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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin


4/14/14 8:30am

Afghan Woman Maimed By Husband For Not Scoring Heroin



A young wife from Afghanistan is desperate for reconstructive facial surgery after being maimed by her drug-addicted husband.

Sitara, 23, was sold off as a child bride at the age of seven. Her husband, 20 years older than her, was a hashish addict at the beginning of their marriage and eventually progressed into a crippling heroin and crystal meth addiction. She had already refused his demands for a divorce so that she could protect their daughters from being married off for a few thousand dollars each in order to facilitate his drug use. But he mercilessly beat Sitara when she refused to give him money and a ring to sell.

After bashing Sitara’s head in so severely that part of her brain was protruding from her skull, her husband cut off her nose and upper lip with a knife. One of their four children, 10-year-old Somia, witnessed the incident, but he threatened to kill the girl if she screamed for help. Sitara’s husband eventually fled the scene and neighbors who heard the screaming called police. “I struggled but then blacked out,” recalled Sitara. “When I woke up, I tried to touch my nose and lips but I felt nothing."

Doctors in Afghanistan stabilized Sitara, but the damage to her face was so severe that she was flown to Turkey for reconstructive surgery. Surgeons used part of Sitara's forehead to construct a new nose, while taking tissue from her thigh to rebuild her upper lip. However, she’s unhappy with the results and hoping to find a surgeon in the U.S. for additional surgery.“I hate [my face] every day. It would be better to be injected with poison and die. That’s how I feel,” she said. “When my children saw me after my face changed, they didn’t believe I was their mother.”

Sitara’s husband has still evaded police, leading authorities to believe he fled into the mountains or crossed to Iran. But the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan still stepped in to relocate her and the children into a new home. Somia said witnessing the attack has inspired her to become a doctor so she can help others like her mother.

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By McCarton Ackerman


4/14/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 14, 2014


What could go wrong? Shuttstock

By Shawn Dwyer

rob ford

4/11/14 7:30pm

Rob Ford Video Game 'Crackathon' Is Launched


That's a lotta crack! Photo via

When it comes to Toronto mayor Rob Ford, it’s easy to poke fun since the jokes seem to write themselves. And now the joke continues, as the infamous Mayor of Toronto has his very own game called Crackathon.

It goes without saying this hasn’t been launched by Nintendo or any legit video game company, so don’t expect to see it in the local Game Stop. But by now just about everyone has played the game that the New York Daily News has called “outrageously addictive.” The goals of the game? Make sure Ford doesn’t get impeached and rack up so-called party points by collecting crack pipes, pot, and bottles of booze.

Like any good video game, you have to dodge a lot of foes, and in this case it’s reporters with cameras and the police. You collect party points while pushing your way through clouds of crack smoke. The game also features real soundbites from Ford himself, including “Probably in one of my drunken stupors,” “I did absolutely nothing wrong,” and “Get off the property!” If the screen flashes the message that you’ve been impeached, that means game over.

While not the first Rob Ford game - there's also Flappy Ford and Stay Mayor - Crackathon was created by two engineering students from the University of Waterloo, Nick Mostowich and Chris Ngan. The game was created in sixteen hours, and as Mostowich pointed out on Reddit, Crackathon “is not supposed to be taken seriously…Cheers and happy cracking!”

Play Crackathon here.

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By David Konow

up in smoke

4/11/14 5:30pm

Booming Black Market for Cigarettes On the Rise



First, the good news: the number of adult smokers in the United States has declined by 13 percent in the last five years, due in part to a combination of local, state, and federal taxes that have raised the price of cigarettes.

That’s according to a National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, and they are encouraging numbers given how smoking remains a leading cause of death for Americans. But the wave of taxation designed to discourage smokers has also given rise to a booming black market for smuggled cigarettes that generates millions of dollars in sales for its participants and takes away an estimated $5 billion a year from state coffers.

