I would like to thank those in attendance & those tuning in on Facebook Live. In regards to my accident, they say go big or go home, I definitely didn’t make it home that night so I must have went big! I want to thank my family, especially my Mom for access to this laptop for this presentation, and for school, amongst many, many other things. I want to thank my Dad and my Uncle Kenny for being there for me from the U of Iowa all the through my time at the Minneapolis VA. Thank you to Juli Ulrich for making the donation box, a special thank you to Jennifer Husmann for helping me with this presentation and for advertising ‘A Tale to Tell”. I want to thank Deputy Tim Smith for being here; he was the Deputy on-scene at my crash site. To all of you who came and visited me while in the hospital at the U of Iowa and/ or the IC VA &/ or the Minneapolis VA. I believe that having each and every one of you there with me played a role in my recovery. I want to say thank Sam Moore for finding me that night. Absolutely none of this would be possible without his actions that night. I don’t have to wonder where I’d be right now if he hadn’t found me and taken the necessary actions. I want to thank the Olin EMT for keeping me alive in the bitter cold. It was -4 with wind chill that night. To the flight crew, the U of Iowa doctors, nurses, and anyone who has helped me to get to this point, thank you, as well as the Iowa City VA and the Minneapolis VA. Thank you to Erin Allen, & Maggie and Ethan Weirather for being with me and for me. Thank you to Katie Bassett for being there with and for me and for playing ‘Till I Collapse’ by Eminem when I was in a coma. She told me that the doctors made her turn it off as my legs started to kick and my pulse began to rise, they were unsure if I would go into shock. Even in a non-coma state, that song can cause shock for me! To start things off I will talk about my Army experiences. I believe that everything I have done has led me to this point in my life. Currently I have a 3.6 GPA at Argosy University in pursuit of psychology degree, I’ve served this country abroad twice, and I took the 2% chance the doctors gave me to survive and ran with it!; I think that that 2% was 1.9% more than I needed!
Pre-Iraq
I’ll start a few years before my accident, all the way back to 2006; I found out in October of 2006 that I was being deployed to Iraq. Within the same week, while I was attempting my 2nd try at UD (the first was cut short by me joining the Army; I missed what would have been my sophomore year to complete Basic Training and AIT [Advanced Individual Training], the military loves acronyms); I decided I was going to be a medic, for no real reason other than it had a $10,000 enlistment bonus. Where do I sign? In October of ’06 I got word that I was deploying to Iraq, in the same week as that was also Homecoming and Halloween. To say I was a little full of myself at that time would be an understatement. I liked the positive attention I was getting because of my upcoming deployment. I wasn’t scared to go, maybe anxious. I felt like nobody would ‘fire truck’ with me, like I had a ‘free pass’; but you don’t get a ‘free pass’ for being deployed. The imaginary ‘free pass’ I thought I had was short lived, that Saturday I was arrested for my 2nd OWI. I had 2 OWI’s before I could legally drink. I had a problem but I didn’t think that I did; at least I wouldn’t admit to myself that I did. I somehow managed to get to Drill for the Iowa National Guard in Des Moines every month, without a driver’s license. Going to court for my 2nd OWI while at the same time gearing up for my upcoming deployment to Iraq, well, well that sucked.
Iraq
First, I would like to thank all men and women, past and present who have joined the Armed Forces. I was in the Iowa National Guard and proud of it. Before getting to Iraq, I had to go to Camp Shelby, MS for pre-mobilization or pre-mob, training. This is required for all National Guard units before deploying. Pre-mob takes 2-3 months for a battalion to complete. Camp Shelby is located 60 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico; some call it the ‘arm pit of America’. I was there from June through August…summer…in what I refer to as; the ‘‘Brass’-hole of America’. Temperature wise it wasn’t as hot as Iraq, but I don’t know if there is anywhere on Earth that can compete with that humidity. I sweat a lot in Iowa during the summer when I’m not doing Army things, in Camp Shelby, MS; it looked like I was constantly playing in a sprinkler; I was dripping in sweat…constantly dripping in sweat. One night I made the mistake of shaving after showering, I was sweating so much once I applied the shaving cream that it was dripping off me. When I got to Iraq the temperature was 115 but with no humidity, I thought the weather was nice; hot and windy, sure, but with little to no humidity. The dessert heat in Iraq was nice, some of the people in Iraq however, they weren’t as nice.
Iraq
I was in Iraq from Aug. of 2007 through the end of April ‘08, about 9 months. From August, fast-forward to Easter of that year, a Christian holiday in a non-Christian region. I’ll never forget that Easter fell on the last day of March in 2008. We only had a month to go until we were home. Lieutenant Speicher and I were walking to check-in early for our convoy when all of sudden we heard a loud whistle, it sounded like a plane almost but we looked up and neither of us saw any aircraft above. Approximately 10 seconds after hearing that whistle that we heard a BOOM; it wasn’t a plane that we heard but a rocket or a mortar, we stared at one another then rapidly ran to a bunker. Rockets and mortars are very deadly, packed with shrapnel, nuts & bolts, anything they can pack them with to cause injuries/fatalities. The bunker we found was full, ‘nut to butt’ as we refer to it in the military. We were inside the bunker for about 30 seconds when I heard two Marines about 75 yards from me yell ‘Coreman! Coreman!’ Coreman is Navy and Marine talk for medic. With me being a medic, I looked at Lt. Speicher and told him I have to go. Bravely and courageously, he followed. I got to the Marines and we began clearing housing trailers to ensure there was no body trapped inside of one. We got to one trailer and heard what sounded like a shower running. I thought “What a weird time to take a shower.” The shrapnel from of the mortars and/or rockets severed the plumbing, we found a man who was in the process of taking a shower when the mortars/rockets had impacted. His skull was severed from his ears on back. There was no time to mourn, we had to bag him and move on fore we were still getting mortared and rocketed. Lt. Speicher and I had split up by this point and I was near a large, metal generator. While I was near the generator a mortar or rocket impacted and I hit the ground and rolled underneath the generator. There were a few people near me who were stuck in the same predicament asking me what to do. There is no safe place when under a rocket and/or mortar attack, there are dangerous and less dangerous spots to be, and we were in a spot that was somewhere in-between, it could have been worse but it could have been A LOT better. After a few seconds had passed, when the ‘booms’ stopped, I yelled ‘Run! Now!’ And we ran. Thankfully there was a bunker within 50 yards of our location. We all ran to that and as luck would have it, Lt. Speicher was in there. I remember us repeatedly high fiving, grinning so much from the fact we had survived, almost laughing, as both of us were thankful that neither of us had been wounded, or worse, fatally wounded. The convoy that we were early for would not be leaving that day.
Post-Iraq/ Pre-Afghanistan
Upon getting home from Iraq, from the last day of April in 2008 through late-July of 2010, I was home in Iowa. I worked a construction job installing hardwood floors for a year or so, then went to Kirkwood College to give college a 3rd try. My 3rd attempt was much like my 2nd attempt. In October of 2009 I got the phone call that I would be deploying to Afghanistan. It turns out the Army; the military in general, doesn’t care what you are doing or what you will be doing; when they need you they need you, it’s not up for debate. I spent the next 9 months mostly drunk, from that Oct. through July of 2010. I drank because I needed to, I knew my time in America was coming to a temporary end again so why not… Before I deployed Iraq we got a week with paid/leave and we were only an hour and 45 minutes from New Orleans. Awesome! While in New Orleans I was thinking, “Tonight I’m going to drink like this is the last time I will ever drink, because it might be.” That thought stayed with me.
