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dangerous synthetics

10:30am

LSD-like Drug 25i Lands Three Teens In Hospital

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A new LSD-like substance is sparking concern after three Virginia teens between 13 and 18 years old were hospitalized for taking the drug known as 25i.

The synthetic drug is powder-based and can be turned into liquid before being applied to blotter paper. The paper is then cut into small pieces before being placed inside the mouth. The symptoms are similar to LSD in that it causes initial euphoria, but can ultimately lead to disorientation and violent behavior. Because 25i can be absorbed through the skin, even those who merely handle the drug can be affected by it. It has now been classified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Schedule I drug.

"It starts off with a lot of sweating, maybe even some nausea and vomiting,” said Lt. Tony Matos, Assistant Commander of the narcotics division with Fairfax County, VA Police. “But ultimately, it will lead to very aggressive, violent behavior, and ultimately it [can] lead to death."

At least 19 deaths between March 2012 and August 2013 have already been reported as a result of 25i, with those who died ranging between ages 15 to 29. That number is expected to increase due to a lack of manufacturing standards, which means the potency can greatly differ between batches and the chance of overdosing becomes much higher. The drug is primarily sold online for $5-10 per dose.

Joseph T. Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator for the office of diversion control at DEA, testified to a U.S. Senate panel last year that “lack of knowledge about this drug was likely at least partially responsible for 14 deaths that occurred in a 14-month time span.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

celebrity deaths

8:30am

Wife of Slipknot Bassist Blames Doctor For Overdose Death

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Slipknot in 2003. Shutterstock

The wife of late Slipknot bassist Paul Gray has testified in court that has final days were a blur of drug abuse and that neither his doctor or bandmates never stepped in to intervene.

After relapsing into drug addiction in 2008, Gray died of an overdose at a hotel in May 2010. He was just 38 years old. His wife, Brenna Gray, was testifying in the trial of his doctor, Daniel Baldi, who is currently facing nine counts of involuntary manslaughter that include the death of the Slipknot bassist. Prosecutors are arguing that his reckless prescription habits were the direct cause of the death, charges Baldi denies.

Brenna alleged that Baldi continued to provide Paul with a prescription for Xanax despite knowledge that he had a history of abusing it. She also told Baldi that she had found hypodermic needles in their bathroom and shared photos of her husband passed out, but he wouldn’t take his drug abuse seriously.

"I just knew it was his drug of choice, that he'd struggled with it,” she said. "I just wasn't really sure why he was on it, why he needed it along with the medication he was taking for addiction.”

She eventually staged an intervention with other family members, but he left their house and checked into a nearby hotel before dying two days later. Brenna said she never called 911 because she was afraid of being arrested for the drugs that Paul had kept at the house, as well as child services removing their kids from the home. She also claimed to have reached out to his bandmates for the intervention, but that none of them showed up despite the fact that “one was playing golf two minutes away from our house…they told me it was my problem.”

Baldi’s attorney, Guy Cook, got Brenna to admit during her testimony that she was aware the doctor had been attempting to reduce his Xanax intake. He also argued that only one of the pill bottles found in Paul’s hotel room was prescribed by Baldi and that it was for Suboxone, a medication used to treat addiction. Toxicology reports also showed that the Slipknot bassist had overdosed on the painkillers fentanyl and morphine, which were never prescribed by Baldi.

If convicted on all charges, Baldi could face up to 18 years in prison.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 24, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

medical weed

4/23/14 7:30pm

California Moves To Clean Up Medical Pot Business

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Anything goes... Shuterstock

It’s been no secret that California’s medical marijuana law has been an unmitigated mess. A lack of rules and regulations has led to hundreds of random street-corner pot shops sprouting up all over the Golden State.

But thanks to the legalization movement that has grown significantly throughout the U.S., state lawmakers are trying to clamp down on the Wild West culture of California’s medical marijuana industry. "The current state of chaos around medical marijuana has got to come to an end," said Democratic state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco.

Ammiano has long been a supporter of legalizing recreational marijuana and said that his proposed measure would help “set a template” for regulated use among adults. His bill would prevent doctors from prescribing medical marijuana to patients they haven’t examined and would also bar them from writing scripts if they also have a financial interested in a pot dispensary.

