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Morning Roundup: July 29, 2014



By Shawn Dwyer

addict abuse

7/28/14 7:30pm

Pakistan Drug 'Clinic' Allegedly Tortured Addicts



About 115 patients at a clinic run by a Pakistani mullah were alleged to have been tortured as part of their treatment. According to Pakistani police, who raided the clinic last week, patients were chained to the ground and forced to recite the Qu'ran.

“They treated us worse than animals,” said Noor Rehman, a hashish addict who went blind eight months ago after two years of imprisonment.

The clinic, located about 50 miles north of Islamabad, has practiced extreme methods uncommon even in Pakistan, but does provide insight into the attitude conservative Islamic societies hold towards drug addiction, according to Independent Online.

The mullah, Illyas Qadri, chained patients to a partner and to concrete slabs in the ground to prevent them from escaping and using drugs again. The only time they were released from the ground was for bathroom break, though they remained chained to their partner.

“The mullah lets us go out only when he wants our help in construction work. It was us who built these walls,” said Shafiullah, another patient who spoke to reporters.

Qadri, who was raided by police after a family of a patient filed a report, defended his methods. “I recite the Qur’an, then blow on water and give this water for drinking three times a day. Normally the addicts who stop using have the tendency to vomit and shake. But thanks to the Surah Yassin (a verse) they don't have problems,” he said. “And then one week, without any medicine, they are better. Even in the top institutions you will never see this."

But Shafiullah said Qadri's statement was not true. “He chained us and beat us with a stick. This has nothing to do with Islam."

However some of the patients' families, who often use such clinics to do away with troublesome addicted family members, have actually approved of Qadri's techniques. “When he's chained up, my son cannot escape. These chains are doing him good, and on top of it he has learnt to recite the Koran,” said Sultan, a family member outraged by Qadri's clinic being shut down.

Still, the memories of savage treatment lingered for those rescued by police. “My brother doesn't know the whole story," said Lutuf, a patient whose brother also was upset over the raid. "I know what happened here.”

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By Bryan Le

not so smart

7/28/14 5:30pm

Brain-Boosting 'Smart Drugs' On The Rise



A new feature on the VICE Motherboard explores the rise of so-called “smart drugs”—substances used to boost cognitive function and attention span—from the online black market into the mainstream via the ever-growing supplements business.

Much of the piece focuses on Alleradd, a cognitive enhancement pill which promises to deliver the same energy and memory boost as the similarly named ADHD medication Adderall without requiring a prescription. It’s one of an increasing number of substances called nootropics, which purportedly simulate brain receptors to increase memory and motivation without the dangerous side effects of controlled substances or energy drinks.

Many, like Alleradd, are sold online and are available to any consumer with a credit card. Some, like New Mood or Alpha Brain, can be purchased on Amazon.com. But all are being marketed to professionals, students and other individuals in need of quick and immediate enhancement as nutritional supplements.

Proponents of nootropics claim that substances like NSI-189, which allegedly stimulates neural growth, improve focus and energy. But the VICE feature also notes that these and other smart drugs remain in the experimental stage, have not been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and reportedly cause side effects that range from physical illness to severe depression and withdrawal symptoms.

AlternaScript, which manufactures Alleradd, failed to note that the supplement contains piracetam, a prescription drug in many countries that has been restricted for uncontrolled sale by the FDA. Like the makers of dangerous synthetic drugs, many smart drug manufacturers sidestep government intervention by either labeling their substance’s compounds as “not meant for human consumption” or listing the ingredients under different brand names.

Synthetic drug manufacturers, however, have not been allowed to feature their products on national television like Cerebral Success, a nootropic company whose founder, Trevor Hiltbrand, appeared on the ABC reality series Shark Tank to seek funding for a line of smart drug shots marketed to college campuses. The show’s panelists expressed concern over the ethical implication of selling an untested drug to students, but ultimately decided to back the project provided that Hiltbrand buy liability insurance.

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By Paul Gaita

end it now

7/28/14 3:30pm

New York Times Says: End Prohibition of Weed



In something of a surprising move, the editorial board for the New York Times—after much behind-the-scenes deliberation—went public with a call on Congress to end the prohibition on marijuana.

Titled Repeal Prohibition, Again, the editorial, which was published over the weekend, started with a recap of history by citing the 13 year folly of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s, which did nothing to curb alcohol use while giving rise to organized crime.

So in one simple sentence, the Times made it clear what Congress should do in light of 40 years of bad pot policy: "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."

From there, the editors pointed to the rapidly changing laws at the state level over the last 10 or so years, while also underscoring the idea that there are no easy answers about what to do with marijuana use in society regardless of which side of the divide people fall on.

"There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level—health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues—the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization," the editors wrote. "That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs—at the state level."

The Times compared both the societal and medical costs of marijuana to other drugs, noting that over 658,000 people were arrested in 2012 for possession of weed, while just 256,000 were busted for harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. They also correctly pointed out that health and addiction concerns regarding pot use were minor in light of the devastation caused by alcohol or cigarettes.

