Pot is dangerous, not funny – a doctor tells us why

Pot is dangerous, not funny – a doctor tells us why

Pot is dangerous, not funny — a doctor tells us why

The legalization of marijuana became a hot topic in the past week. First, recreational use of the drug became legal in California at the start of 2018. Next, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would allow U.S. attorneys to decide whether to enforce federal laws outlawing the use and sale of pot in states that have legalized the drug.

Sessions ended an Obama administration policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that allow the drug’s medical or recreational use. It’s not clear yet what impact the attorney general’s action will have.

As a physician, my doctoring knowledge tells me that making marijuana legally available is a bad idea, except perhaps for certain medical conditions. Marijuana is a potent mind-altering drug that can cause serious harm, as I explain below. It will be just one more substance we have to warn our children to stay away from.

As we all know, many people use marijuana even where it remains illegal. But legalization will lead to increased use and make many people believe it is not all that dangerous.

The growing acceptance of legalized pot is an alarming trend. It has quickly spread in the past few years and today seven states and Washington, D.C., allow recreational marijuana. A total of 29 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana.

Sadly, it’s very likely that the American people will become more and more acclimated to marijuana use in the years ahead, acknowledging it as just another way to “feel good.”

It sure looked like CNN was doing its best to indoctrinate the public on the normalization and acceptance of marijuana. As a medical doctor, I found this encouragement and joking to be both irresponsible and disappointing.

How do we as a society benefit from legalizing marijuana?  Maybe it makes sense from a financial standpoint – perhaps it will cut illegal sales and it will certainly generate tax revenue and create jobs. But what about the overall health of our citizens?  Shouldn’t that take precedence? Can there not be other creative ideas for generating money and reigning in crime?

From a health standpoint, why is legalization of another mind-altering drug the right thing to do?  The U.S. is already in the midst of a devastating prescription opioid and heroin crisis.  And individuals from all walks of life struggle with the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

It may be too late, but taking an illegal drug and making it legal needs to be well-thought out, to determine what impact this major step will have on future generations.

Too often, marijuana is treated as a harmless substance – something to joke and giggle about, and something that we see the people we admire on TV, in movies and elsewhere enjoying as a break from the workaday world. The message? Treat yourself to an ice cream cone, a piece of cake, a beer or some pot.  It’s OK to enjoy yourself.

There was no better illustration of this then when the cool guys and gals at CNN celebrated the arrival of the 2018 on New Year’s Eve with what turned into a nationally televised pot party.

“The most trusted name in news” televised a haze of marijuana smoke enveloping party-goers at a Denver New Year’s Eve celebration. The “puff, pass and paint” party was spotlighted by CNN reporter Randi Kaye, featuring revelers partaking of “hits,” and using bongs and even a special gas mask while getting high in the mile-high city.

It sure looked like CNN was doing its best to indoctrinate the public on the normalization and acceptance of marijuana. As a medical doctor, I found this encouragement and joking to be both irresponsible and disappointing.

What is marijuana?

Let me give you some facts about marijuana that every American should know.

Similar to hemp, marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the cannabis plant. The plant’s primary mind-altering chemical comes from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  It can be smoked; vaped (inhaling the vapor); eaten when mixed in foods such as brownies, cookies or candy; or brewed as tea.

What is especially concerning is the fact that the marijuana of today is not the same as it was back in the 1960s or 1970s. Over the past few decades, the concentration of THC in the cannabis plant has been increasing, making it more potent than ever.

A fairly recent popular method of getting high is smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the plant. Extracts are quite powerful, delivering very large amounts of THC to the body. This has sent many users to the emergency room.

How does pot affect the body?

Marijuana has both short- and long-term effects on the body.

Within a few minutes of smoking marijuana, a person feels the effects of pot, as THC is rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, making its way to the brain and other organs.

What causes the “high” people experience is marijuana’s effect on over-activating parts of the brain containing specific brain cell receptors. This leads to feelings of an altered sense of time, other altered senses, changes in mood, impaired body movement, impaired memory and difficulty in thinking and problem-solving.

Researchers are still studying the long-term effects of marijuana. But what is known is that the younger a person begins using pot, such as in the teen years, the greater the declines in general knowledge, impaired thinking, learning difficulties and lowered IQ.

Other health effects from marijuana usage both physically and mentally can include the following:

·         Breathing problems – Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, causing damage with an increased risk of both chronic bronchitis and lung infections.

·         Increased heart rate – Pot can raise a person’s heart rate for up to three hours after smoking, increasing the risk for a heart attack, especially in anyone with a heart condition.

