Former Congressman Jim Ramstad new Obama Drug Czar?

November 24, 2008

This from the JoinTogether e-newsletter today.  Ranstad impressed at last year’s CADCA meeting, speaking about the importance of insurance companies covering mental health care.  The legislation in the form of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed earlier this year….

As President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team gathers steam, word is leaking out that recently retired Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) — a strong advocate for addiction treatment and recovery — could be in the running for the position of Obama’s “drug czar.”

Drugs — and the addiction issue in general — got very little attention during the recently concluded presidential campaign, but now that Obama has won, his duties prior to taking office on Jan. 20 include selecting candidates for some of the top positions for his forthcoming administration. And although the job of director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has seemed almost invisible in recent years, in fact the “drug czar” is officially part of the president’s Cabinet — technically on par with the Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State.

No candidates for the drug czar’s job have been officially announced by the team running Obama’s search for a successor to current ONDCP head John Walters; the search is reportedly being led by Christopher Putala, Washington, D.C., consultant and former senior Senate Judiciary Committee staffer for then-Chairman (and now vice-president elect) Joseph Biden (D-Del.); and Donald Vereen of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a former NIH researcher and deputy ONDCP director between 1998 and 2001 under President George H.W. Bush.

The Capitol Hill newsmagazine Politico first reported that Ramstad was being considered as a possible head of ONDCP in the Obama administration. Dean Peterson, a Ramstad spokesperson, told Politico it was “gratifying to hear Jim’s name being mentioned for drug czar”; however, a Ramstad spokesperson contacted by Join Together would not comment on whether the nine-term Congressman was in the running for the job.

Ramstad co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Mass.) and has been an outspoken advocate for addiction treatment service, candid about his own recovery from alcoholism, and a driving force behind the recent passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

Study Says Drug Treatment More Effective Than Jail

November 19, 2008

Portland’s Central City Concern conducted a similar study to the one below  as reported in the JoinTogether e-newsletter… getting people into treatment results in a big dent in crime…


 A study in the U.K. found that heroin and crack-cocaine addicts who received treatment for their addictions committed fewer criminal offenses, the Guardian reported Nov. 17.

The study followed 1,500 recently convicted heroin and crack users sentenced to addiction treatment instead of jail. The number of offenses committed by addicts fell by nearly 50 percent after they entered a treatment program. While theft decreased the most, reduction in crime was consistent, with fraud, drug possession, and prostitution all falling by half.

“While this confirms the value of using substitute prescribing … to stabilize drug users, it also shows crime is cut rather than eradicated,” said Paul Hayes of the U.K.’s National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA). He added that drug workers needed to “go further and do more to actively get users off drugs and reintegrated into society.”

The study was conducted by Manchester University’s National Drug Evidence Center and was commissioned by the NTA.

Advice for dealing with stress during turbulent times

November 17, 2008

Is the financial crisis creating too much stress and anxiety in your life?  Oregon Partnership Crisis Lines Director, Leslie Storm, has some good advice:

1. Talk it out. Don’t keep it to yourself.  Normally, you might not talk about your financial situation.  But a whole lot of folks are in the same boat.  Talking with family and friends is a good thing, and no need to go into details.

2.  Get outside.   Take walks.  Get some exercise.  It does wonders in good times and bad.

3.  OK, you won’t be eating at restaurants or going out as much.  So take advantage of staying home and spending more time with the family!  More at home family time – and having dinners at home – is another good thing.

4. If you have kids, be upfront with them.  Explain to them what the economy is all about – that sometimes people have to spend less and go without luxuries…but in time, the economy always bounces back.

5.  Turn off the TV news and listen to music!

Alaskan Study: Super Argument for Oregon Beer Tax Hike

November 13, 2008

Once again, an increase in the beer tax will be taken up by the next session of the Oregon Legislature. Oregon Partnership supports bulk of proceeds going toward prevention efforts…. The following story from CNN’s Madison Park….

(CNN) — Higher taxes on alcohol can make a night out more expensive, but could save lives, according to a study released Thursday.
After Alaska raised its alcohol taxes, the number of alcohol-related deaths dropped, study says.

 Each time the state of Alaska raised its alcoholic beverage tax, fewer deaths were caused or related to alcohol, according to the study that examined 28 years of data.

When Alaska raised its alcohol tax in 1983, deaths caused or related to alcohol dropped 29 percent. A 2002 tax increase was followed by an 11 percent reduction, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Increasing alcohol taxes saves lives — that’s the bottom line,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Alexander Wagenaar, a professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research. “The tax increase caused some reduction in consumption of alcohol. The reduction saved lives.”

