Designer Drugs Imported Legally

By  | December 5, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs
Spice 12-5-13

Large amounts of designer drugs are being imported into the United States legally, CBS News reports.

The drugs include synthetic marijuana, known as Spice. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Doug Coleman says China is the main source of these drugs. CBS News found a Chinese manufacturer online that sells chemical compounds. The company offered to ship two pounds of synthetic marijuana for $2,500.

While Spice and several other synthetic drugs were outlawed by the federal government last year, chemists have been evading the law by continually coming up with chemical compounds that are slightly different from the ones that have been banned. Coleman says U.S. Customs authorities cannot stop imports of compounds that are still legal.

“It’s like whack a mole,” he told CBS News. “They pop their head up, we hit them, they go down and then they pop their head up in another spot. It’s always a cat-and-mouse game. This is just a more advanced type of cat-and-mouse because now we’ve got chemists manufacturing synthetic drugs as opposed to cartel members trafficking heroin, or coke, or methamphetamine.”

Another synthetic drug that has been growing in popularity is Molly, or Ecstasy. Emergency room visits related to Molly rose 128 percent among people younger than 21 between 2005 and 2011, according to a new government report.

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Molly — What You Need to Know

By  | November 12, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

What’s in a (drug) name? The now-popular party drug named “Molly” sounds friendly and safe, and young people know that the name is supposed to refer to the pure crystalline powder form of 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine or MDMA—what used to be taken in pill form as Ecstasy. But many are learning the hard way that, despite appearances, Molly is often not what it seems, and this version of MDMA is no more pure, safe, or innocent than its previous incarnation.

Whether called Molly or Ecstasy, MDMA produces a combination of energy and sociability that has made it popular at events like raves and concerts since it first burst on the recreational drug scene in the late 1980s. The euphoric effects of MDMA, like those of stimulants such as cocaine or amphetamines, come mainly from raising the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain’s reward pathways. Unlike those drugs, however, MDMA also raises serotonin, the brain chemical boosted by many antidepressants. Serotonin affects mood, sleep, memory, and appetite, and also triggers the release of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that promote social behavior and bonding, which are likely responsible for the empathic closeness to others that MDMA users also experience.

Like stimulants, MDMA can be hazardous for those with heart problems, because it raises heart rate and blood pressure. At high doses it can also interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature; this, especially in the high-energy context of a dance party, can cause the body to overheat, leading to liver, kidney, or heart failure. MDMA metabolites interfere with the body’s ability to further metabolize the drug, so unexpectedly high blood levels can accumulate in the body when users take additional doses, as they commonly do. MDMA can also seriously deplete serotonin levels in the brain, causing confusion, depression, and sleep problems after it is taken. There is some evidence that frequent users may permanently damage serotonin-containing neurons, causing lasting mood and memory impairments.

MDMA in its previous life as Ecstasy typically came in the form of a pill, and as happens with other drugs, doubts about adulterants or substitutes came to haunt it. Ecstasy tablets have been known to contain caffeine, methamphetamine, cocaine, ephedrine, and other harmful substances. MDMA’s recent reincarnation as a “pure” powder called Molly, short for “molecular,” follows a typical pattern in the marketplace: rebranding and repackaging a staid old product for a new generation, as well as giving it an aura of being “new and improved.” The word molecular suggests chemical purity. So does its powder form. But powders are readily mixed and substituted, and in the world of drugs purchased at concerts, names mean absolutely nothing.

Molly has simmered in the news the past few years because of pop stars singing its praises, but this summer Molly made the headlines when it was blamed for the deaths of two young adults who collapsed after overheating at a music festival in New York City. The New York City medical examiner later confirmed that pure MDMA was to blame for one of the deaths; the other person had taken Molly that actually consisted of a mixture of MDMA and methylone, one of a family of dangerous and unpredictable stimulant drugs called synthetic cathinones and often sold as “bath salts.”

NIDA’s Community Epidemiology Work Group reported that hundreds of Molly capsules tested in two South Florida crime labs in 2012 also contained methylone. And indeed, many people ending up in emergency rooms after taking what they think is Molly are testing positive for synthetic cathinones instead. Synthetic cathinones can be more energizing than MDMA, and have earned a reputation for inducing wild mood swings and hallucinations in users, as well as dangerous overstimulation of the heart.

Unfortunately, the new world of synthetic designer drugs is very hard to regulate. Labs are continuously churning out new molecules that evade legal restrictions and/or existing drug tests. The situation is so perilous that inexpensive drug purity testers are reportedly being sold at music festivals to help concertgoers tell whether the Molly they have purchased is actually MDMA.

