The top alcohol and drug-related news stories of 2012 involved the passage in two states ballot initiatives making recreational use of marijuana legal for adults over 21. Advocates for the legalization of weed believe election results point to a turning point in their long-running effort to decriminalize marijuana throughout the U.S.
Other top stories of the year revolved around the continuing effort to curtail the manufacture of methamphetamine and prevent the spread of the prescription pain pill epidemic.
During the 2012 General Election, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to vote to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, while national surveys revealed for the first time that a majority of Americans favor decriminalizing weed. The challenge facing Colorado and Washington is to pass state legislation that will not violate federal laws.
Hospital burn units are being overwhelmed by an influx of patients who are being badly burned while trying to manufacture methamphetamine. The "Shake and Bake" method of making meth in a 2-liter plastic bottle is highly volatile. Making the problem worse for the hospital burn units is the fact that most of these patients have no health insurance to pay for their care.
The new cold and allergy drug Tarex cannot be used to manufacturer methamphetamine like many other over-the-counter medications on the market. The Missouri pharmaceutical company that markets the new drug under the name Releva, claims its drug could be a game-changer in the fight to stop meth production.
President Obama signed into law the Safe Doses Act that among other things increased the penalties for pharmacy thefts and robberies. The bill, introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, was prompted by an 81% increase of pharmacy robberies in the U.S. between 2006 and 2010. In 2010, there were 686 pharmacy robberies.
An unfortunate side effect in the battle against prescription pain pill abuse has been the increase in heroin use by young people. As makers of the OxyContin changed the make-up of the pills to make them more difficult to abuse, many teens who previously turned to their parents' medicine cabinet to get high, have now caused a significant spike in the use of heroin throughout the United States.
In response to a growing and spreading prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States, local budgets are being strained in trying to cope with the fallout. To try to find solutions, a National Rx Drug Abuse Summit was begun to promote collaboration and cooperation not only between local, state and federal officials, but between all groups affected by the growing drug abuse problem.
Law enforcement is playing catch-up with the growing phenomenon of drugged driving. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas introduced legislation in the U.S. Congress to set up funding that would provide training and technology for police to use to better identify drivers who are under the influence of legal and prescription drugs.
The Food and Drug Administration was forced to issue a warning about the use of prescription pain patches due to the danger they can pose in the home. The warning was in response to reports of children becoming seriously ill or dying from exposure to the fentanyl pain patches when they were not properly stored or disposed of in the home. Most cases involved children less than 2 years old.
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Hospital nurses could not explain a unusual increase in the number of newborns who were testing positive for THC in their systems. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, chased down the surprising cause of the urine tests. They found that certain kinds of baby soap were causing the false positives, but they still don't know why.
An online scam that promised alcoholics that they could cure their alcoholism and return to social drinking was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's office. The "Alcoholism Cure Foundation" was also extorting money from their customers by threatening to publicly expose their drinking problem if they didn't continue to pay up.