Heroin Use Increases as OyxContin Abuse Declines in Vermont

By Join Together Staff | November 26, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed inCommunity RelatedDrugs & Prescription Drugs

Vermont officials report an increase in heroin use, as OxyContin abuse decreases, according to the Associated Press. The state Health Department notes nine people died of heroin overdoses in 2011, and six have died so far this year. Between 2004 and 2010, such deaths averaged fewer than three per year.

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, released a new version of the drug two years ago that is resistant to crushing and cutting, common ways in which the drug was tampered with to enhance its effect. It is now much more difficult to prepare for snorting or injecting.

Vermont has seen an increase in the number of young people who start using heroin by snorting it, Lieutenant Matt Birmingham, head of the Vermont Drug Task Force, told the newspaper. They think it is safer than injecting the drug, because they avoid dirty needles. ‘‘You can get addicted all the same,’’ he noted, adding that young people ‘‘generally end up injecting once they get a full-blown addiction.’’

Heroin is being used more widely in the state’s rural areas. Birmingham said officials are seeing more organized drug dealing networks that bring in drugs from areas such as New York City.

‘‘Law enforcement realized very quickly that we cannot solve this problem at all by arresting our way out of it. It’s just not going to happen,’’ he said. ‘‘As long as there is a demand here for heroin and opiate products, the supply will just keep coming. And you’re just not going to stop it unless you build a 20-foot fence around the state.’’

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Colorado & Washington Universities Don’t Expect Changes to Marijuana Policies

By Join Together Staff | November 12, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Community Related, Drugs, Legislation & Young Adults

Officials at universities in Colorado and Washington state say they do not expect to change their marijuana policies, in light of voters’ approval of laws that legalize recreational marijuana in those two states.

“If someone thinks they are going to walk around campus smoking a joint, it’s not going to happen,” University of Washington spokesman Norman Arkans told USA Today. “We don’t see that it will change our policies very much. We get caught in the vice between the state law and our obligations under the federal government. While it may be legal two blocks off campus, it will be illegal under federal law, so it will be illegal on campus.”

The state measures allow personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for anyone at least 21 years old. They also permit marijuana to be sold and taxed at state-licensed stores. Both states prohibit public use of marijuana.

Marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law. The article notes universities do not want to risk losing federal research funding or student financial aid. Under the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, universities will be at risk of losing federal funds if they knowingly and willingly allow illegal substance use on their campuses.

“Now the question is, ‘Is that a federal definition or a state definition of illegal?’” asked Bronson Hilliard, spokesman for the University of Colorado-Boulder. “We are already sorting through it now, but it’s complex and it’s going to take time.”

University of Denver spokeswoman Kim DeVigil told the newspaper, “We are a smoke-free campus, so regardless you can’t smoke in dorms, buildings or any grounds. We will comply with state, local and federal laws.

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Six States to Vote on Marijuana Measures Tuesday

By Join Together Staff | November 5, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed inCommunity RelatedDrugs & Legislation

Voters in six states will consider measures that deal with the recreational or medical use of marijuana on Tuesday. In Colorado, Oregon and Washington state, voters will decide whether their states will become the first to allow recreational use of the drug.

“The attitudes about marijuana have changed sufficiently to make the issue of legalization politically viable and these initiatives are one way to measure that change,” Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which advocates legalizing marijuana, told Bloomberg Businessweek.

Voters in Massachusetts and Arkansas will consider legalizing marijuana for medical use, while in Montana, voters will decide whether to accept or reject a law passed last year that curtailed a 2004 measure legalizing medical marijuana.

According to St. Pierre, the measures in Washington state and Massachusetts are the most likely to be passed. He added a recent poll showed the Washington initiative has a 55 percent approval rating among likely voters, with 38 percent opposed.

A Justice Department official recently said the federal government will not change its position on the legalization of marijuana, even if voters in Colorado, Washington state or Oregon approve measures to legalize recreational use of the drug.

