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up in smoke

12/20/13 8:30am

Brooklyn Teens Critically Injured In Weed Experiment


The scene of the explosion. Photo via

The weed experiment concocted by two Brooklyn teenagers ended tragically as both have been critically injured from explosions related to the project. Anthony Gambale, 19, and Gabriella Katanov, are now in the hospital with second and third-degree burns after they tried to soak their pot in butane, resulting in a massive explosion when one of them lit a cigarette while trying to evaporate off the gas.

Police reports indicate that Gambale and Katanov, who were in a relationship, had filled a 30-gallon tub with weed and covered it with butane to make “ear wax,” a version of the drug that is up 80% stronger. Cops also found marijuana plants when they raided the garage, which was torched from the explosion and required numerous firefighters to put out the blaze.

“Their lungs are good . . . but from the waist up, all burned. Her hands, too,” said Luba Poukhova, Katanov’s mother. “She could be in the hospital for a year. She needs surgery. The doctors said it will get worse every day.” When they are released from the hospital, the couple will face criminal charges including reckless endangerment, criminal use of drug paraphernalia and drug possession.

Ear wax marijuana can include up to 90 percent THC and is highly hallucinogenic, with the intensity of the drug resulting in highs that can last several days. CBS Detroit reported last June that two 36-year-olds were hospitalized after using ear wax and suffering episodes of psychosis. Susan Smolinske, of the Children's Hospital of Michigan Regional Poison Control Center, confirmed that the pair  "needed to be sedated because they were so agitated that they could not be controlled."

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By McCarton Ackerman


12/20/13 7:00am

Morning Roundup: December 20, 2013


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By Shawn Dwyer

seahawk down

12/19/13 7:30pm

Seahawks’ Brandon Browner Suspended Indefinitely


Thinking about who to play for next...if he ever does.
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Once the backbone of the Seattle Seahawks’ crushing defense, cornerback Brandon Browner is now facing the possibility of never playing football again. Browner was suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs after serving out a four-game suspension last season for the same violation. The current suspension was immediate and without pay.

Of course, Browner responded to the suspension in typical pro athlete fashion; meaning, he disagreed with the results, proclaimed his innocence, and danced around whether or not he used performance-enhancing drugs while apologizing for his actions. "Although I disagree with the circumstances surrounding my suspension, I accept responsibility for all of my actions and I apologize for any (sic) that causes any unflattering reflections of my family and the Seahawks," he wrote on Twitter. “I believe in my innocence and will continue to fight with all legal resources available to me."

The Twitter statement came just hours after Browner’s appeal was denied. He can still make a direct process appeal to Commissioner Roger Goddell, but given the commish’s foot-dragging in the past, such a tack seems destined to fail. As it stands, Browner’s first shot at ever hoping to put on a uniform again will come on Dec. 18, 2014, when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement.

Meanwhile, fellow Seahawk Walter Thurmond, who was also suspended this year for violating the NFL’s drug policy, is set to return on Monday.

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By Shawn Dwyer

drug giant caves

12/19/13 5:30pm

Glaxo Announces Plan to Stop Paying Doctors to Push Drugs


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GlaxoSmithKline, one of the biggest drug manufacturers in the world, is ending its controversial practice of paying doctors to push its products. It will also stop compensating sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions that are written by the doctors to whom they sell the drugs.

This unprecedented move comes in the wake of the pharmaceutical giant having to pay $3 billion in fines for marketing drugs for off label uses. GlaxoSmithKline is also dealing with a bribery investigation in China, where authorities are accusing the drug maker of paying doctors and government officials to push Glaxo products. Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive, denies that this change in policy has anything to do with the situation in China, and instead is part of an ongoing effort “to try and make sure we stay in step with how the world is changing.”

