- Drinking Age Law Impacts Adult Women's Suicide Risk [USA Today]
- Teen Accused of Watching Friend OD on Heroin, Calling 911 the Next Morning [LAist.com]
- Oklahoma State Trooper Shoots and Kills Drunk Driving Suspect [KOCO Oklahoma City]
- Sunday Alcohol Sales Start in Some Georgia Cities [Anderson Independent Mail]
- Florida Cop Charged With Buying Oxy on Duty [Miami Herald]
- Natalie Wood Death Investigation Captain: I Was Really Drunk [TMZ]
- In Baltimore, Mapping the World of Addiction [NPR]
- Video: Reporter Hallucinates After Eating "World's Hottest" Chilli [Nine MSN]
In 2009, my memoir Pill Head was released. It was actually a memoir/investigative report about the rise of prescription painkiller abuse in America, and I traced the explosion of the epidemic over the past decade while mixing in the personal stories of several addicts—including me. But writing the book was a brutal experience, and looking back, what happened to me was inevitable: I relapsed hard while working on it.
When I first started out, I had what I considered a noble goal in mind: to write a drug memoir that wasn’t preachy and didn’t follow the typical formula where the author spends half of the book chronicling how messed up their life is and the other half going to rehab and learning important lessons. Somewhere in there is a relapse or two and then the author stays clean for good. Almost every addiction memoir I’d read, from Dry to A Million Little Pieces (pre-scandal), seemed to follow this map. It frustrated me because when I was in the thick of my addiction, I wanted to read a book where I felt like the author was experiencing what I was going through at the same time that I was—that we were in it together.
Too often, drug memoirs are told through so much hindsight that the dark parts feel somewhat removed; the author has already gone through hell and clocked endless hours of 12-step meetings, so there is an undercurrent of self-awareness and understanding. Because of the number of addiction memoirs that follow this format, I have to assume that this is usually what a reader is looking for in these kinds of books. But when I was a Dilaudid-popping reader, I was still too scared to go to NA meetings. The whole reason I took pills in the first place was to cut myself off from the world, so what I was looking for in a book, and what I couldn't find, was an invisible friend I could turn to from the safety of my own home, someone whose fears I could relate to while I was still high. It was important to me to try and write in a way that could pierce through the same drug bubble I had been living in without being pedantic, and I wanted to end my book with a sort of “let’s take this very first scary-ass step together” moment. It didn’t feel right to have a happy ending, because I didn’t want to put myself on any sort of pedestal. Not to mention that, as many experts have noted, getting clean often involves several relapses over a period of years.
The whole reason I took pills in the first place was to cut myself off from the world, so what I was looking for in a book, and what I couldn't find, was an invisible friend I could turn to from the safety of my own home.
The problem was that in my effort to be 100% realistic while writing, I needed to detail how great painkillers felt. I mean, there’s a reason I’d gotten into them: they felt awesome in the beginning. But by diving into that memory pit and meticulously detailing the good feelings, coupled with all of the painful sludge from my past that I was spewing onto the pages, I relapsed. I turned in the first draft of my book and promptly checked myself into rehab, all the while trying to keep it a secret from my publisher because I was terrified the book would get taken away from me. My agent ended up telling my editor, and when I got out, I was asked to write up my rehab experience and tack it onto the end of my manuscript. I think I still managed to end the book with the sort of “first step” moment I’d originally wanted to convey, but it was far too real of a first step for me, and the truth is that by the time Pill Head was released, I was in no position to be out in the world talking about getting clean from pills.
Pill Head finishes its narrative a couple of weeks into my rehab stay, but here’s what happened after the book ended: I got kicked out of rehab early because my insurance ran out. I was actually pulled from a group therapy session and told I had to pack up and leave. I ended up bringing a 22-year-old boy back to New York with me from the hospital, and we promptly relapsed together on Oxy for two weeks. We lived off of his mother’s credit cards before I discovered he was bi-polar and had stopped taking the meds that he actually needed. I kicked him out because he was always wandering into oncoming traffic. I managed to get sober again on my own by attending tons of 12-step meetings.
