June 26, 2015

Employers Can Fire Medical Marijuana Patients for Private, Off-Duty Use, Colo. Supreme Court Rules

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled employers can fire workers for using medical marijuana, even if they are not impaired at work. A quadriplegic medical marijuana patient was fired by Dish Network in 2010 for using the drug at home and off duty, which is not protected under the state's "lawful activities statute." He tested positive for THC during a random employee drug test. The court ruled the term "lawful" refers only to activities that are "lawful under both state and federal regulations. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute." The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 does not protect an employee's use of medical marijuana.

June 18, 2015

Young children's exposure to marijuana sharply increased in last decade!

Debates about legalizing marijuana have focused on crime rates, economic benefits, and health effects among adults. But a study published today from researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital shows that the risk to young children of swallowing, breathing in or otherwise being exposed to marijuana also needs to be considered

The study, published online today in Clinical Pediatrics, found that the rate of marijuana exposure among children 5 years of age and younger rose 147.5 percent from 2006 through 2013 across the United States. The rate increased almost 610 percent during the same period in states that legalized marijuana for medical use before 2000.

In states that legalized marijuana from 2000 through 2013, the rate increased almost 16 percent per year after legalization, with a particular jump in the year that marijuana was legalized. Even states that had not legalized marijuana by 2013 saw a rise of 63 percent in the rate of marijuana exposures among young children from 2000 through 2013.

More than 75 percent of the children who were exposed were younger than 3 years of age, and most children were exposed when they swallowed marijuana.

"The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods," said Henry Spiller, D.ABAT, a co-author of the study, toxicologist, and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's. "Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive."

The study findings showed that most exposures resulted in only minor clinical effects, but some children experienced coma, decreased breathing, or seizures. The main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, THC, can be especially high in marijuana food products, and that may have contributed to some of the observed severe effects. More than 18 percent of children who were exposed were hospitalized. These hospital admissions were likely due not only to the clinical effects, but also the need to investigate the circumstances that lead to the exposure in the home.

Overall, there were 1,969 young children reported to Poison Control Centers in the United States because of marijuana exposure from 2000 through 2013. While that is a relatively small number of total cases, the steep rate of increase in states that have legalized marijuana is reason for concern, said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's.

"Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning," Dr. Smith said. "Child safety must be part of the discussion when a state is considering legalization of marijuana."

Researchers recommend the same measures for commercially-available marijuana products that are now used to protect children from medicines and dangerous household chemicals, including requirements for child-resistant packaging and packaging that is not see-through. These same precautions need to be used for homemade marijuana products. If any marijuana products are in a household, they need to be kept up, away and out of sight of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.

Data for this study came from the National Poison Database System, the most comprehensive and accurate database available for investigation of poisonings in the United States. The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, both at Nationwide Children's.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Nationwide Children's Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

June 13, 2015

Binge Drinking Is Falling Among Teens In The U.S.

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that the rate of underage drinking has significantly dropped within a ten year period. The survey studied rates of binge drinking and underage consumption among 30,000 individuals between the ages of 12 to 20 from 2003 to 2013.

Findings revealed that underage drinking declined from 28.8 percent in 2003 to 22.7 percent in 2013, showcasing a distinct drop. Similarly, for binge drinking rates, the decline during the same period went from 19.3 percent to 14.2 percent.

"When parents communicate clear expectations and they are supported by community efforts to prevent underage drinking, we can make a difference," said Frances M. Harding, director of SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, in a statement released by SAMHSA
"However, there are still 8.7 million current underage drinkers and 5.4 million current underage binge drinkers. This poses a serious risk not only to their health and to their future, but to the safety and well-being of others. We must do everything we can to prevent underage drinking and get treatment for young people who need it."

June 9, 2015

Some US Facts on Marijuana use among youth.

Cannabis, or marijuana, refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds. This plant material can also be concentrated in a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil. THC is believed to be the main chemical ingredient that produces the psychoactive effect. Cannabis is often smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), pipes, or water pipes (bongs).

