Tag Archives: Drug Addiction

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee


For Immediate Release

February 16, 2017

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil and related drugs tied to an increase in drug overdoses in Kentucky has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

Trafficking in any amount of fentanyl, a pain killer now frequently imported for illegal street sales, and drugs derived from fentanyl as well as carfentanil—a large animal anesthetic said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine—would carry up to 10 years in prison under House Bill 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill. Trafficking over certain amounts of the drugs could carry even longer sentences.

The bill would also make fentanyl derivatives—which potentially number 800 or more, state officials say–part of the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Those drugs are classified as Schedule I by the federal DEA which describes the drugs as having no “currently accepted medical use.”

“Whatever (fentanyl derivative) is thrown at us in the future will be a Schedule I controlled substance under Kentucky law,” if HB 333 passes, Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram told the committee.

Fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives are being mixed with heroin and sold on the street as heroin or other drugs. Some cities and counties have experienced dozens of overdoses in the span of a day or two because of the potency of the drugs which, Ingram said, can be disguised as pharmaceuticals like Xanax or Percocet.

“The business model for drug cartels is to mix fentanyl with heroin and make it look like (something else),” said Ingram. “It’s a much better —- for them. It’s a very deadly situation for our population.”

HB 333 would also create a felony offense called trafficking in a misrepresented controlled substance for those who pass off carfentanil, fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives as an actual pharmaceutical, like Xanax. 

Another provision in the bill would limit prescriptions for fentanyl to a three-day supply with few exceptions, said Moser. Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Pikeville, questioned how the legislation would prevent someone from getting another dose from another physician after receiving their three days’ worth. Moser said the KASPER system, which tracks prescriptions written in Kentucky for all scheduled drugs, is still in place to monitor what is prescribed.

“This language does not preclude the fact that physicians have to document with the PDMPs or prescription drug monitoring programs. KASPER is still a way to monitor… that’s still a requirement,” said Moser.

HB 333 now goes to the full House for consideration.

–END–

How police tracked down a suspected heroin dealer after a rash of overdoses in Nicholasville


By Karla Ward

kward1@herald-leader.com

 

When a narcotics detective with the Nicholasville Police Department heard about a surge in heroin overdoses in Jessamine County this week, he got busy.

The detective, also a task force officer with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, notified Nicholasville Emergency Medical Services Tuesday that if there were more suspected heroin overdoses, he wanted to be notified. Within two hours, he got a call about a crash involving a suspected overdose.

Court records show that the police work that followed resulted in a federal charge Thursday against a suspected drug dealer. Jeffrey James Ruggiero was charged in U.S. District Court in Lexington with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. His first court appearance was scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.

According to an affidavit, the chain of events began when emergency workers arrived on Southbrook Drive in Nicholasville at 7:02 p.m. Tuesday and found a driver, Nathaniel Brezeale, “in obvious distress with agonal breathing and eyes closed.”

Suspecting an overdose, they administered 3 milligrams of Naloxone, and the man revived.

Brezeale’s girlfriend told investigators “that he had a substance abuse problem” and that before the accident, they had been to a double-wide mobile home in Garrard County, where Brezeale went inside alone and stayed for about 10 minutes.

While driving back to Nicholasville, Brezeale began to act strangely, so she asked him to pull over. When he did, the vehicle’s front wheels went over a curb. Passersby called emergency crews.

Two DEA task force officers went to St. Joseph Jessamine and interviewed Brezeale, who told them that he had called Ruggiero that night and asked about buying heroin. He had bought from Ruggiero before, he said.

When Brezeale got to the mobile home, he told investigators, he paid $25 for a tenth of a gram of heroin, which he said Ruggiero took from a larger plastic bag of heroin. Ruggiero placed the heroin onto a piece of paper, and Brezeale snorted it before he left.

A DEA special agent went to Lancaster, found the mobile home and began surveillance about 9:40 p.m., according to the affidavit.

About five minutes later, a Chevrolet Impala left the mobile home heading toward Nicholasville, and the special agent followed. He called Nicholasville police and asked for help. Officers clocked the Impala going 64 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The Impala was stopped, but the driver wouldn’t cooperate. However, “a Nicholasville K-9 was presented to the vehicle and a positive alert was noted. A subsequent search of the vehicle resulted in a quantity of suspected heroin being seized,” the affidavit states.

After that, a search warrant was obtained for the mobile home on Carlotta Drive.

