National Drug Facts Week:Shatter The Myths hosted in Philadelphia by Association of Women in Forensic Science ( AWIFS)

Why are you hosting this event ? and how will teenagers benefit from this?  Well first let me start with the titled theme of this official health observance week for teens “National Drug Facts Week: Shatter The Myths”.  Shattering The Myths about drugs and drug abuse is important to a generation of teenagers who are improperly influenced by hip-hop artists who glorify drug kingpins, drugs and drug addiction.  Freeway Rick Ross a well-known drug kingpin in th 1980′s indicted on drug charges, sued rapper Rick Ross for using his name illegally.   Rick Ross is not the only artist that is proud to identify with a drug kingpin and brag about dealing drugs because  there are many other artists including Lil Wayne and Eminem that promote drugs and drug addiction through their lyrics as well.  Unfortunately for most parents with teenagers that idolize these rappers , decoding hip hop lyrics with street drug slang terms would be impossible without an urban dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com/.  Rappers glorify drug dealers and illegal drug use and slang names mask the message.

National Drug Facts Week: Shatter the Myths (NDFW) the initiative of The National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA) , is a week-long health observance campaign for teens beginning Monday November 8 to bring scientists and teens together in a safe environment to discuss the facts about drugs and drug abuse.  The Association of Women in Forensic Science (AWIFS) are hosting this inaugural health observance week  in West Oak Lane Philadelphia for teens so they can receive factual information from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse.  The event will be held on Saturday November 13, 2010 12pm-4pm at the Simons Recreation Center 7200 woolston avenue ( walnut lane and woolston avenue).   Keynote speaker John J. Bryfonski, Special Agent in Charge of The DEA Philadelphia Division will address prescription drug abuse  which is the second most commonly abused category of drug.  Dr. Tom Reid who partnered with this event is founder and executive director of Southwest Nu-Stop substance abuse treatment centers in Philadelphia and will have alumni from his centers discuss their personal experiences with substance abuse and treatment.   AWIFS thought it would be a great idea to utilize teen ambassadors to help get the word out about the event to the teen community , so  the teen ambassadors will engage other teens in a  peer discussion at the event which will focus on the NIDA publication ” Shatter The Myths”.  Teen ambassadors from the Imhotep Institute Charter High School STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program will base the peer discussion on topics from the publication such as Marijuana, Peer Pressure, Medical Consequences, Methamphetamine,Tobacco, Prescription Drugs, Drugs and your brain( effects of drugs) and Treatment.  Teens will engage the teen participants by using visual aids that reference commonly abused drugs related to the topic and street drug slang terms.  At this national event, there will be drug prevention/treatment and youth organizations to provide teenagers with the correct information about drugs along with food, music , prizes and giveaways.   For more information about National Drug Facts Week, visit http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov/

AWIFS goal is to have an event that is educational and fun for the teen community.  I want the teens to benefit from NDFW in Philly and feel like they learned something.  Join AWIFS  for the CyberShoutout  Monday November 8, 2010 on Twitter @womeninforensic and facebook as we shout out facts about drugs and drug abuse.   Please come out Saturday November 13, 2010 12pm-4pm and support the teen community by shattering the myths about drugs and drug abuse.

http://nationaldrugfactsweekphilly.eventbrite.com/

For more information about AWIFS, contact us via e-mail at womeninforensic@gmail.com

Prescription Drug Abuse: Friend or Foe?

On June 25 2009, the greatest performer and icon of all time died with an addiction.  The king of pop Michael Jackson was suffering in silence like millions of people across the U.S addicted to prescription drugs.  Perceived as a safe drug by many because prescription drugs are legal , prescription drug abuse can become unnoticed.  Michael Jackson had fortune and fame , but his addiction to painkillers and  diprivan which is a hypnotic agent that induces sleep is what allegedly took his life.  An estimated 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs which is more than the number who are abusing cocaine,heroin and other illicit drugs combined.  Prescription drug abuse is the most prevalent drug problem in the United States second to marijuana.  http://www.justice.gov/dea/concern/prescription_drug_fact_sheet.html.  Opiate drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone which are also ingredients in tablets compounded with acetaminophen ( Vicodin and Percocet) are causing more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.   Prescription pain relievers are preferred over cocaine and marijuana and teens abusing prescription drugs is a becoming a serious problem at an earlier age. Oxycodone an opiate which is the active ingredient in the controlled release pain-killer oxycontin used for severe pain is more potent than morphine and is usually  crushed, snorted and chewed by illicit users to eliminate the time release creating an intense rush to the brain.  On the street, an oxycontin tablet can sale for a dollar per milligram for a 10,20,40 and 80 milligram tablet .  If used improperly, a prescription drug can lead to accidental overdose or death.  Well you may ask ” How are these legal prescription drugs getting on the streets?” It’s referred to as Diversion .  Diversion of prescription drugs is when licit drugs are used for illicit purposes and this can occur in many ways such as “doctor shopping”, theft from a pharmacy or home, drug dealing, obtaining it from the internet illicitly and taking prescription pills from a friend or relative. Nowadays, drug dealing prescription drugs is a lucrative operation because it is profitable and accessible.  Unfortunately a medicine cabinet which may be safe to store prescribed drugs in your bathroom could be a door of opportunity to anyone including your teenager who is addicted to pain-killers, cough syrup or other drugs.  Anything from Cough Syrup aka sizzurp,  Benzodiazepines (Xanax) aka xaneys or tombstones identified by the triple score, Oxycontin , Percocets, Vicodins and other common painkillers are all prescription controlled drugs , but are diverted and sold illegally.  All of the above mentioned prescription drugs require a prescription to obtain it from the pharmacy.  A lot of teens are abusing prescription drugs and some are even hosting “pill parties” which is a collection of all the prescription drugs they can get their hands on and prepared like a trail mix and placed inside a bowl.   This is a dangerous engagement for the person who places their hand in the glass bowl with no knowledge of what they are putting in their mouth. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-06-12-teens-pharm-drugs_x.htm.  These pills would’ve came from your friendly medicine cabinet , friends , relatives or a drug dealer making a profit from diversion.  Because of this shift to abuse of prescription drugs, parents must make sure that they educate their teens about drug abuse and the effect it has on the brain through discussions and literature.  Storing prescription bottles in a location that is not easily accessible to children or adults would also minimize the diversion of prescription drugs.  Knowing the signs of prescription drug abuse could also help save a life.

