Archive for July, 2013

Colorado to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse with New Programs

When Colorado legalized the use of recreational marijuana last year one might think it could somehow lead to an uncontrollable number of pot abusers. Surprisingly, the abuse of prescription drugs became more of a serious problem in the state than any other addictive substances.

prescription drugsState Attorney General John Suthers said  more Coloradans are dying from prescription drug abuse than alcohol-related road accidents. In Adams County alone, 1 in 5 high school students reported abusing prescription drugs in the previous year. Nearly 15 percent of 18-to-25-year olds in the state are abusing painkillers.

Vicodin, Oxycontin and Valium are among the widely abused prescription drugs in the country, climbing from 40 million in 1991 to over 180 million in 2007.

Suthers joins other health experts and public officials taking a stand in the issue in warning people that just because Rx medicines are prescribed by doctors doesn’t mean they are safe to use recreationally. He told 9News that the state is about to begin a focused effort aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and such effort will be felt over the next 6 to 12 months.

“We need to shore up our prescription drug monitoring program,” Suthers said. “I think we have to make it mandatory but we also have to make it very user friendly by doctors.”

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What You Must Know About the New Breed of Heroin Users

The death of Glee star Cory Monteith a few weeks ago in Canada brought a huge shock to many Hollywood spectators. He was young, fresh-faced, and looked perfectly healthy. For his throngs of supporters, he was a typical young man enjoying the good life. But for those familiar with the changing trends in drug abuse, he personifies the new breed of heroin users.

heroinDr. Richard Clark, an emergency room physician and director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, told NBC News that gone are the days when you can easily spot stereotype heroin users on the street.  Today nearly anyone you least expect are using heroin because the drug is cheap and available in abundance. Kids, teenagers, even white-collar workers — often living in suburban or rural areas — could be using it without you suspecting.

Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington School of Public Health who frequently writes about heroin use said Monteith “is what a heroin user looks like.”

31-year old Monteith had been very open about his struggles with substance abuse, saying he started at a very young age. Despite publicly admitting his addition problems many were still incredulous when he was found dead on July 13 at Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver. Initial reports indicated that he was last seen partying at a club with some friends before the incident occurred. A few days later following his demise, the British Columbia Coroners Service released its report which said that the clean-cut actor died of a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol.

“If you’re out partying at a bar, you’re most likely not doing heroin in the middle of patrons drinking socially,” Dr. Clark explained. “But you may be real mellow from the alcohol, go back to your hotel room and say, ‘Boy, it would be good to get high with heroin.’”

Dr. Clark said alcohol and heroin have different effects on the central nervous system. And when they act together, most of the danger could come from heroin. He also noted that nearly all deaths associated with heroin were because the users simply stopped breathing.

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Experts to Develop Smartphone App That Could Reduce Marijuana Consumption

There seems to be an app for everything and soon fighting marijuana abuse could just be a matter of turning to smartphones.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo was recently awarded $715,500 by National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop and study a smartphone app that promotes exercise as a positive alternative to marijuana use.

Dr. R. Lorraine Collins, primary investigator on the grant and an associate dean for research and professor in the UB Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, an app would be very effective in promoting physical activities since most young adults today spend a great deal of their time with mobile devices.

According to a university news release, the grant will run from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015. Part of the study is assessing the possibility and reviewing the “effects of a four-week intervention for the individuals being studied that includes personalized feedback about marijuana use and participation in four in-person counseling sessions focused on decreasing marijuana intake.”

Dr. Collins explained that her interest in marijuana use began during a previous research which revealed that many heavy drinkers also use marijuana on a regular basis. In that study, participants who abused alcohol ” used cell phones and interactive voice response (IVR) technology to provide three weeks of real-time, self-report data on their mood, alcohol and marijuana use, motives and social context.”

“This newest NIDA grant to develop the smart phone app has evolved out of our use of cell phones to collect data in real time, as well as our plan to develop an effective intervention that can make a difference in the lives of young people who want to cut down on their marijuana use,” Dr. Collins said.

