In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic, and the recent vaping crisis, parents are uniting in Parent Movement 2.0 via the “I’m in” pledge, an instrument designed to create an online community intent on reducing the use of marijuana, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs among kids. These drugs can hurt and kill. “Because it attacks the lungs, COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke or vape tobacco and/or marijuana,” warns Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
New Administration Can’t Abandon Parity in Midst of Addiction Crisis
On Tuesday, January 24, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy announced the Kennedy Forum’s initiative, a Mental Health and Addiction Guide for the 115th Congress. He unveiled the online parity registry and presented the information to a congressional audience at the Russell Senate Office Building. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Ed Markey and some members of Congress spoke, as well as Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. David Satcher, Surgeon General between 1998 and 2002, also addressed the large crowd.
Mental Health and Addiction treatment often go hand in hand. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) spoke, too. Two mothers who experienced denial of coverage for children with mental health/addiction problems recounted their stories. A large number of mental health care advocates were also in the audience.
Although the Trump Administration promises to replace the Affordable Health Act, we cannot give up on treating mental health. In fact, mental health and addiction treatment need to be front and center of any health care legislation. All of us have seen photos of parents passed out in cars from accidental overdoses, toddlers in tow. The more 52,000 drug overdose death in 2015 are a national tragedy. We will continue to lose too many young people this way, if we don’t treat the addictive disorders. The number of drug deaths far outstrip any other accidental cause of death, including guns and vehicle crashes.
History of Parity Legislation
A member of Congress between 1994 and 2008, Representative Kennedy sponsored legislation requiring mental health parity, and worked diligently for its passage. Since President George W. Bush signed the legislation back in 2008, insurance companies must give equal health care to mental and addictive disorders.
However, violations continue. “We are literally living in denial when we refuse to acknowledge that this law is being blatantly disregarded on a daily basis, leaving millions of Americans unable to access needed mental health and addiction treatment and services,” Kennedy explained. That is why the Parity Registry, sponsored by the Kennedy Forum is important. By logging onto parityregistry.org, those with an insurance issue may network with others, get advice and take action.
There are rumblings that the new administration will try to get rid of mental health parity. Drug abuse deaths and overdoses account for far more deaths than any other accidental cause, more than 52,000 in 2016. It would be the absolute worst time in recent history to get rid of mental health and addiction treatment. Those who are ages 25-34 are dying at a rate five times the death rate for those ages in 1999!
Mental Health and Physical Health: It’s All Connected Anyways
New studies are relating childhood mental health to trauma, often because of addicted parents. Studies suggest that treating mental health issues at the onset of problems will prevent later addiction and mental health issues. Early traumas are also related to heart disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases. So treating the mental health issues at the source is important to avoiding all kinds of health care costs later.
The US has experienced crushing health care costs from the diabetes epidemic. However the rate appears to be going down slightly because Americans are listening to warnings. We now know the epidemic is partially caused by the over-consumption of sugar, processed food and fast food. Let’s do the same for mental health care and addiction avoiding many of the variables that feed into mental illness and addiction.
Just as avoiding sugar may guard against diabetes, avoiding marijuana may guard against mental illness, psychosis and suicide attempts. Avoiding marijuana while young also helps prevent the gateway effect into other drugs. Drug overdose deaths have doubled since 2004. The rate of increase in drug-related deaths has been increasing dramatically since 2012. Legalized marijuana began about this time, also.
The Kennedy initiative pushes for the incorporation of mental health assessments and addiction education into early childhood education. Parents Opposed to Pot also supports early anti-drug and addiction education. We encourage parents not to use marijuana and other drugs to protect their children’s mental health. We believe the high use of marijuana by teens today is feeding more drug addiction in the future.
Patrick Kennedy says it’s time for the political science to catch up with the neuroscience of addiction. Last November he participated in a forum on the use and misuse of addictive substances. The Kennedy Forum, Kennedy founded One Mind for Research, a global leader in open science collaboration in brain research. Patrick is the son of the late Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy.
National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported today that drug abuse among teens is trending downward, except for marijuana. The University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey was completed for 2016. It showed that six percent of high school seniors across the country are daily marijuana users.
Many of these young, habitual tokers, are potential addicts–if not yet addicted. They may stick to marijuana which is extremely potent today–5x more potent than it was in 70s. Or they may go onto other drugs, or slide into alcoholism as they turn the legal age to buy booze. The six percent of seniors who are daily pot users is triple the rate of daily drinkers in 12th grade. That figure is very troubling, and it is the same high rate from the previous year.
Teen abuse of other substances, including opioids and heroin, is down. However, adult substance abuse continues to rise astronomically. The Centers for Disease Control released new statistics last week: 52,404 drug-related deaths in 2015, an 11% rise. By comparison, 37,757 died in car crashes, an increase of 12%. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, a jump of 7%. In 2014, there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths. The rate of increase has risen rapidly in the last decade.
There’s the concern that these daily marijuana users will go onto other drugs, drugs that lead to overdose and are potentially lethal. States with high rates of teen marijuana use in 2011 and 2012 ended up having the highest rates of opioid pill abuse two years later. Here’s five reasons marijuana is a gateway drug.
Pain Pills, Cough Syrup and Other Drugs
The use of synthetic cannabinoids and ecstasy is lower, but still too high. High school students are using much fewer opioid pain pills. Among 12th graders there’s been a 45 percent drop over the past five years. Only 2.9 percent of high school seniors reported past year misuse of the pain reliever Vicodin in 2016, compared to nearly 10 percent a decade ago. The Drug Free American Foundation, CADCA and the pharmacies regularly sponsor “Take Back Your Drugs” days. At these times, pain relievers from other family members are tossed out, with the hopes of preventing illicit use.
Fewer eighth graders are using marijuana, which is encouraging. Parents Opposed to Pot believes it’s because new parent and community drug education efforts – since legalization — are discouraging early pot use.
One troubling note is that eighth graders had an increase in misuse of over-the-counter cough medicine. This year, 2.6 percent of them have abused it, up from 1.6 percent in 2015.
Tobacco use and drinking are trending downward, but use of e-cigarettes has gone up. Here’s the statistics.
“Drugs are a wound in society and a trap for many people – victims who’ve lost their freedom.” These were the words of Pope Francis at the conference on drugs held today, November 24, in Vatican City.
As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, there are so many things to be thankful for in our world — the joy that is possible without drug use. Although the US leads the world with 56% percent of the world’s illicit drug users, other nations are falling into the same trap. Substance users and abusers try to find a shortcut to the spirituality that takes years to achieve. It doesn’t work, as Pope Francis recognizes.
“This event underscores both Pope Francis’ staunch support of protecting young people worldwide through preventing drug use and his strong opposition to the legalization of drugs,” Sabet continued. “The Pope has stated numerous times, in very unambiguous terms, that drug legalization is not only bad for kids, but that it fails to produce its desired effects.”
Sabet will address the Pontifical Academy on the subject of “The Social Impact of Drug Policy Change.” He will discuss early findings from marijuana legalization in the U.S. and other issues related to drug policy change worldwide. Other U.S. representatives include Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Dr. Nora Volkow, Dr. Robert DuPont, Dr. Jon Caulkins, and Dr. Bertha Madras. The event examines, among other topics, the prevention of substance abuse related to children and young people. It also includes a papal audience, which Dr. Sabet will attend.
Other attendees include H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden and Mr. Yuri Fedotov, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Drugs give rise to powerful delusions, in a world which can be difficult and challenging. Escape from reality doesn’t make problems go away, but merely creates new ones. A followup post contains excerpts from the small group audience. Please read here.