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  • Data: Legalization of Marijuana Linked to Increased Youth Exposure to Drug

    Posted 7/11/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    As New Jersey lawmakers discuss the legalization of marijuana, it is important to evaluate the impact on the residents of states that have legalized marijuana.

     

    New data released in Washington State shows that legalization there has led to a large increase in the number of youth marijuana poisonings.

     

    In 2017, the number of incidents reported to the Washington State Poison Center increased by nearly 30 percent to an all-time high of 378. Reporting these incidents is voluntary, and the data likely underrepresents the true total throughout the state.

     

    Almost one-third of the total exposures reported to the poison center last year were for children ages 5 or younger. Exposure within that age group increased by nearly 58 percent from 2016.

     

    Part of the reason for this increase has been the emergence of THC edibles, such as gummies and cookies, being sold since the legalization and commercialization of marijuana. Marijuana edibles were involved in nearly half of the reported exposure that occurred in 2017.

     

    While marijuana possession is still illegal for people younger than 21 in states that have legalized marijuana, it is clear that legalization has made it more likely for children to access the drug. It is crucial that New Jersey leaders take into consideration how marijuana is impacting other states and how it would impact New Jersey residents, young and old alike.   

  • Stay Safe This Summer

    Posted 7/4/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    On behalf of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, I hope you enjoyed a safe and fun Fourth of July. With summer finally here, it’s exciting to think about all the upcoming opportunities for fun moments and memories.

     

    However, for many people, summer also includes an increase in the number of social events that involve alcohol. It is vital that adults take the proper steps to ensure that drinking doesn’t lead to tragedy. These precautions include designating a driver or simply choosing not to drink.

     

    In 2016, the most recent year with complete data, drunk driving caused 10,497 fatalities on roads in the United States, an increase of 1.7 percent from the previous year.

     

    Water activities that are popular during the summer become much more dangerous when alcohol is involved. Research shows that up to 70 percent of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.

     

    In 2016, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In instances where the primary cause of an accident was known, alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of deaths.

     

    These deaths were entirely preventable, yet they devastated the lives of countless friends and family members across the country. Don’t let tragedy be a part of your summer. Have fun, be responsible and stay safe.

  • Study: Reducing Opioid Dosages Not Linked to Lower Patient Satisfaction

    Posted 6/27/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    For years, medical professionals have overprescribed opioids to treat chronic and acute pain. One of the many reasons for this was that doctors and other prescribers feared negative feedback and evaluations from their patients if they did not alleviate their pain.

     

    However, a recent study has found that patient satisfaction scores did not drop significantly for physicians when they reduced opioid dosages.

     

    The study, conducted by researchers from Kaiser Permanente, tracked patient encounters with 2,491 chronic-pain patients in Southern California prescribed high doses of opioids for at least six consecutive months from 2009 to 2014.

     

    In cases in which doctors reduced opioid dosages, patients remained satisfied with their doctors more than 86 percent of the time.

     

    This is certainly a promising development for prescribers. For years, the threat or fear of negative patient feedback served as a deterrent to finding more effective and safe treatment avenues for pain that would minimize the risk of opioid dependency.

     

    The medical community will play a major role in overcoming the opioid crisis, and studies such as this one provide evidence that responsible prescribing practices are vital to stemming the tide of this epidemic.

  • Study: Exposure to Marijuana Ads Linked to Increased Youth Marijuana Use

    Posted 6/20/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    While New Jersey’s lawmakers are weighing important decisions on marijuana, it’s vital to remember that there’s nothing more important in this debate than the health and safety of our children and how changes in laws could affect our future.

     

    A study recently completed and published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that exposure to medical marijuana advertising could lead to increased use of marijuana by youth.

     

    The study, which recruited Southern California students an average age of 13 years old from 2010 to 2017, asked participants if they had seen medical marijuana advertising, if they intended to use marijuana in the next six months, how many days they had used it in the previous month and how often they had experienced negative consequences of using marijuana during the past year.

     

    Adolescents who reported that they had greater exposure to marijuana advertisements were more likely to report having used marijuana in the last month and were more likely to report that they expected to use marijuana during the next six months, according to the study.

     

    These findings are troubling, especially considering the negative short-term and long-term effects it can have on teenagers’ undeveloped brains. Authors of the study stressed the importance of educating children on the effects of marijuana use and also suggested tightening regulations for marijuana advertising, similar to those in place on tobacco and alcohol.

     

    As New Jersey leaders continue to debate potentially increasing legal access to marijuana, it is critical that those leading the conversation place children’s health as the top priority.

  • PDFNJ Wins Five Jersey Awards, Highlights Do No Harm at Opioid Conference

    Posted 6/13/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    The past week has included several honors for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

     

    Last Wednesday, we received five awards at the NJ Ad Club’s 50th Annual Jersey Awards. The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series was the big winner, taking home first place in the Not for Profit/Pro Bono Work sub-category as well as the trophy for Best of Public Relations, awarded to the top winner from the entire category.

     

    The town hall series, supported by a grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, began in April 2017 and was hosted for audiences from every county in the state. More than 13,600 people participated either in person or online via live stream at the town halls, which provided New Jersey residents with a comprehensive understanding of the causes and effects of the opioid epidemic.

     

    The series made a positive impact in educating the public about the dangers of opioids and helped organizers to develop a better understanding of how the opioid crisis has impacted different communities throughout the state. It was an exciting honor for the NJ Ad Club to recognize those efforts with two awards.

     

    PDFNJ also received first-place awards in the Public Relations: Advocacy/Political Multimedia Campaign category for the second annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day; the Out of Home: Transit Shelter category for the “Before They Prescribe, You Decide” campaign; and the Music: Original Music Competition/Non-Jingle for Commercial category for the song “Invisible,” written and performed by Anna Toby Rabinowitz and Anna Zibit as part of the 2017 Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day Songwriters Contest organized by LIFE Center Stage and the Community Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Morris.

