FDA Warns CBD Products Can Be Dangerous

The proliferation of CBD products in the “wellness” industry seemed to happen overnight. CBD, a byproduct of marijuana and hemp that does not get users “high”, has been marketing as a cure-all to everything from arthritis to anxiety. Some sellers even claim that CBD can help fight cancer by lowering inflammation levels. Now, the FDA is stepping in and warning users and manufacturers that these products not only may be modern-day “snake oil” but also can cause real damage to some people’s health.

What is CBD, Exactly?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a chemical that’s found in all types of cannabis, even the male plant which is not smoked or used as a drug. Instead of getting a user high, CBD is supposed to have a host of health benefits and has been proven to help with rare seizure disorders in children. However, that’s where the clinical testing has stopped. CBD is being marketed and sold by hundreds of companies, yet it hasn’t been undergone a clinical trial for most other health conditions advocates say it helps.

Nevertheless, it’s available for purchase practically everywhere, from Amazon to your local drug store. The upscale beauty brand even sells CBD in their skin products. There are even products for pets, although they haven’t been tested in any clinical trials, either. There are tinctures, pills, smokables, candy bars, lotions, mints and more.

CBD has been viewed as relatively harmless by the mainstream media, but the FDA has begun investigating claims made by manufacturers, and they’re ready to shut down and misuse that they can.

FDA Calls Out Dangers of CBD

CBD has never been officially declared legal, which is interesting considering how many companies have decided to make products for the market. While the FDA has only started investigating products, they say that most of them, as well as their uses, are illegal.

The FDA sent letters to at least fifteen companies last Monday telling them to stop making health claims and manufacturing their products. The administration says that the companies broke federal law by marketing the unproven health benefits of their CBD products. They did not get approval to mix the drug into food and are deceptive when they sell CBD as a dietary supplement. What’s more, these companies may have placed their customers at unknown risk, the FDA said.    

“We remain concerned that some people wrongly think that the myriad of CBD products on the market, many of which are illegal, have been evaluated by the FDA and determined to be safe, or that trying CBD ‘can’t hurt,'” Dr. Amy Abernethy, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, told reporters. “In reality, the FDA does not have enough data to say whether CBD can be “generally recognized as safe.”

They point to data showing that many CBD products being sold have contaminants such as fungus or pesticides, and the amount of CBD in each product makes them highly unreliable. Some studies have even shown that CBD might cause harm to the liver or interact with drugs in a dangerous way, releasing far more into the bloodstream than users realize.

Alcohol Detox at Home

alcohol detox at home with cat

Alcohol is one of the most common addictions in the world. If you or somebody you love has an addiction to alcohol, you’re not alone. The National Institutes of Health states that in 2017, over 26% percent of people over the age of eighteen admitted to binge drinking within the last month, while almost 7% of drinkers of the same ages admitted to “heavy alcohol use” within the past month of the survey. Alcohol is a problem for many people, but few seek recovery and often those who do have to try quitting multiple times before they are able to achieve lasting sobriety. Because of the stigma attached to alcohol, many people seek out more information on alcohol detox from home. But how can you do it safely?

Alcohol is Highly Addictive

Alcohol is a highly addictive substance. While many people assume alcohol is pretty safe because it’s sold almost everywhere, this is simply not the case. Alcohol changes the way the body reacts and the way the brain works. Because of these changes, people can grow a tolerance to drinking meaning it takes more alcohol to get the desired effect. This tolerance leads to alcohol dependence, meaning that a person will need to drink more and more to get the drunkenness they crave.

Many people binge drink, which typically means drinking four or five drinks in a row. Binge drinking can lead to regular alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcohol abuse and addiction lead to more than just drinking in your daily life.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

A person with alcohol addiction continues to drink despite negative results. Many people with alcohol use disorder have social problems, legal troubles, and other fallout from their continued drinking. Drinkers like this may miss classes or work, have trouble with relationships due to their continued drinking, or even end up in jail for a DUI or other alcohol-related legal problems like drunk in public charges.

