Archive for September, 2015

Almost a fifth of students using e-cigarettes to vape cannabis

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

Published: Monday 7 September 2015 at 8am PST

Published: Mon 7 Sep 2015 at 8am PST

While electronic cigarettes are often marketed as aids to help people quit smoking, a new study suggests that some people are using the devices to vaporize cannabis instead of nicotine.Almost a fifth of students using e cigarettes

The drug cannabis – also referred to as marijuana – can be used in many forms, including oils and dried leaves.

Researchers from Yale University in New Haven, CT, found that almost 1 in 5 high school students surveyed in their study reported using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to vaporize cannabis or byproducts of the drug such as hash oil.

“This is a relatively novel way of using marijuana, and kids are using it at a fairly high rate,” reports lead author Meghan E. Morean, now an assistant professor of psychology at Oberlin College, OH.

The study, published in Pediatrics, anonymously surveyed a total of 3,847 students from five high schools in Connecticut.

E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular among high school students. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.

At present, around 2 million students are estimated to use e-cigarettes. In the new study, the researchers found that 27.9% of high school students participating in the study reported using the devices.

A less conspicuous way of using cannabis

Usually, e-cigarettes work by vaporizing a liquid nicotine solution that is contained within a cartridge inside the device with a battery-powered atomizer.

Fast facts about e-cigarettes

  • The e-cigarette was invented in 2003
  • E-cigarettes do not contain the tobacco or tar that traditional cigarettes do
  • Only e-cigarettes marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).However, the nicotine solution can be replaced with cannabis products such as hash oil, dried cannabis and wax infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient in cannabis. The researchers found that a significant number of students in these groups had used e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis: around 18% of lifetime e-cigarette users, 18.4% of lifetime cannabis users and 26.5% of e-cigarette and cannabis dual users.Prof. Morean explains the potential appeal of using e-cigarettes to vaporize cannabis products: While dried cannabis leaves were the most common form of cannabis to be vaporized using e-cigarettes, the researchers state that vaporizing liquid forms of cannabis can be more potent that dried cannabis leaves. “These findings raise concerns about the lack of e-cigarette regulations and the potential use of e-cigarettes for purposes other than vaping nicotine,” the researchers conclude. Another study published this summer revealed that adolescents may be more likely to use e-cigarettes if their friends and family use or approve of the devices themselves. Copyright: Medical News Today
  • Written by James McIntosh
  • Previously, Medical News Today ran a Spotlight feature article investigating how safe e-cigarettes are. While the devices are growing dramatically in popularity, opinions remain divided as to their long-term impact on health.
  • Some e-cigarette vendors also offer devices that are designed with the vaporization of cannabis products in mind.
  • “The smell of vaping marijuana isn’t as strong as smoking it, plus the similarity in appearance of hash oil and nicotine solutions make this a really inconspicuous way of using marijuana.”
  • Further analysis of the survey results revealed that the people most likely to vaporize cannabis using e-cigarettes were male students, younger students, lifetime e-cigarette users and lifetime cannabis users.
  • Of the sample of students surveyed for the study, 29.2% reported using cannabis and 18.8% reported having used both e-cigarettes and cannabis at some point during their lives.
  • Learn more about e-cigarettes

Methadone increases death risk in first four weeks of treatment for opioid dependence

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

September 16, 2015 Methadone increases death risk

Patients who start treatment for dependence on opioids are five times as likely to die in the first four weeks when they are prescribed the most commonly used treatment, methadone, than with an alternative treatment, buprenorphine, a study by researchers at the University of Bristol, King’s College London and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW in Australia has found.

The study, published today [16 Sep] in The Lancet Psychiatry, reviewed the records of 32,033 patients who had started treatment with methadone or buprenorphine between 2001 and 2010. Patients who started treatment with buprenorphine were less likely to die from any cause, including drug-related causes, in the first four weeks of treatment. However, after four weeks there was little difference in risk of death between methadone and buprenorphine.

Around 50,000 Australians (and over 100,000 people in the UK) currently receive opioid pharmacotherapy treatment for dependence on heroin or other opioids. Around two thirds of these are being treated with methadone with the remainder on buprenorphine, according to figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Buprenorphine is considered to be safer as it is less likely to cause respiratory depression (problems breathing), but patients are more likely to drop out of treatment than with methadone. Both treatments are endorsed by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Jo Kimber, one of the study’s lead authors and a researcher at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre UNSW and King’s College London, said: “Clinicians providing opioid substitution treatment face an important dilemma: which is more likely to reduce patient risk, buprenorphine or methadone?

