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12/07/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: December 7, 2012

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The man of steel bends to peer pressure?
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By Bryan Le

overdose deaths

12/06/12 5:10pm

NYC Doc Charged in OD Deaths

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Li was charged in court today. Photo via

The New York City doctor who prescribed drugs to a Long Island pharmacy gunman in 2011 has been charged with manslaughter for allegedly causing the overdose deaths of two other patients. An anesthesiologist at a New Jersey hospital, Dr. Stan Xuhui Li, 58, allegedly prescribed 500 pills a day to a 21-year-old patient who was found dead in his car in 2010 of acute intoxication caused by Xanax and oxycodone. A 37-year-old patient also received 15 prescriptions from Li in the three months leading up to his death from OD in 2009, prosecutors say. "Dr. Li flouted the fundamental principle in medicine–first, do no harm," states Special Narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan. "He jeopardized lives by repeatedly prescribing dangerous controlled substances and narcotic drugs for cash, not medical need." This isn't the doc's first time in court: just a year ago, he pleaded not guilty to charges of peddling pain meds to addicts and dealers. He'd been accused of of writing over 17,000 prescriptions, mostly for opioid painkillers, during two and a half years at the Flushing clinic—where he was moonlighting weekends and reportedly seeing up to 120 patients a day. In June 2011, one of his patients, David Laffer, killed four people during a hold-up for painkillers at a Long Island pharmacy. Prosecutors said Li—who wasn't charged at the time—had provided 24 prescriptions to Laffer, who is now serving a life sentence for murder. This is the first time a New York area doctor has been charged with manslaughter in an OD case, authorities say.

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By May Wilkerson

Drug treatment in prison

12/06/12 3:20pm

Addicted Prisoners Wait Years for Treatment

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Thousands of addicted prisoners play the
waiting game for years. Photo via

Federal prisons are full of drug offenders—more than 90,000 of them, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week. Yet only about a third of those prisoners— most of them low-level drug dealers, users and addicts—are receiving treatment to combat their addictions. "Its really tragic," one longtime federal prisoner tells The Fix. "The feds lock up all these crackheads and junkies and then don't even give them any programs to get them off drugs. Worse still, the one drug program they do have, RDAP, has all types of restrictions on who can get in, for what crime, etc. If you don't fit the specific criteria, you can't get in."

The waiting list for the Bureau of Prisons' Residential Drug Abuse Program, which allows successful participants to get up to a year off their sentences, is long—51,000 inmates long, according to the GAO report. "I have been in prison 15 years, waiting to get into the drug program," another prisoner tells us. "What they do is they run you right to the door. Like I wasn't even eligible to sign up until I was 36 months short [of release]. Now I have been on the RDAP unit for seven months and I'm still not in the program. They wait until you are 28 months short or less till they put you in. Then it takes nine months or so for the program and you get 12 months off and six months' halfway house—that's how it's supposed to work. But if I don't get in by next month the clock is ticking on my 12 months off."

Bureau of Prisons policies, and the way they're carried out, mean that drug addicts serving long sentences don't get treatment until right before they go home—despite the wide availability of drugs inside. "I've been doing drugs for 15 years in prison," the second prisoner says. "And now I have to get clean so I can complete the program and go home. It's not easy: I'm a drug addict." Prisoners who relapse or violate any prison rule or regulation are kicked out of RDAP. But usually these prisoners are the ones that need the program the most. Instead of helping long-term prisoners get treatment early, the BOP supports a system that enables drug use and only entices prisoners to quit much later. "Of course I want the year off," says the addicted prisoner. "Of course I want to go home. But I wish I didn't have to wait so long to get the treatment I need, so that I can go out and live a drug- and crime-free life and not come back to prison."

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By Seth Ferranti

addiction and the family

12/06/12 2:12pm

Betty and Gerald Ford's Son Shares His Own Recovery

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Steven Ford in Black Hawk Down. Photo via

For Steven Ford, addiction runs in the family. The son of former White House residents Gerald Ford and Betty Fordwho founded the Betty Ford Center after her own struggles with prescription pills and alcohol—didn't notice many signs of his mother's problem early on. But he says it became more apparent once his father's presidency ended: "After Mom got out of the White House, you know, she just started to gradually lose her life," he recalls. "I say that in terms of canceling appointments, sleeping later, some melancholy that eventually probably got into depression. It's not something that pops up overnight." It was more than a decade after Betty identified herself as an alcoholic that Steven did the same. "[My drinking] was different than hers," he says. "I would drink on the road when I was traveling. Basically, when I was home I did not really drink. So I kind of lived two lives. I had a secret life. Binge drinking in college was certainly laying the foundation for me later."

