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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Celebrate Hope On New Year's Eve

On the eve of the New Year, Celebrate Hope would like to wish everyone in recovery a safe and sober holiday. Today is synonymous with excessive alcohol consumption, which can be difficult to avoid being around, especially if you are obligated to attend a New Year’s party. If you are planning on attending an event where alcohol will be present, it is important that you discuss it first with your sponsor and/or addiction therapist. It’s crucial that people working a program of recovery remain accountable on days like today.

While you may feel strong enough to be around heavy drinking at this point in your recovery, it is easy for dangerous thoughts to enter one’s mind that can lead to a decision that may compromise your program. Most people in recovery probably have some fond memories of New Year’s eves, having drinks with friends and family as midnight approaches. Such reminiscences can cause you to forget where alcohol brought you to, and you may begin to romance having a drink. Such occurrences have brought countless people in recovery to relapse on the final day of the year.

If you do not feel comfortable being around drinking, it should not be an excuse to just stay in for the night. It’s highly probable that you have heard of some recovery events taking place in your area tonight, especially if you attend meetings on a regular basis. Such events can be a lot of fun and help you create new rituals and traditions that do not involve drugs or alcohol. There is a good chance that your recovery peers will be attending as well.

It is never wise to isolate yourself - even if that is what you feel like doing. Being alone is a sure way for addictive thinking to creep into one’s mind, which could potentially result in a relapse. The mind can be a very dangerous place, a perfect environment for cravings to fester. Get out of the house, go to some meetings and have fun with your friends in recovery as you await the New Year.

Take a moment to reflect upon the strides you have made since first getting sober, every day that goes by that does not involve using drugs and alcohol is a remarkable accomplishment - definitely worthy of being proud.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Alcohol is Taking More Lives Than Opioids

In recent years, when it comes to talking about deaths related to substance use, it is usually with regard to opioid overdose deaths. The nation has been battling prescription opioid and heroin use for over a decade, and the wake of the epidemic has been followed by a dramatic rise in overdose deaths. While the statistics are concerning and worth the attention of lawmakers and health officials, it is important that we do not lose sight of the impact that other mind altering substances are having on people's lives, especially when it comes to alcohol.

New data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) shows that alcohol is taking the lives of American adults at an alarming rate, The Washington Post reports. Excluding the deaths that resulted from drunk driving, more than 30,700 Americans lost their life as a result of alcohol related causes last year, such as alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis. The rate of deaths is an increase of 37 percent since 2002. Since the late `90s, per-capita alcohol consumption has been steadily on the rise, according to Philip J. Cook, a professor at Duke University.

"Since the prevalence of heavy drinking tends to follow closely with per capita consumption, it is likely that one explanation for the growth in alcohol-related deaths is that more people are drinking more," Cook wrote in an email. 

The findings are almost hard to believe, considering that the majority of talk regarding substance use related death involves painkillers and/or heroin. However, more people died from their use of alcohol last year (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription opioids and heroin combined (28,647). The data is a clear sign that we need to focus more on alcohol use prevention policies than we have been in recent years.

Alcohol is used more than any other drug on the planet, and abuse affects countless lives. The substance is highly addictive, and is essentially a poison with adverse effects on the human body. If you are or a loved one is battling alcoholism, Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea can help you break the cycle of addiction and begin recovery.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Prescription Drugs and Risky Sexual Behavior

The excessive use of drugs and alcohol is often associated with poor decision making, using anything that has the power to cause insidious harm is risky - to say the least. What’s more, when people are under the influence of mind altering substances, they are more likely to engage in risky behavior across the board, such as driving while intoxicated, fighting, and promiscuous sexual behavior. Any of the three aforementioned behaviors can result in serious consequences, including: arrest, injury, disease transmission, and death. 

Unfortunately, many teenagers experiment with and/or abuse drugs and alcohol, and in the process make risky decisions which can impact the course of their life. It is no secret that the nation is currently in the grips of a prescription drug epidemic, and a number of teenagers have used and are using the highly addictive medications. New research, conducted by the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), shows that teenagers who use prescription narcotics are more likely to practice risky sexual behaviors, HealthDay reports. The findings appear in the journal Pediatrics.

 Teens who use prescription drugs recreationally are more likely to:
  • Be Sexually Active
  • Not Use Protection
  • Have More Partners
  • Use Drugs or Alcohol Before Sex
“About one out of every five high school students reported non-medical use of prescription drugs,” said study author Heather Clayton. “This behavior is very concerning, as overdoses and deaths related to non-medical use of prescription drugs is on the rise.” She added, “Non-medical use of prescription drugs and sexual risk behaviors are likely to be part of a constellation of risk-taking behaviors.” The prescription drugs most commonly used by teenagers include:
  • Painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet or codeine)
  • Sedatives (Xanax or Ativan)
  • Stimulants (Ritalin or Adderall)
Abusing those types of drugs during one’s teenage years can result in addiction right into adulthood. If you or someone you care about abuses prescription drugs please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. Our Christian track incorporates compassionate, faith-based addiction programs for clients battling substance abuse.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Exposure to Drugs and Alcohol Leads to Antisocial Behavior

The adolescent years are a time for new experiences, which can be dangerous for those who have a history of addiction in the family. Young people are impressionable, the things they see others do, by family members or peers, are often things they try as well. When teenagers see people drinking alcohol or using drugs, they are more likely to not associate harm with the activity even if they have been educated otherwise.

In high school, it practically goes without saying that teenagers will experiment with drugs and alcohol, which for the majority of people can be relatively harmless. However, for those with a predisposition for addiction, experimenting with mind altering substances can be a slippery slope - leading to harmful behaviors and potentially years of substance use and abuse.

New research has found that teens who saw people using drugs or alcohol were more likely to engage in antisocial behavior on that same day, MedicalXpress reports. The researchers at Duke University observed that teens “who have a 'risk-taking' gene (called DRD4-7R) associated with sensitivity to substance use exposure” are at the greatest risk.

Using smartphones to respond to survey questions three times daily for a month, 151 teens reported what they were experiencing, according to the article. The researchers compared the participants behavior on days they were around people using mind altering substances, to their behavior on days that they did not witness such activities.

The findings indicated that teens were more likely to engage in antisocial behavior on the days they saw others using drugs or alcohol, the article reports. For the 30 percent of teenagers involved in the study that carried the DRD4-7R gene, the risk was even higher. The findings are published in the journal Development and Psychopathology.

