New Webzine Featuring Underage Alcohol Research
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has recently released Spectrum. This electronic publication is NIAAA’s first-ever webzine with engaging feature articles, short news updates, and colorful graphics, NIAAA Spectrum offers accessible and relevant information on NIAAA and the alcohol research field for a wide range of audiences. Each issue includes feature-length stories, news updates from the field, articles and photo essays, and an interview with an NIAAA staff member or alcohol researcher. NIAAA Spectrum is published three times a year. To view this new resources visit: http://www.spectrum.niaaa.nih.gov
Stop Bullying.gov Relaunches
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education have unveiled an enhanced StopBullying.gov. The site encourages everyone to take action to prevent and respond to bullying.
Study Finds Widespread Use of Alcohol and Drugs Among U.S. Teenagers
A survey of more than 10,000 U.S. teenagers found that by late adolescence, 78 percent had consumed alcohol, and about 15 percent met the criteria for alcohol abuse. The survey also found 81 percent said they had the opportunity to use illicit drugs, and 42.5 percent actually did so. Among those surveyed, 16 percent were abusing drugs, HealthDay reports. The median starting age for alcohol use was 14. For teens who were dependent on drugs, the median starting age was 14; for those who abused drugs but were not dependent, the average starting age was 15. The findings are published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Bruce Goldman, Director of Substance Abuse Services at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, who was not involved in the study, told HealthDay, “It is imperative that families, schools, police, youth groups, and communities all join together to prevent or delay the onset of substance use as long as possible. Social norms have a very powerful impact on drug-use patterns. We need to create norms where substance use and availability, especially for young people, is not acceptable.”
New Anti-Smoking Ad Campaign Leads to Doubling of Calls to Quit Line
A new government-sponsored ad campaign, which features former smokers who discuss the negative health consequences of smoking, has led to a doubling of calls to a toll-free telephone hotline designed to help people quit smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW totaled more than 33,000 in the first week of the ad campaign, compared with less than 14,500 the week before. USA Today reports that during the same week, clicks to the government’s www.smokefree.gov website rose to about 66,000, from about 20,000. The campaign, which runs for 12 weeks, will cost $54 million. The CDC estimates the ad campaign will help about 50,000 smokers quit smoking.
Tobacco Companies Must Report Levels of Dangerous Chemicals in Products
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says tobacco companies will have to report levels of 20 dangerous chemicals found in its products. The chemicals have been associated with cancer, lung disease and other health problems, the Associated Press reports. Companies will be required to display the information about the chemicals in a consumer-friendly format by April 2013. The substances covered by the new rule include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and ammonia. The agency has established a list of 93 harmful and potentially harmful constituents in tobacco products, according to an FDA statement. Because the tobacco industry may be unable to make information available for all of those substances by the deadline due to current testing limitations, the FDA chose to focus initially on 20 that are representative of the full list. The FDA will take comments on the new ruling until June 4, before finalizing them, according to the AP. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The FDA also described the studies it will require before a company can market a modified-risk tobacco product. These are tobacco products that are sold, distributed, or marketed with a claim to reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease. Companies will have to submit extensive data on health risks, behavior of users, and consumer understanding of marketing materials for any of these new products.
The Truth About “Molly”
With the recent reported celebrity chatter about the drug MDMA—commonly known as Ecstasy or “Molly”—in the news SAMHSA would like to join the discussion by providing some facts about the drug and its dangers. Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that is chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. It produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences.
While some consider this to be a party drug, it is illegal and carries potentially dangerous side effects. Ecstasy use can produce psychedelic and stimulant side effects such as anxiety attacks, tachycardia (the heart beating more than 100 beats per minute), hypertension and hyperthermia. The variety and severity of adverse reactions associated with Ecstasy use can increase when the drug is used in combination with other substances of abuse – a common occurrence among Ecstasy users. According to a SAMHSA study, 74 percent of emergency department visits involving Ecstasy use also involve the use of at least one or more other substances of abuse. Alarmingly, this same study also shows that emergency department visits related to Ecstasy use increased nearly 123 percent from 2004 to 2009 with two-thirds of these visits involving patients aged 18 to 29.