In September, nine former administrators of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wrote a letter to Holder, urging him to oppose the three state measures. The letter stated that not opposing the measures would indicate acceptance. The former DEA officials said if the measures in Colorado, Washington and Oregon are passed, they will pose a direct conflict with federal law.

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FDA Investigates Possible Link Between Monster Energy Drink & Five Deaths

By Join Together Staff | October 24, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed inGovernmentMarketing And MediaYoung Adults & Youth
Monsterenergy 10-24-12-2

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating reports that five people have died since 2009 after they consumed Monster energy drinks, according to the Los Angeles Times. The investigation was announced after parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued the company in connection with their daughter’s death.

The FDA said it has not established a connection between the drinks and the deaths, the article notes. The FDA can regulate caffeine levels in soft drinks, according to the newspaper. The limit in a 12-ounce soda is about 71 milligrams. The caffeine levels in most energy drinks exceed that level, because they are labeled dietary supplements.

In a statement, the company said, “Monster does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit.” According to the company, the drinks “generally contain approximately 10 milligrams of caffeine from all sources per ounce. By comparison, the leading brands of coffee house brewed coffee contain on average more than 20 milligrams of caffeine per ounce. An entire 24-ounce can of Monster Energy contains about 240 milligrams of caffeine from all sources, which is around 30 percent less than the average caffeine contained in a medium-sized, 16-ounce cup of coffee house brewed coffee.”

Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a report that found a sharp rise in the number of emergency department visits linked with the use of non-alcohol energy drinks, from 1,128 visits in 2005, to 13,114 in 2009. The report noted that energy drinks are marketed to appeal to youth, and are consumed by up to half of children, teenagers and young adults.

In April, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois called for an investigation into energy drinks, after learning of Fournier’s death from cardiac arrest after drinking two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks in a 24-hour period.

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Teens Driving Prescription Drug Abuse, Study Finds

By Join Together Staff | October 18, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed inPrescription DrugsYoung Adults & Youth

Teenagers and young adults are abusing prescription painkillers at a rate 40 percent higher than what would be expected for their age group, a new study finds. The findings reinforce concerns by law enforcement and medical experts that the wide availability of painkillers is dangerous for adolescents, according to The Denver Post.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver evaluated data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and found Americans ages 15 to 27 are driving the prescription drug abuse epidemic, the article notes.

“Prescription drug use is the next big epidemic,” lead researcher Richard Miech, Ph.D., said in a news release. “Everyone in this field has recognized that there is a big increase in the abuse of nonmedical analgesics but our study shows that it is accelerating among today’s generation of adolescents.”

The study notes that the total number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the U.S. increased more than fourfold, from about 40 million in 1991, to nearly 180 million in 2007. This increase in painkiller availability makes it easier for teens to start using the drugs than in the past, because more homes have prescription painkillers in their medicine cabinets, the researchers said. “While most people recognize the dangers of leaving a loaded gun lying around the house, what few people realize is that far more people die as a result of unsecured prescription medications,” Miech said.

The study appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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Understanding the Zombie Teen’s Body Clock: Wall Street Journal Article

Updated October 16, 2012, 8:40 p.m. ET


Many parents know the scene: The groggy, sleep-deprived teenager stumbles through breakfast and falls asleep over afternoon homework, only to spring to life, wide-eyed and alert, at 10 p.m.—just as Mom and Dad are nodding off.

Fortunately for parents, science has gotten more sophisticated at explaining why, starting at puberty, a teen’s internal sleep-wake clock seems to go off the rails. Researchers are also connecting the dots between the resulting sleep loss and behavior long chalked up to just “being a teenager.” This includes more risk-taking, less self-control, a drop in school performance and a rise in the incidence of depression.

Few parents realize that the common practice of letting teens set their own bedtime can fuel further mutations in the biological processes that knocked them off track. Sue Shellenbarger and Brown University’s Dr. Mary Carskadon discuss details on Lunch Break.

