“Drive With Reason” This Holiday Season

Who’s responsibility is it to be sure people are driving safely and are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Yours! And mine! Statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that although the number of people killed in the US in car accidents has declined, the number of accidents involving drugs, both legally prescribed medications and illegal drugs, has increased 6 percent over the past 6 years. Whether this is due to an increase in the use of prescription and over the counter medications or illegal drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, isn’t clear.  What is clear is that many of us don’t think that being impaired by drugs will affect our driving. Did you know that some antihistamines can impact your driving? Especially if you have a drink or two on top of taking the medication. Some people think that smoking a joint won’t affect your ability to drive. It’s not as bad as drunk driving, right? Wrong! It is well known that some drugs can impair your motor coordination, reaction time and visual perception. One in four fatally injured drivers under the age of 25 tested positive for marijuana! If you are a parent, lay down the law and let your teenage or young adult driver know that it’s not OK to drive while under the influence of anything that can impair your judgement, not even a little bit. If you need to, have your teen drug tested to be sure they are following your rules. A “Trust, But Verify” policy can save your child’s life or the lives of others on the road. If you are...

Poison Prevention Week: A Good Reminder!

Have you checked your home lately for poisonous substances?  Oh, you don’t have children!  Well, what about your pet or your niece, nephew, or neighbor’s child?  Keeping poisons including medications, cleaning supplies and garden chemicals put away can prevent tragic accidents.  Pets have been known to drink radiator fluid because it tastes good.  Old medications that have dropped on the floor may look like candy to young children and to pets.  This week is Poison Prevention Week sponsored by PoisonPrevention.org and it’s a good time to be sure that dangerous chemicals and medications are out of reach of children and pets, whether yours or visitors’. Heavy metals, like lead and mercury, can be found in old paint that can be on metal objects in the house and around the yard and in the case of mercury on broken thermometers or thermostats.  Environmental toxins such as those found in some fertilizers could be anywhere if you do a lot of yardwork.  If you aren’t sure if you or a loved one has been exposed, blood can be tested for exposure to toxins and the environment can be tested to determine whether it is safe.  When in doubt, contact the new National Poison Control phone number, 1-800-222-1222.  This will connect you to one of 61 regional poison control centers where you can get the information you need to act quickly and, possibly, save a life.  Take a look around.  Is your home safe? Written by...

Drug Testing Companies Are Getting More Effective

If you were hoping that your heroin use was tough to catch, you could be in trouble.  In October of last year the US Department of Transportation (DOT) changed their regulations for drug testing, lowering the cutoff levels for amphetamines and cocaine and adding the urine test for the heroin marker to its list of required tests.  The addition of the test for heroin creates complications for employers who need to test their drivers to ensure safer highways.  Heroin metabolizes quickly to 6-AM and then to morphine.  Previously a test for heroin was only conducted after a positive result for morphine.  Testing laboratories, such as Quest Diagnostics, have updated their arsenal of tests to include an oral fluid test that can accurately reveal five times more heroin use in the general US workforce than previously believed.  The oral fluid test is much easier to administer, making observation simpler, and oral fluid is more difficult to tamper with.   According to the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ oral fluid testing with more than 320,000 oral-fluid samples from the general U.S. workforce from January to June 2010, detected a marker for heroin use at a rate of 0.04% compared to the 0.008% positivity rate for urine testing.  If you are a professional driver up for drug testing, it’s time to get clean! Written by...

Do Our Prescription Drugs Make Us More Violent?

Our society has become more medicated than ever before.  Although we appreciate longer life and better treatments for disorders like depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and insomnia, the side effects create havoc for some people.  The big question is, were we already becoming violent, which is supported by crime statistics, or is the medication pushing us that way?  A list of the top ten legal drugs that are linked with violent behavior include 5 that are anti-depressants, 2 that are used to treat ADHD and one that treats insomnia.  The concern that your child is taking your prescription medications presents further complications when some of these medications cause anywhere from 7.9 to 10.9 times increased likelihood of violent behavior.   We can test for use of legal, prescription medications such as amphetamines, benzodiazepenes, and tricyclic anti-depressants but not for all the of the medications on the list. Some of these drugs are addictive and may be sought after for a drug addiction, accompanied by crime to get the drug, but many of these are not.  Some of the disorders that are treated with these medications involve violent behavior before taking the medication, such as some anti-psychotics.  Many of the drugs described in the study are non-addictive and are not treating a pre-existing violent condition, such as Strattera.  This medication, used to treat ADHD, has been linked to rage and hostility.  I have seen this in practice with my son.  He was diagnosed with ADHD a couple of years ago and after trying many amphetamines we tried Strattera.  The rages and depression he experienced have been painful to watch.  He isn’t old enough to cause much damage...

Medical Marijuana Sends a Confusing Message to Teens

The good news: Binge drinking and cigarette smoking is down among teens.  The bad news: They are smoking more marijuana and Ecstasy use is on the rise.  Not the trends that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) was hoping for!  According to their annual report, released today, the number of 8th graders who have used marijuana jumped to 16% from 14.5% last year.  Daily marijuana use increased across all grade levels.  It looks like the messages we’re sending to our youth are working: smoking cigarettes is bad and binge drinking is bad.  Smoking pot, on the other hand, might be good for you if you can get a prescription for it, so no worries there, go ahead and smoke it! The US Drug Czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, stated that the legalization of marijuana may be to blame for the increase because this sends a message that pot smoking is not dangerous.  The implication sends kids down the wrong path.  Marijuana is known to interfere with memory and learning which could be serious for teens whose brains haven’t finished growing yet.  No studies have been done yet to determine if an increase in marijuana use correlates with poor test scores but parents get worried enough to test their teens for drug use.  The conflict between telling kids to “Just Say No” and having marijuana dispensaries in the neighborhood is problematic.  It’s like telling your children not to smoke and then lighting up a cigarette.  Looks like we need to stop being hypocrits and do what we tell our teens to do if we expect them to listen. Written by...