Deadly Habits; Drugs, Tobacco and Alcohol

200 Million People Worldwide Use Illegal Drugs, Study Says

An estimated 200 million people worldwide use illegal drugs, according to a new study. The health consequences of this use are wide-ranging, researchers report this week in The Lancet.

They include

  • overdose,
  • dependence,
  • violence or injury due to intoxication, as well as
  • heart disease,
  • mental disorders and
  • cirrhosis.

The Los Angeles Times reports that

  • 125 to 203 million people use marijuana,
  • 14 million to 56 million use amphetamines,
  • 12 million to 21 million use opioids, and
  • 14 million to 21 million use cocaine.

In addition, 11 million to 21 million inject drugs. An estimated 15 million to 39 million are considered problem drug users, the article notes.

Illegal drug use is highest in developed countries, the researchers found. They point out that many people who use illegal drugs take more than one drug.

The major adverse health effects of marijuana are dependence, and probably psychotic disorders and other mental disorders, the researchers conclude. They say that marijuana is unlikely to be deadly.

Drugs caused 2.1 million years of life lost in 2004, followed by alcohol, which caused a loss of 1.5 million years, according to the World Health Organization. Drug-related deaths tend to strike younger people, accounting for the higher number of years of life lost compared with other causes of death.

Overall,

  • illegal drugs led to 250,000 deaths in that year, compared with
  • 5.1 million deaths due to tobacco, and
  • 2.25 million due to alcohol.

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Bath Salts’ Warning

bath-salts Drug Czar Issues Bath Salts‘ Warning

February 7, 2011. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued a nationwide warning about the dangers of legal synthetic drugs often marketed as bath salts while various states moved to ban them, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The powdered stimulants — sold online, in gas stations and drug paraphernalia stores as bath salts and plant food under names like "Ivory Wave" — are said to produce highs like cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines. Active ingredients include 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (known as MPDV) and mephedrone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them for human consumption, but they have not been banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said the so-called "bath salts" can cause "chest pains, increased blood pressure and heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions," according to the AP. So far this year, 251 calls have been made about them to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, compared to 236 similar calls for all of last year.

"They pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who uses them," said Kerlikowske.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has introduced a bill that would put the chemicals on the federal list of controlled substances, Reuters reported Jan. 31.

"These so-called bath salts contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics, and they are being sold cheaply to all comers, with no questions asked, at store counters around the country," Schumer said. 

The European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel, as well as several states — Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, and West Virginia — have already banned the substances or are considering legislation to do so. 

In West Virginia, lawmakers were also moving to ban any future variations of the synthetic drugs, according to the Herald-Dispatch Jan. 31.

"We’ve tried to use generic language to cover those situations where a knowledgeable person could change the formulation on new designer drugs. As such, with the wording, that will be covered under the code as well," Delegate Don Perdue (D-Wayne) explained.

"We may not be able to burst the balloon, but we can at least push on it and deflate it a little to the point where it’s less threatening," he said.

The DEA is reviewing data on abuse of the synthetic stimulants but does not currently have plans to ban them. Spokesman Rusty Payne recommended that people avoid the drugs.

"Just because something is not illegal does not mean it’s safe," he said.

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Legal Drugs Kill Far More Than Illegal

Legal drugs are killers Legal Drugs Kill Far More Than Illegal, Florida Says

From “Scarface” to “Miami Vice,” Florida’s drug problem has been portrayed as the story of a single narcotic: cocaine. But for Floridians, prescription drugs are increasingly a far more lethal habit.

An analysis of autopsies in 2007 released this week by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission found that the rate of deaths caused by prescription drugs was three times the rate of deaths caused by all illicit drugs combined.

Law enforcement officials said that the shift toward prescription-drug abuse, which began here about eight years ago, showed no sign of letting up and that the state must do more to control it.

“You have health care providers involved, you have doctor shoppers, and then there are crimes like robbing drug shipments,” said Jeff Beasley, a drug intelligence inspector for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which co-sponsored the study. “There is a multitude of ways to get these drugs, and that’s what makes things complicated.”

Full story at the New York Times

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