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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Law Allows Authorities to Detain Pregnant Women

Across the country there are many women dealing with the disease of addiction while they are pregnant. Despite boatloads of research that proves that using any form of mind altering substance while pregnant can be harmful to the fetus, many women are unable to stop using without help. In a number of states there are programs available to assist expectant mothers with their addiction, although in most cases it is up to the mother to decide if she wants help.

In Wisconsin, there exists a controversial law which allows authorities to detain pregnant women suspected of drug and alcohol abuse, and force treatment upon them, reports the fix. The 16-year old Wisconsin “fetal protection” law came into being because of the nationwide scare over so-called “crack babies” and “cocaine moms.”

The law which was passed with overwhelming support in the State Assembly and Senate, allows authorities to detain a pregnant women if, as the law states, there is a “substantial risk” to the fetus because the mother “habitually lacks self-control” with substance use, according to the article. Mothers can be forced into treatment for being honest with their doctor about past drug use.

One such mother, Tammy Loertscher, was detained because she refused to go to treatment and was found in contempt of the court. Loertscher is challenging the law and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women is filing a lawsuit over the law’s constitutionality. In July, Loertscher told a physician at Eau Claire’s Mayo Clinic Hospital that she had used marijuana and methamphetamine in the past, but had stopped when she learned of her pregnancy.

“This law allows police, courts and child welfare authorities to seize control of pregnant women who are using or even admit to past use of alcohol or controlled substances,” said Sara Ainsworth, director of legal advocacy for NAPW. “This law authorizes a vast array of coercive, punitive actions against pregnant women who are not actually using any substances at all but have simply been honest with their doctors about past drug use.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Safe and Sober Holiday

We at Hope by the Sea would like to wish everyone a safe and sober holiday. It goes without saying that the holidays are difficult for those in recovery. During this time of year it is crucial that you remember where you came from and how important your sobriety is, stay close to your support network.

Before everything else, your sobriety must come first! Listed below are some reminders that you may find useful:

Support Network:

If you are working a program of recovery, then you know how important it is to stay connected to the people in your support network. Never hesitate to pick up the phone and call someone, even if things are OK. You never know, maybe your phone call will help someone. We cannot do this alone!


Right now there is a 12-step meeting taking place, and there will be one every hour until the day is over. The same goes for New Years Eve. If you need to talk to someone in person then get yourself to a meeting. Even if you have nothing to say, it is always helpful to hear what others are going through.

Give Thanks:

It is important to keep in mind those who have helped you throughout the year. Without others you would not have gotten to where you are today. Let them know how important they are to you and your sobriety, it may be the greatest gift you give this year. Be grateful for the blessings you have.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monitoring the Future Study Shows Promising Findings

The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study tracks trends in substance use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Every year, the study surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in about 400 secondary schools in the United States. The use of alcohol, cigarettes, and a number of illicit drugs has declined among U.S. teens, according to a University of Michigan news release.


The study found that the use of alcohol has been dropping over the years, hitting an all time low in 2014. What researchers call a statistically significant change, the combination of all three grades dropped from 43 percent to 41 percent in 2014. In 1997, researchers found that 22 percent of teens reported engaging in binge drinking, in 2014 only 12 percent of the three grades combined said they had binged in the last year.

"Since the recent peak rate of 61 percent in 1997, there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents," said Lloyd Johnston, the study's principal investigator. "The proportion of teens reporting any alcohol use in the prior year has fallen by about a third."


The use of cigarettes amongst adolescents hit an all time low in 2014, researchers found that only 8 percent of teens reported smoking. In 1997, the rate of teens smoking was found to be 28 percent.

"The importance of this major decline in smoking for the health and longevity of this generation of young people cannot be overstated," Johnston said.

  • The use of synthetic marijuana was down by nearly half.
  • The use of bath salts is down to 1 percent.
  • The use of Marijuana is down to 24 percent.
  • The use of Ecstasy (MDMA) is down to 2.2 percent.
  • The use of Salvia is down to 2 percent.
  • Prescription drug use is down to 14 percent.
  • Cough and cold medicine use is down to 3.2 percent.
  • The use of LSD and Psilocybin continues to drop, due to availability.
Unfortunately, the use of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, as well as other illicit drugs remains relatively unchanged.

