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Why Mandatory Drug Tests at Work Are Fundamentally Racist

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 14:41
Click here for reuse options! Black people are more likely than white people to be fired for failing a drug test.

Mandatory drug testing is not only an annoying, expensive waste of company and employee time; a new Detox.net survey shows that their impact and implementation can also be racist.

Stark racial disparities are apparent in the 1,500-plus person survey. African Americans are much more likely to face repercussions for failing a drug test than white people; the study shows that 9.2 percent of blacks reported being reprimanded or even fired for failing a drug test. That’s more than double the number of whites who reported the same, just 4.4 percent.

According to the survey, 97.6 percent of military service members were tested for drugs at some point in their careers. The other most frequently drug-tested workers were those in manufacturing and transportation jobs and warehousing, at 94.4 percent and 94.3 percent, respectively. People working in health care, utilities and telecommunications were also drug-tested more than 90 percent of the time.

The list of industries that most frequently drug-test their employees looks like a list of industries built of the labor of people of color—a suspicion confirmed by a cross-reference against Bureau of Labor Statistics’ labor force data from 2017. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.3 percent of the U.S. population is black and 12.5 percent is Hispanic. Black and Hispanic Americans make up nearly 30 percent of the military, 39 percent of transportation and warehouse workers and 30 percent of health care workers, three of the most frequently drug-tested sectors.

The survey did not say why industries with disproportionately high numbers of workers of color choose to drug-test their employees.

It is not news that drug testing is a potentially racist practice. The above pattern fits an observation previously made by the ACLU, which wrote on its website that drug-testing policies not only are a "significant and unjustified invasion of privacy, they also single out those living in low-income communities and disproportionately impact people of color."

Social scientists have proven that some managers often believe black people are more likely to be drug users. Notre Dame economics professor Abigail K. Wozniak writes in her 2014 report, “Discrimination and the Effects of Drug Testing on Black Employment,” that, “In a survey of hiring managers, there is a belief that blacks are more likely to fail a drug test…They also cite a 1989 survey in which 95% of [hiring survey] respondents described the typical drug user as black.”

These latest survey findings confirm Wozniak’s observations about implicit racism in American workplaces.

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Watch Kellyanne Conway Say Kids Should Just 'Eat the Ice Cream' Instead of Using Opioids

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 19:19
Click here for reuse options! The White House aide's comments reflect the administration's failure to understand the opioid crisis.

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway had a bizarre piece of advice Thursday for college students while speaking at a forum on drug abuse.

"Eat the ice cream, have the French fry, don’t buy the street drug," she said.

The remarks came after she correctly emphasized the dangerous of fentanyl, noting that the synthetic opioid is far more deadly than heroin. Her suggestion that students should eat ice cream or French fries struck many as bizarre and seeming to completely misunderstand the nature of drug abuse.

Unfortunately, the shallowness of Conway's advice is reflective of the administration's backward approach to the opioid crisis.

During a speech about the opioid crisis this week, Trump said he strongly favored "spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is, so that kids seeing those commercials during the right shows on television or wherever — the internet — when they see these commercials they — 'I don't want any part of it.'"

This idea is reminiscent of Nancy Reagan's much-derided "Just say no" approach to drugs. Like Conway's ice-cream comments, this ignores the complex sociological and psychological pressures that drive drug use.

Overall, the approach to the opioid crisis under Trump is tragically inadequate.

Politico reported in early February that Conway, who was recently selected to lead the administration's efforts against the crisis, has been ignoring the public health professionals within the government and working instead with political appointees. Conway herself has a background in punditry and polling, not public health, and struck many as an odd choice for the position. 

Trump emphasized the death penalty and other punitive measures against drug dealers during his speech this week, an idea that would not only  be ineffective, but likely unconstitutional. Trump did mention some efforts to increase drug treatment access, but his proposals on this front are vague and likely to be underfunded. At the same time, his health care policies have resulted in the rising rate of uninsured in the country, which decreases access to treatment for addiction and other mental health needs.

Watch Conway's comments below:

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The Misplaced Attacks on Legal Cannabis Continue

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 13:42
America's drug laws are hopelessly stuck in the past.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, a New York federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit at the end of February against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that challenges the federal government's classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein outlined in a 20-page ruling that the plaintiffs -- which include former NFL player Marvin Washington, a 7-year-old from Georgia with Leigh syndrome (an inherited neurodegenerative condition) and the Cannabis Cultural Association -- lacked any "fundamental right" to use cannabis as a medicine, and that they had failed to exhaust all potential administrative remedies available prior to challenging the constitutionality of the federal law in court.

"Judicial economy is not served through a collateral proceeding of this kind that seeks to undercut the regulatory machinery on the Executive Branch and the process of judicial review in the Court of Appeals," ruled the 85-year-old Clinton-appointed judge.

Meanwhile, many cannabis advocates disagree that this case puts things squarely with the executive branch as suggested. The executive branch does not legislate, explains Rod Kight, a lawyer who represents cannabis businesses. "That being said, as the enforcer of laws it can and, in fact, must prioritize how it allocates its resources with respect to enforcement," Kight told Truthout.

Sessions issued a memo early in the new year that rescinded the famous "Cole" and "Ogden" memos on marijuana issued under the Obama administration. While the memos did not change federal law, they did downgrade enforcement of marijuana laws under certain circumstances by stating that certain acts involving illegal marijuana were to be treated as a low priority relative to the enforcement of other, more important, laws. Given this information, Kight says that the current powers-that-be are less likely to deschedule marijuana now than at any time in the recent past.

The "petitioning administrative process," meanwhile, generally consumes an average of nine years to complete, according to a press release issued by the plaintiff's attorney Hiller, PC, on February 26, 2018.

This country is seemingly created with built-in loopholes. Big ones. Was Hellerstein's ruling a way to buy time because his own hands are tied, or to buy time until the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Big Pharma usher in fake THC/CBD medicines?

"The time has come for the courts to abandon decades-old precedent, notched with obsolete legal technicalities, and catch up with modern science and contemporary principles of constitutional law," said lead counsel Michael Hiller of Hiller, PC, in a statement. "Resigning the plaintiffs to the petitioning administrative process is tantamount to a death sentence for those patients who need cannabis to live."

Their original July 2017 complaint reads:

The entire Schedule I classification as it pertains to Cannabis constitutes a completely and utterly irrational legislative construct and thus violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Specifically, under the CSA, Schedule I drugs are classified as so dangerous that they generally cannot be tested safely; however, in order to obtain the evidence necessary to persuade the Federal Government that Cannabis is safe enough to be rescheduled or de-scheduled, it must be tested.

By imposing as a precondition to re-classification, the testing of a purportedly untestable drug, Congress created a legislative Gordian Knot -- a statute that functions as a one-way, dead-end street.

The plaintiffs vow to appeal. A win would prohibit the DEA, DOJ and all other federal agencies from enforcing 1970s CSA as it pertains to marijuana.

"We are in the process of appealing the court's decision, and, if need be, we will take this case all the way to the Supreme Court," Hiller told Truthout. "We have no doubt that proving the unconstitutionality of cannabis's classification under the Controlled Substances Act will be a defining moment in [the US's] history for millions of medical patients, and for principles of social justice -- a moment which, in retrospect, will forever have people asking, 'why didn’t it happen sooner?'"

Drug Hypocrisy: Profits Over People

The day before Thanksgiving, "Dronabinol," a drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics, was granted Schedule II classification, which applies to drugs with a moderate to low potential for leading to physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs' abuse potential is said to be less than Schedule I drugs'. While the announcement slipped past the radar of the mainstream media, the rescheduling had been expected for a few months after the substance, known as delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was approved by the FDA over the summer.

So, let's get this straight: A faux, fake, fabricated THC drug is now suddenly recognized for its medicinal potential as a federally regulated prescription drug, while the real plant remains illegal under Schedule I -- implying it's potentially dangerous and has no medicinal value.

"The DEA notes that FDA-approved products of oral solutions containing dronabinol [have] an approved medical use, whereas marijuana does not have an approved medical use and therefore remains in Schedule I," according to the Department Of Justice Diversion Control Division.

There have been numerous studies conducted by some of the country's most respected institutions in recent years which suggest cannabis does, in fact, have medicinal value.

By being a part of the medical mafia's inner sanctum, Insys Therapeutics, which also makes products containing fentanyl and other opioids, is able to set the price point for its own legal brand of THC, which can range between $1,000 to $2,000 for a month's supply. A small vial of organic high-quality Cannabidiol (CBD) costs less than $100.

Incidentally, FDA-approved Insys Therapeutics has had an integral role in worsening the opioid crisis. The company's founder, writes Reuters, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in "a case accusing six former executives and managers of participating in a scheme that involved bribing doctors to prescribe a fentanyl-based drug."

Legalization advocates have long speculated that the crackdown on pot is merely an attempt to squelch any competition, and that "Big Pharma" is working behind the scenes to maintain cannabis prohibition. Meanwhile, the classification of substances as conducted by the DEA has been based on a minimal understanding of chemistry or proper facts.

Let's recall how cannabis got this unjust classification in the first place. The original filing took place in the '70s when the Nixon administration recognized that African Americans could not legally be arrested on racial grounds, and war protesters could not be prosecuted for opposing the US's involvement in Vietnam. They decided that cannabis was the drug of choice for these two groups.

"Consequently, they ushered the CSA through Congress and insisted that Cannabis be included on Schedule I so that African Americans and war protesters could be raided, prosecuted, and incarcerated without identifying the actual and unconstitutional basis for the government's actions," states the original July 2017 legal complaint.

Couple this with the current administration's tendency to take public positions on issues it seemingly knows nothing about.

Paper, Rock, Opioids

Chronic pain is BIG business. Today, approximately 100 million Americans suffer from pain, which costs at least $560 to $635 billion annually, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Big Pharma, in the meantime, with its love of single-molecule drugs, continues to spread disinformation and wage war against cannabis.

