Pot and Driving: Designated Straight Person?

Pot and Driving: Designated Straight Person?

By on Aug 26, 2015 in Drug/Alcohol Insight, Drug/Alcohol Laws | 0 comments

With marijuana for medical and recreational use gaining increasing acceptance and popularity across the nation, the social issues this raises have been examined from many sides. What about impairment in the workplace? What course of action should employers take? What are the health risks of extended use? How does pot intoxication compare with alcohol? How does this shift impact drug testing? Now one concern thoroughly explored on the alcohol side is coming under increasing scrutiny for pot users: what are the effects (and threats) on driving and driving safety from marijuana? And furthermore, what is the effect of both on a driver? New studies are examining the issue from various angles: statistics, anecdotal, and testing of reflexes and blood content. One aim of these studies is to establish consistent legal and law enforcement guidelines for permitted thresholds of THC (the active chemical in pot) in drivers, aimed at developing drug testing guidelines like those used for alcohol at police traffic stops. It took decades to arrive at the widely-accepted 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) as the legal limit for driving in many states. Finding such a limit for THC may be much more problematic. Just as alcohol can affect individuals differently based on sex, body type, consumption, and rate of metabolizing, marijuana has a considerable range of impact. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse was conducted at the University of Iowa, on a virtual reality driving simulator. Much like professional flight simulators, the system in Iowa uses variable motion and high-end computer graphics to provide a realistic visual, auditory, and visceral experience of driving. It tested the impact of alcohol, THC, and both on driving ability, with placebo control groups as a comparison. Here are some of the findings: Pot and alcohol users both had significant decline in driving ability and increase in errors such as failure to stay in lanes. Experienced pot users had fewer effects on their driving than novices at the same THC blood levels. Drivers intoxicated on THC were more aware of their limitations than those on alcohol, and took measures like driving slower to compensate. Drivers on both pot and alcohol at the same time had higher decline of driving ability...

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And the Future of Drug Testing Is…

By on Feb 20, 2015 in Drug Testing | 0 comments

When drug testing professionals speculate about the future of the industry, the talk tends towards topics like more reliable tests, more sensitive tests, tamper-proofing, keeping up with new designer drugs. But what if the industry were to go off in a whole new direction? The choice of which drugs to test for usually hinges on issues of addiction, physical harm, and the danger of actions while intoxicated. One area of exception is in professional and amateur sports. Drug testing in sports is designed to eliminate unfair competitive edges (and in some cases to minimize harm to athlete users.) Now there are similar questions being raised regarding unfair mental advantages. While some drugs that enhance mental acuity and alertness—certain amphetamines, for example—are controlled substances, many are classified as dietary supplements. Others are drugs that are normally prescribed for other purposes but which some users (or abusers) employ for additional concentration or mental ability. Nootropics are substances intended to boost certain mental functions, like attention, memory, and motivation. They may also be called cognitive supplements, intelligence enhancers, smart drugs, or memory enhancers. One of the most common (and legal) substances used for these purposes is caffeine. Who among us hasn’t dosed up on coffee, tea, or No-Doz to cram for college exams or get a last-minute project finished for work? Nicotine is another legal substance used for similar reasons, although evidence is clear that long-term use of nicotine-containing products can have devastating health consequences. In recent years, more and more substances have entered this arena. Some are perfectly legal and appear to do little harm. Omega-3 fish oils, ginseng, lemon balm, sage, rosemary, tyrosine, and certain amino acids—these all can be gotten from health food and vitamin stores and have varied effects on mental function and memory. There are also prescription drugs like Modafinil—normally used to treat narcolepsy but also employed by the military and law enforcement for extended periods of wakefulness and alertness—which some users are using to boost mental acuity. Now questions are being raised about the fairness of using Modafinil in competitive areas. Some students at Cambridge and Oxford in England are calling for drug testing prior to exams, expressing their opinions that fellow students using such drugs...

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Drug Testing in the Workplace: Part One—How’s It Faring?

Drug Testing in the Workplace: Part One—How’s It Faring?

