The Fix and Phoenix House co-hosted #rxchat yesterday. Rx drug abuse is arguably America's biggest addiction problem, so we gathered the sharpest minds in the Twittersphere to help answer the important questions: Why is it happening and what can we do about it? “Quantity of Rx painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices was 4 times larger in 2010 than in 1999,” ONDCP's Rafael Lemaitre tweeted.
People misuse prescription meds for different reasons, but no population causes as much concern as young people. Students abuse drugs like adderall in part because school has become more stressful and competitive in recent years. “In college we just did speed, any homework completed was incidental,” Fix and Daily Beast contributor Jeff Deeney remarked. “It's so much more competitive now, unhealthy pressure.” Writer and teacher Jennifer Matesa has seen that pressure first hand: “My students know they're inheriting a shitty economy. They believe getting all A's will protect them from failure and poverty.” Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner warned that without action, things will get worse: “Reasons teens resort to Rx = less stigma, easily accessed. As $$ of Rx become problem, teens progress to cheaper, illegal drugs." The Mario Do Right Foundation stressed the importance of parental involvement: “The parents really need to become educated on prescription drug abuse because they are the frontline of our defense.”
Almost everyone agreed that better information is part of the solution. The fact that Rx drugs are technically legal makes people think that they aren't dangerous or bad. “The line drawn between legal and illegal drugs isn't always helpful or sensible,” blogger and author Dirk Hanson noted. We need to educate ourselves about this: “Patients need to do homework on risks & use only as prescribed. Doc’s responsibility to explain risks & not over-prescribe,” tweeted HLN host and Fix video columnist Jane Velez-Mitchell. "Drs need to take time to counsel and know patient - not just toss a rx at a 'problem' - its easier to prescribe than advise," suggests Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Some advocate making pharma companies take more responsibility by developing non-crushable pills to prevent abuse. But Lily's Place, a center for addicted infants, doesn't think that will work, tweeting: "Oh, honey! We have moms who used gasoline to break down cancer meds, burned off chems and injected. They'll find a way." Sober coach Patty Powers agreed: "A good idea but it won't end drug abuse. Only change be drug money back on the streets instead of in the pharmacists till."
Thanks to all who participated and to everyone at Phoenix House. If you missed it, you can still go over to Twitter and search #rxchat to read the full debate.
New Czech President Milos Zeman is blaming his bizarre behavior at a recent public event on an "illness," but many suspect he was drunk at the time. During a rare and highly-ceremonial public display of the Czech crown jewels last week, Zeman propped himself up against a wall before struggling to negotiate steps, aided by a cardinal. His office claims that the Czech president had a virus and simply needed a day or two of rest—prompting Czech social media users to post photos of themselves at the bar with captions like, "Heading out for a virus." Zeman has made no secret of his penchant for booze, declaring in a 1996 election campaign that his campaign bus "drove on gas and Becherovka" (an herbal liqeuer) while also reportedly telling a Czech tabloid that he drank six glasses of wine and three shots on any given day. He's also praised Winston Churchill's love of whiskey and pointed out that Adolf Hitler was a teetotaler and vegetarian—"and you know how he ended up." However, Zeman denies having ever gotten drunk publicly and says he's so used to drinking that it doesn't have any ill effects. His unsuccessful opponent in the most recent presidential election, nobleman Karel Schwarzenberg, accused Zeman during the campaign of having a drinking problem. "Milos Zeman was in my opinion one of the most intelligent prime ministers this country has ever had, and had he not drunk so much he'd have been a really good prime minister," said Schwarzenberg. Last fall, the Czech Republic temporarily banned liquor sales after methanol-laced, black-market booze killed 19 people in the country.
A San Francisco pot enthusiast is protesting his possible eight-year prison sentence for felony intent to sell marijuana, declaring that he is a Rastafarian minister who uses the drug as a "core tenet" of his religion. Robert Simmons, who became ordained as a Rastafarian minister online, refused to accept a plea deal for the charges that would have seen him spend just 60 days behind bars, claiming he doesn't need a doctor's recommendation to possess marijuana and should be allowed to sell weed due to his religious beliefs. “I don’t think I should have to register as a drug offender for charges that relate to my religion,” said Simmons. Prosecutors said that Simmons, who was on parole at the time, was found in August 2011 with 161 grams of pot, a digital scale, 45 plastic bags and $965 in cash. He had a medical marijuana card and was operating a heavily advertised, but unsanctioned weed delivery service. He unsuccessfully tried the First Amendment argument after a 2007 pot bust and was sentenced to prison due to a probation violation. The trial for his most recent charges is set for next month, but the minister is still trying to run his Yelp-advertised medical marijuana delivery business, which he runs "as a subsidiary of my church." Simmons said he has not reported his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service due to the federal tax exemption for religious organizations, but claims the business is a losing venture anyways. “A lot of the time I smoke all of my profit,” he said. If he's able to avoid prison time in the trial, Simmons plans to run for Governor of California.
Rod Stewart says he got hooked on steroids after taking them to help his vocal chords in the late '80s, and he experienced some unfortunate physical side effects. “The steroids will take down the swelling in any membrane—including your knob," tells Mojo Magazine and it’s what you do when you’re in a bit of a pinch and need to do a show and you can’t sing.” In addition to "shrinking his manhood," Stewart's steroid addiction caused him a slew of other health problems. “One night, on stage in Sheffield, I thought I was in the kitchen with my mum because the steroids had eaten a hole in my stomach," he recalls, "I was bleeding internally and hallucinating. What the audience must have thought?” The 68-year-old father of eight, who also survived thyroid cancer, refers to steroids as the “most horrible drug in the world.” But he says he still takes them "occasionally" to help him get through a difficult show. "I will still use them around once a year if I'm really struggling," he says, "It gets you through the show, but you pay for it."
- Prescription Painkiller Deaths up 261% in NYC [Fox]
- Caroline Kennedy to Serve as Juror on Crack-Cocaine Case [Washington Times]
- NJ Libertarian Party Senate Candidate Smokes Marijuana in Hamilton Park [New Jersey]
- Woman Arrested for Drunk Driving After Drunk Horse Riding [Jalopnik]
- Kentucky Hero Does 57 Cans of Whipped Cream Nitrous In Closed Store [Gawker]
- Drunk ASU Student Left at Hospital With Post-It [ABC]
- 'Days of Our Lives' Actor Dylan Patton Arrested for Selling Cocaine [Examiner]
Being “cool to drive” after one or two drinks could soon be a thing of the past. In hopes of reducing drunk driving fatalities, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended lowering the legal blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit from 0.08 down to 0.05. "This is critical because impaired driving remains one of the biggest killers in the United States," says NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman. Drunk driving is responsible for about a third of all road deaths, and the safety board calculates that lowering the BAC threshold could save up to 800 lives a year. A typical 180 pound adult male will reach a 0.08 BAC by consuming four drinks over the course on an hour, but the 0.05 BAC limit can easily be reached with between two and three drinks. While the new standard may seem extreme to some, the US would be catching up with most developed nations, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland, which ban driving above 0.05 BAC. Countries like China, Japan and Sweden have even lower thresholds. Still, not everyone is on board with the proposal, and a restaurant trade organization argued that an average woman reaches 0.05 BAC after only one drink. "This recommendation is ludicrous," says Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute. "Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior." The NTSB timed the recommendation on the anniversary of the deadliest alcohol-related highway crash in US history in 1988, when a drunk driver hit a school bus, killing 24 children and three adults and injuring 34 others.