Tuesday, July 31, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 30, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs,Government & Prevention
Some trucking companies are using hair tests to test drivers for drug use, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
At Schneider National Inc., 38,000 applicants have undergone hair drug testing over the past four years, the newspaper notes. Of those, 1,411 failed the test, for drugs including cocaine and marijuana. More than 90 percent of those applicants passed a urine test for the same drugs. Urine testing is the government-mandated industry standard, according to the article.
While molecules of some drugs, such as methamphetamine, remain in the urine for only a few days, they can stay in the hair for months. Because applicants know in advance they will be tested, they can abstain from drug use for a few days to obtain a clean urine sample. A 2007 investigation by the Government Accountability Office found it is easy to cheat on urine tests, either by sending in someone else to take the test, by adding drug-masking agents purchased online, or by diluting the sample with water.
“The urine-based drug test is simply not catching chronic drug users,” Don Osterberg, Senior Vice President of Safety and Security for Schneider, told the newspaper. He says the government allows hair testing, but it is not officially recognized.
Schneider wants the U.S. Department of Transportation to make hair testing official, and allow test results to be shared with other trucking companies.
“It’s a deterrent,” said John Spiros, Vice President of Safety and Claims Management at Roehl Transport, which began testing hair last year. “When people know that you’re doing hair-follicle testing, a lot of them won’t even apply.”
Hair testing has drawbacks. It does not detect recent drug use, and may show positive results for smoked drugs in someone who has been in the same room but did not smoke drugs themselves
Monday, July 30, 2012
By SAMANTHA ALLEN
DOVER — A local woman told Foster's many of her relatives who abuse prescription drugs have recently turned to "bath salts," a legal stimulant soon-to-be outlawed this year, because it's cheaper and readily available in stores.
She said the effects of the "legal high" have ruined the lives of her family and she is terrified for the future.
"I'm just planning on going to their funerals," she said. "Drugs have literally ripped apart my entire family."
One relative of hers, a Farmington resident, has nearly overdosed or committed suicide several times this year while on bath salts.
"It's killed one of my relatives and it's about to take another if he doesn't get help," she said.
Different forms of bath salts — the street name for a legal substance falsely-advertised as bath beads, plant food and incense — contains methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and mephedrone, stimulants which doctors say act like Ecstasy when taken.
Users consume the manufactured drugs by smoking, injecting or ingesting them and experience effects similar to those of cocaine, LSD, MDMA and methamphetamine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A ban on bath salts and other "synthetic marijuana" compounds is set to go into effect Oct. 1 of this year, with President Barack Obama signing new legislation earlier this month. This past week, more than 90 individuals were arrested and more than 19 million packets of "designer" synthetic drugs were seized in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action, called Operation Log Jam, by the DEA.
But local agencies say they are still grappling with the phenomena of this drug, which is recently available on shelves at local gas stations and convenience stores.
Frisbie Memorial Hospital Memorial Hospital's Assistant Director of Emergency Medical Services Gary Brock said his team has dealt with calls from bath salts users since last year, and the episodes are typically very violent. He said at the peak of incoming calls, Frisbie Memorial Hospital EMS received about a dozen reports every week, primarily out of the Rochester area, though their coverage extends to other Tri-City communities and beyond.
"The majority of calls we get are for individuals who are out of control," he said. "They're either out of control hallucinating or they're violent."
The unidentified woman said her addict relative has on many occasions called her house, claiming cracks in the walls are video cameras looking in on him, and his home is surrounded by police looking to arrest him. She said when her family drives to Farmington to help, he is often extremely agitated and fights against those wanting to help him.
Brock said this type of paranoia is a common occurrence in the calls he has responded to.
"Many of the signs and symptoms are very rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, chest pain — but very, very often, we encounter them hallucinating, acting paranoid and delusional," he said. "We haven't had any serious injuries (to EMS responders), but they certainly present a physical risk to both police and EMS as these patients ultimately have to be restrained while dealing with their medical issues."
With more than 30 years in emergency response, and 14 years at Frisbie Memorial Hospital, Brock said he can only hope the bath salts phenomena does not reach the level of the methamphetamine "epidemic" witnessed across the country. He said locally, bath salt users have already tied up hospital resources and emergency room staff for hours at a time.
"Bath salts do not clear their body for hours and hours and hours," he explained. "A patient can be in crisis for a very long time. It creates a log jam in the hospitals. A bath salt abuser who's in crisis can take up to half of the emergency room staff to initially try to deal with the crisis, and those are staff members that are being pulled away from other folks."
In 2010, 57 poison centers reported receiving 303 calls concerning bath salts use. In 2011, from January to August, that number rose 4,720. At the national level, the DEA reported the number of calls multiplied nearly four times, with 3,200 calls in 2010 to 13,000 in 2011. 60 percent of the cases reportedly involved patients 25 and younger.
Recently however, Brock said he has seen a drop-off in the calls and, while he can't point to anything specifically, he said it may have to do with the ban slated for this fall. Also, effective Jan. 1, 2013, New Hampshire's "driving while intoxicated" (DWI) charge will include language to outlaw all chemical substances which are considered to impair a driver, including bath salts, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl.
"We've certainly been seeing the decline in the bath salts issues and we'll welcome that relief," he added.
For the local woman concerned for her relative, she said she is appalled by the social systems in place that encourage her family members to keep using. She said her Farmington relative has a network of friends who trade narcotic prescriptions or buy pills at $1 per milligram, and when they can't get a hold of those substances, they fall back on bath salts to get them through the lull.
