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Hey You Kids: Skip The Junk Food

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stjfWhen the students in Mrs. Blumer’s health class at La Costa Canyon High School in California were asked about junk food, reactions were mixed. “Eating junk food leaves me feeling sick and unsatisfied,” says Marty Megowan, age 16.

Tommy Silcocks, age 16, disagrees. “Of course you can live on junk food. I’ve been doing it my whole life!”

Hanni Stuckenschneider, 15, comments, “You can’t live off junk food. There is no protein, fruit, or veggies. It’s just junk!”

Miriam Raz, 16, from Israel, says, “At home we served fruit and vegetables with every meal. I was surprised when I came to America and saw a McDonald’s on every street corner!”

Fast food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of healthy eating.

Just what is meant by junk food and fast food? Fast food–such as hamburgers, fries, shakes, tacos, tostados, or fish ‘n’ chips–is high in fat, calories, salt, and cholesterol. The typical fast-food meal is low in calcium and other essential nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin A, iron, and zinc.

Junk food–such as pies, cakes, cookies, sodas, and candy–is mostly fat and sugar. These foods are high in “empty calories,” which means they don’t supply the right fuel and nutrients for a body to thrive.

Hillary Soule, 15, says, “There is a difference between fast foods and junk foods. Not all fast food is junk, because you can ask for salads or pasta or veggies, and burgers on whole-wheat buns. But junk food gives you no nutrients.”

Obviously, not all fast foods are junk foods.

Are Fast Foods Getting a Bad Rap?

Every second about 200 people in the United States order one or more hamburgers. Does this reliance on fast foods mean, more Americans will get cancer, become obese, or die of a heart attack sooner?

Many excellent organizations such as the American Heart Association, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Research Council teach us what constitutes a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy body weight and eating a wide variety of foods from the Food Guide Pyramid are foremost. Nutritionists recommend a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat (no more than 30 percent of total calories), and keeping sodium to a minimum (less than 2,000 mg/day, or one teaspoon salt). Some burgers can contribute as much as 58 percent of the total calories and half of a day’s allowance of salt. The fat content of one fried chicken-patty sandwich is equal to about 1 1/2 pints of ice cream. A medium order of fries can supply up to 4 teaspoons of fat. (See the chart on page 20 for nutrition facts on some popular fast foods.)

So do we stop eating fast foods? Let’s get real. With today’s fast-paced lifestyle, deadlines, and commitments, it seems fast foods–and junk foods–are here to stay.

If you plan ahead and give some thought to what you put into your body, it is possible to get a good meal at a fast-food restaurant. It’s also possible to achieve good nutrition in spite of a frenzied lifestyle. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods.

Smart Eating

So how can you “have it your way”? Simply ask for what you want. To make a fast-food meal or vending machine snack more nutritious, here are a few tips:

* Hold the mayo. And while you’re at it, hold the tartar sauce and other salad dressings on sandwiches and salads. (You can save about 10 to 15 grams of fat, and about 125 calories.)

* Ask for a whole-grain bun instead of white bread. No savings in calories, but a big plus in nutrition.

* No cheese, please. One piece adds about 50 calories and 3 to 4 grams of fat.

* Skin the chicken. Yes, it’s embarrassing to be skinning the chicken at a meal when you’re trying to be cool with your friends, but skinning the chicken cuts about one-third of the calories and almost all the fat.

* Order a small, extra-lean hamburger instead of a large one.

* Baked potatoes have no fat (if you stay away from the sour cream, butter, and cheese), but fries do (about 4 teaspoons). Use fat-free salad dressing or yogurt on your baked potato, along with your favorite veggies.

* Try skim or low-fat milk instead of a soda or shake. Or low-fat frozen yogurt.

* Choose fruit juice or a vegetable from the menu, if available.

* The salad bar is a sure bet. Most salad bars now have low-calorie or fat-free dressings and a variety of veggies and fruit.

* Look for broiled rather than fried anything.

* Further reduce the number of calories by passing up the gravy, guacamole, sour cream, and dessert.

