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Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category

Powerful Coalition is Building Pressure on Feds to Think Again on Kratom Ban

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I think the DEA is suffering from severe anxiety because of the changing attitudes toward the War on Drugs, which has turned out to be enormously expensive, extremely destructive of civil and human rights (not to mention the governments of Mexico, Colombia, and other countries), totally ineffective, and seems to do much more harm than would be done if drugs were legalized and addiction treated medically instead of criminally. (BTW, a very interesting drug-war movie showing some outcomes of the War on Drugs is available now on Amazon Prime: Sicario, with Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin: very well done.) The DEA’s anxiety is played out in its absolute refusal to face facts (e.g., saying that marijuana has no medical use, when in fact it does and has helped in pain management and PTSD without the drawbacks of severe opioid addiction that results from opioid painkillers).

Philip Smith reports in the Drug War Chronicles:

In a last ditch bid to stop the DEA from criminalizing an herb widely hailed for its ability to treat pain, depression, and anxiety, and help people wean themselves from more dangerous opioid pain relievers, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the agency Monday asking it to reconsider its decision to place kratom on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Kratom is a southeast Asian herb made from the leaves of Mitragyna speciose, a tree related to the coffee plant. In small doses, it has a mild stimulant effect, but in larger doses, it acts like a mild opioid. To be precise, the DEA has moved to criminalize not the herb itself, but two alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxmitragynine, which activate opioid receptors in the brain.

Last month, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling powersin announcing that it was moving kratom to Schedule I, effective at the end of this week. The drug agency said kratom poses “an imminent hazard to public safety,” citing only press reports of some 15 deaths linked to kratom use. But in at least 14 of those cases, the victims were also using other drugs or had pre-existing life-threatening conditions. (Meanwhile, some 25,000 people died of prescription drug overdoses last year.)

Kratom users, who could number in the millions, immediately raised the alarm, organizing campaigns to undo the decision and lobbying Congress for help. That’s what sparked Monday’s letter from 51 lawmakers, including 22 Republicans.

“This significant regulatory action was done without any opportunity for public comment from researchers, consumers, and other stakeholders,” reads the letter, drafted by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ). “This hasty decision could have serious effects on consumer access and choice of an internationally recognized herbal supplement.”

Given the ongoing high level of heroin and prescription opioid use and the associated overdose deaths, he DEA was hypocritical in mounting a campaign against kratom, the lawmakers said.

“The DEA’s decision to place kratom as a Schedule I substance will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions — a significant public health threat,” they wrote.

The lawmakers called on DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to delay the emergency scheduling and instead “engage consumers, researchers, and other stakeholders, in keeping with well-established protocol for such matters.”

Since first emerging in the US a few years ago, kratom has been unregulated at the federal level, although the Food & Drug Administration began seizing shipments of it in 2014. At the state level, a half dozen states have entertained moves to ban it, but such efforts failed in all except Alabama. In other states, kratom advocates have managed to turn bans into regulation, with age restrictions and similar limits.

A ban on kratom would be disastrous, said Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association. Ash said she had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2006 and ended up essentially disabled under the weight of 13 different prescriptions, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines (to counter the opioids and the benzos). She became addicted to the opioids and finally tried kratom as a last resort.

“I didn’t really want to have anything to do with a plant, but I decided to try it, and it worked day and night,” she said Tuesday. “Within two weeks, I went from home bound to starting this organization.”

With the kratom ban looming, her members are facing “our darkest hour,” Ash said. “Our average member is a middle-aged woman, about 40% of whom have experienced addition, and tens of thousands of them are using it as an alternative to pharmaceutical medications because they believe it is safer and more natural. Now, people are saying they are going to lose their quality of life, that they will be re-disabled. People are terrified. What we need is regulation, not prohibition.”

“Despite the moral, political, and scientific consensus that drug use and addiction are best treated as public health issues, the DEA wants to subject people with kratom to prison sentences,” said Jag Davies, director of communications strategy for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which is also fighting the ban. “The DEA’s move would also effectively halt promising scientific investigations into the plant’s uses and medicinal benefits, including helping many people struggling with opioid addiction.”

The scientific studies are promising indeed. Researchers at Columbia University just published a study on kratom alkaloids and found that they activate opioid receptors in a way that doesn’t trigger respiratory depression, the lethal side effect of most opioids. Such research could lead to the “holy grail” of narcotic analgesics, a painkiller that doesn’t kill users and doesn’t get them addicted. . .

Continue reading.

The DEA has never shown the slightest interest in scientific findings. They operate purely from a power-based outlook: if they have the power to do something, they feel that justifies doing it.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2016 at 10:49 am

DEA Is Banning a Little Known Medicinal Plant Called Kratom. Why? Because they can.

