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Drug & Alcohol Headline Week in Review from MOMSTELL.COM

January, 2005 Edition

(Past Editions)


There is alot of news this week to start off the new year! 
I will be going to the CADCA Conference in Washington DC this coming week courtesy of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).   I was so happy to get the scholarship which allows me to attend.  I look forward to seeing some of you there!  Have a good week!
Sharon L. Smith
Box 450
Mechanicsburg, Pa. 17055


Come the new year, the tax man is coming after drug dealers in Tennessee.
Drug peddlers will be required to pay state excise taxes on illegal substances from marijuana to moonshine, from cocaine to the often illegally obtained prescription painkiller OxyContin under a new law that goes into effect Saturday.
A 10-person tax agency has been created at a one-time cost of $1.2 million to assess the taxes and collect them. The annual cost to enforce the drug tax will be $800,000, said Elizabeth Fitzgerald, spokeswoman for the state Revenue Department.
The tax, however, is expected to more than cover the costs. One estimate by the law's sponsor, Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, projects collecting $3.6 million in one year.
A decade after methamphetamine began tearing through Oregon and Western states, the cheap and powerful drug has exploded across the Midwest, its inexorable march finally reaching the Atlantic. Police who didn't know what the drug was just a few years ago are painfully aware of its devastating presence now.
Meth's arrival in the East is swelling political pressure on community and state lawmakers, forging alliances among states to seek national solutions. In the past decade, Congress' response to the methamphetamine epidemic in the West has been disjointed and influenced by lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry, whose cold medicine, pseudoephedrine, is the key meth ingredient.
But on Capitol Hill, the new map of meth abuse is reflected in the House Methamphetamine Caucus. It now comprises 34 states, including Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
More than four million people younger under age 21 drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol last year, according to a government report released Wednesday. That's one in five of all Americans aged 16 to 20.
"That's an awful lot of kids if you think about it," said Charlene Lewis, acting director of the Office of Applied Studies at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which produced the report.
The report, based on a large household survey of drug use, found a small drop in driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol between 2002 and 2003. In 2002, 22 percent drove under the influence; last year, it was 20 percent.
A cramped office in Union is the unlikely nerve center of a 12-state lobbying effort that next year will square off against one of the most powerful forces in American politics - the pharmaceutical industry.
There, in a tiny nook of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, Detective Jason "Jake" Grellner is leading a campaign to cut off the supply of over-the-counter cold pills that have fueled the explosion of methamphetamine
production across the nation's heartland.
Earlier this month, Grellner headed up a closed-door strategy session in St. Louis with about 65 law enforcement leaders, politicians and legislative aides from as far away as Louisiana and Ohio. They want to pass state legislation in a dozen states next year that would label many pseudoephedrine remedies as "Schedule 5 narcotics" that would be available only at pharmacies and only if shoppers have their purchases and identities recorded in a database that police can access.
Ramona Choyce, addicted to crack cocaine, was convicted of drug possession five years ago.
She served three months in prison and went through a year of drug treatment. She says she's been clean ever since. Now, the 26-year-old single mother is struggling to make a living and raise her 3-year-old son in Oakland.
Although she served her time and changed her lifestyle, Choyce is still suffering the consequences of her addiction.
If she had been convicted of murder, rape, robbery or any other serious crime, she would be eligible for food stamps. But until now, drug offenders in California have been banned for life from receiving the federal benefit that helps the needy pay for groceries.
That is about to change Saturday, thanks to a new state law lifting the ban on food stamps for people who have been convicted of possessing drugs, as long as they have enrolled in treatment and their offense was not violent. Convicted drug dealers or manufacturers still will not be eligible.
The accident bore the familiar details of a drunk-driving tragedy. Six young people, age 16 to 20, had been out late at a club. On the long ride toward home early on a Saturday morning, their small car smashed into a bridge pillar, killing everyone. Witnesses said the driver, 20, appeared drunk as he left the club.
The Nov. 20 accident in Sausheim, a town in eastern France, shocked people across the country. But in a society in which the legal drinking age is 16, the resulting public debate focused not on how to keep alcohol from young people, but on how to enforce highway rules more strictly and crack down on errant drivers. News coverage took particular note that the driver had no license or insurance.
That response underscored a fundamental difference between U.S. and European approaches to drunk driving among young people: Americans have raised the drinking age to 21; Europeans keep it low but put faith in stiff rules and regulations.
While most European countries issue driver's licenses at age 18, the difficulty of passing the test, high insurance costs and wide use of trains and buses all mean that young people generally begin to drive much later than in the United States.

