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Thursday, December 19, 2013

ATOD & Advocacy Update - Week Ending December 20, 2013

On behalf of your friends at NCADD Middlesex, warmest greetings of the season and best wishes for happiness in the New Year and Holiday Blessings!

Heavy Marijuana Use in Teen Years Linked to Damaged Brain Structures: Study
Heavy marijuana use in the teenage years could damage brain structures vital to memory and reasoning, a new study suggests. The study found changes in the sub-cortical regions of the brain, which are part of the memory and reasoning circuits, NBC News reports. Young people who had changes in this region of the brain performed more poorly on memory tests than their peers who did not use marijuana. The heavy marijuana users in the study had not used the drug on average for more than two years before the memory testing occurred. The results appear in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin. The study included 10 people with a history of cannabis use disorder, 15 people with a history of cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia, and 28 with schizophrenia but no past regular marijuana use. The study also included 44 healthy people without a history of marijuana use. The participants who had used marijuana had been heavy users in their teen years. Their average age at the time of the study was mid-20s. The participants’ brains were scanned using MRI. They were then given tests of working memory, such as remembering number sequences. People who had a history of heavy marijuana use, whether or not they had schizophrenia, performed more poorly on the tests. They also showed abnormalities in regions of the brain related to reward and motivation, cognition input and movement and memory.

Rise in ADHD Diagnoses Linked to Drug Company Promotion of Treatments
The dramatic rise in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) coincided with a two-decade campaign by drug companies, aimed at doctors, educators and parents, to promote pills to treat the disorder, according to The New York Times. Almost one in five boys of high school age, and 11 percent of school-age children overall, have received a medical diagnosis of ADHD in the United States. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 to 17 had received an ADHD diagnosis at some point. This represents a 16 percent increase since 2007, and a 53 percent increase in the past 10 years. Dr. Keith Conners, a leader in the fight to legitimize ADHD, is very concerned about the increase in diagnoses. He notes the number of children on medication for the disorder has risen to 3.5 million, from 600,000 in 1990. He called the increase “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.” The drug industry is now focusing its efforts on adult ADHD, which could become even more profitable than the children’s market, the article notes. While ADHD is acknowledged to be a legitimate disability that can interfere with success at school, work and personal life, many critics say the effort to treat every child with signs of ADHD has led to too many receiving the diagnosis and medication. According to the article, drug company marketing portrays ADHD as including relatively normal behavior, such as carelessness and impatience, and has often exaggerated the medications’ benefits. The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major ADHD drug, including Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse, Intuniv and Strattera, for false and misleading advertising since 2000.

Moderate consumption of alcohol can improve immune response to vaccination
It's the time of year when many of us celebrate the holidays with festive foods and drinks, including alcohol. No better time then to ask if it is true, as is widely held, that moderate consumption of alcohol is beneficial to health. A research team led by an immunologist at the University of California, Riverside now has data that could put the question to rest. The researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption could bolster our immune system, and potentially our ability to fight infections. Continue reading here.

Study aims to cut binge drinking by text
A study aimed at cutting binge drinking by Scottish men will use text messaging in an attempt to change behavior. Researchers hope to target those who have settled into a pattern of binge drinking, consuming more than eight units of alcohol per drinking session. Please click here to continue.

Watchdog Group Slams Alcohol “Social Responsibility” Campaigns
Alcohol companies’ “social responsibility” campaigns increase brand loyalty and positive perceptions of the products, without reducing alcohol-related harms, according to a critic of the industry. Recent social responsibility campaigns have included advertising and products associated with causes such as HIV/AIDS, LGBT equality, breast cancer, and natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, a number of alcohol companies run campaigns to associate their products with the issue, including Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Chambord “Pink Your Drink” campaign. Belvedere Vodka promotes its special edition red bottle to raise proceeds for the Global Fund, which finances programs to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Absolut Pride campaign for LGBT equality featured a limited-edition rainbow-striped bottle of vodka. Last year, following Hurricane Sandy, Anheuser-Busch packaged more than a million cans of emergency drinking water for residents impacted by that and other natural disasters. The cans were labeled “donated by Anheuser-Busch,” and included the company logo. In addition to social responsibility campaigns, alcohol companies also benefit from “drink responsibly” campaigns, she observes. Last year, Alcohol Justice released a report about those campaigns, which concluded the evidence is that “drink responsibly” messages are not shown to be effective policies to reduce alcohol-related harm. Alcohol Justice reviewed “drink responsibly” messages in print ads in the September/October 2011 issues of 41 magazines with a high proportion of youth readership. They analyzed frequency, location, size, and content of beer, spirits and alcopops brand ads found in those publications, and compared the size of “drink responsibly” messages, if present, in the ads. They found 94 percent of the ads contained “drink responsibly” messages, but many blended into backgrounds so they were difficult to see, or were tiny in relation to the size of the entire ad. “‘Drink responsibly’ and ‘social responsibility’ campaigns are a conflict of interest in a variety of ways,” said Mart, who wrote the report. “With the so-called social responsibility campaigns, the alcohol company produces a product that contributes to harm – breast cancer or HIV, for example – and then capitalizes on that harm to increase positive feelings about the product. It’s a never-ending cycle. While it works very well for the company, it does not work well for public health.”