As she learns local stores are pulling their supply in advance of the upcoming ban, she said her relatives will even turn to alcohol. She wishes more rehabilitative services were available, noting her homeless relative, who lives hopping from couch to couch, can't afford health insurance.
"He stays in. He doesn't go out," she said. "It's a beautiful summer and he's pale, pale, pale. He's a vampire. They (his friends) all are. They stay up all night doing Suboxone and Oxys and Percocets, Vicodin, and then bath salts when they can't get those. That's why bath salts isn't an exclusive story."
Brock said his department is aware of the prescription drug users turning to bath salts to aid their addiction, but he said a patient's reaction to bath salts is unlike any other he has observed.
"One of the problems with it is their chemical makeups are very similar to amphetamines. Use creates a high in the addiction centers of the brain that would cause an individual to want to seek that high again," he said. "(But) the methamphetamine abusers we see tend to not have these violent and paranoid behaviors with every instance of use, whereas anecdotally, our experience has been that we see a great deal more violence and hallucinations with use of the bath salts. It may be the combination of all the unknown (manufactured) chemicals with this that's causing this very dangerous behavior."
Lawmakers continue to warn manufacturers of these drugs, said to be based internationally, find new ways to tweak their chemical compounds so they can stay ahead of the law and design new drugs that have yet to be banned in forthcoming years.
Time will tell how manufacturers respond to the new laws in place while the community hopes these bans have some effect on halting drug use at the local level.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Meet Gabor Maté, a doctor who works with North America’s only supervised injection site and believes that addicts are some of the happiest people he knows.
The Good Doctor Photo via
By Kristen McGuiness The FiX
In the field of addiction, Hungarian-born Gabor Maté is known for his controversial and revolutionary theories on the sources of addiction and how addicts should be treated. And he knows of what he speaks: in the early 2000s, Maté joined the Portland Hotel Society (PHS), a clinic for Vancouver’s homeless and drug addicted, and he followed that by working withInsite—the only supervised injection site in North America. In his so-called spare time, the Canadian doctor has written best-selling books on parenting, stress, and ADD. 2011 saw the release of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, his much-acclaimed treatise on the way addiction begins in childhood.
Dr. Maté spoke with The Fix about his views on how addiction arises and the best ways to treat it.
How did you get into addiction therapy?
I worked in family practice for over 20 years and in palliative care for seven, which is when I became interested in childhood mental health issues and finally I went into addiction work. It’s impossible to be in family practice and not run across some addiction. Early on in my career I had worked in downtown Vancouver [notorious for its drug use and homelessness] and I knew I would go back.
What was your role at the Portland Hotel Society?
I was on the on-staff physician there for 12 years—the first full-time physician they had ever had. It is a highly concentrated area of drug use and some of our clients were highly addicted. These are people who are at the extreme end of the addictive spectrum: they are dependent on meth, cocaine, heroin, cigarettes and alcohol and as a result, they suffer from many physical problems: HIV, Hepatitis C, joint infections, and abscesses. And of course they have mental health issues as well.
At the very heart of addiction is the deep absence of self-esteem, which is caused by stress to the traumatized child.
What was your experience at Insite?
People are allowed to bring their illicit drugs and, under supervised conditions, are given clean water and clean needles to use to inject. Nurses are on site to help so people will be resuscitated should they overdose. The immediate purpose of Insite is to eliminate the disease transmission from one addict to the next and to reduce the rate of infection. When you think about it, it’s straightforward. It’s better for people to inject with clean water rather than dirty water from a back alley. But beyond that, our intention is to treat people like human beings and, for many, this is a new experience.
What have you learned about addiction from those experiences?
First of all, I’ve come to learn that nature has very little to do with addiction. There are certain genes that may predispose to certain addictions but if the person is treated well, those genes have no impact on their behavior. Addiction runs in families because the same conditions are recreated from one generation to the next. So you need to look at people’s lives, not their hereditary. If you look at why addicts are soothing themselves through chemicals, you have to look at why they have discomfort and you will see that they have all experienced childhood adversity—the pain and distress that they needed to escape.
And from that end, what do you see as the role of stress and trauma in addiction?
Once you’re traumatized as a child, you will continue to be traumatized as an adult [until you get help] because you will not have the emotional balance necessary to heal the trauma. Women who were abused as children will seek out abusive partners. And society plays its part in that, too. Even though we live in a highly addicted society, it is only the substance addicts that are criminalized and ostracized. People who are addicted to, say, cigarettes—or even power—are considered okay. But if someone is addicted to heroin, that person will be further stressed by the criminal system and the medical system, neither of which have much understanding or compassion for addiction.
Why is the War on Drugs a failure and how can we really solve the drug epidemic?
The War on Drugs is an utter failure only if we accept that its fundamental intention is the elimination of addiction and of drug trafficking. But from another perspective, it may not be a failure at all. Is the war in Iraq a failure? Not for the companies that make billions of dollars of profit on it, not for the military who make billions of dollars, or the contractors or politicians. The War on Drugs has been a failure from the position of its stated aims. But is it a failure? Not from the point of view of the police apparatus, not from the perspective of the big drug dealers who are in cahoots with government agencies around the world, nor from those who profit from the increasingly privatized jail system, nor those who supply jails, and so on.
You seem to have a very humanistic view on addiction. Why do you think that is?
First you have to understand that the source of addiction is in the human himself. Then you think: how do you help someone who is pain? First by acknowledging their suffering and validating their attempt to escape from their pain, then by helping them not suffer so that they don’t have to rely on the drugs. It takes a whole different perspective. Resources that are used to incarcerate people would have to be used to help people to rewire their brains in healthy ways—through access to food, safe housing, good counseling, and employment skills: those things addicts that don’t have and have no way of getting under the current system. At the very heart of addiction is the deep absence of self-esteem, which is caused by stress to the traumatized child. Addicts believe that if all these negative things happen to them, there must be something wrong with them. When they are punished and attacked and criticized further, it hardens that deep sense of self-loathing.