Case in point: In 2016, Insys Therapeutics donated half a million dollars to help defeat a marijuana legalization measure that appeared on Arizona's ballot that year, according to US News.

"Big pharma keep pushing back against legalizing medical marijuana because, in many cases, they want to continue to sell addictive drugs and dominate the market for drugs that address chronic pain," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told Truthout. "That's wrong. It is time to rework our cannabis laws."

Numerous studies have also shown that legal marijuana access doesn't lead to opiate use but actually the opposite.

"Marijuana is a far less addictive substance than opioids and the potential for overdosing is nearly zero," researchers wrote in the Journal of Health Economics. A recent broad prospective study on a large group of medical cannabis patients in Israel shows that cannabis is not only a safe and effective treatment to reduce pain and other symptoms in cancer patients, but is also significantly associated with a reduction of opioid intake, adds Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider, medical director at Tikun Olam Ltd. The study also illustrated that opioid use amongst participants decreased by 45.9 percent.

"People are taking health into their own hands and that is threatening to pharmaceutical companies," Leland Radovanovic, the founder of Baruch Students for Sensible Drug Policy, told Truthout.

Trump vs. Industrial Hemp: The Latest Politics on CBD

The Trump administration also publicized its views on industrial hemp last week. After speaking at the Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture in Denver on February 21, Greg Ibach, undersecretary for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), told the press that current hemp regulations are "fairly narrow."

He implied that the administration does not want to see that change when the farm bill is rewritten this year, which will likely include a revision of the industrial hemp provisions, according to an article Kight wrote for Cannabis Law Journal.

"Opening the door wide open nationwide, with no restrictions, may not be in the best interests of the hemp industry. One of the challenges we maybe have in the hemp industry is to make sure that demand and production coincide," Ibach said during the forum.

Ibach went on to add that oversight of industrial hemp should not be with the USDA. Rather, the administration contends it should be with the DOJ, which includes the DEA.

"In short, the idea that the Justice Department, rather than the USDA, should control industrial hemp is totally ludicrous," says Kight. "It's hard not to scoff at how ridiculous this notion is."

Kight says that one way to view this statement is through the lens of the respective mission statements of the USDA and the Justice Department.

According to its mission statement, the USDA "provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and effective management."

On the other hand, the Justice Department's mission is to "enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans."

Kight maintains that the USDA is the proper agency to oversee industrial hemp, "a non-psychoactive, non-scheduled, lawful, agricultural product;" and Congress agrees.

In several consecutive appropriations acts, it has specifically denied the use of federal funds to interfere with industrial hemp. In the most recent appropriations act, Congress calls out both the Justice Department and the DEA by name. And, in the amicus brief filed in the pending Ninth Circuit HIA v. DEA case, 28 bipartisan members of Congress called the DEA "unreasonable" with respect to industrial hemp.

"My concern is that there is active lobbying against industrial hemp by two powerful forces, Big Pharma and/or the DEA," says Kight.

That's because the plant compound found in hemp offers a wealth of health benefits -- which means it cuts into Big Pharma's profits. Many natural supplements companies have experienced their fair share of hurdles and shutdowns for selling hemp oil.

According to a new report by market intelligence firm Hemp Business Journal, the CBD market is estimated to grow to $2.1 billion by 2020. Moreover, 42 percent of the CBD users said they had stopped using traditional medications like Tylenol pain relievers or prescription drugs like Vicodin and switched to using cannabis instead, as stated in a recent survey from Brightfield Group and HelloMD. The report also found that 80 percent said that they found the products to be "very or extremely effective."

Currently, there are a handful of pharmaceutical companies actively developing CBD-based medications. For instance, Insys Therapeutics is developing a synthetic CBD to treat epilepsy in children, and is currently in various stages of clinical trials in the FDA's approval process. GW Pharmaceuticals, associated with none other than Bayer (creator of systemic pesticides shown to kill honeybees), will likely receive FDA approval this year for its CBD drug, Epidiolex.

What remains ahead still remains to be seen, but this is a social justice and a moral issue that Congress will have to eventually address.

"Legalizing marijuana isn't a matter of if, it's a matter of when," Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said in response to Sessions's attempts to start federal crackdowns related to cannabis. He introduced the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 last August into the House of Representatives.

If passed, the bill would:

• Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances making it legal at the federal level

• Punish states that disproportionately arrest low-income and minority individuals

• Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes

• Allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison to petition a court for a resentencing

• Create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow the money to go toward rehabilitative programs.

The bill would not only amend marijuana regulation but also begin to address the warped distribution of cannabis-related wealth being generated by "legal" markets.

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

 

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Trump's Policy of Executing Drug Dealers Is Straight From the Authoritarian Handbook

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:39
Click here for reuse options! At one point, Trump seemed to suggest the death penalty should be used against drug "abusers."

President Donald Trump is proposing to fight the opioid epidemic using the death penalty, a vicious and counterproductive policy that would do little to make the country safer and echoes the policies of authoritarians like Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. 

"These are terrible people, and we have to get tough on those people because we can have all the Blue Ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we're wasting our time," Trump said at a speech Monday in Manchester, New Hampshire. "Just remember that. We're wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty."

He insisted, "We have got to get tough. This isn’t about nice anymore."

Trump has previously praised Duterte, who famously promoted a brutal campaign of extrajudicial killings against drug dealers and users in the Philippines that killed thousands. Trump's suggestion that the U.S. adopt any kind of similar policy is frightening.

The White House has said that the plan is to use existing laws to go after drug dealers. However, federal law does supposedly allow the death penalty as a punishment for large-scale drug crimes, though the law has never been used or tested in the courts.

At one point, Trump seemed to suggest the death penalty might be appropriate for people who abuse drugs, not just the dealers.

"Unless you have really, really powerful penalties, led by the death penalty for the really bad pushers and abusers, we are going to get nowhere," he said.

Most observers seem to have interpreted this as a slip, which it likely was. But it demonstrates that Trump has little interest in the complexity of drug policy or actual understanding of drug abuse.

Smart policies like expanding Medicaid in all 50 states could do a great deal to reduce opioid deaths, yet Trump won't even mention that idea.

Instead, he likes the death penalty, not because it would actually help address the opioid crisis, which it wouldn't, but because it makes him sound like a tough guy. 

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4 Things You Should Know About Ayahuasca

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 11:09
If you're considering a spiritual journey with the hallucinogenic tea, read up.

If you boil the two plants Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis long enough, you’ll end up with the powerful brew ayahuasca. But, I don’t recommend you make it yourself, nor drink it along, unless you really known what you’re doing. It’s not something to approach lightly. When consumed, it usually creates extraordinary experiences of visions, intense emotions and possibly vomiting.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why people drink ayahuasca.
  • What are the risks and benefits of drinking the brew.
  • Why preparing for an ayahuasca retreat is so important.
  • Why the period after a retreat is also so important.

Who Is Drinking Ayahuasca?

The brew has been used in special ways by many native peoples of the Amazon Rainforest for healing, magic and social welfare for at least a few centuries, possibly much longer. In recent decades, it has become an increasingly popular choice of alternative healing for people in Western societies. They travel to the Amazon Rainforest for a healing retreat or attend ayahuasca retreats in other parts of the world. The tea is also at the centre of two large religious organizations that began in the 20th century in Brazil and now exist in many parts of the world.

Shamanism, spirituality, religion and psychotherapy are all interested in ayahuasca. Its profound visionary effects have also attracted video animators and painters who seek inspiration from the spectacular visions it creates. It has expanded from the Amazon rainforest into societies in which similar psychoactive plants and chemicals are illegal. The brew is currently illegal in many parts of the world.

Risks and Benefits of Ayahuasca

In recent years, an explosion of books and high-quality scientific research into ayahuasca has emerged. Research has examined the benefits, risks, and cultural traditions of drinking the brew.

The science of ayahuasca is still young. Preliminary studies suggest that the brew can yield astounding benefits for treating common mental health problems, when it’s consumed in proper settings and with a proper approach. It has helped many people alleviate depression, kick addiction, and overcome trauma. Ayahuasca’s fascinating effects upon the brain also indicate a possible therapeutic role for common mental illnesses.

The profound experience of drinking the tea often leaves people feeling at peace. Kahpi professor of neuroscience Dr. Draulio de Araujo has been researching the potential benefits of using the tea for treating depression. His team gave the brew to 80 people. The group included many clinically depressed people. He noted:

"If one word comes up, it is ‘tranquillity’. A lot of our individuals, whether they are depressed or not, have a sense of peace after the experience." – Dr. Araujo

There are also many people drinking ayahuasca that are not suffering from mental health conditions. The brew can assist spiritual paths and personal growth for healthy individuals. It can provide deep insights and perspectives on difficult to answer questions, such as life-choices and creativity blocks.

There are several risks associated with the brew which should not be minimized. They include biological risks associated with mixing the beverage with other drugs or even certain foods. SSRI anti-depressant medications can pose serious health risks when consumed with ayahuasca. The brew can be psychologically challenging. People with serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar, are often advised to avoid the tea.

The Path of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is not a typical “medicine.” It’s more like a path which benefits greatly from a combined contemplative practice or spiritual tradition. The psychological preparation of the individual and the context or tradition in which the brew is consumed are fundamental to the positive health outcomes that many people report, as discussed in the academic book The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca.

People sometimes say that “ayahuasca knows if you’ve not been putting an effort into your personal development.” This idea stems from the fact that without proper “inner” or psychological preparation, the effects of the tea can be overwhelming or even without effect. People new to the brew who are interested in consuming it should begin by learning about basic harm minimization and experience maximization recommendations. 

