Friday, July 25, 2014

Seattle City Council hopes state will license medical marijuana businesses

When the Seattle City Council last year adopted a marijuana business zoning ordinance, it included a stipulation that all medical marijuana businesses be licensed by the state by January 2015.  The stipulation was included because the Council thought that the state legislature would establish a medical marijuana licensing system during their 2014 session.  The legislature did not.

Since there is no way that Seattle's 200+ medical marijuana businesses can be in compliance with the City's zoning ordinance, the Council is now considering extending the deadline believing, again, that the state legislature will adopt a medical marijuana licensing system during their next session.  While originally considering extending the deadline to July 1, 2015, during Wednesday's public hearing about the extension Councilmember Nick Licata indicated that they will move the deadline to January 1, 2016.  He recognized that the state would need time to establish rules if the legislature passes a licensing bill.  



Before the public hearing started, Councilmember Tim Burgess asked about the legality of the 67 medical marijuana businesses that opened after the ordinance was adopted.  Licata confirmed that these businesses are illegal.  The Department of Planning and Development enforces the ordinance based on complaints they receive.  To date, about 12 complaints were received, mostly about marijuana growing.

The Finance and Culture Committee will review the proposed changes to the ordinance during their meeting on August 13.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Local conference to focus on social media and health

Using social media to improve adolescent health is the topic of a conference being held in Seattle next week. One way that social media can improve health is by providing easy access to information about health-related topics, such as teen drug use.  In the video below, Dr. Megan Moreno talks about how parents can guide their children in accessing online health information.



Similar videos are available on the SMAHRT YouTube page, providing a good example of how social media can be used to share health-related information.  Prevention WINS shares information through YouTube, Facebook, this blog, and Twitter.

The conference takes place July 31 through August 2 and information is available on the SMAHRT website.  Registration costs $10 per day - a bargain!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tweeting for teen drug use prevention

Prevention WINS is on Twitter!  Here is the latest tweet:




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

City Councilmembers talk about marijuana

Right off the bat, City Councilmembers Burgess, Godden, and Licata answer questions about marijuana during this week's City Inside/Out: Council Edition.



Jean Godden says she wants the city to get some marijuana tax revenue to pay for enforcement costs and costs associated with potential downsides of marijuana use.

Nick Licata discusses the two marijuana systems -- medical and recreational.

Tim Burgess thinks that the city is looking for trouble with two marijuana distribution systems in place.  He advocates for one system.

Monday, July 14, 2014

City Council to host public hearing about medical marijuana licensing July 23


Last year, the Seattle City Council adopted a zoning ordinance regarding where marijuana businesses can be located within the city.  The ordinance includes a stipulation that all medical marijuana businesses be licensed by the state by January 2015.  At the time the ordinance was adopted, the state only planned to license recreational (I-502) marijuana businesses.

The City Council is now considering a change to the ordinance to extend until July 1, 2015 the deadline for lots, business establishments, and dwelling units where the production, processing, selling, or delivery of marijuana was being conducted prior to November 16, 2013.

The intent of the January 2015 deadline was to provide time for implementation of medical marijuana legislation, including the licensing of businesses selling medical marijuana, that was to be created by the Washington legislature in 2014.  However, the state did not adopt new medical marijuana regulations in 2014.  The newly proposed city legislation includes a six-month extension of the original deadline to July 1, 2015.  The hope is that the legislature will adopt legislation during their 2015 session that will license businesses that sell medical marijuana.

The Council’s Finance and Culture Committee  will hold a public hearing on the proposed legislation:
July 23, 2014
2:00 p.m.
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Avenue

A few facts about the marijuana market:
  • Seattle is currently home to more than 200 medical marijuana retail businesses and an unknown amount of businesses that produce or process medical marijuana.  
  • The Liquor Control Board allocated 21 recreational (I-502) retail marijuana business licenses for Seattle, similar to the number of liquor outlets in the city prior to privatization (I-1183).  
  • About 10% of people over the age of 12 in King County used marijuana within the last month, according to research conducted for the Liquor Control Board last year.  
  • About one quarter of the state's marijuana consumers are people under the age of 21 according to research conducted for the Liquor Control Board last year.
  • Medical marijuana may be sold to people under the age of 21, recreational marijuana cannot.
  • This past spring, a Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that medical marijuana businesses are illegal under state law.  

