Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How parents can prevent teen marijuana & alcohol use

Save the dates!

Teens, Marijuana & Alcohol: Setting the Framework for Healthy Communication

·         Tuesday,January 15, 7PM @ Nathan Hale High School, hosted by Raiders Against Destructive Decisions

 ·         Thursday,January 17, 7PM @ Roosevelt High School, hosted by the Roosevelt High School PTSA

Guest speaker at both events: Dr. Kevin Haggerty, University of Washington Social Development Research Group.

For more information, contact the Prevention WINS coordinator.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The new marijuana law and family discussions

From Parents advised to talk to teens about new marijuana law (HeraldNet):

Parents need to have clear rules that kids understand about drug and alcohol use, Walker said. "It's OK to say zero tolerance; we don't accept you using alcohol or drugs."

Some parents feel uncomfortable adopting such household rules, she said, recalling that they didn't follow this advice regarding marijuana when they were younger.

The strains of marijuana now available are much stronger than in the past, she said. Kids can have anxiety or panic attacks after ingesting edibles, or food infused with marijuana, she said.

There's no way to know which kid will experiment with marijuana just one time and who will struggle with life-long dependence, Walker said.

"If they try it as adults, they're less likely to be dependent on it," she said. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

State Superintendent releases statement about marijuana

Statement from State Superintendent Randy Dorn About Marijuana

Recent anecdotal reports from school districts suggest an increase in marijuana possession and consumption among young people, especially after the passage of Initiative 502, which legalizes small quantities of the drug for people age 21 and older. Below is a statement from State Superintendent Randy Dorn on what the law means to public schools.

The passage of I-502 changes nothing in public schools in Washington state. Certain drugs, including marijuana, continue to be illegal on school property and to anyone younger than 21 years old.

To receive federal funds, districts must abide by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and must have a Drug and Tobacco-Free Workplace and a similar student policy in place. Each district’s policy has a number of common requirements about marijuana and other drugs, such as not allowing any student to:
  • Possess,
  • Distribute,
  • Manufacture or
  • Be under the influence.

Any student caught will be disciplined according to local district policy and local law enforcement as required. Fines can also be doubled if the arrest occurs within 1,000 feet of a school facility.

I-502 changes state law but has no effect on federal law.

Some people think that a medical marijuana card is similar to a prescription for a controlled substance and can be brought to schools or the workplace. That is false. Having a medical marijuana card does not mean a student, or an employee, or anyone for that matter, can bring marijuana on school grounds.

Students need to be engaged and prepared for school. Marijuana doesn’t allow them to be either of those things. Marijuana dulls the brain. It can lead to paranoia, short-term memory loss and depression.

And for those under 21, it is illegal.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What parents can say to their children about marijuana

From Seattle Children's Hospital:

Marijuana becomes legal in Washington state on Thursday, and a commercial marijuana market is on the horizon. Dr. Leslie Walker, chief of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital and president elect for the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, says that now’s the time for parents to talk with their children – especially teens – about the consequences of marijuana use.

“High school students who smoke marijuana report that they started between the ages of 13 -14,” says Dr. Walker, “So conversations need to start early.”

Read more at the Teenology blog.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ADHD drugs misused by some students to help them study

From New Day NW:

Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman face four-game suspensions for reportedly testing positive for Adderall, in violation of the NFL's ban on performance enhancing drugs. The news sparked conversation about the popularity of the drug from professional sports to high schools. Adderall is commonly prescribed for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), to help them focus.  It's been misused and abused by everyone from students looking to intensely focus as they study for exams, to professional athletes looking for an extra "edge" on the field.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alcohol taxes & the "fiscal cliff"

Alcohol Justice, an alcohol industry watchdog group, is suggesting that underage drinking prevention advocates ask Congress to increase alcohol taxes.

Did you know that since 1991, the Big Alcohol lobby has cost the U.S. $57 billion in revenue?  

Or that an alcohol tax increase could fill nearly 12% of the President's revenue portion of the nation's ten-year deficit reduction goal? 

It's time to tell our national leaders to hold Big Alcohol accountable and get them to pay their fair share to help reduce the deficit. The fiscal catastrophe of alcohol-related harm will be reversed with a per-drink tax increase of 10 cents on spirits, 15 cents on beer, and 18 cents on wine. Alcohol is unlike other products because consuming it causes great harm to the general public and great costs to government. Click here to tell our federal officials now that alcohol taxes should be increased to reimburse government for part of the cost of alcohol-related health and public safety services. 

Read more of Alcohol Justice's new policy brief on alcohol taxes here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The role of public policy in preventing underage substance use

Community coalitions like Prevention WINS advocate for policies that are proven to prevent underage drinking and substance abuse.  Below are a few examples.

