TOP NEWS This week included “4/20,” a day when some glorify marijuana use. As usual, the news media was filled with a number of misguided stories featuring goofy attempts at drug-related witticisms, metaphors and quips—ranging from how food companies are marketing to those with the "munchies" to breathy polls about support for marijuana legalization to another about marijuana advocates’ vow to smoke pot and get arrested on steps of U.S. Capitol. One cannot help thinking that, with all the problems in the world, and things to protest … well, you get it. Before we move on to more analysis, we really liked this T-shirt, designed years ago by our friend Greg Williams for a campus event in Connecticut. Let’s not forget that the tobacco, alcohol and opioid industries are inherently motivated—as all profit maximizers are—to persuade more people to use their products and to urge existing users to use even more. We know that “Big Cannabis” will exploit the media leanings toward marijuana and general social attitudes on this subject. In fact, this investment group asks how to invest in the trend of millennials getting high more often than drunk. We entered the discussion with the release of our first “Emerging Drug Trends” report, which focused on the fact that marijuana is getting more powerful. We were pleased that 220 websites posted the piece, and a number of stations across the country hosted our experts to talk about it. This one, on WCCO radio, was excellent, as was this one on KYKN in Oregon. Note Dr. Myer’s trenchant observation on WCCO about changing attitudes toward the drug in recounting how student fans counted down to the 4:20 mark of every period during the recent Minnesota high school hockey tournament and what that signifies about its unfortunate social acceptance. We couldn’t help but notice that across the pond in Manchester, England, some are calling synthetic marijuana worse than heroin. Thankfully, we were not alone in advocating for public health. Good op-ed here about teen attitudes toward marijuana use. And a study that says first-time marijuana use in college is higher than it has been in three decades. And while we don’t agree with all that was cited here, this was a thorough series, from Yahoo News: Weed hits home: In new poll, parents and children are surprisingly open about pot use Weed and the American Family This Is Your Teenager's Brain on Pot These mothers of suicides don’t think marijuana is harmless Kennedy: Medicinal Marijuana is a 'Trojan Horse' for the recreational drug industry Even a local police department right down the road from our Center City facility entered the fray, getting national attention with its 4/20 tweet. As the Star Tribune noted: “They did strike a more serious tone around 9 a.m. Thursday, telling followers: ‘All jokes aside, substance abuse is a real issue. We use tongue in cheek humor to bring attention to those issues.’ They then said, ‘if you need help with substance abuse issues please contact us and we'll find resources. That does NOT mean jail time.’” We will close this portion on marijuana with a line from our position statement on the topic: One of the recurring themes we hear from the youth we treat is regret—of wasted time, lost opportunities, squandered talent, impaired memory, reduced performance and disinterest in healthy activities. In D.C. news, we were disappointed to learn that U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is no longer with the Administration. A true champion for our issue, he sent millions of letters to doctors asking for their help against the opioid epidemic and created an important legacy last November with his office’s historic report on addiction. Calling the addiction crisis “a moral test for America,” the report placed our issue alongside smoking, AIDS and other public health crises that previous surgeons general have tried to address. Dr. Murthy really understood the cultural roadblocks to advancing addiction care and embraced both the science and spirit of recovery. Sure appreciated insights like this one he shared at a recent conference in Seattle: “We forget some of the oldest medicines are love and compassion.” We thank Dr. Murthy for his leadership. Meanwhile, on the policy front, we are six days away from a government shutdown. Policy leaders have been working on a new health reform bill in a bid to bring it up again for debate. Despite pressure from the White House, it appears unlikely House leaders will hold a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act as it is unclear whether they can muster the 216 votes needed for passage. Members of the House are planning a call today (Saturday) to plan their way forward. Attorneys general from 19 states sent a letter to leaders in Washington this week, urging them to make sure any healthcare reforms do not stop the flow of federal drug treatment money. Meanwhile, great to see so many strong, leading voices and advocates at the National Rx Drug and Heroin Abuse Summit in Atlanta! We were well-represented at the event, at which HHS Secretary Tom Price made news with a call for more opioid treatment – a great sign! Below, top left, are (L to R) our Executive Director of Medical and Professional Education Joseph Skrajewski, American Society of Addiction Medicine President Dr. Kelly Clark and our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marvin Seppala, who spoke. And here with the bipartisan tag team of treatment advocates Patrick Kennedy and Newt Gingrich is Jennifer Fox of our Publishing arm. Opioids. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week announced it will soon provide $485 million in grants to help states combat opioid addiction. It’s the first of two rounds of funding provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act. How does the surge in opioid and other drug overdoses compare with other causes of death in the U.S.? Draw your guesses on these interactive charts from the New York Times. There’s a link between opioids and unemployment. And the deaths of despair we talked about earlier are “stalking millenials” in this unforgiving job market. In other job-related news, a very interesting look at how more Americans are failing employer drug tests. Scary story about opioid users in Massachusetts who suddenly lost the ability to form new memories. Can we tax away the opioid crisis? The nation’s first public needle vending machine for drug users debuts in Las Vegas. A look at state laws that are blocking many nurses from prescribing opioid treatment medications. A lawsuit by the Cherokee Nation alleges that drug firms and retailers failed to prevent the diversion of pain pills to the black market, profiting from the growing opioid epidemic and decimating communities across the nation's 14 counties in Oklahoma. Previously, we shared about an online Harvard Medical School course that focuses on opioid use disorder treatment and prevention. Turns out thousands enrolled! Behind prison walls in Ohio, inmates regularly misuse Suboxone, an opioid normally used to help people stop using other drugs. A pain doctor asks: Where is the patient in the discussion of the opioid epidemic? Another doctor offers thoughts on how to have difficult patient