Tag Archives: Dr. Steven Simerville

suicide-risk

Marijuana Use is Linked to Increased Suicide Risk

(Please see Part 1: Marijuana Suicide, a Growing Risk for our Youth)

Marijuana-related suicide is a controversial topic because other websites include commenters who claim marijuana saved their lives. Pot interferes with the reward center of the brain, just like cocaine, alcohol and heroin. So when someone dependent on the drug doesn’t have it, their depression or anxiety becomes stronger than previously.   After prolonged use, the brain eventually doesn’t function as well.

For this reason, it’s much wiser to rely on yoga, counseling, walking, and other exercise for depression and anxiety.  (Others will say that anti-depressants are safer, although we won’t actually endorse them, and don’t think they’re always necessary.)

suicide-risk
Source: Christine Miller, PhD

Marijuana increases the risk for psychosis more than any other drug.   Marijuana is not the panacea the pot industry wants you to believe.

What Conditions Increase Suicide Risk?

Daily marijuana use below age 18 is connected to 7x the risk of attempted suicide before age 30.

In today’s world, students have huge problems and challenges even if they don’t abuse substances.  Marijuana is the most likely drug of abuse for teens.  Any substance abuse –marijuana, alcohol, opiates, other drugs or a combination – generally makes the depression more difficult to overcome.

The town of Pueblo, Colorado has had an alarming trend of suicides among its teens, at least five this year.    Although local officials link these deaths to bullying, Pueblo is infiltrated with marijuana and other drugs.   Dr. Steven Simerville, head of pediatrics at a Pueblo hospital, has spoken about the connection between marijuana and teen suicide.   In October, 2016, he said that all but one of teens who attempted suicide had THC in their toxicology reports.

A few years ago studies showed that 28% of all high school students are depressed.  There are plenty of reasons for teens to be depressed in this society: hormonal change, social pressure, relationships and academics.  The social media adds a layer of complication to the problem with cyber bullying.  When a teen becomes an adult, additional challenges emerge, and for some, entry into adulthood is jolting.

Family relationships and community connection are important.  With support systems, many youth go through the rough patches and come out stronger.  It’s a reason that government needs to protect our youth, educate against marijuana and stop legalization.  

From the Moms Strong website, provided by Dr. Christine Miller, PhD

Suicide is Increasing Above National Rate in Colorado

The opposite is occurring in Colorado.  Suicide rates in Colorado have reached all-time highs, according to a recent report by the Colorado Health Institute.   Each one of Colorado’s 21 health regions had a suicide rate higher than the national average.

Those old enough to go into dispensaries can see how the pot industry advertises marijuana to treat depression or anxiety.    Dispensaries prey on the vulnerable.  For veterans and those without a job, it’s hard to resist.

When the pot industry tells us that “no one ever died from marijuana,” they’re being dishonest.  There’s a popular strain of marijuana called Purple Suicide.  There’s also a line of vape pens called Suicide Girls, specifically marketed for using honey/hash oil.  Makers of the vape pens and marketers of Purple Suicide are onto something: marijuana use increases the suicide risk.

When they assert the numbers of those who die from alcohol each year, please ask who is tracking deaths from marijuana.   Maybe it is time for the CDC to start tracking marijuana-related deaths.   Please read Part 3, The Common Element.

Challenges in Care of Drugged Babies

Drugged Babies are a Growing Problem

Last week the Center for Disease Control reported a growing number of drugged infants.  Babies are born addicted to opioids, particularly in rural areas.  These frail newborns experience opiate withdrawal symptoms – shaking,  vomiting and diarrhea.

Dr. Steven Simerville revealed that 7-10% of babies born in his hospital test positive for THC at birth.  He’s the head of pediatrics at a hospital in Pueblo, Colorado, where many mothers are using marijuana.   THC in breast milk poses a risk to babies’ developing brains.  For this reason, one hospital in Colorado no longer recommends breast feeding.

A recent Journal of Pediatric Research published an article about infants exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke.   The babies, between one month and two years of age, needed to be hospitalized for bronchiolitis.   The THC showed up in their urine.

Opioids may interfere with parenting instincts. Cannabis use is often a cause of child neglect when parents forget about their children.

Against all Obstacles, We Must Keep the Mother – Child Bond

Newborn infants need to be with their mothers for their security and well-being.  Newborns instantly turn to the mom’s voice and respond to her touch.  it’s not possible for fathers or grandparents to sooth in the same way.  The bond is crucial to a baby’s mental and emotional development.  Furthermore, the World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding for the first two years of life.

Mothers of newborns, regardless of their addictions, should not be forced away from their babies.  Even mothers who are in jail should not be separated from their infants and toddlers.

Last week in New Hampshire, Hope on Haven Hill opened for eight mothers struggling to overcome opioid addiction.  There are at least two other such group homes in New Hampshire.  There’s a need for more places like Haven Hill to support mothers and encourage them to get off of drugs.

National policy should do everything to stop maternal substance abuse in its track and to keep moms with their children.  Drugged babies may grow up to have substance abuse issues.  They may have difficulties in behavior and learning.

It’s a sad day in the United States when preventable drug overdose deaths kill more than 50,000 people a year.  Deaths from misuse of legal and illegal drugs outnumber traffic fatalities, the next biggest cause of accidental deaths.

