Friday, October 26, 2012

UPC Weekly Blog: Is driving under the influence of Marijuana harmful?

A recent study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive (SADD) reports that nearly 1 in 5 teens say they have gotten behind the wheel after smoking marijuana. Those responses were higher than in 2009 when 13 percent admitted to driving after smoking marijuana while 12 percent admitted driving after drinking alcohol. Of those teens that have driven after smoking marijuana, 36 percent say it presents no distraction when operating a vehicle.

Stephen Wallace, senior adviser for policy, research and education at SADD, stated "we hear from young people who believe that marijuana actually makes them a safer driver, that they concentrate harder, drive slower," Wallace says. “Those are all misconceptions”.

On the contrary, marijuana has serious harmful effects on the skills required to drive safely: alertness, the ability to concentrate and make good judgments, coordination, and the ability to react quickly. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana.

A roadside study of reckless drivers who were not impaired by alcohol showed that 45% tested positive for marijuana.   Research conducted by the University of Auckland, New Zealand, proves the link between marijuana use and car accidents. The research found that habitual cannabis users were 9.5 times more likely to be involved in crashes .

Kelly, Darke and Ross show similar results, with laboratory studies examining the effects of cannabis on skills utilized while driving showing impairments in tracking, attention, reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, vigilance, time and distance perception, and decision making and concentration. In their review of driving simulator studies, they conclude that there is evidence of impairments in cannabis-affected drivers' ability to control a vehicle in the areas of steering, headway control, speed variability, car following, reaction time and lane positioning.

"Teens are faced with potentially destructive decisions every day and don't always make the best ones," said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety. "It's our job as mentors, parents, role models or friends to effectively communicate with them to ensure they are armed with the right information and aware of the dangers of marijuana and other substances, especially while driving."

1.  "White House Drug Czar Launches Campaign to Stop Drugged Driving.” Office of National Drug Control Policy Press Release, November 2002.
2. Stephanie Blows, Rebecca Q. Ivers, Jennie Connor, Shanthi Ameratunga, Mark Woodward & Robyn Norton, "Marijuana Use and Car Crash Injury," Addiction, Vol 100, April 2005.
3.  Kelly, Erin; Darke, Shane; Ross, Joanne (2004). "A review of drug use and driving: epidemiology, impairment, risk factors and risk perceptions". Drug and Alcohol Review 23 (3): 319–44. doi:10.1080/

09595230412331289482. PMID 15370012.

Cheryl DePaolo
Director of Ulster Prevention Council

UPC Weekly Blog: Magic Mushrooms

Two events this week turned my attention to “Magic Mushrooms”. First, my 17 year old daughter reported that she had been offered “shrooms” by an acquaintance. Second, according to newspaper reports, police in Saugerties charged two residents with operating a marijuana farm and growing hallucinogenic mushrooms. According to newspaper reports, town and state police executed a search warrant at and discovered a large indoor cultivation operation. They seized more than 45 pounds of processed marijuana, 60 marijuana plants and a substantial quantity of mushrooms.
Youth often report the belief that both marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms are “natural” and therefore harmless for them. This can increase adolescent “experimentation” or “recreational” use. In Ulster County in 2010, 7.7% of high school seniors reported having used hallucinogens at some point in their lifetime (Ulster County Youth Development Survey).
According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, there are more than 75 known species of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and psilocybin and psilocyn are the hallucinogenic components found in them. The potency of mushrooms varies. According to the DEA, while street prices fluctuate, psilocybin mushrooms generally cost $20-40 for 1/8 ounce and $100 to $150 for an ounce. Although psilocybin and psilocyn are scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 as Schedule I drugs, the mushrooms themselves are not scheduled.

Methods of Use

Fresh or dried psilocybin mushrooms can be ingested orally either whole (often prepared with a food item such as peanut butter or pizza to hide their bitter taste), sprinkled on top of food, or after being brewed to make a tea. Dried mushrooms can also be crushed into a powder and prepared in capsule form. Psilocybin can be consumed orally, sniffed, smoked, or injected.