While consumers may complain about the cost of alcohol since the approval of Initiative 1183 last year, high prices are actually good when it comes to preventing underage drinking.

Raising alcohol excise taxes can help deter young people from drinking, according to a leading expert on preventing drinking in youth.

“These taxes prevent and reduce drinking and death among young people, as well as among heavy drinkers,” says David H. Jernigan, PhD, Associate Professor and Director, Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has conducted research on the effect of the taxes.

“When alcohol is cheaper at the corner store than milk, orange juice or sometimes even water, it sends young people the wrong message,” Jernigan says. “It makes alcohol look like an ordinary commodity when it is not.” He notes that prices on alcohol used to be much higher than those on other beverages. The most important factor in the price drop has been the inability of alcohol taxes to keep up with inflation.

State Alcohol Policy Changes

The Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) has updated its list of state alcohol policies to reflect substantive changes that occurred last year. The list is available online.

Many of the state policy changes are consistent with the goal of reducing underage drinking and its consequences, as well as the goal of reducing alcohol-related death and injury in the general population, according to APIS.

Changes to state alcohol policies include an increase in Connecticut’s excise taxes for beer, wine and distilled spirits and Mississippi’s prohibition against hosting underage drinking parties.

Law Enforcement
Policies are only effective if they are enforced.  This story, Laws to Crack Down on Serving Intoxicated People in Bars Largely Ignored, provides a good example.

A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health supports previous studies that show that, when enforced, laws meant to prevent and reduce underage drinking can be effective.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Improving school performance by improving mental health

The Spring 2012 edition of Better: Evidence-Based Education focuses on healthy bodies and healthy minds.  The topic for this edition was chosen because "physical and mental health can make a difference to student test scores . . . A host of simple evidence-based changes to the way we parent and school our children can boost their physical and mental health, which in turn will help them to learn."

Several of the articles discuss preventing youth substance abuse, a risk factor for school failure.  This edition of Better features Life Skills Training, an evidence-based curriculum that is taught at Eckstein Middle School (part of the Prevention WINS coalition); includes an article entitled, "Addressing school effects on drug use"; and provides information (from the University of Washington's Social Development Research Group) about how parents can help prevent problem behaviors.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I-1183: expectation vs. reality

Earlier this month, a group of 23 people representing NE Seattle participated in the annual Washington State Prevention Summit in Yakima.  Three student teams were part of the NE Seattle delegation representing Eckstein Middle School, Nathan Hale High School, and Roosevelt High School.  Youth and adults learned about the latest substance abuse trends and how to develop and conduct prevention activities in their communities.

Some youth and adult workshop handouts are now available through the Prevention Summit website.

Among the handouts are ones from an adult workshops about the effects of Initiative 1183 that privatized the sale of spirits/hard alcohol and deregulated other aspects of our state's liquor system.  Here are a few of the slides from the presentation.

More information about the implementation of I-1183 is available on the Washington State Liquor Control Board website.  The Proposed Rules page includes information about defining "trade area" and the Recently Adopted Rules page includes new rules related to I-1183 including the delivery of spirits/hard alcohol to homes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition launches Facebook page

In May, the King County Board of Health formed a Subcommittee on Secure Medicine Return to explore how it can support safe disposal of unused and expired medicines.  In response, a King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition was formed to advocate for a secure medicine return program in the county.  Prevention WINS and other youth substance abuse prevention coalitions are members of the King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition (KC-TBYM).

Since its formation, KC-TBYM coalition members have testified at subcommittee meetings, met with subcommittee members, and started educating community members about the issue.

Recently, the KC-TBYM coalition launched a Facebook page as a way to share information.  Check out the Facebook page and "like" it if you wish to remain up-to-date on KC-TBYM coalition activities.

If you are interested in joining the KC-TBYM Coalition, please contact the Prevention WINS Coordinator.

To learn more about secure medicine return programs and legislation, visit the Washington State Take Back Your Meds website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Liquor shoplifting "epidemic" & increasingly violent

Updated 11/13/12

Here is another story about shoplifting of hard alcohol that some say is becoming "epidemic" and more violent.

The switch to private liquor sales has made it easier for shoppers to get their hands on booze, but it's also made it easier for crooks.

In the past several months, police have noticed a growing trend of brazen liquor thefts. The shoplifting has become so rampant that some say it's practically an epidemic.

"The shoplifters are more bold, they tend not to care and they're getting more violent with security officers," said assistant Seattle City Attorney Jana Jorgensen.

Law enforcement officials say the thefts are happening every day in every city at nearly every grocery store. A source claims one Queen Anne grocer has lost $1,000 a day since June. That's $150,000 in lost profits and stolen tax revenue for the state, and that's just one store.

"There is a number of rings out there working, stealing alcohol," said King County sheriff's office spokesperson Cindi West. "It's a quick way to make a buck and easy to get rid of."