The short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem-solving, and loss of coordination. The use of marijuana increases the risk of developing cancer of the head, neck, lungs, and respiratory tract due to toxins and carcinogens. Among youth, heavy cannabis use is associated with cognitive problems and increased risk of mental illness.

According to SAMHSA’s Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF | 3.2 MB), marijuana use rose to 7.5% of users aged 12 or older in 2013. This is up from 6.2% of users in 2002.

Additional NSDUH findings on marijuana include:
  • 19.8 million (7.5%) people were current (past month) users of marijuana in 2013, making it the most used illicit drug.
  • Marijuana use was most prevalent among people age 18 to 25 (with 19.1% using it in the past month).
  • 7.1% of people aged 12 to 17 reported using marijuana.
  • A higher percentage of males (9.7%) used marijuana in the past month than females (5.6%).
Although several states (including Illinois) have decriminalized marijuana (for recreational or medical use), it remains an illegal substance under federal law. As state laws change, they are likely to create issues for substance abuse service delivery. To provide guidelines, the Department of Justice issued new guidance regarding marijuana enforcement – 2013 (PDF | 525 KB) for federal prosecutors regarding eight factors for consideration in marijuana enforcement. 

In addition, SAMHSA participates on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC) to ensure that all of the mental health and substance use projects and programs that HHS operating and staff divisions lead are synchronized. The BHCC has various standing subcommittees, including one that addresses marijuana issues

May 27, 2015

The Social Hosting Law in Illinois

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The Illinois social host law comes in two sections. One section prohibits parents and guardians from hosting or permitting gatherings at their home, in vehicles or watercraft and at other property under their control in which underage persons are allowed to consume alcohol.

The second section prohibits any other person from hosting or permitting a gathering at their home in which underage persons are allowed to consume alcohol. This law does not require that the parent or other person to actually provide the alcohol only that they permit the activity involving alcohol and underage consumption.

The violation of the social host statute is a Class A misdemeanor which carries a potential penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.00. There is a minimum fine of $500.00. If a person who has attended such a gathering is seriously injured or killed, the violation would be a Class 4 felony, which carries a potential penalty of between one and three years in a state penitentiary, and a fine up to $25,000.00.


The statute allows for some relief to those persons who report the underage gathering themselves before the police become aware of the situation. The law also does not apply to legitimate religious gatherings. 

May 21, 2015

Brain Differences Seen in Teenage Heavy Drinkers

Teens who drink heavily appear to have significant abnormalities in brain development, a new study finds.

Heavy drinking by teens may also be associated with a gene mutation linked to impulsiveness, according to another new study.

The studies, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, were scheduled for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, in Toronto. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The brain regions examined in these studies play a critical role in the addiction cycle of binge drinking and preoccupation with drinking, George Koob, director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said in an association news release.

In one study, brain scans of participants ages 12 to 24 found differences in brain development between heavy-drinking teens and those who didn't drink. Heavy drinking ranged from having four drinks per occasion at least once a month to one or two drinks at least eight times per month.

Compared to non-drinking teens, the heavy drinkers had accelerated gray matter decline and smaller increases of white matter in the brain. The findings may help explain why heavy-drinking teens decline in school performance, said the researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and the Stanford Research Institute.

The other study included identical twin pairs in which one twin had drinking problems at ages 18 and 24 and the other twin did not. The researchers found that twins with drinking problems had altered DNA in a gene that plays a role in impulsiveness, which scientists labeled the PPMG1 gene.

The investigators then looked at 14-year-olds and found that similar changes in the PPMG1 gene were associated with higher impulsivity at age 14 and increased drinking over the next two years. Both impulsiveness and increased drinking at an early age are risk factors for drinking problems later in life.

"It is possible that such [genetic] changes, by increasing impulsivity, predispose adolescents to engage in excessive drinking and that the alterations in brain circuitry that follow excessive drinking, by disrupting executive function, make it harder to stop," Koob wrote in an accompanying editorial.

SOURCE: American Journal of Psychiatry, news release, May 18, 2015