Psilocybin affects the central nervous system by disturbing the normal interaction of nerve cells and the functioning of the neurotransmitter serotonin, to which it is structurally similar. Mushrooms can take 20 minutes to 2 hours to take effect, and will last for 3 to 6 hours.

Physical effects include:

·        Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea
·        Muscle relaxation, weakness, and twitches
·        Yawning, drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and lack of coordination
·        Pupil dilation, tearing, dry mouth, and facial flushing
·        Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
·        Sweating followed by chills and shivering
·        Numbness of tongue, lips, or mouth
·        Feelings of physical heaviness or lightness and feelings of floating

Psychological effects include:

·        Heightened sensory experiences and perceptual distortions (i.e. brighter colors, sharper visual definition, increased hearing acuity, more distinguished taste)
·        Auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations
·        Synesthesia (melding of the senses: seeing music or hearing colors)
·        Difficulty focusing, maintaining attention, concentrating, and thinking
·        Impaired judgment and preoccupation with trivial thoughts, experiences, or objects
·        Sense of detachment from body and surroundings and loss of boundaries between the two
·        Altered perception of space and time
·        Inability to distinguish fantasy from reality
·        Melding of past experiences with present
·        Feelings of unity with the environment
·        Feelings of involvement with intense spiritual experiences
·        Tension, anxiety, and restlessness
·        Highly adverse reactions ("bad trip"), including frightening hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, paranoia, agitation, depression, panic, and/or terror

Tolerance, Dependence, & Withdrawal

With regular and repeated use of psilocybin mushrooms, tolerance to the effects will occur. In addition, cross-tolerance occurs with other drugs, including LSD and mescaline. For several days following the use of mushrooms, users may experience a period of psychological withdrawal and have difficulty discerning reality.


·  Nicknames for hallucinogenic mushrooms
Boomers, caps, cubes, gods flesh, liberty caps, little smoke, magic mushrooms, Mexican mushrooms, mushrooms, musk, sacred mushroom, sherm, shrooms, silly cybin, silly putty, simple simon

Cheryl DePaolo
Director of the Ulster Prevention Council

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following warning signs and descriptions of abuse, reach out. There is help available:

 Domestic Violence Services of Dutchess County*
*Formerly known as Battered Women's Services
Hotline: 845-485-5550

Recognizing the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse:
It's impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.
People who are being abused may:
  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does.
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.

Warning signs of physical violence:

People who are being physically abused may:
  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
Warning signs of isolation:
People who are being isolated by their abuser may:
  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner.
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.
The psychological warning signs of abuse
People who are being abused may:
  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
Speak up if you suspect domestic violence or abuse
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save his or her life.
  • Ask if something is wrong.
  • Express concern.
  • Listen and validate.
  • Offer help.
  • Support his or her decisions.
  • Wait for him or her to come to you.
  • Judge or blame.
  • Pressure him or her.
  • Give advice.
  • Place conditions on your support.

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.

Adapted from: NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From the Ulster County Prevention Council Blog: Alcoholic Juice Pouches