How, then, do addicts get themselves out of that cycle? Is there room for free will in recovery from addiction?
Is there free will? When you think about it, there is no absolute free will because let’s say that you and Donald Trump both have the freedom to fly a private jet. You have the freedom but he has the ability. The same thing is true psychologically. Donald Trump might be free to have a spiritually validated life but he might not be able. He needs the accouterments, and riches and power, and that has to do with psychic factors that he has no control of. Free will implies consciousness. For addicts, their behaviors are very unconscious. The safer people feel and the more accepted they feel, the more they feel connected to others. The more defensive they are, the more reactive they are. You can give them the conditions where they can develop free will. Very few people have absolute free will because very few people have absolute consciousness—the addicts least of all, and that includes the power addict.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Samuel Blackstone | Jul. 17, 2012, 9:37 AM
AP Photo/ Paulo DuarteOn July 1st, 2001, Portugal decriminalized every imaginable drug, from marijuana, to cocaine, to heroin. Some thought Lisbon would become a drug tourist haven, others predicted usage rates among youths to surge.
Eleven years later, it turns out they were both wrong.
Over a decade has passed since Portugal changed its philosophy from labeling drug users as criminals to labeling them as people affected by a disease. This time lapse has allowed statistics to develop and in time, has made Portugal an example to follow.
First, some clarification.
Portugal's move to decriminalize does not mean people can carry around, use, and sell drugs free from police interference. That would be legalization. Rather, all drugs are "decriminalized," meaning drug possession, distribution, and use is still illegal. While distribution and trafficking is still a criminal offense, possession and use is moved out of criminal courts and into a special court where each offender's unique situation is judged by legal experts, psychologists, and social workers. Treatment and further action is decided in these courts, where addicts and drug use is treated as a public health service rather than referring it to the justice system (like the U.S.), reports Fox News.
The resulting effect: a drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years. Portugal's drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states, according to the same report.
One more outcome: a lot less sick people. Drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage rates, which experts believe is the result of the government offering treatment with no threat of legal ramifications to addicts.
While this policy is by no means news, the statistics and figures, which take years to develop and subsequently depict the effects of the change, seem to be worth noting. In a country like America, which may take the philosophy of criminalization a bit far (more than half of America's federal inmates are in prison on drug convictions), other alternatives must, and to a small degree, are being discussed.
For policymakers or people simply interested in this topic, cases like Portugal are a great place to start.
See also: Here's How America's Love Of Methamphetamine Helped Create The Hellish Mexican Drug War >
Friday, July 27, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 26, 2012 | 1 Comment | Filed in Drugs, Funding,Prevention, Research & Treatment
A researcher at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research has been awarded a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop a vaccine that would treat heroin addiction and protect against HIV.
Dr. Gary R. Matyas has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the NIDA Avant-Garde Award for Medications Development, Phys.Orgreports. He will receive $1,000,000 per year for five years to support his research.
“This highly innovative dual-vaccine model would simultaneously address the intertwined epidemics of heroin abuse and HIV,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “The implications for public health are enormous.”
“Heroin use is strongly associated with a high risk of HIV infection and represents an increasingly important worldwide health problem,” Dr. Matyas said. “The possibility of creating a combination heroin-HIV vaccine provides an important opportunity to address both a unique treatment for heroin abuse as well as continuing the quest to develop an effective preventive HIV vaccine.”
By Join Together Staff | July 26, 2012 | 2 Comments | Filed in Community Related, Drugs, Government & Legal
Local and federal law enforcement officials raided businesses in almost 100 cities on Wednesday, in the first nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs, USA Today reports.
Operation Log Jam targeted businesses selling drugs such as “Spice,” “K2” and “bath salts.” The drugs are widely available in convenience stores, despite a law signed by President Obama earlier this month that bans synthetic drugs.
Raids took place in cities including Columbus, Ohio; Duluth, Minnesota; Tampa and Pittsburgh. Authorities also conducted raids in upstate New York and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
Many states had banned synthetic drugs before the federal law was signed, the article notes. The National Association of Convenience Stores says it advised its more than 148,000 member stores to remove the drugs from their shelves once the ban took effect.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
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By Join Together Staff | July 25, 2012 | 1 Comment | Filed in Addiction,Alcohol, Drugs, Recovery & Research
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health is seeking people in recovery from an alcohol or drug problem to participate in a web-based survey. The researchers hope the study will help dispel the stigma that those in recovery face.
The goal of the “What is Recovery” study is to develop a definition of recovery that reflects the wide range of people who say they are in recovery, or recovered, or used to have a problem but do not now, or are in medication-assisted recovery.
The first part of the study included 238 people who completed online surveys, and 54 who completed in-depth telephone interviews. The second phase of the study contains 47 possible definitions of recovery, which were developed based on the study’s first phase. The researchers hope to reach more than 10,000 people with Phase 2 of the study, to obtain as many perspectives on their definitions of recovery as possible.
The researchers hope to answer questions such as whether recovery requires abstinence, whether someone can be “in recovery” if they are still drinking or using, and if recovery is more than just being clean and sober.
People participating in the study, conducted by the Alcohol Research Group, do not have to provide any personal identifying information. The researchers will not be able to identify participants. Answers to the web survey are confidential. To participate, you must be at least 18, and consider yourself as being in recovery from an alcohol or drug problem. Visit the “What is Recovery” website to take the online survey.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Addiction experts are looking at exercise as a potential non-drugtreatment for various types of substance abuse. One study at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston is examining whether exercise can treat people who are dependent on both cocaine and nicotine.
