Op-Ed: Why Marijuana Should Be Legal

October 1, 2015 by  
Filed under Laws and Legalization, People and Culture

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iStock_000008959124_Large (1)Objections to the legalization of marijuana seem to center around the message it will send to our teens. If the message is so important, then what message are we sending to our nation’s youth by having marijuana which has no reported fatalities illegal, and keeping cigarettes and alcohol the first and second leading causes of preventable death legal? At best, it causes kids to minimize the dangers of alcohol and cigarettes. At worst, it causes kids to dismiss the whole matter for lack of any credibility. By making marijuana legal, and controlling it in a manner similar to the way we control alcohol and cigarettes, we present a more consistent message to our youth: all three are worthy of discretion and limitation.

Not Endorsing Pot for Our Youth

Other objections to the legalization of marijuana are objections that could apply equally to cigarettes and alcohol. For instance, people are concerned about the effect of marijuana on the teenage brain. Studies have shown that the younger a person is when they start drinking alcohol, the quicker the person will become an alcoholic drinker. The vulnerabilities of the teenage brain are not limited to marijuana by any means. One big difference between alcohol and marijuana is that the former is better regulated. Marijuana needs to be similarly regulated. Neither should be available to minors. The message should be consistent.

Medicinal Purpose: Marijuana Has Many

In fact, we now know that marijuana has one characteristic that separates it from other illegal substances AND from cigarettes and alcoholit has medicinal uses. Marijuana has been found to relieve pain and nausea, and to increase the appetite of people who need the nutrition but cannot eat because of discomfort or lack of appetite. It is well documented that marijuana provides unique relief for cancer patients.

Eliminate the Black Market for Marijuana

Any objections to legalization are far outweighed by the damage caused by keeping marijuana illegal.

First and foremost is the dangerous and deadly black market, in which criminals wage war on one another, on innocents and on officers of the law in protecting their territories. By legalizing marijuana and controlling the channels of distribution, we take the power out of the hands ofcriminals.

Secondly, we criminalize and jail people who do not belong in jail. We do not jail people even if they have twenty cases of beer in their basement, or 500 bottles of wine. It is no different with people who hold a personal stash of marijuana. The same laws regarding operating motor vehicles and selling without a license would apply. If an addiction develops for alcohol or marijuana, it should be addressed medically, and not penally.

Take the Able-Bodied off the Government Tab and Put Them Back Into the Economy

First, as a practical matter, no person should be in jail, taken out of the work force and put on the government bill, for the simply reason that they smoke pot and keep a reasonable stash with them. The world is full of highly functioning people who have smoked, or continue to smoke, marijuana. If they are arrested with a stash, they go to jail. In addition to taking them out of the work force and making them a burden on the government, we place them in an environment that manufactures criminals. Many come out of jail much more corrupt than when they went in, and with a whole new set of tricks.

Marijuana Tax to Boost Economy

Second, legalizing marijuana would create jobs, income and taxes in its manufacture and distribution. Our failed “war on drugs” shows that people are going to smoke marijuana no matter what, just as prohibition showed us that people are going to drink alcohol no matter what. Legalizing the sale and distribution brings money into the economy that previously remained untaxed in the hands of criminals. The economic benefits of legalization are apparent in both money not wasted, and money created.

Money Wasted Chasing Down Pot Smokers

Finally, the mountains of money that our government has allocated to chasing down those manufacturing, distributing or using marijuana can be reallocated for other uses, whether that is for real help for addicts in the form of treatment, or simply helping to reduce our deficit.

The time has come. Common sense demands it. The benefits far outstrip any perceived harm. Legalize marijuana. It’s the right thing to do.

Legislation Aims to Curb Drug Abuse Among Seniors

September 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Laws and Legalization, Politics and Government

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A shot of a senior asian man taking a medicine

Opioid pain medication addiction is now considered an epidemic as the number of those who are addicted quadrupled in the past two decades. The highest age group plagued with this addiction are senior citizens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is set to introduce a new bill for bipartisan legislation that aims to tackle prescription drug abuse among seniors. With approximately 170,000 people receiving Medicare benefits impacted by this epidemic, the bill can save an enormous amount of taxpayer funds.