Besides doing whatever we can to steer youth away from drug use altogether, it is crucial to impress on them the folly of purchasing or taking a drug that is so notoriously and frequently not what it seems that it needs to be periodically rebranded. Molly is not bright and shiny and new; it is an old drug being sold in a different form that is now even more subject to contamination and substitution. Young people should listen to their common sense, and stay well away.

Susan Weiss and Eric Wargo
National Institute on Drug Abuse

PHOTO CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

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Heroin Prevention PSAs Urge Parents to Talk to their Children as Heroin Deaths Spike

9/12/2013

For Immediate Release: September 12, 2013 Contact: Angela Conover, PDFNJ, 201-916-1030 conover@drugfreenj.org

NEW BRUNSWICK— Talking to your kids about the dangers of heroin is the theme of a new public service campaign created by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ), in collaboration with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, and the County Prosecutors in Monmouth, Ocean, and Cape May Counties.

The campaign entitled “Heroin- Are you Talking to Your Kids Yet?” will be released, today, at the annual New Jersey Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Summit.

Angelo M. Valente, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey said that the campaign was developed to bring public attention to the alarming trends in the abuse of heroin in New Jersey.  He explained that the campaign urges parents to begin conversations with their children about the dangers of heroin abuse before their teenage years – when many counties are reporting staggering overdose and death rates attributed to heroin use.

“We are facing an epidemic of heroin use, driven by young people seeking cheaper alternatives to Oxycodone and the other opiate pain pills that have become a primary gateway drug,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “We’re attacking this problem at its roots, through prevention and education efforts, as well as through law enforcement operations that identify and take down heroin mills, and crack down on the diversion of prescription painkillers.”

“The three counties involved in the first wave of our release have seen a particularly high spike in heroin over doses and deaths,” Valente noted.

“We can no longer remain silent on this deadly issue. We cannot turn a blind eye to the possibility our kids may be using drugs. We can’t push this away with the excuse that ‘my kid could never get involved with drugs.’ The situation is critical – young people are dying at an alarming rate. Everyone must start talking about the deadly effects of heroin, and the conversation must begin from the point of view that any teenager may have already fallen prey to this unforgiving drug,” said Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said, “The launch of this proactive Heroin awareness campaign could not come at a more important time.  Opiate related overdose deaths in Ocean County are on pace to shatter the previous year’s high.  If current trends hold we will quadruple the number of people who died from drug overdoses last year.  The numbers are terrifying and indicative of the hold these drugs have over our young people.  The time to educate our sons and daughters of heroin’s death toll is now.”

Valente noted that the campaign includes posters, web banners, billboards and PATH Station lobby signage. The campaign will be distributed in all 21 counties in 2014 and will include radio and television public service announcements.

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Music Festival Attendees Say “Molly” Use is Widespread

By  | September 9, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed inDrugsYoung Adults & Youth

music festival 9-9-13

Young people who attend electronic dance music festivals tell The Christian Science Monitor that use of the drug “Molly” is widespread. The drug has been attributed to four recent overdose deaths, including two at a music festival in New York.

“I mean, there might be some kids that bring stuff with them to use or to sell, but the common idea is, you don’t bring sand to a beach,” Matthew Walcott, a former student at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, told the newspaper. “There’s no reason to, because there’s crazy, crazy amounts of drugs everywhere.”

Wilson Compton, director of the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “We’re certainly concerned about reports that we’re hearing in different locations, about complications and side effects of these synthetic agents.” He noted that “some people can die from the equivalent of heat exhaustion brought on by the excess activity under the influence of this substance.”

The drug, a more pure form of Ecstasy, comes in a powder. It has been available for decades, but has become more popular recently with college students. Mentions of the drug by music stars including Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West have increased its appeal.

Molly’s health risks can include involuntary teeth clenching, a loss of inhibitions, transfixion on sights and sounds, nausea, blurred vision and chills and/or sweating. More serious risks of the drug, also called MDMA, can include increased heart rate and blood pressure and seizures.

It is not uncommon to see people at music festivals and clubs go into a “K hole,” an almost-unconscious state, the newspaper reports. The term originally referred to an overdose of the drug ketamine.

A growing number of people who use Molly are buying drug test kits online, to test whether the drugs are laced with impurities.

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Random Drug Tests Don’t Deter Students’ Substance Use – Study Finds

By  | September 6, 2013 | 2 Comments | Filed in AlcoholDrugs,TobaccoYoung Adults & Youth

Marijuana and teen- Join Together at The Partnership at Drugfree.org

Random drug testing in schools does not reduce students’ substance use, a national survey of high school students concludes. The study found students who attend schools where they feel treated with respect are less likely to start smoking cigarettes or marijuana.

