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8/18/14 5:30pm

Oklahoma Receives Grant To Tackle Prescription Drug Problem

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The state of Oklahoma has recently received a major financial boost to fight prescription drug abuse in a $1 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
The money will be dispersed over the next three years to help prevent prescription drug overdoses and deaths, as well as address the behaviors that trigger it. The state is also planning to use a portion of the money to improve its prescription drug monitoring program, in addition to identifying locations throughout Oklahoma where prescription drug abuse occurs more frequently.
 
The CDC reported that Oklahoma has the sixth-highest rate of overdose deaths in the country and the fifth-highest prescribing rate. In 2011, the state noted that 703 people died from drug overdoses, or roughly 19 out of every 100,000 people. The following year, Oklahoma doctors wrote up 128 opioid pain reliever prescriptions for every 100 people, well above the U.S. average of 83 prescriptions per 100 people.
 
“Prescription drug abuse is a scourge that has overtaken drugs like meth when it comes to harming the health of Oklahomans,” said Gov. Mary Fallin. “These additional resources will help us continue to strengthen successful state programs and ultimately save lives.”
 
The city of Tulsa has also been dealing with a violent meth trade. Although the number of meth labs throughout the city is down to 143, compared to a peak of 429 in 2011, the number of homicides related to the drug has increased. Two quadruple murders took place last year, while a 34-year-old man was beaten to death last November in a drug deal gone wrong.
 
State legislation passed in July 2012 that limited access to pseudoephedrine, which is a key ingredient in making meth.

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By McCarton Ackerman

expected result

8/18/14 3:30pm

Slain Teen Michael Brown Had Weed In System, Source Says

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In an all-too-familiar development, Michael Brown, the 18-year-old African-American man who was shot dead by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, allegedly had marijuana in his system at the time he was killed.

The information was leaked by a person speaking on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation into Brown's death. But St. Louis County medical examiner, Mary Case, did confirm that Brown was shot multiple times in the head and chest. The preliminary results were consistent with the Brown family's own autopsy, which was conducted by certified physician Michael Baden.

Brown's death sparked outrage and protests that turned violent thanks in part to militarized police decked out in full-body armor driving tanks and firing tear gas. Many of those protesters anticipated Brown being vilified by the results of a drug test if it came back positive.

“What was in the system of that cop when he was pumping bullets into that boy’s body?” said one protest leader last Friday afternoon. Protesters demanded that Wilson submit to a drug test as well.

Benjamin Crump, attorney for the Brown family, said that he was unaware of any marijuana being found in Brown's body. Meanwhile, the Brown family gave permission to the Justice Department to conduct a third autopsy for its own separate investigation.

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By Shawn Dwyer

recovering celebs

8/18/14 1:00pm

News Anchor Elizabeth Vargas Returns to Rehab

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After opening up about her struggles with alcoholism earlier this year, it appears that ABC News reporter Elizabeth Vargas has gone back to rehab.

Vargas, who currently co-hosts the long-running 20/20, confirmed that she had checked into a treatment facility over the weekend while on vacation.

"As so many other recovering alcoholics know, overcoming the disease can be a long and incredibly difficult process," Vargas said in an emailed statement. "I feel I have let myself, my co-workers and most importantly my family down and for that I am ashamed and sorry."

Her network confirmed that Vargas was being treated for alcoholism and expressed their support for her recovery in their own statement.

"We look forward to having her back at ABC News when she feels ready to return," ABC said.

Vargas previously checked into an undisclosed treatment facility in November 2013 to deal with her problem with alcohol for the first time.

“Like so many people, I am dealing with addiction,” she said at the time. “I realized I was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol.”

Vargas opened up to friend and colleague George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning, America back in January, stating that her problems with alcohol stemmed from childhood anxiety.

“I dealt with that anxiety, and with the stress that the anxiety brought by starting to drink. And it slowly escalated and got worse and worse,” she said.

The name of her current treatment facility remains undisclosed and her length of stay has yet to be determined.

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By Shawn Dwyer

News

8/18/14 10:30am

New York Drug Dealer Charged In Molly Death at Electric Zoo

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Patrick Morgan, a New York drug dealer based in Buffalo, is being accused of selling the popular ecstasy-like synthetic drug called “Molly” that led to an overdose death at the 2013 Electric Zoo festival.

Arrested in early August in connection to the death of 23-year-old Jeffrey Russ that closed down last year’s festival, Morgan has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics and one count of distributing narcotics. Each of the two felony charges carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege that Russ and his two friends purchased 80 hits of Molly from Morgan with the intention of consuming and selling them at Electric Zoo. Late Friday night while at the festival, Russ took some of the pills, after which he collapsed and had a seizure. He was treated by emergency medical technicians on Randall’s Island to no avail. He was ultimately transported to Harlem Hospital, where he died a few hours later from acute intoxication by the combined effect of MDMA and methylone with hyperthermia.

“As alleged, Patrick Morgan sold drugs that, far from enabling a good time, resulted in tragedy with the death of Jeffrey Russ," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. "It bears repeating that every time people use drugs like “Molly” they are rolling the dice with their own lives, which is a foolish and senseless wager.”

Molly, or powdered MDMA, is marketed by drug dealers like Morgan as a purer version of Ecstasy that provides a better high. Big in the club scene and celebrated in popular culture by singers like Miley Cyrus, Molly has been on a popular upswing. The problem is that nobody knows what low-level drug dealers cut the drug with to increase their profits. Capsules being sold as Molly often are laced with a variety of dangerous and strange agents, including aspirin, caffeine, bath salts, methamphetamine, and even rat poison.

Olivia Rotando, 20, also died after taking Molly at the festival, and several other attendees were hospitalized for similar issues, but were later released.

DEA Acting Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt illustrated the dangers involved, “Synthetic drugs such as 'Molly' are extremely dangerous and have grown increasingly more popular at events such as music festivals…Those who ingest it, even if for the very first time, are putting themselves at risk because they have no idea what they are putting into their bodies. DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate any and all drug trafficking organizations that place lives at risk by selling these dangerous substances.”

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By John Lavitt

drastic action

8/18/14 8:30am

New Hampshire Declares 'State of Emergency' Over Synthetic Drugs

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After 44 recent overdoses in New Hampshire were linked to a marijuana-like synthetic product called “Smacked,” Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a “state of emergency” over the drug.

Sold in convenience stores as potpourri, the contents are sprayed with chemical substances similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Smacked also comes in a variety of flavors including bubblegum, which many of those who overdosed reported taking. Most of the emergency room visits related to the drug have taken place in the city of Manchester, but none have been fatal.

The state of emergency declared by Hassan means that public health officials are now authorized to investigate stores and remove the product if found. Police in Manchester said the drug was found in three convenience stores so far and those establishments have since had their businesses revoked. Hassan said in a statement that “these products pose a serious threat to public health, especially to young people, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to combat the recent rash of overdoses.”

New Hampshire made headlines for addiction problems back in 2012 when it was labeled as the biggest beer-drinking state in the country, with residents downing an average of 43 gallons per year. North Dakota came in second on the Beer Institute list at 42.2 gallons, followed by Montana (40.6 gallons) and South Dakota (38 gallons). Perhaps unsurprisingly, these states also rank among the states with the highest percentage of heavy and binge drinkers.

The state has also been dealing with a rising heroin problem as more prescription drug addicts are resorting to cheaper alternatives.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/18/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 18, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

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