·         Harm to unborn babies – Women using marijuana during pregnancy can have children with a lower birth weight and an increased risk of both brain and behavioral problems as infants. Children exposed to marijuana in the womb have problems of attention, memory, and problem-solving compared to unexposed children.

·         Intense nausea and vomiting – Those who are long-term, regular users of marijuana may develop cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, where they experience cycles of severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration.

·         Temporary hallucinations and paranoia.

·         Other mental health and behavioral problems – People with schizophrenia can develop worsening symptoms. Marijuana users – particularly heavy users – can have lower satisfaction with life, relationship problems, and less academic and career success. For young adults it can lead to a greater likelihood of dropping out of school, along with more job absences, accidents, and injuries.

Anyone using marijuana products should not do so before driving or operating heavy or dangerous equipment. And any woman using it who is pregnant should do the right thing and stop. Individuals with heart or lung problems would be smart to avoid it and it should never be used in any form around children or teens.

And no matter what proponents of marijuana use will tell you, marijuana use can lead to the development of a substance use disorder. Between 9 and 30 percent of users may develop some degree of this disorder. Those who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.

What about medical marijuana?

As controversial as it is, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has  approved medications containing synthetic THC drugs dronabinol and nabilone, both man-made forms of cannabis. These are used as appetite stimulants in AIDS patients and for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting.

At this time, treating medical conditions using marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. There is still insufficient data from large, long-term, well-designed studies on the potential risks versus benefits of using marijuana to relieve symptoms of certain medical conditions.

There are however, ongoing studies on cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that does not have the mind-altering effects of THC. That may hold potential promise in helping conditions like drug-resistant epilepsy and some psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, substance use disorders, schizophrenia and psychosis.

Where do we go from here?

Here’s a better idea – how about encouraging people to get “high” on taking good care of themselves? It’s the little things, such as making every bite of food count, using physical activity every day to naturally release an endorphin high, relieving stress by watching a sunrise or sunset, or getting good feelings by helping others.

Those are the kinds of “highs” that are positive, life-affirming and with few risks to our health. Smoking marijuana and slipping into a THC-induced mind-altered state has been shown time and again to have more negatives associated with it than positives.

No matter how much fun using marijuana looks like on TV or in the movies, no matter what your friends say about it, no matter how many people tell you it’s harmless, and no matter what laws politicians pass to get votes or raise tax revenue, remember one thing: unless you have certain medical conditions where the drug may be beneficial, you are better off without it.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.

The Dark Web

The Dark Web

With recent security intrusions in credit agencies like Experian, a new phrase has entered the public consciousness: The Dark Web. The Dark Web is not new, it has been around since 1997. So what is it? The Dark Web is an encrypted network that exists between Tor servers and their clients, and exists outside the mainstream Internet. Since the Dark Web is encrypted, which makes it users anonymous, it is rife with illegal activity including pirated movies, child pornography, and illegal drug sales. There are real threats for anyone who goes there and especially for those that transact with its drug black market. In 2013, an Australian teen died after taking drugs purchased on a Dark Web drug-trafficking site called Silk Road. But there are legitimate uses too, such avoiding the eyes of totalitarian governments, investigative journalism, and sleuthing by FBI agents. It sounds like the stuff of James Bond, and may be enticing for a curious tech-savvy teen.

To get in, you need a special browser (usually Tor). If your child downloads Tor or knows other kids who are on it, it’s important to talk about the implications. The Dark Web isn’t a safe place to hang out. Here are some things to discuss:

The Dark Web is dangerous. The Dark Web has a strong criminal element. Viewing or downloading media (pornography, pirated movies, etc.) could be a crime. Many of the files on the Tor’s chatrooms and P2P clients have viruses or malicious code that can hijack your computer and turn your information over to a criminal hacker. Even “just visiting” is risky.

Be aware of the apps that your child is downloading onto their computers. If you see the Tor browser installed on their computer, then they are accessing the Dark Web.

Children are searching for information on the mainstream Internet about sex, drug experimentation, pornography, and violence. Your child’s perceptions with regards to these issues are being discussed every day online, on their social media networks. We highly recommend parents educate themselves about the places their children are going online and learn how to engage their children in the digital world.

We recommend these websites as excellent resources for parents:

www.cybersafetycop.com

www.commonsensemedia.org

www.netsmartz.org

 

Sgt. Clayton Cranford

Orange County Sheriff’s Department

Community Programs

ccranford@ocsd.org

Opioid overdoses shorten US life expectancy by 2½ months

Opioid overdoses shorten US life expectancy by 2½ months

  • American life expectancy has been cut short by opioids
  • Current life expectancy for Americans is 78.8 years

(CNN) Opioid drugs — including both legally prescribed painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin or illicit fentanyl — are not only killing Americans, they are shortening their overall life spans. Opioids take about 2½ months off our lives, according to a new analysis published in the medical journal JAMA.