Adolescent medicine doctor provides tips for parents about preventing underage marijuana use

From the Teenology 101 blog:

This week the first recreational marijuana stores opened in Washington State. Initiative 502 was passed in 2012 to legalize marijuana in the state without a physician’s recommendation, but it was just yesterday that recreational stores could legally sell it. One store opened in Seattle, the others were in Bellingham, Prosser, and Spokane. It remains illegal for anyone under age 21 to use or possess marijuana, but legalizing recreational use does send a message to those who aren’t yet adults: it’s legal now, so it must be ok, right? We’ve had posts on marijuana legalization and teen marijuana use in the past, but here we wanted to highlight the importance of parents in preventing underage use.What can parents do?

Click here to read more.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

King County drug abuse trends 2013


The annual King County Drug Trends report was released last month by the King County Drug Trends Workgroup.  Among their major findings is that heroin use continues to increase in King County and statewide; young adults are a major population of concern.  Heroin involved deaths among those under 30 has increased from 7 deaths (14%) in 2009 to 34 deaths (34%) in 2013, the numbers for all ages increased from 49 to 99 respectively.


The report includes information about drug treatment admissions and for adolescents (under 18 years old) marijuana remains the primary reason for entering treatment.  For young adults (under 30 years old) heroin is the primary reason for entering treatment and alcohol is the primary reason for all other adults. 

A complete copy of the report is available at http://adai.uw.edu/pubs/cewg/CEWG_Seattle_June2014.pdf.

Teenagers and marijuana-infused foods, beverages

In this news story, Lisa Sharp from Seattle Public Schools and Yolanda Evans from Seattle Children's Hospital discuss the consumption of marijuana-infused foods among adolescents.  The story highlights the need to educate parents about marijuana-infused products and marijuana concentrates.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How do teenagers get marijuana and alcohol?

Marijuana retail stores are expected to start opening in our state next week.  As an adolescent drug use prevention coalition, Prevention WINS is interested in how youth access drugs, including marijuana.  What we know is that minors who use alcohol and marijuana mostly get the drugs from their friends.


Results from the 2012 Seattle Public Schools Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicate that most high school students who use marijuana get it from friends.  This is true for alcohol, as well.  Most Seattle high school students who use alcohol report getting it from a friend or at a party, according to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.


When marijuana stores open, it is expected that teenagers will get marijuana like they currently get alcohol: socially, including through family.  Increased access among adults who are willing to sell or give marijuana to teenagers leads to increased distribution to teenagers.  Increased parental use means more marijuana in the home for teenagers to take with or without permission.    

The YRBS results support this.  When high school marijuana users were asked if they ever used marijuana that came from of dispensary, 39% said yes and 23% were not sure, despite only 6% buying it from a dispensary.  Among those who said yes, it is likely that an adult or friend with a medical marijuana authorization provided the drug to them after purchasing it at a dispensary.  

Will marijuana stores sell to minors?  Likely not, at least as this new market gets up and running.  If the legal recreational market is to be successful, businesses need to show that they are responsible.  But adults who have easy access to marijuana, and teenagers who have medical marijuana authorizations, need to be held responsible, too, if distribution to minors is to be prevented.  

Policies that reduce drug availability are part of a comprehensive approach to drug prevention


Drug overdose deaths, particularly those caused by prescription painkillers, declined in Florida after state policy changes were made, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Their success provides a perfect example of how drug prevention is not only about school-based programs and parenting, it’s also about adopting policies that reduce the availability of drugs and enforcing those policies. 

