Lawmaker says top issue for constituents is marijuana; oncologist advocates for safe access


02/12/2017 12:39 PM

Far and away the largest number of phone calls from constituents of Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, are in support of marijuana legalization, and he says he’s heard plenty of other lawmakers also getting the calls.

Nemes recently published online what voters are calling him about, and in a phone interview with Pure Politics he said the calls on marijuana come in three forms: advocating for medical marijuana in pill form, medical marijuana that can be smoked and full-scale state legalization of the federally illegal drug.

“I’m getting contacted on all three of those areas, I don’t know where I am on it, but the Kentucky Medical Association tells me there’s no studies that show that it’s effective,” Nemes said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Dr. Don Stacy, a board certified radiation oncologist who works in the Kentucky and Indiana areas, said there’s a reason there’s no studies proving effectiveness — studies have not been allowed to take place.

“It’s one of those things where we can’t provide randomized phase three studies in cannabis without making it legal — that is the gold standard for any sort of medicine,” Stacy said. “We have a variety of studies of that nature from other countries of course, but American physicians are very particular about American data. The database we have now is plenty enough to say we shouldn’t be arresting patients for trying to help themselves.”

Stacy said he became interested in marijuana after he noticed some of his patients were doing better with treatment than similar patients. In reviewing their records and through private discussions with the patients, he learned “a significant portion” of those doing better were the patients using marijuana.

“I was surprised by that,” he said. “I’ve always been a skeptic of alternative medicines, but then I began to research the data. I was impressed with the data.”

Dr. Stacy said he’s had some particular patients who showed minor or moderate improvements or side effects, but patients who had to stop treatment because the toxicity of the treatment was so severe. The patients who had to stop treatment tried marijuana, and then they were able to complete their treatments showing “dramatic differences,” Stacy said.

Because of the improvements in patients, Stacy is advocating for safe and legal access to the drug.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia allow access to medical marijuana in different forms. Through those states allowing access, Stacy said several show improvements outside of overall medical care.

In states that have legalized medical marijuana the suicide rate has dropped by 10 percent among males 18 to 40, he said.

“It says when people have serious medical or behavioral issues — if you cannot find the treatment that helps you then some people decide to end their lives, and cannabis apparently prevents a certain portion of people from doing that.”

Stacy said that there is also a 10 percent decrease in physicians prescribing narcotics in medical marijuana states. The effect of that, Stacy said is a 25 percent decrease in overdose deaths linked to narcotics in states with medical cannabis laws. With the level of heroin and opiate abuse in Kentucky, he said there would be positive effects seen here too.

“I think that one-quarter of the people who will overdose and die of narcotics in this state in this year would be alive if we had a medical cannabis law.”

CONTINUE READING…

U.S. Attorney General addresses opioid, heroin addiction during Richmond town hall


BY CRITLEY KING CNHI News Service

Lynch

RICHMOND — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke to a crowded auditorium at a Town Hall meeting in Richmond as part of the Obama Administration’s newly designated National Prescription Opium and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.

The audience, mainly consisting of young people, was addressed on the dangers of heroin and opioid addiction, the pathways that lead to destruction, and the redeeming hope that help is available.

“I want to hear your questions, I want to hear your comments, I want to hear your ideas about how we can solve this (crisis), and about how we can prevent this,” said Lynch on Tuesday at Madison Central High School. “It’s not just putting people in jail, its about stopping it before it happens. And making sure people that do have a problem get treated.”

In her opening comments, Lynch asked the nearly 500 students if they had been considering where they would go to college, what careers they had planned for their futures, whether as journalists, doctors, law enforcement, teachers or fashion bloggers.

Then, Lynch told the students to look around at their classmates and friends and asked them to consider that last year, in Kentucky, approximately 12,000 died from opioid and heroin abuse overdoses.

“Imagine if all of you and others who fill these chairs were suddenly gone,” said Lynch. “And then that each of you had a friend, just one of your friends each, all gone. That’s what happened last year in Kentucky. That’s why this is so important.”

The chief law enforcement officer in the U.S. spoke about not only the problem of substance abuse and how to stop it, but also how to prevent it from even starting.

Lynch also put out a call to action to the students.

“We are talking to young people like you, because you have a role in this effort,” she said. “We want you to understand the issues, we went you to understand how serious it is, and we went to give you the information you need to make good choices in your own life. We also need you to look out for each other.”

During a question and answer session with local high school students, Kayla Greene, who lost her son to overdose, Tonya Snyder, MCHS social worker, Alex Elswick, a recovered addict, and MCHS student Julia Rahimzadeh, joined Lynch onstage.

Later in the day, Lynch traveled to make remarks at the University of Kentucky. Both events were part of the awareness week and the President’s Cabinet and Federal agencies’ focus on work being done/new efforts to address the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, according to a release by the Office of the Press Secretary.

