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Friday, September 27, 2013

ATOD & Advocacy Update - Week Ending September 27, 2013

Some Patients in Rehab Centers May Go to Great Lengths to Obtain Drugs

Several recent cases of drugs smuggled into substance abuse treatment centers highlight how difficult it is to eradicate drug use in these facilities, according to USA Today. In New Jersey this summer, prosecutors arrested seven men, including five employees, at Veterans Affairs treatment facilities on charges of distributing heroin, crack cocaine and painkillers. In Minnesota, a patient at a locked state drug treatment facility was sentenced to four years in prison, after she and two other patients used heroin and other drugs smuggled in shampoo bottles and pockets of jeans by an accomplice outside the center. Now clients must undress for a contraband search when they are admitted to the facility. “Addicts will go to great lengths to get drugs,” said Carol Falkowski, former director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division at Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, who also worked at the Hazelden Foundation. Patients at facilities can often convince friends, family or their former dealers to smuggle in drugs for them, she said. “It happens all the time,” she noted. “Historically, it’s something that every treatment center has to deal with.” At Origins Recovery Centers on South Padre Island, Texas, patients are thoroughly searched and are tested for drugs twice a week, according to CEO Ben Levenson. “These are survivors. They are super resourceful. Many of them are super bright. They try everything. I’ve seen them hide pills in the seams of their dress shirts,” he said. The facility conducts deep background checks on employees, and regularly tests them for drugs. The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California has a highly trained security team that includes a dog trained to detect drugs, strict protocols for all visitors and random drug testing of patients, according to spokesman Russ Patrick.

Buyers Using Silk Road Online Marketplace to Purchase Heroin and Other Drugs

Illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine, opioid pills, Ecstasy and LSD are for sale through an online marketplace named Silk Road, which law enforcement officials have been unable to shut down. Officials cannot track the location of the website’s servers, according to Newsday. Silk Road can only be accessed by using encryption software called Tor, which shields computers’ IP addresses, allowing people to make purchases anonymously. Silk Road has facilitated more than $30 million in sales annually, law enforcement officials told the newspaper. It has been online since February 2011.. The website also sells other illegal items, such as forged documents and untaxed cigarettes, the article notes. The site does not use credit cards, instead relying on “Bitcoins,” an untraceable digital currency that is available through online currency exchange services. The website tells sellers to make shipments using vacuum-sealed bags so that drug-sniffing dogs will not detect the packages. Officials told Newsday the government is using high-tech investigative methods, such as encryption-cracking technology, to help build a case against the website.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Cocaine

When Kim Janda built the first cocaine vaccine in his Scripps Research Institute lab 25 years ago, he slapped it with a three-letter name: GNC. “It stood for ‘gold nugget cocaine,’ because we thought it was going to make us rich,” he recalls with a snort. “It sounds stupid now.”  Rest of this story is here.

Son's heroin death prompts dad to seek HIPAA rule change

More than 80% of those arrested in Camden, N.J., for possessing or seeking narcotics are from suburban communities, said Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson. A three-day operation in May netted 45 buyers — 36 of whom were from the South Jersey suburbs or Philadelphia. A similar daylong sting in April 2012 snared 49 buyers — 70% of them from outside Camden. Please click here to continue reading.

Time to Take a Stand Against Outdated Drug Education

Recently, the Drug Policy Alliance held a back-to-school teleseminar called "What Parents Need to Know About Drug Use and Drug Education." As an educator who regularly works with adolescents in school, juvenile detention, and community settings I was eager to learn some new practices to better engage young people around the topic of drug use. It turns out that effective drug education is just good youth development practice. The principles that practitioners have utilized to engage young people in healthy decision making are the very same methods that are necessary for high school students to understand the consequences of drug use and apply their knowledge to make informed decisions. Please click here for more of this article.

How College Health Centers Help Students Succeed

A Cornell health center staff member provides information at a sexual harassment prevention resource fair (Cornell University Photography)

Of all the dramatic changes in higher education in recent years, one that goes largely unnoticed is the tremendous growth in the mission, services, and facilities of health centers. Decades ago most colleges and universities believed their only responsibility for student health was to set up a clinic to treat the sick and injured. Today, driven by a broader and, in our judgment, better understanding of health and its impact on learning, many institutions of higher education provide much more. Click here for more.