If you or someone you know struggles with Ecstasy abuse, SAMHSA offers an online treatment locator service that can be accessed at www.samhsa.gov/treatment or by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
New Jersey Measure Would Expand Access to Court-Supervised Drug Treatment
A measure advancing in the New Jersey legislature would expand the number of criminal offenders who are eligible for court-supervised drug and alcohol treatment.
State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who was robbed at home by two men on drugs, has become the leading advocate for the legislation. The bill also would launch a pilot program in several counties that would automatically enroll low-level drug offenders in a recovery program, the Associated Press reports.
The measure was approved by the state Senate Budget Committee, and now heads to the full Senate. A similar bill is under consideration in the Assembly.
Governor Chris Christie has proposed mandatory drug treatment for all nonviolent drug offenders in New Jersey. He said his plan frees up prison space for more serious criminals, while saving the state money, by stopping the warehousing of people with drug problems.
The bill under consideration in the legislature is not as large in scope as the governor’s proposal, the AP notes. Lesniak’s bill would start with a pilot program in two counties, along with expanded statewide eligibility for offenders who volunteer for treatment.
“We don’t know that mandatory treatment is effective,” Lesniak said. He noted there are not enough treatment beds and professionals to handle a large number of new clients. “We don’t want to deny someone who volunteers for treatment because someone else was forced into treatment,” he added.
New Technology Aims to Prevent Drunk Driving
Cars and trucks one day may have built-in blood alcohol detectors, The Wall Street Journal reports. Research on the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) is progressing more quickly than expected, and could be available within eight to 10 years, experts say.
The technology could be built into a vehicle’s dashboard or controls. It would check a driver’s blood alcohol level, and would not start if the level were above the legal limit. Researchers developing the system are working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The next goal would be to develop a commercially produced vehicle that could drive a drunk owner home, the article notes.
About one-third of drivers killed in car crashes have blood alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Devices called alcohol interlocks are already available to disable a car if the driver is intoxicated. They are primarily used for people who have been caught with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. About 16 states require people convicted of drunk driving to install these devices in their vehicles. Drivers must blow into a tube to verify they are sober before they can start the car.
The new technology being developed would not require blowing into a tube. It could be embedded in a starter button or shift lever.
A proposed federal transportation bill would give the NHTSA’s alcohol detector program $24 million over two years. The funding would allow the agency to equip 100 or more cars with prototypes of the new alcohol detection devices. One device would measure alcohol in the driver’s breath, while the other would take a reading from the driver’s skin.
Underage Females Drinkers Now as Likely to Die in Car Crash as Male Peers
Underage female drinkers are now as likely to die in an alcohol-related car crash as their male counterparts, a new study suggests. In 1996, underage males had a higher risk of a fatal car crash than underage females. By 2007, the gender gap had closed, according to HealthDay.
The total number of young men who are involved in deadly alcohol-related crashes is still greater, because males drink more, the study notes. At any given blood alcohol level, however, young women have the same risk of a fatal car crash as males.
While the reasons for the increase are not clear, young female drinkers may be taking greater risks while driving, said lead researcher Robert B. Voas, PhD, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland. “Young women who drink and drive may be behaving more like young men who drink and drive,” he said in a news release.
The study found drivers ages 16 to 20 with a blood alcohol level of .02 percent to .049 percent were almost three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash, compared with sober drivers of the same age. Their risk of dying in a single-vehicle crash was almost four times as high as that of sober drivers.
Sober male drivers in the study were twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash in 2007 compared with 1996. While the reason is not clear, the researchers speculate that distracted driving, including texting, may be the cause.
They reported their findings in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Sales of Prescription Painkillers Increasing Across the United States, Analysis Shows
Sales of oxycodone and hydrocodone are sharply rising in areas of the United States where these prescription painkillers were not as popular in the past, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. The rise in sales is driven by an aging population with pain issues, as well as an increase in addiction, experts say.