Alcohol can impair your judgment just by drinking. People make bad choices when they’re drunk, making them more likely to do things they normally wouldn’t do. Some people even become violent when they drink. Other people may “blackout” and not remember what happened, even when they’ve done something illegal or dangerous.

Alcohol is highly addictive, and a person with an addiction continues drinking even when they’re having health, financial, or legal troubles. Drinking may seem to be their only priority in life.

Alcohol addiction is not your fault. Many people have a troubled relationship with alcohol and there seem to be both genetic components of addiction as well as environmental factors that make a person more susceptible to addiction. Addiction is considered a disease of the brain, and there are help and treatment available.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Detoxing at Home

Detoxing at home from alcohol can be a more convenient and discreet way to get and stay sober. In most cases of alcohol addiction, it’s not safe to detox without the assistance of a professional. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable or even frightening. When a person stops drinking, they usually begin to experience withdrawal symptoms in twelve to forty-eight hours.

People with severe withdrawal symptoms experience symptoms that can last up to a week, with the most severe symptoms occurring around the third day. Some withdrawal symptoms that alcoholics can face include:

  • Tremors or unsteadiness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Rage or short-temper
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Elevated heart rate or blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium Tremens (a psychosis-like state that includes paranoia, rage, delusions, etc.)
  • Wet brain (brain damage caused by long-term alcohol abuse, can be permanent dementia)
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting

Not every person who withdraws from alcohol will experience these symptoms, but some of them are life-threatening and require a person who understands how to alleviate and treat them. Some people may have other health conditions that require close observation when detoxing.

Alcohol Detox at Home: How and Why

Detoxing from alcohol at home can be safe, private and effective. A medical team can help you with alcohol detox at home, prescribing medications if necessary to alleviate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

A detox nurse will help you if you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, and they can also help you put a plan together for your continued recovery. You didn’t become addicted in one night, and you won’t recover overnight. Even once you’ve detoxed studies show that emotional support and a recovery plan will help you maintain long-term recovery.

Your detox team can help you plan for treatment or aftercare. They will also help you identify triggers – even in your own home – that make you want to drink. For example, if you have hidden bottles or a collection of shot glasses in your kitchen, your detox team can help you move these out of your home.

Getting Sober from Alcohol

Getting and staying sober may seem like a difficult path, but once you’ve detoxed you’ll be able to put a recovery plan into action. There are all types of support available to help you heal and begin to move on into your next stage of life. Everyone deserves recovery, and a home detox can help you start off in a safe place with the support of your family, friends and even your pets.

There is no shame in addiction. Once you know you’re not responsible for your addiction, it’s time to work on things you CAN be responsible for, including your recovery. You’re worth it, and home detox is a great way to get started. There are, of course, other options available once you’re sober to help you achieve long-term success.

Sesame Street Adds Character With Addicted Mom

children watching Sesame Street

Addiction is slowing coming out of the woodwork as a stigma that people don’t talk about. In the past few years, it’s no secret that there has been an opioid addiction epidemic. It affects millions of people. More than 70,200 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And for all those that don’t die, there are hundreds of thousands still struggling to get and stay clean. All of these people are somebody’s daughter or son. And many of them have children, which is why Sesame Street is tackling such a sobering subject for young people.

The Addiction Crisis

There is a young generation that is growing up without parents or in the custody of other relatives due to this epidemic, similar to the crack epidemic of the 1990’s. Many addicted people end up involved in the justice system, bouncing from treatment-to-treatment, or lost in their addiction bouncing from couch to couch. Many children are too young to understand their parent’s addiction or explain it to others. In some cases, the stigma may be too great to talk about it at all.

Sesame Street, however, thinks that kids need to hear it talked about and explained in a way they understand.

