SAM Joins Forces with NAADAC

Kevin Sabet,Smart Approaches to Marijuana Hold Key to Solving Addiction Crisis

Most of the young people who overdose from drugs began their illicit drug usage with marijuana, according to government statistics which have quoted it at 71%.  Parents Opposed to Pot receives anecdotal evidence suggesting this pattern over and over.  Some teens develop marijuana addiction, but marijuana is also a gateway drug for many other people who become addicted to cocaine, heroin, opiates and other drugs.

Facing our nation’s growth in drug addiction, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, announced a new strategic partnership on August 25.   SAM, an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy, is a national group co-founded by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Kevin Sabet, PhD, a former policy adviser who served in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for three administrations.

“SAM advocates for a ‘third way’ marijuana policy based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety,” said NAADAC Executive Director Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, “NAADAC strongly believes in the need for practical public policy in regards to marijuana legalization and use. This partnership will provide NAADAC a great opportunity to raise awareness and educate our association members and other addiction and co-occurring professionals throughout the United States on the significant public health problems and costs related to marijuana legislation and the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.”

Unfortunately, adolescents and teens have been bombarded with false messages about marijuana — messages crafted by an industry that is absolutely intent on capturing new users and younger users to feed Big Tobacco 2, the Marijuana Industry:   “gateway to health”     “cures all illness”   “harmless herb,” “just a plant”   “not addictive”   “safer than alcohol.”  NAADAC and SAM will share information, expertise, and technical assistance, and work together to increase awareness of federal and state marijuana issues.

“NAADAC is this country’s premier organization supporting addiction professionals,” remarked SAM President Kevin A. Sabet. “It is their voice – not the voice of the new Big Marijuana industry – that lawmakers should be listening to. We salute their life-saving work, and look forward to being a resource to help educate them and magnify their message in DC and elsewhere.”


pillsIn 2012, a study from Yale University showed that 18-25-year olds who abuse opioid pills for non-prescription reasons, are 2.5 times more likely to have used marijuana.  Marijuana is absolutely a gateway drug for your opioid pill abusers, particularly for the females, who are not likely to have previous use of tobacco and alcohol.  For the males in that age group who used pills, tobacco and alcohol were also gateway drugs.

The Overdose Epidemic

Addiction and Overdoses are a hotbed issue right now. Recently, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy announced a plan to combat drug overdoses and heroin, spending millions on “high-intensity drug trafficking areas,” from New England to Appalachia and on the southern U.S. border.  Half of the money will go to a program that emphasized treatment over prosecution, as has been the emphasis for the past decade or so.  In the northeast corridor, the overdose epidemic has reached a crisis level.

The spike in heroin use has been dramatic in recent years.  Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of people dying from heroin-related overdoses in the U.S. almost quadrupled.  Heroin overdose deaths more than tripled from 2010 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  This happened after the widely-prescribed painkiller Oxycontin was reformulated to make it harder to abuse. Furthermore, cartels cut down on trading marijuana after Colorado legalized  and switched to heroin.  People who developed addiction to opiates after accidents or surgery substitute with heroin, which is cheaper.   In February, Senators Portman and Whitehouse introduced S. 564, a comprehensive bill to address substance abuse disorders.

Parents Opposed to Pot maintains that all drug use is connected and that the growing acceptance of marijuana usage is contributing to the epidemic.   The marijuana industry’s message that marijuana use can curb painkiller abuse just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.   States with cocaine and opiate pill abuse have higher percentages of youth marijuana usage.   Oregon has the absolute highest use of painkiller abuse.  This state which already has “medical” marijuana dispensaries will be opening recreational marijuana stores in October.

Clear Alliance Tackles Drug Education

Dr. Pamela Tornay, an emergency room doctor in Bend, Oregon, spoke about this problem at a meeting of Clear Alliance, a non-profit committed to education children against drug abuse in the state of Oregon.    In the early to mid- ’90s, the tide started changing as to how doctors were mandated to treat patients pain. Opiates played a small role in treatment of pain back then.  It was typically for post-op or cancer pain. We never used strong medications then.  In 1999, the  government ‘s bureau of joint commission who oversees hospitals required doctors to measure pain and treat pain.  They added a 5th vital sign to determine wellness….pain.

When this occurred, a more relaxed attitude towards prescribing pain medications evolved, as providers were obligated and mandated to do so. By 2011, the number of narcotics prescribed more than tripled, as doctors felt compelled to follow the standard. Patient surveys compounded the problem as the patient could rate a doctor or the hospital low (which would affect provider licensing and performance), if pain medications were not given liberally.

The current epidemic needs to be attacked on many levels, many different ways.   The marijuana industry which puts out studies and papers to suggest that substituting opiate bill abuse with marijuana use is not the way to attack addiction.  Last week Michael Botticelli, ONDCP Director, met with politicians and substance abuse prevention groups in Maine.  Though a many-pronged effort is needed, preventing youth marijuana and alcohol use is a key to the heroin epidemic.


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