In February the Drug Free America Foundation and Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance sponsored the 4th Annual Tampa Drug Summit. The summit was held at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre in Tampa, Florida and featured two days of education on current drug policy issues, followed by a half-day of prevention best practices and implementation ideas.
Presentations by Leading Experts
The educational presentations featured national experts, such as Sue Thau (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), Tony Coder (Drug Free Action Alliance), Mike Barnes (Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence) and Andy Duran (Linking Efforts Against Drugs and the SpeakUp! Prevention Coalition). The list of sponsors included numerous organizations dedicated to assisting individuals and communities in the ongoing efforts against drug abuse.
The various sessions discussed the impact of drug abuse, research, current policies, emerging trends and prevention strategies that help strengthen communities. Some of the specific topics covered included information and research on:
Prescription drug abuse, misuse and diversion
Policy recommendations to assist with grassroots advocacy
Attitudes and beliefs about e-cigarettes and vaping
Heroin abuse and naloxone treatment
Strategies and models for making an impact on social media
Combating pro-drug attitudes
Science and implications regarding medical marijuana
There was also a special presentation by Sheila Ray Charles, daughter of legendary musician Ray Charles. In an effort to raise awareness about the impact of addiction and the many ways it affects families and communities, Charles shared a powerful account of her own life story. Attendees were moved and inspired by the message of recovery, hope and love.
Among the attendees of the summit, which included healthcare professionals, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement officers, marriage counselors and more, two particular topics provoked significant interest and discussion: e-cigarettes and heroin abuse.
E-Cigarettes and Related Legislation
Emotional incidents, such as the e-cigarette explosion that required a Florida man to be placed in a medically induced coma, form the backdrop for increasing concerns over the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems and vaping.
As an amendment to Florida’s 1985 Clean Indoor Air Act, indoor tobacco smoking was banned in 2002. Additionally, the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors was banned in 2014. But a recently proposed bill seeks to expand the act to include e-cigarettes and similar devices. If passed, the new bill would make it illegal to smoke e-cigarettes in places like restaurants, bars and malls.
Heroin Abuse and Naloxone
In 2015, Florida passed a bill allowing non-medical professionals, such as law enforcement and first responders, to administer naloxone in certain situations.
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is used to treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. It blocks or reverses the effects of opioid medication and narcotics like heroin, including extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing or loss of consciousness.
Heroin abuse has increased in recent years, making incidents of overdose more common. Even with the passing of the 2015 bill, law enforcement officers and first responders are still hesitant to use the potentially life-saving procedure.
The hesitation stems from concerns over unclear legal details about detaining victims who are revived via naloxone. Officers fear lawsuits and legal ramifications for themselves in the absence of clear protection under the law.