Wednesday, May 18, 2016

History repeats: Marijuana tax revenue dedicated to prevention shifted to general fund

Over the years, this blog has included posts about tax revenue earmarked for teen substance use prevention being diverted to the state general fund. Prior to the passage of Initiative 502 which created the legal commercial marijuana system in our state, prevention advocates warned that the initiative's dedicated funds for prevention could and would be moved to fund other things as soon as the legislature was legally able to. And legislators did.

The Seattle Times editorial board recently wrote about it after a Seattle 16 year-old died because he "likely jumped from a balcony in a panic after smoking pot for the first time."The editorial describes the broken promises that, not surprisingly, are similar to previous broken promises for tobacco and liquor revenue earmarks:

Based on the revenue coming in or forecast through 2018, the state Department of Social and Health Services should have had $113 million for programs “aimed at the prevention or reduction” of substance abuse among middle and high schoolers — kids the age of Warsame. Instead, the agency is budgeted to receive only about half that amount.

Similarly, the state Department of Health should have had $77 million to operate a marijuana-education hotline and a statewide public-education campaign regarding marijuana for youths and adults. Instead, the Legislature earmarked less than one-third that amount — $24 million — and the marijuana-information hotline hasn’t materialized.
Source: Seattle Times, May 17, 2016

In communities, this means that while access to marijuana increases, as children are exposed to marijuana advertising, and marijuana use becomes normalized, young people aren't receiving messages to counteract marijuana marketing, not all middle schools are implementing tested and effective prevention programs, and not all parents are learning skills for supporting healthy decision making among their children. It means that, once again, legislators and those who promised Washingtonians that marijuana legalization would be good for substance use prevention are failing to do their part to help our teenagers stay drug free.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Prevention WINS meets May 10

The Prevention WINS coalition will meet:
Tuesday, May 10, 8:00 a.m.

All coalition meetings are open to the public. Everyone is welcome!

Agenda items include a presentation about King County's Secure Medicine Return Program and updates about coalition and other local prevention activities.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What is substance use prevention?

The annual National Prevention Network (NPN) meeting was held in Seattle last fall and the University of Washington's David Hawkins gave a keynote address about substance use prevention. As our state expands prevention programming, particularly activities for preventing youth marijuana use, his keynote address provides a good reminder about what works and what does not.

Before a great deal of prevention research was done, many substance use prevention programs were used that have since proven ineffective. The last thirty years of research have made a significant difference in understanding what is most effective.

For example, while it may seem intuitively correct that providing information about drugs would be a straight-forward way to prevent young people from starting to use drugs, such a strategy actually increased drug use in some studies.

Locally, the UW's Social Development Research Group studied the effects of risk and protective factors on youth drug use. They found that protective factors can reduce youth drug use even in the presence of many risk factors.

Protective factors include the communication of clear standards in families, at schools, and in the community. When families, schools, and communities express clear standards against teenagers using drugs, youth are less likely to use drugs.

Individual prevention programs that encourage family bonding, teach skills that teenagers need to be able to avoid or refuse drugs, and provide parents with information about giving their children opportunities and recognition for pro-social behaviors have been found to be effective.

Communities have a role to play in prevention, too. Policies such as the minimum legal drinking age, taxes, and restrictions on where and when legal drugs are sold are proven methods for preventing youth drug use.

So, which prevention activities should be implemented in communities? Whichever ones address the problems specific to a community. Prevention activities are not one-size-fits-all. Know your community and what factors are putting teenagers at risk and what factors are protecting against drug use.

The entire keynote presentation may be viewed by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Safely dispose of unwanted medications on Saturday

From the Seattle Police Department:

On Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Seattle Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 11th opportunity in six years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Bring your pills for disposal to any of the city’s five precincts. You can find the drop-off site in your neighborhood by visiting our precinct map.    The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last September, Americans turned in 350 tons (over 702,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,000 sites operated by the DEA and more than 3,800 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 10 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 5.5 million pounds—more than 2,750 tons—of pills.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Recent police blotter reports point to the need for a comprehensive array of prevention activities

Recent SPD Blotter reports remind us why substance use prevention needs to start early and take a comprehensive approach.

