Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
From this NY Times editorial:
So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states permit medical use. A recent Cato Institute study found that the states that have legalized recreational use have so far had no meaningful uptick in the use of marijuana by teenagers, or other negative consequences predicted by opponents. For example, in Colorado, drug-related expulsions and suspensions from schools have gone down in recent years. There has been no spike in drug-related traffic accidents and fatalities in Colorado or Washington.
And, obviously, there is in additional substantial new tax revenue for the state, plus prison costs will be lower if people are not imprisoned for marijuana-related offenses.
Ariana Eunjung Cha has an interesting albeit infuriating article in the Washington Post:
Cancer patients taking high doses of opioid painkillers are often afflicted by a new discomfort: constipation. Researcher Jonathan Moss thought he could help, but no drug company was interested in his ideas for relieving suffering among the dying.
So Moss and his colleagues pieced together small grants and, in 1997, received permission to test their treatment. But not on cancer patients. Federal regulators urged them to use a less frail — and by then, rapidly expanding — group: addicts caught in the throes of a nationwide opioid epidemic.
Suddenly, Moss said, investors were knocking at his door.
“As clinicians, we wanted to help palliative patients,” said Moss, a professor and physician at University of Chicago Medicine. “The company that bought our work saw a broader market.”
Today, Moss’s side project is hailed as the next billion-dollar drug. And the once-disinterested pharmaceutical industry is bombarding doctors and the public with information about a serious, if previously unrecognized, condition common among the millions of Americans who take prescription painkillers. They call it “opioid-induced constipation,” or “OIC.”
The story of OIC illuminates the opportunism of pharmaceutical innovators and the consequences of a heavily drug-dependent society. Six in 10 American adults take prescription drugs, creating a vast market for new meds to treat the side effects of the old ones.
Opioid prescriptions alone have skyrocketed from 112 million in 1992 to nearly 249 million in 2015, the latest year for which numbers are available, and America’s dependence on the drugs has reached crisis levels. Millions are addicted to or abusing prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, from 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people died in the United States from prescription-opioid overdoses, which have contributed to a startling increase in early mortality among whites, particularly women — a devastating toll that has hit hardest insmall towns and rural areas.
The pharmaceutical industry’s response has been more drugs. The opioid market — now worth nearly $10 billion a year in sales in the United States — has expanded to include a growing universe of medications aimed at treating secondary effects rather than controlling pain.
There’s Suboxone, financed and promoted by the U.S. government as a safer alternative to methadone for those trying to break their dependence on opioids. There’s naloxone, the emergency injection and nasal spray carried by first responders to treat overdoses. And now there’s Relistor, the drug based on Moss’s work, and a competitor, Movantik, for constipation.
In colorful charts designed to entice investors, numerous pharmaceutical makers tout the “expansion opportunity” that exists in the “opioid use disorders population.”
Indivior, a specialty pharmaceutical company listed on the London Stock Exchange, sees “around 2.5m potential patients, the majority of whom are addicted to prescription painkillers,” as opposed to illicit drugs such as heroin. Another company, New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals,highlights “growth drivers” for the market, noting that millions of additional Americans not yet identified are also likely to be dependent on opioid painkillers.
Analysts estimate that each of these submarkets — addiction, overdose and side effects — is worth at least $1 billion a year in sales. These economics, experts say, work against efforts to end the epidemic.
If opioid addiction disappeared tomorrow, it would wipe billions of dollars from the drug companies’ bottom lines.A potent product
From a profit-making standpoint, opioids are a potent product. Chronic use can cause myriad side effects that usually are mild enough to keep people taking painkillers but sufficiently uncomfortable to send them back to the doctor.
Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said this domino effect can turn a patient worth a few hundred dollars a month into one worth several thousand dollars a month.
“Many patients wind up very sedated from opioids, and it’s not uncommon to give them amphetamines to make them more alert. But now they can’t sleep, so they get Ambien or Lunesta. The amphetamines also make them anxious, paranoid and sweaty, and that means even more drugs,” said Kolodny, who also serves as chief medical officer to Phoenix House, a nonprofit organization that offers drug and alcohol treatment in 10 states and the District.
Women, in particular, are ideal customers [probably should say “victims” – LG] . . .
The DEA, of course, maintains that marijuana has no medical use and so will not allow research into possible medical applications, but other countries apparently are more enlightened. A researcher at UCLA discovered that marijuana smokers do not get lung cancer the way that cigarette smokers do. And now Madison Margolin reports in Motherboard on how cannabis could treat cervical cancer:
A new study suggests that cannabis might be useful in treating cervical cancer.
Through in vitro, or test tube/petri dish, analysis, researchers from the biochemistry department at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa found that the non-psychotropic cannabinoid, or chemical compound, CBD (cannabidiol), taken from a Cannabis sativa extract, could hold anticarcinogenic properties. They pointed out that cannabis acted on the cancerous cells through apoptosis, or a process of cell death, causing only the cancerous cells to kill themselves, and inhibiting their growth.
Cervical cancer is no longer a leading cause of death as much as it used to be in the United States, thanks in large part to the widespread use of pap smears, but it’s still a widespread threat. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, it kills 250,000 women every year. “This makes it the most lethal cancer amongst black women and calls for urgent therapeutic strategies,” the study’s authors wrote in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal. “In this study we compare the anti-proliferative effects of crude extract of Cannabis sativa and its main compound cannabidiol on different cervical cancer cell lines.”
It will take much more research before cannabis can be integrated into official cervical cancer treatments in sub-Saharan Africa. But earlier studies also shows that cannabis has been useful in treating not only the symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy, but also the cancer itself.
One study from the journal of Current Clinical Pharmacology found that cannabis served as a preventative agent, reducing inflammation, which researchers also said was useful in reducing the likelihood of cancer. Another study from Oncology Hematology also noted cannabis’ anti-cancer effects, explaining how the plant’s cannabinoids inhibited tumor growth in vitro, such as in a petri dish or test tube, and in vivo, or a living organism.
A handful of other studies have also looked into cannabis as a treatment specifically for cervical cancer. Another from the University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, found that . . .
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. . .
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.
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. . .
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.
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: . . .
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. . .
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.