Underage Drinkers, Smokers Often Get Cigarettes and Alcohol from Family and Friends

A survey of underage smokers and drinkers in Canada finds many of them obtain their cigarettes and alcohol from family and friends. The survey of more than 9,000 teens asked them about their smoking and drinking habits. Of the teens who smoked, 58 percent said they got their last cigarette from a friend or family member, according to HealthDay. In addition, 19 percent said they got their last cigarette at a corner store, grocery store, gas station or bar. Girls were more likely than boys to have gotten their last cigarette from a friend or family member (73 percent versus 46 percent). Of the students who drank alcohol, 39 percent said a friend or family member gave it to them, and 28 percent said they gave money to someone to purchase it for them. The survey, by researchers at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, found 32 percent of older students said they got their alcohol by giving someone else money to buy it, compared with 2 percent of younger students. “Despite efforts to curb youth smoking and prevent youth alcohol use, the survey tells us that youth are still able to easily access these substances, often from the very people who should be looking out for their well-being,” survey principal investigator Dr. Robert Mann said in a news release.

Bath Salts Often Added to “Molly,” Making the Drug More Dangerous: Officials

The club drug “Molly” is often laced with other synthetic drugs such as bath salts, making it more dangerous, according to law enforcement officials. Molly, a club drug blamed for several recent deaths among young people attending music festivals, is sold as a pure form of Ecstasy, or MDMA. Drug dealers are now selling a variety of potentially more dangerous drugs under the name Molly, according to The Wall Street Journal. Jeff Lapoint, an attending physician at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, says while Molly generally leads to feelings of empathy, bath salts “are potent stimulants and tend to induce paranoia and hallucinations. It’s like the worst combination: While they’re agitated, now they’re seeing things, too.” “Molly is just a marketing tool,” said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the newspaper. “It could be a whole variety of things.” MDMA is difficult to manufacture, so some drug makers get bath salts ingredients and repackage them as Molly, explained James Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities in Miami. Payne noted bath salts ingredients, such as methylone, are much less expensive than MDMA. Molly is suspected of causing two deaths at a recent New York City music festival. A19-year-old girl in Boston died of a suspected overdose of Molly following a concert, and a man in Washington state died after taking the drug, with dozens more treated for Molly overdoses.

Synthetic Marijuana Often Undetected by Drug Tests for People on Parole or Probation

Most drug tests given to people on parole or probation are unlikely to detect synthetic marijuana, a new study finds. The Washington Post reports the study found that among a sample of young men from the Washington, D.C. parole and probation system, 39 percent tested positive for synthetic marijuana, even though they had passed a traditional drug screen. The study was conducted by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research. The researchers said the findings underscored the need for updated testing. The report stated, “For the first time we, found a drug that was as likely to be found in persons who had failed the limited criminal justice system screen as in persons who had passed.” Rafael Lemaitre, Associate Director for Public Affairs at the ONDCP, said the agency hopes the findings will encourage officials at the state and local level to stay on top of synthetic drug trends.

Getting Mental-Health Care at the Doctor's Office

Providers Take Integrated Approach, With Patient Numbers Set to Jump Under New Law and Psychiatrists in Short Supply

Seattle psychiatrist Anna Ratzliff oversees mental-health care for nearly 500 patients—most of whom she will never meet.As the consulting psychiatrist for four primary-care practices, Dr. Ratzliff confers weekly with 10 care managers who follow the patients closely, provide counseling and chart their progress in electronic registries. She helps devise treatment plans and suggests changes for those who aren't improving. Read the rest of this article here.

First cases of flesh-eating drug Krokodil surface in US

Krokodil, a flesh-eating drug which first surfaced in Russia more than a decade ago, has reportedly been found in the United States. Similar to morphine or heroin, krokodil is made by mixing codeine with substances like gasoline, paint thinner, oil or alcohol. That mixture is then injected into a vein, potentially causing an addict's skin to turn greenish, scaly and eventually rot away. Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director at Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center in Arizona, told CBS5 that the first two cases of people using the drug have been reported in the state. He declined to comment on the patients' conditions. More here.

