Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

Synthetic Marijuana Use Triggers More Hospitalizations in New York

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The thought that New York hospitals take in hundreds of patients a day may sound normal, but not if it’s because of only one cause.

The New York City Health Department issued a statement via a news release, saying that synthetic marijuana has caused 160 people to be sent to emergency rooms in the state within a nine-day period. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that apart from the increase in ER visits, calls received by poison control center have risen as well. “Synthetic drugs are anything but harmless, and this rash of severe health emergencies across the state is direct proof,” Cuomo said.

The city’s health department reiterates that synthetic pot in its various forms — most notably Spice and K2 — is illegal. Dr. Mary Bassett, who works as the city’s Health Commissioner, said that the risk of using synthetic cannabis lies on the fact that the illicit product contains unidentified substances that may be harmful to human health. “There’s no way of knowing exactly what synthetic marijuana contains,” Bassett added.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has frequently warned the public against using synthetic marijuana, saying that some of its side effects include abnormally high heart rate, vomiting, anxiety and hallucinations.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Workplace Drug Testing Rules Create Confusion in Marijuana-Friendly States

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With more U.S. states welcoming medical marijuana into the fold, it’s not surprising that employers are confused in terms of implementing workplace drug testing procedures.

A news report revealed how marijuana legalization has changed people’s mindsets about the drug, while employers are scratching their heads as to how the legislation fits into their company rules and regulations. According to Society for Human Resource Management spokesperson Kate Kennedy, workplace drug testing “becoming of increasing interest [to companies], mostly because of changing state legislation on medical and recreational marijuana use.”

Quest Diagnostics, a drug testing company with headquarters in Madison, NJ, recently released a report that shows an increase in positive results for marijuana in the workplace by 6.2 percent in 2013. States that have legalized recreational marijuana were found to have higher increases: Colorado at 20 percent, and Washington at 23 percent.

Although marijuana legislation specifically states that it does not include jurisdiction on existing employment laws, the situation has nevertheless created a dilemma for many employers, whether to enforce stricter workplace policies to ensure zero marijuana-using employees or to accommodate them to a certain degree in order to keep their employees. Some might favor more stringent measures based on a previous report by the U.S. Department of Labor about a loss of roughly $82 billion because of decreased productivity in businesses.

The impact of marijuana use in the business sector is still under assessment, and is still “a changing arena,” said Quest Diagnostics science and technology director Barry Sample.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Teen E-Cigarette Use Increased Three Times In 2014

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The issue on electronic cigarette use by teenagers has escalated to troubling figures, according to a recent report by two of the government’s top health agencies.

A joint report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014. The triple increase is “worrisome,” according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “We’re concerned that there are multiple aspects of e-cigarette use that are concerning that includes addiction to nicotine, effects on the developing brain, and the significant likelihood that a proportion of those who are using e-cigarettes will go on to use combustible cigarettes,” Frieden said in a news item.

The study involved a survey of more than 22,000 students in middle and high school from 2011 to 2014. The participants were asked if they used e-cigarettes at least once for the past 30 days. The representative survey results indicated that the increase in percentage of e-cigarette use represents roughly 2 million high school students hooked on e-cigarettes in 2014, as compared to only 660,000 in the previous year. A similar trend was observed in middle school students, from only 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent last year.

Despite earlier reports of decreased use of tobacco products, Frieden said that this is a bitter pill of a victory. “The decrease in cigarette smoking, of course, it’s a good thing when fewer kids are smoking cigarettes. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to suggest there is a causal relationship between the increase in e-cigarette use and the decrease in child tobacco use,” the CDC director added.

To this day, the FDA has not released any regulations on electronic cigarettes, but discussions are already under way to categorize it in the same group as traditional tobacco cigarettes.