I only was arrested once in that time frame for a public intox in Iowa City. When I think of the number of times I drank in those 9 mos. and only getting arrested once, that would be considered a ‘hot streak’ for me. I have been arrested for alcohol related offenses 11 times (I think); 1 minor-in-possession, 8 public intoxications, and 2 of my 3 OWIs. Later I’ll discuss my 3rd OWI & why I wasn’t arrested for it.
Afghanistan
In preparation for Afghanistan we had pre-mob, again my pre-mob was in Camp Shelby. Again I was there in summer; again it was so ‘fire trucking’, INCREDDD-ABLY hot. I was at Camp Shelby for 3 months, from mid-July of 2010 through the end of October. My deployment to Afghanistan was around 9 months, from November of 2010 to the end of July in 2011. My experience with war is that it is around 98-99% boring. During that time I watched movies, played video games, ate, and went to the gym…and that explains much of my time in Afghanistan. But that 1-2% that was not boring is what I’m going to tell you about. I was a member of 334 BSB (Battle Support Battalion); we medics were given away to whoever needed us, we didn’t have ONE Company that we served with; we had MANY Companies that we served with. It was mid-June and I had been given to an Engineering unit to serve as their medic for a few weeks for route clearance missions. I told myself at that time, “Get through this month, get home, and experience Eminem in concert at Lollapalooza in Chicago.” I had gone on a few missions with the Engineers and so far, so good. Not much had happened. June 12th, 2011 is a day I will never forget. We were going through a small village with the road forming an “S” curve. I was in a 7-8 vehicle convoy and I was the 2nd or 3rd vehicle from the front, nearly making it through the “S” till we heard a loud BOOM. We looked back and the trail vehicle in the convoy had been hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). My vehicle was about 75 yards from that vehicle, the road was hard to maneuver and the vehicles in-between us weren’t making it easy to get around. We got around 50 yards from the hit vehicle and crept to a stop. At this point I said “fire truck it” and chose to run the distance in-between myself and the down vehicle. Around the 20 yard mark the vehicle that was hit came into clearer view. I thought I was going to be walking up on fatalities; remarkably there were only 2 people in the truck. The 2 that would have been in there were doing a dismounted patrol. The two people in the vehicle, the driver and gunner, were still breathing, a sigh of relief came over me. The driver just had a concussion and the gunner had two broken ankles, nothing that I couldn’t handle or so I thought. We carried the soldier approximately 50-60 yards away from the impact site to protect us from a secondary IED, which there wasn’t. If there was, it didn’t detonate. The injured soldier was coherent and was aware of what was happening. I got him splinted up and started the I.V. process. I got the I.V. bag started and had liquid flowing and my other drugs on stand-by to counter the morphine I was about to give. I started looking for the auto-inject morphine, similar to Epi-pen’s, but I didn’t have any. I had the morphine that’s in the vial form; primarily meant for use in a clinical setting. I attempted to use the vial-type morphine, but I couldn’t get it to work. The soldier said there was no pain relief. I told him I’m sorry a hundred times or so, then I remembered I had some personal Tylenol in my bug-out bag; only thing was my bug-out bag was in my truck …about 100 yards away. Again I said “fire truck-it” and ran to my vehicle. I got the Tylenol and made my way back. The Tylenol didn’t do much for his ankles but that was the best I could do. Shortly after getting back, the Medevac Blackhawk arrived. It was a long distance and we were on a hill, I don’t remember how far it was because we had to carry him in a litter down a hill. Carrying a 200lb. man plus his equipment downhill is probably harder than carrying him uphill. Downhill, momentum plays a role, trying to keep his equipment from sliding off was a challenge too. Once I loaded him up and told the flight medics the situation, they were gone. After that I started to walk back with everyone who had carried him but I had sea-legs, I simply couldn’t walk due to exhaustion. I fell to a knee and one of the men who helped carry him ran and got me a Gatorade from his truck. That was the best-damn Gatorade I have ever had in my life.
Post-Afghanistan
We got back in late-July of 2011. I don’t know what day of the week it was exactly, I’ll call it a Tuesday, but that Friday I would be in Chicago at Lollapalooza, my first time experiencing Eminem! I saw him one other time at Lollapalooza ’13. Eminem was with me nearly every day from 1999 on, through high school, college, both deployments; I was probably listening to Eminem when I got in my accident, nearly every day. I say I experienced him rather than just heard him because I don’t just hear the words, I feel the words. About 2 months after being home, late September/ early October of 2011, I developed an addiction to Spice, synthetic marijuana. That addiction lasted for about 1.5 years. I hated it but loved it at the time. I was pulled over by the Marion PD after just taking a drag in my car. The cop had me do a field-sobriety test and didn’t believe me when I told it was Spice, not marijuana. He had the K9’s come and neither dog found anything. I can still picture the Spice bag falling out of my driver side door and the cop finding it as I was in his car with his back-up. He couldn’t believe that I was telling him the truth. At that time there was nothing legally he could do. He confiscated my pipe and what was left in my bag of Spice and told me that I really need to try and quit using Spice. I told him that I know, took my ticket, told him stay warm (it was winter), and drove away to go get another bag of Spice. I was hook-line-and sinker addicted. I went to work just so I’d have money for it, it was more important than eating, I would buy a bag of Spice before I’d buy bread. The only thing I placed above Spice was cigarettes, those are not good for me I know, but that’s how it was. I quit using Spice around February of 2013 and haven’t picked it up since. The two and half years that followed up until my accident were pretty laid back. I still drank heavily, but no major events. Everything seemed like it was going okay from February of ’13 through December 31st, 2014. Everything was going okay until it wasn’t. This brings me to my accident.
Accident
I was drinking more than I ever had at that time, around 4-5 times a week I’d say, usually ‘road tripping’. That is drinking by myself, driving around the gravel roads around CR. I had recently bought a white 2007 Ford F-150 and wanted to show it off. I had just turned 29 on Christmas of ‘14. Dec. 25th is my birthday. My sister, Katie, and her soon to be husband Marshall, rented a party bus for their party to the surrounding bars in Jones County. They were having their bachelor/ bachelorette party that night on NYE. I went to my good friend’s house to celebrate the end of another year before arriving at then Greg’s Pit Stop, or Greg’s as it was commonly called, is where the party bus would be departing from and arriving to. The night is somewhat fuzzy to me, on account of me drinking… and getting into that accident. There are things I can remember and things I can’t from that night. This I don’t remember, we got back to Greg’s and me and another friend stayed on the bus to help clean up, pick up beer cans and what not. He went inside to use the bathroom and in typical fashion of me at that time, I made my escape. I hopped in my truck with every intention of making to CR but only made it a couple miles west of Olin on E-45. I cannot remember what caused that accident; I have spent many of sleepless nights trying to recall the events that led up to it. It’s not for lack of effort or that I simply don’t want to remember them, I just can’t. I don’t know when Sam found me, when the Olin EMT arrived, or when the helicopter arrived. For those EMT personnel that were there, remember that this was in 4 below zero weather plus wind chill, I thank you for putting up with me and the weather that night. Everything they did and all the effort that was put in by those persons, especially Sam and the Olin EMT was done 36 degrees below freezing. Back to my memories, or lack thereof, of that night, it’s sort of like a double-edge sword in a sense, I want to remember but at the same time, I’m glad that I can’t remember. My truck rolled and slid about 100 yards off the highway. During that time is when I shattered my left hand (show scar), broke 2 vertebrae in my neck, my C4 & C5, and fractured my. I was in a coma for 4 weeks and fed by a stomach tube for 5. I can still remember vividly what is was like to eat a meal for the first time once the stomach tube was taken out, I had hospital fillet o’ fish and vegetables, and it tasted AMAZING. I couldn’t ask for seconds, but had I been able to I would have. I’ve heard some say that their guess is I laid in my truck in that field for about an hour, again I don’t know. I was at the U of I for a week where they did surgery on my hand and removed the broken fragments from my skull. From the U of Iowa I was transferred to the Iowa City VA for approximately 3 additional weeks. Then from Iowa City I was transferred to the Minneapolis VA for 2.5 months.