On Wednesday, April 13, the Blotter reported that an "18-year-old woman's mother called 911 . . . and reported her daughter overdosing at her home near NE 50th Street and Sand Point Way NE."

On Monday, April 18, the Blotter reported that bike officers "responded to the Westlake Mall at about 6:30 PM Sunday after a witness found a 21-year-old woman unresponsive in a third-floor bathroom . . . strewn with a half-dozen needles and a heroin cooker."

Luckily, both times first responders were able to revive the young women. Both provide good examples of how policies that encourage people to call 911 if they witness an overdose and enable first responders to carry Narcan/Naloxone can save people's lives.

On Saturday, April 23, the Blotter reported that a 22 year old man "believed to be high on methamphetamine and PCP smashed a downtown Ballard window during the afternoon lunch hour and attacked customers with a shard of glass . . ."

Considering the ages of the people involved in these incidents, they provide good examples of why a well-funded, multi-pronged approach to prevention is important. Preventing drug use among teenagers can prevent drug overdoses and criminal behavior among young adults.  

Middle school prevention programs
Most teenagers who use drugs start using drugs by the time they are juniors in high school. The transition between middle and high school is a time of especially high risk for initiating drug use. That's why prevention programming in late elementary and early middle school is important. Many prevention activities conducted by Prevention WINS and partner organizations target middle school students and their parents. This includes evidence-based prevention programs like Life Skills Training and Guiding Good Choices.

Reducing access to drugs
But school-based prevention programs and supporting parenting activities proven to prevent drug use is not enough. This is especially true if drugs are readily available in a community, like heroin is now. To effectively prevent youth drug use and later abuse, policies that reduce access to drugs need to be adopted and enforced. As with the reduction of drug-related deaths, policies play a key role in a comprehensive prevention strategy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Today is "Talk With Your Kids About NOT Using Marijuana Day" in WA

Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed today, April 20, 2016, as "Talk With Your Kids About NOT Using Marijuana Day".

Parents have the greatest influence on a child's decision about drugs, including marijuana and alcohol. In fact, teens who learn about the risks from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs than kids who do not.

The Start Talking Now website provides parents with information about how to start the conversation about drugs. A parent guide produced by Seattle Children's Hospital provides parents with information about how to help their children make healthy decisions, including the decision not to use drugs.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Everyone has a role to play: "Talk. They Hear You" campaign materials can help

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a great opportunity to learn more about preventing underage drinking. The "Talk. They Hear You." campaign from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides many resources for community members to use in prevention activities.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Seattle Magazine: What's being done about the rise in marijuana use among teens?

"What's being done about the rise in marijuana use among teens?" asks an article in this month's Seattle Magazine. The article features interviews with Prevention WINS current and former members. Here are a few excerpts:

Local kids are being pummeled with messages that pot is now OK, says longtime KING-TV reporter Roberta Romero, now director of development at Residence XII, a substance abuse program for women based in Kirkland. Romero, in recovery for alcohol addiction herself and the parent of twin teenagers attending Seattle’s Roosevelt High School, worries that the recent years’ barrage of local pot promotion isn’t being offset by prevention education for youth. 


 But increasing availability for adults also means that youth are likely to have more access to pot. According to the state’s most recent Healthy Youth Survey, 10th graders who live with a marijuana user are more than five times as likely to report regular pot use. When kids ingest or smoke pot, it can lead to a slew of health-related issues, says Leslie R. Walker, M.D., the chief of Seattle Children’s Division of Adolescent Medicine. 


Although hundreds of Seattle students were caught using or possessing marijuana last year, Seattle Public Schools has not made broad changes to student programming or curriculum to address Washington’s new legal environment for marijuana. However, the district has incorporated information on the risk of new marijuana products into existing curriculum, says Lisa Davidson, manager of prevention and intervention for Seattle Public Schools. Evidence-based drug prevention programs used by the district include the Project Alert program, used in many middle schools, and Project SUCCESS, in high schools. There’s also more staff training and parent education pertaining to issues such as the marijuana law and new products, she says. 