Sesame Street’s New Character Combats Stigma

Sesame Street Workshop has decided to create a character whose Mom is fighting addiction. The  6-year-old Muppet character, named Karli, is meant to represent a character that all kids in foster care can relate to. In the US, almost 6 million children younger than 11 have one or more parents \living with addiction. In 2017, almost a third of the 268,000 children and teens removed by child services across the US came from families that struggle with addiction.

While Karli may not end up on the Sesame Street mainstream television show, Sesame Workshop has educational content online that classrooms around the world rely on. And they often take their workshops on the road to schools and other institutions for outreach to kids.

Addiction education for kids and other resources, which are part of the Sesame Street in Communities program, are freely available on www.SesameStreetinCommunities.org.

The nonprofit says that their programming delivers a message that kids in addicted families need to hear more than anything:  “You are not alone. You will be taken care of. Addiction is a sickness and, as with any sickness, people need help to get better.” They also tell kids to remember that it’s not their fault.  

Vaping is Destroying Lungs, Cause Still Under Investigation

Most people know that tobacco and nicotine kill, but many minors don’t the warning, especially when it comes to vaping. After all, when a person smokes cigarettes, it usually takes several years to affect the lungs.

Vaping, however, has been causing the rapid deterioration of lungs and the FDA still isn’t positive how and why this has happened.

Vaping is a Crisis Among Young

Vaping has rapidly become an addiction that is prevalent among youth. Described as an “epidemic” by former FDA chief Scoot Gottlieb, the amount of young people who vape electronic cigarettes has risen dramatically in the past few years.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

“More than 44,000 students took part in the 2018 annual survey of drug, alcohol, and cigarette use in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. About 37% of 12th graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017. Vaping of each substance that was asked about increased. This includes nicotine, flavored liquids, marijuana, and hash oil.”

Over 400 Vapers Have Now Been Hospitalized

Hospitalizations with serious lung conditions have emerged over these final months of summer in the US, fueling speculation of a contaminants reaching the “pods” that are used in electronic cigarettes. While many of these illnesses were from people who vape nicotine, officials have only found an adulterant in marijuana cigarettes. While the name of the manufacturer has been withheld so far, the FDA and NIH are urging marijuana as well as nicotine vapers to cease using these products.

People who vape have been so ill that some require machines to breathe, while others are in need of lung transplants. Five people have died.

The federal branches of the government are investigating the lung diseases, and so far they have only found traces of a fat from vitamin E, which may be causing lipid pneumonia. However, other patients who vape have suffered from more than penuemonia, and there are fears that changes in the lungs are permanent; doctors can’t find the exact mechanism for each patient, and a few have lost lung function completely.

Quitting Vaping

If you or somebody you love is addicted to vaping, it’s time to take action. A treatment program, individual counseling, and nicotine replacement therapy are all options to consider. If you can’t stop vaping marijuana on your own, you may have a substance use disorder. Help is available for all of these things. Please call the phone number at the top of this page for referrals and more information on getting help.

JUUL CEO Apologizes to Parents of Vaping Teens

JUUL Lans CEO Kevin Burns will apologize to parents of teens addicted to nicotine, but seems to dismiss responsibility.

Image with the word "Sorry"

In a documentary on CNBC, set to air tonight,  Juul Labs CEO Kevin Burns speaks about the recent teen vaping epidemic.  A new documentary, “Vaporized: America’s E-cigarette Addiction,” will air tonight.

When Carlos Quintanilla, the reporter for the movie, toured one of Juul’s manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin with Burns. While there, the CEO was asked what he would say to a parent with a child who was addicted to Juul.

“First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product,” said Burns. “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what the challenges they’re going through.”

In 2017, the number of teens who had vaped grew to two million. Activists againse vaping say that the numbers are growing higher, with hundreds of thousands of teens that vape on a daily basis.

Is Vaping Addictive?

