Basic 8 hour Drug Awareness Classes Should be Endorsed by FDA

by Mike Miller December 23, 2013

With the abuse of prescription medication skyrocketing all across the country it is time the Federal Drug Administration take action. Back in October they recommended tighter controls over prescription medication. It was about time. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has long pushed for stronger controls on prescription medications. For years, F.D.A. officials had rejected recommendations from the D.E.A. and others for stronger prescribing controls on the drugs, saying the action would create undue hardships for patients. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

Would it surprise you to learn that a number of doctors’ groups, including the American Medical Association and pharmacy organizations, have continued to fight the measure, citing the impact on patients?

The key is to understand that in reality these are very difficult trade-offs that our society has to make. The reason the majority of doctors approve these drugs is for people in pain. But we can’t ignore the epidemic on the other side.

The new regulations would reduce by half, to 90 days, the supply of the drug a patient could obtain without a new prescription.

Currently, a patient can refill a prescription for such drugs five times over a six-month period before needing a new prescription. Federal data suggest that most patients take such medications for only 14 days, creating the potential for excess pills to be sold or to be taken out of medicine chests by curious teenagers and others.

The F.D.A. recommendation is likely to have a significant impact on the availability of the drugs, as well as on how pharmacies operate and even the types of medical professionals who can prescribe the medications.

How do you feel about tighter controls? Do you think these regulations will have any effect on the current prescription medication problem in America?

Tighter Controls on Painkillers Increases Need for Drug Education Class

by Mike Miller December 19, 2013

Can it be true that the Food and Drug Administration just recommended tighter controls on how doctors prescribe the most commonly used narcotic painkillers just last month? This seems like a recommendation that should have occurred many, many months ago.

Finally! The move represents a major policy shift, so that widely-abused drugs, which contain the narcotic hydrocodone, should be controlled as tightly as more powerful painkillers like OxyContin. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

The change would reduce the number of refills patients could get before going back to see their doctor. Patients would also be required to take a prescription to a pharmacy, rather than have a doctor call it in. While I agree with the first clause, having a chronically pained person take the added step of going to the doctor seems a bit much. Although, it is a step in the right direction.

Did you know that prescription drugs account for about three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the United States? The stats are staggering. The number of deaths from narcotic painkillers, or opioids have quadrupled since 1999. Drugs containing hydrocodone represent a huge share — about 70 percent — of all opioid prescriptions, and the looser rules governing them have contributed to their abuse.

The FDA is late in taking action. So many addicts become addicted accidentally as the medications present a great risk. If you or anyone you care about is abusing, or even using prescription pain medication, I suggest you educate yourself by taking a basic 8 hour drug class. If you prefer to maintain anonymity take one online from the comfort of your own home.

California Leads By Example – Could Benefit from Marijuana Educational Program

by Mike Miller December 15, 2013

While I may not live in California I know people who do. All of them think there is a major problem with marijuana use in California. What do you think?

In a previous blog entry, I made note of a study that showed marijuana in the system of twice as many drivers as alcohol in California. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

In a broad study about to be published in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, on the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana, two economics professors reported that a survey of evidence showed a correlation between increased marijuana use and less alcohol use for people ages 18 to 29.

I really don’t see how substituting marijuana for alcohol is a positive thing. We need to keep people off of all drugs.

Apparently these dispensaries sell more than just smokable cannabis. The industry has absolutely exploded with a variety of products. One of my students who holds a medical marijuana card in California said it is like being a kid in a candy store. The array of products has exploded and includes hashish, marijuana-rich oils that are drunk or smoked, edible cakes and other food products, and topical ointments intended to ease skin or joint pain without providing a high.

I think this is a very slippery slope. I feel that making the drug more legal only makes people think it is safe. Before legalizing the drug, all politicians and voters should have to take a marijuana educational course.

Californians Need Online Marijuana Class More Than Ever

by Mike Miller December 11, 2013

I have blogged about the nonsense that is medicinal marijuana for years. What percent of medical marijuana users do you think have a true medical need for the drug? Keep in mind that the American Medical Association, the definitive word on illness and medication and illness in America, has not come out with a single ailment for which they recommend smoking cannabis.

