Law

Drug testing with Fingerprints : Cocaine in Fingerprints

Cocaine use can now be reliably detected via fingerprint testing, according to scientists.

Cocaine use can now be reliably detected via fingerprint testing, according to scientists.

If there weren't enough good reasons to stop using drugs, we now have another. Scientists have successful demonstrated that cocaine use can be detected in fingerprints.

Scientists developed a method of examining the residual material left behind in fingerprints, and discovered adequate amounts of cocaine, benzoylecgonine (BZE) and methylecgonine (EME). The levels detected were adequate for testing. Once tested, the mass spectrometry results correalted well with oral samples, meaning fingerprint testing may be a suitable method for detecting cocaine use.

Anyone needing help breaking free of substance abuse and addiction should come in for detox and treatment as soon as possible. There is everything to gain from acting immediately when a problem is acknowledged. There is a lot to lose… and now even more, such as your job, security clearance, or other important aspects of your life, if you cannot stop abusing drugs and get scrutinized.

This new research on detecting cocaine in fingerprints is soon to appear in the journal “Analyst”, as reported by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Paterson, NJ Heroin Bust : 300 “Bricks” Won’t Change Much

While I commend all law enforcement in what they do and in their battle against this heroin epidemic here in New Jersey, April's first heroin bust is just a pin prick in the fight.  Police report having seized 300 bricks of heroin, said to have a $120,000 street value. The heroin bust took place in Paterson, which is in Passaic County and central to Northern New Jersey.

To add some perspective, a “brick” of heroin is usually 5 bundles. A “bundle” of heroin usually leans  10 “bags” of heroin.  Heroin users consumer heroin “by the bag”.

According to a vast majority of our clients at Sunrise Detox in Northern New Jersey and Toms River at the Jersey Shore,  a New Jersey heroin addict seeking treatment (for whatever reason) is using 7-10 bags of heroin a day. Roughly one bundle of heroin, per day.

So 300 “bricks” is 1500 bundles, or 1500 “days” of heroin addiction. In a state with 9 million people, is this a big deal?

Yes, it is. It can take just one  dose to kill a son or a daughter (or mother, or father, or teacher, or someone you loved). For an addict suffering under addiction, it takes just one more dose to stave off the effects of withdrawal, and continue the addiction instead of seeking help with heroin addiction treatment. We all know that heroin addiction doesn't get weaker over time — heroin consumes lives, because active heroin users are driven to need increasing amounts of the drug over time.

Each bag of heroin is important. Every single one. But we have to do much, much more.

The seizure and arrests are hopefully the start if a trend here in New Jersey in this fight. Too often in the fight against drugs we are always talking in quantities of heroin and dollar values of sized drugs “kept off the street”. Rarely do we talk about the number of actual lives affected, or in this case saved by the enforcement action.

Tuesdays arrests in Paterson, if we use the math above, saved the lives of 5 individuals consuming a bundle a day for the next 300 days.  Unfortunately in a state with tens of thousands of individuals addicted to heroin, the user will find another dealer, and then another. The loss of 300 bricks is not likely to impact the street price except perhaps in the short term, in Paterson, as dealers rearrange their turfs and supply chains.

Authorities broke up a drug ring over the weekend, seizing semi-automatic handguns, $20,000 in cash, and more than 300 bricks of heroin in a bust that brought down two heroin mills and saw six people arrested in Paterson, New Jersey – UPI news report

We are entering a delicate time here in New Jersey with heroin. Public awareness is being raised due to recent public figures taking active roles, which is a plus. But more needs to be done with awareness, law enforcement and treatment.

Comfortable living room of the Toms River Sunrise Detox center. Comfort, safety, confidentiality, and expert medical detox.

Comfortable living room of the Toms River Sunrise Detox center. Comfort, safety, confidentiality, and expert medical detox.

At Sunrise Detox we strongly advocate for insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment, and increased access to funds that will enable safe and comfortable detox for individuals to start their journey of healing in treatment. We know that a safe, respectful, and comfortable initial detox from heroin, is the very best start to a successful recovery.

For every brick or bundle of heroin seized and taken off the streets, we must also provide treatment for substance abuse, especially heroin addiction treatment, to help addicts get off of the drug and stay safe in recovery. Any unbalanced approach to the heroin epidemic may end up raising prices and increasing the risks associated with addiction, without saving as many lives.

