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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Why I Changed My Mind On Weed" - by Dr. Sanjay Gupta

English: Sanjay Gupta, American neurosurgeon
The have been a number of experts who have championed medical marijuana and marijuana legalization throughout the years and even more against the movement. As new research is published there have been a number of experts with a lot of weight behind them who have switch teams regarding the subject. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta is one of those who now see marijuana in a new light, stating this month that he now supports medical marijuana.

“Why I Changed My Mind on Weed,” was the name of a report he wrote online, saying that marijuana “doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.” His report prompted a documentary, aptly named “Weed,” that ran on CNN.

Gupta’s new report is in stark contrast to an earlier piece he wrote in 2009 in Time magazine, entitled, “Why I Would Vote No on Pot.” 


However, there are still a number of well respected experts who remain against legalization, such as Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She told USA Today the debate should not focus on whether it is less harmful than alcohol or nicotine; we should be debating the harm associated with legalizing another drug. “If you look at the data … the costs associated with drugs in our country, which are gigantic, are driven mostly by legal drugs because they’re so accessible. (The legalization of marijuana) will immediately increase the adverse affects,” she said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assessed or approved the drug or its chemical contents, a requirement for all medicines used in the United States, this makes medical marijuana misleading, according to Volkow. She believes that our concern should center around the harm that the drug can have on teenagers and their brain development. Legalizing the drug may allow for easier access to the drug and teens may consider it less harmful or dangerous.

Those in the field of addiction treatment are also against Gupta’s new report. Some hold that his support of medical marijuana, and legalization, “definitely make the work we do more difficult. I don’t think you could say just because one drug is legal something else should be legal. If it does become legalized though, there should at least be an age limit”, says Jamison Monroe, founder and CEO a treatment center for adolescents located in Southern California.
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Washington Hempfest Will Hand Out Doritos

Seattle Police Department
On the Federal level, marijuana is still an illegal drug for which one can be arrested and even incarcerated: however, in Colorado and Washington the drug has been deemed legal as long as state laws are abided. With legalization comes new rules that will hopefully keep the drug from being abused more than it already has been; we need to remember that for over 70 years the marijuana prohibition created an underworld worth billions of dollars. As liberal states move towards acceptance of the drug, a lot of pressure has been put on the law enforcement to "police" it according to the new laws.

In Washington, “Hempfest,” the state’s annual marijuana festival, will have to adapt to the new changes this year, according to the Associated Press. The 22-year old event, which sees upwards of 85,000 participants over the three-day event in Seattle, will have some unexpected changes. This year’s speakers will focus mainly on reform of federal marijuana laws.

In the past, Seattle police, vigilantly wrote possession tickets and made arrests, this year they will have a different task at hand. Police officers will be handing out Doritos' bags that will have labels directing people to the Seattle Police Department website post, “Marijwhatnow? A Guide to Legal Marijuana Use In Seattle,” rather than tickets.

The police guide explains the new rules regarding marijuana, such as, adults can possess up to an ounce of marijuana but cannot sell it or give it away or use the drug in public. The site emphasizes that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.

“It’s going to be the most interesting Hempfest we’ve ever had because it’s going to be part victory celebration,” said the festival’s Executive Director Vivian McPeak. “That said, we feel it’s very important to remind everyone that as long as it’s still a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, it’s not legal anywhere. The job’s not done yet.”

It is important to remember that while the drug is being treated in a more enlightened way, marijuana still has the potential for abuse and can lead to negative side-effects. Keeping it away from the developing minds of children should be of the utmost importance.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Uphill Synthetic Drug Battle

Synthetic drugs have been an uphill battle for law enforcement officials and prosecutors since “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana brands like “K2” and “Spice” came into the picture. Producers of the potentially fatal drugs have been consistently changing the ingredients and the chemical makeup of the drugs to stay one step ahead of officials.

It has been a challenge to win convictions against makers of synthetic drugs due to the aforementioned facts.

The synthetic drugs are not traditional in any sense of the word; “bath salts” have a number of adverse reactions, anything from hallucinations to extreme paranoia or the feeling of burning skin, with some people tearing their clothes off for relief, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Officials must prove a person sold the drug and the drug sold was similar to a specifically banned substance, the article notes. A minute alteration to the chemical properties of the drug is all it takes for a synthetic drug maker to escape prosecution.

“There’s no way that the DEA can keep up with the sophisticated chemists around the world who are making this stuff,” Timothy Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, told the newspaper. Fortunately, Heaphy’s office won a bath salts conviction this year, which was one of only two such prosecutions.

At the trial, prosecutor Joe Platania, added, “The bad guys know what we do and they just tweak another molecule. They’re changing faster than we can write our names.” It was made public in June that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and authorities in three other countries arrested dozens of people involved with designer drugs such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana, ranging from trafficking to over-the-counter sales. United States enforcement operations took place in 49 cities, targeting retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

The efforts included more than 150 arrest warrants and almost 375 search warrants.
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Taking Others' Presciptions On the Rise

Reports fail to show much promise when it comes to the prescription drug epidemic in America. While databases and the closing of “pill mills” have been somewhat effective, the level of prescription drug abuse and ease of access is staggering.

10 percent of Americans admit they have taken prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them, with a quarter of those people using the drugs to get high, according to a new poll. 

The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that about 60 percent of Americans sought pain relief when using someone else's prescriptions, 20 percent took them to sleep, or to manage anxiety and stress, Reuters reports.