Putting an End to Multiple Prescriptions

Use of multiple doctors and pharmacies is one way that drug seekers can obtain multiple prescriptions and the drugs they need to fuel their addiction. The new bill would limit the use of doctors to one and the use of pharmacies filling their prescriptions to one. This eliminates what addicted patients have access to. The practice of “doctor-shopping” and “pharmacy hopping” would be stopped by this limitation.

Better use of Medicare funds will allow these funds to serve more patients, thus ensuring funding availability for those in future generations.

Better Foothold on Medication Costs

Increases in costs of Medicare-approved drugs have created a huge loss of revenues being filtered into the Medicare system, over a period of many years. The current problem is exponentially increased due to the sheer numbers of those reaching Medicare age in the Baby Boomers generation. These are people born between the years 1946 to 1964; whose ages today are from 51 to 69. This age group is raising costs of Medicare-provided services through the roof, with little or no end in sight.

Controlling costs of medication has become a national concern over the last 10 years, especially as these seniors reach age 65 and the Medicare system is hit with such high numbers of applicants and their medical expenses.

Increasing numbers of seniors with addiction to pain medication creates a severe hit on the funds allocated for Medicare treatment, threatening losses in the billions of dollars to these programs.

Cost-cutting measures have been established across the country as each state has implemented programs to offset the losses. This current proposal is another way to address the issue.

Keeping the Medicare System Alert

Looking for those who are guilty of seeing multiple doctors, who are filling more than one prescription for their addictive medications is a big part of the bill. These measures are similar to those already in place for Medicaid and private insurance programs nationwide.

Anyone with a propensity toward abusing prescription pain medications would be singled out of the plan for inclusion into a drug-diversion type of treatment program. They would be allowed to determine a preferred provider for prescribing their required medications and filling prescriptions. Limitations would be placed on how much and how often these could be refilled. Controls and monitors would be exercised in this person’s use of medications.

All members of the team of doctors and providers within the Medicare system would be encouraged to remain watchful of patients in the system to determine possible problems with drug-seeking behaviors and possible dependency issues around the medications seen as problematic. They would also implement necessary interventions and recommendations for treatment of drug dependencies where needed.

Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act

  • Preference for their provider and pharmacy use would be granted, unless that provider or pharmacy has been determined to contribute to abuse in the past.
  • The beneficiary will be notified when they have a change in status of benefits and a clinical review provided to determine which members require high doses of pain medication, keeping them out of the program as needed.
  • Determining clinical criteria for who is eligible and at-risk of abusing opioid pain medication.
  • Those who receive hospice care or long-term care in nursing homes will be determined eligible for exemption from this ruling.
  • Create guidelines for data sharing between providers, plans and contractors to decrease opportunities for abuse of the plan, as well as fraud and waste problems.
  • Address any areas of concern for prescription drug abuse aside from opioid pain medications.
  • Create procedural criteria for any member’s inclusion in the program and their appeal rights.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma and recommends essay help online with professional writers wich have years of experience in this field and they can help you with any written work!. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

The Dangers of Marijuana-Impaired Driving

September 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Laws and Legalization, People and Culture

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iStock_000023889836_MediumA recent study regarding the effects of marijuana on driving performance showed dangerously impaired motor coordination. Those with a blood content of 13.1 micrograms/L of THC, which is close to the 0.08 legal limit for blood-alcohol content in many states, showed patterns of weaving outside their designated lanes in traffic. Tests were conducted in driving simulators to gain specific details of impaired driving ranges for those under the influence of marijuana, both alone and with combined influence of alcohol and marijuana.

Of particular interest were those tests which showed impaired results for both marijuana and alcohol, combined. The results were impactful because neither substance was at the designated range for impairment; even though tests concluded that impairment was recognized.

In essence, this means that lower doses of marijuana, when combined with lower doses of alcohol, have a cumulative effect that impairs the driving capabilities of the user, even though neither substance indicates in a range that is prohibited by law.

A dangerous level of alcohol and marijuana may not be considered problematic, when tested separately. Also found in the study were significant differences in content of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, when tested using different methodology.

Blood tests for THC may not indicate the accurate level in a person’s body, due to the 2-4 hour time frame it takes to gather the specimen in most cases. A breath test, which can be gathered immediately at the scene may be more beneficial, time-wise, but is less accurate a measure of actual THC content in the driver’s blood. These variations in testing capability cause concern for police in determining impairment in drivers due to marijuana use.

