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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.

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