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Substance Abuse

Study: Emergency Department Important In Decreasing Prescription Drug Overdose Cases

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A study recently published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine revealed that emergency departments (EDs) play a vital role in curbing the long-standing issue on prescription drug abuse.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) surveyed beneficiaries of Project ASSERT from 2011 to 2012 to check the effectiveness of the campaign to offer education and intervention in opioid overdose cases. The initiative provides nasal naloxone rescue kits to emergency departments as a counter-measure for drug overdose patients, as well as education programs focused on overdose prevention.

Results of the survey showed that 73 percent were able to receive nasal naloxone rescue kits from EDs or other sources to counter the overdose. Meanwhile, more than 50 percent of survey respondents were able to report an overdose case and contacted 911 for the necessary assistance, while roughly one third of them were able to use the naloxone kit onto the overdose patient during the rescue.

Study lead author Dr. Kristin Dwyer, who works at the emergency department of BMC, expressed the importance of their research. “This study confirms that the emergency department provides a promising opportunity for opioid overdose harm reduction measures through overdose education and naloxone rescue kit distribution… Our program reached a high-risk population that commonly witnessed overdoses, called for help and used naloxone to rescue people, when available,” Dwyer said in a news release.

Project ASSERT is a banner program of BMC. Beginning in 1993, the project has conducted intervention programs, treatment referrals, and screening for drug and alcohol intoxication.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana Still A Dangerous Drug, Says Federal Judge

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In a move that will probably delay the acceptance of pot in all U.S. states further, a federal judge did not grant the proposal to exempt marijuana from the Schedule 1 category of dangerous drugs.

According to AP News via Yahoo!, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller refused the removal of marijuana in the category of dangerous drugs characterized as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The federal judge acknowledges the fact that the drug categorization has not been updated for decades. “It has been 45 years since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act,” Mueller said. She adds that the changes in society and culture has definitely brought up the need to revisit the classification set by the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) Scheduling.

Despite the circumstances behind a possible yes vote, Mueller said that “this is not the court and this is not the time” to change things in the drug scheduling act.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws deputy director Paul Armentano expressed that had Mueller rejected the inclusion of marijuana into the Schedule 1 drug category, it “would have been significant because you would have had a federal judge acknowledging what a majority of the public has already concluded: That marijuana does not meet the three criteria of a Schedule 1 drug.”

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Substance Abuse

Health Care For Smoking Burns Up Bulk of Government Spending

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While many Americans are complaining about the huge amount that the country is sending for foreign aid, there is a much more surprising factor that takes a big chunk out of the U.S. federal budget.

According to a news release, health care costs take up the largest portion of government spending, but what’s more alarming is that much of this amount is spent on otherwise preventable diseases. Obesity-related cases use up $190 billion of health care expenses, while about $165 billion goes to treating diseases caused by smoking.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than 16 million U.S. citizens are diagnosed with a disease related to smoking, with an annual mortality rate of roughly 500,000. Aside from the huge bill racked up due to smoking-related diseases, an estimated $156 million is lost because of secondhand smoke exposure and premature fatalities.

Although the U.S. Surgeon General has been adamant in advertising the harmful effects of smoking tobacco products, many Americans still find it difficult to kick the habit. Kevin Otwell, a 79-year-old survivor of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), said that his environment and influences make it hard to quit smoking. “You had your idols who smoked: baseball players, movie stars. It was the thing to do until you found out the danger and by then, you were hooked. If you ever see an old movie, everybody’s in a nightclub, there’s a cloud of smoke,” Otwell said.

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Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Designer Drug Flakka Latest Scourge to Hit Cities

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A designer drug known as Flakka that has been around for a few years is gaining prominence, particularly in Florida, although it has also been seen in Texas and Ohio recently and officials believe it will start popping up in other cities soon.

According to the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Flakka cases have increased from no reported cases in 2010 to 85 cases in 2012, and now greater than 670 in 2014.

Flakka contains MDPV, a commonly abused cathinone and has similar effects on people as bath salts.

