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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Celebrity Prescription Drug Related Deaths

2009 was a tragic year for many celebrities suffering from prescription drug addiction, echoing a much larger problem that exists in the world today. More people are addicted to prescription drugs than anything else and more people will certainly lose their lives as a result of these drugs. In the last two years prescription drugs have taken the lives of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, and just last week we learned prescription drugs may have played a role in the death of Brittany Murphy. The cocktails of legal prescribed medications found near each late star at the time of their death was unbelievable; at what point are the prescribing doctors going to realize that sooner or later an overdose or drug related death will take place. In the last 45 years there have been a number of celebrity prescription drug related deaths:

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Date: August 5, 1962
Drugs: Pentobarbital (AKA Nembutal) and chloral hydrate (sleeping pills)







Jimi Hendrix


Jimi Hendrix
Date: September 18, 1970
Drug: Secobarbital, AKA Seconal (sleeping pill)







Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley
Date: August 16, 1977
Drugs: As many as 14 different drugs, including codeine (painkiller) and methaqualone, AKA Quaaludes (sedative)







Keith Moon

Keith Moon
Date: September 7, 1978
Drug: Clomethiazole, AKA Heminevrin (sedative)








Margaux Hemingway

Margaux Hemingway
Date: July 1, 1996
Drug: Phenobarbital (anti-seizure sedative)








Dana Plato

Dana Plato
Date: May 8, 1999
Drugs: Carisoprodol, AKA Soma (muscle relaxant), and Vicodin (painkiller)







Chris Penn

Chris Penn
Date: January 24, 2006
Drugs: Promethazine (antihistamine) and codeine (painkiller)








Gerald Levert

Gerald Levert
Date: November 10, 2006
Drugs: Six drugs: painkillers Vicodin, Percocet and Dextropropoxyphene (AKA Darvocet), sedative/anxiety medication alprazolam (AKA Xanax) and two non-prescription antihistamines






Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith
Date: February 8, 2007
Drugs: Eleven drugs, including chloral hydrate (sleep aid) and several sedatives/muscle relaxants: clonazepam (AKA Klonopin), lorazepam (AKA Ativan), oxazepam (AKA Serax) and diazepam (AKA Valium)






Pimp C

Pimp C
Date: December 4, 2007
Drugs: Promethazine (antihistamine) and codeine (painkiller)










Fortunately, there are many stars that do seek help and go into treatment with the hope of freeing themselves from their addiction. Just last week Aerosmith's Steven Tyler checked into drug treatment for his prescription drug problem. With many musicians, like Steven Tyler and Michael Jackson, repeated injuries over the years have contributed to dependence on pain medication. Treatment is always available for those who find themselves dependent and there are many alternative pain management programs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama Drops a Long-standing Ban on Federal Funding of Needle Exchange Programs

Ban Federal Funding Needle Exchange
Significant progress has been made in the battle against diseases spread intravenously. It has been an ongoing struggle to provide I.V. drug users the ability to acquire clean needles. In many cases people in metropolitan areas are typically hit hard by A.I.D.S and Hepatitis C because of the lack of needle exchanges and the need of a prescription to get needles from a pharmacy; despite the fact that there are detailed studies proving that cities that implement needle exchange programs have less people contracting diseases. In a 2007 report conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 424,000 Americans a year over age 12 inject illegal drugs. "The omnibus appropriations bill that President Obama signed last week drops a long-standing ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs. And the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy three months ago lifted the requirement for a prescription to buy syringes at a pharmacy, leaving New Jersey and Delaware as the only states still requiring a script", according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, needle exchange programs can apply for funding from AIDS prevention programs which will certainly increase the amount of exchanges available.

This is a great step and it shows that people are beginning to understand the complex nature of addiction and how is affects all aspects of society. A person in the grips of their addiction will find a way to use no matter what; a dirty needle will do the same job as a clean needle. Providing addicts the ability to use without the risk of disease is a big step, it reflects the idea that the addict is not by default a criminal, but rather, a sick individual. Between 2002 and 2004 when comparing Newark NJ where exchanges were not present and you needed a prescription to acquire syringes, with New York City where both were present, "Rates of HIV were 26 percent in Newark vs. 5 percent in New York; hepatitis B, 70 percent vs. 27 percent; and hepatitis C, 82 percent vs. 53 percent", the Journal of Urban Health reported.

Changes like this one are a huge leap forward for those who have been trying to provide a safe way for those who will get high no matter what. It will also afford counselors the opportunity to help steer people going to the exchanges towards treatment; addicts who normally would be impossible to contact will now be close enough to potentially reach and get them the help that they desperately need.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

GBL and BZP, 'Legal High' Drugs Banned in Britain This Morning!


GBL and BZP, the 'legal high' drugs were banned in Britain this morning! This is a big step in the battle against new potentially lethal designer drugs that have stayed under the radar from the food and drug officials. The chemical solvent GBL (gamma-butyrolactone). or 'coma in a bottle', is a regular drug of many people who frequent night clubs. BZP (N-benzylpiperazine), which has been illegal in the United States since 2004, is a stimulant which has similar effects to amphetamines. Also added to the list are herbal smoking products containing man-made chemicals such as "Spice", which are commonly found in head shops. The illegal classification of these drugs will hopefully prevent anymore overdoses; drugs like GBL are particularly hard to dose making it very easy for something bad to happen. Typically these drugs are mixed with alcohol which intensifies the high; according to the AFP, "long-standing concerns about the health risks of the drugs, particularly when taken with alcohol, hit the headlines in April after 21-year-old medical student Hester Stewart died after taking GBL".

Hester Stewart's mother campaigned across Great Britain to get a ban on drugs like GBL. Young adults who find themselves taking these drugs are not informed, they are not aware of the potential threats because these drugs were legal - how bad could they be! The banning of GBL and BZP will be the umbrella that all other drugs like these stand under, this will keep the manufacturers of these drugs from altering the formula slightly and skirting the law. Great Britain also put a ban on 15 different anabolic steroids that are popular amongst athletes.

Unfortunately, as we mentioned in a previous post regarding this subject, there are still many countries around the world where drugs like these are not banned and are still being abused regularly. So called 'Legal Highs' are a serious threat to teenagers and young adults, more people will inevitably overdose from GBL which makes education of the utmost importance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Charities Criticize Online Fund Raising Contest by Chase

JP Morgan Chase & Company have been scrutinized regarding their charity practices. Chase held an online contest to award millions of dollars to 100 different charities, the charities with the most online votes would be chosen to receive funding. At least three different charities believe that they were disqualified from the contest based on their mission and the views. The charities Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Marijuana Policy Project, and Justice for All hold that JP Morgan Chase & Company have acted unethically. What is interesting is that all three of these organizations were receiving a substantial amount of votes before Chase stonewalled them from the contest; according to the New York Times, "Three days before the contest ended, Chase stopped giving participants access to voting information, and it has not made public the vote tallies of the winners". Charities criticize online fund raising contest by Chase because they didn't support the charities cause.

Online contests are a relatively new phenomena; social marketing websites such as Twitter and Facebook have become very popular for companies and non-profits to hold fund raisers. "The Chase Community Giving contest is one of the largest ever mounted, open to more than a half-million charities. More than a million people signed onto Chase’s fan page, where they were awarded 20 votes to cast for the charities of their choice", reports the New York Times. Chase has been vague about why they made changes so late in the contest, what is clear is that Chase reminded everyone of their right to disqualify any participant. Chase set up no formal leader boards to show contestants where they stood; however, certain charities created their own and the results show that all the disqualified charities where doing very well in the contest.

