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  • Your Brain on Bath Salts [infographic]
    by LIZ WU

    We've written previously about "bath salts," synthetic stimulants that can cause violence and erratic behavior in its users. They are increasingly popular with teens and are easily found at gas stations and grocery stores.

    Bath salts may also be as addictive as cocaine, according to new research from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

    So how exactly do bath salts affect a brain? Check out the infographic after the jump.

  • Take Action During National Prevention Week: Prevent Illicit Drug Use and Prescription Drug Abuse

    Sometimes people cope with difficult life situations or seek new experiences in harmful ways, such as experimenting with drugs to try to overcome stress or feel something new. Others assume that if they’re not using an illegal drug, but a medication prescribed by a doctor, it’s safe to do so. However, illicit drug use and the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs are always dangerous and can lead to addiction, impaired decision-making, increased risk of psychosis, and severe physical consequences, including seizures, heart failure, and even death.

    The goal of today’s National Prevention Week theme is to raise awareness about preventing drug use and abuse in the United States. In 2010, there were an estimated 23 million people aged 12 and older in the U.S. who were current illicit drug users, and 7 million Americans reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. With the right tools, facts, and resources, you can take action to prevent illicit drug use and prescription drug abuse in your own community:

    • If you’re a parent, get involved in your child’s day-to-day activities and discuss the risks of using illicit and prescription drugs;
    • If you’re a teacher, create positive learning environments by setting high expectations for positive social interactions and addressing inappropriate behavior; and
    • If you’re a community leader, learn about effective prevention programs, such as those listed through SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, an online registry of more than 200 proven prevention interventions.
    • If you’re an interested community member, visit the National Prevention Week Events page to get involved in an event taking place in your area, or to get inspiration for event ideas for your community.

  • Gangs, Drugs and Urban Violence: Can the Connections Be Broken?

    Editor's Note: This is from a live-blogged piece from the 7th Annual Guggenheim Symposium at John Jay's panel on gangs, drugs and urban violence. The panel featured Donyee Bradley, a gang outreach worker in Washington, D.C.; Charlie Beck, LAPD chief; Connie Rice, co-director of the Advancement Project; and Risco Mention-Lewis of the Nassua County DA. Moderated by Jeffrey Butts, director of John Jay's Center on Research and Evaluation.

    The title of this panel implies stasis, but from the moment moderator Jeff Butts started, the talk has been of change.

    Butts put up charts based on the most recent FBI data. Violent crime arrests are at a 30 year low. But "as violence has dropped," Butts said, "arrests for other crimes has increased since the 1990s."

    "Minor assault arrests are way up," he added. "Disorderly conduct is up. Drug possession arrests are way up since the 1990s." Chart those arrests for people under 18, and the spikes are even steeper. Butts didn't look to explain why, but to highlight the numbers. It didn't look like an accident, or a trend, he said. "It looks like a policy change."

    A notably compelling speakers they talked about the way the gang world has shifted, and the evolving efforts to tackle gang violence.

    Bradley opened the panel. Raised on the streets of DC, he now works with youth on those same streets.

  • New Siblings Brain Study Sheds Light on Addiction
    by LIZ WU

    A new study published this week in Science, suggests that addicts have inherited abnormalities in some parts of the brain, which interfere with impulse control.

    Researchers from the University of Cambridge examined 50 pairs of biological siblings (in which one sibling was addicted to cocaine or amphetamines and the other was not) against a control group of 50 healthy, drug free and non-related volunteers. First they tested the self-control levels and then performed brain scans. What they found could have big implications for the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. 

    From Science:

    Much to the researchers' surprise, the siblings who didn't use drugs performed as poorly on the test as the ones who did. All of the sibling pairs did worse than the healthy controls, the team reports in the 3 February issue of Science.

    Brain scans also showed that both members of the sibling pairs had abnormal interconnections between parts of the brain that exert control and those involved with drive and reward. Some individual brain structures were abnormal as well; the putamen, which plays a key role in habit formation, was larger in the siblings than in control subjects, as was the medial temporal lobe, which is involved in learning and memory. Because these anomalies appeared in the siblings but not in the unrelated controls, Ersche believes the finding provides a measurable, biological basis for vulnerability to addiction.

  • This is your body on drugs (infographic)
    by LIZ WU

    Thank you to Angela (a reader of this blog) for sharing this very informative infographic on the effects of drugs on the human body. In her recent comments, Angela mentioned how helpful this information has been in her work with counseling kids against using drugs and wanted to make sure that our readers had access to it, too. (Click through to see the full infographic.)

  • Prescription drug use among teens can lead to criminal consequences

    [Editor's note: Reclaiming Futures is not endorsing Mr. Gunsberg's services.]

