A new study has linked medical marijuana with a reduction in prescription drug overdose deaths, but anti-drug advocates are outraged over the conclusion that pot is a healthier alternative to pain pills.
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. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow for medical marijuana use. Statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration show that 15,000 Americans die annually from prescription overdose deaths.
Although the study doesn’t attempt to explain the correlation between legal medical marijuana and the reduction of drug overdose deaths, it suggested the need for further research into creating marijuana-based medications.
"It suggests the potential for many lives to be saved," said study senior author Colleen L. Barry, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. "We can speculate…that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid."
However, critics called the study “flawed” and questioned how the data was both collected and analyzed. Kevin Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida College of Medicine, noted that the researchers didn’t differentiate between states that had relaxed or strict medical marijuana laws and also didn’t look at either emergency room admission data or prescription drug statistics.
"In today's supercharged discussions, it could be easily misunderstood by people," he said. "There may be promise in marijuana-based medications but that's a lot different than 'here's a joint for you to smoke.'"
A Kentucky inmate who was out of jail on a court-ordered furlough won’t be leaving the facility anytime soon after being charged with the overdose death of another inmate.
Corey McQueary died on August 21 at the Jessamine County Detention Center after allegedly overdosing on methadone. Michael Jones was charged with murder after reportedly bringing a pair of underwear soaked in methadone back into the jail and giving out pieces of it to his cellmates. He also faces additional charges of promoting contraband and possession of a controlled substance.
Jailer Jon Sailee said that all the standard procedures were followed when Jones re-entered the jail. "When somebody comes in the facility either from a furlough or any other occurrence, they're searched, their clothing's searched, strip searched, any other kind of search that we feel is necessary," he explained. "If something is in their garment and it's colorless, odorless, it would be very difficult, almost impossible to detect from the naked eye.”
Last month, a convicted drug dealer died in an Irish prison after swallowing a bag of heroin and having it burst in his stomach. Thirty-year-old Pascal Doyle swallowed it in an attempt to hide the contraband from other officers. He had over 60 previous convictions that included drug dealing, theft, and public order offenses.
A similar incident occurred at the Mountjoy Prison in 2009, when 24-year-old Mark Turner Kelly died from a combination of heroin and sedative drug toxicity.
Last May, an unnamed inmate at Erie County Prison in Pennsylvania died from lethal doses of two contraband drugs. Records reveal that paramedics have been called to the prison three times since the first of the year for unresponsive inmates related to drug overdoses.
In the face of widespread prescription opiate abuse in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration is tightening restrictions on hydrocodone painkillers.
The new rules published by the DEA on Friday dictate that patients who need painkillers, such as the ever-popular and most abused medication Vicodin, can only get a single 90-day prescription at most and will need to see their doctor in person to get a refill. That means no phone-in prescription refills, while some states aren't even allowing nurses or physician assistants to prescribe these painkillers anymore. Pharmacies will also be required to keep these opiate drugs in special vaults.
These new restrictions, which will come into full effect in 45 days, are reclassifying hydrocodone combination drugs such as Vicodin and Lortab into the same category as codeine and oxycodone, which are listed as Schedule II drugs due to their high potential for abuse.
“Almost 7 million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents,” said DEA administrator Michele Leonhart in a press release. “[Friday's] action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.”
Prescription painkiller overdose deaths more than tripled in the last 20 years, according to CDC estimates. In 2009, they killed 15,000 people, more than cocaine and heroin combined. The sale of opioids have also risen 300% since 1999.
“This is probably the single most important change that could happen on a federal level to bring this public health crisis under control,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. “It will take time to see the impact, but this will turn out to be a turning point in this epidemic.”
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- New York Teen Admits To Driving On Pot, Killing Four Friends In Crash [Huffington Post]
- Woman Charged With Selling Heroin To Her Mother [Sheboygan Press]
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A new survey revealed the results of a poll of 500 British 18-year-olds in which the majority warn of the “damaging” and “addictive” effect of sexual images and videos readily available online.
The survey showed the teens felt an intense social pressure involving compliance with pornographic norms. Eighty percent of the young adolescents reported on the easy availability of explicit images and videos in new media.
Forty-six percent of the participants have indulged in 'sexting,' the act of sending sexually charged text messages, in their everyday lives. A majority of the adolescents admitted that porn was making their life harder. Almost half the boys and two-thirds of the girls admitted that even if porn were less accessible, it would not make growing up any easier.
One out of 10 survey participants admitted that by the young age of 11, watching porn was common and 70% said that it was normal among their classmates to watch porn. Fifty-five percent of the young adolescents happened upon explicit images while on the internet, making them worried and uncomfortable, while only 1 out of 10 told their parents about it. About two-thirds of the participants believed that porn is addictive.
Children as young as 11 are regularly exposed to online porn, and by the age of 14, a whopping 45% are watching explicit content on the web, according to the report by the Institute of Public Policy Research think tank.
Associate Director of IPPR Dalia Ben-Galim said, “The research shows that pornographic images are pervasive in teenagers' lives” and “paints a worrying picture about the way online pornography is shaping the attitudes and behavior of young people."
Around 72% of the young adolescents believe that unrealistic attitudes towards sex are created because of pornography. This leads to pressure on young women to act and look a certain way, while only a small percentage of pressure is put on the young men.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Given the rising levels of pornography which is very much in the public domain it is essential that sex and relationships education should be a statutory part of the national curriculum.”
“If this does not happen in schools, a golden opportunity is missed to provide young people with some of the tools they need to lead safe, healthy and happy lives,” Blower added.
In the case of Alexis Rasmussen’s death, many of the facts regarding Dea Millerberg’s involvement were clear: the Utah resident and her husband, Eric Millerberg, had employed the 16-year-old as a babysitter and provided the girl with an array of drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine, while engaging in a sexual relationship.
On September 10, 2011, Eric Millerberg injected himself, his wife, and Rasmussen with the aforementioned substances, which led to the babysitter's death from an overdose. The girl’s badly decomposed body was found in a shallow grave a month later, which led to an investigation into the couple’s involvement.
Eric Millerberg was eventually convicted of three felonies, including desecration of a human body, and received the maximum sentence of six years to life. The question that remained in the case was the degree to which Dea Millenberg was involved in the disposal of Rasmussen’s body. On August 21, a state judge in Utah provided the answer by sentencing her to five years in prison.
Millerberg’s attorney had asked for probation, citing the fact that she had agreed to testify against her husband, despite death threats he levied against her, and that she had led a relatively clean life in the three years after Rasmussen’s death. She had suffered from drug and alcohol addiction issues since her early teens, and had endured abuse at the hands of both Eric Millerberg and a previous husband.
The defense attempted to portray Millerberg as a model case of recovery, having regained custody of her children in the wake of her husband’s sentencing. But prosecutors were quick to note that Millerberg was using drugs with her husband prior to and at the time of Rasmussen’s death, and was an active participant in the disposal of the girl’s body, rather than an innocent bystander. With their six-year-old daughter at home and their baby in the car, the couple drove Rasmussen’s body to a remote wooded area for burial.
In his closing statements, Judge W. Brent West called Millerberg’s actions heinous and depraved, and added that he would have handed down a harsher sentence had she not agreed to testify against her husband. “She lost all her common sense, and was not in a position to help Alexis when she needed her the most,” West said.