Number of Patients Receiving Mental Health Care to Soar Under New Law

The number of patients receiving mental health care is expected to soar under provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will take effect next week, The Wall Street Journal reports. As many as 62 million additional Americans may qualify for mental health coverage. Beginning October 1, health plans sold on the new exchanges must provide at least some mental health coverage. Existing health plans must do the same when they come up for renewal, the article notes. In addition, a 2008 federal “parity” law prevents health insurance plans from placing more restrictions on mental health benefits than on medical benefits. Mental health care is limited in many areas of the country. An estimated 90 million Americans live in areas with fewer than one psychiatrist per 30,000 residents. To make more efficient use of a limited number of mental health professionals, primary care practices are trying to integrate psychiatric care. Large health systems, including Kaiser Permanente and the Veterans Health Administration, are having primary care providers treat mental health issues with the oversight of psychiatrists. The integration is also being spurred by a growing acknowledgement that medical and mental health problems are often intertwined. For instance, patients with heart disease and diabetes are twice as likely as the general population to suffer from anxiety and depression. In turn, these mental health problems make it more difficult to lose weight and make other healthful changes. In a practice that integrates medical and mental health care, doctors can introduce patients to a counselor on site. “It’s so important to capture that moment,” said internist Thomas Goforth, Medical Director of the Family Health Center of Harlem, an integrated-care center in New York City. “If a patient gets comfortable with a counselor before ever leaving the building, he’s much more likely to return.”

Study Finds Where Person Drinks Influences Risk of Partner Violence

The location where people drink influences whether they will be involved in partner violence, suggests a new study. Men drinking in bars and at parties away from home are more likely to be involved in male-to-female violence, as are women who drink in parks and other public places. The study also found men who drink during quiet evenings at home are more likely to be involved in female-to-male violence, HealthDay reports. More than 1,500 couples participated in the study. They were asked about their drinking in various locations. While it has long been known that drinking is linked with partner violence, the researchers say this study demonstrates the location where the drinking occurs, and the situation in which it occurs, can also play a role.

The findings are published in the journal Addiction. “From a prevention perspective, the results are quite hopeful: it may be possible to reduce violence against spouses and partners by encouraging people in risky relationships to avoid drinking in certain contexts,” the researchers note in a news release. “Such advice could well be more effective in the short-term than encouraging people to drink less.”

Number of Oxycodone-Related Deaths in Florida Dropped Significantly in 2012

Deaths caused by oxycodone dropped 41 percent in Florida last year, according to a new government report. Deaths linked to methadone, hydrocodone and cocaine also decreased, according to the Miami Herald. Oxycodone still causes more deaths than any other drug in Florida, the state Medical Examiners Office reports. In 2012, drugs were either present or the cause of death in 8,330 people in Florida, down from 9,135 the previous year. In March, the state reported the number of deaths due to oxycodone decreased by 29 percent in the first six months of 2012, compared with the second half of the previous year. The drugs that caused the most deaths in the first half of 2012 were benzodiazepines, oxycodone, ethyl alcohol, methadone and cocaine. The report found deaths due to methadone and hydrocodone decreased 18.3 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively. Deaths caused by cocaine decreased by 11.6 percent. The findings provide evidence the state is successfully fighting the prescription drug abuse epidemic, officials said. For many years, Florida was a popular destination for people who wanted to buy prescription drugs at “pill mills” and doctors’ offices. In 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.

Online Pharmacies and Teenagers: How Does Google Fit In?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people in America overdose from prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined. The fact that prescription drugs can be easily purchased from online pharmacies without a doctor's prescription is a major concern, especially for parents of teenagers. John Horton, the founder of LegitScript and the person who policed the industry for the White for five years, said in a recent interview that research shows 97 percent of Internet pharmacies are not operating legitimately and most of those do not require a prescription at all. Leave a door open, and we know teens and drug dealers will find a way in -- either online or off. Continue reading here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ATOD & Advocacy Update - Week Ending September 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Colleges Take Steps to Reduce Alcohol Use
A number of colleges in Pennsylvania are taking steps to reduce alcohol use among students, according to the Associated Press. Bucknell University in Lewisburg has cancelled its annual House Party, a weekend of music, food and partying. In a letter to the campus community, Bucknell President John Bravman said 15 students at last year’s event were hospitalized with blood alcohol levels over 0.239—almost three time the legal definition for drunk driving. Two students had levels higher than 0.30. “Quite frankly, it was a disaster from my point of view,” he told the AP. “I just can’t believe that anyone would actually argue that this has a mission purpose for this university.” Temple University in Philadelphia has cancelled its Spring Fling, a decades-old event. Temple’s Dean of Students, Stephanie Ives, said many students used the event as an opportunity to skip class and drink. “Our academic mission was being undermined” by the behavior, she said, adding that student health was also a major concern. This year, a female student visiting Temple during Spring Fling died after falling from a rooftop party, in what appeared to be an accident. Pennsylvania State University paid 34 bars and restaurants $167,000 to not serve alcohol during last spring’s student-organized “State Patty’s Day.” A task force at the University of Pennsylvania is evaluating the school’s alcohol and safety policies. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among full-time college students in 2012, 60.3 percent were current drinkers, 40.1 percent were binge drinkers, and 14.4 percent were heavy drinkers.