“Past research has shown that children who grow up in families, schools and neighborhoods where alcohol and drugs are frequently used are at risk for behavioral problems later in life, but our findings demonstrate that these effects are immediate,” researcher Candice Odgers of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy noted in a news release

If you or a loved one grew up with a heightened exposure to drugs and alcohol, and are active in addiction, please contact Celebrate Hope. We are a Christian drug and alcohol rehab that takes addicts beyond recovery into a daily renewing walk with Christ.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tobacco Taxes May Reduce Infant Death Rates

There is a lot to be said for raising the price of tobacco products through tax hikes. The more expensive a pack of cigarettes is, the more likely people will be to opt out of a purchase. It has long been known that tobacco is one of the leading causes of preventable illness, and that nicotine use can lead to addiction. The less people smoke, the healthier we are as a society.

It is widely accepted that pregnant women who use addictive substances risk putting their child at risk. Staying clear from drugs and alcohol while pregnant should be of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, many women choose to drink and/or smoke while pregnant despite the countless warnings. Efforts to reduce the use of such substances will result in healthier babies being born into the world.

In fact, new research has found that raising the price of cigarettes may actually reduce infant mortality rates across the nation, HealthDay reports. The researchers point out that each $1 per pack increase in the tobacco tax rate between 1999 and 2010 may have resulted in two fewer infant deaths each day. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Infant death rates and tobacco taxes from 1999-2010 were tracked by the researchers, according to the report. During that time period inflation-adjusted tobacco taxes on the state and federal levels were raised from 84 cents a pack to $2.37 per pack. Interestingly, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births fell from 7.3 to 6.2 overall, and from 14.3 to 11.3 among blacks. However, the researchers point out that the findings do not necessarily prove that higher taxes translate into fewer infant deaths.

"Smoking in pregnancy can lead to poor outcomes like premature birth, the number one cause of death for infants in the first year of life," said study author Dr. Stephen Patrick, an assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "As a neonatologist, I commonly see premature and low birth weight infants born to women who smoke, and we know that nearly one in five women smoke during pregnancy." 

For those who are in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, smoking may make you more susceptible to relapse. Yet another reason for staying away from the insidious products. If you go to treatment for a substance use disorder, it is advised that you make a concerted effort to curb your addiction to nicotine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Few Recovery Tips for Thanksgiving

If you are in recovery from addiction, the holiday season may not be a big deal. Thanksgiving or Christmas are just another day. If you are new to recovery, the holidays may be hard to navigate. You may be confronted by a number of feelings and emotions that, left unchecked, can lead one down a slippery slope and potentially result in relapse. Do not become discouraged, you can make it through the day without picking up a drink or drug, and you may find that you have a good time.

It is important that you stay in close contact with your sponsor and/or recovery network - the people you see day in and day out at your home group. Keep your cell phone charged, so that if problem does arise help is only a phone call away. It is always easier to make a phone call before a relapse than it is to make afterwards.

There will be meetings happening over the course of the day, make sure that you attend at least one - especially if you are having a hard time. It is a safe bet that others are struggling as well. One of the beautiful aspects of recovery is that we draw strength from each other, you never know who is going to share something that will help you with what you are dealing with. And conversely, what you say may help another with their issues.

Here are a few tips to help you get through thanksgiving:
  • If you attend a party, LEAVE EARLY! Don’t overexpose yourself to alcohol.
  • Make a gratitude list, be thankful for what you have in recovery.
  • Plan out your day, lest you find yourself in a risky situation.
  • Have realistic expectations, do not set yourself up to be let down.
  • Don’t attend holiday parties ALONE.
  • Meetings, Meetings, Meetings...
At Celebrate Drug Rehab, we wish you all a safe and sober Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

AMA Calls for Ban on Prescription Drug Ads

It would seem next to impossible to sit down for an hour to watch television without seeing an advertisement for a prescription drug. You know: Those ads that tell you about a new miracle drug that lists over ten serious side effects - many of which sound worse than the problem the drug is meant to treat? Many of the drugs advertised can also be habit forming.

This week, the American Medical Association (AMA) called for a ban on direct-to-consumer ads for prescription medications and implantable medical devices, CBS News reports. Advocates of the ban say that such ads contribute to increasing prescription costs, and increase patient demand for inappropriate treatments.

“Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” AMA Board Member Dr. Patrice Harris said in a news release. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.” 

Naturally, the pharmaceutical industry is against the ban. Trish Stow of the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says that direct-to-consumer ads are meant to give "scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options."

The price of prescription drugs jumped almost 5 percent this year, according to the article. The AMA reports that pharmaceutical companies spent $4.5 billion on direct-to-consumer advertisements (a 30 percent increase) in the last two years.

“Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patients’ health plan,” Harris said. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Handbook for Recovery After a Suicide Attempt

It is often said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Nevertheless, every day people attempt and succeed in taking their own lives. More times than not, the underlying causes for a person attempting suicide stem from a psychiatric problem, such as depression and addiction. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that 90% of people who die by suicide have a treatable psychiatric disorder.

Around one million people take their own lives every year, according to the World Health Organization. On average, nearly 3000 people commit suicide every day; for every person who commits suicide, 20 or more make an attempt at taking their own lives.

Drug and alcohol abuse, in conjunction with co-occurring disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression, is often too much to bear. Without help in the form of treatment and intensive counseling, it becomes easier for individuals to make decisions that cannot be reversed. What’s more, people who have made a suicide attempt are far more likely to try again.

In an effort to help those who have made a suicide attempt, SAMHSA and the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention are offering a free PDF entitled: A Journey Toward Health and Hope: Your Handbook for Recovery After a Suicide Attempt.

The handbook’s goal is to:
  • Raise awareness that suicide is preventable.
  • Improve education about suicide.
  • Spread information about suicide awareness.
  • Decrease stigmatization regarding suicide.
If you know someone who is suffering from substance abuse and/or a co-occurring disorder, share this post with them or their family. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

SAMHSA Announces Position Change

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, responsible for improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitative services. The agency is at the forefront of research that helps both private and public sectors in the field of addiction medicine make informed decisions.

This week, SAMHSA announced that Rear Admiral Peter Delany, the Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), has been asked to serve as a Special Advisor to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Delany will be analyzing data and policy issues in support of the President’s Initiative to Combat Opiate Use.

“I am grateful to Rear Admiral Delany for his many years of service to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) and am confident that he will make a great contribution in this exciting new role,” said Kana Enomoto, Acting Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Enomoto reports that Daryl Kade has been asked to serve in Delany’s stead as the CBHSQs new director. Over the last year, Kade has been in charge of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT).