Once I was at the Minneapolis VA & I felt like I was out of the coma, my memory started to come back. However, during that transfer, the ambulance allowed my Dad to ride with me; there was also a paramedic in the back with me. I must’ve been dreaming or the morphine was playing tricks on me, or both, because I thought that the ambulance stopped at a Casey’s where I got up and casually walked inside and bought two 20oz. Pepsi’s, Pepsi is my favorite soda. Then at some point the paramedic in back stole one of my Pepsi’s, but as it turns out he didn’t and we never went there. I believed this for a couple of weeks and told my Dad about the Pepsi that was stolen from me, he looked at me and said “No…Philip we never went to a Casey’s or any convenience station for that matter.” I was dumbfounded, I swore that happened! But it turns out it didn’t happen.
Once the transfer was completed and I got over the paramedic stealing my Pepsi, it was time for work, A LOT OF WORK. Once I was able to fully look at myself in the mirror I can remember seeing my skull, or lack thereof, and saying to my Mom “What happened to my fire trucking skull? And where is my fire trucking truck?!” I had no idea what I had gone through or what my truck had gone through. My truck went from this to this to this is, what was left; Ford F-150’s are some tough trucks!
I can remember my Mom telling me what happened and still being in disbelief. For whatever reason I thought that my truck was at the Coralville Wal-Mart and that I had just put my wallet and phone in the center counsel. I didn’t think I totaled it in an accident. I felt like, “Okay, I get I was in a truck accident but what people are telling me CAN’T all be true. I feel fine; I definitely don’t feel like I went through all that.” As I started to see the x-rays from my hand, neck, and skull, I then began believing that it was true. I still have the scar on my stomach from where the feeding tube was. I called the 4th floor of the Minneapolis VA home for a while. I was in the Poly-trauma Unit ward. I had two physical therapists, a social worker, a psychologist and a few other members of the Poly-trauma team to help me, I owe those at the Minneapolis VA Poly-trauma ward a lot for helping me get where I am today. I still had one surgery to go, the cranial-plasti surgery to complete my skull. Going into that surgery, I was terrified, for the 2 months leading up to that I wasn’t scared of much. I remember grabbing my Mom and Dad’s hand and sobbing. I grabbed them and tried to curl around them like a baby. Everything went according to plan though. I came home to Iowa in early April of 2015, once the crainal-plasti surgery for my new skull was completed. I had 47 staples in my head to keep my skin intact and to let my new skull get settled in. The staples remained for 2 weeks upon getting home. I felt uncomfortable being ‘that guy with 47 staples in his head’. (Show where they were). I hated when I had to go in public for two reasons, 1 because I didn’t want people to see them and secondly because if anything touched them, it hurt. I wore a hat to conceal the staples but had to be careful when putting it on to avoid it touching one or more of the staples. I was beyond happy to get them removed. I was home for about a month and realized there were things that I still needed help with, ranging from my balance & coordination to my writing. Being that the right side of your brain controls your left extremities and the left side of your brain controls the right side, my right hand and leg are affected. From time to time my right hand will experience tremors, making the way I write slower and at times impossible. My walk has also permanently changed.
Around Thanksgiving of 2015 I started to get intense headaches. A headache can come on if I cough or bend my head below my heart. My body must deal with pain by sweating as I will begin sweating if they are intense. I remember one time last winter while I was outside a headache came on; once it passed I began sweating profusely. My pores were wide open from sweating; they were getting all of the Iowa winter they can handle. Their intensity can vary; the most intense is when I have something go down the wrong tube when swallowing. They are also the reason I have to have glasses now, they affect my vision. They can be debilitating at times.
I took a Greyhound bus from Iowa City to Minneapolis as I was allowed to attend a wedding. We went from Iowa City to Des Moines to Minneapolis; they must’ve wanted to take the scenic route. I was told by a Greyhound bus driver in Des Moines that he wasn’t going to let me ride the bus because he thought that I was drunk. He told me that he watched me pace outside while smoking a cigarette and he could see me stumbling and that my words were slurring together. I knew that I walked and talked a little different post-accident, but it never occurred to me that it looked like I was drunk. I took of my hat and showed him my scar and told him that’s why I appear and sound like that, I’m not drunk. I told him that I would blow zeroes. Eventually he let me on the bus.
A week later I was questioned by the Minneapolis VA police for being drunk. I told them that being drunk is why I’m here to begin with! I was referring to my accident. The officer didn’t believe me until they called my ward and got confirmation that I was who I said I was and that I was an in-patient under their care. At the time I was angry beyond belief, I didn’t sleep that night. Looking back now I’m glad that happened; it let me know that I do at times give the perception that I am drunk to those who don’t know me and it taught me how to handle that situation if it should occur again. That is part of the reason for my sobriety; I wanted to take that perception away from people. I didn’t want to give anyone the thought that I could be; I didn’t want people to think that my walk or speech is altered due to me being drunk. That was just the beginning of me thinking that, as I still drank from that point to August 22nd, 2015; my last drink of alcohol. I was referred to the alcohol & drug rehabilitation program at the St. Cloud VA in Minnesota. I was referred to go there because it would benefit me in court. I had to appear in court for my 3rd OWI in February of 2016. I thought that if by me going to St. Cloud, I’d reduce my jail time then okay, I’ll do it. I ended up not serving any jail time which was a bonus. It definitely wasn’t to clean myself of alcohol. But that’s what happened. A part of me is forever in their debt. Alcohol is so powerful that it took my accident, which should have been enough ‘alcohol rehabilitation’ in itself to make me give it up; it took that plus me going to St. Cloud for me to realize that alcohol and I have a love/hate relationship. I loved getting drunk but at times, I hated what it could make me do. My addiction to alcohol is why I got into my accident that night, when I weigh-out the pros and cons of me getting drunk, the cons win in a landslide.
My message isn’t to asking anyone quit drinking; my message is to evaluate one’s self while drinking and adjust if need-be. Some people handle it responsibly, I did not. It will be difficult to cut-back but please trust me, it’ll be worth it. To those that drink and drive, no matter where you are going and no matter the reason, it is not that important. Get to where ever you are going when you are sober. No matter the reason, if it’s important it will be there the next day to accomplish.
When referring to life in general, to quote Jimmy Valvano, “Never give up, don’t ever give up.” Know that whatever the obstacle or challenge is, you are strong enough to handle it. Know that what may seem as impossible to do, is possible and can be done.
I’ll finish with a quote from Eminem,
‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up
But you gotta search within you
And gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you
And get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face, and collapse…”
Are there any questions?
Questions can also be asked by messaging me on Facebook or posting your question on the ‘A Tale to Tell’ Facebook Event page.
Thank you for listening.