    Drug use among teens generally continues to decline, according to the annual survey released in December 2011 by the National Institute for Drug Abuse. The report entitled, “Monitoring The Future” shows the results of surveys completed by more than 40,000 students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. The survey was first conducted in 1975 and shows record-low levels of cigarette and alcohol use among teenagers.

    The non-medical use of prescription drug use among teens, however, remains alarmingly high. Fifteen years ago, the non-medical use of prescription drugs by teens wasn’t perceived to be a problem by policymakers or law enforcement. Now, the non-medical use of Ritalin is approximately the same as teen use of cocaine, and less than half as prevalent as the use of some other prescription drugs. For example, between eight and ten percent of high school seniors reported that they have used either OxyContin or Vicodin in the past year for non-medical reasons.

    Parents and their teens are often blind to the serious legal risks that come from misusing prescription drugs. Such drugs are often perceived as safer to use than illegal drugs because they can be obtained through a prescription. But that’s not how the law sees it.

  • 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data available
    by LIZ WU

    Those interested in drug/alcohol/tobacco use statistics should head over to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to download the data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

    For those less inclined to analyze the data, SAMSHA also released a report (PDF) summarizing the findings, which include:

    • Among youths aged 12 to 17, the current illicit drug use rate was similar in 2009 (10.0 percent) and 2010 (10.1 percent), but higher than the rate in 2008 (9.3 percent). Between 2002 and 2008, the rate declined from 11.6 to 9.3 percent.
    • The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 was 13.6 percent in 2010, which was lower than the 2009 rate (14.7 percent). Youth binge and heavy drinking rates in 2010 (7.8 and 1.7 percent) were also lower than rates in 2009 (8.8 and 2.1 percent).
    • There were an estimated 10.0 million underage (aged 12 to 20) drinkers in 2010, including 6.5 million binge drinkers and 2.0 million heavy drinkers.
    • The rate of past month tobacco use among 12 to 17 year olds declined from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 10.7 percent in 2010, including a decline from 2009 (11.6 percent) to 2010.
    • Almost half (48.6 percent) of youths aged 12 to 17 reported in 2010 that it would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" for them to obtain marijuana if they wanted some. Approximately one in five reported it would be easy to get cocaine (19.0 percent). About one in seven (12.9 percent) indicated that LSD would be "fairly" or "very" easily available, and 11.6 percent reported easy availability for heroin. Between 2002 and 2010, there were declines in the perceived availability for all four drugs.

  • Reclaiming Futures in Ohio
    by LIZ WU

    In Ohio, Reclaiming Futures fellow Carol Martin was featured in the Logan Daily News Reporter for her work to combat drug abuse by providing educational materials to local educators and agencies.

    After learning about local teen drug abuse, Carol ordered booklets from the Foundation for a Drug-Free World (which you can request here) and began bringing them to schools. The booklets detail each kind of drug, its nicknames, and short and long term effects on the human body and mind. It also includes information on what happens when teens combine drugs and other substances.

    From the article:

    Carol Martin, a member of Reclaiming Futures, a community coalition designed to mentor and assist youth in the community, says she believes the materials will be useful to both educators and parents. “I thought it would be great for the schools, and it’s a different way than just sitting and talking about drugs,” she said.

    After using the booklets in North Carolina, that state saw a 40% decrease in the number of deaths or accidental poisonings, and Carol is hopeful that they will have a similar effect in Ohio. 

    Great job, Carol! Keep up the good work and please keep us updated on your progress.

  • Advice to a parent with a teen struggling with drug addiction

    I’ll never forget how my hands shook as I gripped my office phone that afternoon. My 16 year-old son called tell me he was a drug addict and that he needed help. Right now.

    I must admit I did have suspicions he’d been involved in drugging. His behavior had changed. He was doing so poorly in school that he was on the verge of either failing or dropping out. He struggled with my newly blended family and the move to a new state. I thought everything would work its way out in his life, but the tenor of his voice told me this was something serious.

    Even though I’m the parent or step-parent of seven boys, I was totally unprepared. I’d always wished for a book for the teen years to turn to when things go rough, much like my mom turned to her trusty Dr. Spock reference book. But, there isn’t anything like that to help parents navigate today’s minefields.

    I flew out the door and was soon home, sitting in my living room, attempting to wrap my mind around the depth of his problems. The night before a drug dealer threatened him. This was serious. Turning to the Yellow Pages, I called several drug rehab facilities in my state, but found only one with an immediate opening. It was two hours away from home and my son sat quietly in the front seat. I felt I’d failed him. Who knows what he felt.

    The intake counselor sat us down in a private office and began to do a drug inventory. As the list began to grow from marijuana use all the way down to cocaine and heroin, I shakily agreed to anything to help him get out of the death trap of drug addiction.

    My situation wasn’t unusual.