Recognize these faces?  They all lost their lives to prescription drugs.  Read about their cause of death at http://www.pharmacytechs.net/blog/18-celebrities-who-died-from-prescription-drugs

Eminem admitted to his abuse of prescription drugs and loved it so much that he tattooed a Vicodin ( Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen) tablet on his arm.

For more information about drug abuse and addiction visit http://www.nida.nih.gov/

The Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Disparity: Is It A Racial Discriminatory Law?

On July 28,2010,  the Fair Sentencing Act  (S.1789) that will alleviate the disparity of crack-cocaine federal mandatory minimum sentencing was passed by congress and is now awaiting the signature of President Obama. For over twenty years, the federal mandatory minimum sentencing for both drugs had the same penalty for the possession of different quantities.  This was referred to as  the ” 100-1 drug quantity ratio” which sentenced an offender possessing  5 grams of cocaine base (crack)/  500 grams of cocaine salt (powder)  to 5 years in prison. The new imposed sentencing  will be 18:1 for 28 grams of crack and 500 grams of cocaine salt with an expectation that tax dollars will be saved and law enforcement agencies will eliminate the wasting of  federal money and time on targeting low-level drug offenders and concentrate on major traffickers.  Even though the  two substances are pharmacologically identical,  crack was perceived as causing more addiction and violence amongst its users which was known as the crack epidemic in the eighties.  This was obviously a myth, but who would suffer the most because of this disparity would be african-americans. According to the U.S Sentencing Commission, Blacks make up 82.7% of crack convictions and Whites, Hispanics make up 71.4% of cocaine powder convictions.  Even though the crack-cocaine reform will reduce sentencing , there still will remain a large gap between crack and cocaine powder sentencing for possession.  This federal mandatory minimum law was always referred to the harshest and most unethical  of all the other drug laws and the only one to have a severe penalty for possession only.   The crack-cocaine sentencing reform has caught the attention of many protestors from various organizations including law officials, judges and the NAACP who disagreed with the severe penalty and fought for a change.  Even though we have finally approached a resolution, there are many first time offenders serving maximum sentences for possession of crack .  Is this really a reform?  Will it remain a racial discriminatory law or is it?

To read more about the S.1789 reform go to http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s1789/show

Women In Forensic Science: Brains, Beauty and Personality

The scientist then

Look at us now

Amy, Forensic Chemist

Amy, Forensic Chemist

I’m out at a networking event and I’m asked what I do for a living and the inquirer response is  “you don’t look like a chemist” .  What is a female chemist supposed to look like?   The old fashion stereotype of a female scientist<———- was replaced with fashionable women scientists possessing brains, beauty and personality.  According to the Washington Times, women dominate the forensic science field and 75 percent of graduates from forensic science programs are women which has increased over the years.  For example, the forensic lab that I’m employed at has more women than men forensic chemist’s and that is just one of the many forensic science labs across the nation that are 60 percent female ( statistics from washington times).  So you may ask yourself, why are so many women gravitating to this field?  Well the girl scouts had a helping hand at sparking a young girls interest in science at an early age, crime writer Patricia Cornwell, best-selling author; main character is chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpertta and how could we forget the C.S.I portrayal of very attractive female scientists.  Women are also seen as detail oriented and would rather work for a less competitive atmosphere with stable hours to raise a family.  At the lab, the women scientists vary in age, race and dress and we are not all nerds that lack a social life.  We don’t wear pen protectors and glasses have been updated with contacts.  Our safety glasses are even cool looking and we dress to impress accented with a sharp pair of shoes and an italian leather pocketbook.  Women In Forensic Science Rule:-)