They concluded their editorial with the grim recognition that the federal government won't do much about the issue, at least in the short term. "We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues," the board wrote. "But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition."

Given the Republican-led Congress' inability to pass anything into law, regardless of how pressing the need, it would be a miracle indeed if prohibition at the federal level were to end.

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By Shawn Dwyer


7/28/14 1:00pm

4 Physical Side Effects of Being Addicted Your Smartphone



If your best friend told you that your smartphone addiction has actual physical side effects that were affecting your health, you probably would laugh and shrug it off.

But according to doctors, perhaps you should be listening to that friend after all. Beyond the psychological problems and the resulting anxiety engendered by always needing to use a smartphone, there are actual physical side effects of such extreme behavior.

Doctors have been doing their best to keep up with the storm of smartphone addiction and the new physical difficulties that go hand-in-hand. Here is a list of four physical side effects of your smartphone addiction that are a lot more serious than you think and could have long-lasting consequences:

  1. iPosture: How often do you see people obsessively slouching over their phones for hours at a time? Slouching strains the neck and back muscles. According to a Simplyhealth study of young adults that was conducted in the United Kingdom, 84% experienced back or neck pain in 2013. This is likely the result of being hunched over modern technological devices. 
  2. Computer Vision Syndrome: Did you think that staring at that small screen for hours would actually help your eyes? Squinting to see the miniscule font in your texts as you read through the latest Facebook updates leads to eyestrain, blurred vision, dizziness, and dry eyes. When combined with the back pain caused by iPosture, the negative consequences can be headaches and even migraines.
  3. Text Claw: Although it is not a medical term, text claw describes all of the finger cramping and sore hand muscles that come from continuous scrolling, texting, and gaming on smartphones. Doctors believe that the constant use of smartphones can cause inflammation in tendons, and possibly lead to tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Phantom Smartphone Vibration Syndrome: What’s happening in my pocket? Is someone trying to text or call me? Is my ringer off? Isn’t that my smartphone vibrating? According to Dr. Michelle Drouin, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, 89% of the undergraduates in her study had experienced phantom smartphone vibrations when their phones were not actually vibrating or not even in their pockets. Students dependent on text messages and social media updates became anxious and upset because the phantom vibration was not real.

Although this article focuses on only four physical symptoms of smartphone addiction, the common experience of the psychological dependence—nomophobia—on a smartphone is quite problematic as well. Basically, at some point, human beings might be forced to choose between being 100% connected anywhere anytime and just being healthy.

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By John Lavitt

heroin epidemic

7/28/14 10:30am

Can Ibogaine Curb Afghanistan’s Heroin Problem?



A former staff member with Doctors of the World is hoping that a unique and controversial treatment for heroin addiction will break the drug’s death grip on the people of Afghanistan.

The country has endured an epidemic of opiate addiction for more than a decade. According to the United Nations, 5.3% of the country’s population—an approximate 1.6 million people—use opiates, including heroin. Despite these horrific conditions, Afghanistan’s leadership does little to assist the victims of this epidemic. Drugs are considered haraam, or sinful, in this devoutly Islamic nation, which is reflected in the relatively small number of beds available in treatment centers across the country.

A new feature on VICE News revealed that an eclectic group of figures from the medical, entertainment, and drug reform worlds have teamed to present a method of heroin addiction treatment that has generated equal amounts of support and concern. Murtaza Majeed, a former Kabul resident and staffer with Doctors of the World’s harm reduction program, hopes to open the first rehab clinic in Afghanistan that specializes in ibogaine treatment.

Ibogaine is a psychotropic drug that has been used in coming-of-age ceremonies in Central America for centuries. More recently, it has enjoyed increasing support from elements of both the scientific and recovery communities as an alternative means of ending heroin addiction. Majeed has enlisted Dimitri “Mobengo” Mugianis, an ibogaine “shaman” who has performed ceremonies with the substance on recovering addicts in the U.S. and Costa Rica, as an adviser, and financial support from indie rapper Felipe Coronel, a.k.a. Immortal Technique, who was introduced to Majeed’s cause by medical marijuana supporter Dana Beal, who hopes to use the Afghan treatment center as a gateway for greater acceptance of ibogaine in America.

The problem with Majeed’s quest: while ibogaine can produce vivid dream imagery, it also has a number of debilitating side effects, including extreme nausea. It’s also been linked to 19 deaths, due largely to pre-existing medical conditions or harmful interaction with other drugs. As a result, ibogaine is considered a Schedule I drug in the United States, on par with heroin and marijuana. While the substance is neither banned nor legal in Afghanistan, American health officials hold sway over Afghan policy decisions on drug issues, which may present a roadblock to widespread acceptance.

The country’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics has been notoriously slow to accept any treatment for heroin—methadone took years to gain even a modest foothold in Afghanistan—and there is also the issue of how Islamic leaders will view a drug with intense psychoactive properties. Majeed hopes to establish a pilot program before approaching the Ministries of Public Health and Justice, but expects that the road to acceptance of ibogaine in Afghanistan will be a long and rocky one.

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By Paul Gaita


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