And then there is this from the Seattle Police Department:

Major Crimes Task Force detectives have arrested six people as part of an investigation into widespread liquor theft in the Seattle area, including several people who were buying booze stolen from Seattle stores to resell to high schoolers and wedding parties.

. . . An 18-year-old . . . ordered up 120 supposedly stolen bottles of liquor from police. Detectives made their delivery, and immediately arrested the teen.

After his arrest, the 18-year-old man told detectives he was reselling the liquor to Seattle high school students.

As a result of Operation Cheapshots, detectives arrested six people, and booked four of them into the King County Jail for investigation of trafficking stolen property.

MCTF also recovered 451 bottles of liquor and 11 firearms as a result of the operation.

This provides a stark example of an unintended consequence of making a drug more available and easily accessible.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

American teens report alcohol & cigarettes are the most readily available drugs

Between 31% and 50% of teenagers report that they can get alcohol, cigarettes, prescription drugs to get high, or marijuana within a day or less, according to data from a 2012 national survey.  Legal and regulated alcohol and cigarettes were the most readily accessible and youth were least likely to report that they could get marijuana within a day.

These findings were provided by the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

Changing behavior by changing community environments

Though this 5 minute video from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) focuses on food policy, those of us who work to prevent youth substance abuse can learn from it.

In the video, Dr. Wansink discusses:

  • How we can change behavior by changing the environment in which people live, work and play.  People are highly influenced by the things around them.
  • That even small barriers to accessing unhealthy foods give people pause to reconsider if they should eat it or not.  (The same is true for drugs and alcohol.)
  • The importance of "small p" policy such as putting healthy foods first in a school cafeteria.  While large scale ("big P") public policy is important, small scale policy implemented in community organizations, schools and neighborhoods play an important role, as well.   

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's been happening since I-1183 was approved?

It's been almost a year since Initiative 1183, which privatized the sales of hard alcohol and removed other alcohol regulations, was approved by Washington voters.  So, what has been happening in the past year?

Recently, I've attended several meetings, both local and on the state level, during which a hot topic was the amount of hard alcohol that is being shoplifted from grocery stores.  Here is a news report with an example of what is happening across the state.

Increased enforcement needs with less enforcement capacity
Since I-1183 was approved, the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) lost over 1,000 full time employees, according to a report given during the September meeting of the WSLCB Business Advisory Council.

Since I-1183 did not direct more funding for the WSLCB Enforcement division, despite an increase in the number of liquor licensees, there are 290 liquor licensees for every Enforcement officer.  The Education and Enforcement division officer staffing is down 15% with an increase of retail licensees of 23%.

Business representatives reported that many of them have plans to ask the Washington legislature to remove or reduce fees that were included in I-1183.  These fees were included in the initiative to ensure that the state would not lose revenue due to liquor privatization.

NE Seattle
In addition to the more than 80 businesses that sell alcohol (not just hard alcohol) for off-premise consumption in NE Seattle, a new big box liquor store will soon be opening on Lake City Way right next door to a marijuana dispensary.

Buyer's remorse?
This video, produced by the UFCW, discusses liquor privatization in our state as a way to educate Pennsylvania voters as they consider privatizing the sale of liquor.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spirits to be sold over internet & phone for home delivery

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is seeking input regarding a rule change to allow spirits/hard alcohol to be sold over the internet, by phone, or by mail.  The proposal would allow for delivery to a residence -- a hotel or motel room would be considered a temporary residence.  Read the text of the rule change here.

The Liquor Control Board is accepting comments until Wednesday, October 24.  Comments may be emailed to the Rules Coordinator at rules@liq.wa.gov.  Comments may also be made during a public hearing on Wednesday, October 24, 10:00 a.m. in Olympia.

UPDATE:  The Liquor Control Board public hearing on this issue was postponed to October 31.  Same time, same place.

Marijuana food and beverages: a growth industry

Here is a story from 60 Minutes about marijuana-infused cookies, candies, and beverages.

Monday, October 15, 2012

From juice pouches to booze pouches

From Alcohol Justice, another example of how alcohol is marketed to minors:

Alcohol Justice called attention to a disturbing, new marketing/packaging brainchild – single-serve alcopops in soft-sided pouches that are cheap and highly portable - in other words, very appealing to youth . Since then, the product category has exploded . . .  As multiple media sources have recently indicated, there are not many alcohol producers that haven't jumped on board with the idea.