About six months later, my publisher had me host a literary table at the annual Poets & Writers Gala. It was a major moment for me, I’d never felt so, I don’t know, legitimate. After all the fucked up stuff I’d gone through, someone thought I was important enough to entertain a bunch of publishing folks at a big awards ceremony! I took it very seriously, and prepped different conversation topics so I could keep my table entertained. Five hours before the event, while catching up on the day’s gossip on Gawker for more talking points, I read that a man from my darkest past, a period of my life that I had buried completely and sworn never to look at again, had been stabbed to death over 50 times by a 16-year-old Satanist from Queens. I paced for about half an hour before calling an addict I had interviewed for Pill Head who I knew could sell me some hydromorphone.
I arrived at the Gala that night safely back inside a pill bubble to stave off a complete breakdown. By the time Pill Head was released 12 weeks later, I was heavily medicated on Suboxone, a drug that’s similar to methadone in that it kept me off of painkillers but got me sufficiently high on its own. The week before the book’s release, Michael Jackson died of a medication overdose, and I popped my media cherry by appearing live on Good Morning America. I made the radio rounds on NPR and did lots of newspaper interviews, but all I really did for the next four months was follow a memorized script. If I got thrown a question that wasn’t part of my prepared answers, I’d stumble and lose any sort of expertise I was trying to convey, reverting instead to a stoned Valley Girl form of speech—“I don’t know, pills are, like, totally weird. It’s complicated.”
I coasted on Suboxone for a year and a half, during which I got work writing about home décor. I spent my paychecks buying most of the products I wrote about in an attempt to create a domestic cocoon I could hide in—my apartment quickly filled with Hudson Bay blankets, curio cabinets, antique metal fishing nets and figural mechanical banks from the 1920s. But I knew I was stumbling through life on material and chemical crutches, and after several failed attempts to get off of Suboxone on my own (one of which landed me in the ER), I finally ended up going back to rehab to get off of the very drug that was keeping me from doing other drugs. Something clicked for me that time though, and I brought home a really strong set of coping mechanisms. I did relapse again, but spent the entire night vomiting—something that had never happened to me on painkillers before. My body and mind seems to be finally done with them for good, because now just the thought of painkillers makes me nauseous. It’s a total 180 from where I was during the time I was supposed to be professionally and publicly clean.
A few months ago, just before the start of the Conrad Murray trial, I was asked to provide on-camera commentary about painkiller addiction, but I declined. I almost didn’t even take this assignment for The Fix because I constantly feel like I’m ready to just shut the door on that part of my life for good. Pill Head is an unfinished story in my eyes, and I know now that I was far too young to write a memoir. But every time I’m ready to turn my back on the book, I’ll get an email or letter from someone who got something good out of it. And then I remember that this isn’t just about me. As universal as most of the components of addiction are, there are certain aspects of pill addiction in particular that are specific to it alone. It turns out I was able to get through to some addicts after all, and being able to provide any sort of comfort to people while they’re feeling their most alone and vulnerable has to make the whole thing worth it, right? This is what I tell myself every day to try and excuse the fact that I've basically invited all my prospective employers to comb through personal experiences that any sane person would have kept secret. It's easy to hide behind the page and pretend there won't be consequences, and in that context, writing is eerily similar to pill use. But at least writing doesn't make me puke. Yet.
Joshua Lyon is a writer and editor who has worked at Interview, Conde Nast Traveler, Jane, V Life, Country Living, and Us Weekly. He has also written for Vice, Out and The New York Times, and blogs on The Huffington Post. This is his first piece for The Fix.
Brett Butler, the former star of popular '90s sitcom Grace Under Fire and a self-described addict, has finally hit rock bottom after a long string of disasters, which began with the cancellation of her show in 1998. She now lives in a homeless shelter. Butler—whose TV persona, Grace, was a recovering alcoholic herself—has battled substance abuse problems for over a decade. After losing her hit series and attending a bunch of "great white hope" rehabs without success, Butler moved from her Los Angeles mansion to a Georgia farm, where her addiction to prescription drugs spiraled out of control. "I did everything but crack and needles pretty much," she says. "I had a variety of things given to me by doctor, and other things.” Butler claims she's now sober and primed for a comeback; a reality TV show about her creepy psychic abilities is currently in development.
