While social media has opened up a lot of doors for people to be honest about addiction and to look for help, a report on BuzzFeed News says that social media platforms like Instagram may have also created a backdoor for dealers to sneak through.As the report observed, quite a few Instagram posts with the hashtags #opioidcrisis and #opioidaddiction contained comments from other Instagram accounts letting people know where they can get access to OxyContin, Percocet, and other opioids.Preying On Those In RecoveryThese comments include contact information that can be used to reach these "dealers" on encrypted messaging accounts. One commenter offered “fast deals” for “Oxys, Roxy, Xans, Addy, codeine, perc” underneath a video that addressed the fatal toll of the drug crisis. (This person even promised that these opioids were “available 24.7 for delivery.”)A spokesperson for Facebook told BuzzFeed, “We do not allow the sale of illegal drugs on Instagram. It is against our policies to buy, sell or trade medical or pharmaceutical drugs on our platform—including in comments. Inappropriate comments can and should be reported, and will be reviewed like posts or stories.”In a Senate hearing that took place on September 18, Monika Bickert, the head of global policy management for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said, “We have seen social media be a tremendous place of support for those thinking of harming themselves or struggling with opioid addiction. We’re exploring and developing ways of linking people up with resources.”Selling Drugs In The Comments SectionBuzzFeed reports that an activist named Eileen Carey, who has been monitoring drug sales on social media, approached Bickert after the hearing and showed her the comments.Carey said Bickert “thanked me for flagging,” but the hashtags Carey discovered were still up and running a day later. According to Refinery 29, in April 2018, Instagram went after certain hashtags including #oxycontin, #fentanyl and #opiates.Then-commissioner of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, said at the time, “Internet firms simply aren’t taking practical steps to find and remove these illegal opioid listings. There’s ample evidence of narcotics being advertised and sold online. I know that internet firms are reluctant to cross a threshold; where they could find themselves taking on a broader policing role. But there are insidious threats being propagated on these web platforms.”
Residents of Pennsylvania were able to claim a free dose of naloxone last Wednesday (Sept. 18), thanks to Governor Tom Wolf and the state’s Department of Health. The medication was made available to anyone who wanted it, whether they used opioid drugs or simply wanted to hang on to a dose just in case.Naloxone has made waves as something of a miracle drug, able to instantly reverse an opioid overdose with a single injection or nasal spray. By binding to opioid receptors in the brain, naloxone can and has saved many lives.Increasing Access To NaloxoneAdvocates for increasing the accessibility of naloxone believe it is simply a common sense approach that must be undertaken to combat the opioid crisis.“Naloxone has one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system to save someone’s life,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is impossible to get someone into treatment who is dead. In 2018, more than 4,400 people died from a drug overdose. Every Pennsylvanian has a role to play as a potential first responder and can save a life by having naloxone on hand and using it if they come across someone who has overdosed.”Another Naloxone Giveaway Is Coming UpThe lifesaving medication could be claimed for free in 87 locations across the state, including state health centers and municipal health departments. The state will do another round of freebies on September 25th from 9 AM to 3 PM.This kind of progressive policy to combat overdoses has been done before in New Jersey, which gave away doses of the stuff for free through select pharmacies on June 18th this year. Such approaches were based on a study that showed that a combination of increased access to naloxone and Good Samaritan laws could save lives.“Naloxone access and Good Samaritan laws are associated with 14% and 15% reductions, respectively, in opioid overdose deaths,” read the paper, published in Addictive Behaviors. “Among African-Americans, naloxone and Good Samaritan laws reduce opioid overdose deaths by 23% and 26% respectively. Neither of these harm reduction measures result in increases in non-medical opioid use.”Better yet, this was achieved without the negative effects some predicted. Critics of such programs believed that with such a strong safety net, people may use more opioids than before, but the data do not support anything like this happening.“The scourge of opioids continues to devastate families and communities across our state, and we must do everything we can to end the opioid epidemic,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “Through this initiative, people who are battling with addiction will be able to receive access to this critical medication and help them get on a path to recovery.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York may have hinted that the state’s cannabis legalization bill may include a ban on smoking the substance, allowing only other methods of use such as edibles.This suggestion was noticed by Marijuana Moment after Cuomo was interviewed on MSNBC Sunday and was asked if the recent cases of lung injury and deaths possibly connected to vaping products had made him reconsider his stance on the issue.“No,” said Cuomo. “On marijuana, we’re not in favor of smoking marijuana. There are ways to get THC without smoking marijuana, and we don’t encourage smoking period.”Legalizing THC Doesn't Necessarily Mean Legalizing WeedCuomo may have simply been defending his stance on cannabis legalization by pointing out that people don’t have to smoke it in order to enjoy it as MSNBC anchor Kendis Gibson pushed him on the vaping issue. However, multiple cannabis-focused news outlets have interpreted his answers as possibly suggesting that all or some forms of smoking could be banned in a future legalization bill.“You can legalize marijuana and sell THC in compounds that do not require you to smoke the marijuana, and we do not support smoking of marijuana,” Cuomo continued. “There are compounds that have the THC, which is a compound in marijuana, that you don’t smoke.”It is possible that a marijuana legalization bill could include an exception for smokables, especially as general bans on vaping products for both tobacco and cannabis have already been proposed.The Trump administration is currently finalizing a national ban on flavored e-cigarettes that many experts have pointed to as the reason for the recent spikes in teen vaping rates. Democrats are backing the proposed ban, with many of them saying that the legislation is long overdue. Meanwhile, multiple states, including New York, are drafting their own vaping bans.There is also direct precedent for such a ban in New York cannabis law. In 2014, medical marijuana legislation signed into law by Cuomo included a ban on smokable forms of the substance. Cuomo insisted on this provision himself, though his views on cannabis have clearly evolved over the years.