Manufacturers across the country have started to produce their own versions of the shtick: sweet, flavored malt beverages sold in squeezable pouches that are easy to carry, easy to consume, and easy to conceal when entering venues that prohibit alcohol from being brought inside. Because the producers say they are malt-based, these Smirnoff and Captain Morgan/Parrot Bay pouches sit on the shelf alongside beer, and get the benefit of very low beer excise tax rates as well. And with their bright colors, snazzy flavors like Cherry Limeade, and frequent encouragement to freeze and serve like popsicles, these drinks appeal to young drinkers looking for the the next big thing. 
The pouch product category represents just one more format with which the industry attracts kids and infuses alcohol into every aspect of young people's lives – by replacing Capri Sun pouches with Phusion's Island Squeeze, and providing a new way to sneak alcohol into college football games and concert venues. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Family Checkup" helps parents prevent teen drug abuse

Family Checkup, an online resource that equips parents with research-based skills to help keep their children drug-free, recently was launched by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) .

NIDA-funded research has shown the critical role parents play in preventing their children from using drugs. Family Checkup poses questions for parents to consider as they interact with their children; highlighting parenting skills that are important in preventing the initiation and progression of drug use among youth. The resource incorporates video examples that show parents how-to and how-not-to emulate each skill with their own children.

Here is one of the videos included in the Family Checkup:

Monday, October 8, 2012

County legislative forum November 15

Save the date!

16th Annual King County Community Legislative Forum -- 

Thursday, November 15, 2012
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Reception at 6:30 p.m.
Program from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
1119 8th Avenue

Every year, King County develops a legislative agenda that outlines priorities for the upcoming legislative session.  In this forum, Deputy King County Executive Fred Jarrett and local experts highlight innovations in the delivery of behavioral healthcare in King County and identify key legislative issues for 2013.  In addition, individuals recovering from mental illness and/or substance abuse tell their personal stories and legislators representing our region share their perspectives and priorities.  

Free & open to the public.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Parent night: how to communicate with teens about drugs

The NW Seattle Coalition for a Drug-Free Community is hosting a free educational event for parents:

Teens, Alcohol, Marijuana & Reality: Setting the Framework for Healthy Communication
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
7:00 p.m.
Ballard High School Library

Speaker: Kevin Haggerty, University of Washington Social Development Research Group

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

President Obama issued a proclamation designating October National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.  National Substance Abuse Prevention Month is a month-long observance to highlight the role substance abuse prevention plays in promoting safe and healthy communities.

Millions of Americans suffer from substance abuse, which includes underage drinking, alcohol dependency, non-medical use of prescription drugs, abuse of over-the-counter medications, and illicit drug use.

Prevention strategies targeting the root of the problem are essential to curb drug use and help people lead healthier lives. Early intervention helps prevent substance abuse and reduce the negative consequences of addiction before they occur. Through community-based efforts, like the Prevention WINS coalition, involving youth, parents, educators, and government officers, we can strengthen the support systems that deter young people from drug consumption and improve both academic performance and workforce readiness.  Each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.

Part of Substance Abuse Prevention Month, October 18 is the first annual "Above the Influence Day".  Youth groups around the country will conduct substance abuse prevention awareness activities.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

City of Seattle seeking input about public safety

On October 10, the City of Seattle's Safe Communities campaign will host a North Precinct Conversation to discuss public safety issues in our community.   The campaign seeks community input about public safety priorities and concerns.  The identified priorities will guide the actions the City, the Seattle Police Department, and the neighborhoods will take together to protect public safety.

The October 10 facilitated meeting will take place from 7-9:00 p.m. at North Seattle Community College, Room CC1161.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teen marijuana use: a medical perspective

Over at Seattle Children's Teenology 101, an adolescent medicine physician posted information about teen marijuana use.  Here is an excerpt:

Popular movies and TV shows frequently refer to marijuana use as if it’s normal and perfectly acceptable (have you seen the movie Friday or watched That 70′s Show?), yet rarely portray any of the dangers. The harmful health effects of marijuana include worsening of lung function, lack of motivation, increased appetite, poor concentration, poor sleep, and even gynecomastia (or breast tissue development) in males. 

More information about adolescent marijuana use may be found at:

-- the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington;

-- the Journal of the American Medical Association reporting on a study that found that "persistent marijuana use beginning in adolescence is associated with a decline in cognitive function by midlife . . ."

-- the American Academy of Pediatrics statement about marijuana policy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 29: National medicine return day

 On September 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Seattle Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public another opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.  Bring your medications for disposal to your local precinctThe service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last April, Americans turned in 552,161 pounds—276 tons—of prescription drugs at over 5,600 sites operated by the DEA and nearly 4,300 state and local law enforcement partners.  In its four previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners took in over 1.5 million pounds—nearly 775 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.
Four days after the first event, Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” of controlled substance medications to dispose of them by delivering them to entities authorized by the Attorney General to accept them.  DEA is drafting regulations to implement the Act.  Until new regulations are in place, local law enforcement agencies like the Seattle Police Department and the DEA will continue to hold prescription drug take-back events every few months.