The Rise of Marijuana-Loving Moms
Newborn drug tests, surprise home visits, forced adoptions—how the quiet war against mothers who smoke has rallied pro-women, pro-weed groups. This article continues here.

Smarter Kids Are Smart Enough to Avoid Alcohol and Drugs, Right?
Maybe not. The latest study of twins shows that early bloomers may become heavier drinkers who start chugging earlier in life. The research is part of an emerging but counterintuitive body of work that suggests kids who develop language and intellectual skills earlier are more likely to drink and take other drugs than their less intelligent peers. In 2011, for example, British researchers found that women who were in the top third of the IQ range when tested in elementary school were more than twice as likely as those scoring in the bottom third to have used marijuana or cocaine by age 30; for men, the top-ranked boys were almost 50% more likely to have taken amphetamine and 65% more likely to have used ecstasy (MDMA) by adulthood. Continue here.

It's not just college: 1 in 10 high school seniors engage in 'extreme' binge drinking
It just got harder to be a parent. New research shows that ‘extreme’ binge drinking -- defined as downing 10 or more drinks in a row -- isn’t relegated to the college fraternity party. Plenty of high school seniors are taking part in this kind of alcohol abuse, as well. The research out Monday shows one in 10 high school seniors have engaged in this kind extreme binge drinking, while 5.6% have upped the ante even further, consuming 15 or more drinks in a single drinking event. Story continues here.

New App That Measures Blood Alcohol Levels to be Released in October
A new app that measures a person’s blood alcohol level will be released in October, Reuters reports. The app works through a device that plugs into the headphone jack of a smartphone. After a person blows into the device, an ethanol sensor embedded in the Breathometer app detects alcohol on the breath and converts it into a signal, which the app processes. It displays the person’s blood alcohol level within seconds on the device, which can fit in a pocket or on a keychain. The app, which will cost $49, will work with iPhones and Android smartphones. It works with iPhones through a Bluetooth link. Charles Michael Yim, Chief Executive of Breathometer, told Reuters the product is designed to prevent drunk driving, by allowing a person to be aware of their blood alcohol levels and make smarter decisions. The app also can detect a person’s GPS location, and call a cab if the person cannot drive home. It will estimate how long it will take for a person to become sober. The Breathometer is one of a growing number of small, inexpensive personal devices that measures a person’s blood alcohol level, providing drivers with an easier way to assess their fitness to drive. Experts warn the devices do not guarantee a person can drive safely. Critics of the devices note they aren’t necessarily accurate, in part because impairment from alcohol varies among people. Proponents note they could be useful for parents who want to check whether their teens have been drinking. Another such device, BACtrack, is a hand-held unit that displays a graph predicting a person’s blood alcohol levels in the hours to come on an iPhone, through a Bluetooth link.

Naloxone Stopped 2,000 Overdoses in Massachusetts in Six Years: Report
Naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids including heroin and oxycodone, has stopped 2,000 overdoses in Massachusetts in the last six years, state officials announced. Naloxone, also called Narcan, is a nasal spray. Naloxone kits are distributed in 15 communities in Massachusetts for free to people who use opioids, and to their family and friends, the Associated Press reports. The Narcan program also offers education and referrals for addiction treatment. Ambulance crews and emergency rooms have routinely used Narcan for decades. During the past few years, public health officials in a growing number of communities around the country have begun distributing it to people addicted to opioids, and to their loved ones. Some police and firefighters have also received the kits. In February 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that naloxone has successfully reversed more than 10,000 opioid overdoses since 1996.

Emergency Rooms Reported 23,000 Bath Salts-Related Visits in 2011
U.S. emergency rooms reported almost 23,000 visits for synthetic drugs known as “bath salts” in 2011. The findings come from the first national study to look at bath salts-related emergency room visits, according to HealthDay. It was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report found 33 percent of these visits involved bath salts only, 15 percent involved bath salts combined with marijuana or synthetic marijuana, and 52 percent involved bath salts in combination with other drugs. “Although bath salts drugs are sometimes claimed to be ‘legal highs’ or are promoted with labels to mask their real purpose, they can be extremely dangerous when used,” Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Chief Medical Officer of SAMHSA, said in an agency news release. Bath salts can be taken by mouth, inhaled, or injected. Adverse effects of bath salts include heart and blood vessel problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, and death, according to SAMHSA. In 2011, there were almost 2.5 million U.S. emergency department visits involving drug misuse or abuse.