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They don’t have to provide a reason, which is handy when you don’t have a reason. The reason is probably the same reason the DEA keeps marijuana as a Schedule I drug: they can, so they do. Let’s face it: the more things the DEA makes illegal, the more work there is for them to do. Having the DEA in charge of deciding whether medical plants should be made illegal is like having a paving contractor deciding whether or not citizens should replace their driveway.

Madison Margolin reports in MOtherboard:

The US government is set to ban kratom, a medicinal plant and painkiller, even though researchers say it might not be dangerous.

Native to Southeast Asia, kratom has traditionally been brewed in tea, or ground up and encapsulated as powder. Historically, Thai laborers would use it to help them work longer hours without pain. But the drug has gone from subtle roots to becoming a Schedule I drug, akin to heroin in the eyes of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA’s temporary ban will go into effect on September 30.

Kratom is most commonly used to treat chronic pain. The chemicals in kratom bond to the brain’s opiate receptors, making it the drug of choice for some patients with conditions like fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. Sometimes, it’s also a treatment for opiate addicts undergoing withdrawal—the medical journal Addiction featured one such pain patient who switched from Dilaudid pills to kratom tea.

In low doses, it acts as a slight stimulant, and in higher doses it acts like more of a sedative, one reason kratom has also been hailed as an anti-anxiety drug. But lately, as Motherboard reported earlier, kratom pills sold online have become a sort oflovechild between adderall and oxycontin.

The relatively unknown drug has received some sporadic media attention the past few years, as it eventually made its way into the awareness of the Drug Enforcement Administration. In an emergency action this past August, the DEA placed kratom temporarily into the Schedule I category, which states it has “no accepted medical use.” The move was reminiscent of our marijuana legislation.

As kratom has no history of being particularly popular, or problematic, surprised vendors have rushed to remove it from their shelves before the DEA moves toward a permanent ban. And they aren’t happy about it.

“If kratom becomes a Schedule I drug, America will see what a true epidemic looks like, all the while denying American citizens of the only substance that eases their pain, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.,” said Robert McMahan, head of the online kratom vendor Blue River Wellness, in an email. He said kratom has been a much safer alternative to other opiates and drugs like meth and heroin. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2016 at 4:27 pm

Inside NFL’s Backwards Marijuana Policy

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Ross Benes reports in Rolling Stone:

At the conclusion of North Dallas Forty wide receiver Phil Elliott, played by Nick Nolte, gets blackballed by his team owner for “smoking a marijuana cigarette.” After being presented with a photo that shows Elliott toking up, the team owner patronizes Elliott and says, “Illegal drugs are forbidden by the league rules Phil, you know that.” To which Elliott replies: “Jesus, smoking grass, what are you kidding me? If you nailed all the ballplayers who smoked grass, you wouldn’t even be able to field a punt return team. Besides that, you give me the hardest stuff in Chicago just to get out of the goddamn locker room. Hard drugs!”

Though North Dallas Forty is technically fictional and came out nearly 40 years ago, its story is a classic example of the same-shit-different-day phenomenon. In recent weeks, Bills linemen Marcell Dareus andSeantrel Henderson were each suspended four games for using marijuana. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott caused a scandalby simply walking into a legal weed-friendly establishment. Meanwhile, the NFL was busy knuckling players into “cooperating” with a doping investigation based on scant and recanted evidence.

Given America’s growing acceptance of cannabis, the bad press the NFL gets when it punishes marijuana use more harshly than domestic abuse, and the personal tragedies and lawsuits that have stemmed from team doctors overprescribing opioids, it seems a little peculiar that the NFL continues to retain an authoritarian stance on marijuana use while team doctors simultaneously dole out powerful and addictive painkillers. Especially considering that the league is mired in concussion suits and there’s a possibility that cannabis could reduce the impact of head trauma.

To get a better grasp of this dissonance, let’s take a look at the changing national perception of marijuana, possible incentives the NFL has for maintaining its marijuana policies, upcoming football-related cannabis research initiatives, and what it might take to get the NFL to stop punishing players for using marijuana.

Changing Context
As Kevin Seifert of ESPN pointed out, during the hysteria of the War on Drugs in the 1980s it was “politically and socially necessary” for the NFL to discipline marijuana users. But after the war on drugs proved to be a massive failure, people began viewing certain drugs more tolerantly, and now polls show that a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana. As public support increased so did legalization, and today more than 60 percent (20 of the 32 teams) of NFL teams play in states that allow medical marijuana. Come November that percentage could grow as there are a plethora of state ballot initiativespushing for medical and recreational marijuana legalization.

