Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Proposed California Bill Bans Baseball Practice of Chewing Tobacco

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major league baseball chewing tobacco

Baseball has long welcomed the notorious habit of “dipping” tobacco in chewing gum, defined in Wikipedia as “placing a lump or ‘dip’ of tobacco between the lip and the gum.”

As part of the government’s actions to clean up the sport, California State Assembly member Tony Thurmond forwarded a bill that seeks to prohibit Major League Baseball (MLB) players from chewing tobacco during games. The proposed bill also includes banning smoking of tobacco and use of e-cigarettes in MLB venues.

One of the most famous baseball players who were confirmed to have enjoyed dipping tobacco is San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn, who succumbed to cancer of the salivary glands last year. “I’m hopeful that this bill will lend to his legacy, that it will help to prevent illness for young people and young athletes,” Thurmond said in a news item. “Tony Gwynn was somebody I thought was a spokesman for baseball, a great role model as a person.”

MLB released a statement last February 24 as a support to Thurmond’s bill. “We ardently believe that children should not use or be exposed to smokeless tobacco, and we support the spirit of this initiative in California and any others that would help achieve this important goal,” a statement from the league said.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Alaska Legalizes Marijuana Use With More Lenient Rules Than Other States

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The state may be chilly, but the latest hot topic in Alaska is now burning up the presses.

A voter initiative in Alaska has pushed the legalization of marijuana in the state February 24, bringing years of convoluted laws surrounding the issue to a close. The approved plans allows use and safekeeping of cannabis, as well as bring it in transport, grow plants and distribute them. However, people caught using pot in public will be slapped with a fine of $100. This makes Alaska the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana, after Colorado and Washington.

Despite the affirmative vote for marijuana use, many citizens are concerned about what this might bring to the state, especially after the observed rise in other similar abuse issues on drugs and alcohol. Edward Nick of Manokotak, Alaska said that his village prohibits alcohol and drug use, whether in public or in the privacy of one’s home. “When they start depending on smoking marijuana, I don’t know how far they’d go to get the funds they need to support it, to support themselves,” Nick said in a news release.

Proponents of the marijuana voter initiative include “libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans,” according to AP. The initiative will allow communities such as Manokotak to regulate marijuana use in the confines of local law, just like they do in alcohol.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Minorities Susceptible To Arrest Due To Preference For Crack Cocaine Over Powder

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Although the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was aimed at reducing the flak against African Americans arrested for cocaine possession, a new study suggests that they are still at higher risk than other racial profiles to get arrested.

A team of researchers from the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research at New York University used the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to collect data of cocaine users and their likelihood of getting arrested. Results of the team’s analysis revealed that users of crack cocaine are exposed to a higher likelihood of arrests than those who use the powdered form. “We found that 12% of adults in the US have used powder cocaine, while only 4% have used crack cocaine… But it is the 4% who have used crack who are at greatest risk for arrest, which can further marginalize these individuals, making them unable to get jobs or school loans,” according to study co-author Dr. Joseph J. Palamar in a news item.

The researchers also discovered that more than racial profiles, the economically challenged sector of the population has a greater risk of getting arrested for crack cocaine. “Crack users are much more likely to experience arrest than powder cocaine users, and being poor is the true overwhelming correlate, not being black or a minority,” Palamar said. The study discussed how the more marginalized sector are more likely to purchase cocaine in its free form, as opposed to the more elite powder form. “The sentencing laws appear to unfairly target the poor, with blacks ultimately experiencing high incarceration rates as a result,” Palamar added.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Debates For Marijuana Legislation Heating Up In Congress

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As more states are embracing legalized marijuana use and distribution, discussions on the controversial drug are now reaching the House.

Two congressmen — Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer — introduced a new bill that aims to legalize cannabis across the entire federal jurisdiction. Polis revealed in a news statement that Colorado has benefited hugely from legalizing marijuana. “Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children,” Polis said. Colorado is one of the U.S. states that has legalized marijuana.

The proposed bill, tagged as “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act”, aims to treat cannabis just like the country does alcohol: remove it from the list of illegal drugs and transfer regulation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Meanwhile, another proposal called “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act” focuses on imposing taxes on cannabis from a starting rate of 10 percent and gradually rising over the years.

This new move by members of the House is being pushed amidst numerous complaints against marijuana shops and dispensaries are “nuisances” to nearby communities and neighboring states.

Addiction Substance Abuse

Breakthrough Drug May Help People To Quit Smoking

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quit smoking

Smokers may find it difficult to quit smoking, but a new study is close to discovering a “cure” for tobacco addiction.

A team of researchers looked into varenicline, a drug designed to treat people from addiction to nicotine. The study, which was published in JAMA, involved more than 1,500 individuals around the globe who were identified as cigarette smokers. These people were chosen based on their inability or unwillingness to quit smoking within a month, but are open to engage in techniques that may help them kick the habit in the next three months.

The study called for participants to receive either varenicline or an inert placebo two times in a day for a 24-week duration. They were advised to aim for reduction of cigarettes smoked by half within 4 weeks, and totally stop smoking within 12 weeks. A follow-up was conducted on the smokers.

The results of the study are staggering. Week 4 figures showed that 47.1 percent of people who were administered the test drug were successful in decreasing cigarette smoking by half, as compared to only 31.1 percent of those who received placebo. By week 12, only 6.1 percent of placebo recipients were able to abstain from smoking, as opposed to a significantly higher 32.1 percent of those who received the experimental drug.

