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Friday, March 21, 2014

ATOD & Advocacy Recap - Week ending March 21, 2014

Government approves medical marijuana research
The Obama administration handed backers of medical marijuana a significant victory Friday, opening the way for a University of Arizona researcher to examine whether pot can help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress, a move that could lead to broader studies into potential benefits of the drug. Please click here to continue reading.

OxyContin Manufacturer Tests Tamper-Resistant Form of Hydrocodone
The maker of OxyContin announced promising results from a study of a tamper-resistant form of hydrocodone, The Washington Post reports. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been criticized for approving Zohydro ER (extended release), a pure form of hydrocodone that is not tamper-resistant. Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin, said it will soon seek FDA approval for its version of an extended-release form of hydrocodone. The company says its version is difficult for a person to crush, in order to inject or snort the drug. In 2010, the company reformulated OxyContin to make it harder to crush or dissolve. The new study showed a majority of patients with chronic low back pain treated once daily with the hydrocodone drug experienced at least a 30 percent improvement in pain intensity, compared with a placebo. Almost half achieved a 50 percent improvement. Last week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to overrule the FDA decision to approve Zohydro ER. Late last year, Manchin and three other senators wrote to the FDA, saying they disagreed with the agency’s decision to approve the drug. In October, the FDA approved Zohydro for patients with pain that requires daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment that cannot be treated with other drugs. Drugs such as Vicodin contain a combination of hydrocodone and other painkillers such as acetaminophen. In December, the attorneys general from 28 states asked the FDA to reassess its decision to approve Zohydro.

Vaporizers Gain Popularity among Marijuana Smokers
A growing number of marijuana smokers are choosing to use vaporizers, which are similar to e-cigarettes, according to USA Today. The popularity of the devices is changing the way marijuana is packaged and sold in states where it is legal. The vaporizers, known as “vape pens,” are compact and portable. Steve DeAngelo, a marijuana entrepreneur and activist who founded the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California, says his dispensary does about half of its business in raw marijuana leaf or flowers. The rest are sold as edibles or concentrates, some of which are prepackaged for use in vape pens. “The percentage of raw (pot) flowers we sell has been dropping steadily,” he said. “The percent of extracts and concentrates … has been rising steadily.” Some vape pens use concentrated marijuana extractions, while others use marijuana leaves and flowers. “This really portends the next generation of marijuana use,” John Lovell, a Sacramento attorney and lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers’ Association and California Police Chiefs Association, told the newspaper. His group is concerned about the high-strength concentrates used in vape pens. Concentrates can be composed of as much as 80 percent or 90 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Others are concerned that vape pens allow teens to smoke marijuana without being detected, because the pens leave no odor.

3 prescription drugs that come from marijuana
The best-known marijuana extract is the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, but the plant also contains more than 60 lesser-known compounds that belong to the same chemical family as THC. Fledgling biotech GW Pharmaceuticals (ticker: GWPH ) is exploring the medicinal potential of some of these chemicals, and some of the world's largest pharma companies, including AbbVie (ABBV) and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) , market products in this drug class. Let's look at three of the most prominent products, and what investors should watch in the field of marijuana research going forward. Please click here to continue reading.

Monthly Number of Federal Drug Defendants Drops to Lowest Level in 14 Years
Soon after Attorney General Eric Holder began making changes to drug laws, the number of drug defendants charged by the federal government dropped in January to its lowest monthly level in almost 14 years, according to a new report. The report, by Syracuse University, found there were 1,487 new drug prosecutions in January 2014, down 7.8 percent from December, and down 11.5 percent from January 2013. “The number observed during the most recent six month period appears to be the lowest seen since the end of the Reagan Administration,” the researchers noted. The drop in prosecutions follows the launch of Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, The Huffington Post reports. The initiative’s goals include prioritizing prosecution to focus on the most serious cases, reforming sentencing to eliminate unfair disparities and reduce overburdened prisons, and pursuing alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Ellen Canale, told The Huffington Post, “It makes sense to reserve the harshest sentences for the most serious drug offenders. The department’s charging policies are aimed at empowering federal prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of each defendant in order to determine what outcome best improves public safety.” Last week, Holder testified before the United States Sentencing Commission in favor of changing federal guidelines to reduce the average sentence for drug dealers.

Even Sugar Is More Harmful Than Marijuana, Americans Say
Of all the vices a person can indulge in, which is the least bad for your health? According to a new survey from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal, Americans believe that marijuana is the most benign -- in fact, many believe it's even less harmful than sugar. Those surveyed were asked which substance "is the most harmful to a person's overall health": marijuana, sugar, tobacco or alcohol? Forty-nine percent of respondents said that tobacco was the most dangerous. Alcohol came in at 24 percent, followed by sugar at 15 percent. Only 8 percent of those surveyed said marijuana was the most dangerous. Please click here to continue reading.