A funny Seattle Times piece details ex-prosecutor John McKay’s futile attempt to convince a room full of police chiefs that marijuana prohibition's failure. There are few less-likely pot advocates than John McKay. Appointed by George W. Bush, he was Seattle's top federal prosecutor for five years, filing charges against so-called "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, and famously leading a case on helicopter smuggling of British Columbian grass. McKay said in his speech that he doesn’t smoke pot, and "doesn't like people very much who smoke pot." But he's still joined a long line of people who've spent years fighting the drug war, only to denounce it on leaving office. Few serving politicians or police chiefs have the guts to speak out. The assembled cops predictably voted against endorsing I-502—a measure heading to the legislature or to voters next year, that would legalize, tax and regulate small marijuana sales in Washington State.
The Seattle Times’ rendering of police attitudes is droll. Describing the reaction as “one of frowns beneath mustaches,” the piece gives us some choice quotes. Reacting to McKay’s statement that "Our criminalization of marijuana for the last 70 years as a vehicle to reduce its use is a failure," Police Chief Ed Holmes wondered why we'd want to legalize a substance whose “only use” is for “impairment.” "With marijuana, there's only one reason you smoke it,” said Holmes, to widespread guffaws. “It's not like it tastes good. You don't smoke it with your burger." Another cop, asking to remain anonymous—presumably so nobody will surprise him with a “Father of the Year” award—boasted of having his own son arrested for pot use. Claiming the kid's now “straightened out,” he added, "I thank goodness it carries the stigma of having to be arrested." Gee, thanks dad!
Despite such attitudes, I-502 has already collected more than 230,000 signatures and will likely qualify for the November 2012 ballot. Based on state Liquor Control Board estimates, I-502's acceptance would make weed a top-five agricultural product in Washington, smoked by 10% of adults, grossing nearly $582 million and generating $215 million in taxes a year. Almost two-thirds of this money would be earmarked for research and addiction prevention. But try selling that to the cops.
A new report on the black market price of OxyContin finds that the new, harder-to-abuse version of the pill costs less on the street, presumably because demand is lower. The older version of the pill came inside a rubberized coating—stamped with the letters "OC" plus the milligram dosage—that contained the pill's time release mechanism. This time release coating was easily subverted, leaving behind a tiny football shaped chunk of pure oxycodone that could be crushed and snorted or injected. Getting the powder out of the pill was a simple two step process. You suck on the pill for a second and rub the protective coating off with a piece of tissue. Then crush and snort. Oxy's manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, came under pressure to produce a tamper-proof pill after waves of overdoses swept the county in the early 2000s. Finally, in April 2010, Purdue got the FDA go-ahead to roll out their new formulation. The new pill—now stamped with the letters "OP"—turns into a chunky, gunky mess when messed with, so it's harder to abuse. But harder doesn't mean impossible: addicts have already found numerous ways to get around the new mechanism, including the use of microwaves and freezers. Despite what the FDA calls a limited benefit to such an imperfect solution to the Oxy abuse problem, the new pills do seem to have less of a market draw, costing roughly 25 cents less per milligram on the streets than the old formula. Users still craving the easy access of the familiar old formula have created new demand in the face of pill shortages for Oxy "OC," smuggled in from Canada.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, the 21-year-old who apparently processed his frustrations with the government by taking shots at the White House Friday—and we don’t mean tequila—faces an attempted assassination charge. The accused shooter, who has a history of drug and alcohol related arrests and allegedly suffers from paranoid delusions, was apprehended yesterday. Pennsylvania state cops, acting on a tip from the Secret Service, found him hiding out in a hotel near Indiana, Pa. Authorities claim evidence links Ortega-Hernandez to the implicated assault rifle, found in an abandoned car. New Secret Service info suggests he fired two shots across the White House lawn with his sites set on the executive quarters; one bullet made contact with the executive building, fracturing bullet-proof glass in a window of the First Family’s living quarters. Ortega-Hernandez is connected to several radical conservative groups, including a neo-Nazi sect, and is claimed to have a violent obsession with President Obama. Investigators say he frequently referred to Obama as “the Anti-Christ” to friends, saying that he “needed to kill him” and was “convinced the federal government is conspiring against him.” It seems almost certain that any treatment this deluded man receives for his history of substance use will be in jail.