The law legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in California applies only to people who have a medical need for marijuana, like glaucoma or cancer. However, the requirements for getting the card to buy the drug are notoriously lax. Doctors can recommend its use for ailments as common as stress, sleeplessness, headaches and chronic pain. And marijuana in California has become almost as culturally accepted, and in some parts of the state nearly as widely used, as alcohol. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

Do you think marijuana users are much more representative of the overall adult population? Proponents of its legalization think it does.

Here is an interesting statistic? The percentage of California drivers with traces of marijuana in their systems, 14 percent, was found to be nearly double that of people with alcohol during a spot check last year, according to a report from the California Office of Traffic Safety. It is important to keep in mind that alcohol vacates the human body fairly quickly while cannabis can remain in the bloodstream for up to 45 days.

We will continue to look at marijuana in terms of its legalization and use in both California and nationwide in future blogs. In the meantime, if you use marijuana, or know someone who does, I encourage you to take an educational marijuana program.

Legalizing Marijuana without Mandatory Drug Education Classes?

by Mike Miller December 7, 2013

Proponents of legalized marijuana claim that all the dire warnings of legalizing marijuana – increased crime and use of other drugs – have not come to fruition. Some of that may be true, but there is no denying that marijuana consumption has gone up over the past decade.

Those in support of legalizing marijuana say that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, the research shows that driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol. If that is not backward logic I don’t know what is. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

I think I know what Americans are smoking when a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans think the drug should be made legal. It is scary because advocates for marijuana legalization are correct when they see the moves in Colorado and Washington to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes as the start of a wave.

Still, even as public opinion in support of legalizing marijuana has grown, opposition remains strong among many, including some law enforcement organizations, which warn that the use of the drug leads to marijuana addiction and endangers the health of users and encourages the use of other drugs.

Where does it stop? Do we make all drugs legal? Or just marijuana for now and suffer for that? What happens when you find out this wasn’t such a good idea?

After California, medical marijuana was legalized in 19 states and the District of Columbia. I ask you to comment here – are medical marijuana card holders medically in need of cannabis. I think they need to take a marijuana drug class and try to find an alternative medication for whatever they think ails them.

Californians Need Marijuana Education Classes

by Mike Miller December 3, 2013

California is a national leader in many areas. Some of these are positive and some negative. Did you know that California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes? Is medicinal marijuana a gateway for recreational legalization?

Despite the stereotype, not every Northern California resident is a marijuana user, some even complain about the stench of all the marijuana plants. In the heart of Northern California’s marijuana growing region, the sheriff’s office is inundated each fall with complaints about the stench of marijuana plots or the latest expropriation of public land by growers. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

Many people are under the false impression that the majority of marijuana sold in dispensaries comes from cartels in Mexico. However, the explosion of medical marijuana shops in Los Angeles has created an entirely new industry for industrious Northern Californians.

What Have We Learned So Far?

Medical marijuana has been legal in California for more than 17 years. Keep in mind that until the early 2000s medical marijuana dispensaries were scant. Still, the warnings voiced against partial legalization — of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use — have proved unfounded. However, there is no denying that the use of marijuana among teens and the population as a whole has certainly increased.

Instead, research suggests both that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people here and in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, and that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol.

Although marijuana is legal here only for medical use, it is widely available. There is no evidence that its use by teenagers has risen since the 1996 legalization, though it is an open question whether outright legalization would make the drug that much easier for young people to get, and thus contribute to increased use.

And though Los Angeles has struggled to regulate marijuana dispensaries, with neighborhoods upset at their sheer number, the threat of unsavory street traffic and the stigma of marijuana shops on the corner, communities that imposed early and strict regulations on their operations have not experienced such disruption.

Imposing a local tax on medical marijuana, as Oakland, San Jose and other communities have done, has not pushed consumers to drug dealers as some analysts expected. Presumably that is because it is so easy to get reliable and high-quality marijuana legally.

Finally, for consumers, the era of legalized medical marijuana has meant an expanded market and often cheaper prices. Buyers here gaze over showcases offering a rich assortment of marijuana, promising different potencies and different kinds of highs. Cannabis sativa produces a pronounced psychological high, a “head buzz,” while cannabis indica delivers a more relaxed, lethargic effect, a “body buzz.”