Study: Chronic Care Approach to Substance Abuse Treatment No Better Than Usual Care
A new study finds a substance abuse treatment program that approaches addiction as a chronic disease is no more effective than a single medical visit and a referral to addiction treatment resources. People treated for drug and alcohol addiction were assigned to receive chronic care management or usual addiction care. Chronic care management included intensive medical care at a primary care clinic, counseling to prevent relapses, and addiction and psychiatric treatment. Usual care included one medical visit, in which patients received a list of resources for addiction treatment. The year-long study of almost 600 adults found that 44 percent of patients who received chronic care management had stopped drinking or using drugs, compared with 42 percent of those who received usual care, HealthDay reports. Lead researcher Dr. Richard Saitz of Boston University says he has not given up on chronic care management for addiction, but acknowledged it will not be effective for everyone. He added more studies are needed to identify the best way to use chronic care management, and who will receive the greatest benefit. “We have to recognize that people with drug or alcohol addictions may be different and it’s not one monolithic disorder,” he said. “I do think that integrated chronic care management, in the future, is going to be efficacious for people with addictions.” The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What you need to know about synthetic drugs
Spice, bath salts, herbal incense.
They sound like something you might find on the fragrance aisle at Target, but these are actually dangerous drugs masked as harmless fragrances, sold in convenience stores and online. Innocent names such as Mr. Smiley hide the dangers. No one really knows what's in these so-called synthetic drugs. Manufacturers play a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with law enforcement by constantly changing the chemical compounds of the drugs to circumvent existing laws. Rest of this story is here.

Taxes Are Not a Sober Response to Alcohol Abuse
On the heels of a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that sent shockwaves through the media by declaring that alcohol abuse costs America more than $200 billion in "lost productivity" each year, a task force is recommending that states increase taxes and restrictions on alcohol sales. Although the CDC's numbers look scary, the science behind them is even scarier, and new sin taxes would be a gross overreaction to some questionable data. The CDC study at the center of the uproar relies on lost productivity metrics, a dubious field of statistics that many analysts believe grossly overstates the impact of common behaviors. By these same measures, "disengaged employees" cost the economy about twice as much as alcohol abusers, and parents pull more than $300 billion from the economy when they are stressed about child care. Please click here to continue reading.

Justice Department Broadens Changes in Federal Drug Sentencing Policy
Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the Justice Department will broaden a plan to change how some non-violent drug offenders are prosecuted. Last month, Holder said low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who are not tied to large-scale drug organizations or gangs will not face mandatory minimum sentences. On Thursday, he said the new policy will cover defendants who have not yet been convicted in drug cases that could involve long mandatory prison sentences, the Associated Press reports. Prosecutors will also have the discretion to apply the policy to defendants who have entered a guilty plea, but have not yet been sentenced. Certain laws mandate minimum sentences regardless of the facts of the case. Holder said the longest prison terms should be reserved for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers. “Some federal drug statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case — do not serve public safety when they’re applied indiscriminately,” Holder said at a criminal justice issues forum of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The federal prison population has grown by about 800 percent since 1980, while the U.S. population as a whole has increased by about one-third during that time. Although 5 percent of the world’s population resides in the United States, the nation’s prisons house almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, according to the Justice Department. More than 219,000 federal inmates are incarcerated. Almost half are serving time for drug-related crimes.

Opioid Prescribing for Non-Cancer Pain Almost Doubled Between 2000 and 2010
Opioid prescribing for non-cancer pain almost doubled between 2000 and 2010, while prescriptions for non-opioid pain relievers remained relatively stable during that period, according to a new study. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied federal government data on treatment of non-cancer pain from 2000 to 2010. Of the 164 million pain-related visits to doctors in 2010, about half of patients were treated with some type of pain reliever, according to HealthDay. They found while prescriptions of non-opioid painkillers remained relatively stable at between 26 percent and 29 percent, prescriptions for opioids nearly doubled, from 11 percent to 19 percent. The researchers also analyzed visits for new musculoskeletal pain. They found a significant decrease in prescriptions of non-opioid pain relievers, from 38 percent in 2000, to 29 percent in 2010. They note there is a lack of evidence that opioids are more effective or safer than non-opioid treatment for this type of pain. The findings are published in the journal Medical Care. “We found that not only have the rates of treated pain not improved, but in many cases, use of safer alternatives to opioids, such as medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, have either stayed flat or declined,” researcher Dr. G. Caleb Alexander said in a news release. “This suggests that efforts to improve the identification and treatment of pain have backfired, due to an over-reliance on prescription opioids that have caused incredible morbidity and mortality among patients young and old alike.”

