Testing It Up

Half of poison center calls involving e-cigarette liquids involved children: CDC study

Fifty-one percent of calls over the past four years to poison centers related to e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine involved children 5 years and younger, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).e-cigarette

The study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also found the number of e-cigarette exposure calls skyrocketed from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014 while Calls involving conventional cigarettes did not show a similar increase during that period.

Poisonings from e-cigarettes are due to the liquid containing nicotine used in the devices being ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin or eyes. On the other hand, poisoning from conventional cigarettes is generally a result of young children eating them.

“E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children,” CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a press release.

The study authors call on health care providers and others to be aware that “e-cigarettes have the potential to cause acute adverse health effects and represent an emerging public health concern.”

April 7, 2014 at 6:52 am Comments (0)

Guatemala Could be Next Country to Legalize Marijuana

Otto Perez Photo Courtesy of Surizar on Flickr

Otto Perez
Photo Courtesy of Surizar on Flickr

Guatemala president Otto Perez says his government will present a plan by the end of the year to legalize not only the production of marijuana, but also opium poppies.

A government commission has been studying the proposal with an eye toward publishing the commission’s recommendations in the fall and presenting legalization measures for marijuana production by the end of the year.

“The other thing we’re exploring … is the legalization of the poppy plantations on the border with Mexico, so they’re controlled and sold for medicinal ends,” Perez said. “These two things could be steps taken on a legal basis.”

Opium poppies are used to make opium, heroin and pharmaceutical drugs such as morphine and codeine.




April 4, 2014 at 8:27 am Comments (0)

More Women Being Arrested for DUI in California

Significantly more women are being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in California, according to an analysis of Department of Motor Vehicles data performed by the KPCC public radio station. women alcohol drinker

Women accounted for about 11% of DUI arrests in 1989, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and that number increased to about 24% in 2011, which is the last year for which statistics are available.

“They were somewhat stable in the 1980s and then began to go up and just accelerated, particularly from 1999 to 2011,” said Steven Bloch, senior research associate with the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Young women were largely responsible for the increase in statewide DUI arrests in that time period. In Los Angeles County, DUI arrests of women ages 21 to 30 years old jumped by about 134% from 1999 to 2011.

Another group that stood out during the same period was women over the age of 50:

  • Arrests of women age 51 to 60 years old rose by 81%.
  • Arrests of female drivers age 61 to 70 climbed by 67%.
  • Women older than 70 saw a 76% increase in DUI arrests.

Conversely, overall DUI arrests for male drivers in L.A. County fell from 1999 to 2011, with the only age group seeing an increase being men between the age of 51 to 70 years old.

The Traffic Injury Research Foundation found similar results in a survey of women arrested for driving under the influence in California, Michigan, Missouri, and New York.

“We don’t know if more women are drinking and driving,” Erin Holmes, who is with the foundation, said. “All we do know is that more women are being arrested.”

Researchers have yet to come up with a definitive reason to explain the rise. One explanation is that law enforcement has made it a priority to get impaired drivers off the roads.

March 24, 2014 at 6:31 am Comments (0)

Manufacturer of OxyContin Tests Tamper-Proof Hydrocodone

OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma has revealed that results from tests of its tamper-resistant opiate drug hydrocodone are promising. study drugs

This comes on the heels of controversy over the Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to approve Zohydro, which is a pure form of hydrocodone that is not tamper-resistant, meaning it can easily be crushed up into powder for injection or snorting. Zohydro is not made by Purdue Pharma.

Purdue Pharma already made its flagship drug Oxycontin tamper-resistant back in 2010.

The new study from the company on its hydrocodone drug allegedly showed that a majority of patients with chronic lower back pain treated once daily with the drug experienced at least a 30% improvement in pain intensity, compared with a placebo, while almost half achieved a 50% improvement.

“This is another step forward in our efforts to develop therapeutic options for use by chronic pain patients that are designed to be unattractive to drug seekers,” Gary L. Stiles, the company’s Senior Vice President of Research and Development, said in a statement.

