The UK Court of Appeal will soon hear a case that could set precedent over the criminalization of excessive drinking during pregnancy. In the landmark case, lawyers will argue that a six-year-old girl is actually the victim of a crime committed by her mother, whose pregnant drinking resulted in the girl having brain damage - a risk the mother was aware of.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has seen a 50 percent rise in the UK in the past three years, with 313 recorded cases of exposure to alcohol in the womb in 2012 and 2013. The Department of Health has reported that one in 100 infants are born with alcohol-related disorders.
While the landmark case has the potential to criminalize binge drinking during pregnancy, many believe such a law doesn't go far enough and that drinking any amount while pregnant should be illegal.
“[The law] should be to abstain from alcohol throughout pregnancy. You can't make it a criminal offence if you are still legally saying this is a safe amount to drink or you can drink," said Sue Brett, the adoptive mother of Glenn, a 15 year old born with FAS who lives with disabilities and has the mental age of a four-year-old. "It needs to be clear from the start that you can't drink."
Health experts have said that complete and total abstinence from alcohol is the only way to ensure the safety of the unborn child. “If you avoid [drinking], that's the safest route,” said Dr. Raja Mukherjee, a psychologist and expert in fetal alcohol syndrome. “That doesn't mean that people who've drunk a little bit have harmed their child, most people won't have done, but if you want to guarantee safety and you want to guarantee no risk then no alcohol is the best way forward."
But not all are in agreement. Susan Fleisher, founder of NOFAS-UK, an organization dedicated to raising awareness on the impact of alcohol during pregnancy, said there are many things that could be done to prevent FAS, but does not believe criminally prosecuting pregnant mothers is one of them. “Women can't be prosecuted for something they don't know about," Fleisher said. "To be fair, women who are alcoholics, who have an issue with drinking, should be given support and should be given information so they know there's a chance they could harm another life."
As drug abuse spirals out of control, poisoning the Midwest, a Heroin Awareness Summit at Harlem High School in Winnebago County attempts to fight the rise of opioid addiction in suburban communities.
In Illinois, politicians have taken steps to raise awareness before kids begin to experiment with drugs. A group of students at Harlem High School learned just how deadly heroin addiction can be when they were told that nearly 200 people have died from overdoses in the past three years in Winnebago County alone.
State Representative John Cabello said such a figure needs to be put in proper perspective: “That's huge. That's more than the homicides and fatal crashes put together," Cabello said. "It doesn't matter if you're rich. It doesn't matter if you're poor. It doesn't matter if you're a teenager. And it doesn't matter if you're a middle-aged person. Heroin affects everybody."
No longer relegated to big cities, heroin has become a major problem across America. Just how easy is it for kids to score heroin in a small town like Rockford? According to Pat Spangler, who works at the Rosecrance Rehab Center, it's easy. "One of the main epicenters for heroin is Chicago," Spangler said.
Heroin has become completely ensconced into this traditionally conservative suburban community. “Now it's almost socially approved of in some circles," Spangler said. "So, it's not only not looked down upon, but sometimes it's encouraged. I think some people believe that if they just turn a blind eye, this problem will go away and statistics show it is not going to."
Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia explained the toll heroin has taken on these smaller communities. "We must be more aware of the tragedies this epidemic is causing to so many families in our community. No child, while growing up, ever talked or wanted to become a drug addict."
A former police detective in Oregon has been busted for drug trafficking in Chicago. William Floyd Marsh Jr. is currently being held on $1.5 million bail after receiving a multitude of charges including armed violence, cannabis trafficking, delivery of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis, possession of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis, and money laundering charges. His alleged accomplice, Gerald Matthew Wiese, is being held on $250,000 bail in Oregon on controlled substance and drug possession charges.
