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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Binge Drinking and Brain Damage

There isn't a college campus in the United States that does not deal with binge drinking amongst the students. It is often the case for young adults to think they need to consume as much alcohol as they can in the shortest amount of time. Binge drinking is synonymous with blacking out, which causes people to make poor decisions which can alter the lives of many. The chance of getting behind the wheel of car is much greater when one is in a black out, the lights are on but nobody's home. Alcohol poisoning is also common occurrence amongst college students, which in some cases can be fatal if left untreated. New research has been done which shows that binge drinking can also cause brain damage in some cases.

The new study conducted scanned the brains of binge drinkers ages 18 to 25, which showed that regularly having several drinks in one sitting can affect an area of the brain related to:
  • paying attention
  • making decisions
  • controlling impulses

29 weekend binge drinkers took part in the study which determined that women who had four or more drinks in one sitting and men who have five or more drinks showed a thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, according to Science Daily. In 2009, young adults ages 18 to 25 had the highest rates of binge drinking (41.7 percent) and heavy alcohol use (13.7 percent) of any age group, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Most young adults simply do not know their limit and continue to drink regardless of any kind of health concerns that may be associated with the activity. Brain damage is a real a thing, a permanent alteration to your brain could hold one back in life.

The findings were presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in Atlanta.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pharmacy Massacre Sparks Reform Talk

If you follow the news it is easy to see that prescription drug use has become an epidemic, one to parallel the crack cocaine epidemic of the eighties. Looking back on the eighties, it was not until addicts started committing violent acts in order to acquire their drug that the government began to "crack" down. Today, we are seeing a similar trend with prescription narcotics like oxycodone, whereby people will go to any length to get their drugs even if it means killing innocent people. As was the case last week in a pharmacy on Long Island, where Suffolk County Police say David Laffer walked into the pharmacy on June 19 shortly after 10 a.m. He never even announced his intentions when he opened fire, killing a clerk, the pharmacist and two customers. Laffer escaped with a backpack of pain killers, his wife, Melinda Brady, was at the wheel of the getaway car, according to the prosecutors working the case.

It was not much of a surprise when police arrested them three days later at their home only a mile and a half from the pharmacy. It is only natural that state officials and law makers like Sen. Charles Schumer are calling for a federal plan to crack down on such behavior. Armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says. Nearly 2,800 drug store robberies occurred across the country since 2006, and the abuse of pain killers was up 400-percent in the past decade, CBS reported.

“Once they become crazed, as you say, and they need these drugs they do lots of bad things,” said Schumer. “We’re trying to stop them from getting to that stage.” The Senator along will many others across the nation believe that tougher penalties need to be in place and enforced in order to curb this ever growing problem. "We make the penalties for robbing pharmacies for these drugs not just an ordinary theft, but much more severe," he said. "That would, A, when the criminals are caught they're going to stay in jail a longer time and B, be a deterrent."

Officials need to be careful so that we do not have a repeat of the draconian Rockefellar drug laws that are still responsible for non-violent drug offenders' prison time. They need to be careful to distinguish the addict from the criminal who will kill innocent people in a pharmacy to get a fix.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

College Athletes Medical Marijuana

More and more college athletes are testing positive for marijuana use than ever before, which is not all that surprising considering the surge in medical marijuana programs throughout the country. Marijuana is not the same as an athlete taking human growth hormones (HGH) or anabolic steroids; however, the new trend is a major concern amongst college sport programs. USA Today reports that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has found that the number of college athletes who test positive for marijuana at postseason events has almost tripled.

Positive marijuana tests across all three divisions rose to 71 in 2009-10, from 28 in 2008-09 and according to the report the positive tests represent less than 3 percent of all samples tested by the NCAA. The rise in dirty drug tests concerns the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the national anti-doping organization for the Olympics. Tavis Tygart told the newspaper that the increase does not shock him considering the increase in medical marijuana use and calls for legalization of the drug.