Locally, the King County Board of Health's Subcommittee on Secure Medicine Return is exploring how it can support safe disposal of unused medicines.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dr. Nora Volkow talks about marijuana

In this video, Dr. Nora Volkow talks about drug abuse among teenagers.  She specifically talks about the negative affects of marijuana use on adolescent health and development.

Dr. Volkow recently posted information about youth marijuana use on her NIDA webpage.  It concludes by saying:

Unfortunately, the proportion of American teens who believe marijuana use is harmful has been declining for the past several years, which has corresponded to a steady rise in their use of the drug, as shown by NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. Since it decreases IQ, regular marijuana use stands to jeopardize a young person’s chances of success in school. So as another school year begins, we all must step up our efforts to educate teens about the harms of marijuana so that we can realign their perceptions of this drug with the scientific evidence. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

General coalition meeting September 18

Prevention WINS General Meeting
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
8-9:30 a.m.
Eckstein Middle School

Learn about what the student prevention clubs at Eckstein Middle School and Nathan Hale High School accomplished last school-year and their hopes for the upcoming one.  

Anyone interested in preventing youth substance abuse in NE Seattle is welcome to attend.  Please contact the Prevention WINS Coordinator for more information.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Preventing youth substance abuse: everyone has a role

Here is a great video that shows how everyone in the community has a role to play when it comes to preventing youth substance abuse.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another free online training: Underage drinking research update

New Research Since the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking
Thursday, September 20
Noon - 1:30 p.m.

To register, visit the CADCA website

Speaker: Dr. Ralph Hingson, Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcolism

For a community coalition to be most effective, its members and staff must be well equipped with research on the latest substance abuse trends. Coalitions are most likely to implement successful community interventions when they are informed and evidence-based.

This webinar will outline new research on trends in and consequences of underage drinking as well as interventions to prevent and reduce underage drinking that have emerged since the 2007 Call to Action.  The course will explore recent trends in injury deaths linked to underage drinking, binge drinking and driving under the influence, effects of underage drinking on the developing brain, blackouts, and academic performance. It will also examine research on interventions that are individually-oriented, policy/environmental, and community-based interventions.

Free online training: Managing alcohol outlet density to reduce youth access to alcohol

Upcoming National Electronic Seminar: Managing Alcohol Outlet Density to Reduce Youth Access to Alcohol

Date: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Time: Noon-1:15 p.m.
-- Michael Sparks, President of Sparks Initiatives
-- Diane Riibe, Executive Director of Project Extra Mile

Register through the UDETC website.

Alcohol outlet density regulation is a science-based environmental strategy used to reduce or limit alcohol outlet density through licensing or zoning processes.  Research has shown a strong correlational relationship between alcohol and violent crime. Research has also shown that when outlets are close together, more underage drinking occurs.  By controlling the location of outlets, sales to minors can be discouraged and youth safety can be improved.  

Presenters will share information about regulatory strategies utilized in communities to manage alcohol outlet density in order to limit youth access to alcohol and improve public health, safety, and well-being by impacting crime rates, victimization, personal injuries, and fatalities.  Presenters will also share information about useful resources to aid implementation of these types of efforts.

Loopholes allow drug industries to market to youth

Much of the current debate around drug policy includes the notion that regulations keep legal drugs -- alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs -- out of the hands of teenagers.  While regulations certainly can keep drugs out of the hands of youth, they often fall short -- sometimes because the drug industries finds loopholes in regulations.  The tobacco industry provides a perfect example.  From Sunday's New York Times:

Give the tobacco industry credit for ingenuity. Just when it looked as if federal regulators could block their ability to addict children and young adults, several companies that make cigars and pipe tobacco have sidestepped the barriers by taking advantage of loopholes in federal law.

One loophole involves a law enacted in 2009 that raised the federal tax on cigarettes, small cigars and roll-your-own tobacco, partly to deter smoking among young people and partly to help pay for a children’s health insurance program. Larger cigars and pipe tobacco, however, were taxed at a much lower rate.

Some manufacturers then relabeled “roll-your-own tobacco” as “pipe tobacco” to qualify for lower taxes. Similarly, some cigar makers made their small cigars slightly heavier to qualify for the lower rate. With just a small increase in weight, a small cigar can qualify as a large cigar, for tax purposes, even though it more nearly resembles a typical cigarette and can cost as little as seven cents a cigar.

It seems clear that the regulatory steps designed to keep tobacco products out of the hands of young people are not working as well as they could. This is no accident. A report issued on Aug. 27 by Representative Henry Waxman . . . cited internal documents from several manufacturers that revealed deliberate plans to manipulate existing products and create new ones to evade taxes and flavor bans.

