Category Archives: Drug Laws

New Legislation Seeks to Help Children of Families Dealing with Substance Abuse

One of the most heart breaking aspects of addiction is the effect it has on children and families. There are approximately 200,000 children in foster care because their parents are addicted. Although there is no question that some form of intervention needs to happen, especially for the wellbeing of the children, just how that should take place is easier said than done.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota recently introduced legislation to help this situation, and she’s getting a lot of support. The bill, H.R. 2857, is called the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act and recently passed the House and is on to the Senate. It seeks to provide funding for treatment programs that help keep families together rather than sending kids off to foster care.

Treatment centers that provide adequate facilities for children to remain with parents during rehabilitation are few and far between. This is despite the evidence shows that keeping children with parents who receive treatment is more effective for both the adults and the kids long-term.

This unprecedented move would help to restore family structures that are so often beyond repair after the child is placed in foster care. Oftentimes the child, who likely has lived with several different families while in the state’s custody, loses the trust and security that the parent is supposed to offer. And while drug abuse certainly reduces that trust, allowing the child to stay with a parent who is willing to go to treatment and get better helps to maintain the trust and security the child needs and deserves.

“I think it would be very hard for the children – or for all of them, probably – to work with each other when that trust has been broken. In that capacity, I was an advocate for the children, and it was very hard, especially when the child can’t trust their own parent or has been hurt so many times because of alcohol and drug abuse or whatever else it may be,” explained Anna Wahcahunka, a counselor at a treatment center that deals with the fall out of parent drug abuse problems.

“Drug treatment programs that keep families together and children out of foster care have proven to produce better outcomes for both the parent and child,” said Rep. Noem in a release. “Even so, government-induced barriers exist that make a family-focused approach difficult. I’m hopeful the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act will offer another evidence-based tool to those on the drug abuse epidemic’s front line, helping them strengthen families and change lives.”

The bill works by providing families that have a parent enrolled in a state-approved treatment facility with income that would have otherwise gone to a foster family. In order to qualify, treatment programs have to offer parenting skills training, parent education and individual and family counseling. The length of the stay can be no longer than 12 months, but many believe this is an adequate amount of time to regain the family structure and start to repair the damage caused by the drug or alcohol abuse.

The magnitude of the drug problem in America still has not yet fully been realized. This is largely due to the number of people who are dependent on or abusing their prescribed medications as well as the more obvious illicit drug use. Tens of millions of people in the country are in need of help, and finding ways to not only create positive change now in terms of rehabilitation and prevention, but also long-term improvements through policy improvements are essential.

What Role Do Drug Companies Play in the Opioid Epidemic?

drug makers profitingAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 44 people die each day from an overdose on prescription painkillers. In all, more than 47,000 people died of drug overdoses in a single year, according to the most recent statistics, and about 60% of them are tied to opioids such as prescription narcotics and heroin.

Although the majority of painkiller users don’t go on to use heroin, approximately 75% of heroin addicts first started out on prescription opiates. The connection is undeniable.

If so much carnage is tied back to these prescription drugs, what level of responsibility falls on the pharmaceutical companies for continuing to pump out these drugs and market them to doctors as well as patients? Yes, prescribing practices need to be overhauled, which will help, but how much culpability is there on the part of the drug makers that are literally raking in billions of dollars off the plight of thousands of Americans?

An article in Time recently pointed out that there is much more to this connection than many people might suspect. Not only are they profiting off the sale of the addictive substances, but also off newer drugs designed to treat symptoms caused by the painkillers. Dr. Akikur Mohammad, who is an adjunct professor at University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and the author of The Anatomy of Addiction, pointed out that there was a commercial during the Super Bowl for a drug treating OIC (opioid-induced constipation).

Here are a few things to think about. The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, paid out one of the largest fines in history due to misleading practices and knowingly promoting their drug as being safe when they knew it was more addictive, yet they continue to sell the drug. Think they’re alone?

Another important point is that the United States and New Zealand are reportedly the only modernized countries that allow drug manufacturers to market directly to consumers. And it’s working, too – the U.S. consumes 75% of the prescription drugs in the world despite having only 5% of the global population.

Marijuana Use and Addiction Sharply Increase

marijuanaA recent study showed that marijuana use among adults more than doubled in just a dozen years. The results were published in JAMA Psychiatry last month. Researchers found that the percentage of adults who used marijuana in 2001 was about 4.1, but that number ballooned to 9.5 by 2013.

Many experts believe that marijuana use has increased even more since then, but this was the latest information available for comparison. What the study also showed is that the amount of people who were developing marijuana use disorders was increasing as well, not just in overall number, but also the percentage of users.

The lead author of the study was Deborah Hasin, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University. She recently commented to CBS News that, “the trend upward in marijuana use indicates that more adults are at risk for marijuana-related adverse consequences, including the risk of marijuana use disorders (abuse or dependence) that we showed. Our findings are consistent with the studies of others that have shown increases in problems such cannabis-related emergency room visits and fatal vehicle crashes.”

As a result of the few states that have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults, millions more people have been viewing the drug as being less harmful than it can be. Many are still under the misguided concept that it is not an addictive drug, yet each year there are an overwhelming number of people who seek treatment to end their marijuana addiction.

Welfare Recipients to Undergo Drug Testing in Michigan?

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michigancapitolIn order to combat the drug problem in Michigan, the state House of Representatives and Senate have passed legislation to create a pilot program that would perform drug tests on anyone in the state receiving welfare benefits and suspected of drug use. This is one of the first states to try to implement such a procedure. While the bill has not been signed by the Governor, it is hoped that it will be enacted soon.

As part of the pilot program, three counties will be chosen to participate in the trial. Drug tests would be administered in the event that there are suspicions of drug use. The legislation allows for first time offenders to be given the opportunity to enroll in a state-run treatment center. In the event the violator refuses addiction treatment in Michigan, or does not complete the program, all welfare checks would stop. In order to ensure that children of addicts are still taken care of, welfare checks for the children would still be administered, but they would be given to a relative approved by the state.

This new legislation coming up against much dissent, with those opposed to it stating that the new laws are unconstitutional and targets those who are poor. Supporters of the bill are quick to point out that private sector jobs require drug testing frequently. “This bill has to do with the fact that the working men and women of this state who pay for these benefits are subject to the same requirement (drug testing by employers). It’s treating the people who are poor exactly the same as the working men and women of this state,” explained Senator Bruce Caswell.

The Michigan legislature had passed a similar law many years ago, but a judge overruled it, stating it was unconstitutional if there was no suspicion that drug use was a problem. A similar law was overturned in Florida recently. In an attempt to avoid the law being overturned again, policy makers added in the clause that welfare recipients had to fall under suspicion of drug use before they could be tested, as well as provide for minors involved.