Whatever the case may actually be, certain charities were cheated by Chase and discrimination is apparent. "Mr. Lee, a veteran of these types of contests, said the changes Chase made on Dec. 9 had made it much more difficult to continue attracting votes. After the changes, would-be supporters of Justice for All called and e-mailed to say they could not get their votes to go through", according to the New York Times. I am sure we have not heard the last of this; Chase's ethics will surely be put into question more as facts continue to surface. Online fund raising may come into question all together.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Financial Aid to Mexico is Delayed

The drug war in Mexico continues between government officials and the cartels - the cartels have the upper hand. Mexico has been virtually taken over by the ruthless and violent cartels fighting for control over distribution and trafficking routes throughout Mexico. The United States continues to promise aid in the way of training, technology, and especially modern weaponry; at least that way Mexican officials would stand a little bit of a chance. With over a 100,000 foot soldiers and billions of dollars to support their cause, the cartels are too powerful to stop with the help of the United States; unfortunately the support needed is not being provided in a timely manner, and the cartels continue tightening their grip around the good people of Mexico. The United States has the most powerful military in the world possessing the best technology and the most modern weapons; during the Bush administration we promised Mexico help when the Merida Initiative was signed, which would give Mexico a $1.3 billion assistance package promised to Mexico. "The initiative funds aircraft and surveillance equipment to track and break up trafficking networks, as well as vehicles that can manage the terrain where cartels sometimes operate. It also provided funds to improve police ranks, weed out corruption and bolster the courts", according to USA Today. Unfortunately, that financial aid to Mexico is delayed by a bureaucratic mess.

Yet to Arrive:

  • Up to eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the air force and federal police.
  • Up to four Casa 235 Persuader surveillance airplanes for the navy.
  • Up to eight Bell 412 helicopters for the Mexican air force.


The companies that produce these fine pieces of equipment are saying that it will take 12-18 months to manufacture these goods. It is hard to believe that this equipment is only manufactured when there is an order, the U.S. military could certainly part with a few of their own for such an important cause. Nevertheless, until the support arrives in Mexico the cartels will continue to hold on to control. We have to ask ourselves, how long do we want this war to continue?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teen Methamphetamine Use Is On The Decline While Marijuana Use Holds

Teen Methamphetamine Decline Marijuana Holds
Teen methamphetamine use is on the decline while marijuana use holds its position and prescription drug abuse remains high reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse in their 2009 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. The NIDA, using researchers from the University of Michigan who were given a grant, covered eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in the Monitoring the Future survey. Only 1.2 percent of high school seniors report having had used meth in the last year, methamphetamine was added to the survey in 1999 when it was at 4.7 percent. There has been a 5 percent drop amongst 10th graders, 14 percent of 10th graders used meth in 2009; the drop in percentages can only be attributed to better education about the dangers of meth, it confirms that campaigns against the drug are working. National Institute of Health Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D said, "we are encouraged by the reduction of methamphetamine use, but we know that each new generation of teens brings unique prevention and education challenges. What makes the Monitoring the Future survey such a valuable public health tool is that it not only helps us identify where our prevention efforts have been successful, it also helps us identify new trends in drug use and attitudes that need more attention".

Reduction in marijuana use amongst teens was dropping steady over the years, but, this year's survey shows that the decline has come to a stop. Not very surprising considering the buzz surrounding the drug/medicine, it is hard to imagine marijuana use dropping among teens when it can be prescribed to them now in certain states. What was surprising is that marijuana abuse by teens is significantly less than it was in the 1990's from its peak in the mid-late 1990's. The amount of teens using marijuana is exactly the same as it was five years ago; at least medical marijuana is not causing a surge in abuse of the drug, a major concern for those against medical marijuana programs. However, the survey did show that the amount of teens who think that marijuana can be harmful is down. The marijuana use numbers for 2009 are, "32.8 percent of 12th graders, 26.7 percent of 10th graders, and 11.8 percent of eighth graders", reports the National Institute of Health (NIH). Use of cocaine decreased to 3.4 percent from 4.4 percent in 2008 among 12th graders, and past year use of hallucinogens also fell among high school seniors to 4.7 percent, down from last year’s 5.9 percent rate and significantly lower than its 2001 peak of 9.1 percent.

The NIH reports that, "perceived harmfulness of LSD, amphetamines, sedatives/barbiturates, heroin and cocaine have all increased among 12th graders, and the perceived availability of many illicit drugs has dropped considerably. For example, 33.9 percent of 12th graders reported this year that it is easy to get powder cocaine, down from 38.9 percent just a year ago. Similarly, 35.1 percent of 12th graders said ecstasy is easy to obtain, compared to 41.9 percent last year". These numbers are, overall, pretty good and there are definitely less teens using certain drugs and they perceive them as harmful. What is concerning is prescription drug use and abuse, such drugs as amphetamines and opiates very easily find their way into the hands of high school students. "Nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors reported past year non-medical use of Vicodin, and 1 in 20 reported abusing Oxycontin, also a powerful opioid painkiller. Non-medical use of these painkillers has increased among 10th graders in the past five years. For the first time this year the survey measured the non-medical use of Adderall, a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat ADHD. The survey reported that more than 5 percent of 10th and 12th graders reported non-medical use of the drug in the past year", according to the NIH.

The numbers for 2009 are certainly interesting and we have to be concerned about certain trends for sure. It does appear that there are reductions in certain drug use that shows that increased drug education is paying off in certain areas. The battle wages on and we only hope to see fewer people's lives adversely affected by drugs. Let us know what you think of the Monitoring the Future survey and this year's findings, we are interested to hear what you have to say about it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New York City Police Officer Accused Of Using Badge And Police Car In Cocaine Conspiracy

Some police officers, after seeing the lucrative business that the criminals they go after are in, decide that they deserve a piece of the pie; using their connections and authority to bypass the law and have an edge. Officials said Friday that a New York City police officer is being accused of using his badge and police car in a cocaine conspiracy. According to the New York Times, Officer Juan Acosta used the powers of the law to, "help a friend run a cocaine-distribution operation, providing tips on which streets were lightly patrolled by officers and stealing cash from a rival drug courier in the guise of a police seizure, officials said Friday."


Acosta, who joined the police force in 2000, had been helping his friend Yorick Rafael Corneil-Perez, along with others to distribute large quantities of cocaine. According to the United States Attorney's office in Manhattan, this group of individuals was responsible for "multiple kilograms of cocaine" in and around the city. The New York Times reports "The men, both 34 and from the Bronx, have been charged with participating in a cocaine-distribution conspiracy and with conspiring to commit extortion in connection with Officer Acosta’s improper use of his authority".

Officer Acosta helped secure the transportation of drugs throughout the city, he knew which areas were less heavily patrolled thus giving him the upper hand. The two men had agreed to help a drug trafficker from Columbia protect a shipment from Long Island to the Bronx when they were caught. The Colombian was an undercover confidential government informant. This was a big bust for the police and without a doubt helped keep some cocaine of the streets. Acosta was held without bail after pleading not guilty at his arraignment on Friday before Magistrate Judge Kevin N. Fox. Corneil-Perez was held without bail after his arraignment on Thursday.
 
The War on Drugs continues...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gamma Butyrolactone or GBL , 'Coma in a Bottle'


New drugs that are harmful to your health are being created everyday. Drugs that are new and have not yet been tested by the government are falling into the hands of people who abuse them; this has caused many people a lot of concern, just because they are legal doesn't make them safe. The ease in which these drugs can be acquired is nothing short than alarming - just a few mouse clicks away. Gamma Butyrolactone or GBL , 'coma in a bottle', is one of the drugs in question that has authorities concerned. GBL is a paint stripper and rust remover and is harmless if used for those tasks, GBL is odorless and has no taste when it is diluted; people who have used the drug have reported that the effects are similar to ecstasy. Drugs like GBL leave very little room for error, if the dosage is not accurately measured then an overdose causing a comma or death will ensue. "'It's as if every muscle in the body is trying to work against each other,' said a young woman who has experienced and witnessed the side-effects of GBL", the Daily Mail reports.

Mephedrone is another drug that can be easily acquired that produces similar effects to methamphetamines and ecstasy. 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC), according to Darlington Drug and Alcohol Action Team it can cause: nose bleeds, nose burns, hallucinations, blood circulation problems, rashes, anxiety, paranoia fits, and delusions. BBC News reported that "one person who used the drug regularly for 18 months had to be admitted to a psychiatric unit after he started experiencing hallucinations, agitation, excitability and mania. Due to the short history of the use of Mephedrone nothing is known about long‐term effects".

