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Friday, April 29, 2016

Synthetic Marijuana Hospitalizations in California

Synthetic drugs (excuse the cliché) are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. Incidents involving synthetic marijuana and bath salts continue to occur throughout the country, usually requiring emergency services. The side effects that accompany the use of the powerful chemicals used to make synthetic drugs are highly unpredictable. In order to stay one step ahead of government bans, chemists in clandestine laboratories, usually in China, are constantly altering the chemical variations. Lack of oversight and testing means that synthetic drug users have no idea what to expect, the experience they had before may not be what they experience the next time.

Last weekend, fifteen people were hospitalized in Los Angeles after they ate synthetic cannabis, The Washington Post reports. In November, 13 people got sick after eating synthetic cannabinoids, often sold under the brand names Spice and K2. Synthetic marijuana is most commonly smoked; however, more and more people are choosing to ingest the deadly plant matter sprayed with chemicals. Synthetic marijuana users report experiencing:
  • Violent Behavior
  • Other Aggressive Symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
“They are cutting it with something lethal,” said local mission head Rev. Andy Bales to the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve seen violence and convulsions…. I saw a guy rolling into the street on Friday.”

Despite the horror stories in the news regarding synthetic drug use, people continue to use these at alarming rates, as is evident by reports from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In 2013, poison centers received 2,688 calls related to synthetic cannabinoids. There were roughly 1,000 more calls in 2014, but there was a total of 7,794 call in 2015. This year, between January 1 and March 31, poison centers received 862 calls related to synthetic marijuana. Clearly, people are going to continue to use these insidious substances, which is why legislation needs to be passed to limit people’s ability to acquire them, and to create a ban that encompasses any variation of chemical.

"That once again shows a reason to explore other ways of banning substances not just by chemical structure but by their pharmaceutical action in the brain," Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, told CBC News.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Marijuana for PTSD

In the United States, we have prohibited the cultivation and use of marijuana for 80 years. America is not alone; most developed nations have similar legislation. While prohibition may have resulted in deterring the use of the drug, it also had the unintended consequence of preventing cannabis research. Since 1996, when California first legalized medical marijuana, there have been a number of studies conducted to determine what the drug could be used for, particular ailments it could treat.

Experiencing a tragic event can result in what is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While the disorder is most commonly associated with war, it affects millions of people who have experienced some form of trauma. PTSD can be extremely difficult to treat, it requires extensive therapy. Left untreated, those suffering from the disorder will often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to cope. While substance use may provide some temporary relief, in the long run it only exacerbates the problem.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved a new study that will try to determine if cannabis is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, The Denver Post reports. PTSD is currently not on the list of qualifying health problems for gaining access to medical marijuana programs, which researchers in three states have been working for years to garner approval for the new study.

“This is a critical step in moving our botanical drug development program forward at the federal level to gather information on the dosing, risks, and benefits of smoked marijuana for PTSD symptoms,” said Amy Emerson, Director of Clinical Research for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Public Benefit Corporation.

The study will involve the use of raw marijuana, rather than oils or synthesized cannabis, according to the article. The findings of the research may not be published until 2019.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Global Debate On Drug Policy

If you have been following our posts over the lasts six months, you are likely aware that United Nations (UN) is holding a special session this week to discuss global drug policy. It has been nearly 20 years since the UN has held such a meeting, but it could not have come sooner. In the United States we have an opioid addiction crisis of epidemic proportions, a scourge that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of; while other countries may not share the same problem, the disease of addiction affects millions of people across the globe.

Setting alcohol and legal narcotics aside, the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime known as UNODC reports that 246 million people are using illicit drugs worldwide. In America, we are slowly but surely recognizing the urgent need for addiction and mental health treatment services, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand that a jail's bars are only a band-aid. Prison sentences should only be handed out to illegal drug manufacturers and traffickers, rather than non-violent drug offenders.

