Some Good News From The Fight Against Opioids

SOME 382,000 Americans have overdosed on opioids—a group of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetics—since the year 2000. That is greater than the number of American combat deaths in the second world war and the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. Despite this epic toll, there are early signs that at least one battle may be ending.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the best data for tracking the opioid epidemic. Its latest data, which cover the 12 months to the end of October 2017, show that opioids were responsible for some 46,041 deaths (see chart) in that period. While provisional and subject to revision, that number was at least not dissimilar to the previous month’s figure of 46,202.

The precise workings of the epidemic in recent months are not well understood, but a few elements stand out. The first is that deaths from prescription medication are likely to have been pushed down by lower availability of those drugs. Official data from the CDC show that prescription rates were nearly 20% lower in 2016 than at their 2012 peak. IQVIA, a health consultancy, reckons that prescriptions fell by another 10% in 2017. Donald Burke, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s graduate school of public health, thinks there is “almost certainly cause and effect” between prescription rates and deaths.

Experts agree that the most effective way to fight addiction is with medication-based treatment, such as methadone. But just one-third of Americans live in counties with treatment centers providing these kinds of drugs. For real progress it is necessary to look north. Vancouver has pioneered the use of safe-injection sites. Seattle and other progressive enclaves of America would like to follow their lead but they face stern opposition. America’s attorney-general, Jeff Sessions, has threatened to prosecute such sites under the “crack house statute”. Such sites, claims the Department of Justice, will only “encourage and normalize heroin use”.

The Economist

Things That Matter about Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive drugs chemically alter the brain and change the way we feel, think, perceive and understand our world.

We are in a psychoactive drug epidemic in our country, most notably the opioids, because of their tragic death toll.

Here are nine things that matter when it comes to drugs:

1. Age. It’s one thing to start drinking or smoking dope when you are 21. It is very different when at 12 or 13 or 15, even 18.

2. Set. Set means the unique biological, neurological, psychological and experiential qualities of the user. Set creates a personal vulnerability and selective responsivity do substances.

3. Route of Administration. How fast a substance gets to and bathes our neurons with its receptor-loving chemical configuration makes a big difference.

Continue Reading at Scientific America

Some Businesses Stop Drug Testing For Marijuana

A low unemployment rate and the spreading legalization of marijuana have led many businesses to rethink their drug testing policies for the first time in decades. A small but increasing number are simply no longer testing for pot.

“There is a lot of conflict there, and many employers, they just don’t know what to do,” said Kathryn Russo, a lawyer at Melville, New York-based firm Jackson Lewis. Recreational marijuana use is legal in nine states plus Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states.

Here are some questions small businesses need to consider when deciding on what drug testing policies to follow:

– IS IT A FEDERALLY REGULATED POSITION, OR SAFETY-SENSITIVE?

If your business is regulated by the federal Department of Transportation or is a defense contractor, you are likely legally required to drug test for all drugs illegal at the federal level, including marijuana.

– DON’T DISCRIMINATE

In states where medical marijuana is legal, small businesses increasingly risk running into legal trouble if they deny a job to someone who has obtained a medical marijuana prescription.

Read more at Eyewitness News

Bad Stuff Is Good Medicine?

Chewing betel nut isn’t as common here as it used to be and, to my knowledge, not many people here chew it with tobacco leaves as they do in southeast Asia. There, many users are addicted to that combination, which can create a sense of euphoria and alertness. Strangely enough, scientists at the University of Florida have found that compounds derived from betel nut could help cigarette smokers and betel nut chewers kick their habits.

The researchers say the two addictions share many traits and they want to develop drugs that target both. They’re studying compounds from the areca nut (the scientific name of betel is Areca catechu) to make new molecules that work better than existing smoking-cessation drugs.

“Some new findings say that things we know are bad for our health may actually be helpful. The first bad boy? Chewing betel nut.”

A drug that helps with two different kinds of addiction is really a good thing, but here’s one for you: What if eating chocolate helped prevent and treat diabetes? “Yeah, right!” you say.

Read more at Post Guam

Feds Want Input On Marijuana Reclassification

The Trump administration is asking Americans for input on whether marijuana should be reclassified under international drug control treaties to which the U.S. is a party.