Just before midnight Tuesday, about five hours after Brezeale’s accident, officers from the DEA in Lexington, the Nicholasville police detective bureau and Kentucky State Police went to the mobile home and detained Ruggiero while they searched the home and outbuildings.

Police seized about 1 gram of suspected heroin, plus prescription medication, several sets of digital scales and packaging material, and Ruggiero admitted that he had sold heroin to Nathaniel Brezeale earlier in the day, according to the affidavit.

Emergency crews responded to nine overdoses in Jessamine County in a 24-hour period Monday and Tuesday.

Karla Ward: 859-231-3314, @HLpublicsafety

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/crime/article126283869.html#emlnl=Morning_Newsletter#storylink=cpy

“a puff is enough”


Gary L. Wenk Ph.D.

Gary L. Wenk Ph.D. Your Brain on Food

Marijuana or Obesity: Which Is Worse?

For the majority of people who read this blog, the answer will be obesity.

Posted Jan 04, 2017

Overall, the complete answer to this question depends upon knowing whether you inherited genes that predispose you to drug addiction or food addiction. Recent research has found evidence that these two addictions are closely related to each other. What differs, and what truly matters to most people, is the consequence to smoking too much marijuana or consuming too much food. Which is worse for your body and brain? For the majority of people the answer will be obesity, not marijuana. This is why.

Obesity:

During the past three decades an obesity epidemic has been responsible for a 77% increase in death rates. The accumulation of excess body fat has been clearly shown to accelerate the progression of many age-associated diseases such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes and dementia. Why? A few years ago it became clear that fat cells produce inflammation by releasing specialized proteins called cytokines. The more fat cells you have the more cytokines get released into your blood. Essentially, obesity is associated with chronic, low-grade, body-wide inflammation, insulin resistance and many of the same metabolic conditions that underlie the aging process itself. The cytokines are capable of inducing shrinkage of brain regions (primarily gray matter- where the neurons live) that are used in the process of learning new things and recalling memories

One recent study examined the relationships between academic performance, cognitive functioning, and BMI among 2,519 young people.  BMI was inversely correlated with general mental ability even after controlling for demographics, lifestyle factors, and lipid profiles. Overall, obesity is implicated in lower performance on cognitive control tasks. The longer the inflammation is present, the more brain shrinkage occurs. Elderly obese people have more impaired learning and memory abilities than elderly thin people. Being obese at mid-life is also a strong predictor of dementia in later life. 

Today, an overwhelming body of evidence across a wide spectrum of medical disciplines strongly argues that obesity accelerates the aging process, impairs overall cognitive function and, ultimately, is responsible for numerous processes that kill you.

Marijuana:

Studies suggest that adults (this argument does not apply to young people) who use low to moderate daily amounts of marijuana show no personality disturbances. During the past few years some sensational studies have been widely featured in the national press; one suggested that daily marijuana use might decreased IQ (Meier et al., PNAS, 2012), the other suggested that daily recreational use caused shrinkage of brain areas that are critical for learning, memory and emotional control (Gilman et al., 2014, J Neurosci). The report by Meier et al. was immediately challenged (Rogeberg, 2013, PNAS) for failing to take into account the confounding effect of socioeconomic status, a factor which has been shown to a significantly impact on IQ score. The results of the second study have now been confronted by a more recent publication (Weiland et al., 2015, J Neurosci) that clearly demonstrated that daily use of marijuana produced no significant changes in the size or shape of brain regions involved in the control of emotion or learning and memory. 

Just last month another bit of nonsense derived from poor research methods was published and then debunked (see, https://www.leafly.com/news/health/does-marijuana-cause-alzheimers). Marijuana does not shrink the brain or predispose people to Alzheimer’s disease. Research in my laboratory (copies of publications can be obtained here: http://faculty.psy.ohio-state.edu/wenk/) has demonstrated that stimulating the brain’s marijuana receptors offer protection by reducing brain inflammation. Thus, later in life, marijuana might actually help your brain, rather than harm it. It takes very little marijuana to produce benefits in the older brain. My lab coined the motto “a puff is enough” because it appears as though only a single puff each day is necessary to produce significant benefit.

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I often am asked by my students whether smoking marijuana makes it more likely that to develop schizophrenia. Forty years of research has led to the following answer: if you are not genetically vulnerable to schizophrenia then marijuana use will not induce it. It appears as though stimulating endogenous marijuana receptors may be able to unmask underlying symptoms of schizophrenia as well as other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, if you inherited the appropriate genes from your parents.