Vending machines sometimes have snacks that are low in fat. Look around. Good bets are fresh fruit or juice, raisins, dry cereal and low-fat milk, pretzels, popcorn without butter, and low-fat crackers.

Choosing Wisely

Katrina Bond, 16, says, “I think it’s really important for teens to learn about what they’re eating and what it’s doing for their bodies.” According to a recent study, the trend today is: Junk food, meat, and fat are on the way out; fruits and vegetables are in. The study reports today’s teens actually care about nutrition. Teenagers are still scarfing down soft drinks, salty snacks, and sweets; but now they favor “healthy” versions such as “niche” soda brands that are less sweet than regular sodas. Carbonated drinks and fruit juices are gaining in popularity, too. Less salty and fatty pretzels and potato chips are in. And many fast-food chains have slimmed down their menus for the health-conscious consumer.

You don’t have to give up eating fast foods. Foods in the fast lane can still be nutritious. It only takes a little nutrition savvy and applying a few basics to get the most mileage for your money and body. Geny Erwin, 15, sums it up: “Kids don’t eat as bad as everybody thinks. We make responsible choices. Give us a little credit.”

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June 13th, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Asthma Needn’t Be A Prison Sentence

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anbapWinning Olympic gold can leave anyone breathless, but that word has a whole different meaning for U.S. medalists Amy Van Dyken and Tom Dolan. Both swimmers suffer from asthma, a potentially deadly lung problem that can cause wheezing, coughing, and a real need for air. Van Dyken, who suffered from severe asthma through grammar and high school, won her four gold medals in spite of needing medication four times a day. Dolan, whose asthma is actually triggered by the sport he loves, took Atlanta’s gold in the 400-meter individual medley even though his finish left him “definitely gasping for air.”

The lesson from both of these great Olympians is that, as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation says, “Asthma is a controllable disease [in which] a normal, even extraordinary, physical life is possible.” The bad news is: Asthma kills about 5,500 people every year–up 58 percent since 1979–and more of us are getting asthma than ever before.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease. It is the most common chronic illness of young people today, affecting 4.8 million Americans under age 18. Asthma usually begins in childhood, almost always before age 5, and is the most common reason for chronic absence from school (on average, 4 to 7 days each year).

How does asthma work? Basically, people who suffer from asthma breathe through lung passageways that are always inflamed and swollen. Sometimes, due to irritants and allergens that doctors call “triggers,” this inflammation and swelling gets worse, and muscles along the airways become hyperreactive or “twitchy.” The result is an asthma attack–the airway muscles contract suddenly, narrowing the diameter of the breathing passages and cutting down air flow. As asthma progresses, mucous glands along the airways produce gobs of sticky secretions that narrow the breathing passages even more. To use a real-life example, Amy Van Dyken’s airways on a “good” day are only about 65 percent as wide as those of someone without asthma. On a “bad” day, they constrict to only about 30 percent of normal diameter.

Triggers and Treatment

The triggers that set off an asthma attack are not the same for all who suffer from asthma. A viral respiratory infection (common cold) is a big culprit, but a sinus infection caused by bacteria can have the same effect. Allergies often set off an asthma attack, too, including allergies to foods (especially sulfites used to preserve frozen foods such as french fries) and medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Outdoors, allergies to grass and tree pollen can prompt an asthma attack, while common indoor triggers include pet dander, secondhand tobacco smoke, rodent urine, and the molds that live in the dark, damp corners of basements. Even ordinary house dust–which is really a microscopic garbage heap of insect feces, cockroach antigen, and tiny dust mites–can trigger an asthma attack. Its irritating particles, only 5 percent to 10 percent the width of a human hair, can lurk in rugs, under beds, and in the tufts of mattresses.

Outdoor pollution is another potent asthma trigger, especially summer’s ozone or the fumes from paints, gasoline, or industrial plastics. In winter, a cold, fresh breeze can be just as bad if its chill temperature irritates the lungs.