Attorneys General Urge FDA to Require Abuse-Deterrent Versions of Painkillers
Attorneys General from 42 U.S. states and territories are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require drug companies to ensure generic prescription opioids have abuse-deterrent features. Some brand-name painkillers, such as OxyContin, already have abuse-deterrent features, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The attorneys general said they are concerned that as generic versions of opioids become available, the drugs’ manufacturers will not incorporate abuse-deterrent features. Some drug companies have resisted adding the features because of the cost, the article notes. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the attorneys general wrote that they “respectfully request that the FDA provide clear and fair regulatory standards for the incorporation of abuse-deterrent technologies into generic opioids.” Last week, the attorneys general from 28 states asked the FDA to reassess its decision to approve Zohydro ER (extended release), a pure form of the painkiller hydrocodone. In a letter to Commissioner Hamburg, the attorneys general said they believe the approval of Zohydro ER “has the potential to exacerbate our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic because this drug will be the first hydrocodone-only opioid narcotic that is reportedly five to ten times more potent than traditional hydrocodone products, and it has no abuse-deterrent properties.”

Study Finds Five Parenting Programs Can Help Reduce Teen Behavior Problems
A study that evaluated a wide variety of parenting programs found five that help parents and children avoid teen behavior problems. The study appears in the Journal of Children’s Services. The programs that were found to be effective focus on promoting opportunities, skills and rewards for positive social behaviors, as well as bonding and clear expectations for behavior, reports. The programs aim to change risk factors such as poor parental supervision and high family conflict. They demonstrate what “normal” family behavior looks like, the article notes. One of the programs, called Nurse-Family Partnership, sends registered nurses to visit young, single, first-time mothers at least once every two weeks, starting while they are pregnant, and lasting until their child is 2 years old. When the women are pregnant, the nurses help them reduce smoking, drinking and drug use. After the baby is born, the nurses help the mothers create safe environments, and develop ways to deal with difficult behaviors. Another program, the Incredible Years, is designed to teach children ages 3-6, their parents and teachers ways to handle difficult situations. Therapist-led group sessions teach children to develop skills such as problem solving, making friends, and cooperating with others. A third program, Staying Connected with Your Teen, is aimed at helping teens avoid risky sexual activity, drug use and violent behavior. Parents are taught to set strong rules against antisocial behavior by increasing parental monitoring, reducing harsh parenting and rewarding teens to promote family bonding.

Fewer Teens See Great Risk from Being Regular Marijuana Users: Survey
The percentage of teens who think there is a great risk from being a regular marijuana user has dropped, according to a new survey. The Monitoring the Future survey found 39.5 percent of 12th graders think regular marijuana use is harmful, down from 44.1 percent last year. Monitoring the Future is an annual survey that measures drug use and attitudes among students in grades 8, 10 and 12. The survey found 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, compared with 6 percent in 2003, and 2.4 percent in 1993, CNN reports. Almost 23 percent of seniors say they smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked it during the past year. The survey found use of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, decreased 3.4 percent among high school seniors. Less than 1 percent of all students surveyed said they used bath salts. “Synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because their ingredients are unknown, they have not been tested for safety and their ever-changing ingredients can be unusually powerful,” said lead researcher Lloyd Johnston. “Users really don’t know what they are getting.” The abuse of the painkiller Vicodin has decreased in the last 10 years, from 10.5 percent of high school seniors in 2003, to 5.3 percent this year. The survey also found 7.4 percent of seniors said they took the ADHD drug Adderall for non-medical purposes in the past year, while 2.3 percent reported abusing Ritalin.

