Now that marijuana has been legalized in two states, an optimistic Tommy Chong believes the rest of the nation will soon follow suit. O Al Gore's Current TV, the actor shared his utopian vision for the future of marijuana in America: “Washington and Colorado, they're just the toe into the water. The whole body's following," If marijuana legalization does sweep across other states, Chong claims: “It's gonna legalize hemp. It's also going to empty the jails and we're probably going to disband the DEA.” The actor, who is best known for starring alongside Cheech Marin in the cult classic marijuana-themed Cheech & Chong movies, also believes that legalization will lead to a new golden age in art and culture. “Marijuana enhances the creative ability of artists, that's well known," he explained. "That goes all the way back to Rembrandt and Van Gogh, for instance... These aren't guys that are smoking pot just to relax or to cure some medical ailment. These are guys that are smoking pot so they could get the ideas, the creative ideas, that pot creates." Without the mind-altering substance, he claimed: "We wouldn't have had the Beatles.” Chong's hopes for a nationwide victory for weed are personal, as well as political; he says he won't miss the thrill of smoking an illicit substance. "Going to jail and being arrested by cops and being hassled for having a plant, or smoking a plant, is never fun," he recently told NPR. "There's nothing glamorous...that we're going to miss."
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A four-year-old boy in San Diego got more than a taste of the strong stuff early, landing him in the hospital. Alex and his five-month-old brother were being looked after, while their mother was out, by her 22-year-old boyfriend. But when the boyfriend left the room, Alex grabbed for the vodka-and-Squirt cocktail that he'd left unattended on the table—and downed it. By the time his mom returned home, Alex was passed out and unresponsive, leading his mother to scream, according to a witness, "Why, why is he still here? Why? What's wrong?" (The mom was evidently referring to the fact that, while her son was out cold, her boyfriend hadn't had the presence of mind to rush him to the hospital.) Doctors later determined that Alex's blood-alcohol content had been .23%, nearly three times an adult's legal limit—much less a child. (Reportedly, having a BAC that high is the equivalent of a 160-pound grown-up consuming 10 drinks.) Thankfully, Alex has fully recovered and is out of the hospital; the boyfriend is getting off scot-free.
Video games like Farmville and Words With Friends are specifically designed to get people hooked, with the industry even hiring psychiatric professionals to help make them more addictive. And the tactic seems to be working. Recent research shows that video games can be just as addictive as drugs, alcohol or gambling. "It's the same exact clinical symptoms: preoccupation, loss of control, inability to stop," says Dr. Timothy Fong, who runs a UCLA clinic for behavioral addiction. "They keep playing the game despite harmful consequences so, in my mind, absolutely I believe it is the same disease as alcohol or drug addiction." While the stereotypical video game player is a nerdy teenager, Fong says that plenty of adults also find themselves unable to put down the controller. "The average age of our patients is about 40. We've seen housewives, doctors, lawyers," he says. One addicted gamer, DiAnn Edwards of PA, says she plays Farmville up to eight hours a day, spending up to $200 a month on the habit. "It just gets addicting," she says. "I'm 51 and what am I doing sitting here playing a Farmville game? I don't get it, but it actually drives me crazy."
Still, the American Psychological Association is unwilling to recognize video game addiction as an official diagnosis. It does however list "video game psychologist" as a "hot career" since the gaming industry is increasingly hiring psychologists as consultants; they use their expertise of the human mind to make the games more enticing, and harder to put down. Ariella Lehrer, a trained psychologist who designs games for middle aged women, says the psychology behind the games is "pure Las Vegas," using flashy graphics and sparse rewards to get players hooked within 20 minutes. "We learned this with rats in a food pedestal," she says. "If you only occasionally give a reward then you keep going. That's what Las Vegas does. The rewards don't come every time."
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California pharmaceutical companies are teaming up in the hopes of overturning a ruling in Alameda County, California that will require them to run—and pay for—a program for consumers to turn in unused medicines for proper disposal. Drug "take-back" programs, in which unused pharmaceuticals are dropped off and collected at public locations, have gained popularity across the country. Leaving unused prescription drugs in the home is considered a health and public safety hazard, especially given the country's growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Local and government agencies have primarily been paying for take-back programs, but there is now an increasing call to make pharmaceutical companies pay for these services. "We feel the industry that profits from the sales of these products should have the financial responsibility for proper management and disposal,” said Miriam Gordon, California director of Clean Water Action, an advocacy group. Drug companies in Alameda County are now being required to submit plans for implementation by July 2013, but the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) plans to file a lawsuit today in the hopes of getting the law overturned.
James M. Spears, general counsel of PhRMA, said the ruling is a constitutional violation because local government is interfering with interstate commerce, a right usually reserved for Congress. “They are telling a company in New Jersey that you have to come in and design and implement and pay for a municipal service in California,” he said. “This program is one where the cost is shifted to companies and individuals who are not located in Alameda County and who won’t be served by it.” Legislators in seven states have introduced similar bills in recent years, while the pharmaceutical industry already pays for take-back programs in some countries like Canada. The take-back program in British Columbia, with a population of four million, costs $500,000 per year. However, Spears said disposing of drugs at take-back locations may not be the best option because it adds travel time for consumers and the collection points could become a target for thieves and addicts. He recommends tying up unused pills in a plastic bag and throwing them in the trash.