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Sentencing: California Governor Signs Bill To Shorten Parole for Offenders Who Take Drug Treatment

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) quietly signed a bill Saturday that will allow nonviolent offenders to get off parole early if they complete an intensive drug treatment program. Under the new law, parolees who wish to participate will be sent directly to a five-month residential treatment program. Upon graduation, they will get off parole.

The new law will take effect in January. Only nonviolent offenders will be eligible, and they must have completed at least six months of drug treatment while in prison.

Post-release parole has proven onerous for many offenders. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 47% of parolees are returned to prison as parole violators. These are people who committed administrative infractions -- failing to notify the parole officer of a new address or new job, coming up positive on a drug test -- not new criminal offenses. An additional 15% of parolees are returned to prison on new criminal charges. There are currently more than 116,000 people on parole in California.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), the bill won the support of a variety of groups, including the powerful prison guards union. "Parolees who demonstrate that level of commitment to treatment deserve recognition for their effort, union spokesman Lance Corcoran told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday. "It's a concept worth supporting," he said. "The only question is how they are going to come up with enough drug treatment beds for everybody who qualifies.

Sen. Speier told the Times she sponsored the measure because about three-quarters of the state's 172,000 inmates have drug or alcohol issues. "If we can help them conquer their addictions and get them off this treadmill of returning to prison, we'll save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars," Speier said.

Now the question is where the money is going to come from. The state will save $4,340 per year for each ex-convict it doesn't have to supervise. The bill signed this week does not earmark any funds for expanded treatment, but Speier suggested the savings on parole costs could pay for new beds.

Baltimore to Train Doctors in Addiction Treatment

Location: 
Baltimore, MD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Baltimore Examiner
URL: 
http://www.examiner.com/a-325608~Baltimore_to_train_doctors_in_addiction_treatment.html

Detroit Deaths From Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Could Be Reduced By Medical Treatment

