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synthetic drugs

8/28/14 8:30am

Turkey Struggling With Synthetic Drug 'Bonzai'

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A new synthetic drug called Bonzai has been wrecking havoc throughout Turkey, with a new report confirming that it’s now one of the top reasons for recent emergency room visits in the city of Istanbul.

Bonzai is described as a form of synthetic cannabis, but its symptoms are far more extreme and can include schizophrenia-like behavior and heart failure. Regular Bonzai use can lead to kidney and liver failure within just two months. Doctors and nurses have also reported uncontrollable behavior among users admitted to the emergency room and have been forced to physically restrain patients in some cases.

Two deaths have been reported as a result of the drug, while nearly 25 people have been admitted to a hospital on Istanbul’s Asian side. In another hospital in Şişli on Istanbul's European side, 10 people were admitted to the emergency room for Bonzai use last week alone. Many of those admitted are teenagers and children who either lost consciousness after taking the drug or suffered injuries after attacking others while under the influence of it.

The Ministry of Family and Social Policy has now stepped in by announcing a project to stamp out Bonzai use throughout the country. A “detailed roadmap” for the project will be revealed in the coming days, but its focus will be on the rehabilitation of addicts and educating parents about how to detect whether their children are using the drug.

Tragedies related to synthetic marijuana have also made their way stateside. Last year, 19-year-old Colin Eckhardt slipped into a coma and passed away after smoking synthetic marijuana.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/28/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 28, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

eating disorders

8/27/14 7:30pm

Dangerous Eating Disorder Behaviors Are Not Exclusive to Rail-Thin Teens

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A new study has emphasized that serious eating disorders like anorexia nervosa can occur at any weight. Significant weight loss, rather than the appearance of being “rail thin,” is the true measure of dangerous eating behaviors associated with anorexia, the researchers said.

“We are conditioned to think that the key feature of anorexia nervosa is a low body mass index,” said Cynthia Bulik, director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “In fact, we miss a lot of eating disorders when focusing primarily on weight.”

The study, which was conducted in Australia, examined 99 teenagers ages 12 to 19 within a six-year period. Only eight percent of the teens had EDNOS-Wt (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) in 2005, but more than 47% had it in 2009. Both groups lost a similar amount of weight—a median of 28 pounds for those with anorexia and 29 pounds for those with EDNOS-Wt.

“I was surprised to see how much [the percentage of patients with EDNOS-Wt in the study] increased,” said lead researcher Melissa Whitelaw, a clinical specialist dietitian at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. “I was also surprised at how similar they were not only physically but also psychologically. Everything about them was anorexia except that they don’t look really skinny.”

EDNOS-Wt is the “less obvious eating disorder,” similar to anorexia but those with EDNOS-Wt are not underweight enough to fit the definition of anorexia. However, they exhibit the same symptoms such as distorted self-image, fear of weight gain, and physical symptoms such as excessive weight loss, critically low phosphate levels, and low pulse.

“Emaciated bodies are the typical image portrayed in the media of patients with restricting eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa,” said Whitelaw. “This paper highlights that it is not so much about the weight but the weight loss that can lead to a serious eating disorder.”

Individuals in the earlier stage of anorexia tend to go unnoticed until it is too late. “These patients just fly under the radar and when they’re in that earlier stage, it’s harder for people to see it,” said Leslie Sim, an assistant professor of psychology at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn.

“Parents say to me everyday, ‘I thought my daughter was doing something good and making healthy choices until it got out of control. We didn’t know it was a problem until she couldn’t eat the cake at her birthday party.’”

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By Victoria Kim

end prohibition

8/27/14 5:30pm

Boston Globe Editorial Calls for End of Heroin Prohibition

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A former New Jersey State Police officer has called for the end of “zero-tolerance prohibition” of heroin in a passionately worded editorial for the Boston Globe.

The essay, which echoed a similar op-ed piece in the New York Times that called for the legalization of marijuana, ran in the August 24 edition of the Sunday Globe. It was written by Jack Cole, a former cop who spent two decades on the front lines of drug enforcement and now serves as board chair of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a nonprofit organization made up of current and former police officers, lawyers, judges, and other law enforcement officials who speak out against current drug policies.

In his editorial, Cole testified to the damage wreaked upon communities by attempts to arrest and convict an ever-increasing number of heroin and opiate addicts. “As a police officer, I understand the instinct to mete out punishment, send a message, put somebody away for abusing drugs,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, my experience has shown me that it is futile, counterproductive, and dangerous to try and arrest our way out of this very real problem.”