Still, Steven acknowledged his own problem much quicker than his mother did hers—in part because growing up with her made the signs familiar. He sought treatment—not at the Betty Ford Center, but through an outpatient AA program—and has now been sober for 19 years. But he still regrets that his behavior while drinking cost him a shot at marriage all those years ago. "I was 12 weeks from getting married. It was a really tough time in my life. I had to come back and be candid and transparent with my fiancee and family and tell them I had this secret life on the road—binge drinking and doing things in places I shouldn't have been and cheating on my fiancee," he says. "I had to be very transparent and that was part of my sobriety. I had to call the wedding off." Now 56, the movie actor has a new girlfriend he hopes to wed, and is also pursuing a career as a motivational speaker. Through it all, he gives great credit to his mother for having the strength to identify herself as an alcoholic, at a time when it was far less accepted. "The stereotypical alcoholic [back then] was the skid-row bum, which was so wrong," says Steven. "Here you had a former first lady who raised her hand and said, 'My name is Betty and I'm an alcoholic.'"

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By McCarton Ackerman

legalization of Marijuana

12/06/12 12:50pm

Washington Celebrates First Day of Legal Pot

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Police left pot smokers alone as they got
higher than the Space Needle. Photo via

Last night, hundreds of Washingtonians gathered under the Space Needle in Seattle to herald the moment recreational marijuana became legal, counting down New Year's-style to 12 am on December 6 before sparking up en masse. In a surreal scene, enthusiasts bluntly offered joints to reporters and blew smoke into news cameras. “I feel like a kid in a candy store!” said Hempfest volunteer Darby Hageman. “It's all becoming real now!” While the new law does prohibit public use, like with alcohol, the Seattle police department had standing orders to hold the citations and let the people party. But despite the festivities, state law still leaves pot in a legal limbo—it's ok to possess it, but growing or selling it remains technically a felony. “So I'm not sure where you're supposed to get it,” wonders King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “If you stumble across some on the street or it falls from the sky, then you can have it. Otherwise, you're part of a criminal chain of distribution.”

And that's before we get to the possibility of federal intervention, with the US Justice Department maintaining a poker face: “Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6 in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” states the US Attorney's Office. “Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations and courthouses.” Washington's pot smokers hope the feds will soon clarify. “We don't want to go and spend serious resources only to have it stopped by the federal government,” says Washington State Liquor Control spokesman Brian Smith. “It would sure help Washington state if they weighed in and made clear their expectations.” Perhaps Washington lawmakers wish their lives were as simple as that of Snoop Lion. He marked the occasion by stating on a Wednesday night Reddit chat that he currently smokes 81 blunts a day—or one every 10-15 minutes—aided by his eligibility for medical marijuana in California.

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By Bryan Le

Celebrity addicts

12/06/12 11:49am

LeAnn Rimes and Brandi Glanville Trade Addiction Jibes

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LeAnn Rimes' tweet outraged Brandi Glanville.
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A war of words between singer LeAnn Rimes, her husband Eddie Cibrian and his ex-wife—Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville—just plumbed new depths. In an open e-mail, Glanville accuses Rimes of being addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs, dubbing her "angelfish" because she "sings like an angel and drinks like a fish." That e-mail followed an interview with Glanville, published yesterday in Us Weekly, in which she said that Rimes has a "severe eating disorder"—and that Glanville's son got sick after swallowing one of the singer's laxatives. "Mason, my eldest, ate some of Le's candies and got extremely ill. And Le's candies are laxatives. Mason found it on the floor and thought it was a Skittle!" she said. "LeAnn has a severe eating disorder. She has [a laxative] in every purse." It all kicked off with a tweet last week in which Rimes referred to her stepsons—Glanville's biological sons—as "my boys." A furious Glanville tweeted back, "They are my boys, Eddie's boys and your stepsons...for now." Cibrian finally entered the fray with a public e-mail denying all of Glanville's accusations. "It is absolutely ridiculous that my ex-wife continues to put the personal lives of myself, LeAnn, our sons and my family on public display for the sake of her notoriety," he wrote. "She is fully capable and has the means of contacting myself and LeAnn privately...the fact she chooses not to should be pretty transparent. One day, when wine and narcissism are not consuming you, you will realize how fortunate the kids are to have LeAnn in their life." Rimes has previously said that she doesn't have an eating disorder, but she did undergo a 30-day treatment program for stress and anxiety last August. Cibrian and Glanville were married for nine years; he left her in 2009 due to his affair with Rimes, who was also married at the time.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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