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On Sept. 22 the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition held a forum on substance abuse and mental health, and the questions to the panelists addressed three substances, alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs/opiates, as well as mental health and how the abuse of these substances affects mental health.

The Coalition, like everyone, is concerned about the prescription drug and opioid epidemic. We have been working on the prescription drug abuse issue for a few years with efforts on safe disposal and monitoring needed medicines in homes and will continue this important work. We invited the director of the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative to speak at our Coalition meeting this summer. We are showing “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” on Nov. 17, at Noon in Anamosa and in the evening in Monticello. We are promoting more use of, and improvements to, the prescription drug monitoring programs in Iowa, and we are certainly for increasing access to effective treatment for those with opioid disorders.

The Coalition remains concerned about all substance abuse, including prescription drug opiates, and feels that marijuana policy is worthy of scrutiny as well. “Medical marijuana” is a phrase that means different things to different people. For some, it means whole plant cannabis, for some, artisanal CBD Oil, and yet others are thinking of actual pharmaceutical grade CBD oil approved as other medicines are in our country. There are now whole plant cannabis hybrids with up to 32% THC. THC is what produces the “high” and is addictive, and all the more so as the concentration levels rise. This is not the marijuana of the 60s and 70s that grew naturally with 1-3% THC.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a component of the marijuana plant that is not addictive and doesn’t produce a “high” and there will likely be medicines with CBD on the shelves of regular pharmacies across the nation by early 2018. This is bound to happen without any “medical” marijuana laws because the drug has been researched and is showing efficacy. There may also be medicines coming to pharmacies with THC derived from the marijuana plant, if the medicines are proven to work better than the placebos and do more good than harm. Doctors will be able to prescribe the dosage and strength recommended for their patients’ conditions, and will know the possible drug interactions. This type of basic medication information is unknown when “medical” marijuana dispensaries with budtenders dispense pot products instead of trained pharmacists dispensing proven medicine.

The Coalition agrees that the research starting to happen is long overdue. This movement should continue. Further reduction of unnecessary barriers is needed for FDA approved research of cannabis to produce pharmaceutical grade medicines for children and adults with serious medical conditions. On August 10th of this year the Feds approved new rules to expand legitimate research opportunities by increasing the number of legal grow sites for research-grade marijuana. There is more to be done to increase research, without moving towards legalization. Everyone should be for more research.

There was a study done recently concerning opiate deaths decreasing in states with medical marijuana programs. This is just one study. We need more studies to reach conclusions. The study lumped together states with active medical marijuana programs and states with small ones or ones without programs at all. This needs to be studied more thoroughly.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy did recommend cannabis be rescheduled in 2010, but as more information became available, their recommendation in 2014 was to only reschedule CBD. The new rules announced by the Feds on August 10th will likely help in researching CBD and other components of marijuana. The same ruling by the DEA this summer, kept whole plant marijuana in Schedule I after extensive research using the required exhaustive 8 factor scientific analysis. Schedule I means there is no legitimate medical use (for whole plant marijuana).

We are deeply concerned about Veterans and other people who are committing suicide every day in our country. There are treatments designed to address the root of the problem of PTSD, rather than masking the problem with a drug. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is one of those treatments that those with PTSD are finding truly helps. Earlier this year the DEA did approve a study with whole plant marijuana for Veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD.

People may still wonder why CBD that doesn’t produce a “high” is a concern of our Coalition at all. Why do we care if it is an FDA approved medicine or not? Well, we do care that people with intractable seizures also get safe medicines, but when parents are desperate to save their child or give their child a better quality life, of course we want that for them. The truth is if there was a period at the end of the sentence on this issue, we wouldn’t be talking as much about CBD as a coalition, except to help people. The problem is Big Marijuana is cashing in on legitimately sick people to further their cause for commercialization, first by getting “medical” marijuana accepted in our culture for more and more conditions and wanting more and more THC allowed, and ultimately by profiting on addiction and lining their own pockets.

Marijuana damages young brains similar to the way tobacco damages lungs. Brains are also pretty important. Just because normally healthy people don’t usually overdose and die on it, doesn’t mean it is not harmful. A person is 3 times more likely to develop an opioid addiction if they have a marijuana addiction. Usually this doesn’t mean someone is going to use marijuana instead of opioids. It is often the reverse– they start with using marijuana before trying opioids. The Coalition always tries to focus on the root of the problem that is possible to change.

There are 5 more “medical” states that have placed commercialization of “recreational” marijuana on their election ballots. Their citizens will vote on this in less than a week. Big Money is being poured into those states so that wealthy businessmen can get richer. It’s the kids, the families, and the communities who will pay with more traffic fatalities, less people who can hold jobs, and more people needing treatment. Iowa already has 2726 kids a year (2015 data) between age 12 and 18 in treatment reporting marijuana as their primary substance of choice, and we have nearly the lowest percent of kids in the nation using marijuana. Legalizing doesn’t equal less use. Legal alcohol is still the most abused substance. We have been down a similar road with Big Tobacco more than 50 years ago; now Big Marijuana is employing many of the same tactics. States with legalization of marijuana now have prevention advocates fighting to not allow commercials for marijuana candy edibles to be played during the Super Bowl on TV. Does this sound familiar at all?

