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overdose deaths

10:30am

New Statistics Show Prescription Drug Deaths Quadrupled In U.S.

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New statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have highlighted just how severe the prescription drug epidemic is in the U.S., with prescription drug deaths quadrupling between 1999-2011.

Approximately 4,263 deaths were linked to opioid overdoses in 1999, but that number had climbed to 17,000 in 2011, and didn’t include those from benzodiazepine drugs such as Xanax and Klonopin. The numbers could be even higher because specific drugs weren’t named in about 25% of all drug deaths. The greatest increase in death rates occurred in Americans between 55-65 years old.

“The amount that [opioids] are administered by well-meaning physicians is excessive,” said Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction medicine consultant not involved with the research. “Most physicians are people-pleasers who want to help and want to meet people’s needs, and they are more inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt until you are shown otherwise.”

However, drug deaths have slowed down in other groups such as the age 15-24 demographic. This could be due to a renewed focus on drug education in many school districts across the country, local drug treatment programs and law enforcement activities.

Other recent reports have also highlighted the ongoing prescription drug problem. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported last April that over 100 overdose deaths occur per day, making prescription drugs more deadly than car accidents, guns, and suicide. More than five million Americans abuse painkillers each year, while 2.2 million are abusing tranquilizers and another 1.1 million are recklessly using stimulants. Enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult every four hours for a month.

Emergency room visits related to prescription drugs also doubles for seniors between the ages of 55-65. “There's this growing group of seniors, they have pain, they have anxiety … and a lot of (doctors) have one thing in their tool box—a prescription pad,” said Mel Pohl, director of the Las Vegas Recovery Center. "The doctor wants to make their life better, so they start on the meds.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

decriminalizing weed

8:30am

Philadelphia on the Verge of Decriminalizing Weed

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In the next couple of weeks, Philadelphia will become the largest U.S. city to decriminalize personal amounts of marijuana.

After initially opposing decriminalization, Mayor Michael A. Nutter has said that he will sign a bill sponsored by City Councilman James A. Kenney that would lesson punishment for people caught will small amounts of weed. Instead of prison, people caught with less than 30 grams—or about one ounce—would receive a fine of $25, while people caught smoking pot in public would be fined $100.

"This bill will not legalize marijuana. Rather, it will decriminalize marijuana, which means that offenses involving small amounts of marijuana will result in a civil penalty, not an arrest or criminal record,” Nutter said in a statement.

Councilman Kenney began the push to decriminalize marijuana after learning that of the 4,000 Philadelphians arrested each year for simple possession, over 83% have been black or Latino.

"It’s just not a fair situation. I think marijuana use is pretty even across most demographics, and arresting these young people for that reason and putting that weight around their neck to carry for the rest of their life doesn't make any sense," Kenney told the Los Angeles Times.

Back in August, Nutter—who is African-American—scoffed at such an argument to decriminalize marijuana as being "a bogus issue" and an "insult to the community, and even went so far as to say that the police did not target blacks or other minorities. But in recent days, Nutter has back off that stance following Kenney's agreement to pass necessary amendments.

“We want to ensure that the punishment for using or possessing small amounts of marijuana is commensurate with the severity of the crime, while giving police officers the tools they need to protect the health and well-being of all Philadelphians,” Nutter said.

Once signed, the law will go into effect Oct. 20.

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By Shawn Dwyer

headlines

7:00am

Morning Roundup: Sept. 17, 2014

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Yes, that's a baby on the tracks. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

oops

9/16/14 7:30pm

Tennessee Man's 911 Call Leads to Drug Charges

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Grant O’Connor is an unlucky 25-year-old from Tennessee whose unlucky butt dial earned him with drug possession charges.

O’Connor unintentionally called 911 on his cell phone and, according to Nashville news station WKRN, the dispatcher claims to have heard him discussing “pleasure shivers” and “tiny little pins” in his body. In Big Brother fashion, the snooping dispatcher stayed on the line to listen in to the rest of his call, then traced it to a Mexican restaurant and sent an officer to the scene.

The officer found O’Connor and a woman pulling out of the parking lot. Since the vehicle happened to have a tail light out, the officer used that as an excuse to pull them over. The officer searched the car and found a small bag of marijuana and “drug paraphernalia,” (probably a pipe), so he arrested the very unfortunate O’Connor and charged him with drug, and drug paraphernalia, possession.