New designer drugs like these are especially dangerous and already have caused numerous deaths. We can only assume that the longer drugs like these can be sold legally and attained easily more deaths will occur. Steps are being taken in several countries to make drugs like these illegal. We can only hope that this happens with haste in our country. Legal does not mean safe!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Parents in New York Drug Test Their Kids

Parents in New York City and in other areas around the country have begun to drug test their kids. Home drug tests can be found at any pharmacy in the United States for a reasonable price. Discovering that there is a drug problem early can make a huge difference regarding how severe a drug problem gets. The quicker the problem is recognized the sooner it can be addressed; many drug addicts go undetected, by the time a problem is realized the addiction has gone completely out of control. It is for this reason that there are many adolescent drug treatment facilities available for parents to consider sending their children to for treatment.

Teenage years are the most critical years, the more drugs that are consumed in those years means the more developmental damage done. Parents suspecting their children of using drugs should test their kids; it could be that test that saves their life. In some places you can even get home drug tests for free from the police. ABC News reports, "Heroin is an epidemic here in Suffolk County [Long Island]," Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said. "I see the pain in parents' eyes. They're looking for something to combat their children's drug use". On Nov. 19, Suffolk County announced that it had purchased 16,000 drug testing kits, available for free for parents who want to test their children. The kits use litmus paper to test urine for six different drugs including methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, Vicodin and Xanax. Since the program started parents have picked up nearly 450 of them".

It's never too early to intervene, but, sometimes it's too late. Your kids may think you're over parenting, that's simply not true; you are protecting your child's life. I encourage you to watch the Dr. Nancy Video dealing with this subject:

"Dec. 1: As drug testing for children gains in popularity nationwide, some parents in New York City are getting free at-home kits from the police. Are the testing kits really the best way to prevent drug use in kids?"

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, November 30, 2009

Medical Cannabis Wave Has Been Sweeping Across The Country

The medical cannabis wave has been sweeping across the country with increasing speed; there is not a day that goes by without buzz about it in the media. States that have legalized medical marijuana have essentially opened the door for everyday people to become pharmaceutical manufacturers; let's face it, classifying marijuana as a medicine means some one has to produce and distribute the drug. New grow ops are going up every night and people who don't even smoke marijuana are witnessing the profit margins in that business. In Michigan, you can now attend pot college in order to learn crucial skills for participating and succeeding in the marijuana industry. Med Grow Cannabis College, located in Southfield, offers a wide variety of classes covering everything from soil nutrients to cannabutter; upon graduation you should have the skills required to grow and sell marijuana legally. Med Grow offers new classes every month and on their website they ask you if "you're ready to begin your new career"; medical marijuana is truly becoming less about medicine and more about money.

Every year pharmaceutical companies profit from selling legal drugs, some of those drugs are narcotics and are legal. Marijuana is now considered a medicine in many states but federally it is illegal. This discrepancy in classification is probably leading a lot of people down a path that could wind them in jail. People should not be led to believe that the marijuana enterprise is a particularly safe path. If marijuana is going to be taken seriously as a pharmaceutical then it needs to be treated that way before people start running off to start their new career in the drug game. According to the New York Times, "the students are a diverse group: white and black, some in their 20s, some much older, some employed, some not. Some keep their class attendance, and their growing plans, close to the chest". It's not just pot heads and drug addicts going into the marijuana industry, have people forgot that when you make drugs you have to sell them. How many forty year old accountants have ever sold drugs, pot or not?

It appears that the progression with medical marijuana, almost naturally, has transitioned towards business; it's now more about making money than it is about treating illness. Marijuana has become legalized under the guise of medicine and well being; people are hopping on board not fully understanding what is actually taking place. Is marijuana a medicine, economic relief, or just a way to make a buck? It's becoming all those things, but it is also one more thing too - addictive.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Diane Schuler Wasn't Drunk or High, She Ordered Chicken Selects!

At this point it is probably safe to say that the majority of Americans are familiar with the Taconic Parkway tragedy from back in July. Where Diane Schuler drove the wrong way down the Taconic Pkwy with five children in a minivan, drunk and stoned; crashing head-on with a SUV carrying three people. A total of eight people died in the wreck, the sole survivor was Diane Schuler's five-year-old Brian Schuler; it's is a blessing that more were not injured in that horrific accident. Schuler's husband Daniel has repeatedly claimed that Diane was not an alcoholic and that she hardly ever drank, furthermore, Daniel states that he had never seen her drunk. As for the marijuana, well, apparently that was only for medicinal purposes to help her sleep. Daniel Schuler went so far as to hire a private detective to dispute the toxicology findings, but, basically the investigator Tom Rushkin has been hired to poke holes in the case against Diane. The latest defense put forth is interesting to say the least! Tom Ruskin stated, "That Taconic mom Diane Schuler couldn't have been drunk and high when she crashed her car driving the wrong way down the Taconic because she ordered Chicken Selects from McDonalds four hours earlier", reports The Village Voice. One has to wonder how it is possible, after seven innocent people lost their lives, that Rushkin and Schuler's husband could think that would prove her innocence.

Apparently, Schuler could not have been drunk or stoned, she argued with a McDonalds' employee and demanded to speak to a manager about ordering something not on the breakfast menu - Chicken Selects. A McDonalds' employee who served Schuler filled out an affidavit and failed to mention that Schuler seemed intoxicated, and that is the argument in a nutshell. Maybe Schuler wasn't inebriated at the McDonalds, but, there was another four hours until the fatal crash which would be plenty of time to drink and smoke. Diane "was seen by three witnesses vomiting at the side of the road on the morning of the crash. At the time of that report, Ruskin said that if it was Schuler vomiting, it proved that she was incapacitated by illness and not by pot and alcohol", according to The Village Voice. It is unbelievable how hard evidence against Diane Schuler keeps popping up and Rushkin keeps dreaming up magical alternatives to why Schuler couldn't be intoxicated. Incapacitated by illness, like alcohol has never made people vomit when they mix alcohol with pot?

Diane Schuler was an alcoholic who took the lives of many people with her addiction. The evidence all points in the same direction and the longer people try to cover for Diane the worse it makes her and the entire family look. Is it possible that Diane hid her disease from everyone, sure it's possible; but, there are people out there who know what happened on that tragic day and they are not speaking up. If anything, the truth is owed to the loved ones of the deceased; why belabor this tragedy any longer. Everyday, people get behind the wheel intoxicated even with children, as we saw in Schuler's case; New York just passed a bill that makes driving intoxicated with a child in the car a felony. Unfortunately, laws have very little sway against an addicted mind.

The video below seems slow and pointless until the end when everything suddenly speeds up. Or at least that is how it appears. We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The First Marijuana Coffee Shop Opens In America

The first marijuana coffee shop opens in America which will inevitably be one of the first tests Obama faces after announcing a relaxed approach against marijuana. Marijuana cafes have been operated in Europe for many years rather successfully; it will be interesting to see how this new cafe will be received by the public. The Cannabis Cafe in Portland, Oregon is the first place medical marijuana patients in Oregon can get their marijuana and smoke it as long as it is out of public view. Unlike California, there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon where patients can get their medicine, forcing them to grow it themselves or know someone who is growing it. The new cafe in Portland is a big move in America, what happens in Oregon could trickle down and affect other states; neighboring states will probably be setting up cafes in the near future if Oregon's attempt at it is a success.

According to the Telegraph(UK): "Madeline Martinez, who runs NORML, a group seeking legalisation of the drug, said: "This club represents personal freedom, finally. 'We hope to have classes, seminars, even a cannabis community college, based here to help people learn about growing and other uses for cannabis'". A month ago the Obama administration told federal lawyers, with regard to medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, not to prosecute in those states which have permitted medical use. In the state of Oregon there are 21,000 medical marijuana patients compared to the staggering 150,000 in California. California, legalized medical marijuana in 1996, since then, another 12 states including Oregon followed suit.

With each day that passes it appears that America's view on marijuana echoes Europe's more and more. The way things are going it does not seem like there will be any distinction before long. I think we need to remember that marijuana is still an addictive illegal drug and can have the ability to have an adverse affect on your life. The more the United States accepts medical marijuana the more it will accept its use in general - prescribed or not. Medical marijuana may be a progressive movement for the United States and in the end may be the right thing; but, we dare not forget that just because it becomes recognized as a medicine does not mean that it's not an addictive drug and needs to be monitored.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are Addictive Drugs Legal in America?