Currently, under both U.S. law and global agreements, marijuana sits in the most restrictive category of Schedule I. Domestically, that means it is not available for formal prescriptions and research on its effects is heavily restricted. Globally, it means that nations signed onto drug treaties are not supposed to legalize cannabis.

Specifically, FDA is inviting input on the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of” cannabis and its compounds, the agency wrote in a Federal Register notice scheduled to be published on Monday.

Marijuana itself has never been subject to formal review since first being placed in Schedule I of the international agreement enacted in 1961, FDA notes in the new Federal Register notice.

Full article at Forbes

Trump Tariffs Target Key Ingredients for Dozens of Drugs

The Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on thousands of Chinese-manufactured products would target dozens of key products used by drug makers, as well as medical devices including pacemakers and artificial joints.

More than 80 percent of the ingredients used to make U.S.-consumed drugs are produced outside of the country, according to the Food and Drug Administration. China, along with India, accounts for most of the bulk ingredients and the FDA has called China a “major provider.”

For brand-name drugs, raw ingredients used by manufacturers are typically a tiny fraction of the cost of a product. They can be more important for generic medications that are essentially low-cost commodity products.

Bloomberg Politics

Bill To Refine West Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Rules Fails

A bill that would have made several changes to West Virginia’s medical marijuana law failed when the state’s legislative session ended last weekend.

West Virginia’s medical marijuana program was set to launch in 2019, but the bill’s failure Saturday night and an opinion from the state treasurer have put the rollout on shaky ground, WVNews.com reported.

Democrat Mike Pushkin, a sponsor of HB 4345, believes issues with the bill can be resolved quickly.

Here’s what you need to know:

• The bill didn’t return to the House floor after the Senate made significant amendments to the first version that passed Feb. 28. The Senate voted to approve it Saturday night.


• Before being altered by the Senate, the original bill would have allowed dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to patients. It would have also made a push to allow the sale of smokable marijuana, which isn’t allowed under the current law. And the Bureau of Public Health would have been required to issue 100 dispensary licenses throughout the state.


• By the time the Senate passed the amended version, much of those stipulations had been stripped away and the dispensary number was cut in half.


• State Treasurer John Perdue wrote a letter to the governor and other state leaders on March 1 expressing concerns about the state’s MMJ program in context of the federal illegality of cannabis, particularly marijuana businesses’ difficulty finding banking services.

Marijuana Business Daily

Marijuana Legalization Becomes Issue In Democratic Race

Attorney General candidate Patrick Miles, an Obama-appointed official who served six and a half years as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, has taken a position on legalization of marijuana in Michigan. He said last week, upon further reflection, he’s for it.

Conversely, fellow Democratic candidate Dana Nessel, has been very pro-marijuana from the get-go. Attorney Nessel is a hero of the LGBT rights movement for her work to legalize same-sex marriage, although she’s also feuded with elements of her own movement. Last week, she won the endorsement of the group pushing to legalize marijuana in the state.

Until now, the attorney general race has largely been a battle of resumes. But, it appears the issue of marijuana is now on the map as the landscape has changed. Support for legalization is growing.

The pro-legalization movement is organized and well-funded. Petition signatures have been turned in to put the question of marijuana legalization on the November ballot.

In Democratic politics, marijuana is a bit of a proxy for progressive bona fides in a state won two years ago by Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

Read the complete article at Michigan Radio

Doctors Warn Against Rush To Prescribe Medicinal Cannabis

Doctors have been warned against rushing to prescribe medical cannabis despite Australians’ acceptance of its use.

To date, the evidence on the effectiveness of medical cannabis remains “limited”, said Jennifer Martin and Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo in an editorial for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the editorial says the usual regulatory processes designed to protect patients from potential serious harms caused by medicinal cannabinoids must be adhered to.

In Australia, medicinal cannabis is legal but patient access is still very difficult.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme (SAS) provides patient access to cannabis on compassionate grounds without the usual quality and safety data requirements.

This means approval is granted on a case-by-case basis provided the correct documentation is given by the prescribing doctor, says Dr. John Lawson, a pediatric neurologist and conjoint senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales.

A recent trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine, led by Australian neurologist Professor Ingrid Scheffer, found cannabidiol – one of at least 113 compounds found in the cannabis plant – significantly reduced the severity and frequency of seizures in children with a rare, yet devastating form of epilepsy known as a Dravet syndrome.

