscientious consumerism.
But the list of downward consequences is always local and personal, with illicit drugs linked to preventable death, disease and poverty. In cases of domestic violence, alcohol and drugs contributed to 49 per cent of women assaulted in the preceding 12 months.

Those who suffer the most are those who can least afford the consequences; the poor, young, vulnerable, indigenous and rural communities as revealed in the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission report.
Faced with such overwhelming statistics pro-drug lobbyists use inevitability mantras such as, “they’re doing it anyway” to sway public opinion toward legalisation; but fail to apply the same arguments to other societal abuses such as paedophilia, obesity, gambling, domestic violence, alcohol or tobacco.
It is time to stop the dishonest rhetoric of harm reductionist activists and the deliberate intellectual disconnect that has greatly influenced the Australian government drug strategy and peak medical bodies toward policies emphasising reducing drug harms (injecting rooms, needle distribution, methadone and now pill testing) while minimising the need to reduce demand and supply.
Eleni Arapoglou
– Writer and Researcher, Drug Advisory Council of Australia (DACA)

Source: PillTestingDACA_PoliticianBrief05-02-19.pdf (drugfree.org.au) February 2019

DRP0013

 1.Aims Cannabis Skunk Sense (also known as CanSS Ltd) provides straight-forward facts and research-based advice on cannabis. We raise awareness of the continued and growing dangers to children, teenagers and their families of cannabis use.

2.We provide educational materials and information for community groups, schools, colleges and universities; and guidance to wide range of professions, Parliament and the general public – with a strong message of prevention not harm reduction.

3.The Inquiry document says: ‘Government’s stated intention in its 2017 drug strategy is to reduce all illicit and other harmful drug use…….’

4.Missing from this Inquiry document is the following 2017 Strategy statement: ‘preventing people – particularly young people – from becoming drug users in the first place’. Prevention should be first and foremost in any statement as well as in the minds of us all. FRANK was mentioned just once in this strategy; ‘develop our Talk to FRANK service so that it remains a trusted and credible source of information and advice for young people and concerned others’. This claim will be challenged in this report.

5.If prevention (pre-event) were to be successful, there would be little need for a policy of reducing harmful use. Unfortunately, for fifteen or sixteen years now, prevention has taken a back seat.

6.In 1995 Prime Minister John Major’s government produced ‘Tackling Drugs Together’ saying, ‘The new programme strengthens our efforts to reduce the demand for illegal drugs through prevention, education and treatment’.

7.Objectives included: ‘to discourage young people from taking drugs’ and to ensure that schools offer effective programmes of drug education, giving pupils the facts, warning them of risks, and helping them to develop the skills and attitudes to resist drug use – all good common sense.

8.On harm reduction, the government said, ‘The ultimate goal is to ensure people do not take drugs in the first place, but if they do, they should be helped to become and remain drug-free. Abstinence is the ultimate goal and harm reduction should be a means to that end, not an end in itself’.

9.In 1998 the Second National Plan for 2001-2, ‘Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain’ was published. Although prevention was still the aim, the phrase ‘informed choice’ appeared, the downhill slide from prevention had started.

10.The` Updated Strategy in 2002 contained the first high-profile mention of ‘Harm Minimisation (Reduction)’. David Blunkett in the Foreword said, ‘Prevention, education, harm minimisation, treatment and effective policing are our most powerful tools in dealing with drugs’.

Some bizarre statements appeared, e.g.: ‘To reduce the proportion of people under 25 reporting use of illegal drugs in the last month and previous year substantially’. Is  infrequent use of drugs acceptable?

In October 2002 at a European Drugs Conference, Ashford, Kent, Bob Ainsworth, drugs spokesman for the Labour government, said that harm reduction was being moved to the centre of their strategy. Prevention was abandoned, ‘informed choice’ and ‘harm reduction’ ruled.

The official government website for information on drugs is FRANK set up in 2003. It continued with the harm reduction policy of the Labour Government.

From the beginning, FRANK was heavily criticised. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), founded by Iain Duncan-Smith MP in 2004, consistently criticised FRANK for being ill-informed, ineffective, inappropriate and shamefully inadequate, whilst citing a survey conducted by national treatment provider Addaction who found that only one in ten children would call the FRANK helpline to talk about drugs. Quite recently, when asked about sources where they had obtained helpful information about alcohol or smoking cigarettes, young people put FRANK at the bottom.

The CSJ recommended that FRANK be scrapped, and an effective replacement programme developed to inform young people about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse based on prevention rather than harm reduction.

The IHRA (International Harm Reduction Alliance) gives the following definition of harm reduction:

Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to minimise negative health, social and legal impacts associated with drug use, drug policies and drug laws. Harm reduction is grounded in justice and human rights – it focuses on positive change and on working with people without judgement, coercion, discrimination, or requiring that they stop using drugs as a precondition of support.   

The use of Harm reduction instead of Prevention is tantamount to condoning drug use – a criminal activity. The legitimate place for harm reduction is with ‘known users’ on a one to one basis as part of a treatment programme to wean them off completely and attain abstinence in a safer manner than abrupt stoppage which can be very dangerous. One example of this is to inhale the fumes of heroin rather than injection, thus avoiding blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis and septicaemia.

An opioid substitute drug for heroin addiction, methadone has the advantage of being taken orally and only once/day. As the dosage is reduced, abstinence will be attained more safely. However, methadone users are often ‘parked’ for months on this highly addictive drug without proper supervision or monitoring. In 2008 in Edinburgh, more addicts died of methadone than heroin.

Harm reduction is a green light. If children are encouraged to use drugs by being given tips on how to use them more safely, many will do it. The son of a friend told his mother. ‘It’s OK we go on to the FRANK website and find out how to take skunk safely by cutting our use and inhaling less deeply’. He is now psychotic!

Prevention works. Between 1997 and 1991 America saw drug use numbers plummet from 23 to 14 million, cocaine and cannabis use halved, daily cannabis use dropped by 75%.

In 2005, Jonathan Akwue of In-Volve writing in Drink and Drugs News, criticised the campaign for lacking authenticity; its ill-judged attempts at humour which try to engage with youth culture; and diluting the truth to accommodate more socially acceptable messages.

The conservatives regained power under David Cameron. FRANK did not change.

In 2005, Mr Iain Duncan Smith again criticised FRANK, saying “Drugs education programmes, such as Talk to FRANK, have failed on prevention and intervention, instead progressively focussing on harm reduction and risk minimisation, which can be counter-productive”

In 2011 it was announced FRANK would be re-launched and the team commissioned ‘A Summary of Health Harms of Drugs’ from The John Moore’s University Liverpool, a hotbed of harm reduction. A psychiatrist from The FRANK Team was involved. Their section on cannabis is totally inadequate, out of date, no recognition of deaths, brain shrinkage, violence, homicides, suicides, the huge increase of strength of THC etc. Professor Sir Robin Murray’s research on mental illness (2009) and the discovery that CBD is virtually absent from skunk are of vital importance.

Many worrying papers have been written since, especially about brain development, all of which are ignored.  CanSS met with the FRANK team prior to their re-launch in 2011 where it was agreed that the cannabis section would, with their assistance, be re-written. All but two very small points were ignored, one about driving after taking alcohol with cannabis and the effect on exam results. The harm reduction advice about cannabis was removed at the request of CanSS.

Scientific evidence detailing FRANK’s inaccuracies was given to the Government by CanSS and other drug experts over the years – all of it ignored. Complaints and oral evidence were submitted to the HASC in April and September 2012 and the Education Select Committee in 2014. Government drugs spokesmen have also been contacted with concerns about FRANK.

As the official government source of information on drugs for the UK public, the FRANK site must be regularly updated and contain the many new accurate findings from current scientific research. The public is owed a duty of care and protection from the harm of drugs, especially cannabis, the most commonly used.

The following list contains some of the glaring omissions and vital details from the FRANK website:

Deaths from cancers except lung, road fatalities, heart attacks/strokes, violent crime, homicides, suicides. Tobacco doesn’t cause immediate deaths either.

Alcohol with cannabis can be fatal. An alcohol overdose can be avoided by vomiting but cannabis suppresses the vomiting reflex.

Cases of severe poisoning in the USA in toddlers are increasing, mostly due to ‘edibles’ left within reach. Accidental ingestion by children should be highlighted.

Hyperemesis (violent vomiting) is on the increase.

Abnormally high levels of dopamine in the brain cause psychosis (the first paper on this was written in 1845) and schizophrenia, especially in those with genetic vulnerabilities, causing violence, homicides and suicides. Skunk-induced schizophrenia costs the country around £2 billion/year to treat.

Young people should understand how THC damps down the activities of the whole brain by suppressing the chemical messages for several weeks. It is fat soluble and remains in the cells. Messages to the hippocampus (learning and memory) fail to reach its cells, some die, causing permanent brain damage. IQ points are lost. Few children using cannabis even occasionally will achieve their full potential.

Serotonin is depleted, causing depression and suicides. The huge increase in the strength of THC in cannabis due to the prevalence of skunk (anything from 16% to over 20%) and the almost total lack of CBD is ignored as is the gateway theory, medical cannabis, passive smoking and lower bone mineral density, bronchitis, emphysema and COPD.

They need to be taught that there is reduced ability to process information, self-criticise and think logically. Users lack attention and concentration, can’t find words, plan or achieve routines, have fixed opinions, whilst constantly feeling lonely and misunderstood. They should know of the risk of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.

Amazingly, the fact THC damages our DNA is virtually unknown among the public. In the 1990s, scientists found new cells being made in the adult body (white blood, sperm and foetal cells), suffered premature ‘apoptosis’ (programmed cell death) so were fewer in number. Impotence, infertility and suppressed immune systems were reported.  This is important.

In 2016 an Australian paper discovered THC badly interferes with cell division i.e. where chromosomes replicate to form new cells. They fail to segregate properly causing numerous mutations as chromosomes shatter and randomly rejoin.  Many cells die (about 50% of fertilized eggs (zygotes). Any affected developing foetus will suffer damage. Resultant foetal defects include gastroschisis (babies born with intestines outside the body), now rising in areas of legalisation, anencephaly (absence of brain parts) and shortened limbs (boys are about 4 inches shorter). Oncogenes (cancer-causing) can be switched on. Bladder, testicle and childhood cancers like neuroblastoma have all been reported. The DNA in mitochondria (energy producers in cells) can also be damaged.

Parliament controls the drug laws, so why are the police able to decide for themselves how to deal with cannabis possession?

Proof of the liberalisation of the law on cannabis possession appeared in the new Police Crime Harm Index in April 2016, where it appeared 2nd bottom of the list of priorities. In the following November it fell to the bottom. Class ‘A’ drug possession was immediately above. Possession has clearly become a very low priority. In 2015, Durham Police decided they would no longer prosecute those smoking the drug and growing it ‘for their own use’. Instead, officers will issue a warning or a caution. Then Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton announced that his force will stop prosecuting all drug addicts from December 2017 and plans to use police money to give free heroin to addicts to inject themselves twice a day in a supervised ‘shooting gallery’.  This surely constitutes dealing. The police can it seems, alter and ‘soften’ laws at will. 

Several weeks ago, I happened to check the FRANK website. Quietly, stealthily and without fanfare, a new version had appeared – completely changed. Absent were the patronising videos, games and jokes. Left were A to Z of Drugs, News, Help and Advice (e.g. local harm reduction information) and Contact.

There is poor grammar, i.e. ‘are’ instead of ‘is’ and ‘effect’ where it should be ‘affect’. Mistakes like these do not enhance its credibility.

The drug information is still inadequate with scant essential detail, little explanation and still out of date. This is especially true of cannabis. THC can stay in the brain for many weeks – still sending out its damping-down signals.

What shocked me though were the following:

Our organisation recently received an email about a call to FRANK requesting advice. A friend, a user who also encouraged others to use as well, had lied in a court case where her drug use was a significant factor. He contacted FRANK about her disregard for the law for a substance that was illegal. The advisor raised his voice whilst stating the friend has the right to do what she wants in her own home and mocked him about calling the police. He was shocked and upset by the response.

Ecstasy – Physical health risks

  • Because the strength of ecstasy pills are so unpredictable, if you do decide to take ecstasy, you should start by taking half or even a quarter of the pill and then wait for the effects to kick in before taking anymore – you may find that this is enough.
  • If you’re taking MDMA, start by dabbing a small amount of powder only, then wait for the effects to kick in.
  • Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.

The ‘NEWS’ consisted of 8 pictures with text. In 2 of the 8 items, opportunity is taken to give more ecstasy harm reduction advice. One is titled, ‘Heading out this weekend with Mandy or Molly?’ This is blatant normalisation. The others aren’t ‘news’ items either, but more information about problems.

The section on each drug entitled, ‘Worried about drug x’ mostly consists of giving FRANK’s number. ‘If you are worried about your use, you can call FRANK on 0300 1236600 for friendly, confidential advice’. Any perceptions that FRANK is anything but a Harm Reduction advice site are dispelled completely.

Mentor International is a highly respected worldwide Prevention Charity.  Government-funded Mentor UK is in charge of school drug-education with their programme, ADEPIS (Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service). Mentor UK masquerades as a ‘Prevention’ charity but practices ‘Harm Reduction’ and has done so from its inception in 1998. A founding member, Lord Benjamin Mancroft, is currently prominent in the APPG: Drug Policy Reform, partly funded by legaliser George Soros’s Open Society Foundation.

Professor Harry Sumnall of John Moores University Liverpool, a trustee on Mentor UK’s board, signed a ‘Legalisation’ letter in The Telegraph 23rd November 2016 along with the university, Professor David Nutt, The Beckley Foundation, Nick Clegg, Peter Lilley, Transform, Volte-face and other well-known legalisation advocates. Eric Carlin, former Mentor UK CEO (2000-2009), is now a member of Professor David Nutt’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD). At a July 2008 conference in Vienna, he said “we are not about preventing drug use, we are about preventing harmful drug use”.

Examples of their activities:

The ‘Street Talk’ programme, funded by the Home Office, carried out by the charities Mentor UK and Addaction and completed in March 2012 was aimed to help vulnerable young people aged 10 – 19, to reduce or stop alcohol and drug misuse. Following the intervention, the majority of young people demonstrated a positive intention to change behaviour as follows: “I am confident that I know more about drugs and alcohol and can use them more safely in the future” – 70% agreed, 7% disagreed’.

 Two CanSS members attended a Mentor UK meeting on 7th January 2014 at Kent University, where Professor Alex Stevens, a sociology professor favouring the opening of a ‘coffee shop’ in Kent and supporting ‘grow your own’ was the main speaker. The audience consisted mainly of young primary school teachers. He became increasingly irritated as CanSS challenged his views, becoming incandescent when told knowledge of drug harms is the most important factor in drug education. The only mention of illegality (by CanSS) was met by mirth!

In a Mentor UK project ‘Safer at school’ (2013), the greatest number of requests from pupils, by 5 to 6 times, were: – effects of drugs, side-effects, what drugs do to your body and consequences. Clearly it had been ignored. Coggans 2003 said that, ‘the life skills elements used by Mentor UK may actually be less important than changing knowledge, attitudes and norms by high quality interactive learning’.

Paul Tuohy, the Director of Mentor UK in February 2013 emailed CanSS, ‘Harm reduction approaches are proven and should be part of the armoury for prevention……..there are many young people harming their life chances who are already using and need encouragement to stop, or where they won’t, to use more safely’.

In 2015 Mentor incorporated CAYT (Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions) with their ‘The Climate Schools programmes’. Expected Outcomes: ‘To show that alcohol and drug prevention programmes, which are based on a harm minimisation approach and delivered through the internet, can offer a user-friendly, curriculum-based and commercially-attractive teaching method’.

In November 2016, Angelus and Mentor UK merged, ‘The Mentor-Angelus merger gives us the opportunity to reach a wider audience through the delivery of harm-prevention programs that informs young people of the harms associated with illicit and NPS drug-taking, to help support them in making conscientious healthy choices in the future’.

The under-developed brains in young people are quite incapable of making reasoned choices. Nor should they. Drug-taking is illegal.

Michael O’Toole (CEO 2014 –2018) said in an ACMD Briefing paper.

Harm reduction may be considered a form of selective prevention – reducing frequency of use or supporting a narrowing range of drugs used’. “It is possible to reduce adverse long-term health and social outcomes through prevention without necessarily abstaining from drugs”. 

It is a puzzle that any organisation, including the Government, can condone drug-taking, an illegal activity, either by testing drugs or dishing out harm reduction advice, without being charged with ‘aiding and abetting’ a crime.

Mary Brett, Chair CanSS and Lucy Dawe,Administrator CanSS www.cannabisskunksense.co.uk    

Source: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/health-and-social-care-committee/drugs-policy/written/97965.html March 2019

  • A handful of recent studies are beginning to reveal the possible health effects of e-cigarette use, and they are not all positive.
  • These findings and a reported uptick in teen vaping have spurred government regulators to act.
  • Researchers have found evidence of toxic metals like lead in e-cig vapor. Evidence also suggests that vaping may be linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.
  • Regulators and health experts are particularly concerned about a device called the Juul, which packs the same nicotine content per pod as a pack of cigarettes.

 

Smoking kills. No other habit has been so strongly tied to death.

In addition to inhaling burned tobacco and tar, smokers breathe in toxic metals like cadmium and beryllium, as well as metallic elements like nickel and chromium — all of which accumulate naturally in the leaves of the tobacco plant.

It’s no surprise, then, that much of the available evidence suggests that vaping, which involves puffing on vaporized liquid nicotine instead of inhaling burned tobacco, is at least somewhat healthier. Some limited studies have suggested that reaching for a vape pen instead of a conventional cigarette may also help people quit smoking regular cigarettes, but hard evidence of that remains elusive.

Very few studies, however, look at how vaping affects the body and brain. Even fewer specifically examine the Juul, a popular device that packs as much nicotine in each of its pods as a standard pack of cigarettes.

But a handful of studies published in the past few months have begun to illuminate some of the potential health effects tied to vaping. They are troubling.

With that in mind, the Food and Drug Administration outlined a new policy on Thursday morning designed to eventually curb the sale of e-cigs and reign in their appeal to young people.

Most recently, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine surveyed young people who vaped and found that those who said they used Juuls vaped more frequently than those who used other brands. The participants appeared to be insufficiently aware of how addictive the devices could be.

Most e-cigs contain toxic metals, and using them may increase the risk of a heart attack

Researchers took a look at the compounds in several popular brands of e-cigs (not the Juul) this spring and found some of the same toxic metals (such as lead) inside the device that they would normally find in conventional cigarettes. For another study published around the same time, researchers concluded that at least some of those toxins appeared to be making their way through vapers’ bodies, as evidenced by a urine analysis they ran on nearly 100 study participants.

In another study published this summer, scientists concluded that there was substantial evidence tying daily e-cig use to an increased risk of heart attack. And this week, a small study in rats suggested that vaping could have a negative effect on wound healing that’s similar to the effect of regular cigarettes.

In addition to these findings, of course, is a well-established body of evidence about the harms of nicotine. The highly addictive substance can have dramatic impacts on the developing brains of young adults.

Brain-imaging studies of adolescents who begin smoking traditional cigarettes (not e-cigs) at a young age suggest that those people have markedly reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex and perform less well on tasks related to memory and attention, compared with people who don’t smoke. Those consequences are believed to be a result of the nicotine in the cigarettes rather than other ingredients.

Nicholas Chadi, a clinical pediatrics fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, spoke about the Juul at the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s annual conference this spring. He said these observed brain changes were also linked to increased sensitivity to other drugs as well as greater impulsivity. He described some anecdotal effects of nicotine vaping that he’d seen among teens in and around his hospital.

“After only a few months of using nicotine,” Chadi said, the teens “describe cravings, sometimes intense ones.” He continued: “Sometimes they also lose their hopes of being able to quit. And interestingly, they show less severe symptoms of withdrawal than adults, but they start to show them earlier on. After only a few hundred cigarettes — or whatever the equivalent amount of vaping pods — some start showing irritability or shakiness when they stop.”

A new survey suggests that teens who use Juul e-cigs aren’t aware of these risks

The Juul, which is made by the Silicon Valley startup Juul Labs, has captured more than 80% of the e-cig market and was recently valued at $15 billion. But the company is facing a growing backlash from the FDA and scientists who say the company intentionally marketed to teens.

On Tuesday, the company responded to some of these concerns — first by announcing that they’d be temporarily banning the sale of their flavored products at retailers and by deleting their social media accounts, which some research suggests has allured more young customers.

Yet very little research about e-cigs has homed in on the Juul specifically.

So for a study published this week, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine surveyed young people who vaped and asked them whether they used the Juul or another e-cigarette.

Their results can be found in a widely accessible version of the Journal of the American Medical Association called JAMA Open. Based on a sample of 445 high-school students whose average age was 19, the researchers observed that teens who used the Juul tended to say they vaped more frequently than those who used other devices. Juul users also appeared to be less aware of how addictive the devices could be compared with teens who vaped other e-cigs.

“I was surprised and concerned that so many youths were using Juul more frequently than other products,” Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics who was a lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“We need to help them understand the risks of addiction,” she added. “This is not a combustible cigarette, but it still contains an enormous amount of nicotine — at least as much as a pack of cigarettes.”

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/vaping-e-cigs-juul-health-effects-2018-10 October 2018

(Denver, CO) – A new state-funded report out of Colorado found that the state continues to hold the top ranking when it comes to past month use of marijuana, more young children are being exposed to highly potent pot products, use of edibles and vaping/dabbing is way up among high school students, and emergency department visits have increased. 

“The data in this report show that Colorado’s marijuana industry is threatening public health,” said Luke Niforatos Senior Policy Advisor to Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and longtime Colorado resident. “Just last year, the industry was caught recommending pot to pregnant mothers. It’s time to start holding them accountable.”

According to the report, past month use has increased 14% over the last year and adult use in the state of Colorado continues to be significantly higher than the national average. Young adults, aged 18-25 reported the greatest instance of past month use at 29.2%. This is concerning as this age group is still in a crucial period of brain development and heavy use at this age can lead to the development of serious mental health issues. 

Adult Past Month Marijuana Use 

The report notes that “at least 23,009 homes with children in Colorado may not be storing marijuana products safely, which increases the risk of accidental ingestion.” On this front, the report also finds that calls to the poison center for marijuana exposure to young children remains high after it began skyrocketing following legalization. Prior to legalization, there was an average of 5 calls per year related to marijuana exposure in children under the age of nine. After legalization, this number shot up to 27 in 2013, 45 in 2014, 40 in 2016, and now 50 in 2017. Ingestion of marijuana edibles comprised 65% of these reports. Additionally, the report finds that approximately 32,800 homes with children 1-14 years old had possible secondhand marijuana smoke or vapor exposures.

Number of Children Exposed to Marijuana

Of note, this report still fails to accurately depict the real data when it comes to youth use in Colorado. The findings on rates of youth use are based on data collected by the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey which suffers from multiple methodological issues. That fact notwithstanding, according to the flawed HKCS data, past month edible use is up significantly among high school students, rising 22% since 2015. Additionally, the “dabbing” of high potency THC concentrates has increased 43% since 2015 among high schoolers.

“As a Colorado physician, I am incredibly concerned with the findings of this report,” said Dr. Ken Finn, a pain doctor in Colorado Springs. “The harms to public health that are documented here are alarming, especially the rising risk of exposure of pot products to young children whose brains are still in development. Additionally, I find this report to be sorely lacking key data points, such as the fact that marijuana is the most prevalent substance found in Colorado completed teen suicide. The state needs to get serious with the documentation of the real consequences of marijuana legalization.”

“Is this the type of outcome people wanted when they voted to legalize? Tens of thousands of young people in Colorado are now living in homes where they are either actively breathing in marijuana smoke or are at risk of eating highly potent THC gummies, candies, brownies, and ice creams,” said Niforatos. “As public health and safety professionals, we will continue to hold the state accountable for this reckless policy of marijuana commercialization.”

Source:  learnaboutSam.org  Feb.2019

Abstract
Aim: To evaluate the effectiveness of an online school-based prevention program for ecstasy (MDMA) and new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Design: Cluster randomized controlled trial with two groups (intervention and control).

Setting: Eleven secondary schools in Australia.

Participants: A total of 1126 students (mean age: 14.9 years).

Intervention: The internet-based Climate Schools: Ecstasy and Emerging Drugs module uses cartoon storylines to convey information about harmful drug use. It was delivered once weekly, during a 4-week period, during health education classes. Control schools received health education as usual.

Measurement: Primary outcomes were self-reported intentions to use ecstasy and NPS at 12 months. Secondary outcomes were ecstasy and NPS knowledge and life-time use of ecstasy and NPS. Surveys were administered at baseline, post-intervention and 6 and 12 month post-baseline.

Findings: At 12 months, the proportion of students likely to use NPS was significantly greater in the control group (1.8%) than the intervention group [0.5%; odds ratio (OR) = 10.17, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.31-78.91]. However, students’ intentions to use ecstasy did not differ significantly between groups (control = 2.1%, intervention = 1.6%; OR = 5.91, 95% CI = 1.01-34.73). There was a significant group difference in the change from baseline to post-test for NPS knowledge (β = -0.42, 95% CI = -0.62 to -0.21, Cohen’s d = 0.77), with controls [mean = 2.78, standard deviation (SD = 1.48] scoring lower than intervention students (mean = 3.85, SD = 1.49). There was also evidence of a significant group difference in ecstasy knowledge at post-test (control: mean = 9.57, SD = 3.31; intervention: mean = 11.57, SD = 3.61; β = -0.54, 95% CI = -0.97 to -0.12, P = 0.01, d = 0.73).

Conclusions: The Climate Schools: Ecstasy and Emerging Drugs module, a universal online school-based prevention program, appeared to reduce students’ intentions to use new psychoactive substances and increased knowledge about ecstasy and new psychoactive substances in the short term.

Keywords: Adolescents; ecstasy; internet; new psychoactive substance; prevention.

Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26880476/ April 2016

Abstract

Background: Inconsistent findings exist regarding long-term substance use (SU) risk for children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The observational follow-up of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (MTA) provides an opportunity to assess long-term outcomes in a large, diverse sample.

Methods: Five hundred forty-seven children, mean age 8.5, diagnosed with DSM-IV combined-type ADHD and 258 classmates without ADHD (local normative comparison group; LNCG) completed the Substance Use Questionnaire up to eight times from mean age 10 to mean age 25.

Results: In adulthood, weekly marijuana use (32.8% ADHD vs. 21.3% LNCG) and daily cigarette smoking (35.9% vs. 17.5%) were more prevalent in the ADHD group than the LNCG. The cumulative record also revealed more early substance users in adolescence for ADHD (57.9%) than LNCG (41.9%), including younger first use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and illicit drugs. Alcohol and nonmarijuana illicit drug use escalated slightly faster in the ADHD group in early adolescence. Early SU predicted quicker SU escalation and more SU in adulthood for both groups.

Conclusions: Frequent SU for young adults with childhood ADHD is accompanied by greater initial exposure at a young age and slightly faster progression. Early SU prevention and screening is critical before escalation to intractable levels.

Keywords: ADHD; Attention deficit disorder; adolescence; drug abuse.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: J.M.S. acknowledges research support, advisory board/speaker’s bureau and/or consulting for Alza, Richwood, Shire, Celgene, Novartis, Celltech, Gliatech, Cephalon, Watson, CIBA, UCB, Janssen, McNeil, Noven, NLS, Medice, and Lilly. J.T.M. received royalties from New Harbinger Press. L.E.A. received research funding from Curemark, Forest, Lilly, Neuropharm, Novartis, Noven, Shire, Supernus, and YoungLiving and consulted with or was on advisory boards for Gowlings, Neuropharm, Novartis, Noven, Organon, Otsuka, Pfizer, Roche, Seaside Therapeutics, Sigma Tau, Shire, and Tris Pharma and received travel support from Noven. L.H. received research support, served on advisory boards and was speaker for Eli Lilly, Glaxo/Smith/Kline, Ortho Janssen, Purdue, Shire and Ironshore. Other authors have no disclosures.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29315559 June 2018

 
Proportion of young people who tried cigarettes as their first drug fell over the same period, US study says

The proportion of young people using marijuana as their first drug doubled in the 10 years from 2004, a US-based study has found.

The government study reveals that among people aged between 12 and 21, the proportion of those who tried cigarettes as their first drug fell from about 21% to just under 9% between 2004 and 2014. However, the proportion who turned first to marijuana almost doubled from 4.4% to 8%.

While some studies have suggested that, overall, use and abuse of marijuana has fallen among teenagers in the US, the latest research sought to look at trends in which drug, if any, young people turned to first.

“We have, particularly in the US, done prevention programmes that are really focused on alcohol and tobacco – and they are relatively easy arguments to make to young people,” said Dr Renee Johnson, a co-author of the study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

But she said the “fear factor” is less likely to work for marijuana, noting that public programmes need instead to educate young people so they can make good decisions around drugs, and offer support to help them cope with difficulties in life and think about their life plans. “Once we teach young people about that, that will address the unhealthy marijuana use,” she said.

The study, published in the journal Prevention Science, is based on an analysis of data from more than 275,000 participants aged between 12 and 21 collected as part of the US national survey on drug use and health – an annual study that involves participants across all 50 states who are interviewed in person.

Among the findings, the team found that between 2004 and 2014, reported age at first use of each of the substances rose. What’s more, the proportion of young people reporting no drug use increased from 35.5% to just over 46%, while the proportion reporting cigarettes as their first substance fell. The proportion reporting alcohol as the first drug remained fairly constant at about 30%.Males were more likely than females to report using marijuana first. Ethnicity was also a factor, with almost 12% of American Indian and Alaskan native participants and over 9% of black participants reporting marijuana as their first drug – compared to under 5% of white participants and 2.5% of Asian participants.

Once age, sex and ethnicity were taken into account, the team found that those who smoked marijuana first were more likely to be current heavy marijuana users and have cannabis use disorder than those who used other substances first.

They were also as likely as those who used cigarettes first to have a nicotine dependancy if a smoker. “One concern about marijuana and tobacco use is [if] it increases tobacco use later in life,” said Johnson.

In addition, those who reported marijuana or alcohol as their first substance were more likely to report use of other drugs, such as heroin, than those who first used cigarettes or other tobacco products.

Prof Terrie Moffitt, a clinical psychologist at King’s College London who was not involved in the study, said the data was robust.

“The finding might arise because in the past decade, there have been major public campaigns warning of the dangers of tobacco and alcohol, whereas in contrast the media coverage of American states legalising cannabis creates the public impression that cannabis has no risks or dangers,” she said.

Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at King’s College London, agreed, saying the findings are highly predictable. “It’s a pity that so many young people appear to be swopping one set of health risks with another,” he said.

The impact of cannabis on the brains of young peoplemental health and life prospects has received much scrutiny. Moffitt noted the latest study shows it is young people who are already living in socially disadvantaged circumstances who tend to turn to marijuana as their first drug.

“If indeed it is not safe for teens, then cannabis use could compound the life challenges they already have to surmount to make their way in the world as adults,” she said.

Source: Surge in young Americans using marijuana as first drug | Science | The Guardian May 2018

Researchers in Australia released the results of a new study examining the consequences of long-term marijuana use that began in adolescence or young adulthood. A total of 1,792 participants were included in the longitudinal study spanning 20 years (from ages 15-35). Investigators found that compared to non-users, both young‐adult and adolescent‐onset regular users were 20 times more likely to have used other illicit drugs, 4 times more likely be heavy drinkers, and 7 times more likely to be daily tobacco smokers. There were also less than half as likely as non-users to be in romantic relationships.

Dr. Sharif Mohr, epidemiologist at Drug Free America Foundation commented, “The results of this study clearly show the negative effects of marijuana use that can follow youth far into adulthood. It also confirms marijuana’s role as a gateway drug. We’ve already learned from Colorado and other states that no matter what safeguards are in place, legal weed will always manage to find its way into the hands of young people, much to their detriment. It’s time for lawmakers to do the right thing and put an end to this disastrous large-scale experiment which only serves to enrich Big Marijuana and other players at the expense of our young people.”

Source:  https://www.dfaf.org/australian-study-demonstrates-consequences-of-youth-marijuana-use/     29th Jan. 2021

  • Researchers found smoking infrequently carries a high risk of schizophrenia
  • Cannabis use less than twice a week was as risky as smoking the drug daily 
  • Comes after psychiatric admissions for cannabis use soared in Scotland 

Teens who occasionally use cannabis are just as likely to develop schizophrenia as daily smokers, a study has claimed. Researchers in the Caribbean reviewed more than 590 papers looking at cannabis use in children aged 12 to 18. Smoking the drug at low frequencies came with the same six-fold increased risk of getting the mental disorder as doing it daily, results showed. Rates of schizophrenia in both groups were compared against non-smokers. Experts warned it is vital teenagers avoid using the drug while their brains are still developing. NHS figures show cannabis use in people aged 16 to 24 is rising in England and Wales, with 32.6 percent admitting having used it in 2020, compared to 30.2 per cent in 2016. It comes after data revealed psychiatric hospital admission among cannabis users soared 74 per cent since the drug was effectively decriminalised in Scotland. Scottish police changed its guidance in January 2016 so anyone found possessing cannabis could be issued with a warning rather than face prosecution. The number of prosecutions halved over the period. Last year, a record 1,263 patients in Scotland sought NHS treatment for psychiatric disorders blamed on cannabis, including schizophrenia.

The review, published in Journal of Clinical Psychology, included 591 studies from 2010 and 2020 about cannabis use in adolescents from across the globe. They classified cannabis users into two groups: low frequency users — smoking twice a week or less — and higher frequency users — who smoke daily or nearly every day. Using statistical analysis, they compared the groups’ chances of developing schizophrenia compared to teenagers who never smoked the drug. The chances of getting the mental disorder were six times higher in both groups, the researchers said. They did not specify how long it usually takes to develop the disorder after smoking. It tends to occur in men in their late teens and early 20s, and in the late 20s to early 30s in women — although it can develop at any age for either gender. 