Another confounding implication is seen with those who are aware of how to control their peak blood levels by “titration”, which is a method for controlling inhalation while smoking marijuana. This method can alter the readings on breath tests for marijuana consumption by a driver. A range of 2.9% to 6.7% is seen in variations in drivers using this method. Alcohol consumption radically changed these peaks to a measure indicating severe impairment.

Drugged driving is a serious problem. While alcohol continues to be the deadliest cause of fatal driving accidents nationwide, drugged driving is growing in incidence.

The true measures for drugged driving accidents is skewed for many reasons:

  • Alcohol consumption is most easily recognized, usually causing suspicion by the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath.
  • Alcohol screening is done most easily and frequently by police and other emergency service providers.
  • If a driver tests within a high range for alcohol consumption, no further testing is performed, thereby not including the statistic for drugged driving.
  • Testing for drugs involves breath, blood and urine sampling to cover all forms of possible drugged driving.

A nationwide study, done in 2010 on fatal crashes, determined that 36.9% of drivers had smoked marijuana. Given this high statistic, it is reasonable to state that impairment from marijuana use can be considered deadly.

 

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Eight Drug Smugglers Killed By Firing Squad in Indonesia

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iStock_000015916460_LargeSimilar to the six people executed in January 2015, Indonesia has slayed eight more people via firing squad.

The April 29 execution of two members of Bali Nine, a group of heroin smugglers arrested in 2005, has led an Australian foreign diplomat in protest of the executions. Other Bali Nine members are currently being held in prison, but none are serving a death sentence.

After serving almost a decade in prison, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are Australian nationals alleged to be ringleaders of Bali Nine, were executed after being given a 72-hour notice. Australian authorities sought clemency for the two men, claiming they had been fully rehabilitated during their time in prison.

Further allegations towards Indonesia include the sentencing the two men to less than 20 years in prison atop a payment of $100,000. However, court official in Jakarta has denied the allegations stating that they were made too long after the trial to be considered.

One of the drug offenders executed by firing squad was a Brazilian man said to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Documents were introduced during his trial that offer diagnostic evidence from more than 20 years ago, showing he has suffered from a history of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. His execution violated the international humane treatment laws that prohibit those with mental illnesses from execution for their crimes. His prosecution and execution are also in violation of Indonesian laws governing the sentencing of the mentally ill. He was arrested in 2004 for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Jakarta in surfboards.

One member of the group slated to be executed for drug smuggling is a woman, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, from the Phillipines. She was given last-minute stay of execution when another Filipino woman came forward to testify that Veloso had been tricked into smuggling drugs she did not know were in her possession. It is reported that the woman was her employer and planted the drugs on Veloso, whose suitcase held heroin. Veloso is expected to testify in a new trial against the woman, who is being held in the Philippines on charges of human trafficking.

Four Nigerian men were also executed, namely: Martin Anderson, 50, who was arrested in Jakarta in 2003 with heroin; Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, 50, who had been arrested in 1998 for smuggling heroin and originally sentenced to life in prison, but was accelerated to death after prosecutors appealed his sentence; Sylvester Obiekwe  Nwolise, 49, who was arrested in 2003 when he landed in Jakarta Airport from Pakistan possessing heroin; and Okwudili Oyatanze, 45, who was arrested in 2001 in Jakarta Airport with heroin he smuggled from Pakistan.

The last man to be executed was Zainal Abidin bin Mahmud Badarudin, 50, from Indonesia. He was arrested at his home in 2000 with marijuana.

The executions are the response of President Joko Widodo to what he claims is a “national emergency” and to push forth his efforts to stop drug abuse and trafficking. He has rejected all appeals for clemency from international heads of state and declared that he is exercising Indonesia’s “sovereign right to exercise our laws.”

Allegations against Indonesia is that those being tried and convicted in the country for drug crimes are not given fair opportunity for interpreters and appropriate legal representation. There are currently at least 64 other drug convicts on death row at this time. All reported appeals for clemency on their behalf are being rejected.

