Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] US needs harm-reduction approach to drug use, researcher says

US needs harm-reduction approach to drug use, researcher says 

From the 14 January 2015 Rice University press release

Neill: Approach minimizes harm associated with drug use for the individual and society    

HOUSTON – (Jan. 14, 2015) – The United States’ law-and-order approach to reducing the supply of drugs and punishing sellers and users has impeded the development of a public health model that views drug addiction as a disease that is preventable and treatable. A new policy paper from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy advocates that a harm-reduction approach would more effectively reduce the negative individual and societal consequences of drug use.

According to the paper’s author, Katharine Neill, the rate of federal inmates incarcerated for drug offenses hovered at just under 50 percent in 2011, and in 2013 the Obama administration’s budget asked for $25.6 billion to fight the drug war, $15 billion of which was directed toward law enforcement. In addition, by some estimates, state and local governments spend a combined total of $51 billion per year on drug-related law enforcement efforts, which suggests they have a lot to gain by investing in treatment options, Neill said.

“That law enforcement efforts continue to dominate drug policy highlights the need to reframe the discourse on drug use and addiction,” said Neill, the Baker Institute’s Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy. “While emphasizing the cost-saving benefits of treatment is important, this should be coupled with more public conversations focusing on drug addiction as a disease requiring medical treatment, not politically based solutions. Reframing the issue in this way should increase the likelihood that a public health approach to drug policy will be adopted for the long term.”

The paper, “Tough on Drugs: Law and Order Dominance and the Neglect of Public Health in U.S. Drug Policy,” is published in the journal World Medical and Health Policy.

Emphasizing harm reduction is a popular public health approach to drugs, Neill said. “A harm-reduction approach recognizes the permanence of drugs in society and, instead of trying to eradicate drug use, focuses on minimizing harm associated with drug use for the individual and society,” she said. “This encompasses a variety of objectives, including preventing individuals from using drugs, treating individuals who want to stop using drugs, preventing drug use where it increases the chances of negative outcomes such as driving while on drugs, and helping individuals who want to continue using drugs do so in a way that does not further compromise their health or the health of others.” This last objective is often achieved through needle-exchange programs intended to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C and is more controversial than other policies, Neill said.

Harm reduction is multidimensional and can include contradictory objectives, she said. For example, some proponents wish to decriminalize drug use and focus on helping drug users get the resources they need for treatment or to continue to use drugs safely, while others accept the illegality of drug use so long as treatment is more available. Others argue that distinctions should be made between drugs according to the risks they pose to the user and society and that policy should be based on these distinctions. “Still, most advocates of harm reduction agree on some basic tenets, including the view that addiction is a disease requiring medical assistance, the desire to minimize risky behavior without requiring abstinence and the need to protect the public from the consequences of drug use, which includes punishing individuals who commit acts that harm others,” Neill said.

– See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2015/01/14/us-needs-harm-reduction-approach-to-drug-use-baker-institute-researcher-says/#sthash.2OCJoKRU.dpuf

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Public Health, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weapons & alcohol tied to domestic abuse

Weapons tied to repeat domestic abuse. (below, separate study on alcohol)

From the 29 January 2014 ScienceDaily article

Date:
January 29, 2014
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Women are up to 83 percent more likely to experience repeat abuse by their male partners if a weapon is used in the initial abuse incident, according to a new study that has implications for victims, counselors and police.

Women are up to 83 percent more likely to experience repeat abuse by their male partners if a weapon is used in the initial abuse incident, according to a new study that has implications for victims, counselors and police.

Michigan State University researcher Amy Bonomi and colleagues studied the domestic abuse police reports of nearly 6,000 couples in Seattle during a two-year period. An estimated one in four women in the United States experience domestic violence at least once in their lifetime.

Because previous research showed that domestic abuse is more common in poor urban neighborhoods, the researchers expected to find that repeat violence could be predicted by where the couple lived.

But that wasn’t the case. Instead, the main predictor of ongoing domestic violence was the use of a knife, gun or even a vehicle in the first incident. In those cases, women were 72 percent more likely to make follow-up calls to police for physical abuse and 83 percent more likely to call for nonphysical abuse — such as a partner threatening to kill them.

“What this is telling police is that they are likely to be called back to this particular residence if a weapon is involved the first time they are called out,” said Bonomi, chairperson and professor in MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “It’s an indication of the danger and severity of abuse over time.”

“The presence of weapons in the home,” she added, “is also a red flag for the women themselves and the counselors who deal with domestic violence.”

The study appears online in the research journal Violence Against Women.