Advocates for marijuana legalization see the moves in Colorado and Washington as the start of a wave. A Gallup poll released last week found that 58 percent of Americans think the drug should be made legal.

“There is definitely going to be a legalization here at some point, one way or another, like in Colorado and Washington,” said Tom Ammiano, a Democratic state assemblyman from San Francisco who has pushed the Legislature to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Still, even as public opinion in support of legalizing marijuana has grown, opposition remains strong among many, including some law enforcement organizations, which warn that the use of the drug leads to marijuana dependence, endangers the health of users and encourages the use of other drugs.

“Unfortunately, many have been convinced that marijuana is harmless, and many in policing do not believe that is the case,” Darrel W. Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, wrote in an e-mail.

Craig T. Steckler, a former chief of the Police Department in Fremont, Calif., who is now the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the problems in Los Angeles and robberies of cash-rich marijuana farms in Northern California were just two of the reasons states should hesitate before legalizing the drug.

“If it’s more readily accessible, if the parents and the siblings are doing it, then it becomes available to the younger kids — it’s going to be in the house, it’s going to be in the car,” he said.

“Where does it stop?” Mr. Steckler asked. “You make all drugs legal? Or just marijuana for now and suffer for that? What happens when you find out this wasn’t such a good idea?”

After California, medical marijuana was legalized in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Although the law in California applies only to people who have a medical need for marijuana, like glaucoma or cancer, the requirements for getting the card to buy the drug are notoriously lax. Doctors can recommend its use for ailments as common as sleeplessness and headaches. And marijuana in California has become almost as culturally accepted, and in some parts of the state nearly as widely used, as alcohol. “Marijuana users are much more representative of the overall adult population in California than medical marijuana populations in other states,” said Amanda Reiman, the state policy director for the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization working toward the decriminalization of marijuana.

The percentage of California drivers with traces of marijuana in their systems, 14 percent, was found to be nearly double that of people with alcohol during a spot check last year, according to a report from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

In a broad study on the ramifications of legalizing recreational marijuana about to be published in The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, two economics professors said a survey of evidence showed a correlation between increased marijuana use and less alcohol use for people ages 18 to 29.

The researchers, D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado, said that based on their study, they expected younger people in Colorado and Washington to use marijuana more and alcohol less.

“These states will experience a reduction in the social harms resulting from alcohol use: Reducing traffic injuries and fatalities is potentially one of the most important,” the professors said.

Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on marijuana policy who was the chief adviser to Washington on its marijuana law, said the connection between alcohol and marijuana use, if borne out, would be a powerful argument in favor of decriminalization.

“If it turns out that cannabis and alcohol are substitutes, then by my scoring system, legalizing cannabis is obviously a good idea,” Mr. Kleiman said. “Alcohol is so much more of a problem than cannabis ever has been.”

Still, he said, it will take time before long-term judgments can be made.

“Does it cause problems?” he said. “Certainly. Is it on balance a good or bad thing? Ask me 10 years from now.”

Mr. Rees also said his study found no evidence of increased drug use among high school students in Los Angeles during the period when medical marijuana shops opened here, probably because dispensaries were vigilant about not risking their thriving ventures by selling to under-age consumers.

“The dispensary numbers went through the roof,” he said. “But nothing happens to marijuana use among teenagers.”

The marijuana cultivation business in Northern California has been an economic boon for many communities, creating tax revenues, an industry of ancillary industries, and local wealth, visible by expensive cars parked along once dusty streets.

“A lot of cottage industries have popped up that service the marijuana industry,” said Scot Candell, a lawyer in San Rafael who specializes in medical marijuana clients. “Labs that do testing, hydroponic stores that provide growing equipment, software developers, insurance companies that specialize in dispensaries.”

Steve DeAngelo, the founder of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, one of the state’s largest marijuana dispensaries, said his dispensary collected $1.2 million last year in marijuana sales tax for the city.

Medical marijuana, he said, has “created a whole new cast of people who have a vested interest in cannabis.”