“Our lab has studied people who are dependent on cocaine, and over the years, we’ve noticed the vast majority are also dependent on cigarette smoking—about three times the national average,” saysRichard De La Garza, II, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM, and President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD). He presented data about his newest research project on exercise as a treatment for drug dependence at the recent CPDD meeting in Palm Springs, California.
Dr. De La Garza came up with the idea after reading about a study showing that smokers who rode a stationary bike had reduced urges to smoke. He decided to investigate whether exercise could reduce both cocaine and nicotine urges in people dependent on both substances. “There’s no reason that exercise wouldn’t serve as a potential behavioral treatment for any addiction,” he notes.
He also points to studies showing that middle and high school students who participate in school athletic programs have lower rates of drug use than those who don’t exercise. “Maybe the reinforcing effects produced by exercise reduce the urge to abuse substances,” says Dr. De La Garza, who is a life-long runner.
If exercise is found to be useful in treating substance abuse, it would be a welcome addition to current pharmacological treatment approaches, he says. “That’s not to say medications don’t have their place, but there is a large problem with medication compliance. We know that a lot of people who are given prescriptions for any disease state don’t take all their medications, or don’t take them as often as they are supposed to.”
In the new study, patients who are dependent on both cocaine and nicotine are randomly assigned to sit, walk or run three times a week for one month, at the BCM facility. All of the subjects receive cognitive-behavioral therapy. The runners and walkers are given an individualized exercise program, based on their current physical fitness.
The subjects are given urine tests to check recent cocaine use, as well as breath and saliva tests to check for nicotine use, in addition asking them about their drug and smoking activities. The researchers follow up with study participants four and eight weeks after the protocol is completed.
“We will also be able to determine if they are deriving other benefits from exercising, such as weight loss, or feeling better about themselves,” Dr. De La Garza says. “There are a lot of benefits that come from exercise that can make a difference in the long run. If you’ve been sedentary and start exercising, it can be very empowering.”
At the end of the study, participants get to keep the running shoes and clothing they are given as part of the study. “I want to show individuals what I learned growing up, that as long as you have a pair of shoes, you can run anywhere in the world,” he notes.
Dr. De La Garza hopes to enroll a total of 72 patients. So far, about 25 percent of the patients have been enrolled.
When he wrote the grant application, he knew of no other researchers looking at the question of whether exercise can be used to treat substance abuse. Since then, others have started similar studies. At the CPDD meeting, he chaired a symposium on the issue with scientists investigating exercise as a treatment for drug dependence in various populations, including females, as well as individuals who are struggling with both substance abuse and depression.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 23, 2012 | 1 Comment | Filed in Drugs &Legislation
The popular synthetic drug methylone, a key ingredient in “bath salts,” is simple to order online from China, experts tell The Virginian-Pilot.
In one recent case that ended up in federal court, two Virginia men emailed a lab in China, wired several thousand dollars to an English-speaking customer service representative and received 100 pounds of the drug in the mail, according to the newspaper.
“It’s probably easier than buying a case of wine online,” said Richard Yarow, an attorney for a man who pleaded guilty to assisting one of the importers wire money to China. “When you buy wine you at least have to show ID” upon delivery, he added.
Methylone is a white crystalline powder. In addition to being used to make bath salts, it also can be snorted, swallowed or mixed into drinks. The drug costs about $350 per ounce on the street. Importers charge $2,600 to $4,000 per pound.
Methylone was legal in most places in the United States until recently, and was sold online and in some gas stations and head shops. Some states began banning synthetic drugs last year, and more have followed suit this year.
Earlier this month, President Obama signed legislation that bans synthetic drugs. The law bans harmful chemicals in synthetic drugs such as those used to make synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
Bath salts are marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” or “Bliss.” The drugs mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy and/or methamphetamine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes. Bath salts have become increasingly popular among teens and young adults.
Packages sent to the United States are subject to inspection, but drug-sniffing dogs usually cannot detect methylone and other synthetic drugs, according to federal agents. A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the newspaper they cannot prevent people from ordering things off the Internet
Monday, July 23, 2012
By SHEILA MARIKAR (@SheilaYM)
July 19, 2012
Authorities do not believe Sage Stallone was a drug addict, a source familiar with the case told ABC News, in part, because his weight did not indicate drug addiction.
At the time of his death last Friday, Stallone was 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighed 188 pounds, and wasn't the rail-thin figure often associated with addiction.
The family of the 36-year-old actor and son of action-star Sylvester Stallone met with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office Tuesday and expressed worry that Sage Stallone may have been overmedicated before his death. The meeting focused on the status of the investigation.
The Los Angeles Police Department's robbery-homicide division had been brought into the investigation, but officials said it remained primarily a coroner's investigation and that there were no signs of foul play.
Sage Stallone's mother had hinted at the pain her son was in in the weeks before he died after undergoing extensive dental surgery.
Sasha Czack, Sylvester Stallone's first wife, told the New York Post that her 36-year-old son had been on pain pills when he died after having had five teeth pulled. The extractions took place two weeks before he was found dead in his Los Angeles-area apartment Friday.
Sylvester Stallone released a new statement Monday, calling for an end to "the speculation and questionable reporting" about his son's death.
It could take weeks to learn Sage Stallone's official cause of death. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said Sunday that the results of the 36-year-old actor's toxicology tests would not be known for approximately six weeks. An autopsy was completedSunday.