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, while in December, the attorneys general from 28 states asked the FDA to reassess its decision to approve Zohydro.

March 19, 2014 at 8:51 am Comments (0)

Effectiveness of Prescription Monitoring Databases Varies by State

opioid prescription
Prescription drug monitoring programs, designed to reduce “doctor shopping” for prescription opioids, have shown large discrepancies in their effectiveness between states, according to a new study by Columbia University researchers.

The researchers used data from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about prescriptions for the seven most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers:

  • fentanyl,
  • hydrocodone,
  • hydromorphone,
  • meperidine,
  • methadone,
  • morphine, and
  • oxycodone.

The researchers found that from 1991 to 2010, the number of prescriptions for opioids basically tripled in the United States, from about 76 million to almost 210 million. The researchers calculated the average dose of opioids prescribed to each person using  morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs), and found that number increase fivefold from 1999 to 2008.

The study, which appears in Public Health Reports, found:

  • 9 states recorded significantly fewer MMEs dispensed after the implementation of prescription monitoring databases;
  • 14 states reported no significant change; and
  • 8 states experienced significant increases in MMEs dispensed after implementing prescription monitoring databases.

Colorado experienced the biggest drop in MMEs associated with their prescription monitoring database, followed by Texas and Wyoming. The largest increase was in Connecticut.

Lead author Guohua Li said prescription monitoring databases administered by state health departments were more effective than databases 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% fewer MMEs, compared with states without the program.

March 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm Comments (0)

Marijuana May Stop Spread of HIV, Seen as Less Dangerous Than Sugar

Findings from a Louisiana State University study suggest marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, may help to stop the spread of HIV within the body. new hampshire medical marijuana bill

In the study, which was published recently in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, researchers administered THC to monkeys affected by an animal form of HIV for 17 months and found that damage to immune tissue in the primates’ stomachs decreased. This is significant, as stomach tissue is one of the most common areas in the body for HIV infection to spread.

“These findings reveal novel mechanisms that may potentially contribute to cannabinoid-mediated disease modulation,” Dr. Patricia Molina, the study’s lead author, wrote.

The report also says that although HIV spreads by infecting and killing off immune cells, monkeys in the study that received daily THC treatments maintained higher levels of healthy cells.

This is not the first study to yield positive findings for THC. Similar research led by Molina in 2011 found that infected monkeys treated with THC had a better chance of surviving, and a report published in 2012 pointed to evidence that marijuana-like compounds can fight HIV in AIDS patients.

Less harmful than sugar?

In the meantime, marijuana also received a boost from a survey from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, which found that Americans believe marijuana is less harmful than tobacco, alcohol and even sugar.

The survey asked which substance “is the most harmful to a person’s overall health”: marijuana, sugar, tobacco or alcohol?

  • 49% said tobacco
  • 24% said alcohol
  • 15% said sugar
  • 8% said marijuana

The findings were good news to marijuana legalization activists.

“Anyone who takes a truly objective look at the evidence surrounding these substances could not possibly arrive at any other conclusion,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “The public’s understanding of marijuana is more in line with the facts than ever before. Marijuana is not entirely harmless, but there is no longer any doubt that it poses far less harm to the consumer than many of the legal products engrained in American culture.”

March 13, 2014 at 6:29 am Comment (1)

UN Releases Report Calling Marijuana Legalization “Grave Danger”

The United Nations has released a report claiming that marijuana legalization poses a “grave danger to public health and well-being.”marijuana legalization

The report comes on the heels of moves by several states in the US and the entire nation of Uruguay to completely legalize the drug. Colorado and Washington have already legalized it, while many other states are seriously considering it, including Alaska, which will hold a public vote on it this year.

But the head of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the UN body for enforcing international drug treaties, calls the moves toward legalization “misguided initiatives,” and says the places that legalized marijuana are contravening UN drug treaties.