In some people with asthma, including Tom Dolan, an attack is triggered by exercise. This is because heavy aerobic workouts, especially in sports that involve lots of running, call for faster breathing. Rapid breaths pull cold, dry, irritating air into the lungs without enough warming and humidifying time in the nose.

To treat asthma, doctors prescribe two different types of medicine: anti-inflammatory agents (to give long-term control and quick relief) and bronchodilators (to open larger breathing passages called bronchi). Because asthma symptoms vary from person to person, everyone with asthma follows an individual treatment plan developed by his or her doctor. This treatment plan contains specific directions for daily asthma management, along with a special game plan in case of a severe attack.

An Asthma Epidemic?

Between 1980 and 1994, the rate of asthma deaths increased by about 200 percent among young Americans ages 15 to 24. African-American and inner-city teens were especially hard hit. Although scientists don’t know the exact reason for this dramatic increase, they do have a few good guesses. Some blame environmental factors that increase young people’s exposure to the triggers that start an asthma attack. They point out that a number of children in the United States live in areas where irritating ozone levels are almost always too high. Other experts suspect an increase in indoor pollution, especially in the newer, more tightly sealed, energy-conserving buildings.

The most important reasons for this increase, however, may have more to do with people than pollution, according to researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). Especially in America’s big cities, people with asthma may not be getting the medicines and medical care they need.

As part of a five-year study, researchers at the NIAID matched city families with a social worker trained as an asthma “counselor.” This counselor helped patients learn to recognize their asthma triggers and to cut down on exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution (including cigarette smoke). Counselors also encouraged patients to take charge of their own medication, and to know when and where to go for emergency help during an asthma attack.

At the end of the study, children in families who had used an asthma counselor had fewer asthma symptoms, fewer doctor visits, and a healthier quality of life.

By following a clear treatment plan that spells out when and how to use asthma medication, many young people with asthma can breathe easier today. Others, however, seem to be losing the race against asthma simply because they need better coaching. Like Olympic athletes, these teens may need an asthma counselor to guide them through the toughest laps of their illness.

If you, or someone you know, would like to know how to breathe easier with asthma, here are a few of many places to go for answers and for help.

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June 3rd, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Avoiding Stimulants Can Save Your Life!

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ascsCrystal, crank, coke, and other stimulants change the chemistry of the brain and send the body into overdrive. They can quickly bring life in the fast lane to a dead end.

Leilanie began using the stimulant methamphetamine, also called crystal or ice, when she was 13. Sometimes she stayed awake for days at a time. Other times she became violent and convinced that everyone was out to get her. No matter what, Leilanie’s need for the drug’s rush increased to desperation. Eventually she dropped out of school and moved in with other addicts. Only when she became pregnant at age 19 did Leilanie finally get help for her addiction.

Sixteen-year-old Brett enjoyed raves–all-night parties with intense music and dancing. To keep going, Brett and his friends in Madison, Wisconsin, took drugs. On the morning after a rave last fall, Brett’s body was discovered at a state motorpool garage. Brett died from an overdose of the stimulant MDMA, or Ecstasy.

Neither of these teens started out thinking stimulants could hurt them. Each learned the hard way lust how destructive these drugs can be.

Going into Overdrive

Stimulants are chemicals that speed up, or stimulate, the body’s metabolism. A common and mild stimulant is caffeine, found in regular iced tea, coffee, chocolate, and some sodas. A little bit of this legal stimulant may help you feel more awake. Too much can make you jittery or cause insomnia (the inability to fall asleep).

Stimulants include amphetamines, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, and cocaine. (See chart.) It’s a mistake to think methamphetamine is any safer than cocaine or to assume that some illegal stimulants could be “OK.” All the illegal stimulants are dangerous, addictive drugs. They change a person’s brain chemistry and speed up the metabolism so much that the body literally goes into overdrive.

ILLEGAL STIMULANTS: FROM COKE TO SPEED

Common Forms and Names of Drugs

Cocaine

* “Coke” is often a white powder inhaled through the nose.