Tobacco industry proponents have often argued that vaping helps adult smokers quit drugs. However, JUUL stands out as a testament to another harsh reality: the company’s vapes are highly addictive, with more nicotine content than any other vape manufacturer.

According to the Truth Initiative, vaping is skyrocketing among young people:

“Over the past year,  surveys found that 56 percent of youth and young adults who ever used JUUL or an e-cigarette reported that they were younger than 18 when they first tried the device and nearly half — 47 percent — said that they tried it because their friends used it.”

And what’s worse is that JUUL, marketed to young people with an assortment of fruity and sweet flavors, contains a highly addictive amount of tobacco. One pod equals the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.  The Truth Initiative also reports an escalating trend of teen tobacco use, pointing to the fact JUUL’s e-cigarette market share tripled in just over a year, from 24 to 75 percent. JUUL is known as the brand most favored by young adults and teens.

More Action Needed on Teen Vaping

The FDA has called the amount of teens that use nicotine vape products an “epidemic”, but government intervention has been slow. Until recently, few companies selling these vape products asked for identification to verify buyers were 18. And most teens bought their vaping products directly from websites.

The FDA has sent letters, cease-and-desist orders, and spoken with the media about the problems with teens vaping. However, without any strong legal action, there’s little chance they will curb this epidemic in time to halt a growing population becoming addicted to nicotine.

Florida Drug Dealers Face Murder Charges for Fentanyl

person under arrest

In Florida, drug dealers selling fentanyl can now face murder charges if they distribute drugs to a person who dies during an overdose.

Responding to the fentanyl and opioid epidemic, about a year and a half ago, voted a bill into law that makes fentanyl a murder weapon. Distributing the drugs is now treated the same as an assault with a deadly weapon such as a knife or gun. The state already applies similar laws to cocaine, heroin and other dangerous narcotics.

Indictments Already Underway

Since the bill became a law, Florida prosecutors have obtained grand jury indictments for first-degree murder charges against a half-dozen individuals accused of selling the drug illicitly. However, most overdoses are still considered accidental. The first trial for murder is scheduled in December 2019, but prosecutors expect that there will be dozens more cases in the next few months. Lawmakers hope that the new law will help grieving families feel closure.

In one such case currently underway, accused fentanyl dealer Calvin Warren Jr., 36, faces murder charges for the death of 36-year-old Thomas Matuseski, a Boynton Beach man who overdosed in January 2018. Matuseski was a recovering heroin addict who apparently relapsed. When he used the drugs he had purchased from Warren, he was not aware that the drugs also contained fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin alone, and Matuseski succumbed to overdose from the fatal concoction.

“Drug dealers have a financial incentive to spike heroin with fentanyl or its derivatives like carfentanil, as they provide a much greater high than heroin at a fraction of the price,” Aronberg said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle last year. “The end user has no way of visually identifying which batch of heroin has been laced with these synthetic opioids.”

Future Cases

Currently, there are also two additional cases of fentanyl-related homicides being charged as murder.

One of them is aimed at a woman who was more drug user than dealer. Last February, Vicki Sakers, 41, was charged in the death of her friend, Candace Moreland, 37, who died from an overdose in December 2017.

Sakers bought three pills from an unnamed heroin dealer and gave one to Moreland, who stopped breathing within hours. It is not clear whether the heroin dealer is charged with anything.

Scientists Explore Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) to Fight Addiction

doctors doing brain surgery

Addiction is costly in many ways. It can cost relationships, families, jobs, and lives. The stigma of addiction can cause people not to seek help, and it seems that the stigma is international, just like the disease of addiction itself.

China has been experimenting with different solutions for addiction for years. People often go to the research doctors out of desperation. A recent article by the Associated Press detailed the desperation a man named Yan, in China, felt when over the years he became addicted to crystal meth and, eventually, heroin. His father wanted to help but was tired of watching him bounce in and out of drug rehabilitation. He gave him a choice between another trip to drug rehabilitation, or to try Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. “Of course, I chose surgery,” Yan said. “With surgery, I definitely have the chance to get my life back.”