The report cites statistics that point to an increase in cannabis-related traffic accidents in Colorado to illustrate why the INCB says legalization is a bad idea. Chief of the INCB Raymond Yans said Colorado’s legalization program was poorly implemented.

“Drug traffickers will choose the path of least resistance, so, it is essential that global efforts to tackle the drug problem are unified.

“INCB is concerned about some initiatives aimed at the legalization of the non-medical and non-scientific use of cannabis. Such initiatives, if pursued, would pose a grave danger to public health and well-being, the very things the states, in designing the conventions, intended to protect.

“INCB looks forward to maintaining an ongoing dialogue with all countries, including those where such misguided initiatives are being pursued, with a view to ensuring the full implementation of the conventions and protecting public health.”

It’s been legal in Colorado since January for licensed suppliers to sell marijuana to anyone over 21. Washington state is likely to pass similar legislation in the next few months, while Uruguay’s parliament voted in December to legalize and regulate the sale and production of marijuana and that country is getting its system for control and distribution set up.

Reaction to the report has been predictably mixed, with a spokesman for the Home Office in the UK saying that government organization agrees with it.

On the other hand, Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a charitable think-tank that campaigns for legal regulation of drugs in the UK and abroad, had some harsh words for the INCB:

“As the self-proclaimed guardians of the drug conventions, the INCB defend treaties that are fraught with scientific and legal inconsistencies, including conflicts with other treaties and norms developed within the UN system.

“In the case of cannabis, there has never been a review based on the required criteria. President Yans’s disrespectful and arrogant behaviour toward the Uruguayan Government will further affect the reputation of the Board as a whole. Reform-minded countries will have little choice but to disregard future recommendations from or dialogue with the INCB. In short the INCB appears to have signed its own death warrant.”

March 5, 2014 at 7:31 am Comments (2)

Opioid Prescriptions Down, But Not as Much as Expected

Doctors and healthcare providers wrote approximately 11 million fewer prescriptions for narcotic painkillers in 2013 than in 2012. nursing students drug test

They wrote about 230 million prescriptions for opioids such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet in 2013 according to data from IMS Health, a drug market research firm. That’s down about 5% from 2012, when about 241 million prescriptions were written.

“It’s certainly a good thing, but I’m surprised the numbers haven’t dropped more dramatically,” said Lewis Nelson, an emergency physician at the New York University Langone Medical Center. “Especially since there are many more regulatory efforts in place.”

Over the last decade, the use of prescription painkillers has skyrocketed, with many officials calling it an epidemic of addiction to these drugs.

Back in 2010, there were 16,651 overdose deaths attributed to prescription opioids — more than four times as many as the 4,030 deaths in 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those deaths, 30% involved the use of a benzodiazepine, a class of drugs that has seen usage rise similar to opioids.

Despite calls to strengthen controls on opioids, in October the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — acting against the recommendation of its own advisory panel — approved the new hydrocodone-only opioid, Zohydro. It will come in six doses starting at 10 mg and going up to 50 mg.

Last week, a coalition of more than 40 groups and individuals called on FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to revoke the agency’s approval of Zohydro.

“In the midst of a severe drug epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing this country needs is a new dangerous, high-dose opioid,” they wrote.

March 4, 2014 at 7:32 am Comments (0)

Thousands in Washington State at Risk of Losing Addiction Recovery Services

A glitch in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is threatening outpatient programs for those who are poor and in recovery for alcohol and drugs in Washington. washington-state-map

Under the ACA, the federal government now foots the bill for publicly funded addiction recovery centers. Prior to 2014, the state also chipped in with funding, but that is not the case now and it’s leaving the dozens of addiction recovery centers around Washington scrambling to cover the gap left in their funding.

The Seattle-based nonprofit, Recovery Centers of King County spent $21,000 of its own reserve money in January to cover the difference.

“I was horrified and instantly terrified. How are we going to survive this year?” said CEO Dr. Pat Knox.

“I was anticipating a reduction in fees but I didn’t know the magnitude. When we pulled together the numbers for January my heart dropped. I got a sick feeling in my stomach,” said Norm Redberg, Director of Alcohol Drug Dependency Services in Ellensburg.