It appears that the United States has become much more permissive of illegal drug use unlike never before. Many people are confused, and are asking, "are addictive drugs legal in America?"Across the world jails are filled to the max, economies have gone into recession, and a war on drugs with no end in sight continues to be fought. In the United States, the Obama administration has recently announced that registered cannabis dispensaries will no longer be raided by federal authorities; this is a pretty big deal considering that Marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug. Just about anywhere you go in the western United States you can see the marijuana trend exploding; more and more states are accepting or considering Marijuana as a legitimate medicine. The hope is that relaxed marijuana laws in the U.S. will have a heavy toll on the Mexican cartels. Cartels make most of their money from trafficking and selling marijuana.

The trend is happening all over the world, countries are not looking at drugs in the same way they once did. Governments are relaxing their laws regarding many different substances. The Economists reports that, "from heroin 'shooting galleries' in Vancouver to Mexico's decriminalization of personal possession of drugs, the Americas are suddenly looking more permissive. Meanwhile in Europe, where drugs policy is generally less stringent, seven countries have decriminalized drug possession, and the rest are increasingly ignoring their supposedly harsh regimes. Is the 'war on drugs' becoming a fiction?" This goes beyond just medical marijuana; many states are considering full on legalization of marijuana and are having serious discussions about it.

It appears to be a new era all over the world regarding the war on drugs. I have to wonder if we are being too hasty, many countries are trying to determine how all narcotics from cannabis to crack can be regulated. There needs to be a limit to all the legalization talk and we need to remember that drugs ruin people's lives and if they are not monitored appropriately then there will be chaos. There is certainly a problem with drug policy throughout the world, but, how we alter those policies needs to be done carefully.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Zetas Most Powerful Drug Trafficking Organization in the World

Zetas Drugs Mexico US Gangs
The brutal war in Mexico wages on over territory and drug trafficking routes from Mexico into the United States. The Zetas, who number about 4,000 according to U.S. Intelligence, are a cartel of Mexican Army Special Forces soldiers, who have dominated northern Mexico and the United States through murder and intimidation of public officials. It hasn't been proved, but, it is reported that some of the Zetas' members were trained in the United States. The Zetas' have a lot of influence as a result of their size and power; they operate throughout Mexico and the U.S. trafficking large amounts of narcotics and will let nothing stand in their way as is evident from the outrageous death toll. There is very little question that the Zetas are the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world.

"The cartel was founded in the 1970s but emerged in its modern form in the mid-1980s, led by Juan García Abrego (now in a Colorado jail) and thereafter Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, who founded the Zetas and who is now awaiting trial in Houston, Texas. The Zetas are now led by Heriberto Lazcano – "El Lazco" or "Z3" – wanted in both Mexico and the US. It is Lazcano and the Zetas who control the cartel's drug operations and exercise the savagery with which its power is enforced and its terrain expanded", according to the Observer. Mexico's President Felipe Calderon focused the most energy on the Zetas' cartel with very little success. Peace in Mexico is when one cartel has total control over a given area. "The cartel and the Zetas have held their terrain and are broadening it, despite the high-profile arrests of key members of the group such as Jaime González Durán, alias "El Hummer". A spokesman for Calderón, Alejandra de Soto, told the Observer that "the army is proud of what it has achieved in Tamaulipas" – where the Zetas are based – "there is relative peace in the area. It has been brought under control".

Unfortunately, the Mexican government still has very little if any control over the cartel situation. Reports show that cartels like the Zetas are growing and their territory continues to spread with very little impediment. It still seems like there is a whole lot of talk and very little action directed towards the drug war and peoples' lives continue to be affected. Hopefully a solution can be found between the U.S. and Mexico.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans with Mental Health and Addiction Problems Belong in Treatment

In the late 60's and early 70's many soldiers returning from the Vietnam War came back home with mental health problems. Making the matter worse, many of those same soldiers had serious addiction problems as a result of trying to deal with what they experienced in war. Vietnam veterans did not receive the care that they needed forcing them into ineffective mental health clinics and jails; there were not many options for drug treatment in those days. Countless veterans suffered from our lack of understanding of mental disorders, including and especially addiction. Forty years later and America finds itself in a similar predicament, staggering numbers of soldiers are coming back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with serious prescription drug problems, either to deal with pain or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This wave of addictions has veterans winding up in jails all over the country. Veterans with mental health and addiction problems belong in treatment, jails only exasperate the issue; if the United States does not provide its war veterans with adequate treatment, then we will see a repeat of history.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a report showing that current practices and policies in the United States has needlessly sent large numbers of handicapped and addicted veterans to jail. The report points out the advantages of drug courts and that treatment is always the better option. Drug and alcohol treatment has a much greater track record of keeping recidivism to a minimum. Guy Gambill, a long-time veterans' advocate, suggests, "In the aftermath of Vietnam, self-medication and its collateral behaviors landed tens of thousands of veterans in prison. This time, let’s be smarter than the problem". Unfortunately, many young veterans coming back from the war who get into trouble do not take advantage of drug court if it is offered; most states do not even have veteran drug court available.

Clearly, action needs to be taken to help or at least offer help to veterans coming back from the war addicted to prescription drugs and other substances. There is no reason why any non-violent addict should spend time in jail; the science is there to back up treatment as being more effective. The military will not provide any form of maintenance programs for their soldiers addicted to opiates despite the evidence world wide to support drugs like Suboxone and Methadone. What is certain is that the military still has a long way to go before soldiers and other veterans are adequately cared for and treated properly, hopefully this report will open peoples' eyes.

Today's post is written to honor our Veterans.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New York has Become aTesting Ground for the Potential to Expand Treatment Programs

About 37 percent of people who need and seek out drug and alcohol treatment do not get it because they cannot afford it. Sadly, many people end up in jail or prison before they ever go to treatment. In a lot of cases getting caught up in the legal system is a direct result of states not providing adequate drug treatment availability. In the last year a number of states have even cut spending on drug treatment. What is interesting about cutting spending on drug treatment is that sending someone to treatment is significantly less expensive than prison. New York has become a testing ground for the potential to expand treatment programs.

The Rockefeller drug laws enacted in the 70's were reformed this year, this is a huge step in the right direction and will save more lives. Now, nonviolent offenders who would have faced long, mandatory prison terms will be provided treatment and New York will be injecting $50 million in the treatment programs state wide. "An estimated 80 percent of the 60,000 offenders in New York's prisons have substance abuse problems", according to the Associated Press. Expanding drug treatment is the most logical decision and makes clear that the disease concept of addiction is starting to make sense to politicians.

Unfortunately, California recently cut $250 million designated for rehabilitation services throughout the prisons and jails. This has done nothing but cost California more money in the long run by contributing to recidivism, in a prison full of addicts there is only one solution that has proven to work - treatment. Congress recently passed a bill that will in the near future prohibit insurance companies from denying insurance based on pre-existing health conditions. This will allow more people to get health insurance thus giving more addicts the option of life saving drug treatment - hopefully. Sadly, many insurance companies do not cover the cost of detox or treatment despite it being classified and accepted as a disease; perhaps, when this bill in Washington is completely worked out, that will no longer be the case. It is time to give people the care they deserve, treatment is always a better choice than prison.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Growing Marijuana for Profit Without the Threat Punishment

Medical marijuana in California has created a wave of people who have started growing the drug with the hopes of making a fortune. People are traveling from all over the country to get their foot in the door before it is closed. People think that because there are medical marijuana laws that it will protect them from the authorities. That is not the case, if you break the law and profit from growing pot under the guise that the plants are grown for medical purposes you will be incarcerated. There are more marijuana growers in the United States today than ever before, especially in California where laws are more relaxed. Unfortunately, the majority of marijuana grown in California is not for medical use and is being sold illegally. Marijuana is quickly becoming the next gold rush; the idea of growing marijuana for profit without the threat of punishment is inviting more people into the drug war. Federal officials plan to announce today 4.4 million plants have been seized since last summer, which is up 52%.

