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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Celebrity Prescription Drug Related Deaths

2009 was a tragic year for many celebrities suffering from prescription drug addiction, echoing a much larger problem that exists in the world today. More people are addicted to prescription drugs than anything else and more people will certainly lose their lives as a result of these drugs. In the last two years prescription drugs have taken the lives of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, and just last week we learned prescription drugs may have played a role in the death of Brittany Murphy. The cocktails of legal prescribed medications found near each late star at the time of their death was unbelievable; at what point are the prescribing doctors going to realize that sooner or later an overdose or drug related death will take place. In the last 45 years there have been a number of celebrity prescription drug related deaths:

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Date: August 5, 1962
Drugs: Pentobarbital (AKA Nembutal) and chloral hydrate (sleeping pills)

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix
Date: September 18, 1970
Drug: Secobarbital, AKA Seconal (sleeping pill)

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley
Date: August 16, 1977
Drugs: As many as 14 different drugs, including codeine (painkiller) and methaqualone, AKA Quaaludes (sedative)

Keith Moon

Keith Moon
Date: September 7, 1978
Drug: Clomethiazole, AKA Heminevrin (sedative)

Margaux Hemingway

Margaux Hemingway
Date: July 1, 1996
Drug: Phenobarbital (anti-seizure sedative)

Dana Plato

Dana Plato
Date: May 8, 1999
Drugs: Carisoprodol, AKA Soma (muscle relaxant), and Vicodin (painkiller)

Chris Penn

Chris Penn
Date: January 24, 2006
Drugs: Promethazine (antihistamine) and codeine (painkiller)

Gerald Levert

Gerald Levert
Date: November 10, 2006
Drugs: Six drugs: painkillers Vicodin, Percocet and Dextropropoxyphene (AKA Darvocet), sedative/anxiety medication alprazolam (AKA Xanax) and two non-prescription antihistamines

Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith
Date: February 8, 2007
Drugs: Eleven drugs, including chloral hydrate (sleep aid) and several sedatives/muscle relaxants: clonazepam (AKA Klonopin), lorazepam (AKA Ativan), oxazepam (AKA Serax) and diazepam (AKA Valium)

Pimp C

Pimp C
Date: December 4, 2007
Drugs: Promethazine (antihistamine) and codeine (painkiller)

Fortunately, there are many stars that do seek help and go into treatment with the hope of freeing themselves from their addiction. Just last week Aerosmith's Steven Tyler checked into drug treatment for his prescription drug problem. With many musicians, like Steven Tyler and Michael Jackson, repeated injuries over the years have contributed to dependence on pain medication. Treatment is always available for those who find themselves dependent and there are many alternative pain management programs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama Drops a Long-standing Ban on Federal Funding of Needle Exchange Programs

Ban Federal Funding Needle Exchange
Significant progress has been made in the battle against diseases spread intravenously. It has been an ongoing struggle to provide I.V. drug users the ability to acquire clean needles. In many cases people in metropolitan areas are typically hit hard by A.I.D.S and Hepatitis C because of the lack of needle exchanges and the need of a prescription to get needles from a pharmacy; despite the fact that there are detailed studies proving that cities that implement needle exchange programs have less people contracting diseases. In a 2007 report conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 424,000 Americans a year over age 12 inject illegal drugs. "The omnibus appropriations bill that President Obama signed last week drops a long-standing ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs. And the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy three months ago lifted the requirement for a prescription to buy syringes at a pharmacy, leaving New Jersey and Delaware as the only states still requiring a script", according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, needle exchange programs can apply for funding from AIDS prevention programs which will certainly increase the amount of exchanges available.

This is a great step and it shows that people are beginning to understand the complex nature of addiction and how is affects all aspects of society. A person in the grips of their addiction will find a way to use no matter what; a dirty needle will do the same job as a clean needle. Providing addicts the ability to use without the risk of disease is a big step, it reflects the idea that the addict is not by default a criminal, but rather, a sick individual. Between 2002 and 2004 when comparing Newark NJ where exchanges were not present and you needed a prescription to acquire syringes, with New York City where both were present, "Rates of HIV were 26 percent in Newark vs. 5 percent in New York; hepatitis B, 70 percent vs. 27 percent; and hepatitis C, 82 percent vs. 53 percent", the Journal of Urban Health reported.

Changes like this one are a huge leap forward for those who have been trying to provide a safe way for those who will get high no matter what. It will also afford counselors the opportunity to help steer people going to the exchanges towards treatment; addicts who normally would be impossible to contact will now be close enough to potentially reach and get them the help that they desperately need.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

GBL and BZP, 'Legal High' Drugs Banned in Britain This Morning!