“For those countries that exercise the death penalty, they have to make sure that the best mechanisms of the judicial system should be open to and exercised by the convicted person,” Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Indonesian human rights group called the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, told New York Times in April. “This is not the case in Indonesia.”

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

New Technology Tests Breath for Illegal Drugs

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iStock_000001996195_LargeFor many years, testing urine samples have been the primary method of checking for the presence of drugs and alcohol. However, this can be an invasive and challenging process, depending on circumstances. Urine samples can present problems such as the following:

  • Samples are easy to manipulate, those being tested can purchase drug and alcohol-free urine.
  • Samples may be easily tainted with other substances, such as water and/or other easy to obtain items,
  • The sample must be procured by witnessing the person creating the sample, often considered an invasion of privacy.
  • Results can be complicated by the presence of other medications and is not always accurate.
  • Samples are messy and may be mishandled easily.

The search for more accurate forms of testing has been ongoing. Blood tests are one option, but are lengthy to perform and require medical staff to obtain, as well as process. Expensive lab fees and long waiting periods for results are other reasons this method is less popular.

What is the new approach?

New technology being developed eliminates many of these factors. Analyzing the breath of the person being tested happens with a process called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. This is a highly sensitive method for detection of drugs in the system of the person being tested.

Basically, this technology captures small aerosol particles being exhaled and tests them for the presence of drugs. The device collects these particles and filters them for presence of drugs, such as amphetamines, methamphetamines, marijuana and cocaine.

How will it be applied?

Those most often impacted by the waiting period for testing of urine or blood are law enforcement officers and personnel. Others who will find this form of testing valuable and viable are employers who perform random testing, emergency room personnel who must act quickly in medical situations, treatment professionals who perform regular testing of participants, school officials who suspect drug use on campus, sporting officials who must perform random testing on athletes in competitions, and all those who need to save money on testing procedures as well as obtaining access to fast results of the testing.

What is the importance of testing?

Recent studies have shown that approximately 75 percent of those aged 18 and higher who use drugs, even only occasionally, are employed. They often use drugs while on the job and in the workplace, therefore making them a high risk group for workplace accidents and loss of productivity.

Using the percentage above, this translates to about 42,000 people per year who are coming to work high or getting high while in the workplace. This can lead to liability for the employer in many arenas. Is it any wonder that more employers are beginning to see the benefit of drug testing for their employees? It is estimated that approximately three quarters of the Fortune 500 companies now regularly perform drug tests.

Retraining costs and loss of productivity from employees who begin to lose work and eventually either quit or are laid off has created the trend toward pre-employment drug screens. It is estimated that 71% of employers now utilize this practice. Waiting times for blood and urine samples, along with high costs of lab and medical fees for this practice make the new technology very appealing for small to medium sized companies who currently do this type of testing.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

The Current State of Marijuana: Signs of New Chemical Make-Up, Legislation

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close up of Doctors hands holding medical marijuanaWhile there is a clear distinction between marijuana crops grown for recreational use and medicinal purposes, new research in Colorado may debunk any chemical differences in the two, including claims of users getting a different type of high.

Recent consumer demands for more potent marijuana have come to fruition as marijuana strains currently being tested in Colorado’s research labs present triple the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, has increased from less than 10 percent potency 30 years ago to nearly 30 percent potency in the said strains.

With the increase in THC in marijuana now being tested, researchers have also found a decrease in the Cannabidiol (CBD) content. CBD is one marijuana’s least active ingredient and does not contribute to its “high,” but researchers believe it appears to be the medicinal component that may possibly help treat schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington disease, depression and anxiety.

Researchers in Colorado are also finding a certain amount of contamination in the marijuana crops they have tested. While there is little chance of completely eliminating the organic fungal growth that is bound to occur in pot, further testing is being done to determine the levels of fungal growth on the buds of the plant that are used for production that may be considered contaminated. No safe levels of chemical contamination have been determined as of yet. The research has also shown varying levels of butane, which have not been legislatively determined as safe or unsafe.

Crafting New Legislations: Taking Lessons from the Past

As other states are looking at the legal processes of decriminalization and possible legalization of marijuana, and watching both Colorado and Washington State as they implement and iron out problems with their new laws regarding pot, the U.S. is expected to look to the processes of controlling and regulating both tobacco and alcohol for guidance in the coming years.