Last year, the Medical Cannabis Council called for more robust research to be done to ensure patients greater access in the future.

Read the full article in The Guardian

Inside The Mexican Towns That Produce America’s Heroin

MEXICO CITY — Journalists in Mexico, foreign and domestic, tend to keep drug cartels at arm’s length. Narco bosses like to stay out of the news. Several Mexican reporters have been killed by drug gangs for trying to expose organized crime. Firsthand reporting from inside the Mexican underworld is rare.

Myles Estey, a Canadian documentary producer, is establishing himself as an exception. Estey has helped produce two documentaries that take viewers deeper into Mexico’s gun-littered badlands: the 2015 film “Cartel Land,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, and “The Trade,” a Showtime series about heroin that premiered this month. Both of these projects were directed by Matthew Heineman.

Estey said the goal of those making “The Trade” was to “show the human side of this crisis, beyond the stats and numbers.” He talked to The Washington Post about his experience.

“What was involved in getting this close to the drug business in “The Trade”? How were you able to document heroin producers like this?”

It took months and months and months, probably about six months, before we started getting footage that was useful and started to have the trust and respect of the people where we were working.

Read more at The Washington Post

Can Government-approved Pot Beat Street Weed?

A key goal of legalizing recreational cannabis is squeezing out illegal suppliers. But how competitive will legal cannabis retail be against established black markets?

That’s a key question for federal and provincial politicians. Governments don’t like pot consumers funding organized crime.

That question may also interest investors. They’ve pushed up cannabis stock prices and created demand for four cannabis exchange-traded funds. Alcohol and tobacco companies have bought stakes in cannabis growers. Suppliers of hydroponic equipment and online retailing software could benefit too.

Price is the competitive element politicians mention most. In Colorado, cheap legal cannabis means black markets control only 20 percent of state sales. But in Washington state, where prices are higher, black markets capture 50 percent.

In Canada, governments agree cannabis prices must be competitive. They’ve suggested $10 per gram, including excise and sales taxes.

But Statistics Canada estimates market prices fell below $7.50 last year, and farther since then. Vancouver street prices reportedly are near $5. And street vendors don’t charge tax.

Read the full article at the National Post

Tillerson Says U.S. Must See Decline in Colombia’s Coca Output

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. expects Colombia to start reversing sharp increases in production of coca this year, pointedly declining to guarantee continued aid if those efforts fail.

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant.

“Our expectation is that Colombia is going to make significant progress this year in reversing these trends and we want to support that reversal,” Tillerson said at a briefing in Bogota alongside President Juan Manuel Santos. “In the end, we need to see results.”

“One of the things that’s important about this relationship is because we are so close in terms of the bilateral partnership, is that we can speak very openly and very frankly about the things that are of concern to both of us,” Tillerson said.

“I don’t think that President Trump is referring to Colombia because Colombia is not laughing at the U.S.,” Santos said at the briefing. “On the contrary, we think we are working together on a problem and a challenge that needs cooperation from both countries.”

“There is no supply without demand and no demand without supply,” Santos said.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg

The Uncertain Future Of Arecanut Market

Konkodi Padmanabha, former president of Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative Ltd., said on Monday that arecanut growers need to think seriously about switching over to an alternative crop as arecanut is facing the threat of being banned.

He suggested that oil palm growers form a cooperative and create a brand for its products to capture the market.

G N Ratnakar, a leading oil palm grower from Chikkamagaluru district and a member of the government’s price fixation committee for oil palms, said now he gets an average monthly income of ₹40,000 from oil palms on his five-acre plot. Mr. Ratnakar said he also cultivated arecanut on 10 acres. He took up oil palm cultivation when the ban on gutka was looming large. He said farmers could no longer depend only on arecanut cultivation as the arecanut market is facing a number of threats.

Vasanth Bhat Todikana, an oil palm grower from near Sullia who switched to oil palm after his arecanut plantation was hit by yellow leaf disease, said region-specific cultivation technology was needed for growing oil palm.

