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10/28/14 10:30am

Wisconsin State Rep. Opens Up About Daughter's Drug Addiction


Rep. John Nygren. Photo via

Wisconsin State Rep. John Nygren has been instrumental in drafting seven bills signed into law to help fight drug addiction throughout the state, but it’s a battle he’s also been fighting at home.

His 25-year-old daughter, Cassie, has been arrested three times for drug possession. After her most recent arrest last month for possession of narcotics and an illegal prescription, Nygren opted to not bail her out. Although someone else gave her the money to escape jail, she is now in a treatment program in the Green Bay area.

“One of the things you learn over the years is enabling the behavior is not helpful even though you want to as a parent, and you want to show them the love you have for them,” he said.

Nygren continues to advocate for drug treatment instead of prison for non-violent offenders, believing that it gives addicts a better chance of contributing to the community and is a better use of state resources.

"I see the dollars we spend on corrections and a lot of them spend on drug offenses and the recidivism rate on those crimes is almost 100 percent,” he said. “What we’re doing right now isn’t working, so we have to look for ways that can help not only our state and our finances, but to help the addicts become taxpayers instead of draining our resources.”

Cassie Nygren isn’t the only daughter of daughter of a prominent politician to struggle with addiction, though. Chiara de Blasio, the daughter of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, spoke about her abuse of weed and alcohol in a video released last December by his e-mail campaign. The now 20-year-old claimed that her drug abuse was triggered in part by clinical depression, but had been sober for several months after attending outpatient treatment.

"It made it easier, the more I drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people that I wouldn’t have,” said Chiara in the video. “It didn’t start out as like a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing for me. [Quitting drugs] was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s so worth it."

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By McCarton Ackerman

pill mill doc

10/28/14 8:30am

California Doctor Accused of Writing Thousands of Illegal Prescriptions



A California doctor will move forward in his trial after pleading not guilty to writing thousands of illegal prescriptions for powerful painkillers and then laundering the money he received.

Daniel Chan, 47, was arrested at his home last week after 31 counts were filed against him. The case against him alleges that he wrote over 42,000 prescriptions since 2010, primarily for oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprazolam. Thousands of these prescriptions were written at his offices between 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. on weekends with the San Gabriel doctor reportedly post-dating them to make it appear as though they were written during the week.

He was also willing to give access to medications to people who were in no position to receive them. One undercover cop told Chan he was “high and drunk” before receiving a prescription, while another undercover officer was issued one even after presenting a written notice that his license had been suspended for a DUI.

“Unscrupulous doctors who prescribe controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose are simply fueling a black market of narcotics," said acting U.S. Atty. Stephanie Yonekura said in a statement. "These doctors are the same as street dealers who face lengthy sentences in federal prison.” Chan will likely post $140,000 bail in order to avoid for prison now, but will be confined to home detention and forbidden from practicing medicine during that time.

Some doctors have also been prone to abusing the medications they dispense, going to extreme measures to obtain them. A  former Las Vegas physician was arrested last August on charges of obtaining fraudulently controlled substances after posing as a dead patient for two years to score drugs. Dr. Kent Swaine, whose license had been previously revoked due to his drug use, had been writing prescriptions under the name of Alexander Hyt, a patient who died of cancer in August 2011 and posing as him at pharmacies in order to take home the drugs.

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By McCarton Ackerman


10/28/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 28, 2014



By Shawn Dwyer

addict & abuse

10/27/14 7:30pm

Researchers Link Child Abuse to Higher Risk of Relapse



According to a new study by researchers at the NYU School of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine, a history of child abuse significantly raises the risk of relapse for adult addicts in early recovery. While previous studies have shown that a history of child abuse or neglect increases the risk for substance abuse disorders in adulthood, such studies were focused on the risk of developing such disorders as opposed to the risk of relapse once treatment for a substance abuse disorder is begun.

Published in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Psychiatry, the study highlighted the difficulty of treating adult addicts with a history of child abuse. After entering treatment, a significant number of addicts relapse back into substance use. Given this new connection between such relapses and a history of child abuse has now been firmly established, it raises the difficulty factor for treatment centers trying to achieve successful outcomes.

The researchers from the two schools used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to examine the brains of 79 people in treatment for substance use disorder. They examined the changes in brain function that heighten the risks for relapse. They specifically assessed whether individuals with a history of child abuse have increased chances of relapsing during treatment.