After taking hemp protein and CBD oil for their calming effect, an Oregon resident was shocked to learn that her prospective new job had been rescinded after a mandatory drug test revealed trace amounts of THC.Suzan Chandler doesn't blame her employer for taking back the job offer, but told an Oregon news outlet that individuals who buy CBD products may not know that certain ones contain THC.The designation of which products contain the cannabinoid THC, which produces a euphoric response in users, and which do not, may not be immediately known to consumers like Chandler, who urged buyers to ask questions about and read labels on their CBD purchases.According to the Portland-based Fox affiliate KPTV, Chandler, a nurse practitioner, was up for a new job at a local urgent care, and passed all of the preliminary requirements before taking a urine drug test to complete the process. Though her CBD intake was limited to the aforementioned products and no marijuana use, she was surprised to discover that she had tested positive for THC, which resulted in the loss of the job offer."I never used a product knowingly with THC," she said. "I wouldn’t."The loss of the job offer had what Chandler described as a "significant" impact on her family's financial status."Our family, all of a sudden, doesn't have my income," she said. "I decided that I wanted to make sure that other people could learn [about THC content in CBD] and not have to go through what our family has."Broad Spectrum CBD vs. Full Spectrum CBDTo explain how THC can be found in CBD products, KPTV spoke with Renee Barnes, co-owner of CBD-lish, which makes and sells CBD products in Portland. She told the news outlet that customers need to be aware of whether the item they're buying contains either full spectrum or broad spectrum CBD.Full spectrum CBD contains all compounds that naturally occur in cannabis, including essential oils and cannabinoids, including THC. Federal law only allows 0.3% THC in CBD products; any product containing a higher percentage is considered marijuana and a Schedule I drug, which is illegal under federal law. Broad spectrum CBD also contains compounds found within the plant, but THC is completely absent from products with that designation. Medium.com describes it as a combination of full spectrum CBD and CBD isolate, which is often extracted from hemp and contains no compounds.If You Are Being Drug Tested, Play it SafeBarnes told KPTV that using a full spectrum CBD product doesn't guarantee that one would fail a drug test, but she advises being safe in regard to such products if drug testing is a regular element of a job."We've had firemen, we've had policemen, we've had people doing jobs that are very, you know, essential that they don't [test positive for THC], and you know, we'll talk to them about it," she said.Chandler bears no ill will towards the company that turned her down."We get drug screened for a reason, and those are good reasons," she explained to KPTV. And she said that she still stands by the merits of CBD for health, but doesn't plan to use any products in the foreseeable future.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) put out a news release on Wednesday announcing preliminary data on teen use of e-cigarettes or “vape pens.” The preliminary data found that e-cigarette use has more than doubled since 2017.The 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey looked at vaping rates from American 10th and 12th graders and found that this year, one in four 12th graders and one in five 10th graders had vaped in the past month.These numbers represent an alarming jump from 2017, in which 11% of 12th graders and 8% of 10th graders reported vaping within the past 30 days. The 2019 data was also the first year to measure the prevalence of daily use, finding that 11.7% of 12th graders and 6.9% of 10th graders report vaping every day.Numbers are also up among 8th graders, 9% of whom reported vaping within the past 30 days in 2019—up from 3.5% in 2017.A Public Health CrisisThe dramatic increase, along with with recent reports of vaping-related lung disease and deaths, has led NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow to declare a public health crisis.“With 25% of 12th graders, 20% of 10th graders and 9% of eighth graders now vaping nicotine within the past month, the use of these devices has become a public health crisis,” said Volkow. “These products introduce the highly addictive chemical nicotine to these young people and their developing brains, and I fear we are only beginning to learn the possible health risks and outcomes for youth.”E-Cigarette Sellers Targeting TeensSellers of e-cigarettes, especially those that include flavoring and come in colorful packaging, have been accused of attempting to attract underage customers.Regardless of intent, multiple studies have made it clear that underage nicotine use is up largely in connection with flavored vape products. Some teens have reported that they accidentally consumed nicotine by using these products while assuming that they were nicotine-free, only smoking them for the flavoring.