Part of the way the world is changing is due to the Affordable Care Act. Starting in 2014, any payments made to doctors by pharmaceutical companies will become public. As a result of this pending development, other pharmaceutical companies are considering instituting similar changes. Pratap Khedkar, who is in charge of the pharmaceutical practice at ZS Associates, notes that the new requirements will make all such payments searchable on a government database. While some of the information was voluntarily provided by drug makers in the past, “It wasn’t really made public in some big, splashy way,” he said.

Glaxo’s move has received praise from Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s a modest acknowledgment of the fact that learning from a doctor who is paid by a drug company to give a talk about its products isn’t the best way for doctors to learn about those products,” Dr. Avorn said.

Dr. Raed Dweik, of the Cleveland Clinic, applauds Glaxo’s decision to stop paying sales representatives based on the number of prescriptions written, and hopes that the other drug makers will follow their example. “As a physician, I periodically meet with these sales reps and they usually come in armed with information about me that I don’t even know…I feel that’s not really a comfortable interaction to have,” he said.

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By Allison McCabe

21 jump street

12/19/13 3:30pm

Semester-Long Drug Op Busts So. Cal High School Students


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Two Southern California narcotics officers who posed as high school students for an entire semester busted 25 students for possession of and selling drugs. Twenty-two arrest warrants were served last week on the campuses of Paloma Valley and Perris High School, while three suspects weren’t in school that day and are still at large. Two of the 22 students arrested, Serina Ramirez and Erick De La Cruz, were adults and booked into a local detention center; the remaining minors were booked into juvenile hall.

Although most of the drug buys were for small amounts of marijuana, deputies also seized drugs including crack cocaine, meth and various prescription pills. The sheriff’s department had approached the school district last year to propose the undercover operation, which was quickly approved. “This is a very well-researched program. The people in it are all professionals,” said Jonathan Greenberg, superintendent of the Perris Union High School District. “It was a question of what we could do to assist them.”

Although cops posing as high school students has been around for decades within California schools, the program has met with controversy. The LAPD discontinued their program in 2005 after police typically only found small amounts of pot and were increasingly arresting students in special education programs. A lawsuit was also filed last year against the Temecula Valley Unified School District after a special needs student with autism was arrested in the drug busts.

Lt. Paul Bennett, who oversaw the Paloma and Perris drug busts, said the officers involved received additional training about special needs students and how to avoid entrapment, ensuring that all of those arrested this time were “mainstream students” in general education classes. He also planned to move forward with plans to bring drug-sniffing dogs to campuses in the future.

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By McCarton Ackerman

molly on campus

12/19/13 1:30pm

Colleges Debating Best Drug Counseling Approach For Molly


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While colleges typically have drug counseling programs for students wanting to get clean, many are scratching their heads at how to handle treatment for Molly. The club drug, which is supposed to be the pure form of MDMA, can cause surges in dopamine and serotonin, which are related to feelings of euphoria. However, the Molly sold by dealers is often mixed in with cheaper drugs including meth.

Although exact numbers of college students who use Molly are not available, Washington State University reported an increasing number of students attending both their health clinic and nearby Pullman hospital after taking the club drug. A tainted batch of Molly which contained cocaine, LSD and meth also ravaged a Seattle music festival last July, resulting in one death and 100 hospitalizations. The drug has even made its way into high society due to its reputation as a “cleaner” version of ecstasy, with many New York city socialites reporting using the drug because it gives them an energy boost at events.

“You don’t know what you’re getting,” said Cassandra Nichols, director of Counseling and Testing Services at Washington State University (WSU). “(People think) that somehow because it’s in pill form, and it looks like a prescription pill, that it’s something that’s regulated, which it’s not. Or that somehow it being a more pure form of Ecstasy means something; it doesn’t.”

University experts are fully aware that scare tactics don’t work with college students, but they are trying to figure out the best method for educating people on potential consequences of Molly use. “We need to have some frank conversations, because some very negative harms can occur,” said Patricia Maarhuis, coordinator of WSU’s alcohol and drug counseling services. “We’re not using scare tactics. We’re using it more in terms of ‘Let’s look at the context’ and how many students would be vulnerable to the same situation.”

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By McCarton Ackerman


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