GBL and BZP, the 'legal high' drugs were banned in Britain this morning! This is a big step in the battle against new potentially lethal designer drugs that have stayed under the radar from the food and drug officials. The chemical solvent GBL (gamma-butyrolactone). or 'coma in a bottle', is a regular drug of many people who frequent night clubs. BZP (N-benzylpiperazine), which has been illegal in the United States since 2004, is a stimulant which has similar effects to amphetamines. Also added to the list are herbal smoking products containing man-made chemicals such as "Spice", which are commonly found in head shops. The illegal classification of these drugs will hopefully prevent anymore overdoses; drugs like GBL are particularly hard to dose making it very easy for something bad to happen. Typically these drugs are mixed with alcohol which intensifies the high; according to the AFP, "long-standing concerns about the health risks of the drugs, particularly when taken with alcohol, hit the headlines in April after 21-year-old medical student Hester Stewart died after taking GBL".

Hester Stewart's mother campaigned across Great Britain to get a ban on drugs like GBL. Young adults who find themselves taking these drugs are not informed, they are not aware of the potential threats because these drugs were legal - how bad could they be! The banning of GBL and BZP will be the umbrella that all other drugs like these stand under, this will keep the manufacturers of these drugs from altering the formula slightly and skirting the law. Great Britain also put a ban on 15 different anabolic steroids that are popular amongst athletes.

Unfortunately, as we mentioned in a previous post regarding this subject, there are still many countries around the world where drugs like these are not banned and are still being abused regularly. So called 'Legal Highs' are a serious threat to teenagers and young adults, more people will inevitably overdose from GBL which makes education of the utmost importance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Charities Criticize Online Fund Raising Contest by Chase

JP Morgan Chase & Company have been scrutinized regarding their charity practices. Chase held an online contest to award millions of dollars to 100 different charities, the charities with the most online votes would be chosen to receive funding. At least three different charities believe that they were disqualified from the contest based on their mission and the views. The charities Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Marijuana Policy Project, and Justice for All hold that JP Morgan Chase & Company have acted unethically. What is interesting is that all three of these organizations were receiving a substantial amount of votes before Chase stonewalled them from the contest; according to the New York Times, "Three days before the contest ended, Chase stopped giving participants access to voting information, and it has not made public the vote tallies of the winners". Charities criticize online fund raising contest by Chase because they didn't support the charities cause.

Online contests are a relatively new phenomena; social marketing websites such as Twitter and Facebook have become very popular for companies and non-profits to hold fund raisers. "The Chase Community Giving contest is one of the largest ever mounted, open to more than a half-million charities. More than a million people signed onto Chase’s fan page, where they were awarded 20 votes to cast for the charities of their choice", reports the New York Times. Chase has been vague about why they made changes so late in the contest, what is clear is that Chase reminded everyone of their right to disqualify any participant. Chase set up no formal leader boards to show contestants where they stood; however, certain charities created their own and the results show that all the disqualified charities where doing very well in the contest.

Whatever the case may actually be, certain charities were cheated by Chase and discrimination is apparent. "Mr. Lee, a veteran of these types of contests, said the changes Chase made on Dec. 9 had made it much more difficult to continue attracting votes. After the changes, would-be supporters of Justice for All called and e-mailed to say they could not get their votes to go through", according to the New York Times. I am sure we have not heard the last of this; Chase's ethics will surely be put into question more as facts continue to surface. Online fund raising may come into question all together.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Financial Aid to Mexico is Delayed

The drug war in Mexico continues between government officials and the cartels - the cartels have the upper hand. Mexico has been virtually taken over by the ruthless and violent cartels fighting for control over distribution and trafficking routes throughout Mexico. The United States continues to promise aid in the way of training, technology, and especially modern weaponry; at least that way Mexican officials would stand a little bit of a chance. With over a 100,000 foot soldiers and billions of dollars to support their cause, the cartels are too powerful to stop with the help of the United States; unfortunately the support needed is not being provided in a timely manner, and the cartels continue tightening their grip around the good people of Mexico. The United States has the most powerful military in the world possessing the best technology and the most modern weapons; during the Bush administration we promised Mexico help when the Merida Initiative was signed, which would give Mexico a $1.3 billion assistance package promised to Mexico. "The initiative funds aircraft and surveillance equipment to track and break up trafficking networks, as well as vehicles that can manage the terrain where cartels sometimes operate. It also provided funds to improve police ranks, weed out corruption and bolster the courts", according to USA Today. Unfortunately, that financial aid to Mexico is delayed by a bureaucratic mess.