“It’s a fear we’ve had that as marijuana and even some performance-enhancing drugs become more socially acceptable that athletes will think it might be acceptable within sports,” said Tygart. That line of thinking is probably not too far off; people who use one drug could be more likely to experiment with another - a slippery slope. One thing is for certain, marijuana is not enhancing athletes' ability to perform better, if anything it may worsen performance. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues to rise, as well as, how college sports programs will respond to the problem.

“It’s too early to tell if this is a one-year spike or indication of a larger problem,” NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford told the newspaper. According to Radford, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport will be tracking this issue.

Monday, June 20, 2011

United Airline Drug Testing Failure

One work environment where one would hope that the management stayed on top of drug and alcohol testing is the airline industry. Everyday millions of people put their lives in the hands of others when they decide to board a plane, the chances of there being a problem, today, are pretty slim; however, if the pilot is intoxicated it changes things a bit. It is always a good rule of thumb to not drink and drug when operating heavy equipment and airplanes definitely qualify. We are not just talking about pilots here, anyone who works on the airplane needs to be clear minded and have sober eyes in order to make sure that the plane will function the way it is supposed to some 30,000 feet above the ground.

In an announcement made today by the Federal Aviation Administration, they are proposing a $584,375 civil penalty against United Airlines for allegedly violating regulations for drug and alcohol testing of "safety-sensitive" employees, reports MSNBC. "Safety-sensitive" workers are usually people "who have access to planes or work on them," said Paul Turk, a FAA spokesperson. Turk would not discuss which airports the employees under question work at or what exactly their function was.

This could include:
  • pilots
  • flight attendants
  • ground crew
  • dispatchers

In 2006, the FAA issued a warning to United and did so again in 2008, claiming that United's testing practices failed to ensure that every flight crew member had the same chance of being selected for testing. Inspections in 2009 revealed that United failed to test 13 individuals who had been transferred to safety-sensitive positions, which triggered an investigation of United's practices according to MSNBC. Hopefully, a serious fine on United will encourage all airlines to stay on top of the ball with drug testing so that flying on a plane can be as safe as possible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New York Prescription Drug Database

Big moves are being made in the state of New York in an attempt to combat the ever growing prescription drug abuse taking place every day across the nation. This week a new bill was introduced by the New York Assembly that would put in place a real-time database for prescriptions of controlled substances. At the end of the day it seems that the only real way to cut down on prescription drug trafficking is keep track of everyone being prescribed such drugs and making sure that they are actually taking their medicine. Real testing needs to take place, that would not only identify whether or not the prescribed drug is in the patient's system but how much of the drug is present - the levels.

It has become common practice for people planning to sell their medications to take one pill before they go in for their drug test. As long as any amount of the drug is in the patient's system, doctors will continue to call in refills. It is easy to see the flaws in the way doctors are currently monitoring their patients across the board. The New York bill would mandate doctors and pharmacists to update the database every time a prescription for a controlled substance is prescribed and filled by the patient. Right now, pharmacists are only required to report twice a month and doctors in New York are not required to report at all.

Fortunately New York is not the only state taking action to curb a problem that they let get out of control. 35 states with monitoring systems are in operation and 13 that have approved such programs according to the Alliance of States With Prescription Monitoring Programs. In Florida, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that would work to stop ‘pill mills’ in the state, impeding patients from going to multiple doctors for pain narcotics.

Oxycodone prescriptions rose 66 percent in the city between 2007 and 2009, according to Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Medical Marijuana Law Changes

While some states are moving forward with their medical marijuana programs, some states are backtracking ignoring the fact that their citizens voted for medical marijuana. States that have gone ahead with medical marijuana programs typically have protected their citizens against punishment or losing one's job for failing a drug test where they tested positive for marijuana. Shortly after legislators in Montana began trying to overturn the medical marijuana law, Washington legislators began following suit making it more difficult for people to participate in the medical marijuana program. In Montana, the Governor vetoed such legislation from moving forward due to the fact that 62 percent of the population voted for medical marijuana.