"In sum, there is a lot of good news in this year's results, but the problems of teen substance use and abuse are still far from going away," Johnston said. "We see a cyclical pattern in the 40 years of observations made with this study. When things are much improved is when the country is most likely to take its eye off the ball, as happened in the early 1990s, and fail to deter the incoming generation of young people from using drugs, including new drugs that inevitably come along."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Measure Ends Medical Marijuana Prohibition

The medical marijuana movement in America, arguably, began when California citizens passed Proposition 215, making it legal to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Since that time, 32 other states and Washington D.C. passed similar legislation despite the drug's continued illegal classification and the federal government's stance that the drug holds no medical value. While the drug is, under state law, considered legal for medical purposes, federal agencies over the years have raided countless dispensaries and marijuana farms, essentially overruling state laws.

Today, with four states legalizing marijuana and more to follow in the coming years, the federal government is relaxing its stance on the drug. Over the weekend, a federal spending measure was passed that will end the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana in states where it is legal, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Within the 1,603-page spending bill, there is a provision which strictly prohibits federal drug agents from raiding retail marijuana operations, and President Obama plans to sign the bill this week, according to the article.

The provision had bipartisan backing, with six Republican and six Democratic co-signers, according to a press release from the office of co-author California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

“This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy, and MS,” Rohrabacher said.

With the fight for states' rights on medical marijuana coming to an end, efforts will begin to shift towards nationwide legalization of the drug.

"The war on medical marijuana is over," said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic. "Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana," he said. "This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. ... Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Senators Join Forces Against Prescription Drug Epidemic

The fight against prescription drug abuse in America continues, as leaders of the bipartisan Senate health committee aim their sights at the national “epidemic” of prescription drug overdoses, The Hill reports. This week, a number of senators drafted letters to government officials and health groups, promoting a stronger response against drug overdoses in America. 

The senators pointed out that prescription drug overdose death rates have more than tripled in the United States since 1990. 


 “With our shared goal of preventing and reducing prescription drug abuse in this country — a crisis that demands continued action, we expect that your activities in this area will continue, and we stand ready to assist you,” the senators wrote.

While there are steps that addicts and their families can take to reverse the effect of an overdose, many are uneducated about drugs like naloxone, a drug that can save lives. Naloxone is becoming more widely available and can even be obtained in some states without a prescription. In many cities, law enforcement has begun carrying the overdose antidote in their squad cars. If naloxone is administered fast enough, the effects of an overdose can be reversed.

The senators would like to see increased public education, as well as training of law enforcement officials. 


In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, the senators encouraged her agency to continue evaluating prescription drug monitoring programs, which they called “an important tool in preventing and detecting abuse.” Letters were also sent to state leaders from the National Governors Association and the National Association of City and County Health Officials, among other health advocacy groups.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

E-cigarettes Less Addictive than Regular Cigarettes

Over the last few years e-cigarettes have become quite prevalent, with stores selling the devices in practically every city across the country. While manufacturers have contended that the devices are safer than regular cigarettes, the truth is that not much is known about e-cigarettes. New research suggests that e-cigarettes may be less addictive than regular cigarettes for former smokers, a finding which could help researchers better understand how various nicotine delivery devices lead to dependence.

"We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes in a large sample of long-term users," said Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and psychiatry, Penn State College of Medicine.

Researchers at Penn State developed an online survey, with questions formulated to assess previous dependence on cigarettes and to assess current dependence on e-cigarettes. More than 3,500 participants who were current users of e-cigarettes and were ex-cigarette smokers completed the Penn State Cigarette Dependence Index and the Penn State Electronic Cigarette Dependence Index. Consumers who had used e-cigarettes longer appeared to be more addicted.

"However, people with all the characteristics of a more dependent e-cig user (e.g. longer use of an advanced e-cig with a high nicotine concentration in the liquid) in our study still had a lower e-cig dependence score than their cigarette dependence score," Foulds said. "We think this is because they're getting less nicotine from the e-cigs than they were getting from cigarettes."

While many e-cigarettes users are trying to quit smoking, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the devices as a smoking cessation product.

"This is a new class of products that's not yet regulated," Foulds said. "It has the potential to do good and help a lot of people quit, but it also has the potential to do harm. Continuing to smoke and use e-cigarettes may not reduce health risks. Kids who have never smoked might begin nicotine addiction with e-cigs. There's a need for a better understanding of these products."

There are more than 400 brands of e-cigarettes currently available, which work by users inhaling vapor containing nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavorings. While the long-term effects on health and nicotine dependence are unknown, the researchers found e-cigarettes contained far fewer cancer-causing and other toxic substances than regular cigarettes.