New “Crazy Clown” Drug Hits Streets Of Georgia
A scary new drug known as "Crazy Clown" is sending some users to the hospital. The synthetic incense is causing authorities to sound the alarm. Amanda Warford reports. Jason Hedegard heard the terrifying screams from down the street.  "Three girls foaming out the mouth. One rolling around on the ground and my nephew couldn't walk," says Jason Hedgeard, whose nephew used "Crazy Clown." Click here to read more.

Friday, September 13, 2013

ATOD & Advocacy Update - Week Ending September 13, 2013

As U.S. Embraces Marijuana, Sports May Need To Follow Suit
For an advocacy group seeking attention, tying its cause to the kickoff of the NFL season is never a bad strategy. Such was the thinking behind a billboard unveiled Wednesday by the Marijuana Policy Project not far from Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium — home of the Broncos, who hosted the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night in the first game of the 2013 NFL campaign. “Stop Driving Players To Drink!” the 48 X 14 foot message says. “A Safer Choice Is Now Legal (Here).” The visual: a football next to a beer mug. Continue reading here.

Back to School: Better grades don’t require prescription drug abuse
It used to be all you needed to do well on your high school calculus test was a disciplined study plan, a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast. Nowadays you might need to add a dose or two of Adderall or Ritalin as well. Or so it would seem. The pressure to get good grades in order to be accepted by the best colleges and universities, combined with an often crushing load of extracurricular activities, has convinced an increasing number of high school students that the only way to stay ahead is through the use – and frequent abuse – of prescription drugs. Continue here.

Heroin Use on the Rise, Methamphetamine Use Decreases, National Survey Finds
A new national survey of drug use released last week finds heroin use is on the rise, while methamphetamine use is decreasing, reports. The survey also found 5.3 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes in the past month, similar to rates in the previous two years. The survey found rates of teen drinking, including binge drinking, in the past month were lower last year compared with 2002 and 2009. Prescription drug abuse rates among adults ages 18 to 25 were significantly lower last year than in 2009, when 6.4 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The survey found the number of Americans who said they used meth in 2012 fell to 440,000, from 731,000 in 2006. SAMHSA said the drop is most likely due to state laws restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of meth that is found in cold medicines such as Sudafed. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, the survey found, with 7.3 percent of Americans saying they are current users. The number of people ages 12 and older who said they used heroin in the past year increased from 373,000 in 2007, to 669,000 in 2012. Drug use in on the rise among people ages 50 to 64. The survey found 7.2 percent of people in this age group used illegal drugs last year, up from 3.4 percent a decade ago. Among adults ages 55 to 59, drug use rose from 1.9 percent to 6.6 percent from 2002 to 2012. In 2012, more than half of Americans—52.1 percent—reported drinking alcohol, and almost one quarter—60 million people—reported binge drinking. The study also found fewer teens are smoking.

Music Festival Attendees Say “Molly” Use is Widespread
Young people who attend electronic dance music festivals tell The Christian Science Monitor that use of the drug “Molly” is widespread. The drug has been attributed to four recent overdose deaths, including two at a music festival in New York. “I mean, there might be some kids that bring stuff with them to use or to sell, but the common idea is, you don’t bring sand to a beach,” Matthew Walcott, a former student at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, told the newspaper. “There’s no reason to, because there’s crazy, crazy amounts of drugs everywhere.” Wilson Compton, director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “We’re certainly concerned about reports that we’re hearing in different locations, about complications and side effects of these synthetic agents.” He noted that “some people can die from the equivalent of heat exhaustion brought on by the excess activity under the influence of this substance.” The drug, a more pure form of Ecstasy, comes in a powder. It has been available for decades, but has become more popular recently with college students. Mentions of the drug by music stars including Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West have increased its appeal. Molly’s health risks can include involuntary teeth clenching, a loss of inhibitions, transfixion on sights and sounds, nausea, blurred vision and chills and/or sweating. More serious risks of the drug, also called MDMA, can include increased heart rate and blood pressure and seizures. It is not uncommon to see people at music festivals and clubs go into a “K hole,” an almost-unconscious state, the newspaper reports. The term originally referred to an overdose of the drug ketamine. A growing number of people who use Molly are buying drug test kits online, to test whether the drugs are laced with impurities.

Pa. colleges move to curb student drinking
House Party at Bucknell University was a springtime rite of passage for decades of students, a weekend of live outdoor music, grilled food, and a festival atmosphere on campus. But the weekend was also known as a hazy few days of debauchery. Among the tamer pastimes: shots, beer pong, daytime boxed wine, sometimes all three. While the tradition of House Party appeared sacred on Bucknell's campus, university president John Bravman canceled the event in August, joining a growing band of officials across the state taking action against alcohol abuse. Please click here to continue.

