Just Say Know Drug Education Roundup – March 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.

Although the conference isn’t happening this month as planned, we are excited to be able to offer a virtual conference this year

#Sensible2020: The Virtual Drug Policy Conference in front of a blue geometric background

Research Updates

Cannabis
Authors of a survey report reviewing the outcomes of Denver’s High Cost campaign note that Denver area teens are now 1% less likely to use marijuana, and view the campaign favorably. Based on the small number of teens surveyed (537) in the one month the survey was conducted, it is not clear whether these results are significant or representative of all teens age 13-18 in Denver.

Authors of a study on the use of cannabis to address PTSD symptoms found that THC reduced some of the threat-related activation in the amygdala in adults with PTSD, demonstrating some evidence that THC may be useful in the treatment of PTSD symptoms.

Researchers from Harvard are urging people with heart conditions to be mindful of their cannabis use, noting that there may be risks similar to those seen with tobacco use.

Researchers from Temple University reviewed rates of treatment admission among youth in two states where cannabis is legal. Despite concerns that problematic cannabis use among youth would increase with legalization, the researchers found decreases in treatment admission for problematic cannabis use among youth in these states.

Researchers from Italy explored the use of cannabinoids among teens and young adults with cancer in an oncology unit of a hospital. Using a questionnaire, they found that about 40% of the patients had used cannabinoids while in treatment, and that all of them started using prior to their diagnosis. They found that patients experienced benefits from cannabinoid use in the form of pain reduction, anxiety control, relaxation, better sleep, and improved appetite.

Science is inching closer to a new roadside test for cannabis with the development of a rapid saliva test that can detect THC levels. This video summarizes how the test will work, though it is unclear whether the tests will be able to identify levels of impairment versus only identifying whether cannabis metabolites are present in the body.

Psychedelics
Researchers studying the long-term effects of psychedelic drugs using a research review of 34 recent studies have found, “Enduring changes in personality/attitudes, depression, spirituality, anxiety, wellbeing, substance misuse, meditative practices, and mindfulness were documented. Mystical experiences, connectedness, emotional breakthrough, and increased neural entropy were related to these long-term changes in psychological functioning. Finally, with proper screening, preparation, supervision, and integration, limited aversive side effects were noted by study participants.”

Vaping Updates

Early in the month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new program intended to help young people quit using e-cigarettes. People who want to quit can join the text-based program by texting “DropTheVape” to 99709. The program is a New York State-based version of the Truth Initiative’s intervention, “This is Quitting.” The program was created with input from youth who have attempted to quit or have successfully quit vaping. Since the program is still very new, we were unable to find resources demonstrating the long-term evidence supporting the effectiveness of this program, but found a report outlining some initial engagement results and promising short-term outcomes.

Alcohol

In this article by U.S. News and World Report, authors highlight numerous studies noting the increase in negative consequences for women who use alcohol. Additionally, they note that the death rate related to alcohol has increased much more significantly for women (85%) than for men (under 40%) in the last 18 years, in line with the increases in alcohol consumption by women.

Overdose Prevention

In a new book, health science historian, Nancy D. Campbell reviews how naloxone has revolutionized our perception of addiction. The book, called OD: Naloxone and the politics of overdose, covers the history of the overdose epidemic and how naloxone came to be the social and technological solution we know it to be today.

Despite the effectiveness of fentanyl test strips, experts note they are not used widely. In this article from Portland’s KATU, the author quotes Haven Wheelock from Outside In, who explains why fentanyl test strips can be helpful in preventing overdose, and references a study from Johns Hopkins in which authors found that people who use drugs will change their use behavior if a fentanyl test strip shows there is fentanyl in their supply.

Authors from the University of Rhode Island conducted a study regarding the distribution of naloxone by pharmacies, and found that the overdose reversal drug should be offered by pharmacists along with opioid prescriptions. The authors also found that, “pharmacists had more positive attitudes toward fighting the opioid crisis if they stocked naloxone and allowed anyone to freely acquire it without a prescription via a standing order along with their opioid prescriptions. The study demonstrates how the familiarity of the drug can lead to the acceptance of it.”

In a recent report, the CDC notes that overdose rates have decreased 2% for overdoses involving all opioids, and has increased by 10% for overdoses involving synthetic opioids. This increase is attributed to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.

Global prevention of drug use and policy advocacy

Singapore intends to review and improve upon their laws addressing New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and their laws addressing preventive drug education. 

The North Wales Youth Commission are pushing for a less authoritarian approach to drug use in their new report. The commission recommends that people who use drugs should not be criminalized. Additionally, they expressed the desire for a more understanding approach to address why young people use drugs.

COVID-19

Many of us are finding our work disrupted or significantly changed as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Included in this are mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers, who have been given exceptions to allow for telemedicine sessions with clients. The DEA granted this exception, which was requested by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in order to allow for initial visits to be virtual for people seeking medication-assisted treatment. 

People who use drugs and rely on community support are facing particular challenges while we are social distancing. Fortunately, many support groups, meetings, and other community events have moved online or have virtual options that people can use. Here are some available resources:

Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous Zoom meetings

SMART Recovery online community

In The Rooms listing of online recovery meetings (including AA and NA)

SSDP Alumna Kat Humphries created this useful infographic for people who inject drugs, including information about what COVID-19, who is most at risk of getting it, how it might impact the drug supply, and the increased risk of overdose.

The Harm Reduction Coalition compiled recommendations and information from various harm reduction groups into these fact sheets for safer drug use and for harm reduction service providers during the pandemic.

The International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) has also released some useful information regarding COVID-19 and drug use.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) recently wrote a blog post reminding people to beware of any “cure all” claims regarding COVID-19 in response to seeing claims about CBD and other cannabinoids being promoted as a cure for the virus.

Lastly, we’ve compiled a list of SSDP-related activities you can complete if you are self-isolating during COVID-19. 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.