Parents who think they are on top of their teens' drug education have yet another campaign on their hands. The legitimate drugs that give miraculous pain relief to people suffering from cancer or arthritis are being co-opted for illegal recreational use.

"Pharming" -- the abuse of prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs to get high -- is the latest trend in drug abuse. Data show the number of Iowa teens and young adults who are doing it spiked in 2004.
Nationally, the number of emergency room visits involving pain relievers such as OxyContin and Percocet has tripled since 1995, to 108,320 cases by Nov. 1, 2004. One out of 10 high school seniors now reports they have abused powerful pain relievers. That means they used medicine not prescribed for them, or used it just to experience the feeling it causes. A study reported by the research and policy firm Carnevale Associates shows 2.5 million people abused pain relievers for the first time in 2002; 44 percent of them were younger than 18.


The war on cocaine and other illegal drugs raged in new directions in 2004, with agencies in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security claiming major successes against the two most powerful Colombia-based cartels.

While the press spotlighted action in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spent the year seizing record amounts of cocaine in the largely forgotten war on drugs.

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities have declined in the last 20 years, thanks to tougher laws, better enforcement, safer cars and safer roads. But that decline has leveled off in recent years. And even with all the progress, 17,013 alcohol-related fatalities were recorded in the U.S. in 2003, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's about one death every 30 minutes.

And that's why it's so important to remind people, again and again and again, that driving under the influence of alcohol is horribly reckless, that it destroys lives, and that it is a crime.

Iowa law-enforcement officials shut down a record 1,301 meth labs in 2004, evidence that the drug's popularity continues to outpace efforts to control it.
The 2004 total, reported by the Iowa Department of Public Safety on Thursday, still could revised because of late reports. It breaks the record of 1,195 set in 2003, continuing a steady rise that started in the mid-1990s with just a handful of cases.

Policy battle lines are forming over how to handle poppy production in Afghanistan, with Pentagon civilians increasingly pitted against the uniformed leadership on the ground in Afghanistan. This page has expressed concern about the potential pitfalls of aggressive poppy eradication, and that view is now being strongly voiced by military commanders. The military leadership has a more tactile and immediate sense of developments in Afghanistan, and their opinion should be carefully heeded by Washington policy-makers.

As the number of regular users of the illegal drug methamphetamine has increased, so has a peculiar set of dental problems linked to the drug, a phenomenon appropriately named "meth mouth." Symptoms include gum disease, broken and cracked teeth, and tooth decay.
Incarcerating drug offenders brings with it traditional costs, including rehabilitation and health expenses from years of abuse. But one of the unexpected results of the methamphetamine explosion is the demand for dental care from those behind bars.
The state has not broken down the costs of the increased occurrence of meth mouth in its prisons, but it is believed to be a significant driver in the nearly doubling of dental health care costs in the state's corrections system since 2000 -- from $1.19 million to $2.01 million in 2004.

Videotape footage of people using drugs and interviews with federal officials discouraging their use that was produced by the White House drug control policy office, violate a legal ban on official propaganda because they were presented to the public without any indication they were produced by the government, according to a decision released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.
GAO, in response to a request from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., examined a series of "video news releases" prepared by the Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2002 to 2004 to determine whether they violated a legal prohibition on "covert propaganda." The ban was included in the appropriations legislation that funded ONDCP's media campaign to lower drug use among American youth.

Positive reinforcement is a central tenet of Orange County's DUI court, which opened in October. It is one of only two courts of its kind in California but is one of a growing number nationwide. They're designed to reduce recidivism among drunk drivers by providing encouragement and strict supervision to help treat addiction rather than imposing jail sentences or fines.

More than 1.5 million U.S. motorists are arrested each year on suspicion of drinking and driving. In California, 179,663 people were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2002, according to the latest statistics available from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Alcohol was a factor in 1,416 traffic fatalities and 32,013 injuries that year.
Orange County's program is being funded for a year through a $1-million grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety, and developed with input from police and the O.C. chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The program borrows from the philosophy of special drug courts in the county and elsewhere that have reduced substance abuse by treating addictions rather than punishing defendants with jail time and fines. The biggest difference between the two courts is that the DUI conviction is not erased from graduates' records.

Drivers with at least two arrests for DUI are eligible. They cannot have prior convictions for violent crimes, weapons or drug charges, or have been involved in a fatal DUI accident.

To qualify, offenders agree to plead guilty to misdemeanor DUI, admit they're addicted to alcohol and commit to sobriety. They must write an essay, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and be tested several times a week for as long as they're in the program.
ER Patients with Addictions Cost More

A new study examining emergency department patients finds that those with unmet addiction treatment needs incur higher hospital and emergency department charges than other patients, Medical News Today reported Dec. 21.