For recovering addicts like Emily Scheving of Kent, who is recovering from alcoholism, the outpatient programs at places like the Seattle location of Recovery Centers of King County, where she gets counseling, are very much needed for her recovery.

“The program is important, especially because (they provide) childcare. For a mother it’s really hard to try to work a job and do outpatient and not have childcare. I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Scheving.

Several nonprofits contacted by news outlet KING 5 said if the legislature doesn’t make a budget fix in the next two weeks, outpatient services for thousands of people will be scrapped. It’s so bad that the Recovery Centers of King County is considering selling their Seattle building or closing down one of their two locations altogether.

“It certainly is (a crisis) and no one seems to care at DSHS and the legislature doesn’t know that this is happening,” said Knox.

Top DSHS managers who oversee chemical dependency programs in the state told KING 5 they do care about the service, but that it is out of the Department’s hands and up to the legislature to authorize DSHS to pay the same rates they were paying in the past.

“It’s the legislature’s decision at this point,” said Jane Beyer, Asst. Secretary of Behavioral Health and Service Integration Administration at DSHS. “Our concern needs to be with everyone that needs chemical dependency treatment. We’re doing the best that we can with the resources available to us.”

“Smaller agencies will go out of business.  The patients will not go away,” said Knox. “They will be on long waiting lists to receive treatment and they will fill the hospitals and jails.  More of them will be living on the streets of Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods as their addiction progresses.”

March 4, 2014 at 7:13 am Comments (0)

Colorado Employers Allegedly Discriminating Against Marijuana Users

Although marijuana is now legal in Colorado for recreational use, many employers still consider it a controlled substance (as it is classified federally) and discriminate against its users. drug testing Texas politiciansUrine drug tests are often used to screen potential employees by having them pass a pre-employment drug check or by screening employees by random drug testing on the job.

Drug testing business MCC, located in Grand Junction, said they’ve seen hundreds of jobs impacted by failed drug tests, particularly for marijuana, which is the drug most likely to show up in a urinalysis test.

“I want to say about 80% of our positives are for marijuana,” said MCC drug test collector Kyle Raaflaub. “THC stores in the fat cells so some people that aren’t very active… can have THC in their system up to 45 days. Vicodin, oxycontin, stuff like that, ecstacy, cocaine… those will only have a time table of 24 to 36 hours.”

Testing positive for any amount of marijuana is legal grounds to prevent employment or immediate termination.

Staffing agency Labor etc. says it must turn away potential employment candidates on a weekly basis for failing a drug test due to having THC, marijuana’s psychoactive substance, in their system.

“We get a percentage of our potential employees that have come up positive for THC that argue the fact that it’s legal in Colorado,” said Labor etc. Sales Director Kris Cox. “That they should be able to smoke marijuana and still be accepted for a position, but it is the employer right to say no.”

Current Colorado Law favors business owners banning all personal employee marijuana use on the basis that this is an at-will state.

“Employers can generally terminate employees at their will for no reason, or for any reason as long as it’s a lawful reason,” said employment attorney Anna Itenberg.

The recently enacted Amendment 64 also has a clause reserving employers right’s to drug test. But this seems to contradict Colorado Division of Regulatory Agency’s off-duty statute, which was put in place to protect employees from termination based on what they do in their time outside of work such as cigarette smoking.

The statute reads, “It shall be a discriminatory… for an employer to terminate… any employee due to that employee’s engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours…”

The Colorado National Organization Reforming Marijuana Laws (CO NORML) said urinalysis testing should not be allowed because it gives positive results for marijuana activity that could’ve occurred weeks ago.

“The reason why we don’t think drug testing should be used is because drug testing for marijuana does not show any type of impairment,” said CO NORML executive director Rachel Gillette.

The state government says it’s okay to smoke marijuana medically and recreationally, but employers seem to disagree.

March 3, 2014 at 7:54 am Comments (0)

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