- Today's Smokers Have a Harder Time Quitting [Huffington Post]
- The Smokers' Surcharge [New York Times]
- What Alcohol Can Do to Your Health [Yahoo UK]
- Tik-Addicted Mom Dumps Baby After Shoplifting [IOL News]
- Slideshow: America's Smokiest Cities [CBS]
- Events at Indian River to Raise Money Addiction Treatment [TC Palm]
- 8 Kg of Heroin Stuffed Inside Toys Seized at Bulgarian Border [NoInvite.com]
- Man Wearing "I'm Not an Alcoholic T-Shirt" Busted for DUI [The Smoking Gun]
When Jay V.'s pharmacist refused to fill his monthly prescription for Adderall, the normally buttoned-up Wall Street broker reacted with atypical panic. After subjecting the shocked pharmacist to a lengthy harangue on the subject of price-gouging drug companies, he meekly slipped a few bills across the counter in an attempt to bribe her. "I don't care what this costs, it's cheaper than cocaine," he explained. And even if it isn't, you can’t put a price on never having to go back to doing bumps in the work bathroom to get through late night deal committee meetings, can you?
Unmoved by Jay's tantrum, the pharmacist cooly informed him that she was reserving her dwindling supply of the pills for regular customers. She went on to warn him that the price for the drug had doubled in two weeks, and the clock was ticking. "They're down to one bottle,” Jay told me a few days after this unfortunate encounter. “If I don't get them a prescription by the end of the week I forfeit my right to it." If he can tear himself away from the 16-hour days he cites as the reason he needs Adderall to begin with, he'll be fine. At least, for the next month or so.
If addiction is a subject that you often think about, it's easy to overlook its significance in the cold, objective Realpolitik scheme of things. We usually imagine addicts as desperate folks trading their dollars for a few rocks of crack.: But he truth is it's a great fucking business model. From the British East India Company to the Bronfman clan to Duke University, history is chock full of abject mediocrities who earn billions by getting people hooked on their products. Adderall is the latest example.
The first stories about the Adderall shortage began cropping up last March, when ADD sufferers in Texas, Georgia and other states told tales of panicked multi-state manhunts and exorbitant drug ransoms. But the real panic set in around mid-August, when suburban pharmacies were no longer able to obtain the drug. The papers attributed the sudden drought to "back-to-school" season.
For the past six months, newspapers and websites across the nation have reported on the mysterious shortage of the drug, which has apparently lead to fistfights in upscale New York pharmacies and meltdowns in South Central L.A. But nobody is quite sure what has caused it. Amphetamine salt—Adderall’s active ingredient—has been the subject of heady dispute within the medical profession since the drug company Smith, Kline and French began peddling the stuff in 1935, but for decades just about the only thing medical community generally agreed about was that it was not addictive. The SKF sales department did, however, have a term for the loyalty it engendered among consumers: “stick.”
The ratcheting up of the Drug War in the early 1970s brought an end to the widespread use of those first-generation amphetamines, but naturally amphetamines stuck around in certain circles. In the '90s, when upper-middle class American kids were stricken with a modern epidemic of ADD, doctors began widely prescribing amphetamines as a prophylactic. The pills soon began popping up at the nation’s truck stops and trailer parks, and later in Wall Street boardrooms. For the same reason crystal meth never found much "stick" as an ADD drug—although it's out there, under the brand name Desoxyn—Adderall users for the most part never identified as "addicts" before the nightmare shortages of this year.
You can track the spread of Adderall panic on the message boards at ADDForums.com, whose administrators have painstakingly aggregated all Amphetamine Famine-relevant posts into a single "sticky" thread. The first stories about the amphetamine shortage appeared in local papers last March, when unlucky ADD sufferers in pockets of Texas, Georgia and a few other states were forced to endure multi-state manhunts and pay exorbitant ransoms in order to refill their scrips. But the real Adderal panic set in around mid-August, when a shortage attributed to "back-to-school" season ravaged the suburbs.