* “Crack” is a crystallized form of cocaine that is smoked.

* Both forms of cocaine are derived from the coca plant.

Amphetamines

* Usually in pill form, amphetamines are sometimes called “pep pills” or “uppers.”

Methamphetamine

* “Meth” can be smoked, eaten, inhaled, or injected.

* Clear crystals that are over 90 percent pure are especially potent. They are called “ice,” “crystal,” or “glass.”

* A smokable powder form is called “crank.”

* Users are sometimes called “tweakers.” Other nicknames for meth include “speed,” “fire,” and “chalk.”

MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine)

* Made from methamphetamine and the hallucinogenic drug DMA, MDMA is a common club drug at rave parties.

* Nicknames include “Ecstasy,” “Adam,” “X,” “XTC,” “clarity,” “essence,” and “love drug.”

Symptoms That May Be Experienced While Using Illegal Stimulants

* Impaired learning or memory

* Increased heart rate

* Increased body temperature

* Increased blood pressure

* Flushed skin

* Sustained hyperactivity

* Uncontrollable shaking

* Heart palpitations

* Hallucinations or paranoia

* Increased aggression

* Dizziness

* Excess sweating

* Nausea and vomiting

* Abdominal cramps

* Insomnia

* Sensitivity to light

* Chest pains

* Decreased appetite

Nerve cells inside the brain relay messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitters attach to receptors on other nerve cells, they excite and “fire” those nerve cells. Then, under normal conditions, the neurotransmitters are taken up again by the initial neurons. The brain’s approximately 50 known neurotransmitters include dopamine, serotonin, acetytcholine (ACTH), glutamate, norepinephrine, and endorphins.

Illegal stimulants interfere with the normal cycle of release and reuptake of various neurotransmitters, especially dopamine. Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and arousal. Another neurotransmitter affected by stimulants is norepinephrine, which increases alertness and readies the body for a “fight or flight” response. Stimulants can also interfere with serotonin levels, which affect a person’s mood.

Stimulants’ Toll on the Body

As neurotransmitter levels build up, users first experience sensations of intense pleasure and alertness. Users may take stimulants to get extra energy. Others crave stimulant’ “high.” Still other users enjoy feeling as if they’re invincible. Some users see stimulants as an easy way to lose weight. But whatever the reasons for use, stimulants take a toll on the body. Heart rate and respiratory rate speed up. Body temperature increases to as high as 108 [degrees] F. At the same time, appetite decreases.

Stimulants’ short-term risks are very serious, warns Jack Stein at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Increased body temperature, or hyperthermia, can lead to seizures. Too much stress from increased heart rate and blood pressure can cause heart attacks or strokes. Stimulants’ suppression of normal appetite can cause serious weight loss and malnutrition within just a couple of weeks. The problems worsen with continued use of the drugs.

Chronic lack of sleep is another problem. Stimulant users may feel so wired that they stay awake for days at a time. Afterward, they may “crash” and sleep for several days straight. Keeping up with schoolwork or holding down a job in that situation becomes nearly impossible.

Highly Addictive Substances

Gregory Collins, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, says stimulants are “some of the most addictive substances known.” Stimulants’ sensations of energy and alertness make most people feel good. “And they seemingly function better–at least they think they do–on the drugs,” notes Collins. “Stimulants are quite addicting and seductive in that way.”

Over time, the body craves the substance, and the user feels desperate without it. It also takes more and more of the illegal stimulant to achieve the same effect. “When a person is in fact addicted, his or her brain functioning has literally changed as a result of the drug use,” says Stein. “And what has resulted is a compulsive desire to use.”

What does it take to become addicted? No one knows exactly. “We’re all vulnerable to different things in various quantities and lengths of time,” says Stein. “Not to say that everyone who uses any type of drug ultimately becomes addicted, but we can’t really predict who will and who won’t. So that’s the risk somebody is always taking.”

