Friday, September 28, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 9-28-12: Presidential Proclamation - National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, September 2012

Presidential Proclamation - National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, September 2012

Every day, millions of Americans with substance use disorders commit to managing their health by maintaining their recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.  People in recovery are not strangers:  they are our family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  During National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, we recognize their strength and resilience.  In partnership with Americans in recovery, let us rededicate ourselves to combating prejudice surrounding addiction, removing barriers to recovery, and standing with all those seeking lives free from substance use.

My Administration is committed to advancing evidence based recovery solutions.  Over the past 3 years, we have worked to strengthen substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, and to support Americans in recovery.  We have taken steps to identify and remove laws, policies, and practices that impede recovery.  And as part of our 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, we are promoting early intervention and taking action to break the cycle of drug abuse and incarceration.

Drug and alcohol abuse continue to take a tragic toll on millions of lives across our country.  Yet, while more remains to be done, men and women across our country are making great strides.  This month, let us encourage their progress, celebrate the transformative power of recovery, and thank the many Americans who, often strengthened by their own experiences, are working to improve the health and safety of our communities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2012 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Cheryl DePaolo
Director of the Ulster Prevention Council

Friday, September 21, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 9-21-12: Is driving under the influence of marijuana harmful?

A recent study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive (SADD) reports that nearly 1 in 5 teens say they have gotten behind the wheel after smoking marijuana. Those responses were higher than in 2009 when 13 percent admitted to driving after smoking marijuana while 12 percent admitted driving after drinking alcohol. Of those teens that have driven after smoking marijuana, 36 percent say it presents no distraction when operating a vehicle.

Stephen Wallace, senior adviser for policy, research and education at SADD, stated "we hear from young people who believe that marijuana actually makes them a safer driver, that they concentrate harder, drive slower," Wallace says. “Those are all misconceptions”.

On the contrary, marijuana has serious harmful effects on the skills required to drive safely: alertness, the ability to concentrate and make good judgments, coordination, and the ability to react quickly. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana.

A roadside study of reckless drivers who were not impaired by alcohol showed that 45% tested positive for marijuana.   Research conducted by the University of Auckland, New Zealand, proves the link between marijuana use and car accidents. The research found that habitual cannabis users were 9.5 times more likely to be involved in crashes .

Kelly, Darke and Ross show similar results, with laboratory studies examining the effects of cannabis on skills utilized while driving showing impairments in tracking, attention, reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, vigilance, time and distance perception, and decision making and concentration. In their review of driving simulator studies, they conclude that there is evidence of impairments in cannabis-affected drivers' ability to control a vehicle in the areas of steering, headway control, speed variability, car following, reaction time and lane positioning.

"Teens are faced with potentially destructive decisions every day and don't always make the best ones," said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety. "It's our job as mentors, parents, role models or friends to effectively communicate with them to ensure they are armed with the right information and aware of the dangers of marijuana and other substances, especially while driving."

1.  "White House Drug Czar Launches Campaign to Stop Drugged Driving.” Office of National Drug Control Policy Press Release, November 2002.
2. Stephanie Blows, Rebecca Q. Ivers, Jennie Connor, Shanthi Ameratunga, Mark Woodward & Robyn Norton, "Marijuana Use and Car Crash Injury," Addiction, Vol 100, April 2005.
3.  Kelly, Erin; Darke, Shane; Ross, Joanne (2004). "A review of drug use and driving: epidemiology, impairment, risk factors and risk perceptions". Drug and Alcohol Review 23 (3): 319–44. doi:10.1080/
09595230412331289482. PMID 15370012.
Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention Council

Friday, September 14, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 9/14/12: Harmful Impacts of Marijuana

I’m going to continue to discuss what we currently know about the
harmful impact of marijuana, and how we can address perception of

Media literacy education is a framework for accessing, analyzing,
evaluating, creating and participating with media content, It assists
youth in developing critical thinking skills needed to make wise
decisions in the 21st century media culture.

Youth often state the belief that marijuana is “natural” and therefore
not harmful, and they may even believe that it has medicinal
properties. Often, they obtain their information from the internet.

A simple Google search yielded some of the following quotes from
pro-marijuana sites:
“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically
active substances known to man”.
 “Marijuana smoking, at least at moderate levels, does not harm lungs
but actually improves airflow rates and lung capacity”.
“The medical benefits of marijuana are virtually unlimited”.
“The physical benefits of marijuana are far-reaching, widespread, and
long-term….its potential for health and healing are enormous, and have
been completely unrealized by Western Medicine….The simultaneous
opposing action of marijuana is akin to balancing our entire system.
Such balance can be understood as a charged equilibrium, which is
defined as “well-being” experienced as physiological expansion and
psychological contentment and responsible for health. The net effect
is a highly functioning, yet relaxed, system with better fuel.”

