Once largely confined to raves and clubs, MDMA—now most commonly known as "Molly"—has been fast gaining popularity in elite New York City circles, the New York Times reports. The drug's resurgence has been partly blamed on frequent shout-outs in hip hop and pop music (even Miley Cyrus allegedly paid tribute to the drug in her new single). But the Times also attributes its ascendancy to its "re-branded" reputation as a "cleaner" version of ecstasy (MDMA is ecstasy's active ingredient). “I've always been somewhat terrified of drugs, but I'd been curious about Molly, which is sold as this pure, fun-loving drug," says Elliot, a 26-year-old New Yorker. "This is probably completely naïve, but I felt I wasn’t putting as many scary chemicals into my body.” Growing numbers of "conscientious professionals" are apparently buying into the Molly hype. Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency-room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side, says he's seen more Molly users hospitalized than ever before for reasons such as dehydration, anxiety and insomnia. “Typically in the past we’d see rave kids, but now we’re seeing more people into their 30s and 40s experimenting with it,” he says. "MDMA use has increased dramatically. It’s really a global phenomenon now.”
MDMA was first classified as an illegal substance in 1985. Public officials warned in the early 2000s that it could lead to Parkinson's Disease, lifetime depression and "holes in your brain," but many of these claims have since been disproved, according to Dr. John Halpern, a psychiatrist at Harvard who has conducted several MDMA studies. In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved studies on whether MDMA can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. And Dr. Halpern says that MDMA doesn't actually impair the brain—whereas alcohol does. But officials say the biggest health threat isn't the drug itself but synthetic varieties masquerading as "pure." Despite its "clean" reputation, many medical experts believe that Molly has become just as contaminated as ecstasy. “Anyone can call something Molly to try to make sound less harmful,” says DEA official Mr. Payne, “But it can be anything.”
It's no secret that prescription opioid use—and abuse—has rapidly risen in recent years, and some new graphs from the New York Times illustrate the economic impact. Narcotic painkillers (containing opioids) are prescribed more than any other class of medications in the country, the Times points out, and prescriptions for the strongest ones (like OxyContin), have nearly quadrupled in the past decade. Between 2001 and 2012, opioid sales shot up 110% (from $3.97 billion to $8.34 billion) and prescriptions rose 33% (181.7 million to 240.9 million). Last week, a study showed that about 13% of the US population carry a prescription for opioid painkillers, which the author described as "a bit concerning considering their addicting nature." Hospitalizations for opioids (other than heroin) rose from 299,498 in 2004 to 885,348 in 2011, and deaths increased fourfold—from 4,030 in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010. Cracking down on the epidemic is also costing taxpayers—in 2010, only 16 states had databases in place to prevent people from getting more opioid prescriptions by visiting other doctors, but now 46 states implement these systems. Still, some people are making a profit: Between 2000 and 2013, the workplace drug-screening industry grew in size from $800 million to $2 billion. And in states where doctors can both prescribe and dispense medication, they're making a killing off marked-up pills—doctors in Illinois, for example, jacked up their painkiller prices by 66% between 2007 and 2011. Many hope that prescription drug take-backs and new treatment methods will alleviate the problem. But stricter controls on Rx painkillers have been linked to a spike in heroin use.
Amy Winehouse's older brother Alex Winehouse says drug and alcohol abuse took their toll on the late singer, but she ultimately died from bulimia. Winehouse told Observer Magazine that his sister, who died in July 2011 at age 27, "would have died anyway, the way she was going" but he believes that her eating disorder "left her weaker and more susceptible." An inquest into Winehouse's death showed that she had five times the legal drink-drive limit of alcohol in her system, which was enough to make her comatose and depress her respiratory system. "What really killed her was the bulimia," claims her brother. "Had she not have had an eating disorder, she would have been physically stronger." He says that the singer's eating disorder began at age 17 and was spurred on by a group of friends who also binged and purged. But while her friends eventually recovered, "Amy never really stopped," he recalls, "We all knew she was doing it but it's almost impossible [to tackle], especially if you're not talking about it." Winehouse now helps run the Amy Winehouse Foundation with their father Mitch Winehouse. The charity recently donated to Beat, the world's largest eating disorders charity, to help it continue running an internet forum with a chat moderator. "We had to support eating disorder charities because no one talks about it," says Alex. "I just want to try to raise awareness of bulimia. It's a real dark, dark issue." According to the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence, 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, 40% of whom suffer from bulimia.
Why can't two panhandlers with a shared affinity for honesty get along? News reports say a battle for turf broke out between two panhandlers on Friday night in Times Square—one whose sign reads "Help! I need money for weed" and the other whose sign reads "I need beer." After his rival allegedly spat on him, Joshua Long aka "Weed Man" reportedly stabbed Wayne Semancik, aka "Beer Man," at their shared post on 42nd street, near 7th avenue. "When you spit in my face, darling, I'm going to hit you. I don't care who you are, how big you are, I'm going to hit you," said Semancik. "So the man, he pulled out a pen because I was hitting him, and he started stabbing me in the face, and I have five stab wounds in my face right now." He was treated for minor injuries. Police arrested Long after speaking to two witnesses, who were wearing Alien and Predator masks.
Scientists may have uncovered a way to prevent alcohol relapse by deactivating a neural pathway linked to memories of drinking, that is responsible for cravings. Researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco were able to prevent alcohol-addicted rats from seeking and drinking alcohol, by "turning off" triggers in the animals' brains. “One of the main causes of relapse is craving, triggered by the memory by certain cues—like going into a bar, or the smell or taste of alcohol,” says lead author Segev Barak. “We learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol, there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving.” Researchers put the alcohol-addicted rats through a 10-day abstinence period, before exposing them to the smell and taste of alcohol. When they administered the drug rapamycin on the brain pathway known as mTORC1 immediately after the smell or taste cue, the rat did not return to alcohol. Relapse remains a major obstacle in substance abuse treatment, say researchers, and a reported 70 to 80% of patients relapse in the first several years after rehab or treatment.The authors say more research is needed, but the study shows promise for preventing relapse in human addicts. "It is really thrilling that we were able to completely erase the memory of alcohol and prevent relapse in these animals," says Barak, "This could be a revolution in treatment approaches for addiction, in terms of erasing unwanted memories and thereby manipulating the brain triggers that are so problematic for people with addictions.”
- Why She Drinks: Women and Alcohol Abuse [Wall Street Journal]
- Mexico Pursuing Vanished Victims of Its Drug Wars [New York Times]
- How Cocaine is Transitioning From a Snob-Drug to a Middle-Class Snort [The Economic Times]
- Smoking and Surgery Don't Mix [Addiction Inbox]
- The Soaring Cost of the Opioid Economy [New York Times]
- Thieves Stole $10k in Alcohol From The US Open [USA Today]
- Andy Murray "Got So Drunk He Brushed His Teeth With Face Cream" [Yahoo]
- Rihanna Smokes Enormous Joints in Amsterdam [NY Daily News]