The Supreme Court in Washington ruled that employees in Washington state can be fired if they fail a drug test, even if they have a medical-marijuana authorization from a physician. The court ruled in an 8-1 vote that state law permitted employers to prohibit medical marijuana use on the job, but failed to deal with use outside of work. Unbelievably, since medical marijuana use is illegal under federal law, the state’s Human Rights Commission, which deals with employee discrimination, lacks the ability to look at claims related to medical-marijuana use.

Justice Tom Chambers wrote that when Washington state voters passed a medical-marijuana law in 1998, their intent was to protect patients prescribed marijuana for medical purposes. He added that based off of the court’s decision this will detract people from looking into legal medical-marijuana treatment out of concern they could lose their jobs. The fact of the matter is that marijuana, for a number of reasons, remains illegal according to the Federal government, which means that citizens who think that their state of residence will protect them against repercussions due to using medical marijuana are sorely mistaken. Several other states are currently working to amend their medical marijuana laws.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Drug Treatment in High School

Drug and alcohol abuse among students is a real problem that needs to be tackled so that things do not get worse. The teenage years are a time of experimentation and exploration on a number of fronts, in most cases experimenting with drugs stays just that, but, in certain cases experimentation gets out of control leading kids down a road towards addiction. High schools work hard to educate their students as to the dangers of substance abuse, which in most cases is rather ineffective. Teenagers don't take advice too well since they know everything already. In response to the growing problem, one high school has teamed up will a reputable drug treatment organization, with the hope of providing solid guidance for kids on the verge of addiction or those already in the grips of it.

The William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, New York will house a drug and alcohol clinic starting in August. The clinic will provide students with counseling but they will not be dispensing drugs like methadone for withdrawal symptoms or cravings. This move is the first of its kind within the public education system and advocates of the program have high hopes. "The school district is being incredibly proactive," said the program's director Caroline Sullivan. "Other schools may have prevention programs, but this is a full-fledged treatment option with treatment done on site."

Partnership for a Drug-Free America said nationwide there are 19 "sober high schools," meaning the student body is either in recovery or has made a vow to stay away from alcohol and drugs. That is a very small percentage of schools across our great nation; there are many more students who need help in a bad way. "There are very few programs that are adolescent specific," Sullivan said, despite the fact that "adolescents are starting to use at a much younger age."

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Silk Road of the 21st Century

Caravan on the Silk Road
Source: Silk Road: A History by I. Franck and D. Brownstone

In the 21st Century the drug trade operates in a totally new way in order to stay under the radar of officials. The level of sophistication that can be associated with the drug trade is high, as is evident by one of the latest methods of distribution. Unbelievably, one can acquire just about any drug anonymously with the few clicks of their mouse. In the past there have been websites that allowed people to purchase rare herbs with hallucinogenic properties that have, in most cases escaped, the highly sensitive oversight of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Today, one has the ability to enter a very controversial, totally anonymous, realm of the World Wide Web. Once there, the user can order and purchase illegal drugs that will be sent to their home in several days via Canada. The website is called the Silk Road, named after the ancient trade route of the East, a path used heavily for opium trafficking. It is not surprising that two U.S. senators are calling on the federal government to work to shut down the website and any like it.

Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia would like the D.E.A. and the Justice Department to close and investigate the website. Fortunately, arriving at the website is very tricky and involves a few different steps that can be difficult to configure; this will make it harder for teenagers to act on any "good ideas" they may have involving drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The Associated Press reports that the website tells sellers to make shipments using vacuum-sealed bags so that drug-sniffing dogs will not detect the packages.

The ball is rolling it seems and the problem is likely to be hashed out before long considering the implications of a website like the Silk Road. If drugs can be acquired from the comfort of one's own home without a dealer or a user having to leave the house it will make the job of the D.E.A. much harder.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Legal Bath Salts Story: Continued

Last week we covered the topic of legal bath salts which has fast become a nationwide problem on a number of fronts. We think this topic is important, particularly for parents to be aware of, so we thought you would like to see the final clip from NBC's DATELINE May 22, 2011, The Hansen's Files - Bath Salts Part 3:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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