Press Release Source: Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. Detroit Deaths from Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Overdoses Could Be Reduced by Medical Treatment Tuesday October 3, 7:30 am ET Physician training sessions will increase patient access to medical office-based treatment for opioid addiction DETROIT, Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent string of opioid overdoses and deaths in Detroit and elsewhere in Wayne County highlights the devastation of a dangerous new illegal drug mixture: the combination of heroin with fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller used in anesthesia and to treat cancer pain. According to the Medical Examiner's office, so far there have been at least 122 fatal overdoses in the Detroit area attributable to heroin laced with fentanyl, while several times this many have occurred nationwide. ADVERTISEMENT "Fentanyl-related overdoses in the Detroit area serve as a tragic reminder that there is a need for better patient access to aggressive and effective medical treatment for opioid addiction," said Mark Menestrina, MD, addiction medicine physician at Brighton Hospital. "Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that can afflict anyone and needs to be treated much like we treat other chronic conditions. Medical treatment is oftentimes prescribed in the privacy of a doctor's office, creating a confidential, convenient, and respectful atmosphere. Currently, there are not enough certified doctors in Detroit available to handle the increasing number of people seeking help for opioid addiction. It is critical that office-based medical treatment become more widely available in order to contain this crisis and prevent more deaths throughout the greater metropolitan Detroit area." Addiction to opioids, which includes heroin as well as the prescription painkillers oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, and morphine, is a growing public health problem that affects people from all walks of life. In Michigan, misuse of prescription opioid painkillers continues to be a major problem and, in Detroit, heroin remains widely available, according to a report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). And as evidenced by the current surge in fentanyl-heroin use, drug dealers are targeting this mixture in the Detroit area. The recent problems in Detroit and throughout Michigan reflect a national public health crisis -- according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2006), published last month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 4.7 million people currently misuse prescription pain relievers, second only to marijuana use. Among young adults, nonmedical use of prescription drugs increased from 5.4 percent in 2002 to 6.3 percent in 2005. In addition, in terms of new users, in 2005 more people 12 years and older -- 2.2 million -- misused opioid painkillers for the first time than any other drug, including marijuana and cocaine. Many people do not fully understand the danger of misusing opioid painkillers such as fentanyl. A recent national survey on the public's perceptions of opioid addiction, Prescription Painkiller/Heroin Addiction and Treatment, revealed that nearly half of the U.S. public does not know that misusing prescription opioid painkillers is as harmful to the body, and fully as addictive, as heroin abuse. Physician Certification Training Available at Sessions and Online Any doctor may become certified to treat opioid dependence in his or her private office using an FDA-approved medicine called buprenorphine. Many patients prefer the privacy, convenience, and discretion that office-based treatment offers. According to Dr. Menestrina, access to buprenorphine treatment for patients addicted to opioids is vital to reduce the number of deaths due to drug overdoses. Doctors will find information about becoming certified to treat with buprenorphine at http://www.docoptin.com. Additionally, information about online and CD-ROM training options may be obtained from 1-877-782-6966. "An increase in the number of doctors certified to treat opioid addiction is an important step in the fight against the problem we're facing in Detroit," said Dr. Menestrina. "It is unfortunate that patients seeking buprenorphine treatment are turned away simply because not enough doctors are certified to prescribe this medication. This is especially upsetting considering the great success I have seen in my practice with buprenorphine. I strongly urge other physicians to learn about this treatment option and seriously consider becoming certified to treat the exceedingly high number of chemically dependent individuals in the Detroit area." Resources for Opioid Dependence and Its Treatment Addiction to opioids is defined as a long-term brain disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It is a treatable medical condition that is caused by changes in the chemistry of the brain. This dependence can start with use of medicine that a doctor prescribes for serious pain but that a person continues to use after the medical need for pain relief has passed. Or it may begin as recreational drug use that spins out of control. Individuals who need more information about opioid dependence and its treatment, either for themselves or for someone they are concerned about, have several options. Educational materials on opioid dependence are available to answer questions about this often-misunderstood disease and the treatments that are available for it. To receive a free educational Resource Kit on these topics, visit http://www.turntohelp.com or call 1-866-455-TURN, both provided by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. Additionally, the non-profit patient advocacy group NAABT -- National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment -- is dedicated to helping educate the public on opioid dependence and treatment in a private doctor's office. NAABT now offers a nationwide confidential matching service to pair individuals seeking buprenorphine treatment with available doctors. "Increasingly more people are contacting NAABT for information on opioid dependence and treatment and for help finding doctors who can prescribe buprenorphine," said Timothy Lepak, president of NAABT. "This is a disease that does not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life and all socioeconomic and demographic levels." For more information on Detroit-area physicians who can prescribe medicine to treat opioid dependence in a private medical office, visit http://naabt.org. SAMHSA's Web site also provides a physician locator and other valuable information at http://buprenorphine.samhsa.gov. In the United States, buprenorphine is marketed as Suboxone® (buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCl dihydrate) C-III Sublingual Tablets and Subutex® (buprenorphine HCl) C-III Sublingual Tablets, the only controlled medications under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 approved by the FDA for treatment of opioid dependence in a doctor's office. Suboxone and Subutex are manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. About Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a specialty pharmaceutical company that manufactures and markets Suboxone® (buprenorphine HCl/naloxone HCl dihydrate [2 mg/0.5 mg and 8 mg/2 mg]) C-III Sublingual Tablets and Subutex® (buprenorphine HCl [2 mg and 8 mg]) C-III Sublingual Tablets, formulations of buprenorphine used to treat opioid dependence. Suboxone and Subutex are the only controlled medications under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 approved by the FDA for office-based treatment of opioid dependence. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is committed to expanding access to medical therapies for patients suffering from the chronic, relapsing brain disease of opioid dependence. For more information, visit http://www.suboxone.com or http://www.opioiddependence.com. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reckitt Benckiser PLC, a publicly traded UK firm. Important Safety Information Intravenous use of buprenorphine, usually in combination with benzodiazepines or other CNS depressants has been associated with significant respiratory depression and death. Suboxone® and Subutex® have potential for abuse and produces dependence of the opioid type with a milder withdrawal syndrome than full agonists. Cytolytic hepatitis and hepatitis with jaundice have been observed in the addicted population receiving buprenorphine. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of Suboxone or Subutex (a pregnancy category C medication) in pregnancy. Due caution should be exercised when driving cars or operating machinery. The most commonly reported adverse events with Suboxone have included headache (36%, placebo 22%), withdrawal syndrome (25%, placebo 37%), pain (22%, placebo 19%), nausea (15%, placebo 11%), insomnia (14%, placebo 16%), sweating (14%, placebo 10%). See full prescribing information for complete information. Suboxone and Subutex are registered trademarks of Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. Media Contact: Cory Tromblee 617-761-6715 [email protected]
Location: 
Detroit, MI
United States

Blasphemy: College Reporter Quotes Us in Defense of the HEA Drug Provision

Ordinarily a lame anti-drug editorial in a college paper would escape our attention. Not this time. Nicki Croly of The State Hornet in Sacramento uses statistics from our website in defense of the HEA drug provision:

Some people would argue that this law makes it even harder for minorities to get a college education. This argument is invalid because according to www.stopthedrugwar.com, there are no statistics indicating that African-Americans use drugs at a higher rate.