“I appreciate Ms. Kade’s agility and demonstration of the true spirit of the Senior Executive Service by accepting this new assignment as we work toward the placement of a permanent CSAT Director,” Enomoto added. 

Most experts offer that 25% of the American population is impacted by the disease of addiction, and this number may be much understated. SAMHSA continues to fine tune their efforts in prevention, as well as offering resources and promoting recovery for all affected members of our society.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Underestimating The Level of Alcohol and Drug Use

There is a common trend among addicts and alcoholics that involves thinking that one’s peers use more than they do. Rationalizing levels of consumption by comparing one’s use to others can be dangerous and often times inaccurate, and can hold you back from seeking help. Researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust found that heavy substance users underestimate their levels of consumption compared to others, ScienceDaily reports.

The Global Drugs Survey (GDS), the world’s largest drug survey, showed that 68 percent of respondents were drinking at dangerous levels, but 83 percent believed they were consuming at low or average levels. The researchers found the same trend among drug users, according to the article.

"Given that drug use carries certain risks, whether this be to health, of getting caught or of damage to reputation, we shouldn't be surprised that some people downplay their levels of use as a way of managing their anxieties about what they're doing," said Dr Michael Shiner, an associate professor in LSE's Department of Social Policy and expert advisor to the Global Drugs Survey. 

The GDS showed that a significant portion of respondents wanted to curb their level of use. The researchers found that thirty-six percent wanted to drink less alcohol and 25 percent wanted to cut back their use of drugs.

"Whether drugs are classified as illegal or not, there is group of people who will continue to use them, so we need ways, other than the law, of changing behaviour,” said Dr Adam Winstock, a Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital, and creator of the Global Drugs Survey. “With this in mind we've created an app where people can confidentially input their use and it will give them a true picture of how their use compares to others. We hope that for some people this might provide the jolt they need to address their excessive alcohol or drug use. " 

The findings were published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Army Will Address Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Substance abuse is a large problem among members of United States armed forces. Many active service members and veterans use drugs and alcohol to self medicate, for both mental and physical injuries. USA Today recently uncovered that soldiers suffering from addiction received poor treatment which led to a rise in suicides. In response to the investigation, the Army announced that it is placing medical officials in charge of substance abuse treatment for soldiers, USA Today reports.

"They're finally going to bring some reasonable and responsible action to help soldiers," said Dr. Patrick Lillard, a psychiatrist and former clinical director of the Army's largest in-patient substance abuse program at Fort Gordon, Ga.

"It means that the direction of the substance abuse treatment program will be back in the province of medical people rather than command, so that decisions will be made by medical people" said Lillard, a vocal critic of the earlier change in management. "The people in command do not understand the nature of the (substance abuse) disease and the complications that occur." 

The investigation found that half of all army substance use disorder treatment clinics did not meet professional standards, according to the article. Many of the clinics hired unqualified directors and counselors.

Wanda Kuehr, a psychologist and former director of clinical services for the Army substance-abuse program, cautioned that "safeguards must ensure that (treatment) clinicians continue to be licensed, trained and certified in substance abuse rehabilitation. If not, soldiers' treatment is not likely to be optimal. In fact, it may well put the soldiers at risk."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hypodermic Needles, for Kids?

With Halloween around the corner, many people have already started working on their costumes and decorating their homes with frightening objects. The holiday is a time for young people to stock up on candy, and for adults to feel like a kid again. Every year, costumes and accessories are made available that some might deem controversial, such as salacious outfits.

This year, for people in the addiction recovery industry, the controversy is tied to something closer to home. Both addiction experts and parents alike are up in arms about pens being sold as Halloween novelty items, the Associated Press reports. The pens resemble hypodermic needles and are labeled as appropriate for ages 4 and up - they include a plunger and dose measuring lines.

“I think it’s an incredibly bad idea,” said Celeste Clark, Director of the Raymond Coalition for Youth, an organization in New Hampshire that works to reduce substance abuse. “Given today’s epidemic that our state is in, it just seems like a no-brainer that something like that shouldn’t be on the shelves.”

“It’s exposing kids to hypodermic needles when we really should be raising awareness to their danger, especially now when they’re finding them in parks, on walking trails, on biking trails,” Clark said. 

The country is in the grips of prescription opioid and heroin epidemic that has led to thousands of overdoses and the spread of infectious disease. Keeping that in mind, it would seem that companies would have the wherewithal to refrain from selling products that send the wrong message to children.

“I think that it is the most societally outrageous marketing scheme that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Jack Wozmak, New Hampshire’s Senior Director for Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health. “I’m not sure that people will understand that it’s a toy at age 4 and up or whatever the age range is, and I’m not sure they’ll know that the hypodermic needle they find on the playground is not a toy.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

Needle Exchange Programs Reduce Needle Sharing

The State of Indiana has been in the midst of an HIV outbreak, directly linked to the intravenous use of the prescription opioid Opana ®. Historically, the state offered little access to clean syringes which resulted in needle sharing. Responding to the crisis, Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency and helped pass a new law allowing needle exchanges in community affected by an epidemic of HIV or hepatitis C.

While many lawmakers across the country are skeptical about needle exchange programs, most health experts argue that these programs reduce disease transmission and provide unique opportunities to talk about addiction treatment with addicts. In fact, a new study has found that needle-sharing was reduced dramatically in Indiana after needle exchange programs came to be, USA Today reports. The research was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers used data from 100 needle exchange program clients between the program’s launch in April through June 6, 2015. The clients visited the program more than twice, with at least seven days between visits, according to the article. The data indicated that needle sharing dropped by 85%.

On top of clean needles, Indiana’s program provides:
As part of a comprehensive strategy needle exchanges work, says Jerome Adams, Indiana’s state health commissioner.

“Emergency (syringe exchange programs) can rapidly reduce risk behaviors capable of transmitting HIV in an outbreak setting," the researchers concluded.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Officials Attend Prescription Opioid/Heroin Summit

The Midwest has been especially affected by the prescription opioid and heroin crisis that has been raging across the United States. Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have stepped up to address the insidious issue.

This week, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of Michigan met with attorneys general and law enforcement officials from six neighboring states to discuss heroin and prescription painkiller trafficking, The Detroit News reports. The state of Michigan has become a major trafficking route feeding the Midwestern states.

“We know in Michigan that we’ve seen a huge spike in prescription pill abuse and then we’ve also seen a serious resurgence in heroin as addicts turn to that as a cheaper alternative for their opioid addiction,” McQuade said. “So, that has resulted in some various significant problems in Michigan and we seem to exporting our problems to other states.” 

