Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back to School a Good Time to Talk with Teens about Drugs, Alcohol

Newark Advocate

Young people can worry tremendously about how they are perceived, especially by new people or in new situations. Typically, the start of a school year means your children will face plenty of both, making the back-to-school season prime time for negative peer pressure. Too often, that negative peer pressure might result in use of alcohol and drugs as a means to "fit in." It is also an unfortunate reality that our children are exposed to and are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at an earlier age.

Every community faces these issues. How we chose to deal with them can have a significant impact on our individual lives and on our community as a whole.

So what does that mean for you and your family? First and foremost, you can educate yourself on the most commonly used drugs by kids -- including over-the-counter drugs and prescription medication you might have in your house. Take the time to talk with your kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and to let them know you don't want them using drugs or alcohol. When parents and kids take the time to talk to each other, you will find out more about what's going on in their lives.

Communicating with other parents, grandparents, neighbors and school officials will also help create a network of people who share your values and goals. It also will reinforce to your kids this is a serious issue and more than just your family is involved.

Research shows kids who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs and alcohol. We all need to be involved.

The Community Mental Health and Recovery Board works each day to help support and promote resources to keep our children drug and alcohol free. Two recent examples of this support include a communitywide effort to reduce access to and abuse of prescription drugs by our youth and CMHRB's steadfast support and direct involvement in the "Our Futures" initiative.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs misused by teens today is a serious problem. Medications include pain killers, cold medicines with dextromethorphan (DXM), among others. Kids are accessing these drugs in the comfort of their home; it can be as easy as opening a cupboard, drawer or medicine cabinet. The good news is there are steps you can take to help protect your kids from prescription drug abuse. Logon to www.Communty MHRB.org for links to videos and tips in keeping your medications safe from others.

The "Our Futures" initiative in Licking County is a coalition of stakeholders with diverse backgrounds have the common belief our community's youth are our future. Key community sectors involved are working together to implement research tested strategies for Licking County and its youth. The community can access additional information, including recent survey results at communitymhrb.org and evidenced-based strategies at www. ourfutures.org.

Finally, each September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month -- a time to recognize the efforts of treatment providers, promote the benefits of treatment and encourage individuals with substance abuse disorders to seek treatment and recovery. This year's theme is "Join the Voices for Recovery: Now More Than Ever!"

As the architect and supporter of community prevention and treatment services, CMHRB and its provider agencies work to assure community resources are available to help children and adults in Licking and Knox Counties.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Booze Tax Hikes May Reduce Alcohol-Related Problems

Bloomberg / BusinessWeek

Boosting taxes on alcohol leads to lower rates of alcohol-related disease, injury, death and crime, researchers say.

University of Florida investigators analyzed 50 published papers that estimated the health and social effects of alcohol taxes or prices. The study authors concluded that higher alcohol taxes have a greater impact than drinking prevention programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The results of the meta-analysis suggest that doubling the average state tax on alcohol would result, on average, in a 35 percent reduction in alcohol-related deaths, an 11 percent reduction in traffic crash deaths, a 6 percent reduction in sexually transmitted diseases, a 2 percent reduction in violence and a 1.4 percent reduction in crime.

The study findings were released online Sept. 23 in advance of publication in the November print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The findings "clearly show increasing the price of alcohol will result in significant reductions in many of the undesirable outcomes associated with drinking," lead author Alexander C. Wagenaar, a professor of health outcomes and policy at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said in a news release from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Simply adjusting decades-old tax rates to account for inflation could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in law enforcement and health care costs," Wagenaar added.

In a previous study, the same team of researchers found that a 10 percent increase in alcohol price leads to a 5 percent reduction in alcohol consumption.

"Taken together, these two studies establish beyond any reasonable doubt that, as the price of alcohol goes up, alcohol consumption and the rates of adverse outcomes related to consumption go down," Wagenaar said.

"The strength of these findings suggests that tax increases may be the most effective way we have to prevent excessive drinking -- and also have drinkers pay more of their fair share for the damages caused and costs incurred," he concluded.

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to public health.

In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, Distilled Spirits Council Vice President Lisa Hawkins said: "Numerous studies, including research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, show that alcohol abusers are the least sensitive to tax increases. It is the moderate responsible consumer who cuts back the most when prices rise.