From a New York Times article about the decline in deaths:

"Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C., said the pattern provided a hopeful example of the effect that policy could have on one of this country’s most entrenched public health problems, one that takes the lives of more than 20,000 Americans a year."

“This tells us that policies and enforcement work,” Dr. Frieden said."

From the CDC's report on the decline in drug-related deaths:

“. . . policy changes in Florida were followed by declines in the prescribing of drugs, especially those favored by Florida prescribing dispensers and pain clinics, as well as by declines in overdose deaths involving those drugs. Florida has reported that approximately 250 pain clinics were closed by 2013, and the number of high-volume oxycodone dispensing prescribers declined from 98 in 2010 to 13 in 2012 and zero in 2013. Law enforcement agencies in Florida also reported that rates of drug diversion (i.e., channeling of prescription drugs to illicit markets) declined during 2010–2012.

Like the most effective substance use prevention strategies, Florida took a multi-pronged approach to preventing drug-related deaths.  The approach relied heavily on policies that reduce access to prescription painkillers and the enforcement of those policies.  

Communities need to support parents with a "no drug use" message for teens

Yesterday, KING 5 broadcast a story about how parents can talk to their children about not using marijuana.

                       

Parents need the support of other adults in the community so that teenagers get consistent messages that support healthy youth development.  In the KING 5 story, Dr. Leslie Walker says, "Just like parents should be doing with alcohol.  This is not a safe for you at this stage in your life.  It can possibly cause permanent damage to you as an adolescent with a developing brain.  I do not want you to use marijuana at this time."  People and institutions in our community need to express this message, too.

Prevention research evolved a great deal since the "just say no" days and we now know that we must provide teenagers with the tools they need to be able to follow through on family rules against drug use.  Adults can coach children:

  • Role play situations where they are offered drugs, including marijuana, by a peer.
  • Help them to find the right words to express their intention not to use.
  • Help them suggest an alternative to drug use.  (This is why it is important for communities to have alternative activities readily available.)
  • Tell them that is fine to walk away from someone, including a friend, who is offering drugs and, if needed, to call for a ride home.  

More about preventing underage marijuana use is available here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teen marijuana use prevention: It takes a community

Legislature should find the will to fund teenage marijuana use prevention” reads a recent Seattle Times editorial headline. 

The editorial states: “Just Say No” messages won’t work in this era."

Adolescent substance abuse prevention has evolved a great deal over the past twenty years thanks to prevention research and has not been about “Just Say No” for quite a while.   What does research tell use about how to effectively prevent adolescent substance use, including marijuana use?

For parents:

Prevention needs to start early.  Parents should start talking to their children about not using drugs by the end of elementary school and at the latest by the end of middle school.  A locally-developed parent guide can provide parents with information on what to say.  Among the research-backed strategies: 
  • A “no use” attitude is important.  Children whose parents have a positive attitude toward marijuana use are five times more likely to use marijuana by 8th grade. 
  •  Be clear about family rules against using drugs, including marijuana, and set clear guidelines.
  • Make sure those guidelines are followed and follow through on reasonable consequences if rules are broken.  
  • Monitor your own behavior – parents are role models for their children. 

For lawmakers:

As the editorial states: “With other budget pressures, Olympia will be tempted to tap into future marijuana tax revenues that I-502 specifically dedicated to prevention.”  In recent years, the legislature cut and then eliminated funding for the statewide Community Mobilization program, an evidence-based prevention program.  Most prevention funding now comes from the federal government and they, too, are always looking to cut expenditures. 

In addition to funding, lawmakers can be a part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.  Examples of policies that prevent teen drug use include: 
  • Enforcing marijuana laws, both medical and recreational.  Seattle drug use prevention coalitions have heard from kids that they can get marijuana easily through retail dispensaries.  Among Seattle high school students who use marijuana, 39% report using marijuana that came from a dispensary, likely through friends who bought it legally (with a recommendation) or illegally (without a recommendation.) 
  • Enacting and enforcing social host laws for both marijuana and alcohol to prevent parents from providing teenagers with the drugs. 