Since medical marijuana cuts into the Mexican cartels profits, they have become more aggressive with their guerrilla operations. The idea that legalizing pot would stop the cartels is not proving true. The United States legalizing medical marijuana will mean more pot will be grown to be sold illegally. Marijuana is an addictive drug that affects the lives of many people, more pot equals more addicts. Sadly, the Mexican cartels are using our national forests to grow marijuana, destroying our pristine habitats. According to the LA Times, "in 2008, 2.9 million plants were found, worth an estimated $11.6 billion. About 70% was grown on public lands. The campaign also seized 2.9 million plants in 2007".

The numbers are staggering and unfortunately they are our future. More people will be exposed to the drug than ever before, inevitably we will see addiction rates spike in America. It will be interesting to see how California goes about this transition and responds to the changes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bills and Measures that are in the Works for a Green California and Perhaps a Green America

There are so many bills flying around California that it is hard to keep track of everything going on with the Marijuana debate. What the future will hold is any one's guess, but, with the way things look it seems like it won't be long before Marijuana is a legal drug in California and perhaps the United States. There are a number of states who are tired of spending millions of dollars on prohibiting the production, distribution, and use of the drug. With the country in an economic recession more and more people are trying to find a way to generate revenue. The fact that more people will become addicted to the drug has become over-shadowed by the recession and the violent Mexican cartels. The argument is that legalizing marijuana will slow down the cartels and bring more tax money which could help pull us out of our economic woes. Whatever the case may be there will be a lot of heated discussion in the months to come regarding the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. Listed below are some of the bills and measures that are in the works for a green California and perhaps a green America:

  • Assembly Bill 390: Introduced in February by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, it would legalize marijuana cultivation, sales, possession and use by people 21 and older, regulating it somewhat like alcohol. A license to grow for sale would cost $5,000 to start and then $2,500 to renew each year, and a $50-per-ounce tax would be placed on retail sales. Ammiano said he hopes this would bring upward of $1.4 billion per year for drug abuse prevention efforts. No taxation would occur unless the federal marijuana ban is lifted; otherwise, the bill's only effect would be legalization of personal cultivation and use. Ammiano held the bill in committee this year, and is now rewriting it to put it forth again in January.
  • The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010: Proposed by Oakland marijuana activists Richard Lee and Jeff Jones, it would legalize personal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and up to 25 square feet of cultivation per home. It also would give local governments the option of whether to permit, regulate and tax commercial sales, a system akin to how alcohol is or isn't sold in "wet" and "dry" counties in some states. This seems to be the measure to watch; the proponents say their petition drive is surging, and its endorsements include that of Oakland mayoral candidate and former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. For details, go to Tax Cannabis 2010.
  • The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010: Advanced by proponents Joe Rogoway, Omar Figueroa and James Clark, all of San Francisco, it would legalize personal cultivation and use without limits, but would require -- not just allow -- state and local governments to regulate and tax commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. Tax revenues would have to be spent on education, health care, environmental programs, public works and state parks. For details, got to the California Cannabis Initiative.
  • The Common Sense Act of 2010: Advanced by proponent John Donohue, of Long Beach, it would require the Legislature to adopt laws regulating and taxing marijuana within one year, but would let local governments choose whether to also tax marijuana's cultivation, sale, and use. For details, go to Grasstax.


-Info Provided by the Contra Costa Times-

I am curious to see what everyone thinks about the direction California is heading regarding this subject. Is California moving too quickly and not evaluating the big picture thoroughly? Once California passes the breaking point it is very unlikely that what has been done can be reversed. Both sides have well thought out arguments to support their views; but, what isn't clear is whether they have thought out plans to implement such a drastic shift into everyday life? Please send us your comments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oprah's Special On Diane Schuler's Accident

Oprah Diane Schuler Accident
What if your secrets had the power to take the lives of innocent people? Every day millions of people struggle with the disease of addiction under the radar of their friends and family. The stigmas that accompany alcoholism drive many high functioning alcoholics into the closet. The thought of being branded an alcoholic by one's peers is too much for a mother or father that suffers from the disease to handle. High functioning addicts work overtime to cover up their problem, with the hope that they can go just one more day undetected.

Unfortunately, those same high functioning alcoholics are the people, the Diane Schuler's, we have seen in the news lately. Addiction can be invisible and go unchecked by friends and family for many years, then, tragically one day an accident takes place that strips innocent people of their lives. Oprah recently did a special covering the topic of mothers who have managed to hide their addiction from everyone and then were in horrific accidents. She talked with the family members of the people who died in the Schuler accident, as well toxicology experts who were involved with case. What is clearly evident is that many people, even after the accident, are in denial about the severity of Diane Schuler's problem; Schuler's husband even hired a private investigator to prove that the toxicology reports were false and that there is no way she was an alcoholic or was even drinking that day - let alone high on marijuana. Only three months after the accident, Oprah's special on Diane Schuler's accident points out and makes even more clear that it is very difficult to argue with science; there is no sense trying to prove that Schuler was not an alcoholic, what matters is spreading the message that we need to confront our loved ones if we suspect there is a problem.

Denial is a major component to addiction thriving inside people unchecked. Diane Schuler's family's protestations that there was no problem is very hard to believe given the evidence. Even after the tragedy, a tragedy that took seven innocent people's lives, Schuler's husband will not face the facts. This story has brought a surge of women who are stepping up and declaring that they have a problem which they have managed to hide; before anything tragic happens in their lives it is time to start speaking out to raise awareness. There is no reason children's lives should be placed in jeopardy, if you recognize that there is a problem with a friend or family member the responsible thing to do is speak out about it. You never know how many lives could be saved by a single act of concern; there are many support networks that can be tapped in order to save someone from the disease of addiction.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost Over $1,300

Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost
How much is your life worth or the life of someone dear to you? The United States spends nearly $500 billion annually to help in the fight against addiction and sadly the money is poorly managed which leaves very little room for success. Alcohol and drug addiction is perhaps the hardest disease to treat and is certainly the disease that is the least understood. 105,000 Americans each year die as a result of complications directly related to drugs and alcohol, that number is higher than traffic accident related deaths in over 15 states. The cost of even attempting to start a new life, one free of addiction, is staggering; because of that it is very difficult for most addicts to get the treatment that they need. Sadly, treatments controlled by the state are not managed properly and their success rate is minimal; for those who can afford to go to private pay drug treatment facilities success rates are much higher. Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost over $1,300, and clearly most bottom of the barrel drunks do not have that kind of money lying around. With an annual bill of 500 billion dollars, one would think that the state organized treatment options would have better numbers - where is the money going?

The Times Union of Albany New York reported that, "of each dollar spent, 96 cents goes to the criminal justice system and health care costs, 'shoveling up the wreckage' in the phrase of a recent study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Less than 4 cents of every dollar goes to prevention, treatment and research, 'a reckless misapplication of public funds,' the study concluded". Unfortunately, the majority of state funds go towards a group of repeat offenders who have been to: detox, treatment, jail, and hospitals several times over. "In Albany County, about $12 million, mostly state funds, is spent each year where about 100 individuals chronically addicted to alcohol and drugs consume the bulk of services and funding. They typically also are homeless, mentally ill and suffer from a myriad of physical ailments", according to the Times Union. About have of that number, 43, people can be seen in emergency room detox units with blood alcohol content levels around .30% as much as two dozen times a month. If you do the math, at $1,300 a day per person, the bill could reach $26,000 a month.

I cannot help but think that 4 cents on the dollar is not enough funding to make any head way in the prevention, treatment, and research of addiction. Perhaps if the state funding was allocating properly, the chances for individual success and less repeat offenders could be possible. The disease of addiction has been around since the dawn of civilization and is not going anywhere; if we use more money for research and less for imprisonment perhaps more lives could be saved every year from this terrible affliction. The tools are available for people to make a successful recovery, but, unfortunately people are not using those tools to their fullest potential or are not being properly taught how to harness the power of them. Until the United States figures out how to allocate spending appropriately, the longer unnecessary deaths will continue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Treating Drug Addicts With Heroin

New studies into treating heroin have been taking place in Europe, especially in England where addiction specialists are realizing that it may be more beneficial for hard-to-treat addicts to be treated with the drug they are addicted to. Controversial to say the least, the study's findings have been quite shocking; it is a real possibility that heroin clinics will be set up throughout England to manage heroin addicts? Treating drug addicts with heroin, the addict's drug of choice, without a doubt should be a last resort choice. It seems relevant to point out that the study being performed in England benefits society much more than it benefits the addicts. The addicts who are being injected by government clinicians are still caught in the grips of addiction and it seems unlikely that they will become contributing members of society.