As we continue our conversation about marijuana legalization, the role of regulations should be considered.  Not the theory of regulations, but the pragmatic realities of how regulations are implemented and enforced.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

National study: teens know where to get marijuana but use alcohol at higher rates

Results from the annual survey on teen substance abuse conducted by CASA Columbia provide an interesting look at youth access to and use of marijuana.  

Marijuana is the primary drug sold by students.  According to this national survey, 44% of high school students know of a student who sells drugs.  Overwhelmingly, the drug being sold by fellow students is marijuana.  

Though marijuana is sold by peers, alcohol is used more. What's interesting is that of the students who can identify a classmate who sells drugs, 55% use alcohol and 35% use marijuana.  

In schools where drugs are easy to get, alcohol is the drug of choice.  Of students who report that drugs are used, kept, or sold on school grounds (drug-infected schools), 40% report using alcohol and 24% use marijuana.

Legal drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs.  Students in "drug-infected schools" report that within an hour they can get alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs more easily than marijuana.

Previous studies have indicated that the majority of teenagers who do not use marijuana report that they don't because it is illegal.  (Johnston, L. D., et al,. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 2010. Volume I: Secondary school students. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New guide available about mobilizing communities

People Power: Mobilizing Communities for Policy Change is a new, free publication from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).  This publication provides an overview of the steps associated with engaging in community mobilizing to implement environmental strategies with a particular emphasis on adopting alcohol, tobacco, and drug (ATD) policies at the community level.

Why a guide about community mobilization and policy change?  The guide starts by explaining: What can communities do when faced with issues such as underage drinking, drinking and driving, misuse of prescription drugs, proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries and other similar concerns?  As a result of the growing body of research demonstrating the effectiveness of population level interventions, also called environmental strategies, funders in the ATD field are increasingly looking to community coalitions to adopt these strategies as a central part of their work.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Alcohol ads violate industry standards and target teens

Alcohol ads that violate industry guidelines are more likely to appear in magazines popular with teen readers, a new study finds. Ads violate industry guidelines if they appear to target a primarily underage audience, highlight the high alcohol content of a product, or portray drinking in conjunction with activities that require a high degree of alertness or coordination, such as swimming.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied 1,261 ads for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 magazines that are popular among teens. The ads were rated according to a number of factors, such as whether they portrayed over-consumption of alcohol, addiction content, sex-related content, or injury content.

“The finding that violations of the alcohol industry’s advertising standards were most common in magazines with the most youthful audiences tells us self-regulated voluntary codes are failing,” said study co-author David Jernigan, PhD. “It’s time to seriously consider stronger limits on youth exposure to alcohol advertising.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Minimum legal drinking age effective in preventing problems associated with underage drinking

“The National Uniform Drinking Act Age 21 has been a balanced, effective, and popular tool in helping to combat the many problems associated with underage drinking—for students or nonstudents alike” is the conclusion of a commentary in the July 2012 issue of the journal  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.   “Research shows when the drinking age is 21, those younger than 21 drink less and continue to drink less through their early 20s.”  The authors also note substantial, well-documented declines in alcohol-involved youth highway fatalities, homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries associated with the age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age Laws (MLDA).  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Child & Adolescent Psychiatry group concerned about marijuana policy

While the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's recent statement is about medical marijuana, not marijuana legalization, some of the information it contains can inform the legalization debate.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is concerned about the negative impact of medical marijuana on youth.  Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the many adverse developmental, cognitive, medical, psychiatric, and addictive effects of marijuana.  Of particular concern to our field, adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adult users to develop marijuana dependence, and their heavy use is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders.  Furthermore, marijuana's deleterious effects on cognition and brain development during adolescence may have lasting implications.

The "medicalization" of smoked marijuana has distorted the perception of the known risks and purported benefits of this drug. Since certain states began permitting dispensing of medical marijuana, adolescents' perceptions of the harmful effects of marijuana have decreased and marijuana use has increased significantly.  There is also emerging evidence that adolescents are accessing medical marijuana for recreational use.  Therefore AACAP urges more scientific evaluation and a risk:benefit analysis by interdisciplinary experts to determine whether there is any medical indication for marijuana dispensing given the potential harm to adolescents.

In summary:
  • Adolescents are especially vulnerable to adverse consequences of marijuana use.
  • Medical marijuana dispensing is associated with reduced perception of marijuana-related risks and increased rates of marijuana use among adolescents.
  • AACAP thus opposes medical marijuana dispensing to adolescents. 

Adolescent marijuana use is harmful and any proposed law that would make marijuana more acceptable to use and easier to get needs to be scrutinized to make sure it won't negatively affect teenagers.  Future legislation regarding medical marijuana in our state should include tighter regulations to ensure Washington teenagers are not accessing medical marijuana for recreational purposes.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Addiction medicine doctors oppose state marijuana initiatives

Yesterday, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, the country's foremost association of physicians who diagnose and treat substance abuse addiction, released a statement opposing all of the state ballots that propose to legalize marijuana.

