The Right Legislation Can Help Reduce Drug Deaths

prescription pill bottlesThere’s no one solution to drug abuse and addiction. Solving this problem in our society will take many different actions, as wrote in a post last week. This week I came across some information on how the right legislation can help in the effort to reduce the number of people who lose their lives to overdoses of drugs.

It was in a story about a law change in Florida. Florida was notorious for having “pill mills” – businesses that had a doctor on the premises who would write you a prescription for painkillers or other drugs without asking questions. Until this law was changed, the situation in Florida was pretty far out of control. There were stories about parking lots full out-of-state plates and crowds of people standing on the sidewalks outside these businesses, waiting for their prescriptions. Continue reading

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Newborn Babies – Some of Our Youngest Addicts

newborn baby with motherThese are children who never reached out for a joint, a needle or a crack pipe. Their drugs came from a different source – their mothers’ blood, carried through the placenta and umbilical cord to the tiny, growing body.

But still, these are children who must go through similar withdrawal symptoms to their mothers. They are often inconsolable, crying endlessly. They may suffer seizures and cramps and kick their arms and legs in pain. When the mothers’ drug was an opiate, the babies may be weaned off the drugs in their bodies by being given tiny doses of methadone or morphine. The dose is gradually reduced until they are clean but it still is an uncomfortable process. Continue reading

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Marijuana Edibles Pose Threats to Colorado Adults and Children Alike

marijuana gummy bearsAbout a month ago, I posted a blog about a New York Times reporter who traveled to Denver to take a look at the legal recreational marijuana industry there. She thought she would try one of the marijuana edibles – brownies, cookies, gummy bears, drinks, and more – since she was reporting on the industry.

She took a nibble of her candy bar and when nothing happened for awhile, took another nibble. An hour or so later, she experienced a full-on panic attack, complete with paranoia and paralysis. It lasted all night.

She had unintentionally overdosed on THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary intoxicating ingredient of marijuana. The next day, she learned that for a newcomer, that candy bar should have been cut into sixteen pieces. Continue reading

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The Third Legal Drug

marijuana and jointIf you have any concerns about the spread of marijuana use across our country, that’s probably a good idea. One of our experts on the effects of this drug states feels that this use of marijuana constitutes a huge social experiment with great risk involved.

The expert is Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s part of the National Institutes of Health. In a Washington Post article, she makes some good points.

She notes that the greatest number of drug-related deaths result from alcohol and tobacco. She continued on to say that these deaths occurred in such numbers “not because they are more dangerous or addictive. Not at all — they are less dangerous. It’s because they are legal. . . . The legalization process generates a much greater exposure of people and hence of negative consequences that will emerge. And that’s why I always say, ‘Can we as a country afford to have a third legal drug.” Continue reading

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The Battle to Reduce Alcohol Use by Underage Drinkers

Despite laws, despite the fact that many parents warn their children against using alcohol when they are underage, the vast majority of our adolescents drink alcohol. You can see exactly how many in this chart from the Surgeon General’s 2007 Call to Action to end underage drinking. You can see how early drinking starts.

Alcohol use by youth

Here’s a fact that many parents may not know: Half of the money spent on alcohol in this country is spent by underage drinkers or those who drink to excess. This is according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Children. Underage drinking accounts for 20% of the alcohol sold and excessive drinking accounts for another 30%.

Young people who binge drink even have their definite preferences of what to drink, as reported in the Washington Post. Take a look. Continue reading

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Tunnel Vision Doesn’t Work When You’re Dealing with Drug Addiction

There’s some subjects that can be successfully addressed with a narrow focus. And there’s others where that just won’t work. Addiction is one of the latter.

If you just focus on one aspect of the addiction problem, you will fail to understand it. Addiction is a serious social, health, cultural, financial, justice, legislative, political and human problem. I can’t think of any stratum of life that isn’t affected by it. Everything from child abuse to rock and roll, from traffic deaths to property crimes, from success in school to success in business, every part of our lives is capable of being touched by someone’s drug use and addiction.

For example, someone was telling me a story about how, many years ago, personnel from a major hospital used to cross the street from the hospital to a grassy strip in front of her office where they would take their lunch breaks and smoke pot. I shudder to think of the mistakes they might have made when they went back to work. Continue reading

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Is Krokodil the Worst Drug in the World?

krokodil user with rotten fleshIf there were some kind of competition for Worst Drug, I’m sure krokodil would be in the running.

If you have not heard of this drug, is a home-cooked drug that starts with codeine extracted from headache pills. In Russia, where this drug originated, you can buy these pills over the counter. Even though the laws have changed in the last couple of years to try to prevent people from making this drug, you can still buy enough of the pills to cook up this drug. The reason you can still get this drug is because before the laws changed, some pharmacies made 25% of their money by selling this drug. When the laws limited the number of the pills you could buy, many pharmacies just cooperated with people who wanted to circumvent the law and get more pills than allowed.

Once an addicted person has the pills, he cooks out the codeine by using a mixture of toxic, harmful chemicals. Phosphorus (from the strike strips on boxes of matches), iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid all leave their traces in the dirty orange liquid that results from the cooking process. Excessive amounts of zinc, iron and lead contaminate this mix. But the cravings for this drug are so intense that the addicts will inject it into their veins, despite the damage it quickly does. Continue reading

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NIDA Reports on the Threats Marijuana Use Poses for Young People

group of youth smoking marijuanaThe National Institute on Drug Abuse recently issued a major new report on the effects of marijuana which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The author of the report is the head of NIDA, Dr. Nora Volkow. Dr. Volkow has been very clear that marijuana presents great risks for those who use it, most particularly when they start at a young age.

Just to clarify matters up front, marijuana IS addictive. There are those who imply it is not. They can’t say this openly because there is ample evidence that it is. According to Dr. Volkow and NIDA, about 9% of all users will eventually become addicted. When a person starts using this drug in their teens, the number who will become addicted is higher, about one person in six. Continue reading

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In the News: Naloxone Can Save Lives

person in drug overdoseLately there’s been a lot of discussion and news coverage of naloxone (also known as Narcan). This is a drug that can be administered to a person who has overdosed on opiates (derived naturally from opium) or opioids (synthetic opiates). These include heroin, morphine, OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone, and many other pain medications. There are various ways to administer naloxone, including a device that pretty much automatically injects naloxone if you just hold it against the body. It even has a voice that gives you instructions. Another type of naloxone administration will send a jet of the drug up a person’s nose.

The fact is that in most cases naloxone will bring a person out of an overdose in just a couple of minutes. It reverses the effects of the narcotic which slows down a person’s breathing to the point of death when too much of the drug has been ingested. Time is always an issue when you are trying to save someone’s life. You have to reach him (or her) before he is too far gone. Continue reading

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Will Zohydro Become the Next “OxyContin”?

hydrocodone pillsThere’s a new painkiller on the market. It’s called Zohydro. It offers a new formulation for those in pain: 100% hydrocodone.

Of course, there were already hydrocodone painkillers on the market. They contained, usually, 10 milligrams of hydrocodone and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. This is the formulation brand named Vicodin or Lortab, among others. You may know acetaminophen by its best known brand name, Tylenol.

One of the reasons Vicodin (and other formulations) had acetaminophen was to discourage abuse by addicts. Many people know that acetaminophen causes liver damage or even failure if too much is taken, especially if it is taken together with alcohol. The idea was that people would want to avoid liver damage and do would not abuse this pill. Continue reading

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