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Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Author: Justin Mckibben

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.

The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:

  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • India
  • France
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Canada

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.

Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.

The Turning Point for America

According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.

Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:

“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”

One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.

GCDP vs War on Drugs

Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.

The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:

“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”

To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction

So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?

Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:

  • Naloxone Distribution and Training

As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.

Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.

Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.

  • Drug Checking

These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.

Decriminalizing Drugs in America

In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.

The report states:

“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”

With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:

  • End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
  • Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.

The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.

“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”

We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.

Better Treatment Research

The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.

One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.

Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:

“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”

While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.

Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.

What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?

One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Drug Testing for Welfare Program Shows Zero Positive Results

Drug Testing for Welfare Program Shows Zero Positive Results

Author: Justin Mckibben

Drug testing applicants for welfare benefits is not a new concept. Over the past few years several states have attempted similar restrictions on providing benefits to welfare applicants. Each time the programs were initiated they were met with opposition and criticism, but as of later 2015 there were 12 states already with legislation requiring drug tests for welfare, and another 14 had proposed similar strategies. However drug testing for welfare does not have very supportive evidence backing it.

One state conducted a controlled study for implementing such a policy. The studies numbers have shown just how ineffective drug testing for welfare can be. For the last year Michigan tried to enforce its own drug test pilot program for welfare recipients. Guess how many people failed.

Go ahead… I’ll wait…

You guessed it (or read the title of this article) – Zero!

The Numbers of Michigan Drug Testing for Welfare

A while back the Michigan Legislature passed a law requiring the department to implement suspicion-based drug testing for cash assistance recipients. After the law was passed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) created the Substance Use Disorder Pilot. In the year 2000 an earlier attempt at wholesale testing was ruled illegal in Michigan, but the pilot program was permitted to only drug test those who answers on a questionnaire indicated they might be drug users. The program was set up in three counties.

So, to clarify, not every single person who applied for welfare was drug tested. In fact, these numbers only take into account the people in these 3 counties that qualified for the pilot program.  The numbers show that out of 443 potential candidates for the program:

  • Only 27 were identified as potential drug users
  • 10 of the 27 were exempt from testing because they already been enrolled in some type of treatment resource for drug use
  • Of the remaining 17, only one participant was identified as requiring a suspicion-based drug test, but that case was then closed due to “unrelated reasons”

So what it all boils down to is the drug testing for welfare pilot program did not catch a single person in violation of the policy.

Motivation for Testing

One progressive idea in the Michigan drug testing for welfare pilot is that according to legislation, if a recipient tests positive, it does not mean a loss of benefits. However, the individual must agree to substance abuse counseling, covered by Medicaid. MDHHS Communications Manager Bob Wheaton spoke out in defense of the idea, stating:

“Our primary motivation for doing this is to help people who do have issues, so they can find employment,”

“If we’ve found someone has an issue and needs to undergo treatment, it’s because drug use could be a barrier to future job opportunities that would help a recipient stop relying on benefits.”

This is a somewhat refreshing perspective on the concept. Instead of blocking the assistance, the idea was essentially to make other help available. Still, it does almost sound like blackmail for benefits. So far, there has been no confirmation as to whether Michigan will continue the pilot program.

Should People Drug Test for Welfare?

While several states have enacted their own measures for drug testing for welfare, many have denounced it as a practice that enforces stereotypes. The idea that only poor people are drug addicts or are using government money to buy illegal substances is a very controversial narrative. Yet, several similar programs have seen very similar results, meaning a lot of taxpayers have covered the costs of drug testing for welfare, only to find that the programs have wasted far more money than the states ever would have paid out in benefits. Some of these states include:

  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Maine
  • Arizona
  • Florida

One organization’s nationwide analysis determined that in 2015, states spent almost $1 million on drug testing for welfare. To add insult to injury, almost all of them found less than 0.4% of recipients were guilty. In some cases, like Governor Rick Scott in Florida, officials threw away thousands upon thousands more to fight courts to keep their ineffective programs. Luckily, Michigan’s pilot only cost the state $700.

So we ask, should there be drug testing for welfare? If you have social media surely you see people make bold statements about drug testing for food stamps and the like.

The truth is results in numerous sections of the nation suggest there isn’t a correlation between drug use and being on government assistance. The statistics simply do not exist to support this prejudice. People can pretend to be better than, but they are missing the facts; that the government has already wasted a lot of everyone’s money trying to prove their point, and they were wrong.

Drug testing for welfare is another way that stigma has prevented progress for many struggling to overcome addiction. However, offering treatment seems like a good resource to offer. Safe and effective treatment can make all the difference, and too many people have to go without such treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now!

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Drug Testing The Rich For Their Tax Breaks

Drug Testing The Rich For Their Tax Breaks

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

There is no typo in the title. We are talking about requiring the top 1% to submit to drug testing to get their special tax treatment! As I read this story, I wonder if anyone even honestly entertains this. Not because I think it’s a bad idea, but because it seems so unlikely to actually succeed. Still, there is a Congresswoman who is pushing to make it happen.