From their statement:

ASAM asserts that the significant public health problems and costs related to marijuana legalization are not well-understood by the public or policymakers. ASAM's conclusion that marijuana legalization would threaten public health is based on the following:

· Marijuana use is neither safe nor harmless. Marijuana contains psychoactive cannabinoids which can produce a sense of discomfort and even paranoid thoughts in some users. Cannabinoids interact with brain circuits in comparable ways to opioids, cocaine and other addictive drugs. Marijuana use is associated with damage to specific organs and tissues and impairments to behavioral and brain functioning.

· Of greatest concern is marijuana use during adolescence—a time of ongoing brain development and heightened vulnerability to addiction. Research shows that heavy marijuana use decreases neurocognitive performance, with worse neurocognitive effects seen among those who begin marijuana use early.

· Marijuana is addictive. Repeated marijuana use is reinforcing because the drug increases activation of reward circuitry in the brain. Approximately 9% of people who try marijuana become dependent. For those who begin using the drug in their teens, approximately 17% become dependent. These figures are similar to alcohol dependence.

· Legalization would promote the public perception that marijuana is harmless at the same time that availability of the drug would grow exponentially. The rate of marijuana use and marijuana-related substance use disorders, including addiction, would increase.

· Increased marijuana addiction would heighten demand for substance use disorder treatment services, which already are inadequate for current needs.

· Marijuana use is associated with increased rates, and worsening symptoms, of psychosis. Increased marijuana use caused by legalization and increased access to high-potency marijuana could result in rising rates of psychotic illnesses.

· Marijuana-related crashes are major traffic safety threats; marijuana use doubles the risk of a crash. Research inWashington State showed that 12% of drivers killed in car crashes were positive for marijuana. Legalization would increase drugged driving.

Marijuana legalization will increase its availability to young people, who are the most at risk from this drug. Research shows that marijuana leads to a host of significant health, social, learning and behavioral problems in young users.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Short YouTube videos for parents a great resource for promoting healthy youth development

Over on the Prevention WINS Facebook page, I've been posting videos from the YouTube DrugFree Channel.  The videos are for parents who want to learn how to prevent substance abuse among their teenage children.  Each video is less than two minutes long.

Here is one about setting standards and creating a supportive family environment:

These videos are a great resource for organizations that support healthy youth development.  The videos are short and easy to share on Facebook pages, blogs, and websites.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Congratulations RADD!

Raiders Against Destructive Decisions (RADD), the student substance abuse prevention club at Nathan Hale High School, was recognized as one of the top teams presenting their year-long projects during this year's Washington Prevention Spring Youth Forum.  According to an article in the summer edition of the FOCUS newsletter, RADD ". . . also fought marijuana use in their school by publicizing the effects of marijuana through a town hall meeting, an emphasis week and a carnival."  Many of the prevention clubs, including the grand prize winners from Seattle's Asian Counseling and Referral Services, focused on the problem of marijuana use among teenagers.

RADD, and other youth substance abuse prevention clubs, play an important role in communities working to support healthy choices among teenagers.  Congratulations to RADD for their outstanding prevention work during the 2011-12 school year!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Marijuana education toolkit now available online

The Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention (WASAVP) has posted a Marijuana Education Toolkit to its website to support the work of substance abuse prevention advocates across Washington State.

The marijuana debate is in full swing in Washington. More and more substance abuse prevention advocates are finding themselves in the position of providing education and refuting misperceptions regarding marijuana policy. In response, WASAVP has posted a collection of documents for prevention advocates to freely use and modify to meet the specific needs of their communities. This toolkit is available on the newly re-designed WASAVP website.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Free, on demand training for coalition members

CADCA provides many free resource for community coalitions.  One of them is a one-hour broadcast that may be viewed on demand: Understanding Your Influence.

Coalition members can have far-reaching influence in their communities. Working to change laws, regulations, ordinances, and policies is frequently involved.  Policy change is often the fastest way to see population-level impacts and enhance drug-free environments for youth and families. 

During the webcast, participants will learn:

  • how coalitions can use the power they have to create positive change in their communities. 
  • what coalitions can and can’t do as far as advocacy and lobbying are concerned. 
  • how changes to laws and policies can improve enforcement, reduce access and availability of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and increase social disapproval of drug use. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Surgeon General calls for multi-component prevention efforts

Last week, the Surgeon General was in town and participated in a Town Hall Meeting on youth tobacco use.  She shared a fact sheet about Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Youth Adults.

