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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SAMHSA New Strategic Initiatives

Addiction treatment and behavioural health sciences are constantly evolving, becoming more effective in treating those who are afflicted by mental health problems and/or substance abuse. Just in the last ten years addiction treatment has changed dramatically and not only in how people are treated, the availability of drug and alcohol treatment has exponentially increased people's ability to be treated. More and more people are being shown that there is another way to live, a life where one's demons can be kept at bay. However, behavioural health is not perfect and there are many aspects of treatment that could be implemented more effectively thus creating better results. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published its strategic initiatives paper - highlighting SAMHSA's goals, priorities and action steps for accomplishing what it set out to do, decreasing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness in America.

Eight strategic initiatives have been laid out in the paper which will explain how SAMHSA will utilize the resources available to improve the nation's behavioral health care system in the years to come with the help of - the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The strategic initiatives include:

1. Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
2. Trauma and Justice
3. Military Families
4. Recovery Support
5. Health Reform
6. Health Information Technology
7. Data, Outcomes, and Quality
8. Public Awareness and Support

"The strategic initiatives paper provides a clear roadmap for SAMHSA's immediate and longer term priorities for reaching our essential public health mission," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., "These initiatives are data driven, overarching in purpose and will help SAMHSA work in an unprecedented way across health, justice, social service, education and other systems to improve health care services to all Americans."

Monday, March 28, 2011

California Smoking Rate Decline

Cigarettes, by most accounts, are a terrible habit that can be extremely bad for one's health in a number of ways. Across the country groups and individuals work hard to get the message that "cigarettes are bad for you" across to our nation's youth. While a number of attempts have failed at reaching smokers and potential smokers, there are some states that are succeeding at lowering smoking rates which ultimately saves lives. According to researchers, California leads the nation when it comes to the amount of people quitting smoking state wide. The success has been mostly attributed to California's strict tobacco policies which work to deter smoking around every corner.

Smoking data between the years 1965 and 2007 was reviewed by the research team and compared how patterns in smoking changed over time and by age. According to the study abstract, data from the National Health Interview Surveys, 1965-1994, and from the Current Population Survey Tobacco Supplements, 1992-2007 were analyzed. Researchers compared 139,176 Californians with 1,662,353 respondents from other states. The smokers were divided into three categories: high-intensity, consuming 20 or more cigarettes a day; moderate-to-high-intensity, smoking 10-19 cigarettes a day; and low-intensity, smoking 0-9 a day. Smoking rates in the low-intensity group was fairly constant in either California or the United States: California started at 7.1 percent in 1965, the rest of the U.S. started at 7.0 percent - and both fell to 5.3 percent by 2007.

The story was not the same for high-intensity smokers, by 2007, California's high-intensity smoking rate dropped to just over one-tenth of its 1965 rate, whereas high-intensity smoking rates in the United States only fell to about one-third since 1965. Nearly a quarter of California's adults (23.2 percent) smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day in 1965, compared with 22.9 percent in the rest of the nation. As of 2007, only 2.6 percent of adults in California smoked 20 or more a day, while 7.2 percent of the remainder of the U.S. did. Between 1965 and 2007, the mid-range smoking rate in California dropped from 11.1 percent to 3.4 percent, but the fall was not as great across the rest of the country, dropping from 10.5 percent to 5.4 percent.

So what accounts for California's success?

"In 1968, California was the first state to aggressively raise its cigarette tax ... [and] the first state to introduce an ongoing, well-funded comprehensive tobacco control program, which has been in place since 1989," the authors of the study wrote. "Ordinances restricting cigarette smoking in the workplace were first introduced in California in 1976 and increased rapidly throughout the 1980s." Lung cancer takes fewer lives in California than anywhere else in the country. Reaching a high of 109 deaths for every 100,000 people in 1987, California's lung cancer rates dropped to 77 per 100,000 people by 2007, while they remained at 102 deaths per 100,000 in the remainder of the country.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Designer Drug Causes Multiple Overdoses

The Internet is home to a number of companies selling drugs that have managed to skirt the FDA, drugs that may seem safe and fun are unfortunately having the opposite effect taking peoples' lives left and right. In Minnesota nearly a dozen teenagers overdosed and one individual lost their life from taking a hallucinogen at a house party. The drug that was consumed was a version of a rave drug that had been previously banned, by changing just the slightest thing on a molecular level making the drug known as 2c-E not an illegal substance. With an ever increasing market for drugs like 2c-E, it is difficult for the FDA and local law officials to stay up to date with the new drugs being created.

On Friday, authorities arrested a 21-year-old man who was believed to have provided the drug to the teens and he was being held on suspicion of third-degree murder. The murder victim was Trevor Vance Robinson, 19, of Coon Rapids. Robinson was the only one of 11 people ranging in age from 16 to 21 who died when everyone fell ill late Wednesday. Andy Young, 18, a friend of Robinson's, said the two had consumed the 2c-E together, describing 2C-E as combining the effects of LSD and psychedelic mushrooms. "You couldn't really focus on anything. Your mind is racing," Young said of his experience on 2C-E. "You don't know what's going on at all."