By on Feb 6, 2015 in Drug Testing, Drug/Alcohol Laws | 0 comments

Quest Diagnostic recently reported a dramatic three-decade drop in positive drug test results from American workers—from 13.6% in 1988 to 3.7% in 2013 for urinalysis tests! Caution is advised, however, to anyone who feels we are winning the war on drugs and we can let down our guard. What this really indicates is that workplace-based drug testing is highly effective in keeping the dangers of drug abuse in our businesses to a minimum. Regular and ongoing testing programs are an essential part of any conscientious workplace safety program. And the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) observes that a closer look at the facts is warranted to reveal the real truth. 2013 also saw the first increase in positive drug results in the past 10 years. While we’re still on a good track for success, some drug use has gone up alarmingly in recent years. The legalization of recreational marijuana has contributed to some recent spikes. Overall, states are reporting a steady 5% rise in positive test rates for pot, while states like Washington and Colorado are showing over 20% in increases. The real alarm bells, though, are being set off by prescription drug abuse. Opiates like oxycodone are triggering a doubling in positive tests in the last decade, while amphetamine positives have tripled since 1997. While no consistent federal policy has created regulations promoting drug testing in private companies, employers are discovering the benefits of testing programs on their own. In addition to increases in productivity and workplace safety, testing is made more attractive for many employers through discounts on workers’ comp premiums when testing is in place. And employers discover that high-value employees are attracted to work environments that are safer. Private companies don’t often invite government interference in their business affairs. But many business owners are finding themselves wishing the federal government would generate some consistent guidelines regarding which tests are most effective and which drugs should be tested for. As it is, employers have to figure that out for themselves. Many are looking beyond the basic five panel test, recognizing that more prescription drugs and designer drugs are making inroads into the workplace. Having industry-wide research-based standards in place would help businesses greatly in making...

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How Fair is Drug Testing for Welfare?

How Fair is Drug Testing for Welfare?

By on Jan 28, 2015 in Alcohol Testing, Drug Testing | 0 comments

A two-decade-old debate around drug testing of welfare recipients rages on. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently submitted a budget that included drug testing of all recipients of food stamp and unemployment benefits. He backed down on the food stamp portion, but is proceeding in other areas of welfare testing. Meanwhile, Maine is proceeding with the development and implementation of a narrower, more suspicion-based drug testing program for those on public aid. Twelve states—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah—have passed legislation concerning drug screening for either applicants or recipients of public aid. Many more states have attempted such programs, but those based on random testing were defeated by a 2003 case upheld in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which declared such testing without reason to suspect drug use was unconstitutional. Opponents of all testing of this kind maintain that it discriminates against the poor. Those who are against even suspicion-based testing claim that it opens the door for racial or ethnic profiling. Some states have avoided these objections by requiring testing of individuals with criminal records for drug offenses, stating that they are demonstrably at higher risk for drug use. Few would argue that money intended for the feeding, clothing, and housing of poor families and children should not go toward the purchase of illegal drugs. The problem appears in coming up with a method of determining who should be tested. Some states still push for the blanket testing of all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), while others try to narrow the field. Utah requires welfare applicants to complete a questionnaire that screens for drug use. Then there’s the question of what to do about those who test positive. Both the Wisconsin and Maine plans included provisions for continuing payments for those who test positive if they enroll in a drug treatment program. The 1996 federal welfare reform places restrictions on those who receive TANF, but includes exceptions in specific case. Other states must submit requests for waivers from particular requirements. The bottom line is this: nearly every state has proposed some form of testing or screening for applicants. It seems unlikely that, with that kind of momentum, such...

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Marijuana Candy: That’s Not Just a Sugar Rush!

Marijuana Candy: That’s Not Just a Sugar Rush!

By on Jan 28, 2015 in Drug/Alcohol News | 0 comments

In a 2013 blog entry, we warned of the dangers to trick-or treating-kids on Halloween of candy laced with marijuana. Illicit street dealers were creating all kinds of candies that contained some form of cannabis, both for convenience, as a new and marketable product, and to help illegal users avoid detection. Flash forward to 2015. In the last year, the number of states decriminalizing recreational pot rose to 18, while 28 states allow medical marijuana. And most of the stores and dispensaries offer some form of edible pot: lollipops, gummy candy, pastries, sodas—the list is limited only by the imagination of the entrepreneurs. The danger of such edibles ending up in the hands of children has skyrocketed. Evidence has also mounted of the hazard of edible pot for adult users. Part of the problem is that the marijuana marketed today is much more potent than that available in the 1960’s—sometimes dozens of times more powerful. Selective breeding and market demand has made it so. Add to that the delay in the onset of intoxication symptoms when ingesting pot and you have the recipe for disaster. Even veteran users can overdose on these tempting treats. More and more reports are coming in of adults lapsing into comas, dying from respiratory arrest, being involved in automobile and other accidents, having psychotic breaks and hallucinations, and engaging in extreme violence, all after succumbing to extraordinarily high levels of the drug in their bodies. The risk for children is even higher. Few of these food products are labeled, other than on their container or their wrapper. A handful of pot-laced gummy bears looks just like innocent candy. But a child eating even one of these is at great risk, both because of their small body weight and because of the differing chemistry of children and adults. And if they are unaware of the drug presence in an edible, the hazard is heightened even more. When was the last time you stopped at one cookie? If a single cookie or lollipop or gummy bear is a potent dose for an adult, imagine what happens to 6-year-old’s brain and body after consuming a half dozen or more! Some state legislatures are attempting to deal with...