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As kids of all ages get ready for another school year, so too, can parents work to prepare their children to face the pressures, stressors, and risky choices their students may face. This is especially true when it comes to substance use. Alcohol and drug use, including misuse of prescription drugs, are a very real problem in schools across the country, even locally. However they don’t have to be an issue for your child. Though parents cannot always be around, there are a number of things they can do to help reduce the likelihood of their son or daughter getting caught up in the dangerous cycle of substance abuse.

Sometimes parents mistakenly feel that drug and alcohol temptations won’t present themselves until high school at the earliest or more likely college. While exposure to substances is greater at these stages, parents should remember that adolescence in general represents an extremely important time for their child. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes, “risk of drug abuse increases greatly during times of transition”. For youth, this can include the changing of schools, moving up in graders, or facing academic challenges. Think, for example, of the immense change one goes through when progressing through elementary school to middle school or even middle school to high school. Though ultimately exciting, such changes can be daunting and stressful initially. Add to that the fact of greater availability of substances, especially in high school, and parents can begin to understand why conversations about drugs and alcohol are best had early on.

What can parents do? One of the most important things parents can do is set a good example. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Youth of all ages take notice on what their parents do. Instead of fearing this, embrace this. If, for example, you choose to consume alcohol when your child is present, do so responsibly. Be sure to explain why adults can drink with low risk and why it would be very high risk for them, noting that our brains develop well in to our 20s and any use below that age can be especially harmful. Make a point to explain why you refrain from certain activities like driving after drinking, explaining the effects alcohol can have on one’s coordination, eyesight, and even behavior, as age appropriate. Take care in how you store your prescription drugs, such as with a lockbox, explaining how such drugs, even when prescribed, are not to be taken lightly and, when misused, can be very harmful. Storing them in such a manner not only deters improper access but also sends a message on how medications should be treated.

Beyond actions, having open and honest conversations is also vital. Make it a point to address the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and drug use, especially when the context presents itself. For example, a movie or television program may depict substance use in a glamorized or unrealistic way, and such messages can be profoundly influential on your child. Combat this by being aware of what your child is watching, but also explain how the media can misrepresent or not give the full truth of what drugs can do. If your child says something that may indicate an incomplete understanding of a substance, address it by not only stating why such things can be harmful, but always use the opportunity to explain how drugs and alcohol can harm their goals and aspirations as well.

Another component of drug and alcohol prevention that can be overlooked by parents is that of positive encouragement. Recognize the efforts as well as achievements of your child. A good grade on a test, a strong performance at a match, or dedication to studying are all examples of positive behaviors that should be recognized. Youth that have these positive activities as part of their life, along with healthy relationships, are less likely to engage in substance use. When employed regularly, all of these things can have a big impact on keeping your child safe, healthy, and successful.

Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preventing-drug-abuse-best-strategy

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/substance-abuse/Pages/Drug-Abuse-Prevention-Starts-with-Parents.aspx

http://www.ncpc.org/topics/drug-abuse/alcohol-tobacco-and-other-drugs

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When it comes to underage drinking, nearly everyone recognizes the harm that can stem from it. Alcohol’s intoxicating effect can be exacerbated on developing minds, leading to poor and dangerous decisions, as well as real long-term consequences. Heavy drinking over extended periods of time can lead to irreparable damage to anyone, especially youth, who may experience memory impairment and other deficiencies that can harm ones’ skills and abilities needed to lead a successful life. All of this is generally understood. What is not so readily known, however, are the laws and regulations governing the sale of alcohol. One such law, the Age of Seller, may be a noted factor in the accessibility in alcohol for teens.

Lest your eyes glaze over, Age of Seller refers to the age at which one is legally allowed to sell alcohol. This is generally divided in to two categories, on premise and off-premise. On-premise is for those businesses that dispense liquor within the establishment and has it consumed there, like restaurants and bars, whereas off-premise is those places in which alcohol is purchased but consumed elsewhere, such as your grocery and convenience stores. Iowa is unique in that persons as young as 16 years old are legally allowed to sell alcohol in off-premise locations, a fact that is perhaps quite surprising considering every other Midwestern state requires persons to be aged 18 to 21 in order to sell alcohol. This makes Iowa truly unique, and not necessarily in a good way.

Underage drinking is fueled by two major factors, perception of harm and ease of access. Simply put, it’s a problem because many teens don’t view it as that “big of a deal”, and don’t see it as much of a risk. In addition, it’s viewed as easy to get. How do we know this? A statewide survey distributed by the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Youth Survey, gives us a window in to the opinions and attitudes of teens. For Jones County, 50% of 11th graders reported some alcohol experience, with 68% of 11th graders finding alcohol to be “easy” or “very easy” to obtain. These are staggering numbers. How, then, does Age of Seller come in to play? When asked, 3% of 11th graders report that they had obtained alcohol by purchasing it. This accounts for a small fraction of underage drinking, to be sure, but a portion nonetheless and a number that can be easily lowered.

This is not to say that only those under the age of 18 or 21 can sell to a minor, we know that’s not true. Having someone as young as 16 be in charge of liquor and alcohol sales, however, certainly puts that person in a uniquely vulnerable position to sell to their underage peers. Teens at this age can be uncomfortable refusing an underage sale, especially if that potential buyer is a friend or peer at school. We also know that the brain is not considered fully developed until the age of 25, especially the prefrontal cortex, which allows someone to make rational decisions regardless of peer pressure. Youth tend to act on emotion when facing a decision, which can be a liability when it comes to selling alcohol.

Thankfully, individual businesses are able to adopt their own policies to strengthen the minimum standards set by the State. In fact, the majority of Jones county convenience and grocery stores report either an informal policy or practice to have all sellers be at least 18 years old, recognizing on their own the need to have staff be in the greatest position possible to deter selling to underage persons. Some may think this could lead to a loss of employment opportunities for teens, however this does not have to be the case. Some stores, for example, require clerks under the age of 18 to simply get a member of management or an older staff member when ringing up an alcohol sale. Other places designate underage youth to tasks that don’t require alcohol sales within the store. Whatever the policy, businesses that take a proactive approach to prevent underage drinking not only safeguard their own liability, but also perform a laudable service to the community as a whole by taking a stand, and sending the message that underage drinking should never be tolerated.

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December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

December marks a time of year of togetherness, family, and appreciation for all we hold dear. Yet you may be surprised to learn that statistically, December is one of the most dangerous months for driving. In fact the time between Christmas and New Year’s sees an average increase in fatalities involving alcohol impaired drivers by 34%. Perhaps it is then fitting that, by Presidential proclamation, December has been deemed National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

Just how big of an issue is impaired driving? First, it’s important to know the facts. Every day nearly 30 people in the United States die in a vehicle crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver, equating to one death every 51 minutes. Let us also not forget the non-fatal injuries that have the capacity to dramatically impact ones’ life, with someone experiencing an injury from an alcohol related crash every 2 minutes. The annual financial cost equates to more than $59 billion dollars, along with the incalculable toll on individuals and their families.