Writing in the article, the researchers said: ‘Both high- and low-frequency marijuana usage were associated with a of schizophrenia. ‘The frequency of use among high- and low-frequency users is similar in both, demonstrating statistically significant increased risk in developing schizophrenia.’

Adam Winstock, the founder of the Global Drugs Survey and honorary professor of clinical medicine at University College London, said the study showed the need for caution around cannabis use at younger ages. He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘If you want to optimise your health and wellbeing and minimise your risk of developing psychotic illnesses, don’t use drugs when you are young. ‘Grow your brain before you expand it.’ 

The researchers were based in the Saint James School of Medicine in Arnos Vale, St Vincent and the Grenadines. The country last month made its first ever shipment of medical cannabis to Germany, sending 110lb (49.8kg) worth of the drug. The Caribbean nation with a population of just over 110,000 people has been developing its local cannabis industry for years. In 2018, Saint Vincent created a state agency to oversee licensing and ensure its medical cannabis is available to local patients. 

It comes after a host of research further bolstered the link between cannabis use and psychological disorders, including schizophrenia. One US study found that cannabis-linked psychosis admissions are 2.5 times higher in areas where the drug has been legalised. 

And official NHS figures show psychiatric hospital admissions for cannabis users rocketed from 1,191 in 2015 to 2016 to 2,067 last year. Professor Jonathan Chick, of Castle Craig Hospital, a private rehabilitation centre in Peeblesshire, said lawmakers have taken their eyes ‘off the ball’ with cannabis legislation. He said the number of young people suffering psychosis and schizophrenia because of cannabis use is a ‘worry’.

NHS figures show cannabis use in people aged 16 to 24 is rising in England and Wales, with 32.6 percent admitting having used it in 2020, compared to 30.2 per cent in 2016.

Graph shows: Drug use in different ages in England and Wales over time

 

Despite numerous studies linking the two, scientists have yet to firm up exactly how the drug may lead to the condition. And other research has suggested the drug itself may not be enough to cause serious mental disorders.

A separate study by Harvard researchers in 2014 of cannabis users with and without a family history of schizophrenia suggested cannabis use alone does not result in the disorder. The risk of developing the disorder was higher in those with a family history, regardless of cannabis use.

Dr Lynn DeLisi, one of the authors of the paper, told the New York Times at the time: ‘My study clearly shows that cannabis does not cause schizophrenia by itself. ‘Rather, a genetic predisposition is necessary. ‘It is highly likely, based on the results of this study and others, that cannabis use during adolescence through to age 25, when the brain is maturing and at its peak of growth in a genetically vulnerable individual, can initiate the onset of schizophrenia.’ 

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-10467473/Teenagers-smoke-cannabis-six-times-likely-develop-schizophrenia-study-claims.html February 2022

As marijuana use becomes increasingly normalized and liberalized, more and more adolescents are initiated into using the drug with serious implications for the healthcare system and public health.   Confirming what those of us in the prevention community have long known, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry found that marijuana use in adolescence was associated with increased risk of depression and suicide in young adulthood (18-32 years of age). After pooling data from 11 studies of over 23,300 individuals, researchers found that compared to non-users, adolescents who used marijuana were 40% more likely to suffer from depression, 50% more likely to experience suicidal ideation, and 250% more likely to attempt suicide in young adulthood.

Proponents of legalization often argue that alcohol and tobacco are legal even though they are responsible for far more deaths than marijuana. That is true. However, it is precisely because they are legal and widely accessible that they are so deadly. Do we want to add yet another legal intoxicant that has been linked to a number of negative health and social consequences at the individual and population levels? Two wrongs never make a right. Adolescent use of marijuana increases risk of suicidality by 250%. If the nation’s entire population of approximately 25,000,000 adolescents had access to recreational marijuana in the context of legalization, we could expect to see big increases in future suicides among young adults that are directly attributable to marijuana use. That is far too high a price to pay.

 

Source: https://www.dfaf.org/research/

 

 

Is addiction a biological disease that is driven by environmental factors or not

Posted Mar 11, 2019

It will come as no surprise to you that childhood trauma, particularly unresolved trauma, can lead to mental health issues and addiction later in life. While less was known about the specific correlation in decades past, today we have a pretty good understanding of just how damaging adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can be on development and coping.

The first few years of life are full of many important developmental milestones in terms of brain pathways, attachment, coping mechanisms and in generally learning how to relate to others and to stress. Those who experience trauma in their early years often develop survival mechanisms that are less than helpful in adulthood. For some people, such interference early on can even drive them towards addiction.

This is an area of addiction that I like to talk about, because people with an addiction are often judged at face-value by who they are right now, without any compassion or understanding of where they have come from or what has happened to them (for more on this mistake see HERE and HERE). Understanding these underlying issues however, becomes KEY in unlocking the secrets of addiction recovery.

Treat people with respect instead of blaming or shaming them. Listen intently to what they have to say. Integrate the healing traditions of the culture in which they live. Use prescription drugs, if necessary. And integrate adverse childhood experiences science: ACEs.”  – Dr. Daniel Sumrok

What are ACEs?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur in childhood.

This may include:

  • Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) and/ or neglect
  • Exposure to parental domestic violence
  • Household dysfunction e.g. parent with an untreated mental health condition or substance use disorder
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Loss of parent through death, deportation, incarceration or being removed from the family home by child protection services

Stressful experiences in childhood may also stem from outside the family home, for example: bullying, witnessing violence, racism, being an immigrant, homelessness, living in a war zone and moving house often (such as in the case of military families).

A substantial portion of the people I’ve worked with over the past 11 years have experienced at least one of these ACEs. Most have experienced two or more.

What does research say about ACEs and long-term

Much of the research has stemmed from the original CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, the most prominent investigation to date into childhood abuse and neglect and its impact on adult health and wellbeing. Data was collected between 1995 to 1997 from over 17,000 participants.

The ACE study looks at types of early trauma and the long-term outcomes for these children in later life. Participants were required to answer ten questions about specific forms of childhood trauma and mark whether they had experienced this or not. For each type of trauma, they received a score of 1, the highest being 10. For example, a person who was sexually abused, was exposed to domestic violence and had a parent with a substance use disorder, would have an ACE score of three.

The study found that a person with an ACE score of 4 has nearly double the risk of cancer and heart disease than someone without an adverse childhood experience. What’s more, the likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder increases 7-fold percent and the likelihood of suicideincreased 12-fold.

People who have had an ACE are two to four times more likely to start using alcohol or drugs at an early age, compared to those without an ACE score. People with an ACE score of 5 or higher are up to ten times more likely to experience addiction compared with people who haven’t experienced childhood trauma.

The research has also revealed that people with higher ACE scores are more likely to experience chronic pain and misuse prescription medication, and are at increased risk of serious health conditions such as:

In the United States, 60% of adults had experienced at least one traumatic event in their childhood and 25% had experienced at least 3 ACEs.

How do we make sense of all the research?

There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting this notion: the majority of people currently experiencing mental health or addiction problems have a history of adverse childhood experiences. That’s not to say that all children who experience trauma will go on to have a substance use disorder, because there are a lot of other factors at play, but it is a nearly-necessary component of a person’s history that requires serious consideration in treatment.

“Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction) is a normal response to the adversity experienced in childhood, just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed.” – Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine.

It’s also important to note that the ACE study simply reports on correlations, not causal links. We cannot say that experiencing physical abuse or a messy divorce in childhood will directly lead to a substance use disorder.

What we do know is this: Adverse childhood experiences are bad for your emotional and physical health and wellbeing in adulthood.

We must also consider all the other factors that influence a person’s behavior including socioeconomic factors such as income, education and access to resources.

Now, I don’t want to overwhelm you with all the research that points toward the power of our trauma histories. Your ACE score is not destiny. With help, you can learn healthy coping mechanisms, and how to have healthy relationships. We also need to account for geneticenvironmental and spiritual factors that influence our behavior.

And while the research sheds light on how powerful childhood trauma can be in our life’s trajectory, it also helps inform government, communities and individuals about the importance of compassion. The link between adverse childhood experiences and later health problems is even more of a reason to reduce stigma and shame associated surrounding addiction. Children do not have control over their home environment, so therefore, we cannot expect them to overcome their difficulties as adults without compassion and support.

How can we help people with ACEs overcome addiction?

We need to focus on providing resources to the people at greatest risk and making sure those resources go into programs that reduce or mitigate adversity.

Dr. Daniel Sumrock says we can do these things to help people change addiction by:

  • Address a person’s unresolved childhood trauma through individual and/ or group therapy
  • Treat people with compassion and respect
  • Use harm minimization principles such as providing medication treatments for addiction (such as buprenorphine or methadone)
  • Help people with an addiction find a ‘ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior’ (addiction) that is less harmful to their health.

IGNTD Recovery takes ACEs into account, getting to the “why” of the addiction, not just putting a Band-Aid on the compulsive seeking symptom. Indeed, we believe that focusing on the symptoms is harmful.

So if this is something you’d like to address either for yourself or for someone you know then find out more about my approach to addiction at IGNTD Recovery or in my book The Abstinence Myth.

Read more about the ACE study:

Source:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/all-about-addiction/201903/linked-adverse-childhood-experiences-health-addiction

Researchers from Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, whose crest is pictured above, and other academic medical institutions, surveyed 2630 14- to 18-year-olds via Facebook who live in states that have legalized marijuana for medical use (MMJ states), recreational use (RMJ states), and not legalized the drug (NMJ states).

MMJ and RMJ states vary in what they allow, and the researchers wanted to learn if different provisions influence when adolescents begin marijuana use and which provisions may result in increasing use among young people.

The researchers say it is crucial to understand how marijuana legalization laws affect youth because they are more vulnerable to the drug’s harmful effects. Chronic use during adolescence has been associated with impaired brain development, educational achievement, and psychosocial functioning, as well as an increased risk of developing addiction.

Legalization has spurred the development of new marijuana products with higher potencies, such as marijuana-infused foods called edibles and electronic vaping devices that enable a user to inhale the psychoactive ingredients of tobacco and marijuana without the smoke.

Edibles sold in most legal states lack safety standards or products regulations and are marketed in ways that are attractive to youth, the researchers note. These factors are contributing to the sharp increase in marijuana overdoses among young people. Vaping devices are becoming increasingly popular among middle school and high school children who use them to vape marijuana more often than adults. Moreover, data show adolescents are vaping high-potency marijuana products whose impact on neurodevelopment is unknown but concerning because they may place youth at higher risk for psychosis.

The researchers find that youth in legalization states are twice as likely as those in nonlegalization states to have tried vaping. Moreover, youth in legalization states with high dispensary density are twice as likely to have tried vaping and three times more likely to have tried edibles than youth in nonlegalization states.

The kind and duration of marijuana legalization laws also impact youth. Youth in MMJ states are significantly more likely to have tried vaping and edibles than youth in nonlegalization states, and youth in RMJ states are significantly more likely to have tried both than youth in MMJ states. Youth in legal states that allow home cultivation are twice as likely to have tried edibles (but not vaping) as their peers in legal states that prohibit home grows. States with the oldest legalization laws also see increases in youth lifetime vaping and edible use.

Read Science Daily summary here. Read Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal abstract here.

Source: Email from National Families In Action June 2017

Medical marijuana in Florida was approved by Governor Rick Scott last month and now school districts statewide are struggling with one specific requirement of the legislation. Under the law, children with certain ailments can use cannabis while at school and the districts are obligated to make it available to students as needed.

While medical marijuana for children is legal in Florida, the schools are resistant to creating cannabis-use policy as the language used in the law is ambiguous and inconsistent. The law requires schools to store and manage cannabis like other medications but does not provide a clear definition as to who can administer it to students.

Only an authorized caregiver can give medical marijuana to a child, yet the law does not afford school employees the power to act as a caregiver. Mitch Teitelbaum, an attorney for the Manatee County School District, says making schools provide the drug to students makes no sense when the school has no legal power to do so.

“The district is compelled to adhere to all state and federal laws,” said Teitelbaum, as reported by the Bradenton Herald. “But how do we do so with such inconsistency?”

The original medical cannabis law approved by Florida voters in November did not contain the school requirement provision, but was later modified to include it. This added amendment is causing both confusion and controversy to the new marijuana law.

Most Florida school districts turn to consulting firm NEOLA for help creating school policy. Currently, the company is reviewing the law and deciding how to move forward before making any recommendations to district officials.

According to NEOLA CEO Dick Clapp, Florida’s medical marijuana law puts “schools in a real tough spot” by making them create a policy that potentially opens them up to lawsuits. Once one district comes up with solid guidelines regulating how cannabis will be given to students, other districts are likely to follow. However, Clapp says that isn’t likely to happen before the start of the 2017-18 school year.

As of now, not many children are affected by the medical marijuana law in Florida. Yet, the families that are impacted want the state’s school districts or the Florida Department of Education to make a decision.

“The number of people that will be impacted will be a small number, but they are in dire situations, so it is a tough human-relations thing,” Clapp said, per the report by the Bradenton Herald. “I don’t know what we do about that.”

It is likely the Florida school districts with the highest number of students will act first to create medical marijuana guidelines. For now, the most probable scenario will be treating medical cannabis like any other prescription medication.

The medical marijuana law in Florida allows children with severe epilepsy, cancer, and other qualifying conditions to be treated with cannabis oil, capsules, and edibles. Due to federal restrictions regarding prescribing weed for medical purposes, marijuana treatment is only available by recommendation from state-approved physicians to Florida patients.

Source: https://www.inquisitr.com/4399383/medical-marijuana-in-florida-creates-policy-smoky-challenge-for-states-school-districts/ July 2017

Source:Drug Use in Colorado 2000 – 2013 SAMHSA NSDUH data

 

In a pre-clinical study, researchers from Western University in Ontario, Canada, studied the effects of long-term exposure to THC in both adolescent and adult rats.

They found changes in behavior as well as in brain cells in the adolescent rats that were identical to those found in schizophrenia. These changes lasted into early adulthood long after the initial THC exposure.

The young rats were “socially withdrawn and demonstrated increased anxiety, cognitive disorganization, and abnormal levels of dopamine, all of which are features of schizophrenia,” according to the article. The same effects were not seen in the adult rats.

“With the current rise in cannabis use and the increase in THC content, it is critically important to highlight the risk factors associated with exposure to marijuana, particularly during adolescence,” the researchers warn.

Read Medical News Today story here. Read study abstract in the journal Cerebral Cortex here.

Email from Monte Stiles, National Families in Action January 2016

VIENNA: The United Nations Commission on Narcotic has unanimously adopted Pakistan’s resolution on strengthening efforts to prevent drug abuse in educational settings.

The resolution was adopted during the commission’s sixty first regular session in Vienna. The resolution drew attention of the Commission towards the common challenges of drug abuse among children and youth in schools colleges and universities.

It underscored the need for enhancing efforts including policy interventions and comprehensive drug prevention programmes to protect children and youth from the scourge of illicit drugs and to make educational institutions free from drug abuse.

The resolution emphasized upon the important role of educational institutions in promoting healthy lifestyles among young people and calls for close coordination among law enforcement agencies, educational centres and health authorities at domestic level.

It reflected political commitment of the global community to promote international cooperation through exchange of experiences and good practices and technical assistance to address drug abuse in educational institutions. Pakistan’s initiative to table this resolution was widely appreciated.

Source: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/294734-un-adopts-pakistan-s-resolution-for-efforts-to-prevent-drug-abuse  March 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs addresses a single, important public health topic each month. This month’s edition presents their latest findings on youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising. They also highlight strategies to prevent youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising and youth e-cigarette use.

The use of e-cigarettes among U.S. youth has increased considerably since 2011. Exposure to advertisements depicting e-cigarettes might contribute to increased e-cigarette use among youth. CDC analyzed nationally representative data to estimate the prevalence of e-cigarette advertisements among middle school and high school students in the U.S. Four sources of exposure were assessed: retail stores, Internet, TV and movies, and newspapers and magazines.

Key points in the Vital Signs report include:

  • Approximately 18.3 million U.S. middle school and high school students were exposed to at least one source of e-cigarette advertising in 2014.
     
  • Approximately half of all middle school and high school students (an estimated 14.4 million students) were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements in retail stores.
     
  • Approximately one third of middle school and high school students were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements on the Internet (10.5 million), on TV or at the movies (9.6 million), or while reading newspapers or magazines (8.0 million).

Source: https://www.cadca.org/resources/e-cigarette-advertising-found-be-pervasive-youth-cdc-says 2016

Filed under: Nicotine,Youth :

The United States is confronting a public health crisis of rising adult drug addiction, most visibly documented by an unprecedented number of opioid overdose deaths. Most of these overdose deaths are not from the use of a single substance – opioids – but rather are underreported polysubstance deaths. This is happening in the context of a swelling national interest in legalizing marijuana use for recreational and/or medical use. As these two epic drug policy developments roil the nation, there is an opportunity to embrace a powerful initiative. Ninety percent of all adult substance use disorders trace back to origins in adolescence. New prevention efforts are needed that inform young people, the age group most at-risk for the onset of substance use problems, of the dangerous minefield of substance use that could have a profound negative impact on their future plans and dreams.

MOVING BEYOND A SUBSTANCE-SPECIFIC APPROACH TO YOUTH PREVENTION

The adolescent brain is uniquely vulnerable to developing substance use disorders because it is actively and rapidly developing until about age 25. This biological fact means that the earlier substance use is initiated the more likely an individual is to develop addiction. Preventing or delaying all adolescent substance use reduces the risk of developing later addiction.

Nationally representative data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are by far the most widely used drugs among teens. This is no surprise because of the legal status of these entry level, or gateway, drugs for adults and because of their wide availability. Importantly, among American teens age 12 to 17, the use of any one of these three substances is highly correlated with the use of the other two and with the use of other illegal drugs. Similarly for youth, not using any one substance is highly correlated with not using the other two or other illegal drugs.

For example, as shown in Figure 1, teen marijuana users compared to their non-marijuana using peers, are 8.9 times more likely to report smoking cigarettes, 5.6, 7.9 and 15.8 times more likely to report using alcohol, binge drink, and drink heavily, respectively, and 9.9 times more likely to report using other illicit drugs, including opioids. There are similar data for youth who use any alcohol or any cigarettes showing that youth who do not use those drugs are unlikely to use the other two drugs. Together, these data show how closely linked is the use by youth of all three of these commonly used drugs.


Among Americans age 12 and older who meet criteria for substance use disorders specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV). Marijuana remains illegal under federal law but is legal in some states for recreational use the legal age is 21, and in some states for medical use, the legal age is 18. Nationally the legal age for tobacco products is 18 and for alcohol it is 21.

These findings show that prevention messaging targeting youth must address all of these three substances specifically. Most current prevention efforts are specific to individual substances or kinds and amounts of use of individual drugs (e.g., cigarette smoking, binge drinking, drunk driving, etc.), all of which have value, but miss a vital broader prevention message. What is needed, based on these new data showing the linkage of all drug use by youth, is a comprehensive drug prevention message: One Choice: no use of any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs for youth under age 21 for reasons of health. This no use prevention message provides clarity for young people, parents, physicians, educators, communities and for policymakers. It is not intended to replace public health prevention messages on specific substances, but enhances them with a clear focus on youth.

Some claim adolescent use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana is inevitable, a goal of no use of any drug as unrealistic and that the appropriate goal of youth prevention is to prevent the progression of experimentation to later heavy use or problem-generating use. These opinions are misleading and reflect a poor understanding of neurodevelopment that underpins drug use. Teens are driven to seek new and exciting behaviors which can include substance use if the culture makes them available and promotes them. This need not be the case. New data in Figure 2 (below) show over the last four decades, the percentage of American high school seniors who do not use any alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other drugs has increased steadily. In 2014, 52% of high school seniors had not used any alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other drugs in the past month and 26% had not used any alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other drugs in their lifetimes. Clearly making the choice of no use of any substances is indeed possible – and growing.

 

Key lessons for the future of youth prevention can be learned from the past. Substance use peaked among high school seniors in 1978 when 72% used alcohol, 37% used cigarettes, and 37% used marijuana in the past month. These figures have since dropped significantly (see Figure 3 below). In 2016, 33% of high school seniors used alcohol, 10% used cigarettes and 22% used marijuana in the past month. This impressive public health achievement is largely unrecognized.

Although the use of all substances has declined over the last four decades, their use has not fallen uniformly. The prevalence of alcohol use, illicit drug use and marijuana use took similar trajectories, declining from 1978 to 1992. During this time a grassroots effort known as the Parents’ Movement changed the nation’s thinking about youth marijuana use with the result that youth drug use declined a remarkable 63%. Rates of adolescent alcohol use have continued to decline dramatically as have rates of adolescent cigarette use. Campaigns and corresponding policies focused on reducing alcohol use by teens seem to have made an impact on adolescent drinking behavior. The impressive decline in youth tobacco use has largely been influenced by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement which provided funding to anti-smoking advocacy groups and the highly-respected Truth media campaign. The good news from these long-term trends is that alcohol and tobacco use by adolescents now are at historic lows.

It is regrettable but understandable that youth marijuana use, as well as use of the other drugs, has risen since 1991 and now has plateaued. The divergence of marijuana trends from those for alcohol and cigarettes began around the time of the collapse of the Parents’ Movement and the birth of a massive, increasingly well-funded marijuana industry promoting marijuana use. Shifting national attitudes to favor legalizing marijuana sale and use for adults both for medical and for recreational use now are at their highest level and contribute to the use by adolescents. Although overall the national rate of marijuana use for Americans age 12 and older has declined since the late seventies, a greater segment of marijuana users are heavy users (see Figure 4). Notably, from 1992 to 2014, the number of daily or near-daily marijuana uses increased 772%. This trend is particularly ominous considering the breathtaking increase in the potency of today’s marijuana compared to the product consumed in earlier decades. These two factors – higher potency products and more daily use – plus the greater social tolerance of marijuana use make the current marijuana scene far more threatening than was the case four decades ago.

Through the Parents’ Movement, the nation united in its opposition to adolescent marijuana use, driving down the use of all youth drug use. Now is the time for a new movement backed by all concerned citizens to call for One Choice: no use of any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs for youth under age 21 for reasons of health. This campaign would not be a second iteration of the earlier “Just Say No” campaign. This new no-use message focuses on all of the big three drugs together, not singly and only in certain circumstances such as driving.

We are at a bitterly contentious time in US drug policy, with front page headlines and back page articles about the impact of the rising death rate from opioids, the human impact of these deaths and the addiction itself. At the same time there are frequent heated debates about legalizing adult marijuana and other drug use. Opposing youth substance use as a separate issue is supported by new scientific evidence about the vulnerability of the adolescent brain and is noncontroversial. Even the Drug Policy Alliance, a leading pro-marijuana legalization organization, states “the safest path for teens is to avoid drugs, including alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs outside of a doctor’s recommendations.”

This rare commonality of opinion in an otherwise perfect storm of disagreement provides an opportunity to protect adolescent health and thereby reduce future adult addiction. Young people who do not use substances in their teens are much less likely to use them or other drugs in later decades. The nation is searching for policies to reduce the burden of addiction on our nation’s families, communities and health systems, as well as how to save lives from opioid and other drug overdoses. Now is precisely the time to unite in developing strong, clear public health prevention efforts based on the steady, sound message of no use of any alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or other drugs for youth under age 21 for reasons of health.

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

Source: https://www.ibhinc.org/blog/reducing-adult-addiction-youth-prevention  February 2018

Moe Ainsley, a grower with Kaya Collection, tends to marijuana plants at the company’s Wacky Tabacky facility near Gold Bar. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Washington’s pot is a bit more potent than the national average. And the state’s teens are more likely to smoke marijuana than young people nationwide.

Although we have the same problems with marijuana as we do with liquor abuse, no blockbuster conclusions came from a recent report on Washington’s marijuana universe.

But a couple of somewhat unexpected environmental wrinkles from Washington’s marijuana industry — both legal and illegal — also emerge in the second annual look at the state’s experience since passage of a 2012 initiative allowing recreational pot sales.

Marijuana growers and processors use 1.63 percent of the state’s electricity, which is a lot, according to the report by the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — a combined effort by several federal, state and local government agencies. By way of comparison, all forms of lighting — in homes, commercial buildings and manufacturing — account for just 7 to 11 percent of electrical consumption nationally. Or, as the report puts it, the power is enough for 2 million homes.

The high power consumption stems from the heat lamps and the accompanying air conditioning for indoor marijuana growing operations. “They are exceedingly energy-consumptive,” said Steven Freng, manager for prevention and treatment for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

The carbon footprint, according to the report, equals that of about 3 million cars.

And illegal pot growers siphoned off 43.2 million gallons of water from streams and aquifers during the 2016 growing season — water that tribes, farmers and cities would otherwise use as carefully as possible, in part to protect salmon.

Sixty percent of Washington’s illegal pot was grown on state-owned land in 2016. That’s because black-market growers tend to worry about gun-toting owners on private lands, according to Freng and Luci McKean, the organization’s deputy director. The black-market operations use the water during a roughly 120-day growing season.

Marijuana purchases have boomed in Washington. Legal marijuana sales were almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2016 and were on track to be about $1.5 billion in fiscal 2017, which ended June 30. As of February, the state had 1,121 licensed producers, 1,106 licensed processors and 470 licensed retailers.

What Washington’s marijuana users are getting is above average in potency. According to the report, nationwide marijuana products average a THC percentage of 13.2 percent, while Washington state’s THC average percentage was 21.6 percent.

Teen use of marijuana has grown slightly. Depending on how the numbers are crunched, marijuana use among Washington’s young adults and teens ranges from 2 to 5 percent above the national average. Five percent of Washingtonians age 18-to-25 use pot daily, slightly above the national average, the report said.

According to a survey cited in the report, 17 percent of high school seniors and 9 percent of high school sophomores have driven within three hours after smoking pot.

Adult use before driving is still a fuzzy picture. A third of Washingtonians arrested for driving under the influence had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their bloodstreams. One study found an increase in dead drivers with THC above the legal limit in their blood from 7.8 percent in 2013 to 12.8 percent in 2014.

“Adults still don’t understand the effects of impairment behind the wheel of a car,” Freng said.

McKean said that one major unknown is marijuana-laced edibles, which authorities believe have become a significant factor in THC-impaired drivers, but has not been studied enough to provide solid numbers.

Another major unknown, McKean and Freng said, is how marijuana consumption contributes to emergency room and hospital cases because the state hospitals have not agreed to release that data to government officials.

This story has been updated since it first appeared to add a link to the report.

  Source: https://crosscut.com/2017/10/washingtons-pot-industry-not-environmentally-friendly-marijuana October 2017

The new 2016-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health State Estimates is out this week. The graphs above illustrate a few of the findings from this annual survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Numbers in graphs are percentages. The graphs can be downloaded starting Thursday, December 6 here. National Families in Action grants permission to reproduce them for educational purposes.

Source: Email from National Families in Action’s The Marijuana Report <nfia@nationalfamilies.org>  December 2018

Teens who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to try marijuana in the future, especially if they start vaping at a younger age, a new study shows.

More than 1 in 4 teenagers who reported  use eventually progressed to smoking pot, according to the survey of more than 10,000 teens.

That compared with just 8 percent of non-vapers, said lead researcher Hongying Dai, senior biostatistician with Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Further, teens who started vaping early had a greater risk of subsequent  use.

Kids aged 12 to 14 who used e-cigarettes were 2.7 times more likely to try marijuana than their peers, compared with a 1.6 times greater risk for teens who tried vaping between 15 and 17.

“Our findings suggest that the widespread use of e-cigarettes among youth may have implications for uptake of other drugs of abuse beyond nicotine and tobacco products,” Dai said.

For the study, Dai and her colleagues twice surveyed 10,364 kids aged 12 to 17—once in 2013-2014, and again a year later.

The researchers found that teens who’d reported using e-cigarettes in the first wave were more likely to have tried marijuana for the first time during the subsequent year.

Results also showed that 12- to 14-year-olds who had tried e-cigs were 2.5 times more likely to become heavy marijuana users, smoking pot at least once a week.

Worse still, the researchers found that the more often  used e-cigarettes, the more likely they were to either try marijuana or become a heavy pot smoker.

Dai said the nicotine contained in e-cigarette vapor could be altering the brain chemistry of young teens.

“The brain is still developing during the  years; nicotine exposure might lead to changes in the central nervous system that predisposes teens to dependence on other drugs of abuse,” Dai said.

It’s also possible that experimenting with e-cigarettes might increase a teen’s curiosity about marijuana, and reduce any worries about marijuana use, Dai added.

Additionally, kids who use e-cigarettes could be more likely to run with a crowd that tries other substances, said Dai and Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.

“E-cigarettes are going to be in the same drug culture as other things,” Krakower said.

These findings should be concerning to parents because kids might not stop at trying marijuana, he said.

“If you go to marijuana, is that going to lead to pills? Is that going to lead to something else?” Krakower said. “When we see progression to another substance, it’s like the ‘and then what’ cascade—they went to marijuana, and then what?”

Since this is a survey, it can’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship. And it’s possible that wild, risk-taking teens who try e-cigarettes are predisposed to be adventurous with other drugs, Dai and Krakower said.

“It could be that they have more of that sensation-seeking personality, and if they pick up one they’re going to pick up the other,” Krakower said.

But Dai said her team took that into account, and even after adjusting for sensation seeking, “ever e-cigarette use was still significantly associated with subsequent marijuana use.”

Krakower recommends that parents look for warning signs of e-cigarette use—marked irritability, hiding things, skirting the truth—and put their foot down hard.

“There should be zero tolerance for this kind of behavior,” Krakower said.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, agreed.

“E-cigarettes are adult products and are not intended for youth of any age,” Conley said. “We agree with the authors’ conclusion that more education is needed to help young people understand the consequences of using age-restricted products and illicit drugs.”

The new study was published online April 23 in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-vaping-teens-pot.html April 2018

  • Cannabis is responsible for 91% of drug addiction cases involving teenagers
  • Skunk – high-potency herbal cannabis – causing more people to seek treatment 
  • Backs up research that skunk is having detrimental impact on mental health

Supporters of the drug claim it is harmless, but an official report now warns the ‘increased dominance of high-potency herbal cannabis’ – known as skunk – is causing more young people to seek treatment.

The revelation comes amid growing concerns that universities – and even some public schools – are awash with high-strength cannabis and other drugs.

The findings also back up academic research, revealed in The Mail on Sunday over the past three years, that skunk is having a serious detrimental impact on the mental health of the young. At least two studies have shown repeated use triples the risk of psychosis, with sufferers repeatedly experiencing delusional thoughts. Some victims end up taking their own lives.

The latest UK Focal Point on Drugs report, drawn up by bodies including Public Health England, the Scottish Government and the Home Office, found that:

Cannabis is responsible for 91 per cent of cases where teenagers end up being treated for drug addiction, shocking new figures reveal (file photo)
Cannabis is responsible for 91 per cent of cases where teenagers end up being treated for drug addiction, shocking new figures reveal 
  • Over the past decade, the number of under-18s treated for cannabis abuse in England has jumped 40 per cent – from 9,043 in 2006 to 12,712 in 2017;
  • Treatment for all narcotics has increased by 20 per cent – up from 11,618 to 13,961;
  • The proportion of juvenile drug treatment for cannabis use is up from four in five cases (78 per cent) to nine in ten (91 per cent);
  • There has been a ‘sharp increase’ in cocaine use among 15-year-olds, up 56 per cent from 16,700 in 2014 to 26,200 in 2016.

Last night, Lord Nicholas Monson, whose 21-year-old son Rupert Green killed himself last year after becoming hooked on high-strength cannabis, said: ‘These figures show the extent of the damage that high-potency cannabis wreaks on the young.

‘The big danger for young people – particularly teens – is that their brains can be really messed up by this stuff because they are still developing biologically. If they develop drug-induced psychosis – as Rupert did – the illness can stick for life.’

The large rise in the number of youngsters treated for cannabis abuse comes despite the fact that total usage is falling slightly.

The report concludes: ‘While fewer people are using cannabis, those who are using it are experiencing greater harm.’

Almost all cannabis on Britain’s streets is skunk, which is four times more powerful than types that dominated the market until the early 2000s. It can even trigger hallucinations.

Lord Monson said: ‘We really need Ministers to get a grip and launch a major publicity campaign about the dangers.’ 

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5642917/Nine-ten-teens-drug-clinics-treated-marijuana-use.html  April 2018

When I was a kid, smoking was very common among adults but not kids. If you look at many of the television programs and movies from before 1970, you will see just how popular smoking was. In the evenings during prime-time television, there seemed to be as many cigarette commercials as there were for any other product. Magazines were filled with cigarette ads and billboards along the roads helped to glamorized having a lit cigarette protruding from your lips. The rugged and handsome looking cowboy known at the Marlboro Man helped to attract men and women to the nicotine habit.

However, at the time, most junior and senior high schools forbid smoking on campus and anyone even caught with cigarettes was disciplined. Many high school kids did smoke and thought they were hiding it but little did they know just how much the smell of cigarettes stayed on their breath and on their clothes.

Then came all of the health warnings that smoking causes cancer. Anti-smoking groups sprang up all over America and pushed to ban most cigarette and tobacco advertising from television and magazines. Many states began to pass legislation to add an extra sales tax on all tobacco products. The push behind those taxes is that it helped raise money to fight cancer and the other health problems associated with smoking and chewing.

Yet, the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products didn’t seem to be hurt that much if at all by the anti-tobacco push. Millions of American adults and teens still lit up and puffed away.

Then someone thought they were really smart and developed the e-cigarette. It’s a battery-operated devise that heats up a special liquid to point of creating a vapor, much like smoking. It didn’t take long for the concept to catch on and become a billion-dollar industry.