Based on materials from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Physicians Less Likely to Prescribe Narcotic Painkillers

Prescription narcotics are responsible for a large percentage of drug overdose deaths that occur every year in the United States. Despite a number of efforts to curb the problem, the rate of opioid dependence in this country is nothing short of a crisis.

After years of over-prescribing opioid painkillers, a new survey of primary care physicians nationwide showed that almost half say they are less likely to prescribe narcotic painkillers compared with a year ago. Nine out of 10 primary care doctors are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities, according to HealthDay.

“Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines,” study leader Dr. G. Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a news release. “The health care community has long been part of the problem, and now they appear to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic.” 

Dr. Alexander hopes that more doctors and patients consider alternatives to opioid painkillers, including other types of pain relievers, and non-drug treatments such as massage, physical therapy and acupuncture. 

The survey involving 580 family doctors, internists and general practitioners nationwide, showed that 85 percent believe narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, are overused, the article reports. About half of the doctors surveyed said they were "very concerned" about risks such as addiction, death and traffic crashes associated with narcotic painkiller overuse. A number of doctors reported they believe that adverse effects, like tolerance (62 percent) and physical dependence (56 percent) occur often, even when patients use the medications as directed.

It is worth pointing out that while doctors’ have a high level of concern about opioid painkillers, 88 percent reported confidence in their own ability to prescribe opioid drugs appropriately.

The researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nursing Home Addresses Elderly Addiction

In the United States, one of the fastest growing populations of addicts and alcoholics is the elderly. In 2009, the journal Addiction published a report which indicated that the number of Americans over 50 with substance abuse problems was expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, double the 2006 figure, according to the Associated Press.

The reasons behind elderly substance abuse are varied, from problems with pain leading to opioid addiction, to alcohol problems resulting from idle time and loneliness. The loss of a spouse or close friends, coupled with retirement, leaves people alone and without purpose; seniors often turn to the bottle to find comfort and solace.

Pain is an unavoidable side-effect of getting older as our bodies begin to deteriorate; it is no secret that America is guilty of over-prescribing prescription narcotics. It can be difficult for doctors to deny elderly patients painkillers, even if they are showing signs of dependence.

Addressing the needs of the elderly often falls upon assisted living programs, such as nursing homes and retirement communities; places often unequipped to deal with addiction and dependence, especially on a large scale. Unfortunately, seniors rarely reach out for help regarding addiction and even in medical settings the elderly are not often screened for substance abuse.

Which is why, a nursing home in the Bronx has set out to address the problem, the AP reports. After a stay in the hospital, all patients 60 and older who come in for rehab at the Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL) nursing home are screened for addiction and offered a chance at recovery.

The JHL expects to get 480 patients a year and has set aside eight beds for patients that need assistance with addiction problems. Associate Administrator Gregory Poole-Dayan believes it's the first nursing home to integrate addiction recovery into medical rehabilitation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Natural ‘High’ Could Avoid Chronic Marijuana Use

Marijuana is used more in America than any other drug. While the reasons for marijuana use are vast, many report using marijuana chronically as a means of treating depression and anxiety. New research conducted at Vanderbilt University suggests that replenishing the supply of a molecule that normally activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain could relieve mood and anxiety disorders, enabling some people to quit using marijuana, Science Daily reports.

Cannabinoid receptors are normally activated by compounds in the brain called endocannabinoids, the most abundant of which is 2-AG. They also are “turned on” by the active ingredient in marijuana.

Study leader, Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues genetically modified mice to have impaired ability to produce 2-AG in the brain. The researchers observed that the mice showed anxiety-like behaviors, and female mice also displayed behaviors resembling depression. Researchers then blocked the enzyme that normally breaks down 2-AG and restored the supply of the endocannabinoid to normal levels. After doing this the researchers observed that the symptoms of anxiety and depression were reversed.

While there is no 2-AG research that has been conducted on humans to date, the researchers concluded that if further findings confirm that some people who are anxious and depressed have low levels of 2-AG, "normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable ... therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders."

Paradoxically, the researchers point out that chronic use of marijuana down-regulates cannabinoid receptors, increasing anxiety and marijuana use. This is a "vicious cycle" that can lead to addiction. Many people use drugs to cope with moods disorders, they are often unaware that the drug that they use to treat the problem is actually making the problem worse. Without realizing it, people use more and more of the drug when they should actually be using less. The perceived cure is only amplifying the problem.

 The research was reported in the journal Cell Reports.

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