In July, heads of both the public and private flight sectors came together to warn pilots of the hazards of flying while under the influence of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Letters were sent by the head of the Federal Aviation Administration and top administrators of 11 aviation associations to all U.S.-registered pilots, reminding them of the ways in which drugs can affect their judgment and abilities while flying. It is the first time these aviation groups have come together in this capacity.
In an international attempt to crack down on fake internet pharmacies, almost 1,700 websites peddling counterfeit drugs were recently shut down, yielding 58 arrests and the seizure of over $41 million in illegal medications. These sites were not in line with U.S. federal law, and their products could have been harmful and potentially life-threatening.
The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) cites Google ads as a contributing factor to this problem. The search engine giant shelled out $500 million in 2011 to avoid charges that it knowingly helped advertisers of rogue internet pharmacies. However, the NAAG says searches for online pharmacies still identify websites that are known to sell illegitimate drugs. Obviously, these medications are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They are often delivered with little or no instructions, and the medicines themselves may have substances that vary from their bona fide counterparts. Some do not even contain the active ingredients needed to treat the conditions for which they were purchased.
In the wake of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Colorado has taken steps to define what constitutes driving under the drug’s influence. As of May, drivers with 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system will be considered impaired and treated the same as a drunk driver. Washington State, the only other state at this time that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, has established the same limit.
Both states are also taking a step back to look at their K-9 units. Due to concerns regarding the violation of citizens’ rights, law enforcement in Colorado and Washington have stopped training drug-sniffing dogs to identify the presence of marijuana. Dogs already in service that were trained to find the drug are being retired.
Additionally, the two states are working to establish health and safety rules in the absence of the federal government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight. This includes exploring ways to avert potential issues in cultivation such as mites, mold and pesticide residue as well as E. coli and salmonella. At this time neither of the states’ laws contain particular guidelines for health issues related to marijuana production.
Banking services for marijuana vendors are hard to come by because the federal government uses its authority over these financial institutions to enforce the Controlled Substances Act. However, this situation may be changing.
The proposed Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act would shield financial institutions from federal ramifications of making its services available to marijuana-related companies. The bill would block federal regulators from punishing or penalizing a bank or its employees for providing services to marijuana-related businesses. It would also protect these institutions from persecution and forfeiture simply for providing services to a marijuana-related business, and exempt marijuana-related business accounts from disclosure reporting requirements intended to identify individuals engaging in federally illegal activities.
At the state level, Oregon is considering a measure that would allow businesses selling marijuana to establish checking accounts and merchant services. It remains to be seen how this will intersect with federal law.
There is hope for individuals facing addiction according to a survey conducted by Faces & Voices of Recovery. Aiming to quantify aspects of recovery over time, the advocacy group’s data reveals that people in recovery see their lives becoming better in many areas, e.g., job situation, family relationships and community involvement, as they remain in recovery.
Additionally, emergency room visits and incidents involving the criminal justice system for those in recovery were reduced by a factor of 10, both of which lessened the amount of taxpayer dollars spent. Researchers discovered that individuals in recovery showed a 50% upturn in family activities and payment of taxes. They were also more apt to vote, remain employed, secure health insurance, obtain additional education and venture into starting their own businesses.
This is the first nationwide study of its kind. Through it, Faces & Voices of Recovery hopes to show both the public and legislators that addiction carries a large price tag. Beyond that, however, the group’s findings demonstrate that recovery is possible. The data also demonstrates that making recovery benefits available improves the lives of individuals and their families and strengthens the nation both socially and economically.
Over 23 million Americans are currently in recovery.
Statistics show a dramatic rise in prescription painkiller overdose fatalities among women, with the drugs taking the lives of almost 48,000 females between 1999 and 2010. To put this into perspective, since 2007 more women have been killed by such overdoses than from car accidents. Research has shown that females may develop drug dependency issues faster than their male counterparts and may also be more prone to “doctor shop” than men.