For communities:

Adolescent substance use prevention is most effective when multiple sectors of the community implement a variety of strategies.  To guide the selection of prevention strategies, communities can look at their local Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) data which not only provides data on use rates but information about risk factors that are specific to their community. 

For instance, the Prevention WINS coalition recently started planning to address the risk factor of “decreasing perception of risk” associated with marijuana use.  Since 2006 the coalition has tracked risk and protective factors specific to NE Seattle and every two years HYS data indicated that perceptions of risk decreased.  Data-driven decisions worked in NE Seattle in the past and continue to guide future prevention activities. 

The video below, featuring Dr. J. David Hawkins from the University of Washington, provides more information about what communities can do when working together and guided by local data.  



The Communities That Care system is very similar to the Strategic Prevention Framework used by most WA communities that have a drug use prevention coalitions.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Liquor Control Board to limit marijuana-infused products appealing to children

Today, the Washington State Liquor Control Board adopted emergency rules adding a requirement that all marijuana-infused products, packaging, and labeling be approved by them.  The rules are to clarify the types of marijuana-infused products the board will allow to be produced and sold.  The board's issue paper on the emergency rules states:

"Many marijuana-infused products on the medical marijuana market today are appealing to children.  Products such as lollipops, gummy bears, and cotton candy are very appealing to children too young to read a label."

To gain approval from the board, marijuana processors must submit a picture of the product, its label, and packaging to them.  The board will not approve products that appeal to children.

Marijuana-infused products that look like foods and beverages that children commonly eat and drink have been a concern for Prevention WINS members even prior to the I-502 vote.  Concerns were expressed to the Liquor Control Board during their rule-making process and as they developed recommendations for reconciling the recreational and medical marijuana systems.  During rule-making, Prevention WINS included the following in our letter to the board:

Recently, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Pediatrics discussed the increase in unintentional ingestion of marijuana among children in Colorado.

As the Board knows from experience, many flavored malt beverages are fruit flavored and particularly attractive to minors. In one survey about underage drinking, when asked what one type of alcohol drink they would most prefer, 30% of teens said “alcopops” (the term used to describe these flavored alcoholic beverages – a combination of “alcohol” and “pop”).

In the past, the Board has banned the sale of certain alcohol products because of the high likelihood that the products are attractive to minors. A similar ban should be placed on marijuana-infused products that are attractive to minors and resemble products primarily consumed by children. Examples of such products, many of which currently may be sold in medical marijuana access points, include but are not limited to:
  • Snow-cones,
  • Hard candy, lollipops, and cookies shaped like animals, people, cartoon and other characters, Christmas trees, snowmen, stars, etc.,
  • Soda-pop,
  • Juice,
  • Candy bars,
  • Pop-Tarts,
  • “Gummy” candies shaped like worms, bears, etc.

Some flavored tobacco and alcohol products are also banned because of their potential to attract young people. The Board should ban marijuana products containing flavorings such as fruit, candy, and vanilla.


The emergency rules also include guidelines regarding serving sizes.  The new rules read:

"Marijuana-infused products in solid form that contain more than one serving must be scored to indicate individual serving sizes, and labeled so that the serving size is prominently displayed on the packaging."

"Marijuana-infused products must be homogenized to ensure uniform disbursement of cannabinoids throughout the product."  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Prevent teen drug use, prevent teen DUIs


Earlier this year, the Washington State Toxicologist reported that the primary drug, including alcohol, detected in DUI cases among people under the age of 21 is marijuana.  A recent study confirms that marijuana-related driving crashes are a significant problem among younger drivers. From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: 

The profile of a drugged driver has changed substantially since 1993, according to a new study released today in the journal Public Health Reports, which shows that more drivers are now testing positive for prescription drugs, marijuana and multiple drugs.