The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation tracked the number of deaths for every quarter in Alaska from 1976 to 2004. Using information from death certificates, Wagenaar and the co-authors compiled the number of deaths caused by alcohol, such as alcohol poisoning and alcoholic liver disease, and deaths linked to alcohol, such as cirrhosis and chronic pancreatitis. Deaths caused by alcohol-related car accidents or violence were not included.

Deaths from Alaska were compared with data from other states to control for nationwide factors, such as population growth and advanced medical care.

The authors found 23 fewer deaths per year after a 1983 tax hike and 21 fewer deaths per year after a 2002 increase.

Researchers chose to study Alaska after a political debate raged over the most recent alcohol tax increase in the Last Frontier state.

“No other state in recent years has increased alcohol taxes in the way that Alaska did in 2002,” Wagenaar said. “Basically, they conducted the experiment and we studied it.”

While Alaska has a population of fewer than a million people, the state “is not highly different when looking at epidemiological trends,” he said, estimating that about two-thirds of Americans drink.

“There’s no reason to think the experience in Alaska would be different than anywhere else,” Wagenaar said. “The study looks at the responsiveness of drinking.”

The Finland study

Researchers in Finland found similar results when examining the relationship between alcohol taxes and alcohol-positive deaths.

Health Library Alcohol and your health: Weighing the pros and cons Alcohol poisoning
For years, Finland had high alcohol taxes. In March 2004, the Finnish government lowered the taxes nearly 33 to 44 percent to protect domestic sales because officials worried that patrons would flock to neighboring nations in search of cheaper booze.

Consumption levels in Finland increased 50 percent from the previous year. Finnish researchers also found that arrests from drunken and disorderly conduct increased by 11 percent after taxes were lowered.

University of Helsinki researchers used post-mortem toxicology test results to determine that 1,860 Finns died with alcohol as their underlying cause of death that year– a 20 percent increase from 2003.

“Taxation has indeed been found to be the most cost-effective measure in reducing alcohol consumption,” the authors concluded in a 2007 article published in the Addiction journal. “Raising alcohol tax level has low costs and is effective in reducing alcohol consumption and thus alcohol-related harms.”

U.S. policy

Unlike cigarettes, supporters of higher beverage taxes say alcohol has largely avoided scrutiny in the United States.

“When the excise tax on tobacco went up, consumption went down and the diseases associated with tobacco also went down,” Wagenaar said. “Now, with the current study, we’re finding the same thing for alcohol. Simply adjusting taxes has quite a noticeable rate on alcohol deaths. They parallel each other quite a bit.”

In addition to public health implications, state governments should re-examine their alcohol excise tax on for fiscal reasons, said George Hacker, director of Alcohol Policies Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Nearly half of the states have had the same alcohol taxes for more than 20 years and Wyoming hasn’t raised its tax on alcohol since the 1930s, thus has not kept up with inflation, Hacker said. The beer tax in Wyoming is less than 2 cents per gallon.

“Given state budgets are in the toilet bowl, it’s an available source of revenue that has not been looked to for a very long time” Hacker said. “The tax increases are long overdue. The product doesn’t pay its way in covering economic and social costs associated with its use.”

Alcohol industry

The American Beverage Licensees, which represents retailers of beer, wine and spirits, opposes alcohol tax increases.

“Based on historical evidence, raising taxes on alcohol beverages would have a highly negative impact on the economy…” said Harry Wiles, the executive director of the American Beverage Licensees in an e-mailed statement. “Increasing alcohol taxes could lead diminishing returns for the government should responsible, moderate consumers decrease their consumption.”

Raising taxes would penalize over 100 million responsible alcohol consumers and would not deter the few abusers, who don’t cut back when price fluctuates, Wiles said.

“Any across the board tax increase would not target the problem drinker but would simply penalize those who enjoy wine and spirits and drink responsibly,” said Wine and Spirits Wholesaler of America’s CEO and president Craig Wolf in an emailed statement.

The industry also sponsors social responsibility programs to help educate consumers, he added.

Efforts to raise alcohol taxes are often thwarted and labeled neo-Prohibitionist by the alcohol industry, Hacker said.

“The legacy of Prohibition leaves sour tastes about doing anything about curbing alcohol use,” he said. “It conjures images of Prohibition. The industry stokes it as much as it can. The industry uses the imagery and metaphor of freedom and civil right — almost like it is a civil right to drink, given it was once prohibited.”