Brain Injury and More

More and more evidence links stimulant abuse and addiction to long-term brain injury. A study funded by NIDA found that cocaine abuse impaired performance on learning and memory tests, especially if users also drank alcohol regularly. Another study showed that Ecstasy damages neurons that release serotonin. Still another study suggested that long-term methamphetamine (meth) users suffer damage to their brain’s frontal white matter.

“People who are long-term users really have very impaired memory,” notes Stein. Motor skills also become impaired. Some users experience hallucinations. “Crank bugs” are imaginary insects a meth user feels crawling under his or her skin. Such hallucinations caused Leilanie to pick at her skin for hours until it bled. Paranoia also plagues some stimulant users. They become convinced that everyone is out to get them and may act violently. Severe depression can follow stimulant abuse or addiction.

Stimulant users run higher risks of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other diseases. Some of the risk comes from injecting the drugs. Even if drugs are inhaled, eaten, drunk, or smoked, impaired judgment means a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Results can be deadly.

A Personal Toll

Stimulant abuse and addiction can damage social and personal relationships, too. Users can become so involved in their addiction that personal relationships disintegrate. Friends fall away. Family members become alienated.

Paying for their habit drives many stimulant users into financial trouble. Many users turn to crime to pay for their addiction and get arrested. Some users have violent confrontations. Other stimulant users get into car crashes while under the drug’s influence. Still others flunk out of school or lose their jobs when they can’t focus enough to get their work done.

To the extent they notice the disintegration of their personal lives, most users don’t connect it to their illegal stimulant addiction. “They are in denial about the fact that the drug involvement is causing these problems,” notes Collins. Treatment involves not just getting users off the drug, but also changing their thinking about its effects on their lives.

It Takes a Friend’s Help

Since most people abusing stimulants don’t think they need help, it’s up to someone else–parents, teachers, co-workers, or friends–to speak up. “Generally the kids we see coming here for rehab have been spoken to by their friends, by their peers,” notes Collins.

What should you say? “Just be very straightforward about it,” suggests Collins. Say what you’re seeing in the other person’s behavior. Tell why it’s a turn-off or otherwise negative to you. Express your concern in a caring way. Tell the person where he or she can get help, and offer to call or go along with the person. (The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, at 1-800-729-6686, can give treatment referral information.)

A young person’s outlook for recovery is good with appropriate treatment. Exactly what treatment entails depends on the stimulant used, how involved the person’s abuse or addiction is, and other factors. However, recovery is still a lifelong process with many challenges.

If the other person won’t listen, consider telling a parent or other trusted adult before the user becomes another drug-death statistic. In any case, don’t let your behavior indirectly support or enable someone’s continued drug use. Don’t just threaten to leave an addicted boyfriend or girlfriend who won’t get help. Follow through before you yourself become a victim of drug-induced rage.

Recipe for Disaster

Bob was 15 when he first used meth. He mixed it up himself using products from his dad’s drugstore. For 20 years he was addicted to alcohol, stimulants, and various other drugs. Only after he lost his job, lost his wife, and lost custody of their child did Bob finally hit bottom and get help.

While getting help was hard for Bob, making meth wasn’t. Illegal meth labs have sprung up across the country. Sadly, some meth labs explode because of combustible materials used in making the drug. Other meth labs dump or abandon toxic waste.

Meth “recipes” include such poisonous ingredients as lye, rat poison, battery acid, drain cleaner, and antifreeze. Aside from the drug’s own side effects, these or other toxic ingredients can cause severe illness.

Meth and other illegal stimulants come without any “quality” guarantee. They can be either weak or extremely potent. They can contain toxic contaminants. They might not even be what the dealer claims they are. Drug dealers are already breaking the law by selling illegal stimulants. They’re certainly not going to worry about warranties or truth-in-advertising claims.

“You can never be sure exactly what you’re getting when you’re buying this stuff,” warns Collins. “You can never be sure what it is you’re putting in your body. And you can never be sure exactly what’s going to happen to you when you do.”