A Prevention WINS coalition member also participated in the Town Hall Meeting and when I asked her what I should share with blog readers she said, "The calls to action that I heard were to regulate flavored tobacco products (grape blunts, chocolate mini-cigars), increase taxes to deter youth use, and for the FDA to continue to assert their authority."  

"I think that coalition members should know that Seattle students have higher rates of alternative forms of tobacco than cigarettes.  That means more kids are using hookah or swisher sweets than smoking cigarettes.  We have done a great job educating folks about the dangers of cigarettes…so now kids just use the other products."

The Surgeon General's fact sheet ends with recommendations that can inform all substance abuse prevention activities.  She calls for "comprehensive, sustained, multi-component programs".

  • Prevention is critical.  Successful multi-component programs prevent young people from starting to use tobacco (and other drugs) in the first place and more than pay for themselves in lives and health care dollars saved.
  • Strategies that comprise successful comprehensive tobacco control programs include mass media campaigns, higher tobacco prices, smoke-free laws and policies, evidence-based school programs, and sustained community-wide efforts.  (These strategies are effective for preventing other youth drug use, as well.)
  • Comprehensive tobacco control programs are most cost-effective when funding for them is sustained at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Free online training: What is environmental substance abuse prevention?

What are environmental youth substance abuse prevention strategies?  How do they differ from prevention strategies for individuals?  You can learn this and more through free, web-based courses available at the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center's website.

The Environmental Strategies course includes information about:

  • Youth alcohol consumption patterns and the size and scope of the youth alcohol market.
  • The 4 P's of prevention as a tool for analyzing community alcohol environments.
  • The concept of environmental prevention.
  • Concrete illustrations of the concept.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prescription drug abuse in the news

Over at Teenology 101, they discuss teen mental health, pain and prescription drug abuse.  They refer to a new study that shows that young people who take opiates like Oxycontin for chronic pain are more than twice as likely to become addicted to the drugs if they have a mental health condition

Sunday's New York Times included an article, Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill, about teenagers who abuse prescription medications meant to treat ADHD so that they may focus on studying to get good grades.  The Times' Room for Debate section features differing opinions about prescribing medications for ADHD and their link to drug abuse.

Over at the JoinTogether blog, a Congressman from Kentucky writes about his efforts to prevent prescription drug abuse.

The MSNBC website includes and article entitled, "Opiate addiction: How prescription painkillers pave the way to heroin."

The National Drug Control Strategy puts a focus on prevention prescription drug abuse.  In response to a prescription drug abuse problem designated as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House is implementing of the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan.

Locally, the Take Back Your Meds campaign continues to advocate for a statewide medicine return program.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Youth & Tobacco Town Hall Meeting: Participate through a free webcast

On Thursday, the US Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, as well as health experts and advocates from the Pacific Northwest and around the country, will be in Seattle for a Youth and Tobacco Town Hall Meeting.

The morning part of the day-long program will be webcast on June 14, 2012, 9:00 – 11:45 a.m., from the University of Washington.  To participate via live Web streaming, select this link at the time of the webcast:  http://www.uwtv.org/webcast/youthandtobacco/.  The public is also invited to provide comments via Twitter, using the hashtag: #PNWtobacco.

Complete information about the full-day’s program and agenda is available online.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Former NE Seattle student shares lessons learned about underage drinking and driving

This month's Seattle's Child includes a heart-wrenching reminder of why Prevention WINS and other community coalitions are doing what we do.  Anna's Lessons is the story of a former NE Seattle student who was in a terrible drunk-driving accident last year.  This is a powerful "must read" for parents of middle and high school students.  

Improving adolescent health will lead to improved adult health

For some health problems, including alcohol misuse and dependence, more than 50% of the first diagnoses are by age 25.  In other words, underage drinking can be a precursor for adult problem drinking.  Healthcare specifically for adolescents, including substance abuse prevention, can play an important role in reducing adult health problems.

From an article appearing in The Atlantic about adolescent health:
Improving the health of adolescents worldwide is the surest route to better health globally, a new study has found. Unfortunately, according to a series in The Lancet, the health status of this age group has not improved as much over the past 50 years as that of children under 10 years of age.

Because of longer periods of time spent in school, delayed marriage, and a new understanding of how long it takes for the brain to fully mature, the period of adolescence has come to be viewed as extending from age 10 to 24 years of age, not from 13 to 18 or 19 as most assume. 

As a group, teens are more frequently exposed to, or participate in, risky behaviors such as alcohol consumption and illegal drug use, and have sex with more casual partners than previous generations. They also face new challenges, such as social media.  

In addition, adolescents are more predisposed than adults to what are dubbed "hot cognitions," meaning they are more affected than adults by exciting or stressful situations when making decisions. These hot cognitions may be associated with increased activity in the nucleus accumbens, a reward and pleasure center in the brain.

The study appears in the online version of The Lancet.