What attracted so many at first was that e-cigarettes didn’t contain the tar products found in burning real tobacco, so many believed it to be a safer alternative. Then it became stylish and millions of teens wanted to look like one of the gang, so they bought their e-cigarettes and began puffing away.

In fact, e-cigarettes became so popular with teens that the use of them by high school students rose by 900% from 2011 to 2015.

New research has found a two-fold danger, especially with teens smoking e-cigarettes.

First, that liquid that is heated up and inhaled as a vapor not only contains nicotine but some of the other toxic chemicals found in smoking real cigarettes. In other words, there is still a significant increased risk of developing cancer, emphysema and/or heart disease from smoking e-cigarettes.

Secondly, the use of e-cigarettes has been found to increase the chance of a teen and young adult turning to real cigarettes within 18 months of starting. They can still get addicted to the nicotine and that addiction often drives them to smoking the real thing. Instead of e-cigarettes helping people to stop smoking, studies have been found to indicate that they may actually increase the chance of smoking real tobacco products.

The bottom line is that e-cigarettes really aren’t that much better than smoking real cigarettes and in some cases are even worse because they give a false sense of safety.

Source: http://www.healthylifestylearena.com/2-fold-danger-of-teens-using-e-cigarettes/ May 2018

Filed under: Nicotine,Youth :

(Alexandria, VA) – Marijuana legalization has led to massive increases in youth exposure to the substance, according the 2017 Annual Toxic Trend Report compiled by the Washington Poison Center.

In 2017, there were 378 total marijuana exposures reported to the Washington State Poison Center. This number is an all-time high for reported marijuana exposures and is an increase of 87 incidents from the previous year.

Almost a third of the reported instances of marijuana exposure in the last year occur within the age group of children up to 5 years old. The rate of exposure among this age group has seen an explosive increase of almost 58% compared to the previous year.

Of the reported 378 instances of marijuana exposure in 2017, nearly half occurred as a result of eating marijuana edibles. Following legalization and commercialization, the marijuana industry has flooded the market with high-potency THC infused cookies, gummies, sodas, and other edibles that are highly appealing children.


Of note: the reporting of exposures to the Poison Center is completely voluntary and is most likely an underrepresentation to the true amounts of marijuana exposure occurring in the state of Washington.

“This report is extremely troubling,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president and founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “As Big Marijuana continues to churn out kid-friendly edibles, more and more young children are ending up in emergency rooms. The preponderance of data show that marijuana has a damaging effect on developing brains but reports such as this get swept under the rug as lawmakers rush to liberalize drug laws.”

###

About SAM Action 

SAM Action is a non-profit, 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to promoting healthy marijuana policies that do not involve legalizing drugs. Learn more about SAM Action and its work visit www.samaction.net.

Source: Email from SAM Action <reply@learnaboutsam.org>, July 2018

Parents’ greatest fear is that their kids will become addicted to drugs and alcohol

This is according to a Parent Co. survey with over 1500 participants. Fear of drug and alcohol addiction vastly outweighed concerns about terrorism, economic collapse, crime, and war. When we shared the results of this survey, comments from readers could be grouped into three categories:

1. Parents saying “Of course this is our biggest fear!”

2. Parents asking if it’s possible to analyze their kids’ behavior and attitudes for signs of future addiction.

3. Parents asking about the factors that contribute to future addiction. We set out to research these answers with help from AddictionWise, an online service for families and friends of addicts. (More on AddictionWise below.)

From harmful substance abuse of alcohol or drugs or cigarettes to gambling, sex, food, or exercise, addiction can manifest in many forms.

While research continues to explore the scope of addiction and addictive behavior, the bottom line is that science has yet to isolate an “addictive personality.”

However, there’s strong evidence that some people are born vulnerable to addiction. It’s also often possible to predict a child’s’ risk of future addiction.

Genetics, relationships in childhood, environmental and social influences, adolescent experimentation, and the existence of an underlying personality disorder may ultimately contribute to the development of addiction and addictive behaviors.

The biggest indicators of future addiction problems are:

* Genetics – a family history of addiction

* Association with drug-abusing peers

* Drug and alcohol experimentation in adolescence

It’s important to note that parental understanding of the mechanics of addiction is a powerful preventive tool.

Addiction is a medical condition that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., something perceived as being positive or desirable). – Wikipedia

Genetics

A history of family addiction may be the strongest indicator of future addiction.

Many studies have shown that children of addicts have a much greater chance of becoming addicts themselves. Environmental factors may play a role, but a history of family addiction may be the strongest indicator of a child’s future addiction risks.

According to Doug Sellman of the National Addiction Center, heritability runs at about 50% of the cause of addiction.

Dr. A. Thomas McLellan has determined that though more research is needed on the topic, genetics has a critical role in whether or not an individual will develop an addiction, just as chronic illness can be passed from one generation to another.

Undercontrolled Temperament

“[We] have firmly established that undercontrolled temperament comes before any involvement in gambling.” – Wendy Slutske, who is a professor of psychological science at the University of Missouri

In the past few years, research has focused on how “undercontrolled” temperaments in children strongly correlate to a future probability of addiction. A large-scale, long-term, longitudinal study from New Zealand found that undercontrolled three-year-0lds were more than three times as likely to become addicted to drugs and twice as likely to have problems with gambling as young adults than their peers with the most self-control.”

Aspects of an “undercontrolled temperament” include:

* a lack of self-control, including rapidly shifting emotions

* impulsive and willful behavior

* relatively high levels of negative feelings such as alienation and negative emotion

* less conscientiousness and less social agreeability compared to peers

Even after factors like IQ, gender, and socioeconomic status were accounted for the association with addiction still held. And when the “undercontrolled” children were assessed as adults, they hadn’t changed all that much. (This is also shown in this California Child Q-Set study.)

About 10% of children in the study exhibited an undercontrolled temperament.

Relationships With Peers and Adults

Children who have poor relationships with peers and adults are more at risk for addiction.

A child’s environment and family additionally can affect the development of addictive habits. Dr. Robert B. Millman has advocated that children who have poor relationships with peers and adults are more at risk for addiction whereas those with positive relationships are at less risk. Dr. Hatterer also confers with this perspective and elaborates a child who suffers abuse is also at risk for developing an addiction later in life.

Moreover, Dr. Hatterer articulates that a lack of consistent parenting throughout childhood also influences future addictive behavior patterns.

Drug experimentation in adolescence

Association with drug-abusing peers is often the most immediate risk for exposing adolescents to drug abuse and delinquent behavior. – Drugabuse.gov

A 30-year prospective study found that early-exposed adolescents remained at an increased risk for poor outcomes. Approximately 50% of adolescents exposed to alcohol and drugs before age 15 had no conduct-problem history, yet were still at an increased risk for adult substance dependence.

Likewise, children who feel isolated or alienated are at risk for addictions. They may lack self-confidence and not know how to reach out to others for their emotional needs. .These children may eventually turn to addictive substances to cope.

According to David Sack M.D: “For peer groups where substance abuse is the norm, the future looks bleak. Nine out of 10 people who end up addicted started drinking, smoking or using drugs by age 18, CASA reports. One in four high school students who drinks or uses drugs becomes addicted. Drinking at an early age is linked to dangerous binge drinking in young adulthood. Many people come to treatment with histories of drug abuse spanning decades, or the majority of their young lives, making the recovery process more challenging.”

Childhood Trauma

When a child has suffered a trauma such as physical, mental, or sexual abuse; the death of a parent; or neglect, she may turn to addictive behaviors or substances to help cope with her pain and stress. This is especially true if she hasn’t been taught healthy coping strategies.

Changes in Brain Chemistry vs. “Addictive Personality.”

There’s aren’t always signs of addictive traits in childhood. For many people, addiction is a progressive disease.

Addiction isn’t necessarily the consequence of an “addictive personality” (which technically doesn’t exist; see below) as much as a result of changes in brain chemistry. Dr. Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, contends that “voluntary and controllable” drug and alcohol use can eventually morph into a daily addiction. Continued drug use alters the brain’s functioning and structure.

Leshner even considers drug addiction a form of brain disease.

“The development of addiction is like a vicious cycle: Chronic drug use not only realigns a person’s priorities but also may alter key brain areas necessary for judgment and self-control, further reducing the individual’s ability to control or stop their drug use. This is why, despite popular belief, willpower alone is often insufficient to overcome an addiction. Drug use has compromised the very parts of the brain that make it possible to “say no.” – Drugabuse.gov

Summing Up

A child with increased risk of addiction isn’t destined to become an addict.

Addiction typically begins as a symptom, not a cause, of personal and social maladjustment.

Addiction is a complex process. Many people gamble, drink, and take drugs without becoming addicted.

Addiction should always be viewed in the context of an person’s developmental history. It’s most often the result of a biological or behavioral predisposition. For example, many studies show that depressed or impulsive people are more likely to drink and take drugs.

But addictive tendencies don’t mean a child will inevitably become an addict. Parental understanding of the mechanics of addiction is also a powerful preventive tool. Families can help provide protection from later drug abuse when there is:

* a strong bond between children and parents

* parental involvement in the child’s life; and

* clear limits and consistent enforcement of discipline.

Research shows that parents and caregivers can help kids learn to practice self-control, which is a major factor in future prevention. Even undercontrolled children can outgrow self-control problems over time, and learned to rein in their impulses as well as their peers who showed earlier mastery. “Addictive Personality” vs Personality Disorders

Commonality is evident among different addictions, though research hasn’t found psychological characteristics specific to a so-called “addictive personality.” Psychologist Hans Jugen Eysenck posited that addictive habits serve an important functionality to the individual with an addiction, specific to their personality. Notably, the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association most recently in 2013) does not classify an “addictive personality” as a personality disorder. Rather, addictive characteristics can underlie or co-exist with a personality disorder that manifests in “maladaptive cognitive, emotive, and behavior patterns,” such as social deviance from accepted societal norms.

Maladaptive behavior patterns, exemplified by the inability to implement effective coping strategies, delay gratification, and empathize in addition to black-and-white thinking, impulsive and irrational behavior, moodiness, sensation-seeking and a lack of forward-thinking skills, are possible signs of an addictive personality.

An individual with an addictive personality may also highly value nonconformity or deviant behavior and have difficulty making commitments and setting goals.

Furthermore, an existing personality disorder can lead to substance abuse as coping mechanism. An “addictive personality” or addictive habits have the propensity to reinforce an existing personality disorder. Personality disorders are categorized into three clusters: A, B, and C.

Cluster A disorders, distinguished by “odd, eccentric thinking of behavior” include paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders, that stem from genetics and brain chemistry.

Cluster B includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. Cluster B disorders, characterized by over-emotional, selfish, and unpredictable thinking and behavior, are diagnosed more regularly than Cluster A as these disorders have roots in childhood.

Cluster C includes avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, which are predominantly disorders identified by anxiety and fear. Though a person may be diagnosed with one personality disorder, he or she may also exhibit signs of another personality disorder.

https://www.mother.ly/parenting/factors-that-can-contribute-to-future-addiction-in-children-can-contribute-thttps://www.mother.ly/parenting/factors-that-can-contribute-to-future-addiction-in-childreno-future-addiction-in-children

Source: https://www.mother.ly/parenting/factors-that-can-contribute-to-future-addiction-in-childrenhttps://www.mother.ly/parentin

Filed under: Social Affairs,Youth :

A fall in the price of cocaine has led to the highest number of young people using class A drugs in more than a decade, experts say.

Cocaine prices are at their lowest levels in more than 25 years and young people are finding Class A drugs easily accessible, charities warned.  The drug is more widely available thanks to mobile phones and is being distributed to users outside city centres thanks to “county lines” in which gangs use children to export their trade to suburban and rural areas.

Figures released by the Home Office from the Crime Survey of England and Wales for 2017/18 show that 8.4 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds had used Class A drugs in the last year, compared to seven per cent in 2016/17.

The proportion is the highest since 2005/6 and a significant rise from the recent low of 4.8 per cent, seen in 2012/13.  Six per cent had used powder cocaine, up from 4.8 per cent in the previous year and the highest figure since 2008/2009.

Figures from the UN’s 2018 World Drug Report show that in 2016 the street price of a gram of cocaine in the UK was $54 (£41), the cheapest at any point since 1990, when the time series begins. In 2007 the price was $91 (£69), and prices climbed as high as $128 (£97) in 1998.

Yasmin Batliwala, chair of London-based drug and alcohol treatment charity WDP, said young people were paying as little as £30 for a gram.

“Our young people’s services have seen a significant rise in the use of Class A drugs. The primary drug of choice has always been alcohol, as well as cannabis, but certainly in the last two or more years the use of Class A drugs has increased substantially.  “Class A drugs such as cocaine are extremely easily available. It’s actually very difficult to avoid drugs these days.In terms of price the cost has come down, so they’re not that expensive,” she said.

Harry Shapiro, of DrugWise, said the lower price of the drug meant users no longer had to be “city boys with lots of money”.  Mobile phones also made it easier for people to “hook into a regular supply,” he said. “You’ve got a broader network of distribution making it available in places where it wasn’t before, and they don’t have to hang around on street corners waiting for a bloke any more.

“Some people have got their dealer on speed dial and it’s a bit like home delivery of pizza.  All of that allows for a more discreet, wider network of distribution.”

Earlier this month addiction charity Addaction said its drug workers were dealing with children as young as 13 who were addicted to cocaine.  The organisation said the issue was a particular problem in Scotland, where its South Lanarkshire service has lowered the age threshold of its services from 14 to 13.

One of the charity’s workers Jacqueline Baker-Whyte said: “In the past, cocaine was a drug for people with money. That’s no longer the case. It’s cheap, plentiful and easy to get. The ‘quality’ is usually poor and the side effects can be horrendous.”

A spokeswoman for drugs charity Release said the figures showed that “criminalisation does not deter drug use”.
“The reported increase in recent powder cocaine use could be attributed to the drug’s reduced street-level price, and its higher purity,” she added.

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/26/class-drug-use-among-young-people-highest-decade-price-cocaine

Filed under: Cocaine,Youth :

The Oregon Health Authority also issued this month a baseline report titled Marijuana Report: Use, Attitudes, and Health Effects in Oregon. This comprehensive report includes several key findings.
 
Pictured above, for example, is a state map showing the 40 cities and 11 counties that have banned marijuana businesses within their boundaries. However, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program shows those numbers to be higher. Some 80 of the state’s 242 cities and 17 of its 36 counties have banned marijuana processing businesses and marijuana dispensaries from conducting business within their boundaries.
 
Oregon legalized marijuana for medical use in 1998 and for recreational use in 2014. Possession of up to eight ounces became legal for those age 21 or older July 1, 2015. Because recreational dispensaries will not open until late this year, the state allowed dispensaries selling pot for medical use to begin selling pot for recreational use as well October 1, 2015.
 
In just three months, however, some changes are already being seen. Marijuana-related calls to the state’s Poison Control Center increased in the last half of 2015, for example, from 105 in 2014 to 158 in 2015.
 
Other data include:

  • One in ten 8th-graders and one in five 11th-graders used marijuana in the past month, about the same as national levels.
  • Approximately 90% of marijuana users smoke the drug.
  • Some 62% of 11th-graders report marijuana is easy to get, some say easier than cigarettes.
  • Nearly half of current marijuana using 11th-graders who drive say they drove within three hours of using the drug.
  • Half (51%) of Oregon adults have seen marijuana store or product advertising, but less than one-third (29%) have seen information about marijuana health effects.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Oregon adults say they don’t know when it is legal to drive after using marijuana.

Read this report here.

There will never be fundamental change in west Belfast’s drug problem without addressing the poverty and conflict legacies affecting it, a new report has found.

Launched on Monday, the West Belfast Community Drugs Panel’s report examined all aspects of drugs misuse in the area and provided a series of recommendations.

The panel was set up in October last year in reaction to a spate of drug-related deaths in the west of the city and is made up of representatives from several government departments, including the Belfast Trust and the Public Health Agency.

Families in the area affected by drugs, including bereaved parents, were also invited to give their views through community representatives on the panel, which was chaired by Noel Rooney, former head of the Probation Board for NI.

Funding for the report was provided by the Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership, which is made up of councillors and representatives from statutory agencies.

The report found significant issues relating to drugs misuse in west Belfast, many related to chronic under-funding by successive governments and the lack of a coherent, multi-agency strategy to deal with the problem.

It also identified significant contributing factors relating to the area’s social housing provision.

Several of the root causes detailed in the report, however, are generational and systemic.

“The West Belfast drugs issue is directly related to the area being affected by systemic poverty and the legacy of the NI Conflict and, unfortunately, this looks set to worsen over time,” the report reads.

“There will never be a fundamental change for west Belfast without addressing the poverty and conflict legacies.”

Elsewhere, the panel found addiction to prescription medications to be disproportionately high in the area.

“Evidence shows the level of prescribing medication in west Belfast is higher than in most other parts of Belfast, the north of Ireland and Great Britain,” the document states.

The report recommends several measures that public agencies could take to try and tackle the problem, including:

– An anti-poverty plan aligned with appropriate, long-term funding (10-15 year minimum)

– A multi-layered education strategy with a focus on early intervention

– A co-designed pilot social housing model, specifically for the area

– A zero-tolerance drugs policy from the PSNI, with a stronger focus on small level dealing

In addition, the report includes a ‘What We Heard’ section summarising key information providing to the panel by members of the public, community representatives and others.

“Criminal gangs, some claiming to have paramilitary connections, are controlling the supply of cocaine and heroin in some streets to children as young as 12-years-old,” the report reads.

“They decide what to provide and how much it will cost local people.”

Prescription medications being reported as being currently misused in west Belfast include: Tramadol, an opiate-based painkiller, and Fentanyl, a tranquiliser 100 times stronger than heroin.

It is now in the hands of government agencies to decide which, if any, of the report’s recommendations they might adopt.

Source:  https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/children-as-young-as-12-taking-drugs   11th June 2018

 

Submitted by Livia Edegger

Strengthening Families Programme, a family-focused prevention programme used in 26 countries around the world, was found to be nine times more effective than individually-targeted programmes and yielded a $10 return for every dollar spent on it. The programme, designed for youth and their families, aims to improve parent-child interactions, parenting skills and strengthen young people’s social and problem-solving skills.

Submitted by Andy Travis 

Those who first used alcohol at or before the age of 14 were nearly four times more likely to meet the criteria for past year alcohol abuse or dependence than those who started using alcohol between the ages of 18 and 20 (16.5% vs. 4.4%) and more than six times more likely than those who started using alcohol at or after age 21 (16.5% vs. 2.5%).

These findings illustrate the need for alcohol education and prevention efforts as early as middle school.

Percentage of Adults (Ages 21 or Older) Who Abused or Were Dependent on Alcohol in the Past Year, by Age of First Alcohol Use, 2009.

 

Similarly, adults who first started using marijuana at or before the age of 14 are most likely to have abused or been dependent on illicit drugs in the past year. Adults who first used marijuana at age 14 or younger were six times more likely to meet the criteria for past year illicit drug abuse or dependence than those who first used marijuana when they were 18 or older (12.6% vs. 2.1%) and almost twice as likely as those who started between the ages of 15 and 17 (12.6% vs. 6.6%).

Percentage of Adults (Ages 21 or Older) Who Abused or Were Dependent on Illicit Drugs in the Past Year, by Age of First Marijuana Use, 2009.

 

Links:
• Adults Who Initiate Alcohol Use Before Age 21 More Likely to Abuse or Become Dependent on Alcohol(link is external) – CESAR FAX, University of Maryland, USA.
• Early Marijuana Use Related to Later Illicit Drug Abuse and Dependence(link is external) – CESAR FAX, University of Maryland, USA.

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/adults-who-initiate-alcohol-and-marijuana-use-age-21-are-much-more-likely-abuse-or-become-d

Submitted by Livia Edegger

Earlier this month Germany celebrated the results of the 2014 drug report which revealed a rapid decline in smoking, drinking and marijuana use among youth over the past ten years. Smoking among German teens aged 12 – 17 has halved in ten years (11.7%). Smoking rates have also dropped among 18 – 25 year olds, not as significantly though. Drinking rates have fallen from 17.9% in 2001 to 13.6% in 2012 among 12 – 17 year olds. In terms of gender differences, teenage boys are twice more likely to consume alcohol than their female counterparts. Little has changed among 18 – 25 year olds, the group that accounts for the highest alcohol consumption rate. Drinking in that age group was reported at 38.4% in 2012 which means it only dropped by a little over 1%. Cannabis ranks first among illicit drugs used with 5.6% of 12 – 17 year old teenagers using it compared to 9.2% in 2001. After years of steady consumption rates, cannabis use among 18 – 25 year olds is on the rise again and at 15.8% resembles figures of 2001.

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/germany-releases-drug-report

23rd July 2014

Submitted by Livia Edegger

A study conducted by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that individuals who had started taking drugs early on in life were more likely to develop mental disorders and become polydrug users. At the time of clinical admission, three quarters of drug users between 18 and 30 years of age had started taking drugs at age 17 or younger. A tenth of drug users had started at an even earlier age. 78.1% of drug users that had started taking drugs at age 11 or younger were taking more than one drug compared to 30.4% of individuals that had initiated drug use after the age of 25. 38.6% of drug users that had begun taking drugs at age 11 or under had developed some form of mental disorder. These results underline the importance of prevention programmes in childhood and early adolescence, phases that are critical for young people’s development.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/early-onset-drug-use-linked-mental-disorders-and-multi-drug-use

Submitted by Livia Edegger

The findings of a report released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveal a promising downward trend regarding drug use among secondary school students in England. Tobacco, alcohol and drug use among students have been cut in half in the past ten years. Smoking rates have dropped from 9% to 3% and alcohol rates have dropped from 25% to 9%. Illicit drug use has fallen by 50% between 2003 and 2013. The growing concern that e-cigarettes might fuel the uptake of smoking in teenagers was not supported by the report.

Links:

Source: 

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/drug-use-plunges-50-among-secondary-school-students-england

Filed under: Alcohol,Nicotine,Youth :

Submitted by Livia Edegger

The most popular alcohol brands among US youth are the ones most often featured in advertisements in teenage magazines, according to a new study. Their ads are found to be five to nine times more likely to appear in those magazines. Leading researcher Craig Ross of Virtual Media Resources warns parents of the effects of alcohol ads on young adults, “Parents should take note that scientific evidence is growing that exposure to alcohol advertising promotes drinking initiation, and is likely to increase the frequency of consumption for kids already drinking”. Along with a group of researchers he called for developing standards that would limit alcohol advertising to magazines with less than 15% of young people among its readership.

Links:

Underage drinkers’ favourite alcohol brands are heavily advertised in magazines 

http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/underage-drinkers-favorite-alcohol…

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/us-teens-targeted-alcohol-advertising-magazines

16th July 2014

Filed under: Alcohol,Youth :

Submitted by Livia Edegger on – 15:38

A group of researchers has developed a test to predict fourteen year old teenagers’ future drinking behaviour. The test takes a wide variety of factors that might influence young adults’ susceptibility to binge drinking into consideration such as family background, personality traits, availability of alcohol as well as brain-related variables. “There is no one really big thing. It’s a bunch of little things adding up to give you this prediction,” says Dr Robert Whelan from the University College Dublin. As of today, the test is far from practical as it lacks accuracy and relies on expensive brain scans. A more simplified and cost-effective version of the test could help identify at-risk adolescents for interventions in the future. Hugh Perry, chairman of the Medical Research Council Neurosciences and Mental Health Board, said further research could “lead to breakthroughs in this field and provide compelling evidence to inform public health policy and lay the groundwork for the design of interventions”.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/researchers-create-tool-predict-teens%E2%80%99-drinking-behaviour

9th July 2014

Submitted by Livia Edegger 

A new study carried out by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention (IREFREA) explores the role of parenting styles on drug use among teenagers. A group of researchers interviewed almost 8,000 students between 11 and 19 years of age across six European countries. The study analysed four parenting styles – authoritarian, authoritative, indulgent and neglectful. The first two parenting styles were characterised by strict rules and control. Authoritative parenting was marked by good communication, affection and flexibility from the parents’ side while the authoritarian style lacked those characteristics. The more lenient parenting styles – ‘indulgent’ and ‘neglectful’ – differed to the extent that in the former parents were affectionate and understanding, qualities that were absent in the latter. The ‘authoritative’ and ‘indulgent’ parenting styles, in which parents were affectionate and understanding, were the most effective in keeping children from using drugs.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/why-parenting-styles-matter-when-it-comes-drug-use-among-teens

17th June 2014

Submitted by Livia Edegger on  – 14:25

One of the most widely used school-based prevention programmes has proven to be effective in reducing drug use among adolescents in yet another country. After a team of researchers translated the programme known as Botvin LifeSkills Training into Italian, it was launched in around 180 schools in Lombardy, a region of Northern Italy. Within those schools the programme reached approximately 30,000 students and involved 1,800 teachers. The programme was found to reduce teenage smoking rates by 40% while boosting students’ self-esteem and equipping them with the relevant skills to deal with stressful situations. Following the success of the programme in Northern Italy, the Regional Observatory on Drug Addiction of Lombardy would like to see the programme implemented in schools across the country.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/another-success-story-italy-adapts-botvin-lifeskills-training

17th June 2014

Submitted by Livia Edegger 

A recent study examines the extent to which peers and parents can influence an adolescent’s attitude towards drinking by comparing teenage drinkers with non-drinkers. The group of teenagers that viewed drinking as a fun activity were not restricted by their parents in their drinking and found it difficult to handle peer pressure. In contrast, the adolescents that did not drink were given stringent rules regarding drinking by their parents and did not feel the need to drink to fit in.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/prevention-update/importance-parents-and-peers-young-people%E2%80%99s-attitude-towards-drinking

12th June 2014

Filed under: Alcohol,Youth :

Submitted by Livia Edegger

A new study found that movies that present alcohol in a positive light can encourage drinking among young adults. As characters are often seen as role models their drinking habits can have an impact on teenagers’ views on drinking. Since young viewers tend to be more involved in movies and are mostly unaware of the hidden advertising messages, alcohol marketing in movies might actually be more effective than ads. ‘Participants were more transported into and had a more positive attitude toward movie clips with alcohol portrayals compared to the same movie clips with no alcohol portrayals’, says researcher Renske Koordeman. Research on the effects of alcohol marketing in films is of relevance as most movies include some kind of reference to alcohol brands or drinking and watching movies is among the top pastimes among adolescents.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/how-movies-may-affect-young-viewers%E2%80%99-attitude-towards-drinking

3rd June 2014

Filed under: Alcohol,Youth :

Submitted by Livia Edegger 

This study, carried out in several Dutch schools, was administered to adolescents and parents simultaneously as well as separately. While simultaneous interventions held off the onset of regular drinking, separate interventions did not have an impact on teenage drinking. Combined prevention, targeting adolescents and their parents, was found to be the most effective among adolescents with low self-control and lenient parents. The study highlights the importance of addressing self-control among adolescents and parenting styles as part of comprehensive prevention programmes.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/prevention-update/dutch-prevention-programme-yields-promising-results

28th May 2014

Submitted by Andy Travis

This study found that youth with more substance users in their networks reported greater alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana consumption regardless of whether these network members provided tangible or emotional support. The homeless setting was more significant in consumption than meeting network members in other contexts. Numbers of adults and school attendees in networks reduced consumption.

Read more

Links:
• One in three parents do not talk to their children about the risks associated with drinking alcohol(link is external) Full statement ,with further links.
• Alcohol. It’s no joke. | Why Let Drink Decide(link is external) The video campaign.

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/survey-uk-parents-suggests-parents-more-concerned-about-risks-drugs-alcohol-government-anno

11th January 2011

Submitted by Livia Edegger

As a country with a history of heavy smoking and drug use among youth, Ireland embraces the results of a new study indicating a substantial drop in teen smoking. Youth smoking rates fell from 21.1% in 1998 to 11.9% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of teenagers that take their first puff at age 13 or younger has decreased significantly. While in 2002 more than 60% of Irish teenagers had their first cigarette at age 13 or younger, by 2010 that number had fallen to just under 50%. These positive developments were presented at the Irish Cancer Society’s X-Hale Film Festival in Dublin, which featured 43 short clips produced by youth groups that drew attention to the harms of smoking.

Links:

Source:

http://preventionhub.org/en/prevention-update/teenage-smoking-cut-half-ireland

23rd July 2014

Filed under: Nicotine,Youth :

BATON ROUGE — When a classmate died of a drug overdose, Symmes Culbertson bought a black suit for the funeral.

“It didn’t feel right to wear a blue sports jacket,” the 23-year-old political science major said.

What he didn’t count on was how many more funerals of classmates he would attend — six since he began attending Louisiana State University in 2013. “The number of people that I have known by name or in passing that have died from prescription drug overdoses, just in my college years, is well into the teens,” Culbertson said.

These kinds of events have become increasingly common at U.S. colleges, where many students view mixing pills and chasing them with alcohol as a rite of passage, rather than a dangerous and often deadly practice.

“It’s a dirty secret,” said April Rovero, whose son, Joey, a student at Arizona State University, overdosed in 2009 after taking prescription opioids, benzodiazepines and alcohol. (Dr. Lisa Tseng, who prescribed the drugs that led to the deaths of him and two other young men, is now serving a 30-years to life prison sentence for illegally prescribing the medication.)

In the year that followed, she said nine more students from there also died at the hands of drugs.

National addiction expert Dr. Drew Pinsky said one thing that is killing many students is mixing opioids with benzodiazepines, such as Xanax — something he says doctors should never prescribe together because it can be lethal.

Since 1999, drug overdose deaths of those 15 to 24 have quadrupled to 5,376 a year, far surpassing the number of those dying from alcohol-related accidents.

“These are perfectly healthy young people,” said Rovero, who founded the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. “Every one of these deaths is avoidable.”

‘A Perfect Storm’

Ken Hale, associate director of the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery on the Ohio State University campus, said “a perfect storm” has hit college campuses and the nation, starting with “the drug-taking culture in which we live. We use more medication than any other country.”

In 2016, the nation filled more than 4.5 billion prescriptions, including antibiotics, cancer drugs and other drug treatment protocols — an average of more than 14 per person.

But Hale said many of those prescriptions are the powerful and often addictive opioids. Even though the U.S. makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 80 percent of opioids.

As a result, these drugs are easily available to students through family members or friends, he said.

With these prescription drugs come misperceptions about safety and legality, he said. Of those addicted to heroin, 80 percent started on prescription drugs.

“If I go to a party and someone says, ‘Here’s some heroin,’ flags go up, but if someone hands me a Vicodin (an opioid painkiller), they don’t,” he said.

College campuses have become incubators for the bigger problem, where students “may not hit the wall in college, but they start behaviors that led to the problem we have,” he said.

Hale noted that the No. 1 cause of death of those under 50 is drug overdose and that fact has contributed to the U.S. seeing life expectancy decline for two years in a row for the first time since the 1950s.

Ohio State is one of more than 100 colleges that have recovery centers, where students can live, Hale said. “College dormitories are not a good environment for someone trying to get sober.”

Funeral for a friend

Culbertson grew up in Greenville, a fast-growing small town in South Carolina. “In high school, the most hardcore thing was weed,” he said.

By 2014, pills had begun to seep into college life, no longer just for the weekend parties.

Students took Adderall, the stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, if they needed to study or take a test.

And students who didn’t have classes till the afternoon might visit the bar and get Xanax, sometimes chasing that tranquilizer with alcohol — what can be a deadly combination.

When 2015 came, so did news about a high school classmate, a former cross-country track star who became hooked on opioids after hurting his back and blowing out his ACL.

His sister, Callie, had helped him get sober, letting him live with her for six months.

Callie Culbertson, the older sister of Symmes Culbertson, graduated in December from LSU with a degree in animal science, history and psychology. She knows of eight young people from her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, who have died of drug overdoses. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)

Afterward, she kept in touch by telephone. One morning she learned on Facebook that he had overdosed — news that stunned her because she had just spoken to him the night before.

She and Culbertson attended the funeral, and she couldn’t believe that so many people attending were high, doing the same drugs that killed her friend.

Since that funeral, she knows of eight people from her hometown who have died of overdoses.

“Everybody knows somebody this has touched,” she said. “The problem is no one is changing.”

‘He only took five’

Culbertson returned to LSU, and the next funeral of someone he knew took place just a few months later.

The environment has become “so accepting of the drugs,” he said. “If you don’t enjoy them, then you’re the a–hole — at least if you speak up about it.”

More funerals followed, and last January, he got a call that a friend of his had just overdosed.

Culbertson had just seen his friend the night before, taking Xanax in a bar. “We were with him at midnight,” he said.

When it was obvious he needed help getting home, friends took him there. He never woke up.

Word came that he had died of fentanyl, a drug up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and that fentanyl may have been mixed with the Xanax pills.

After this death, Culbertson said some slowed down in their drug taking, but no one quit.

Months later, he heard of a classmate back home who had been hooked on opioids before secretly moving to heroin and overdosing.

On Oct. 14, hours after LSU defeated Auburn University in football, Culbertson and his friends met at a bar.

After midnight, a friend informed him that he had just stolen a bottle of liquor from the bar, and that he was going back to his place to celebrate with his girlfriend.

The next morning, a friend called him in tears, letting him know their friend was dead.

“That’s crazy,” Culbertson replied. “He only took five (Xanax) sticks last night.”

As soon as he hung up, he realized the insanity of his own words, nonchalantly saying that his friend had taken five Xanax bars.

“And I thought that was completely normal,” he said. “And that’s what has come to scare me — the culture here is so accepting of it that even me, who doesn’t do any of this stuff, it’s normalized to me. My thinking had gotten as distorted as anybody engaging in the culture.”

He wore the dark suit for his friend’s funeral in New Orleans and returned home to write out an idea for a short film, based on what he had experienced.