The study found that the use of street heroin was cut by three quarters and the crimes committed to get drugs were slashed by two-thirds. Great Britain decided that the cost of $22,000 per patient per year to provide, addicts who had failed at other forms of treatment, heroin was a wiser alternative to having addicts running the streets committing crimes to get their fix. The cost to imprison heroin addicts is almost 3 times more a year than supplying heroin in government run clinics. The streets are safer and the drug is administered in a more sanitary environment which cuts down on disease. John Strang, led the research team involved in this study at Britain's National Addiction Centre, associated with King's College in London. "Strang said the stubborn nature of heroin addiction is proof that getting addicts into treatment is really a shallow achievement, because many will eventually turn to drugs again. He believes this promising approach could change the way hard-to-treat addicts are treated and convince the government that the initial high cost offers good value", reported CNN.

This experiment is by no means the best way to help addicts become productive members of society. Providing heroin to addicts may cut down on crime and the amount spent annually to imprison such addicts; however, the likelihood that addicts high on heroin will be able to manage their lives while high is very small. Sure, the streets are safer but people are still shackled by their addiction and will never be relieved of the bondage if the government agrees to get people high year-round for free. Many of the most hardened drug addicts have managed to find sobriety and continue to maintain it without drug maintenance programs like methadone or Suboxone. Those individuals that are unwilling to surrender and ask for guidance will never find freedom form the disease of addiction.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama Administration Issues New Policy On Medical Marijuana

The marijuana question and the argument of legalization made a huge stride today in Washington. It seems as though every passing month brings new developments that are in favor of legalization; if people are following state law then they are relatively free of any federal punishment. Obama administration issues new policy on medical marijuana. "The Obama administration delivered new guidance on medical marijuana to federal prosecutors Monday, signaling a broad policy shift that will mean fewer crackdowns against dispensaries and the people who use them", according to the Washington Post. The idea is that federal prosecutors should focus on those growers who exploit state law and traffic drugs behind the veil of medical marijuana.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal", said Attorney General Eric Holder. Obama's new policy raises a lot of questions about what kind of good will come of it; on one hand, every plant grown legally in the U.S. is another dollar that Mexican Cartels cannot get there hands on to fund their war. Obviously, taking money from the cartels is a good thing and may reduce the number of murders that happen everyday along the border. There are those who argue that giving addicts the ability to grow marijuana without the fear of punishment may increase addiction rates throughout the country.

Only time will tell whether the new policy will do more harm than good and there seems to be more people in favor of medical legalization then there are against it. The Mexican cartels should be the main focus of federal agents due to the violence that goes along with their business. the Washington Post reported that, "Tom Angell, a spokesman for the advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said in an e-mail message that the shift appears to be a "major step" in the right direction". The new development in Washington is in no way an all out legalization of the drug, rather, it is simply put in place to guide investigators toward the more important cases where serious laws are being broken. What is the right answer in all of this remains unclear because the new policy has yet to be put to the test. Is less crime and more addiction the right path to take?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cartels Face Economic Battle With California Pot Growers

Cartels Economic Battle Pot Growers
In Northern California the growing of Marijuana has been a way of life for many families for a long time. The number of "Mom-and-Pop" grow operations are countless, and the number is becoming larger every day. The Washington Post states, "stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico". With more than half of the marijuana smoked in the United States now being grown domestically, it has become a serious burden upon the Mexican cartels. Now, the cartels face an economic battle with Californian pot growers!

The majority of all pot, up until recently, was grown in Mexico and Columbia; this allowed the cartels to maintain dominance of the trade for many years. Now that laws in the United States are becoming more relaxed as we approach potential legalization, the U.S. growers are severely cutting Mexican profits. "While the trafficking of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine is the main focus of U.S. law enforcement, it is marijuana that has long provided most of the revenue for Mexican drug cartels. More than 60 percent of the cartels' revenue -- $8.6 billion out of $13.8 billion in 2006 -- came from U.S. marijuana sales, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy", reports the Washington Post. Cutting as much as 60 percent of the cartels profit could do great things for the war on drugs. It is yet to be seen if this trend will hold, but, it seems very likely.

Marijuana is an addictive drug and should not be overlooked or even considered a good thing compared to other drugs. However, the war on drugs continues and the death toll keeps rising. If legalizing marijuana is what it takes to fight the cartels, then it should be something everyone in America considers long and hard. In almost half a century we have not been able to come up with any kind of solution that has worked in curbing the cartels in their deadly game. It may be time to consider what is the lesser of two evils; growing and consuming marijuana or countless dead bodies? No matter what, a solution to the drug war needs to be found.

Monday, October 12, 2009

DJ AM's Gone Too Far on MTV

DJ AM's last project before his life was cut short by drug addiction was a television show called Gone Too Far. It was scheduled to start airing on MTV, but, when DJ AM died MTV decided to postpone the show to decide whether or not they should air it at all. Gone Too Far is about drug addicts and assisting them in getting the help that they need to start a new life. DJ AM was the host of the show and ironically he overdosed on a sleuth of prescription medications and illegal drugs. AM had been struggling with addiction for several years especially after a plane crash, which he was severely injured in last year. Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein battled with his addiction for the greater part of his, he decided that a show to help people that needed assistance with there addiction would be a way to give back. MTV decided to respect DJ AM's mission by airing Gone Too Far, you can watch the premier on October 12th at 10:00 PM ET/PT on MTV(check your local listings)

"Gone Too Far is an intense and eye-opening series, which reveals the devastating effects of drug addiction while offering hope to those willing to accept an opportunity to change their lives", states MTV. What has shown to be the most effective when dealing with your addiction is to give back that which was freely given to you. Helping others and showing them how to get on the road to recovery is the most important part of one's sobriety. Freeing one's self form the grips of addiction is not something that can be done alone, working with others is perhaps the most vital part of the recovery process. "Each episode features Adam meeting with the addicts, friends and families to explore their willingness to change. As part of his life long struggle to overcome substance abuse, his mission was to help as many people as he could and this series was a way for him to help on a bigger level. Through interviews and self-shot video from the addicts and their families, the severity of their addiction and its impact is exposed. Adam often uncovers and reveals new information that even those closest to the addicts are unaware. Along the road to recovery, Adam made the time to see how their rehabilitation was progressing, providing a raw and honest look at their new sobriety. Each addict's path to sobriety is different and only time will tell if they will ever come back, from having gone too far", according to MTV.

Gone Too Far will be informative and could potentially help some of the show's viewers get closer to making the decision to seek help. Asking for help is the hardest part of the recovery process; in the back of every addict's mind is the idea that there has to be another way. Unfortunately, many people die trying to figure out that there is no alternative. Drug and Alcohol addiction leads to only three things, jails, institutions, and death. There is help out there if one is willing to accept it and begin the journey towards recovery. Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". I encourage everyone to tune in to this series if they are or know someone struggling with addiction. Gone Too Far will give all those who watch a glimpse into the world of addiction and what it takes to get sober.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Appeal Denied

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court denied a hearing of appeal from Brandy Holmes, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is on death row for murder in Louisiana. Holmes' attorneys argued that FAS was not considered in her sentencing. Not only did the Supreme Court decline to hear the appeal, but, according to CNN, "the justices gave no reason for rejecting the appeal, which challenged the constitutionality of Louisiana's capital sentencing procedures and argued that Brandy Holmes' alleged developmental disabilities should disqualify her from execution". There is no reason why someone with mental disabilities who functions like a 10-12 year old should be executed in the United States of America. In the 21st century one would think that we would have an understanding of mental disorders and the constitutionality of punishing people with them the same way as others. There is no legitimate reason why the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome appeal should have been denied when previously the Supreme Court had banned the execution of the mentally retarded.

