The Antidote for Accidental Opiate Drug Overdoses

Are thousands of deaths from OPIATE drug OVERDOSES                     preventable — just by giving people the antidote to take home?

Yes! There is a Life-saver. Life ring with line

Over ten thousand cases of overdose reversal were reported between 1996 and 2010 using the drug Naloxone—because the drug users were allowed to have it on-hand, as a “take-home ” drug.

The drug NALOXONE is the antidote for opiate drug overdoses. The list of opioid drugs includes legal, prescription medications such as oxycodone, tramadol, hydrocodone, and codeine as well as the illegal drug heroin.

Naloxone is usually only available in emergency rooms as an IV drug. Many people who are overdosing never make it to the ER because the people with them are too afraid to call 911.

It is NOT widely available, but it could be! It is not a controlled substance but requires a prescription. It is available in two forms. The nasal spray (shown below) is easier to use than the injectable but costs much more. A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy

Either form could be distributed to people who are at risk of overdosing on opioid drugs.

How many people are at risk of overdosing?

People in the United States consume more than 84 percent of the entire worldwide supply of oxycodone and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone.

In Hawaii, the number of deaths (per year) from accidental overdosing on prescription and illicit drugs has surpassed the number from all other causes, including motor vehicle accidents.

So, there are many people who could benefit from this.

A recent article in Reuters reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the naloxone “take-home” technique could prevent up to 20,000 deaths per year—in the United States alone.

WHO also estimates that about 69,000 people die each year from overdoses related to heroin or other opioids—Worldwide.

Read the whole article here

PROGRAMS on the Mainland: Nalaxone programs have been established in about 200 communities in the United States and are reporting the more than ten thousand lives save as a result of the take-home nalaxone.

PROGRAMS IN HAWAII: The CHOW Project (Community Health Outreach Workers) is one of the sponsors of the 2014 Hawaii Harm Reduction Conference. Take-home naloxone was a topic of discussion at the conference. The Chow Project is working on getting this type of program in place. A Physician Standing Order is necessary for this to happen.

So, although they cannot provide the naloxone until this happens, they do have an Overdose Prevention & Naloxone Manual.

And, to reduce the number of deaths from overdose another harm reduction strategy was recently put into place. It is called the “Good Samaritan act”. It will help to encourage people who witness overdoses to call 911 by giving them some immunity from prosecution.

We can be hopeful that someday many more harm reduction strategies will be in place to help the people living in Hawaii.

West sunset orange

The Votes are In. Many Sensible Marijuana Policy Reforms Pass

I votedSensible Marijuana Policy Reforms Prevail – From Alaska to Washington D.C.. . and Guam?

On November 4th, 2014, Voters across many states took a strong stance AGAINST marijuana prohibition and FOR sensible drug laws.  The people have spoken. File:Thomas H Ince - Megaphone 1922.jpg

Here’s what they decided:

Marijuana will be LEGAL for recreational use in the states of Alaska and Oregon and in Washington D.C.

Now marijuana will be regulated like alcohol.

Alaska’s, Question 2 passed with a 53% YES vote.  In Oregon, measure 91 passed with a 54% YES vote.

Washington D.C. (Initiative 71) passed with a 69% vote. While this is a huge victory, it is only a first step. The law only allows (right now) for people to grow their own, there is no structure to tax and regulate adult use marijuana, and as we saw in their recent decriminalization law, it will be exposed to possible congressional interference.

P medical-marijuanaFortunately, in GUAM – voters said YES to Medical marijuana.

Unfortunately, despite 57% of votes being in favor of medical marijuana, the measure failed in Florida. (a 60% vote was required.)

 

Jail w flag outsideFortunately, there was good news about decriminalization efforts in other states:

Californians passed Prop 47—which will reduce penalties for some crimes and reclassify MOST non-serious, non-violent crimes. Penalties will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. They also voted NO to drug testing of certain doctors.

In Michigan voters in THREE counties passed decriminalization ordinances, TWO counties in New Mexico did too.

In New Jersey the public was questioned about bail reform and they agreed that the number of pretrial incarceration (for low-level drug violations) should be reduced.

Portland, Maine voters passed to remove ALL legal penalties for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by an adult.Jail door opened

We should applaud the people who worked to make these efforts into a reality.

And, we should keep in mind the words of Margaret Mead:Margaret Mead

 

 

Vote

Voters in 7 States will vote on Marijuana Policy Reform

This is a HUGE Election Year for Marijuana Policy Reform!