Reference: 2011 East new York heroin bust reported by NJ.com

Prescription Drug Reduction Creates Unintended Consequences, But No Surprises

With crackdowns increasing on improperly-prescribed and illegal prescription drugs, more pill users are turning to heroin, according to studies in Maryland. Prescription drug overdoses are down by 15%, but heroin ODs are up 41%. The total number of combined overdoses is up about 6%. That’s probably because naïve users have greater difficulty managing heroin dosage than they do with the controlled strength of pills.

This shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Reducing the availability of prescription drugs will probably reduce the number of new addicts to a limited degree, but folks who are already addicted aren’t going to be kept from copping. Most prescription drug users, pushed by the fear or actuality of acute withdrawal, will have no trouble finding street drugs, and when the availability of pills drops on the street, the move to heroin is simple and obvious.

That might sound like I’m against nailing the pill mills. Not at all. Those sorry excuses for physicians are a blight on society, and need to be dealt with. Ditto the folks who sell drugs on the street. But anyone who thought addicts would come flocking to get help when their supplies got scarce really doesn’t get the facts of addiction.

Bottom line: addicts will find drugs. If treatment was supported nearly as well as the so-called “War On Drugs;” if addicts could more easily access detox and primary treatment; if the focus of society was less on punitive measures and more on curative ones, then our drug problems could be dealt with far more effectively.

We’re finally getting the idea across that addiction is a disease, and that addicts need to be dealt with as patients, not as offenders, but until society gets behind treatment instead of spending huge sums supporting the drug suppression/law enforcement industries, we don’t have much chance to make real inroads into the overall problem.

I’m a former law enforcement officer and a recovering addict. I’ve seen it from both sides, and I’m telling you that we are putting our priorities in the wrong place. Deal with the criminals on one end, but reduce the number of customers on the other. Put people first, and we have a shot at making real progress.

Treatment for Nonviolent Drug Offenders Would Be Good For New Jersey

Lawmakers in New Jersey are working on legislation that would offer treatment to nonviolent offenders in lieu of jail time. Studies show that treatment is a more effective method of curbing drug offenses than imprisonment. With a greater than 50 percent chance of offenders returning to prision, it becomes clear that the current laws are not working.

When considering the state of New Jersey's costs to enforce current laws and sentences, we can see that this is a win-win proposal. It costs $44,000 a year for a prisoner to live in a New Jersey state prison. 25 percent of inmates in New Jersey's prisons are nonviolent drug offenders. Cut 25 percent of the prison population and overcrowding issues are solved. Money saved by not housing prisoners could easily cover treatment costs, job training, and counseling.

Could drug treatment reduce offenses?

In 2009, New York enacted legislation that resulted in a 13 percent decrease in its nonviolent prison population and a savings of more than $250 million. Governor Christie's Plan for New Jersey would work if administered correctly.

The state has to put programs in place for rehab, treatment, counseling, and job training for those addicts. Giving those in need the tools to become contributors to society are important to their independence and self-worth. As studies have shown, building a support system around an addict leads to a higher chance of recovering and staying sober. It doesn't make sense to send these people to a prison system that is not supportive and only shows evidence of creating repeat offenders.

I am hopeful that the lawmakers here in New Jersey will do what is right for our state and pass this legislation. Addicts should not be left to suffer in prison. They need real treatment.

Why are the blood alcohol limits for drivers so low? I can function perfectly well after a few beers.

Q.  Why are the blood alcohol limits for drivers so low?  I can function perfectly well after a few beers.

A. Alcohol, aside from its addictive qualities, also has a psychological effect that modifies thinking and reasoning…. — The American Medical Association, in an official statement issued July 31st, 1964

We now know that having a drink of alcohol inhibits the executive functions of our brains.  The inhibiting mechanisms that control judgement, decision-making, and overall self-control are the first things affected by alcohol.  That’s why we experience that feeling of “freedom” when we’ve had that first drink: the feeling that we can relax, that we don’t have to hold the reins quite so tightly, that enables us to be a little more daring, take a few more risks, makes us more handsome, more beautiful and wittier (at least in our own mind), and that convinces us that we can drive just fine, thank you very much.

