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drugs overseas

10/20/14 5:30pm

United Nations Says Illegal Meth Manufacturing Is Spreading

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According to the United Nations Office On Drug And Crime (UNODC), the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine is proliferating to different parts of the globe, particularly Africa and the Middle East.

Traditionally concentrated in either North America, primarily Mexico and the United States, or East and South-East Asia in countries like China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, the cheap manufacturing of crystal meth has spread like wildfire worldwide.

The latest UNODC's Global SMART Update study shows that methamphetamine manufacturing has recently spread to other countries such as Guatemala, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Reported on by the UNODC at the end of September, the latest update also reveals that some countries in Africa and the Middle East have recently emerged as important regions for methamphetamine supply.

In comparison to methamphetamine production in Europe that remains at low levels, the manufacturing in the developing countries is expanding rapidly thanks to a combination of fewer government regulations, and minimal criminal monitoring and police intervention. Moreover, the easy access to profitability despite the dangers of meth lab explosions and toxic waste byproducts makes the lure of methamphetamine manufacturing too great to inhibit.

Although manufacturing methodology varies throughout the world, most regions continue to rely on the use of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as precursors to methamphetamine production. The UNODC views the threat of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine, ecstasy-type substances, and new psychoactive substances (NPS) as a significant worldwide drug problem. After marijuana, amphetamine-type stimulants are the second most widely used drugs in the world, easily exceeding the use of both cocaine and heroin combined.

As a response, the UNODC launched in 2008 the Global SMART Program. Although the SMART Program did improve the capacity of countries in East and South-East Asia and, more recently, Latin America to generate and manage information on illicit synthetic drugs, including reporting and ongoing monitoring, the program has had little to no impact in Africa and the Middle East. Given problems presented by socioeconomic difficulties, religious extremism, and an overall lack of infrastructure, it is questionable whether the institution of the SMART Program in these new drug territories will be effective in the future.

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By John Lavitt

gambling addiction

10/20/14 3:30pm

Brain Abnormalities In Gamblers Different From Drug Addicts

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While all addictions are linked to some form of brain alteration, a new study conducted by researchers in London and Cambridge has found that the brains in pathological gamblers are different than those who abuse alcohol or narcotics.

The study, which will be presented at the ECNP Congress in Berlin this week, found that the opioid systems in gambling addicts reacted differently than in those who were deemed healthy. The researchers examined the brains of 14 pathological gamblers and 15 healthy participants after each were given an amphetamine tablet. Scans revealed that the brains of problem gamblers didn't release as many endorphins as their healthy counterparts. A subsequent questionnaire confirmed the results when the problem gamblers revealed that they experienced lower levels of euphoria.

"From our work, we can say two things," said lead researcher Dr. Inge Mick. "Firstly, the brains of pathological gamblers respond differently to this stimulation than the brains of healthy volunteers. And secondly, it seems that pathological gamblers just don't get the same feeling of euphoria as do healthy volunteers. This may go some way to explaining why the gambling becomes an addiction."

Because of these lower levels of euphoria, gambling addicts have to work harder in order to experience the same "rush" as a non-addict, which contributes to becoming more heavily involved in gambling. Dr. Mick said the results of the study, despite the small sample size, could lead to new treatments for problem gamblers, though some outside the study expressed skepticism with the results.

"Gambling is a behavioral addiction which is influenced by biological, psychological and social factors," said Dr. Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University. "As to whether a gambling addiction is different to an alcohol or cocaine addiction, the sample size in the study is small and we need to see more research in this area first."

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By Shawn Dwyer

recovering celebrities

10/20/14 1:00pm

Macklemore Returns To Drug Court To Speak At Graduation

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More than 15 years after entering a Seattle drug court for the first time, rapper Macklemore returned to speak at a graduation ceremony.

Macklemore, a.k.a. Ben Haggerty, reappeared to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of King County Drug Court, addressing those in the room by simply saying, “Hi, I’m Ben. And I’m an alcoholic.” An arrest at age 15 initially brought him there and inspired him to get sober. Although he has had admitted to relapses over the years since then, the rapper said he has been sober since August 2008.