The next day, he pitched his idea to his film class. His movie proposal, “Only the Good,” resonated with his fellow students.

“I just wanted to tell the story about my peers that shows everybody thinks they’re having a good time, and while that’s true 90 percent of the time, there’s that 10 percent of the time where you not only do, you die from it, but it devastates the lives of the people that care about you.”

Turning a blind eye

Rovero would like to see learning about medicine safety start in kindergarten, saying schools and colleges need to do a better job of educating students.

“Colleges should be educating students about how addictive and dangerous these drugs can be, especially mixed with other drugs and alcohol, and about the risk factors and signs of addiction and overdose,” she said.

Students should be trained to aid those in trouble, she said. “Parents should work with their administrators to have resident assistants have a naloxone rescue kit on hand in dorm settings, just in case, and everyone with a kit needs to be trained to use it.”

All incoming LSU freshman receive orientation regarding alcohol, drug use and sexual violence prevention. University officials say they continue to work with students to identify and reduce high-risk drinking, providing addiction programs and services, including the Anxiety and Addictive Behaviors Clinic.

Culbertson praised LSU for its all of its efforts, including education, outreach and support groups.

But there is a huge hurdle, he said. “There’s not much a support group can do when people aren’t looking for support. Nobody feels like they have a problem.”

The problem is one of perception, he said. “Students don’t really identify themselves as drug addicts, and everybody else is turning a blind eye.”

Source: https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2018/02/05

Colorado middle schools reported a 24 percent increase in drug-related incidents last year, according to USA Today. School-based experts tell the newspaper they believe the jump is directly related to marijuana legalization. Recreational sales of marijuana began on January 1, 2014.

Schools do not report which kinds of drugs are involved in the incidents, the article notes. State legislators are now asking school districts to keep track of which drugs they are finding.

John Simmons, the Denver Public Schools’ Executive Director of Student Services, says schools in his city saw a 7 percent increase in drug incidents, from 452 to 482. Almost all of the incidents were related to marijuana, he said.

Middle schools across the state reported a total of 951 drug violations, the highest number in a decade. School officials say while marijuana use has long been a problem, more students are trying it now that it is more easily available and socially accepted.

“We have seen parents come in and say, ‘Oh that’s mine, they just took it out of my room,’ and that sort of thing,” said school resource officer Judy Lutkin of the Aurora Police Department. “Parents have it in their houses more often, and the kids just can take it from home.”

“Middle schoolers are most vulnerable to being confused about marijuana,” said Dr. Christian Thurstone, attending physician for the Denver Health Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment program. “They think, ‘Well, it’s legal so it must not be a problem.’”

Meg Sanders, owner of MiNDFUL, a marijuana company that operates in Colorado, says her business is very careful not to market to children. “We feel it’s our responsibility as a responsible business to card not just once but twice for any recreational customer, and medical patients have to show several documents before they can purchase marijuana,” she said.

Source: http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/jump-colorado-school-drug-cases  19th Feb.  2015

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

My blood boils when I hear loony liberal politicians (I’m thinking Nick Clegg) and middle class do-gooders telling us that ALL drugs should be legalised. That heroin, crack cocaine and LSD should all be freely available – even to teenagers.

Their argument is that if the State was in charge of the drugs industry instead of criminal gangs then the drugs wouldn’t be toxic and fewer people would die.

And there’ll be more of that silly talk in the coming weeks thanks to a Home Office report – trumpeted by Clegg – which claims punitive laws have no effect on curbing drug use.

What, so do we just give up and legalise them? If we can’t win the war on drugs do we just call it off? Do we do what we’ve done with other crimes we don’t have the money or the will to police – and just ignore them?

One of the countries cited as an example of decriminalisation in this report was Portugal. They legalised drugs in 2001. But now we know the numbers of 15 and 16 year olds using drugs has doubled there since laws were relaxed. Which is a total no brainer.

Then a bloke called Ian Birrell said on TV this week our Government spends billions of pounds on failed drugs policies. I’m sorry – unlike Portugal – our drugs policies aren’t failing. Since 1996 the use of Class A drugs among 16 to 24 year olds has plummeted by 47 per cent and the use of Class B by 48 per cent.

But commentators like Birrell still argue we should legalise them anyway because they’re everywhere and people can take them whenever they want. Well, maybe in his world they can, but not in mine. I don’t mix with people who shoot up every day or trip on LSD.

Don’t these lettuce-munching liberals realise millions of mums and dads all over Britain are fighting tooth and nail to keep their kids away from drugs?

And even though many of these parents live on estates where gangs sell drugs openly they’ll do ­whatever it takes to keep their kids away from them. Because they’ve seen what drugs can do.

Unlike those middle-class liberals, they live among hordes of hopelessly addicted youngsters whose lives are over before they’ve even started. These parents don’t want that for their kids. And they sure as hell don’t want to be lectured on the “benefits” of legalisation by a bunch of jumped-up modernisers who’ve never even set foot on a council estate.

PA

Should this be legal? Ecstasy Tablets 

Have we forgotten the World Health Organisation’s recent 20-year study on cannabis which says this supposedly “soft” drug doubles the risk of schizophrenia and psychotic ­disorders, stunts intellectual ­development and doubles the risk of its users causing a car crash?

So all those liberals who for years have been shouting that cannabis was perfectly safe were talking out of their backsides.

And why is it these people always try to make those who object to legalisation look like out of touch fuddy-duddies? Why do we listen when they scream that drugs laws are an abuse of our human rights?

We need to be telling teenagers that smoking cannabis is like playing Russian roulette with your brain, not changing the law so they can pop down the Co-op and score an ounce.

Yes, young people will always­ ­experiment with drugs but why make it easier? We need drugs laws because they make getting drugs just that bit harder. In fact, we need more than we currently have to criminalise those deadly legal highs which have killed 68 people this year.

And imagine if they WERE all ­legalised. The price would plummet and they’d be available to everyone including vulnerable 10-year-olds who’d buy them with their pocket money on the black market.

I’m not saying kids should be given criminal records for experimenting. But every little relaxation of our drugs laws takes us one step closer to ­legalisation.

And that would be catastrophic for ­generations of children whose minds will be ravaged with the full blessing of the State.

Source:  Mirror.co.uk   Nov. 1st 2014Top of Form

 

 

 

PHOENIX (December 18) — New state data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that Colorado now leads the nation in marijuana use across all age levels and, most disturbingly, in the 12-17 and 18-25 age categories. Marijuana legalization advocates have persistently claimed that marijuana use will not rise with legalization, and that legalization will have little bearing on under-age use. This latest data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proves otherwise.

“Sadly for Colorado’s youth, the data now substantiates the theory that increased availability leads to increased use — despite being assured the contrary by legalization advocates. Arizonans should pay close attention,” said Seth Leibsohn, chair of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. “In Colorado, teen marijuana use has not only increased since legalization, it is now the highest in the nation — more than 73 percent higher than the national average. For those who recommended a ‘wait-and-see’ approach based on Colorado’s experience, the results are in and they are not good. It should be crystal clear, in Arizona and any other state considering legalizing marijuana, that going down the same path would be devastating to our youth and our communities.”

“According to this data, Colorado is not only number one for marijuana use but also ranks near the top in the nation in its use of other illicit drugs,” said Sheila Polk, vice chair of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. “Serious peer-reviewed science warns us that marijuana does significant harm to the developing adolescent brain, causes impaired memory and judgment, lowers IQ and increases school drop-out rates. It is unconscionable to unleash this harmful drug on Arizona’s youth.”

###

About Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy

The Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy PAC was formed to actively oppose any initiative that would legalize the recreational use of the drug marijuana in the state of Arizona. Visit www.arizonansforresponsibledrugpolicy.org for more information.

Source:  Press Release 18th Dec 2015  melissa@axiompublicaffairs.com

University of Michigan’s annual drug abuse survey – Monitoring the Future University of Michigan’s annual drug abuse survey, Monitoring the Future, were released today showing that the percentage of teens using over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high remains at just 3 percent, the lowest level recorded for teen cough medicine abuse since 2015. When first reported in 2006, teen abuse of these OTC cough medicines was nearly 6 percent, but has declined significantly since then.

Since 2006, the rate of teen OTC cough medicine abuse has decreased by 44% (from 5.4% to 3%).

Over the past decade, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has worked to help reduce teen DXM abuse by employing three strategies: increasing parent engagement in abuse awareness and prevention; heightening teen perceptions of the risks and social disapproval of medicine abuse; and limiting teen access to DXM through age-18 sales restrictions in states. In 2008, CHPA member companies voluntarily placed a “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse” icon on the packaging of cough medicines containing DXM. The icon serves as a mini public service announcement for parents, making them aware of cough medicine abuse at the point-of-sale and point-of-use and directing them to StopMedicineAbuse.org – a well-established website and abuse prevention campaign aimed at engaging parents and community leaders about teen abuse of OTC cough medicine.

“Public policy and education are both vitally important to combating teen OTC cough medicine abuse,” said CHPA president and CEO Scott Melville. “This is why CHPA has long supported state efforts to limit teen access to DXM and has worked to increase parental awareness through our Stop Medicine Abuse education campaign, while at the same time, ensuring continued access for millions of families who responsibly use medicines containing DXM.” CHPA also collaborates with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to target teens who are most likely to abuse DXM based on their online search activity and to provide them with accurate information about the consequences of abusive behavior. Teens are directed to visit WhatIsDXM.com to learn more.

“The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids welcomes the data from this year’s Monitoring the Future Survey showing no year-to-year increases in high school students’ misuse of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies,” said Partnership president and CEO Fred Muench. “For nearly a decade now, the Partnership and CHPA have collaborated on a digital media prevention effort targeting this behavior – and we have seen steady and significant declines over this period in teens’ misuse of OTC cough medicine to get high. It’s compelling evidence that smart, strategic prevention initiatives can work, and can deliver real benefits to teens and their families.”

Additionally recognizing that retailers play a critical role in abuse prevention, this year CHPA launched a new Pharmacists & Retailers page on the StopMedicineAbuse.org site, where retailers can download or order free materials.

Please visit StopMedicineAbuse.org for more information about teen DXM abuse, the retailer education materials, and other helpful resources for parents and community leaders.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 136-year-old national trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and dietary supplements. Every dollar spent by consumers on OTC medicines saves the U.S. healthcare system $6-$7, contributing a total of $102 billion in savings each year. CHPA is committed to empowering consumer self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of consumer healthcare products. chpa.org

Source: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171214006254/en/New-Results-Annual-Survey

Monitoring the Future University of Michigan’s annual drug abuse survey, Monitoring the Future, were released today showing that the percentage of teens using over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high remains at just 3 percent, the lowest level recorded for teen cough medicine abuse since 2015. When first reported in 2006, teen abuse of these OTC cough medicines was nearly 6 percent, but has declined significantly since then.

Since 2006, the rate of teen OTC cough medicine abuse has decreased by 44% (from 5.4% to 3%).

Over the past decade, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has worked to help reduce teen DXM abuse by employing three strategies: increasing parent engagement in abuse awareness and prevention; heightening teen perceptions of the risks and social disapproval of medicine abuse; and limiting teen access to DXM through age-18 sales restrictions in states. In 2008, CHPA member companies voluntarily placed a “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse” icon on the packaging of cough medicines containing DXM. The icon serves as a mini public service announcement for parents, making them aware of cough medicine abuse at the point-of-sale and point-of-use and directing them to StopMedicineAbuse.org – a well-established website and abuse prevention campaign aimed at engaging parents and community leaders about teen abuse of OTC cough medicine.

“Public policy and education are both vitally important to combating teen OTC cough medicine abuse,” said CHPA president and CEO Scott Melville. “This is why CHPA has long supported state efforts to limit teen access to DXM and has worked to increase parental awareness through our Stop Medicine Abuse education campaign, while at the same time, ensuring continued access for millions of families who responsibly use medicines containing DXM.” CHPA also collaborates with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to target teens who are most likely to abuse DXM based on their online search activity and to provide them with accurate information about the consequences of abusive behavior. Teens are directed to visit WhatIsDXM.com to learn more.

“The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids welcomes the data from this year’s Monitoring the Future Survey showing no year-to-year increases in high school students’ misuse of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies,” said Partnership president and CEO Fred Muench. “For nearly a decade now, the Partnership and CHPA have collaborated on a digital media prevention effort targeting this behavior – and we have seen steady and significant declines over this period in teens’ misuse of OTC cough medicine to get high. It’s compelling evidence that smart, strategic prevention initiatives can work, and can deliver real benefits to teens and their families.”

Additionally recognizing that retailers play a critical role in abuse prevention, this year CHPA launched a new Pharmacists & Retailers page on the StopMedicineAbuse.org site, where retailers can download or order free materials. Please visit StopMedicineAbuse.org for more information about teen DXM abuse, the retailer education materials, and other helpful resources for parents and community leaders.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 136-year-old national trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and dietary supplements. Every dollar spent by consumers on OTC medicines saves the U.S. healthcare system $6-$7, contributing a total of $102 billion in savings each year. CHPA is committed to empowering consumer self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of consumer healthcare products. chpa.org

Source: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171214006254/en/New-Results-Annual-Survey

Researchers from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry, have just published research in the American Journal of Psychiatry that suggests that the long-lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences, like severe abuse, may be due to an impaired structure and functioning of cells in the anterior cingulate cortex. This is a part of the brain which plays an important role in the regulation of emotions and mood.

The researchers believe that these changes may contribute to the emergence of depressive disorders and suicidal behaviour.

Crucial insulation for nerve fibres builds up during first two decades of life

For the optimal function and organization of the brain, electrical signals used by neurons may need to travel over long distances to communicate with cells in other regions. The longer axons of this kind are generally covered by a fatty coating called myelin. Myelin sheaths protect the axons and help them to conduct electrical signals more efficiently. Myelin builds up progressively (in a process known as myelination) mainly during childhood, and then continue to mature until early adulthood.

Earlier studies had shown significant abnormalities in the white matter in the brains of people who had experienced child abuse. (White matter is mostly made up of thousands of myelinated nerve fibres stacked together.) But, because these observations were made by looking at the brains of living people using MRI, it was impossible to gain a clear picture of the white matter cells and molecules that were affected.

To gain a clearer picture of the microscopic changes which occur in the brains of adults who have experienced child abuse, and thanks to the availability of brain samples from the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank (where, as well as the brain matter itself there is a lot of information about the lives of their donors) the researchers were able to compare post-mortem brain samples from three different groups of adults: people who had committed suicide who suffered from depression and had a history of severe childhood abuse (27 individuals); people with depression who had committed suicide but who had no history of being abused as children (25 individuals); and brain tissue from a third group of people who had neither psychiatric illnesses nor a history of child abuse (26 people).

Impaired neural connectivity may affect the regulation of emotions

The researchers discovered that the thickness of the myelin coating of a significant proportion of the nerve fibres was reduced ONLY in the brains of those who had suffered from child abuse. They also found underlying molecular alterations that selectively affect the cells that are responsible for myelin generation and maintenance. Finally, they found increases in the diameters of some of the largest axons among only this group and they speculate that together, these changes may alter functional coupling between the cingulate cortex and subcortical structures such as the amygdala and nucleus accumbens (areas of the brain linked respectively to emotional regulation and to reward and satisfaction) and contribute to altered emotional processing in people who have been abused during childhood.

The researchers conclude that adversity in early life may lastingly disrupt a range of neural functions in the anterior cingulate cortex. And while they don’t yet know where in

the brain and when during development, and how, at a molecular level these effects are sufficient to have an impact on the regulation of emotions and attachment, they are now planning to explore this in further research.

Source: http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/channels/news/child-abuse-affects-brain-wiring-270024

Researchers at Western University have found a way to use pharmaceuticals to reverse the negative psychiatric effects of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. Chronic adolescent marijuana use has previously been linked to the development of psychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia, in adulthood. But until now, researchers were unsure of what exactly was happening in the brain to cause this to occur.

“What is important about this study is that not only have we identified a specific mechanism in the prefrontal cortex for some of the mental health risks associated with adolescent marijuana use, but we have also identified a mechanism to reverse those risks,” said Steven Laviolette, professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

In a study published online today in Scientific Reports the researchers demonstrate that adolescent THC exposure modulates the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain. The team, led by Laviolette and post-doctoral fellow Justine Renard, looked specifically at GABA because of its previously shown clinical association with schizophrenia.

“GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and plays a crucial role in regulating the excitatory activity in the frontal cortex, so if you have less GABA, your neuronal systems become hyperactive leading to behavioural changes consistent with schizophrenia,” said Renard.

The study showed that the reduction of GABA as a result of THC exposure in adolescence caused the neurons in adulthood to not only be hyperactive in this part of the brain, but also to be out of synch with each other, demonstrated by abnormal oscillations called ‘gamma’ waves. This loss of GABA in the cortex caused a corresponding hyperactive state in the brain’s dopamine system, which is commonly observed in schizophrenia.

By using drugs to activate GABA in a rat model of schizophrenia, the team was able to reverse the neuronal and behavioural effects of the THC and eliminate the schizophrenia-like symptoms.

Laviolette says this finding is especially important given the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada. “What this could mean is that if you are going to be using marijuana, in a recreational or medicinal way, you can potentially combine it with compounds that boost GABA to block the negative effects of THC.”

The research team says the next steps will examine how combinations of cannabinoid chemicals with compounds that can boost the brains GABA system may serve as more effective and safer treatments for a variety of mental health disorders, such as addiction, depression and anxiety.

Source:  The Marijuana Report.Org, Sept. 2017

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, Red Bull, an energy drink high on energy and low on nutritional value, made its North American debut with the famous “Red Bull gives you wings” campaign. The tag line, a nod to the “pick me up” qualities it gives to drinkers of the product, set the stage for the way in which teens and young adults relate to the nascent product category.

In essence, advertising birthed energy drinks as the way to find uplift, fight fatigue, and give that extra boost. Regrettably, no one was paying attention to the drinks’ negative side effects.

Red Bull has since spawned its own grocery store aisle of knock-offs – Monster, Rockstar, Full Throttle, Amp – to name a few. In 2016, U.S. retail sales of energy drinks topped $11 billion (Red Bull generated $5.1B in revenue in 2010). By comparison, that number is roughly how much Hollywood makes on movie tickets in a year.

Paradoxically, energy drinks’ meteoric rise in popularity and consumption has coincided with major health risks and the onslaught of addiction to other harmful substances. How did a drink that tastes like cough syrup land with such a huge impact?

Long before Red Bull “gave us wings,” Chaleo Yoovidhya, a Southeast Asian pharmacist, developed energy “tonics” aimed at labourers and truck drivers in the 1960s, according to The Dragonfly Effect, a book that looks at successful branding campaigns for products like energy drinks.

Then in the 1980s, an Austrian billionaire businessman named Dietrich Mateschitz discovered the tonics and married them with innovative guerrilla marketing to launch in North America. The aim was to put cans of Red Bull, the syrupy concoction of sugar and caffeine, in the hands of their target market: young adult males and teens who are oblivious to the drinks’ ingredients. The ad campaign struck like a lightning bolt and a multibillion dollar industry took ro

The key ingredient in energy drinks that gives the consumer energizing effects is caffeine. Though caffeine, found in commonly consumed drinks like coffee, tea and sodas, isn’t outright bad for you, the serving size, frequency and consumption patterns are cause for alarm.

Most energy drinks contain 70-200 milligrams of caffeine; for example, Rockstar 2X has 250 mg per 12 ounces, a 12 ounce can of Red Bull has 111 mg, and a 5-Hour Energy shot, a variation of the energy drink craze, is a whopping 207 mg of caffeine in just 2 ounces.

To put these concentration levels into perspective, the American Academy of Paediatrics maintains adolescents must not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine per day (it’s 500 mg for adults).

And more alarming than the serving sizes are the rates at which teens consume energy drinks. When young adults and teenagers get with their friends, they’ll consume 3-4 drinks in a short period of time or even chug (i.e. “shotgun”) whole cans in an instant. Despite this binge-style consumption, teens remain oblivious to the high caffeine content and unaware of the effects energy drinks have on the body. Other studies and researchers have observed energy drinks become the chaser for alcohol consumption in certain situations.

At these high levels of consumption, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports serious health risks associated with energy drinks. These include:

· Increased heart rate, irregularities and palpitations

· Increased blood pressure

· Sleep disturbances, insomnia

· Diuresis or increased urine production

· Hyperglycaemia (increased blood sugar), due to the high levels of sugar content, which may be harmful for people at risk for diabetes or already diabetic

Perhaps most dangerous are the serious side effects caused when energy drinks are consumed with alcohol. According to University Health News Daily, “the dangers of energy drinks mixed with alcohol are related to reduced sensation of intoxication and impaired judgment.”

Here’s how it goes: the user gets a burst of energy and alertness (increased heart rate and dilated blood vessels) from the high content of caffeine in the energy drink, prompting the person to feel less intoxicated and therefore drinking more alcohol and putting themselves at risk for alcohol poisoning and severely impaired judgment.

Teens, young adults and college-aged students who play drinking games or drink in high-risk environments such as parties, boating, swimming, beach days, etc. put themselves at greater risk of injury and bodily harm with these combinations.

In addition to high-risk environments and dangerous situations, energy drink and alcohol mixing lowers inhibitions, making room for engaging in high-risk behaviours such as unwanted sexual encounters, driving vehicles, boats and jet skis under the influence, and other behaviours that may lead to hospitalization or encounters with law enforcement.

We need look no further than the case of Four Loko, an energy drink that comes ready made with alcohol and caffeine for proof that mixing the two is dangerous. The drink gets its name from its four signature ingredients: alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana.

According to a report in The Week, the company that produced Four Loko, Phusion Projects of Chicago aka Drink Four Brewing Company, came under ethical fire for marketing to adolescents under the age of 21 (as most energy drink companies do – though this was the first to pre-mix alcohol and caffeine).

Four Loko also caught fire with college students and it didn’t take long for reports of blackouts and other alcohol overdose related incidents to take hold of its users. University campuses across the nation including the University of Rhode Island, Central Washington University and Worcester State University began to ban the beverage and companies with similar beverages have since reformulated its drinks and reduced its marketing toward underage students and young adults. In 2014, the company reached a settlement to stop production and distribution of Four Loko in the United States, according to a report in The Atlantic.

Moreover, the University of Maryland’s research on the topic has found a link between high energy drink consumption and developing addiction to other harmful substances later on. Researchers looked at the health and risk-taking habits of 1,099 college students over a four year period.

Their analysis of the study found that participants who consumed highly caffeinated drinks (energy drinks, sodas, etc.) are more likely to develop an addiction to cocaine, alcohol, or other substances when compared to students who did not consume such beverages. “The results suggest that energy drink users might be at heightened risk for other substance use, particularly stimulants,” says Amelia Arria, an associate professor and lead author of the study.

New research from Purdue University found that mixing alcohol and highly caffeinated drinks could significantly change the brain activity of a teenager. Dr. Richard van Rijn, the lead researcher, says “it seems the two substances (energy drinks and alcohol) together push [teenagers] over a limit that causes changes in their behaviour and changes the neurochemistry in their brains.”

Although energy drinks are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, little oversight is given to labelling cans and packages with the risks related to consumption. As an educator, I believe the FDA must first do a better job of labelling. Just as cigarettes and alcohol have warning labels, so too must energy drinks.

Grocery stores should move energy drink products to areas where alcohol is sold – away from wandering young eyes. Public health discussions in high schools and middle schools need to take place. Youth and young adult sports teams must reconsider energy drink sponsorships and greater oversight concerning marketing practices toward under-aged youth.

As a young adult, if you do choose to consume these beverages, be sure to read the labels for serving sizes, caffeine content, and try to avoid mixing with alcohol. Parents, teachers, sports coaches, and community leaders must communicate to teenagers and young adults the harm energy drinks may cause. Together we must work together to be educated and informed against aggressive advertising to keep our teens and young adults healthy and engaged.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/red-bull-monster-four-loko-rockstar-the-downside_us_59b021cce4b0bef3378cdcee    6th Sept.2017

 

 

 

The Advocates for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) coalition serves the top two counties of the northern panhandle of West Virginia. The coalition got creative and utilized trending youth activities to draw youth to prevention work.

The coalition is located only a half hour from Pittsburgh, PA, and roughly three hours from Columbus, Ohio.  Based on a 2015 United States Census, the total population served is 53,165 combined for Brooke and Hancock counties.  One of the largest cities, Weirton, resides in both counties and has always had a proud tradition of steel making and industrial employment.  Unfortunately, this tradition has seen many declines in recent years and the increase in unemployment has hit the area hard, causing many families and young adults to move or have long commutes to find decent work.

Hancock County borders a major interstate where drug trafficking occurs easily between three states.  The local news reports multiple drug arrests in the Ohio Valley almost daily with incidents involving drug trafficking, abuse, and death, as is illustrated by the story of four heroin overdoses in Weirton in one weekend.  The ASAP coalition started as a small committee who met to discuss the drug problems in the area in 1996 and grew to where they are today.  The coalition’s main focus remains towards community youth with the mission of “working together to reduce substance abuse in the Brooke and Hancock communities, focusing on youth and families, by means of prevention efforts in community education, mobilization, and the change of values and beliefs.”

In 2014, ASAP found a group of youth to form a new committee called the Youth Council.  Thanks to these youth, they have gained new insight about how they should be hosting and promoting alternate activities to community youth, and actually get them to participate.  They have seen a vast increase in participation at events targeted towards youth. One such activity, that has become an instant hit, is the ASAP Youth Council Video Game Tournament.

Youth focused activities are hard for any group, but thanks to the ASAP Youth Council, the coalition has been having success getting youth involved.

“Their input is invaluable, and when you have youth telling you “don’t advertise you are doing drug prevention to kids or they won’t come,” you listen,” said Mary Ball, ASAP Coordinator. “Their ideas were simple, focus on what kids like to do, then use that as a way into their world.  So, we did.  The first event we held was a video game tournament that we used for multiple purposes.  First, it was a great fundraiser for the kids.  Second, it was the perfect draw to get youth to show up.  Third, it was fun!  We chose a game everyone, young and old could play (Smash Bros.) and changed how we promoted the event to word-of-mouth, flyers where kids hang out, and utilized social media promotions.  The response was amazing.  But nothing in the advertising said anything about substance abuse prevention.  We had over 50 attendees at our first event, which was a small miracle compared to the 10-12 we normally got, if we were lucky.“

To incorporate the message of prevention, displays were placed at the event and announcements dispersed, reminding attendees about the dangers of sharing prescriptions; where to dispose of prescriptions; and pointing out how much fun they were having at an alcohol-free event.

The event not only drew youth, but the parents, friends, grandparents of the youth who participated, did not leave.  They stayed for the entire thing to cheer those competing in the tournament on, expanding the audience from the target of just youth, to all ages.  The success of this program led the coalition to try other things, such as taking advantage of the Pokémon Go game to bring people to ASAP by hosting a “Lure Party.”  The coalition got creative and added a cosplay contest to the video game tournament and increased participation by almost 10 percent. The coalition even designed pop culture prevention buttons that kids snag off the prevention tables because they want to wear that message.

“Listen to your youth members.  They are smart, they know what other kids want to see and will participate in,” advises Ball. “Do not be closed off to stepping out of your adult-zone and entering their world.  If we want kids to listen to our messages, we need to go to them and not expect them to come to us.”

Source: http://www.cadca.org/resources/coalitions-action-asap-coalition-uses-smash-creativity-engage-youth   8th Aug.2017

In his last article for Pro Talk, Renaming and Rethinking Drug Treatment, psychologist Robert Schwebel, Ph.D., author and developer of The Seven Challenges program, expressed his views about problems in typical drug and alcohol treatment. In this interview, he focuses on changes that he thinks would better meet the needs of individuals with substance problems.

The Seven Challenges Program

The Seven Challenges is described as “a comprehensive counselling program for teens and young adults that incorporates work on alcohol and other drug problems.” The program addresses much more than substance issues because it also helps young people develop better life skills, as well as manage their situational and psychological problems. Although there is an established structure for each session and a framework for decision-making (see website for the youth version of “The Seven Challenges”), it is not pre-scripted as in many traditional programs. Rather it is “exceptionally flexible, in response to the immediate needs of the clients.”

Independent studies funded by The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and published in peer-reviewed journals have provided evidence that The Seven Challenges significantly decreases substance use of adolescents and greatly improves their overall mental health status. The program has been shown to be especially effective for the many young people with drug problems who also have trauma issues.

Just recently, a new version of The Seven Challenges program was introduced for adults and is being piloted in a research project. Soon, a book geared toward the general public by Dr. Schwebel that incorporates much of the philosophy of the program, as well as many of the decision-making and behavior change strategies, will be available.

Q&A: What Should Treatment Look Like?

Q: In your last article for Pro Talk, you argued strongly against the word “treatment” and suggested that we use the word “counselling” instead. Will you reiterate why you prefer using “counselling” when talking about professional help for people with substance problems?

Dr. S.: Counselling is an active and interactive process that’s responsive to the needs of individuals. It may include education, but it’s more than that because the information is personalized and offered in the context of a discussion about what’s happening in a person’s life. Effective counsellors help clients become aware of their options, expand those options, and make their own informed choices.

Treatment, on the other hand, sounds like something imposed and passive that an authority (say a doctor) does to someone else or tells them to do. It also implies recipients receive a standardized protocol or regime with a preconceived goal, usually abstinence when we’re talking about addiction. It doesn’t suggest autonomy of choice or collaboration.

 

Q: You stress the importance of choice and collaboration, suggesting both are important in addiction counselling. Please tell us more.

Dr. S.: In collaborative counselling that allows choices, clients get to identify the issues they want to work on. They make the decisions. We make it clear that we’re not there to make them quit using drugs…and couldn’t even if we tried. We tell them, “We’re here to support you in working on your issues, things that are important to you; things that are not going well in your life or as well you would like them to be going.”

We also support clients in decision-making about drugs. They set their own goals about using. One person might want to quit using, while another might want to set new limits. For those who want to change their drug use behavior, we check in with them about how they’re doing regarding their decision on a session-by-session basis. If they have setbacks, we’ll provide individualized support to help them figure out why, We’re not doubting them or trying to “catch” them. Rather, we’re helping them succeed with their own decisions to change. This type of check-in would not apply to individuals who have not yet decided to make changes.

 

Q: Many addiction programs feel that dealing with addiction should be the first priority and that other issues are secondary. What are your thoughts about this?

Dr. S.: I’ll start by saying that they have equal importance. Drug problems have everything to do with what is going on in a person’s life. And, a person’s life is very much affected by drug problems. I do want to say, however, that not everyone who winds up in an addiction program has an addiction. That’s a ridiculous generalization. They may be having problems with binge drinking, issues with family or jobs because of substance misuse, or legal problems because they were unlucky and got caught. (For instance they got arrested for another crime and tested positive for drugs.) They often wind up in places that require abstinence and wonder, “What am I doing here?” Then they’re told they’re “in denial.”

Traditional treatment tends to focus narrowly on drug problems, usually pushing an agenda of immediate abstinence. However, drug problems – whether or not they qualify as “addiction,” are very much connected to the rest of life. Therefore, clients need comprehensive counselling that addresses what’s happening in their overall lives and helps clients make their lives better. So it’s not all about use of substances and making the individual quit. The goal is to support clients and to help them make their own decisions about life and substance use.

We use the term “issues” – not “problems.” Whatever is most important to the individual that day is what we work on. A client might say, “I have an issue with my mother.” We don’t just want to have a discussion about the issue; we want to set a session goal so that a client gets practical help with an issue each time. Ideally we try to facilitate a next step, some sort of action that can be taken between sessions. We want to support our clients in making their own lives better. We like to reassure clients that we won’t be harping on drugs all the time: At least half of what we do is about everything else besides drugs. This means that counsellors need to know how to help people with their other problems. Unfortunately, many have a narrow background in drug treatment and don’t yet know how to do that.

 

Q: How do you address the issue of “powerlessness” which a number of young people have told me they struggled with in12-step treatment programs they’ve attended? Don’t adolescents by nature resist anything that threatens to take away their autonomy?

Dr. S.: One of our main messages is “You are powerful; people do take control over their drug use. You have that power within you.” We also say, “You don’t need to do it alone. You are entitled to support. We’re behind you. We’re not saying it’s easy and

there won’t be setbacks along the way. If there are, we’ll help you figure out why and how to handle it differently the next time. At the same time we’ll help you with other issues in your life so you’ll have less need for drugs.”

I think there is great harm in the all-or-nothing approach to drug and alcohol problems and that more people would come for help if they were not told that they’re powerless. Also, many more would come if they felt they could make a choice about drugs and did not expect to be coerced.

 

A New Version of The Seven Challenges

Following is the new adult version of Dr. Schwebel’s The Seven Challenges program:

· Challenging Yourself to Make Thoughtful Decisions About Your Life, Including Your Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

· Challenging Yourself to Look at Your Responsibility and the Responsibility of Others for Your Problems

· Challenging Yourself to Look at What You Like About Alcohol and Other Drugs, and Why You Use Them

· Challenging Yourself to Honestly Look at Your Life, Including Your Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

· Challenging Yourself to Look at Harm That Has Happened or Could Happen From Your Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

· Challenging Yourself to Look at Where You Are Headed, Where You Would Like to Go, and What You Would Like to Accomplish

· Challenging Yourself to Take Action and Succeed With Your Decisions About Your Life and Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs

Source:  http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/what-drug-and-alcohol-treatment-should-look-like-an-interview-with-dr-robert-schwebel/     17th July 2017

An UdeM study confirms the link between marijuana use and psychotic-like experiences in a Canadian adolescent cohort. Credit: © Syda Productions / Fotolia

Going from an occasional user of marijuana to a weekly or daily user increases an adolescent’s risk of having recurrent psychotic-like experiences by 159%, according to a new Canadian study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The study also reports effects of marijuana use on cognitive development and shows that the link between marijuana use and psychotic-like experiences is best explained by emerging symptoms of depression.