The release also noted that Federal agencies are currently taking actions such as:

Expanding substance abuse treatment in the TRICARE system so that it includes intensive outpatient programs and treatment of opioid disorders with medication-assisted treatment.

Working with the Chinese government to combat the supply of fentanyl and its analogues from entering the U.S.

Increasing patient limits from 100 to 275 for practitioners prescribing buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

Support programs that increase access to healthcare, substance abuse treatment, and educational opportunities in rural areas, such as telemedicine and distance learning.

Currently, the President is seeking $1.1 billion in new funding to combat opioid abuse.

During a press conference following the town hall meeting, Lynch told The Register, that one of the ways the Department of Justice funding specifically would assist communities on a local level would be through a grant making process that provides assistance to law enforcement through grants for additional officers, resources to help states improve their prescription drug monitoring programs and provide examples of programs that are working efficiently and consistently.

Lynch reiterated that administration wide, when treatment is spoken of, they are referring to improving and increasing the availability of treatment facilities and also treatment within local hospitals.

Critley King writes for The Richmond Register.

CONTINUE READING…

Black market fentanyl use increasing in Kentucky


  • Deborah Highland
  • Aug 15, 2016

    ent3

    Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, was found in the toxicology screens of 420 people who died in Kentucky last year of drug overdoses.

    That’s a 247 percent increase from 2014, when 121 people who died of drug overdoses had fentanyl in their toxicology screens, according to numbers provided by Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

    “We’re seeing a huge uptick in fentanyl in Kentucky,” Ingram said.

    Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used in hospitals during surgery and is also provided in pain patches to people with severe, chronic pain, such as a cancer patient. But unlike opioid pain pills that have been diverted to the black market for years, pharmaceutical fentanyl isn’t what street dealers or drug abusers are using, Ingram said.

    “We’re not seeing pharmaceutical fentanyl being diverted but instead it is being produced out of the country and being smuggled in,” Ingram said.

    The drug is being made in clandestine labs primarily in Mexico and China, he said.

    “We’ve not seen a lot of labs in the United States, although there have been a few. The real danger of fentanyl is it is so powerful that skin exposure or powder exposure through the mouth and nose can put law enforcement at great risk,” Ingram said.

    Recently, the DEA sent out a warning to law enforcement agencies urging officers not to conduct field testing on suspected fentanyl and to instead package it and send it off to a crime lab for testing, he said.

    Most often when police encounter fentanyl, it’s found in heroin or being sold as heroin. But with the availability of pill presses, some dealers are using fentanyl to make pills that look like real pharmaceutical products such as oxycodone.

    “If an individual buys pills off the street, there is really no assurance that what it says on the pill is really what they are getting because of the black market use of pill presses and other drugs,” Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving said. “By buying pills on the street, it could actually turn out to be a fatal error in judgment.”

    The DEA has seized pills all over the country that look like one drug but in reality contain illegally produced fentanyl, Ingram said.

    “It’s really scary stuff with people making their own opioids and shipping them across the country,” he said.

    “What we’re seeing is a lot of fentanyl analogs as well. It’s not the same chemical compound you would find in pharmaceutical fentanyl. You don’t know what you’re getting, or how powerful it is,” Ingram said.

    Narcotics investigators in Warren County haven’t seen much of the drug, Loving said.

    “But we’re very much aware of it, and it’s dangerous,” he said.

    “It’s much more potent than heroin and there are different versions of it being manufactured. … A little bit of this powder, if you come into contact with it on your fingers or skin or happen to breathe a little bit of it, can be fatal. And we are looking into obtaining Narcan for all of our detectives in part due to this danger that they may now be exposed to,” Loving said.

    Narcan is a drug that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.

    South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force Director Jacky Hunt already has Narcan for his investigators, who unknowingly encountered the drug last year during an undercover drug buy. Officers thought the purchase was of heroin.

    When Hunt received the lab testing results of the substance his agency bought, the drug turned out to be fentanyl instead.

    “My guys handled fentanyl and didn’t even know it,” Hunt said.

    The drug is most often seen with heroin in Kentucky or sold as heroin, Ingram said.

    Ingram’s office has written some grant requests to try to obtain Narcan for law enforcement in an attempt to save as many lives as possible, he said.

    — Follow Assistant City Editor Deborah Highland on Twitter at twitter.com/BGDNCrimebeat or visit bgdailynews.com.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Cannabis

  • Maryland has recently been cited as a state with a high rate of opioid addiction, and now some are seeing legalizing marijuana as taking a lead against the epidemic and are also urging southern states like Kentucky to join in.


    https://i1.wp.com/cdn.inquisitr.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Tennessee-Congressional-Candidate-Had-180-Marijuana-Plants-On-Property.jpg

    Maryland has recently been cited as a state with a high rate of opioid addiction, and now some are seeing legalizing marijuana as taking a lead against the epidemic and are also urging southern states like Kentucky to join in.