Research finds link between alcohol use, not pot, and domestic violence

From the 27 January 2014 Science Daily article

Date:
January 27, 2014
Source:
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Summary:
Research among college students found that men under the influence of alcohol are more likely to perpetrate physical, psychological or sexual aggression against their partners than men under the influence of marijuana.

Alcohol use is more likely than marijuana use to lead to violence between partners, according to studies done at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Research among college students found that men under the influence of alcohol are more likely to perpetrate physical, psychological or sexual aggression against their partners than men under the influence of marijuana. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to be physically and psychologically aggressive under the influence of alcohol but, unlike men, they were also more likely to be psychologically aggressive under the influence of marijuana.

The research has implications for domestic violence intervention and prevention programs.

The studies were conducted by Ryan Shorey, a psychology doctoral student; Gregory Stuart, a psychology professor; Todd Moore, an associate psychology professor; and James McNulty, an associate professor of social psychology at Florida State University. The study of male participants is published in the journal Addictive Behaviors and the study of female participants is published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The researchers’ goal was to find correlations between alcohol and marijuana use and the potential for physical, psychological and sexual violence against partners. The studies are among the first to investigate the timing of alcohol and marijuana use and intimate partner violence in college students.

Two studies included male and female college students who were at least 18 years old, had been a relationship for at least a month that involved two days a week of face-to-face contact, and had consumed alcohol in the previous month. The subjects completed an online diary once a day for 90 days.

The study of men found that odds of psychological, physical and sexual violence increased with subsequent use of alcohol. Specifically, odds of physical and sexual abuse increased on days where any alcohol was consumed and with each drink consumed. Odds of psychological abuse increased only on days when five or more drinks were consumed.

Marijuana use was unrelated to violence between intimate partners.

The study of college women found that alcohol use increased the odds of physical and psychological aggression while marijuana use increased the odds of psychological aggression.

“I think it is too early to make definitive conclusions regarding the role of marijuana and intimate partner violence perpetration, as the research in this area is quite young and, to date, studies have provided conflicting evidence regarding its role in increasing the odds for violence,” said Stuart. “However, we now have numerous studies suggesting alcohol use does increase the odds for violence between partners.”

Another study by the authors and psychology doctoral student Sara Elkins looked at women arrested for domestic violence. This study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, found that when women used marijuana they were less likely to perpetrate physical violence.

The authors say their findings provide further support for the numerous negative consequences associated with heavy alcohol consumption, particularly among college students.

“Our findings suggest that dating violence prevention and intervention programs should target reduction in alcohol use, but surprisingly, most of these programs largely ignore alcohol use,” said Shorey.

Stuart noted that their other research has shown that men arrested for domestic violence in batterer intervention programs received short-term benefits when they were given a 90-minute treatment addressing their alcohol problems…..

 

January 30, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] ‘Yes’ to One Drug Could Become ‘Yes’ for Other Drugs

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 8 October 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

High school seniors who frown upon the use of drugs are most likely to be female, nonsmokers or hold strong religious beliefs, according to a study¹ by Joseph Palamar of New York University. Palamar examines how teenagers’ attitudes toward marijuana influenced their thoughts on the further use of other illicit drugs. The work appears online in the journal Prevention Science², published by Springer.

The study was conducted as marijuana use continues to be on the upswing in the United States, along with more lenient legislation and diminishing public disapproval toward its use. Although previous research has shown that people who disapprove of a particular drug will in all likelihood not use it, little is known about how the use of one drug affects people’s attitudes toward using other drugs.

Palamar therefore examined how demographics and a lifetime use of various drugs — marijuana use in particular — can predict if a person will become partial to using “harder” and more dangerous drugs, such as powder cocaine, crack, LSD, heroin, amphetamine and ecstasy, also known as “Molly.” Data was obtained from 29,054 high school seniors who took part in the Monitoring the Future annual cross-sectional survey of approximately 130 public and private schools in 48 states between 2007 and 2011.

Palamar found that youths who smoked cigarettes or used more than one “hard” drug were consistently less critical of other drug use. The lifetime use of alcohol had no impact on people’s attitudes. Those who used only marijuana tended to be less judgmental of further using such so-called “socially acceptable” drugs as LSD, amphetamine and ecstasy. They did not approve of cocaine, crack or heroin, however, most likely because of their perceived dangers and addictive qualities.

Unsurprisingly, female high school seniors consistently disapproved of using cocaine, crack, LSD and ecstasy. Compared to their male counterparts, females are generally less likely to use most drugs. Palamar was also not surprised by the finding that religiosity robustly increased attitudes against drug use, as it is a major force in societal values.

Youths from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds with highly educated parents as well as those living in urban areas were much less disapproving of the use of the so-called “less dangerous” drugs. Palamar believes that the higher prevalence of illicit drug use in urban areas may be helping to normalize drug use in cities.

