Friday, December 28, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 12-28-12:Medical Marijuana

I'm going to spend a few weeks exploring medical marijuana. This is a hotly debated topic, so I'd like to explore the pros and cons with you, looking at what has happened in states with medical marijuana initiatives as well as social, legal and employment issues. 

The following information comes from David Evans of the Drug Free Schools Coalition:
In the next legislative session there will be a bill to approve crude marijuana as a “medicine.” The advocates of crude marijuana that is smoked or eaten as a “medicine” claim that physicians should decide if patients get "medical" marijuana. However, physicians have decided that "medical" marijuana is bad medicine. Several national organizations have diagnosed “medical” marijuana and they prescribe against it.
The physicians' groups opposed to crude “medical” marijuana include:
The American Medical Association
The American Cancer Society
The American Academy of Pediatrics
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
American Academy of Opthamology
American Glaucoma Society
National Eye Institute
National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Recently, the Federal Institute of Medicine also conducted research on this issue and they see “little future in smoked marijuana as a medicine.”

Use of crude marijuana as a medicine bypasses the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) medicine approval process. There is no reason why marijuana should be exempt from the FDA process. Vulnerable patients need protection from unsafe medications. It is dangerous to by-pass our medicine approval process that has protected us for 100 years. 
The “medical” marijuana advocates claim that marijuana is good for many medical conditions. Before these claims are upheld, they must answer some fundamental questions:
1. What peer-reviewed FDA quality scientific research exists on marijuana use for those conditions that shows:
a. the effectiveness and safe use of marijuana use for the condition
b. the risks of marijuana use for that condition
c. the dosage of marijuana for adults and children for that condition
d. the interactions with other drugs and marijuana for that condition
f. the impact of marijuana use on other pre-existing conditions
g. the alternatives to marijuana use for that condition
2. What studies exist for all these medical conditions that show:
a. the frequency of administration
b. the duration of administration
c. the time of administration in relation to: meals, onset of symptoms, or other time factors
d. the route or method of administration of marijuana
These questions must be answered before a drug can be used for medicine. 
Cheryl DePaolo
Director of the Ulster Prevention Council

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ulster Prevention Council Weekly Blog 12-21-12: Fewer Teens See Occasional Marijuana Use as Harmful

Today’s blog post is an article from USA TODAY regarding new Monitoring the Future data. Our 2010 Ulster County Youth Development Survey data showed that only about 20% of high schools seniors thought that marijuana was harmful or very harmful. We anticipate releasing new Ulster County data in early 2013.
Starting next week we will begin to explore the implications of a medical marijuana initiative in New York State.

Happy Holidays!

Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY1:02a.m. EST December 20, 2012

Fewer teens see occasional marijuana use as harmful, annual survey of youth finds.

As states increasingly adopt laws allowing medical marijuana, fewer teens see occasional marijuana use as harmful, the largest national survey of youth drug use has found. Nearly 80% of high school seniors don't consider occasional marijuana use harmful — the highest rate since 1983 — and one in 15 smoke nearly every day, according to the annual survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders made public Wednesday.
More than one in five high school seniors said they smoked marijuana in the month before the survey, and 36% smoked marijuana during the previous year, according to Monitoring the Future survey of 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools. After four straight years of increasing marijuana use among teens, annual use among 10th and 12th graders stabilized and use by eighth graders declined slightly since 2010.
The survey has measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use since 1975.
"Whether this is more than a pause in the ongoing increase that we have seen in teen marijuana use in recent years is unclear at this point," the study principal investigator Lloyd Johnston said. Teens' growing belief that marijuana is not harmful suggests that marijuana smoking will increase, he said.
The growing number of state laws that allow marijuana for medical use contributes to teen perceptions that marijuana is not a harmful drug, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, which sponsors the study.
When teens perceive drugs as safe, drug use generally increases, Volkow said. Among eighth-graders, more than 50% don't see the harm of occasional marijuana use while 42% consider occasional use of marijuana harmful -- the lowest rate since the survey began tracking risk perception for this age group in 1991.
A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that heavy marijuana use beginning as a teen and stretching into adulthood causes an average drop of 8 points in IQ scores.
"That's a very robust indication that (smoking marijuana) may have long-term effects," Volkow said.
The 2012 survey found 6.5% of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1% five years ago. Almost 23% smoke marijuana regularly. Among 10th-graders, 3.5% smoke marijuana daily, the survey found
Among 12th-graders, 11% said they had used synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or Spice — about the same as last year, the first year the survey asked about it. Aside from alcohol and tobacco, synthetic marijuana is the second-most-widely used drug among 10th- and 12th-graders after marijuana. The federal government recently banned the drugs.
Marijuana use escalates dramatically after eighth grade, when 1.1% of the students report daily use.
"Marijuana use among teens remains at unacceptable levels," White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske said.
Most eighth-graders don't see the harm of occasional use, the survey found.
"I think that's the bad news in the survey -- the significant increases in the regular use of marijuana," Volkow said. "It's not just the occasional use. You have a very high rate of daily use. That's really a huge number."
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for decriminalization of drug use, says teens' perceptions of harm from marijuana are becoming more consistent with science.
"Kids know the dangers of cigarettes. They have a growing wariness about prescription drugs. They are aware that daily marijuana use is a very bad idea," Nadelmann said. "But they are also aware that occasional use is not much much problem."
Use of other illegal drugs continued to show a slow but steady decline. Past-year use of all illegal drugs except for marijuana is at its lowest point since 1997, the survey found.
"These long-term declines in youth drug use in America are proof that positive social change is possible," Kerlikowske said.
The prescription stimulant Adderall showed some signs of increasing abuse among 12th-graders this year, the survey found. Abuse of other prescription drugs, such as prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, declined overall.
The survey for the first time measured use of an emerging stimulant drug known as "bath salts" and found low use among teenagers. Among 12th-graders, 1.3% said they had used the drugs, which can often be purchased on the internet or in drug paraphernalia stores.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ulster Prevention Council Weekly Blog 12-14-12: Nearly One Third of College Students With Co-occurring Mental Disorders Abuse Prescription Drugs