The AP found a dramatic increase in the distribution of oxycodone between 2000 and 2010 in areas including New York’s Staten Island and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hydrocodone use is rising in Appalachia and in the Midwest, the AP found, after analyzing data from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Painkiller sales are spreading rapidly in areas where there are few resources to treat people who become addicted.
The increase in prescription painkiller use coincides with a rise in overdose deaths and pharmacy robberies, the article notes.
The number of Americans who died from overdoses of prescription painkillers more than tripled in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More people now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined. An estimated 14,800 people died in the United States from painkiller overdoses in 2008, a more than threefold jump from the 4,000 deaths recorded in 1999, the CDC said in a report released last November.
While 40 states have prescription drug monitoring programs, many are not linked together, according to the AP. That means patients can go from one state to another shopping for pills. Currently there is no federal monitoring of prescription drugs at the patient level.
For the third consecutive year, the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have jointly published the County Health Rankings -- http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/ -- which measure the health of every county in the United States. The Rankings illustrate how factors such as education, income, access to healthy foods, and air quality - factors that influence health outside of the doctor's office - play a major role with respect to how long and how well people live.
The Parent Toolkit
With 90% of addictions starting in the teen years, it's crucial to tackle substance abuse early. But preventing, detecting, and stopping dangerous behaviors can seem overwhelming. Trust us: it's not as hard as it looks. The Partnership at Drugfree.org created the Parent Toolkit to help, and you can make a huge impact by sharing it with parents you know.
The Parent Toolkit is an easy-to-use website with tips and guidelines from experts. It includes:
• Step-by-step guides on how to talk to a teen about drugs and alcohol
• Advice organized by age
• What to do if you find out that your teen is already using
Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to Rise in Armed Robberies of Pharmacies
Law enforcement officials are reporting a rise in armed robberies of pharmacies, by drug dealers and people desperate for prescription painkillers, ABC News reports.
There has been an 82 percent increase in pharmacy robberies, from 385 in 2006, to 701 in 2011. During that time, 3,535 pharmacies have been robbed, according to the news report.
In one well-publicized case, a man in search of drugs killed four people in Long Island, New York, in June 2011. He left the pharmacy with a backpack filled with prescription painkillers.
Pharmacy robbers generally are drug dealers looking to make a profit, but some are addicted to drugs and want the pills for themselves. Prescription painkillers can fetch up to $80 a pill on the street.
In response to the robberies, pharmacies are increasing security. They are adding guards and watchdogs, and are storing drugs in safes. Some pharmacists are getting guns to protect themselves, or are refusing to stock certain prescription painkillers.
In January, New York Senator Charles Schumer called for improved security for pharmacies, and longer sentences for pharmacy thefts. In a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration, he said that in Washington State, after time-sensitive safes and staggered inventories were introduced at many drug stores, pharmacy robberies dropped in half from 2008 to 2010.
Seven Minutes of Counseling by ER Doctor Can Help Reduce Drinking
People who engage in hazardous and harmful drinking are more likely to reduce their consumption of alcohol for at least one year if they receive just seven minutes of counseling from an emergency room physician, a new study finds. Physician counseling can also reduce drinking and driving.
The study included 740 people considered hazardous and harmful drinkers, defined as men who had more than 14 drinks a week, or more than four drinks at a time, and women who had more than seven drinks a week, or more than three at a time. They were divided into three groups. One group received brief counseling aimed at limiting alcohol consumption, the second group received the counseling plus a follow-up phone call, and the third received standard care alone.
HealthDay reports patients who received the counseling reduced their average number of drinks from almost 20 a week to 13 a week within six months. One year later, they drank slightly more than 14 drinks a week.
Participants who received the counseling reduced binge drinking episodes, from about seven per month to fewer than five, within six months. They engaged in slightly more than five episodes a month one year later. Among patients who received counseling, rates of driving after having more than three drinks dropped from 38 percent to 29 percent after one year.
Follow-up phone calls were found to have little benefit in reducing drinking.
“So many of the tragedies we see in the emergency department are due to problem drinking. Our study shows that brief counseling of patients can improve outcomes and have a life-saving impact,” lead researcher Gail D’Onofrio of the Yale University School of Medicine said in a news release.
The findings are published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.