The abilities to drive skillfully, operate machinery, and carry out other dangerous activities that require judgement, decision-making and self-control are the very first things that we lose when we drink.  As you can see from the table below, other critical skills aren't far behind.  Combine that with the poor judgement that can make driving seem like a good idea, and we have a recipe for potential disaster.

Blood alcohol limits are set where they are because long experience and tens of thousands of blood tests on drivers involved in crashes and other driving escapades have shown that higher levels greatly increase the potential for trouble.  It’s that simple.  We may believe that we can drive better after a few drinks but, recall that good judgement is the first thing to go.  For a similar reason, the legal drinking age is held at 21, because younger drivers have not yet developed the judgement skills needed to drive with maximum safety, and certainly don’t need further impairment.  (The physical skills associated with driving have nothing at all to do with judgement and emotional stability.)

In the table below, “‘The second column lists behavioral areas by the first BAC at which 50% of the behavioral tests indicated impairment. That is, the point at which the majority of behavioral tests showed impairment. Note that, with the exceptions of simple reaction time and critical flicker fusion, all driving-related skills exhibited impairment by 0.070 g/dl in more than 50% of tests.” [The table was simplified for easier interpretation. The original can be found at the link shown.]

BAC AND IMPAIRMENT, BY BEHAVIORAL AREA

Source: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/Hs809028/Discussion.htm#Major

BAC
(g/dl)
First BAC at Which 50% or More of Behavioral Tests 

Indicated Consistent Impairment

0.100 Simple Reaction Time, Critical Flicker Fusion
0.090-0.099
0.080-0.089
0.070-0.079
0.060-0.069 Cognitive Tasks, Psychomotor Skills, Choice Reaction Time
0.050-0.059 Tracking
0.040-0.049 Perception, Visual Functions
0.030-0.039 Vigilance
0.020-0.029
0.010-0.019 Drowsiness
0.001-0.009 Divided Attention

In the case of alcoholics and other addicts who use drugs that depress the central nervous system, the risks are multiplied exponentially.  We become impaired even beyond others who have had a few drinks.  The ability of most alcoholics to “maintain” and appear relatively sober to others and themselves is a specific, learned behavior that does not translate to driving and other skills.  We learn to function in spite of being impaired.

There are countries where you can be put in jail for having car keys in your pocket if you’ve been drinking.  Our more reasonable DUI laws can be clearly shown to be not only for you own good but for that of everyone on the road.

15 arrested in strike against ring smuggling prescriptions to Mexico – The Washington Post

Dealers in Southern California provided hydrocodone prescription drugs to pharmacies in TJ, for resale to primarily American tourists.

Hydrocodone, nearly as powerful as morphine, caused 2,499 deaths in the United States from 1998 to 2002, the most recent data analyzed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA says there were 130 million prescriptions written in 2006, up nearly 50 percent over six years.

APNewsBreak: 15 arrested in strike against ring smuggling prescriptions to Mexico

No Safe Alcohol Level When Driving

Although a blood alcohol level of .08% is the legal limit for driving in the US, a new study has established that any amount of alcohol in the blood increases the chance for a crash.

According to a study led by David Phillips and Kimberly M. Brewer, of UC San Diego, blood alcohol levels much lower than the legal limit are associated with a greater number of crashes involving incapacitating injury and death.  The results were published in the journal Addiction.

Phillips said that “Accidents are 36.6 percent more severe even when alcohol was barely detectable in a driver's blood.”  The study revealed that even with a BAC of 0.01%, there are 4.33 serious injuries for every non-serious injury, compared with 3.17 for sober drivers.

He went on to say that “Compared with sober drivers, buzzed drivers are more likely to speed, more likely to be improperly seat-belted and more likely to drive the striking vehicle, all of which are associated with greater severity….Up till now, BAC limits have been determined not only by rational considerations and by empirical findings but also by political and cultural factors.  We hope that our study might influence not only U.S. legislators, but also foreign legislators, in providing empirical evidence for lowering the legal BAC even more. Doing so is very likely to reduce incapacitating injuries and to save lives.”

The research was funded by the Marian E. Smith Foundation.