In the study, some of the addicted subjects had a history of childhood abuse while others did not. The study also included an additional 98 people unaffected by substance use disorder. Just like in the addict population, some had histories of childhood abuse while others did not. In each group, the researchers looked for certain changes in the brain previously linked to an increased risk for relapsing.

After analyzing the results of MRI exams, the study revealed clear indications of relapse-related changes in the normal brain function of participants with a history of childhood abuse. The researchers concluded that the increased relapse risk is roughly the same for all addictive substances under consideration. In addition, it also was shown that subjects with a history of childhood abuse had particularly severe relapse episodes when compared to their counterparts.

The authors of the study note that almost five out of every 10 people who experience neglect or abuse during childhood will eventually develop substance problems. The findings clearly indicated that such a history has the potential to lower effective treatment rates for substance use disorders. As a result, treatment centers could adjust and even improve their outcomes considerably by taking abuse history into account when working with clients.

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By John Lavitt

synthetic drugs

10/27/14 5:30pm

Synthetic Drug 'Cloud 9' Causes Dozens of Hospitalizations


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The hospitalization of more than two-dozen high school students after taking the new synthetic drug Cloud 9 has prompted Michigan parents to take action to protect their kids.

Local health officials have placed the state on high alert over the dangers of the this latest synthetic street drug. Despite being illegal, doctors across the state report seeing a rise in the popularity of Cloud 9 as kids smoke, drink, or inhale the drug in a vaporizer. Sold primarily as a liquid in eyedropper bottles, the drug is often used with e-cigarettes or "hookah pens."

Also known as Hookah Relax, Cloud 9 is made from a base of AB-PINACA, a synthetic cannabinoid refined in Japan. To make the new drug, AB-PINACA is combined with common household chemicals. These chemicals are found in common household items such as air fresheners and bath salts, and are highly toxic.

Police say teens are also smoking it with marijuana and adding it to energy drinks, becoming “garage chemists.” Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik told a local radio station, “Parents can be easily fooled by the packaging, which looks like an air freshener or bath salts…(But) The drug is absolutely deadly…Teens are getting really sick and having near-death experiences.”

Side effects of ingesting Cloud 9 include paranoia, suicidal ideation, nightmarish hallucinations, and chest pains leading to near heart attacks. In a couple of cases, high school students were admitted into psychiatric facilities after mixing the compound with prescription drugs like Xanax and Vicodin. The mixture with the prescription narcotic and the benzodiazepine led to adverse psychological reactions.

Costing about $20 for a small vial, the product can be found inside head shops, gas stations, and convenience stores in Michigan. A Westland mother said her 17-year-old daughter bought Cloud 9 at a local gas station earlier this year and became hooked. The distraught woman described what happened when her daughter finally stopped using. "She couldn't eat and couldn't sleep. My daughter dropped 30 pounds. There were three weeks of withdrawal from it.”

Wayne County's Environmental Health staff presently are conducting random inspections of suspected retailers. Businesses found selling the Cloud 9 base substances will be asked to stop selling the products or potentially face legal action.

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By John Lavitt

casualties of war

10/27/14 3:30pm

Women Prisoners Are the Unspoken Casualties of the War on Drugs



The latest set of disturbing statistics regarding the fallout from the war on drugs shows that the United States has the largest population of women behind bars in the world, and at least a third of those prisoners have been incarcerated for drug offenses.

A report from the International Center on Women Detainees showed that of the 625,000 women currently behind bars across the globe, a third of that number, which accounts for more than 200,000 women, are currently in U.S. prisons. They make up nearly 9% of the country’s entire prison population.

The country with the second highest number of women in prison is China, which despite a history of human rights abuse, holds only 84,600 women in detention. Furthermore, while the worldwide female prison population has been on the rise since 2006, North and South America have experienced the largest increase at 23%.

Another study by The Sentencing Project found that a third of female prisoners in the United States are serving time on drug-related charges. That number is also on the rise, and at a rate of nearly twice the number of men incarcerated for similar offenses. For many female prisoners, the punishment continues even after they complete their sentences.

A 2013 report by The Sentencing Project found that 12 states continue to impose a lifetime ban on benefits, work requirements and food stamps allotted by the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs to women with felony drug convictions on their record.

The ban, instituted as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, has been lifted or modified by 28 states. But Arkansas, Alabama, Delaware, Missouri, and Texas are among the eight that continue to impose the full ban, while 24 more, including California, continue to impose a partial ban on either TANF or SNAP benefits.

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By Paul Gaita


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