The summit was part of an initiative by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, according to the article. McQuade met with authorities from Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. She pointed out that organized groups in Michigan and Ohio are selling their drugs as far as West Virginia.

“The epidemic of overdose deaths from heroin and prescription pill abuse is startling and needs to be met with an intense response by law enforcement,” she said. “This summit is intended to strengthen and better coordinate our efforts to disrupt heroin and pill trafficking across the region. We also seek to raise public awareness about addiction, treatment and prevention.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use

America's opioid crisis has resulted in an exponential increase in those who require substance use disorder treatment. This means the need for effective, evidence based treatment modalities has never been greater. In recent years, with recommendations from a number of health agencies, many treatment programs have adopted medication assisted treatment (MAT) approaches when treating opioid addiction. The use of medications, along with in psychosocial therapies, has shown the most promise.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) officially released its National Practice Guidelines for the Use of Medications in the Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use and related products, ScienceDaily reports. The new guidelines should aid treatment programs in providing more effective therapies.

"Suboptimal treatment has likely contributed to expansion of the epidemic as well as concerns for unethical practices," writes Drs. Kyle Kampman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Margaret Jarvis of Marworth Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment Center.

"At the same time, access to competent treatment is profoundly restricted because few physicians are willing and able to provide it." The skill and time needed for effective use of medications for opioid use disorders "are not generally available to primary care doctors."

The guidelines include:
  • Alter Prescribing Patterns for Pain Medication
  • Expand Access to Naloxone
  • Expand and Standardizing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
"This Practice Guideline was developed to assist in the evaluation and treatment of opioid use, and in the hope that, using this tool, more physicians will be able to provide effective treatment," writes Kampman and Jarvis.

The new evidence-based recommendations are published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Officials Take Down A Major Synthetic Drug Ring

The eastern coast of the United States has become the front line in the fight against synthetic drugs, primarily South Florida and New York. The bulk of synthetic drugs is being manufactured in China, and then shipped to the U.S. to be distributed. Both lawmakers and law enforcement are attempting to stem the flow of these insidious drugs which have been known to lead to unpredictable side effects.

On Wednesday, law officials delivered a huge blow to a major synthetic drug ring in New York, TIME reports. It is alleged that the ring unlawfully imported 100 kilograms of synthetic compounds used to make synthetic marijuana. There was enough material to produce about 260,000 drug packets which would retail for about $30 million.

Altogether, five synthetic drug processing facilities and warehouses were raided, along with more than 80 stores and bodegas around New York City, according to the article. Using commercial delivery routes, the compounds synthesized in China were shipped to a processing facility in the Bronx. The chemicals, along with other solvents, are sprayed onto tea leaves.

“Despite sometimes being called synthetic marijuana, this is not marijuana – it can have unpredictably severe and even lethal effects,” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “What is more, use of these drugs aggravates all manner of other societal ills: it is entering prisons; preying on the homeless; burdening our hospitals and emergency rooms; fueling addiction; exacerbating mental health problems; and increasing risks to cops who must deal with people high on this poison. Synthetic cannabinoids are a deadly serious problem that demands an equally serious response.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fentanyl Makes Heroin Deadlier

If you have ever undergone surgery, then there is a good chance that you were given a powerful opioid analgesic called fentanyl. The drug is highly effective at combating severe pain, and is reported to be 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is primarily used in hospital settings, but it is also available in transdermal patches for home use. Naturally, the drugs potency makes it an ideal drug for opioid addicts, but it comes with a heightened risk of overdose.

As opioid overdose rates continue to climb all over the country, the result of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse, it is hard to imagine that heroin dealers have been lacing heroin with fentanyl. The mixing of the two drugs is amplifying the overdose crisis, NPR reports.

Dealers are lacing heroin with fentanyl because diluted batches of heroin often lack the potency that users require. Fentanyl exponentially increases the potency of heroin. If an IV heroin user is unaware that fentanyl is present, they are at an increased risk of overdose and potential death.

Between late 2013 through 2014, federal officials report that there were at least 700 fentanyl-related deaths, according to the article. It is likely that the death toll will continue to rise because a form of fentanyl, known as acetyl fentanyl, can be synthesized relatively easily by Mexican cartels. Federal agents report that the cartels have increased production and are smuggling the powerful drug across the border along with heroin.

“Heroin is bad enough, but when you lace it with fentanyl, it’s like dropping a nuclear bomb on the situation,” Mary Lou Leary, a deputy director in the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, told NPR. “It’s so, so much more dangerous.”

Friday, September 4, 2015

Judge Halts Lawsuit Against Big Pharma

For over a decade pharmaceutical companies have profited from people’s addiction to opioids. While it is a little bit harder today, it is still quite easy to get written a prescription for a highly addictive opioid for a minor ailment. The nation has seen firsthand the damage caused by opioid misuse and addiction, leading to thousands of overdoses and a rise in heroin use. The number of people requiring substance use disorder treatment for opioids has skyrocketed in recent years, a cost which mostly falls on state budgets. Some are of the opinion that “big pharma” should cover the cost of the damage their drugs have cost.

Last year, two California counties filed a lawsuit against five (5) major pharmaceutical companies, calling on them to pay for the damages resulting from the prescription opioid epidemic. Sadly, both Orange and Santa Clara counties received a blow last week, when a judge halted the lawsuit, The Los Angeles Times reports. The halt was due to a pending FDA inquiry into the safety and efficacy of painkillers.

"The FDA is not going to help us with this," said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas. "This is a plague on our society. The suffering goes on day in and day out." 

The pharmaceutical companies in question asked Court Judge Robert J. Moss to dismiss the suit based on the grounds that the FDA had exclusive jurisdiction over the matter, according to the article. Purdue Pharma lawyer Lisa Gilford pointed out that if the case continued forward it would only serve to duplicate FDA efforts, and a decision could be rendered that was at odds with the FDA. Purdue stated:

"We are pleased Judge Moss agreed that complex scientific issues regarding the treatment of chronic pain are best decided by the FDA, the agency with relevant expertise."

Friday, August 28, 2015

An Open Dialogue About Blackout Drinking

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to serious problems, both mentally and physically. Young adults, notably college aged, commonly consume vast quantities of booze in a short amount of time between Thursday and Saturday, what is known as binge drinking. The practice of binge drinking is associated with bad decision making, such as drunk driving. Making sound decisions is difficult when binge drinking, because at a certain point the lights are on but nobody’s home - commonly referred to as a “blackout.”