“Drug court gives people a way to get sober, to heal,” he said. “I don’t want to just get through the day. I want to live. That is what Drug Court is to me.” Since its inception, the King County Drug Court has graduated over 2,000 participants and saved taxpayers around $95 million.

The rapper, who hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2012 with “Thrift Shop,” has been open about the difficulties of staying sober while on the road and adjusting to his newfound fame. He tries to go to AA meetings on the road when possible, but said it’s often difficult to get into a routine with meetings. "It's been a struggle the past year," he said in March 2013. "It's very important to go into the rooms of AA, smell the shitty coffee and be reminded that without sobriety, I would have no career."

Macklemore has also spoken about kicking his addictions in some of his songs. The track "Church" contrasts the collectivism of his religious upbringing with the realities he faced growing up, including almost losing his life to drug use.

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By McCarton Ackerman

sorry excuse

10/20/14 8:30am

Pennsylvania Gov. Blames Employee Drug Testing On Job Creation Woes

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Pennsylvania is currently 47th among U.S. states when it comes to job creation, but Gov. Tom Corbett thinks employee drug testing is the reason companies are not able to fill jobs.

Speaking to the PennLive editorial board last week in Harrisburg, Corbett said that companies can’t find employees who are able or willing to pass drug tests. The statement is similar to what he said in an April 2013 interview that made headlines, but he has mainly relied on anecdotal evidence from the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMP) to back up his claim.

However, that organization refuted his statement after hiring a polling firm to survey 200 executives from manufacturing businesses throughout the state. Their findings concluded that “for most companies, drug testing did not lead to a large percentage of potential employees refusing to take a drug test or show up for a drug test."

A “small percentage” of applicants, 16% in total, failed their drug tests, while 19% refused to take one. The report did acknowledge that these numbers were still “a red flag and a real concern for employers.”

The drug concerns aren’t entirely surprising given that it’s easier and cheaper for young people in the state to buy heroin than a six-pack of beer. Small bags of heroin are being sold for as little as $5 to$10, which is contributing to the ongoing rise in overdose deaths each year throughout the state. State Representative Richard Marabito said there are about 766,000 residents with addiction problems, but only 52,000 are currently receiving treatment.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has listed several recommendations for correcting this problem in a report released last month. Among them are making it easier to prosecute dealers whose clients die of overdoses and instilling a “Good Samaritan” law so that those who seek help for overdose victims won’t face criminal charges.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

10/20/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 20, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

the politics of weed

10/17/14 7:30pm

Will Hillary Clinton Push to Legalize Marijuana In 2016?

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The public’s stance on the legalization of marijuana has drastically changed since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first entered politics, when only 16% of the public favored legalization. But now, more than 58% of Americans want the consumption of the drug legalized and many activists feel the 2016 elections will give their movement serious traction.

Clinton has previously denounced the legalization of marijuana, but more recently she’s warmed to the idea. But the future potential president wants to see what the research says before seriously considering legalizing the drug on a national level.

“I’m a big believer in acquiring evidence, and I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana before we make any far-reaching conclusions,” Clinton said. “We need more studies. We need more evidence. And then we can proceed.”

It’s very possible the Democrats will nominate Clinton for president in 2016, but many marijuana activists fear she may be too pragmatic for their cause.

“She is so politically pragmatic,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “If she has to find herself running against a conservative Republican in 2016, I am fearful, from my own view here, that she is going to tack more to the middle. And the middle in this issue tends to tack more to the conservative side.”

Marijuana activists expect a huge turnout of young people at the polls, and with nearly 70% of 18- to 29-year-old Americans in support of the legalization of marijuana, the odds are in their favor.

“There will certainly be even more on the ballot in 2016,” said Tamar Todd, director of marijuana law and policy and the Drug Policy Alliance. “More voters coming to the polls means more support for marijuana reform and in presidential election years, more voters turn out.”

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By Brent McCluskey

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Scott Phillips: You Are What You—

Last February, my oldest friend died of a heroin overdose at the age of 49. He beat me to recovery, and he beat me to death. He also gave a final, drug-alogue interview on my radio show 20 hours before he died.

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