Think about the many risks of stimulants. Then think about all the ways you can enjoy yourself without altering your consciousness or risking your future. You’ve got too much to live for to risk it all with stimulants.

Herbal Ecstasy can kill

“Herbal Ecstasy” is sometimes sold as a “natural” alternative to Ecstasy. It contains varying amounts of ephedrine. While it can be legally sold in some states, Herbal Ecstasy is still a powerful stimulant. It has been linked to hundreds of adverse reactions, including heart attacks and death. A “natural” high from Herbal Ecstasy can still kill.

what would you do?

With a partner, prepare a skit acting out one of the following scenarios. Try to portray how you realistically think you would act in the situation. Be prepared to discuss your solutions in class.

1 You find yourself at a party where other people are using drugs. You want to leave. Your friend tries to persuade you to stay.

2 You find yourself at a rave party, and someone offers you Ecstasy. What do you do?

3 Your term paper is due tomorrow, and it’s not even halfway finished. A friend offers you pep pills. What do you say?

4 Your friend insists you’ll love the high provided by cocaine or methamphetamine. How do you say no?

5 Your brother has been acting very strange lately. While looking for a pen to borrow, you find a pipe for smoking crack or crank in his room. What do you do?

Reality Check

Most teens don’t use illegal stimulants. In the 2000 Monitoring the Future study, which was released last fall, only about 6 percent of 12th graders reported using cocaine and Ecstasy in the past year. About 10 percent reported using amphetamines, and roughly 5 percent reported using methamphetamine.

Those figures are nevertheless far too high, especially for the young people whose lives are ruined by their drug abuse. Nonetheless, an overwhelming majority of teens choose to stay away from all illegal stimulants. Here’s what a few of these teens have to say:

Victoria Petryshyn

College is even more demanding for 18-year-old Victoria Petryshyn. “Schoolwork takes up the majority of my time,” says the University of Southern California freshman. “Each hour of class means roughly three hours of study and preparation out of school.” School activities take up another 7 to 10 hours each week.

“I find that taking a break to have some fun with friends breaks up tension and stress,” says Victoria. She enjoys beach volleyball and dancing. She emphatically urges other teens to stay away from stimulants.

“It’s hard to type a coherent paper while your hands are shaking and your mind is racing,” says Victoria. “More than that, stimulants screw with the body’s natural processes. If you are tired, you should sleep. Taking caffeine pills or speed is not the answer to drowsiness.”

Bernadette Safrath

“Not only are they dangerous and addicting, but they do not provide your body with good energy,” says 17-year-old Bernadette Safrath of Merrick, New York. Bernadette’s demanding schedule keeps her at school most weekdays from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. At home she’s responsible for chores. Monday and Tuesday evenings and every Saturday she works at her part-time job. Where does Bernadette find the energy to keep going? “The biggest thing is to get enough sleep,” she says. “Also, a healthy diet and exercise provide me with a lot of extra energy.”

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May 8th, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Legalizing Marijuana Remains A Touchy Subject

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lmrA conservative think-tank argued against continuing the war on drugs on the grounds it destroys neighbourhoods, enriches organized crime, corrupts law-enforcement officials and wastes at least $2 billion a year in police and prosecution costs. Instead of an aggressive law-enforcement approach, “Sensible Solutions to the Urban Drug Problem” offers other possibilities, such as more drug treatment centres, increased education, harm-reduction strategies and even outright legalization.

Canadian liberals have long supported some measure of decriminalization, but the right is split along libertarian/social conservative lines. Vic Toews, the Canadian Alliance’s justice critic, thinks the war on drugs has never captured the imagination of most Canadian conservatives because Canadians “have had the luxury of sitting back and looking at the failure of that war” in the U.S. On that point, Fred McMahon, the director of the Fraser Institute’s social affairs centre, believes the American drug war “has been tied to racial and cultural issues that haven’t bedevilled the Canadian right.” Patrick Basham, an economist at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., adds there is a “religious element, and a moralistic approach to public policy in American conservatism that just isn’t part of the Canadian experience.”