After 25 years of drinking to the point of blackout, a personal essays editor at Salon decided to write a memoir of her time as a blackout drinker, CNN reports. Sarah Hepola’s new memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, is candid look at what a life with memory gaps is like. She hopes the book will open the dialogue about blackouts and bring to light some of the consequences that can result from blackout drinking. Sarah Hepola has five years of sobriety.

Aaron White, PhD, senior adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) points out that it can be difficult to know if someone is in a blackout, according to the article. "They're very common, frighteningly so."

"So you could be talking to somebody and having a conversation with them about something that happened the day before or a month ago or a year ago and everything seems fine," White said, "but while you're having that conversation, the information about that conversation is falling into a void.

"Unless you give somebody a memory test, you're probably not going to know."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Can The Dark Web Be Stopped?

What is happening in the “Dark Web” and can it be stopped? The easy answer is no, at least not in the way that the government is going about it. For those who are unaware of the Dark Web, it is an all-encompassing term for the various websites that allow people to buy illicit products anonymously. The most notable of such sites being The Silk Road, whose founder, Ross Ulbricht, received a life sentence earlier this year after a being arrested in 2013. Since the original bust, copycat sites have sprung up like weeds, and new research indicates that business is better than ever, Wired reports.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that between $100-200 million in illegal drugs are being sold each year via the Dark Web. The researchers used automated software to “scrape” the visible contents of 35 Dark Web markets. The findings indicate that government take-downs have little impact on the market and may only serve to minimize the competition, according to the article.

“What we’ve seen is that, as a whole, the ecosystem is resilient to these adverse events,” says Nicolas Cristin, study author and long time Dark Web watcher. “That shows it’s going to be a lot harder to get rid of these marketplaces than one would have thought.”

“The market is relatively stable, with sales between 300,000 and 500,000 dollars a day,” says Christin. 

What’s more, the volume of sales may actually be higher that what was reported. A recent government crackdown known as Operation Onymous, took down several sites and essentially eliminated the competition, the article reports. The two major Dark Web sites still standing, Evolution and Agora, saw an exponential increase in sales. The researchers software could no longer reliably scrape the full content, forcing the researchers to conclude the study prematurely. The researchers urge policymakers to rethink their Dark Web approach.

“It is not clear that takedowns will be effective; at least we have found no evidence they were,” they write. 

The report, “Measuring the Longitudinal Evolution of the Online Anonymous Marketplace Ecosystem,” can be read in full here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Marijuana Meets The 21st Century

As the legal marijuana industry continues to flourish in the United States, those involved are bringing the gray world of marijuana into the 21st Century. Marijuana businesses in states that have adopted both medical and recreational use programs have begun incorporating technology into the industry, CBS News reports. Enhancements in marijuana testing available to distributors and the introduction of smartphone delivery apps may be the beginning of what the future of marijuana looks like.

It would seem that the development of standards, much like the alcohol industry, would legitimize the field - essentially bringing marijuana out of the dark. Delivery apps will allow consumers to rate their experience with a particular medical marijuana dispensary, according to the article. Arguably, advancements in marijuana testing would give users the feeling of consistency and shine a light on what they are actually consuming.

“As things have come above board and more financing has become available and companies become less threatened that they would be put out of business, they have been more willing to invest in technology that is making cannabis products safer and more effective,” said Donald P. Land, a University of California, Davis, professor who is the chief scientific consultant for the cannabis testing firm Steep Hill.

“The main result of introducing testing to cannabis has been a legitimization of cannabis as a medicine,” Land said. “Prior to that time, nobody knew what they were purchasing or using. Since that time, it’s widely recognized that there are many different types of cannabis that lead to very different medicinal effects. The differences can only be discovered by doing chemical or genetic testing.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia - an industry that serves millions of “patients.” If the industry is going to survive, rules and regulations on what is safe is of the utmost importance.

You Can Watch a Short Video Below:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

It is important to remember the dangers that can accompany marijuana use with regard to addiction and driving under the influence. Minimizing the exposure of marijuana to minors is crucial; research suggests that the drug can impact developing brains.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Using Drones to Get Drugs Into Prison

It’s a sad fact that the majority of people serving time in federal and state correctional facilities are there for drug and alcohol related offenses. While many of those incarcerated find their way to recovery through NA and AA, the majority of people actively use while behind bars - creating a huge demand for drugs. In the past, most contraband narcotics found their way into correctional institution by way of the guards looking to make extra money. It turns out, today, that some drugs are being flown over jailhouse walls and are airdropped via drones, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

With $400 and an Amazon account, a drone can be purchased that is essentially a quad-copter - capable of carrying a payload. Over a million of such drones are expected to sell this year alone, according to the article. The cheap drones can be used to airdrop drugs, cell phones and weapons.

Last week, officials at Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio reported that a brawl between inmates on Wednesday was the result of a prison yard airdrop of more than 7 ounces of heroin, marijuana, and tobacco. Airdrops like the aforementioned, while brazen, are not isolated and officials are working to combat the growing problem.

In February, a bill was introduced by Washington State Senator Pam Roach (R) that would add an extra year of time to serve for prisoners found to be involved with drone airdrops, the article reports. South Carolina officials had towers built so that correctional officers can look out for incoming drones.

Naturally, limiting the amount of drugs that find their way into prison is important. Perhaps an even greater concern is weapons being flown into prison.

"You talk to prison officials, and it's easy to dismiss one or two weapons, but it's less easy to dismiss dozens of weapons," told Brian Hearing, the co-inventor of Drone Shield, to CBS News. "It can quickly turn from a hostage situation into a full-blown riot with multiple weapons.” 

Drone Shield is a drone detection device that alerts correctional facilities of incoming drones.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Medical Task Force to Combat Prescription Opioid Epidemic

The fight against prescription drug abuse in America continues, and the frontline is in the doctor's office. 27 major medical organizations, led by the American Medical Association (AMA), have created a task force and launched a new website with the hope of reducing prescription opioid abuse, HealthDay reports. The task force aims to “improve doctors' education on safe, effective and evidence-based prescribing.”

"We have joined together as part of this special Task Force because we collectively believe that it is our responsibility to work together to provide a clear road map that will help bring an end to this public health epidemic," AMA Board Chair-Elect Dr. Patrice Harris said in an AMA news release

The task force would like doctors to register for and use prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which are available in 49 states, according to the article. PDMPs can help physicians determine if a patient is seeing multiple doctors for prescription opioids. The AMA points out that 44 people lose their lives every day to prescription opioid overdoses.

