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Addiction "Treatment"

10/17/12 11:48am

Cult "Treatment" Leads to Loss of Addict's Leg

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Lost Photo via

Most US rehab centers would advocate against duct-taping people to help them recover from drug addiction. Hinting at the reasons behind this policy, one man has had to have his right leg amputated above the knee as a result of this method. Queens resident Myung Ching has been arrested, along with her fiance Sung-Peel Youn, for stuffing a sock into the mouth of her drug-addicted, mentally ill brother Seungick, then binding his wrists, ankles and knees with duct tape in the basement of a Flushing, NY church. This was apparently ordered by Pastor Ok-Joo Shin, the leader of what Ching's family calls a Korean-American Christian cult. "The couple believed the pastor, who is a woman. They say she's God," says Youn’s sister, Sarah. “They made it so tight—and all the time they were praying and singing. They thought God would make him a regular person.” Two days later, Myung Ching noticed that her brother's foot was swollen. But it wasn only eight days after the "treatment" that she took him to a dermatologist—by which point his leg was purple, black and blue. The dermatologist ordered them to the emergency room, where amputation was deemed necessary. Ching and her fiance have since been charged with assault, reckless endangerment and unlawful imprisonment; they're being held on $150,000 bail.

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By McCarton Ackerman

smoking bans

10/17/12 10:54am

Do Smoking Bans Cut Drinking, Too?

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Can't have one without the other? Photo via

Banning smoking in bars may also curb alcohol abuse, according to Yale researchers. For many people, smoking and drinking go—quite literally—hand in hand, and a new study from the Yale School of Medicine discovered that states which don’t allow smoking in bars have a higher recovery rate from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the study drew from data collected on 19,763 citizens in 49 states from 2001-2005. Around 15% of the study’s participants came from states with smoke-free bars, including Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. “Smoking and drinking are considered complements, so if smoking becomes more difficult, use of alcohol may decline,” says Yale professor Jody Sindelar, one of the study’s lead authors. “This would be likely to occur in bars in which smoking is banned.” Past research has indicated that nicotine addicts are four times as likely as non-smokers to have AUD, and about 35% of people with AUD are habitual smokers. Still, some health professionals have doubts, believing it doesn't provide enough information to back up potential policy changes. Adam Goldstein, Professor at the UNC School of Medicine, says: “This is not a strong enough study, with strong enough results linked to causality, for which you could make [a policy] recommendation and not be faced with a lot of criticism.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

10/17/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 17, 2012

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Amy Winehouse and her dad, Mitch.
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By Chrisanne Grise

Race and Drugs

10/16/12 5:01pm

Art Exhibit Confronts Race and the Drug War

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Mariame Kaba co-curated the exhibit,
Black/Inside. Photo via

A new art exhibit, Black/Inside: A History of Captivity & Confinement in the US, is set to relay a powerful message about the relationship between the War on Drugs and the history of black criminalization and incarceration in America. The exhibit, which opens at the University of Illinois Chicago’s African American Cultural Center Gallery on October 23, will showcase a collection of photographs, postcards and newspaper articles from colonial times until the present. They were amassed over the past 15 years—initially as a hobby—by the exhibit's co-curator, Mariame Kaba. The War on Drugs has been central in “accelerating the way black people have been disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system since arriving in the colonies,” Kaba tells The Fix. An organizer, educator, writer and self-proclaimed “rabble rouser,” Kaba is also the Founding Director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization with a mission to end youth incarceration. She hopes that the exhibit will help people to better understand mass incarceration, and to examine the complicity of those supporting politicians whose laws "criminalize classes of people in an inequitable way."

"Are black people more likely to do drugs and sell drugs? No," says Kaba. "Are they more likely to be incarcerated? Yes." Referring to the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the enormous differences between punishments for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, she points out that sentences remain drastically more severe for crack, at a rate of 18:1. “This disparity shows the arbitrary nature of these things,” she says. But in spite of a history of institutional inequality, she's not without hope. "We are at a moment when there are too many people behind bars, the system has overloaded," she says. "It cannot continue the way it has been." And she believes the country's current economic situation could actually help the cause: "This moment coincides with a difficult economic crisis in the country, so people who would regularly not pay attention or be on the same side are starting to talk about decriminalizing drugs and not involving the criminal justice system at all.”

