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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 17, 2017

    arrestedOver half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

    A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

    Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this same period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

    Among those in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had use cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

    “Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

    Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder’ by young people have declined significantly.

    An abstract of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” is online here. My commentary about the data, “Blowing the lid off the marijuana treatment racket,” appears on Alternet.org here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 15, 2015

    marijuana_gavelOver half of all people admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues over the past decade were referred there by a criminal justice source, according to a report published this month by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

    In the years 2003 through 2013, 52 percent of people in drug treatment for marijuana as their ‘primary substance of abuse’ were referred by the criminal justice system. Of those, almost half (44 percent) entered treatment as a component of their probation or parole.

    Only 18 percent of marijuana treatment admissions were based upon self-referrals. Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all other drug-related admissions combined to have been self- or individually referred to treatment.

    The data mirrors those of previous federal reports finding that only a small percentage of those entering treatment for marijuana perceive that they are abusing cannabis or have even used the substance recently.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 30, 2015

    cannabis_pillsCannabis use is associated with improved outcomes in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing outpatient treatment, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

    Researchers at Columbia University assessed the use of cannabinoids versus placebo in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing in-patient detoxification and outpatient treatment with naltrexone, an opiate receptor antagonist. Investigators reported that the administration of oral THC (dronabinol) during the detoxification process lowered the severity of subjects’ withdrawal symptoms compared to placebo, but that these effects did not persist over the entire course of treatment. By contrast, patients who consumed herbal cannabis during the outpatient treatment phase were more readily able to sleep, were less anxious, and were more likely to complete their treatment as compared to those subjects who did not.

    “One of the interesting study findings was the observed beneficial effect of marijuana smoking on treatment retention,” authors concluded. “Participants who smoked marijuana had less difficulty with sleep and anxiety and were more likely to remain in treatment as compared to those who were not using marijuana, regardless of whether they were taking dronabinol or placebo.”

    The findings replicate those of two prior studies, one from 2001 and another from 2009, reporting greater treatment adherence among subjects who consumed cannabis intermittently during outpatient therapy.

    Population data from states where medicinal cannabis is permitted report lower rates of opioid-abuse and mortality as compared to those states where the plant is prohibited. Clinical data and case reports also indicate that the adjunctive use of cannabis may wean patients from opiates while successfully managing their pain. Survey data of state qualified medical cannabis patients demonstrates that subjects with access to the plant often substitute it for opioids because they perceive it to possess fewer adverse side effects.

    Overdose deaths involving opioids have increased dramatically in recent years. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

    An abstract of the study, “The effects of dronabinol during detoxification and the initiation of treatment with extended release naltrexone,” appears online here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 11, 2013

    The Obama Administration has released its National Drug Control Budget for the FY 2014 and despite their claims that “the war on drugs is over” and that they have “bigger fish to fry” the Office National Drug Control Policy is still prioritizing failed drug war tactics over prevention and treatment.

    whbud2The new budget calls for 9.6 billion dollars to be spent on domestic law enforcement, 3.7 billion for interdiction, and 1.4 billion for international drug control efforts.

    Prevention, in the form of education and outreach efforts, receives a paltry $1.4 billion dollars. While this is a 5% increase over the previous year’s budget, it is still a minuscule sum when you consider we are spending nine times more on arresting people than we are to educate them on risks of drug use and stop them from ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place. The budget calls for an additional 9.3 billion to be spent on treatment programs for those considered to have drug abuse issues (though $80 million of this funding goes to the drug court program, infamous for giving defendants the “choice” of serving time in rehab or spending time in a jail cell).

    For all their rhetoric, this recent budget shows that little has changed in the federal government’s priorities when it comes to the War on Drugs. Funding is still disproportionately spent arresting people or diverting them into treatment programs after the fact, while only a small fraction (13%) of the overall drug budget is spent trying to fix the problem before it starts.

    It is time for the Obama Administration’s policy to match its language on the issue of drug law reform. President Obama once promised that he would allow science and factual evidence to guide his administration on issues of public policy, but when it comes to marijuana laws, we are still waiting for him to deliver.

    You can view the full text of the budget here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 1, 2012

    This Week in Weed

    Click here to subscribe to NORMLtv and receive alerts whenever new content is added.

    The latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

    This week: A new study shows cannabis use decreases mortality rate in patients with schizophrenia and related ailments and Rhode Island’s Governor signs a bill allowing for “Compassion Centers.”

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze14eG39at0[/youtube]

    Also, check out this latest NORML PSA, featuring some great rhyming on the problems of prohibition, submitted to us from artist Will Brennan:
    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYN-qqbLq0M[/youtube]

    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

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