Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marijuana Law Comes With Challenges

BOSTON — Last month, voters approved a statewide measure decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Now, wary authorities say, comes the hard part. They are scrambling to set up a new system of civil penalties before Jan. 2, when the change becomes law. From then on, anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will owe a $100 civil fine instead of ending up with an arrest record and possibly facing jail time.

It sounds simple, but David Capeless, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said the new policy presented a thicket of questions and complications.

One of the most basic, Mr. Capeless said, is who will collect the fines and enforce other provisions of the law. For example, violators under 18 will be required to attend a drug awareness class within a year, but it is unclear who will make sure that they do so. The fine increases to $1,000 for those who skip the class.

A complicating factor, said Mr. Capeless, the district attorney in Berkshire County, is that state law bans the police from demanding identification for civil infractions.

“Not only do you not have to identify yourself,” he said, “but it would appear from a strict reading that people can get a citation, walk away, never pay a fine and have no repercussion.”

Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, says he anticipates that many violators will lie about their identities.

“You can tell us that you’re Mickey Mouse of One Disneyland Way,” Mr. Sampson said, “and we have to assume that’s true.”

The authorities, he said, will also have to be sure that the substance they hand out citations for is marijuana, which will involve sending it to the State Police crime laboratory.

“You’re going to appeal it and go to the clerk’s hearing,” Mr. Sampson said, “and if we don’t have an analysis from the drug lab, the clerk is going to throw the case out.”

Mr. Sampson predicted that the law would result in de facto legalization of marijuana because it would prove too difficult to enforce.

“I would argue that the proponents knew these complications right from the beginning,” he said.

About 65 percent of state voters supported the decriminalization measure, which was promoted by a group that spent more than $1.5 million on the effort.

The group, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said that in addition to ensuring that people caught with marijuana no longer have a criminal record, the change would save about $29.5 million a year that it estimates law enforcement currently spends to enforce existing drug laws.

A spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, which supports the drug’s legalization and created the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy to get the ballot question passed here, said that judging from the experience of other states with civil penalties for marijuana possession, Massachusetts officials were exaggerating the challenges.

“I can’t help but think that the real difficulty in implementing it,” said the spokesman, Dan Bernath, “is they don’t want to do it.”

Eleven states have decriminalized first-time possession of marijuana, though in most it is technically a misdemeanor instead of a civil offense.

In Nebraska, where possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by a $300 civil fine, the process has worked smoothly for three decades, said Michael Behm, executive director of the Nebraska Crime Commission.

In New York, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a noncriminal violation but is still processed through the criminal system, said Robert M. Carney, the district attorney in Schenectady County.

“They are brought down to the police station so their identity is established,” Mr. Carney said of violators, “but they are not fingerprinted because it’s not an arrest.”

In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Public Safety is working with state and local law enforcement and court officials to determine how to apply the changes. Mr. Capeless said education officials were also in on the discussions because it was unclear whether public schools and universities could forbid marijuana possession under the new law.

A spokesman for the public safety office said its legal counsel was considering “a lot of questions” as the deadline drew near. But the spokesman, Terrel Harris, would not elaborate.

“We are just trying to make sure we have all the answers,” Mr. Harris said.

Mr. Capeless said that in particular the department needed to address a clause in the new law that said neither the state nor its “political subdivisions or their respective agencies” could impose “any form of penalty, sanction or disqualification” on anyone found with an ounce or less of marijuana.

“It appears to say that you get a $100 fine and they can’t do anything else to you,” he said. “Can a police officer caught with marijuana several times get to keep his job and not be disciplined in any fashion? Can public high schools punish kids for smoking cigarettes but not for having pot?”

Mr. Bernath agreed that the law was “not completely clear” on how to handle such situations, but predicted that they would be rare.

“I think the resistance has to do with dealing with something new,” he said. “We’re pretty confident that once this gets going and the newness of it wears off, a lot of the apprehension will go away.”
source: New York Times

Monday, December 8, 2008

Florida Drug Rehab Center Now Offering Extended Stay Programs

Ambrosia Treatment Center, a holistic-based drug rehabilitation center located in Port St Lucie Florida, now offers extended stay addiction treatment programs specifically tailored to the needs of the patient.

When it comes to health problems, a quick and neat solution is preferred nowadays. We have pills and syrups to ease every possible symptom. Surgery procedures that can be performed the same day and leave minimal scarring. However, when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction there is no such thing as a 'quick and neat solution.' Recent scientific studies have shown that the longer the treatment, the better the recovery and the more permanent the sobriety.