Flakka comes in crystalline rock form and can be swallowed, snorted, injected, or used in an e-cigarette and vaped. The duration of the effects of the drug can last as few as three to four hours, but can also linger for several days. It is highly addictive, both from a physical and a psychological perspective.

Efforts to fight the new drug include the Fort Lauderdale Police Department creating a specialized task force loosely known as the “Flakka Initiative” to work with local agencies as well as the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about the increasing use of the drug.

The Palm Beach County Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition is also launching a special website next month called dontbeaguineapig.com that will be an educational portal about the potential effects of using such designer drugs.

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Drug Testing Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Investigators Try to Track Down Source of Deadly Synthetic Marijuana

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Investigators in Jackson, Mississippi are trying to track down the origins of a deadly batch of synthetic marijuana or “spice” that sent more than 30 people to the hospital and is suspected in the death of one.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center treated almost three-dozen people since last week for overdose symptoms, hospital officials said. One person died prior to reaching the hospital.

The synthetic marijuana that is suspected of causing the sickness and death is 100 times more potent than pot, authorities said, and is sold under brand names like K-2, Moon Rocks and Snooby Snax.

In addition to the Jackson-area cases, state health officials have also received reports of synthetic marijuana overdoses in Meridian, Philadelphia and Monticello.

All of the patients treated for overdose symptoms have been released from UMMC, hospital officials said.

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Substance Abuse

FDA Shifts Focus On Manufacturers To Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

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In a move to prevent the growing issue on prescription drug abuse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed a new set of guidelines aimed at helping drug manufacturers formulate abuse-deterrent medication. According to the FDA News Release, the document is entitled “Guidance for Industry: Abuse-Deterrent Opioids – Evaluation and Labeling,” which delineates the appropriate study methods in ensuring that manufactured drugs prevent potential abuse.

FDA chief Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. said that this latest initiative aims to help both drug companies and consumers to make drugs safer. “The science of abuse-deterrent medication is rapidly evolving, and the FDA is eager to engage with manufacturers to help make these medications available to patients who need them… We feel this is a key part of combating opioid abuse. We have to work hard with industry to support the development of new formulations that are difficult to abuse but are effective and available when needed,” Hamburg said.

The latest statement from FDA also includes several recommendations on the method of conducting studies about abuse-deterrent drugs, the correct way of evaluating these studies, and the appropriate claims placed on labels. Despite the newness of the concept, abuse-deterrent medication is being envisioned by the FDA as a good sign of things to come, especially in defeating the rising problem of prescription opioid abuse. “Development of abuse-deterrent products is a priority for the FDA, and we hope this guidance will lead to more approved drugs with meaningful abuse-deterrent properties,” according to FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research director Janet Woodcock, M.D.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Nicotine Spray Passed Around 20 U.K. Students, Caused Vomiting

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Students at the Wolstanton High School in Staffordshire, U.K. suffered signs of toxicity after inadvertently trying out a nicotine spray prescribed to a 12-year-old female student. According to a news report, the prescription nicotine spray was passed around students from Years Seven and Eight, causing 20 of them to experience nausea, vomiting, and headache. One of the students was rushed to the hospital due to severe sickness.

High school principal Alan Aston said that the unfortunate incident was a one-time slip. “The spray was shared with other pupils and they became nauseous. We have dealt with the pupil involved using our own sanctions,” Aston said. As soon as the situation was discovered, school teachers immediately informed the parents of affected pupils.”We already have procedures in place to protect pupils but unfortunately this was a prank that went wrong,” the school principal added.

The student who distributed the Nicorette spray to her fellow pupils was prescribed the medication through the National Health Service (NHS) program called Time To Quit. Program service manager Ian Saberton said the school did not violate any procedures to help kids quit smoking. “All pupils who request support receive an appointment after which they are required to do some preparation for a quit attempt, medication is only recommended at the following appointment… All protocols for stop smoking support had been followed in this case,” Saberton said.

School officials have already disciplined the erring student.

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