Medical Group Warns of Danger of Performance-Enhancing Drugs
The Endocrine Society is warning about the health consequences of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The vast majority of people who use these drugs are non-athlete weightlifters, reports. In a new scientific statement, the Endocrine Society notes media attention about PEDs has focused on their use by elite athletes in order to gain a competitive advantage in sports. “There is a widespread misperception that PED use is safe or that adverse effects are manageable,” the statement notes. PED use has been linked to an increased risk of death and a wide variety of health problems. In the long term, PEDs can cause impotence, worsening acne, balding and “steroid rage.” PEDs can also stunt growth in adolescents. More serious effects include heart and liver damage, and an increased risk of blood clots. “There is a widespread misperception that PED use is safe or that adverse effects are manageable,” said Shalender Bhasin, MD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who chaired the task force that developed the statement. “The truth is, PED use has been linked to increased risk of death and a wide variety of cardiovascular, psychiatric, metabolic, renal and musculoskeletal disorders.” PED users at greatest risk for health consequences are those who become dependent on the drugs, and use them over many years. Nearly one-third of people who use anabolic steroids will develop dependence on the drugs, and about one million men have experienced dependence on the steroids at some time, the article notes. Both athletes and non-athlete weightlifters who use PEDs often engage in other high-risk health behaviors, including using alcohol or opioids along with steroids, according to the group.

Fighting Holiday Overdrinking: Why Many Women May Be Better Off with Apps Over AA
The holidays are one of the most challenging times for Melissa, a 49-year-old real estate agent and heavy drinker, whose ex-husband’s family had a troubling relationship with alcohol.  “His family were all big drinkers,” she says recalling boozy Christmases, “With them, I’d be the first one to call it a night.” Melissa (a pseudonym) is now a user of, an evidence-based web application for people who are concerned about their alcohol use but do not want to quit.  Many come to the site via Google searches; others have tried the free, an evidence-based screening and intervention method for alcohol problems that was created by the same research group and is similar to tests used by doctors. Continue reading here.

43.7 Million Americans experienced mental illness in 2012
$31 Million Announced to Improve Mental Health Services for Young People
Nearly one in five American adults, or 43.7 million people, experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2012 according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These results are consistent with 2011 findings. SAMHSA also reported that, consistent with 2011, less than half (41 percent) of these adults received any mental health services in the past year. Among those who had serious mental illness, 62.9 percent received treatment. Among adults with mental illness who reported an unmet need for treatment, the top three reasons given for not receiving help were that they could not afford the cost, thought they could handle the problem without treatment, or did not know where to go for services. Continue to read this release here.

People are drinking less but doing so more harmfully. Policymakers want higher prices—causing a headache for the booze industry
BY DAY tourists flock to Plaza de EspaƱa in central Madrid to snap photos beside the sculpture of Miguel de Cervantes, author of “Don Quixote”. By night a newer facet of Spanish culture is on display: loitering groups of young people downing plastic bottles of whisky and vodka mixed with Fanta Lemon. The ground is littered with empties. Nearby, three young men help a friend vomiting on the pavement. Rest of this story is here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

ATOD & Advocacy Update - Week Ending December 13, 2013

Mentally Ill People with Substance Use Disorders Not Most Likely to Use ER: Study
A new study dispels the myth that the most frequent users of hospital emergency rooms are people with mental illness and substance use disorders. This population accounts for only a small percentage of visits, the researchers found. The study looked at emergency room visits made by more than 212,000 Medicaid patients in New York City since 2007, HealthDay reports. The researchers found patients who frequently use the ER tend to have multiple chronic health conditions and many hospitalizations.

There is evidence for effective alcohol policy – why isn't it taken seriously?
100,000 years of working life in England and Wales are lost because of alcohol. It doesn't have to be this way. Click here to continue reading.

Why MDs Abuse Prescription Drugs
Doctors who report they abuse prescription drugs cite self-medication to help manage physical pain and emotional problems as the number 1 reason for this habit, new research shows. In the study, substance-impaired doctors participated anonymously in guided group discussions as part of a monitored state physician health program (PHP). In addition to helping manage physical and emotional pain, physicians also cited stress, recreational use, and withdrawal prevention as the main reasons for abusing prescription medications. Click here to continue reading.

If You Haven't Heard Of DMT Yet, You Might Soon
Drug researchers have found evidence that a hallucinogenic compound used in shamanic rituals in the Amazon is growing in popularity. Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the active ingredient in ayahuasca, a plant-based mixture, can also be used by itself, often by smoking it. Rest of this story is here.