According to the study, "Unmet Substance Abuse Treatment Need, Health Services Utilization, and Cost: A Population-Based Emergency Department Study," ER patients with unmet treatment needs are 81 percent more likely to be admitted during their emergency visit, and 46 percent more likely to have reported making at least one emergency department visit in the previous 12 months.

The study, led by Ian Rockett, Ph.D., from the West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine and Center for Rural Emergency Medicine, focused on emergency-room patients in Tennessee, where less than 10 percent of patients needing addiction treatment were currently receiving it.

According to the research, Tennessee patients with unmet treatment needs who received emergency medical services accounted for $777.2 million in extra hospital charges for the state in 2000, which translates to an additional $1,568 for each emergency patient with an addiction problem that wasn't addressed.

"We predict that systematically addressing substance-abuse problems in emergency departments would produce major savings in time, resources, and costs," Rockett said. "In exacerbating the workloads of very busy hospital staff, emergency patients with unmet substance-abuse treatment need add many millions of dollars to annual healthcare costs. Our research findings speak to the importance of identifying them as substance abusers -- either for a brief intervention or to refer them to substance-abuse treatment as appropriate. The emergency department visit itself can represent a teachable moment for a patient."

The study's findings are published in the online edition of
Annals of Emergency Medicine.

More than Four Million Youth Engaged in Drunk or Drugged Driving

Press Release
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
1 Choke Cherry Road
Room 8-1054
Rockville, MD 20857

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) today released data showing that more than 4 million persons aged 16-20 drove under the influence of either alcohol or drugs in the past year, according to 2002 and 2003 reports. This is 21 percent of U.S. youth in that age group. When the two years of data are looked at separately, driving under the influence was reported by 22 percent of 16-20 year olds in 2002 and 20 percent in 2003.

SAMHSA extracted the data from two years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2002 and 2003, to improve the reliability of estimates.

Among 16-20 year olds, 14 percent drove under the influence of illicit drugs, 17 percent reported driving under the influence of alcohol, and eight percent reported driving after consuming a combination of alcohol and illicit drugs. Only four percent of persons 16-20 who reported driving under the influence were arrested and booked for driving under the influence in the year preceding their survey.

"This is a major public health issue," SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said. "As we approach New Year's Eve celebrations, adults have to be cognizant that more than one in five youths are driving after using illicit drugs or illegally consuming alcohol, or both. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among young persons 16-20."

Further, he said, "SAMHSA is actively working to create prevention programs in local communities. We need the support of parents and other adults to both set a good example and reinforce the message that when youth drink and use illicit drugs they can ruin the rest of their lives, and the lives of family and friends. This can negatively impact the entire community.

The SAMHSA data show approximately 25 percent of persons ages 16 to 20 who lived in the Midwest reported driving under the influence. This compares to approximately 20 percent who lived in the South and 19 percent of those who lived in the Northeast or the West.

The prevalence of driving under the influence was highest among persons who lived outside of metropolitan statistical areas (25 percent), followed by persons who lived in small metropolitan statistical areas (23 percent) and persons living in large metropolitan statistical areas (19 percent).

The report is available on the web at

SAMHSA, a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the lead federal agency for improving the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment and mental health services in the United States. 
Study to test Ecstasy on terminal cancer patients
WASHINGTON (AP) The illegal club drug Ecstasy can trigger euphoria among the dance club set, but can it ease the debilitating anxiety that cancer patients feel as they face their final days?
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a pilot study looking at whether the recreational hallucinogen can help terminally ill patients lessen their fears, quell thoughts of suicide and make it easier for them to deal with loved ones.
"End of life issues are very important and are getting more and more attention, and yet there are very few options for patients who are facing death," Dr. John Halpern, the Harvard research psychiatrist in charge of the study, said Monday.
The small, four-month study is expected to begin early next spring. It will test the drug's effects on 12 cancer patients from the Lahey Clinic Medical Center in the Boston area. The research is being sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group that plans to raise $250,000 to fund it.
MAPS, on its web site, touted the study's approval, saying "the longest day of winter has passed, and maybe so has the decades-long era of resistance to psychedelic research."
The FDA would not comment, but this will be the second FDA-approved study using Ecstasy this year. South Carolina researchers are studying the effects of Ecstasy on 20 patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Ecstasy, known scientifically as MDMA for methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a chemical cousin of methamphetamine and typically induces feelings of euphoria, increased energy and sexual arousal. But it also suppresses appetite, thirst and the need to sleep, and in high doses can sharply increase body temperature, leading to kidney and heart failure, and death.
It peaked in 2001 as a trendy recreational drug used by youth at gatherings called "raves" and dance clubs.
Halpern, who has done other research on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, said that some, when used properly, can have medical benefits. He said that unlike LSD, Ecstasy is "ego-friendly," and unlike some pain medications it does not oversedate people and make them foggy and unsteady.
Instead, he said, it can reduce stress and increase empathy. There are anecdotal reports, he said, of people dying of cancer who take Ecstasy and they are able to talk to their family and friends about death and other subjects they couldn't broach before.
"I'm hoping that we can find something that can be of use for people in their remaining days of life," he said. If there are no significant problems, he said broader studies would follow this one.
In addition to FDA approval, the study has also received review board authorization from the Lahey Clinic and Harvard Medical School's psychiatric facility, McLean Hospital. Halpern is awaiting a license from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
It's been more than 40 years since Harvard has been the site of psychedelic drug research including the infamous LSD studies of Timothy Leary in 1963 and the Good Friday Experiment in 1965, done by Leary's student Walter Pahnke, studying the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on religious people.
But "this is not about trying to create some sensationalistic storm," Halpern said. "This is about trying to help these patients in a meaningful way." 