Drinking ayahuasca for the first time often catapults people way outside their comfort zone. This happens on several levels. People typically follow a very basic diet before attending a ceremony (the diet has scientific research and spiritual beliefs associated with it). Along with changing your diet for several days or longer, which can be more challenging than a lot of people may realize, the “dieta” period often includes an absence of most technology and social life for several days.

The effects of ayahuasca are certainly not always fun, easy or blissful. It can be extremely pleasurable and exhilarating, yet it can also be very challenging. Confronting the cobwebbed-closets of our past or our deep mind is not always blissful. Ayahuasca drinking is often referred to as “work” in the different traditions that have developed around it.

Not everyone drinking ayahuasca has a “tradition” or way of approaching the experience that will maximize the benefits. This can be limiting to their outcomes. Wise education, contemplation and self-inquiry are incredibly rewarding to the ayahuasca path. Put simply, the more you put in, the more you benefit.

Ayahuasca and the Importance of Integration

The period after the ceremony is called the “integration” phase. This is the time for coming to terms with the insights or changes in perception gained from the inner experiences. It’s the period for weaving the new perspectives or positive outlook into daily life. Similar to the pre-ceremony preparation phase, the more you put in to integration, the more you benefit and heal or grow spiritually.

Integration practices include 1) simply talking about your experience and process with trusted people 2) creating art or writing in a journal 3) meditating 4) walking in nature 5) psychotherapy, and 6) bodywork, such as massage. Ayahuasca can help guide you, show you incredible things about yourself and the world, but only you can take the fruits of the experiences into your daily life.

This is why we created Kahpi. It’s an education hub that offers ayahuasca video courses and articles to help you on your path of healing, learning, self-discovery and personal growth. You can learn from renowned teachers in courses about ayahuasca healing, shamanism, safety, preparation, integration, neuroscience, psychology, and more.

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Should You Really Wait a Year to Date After Recovering From an Addiction?

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 12:27
Click here for reuse options! Waiting a year sounds good in theory, but love and attraction are not things anyone can plan for.

Dating for recovering addicts presents a different set of challenges that people without a substance abuse problem don’t necessarily experience. Addict or not, anyone who is single can attest to the fact that dating can be a complete nightmare. The awkward lulls in conversation and the unease you feel presenting yourself as a likable person are all enough to make person with a healthy dose of anxiety want to run for the nearest exit. After the date, your emotional stability is tried even further. You constantly check your phone waiting for him or her to call, followed by crushing disappointment if he or she doesn't. These experiences can threaten the hard-earned sobriety of any newly sober addict.

This is why it is often advised that newly sober addicts wait one year before they actively try to seek a romantic partner. While this sounds reasonable in theory, it is hardly ever adhered to in practice. All four of the recovering addicts I spoke with never stuck to the one-year rule.

Justin Kunzelman is nine years sober and the director of Rebel Recovery in West Palm Beach, Florida. He’s been married for five years and has a young son, but says he doesn’t believe in a dating waiting period. Adriana Kupresak, sober 17 months, is a style blogger and addiction advocate from Zagreb, Croatia. She’s currently in a new three-month-old relationship with her “soulmate,” but dated throughout early recovery. David Stoecker is nine years sober and the founder of Better Life in Recovery, in Springfield, Missouri. He’s a father and has been married for seven years. When asked if he stuck to the one-year suggestion, he said, “Absolutely not, and I probably should have.” Jennifer Nyhus, eight years sober and an aspiring addiction advocate from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is a happily married mother of two. “I’ve never met anyone who’s waited that long, and I don’t honestly know as addicts we could,” Nyhus said.

This lack of adherence isn’t something that is specific to the sources but something that rings true across the board. “I have spoken to and have provided therapy to many recovering addicts and alcoholics. Probably eight out of 10 have had difficulties sustaining this rule of thumb for one year for various reasons,” said Dr. Sal Raichbach of the Ambrosia Treatment Center.

The one-year rule exists so that addicts can have a year to focus solely on themselves. “The ‘wait one year before dating’ rule in recovery is based on the idea of minimizing emotional turmoil in the first year of sobriety,” says Dr. Raichbach. But it’s important to note that this rule is not part of any official recovery framework. “It doesn’t come from any documented source; there are no studies behind it. There’s a bunch of clichés that fall into that same category, like rules, like 90/90 [attending 90 meetings in 90 days]," Kunzelman said. “But it’s not actually a part of their foundations of recovery. I never followed it.” Dr. Raichbach backed this up, saying it's more of a “philosophical idea.”

This philosophical idea, however, is just too impractical for many recovering addicts, since love and attraction are not things people can plan for. It's human nature to want romantic companionship, and a newly sober person may desire it even more than a non-addict. “I know that when you’re newly in recovery the need to feel normal is overbearing, because all you want is to be treated like a regular person again, and the easiest way to do that is to date, because, god, we’ve been doing that since we were 15 years old. So, you feel like that’s your doorway to normalcy,” Jennifer Nyhus said.

But while it may not take a year to be able to date again, recovering addicts should be resilient enough to withstand the stress of dating and be sure about what they want in a partner. For that reason, many people in recovery tend to be pickier about who they decide to date, and eliminate the options that might pose a threat to their sobriety. Adriana Kupresak said that when she started dating, if there were any red flags she picked up on during a date, she would write the person off completely. “Red flags would definitely be people who don’t respect your path,” she said. “People who remind you of people who you were always dating in the past. You can’t be changing as a person and continually be dating the old people that you were before. That’s like madness.”

When Kunzelman got newly sober, he said he didn’t have time for encounters he felt didn’t have the potential to lead to anything meaningful. “Like, I’m not going to date you just to break up with you in six f**king months just to have someone next to me in bed,” he said. “F**k that, I have my dog.” Instead, he said he outlined what he was looking for in a partner and axed anyone who didn’t fit the bill.

Many recovering addicts seek someone who has never struggled with a substance abuse problem. “Being in a relationship with someone else in recovery is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do at all,” Nyhus said. This is a consistent belief among all the people I interviewed. “I think the best piece of advice is if you are an addict yourself, don’t date an addict. If you’re not an addict, do your best to understand the addict,” Kupresak said.

Kunzelman echoed this statement. When he first became sober, he dated a couple of women in recovery, and things didn’t work out mainly because he didn’t want every aspect of his life to be centered around recovery. “I wanted my wife to be my confidant and to be my friend, and I felt like dating women in recovery felt more like dating a sponsor than it did having somebody completely removed from all that.”

Stoecker, too, tried dating women in recovery at first, but it turned out to be an absolute “train wreck.” “I dated ‘projects’ and I dated people in recovery…and basically to me that is a recipe for disaster,” he said. “Because if I’m doing really good and they slip, there’s a chance they bring me down with them and vice versa. … Back before I got into the relationship I’m in now, I felt like I had to date somebody else in recovery so that they would understand.” After dating a few women in recovery, Stoecker decided he could only date teetotalers, or people who completely abstain from alcohol.

But dating a non-addict isn’t something that necessarily works for everyone in recovery. Of course, there are successful relationships that were forged between two recovering addicts. “Sometimes it’s easy to date someone who has no clue when it comes to recovery because they can hide from their own addiction. But I don’t find it more or less; I think it’s based on the individual and what they’re comfortable with,” said Dr. Raichbach.

Dating people who have never been in recovery culture comes with its own set of challenges. Non-addicts can have problems understanding the sometimes overwhelming desire of an addict to use. There’s also the issue of a non-addict patronizing their recovering addict partner. “Patience is the number-one attribute that you need to have [when dating an addict] because this relationship is not going to be fair, and it sucks, but it’s just the reality of situation,” Nyhus said. “You’re in a relationship with an addict; the only thing they ever thought about for the last however many years was themselves, and themselves alone.”

Addicts who are trying to establish some sense of normalcy in their lives may feel they don’t need a non-addict partner constantly reminding them of the regrettable choices they made in the past. “The best thing you can probably do, at least from my standpoint, is don’t go from one extreme to other,” Kunzelman said. “[Recovering addicts] don’t need to be coddled, and they also don’t need to be praised for not getting high. When I go home, my wife’s like, ‘Can you take this kid and take out the f**ing trash and let the dog out,’ and not, ‘Did you stay sober today?’ I don’t get credit for sh*t I’m supposed to do.”

Perhaps for this reason, Raichbach says that while patience is great, being non-judgmental is even more important. “Patience is a great word; unfortunately, it’s not exercised all that well at all times,” he says. “Patience is when you love someone, and you see them struggle and you continue to support and not enable. So, I wouldn’t say that patience is the first and foremost; for me it’s labeling, not stigmatizing, and not being judgmental. Love is love, and love comes in all shapes and sizes ….We all have a past, some are more checkered than others.”

If all our relationships were judged simply by our past choices, not one would succeed. Just like with any sort of love, there needs to be full acceptance of your partner. The third time Nyhus slept with her future husband, she broke down after she became overwhelmed with emotion. “That was when [he] realized that these things that happened to me and the choices that I made in life, I was going to carry with me for the rest of my life. And he was going to have to be willing to accept those things and be willing to talk about them, even though they’re not pretty or fun to talk about. Since that day, we’ve been 100 percent honest about all of our feeling at all times,” she said.

In fact, honesty and communication for recovering addicts is of the utmost importance in their relationships. For many addicts, talking things out is how they managed recovery. They end up bringing the communicative approaches they learned into the relationship. Many recovering addicts make open and honest partners. “The first time I sat my wife down and said, ‘Hey, what you said really hurt my feelings, I’d like to talk about it,’ she looked at me like I was a f**king crazy person,” Kunzelman said. But in the end, she came to embrace the open communication.

“Relationships in recovery should look like relationships everywhere else,” Kunzelman says. There is not one person who is more capable of love than another. Because of this, it can be problematic to place time frames on love for recovering addicts.