Health officials as well as parents should be concerned about designer drugs like 2c-E. These drugs are rarely ever dosed the same way which makes the process of gauging how much one should take next to impossible. Club drugs are extremely dangerous and should be avoided no matter what; the costs outweigh the rewards by tenfold. If you know anyone actively taking drugs like 2c-E you should inform them of the dangers associated with such drugs.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menthol Cigarettes are More Addictive

Cigarettes are a major killer in the realm of addiction, with about 400,000 people losing their life to tobacco-related diseases every year in the United States. Health officials work especially hard to educate people regarding the dangers of continued cigarette use in conjunction with state governments raising cigarette taxes making them harder to afford; yet, efforts to curb cigarette usage are not all that effective as evident by the continued death toll seen every year. According to the Washington Post, an expert panel advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended in a draft report that a ban be placed on menthol cigarettes to protect Americans' health. While the expert panel found that putting menthol in cigarettes did not increase the individual risk of smoking-related health problems, menthol has the ability to attract younger smokers because of the cool sugary flavor and in some ways may be more addictive than regular cigarettes.

What's more, African Americans have been targeted by menthol cigarette makers with heavy advertising in their community, despite the fact that fewer African Americans smoke cigarettes but they are more susceptible to tobacco related diseases. Menthol cigarettes, according to the panel, make it much harder for African Americans to quit smoking and it is believed that taking menthol cigarettes off the market would in turn save thousands of lives. Unfortunately, it will probably take much more than an adversary panel to get menthol cigarettes off the market considering that menthol cigarette sales make up one-third of the $70 billion a year industry.

The FDA is not bound to follow the panel's recommendations, so there is no telling which direction all this will go. According to Lawrence R. Deyton, M.D., who directs the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, "the FDA intends to provide its first progress report on the review of the science in approximately 90 days".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wealthier Teens More Likely to Drink

It has long been a common misconception that poverty and drug and alcohol abuse go hand and hand. When people think of poverty stricken neighborhoods they often have the idea in their head that in some way poor people are more inclined towards substance abuse. However, new research is pointing in the other direction with wealthier teenagers drinking more than underprivileged teenagers. While there are many cases of teenagers who come from lower socioeconomic families who receive very little guidance and education with regards to drugs and alcohol that end up abusing alcohol, new statistics show us that teenagers who come from more privileged families tend to drink more.

A longitudinal study was conducted in the UK, led by Roberto Melotti of the University of Bristol; the mothers of 5,837 children were surveyed when they were pregnant and then were followed up with the children at age thirteen about their use of alcohol and tobacco. The surveys test subjects were divided up into five income groups and controlling for other socioeconomic factors, they found that teens from the poorest group of families were 22 percent less likely than those in the middle income group to have tried alcohol or had engaged in binge drinking in the past six months. A theory for the findings may be related to the fact that teenagers from wealthier families have more access to alcohol than those teens from poor families. "More advantaged families tend to have healthier behavior," Melotti said. "Our results indicate an example where this is not the case."

Researchers also determined that regardless of socioeconomic status, children whose mothers who have a college degree were 13 to 40 percent less likely to drink than kids whose mother did not. "Drinking at an early age," he said, "has been related to a series of adverse outcomes, including the risk of developing alcohol-use disorders in later life."

Monday, March 14, 2011

States Cut Mental Health Care Funding

Throughout history society has dealt with mental health care poorly, leaving room for people who need the most help to get the least possible care. Even now in the 21st century, a time when the human mind is better understood than it has ever been, not to mention our ability to treat those with mental disease and affliction. Unfortunately, the majority of people in this world still do not grasp the importance in providing treatment to those who need it the most which is why funding for mental health care continues to be slashed. Sadly, a whopping two out of three states have cut general funding on mental health care in the past two years severely, Reuters reported March 9. It is almost hard to believe that despite the steps we have made to more adequately care for individuals who suffer from debilitating mental ailments, funding for mental health care continues to rest on the chopping block.

"Cutting mental health means that costs only get shifted to emergency rooms, schools, police, local courts, jails and prisons," said Michael Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). "The taxpayer still pays the bill." The director could not be any closer to the truth, citizens of this world care for one another in one way or the other and there is no question as to whether or not providing treatment for the sick is much less taxing than not treating them. Yet tax payers continue to vote to have funding allocated in some other direction, turning their back on the people who need support the most.