Brief Encounters can Provide Motivation to Reduce or Stop Drug Use

Press Release
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
Bethesda, MD 20892


New research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, shows that meeting with an addiction peer counselor just once at the time of a routine doctor visit with a followup booster phone call can motivate abusers of cocaine and heroin to reduce their drug use.

The study, by husband and wife research team Dr. Judith Bernstein and Dr. Edward Bernstein and their colleagues at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, is published in the January 2005 issue of
"Drug and Alcohol Dependence".

"Brief interventions have proven effective in initiating positive behavior changes in people who are dependent on alcohol," notes NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "Preliminary assessments of this process in drug abusers have been encouraging enough to investigate it more thoroughly as a therapeutic tool to enhance treatment."

The motivational interview used in this study was designed to establish rapport with the participant and covered such areas as asking permission to discuss drugs, exploring the pros and cons of drug use, eliciting the gap between real and desired quality of life, and assessing readiness to change. This 20-minute intervention also included development of an action plan.

The study was conducted among 1,175 men and women who had tested positive for cocaine or heroin abuse. Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group or a control group. Intervention consisted of a motivational interview with a substance abuse outreach worker who also was a recovering addict, referrals to active drug abuse treatment programs, a written list of treatment options, and a followup telephone call 10 days later. Members of the control group received only the written list.

Six months following enrollment, the researchers found that among those who abused cocaine, 22.3 percent of the intervention group were abstinent from the drug, compared with 16.9 percent of the control group; among those who abused heroin, 40.2 percent of the intervention group were abstinent from the drug, compared with 30.6 percent of the control group. As for people who used both drugs, 17.4 percent of the intervention group were drug free, compared with 12.8 percent of the control group.

"This study not only shows that this type of intervention provides true benefits in reducing cocaine and heroin abuse, it also suggests that peer interventionists can play an important role in busy clinical environments," says Dr. Volkow.

Editor's Note: Making screening a routine part of every primary care and emergency room visit is one of Join Together's "
10 Drug and Alcohol Policies That Will Save Lives."

Bernstein, J., et al. (2005) Brief motivational intervention at a clinic visit reduces cocaine and heroin use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 77(1): 49-59.

ABC News Report

New Rave Drugs Have Experts Concerned

Use of Synthetic Hallucinogens Is on the Rise, But Health Effects Are Unknown

The use of synthetic hallucinogens is common at rave parties, but even some users are concerned about long-term health effects. (AP Graphics)


Dec. 30, 2004 - A new class of drugs is getting increased attention from police and partyers alike.

Synthetic hallucinogens, which are growing in popularity at nightclubs and rave parties, are so new that many don't even have street names yet.

Usually manufactured in small home-based laboratories, these drugs have law enforcement and health officials concerned because their long-term health effects are virtually unknown.

'Colors Were Really Brilliant and Crisp'

The drugs reportedly have effects similar to the popular rave drug ecstasy: feelings of euphoria, emotional empathy and colorful hallucinations. The typical user is a young, white, college-educated and Web-savvy person who finds that these drugs complement the dance music heard at nightclubs and raves.

"It's kind of mildly hallucinogenic and visual," said Gregory, a graphic designer from California who tried one of these drugs for the first time last year. "Colors were really brilliant and crisp, and I became really relaxed."

Most synthetic hallucinogens are still referred to by a confusing alphabet soup of names based on their chemical compounds.