Therefore, drug rehab centers nationwide have begun lengthening their programs and making recommendations to possible patients for longer treatment stays that are still cost effective. Ambrosia Treatment Center, a world-class holistic drug rehab facility located in Port St. Lucie Florida, has begun offering both 60-90 day programs and 6-12 month programs, in addition to their shorter programs, in order to provide specialized treatment for all of their clientele.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over forty to sixty percent of people 'will relapse after drug treatment.' Addiction experts are now proving that longer treatment where client's specific needs are taken into account will alleviate the massive weight of addicts relapsing and cycling between 30-day hospitalizations for years and years. Dr. David Lewis, director of Visions Rehabilitation Center in Malibu, says that 30-day treatment programs were originally established for the Air Force and were only scheduled in that manner for bureaucratic reasons--'men and women didn't need to be reassigned if they were away from duty for more than 30 days. Other treatment centers followed suit.'

However, there was at the time no direct scientific evidence that showed that 30 days was adequate time for treatment. Today, we know that there are no 'magic numbers' when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse treatment and those 30 days is not nearly enough. The Ambrosia Treatment Center, as a holistic-based drug rehab facility, follows this pattern by treating the 'whole' person in order to resolve the underlying issues that may be causing the addiction in the first place. Often times, treating the 'whole' person requires more than simply 30-days.

However, many people find that an extended stay beyond 30-days is too much for addiction treatment. People argue that they have jobs, school, families--the normal day-in-day out routine that needs attention. What they want from rehabilitation is a quick fix. Yet, as stated before, there is no quick fix for drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. Studies have shown that addiction is best analogized to a chronic disease, such as heart disease--addiction requires critical attention and perseverance in terms of treatment in order to remain healthy. The Ambrosia Treatment Center family provides strong and capable staff, each of which carry over 20 years experience treating substance abuse and addiction treatment clients from all walks of life. Their attention to detail enables them to provide each client with an individualized regiment of treatment and not necessarily 'cookie cutter' their therapy.

At the end of the day, this is what sets The Ambrosia Treatment Center different from other rehabilitation clinics--they care. They want to see your loved ones get well. They never give up on an addicted person. And, at the end of the day, they believe that you never fail unless you just quit trying.

For additional information on the AMBROSIA TREATMENT CENTER and drug abuse treatment please call 1-866-616-0069 or visit

Friday, December 5, 2008

Drug And Alcohol Abuse Double Risk Of ICU Admission

While the personal health and safety risks of drug and alcohol abuse are well-documented, a new study by researchers at LDS Hospital and Brigham Young University suggests substance dependence increases medical costs by way of the intensive care unit.

Analysis of intensive care unit admissions at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City shows drug and alcohol abuse make a patient twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care, according to the new study, published in the December issue of Intensive Care Medicine.

"Since these patients are admitted to an intensive care unit, which is geared to treat patients with a much higher acuity, medical costs are higher than for those admitted to a general ward in the hospital," reported Mary Suchyta, M.D., lead author and a physician at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital.

The researchers reviewed records for 742 patients admitted to LDS Hospital's intensive care unit over a one-year period. Nineteen percent of those patients had a history of drug and alcohol dependence prior to becoming critically ill. That's twice the rate of the population served by LDS Hospital.

"It appears that that patients with drug or alcohol dependence are at higher risk for intensive care unit admission compared to the general population, which would increase overall medical costs," said Ramona Hopkins, a psychology professor at BYU and researcher at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital.

Patients with drug or alcohol dependence were on average six years younger than the rest of ICU patients.

"What's alarming is that substance dependence meant that these individuals were critically ill and admitted to the ICU at a much younger age than the general population," Hopkins said. "If these individuals do not completely recover and return to work, that represents large potential societal costs."

The new study earned praise from the editors of Intensive Care Medicine, who noted that there are significant gaps in this type of knowledge in most ICU settings and while this article did not answer many of the questions posed by these gaps, it should stimulate further research and collaboration.

Both Drs. Suchyta and Hopkins agree that the detection of substance dependence earlier would allow doctors to address those issues and this may improve recovery.

"Dr. Hopkins and myself have thought for many years that patients with drug and alcohol dependence were over represented in the ICU populations that we have studied over the last 10-15 years and this study suggests that we were correct," noted Dr. Suchyta.