Messrs. McMahon and Basham insist that, contrary to arguments put forth by anti-drug warriors, legalization would not lead to a much greater use of narcotics by the general public. Mr. McMahon cites the Netherlands, where marijuana has been more or less legal for several decades. “Heroin use in the Netherlands is actually below the European average,” says Mr. McMahon, “which means the argument that marijuana leads to hard drugs doesn’t really hold up.” He adds that the impact on Dutch society has not been all that problematic. “Legalized marijuana hasn’t destroyed or eroded Dutch society, or hurt their economy.”

On the other hand, Rory Leishman wrote in his London Free Press column that the Fraser Institute report represents the same “wrong-headed libertarian view [that] people have a right to…hire a prostitute and view the filthiest pornography.” He added that American sociologist James Q. Wilson estimates the price of drugs would fall “about 50-fold,” and general drug consumption could “increase about fivefold” if illegal drugs were legalized. Society could face an army of “unemployable addicts who would commit even more robberies” than they do today.

Similarly, Eric Voth of the U.S.-based International Drug Strategy Institute argues the drug war has, indeed, made a difference in drug use. “Compare [drug] use today with that of the late ’70s when there was not a drug war. Use today is less than half,” argues the opponent of legalization. He predicts that, if illegal drugs were legalized tomorrow, his country would see a “steady increase in all forms of drug use, with marijuana especially paralleling alcohol and tobacco. Crime would actually increase because 70% of drug-related crime is committed under the influence, and productivity would decrease. Ultimately, more money would have to be spent on the fallout of drug use.”

Mr. Voth adds that legalization has hardly been a success in the Netherlands. Recent polling data showed 73% of Dutch people think their drug laws are too tolerant, and 61% said all drugs should be made illegal. Not only had the number of addicts registered with the Dutch Consultation Bureau for Alcohol and Drug Problems risen 22% since 1988 to 54,171 in 1993, but the number of organized crime groups also rose from three in 1988 to 93 in 1993.

Reporter David Jones of Britain’s Daily Mail recently compared drug policies in the Netherlands with Sweden, where the government has worked for more than three decades to eliminate drug use. He wrote he had long been a decriminalization advocate, but “Ten days touring Holland and Sweden has changed my thinking completely.” Whereas only two of every 100 Swedes aged 15 to 25 have smoked cannabis in the past year, “in Holland it is about seven times more. Not coincidentally, the use of hard drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy and amphetamines, is appreciably lower in Sweden, too. So is the prevalence of drug-related crime, though this is rising in both countries.” As well, drugs are ruining whole communities and have spawned scores of major criminal operations in the Netherlands, the reporter observed.

The Alliance’s Mr. Toews states he is not prepared to share his personal feelings towards legalization, but does say he does not think the criminal-law approach to the drug war has worked very well, and that a debate is needed. “We have a very split caucus on that issue,” he adds. “Some people want a public-health approach rather than a law-enforcement approach to drugs, and I certainly don’t think that’s unique to the Canadian Alliance caucus.” Indeed, Conservative leader Joe Clark made headlines in May when he spoke in favour of decriminalizing marijuana.

Mr. Basham thinks demographics favour legalization, as older generations who support prohibition are gradually replaced with younger generations that take a more laissez-faire attitude to drugs. Asked if he sees a day when marijuana is generally accepted by society, Mr. Basham replies, “I do, but I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow.”

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March 22nd, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Drugs

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NIDA Talks Prescriptions

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niodA new research report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes the effects associated with the abuse of prescription drugs, which the agency estimates were used for non-medical reasons by 4 million people aged 12 and older in 1999.

According to “Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction,” the prescription medications that are most commonly misused fall into three categories: (1) opioids, which are used to treat pain; (2) CNS depressants, which are prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders; and (3) stimulants, which target narcolepsy (sleep disorder), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and obesity.