While driving while under the influence of alcohol tends to get the bulk of attention, drugged driving, driving under the influence of illegal drugs or prescription medications, is becoming an ever-more relevant problem. Annually, around 4,000 drivers are killed each year with drugs in their system, and that’s just counting those who were tested. In fact, drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana, are involved in 18% of driver deaths. Once more, these drugs are often used in combination with alcohol, further exacerbating the impairment effects.

Statistics aside, how exactly do drugs and alcohol result in impairment and therefore dangerous driving? Both alcohol and marijuana are known to negatively impact ones’ coordination and reaction time, a potentially lethal combination on roadways where quick reactions are needed. Both also impair judgement as well as vision, namely peripheral vision, which can lead to potentially unnoticed road hazards. Many categories of prescription drugs can cause significant impairment, with symptoms such as drowsiness, confusion, and reduced judgment. Just as texting, talking on your cell phone, and other activities can distract drivers, driving impaired acts as a distraction for your mind, lessening your awareness and increasing the potential for making poor decisions.

Most people when confronted with these facts, will undoubtedly assure themselves that they will never knowingly drive impaired. We must remember, however, that’s only part of the equation. The fact is we share the road, and those driving impaired not only endanger themselves, but put the rest of us at risk. For this reason, take the time this holiday season to encourage your friends and family to drive responsibly. By educating and setting a good example we can begin to turn the tide of impaired driving, and focus on the connectedness and joy that this time of year should truly be about.

For more information contact Jeff at: Telephone: 319-390-1884 Ext. 205
Email: jmeyers@asac.us

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“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” – Ronald Reagan

In 2015 it’s more difficult than ever to find time to sit down for supper with our families. Parents are working long hours to provide for their families and kids are often involved in several extracurricular activities including sporting events which can last well beyond suppertime. Who has time to sit down for a meal anymore?

No one has time, but we must make time. Dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to unwind, connect with your family members, and make memories. Various research has revealed sharing 4-5 meals per week can have several benefits for children. The Family Dinner Project lists the following benefits of having dinner together 4 times per week:
• Better academic performance
• Higher self-esteem
• Greater sense of resilience
• Lower risk of substance abuse
• Lower risk of teen pregnancy
• Lower risk of depression
• Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
• Lower rates of obesity

“A study done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse revealed teens who eat fewer than three family dinners per week compared to those who eat five to seven a week are twice as likely to use alcohol and tobacco and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana,” (Psychology Today article). In addition, other studies found a child’s vocabulary was more positively affected by family dinners than by being read stories! Children can practice their communication skills face-to-face instead of through technology while at the dinner table. They can also learn how to express their opinions and listen as their family members do the same.

Family dinners not only benefit kids but their parents too! Brigham Young University completed a study of IBM workers in 2008 and found when moms sat down with their kids at the dinner table, tension and strain were reduced! A study by Barilla in August 2010 concluded 76% of parents reported having family dinner was the most important way they connect as a family. In a two-parent household, family dinners can benefit the couple as well! One study reported 78% of parents say they felt closer to their spouse when they had family dinner. Likewise, 82% of parents felt closer to their kids and 72% of kids felt closer to their parents!

If you can give yourself and your child these enormous benefits in only 5 hours per week…doing something you would be doing anyway, EATING, why wouldn’t you?

So how should you get started? First, turn off the TV and put the cell phones away. Second, encourage your children to help you prepare the meals. Make foods they like and try new recipes. Third, spend an hour eating, talking, and cleaning up together. Ask your child what was the best and worst part of their day. Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and express genuine interest in what your child has to say! Fourth, do this 5 times per week (start at 2 and work your way up if 5 seems overwhelming)! If dinner during the week is hard, that’s okay! Sharing breakfast or lunch on the weekend also “counts” toward the five meals! Likewise, picking up a pizza on a busy night or going out for dinner still “counts” too. It’s all about the family connecting and conversing without distraction. So turn off the TV, clear the table, and meet your family for dinner tonight!


If you have a mental health topic you’d like to see featured, e-mail: midtimes@netins.net

Melissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT
Outpatient Therapist & Jones County Supervisor
Life Connections
209 West Main Street
Anamosa, IA 52205
319.774.2045
m.paulsen@therapyconnections4u.net

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As many already know, there are attempts again to legalize “medical cannabis” in Iowa. Most of the people who are involved with these recent efforts are extremely well intentioned. They are trying to find help for various ailments for people they care deeply about. Particularly, if anyone had a child with a serious condition and there was possible relief for them through a new drug, who would blame them for seeking to learn more about it?

What many people might not that know is there is an FDA approved clinical study for Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, (a component of the crude marijuana plant) starting this month at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital by Dr. Charuta Joshi, MBBS. Children from Iowa have been accepted into this study providing them with a safe source of the CBD oil and testing the product at the same time to possibly help themselves and others in the future. CBD oil has very little to no THC (the psychotropic component of marijuana that produces a high). The brand name of this product is Epidiolex. The participants were only able to be included in the study if they had not been using an unapproved CBD product from another state.  The Partnership of Drug Free Iowa taped an interview with Dr. Joshi on this topic in February.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6LSkWesiBQ

The recent efforts towards legalization in Iowa are going beyond the CBD oil and broadening it to legalizing the whole plant to use for several more illnesses. This path is similar to what other states have done when they first legalized “medical” marijuana. Back as far as 1979, the leader at that time of NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws), Keith Stroup, said to the Emory Wheel, “We will use [medical marijuana] as a red-herring to give marijuana a good name.”

The public might not realize that there is already an FDA approved drug containing a type of THC (although not produced from the crude plant) called Marinol. It has been available for 30 years through physicians and pharmacies to help with nausea and other ailments. A medicine in mouth spray form called Sativex (which does have a THC and CBD from the crude plant) is on the FDA “fast track” and may be approved yet this year, although it was just said at a national conference last week that the Phase III trial did not show that it worked better than placebo for cancer pain. The drug is being sent back to Phase II trials for multiple sclerosis spasticity. From Phase I to the end, passing out of Phase III usually takes 4-8 years. It will have the appropriate dosage and strength information accompanying it, if approved.

Some people do not realize that in states where “medical” marijuana is legal, patients do not get a regular prescription from the doctor. They get a “recommendation” because doctors cannot legally prescribe it. The patient cannot fill these recommendations at a pharmacy, but instead goes to a “medical” marijuana dispensary. In these states, the person who is dispensing the marijuana has not had the same certification the law requires of pharmacists to know drug interactions and proper dosages, and no prescription drug insurance can cover it.