The one-year waiting period should be considered a suggestion to recovering addicts, because not only is it rarely observed, it can also have potentially damaging effects to a newly sober addict. “When you tell an addict or alcoholic [to wait] a year, if for any reason an addict or alcoholic, or anyone for that matter, is not able to follow what is deemed to them to be a rule, they look upon themselves sometimes as failures that they can’t even do something as important [as] what’s suggested to them,” says Dr. Raichbach. “So that can create even more of a problem because now they feel like they failed; when it comes to early recovery, we don’t want to give any impression of failure, because that just internalizes it and they wind up relapsing.”

Addicts should make that choice on their own, and decide when they feel like they can handle potential heartbreak without relapsing. Jennifer Nyhus says, “It’s all personal choice; wait till you feel in your heart that you are ready to withstand the disappointment that comes from being in a crappy relationship or going on crappy dates.”

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Booze and Basketball: Why Binge Drinking Increases During March Madness

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 10:33
Students tend to tipple more when their team is in the tournament.

For every tip-off during March Madness, it’s a sure bet that students at the schools playing in the basketball tournament will be tipping up more beer bottles than usual.

This was one of the key findings of an analysis we conducted recently on the impact of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on college students’ drinking behavior.

We are all economists with a keen interest in the relationship between health and economics. Our recent study shines light on the well-established fact that alcohol consumption – and the negative effects that come along with it – often goes hand in hand with college sports. For that reason, college sporting events represent prime opportunities to think about ways to curtail drinking among college students.

A long-standing tradition

Researchers have long known that alcohol consumption rises during college sporting events. Study after study has found that college students were more likely to binge drink on football game days.

The same is true for college basketball. For instance, a study of 206 undergraduate students at Syracuse University in 2003 – when Syracuse won the NCAA men’s basketball championship – found that alcohol consumption on the two game days of the championship exceeded what is typical on campus.

Negative effects

Binge drinking is associated with many harmful outcomes for the drinker and those around them. These outcomes include lower grades and increased rates of drunk driving and sexual assault. One study found that assaults, vandalism and arrests for disorderly conduct and alcohol-related offenses increased on college football game days in the towns that hosted the game, especially after upsets.

What is it about college sports that seems to lead to increased rates of drinking? The first thing to understand is that college students binge drink and report heavy alcohol use at higher rates than their peers who aren’t in college. Social norms likely play a large role in this fact. For instance, one study found that college students tend to think that their peers drink more than they actually do. This perception can cause individuals to believe that heavy drinking is the norm, not the exception.

A different study found that alcohol consumption can be reduced among college students by providing them with accurate information about how often their peers drink.

The role of high-stakes games

In order to understand how a major college sporting event affects alcohol consumption across different colleges, we examined the effect of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on college students’ reported alcohol use.

We relied on the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, which provides information on students’ alcohol consumption at 43 NCAA Division I institutions in 1993, 1997, 1999 and 2001. With this data, we compared drinking rates before, during and after the tournament as well as across tournament and non-tournament schools each season.

We found that nearly 60 percent of male students whose school had just played in the men’s basketball tournament reported binge drinking once more in the past two weeks than a male student whose school did not play a tournament game during the survey window.

Overall drinks consumed experience a similar jump, as male students at tournament schools reported drinking 6.9 additional alcoholic beverages on average during the tournament. These numbers are comparable with elevated drinking estimates associated with college football game days.

White males affected most

The increase in binge drinking appears to be concentrated mostly among white male students. While 60 percent of male students binge drink more when their team plays in the NCAA Tournament, we detect no increase in alcohol consumption among female students.

According to our study, approximately 1 in 3 students who are over 21 appear to binge drink more when their team plays in the NCAA tournament. One in 4 underage students report binge drinking once more when their team plays.

The College Alcohol Study asked respondents about drinking and driving, so we were able to observe that students not only reported drinking more during the NCAA tournament, but that they were also about 10 percent more likely to report driving under the influence of alcohol or riding with someone who is under the influence.

Our paper adds to the growing amount of evidence that alcohol consumption during college sporting events has harmful effects on society. While we do not know of any single solution for all students at all schools, we note that reducing the availability of alcohol at sporting events has the ability to reduce “arrests, assaults, ejections from the stadium, and student referrals to the judicial affairs office.”

The National Institutes of Health has also created resources for both parents of college students and for college administrators to help reduce the amount of dangerous alcohol consumption among college students.

 

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Europe's Top 5 Cities for Cocaine, Ecstasy and Speed Use

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 23:10
Click here for reuse options! Wastewater analysis can reveal many things, including the continent's partying hot spots.

Want to know Europe's true party capitals? The European Monitoring Commission on Drugs and Drug Abuse is here to help. It just released its latest annual report on drug use levels in 56 European cities in 19 countries.

The report relied not on survey results or extrapolations from drug seizures, but a much more direct method: an analysis of daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of wastewater treatment plants over a one-week period. Researchers analyzed the wastewater from approximately 43 million people, looking for traces of four illicit drugs: amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA (ecstasy).

The epidemiological analysis of wastewater is "a rapidly developing scientific discipline with the potential for monitoring close to real-time, population-driven trends in illicit drug use," EMCDDA points out. Its researchers can now use it to estimate levels of drug use by measuring the levels of drugs and their metabolites excreted into the sewers by urine.

So, which cities are doing the most drugs? We'll give you the top five for each drug, as well as a bit of discussion below:

Amphetamines (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

  1. Eindhoven (Netherlands)     271.7
  2. Antwerp Zuid (Belgium)       268.8
  3. Saarbrucken (German)        242.0
  4. Oostende (Belgium)             236.4
  5. Mainz (German)                   226.9

The loads of amphetamine detected varied considerably across study locations, with cities in the north and east of Europe reporting much higher levels than in the south. Amphetamine, a working-man's drug, was also found more evenly throughout the week than the party drugs, which tend to show up more in weekend samples. Of the top 15 cities, nine were in Germany, three each in Belgium and the Netherlands, and one in Iceland. Berlin came in 10th, Amsterdam 11th.

Cocaine (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

  1. Barcelona (Spain)                 965.2
  2. Zurich (Switzerland)             934.4
  3. Antwerp Zuid (Belgium)       822.9
  4. St. Gallen Hofen (Switz.)      821.7
  5. Geneva (Switzerland)           794.8

Cocaine use is highest in western and southern European cities, particularly in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK, but Switzerland, with three of the top five and five of the top 10 cokiest cities, certainly deserves mention. Year-to-year figures show that an upward trend first reported in 2016 continues.

MDMA (ecstasy) (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

  1. Amsterdam (Netherlands)    230.3
  2. Eindhoven (Netherlands)     165.1
  3. Antwerp Zuid (Belgium)         95.3
  4. Zurich (Switzerland)               85.2
  5. Utrecht (Netherlands)            59.8

The Dutch really love their E, taking three of the top five spots, and nearby Antwerp is starting to look like an unsung drug hotspot, appearing in all three top fives so far. Berlin, Barcelona, Geneva, and Paris are all in the top 10, but at use levels only about one-fifth of Amsterdam.

Methamphetamine (milligrams/1,000 people/day)

  1. Chemnitz (Germany)            240.6
  2. Erfurt (Germany)                   211.2
  3. Budweis (Czech Repub.)      200.2
  4. Brno (Czech Repub.)            105.7
  5. Dresden (Germany)              180.2

Like plain old amphetamine, meth use generally concentrated in northwest Europe, although the Czech Republic is certainly cranking, too, as it traditionally has. It is most popular in eastern Germany, Finland and Norway.

One city worth mentioning is notable for its absence from these top fives: Lisbon. Portugal is the only country in Europe to have decriminalized the use and possession of all drugs, but its capital and largest city consistently ranked low-to-middling in drug use levels: The wastewater in Lisbon contained zero methamphetamine, and came in 11th for ecstasy use, 45th for amphetamine use, and 28th for cocaine use.

Those figures from Lisbon strongly suggest other countries can decriminalize drug use and possession without seeing their populations turned into deranged party animals. In the meantime, the real party animals might want to head to Antwerp.

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Fox & Friends Pundit Supporting Trump's Death Penalty for Drug Dealers Says They Should Be Executed "At a Young Age"

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:36
The president's bloodthirsty call is immediately echoed by people who reflexively support anything he says or does, no matter how outrageous.

A Fox News pundit on Monday said that President Donald Trump was right to consider the death penalty for drug offenses because it is the “only answer” for stopping drug dealers.

On the Fox & Friends First program, host Heather Childers asked trial attorney Randy Zelin about Trump’s recent suggestion that drug dealers should be put to death.

Zelin argued that offenders in drug cases should be put to death even if they understood what they did was wrong and promised to never do it again.

“What about the next Randy Zelin who did this?” Zelin asked. “How do we stop it? And it seems to me that perhaps the ultimate penalty, the ultimate deterrence is the only answer to getting our arms around what is happening in this country with drugs.”

Childers speculated that Trump’s death penalty idea would only apply to dealers who spiked their product with deadly substances. But Zelin disagreed, saying that it should apply to all drug dealers.

“It’s the slippery slope argument,” he opined. “And it becomes where is the dividing line. It’s all about deterrence. It’s all about letting someone know — perhaps even at a young age — that if you do this, it’s not going to get you the Mercedes and the Rolex and the house and all of the fun stuff. It’s going to get a needle in your arm.”

“It’s that message that needs to be sent, that perhaps may be the only way not to make it so cool to be a drug dealer,” he concluded. “Go ask someone in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, in Vietnam, where you’re automatically getting it.”

Watch the video below from Fox News.

 

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Trump's Most Terrifying Tantrum: Death Penalty for Drug Dealers Is Beyond the Pale

Sun, 03/11/2018 - 23:34
His authoritarian impulse is alive and well, according to his recent enthusiasm to expand the death penalty

As President Trump made abundantly clear in recent news conferences and interviews, he sees the zero-tolerance policy on drug use and drug dealing of Singapore, China and the Philippines as a model for U.S. drug policy. He is said to believe that all drug dealers should get the death penalty.