. . . The study examines trends in the characteristics of U.S. drivers who were involved in fatal crashes between 1993 and 2010 and tested positive for drugs.

. . . Almost 60 percent of cannabis-only users were younger than 30 years.  (About 36% of meth users and 25% of prescription drug and cocaine users were younger than 30.) 

We see that cocaine and methamphetamine are becoming less and less prevalent. Drugged drivers now would be much more likely to be using marijuana and prescription drugs, and they would probably be more likely to be mixing those drugs with alcohol. We see that overall fatalities are going down, perhaps because people are more likely to be in seat belts, but the mixing of alcohol with drugs is not trending down. It’s becoming more of a problem. 

The author notes that “these trends are likely to continue into the future given . . . increasing initiatives to legalize marijuana.”   

One way to prevent DUIs among people under the age of 21 is to prevent drug use, including marijuana and alcohol, among adolescents. Young drivers who do not use drugs don't drive under the influence. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Underage Marijuana Use Prevention Toolkit now available online


An Underage Marijuana Use Prevention Toolkit was recently launched by the Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery to help educate people about the new law and the risks associated with adolescent use of the drug.  The toolkit is available online and includes several posters, including these two.



Since no current funding exists for a full scale educational campaign, DBHR is relying heavily on community-based organizations, including coalitions and their partners, to use the toolkit to educate parents, youth, and the wider community about the new law and how marijuana impacts adolescent health.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Teen marijuana use is risky

As the Prevention WINS coalition plans for addressing the decreasing perception of risk associated with marijuana use among teenagers in NE Seattle, understanding what the risks are is important.

An article about the adverse health effects of marijuana use was published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month.  It especially highlights the harmful effects of marijuana use among teenagers.  From the article:

Intoxication: When under the influence of marijuana, it can interfere with memory, perception of time, and coordination which can lead to consequences such as motor vehicle crashes.

Addiction: One in six people who start using marijuana as teenagers become addicted to the drug.  Among those who use marijuana daily, 25 to 50% become addicted.

Brain development: Frequent use of marijuana from adolescence into adulthood is associated with significant declines in IQ.  This may be due to fewer connections established in the brains of people who used marijuana regularly during the teen years compared to people who did not.  These long lasting brain changes can hinder academic and social achievements.  

Yes, teen alcohol, tobacco, and opiate use are risky, too.  Like most drug use prevention programs, the Prevention WINS coalition addresses multiple substances used by teenagers and provides information about the harms associated with all of them.  The current focus on marijuana is a result of the declining perception of risk among NE Seattle teens who receive messages from adults in the wider community that marijuana is a safe drug to use.  


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Prevention WINS to address decreasing perceptions of risk

Over the past few months, the Prevention WINS coalition has been conducting a community assessment so that we may address new risk factors contributing to teen drug use in NE Seattle.

The coalition started by analyzing WA Healthy Youth Survey data to determine why alcohol and marijuana use rates and prescription drug abuse rates are increasing in our community.  Among several risk factors identified, coalition members chose to focus on the decreasing perception of harm/risk associated with drug use.  Perceptions of risk are well-documented indicators of teen drug use.

During last month's meeting, coalition members identified factors that may be contributing to these decreasing perceptions of risk.  The drafted logic model below outlines factors coalition members identified.  One of the next steps is to collect data to confirm that these factors are indeed affecting risk perceptions among NE Seattle teens.  


Coalition members formed a workgroup that will meet later this month to take a closer look at perceptions of risk, identify ways to collect local data, and begin to identify prevention activities to address the perceptions.  For more information about the meeting, contact the Prevention WINS coordinator.