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New Dangers on the Synthetic Drug Front

By on Jun 30, 2014 in Drug Testing in the Home, Drug Testing in the Workplace, Drug/Alcohol Insight, Teenagers | 0 comments

  Dealers do their best to makes the product sound harmless: spice, K2, molly, bath salts, herbal incense, plant food. Some are even sold under the guise of legitimate products in head shops and gas stations and online. But they are all part of an escalating trend to produce and market synthetic drugs to a demanding marketplace. While lawmakers and law enforcement does its best to keep up, new drugs appear constantly—some with horrific effects. “Synthetic drugs” is a term most often applied to synthetic marijuana or cannabinoids, designed to mimic the effects of pot, or synthetic cathinones, which are supposed to have a high similar to amphetamines. Fake pot, after real marijuana, is the most frequently used drug among high school seniors. In fact, the biggest group of users for synthetics is 12- to-17-year-olds! Synthetics Is a growth market The popularity of synthetics is rising in part because they are easy to make in quantity and easy to market to customers, often under those harmless sounding names. Another reason for the increase is the murky legal waters surrounding the substances. The federal government and 2/3 of the states have passed some form of laws banning the substances. But they all run into the problem of defining exactly what is illegal. As soon as one chemical formula is outlawed, manufacturers tinker with the compounds and come up with a variation which may—or may not—slip out from under the legal umbrella. The problem drug enforcers face is coming up with definitions broad enough to apply to the illegal substances without being so vague that they fail to hold up in court. There are an estimated over 500 compounds of synthetic cannabinoids alone. Horror stories keeping pace Unlike established drugs—which have their own deleterious effects on users—synthetics venture into unknown territories that can lead to strokes, seizures, psychosis, and death. Emergency rooms across the country are seeing an alarming spike in the number of overdose cases. Here are some of the disturbing recent cases linked to synthetics: In Colorado, in spite of the legalization of marijuana, synthetics are still popular. In August 2013, a bad batch of Spice apparently sent over 200 people to Denver area hospitals with an alarming range...

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Don’t Let Summer Be a Deadly Vacation for Your Teen

By on Jun 6, 2014 in Drug/Alcohol Insight | 0 comments

The National Safety Council warns us that from Memorial Day to Labor Day are the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. In 2012, nearly 1000 people were killed in crashes involving teens—more than half of them teens themselves. There are several reasons this is true—and all of them are amplified with drug and alcohol use. The sad fact is that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, who are three times more likely to crash as more experienced drivers. That danger increases during the summer for several reasons: More recreational driving—unlike driving to and from school or after-school jobs, recreational driving is more apt to involve distractions and inattention. More free time—all that extra time means more opportunities to go somewhere and that means more driving time—often on unfamiliar roads, which increases risk. Driving faster—something about that open road and friends waiting at the beach or the party makes a teen want to press harder on the accelerator. Staying out later—driving late at night when fatigued exponentially increases the possibility of accidents. Driving with friends—one of the biggest contributors to teen crashes is distractions by friends in the vehicle. According to the National Safety Council, just one teen passenger increases a teen driver’s crash risk by 48 percent. Three or more teen passengers increase crash risk by as much as 307 percent. Sunny summer days and warm nights mean cars full of laughing, boisterous teens. Alcohol and drugs—summertime is party time, and that inevitably means more exposure to alcohol and drugs. Add this to any of the above factors and you have a recipe for disaster. All of this can mean some tough decisions for parents of teens. You want your teen to enjoy their summer, but you also want them to be alive when fall arrives! There are two key strategies to helping teens drive responsibly: talking to them and setting boundaries and rules. Talk to your teen Regular, open communication is the most positive way to keep your teen aware of potential dangers and of how and why to act responsibly. And remember: they respond far better to stories than to statistics. Find examples from news and other media about the consequences of poor...