The finding that Black students are less disapproving of powder cocaine, crack and ecstasy is somewhat paradoxical as members of this group generally use such drugs less than White students do. This could, in part, be explained by their strong religious beliefs and the higher rates of arrests and incarceration among Blacks that may serve as a deterrent. The normalization of ecstasy, specifically in rap and hip-hop music, may explain why Black youths are less disapproving of it.

“Public health and policy experts need to ensure that the use of other drugs does not increase in light of the growing prevalence of marijuana use and more lenient policies surrounding it,” Palamar explains. “Although it may be difficult to prevent an adolescent or a young adult from using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, we need to prevent individuals from becoming users of multiple drugs.”

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Native American Spiritual Beliefs Influential in Spurring Youth to Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

This article caught my eye.

A group from Mexico is “caravanning” across the US to raise awareness of the enormous drug trafficking problems in Mexico that are at least in part related to illegal drug problems and violence in the US.***
The caravan  will be stopping in my hometown, Toledo OH, this coming Wednesday.
I seem to recall the leader, Mexican poet Javier Sicilia,  was features on a PBS News Hour segment a few months back.

To be honest, I am still pondering on whether or not illegal drugs should be made legal. Certainly the present system of incarceration is not working.
At the very least, treatment/prevention programs should be stepped up, replacing much of the current court system’s misguided efforts.
Even though our country has a strong tradition of the separation of church and state, I believe prevention/treatment ideally includes a spiritual/religious dimension.

Once promising area of research. Even though it only studies one broad culture, it does invite further study into other cultures.

Native American Spiritual Beliefs Influential in Spurring Youth to Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

From the 20 August 2012 article at Science News Daily

New research indicates that urban native American youth who follow American Indian traditional spiritual beliefs are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Arizona State University social scientists will present their findings at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, Colorado.

Among the general native American youth population, higher rates of substance (both drug and alcohol) abuse are reported than among their non-native American counterparts. They also are more likely to use heavier amounts, initiate substance use earlier, and have more severe consequences from substance use, according to past research.

Native Americans typically do not separate spirituality from other areas of their lives, making it a complex, cultural and intertwined aspect of their daily existence.

Researchers found that adherence to native American beliefs was the strongest predictor of anti-drug attitudes, norms, and expectations. Concerning substance use, aspects of spirituality and religion associated with lower levels of use were affiliation with the Native American Church and following Christian beliefs…

 

 

 

 

***From the flyer I rec’d the other day

 

The Caravan began its U.S. journey in San Diego on August 12. Nearly 80 Caravaneros will visit two dozen U.S. cities on the way to their final stop in Washington, D.C., in September.

Victims of the violence in Mexico will share their testimony of suffering and courage. From Jalisco, the mother of Jose Luis Arana Aguilar will speak of her son’s disappearance last January after making one last call to his children’s day care, reminding them to feed his children. From Coahuila, the girlfriend of Jose Antonio Robledo Fernandez will tell of how she heard the abductors of her boyfriend insult and beat him before he disappeared.

Leading the Caravan is Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son, Juan Francisco, was brutally murdered last year. He then travelled with MPJD caravans in Mexico collecting stories of the destruction caused by the so-called war against drugs and organized crime, which the United States has funded with over $1.5 billion in military equipment and training. The result? As Sicilia writes, “The 60,000 deaths, the 10,000 disappearances, and the 160,000 internally displaced people during the past six years are tragedies caused directly by failed security policies.”

Though their grief knows no end or resolution, they are committed to telling their stories to the American public so that their humanity can move us to action. When the horrific statistics are seen in the pain, suffering, and courage of real people who are reaching out to the victims of the drug war north of the border, the foundation for change can be built.

Sicilia and other movement leaders believe that carrying the campaign across the border underscores the role of the United States. Drug war ideology was born here–putting an end to it must start here too.

What you can do: Come out to welcome and support the Caravan in Toledo!
#Follow the Caravan on twitter (@CaravanaUSA), Facebook, and the Caravan for Peace website. http://www.caravanforpeace.org/caravan Or http://www.globalexchange.org/mexico/caravan
#Global Exchange will also be sending updates while on the road at the People-to-People blog.
#Read the latest article on the Caravan in The Nation, August 7, 2012, “Can the Caravan of Peace end the War on Drugs?” by Tom Hayden
#Watch the Democracy Now interview, August 16, 2012, at http://www.democracynow.org: “Mexican Poet, Activist Javier Sicilia Brings Peace Caravan into U.S. to Condemn Deadly Drug War”