“Because most clinicians are likely to see smokers at times when a quit date in the next month is not planned, the current study indicates that prescription of varenicline with a recommendation to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day with the eventual goal of quitting could be a useful therapeutic option for this population of smokers,” according to the research team in a news item.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Senators Renew Push for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015

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cocaine addiction

Two United States senators, Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.),  have renewed their push for legislation that would provide incentives and resources designed to encourage both states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies to combat addiction.

The legislation, named the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015, would:

  • Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.
  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.
  • Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
  • Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
  • Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program.  While we have medications that can help treat addiction, there is a critical need to get the training and resources necessary to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.
  • The legislation is supported by the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), Faces and Voices of Recovery, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, among others.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Smoking Has Lasting Negative Effects On The Brain

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cigarette health hazard brain cortex

A lot of studies have surfaced regarding the health hazards of smoking tobacco products to human health. Better add this new discovery to the list.

A new study conducted jointly by McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and the University of Edinburgh revealed that smoking is linked to accelerated thinning of the cortex, which is the brain’s outer layer that handles functions such as perception, memory and language. Study lead author Dr. Sherif Karama, who works as assistant professor at McGill University’s psychiatry department, shared the effects of smoking on the brain. “We found that current and ex-smokers had, at age 73, many areas of thinner brain cortex than those that never smoked,” Karama said in a news statement.

The study was larger than any previous research done on the subject matter, this time involving a group of more than 500 test subjects at 73 years old on the average. The participants were included in a Scottish Mental Survey way back in 1947, and were interviewed recently. Their brains were also scanned via MRI to assess the condition of their brains.

The researchers also found out that people who quit smoking were able to grow back the tissues in their cortices. “Subjects who stopped smoking seem to partially recover their cortical thickness for each year without smoking,” said Karama, who also recommends warning smokers about this potential health hazard. “Smokers should be informed that cigarettes could hasten the thinning of the brain’s cortex, which could lead to cognitive deterioration. Cortical thinning seems to persist for many years after someone stops smoking.”

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Addiction Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

US Schools Switch Focus of Anti-Drug Programs to Prescription Drugs

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Anti-drug programs in United States schools are switching things up, focusing more on prescription drugs than illicit drugs and focusing more on the science of addiction than outright scare tactics.

One such program, Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) offers high school and middle school students education about prescription opiate painkillers. Developers of the programs emphasize the of use studies and interactive computer programs and focus on the science of addiction and how that affects the teens who abuse these drugs.

testcountry bannerHowever, it still does employ some of those old-fashioned scare tactics, although rooted in reality rather than the ridiculous fried eggs of the past. One tactic is to play a real 911 call for students from a mother who has just discovered her son’s body. His ashes sit in an urn for the students to look at as they listen to the call recording.

NOPE instructors also teach students how to recognize the symptoms of a drug overdose and emphasize the importance of quickly seeking medical attention for overdose victims. The programs also work to teach teens that prescription drugs are not safe to use other than under a doctor’s orders.

The Heroin Prevention Education program, meanwhile, uses interactive software based on the life of a recovering teen heroin addict who began abusing opioid painkillers after having his wisdom teeth removed and gradually started abusing heroin intravenously.




Substance Abuse

Study Confirms E-Cigarette Components Toxic To Lungs

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electronic cigarettes flight hazard

A recent study from the Univ. of Rochester discovered that lighting up an electronic cigarette is toxic to the lungs, much like traditional tobacco products.

Study lead author Irfan Rahman, who works at the university’s School of Medicine and Dentistry as professor of Environmental Medicine, revealed that e-cigarettes produce aerosols and flavor components that contain free radicals, which may destroy lung cells and cause tissue inflammation. As soon as the product is heated up, the e-cigarette juice is turned into a smoke-like aerosol, which was discovered to contain nano-sized carcinogens that deposit into lung tissue and the human bloodstream.

Rahman’s motivation behind the research is to discover more information about the controversial smoking product. “It seems that every day a new e-cigarette product is launched without knowing the harmful health effects of these products,” Rahman said in a news item. The team’s study supports the idea for not only additional information about e-cigarettes, but also more stringent regulations for its distribution to the market. Electronic cigarettes have been advertised as a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but this study — along with several other previous researchers — proves that the switch may be futile.

“Our research affirms that e-cigarettes may pose significant health risks and should be investigated further,” Rahman added.

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Substance Abuse

Obama Sets $100 Million in 2016 Budget To Address Prescription Drug Abuse

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prescription drugs

In one of the biggest declarations of the federal government against prescription drug abuse, President Barack Obama’s financial budget for 2016 includes more than $100 million to be invested in programs of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The budget allocation will be granted to U.S. states that have prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) put in place.

The budget provision will complement the government’s plans to increase the number of agencies that monitor, collect and analyze data from controlled substance prescriptions, as well as provide support for the five-step Strategic Prevention Framework implemented by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Budget for the 2016 fiscal year is estimated at $27.6 billion, and strategies for drug control are included in the top priorities for the government on that year.

Despite the bulked-up battle of the U.S. government against drug abuse, not everyone is happy. A recent report from Forbes revealed that Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a chief medical officer in one of the country’s drug treatment providers, was unimpressed by the government’s plans. “The response from President Obama to this crisis is shameful… I wouldn’t mind so much that he doesn’t speak about the problem if his agencies were working together to control the problem and if he was allocating the appropriate resources. But that’s not happening,” Kolodny said.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) pegged the number of deaths due to prescription opioids in 2013 at more than 16,000, while the total number of fatalities dur to drug overdose reached almost 44,000.

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