In the latest barometer of American public opinion, Maine voters overwhelmingly rejected a state law that would’ve increased the excise tax on alcoholic beverages on Election Day.

The law would’ve increased excise taxes by 116 percent for beer and wine to fund a controversial state health care program.

Fed Up With Taxes, a Maine coalition of chambers of commerce and various business associations, successfully fought the law. Ted O’Meara, spokesman of the group said the argument that higher taxes would reduce alcohol consumption didn’t enter the debate as hard liquor was exempt from the tax hikes.

“Our main point was that this was a massive new tax increase,” O’Meara said.

Voters rejected the law by a two-to-one margin.

Register Now for Oregon Partnership Panel on Challenges Facing Returning Soliders

November 12, 2008

This just in!   Our Training has been approved for Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) from the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon (ACCBO)

Treatment, Assistance, and Compassion
Wednesday, December 10, 12:00 – 2:00 p.m.
at Montgomery Park
2701 NW Vaughn Ave., Portland 97210
Only $50, Including Lunch!
Register Now! Parking is Free!


For the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is crucial that we recognize the symptoms and signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, depression, and substance abuse. Our expert panel will provide needed information and insight for providers, families and caring citizens.

Other Topics:

Addressing increased suicide among returning soldiers and veterans
Options for veterans and their families
Effects of multiple deployment
Effects on Families

James M. Sardo, PhD. – Program Co-Manager, Substance Abuse Treatment Program and the PTSD Clinical Team, Portland VA Medical Center
Robert Tell, LCSW – Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Portland VA Medical Center
Major Daniel Thompson – Chaplain, Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team.
To Register, email Danny Slifman or call 503-244-5211.

Click here to download the training flyer.

Brought to you by Oregon Partnership, a statewide non-profit working promoting healthy kids and communities by raising awareness about drug and alcohol issues, providing drug prevention education in classrooms, and 24-hour crisis lines for callers needing help.

To learn more, visit

Home Furnishing Takes on Whole New Meaning: Alcohol Available To Underage Drinkers

November 4, 2008


New Messages From the “Face It, Parents” Campaign

A new effort to educate adults about the dangers of furnishing alcohol to minors is underway, thanks to a combined effort by Oregon Partnership and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

New products, materials and posters are being rolled out at various liquor stores around the state, in hopes that parents get the message loud and clear: That most teens who obtain hard liquor, get it from home.

Among the items are bottle hangers featuring peal-off stickers that parents can put on their home alcohol supply that say, “At your age, drinking is dangerous.  So are really angry parents.”

“Preventing alcohol sales to minors is a top priority for the commission,” says Rudy Williams, OLCC Deputy Director. “Being a partner in this campaign strengthens our mission to promote the responsible sales and service of alcohol.”

The National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association awarded a $10,000 grant to fund the anti-furnishing campaign.

Posters are also being displayed, supporting the campaign theme, “Home Furnishing Takes on a Whole New Meaning.”  Other campaign posters featuring several messages are being developed, including alcohol’s impact on the adolescent brain.

Refrigerator magnets will also be distributed to local prevention and coalition coordinators around the state.  Among the magnet messages:

“Parental disapproval is the #1 reason kids don’t drink”

“Set clear rules against underage drinking”

“Know where your kids are and what they’re doing”

“Kids get alcohol from home.  Lock your liquor cabinet”

“It’s a startling new trend that our kids now prefer hard liquor over beer as their drink of choice,” says Pam Erickson of Oregon Partnership.  “Often, kids get their alcohol from home. Parents should tell their children that underage drinking is not permitted in their home or elsewhere.”

Public Service Announcements aired on radio stations in July and August boosted awareness of the campaign.  The ten and thirty-second PSA’s are expected to air again during November and December.

According to Erickson, parents need to maintain control of alcohol in their home and talk to their children about “house rules” against underage drinking.

Researchers say those who start drinking under the age of 15 have four times the chance of having problems with alcohol when they reach adulthood.

The most recent Oregon Healthy Teens Survey shows that about a third of 8th graders in the state have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days and about half of 11th graders. The Survey also shows that 31 percent of 8th grade drinkers and 37 percent of 11th grade drinkers prefer liquor.

 “Face it, Parents” is an Oregon Department of Human Services prevention campaign managed by Oregon Partnership and designed to reduce underage drinking by targeting parents. 

For more about “Face It, Parents,” visit www.

To learn more about keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors, visit