One 2010 study from the University of British Columbia, for example, found that sleep loss can hamper neuron growth in the brain during adolescence, a critical period for cognitive development.

Findings linking sleep loss to adolescent turbulence are “really revelatory,” says Michael Terman, a professor of clinical psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of “Chronotherapy,” a forthcoming book on resetting the body clock. “These are reactions to a basic change in the way teens’ physiology and behavior is organized.”

Despite such revelations, there are still no clear solutions for the teen-zombie syndrome. Should a parent try to enforce strict wake-up and bedtimes, even though they conflict with the teen’s body clock? Or try to create a workable sleep schedule around that natural cycle? Coupled with a trend toward predawn school start times and peer pressure to socialize online into the wee hours, the result can upset kids’ health, school performance—and family peace.

Jeremy Kern, 16 years old, of San Diego, gets up at 6:30 a.m. for school and tries to fall asleep by 10 p.m. But a heavy load of homework and extracurricular activities, including playing saxophone in his school marching band and in a theater orchestra, often keep him up later.

“I need 10 hours of sleep to not feel tired, and every single day I have to deal with being exhausted,” Jeremy says. He stays awake during early-afternoon classes “by sheer force of will.” And as research shows, sleep loss makes him more emotionally volatile, Jeremy says, like when he recently broke up with his girlfriend: “You are more irrational when you’re sleep deprived. Your emotions are much harder to control.”

Only 7.6% of teens get the recommended 9 to 10 hours of sleep, 23.5% get eight hours and 38.7% are seriously sleep-deprived at six or fewer hours a night, says a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a biological 1-2-3 punch. First, the onset of puberty brings a median 1.5-hour delay in the body’s release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, says Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Brown University medical school and a leading sleep researcher.

Sleep Tech for Teens

When adolescents stay up late, it’s often because they’re welded to their gadgets. Here are three that might actually ease their way to dreamland.

 Philips Wake-Up Light. Teens could wind down to its gradually dimming evening glow, then awaken to a gradual rise in light and nature sounds— especially good for dark winter mornings. Includes digital clock and AM/FM radio. $100 at amazon.com.

  Sleepsonic Stereo Speaker Pillow. With built-in digital stereo speakers, this could help music-loving teens drift off without the discomfort of headphones; $140 and up at sleepsonic.com.

  F.lux. This computer-screen app gradually dims the most stimulating light wavelengths, helping teens wind down while finishing homework; free at stereopsis.com/flux

Second, “sleep pressure,” or the buildup of the need to sleep as the day wears on, slows during adolescence. That is, kids don’t become sleepy as early. This sleep delay isn’t just a passing impulse: It continues to increase through adolescence, peaking at age 19.5 in girls and age 20.9 in boys, Dr. Carskadon’s research shows.

Finally, teens lose some of their sensitivity to morning light, the kind that spurs awakening and alertness. And they become more reactive to nighttime light, sparking activity later into the evening.

Dr. Carskadon says letting teens set their own schedules can lead to a downward spiral. Teens left to their own devices tend to cycle later, soaking up stimulating light from their computers. This can further delay sleep by 2½ to 3 hours.

Many parents feel defeated by schools’ early start times. More than half of public high schools start before 8 a.m., according to a 2011 Brookings Institution study.

Maya Zimmerman’s first class is at 7:20 a.m., and “when I wake up in the morning, I literally want to die,” says the 16-year-old Falls Church, Va., high-school junior. “I feel like it’s the middle of the night and I don’t feel like eating cereal.” Ms. Zimmerman says she battles fatigue in class and often nods off while doing homework after school.

More than 35 schools or school districts in at least 21 states have delayed start times in recent years to allow teens to sleep longer, according to reports gathered by advocates. In Wake County, N.C., where school start times were changed several times over a seven-year period, a one-hour delay was linked to an increase of three percentile points in middle-school students’ math and reading scores, according to a study published earlier this year in the Economics of Education Review.

Many schools, however, have rejected parental pressure to delay school starts, citing bus-cost savings, or the need to keep afternoons open for teens’ sports or other activities.