Full article at The Hindu

California’s Race to the Top on Cannabis

In essence, San Francisco is resetting the clock on the War on Drugs, at least for cannabis. The city is expanding upon Proposition 64, the state law that went into effect this year that makes amnesty for weed-related crimes a condition for legalizing cannabis in California.

As incredibly progressive as that ordinance is, San Francisco is not alone in attempting to work racial equity into the new legalized cannabis landscape. Cities across California and other states are upping the racial equity quotient in various ways, in what looks like a race to the top for seeking true racially and economically inclusive outcomes. As city leaders scratch their heads over how to realize real racial equity in policymaking, the legalized weed experiment is acting as the test case and is already proving itself sticky enough that cities are almost competing to be the most weedfully woke.

It’s not just the historically uber-liberal Bay Area that’s embarking on this. Los Angeles also has a cannabis social equity program that prioritizes business permits for people with low incomes, who have lived in an area ravaged by the drug war, have criminal records (because of past weed prohibition), and who plan to hire at least half of their workforces from local residents. Both Oakland and L.A. are also prioritizing permits for people who don’t personally fall under this criteria but are willing to finance or lease space to applicants who do.

Despite the heavy regulation of the cannabis market at both the city and state level (and maybe the federal level if Senator Cory Booker has it his way), there has still been immense growth in revenue and profits in this field. According to the 2017 Cannabis Industry Annual Report, from New Frontier Data, “The legal cannabis market was worth an estimated $6.6 billion in 2016, and annual sales are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% to reach more than $24 billion by 2025.” And that’s only based on the states where weed is currently legal.

Read the full article at CityLab

Kava, The Drink Soothing The Stress of New York Millennials

It has been a mainstay in the South Pacific for thousands of years. Now, stressed-out millennial New Yorkers are kissing goodbye to alcohol and gulping down a mildly narcotic drink to ease the pain of long hours and bottleneck commutes.

Kava – a root ground to powder, mixed with water and then strained – might taste like muddy water, but it is the mood enhancer taking the edge off for those struggling to cope with hectic modern life.

Effects include a mild numbing of the tongue and lips, relaxation, and euphoria – feelings in short supply in New York.

“If any city needs to relax a little bit and calm down, slow down, it is New York,” said Mr. Harding Stowe, the 31-year-old owner of Brooklyn Kava in the neighborhood of Bushwick.

An initial kava boom in the West in the 1990s fuelled low-quality exports, which – combined with little understanding of the plant – led to health concerns and prohibitions in Europe. That led to a bust.

But while the United States Food and Drug Administration warned in 2002 of a “rare” potential risk of severe liver injury associated with kava-containing products, kava is now seeing another boom, and exports from Fiji alone more than doubled from 2012 to 2016.

Read the full article in The New Paper

Drug Overdose Deaths Rise in Netherlands Linked To Opiates

Between 2014 and 2016 the number of recorded deaths caused by a drug overdose nearly doubled, according to the National Drug Monitor by the Trimbos Institute and research and documentation center WODC, NOS reports.

In 2014 a total of 123 people died of a drug overdose in the Netherlands. In 2016 there were 235 registered overdose deaths. The researchers add that the increase may be partly attributable to improved registration. Just over half of 2016’s overdose deaths were accidental. The rest involved suicide, or an overdose as the result of psychiatric or behavioral problems, according to the researchers.

The researchers found that the use of ecstasy, amphetamine, and cocaine increased slightly between 2014 and 2016. Cannabis is still the most commonly used drug, though cannabis use did not increase in this period. Over 1 percent of Dutch adults smoke cannabis daily, and 6.6 percent have used the drug at least once.

NL Times NL

Cannabis will be a major food trend in 2018. Here’s why.

Spoiler alert for those attending the Winter Fancy Food Show today through Tuesday in San Francisco: There are no cannabis edibles on the trade-show floor. Cannabis cuisine is not the subject of any plenary panel.

In November, the Fancy Food Show’s parent, the Specialty Food Association (SPA), ranked cannabis number eight of the top-10 food trends to watch in 2018.

“As more states legalize recreational marijuana, the varieties of pot-enhanced food and beverage will increase,” the SPA’s Trendspotter Panel wrote last November. “Look out for continued interest and acceptance in a host of snacks, treats and beverages with a little something extra.”