"According to scientific studies, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality compared to non-drinkers. It makes no sense to penalize moderate drinkers to pay for the abuse of a few, particularly when raising taxes will not reduce problems associated with abuse. For example, according to government statistics, there is no relationship between alcohol excise tax rates and alcohol-related traffic fatalities," she said.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SF Lawmakers Pass Alcohol Services Fee

Associated Press

San Francisco lawmakers on Tuesday approved a fee on alcohol distribution to help the city recover the cost of dealing with problem drinkers, but the measure faces a likely mayoral veto.

The Board of Supervisors voted 7-3 to impose the fee on liquor wholesalers, brew pubs and winemakers beginning Jan. 1. It needed eight votes, however, to survive a promised veto from Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier recused herself from the vote because she and her husband own a wine business.

Under the proposal, the first of its kind in California, alcohol distributors would be charged 35 cents for every gallon of beer they sell, $1 for a gallon of wine and $3.20 for a gallon of hard liquor.

The city controller estimated it would bring in about $16 million a year for ambulance rides, arrests, treatment programs and other alcohol-related services.

"This is a response and action we can take as a board to really address the needs of our neighborhoods, our communities and people who are suffering from alcoholism in our city," Supervisor John Avalos, the law's sponsor, said.

Newsom, who got his start as an entrepreneur as the owner of a high-end wine store, said the fee would pose an unnecessary burden on businesses working to recover from the nation's economic recession.

"Pursuing this likely illegal new fee in this economic environment will impact thousands of businesses, cost jobs and put San Francisco at a competitive disadvantage with every other county in California," the mayor said.

Liquor industry representatives have said they would sue to overturn the fee if it is enacted.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thousands of American Pilots Treated for Alcohol Abuse

Malaysian News

At least 292 American pilots have attempted suicide in the past three years.

Another fifteen U.S. pilots have been diagnosed with, or been treated for, schizophrenia.

The shock figures have been revealed by the Boston Herald, quoting figures from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The news follows a serious incident at Boston's Logan International Airport in May when a distraught JetBlue pilot threatened to “harm himself in spectacular fashion” an hour before takeoff.

The Herald's Jessica Heslam's review of FAA medical records for 2008, 2009 and 2010, found that 2,700 pilots have been treated for alcohol abuse, and that nearly half of these have been diagnosed as alcoholics.

A similar number, 1,377 pilots, were found to be abusing drugs, while another ninety four were diagnosed as being drug-dependent.

23 pilots have been treated or diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, while another eighty have suffered major affective disorders, including bipolar disorder, and another two have been diagnosed with paranoia.

The Boston Herald article said the FAA was unable to confirm what number, if any, of the affected pilots had been grounded.

More than half-a-million pilots are certified medically fit to fly in the United States. “The FAA is committed to making sure our nation’s commercial and general aviation pilots are medically fit to fly,” FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown was quoted by the Boston Herald as saying. “We have rigorous medical standards and will not issue medical certificates if the pilot has a condition that would create an unsafe situation for the pilot or passengers.”

Pilots are required to undergo medical evaluations every year. Once they turn forty they are subjected to bi-annual tests.

If a pilot is determined to be an alocholic, he or she is disqualified from flying, and must go through an “extensive” medical re-certification process and post-rehabilitation follow-up program before they are recertified to fly, according to the FAA.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Liquor Initiatives Stir up old Dispute

Seattle Times

People who think the state should get out of the liquor business could push it out with two measures on the November ballot. One initiative goes even further, killing Prohibition-era regulations meant to keep alcohol relatively expensive and hard to get.

The battle is starting to look like it did in the 1930s, with free-market advocates fighting against people who view cheap, easily available alcohol as a precursor to increased abuse and violence.

"Both initiatives would make it more convenient to buy alcohol, and I think that's why consumers are so interested. They move in from California and other states, and they're going, 'Why can't I buy a bottle of liquor after 8 p.m.?' " said Jan Gee, president and chief executive of the Washington Food Industry Association, which represents independent, family-owned grocers. Washington has been among the strictest states in limiting access to alcohol, dating back to the end of Prohibition in the 1930s.

Privatize liquor sales

The two ballot measures — Initiative 1100, backed by Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale and other big retailers, and Initiative 1105, crafted by alcohol distributors — would privatize liquor sales in Washington state.

If either passes, the state would close its stores and distribution center.

Initiative 1100 would remove price regulations, allowing retailers to receive discounts based on the quantities of liquor they sell and buy alcohol on credit from manufacturers, practices that have been banned for more than 75 years.