“To clearly understand the impact of these results, it is essential to first define what psychotic-like experiences are: namely, experiences of perceptual aberration, ideas with unusual content and feelings of persecution,” said the study’s lead author, Josiane Bourque, a doctoral student at Université de Montréal’s Department of Psychiatry. “Although they may be infrequent and thus not problematic for the adolescent, when these experiences are reported continuously, year after year, then there’s an increased risk of a first psychotic episode or another psychiatric condition.”

She added: “Our findings confirm that becoming a more regular marijuana user during adolescence is, indeed, associated with a risk of psychotic symptoms. This is a major public-health concern for Canada.”

What are the underlying mechanisms?

One of the study’s objectives was to better understand the mechanisms by which marijuana use is associated with psychotic-like experiences. Bourque and her supervisor, Dr. Patricia Conrod at Sainte Justine University Hospital Research Centre hypothesized that impairments in cognitive development due to marijuana misuse might in turn exacerbate psychotic-like experiences.

This hypothesis was only partially confirmed, however. Among the different cognitive abilities evaluated, the development of inhibitory control was the only cognitive function negatively affected by an increase in marijuana use. Inhibitory control is the capacity to withhold or inhibit automatic behaviours in favor of a more contextually appropriate behaviour. Dr. Conrod’s team has shown that this specific cognitive function is associated with risk for other forms of substance abuse and addiction.

“Our results show that while marijuana use is associated with a number of cognitive and mental health symptoms, only an increase in symptoms of depression — such as negative thoughts and low mood — could explain the relationship between marijuana use and increasing psychotic-like experiences in youth,” Bourque said.

What’s next

These findings have important clinical implications for prevention programs in youth who report having persistent psychotic-like experiences. “While preventing adolescent marijuana use should be the aim of all drug strategies, targeted prevention approaches are particularly needed to delay and prevent marijuana use in young people at risk of psychosis,” said Patricia Conrod, the study’s senior author and a professor at UdeM’s Department of Psychiatry.

Conrod is optimistic about one thing, however: the school-based prevention program that she developed, Preventure, has proven effective in reducing adolescent marijuana use by an overall 33%. “In future programs, it will be important to investigate whether this program and other similar targeted prevention programs can delay or prevent marijuana use in youth who suffer from psychotic-like experiences,” she said. “While the approach seems promising, we have yet to demonstrate that drug prevention can prevent some cases of psychosis.”

A large youth cohort from Montreal

The study’s results are based on the CIHR-funded Co-Venture project, a cohort of approximately 4,000 adolescents aged 13 years old from 31 high schools in the Greater Montreal area. These teens are followed annually from Grade 7 to Grade 11. Every year they fill out computerized questionnaires to assess substance use and psychiatric symptoms. The teens also complete cognitive tasks to allow the researchers to evaluate their IQ, working memory and long-term memory as well as their inhibitory control skills.

To do their study, the research team first confirmed results from both the United Kingdom and Netherlands showing the presence of a small group of individuals (in Montreal, 8%) among the general population of adolescents who report recurrent psychotic-like experiences. Second, the researchers explored how marijuana use between 13 and 16 years of age increases the likelihood of belonging to the 8%. Finally, they examined whether the relationship between increasing use of marijuana and increasing psychotic-like experiences can be explained by emerging symptoms of anxiety or depression, or by the effects of substance use on developing cognitive abilities.

Source:  University of Montreal. “Marijuana and vulnerability to psychosis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170705104042.htm.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada’s Liberal government has stated that marijuana will be decriminalized by July 2018. This means the removal, or at the least, a lessening of laws and restrictions related to marijuana use and associated pot services.

While people on both sides of the debate have strongly held and differing opinions, the protection of youth is an area of agreement.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, has been illegal in Canada for close to 100 years. Marijuana can’t be produced, sold or even possessed. If caught, one faces fines, jail time or both.

Despite this, Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Over 40 per cent of Canadians have used cannabis during their lifetime. Furthermore, studies conducted by Health Canada indicate that between 10.2 and 12.2 per cent of Canadians use cannabis at least once a year.

As changes in cannabis regulation occur, new research has been conducted. The findings are, in a word, alarming. According to published research, someone who uses marijuana regularly has, on average, less grey matter in the orbital frontal cortex of the brain. Other research has found increasing evidence of a link between pot and schizophrenia symptoms.

A major factor is the potency of cannabis, which has gone through the roof for the last two decades. In the 1960s, THC levels were reported to have been in the one-to-four-per-cent range. Research reported in the science journal, Live Science, in 21014 indicates that marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, THC, in random marijuana samples, rose from about four per cent in 1995 to about 12 per cent in 2014. In a more-recent article, the leader of the American Chemical Society stated: “We’ve seen potency values close to 30-per-cent THC, which is huge.”

Despite these clear and increasing dangers, the Government of Canada’s stated objective is to “legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis for non-medical purposes.” Unfortunately, the government’s approach has serious flaws.  Most importantly, their approach lacks protections for youth, despite this being another specifically stated objective of the Canadian government’s new law.

While supporters of cannabis often compare it with alcohol, a legal, but carefully controlled substance in Canada, there is an important difference. Cannabis is commonly consumed by smoking, which leads to significant, second-hand affects and, as a result, second-hand structural changes in the brain.

In my neighbourhood, cannabis-users in one house, taking advantage of the decreasing legal response to cannabis in B.C. these days, happily smoke the substance on their back deck, only to have the blue smoke waft across to the trampoline next door, where my younger brother and his friends often play.

The government’s proposed new policy actually encourages youth exposure by making it legal for citizens to grow cannabis in their homes. There is no mention of the protection of children living in those residences, where cannabis is grown, consumed and potentially sold.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police makes this point well. They warn that allowing home-grown cultivation will fuel the cannabis black market and that the four-plant limit proposed under the legislation is impossible to enforce. The chiefs further note that home cultivation is a direct contradiction to the government’s promise to create a highly regulated environment that minimizes youth access to the drug.

The biggest concern that the youth of Canada should have about the government’s approach to decriminalization is, however, drug quality — potentially with deadly results. The opportunity for tampering is obvious. A high school friend and classmate of mine casually uses cannabis and landed in the hospital for a few weeks. She believes that some of the cannabis she used was laced with another substance. I often wonder how close my friend came to dying like another of our fellow students at New Westminster Secondary School.

Canada isn’t ready for the decriminalization of cannabis. The Canadian government, and our health-care and legal systems, aren’t fully prepared for the problems and long-term effects that’ll have serious consequences for our youth. Important issues, including second-hand effects and basic safety, not to mention enforcement and legal implications, have yet to be fully defined and planned for. The federal government’s plan to decriminalize pot, as it stands now, doesn’t provide enough protection for Canada’s young people.

Mitchell Moir is a Grade 12 student at New Westminster Secondary.

Source:  http://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/opinion-proposed-cannabis-policy-doesnt-do-enough-to-protect-youth   23rd June 2017

One in 5 adolescents at risk of tobacco dependency, harmful alcohol consumption and illicit drug use

Researchers from the University of Bristol have found regular and occasional cannabis use as a teen is associated with a greater risk of other illicit drug taking in early adulthood.   The study by Bristol’s Population Health Science Institute, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, also found cannabis use was associated with harmful drinking and smoking.

Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), the researchers looked at levels of cannabis use during adolescence to determine whether these might predict other problematic substance misuse in early adulthood — by the age of 21.

The researchers looked at data about cannabis use among 5,315 teens between the ages of 13 and 18. At five time points approximately one year apart cannabis use was categorised as none; occasional (typically less than once a week); or frequent (typically once a week or more).

When the teens reached the age of 21, they were asked to say whether and how much they smoked and drank, and whether they had taken other illicit drugs during the previous three months. Some 462 reported recent illicit drug use: 176 (38%) had used cocaine; 278 (60%) had used ‘speed’ (amphetamines); 136 (30%) had used inhalants; 72 (16%) had used sedatives; 105 (23%) had used hallucinogens; and 25 (6%) had used opioids.

The study’s lead author, Dr Michelle Taylor from the School of Social and Community Medicine said:

“We tend to see clusters of different forms of substance misuse in adolescents and young people, and it has been argued that cannabis acts as a gateway to other drug use. However, historically the evidence has been inconsistent.

“I think the most important findings from this study are that one in five adolescents follow a pattern of occasional or regular cannabis use and that those individuals are more likely to be tobacco dependant, have harmful levels of alcohol consumption or use other illicit drugs in early adulthood.”

In all, complete data were available for 1571 people. Male sex, mother’s substance misuse and the child’s smoking, drinking, and behavioural problems before the age of 13 were all strongly associated with cannabis use during adolescence. Other potentially influential factors were also considered: housing tenure; mum’s education and number of children she had; her drinking and drug use; behavioural problems when the child was 11 and whether s/he had started smoking and/or drinking before the age of 13.

After taking account of other influential factors, those who used cannabis in their teens were at greater risk of problematic substance misuse by the age of 21 than those who didn’t.

Teens who regularly used cannabis were 37 times more likely to be nicotine dependent and three times more likely to have a harmful drinking pattern than non-users by the time they were 21. And they were 26 times more likely to use other illicit drugs.

Both those who used cannabis occasionally early in adolescence and those who starting using it much later during the teenage years had a heightened risk of nicotine dependence, harmful drinking, and other illicit drug use. And the more cannabis they used the greater was the likelihood of nicotine dependence by the age of 21.

This study used observational methods and therefore presents evidence for correlation but not does not determine clear cause and effect — whether the results observed are because cannabis use actually causes the use of other illicit drugs. Furthermore, it does not identify what the underlying mechanisms for this might be. Nevertheless, clear categories of use emerged.

Dr Taylor concludes:

“We have added further evidence that suggests adolescent cannabis use does predict later problematic substance use in early adulthood. From our study, we cannot say why this might be, and it is important that future research focuses on this question, as this will enable us to identify groups of individuals that might as risk and develop policy to advise people of the harms.

“Our study does not support or refute arguments for altering the legal status of cannabis use — especially since two of the outcomes are legal in the UK. This study and others do, however, lend support to public health strategies and interventions that aim to reduce cannabis exposure in young people.”

Journal Reference:

1. Michelle Taylor, Simon M Collin, Marcus R Munafò, John MacLeod, Matthew Hickman, Jon Heron. Patterns of cannabis use during adolescence and their association with harmful substance use behaviour: findings from a UK birth cohort. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2017; jech-2016-208503 DOI: 10.1136/jech-2016-208503

Source:   www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170607222448<.htm>. 7 June 2017.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said on Tuesday morning. Rosenstein, along with acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg, and other prominent officials in law enforcement addressed the media at the DEA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA to discuss the ongoing response to the nation’s staggering opioid epidemic.

“We’re not talking about a slight increase. There’s a horrifying surge of drug overdoses in the United States of America. Some people say we should be more permissive, more tolerant, more understanding about drug use. I say we should be more honest and forthcoming with the American people on the clear and present danger that we know face,” opened Rosenstein.

“Fentanyl is especially dangerous. It is 40 to 50 times more deadly than heroin. Just two milligrams, a few grains of salt, an amount you could fit on the tip of your finger, can be lethal. Fentanyl exposure can injure or kill innocent law enforcement officers and first responders. Inhaling a few airborne particles can have dramatic effects,” he continued.

Rosenstein, Rosenberg, and their colleagues used the event to roll out new precautions for first responders in dealing with fentanyl. Such measures predominately featured hazmat suits as a means of avoiding airborne inhalation.

“Fentanyl’s everywhere and it’s killing people,” Rosenberg solemnly remarked.

Despite such a bleak update, Rosenberg claimed reasons for careful optimism in the midst of this epidemic. He has spoken extensively with his Chinese counterparts in law enforcement, given that China is the major source of Fentanyl that enters America. According to Rosenberg, the Chinese government banned 116 synthetic opioids for export and 4 more after his trip to China this March. Additional synthetics are scheduled to be banned as well.

“I do not want to understate such gains, nor do I want to overstate them,” he cautioned. More progress in international cooperation, he said, still has to be made in cutting off fentanyl shipments from China.

Rosenberg and other law enforcement officials such as Jonathan Thompson of the National Sheriffs’ Association assessed the difficulty associated with training first responders in such new duties and admitted that such efforts would strain already stretched resources in fighting what is an overwhelming epidemic.

Rosenberg’s daunting assessment of fentanyl put in perspective the existential danger of the ongoing opioid crisis that, according to Rosenstein, has contributed to the largest yearly increase in overdose deaths on record in America.

Rosenberg pointed out that such statistics tend to “wash over you.” To grasp the enormity of the epidemic he claimed that if three mass-shootings as deadly as the Pulse Nightclub Attack occurred three times every day for 365 days, then the death toll would roughly reach that of drug overdoses in 2015.

Source:   http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/06/07/doj-drug-overdose-now-leading-cause-of-death-for-americans-under-50/

Study Finds Users Are 26 Times More Likely To Turn To Other Substances By The Age Of 21

Study is first clear evidence that cannabis is gateway to cocaine and heroin

Teen marijuana smokers are 37 times more likely to be hooked on nicotine

Findings from Bristol University provide authoritative support for those warning against the liberalisation of drugs laws

Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis are 26 times more likely to turn to other drugs by the age of 21.

The study of the lives of more than 5,000 teenagers produced the first resounding evidence that cannabis is a gateway to cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens and heroin.

It also discovered that teenage cannabis smokers are 37 times more likely to be hooked on nicotine and three times more likely to be problem drinkers than non-users of the drug.

The findings from Bristol University provide authoritative support for those warning against the liberalisation of drugs laws.

Medical researchers have argued for years that cannabis is far from harmless and instead carries serious mental health risks.

Dr Michelle Taylor, who led the study, said: ‘It has been argued that cannabis acts as a gateway to other drug use. However, historically the evidence has been inconsistent.

‘The most important findings from this study are that one in five adolescents follow a pattern of occasional or regular cannabis use and that those individuals are more likely to be tobacco dependent, have harmful levels of alcohol consumption or use other illicit drugs in early adulthood.

‘Our study does not support or refute arguments for altering the legal status of cannabis use.

‘This study and others do, however, lend support to public health strategies and interventions that aim to reduce cannabis exposure in young people.’

The Bristol evidence was gathered from a long-term survey of the lives of young people around the city, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

The survey, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, examined 5,315 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18. One in five used cannabis.

Dr Tom Freeman of King’s College London said: ‘This is a high quality study using a large UK cohort followed from birth. It provides further evidence that early exposure to cannabis is associated with subsequent use of other drugs.’

The study of the lives of more than 5,000 teenagers produced the first resounding evidence that cannabis is a gateway to cocaine amphetamines, hallucinogens and heroin .

Ian Hamilton, who is a mental health researcher at York University, said: ‘It adds to evidence that cannabis acts as a gateway to nicotine dependence, as the majority of people using cannabis in the UK combine tobacco with cannabis when they roll a joint.

‘This habit represents one of the greatest health risks to the greatest number of young people who use cannabis.  It suggests that adolescent cannabis use serves as a gateway to a harmful relationship with drugs as an adult.’

The report said: ‘After taking account of other influential factors, those who used cannabis in their teens were at greater risk of problematic substance misuse by the age of 21.

‘Teens who regularly used cannabis were 37 times more likely to be nicotine dependent and three times more likely to have a harmful drinking pattern than non-users by the time they were 21. And they were 26 times more likely to use other illicit drugs.

‘Both those who used cannabis occasionally early in adolescence and those who started using it much later during the teenage years had a heightened risk of nicotine dependence, harmful drinking, and other illicit drug use.

‘And the more cannabis they used the greater was the likelihood of nicotine dependence by the age of 21.’

Source:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4582548/Proof-cannabis-DOES-lead-teenagers-harder-drugs.html   8th June 2017

 

Changes may increase risk of continued drug use and addiction

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Most people would get a little ‘rush’ out of the idea that they’re about to win some money. In fact, if you could look into their brain at that very moment, you’d see lots of activity in the part of the brain that responds to rewards.

But for people who’ve been using marijuana, that rush just isn’t as big – and gets smaller over time, a new study finds.

And that dampened, blunted response may actually open marijuana users up to more risk of becoming addicted to that drug or others.

The new results come from the first long-term study of young marijuana users that tracked brain responses to rewards over time. It was performed at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Published in JAMA Psychiatry, it shows measurable changes in the brain’s reward system with marijuana use – even when other factors like alcohol use and cigarette smoking were taken into account.

“What we saw was that over time, marijuana use was associated with a lower response to a monetary reward,” says senior author and U-M neuroscientist Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D. “This means that something that would be rewarding to most people was no longer rewarding to them, suggesting but not proving that their reward system has been ‘hijacked’ by the drug, and that they need the drug to feel reward — or that their emotional response has been dampened.”

Watching the reward centers

The study involved 108 people in their early 20s – the prime age for marijuana use. All were taking part in a larger study of substance use, and all had brain scans at three points over four years. Three-quarters were men, and nearly all were white.

While their brain was being scanned in a functional MRI scanner, they played a game that asked them to click a button when they saw a target on a screen in front of them. Before each round, they were told they might win 20 cents, or $5 – or that they might lose that amount, have no reward or loss.

The researchers were most interested at what happened in the reward centers of the volunteers’ brains – the area called the nucleus accumbens. And the moment they cared most about was that moment of anticipation, when the volunteers knew they might win some money, and were anticipating performing the simple task that it would take to win.

In that moment of anticipating a reward, the cells of the nucleus accumbens usually swing into action, pumping out a ‘pleasure chemical’ called dopamine. The bigger the response, the more pleasure or thrill a person feels – and the more likely they’ll be to repeat the behavior later.

But the more marijuana use a volunteer reported, the smaller the response in their nucleus accumbens over time, the researchers found.

While the researchers didn’t also look at the volunteers’ responses to marijuana-related cues, other research has shown that the brains of people who use a high-inducing drug repeatedly often respond more strongly when they’re shown cues related to that drug.

The increased response means the drug has become associated in their brains with positive, rewarding feelings. And that can make it harder to stop seeking out the drug and using it.

If this is true with marijuana users, says first author Meghan Martz, doctoral student in developmental psychology at U-M, “It may be that the brain can drive marijuana use, and that the use of marijuana can also affect the brain. We’re still unable to disentangle the cause and effect in the brain’s reward system, but studies like this can help that understanding.

Change over time

Regardless, the new findings show that there is change in the reward system over time with marijuana use. Heitzeg and her colleagues also showed recently in a paper in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience that marijuana use impacts emotional functioning.

The new data on response to potentially winning money may also be further evidence that long-term marijuana use dampens a person’s emotional response – something scientists call anhedonia.

“We are all born with an innate drive to engage in behaviors that feel rewarding and give us pleasure,” says co-author Elisa Trucco, Ph.D., psychologist at the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University. “We now have convincing evidence that regular marijuana use impacts the brain’s natural response to these rewards. In the long run, this is likely to put these individuals at risk for addiction.”

Marijuana’s reputation as a “safe” drug, and one that an increasing number of states are legalizing for small-scale recreational use, means that many young people are trying it – as many as a third of college-age people report using it in the past year.

But Heitzeg says that her team’s findings, and work by other addiction researchers, has shown that it can cause effects including problems with emotional functioning, academic problems, and even structural brain changes. And, the earlier in life someone tries marijuana, the faster their transition to becoming dependent on the drug, or other substances.

“Some people may believe that marijuana is not addictive or that it’s ‘better’ than other drugs that can cause dependence,” says Heitzeg, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the U-M Medical School and member of the U-M Addiction Research Center. “But this study provides evidence that it’s affecting the brain in a way that may make it more difficult to stop using it. It changes your brain in a way that may change your behavior, and where you get your sense of reward from.”

She is among the neuroscientists and psychologists leading a nationwide study called ABCD, for Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development. That study will track thousands of today’s pre-teens nationwide over 10 years, looking at many aspects of their health and functioning, including brain development via brain scans. Since some of the teens in the study are likely to use marijuana, the study will provide a better chance of seeing what happens over time.

Source: JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1161

Researchers at Canada’s Waterloo University studied what happens to academic goals, engagement, preparedness, and performance when high school students shift from no marijuana use to marijuana use. Their sample included 26,475 students in grades 9-12 in the COMPASS study, Canada’s largest survey of youth substance use. The researchers found that compared to students who do not use marijuana, those who use it at least once a month were:

· four times more likely to skip class,

· two to four times less likely to complete homework,

· two to four times less likely to value getting good grades, and

· half as likely to actually get good grades.

Moreover, half of those who smoked marijuana daily were less likely to report plans to attend college compared to nonusers. “We found that the more frequently students started using the drug, the greater their risk for poor school performance and engagement,” says Karen Patte, lead author of the study. Read more here.

Source: srusche@nationalfamilies.org  National Families in Action’s The Marijuana Report 17TH May 2017

“I wish that all families would at least consider investigating medication-assisted treatment and reading about what’s out there,” says Alicia Murray, DO, Board Certified Addiction Psychiatrist. “I think, unfortunately, there is still stigma about medications. But what we want people to see is that we’re actually changing the functioning of the patient.” Essentially, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help get a patient back on track to meeting the demands of life – getting into a healthy routine, showing up for work and being the sibling, spouse or parent that they once were. “If we can change that with medication-assisted treatment and with counselling,” says Murray, “that’s so valuable.” The opioid epidemic is terrifying, especially so for a parent of someone already struggling with prescription pills or heroin use. It’s so important to consider any and all options for helping your child recover from their opioid dependence.

Part of the reason it’s so hard to overcome an opioid addiction is because it rewires your brain to focus almost exclusively on the drug over anything else, and produces extreme cravings and withdrawal symptoms as a result. By helping to reduce those feelings of cravings and withdrawal, medication-assisted treatment can help your son or daughter’s brain stop thinking constantly about the drug and focus on returning to a healthier life.

Medication-assisted treatment is often misunderstood. Many traditional treatment programs and step-based supports may tell you that MAT is simply substituting one addictive drug for another. However, taking medication for opioid addiction is like taking medication for any other chronic disease, such as diabetes or asthma. When it is used according to the doctor’s instructions and in conjunction with therapy, the medication will not create a new addiction, and can help.

As a parent, you want to explore all opportunities to get your child help for his or her opioid addiction, and get them closer and closer to functioning as a healthy adult – holding down a job, keeping a regular schedule and tapering, and eventually, stopping their misuse of opioids. Medication-assisted treatment helps them do that.

“MAT medications are most effective when they are used in conjunction with therapy and recovery work. We would never recommend medication over other forms of treatment. We would recommend it in addition to it.”

The three most-common medications used to treat opioid addiction are:

· Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

· Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

· Methadone

NALTREXONE

Naltrexone, known by its brand-name Vivitrol, is administered by a doctor monthly through an injection. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. Antagonists attach themselves to opioid receptors in the brain and prevent other opioids such as heroin or painkillers from exerting the effects of the drug. It has no abuse potential.

BUPRENORPHINE

Buprenorphine, known by its brand-name Suboxone, is an oral tablet or film dissolved under the tongue or in the mouth prescribed by a doctor in an office-based setting. It is taken daily and can be dispensed at a physician’s office or taken at home. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist. Partial agonists attach to the opioid receptors in the brain and activate them, but not to the full degree as agonists. If used against the doctor’s instructions, it has the potential to be abused.

METHADONE

Methadone is dispensed through a certified opioid treatment program (OTP). It’s a liquid and taken orally and usually witnessed at an OTP clinic until the patient receives take-home doses. Methadone is an opioid agonist. Agonists are drugs that activate opioid receptors in the brain, producing an effect. If used against the doctor’s instructions, it has the potential to be abused. There is no “one size fits all” approach to medication-assisted treatment, or even recovery. Recovery is individual.

The most important thing to do is to consider all of your options, and speak to a medical professional to determine the best course of action for your family. The best path is the path that helps and works for your child.

Source:  http://drugfree.org/parent-blog/medication-assisted-treatment/  19th May 2017

During the 2015 election, the Liberals campaigned on a plan to greenlight marijuana for recreational use to keep it out of the hands of children and the profits out of the hands of criminals.

The party’s election platform said Canada’s current approach — criminalizing people for possession and use — traps too many Canadians in the justice system for minor offences.

Last month, the government spelled out its plans in legislation, setting sweeping policy changes in motion.  The new law proposes setting the national minimum age to legally buy cannabis at 18 years old. It will be up to the provinces should they want to restrict it further.

Is it true, as Wilson-Raybould and the Liberals suggest, that legalization will in fact keep cannabis out of the hands of kids?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below)

This one earns a lot of baloney — the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth. Here’s why:

THE FACTS

There is no doubt cannabis is in the hands of young people today.

In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of teenage and early-age adulthood use of marijuana, says Dr. Mark Ware, the vice-chair of the federally-appointed task force on cannabis and a medicinal marijuana researcher at McGill University.

“We don’t anticipate that this is going to eliminate it; but the public health approach is to make it less easy for young adolescents, young kids, to access cannabis than it is at the moment,” he said.

Bonnie Leadbeater, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria who specializes in adolescent behaviour, said as many as 60 per cent of 18-year-olds have used marijuana at some point in their lives.

The aim of a regulated, controlled system of legalized cannabis is to make it more difficult for kids to access pot, Ware said, noting the principle goal is to delay the onset of use.

So will a recreational market for adults coupled with a regulatory regime really keep pot out of the hands of kids?

THE EXPERTS

Public health experts — including proponents of legalization — say that probably won’t happen.

“I don’t exactly know what they are planning to do to keep it out of the hands of young people and I think some elaboration of that might be helpful,” Leadbeater said. “It is unlikely that it will change … it has been very, very accessible to young people.”

Benedikt Fischer, a University of Toronto psychiatry professor and senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, agrees the expectation that legalization will suddenly reduce or eliminate use among young people is counter-intuitive and unrealistic to a large extent.

“The only thing we could hope for is that maybe because it is legal, all of a sudden it is so much more boring for young people that they’re not interested in it anymore,” he said.

Increasing penalties for people who facilitate access to kids will help discourage law-abiding Canadians from doing so, says Steven Hoffman, director of a global strategy lab at the University of Ottawa Centre for health law, policy and ethics.

“That being said, when there’s a drug, there’s no foolproof way of keeping it out of the hands of all children,” Hoffman said. “For sure, there will still be children who are still consuming cannabis.”

Cannabis will not be legal for people of all ages under the legislation, he added, noting this means there may still be a market for criminal activity for cannabis in the form of selling it to children.

In Colorado, officials thought there would be an increase in use as a result of legalization, according to Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer at the Department of Public Health and Environment, but he said there’s been no increase among either youth or adults.    Nor has there been a noticeable decrease.

“What it looks like is folks who may have been using illicitly before are using legally now and teens or youth that were using illicitly before, it’s still the same rate of illicit use,” he said.

THE VERDICT

Donald MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, said the Liberal government could provide a more nuanced, realistic message about its plans to legalize marijuana.

“To suddenly go over to the rhetoric … that strict regulation is going to keep it out of the hands of young people doesn’t work,” he said.

“There’s a better chance of reducing the harm to young people through a … public health, regulatory approach. That’s ideally what they should be saying.”

Careful messaging around legalized marijuana — like the approach taken by the Netherlands — could make cannabis less of a tempting forbidden fruit for young people, said Mark Haden, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia.

“What we know is that prohibition maximizes the engagement of youth, so if we did it well and skillfully and ended prohibition with a wise approach and made cannabis boring, it would keep it out of the hands of kids,” he said.

“It isn’t completely baloney, it just hasn’t gone far enough in terms of a rich, real discussion. It is just political soundbites.”

For this reason, Wilson-Raybould’s statement contains “a lot of baloney.”

METHODOLOGY

The Baloney Meter is a project of The Canadian Press that examines the level of accuracy in statements made by politicians. Each claim is researched and assigned a rating based on the following scale:

· No baloney – the statement is completely accurate

· A little baloney – the statement is mostly accurate but more information is required

· Some baloney – the statement is partly accurate but important details are missing

· A lot of baloney – the statement is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth

· Full of baloney – the statement is completely inaccurate

Source:   http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/fact-check-will-legalizing-pot-keep-it-out-of-the-hands-of-kids-1.3397542   4th May 2017

Kuei Y. Tseng was awarded $1.95 million by NIH for a five-year study of “Adolescent Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex: Modulation by Cannabinoids.” Regular marijuana use by teens can stop the brain from maturing, according to a new study by scientists at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL. Published March 4 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the study is the first to establish a causal link between repeated cannabinoid exposure during adolescence and an interruption of the normal maturation processes in the prefrontal cortex, a region in the brain’s frontal lobe, which regulates decision making and working memory and undergoes critical development during adolescence.

The findings apply to natural cannabinoids, including those in marijuana, and a new generation of more potent, synthetic cannabinoid products. THC, the compound in marijuana that produces feelings of euphoria, is of particular concern. The chemical can be manipulated, resulting in varying concentrations between marijuana strains – from 2 to 28 percent. A higher concentration of THC and increasing use by younger teens poses a greater risk for long term negative effects, the study finds. Kuei Y. Tseng, MD, PhD, associate professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the Chicago Medical School at RFUMS and principal investigator of the study, blames the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, which governs neuronal communication, for the drug’s long -lasting effect.

Tseng and his team of researchers used rat models in testing the effect of cannabinoid exposure during narrow age windows and analyzed the way information is later processed by the adult prefrontal cortex. They discovered that when CB1 receptors are repeatedly activated by cannabinoids during early adolescence, development of the prefrontal cortex stalls in that phase. The window of vulnerability represents two thirds of the span of adolescence. Test animals showed no such effect when exposure occurred in late adolescence or adulthood.

“We have conclusively demonstrated that an over activation of the CB1 receptor during the window equivalent to age 11 to 17 in humans, when the prefrontal cortex is still developing, will inhibit its maturation and have a long lasting effect on its functions,” Tseng said.

The study shows how chronic cannabis use by teens can cause persistent behavioral deficits in adulthood, including problems with attention span and impulse control. The findings also add to prior research that draws a correlation between adolescent marijuana abuse and the development of schizophrenia.

The discovery, which comes as a growing number of states are considering legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, calls for the attention of physicians who prescribe medical marijuana and policy makers who, according to Tseng, “will have to establish regulations to take advantage of the beneficial effects of marijuana while minimizing its detrimental potential.”

Researchers are focusing on developing outcome measures to reveal the degree of frontal lobe maturation and history of drug exposure. The challenge now, Tseng said, is to find ways to return the frontal lobe back to a normal state either through pharmacological or cognitive interventions.

“Future research will tell us what other mechanisms can be triggered to avoid this type of impairment of the frontal lobe,” Tseng said. “Ultimately, we want to restore the prefrontal cortex.”

Supported by RFUMS, the research was funded primarily through NIH Grant R01-MH086507 to Tseng and also by a 2012 seed grant from the Brain Research Foundation.

Source:  https://www.rosalindfranklin.edu/news/profiles/study-shows-marijuana-use-interrupts-adolescent-brain-development/   4th March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With cannabis, no such difficulty gets in the way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Source:  http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/local-news/2017/03/04/who-watching-children-529169

This study found:

* The Strengthening Families Program for Youth 10-14 (SFP10-14) reduced substance use among the friends of teens who participated in the intervention, as well as the participants themselves.

* The friends’ substance use reductions were mediated by altered attitudes toward substance use and reductions in unsupervised socializing with peers.

In SFP10-14, families with children ages 10 to 14 meet with intervention facilitators once a week for 7 weeks to discuss substance use, parenting practices, communication skills, responses to peer pressure, and other topics. Previous studies have demonstrated that the program reduces participating children’s substance use and improves participating parents’ parenting practices. The new study evaluated the program’s effects on the participating teens’ nonparticipating friends.

Dr. Kelly Rulison of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University analysed data collected from more than 5,400 students who attended sixth grade in 13 rural Pennsylvania and Iowa communities. None of the students participated in SFP10-14, even though the intervention was offered to all sixth graders in their schools. Each year for 3 years, the researchers elicited from each student the names of up to 7 peers in the same grade who were “close” friends. They also collected information on each student’s exposure to friends who participated in SFP10-14, to friends’ positive or negative attitudes about substance use, friends’ smoking or drinking to inebriation, and other variables.

Figure. Nonparticipants With Friends Who Participated in SFP10-14 Are Less Likely to Use Cigarettes Immediately before and after implementation of the SFP10-14 intervention, past-month cigarette use did not differ among nonparticipants with a varying number of friends participating in the intervention. Over time, however, diffusion of the program’s effects resulted in differences in cigarette use among the nonparticipants that were proportional to the number of their friends who had participated in SFP10-14. Nonparticipants with greater numbers of participating friends reported lower rates of past-month cigarette use than their peers with fewer participating friends.

The researchers’ analysis revealed that the benefits of SFP10-14 spread from participants to their friends. Thus, the more participant friends a nonparticipant had, the less likely he or she was to engage in substance use in the years following the intervention. At the 3-year follow-up, nonparticipants who had three or more participant friends were roughly 2/3 as likely to report that they had been drunk in the past month, and roughly 1/3 as likely to have smoked a cigarette in the past month, compared with those who had no participant friends (see Figure).

Two mediating factors accounted for most of the indirect benefit experienced by the SFP10-14 nonparticipants. Most influential was the amount of time they spent “hanging out” with friends without adult supervision. Dr. Rulison says, “Multiple mechanisms for

this result are possible, but it’s most likely that SFP10-14 changed participating parents’ supervision practices. Parents who have participated in the intervention tend to supervise their adolescents closely. Nonparticipating teens who spend time with friends who participate receive indirect supervision from their friends’ parents, regardless of how much their own parents supervise them.”

