Drug Abuse Prevention
Since 2010, the National Take Back Initiative has educated Americans about the dangers of leaving excess prescribed drugs inside their homes, and how a correct disposal method can become the first step to preventing prescription drug abuse. The most recent campaign was conducted last October 26, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Several counties and states have put their full support to this government activity:
- In Baltimore, the entire police force has coordinated with the DEA to push the event to the limelight, by offering their stations as drop off locations for those who want to throw away their unused medication. Lt. Michael Brothers of the Anne Arundel County Police shared in a news release that they will not interrogate locals who are planning to dispose of their medicine at the police stations. “We will not ask any questions. You can place them in the box and you can leave. No questions asked,” said Lt. Brothers.
- Government personnel and sheriff’s deputies at Harford County were assisted by DEA in transforming the county office parking lot into a drop off site. Doug Ellington of the DEA expressed his sentiments about the issue. “Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in this county… Non-medical use of prescription drugs ranks second only to marijuana as a drug of abuse,” Ellington said in a news item.
- The city of Huntington in West Virginia was able to amass about 30 pounds of prescription drugs across three Take Back stations. Cpl. Steve Vincent of the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department was surprised with the turnout. “We’ve been going for about an hour-and-a-half and we’ve already got two boxes filled up,” Vincent said.
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.
A legislation aimed at fighting dextromethorphan abuse has recently won the support of New York lawmakers, and is now at Governor Andre Cuomo’s desk for final approval.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, directs any retail establishment to prohibit the sale of products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to persons under 18 without a valid prescription.
“Too many of our teens are abusing this medicine to get high,” Jaffee said during a press conference at South Orangetown Middle School early this month.
Jaffee began working on the bill two years ago after hearing stories about the negative impact of DXM abuse. She did her research on the topic, review the dangers of peer pressure, and assess how poor discussion about the problem is destroying the lives of the country’s future generation.
Similar legislation is already in place several counties including Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau County. But Jaffee’s bill will enforce the age restriction on a state level. Once Gov. Cuomo signs the bill, a $250 fine will be imposed to those who will be caught violating the provisions of the new law.
“I think the bill is going to make a huge difference. It will deny access. And once you deny access, you raise awareness,” Jaffe noted. “It’s a very important step.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded East Tennessee State University more than $2 million to launch a five-year research program aimed at fighting prescription drug abuse.
Dr. Robert Pack, the principal investigator on the grant, professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the ETSU College of Public Health, said the research initiative will be especially relevant to the Southern Appalachia region where the Rx abuse epidemic is disproportionally high.
“Prescription drug abuse is a disease, plain and simple, and it affects people from all walks of life,” Dr. Pack said in a news release. “I would say that most everyone in our region knows someone personally – a friend or a family member – who has been caught in the grip of it, or still is.”
Dr. Pack and his team will study how improving communication among health care providers who prescribe drugs, pharmacists who dispense them, and the patients who receive them can reduce illicit use of prescription medicines. They will also study how well health care providers think that they communicate with patients about substance abuse, and how prepared they feel to intervene in cases of suspected substance abuse. The researchers will also quantify outcomes of drug take-back events and drug donation boxes where substances with potential for abuse are removed from households.
“This won’t be just an academic exercise,” Pack added. “Through our research on improving communication among providers, prescribers and patients, we intend to develop real solutions to reduce the impact of prescription drug abuse in our region.”
Cliché as it may sound but prevention still goes a long way when it comes to addressing public health issues, such as substance misuse.
According to researchers from the Penn State and Iowa State University, kids who are exposed to community-based prevention programs while they are still in middle school are 65 percent more likely to reduce their overall misuse of prescription drugs. Significant reduction rates were also observed for methamphetamine, marijuana, alcohol, cigarette and inhalant use.
The study is part of the Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) model which brings evidence-based prevention programs to schools and communities to strengthen families, build youth skills, and reduce substance abuse.
For the purpose of the research, PROSPER administered a combination of family-focused and school-based programs for nearly 30 communities evenly split between Iowa and Pennsylvania. The programs started while the students were still in sixth grade.
In addition to reducing substance abuse, the researchers found that prevention programs improve relationships between teens and their parents, as well as life skills and few problem behaviors. They emphasized that timing is equally important in ensuring the effectiveness of prevention programs.
“We think the programs work well because they reduce behaviors that place youth at higher risk for substance misuse and conduct problems,” Richard Spoth, director of the Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute at Iowa State, said in a news release. “We time the implementation of these interventions so they’re developmentally appropriate. That’s not too early, not too late; about the time when they’re beginning to try out these new risky behaviors that ultimately can get them in trouble.”
Marijuana is the most widely abused drugs among teens and adults. It is often smoked as a cigarette or in a pipe or bong; sometimes ingested in the form of marijuana-laced cookie, candy, or drinks. If you are concerned your teenager might be using marijuana, there are several ways for you to know it aside from drug testing him/her.
Here are some of the telltale signs to look for:
1. Take note of your teen’s eyes. Marijuana use can immediately cause dilation of blood vessels in the eyes, thereby, making them bloodshot.
2. Observe your teen’s conversation pattern. Does s/he suddenly have difficulty conveying her/his ideas? Does s/he often lose track of her/his thoughts mid-sentence? Does s/he laugh uncontrollably or exhibit a sense of paranoia when talking? As a mind-altering drug, marijuana can cause short term memory loss, distorted perception, and trouble with thinking and problem solving.
3. Use your sense of smell. Teenagers will do everything to cover up their bad habit. Still, you can smell the distinctive odor of marijuana in your child’s clothing, car, or room. Also pay attention if your teen has suddenly started using air fresheners or scented candles more often than needed as this could indicate an attempt to mask marijuana’s smell
4. Look for drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room. This is perhaps the most intrusive way of checking whether your teen is into marijuana but it can help in saving your child from the dangers of substance abuse. Some things to look for are rolling papers, lighters, pipes, roach clips used for holding the burning end of a marijuana “joint.”