There is not a doubt that Holmes belongs in prison with a life sentence, but if some mentally retarded people are exempt from execution then every mental disability should be as well. "Experts on fetal alcohol syndrome call it the nation's leading preventable cause of mental retardation. As many as 40,000 newborns in the United States are affected each year by their mother's alcohol use, according to an advocacy group. The syndrome can lead to brain damage, behavioral problems and intellectual disabilities", as reported on CNN. We are just now starting to understand the complexities and inconsistencies that exist with this disorder. There are varying degrees of FAS and sometimes the disorder cannot be seen physically. Tom Donaldson, the president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, believes that "Brandy has a hallmark case of FAS", that is why Brandy received NOFAS support with her appeal. "In a petition to the justices, Holmes' attorney, Charles Ogletree, argued the Louisiana Supreme Court did not "review the extensive mitigating circumstances that limited Ms. Holmes's moral culpability and compare them to the mitigating circumstances presented in similar cases. The [state] court also failed to consider that petitioner's co-defendant received a death sentence and that the prosecutor stated at the co-defendant's trial that he (and not the petitioner) was the more culpable party", reports CNN.

Brandy Holmes may be high functioning for someone with FAS as she was able to contribute to such a serious crime, but, mitigating circumstances should and must be considered. The Supreme Courts banning of executions for the mentally retarded is a good thing, but, the justices established no clear benchmark on IQ test results to guide criminal courts which has created loopholes for certain defendants like Holmes to fall into. Holmes has been living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; a life sentence given to her by her mother, maybe the State of Louisiana should do the same!


Monday, October 5, 2009

South American Cocaine Is Now Moving Towards West Africa

A shift is happening in the drug trade and new regions are being affected. The United States and Mexico have been working to seal the border in an attempt to keep drugs out. The cartels have begun looking for new markets to harness. South American cocaine is now moving towards West Africa for distribution in Europe and other growing markets. The use of cocaine in the U.S. is dropping but new regions are going to be dramatically effected. "But U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said the shift does not mean the United States can claim a triumph, as the drug trade reaches into and threatens to destabilize new regions", according to Reuters. Kerlikowske does believe that this is not a good thing necessarily; the war is just moving to a new battle ground, the problem still exists.

West Africa has been known for corrupt governments and weak infrastructure. Drugs pouring into these countries are being trafficked through out Europe. The point of Origin for cocaine in the world is South America primarily in Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. In the last 9 years the United States has given billions of dollars in aid to help stop the flow of cocaine. "We have not stopped the flow we have merely diverted it and the rest of the world is going to suffer. Latin America's drug wars are largely fueled by U.S. demand and Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, is promising a balanced approach with increased emphasis on drug addiction prevention and treatment programs" states Reuters.

As we follow the news on the larger picture of drug trafficking, the drug cartels, and our continuing war on drugs, it is important to stay alert to our own families and friends. Be aware of the signs of drug addiction and alcoholism. The real story is unfolding in front of our eyes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DJ AM's Death Was Ruled An Accidental Drug Overdose

DJ AM Death Accidental Drug Overdose

The medical examiner came back with the report on Adam Goldstein's, DJ AM, death yesterday. The findings were in a way hard to believe, the lethal cocktail of drugs that were found in Goldstein's system were staggering. Despite initially appearing to be a suicide, DJ AM's death was ruled an accidental drug overdose. According to the Associated Press, "the toxicology report showed the 36-year-old had in his system cocaine, OxyContin, Hydrocodone or Vicodin, anti-anxiety drugs Xanax and Ativan, Klonopin which also controls anger, Benadryl, and Levamisole, a drug apparently used to cut cocaine". The actual dosage of each drug was not released, we can assume it was a lot of everything; his death was caused by what the medical examiner called, acute intoxication, due to the combined effects of the drugs. DJ AM had been struggling with his addiction for quite some time; he had, for a time, managed to stay sober until he recently relapsed just before his death. He had made the commitment to his recovery sponsor and his manager to go back into treatment when his life was cut short.

On Aug. 28 he was found in his apartment in New York City after a friend called 911. "Paramedics had to break down the door before they found him, shirtless and wearing sweat pants, in his bed around 5:20 p.m. Six pills were found in his stomach and a pill in his throat when he was found dead in his apartment. The pill in his throat appeared to be OxyContin. A crack pipe and prescription pill bottles were discovered there", stated the AP. DJ Am had been burned severely in an airplane crash last September in South Carolina that killed four people. Goldstein had to get skin graft surgery, which is very painful, but, he went back to performing about a month later. Perhaps, DJ AM suffered from chronic pain and that is why he had so many prescriptions for narcotics? It has been clear for a very long time that benzodiazepines and opiates can be a very lethal combination. On top of that, mixing those drugs can put someone in a dream like state where your memory is not accurate; in turn, one can take more pills without even knowing and that is when an overdose ensues.

I find myself saddened by the fact that Goldstein had made the choice to seek help, but, unfortunately it was not soon enough. He was very talented individual with a lot of promise in life. Who knows the things he could have accomplished? DJ AM is just one case of thousands of people whose lives are cut short every year by the disease of addiction. Drug abuse is not a joke and it will strip you of your life if you do not seek help.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Will Be Front And Center In The Supreme Court

Fetal Alchol Syndrome Supreme Court
Tomorrow, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) will be front and center in the Supreme Court. The case of Holmes v. Louisiana has raised a lot of controversy regarding FAS, and whether or not someone with the disorder should be eligible for the death penalty. "Brandy Holmes, is a 29-year-old woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome currently on death row in Louisiana. She and a codefendant were convicted of a 2003 murder in Louisiana. Brandy's lead attorney is noted Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree", according to the PR Newswire. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the number one preventable form of retardation in the world; there are 40,000 newborns each year just in the United States. There are more cases annually than: autism, Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, and sudden infant death syndrome - combined.

There are many states that do not execute people who suffer from mental disabilities; society believes that to be inhumane. "Thirty-three states and the Federal Government don't execute persons with mental retardation - 16 more than only ten years ago. Evolving standards of decency place Brandy's case squarely within the precedent established by the court and society with regard to intellectual disabilities and the ultimate punishment". It is clear that Brandy, a person named after her mother's favorite drink, is a convicted murderer that deserves the consideration of mitigating circumstances. "Brandy has a hallmark case of FAS. Her mother testified that she drank throughout her pregnancy, and in fact named her daughter after her favorite drink", states NOFAS President Tom Donaldson. NOFAS is the The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; they fight for the rights of those who suffer from the disorder. NOFAS is there for children, as well as adults, who seek help for the wide range of problems associated with the disorder.

The statistics are available and the evidence is clear, we cannot continue to ignore this problem. The effects that alcohol have upon a pregnancy are devastating and we can no longer ignore the truth. Brandy may have committed the act of murder, but, because of her disability she should be granted a stay of execution. There needs to be more awareness via education regarding what alcohol does to babies. Donaldson believes that there needs to be more campaigns for the cause, "It's time to stop playing Russian roulette when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy". It is the 21st century, in an era of technology and information there is no excuse for why so many children are still born with such a disadvantage.

We have discussed Fetal Alcohol Syndrome earlier this month and we will continue to follow this story. We will watch to see if the Supreme Court makes a decision to hear Brandy Holmes' case.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Afghan Heroin Is A Global Security Risk

Afghan Heroin Global Security Risk

The world has been suffering from the black cloud of heroin for a very long time. It seems like every day a new story comes to light regarding the problem of heroin throughout the world. It turns out that Russia has now found themselves in the grips of a heroin epidemic which is fueled by the vast poppy fields in Afghanistan. Viktor P. Ivanov, the top drug enforcement official in Russia, has been pleading for American support with this problem, especially since the Obama administration has decided to pull back on Poppy eradication in Afghanistan. Bush had begun the manual eradication process with very little success, shortly after the war started. Obama would like to interdict opium supplies and show them how to cultivate alternative crops, but, unfortunately there has been very little progress made. Russia believes that the Afghan heroin is a global security risk that needs to be addressed jointly by the two super powers.