President Trump’s anti-drug advisor, Kellyanne Conway, reassures us the president plans a more “nuanced” approach, focused on raising mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealing. There are also undeveloped proposals to “get tough on pharmaceutical companies.”

The president’s frustration with the failure of America’s longest war, the war on drugs, is understandable. But the solution should not be to try more of the same, only “tougher.”

Sensible drug policy makes it easier for drug abusers to kick the habit and transition back to a normal life, rather than ruining their lives through long-term incarceration -- or ending them altogether through capital punishment. The evidence has never supported the contention that the death penalty is a greater deterrent to crime than incarceration. And a 2009 report from the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition points to a large body of evidence that the incarceration and incapacitation of drug dealers has not deterred drug use or distribution and may, in fact, contribute to an increase in violent crime.

Drug offenses can merit the death penalty in over 30 countries but, perhaps in recognition of the futility of the death penalty, many of them are turning away from it. Singapore  amended its mandatory death penalty laws in 2012, returning some discretion to the courts to allow for life imprisonment, with caning as an alternative. The majority of executions in Iran have been for drug-related crimes, although in 2016 a senior Iranian judiciary official proclaimed, “The truth is, the execution of drug smugglers has had no deterrent effect.” Later that year, Iran’s parliament removed the death penalty for many drug crimes and replaced it with incarceration or fines.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines asked the legislature to restore the death penalty (repealed in 2006) for drug dealers, and in February of last year the House of Representatives approved the change. The bill is stalled in the Senate. Nevertheless, extrajudicial killings have been rampant under Duterte’s leadership. More than 4,000 suspected drug dealers have been killed by police who have claimed to be acting in self-defense during raids and sting operations.

By contrast, Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. The data show Portugal’s drug usage rates are now among the lowest in the European Union, and drug-related pathologies such as sexually-transmitted disease are markedly down, as are drug-related crimes. Encouraged by Portugal’s experience, Norway’s parliament voted for decriminalization this past December.

Those are commendable steps and worth replicating in the U.S. And if the goal is reducing drug-related deaths, policymakers should put more emphasis on “harm reduction” measures, such as syringe services programsmedication-assisted treatment with drugs such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone, and enhanced distribution of naloxone, the antidote for an opioid overdose. These programs not only reduce deaths but are a more cost-effective allocation of resources.

States are already taking the lead in promoting harm reduction. In January, Arizona became the forty-third state to enact a “Good Samaritan” law, encouraging witnesses of drug overdoses to call for help without fear of arrest. And last week the Arizona House unanimously approved a law to legalize needle exchange programs, already legal in 30 states and not prohibited by law in five others.

The states are also doing more to eliminate legal grey areas which prevent harm reduction methods. Supervised Injection Facilities (“Safe Injection Rooms”) are endorsed by the American Medical Association. One has been discreetly operating outside the law in an undisclosed location with great success and community acceptance since 2014, but efforts are underway in Seattle and Philadelphia to establish them in their cities. And nearly every state has found ways around the prescription drug status of naloxone to make it more available to patients and their close contacts.

After a half-century of being “tough on drug dealers and drug users,” drug overdose deaths nonetheless continue climbing to record levels. Heroin and fentanyl are cheaper and more available than prescription drugs on the street, and the war on drugs has filled our prisons, affecting the lives and futures of millions of the innocent as well as the guilty, as the U.S. incarceration rate is greater than that of Cuba or Russia.

Executions won’t stop this.

President Trump should override his impulse to double down on futile and inhumane responses to the scourge of drug-related deaths afflicting the nation. Threats of increased prisons sentences — or even death sentences — amount to nothing more than a temper tantrum. Instead, the president should lead a change in strategy that embraces harm reduction, with an eye toward eliminating the death penalty to which our War on Drugs essentially sentences so many drug abusers.

 

 

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Are U.S. Companies Abandoning Pre-Employment Drug Screenings?

Sun, 03/11/2018 - 23:22
Some companies have been forced to change their stance on screenings in the wake of an ever-tightening job market and marijuana legalization.

Pre-employment drug screenings, a decades-long staple of the American hiring process, may soon be a thing of the past.

According to Bloomberg, it’s an eye-opening sign of the times that many American companies are now looking to abandon drug screenings.

As employers continue to struggle to fill roles in an ever-tightening job market, not to mention dealing with loosened state-by-state laws around marijuana use, companies are looking for solutions wherever possible.

In many cases, that means adjusting their corporate strategies around substances: rather than preventing new hires from joining their ranks, they’re more focused on providing support for employees who might be challenged by problematic drug use.

“We don’t care what people do in their free time,” one healthcare company’s spokesperson told Bloomberg. “We want to help these people, instead of saying: ‘Hey, you can’t work for us because you used a substance.’” 

Last year, a survey of employers in Colorado (a state where recreational and medicinal marijuana is prevalent) showed that the number of companies testing for pot fell to 66%, down from 77% just the year before. All signs point toward that trend continuing, too.

“Drug testing restricts the job pool, and in the current tight labor market, that’s having an impact on productivity and growth,” Bloomberg observed.

In other words, many applicants simply can’t pass a required drug test, with Quest Diagnostics data indicating that “failed tests reached an all-time high in 2017.” (In opioid-ravaged Ohio, some employers have even gotten ahead of themselves, putting workers out on factory floors before their failed drug-test results came in.)

“The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high,” Mercer Law School professor Dr. Jeremy Kidd told Bloomberg. “A blanket prohibition can’t possibly be the most economically efficient policy.”

With unemployment currently at 4% in the U.S., companies are now being forced to re-evaluate what they care about and what they don’t when it comes to their workforce.

In fact, many large employers “have quietly changed their [drug] policies in recent years,” Bloomberg noted, adding that those same companies have been careful to avoid advertising that fact.

“Pre-employment testing is no longer worth the expense in a society increasingly accepting of drug use,” the story said. (One Gallup poll echoed this sentiment, finding that 64% of Americans currently favor drug legalization.) 

But not everyone is ready to throw in the towel when it comes to pre-employment drug screenings. A recent survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed that 61% of American adults believe that drug testing “should be required for all or most jobs.” (26% disagreed, while 13% weren’t sure.)

High-profile companies like Burger King and Ford Motor Co. haven’t changed their corporate policies against marijuana use, either. And regardless of America’s relaxing attitudes toward substance use, many jobs will always require drug testing, no matter what.

Bloomberg cited heavy-machinery jobs as one example where pre-employment drug screenings would remain firmly in place. “Companies are also reserving the right to test after an accident or if an employee comes to work notably impaired,” Bloomberg noted, underscoring the fact that companies that forego pre-employment screenings aren’t automatically drug-friendly.

“We assume that a certain level of employees are going to be partaking on the weekends. We don’t care,” an employment lawyer summed it up for Bloomberg. “We’re going to exclude a whole group of people, and we desperately need workers.”

 

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How LSD Makes Music Profoundly Awesome

Sun, 03/11/2018 - 00:19
Click here for reuse options! Researchers are learning more about how the powerful psychedelic affects the brain.

Listening to Jimi Hendrix on acid back in the day was absolutely mind-melting. The sounds transcended normal tonality—not to mention space-time—and the music itself took on deep, deep meaning. It seemed like he was plugged into the primal energies of the universe, and profound truths flickered like jagged lightning.

It wasn't just the music of the master, either—LSD had the uncanny ability to imbue even the most saccharine dreck with cosmic connotations. Any old head who suddenly "got" Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun" in an acid-induced tearful epiphany knows whereof I speak.

Now, some new research helps explain why that happens. A recent study in Cerebral Cortex found that LSD changed the perception of music by altering the neural response in certain key brain regions, including those that govern emotion, memory, sound processing, and self-directed thought.

In the study, a team of researchers led by Katrin Preller and Franz X. Vollenweider of the University of Zurich interviewed 25 subjects about songs that were personally meaningful to them, then had the subjects listen to personally meaningful songs and songs that had no particular significance while given LSD or a placebo. In one session, subjects were given LSD and ketanserin, a drug that blocks LSD's ability to act on serotonin 2A receptors.

Under the influence of LSD, the researchers found, even non-meaningful songs picked up a sense of meaningfulness.  

"Music can evoke a wide range of emotions, memories, and other feelings and states of mind. We can often identify with music, and music can change the way that we feel about and think about ourselves," study co-author Frederick Barrett of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told PsyPost. "In the same way, music also engages a broad range of brain regions involved in memory, emotion, attention, and self-directed thought. LSD increases the ​degree to which these brain areas process music, and it seems to use a brain mechanism that is shared across all psychedelic drugs (serotonin 2A receptor signaling).

"These brain changes during music listening and LSD may (hypothetically) be the mechanism by which psychedelic drugs can be therapeutic," Barrett continued. "Also, these brain changes may uncover the underlying way that our brain makes meaning, with or without music and psychedelic drugs. Psychedelics are powerful drugs that hold promise to help us to heal, understand our brains and minds, and potentially uncover the elusive basis of consciousness itself."

Barrett also noted that a growing number of studies have suggested psychedelics could be used to treat psychiatric disorders, but he urged caution.

"While psychedelic drugs can be safely administered in a controlled setting to properly screened individuals, they are still very powerful drugs that may not be safe for everyone and may not be safe in many circumstances. The degree to which these elements (music, LSD, and serotonin 2A receptor signaling) are necessary for any successful therapy has yet to be determined," he explained. "The degree to which any of these elements interacts with challenging experiences (or ‘bad trips’) has yet to be determined. Also, the degree to which we can optimize music listening during psychedelic therapy sessions has yet to be determined, though these are all active areas of research."

