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Friday, March 14, 2014

ATOD & Advocacy Recap - Week ending March 14, 2014

Campus Culture Change: ‘Deadliest’ College Fraternity Nixes Pledging
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest U.S. fraternities and the deadliest, said it would ban pledging, citing the toll that hazing has taken on its recruits and its reputation. SAE announced yesterday what it called a “historic decision” to eliminate pledging, typically a months-long induction period featuring secret rituals. During pledging, recruits have been subject to forced drinking, paddling and other abuse. At least 10 deaths since 2006 have been linked to hazing, alcohol or drugs at SAE events, more than at any other fraternity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Click here for more of this article.

Medical marijuana and 'the entourage effect'
In the early 1960s, a young postdoctoral student stumbled onto something that puzzled him. After reading the literature on cannabis, he was surprised to see that while the active compound in morphine had been isolated from opium poppies 100 years before and cocaine isolated from coca leaves around the same time, the active component of marijuana was still unknown. This simple observation launched his life's work. Click here for more of this article.

Medical marijuana refugees: 'This was our only hope'
They've come from as far away as Australia and Canada, or as close as Oklahoma. They are of different backgrounds and ages, but they've all moved to Colorado for the same thing: medical marijuana to treat their sick children. "Jordan had her first seizure at 6 months old. I had never seen a seizure before," says her mother, Paula Lyles. "We took her to the hospital. The doctors said that would probably be the only one she'd have and sent us home." But when Jordan was 18 months old, the seizures began in earnest. Click here for more of this article.

Colorado reports $2M in recreational pot taxes in 1st month of sales
As New Jersey debates the merits of legalizing marijuana, at least one state has reaped rewards from such legislation. Colorado made roughly $2 million in marijuana taxes in January, state revenue officials reported Monday in the world's first accounting of the recreational pot business. Click here for more of this article.

NJ medical marijuana program won't consider expanding disease list until 2015
Chronically ill people shut out of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program will have to wait another year before the state considers expanding the list of conditions covered under the law, a state health department spokeswoman said last week. Click here for more of this article.

Americans’ Use of Cocaine Drops, While Marijuana Use Increases: Report
Americans’ cocaine use fell by about half from 2006 to 2010, while their use of marijuana jumped by more than 30 percent, a new report concludes. The report, by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, estimated Americans spent $100 billion annually on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine between 2000 and 2010, according to HealthDay. During the decade studied, heroin use remained fairly stable. Use of methamphetamine increased sharply during the first half of the decade, and then decreased. In 2000, Americans spent much more on cocaine than on marijuana, but that spending pattern had reversed by 2010, the article notes. The report does not cover the recent increases in heroin use, or the effects of laws in Colorado and Washington State that have legalized recreational use of marijuana. “Our analysis shows that Americans likely spent more than one trillion dollars on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine between 2000 and 2010,” lead researcher Beau Kilmer said in a news release. He noted the increase in marijuana use appears to be related to a rise in the number of people who said they use the drug every day or almost every day. The figures for marijuana use come from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, while estimates for use of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are largely based on information from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM). The federal government recently stopped funding for ADAM, the researchers note. They say it will be much more difficult to track the abuse of these drugs in the future.

Is substance abuse coverage as equal as required?
Insurance plans that cover substance abuse treatment must provide the same level of care and cost sharing as they do for other medical issues, but treatment centers say disagreement over what this means leaves many alcoholics and drug addicts without the coverage they need. Click here for more of this article.

Researchers identify distinct profiles of brain activity present when making decisions
Although choosing to do something because the perceived benefit outweighs the financial cost is something people do daily, little is known about what happens in the brain when a person makes these kinds of decisions. Studying how these cost-benefit decisions are made when choosing to consume alcohol, University of Georgia associate professor of psychology James MacKillop identified distinct profiles of brain activity that are present when making these decisions. Click here for more of this article.

Boston Herald columnist Adriana Cohen: Let’s weed out idea that pot is not harmful
Why are states around the country, including Massachusetts, legalizing marijuana when it’s considered a gateway drug to harder drugs and even addiction? Is this really a good idea?
Not to former heroin addict and NBA player Chris Herren. In an eye-opening interview on “Trending Now” yesterday, the founder of The Herren Project expressed his concerns about marijuana legalization. “I think it’s a problem. I think our kids have enough out there to worry about, they don’t need another drug so readily available to them.” So what may seem like an “innocent” drug is not so innocent to the 30 million Americans who presently suffer with addiction. Herren explained that 90 percent of addicts first started using pot or alcohol as teenagers. That led to much more dangerous and addictive drugs such as OxyContin, meth, cocaine, heroin, etc. So when President Obama says pot is “no more dangerous than alcohol,” as he did in a New Yorker interview this past January, think again. Click here for more of this article.