BYU undergrad Callie Beck is also a co-author on the new study. It's her second time publishing an academic paper alongside Hopkins. In 2006 she co-authored a study on brain imaging, a field she would like to pursue in graduate school. Beck is applying to nine graduate schools, including UCLA, Vanderbilt and the University of Maryland.

"Callie is an amazing student," Hopkins said. "She was involved in many aspects of the research, including data analysis and writing. That level of experience will make her stand out as she applies to graduate school."
source: MediLexicon

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not Such A Happy Christmas For Addiction Sufferers

It may be the season to be merry for most people but according to experts at the Priory Group, the UK's leading independent provider of addiction treatment services, Christmas is often the most difficult time of year for people suffering from an addiction.

The euphoria and excitement surrounding Christmas reinforces feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth which are common in addicts. This makes it even harder to manage their addictions during the festive period.

An estimated two million people in the UK are believed to suffer from an addiction of some sort. The three most common addictions are also the ones that are the most difficult to cope with at Christmas:

- Alcohol
- Food
- Shopping

Dr Philip Hopley, consultant psychiatrist at The Priory Roehampton explains: "It can become very difficult for people to deal with the stress and anxiety caused by the financial and consumer pressures of the festive season, and by difficult family and relationship situations that often arise at this time of year. For an addict this is intensified by trying to avoid temptation at a time when the rest of the population appears to be having a fantastic time.

"During December alcohol consumption in the UK increases by 41%. Christmas puts a significant strain on people and this often leads to people using more alcohol in a bid to relax or avoid facing issues.

"There are a number of reasons why some people end up drinking too much at a consistent level, including the need for confidence in social situations, such as the office Christmas party. the financial strain caused by overspending; the pressure to be upbeat and act as the 'perfect host'; spending extended periods with relatives; and

"One of the most difficult times of the year for those recovering from alcoholism is the Christmas holidays because so many people appear to be having a good time whilst drinking. The New Year can seem like a very bleak place for alcoholics facing a long road ahead. Dr Hopley continued: "Christmas is often seen as a good excuse to indulge in overeating and excess, but to people with eating disorders it can spell despair.

"People with conditions such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa can become extremely distressed to the point of feeling suicidal because of the pressure to eat at Christmas.

"Bulimic behaviour often peaks over the holiday period and some sufferers resort to self-harm, which can become destructive addictive behaviour."

Christmas is also a very challenging time for those suffering from a shopping addiction, or Oniomania as it is clinically known, according to Priory addictions specialist Dr Hopley: "Shopping addiction or impulse buying is when someone gets a 'high' from spending money on goods and spends excessively on items that they want rather than need. At Christmas the shops are full of glitzy displays designed specifically to encourage people to buy.

"One of the main implications of shopping addiction is debt. People who are addicted to shopping may spend even when they have no money to spend with, which can soon lead to debt problems. Debts can often spiral out of control and can soon become unmanageable. Other consequences are denial and desperate acts to cover up the addiction leading to the breakdown of close relationships."

Dr Hopley concluded: "While the vast majority of people enjoy a wonderful time at Christmas there are those for whom it is a desperate time. Admitting to a having a problem and consequently seeking treatment can be the first and most important step towards being able to enjoy the festive season in the future."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Binge drinking linked to increased stroke risk

Binge drinking linked to increased stroke risk. It’s well-known that binge drinking is not good for your health and a new study shows it may have an even more pronounced effect on your brain than you thought. In fact, the researchers say that making binge drinking a habit could increase your risk of a stroke.

Binge drinking often occurs at parties or in social settings where people take in large amounts of alcohol at one time. In this study, researchers defined it as consuming six or more alcoholic drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in one session. They looked at almost 16, 000 Finnish men and women age 25 to 64 years. They participated in a risk factor survey and were followed up for 10 years afterward.

In that time there were 249 participants who had a first stroke. The researchers found that while average alcohol consumption did not seem to be associated with the strokes, sessions of binge drinking showed a clear link with the occurrences. The binge drinkers were 1.85 times as likely of having a stroke compared to the non-binge drinkers and 1.99 times as likely when adjusting for the risk of ischemic (clotting) stroke alone.

The researchers concluded that heavy sessions of alcohol consumption might be an independent risk factor for stroke.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation does not recommend that you drink alcohol for the purpose of reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. For those healthy adults who drink alcohol, consumption should not exceed 2 drinks* a day with a weekly limit of 14 drinks for men and 9 drinks for women. Binge drinking should be avoided.

(A standard drink is 341 ml of 5% beer, 142 ml of 12% wine, and 43 ml of 40% spirits.) *
source: On the Pulse News