A guy in New Jersey who'd been paying $9 for his monthly prescription for years was forced to to scour every pharmacy in a 50-mile radius in an attempt to refill his prescription. Three days later he found a store that still had the pills in supply, but he was forced to cough up $99 to get them. In Massachusetts a woman claimed that she had called 25 pharmacies before finding one that agreed to fill her prescription—for $408. After reading about her plight, a fellow citizen from Massachusetts offered to share a spreadsheet of eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire drug stores he'd compiled during his own Adderall search. (He'd listed 142 stores by the time he found a pharmacy that filled his meds.) Finally this month came the first plaintive posts from New York, where a young woman who'd spent all day running to different drug stores wondered whether it was more dehumanizing to be regarded as some sort of "crack addict" by pharmacists, or just "feeling like a junky" to begin with.
In Los Angeles, an electrician facing his third day without the meds took to the web to post the following message:
"Been taking adderall for over 13 years and now I can't refill my script…What am I supposed to do? Just get over it? Just suck it up, go cold turkey and maybe I'll get my script filled in a few months? How can I keep working on dangerous equipment with high voltage everywhere and I can't focus? How can I commute 2 hours a day without falling asleep at the wheel? I feel so alone. Don't know where to go at this point."
Adderall is one of hundreds of drugs that are in short supply due to vagaries in the medical system. But because of its addictive properties and its widespread use, the drug's absence has caused a wrenching national withdrawal. The crisis is so dire that earlier this month President Obama issued an executive order directing the Food and Drug Administration to take urgent action to address it. The vast majority of the drugs on the shortage lists are generic injectable drugs used in hospitals—delicate, low-profit, highly sensitive substances whose manufacturing plants can be decommissioned for months (or ever) over a few stray microbes. But Adderall is a high-margin pill or capsule (Adderall XR, or exended release—marketed as “abuse proof”) made from simple amphetamine salts. A dozen manufacturers work round the clock to produce the pills, raking in billions of dollars a year. Despite the alleged shortage none of them has reported any major interruptions. In fact they're all upping their output to meet increasing demand.
So what happened to all that Adderall? As it turns out, the manufacturing shortage appears to be a manufactured crisis—orchestrated by the same company, Shire Plc, that got millions of Americans hooked on the drug in the first place.
Amphetamine-based ADD drugs have suffered periodic supply hiccups stemming from their strict regulation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which levies annual quotas on the amount of stimulants it allows to be legally produced each year.
Adderall was first introduced to the American public by Richwood Pharmaceuticals during another drug crisis, the Great Ritalin Scare of 1993. Back then, drastic shortages of that groundbreaking ADD drug prompted thousands of panicked parents to switch to Adderall, despite Richwood's dubious pedigree as the startup of a former Kentucky schoolteacher, Roger Griggs. Following in that tradition, Shire is now attempting to use contrived Adderall shortages as a chance to convert ADD sufferers (and their long-suffering parents) to the cause of their new ADD drug, Vyvanase.
Amphetamine-based drugs have endured supply hiccups for several decades, stemming from strict regulation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which imposes strict limits on the amount of stimulants that are produced each year.
Griggs had spent years trying to sell pediatricians on a cheaper Ritalin alternative, a dexedrine-based compound that his company marketed as "Dextrostat." But since Dexedrine had acquired a lot of negative press during its heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Dextrostat never took off with the public. Griggs was undaunted by the setback. Soon after Dextrosat was pulled from the market, Griggs began hyping a less infamous diet drug named Obetrol, concocted from a heady mixture of amphetamine salts.Though the new drug contained a 75% infusion of dexedrine, sales began to skyrocket. When Griggs put his company up for sale a year later, Richwood was first in line. In June 1994, after acquiring its upstart competitor, Richwood renamed Obetrol "Adderall,” and began hawking the drug to pediatricians as a longer-lasting Ritalin alternative. Unfortunately Richwood didn't bother to notify the FDA of their new campaign. Several months later, the agency ordered the company to stop marketing of Adderall and to start clinical trials of the drug. When the Feds officially approved Adderall as a treatment for ADD, Richwood still enjoyed a two year head start over its competitors. A new indication approving use of the drugs for children as young as three was an added bonus.