In 2015, American life expectancy dropped for the first time since 1993. Public health officialshave hypothesized that opioids reduced life expectancy for non-Hispanic white people in the United States from 2000 to 2014. Researchers have now quantified how much opioids are shortening US life spans.
The researchers noted that the number of opioid overdose deaths are probably underestimated because of gaps in how death certificates are completed.
From 2000 to 2015, death rates due to heart disease, diabetes and other key causes declined, adding 2¼ years to US life expectancy. But increases in deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, suicide and other causes offset some of those gains. On average, Americans can now expect to live 78.8 years, according to data from 2015, the most recent data available. That’s a statistically significant drop of 0.1 year, about a month, from the previous year.
Women can still expect to live longer than men — 81.2 years vs. 76.3 years — but both of those estimates were lower in 2015 than they were in 2014.
Life expectancy at age 65 remained the same in 2015. Once you’ve reached that age, you can expect to live another 19.4 years. Again, women fare slightly better: 20.6 years vs. 18 years for men.

Drug overdose deaths reach new highs

Drug overdose deaths are expected to continue to reach new record highs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects drug overdose deaths to top 64,000 in 2016 when the numbers are finalized — that’s more than the number of American troops lost during the Vietnam War. Most of these overdoses involved an opioid. Since 1999, the number of opioid-related drug deaths has more than quadrupled.
While prescription opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone were considered to be driving factors in the increasing rates of overdose in the early part of the 2000s, heroin and illicit fentanyl have become the drivers for opioid overdose deaths in recent years. In fact, the number of overdose deaths related to fentanyl is expected to more than double, from an estimated 9,945 in 2016 to 20,145 in 2017, the CDC says. For the first time, fentanyl will be the leading cause of opioid overdose.

‘It’s a national emergency’

On the heels of the release of a draft report of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, over the summer, President Donald Trump said “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” he added. “It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had.”
Yet, five weeks have passed since Trump’s statement, and the White House has yet to make any sort of formal announcement of a national emergency.
In addition, this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who chairs the drug addiction commission, posted a letter on the White House’s website requesting an additional four weeks for the commission to complete its final report. “In the interest of submitting … sound recommendations, our research and policy development are still in progress,” wrote Christie. “Accordingly, and pursuant to the Executive Order establishing the Commission, we are seeking an additional four weeks to finalize our work.”
Many public health officials point to the over-prescribing of narcotic painkillers as one of the roots of the opioid overdose epidemic. Last year, the CDC issued prescribing guidelines for using opioids to treat chronic pain. According to a recent government report, the No. 1 reason people misuse prescription drugs is to manage pain. In an attempt to help deal with the pain issue, the Trump administration is partnering with private pharmaceutical companies to help fast-track non-opioid, non-addictive pain relief alternatives.

 

CVS will limit opioid prescriptions to 7 days – CNN

CVS will limit opioid prescriptions to 7 days – CNN

CVS will limit opioid prescriptions to 7 days

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Christie calls opioids a ‘national emergency’ 01:48

Story highlights

  • Pharmacy program includes limiting daily dosages of pain-killing drugs based on strength
  • The program will roll out February 1 and cover all clients, regardless of health plan

(CNN)In a new effort to tackle the deadly opioid addiction crisis in the United States, pharmacy giant CVS announced Friday that it will limit opioid prescriptions to seven days for certain conditions. This restriction will apply to patients who are new to pain therapy.

The new pharmacy program will also limit the daily dosage of pain pills based on their strength and will require use of immediate-release formulations before extended-release opioids — intended for severe, long-term pain treatment — are dispensed.
The changes will roll out February 1 and cover all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients.
CVS, which manages medications for nearly 90 million plan members, is one of the largest pharmaceutical chains in the US, with approximately 9,600 CVS Pharmacy stores and more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics.
“With a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health.

Sales of prescription opioids quadruple from 1999 to 2014

From 1999 to 2014, sales of prescription opioids in the US almost quadrupled, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet there has been no change in pain reported by Americans.
CVS said its pharmacists will counsel patients with opioid prescriptions about the risk of dependence and addiction based on CDC guidelines. These educational sessions will also emphasize the importance of keeping medications secure in the home and proper disposal of unused medications.
To help patients wanting to follow these guidelines, the company will almost double the number of drug disposal units in its Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program from 800 to 1,550 kiosks. This expansion will begin this fall with locations in Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.
These moves put CVS’s pharmacy program more in line with the CDC’s opioid prescribing guidelines. Express Scripts, the country’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, has similar limits in place.