Croly’s interpretation of this statistic is just plain wrong. It’s true that drug use among African-Americans is equal on average to that of Whites. But arrests, convictions, and punishments such as the denial of financial aid for college are imposed upon people of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

Furthermore, I highly doubt that our site mentions drug use rates among African-American without also noting the disparity with regards to arrests, convictions, and sentencing. For example, here’s a statement from our HEA talking points page:

Minorities are disproportionately affected by the HEA drug provision. While African Americans make up 13% of the population and 13% of drug users, they account for 55% of all drug convictions. The disparate racial impact of drug law enforcement will inevitably spread into the realm of higher education via this law. Accordingly, minority groups have far higher percentages of their members who are ineligible for federal
financial aid than whites. Currently, more African American men are in prison than in college.

So yes, the HEA drug provision absolutely hurts minorities more than anyone else. But that’s just one of a whole host of problems created by this counterproductive law. Here’s ten more:

  1. College education is proven to reduce drug use. Therefore, forcing students out of college obviously and undeniably increases drug use overall.
  2. The HEA drug provision only affects good students. If you’re getting bad grades you can’t get aid anyway.
  3. Students arrested for drugs get punished in court. It’s not like they’re getting away with anything.
  4. Many students misunderstand the rules and give up on college even though they’re actually eligible. Their lives are changed forever.
  5. Taking away opportunities from students sends a message that we don't want them to succeed in life. All students must be encouraged, not pushed down.
  6. Regaining eligibility by completing rehab is often impossible because it’s more expensive than school. Nor does getting busted for drugs necessarily mean that you need rehab.
  7. Most HEA victims were busted for small time marijuana possession. Casual marijuana use has nothing to do with success in college. Trust me.
  8. The HEA drug provision fails to address the most significant drug problem on college campuses: alcohol.
  9. The HEA drug provision only targets low-income students. These are the very people the HEA is supposed to help.
  10. Judges already have the authority to revoke financial aid. If a judge meets the student in court and doesn’t want to revoke aid, we should respect that decision.

The HEA drug provision causes drug abuse by driving students away from school and towards drugs. If you support the HEA drug provision, you support drug abuse.
Location: 
United States

County Judge Delays Drug Treatment Law Change

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oakland Tribune
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_4342271

A Question for Dr. Volkow

Drug warriors don’t answer phone calls or emails from the likes of us, so the only way to ask them questions is to show up when they’re speaking publicly and hope to get called on during Q&A. Sitting in the moderator’s line of sight helps, as does not looking like a balls-to-the-wall hippie drug-legalizer (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

And so this past Friday I attended the “African American Brain Trust on Eliminating Racial Disparities in Substance Abuse Policies” sponsored by the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, for the dual purposes of developing contacts for an unrelated project, and hopefully to get some answers from NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow who would be presenting. NAADPC assembled an impressive list of speakers, and though the event was neutral in tone, it’s probably safe to say that if NAADPC replaced ONDCP, there'd be less to blog about. The audience consisted primarily of criminal justice and medical professionals, but the full anti-prohibitionist viewpoint was represented by ubiquitous reformers Kymone Freeman and Howard Wooldridge of LEAP. True to form, both asked about legalization, which prompted squirmy but less-than-dismissive responses from panels of distinguished judges, prosecutors, and law-enforcement professionals.

A neutral, non-politicized discussion of the drug problem inevitably favors the compassionate activist over the status quo, but the final word of the day from Dr. Nora Volkow provided a startling reality check. Dr. Volkow’s power-point presentation titled “Using Science and Medicine to Effectively Treat Drug Addiction” conjured a distopian future in which “addicts” are administered government drugs by force in order to prevent them from enjoying the drugs they take voluntarily. But she didn’t phrase it that way.