So what brought this about, what would it mean for the rich and would it actually change things?

Fanning the Flames

What brought this idea about? Well, for years now Republicans seem to have become obsessed with drug testing the poor. Across the country lawmakers attempted to establish regulations for recipients of food stamps and welfare to make sure those who would be recreational drug users would not get these benefits. Examples:

  • Wisconsin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker created legislation requiring those who applied for Temporary Assistant for Needy Families (TANF) to answer questions concerning their history of drug use. Based on the answers some would then have to submit to urinalysis to receive social aid.

  • Florida

You may remember we touched on Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida who pushed for a drug testing policy. However, in 4 months there were only 108 applicants out of 4,086 who actually tested positive for illegal drugs. This shows the policies are incredibly inefficient and expensive. Not to mention nowhere near cost-effective.

  • Tennessee

Tennessee had a drug testing policy for welfare and food stamps put in place. But after an entire year the program only denied 30 people out of 28,559 applications based on failed drug testing.

Time and time again trying to impose a rule, which many have described as blatantly discriminatory, to further inhibit the disenfranchised has proven expensive and embarrassing.

Drug Testing Double Standards

After all this, Democratic Representative Gwen Moore has decided she is sick of these one-sided and offensive regulations which she called “criminalization of poverty” being pushed by Republicans. So, to make a bold statement that challenges the double standard these kinds of drug testing policies seem to promote, she proposed a bill called “Top 1% Accountability Act” to level the field.

What is the aim of this ambitious act? Anyone claiming itemized tax deductions over $150,000 per year must pass a urinalysis in order to get full benefits. Moore thinks since the richest Americans take advantage of their tax breaks they should be held accountable for drug use.

But why?

Well, drug testing poor people in order for them to obtain social help is rooted in stigma, enforcing the idea that poor people are addicts. Moore isn’t making this stuff up. A variety of studies analyzing drug testing of welfare recipients show these people are no more likely to use drugs than the general population.

No More Rich VS Poor

In essence, if you want to say that the poor need to be clean in order to get help from the government, why should rich people get a pass for abuse illegal drugs when they ask for lenience on their taxes? If rich people can drug test the poor to save tax-payer dollars, isn’t it only fair that the richest people should be drug tested in order to save on the taxes they pay for all the hundreds of thousands they make?

Plus, if a poor person fails drug testing, there may be a little chunk of money saved from welfare and food stamps, but history has shown it is not even worth the expense of testing. But, if a rich person fails their drug testing they are going to pay a much larger chunk of change into taxes and helping the economy.

Plenty of states have already spent enough on programs to drug test for social assistance that don’t seem worth the effort, so maybe it’s time we move past stigma into a solution. Combating drug abuse and the fight against addiction can start with the right treatment program. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

CDC Urges Doctors to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana

CDC Urges Doctors to Stop Testing Patients for Marijuana

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not believe doctors should test  patients for marijuana. As a result, they have revised their screening guidelines to ensure that physicians only focus on the problem at hand.

Earlier this month, the CDC changed their policy because the marijuana tests presented unnecessary costs. They also are relatively unreliable. A report by the Pain News Network reported in the past that 21 percent of positive results are false and 21 percent of negative results are positive. The CDC found that testing for marijuana resulted in few health benefits and more potential legal consequences for the patient.

“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear,” says the updated CDC guideline for prescribing opioids. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

In the past, routine drug tests were done to chronic pain patients to monitor abusive behavior. However, the CDC has now made it clear that physicians should only drug test on chronic pain patients when it is necessary.

“Restricting confirmatory testing to situations and substances for which results can reasonably be expected to affect patient management can reduce costs of urine drug testing, given the substantial costs associated with confirmatory testing methods,” the CDC added.

A 2014 analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that states with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8 lower annual opioid mortality rate compared to states without medical cannabis laws.  Research shows that many use marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers. Chronic pain patients may find they have to take less opioid or stop taking them all together. The Journal of Pain found that chronic pain patients who had access to legal cannabis had a significant decrease in opioid use, an increase in quality of life, and fewer side effects.

All of these studies suggest that marijuana could be a safe alternative to pain killers for some patients. Also, cannabis has no lethal overdose level, while opioid overdoses are killer close to 19 Americans each day.

With all that said, CDC spokesperson Ellen Komp, states that a positive test for THC may not be helpful information for a doctor and could pose legal ramifications for the patient. She continued in saying that testing for marijuana would not “inform patient care decisions” and has more adverse effects than good.

Just like any mind-altering substance, marijuana can be addictive; however for those with chronic pain, marijuana can be a safe alternative to opioid painkillers. Pain is a complex phenomenon made up of various physical, mental and social components. Pain is our body’s way of signaling that something is wro­­ng. However, when that pain does not go away despite treatments, that pain is known as chronic pain.

Chronic pain can have a range of causes and the reasons for chronic pain have been debated for years in the medical community. Pain medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first approach to treating pain. They are non-addictive and relatively efficient. However, NSAIDs are not always strong enough, and that is when more powerful painkiller medications known as opioids are used. Unfortunately, these opioid pain medications have a tendency to form dependency in many people.

