The popular social media platform Instagram declared that enough is enough and has begun to crack down on individuals using the site to sell illicit drugs.
An investigation by the BBC’s new social media arm #BBCtrending unearthed thousands of photos of dealers displaying a wide assortment of drugs including marijuana, MDMA, and even concentrated cough syrup, which mimics the effects of heroin.
Using the right hashtags, potential customers used to be able to find a variety of drugs by searching the site and contacting the dealer directly. Unwittingly, Instagram became a middleman in the transactions, but in response to the BBC’s investigation they began blocking a number of search terms.
A statement released by Instagram was quick to point out that "people can't buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos." Aside from eliminating keywords, Instagram called upon other users for help. "We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action.”
Jonathan Rhys Meyers had some extra incentive to stay sober while filming the current season of Dracula. The Irish actor has openly struggled with substance abuse issues for years and NBC executives expressed concerns about his ability to not drink. The network reportedly paid Meyers a per diem and declined to give him his full salary, roughly $100,000 per episode, until the entire season was shot so production delays could be avoided.
The actor was considered to be a liability after several alcohol-related incidents delayed the filming schedule of his previous show, The Tudors. Sources claim Meyers allegedly had an alcohol-fueled “meltdown” on set that required hospitalization; after being discharged, he completed filming with the help of a sober companion and returned to rehab after the remaining episodes were completed. He has acknowledged his struggles with alcohol, admitting that “when I do drink I’m like Bambi. I’m all over the place like a 16-year-old kid.”
Meyers has reportedly been in rehab four times for alcohol abuse, most recently in 2011, when he spent 10 days in a London clinic. He also entered inpatient treatment in 2010 after launching an obscene tirade at United Airlines staff because they felt he was too drunk to fly. His long-time girlfriend, Reena Hammer, gave him an ultimatum afterwards to get help or she would leave.
The actor has also faced trouble with the law due to his drinking. Meyers was arrested at Dublin Airport in November 2007 for being drunk and in breach of the peace, but those charges were later dropped. He was also detained by police in June 2009 at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris after allegedly attacking a bartender while drunk.
Bowing to growing pressure from criticism over its human rights record, China has announced plans to transform the country’s notorious re-education labor camps – known as the laojiao system – into drug recovery centers.
The move came after the Communist Party’s Third Plenum meeting in Beijing, where top leaders and policymakers vowed reform across a wide range of issues. Most surprising was the proposed change to their controversial labor camp system, which has been in place since the 1950s and has been used as harsh punishment for minor offenses. While some inside the laojiao system are political prisoners, an estimated 40 percent have been drug offenders. In one camp in China’s southwest Yunnan Province, which borders the infamous Golden Triangle--a major source of the world’s heroin trade--officials wanted their efforts to take root close to the source. “The key to the functional changing of the former ‘laojiao’ sites is to advocate a greater role for the local society, based on the existing infrastructure,” said Kong Shuhua, director of the region’s Justice Bureau, to the Shanghai Daily.
Drug addiction in China has skyrocketed in recent decades, rising from just 70,000 registered addicts in 1990 to 1.8 million in 2011, though the real number might be as high as 12 million. The country’s slow move toward democracy and increased wealth have been seen as major factors in the addiction explosion.
- Josh Brolin Off to Rehab After Fist Fight, Vowing to Quit Booze [Us Weekly]
- First Details for Legalizing Medical Marijuana in West Virginia Emerge [Kansas City Star]
- Police Seize Largest Cocaine Lab Ever Found in Spain [Digital Journal]
- Man Passes Out Drunk in England, Wakes Up in Paris [Huffington Post]
- Five Arrested in Thailand for Plotting to Smuggle Meth Made in North Korea [Fox News]
- Teen Dad Uses Money to Buy Drugs Instead of Son's Christmas Gifts [WAVE 3 News]
- Lindsay's Mom, Dina Lohan, Ordered to Undergo Psych Eval, Community Service for DUI [Newsday]
- Massive Heist in England Nets Thieves $113,000 Worth of Liquor [New York Magazine]
Filmmaker and journalist Greg Berger, known in Mexico as "Gringoyo," believes the best way to get people to pay attention to the drug war is through comedy—and conveying a message of hope. The "recovered documentary filmmaker" produces short, comedic viral videos that draw attention to the brutalities in Mexico, as well as documenting the rise of the largest mass movement against the Drug War since the crisis was declared 40 years ago. US-born Berger moved to Mexico in 1999 and witnessed escalating violence in 2006 when Calderon took power and the government, aided by the US, began cracking down on the country's powerful cartels. In his videos, distributed online at Narco News, Berger illustrates the "perverse logic" of the War on Drugs, and—through satire—criticizes the US and Mexican administrations' involvement in the violence. One of the videos, titled "Narco-mania!" is a Beatles-themed spoof, portraying four men in suits followed by hoards of screaming women. "Meet four agents from the US embassy in Mexico City, and the women who chase them," reads the text on the screen. "They lost their children, husbands, siblings and parents because of the US 'War on Drugs' in Mexico."
"In order for change to happen, people have to see a ray of hope," Berger tells The Fix. "Thats why I use comedy—to be able to laugh at the absurdity of the war on drugs, is showing that we're strong enough to do something about it." He believes the problem—and the solution—lie on both sides of the border. In Mexico, "you have entire communities that are having their families disappear and killed by the drug war" he says, while the US prison system is full of "victims of draconian drug laws." But Berger is hopeful that the movement will thrive, and eventually bring an end to the violence—especially if activists in Mexico and the US can come together. "When we can unite those movements on both sides of the border we will have more of a force to be reckoned with," he says. Berger's film Narco-Mania! And Other Parodies of the War on Drugs can be viewed here:
3D printing is a highly-anticipated new technology that could soon "revolutionize" the drug market. This technology, now in development, could soon allow us to design and print everything from toys and tools to human hearts—and, inevitably, drugs. Lee Cronin, a chemist from the University of Glasgow, says he has created a prototype 3D "Chemputer" that can create medicine by assembling chemical compounds on a molecular level. “What Apple did for music, I'd like to do for the discovery and distribution of prescription drugs,” says Cronin. Prescription patients would be able to purchase a "blueprint" and chemical "ink" at an online version of a pharmacy, and could then print the drug at home with software and a 3D molecular printer. Chemicals and dosages could be tailored to meet each individual's specific needs, and certain allergies and other health concerns could be "edited out." If successful, this new prescription method could radically alter the entire pharmaceutical industry, taking control away from Big Pharma and placing it in the hands of the consumers. “In the future, we will not sell drugs, but blueprints or apps,” says Cronin.
But just like music on iTunes, the technology will also open up avenues for consumers to evade the rules. Mike Power, author of Drugs 2.0: The Web Revolution That's Changing How the World Gets High, predicts ambitious DIY chemists will eventually control the drug market—making the very notion of "controlled substances" a thing of the past. Power says this could be a good thing: free production and distribution of drugs like LSD and MDMA, he claims, would eliminate the need for “designer drugs" (unregulated substitutes for illicit street drugs, with often-unpredictable and harmful effects). But downloading illegal drug blueprints from unknown sites could also create the same problems as downloading music: Without any official standards or regulation, the blueprints could be mislabeled (the same problem, Powers points out, that currently plagues the illegal drug market). And chemically sloppy medicines could have far more harmful consequences than sloppily-recorded songs. But for better or for worse, the technology is on the horizon. When, exactly? “Maybe 10 to 15 years? Who knows?” says Cronin. “Maybe five to 10.”