“Buprenorphine is argued to have a superior safety profile to methadone but a higher drop-out rate. Our data suggests at least at the beginning of treatment for heroin use that buprenorphine has clear benefits over methadone in reducing mortality risk.”

Professor Louisa Degenhardt at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and one of the study’s authors, added: “The findings support a stepped approach to treatment. Opioid substitution therapy is proven to be a cost effective and safe treatment for opioid dependence. It not only reduces risk of death but also involvement in crime and imprisonment.

Professor Matthew Hickman, Professor in Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, said: “These findings are of importance to GPs treating patients with drug-dependency problems, one way to reduce risks might be to commence treatment on buprenorphine for the first four weeks and then switch to methadone at a later stage without increased risk.”

Explore further: Heroin addicts have higher pain sensitivity, even during treatment

More information: “Mortality risk of opioid substitution therapy with methadone versus buprenorphine: a retrospective cohort study.” The Lancet Psychiatry, DOI:

Provided by: University of Bristo

Ohio sees new record number of drug overdose deaths

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by sobrietyresources

Department of Health: 2,482 people died from ODs in 2014, an 18 percent increase

UPDATED 6:42 PM EDT Sep 24, 2015

Ohio sees new records

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) —A record number of Ohioans died from drug overdoses last year thanks in part to abuse of a synthetic painkiller far more powerful than heroin, the Department of Health said Thursday.


  • The state said 2,482 people died from accidental overdoses in 2014, an 18 percent increase over the previous year and a reminder of the severity of a problem haunting the state for more than a decade.

Abuse of the painkiller fentanyl, which is often combined with heroin or sometimes mistaken for it by addicts, is a significant contributor to the increase, the department said.

Fentanyl was involved in 502 drug overdose deaths last year, up from 84 the previous year. Fentanyl is a controlled substance prescribed for people with severe pain. But the version being abused in Ohio is entering the state as a synthetically manufactured illegal drug, authorities said. It is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the Health Department.

Hamilton, Montgomery and Summit counties led the state in the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

Last year’s overdose deaths also included a record 1,177 related to heroin, up from 986 in 2013.

Fatal drug overdoses remain the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, above car crashes, a trend that began in 2007.

State officials ticked off efforts underway to combat the problem, from prescription drop-off programs to tighter prescribing rules to law enforcement efforts.

But the most important thing is keeping people from becoming addicted in the first place, said Tracy Plouck, director of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“Ultimately that is going to be the only thing that ultimately stems the tide of this epidemic for our state,” she said.

The addictions crisis has its roots in the development of a new generation of painkillers such as oxycodone in the late 1990s, which were both highly effective and highly addictive.

Those addictions fueled a rise in pill mills, or pills-on-demand clinics where huge numbers of painkillers were prescribed to people paying in cash after only a cursory examination.

A 2011 law resulted in the elimination of most, if not all, of such clinics, which tended to cluster in southern Ohio. But the closing of those mills coincided with an increase in the supply of heroin, which was more readily available and much cheaper than illegal pills.

Even as authorities cracked down on heroin, a new problem emerged in the form of fentanyl. In addition to its impact on adults, the drug has been blamed for the deaths of two babies in Columbus in May who somehow ingested fentanyl-laced heroin. Their parents face involuntary manslaughter and child endangering charges.


Presidential Proclamation — National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, 2015

Posted on: September 28th, 2015 by sobrietyresources


– – – – – – –

August 31, 2015



Every day, resilient Americans with substance use disorders summon extraordinary courage and strength and commit to living healthy and productive lives through recovery.  From big cities to small towns to Indian Country, substance use disorders affect the lives of millions of Americans.  This month, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all those who are seeking or in need of treatment, and we recognize the key role families, friends, and health care providers play in supporting those on the path to a better tomorrow.

This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, Valuable!”  It encourages us all to do our part to eliminate negative public attitudes associated with substance use disorders and treatment.  People in recovery are part of our communities — they are our family and friends, colleagues and neighbors — and by supporting them and raising awareness of the challenges they face, we can help eradicate prejudice and discrimination associated with substance use disorders, as well as with co-occurring mental disorders.  Prevention and treatment work, and people recover — and we must ensure all those seeking help feel empowered, encouraged, and confident in their ability to take control of their future.  Americans looking for help for themselves or their loved ones can call 1-800-662-HELP or use the “Treatment Locator” tool at

My Administration remains dedicated to pursuing evidence-based strategies to address substance use disorders as part of our National Drug Control Strategy.  Seeking to widen pathways to recovery, our strategy supports the integration of substance use treatment into primary health care settings and the expansion of support services in places such as high schools, institutions of higher education, and throughout the criminal justice system.  In the wake of public health crises related to non-medical use of prescription drugs and heroin in communities across our Nation, my Administration has pledged considerable resources to help Federal, State, and local authorities boost prevention efforts, improve public health and safety, and increase access to treatment in communities across the country.  And the Affordable Care Act has extended substance use disorder and mental health benefits and Federal parity protections to millions of Americans.

