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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries May Reduce Opioid Overdose Deaths

In the United States, people have mixed feelings about medical marijuana and the subsequent recreational legalization in four states. With more states expected to follow suit, a number of researchers have set out to determine the impact such programs have had on communities.

As the nation continues to struggle with an opioid epidemic, a group of researchers were interested in, whether or not, medical marijuana laws had an effect on opioid overdoses, MSNBC reports. The study found that states with greater access to medical marijuana, through dispensaries, may see a reduction in prescription opioid abuse.

Researchers from the University of California-Irvine (UCI) and the Rand Corporation analyzed data to see if states that legalized medical marijuana had opioid overdose death reductions and saw reductions in addiction treatment admissions.

In the states that have legalized medical marijuana and provided access to dispensaries, the researchers found significant reductions in opioid misuse and treatment admissions for opioid abuse, according to the article. The researchers found a 16% reduction in “opioid-related mortality” and 28% reduction in treatment admissions for opioid-abuse. However, medical marijuana states without access to dispensaries saw no reductions.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and D.C. Although, medical marijuana dispensaries can only be found in 18 states.

While the findings may suggest that people swapping their pills for cannabis may save lives, it is important to keep in mind that chronic marijuana use has side effects of its own. It seems evident that in the coming years the country will see more states relaxing their marijuana laws; however, keeping the drug away from teenagers is crucial. Research indicates that marijuana can do more damage to developing brains than adult brains.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More States Expand Naloxone Access

Prescription opioids
In states that have been hit hard by the prescription opioid epidemic, steps have been taken recently to ensure greater access to the life saving drug naloxone. Last week, the governor of Ohio, John Kasich (R), signed emergency legislation that will make naloxone available without a prescription, The Huffington Post reports.

All over the country, naloxone has saved thousands of lives in recent years - lives that would have otherwise been taken by an overdose. Unfortunately, in some states it is quite difficult to acquire the medication without a prescription, which means the task of administering the miracle drug rests on first responders. Making the drug available over-the-counter to the loved one’s of addicts would undoubtedly save more lives.

Between 1996 and 2014, naloxone saved the lives of almost 27,000 people who overdosed, according to a government report.

In May, the state of Kentucky enacted similar legislation, allowing the family members of addicts to acquire naloxone without a prescription, according to the article. Both Ohio and Kentucky have been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic claiming hundreds of lives - some of which could have been saved by naloxone.

Congress Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) called upon the Food and Drug Administration to make naloxone available over-the-counter at an April oversight hearing.

“Right now, it’s hard to get,” Burgess told The Huffington Post. “If it were available at a 24-hour pharmacy, not saying it could save every life at risk, it could save some. The downside of having it available is what?”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Attorneys General Band Together Against E-Cigarettes

Efforts to enact legislation for the regulation of e-cigarettes have moved slowly, while the devices popularity has grown at a fast rate. There have been a number of concerns raised about the appeal of e-cigarettes to minors, as more teenagers are using the devices than traditional cigarettes. While federal regulation remains at a relative standstill, a group of State Attorneys General (AG) has begun using state and local laws to force the e-cigarette industry to halt marketing methods aimed at minors, Reuters reports.

The campaign has targeted vape shops and big tobacco companies, threatening to sue violators or appealing to a sense of responsibility that companies should have with record to marketing to minors. While research on e-cigarettes is still being conducted, AGs from more than 12 states feel a need to take action, preventing minors from unknowingly becoming addicted to nicotine.

“The key is to avoid another generation being addicted to nicotine,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in an interview with Reuters.

A large portion of e-cigarette sales occur online where it is much more difficult to enforce age verification. Minors are not only exposed to e-cigarettes advertisements on the Internet, they can easily purchase them as well. Through coordinated efforts, some AG groups have called on e-cigarette companies to limit ads that appeal to teens, according to the article.

Despite the fact that research indicates nicotine having a detrimental effect on developing brains, it is still possible for minors to purchase e-cigarettes in a number of states. It is expected that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will finalize its e-cigarette regulations later this summer, but it could take years for the federal rules to be enforced.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Emerging Trend Known As Microdosing

The use of hallucinogenic drugs is not a new phenomenon; people have been experimenting with LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and mushrooms (psilocybin) for decades. Most users argue that the psychedelic effects of the drug expand the mind - opening new doors of perception. Such drugs are Schedule I narcotics, meaning they have no medicinal value and are illegal to use.

A new trend is emerging, known as “microdosing,” the act of taking psychedelic drugs in small doses, increasing one’s focus without the hallucinations, LiveScience reports. Naturally, experts have mixed opinions about microdosing, and some argue that there may be unforeseen dangers.

"It's like the coffee to wake up the mind-body connection. When I notice it is working, depending on the dosage, time seems to be slowing down a bit, everything seems covered with a layer of extra significance," said Martijn Schirp, a HighExistence.com writer, in an email.