“Parents with school-aged children should begin paying close attention to these devices, which can look like simple flash drives, and frequently come in flavors that are appealing to youth,” said University of Michigan lead researcher Dr. Richard Miech. “National leaders can assist parents by stepping up and implementing policies and programs to prevent use of these products by teens.”The full findings from the 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey will be released in December.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says that the federal government owes Drug War Justice Grants to those who have been jailed for non-violent marijuana offenses to help them get their lives back.The proposed policy is part of O’Rourke’s larger platform that includes the legalization of marijuana. He promises that if he were elected President of the United States, he would grant clemency to all persons in the criminal justice system for possession of marijuana as well as expunge their criminal records related to those charges. Going one step further, he also wants to cross marijuana charges off the list of reasons someone could be deported or denied citizenship.While it might be easy to assume that O’Rourke is simply trying to gain a foothold in the Democratic presidential primaries by jumping on the legalization bandwagon—nearly all the Democratic challengers have advocated legalizing marijuana—the drug war has actually been an issue he’s long held dear.Back in 2009 as an El Paso city council member, he pushed for a resolution to advocate that the federal government undertake “open, honest, national dialogue on ending the prohibition of narcotics,” believing that marijuana legalization could help alleviate the stresses from drug trafficking at the border. In 2011, he co-wrote a book called Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.The proposed Drug War Justice Grant would be funded entirely by taxes taken on legal marijuana, according to O'Rourke's campaign. The grants would be doled out based on how much time each individual convicted person has spent in prison.Going a step further, the candidate would also spend the taxes on treatment and re-entry programs as well as social programs for communities that have been disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests. Additionally, he proposes using federal criminal justice funds to allow state and local governments to waive licensing fees for marijuana businesses for low-income people who were formerly convicted of marijuana crimes.“We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana, but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs,” said O’Rourke in a prepared statement.“These inequalities have compounded for decades, as predominantly white communities have been given the vast majority of lucrative business opportunities, while communities of color still face over-policing and criminalization. It’s our responsibility to begin to remedy the injustices of the past and help the people and communities most impacted by this misguided war.”
Tegan and Sara: 'People Never Talk About Women and Drug Use Positively' [Guardian]Pop duo Tegan and Sara are releasing a new memoir and new music. They talk about their teenage years, queer representation, and being turned off by alcohol early on.Vaping Illness Cases Rise to 530. Long-Term Health Effects Are Unknown. [NPR]Health officials continue to investigate the cause(s) of the rash of vaping-related illness across the country, which they say can result in possible "irreversible damage" of the lungs. Families Slam T-Shirt Poking Fun at Naloxone and People Who Overdose [Cincinnati Enquirer]"Naloxone: Proving Darwin wrong 2 mg at a time." A t-shirt displaying this message is being slammed by families of overdose victims. Some demand that it be removed. How To Spot a Fake Vape Cartridge [Leafly]Leafly's guide to spotting fake or contaminated vape cartridges. The best advice experts can offer: buy from legal sources. Center for Students in Recovery Hosts Seminar About Storytelling in Addiction [Daily Texan]Storytelling can be a vital part of the recovery process. This was the focus of a recent seminar at UT's Center for Students in Recovery.Help Wanted: Sioux Falls Restaurant Looking for 'Sober, Not Dramatic' Part-Time Server [Argus Leader]A local Chinese restaurant in Sioux Falls posted a help wanted sign seeking "sober, not dramatic, a mature person." The restaurant workforce shortage in the area has made it difficult to find qualified workers.The Rise of Alcohol-Free Booze [New Yorker]Non-alcoholic offerings are gaining popularity, but not everyone is on board. With self-destruction 'steadily sliding out of fashion,' alternative drinks with unique flavorings are finding their place in venues all over.K-9 Detects $40,000 Worth of Suboxone Strips in New Hampshire Prison Mailroom [WMUR]An estimated $40,000 worth of Suboxone was sniffed out by a K-9 unit at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. The cost of each strip is inflated behind bars.