National sponsors include: American Friends Service Committee; Border Angels; Drug Policy Alliance; Fellowship of Reconciliation; National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities; Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; Moms United; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Latino Congress; Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing (New PATH); School of Americas Watch. Local sponsors: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Toledo); Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition; CCUP Pax Christi. University of Toledo sponsors:
Program in Law and Social Thought; Women’s and Gender Studies Dept.;
Phi Alpha Theta (History Honor Society)

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Global War on Drugs Drives HIV and AIDS

Global Commission Calls for Drug Decriminalization and Expansion of Proven, Cost-Effective Solutions to Reduce HIV/AIDS – Including Sterile Syringe Access, Safer Injection Facilities, and Prescription Heroin Programs

 

From the 29 June 2012 article at Time.com

The war on drugs is driving much of the global AIDS pandemic, increasing new infections among injection-drug users in the U.S. and elsewhere, according to a new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy...

(A PDF of the report may be found here***)

bout one-third of all new infections outside of sub-Sarahan Africa occur in injection-drug users.

Since the 1990s, effective public-health strategies to curb HIV transmission in drug users have led to drops in new infections in most countries. But over the same time period, seven countries have seen a 25% increase in new infections. Not coincidentally, five of these countries — mainly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia — employ aggressive drug war strategies, such as arresting and incarcerating users for drug or needle possession…

…These tactics have been shown to be ineffective not only for controlling drug use, but also for reining in the spread of HIV. Why? Because the fear of recrimination prevents drug users from seeking clean needles — a major risk factor for HIV infection. In the U.S. as well, areas with the highest infection rates are those that have the most aggressive drug policies, the report shows. The solution is straightforward, if drastic; it requires a complete overhaul of current drug policy: drug users need treatment, not imprisonment, and drug possession needs to be decriminalized, the authors argue.

 

***

The Commission’s recommendations are summarized here. They include:

– Push national governments to halt the practice of arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others.

–  Measure drug policy success by indicators that have real meaning in communities, such as reduced rates of transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases, fewer overdose deaths, reduced drug market violence, fewer individuals incarcerated and lowered rates of problematic substance use.

– Respond to the fact that HIV risk behavior resulting from repressive drug control policies and under-funding of evidence-based approaches is the main issue driving the HIV epidemic in many regions of the world.

– Act urgently: The war on drugs has failed, and millions of new HIV infections and AIDS deaths can be averted if action is taken now.

How the drug war fuels the HIV pandemic:

– Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground, away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high-risk environments.

– Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.

– Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and avoidable HIV risk behavior.

– Deficient conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.

– Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased antiretroviral resistance.

– Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV prevention strategies.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Illicit drug related emergency department visits vary by metropolitan area

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

From the 15 December 2011 press release by US SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Illicit drug related emergency department visits vary by metropolitan area

Major metropolitan areas show significant variation in the rates of emergency department (ED) visits involving illicit drugs. In terms of overall illicit drug-related emergency room visits, Boston has the highest rate (571 per 100,000 population), followed by New York City (555 per 100,000 population), Chicago (507 per 100,000 population), and Detroit (462 per 100,000 population). By comparison the national average was 317 per 100,000 population.

This new report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was drawn from the agency’s Drug Abuse Warning Network – (DAWN), a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department visits throughout the nation. This information was collected from eleven metropolitan areas including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami (Dade County and Fort Lauderdale Division), Minneapolis, New York (Five Boroughs Division), Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle.

“When friends, family members and health professionals miss the signs and symptoms of substance abuse the results can be devastating,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.   “One consequence is the costly and inefficient use of emergency rooms as a first step to treatment.   Substance abuse prevention and early intervention can keep people off drugs in the first place and clear the path to healthier lifestyles.”

The emergency department findings were similar to the overall trend regarding visits related specifically to heroin use. Again Boston had the highest rate (251 per 100,000 population, followed by Chicago (216 per 100,000 population), New York City (153 per 100,000 population), Detroit (150 per 100,000 population) and Seattle (118 per 100,000 population).   The national average was 69 per 100,000.

The same differences were also evidenced between these major metropolitan areas and the national average when it came to rates of emergency department visits involving illicit drugs in combination with alcohol. New York City had the highest rate (223 per 100,000 population), followed by Boston (153 per 100,000 population), San Francisco (150 per 100,000 population), Chicago (120 per 100,000 population) and Detroit (112 per 100,000 population). The national average was 60 per 100,000 population.

This survey was developed by SAMHSA as part of its strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality – an effort to create integrated data systems that help inform policy makers and providers on behavioral health issues.

This survey is available on the web athttp://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k11/WEB_DAWN_023/DAWN_023_IllicitDrugEDVisits_plain.pdf . For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/ .

December 20, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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