Endlessly in search of a legal buzz, teenagers are reportedly getting high off a common flower that can cause vivid and "nightmarish" hallucinations. Datura flowers (also known as "angel's trumpets") grow wild across the globe and in many household gardens, and the seeds can be purchased easily online for intended botanical use. But when smoked, the plant (also known as "Jimson Weed") can have potentially lethal side effects, and the Internet abounds with cautionary tales from those who have experienced bad trips. “I heard about it from a friend; it was growing in his mom’s garden,” an anonymous user tells CBS. “[The high] was just really, really intense—seeing people that weren't there, talking to people that weren't there. It was horrible, and it lasted two days. The after-effects were terrible. We got blurry vision; we actually thought we were going blind.” Another user says her trip “lasted over 30 hours. You really can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s a dream.” A user on ReddIt describes the high as "basically dreaming while you're awake, mixed with assloads of confusion."
William Hlubik, a Rutgers University professor of agriculture says Datura plants contain toxic compounds that can be harmful if ingested. “Anyone who tries to experiment with these plants is in danger if they don’t have a lot of knowledge of the concentration or potency,” he says. The plant can reportedly cause heart palpitations, severe paranoia and vomiting. Its use lands thousands of young people in the hospital each year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and "hundreds more chase it to the grave." “My fear is that more and more people are going to die from taking this,” says drug counselor John Corbett. He points out that the unpredictability of the plant's high makes it especially dangerous. Says Corbett: “How do we know that somebody is not going to react in a negative way and be caught in a trip that they can’t be brought out of?”
An anti-cocaine vaccine that eats up the drug when it gets into the bloodstream has been successfully used on non-human primates, bringing it one step closer to being approved for use on humans. The vaccine, known as dAd5GNE, combines elements of the common cold virus with the particle GNE, which mimics cocaine. It prevents the dopamine high associated with taking cocaine by encouraging the body to treat the drug as an intruder and mount an immune response. Only 20% of cocaine consumed by the primates actually bound to their dopamine transmitters, which is well below the 47% threshold required to produce a "high" in humans. "The vaccine eats up the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-Man before it can reach the brain," says Ronald G Crystal, lead author of the study and chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. "We believe this strategy is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine users in the United States, who are committed to breaking their addiction to the drug. Even if a person who receives the anti-cocaine vaccine falls off the wagon, cocaine will have no effect." However, further studies will need to be done in order to determine how effective the vaccine will be on humans and how often it would need administering. "An anti-cocaine vaccination will require booster shots in humans, but we don't know yet how often these booster shots will be needed," says Crystal. "I believe that for those people who desperately want to break their addiction, a series of vaccinations will help." In a separate study with results published last month, scientists used lasers to "turn off" cocaine addiction in rats' brains
Rising prescription drug costs and aggressive marketing from regional drug dealers have resulted in a surge in heroin use throughout Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, the Times Argus reports. Police, fire and health officials in Portland, Maine put out a community warning after 14 heroin overdoses were reported in a single month, including four in one 24-hour period. And Rutland, VT Police Chief James Baker says the spike in heroin use and opiate addiction throughout town is the worst he's seen in 35 years of policing. “If you get addicted to prescription pills, it’s really hard financially to keep that up. Heroin is cheaper," says Vermont’s US Attorney Tristram Coffin, who traces the problem back to 2009 when state officials first fired off a warning about rising opiate addiction. In response, special multi-agency teams have been set up to share information and target offenders while also stepping up educational efforts and treatment programs. Local, state and federal officials have also publicly warned dealers that they will face serious consequences if caught. Manchester, NH Police Chief David Mara blames the rise on economics: an 80 milligram pain tablet sells for about $80 compared to a bag of heroin that goes for about $15. Anthony Pettigrew of Boston, a spokesman for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, says that larger bags of heroin are now coming into Vermont as dealers begin to more aggressively market the drug. Says Pettigrew: "If they can move heroin from New York or Philly or Boston or Lowell and Lawrence up into Vermont and make a significant profit, they are going to do that." Heroin use among teens, as an offshoot of prescription drug addiction, has continued to rise in suburban towns across the US.
Long-term sobriety is possible. Just ask Parks and Recreation star Rob Lowe, who took to Twitter on Saturday to share his double-digit milestone. “Celebrating 23 years sober tonight," Lowe wrote, citing the 12-step adage, "It works if you work it." The 49-year-old actor quit drinking and went to rehab in 1990, describing the experience as "one of the most exhilarating, liberating and exciting four weeks of my life" in his 2011 memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends. In an appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, Lowe raved about his time in rehab. "It was great. I loved it. Because I was ready," he said. "Problem is, people go into rehab and they're not ready. You want to get sober for your parents, you want to get sober for your job, you want to get sober for the cops, you want to get sober to protect your image. A lot of good reasons, by the way, but unfortunately, the only thing that works is that you have to want to get sober for you." The actor, who got sober on the heels of a sex tape scandal, said he was willing to go to any lengths to get his life back on track. "I was ready," he said, "And so if they told me, 'Hey, Lowe, you've got to go stand in the corner on your head,' I would have done it."
- Breath Tests Targeting Smoking in Pregnancy Backed by Midwives [The Guardian]
- David Sheff: Solving the Prescription Drug Misuse Tragedy [Huffington Post]
- Jump in Drug-Dependent Babies Worries Hospitals [USA Today]
- Town Drunk Was So Beloved That Even the Local Police Mourn His Death [MSN]
- Vending Machines For Pot Products Exist Now [Gizmodo]
- Rob Lowe Marks 23 Years Sober [ContactMusic]
- Marijuana Arrests Keep Falling, NYPD Focuses On Drugs That Actually Kill You [Gothamist]
Various media sources report that Ariel Castro, 52, the man charged with kidnapping and raping three women over roughly 10 years, claims to be a "sex addict." Castro, who was arrested on Monday after Amanda Berry, one of the kidnapped women, escaped from his house with the help of neighbors and called police, was held on $8 million bond Thursday by a Cleveland Municipal Court judge. Meanwhile, police found a suicide note from around 2004 in Castro's house, in which he wrote "I am a sex predator. I need help," according to the New York Post. In the note, Castro also reportedly blames the girls for their own abductions. Whether or not Castro is identifying as an addict in an attempt to explain his actions, clinical psychologist Dr. David J. Ley responds in Psychology Today that the use of the term unfairly shifts the discussion away from the crimes. "The label of sex addiction has become a convenient, fictional excuse and label, for almost anything bad or problematic associated with sex," writes Ley. "To allow sex addiction to enter into this discussion treats these victims callously, and blames sex for their suffering, rather than placing the blame on the man who kidnapped, raped and imprisoned them." Berry and her fellow kidnapping victim Gina DeJesus have both returned home. According to a hospital spokesperson the third woman, Michelle Knight, was released from MetroHealth Medical Center today.