There are also bills in the Senate and House aimed specifically at cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), which is a compound found in cannabis that doesn’t get people high. CBD is typically taken orally and it includes only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. A group of vocal ex-players are pushing the league to allow players to use CBD as a pain reliever. Because as the league’s policy currently stands, a player taking CBD could potentially surpass the league’s testing threshold and test positive.

“The risk [of testing positive for using CBD] is very low compared to the people using high-THC cannabis,” said Joel Stanley, CEO of hemp extracts producer CW Hemp. “But there certainly is a risk. But when you have something that you know is non-toxic, non-psychoactive, and non-addictive, and if you are in those high-impact situations, why not [allow players to] take that product?”

The NFL declined interview requests for this story. But a league spokesperson sent over the following statement:

Independent medical advisors to the league and the National Football League Players Association are constantly reviewing and relying on the most current research and scientific data. The league will continue to follow the advice of leading experts on treatment, pain management and other symptoms associated with concussions and other injuries.

It went on to say: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2016 at 3:28 pm

Alcohol Industry Bankrolls Fight Against Legal Pot

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The vested interest is obvious, so I expect to hear a lot of motivated reasoning and see a lot of incomplete or outright false statistics. Maybe some forged leaked documents, as described in the previous post.

Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

The fight against legalized pot is being heavily bankrolled by alcohol and pharmaceutical companies, terrified that they might lose market share.

On the heels of a filing last week that revealed that a synthetic cannabis company is financing the opposition to legal marijuana in Arizona comes a new disclosure this week that a beer industry group made one of the largest donations to an organization set up to defeat legalization in Massachusetts.

The Beer Distributors PAC, an affiliate that represents 16 beer-distribution companies in Massachusetts, gave $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, tying it for third place among the largest contributors to the anti-pot organization.

William A. Kelley, the president of the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts, did not respond to a request for comment, but his organization’s decision to oppose legalization is hardly unique in the alcohol industry.

In Arizona, one of the five states with marijuana legalization ballot measures this November, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association donated$10,000 to a group opposing legalization. In 2010, the last time California considered marijuana legalization, another alcoholic beverage distribution group provided financing to a law enforcement-backed campaign to defeat legalization.

The alcohol industry is nowhere near unified over pot policy, however, with several craft brewing firm welcoming laws that relax restrictions over pot.

Securities and Exchange Commission filings reveal that heavyweight alcohol companies have disclosed to investors that pot could pose a challenge to their bottom line. . .

Continue reading.

Marijuana is harmless and legalizing reduces use of an addictive, health-destroying drug that can kill with a single overdose (as various undergraduate hazings gone wrong demonstrate every year). That sounds good for the public, to me, though (obviously) bad news for the merchants of death. The change is to the public’s benefit, but the alcohol industry cares not a whit for public benefit: it’s all very nice that people will be better off, but our profits will take a hit! That is simply not to be tolerated, whatever other benefits accrue.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 September 2016 at 1:29 pm

Pharma Company Funding Anti-Pot Fight Worried About Losing Business, Filings Show

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Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

Pharmaceutical executives who recently made a major donation to an anti-marijuana legalization campaign claimed they were doing so out of concern for the safety of children — but their investor filings reveal that pot poses a direct threat to their plans to cash in on a synthetic cannabis product they have developed.

On August 31, Insys Therapeutics Inc. donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, becoming the single largest donor to the group leading the charge to defeat a ballot measure in Arizona to legalize marijuana.

The drug company, which currently markets a fast-acting version of the deadly painkiller fentanyl, assured local news reporters that they had the public interest in mind when making the hefty donation. A spokespersontold the Arizona Republic that Insys opposes the legalization measure, Prop. 205, “because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.”

A Washington Post story on Friday noted the potential self-interest involved in Insys’s donation.

Investor filings examined by The Intercept confirm the obvious.

Insys is currently developing a product called the Dronabinol Oral Solution, a drug that uses a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to alleviate chemotherapy-caused nausea and vomiting. In an early filing related to the dronabinol drug, assessing market concerns and competition, Insys filed a disclosure statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission stating plainly that legal marijuana is a direct threat to their product line:

Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate. … If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.

Insys explains in the filing that dronabinol is “one of a limited number of FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoids in the United States” and “therefore in the United States, dronabinol products do not have to compete with natural cannabis or non-synthetic cannabinoids.”

The company concedes that scientific literature has argued the benefits of marijuana over synthetic dronabinol, and that support for marijuana legalization is growing. In the company’s latest 10-K filing with the SEC, in asection outlining competitive threats, Insys warns that several states “have already enacted laws legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

It’s not the first time pharmaceutical companies have helped bankroll the opposition to marijuana reform. The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, a nonprofit that organizes anti-marijuana activism across the country, has long received corporate sponsorship from Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, another opioid manufacturer.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2016 at 11:13 am

A doctor’s take on marijuana

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Nathaniel Morris, MD, blogs at the Scientific American:

On August 11th, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced its decision to keep marijuana classified as a Schedule I drug. The federal government has historically referred to this category as the “most dangerous” group of substances, including drugs like heroin and bath salts.