Marsh was pulled over for speeding last Friday when police found $80,000 in cash and two handguns inside the vehicle. A storage locker linked to Marsh later revealed 55 pounds of marijuana and $2,185 in cash. His former employers at the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office then conducted a separate investigation that linked him to two storage lockers containing 6.3 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.4 pounds of heroin, and 5.7 ounces of cocaine.
"Everyone here at the sheriff's office was deeply disappointed by the news that a former employee of this organization made the choice to violate the laws that all of us are sworn to uphold,” said Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts in a statement. "This is an especially bitter blow because the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office has made the fight against illegal drugs a top priority in our community.”
Earlier this month, a crime lab chemist in Florida was arrested for allegedly selling stolen drug evidence. Joseph Graves is currently being held on $290,000 bail after facing being charged with grand theft, 12 counts of tampering with evidence, and nine counts of drug trafficking.
Two American security officers were found dead last Tuesday on the merchant vessel Maersk Alabama, and drug overdoses are being reported as the likely cause of death.
The bodies of Jeffrey Reynolds and Mark Kennedy, both 44, were found in a ship cabin by a colleague and later identified by police on the African island of Seychelles. Reynolds and Kennedy worked for Trident Group, a Virginia-based maritime security services firm, and were also former Navy SEALs.
An autopsy will be conducted next week, but Seychelles police found traces of narcotics and hypodermic needles near their bodies. They have since suggested that their deaths “were a result of drug overdose.” Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Frederick, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, also said the deaths "do not appear to be criminal in nature, related to vessel operations, the material condition of the ship or their duties as security personnel." However, the deaths are still being investigated as required by American law.
Trident Group President Tom Rothrauff called the loss of Reynolds and Kennedy “a shock” and said he was “absolutely clueless as to what happened.” But in response, shipping giant Maersk confirmed yesterday that Trident will begin random drug tests of its employees and will also review their shore-leave policy. The firm tried to downplay the new testing measures by declaring that "based on our experience with the contractor, this is an isolated incident.”
The Maersk Alabama ship has been subject to attacks from Somali pirates on three separate occasions, including the April 2009 attack made famous in the movie Captain Phillips (2013), but no casualties were recorded in any of the hijacking attempts.
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- Colorado Could Spend Pot Taxes On Substance Abuse Programs [7News]
- Charlie Sheen Claims Brooke Mueller Won't Test Twin Sons For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome [TMZ]
- Jailed Colorado Street Minister Seeks Release To Treat Substance Abuse [Denver Post]
- Lamar Odom Gets Physical For Spanish Basketball Team After Drug And Booze Bender [Daily Mail]
- Connecticut Drug Counselor Charged With Conspiracy To Sell Painkillers [WTIC]
- Red States Alabama And Alaska Among National Leaders For Taxing Booze [Washington Post]
Colorado and Utah, already home to some of the lowest smoking rates in the nation, are set to drive down smoking even further by raising the legal limit for tobacco to 21. On Thursday, both states voted through proposals to treat cigarettes like alcohol.
"By raising the age limit, it puts them in a situation where they're not going to pick it up until a much later age," said Marla Brannum, a health technician for Utah County Tobacco Prevention. Colorado followed a similar rationale, as expressed by state representative Cheri Gerou (R-25). "What I'm hoping to do is make it harder for kids to obtain cigarettes," said Gerou.
The proposals, which still have more votes to pass before becoming law, are based on research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. According to the paper, nine out of 10 daily smokers in the U.S. had their first cigarette before they were 18, while about 90 percent of cigarettes bought for minors are purchased by 18- to 20-year-olds. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids understandably has thrown its support behind the proposed bill, hoping such laws will cut down the number of future smokers. "We see this as sort of an added step to reducing smoking rates," said vice president Peter Fisher.
Of course, Utah and Colorado are hardly alone in their efforts. Last year, New York City raised the tobacco age to 21 and set a minimum price on cigarette packs to $10.50. Hawaii County also raised its legal tobacco limit to 21, while Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah itself have already raised the minimum age to 19.