“What was inevitable is that the movement, at some point, would go into hyper-speed, and that is what’s happening now,” he said.

This has altered the economy of places like Mendocino County.

“I am not aware of any business in Mendocino County that doesn’t consider marijuana as part of their business plan, and that can be good and bad,” said Sheriff Thomas D. Allman.

Mr. Candell said that while regulation was important, overregulation could be counterproductive. In California, several communities outlawed all marijuana dispensaries, giving rise to delivery services, which are not subject to regulation.

In Mendocino the issue is not dispensaries, but cultivation. There has been a spectacular rise in the amount of marijuana being grown there because, under county law, individuals with medical marijuana cards can have up to 25 plants for personal use. heriff Allman said he spent about 30 percent of his resources on medical marijuana cases, especially between April and October, the growing season. The No. 1 call to 911 in October is complaints about the overwhelming smell of a next-door plot.

In Los Angeles, repeated attempts to regulate the stores have failed, causing an uproar in quiet neighborhoods like Larchmont and Mar Vista. Yet there is a lesson here: San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, which imposed strict regulations on the shops from the start, have had few problems.

“Those cities really took charge in 1996, saying: ‘We have to figure out how we are going to regulate this. We need to figure out how marijuana could be sold, how it will be regulated, what it will mean for tax revenue,’ ” Ms. Reiman said. “As a result, those three cities have seen little to no issues in terms of crime or public safety issues.”

Consumers of marijuana are also benefiting. Competition among growers has resulted in powerful strains, raising the levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, to as high as 25 percent. Previously, levels ranged from 6 percent to 9 percent.

And since cities have competing dispensaries, prices have tended to decrease or at least keep pace with street prices. At Harborside in Oakland, marijuana buds run anywhere from $240 to $360 an ounce, though patients tend to buy smaller amounts like an eighth or a quarter of an ounce.

The array of products has exploded, and now includes not only smokable buds but also hashish, marijuana-rich oils that are drunk or smoked, edible cakes and other food products, and topical ointments intended to ease skin or joint pain without providing a high.

California has learned a lot in its years of dealing with a legal form of marijuana, Mr. Candell said. “But there are a lot of states that are just now going through it, and there are things they need to know.”

Member of Richard Petty Racing Headed to 24 Hour Drug Awareness Class ASAP!

by Mike Miller November 29, 2013

Auto racing and drug use do not belong together in any way, shape or form. It takes the most minor of infractions to incur serious repercussions. These are life-and-death situations.

A violation of NASCAR's substance-abuse policy has cost crew chief Todd Parrott his job with Richard Petty Motorsports. As reported in www.sbnation.com.

Parrott had been the crew chief for the No. 43 car driven by Aric Almirola, but was suspended indefinitely last week by NASCAR after failing a random drug test.

Parrott admits he made a mistake. He declined, however, to reveal which banned substance he took.

Parrott is best known for being the former crew chief for Dale Jarrett. The two won the 1999 Cup Championship and hold a pair of victories in the Daytona 500 (1996 and 2000) and Brickyard 400 (1996 and 1999). Parrot said he will be taking drug classes through NASCAR’s program. He does seem quite contrite and intent on finding and maintaining sobriety.

RPM promoted car chief Greg Ebert to interim crew chief beginning with this weekend's race at Martinsville Speedway. Ebert has been with the No. 43 team for two years, and previously spent five years serving as the car chief for Matt Kenseth at Roush Fenway Racing.

While Parrott claims this was a one-time use, I find that difficult to believe. What do you think?

Heidi Fleiss Needs More Than Online DUI School

by Mike Miller November 26, 2013

Her troubles have been well-documented and well-publicized. Heidi Fleiss, the woman formerly known as “The Hollywood Madam”, continues to reveal through her actions that her life has been ravaged by addiction.

Fleiss is in trouble again. As reported in www.reviewjournal.com.

She was arrested after police said they caught her driving under the influence of marijuana. This charge was just two days before a scheduled court appearance on charges related to a marijuana growth operation discovered at her Pahrump, Nevada home earlier this year. Didn’t she get anything out of her stint at “Celebrity Rehab” with Dr. Drew Pinsky?