Ivanov is the head of the federal drug control service and a trusted adviser to Prime Minister Putin. His belief, according to the New York Times, is that, "eradication programs had failed in Afghanistan because they were too weak, and that the United States should apply the more muscular methods it used recently in Colombia, where vast coca fields were sprayed aerially with the herbicide glyphosate". Aerial herbicides are certainly the most effective way to eradicate a crop, but, there are many critics who say that this tactic will put many farmers out of work and force them towards terrorist organizations. Ironically, it is those same poppy fields that fund most of those organizations that the U.S. is at war with; which is the lesser of two evils, strength in numbers or strength in funding? "Afghanistan is seen as a crucial area of cooperation for the United States and Russia, in large part because of Russia’s crippling heroin problem. The authorities here estimate that 30,000 young Russians die every year from drug use. Mr. Ivanov said that 90 percent of Russian addicts used Afghan heroin, which flows into the country freely over the "virtual borders” it shares with central Asian neighbors", reports the NYT. Ivanov's proposal is that the United States eradicate the poppy fields, then channel some of their anti-drug campaign money to plant wheat in the Afghan fields.

I find myself sympathetic towards Ivanov's cause and I believe that this is a global problem which needs a global answer. Afghanistan has very little control of their country as is evident by the Taliban stronghold; furthermore, they have no control over the production of Opium and many countries are suffering as a result. Afghanistan needed the worlds help to remove the insurgencies, it stands to reason they will need help eradicating this very serious heroin problem. It's a real "Catch 22"! We cannot ignore this anymore than Russia can and I believe cooperation is necessary if a solution is going to be found. Neither, Afghanistan, nor the United States agree with aerial eradication at this point in time; they believe the effects will cripple the country more than it will help. While Afghanistan worries about where it would be without Poppys, the world is trying to figure out how to keep heroin out of their own countries.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Younger You Start Drinking, The More Problems You Will Have!

Younger Drinking More Problems

The younger you start drinking the more problems you will have! Studies have now shown that if you start drinking below the age of 15, when your brain is not fully developed, it could inadvertently start a snowball effect by bringing to light one's predisposition towards alcoholism. Taking that first drink at a young age, "may induce changes in the highly sensitive adolescent brain, which may also modify an individual's subsequent genetic vulnerability to [alcohol dependence]", states Arpana Agrawal, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine and an author of the study, said in a university news release". Alcohol has the ability to change the biology of one's brain by altering particular cells. This study of 6,257 adult twins was published on September 18 and will be in print in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Those who had their first drink later in life showed far fewer signs of alcohol dependency, despite the genetic predisposition", Agrawal noted according to the Health Daily News. This idea makes sense, considering all the new understandings we have of the brain and its development; the more time the brain is given to develop, the less chance of dependency developing. The brain is a fragile organ that is "impressionable"; protecting the brain at the adolescent age is of the utmost importance. It is so crucial that we educate the youth to the dangers of alcohol, if kids think that the effects of alcohol are minor, then they will be more inclined to drink. The average kid may not have anything to worry about; however, there are a percentage of people who carry the gene of alcoholism which can be brought to life at a time when the brain is immature; inevitably, the disease will be brought into action and quitting will be impossible without help.

Carol A. Prescott, a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, said the findings had two possible conclusions. "Early drinking changes the course an individual is on, and is thus a direct cause of increased [alcohol dependency] risk, and early drinking is correlated with [alcohol dependency] risk and is thus an indirect indicator of ... risk," she said in the news release. Agrawal believes that we can use the findings of the study to help educate parents so that they can educate their children. "The researchers plan to do a similar study that looks at older and younger groups in Australia and the United States to try to duplicate their findings", reports the Health Daily News. Education is one of the only defenses against the disease of addiction, a preemptive strike is necessary in this battle to protect our youth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cannabis Planet Dedicated to the World of Marijuana

The Marijuana culture has been quietly finding its way into the national mainstream via the media. "Cannabis Planet" is a show dedicated to the world of Marijuana and has become a clear sign of how the drug is finding its way into the culture of Californians. "We're trying to show the legitimacy of this plant," said Brad Lane, the executive producer of the half-hour program. According to the New York Times you can find, "tips for cultivating Marijuana. Testimonials by patients about its medical benefits. Cannabis cooking lessons. Even citations for award-winning strains of pot. Viewers here can now watch, every week, what amounts to a pro-weed news program." Brad Lane pays for the twice-weekly air time on the independent station KJLA. The station claims that nobody that has witnessed the show has made a complaint, which, I believe is very hard to believe. Legalizing the drug is one thing, but advertising it on public television is a completely other thing; are we sending out a message that can be misinterpreted by the masses?

"Medical marijuana is now legal in 14 states and the lobbying organization NORML says efforts to legalize it are under way in 15 other states. Marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, but in a break from prior policies, the Obama administration said in February that federal officials would stop raiding dispensaries of medical marijuana authorized under state law," the New York Times reports. Cannabis Planet is not the only show about Pot on television and there are others on the way. Pretty soon there will be a huge market for an already billion dollar business and the media intends on capitalizing on it.

Legalizing weed is not without its controversy and people have been abusing the drug for some time now. Marijuana is the number one drug in the United States and with the curbing of certain laws there will be a "Green Rush" that will sweep across the country, which will no doubt increase the abuse. There are good arguments on both sides and if the drug becomes totally legal I do not believe that advertising the drug in the media is acceptable. Cigarettes companies are not allowed to advertise their product; I don't understand how proponents of Marijuana can advertise theirs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

10,000 People Walked Across The Brooklyn Bridge

10,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to raise awareness about drug and alcohol recovery on Saturday. The idea was to send the message that that there is help if you want it and that the disease of addiction is treatable. Only ten percent of the 22 million people suffering from the disease ever get the treatment they need despite there being several options available. New York State has repealed the harsh Rockefeller drug laws and is trying to replace incarceration with treatment; Governor Paterson was at 'The A & E Recovery Project ' to show his support for such a wonderful cause. "We are giving individual judges the opportunity to choose what will be a treatment protocol for defendants when they are sentenced," said Paterson. "We are giving people a second chance."

Smokey Robinson performed at the free concert for all the recovering addicts because he himself is one. According to WPIX TV, "My message to them is to get help immediately," said Robinson. "I don't care what source you use or where you go. Get help immediately."

Remember, September is National Recovery Month. And this September is the 20th Anniversary of the National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Recovery events like this are happening across the United States. We invite you to watch this video from WPIX and celebrate your or your loved one's recovery.

 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dip In The Abuse Of Prescription Drugs

Dip Abuse Prescription Drugs

In the last decade prescription drug abuse has been on the rise, more people have become addicted to pills than any other substance. The flood of new drugs on the market in the way of sedatives, opiates, and stimulants is staggering. Fortunately, a federal drug survey found that less people abused prescription drugs last year than the year before that. This dip in the abuse of prescription drugs is being attributed to the education and information out there with respect to the dangers of pharmaceuticals. According to Eric Broderick, the acting administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "People who once saw little risk in abusing prescription drugs are responding to health reports underscoring dangers of misuse".

It has also been reported that methamphetamine use also dropped in 2008 which is probably due to serious Meth education campaigns across the country, like the Montana Meth Project. The government has also made it very hard for Meth labs to operate in the states due to a crack down on the ease in which people can get ephedrine, the main ingredient in the cooking process. The Montana Meth Project reports that, "two years after launching the Meth Project in Montana, adult Meth use has declined by 72% and Meth-related crime has decreased 62%. Unfortunately, illicit drug use in the United States overall has not faltered and people still continue to take the risk. People used just as many drugs overall in 2007 as they did in 2008, "the drops in methamphetamine and prescription drug abuse were offset by increases among some age groups of marijuana and hallucinogen use, according to the survey of 67,500 people age 12 and older. Illegal drug use among people 50 to 59 increased from 2.7% in 2002 to 4.6% in 2008, a trend the report attributes to drug-using baby boomers who are getting older".

That survey concluded that 8% of the population, which equates to about 20.1 million Americans, used an illicit drug in the past month which was no different than 2007. Marijuana is still the number one abused drug in the United States due to it accessibility, being that it is heavily grown all over the U.S. It is also the drug that is considered to due the least amount of damage - which studies have proven that idea is not warranted. Many states are attempting to make Marijuana 100% legal and California is at the forefront of the campaign. It is great that the negative side-effects are being disclosed regarding prescription drugs, but we clearly still have an epidemic on our hands. The prescription drugs that adults consume trickles down to our children, people rarely lock their medicine cabinet which keeps the drugs within reach.
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