In the meantime, Hendrix still sounds great on acid, even in uncontrolled settings. But would it make Justin Bieber tolerable? Further research is required.

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WATCH: Mississippi Police Chief Gets Caught Smoking Weed

Sat, 03/10/2018 - 12:50
Click here for reuse options! And now he's the ex-chief.

The man who described himself on video as "the only chief of police in Lumberton that likes to smoke weed" is now out of a job after that video, which indeed shows him admittedly smoking marijuana, was shown on a local television station.

Lumberton, Mississippi, Police Chief Shane Flynt had been suspended after the video emerged, and on Tuesday, the Lumberton Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to accept his resignation.

Mayor Quincy Rogers wanted Flynt fired, but the board instead accepted his resignation, with Alderwoman Audrey Davis saying the board wanted to give Flynt a chance at another opportunity.

It's unclear when the video was recorded, although Christmas music can at times be heard in the background, and the red-eyed police chief makes a reference to a red-nosed reindeer.

In a statement on Facebook, Flynt said that his wife had filmed him inside his home and that he had made "a huge mistake."

Under Mississippi law, if Flynt had been caught with the weed he was smoking, he would not have been charged with a criminal offense, but would have faced a civil violation and a $250 ticket. Mississippi has decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams. Possession of any amount greater than 30 grams (a little more than an ounce), is a felony.

Here's the video from WDAM-TV:

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Here’s Why There Has Never Been a Death From Cannabis Overdose

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 12:35
Cannabis is simply not toxic, even in high doses.

They’re popular mantras in the cannabis community: “There have been no overdoses on marijuana,” and “You can’t overdose on marijuana.” On the other side of the fence, there are handfuls of people left who were taught their entire lives that cannabis is a dangerous drug and can indeed lead one to overdose. The truth does not lie in the middle, the truth is that cannabis is simply not toxic, even in high doses.

Our bodies are absolutely saturated in cannabinoid receptors. Naturopathic medicine practitioner Dr. Dustin Sulak explains the receptors as thus, “The endogenous cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks… But the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.”

So in other words, cannabis is doing good things to your body beyond heightened sensations, enhanced tastes and activities and generally easing hundreds if not thousands of ailments. Cannabinoids have been shown to attack certain cancer cells and aging cells that can lead to cancer and other diseases. These important attacks are where the “killing brain cells” myth came from.

There are risks to one’s health that come with cannabis, but they aren’t from the plant itself. If pot is not properly flushed of chemicals, pesticides or nutrients it poses a threat in that way. There is also the chance that a grower allowed for a crop with powdery mildew or mold to make its way out of the grow area. When patients are sick, these types of irritants can exacerbate conditions, especially those of the lungs.

Willie Nelson once said, “[Cannabis] won’t kill you unless you let a bale of it fall on you.” Bill Murray Tweeted in June 2014, “I find it quite ironic that the most dangerous thing about weed is getting caught with it.” Their fame doesn’t make them right, but facts do. No one has ever died of a cannabis overdose.

Another factor to this point is that one of the most psychoactive components of cannabis, THC, produces pregnenolone when stimulated by high dosages of the plant. This substance actually inhibits THC, thus protecting the individual from a scary experience, let alone a life threatening one.

Not only is cannabis non-toxic, it is a healing herb with so much medical value that 30 states plus the District of Columbia have deemed it “medical marijuana.” Medical, recreational or somewhere in between, it’s time for the facts to not only come out of the grow closet, but to be explained in ways that those unfamiliar with the plant can understand that it is simply safe.

 

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Denver Voters May Have a Chance to Legalize Magic Mushrooms

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 12:32
A municipal voter initiative to do just that is getting underway now.

oters could have an opportunity to legalize psychedelic mushrooms in Colorado if a group of activists are cleared to start a petition drive.

Nearly two dozen activists from Colorado for Psilocybin met Monday with city officials in Denver, and they’re optimistic they can soon take the next step in legalizing “shrooms,” reported Colorado Public Radio.

The group touted several recent scientific studies showing the medical benefits of using psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, and called for an end to felony charges for possession of the drug.

Under the preliminary proposal that voters may consider, anyone caught with more than 2 ounces of dried mushrooms or 2 pounds of uncured “wet” mushrooms could be cited and fined up to $99 for a first offense, and an additional $100 for subsequent offenses.

Tyler Williams, of the Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative, said marijuana legalization provided a helpful template for their initiative.

“I’m a big believer in cognitive liberty, and so whatever people decide to consume I think is up to them,” Williams said. “I think people should be informed about what they are consuming, and they shouldn’t have to be afraid of going to jail for that.”

Activists cited two studies that found psilocybin helped cancer patients deal with stress on a long-term basis, and other studies found the drug can help patients manage depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s helped me tremendously with my own mental health and on top of that, with creativity, and really being able to just explore different aspects of myself, and really get some healing from the inside out,” said activist Kevin Matthews, who said he was diagnosed with depression as a teenager.

The activists and city officials discussed phrasing for the initiative, and they must next submit the petition materials for review by the Denver Elections Division.

If the petition is approved at that point, then advocates can begin gathering signatures in hopes of placing the measure on November’s ballot.

California voters may consider a similar measure later this year.

 

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One State Forces Opioid Abusers to Get Help. Will Others Follow?

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 11:01
This is kind of creepy. Most people defined as drug addicts say they don't need treatment. Should we listen to them?

TAMPA, Fla. — In an opioid epidemic that is killing more than a hundred Americans every day, many families of overdose victims feel helpless when it comes to convincing their loved ones to seek treatment.

Police and other first responders — who often rescue the same people again and again — are similarly frustrated about their lack of authority to detain users long enough for their heads to clear so they can consider treatment.

But here in Tampa, police, health care professionals and families have a powerful legal tool not available in many other places: the 1993 Marchman Act. Families and health care professionals can use the state law to “marchman,” or involuntarily commit people into substance abuse treatment when they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Although the statute applies to all jurisdictions in the state, court records show that it has been employed in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County far more than anywhere else. Hillsborough County accounts for less than 7 percent of the state’s population and more than 40 percent of its Marchman commitments.

Police use the Marchman Act to pick up people without a court order and take them to a designated stabilization and assessment center. Addiction professionals use the law when a patient fails to show up for treatment. And parents and friends use it when they fear a loved one’s life is at risk.

Across the country, state lawmakers are grappling with how to give first responders and medical professionals the same kind of legal leeway — without violating drug users’ civil liberties.

“It’s been one of the most hotly debated opioid issues of the past year,” said Sherry Green, a consultant and former legal analyst with the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws.

Tampa’s success with the Marchman Act could be a model.

Treatment Coercion

More than 400 people in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County were involuntarily committed into addiction assessment and treatment last year, according to circuit court records. More than two-thirds completed their court-ordered programs.

That’s a success rate that substantially exceeds the 50 percent threshold most researchers use in determining whether an addiction treatment is effective, said David Gastfriend, senior research scientist at the Public Health Management Corporation in Philadelphia.

Nearly 12 million Americans have an addiction to opioid painkillers and heroin, according to the most recent survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Only 1 in 5 are receiving treatment.

A shortage of treatment capacity is part of the problem, addiction experts say, but denial and refusal to seek treatment is the primary reason. The vast majority of Americans with a drug addiction do not receive treatment because they say they do not need it.

Research also shows that people who are coerced into treatment either through criminal courts or employer or family intervention are just as successful at beating their addictions as those who voluntarily enter treatment.

That’s why governors and lawmakers want to find legal methods to push people into treatment in the vulnerable moments after they’ve been rescued from an overdose and are in contact with police and medical professionals who can help.

At least 33 states have laws that technically allow loved ones and others to involuntarily commit people who put their lives at risk by using drugs, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. But since they can only be implemented with a judge’s approval, typically during business hours, commitment laws have been largely ineffective at preventing people who are rescued from an overdose from walking away, using drugs again and overdosing.

Florida has the oldest law authorizing emergency detention for drug and alcohol users without court involvement. Colorado and Minnesota have similar emergency commitment statutes, and a handful of other states have emergency provisions on the books that are seldom used, according to Green.

Detention Orders

“There’s a great deal of frustration among first responders who revive or resuscitate individuals and then watch them get up and walk away,” said Kentucky state Rep. Kimberly Moser, a Republican.

Under a bill Moser proposed last month along with four other Republican House members, first responders would have the authority to sign a 72-hour noncriminal “detention order,” requiring an overdose victim to be transported to a hospital or treatment facility to be held until an addiction assessment is completed and a treatment plan developed.

Moser’s bill would complement, but not amend, an existing civil commitment law in Kentucky. Casey’s Law has been used successfully by hundreds of families for more than a decade to coerce loved ones with dangerous drug addictions into treatment. That law requires a court proceeding, which can take days or weeks.

In Massachusetts, a similar emergency commitment bill, which Republican Gov. Charlie Baker first proposed in 2015, would allow medical professionals and first responders to detain patients who have been revived from a drug overdose and transport them to a specialized addiction facility for emergency assessment and treatment.

Baker’s proposal would amend the state’s existing court-involved civil commitment law (known as Section 35), and give designated receiving facilities up to 72 hours to engage patients in treatment.

Opposed by major medical groups as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Massachusetts bill is part of the governor’s comprehensive plan to stem the state’s raging opioid epidemic.

Last year, Indiana enacted a law calling for limited use of emergency commitment in three counties for people who are revived from a drug overdose. The program, still in the development phase, requires counties to keep records on how many patients are committed, what type of treatment they receive, and how many are completing treatment.

Critics in Indiana, Kentucky and Massachusetts argue that a shortage of treatment slots would make it difficult to find a facility capable of emergency care.

“One of the frustrations is that people who voluntarily seek treatment often can’t access care when they need it,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, who heads addiction services at Massachusetts General Hospital. “I wouldn’t suggest that involuntary treatment is the way to go.”

