“Pick a dysfunction and it’s a family problem,” said actor Robert Downey, Jr. in a recent interview with Vanity Fair.
Downey was discussing his own sordid past with drugs and alcohol when he was asked about his son, Indio, who is also struggling with addiction. Indio was arrested in June for possession of cocaine.
“He’s his mother’s son and my son, and he’s come up the chasm much quicker than we did,” Downey said. “But that’s typical in the Information Age; things get accelerated. You’re confronted with histories and predispositions and influences and feelings and unspoken traumas or needs that weren’t met, and all of a sudden you’re three miles into the woods."
Downey talked with the magazine at length about his own well-publicized struggle with addiction, though the details are known even to the most casual fan.
He became an addict as a kid, and despite that became a Hollywood star. But in 1996, he was caught at a traffic stop with powder and crack cocaine, heroin, and a loaded handgun. That triggered a series of legal entanglements that landed him in numerous rehabs and finally prison in 1999. Following two more arrests, including when he was infamously found wandering the streets barefoot, Downey finally got clean.
“Job one is get out of that cave,” he said. “A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal...But I don’t even know if that was my experience.”
While it is traditionally believed that marijuana is non-addictive, a new study by Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that marijuana addiction among teens may be a serious problem. Published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the study showed that the majority of the teens who frequently used the drug met the criteria for cannabis dependence.
After evaluating 127 teenagers who were being treated for substance use disorder, study co-author John Kelly, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine, discovered that 76 of the 90 teens who admitted to frequently using marijuana exhibited an increased tolerance for the drug. Kelly also noted that 36 of the participants reported symptoms of withdrawal, including anxiety, irritability, depression, and difficulty sleeping.
Although many of the participants experienced the symptoms of withdrawal, they were still able to reduce the use of the drug during the 12-month follow-up period. Claire Greene, the corresponding co-author of the report, reasoned that the teens may have been able to accomplish this by recognizing their withdrawal symptoms.
“We hypothesize that participants who experience withdrawal symptoms but do not recognize having a substance use problem may not attribute those symptoms to cannabis withdrawal,” said Greene. “Those who do acknowledge a substance-use problem may correctly attribute those symptoms to cannabis withdrawal, giving them even more motivation to change their substance use behavior.”
Kelly added that understanding the risks associated with marijuana use can not only reduce the chance of using in the first place, it can help a person quit as well.
“The importance of understanding the addictiveness, risks and harms associated with cannabis use is a major theme of the study’s findings,” said Kelly. “Recognizing those risks is known to reduce the likelihood that someone will start to use drugs, and better understanding of the role of substances in the problems experienced by patients may help them cut down on future use.”
Kelly said the general trend in the U.S. is to minimize the danger of marijuana, and called for further research to determine if certain programs can help increase awareness and change the public’s perspective on the drug.
In a clear conflict of interest, a new report from VICE has revealed that several academic researchers who have spoken out against legalizing marijuana are being paid by pharmaceutical companies that make painkiller products.
Dr. Herbet Kleber of Columbia University, who has written anti-pot articles for CBS News and has been quoted in several academic publications, has been serving as a paid consultant to prescription drug companies including Alkermes and Purdue Pharma, the latter of which is the maker of Oxycontin. Dr. A. Eden Evins, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has worked as a consultant for Pfizer and DLA piper since November 2012, and has received grant support from the former.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark L. Kraus, who gave testimony in 2012 opposing a medical marijuana law in Connecticut, served on the scientific advisory panel the year before for painkiller companies including Pfizer and Reckitt Benckiser. The relationships these three medical professionals had with pharmaceutical companies are particularly noteworthy in light of several recent studies which have found that pot can be an effective substitute for painkillers when it comes to pain relief.
There has long been speculation that anti-pot advocacy groups have been funded by painkiller companies, but painkillers have now proven to be more fatal than heroin and cocaine combined with 16,000 overdose deaths per year. Meanwhile, there have been no known overdose deaths from marijuana that hasn't been laced with other substances.
Last month, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that states which have legalized medical marijuana had on average 1,700 fewer deaths per year from prescription drugs than states which did not legalize medical pot. The study didn’t attempt to explain the correlation, but called for further research into marijuana-based medications.
Exactly three years after the NFL and its players union agreed to negotiate a new drug policy that would include blood testing for human growth hormone, representatives on both sides met yesterday in an attempt to hash out the long-delayed plan.