SFP10-14 nonparticipants’ substance use also was influenced by their participant friends’ attitudes toward smoking and drinking alcohol. Although this effect was small compared to that of unsupervised socializing, it implies that encouraging participants to advocate negative attitudes about substance use to their friends could help reduce community-wide teen substance use.

Additional findings from the study underscore the strong influence that peer behavior can have among teens and the potential for interventions such as SFP10-14, which reduce problem behaviors, to benefit teens who do not directly experience them. The researchers calculated that a unit increase in smoking prevalence among a teen’s friends was associated with a 14-fold increase in his or her odds of smoking, and an increase in the friends’ prevalence of drunkenness was associated with a near quintupling of his or her odds of getting drunk. However, the researchers acknowledge that selection processes also play a role in shaping teen behavior—that is, that teens who drink alcohol or smoke gravitate to friends who do the same.

Dr. Rulison notes that all the school districts in the study were majority-white with stable student populations, and the findings may not apply to other types of communities. She comments, “Diffusion results from the stability of the community and changing community norms, not community demographics. Whether diffusion occurs in more transient communities depends on the specifics of the intervention.” For example, she says, because the benefits of SFP10-14 spread partly by altering the behavior of participating parents, “diffusion is less likely if participating parents move away.”

However, the researchers also believe that diffusion may occur via the cumulative, normative effect of students’ beliefs. “Changing individual attitudes could lead to a sustained school- or community-wide change in norms, even if many of the original program participants move away,” Dr. Rulison says.

The researchers say that identifying the specific mechanisms and processes that support diffusion of a programs’ benefits can enable researchers to improve in program design and implementation. Accordingly, they recommend that program developers and evaluators measure their programs’ impact, if any, on nonparticipants, such as those who join the community after the intervention, siblings of participants, and nonparticipants who are not in the same class or grade in which the program is implemented.

Dr. Rulison and colleagues advise intervention designers to leverage diffusion effects to maximize their programs’ impact. “Intervention developers should target factors, such as peer attitudes and unstructured socializing, that might facilitate diffusion,” Dr. Rulison says. “Some programs already do so by specifically training student leaders to spread intervention messages.”

This study was supported by NIH grants DA018225, DA013709, HD041025, AA14702, and the WT Grant Foundation.

Source: Rulison, K.L.; Feinberg, M.; Gest, S.D.; and Osgood, D.W. Diffusion of intervention effects: The impact of a family-based substance use prevention program on friends of participants. Journal of Adolescent Health 57(4):433-440, 2015. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:  businesswaste.co.uk   23rd  March 2017 

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

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

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

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

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. Emma Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit

State funding for organised sport and other clubs has increased in Iceland to give kids new ways to feel like part of a group all pics: Dave Imms

It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids?

Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”

We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg.

A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.

Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

The country has created new opportunities for kids of all ages to get involved with the community

If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.

“I was in the eye of the storm of the drug revolution,” Milkman explains over tea in his apartment in Reykjavik. In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “LSD was already in, and a lot of people

were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”

Milkman’s doctoral dissertation concluded that people would choose either heroin or amphetamines depending on how they liked to deal with stress. Heroin users wanted to numb themselves; amphetamine users wanted to actively confront it. After this work was published, he was among a group of researchers drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to answer questions such as: why do people start using drugs? Why do they continue? When do they reach a threshold to abuse? When do they stop? And when do they relapse?

“Any college kid could say: why do they start? Well, there’s availability, they’re risk-takers, alienation, maybe some depression,” he says. “But why do they continue? So I got to the question about the threshold for abuse and the lights went on – that’s when I had my version of the “aha” experience: they could be on the threshold for abuse before they even took the drug, because it was their style of coping that they were abusing.”

At Metropolitan State College of Denver, Milkman was instrumental in developing the idea that people were getting addicted to changes in brain chemistry. Kids who were “active confronters” were after a rush – they’d get it by stealing hubcaps and radios and later cars, or through stimulant drugs. Alcohol also alters brain chemistry, of course. It’s a sedative but it sedates the brain’s control first, which can remove inhibitions and, in limited doses, reduce anxiety.

“People can get addicted to drink, cars, money, sex, calories, cocaine – whatever,” says Milkman. “The idea of behavioural addiction became our trademark.”

This idea spawned another: “Why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs: around people getting high on their own brain chemistry – because it seems obvious to me that people want to change their consciousness – without the deleterious effects of drugs?”

By 1992, his team in Denver had won a $1.2m government grant to form Project Self-Discovery, which offered teenagers natural-high alternatives to drugs and crime. They got referrals from teachers, school nurses and counsellors, taking in kids from the age of 14 who didn’t see themselves as needing treatment but who had problems with drugs or petty crime.

“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.

At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.

It’s less common to see children out on the streets in Iceland, as many are in after-school programs and participating in recreational activities

In 1991, Milkman was invited to Iceland to talk about this work, his findings and ideas. He became a consultant to the first residential drug treatment centre for adolescents in

Iceland, in a town called Tindar. “It was designed around the idea of giving kids better things to do,” he explains. It was here that he met Gudberg, who was then a psychology undergraduate and a volunteer at Tindar. They have been close friends ever since.

Milkman started coming regularly to Iceland and giving talks. These talks, and Tindar, attracted the attention of a young researcher at the University of Iceland, called Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir. She wondered: what if you could use healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol as part of a programme not to treat kids with problems, but to stop kids drinking or taking drugs in the first place?

Have you ever tried alcohol? If so, when did you last have a drink? Have you ever been drunk? Have you tried cigarettes? If so, how often do you smoke? How much time to you spend with your parents? Do you have a close relationship with your parents? What kind of activities do you take part in?

In 1992, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds in every school in Iceland filled in a questionnaire with these kinds of questions. This process was then repeated in 1995 and 1997.

The results of these surveys were alarming. Nationally, almost 25 per cent were smoking every day, over 40 per cent had got drunk in the past month. But when the team drilled right down into the data, they could identify precisely which schools had the worst problems – and which had the least. Their analysis revealed clear differences between the lives of kids who took up drinking, smoking and other drugs, and those who didn’t. A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organised activities – especially sport – three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

“At that time, there had been all kinds of substance prevention efforts and programmes,” says Inga Dóra, who was a research assistant on the surveys. “Mostly they were built on education.” Kids were being warned about the dangers of drink and drugs, but, as Milkman had observed in the US, these programmes were not working. “We wanted to come up with a different approach.”

The mayor of Reykjavik, too, was interested in trying something new, and many parents felt the same, adds Jón Sigfússon, Inga Dóra’s colleague and brother. Jón had young daughters at the time and joined her new Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis when it was set up in 1999. “The situation was bad,” he says. “It was obvious something had to be done.”

Using the survey data and insights from research including Milkman’s, a new national plan was gradually introduced. It was called Youth in Iceland.

Laws were changed. It became illegal to buy tobacco under the age of 18 and alcohol under the age of 20, and tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned. Links between parents and school were strengthened through parental organisations which by law had to be established in every school, along with school councils with parent representatives. Parents were encouraged to attend talks on the importance of spending a quantity of time with their children rather than occasional “quality time”, on talking to their kids about their lives, on knowing who their kids were friends with, and on keeping their children home in the evenings.

A law was also passed prohibiting children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10pm in winter and midnight in summer. It’s still in effect today.

Home and School, the national umbrella body for parental organisations, introduced agreements for parents to sign. The content varies depending on the age group, and individual organisations can decide what they want to include. For kids aged 13 and up, parents can pledge to follow all the recommendations, and also, for example, not to allow their kids to have unsupervised parties, not to buy alcohol for minors, and to keep an eye on the wellbeing of other children.

These agreements educate parents but also help to strengthen their authority in the home, argues Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir, director of Home and School. “Then it becomes harder to use the oldest excuse in the book: ‘But everybody else can!’”

State funding was increased for organised sport, music, art, dance and other clubs, to give kids alternative ways to feel part of a group, and to feel good, rather than through using alcohol and drugs, and kids from low-income families received help to take part. In Reykjavik, for instance, where more than a third of the country’s population lives, a Leisure Card gives families 35,000 krona (£250) per year per child to pay for recreational activities.

Children between the ages of 13 and 16 are prohibited from being outside after 10pm

Crucially, the surveys have continued. Each year, almost every child in Iceland completes one. This means up-to-date, reliable data is always available.

Between 1997 and 2012, the percentage of kids aged 15 and 16 who reported often or almost always spending time with their parents on weekdays doubled – from 23 per cent to 46 per cent – and the percentage who participated in organised sports at least four times a week increased from 24 per cent to 42 per cent. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking, drinking and cannabis use in this age group plummeted.

“Although this cannot be shown in the form of a causal relationship – which is a good example of why primary prevention methods are sometimes hard to sell to scientists – the trend is very clear,” notes Álfgeir Kristjánsson, who worked on the data and is now at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in the US. “Protective factors have gone up, risk factors down, and substance use has gone down – and more consistently in Iceland than in any other European country.”

Jón Sigfússon apologies for being just a couple of minutes late. “I was on a crisis call!” He prefers not to say precisely to where, but it was to one of the cities elsewhere in the world that has now adopted, in part, the Youth in Iceland ideas.

Youth in Europe, which Jón heads, began in 2006 after the already-remarkable Icelandic data was presented at a European Cities Against Drugs meeting and, he recalls, “People asked: what are you doing?”

Participation in Youth in Europe is at a municipal level rather than being led by national governments. In the first year, there were eight municipalities. To date, 35 have taken part, across 17 countries, varying from some areas where just a few schools take part to Tarragona in Spain, where 4,200 15-year-olds are involved. The method is always the same: Jón and his team talk to local officials and devise a questionnaire with the same core questions as those used in Iceland plus any locally tailored extras. For example, online gambling has recently emerged as a big problem in a few areas, and local officials want to know if it’s linked to other risky behaviour.

Just two months after the questionnaires are returned to Iceland, the team sends back an initial report with the results, plus information on how they compare with other participating regions. “We always say that, like vegetables, information has to be fresh,” says Jón. “If you bring these findings a year later, people would say, Oh, this was a long time ago and maybe things have changed…” As well as fresh, it has to be local so that schools, parents and officials can see exactly what problems exist in which areas.

The team has analysed 99,000 questionnaires from places as far afield as the Faroe Islands, Malta and Romania – as well as South Korea and, very recently, Nairobi and Guinea-Bissau. Broadly, the results show that when it comes to teen substance use, the same protective and risk factors identified in Iceland apply everywhere. There are some differences: in one location (in a country “on the Baltic Sea”), participation in organised sport actually emerged as a risk factor. Further investigation revealed that this was because young ex-military men who were keen on muscle-building drugs, drinking and smoking were running the clubs. Here, then, was a well-defined, immediate, local problem that could be addressed.

While Jón and his team offer advice and information on what has been found to work in Iceland, it’s up to individual communities to decide what to do in the light of their results. Occasionally, they do nothing. One predominantly Muslim country, which he prefers not to identify, rejected the data because it revealed an unpalatable level of alcohol consumption. In other cities – such as the origin of Jón’s “crisis call” – there is an openness to the data and there is money, but he has observed that it can be much more difficult to secure and maintain funding for health prevention strategies than for treatments.

No other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. When asked if anyone has copied the laws to keep children indoors in the evening, Jón smiles. “Even Sweden laughs and calls it the child curfew!”

Across Europe, rates of teen alcohol and drug use have generally improved over the past 20 years, though nowhere as dramatically as in Iceland, and the reasons for improvements are not necessarily linked to strategies that foster teen wellbeing. In the UK, for example, the fact that teens are now spending more time at home interacting online rather than in person could be one of the major reasons for the drop in alcohol consumption.

But Kaunas, in Lithuania, is one example of what can happen through active intervention. Since 2006, the city has administered the questionnaires five times, and schools, parents, healthcare organisations, churches, the police and social services have come together to try to improve kids’ wellbeing and curb substance use. For instance, parents get eight or nine free parenting sessions each year, and a new programme provides extra funding for public institutions and NGOs working in mental health promotion and stress management. In 2015, the city started offering free sports activities on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and there are plans to introduce a free ride service for low-income families, to help kids who don’t live close to the facilities to attend.

Between 2006 and 2014, the number of 15- and 16-year-olds in Kaunas who reported getting drunk in the past 30 days fell by about a quarter, and daily smoking fell by more than 30 per cent.

At the moment, participation in Youth in Europe is a haphazard affair, and the team in Iceland is small. Jón would like to see a centralised body with its own dedicated funding to focus on the expansion of Youth in Europe. “Even though we have been doing this for

ten years, it is not our full, main job. We would like somebody to copy this and maintain it all over Europe,” he says. “And why only Europe?”

After our walk through Laugardalur Park, Gudberg Jónsson invites us back to his home. Outside, in the garden, his two elder sons, Jón Konrád, who’s 21, and Birgir Ísar, who’s 15, talk to me about drinking and smoking. Jón does drink alcohol, but Birgir says he doesn’t know anyone at his school who smokes or drinks. We also talk about football training: Birgir trains five or six times a week; Jón, who is in his first year of a business degree at the University of Iceland, trains five times a week. They both started regular after-school training when they were six years old.

“We have all these instruments at home,” their father told me earlier. “We tried to get them into music. We used to have a horse. My wife is really into horse riding. But it didn’t happen. In the end, soccer was their selection.”

Did it ever feel like too much? Was there pressure to train when they’d rather have been doing something else? “No, we just had fun playing football,” says Birgir. Jón adds, “We tried it and got used to it, and so we kept on doing it.”

It’s not all they do. While Gudberg and his wife Thórunn don’t consciously plan for a certain number of hours each week with their three sons, they do try to take them regularly to the movies, the theatre, restaurants, hiking, fishing and, when Iceland’s sheep are brought down from the highlands each September, even on family sheep-herding outings.

Jón and Birgir may be exceptionally keen on football, and talented (Jón has been offered a soccer scholarship to the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and a few weeks after we meet, Birgir is selected to play for the under-17 national team). But could the significant rise in the percentage of kids who take part in organised sport four or more times a week be bringing benefits beyond raising healthier children?

Could it, for instance, have anything to do with Iceland’s crushing defeat of England in the Euro 2016 football championship? When asked, Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir, who was voted Woman of the Year in Iceland in 2016, smiles: “There is also the success in music, like Of Monsters and Men [an indie folk-pop group from Reykjavik]. These are young people who have been pushed into organised work. Some people have thanked me,” she says, with a wink.

Elsewhere, cities that have joined Youth in Europe are reporting other benefits. In Bucharest, for example, the rate of teen suicides is dropping alongside use of drink and drugs. In Kaunas, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third between 2014 and 2015.

As Inga Dóra says: “We learned through the studies that we need to create circumstances in which kids can lead healthy lives, and they do not need to use substances, because life is fun, and they have plenty to do – and they are supported by parents who will spend time with them.”

When it comes down to it, the messages – if not necessarily the methods – are straightforward. And when he looks at the results, Harvey Milkman thinks of his own country, the US. Could the Youth in Iceland model work there, too?

Three hundred and twenty-five million people versus 330,000. Thirty-three thousand gangs versus virtually none. Around 1.3 million homeless young people versus a handful.

Iceland’s government has made a long-term commitment to supporting the national project

Clearly, the US has challenges that Iceland does not. But the data from other parts of Europe, including cities such as Bucharest with major social problems and relative poverty, shows that the Icelandic model can work in very different cultures, Milkman argues. And the need in the US is high: underage drinking accounts for about 11 per cent of all alcohol consumed nationwide, and excessive drinking causes more than 4,300 deaths among under-21 year olds every year.

A national programme along the lines of Youth in Iceland is unlikely to be introduced in the US, however. One major obstacle is that while in Iceland there is long-term commitment to the national project, community health programmes in the US are usually funded by short-term grants.

Milkman has learned the hard way that even widely applauded, gold-standard youth programmes aren’t always expanded, or even sustained. “With Project Self-Discovery, it seemed like we had the best programme in the world,” he says. “I was invited to the White House twice. It won national awards. I was thinking: this will be replicated in every town and village. But it wasn’t.”

He thinks that is because you can’t prescribe a generic model to every community because they don’t all have the same resources. Any move towards giving kids in the US the opportunities to participate in the kinds of activities now common in Iceland, and so helping them to stay away from alcohol and other drugs, will depend on building on what already exists. “You have to rely on the resources of the community,” he says.

His colleague Álfgeir Kristjánsson is introducing the Icelandic ideas to the state of West Virginia. Surveys are being given to kids at several middle and high schools in the state, and a community coordinator will help get the results out to parents and anyone else who could use them to help local kids. But it might be difficult to achieve the kinds of results seen in Iceland, he concedes.

Short-termism also impedes effective prevention strategies in the UK, says Michael O’Toole, CEO of Mentor, a charity that works to reduce alcohol and drug misuse in children and young people. Here, too, there is no national coordinated alcohol and drug prevention programme. It’s generally left to local authorities or to schools, which can often mean kids are simply given information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol – a strategy that, he agrees, evidence shows does not work.

O’Toole fully endorses the Icelandic focus on parents, school and the community all coming together to help support kids, and on parents or carers being engaged in young people’s lives. Improving support for kids could help in so many ways, he stresses. Even when it comes just to alcohol and smoking, there is plenty of data to show that the older a child is when they have their first drink or cigarette, the healthier they will be over the course of their life.

But not all the strategies would be acceptable in the UK – the child curfews being one, parental walks around neighbourhoods to identify children breaking the rules perhaps another. And a trial run by Mentor in Brighton that involved inviting parents into schools for workshops found that it was difficult to get them engaged.

Public wariness and an unwillingness to engage will be challenges wherever the Icelandic methods are proposed, thinks Milkman, and go to the heart of the balance of responsibility between states and citizens. “How much control do you want the government to have over what happens with your kids? Is this too much of the government meddling in how people live their lives?”

In Iceland, the relationship between people and the state has allowed an effective national programme to cut the rates of teenagers smoking and drinking to excess – and, in the process, brought families closer and helped kids to become healthier in all kinds of ways. Will no other country decide that these benefits are worth the costs?

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/iceland-knows-how-to-stop-teen-substance-abuse-but-the-rest-of-the-world-isn-t-listening-a7526316.html  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VICE: So how did this all start?

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

Are these books meant to be for children?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier this week, the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), released a study that claims a 24 percent decline in marijuana-related problems among teenagers, such as becoming dependent on the drug or having trouble in school and in relationships. The researchers also claim there is an association between drops in problems related to cannabis and reductions in behavioural issues, such as fighting, property crimes and selling drugs. Pro-marijuana bloggers have picked this up as “proof” that legalization is not harmful to kids, but an editorial in the very same journal says that “no such inference is warranted.”

At first blush this study seems encouraging, however, there are several facts that are not consistent with media headlines and interpretations:

* The study examines data from 2002 to 2013, and thus does not examine any time period with retail marijuana legalization even though researchers state that they did look at legalization policies. Legalization was not in place until late 2012 in two states only, and retail sales started in 2014. Also, data show that marijuana use declined from 2002 to 2009, but increased after.

* The findings of this study contradict data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the US Monitoring the Future Study which all show an increase in kids using marijuana and needing treatment.

* The article lumps together all states and does not differentiate between those with less restrictive “medical” marijuana policies and those with stricter controls. * Finally, as Hopfer discusses in his editorial, it is possible “a decrease in conduct problems accounted for the decrease in the development of marijuana use disorders. Although this is not proof of a causal effect, one potential inference is that as marijuana use becomes more acceptable, more individuals without conduct or adult antisocial problems will use marijuana and that the risk of developing a use disorder is lower in individuals without comorbid conduct or adult antisocial problems.”

The legalization lobby will try and tout this research as proving that legalization works. In reality, legalization is ushering in the advent of marijuana candies and other kid-friendly items by big business. Colorado is the top state in the nation for youth marijuana use. Problems related to marijuana in Colorado and Washington are mounting, as evidenced here, with an out-of-control marijuana industry focused on hooking kids and retaining lifelong customers. The World Health Organization report on marijuana found several negative effects for teens, including “several components of cognitive function, with the most robust effects on short term episodic and working memory, planning and decision-making, response speed, accuracy and latency.” The report also detailed studies that found “heavy cannabis use over several decades produced substantial declines in cognitive performance that may not be wholly reversible… (and) an association between poorer verbal memory and sustained daily use of cannabis throughout adult life.”

Source:  https://learnaboutsam.org/despite-study-marijuana-still-linked-problems-among-teenagers/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIH Monitoring the Future survey shows use of most illicit substances down, but past year marijuana use relatively stable

December 13, 2016

The 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) annual survey results released today from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reflect changing teen behaviors and choices in a social media-infused world. The results show a continued long-term decline in the use of many illicit substances, including marijuana, as well as alcohol, tobacco, and misuse of some prescription medications, among the nation’s teens. The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH.

Findings from the survey indicate that past year use of any illicit drug was the lowest in the survey’s history for eighth graders, while past year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is down from recent peaks in all three grades.

Marijuana use in the past month among eighth graders dropped significantly in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015. Daily use among eighth graders dropped in 2016 to 0.7 percent from 1.1 percent in 2015. However, among high school seniors, 22.5 percent report past month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year. Similarly, rates of marijuana use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.

The survey also shows that there continues to be a higher rate of marijuana use among 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws, compared to states without them. For example, in 2016, 38.3 percent of high school seniors in states with medical marijuana laws reported past year marijuana use, compared to 33.3 percent in non-medical marijuana states, reflecting previous research that has suggested that these differences precede enactment of medical marijuana laws.

Further, some 40.2 percent of seniors in so-called medical marijuana (MMJ) states are using edibles—foods infused with marijuana concentrates—compared to 28.1 percent of seniors in states that have not medicalized pot. High school seniors are in the healthiest part of the life span. One wonders why so many young people need so much “medicine.”

The survey indicates that marijuana and e-cigarettes are more popular than regular tobacco cigarettes. The past month rates among 12th graders are 12.4 percent for e-cigarettes and 10.5 percent for cigarettes. A large drop in the use of tobacco cigarettes was seen in all three grades, with a long-term decline from their peak use more than two decades ago. For example, in 1991, when MTF first measured cigarette smoking, 10.7 percent of high school seniors smoked a half pack or more a day. Twenty-five years later, that rate has dropped to only 1.8 percent, reflecting the success of widespread public health anti-smoking campaigns and policy changes.

There has been a similar decline in the use of alcohol, with the rate of teens reporting they have “been drunk” in the past year at the survey’s lowest rates ever. For example, 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported they have been drunk at least once, down from a peak of 53.2 percent in 2001.

Although non-medical use of prescription opioids remains a serious issue in the adult population, teen use of prescription opioid pain relievers is trending downwards among 12th graders with a 45 percent drop in past year use compared to five years ago. For example, only 2.9 percent of high school seniors reported past year misuse of the pain reliever Vicodin in 2016, compared to nearly 10 percent a decade ago.

“Clearly our public health prevention efforts, as well as policy changes to reduce availability, are working to reduce teen drug use, especially among eighth graders,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA. “However, when 6 percent of high school seniors are using marijuana daily, and new synthetics are continually flooding the illegal marketplace, we cannot be complacent. We also need to learn more about how teens interact with each other in this social media era, and how those behaviors affect substance use rates.”

“It is encouraging to see more young people making healthy choices not to use illicit substances,” said National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli. “We must continue to do all we can to support young people through evidence-based prevention efforts as well as treatment for those who may develop substance use disorders. And now that Congress has acted on the President’s request to provide $1 billion in new funding for prevention and treatment, we will have significant new resources to do this.”

The MTF survey, the only large-scale federal youth survey on substance use that releases findings the same year the data is collected, has been conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975.

Other highlights from the 2016 survey:

Illegal and Illicit Drugs

* Illicit Drugs other than Marijuana: Past year rates are the lowest in the history of the survey in all three grades. For example, 14.3 percent of 12th graders say they used an illicit drug (other than marijuana) compared to its recent peak of 17.8 percent in 2013.

* Marijuana-Past year use: Past year marijuana use among eighth graders dropped significantly to 9.4 percent in 2016, from 11.8 percent last year. Past year rates were somewhat stable for sophomores at 23.9 percent, and for seniors at 35.6 percent when compared to last year. However, past year marijuana use has dropped in the last five years among eighth and 10th graders.

* Marijuana-Daily use: Daily rates among 10th and 12th graders remained relatively stable at 2.5 percent and 6 percent for the past few years.

* Marijuana Edibles: Teens who live in states where medical marijuana is legal report a higher use of marijuana edibles. For example, 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.

* Synthetic Cannabinoids: Past year “synthetic marijuana” (K2/Spice) use among 10th and 12th graders dropped significantly from last year. For example, the rate for seniors fell to 3.5 percent compared to 5.2 percent in 2015, with a dramatic drop from its peak of 11.4 percent the first year it was measured in 2011.

* Cocaine: Past year cocaine use was down among 10th graders to 1.3 percent from 1.8 percent last year. Cocaine use hit its peak in this measure at 4.9 percent in 1999.

* Inhalants: Inhalant use, usually the only category of drugs used more by younger teens than their older counterparts, was down significantly among eighth graders compared to last year, with past year use at 3.8 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in 2015. Past year inhalant use peaked among eighth graders in 1995 at 12.8 percent.

* MDMA (Ecstasy or “Molly”): Past year use is down among eighth graders to 1 percent, from last year’s 1.4 percent. MDMA use is at its lowest point for all three grades in the history of the MTF survey.

* Heroin: Heroin rates remain low with teens still in school. High school seniors report past year use of heroin (with a needle) at 0.3 percent, which remains unchanged from last year. In the history of the survey, heroin (with a needle) rates have never been higher than 0.7 percent among 12th graders, as seen in 2010.

* Cold and Cough Medicine: Eighth graders alone reported an increase in misuse of over-the-counter cough medicine at 2.6 percent, up from 1.6 percent in 2015, but still lower than the peak of 4.2 percent when first measured in 2006.

* Attitudes and Availability: Attitudes towards marijuana use have softened, but perception of harm is not necessarily linked to rates of use. For example, 44 percent of 10th graders perceive regular marijuana smoking as harmful (“great risk”), but only 2.5 percent of them used marijuana daily in 2016. This compares to a decade ago (2006) when 64.9 percent of 10th graders perceived marijuana as harmful and 2.8 percent of them used it daily. The number of eighth graders who say marijuana is easy to get is at its lowest in the history of the survey, at 34.6 percent.

Prescription Drugs

* Opioid Pain relievers (described as “Narcotics other than Heroin” in the survey):  The  past year rate for non-medical use of all opioid pain relievers among 12th graders is at 4.8 percent, down significantly from its peak of 9.5 percent in 2004.

* Vicodin/OxyContin: The past year non-medical use of Vicodin among high school seniors is now lower than misuse of OxyContin (2.9 percent compared to 3.4 percent). The past year data for 12th graders 10 years ago was 9.7 percent for Vicodin and 4.3 percent for OxyContin.

* ADHD Medicines: Past year non-medical use of Adderall is relatively stable at 6.2 percent for 12th graders; however, non-medical use of Ritalin dropped to 1.2 percent, compared to 2 percent last year, and a peak of 5.1 percent in 2004.

* Tranquilizers: Non-medical use of this drug category, which includes benzodiazepines, has seen a general decline. For example, among 12th graders the 2016 past year rate is 4.9 percent, compared to its peak in 2002 at 7.7 percent.

* Attitudes and Availability: The majority of teens continue to say they get most of their opioid pain relievers (for non-medical use) from friends or relatives,

either taken, bought or given. The only prescription drugs seen as easier to get in 2016 than last year are tranquilizers, with 11.4 percent of eighth graders reporting they would be “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get, up from 9.8 percent in 2015. Also, when eighth graders were asked if occasional non-medical use of Adderall is harmful (“great risk”), 35.8 percent said yes, compared to 32 percent last year.

Tobacco

* Daily Smoking: The 2016 daily smoking rates for high school seniors was 4.8 percent compared to 22.2 percent two decades ago (1996). For 10th graders, the 2016 daily smoking rate is 1.9 percent, compared to 18.3 percent in 1996.

* Hookah Use: For past year tobacco use with a hookah, the 2016 rate dropped to 13 percent among high school seniors, from 22.9 percent two years ago, its peak year since the survey began measuring hookah use in 2010.

* E-Cigarettes (Vaporizers): The rate for e-cigarettes among high school seniors dropped to 12.4 percent from last year’s 16.2 percent. Of note: only 24.9 percent of 12th graders report that their e-cigarettes contained nicotine (the addictive ingredient in tobacco) the last time they used, with 62.8 percent claiming they contain “just flavoring.”

* Little Cigars: The 2016 past year rate dropped to 15.6 percent among 12th graders, from a peak of 23.1 percent in 2010, when first included in the survey.

* Attitudes and Availability: This year, more 10th graders disapprove of regular use of e-cigarettes than last year. For example, 65 percent of 10th graders say they disapprove, up from last year’s 59.9 percent. In addition, more 10th graders think it is harder to get regular cigarettes than last year; 62.9 percent said they are easy to get, compared to 66.6 percent last year. This represents a dramatic shift from survey findings two decades ago, when 91.3 percent of 10th graders thought it was easy to get cigarettes.

Alcohol

* Past year use: More than half (55.6 percent) of 12th graders report having used alcohol in the past year, compared to the peak rate of about 75 percent in 1997. Thirty-eight percent of 10th graders and 17.6 percent of eighth graders report past year use, compared to the peaks of 65.3 percent in 2000 among 10th graders and 46.8 percent in 1994 among eighth graders.

* Binge drinking: Among eighth graders, binge drinking (described as five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks) continues to significantly decline, now

at only 3.4 percent, the lowest rate since the survey began asking about it in 1991, down from a peak of 13.3 percent in 1996. Binge drinking among high school seniors is down to 15.5 percent, half its peak of 31.5 percent in 1998.

* Been drunk: Representing a long-term downward trend, 37.3 percent of 12th graders say they have been drunk in the past year; 20.5 percent of 10th graders say they have been drunk, down from a peak of 41.6 percent in 2000. Eighth graders reported a rate of 5.7 percent, down from a peak of 19.8 percent in 1996.

* Attitudes: Just over 71 percent of 10th graders think it is easy to get alcohol, compared to last year’s rate of 74.9 percent, and down from 90.4 percent two decades ago.

Overall, 45,473 students from 372 public and private schools participated in this year’s MTF survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D., who has been the principal investigator at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research for all 42 years, is retiring from that position this year, but the survey of teens will continue under the leadership of Richard A. Miech, Ph.D., who is currently a member of the MTF scientific team.

“The declining use of many drugs by youth is certainly encouraging and important,” said Dr. Johnston. “But we need to remember that future cohorts of young people entering adolescence also will need to know why using drugs is not a smart choice. Otherwise we risk having another resurgence of use as was seen in the 90s.”

“We want to thank Dr. Johnston for his lifetime of work building this survey into the important public health tool it is today,” added Dr. Volkow.

Source:  National Families in Action’s The Marijuana Report srusche=nationalfamilies.org@mail230.atl101.mcdlv.net  12th Dec.2016

Highlights

* •Motives for cannabis use can predict problematic use and use-related problems.

* •A MET/CBT intervention was associated with significant reductions in motives.

* •Reductions in a subset of motives significantly predicted change in outcomes.

Abstract

Background

Heavy cannabis use has been associated with negative outcomes, particularly among individuals who begin use in adolescence. Motives for cannabis use can predict frequency of use and negative use-related problems. The purpose of the current study was to assess change in motives following a motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention for adolescent users and assess whether change in motives was associated with change in use and self-reported problems negative consequences.

Methods

Participants (n = 252) were non-treatment seeking high school student cannabis users. All participants received two sessions of MET and had check-ins scheduled at 4, 7, and 10 months. Participants were randomized to either a motivational check-in condition or an assessment-only check-in. Participants in both conditions had the option of attending additional CBT sessions. Cannabis use frequency, negative consequences, and motives were assessed at baseline and at 6, 9, 12, and 15 month follow-ups.

Results

There were significant reductions in motives for use following the intervention and reductions in a subset of motives significantly and uniquely predicted change in problematic outcomes beyond current cannabis use frequency. Change in motives was significantly higher among those who utilized the optional CBT sessions.

Conclusions

This study demonstrates that motives can change over the course of treatment and that this change in motives is associated with reductions in use and problematic outcomes. Targeting specific motives in future interventions may improve treatment outcomes.

Source: http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article   1st October 2016

Highlights

* Childhood sleep problems may be prospectively linked to adolescent substance use.

* Less sleep predicted earlier onset of alcohol and cannabis involvement.

* Worse sleep quality predicted earlier onset of alcohol and cannabis involvement.

* These associations generally held after accounting for various covariates.

* Childhood sleep is a promising target for reducing adolescent substance use risk.

Abstract

Background

Although an association between adolescent sleep and substance use is supported by the literature, few studies have characterized the longitudinal relationship between early adolescent sleep and subsequent substance use. The current study examined the prospective association between the duration and quality of sleep at age 11 and alcohol and cannabis use throughout adolescence.

Methods

The present study, drawn from a cohort of 310 boys taking part in a longitudinal study in Western Pennsylvania, includes 186 boys whose mothers completed the Child Sleep Questionnaire; sleep duration and quality at age 11 were calculated based on these reports. At ages 20 and 22, participants were interviewed regarding lifetime alcohol and cannabis use. Cox proportional hazard analysis was used to determine the association between sleep and substance use.

Results

After accounting for race, socioeconomic status, neighborhood danger, active distraction, internalizing problems, and externalizing problems, both the duration and quality of sleep at age 11 were associated with multiple earlier substance use outcomes. Specifically, less sleep was associated with earlier use, intoxication, and repeated use of both alcohol and cannabis. Lower sleep quality was associated with earlier alcohol use, intoxication, and repeated use. Additionally, lower sleep quality was associated with earlier cannabis intoxication and repeated use, but not first use.

