Archive for August, 2010

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