According to a report released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), two-thirds of all states cut non-Medicaid mental health funding. The report done by NAMI looked at the budgets of every state and the District of Columbia for its analysis. Some states cut funding by almost half which is a staggering amount of money that could of assisting a number of people. States that cut the most were:
  • Kentucky (47 percent)
  • Alaska (35 percent)
  • Arizona (23 percent)
  • South Carolina (23 percent)
Fortunately, there are some states in this country who understand the value of mental health care and were able to increase funding for mental health services. Over the same two year period where most states cut funds there were a few who raised the bar, such as:
  • Oregon (23 percent)
  • North Carolina (21 percent)
  • Rhode Island (7 percent)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Proposed Ban On Alcopops

After alcohol infused energy drink companies were instructed by the FDA to remove energy enhancers like caffeine from their products it would only be a matter of time before so called "alcopops" would be banned altogether. Removing energy ingredients was helpful but it did not change the fact that malt beverages with 12 percent alcohol in flashy colorful cans still encouraged binge drinking among young adults and even minors. Binge drinking is extremely dangerous taking the lives of people and sending others to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning. Marin Institute is distributing a model statute(PDF) that will aid states in designing their own legislation to limit "alcopops". Six states -- California, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Vermont - are working on bills that would ban such drinks altogether.

"Anheuser-Busch InBev's Tilt brand, Phusion Project's [sic] re-formulated Four Loko line, United Brands' reformulated Joose line and some of Mike's Hard Lemonade products", are all, according to a press release from the Marin Institute, targets of the new bans. "Alcopops" are considered beverages in 23.5-oz cans and contain up to 12 percent alcohol, which Marin Institute estimated is about the same as 4.7 standard drinks, or four or five beers. "They took the caffeine out of their drinks," said Bruce Lee Livingston, who directs Marin Institute, "but now they are fueling youth binge drinking with giant single-serving cans of "alcopops"." 10.7 million underage Americans drink, according to Marin Institute, and about 70 percent of them binge drink, which inevitably ends up costing the country $60 billion a year.

Binge drinking leads a number of youngsters on the road to addiction which changes their lives forever, anything that would help curb such behavior is a step in the right direction. The federal ban on caffeinated alcohol drinks was not enough, claims Michele Simon, research and policy director at Marin Institute. "As the primary regulators of alcoholic beverages, the states have full legal authority to ban dangerous alcoholic products like supersized "alcopops"."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Northern Ireland Minimum Alcohol Price

The British Isles have been known for their fair share of drinking, with whiskey distilleries and breweries there is never a shortage of cheap alcohol to consume. Whenever there is a large supply of alcohol produced in a given area, the price of alcohol can be very inexpensive which inevitably leads to problem drinking. There are a number of health experts and government officials who believe that by raising the price of alcohol lives can be saved. In Northern Ireland moves are being made to put a minimum price on alcohol with the hopes of doing just that. If the minimum price of alcohol is set high enough it could have a huge effect on problem drinking in Northern Ireland. Launched today by Social Development Minister Alex Attwood and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and agreed upon by Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland who believes if the new mandate is to be effective the floor price must be set high enough to combat problem drinking.

"Psychiatrists see the effect of alcohol abuse on patients every day, and it's clear this is exacerbated by irresponsible promotions that encourage people to drink more than they otherwise would," Dr McGarry said. Culture drinking on both side of the Atlantic has gone out of control, to the point where anyone can afford to buy alcohol even after they have lost everything. An estimated 75-80% of alcohol is consumed by the 20-25% of people who misuse it. Heavy drinkers, buy 15 times more alcohol than moderate drinkers and spend 10 times as much a year, and pay 40% less per liter of pure alcohol which costs much less.

"This isn't a case of psychiatrists saying that alcohol per se is bad, for most people there is no problem with people enjoying a drink. It is about facing up to the consequences of harmful drinking, particularly among young people where affordability is a key factor," Dr McGarry said.

"The increase in problem drinking has coincided with alcohol becoming much more affordable, two thirds cheaper in relative terms than in 1980," he said.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Marijuana's Link to Psychotic Problems

In the last decade the entire country has started to gain a different perspective on the dangers of marijuana, with more and more people viewing pot as not being all that harmful despite the fact that it is used more than any other drug. While marijuana may have some medical benefits such as treatment for chronic pain, it is still an addictive substance with the ability to change how one's mind functions on a chemical level. As the drug becomes more popular and more readily available for everyday use, it is also being researched more than ever in order to determine the short and long term benefits and side effects. Researchers may have found a link associated between marijuana usage at a young age and psychosis, with the major question focusing on whether marijuana causes psychosis or whether or not people with psychosis use cannabis to self medicate their symptoms.

The study took place in Germany headed up by a Dutch team of researchers investigating the association between cannabis use and the incidence and persistence of psychotic symptoms over a ten year period using a random sample of 1,923 adolescents and young adults aged 14 to 24 years. Their findings do not look good for chronic marijuana users, after considering factors such as: age, sex, socioeconomic status, drug use, and other psychiatric problems - they determined that incident cannabis increased the risk of later incident psychotic symptoms by almost half. What's more is the fact that the individuals using marijuana from the beginning to the end of the study decade had increased their risk of persistent psychotic symptoms.

According to the study's authors:

"These results help to clarify the temporal association between cannabis use and psychotic experiences. In addition, cannabis use was confirmed as an environmental risk factor impacting on the risk of persistence of psychotic experiences."

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