In prevention circles, “perception of harm,” or the idea that a substance is harmful, is a key indicator. “As perceptions of harm around a substance go down, we see the use go up,” says Liz Wilhelm, drug-free communities coordinator for Prevention WINS.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Seattle City Council committee adopts resolution supporting medicine return program

As part of a multi-pronged strategy for preventing prescription drug abuse, the Prevention WINS coalition, in collaboration with other drug prevention and environmental organizations, advocated for the King County Board of Health to adopt a secure medicine return program in 2013. The policy was adopted and this spring the medicine return program is expected to be implemented in pharmacies county-wide with pharmaceutical companies paying for it.

Yesterday, the Seattle City Council's public safety committee adopted a resolution supporting the medicine return program and encouraging pharmacies and police precincts to participate.

A RESOLUTION expressing the City’s support for an effective, countywide safe prescription drug disposal program, including controlled substances, and requesting local pharmacies and the Seattle Police Department to install drug disposal drop-boxes across the City.
 WHEREAS, in June 2015, the University of Washington (UW) Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute reported that drug-caused deaths involving heroin and/or methamphetamine peaked in King County in 2014, including a 58 percent increase in heroin deaths; and
WHEREAS, a 2013 study by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that four out of five recent heroin users previously used opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone; and
WHEREAS, research suggests that these individuals switched to heroin because it is less expensive in the illegal marketplace than opioid pain relievers; and
WHEREAS, one component of a comprehensive public health approach to addressing drug abuse is the safe disposal of unused prescription drugs, including controlled substances; and
WHEREAS, safe disposal of unused prescription drugs, especially opioid pain relievers, reduces the risk of nonmedical use that might lead to drug abuse, including heroin addiction; and
WHEREAS, adolescents and young adults who experiment with nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers are most likely to obtain them from friends and family members who had received a prescription; and
WHEREAS, improper disposal of prescription drugs, including controlled substances, contributes to environmental degradation, as documented in a recent study that found traces of numerous prescription drugs in Puget Sound waters, as described in a 2016 article in the journal Environmental Pollution; and
WHEREAS, President Obama recently announced a number of new actions to address opioid abuse and proposed spending $1.1 billion in his FY 2017 budget for this purpose; and
WHEREAS, many pharmacies in the Seattle area have offered drug disposal drop-boxes for unused vitamins, over-the-counter medicines, and some prescription drugs; and
WHEREAS, per an October 2014 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency rule, police departments and pharmacies may now provide safe disposal boxes for controlled substances like OxyContin, Vicodin, Valium, and Ritalin; and
WHEREAS, a growing number of police departments in King County are offering safe disposal of controlled substances, including Auburn, Bothell, Burien, Issaquah, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Maple Valley, Sammamish, Snoqualmie, and Woodinville; and
WHEREAS, King County has launched a new effort to enhance safe prescription drug disposal efforts and a stewardship organization retained by King County will be providing funding for installation of drop-boxes, staff training, and collection of the drugs; NOW, THEREFORE,
Section 1. The City Council and the Mayor ask that local pharmacies partner with King County to provide safe drug disposal drop-boxes at locations across the City.
Section 2. The City Council and the Mayor likewise request the Seattle Police Department to install prescription drug disposal drop-boxes at each of its five precincts.
Section 3. The City Council and the Mayor ask that other appropriate City agencies like the Department of Neighborhoods, the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and the Office for Civil Rights offer assistance to King County to help ensure that the County’s drop-box disposal program is designed to be culturally appropriate and accessible for marginalized populations, including limited English speakers.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Baked goods & desserts top the list of approved marijuana-infused products in WA

Of the marijuana-infused products approved by the Liquor and Cannabis Board, who are to reject products that are especially appealing to children, baked goods and desserts make up most (68%) of the market according to the recently released Washington State Marijuana Impact Report.

Baked goods include cookies, brownies, scones, biscotti, muffins, and bread. Desserts include chocolate, caramels, truffles, brittle, fudge, and mints. The February edition of the Marijuana News Bulletin included a picture of a baked good called UHi?

Other marijuana-infused products listed include sugar packets, milk chocolate malted balls, and root beer hard candy.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Poison Center reports an increase in marijuana-related calls to their helpline. The Center takes calls from throughout the state that range from accidental exposures/ingestions to potential overdoses involving an array of substances. Among those substances is marijuana and among people exposed to marijuana, 45% were youth in 2014.

Since 2012, Poison Center calls related to marijuana-infused products have significantly increased.