Just Say Know Drug Education Roundup – April 2020

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Welcome to the Just Say Know monthly roundup! Here we will be sharing the latest in drug education and harm reduction each month.

Our Virtual Conference was a success! We will be sharing session videos soon, and in the meantime, join us in our new Slack Channel, which we revived during the conference. Included there is a Just Say Know channel for us to discuss and vision our drug education of the future, which we started in response to our conference session of the same name!

Research Updates

Cannabis

In a recent study surveying attendees of popular cannabis advocacy event Hash Bash, researchers found that many attendees did not have adequate knowledge about cannabis. The lead author of the study noted, “Even the people who are most enthusiastic have very poor knowledge of cannabinoid content. They greatly overestimated how much THC and how much CBD was in various strains, and what the effective dosages were.” 

In a systematic review of human trials of cannabidiol, researchers sought to determine dosage, efficacy, and safety of CBD for adults. Despite differing methodologies and variables, they found, “ . . .  evidence to support single dose positive effect on social anxiety disorder, short medium-term effects on symptomatic improvement in schizophrenia and lack of effect in the short medium-term on cognitive functioning in psychotic disorders. Overall, the administration was well tolerated with mild side effects.”

Researchers from Johns Hopkins explored the impact of cannabis use on self-reported opioid withdrawal and found that of the 200 study participants, about 62 percent of them used cannabis to address symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Of the symptom relief reported, participants noted that anxiety, tremors, and difficulty sleeping were among those most positively impacted by cannabis use. About 6 percent of participants noted that cannabis use worsened their withdrawal symptoms, especially yawning, teary eyes, and runny nose. 

Despite more and more states legalizing cannabis, and cannabis use among youth decreasing, black and brown teens are still more likely to be punished for possession

Alcohol

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina determined a brain region is responsible for controlling binge drinking. The discovery was made when researchers found that “deactivating a stress-signaling system in a brain area known for motivation and emotion-related behaviors decreases[d] binge drinking.” The kappa opioid receptor is distinct from other opioid receptors in that it produces stress and discontent when activated resulting in withdrawal. When the receptor is deactivated, binge drinking is decreased, which seems paradoxical. The researchers noted that they have found that kappa opioid receptors “play an important role in the negative emotional state that drives drinking when it becomes compulsive in alcohol use disorders.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction recently updated their alcohol facts and statistics to reflect the most recent research and data.

Vaping Updates

Researchers from the American Cancer Society evaluated whether the lack of fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges sold by Juul led to a decrease in vaping. They found that “removal of certain flavors for sale had little-to-no long-term effect on sales, with users quickly switching to other flavors or different brands that were still selling the “sweet” flavors.”

Overdose Prevention

The city of Denver has seen a significant increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the past year. Between 2018 and 2019, the death rate has tripled, leaving harm reduction and overdose prevention advocates concerned.

Health experts are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic has set back the fight to address the opioid overdose epidemic.

SSDP Alumnus Alexander Lekhtman ‘15 reports for Filter Magazine about ways that bars and nightclubs could be preventing fentanyl-involved deaths. He explains that public health officials in New York city released safety information about fentanyl via bars and nightclubs to people who use cocaine, and a review suggests the effort was effective. He noted that such campaigns could be beneficial in states where other typical overdose prevention efforts like syringe exchanges have not been well-accepted, and that such efforts may be a cost-effective way to provide necessary safety information to people who use drugs.

COVID-19

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased interest in alcohol use trends among adults in the U.S., with many media outlets reporting a dramatic increase in amounts of alcohol consumed. The following sources review this phenomenon:

New York Post: Americans are drinking a crazy amount of alcohol during coronavirus lockdown

Newsweek: US alcohol sales increase 55 percent in one week amid coronavirus pandemic

USA Today: Drinking alcohol may heighten risk of getting coronavirus, WHO suggests

Vox: This is how America drinks now

USC News: Pandemic drives alcohol sales – and raises concerns about substance abuse

Professionals in higher education have created a document listing a number of resources for students impacted by COVID-19. The document continues to be updated and revised by staff of the Higher Education Center. 

SSDP Alumnus Tom Angell ‘00 reported for Forbes that the pandemic has interfered with marijuana and psychedelic policy reform measures that had been previously making progress.

The International Drug Policy Consortium recently released a survey to gather information on the needs of partner organizations and people who use drugs (PWUD) in relation to the pandemic. They hope the data will serve to inform how to best support PWUD and better understand how partner organizations are addressing the pandemic.

The Great Lakes Region Addiction Technology Transfer Center compiled a list of national and region-specific community resources providing recovery support during COVID-19

Google, Facebook, and Twitter have started an online platform called TechTogether to support people with substance use disorder virtually. The platform, created in partnership with nonprofit Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, includes a collection of resources including screening tools, recovery meetings, community support, and crisis support.

Interested in learning more about how SSDP approaches drug education? Check out our Just Say Know Peer Education program, and contact vilmarie@ssdp.org with questions.