FDA Announces Stronger Safety Warnings for Some Opioid Painkillers
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced safety labeling changes for extended-release and long-acting opioid painkillers. The new labels will call attention to the dangers of abuse and possible death, Reuters reports. They will also highlight the risks to babies whose mothers take the medicines, in a prominent boxed warning. The labels will appear on drugs including OxyContin, a long-acting form of oxycodone. Other opioids include fentanyl and morphine. The drug labels currently state they are indicated for patients with moderate to severe pain. The new labels will indicate the drugs should be used only by patients in pain that is severe enough to require daily, constant, long-term opioid treatment, who have not had adequate pain relief from other medicines. The FDA will also require additional studies of the drugs to assess risks of abuse, overdose and death. “The FDA is invoking its authority to require safety labeling changes and postmarket studies to combat the misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death from these potent drugs that have harmed too many patients and devastated too many families and communities,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a news release.

ACA Brings Big Changes for Addiction Treatment
The Affordable Care Act recognizes drug addiction and alcoholism as chronic diseases that must be covered by health insurance plans, and in so doing marks a major transformation of addiction care.
The biggest change is that 40 million people could enter substance abuse treatment, opening a huge market for addiction care.  Click here for the rest of this story.

6 ways your life is personally affected by the War on Drugs
US drug policy has unequivocally curtailed your basic civil rights, regardless of whether you're a user
Many Americans who do not use illegal “drugs” assume exemption from drug war policies. But regardless of how much marijuana you do or don’t smoke, the U.S. war on drugs affects nearly everyone. While some prohibition tactics are more obvious than others, the drug war has slyly pushed its way into many corners of American life. Be it at the post office, in the workspace, or behind the counter at Walgreens, the war on drugs has established a nagging presence in the everyday lives of Americans, even those who do not get high illegally. We can no longer come down with a cold, for example, without the medication we take to treat it being tracked and monitored by the government. A national database collects information on every person who buys cold medication containing pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Read more here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools
To read the latest NIDA information on this topic, click here.

Number of People Seeking Addiction Treatment Could Double Under New Health Law
The number of people seeking addiction treatment could double under the Affordable Care Act, the Associated Press reports. Under the new law, four million people with drug and alcohol problems will become eligible for insurance coverage. The surge of new patients is likely to strain the substance abuse treatment system, the AP notes. How many new patients will seek addiction treatment will depend in part on how many states decide to expand their Medicaid programs. “There is no illness currently being treated that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act than addiction,” Tom McLellan, CEO of the nonprofit Treatment Research Institute, told the AP. “That’s because we have a system of treatment that was built for a time when they didn’t understand that addiction was an illness.” The new law designates addiction treatment as an “essential health benefit” for most commercial insurance plans, meaning the plans must cover it. Substance abuse treatment is to a large extent publicly funded, and run by counselors who have limited medical training, according to the article. Programs are already running over capacity in many places, and have been hit by government budget cuts. The increase in patients could result in long waiting lists, treatment agencies warn. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.1 million people ages 12 and older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem last year, but only 2.5 million received treatment at a specialty facility. About one-quarter of those who need treatment but do not receive it lack insurance, according to the article.

DEA Says New Cold Medicine Can be Used to Make Meth
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said this week that a new cold medicine must be kept behind pharmacy counters because it can be used to make methamphetamine. The medicine, Zephrex-D, contains a new form of pseudoephedrine that the drug’s maker says is difficult to use to make meth. Over the past month, pharmacies have started to sell Zephrex-D in all 50 states. DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said government chemists were able to make meth from the cold medicine, the Associated Press reports. “DEA commends the efforts of companies to develop products that deter the production of illicit drugs,” he said. “While this particular company claims that their ‘drug delivery system provides a new and unconventional approach to combat drug misuse,’ this product can still be utilized to manufacture methamphetamine.” In a news release, the company that makes Zephrex-D, Westport Pharmaceuticals, says the product cannot be used to make meth with the one-pot shake-and-bake method, in which the ingredients are mixed together in a soda bottle. “The vast majority of homemade meth is now produced this way,” the company notes, adding that the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association said it has not found the product in any meth labs. Pseudoephedrine must be crystallized in order to make meth. Westport officials say the pseudoephedrine in their product becomes gooey when heated, instead of crystallizing. The officials acknowledge that their product can be used to make meth in very small quantities, but that a single dose made in this way would cost $250 to $500—up to 20 times the street value. According to the U.S. Combat Meth Act, pseudoephedrine products must be sold behind the counter. A person purchasing the products must show identification and have their names entered into a tracking database. More than 70 cities and counties in Missouri require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, as do Oregon and Mississippi.