The AMA led task force is calling for a national campaign to educate doctors about how they can help address the national prescription opioid crisis. The task force will not disrupt the care that people who are suffering from chronic pain deserve, the initiative’s focus is abuse, the article reports.

“America’s patients who live with acute and chronic pain deserve compassionate, high-quality and personalized care, and we will do everything we can to create a health care response that ensures they live longer, fuller and productive lives,” said Harris. 

Some of the other medical organizations joining the fight include the:
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Pain Medicine
  • American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Dental Association

Thursday, July 23, 2015

44 Percent of Adults Have Used Marijuana

In 1969, less than two years after the infamous “Summer of Love,” Gallup began asking Americans the question: "Have you ever tried marijuana?" At the time, only 4 percent of Americans answered yes to the question. Those answering yes to having used the drug in the most recent Gallup poll was 44 percent of adults, a six percent increase from the previous year's poll. More men (47 percent) than women (35 percent) reported having ever tried marijuana.

It probably comes as little surprise that the country's collective view of the drug is changing, a drug which has been prohibited in one form or another for almost a century. With medical marijuana programs in 23 states (as well as D.C.) and recreational legalization laws in four states, many expect that more states will adopt more relaxed laws the next time the country heads for the polls.

Gallup also asked Americans adults if they are currently smoking marijuana. Just over one in 10 Americans (11%) reported smoking, up from 7% in 2013. Among men, 13 percent said they currently smoke marijuana, compared to 6 percent of women.

The Gallup poll findings originate from telephone interviews conducted July 8-12, 2015, with a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found teenage marijuana use on the rise. While it has not been proven that relaxed marijuana laws account for the rise, lawmakers and public health officials should be cognizant of the trend, and work to mitigate teenage exposure to the drug.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

In many households across the United States prescription drugs collect dust in drawers and medicine cabinets. It is quite common for people to be prescribed narcotic medications and then not take all the pills. Such drugs are often forgotten about and can end up in the wrong hands.

As the nation continues to wage war on prescription drug abuse, a problem that has been labeled an epidemic, the need to safely dispose of unwanted medication is of the utmost importance. For a number of years now, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has hosted several national prescription drug take-back days. These programs have collected millions of unwanted pills that could have ended up being abused.

The DEA recently announced the next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which will be held on September 26th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The collection sites will be announced on September 1, 2015. The programs have proven to be effective measures against accidental ingestion and abuse.

The problem is so big that counties across the country have passed bills that would require pharmaceutical companies to cover the cost of take-back programs. Almost a year ago, the DEA announced that people with unused narcotics could return the drugs to pharmacies for safe disposal.

Every prescription opioid that is safely disposed of is one less pill that can be potentially abused. If you have unwanted medications please do not hesitate to dispose of them safely, visit the DEA’s website to find out where to take your leftover medications. Every adult can make a difference as the nation attempts to recover from years of prescription drug abuse.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Changing Americas' View On Naloxone

Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Across the nation stories about the miracle drug naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan ®, saving the lives of people who have overdosed on opioid narcotics are quite common. The drug has the power to reverse the effects of an overdose, if it is administered in a timely manner and other narcotics are not involved. While it may seem like Americans, addicts or not, would support increased access to naloxone with the exponential increase of overdoses, the reality is quite different - most do not support policies designed to expand the drugs reach.

New research suggests that using educational messages about the lifesaving benefits of naloxone may change people’s views and increase support for the drug, ScienceDaily reports. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health believe that a combination of educational messages with sympathetic narratives about people who may be alive today, if the drug were more available, may change people’s minds about the drug.

All the research available today suggests that America is in the grips of a prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. The majority of those afflicted are not addicts living on the street, opioid addiction has touched every demographic and it is well known that addiction does not care about socio-economic standing.

“Naloxone is an extraordinarily effective treatment and has been proven to save lives," says the study's leader Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. "Despite this, stigma toward people with drug addiction has kept naloxone from becoming an accepted and widely used tool to combat overdose deaths. We are stuck in a pattern of believing that drug addiction is a moral failing rather than a chronic health condition that can be managed with treatment and so we aren't taking important steps to save lives."

The report was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Staying Safe and Sober On the 4th of July

The 4th of July is upon us once again, a time of cook outs, fireworks, and excessive alcohol consumption. For those in recovery, navigating the waters of recovery during the holidays can prove challenging. Active members of recovery need to exercise extra caution over the weekend in order to avoid dangerous situations that can easily interfere with one’s program. It is of the utmost importance to have a plan.

Keeping to a routine can help. Staying in touch with your homegroups and calling your sponsor as usual are important during the holidays. Some people may opt for Alcathons and Narcathons, attending multiple meetings in one day. It is crucial to stay in contact with one’s support network; if a situation arises, then help is only a phone call away. Never be afraid to pick up the phone, community is the lifeblood of recovery.

If for some reason you cannot get a hold of someone in your support network, call the 24 hour 800 recovery hotlines in your area. Someone will answer to advise you; if help is needed they can contact someone to assist you. It is always easier to pick up the phone before a relapse, then after a relapse. 

Local Alano clubs usually have festive events on holidays, information about available activities can be found online. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to have fun in recovery - free from mind altering substances. The more active one is, the easier it is to make it through a holiday safe and sober.

We hope that you have a safe, sober and clean 4th of July.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Overdose Deaths Plague West Virginia

A new report, conducted by the nonprofit groups Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. From 2011 through 2013 there were 34 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 in West Virginia - far surpassing New Mexico, which has the second highest rate. The rate of drug overdose deaths in West Virginia is more than double the national average.

In recent years, the Appalachian region has struggled with the opioid drug epidemic. The heightened use has led to a dramatic increase in infectious disease transmission, such as Hepatitis C. Currently, West Virginia has zero operating needle exchange programs, but plans to open some in the future.

"It's more than disappointing. It's devastating," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in Charleston. "Can I say that I'm shocked? I'm not, because I know the depth of this problem."

The reasons for the crisis in West Virginia are problems that are symptomatic for the region. The state’s health officer, Dr. Rahul Gupta, stated that while the causes are varied, they are intertwined, according to the article. Gupta cites:
  • Poor Education
  • Isolated Communities
  • Limited Treatment Options
  • Available Services are Hard to Reach
"Whether it's drug use, whether it's mental health, it's physical health, a number of those things are going hand-in-hand," Gupta said.