Increased availability of marijuana in any form, medicinal or recreational, will increase the cost of problematic use for all Iowans, especially youth. Even before recreational use was legalized in Colorado, 74% of youth in treatment for addiction to marijuana reported getting their marijuana from medical users in 2012. There are many other concerns about creating a state regulated production and distribution system for a product that is not FDA tested or approved. It increases health risks to children through cases of accidental ingestion by young children, as well as through prenatal exposure. There are issues of “medicinal” products being created that seem marketed toward children and teenagers in these states in the form of edible candies and vaporizable forms of marijuana that can be used in e-cigarettes. Big Marijuana is already “cashing in” in those states where the movement has moved to recreational legalization.

Much research has come out recently about the ties of marijuana to mental illness and significant loss of IQ, especially if use is started in the teen years. There is not one person in Iowa’s prisons serving sentences for first time marijuana possession as their most serious offense. The unintended consequences of those who are trying to help their loved ones and those they care about could be devastating for many other families’ children in Iowa. Should medicine be voted on by elected officials? Shouldn’t decisions about the safety of medicines for the public be left in the hands of qualified researchers?

For more information about this issue and all the sources used in this article, please contact the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition at 462-5030.

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Although methamphetamine use is the lowest point it has been in 17 years, according to the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, meth is still the second most commonly used illicit substances, after marijuana in the US. Federal surveys indicate that a staggering 12 million Americans have used meth, more than 6 percent of high school seniors have tried meth at least once and most shockingly some 4 percent of the nation’s eighth graders have used this devastating drug.
Meth can be eaten, smoked, snorted or injected and making meth is as dangerous as using it. Meth is commonly manufactured in makeshift labs in rural areas such as kitchens, trailers, barns and abandoned vehicles where the stench of its cooking can go undetected. The ingredients of meth are unfortunately legal, cheap, and easy to buy at the local drug or hardware store. Missouri and Iowa are now among the leaders in meth production, and much of the time these makeshift labs are in places where children are present.
The poisons of meth can linger in homes for long periods, causing serious respiratory ailments and other problems. Even in small doses, the fumes can cause skin and eye irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness and throat burns. The chemicals spread throughout the house and methamphetamine is deposited everywhere, from walls and carpets to microwaves, tabletops and clothing. Meth poses frightening health risks for small children who explore their environment by crawling and putting things in their mouth. Even after the labs are shut down and the homes are cleaned, the residue can cause danger to the next inhabitants. Once the smell gets into a house or apartment, it’s difficult to ever make it smell fresh again especially since residue can still be found in drains, on counters, in floor crevices and in ventilation systems. If a surface has visible contamination or staining it may be necessary to completely remove it which may mean hanging new drywall, replacing carpets and counters, cleaning ventilation systems while replacing furnaces or central air units, replumbing the residence from waste products being poured down the drains or toilets, and disposing of any materials used in making the substance or cleaning it up. Costs for methamphetamine clean-up can climb to an outstanding $15,000.00 per occurrence.
Property values are also affected by previous methamphetamine contamination as well as the effects of the drug on property owners. Federal authorities say about 15 percent of meth labs are discovered because they have blown up or caught on fire. Dozens of people die in meth lab explosions each year and hundreds more are severely burned.
While the number of labs discovered in Iowa has decreased dramatically from 1500 in 2004 to fewer than 200 in 2014 according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the demand and usage rates of meth continues to remain stable. Senate File 38, is a bill that was introduced to the Iowa Senate on January 15, 2015 in order to require “the disclosure of the use of property for the manufacture, use, storage or sale of methamphetamine” (SF 38, 114th Cong. (2015)). The new paragraph will require additional disclosure information regarding the use of a property and what must happen should a property have been associated in any way with the manufacture, use, storage and sale of methamphetamine. If Iowa passes this bill, they will join South Dakota, Oklahoma and Oregon who already require this disclosure and six other states who are proposing a similar policy. Any person who is thinking about buying or has bought property in the state of Iowa, essentially 3.1 million people, could potentially be affected by the property’s previous methamphetamine involvement. In 2014, 157 homes were sold in Jones County alone without this methamphetamine disclosure according to the Iowa Association of Realtors.
Meth accounted for more than half of Iowa’s drug related prison admissions in 2014. A majority of serious crime has its roots in meth and drug arrests tend to be much higher in the middle of the country in rural areas. What makes meth so different from other illegal drugs is that it can be produced cheaply and at home. A meth lab can be small enough to fit in a suitcase and a meth lab isn’t always easy to spot. The most obvious sign of a meth lab is the smell. The cooking of meth gives off an odor described to smell like cat urine or ammonia. If you suspect someone is making meth, stay away and call 911 or law enforcement.
If you suspect that your home or a home in your neighborhood has been used for the manufacturing or use of methamphetamine and/or members of your family are having health related issues, you should contact authorities right away for further instructions on how to remediate the property. If you suspect someone you know has a meth problem, you should approach them in a safe offer to help them access a substance abuse assessment.

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While the underage consumption of alcohol among teens remains the number one substance abuse problem in Jones County, the illegal use of prescription drugs by minors is rapidly growing. Jennifer Husmann, Project Coordinator for the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition, expresses her concern for our community’s youth. She states that she “wants parents to understand the growing use of illegal prescription drugs in Jones County.”

The Coalition has been busy building an understanding of the problem of prescription drug use and developing strategies to combat the emerging threat. Based on a community survey among 188 Jones County teens, the Coalition has gained considerable insight into this problem.

The survey asked several relevant questions which revealed some eye-opening information concerning the growing use of prescription drugs. One of the questions asked was, “How are teens getting prescription drugs in the first place?” Surprisingly, the number one source for getting prescription drugs was their own homes. It seems that when asked, teens state that they are by and large using their parent’s medicine followed fast by misusing their own prescriptions. First choice drugs among teens are common pain killers like hydrocodone. Teens also abuse their own prescription drugs. Many have easy access to ADHD drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. Because of this, youth to youth sales are common as well.

Another source of illegal prescription drugs is sales from adults. According to the survey, adults ages 30-40 are selling their prescription drugs. Complaining to their doctors of symptoms from illnesses like fibromyalgia and other chronic pain problems, some use their prescription drugs to supplement their income by getting prescriptions at greatly reduced prices through their insurance and marketing them to teens.

While teens admit that local schools have effectively reduced drug sales, they say that sales now take place more frequently after school. Prescription drugs are sold at area business parking lots one day, and on country roads the next. Teens state that smart drug dealers continually change the location of sales to avoid arrest and prosecution. In keeping with the increase of after school sales, teens responding to the survey indicated that prescription drugs are most often used after school in their own homes and at evening alcohol parties.