Americans currently spend over $4 billion on ADD-related drugs, ten times more than they did in 1996. A huge chunk of this sum is spent on Adderall, which remains the reigning market leader. After enjoying years of escalating profits, Shire, which held the the patent for the drug, knew that its patent would expire. Worried that it would lose ground to upstart generics, the company brought a new ADD drug to market. Vyvanse was a reformulated, “cleaner” version of the stimulant dexadrine. Shire—which is now domiciled in Ireland to avoid American taxes—has been avidly pursuing the Adderall market since 2007, when it spent a staggering $2.6 billion to acquire New River Pharmaceuticals, the biotech firm that developed Vyvanse. With the patent on Adderall XR set to end in 2009, Shire otherwise faced the prospect of a market flooded with cheap generics, a collapse in sales of its cash cow, and nothing in its pipeline because it didn’t actually develop drugs but merely sold them.
But where Adderall had a cheaper price and more potent effect in its favor the last time around, the selling point of Vyvanse is the opposite: it's considerably more expensive than Adderall—this is, after all, the whole point of getting people to switch—and its primary competitive advantage over other drugs is a certain kind of diminished potency: its molecular structure is specifically designed to render the drug impervious to serious junkie behavior. In clinical trials conducted on intravenous substance abusers, for example, injected Vyvanse proved barely more appealing than a placebo. Functionally, this makes Vyvanse a lot like Adderall XR, which is equally impossible to snort, crush, inject and whatever else junkies supposedly do. But from a business perspective it was the holiest of Holy Grails, because its active ingredient was an entirely new molecule, with its own dedicated line item within the DEA's roster of controlled substances and patent protection until 2023.
Initially, the company had been vying for the DEA to classify its new substance, "lisdexamphetamine", on a less restrictive schedule than other amphetamines, enabling doctors to write prescriptions for refills and other such conveniences. Its lobbying failed, though the agency can always reclassify it if Shire can marshal enough evidence of its magical "addiction proof" characteristics.
In the meantime Shire tried to convert devotees of its patent-expired amphetamines to Vyvanse, its new ADD drug. This proved to be a tall order. Vyvanse's effects on patients were almost indistinguishable from Adderall's, though the new drug was priced five or ten times higher. But nearly 50 years since "Obetrol" lost its patent, Shire maintains a partial corner on the Adderall market thanks to two legal settlements it reached in 2006 with the drug's generic manufacturers Teva Pharmaceuticals and Impax Laboratories. When they were awardedhe generics found themselves unable to fulfill the demands for the drug. The courts awarded Teva and Impax the rights to sell generic versions of Adderall XR starting in 2009—and subcontracted Shire with the job of actually manufacturing the drugs for both companies until Teva and Impax could handle production themselves. (Their applications to produce the drugs had been held up by Shire.)
In the spring of 2009 the price of Adderall plummeted along with Shire's profits. Sales nosedived to $67 million in the second quarter of the year from about $300 million. But the next year Shire's Adderall revenues started to creep up again, reaching $100 million for the third quarter of 2010. Then in November, Impax sued Shire, alleging that the company was botching its orders, supplying fewer pills than agreed upon or bailing altogether. Teva quickly filed a lawsuit that making similar allegations. At the same time, insurance companies inexplicably began refusing to cover generic Adderall XR, claiming the generic wasn't yet FDA approved or that its "therapeutic equivalence" to the branded drug was still unproven.
The insurer's lawsuit is still in discovery and isn't slated to go to trial in spring. But as consumers found themselves hit with massive new bills and Adderall users scoured the the earth to fill their prescriptions, Shire's Adderall sales numbers kept edging up, finally hitting $150 million for the quarter that ended last month. But Impax—which booked $47 million in Adderall XR sales for the same quarter continued to grouse about getting shortchanged. Without breaking out Adderall numbers, Teva announced that its generic drug sales in the U.S. for the same quarter had cratered by half. But the shortage had one beneficiary. Shire reported a record $200 million revenues for Vyvanse.
