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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Babies Born With NAS More Likely to Be Readmitted

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has become a common occurrence, an insidious byproduct of the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Expectant mothers who use opioid narcotics put their baby at risk of NAS, a disorder which commonly requires lengthy hospital stays after birth. NAS occurs when a baby goes through withdrawal from the drugs the mother used throughout the pregnancy. What’s more, babies born with NAS are at a much greater risk of being readmitted to the hospital after discharge than newborns without the condition, HealthDay reports. The findings come from researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The researchers report that babies born with NAS can experience:
  • Breathing Problems
  • Feeding Problems
  • Seizures
  • Low Birth Weight
The study involved data from more than 750,000 births in New York state between 2006 and 2009, according to the article. Of the more than 1,600 babies born with NAS, they were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within one month after birth than babies without NAS.

“The recent rise of neonatal abstinence syndrome led to efforts in many hospital systems to improve hospital care being delivered to infants with the syndrome. Our findings suggest that these improvements need to extend beyond the initial birth hospitalization to ensure a safe discharge home,” said lead investigator Stephen Patrick, M.D., MPH, M.S., assistant professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy in the Division of Neonatology with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, in a news release.

“As state and federal policymakers work toward strategies to improve outcomes for women with substance use disorder and their infants, it will be important to ensure that families are supported during the critical transition from hospital to home to limit the risk of hospital readmission. The findings of our study suggest that some families may benefit from additional post-discharge resources.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Dark Web is Alive and Well

The days of buying illegal drugs online are far from over, despite the founder and architect of the infamous Silk Road being sentenced to life in prison. The Silk Road was a “dark web” marketplace where drugs could be purchased anonymously using a form of currency called BitCoins. Two years ago, federal agents arrested the website’s founder Ross Ulbricht, and that may have been the end of illicit drug marketplaces lurking in the dark corners of the Internet - but it wasn’t!

When government agencies went after the Silk Road, dismantling it and imprisoning its architect, it only served to kill the competition. This allowed the smaller dark web marketplaces to flourish, exponentially increasing their sales. The example that was thought to be made by giving Ulbricht a life sentence did little to deter the others engaged in illegal dark web activity. In fact, it is now easier than ever to order illegal drugs online and await the arrival of a package from a legitimate parcel courier, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“It’s an idea, like social networking, that you wouldn’t think very much of until it happens. Then you can’t imagine people giving it up,” says Johns Hopkins University computer science professor Matthew Green. “The easiest way to think about Silk Road is to view it as a proof of concept for later darknet markets.”

“To this day, more than half of anonymous marketplaces implement websites that are directly derived from the template that Silk Road used, and from formatting all the way to policy, Silk Road invented the status quo that actors in this space have come to expect,” said Carnegie Mellon University researcher Kyle Soska, a doctoral candidate in electrical computer engineering.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Attorneys General Call for E-Cigarette Regulation

In the unlikely event that you have not been exposed to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) - here are the details. E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that vaporize liquid nicotine (e-juice) for inhalation. E-juices come in a variety of flavors and levels of nicotine. The devices and liquid nicotine can be purchased in vape shops, gas stations, and online.

While there is still much debate about e-cigarettes with regard to safety and how effective they are for smoking cessation, the fact remains that nicotine in any strength is addictive and can be poisonous at certain levels. Over the last few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been called upon by lawmakers and health experts to regulate e-cigarettes. Recently, attorneys general from 33 states wrote a letter to the FDA, calling upon the agency to require health warning labels on liquid nicotine, Reuters reports.

"Given the growing popularity of 'tank'-style vaping devices, which require periodic refilling with liquid nicotine, public health threats from nicotine exposure will increase in the absence of appropriate FDA regulation," the attorneys general wrote. 

They would also like to see the FDA establish standards for child-resistant packaging. Last year, poison control centers received more than 3,700 reports of child nicotine exposures, according to the article.

“As more and more Americans – especially young people – take up e-cigarettes, it is more important than ever that the FDA ensures our children are protected from the dangers of liquid nicotine,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a news release. “Child-resistant packaging and health warnings are an essential step to keeping these potentially lethal toxins out of the hands of our children. The FDA must step up and regulate the sale and packaging of these dangerous products before any more kids are harmed.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dry Alcohol Counties See More Meth

In the United States there are a number of counties that prohibit the sale of alcohol; residents need to leave county lines in order to purchase alcoholic beverages. Known as “dry” counties, officials hope that by not selling alcohol they will reduce alcohol related problems. Such counties can typically be found in highly religious areas. Unfortunately, counties that ban the sale of alcohol may find that they have other problems to contend with.

In the state of Kentucky, where there are a number of dry counties, researchers have found that there are greater problems with methamphetamine, The Washington Post reports. Researchers from the University of Louisville found higher rates of meth lab busts and meth crimes in dry counties. If those counties were to become “wet” again, the researchers found that there would be a 25 percent decrease in meth lab seizures.

"Our results add support to the idea that prohibiting the sale of alcohol flattens the punishment gradient, lowering the relative cost of participating in the market for illegal drugs," the authors researchers write in the study

The idea is that when people become accustomed to dealing with alcohol on an illegal level, they are less likely to be dissuaded by another illicit substance, according to the article. The researchers estimate that unrestricted alcohol sales, would result in 37 percent decline of methamphetamine labs.

“Although it’s not clear how well our results would generalize to other states or to substances other than alcohol, our study provides an example in which liberalizing the treatment of one substance can be an effective policy tool for another substance,” the researchers conclude.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Civil Forfeiture and The Marijuana Industry

Many Americans may have never heard of civil forfeiture, but it is something that happens every day in the United States. If a law enforcement officer believes that a person's assets were used in or are the result of a crime, said officer can confiscate the assets without necessarily charging the owners with a crime. The controversial procedure results in millions of dollars in cash and property being seized every year by federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is often the case that civil forfeiture involves marijuana.

Two U.S. representatives have introduced a bill that would prevent the DEA from using federal civil forfeiture funds to finance its marijuana eradication program, Forbes reports. The bill is sponsored by Ted W. Lieu of California and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The DEA reports that its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression program seized more than $27.3 million dollars of cultivator assets last year. Agents destroyed 3.9 million cultivated outdoor cannabis plants and 396,620 indoor plants, according to the article. The agency arrested 6,310 individuals and seized 4,989 weapons from cannabis cultivators. In 2014, $18 million was spent on the program.

If the bill is passed, the DEA would no longer be allowed to transfer property to federal, state or local agencies - if the property is to be used for the agency’s marijuana eradication program, the article reports.

“Civil asset forfeiture allows innocent people to have their property taken without sufficient due process, and this program encourages civil asset forfeiture by allowing the DEA to use the proceeds of seized property to fund marijuana prohibition enforcement,” said Congressman Amash. 

In an era of changing views regarding marijuana, some believe that the DEA’s actions are unwarranted and a waste of resources. Marijuana can now be used recreationally in four states and can be used medically in 23 states.

“As multiple states legalize marijuana across our nation, it is a huge waste of federal resources for the DEA to eradicate marijuana,” Representative Lieu said in a news release.