The people in 7 States, 1 District and 1 Territory will vote on   Legalization and Decriminalization.

voters
Image courtesy of the joint blog.

Public policy changes may also be made in 57 Municipal and County votes.

It’s EASY to Get informed and Stay informed–Here’s how:

Read this excellent article in the Huffington Post (by Stephen Gutwillig) about what is happening in: Alaska, Oregon, Florida, California, Michigan, Maine, New Mexico, Washington D.C., and Guam.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

From Russ Belville FB page
From Russ Belville FB page

Activist Russ Belville has ongoing RADIO coverage of ALL of these States (and Territory) plus 57 municipal and county votes—so you can stay informed.

Listen in at  420 Radio

Medical Cannabis may get out of CSA Schedule I prison (because it got a bad rap)

Leaf gavel

What started as federal criminal trials against seven men growing marijuana on national forest land in California has turned into a monumental, HISTORIC evidentiary hearing. The hearing lasted four days and started on Friday, October 24, 2014. It was complete with three expert medical witnesses and a NORML attorney whose testimonies were described as “lively”, “fiery” and at times “humorous”.

The judge will determine if the current Controlled Substance Act classification of marijuana (as a Schedule I drug) is appropriate and constitutional.

The defense attorneys contend that it is NOT constitutional because the scheduling is not appropriate.

The Judge’s decision could mean the END of marijuana prohibition–at least in California.

U.S. District Court Judge, Kimberly J. Mueller said she felt compelled to examine up-to-date evidence that marijuana has medical usefulness because of a Supreme Court decision which changed another law. The decision to delete a FOOTNOTE in another case (Footnote #37 from the Gonzales v. Raich case) led to this twist in the trial.  Read more about the Footnote here]

The testimony Judge Mueller heard this week will allow her to determine if marijuana meets the criteria of a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD.

As you may know, Schedule I drugs are defined as those that:

  • have a high potential for abuse
  • lack any accepted medical use in treatment (in the United States)
  • cannot be used safely, even under medical supervision.

The three eminent medical experts who testified are Carl Hart PhD, Gregory Carter, MD and Philip Denny, MD. The doctors argued that cannabis is one of mankind’s oldest, safest therapeutic substances and does not fit ANY of the Schedule I criteria. All three addressed marijuana’s current and potential medical usefulness, the “better than most drugs on the market” safety profile and what the “potential for abuse” means if you’re using marijuana as medicine.

If Judge Mueller determines that cannabis is inappropriately classified, and determines it to be “unconstitutional”, her decision could lead to the rescheduling or DESCHEDULING of marijuana.

This will be a landmark decision with statewide, national and international impacts. Many appeals are likely to follow and the case could head back to the Supreme Court. Judge Mueller is supposed to make her decision by November 19, 2014.

 

TESTIMONY GIVEN BY THE DOCTORS

Carl Hart 1

Dr. Carl Hart is a drug addiction expert. He is a psychoneuropharmacologist who has conducted addiction research on human subjects. He educates physicians at Columbia medical school. He sits on an advisory board of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and advocates for drug policy reform. His performance was described as a “masterful testimony”

Dr. Hart dissected the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (which defines addiction) and stated:

“After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”  (from Norml.org/news)

Dr Gregory Carter

Dr. Gregory Carter also specializes in educating physicians about cannabis. He is the medical director at St. Luke Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington. He holds many board certifications and fellowships including the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine. He cited and discussed a meta-analysis of 18 placebo-controlled studies, the majority of them showing cannabis was effective at treating neuropathic pain and had minimal side effects.

It was noted that the United States government (DHHS) holds a patent on marijuana as a neuroprotective agent and that 23 states and Washington D.C. have medical marijuana laws.

Dr. Phillip Denny is a retired physician with vast experience treating medical cannabis patients.

Dr. Denny spoke about the U.S. government’s Investigative New Drug program (IND), the program that has supplied US patients with tins of government-grown cannabis since the 1970’s. He presented the results of a 2002 study showing the long-term successes in treating the severely ill IND patients. He fielded questions about a study showing the cannabis-based prescription medication, Marinol had the same effectiveness as smoked cannabis—helping substantiate the medical value of both.

Day 4 was also lively. Bertha Madras PhD, the only government expert witness asserted that cannabis cannot properly be called “medicine” because it does not meet the strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg countered by providing the results of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies which showed significant and beneficial medicinal effects.

