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Toy story

4/17/12 12:24pm

Drug Blood On Toy Company's Hands


This "Toy Story" ends behind bars. Photo via

"Reach for the sky!" Five people were arrested yesterday in a money laundering scheme that channeled at least $6 million in Colombian and Mexican drug money through an LA-based toy company. The owners of Woody Toys, Jia Hui Zhou and Dan Xin Li, and three company employees were arrested on charges of evading federal reporting requirements for financial transactions. The money funneling had occurred between 2005 and 2011, where Mexican toy dealers bought US dollars made off drug sales from currency brokers in a “black market peso exchange,” enabling the traffickers to get rid of drug money—and the toy dealers a more favorable exchange rate to purchase toys in the US. Woody Toys would receive the money from the dealers via courier or bank deposits, but authorities say they never filed paperwork when receiving deposits of more than $10,000, and intentionally structured bank deposits in smaller increments to avoid doing so. The defendants now face up to five years in prison on evading federal reporting requirements and 20 years on money laundering charges. But just in case they feel like working with drug traffickers again, ICE homeland security has some advice: “They can’t walk up with duffel bags of money and continue with their business,” says Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE homeland security investigations in Los Angeles. “They have to find creative ways to convert that money into pesos and launder it so it doesn’t look like illegal proceeds.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

teen sobriety

4/17/12 11:04am

12-Steps Help Teens


12-step meetings welcome people of all ages.
Photo via

Though it's not the kind of click they'd normally hang out with, teenagers with substance abuse issues may benefit from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), according to researchers. The new studypublished in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Researchinvolved 127 teens (95 males, 32 females, aged 14 to 19), who were put in outpatient treatment for substance abuse. The youngsters  were assessed when they began treatment at three, six, and then 12 months later. "We found that about one-quarter to one-third of the youth attended AA/NA throughout the year-long study period following treatment, and that more meeting attendance was associated with significantly better substance use outcomesparticularly attending meetings at least once per week or more," said John F. Kelly, associate director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Many 12-step programs are easily available but research had never looked at how successful they are for teens in particular. According to Kelly, counselors, doctors, and health professionals can encourage teens to attend and participate in AA/NA early in their substance abuse treatment to maximize the benefits. "Starting an on-site NA or AA young persons' meeting is another good idea. Not all youth will be motivated to attend, but the more severely substance-involved ones will be more likely to give meetings a try and these are the ones most likely to benefit."


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By Valerie Tejeda


4/17/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 17, 2012


Whitney Houston's ex pleads not guilty.
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By May Wilkerson

older addicts

4/16/12 5:06pm

Surge of Seniors Getting Addicted Later in Life


Addiction is booming among the boomers
and the elderly. Photo via

A new generation of addicts is getting hooked later in life, with many senior citizens and baby boomers revealed to be "late blooming" substance abusers. A study conducted by the Hanley Center found that over a third of older addicts surveyed claim not to have abused substances until reaching their fifties. Depression and anxiety seem to be the major contributing factors, and economic trouble and the pressures of retirement may also put older individuals at risk. "Older adults face a distinct set of challenges as they enter their golden years," says Hanley Center Medical Director Dr. Barbara Krantz. “Without the proper tools to manage their emotions, older adults turn to quick fixes such as alcohol and drugs, creating the perfect storm for dependency." The survey found that while 78% of older adults reported a first experience with drugs or alcohol before the age of 25, 40% said they didn't become substance abusers until after the age of 48. "Many of these individuals have abused substances for a long time and that's why they require a customized treatment plan, which we offer at the Hanley Center, to help them successfully achieve a lifestyle that is free of drugs and alcohol,” says Krantz. In general, the number of elderly individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse and dependence is rising fast. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that the number of seniors who admit to using illegal drugs within the last year almost doubled between 2002 and 2007. And the abuse of nonmedical pharmaceuticals also increased from 2.2% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2009.

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By Fionna Agomuoh

Addiction TV

4/16/12 4:00pm

Video: Nurse Jackie Checks Into Rehab


Nurse Jackie with her new rehab ally.
Photo via

On last night’s episode of the Showtime dramedy Nurse Jackie, now in its fourth season, the pill-popping RN Jackie Peyton finally checked into a treatment facility—and promptly decided, in classic addict fashion, that pretty much everyone else in the place was nuts, including an older woman who gets off on clowns. (Perhaps a fair assessment, there.) It’s an experience that Edie Falco, who plays Nurse Jackie, likely didn’t have to dig too deep to identify with: the actress—of Carmela Soprano fame—is herself a real-life recovering alcoholic. In the episode, Jackie bonds with an unlikely confidant: a green-haired kid played by Jake Cannavale, son of actor Bobby Cannavale (also on the show), who is the only one willing to take Jackie to task for how she acts during group therapy. According to Falco, her character and the punk kid are going to grow closer over the course of the season, which makes sense. “On some level, addicts are ageless and they all understand what it's like to be at the mercy of this stuff, so he's a real compadre,” Falco tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They want to help each other." Here's a trailer for the episode:

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By Hunter R. Slaton

choking game

4/16/12 2:57pm

Kids Choke Themselves to Get High


The "choking game" is not child's play. Photo via

Kids these days may be turning to more than drugs to get high: many are reportedly playing the "choking game," and those who do are more likely to engage in other "risky" activities including sex, substance abuse and gambling, according to a new study by Oregon Health Authority in Portland . The treacherous activity involves using a belt or rope around the neck to limit oxygen flow to the brain; releasing the pressure can result in a euphoric "high" feeling as blood rushes back to the brain. The study of 5,300 middle schoolers revealed that 22% of them had heard of the game, and 6% had tried it. Boys and girls were equally likely to have participated, and of those who had taken part, 64% admitted to choking themselves multiple times. The study also showed that sexually active girls were four times more likely to have played the game, and girls who had gambled were twice as likely. Of the boys surveyed, those who had used alcohol recently were four times more likely to have choked themselves. The findings suggest that exhibiting these other risky behaviors may indicate a child's increased likelihood to try choking—and vice versa. Doctors are advised to look out for signs of the activity, such as red markings around the neck. And both pediatricians and parents should warn teens about the dangers of the activity, which is responsible for at least 82 known child deaths between 1995 and 2007.

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By May Wilkerson


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