Dr. Volkow argues that prolonged drug use alters the brain in ways that reduce the user’s control over drug-taking itself, thereby necessitating compulsory treatment in order to help the user regain the ability to make his/her own decisions. Addiction is a disease, yes, but drugs themselves cause the disease over time, according to Dr. Volkow. By this logic, intervention appears justified at any stage.

With time running short, I was fortunate to be one of three people chosen to ask questions. Mine came out something like this:

I hope that by looking at drug addiction as a disease, society will become less inclined to stigmatize people with drug problems. But there’s a flipside in that most people who use drugs are doing just fine. I know that most people in treatment for marijuana were coerced into it by the criminal justice system, for example. As your research progresses, will you still acknowledge that most drug users don’t fit into the addiction model you just described?

Dr. Volkow was answering before I was done asking, and her answer was clever. She admitted that many drug users don’t experience negative consequences. “We’ve always acknowledged that” she said, as if I was kind of stupid for asking. “But it’s important to realize,” she went on, “that even experimentation with drugs can have dire consequences.”

It’s pathetic that after a forty-five minute presentation on addiction science, she would resort to such an unscientific generalization. Yes, experimentation can have consequences, but as Jack Herer once said, “nobody’s ever died from marijuana that wasn’t shot by a cop.” Too often, the consequences of drug use take the form of government persecution justified by junk science from prohibitionists masquerading as public health experts.

Dr. Nora Volkow says we shouldn’t stigmatize drug-users, but then she goes around diagnosing them with a brain-rotting disease that most of them don’t actually have.

Location: 
United States

Canadian Federal Government Demands More Research on Safe Injection Site, But Won't Pay For It

The Canadian federal government -- relatively hostile to harm reduction measures like safe injection sites since the Conservative Party took power in the last elections -- will not fund further research for Vancouver's InSite safe injection site, Health Ministry spokesman Eric Waddell told the Drug War Chronicle this afternoon. That was news to the site's operator, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, whose spokesperson Viviana Zonacco said she had not been informed of that aspect of the ministry's decision.

The Health Ministry had funded research on the injection site's efficacy for the past three years to the tune of $500,000 a year. The ministry extended the site's exemption from the country's drug laws for only year instead of three years last Friday—the dead news day before the three-day weekend in Canada—saying that it required further research on how well it worked. But after demanding more research, the Health Ministry doesn't want to pay for it. Go figger.

I learned about this as I was researching an article I will write about the decision for this week's Chronicle. Check it out on Friday.

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada

UK Drug Deaths on the Rise, Despite Government Pledge

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
The Independent
URL: 
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article1222808.ece

Asia: China Begins Debate on First Comprehensive Drug Law

Although China has long waged war on drug users and traffickers, it has never had statutes aimed specifically at the drug trade and dealing with drug users. That is about to change. Chinese lawmakers Tuesday began debating a new bill that would expand police powers to crack down on the cross-border drug trade and set standards for drug treatment, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/chinaposter.jpg
Chinese anti-drug poster
"It is important to introduce such a law as China is now facing a grave situation in drug control," the agency quoted Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of public security, as telling the standing committee of China's parliament. Drugs from Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle are "pouring" into China and "posing a grave threat to China's drug control efforts," Zhang added.

Chinese authorities estimate the country has more than 1.1 million drug users, including 700,000 heroin addicts. In addition to heroin and opium, authorities report problems with methamphetamine and ecstasy use.

The drug trafficking portion of the proposed bill would expand police powers. According to Xinhua, "The bill will also authorize police to search people and their luggage for illegal drugs at key public places such as train stations, long-distance bus stations and border crossings."

Police would also be granted the power to force suspected drug users to submit blood or urine samples -- a practice so far limited to primitive places like South Dakota -- and owners of bars and nightclubs would have to post anti-drug propaganda on their premises.

But while the proposed bill takes a tough line on trafficking, it strikes a softer tone when it comes to drug users and addicts. It includes provisions that would bar treatment centers from physically punishing or verbally humiliating addicts and demands they pay addicts for work they do. The bill also provides for people ordered into treatment to receive it in their communities rather than forcing them into treatment centers. Treatment center admissions would be limited to injection drug users, people who refuse community help, or people who live in communities without treatment resources.

"Drug takers are law violators, but they are also patients and victims. Punishment is needed, but education and assistance are more important," Zhang said.

Psychedelics Could Treat Addiction, Says Vancouver Official

Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
The Tyee
URL: 
http://thetyee.ca/News/2006/08/09/Psychedelics/

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