What’s happening in West Virginia is not an isolated event; the surrounding states have been hit hard as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there has been a 364 percent increase in Hepatitis C infections in:
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
There is a clear and present need for increased access to clean needles, as well as more treatment options. Without help, more and more people will continue to suffer throughout the region.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Flavoring Additive May Boost The Addictive Power of Nicotine

The growing popularity of e-cigarette products has a number of people concerned that while such products may appear healthier, they may be just as bad as traditional cigarettes. There has been little research conducted on the efficacy of e-cigarettes with regard to smoking cessation. What’s more, the flavoring used may actually reinforce the addictive qualities of nicotine.

New research suggest that a flavoring additive known as pyrazine may boost the addictive properties of nicotine, BMJ reports. Pyrazines were originally developed by tobacco companies to enhance the flavor of the new low tar cigarettes (i.e. lights).

While pyrazines were intended to make light cigarettes taste as good as their full bodied counterparts, research indicates that the chemicals act on sensory receptors. Researchers do not believe that nicotine alone is responsible for the intense addictive properties of tobacco smoking and the high relapse rate - pyrazines may be the answer.

"The sensory inputs of pyrazine flavour additives might also provide cues for reward-related learned behaviours and could play a critical role in the development, maintenance, and relapse of tobacco dependence," write the researchers. "They could increase the attractiveness of smoking, particularly among youth."

Now that big tobacco companies have moved into the electronic cigarette business, pyrazines will surely be a part of the flavor that vapers are tasting. It will be interesting to compare Phillip Morris e-cigarette flavor to independent e-juice companies, research may indicate that one is more addictive than the other.

The findings were published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cocaine is No Longer the King of Florida

When most people think of Florida, sunshine and white sand beaches often come to mind; but when it comes to drug use, the first thought is usually cocaine. Historically, the state of Florida was the most logical place for cocaine trafficking boats to unload their cargo coming from the ports of South America. Many who are old enough to remember the 80’s are familiar with the cocaine epidemic that swept through the state; addiction rates soared and so did the murder rate. It seemed that cocaine would always be king in Florida.

Today, people who are looking to get high in Florida are less interested in cocaine - their sights are focused on synthetic drugs. In recent months Florida officials have been battling a synthetic drug craze sweeping through South Florida. All the latest cases involving the drug alpha-PVP, better known as “flakka” or “gravel,” a cheap and powerful drug being shipped in the mail from China, Reuters reports.

Flakka is quite similar to its cousin compound MDPV, commonly referred to as bath salts. Both alpha-PVP and MDPV cause unpredictable side effects, and the use of these types of synthetic drugs have resulted in fatalities in a number of states. Until last year no one had even heard of flakka, but by early May of this year Florida officials had recorded more than 275 incidents, according to the article. A few other major cities across the country have had limited incidents of flakka use, but nothing compared to what's happening in South Florida.

“Cocaine was king, until this year,” said Detective William Schwartz, a narcotics officer with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Broward County alone recorded 190 incidents involving the alpha-PVP last year. Flakka can be purchased for $5 a vial and is reported to be highly addictive.

Symptoms of flakka use can include:
  • Bizarre Behavior
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions of Superhuman Strength

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sober Support At Summer Music Festivals

Summer is upon us, and with it comes a flurry of music festivals. All across the country young adults gather in masses to attend festivals, such as Bonnaroo and Burning Man. While these types of events are supposed to be about music and community, they are widely known as hotbeds of illicit drug use. Without fail, every year people’s lives are cut short from drug overdoses and deaths related to health complications linked to drug use.

The widespread drug use may deter a number of people in recovery from attending these types of events - sound judgement if you are in early recovery. However, there are thousands of people in recovery who travel to music festivals and manage to maintain their sobriety. At more than a dozen music festivals this summer, volunteer sober groups will be present, flying yellow balloons (the symbol of sober groups) to alert those in recovery that a safe place is near, The New York Times reports.

This summer onsite sobriety support systems can be found at several of the most popular events, including:
  • Lollapalooza in Chicago
  • Outside Lands in San Francisco
  • Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas
  • Nocturnal Wonderland in San Bernardino, California
“You can see the growth,” said Patrick Whelan, who organizes volunteers for the events using Facebook. “We couldn’t have imagined it 10 years ago. We’ve gone from one or two festivals to 10 or 12 — and social media has driven that.”

It is nearly impossible to stop the flow of drugs into summer music festivals, but it is possible to stay sober and have fun at the same time. Event promoters provide sober groups space, equipment and marketing. If you are planning to attend such an event this summer and you are in recovery, keep your eyes posted for the yellow balloons.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Federal Employees Prohibited from Using Marijuana

While marijuana continues to grow in popularity around the country with regard to both medical and recreational use, there are some who cannot partake even if they live in one of those states. People working for the federal government living in D.C., the 23 medically approved states, or the four states where the drug has been legalized, are prohibited from using marijuana, The Washington Post reports. In the United States, there are roughly 4.1 million federal employees and military personnel.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a new memo with regard to the use of marijuana for federal employees. The rules for federal employees remain the same, marijuana is still illegal federally and possessing or using it is a crime.

“Federal law on marijuana remains unchanged. Marijuana is categorized as a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta wrote in a memo posted on the agency Web site. “Thus knowing or intentional marijuana possession is illegal, even if an individual has no intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana.”

“Heads of agencies are expected to advise their workforce that legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do not alter federal law, existing suitability criteria or Executive Branch policies regarding marijuana.”

Archuleta points out that states altering their laws with regard to marijuana: “have raised questions about whether Federal employees in these jurisdictions may use marijuana as provided for in state law.”

Rules regarding the use of any drug by federal employees goes back to Ronald Reagan's 1986 Executive Order; you can read an excerpt below:

“Executive Order 12564, Drug-Free Federal Workplace, mandates that (a) Federal employees are required to refrain from the use of illegal drugs; (b) the use of illegal drugs by Federal employees, whether on or off duty, is contrary to the efficiency of the service; and (c) persons who use illegal drugs are not suitable for Federal employment. The Executive Order emphasizes, however, that discipline is not required for employees who voluntarily seek counseling or rehabilitation and thereafter refrain from using illegal drugs.”

Federal employees who test positive for marijuana can face termination, according to the article. Archuleta notes that the federal government offers prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs for employees.

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Fingerprint Test for Cocaine

A thumbprint may be all it takes to determine if someone has used cocaine. The test, which uses mass spectrometry, can distinguish whether cocaine was ingested, rather than just touched, Science Daily reports. The test is non-invasive and cannot be faked.

The novel test for determining cocaine use came from a team of researchers at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NL), the National Physical Laboratory (UK), King's College London (UK) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK). Former tests were unable to determine whether or not an individual had taken the drug, or merely touched it, according to the article.