The New York meeting is a second attempt to find a halfway point after both sides exchanged proposals last week, but failed to resolve many of the outstanding issues. Those issues include punishments for DUI arrests and the status of several suspended players including Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker and Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon. The league wants to punish players immediately after a DUI arrest instead of waiting for cases to wade through the court system, but the players' union is opposed. If these issues don't reach a resolution, the revised drug policy may not happen until the 2015-2016 season at earliest.
Issues related to marijuana use will also play a major part in the discussions. The current league policy requires players to enter their drug program if they test positive for marijuana. A second positive test warrants a four-game suspension and further offenses result in more severe punishments. However, the NFL has come under fire after Gordon was given a year-long suspension for a second positive test, while Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was only suspended for two games after being videotaped assaulting his then-fiancée.
Drug use plagued NFL rosters in recent months. Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick was suspended for four games last month over his MDMA use, Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater was given a four-game suspension last month for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and Wes Welker was suspended for four games after testing positive for amphetamines.
A poll of more than 100 players conducted earlier this month by ESPN.com’s NFL nation found that 75% of the players agreed with Barack Obama’s statement made to The New Yorker this January that pot is not as dangerous as alcohol.
- Mayor Of 'Dry' Alabama City Busted For DUI [Daily News]
- Boise Woman Accused Of Giving IV To Drunk Teen [KTVB]
- Drunk Driver In Houston Runs Red Light, Kills Father And Toddler Son [KHOU]
- Alabama Man Rams Patrol Car With Own Car Full Of Cocaine [AL.com]
- Heroin Traffickers Caught With 750 Bags, Child In Car [MyFox8]
- Illinois Now Accepting Applications For Marijuana Businesses [WBEZ]
- Utah Man Admits Huffing Dust-Off Before Crashing Into Wall [St. George News]
- Marijuana Becoming Part Of Tailgating At Denver Broncos Games [New York Times]
As more states debate the issue of legalizing marijuana, the lingering issue of pot’s impact upon driving ability continues to generate concern for both sides of the argument.
While Colorado and Washington have allowed retail sales of marijuana, and 23 states approved its use for medical purposes, it remains illegal to drive under the influence of pot in all 50 states. However, reports of increased numbers of drivers who tested positive for THC have given rise to fears that more users are getting behind the wheel and boosting the risk of traffic accidents or fatalities.
In 2013, nearly 25% more drivers tested positive for marijuana use than in the previous year. But in terms of traffic fatalities, the numbers remain inconclusive. A National Safety Council study looked at statistics in 12 states for drivers who tested positive for marijuana and were involved in deadly crashes between 1992 and 2009. Of that group, only California, Hawaii, and Washington showed an increase, but that was apparently due to differences in testing between states.
That variable between tests has prevented researchers from drawing any significant conclusions from data about pot and driving. Dr. Mehmet Sofuoglu of the Yale University Medical School, noted that such studies remain “highly inconclusive,” as evidenced by certain studies that show the risk of crash increasing two to three times after using marijuana, while others show no increase or even a decrease in the risk among users.
A pair of studies conducted by Columbia University and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) best exemplified the inconclusive nature of these tests. The Columbia University research compared drivers who tested positive for THC with state drug and alcohol tests for drivers killed in crashes. In doing so, they saw that marijuana could increase the likelihood of a fatal crash by 80%, a jarring fact until the whole picture is considered.
The study was conducted in six states, some of which do not test drivers for drugs and alcohol, including those who died in fatal crashes. In excluding these drivers, the tests may not portray an entirely accurate picture of the test’s focus. The use of urine tests to determine THC levels instead of blood tests may also contribute to skewed results, as the former will frequently give higher levels of impairment.
Information for the PIRE study was culled from a roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2007, as well as data from nine states that test more than 80% of drivers killed in crashes. What researchers discovered was that drivers who tested for marijuana were less likely to have been involved in a crash than those who posted negative test results for drugs. The extreme variance between these two tests are due to a number of factors, from user tolerance levels to methods of testing.
With so much conflicting information, states are left with few options to contend with driver impairment until more conclusive studies are made. Currently, Colorado, Washington, and Montana have an intoxication threshold of 5 parts per billion of THC in blood levels. Most states have not set specific levels, which has prompted concern from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
“If states legalize marijuana, they must set clear limits for impairment behind the wheel,” said former NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman. “Right now, we have a patchwork system across the nation.”