Posts filed under ‘Substance Abuse’

CDC Survey Details Teen Behavior

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The news is decidedly mixed. The number of teens smoking, drinking, and having sex is down, but risky behavior (drug and alcohol use and attempted suicides) remains high among Hispanics. This is of particular concern as Hispanics are one of the fastest growing populations.

The survey also shows that efforts to convince teens to delay or practice safe sex appear to be faltering. After several years of declines, the sexual behavior rates have leveled off and there is evidence that rates of teen sex may be going up while condom use may be on the decline.

You can find the CDC report and additional data here. You can read articles about the study in USA Today here, the Washington Post here, Reuters here, and the Associated Press here.


June 5, 2008 at 9:24 am 1 comment

NYSHealth to Fund Mental Health and Substance Use Initiatives

The New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth), a fund created with the proceeds of the conversion of Empire BCBS to for profit status, has announced that it is adding “Integrated Mental Health/Substance Use Services” as one of its priority areas. This initiative is divided into two components: integrating services and an initiative for returning veterans.

The following is from the NYSHealth website:

Nearly 1.4 million people in New York State suffer from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders; however, individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders rarely receive services that effectively address both of these issues. For years, the mental health and substance use systems of care have operated separately, and regulatory and financial barriers have restricted integration of these services. Not surprisingly, poor health outcomes are associated with co-occurring disorders in the absence of integrated care and individuals with co-occurring disorders are at higher risk for other serious medical problems, homelessness, violence, social isolation, and early death. NYSHealth has set as a priority area the integration of mental health and substance use services in New York State, and is dedicated to advancing potential solutions. As a component of this priority area, NYSHealth has identified returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families as a high-need, sub-population whose broad mental health needs are not being met.

The Foundation is committing $10 million over the next 5 years for its Integrative Services initiatives and $2 million over the next two years for its Returning Veterans program.

May 28, 2008 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

Hookah bars: Not a safe alternative for cigarettes

Recently, a “hookah bar” has opened for business in Rochester, NY. Such establishments have been opening up in communities across the US in recent years. Tobacco control experts around the country have been reporting that young people in particular are attracted to such places that offer flavored tobacco, and the ability to use tobacco indoors – even in areas that have “clean indoor air” laws. To get around the laws, they do not serve alcohol or food so they can’t be labeled as a restaurant or a bar. Also, it is consistently reported that the attraction to hookahs is that they are “less harmful” than cigarettes, or not harmful at all because hookahs use unprocessed tobacco.

Tobacco control experts should heighten their efforts to get the word out about the dangers of hookah use however. Consider the following facts.

Recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) cast doubt on those claims, saying they hookah is not a harmless alternative to cigarettes. According to WHO, preliminary research reveals some serious misconceptions about the dangers of hookah smoking. Hookah smokers “may inhale as much smoke during one session as a cigarette smoker would inhale consuming 100 or more cigarettes.”

The WHO reports that hookah smoke still “contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.” And users still get nicotine, which causes addiction.

There is also the health risk from the by-products from the combustion of a charcoal pellet used to keep the smoking mixture burning in hookahs.

Users are at higher risk for contracting oral herpes and other communicable diseases. The evidence-base for this statement is new and hopefully growing, but consider this anecdotal report: After attending a Hookah bar in March, 2008 in Fort Collins, CO, several students developed mouth herpes, according to a local Infection Control Physician at Colorado State University’s Hartshorn Health Services.

One hour of smoking a hookah exposes users to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke of a single cigarette, according to a report on The smoke also has arsenic, lead, nickel, and 36 times the tar of a single cigarette and 15 times the CO.

Finally, the marketing of flavored tobacco like “wild berry” has been used by the tobacco industry before to lure non-smokers, especially young people, to begin a life-long addiction to their products. Hookah Bars around the country offer such flavored choices.

Tobacco control experts should plan for effective dissemination of the dangers of hookah use.

Anyone thinking about quitting any type of tobacco product can call the New York State Smoker’s Quitline for information and support at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487), and visit the Smokers’ Quitsite at Physician offices can ask the Quitline about how they can get free CME training to help their nicotine-dependent patients (or visit

Scott McIntosh, PhD

May 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm 12 comments


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