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Etowah County Schools to Begin Drug Testing Students

Several schools across the country are now implementing drug testing policies as a way to deter students from taking drugs or abusing alcohol. The latest to adopt similar action is the Etowah County School District.

random drug testing in schoolOn July 23, the Etowah County Board of Education approved a drug testing policy for Grades 7 through 12 students who want to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities. The policy will also cover students who drive on campus at Etowah County Schools.

The drug testing methods that will be used are saliva and urine tests which could identify multiple substances including marijuana, alcohol, and synthetic drugs.  Students who submit to a drug test will   be selected randomly. The Etowah County Community Corrections is in-charge of administering the tests. Questionable test results will be sent to a lab in California for confirmation.

“We’re excited to have this contract with the Etowah County School system,” Elizabeth Russell, of Community Corrections, told The Gadsden Times. “We view it as a preventative service. Hopefully, we will help any student that may have a problem with some type of substance.”

The Board believes that the drug testing program would be helpful in discouraging students from abusing drugs and alcohol.

Southside Principal Marguarite Early was glad about the Board’s decision, saying a drug testing policy could be crucial in saving children’s lives.

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to Prohibit Staff from Smoking During Work Days

Doctors, nurses, students, volunteers and all other employees at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will no longer be allowed to smoke beginning July 1, 2014.

UPMC anti-smoking policy“Our patients are best cared for, and both patients and visitors have the best experience when our employees are at their very healthiest and when the workplace is free of tobacco,” Gregory Peaslee, UPMC’s senior vice president and chief human resources and administrative services officer, said in a news release. “This initiative takes us a step further in solidifying our commitment to our patients and to our valued employees.”

The new policy bans UPMC personnel, students and volunteers from smoking during shift hours as well as on breaks. Dr. Hilary Tindle, UPMC smoking cessation expert and assistant professor, said they have several programs in place, such as online support and one-on-one counseling, that will help staff quit tobacco use. Nicotine patches, nasal spray, oral inhalers and lozenges, gum, and non-nicotine tablets are also available to help smoking employees stop lighting cigarettes.

“We understand the difficulty of quitting, despite a desire by many of our employees to do so. Sometimes a smoker needs more than one attempt before success. Through smoking cessation coaching and other forms of medical support, we will help employees to become smoke-free at work and to quit tobacco use overall if they choose to do so,” Dr. Tindle said.

UPMC campuses have been smoke-free since 2007. The health enterprise’s latest new anti-smoking policy is  part of an ongoing commitment to provide the highest quality care in western Pennsylvania, an exceptional experience for patients, and opportunities for employees to be as healthy as possible.

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What Killed ‘Glee’ Star Cory Monteith?

If you have been following the musical comedy-drama TV series Glee you can say that Finn Hudson was one of the most lovable character in the show. He was popular and talented, naive but not stupid. And like many other kids, he was looking for something to be interested in. Unfortunately, that character will no longer be seen in the future episodes of the Golden Globe Award-winning show.

Cory MonteithOn July 13, Cory Monteith (a.k.a Finn Hudson) was found dead at Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver, Canada. He was only 31.

According to the British Columbia Coroners Service report released Tuesday, Monteith died of a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol.

“It should be noted that at this point there is no evidence to suggest Mr. Monteith’s death was anything other than a most-tragic accident,” the report said. “Mr. Monteith’s family has been made aware of the circumstances surrounding the death. On behalf of family members, the BC Coroners Service asks that the media respect their privacy at this difficult time.”

The Glee actor has previously admitted his struggle with substance abuse. He told Parade magazine in a 2009 interview that he started skipping school, drinking, and smoking marijuana at 13, and got his first taste of rehab at 19 as a result of his friends’ and family’s prodding.

In April, Monteith once again sought treatment for his substance abuse problem by checking into an undisclosed  rehab facility. None was heard about him until his tragic death on Saturday.

Monteith wasn’t the first young and famous celeb whose life was cut short because of drugs and alcohol abuse. River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, and Brad Renfro were all enjoying stardom when they died due to drug overdoses. In the music industry, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain were only two of the many artists who died young because of substance abuse.

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