Gilg also dimished Madras’s credibility as an expert witness, citing her lack of training and experience with working with medical marijuana. This stood in stark contrast to the vast education and experience of Dr. Hart, Dr. Carter and Dr. Denny.

To read more about day 4 click here:

Arrest records in New York City show racial bias persists

Racism persists in New York City. You can tell by looking at marijuana arrest records. This is not new, but arrest rates of young black and Latino males (for small amounts of marijuana) are higher than in any other city in the world.

Missouri Sentencing Reform Measure Reduces Marijuana Possession Penalties
Image courtesy of the daily chronic

What’s going on?

An article entitled “No Progress on Marijuana Arrests” appeared last week in the New York Times.

It explains that low-level marijuana arrest records for public possession started going down in the 1970s and then climbed back up, up, UP again. There were fewer than 1,000 arrests for possession of trivial amounts of marijuana in 1990, yet this number grew to 50,000 in 2011.

It did drop to 28,600 arrests in 2013, but that number of arrests for trivial amounts of marijuana still remains greater than ANY city in the world.

Why? What happened?

In the 1970’s police were better at following the law which dictated that arrests were not supposed to be made unless marijuana was being smoked or displayed in public. So, by the year 2011 police found a way around that and were (illegally) tricking people (primarily young black and Latino men) into emptying their pockets –and then charging them with “public possession”.

Over 86% of the people arrested were black and Latino men and 75% of them had no prior criminal convictions.

The article offers up an explanation based on a Marijuana Arrest Research Project and Drug Policy Alliance report. The reason given: “police officers patrolling white neighborhoods typically do not search the vehicles and pockets of white citizens”.

Institutionalized racism persists despite our efforts. Perhaps this article will help people who think racism is a thing of the past to understand how this situation can persist.

You can read the entire article HERE

We have a new Field Organizer –WENDY GIBSON

We have a new field organizer joining our team. Wendy Gibson is an RN who has been an advocate of drug policy reform for many years. Here’s what she has to say to you:

Hello everyone,

I’m Wendy Gibson, a nurse, and medical marijuana (cannabis) patient advocate. I’m pleased to announce that I will be serving as The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii’s new Field Organizer.

It’s great to be joining them at such an exciting (and hopeful) time in our drug reform history. I appreciate the DPFHI successes in reforming Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana (cannabis) Program and promoting harm reduction policies.

In my 21 years of living on Oahu, the transfer of the Medical Marijuana program to the Department of Health is one of the biggest successes, one that I advocated for. I know this will help thousands of patients. And, knowing the need for a dispensary system, I’m hopeful that the Dispensary Task Force will help us establish one.

I have worked in the health care field for over 30 years, 21 of those here in Hawaii. I pushed many pharmaceutical drugs to patients for 9 years working as a pharmacy clerk and for 4 years as an R.N. I hope to work just as many years helping promote the use of alternative medications, such as cannabis which is showing promise as a safer and more effective treatment than many of the current pharmaceuticals.

I envision a future in which science and education prevail, so that people are no longer fearfully rejecting the use of these alternative (and formerly illegal) substances as medicine.

I’m looking forward to working with fellow advocates who share my opinion that all drugs should be legalized and regulated. This is the only way to truly promote harm reduction and good healthcare.

Travel Guru Rick Steves on Legalization

steves_01Travel guru Rick Steves has been a long time supporter of the legalization of marijuana, but he has recently started taking on a much larger role in helping to make legalization a reality.

You can learn more about Rick Steves’ views on drug policy here.

Steves has been doing a 10 city tour of Oregon in support of that state’s legalization initiative: Measure 91. Here are a few of the best quotes from one of his recent events (courtesy of Williamette Week magazine)

  • “A lot of Americans have this dream of a drug free society. There never has been a drug free society, there never will be a drug free society, and frankly I don’t want a drug free society.”
  • “I think fear is for people who don’t get out much. There’s a lot of fear wrapped up in this drug policy debate—fear of doing something different.”
  • “It’s fun to make Cheech and Chong jokes, but this is a very serious issue.”
  • “The best way to lose control of a dangerous substance is to make it illegal. The best way to gain control of it is to regulate it and educate people. I think we can do that with marijuana.”
  • On minority arrests and citations for marijuana-related crimes: “That’s the new Jim Crow.”
  • “States are incubators of change. State by state, we’re going to take down the prohibition of our age.”
  • “I’m a hardworking, churchgoing, kid raising, tax-paying, American citizen. If I want to go home, smoke a joint and look at the fireplace all night, that’s my civil liberty.”