Such statements reminded me of some of the old cigarette ads I’ve
seen, including the following:
“After 10 months, the medical specialist reports that he observed no
adverse effects on the nose, throat and sinuses of the group from
smoking Chesterfield”.
 “Scientific studies show clearly the manner in which Camels aid digestion”
“Gives immediate relief in cases of Asthma, Cough Bronchitis,
Hay-Fever, Influenza, and Shortness of Breath”
"I recommend Thompson's Mell-O-Well cigars to any who are interested
in regaining or keeping physically fit."
“Luckies fine tobacco picks you up when you're low, calms you down
when you're tense”.

Most youth would scoff at the claims of the cigarette companies based
on what we know today about the harmful effects of smoking. However,
they often do not develop a critical distance from the messages that
they receive online.

We must help youth become more informed and discerning Internet users.
Media literacy education can help students gain perspective and
provide strategies for deciphering content.

How can an adolescent critically evaluate the information that is
available on the Internet? Criteria for evaluating content include
looking for verifiable documentation, use of reliable sources,
objectivity, and consistency.

By having youth make conscious, educated decisions about what they
find on the Internet, they also gain the higher-order thinking skills
necessary for lifetime learning in an information-rich society.

For more information on media literacy visit

Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention 

Friday, September 7, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 9/7/12: Is Marijuana Harmful?

Ulster Prevention Council blog: Is marijuana harmful?

The Ulster Prevention Council surveys youth in grades 7 through 12 biannually. One of the most striking pieces of data, for me, is youth perception of risk due to marijuana.  Perception of risk due to tobacco remains high and even increases from 87.7% to 91.9% of youth reporting that using cigarettes is a “great risk” or a “moderate risk”. However, only 63.9% of 7th graders and a shocking 21.9% of 12 graders report that using marijuana is a “great risk” or “moderate risk”.

Thanks to Cantor Bob Cohen for passing along the following article. Information egarding harm to the developing brain is important for both teens and parents.

Teen pot use linked to later declines in IQ

- Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ, a new study suggests.
The researchers didn't find the same IQ dip for people who became frequent users of pot after 18. Although experts said the new findings are not definitive, they do fit in with earlier signs that the drug is especially harmful to the developing brain.
"Parents should understand that their adolescents are particularly vulnerable,'" said lead researcher Madeline Meier of Duke University.
Study participants from New Zealand were tested for IQ at age 13, likely before any significant marijuana use, and again at age 38. The mental decline between those two ages was seen only in those who started regularly smoking pot before age 18.
Richie Poulton, a study co-author and professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the message of the research is to stay away from marijuana until adulthood if possible. "For some it's a legal issue," he said, "but for me it's a health issue."
Pot is the most popular illegal drug in the world, with somewhere between 119 million and 224 million users between the ages of 15 and 64 as of 2010, the United Nations reported. Within the United States, 23 percent of high school students said they'd recently smoked marijuana, making it more popular than cigarettes, the federal government reported in June.
Young people "don't think it's risky," said Staci Gruber, a researcher at the Harvard-affiliated MacLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. Gruber, who didn't participate in the new work, said the idea that marijuana harms the adolescent brain is "something we believe is very likely," and the new finding of IQ declines warrants further investigation.
Experts said the new research is an advance because its methods avoid criticisms of some earlier work, which generally did not measure mental performance before marijuana use began.
"I think this is the cleanest study I've ever read" that looks for long-term harm from marijuana use, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which helped fund the research.
Ken Winters, a psychiatry professor at the University of Minnesota and senior scientist at the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, said the new findings aren't definitive, but they underscore the importance of studying how marijuana may harm young people. He had no role in the work.
Meier and colleagues reported their work online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was funded with governmental grants from the United States and Britain, and a foundation in Zurich.
The study drew on survey data from more than 1,000 people in New Zealand, everybody born in the town of Dunedin during a year-long span ending in 1973. In addition to IQ tests, they were interviewed five times between ages 18 and 38, including questions related to their marijuana use.
At age 18, 52 participants indicated they had become dependent on marijuana, meaning that they continued to use it despite its causing significant health, social or legal problems. Ninety-two others reported dependence starting at a later age.
Researchers compared their IQ scores at age 13 to the score at age 38 and found a drop only in those who had become dependent by 18.
Those deemed dependent in three or more surveys had a drop averaging 8 points. For a person of average intelligence, an 8-point drop would mean ranking higher than only 29 percent of the population rather than 50 percent, the researchers said.
Among participants who'd been dependent at 18 and in at least one later survey, quitting didn't remove the problem. IQ declines showed up even if they'd largely or entirely quit using pot at age 38, analysis showed.
The researchers got similar overall results for IQ decline when they compared participants who reported having used marijuana at least once a week on average for the past year. The researchers had no data on how much was used on each occasion or how potent it was.
Dr. Duncan Clark, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, said he's not convinced that mental decline is only in those who become dependent by age 18. He said the main lesson he sees in the overall study results is that to preserve one's IQ, it's best to avoid marijuana entirely, no matter what your age.
The researchers also surveyed people who knew the study participants well at age 38. They found that the more often participants were rated as marijuana-dependent in the surveys over their lifetimes, the more memory and attention problems were noticed by their acquaintances over the previous year.

Cheryl DePaolo
Director, Ulster Prevention Council
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