When the logic model is complete, it will accompany a comprehensive plan for preventing teen drug use in NE Seattle,  In addition to coalition prevention activities, the plan will outline activities others in NE Seattle may conduct to address additional risk factors.  Other NE Seattle risk factors include increased access to alcohol and marijuana and perceptions among teens that they won't be caught by police if using alcohol and marijuana.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

MADD offers Power of Parents facilitator training June 6


From MADD Washington:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) provides a Power of Parents program which includes tips and tools for parents to be able to have lifesaving conversations with their teens before prom, graduation and summer celebrations. With this program, thousands of Washington’s teens will have the real facts around underage drinking and understand what the expectations are around alcohol during the most dangerous time of year for them and their peers. MADD offers free 30 minute Power of Parents workshops, explaining the research, tips and tools around underage drinking prevention and giving parents the opportunity to meet and support one another. These workshops further the impact on the community and garner support for the prevention of underage drinking.

MADD is excited to be offering an upcoming training for individuals to become certified in facilitating our Power of Parents workshop. The training will be held on Friday, June 6,th from 9 AM -3 PM at the Seattle Public Library downtown (1000 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104), and lunch will be provided. The library has parking available and the early bird price is $14 for the day if participants arrive before 9:30 AM. Once trained and certified, faciliators will have access to MADD's evidence based prevention materials for facilitating presentations to parents.

Space is limited.  RSVP by contacting MADD's Program Coordinator.

Enforcement of laws important for youth drug use prevention

If laws and regulations are going to deter people and businesses from illegal behaviors, they must be enforced. In this video, Jessica Hawkins from Oklahoma's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services describes some steps her state took to enforce penalties for social hosts who allow underage drinking on their premises.  



Though she talks about the social host law, she provides good examples of how the enforcement of all laws regarding teen access to and consumption of drugs can be implemented and supported by the community.  This is a timely topic here in Washington considering our new marijuana laws and the rules that were adopted to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors.  Those underage marijuana use prevention rules are only effective if actually enforced.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

National Prevention Week: Suicide prevention


From the Youth Suicide
Prevention Program
This week is National Prevention Week and today's focus is suicide prevention.  While this blog usually focuses specifically on preventing teen drug use, today's post is about suicide because drugs often play a role.  

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Several factors can put a young person at risk for suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Stressful life event or loss
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Incarceration"
King County overall has a lower rate of suicide when compared nationally; however, it has recently seen an increase in the number of suicides. In 2010, there were 226 suicide deaths, approximately 25% more than in 2001. The most frequent suicide methods include:
  • Firearms (38%)
  • Poisoning (24%)
  • Suffocation (21%)
  • Cut/Pierce (4%)
Of poisoning-related deaths, drugs and alcohol make up 75% of them nationally.

The local Youth Suicide Prevention Program can provide additional information about prevention, intervention, and links to resources.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

National Prevention Week: Preventing underage marijuana use

This week is National Prevention Week and preventing youth marijuana use is one focus area.  With recreational marijuana retail outlets expected to open this summer, many people are looking for information about how the drug affects teenagers and what parents can do to prevent their children from using.  

Last fall, local experts Drs. Leslie Walker and Kevin Haggerty developed a pamphlet for parents about preventing underage marijuana use. 

This week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released two updated booklets about marijuana for teens and their parents.
  • Marijuana Facts for Teens discusses the health consequences of marijuana use in this age group, its effect on the developing brain, its addiction risk, and what we know about its potential as a medicine.

Both NIDA publications provide information about marijuana and its impact on adolescent health.  Missing from the parent booklet is information about marijuana concentrates and vaporizing.  Prevention WINS coalition members report that vaporizing marijuana products has become an increasingly popular way for teenagers who use marijuana to consume it.  

Since Washingtonians voted to create a legal commercial marketplace for marijuana, many people have been asking questions about what it means for those under the age of 21.  The Mercer Island Communities That Care Coalition created this video which answers many common questions. 



Key points:
  • Marijuana laws did not change for adolescents.  It is still illegal for anyone under 21 to use "recreational" marijuana.  Minors can still obtain "medical" marijuana.    
  • It is illegal for minors to drive under the influence of any amount of marijuana.  
  • It is illegal for adults to supply minors with "recreational" marijuana.  
Like laws regarding alcohol, WA marijuana laws will change over time.  To keep abreast of marijuana policy, visit the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention's website.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

National Prevention Week: Preventing prescription drug abuse

This week is National Prevention Week and today’s focus is preventing prescription drug abuse.