Physician Group Recommends Steps to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse
The American College of Physicians (ACP), one of the nation’s largest medical groups, has released a set of recommendations about how doctors can help reduce prescription drug abuse. The group made 10 recommendations, including forming a national prescription drug monitoring program so prescribers and pharmacists can check in their own and neighboring states before writing and filling prescriptions for substances with high abuse potential. Currently many states have drug monitoring programs. ACP also calls for increasing education programs for doctors and patients about prescription drug abuse, and promoting written agreements between doctors and patients being treated for pain. These agreements often describe the treatment, prohibited behaviors, responsibilities of the patient, and points when the treatment will be terminated. CBS News reports the group recommends that doctors should prescribe controlled substances electronically, instead of on paper, to decrease the chance they will be diverted. Doctors should first consider non-opioid treatment for pain, according to the ACP. The group does not recommend a maximum dosage or treatment time limit. The recommendations are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Many PG-13 Movies Have Violent Characters Who Drink, Smoke and Have Sex
An analysis of almost 400 top-grossing movies from 1985 to 2010 shows about 90 percent included at least one moment of violence involving a main character. In 77 percent of those movies, the main character also smoked tobacco or drank alcohol or engaged in sexual behavior, HealthDay reports. More than half of the most popular movies rated PG-13 featured a main character who acted violently and involved either drinking, smoking or sexual behavior within a five-minute segment, the researchers found. The study found almost no difference between the most popular PG-13 movies and R-rated movies in depicting main characters who engaged in violent and alcohol use, or violence and sexual behavior.
The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Why Are Millions Addicted To A Drug That Eats The Flesh Off Their Bones?
Codeine, gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, iodine and red phosphorous from matchstick heads. Those are typical ingredients in the street drug known as krokodil, a highly addictive toxic cocktail that’s three times as cheap to produce as heroin and could be becoming an international problem. Please click here to read on.

Research: Individual alcohol policies can reduce risky drinking
According to a new study, a novel composite measure consisting of 29 alcohol policies demonstrates that a strong alcohol policy environment is a protective factor against binge drinking in the U.S. The study was led by researchers at the Boston University Schools of Medicine (BUSM) and Public Health and Boston Medical Center (BMC), and is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. To continue, please click here.

HHS Provides $50 Million to Expand Treatment for Substance Use, Mental Health
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its plans to provide $50 million to expand treatment for substance use disorders and mental health. The funds will be used to hire staff, add services and employ team-based models of care. The funds will go to approximately 200 community health centers, UPI reports. The president’s fiscal year 2014 budget also includes $130 million to help teachers recognize signs of mental illness in students and refer them to services, and to support innovative state-based programs to improve mental health outcomes for young people. It also provides funds to train 5,000 more mental health professionals. The number of people seeking addiction treatment could double under the Affordable Care Act. Under the new law, four million people with drug and alcohol problems will become eligible for insurance coverage. How many new patients will seek addiction treatment will depend in part on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs.

The financial realities of living with an addict
For David Sheff, there is nothing worse than the sheer terror of witnessing your own child slip away into a life of drug abuse. The San Francisco writer felt helpless as his son Nic became addicted to substances like methamphetamine and heroin over the course of a decade, beginning in 1997 when Nic was around 15. Nic eventually triumphed, and has now been clean for more than five years, to his parents' great joy and relief. But his lengthy struggles with addiction had another long-term victim: Their family budget. "Credit cards would disappear, checks would disappear, stuff would go missing," remembers Sheff, who wrote the 2008 book "Beautiful Boy" about his family's experiences. "Eventually he even broke into his little brother's piggy bank; that's how bad it got," he said in an interview. "Then he would disappear, and we would be terrified for him, and just send more money," he says. "I did that until someone told me that sending money to a drug addict is like giving a loaded gun to someone who is suicidal." Rest of this story is here.

N.J. Assembly committee votes to expand medical marijuana program again
A state Assembly committee today (12/12/13) voted to give flexibility to New Jersey's registered medical marijuana patients by allowing them to buy the drug in another state and use it here. The bill (A-4537) received a brief hearing before it sailed through the Assembly Health Committee at the Statehouse by a vote of 7-4. But its long-term prospects may be in doubt. Gov. Chris Christie has stated he is "done expanding the medical marijuana program under any circumstances" when asked what would happen if the bill reached his desk. The bill would allow patients enrolled in the state's program to possess medical marijuana legally obtained from another state program. Patients registered with another state program also be allowed to use their medicine here, according to the bill. New Jersey patients would have to buy a form of marijuana that conforms to the state's parameters, and would not be allowed to exceed the dose recommended by their doctor. Please click here to continue reading.

Gov. Walker signs 'Brown Jug Bill' into law
Getting busted for underage drinking in Wisconsin just got a bit more expensive. A measure known as the Brown Jug Bill was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Scott Walker, giving bar owners and other establishments that sell alcoholic beverages the ability to report underage drinkers to the police and then take them to court. The underage drinker would then be required to pay the business owner $1,000 if found guilty. The fine would be in addition to the $250 to $1,000 underage drinking fine an individual would receive from law enforcement. Rest of the story is here.