Marijuana or Obesity?

Given recent evidence, obese people and marijuana smokers face a challenging dilemma: do they feel genetically lucky? Each person will have a different answer to the question of “which is worse.”  The answer will be determined by the genetic cards you were dealt by your parents. 

© Gary L. Wenk, Ph.D. Author of “Your Brain on Food,” 2nd Edition, 2015 (Oxford University Press)

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House passes medical cures bill


By Peter Sullivan – 11/30/16 06:40 PM EST

House passes medical cures bill

The House on Wednesday passed a medical innovation bill aimed at curing diseases, with the measure securing bipartisan support after months of negotiations.
The legislation, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, passed 392-26. It seeks to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of new drugs while investing new money in medical research. 

The package also includes a range of other healthcare priorities, including $1 billion over two years to fight the epidemic of opioid addiction and $1.8 billion for Vice President Biden’s cancer “moonshot.”
The opioid money releases some pressure from a long-running dispute between the parties. Congress passed a bipartisan opioid bill before the election, but Democrats criticized that measure for lacking funding.
The cures legislation also includes a mental health portion that seeks to reorganize and improve accountability for government mental health programs.
Republicans have portrayed the mental health bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), as their response to mass shootings, though that messaging has been emphasized less now that it is part of a larger package.

Democrats agree reforms are needed in mental health, though they note that the bill lacks funding. They say the bigger policy response to mass shootings should be gun control.
House leaders are hoping that the bipartisan vote Wednesday puts pressure on the Senate, which is expected to take up the cures bill sometime before leaving town next month.
The bill faces a bumpier path in the upper chamber, where Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have blasted it as a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies.
Still, enough Democrats are expected to support the measure to get it across the finish line.

“This bill, which expedites the approval of drugs and devices, includes literally billions of dollars in additional spending for health research so that we can find the cures and the answers to what patients are demanding today,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the measure’s main sponsor. 

The White House gave the measure a boost on Tuesday night by announcing that it “strongly” supports passage, pointing in particular to the opioid funding and the funding for the cancer moonshot.
The liberal detractors note that the new research funding, which is helping to bring some Democrats on board, is not mandatory funding, meaning it is not guaranteed.

Still, the $4.8 billion over 10 years is set aside in a separate fund and not subject to the usual budget caps.

Sanders and Warren have denounced the bill as helping out pharmaceutical companies, in part by lowering the FDA’s regulations for approving their new drugs, while doing nothing to deal with the hot-button issue of high drug prices.

Some consumer groups have also criticized the measure, fearing that in speeding up the FDA’s approval process, it would lower safety standards.
The measure allows for ideas like sometimes using “real world evidence,” rather than more rigorous and time-consuming clinical trials, in drug approvals.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), a lead negotiator on the bill in the House, rejected criticisms of the FDA changes.

“It’s just a way of trying to address these cures in a more effective way, the way the public has asked for, without sacrificing any safety,” Pallone said.

The mental health portion of the legislation establishes a new assistant secretary for mental health in the Department of Health and Human Services as well as a chief medical officer. Murphy argues that these positions will bring more accountability and medical knowledge to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency he has criticized as ineffective.
The bill also authorizes grants for areas like suicide prevention.

The mental health measure is significantly scaled down from the more sweeping version originally proposed by Murphy, though. It does not lift restrictions on Medicaid paying for care at mental health facilities, which would have cost billions of dollars.

The measure also includes elements from a companion mental health bill in the Senate from Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Both the Cures and mental health portions of the bill come after more than a year of bipartisan negotiations.

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Why are more Americans in jail for marijuana use than violent crime?


More people in the United States are now in jail for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, a new study finds….On any given day in the US, at least 137,000 Americans are in prison on drug possession, not sales, charges, says a new report that finds that the “tough on drugs” policies may be disproportionately affecting low-income, black Americans.

By Ellen Powell, Staff October 12, 2016

More people in the United States are now in jail for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined, a new study finds….

The report, released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, points out that violent crime arrests in the US have dropped 36 percent in the past two decades. Meanwhile, arrests for drug possession – including marijuana and other illicit drugs – are up 13 percent. Those arrests tend to be concentrated in neighborhoods with high crime rates, where police officers are on the lookout for any offense. As a result, lower-income, black Americans are most likely to be arrested for possessing even trace amounts of illicit drugs. (Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be arrested on drug-related charges, according to federal data, even though they use drugs at the same rate as white Americans.) Those who can’t afford to post bail spend substantial amounts of time in jail, even before their case goes to trial.