When the Post asked whether he was taking painkillers afterward, she said, "Wouldn't you be?"Czack said she advised him not to get the surgery, telling the Post, "I've heard about people dying having multiple procedures done to your mouth. Do not have more than one tooth [pulled]."
"When a parent loses a child there is no greater pain," he said in a statement to TMZ. "Therefore, I am imploring people to respect my talented son's memory and feel compassion for his loving mother, Sasha. This agonizing loss will be felt for the rest of our lives. Sage was our first child and the center of our universe, and I am humbly begging for all to have my son's memory and soul left in peace."
On Sunday, Sage Stallone's attorney said his client "never had any serious health problems" and no "history of drug or alcohol abuse."
"Sage was a really young, very sensitive, and very talented kid," attorney George Braunstein told People magazine. "There has been no indication that there was anything wrong in his life."
Sage Stallone's body was found by a housekeeper, who called authorities. While there was no suicide note found at the scene, authorities said there were bottles of prescription drugs.
Sage Stallone played Rocky Balboa's son in "Rocky 5" in 1990 and appeared in the movie "Daylight" with his father. He also directed the 2006 short film "Vic."
Sunday, July 22, 2012
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By Join Together Staff | July 19, 2012 | 3 Comments | Filed in Legislation,Prescription Drugs & Prevention
A bill to be introduced Thursday in the U.S. House would require most painkillers to have safeguards to prevent abuse, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Under the provisions of the bill, most prescription painkillers would have some form of abuse deterrence, such as being more difficult to crush or inject. The exact details of how drug manufacturers could meet the new standards are vague, the article notes. The bill does not set time lines for compliance.
If pain medications did not adopt the safety features outlined in the bill, they would be removed from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approved list of generic drugs. While several brand-name painkillers, such as OxyContin and Opana, have tamper-resistant formulations, most generic painkillers do not.
Patents for OxyContin and Opana are set to expire in 2013. The FDA has not yet ruled whether abuse-deterrent features will be required on the generic versions of those drugs.
“This bill should help protect first-time users and younger people who gain access through relatives or their own family’s medicine cabinets,” the measure’s lead sponsor, Rep. Bill Keating of Massachusetts, told the newspaper. Congress is “understanding the scope of this and looking at it as a major public health epidemic,” he added.
He said there is broad bipartisan support in the House for the measure. The bill’s cosponsors are Republicans Mary Bono Mack of California and Hal Rogers of Kentucky, and Democrat Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts.
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association opposes the bill. “The proposed legislation would be detrimental to patients and could potentially remove FDA-approved safe and effective generic medicines from those who rely on them,” said the group’s president, Ralph G. Neas. “Addressing prescription-drug abuse is of utmost importance to the generic pharmaceutical industry. Policy makers should let the medical evidence guide actions in addressing this critical issue.”
By Join Together Staff | July 20, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Community Related, Drugs, Legal, Legislation & Treatment
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Thursday signed a measure that requires treatment for low-level drug offenders who otherwise would go to prison, according to The Star-Ledger.
The law establishes a $2.5 million pilot program that will expand drug courts in three New Jersey counties. It also expands the types of crimes that make inmates eligible for drug court, which will now be mandatory for those inmates. The article notes drug court programs require inmates to undergo intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment. In order to qualify, inmates must have a drug addiction, be receptive to treatment and be deemed able to be helped by treatment. The inmates appear regularly before judges, who determine whether they are meeting the terms of the five-year program.
“When I outlined this proposal six months ago, I made it clear that our commitment to our most vulnerable was not just a matter of dollars and cents, it was about reclaiming lives. No life is disposable and every life can be redeemed, but not if we ignore them,” Governor Christie said in a news release. “Once again by putting people before partisanship, we are providing optimism and hope to individuals and families torn apart by addiction. Once fully phased in over five years, this program will provide mandatory drug treatment to appropriate offenders who are not a threat to society and who suffer from the disease of addiction—redeeming lives and healing families.”
New Jersey spends $42,000 to house an inmate for one year, compared with $11,300 for drug courts, according to the newspaper. Governor Christie wanted inmates in every county to qualify for mandatory drug treatment, but Democratic legislators objected to the cost. The governor agreed to their suggestion of a five-year period to phase in the program to all counties, to allow the state time to fully fund the program, while giving private treatment facilities time to expand.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
As a Hispanic mother of two children, I recognize the need to empower Hispanic parents and grandparents to take action in preventing teen substance abuse. That’s why we just launched new, online tools for Hispanic parents and families at “Habla Con Tus Hijos.” This free, bilingual (Spanish/English) resource offers help to Latino parents who want to prevent their children from abusing drugs and alcohol.
Clear, understandable content is brought to life with customized checklists, how-to guides and videos featuring Hispanic parents and experts touching on various aspects of substance abuse for those who are at different stages in raising their children.
I sat down with Telemundo television network to tell them more about this unique resource – take a look at the extensive news coverage that helped us reach more families in the Hispanic community.
I also spent time talking directly with Latino parents on Univision Radio’s popular, live call-in program, "The Doctora Isabel Show,” where we discussed new research showing that rates of substance abuse among Hispanic teens are at much higher levels than those of teens from other ethnic groups.
Working together, we can protect our children from the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse. Please tell a friend about “Habla Con Tus Hijos” today.
Associate Director, Consumer Research & Multicultural Programs
The Partnership at Drugfree.org
P.S.Text DRUGFREE to 50555 and reply YES to make a $10 donation to The Partnership at Drugfree.org. Your gift will help to continue important programs that help Hispanic families.
