Substance Abuse

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.

Staff from CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts (NCIC) hosted a webinar highlighting the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.  During the March 7 session participants heard from two subject matter experts about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, state sponsored prescription monitoring programs, and CSG’s efforts to develop a prescription monitoring compact that would allow states to securely share prescription drug data across state lines.  

The Council of State Governments will be offering a variety of webinars designed to educate and inform state leaders on a range of policy-related issues. Registration for these sessions is complimentary. 

Each webinar offered by CSG will be available for viewing on our website within a week of its scheduled date.

  • Essential Health Benefits: An Overview for State Legislators
    Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2-3 p.m. EST

  • Prescription Drug Abuse: A Growing Epidemic
    Presented by CSG's National Center for Interstate Compacts
    Wednesday, March 7, 1:30-2:30 p.m. EST
  • Protecting Your Online Identity
    Presented by CSG's National Leadership Center 
    Thursday, March 15, 2-3 p.m. EDT

Prescription drug abuse continues to be recognized as the nation’s fastest-growing drug  problem. Data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that nearly one-third of people age 12 and older who used drugs for the first time started by using prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes.

Gov. Rick Scott's administration announced on Thursday that they will appeal a federal court ruling to stop enforcement of a Florida law requiring drug testing of applicants for welfare assistance.

Judge Mary Scriven issued a 37-page order and temporary injunction on October 24 according to the Miami Herald. She found that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on illegal search and seizure.

Crystal methamphetamine, perhaps one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs in existence, has continuously plagued rural and urban regions of the country for the last three decades. States have attempted to address the growing production and distribution of the drug, along with the destructive repercussions it has wrought in the lives of those who have become addicted to it, largely through tougher laws that restrict the sale of precursor drugs used in meth production. While these measures have been as a whole effective in temporarily reducing the production of crystal meth, producers have found new ways of circumventing existing laws. For this reason, states are examining new and innovative ways to combat this terrible drug.

Yesterday, Connecticut lawmakers gave final approval to a bill (SB 1014) that will make the possession by an adult of up to one-half ounce of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia a civil infraction, punishable by a $150 fine. Violators will no longer be subject to jail time and will not receive a criminal record. Currently, it is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine. 

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