Conclusions

Both sleep duration and sleep quality in early adolescence may have implications for the development of alcohol and cannabis use throughout adolescence. Further studies to understand the mechanisms linking sleep and substance use are warranted.

Source:  http://www.drugandalcoholdependence.com/article/S0376-8716(16)30246-0/pdf 9th August 2016

Filed under: Cannabis/Marijuana,Youth :

An intriguing new NIAAA-funded study offers a glimpse at how the adolescent brain responds to the language of therapists. Led by Sarah W. Feldstein Ewing, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Adolescent Behavioral Health Clinic at Oregon Health & Science University, the study assessed 17 young people ages 15–19 who were self-reported binge drinkers. Following a psychosocial assessment, the youths received two sessions of motivational interviewing aimed at reducing drinking. Between sessions, the participants underwent a brain scan using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.

During the fMRI, the therapist presented two types of statements: one set of “closed questions” based on standard language used within addiction treatment (e.g., “Do your parents know you were drinking?”); the other set included more effortful “complex reflections” (e.g., “You’re worried about your drinking.”)

The youth were re-evaluated one month after treatment. At the follow-up evaluation, the youth showed significant reductions in number of drinking days and binge drinking days. Furthermore, in the fMRI sessions, the researchers observed greater brain activation for complex reflections versus closed questions within the bilateral anterior cingulate gyrus, a brain region associated with decisionmaking, emotions, reward anticipation, and impulse control.

The scientists also noted that greater blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response in the parietal lobe during closed questions was significantly associated with less post-treatment drinking. BOLD response is a way to measure activity in specific brain areas. Previous research has shown that this region’s secondary function is related to a person’s ability to navigate, plan, and make decisions.

The study team also observed lower brain activation in the precuneus was associated with study participants’ post-treatment ratings of the importance of changing their drinking. The precuneus, a subregion of the parietal lobe located inside the fissure that separates the brain’s hemispheres, is related to self-reflection and introspection and is involved in risk behavior. It is considered to be a hub of the brain’s key resting-state network.

The researchers also noted what they did not find from the brain scans—any link between treatment outcome and activation of the frontal lobes, which are a region tied to complex reasoning. The authors commented that this lack of activation might be

because the frontal lobes of the adolescent brain are still developing, making it difficult for teens to bring their frontal lobes “online.”

The study authors note that their findings have important implications for the treatment of addiction in adolescents and can improve our understanding of youth brain systems and inform how to influence mechanisms of behavior change in this population.

Reference:

Feldstein Ewing, S.W.; Houck, J.M.; Yezhuvath, U.; Shokri-Kojori, E.; Truitt, D.; and Filbey, F.M. The impact of therapists’ words on the adolescent brain: In the context of addiction treatment. Behavioural Brain Research 297:359–369, 2016. PMID: 26455873

Source:  http://www.spectrum.niaaa.nih.gov/news-from-the-field/news-from-the-field-01.html  Volume 8 Issue 3  September 2016.

In Illinois in the USA, randomly allocating towns to enforce laws against youth smoking in public led not just to fewer youth smoking but also fewer drinking or using and being offered illegal drugs – did anti-tobacco policing spill-over to create an environment unfriendly to drinking and illegal drug use?

Summary The featured report drew its data from a study which randomly assigned 24 towns in the US state of in Illinois to either more vigorously enforce laws prohibiting under-age possession and use of tobacco, or to continue with existing low-level enforcement practices, a study which showed the intended effects on youth smoking. The issue addressed by the featured report was whether this spilled over to affect other forms of substance use and availability.

The towns selected for and which (via their officials) agreed to participate in the study were also all engaged in a state-sponsored programme intensifying enforcement of the ban on commercial tobacco sales to youngsters under the age of 18. The difference in the 12 towns allocated to enhanced enforcement was that this was supplemented by intensified enforcement of laws against young people having or using tobacco, in particular by levying civic fines against minors caught using or possessing tobacco in public. By design, at the start of the study all the towns only infrequently enforced these laws, a situation continued in the 12 control towns not allocated to enhanced enforcement.

Assignment had the intended effect; over the four years of the study, the average yearly number of anti-tobacco citations issued to minors was significantly higher (17 v. 6) in towns assigned to enhanced enforcement than in control towns.

Earlier reports on the study also showed the intended impact on youth smoking, which increased at a significantly slower rate for adolescents in towns where enforcement was extended. The researcher-administered, confidential surveys of school pupils which established this also asked about current (past 30 days) and ever use of substances other than tobacco. The key statistics for the study were the total number of different types of drugs the student had recently or ever used, averaged over pupils in the same town to assess the impacts on youth in the town as a whole. Pupils were also asked how many times over the past year someone had tried to give or sell them illegal drugs. These surveys were administered in four succeeding years to students from grade seven (age 12–13) up to grade ten in 2002, 11 in 2003, and 12 in 2004 and 2005, meaning that in each year some of the same pupils but also many new ones were sampled.

Across the four waves of data collection 52,550 pupils were eligible to be surveyed of whom 29,851 (57%) completed at least one survey. From these were selected only the 25,404 pupils (who completed 50,725 surveys) living in the 24 towns in the study.

Main findings

At the start of the study towns in the two sets of 12 did not differ in the number of substances currently or ever used by their pupils. As the different tobacco enforcement policies were implemented, over the succeeding three years the number of different drugs that a pupil currently or had ever used increased significantly less steeply in towns assigned to enhanced tobacco enforcement. There was a similar and also statistically significant result for offers of illicit drugs.

Use of substances other than tobacco was dominated by alcohol, so a further analysis focused on this substance alone. Again, increases in the average proportions of pupils who had recently or ever drank alcohol were significantly less steep in towns assigned to enhanced tobacco enforcement.

Though differences between the two sets of towns were statistically significant they were modest, and in both sets most substances had or were being used by few pupils.

The authors’ conclusions

In this study, towns allocated to heightened enforcement of laws prohibiting youth possession and use of tobacco experienced relatively lower increases in the probability that their young people had or were using a number of different substances or had been exposed to an offer of illicit drugs, providing preliminary evidence that police efforts to reduce specific substance use behaviours might have a positive spill-over effect on other high-risk activities. Given the co-occurrence of different forms of substance use, strategies that strengthen community norms against youth tobacco use might work synergistically to help reduce youth drug use and illicit drug offers.

How did an enforcement effort focused exclusively on tobacco affect use and availability of other substances? There are several possible explanations. Being punished for tobacco-related crimes might deter individual children from possessing and using other drugs, and the knowledge that police in enforcement towns approach youngsters to enforce anti-tobacco laws may deter young people and even adults from selling drugs in these communities. Possibly relevant too is the ‘broken window’ approach to enforcement, supported by studies which have shown that enforcement of laws against lower-level crimes can deter more serious offences. According to this theory, creating an environment where youth cigarette use is not tolerated might create an unfavourable environment for drug use. More directly, greater contact between young people and police enforcing underage tobacco laws might give police more chances to search for and confiscate illegal drugs.

Police believe that publicly smoking cigarettes acts as a signal to drug dealers that a young person might also be in the market for drugs. If so, making youth smoking less visible in a town may also make that town less attractive to dealers. Reduced visibility may also minimise the perception that illegal behaviour is normal and acceptable in that community. The effect could be to reduce sales attempts by make potential young customers less obvious and by making the entire town seem an undesirable dealing location. Alternatively, the findings might reflect reduced offers of alcohol or other drugs from friends rather than drug dealers, because reductions in use of tobacco spread to other substances, especially alcohol.

However, alcohol not illegal drugs might account for the bulk of the findings. Use of tobacco and alcohol tend to go together, so if police crack down on tobacco, they might also discourage drinking.

Source: Journal of Community Psychology: 2010, 38(1), p. 1–15.

Beverages Target Youth

Alcohol Justice reported this week that an updated version of the alcopop Buzzballz is once again targeting youth. Buzzballz, with its bright colors and candy-like flavors packs a punch. The beverage has a 60-proof, or 30 percent alcohol by volume. That’s an additional 10-15 percent more alcohol than the original product that debuted several years ago.

The product is sold in a 750ml container of pre-mixed cocktails and a shot glass attached to the bottle.

The original flavored, colored, spirits-in-a-ball was created by a former high school teacher, who got the idea for a beverage that would be non-breakable and safe while sitting by the pool. According to the creator, Buzzballz is all meant to be fun, and not meant to be a harmful beverage.

Health advocates say the product is anything but harmless, and, in fact, appeals to youth. Flavors include Lemon Squeeze, Chocolate Caramel Cake, Red Hot Cinnamon Shot, Jalapeño Lime and Licorice Bomb.

To learn more about the dangers of alcopops and other flavored alcoholic beverages, see Alcohol Justice’s recent report.

 

Source:  http://www.cadca.org/resources/re-branded-buzzballz  28th Jan.2016

Filed under: Alcohol,USA,Youth :

 

Given that the health of American youth is in question and that so many states base their policies on reports issued by the State of Colorado, it is important to understand what the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) actually tells us.

The survey’s results are gleaned from voluntarily self-reported information collected every other year from Colorado middle-school and high-school students. It is produced by a partnership of the Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Department of Human Services, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and the University of Colorado.



News organizations tracking the impact of marijuana on Colorado since voters sanctioned the drug for medical and recreational use are understandably quick to report the survey’s findings — but they’re unfortunately just as quick to deliver inaccurate and misleading information. Coverage of the 2015 survey results was especially poor. Dozens of news organizations — including The Denver PostFox News, the Washington PostTimeScientific American and Reuters — should correct and clarify their work.

Why? Because for many reasons, the 2015 survey’s data do not support claims that marijuana use among Colorado teenagers has remained flat or has declined. Examination of the survey’s aggregate data, segmented by grade and geographic region, tells a different story than the Marijuana Infographic and some passages of the executive summary distributed by state officials.

New reporting should inform the public about youth marijuana use rates in several Colorado regions — particularly where marijuana is most heavily commercialized.

Here are some important things to know about the 2015 survey:

Because of its methodology and sample size, this survey is a snapshot in time that represents no one other than the Colorado youth who took it. It is inaccurate to present or describe the 2015 survey as a “state survey” or to present its findings as average use rates among Colorado youth. The 2015 survey does not include data from El Paso County (home to the state’s second largest city, Colorado Springs), Jefferson and Douglas counties (home to two of the state’s largest school districts) and Weld County. It is also important to note that Colorado’s private and parochial schools do not participate in this survey and that only students attending school are surveyed. Students with drug problems are less likely to be in school — and, therefore, less likely to be surveyed.

Differences in methodology make it difficult to compare the 2015 survey to previous HKC surveys. The randomly selected sample size dropped from 40,206 in 2013 to 15,970 in 2015. Similarly, the high school response rate dropped from 58 percent in 2013 to 46.5 percent in 2015. Counties participating in the survey also changed from 2013 to 2015. Clearly, something in the survey methods changed from 2013 to 2015, making direct comparisons risky. But if state officials and journalists insist on making these direct comparisons, there are significant increases in youth marijuana use to report from 2013 to 2015 — as detailed below. They should report this information to the public.

Because of differences in methodology, Colorado survey results should not be directly compared to other national studies of adolescent marijuana-use rates, such as the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). These surveys are different. For example, the YRBS requires a response rate of at least 60 percent. If student responses fall below that mark, the YRBS states the results “represent only the students participating in the survey.” Of note, the HKCS did not reach this threshold for high school students in either 2013 or 2015. Therefore, direct comparisons of the two studies is risky. Such differences in methodology also make it risky to compare the Colorado data and other national studies, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Monitoring the Future (MTF), a survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse run by contract through the University of Michigan. Further, the 2015 state report’s comparisons to a “national average” of youth marijuana use are also problematic. Please review explanations here and here from David Murray, a former chief scientist of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who now serves as a senior fellow analyzing drug policy at the Hudson Institute. Among his observations:

“What is the possible source for deriving that ‘national average’? There is one genuinely national sample of youth drug use, that from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that covers all states. But this cannot be the basis for the (State of Colorado’s) claim. In their latest 2014 estimates, NSDUH reported that 7.2 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 across the nation used marijuana in the past month – that figure, not 21.7 percent, would be the youth ‘national average.’ Moreover, the NSDUH specifically declared that Colorado had the nation’s highest rates. Adolescent marijuana use ranged from 4.98 percent in Alabama to 12.56 percent in Colorado. Worse, the NSDUH showed for youth that from 2009, when medical marijuana took off in Colorado, there has been a stunning rise of 27 percent through 2014 (from 9.91 percent to 12.56 percent). So Colorado youth use rates in the NSDUH are not only higher than the national average, but, after freer access to marijuana, have been steeply climbing.”

To examine drug-use trends from year to year and make comparisons between states, the NSDUH is more reliable (not perfect, but more reliable). The NSDUH interviews youth who are in and out of school. It is conducted in every state — and, unlike the current version of the Colorado Healthy Kids survey, it has data from before 2013. Unfortunately, as Murray notes above, this survey shows the prevalence of past-month marijuana use among Colorado youth has increased, with Colorado ranked first among 12-17 year olds in 2014.

One strength of the HKCS is that it offers some county-level data. It is helpful to have a fine-grain look at what is happening at a local level. So, if we must compare 2013 and 2015 survey results, it is best to limit comparisons to the responses of specific regions as defined by the survey. You can find a map of those regions here. Because there are many differences between high school freshmen and seniors, combining their class data — especially given that 18-year-olds in Colorado can purchase medical marijuana legally — can give false impressions about “teen use” rates. So, it is important to segment students by grade for a more accurate look at marijuana use rates.

Remember: Because of significant differences in methodology and sample size, the 2015 HKCS shouldn’t be compared to its 2013 predecessor or any national survey — but if state officials and journalists insist on doing so, let’s all consider this closer look at student respondents by grade and region. It suggests adolescent marijuana use rates has reached levels worth considering a serious health problem in some parts of the state.

For a full breakdown of the regional data, please see this chart (produced with the significant help of Christine Miller, a Ph.D. pharmacologist and Colorado native). Among the findings:


Region 16 (Boulder, Broomfield): High school seniors in this region reported the highest rate of past-month use among 12th graders in the state. In 2015, 42.2 percent of high school seniors reported past-month use, versus 28.5 in 2013. That’s a 48.1 percent increase. The use rate among high school juniors in this region jumped from 22.3 percent to 33.4 percent, a 49.8 percent increase.

Region 20 (Denver): Use among high school seniors increased from 30 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2015, a jump of 10 percent. Among juniors, the use rate increased from 29 percent to 37.7 percent, an increase of 30 percent.

Region 12: Western Corridor (Summit, Eagle-Vail): Use among high school seniors increased 90 percent from 20.1 percent in 2013 to 38.2 percent in 2015. As a curious side note, this region also reported a 2.3 percent decrease in past-month marijuana use among high school juniors and a 54.7 percent increase among its high school sophomores.

Region 11: Northwest (Steamboat Springs, Craig): Marijuana use among this region’s high school students rose in grades 9-12. Among seniors the rate increased 57.3 percent from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 35.4 percent in 2015. Among juniors, use rose 18.8 percent from 18.1 percent to 21.5 percent. Among sophomores, use rose 72 percent from 8.2 percent in 2013 to 14.1 percent in 2015. Among freshmen, use rose 22.2 percent from 8.1 to 9.9 percent.

Region 19: (Mesa County/Grand Junction): Use among freshmen jumped to 13.7 percent, an increase of 57.5 percent from 2013. Use among sophomores increased 50.6 percent from 26.2 percent from 17.4 percent in 2013. The use rate among high school seniors rose to 24.4 percent, an increase of 20.8 percent.

Region 7: Pueblo: Although there was little change in use rates, the rates remain stubbornly high. They are higher than the state average for all grades; ranges from double the state average for high school freshmen to 31 percent greater than the state average for high school seniors.

A common theme among these regions is a high level of marijuana commercialization in the forms of retail and medical stores. Other commonalities should be investigated to determine the most appropriate interventions.

Analysis of the 2015 survey also found some good news — particularly in regions 8 (San Luis Valley), 10 (West Central, including Gunnison, Hinsdale and Montrose ) and 17 (Central, including Gilpin and Teller).The reasons for these reported declines in past-month use should be explored. For example, are the declines because of an effective intervention, or are they related to a change in the survey methodology from 2013 to 2015? Based on the findings, protocols for prevention and intervention should be implemented to encourage similarly favorable results in other school districts throughout the state.

This entry for DrThurstone.com was co-written by Dr. Christian Thurstone and Christine Tatum. He is an associate professor of addiction psychiatry and the director of medical training of the addiction psychiatry fellowship program at the University of Colorado. She is a longtime journalist, former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and Dr. Thurstone’s wife. Together, they also wrote Clearing the Haze: Helping Families Face Teen Addiction(Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).

 

Source:  http://drthurstone.com/healthy-kids-colorado-survey-2015/    5th July 2016

Your nail polish may soon be able to do more than just make a fashion statement. 

The innovative new polish called Undercover Colors would work by changing color when it comes in contact with any date rape drug, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The hope is that a woman will be able to check the safety of a drink by discretely dipping her finger in it.

The product is the brain-child of four male undergraduate students at North Carolina State University who say “Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

Although Undercover Colors polish is still in development, it already has thousands of likes on its Facebook page, which describes it as the “first fashion company working to prevent sexual assault.”

Nearly one in five women experience rape at some point in their lives, with 1/3 of those rapes occurring in college aged females, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Date rape drugs like Rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyric (GHB) and ketamine can be easily slipped into a person’s drink because they have no color, smell or taste, and can cause weakness, confusion and even loss of consciousness, according to Womenshealth.gov.

“Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught,” the product creators said.

Undercover Colors is still in development and there is currently no date for when the product will become available.

Source:  foxnews.com  25th August 2014

Filed under: Ketamine,Social Affairs,Youth :

Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur building a women’s business mentoring group, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught.

“You almost wake up and get this haunting feeling, this horrible feeling that my God, I just wish I wasn’t going to live today,” said Theodosiou, a mother of four from Davie, Florida. “Not that you would take your life but you’re so scared.” Petrified, really, but not for herself. For her children.  Theodosiou learned two of her four kids were addicted to drugs.

“I found out within six months that both my sons were addicts and like every other mother, I just wanted to go into bed and never get out.”  Her older son, Peter, now 25, took prescription drugs and then escalated to heroin. Her younger son, Daniel, now 22, started what’s called robotripping, where he would take large quantities of cough medicine to get high.

Barbara Theodosiou first noticed her son Daniel might have a problem with drugs when he was 16.  She says she first noticed signs of problems when her younger son was 16.  “I was taking Daniel to school one day and he was just like almost choking. I thought he was having a panic attack,” she said. A short time later, the school called and said staff members thought Daniel was on drugs.  “I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ … I have talked to my children my whole life about drugs.” 

Within just months, after a call from her son Peter’s roommate, her husband went to his house and found needles all over the place.  “If you know about addiction then when you find this out, you realize not only are you in for the fight of your life, but this is not something that gets fixed in six months. This could go on,” she said.

Barbara Theodosiou’s son Peter was addicted to heroin. He has been in recovery for 3½ years. “It’s like having someone punch you in the stomach. … You’re never the same from the second you find out.”

How does the mother of an addict cope? How does she juggle the incomprehensible challenge between supporting a loved one and not enabling their habit? And how does she deal with the stigma of having a child who is an addict?

In my in-depth interviews with Theodosiou and other mothers of addicts across the country, they made it very clear that being the mother of an addict is an incredibly lonely and isolating place, and that often the only people who understand what they’re going through are other mothers who are going through it themselves.

The fear of getting the call  

Theodosiou’s son Daniel overdosed three times that first year she realized he was using and nearly died each time.  One day, she returned to her house and saw police officers out front. “I remember pulling up and my heart was beating … I was just going to faint right there.”The police officer asked if she was Daniel’s mother. “For sure, I thought he was going to tell me Daniel was dead, and it ended up Daniel overdosed again, and again he was in the hospital.”

Melva Sherwood’s son Andrew died from a heroin overdose in October 2012. He was 27. 

Melva Sherwood of Vermilion, Ohio, got that unimaginable call on October 3, 2012. Her son Andrew, 27 at the time, died of an overdose of heroin. It was his son’s fifth birthday. “It was 11:30 at night. I was sound asleep and it was October. All the windows were open, and the entire neighborhood knew what had happened,” said Sherwood, who says she screamed “at the reality of it, that it was over, that it was done.”  “I have a friend who lives down the street, and she said it was horrifying to hear.”

The blame game 

Many mothers immediately beat up on themselves when they learn their children are battling addiction.  Brenda Stewart with her sons Richard and Jeremy, who both battled addiction and are now doing well.

Brenda Stewart of Worthington, Ohio, says it was heartbreaking realizing two of her three kids were addicts. Her son Jeremy, now 29, used prescription drugs and then heroin, and the drug of choice for Richard, now 31, was crystal meth, she said.

“I’ve been going to counseling for years to figure out what I did wrong. It’s just like, ‘What did I do?'” said Stewart, who has adopted Jeremy’s two children, ages 5 and 7. “And then you come to find out through tons of counseling and parents’ groups and everything else that this is something you didn’t do to your children. And that’s the hardest thing to get away from because you always feel responsible.”

 

Debbie Gross Longo’s son started taking prescription drugs at 15.  Debbie Gross Longo, whose son started using drugs at 13 and taking prescription drugs at 15, says the powerlessness of being an addict’s mom is worse than people might imagine. “As a mother, it’s been hell,” said the mom of four in Stony Brook, New York. “It’s like having a child that you cannot help and sitting on the edge of your seat all at the time because you know something might happen.” 

Viewing addiction as a disease was instrumental, many mothers say, in helping understand they didn’t cause their child’s addiction and couldn’t fix it either.  “When you really start to understand that it is a disease … you can start looking at your child in a different way, loving them for who they are and hating the disease,” said Stewart.

Sadly, the stigma of having a child with addiction is all too real and incredibly painful. Announce to your community your child has a disease like cancer and people will jump to help, said mothers I interviewed. Not so when you tell them your child is an addict.”There are no little girls selling cookies for addiction. Nobody has bumper stickers on their car,” said Theodosiou.  Her son Daniel was in the church group. “When they found out he was an addict, the entire church shunned him. He was completely not invited anywhere.”

‘The hardest thing in the entire world’ 

Every mom I spoke with talked about the intense struggle between supporting their addicted child or children and not enabling their destructive habit.   It is “the hardest thing in the entire world,” said Theodosiou, who said it was only after seven years and 30-plus stints in rehab that she knew she had to make a drastic change.  “All of these people were telling me you have to stop enabling Daniel. You need to let Daniel go. You need to just stop. … I had to actually face leaving Daniel on the street,” she said.  “I finally spoke to a pastor and an addiction specialist who told me that … the last person in the world who could ever help Daniel is me.”

 

Melva Sherwood’s son Aaron works full-time in marketing and sales and may pursue a career in nutrition.  Sherwood, who lost one son to a drug overdose and has another son who battled drug addiction, said she was never able to cut off her children completely, but she set limits.

“As far as enabling, I think you need to lay it on the table for them. This is what you can do. Here are your options but I’m not going to sit here and let you take advantage of me and lie to me,” said Sherwood, who is a registered nurse and the owner of a business providing caregivers for in-home assisted living.

Stewart, whose two sons were addicts, said she eventually realized the longer she enabled her children, the longer they weren’t going to face the consequences.  “It took the line in the sand, telling them I love them and if they were ever ready to get the help and really wanted it that I’m here for them … but I’m not going to set up another appointment,” she said.   But the enabling isn’t just about the addicts, said Stewart. Parents need to realize they are enabling themselves and are risking losing everything by thinking they can save their children.

“There are moms losing their lives to save their children. … They’re spending their whole paycheck trying to take care of their child. They’re not taking care of themselves. That’s just a ripple effect.”

Finding support from other moms 

Theodosiou went through the range of emotions that most mothers of addicts experience: the guilt followed by the intense sadness and then the anger.

“It’s just a very, very sad and a very lonely place,” she said.

Then, one day about a year and a half into her new kind of normal with two sons who were addicted, she had a conversation with God.  “I said, you know, God, if my sons are going to be living this life and be destroyed by this, I’m going to tell every mother and help every mother I can think of. I’m not going to keep it a secret.”

She headed to Facebook and started a group called The Addict’s Mom in 2008.

Her friend thought she was insane.  “She was like, ‘Are you crazy? You are going to go on Facebook and say that you are an addict’s mom?’ And I said, ‘You know what, I am and I know there have to be a million mothers just like me who are addicts’ moms.'”

CNN”s Kelly Wallace did lengthy interviews with mothers across the country whose children battled addiction.

Six years later, The Addict’s Mom, with its Facebook group, its fan page and its online community, has more than 20,000 members, with chapters in every state. Stewart is the state coordinator in Ohio for The Addict’s Mom.

“It’s given me a place that I feel at home, a place that I feel I can give back,” she said. “I also understand the parent’s pain and for me if I can help one parent ease that pain, then I’ve done something.”  Sherwood, who’s an administrator for the Facebook group, said the online community was an “unbelievable eye opener.”

“It was just like somebody turned on the light in the closet,” she said. “It gave me such comfort to … be able to put something out there online at any time during the day and have 20 people respond back with, ‘Hey, we know. We’ve been where you’re at. We feel for you. We’re praying for you.’ ”  “It definitely was a life-changing experience.”

‘If you can’t afford it, jail is your treatment’ 

Besides providing invaluable comfort and support, The Addict’s Mom is a resource center with information on low and no-cost rehabs, psychologists and sober living environments. This month, the group is launching weekly online video meetings where mothers can call in from all over the country and talk with experts on addiction.

The group has also launched offshoots, including The Addict’s Mom Healthy Moms, where the focus is solely on helping the mom live a healthy life (“We don’t even talk about the addict there,” said Theodosiou) and The Addict’s Mom Grieving Moms for mothers who lost children to addiction. It’s also started The Addict’s Dad for fathers and a group called The Addict for the addicts to talk directly with each other.

A big focus now, the moms I interviewed said, is raising awareness about the problem of drug addiction and finding affordable solutions.

“There is treatment if you’re rich and if you can afford it,” said Theodosiou. “If you can’t afford it, jail is your treatment.”  The Addict’s Mom is starting programs in states including New York, Kentucky and Ohio, where moms go into schools and educate students about addiction. The member moms are also flexing their lobbying muscles, advocating for laws such as legislation that allows a judge to order a person into treatment if a family member feels that person is a danger to himself or others.

“Our children are dying and at such an alarming rate,” said Theodosiou, noting how the day before our conversation there were two posts on The Addict’s Mom with reports that two children died.  “We are seeing an alarming rate of death in our society. We have to break the stigma. It’s a disease,'” said Theodosiou. “They are not bad people. We have to get the word out.”

Looking forward  

Raising awareness and helping other mothers drives members of The Addict’s Mom, but they are also always mindful of the lifelong battle their children are facing.  Sherwood’s surviving son is doing well, she said, working full-time in marketing and sales, and planning to take a nutritional coaching course for a possible career in nutrition.

“Today, I have my son back as he learns and implements the plan he has put into place with nutrition, exercise and being with those that truly love him and support his journey toward a better life,” said Sherwood. “What more could a parent ask for!”

Stewart’s son Jeremy has been in recovery for over two years. He’s engaged, is getting ready to buy a house and is very active with his two children. “Our hope is that in the very near future they are back with their father,” said Stewart, who currently cares for her son’s kids. Her older son, Richard, is also doing well, and has been in treatment since the end of June.

Gross Longo’s son, now 25, had been in recovery for six months and just recently relapsed. He entered a detox program and is starting again on the road to recovery, his mother said. “I am once again heartbroken,” she said. “(My son) is doing what he needs to do to get well, but do you understand how this is a day-to-day, year-to-year fight?”  Before her son’s relapse, Gross Longo told me she was so pleased about his recovery but also very cautious.

“They could change on a dime,” she said. “They could be doing wonderful for five years … and then one evening it’s gone.”  Theodosiou’s older son, Peter, has been in recovery for 3½ years and is a recent college graduate. He will soon begin a master’s program in speech pathology.  Her younger son, Daniel, had been in rehab for five weeks — his longest time ever in treatment — but recently relapsed, breaking the condition of his release from jail so he is back behind bars.   “I am really sad about Daniel,” said Theodosiou.

Despite her son’s setback, she continues to advocate for other moms of addicts, but also gets some much needed help for herself.   A few days before our conversation, a member of The Addict’s Mom called her and expressed concern.

“She said, ‘Barbara, we’re worried about you.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because you have to take care of yourself. You help so many other people.  I still struggle with being OK and with my own issues and they help by reminding me, by being there, by being able to talk to them, by sharing resources and supporting me.”

Source:   http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/26/living/addiction-parents/  26th August 2014

Childhood trauma, ranging from interpersonal violence to car accidents, was associated with increased risk for illicit drug use, according to findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Abuse and domestic violence were particularly harmful to children, increasing the chances of all types of drug use in the adolescent years,” Hannah Carliner, ScD, MPH, of Columbia University, said in a press release. “We also found that trauma such as car accidents, natural disasters and major illness in childhood increased the chances that teens would use marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.”

To assess associations between potentially traumatic events in childhood and illicit drug use, researchers analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement for 9,956 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years.

Potentially traumatic events were categorized as interpersonal violence (physical abuse by caregiver, physical assault by someone else, mugged, raped, sexually assaulted, stalked, kidnapped, or domestic violence exposure), traumatic accidents (car accident, other serious accident, natural or man-made disaster, physical illness, toxic chemical exposure, or accidentally injured someone), network or witnessing events (unexpected death of a loved one, traumatic experience of a loved one, or witnessing injury or death), and other events.

Overall, 36% of the cohort reportedly experienced potentially traumatic events before age 11 years.

Exposure to potentially traumatic events before age 11 years was associated with higher risk for use of marijuana (risk ratio = 1.5; 95% CI, 1.33-1.69), cocaine (RR = 2.78; 95% CI, 1.95-3.97), prescription drugs (RR = 1.8; 95% CI, 1.29-2.51), other drugs (RR = 1.9; 95% CI, 1.37-2.63) and multiple drugs (RR = 1.74; 95% CI, 1.37-2.2).

Researchers found a positive monotonic relationship between number of potentially traumatic events and marijuana, other drug, and multiple drug use.

Interpersonal violence increased risk for use of marijuana (RR = 1.78; 95% CI, 1.54-2.07), cocaine (RR = 2.64; 95% CI, 1.75-3.98), nonmedical prescription drugs (RR = 2.2; 95% CI, 1.49-3.27), other drugs (RR = 1.7; 95% CI, 1.12-2.57) and multiple drugs (RR = 2.31; 95% CI, 1.69-3.15).

Car accidents and unspecified potentially traumatic events were associated with higher risk for marijuana, cocaine and prescription drug use, according to researchers.

“Drug treatment programs should consider specifically addressing the psychological harm caused by traumatic experiences in childhood, and developing less harmful active-coping strategies for dealing with current stress and traumatic memories among adolescents,” Carliner said in the release. “Such early intervention during this critical period of adolescence could have broad benefits to the health and well-being of adults.” – by Amanda Oldt

Source:  Carliner H, et al. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016;doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2016.05.010.   June 16, 2016

Filed under: Brain and Behaviour,Youth :

An interactive mobile texting aftercare program has shown promise as a means to help teens and young adults engage with post-treatment recovery activities and avoid relapse, researchers report. In a NIDA-supported pilot study, the program, called ESQYIR (Educating & Supporting Inquisitive Youth in Recovery), reduced young people’s odds of relapsing by half compared with standard aftercare.

Dr. Rachel Gonzales and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), designed ESQYIR to teach and reinforce wellness self-management in a manner that fits young people’s attitudes and communication styles. The researchers cite numerous advantages of the mobile texting approach: It is inexpensive and features personalization of content, convenience of use, ease of assessment and monitoring, and flexibility in the time and location of delivery.

The Need

Many young people comply poorly with aftercare interventions and resist involvement in 12-step programs and other post-treatment recovery activities. Dr. Gonzales says, “Teens and young adults don’t want to be stigmatized as having a disease or as still being in recovery. In their minds, after the primary treatment, they are done.” Young people often don’t view addiction as a disease, she adds. Instead, they regard substance use as a matter of lifestyle and personal choice. As a result, as many as 85 percent of teens and young adults relapse within 1 year.

Dr. Gonzales and her research team reckoned that young people might engage more readily with aftercare built on text messaging. This mode of communication is ubiquitous among young people, surpassing most other forms of social interaction. Messages can be personalized and can be accessed and responded to privately, when and where youths find it convenient or feel a need for help. Text messaging interventions are already used to treat maladies including obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, and tobacco dependence in young adults.

“The most effective programs take into consideration the users, their needs, their desires, and their way of connecting,” Dr. Gonzales says. Accordingly, when she and her team composed the text messages for Project ESQYIR, they solicited input from young people in recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs). “The program’s text messages are based on their voices, parallel their views of recovery, and speak to their recovery needs,” Dr. Gonzales says.

Keeping Tabs With Texts

The participants in the ESQYIR pilot study were 80 volunteers, ages 14 to 26, who had been treated in outpatient and residential community treatment centers in the Los Angeles area. The drugs that had caused them problems included marijuana (55 percent), methamphetamine (30 percent), cocaine (15 percent), heroin (11 percent), prescription drug (6 percent), and other substances including alcohol (4 percent). Half of the participants received the mobile texting ESQYIR program, the other half received the standard aftercare offered by their treatment facilities, which consisted of referral to 12-step programs.

Figure 1. Daily Mobile Texts Prompt Self-Monitoring, Give Recovery Advice and Encouragement

The participants in the text messaging program received daily text messages with tips to self-monitor their recovery- and substance use–related behaviors and with alerts to aftercare services in their community.