Yet to Arrive:

  • Up to eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the air force and federal police.
  • Up to four Casa 235 Persuader surveillance airplanes for the navy.
  • Up to eight Bell 412 helicopters for the Mexican air force.

The companies that produce these fine pieces of equipment are saying that it will take 12-18 months to manufacture these goods. It is hard to believe that this equipment is only manufactured when there is an order, the U.S. military could certainly part with a few of their own for such an important cause. Nevertheless, until the support arrives in Mexico the cartels will continue to hold on to control. We have to ask ourselves, how long do we want this war to continue?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teen Methamphetamine Use Is On The Decline While Marijuana Use Holds

Teen Methamphetamine Decline Marijuana Holds
Teen methamphetamine use is on the decline while marijuana use holds its position and prescription drug abuse remains high reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse in their 2009 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. The NIDA, using researchers from the University of Michigan who were given a grant, covered eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in the Monitoring the Future survey. Only 1.2 percent of high school seniors report having had used meth in the last year, methamphetamine was added to the survey in 1999 when it was at 4.7 percent. There has been a 5 percent drop amongst 10th graders, 14 percent of 10th graders used meth in 2009; the drop in percentages can only be attributed to better education about the dangers of meth, it confirms that campaigns against the drug are working. National Institute of Health Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D said, "we are encouraged by the reduction of methamphetamine use, but we know that each new generation of teens brings unique prevention and education challenges. What makes the Monitoring the Future survey such a valuable public health tool is that it not only helps us identify where our prevention efforts have been successful, it also helps us identify new trends in drug use and attitudes that need more attention".

Reduction in marijuana use amongst teens was dropping steady over the years, but, this year's survey shows that the decline has come to a stop. Not very surprising considering the buzz surrounding the drug/medicine, it is hard to imagine marijuana use dropping among teens when it can be prescribed to them now in certain states. What was surprising is that marijuana abuse by teens is significantly less than it was in the 1990's from its peak in the mid-late 1990's. The amount of teens using marijuana is exactly the same as it was five years ago; at least medical marijuana is not causing a surge in abuse of the drug, a major concern for those against medical marijuana programs. However, the survey did show that the amount of teens who think that marijuana can be harmful is down. The marijuana use numbers for 2009 are, "32.8 percent of 12th graders, 26.7 percent of 10th graders, and 11.8 percent of eighth graders", reports the National Institute of Health (NIH). Use of cocaine decreased to 3.4 percent from 4.4 percent in 2008 among 12th graders, and past year use of hallucinogens also fell among high school seniors to 4.7 percent, down from last year’s 5.9 percent rate and significantly lower than its 2001 peak of 9.1 percent.

The NIH reports that, "perceived harmfulness of LSD, amphetamines, sedatives/barbiturates, heroin and cocaine have all increased among 12th graders, and the perceived availability of many illicit drugs has dropped considerably. For example, 33.9 percent of 12th graders reported this year that it is easy to get powder cocaine, down from 38.9 percent just a year ago. Similarly, 35.1 percent of 12th graders said ecstasy is easy to obtain, compared to 41.9 percent last year". These numbers are, overall, pretty good and there are definitely less teens using certain drugs and they perceive them as harmful. What is concerning is prescription drug use and abuse, such drugs as amphetamines and opiates very easily find their way into the hands of high school students. "Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors reported past year non-medical use of Vicodin, and 1 in 20 reported abusing Oxycontin, also a powerful opioid painkiller. Non-medical use of these painkillers has increased among 10th graders in the past five years. For the first time this year the survey measured the non-medical use of Adderall, a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. The survey reported that more than 5 percent of 10th and 12th graders reported non-medical use of the drug in the past year", according to the NIH.

The numbers for 2009 are certainly interesting and we have to be concerned about certain trends for sure. It does appear that there are reductions in certain drug use that shows that increased drug education is paying off in certain areas. The battle wages on and we only hope to see fewer people's lives adversely affected by drugs. Let us know what you think of the Monitoring the Future survey and this year's findings, we are interested to hear what you have to say about it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New York City Police Officer Accused Of Using Badge And Police Car In Cocaine Conspiracy

Some police officers, after seeing the lucrative business that the criminals they go after are in, decide that they deserve a piece of the pie; using their connections and authority to bypass the law and have an edge. Officials said Friday that a New York City police officer is being accused of using his badge and police car in a cocaine conspiracy. According to the New York Times, Officer Juan Acosta used the powers of the law to, "help a friend run a cocaine-distribution operation, providing tips on which streets were lightly patrolled by officers and stealing cash from a rival drug courier in the guise of a police seizure, officials said Friday."