Tougher sentencing was intended to get chronic repeat offenders off the street, reduce drug use, and protect public health. But the “tough on drugs” policy prevalent since the 1980s isn’t working, the report argues. Criminalizing drug possession is derailing individuals’ lives and hurting the families who depend on them, while doing little to prevent drug use and abuse.

“While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer,” Tess Borden, the study’s author, said in a Human Rights Watch press release. “Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment.”

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The report comes at a time when the Obama administration and a bipartisan effort in Congress has already taken steps at judicial reform. For example, the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act erased a 5-year-minimum sentence for simple crack possession. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, “much of the Obama administration’s work has been done courthouse by courthouse. For one, the Department of Justice has guided prosecutors to curb the use of mandatory minimums for drug crimes. But the president has also made broader strokes.” 

Since 2014, the Obama administration expanded the criteria for clemency-seekers, leading to hundreds of who were given long-term sentences for drug charges to be released. 

But the ALCU report says that in some states, such as Texas, a “habitual offender” law means prosecutors still can push for longer sentences, including life sentences, for those with two prior convictions. The actual amount of the drug that individuals possess doesn’t matter.

And what most concerns many low-income Americans is the impact on families. While the accused are in jail, even before trial, they’re not earning a wage, meaning that in some homes the water and lights could be cut off. A woman in Louisiana with a prison record told the rights groups that because of her probation, her family could not get food stamps for a year. That means her children will be eating whatever she can find in the dumpster, she explained. It can also be hard for those arrested to find a job when they get out. 

“When you’re a low-income person of color using drugs, you’re criminalized…. When we’re locked up, we’re not only locked in but also locked out. Locked out of housing…. Locked out of employment and other services,” said one New York City man who had been repeatedly arrested for drug charges over the past 30 years.

Criminalizing drugs, the report says, can actually increase the risks associated with drug use. Driving traffic underground “discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges.”

The report calls for an increase in rehabilitation programs and a move to treat drug use as a public health issue, rather than lumping it in with violent crime. That’s an approach the Obama administration is on-board with, Mario Moreno, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, suggested. “We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem,” he told CBS.

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U.S. Attorney General addresses opioid, heroin addiction during Richmond town hall


BY CRITLEY KING CNHI News Service

Lynch

RICHMOND — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke to a crowded auditorium at a Town Hall meeting in Richmond as part of the Obama Administration’s newly designated National Prescription Opium and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.

The audience, mainly consisting of young people, was addressed on the dangers of heroin and opioid addiction, the pathways that lead to destruction, and the redeeming hope that help is available.

“I want to hear your questions, I want to hear your comments, I want to hear your ideas about how we can solve this (crisis), and about how we can prevent this,” said Lynch on Tuesday at Madison Central High School. “It’s not just putting people in jail, its about stopping it before it happens. And making sure people that do have a problem get treated.”

In her opening comments, Lynch asked the nearly 500 students if they had been considering where they would go to college, what careers they had planned for their futures, whether as journalists, doctors, law enforcement, teachers or fashion bloggers.

Then, Lynch told the students to look around at their classmates and friends and asked them to consider that last year, in Kentucky, approximately 12,000 died from opioid and heroin abuse overdoses.

“Imagine if all of you and others who fill these chairs were suddenly gone,” said Lynch. “And then that each of you had a friend, just one of your friends each, all gone. That’s what happened last year in Kentucky. That’s why this is so important.”

The chief law enforcement officer in the U.S. spoke about not only the problem of substance abuse and how to stop it, but also how to prevent it from even starting.

Lynch also put out a call to action to the students.

“We are talking to young people like you, because you have a role in this effort,” she said. “We want you to understand the issues, we went you to understand how serious it is, and we went to give you the information you need to make good choices in your own life. We also need you to look out for each other.”

During a question and answer session with local high school students, Kayla Greene, who lost her son to overdose, Tonya Snyder, MCHS social worker, Alex Elswick, a recovered addict, and MCHS student Julia Rahimzadeh, joined Lynch onstage.

Later in the day, Lynch traveled to make remarks at the University of Kentucky. Both events were part of the awareness week and the President’s Cabinet and Federal agencies’ focus on work being done/new efforts to address the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, according to a release by the Office of the Press Secretary.