Sleep loss is linked in research to decreases in memory, attention and academic performance. Impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex, which helps regulate sleep, has been detected in youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Sleep-deprived teens are more likely to feel sad or hopeless, or to seriously consider suicide, according to a 2011 study by the CDC. A study published earlier this year by Dr. Carskadon and others links sleep deprivation in college freshmen to the expression of genetic factors linked to depression.

Still, most teens resist parents’ setting bedtimes. Peer pressure plays a role. Teens with a friend who sleeps less than seven hours a night are 11% more likely to sleep less than seven hours themselves, says a 2010 study in the science journal PLoS One.

Claude Albertario of Oceanside, N.Y., says his 15-year-old daughter Rianna stays up much too late, leaving her TV on through the night, “no matter my yelling.” Rianna says she isn’t sleepy until after midnight and usually falls asleep at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m., just five hours before she has to get up for school. She claims her TV helps her sleep by masking nighttime noises around the house.

An argument that does work with Rianna: Citing research linking sleep loss in teens to obesity and other health problems. Knowing that more sleep will help her keep her skin clear and avoid gaining weight “motivates me more,” says Rianna, who is trying gradually to move her bedtime up to midnight.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared October 17, 2012, on page D3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Understanding the Zombie Teen’s Body Clock.Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit





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Doctors Prescribing Stimulants to Students in Low-Income Schools

By Join Together Staff | October 9, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed inPrescription Drugs & Youth

More doctors are prescribing stimulants for students who are struggling in low-income schools, The New York Times reports. Many of these children, who do not have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), receive the drugs to increase their academic performance.

“We as a society have been unwilling to invest in very effective nonpharmaceutical interventions for these children and their families,” Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, a child mental-health services researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in prescription drug use among low-income children, told the newspaper. “We are effectively forcing local community psychiatrists to use the only tool at their disposal, which is psychotropic medications.”

Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who works with lower-income children and their schools, said, “We are seeing this more and more. We are using a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things that are just as important to also do, sometimes more.” She is concerned that doctors are exposing children to unneeded physical and psychological risks. Side effects of these drugs can include growth suppression and increased blood pressure. In rare cases, they can cause psychotic episodes.

Dr. Michael Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in a county north of Atlanta, prescribes Adderall for low-income children struggling in elementary school. He diagnoses them with ADHD, but says the disorder is an excuse to prescribe the medicine. He says his patients’ families cannot afford tutoring and family counseling, so medication is an easier way to increase the children’s success.

Abuse of prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall, popular among students trying to stay focused while studying, haslong been an issue on college campuses.

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Drug Take-Back Event September 29

Our Coalition is participating again this year in the DEA Nationwide Medication Take-Back on Saturday, September 29th, from 10am-2pm at the Northern Dutchess Hospital.

Bring over-the-counter and/or prescription medications for safe, anonymous disposal.

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Drug Testing in Middle School

Drug Tests Become More Common in Middle School By Join Together Staff | September 24, 2012 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs, Prevention & Youth

A growing number of middle schools are requiring that students submit to drug testing, The New York Times reports. Students are being asked to provide a urine sample to participate in sports, or even in extracurricular activities such as choir and drama.

Some parents and civil liberties advocates are objecting to the tests, the article notes.

Middle schools that conduct drug tests are located in states including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia. Some school administrators, coaches and teachers said drug testing deters young students from substances of all kinds, including alcohol, marijuana and steroids.

There are no known cases of middle school students testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and only a few positive results have been found for marijuana, the article notes.

“Drug testing is a multibillion-dollar industry,” Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University, told the newspaper. “They go to these schools and say it’s great. But do the schools actually look at the data? Schools don’t know what to do.” He added, “There’s little evidence these programs work. Drug testing has never been shown to have a deterrent effect.”

A 1995 United States Supreme Court ruling states that drug testing for high school athletes is constitutional.