Dr. Wilson Compton, a Division Director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cautions people from taking drugs that are not prescribed to them. He points out that doctors prescribe drugs according to a person’s individual needs, dosage levels vary. “Simply because it’s a medicine that comes from a pharmacy does not mean it is without risk,” he said. “There’s a reason they require a prescription.”

Sadly, two-thirds of those who used other people’s prescriptions said the drugs were given to them by a family member, friend or acquaintance. However, in some cases, people used other's prescriptions to save on costs, the article notes.  

The online poll included the responses of 6,438 American adults.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

High Cost of Alcohol Abuse

English: Logo of the Centers for Disease Contr...
The sale of alcohol is big business worldwide, generating billions of dollars annually. Conversely, heavy drinking costs the United States $223.5 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with binge drinking being responsible for more than 70 percent of these costs, according to a study released by the CDC.

“It is striking to see most of the costs of excessive drinking in states and D.C. are due to binge drinking, which is reported by about 18 percent of U.S. adults,” report author Dr. Robert Brewer, alcohol program lead at CDC, said in a statement.

On average, alcohol abuse costs each state $2.9 billion, with about $2 of every $5 paid for by the government, CBS News reports. The report showed that the cost of alcohol abuse totaled almost $32 billion in California, compared with $420 million in North Dakota.

Underage drinking accounted for $24.6 billion, or 11 percent, of the total excessive drinking costs. Losses in workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crashes and property damage made up the rest of the expenses.

The 2012 CDC report found that 38 million American adults are binge drinkers, and most of them are ages 18 to 34.  

The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Prosecutors Charging Dealers in Overdose Deaths

A number of prescription drug abusers turn to using heroin due to the drugs strength and cost reduction in comparison to the high cost of drugs like oxycodone. In response to the high risk of overdose, officials are now going after dealers and drug producers for causing heroin overdose deaths, the Associated Press reports.

 In recent years, prescription drug companies have made it much more difficult for users to crush and snort the drugs.

A 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that the number of people who were past-year heroin users in 2011 (620,000) was higher than the number in 2007 (373,000).

“We’re going to be ruthless,” Prosecutor Joseph Coronato of Ocean County, New Jersey, told the AP. “We’re looking for long-term prison sentences.” Using the state’s “strict liability for drug death” statute, prosecutors in New Jersey will hold dealers and producers responsible for a user’s death. These charges come with a 20-year maximum sentence.

In the past, overdose deaths were treated by law enforcement officials as accidents, the article notes. Paramedics are to treat overdoses as crimes and coroners are requested to order autopsies and preserve evidence. Detectives are using cell phones to track text messages and calls related to the drug purchase.

Although, in many cases overdose deaths involve more than just heroin, it will be difficult to hold that heroin was the single cause. Every year, thousands of people overdose on prescription pain medication; there is no evidence to suggest that prosecutors will go after pharmaceutical companies.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

PTSD and Substance Abuse Treated Together

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often goes untreated, plaguing individuals throughout their life. Untreated PTSD can lead to substance abuse issues or exacerbate pre-existing addiction in a patient. Research has shown that the two problems need to be addressed in conjunction and can be safely treated together, a new study concludes.

There has been a standing concern that the study addresses, the idea that treating PTSD could worsen alcoholism by bringing up painful memories, Reuters reports. With about one-third of patients with PTSD developing alcohol dependence at some point in their life, there is a need to treat PTSD, the article notes.

165 people with both PTSD and substance abuse problems were studied by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. 

 Patients were assigned to one of four treatment groups:
  • One group was given a drug that reduces alcohol cravings, naltrexone, and prolonged exposure therapy.
  • A group received naltrexone and general counseling.
  • Another group received prolonged exposure therapy and placebo pills.
  • The last group received placebo pills and support counseling.
After six months of treatment the patients were observed. Each patient group had a lower percentage of drinking days and reduced cravings. The groups given naltrexone had a lower percentage of drinking days.

Those who received prolonged exposure therapy and naltrexone had a drinking relapse rate of 5.4 percent. Patients on a placebo who received supportive counseling had a relapse rate of 13.3 percent. 

“What we found is that those people that got (medication) plus prolonged exposure therapy for alcohol dependence together with the treatment for PTSD did the best for maintaining their low level of drinking,” said lead author Edna Foa. “If you are trying to treat the alcohol addiction without any treatment of the PTSD what will happen is that they will stop drinking and the PTSD will become more severe, so what they will do is start drinking again.”

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Deadly Boating While Intoxicated

English: The Tappan Zee Bridge as seen in Tarr...
It is no secret that alcohol impairs one’s judgement making it harder for people to make sound decisions. People often forget, or choose to ignore the fact that when they drink their ability to operate motor vehicles like cars, boats, and heavy machinery is compromised. Just recently lives were lost on the Hudson River when a boat operated by an impaired captain hit a barge at a high speed. Almost 20 percent of deadly boat crashes involved alcohol, according to The Journal News.

Earlier this year the U.S. Coast Guard announced that of the 109 of the 651 people, 17 percent, who died in boat crashes nationwide last year, alcohol was a major factor. Just like cars, the legal B.A.C. limit for operating boats is 0.08 percent.

“As a result of these factors, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration. Passengers are also at greatly increased risk for injury and death—especially if they are also using alcohol,” the Coast Guard states.

Six people were on a 21-foot Stingray powerboat in the Hudson River on their way to Tarrytown, N.Y. They struck three connected barges in the water by the Tappan Zee Bridge in Piermont, N.Y. Jojo John, 35, of Nyack, N.Y., the intoxicated operator of the boat, was charged with vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault.

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