Cole cited in stark terms the futility of current drug laws in stemming the tide of opiate addiction and the drug trade. He quoted Edward Walsh, police chief of Taunton, a Massachusetts suburb under siege from a wave of heroin-related overdoses and deaths, who said that the recent arrest of a high-profile dealer in his town has failed to stem the tide of drug use—the exact opposite of what hard-line drug enforcement advocates are selling to the public.

Another Bay State police chief, Gary Gemme, was quoted as saying that the nature and quality of current street heroin is so unpredictable that users risk overdose or death with even a single hit. In the face of such seemingly insurmountable odds, Cole said that the only logical approach is to adopt “more non-judgmental approaches that include open dialogue about stigmatization and increased availability of health insurance to cover treatment programs.”

Cole noted the use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone by more police officers as a step in the right direction, as well as supervised injection sites in countries like Australia and Canada, which have dramatically reduced the number of overdose deaths and spread of blood-borne illnesses like HIV in those regions.

Ultimately, Cole said that what is needed to gain any sort of foothold in this war of attrition is to give addicts help, not jail time.

“It is a brutal irony that our drug policy inadvertently makes already dangerous drugs even more dangerous, and cheap, and available,” Cole concluded. “The harder we push a prohibitionist approach, the harder our children fall.”

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By Paul Gaita

stink

8/27/14 3:30pm

Moderate Drinking Can Sharpen Sense Of Smell

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In a surprising discovery that appears to challenge the belief that drinking dulls the senses, Israeli researchers have found that alcohol actually sharpens a person’s ability to smell when drunk in moderation.

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Brain Research by Israeli researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Edith Wolfson Medical Center explained how consuming alcohol can actually boost the sensitivity of the human olfactory system.

In the first experiment, 20 volunteers smelled three different liquids; two of which were the same and one of which was different. In the initial test, the participants were given two seconds to say which smell was not like the others. This test was repeated six times with various liquid matchups to ensure accurate readings of each participant's olfactory sensitivity.

In the next step, the participants drank either 35 milliliters of vodka in grape juice or the juice alone and asked to repeat the smell test. The vodka drinkers saw improved results, while the juice drinkers stayed the same. The intriguing results showed moderate alcohol intake improved their ability to distinguish between smells.

In a second experiment, the researchers actually went to public establishments. They asked random patrons in local bars to take a scratch 'n sniff test before allowing the researchers to measure their blood-alcohol content. The researchers found that in both the controlled and bar-based studies, people with a moderate amount of alcohol in their systems fared better in odor differentiation tests, as compared to people with no alcohol in their systems.

At the same time, researchers also found that too much alcohol in the blood severally hampered a drinker's ability to smell. Whether the cause of this ancillary result is an actual dampening of the olfactory system by increased alcohol intake or a simple loss of focus on account of inebriation remained undetermined.

The authors of the study plan to uncover the actual cause in future studies through the examination of brain scans done on the drinkers. It goes without saying, of course, that such high-tech scans could not be done at the local pub.

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By John Lavitt

medical marijuana

8/27/14 1:00pm

Study Links Medical Marijuana With Reduced Overdose Deaths

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A new study has linked medical marijuana with a reduction in prescription drug overdose deaths, but anti-drug advocates are outraged over the conclusion that pot is a healthier alternative to pain pills.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center found that states which have legalized medical marijuana had on average 1,700 fewer deaths per year from prescription drugs. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow for medical marijuana use. Statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration show that 15,000 Americans die annually from prescription overdose deaths.

Although the study doesn’t attempt to explain the correlation between legal medical marijuana and the reduction of drug overdose deaths, it suggested the need for further research into creating marijuana-based medications.

"It suggests the potential for many lives to be saved," said study senior author Colleen L. Barry, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. "We can speculate…that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid."

However, critics called the study “flawed” and questioned how the data was both collected and analyzed. Kevin Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida College of Medicine, noted that the researchers didn’t differentiate between states that had relaxed or strict medical marijuana laws and also didn’t look at either emergency room admission data or prescription drug statistics.

"In today's supercharged discussions, it could be easily misunderstood by people," he said. "There may be promise in marijuana-based medications but that's a lot different than 'here's a joint for you to smoke.'"

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By McCarton Ackerman

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