For more than a decade, enterprising cigarette smugglers have traveled from cities where cigarette taxes are high – like New York, where the average price of a pack is $12 to $14 – and purchased thousands of dollars in cartons from states like Virginia and North Carolina, where cigarette taxes are more relaxed. The cartons are brought back to the major cities, where small business owners buy the contraband at a reduced price and then sell it back to customers at a cost that hovers near the legal price. Everyone draws a profit, except for the state. An estimated 57 percent of cigarettes sold in New York City are from black market sellers, which costs the state $525 million per year.

Lawmakers have attempted to cut into smuggling profits with legislation that has made the sale of cigarettes illegal unless the seller has first paid the state tax. Native American tribes in New York have also been prevented from selling untaxed cigarettes to non-tribe members and the city, along with the American Lung Association, has lobbied the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish a program by which cigarette packs can be traced from the manufacturer to the individual consumer.

There’s another reason why state and federal officials are interested in curbing the cigarette black market: to reduce the number of young smokers. A study done by the New York City Department of Health, along with economics professors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Hunter College, estimated that the number of young smokers in New York would drop by 10 percent if cigarette smuggling was wiped out.

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By Paul Gaita

slightly higher

4/11/14 3:30pm

Colorado Pot Sales Up Slightly in Second Month of Retail Weed



Colorado collected about $4.1 million from medical and recreational marijuana taxes and fees in February, a slight increase from January, according to figures released by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Tuesday. In January, when the sale of recreational marijuana officially began, the state collected $3.5 million.

Surprisingly, most of the money came from medical marijuana sales, despite the opening of recreational pot retailers on January 1. The uncertainty of the marijuana market made Gov. John Hickenlooper scale back his planned budget for the millions of dollars in projected marijuana taxes and fees. He originally predicted the state would collect $67 million and $134 million for the fiscal year beginning in July, but has since reduced this estimate by more than $20 million. Hickenlooper proposed spending the money on youth harm prevention, police training to detect stoned drivers, and a pilot project to study marijuana use during pregnancy.

Last year, Colorado voters approved pot taxes of 10 percent sales taxes and 15 percent excise taxes, in addition to regular sales taxes. Voters decided to allocate the first $40 million of recreational pot excise taxes collected to go toward school construction, with the rest of the money to be appropriated by lawmakers. Since revenues from marijuana have been difficult to predict, future estimates remain uncertain.

“It’s impossible to know, based on these first two months, how much revenue they’ll be in the future,” said Natalie Mullis, chief economist for the state’s Legislative Council, which provides the state with revenue forecasts.  

Lawmakers are being cautious about spending money that hasn’t materialized yet. Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) asked, “What is the level of urgency and threat that makes us want to hurry up and spend the money before it even comes in the door?”

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By Victoria Kim

outdated policy

4/11/14 1:00pm

Outdated Federal Policy Restricts In-Patient Treatment at Rehabs


Millions will be denied help. Shutterstock.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, has promised to make sweeping changes in benefits for individuals dealing with addiction, with some 62.5 million individuals receiving increased substance abuse coverage and 32.1 million getting such benefits for the first time.

But a decades-old policy regarding the number of beds in drug and alcohol treatment facilities remains a huge roadblock for the 23 million Americans who need in-patient treatment. Under federal guidelines established in 1965, inpatient facilities with more than 16 beds are considered Institutions for Mental Disease, and as such are ineligible for matching payments from Medicaid to fund residential services.

The policy was enacted to prevent psychiatric hospitals from housing large numbers of patients in order to draw funds from state and local governments. While the restriction has prevented patient warehousing, it has also forced rehabilitation centers to turn away patients despite the fact that they are eligible for care under the ACA. In states like California, only 10 percent of available inpatient beds meet the federal government’s standards.

Representatives from state health care services departments and various treatment facilities have lobbied the government to provide some flexibility to the policy. But according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, no plans to change the law are expected. Instead, the government is working on a variety of additional options, including treating patients with programs paid for with other federal money.

Response from the treatment facility industry has been negative. “Everyone is in agreement about how dumb this is,” said Arthur Schut, chief executive officer of Arapahoe House, a residential and outpatient drug and alcohol rehab center in Denver. “It doesn’t work economically, and it doesn’t work for the people seeking treatment."

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By Paul Gaita


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