Students who attend schools where they feel respected, who have already started smoking, escalate their smoking at a slower rate than their peers at schools with less positive atmospheres, the study also found.

Neither random drug testing nor a positive school climate was associated with a reduction in alcohol use, according to researcher Dan Romer, PhD, Director of the Adolescent Communication Institute of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He and lead author Dr. Sharon Sznitman, currently at the School of Public Health at Haifa University in Israel, spoke about the findings at the recent American Sociological Association annual meeting.

The researchers interviewed 361 high school students twice, one year apart. They asked them about their use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. If they had not started using these substances at the beginning of the year, the researchers asked whether they had started to do so a year later. If they already had started using any of these substances, the students were asked whether they increased their use.

Dan Romer, PhDDan Romer, PhD

Students were asked whether their school had a random drug testing program and what the social climate was in their school. “We measured this by whether students think the rules in their school are fairly administered, whether they feel they have a say in how the rules are developed and if they feel they are treated with respect,” Romer said.

He found students attending school with positive school climates were 15 percent less likely to start smoking cigarettes, and 20 percent less likely to start using marijuana, compared with students at schools without positive climates. Students at schools with positive climates who already smoked had a much smaller increase in the number of cigarettes they smoked, compared with those in schools with less positive climates.

In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court held that random drug tests of student athletes do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. In 2002, the Court decided that random drug tests of students involved in extracurricular activities do not violate the Fourth Amendment.

“That means that kids who aren’t involved in sports or extracurricular activities are the ones who aren’t getting tested, and they tend to be the ones who are more likely to abuse substances,” Romer noted.

He advises parents to ask school administrators how they are fostering a positive climate for students. Several organizations have resources for schools that want to promote such an atmosphere, including the National School Climate Center and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. “If I were a parent whose child’s school was starting a random drug testing program, I’d question it—there are other ways to help students avoid the use of drugs,” he says.

He is concerned by the finding that even a positive school climate does not seem to deter high school students from drinking. “It’s become normative to drink. Alcohol is easily available and it’s hard to detect.” Romer points to advertising as a major reason why so many teens drink. “One thing we don’t focus on enough is the amount of advertising for beer at sporting events, and alcohol ads on late-night TV and in magazines that teens read,” he said.

His survey showed a big jump in drinking when teens turn 18. “They think they’re adults, and in many ways they are,” Romer observes. “We have to hope that schools with positive climates are at least encouraging their students to be careful in how they use alcohol.”

In 2011, Romer published a study that concluded drug tests in high school had no influence on male students, and only a slight impact on females—but only in some schools. The nationwide study of 943 students found 27 percent said their schools had a drug testing policy. For girls, drug testing only had an effect if they attended schools that had a positive school climate.

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Heroin Use Soars in Rural Areas

By  | August 8, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed inCommunity Related & Drugs
SONY DSC

Rural areas are seeing a surge in heroin use, The Wall Street Journalreports. The rise comes as Mexican heroin production has increased in recent years. Officials seized 1,989 kilograms of heroin at the Southwest border, from Texas to California, in 2012, up from 487 kilograms in 2008, the article notes.

Many people who were addicted to prescription painkillers switched to heroin after drug companies made their products more difficult to crush and snort. Heroin is also much less expensive than pills such as oxycodone.

According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people who were past-year heroin users in 2011 (620,000) was higher than the number in 2007 (373,000).

“Basically, you have a generation of ready-made heroin addicts,” Matthew Barnes, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Seattle division, told the newspaper.

According to drug experts, heroin is generally purer and more potent today than in decades past. This increases the risk of an overdose.

Rural areas experiencing an increase in heroin use often are unprepared to respond. They do not have adequate treatment facilities, or hospital emergency rooms that can treat overdoses. Local police forces do not have the staff to handle an increased level of narcotic investigations and drug-related crimes.

Skip Holbrook, the Police Chief in Huntington, West Virginia, where heroin has become the biggest drug problem, says the drug “transcends all areas of our town. It is absolutely the most pressing issue that we face.”

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People Addicted to Opioids Not Getting Adequate Treatment

By  | August 6, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Addiction,DrugsHealthcarePrescription Drugs & Treatment

Many people addicted to opioids are undergoing short-term detoxification, instead of receiving long-term maintenance treatment, according to a new report. In the journal Health Affairs, eight experts write this means many people are not receiving adequate opioid addiction treatment.

Dr. Bohdan Nosyk and seven other experts note that excessive regulation in the United States prevents many people addicted to opioids from receiving long-term maintenance treatment with methadone. Instead, many people undergo short-term detox, which lasts from three to 12 weeks, and is focused on achieving abstinence from opioids.