The question remains, what can we as a community do about the growing problem of the illegal use of prescription drugs? Husmann, has several suggestions which are readily available to residents of Jones County for combating this problem. She emphasizes the importance of parental monitoring. There are a number of steps that parents and grandparents can take to make their homes safer for their teens. Child proofing the home through the use of prescription lock boxes is an important step. Lock boxes can be purchased at local pharmacies. Appropriate disposal of drugs is another way that parents can safe-guard their homes. Outdated or used prescription drugs can be dropped off at our local police departments and sheriff’s office to later be destroyed. Another avenue that parents can take is to recycle their prescription drugs by donating them to the Community Free Clinic in Cedar Rapids, (947 – 14th Ave SE in Cedar Rapids). Finally, parents can ask their doctor to decrease the availability of prescription drugs by participating in monitoring programs offered by the State of Iowa.

The Coalition’s Youth Survey offers evidence based information indicating the growing abuse of prescription drugs in Jones County. The state and the nation are also seeing this trend. Fortunately, the Coalition also indicates that there are concrete steps that we as residents can take to combat this growing problem.

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I am a child of the 60s and 70s; flower power, love beads, Woodstock, and, of course, Mary Jane. Being none too confident in my mental clarity and having addiction issues run on both sides of my biological fence, I chose not to partake of alcohol, cigarettes, or Mary Jane, but a number of my friends were involved with at least two of the three. To be completely honest, I preferred being around those who were using Mary Jane over those using either of the others.

My son lives in Colorado and although he doesn’t partake, he shared with me all the positives that were expected when Colorado decided to legalize marijuana. It would be safer, it would get rid of the black market, it would raise all kinds of money for school, and it would help people who needed the medicinal benefits; sounded reasonable. I even went in to a dispensary when I was visiting him to see how it worked. We already sell alcohol and cigarettes, what’s the big deal, right?

Then I went to hear Kevin Sabet, Ph.D. Director of the Drug Policy Institute of the University of Florida. He was here thanks to the efforts of the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition. I was curious as to what the experts said; all though I thought I knew most of the answers. Turns out I learned a lot and I was wrong. Oh I still believe that somebody getting busted for using pot should not be labeled a criminal and there are a hundred more important things that should be occupying the legal forefront. But, let me share with you some facts that make it clear legalization and dispensaries are not the way to go. Go to Kevinsabet.com to see more on the statistics I am going to share. Yes, you can find articles that disagree with some of his suggestions as far as treatment and control, but the facts of health problems aren’t an opinion. I don’t know the best answer but I am convinced legalization and free market sales are the absolute worst.

First, before you get all bent out of shape with me, telling me there are those who need the medicinal benefits, let me assure you I fully support the development of the medicinal properties of the drug and the distribution of such through licensed medical pharmacies just like any other prescribed medication. It is available in Europe and in Canada. We need to push our FDA to get moving and get this established here in the United States.

We hear marijuana is harmless and non addictive time and time again. Well, now that we have had over 30 years of medical studies, we find this is not true. We now know we have cannabinoid receptors located throughout our brains. These receptors affect brain development, memory and cognition, motivation systems and reward, appetite (ever hear of the “munchies”?), immunological function, reproduction, movement coordination, pain regulation and analgesia. The American psychiatric association diagnostic manual has included marijuana use disorders since 1980. Not only is it addictive and harmful, it is stronger and far different than the pot of the 70s. The THC (which is the psychoactive ingredient-the bad guy) level jumped from less than 2 in 1970 to nearly 12 by 2011 and it continues to rise. The CBD (this is the part used for medicinal benefits) has remained constant at about 1. Another surprising fact is this: there is now scientific evidence that the use of cannabis increases your chances of developing Schizophrenia and the more you use, the higher the risk. Emergency room visits involving alcohol dropped from 2004 to 2008, cocaine rose slightly, heroin dropped slightly, stimulants dropped by a considerable amount and marijuana rose significantly. Just like anything you smoke, it is an irritant to the lungs and causes bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production. Marijuana smoke is carcinogenic and contains 50—70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke; evidence on cancer is mixed. Ingesting it rather than smoking increases the chances for disaster; twice in Denver now psychotic breaks have been recorded in people with no history of drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness who tried a candy bar and these breaks resulted in murder and suicide. In a 30 year study of I.Q. done of 1,037 individual from birth to age 38, the findings showed that non users gained about one point in I.Q between the ages of 13 and 38. Those who used pot showed a steady decline, depending on the use, from losing two to eight points. You might think, “Big deal, so what?’, but unless you are Einstein or someone along those lines, it is a big deal. Most of us are average and that means we don’t have any to spare. This drop is the difference between the degree you want and the degree you get, job you want and the job you get, and ultimately, the life you dreamed of and the life you will live. So if scientists and doctors know all of this, why the big push for legalization?

Let’s talk about what isn’t causing it. It isn’t because drug possession offenders are over running our state prisons. Only 6% are in for drug possession with 1.40 % serving for crimes involving only marijuana, .40% are serving because they are marijuana only offenders who have served no prior sentences, .30% are marijuana only possession charges and only .10% serve because of marijuana only possession with no prior sentences. Not a significant dent in our criminal population. It isn’t because legalization eliminates the black market. The black market is alive and well in Denver because recreational use marijuana has very high taxes and the medicinal marijuana can still be expensive so the street dealer can offer it at a much lower price. It isn’t because the money generated is so beneficial. Actually, quite the contrary; just as the case is with tobacco and alcohol. Alcohol revenue is $14 billion and the total social cost (sick days, legal costs, medical costs, etc.) is $185 billion. Tobacco revenue is $25 billion and the social costs are $200 billion.

The problem is we don’t get the clear truth about anything anymore. Capitalism has its benefits; it unfortunately has a number of drawbacks too. Money talks; it bought us trouble before and now it is buying it again. Money buys advertisements and advertisements finance the media so who do you think wins? Not us. The tobacco industry and the alcohol industry are clear indicators of that. It was the big businessmen who pushed for prohibition because they were sick of their workers coming in drunk; it was costing them money. The alcohol producers told them that if there was a tax on the alcohol, the government would take away the new federal taxes placed on them. So of course, the caring businessmen did a 180 and pushed for the end of prohibition. They still have their income tax. Same story, different characters with the tobacco industry. Despite the fact that doctors were sure of adverse effects early on and that by 1964 the American Medical Association was “on record and did recognize a significant relationship between cigarette smoking and the incidence of lung cancer and certain other diseases and that cigarette smoking is a serious health hazard.”, the tobacco industry paid for ads that said “more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette” and a host of other equally deceiving and alluring ads while they saw to it the truth was squashed. They even persuaded candy companies to make the candy cigarettes to ease the younger kids into the addiction. Now the tobacco industries, along with a handful of Wall Street wonders, are doing the same with marijuana. They know that the earlier the introduction, the more likely it is for addiction so of course they want to advertise it in candy form. I just hope we haven’t lost enough I. Q. points to let them win this time.

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