In most cases, outside drug testing companies conduct the tests. Students are given little or no notice about them. Specimens are sent to a lab, and families are notified if the result is positive. In some cases, schools require a second test to confirm the finding. Law enforcement generally is not notified if a test is positive.

School punishments can range from a warning, to removal from a team or activity.

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Fatal Overdoes on Rise in Dutchess County

Prescription abuse deadlier than heroin

10:06 PM, Sep 9, 2012 – Poughkeepsie Journal

As the nation battles an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, fatal heroin and prescription-painkiller overdoses have increased in Dutchess County.

In recent years, deaths from prescription drugs have exceeded the number of deaths from heroin, according to data from the county Medical Examiner’s Office.

“We’ve seen an increase in heroin deaths, really since 2009,” said Dr. Kari Reiber, the medical examiner.

That year, there were 13 confirmed heroin deaths, three suspected heroin deaths and seven deaths from prescription drugs. In 2010, there were 13 confirmed heroin deaths, one suspected, and 16 deaths from prescription drugs, she said.

In 2011, there were 11 confirmed heroin deaths, and 14 deaths from prescription drugs. From Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year, there were five confirmed heroin deaths, two suspected heroin deaths and 12 fatalities from prescription drugs.

After the spike in heroin deaths in 2009, the Medical Examiner’s Office decided to expand its routine toxicology testing to better facilitate the confirmation of heroin overdose cases, Reiber said.

Frank Tasciotti, assistant coordinator of the Dutchess County Drug Task Force, said there is a direct correlation between the abuse of prescription opiates and the rise of heroin use.

Tasciotti said the addiction to prescription opiates is similar to the addiction to heroin.

“However, users start out feeling that it’s different, that heroin is much more hard core than prescription drugs, whereas in reality, they’re pretty much running on the same path,” he said.

Tasciotti said it appears that the rise in heroin use in Dutchess County started out slowly about 10 years ago.

Before the widespread use of prescription opiates, he said, when people started using heroin, it seemed to be generally “situational” — they were with a group of peers using heroin, and it was introduced to them that way.

His advice to parents is to keep medications in a safe place, and when they are no longer necessary, get rid of them.

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America,” said Gil Kerlikoswke, director of the National Drug Control Policy, in a written statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said health-care providers and patients should be educated on the risks of prescription painkillers. Parents and grandparents should properly dispose of unneeded or expired medication, and talk to their children about the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

Almost 5,500 people begin to misuse prescription painkillers each day, Administrator Pamela S. Hyde of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in the CDC release.

The rates of death from prescription painkillers was three times higher among whites and American Indians than blacks and Hispanics, and the death rate was highest among people age 35 to 54, the CDC said.

In Dutchess County, Reiber said, the statistics are similar to the national average.

When an autopsy is performed, the person is tested for a panel of approximately 250 drugs and prescription medications. Once it is determined what is present in the deceased, the quantity is determined.

“Because heroin is metabolized very rapidly in the body, when you test in toxicology you may not find the parent drug anymore,” she said.

Reiber said her office has seen more deaths this year from heroin than cocaine. She’s never seen a death from marijuana alone. If patients die and there is marijuana in their system, they usually have other substances on board as well, she said.

At Saint Francis Hospital in the Town of Poughkeepsie, spokesman Larry Hughes said the number of people coming to the hospital for overdoses, which are not necessarily fatal, has been increasing, “but not remarkably so.”

With heroin specifically, he said, the age group tends to be people in their 20s and 30s, and the overdoses tend to be unintentional.

However, with other drugs, including prescription drugs, cocaine and PCP, the people who wind up at the hospital tend to be depressed or suicidal, Hughes said.

In all cases, he said, the patients are a mix of the down-and-out and professional people.


“Crime Beat,” which explores law enforcement issues and cases worked by police in the Mid-Hudson Valley, appears each Monday. To suggest a topic, call 845-437-4834. Emily Stewart: estewart@poughkeepsiejournal.com, 845-437-4882, Twitter: @estwrt



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