  • The Opioid Epidemic Is Depleting the Nation’s Workforce

    Posted 6/6/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    While the opioid epidemic has impacted every community throughout the United States, its effects have not been confined to homes and neighborhoods.

     

    The crisis also has had devastating consequences on the country’s workplaces, according to an editorial written by Christopher J. Swift, chairman and CEO of the insurance company The Hartford.

     

    The National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that the opioid crisis is partly responsible for the labor force participation rate decreasing by 4 percentage points since 2000. As Swift cites, an online survey in 2016 found that about half of men who were out of the workforce had taken pain medication the day before being surveyed. About two-thirds of this group had taken prescription pain medication.

     

    These statistics show that employers cannot ignore opioid misuse and addiction. These issues can have a negative effect on businesses’ bottom lines, but more critically, they can lead to unsafe working conditions.

     

    Employers can be proactive in maintaining safe working environments establishing and maintaining a drug-free workplace policy. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey offers a free initiative, Drugs Don’t Work in NJ, which provides employers and businesses all the tools necessary to establish and maintain workplace policies and procedures.

     

    This epidemic has impacted every part of society. It will take a unified effort — at home, at work and at school — to help solve it.

  • PDFNJ to Participate in White House Sports and Fitness Day

    Posted 5/30/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Today, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is honored to be one of several organizations represented in Washington, D.C., to recognize White House Sports and Fitness Day.

    The Partnership and students from St. Francis Academy in Union City will join President Trump, former Yankee great Mariano Rivera, government dignitaries and other professional athletes to focus on the importance of youth sports. A story published this morning on NJ.com detailed the Partnership’s role in today’s event.

    Involvement in athletics can be an extremely positive experience for children and teens by promoting a healthy lifestyle, encouraging teamwork and providing an opportunity to have fun. Providing young people with the chance to participate in sports also can be an important aspect in substance use prevention.

    By highlighting sports’ beneficial impact on physical and emotional wellbeing, the president can bring renewed attention to importance of promoting a healthy lifestyle, which includes living substance abuse-free.

  • Statewide Town Hall Series Concludes Tonight in Mercer County

    Posted 5/23/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    It’s hard to believe, but tonight the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will be hosting the final countywide town hall of the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series at The College of New Jersey in Mercer County.

     

    This series, supported by a grant from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, began in April 2017 and after tonight will have engaged residents from all 21 counties in the state of New Jersey.

     

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls have been a valuable tool for developing a better understanding of the opioid epidemic and its impact on every community in our state. The series has also discovered best practices at the local level which are currently being replicated throughout the state.

     

    Town hall attendees have become better informed about the opioid crisis. 97% of participants responded that they learned new information or facts about the prevalence of opioid abuse in their community by attending a town hall. Educating New Jersey residents about the risks associated with opioids is a key starting point for addressing this issue.

     

    More importantly, those who have attended town halls have expressed their intention to take action in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Over 85% of town hall participants said they were likely to take steps, such as disposing of unused medications, asking questions when prescribed opioids by a doctor, or having conversations with others on what can be done to prevent opioid misuse.

     

    Please join tonight’s conversation on the opioid epidemic in Mercer County at 6:30 at The College of New Jersey and be a part of the solution to this epidemic.

     

    This first phase of the PDFNJ/Horizon Foundation for New Jersey’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls may be concluding, however the hard work and effort necessary to overcome the opioid epidemic continues.  

  • Opioid Prescriptions Declined in 2017

    Posted 5/16/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    As of earlier this month, 1,076 people in New Jersey had died from a drug overdose since the start of 2018. Statistics like these continue to paint a grim picture of the opioid epidemic in the state and throughout the nation.

     

    However, signs of progress in this fight are beginning to show.

     

    A recent study released by IQVIA showed that the volume of opioids prescribed declined significantly last year.

     

    In 2017, prescriptions decreased by 10.2 percent, accelerating the continued drop in prescriptions that has occurred since 2011, when the amount of opioids prescribed peaked at 240 billion milligrams of morphine equivalents (MME).

     

    High doses of opioids, defined as 90 MME or more per day, fell by 16.1 percent last year, according to the study.

     

    Perhaps most encouraging was that the number of patients starting opioid therapy who had no previous experience with opioids during the prior year fell by 7.8 percent. This statistic shows that many fewer people than in previous years were introduced or reintroduced to the risks of opioids.

     

    As we celebrate National Prevention Week, it is encouraging to see positive developments in this aspect of prevention.

     

    Meanwhile, the number of people beginning medically assisted treatment (MAT) nearly doubled from 44,000 per month at the end of 2015 to 82,000 per month at the conclusion of 2017.

     

    This combination of statistics indicates that progress is being made in the opioid epidemic as fewer Americans are being introduced to potentially dangerous opioid prescriptions, while more are receiving treatment for their addiction.

  • Substance Abuse in the Workplace on the Rise

    Posted 5/9/2018 by Angelo M. Valente

    Regardless of where in New Jersey we live or work, substance abuse impacts all of us. As I have mentioned many times before, no family or community is immune and a recent article in ROI-NJ shows that the places we work or volunteer are also not immune.

     

    Whether you are a manger, a business owner, a volunteer coordinator or local leader, the fact that a recent study found that new data shows significant jumps in positive testing for marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine in the past few years in New Jersey, is a concern for all of us.

     

    Next week PDFNJ will be holding our annual meeting on the impact of drug use in the workplace, and I invite all of you to attend and find out how, together, we can address this issue.

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