The use of marijuana for pain relief has a long history. However, recently cannabis has received increased attention after several clinical trials reveal the benefits marijuana had on managing pain for chronic pain sufferers.

Still, we are just at the beginning of understanding the benefits of using cannabis for pain management. Therefore, do you agree with the new CDC guidelines? Clearly, it could be a potential harm reduction strategy to reduce the amounts of overdoses occurring due to opioid painkillers. Only time will tell. Remember if you are struggling with any form of substance dependency that you are not alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Should There Be Drug Testing at Music Festivals?

Should There Be Drug Testing at Music Festivals?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Have you ever been to a music festival? It is something incredible; there really isn’t anything like the vibrant experience of camping out for a few days among thousands of other colorful characters and concert lovers to see live bands and exciting events around the clock. The fun of dancing all day with friends and complete strangers is something I think everyone should try at least once.

Drugs are also a familiar factor to music festivals. In reaction to the presence of dangerous narcotics at these venues, and many instances of people overdosing and even dying while attending concerts and abusing drugs, some say that there needs to be a more prominent plan in place to combat overdose.

Should there be drug testing at music festivals?

But not the kind of drug testing you’re probably thinking of.

Education VS Prohibition

Some experts are insisting that the current approach to drugs at music festivals and clubs does not work, suggesting if things stay this way more deaths are sure to be a result unless pill testing is made available at festivals.

Yes… meaning people would not be screened for drugs, but rather they would be able to TEST their drugs to see what they are really made of?

The Noffs Foundation works with young people with drug and alcohol problems, and the chief executive officer Matt Noffs disagrees with a stricter approach, saying the solution to preventing deaths is in education not prohibition.

After the death of Sylvia Choi at Sydney’s Stereosonic Festival there has been a renewed call for drug testing stations at such events with the intention of checking the content of pills, powders and tablets. In a stance aligned with harm reduction the NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge supported the concept believing that radical measures are necessary since festival-goers are continuing to take drugs of uncertain origin. Mr. Shoebridge thought music festivals should also provide amnesty bins so people could dump drugs without fear of prosecution.

“Giving people accurate information on drugs is plain common sense, especially when we know they are being produced by criminals with no concern for what’s in them,”

“Much of Europe and the UK have acknowledged drug testing kits are part of the solution to reduce harm, it’s only bloody-minded ideology from the police that is preventing their use in Australia,”

This isn’t the first time something like this has been suggested of course. The concept of allowing people who have every intention of taking drugs to at least be aware of the risks they are taking has been implemented before in an attempt to at least curb the overdose death rate.

Testing the Drugs You Take

There are a few examples of the good this kind of drug testing has done. In August, Canada’s Shambhala music festival offered a drug checking service. People attending the event could test a small piece of a pill or a sliver of a tab to check its contents before ingesting the substance without repercussions.

The next month in September at the UK’s Bestival music event a journalist for Vice helped music festival attendees to drug test the pills and other narcotics they were using with some impactful results:

  • Some drugs were indeed what people were expecting.
  • Others were little more than indigestion and heartburn pills crushed together.
  • The real results came when the drug testing determined some ecstasy pills to be cut with para-Methoxyamphetamine, or PMA, a far stronger and more toxic drug than MDMA, which may have been responsible for 100 deaths in the UK.

Noffs Foundation CEO Matt Noffs believes the old ways of zero-tolerance punishment, persecution and overbearing scrutiny are not helping as much as they should be, standing by harm reduction to help save lives he stated:

“The reality is we know most young people have tried illicit substances and many of those will have used ecstasy. ‘Say no to drugs’ doesn’t work … and to think that our laws are blindly pushing through hoping it will work is foolhardy and is costing young lives. Harm reduction is much more effective.”

Mr. Noffs conducted a small online Twitter survey of 1000 people just days before Stereosonic to support the concept of implementing drug testing stations. According to his survey 72% of people favored pill testing over drug dogs.

Supporting Harm Reduction

Many others stand by Mr. Noffs’ advocating of drug testing stations at music festivals, including emergency physician and illicit drug use expert David Caldicott. Caldicott said drug testing to see what illicit substances are made of before people took them had been proven to minimize death and injuries before.

At many European festivals, people appeared more than willing to have their drugs tested to check for their purity, according to the University of Canberra associate professor, who also said that as many as half say they would throw away drugs that were suspected to be impure or contaminated with other harmful chemicals.

So is this a good strategy? Some people think this would encourage drug use at these venues, much like those same people would say needle exchange programs and safe injection sites are more of a hazard than a helpful resource. While it is always important to preserve life as much as possible, is it right to condone drug use? Or is this a effective and proactive way of avoiding unnecessary deaths?

Addiction and drug abuse have become relevant in everyday life. Police, politicians, educators and community leaders are constantly working together to try and create a change in perspective, and it seems as time goes on more people are supporting harm reduction. Still, long lasting recovery depends on a real solution, which offers freedom from drug abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free e 1-800-951-6135

 

 

 

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