The release also noted that Federal agencies are currently taking actions such as:

Expanding substance abuse treatment in the TRICARE system so that it includes intensive outpatient programs and treatment of opioid disorders with medication-assisted treatment.

Working with the Chinese government to combat the supply of fentanyl and its analogues from entering the U.S.

Increasing patient limits from 100 to 275 for practitioners prescribing buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

Support programs that increase access to healthcare, substance abuse treatment, and educational opportunities in rural areas, such as telemedicine and distance learning.

Currently, the President is seeking $1.1 billion in new funding to combat opioid abuse.

During a press conference following the town hall meeting, Lynch told The Register, that one of the ways the Department of Justice funding specifically would assist communities on a local level would be through a grant making process that provides assistance to law enforcement through grants for additional officers, resources to help states improve their prescription drug monitoring programs and provide examples of programs that are working efficiently and consistently.

Lynch reiterated that administration wide, when treatment is spoken of, they are referring to improving and increasing the availability of treatment facilities and also treatment within local hospitals.

Critley King writes for The Richmond Register.

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The stark difference in how doctors and the government view marijuana


By Christopher Ingraham August 29 at 11:23 AM

 

Nathaniel P. Morris is a resident physician at Stanford Hospital specializing in mental health. He recently penned a strongly worded op-ed for ScientificAmerican.com on the differences between how some in the medical community view marijuana and how the federal government regulates it.

“The federal government’s scheduling of marijuana bears little relationship to actual patient care,” he wrote in the essay published last week. “The notion that marijuana is more dangerous or prone to abuse than alcohol (not scheduled), cocaine (Schedule II), methamphetamine (Schedule II), or prescription opioids (Schedules II, III, and IV) doesn’t reflect what we see in clinical medicine.”

Here’s Morris’ money quote:

For most health care providers, marijuana is an afterthought.

We don’t see cannabis overdoses. We don’t order scans for cannabis-related brain abscesses. We don’t treat cannabis-induced heart attacks. In medicine, marijuana use is often seen on par with tobacco or caffeine consumption — something we counsel patients about stopping or limiting, but nothing urgent to treat or immediately life-threatening.

He contrasts that with the terrible effects of alcohol he sees in the emergency room every day, like car crash victims and drunk patients choking on their own vomit. Morris points out that excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC.

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[Every minute, someone gets arrested for marijuana possession in the U.S.]

The medical and research communities have known for some time that marijuana is one of the more benign substances you can put in your body relative to other illicit drugs. A recent longitudinal study found that chronic, long-term marijuana use is about as bad for your physical health as not flossing. Compared to alcohol, it’s virtually impossible to overdose on marijuana alone. On a per-user basis, marijuana sends fewer people to the emergency room than alcohol or other drugs.

The scientific consensus was best captured in a 2010 study in the Lancet, which polled several dozen researchers working in addiction and drug policy. The researchers rated commonly used recreational drugs according to the harm they pose to individuals who use them, as well as the harm they pose to society as a whole. Here’s what their results looked like:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 1.09.12 PM

The experts rated marijuana as less harmful to both users and to society than either tobacco or alcohol, or indeed than many other recreational drugs, such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Alcohol was, by far, the most socially harmful drug the committee rated, as well as one of the most harmful drugs to individual users.

Research like this is one reason surveys have shown a substantial majority of doctors support the use of medical marijuana. And although big medical groups, such as the American Medical Association, haven’t shifted gears on marijuana, other groups, such as the California Medical Association, are now openly calling for marijuana legalization.

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This year has also seen the formation of the nation’s first doctor’s group devoted to legalizing marijuana, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation. The group views marijuana legalization primarily as a public health issue.

None of this is to say, of course, that marijuana is completely “safe” or “harm-free.” As with any drug, using too much weed can lead to dependency on it. And as with any other drug, marijuana can have particularly harmful effects on young, developing minds.

But the federal approach to marijuana has stood at odds with the science on the drug for decades. As far back as the 1970s, an expert report commissioned by Richard Nixon recommended that the federal government decriminalize marijuana use, given the drug’s mild effects.

Nixon, of course, ignored the report’s findings. In the years since, there have been hundreds of thousands of arrests for marijuana possession each year, people have lost their homes and their property over suspicion of marijuana use, and decades of racially biased policing tactics have decimated many minority communities.

How marijuana legalization is working out so far

Play Video1:58

What we can learn about legal marijuana from Washington, Colorado and Oregon. (Daron Taylor, Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

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Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.

Follow @_cingraham

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