 

Robert Sharpe responds to Kevin Sabet’s Letter to the Editor

If you missed Kevin Sabet’s most recent letter to the editor, you can probably imagine what its about after just reading the headline: “If you think Big Tobacco is bad wait until you see Big Marijuana.” The crux of his argument is that legalization will create a new Big Tobacco that will be even worse for reasons that don’t make very much sense.

I responded to his editorial with this letter to the editor:

No one wants to return to prohibition:

Yesterday’s paper featured an Op-ed by Kevin Sabet of Project SAM, an anti-marijuana organization. He argues that legalization will create a new “big tobacco” trying to prey on children and get people addicted to marijuana. His comparison is misleading. No one is seriously disputing that marijuana safer than tobacco and alcohol. Still, even if it were as dangerous as Sabet claims to believe it is, how would that be an argument for its continued prohibition?

I doubt that Sabet would make the case that we should go back to the “Boardwalk Empire” world of bootlegging and moonshine. Alcohol is far more harmful than marijuana is, and what we learned from our experience in the 1920’s is that prohibition makes it even worse. During prohibition the profits enrich criminals, and there can be no regulation. I agree with Sabet that a new big tobacco is not what we want to see. That doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to ongoing prohibition.

That being said, the Star Advertiser chose instead to publish this editorial submitted by Robert Sharpe:

We already have ‘Big Marijuana’

Kevin Sabet just doesn’t get it (“If you think Big Tobacco was bad, wait until you see Big Marijuana,” Star-Advertiser, Insight, Sept. 24).

Big Marijuana already exists in the form of Mexican drug cartels. These are ruthless people who cut off heads to resolve business disputes, sell drugs to anyone regardless of age, and have a vested financial interest in providing cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin to consumers.

Like it or not, marijuana is here to stay. We can collect taxes on legal marijuana or we can subsidize drug cartels. Punitive laws have little, if any, deterrent value. Despite the dire predictions of drug warriors, the sky is not falling in Colorado.

There is no societal benefit to having consumers purchase untaxed, unregulated and potentially unsafe marijuana from criminals. It’s time to put public health before culture-war politics. We can close the gateway to hard drugs by taxing and regulating legal marijuana.

Robert Sharpe
Policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post Embarrasses Itself

Let me start by saying that generally, I am a actually a big supporter of the Washington Post. One of my favorite data journalists, Christopher Ingraham is a reporter with them, and I generally find the coverage at WaPo to be well researched and informative.

... from the Washington Post editorial board.
… from the Washington Post editorial board.

That’s why this editorial board article is such a let down. Not only are they opposed to legalization, which might be forgiveable, their rationale is utterly junk.

Firstly, they cite a Project SAM article about legalization in Colorado. This article uses data from before legalization in Colorado to show “legalization’s adverse affects” which is obviously bunk. The Washington post is not the first paper to have made the mistake of using Project SAM “data” as though it actually meant what they claim it did. Still, they not only used this “data” in their rationale, they cited it publicly.

They also refused to speak with any proponents of the legalization effort in DC. Had they done so, these proponents, familiar with the tactics of Project SAM, may well have pointed this out to them, and saved the Washington Post a little bit of egg on its face.

Further, they advanced the theory that marijuana is a gateway drug. This is simply not true. Liberalization of marijuana laws reduces abuse of harder drugs, both in the United States and elsewhere. (Here’s a good, in depth report on it if you need more on the gateway drug hypothesis) At this point, citing the gateway drug hypothesis is like saying that the earth is flat. People used to believe it, but they were wrong and everyone knows that now.

It’s nothing short of embarrassing for the Washington Post, and it seems unlike them to listen only to one side of a story. I hope that this is a blip and not the start of a bold new direction their taking.

Roger Christie Released to Half-Way House

Watch this story at KITV.

0710rogerthumb

Roger Christie has been released to an Oahu half-way house.

The police and federal law enforcement treated Roger Christie as a threat to the community, and kept him locked away in a federal penitentiary for 50 months.  While he was away, things have been changing. Colorado, Christie’s home state where he once ran for mayor of Denver, legalized recreational marijuana. In time, the state of Hawaii and the nation as a whole may recognize that what happened to Roger Christie was unconscionable, but until then, he will have to hope that his sacrifice was not in vain, and that he can help to effect change in Hawaii’s marijuana laws.