Fleiss was apprehended and taken into custody for a number of charges. It all began around 3:30 a.m. when she was booked on charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance, DUI drugs, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of greater than 1 ounce of marijuana, driving without a license, driving with suspended registration and driving with no insurance.

When officers pulled over Fleiss’ 2010 Toyota Cruiser they found about 4 ounces of marijuana and $10,000 in cash, which was seized.

Police conducted a series of field sobriety tests with Fleiss at which time it was determined she was under the influence of marijuana.

I am not sure that a professional drug class would be enough for Fleiss to change her ways. She is so  clearly on a self-destructive path and I have a sad feeling that the next time we read about her will be an obituary.

Substitute Online Tobacco Class Over an E Cigarette for Breakfast

by Mike Miller November 24, 2013

Advertising is a powerful thing. Often times we do not even realize the effect advertising has on us until after we have desired a product. I have now gained fodder for three blog entries based on one very pretty advertisement I saw on the door of my local Starbucks.

As a counselor for tobacco classes, I have witnessed hundreds of people working hard to keep our nation’s youth away from cigarettes and nicotine. Finally, in 2012, smoking among teens was at its lowest level in more than half a century. As reported in parenting.blogs.nytimes.com.

Now, it seems that all that progress is about to vaporize. “Smoking,” at least in the form of vaping, is becoming "cool". This week, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 1.8 million middle and high-school students said they had tried e-cigarettes in 2012 — double the number from the previous year.

While the Food and Drug Administration is still studying the issue, a 2009 F.D.A. analysis of e-cigarettes found that they contained carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze. And health officials are concerned that for many young people, e-cigs will become a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes.

The Celebrity of an E-Cig

Meanwhile, companies vying for a stake in the fast-growing e-cigarette business are clearly updating the playbook once used successfully by the tobacco industry to hook a new generation of tech-savvy young people. Countless celebrities — like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss and Robert Pattinson — have been photographed vaping. Other stars have “lit up” on television shows like “Saturday Night Live.”

There are sports sponsorships, celebrity pitchmen and free samples handed out like candy at underground parties. In fact, with e-cig flavors like cola, chocolate, lemonade and cherry crush, they are being pushed like candy — and unquestionably aimed at kids.

In California, the state with the toughest antismoking laws in the country, vapor shops are popping up faster than Starbucks.

Did you know that only 11 states currently place any restriction on who can buy e-cigarettes — a shameful lack of regulation as compared with the laws governing tobacco products. Federal law prohibits the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 18, while four states have raised that to 19; New York City is considering increasing it to 21. Should e-cigs really be treated differently?

Makers of electronic cigarettes are trying to legitimize the product by saying that they are providing current smokers a healthier alternative — not trying to attract young people to become first-time users.

I welcome your thoughts on the issue.

Online Tobacco Class Really The Healthier Part of Breakfast

by Mike Miller November 22, 2013

Let me begin by saying that I understand the ravages of nicotine addiction. I suffered under them for almost 15 years. And not a day goes by that in some way shape or form that I still am not suffering.

For the past five years or so the urges to use tobacco and feel the effects of nicotine have waned. Now, with the flux of youth and adult alike toking up on e-cigarettes virtually everywhere including the supermarket (yes I saw and smelled the bubble-gummy goodness in the market yesterday, the urge to get back on nicotine is strong.

I had to stop by Starbucks after shopping to get the only “fix” I still pseudo-enjoy – a good, strong coffee. And lo-and-behold on the door as I walked in was a beautiful advertisement for e-cigs.

Was this destiny? Should I give them a try?

Also keep in mind that as a counselor for an internet based tobacco class, I’ve spent years telling my children, and many, many others that smoking can kill you.

And thanks to decades of sensible public health policies — including laws banning cigarette advertising and smoking in public places — as well as brutally graphic anti-smoking marketing campaigns, my kids have been growing up in a culture in which puffing on cigarettes is stigmatized. Last year, cigarette smoking among teens fell to a record low.

I have the rush of a junkie as I write blogs about this advertisement. Tune in tomorrow for your next fix!