    Newsmax reports that nine states will be voting on marijuana legalization in 2016, but is there some specific reason Maryland is urging southern states to join in?

    The Hill explained in an opinion piece on August 4 that Maryland will be fighting back at the opioid epidemic in their state by legalizing marijuana. They also state that some drug treatment specialists in Maryland are considering medical cannabis as treatment for opioid addiction due to a recent study from the University of Georgia.

    Citizens in the state of Kentucky have also expressed an interest in this form of opioid treatment, but medical marijuana is still illegal in the state despite recent considerations, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.

    Part of the reason that Maryland could be urging other states to join in with legalizing cannabis pertains to the lack of opioid treatment options in other states in the south.

    For example, NPR reported on June 15 that those in the opioid treatment industry in Georgia were outraged when the state decided to place limits on opening new clinics.

    The rehabilitation clinics they do have are needed because Georgia has almost 70 opioid treatment programs. By contrast, nearby Tennessee has 12, Alabama has 24, and Mississippi has one.

    Although any clinic for opioid addiction is better than no clinic at all, many Kentuckians have learned from states like Massachusetts, that they need to have medical marijuana options, specifically for opioid addiction, according to CBS News.

    States that use marijuana to treat addiction could also become leaders because the numbers of opioid deaths are rapidly increasing nationwide.

    Whether it is heroin, painkillers, or fentanyl, Americans are now dying at higher rates from opioid drugs, and the rate exceeds other types of accidents. For example, Vox wrote on June 2 that more Americans were killed by painkillers (42,000) in 2014 than car crashes (34,000), or gun violence (34,000).

    Naturally, any help Kentucky can get to fight opioid addiction with or without legalizing marijuana would be welcome, and a 2015 report from the Boston Globe about the epidemic in Eastern Kentucky quoted a drug treatment prevention worker stating the following.

    “We’ve lost a whole generation of people who would have been paying taxes, and buying homes, and contributing to society.”

    Eastern Kentucky has been highly documented in regards to having one of the worst opioid epidemics in America, and an investigative report about the Appalachian crisis in the Guardian in 2014 stated that “stigma and inadequate access to treatment are the biggest barriers to overcoming the ongoing crisis in Appalachia and across the country.”

    However, outside of being an effective treatment for battling the state’s opioid epidemic, many Kentuckians are excited to see the other improvements that legalizing marijuana, or hemp, could have for economies like the one in Eastern Kentucky.

    According to some reports, the process begins with decriminalizing marijuana. The act of decriminalization of marijuana will also likely protect the prominent illegal operations already deeply entrenched in Eastern Kentucky, as described by Columbus Dispatch.

    Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana published a 2013 study by Charles B. Fields, Ph.D., Professor of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, that stated “economic benefits… can be realized by the State of Kentucky by both receiving tax benefits and reducing expenditures enforcing current marijuana laws.”

    In other words, there is a price to pay to keep marijuana illegal in Kentucky, and legalizing cannabis or decriminalizing the growing, selling, or distribution could reduce Kentucky’s overall drug enforcement costs.

    Currently, the unregulated marijuana industry in Eastern Kentucky produces an estimated $4 billion per year, according to a commonly cited 2008 History Channel documentary on Appalachia called Hillbilly: The Real Story.

    CONTINUE READING…

    The reality of addiction…


    Eva Holland

    Yesterday at 1:38pm · Instagram ·

    I’m sure this photo makes a lot of people uncomfortable it may even piss a few people off but the main reason I took it was to show the reality of addiction. If you don’t choose recovery every single day this will be your only way out. No parent should have to bury their child and no child as young as ours should have to bury their parent. This was preventable it didn’t have to happen but one wrong choice destroyed his family. I know a lot of people may be upset I’m putting it out in the open like This but hiding the facts is only going to keep this epidemic going. The cold hard truth is heroin kills. You may think it will never happen to you but guess what that’s what Mike thought too. We were together 11 years. I was there before it all started. I knew what he wanted out of this life, all his hopes and dreams. He never would’ve imagined his life would turn out this way. He was once so happy and full of life. He was a great son, brother, friend but most importantly he was a great dad. He loved those kids more than anything. But as we all know sometimes life gets tough and we make some wrong choices. His addiction started off with pain pills then inevitably heroin. He loved us all so much he decided enough was enough and went to rehab at the end of last year. He got out right before Christmas as a brand new man. He had found His purpose for living again, he found his gorgeous smile again, he became the man, the son, the brother, the dad that we all needed him to be again. He did so good for so long but then a couple months ago It started with a single pill for a “tooth ache” which inevitably lead him back down the road of addiction instead of staying the coarse of recovery. He said he could handle it, that he could stop on his own and didn’t need to get help again. Well he was wrong, last Wednesday he took his last breath. My kids father, the man I loved since I was a kid, a great son and a great person lost his battle. I just needed to share his story in case it can help anyone else.

    Eva Holland's photo.