"When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolise the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue," said lead author Dr Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey.

"For our part of the investigations, we sprayed a beam of solvent onto the fingerprint slide (a technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionisation, or DESI) to determine if these substances were present. DESI has been used for a number of forensic applications, but no other studies have shown it to demonstrate drug use."

Methods of testing for drug use that do not involve bodily fluid could have a huge impact. Many argue that urine tests invade people's privacy, and blood examinations put the lab technicians at risk. Finger testing would be the best for both parties.

"The beauty of this method is that, not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than testing blood or saliva, it can't be faked," added Dr Bailey. "By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself."

The findings were published in the journal Analyst.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Obama Appoints New DEA Director

Last month, the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele M. Leonhart, announced her retirement from the agency. Her retirement comes in the wake of an agency scandal and differences in opinion with President Obama regarding drug policy. She was criticized for her handling of the DEA agents in Colombia who participated in sex parties with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels, and she openly criticized Obama regarding his beliefs about marijuana.

In response, Obama has chosen Chuck Rosenberg, a senior F.B.I. official and former United States attorney, as the interim director of the DEA, The New York Times reports.

“Throughout his distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Chuck has earned the trust and the praise of his colleagues at every level,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a news release. “He has proven himself as an exceptional leader, a skilled problem-solver, and a consummate public servant of unshakeable integrity. And he has demonstrated, time and again, his deep and unwavering commitment not only to the women and men who secure our nation, but to the fundamental values that animate their service. As Acting Administrator of the DEA, Chuck will play a vital role in the work of this Administration and this Department of Justice to pursue American priorities, protect American interests, and safeguard our way of life. I can think of no better individual to lead this storied agency, and I have no doubt that his tenure will be defined by the same commitment to honor and excellence that has guided him throughout his distinguished career. I congratulate him once again on this well-deserved appointment, and look forward to all that he will achieve in the days ahead.”

Rosenberg's resume is notable, and includes serving as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Texas. He served as chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey for the last year and a half.

“Chuck Rosenberg is one of the finest people and public servants I have ever known,” said Director Comey in the news release. “His judgment, intelligence, humility, and passion for the mission will be sorely missed at FBI. I congratulate our friends at the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is good for the entire Department of Justice and the country.”

In the past, Mr. Rosenberg has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats, according to the article.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Teenagers Use E-Cigarettes to Perform Tricks

Mounting concerns about teenage e-cigarette use has prompted lawmakers and health experts to call for regulation of the popular devices. While research is limited, new findings suggest that the main reasons teenagers use e-cigarettes is for the fruity flavoring and the fact that users can perform tricks with the vapor, Reuters reports.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine asked 5,400 Connecticut teens to explain what they found “cool about e-cigarettes.”

“We expected the flavors were attractive,” said researcher Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin. “But smoke tricks were a surprise to us.”

Just as teenagers are keen on blowing smoke rings with traditional cigarettes, e-cigarette users can do more than create smoke rings, they can create funnels of smoke that look like tornadoes, according to the article. On some e-cigarettes the temperature can be increased which creates more vapor giving users the ability to take part in what are known as “cloud competitions.”

Local e-cigarette supply stores, known as “vape shops,” hold cloud competitions where adults can compete for money. In fact, there are now regional cloud competitions, where participants stand to win thousands of dollars, according to Reuters. While minors are not permitted to take part in the competitions, they are allowed to be members of the audience.

“Even if (teenagers) don’t attend these events they are exposed to a lot of these issues,” Krishnan-Sarin said.

Holding competitions where users can win a significant amount of money for using an addictive substance is clearly unethical. It is highly unlikely that impressionable teenagers are not enticed by such events.

A new report has found that more middle and high school teens are using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) showed that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking On The Rise

Binge drinking in the United States is on the rise, the consumption of five or more alcoholic beverages (male), or four or more (female), over a 2-hour period. The practice of binge drinking has been known to lead to a number of health, social, and public safety issues. While binge drinking most commonly occurs among teenagers and young adults, it is a problem that affects all age groups.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington conducted an evaluation to track trends in alcohol use at the county level, Medical News Today reports. The researchers observed the rates of both binge drinking and heavy drinking throughout the United States.

Since 2005, heavy drinking has risen by 17.2% and binge drinking has increased by 8.9%, but the most interesting find was the rise in drinking among women. Between 2005 and 2012, binge drinking among women rose by 17.5 percent, compared to 4.9 percent among men.

"We are seeing some very alarming trends in alcohol overconsumption, especially among women," says Dr. Ali Mokdad, a lead author of the study and professor at IHME. "We also can't ignore the fact that in many US counties a quarter of the people, or more, are binge drinkers."

The researchers observed big differences in drinking rates from one county to another, according to the article.

"When you can map out what's happening county by county, over time, and for men and women separately, that's also when you can really pinpoint specific health needs and challenges - and then tailor health policies and programs accordingly," said IHME's Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

The researchers point out that the national rates of drinking any alcohol are unchanged, despite the increase in binge drinking and heavy drinking.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Maine Program Alerts Doctors About Drug Related Crimes

In the state of Maine, a new program is underway that may save lives. Diversion Alert is a non-profit organization that allows medical professionals to access drug arrest records, giving physicians and extra level of discretion before they prescribe a drug that may result in a patient overdose, Bangor Daily News reports.

The program is in need of funding, which if unable to acquire could result in an end to the operation. The programs executive director has applied for several grants and has started raising money through a crowdfunding site, diversionalert.causevox.com/.

Prescription drug abuse is a major concern for a number of reasons, especially the risk of opioid overdoses. The implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs and abuse-deterrent opioids has proven to be an effective measure in the fight against the epidemic affecting people from all walks of life in all 50 states. Diversion Alert is available to doctors and pharmacists, providing them with a monthly list of people arrested or summoned for prescription or illegal drug-related crimes.

Not only does Diversion Alert help doctors identify patients at risk of overdosing, according to the program’s executive director, Clare Desrosiers, it provides a forum for doctors to talk to possible addicts about addiction treatment. Desrosiers points out that while prescription drug monitoring programs notify doctors about doctor shoppers, it does not alert prescribers when a patient has been charged with a crime related to prescription drugs.

Interestingly, Maine providers do not treat those arrested as pariahs. Desrosiers points out they continued to “provide well-informed and needed health care to all patients while also attending to alternative prescribing for those who have been involved in illegal substance activity.”

“I think this shows us that the program is effective,” said Desrosiers. “It would be a shame to see this lose funding.”

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