Gov. Peter Shumlin announced yesterday, according to the Burlington Free Press, restrictions that will make it harder for doctors to prescribe the new FDA approved painkiller Zohydro. His announcement follows last week's ban of the drug by Massachusetts. 

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Concerned about the rise in drug-related health problems among newborns, Indiana lawmakers unanimously approved a measure in February that takes a first step in trying to address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

The heroin overdose deaths of actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith of the television show "Glee" have raised public attention about the rising abuse of drugs. Some states are trying to address the increase in overdose deaths from heroin and other opiates by making naloxone more readily available to addicts.

Yesterday the Office of National Drug Control Policy urged that first responders be equipped with naloxone, a medication used to counteract opiate overdoses. Some states already have laws on the books to do just that.

In a CSG research brief...

Drug overdose deaths have more than doubled between 1999 and 2010. In 2010, these deaths, from both prescription drug and illicit drug overdoses, surpassed traffic accidents as the number one cause of death for persons less than 65 years old. Sixteen states, beginning with New Mexico in 2001, have passed harm reduction laws to increase the availability of naloxone, an overdose antidote administered by injection or nasal spray. The same number of states have passed Good Samaritan laws to address the fear of criminal repercussions for bystanders and overdose victims who report overdoses. At the beginning of Feb. 2014, seven additional states had new legislation pending and another seven states were considering amendments to current laws.  

Florida Gov. Rick Scott campaigned on the issue of mandatory drug testing for parents enrolled in welfare. Almost as soon as the law was signed in 2011, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven put the law on hold. Gov. Scott appealed the preliminary injunction, but a three judge panel concurred.

Now Scriven has ruled the law unconstitutional, the Miami Herald reports. In her 30-page summary judgment issued Dec. 31, she wrote "there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied."

A federal bill to require drug testing of welfare recipients was introduced by Tennessee Representative Stephen Fincher last week. In a move to answer constitutionality concerns, the bill proposes to require applicants to waive their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to drug testing before qualifying for assistance. States would be required to certify that they test at least 20 percent of applicants or lose 10 percent of their Temporary Assistance to Families (TANF) funding.

This Act provides immunity, with certain exceptions, from arrest and criminal prosecution for a person who, in good faith, reports an emergency drug or alcohol overdose.

In October of 2011, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency placed a ban on the three most commonly used ingredients found in bath salts for a one-year trial period.  The ban came about because of the exponential increase in bath salts abuse.  According to the American Association of Poison Control Center, there were 6,138 emergency calls related to bath salts in 2011, up from just 304 in 2010, an increase of 2018 percent.

Bath salts, which draw their name from their appearance, are a chemical drug made up three illegal substances: mephedrone, MDPV, and methylone.  This combination causes a stimulant effect similar to methamphetamine, and is highly addictive.  Users of the drug often report paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts, and may act in bizarre and even psychotic ways.

Telling numbers illustrate the need for action with regard to prescription drug abuse.

  • The rate of prescription drug abuse in Kentucky has doubled among men and tripled among women in the past 10 years. 
  • Florida estimates suggest as many as seven people overdose daily on prescription drugs.
  • Deaths from prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in 17 states.
  • Nearly one-third of all people age 12 and older who abuse drugs for the first time abuse prescription drugs.

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