Recently my 19 year old daughter Liz pointed out a product in our neighborhood supermarket. Smack in the middle of the snack aisle, there was a basket full of what looked like kid’s juice pouches. Liz called my attention to the fact that the pouches were, in fact, single serve alcoholic beverages selling for $1.99 each. She stated that her first thought was that this was a highly “shopliftable” item for her peers. As we continued shopping, Liz pointed out several other locations where these items were placed, including next to the beer and in the “seasonal” aisle. Last week, I was in a convenience store in New Paltz and noted that these drink pouches were placed above the potato chip display in the middle of the center aisle.
I decided to find out more about these beverages through my good friend the internet. I found out that squeezable pouches are emerging as a big hit for alcohol marketers. Ad Age said sales of alcohol pouches jumped 153% to $154 million in the year ending June 23, according to Nielsen. Pouch drinks are making rapid distribution gains in grocery stores, and chains such as Walgreens and Walmart have begun stocking pouch brands in coolers at some stores.
Seagram’s website has an interactive map where you can find nearby outlets selling their Frozen Flavors line. Entering a Kingston zip code yielded 20 outlets within 5 miles. Seagram’s Escapes Frozen Flavors is a line of single-serve ready-to-drink frozen flavored malt beverages (FMBs). The lineup includes Margarita, Strawberry Daiquiri, PiƱa Colada and Sangria. With 5 percent alcohol by volume, the frozen FMBs can be consumed directly from the 10-ounce pouch. Seagram’s states that “the product can be merchandised in the beer and cooler section, snack and seasonal aisles and on feature displays”. Seagram’s Escaped Frozen Flavors has a suggested retail price of $1.99 for a single-serve 10-ounce pouch and $7.99 for a four-pack.
Parrot Bay  also sells a 10oz pouch for $1.99, and their products are also 5% alcohol by volume. Their site posts “Take all of the trouble out of making a good frozen drink! Parrot Bay tropical drinks are easy and great tasting. Just freeze, squeeze, and enjoy. Mixed perfectly every time. Great for outdoors.”
American Beverage Corp., manufacturer of the 8-ounce Little Hug Fruit Barrel drinks that have appeared in children’s lunch boxes since 1974, now manufactures Daily’s cocktails. “It’s the No. 1 brand (of frozen pouches), and we have about a 60 percent share of the market”. A blogger reviewing the pouches wrote “Daily's Ready to Drink pouches are an alcoholics dream. Booze (10 proof) premixed with the scrumptious flavor of your favorite mixed beverage. freeze, kneed, open, straw, YUM. Grab a handful! These pouches go right from the store to the freezer. The taste, consistency, and refreshment of a frozen blender drink…without the blender…the clean-up…the noise! You rip open the top and pour a slushy cocktail…into your glass, or right into your mouth.”
Daily’s also sells Daily's Single Serve Cocktails in bottles  “They're appealing enough to drink from, easy to pour and perfect for taking with you anywhere. Enjoy warm, chilled or frozen" their site says.
Cordina reports that the company was started by three enterprising young men who were on a quest to make big bucks.  “After seeing kids drink up Capri juices with straws at the beach they decided that alcoholic beverages in pouches would delight adult drinkers.” While many premixed cocktails are malt beverages (which use a malting process as opposed to fermentation or distillation), Cordina uses flavorless wine made from fermented orange juice. 
$1.99 each, their products include the "Mar-Go-rita," the strawberry "Daiq-Go-ri," and the "Pina-Go-lada". “Our product will be in Walmart and Walgreens very soon." The newest 2012 addition is the watermelon "Mar-Go-rita" and the latest mix is the "Choc-Go-lada". According to developers, the flexible pouch is squeezable, economical and safe.  “Throw the 'Go-ables' into a gym bag, purse or for thristy night owls, into a bra or undies to get through the velvet ropes undetected.”
Arbor Mist boasts that their products “don’t taste “alcoholic” at all". Arbor Mist launched its line in Walmart (in Merlot Blackberry, Pinot Grigio White Pear and White Zinfandel Strawberry flavors).  A blogger notes, “there’s nothing stopping you from popping one in yourself (except maybe your date of birth, but hey, that’s what Bigs and RAs are for). So just grab a few, freeze them overnight and get yo’ illegal classroom-drank on the next day—all without ever using a blender or fake ID.” "Squeezable Vessels Are Convenient, Appealing to Young Drinkers" boast marketers of the popular new pouches.

Another article states "Mixing nostalgia for childhood with the thrill of drinking-on-the-go, or just plain laziness, may explain a new trend in which adults are buying pre-mixed cocktails in baggies that resemble children's juice boxes. Alcohol companies such as Smirnoff, Arbor Mist, and Parrot Bay have already marketed their own brands of portable cocktails in brightly-colored pouches—for those who find regular liquor bottles too cumbersome (not to mention stigmatizing) to carry around, as well as for those who find mixing drinks too onerous and time-consuming. And the pouches are selling like hot cakes. The companies' intention to make the product appeal to a younger demographic seems to have been successful".

Cheryl DePaolo
Ulster Prevention Council