China’s Research into DBS for Addiction

China doesn’t have the same medical laws as America, and for many years they tried an archaic and painful surgery to “cure” addiction doctors call “brain lesioning”.  Desperate families paid doctors thousands of doctors to “lesion” the brain. Similar to a lobotomy, the method destroyed small clumps of brain tissue, causing a variety of neurological ailments for patients, including mental health disorders, memory problems and sexual dysfunction. Even worse, it rarely worked.

Deep brain surgery involves an implant in the brain, which electrically stimulates specific areas. In the United States, DBS has only been approved for Parkinson’s disease. Few patients, however, can afford the $100,000 DBS surgery costs.  

In China, where medical regulations are lax, clinical trials are already underway. Dr. Sun Bomin, director of Ruijin Hospital’s functional neurosurgery department, says the need outweighs concerns about side effects or efficacy. “They are human beings. You cannot say, ‘Oh, we do not have any help, any treatment for you guys.’”

Sun said he has served as a consultant for two Chinese companies that make deep brain stimulators — SceneRay Corp. and Beijing PINS Medical Co. He has tried to turn Ruijin into a center of DBS research, not just for addiction, but also Tourette syndrome, depression and anorexia.

China’s studies don’t come to any definitive conclusions. One trial had a patient that died from a heroin overdose just a few months after surgery. Another study in January by doctors at a military hospital in Xi’an found five out of eight heroin users stayed off drugs for two years after DBS surgery.

Yan, it turns out, is more of a Guinea pig than a patient. There are risks of a brain hemorrhage, changes to his personality, seizures, or an infection. There is also scant evidence that DBS will cure or treat his addiction.

DBS in the USA

The scientific community has concerns about any clinical trials done in China, outside of labs with ethical guidelines and rigor in place.

“It would be fantastic if there were something where we could flip a switch, but it’s probably fanciful at this stage,” Adrian Carter, who heads the neuroscience and society group at Monash University in Melbourne, told the Associated Press “There’s a lot of risks that go with promoting that idea.”

Few clinical trials have explored DBS outside of Parkinson’s research. U.S. clinical trials on DBS for depression were nixed due to a lack of evidence for benefits. (It is incredibly hard for scientists to ethically justify cutting into somebody’s skull without any scientific evidence it will help.) SceneRay, another Chinese company exploring DBS for addiction, was turned down for clinical research trials by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

However, the FDA has allowed a small, separate trial of DBS for opioid use disorder. Led by Dr. Ali Rezai, at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, it will launch in June.

Purdue Pharma is Exploring Bankruptcy

courtroom bankruptsy

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, is exploring the idea of bankruptcy to protect itself from over a thousand lawsuits filed across the country blaming them, in part, for the opioid addiction crisis that has claimed thousands of lives in states across the US.

The manufacturer of Oxycontin, as well as the Sackler family that controls the majority of the company, say they are under duress due to the massive litigation they face by counties, cities, and states. They have been repeatedly accused of misleading doctors through marketing and sales pressures, without mentioning the risks of addiction or downplaying those risks entirely.

The bankruptcy type that Purdue is considering is Chapter 11, which would stop the lawsuits from moving forward as Purdue settles the trials under the direction of a bankruptcy judge. Purdue hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for restructuring advice last August, making litigants nervous about the possibility of an insolvency claim to shut down the lawsuits.

A thousand lawsuits have been consolidated through a federal court in Ohio, where Purdue has held preliminary discussions to resolve the litigation, but nothing has come of these discussions. The breadth of the of the lawsuits has often been compared to the tobacco lawsuits in the 1990s, which dragged on for years and eventually resulted in a 246 billion dollar settlement, the largest in US history.

When asked by Yahoo News to comment, Purdue issued the following statement:

“As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy,” Purdue said in a statement.