Nowhere to Go

Florida has long had a disproportionate share of the nation’s rehabilitation centers and residential addiction treatment facilities, but as the opioid epidemic worsens, the state’s treatment capacity has been stretched thin.

Still, the state has designated a handful of treatment facilities to accept Marchman Act patients in Hillsborough County. Professionals at those places say they rarely have to turn away a patient because of a lack of capacity.

“We may not be able to give them the level of service they need, particularly if they need a bed,” said Mary Lynn Ulrey, CEO of DACCO, a community-based treatment service provider here in Tampa. “But we immediately engage them in an appropriate level of service and move them into a more intensive level of service within a few days.”

Tampa is one of only four places in Florida with a locked central receiving facility where police can take adults and children with mental illness and addiction and have them evaluated for treatment.

Elsewhere in Florida and in much of the country, hospital emergency departments, crisis centers and addiction treatment centers serve as the first stop for police who rescue opioid users from an overdose. Many of those places are unlocked and ill-equipped to perform an emergency addiction assessment on an unwilling drug user.

In Kentucky, Moser said the state plans to use federal and state grants to create secure triage centers in rural areas where there are no hospitals or addiction treatment centers within 50 miles.

And in Massachusetts, at legislative hearings on Baker’s emergency commitment proposal, physician groups and hospitals argued that in many parts of the state there would not be enough room at local hospitals and treatment facilities.

Why Tampa?

Here in Tampa there’s little mystery why the Marchman Act is more widely used than anywhere else in Florida. A circuit judge here, infamous among some drug users who weren’t quite ready to quit, has dedicated his career to helping people with addictions find treatment and turn their lives around, whether they want to or not.

When he’s not hearing Marchman cases, Judge Jack Espinosa Jr. is presiding over drug courts, family courts and juvenile cases. And he does everything in his power, addiction professionals say, to ensure that people who are ordered into treatment stay there.

Marchman Act orders are civil proceedings. Police don’t arrest the people they pick up under the law’s emergency powers. Instead, they bring them to health care professionals who stabilize and assess them to determine the nature and severity of their addiction.

Once a health care professional has recommended a treatment plan — which can range from six months of outpatient counseling with medication to three days of detox and 30 days of residential treatment at an average cost of $5,500 to $7,000 — Espinosa is then asked to order the person to complete it.

If a patient doesn’t show up for treatment on any given day, a sheriff’s deputy is sent to pick the person up. “I use the common law powers of contempt of court to enforce the order,” Espinosa explained.

“We have better outcomes with our Marchman Act patients than with any of our other patients,” said Linda Mann, an addiction specialist at DACCO. “They know Espinosa will send the sheriff around. That gives us leverage we don’t have with our other patients.”

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$57 Billion! That’s How Ginormous Cannabis Biz Will Be In 2027

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 13:09
"The tables have turned in favor of legalization across the world," report says.

Global spending on legal cannabis will skyrocket to $57 billion by 2027, according to a report released this week by Arcview Market Research, in partnership with BDS Analytics. That’s a lot of marijuana.

The in-depth report, titled “The Road Map to a $57 Billion Worldwide Market,” predicts that adult-use recreational cannabis will make up $38.3 billion of spending, while medical marijuana will reach $19.1 billion. The report reveals that the United States and Canada will continue to drive industry growth, expanding from $9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion by 2027.

While that growth looks large, it actually is a comparatively modest 18 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The rest of the world is forecast to grow from $52 million in 2017 to $2.5 billion in 2027 for a CAGR of 47 percent.

“Outside the United States and Canada, it will be almost wholly a medical-only business until the United Nations revamps the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which will likely only come after the United States’ Federal Government ends prohibition, which we don’t expect until 2021,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of The Arcview Group.

While the adult-use market will dominate in North America, it’s the medical market that will see the most growth overseas, the report forecasts. In most other developed nations, the federal government subsidizes health care. Europe, which has 739 million people and more than $1.5 trillion in healthcare spending, has the potential to be the largest medical cannabis market in the world.

 

“California gets the media attention and Canada gets the investment dollars as they allow adult use, but Germany’s move to make cannabis flower available for medical use in pharmacies was really the big news of 2017 from a worldwide perspective,” said Tom Adams, Editor-in-Chief at Arcview Market Research and Principal Analyst at BDS Analytics. “The tables have turned in favor of legalization across the world and we predict that the trend will spread as research continues to support cannabis’ effectiveness as a medication.”

Among other findings, “The Road Map to a $57 Billion Worldwide Market” reveals:

  • Initially, the decision by many US states and Canada to launch medical-only regulatory regimes prompted many other countries to allow limited access to cannabis-based pharmaceuticals. But, now, California’s and Canada’s willingness to move on to adult-use legality has triggered a new wave of laws liberalizing access to medical cannabis.
  • South America medical markets are some of the most liberally licensed in the world. The continent’s legal spending is set to grow from $125 million in 2018 to $776 million in 2027, led by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay (the only country in the world in which adult use is legal today), and Peru.
  • Germany positioned itself as the leader of the European market, while Italy is expected to be the second-ranked cannabis market on the continent with $1.2 billion in sales by 2027.
  • Total legal cannabis spending in Australia is forecast to grow from $52 million in 2018 to $1.2 billion in 2027, a CAGR of 53%, making is the 5th largest market in the world.
  • Israel’s long history of legal medical use has fostered a sizable regulated market for such a modest population, but it leads other countries by years in the development of cannabis pharmaceutical applications.
  • The success of the Canadian system of Licensed Producers and mail-only distribution, as evidenced by the country’s willingness to move on to adult-use legality, has prompted a new wave of laws liberalizing access to medical cannabis.

 

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GOP Candidate Nailed for Using Drug Rehab Programs to Steal Benefit Payments from Addicted Teens

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 12:48
Profiteering off drug treatment is not something we look for in a candidate.

"I have a clean record,” wrote Illinois pastor John Elleson, who’s running for Congress in the Ninth District.

The reality is that court records show the pastor pleaded “no contest” to second-degree theft that scored him 150 hours of community service in 2003, the Chicago Tribune reported. He also had to return the $49,000 in benefit payments he stole while in Hawaii.

According to prosecutors, Elleson, along with wife Suzanne, both pleaded “no contest” to lying about feeding teenagers attending a drug addiction rehab that the couple ran.

The Tribune cited a Honolulu Star-Bulletin report that an investigation into the Ellesons began when a teen in the rehab outed the couple for demanding the teen apply for tax payer-funded benefit payments. They then demanded the teens turn the money over to them or face eviction from the program.

Pastor Elleson was then fired for his “contentious and noncooperative spirit” and his “assumption of dictatorial authority over an assembly.” He then got sued by the church for using the “Teen Challenge” brand.

The judge presiding over the case found he had “willfully engaged in . . . deceptive trade practices,” and demanded the couple pay legal fees for the church.

In 2010, police were forced to respond multiple times when the Bethel Pentecostal Church of God and Elleson’s Lakewood Chapel were fighting over a wall cutting their shared chapel in half. Half of Lakewood was sold to the Pentecostal church, however, Elleson would allegedly cut off power or the PA system while the Pentecostal church was having services. Elleson was accused of also removing microphones during services and playing loud music and projections onto the screen during the other church’s service.

Elleson lost the lawsuit brought by the Pentecostal church and was ordered to pay them $257,600 along with legal fees.

To make matters worse, Elleson has already come under fire for using Houston televangelist Joel Osteen in a campaign ad without his permission. Osteen had previously done a video the Ellesons could use to promote their own church.

Elleson was also caught falsely implying the Chicago Tribune endorsed his campaign over Democratic opponent Rep. Jan Schakowsky. He’s also falsely claimed he was endorsed by an independent voters group. He ultimately removed the text from his campaign website.

In an email exchange with Inc, Elleson wouldn’t answer any questions but called the Hawaii lawsuit “an unfortunate time in our lives.”

He went on to say he has nothing to hide, nor is he aware of a 1998 “samage conviction” from a Cook County case where he plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He claimed that he has a clean record.

 

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"High Maintenance”: A Much-Needed Mellow in a Harsh Time

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 12:00
The second season of HBO’s quirky series acts as a respite from the Trump era, without ignoring it

f you’re the type of person who watches “High Maintenance,” Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld’s vignette-driven series about New York City and an affable pot dealer called the Guy who floats through it, you’ve probably noticed all there is to be cynical about these days. And probably I don’t need to rattle off a list of those things because they’re fairly obvious to you and you are reminded of them every day when you read the news, log onto social media or even when you walk through your changing city.

But maybe my assumptions about the show’s audience — that it’s mostly young, liberal, urban, concerned — are unfair. To make assumptions runs counter to the very ethos of “High Maintenance.”

Then again, the second season of the show, which began on January 19 and is currently roughly halfway finished, treats the causes for New Yorkers’ distress as tacit. Trump isn’t referred to by name. But a vague disastrous event in the first episode, “Globo,” has the city distraught in a way that’s reminiscent of his election victory. In the second episode, “Fagin,” a group of women gather at a Bushwick apartment to make protest signs and talk about social issues, and it seems like they’re preparing for the New York’s Women’s March, though that's never stated outright. Issues that plague the city, like gentrification and transportation, are also alluded to without being named.

This season of “High Maintenance” has been widely hailed by critics as a return to form. After moving from Vimeo to HBO in 2016, the show experienced growing pains; some of its spark was lost. This season, Sinclair and Blichfeld seem to have adapted to working with a bigger crew, at a faster pace, for a wider audience, and they seem to be in a better place in their personal lives, too. But another part of what’s made this season special is that the series has managed to act as a respite from what’s happening in the world without ignoring or downplaying what’s going on. How?