As legislative measures are taken to reduce criminal penalties for possession, the use and production of marijuana in each state may learn from the hard lessons of legal precedent set for both substances over the course of history.

These issues run the gamut from interstate transport of the products to taxation and legal age for use. Sales and development of the product are also contained within the legislative history of both substances. Lessons hard learned in regulating tobacco and alcohol may assist each state to develop their new laws.

The widespread use and abuse of medical marijuana may also assist lawmakers when writing new legislation. It is expected that public outcry for lowering of penalties regarding recreational use of marijuana will continue past the decriminalization stages and into the future for legalization.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

New Alcohol Detection Technology Paves Way to Safer Roads

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iStock_000037841112_LargeThe U.S. has long implemented ignition interlock devices (IID) or sobriety systems that lock a vehicle’s steering column if a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) tests too high. The current technology involves measuring a driver’s BAC through blowing into the device, and then automatically disabling the ignition if results are above the legal limit of 0.08 or higher.

In 50 states, these devices, which are essentially installable car breathalyzers, are part of post-DUI conditional reinstatement of driving privileges. However, it is estimated that before one person is convicted with a DUI, they would have already driven drunk an average of 80 times.

Within the following decade, proposed devices are expected to roll out a more advanced device that would either be pre-installed in new cars or incentivized by insurance carriers to be installed in most cars. Armed with newer technology, the device will be able to use infrared light mechanisms to do the same job as IIDs, as well as make for a more cost-effective vehicle production and new vehicle purchases. Future devices would also take less than half a second to measure BAC with either the driver’s breath or fingertips.

Technology Advancement that Phases Out Costs

DUI driving accidents have created serious fiscal concerns in many states. They cost federal and local governments and tax payers about $51 billion each year. An estimated $1.25 million is spent on injuries caused by drunk drivers. At the same time, the U.S. has to pay costs of police enforcement for DUI traffic violators, costs for legal processing of DUI convictions, or the staggering costs of imprisoning repeat offenders who usually end up serving longer sentences in most states.

This is why outcomes for these new devices could be substantial, given an estimated forecast of about 85 percent reduction in alcohol fatalities. With this device installed in most cars, the U.S. will be able to reduce the numbers of drunk drivers caught each year by generally disabling most drunk drivers from being on the road.

Phasing in the fruits of this project, which the organization Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) started in 2008, would take an estimated 15 years. Ideally, an incentive for the small installation cost of the technology could be found with insurance carriers. For those with current DUI convictions, the benefit would be the reinstatement of driving privileges with the device. For new car purchasers, benefits would include reduced rates for those with previous DUI and a possible discount for all drivers. A similar incentive was given in many states with the advent of air bags in new vehicles.

Industry Leaders Lay the Groundwork

DADSS, which has piloted this program, is an organization comprised of the two most powerful government and private sectors, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS). The NHTSA is a U.S. Department of Transportation agency that carries out traffic safety programs across the country. Meanwhile, ACTS represents the world’s leading automobile manufacturers.

As part of the effort to push the project forward, a federal transportation bill was proposed in 2012 that contained a measure that would give the NHTSA $24 million over a two-year period for the development of a program that will fully augment the new devices in vehicles.

An online report from Nissan, the automobile manufacturer, has also spoken about a test model that stops the transmission from operating within the vehicle when alcohol is detected in the palms of the driver. The car would also detect alcohol content in the automobile cabin’s air by using sensors located in several seat compartments. Other systems under development even includes camera technology that measures drowsiness in the driver’s eyes as well as drift control when the driver veers repeatedly from the driving lane.

The NHTSA and ACTS, through DADSS, continue to work collaboratively to develop and implement the tools toward creating safer roads for billions of drivers in the U.S. and, eventually, around the world.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Indiana Enacts Law Changes to Protect Drug Abusers from HIV Surge

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red ribbonA portion of Southern Indiana has been the site of a rapid rise in HIV cases. The focal point of the recently enacted legislation is the rural town of Austin, Indiana, with a population of about 4,200 people. Indiana’s governor has recently declared a statewide Public Health Emergency in order to bring in necessary medical aid to combat this outbreak. He has reversed the laws in Indiana that prevent clean needle exchanges in order to stem the tide of the number of new cases. At that time, 80 persons ranging in age from 20 to 56 had been identified as being infected. Governor Mike Pence has also increased Medicaid programs in the state to fund treatment for infected persons.