Message & data rates may apply. Full Terms at mGive.org/T
By Marjorie Clifton | July 20, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Community Related & Prescription Drugs
Over 96% of websites claiming to sell prescription medications are out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws and practice standards—a statistic that may come as a surprise to the average American consumer. While this statistic may seem irrelevant to Americans who have never considered using the Internet to purchase products such as antibiotics or allergy medications, prescription drugs are among the most sought after e-commerce products — the 13th most purchased product online behind categories such as furniture, baby products and household supplies.
Getting a prescription filled online is not necessarily bad; it can be convenient and sometimes cheaper. However, there are important factors to consider when purchasing pharmaceuticals over the Internet: (a) the sellers of online medications are atypical; (b) medicine from unsafe sources can be toxic; and (c) the criminal networks behind these websites don’t care about your health – only your money. The newly formed Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) is working hard to address all three factors, and underscoring the importance of knowing who you are buying from.
While most consumers think they can spot a “good” versus a “bad” pharmacy website, they are often indistinguishable. Internet-based prescription drug dealers (or “illegitimate online drug sellers”) are very good at mimicking legitimate online pharmacies — even going so far as to display forged, seemingly authentic pharmacy licenses on their websites — which is why intuition alone is not enough. Most importantly, one should know a legitimate online pharmacy will always require a valid prescription. This means a prescription obtained by a practitioner who has examined the patient at some point. Illegitimate online drug sellers may require a prescription, but source the drugs from unverified supply chains, unregulated for safety or authenticity. Alarmingly, some physicians are not trained to make this distinction and unknowingly promote illegitimate online drug sellers to patients.
So who buys medication online? Although the “typical” online medication buyer is over the age of 55, there are growing numbers of young adults buying online without a prescription. 1 in 6 American adults, approximately 36 million people, are estimated to have bought medication online without a valid prescription. This can be a deadly or life-altering prospect. Craig Schmidt, a 30-year-old plastics salesman, purchased Xanax (an anxiety drug) and Ultram (a pain drug) from an online pharmacy without ever seeing or speaking to the doctor that prescribed the medications. The Xanax tablets that Schmidt received contained quadruple the active ingredient that a doctor would prescribe. As a result of this overdose, Schmidt nearly died and has been left permanently impaired with widespread brain damage that inhibits him from driving or even walking without stumbling. Unfortunately, stories like Craig Schmidt’s are not as uncommon as one would hope.
In 2010, the U.S. market alone accounted for an estimated $75 billion in sales for counterfeit drug makers; a lucrative prospect for criminal networks. There has also been a rising trend of malware appearing on illegal pharmacy sites – designed to steal your information and used for credit card or identity theft. GoDaddy.com took action on 47,000 illegal pharmaceutical sites last year alone and 27,000 of them contained malware.
How can this problem be fixed? The prevalence of illegal online drug sellers has made it virtually impossible for the law enforcement community to address the problem alone. So, in late 2010, CSIP was created to provide a first-ever private sector solution, and among the first public-private partnerships, formed to protect consumers from rogue Internet pharmacies. The mission of the organization is four fold: to educate consumers about the threat of illegal pharmacies, to work with law enforcement to eliminate the criminal networks, to share information among companies about illegal sites and to aid in building a “white list” of safe sites.
Currently, CSIP members include 11 corporations who are part of the Internet ecosystem. These companies will be announcing their partnership with U.S. Government agencies to tackle the problem of illegal online drug sellers at the White House on July 23, 2012. The event will kick off CSIP’s public education campaign, which will include a website with: a URL checker where consumers can confirm the legitimacy of online pharmacy websites, search engine advertising and public service announcement videos.
To learn more, visit the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies’ website at www.safemedsonline.org.
Marjorie Clifton, Executive Director, Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies
Friday, July 20, 2012
Miracles Happen in Hemet is just too far for me to try to run from Riverside, with a husband and 5 kids and 2 other sober living homes I have found that this is too overwhelming for me to do alone. I have 9 months left on my year lease and I am sure the owner would allow it to stay a sober living long after. She is also interested in helping the recovering community. The home is a beautiful fully furnished 10 bed, 3 bedroom 2 bath house. 5 sets of bunks, 8 dressers, couches, televisions, 2 Fridges and much much more. The rent is currently 1500.00 and deposit is 1200.00 and I am asking a small fee for furniture and appliances . I would like to turn house over on August 1st. I am hoping to continue my education come the fall. House has already been inspected and approved by sober living coalition and house mom is already certified. Saves a lot of money for you. I am willing to help in any way possible to help you get started. If you are interested or know anyone who is please let me know.ASAP There is also 5 women and 4 children in the home with income that would be staying.
Sylvia's Serenity Sober Living Homes Inc.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 17, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Community Related, Legislation, Prescription Drugs & Prevention
New York’s new prescription drug monitoring system, which will show pharmacists in real time whether patients have been “doctor shopping” for drugs, is a model for the rest of the country, state officials said Monday.
The Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, or I-STOP, was recently approved by both houses of the state legislature, according to the Associated Press. It is awaiting the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and will go into effect next year, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
Under the new system, physicians and pharmacists will be required to monitor a patient’s prescription history before they write or dispense prescriptions for painkillers that contain oxycodone, such as OxyContin, Percocet and Percodan.
Since the new system will operate only in New York, there is no way to ensure that patients are not getting prescriptions filled in other states, Schneiderman said. He is urging other states to adopt the system, and added that the best solution would be a federal drug monitoring database.
“With I-STOP, we are creating a national model for smart, coordinated communication between health care providers and pharmacists to better serve patients, stop prescription drug trafficking, and provide treatment to those who need help,” Schneiderman said in a news release.
