National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week: Jan. 23-29

Every year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) creates initiatives to raise awareness about drug and alcohol abuse in the US. Today, until January 29, is officially “National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week,” an annual health observance that links students with scientists and other experts to offset false information about drugs and alcohol that is widely circulated from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music, and friends. Among the many events taking place this week, Thursday the 26th is Chat Day, where students can go online and ask NIDA scientists about drugs and drug abuse.

On December 13, the 2016 results of NIDA’s “Monitoring the Future” (MTF) were released. The annual survey has been tracking drug, alcohol, and cigarette use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders nationwide since 1975. According to the study:

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June 7: Free Public Briefing on Opioid Dependence

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Image: Shutterstock

Opioid Dependence

A Public Luncheon Briefing
Hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Through the Support of the Dana Foundation
In Conjunction with the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus

Tuesday, June 7 2016
12-1 p.m.
B339 Rayburn House Office Building
Lunch Provided
*RSVP: https://www.cvent.com/c/express/6e694162-d32c-421d-b68f-071d95f5f712

The abuse of and addiction to opioids is a serious public health problem; more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record, according to the CDC, and the majority of these deaths involved an opioid. U.S. lawmakers have taken note with a series of actions this year aimed at addressing this. Come and hear from experts about the science behind the epidemic.

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The Science and Policy of Marijuana

Science and policy are often in tension with one another, but in the case of cannabis, as medicinal or recreational marijuana, science seems to be playing catch-up.

“Cannabis was scheduled [made illegal] in the absence of science,” and now is being legalized in some areas, still in the near-absence of science, said J. Michael Bostwick, a practicing psychiatrist and a senior associate dean at Mayo Medical School. In 1970, when Congress classified cannabis as Schedule 1 (“drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”), scientists did not know which neuronal receptors it activated or what exactly in the substance was causing which effects.

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NIDA’s Nora Volkow and DC council member David Grosso listen to psychiatrist J. Michael Bostwick answer a question from the audience at AAAS.

More than four decades later (and 5,000 years since people first started using it as pain reliever), we still don’t know much more of the botanical substance’s potential as a medicine, because its Schedule 1 status means US researchers have to jump through hoops at several different agencies to get access to the legal federal supply. That’s just the start, science-wise: As with any plant, cannabis varies widely in quality, strength, and in what other compounds are bound within the plant, so research—and comparing previous studies in the US and elsewhere—can be tricky.

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National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week (January 25-31)

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On Monday, National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week began, sparking local events across the country in an effort to “shatter the myths” about drugs and alcohol, particularly among teens.

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Drug Addiction and Incarceration

Last month, at a Capitol Hill briefing in Washington, D.C., experts gathered to address the surge in opioid drug abuse and fatal overdoses among people of all demographics within the United States. According to a 2010 study done by the Centers for Disease Control, prescription opioids accounted for 60% of overdose deaths, a statistic that has doubled in just over ten years. While there is work being done by federal and state agencies to deter future abuse of prescription painkillers, speakers of the event focused particularly on those who are imprisoned as a result of their addiction.

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