“We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners.”

Prescription opioids such as Oxycontin and fentanyl, as well as heroin, caused about involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Hundreds of states, counties, and cities have launched lawsuits due to the public health crisis.



Border Patrol Nabs Largest Fentanyl Bust Ever

US Border Patrol

Last week, the federal government announced one of the largest fentanyl drug busts ever, containing 254 pounds of the synthetic drug.

The bust occurred at the Nogales, Arizona border onboard a truck that hid the pills under cucumbers. Alongside the powerful opioid, there was also 354 pounds of methamphetamine. Both drugs have been on the rise in America the past few years, with fentanyl deaths outpacing other opioid deaths rapidly. At its current pace, according to US Customs and Border Control, the opioid epidemic kills ninety people a day.

The fentanyl in the seizure is valued $3.5 million and is twice the size of a haul discovered in a truck stopped by state troopers in Nebraska in 2017.

Fentanyl is quickly becoming one of the deadliest opioids in the United States, and it often comes to the US via China, passing through US Customs undetected. Last year, the opioid task force recommended that Congress fund new machines for the United States Postal Service that detect drugs. The majority of international drug traffickers send shipments of pills through mail services, but drugs like methamphetamine typically come through the US/Mexico border.

Fentanyl is a drug that has been found not only in pill form but also powdered form, which could easily kill a non-opioid user exposed to it. Fentanyl is at least fifty times stronger than morphine, a highly potent narcotic. When handling drugs like these, police officers have to use gloves and sometimes have to cover their mouths and arms to decrease their risk of exposure. Most first responders in America now keep a steady supply of Narcan, an opioid antagonist, on hand to deal with accidental exposure or overdoses. The US Customs and Border Patrol even describes taking precautions for their K-9 units, who have long been at risk of overdose due to the nature of their jobs. (A drug-sniffing dog often sticks its snout near loose drug powder or pills.)

The US Border Patrol stops drug traffickers almost every day of the week. Drugs often come through regular checkpoints, and large amounts of drugs come through trucks and cars.







Cocaine-Opioid Cocktails Have Been Killing Since 2010

flaming candles

People have been dying from opioid and cocaine cocktails regularly since 2010, but there hasn’t been much reporting on it. That’s partially because the focus is on the fact that these deaths were from opioids. But calling these deaths “opioid overdoses” is problematic because, in some cases, the drug users were never aware that they were using an opioid.

According to the Washington Examiner, more than 10,100 people died from mixing the drugs in 2017. 7,241 of those deaths showed both cocaine and fentanyl in their systems. Fentanyl is a potent opioid about 50 to 200 times stronger than morphine. It’s also the deadliest opioid in the US, with the majority of deaths in 2017.

Deaths caused by opioids and cocaine have risen nearly 76 percent since 2012.

Recently, opioid test strips have emerged across the United States as a part of harm-reduction efforts. The strips, which cost $1 each and have been given out with needle exchange programs and at other places drug users frequent, can detect even a minute amount of fentanyl. Cocaine and heroin users must mix some the drug with water to create a liquid form.

The test strips are not perfect and sometimes may give a false positive. Officials worry that the strips will give drug users a sense of false security, but harm reduction proponents say that combined with other methods of harm reduction, such as t6he overdose-reversal drug Naloxone, it will save lives. People will use their drug of choice, either way, harm reduction advocates say.

Harm reduction advocates hope that these tools, combined, will give a person enough tools to stay alive so that when they want to quit getting high, they can. After all, you can’t get a dead person into addiction treatment.

It’s not clear why drug dealers are adding fentanyl to the supply of other illicit street drugs. Many of the drugs sold in the US come from chemists in China or other international supply. Sometimes the drugs are pressed in the US, but sometimes the drugs are bought already formulated.

Getting the drugs off the streets seems a monumental task. Testing for the drugs, however, will be a bit more straightforward now that the test strips have begun to circulate.