The U.S. Navy recently released a public service announcement relating the horrors of the designer drug "bath salts." In a harrowing video (below), viewers look out through the eyes of a young man "jacked up" on the synthetic drug, as his friends and girlfriend turn into ghoulish zombie. "Bath salts not only will jack-up your family and your career," warns Naval Doctor and Officer, Lt. George Loeffler, in the ad, "they will jack up your mind and your body too." The video is part of a campaign rolled out last month to emphasize the Navy's "zero-tolerance policy on designer drug use," said Valeria A. Kremer, of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs. Bath salts set off a firestorm of media scaremongering last year when they were mistakenly blamed for the "Miami Cannibal" incident, when a man's face was nearly chewed off. But the Navy is evidently not aiming to put fear of bath salts to rest anytime soon, referring to the drug's hallucinogenic properties with the warning: "Bath salts: It's not a fad...it's a nightmare."
Could electricity one day overtake pain pills? New research suggests that electrical stimulation of certain brain regions may release an opiate-like substance that reduces severe pain, mimicking the effects of pharmaceutical pain-relievers. The naturally-occurring substance is a "mu-opioid," and pain relief occurs when it binds with a mu-opioid receptor—which is also how most pharmaceutical opiates (like morphine) work. “This is arguably the main resource in the brain to reduce pain,” says lead researcher Dr. Alexandre DaSilva, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. “We’re stimulating the release of our (body’s) own resources to provide analgesia. Instead of giving more pharmaceutical opiates, we are directly targeting and activating the same areas in the brain on which they work." In the recent study, researchers stimulated the brain of an individual who suffered from trigeminal neuropathic pain (TNP)—a type of chronic, severe facial pain. They used a low dose of electricity—2 milliamperes (mA)—which is significantly less than the dosage of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) used to treat depression and other psychiatric conditions. After one session, the patient’s threshold for cold pain improved by 36%, but not the patient’s clinical, TNP/facial pain. This suggests that repetitive electrical stimulation over several sessions might be required to have a lasting effect on clinical pain. But if successful, says DaSilva, electrical stimulation could foreseeably be used in place of highly-addictive pharmaceutical painkillers.
Los Zetas, widely regarded as Mexico's most powerful drug cartel, have reportedly diversified their activities in an attempt to become the most tech-savvy organization of its kind south of the border. The notorious paramilitaries now have their own radio network in order to keep an eye on police activity, and keep their trafficking business running smoothly. Faced with the need to build the right tech team to achieve this, they reportedly kidnapped a number of radio experts—and not one of the 36 missing radio technicians has been seen since. Colonel Bob Killebrew, author of Crime Wars; Gangs, Cartels, and US National Security, tells VICE: "In the United States, we often make the mistake of thinking about the cartels as just drug pushers, when they are actually military terrorist groups. They also deal in kidnapping, murder, extortion—all the crime you can do with a well-organized and ruthless group." Killebrew argues the tech advances made by Los Zetas only serve to further the cartel's scope for ruthlessness. "They have a paramilitary mindset...a chain of command, an appreciation of what technology can do to enhance paramilitary capabilities," he says. "If you’re a military guy who started such a group, one of your first concerns is communications. You can build communication networks at a relatively low expense if you have the expertise." Killebrew says the cartel represents "a new kind of 21st century criminal," and one with potential for destruction—not just within Mexico, but on a global scale. "These cartels are not the mafia—they’re different and they’re worse," he says. "And if you look at them as a global phenomenon, they have the potential to seriously challenge our civilization."
Although rumors of "terrorist activity" swirled after a young New York couple were recently arrested for keeping high-powered explosives in their swanky West Village apartment, cops quickly dismissed the two as "well-to-do junkies," chalking up their criminal activity to drug use. New evidence has now surfaced to support these claims: Morgan Gliedman, 27, and Aaron Greene, 31, were also arrested together last February, when an officer spotted the couple and another woman doing illegal drugs in a car. Greene was injecting heroin while the woman snorted the drug. When cops approached the vehicle, they found empty heroin bags on the floor, marijuana and a digital scale with heroin residue in one of the women’s purses. Greene also admitted that he had an unregistered rifle in the trunk and was ultimately sentenced to five months in jail. And just five days before that, Gliedman allegedly stole a man's backpack which contained a laptop computer, cellphone, wallet and credit cards, which she later used to make purchases. She has not been charged with theft in that case. Gliedman, a new mother, was due to complete pre-trial probation for drug possession next week, but it's likely that the case will be reopened now that police have found the explosives at her apartment, along with two shotguns, ammunition and several pages titled “The Terrorist Encyclopedia.”
Websites like Facebook and YouTube may be blocked in China, but government officials seem to be turning a blind eye to Chinese-language sites selling illegal drugs, The New York Times reports. One site offers a large quantity of wholesale meth for $19,700, and same-day home deliveries of $50-100 packages of ecstasy and cocaine, among other items, have reportedly become commonplace. One Internet vendor even carries the date-rape drug GHB—chillingly referred to as "obedience liquid" in its advertising. “Our company has delivery stations in every part of China,” boasts one website, alongside photos of the illegal narcotics it sells. “We offer 24-hour delivery service to your door, and we have long-term and consistent supplies. If you just make one phone call, we’ll deliver to your hands in one to five hours.” Although selling drugs online is illegal in China and traffickers are routinely executed, the fact that the sites aren't shut down or even blocked suggests that it's not a top government priority. It's also becoming possible for Chinese web users to learn more about their favorite drugs on sites like YouTube; even though the video site is blocked, many web users sidestep the restriction via a virtual private network (VPN). In response, the government rolled out new software in the last month that interferes with VPNs.
- What's in Your Energy Drink? [New York Times]
- Failure of Oversight leads to Columbian Drug Smugglers Laundering Money [The Huffington Post]
- Inmates Sue Beer and Wine Companies [The Associated Press]
- Fructose Linked to Overeating [Salon]
- Brooklyn Drunk Driver Rams into Crowd [Gothamist]
- Billie Joe Armstrong Out Of Rehab, Band Heading Back On Tour [Radar]
- Son of LA Clippers Owner Dies of Reported Drug Overdose [CBS]