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By Sarah Beller

smoking bans

10/16/12 4:00pm

Russia Declares Cold War on Big Tobacco

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A smoker braving the cold for a puff.
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The size of Russia's tobacco market is second only to China's, but it could soon take a hit with the Kremlin's tough new plan to crack down on smoking. A bill with restrictions similar to those found in the West—including outlawing advertising, raising taxes and banning smoking in public spaces—will likely be submitted to parliament next month. "We are ready. This is going to be a harsh measure, but it is absolutely necessary,” says a spokesman for Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. “It will take time—maybe another generation—but we will succeed in defeating smoking and promoting a healthy lifestyle." An estimated 44 million Russians currently smoke, at a rate nearly double that in the US. The country goes through about 390 billion cigarettes a year, which results in enormous profits for the tobacco industry; so naturally, companies and lobbyists are lining up in fierce opposition to the bill. “We have expressed our opinions on certain aspects of the bill,” says a spokesperson for Japan Tobacco International, which controls 37% of the market. "I wouldn't say we are lobbying. We are just letting our position be known." Despite opposition from tobacco companies, officials expect the bill to pass, largely due to its endorsement by President Vladimir Putin. "This law would not exist without Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin],” says Sergei Kalashnikov, head of the Russian parliament’s health committee. “There is tremendous opposition to it, but it will be adopted.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

legalizing Marijuana

10/16/12 3:01pm

Pro-Pot Campaigns Recruit the Right

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Republican Tom Tancredo joins the pro-
legalization movement. Photo via

While prohibitionists like Bill O’Reilly would have you believe that anti-prohibitionists are a bunch of “far left loons,” the truth is far more complicated. Activists in Colorado, Oregon and Washington—the latest marijuana legalization front lines—have been joined by some serious conservative voices, with Republican Tom Tancredo joining now-Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. Mark Slaugh, one of the volunteers for Colorado's pro-pot Proposition 64, has been successfully campaigning in locales that might seem like enemy territory at first glance. He recently attended a rally held by VP nominee Paul Ryan, handing out flyers to make the case to tax and regulate pot like alcohol. Slaugh doesn’t see this as a left or right issue: “It’s fiscally prudent,” he says. “It would be taxed, regulated, monitored. It makes a lot of sense to Republicans.” 

The latest Republican pro-legalization volley comes from Tom Tancredo, the former congressman from suburban Denver who briefly ran for president in 2008. He's launched a radio ad describing marijuana prohibition as “failed government program” that “steers Colorado money to criminals in Mexico.” Comparing marijuana prohibition to the disastrous experiment of alcohol prohibition, Tancredo says, “Proponents of big government have duped us into supporting a similar prohibition of marijuana—even though it can be used safely and responsibly by adults.”

Of course, most of the right isn't convinced: the Romney campaign has announced its opposition to States' rights when it comes to marijuana, and most Republicans remain opposed to full legalization (although 67% of Republicans want to end the federal crackdown on MMJ.) Drug warriors are warning of a “constitutional showdown” if the legalization proposals pass. In a teleconference on Monday, Peter Bensinger, the former DEA administrator, tried to put the pressure on Attorney general Eric Holder to come out publicly against the proposals. "Federal law, the US Constitution and Supreme Court decisions say that this cannot be done because federal law preempts state law," he warned. And that's not all, apparently: “There is a bigger danger that touches every one of us,” Bensinger continued. “Legalizing marijuana threatens public health and safety. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, drug driving arrests, accidents, and drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Drug treatment admissions are up and the number of teens using this gateway drug is up dramatically." Bensinger was joined by perennial War on Drugs cheerleaders such as Bill Bennet and John Walters, former directors of the While House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Chief Richard Beary of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP); and Dr. Robert L. DuPont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Not everyone treated their intervention with the gravity they would have preferred: “The call today should be taken as seriously as an event by former coal industry CEOs opposing legislation curtailing greenhouse gas emissions,” retorted Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Colorado's likely-to-pass Amendment 64. “They are stuck in a certain mindset and no level of evidence demonstrating the weakness of their position will change their views.”

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By Tony O'Neill

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