As a resident physician specializing in mental health, I can’t make much sense of this.

Every day, I talk to patients about substance abuse. Whether evaluating patients in clinic, in the emergency department, or on inpatient units, my colleagues and I screen patients for substance use. It’s a vital component of any clinical interview, particularly in mental health care, and helps us understand patients’ habits and their risks for medical complications.

During my medical training, I’ve learned which substances to worry about, and which ones matter less.

Alcohol is usually the first substance I ask about. Many people have seen drinking go wrong, be it a friend making a bad decision or a family member struggling with alcoholism. But clinicians see the worst of this on the front lines.

Intoxicated patients stream into emergency departments after crashing their cars, inhaling their own vomit, or falling into a coma. According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol-related conditions contributed to more than 1.2 million emergency department visits in 2010. The Centers for Disease Control reports excess alcohol consumption causes roughly 88,000 deaths in the US each year.

And alcohol can be just as frightening when patients stop drinking. Heavy drinkers who don’t consume as much as they usually do can go into alcohol withdrawal, ranging from mild tremors to terrifying seizures and death. I’ve spent much of my residency training so far learning how to treat and recognize complications from alcohol withdrawal.

It’s not only alcohol that clinicians worry about. Cocaine can cause heart attacks, kidney failure, and complications during pregnancy like placental abruption. Methamphetamine can trigger an assortment of responses, from hyperthermia to violent agitation to cardiogenic shock. Opioids like morphine can plunge patients into respiratory failure and kill them. Intravenous drug use puts patients at risk for hepatitis, endocarditis, or even brain abscesses.

But, for most health care providers, marijuana is an afterthought.

We don’t see cannabis overdoses. We don’t order scans for cannabis-related brain abscesses. We don’t treat cannabis-induced heart attacks. In medicine, marijuana use is often seen on par with tobacco or caffeine consumption—something we counsel patients about stopping or limiting, but nothing urgent to treat or immediately life-threatening.

The federal government’s scheduling of marijuana bears little relationship to actual patient care. The notion that marijuana is more dangerous or prone to abuse than alcohol (not scheduled), cocaine (Schedule II), methamphetamine (Schedule II), or prescription opioids (Schedules II, III, and IV) doesn’t reflect what we see in clinical medicine. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2016 at 10:55 am

Cannabinoids remove plaque-forming Alzheimer’s proteins from brain cells

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Very interesting finding reported by the Salk Institute:

Salk Institute scientists have found preliminary evidence that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds found in marijuana can promote the cellular removal of amyloid beta, a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

While these exploratory studies were conducted in neurons grown in the laboratory, they may offer insight into the role of inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease and could provide clues to developing novel therapeutics for the disorder.

“Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells,” says Salk Professor David Schubert, the senior author of the paper.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that leads to memory loss and can seriously impair a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks. It affects more than five million Americans according to the National Institutes of Health, and is a leading cause of death. It is also the most common cause of dementia and its incidence is expected to triple during the next 50 years.

It has long been known that amyloid beta accumulates within the nerve cells of the aging brain well before the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and plaques. Amyloid beta is a major component of the plaque deposits that are a hallmark of the disease. But the precise role of amyloid beta and the plaques it forms in the disease process remains unclear.

In a manuscript published in June 2016’s Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, the Salk team studied nerve cells altered to produce high levels of amyloid beta to mimic aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that high levels of amyloid beta were associated with cellular inflammation and higher rates of neuron death. They demonstrated that exposing the cells to THC reduced amyloid beta protein levels and eliminated the inflammatory response from the nerve cells caused by the protein, thereby allowing the nerve cells to survive. . .

Continue reading.

This means, were the DEA and the Obama Administration rational, that marijuana would no longer be a Schedule I drug, since Schedule I drugs, which are drugs that satisfy three conditions:

  1. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  2. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Since marijuana does not satisfy any of these (marijuana’s potential for abuse is much less that that for alcohol, which is not a Schedule I drug), marijuana is being used to treat pain and PTSD (and the use of addictive opioids for pain relief is significantly lower in states in which medical marijuana is legal), and the use of marijuana is much safer than, for example, the use of alcohol. The CDC reports: “There are more than 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the U.S. each year – an average of 6 alcohol poisoning deaths every day.” Alcohol is not a Schedule I drug, but it does meet all the criteria. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, but it meets none of the criteria.

This seems extremely stupid to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2016 at 11:04 am

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