It also would allow retailers to buy directly from manufacturers rather than going through distributors.

Costco has worked for years to try to make alcohol sales in Washington pencil out more like selling toilet paper, trying unsuccessfully in the Legislature and the courts to change the state liquor-control system.

Initiative 1105, the distributor's initiative, would allow retailers to have volume discounts on liquor, but not wine and beer. Under this measure, retailers would still have to buy alcohol through distributors.

Under both measures, the 5,200-plus stores that sell beer or wine in Washington could apply to sell liquor, dramatically raising the number of stores selling liquor from 315 now.

If both initiatives pass, differences can be resolved in the courts or by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, said David Ammons, a spokesman in the Secretary of State's Office.

Back to Prohibition

The debate is largely economic, but it also reaches deeply into the roots of the American West, when saloons were a divisive issue, seen as public-safety threats by some and engines of economic growth by others.

"For us, 'saloon' is just an old, classy word for a bar," said Dean Gerstein, vice provost and director of research at Claremont Graduate University in California and co-editor of the book "Alcohol and Public Policy: Beyond the Shadow of Prohibition."

Before Prohibition, he said, "for a lot of people, a saloon was a place where guys went to throw away their money so they could come home and beat up their wives, a place where criminal deals were done and people got knifed, and where prostitution was as much what the house did as drinking."

Washington was among 13 states that rebelled against saloons so strongly that they banned alcohol earlier than the nationwide ban in 1920, in Washington's case, six years earlier.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, Washington became one of 18 so-called control states that tried to squelch the profit motive by putting the government in charge of liquor distribution and sales.

It remains one of the most restricted states for alcohol sales, with liquor available only at state stores, most of which close by 9 p.m. Only one-third are open Sundays.

Washington also has markups, taxes and rules that keep prices high, and it bans advertising.

"The noble intent behind things like state liquor stores is so that people are not promoting alcohol like snake oil," Gerstein said.

Idea to limit access

Indeed, it is the rare liquor-store worker who pushes the latest tequila or touts the best scotch for your dollar.

"The system was set up to limit access," right down to the way liquor-store workers are paid, said Rick Garza, deputy director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

"If I give a person the same salary whether they sell one or five bottles, you're going to have what we have, a really high 'no-sale-to-minors' compliance rate," he said.

About 95 percent of the time, minors who try to buy liquor in state stores are turned away, Garza said. At grocery stores that sell beer and wine, stings show that minors are turned away 76 percent of the time.

That will change if one of the voter initiatives passes, said Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick.

"There will be 10 times as many places to buy hard liquor, and that's going to increase the chances of children buying liquor illegally," he said. "The word's going to get around. With every minimart out there selling liquor, they're going to try it."

He does not speak for the department but personally opposes Initiatives 1100 and 1105 because of problems with underage drinking, drunken driving and alcohol-related domestic violence.

The state has a conflict of interest in selling alcohol while also overseeing alcohol laws, said Ashley Bach, spokesman for the businesses behind Initiative 1100.

Over the past 75 years, "the notion of controlling consumption has been replaced with alcohol as an unlimited source of state revenue," he said, pointing out that only 80 of the liquor board's 1,200 employees work in enforcement.

Washington residents drink alcohol responsibly, Bach said, and "should be allowed reasonable access to it."

Per-capita consumption

It is impossible to know how alcohol consumption might change if liquor were available along with wine or beer.

Under the current system, per-capita consumption is about the same as in California, where there are 359 stores selling liquor for every million residents, compared with 48 stores per million in Washington.

That does not mean Washington consumption would remain steady if the number of stores rose, said Jim Cooper, vice president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.

"If we're selling liquor until 2 a.m., to me there's a natural jump to an increase in crime, violence and automobile deaths, especially in the wee hours of the morning," Cooper said.

He also likes Washington's high prices, which studies show deter alcohol abuse.

The World Health Organization said last year that increasing alcohol prices can reduce alcohol abuse. Even heavy drinkers are sensitive to price changes, it said.

And that is one thing all sides agree on with the new initiatives: They would mean lower prices for consumers, especially on liquor.

As an example, Costco said a 1.75 liter bottle of Maker's Mark Bourbon costs $61.95 at a state liquor store in Issaquah. In Stockton, Calif., Costco charges $33.99 for the same bottle.

A bottle of Absolut Vodka at a state liquor store is $42.95. In Stockton, it's $22.99.