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11/21/14 10:30am

Former Miss USA Tara Conner Opens Up About Getting Sober



Former Miss USA Tara Conner had her battle with addiction made very public when she was called out by Donald Trump in 2006, but she is now hoping to help others win their battle with drugs.

Conner has now been sober for over seven years and recently spoke at the 15th anniversary celebration of Greenville County drug court in South Carolina. Although it was a positive test for cocaine that made headlines, alcohol and prescription painkillers were her true weaknesses. She took up to 30 pills per day at her lowest point and admitted to being high during most of her pageants on the way to the Miss USA title.

“I don't think any of us wake up and say being an addict sounds like a great idea. My idea of an alcoholic was the old man that lived under the bridge drinking out of his paper sack, and I think that's what the nation's idea is of an alcoholic is,” she said. “It wasn’t that I was a bad person trying to do better. I was a sick person trying to get well." 

After her parents’ divorce and the death of her grandfather, Conner turned to drinking to numb the pain. She moved onto prescription painkillers and her admittedly reckless behavior continued until she tested positive eight months into her Miss USA reign.

Founder Donald Trump held a press conference and many expected her to be stripped of the crown, but he announced that she would be given a second chance. She entered an inpatient rehab program at the Caron Foundation and now works for them as their public advocacy consultant.

Despite years of sobriety under her belt, Conner acknowledges that it’s still a daily process and that she’s learned to forgive herself for that. “I have to stay very honest with what I’m feeling. I still have alcoholic thinking,” said Conner. “I give myself a little grace sometimes and say, 'You know what?  You are doing the best job that you can.'”

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By McCarton Ackerman

dirty cops

11/21/14 8:30am

Married San Diego Cops Face Seven Years On Drug Charges


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A husband and wife cop duo could spend the next seven years behind bars after pleading guilty to an assortment of drug charges, including running a hydrocodone distribution network and burglarizing homes while on duty.

Former San Diego police officers Bryce and Jennifer Charpentier were originally arrested last June and released on bond. They pleaded guilty on Wednesday to all charges against them and resigned from their positions. They also waved their 4th Amendment seizure rights, meaning they can be searched by law enforcement at any time. 

Bryce was convicted of selling, possessing and transporting drugs, possessing a loaded firearm while under the influence, and conspiracy. Jennifer was convicted on charges of possession of a controlled substance, sales, transportation, and conspiracy.

Bryce had been with the SDPD for six years, while Jennifer had worked there for 18 years. They are each facing up to seven years and eight months in prison when they are sentenced on January 30.  "Both of these individuals will have to face the consequences of their actions, which have diminished the great work our officers do every day to serve our City," said SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman in a statement.

Search warrants for the couple state that Jennifer got 71 prescriptions from seven different doctors and then traveled to 17 pharmacies to fill them, while Bryce filled 79 prescriptions from six different doctors. Text messages between them also indicate that they even stole prescription medication from Jennifer’s mother.

Anonymous sources also told a local news outlet that the couple had become “withdrawn and secretive” in recent months. One of the insiders also alleged that Bryce had been abusing prescription drugs ever since he suffered a career-ending hockey injury.

The incident has become the latest embarrassment for the San Diego Police Department. Last February, Detective Karen Almos was found passed out in her car in Balboa Park and later pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated. Two months later, Officer Christopher Hayes was charged with felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor sexual battery; he resigned from the department the day after the charges were filed. Officer Gilbert Lorenzo was arrested that same month and again in early May on suspicion of assaulting his wife.

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By McCarton Ackerman


11/21/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Nov. 21, 2014


Colin Stone. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer


11/20/14 7:30pm

Research Shows Cannabinoids Slow Tumor Growth in Aggressive Cancer



Marijuana could play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults, a new study found.

The research team from St. George’s University of London examined mice that had been infected with glioma, one of the most aggressive cancers in adult humans. The mice were then treated with radiation alone or in combination with two cannabinoids—the active components of the cannabis plant—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

“We wanted to investigate the anti-cancer effects of Sativex in glioma cells,” said Dr. Wai Liu, one of the study’s lead authors. Sativex is an equal mixture of THC and CBD, and is already licensed as a mouth spray for multiple sclerosis in the United States.