Some cities are taking action to combat the general opioid problem. For example, a clinic in Cleveland, OH has been providing free naloxone kits to save lives of people who overdose on opioid-based drugs. Meanwhile, Quincy, MA has become the first city in the country to mandate that each of its patrols carry naloxone. Officers there have administered it 179 times, saving 170 lives.
Naloxone prevents opioids from affecting the brain during an overdose and usually restores breathing and consciousness within eight minutes. It costs $22 per dose.
Prescription drug use rates are still concerning with 70% of Americans now on at least one prescription. Over 50% are taking two or more, and a somewhat surprising 20% of Americans are on at least five prescription medications. Antibiotics and antidepressants are the two most prevalent prescription drugs in our country.
Following in third place are opioid painkillers; 13% of Americans have such a prescription. Close to 1% of those buying addictive pain medications are thought to be “doctor shoppers,” accumulating large quantities for illegal purposes. Even though this percentage is scant, their purchases represent approximately 4.3 million prescriptions a year.
Researchers studying health care in the U.S. recently identified over $200 billion being spent unnecessarily each year due to improper usage of medication. They note, however, that strides have been made in areas such as medication nonadherance and overuse of antibiotics that can help reduce health care costs. Researchers identified other ways in which improvements may occur. Among these are a greater involvement on the part of pharmacists and a more cohesive means of tackling patient issues.
OxyContin® purchases contributed approximately 30% to the $9.38 billion in prescription painkiller sales in 2012. Because of its widespread use (and misuse), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now prohibits pharmaceutical companies from producing generic forms of the original OxyContin®, which can be crushed and then injected or snorted. The new version of OxyContin®, named OxyNEO®, makes it harder to misuse the drug.
The FDA has also given the nod to Zubsolv®, a new drug for treating opioid addiction. It contains both buprenorphine and naloxone and is more effective at a lower dose, as compared to other drugs of its kind. Zubsolv® is intended to be a maintenance tactic, used in conjunction with counseling and a support network.
Although the U.S. is taking steps such as these to battle prescription opioid abuse, its actions may not be as effective as they could be due to decisions made by the Canadian government. Lawmakers in Canada won’t budge from their position on OxyContin® generics, citing the fact that OxyNEO®’s tamper-resistant claims have not been verified, so generic OxyContin® may still find its way into the country via our northern border.
The 2013 World Drug Report reveals that the popularity of new psychoactive substances (NPS) such as synthetic marijuana has escalated across the globe, especially among teens and young adults. These types of drugs, sold as “spice,” “K2” or “bath salts,” can cause hallucinations, violent behavior and, in extreme cases, suicides. Originally sold legally in stores, legislators have put measures in place to ban the drugs. However, multiple reformulations outstrip lawmakers’ ability to control them all.
At the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) recently classified three formulations of synthetic marijuana as Schedule I drugs for a period of two years. The DEA will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to decide if these three substances should be made illegal indefinitely.
In Ohio, Attorney General Mike DeWine knows that House Bill 334, which went into effect last year, will not be able to keep up with the changes chemists make to produce new compounds of NPS. He hopes to get ahead of the game by requesting that the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy make new formulations of synthetic marijuana illegal.
After just a few airings, a pro-marijuana legalization video advertisement was pulled from a jumbotron screen located just off the property of NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, IN. The race is one of NASCAR’s biggest, and if the video had run all of its 72 scheduled times, it may have been seen by many of the 600,000 fans attending the event.
Purchased by the country’s biggest legalization advocacy group, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the ad targeted beer drinkers, saying that marijuana doesn’t have any calories or cause hangovers. It also claimed that marijuana usage is “less harmful than alcohol.” The air time was sold to MPP by Grazie Media, a company not affiliated with NASCAR.
Pressure from anti-drug associations such as the Drug Free America Foundation led to Grazie Media removing the ad from their large-screen lineup.