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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

NEWS

Putting Alcohol Ignition Interlocks in New Cars Could Prevent Many Deaths


If all new cars had devices that prevent drunk drivers from starting the engine, an estimated 85 percent of alcohol-related deaths could be prevented in the United States, a new study concludes.
The devices, called alcohol ignition interlocks, could prevent more than 59,000 crash fatalities and more than 1.25 million non-fatal injuries, according to the University of Michigan researchers.
The findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Alcohol interlocks are used very effectively in all 50 states as a component of sentencing or as a condition for having a license reinstated after DUIs, but this only works for the drunk drivers caught by police and it doesn’t catch the people who choose to drive without a license to avoid having the interlock installed,” said lead author Dr. Patrick Carter.

He said most drunk drivers make about 80 trips under the influence of alcohol before they are stopped for a DUI. “If we decided that every new car should have an alcohol ignition interlock that’s seamless to use for the driver and doesn’t take any time or effort, we suddenly have a way to significantly reduce fatalities and injuries that doesn’t rely solely on police,” he told Reuters.

The study assumed it would take 15 years for older cars to be replaced with new vehicles that required interlock devices, which detect blood-alcohol levels. The devices prevent drivers above a certain threshold from starting the vehicle.
While all age groups would suffer fewer deaths and injuries if they used the interlock devices, the youngest drivers would benefit the most, the study found. Among drivers ages 21 to 29 years, 481,000 deaths and injuries could be prevented. Among drivers under 21, almost 195,000 deaths and injuries could be avoided.

“It is often difficult to penetrate these age groups with effective public health interventions and policies to prevent drinking and driving,” Carter said.

Big Increase in Marijuana Potency Since 1980s, Colorado Lab Finds

Marijuana being grown today is much more potent than marijuana grown 20 or 30 years ago, according to a study by a Colorado-based lab.
“I would say the average potency of marijuana has probably increased by a factor of at least three. 

We’re looking at average potencies right now of around 20 percent THC,” said Charas Scientific lab founder Andy LaFrate, PhD. He presented his findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high.
“As far as potency goes, it’s been surprising how strong a lot of the marijuana is,” said LaFrate. “We’ve seen potency values close to 30 percent THC, which is huge.”

Federal officials say THC levels in marijuana averaged 4 percent in the 1980s, CBS News reports.

Current THC levels found by Charas exceed those reported by federal officials. In 2012, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said marijuana confiscated by polices agencies nationwide had THC levels that averaged about 15 percent.
NIDA notes that increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use. “For frequent users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis. However, the full range of consequences associated with marijuana’s higher potency is not well understood,” NIDA notes on its website.

Many samples tested by Charas had little or no cannabidiol, a compound in marijuana many researchers believe has potential medical uses, the article notes.
The lab also found contaminants in many marijuana samples, such as fungus, bacteria or traces of heavy metals. Contamination testing is required in Washington state, but not in Colorado. Both states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.