Prescription Drug Abuse Increases Drastically in 20 Years: Painkiller Use Stabilizes
After an increase of opioid prescriptions that went from 76 million to 210 million over a 20-year span, researchers believe that the prescriptions and consumption of these painkillers have finally stabilized. The results determined by a new Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health could be the light at the end of the tunnel after decades of unabated misuse and abuse of prescription opioids. The unnerving numbers reached their peak in 2010 when 12 million people reported using prescription opioids recreationally. The year 2009 featured 475,000 emergency room visits related to the drugs as well. These numbers have been of immense concern for medical experts as well as government and law enforcement officials because the issue is difficult to monitor. Millions of people suffer from chronic pain and millions more undergo surgery each year, and these patients' pain needs have to be managed. Prescription opioids provide a solution, but many people have become addicted and a growing number of teens have started using them recreationally. Click here for more of this article.

Why are patients shut out of the debate over prescription pain medicine?
There’s been a bit of an opioid-fueled media frenzy the past several weeks, fueled by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death from a drug overdose and hand-wringing over the introduction of Zohydro — a new prescription pain reliever that critics have described as a vector for even more opioid addiction. All of this comes after months of stories about a spike in overdose deaths that were at least partially attributable to prescription drugs. But amid all the discussion of addicts, doctors, pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement, one group of people has barely been considered: people who must live with pain. Click here for more of this article.

Legalization won't fix world's drugs problem: U.N. official
Legalization will not solve the world's narcotics problem, the U.N. anti-drugs chief said on Monday, indicating disagreement with a decision by Uruguay to allow the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana. In a move that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization, Uruguay's parliament in December approved a bill to legalize and regulate the sale and production of marijuana - the first country to take such a step. In the United States, Washington and Colorado states recently legalized the sale of cannabis under license, although federal law in the country has not changed. Click here for more of this article.

Study: Effectiveness of Prescription Monitoring Databases Varies Greatly by State
The effectiveness of prescription drug monitoring programs, designed to reduce “doctor shopping” for opioids, has varied greatly by state, according to a new study by Columbia University researchers. They also found opioid prescribing rates, after surging in recent years, have stabilized. The researchers used data from the Drug Enforcement Administration on prescriptions for the seven most commonly distributed opioid painkillers: fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, methadone, morphine, and oxycodone. They found from 1991 to 2010, the number of prescriptions for opioids almost tripled in the United States, from about 76 million to almost 210 million. The researchers calculated the average dose of opioids prescribed per person (morphine milligram equivalents, or MMEs), and found that number increase fivefold from 1999 to 2008. In 2007, that number started stabilizing. Nine states recorded significantly fewer MMEs dispensed after they implemented their prescription monitoring database; 14 states reported no significant change; and eight states experienced significant increases in MMEs dispensed. Colorado had the greatest drop in MMEs associated with their prescription monitoring database, followed by Texas and Wyoming. The largest increase was in Connecticut, HealthCanal reports. The study appears in Public Health Reports. In a news release, lead author Guohua Li said prescription monitoring databases administered by state health departments appeared to be more effective than those administered by other government agencies, such as the Board of Pharmacy or the Bureau of Narcotics. Seven states with monitoring programs run by a state health department dispensed almost 18 percent fewer MMEs, compared with states without the program.

The health antidote to a heroin surge
A rising level of addiction to heroin and other opiates has become an “urgent public health crisis” in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday. He didn’t say “public criminal justice crisis,” which one might have expected from the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Rather, Mr. Holder rightly focused on health – or how to prevent and treat addictive behavior, with an emphasis on each person’s right to health. The Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration will still focus on criminal trafficking of lethal drugs. Heroin use in particular has more than doubled in the US between 2007 and 2012 while federal seizures of the drug at the Mexican border have tripled. Click here for more of this article.

Questions Remain About Whether Doctors Can Curb Children's Drug Use
What can doctors do to help kids stay away from drugs? There's not much evidence to say one way or the other, it turns out. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which issues guidelines on what doctors should and shouldn't do, said there aren't enough reliable studies around to come up with any solid advice. So the task force gave the interventions an "I" for insufficient evidence. The kids might call it an incomplete. Click here for more of this article.

Alcohol-Attributable Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost — 11 States, 2006–2010
Excessive alcohol consumption, the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States, resulted in approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually during 2006–2010 and cost an estimated $223.5 billion in 2006. Click here for more of this article.

Cannabis Madness’ Revives Debate Over Medical Marijuana and Epilepsy
When the Wilson family arrived in Colorado a few days ago, they already had a two-month supply of medicine for their two-year-old daughter Vivian. Brian and Meghan Wilson, along with their older daughter, have just joined a growing population of “medical refugees,” those who have uprooted their lives elsewhere so they can get medical marijuana in a state where it is abundant and legal—even though there is little science assuring them that marijuana could be the cure for conditions like Vivian’s severe epilepsy. Click here for more of this article.

NJ Steps up Efforts to Head off Abuse of Prescription Painkillers
Eight months after a state report detailed the growing abuse of prescription opioids and heroin, the problem has reached epidemic proportions -- in both the suburbs and the cities -- killing an average of more than one New Jersey resident each day. State officials are stepping up their efforts to curb this plague, but some of the report's recommendations, which might help do exactly that, are unlikely to become law. Click here for more of this article.

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