The 2014 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that approximately 1.6 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes for the first time in 1998, up from fewer than 500,000 first-time users per year in the 1980s. Overall, the number of new users of pain relievers increased by 181 percent from 1990 to 1998, while the number of first-time stimulant users jumped by 165 percent.

Continued use of opioids and depressants can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, the symptoms of which can include muscle and bone pain, vomiting, and seizures. Taking high doses of some stimulants repeatedly can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia, and may result in high body temperatures and an irregular heartbeat.

“Prescription Drugs: Abuse and Addiction” is available on the NIDA Web site at www.drugabuse.gov.

Self-Help Guide Offers Tips on Understanding Mental Health

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has published a 32-page booklet to help consumers understand the symptoms of depression, isolation, and other mental health conditions and administer psychological “first aid” when appropriate.

The booklet, “Recovering Your Mental Health: A Self-Help Guide,” describes how to judge the seriousness of symptoms and lists the range of resources available for assistance. The booklet also addresses the advantages of counseling, the medications available to help people through a mental health crisis, relaxation techniques, and paths to positive thinking.

The booklet is available by calling 1-800-789-2647 or by visiting www.samhsa.gov on the Web.

Newsletter Details Impact of Drinking on Driving

The April 2001 edition of the Alcohol Alert, a quarterly newsletter published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, discusses the effect of alcohol use on the transportation industry and offers strategies for reducing alcohol-related accidents and drunken-driving citations.

The April 2001 issue, “Alcohol and Transportation Safety,” notes that the risk of a fatal accident increases as a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises, with the risks increasing more steeply for drivers under the age of 21 and older than 70. The BAC limit for driving a car in most U.S. states is 0.10 percent, though research suggests that impairment begins at levels as low as 0.05 percent.

The newsletter lists several strategies for reducing alcohol-related accidents and citations, including raising the minimum legal drinking age, lowering BAC limits, suspending licenses and/or impounding vehicles at the time of arrest, and targeted enforcement strategies.

Copies of the Alcohol Alert (Vol. 52) are available on the Web at www.niaaa.nih.gov.

Web Feature Helps Employers Develop DFWP Programs

The U.S. Department of Labor has expanded the drug-free workplace area of its Web site to include a new feature that enables employers to develop customized DFWP programs for their companies.

The new feature, called Program Builder, consists of five components: policy development, supervisor training, employee education, drug testing, and employee assistance programs. Depending on the components the employer selects, the Program Builder will generate a customized DFWP policy statement.

Program Builder is part of DOI’S “Drug-Free Workplace Advisor,” an on-line program that helps employers determine whether and how they must comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. DOL offers several Advisors on its Web site to provide small businesses with information regarding employment laws administered by the agency

To access Program Builder and the “Drug-Free Workplace Advisor,” visit the DOL Web site at www.dol.gov and click on elaws.

Guide Highlights Resources for Family Caregivers

Employees caring for family members facing the end of life can find videos, planning guides, workbooks, and other resources in a 12-page booklet compiled by the Family Committee of Last Acts, a national initiative to engage health professionals and the public to improve palliative care.

The booklet, “Consumer/Family Resources for End-of-Life Care,” lists materials created by numerous organizations interested in assisting caregivers and their families. Many of the materials were tested through a series of caregiver focus groups convened by the Last Acts Family Committee. The materials are arranged in several categories, including advance care planning, caregiving, and funeral planning.

The booklet is available on the Web at www.lastacts.org, and can be ordered by sending an e-mail to LastActs@aol.com.

Materials Available to Help Publicize Recovery Month

The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has developed a series of public service announcements, fact sheets, logo sheets, and other materials to help community organizations publicize National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, which is being observed in September.

The theme of Recovery Month, now in its 12th year, is “We Recover Together: Family, Friends, and Community” The materials developed by CSAT target parents, families, schools, employers, and health professionals with the message that greater local resources, health insurance coverage, and employer support will result in less crime and more productive schools and workplaces.

According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 57 percent of people with severe drug problems (approximately 2.9 million people) did not receive treatment in 1998.

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February 8th, 2014 at 6:07 pm