Congress has set up a commission to study the “failed war on drugs.” The committee will consider alternatives to prohibition.   Isn’t it the fact that we have given up on prevention the real reason for our drug epidemic ?

Here’s other articles on marijuana, pregnancy and breast feeding.

Pueblo Fights to Get Rid of Marijuana Industry

60 Minutes Explores Pot in Pueblo

Colorado’s  marijuana legalization has wreaked havoc on Pueblo, and city will be featured on 60 Minutes on November 6th. (Date has since been changed to Oct. 30)  After nearly four years of legalized pot, many in the community are rebelling.  By initiating Propositions 200 and 300,  citizens of Pueblo  hope to regain a voice in their future.  A “yes” vote on both initiatives will shut down marijuana businesses in the city and Pueblo County.

Seventy percent of the counties in Colorado opted out of Amendment 64, which commercialized marijuana. The city of Pueblo banned retail marijuana, but the county of Pueblo licensed marijuana grows and retail stores.  In 2014, we reported on the efforts to ban retail expansion in Pueblo West.  Pueblo County commissioners promoted marijuana as an opportunity to fill empty factories and create jobs.  Acting against the wishes of most of the county’s 160,000 residents, commissioners decided to license marijuana businesses..

Because of intense problems, business leaders now strongly favor Proposition 200 and Proposition 300.  The Colorado Springs Gazette supports both propositions, because  “new data show pot legalization as an insidious policy failure.”   Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo has been fighting against the marijuana industry for two and half years.  See the Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo Safety Fact Sheet.

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A homeless camp in Pueblo is overflowing now. Migrants from other states have come to Pueblo. Many newcomers have mental health and addiction issues, putting all health services at risk.

An influx of 15,000 migrants moved to Pueblo for easy access to the drug.  Some of the newcomers also hoped to find jobs in the pot industry.  Tent villages are housing newcomers who can’t afford or find homes. Pueblo has always taken care of its homeless, but it can no longer handle the huge number of people needing services.  Social services, soup kitchens and emergency rooms are stressed to the breaking point.  Approximately one-third of county residents, 67,000 are on Medicaid.

Doctors from Three Hospitals Hold Press Conference

The medical community recently held a press conference, announcing that  237 physicians signed a statement supporting “yes” votes on the propositions.  Physicians who spoke at the event detailed some of the health risks coming from marijuana use in the community.  Dr. Steven Simerville, a pediatrician and Medical Director of St. Mary-Corwin Hospital, reports that 7-10% of the babies born are testing positive for THC.  THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Dr. Simerville cited a dramatic increase in attempted suicides, a five-fold increase since legalization.  Every suicide attempt in the community, except one, involved THC.

Dr. Karen Randall an emergency medicine doctor affiliated with several of the Pueblo hospitals said that many of the newcomers to the area are coming to the emergency room with multiple and severe illnesses. Dr. Randall believes the Pueblo community could be on the verge of a public health disaster.  She explained that those living in tent camps are at risk for the same communicable diseases found in refugee camps:  flu, pertussis, cholera, tuberculosis. Randall, who previously worked in Detroit for a large city hospital as disaster coordinator, says she fears the Pueblo community health system is not equipped to deal with such an outbreak.

The black market is growing alongside the legal industry.  Sheriff’s office reports that foreign cartels from Laos, Argentina, Cuba and Russia are now operating in Pueblo. The cartels are buying or renting homes and setting up illegal grows. Law enforcement has busted sixty illegal grows in 2016, but there are 1500 other documented grows –also illegal.  Sheriff Kirk Taylor is also retooling his tracking methods to account for the increasing crimes associated with marijuana .  Currently Pueblo has the highest murder rate in the state, at 11.1 per 100,000.

Rural Areas, Crime, Gangs and High Teen Use of All Drugs Reported

“Those living in the rural areas are scared,” reports Paula McPheeters of the Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo. “The marijuana grows are despoiling the land and draining the water aquifers.  Squatters are growing marijuana and crime is increasing.” McPheeters says the community is being overwhelmed by outsiders moving in and taking over. Gang activity is increasing, drive by shootings, petty crime, auto theft are now big problems in a once peaceful community.

“Pueblo County now has 20 retail marijuana stores, compared to our 18 McDonalds, Starbucks and Walmart stores combined,” says McPheeters. The county took in 3.5 million in tax revenue from the marijuana industry, but McPheeters says, “The social costs to the community could easily be upwards of two times that amount.”

The biggest concern to those seeking to pass the ballot initiatives is the increase in youth drug use. Thirty one percent of high school students are using marijuana, three times the national average. Tragically, 12% have tried methamphetamine or heroin.  The community has inadequate drug treatment facilities, so when teens get into trouble with addiction it is difficult to get them help.

A Cautionary Tale

Pueblo offers a cautionary tale against trying to resolve a government’s financial difficulties with tax revenue from marijuana. This relatively small city with a population of 120,000 is a former steel mill town which fell on hard times.  It ranks number two in the state for poverty.

The Pueblo experience warns public officials to listen to the people’s will before allowing predatory businesses.   It warns other communities what can happen to the youth when they’re surrounded by these businesses.

Pueblo may have some of the worst crime problems in Colorado, but it is not as bad as Eureka and Humboldt County, California.   Humboldt County’s murder rate is 18.7 per 100,000 people, and it reports 250 missing persons per year.