This video is from the Partnership at DrugFree.org Medicine Abuse Project:


Among NE Seattle teenagers, the abuse of prescription drugs has steadily increased over the past six years.  While the Prevention WINS Coalition is currently conducting a community assessment to determine what local conditions are contributing to this rise in abuse, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “multiple factors are likely at work:

Misperceptions about their safety. Because these medications are prescribed by doctors, many assume that they are safe to take under any circumstances. This is not the case. Prescription drugs act directly or indirectly on the same brain systems affected by illicit drugs. Using a medication other than as prescribed can potentially lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including overdose and addiction.

Increasing environmental availability. Between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million and for opioid analgesics from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million.

Varied motivations for their abuse. Underlying reasons include: to get high; to counter anxiety, pain, or sleep problems; or to enhance cognition. Whatever the motivation, prescription drug abuse comes with serious risks.”

Individuals and organizations have roles to play in addressing these factors.  Everyone can: 
  • Educate their students, clients, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and families about the harms that are associated with the mis-use of medicines. 
  •  Lock up personal medications to prevent theft and the misuse by others in their home.
  • Dispose of unused medications either at a Group Health or participating Bartell pharmacy.  Some other pharmacies sell medicine return envelopes and the Drug Enforcement Administration hosts semi-annual medicine take-back days. 
  • Recognize and address anxiety, pain, and sleep problems that teenagers may be facing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

National Prevention Week: Preventing underage drinking



This week is National Prevention Week and today’s focus is on underage drinking. 

While a lot of local underage drinking prevention activities focus on youth and parents, to be most effective underage drinking prevention activities should be conducted by individuals and organizations throughout the community.  The United States Surgeon General’s report about preventing underage drinking provides examples of what can be done on the community level.

For communities: Adolescents generally obtain alcohol from adults who sell it to them, purchase it on their behalf, or allow them to attend or give parties where it is served. Therefore, it is critical that adults refuse to provide alcohol to adolescents and that communities value, encourage, and reward an adolescent's commitment not to drink. A number of strategies can contribute to a culture that discourages adults from providing alcohol to minors and that supports an adolescent's decision not to drink. Communities can:

Invest in alcohol-free youth-friendly programs and environments.

Widely publicize all policies and laws that prohibit underage alcohol use.

Ensure that community events do not promote a culture in which underage drinking is acceptable.

Increase awareness of the latest research on adolescent alcohol use and, in particular, the adverse consequences of alcohol use on underage drinkers, and other members of the community who suffer from its secondhand effects. An informed public is an essential part of an overall plan to prevent underage drinking and to change the culture that supports it.

For the criminal and juvenile justice systems and law enforcement: 

Enforce uniformly and consistently all policies and laws against underage alcohol use and widely publicize these efforts.

Gain public support for enforcing underage drinking laws by working with other stakeholders to ensure that the public understands that underage drinking affects both the public health and safety.

For governments and policymakers: 

Focus as much attention on underage drinking as on tobacco and other drugs, making it clear that underage alcohol use is an important public health problem.

Increase the cost of underage drinking: The “cost” of underage drinking refers not just to the price of alcohol but to the total sacrifice in time, effort, and resources required to obtain it as well as to penalties associated with its use. Research indicates that increasing the cost of drinking can positively affect adolescent decisions about alcohol use.  In addition to price, the cost of underage drinking can be affected by a variety of measures:

Enforcement of minimum drinking age laws and other measures that directly reduce alcohol availability.

Enforcement should target underage drinkers, merchants who sell alcohol to youth, and people who provide alcohol to youth.

Holding adults accountable for underage drinking at house parties, even when those adults are not at home.

Any measure that decreases the availability of alcohol to youth and so raises the cost of getting it.