Suicide is everywhere. We hear about it on the news, we see the headlines, we read the sad statistics. But here's the thing: We don't talk about suicide. We’re not having the kind of open, honest conversations that will start breaking down harmful prejudice and stigma – about people who die from suicide and also the people left behind.We know the facts and figures, but that’s only part of the story. We don’t know how to actually communicate about suicide to learn what’s behind the statistics. We can’t fill in the blanks because we’re afraid: We worry that we’ll say the wrong thing, or unintentionally offend someone. So instead we say nothing at all. But staying silent is far more damaging; it further stigmatizes suicide, which is already misunderstood and has so much judgment attached to it in the first place.Speaking About SuicideSeptember is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – a time the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) describes as a time to share stories and resources in an effort to start meaningful conversations on the taboo of suicide.“We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services,” reads NAMI’s website. “It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.”Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States overall, but it’s the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-34. In 2017, there were twice as many suicides (47,173) in the U.S. as there were homicides (19,510).How Can We Help Prevent a Leading Cause of Death if We Can’t Talk About It?There’s a catch-22 when it comes to suicide: People are reluctant to talk about it because it’s a sensitive and deeply personal topic, but it remains a sensitive topic because people don’t talk about it. So we find ourselves tip-toeing around suicide altogether, which doesn’t help anyone. For years, I’d find myself at a loss for words whenever someone would mention suicide, so I’ve been there.And yet, I also found myself desperate to talk about it after my father died from suicide in 2003. In the months and years following his death, I began to see up close just how much people are unwilling to talk about suicide. I never realized just how uncomfortable the topic makes people, whether they’d personally lost someone to suicide or they’d seen one of the many headlines about celebrities who die by suicide. It really is a taboo topic. How can we help prevent a leading cause of death if we can’t even talk about it? And how can we help people who have been left behind if we can’t acknowledge the cause of their pain?That’s why I've been trying to change suicide’s shameful stigma. For the last 16 years, I’ve been vocal, unafraid to talk about the very things people don’t want to talk about. In the beginning, I talked about my father as a way to process my grief. I saw it as a way to keep my father’s memory alive, but as the years went on, I began to realize that my talking about his suicide wasn’t just for me. Sure, it may have started out that way, but the more statistics I read and the more stories I heard, the more I learned how many people are affected by suicide. I began to feel a responsibility to share my story.I Want People to Know They're Not AloneToday, I talk about suicide because I want people to know they’re not alone. I talk about suicide because I want people who have lost a loved one and people who suffer from suicidal ideation to know that they shouldn’t feel ashamed or like there’s something wrong with them. And not talking about it? That silence only reinforces harmful stigmas and can even be a significant barrier to someone seeking help.Instead of silence, we need to start regularly engaging in an open and honest dialogue, including debunking common myths associated with suicide. For example, misconceptions like the belief that most suicides happen without warning, and that people who die from suicide are selfish and “taking the easy way out” are false and incredibly damaging.So where do we go from here? Perhaps the best place to start is to realize that we all have a responsibility to create a safe space, says Forbes contributor Margie Warrell, who lost her brother to suicide.“While we may not all suffer from mental illness, we each have a role to play in ensuring that those who do suffer feel less afraid to reach out and get the support they need in the moments when they need it most,” she wrote in 2018. “If people felt as comfortable talking about their PTSD, bipolar or anxiety as they did talking about their eczema or tennis elbow, it would markedly reduce the suffering of those with mental illness and the ability of those around them to support them.”The stigma of suicide is far too strong, and any chance you get to talk about it is another opportunity to break down those walls of stereotypes. Don’t say the word suicide in a hushed tone, as if you’re talking about something you shouldn’t; the statistics show that most people have been impacted by suicide in some way. And try not to lie about how your loved one died because you think it will be easier than dealing with the looks and questions from people. When you lie, you’re sending the message that what your loved one did was shameful, and that further contributes to the misconceptions and prejudice people have about suicide. It might be difficult to be open about this, but it’s also freeing (and it gets easier each time you do it). Mental Illness Is Physical IllnessI'll never understand why people don't treat mental health the same as physical health. Why is someone "heroic" for battling cancer, but "weak" for dying from suicide? At its core, mental illness is a physical illness, so we can’t separate the two. The more we start talking about mental illness in the same way we talk about physical illnesses like cancer or diabetes, the more we lessen the stigma surrounding suicide. Changing misconceptions and long-held stereotypes won’t happen overnight, but making the conscious decision to talk openly and honestly about suicide is a strong starting point. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255).If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.For more information about suicide prevention, or to get involved and learn how to help someone in crisis, visit #BeThe1To.