But it was a most torturous quarter for ADD sufferers lacking the kind of health care plans that cover $400-a-month brand-name drugs, because if you couldn't afford to switch to Vyvanse or brand-name Adderall XR, you were stuck trying to switch to generic instant-release Adderall at the same time as a million other panicked tweakers…or failing that, Ritalin, which ran out of stock shortly thereafter…or failing that, ponying up the better part of an extra rent check to fill your prescription.
Shire has publicly blamed DEA quota restrictions for its anemic generic shipments; the DEA has denied the company's charges in a statement that is notably short on specifics. A chemist at one of the five authorized “active ingredient” manufacturers in the business of supplying pharmaceutical companies with amphetamine says he and his colleagues “have all been scratching our heads trying to figure out what's actually going on.”
The prevailing “water cooler” theory, according to the chemist, is that Shire is trying to “embarrass [the generic drugmakers] by making them look unreliable”—which could threaten some of their accounts, and hurt their case in future applications to the DEA for a share of the annual amphetamine production quota. The DEA’s decisions to award quota of controlled substances is a somewhat mysterious process, but last year it allowed generic companies to manufacture 26 million kilograms of amphetamines, up from 1.3 million in 1996, when Adderall was first introduced. But even 26 million kilograms wasn’t high enough to accommodate the applications. The chemist says the agency recently granted the generic drugmaker CorePharma, which makes generic Adderall and dexedrine, just half the amphetamine allotment for which it had applied. So it stands to reason that if the agency lowers the quota in response to lower unit sales this year, the great amphetamine famine could be here to stay. And since Shire’s own quota for Vyvanse’s lisdexamphetamine is 9 million kilograms—hugely generous for such a new drug—it is more than prepared to accommodate a surge in new customers.
In the meantime, Shire is hard at work developing a new set of profitable, non-addictive drugs. The New River molecular innovation that makes lisdexamphetamine could soon take the Cindy McCain stigma out of opiates. Another Shire subsidiary recently discovered a mechanism by which cocaine can be safely administered in lab rats at up to 10 times the typically lethal dose. After a brief doenturn the company's stock is trading at an all-time high, which might be something to think about, if you have any income left over after filling your Adderall prescription.
Moe Tkacik, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and Jezebel, is a writer and ADD sufferer in Washington, DC.
It's already illegal in most places to smoke on public buses, trains and taxis, but now smoking in private vehicles is under scrutiny. An organization representing British doctors is calling on the UK government to make it illegal to smoke in your own car. Several US states—including Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and Oregon—already ban smoking in cars when children are present. The British Medical Association (BMA) says drivers and passengers get exposed to 23 times more toxins than they would in a smoky bar, while second-hand smoke is particularly dangerous for children, whose bodies absorb more pollutants. And US physicians agree. "Smoking in enclosed spaces is especially dangerous," Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, director of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Wellness Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells CBS News. "Outdoors, smoke gets carried away on the breeze—one puff and it goes away." But in a car, he says, smoke is recycled, and toxic residue can remain even after the air has cleared. The BMA released a report calling for action, in the hope of having a tobacco-free society by 2035. It estimates that about 23 children and 4,000 adults die as a result of second-hand smoke each year in the UK. It adds that smoking can be a dangerous distraction for drivers; British police can already write a ticket for smoking in a car if they feel it has impaired driving. Will the ban be passed? Recent polls show some support: 88% of people in Ireland and 74% of people in England said they favor a ban on smoking in cars containing kids.
Mexico's cartels are still at it. A 400-yard drug tunnel portal has been discovered, linking San Diego and Tijuana. It’s enough to make a Brooklyn Bridge sandhog envious, complete with air ventilation chambers, power and room enough to stretch your legs as you stroll under the border. Strangely, the image of Captain America—the Marvel superhero and one-time champion of American youth propaganda—was printed on the plastic wrapping of many bricks of the 17 tons of marijuana seized. Whose side is he on? A recent surge in subterranean activity has showcased the cartels' relentless industriousness: more than 70 tunnels have been discovered in the last two years. The cartels have employed some imaginative and sometimes bizarre methods to move their profitable products. Earlier this month, two giant, drug-slinging catapults were seized by the Mexican Army near the border, and underwater submersibles have also been discovered, their hulls full of contraband.