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Celebrity Addictions with Drugs/Alcohol

By on May 15, 2014 in Drug/Alcohol Insight |

The media is plastered with celebrities and their new current drug addictions. It is seen in people that are known and loved, such as Johnny Depp in the case of alcohol and Marilyn Monroe’s barbiturate overdose. Adorable childhood stars crumble behind the television sets, such as Lindsey Lohan with her coke and alcohol addiction or Macaulay Culkin in the case of Xanax and marijuana. Beautiful stars die under the curse of drugs, such as Brittany Murphy and her multiple drug overdose or Heath Ledger with his overdose of prescription drugs. The names strike anger hurt and pity in the hearts of fans all over the country until the question of “Why?” strikes each mind. The relationship between celebrities and drug or alcohol abuse seems to be a recurring romance. Yet not all celebrities use drugs and alcohol. So is it brought about by fame or is it simply a coincidence? Nothing is coincidence. Being a celebrity does not make someone turn to drugs and alcohol, it does, however, make it easier to do so. Celebrities are human despite their glowing demeanor. They go through hardships, breakups and emotional pain just like everyone else. What is often forgotten is the fact that there are thousands of drug addicts and alcoholics who are not in the spotlight and, therefore, not seen. Being famous is not what causes addiction. That being said, one must also realize that, for a celebrity, the world is at their fingertips. This causes drug possession to become a much easier task to accomplish. Certain strength is required to make it as a famous celebrity. One must have the will to say no when they are being offered everything. Again, celebrities are human, so this does not always work. Another thing to consider is the environments that celebrities subject themselves to. The hottest parties, backstage concerts and high end fashion shows all have their own back VIP rooms where drugs and alcohol flow like honey. Fame can be a blinding experience. Alcohol and drugs are handed freely to celebrities around every corner. The answer to the questions of whether fame makes an addict can only be answered on an individual basis, is it their fault for subjecting themselves...

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Permanent Costs of a DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

By on Apr 28, 2014 in Drug/Alcohol Laws | 0 comments

The effects of driving under the influence, or “DUI”, has a permanent costs at a number of different levels. The efforts to prevent people from drinking and driving may seem muted against the annual numbers of DUI victims. Simply stated, DUI is a costly experience. More people have been killed by DUI and affected by the impact than all the wars in the past 100 years. The cost to one’s life or the life of an innocent overshadows the economic cost that is also very penalizing. If you are arrested for a DUI, by the time you pay fines, court costs, bail, attorney fees and increased insurance, one can easily find their financial hit at about $10,000. This does not include medical expenses, lost wages or great increases in insurance if you or someone else is harmed, injured or killed. Some may think this is a steep financial cost, but this pales in comparison to the fatalities that result each day from DUI accidents. On average some one person dies from an alcohol related driving death every 45 minutes. Nearly 35% of all vehicular fatalities on U. S. roads are alcohol related. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is about 11,000 deaths each year. Many of these deaths involve innocent victims who were not driving under the influence but were the victims of someone else’s bad judgement. Since the threshold for what is considered DUI is the same standard of 0.08% blood alcohol level in every state in the United States, law enforcement has reported that over 1.4 million people are arrested each year for DUI related offenses. This means that harsh measure are taken to deter DUI behavior. For example, A DUI driver will expect to pay significant increase insurance premiums that may affect their rates over the next several years. Furthermore, these rates may easily double, triple or more. The other cost is your official DUI record. many people are not aware but they will have to live with two different DUI records. The first is a criminal record that regardless of whether the DUI charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, remains as a criminal record and could affect job assignments...

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Long Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

By on Mar 24, 2014 in Drug/Alcohol Insight | 0 comments

  Alcohol tends to start as a way to relax and unwind and for most people that same scenario is the norm and the habit does not become one that is life altering in any manner. That is not true, however, for those that have an addiction to alcohol. Once alcohol abuse begins, it starts a downward spiral where one suffers physical, emotional and financial costs that are directly related to the abuse of alcohol. Alcohol abuse has very distinct and detrimental physical effects. These range from the general state of well being when one is drunk and thus loses the ability to maintain balance, control or even remain awake. Those short term impacts on the body pale in comparison to what happens over the long term course of alcohol abuse. This is where one can have liver damage, reduced kidney functions, heart disease, weight gain, broken blood vessels in the face and neck and even a change in appearance as the body become bloated. The emotional cost of alcohol abuse is something that impacts not just the person addicted to alcohol but all friends, family and associates of the person as well. This is because the alcoholic has a deadened sense of self awareness and self worth as they tend to be in a haze most of the time and thus do not have the mental ability to think clearly. This worsens over time and eventually the emotional toll extends to others that feel shame, embarrassment and pity for the person. In addition, those same people feel helpless and hopeless at times when one who abuses alcohol refuses to accept responsibility, admit to having a problem or seeking and accepting help. The financial cost of long term alcohol abuse is one that an afterthought for many but one who abuses alcohol regularly will find that all available money is spent on alcohol. This grows over time, and especially when one requires more and more alcohol to feel any sort of effect. The cost is high from all angles and thus those with alcohol abuse issues need to seek out and get help to break the cycle of...

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