December 14, 2012

Nearly One Third of College Student Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions with Co-occurring Mental Disorders Abuse Prescription Drugs 
 A recent study of college students identified links between nonmedical prescription drug use, depressive symptoms, and suicidality, and raised the possibility “that students may be inappropriately self-medicating psychological distress with prescription medications.”[1]
 The Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) is a compilation of data on admissions to substance use treatment that can be used to look at college students with mental disorders who have been admitted to treatment for drug abuse. Specifically, TEDS data for 2010 show that across college student substance abuse treatment admissions,[2] those with a co-occurring mental disorder were more than twice as likely as those without a co-occurring mental disorder to report abuse of prescription drugs[3] (31.6 vs. 15.0 percent), cocaine (14.4 vs. 5.5 percent), and heroin (14.3 vs. 5.8 percent) (Figure). They were also less likely to report abuse of alcohol (62.0 vs. 72.3 percent). 

Because college student admissions that have a co-occurring mental disorder are more likely to abuse prescription drugs, cocaine, and heroin, they may need to access special services, such as mental health care and pharmacotherapies that can treat and ease withdrawal symptoms from heroin and certain types of prescription drugs, including narcotic pain relievers, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sedatives[4]. Whether they are at home or away at college, students who need to identify treatment facilities in their area that can address substance abuse and/or mental health problems can access the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s online treatment locator at:

[1] Zullig, K. J., & Divin, A. L. (2012). The association between non-medical prescription drug use, depressive symptoms, and suicidality among college students. Addictive Behaviors, 37(8), 890-899.
 [2] College student admissions are defined as individuals aged 18 to 24 who were not in the labor force due to being students and who had completed 13 or more years of school. Admissions of students with less than 13 years of education or admissions of individuals in this age group with missing employment/not in labor force information were excluded from the analysis.
 [3] In this report, prescription drug abuse at treatment admission includes reports of abusing drugs in any of the following categories: opiates and synthetics other than heroin and non-prescription methadone (e.g., narcotic pain relievers such as oxycodone or OxyContin®), benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam or Valium®), other non-benzodiazepine tranquilizers (e.g., zolpidem or Ambien®), barbiturates, and other non-barbiturate sedatives or hypnotics.
 [4] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2009). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (2nd ed.; NIH Publication No. 09-4180). Retrieved from files/podat_0.pdf

Friday, December 7, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog 12-7-12:Helping Teens Avoid Alcohol Abuse During the Holidays

The following is a blog post from the Newport Academy, an adolescent treatment facility. Their blog can be found at


Helping Teens Avoid Alcohol Abuse During the Holidays

During the holiday season, accidents caused by alcohol consumption increase, and teen abuse of alcohol increases as well – if for no other reason than adult usage increases, which in turn increases teenagers access to the substance. Whether or not your teen has abused alcohol in the past, there are steps you can take to help protect him or her from the risks associated with drinking during the holidays. Here are just a few:
Don’t allow teen alcohol use in any amount. Some parents are permissive about alcohol use among teens all year but even parents who are stricter may relax and agree to either look the other way when teens drink or outright permit teen drinking. Don’t do it. Some teens may start behaviors that are permitted during the holidays, creating a year-round issue, and those who have a problem with the behavior already may be confused by the changing attitudes and movement of boundaries.
Provide supervision at family gatherings and neighborhood parties. Family functions and holiday parties are common during this time of year, and while adults hit the eggnog, kids may sneak a few drinks of their own. Make sure that you make your expectations of behavior clear to your teens, offer them alternative entertainment, and ensure that there is proper supervision whether or not you intend to drink at these events.
Talk to your teen about avoiding alcohol use. Discussing the behaviors you expect from your teen over the holiday season will set them up for success. Should they decide to break the rules, make sure that the consequences are clear – and follow through. Set the precedent now for the behavior that you expect for the rest of the year.
Set up a “bailout” plan for your teen. In some cases, your teen may find themselves in a situation where their designated driver is no longer in a condition to drive. It’s important that he or she feel safe enough to call you for a sober ride, even with the understanding that you don’t condone their drinking or the drinking of their friends. Make it clear that it’s not worth the risk for them to accept a ride with someone who is impaired for any reason and that you will make sure they get home safely without reprimand.

Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention Council

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ulster Prevention Council Weekly Blog 12/3/12: 2012 Youth Development Survey

Do you know a student in Ulster County in grades 7-12? Ask them whether or not they have taken the 2012 Ulster County Youth Development Survey.

The Ulster Prevention Council, in collaboration with the Ulster County Departments of Health and Mental Health, is wrapping up our 2012 survey initiative. The survey provides trend data regarding youth behaviors and attitudes on a wide variety of topics and drives county-wide service planning.

The success of our survey efforts reflects the commitment of time and resources from 9 public school districts in Ulster County. Thank you!

Stay tuned for news of the results of the survey, which we anticipate being released in January.

Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention Council