Acosta, who joined the police force in 2000, had been helping his friend Yorick Rafael Corneil-Perez, along with others to distribute large quantities of cocaine. According to the United States Attorney's office in Manhattan, this group of individuals was responsible for "multiple kilograms of cocaine" in and around the city. The New York Times reports "The men, both 34 and from the Bronx, have been charged with participating in a cocaine-distribution conspiracy and with conspiring to commit extortion in connection with Officer Acosta’s improper use of his authority".

Officer Acosta helped secure the transportation of drugs throughout the city, he knew which areas were less heavily patrolled thus giving him the upper hand. The two men had agreed to help a drug trafficker from Columbia protect a shipment from Long Island to the Bronx when they were caught. The Colombian was an undercover confidential government informant. This was a big bust for the police and without a doubt helped keep some cocaine of the streets. Acosta was held without bail after pleading not guilty at his arraignment on Friday before Magistrate Judge Kevin N. Fox. Corneil-Perez was held without bail after his arraignment on Thursday.
The War on Drugs continues...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gamma Butyrolactone or GBL , 'Coma in a Bottle'

New drugs that are harmful to your health are being created everyday. Drugs that are new and have not yet been tested by the government are falling into the hands of people who abuse them; this has caused many people a lot of concern, just because they are legal doesn't make them safe. The ease in which these drugs can be acquired is nothing short than alarming - just a few mouse clicks away. Gamma Butyrolactone or GBL , 'coma in a bottle', is one of the drugs in question that has authorities concerned. GBL is a paint stripper and rust remover and is harmless if used for those tasks, GBL is odorless and has no taste when it is diluted; people who have used the drug have reported that the effects are similar to ecstasy. Drugs like GBL leave very little room for error, if the dosage is not accurately measured then an overdose causing a comma or death will ensue. "'It's as if every muscle in the body is trying to work against each other,' said a young woman who has experienced and witnessed the side-effects of GBL", the Daily Mail reports.

Mephedrone is another drug that can be easily acquired that produces similar effects to methamphetamines and ecstasy. 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC), according to Darlington Drug and Alcohol Action Team it can cause: nose bleeds, nose burns, hallucinations, blood circulation problems, rashes, anxiety, paranoia fits, and delusions. BBC News reported that "one person who used the drug regularly for 18 months had to be admitted to a psychiatric unit after he started experiencing hallucinations, agitation, excitability and mania. Due to the short history of the use of Mephedrone nothing is known about long‐term effects".

New designer drugs like these are especially dangerous and already have caused numerous deaths. We can only assume that the longer drugs like these can be sold legally and attained easily more deaths will occur. Steps are being taken in several countries to make drugs like these illegal. We can only hope that this happens with haste in our country. Legal does not mean safe!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Parents in New York Drug Test Their Kids

Parents in New York City and in other areas around the country have begun to drug test their kids. Home drug tests can be found at any pharmacy in the United States for a reasonable price. Discovering that there is a drug problem early can make a huge difference regarding how severe a drug problem gets. The quicker the problem is recognized the sooner it can be addressed; many drug addicts go undetected, by the time a problem is realized the addiction has gone completely out of control. It is for this reason that there are many adolescent drug treatment facilities available for parents to consider sending their children to for treatment.

Teenage years are the most critical years, the more drugs that are consumed in those years means the more developmental damage done. Parents suspecting their children of using drugs should test their kids; it could be that test that saves their life. In some places you can even get home drug tests for free from the police. ABC News reports, "Heroin is an epidemic here in Suffolk County [Long Island]," Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said. "I see the pain in parents' eyes. They're looking for something to combat their children's drug use". On Nov. 19, Suffolk County announced that it had purchased 16,000 drug testing kits, available for free for parents who want to test their children. The kits use litmus paper to test urine for six different drugs including methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, Vicodin and Xanax. Since the program started parents have picked up nearly 450 of them".

It's never too early to intervene, but, sometimes it's too late. Your kids may think you're over parenting, that's simply not true; you are protecting your child's life. I encourage you to watch the Dr. Nancy Video dealing with this subject:

"Dec. 1: As drug testing for children gains in popularity nationwide, some parents in New York City are getting free at-home kits from the police. Are the testing kits really the best way to prevent drug use in kids?"

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