Drugs, Death and Dance Music
As lights flashed, monster beats pounded and thousands of ravers threw their arms in the air, things took a dark turn on August 31st, the second day of New York's annual Electric Zoo festival. In separate incidents, two young fans, University of New Hampshire student Olivia Rotondo, 20, and recent Syracuse University graduate Jeffrey Russ, 23, died after apparently taking MDMA, which is commonly referred to as Ecstasy (in its pill form) and Molly (a powder). According to a New York Post report, Rotondo told an EMS worker, "I just took six hits of Molly," before suffering a massive seizure. Click here to continue reading.

Energy drink studies may be clouded by industry ties
The involvement of energy drink companies in research into their products has prevented clear answers about the risks these drinks may pose, argues a new editorial in a prominent medical journal. In the pages of the journal BMJ, a researcher raised concerns about the role of energy drink makers, specifically Red Bull, in the design and interpretation of research into the safety of these drinks. The studies have investigated whether energy drinks worsen the harms from alcohol consumption when the two beverages are taken together. The rest of this story is here.

Senate Panel Approves Lesniak Bill Allowing ‘Recovery’ Charter Schools
The NJ Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved a legislative proposal authored by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) that would allow for the creation of recovery charter schools to help students overcome substance abuse or dependence disorders. The legislation, S-2974, would permit charter schools devoted to students in recovery. “This would provide sober schooling for young students in recovery,” said Lesniak. “These schools will help students address their addiction issues at the same time they receive a quality education.” Please click here to continue.

Views of Drunk Driving May Change Once a Person Becomes Intoxicated: Study
Drinking can change a person’s view of intoxicated driving, according to a new study. A person who normally disapproves of drunk driving may change their view once they have had a few drinks. The study of 82 young adults compared their views on drunk driving twice: once when they were sober, and a second time after they drank a moderate amount of alcohol, HealthDay reports. After participants had been drinking and were coming down from their peak blood alcohol levels, they felt it was safer to drive than they did when they were sober and asked whether it would be safe to drive after having several drinks. “We all probably know people who make good decisions about lots of things when they’re sober, but put four or five beers in them and they make bad ones. So that part wasn’t surprising,” University of Missouri researcher Denis McCarthy said. “I was surprised, however, that it was such a big effect over and above their sober beliefs.” He noted that when people are coming down from their peak blood alcohol level, they are typically driving home. The findings are published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Mark B. Johnson, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, noted in a journal news release, “The present research shows us that the sort of decisions people think they would make while sober may be different than the decisions they would make after drinking. If we want to understand how to change people’s drinking and driving decisions in the real world, we need to study decision making under the influence of alcohol.”

California Legislature Passes Two Bills Aimed at Curbing Prescription Drug Abuse
The California Senate passed two bills designed to fight prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bills, which were passed unanimously, now await Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. The measures will help officials track prescriptions for painkillers and other addictive narcotics, the article notes. They will also allow for increased scrutiny of deaths that involve prescription drug abuse. One of the bills requires coroners to report prescription overdose deaths to the Medical Board of California for review, while the other provides increased funding for the state’s prescription drug monitoring system. The state database includes information on prescriptions for commonly abused drugs, including the names of patients and the doctors who prescribe the drugs. A third bill, which would have allowed the state medical board to act more quickly to suspend prescribing privileges of doctors who are suspected of endangering patients, was opposed by the California Medical Association. It failed a vote in the Assembly. The newspaper notes the measure is expected to be reconsidered soon. Last year, the Los Angeles Times conducted an investigation that concluded a small number of doctors are linked to a large percentage of prescription drug-related deaths in Southern California. The newspaper found that in almost half of the 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, those who died had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death. In many cases, deaths were caused by use of multiple drugs, sometimes prescribed by more than one doctor. In some cases, prescription drugs were mixed with alcohol or illicit drugs.

Editorial - The Marijuana Muddle
On marijuana policy, there’s a rift between the federal government and the states. It started with California’s allowing marijuana for medical use in 1996, widened as several other states followed suit, and became too big to ignore 10 months ago, when voters in Colorado and Washington decided to legalize the drug for recreational use. Under federal law possession is still a crime. Please continue reading here.