There have been a number of anecdotal reports about microdosing; a number of people claim that the activity has helped their psychiatric disorders, according to the article. Others claim that microdosing has helped them become nicer people.

On the other side of the coin, there are experts who have concerns about microdosing, such as Matt Johnson - a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Johnson, who has researched the behavioral effects of psychedelic drugs, points out that there is little scientific evidence to support microdosing. Microdosers tend to regularly take small doses every several days, which Johnson notes could result in long-term side effects, the article reports.

Johnson is also concerned that properly dosing drugs, such as LSD, can be challenging. Most users are not able to determine how strong a particular batch is, which means dosing becomes more of a guess. He points out that everyone reacts differently to drugs, and different amounts of drugs.

"Someone might be expecting a kind of sparkly day, just a really productive day at work — and next thing you know, they're grasping hold to their office chair wondering why the world is dissolving," Johnson said.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

CDC: Heroin Epidemic in America

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Heroin use is on the rise in America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now deemed the problem of epidemic proportions. A new report conducted by the CDC has found that heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, Reuters reports. The rise has been attributed to prescription opioid abuse and the lower cost of heroin.

“Everything we see points to more accessible, less-expensive heroin all over the country,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the CDC.

Government crackdowns on prescription drug abuse in the way of prescription drug monitoring programs and the closing of pill mills has fueled the rise in heroin use. Heroin is often times stronger and cheaper than its prescription cousins, such as OxyContin ® (oxycodone). The report found that people who abuse prescription opioids had a 40 times greater risk of abusing heroin, according to the article.

Frieden has suggested that efforts should be done to combat the growing problem, and a need for an “all-society response.” In 2013, around 8,200 deaths could be tied to heroin overdoses. The CDC director has called for:
  • Better Prescribing Practices
  • Increased Access to Treatment
  • Increased Narcan ® (naloxone) Availability
  • Heroin Supply Disruptions
“There are lots of people who have not yet gotten an opiate and we need to protect them from the risk of getting addicted,” Frieden said.

While reducing the amount of heroin, widening the reach of naloxone and implementing stricter prescribing guidelines are helpful measures to take, addressing the problem of addiction in America should be the top priority. Making it harder for people to get high does little to combat one’s desire to get high. Providing greater access to addiction treatment would not only benefit addicts and save lives, it will help society as a whole.

“It is not enough to simply reverse overdoses,” Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy said in a news release. “We must also connect overdose victims and people struggling with prescription drug and heroin use disorders to treatment facilities and doctors that offer medication-assisted treatment.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Eye Color May Play A Part In Addiction

The mapping of the human genome has uncovered several elements of addiction, and it turns out that one’s eye color may make certain people more susceptible to alcohol dependence. New research has found that the genetic components that dictate peoples' eye color line up along the same genes linked to excessive alcohol use, HealthDay reports. Individuals with blue eyes may be more likely to develop alcoholism.

Researchers at the University of Vermont used a genetic database of more than 10,000 people with at least one mental illness. The majority of those in the genetic database were black or European Americans. Many in the sample had more than one mental health disorder, such as:
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Substance Use Disorder
Over 1,200 people of European descent were identified as having suffered from alcohol dependence, according to the article. The researchers saw a connection between eye color and the disorder which prompted further analysis. They found that European Americans with blue eyes had a higher rate of alcohol dependence, compared to people with brown eyes. The findings could help scientists discover more about the origins of addiction and psychiatric disorders.

"This suggests an intriguing possibility that eye color can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis," said study co-author Arvis Sulovari, a doctoral student in cellular, molecular and biological sciences at the University of Vermont.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics (Part B).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

FDA Would Like Public Opinion On E-Cigarettes

The exponential rise in e-cigarette use has government agencies taking a closer look at the devices, and it is expected that it will only be a matter of time before restrictions go into place. In the mean time, there are growing concerns about the highly concentrated nicotine e-juices, which ‘vapers’ use to fill their e-cigarettes. Exposure to e-juices has led to a surge in calls and visits to poison control centers and emergency rooms, Reuters reports.

While e-juices are intended for adults and carry disclaimer warnings about dermal contact and ingestion, as more people use the devices there is a increased likelihood that a child may get their hands on the liquid nicotine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a mandate for child-resistant packaging, and warning the public about the dangers of nicotine exposure, according to the article.

The journal Clinical Toxicology lists the symptoms of nicotine poisoning, some of which include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hypertension
  • Ataxia
  • Seizures
The FDA posted a 15-page "notice of proposed rulemaking" on its website, giving the public 60 days to give their two cents on e-cigarettes and e-juices with regard to warnings and packaging regulation. The agency is requesting "comments, data, research results or other information that may inform regulatory actions FDA might take."

"The continuing rise in popularity of electronic nicotine devices (ENDS), such as e-cigarettes, which often use liquid nicotine and nicotine-containing e-liquids, has coincided with an increase in calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms related to liquid nicotine poisoning and other nicotine exposure risks," the FDA said in the notice.

The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) will begin accepting comments today, July 1, 2015.
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