Each weekday at 12 noon, the participants in the ESQYIR group received a text that reminded them about being in recovery and provided a wellness tip for the day. The reminder portion of the text said, “Today’s a new day in ur recovery! Think about the change ur working towards.” The wellness tip promoted personal, social, physical, or emotional health. For example, one message read, “Write down the top 3 stressors that u need to avoid or deal with for helping u not use.”

Weekdays at 4 p.m., the participants in the ESQYIR group received a text that prompted them to self-monitor and text back numerical ratings of their abstinence confidence, wellbeing, substance use, and recovery behaviors (see Figure 1). The participants then received a feedback text, automatically selected from more than 600 possible messages, which provided motivational/inspirational encouragement, coping advice, or positive appraisal tailored to the participants’ self-rating. For example, motivational feedback texts encouraged participants to keep on track with recovery and attend therapy or self-help meetings when needed.

Dr. Gonzales says, “The self-monitoring texts helped participants remain mindful and aware of potential relapse triggers, particularly in risky situations.” With that awareness and the feedback provided by the program, the young people were able to generate strategies for coping with such situations without drugs, the researchers suggest.

On weekends, the participants received personalized texts with educational information adapted from NIDA reference materials and resource information on local support services.

Less Relapse, More Engagement

Figure 2. Text-Based Delivery of Aftercare Content Decreases Relapse

Teens and young adults receiving daily text messages had lower relapse rates than peers receiving only standard aftercare.

The UCLA researchers monitored the participants’ urine for alcohol and drugs monthly during the program. The results indicated that with passing time, the text-based aftercare participants’ odds of relapsing to their primary substances rose only half as fast as those of the standard aftercare group. Compared with the participants in standard aftercare, those assigned to the ESQYIR group were less likely to have relapsed 1 month (8.6 percent vs. 30.3 percent), 2 months (3.6 percent vs. 39.3 percent), and 3 months (14.7 percent vs. 62.9 percent) after the end of their substance abuse treatment (see Figure 2).

The researchers followed up with 55 of the original 81 study participants 180 days after the end of treatment (90 days after the end of the aftercare programs). Those who had received the ESQYIR mobile wellness aftercare intervention were still less likely to have relapsed (21.4 percent vs. 59.3 percent).

The ESQYIR and standard aftercare participants both attended on average ten 12-step meetings per month during their last month in substance abuse treatment. Both groups reduced their 12-step attendance in the aftercare period, but the ESQYIR participants did so to a lesser degree (8.9 vs. 2.9 meetings in the final month). The two groups no longer differed significantly in 12-step attendance during the third month post-aftercare (7.0 vs. 4.6 days per month). However, during that month the ESQYIR participants were more involved in other recovery-related extracurricular activities (e.g., exercise, walking, and community/volunteer service) than those who received the standard aftercare.

Text and Thrive

Dr. Gonzales and colleagues are planning a larger, stage II efficacy trial of the mobile-based ESQYIR aftercare wellness intervention. For this trial, they are enhancing the program with new features, including text messages to foster HIV awareness and prevention.

“We look forward to further research in this line of work and to learning more about the efficacy of this intervention,” says Dr. Jessica Campbell Chambers, health science administrator at NIDA’sBehavioral and Integrative Treatment Branch. “This work is extremely important given the high rates of relapse among recovering adolescents.”

Dr. Campbell Chambers concurs with Dr. Gonzales that although the pilot nature of the study and its relatively small cohort size make its results only preliminary, the findings are very promising. The UCLA study team will soon publish a report on the ESQYIR program’s effects at 6- and 9-months post-participation.

This study was supported by NIH grant DA027754.

Source

Gonzales, R.; Ang, A.; Murphy, D.A. et al. Substance use recovery outcomes among a cohort of youth participating in a mobile-based texting aftercare pilot program. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 47(1):20-26, 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:  http://www.drugfree.org/join-together  26th Jan. 2016

Consumption of illegal drugs begins at the age of 10

The National Council Against Addictions (Conadic) has estimated that over 2.38 million Mexican youths are in need of some kind of rehabilitation treatment for abuse of substances, mainly marijuana and alcohol.

This is but one of the staggering figures presented in the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use Among Students, conducted in public and private schools in the 32 states, which also indicated that children are beginning to consume illegal drugs at 10 years old, two years younger than had been thought.

The survey also established that addiction among youths in secondary and preparatory schools – nearly 80,000 young men and 50,000 young women – requires immediate intervention.

A broader number of the same spectrum of students, about 311,000 men and 260,000 women, were found to need brief support interventions, which could consist of counselling sessions or a short rehabilitation internment period.

The course of action to take in the case of younger, elementary school students is still being assessed.

Conadic chief Manuel Mondragón wants to know the how and where of treatment: “713,963 secondary and preparatory school students need to be treated for use of drugs, and 1.674 million for abuse of alcohol. The question is, where are we going to treat them, and who will provide the treatment? What are our infrastructural capabilities?”

Mondragón said nearly 1.8 million children and teenagers – from elementary to preparatory – have tried illegal drugs, 152,000 of which are fifth and sixth-grade students, and whose first experience was with marijuana, followed by inhalants and cocaine.  Of that 1.8 million, over 108,000 have used marijuana between one and five times.

The abuse of alcohol is no less worrisome: 1.5 million secondary and preparatory school students have abused it, consuming over five drinks at a time and becoming drunk. Over 110,000 elementary school students have done the same.

The states with the most substance abuse among children are Chihuahua, Jalisco, State of México, the Federal District and San Luis Potosí.

Nine out of every 10 children in Michoacán, Campeche and Quintana Roo are experimenting with and abusing harder substances like cocaine.

Mondragón stated that immediate measures to deal with the issue could consist of shutting down all establishments that sell alcohol to minors, as well as signing agreements in every state to strengthen the use of breathalyzers and control the sale of legal and illegal drugs.  Mondragón also said the federal government is open to raising the limit of recreational drugs an individual can carry, currently set at five grams. This would permit the reinsertion into society of non-violent, first-offender youths who are currently in jail for possession of illegal substances.

Meanwhile, in Congress, the first round of discussions around the use of marijuana and its derivatives is taking place with the participation of representatives from the United Nations and parents’ associations.  The discussion is focusing on the legalization of medicinal cannabinoid-based products.

Source: http://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/study-finds-2-million-students-need-rehab/#sthash.yh7m6JYS.dpuf   26th Jan. 2016

Developmental trajectories of adolescent cannabis use and their relationship to young adult social and behavioural adjustment: A longitudinal study of Australian youth.

Abstract

This study aimed to identify distinct developmental trajectories (sub-groups of individuals who showed similar longitudinal patterns) of cannabis use among Australian adolescents, and to examine associations between trajectory group membership and measures of social and behavioural adjustment in young adulthood. Participants (n=852, 53% female) were part of the International Youth Development Study. Latent class growth analysis was used to identify distinct trajectories of cannabis use frequency from average ages 12 to 19, across 6 waves of data. Logistic regression analyses and analyses of covariance were used to examine relationships between trajectory group membership and young adult (average age: 21) adjustment, controlling for a range of covariates. Three trajectories were identified: abstainers (62%), early onset users (11%), and late onset occasional users (27%). The early onset users showed a higher frequency of antisocial behaviour, violence, cannabis use, cannabis-related harms, cigarette use, and alcohol harms, compared to the abstinent group in young adulthood. The late onset occasional users reported a higher frequency of cannabis use, cannabis-related harms, illicit drug use, and alcohol harms, compared to the abstinent group in young adulthood. There were no differences between the trajectory groups on measures of employment, school completion, post-secondary education, income, depression/anxiety, or alcohol use problems. In conclusion, early onset of cannabis use, even at relatively low frequency during adolescence, is associated with poorer adjustment in young adulthood. Prevention and intervention efforts to delay or prevent uptake of cannabis use should be particularly focussed on early adolescence prior to age 12.

Source:  Pub Med  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26414206 Author information:  Scholes-Balog KE1, Hemphill SA2, Evans-Whipp TJ3, Toumbourou JW4, Patton GC5.

Genetic differences may protect some who experienced childhood trauma from later marijuana dependence, study finds

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS

Genetic variation within the endocannabinoid system may explain why some survivors of childhood adversity go on to become dependent on marijuana, while others are able to use marijuana without problems, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

“We have long known that childhood adversity, and in particular sexual abuse, is associated with the development of cannabis dependence. However, we understand very little about the individual difference factors that leave individuals vulnerable or resilient to these effects,” said Ryan Bogdan, PhD, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and a senior author of the study.

Forthcoming in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the study is among the first to pinpoint a specific genetic variant that may influence susceptibility to cannabis dependence in the context of childhood trauma.

THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, influences an array of mental and bodily functions because it closely mimics chemical enzymes that the endocannabinoid system naturally produces to send signals between neurons and other individual cells throughout the body. These signals trigger the production of other internal chemicals, such as adrenalin, which help the body modulate its response to external influences, such as fear, stress and hunger.

Like most bodily functions, the workings of the endocannabinoid system are closely programmed and controlled by a set of genetically coded instructions.

“In this study, we investigated whether variation in genes within the endocannabinoid system may be particularly important in setting the stage for cannabis dependence, especially in the context of childhood trauma,” said lead author Caitlin E. Carey, a PhD student working with Bogdan.

In phase one of the study, researchers examined genetic data from 1,558 Australian marijuana users who self-reported various types of sexual abuse as children. Carey and colleagues examined whether Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”) located in or near endocannabinoid system genes were associated with the

development of marijuana dependence symptoms in the context of childhood sexual abuse.

SNPs represent differences in a single DNA building block called a nucleotide and are the most common form of genetic variation in people, with an estimated 10 million SNPs in the human genome.

While little is known about many SNPs, some have been identified as key biological markers for genetic diseases. When SNPs occur within a gene or in a regulatory region near a gene, they may affect how that gene functions, perhaps raising disease risk or changing how an individual responds to certain environmental factors such as drugs or trauma.

The vast majority of SNPs, including those looked at in this study, have two different alleles at each locus; one of these alleles is inherited from the biological mother, with the other being inherited from the biological father. Alleles with two matching pieces of genetic information are called homozygotes (for example A/A or G/G), while those with mixed pairs are called heterozygotes (A/G).

Of the endocannabinoid variants examined, a single variant within the monoacylglycerol lipase (MGLL) gene demonstrated a significant interaction with childhood sexual abuse and later cannabis dependence.

More specifically, the study found that variation within this SNP (known as rs604300) in MGLL showed a clear association between child sexual abuse and cannabis dependence, such that increasing exposure to childhood sexual abuse was associated with a greater number of cannabis dependence symptoms only among individuals who were homozygous for the more common G allele. There was no association between child sexual abuse and cannabis dependence symptoms in heterozygotes, and a negative relationship between childhood sexual abuse and cannabis dependence symptoms in A allele homozygotes.

“As we expected, childhood sexual abuse was overall associated with individuals reporting a greater number of cannabis dependence symptoms,” Carey said. “But what was particularly intriguing is that this association was only seen among people with two copies of the more common G allele. People with at least one copy of the less common A allele did not show this pattern, so these data suggest that the A allele may provide some form of resiliency to the development of dependence.

The endocannabinoid system is known to play an important role in the body’s response to stress. Monoacylglycerol lipase, which MGLL codes for, regulates the availability of 2-

AG, an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter that binds to the same receptors as the THC in plant-based cannabis.

Findings replicated in second sample

In phase two of the study, Carey and colleagues attempted to replicate the findings using data from 859 American participants obtained from the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment. Here again, they found the same interaction between the rs604300 genotype and child abuse to be significantly associated with cannabis dependence symptoms.

Carey and colleagues speculate that the rs604300 minor A allele’s role in buffering against later cannabis dependence may be related to how the brain reacts to threat.

As Bogdan said: “The amygdala is a region of the brain critical for behavioral vigilance, including coordinating our behavioral responses to threat in the environment. Heightened amygdala reactivity has been consistently linked to anxiety disorders. Prior research has shown that endocannabinoids and marijuana, as well as prior childhood adversity, affect amygdala function. Endocannabinoid signaling, in particular, regulates reactivity to threat by facilitating a dampening of amygdala response (i.e., habituation) when threats are repeatedly presented with no adverse consequence.”

The amygdala (shown in red) is a region of the brain critical for behavioral vigilance, including coordinating physiologic and behavioral responses to threat. The A allele at rs604300 within MGLL, which conferred protection to cannabis dependence in the context of elevated childhood adversity, was associated with heightened threat-related amygdala habituation (i.e., a increased dampening of response over time) among those exposed to elevated childhood adversity. Such elevated amygdala habituation is associated with recovery from environmental stress.

If the rs604300 A allele is associated with relative increased amygdala habituation (such as a dampening of response over time) to threat in the context of childhood adversity, it is possible that child abuse survivors with this allele may be less prone to later use cannabis in an attempt to achieve the same mood-altering result, they speculated.

In a third phase of this study, they tested for this connection in an independent group of 312 undergraduate students from the Duke Neurogenetics Study and found increased amygdala habituation as a function of early life stress in minor A allele carriers, but not in GG individuals. The finding reinforces the possibility that MGLL rs604300 genotype may play a key role in decoupling the neurobiological link between early life stress and mental health outcomes in later life.

Collectively, while speculative, these data suggest that elevated amygdala habituation among individuals with the A allele who were exposed to childhood trauma may result in decreased reliance on marijuana to cope with future stressors and negative affect.

“It’s important to mention that these findings are unlikely to be informative at an individual level,” Carey said. “We won’t see a genetic test for cannabis dependence anytime soon, if ever, but it’s a start.”

Source:   http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/wuis-mdi111015.php

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced it intends to require warning labels and child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine products such as those used in e-cigarettes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the popularity of e-cigarettes has resulted in a number of cases of nicotine poisoning in recent years.

Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences at  Penn State College of Medicine, says nicotine poisoning is not a new problem. “There is a long history of very young children getting a hold of their parents’ tobacco,” he says. “The most common scenario is that a toddler consumes something, and the parents don’t know how much. Then they call the poison control center or end up in the emergency room.”  In the best case that leads to anxiety, and possibly unpleasant investigations for the families, and in the worst case it could lead to loss of consciousness or death for the child, Foulds says.

He adds any substance that could be harmful to children should come in a childproof container. “There are hundreds of cases of poisoning from cigarettes every year, and so all nicotine products, including cigarettes, should be in childproof packages.”  Nicotine replacement lozenges and other novelty smokeless tobacco products that resemble candy can also be dangerous.

The liquid used in e-cigarettes is often flavored – anything from strawberry to cookies’n’cream – and may therefore smell appealing to children who come across it.

“All nicotine is a poison as are all tobacco products containing nicotine, so people using any of them should take great care to keep them out of reach of kids,” Foulds says.

A nicotine overdose usually makes a person sweaty, clammy, dizzy and nauseous. It proceeds to vomiting and loss of consciousness. It can also lead to death.  Luckily for most children, nicotine doesn’t taste good, so most do not continue to consume it once they have had a taste. But with the highly concentrated liquid nicotine, a child who drinks even a small amount could end up with a lethal dose.

Foulds says the proposed measures alone won’t solve the problem. He adds consumers need to be vigilant about using provided childproofing measures and making sure that any substances that could be harmful to children stay out of reach: “Simply put, nicotine is a poison and consumers need to take responsibility for keeping it away from children, whether it is in a childproof container or not.”

Source:  Newsroom:  Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center   23-Jul-2015

ABSTRACT

Background:

This analysis examines decriminalization as a risk factor for future increases in youth marijuana acceptance and use. Specifically, we examine marijuana-related behaviors and attitudes of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in California as compared to other U.S. states during the years before and after California passed legislation in 2010 to decriminalize marijuana.

Methods:

Data come from Monitoring the Future, an annual, nationally representative survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students. Results: In 2012 and afterwards California 12th graders as compared to their peers in other states became (a) 25% more likely to have used marijuana in the past 30 days, (b) 20% less likely to perceive regular marijuana use as a great health risk, (c) 20% less likely to strongly disapprove of regular marijuana use, and (d) about 60% more likely to expect to be using marijuana five years in the future. Analysis of 10th graders raises the possibility that the findings among 12th graders may reflect a cohort effect that was set into place two years earlier. Conclusion: These results provide empirical evidence to support concerns that decriminalization may be a risk factor for future increases in youth marijuana use and acceptance.

Conclusion

The results of this study support decriminalization as a risk factor for increases in both marijuana acceptance and use among 12thgraders. Following decriminalization both marijuana acceptance and use significantly increased among California 12th graders as compared to their peers in other states. Policymakers and voters should consider the possibility that decriminalization sends a signal that encourages youth marijuana use. The study results both justify and motivate future work to determine whether decriminalization continues to exert an influence on future cohorts of California 12th graders, as well as an examination of intervening mechanisms that are amenable to policy and interventions.

Source:  International Journal of Drug Policy 26 (2015) 336–344 International Journal of Drug Policy 26 (2015) 336–

A recently published study sheds new light on how to prevent teen drug abuse. It also provides new evidence that the conventional wisdom regarding the timing of prevention efforts may be wrong. The current study shows that, with the right program, it’s possible to cut high school drug abuse in half.

The results of this study are especially important because they challenge the prevailing wisdom that high school is too late a time to start prevention programs. This program offers a successful approach to helping teens not exposed to an effective prevention program at an earlier age.

The new study, published in the World Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows that an approach proven effective with elementary and middle school students also works with high school students. The study compared students attending schools assigned at random to either receive or not receive the Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST) high school program, which was adapted from the evidence-based LST Middle School program. The LST program prevents tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use by teaching students skills for coping with the challenges of life, reducing motivations to use drugs and engaging in unhealthy behaviors, and fostering overall resilience.

Researchers found that the LST high school program reduced drug abuse in teens. Compared to the non-LST control group, there were 52% fewer daily substance users in the LST group. The study shows that dramatic reductions in drug abuse are possible with high school students across different racial/ethnic groups and different parts of the country.

“These are very exciting findings. This study not only shows that it’s possible to cut drug abuse in half among high school students. It also shows that you can do so with a program delivered by classroom teachers who only need minimal specialized training. Since this kind of program is inexpensive and can be widely disseminated to schools across the country, it offers tremendous potential as a cost-effective approach to a major public health problem,” said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, developer of the LifeSkills Training program and professor emeritus of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College.

The LifeSkills Training high school program is a highly interactive curriculum that teaches students skills that have been found to prevent substance use and violence. Rather than merely teaching information about the dangers of drug abuse, the LST program promotes healthy alternatives to risky behavior. Throughout the program, students develop strategies for making healthy decisions, reducing stress, and managing anger, as well as strengthening their communication skills and learning how to build healthy relationships. The program also helps students understand the consequences of substance use, risk-taking, and the influences of the media.

SOURCE National Health Promotion Associates. WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.June 25, 2015 /PRNewswire   World Journal of Preventive Medicine

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.

Comments:

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.

A new drug prevention initiative has been initiated in Lee County, Va. that will provide youth with another way to resist the peer pressures of experimenting with drugs.

“This new program, ‘Give Me A Reason’, was designed to establish a way for parents to obtain free-of-charge drug testing kits that they can use to test their children for drug use,” said Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons.

The kit uses a cheek swab saliva-based method that is much less invasive than blood test and less susceptible to tamper with. The press release states the kit will test for cocaine, marijuana, methadone, methamphetamine, hydrocodone, barbiturates, opiates, morphine and oxycodone.

“The best thing about these kits it is that they can be used in the privacy of your own home, and you can have the results in 10 minutes,” said the sheriff. “If parents have a drug test kit at home, their children will hopefully think twice before giving into peer pressure.”

The release states the kit will be one way to be able to help deter children from making a decision that may ruin their life. The department wants to have as many resources available to help parents deter their children form making the decision to try drugs.

“This is a voluntary program to help children make positive choices,” Parsons said. “We want our children in this community to have a successful future and make productive adults.”

Source:  middlesborodailynews.com   4th My 2015

Dutch study finds mathematics results suffer most from dope consumption – findings sure to fuel debate over steps towards legalisation If you want to do well in your exams, especially maths, don’t smoke dope.

This is the finding of a unique study that is likely to be fiercely debated by those in favour of and those against the liberalisation of cannabis laws.

Economists Olivier Marie of Maastricht University and Ulf Zölitz of IZA Bonn examined what happened in Maastricht in 2011 when the Dutch city allowed only Dutch, German and Belgian passport-holders access to the 13 coffee shops where cannabis was sold.

The temporary restrictions were introduced because of fears that nationals from other countries, chiefly France and Luxembourg, were visiting the city simply to smoke drugs, which would tarnish its genteel image.

After studying data on more than 54,000 course grades achieved by students from around the world who were enrolled at Maastricht University before and after the restrictions were introduced, the economists came to a striking conclusion.

In a paper recently presented at the Royal Economic Society conference in Manchester they revealed that those who could no longer legally buy cannabis did better in their studies.  The restrictions, the economists conclude, constrained consumption for some users, whose cognitive functioning improved as a result.

“The effects we find are large, consistent and statistically very significant,” Marie told the Observer.  “For example, we estimate that students who were no longer able to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass courses.

The grade improvement this represents is about the same as having a qualified teacher and, more relevantly, similar to decreases in grades observed from reaching legal drinking age in the US.”

For low performers, there was a larger effect on grades. They had a 7.6% better chance of passing their courses.  Interestingly, Marie and Zölitz found the effects were even more pronounced when it came to particular disciplines.

“The policy effect is five times larger for courses requiring numerical/mathematical skills,” the pair write.This, they argue, is not that surprising.  “In line with how THC consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that performance gains are larger for courses that require more numerical/mathematical skills,” Marie said.  THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – is the active ingredient in skunk cannabis, which some studies have linked with psychosis.

The ground breaking research comes at a significant moment.  The clamour for liberalisation of cannabis laws is growing.

In Germany, Berlin is considering opening the country’s first legal cannabis shop. Uruguay plans to be the first nation in the world to fully legalise all aspects of the cannabis trade. In the US, more than 20 states now allow medical marijuana use, while recreational consumption has become legal in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

But, as Marie and Zölitz observe in their paper: “With scarce empirical evidence on its societal impact, these policies are mainly being implemented without governments knowing about their potential impact.

“We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalisation and prohibition  decision-making,” Marie said. “In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behaviour is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before.”

The research is likely to be seized upon by anti-legalisation campaigners.  But Marie was at pains to say the research should simply be used to raise awareness of an often overlooked aspect of drug use: its impact on the individual’s cognitive ability.  “If marijuana is legalised like it is in many states in the US, we should at least inform consumers about the negative consequences of their drug choices.”

It will also feed into the debate about THC levels in cannabis, which are becoming ever stronger. Levels of THC in marijuana sold in Maastricht’s coffee shops are around double those in the US. “Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka,” Marie said.  History suggests that prohibition often results in the illicit drug or alcohol trade producing ever stronger products.

Campaigners for liberalisation argue that it could help bring THC levels down and allow users to know what they are buying. The authors concede that their findings could turn out to be different if they were to replicate their study in a country that did not have restrictions on cannabis use.  Marie said his work had helped inform his discussions with his teenage son.  “I have a 13-year old boy and I do extensively share this with him as a precautionary measure so that he can make the best informed choice if he is faced with the decision of whether to consume cannabis or not.”

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/11/cannabis-smokers-risk-poorer-grades-dutch-study-legalisation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.newsweek.com weds Feb. 2015

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.”

  source: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/style/not-the-usual-college-party-

 

A study published Wednesday found that consuming large flavored alcoholic beverages can increase risk for binge drinking and related alcohol injuries for underage drinkers. PHOTO BY EMILY ZABOSKI/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Super-sized flavored alcoholic beverages can increase the risk of binge drinking and alcohol-related injuries for underage drinkers, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Boston University found in a study, a Wednesday press release stated.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health on Feb. 25, found that underage drinkers who reported consuming malts, premixed cocktails and alcopops drank more on average and were more likely to experience “episodic heavy drinking,” the report stated. About 1,000 people ages 13 to 20 were surveyed online.

David Jernigan, an author of the study and director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing at Johns Hopkins, said heavier drinking occurs with these flavored beverages because of the serving sizes. Most of these beverages hold the equivalent of 4 to 5 beers in one container, he said.

“We particularly found the correlations between the largest size of these drinks and negative behaviors because one of these super-sized drinks is the equivalent of four to five beers,” he said. “Even though the can may have serving size though most don’t, teens are treating them as a single serving. Some people in the field call it a binge in a can.”

Study co-author Alison Albers, a professor in BU’s School of Public Health, said the study brings up important issues and will help determine future policies.

“These findings raise important concerns about the popularity and use of flavored alcoholic beverages among young people, particularly for the supersized varieties,” she said in the release. “Public health practitioners and policymakers would be wise to consider what further steps could be taken to keep these beverages out of the hands of youth.”

Jernigan said careful packaging should be implemented in the production of super-sized beverages.

“The re-sealable top is more of a joke,” he said. “These are being treated as a single serving, and the results suggest this may be a dangerous form of packaging.”

Katharine Mooney, director of Wellness and Prevention Services at BU, said the university takes steps to prevent the overconsumption of alcohol.

“We discourage against any kind of risky behavior, and these oversized sugar sweetened beverages definitely all into the category of risky,” she said. “[It’s] just like a punch bowl at a party.”

Mooney said because the drinks do not taste entirely like alcohol, it is difficult to determine how much alcohol is in them, which often leads to over drinking. Over drinking can affect students’ physical, social and academic wellbeing.

The Boston University Police Department has noted that the number of alcohol violations and transports for the spring 2015 semester has increased compared to numbers from the spring 2014 semester, The Daily Free Press reported Thursday.

Mooney said BU Student Health Services tries to do whatever possible to inform students about the dangers of binge drinking and learn how to drink in a less dangerous way.

“One of the things we work really hard to educate students about our standard drink portion. A standard beer has the same alcohol content as one shot,” she said. “A student needs to be particularly aware of what they are consuming when drinking these so that they don’t drink more than they intend to.”

Several students said they recognize how super-sized flavored drinks can be risky.

Brock Guzman, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said the drinks are popular because of their cheap prices, and because some items contain caffeine, young drinkers find them even more appealing.

“It’s appealing because you can get really drunk and you stay awake,” he said. “They have caffeine in them and don’t really taste like alcohol.”

Sergio Araujo, a junior in Metropolitan College, said he has seen a friend in a dangerous scenario after consuming Four Loko, a popular super-sized alcoholic beverage. Though Four Loko’s contents used to include caffeine, the company chose to remove caffeine from their product in 2010.

“One guy I know drank them a lot, and he left a party alone, then he got lost in a snowstorm and was too drunk to find his way home,” he said. “He almost had to sleep in the snow.”

Jaqui Manning, a freshman in the College of General Studies, said she has seen firsthand the consequences when others drink the types of alcoholic beverages described in the study, as well as the products that contain caffeine.

“I’ve heard a lot of people have had really bad experiences with them,” she said. “Especially drinking them really fast is really dangerous because not only is there alcohol, but there is so much sugar and caffeine that goes into it, and your body sometimes can’t handle it.”

Source:  http://dailyfreepress.com/flavored-alcohol     6th March 2015

Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S. and responsible for one in every 10 deaths. The statistics that describe the ways in which we drink ourselves to death are staggering. A study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease found that nearly 70% of deaths due to excessive drinking involved working-age adults. The study also found that about 5% of the deaths involved people younger than age 21.  Moreover, excessive alcohol use shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years. Yes, 30 years.

One strong factor that reinforces the popular culture surrounding drinking is the glamour of advertising. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined alcohol-advertising placements to determine whether the alcohol industry had kept its word to refrain from advertising targeting young people. This included television programs for which more than 30% of the viewing audience is likely to be younger than 21 years, the legal drinking age in every state.

The study found that alcohol related advertising increased by 71% in the last decade; this is largely attributed to exposure on cable television. That increase coincided with a reported upsurge of alcohol consumption by high school students. In conclusion, the study suggested that if the National Research Council/Institute of Medicine’s proposed threshold of 15% exposure to advertising was implemented, young viewers would see 54% fewer alcohol ads and society would see a correlating decrease in alcohol related deaths.

What about those “drink responsibly” admonitions on so many commercials? Federal regulations do not require responsibility statements in alcohol advertising. The alcohol industry’s voluntary codes for marketing and promotion emphasize responsibility, but they provide no definition for responsible drinking. So when you see the admonition to “drink responsibly” at the end of an alcohol-related television commercial, there is no idea given as to exactly what that may mean, particularly to someone under the legal drinking age.

David Jernigan, PhD, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said:

The contradiction between appearing to promote responsible drinking and the actual use of ‘drink responsibly’ messages to reinforce product promotion suggests that these messages can be deceptive and misleading.”

Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alcohol advertising influences many people across a wide range of demographics. Regardless of the warning labels on alcohol containers, community prevention programs and general public knowledge of the risks of excessive alcohol consumption, people continue to drink in health-damaging ways. Drinking in public, at sporting events, in parks, during celebrations, etc., is firmly embedded in society as acceptable behavior. At the same time, the large number of alcohol related deaths among all age groups is a concern, especially when this drinking behavior is generally developed while individuals are underage.

Alcohol use is a major public health problem that can lead to social, financial, and health related setbacks and premature death. Talk to health care professional if you or someone close to you is struggling with excessive alcohol consumption.

Source: www.psychcentral.com/science-addiction/2014/10

As social acceptance and public policy around marijuana shift, and especially if legalized recreational use becomes more widespread, we will need to consider the influence and potential regulation of its marketing.  For this, we should use what we already know from the science to guide our decisions and policies to minimize harm, because inevitably, advertising is going to reach children and adolescents, people who are addicted to marijuana, and those of all ages who are on their way to becoming addicted.

Ads for addictive substances—including tobacco and alcohol and fattening foods—have the obvious intent of generating new customers as well as enticing current users to use more, but that’s not all they do. Marketers know that by associating such products with other pleasurable stimuli and situations, ads contribute to reinforcing those positive associations in the brains of users, and thus contribute to the process of developing an addiction. 

Drug addiction is a disease of learning—learning to associate drugs with positive feelings and to associate cues that signal drug availability with similar feelings, ultimately leading to craving for the drug.  This part of the addictive progression is known as conditioning, discovered in the 1890s by Pavlov. Today we also understand the brain mechanisms that underlie the phenomenon: Once a person becomes conditioned to drug-related stimuli, those stimuli independently become associated with increases in dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway (i.e., without the drug even being present). These dopamine bursts fuel drug-seeking and craving. The same process can cause such stimuli to act as triggers contributing to relapse in those who are already addicted and are struggling to recover.

When there are salient advertisements for a product, it’s very hard to contain them, because images don’t even need to reach the level of conscious awareness to stimulate the urge to use that product. Recent neuroimaging research has confirmed the brain’s extraordinary sensitivity to “unseen” rewarding stimuli: A 2008 fMRI study by Anna Rose Childress and colleagues confirmed that limbic circuitry respond to drug (as well as sexual) reward cues that are too fleeting to be consciously registered. Also, because of the reach of the Internet, it will be hard to restrict exposure to marijuana advertising just to people in states where it is legal, or just to people old enough to purchase it.

For decades we have seen the harmful effects that alcohol and tobacco ads can have, especially those that target young people; similar associations have been found between exposure to food advertising and obesity. The relative harm of marijuana compared to other legal drugs remains hotly contested, but its potential addictiveness—especially to young people—is undisputed. Thus, it is crucial that states consider the lessons learned from tobacco and alcohol policy research and restrict (or preclude) marijuana advertising to reduce as much as possible the development of newly addicted individuals and avoid inducing relapse in people who are already addicted.

Source: www.drugabuse.gov October 23, 2014

Here is a challenge for President Obama’s recently confirmed Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy—will he confront what is becoming the largest immediate health risk to American youth: brain damage resulting from increased use of high-potency marijuana, which follows prominent drug legalization efforts in states and communities nationwide?

Murthy acquired some political notoriety by casting guns as a public health issue, but when it comes to marijuana, he has been, at best, reticent. Asked during Senate confirmation hearings about marijuana legalization, Murthy said more research needs to be done about the drug’s impact before conclusions are drawn. But all available evidence points in one, disturbing direction: frequent and early-onset marijuana use does major damage to IQ, memory, learning, and emotion. It’s hard to find a more perfect summons for a Surgeon General doing his public health duty.

And the link between legalization and increased use is becoming clearer by the day. The point was hammered home by the results of the 2014 Monitoring the Future study released yesterday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The survey is school-based, reporting on the drug use of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders by type of drug used and by the frequency of use (lifetime, past year, and past month, as well as daily cigarette and marijuana use).

Researchers know that youth marijuana use is strongly related to perceptions of risk and norms of social disapproval. When marijuana use is perceived as a high risk and socially disapproved, marijuana use is low. When perceived risk or social disapproval decline, increased marijuana use will likely follow. Advocates for marijuana legalization ignore this basic point—it is their claims that marijuana is a “medicine,” and their support for marijuana’s legal, recreational status, that lead children and young adults to discount the very serious risks they face in using this drug. One can tell people that rattlesnakes make good pets. But don’t be surprised when tragedy ensues.

While this year’s Monitoring the Future study shows marijuana use relatively flat since 2013, the worrisome news lies in the results for youth attitudes and perceptions. NIDA notes a stunning five-year decline of fully 31 percent among 12th graders in perceived risks of smoking marijuana “regularly” (from 52.4 percent in 2009 to 36.1 percent in 2014).

Percent Perceiving Great Risk of Smoking Marijuana Regularly

The study also shows a sharp decline in the perceived risks of using marijuana “occasionally”—16.4 percent of surveyed 12th graders thought such use would cause harm, compared with 19.5 percent last year, a 16 percent decline in but a single year. The decline in perceptions of risk may be accelerating.

As norms of disapproval and perceptions of risk for tobacco use are thankfully rising, tobacco use has declined. Perversely, the societal message concerning marijuana is leading us in exactly the wrong direction, and more youth now use marijuana than tobacco.