The researchers found the tumors were best treated by low doses of both THC and CBD, a combination which made the tumors more receptive to radiation treatment. Liu said this “triple threat approach” may be of value.

“Our results showed that the dose of irradiation we used had no dramatic effect on tumor growth, whereas CBD and THC administered together marginally reduced tumor progression,” Liu wrote. “However, combining the cannabinoids with irradiation further impeded the rate at which tumor growth progressed and was virtually stagnant throughout the course of the treatment.”

Though study of the anti-cancer effect of cannabinoids is not new, this research is the first to examine marijuana’s effect on cancer when used with radiation, Liu said. “[C]ombining radiotherapy with cannabinoid treatment had a big effect,” Liu wrote in the Washington Post.

THC and CBD are just two of dozens of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. High-grade glioma has very low survival rates, as standard treatments for glioma remain largely unsuccessful. “The results are promising…it could provide a way of breaking through glioma and saving more lives,” Liu said.

“Hopefully, these results will support calls for formal trials in humans to test these combinations.”

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By Victoria Kim

hep c

11/20/14 5:30pm

Study Suggests Prisons Use Expensive Hep C Drugs



In the latest online edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, a new study strongly recommended the use of Sofosbuvir, the notoriously expensive Gilead HCV drug regimen with the brand name Sovaldi, to treat rampant HCV infection rates in U.S. prison populations.

Although Sovaldi has been demonstrated to be highly effective, its cost has gained as much publicity as the drug’s success. Known as the $1000 pill, it is doubtful whether such a regimen could ever be used to treat hepatitis C infections in incarcerated populations. 

Although the researchers found a large improvement in health status of patients with extreme liver damage due to HCV, particularly with respect to decompensated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, the cost of treating prison populations without a special dispensation from Gilead would be astronomical. The researchers of the study actually disagree with the cost challenge by raising the issue of the greater cost of treating incarcerated populations with chronic infections.

According to the study, for each additional life year for each inmate with the infection, the cost to the prison increased by up to $28,800. The authors argue that this makes the treatment regimens cost-effective, but question whether it is affordable.  The study lacks information about the cost savings from avoiding treating complications, reinfection, and ongoing spread of the HCV infection in a prison population.

According to HealthDay, there are more than half a million inmates in the U.S. that currently have hepatitis C. Although overwhelmed by the rampant spread of HCV in prison populations, states recoil when confronted with the price. Most officials—particularly elected officials having to face a voting populace that does not want to spend financial resources on curing prisoners—do not see the new expensive HCV drug regimens being used in prisons.

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By John Lavitt


11/20/14 3:30pm

Brain Damage Caused By Meth Looks a Lot Like Schizophrenia



A new study published by Australian researchers from the University of Sydney reveals how the methamphetamine-induced sensitization of the brain looks a lot like schizophrenia.

By examining alterations to the prefrontal cortex, the researchers were surprised to find the neurological changes induced by methamphetamine use to be extraordinarily similar to the brains of schizophrenics. The structural damage and protein alterations seen in schizophrenia appeared in the brain after methamphetamine-induced sensitization.

Published in the Journal of Proteome Research, the ultimate focus of the study was more focused on implications for the maintenance of psychotic disorders than on methamphetamine treatment. A proteome is the entire set of proteins expressed by a specific organism at a certain time. More specifically, it is the set of expressed proteins in a given type of cell or organism at a given time under defined conditions. By examining the proteome layout in the prefrontal cortex, damage done by genetic psychotic disorders or external abuse factors like drugs and injuries can be gauged.  

In the study, the Australian researchers worked with rats. They found that repeat administration of methamphetamine to the rats led to a progressive increase in locomotor activity in the form of a behavioral sensitization. Such a behavioral sensitization is similar to the underlying neurochemical changes driving traditional psychoses like schizophrenia. The behavioral changes are the direct result of alterations to the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

The original aim of the current study was to investigate changes to protein expression in the prefrontal cortex in male rats sensitized to methamphetamine. Twenty percent of the neural proteins affected by the methamphetamine have previously been implicated in the neurobiology of schizophrenia. From synaptic regulation to mitochondrial function, the changes in the brain caused by methamphetamines had only been seen before in the brains of schizophrenics. Future treatment of schizophrenia could be improved by avoiding the stimulation associated with methamphetamine use.

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By John Lavitt


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