Well, for starters, lassos. One of my favorite moments thus far this season comes in the third episode, “Namaste,” an episode which is ostensibly about gentrification and the city’s stark class divide but also finds time for a man in a cowboy hat using a fire hydrant to practice his lassoing. The bit doesn’t feed into the plot in any way, but it adds depth to the show’s portrait of New York. It’s as if the show’s acknowledging that New York is changing in ways that are detrimental to minorities and the poor, but is also pointing out that weird, idiosyncratic people and moments remain.

In this way, “High Maintenance” often calls to mind the work of the late Jonathan Demme. Like Demme, Sinclair and Blichfeld are great at bringing the background of a scene to life. In the first episode, the camera passes by a group of foreign diners who, on the day of the undisclosed disaster, wonder whether the 9/11 museum will still be open. In “Fagin,” a stranger in an Uber sneezes, is not acknowledged, and exclaims, “Well, bless me, I guess! Damn!”  

In the same vein, it’s telling that nearly every character is given a name. Everyone on screen, no matter how small their role, is an individual rather than a prop. And even the props, sometimes, are named. A hammock is called Trisha. A snake is Fagin. Each has an arc; every detail is important.

Because so much of the show takes place in modern Brooklyn, many scenarios could be set-ups for punchlines — a man who’s left the Hasidic community dancing at a rave; a dinner at an artists' commune; a freelance brand strategist working for a New Age church — but while some of these moments are indeed funny, “High Maintenance” just about always stops short of mocking. Brooklyn isn’t glorified, but neither is it parodied. There’s enough to be cynical about in the world already. The joy of “High Maintenance” — and of this season in particular — is that it pushes all of that to the periphery, and brings the periphery to the fore. Best of all, you can see the small moments that make New York — and the world more broadly — beautiful, and you don’t even have to squint.

 

 

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A Clean, Well-Lit Place to Smoke Rocks: North America's First Supervised Inhalation Site Opens

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 00:16
It's not just about allowing someone to use drugs more safely—it’s about building a trusting relationship with users.

In response to the opioid crisis, Canada has been rapidly opening supervised injection sites, safe spaces allowing for injection drug users to consume narcotics like heroin under medical supervision.

But ARCHES, a recently opened facility in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada comes with a twist—it's the first supervised inhalationsite in North America, allowing drug users to combust and inhale narcotics, such as meth or crack cocaine, under the supervision of trained medical staff.

On the surface, supervised consumption sites (SCS) sound more harmful than helpful: we're letting people use dangerous, addictive drugs? What the…?

But these sites have existed around the globe for at least three decades, with more than 100 facilities in more than 66 cities. The research on them shows that they greatly reduce the spread of disease such as HIV and hepatitis C, prevent fatal overdose and connect drug users with addiction treatment and health services. Many link people with job training, counseling or housing services.

In other words, consumption sites are an important harm reduction strategy in the fight against the overdose crisis. Bottom line: they save lives.

Injection cubicles at ARCHES. (The Fix)

There’s been a major push for supervised consumption in the United States, from Philadelphiato Denver to San Francisco, but so far, these initiatives have all but stagnated. One or two may launch this summer, but the Trump Administration has threatened any that open with legal action.

Meanwhile, in Canada, consumption sites are opening at a staggering rate—at least 17 are fully operational plus around a dozen more with pending applications. The earliest SCS is Insite in Vancouver, which opened in 2003. They’ve monitored more than 3.6 million clients as they’ve injected drugs, never once experiencing a death. In fact, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, there’s never been a death at any supervised consumption site.

But ARCHES, which opened on February 28th, is the first site in North America to offer all four modes of drug ingestion: oral, nasal, injection and inhalation. To understand why this distinction is significant, it’s important to keep the overdose crisis in context.

It’s actually polydrug use, not opioids, that are causing the most fatalities. Whether it’s due to heroin contaminated with fentanyl or mixing stimulants with depressants—known as “speedballing”—a one-strategy-fits-all approach won’t help every type of drug user.

“People are dying from all modes of consumption. It’s not the method that’s killing them, it’s the drug,” Stacey Bourque, ARCHES’ Executive Director, says in a phone call. “How come they shouldn’t have a safe place to have medical supervision when they’re just using it in a different method? And in a method that we would probably promote over injection, because there are less other unintended health consequences of use with smoking than there is with injection.”

That isn’t to say smoking drugs is entirely safe—there are still many risks, especially when drug users are in a hurry. A 2006 study published in BMC Public Health found rushed crack cocaine users had a higher prevalence of burns and inhaled metallic crack pipe filter screens. A decade later, a paper published in the same journal with a few of the same authors illustrated these potential risks are easily mediated by supervised consumption.

According to Bourque, methamphetamine injection is more prevalent in her community than opioid injection. “So if we have the opportunity to move people from injecting to inhalation, then that’s another opportunity for us to reduce harm,” she says. “Which is the purpose of our existence.”

Supervised inhalation sites are not uncommon in Europe, where they exist in The Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and elsewhere. Some just provide an outdoor area for smoking, while others, like ARCHES, provide sealed rooms with high-tech ventilation systems.

To meet Alberta Health’s regulations, the consumption rooms at ARCHES are negative pressure rooms so when the doors open, nothing escapes, Bourque explains. The mechanical systems are specially engineered to turn the air over 15 times an hour inside the two inhalation rooms, compared to the six times an hour it changes over in the six injection spaces.

Then there’s the built-in emergency switch that nurses, police or EMS can flip in case they need to enter the room. It immediately closes the damper and dumps the air so it becomes breathable. Finally, there’s an uninterruptible power supply system, just in case of a power failure. The ventilation system for the whole building cost about $50,000 Canadian.

In other words, these inhalation rooms aren’t outfitted with the kind of cooking exhaust fans you’ll find in your kitchen.

“I sat down with a mechanical engineer and described to him what I thought we need in a site like this to be able to keep everybody safe,” Bourque says. “We’re never actually without ventilation, so we’re not putting anyone at risk at any point.”

Another aspect of the overdose crisis is that while opioids get the most attention in mainstream media, methamphetamine and stimulant use are rising in the shadows. In Oregon, twice the number of overdose deaths are attributed to meth compared to heroin. It’s just as prevalent in places such as New Hampshire, Montana, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Canada is no different. Meth use has been described as a “tidal wave” in Winnipeg, while in Alberta, the amount of young people seeking treatment for meth use has doubled since 2012. In Saskatchewan, the number of people admitted to drug treatment programs for meth rose 200 percent between 2015 and 2016. Fentanyl seizures in Canada have experienced a drop while meth seizures jumped approximately 100 percent in two years.

So why aren’t inhalation sites more popular? Dr. Taeko Frost, western regional director at the Harm Reduction Coalition, believes supervised injection is more palatable for the public than inhalation because the emphasis is on disease containment and keeping needles off the streets, rather than safer consumption.

“People get really stuck—pun not intended—on the syringe issue,” she says. “What this movement is really about is restoring dignity and respect and creating space for people that doesn't exist because of our housing crisis, because of policing practices, because of our failed war on drugs and drug policy.”

Frost also emphasizes the racial justice aspect of this situation.

“Depending on where you are, there may be differences between populations of people who use stimulants and people who inject drugs that may also unintentionally cut out and further perpetuate health disparities among people of color,” Frost says. “We need to be really adamant about and support safe consumption services for that reason, so that we are not further creating health disparities and discrimination by type of drug and route of administration.”

Insite has been trying to offer inhalation services for years, but the process hasn’t been easy. In order to protect staff and other clients, there would need to be costly renovations and there is no timeline for this to occur.

“Like most municipalities, Vancouver must abide by regulations protecting workers and others from secondhand smoke and there is no quick fix to this,” Carrie Stefanson, Insite’s public affairs leader, said in an email. But she doesn’t believe the route of administration has much to do with their policies—they do allow snorting drugs, for example. “Our health policies are guided by science, not public sentiment,” she says.

If something does go wrong at a SCS, there are trained medical staff on hand to immediately assist a drug user who has overdosed. In the case of an opioid overdose, breathing becomes so slow that the person suffocates. They can be revived using naloxone (Narcan), an opioid receptor antagonist that “kicks” drugs like heroin out of the brain, allowing normal breathing to resume. But for stimulants like crack cocaine and meth, there is no such antidote.

“Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for stimulant overdoses (frequently called ‘overamping’) like in the case of opioids and naloxone,” explains Kat Humphries, the programs director at the Harm Reduction Action Center in Colorado. “But there are plenty of things you can do to help someone overamping.”

Humphries says if someone is overheating from stimulants, you should encourage them to stay still and avoid any agitated or overly-pronounced movement. Then help them cool down with ice packs, misting or fanning techniques and give them water or a drink with electrolytes. You can also place cool, wet cloths under the armpits, on back of knees, or on the forehead.

“Other signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause. You may witness anything from dehydration to hyperthermia to a severe heat stroke or heart attack,” Humphries explains. “In many cases, the person may become confused and potentially hostile, and may present as intoxicated. As the person’s heart attempts to push enough oxygen out to their whole body, their heart rate and breathing will increase. It’s important to call 911 when you feel uncomfortable managing a stimulant overdose, because it can turn deadly quickly.”

Supervised consumption sites aren’t just about allowing someone to use drugs more safely—it’s about building a trusting relationship with users, humanizing them and encouraging them to seek treatment when they’re ready. But many critics of these types of programs label it “enabling.”

“The only thing we enable is breathing,” Bourque says. “I’ve heard a lot of the healthcare professionals say, ‘We’re supposed to preserve health, we’re not supposed to help them or make it worse.’ But at the end of the day, this is healthcare. Rarely do we have somebody come in just for drug use. They always see the nurse or the counselor or the housing team. It’s never just one thing. But in order for them to access those services, you have to have a relationship built. Calling it ‘enabling someone’ is just such garbage. You can’t enable something that’s already happening.”

 

 

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