2C-B is considered one of the most popular of these drugs. 2C-T-7 is often compared to LSD for its colorful hallucinations. AMT was originally developed in the 1960s for antidepressant research, but was abandoned shortly thereafter. 5-MEO-DiPT, also referred to as "Foxy," is sometimes used as a substitute for ecstasy.

Buyer Beware

"Because these drugs are unstudied in the medical literature, we don't know all of the side effects or all of the dangers involved in the use of these drugs," said Paula Berezansky, intelligence analyst for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a component agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The illicit way in which synthetic hallucinogens are sold presents another problem. "A user may not know what they're buying," Berezansky added. "Something sold as one drug may be another."

Most synthetic hallucinogens fall into two general categories, phenethylamines and tryptamines. Both chemical compounds occur in nature and are found in common plants and foods - small amounts of phenethylamine are even found in chocolate.

Nationwide, a handful of overdoses and hospital admissions have been attributed to synthetic hallucinogens. But because many of these drugs are mixed with other drugs or their actual chemical nature is unknown even to the users, accurate records are difficult to gather.

Health Effects Are Unknown

"We've actually had patients come in with a condition called monoamine oxidase toxicity from taking combinations of drugs that include tryptamines," said Dr. Edward Boyer, director of toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.

"What concerns me ... is that kids are turning to psychoactive drugs at a younger age," Boyer added. "We simply don't know what these tryptamines do to a developing neurological system. Tryptamines are powerful hallucinogens."

"People can't even decide what the long-term effects of a common drug like ecstasy are, let alone something like 2C-B," said Boyer.

Law enforcement officials echo the concerns of the medical community.

"It's a young group of people who are using this and half the time they don't know what they're using - they're going on what a friend says," said Lt. Patrick J. Garey, a member of the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team of the New York State Police.

"There's so much poly-drug mixing of drugs that occurs, you could be taking ecstasy mixed with a bunch of other drugs," he said.

Psychonauts Surfing the Web

"One of the reasons we've seen these drugs increase in use over the last few years is the use of the Internet," said Berezansky. "The abusers can find out a lot about these drugs very easily."

She refers to users by the name law enforcement officials have coined for those who surf the Web for drug information: "psychonauts."

But drug users aren't the only ones surfing the Internet for drug information.

When Garey was called to participate in a recent seizure of a 2C-B lab at a home in Tioga County in upstate New York, he told ABCNews.com: "It kind of came out of the blue. We'd never seen it before. I'd never even heard of it. I had to go on the Internet to find out what it was."

The DEA is also using the Internet, but to snare the dealers who profit from the sale of synthetic hallucinogens. In July, the DEA announced the conclusion of "Operation Web Tryp," named for the tryptamines that were part of the operation's focus.

Operation Web Tryp targeted five Web sites and resulted in the arrest of 10 individuals from across the United States.

But many of these drugs are so new their legal status is a matter of some confusion. 5-MEO-DiPT, for example, was not even permanently placed on the Federal Register as a Schedule I controlled substance until September of this year.

A User's Experience

Rod, a computer hardware engineer in the San Francisco Bay area who preferred to use an assumed name, has experimented with the synthetic hallucinogen 2C-B.

"Initially, a friend of mine at a rave told me about it when he was tripping pretty hard on it," Rod said. "Then I followed up on it by reading this book by a guy named Shulgin."

Alexander Shulgin is widely credited with fostering the popularity of synthetic hallucinogens through his 1990 book, "Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story." (The name "Pihkal" is an acronym for Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved.)

Rod describes his experience as interesting but not especially exciting. "It was just mildly hallucinogenic - it made everything sharper and more vivid, and there was a slight hallucinogenic effect," he said. "It was all visual for me."

But when asked if he would try the drug again, Rod said, "No, probably not." 

NORML Founder Retires

Keith Stroup, who founded the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in 1970, is stepping down at age 61, the Washington Post reported Jan. 4.

Stroup, who served as NORML's executive director for 34 years, said he is retiring to make way for younger leadership to take over the organization.

"When I turned 60, I looked in the mirror and I saw this gray-haired old man and I said, 'I think we need younger leadership.' It has to do with more energy, fresh perspectives, new ideas. It's not like I'm ready for the old folks' home. I just think we need somebody younger running the organization," said Stroup.

During his tenure at NORML, Stroup was responsible for several successful drug-policy-reform initiatives. For instance, in 1975, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Ohio eliminated criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But most have since recriminalized the drug.

Taking over for Stroup is Allen St. Pierre, 39, who has served as NORML's second-in-command for the past decade.