An ‘impactful’ move?

“I think it’s going to be helpful. I think it’s going to be impactful,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, who saw the announcement as more than a public relations move. “It will be expensive. … This will be a real administrative burden” for CVS, he said.
Studies have found that longer prescription durations, as well as higher dosages, increase the likelihood of chronic use. CVS’s steps are meant to curbnot just potential long-term opioid use but also potential opioid misuse.
“There are millions of prescription bottles sitting in our bathroom cabinets and on our bedroom nightstands right now, including far too many prescription opioids that ultimately are used non-medically,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness.
“We’ve been watching the epidemic get worse, hidden in plain sight, for far too long, and these types of policies are necessary to reduce the incredible oversupply of prescription opioids,” Alexander said.

Balancing patients’ needs

The American Academy of Pain Medicine “supports any initiative that would help limit the effects of over prescribing medications or leading to excessive unused medicines that could lead to harm to a patient or family members or their community,” said Dr. Steven Stanos, president of the academy.
Stanos worries that CVS’s recommendations could be interpreted too rigidly and affect patients. “We would want it to balance the needs of the patient and doesn’t intrude on the relationship between the patient and the physician and how they made that decision,” Stanos said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Dr. Patrice Harris, chairwoman of the American Medical Association’s opioids task force. “When patients seek physician help for an opioid use disorder — or need comprehensive care for chronic pain — one-size-fits-all limits, such as blanket prior authorization protocols, may cause delays in care that could severely harm patients,” she said.
CVS said its guidelines are flexible and recognize that there maybe situations that require more than a seven-day prescription or a higher-dose opioid. For times like those, physicians will be able to seek exceptions.
CVS is also committing $2 million to federally qualified community health centers that provide medication-assisted treatment and other addiction recovery services.
The President’s opioid commission says that about 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, equal to the death toll from the September 11 attacks every three weeks. Most of those overdoses are from opioids.
Though there were over 30,000 fatal overdoses from opioid drugs in 2015, public health experts believe that for every fatal overdose, there are 30 non-fatal overdoses. That would mean over 900,000 overdoses in 2015 alone.
According to the CDC, drug overdoses are the leading cause of unintentional death in the US.
The opioid epidemic is so bad it’s driving down life expectancy in the US

The opioid epidemic is so bad it’s driving down life expectancy in the US

The opioid epidemic is pushing down the life expectancy in the US, new research says. Once a leader in longevity, the US has dropped behind most other high-income countries — due in large part to accidental deaths from prescription and illicit opioids that are sweeping the country.

The average lifespan in the US actually increased by two years between 2000 and 2015( from 76.8 years to 78.8 years), but that increase is lower than it should be. That’s in part because deaths from opioid overdoses more than tripled in that same time, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the opioid epidemic “unprecedented in scope.”

From 1970 to 2000, life expectancy in the US rose by about 2.5 months every year. If that rate had kept up, people born in the US since 2015 should expect to live longer than 79 years. But the annual increase in life expectancy slowed starting in 2000, and stopped altogether in 2014. That’s mostly because the rising death rate from drug overdoses shaved more than three months off life expectancy in 2015. Three months may not seem like much, but that’s roughly the same reduction attributable to rising death rates from injuries, Alzheimer’s, suicide, chronic liver disease, and sepsis combined.

To figure out what accounted for the slowdown, scientists with the CDC analyzed information from death certificates registered in each state. They figured out causes of death, death rates, and life expectancy. There was some good news: death rates from heart disease, cancer, strokes, the flu, kidney disease, and lung diseases had dropped.

But deaths from drug overdoses had skyrocketed — more than 52,000 people died of overdoses in 2015, up from more than 17,000 people in 2000 — and most of that increase was from unintentional opioid-related deaths. That number could be even higher, the study authors write, because death certificates don’t record the drug responsible for an overdose as much as 25 percent of the time.

The findings echo previous analyses of the CDC’s mortality data by The Washington Post, which found rising death rates for people between the ages of 25 and 44 in nearly every state, for almost all races and ethnicities. “After a century of decreases, the overall death rate for Americans in these prime years rose 8 percent between 2010 and 2015,” the Post reported. The increase was primarily due to overdose deaths and alcohol abuse — and experts say that Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is largely to blame.

Last month, President Donald Trump said he was going to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency, which would unlock funds and resources to help states deal with the epidemic. The administration has yet to file the paperwork.