Earlier this year, several state medical groups said they opposed the system, including the Medical Society of the State of New York, which represents 30,000 doctors. The group said it was concerned that the system would create a burden on physicians’ practices. The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York also said it opposes I-STOP because of added demands the system would create for pharmacies.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 16, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Alcohol,Community Related, Legal & Mental Health
A growing number of murder cases nationwide seek to exclude the death penalty for defendants with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), The Seattle Times reports.
In one such case, advocates are trying to prevent the death penalty for Mark Anthony Soliz, a convicted murderer on death row in Texas. His mother drank heavily, used drugs and sniffed paint while she was pregnant, the article notes.
Those who favor eliminating the death penalty for people with fetal alcohol syndrome point to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to abolish the death penalty for defendants with mental retardation. “The damage to the executive functioning of the brain is as severe as someone who is intellectually disabled,” said John Niland, Director of the Capital Trial Project with the Texas Defender Service.
Victims’ advocates and prosecutors say such a decision would let killers off easy. “FAS should not be used as an excuse for intentionally and knowingly murdering another person,” victims’ rights advocate Andy Kahan told the newspaper. “Clearly, the defendant has been able to make law-abiding decisions on a daily basis, and they obviously know right from wrong. FAS is yet another hurdle for surviving family members of homicide to overcome to secure justice for the coldblooded murder of their loved ones.”
Another Texas death-row inmate, Yokamon Laneal Hearn, who was also diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, is set for execution Wednesday. He was convicted in the shooting of a stockbroker during a robbery. Amnesty International is urging a letter-writing campaign for clemency to Texas Governor Rick Perry. The article notes the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected a request to review a fetal alcohol case, which involved Louisiana death-row inmate Brandy Holmes, who was named after her mother’s favorite liquor.
Monday, July 16, 2012
By Dr. Stuart Gitlow | July 13, 2012 | 1 Comment | Filed in Government,Healthcare, Insurance, Legislation & Treatment
The demand for addiction treatment is high. The supply of addiction specialists is comparatively low. Yet unlike traditional economic models where money is the obstacle, in our field, the obstacle is time.
There are two factors involved: the time required to provide reasonable quality of care, and the time required to produce a specialist who has the ability to provide that care. These limitations restrict the number of patients that can be seen per day by all available addiction specialists. While increasing pay for care would result in an increased interest in the field, development of appropriate training and the years of training necessary would result in only slow growth of available treatment.
Because addiction specialists are not currently sitting idly at their desks surfing the Internet, access to treatment is not limited by financial factors but rather by availability factors. There simply isn’t a great enough supply of specialists to meet the demand of patients.
In 20 years of practice, I have worked in an academic setting as a staff physician in an addiction specialty unit, as a medical director of a community mental health center (CMHC) and as a private practice physician specializing in addiction. In each setting, I have turned no patient away. At the private practice, as is the common practice here, we do not take insurance but always work out a fee arrangement that is compatible with a patient’s needs. The CMHC also utilized a sliding scale for patients, and in the academic center, patients who could not pay were seen by a fellow with oversight from faculty. Patients have roughly equal access to at least one part, if not all parts, of the system. But availability of service, not fiscal issues, always proved the greatest constraint. “We’re happy to see you, Miss Smith, but our next opening is in 2015.”
That’s not to say there is no fiscal issue: my CMHC lost money on physician-provided care for nearly 20 years. Expenses were more than my hourly wage, and included collection costs, billing, insurance reviews and audits, with the revenues limited to copays and insurance payments. Things got much worse a few years ago. Collections dropped, audit rates increased and ultimately the CMHC could no longer afford my services. Did I mention that the CMHC I worked for is in Massachusetts? The community no longer has an addiction specialist and was recently featured in the news due to increased problems associated with substance use.
But the fiscal issue does not represent an access constraint because we clinicians can easily practice outside the employed environment. Looking at my case above, I left the CMHC and took most of my existing patients with me into my private practice in an adjoining state. Because I do not take insurance yet charge a reasonable rate, my expenses are quite low and patients do not have a significant financial burden in comparison to the CMHC model. Thus payment again did not end up being a significant limitation to access.
Now let’s come to the headline of the hour: the recent Supreme Court ruling. In many ways, the ruling was a non-event in that it simply supports, largely, what had already passed in Congress. The Affordable Care Act does very little to increase access to addiction care because it does not solve the primary obstacle we’ve discussed. It promises to increase the number of those who have insurance coverage, but as I’ve pointed out, coverage has not represented a significant obstacle in long-term outpatient addiction treatment. And long-term outpatient treatment is the key to avoiding higher levels of care. Outpatient care is where addiction treatment truly takes place since the higher levels of care are limited to the acute manifestations of substance use (e.g. detox, rehabilitation, and medical/psychiatric sequelae) and not the chronic issues related to addictive illness.
The Act promises that substance use disorders will be covered at parity as part of the essential health benefit. But any expectation that this will lead to coverage of long-term outpatient treatment is misguided. Because the primary limiting factors – time – is not being addressed, we will see no significant improvements. Given my experience in Massachusetts, however, we may see a significant alteration in how services are provided, with greater numbers of independent clinicians moving away from an employed model and into private practice and fewer clinicians accepting insurance. Too, there may be higher charges because of the higher taxes in place now due to the very Act that is supposed to increase access. This is a good thing as costs are much lower in private practice due to the reduced administrative burden and overhead. The overall cost of health care will drop.
Remember pendulums swing both ways. Just as the past decade saw a decline in private practice, the Affordable Care Act, should it not be repealed, will likely prove an economic force in the other direction insofar as bio-psycho-social-spiritual treatment of addiction is concerned.