At the special session, world leaders have been discussing how they handle illegal drugs and what they think should be done moving forward. Canada has plans to legalize marijuana, while Cuba opposes legalizing drugs or declaring them harmless, the Associated Press reports. Both Iran and Indonesia impose the death penalty on drug traffickers. During the session Indonesia’s Ambassador, Rachmat Budiman, called for a “zero-tolerance approach” for the suppression and elimination of all illegal drugs.

Anyone with a basic understanding of addiction would probably agree that as long as there is a demand, there will always be individuals and organizations who will try to make a profit from supplying the demand. Treating addiction humanely and effectively is the best weapon against the worldwide illegal drug scourge. The Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, said “law enforcement efforts should focus on criminal organizations — not on people with substance use disorders who need treatment and recovery support services.”

Iran claimed to have seized 620 tons of drugs last year and said that it is helping protect the world from "the evils of addiction," according to the article. Yes, that’s right, the evils of addiction! Addiction is a mental illness, and the use of such rhetoric is draconian to say the least. Drugs are in fact harmful to one’s health. People who profit off the exploitation of others sicknesses are wrong and should be a punishable offense. However, people suffering from addiction are not bad, they are sick and need help. As long as we talk about addiction as if it is something that we can eradicate, the longer it take to collectively come together to ensure that everyone has access to treatment and recovery.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

UN Special Session Global Drug Control Policy

You all may remember former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s recent op-ed which called the global war on drugs a failure. He called for change in how developed nations treat those afflicted by addiction, saying that we need to stop stigmatizing and start helping. Annan said that four, albeit controversial, steps need to be taken:
  • We must decriminalize personal drug use.
  • We need to accept that a drug­-free world is an illusion.
  • We have to look at regulation and public education rather than the total suppression of drugs, which we know will not work.
  • We need to recognize that drugs must be regulated precisely because they are risky.
“Prohibition has had little impact on the supply of or demand for drugs. When law enforcement succeeds in one area, drug production simply moves to another region or country, drug trafficking moves to another route and drug users switch to a different drug.”

This week, the U.N. is holding a special session on global drug control policy, the first of its kind in almost 20 years, the Associated Press reports. The 3-day gathering will feature a debate among world leaders as to whether nations should focus on “criminalization and punishment” or on “health and human rights.”

Current U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon believes that health and human rights need to be the way of the future, according to the article. He has the support of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

"Only an integrated development, security, governance, public health, and human rights-centered approach can effectively address the challenges posed by the world drug problem," Ban said.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When Do College Students Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol Awareness Month 2016 is upon us, the goal of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) is to “increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.” This year’s theme is: “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.” NCADD points to research that found teens, who have conversations with their parents about drugs and alcohol, are 50 percent less likely to use mind altering substances, compared to those who don’t have the conversation.

So, what happens in college? Teenagers and young adults have a new sense of freedom after leaving the nest, and they are more often than not exposed to alcohol. It is fair to say that every weekend the majority of college students will be around or drink alcohol, often engaging in unsafe drinking practices such as “binge drinking.” This dangerous behavior is usually defined as men consuming 5 or more drinks, and women consuming 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The organization points out that binge drinking negatively affects students’ academic and social lives.

A team of researchers sought to find out when college students drink the most, and the findings may not be what you think. In fact, the research showed that college drinking spikes when students first return to school in the fall semester and during spring break, but drops during summer break, Medical Daily reports. The findings were published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The researchers began measuring alcohol consumption in January 2014 among 462 college freshmen (290 females and 172 males), a total of eight times over the course of 55 weeks, according to the article. The research indicated a 29 percent drop in alcohol consumption during the summer, a 31 percent spike in the fall and 18 percent rise in around spring break.

It goes without saying that college drinking can be extremely dangerous. In fact the NIAAA reports that every year:
  • 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related injuries.
  • Nearly 600,000 students experience unintentional injuries while drinking.
  • More than 690,000 students are assaulted by a student who has been drinking.