FDA Commissioner: Zohydro Offers Unique Option to Treat Pain
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg defended the agency’s decision to approve the pure hydrocodone drug Zohydro ER (extended release). At a Senate hearing, Hamburg said, “If appropriately used, it serves an important and unique niche with respect to pain medication and it meets the standards for safety and efficacy.” Speaking before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Hamburg acknowledged Zohydro is a powerful drug. She noted that unlike other hydrocodone drugs, Zohydro does not contain acetaminophen, which can be toxic to the liver. Zohydro is designed to be released over time, and can be crushed and snorted by people seeking a strong, quick high. “I would love if we had abuse-deterrent formulations that were actually meaningful and effective at deterring abuse in all instances. We are moving in that direction,” Hamburg said. “Right now, unfortunately, the technology is poor.” The FDA’s decision to approve Zohydro has been criticized by some legislators and public health groups, Reuters reports. Hamburg has received letters protesting the decision from 28 state attorneys general and four senators, among others. Law enforcement agencies and addiction experts predict approval of the drug will lead to an increase in overdose deaths. Zohydro was approved for patients with pain that requires daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment that cannot be treated with other drugs. In December 2012, a panel of experts assembled by the FDA voted against recommending approval of Zohydro ER. The panel cited concerns over the potential for addiction. In the 11-2 vote against approval, the panel said that while the drug’s maker, Zogenix, had met narrow targets for safety and efficacy, the painkiller could be used by people addicted to other opioids, including oxycodone.

Teen Inhalant Use Decreasing: Government Report
Fewer American teens are abusing inhalants, such as spray paint, glue and gasoline, according to a new government report. The number of teens ages 12 to 17 who used inhalants dropped from 820,000 in 2011, to about 650,000 in 2012. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which released the findings, defines inhalants as “liquids, sprays and gases that people sniff or inhale to get high or to make them feel good,” UPI reports. “This downward trend of inhalant use in adolescents is very encouraging,” Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the SAMHSA, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we must all continue our efforts to raise awareness about the dangers and health risks of this deadly and addictive problem among our youth.” When inhalants are breathed in through the nose or mouth in a variety of ways they are absorbed quickly through the lungs into the bloodstream and the user experiences a rapid but short-lived intoxication. There are hundreds of household products on the market today that can be misused as inhalants. Examples of products kids abuse to get high include model airplane glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, hair spray, gasoline, the propellant in aerosol whipped cream, spray paint, fabric protector, air conditioner fluid (freon), cooking spray and correction fluid. These products are sniffed, snorted, bagged (fumes inhaled from a plastic bag), or “huffed” (inhalant-soaked rag, sock, or roll of toilet paper in the mouth) to achieve a high. Inhalants are also sniffed directly from the container. Within seconds of inhalation, the user experiences intoxication along with other effects similar to those produced by alcohol. Alcohol-like effects may include slurred speech, an inability to coordinate movements, dizziness, confusion and delirium. Nausea and vomiting are other common side effects. In addition, users may experience lightheadedness, hallucinations, and delusions. Compulsive use and a mild withdrawal syndrome can occur with long-term inhalant abuse. Additional symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant abusers include weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression.

What can the Dutch teach U.S. about selling pot?
As Colorado and Washington begin selling legal marijuana, questions remain about the practical process of changing drug policy. NewsHour travels to the Netherlands -- the one nation that's been openly selling pot for over forty years -- to see what might be in store for the United States. Correspondent Wiliam Brangham and producer Saskia de Melker report. Please click here to continue reading.

Addiction: A Guilford Family's Story
A big increase in opiate overdoses nationwide has focused attention on substance abuse. Nine out of ten adults suffering from addiction said they began using drugs or alcohol when they were adolescents. In the first of a three-part series on youth battling addiction, WNPR introduces you to the Harmons of Guilford. Please click here to continue reading.

NCAA says March Madness bracket pools are a gambling gateway for children
March Madness is a huge cash cow for the NCAA. It produces $770 million per year in TV rights alone. Bracket pools are part of the reason the tournament is so popular. It gives people a rooting interest they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Yet the NCAA officially opposes any pool in which participants have to put “something at risk — such as an entry fee or a wager.” Please click here to continue reading.

Study: Mental Health Hospitalizations Increasing in Children
Nearly 10 percent of children are hospitalized for a mental health diagnosis, but minority children are frequently overlooked.
More than 4 million American children and adolescents have a mental illness, and a study from the University of California, San Francisco shows mental health hospitalizations among this demographic increased by 24 percent between 2007 and 2010. The latest findings suggest nearly 1 in 10 children are hospitalized because of a mental health problem. Please click here to continue reading.

Alcohol and Drug Use could be Inheritable, Study Reports
Children often pick up good and bad habits and behaviors from their parents or guardians. According to a new study, children who have parents who use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs have a greater chance of using these substances as well. The study, out of Sam Houston State University, suggests that parents should be extra careful about what they do so that their children do not pick up on these potentially dangerous habits. Please click here to continue reading.

ERs Dispensing More Narcotic Painkillers: Study
Less-powerful drugs often better choice, depending on source of pain, doctors say
More and more Americans are being prescribed powerful narcotic drugs when they visit the emergency department for problems such as low back pain or a pounding headache, a new study finds. Between 2001 and 2010, emergency departments in the United States showed a 49 percent increase in prescriptions for narcotic painkillers -- also known as opiates. That was despite the fact that there was only a small increase in the percentage of visits for painful conditions. Please click here to continue reading.

Underage Youth and Adults Differ in Their Alcohol Brand Preferences
First study of its kind examines how underage drinking choices compare with adult drinking preferences.
Youth are not merely mimicking the alcohol brand choices of adults, suggesting that other factors may influence their drinking preferences. This is the conclusion of a new report comparing the alcohol brand preferences of underage drinkers and adults from the Boston University School of Public Health and the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Please click here to continue reading.

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