Amidst a recent war of words between China and the United States over fentanyl smuggling, a narcotics official in China said at a news conference that while the two countries have a "good cooperative relationship," they have "extremely limited" cooperation on investigations into and prosecution of fentanyl cases.President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials have alleged that the Asian superpower is the primary source of the synthetic opioid and derivatives that are smuggled into the U.S., a claim which Chinese drug officials have vehemently denied, and in turn levied allegations that the U.S. hasn't done enough to curb fentanyl abuse within its own borders. Finding Common GroundThe statement by Liu Yuejin, Vice Commissioner of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, suggested that the countries had yet to reach common ground on how to tackle the global fentanyl problem.Reuters quoted a broadcast from Chinese state television that covered Liu's appearance at a news conference to detail how the country was waging war on fentanyl production. Liu noted that "looking at cases, counter-narcotics law enforcement departments from China and the United States have for many years maintained a good cooperative relationship."He then added, "But cooperation on investigating and prosecuting fentanyl-related substances is extremely limited."Liu went on to claim that since 2012, the U.S. has only presented "clues" on six fentanyl-related smuggling cases to Chinese officials, and only three of those cases reached a positive resolution.By comparison, China had provided U.S. law enforcement with nearly 400 leads on fentanyl-related packages since 2012, Liu said.Controlled Substance BanLiu further noted that since May 1, 2019—when China added the entire class of fentanyl-related drugs to its list of controlled substances at the behest of Trump—no fentanyl-related smuggling cases had come to light. He also claimed that fentanyl-related deaths in the States have risen further.Both points underscored, as Liu suggested, "that President Trump's tweets about fentanyl in the U.S. mainly coming from China are not true at all," referring to an August 23, 2019 tweet from the president in which he urged all postal and delivery service carriers to "search for and refuse" all deliveries of fentanyl from China.As for the notion that Chinese-produced fentanyl has been entering the U.S. through Mexico, which Trump alleged in a June tweet, Liu said that "police from [China, the U.S. and Mexico] have not detected or cracked a single case. Then what is the basis for the conclusion drawn by certain U.S. politicians? They have sat at home and imagined such things out of thin air."In regard to Trump's tweet, CNN stated that his assertion that 90% of the drugs entering the United States come through Mexico had some flaws, given that the fentanyl from China is purer and can then be used to manufacture more narcotics, while Mexico imports more fentanyl from China than U.S. law enforcement seizes at the border.
Prominent Democratic donor and activist Ed Buck has been arrested on charges of operating a drug house after a third man overdosed on methamphetamine that Buck administered to him earlier this month. The Los Angeles Times reported that one September 11, a man identified in court documents as John Doe received “two dangerously large” injections of methamphetamine from Buck. The man recognized that he was overdosing, but Buck tried to stop him from getting help. Eventually, the man left Buck’s house and called 911 from a gas station. New Evidence“With this new evidence, I authorized the filing of criminal charges against Ed Buck,” read a statement from Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles County District Attorney. Buck was arrested and charged with maintaining a drug house, administering methamphetamine, and battery causing serious injury. He is expected back in court next week for an arraignment, where prosecutors will ask for $4 million bail. Buck has been under scrutiny after two men fatally overdosed in his Los Angeles home. In July 2017, Gemmel Moore, 26, died there. Earlier this year, 55-year-old Timothy Dean fatally overdosed at the apartment. “It is suspicious that this has happened twice now, so we’re going to conduct a thorough investigation to determine if it is criminal in nature,” Lt. Derrick Alfred of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told The New York Times in January. The Survivor's StoryThe experience of the third man—who survived his overdose—provided the evidence that prosecutors needed to charge Buck, Lacey said. In court paperwork, prosecutors allege that Buck took advantage of black men who were homeless and struggling with addiction. “From his home, in a position of power, Buck manipulates his victims into participating in his sexual fetishes,” prosecutors wrote. “These fetishes include supplying and personally administering dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims.... Not deterred by the senseless deaths of Moore and Dean, the defendant nearly killed a third victim last week.”Prosecutors said that they were concerned that more men would die if Buck was not stopped. “The full scope of his consistent malicious behavior is unknown. It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable young men dies of an overdose,” they said.LaTisha Nixon, mother of Gemmel Moore, has filed a lawsuit against Buck. She believes that the fact that Buck targeted disenfranchised men of color has allowed him to get away with murder. “If the dead body of a blond-haired, blue-eyed white man was found in the home of an older black man, he’d be lucky to even make it to the police station alive,” an attorney for Nixon said in February.