The bill would also grant the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control the authority of enforcing regulations and devising methods to increase tax revenues beyond mere sales tax, a plan that drew criticism from the California Narcotics Officers’ Association.

"There is no little irony in the department of Alcoholic Beverage Control as the administering agency for the medical marijuana trade," CNOA said in written testimony. "We know of no other area of law where an agency charged with regulating recreational substances such as alcohol is also given portfolio over matters alleged to be medical."

Meanwhile, local municipalities like Santa Monica are voting on whether or not they should back the proposed State Senate bill, which sees the measure as “a positive step forward in seeking to responsibly regulate medical marijuana because of the bill’s focus on local control, public safety, and public health.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

News

4/23/14 5:30pm

Michigan Debates Controversial Roadside Saliva Tests for Weed

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Now stick out your tongue... Shutterstock

Michigan lawmakers are throwing their weight behind a bill that would mandate police to administer saliva tests to motorists to determine whether marijuana has impaired their driving ability.

Michigan House Representative Dan Lauwers (R-Port Huron) sponsored House Bill 5385, which would require drivers suspected of reckless operation of a motor vehicle to submit to a saliva test to determine their level of impairment. As with portable breath tests for alcohol levels, failure to pass the saliva test would serve as confirming evidence for an arrest.

The bill has bipartisan support of 15 other House members, but faces considerable opposition from the more than 100,000 Michigan residents who are allowed to use medical marijuana. Advocates for medicinal marijuana use spoke out against the bill at a House Judiciary Committee meeting on April 17, prompting Lauwers to suggest an amendment that would waive the test for motorists who could show police that they possessed state medical marijuana cards.

Saliva tests for marijuana have drawn sharp criticism from the science community, law enforcement officials, and even manufacturers of the test themselves. The core of the problem is the fact that saliva testing is designed to determine the level of THC in the subject’s system. Experts like Brett Ginsburg, an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, note that THC is processed through the brain via the nervous system – which is unconnected to the salivary glands or saliva, resulting in an inaccurate test response. “I don’t know what the level (for impaired driving) is going to be on the Michigan tests,” said Ginsburg, “but I suspect that you’ll effectively prohibit many people from driving.”

A report from the Australian Association of Clinical Biochemists also underscored the difficulty of acquiring an accurate result from saliva tests. The authors of the report noted that while “oral fluid can provide a quick and non-invasive specimen for drug testing,” they also stated that “its collection can be thwarted by lack of available fluid due to a range of physiological factors, including drug use itself,” and can be adversely affected by food and other factors that stimulate saliva production.

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By Paul Gaita

draconian policy

4/23/14 3:30pm

Methadone Clinics Shuttered In Crimea After Russian Takeover

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In March, Russia officially annexed Crimea from the Ukraine amidst an international conflict of its own creation. While the takeover of Ukranian military bases and the looming threat of war dominated the world’s headlines, little changes in the region went largely ignored, including the denial of methadone for heroin addicts.

Russia's drug policies have long bordered on being draconian with a zero-tolerance approach to drug use and a heavy penchant for imprisoning large numbers of drug users without offering any hope of treatment. They have also explicitly banned needle exchange programs; currently, Russia has the highest levels of intravenous drug users in the world and has seen an explosion of HIV-positive addicts in recent years.

Despite its wrongheaded approach to drug addiction, Russia has moved full steam ahead in importing its drug policies to the newly reintegrated Crimean region, starting with denying methadone to heroin addicts.

"We've been forced to reduce the dosages. The conditions of patients are already degrading," said Ihor Kuzmenko, a methadone center employee in Simferopol. "Our stocks of drugs, which were already catastrophically low, are rapidly dwindling."

Fears over what will happen to the 800-odd methadone patients in the region have even rippled over into the motherland, where people like Maksim Malyshev, head of a lobbying group pushing for more lenient drug policies in Russia, have lamented the damage about to be inflicted. "The vast majority of them will revert to illegal drugs," said Malyshev. "Even in Russia, local drug addicts have no access to free, comprehensive, quality rehabilitation treatment."

The effects of Russia’s authoritarian policies are already being felt on the streets. "It is happening at such a pace that it's going to be a massacre here," said methadone user, Sergei Kislov. "They're abandoning 130 people and forcing them to fend for themselves, even if that means we'll end up stealing again and going to jail."

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By Shawn Dwyer

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