Me "The Sexy Scientist", Forensic Chemist

Stephanie, Forensic Chemist

Kandis, Forensic Chemist

Mary, Forensic Chemist

Kush Is My Cologne

“Kush Is My Cologne”, the title of  the rap song by Gucci Mane is just one of many rap songs that gives praise to the high-grade strain of marijuana “Kush Cannabis”.  Kush refers to the strain of marijuana from indica cannabis which originated in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and eventually made its way to the United States.  It is the most preferred strain of marijuana in the U.S because of its potent psychoactive ingredient delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol despite it’s cultivating, possession and distribution penalties.  You can hear about “Kush” aka “purple kush” aka “hydro” from artists such as Lil Wayne, Twista and many others as they brag about the  hallucinogenic high they experience while smoking “Kush”.   Cannabis Sativa was made illegal by the Federal government and is a schedule 1 drug ( no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse) under the Controlled Substances Act.  Although the recreational use of marijuana is illegal, in some states  the medicinal use of marijuana is legalized which raises a lot of controversy. Indica Cannabis is just one of the many varieties of marijuana that has been cultivated from the species of marijuana Cannabis Sativa, but is the most preferred variety by many users because of the cultivating techniques used to increase the delta 9 THC potency.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug) .  Marijuana is a hallucinogen that has long  and short-term effects on the body when used in excess over a long period of time.  Even though marijuana is used  medicinally by patients and has helped many suffering from various physical ailments due to illnesses, the legalization of marijuana continues to provoke debates worldwide.  We have yet to see if the government will ever legalize  the schedule 1 drug that possesses so many street names and used illegally by millions.

*posted video is used to demonstrate the lyrics as it is relates to the street name “Kush” only

Sippin on some sizzurp!!

The “purple drank”, “lean” and  “sizzurp” are just a few of the slang names used to describe the recreational use of  the  purple in color cough syrup promethazine with codeine.  Because of diversion, this prescription controlled drug has made its way onto the streets and into the hands of pro athletes.  On July 5, 2010, ex quarterback  for the Oakland Raiders JaMarcus Russell was arrested for the illegal possession of the controlled cough syrup promethazine and codeine.  It doesn’t surprise me  that cough syrup is so popular these days especially amongst the hip hop culture.  I remember back in the day when I heard the song “sippin on some sizzurp” by three 6 mafia and UGK and didn’t know what the heck they were talking about, but they sure did a good job glamorizing it in their video.  The video had a lot of pretty women on roller skates drinking  an unknown substance while the southern hip hop artists sang the hook “sippin on some sizzurp”.  The song was catchy , everyone grooved to it in the club and got high to the lyrics while they sipped on some cough syrup.  Why do so many people abuse this stuff?  Well codeine is an opiate that relieves pain and induces sleep  by depressing the nervous system and  is also the controlled ingredient in the syrup.  Codeine is very addictive and is just one of the many diverted prescription drugs that are abused .  Promethazine is the non controlled ingredient and is a sedative/antihistamine.  Both of these ingredients combined, causes the user to experience an euphoric effect which also makes them feel tired and sluggish.  After experiencing this downer effect, users may take an upper to enhance the drowsiness.  In Philadelphia, the two most abused syrups are codeine and promethazine which is purple and hydrocodone with chloropheniramine  is yellow.  Sometimes syrup abusers like to have pancakes with their syrup which is a slang term for adding  an opiate tablet to cough syrup .  The purple syrup is the most popular in Philadelphia and are usually packaged in approximately 2 oz unmarked glass bottles , but in the video pay attention to how the syrup is camouflaged in baby bottles.  The hip hop culture today consistently advertises drug trafficking  and drug abuse in their music ,so what do you think ?  Does the hip hop culture today promote drug abuse?


So are you like C.S.I?

If I received a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I would be a millionaire.  I think it’s interesting that I have been a Forensic Chemist for nine years and I only watched this show twice and I can’t recall if it’s the C.S.I. New York, Vegas or Miami (there should be a C.S.I Philadelphia :-)) that I got a glimpse of.  Well unlike C.S.I,  Forensic results are not processed within minutes and most Forensic Scientists do not have any contact with the crime scene or the defendants.  This fictitious dramatization of the Forensic Science field on C.S.I ( Crime Scene Investigation), a show about solving crimes with physical evidence  gives a false depiction of what a Forensic Scientist really does and has the public as well as the media misinformed about real life Forensic Scientists.  I’m a Forensic Chemist, but I analyze controlled and non controlled substances in the lab under controlled  and uncontaminated conditions.  I don’t visit crime scenes and  the timeliness of the results depend on the type of case I’m analyzing.  I was talking to my friend and coworker and she said that on one C.S.I episode, the Forensic actor performed a color test on cocaine and concluded that it was cocaine.  This is false in Forensic  Chemistry because one cannot conclude any drug from a color test.  I can recall when I began my career in 2001 when Forensics was just getting popular due to the alleged mishandling of  the physical evidence from the OJ trial and the season premiere of C.S.I in 2000.  Nowadays, everybody and their mom is trying to attend school for Forensics because of C.S.I also known as the C.S.I effect.  I can’t blame people for believing whats on TV, so that’s why I’m here to educate you.  Oh and by the way,while I’m not a big C.S.I fan, I enjoy watching Law and Order SVU.  toodles:-)

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