New cases of HIV infection are reported, by law, to the Indiana’s Public Health Department, which is how the trend was first recognized. One report, only a week later, found over 100 cases of positive test results. HIV testing has reached only those who report having sex or sharing needles with persons who are known to have tested positive for the virus which causes AIDS.

Public Reception

Little response to the widespread promotion of exchanging dirty needles for clean ones has been seen thus far. Only four residents had come forward and exchanged over 300 dirty needles. Most of the addicts, who are credited with spreading the virus, are afraid of legal repercussions and will not come forward to receive clean needles.

Most citizens of the small community blame the medical crisis on residents in a part of town called the “North End” and houses designated as “shooting galleries.” These are houses where those addicted to pain medications gather to use drugs intravenously, using and sharing needles, thereby spreading the virus. Police in the community are aware of the high incidence of drug use in this area and have doubled their efforts to control drug trafficking in and out of the neighborhood. Prostitution in this area is another danger, since most of those who engage in this form of sexual activity are infected.

Trends

The drug most commonly used by the population of this area is Opana, a narcotic designated for treatment of pain. Crushed pills are mixed with liquid to allow injection of the medication. This gives the user a faster and more intense high than taking the pills orally. Efforts by the makers of Opana in 2012 to make it more difficult to use in this fashion have not succeeded. The pills are sold illegally for an average of $30 per pill.

The only physician in the town of Austin has initiated much of the effort to work with those who test positive to receive treatment and information about the virus. He and his staff are hard at work to educate and inform everyone in town about the dangers of HIV and sharing needles and sexual activity with known HIV positive persons. Several medical professionals from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have been brought in to help test and refer patients for treatment.

Medical treatment for HIV-positive individuals is high, at about $20,000 per year for each patient. The closest clinic to Austin providing HIV treatment is in Louisville, KY, a short commute away. This is the biggest rural outbreak of HIV cases since 1985, when a town in Florida was the focus of concern for cases of the virus.

Resources:

Goodnough, Abbey. (March 30, 2015) The New York Times. Indiana Races to Fight H.I.V. Surge Tied to Drug Abuse. Retrieved online from: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/us/small-indiana-city-races-to-curb-hivs-spread.html

NBC News. HIV Outbreak in Indiana Tops 100 Cases. Retrieved online from:http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/hiv-outbreak-indiana-tops-100-cases-n339611

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Sentencing of Silk Road Website Creator

April 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Laws and Legalization

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Silk Road websiteThe Silk Road, a name for an ancient trade route from Europe and traveling through countries of Europe, India and China, was also the name of a website providing illegal drugs. Started in February 2011, this website operated on a system that kept website visits anonymous from normal browser activity.

A regular marketplace for drug sellers and buyers, this website was made popular in June 2011 when an article was published about it in a trade magazine. Using bitcoins instead of regular currency for trade, Silk Road was created and run by a young man by the name of Ross William Ulbricht, who used the name “Dread Pirate Roberts”, a pseudonym of a character in the movie, The Princess Bride.

Site Overview

In early 2013, there were over 10,000 products for sale on Silk Road by its various vendors. Approximately 70% of those products were drugs. These were listed for sale in groups labeled prescription drugs, cannabis, steroids, ecstasy, opioid narcotics, stimulant drugs, psychedelic drugs and dissociative drugs.

There was a section available for buyers to leave reviews of the products marketed on Silk Road, along with a forum for exchange of information about sellers. This forum advised potential buyers of sellers whose wares were best or a scam.

Government Attention

In February 2013, international drug agents arrested an Australian dealer for cocaine and ecstasy from traffic followed on the website, which began the end of its existence. Following this arrest, subsequent activity shut the website down. In October 2013, Ulbricht was arrested in San Francisco, CA and charged with operation of the billion-dollar drug trade believed to have been operating on Silk Road.

The bitcoins used on the website were seized by the FBI and were reported to be worth approximately $3.6 million dollars. Later seizures of bitcoins were reported to be worth $28.5 million, all believed to belong to Ulbricht. These were subsequently sold in June 2014 in an online auction.