Behavioral health is essential to overall health, and recovery is a process through which individuals are able to improve their wellness, live increasingly self-directed lives, and strive to fulfill their greatest potential.  During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we reaffirm our belief that recovery and limitless opportunity are within reach of every single American battling substance use disorders, and we continue our work to achieve this reality.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2015 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.


Officials worried over rise of fentanyl patches.

Posted on: September 3rd, 2015 by sobrietyresources

August 24, 2015

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary’s County Times  HOLLYWOOD, Md. — As police and health officials continue to fight the epidemic of opioid abuse in either pill or heroin form there is a growing concern that a particular drug — fentanyl — will cause more overdoses and cost more lives.

Often used as a prescription pain killer, fentanyl is extremely powerful and is now being made on the street for illicit use, said Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County Health Officer.  The danger, she said, is that aside from its potency, fentanyl made for use on the street can be made with unknown chemicals that may only increase the toxicity to the user.

“People who are using this don’t always know what it’s cut with or what the dosage should be,” Brewster said at a recent public training session on the use of naloxone to combat overdoses. “[Fentanyl] can be hundreds of times more potent than other opioids.”

Brewster said that synthetic or illicitly produced fentanyl is being packaged in pill form to make it look like oxycodone, another widely prescribed and also illicitly used opioid pain killer.

In powder form, she said, the drug also looks like heroin.

Worst of all illicit drug abusers are now combining heroin and fentanyl, which she said is a lethal combination.

A recently released report from the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene based on statistics from the Medical Examiner shows that deaths from heroin overdoses state wide have risen sharply; the number in St. Mary’s has fluctuated over the seven year range of the study but the toll remains heavy.

The report compiled data from 2007 to 2013, when law enforcement agencies have noted a sharp rise in heroin and opioid addiction, and it showed that 25 people have died in that space of time from heroin overdoses alone here.

The year 2012 had the highest number with seven heroin-related deaths, according to the study, but put St. Mary’s behind Calvert and Charles counties in the number of fatalities. There were 29 such deaths in Calvert and 32 in Charles over a seven year period, according to the report.

And while heroin addiction and subsequent fatal overdoses have become one of the greatest worries of local law enforcement officials the report shows that the narcotics that have led to heroin’s resurgence as a street drug, prescription opiate pills, account for the highest death rate locally.

The study showed that 38 people lost their lives to opioid abuse in the last seven years in St. Mary’s County alone.



State leaders from Detroit host summit targeting heroin and prescription drug abuse

Posted on: September 3rd, 2015 by sobrietyresources

Breanne Palmerini

3:56 PM, Aug 26, 2015

State leaders from Detroit hosted a summit on Tuesday afternoon targeting heroin and prescription pill abuse.

Representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and DEA agents from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and West Virginia attended the summit in the federal building in downtown Detroit.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, heroin use in the U.S. has doubled in recent years. In the Midwest, deaths have increased by 60 percent.

Barbara McQuade is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Of Michigan. She calls the problem an epidemic, and it could be starting in Michigan.

“There is a pipeline that law enforcement agencies have identified from Michigan into each of these other states; Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia.”

McQuade said it’s not just heroin or just pills, since both go hand in hand.

“Street pills are very expensive and so a cheaper alternative is heroin but you never know what you’re getting when you get heroin so sometimes someone’s first dose can be their last with an overdose death,” said McQuade.

David Hickton, the U.S. Attorney from the Western District of Pennsylvania calls the problem a public health emergency.

“We need to do everything we can do, as fast as we can do it to deal with this crisis,” said Hickton.

According to leaders in attendance, the concern is high because the stakes are high. Teens, college kids, senior citizens are all people who cold fall into the addiction.

“Sports injuries is one of the ways that kids get introduced to it, another is dental work, when, they get prescribed, legitimately prescribed those pills, other kids find it in the medicine cabinet,” said McQuade.

McQuade said in the coming weeks state leaders will continue this discussion with local leaders to help fight the problem.