Stuart Gitlow MD MPH MBA is a member of the American Medical Association’s Council on Science & Public Health, and Acting President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. This Op-Ed represents his personal opinion and does not imply any position or policy taken by either the AMA
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Sunday, July 15, 2012
By Join Together Staff | June 21, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Alcohol,Prevention, Young Adults & Youth
A new simulation program is teaching young drivers about the risks of drunk and distracted driving. The program is designed to demonstrate what can happen if they have an accident while they are driving under the influence or texting while driving.
One Simple Decision, made by Virtual Driver Interactive (VDI), combines simulated driving with video footage of interactions with law enforcement, judges and emergency medical personnel, USA Today reports.
The Ohio Department of Transportation bought four VDI simulators, at a cost of $42,000. It uses them at schools, football games and county fairs, the article notes. “We recognized that there is an issue, especially among young drivers, with paying attention to the road,” spokeswoman Melissa Ayers told the newspaper. “We started using it last year. We’ve gotten really good feedback. The kids realize after they’ve used it, ‘I really can’t do two things at once (while driving).’”
A government report issued in December found an estimated 31 percent of driving deaths were linked to alcohol in 2010, compared with nine percent of deaths caused by distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s report found that overall, highway deaths fell last year to the lowest level in six decades, even though Americans are driving more
Saturday, July 14, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 13, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Community Related, Legal, Prescription Drugs & Prevention
States’ efforts to crack down on prescription drug abuse are being made more difficult by people who travel to states such as Florida and Georgia to obtain painkillers, the Associated Press reports. These so-called “drug” or “prescription” tourists are transporting huge amounts of drugs across state lines, according to the AP.
Trying to stop drug tourists involves complicated prosecutions that cross a number of state lines, the article notes. Drug tourists travel to states with many “pill mills,” where they obtain a large amount of painkillers and then return home to sell them for as much as $100 per pill.
Florida was long known as a prime destination for drug tourists. Now that the state is cracking down on pill mills, Georgia is becoming a more popular destination for those who want to find easy access to painkillers. They come from adjacent states, and from more distant states such as Nebraska and Arizona.
“They’re like a swarm of locusts,” said Richard Allen, Director of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency. “Once they have a script, they’ll hit every pharmacy in the state trying to get them filled.”
Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration announcedsales of oxycodone fell 20 percent last year in Florida. Officials said the drop was mainly due to the closure of some of the state’s biggest pill mills and the arrest of some of the clinics’ operators and doctors. Florida pharmacies and doctors sold about 498 million doses of oxycodone in 2011, compared with a record 622 million doses the previous year.
In June 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling pill mills in the state. The law authorized the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring database to reduce doctor-shopping by people looking to collect multiple painkiller prescriptions. The legislation also imposed new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication and imposes stricter rules for operating pharmacies.
Friday, July 13, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 12, 2012 | 3 Comments | Filed in Drugs, Legal,Prevention & Youth
Two senators introduced a bill this week designed to prevent the abuse of cough syrup by teenagers. The bill restricts the sale of products containing the cough syrup ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) to those older than 18, Drug Store News reports.
Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sponsored the measure, known as the Preventing Abuse of Cough Treatments (PACT) Act of 2012. The PACT Act also places limits on the purchase of bulk (unfinished) DXM, so that only manufacturers registered with the Food and Drug Administration or relevant state agencies have access to DXM in its raw form. Currently, there are no national restrictions on sales or purchase of DXM in this form.
The 2011 Monitoring the Future survey found that 5 percent of teens report abusing cough medicine. Abuse of DXM can cause hallucinations, confusion, blurred vision and loss of motor control.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) notes that DXM is a safe and effective cough suppressant found in more than 100 cough and cold medicines. The legislation “will give parents an additional tool to prevent abuse, while ensuring access for the millions of adults and families who responsibly use products containing DXM to relieve cough symptoms,” CHPA President and CEO Scott M. Melville said in a news release.
“By addressing easy access to purchasing cough syrup for teens, the main cause of the harmful trend of its abuse, my bill will help keep our children safe and lessen the strain cough syrup abuse has put on families, hospitals and law enforcement,” Senator Casey said in astatement. “My common-sense legislation will prevent kids from purchasing a drug that has dangerous consequences when abused to get high, while also ensuring it is available to those with a legitimate need for it.”
Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Join Together Staff | July 9, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Addiction,Drugs, Prescription Drugs & Treatment
Methadone causes 30 percent of prescription painkiller overdose deaths, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some doctors are now prescribing methadone to treat chronic problems such as back pain, which is making the drug more widely available.
According to the CDC, methadone and other extended-release opioids should not be used for mild pain, acute pain, “breakthrough” pain, or on an as-needed basis. “For chronic noncancer pain, methadone should not be considered a drug of first choice by prescribers or insurers,” the report noted.
In an effort to cut down on abuse of drugs meant to treat addiction, Titan Pharmaceuticals plans to file for Food and Drug Administration approval for an implant of buprenorphine, which eases withdrawalsymptoms. The Wall Street Journal reports that buprenorphine currently comes in pills or strips, which can be used to get high, or used more heavily than they should be to relieve symptoms of withdrawal. The pills are crushed and then injected or snorted.
The implant, called Probuphine, is inserted just under the skin in the upper arm. It releases continuous, small amounts of the drug over six months. “You cannot easily remove these implants from the arm,” Titan Senior Vice President Katherine L. Beebe told the newspaper.
A study conducted by Titan and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 found that among people with opioid dependence, users of Probuphine had significantly less illicit opioid use, and fewer symptoms of withdrawal and craving, compared with those who received a placebo implant.