Ulbricht’s Charges

Ross William Ulbricht is currently facing charges for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise along with earlier charges of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. The first charge carries a minimum sentence of mandatory 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

On February 4, 2015, Ross William Ulbricht was convicted of seven charges, for which he faces 30 years to life in prison. As of now, his sentencing is scheduled to be held on May 15, 2015.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

The Rising Epidemic of Heroin Addiction

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SONY DSCWhen people think about heroin, they often think back to the junkies of the 1960s and 1970s; sunken-eyed, skinny and unwashed young men and women who represented the poorer class of our social structure, stealing to support their habit and mostly living in dirty ghetto rooms with other junkies.

Today we see a whole new paradigm with heroin use and abuse. Most of those who abuse heroin now are professional or para-professional men and women who started using much later in life. They are doctors, nurses, police, clergy—those with high levels of education and living in nicer suburbs where addiction was not previously believed to travel in such high numbers. Again, these addicts most often speak of their addiction as having begun with prescription pain medications. Often, they first became addicted to pain medication that proved too difficult, illegal or expensive to maintain.

Why Heroin?

Heroin in today’s market is less expensive than ever before and more abundant in availability. One source reported that prescription pain pills sell on the street for approximately $1.00 per milligram. The cost for a 30-milligram pill would therefore be $30.00. This is far more than heroin costs, which would be somewhere between $10.00 and $25.00 a single use. The heroin available in most public settings today is of much higher quality than the black tar heroin of the 1960s and 1970s, since it is being refined more efficiently by producers before reaching the open market.

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of pain medication, buying 80% of the medication produced. Overdose of prescription pain medication is the highest cause of accidental death in this country, with death occurring every 19 minutes nationwide. Overdose from heroin use is rising sharply over the period of the last ten years; often observed with higher incidence in celebrity overdose cases in recent years.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), reports that while overdose deaths from cocaine and prescription opiate medications have remained consistent in the period between 2011 and 2013, deaths from heroin overdose have doubled in number during that time.

A National Concern

Treatment professionals are seeing a steady increase in rates of admissions for addiction treatment regarding heroin, as well as prescribed opiates. In Denver, rates increased nearly one full percentage point between 2011 and 2012. In Vermont, the governor spent his entire ‘State of the State’ address in January, 2014 talking about the rising rates of heroin addiction, calling it a public health crisis. Cases there of heroin trafficking increased 135 percent between 2012 and 2013. From 2000 to 2013, the rate of heroin addiction treatment increased over 250 percent.

Most of the heroin coming in to the U.S. is coming from drug cartels in Mexico. Mexican heroin has decreased dramatically in cost for several reasons. Farmers who once grew acres of marijuana have switched to fields of heroin poppies. This is primarily due to the higher prices paid for the same volume of product. Drug cartels will pay the high price for tar produced by opium poppies and risk the dangerous transport of tar from mountain villages where they grow faster than crops that cannot be sold at the same high price.

Resources:

Typical Opioid User Has Changed. Real Time Recovery. Retrieved from http://realtimerecovery.net/typical-opioid-user-changed/

Edelsten, Josh. (August 2014). Vermont Quits War on Drugs to Treat Heroin Abuse as Health Issue.BloombergBusiness. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-22/vermont-quits-war-on-drugs-to-treat-heroin-abuse-as-health-issue

O’Reilly, Andrew. (February 5, 2015). Gang warfare on streets of Chicago fueled by Sinaloa Cartel heroin.Fox News. Retrieved from http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2015/02/05/gang-warfare-on-streets-chicago-fueled-by-sinaloa-cartel-heroin/

Stevenson, Mark. (February 3, 2015). Mexican Cartels Expand Offerings to Feed America’s Growing Heroin Addiction. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/03/mexico-heroin-trade-us_n_6601296.html

Torres, Kevin. (January 7, 2015). Heroin Cheaper than Pain Killers. Denver News. Retrieved from http://www.9news.com/story/news/health/2015/01/03/heroin-prescription-drug-overdoses-colorado/21238183/

Weathers, Helen & Carmen Bruegmann. Heroin Britain.Daily Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-105112/Heroin-Britain.html

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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