Nielsen is vice president of trends and marketing at CCD Innovation, an Emeryville food, and beverage development agency. She’s attending the Fancy Food Show today through Tuesday at Moscone Center. As a member of the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotters — an expert panel comprised of marketers, journalists, and other tastemakers — she’ll roam the Fancy Food Show trade-show floor looking for new and innovative products. There are no cannabis edibles at this year’s Fancy Food Show, but the SPA’s Trendspotters won’t have to go far to find them.

There are five retail cannabis stores reachable via short walk, taxi or rideshare. And many of the edibles on sale in these stores look like they might have sneaked over from the show.

Read more at GreenState

Ayahuasca: The Hallucinogen That Blows Your Mind

The first thing you should know about drinking ayahuasca is that it’s going to make you puke your brains out. That’s usually the first thing that anyone who has ever taken it will tell you. But once you get past that, they say, you will experience a high so deep and emotionally enlightening that your outlook on the universe will change forever.

Ayahuasca comes from two words from the Quechua, a South American tribe based primarily in the Andes: “Aya,” meaning spirit, and “Huasca,” meaning vine or rope. The Quechua call it the “vine of the soul” or “creeping spirits of the dead.” When you drink ayahuasca tea, you see the kind of powerful hallucinations akin to what one would see on LSD. Those who have taken ayahuasca report experiencing out-of-body experiences, “spiritual flights,” and powerful hallucinations. In some cases, they swear they’ve even experienced telepathy.

While some researchers have suggested that ayahuasca could potentially be used to treat those struggling with PTSD or substance abuse, there’s not much evidence to support its therapeutic benefits. In fact, ayahuasca has also been shown to have adverse effects for those struggling with mental health issues, particularly if they’re undiagnosed, as it could potentially trigger psychosis. Following the death of 24-year-old New Zealand student Matthew Dawson-Clarke last year, ayahuasca retreats have also garnered their fair share of negative media attention.

Read more at Mens Health

Magic Mushrooms: Treating Depression Without Dulling Emotions

Treating depression can be challenging not only because some depression types are treatment-resistant, but also because existing therapies have a range of unwanted side effects.

A new study — which was carried out by researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) in the United Kingdom — suggests that magic mushrooms could treat depression while avoiding these side effects.

Participants felt ’emotionally reconnected’

In the first study, published in the journal Neuropharmacology, 20 people diagnosed with moderate to severe depression that conventional treatment had not alleviated participated in two dosing sessions with the magic mushroom compound.

“Based on the present results, we propose that psilocybin with psychological support is a treatment approach that potentially revives emotional responsiveness in depression, enabling patients to reconnect with their emotions.”

‘Mystical experience’ improves efficacy

The second paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, examined whether or not the quality of the psychedelic experience was linked with the success of the treatment.

The study revealed that the more strongly the participants felt this experience, the better was their mental health in the long-term.

Depressive symptoms subsided, and the mental benefits lasted for weeks after the treatment of participants who reported a strong mystical experience.

Read more at Medical News Today

The Plant Used To Make Cocaine Could Become The Next Superfood

Henry Ruiz rubs the small green leaves between the fingers of his right hand – and then looks out across the valley where one of the world’s most reviled crops is ruffled by a warm breeze.

“We have been caught up in the mistaken belief that we are part of the cocaine manufacture process when we are not,” he says. “We have our own natural plant, but the man has found another use for it and we have lost out as a result.”

The Colombian government’s determination to obliterate coca is not in doubt, particularly in the wake of US pressure to address the recent boom in cocaine production. Despite efforts to tackle the problem, there was an increase of 52 percent in coca growth from 2015 to 2016.

“Coca is very rich in nutrients,” says Ruiz. “It’s important to see how we can use it for other uses than cocaine. We can prepare organic liquid fertilizers, insecticides, and we can use it to make flour. We know the magical and beneficial properties of coca, and it’s about applying this to your family and communities. We are guardians of the coca leaf.”

Research by Harvard University scientists into the coca leaf’s beneficial properties, suggests that compared to 50 other Latin American vegetables, coca leaves are higher in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and riboflavin. In the summer of 2016, the Colombian government issued, for the first time ever, a permit in Cauca that allows the purchase, transport, and stocking of coca leaves, with the objective of industrializing the product.

Read more at The Essential Daily Briefing