Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Treatment vs Jail: Portugal’s Success

January 5, 2011

drugs problem addicted arresting addiction illegal jail treatment counseling Portugal flag government addicts abuse drug-related court crime problem public health drug-using criminals ignition interlock device Cleared2Drive relapsing

The United States has been fighting the war on drugs for decades now and there seems to be no end in sight which bring to mind the old proverb about the definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result.’  Well I think it is time we start doing things differently and here is a good example of where we should start.

Big Risk, Big Reward

Ten years ago, Portugal had a big drug problem. 100,000 people, or about 1% of the population, were addicted to drugs. Portugal found itself in the never-ending cycle of arresting drug criminals, prosecuting them, and then after their sentence was complete finding them back on the streets again. It’s one of the main problems countries face when trying to end drug addiction and the crimes that so often are associated with it.

In 2000, Portugal passed a law that decriminalized the use of all illegal drugs. Drugs are still illegal in Portugal, but instead of throwing someone in possession of drugs to jail, it sends them to treatment or counseling. Portugal wrote it into law that anyone caught with illegal drugs instead of being charged with a criminal offense will go directly to a “Dissuasion Committee” for counseling and further treatment if necessary.

It’s not a new concept, but it is one that is difficult to carry out. How does a government take the first step and say that citizens aren’t going to get in trouble if they are caught with illegal drugs? Fears in Portugal were that everyone would go out and try drugs, and that the country would become full of addicts who were getting away with their drug abuse. But that hasn’t happened. In the last 10 years, Portugal has seen drug-related court cases drop 66%, the number of drug abusers has remained the same, and the number of people receiving treatment rose 20%. Most importantly, some of the country’s worst neighborhoods, once plagued with drug addicts and crime, have become safe.

Opponents

Some argue that policies like these are too soft on drug addicts, and without pressure and the threat of jail some people will never change, and for some people that is true. But only in countries that become lax when it comes to carrying out the law do they see an increase in drug users, but in countries like Portugal who have followed through with the treatment part of the plan, they have seen success. It works because they have changed the drug problem from a law enforcement issue to a public health issue which can be more openly managed.

Throwing a drug addict in jail does little good. We can expect 48% of substance abusing criminals to get caught using drugs again. However, if we can get these people the help they need to live a life without drugs, we can change their lives for good and we would encourage these countries to implement a mandatory ignition interlock device like Cleared2Drive program, which can prevent drugged or impaired driving as they too have proven very successful in keeping people from relapsing.

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When Does Moderate Drinking Turn Into A Problem?

December 28, 2010

Moderate Drinking Problem Health consumption Psychologist Will Corbin binge drinking alcohol abuse Arizona State University scientific laboratory cocktails bar alcohol problems problem drinkers Harvard epidemiologist Eric Rimm alcoholic Drink and Drive Cleared2Drive stop drinking and driving vehicle peace of mind impaired

 

Ever wonder when you reach for that third, or fourth, or fifth drink if maybe you’re pushing it? Well, you’re not alone.

How Much Is Too Much?

Health experts consider two drinks per day as a safe amount of consumption for men, and one drink per day as safe for women. Psychologist Will Corbin defines risky drinking as binge drinking, more than five drinks for a man and more than four drinks for a woman over a two-hour period.

Corbin says some people can probably drink within the range of safe drinking and binge drinking without getting into too much trouble. But others may be at higher risk for alcohol abuse if they get up to two, three, even four drinks per day.

At Arizona State University, Corbin is studying this gray zone of drinking to try to figure out who’s at risk for problems and who’s not. He does his research in a bar lab. It’s a scientific laboratory dressed up to simulate a bar environment, complete with dark floors, black ceilings, chandeliers, a flat-screen TV and rows of bottles behind the bar.

Who’s At Risk?

Volunteers come to the bar for one night only, fill out a questionnaire, and then they’re served three cocktails over a 30-minute period. Everyone is served the same drink of vodka mixed with 7-Up, cranberry juice and lime.

One of the questions Corbin wants to answer by observing and questioning these drinkers is whether their expectations about alcohol affect how much they actually drink. For example, for some people, just coming in to the bar lab affects their behavior before they’ve even had a thing to drink, says Corbin. “And people can observe that in the real world, too,” Corbin says. “If you go with a group of friends into a bar, before they’ve finished the first drink, often times they’re acting more social and talking more loudly.”

Once his research volunteers have consumed their three drinks, Corbin asks them how they’re feeling. Are they invigorated, for example? Do they feel excited or happy? Or do they feel a little depressed, dizzy, sleepy, and maybe even a bit sick? What Corbin is finding is that people who feel stimulated by alcohol are more likely to keep drinking if given the chance.

Other researchers are looking at known risk factors for alcohol problems, like family history and an impulsive personality. And eventually, researchers hope to have a full picture of what turns “moderate” drinkers into “problem” drinkers. Harvard epidemiologist Eric Rimm says, for example, that if you’re a child of a mother or father who’s an alcoholic, then maybe the healthiest amount of alcohol is zero.

Always Remember to Never Drink and Drive

What Cleared2Drive is finding is that people don’t know when it is safe to drive after they have had a drink or two or three or four.  For family members that don’t seem to be able to stop drinking and driving, there is help.  A Cleared2Drive system on your loved one’s vehicle will provide you with peace of mind knowing that never again will they be able to start their vehicle when they are impaired.

Studies find binge drinking on the increase

December 27, 2010

University of Texas School Public Health drinking alcohol study health surveys National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Dr. Raul Caetano dean university's Southwestern School of Medical Professions Gallup government surveys binge drinking driving under the influence of alcohol prevent impaired driving Cleared2Drive According to a report from researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health the percentage of people drinking alcohol is the highest it has been since the mid-1980s, and binge drinking has also risen sharply.

The study looked at two national health surveys of adults (18 and older) in 1991-92 and 2001-02 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and found that more people overall were drinking at the start of the millennium. More recent data were not available to the researchers. “The reasons for the uptick vary and may involve complex social and demographic changes to the population, but the findings are clear: More people are consuming alcohol than in the early ’90s,” said Dr. Raul Caetano, dean of the university’s Southwestern School of Medical Professions.

“Drinking” was defined during both survey periods as having consumed at least 12 drinks with at least 0.6 ounces of any kind of alcohol within the past year. Anyone who had consumed less than that much alcohol or said they never drank was classified as a nondrinker. By that definition, drinking was up 5% to 7% during that decade among men of all ethnic groups, so that 64% of white men, 60% of Hispanic men and 53% of black men were drinking. Among women, the rate rose by 8% to 9%, to 47% of whites, 32% of Hispanics and 30% of blacks. Those numbers seem to fit closely with a midsummer Gallup survey that found 67% of adults drank any alcohol at all, versus totally abstaining. That was the highest drinking rate since 1985.

The government surveys showed binge drinking — having more than five drinks in one day — increased among all ethnic groups and genders, but particularly among men. The share of white men who consumed five drinks a day at least once a week rose from 9% to 14%, and there was a similar increase among Hispanic men. Among women, whites are also more likely than other ethnic groups to binge drink.

All of this translates into more people driving under the influence of alcohol as well which we are seeing in other studies.  Other than total abstention, the only way to prevent impaired driving is to install a Cleared2Drive system on your vehicle.