Talk about bad luck. Talk about creepy invasion of privacy. The police department’s manipulation of the situation in order to catch a nonviolent person who was clearly not in any immediate danger or posing any threat to anyone, is a typical example of why our nation needs to decriminalize marijuana possession.

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By April M. Short/AlterNet

coming to tv

9/16/14 5:30pm

Gary Oldman to Produce Silk Road Series for Spike TV

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Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman, who has played everyone from Sex Pistols' bassist Sid Vicious to Gotham police chief James Gordon, will serve as executive producer of Deep Web, a new cable drama series that will focus on an ambitious Silicon Valley entrepreneur responsible for creating the online drug marketplace Silk Road.

Founded in 2011, Silk Road was an underground website hailed as the Amazon.com of drugs, where buyers and sellers could deal in illicit drugs like cocaine, LSD, and cocaine in virtual anonymity. Silk Road was operated by someone known only as Dread Pirate Roberts, whose name was taken from Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride.

Roberts, later revealed as Ross William Ulbricht, prided himself on both being anonymous and espousing libertarian ideals while bucking the system. He was arrested in October 2013 on suspicion of drug trafficking, soliciting murder, facilitating computer hacking, and money laundering.

Deep Web will explore Ulbricht's rise and eventual fall courtesy of writer and executive producer Scott Gold, best known for his work on Under the Dome. Goldman and producing partner at Flying Studio, Douglas Urbanski, will executive produce the project.

“In this supremely competitive environment, we are thrilled to be the network to partner with Tony Krantz and filmmakers like Gary and Doug to bring this story to our ever-growing audience,” said Sharon Levy, executive vice president of original series at Spike TV. “This project speaks to the network’s search for wholly distinctive and relevant ideas, ripped from today’s headlines, that reflects our brand’s evolvement.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

freedom?

9/16/14 3:30pm

Drug Laws Could Change Under an Independent Scotland

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Legalize it! Paramount Pictures

On Thursday, September 18, a referendum will determine whether Scotland will become independent of the UK for the first time in 307 years. The campaign for independence, led by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, has played to Scots who feel out of step with the center-right government in London led by the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

If Scottish independence reigns, discretion over matters such as the legal status of drugs would be transferred from the UK government to the Scottish Parliament.

Professor David Nutt, former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which makes drug-policy recommendations to the UK government, said an independent Scotland could take a more progressive approach to drug policy.

“The UK government is the only one in the world to have taken backwards steps on drugs control in the last decade—the opposite of, say, the USA,” he told Vice News. “A free Scotland could be more sensible and reverse this regressive trend.”

Nutt was dismissed from his position as the government’s chief drug adviser in 2009 by the Labour government for saying cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol. This caused two fellow scientists on the ACMD to resign in sympathy and further cemented Nutt’s role as the face of drug-policy reform in the UK.

While drug-policy reform is not a pressing issue for Scotland, there are a few signs that an independent Scotland could divert from the UK’s conservative policies—after all, Scots are traditionally more left-leaning than their English neighbors.

The leader of the “yes” to independence campaign, Salmond, recently expressed that he is “rather sympathetic” to the use of medical marijuana. He assured radio listeners during a BBC phone-in that an independent Scottish government would do a “good job” when it comes to deciding what is and isn’t a crime.

Since an independent Scotland would be able to have its own drug laws, the Scottish government explained, though vaguely, its intentions on this matter in a document detailing the advantages of independence:

“Whilst drugs policy is currently devolved, drugs classification remains reserved to Westminster,” it read. “Independence will allow decisions on drugs policy and drug classification to be taken together in a coherent way.” 

It will be up to the residents of Scotland to decide whether to remain a part of the UK or become independent. Residents as young as 16 are able to vote, even though the national voting age is 18.

In a country that was once branded the narco capital of Europe and known for being among the worst in the world for drug-related crime and deaths, a progressive approach to drug-policy could be a remedy for those social problems.

“Any country that developed a rational approach to drugs would benefit from reducing crime, improving health, and accelerating new research into medicines,” Nutt told Vice.

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By Victoria Kim

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