conversations about pain and opioids. What if you had an opioid use disorder … how do you safely get pain relief after surgery? A study in JAMA Surgery found that despite sharp focus on the opioid epidemic following the 2016 release of CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, the guidelines fail to address - and little attention has been paid overall - to prescribing practices that lead to the persistent use of opioids after elective, outpatient surgery. April 29 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. If you know of folks with extra pain pills, urge them to turn them in! And one of the true Capitol Hill champions, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, calls on the president to declare an opioid emergency. Interesting piece from a pharmacist who says “we don’t get any training in how to spot a drug user; it’s just through experience.” And finally, this weekend marks the one year anniversary of Prince's passing. Our Chief Medical Officer was quoted in the story: “What his death did really was highlight the dangers of opioid drugs for the wider American populace,” said Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer at Hazelden Betty Ford treatment center in Center City, Minn. “His death really demonstrated to a lot of people how drugs and addiction can really affect anybody, because he was known to be a clean-living musician.” Alcohol. The legal profession’s drinking problem isn’t limited to lawyers. For Alcohol Awareness Month, a great blog and video from our friends at Facing Addiction on recovery advocacy pioneer Marty Mann! We’ve shared stories about Whiteclay, NE, a tiny town of 8 that has four liquor stores and supplies beer to its neighbors from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol sales are illegal. The story was surfaced by student journalists at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and then covered by the New York Times. Now, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission has decided to deny the four liquor licenses in Whiteclay. About time … and now what can be done to help those still living there, struggling with a substance use disorder? As part of the process to produce the news documentary “High Risk: Miami's Drinking Problem,” students reporting for Miami of Ohio University's student paper spent two months asking students, administrators and Oxford, Ohio, residents the same question: “How do you define Miami's drinking culture?” The short film was accompanied by a number of related print pieces about alcohol use and misuse. College newspaper takes a look at how drinking trends are combatted with education. And this one contains several informative graphs on the same topic. Advocate Spotlight. Our good friend Patrice Salmeri at Augsburg College’s StepUP program has a new role that is all about advocacy and expanding the reach of collegiate recovery. Windy City Live, a daytime talk show on ABC in Chicago, has a feature called 4-Star Chicagoan and this week featured a man in recovery known as “The Hope Dealer.” A new long jump world record might be set by this Olympian in recovery! We’ve been sharing his work here for a while, but this week Forbes spotlighted Ryan Hampton and how he is shaking up social media. A TV interview with Chris Arnade, the former banker who travels across the country writing about poverty and addiction. Johnny Solomon is amazing as he talks about how he stumbled into peace. This young man robbed banks and went to prison but his time there put him on track for a new job: Georgetown law professor. “All of this grief:” Prince Harry opens up about his mental health. The amazing power of sharing our stories, this by an expert on mental illness. Cool job opportunity, advocates! Appreciate this picture sent in by our friend, musician Phil Circle, and his wife Megan, pictured here with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (left) at the Kennedy Forum Breakfast held this week in Chicago. And actress Rachael Leigh Cook this week tweaked the old “This is Your Brain on Drugs” ad to highlight the negative effects of the so-called “War on Drugs,” especially on minority communities. Reflections. Historian William White this week called for “radically redesigning” America’s approach to addiction, pointing toward a day when “relapse” is no longer, as this article explained, all too common. Our own Dr. Joseph Lee, appearing this week on Twin Cities Public Television’s Almanac show, spoke about systemic changes as well: “We have to change our healthcare infrastructure and how we look at addiction. We have to invest in people the right way,” he said. “Just because you treat someone for addiction episodically doesn’t mean they don’t need long-term care. The way insurance companies look at it, the way we look at it, the way doctors look at it—we have to broaden our view. This is a chronic illness. This is about people, and we’re losing people left and right.” Meanwhile, Gary Mendell of Shatterproof wants to apply a business approach to America’s No. 1 public health crisis, and this week assembled a task force that aims to systematically implement the recommendations in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health. The opioid epidemic has lifted the veil on this longstanding problem of humanity – addiction. And that is prompting more people than ever to think big and outside of the proverbial box about what’s possible. Rather than small pockets of advocates asking “how can we improve the way addiction is addressed,” perhaps finally America at large is ready to tackle that question. We liked that the head of the Department of Homeland Security—someone who traditionally might focus exclusively on law enforcement and interdiction efforts—this week laid out a broader set of priorities that, to us, were even in the right order! “The solution is not arresting a lot of users,” he said. “The solution is a comprehensive drug demand reduction program in the United States that involves every man and woman of goodwill. And then rehabilitation. And then law enforcement. And then getting at the poppy fields and the coca fields in the south.” Yes, a lot of priorities can be broken out within “rehabilitation” – as Mr. White laid out – but at a high level, it’s great to see so many leaders and everyday people starting to understand the dynamic complexity of the problem and the comprehensive approach to solutions that is needed. It’s interesting to see possibilities like this one. And it’s awfully intriguing to think, too, about something so bold as mandatory medical treatment. Who knows what will come of such ideas, but at least the passion for progress seems to have been ignited far and wide. We’re proud of our organization’s own efforts to bridge the ideological divide and chart a “third way” between those who advocate for the use of addiction treatment medications in lieu of evidence-based therapeutic models like Twelve Step Facilitation and those who advocate for the Twelve Steps and nothing else. If we can continue to turn heated “either/or” debates into exciting “both/and” discussions—focused on advancing patient care and outcomes—we can change the future for individuals, families, communities and the world.