Tool to curb prescription drug abuse 'not perfect'

Posted on: September 3rd, 2015 by sobrietyresources

By Robin Huebner on Aug 24, 2015 at 8:21 a.m.

FARGO, N.D. –When Kent Heneman had an outpatient procedure to treat his chronic back pain recently, he assumed he’d get a prescription drug for the residual pain expected afterward. But he says he was refused medication because his medical record stated, erroneously, that he had violated an opioid treatment agreement with the facility.

It was part of a tussle Heneman is having with Essentia Health over handling of his pain management agreement–a document that aims for accountability in patients who take opioid medications and doctors who manage them.

Known previously as pain “contracts,” pain management agreements came about as a way of curbing the growing problem of drug diversion–when drugs legally prescribed for medical purposes are diverted into illegal channels.

“There are people out there that come to us for the wrong reasons,” said Dr. Manuel Colon, a pain management specialist and anesthesiologist at Sanford Health in Fargo.

“Like it or not, these drugs do have street value,” Colon said.

Under a pain agreement, the patient signs a list of conditions, promising to never give or sell their opioid medications to anyone else and to get the medicines from one health care provider and one pharmacy only. It can also require them to take drug tests.

Breaking a rule constitutes violation of the contract, meaning the patient can no longer receive opioid medicines from the doctor or anyone else in that health care system.

Colon says while it’s a doctor’s job to ensure that patients who need opioids for pain relief get them, they must also do their part in keeping them out of the wrong hands.

He cites statistics that indicate Americans, making up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, consume 80 percent of the global opioid supply and 99 percent of the global hydrocodone supply.

“It really is a big problem,” said Colon. “It keeps me up at night, to be honest.”

Pain management agreements common

Many healthcare systems require written agreements for their patients who are taking opioid or narcotic painkillers.

Colon said they use a local document specific to Fargo and satellite clinics in the region, but Sanford is currently crafting a universal agreement to be implemented system-wide, spelling out the flow to occur between its pain clinics and primary care physicians.

Kent Heneman says he has no problem with pain contracts in general and didn’t hesitate to sign one with Essentia, but doesn’t like how it was managed.

He thinks a primary care doctor should oversee a patient’s opioid treatment because they have better knowledge of the patient’s condition. Instead, Heneman was assigned a separate pain management provider who he claims mismanaged his pain meds.

Heneman said with what his pharmacy told him was an aggressive ramp-up to a higher dose of one medication, he had extreme fatigue, numbness in his arms and legs and slurred speech.

When he complained of the symptoms, he said he was switched abruptly to other medications, causing him to experience worsening back pain and drug withdrawal.

“My skin was kind of crawly–my mind, it was like it wasn’t working. I couldn’t concentrate on things,” said Heneman.

While Heneman said he requested the pain agreement be voided, his medical record showed that he, in fact, had violated it. He’s trying to get that changed in the system and meantime, has sought treatment at an independent pain center in Fargo.

A spokesperson at Essentia Health said the facility cannot comment on any individual patient’s case due to privacy regulations and declined comment on its opioid treatment agreement, as well.

An imperfect tool

Heneman said it’s hard for him to understand why anyone would abuse prescription painkillers.

He said at the proper dosage, the drugs usually don’t have much of an effect on him, mentally.

“It hasn’t brought me out of the pain and it hasn’t taken me into la-la land,” said Heneman.

When he once stopped hydrocodone on doctor’s orders, he said he had no trouble quitting.

That’s not the case, however, for the millions taking opioids legally and illegally who become desperately addicted to them.

Colon said a big part of the problem is that insurance companies often won’t cover non-opioid painkillers, but don’t hesitate to cover the far cheaper narcotic ones.

He cited a recent case of a patient who got complete relief from a non-narcotic patch he prescribed for nerve pain in her hands, but she couldn’t continue using it.

“She can’t afford $150 for the patch, but guess what? Insurance will cover unlimited amounts of hydrocodone,” said Colon.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amount of prescription painkillers dispensed in the country has quadrupled since 1999, while deaths from prescription painkillers have also quadrupled.

Colon said there’s no direct data to show that pain management agreements help keep the drugs from being used illegally and he acknowledged it’s not a perfect system–something Heneman experienced firsthand.

However, it is one tool available to attempt to reverse the trend toward a population that’s increasingly addicted to prescription drugs.

Colon says opioids can give the right pain patient his or her life back.

“At the same time, we can’t ignore the societal issues that come with this medication,” he said.

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