He told PBS NewsHour, “We’ve known for decades that detox is ineffective in getting, and keeping people off of opioids. This is true even in youths who don’t inject and had relatively little experience with opioids before entering treatment.” He said the treatment is extremely dangerous, because people addicted to opioids are at highest risk of death in the first two weeks of treatment and in the two weeks after treatment ends. “That means a three-week detox regimen exposes addicts to an extremely high risk of death for four out of five consecutive weeks. So, aside from being ineffective, it’s extremely dangerous.”

In the United States, methadone is only available in specialized treatment centers, not in regular doctors’ offices, Dr. Nosyk explained. He said another opioid addiction treatment, buprenorphine, can be prescribed in physicians’ offices. “Methadone is a more effective, and considerably cheaper medication, and may therefore provide better value for money while further expanding access to treatment,” he said. He called for eliminating restrictions on office-based methadone prescribing in the United States.

In Health Affairs, Dr. Nosyk wrote that fewer than 10 percent of all people dependent on opioids in the United States are receiving treatment with methadone or buprenorphine. The proportion may increase as more people receive health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, he said.

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Survey: Many Teens Have Access to Prescription Meds

By  | June 17, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Parenting,Prescription DrugsResearch & Youth

A survey of eighth and ninth graders prescribed medication finds 83.4 percent say they have unsupervised access to the drugs at home. This included 73.7 percent who took pain relief, anti-anxiety, stimulant and sedative medication that have the potential for abuse, Science Daily reports.

The online survey and in-person interviews with 230 teens is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“It was surprising to me that parents were not storing medications securely because I expected them to be locked up and for parents to administer the medications,” said lead researcher Paula Ross-Durow, PhD, of the University of Michigan.

She said parents don’t think about their teens’ friends coming into their homes and stealing medications. In addition, teens may give their prescription drugs away, thinking they are helping a friend and not understanding the risk. They also may not realize their friends may sell the drugs.

“It is critical that clinicians educate parents and patients about the importance of proper storage and disposal of medications, particularly those with abuse potential,” the researchers conclude

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Medical Residents Not Properly Trained in Addiction

By  | May 23, 2013 | 1 Comment | Filed in Addiction,Healthcare & Treatment
Doctors

More than half of internal medicine residents at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston say they were not adequately trained in addiction and other substance use disorders, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted last year, found residents rated their training in these areas as fair or poor, Health Canal reports. Many said they were not prepared to diagnose or treat addiction or substance use disorders.

“Our residents estimated that one in four hospital inpatients has a substance use disorder, which matches what other studies have found and represents a disease prevalence similar to that of diabetes,” lead author Sarah Wakeman, MD said in a news release. “Finding that the majority of residents feel unprepared to treat addiction and rate the quality of their education so low represents a tremendous disparity between the burden of disease and the success of our current model of training.”

Wakeman noted several previous studies have indicated a deficiency in addiction education for medical residents. Some programs offer no training in this area, she said. Massachusetts General Hospital says it has increased residents’ training in addiction medicine as a result of the findings.

The survey, based on responses from 101 residents, is published in the journal Substance Abuse. One-quarter said they felt unprepared to diagnose addiction, and 62 percent said they felt unprepared to treat it. Only 13 percent felt very prepared to diagnose addiction, and no residents felt very prepared to treat addiction.

Participants were asked six questions to evaluate their knowledge about diagnosing and treating substance abuse. None answered all the questions correctly. Only 6 percent correctly answered all three questions about medication treatment options for addiction.

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Parents Don’t Know Their Teens Use ADHD Drugs for Study: Poll Finds

By  | May 21, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Parenting,Prescription Drugs & Youth
Study drugs

Only 1 percent of parents believe their teens have used attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin to help them study, but 10 percent of high school students have done so, a new nationwide poll suggests.

The poll, conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found half of parents say they are very concerned about teens using “study drugs” in their communities, and more than 75 percent support school policies aimed at stopping abuse of study drugs, including requiring children who are prescribed ADHD medications to keep them in a secure place such as the school nurse’s office.

“Taking these medications when they are not prescribed for you can lead to acute exhaustion, abnormal heart rhythms and even confusion and psychosis if the teens get addicted and go into withdrawal,” Matthew M. Davis, MD, who directed the poll, said in anews release. Taking study drugs has not been proven to improve grades, he noted.

Only 27 percent of parents said they have talked with their teens about using study drugs, the poll found. “If we are going to make a dent in this problem, and truly reduce the abuse of these drugs, we need parents, educators, health care professionals and all who interact with teens to be more proactive about discussing the issue,” Dr. Davis said.

Parents may not know their children are using these drugs because their effects are more subtle than drugs such as cocaine and heroin,Fox News reports.

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