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end it now

7/28/14 3:30pm

New York Times Says: End Prohibition of Weed

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In something of a surprising move, the editorial board for the New York Times—after much behind-the-scenes deliberation—went public with a call on Congress to end the prohibition on marijuana.

Titled Repeal Prohibition, Again, the editorial, which was published over the weekend, started with a recap of history by citing the 13 year folly of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s, which did nothing to curb alcohol use while giving rise to organized crime.

So in one simple sentence, the Times made it clear what Congress should do in light of 40 years of bad pot policy: "The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana."

From there, the editors pointed to the rapidly changing laws at the state level over the last 10 or so years, while also underscoring the idea that there are no easy answers about what to do with marijuana use in society regardless of which side of the divide people fall on.

"There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level—health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues—the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization," the editors wrote. "That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs—at the state level."

The Times compared both the societal and medical costs of marijuana to other drugs, noting that over 658,000 people were arrested in 2012 for possession of weed, while just 256,000 were busted for harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. They also correctly pointed out that health and addiction concerns regarding pot use were minor in light of the devastation caused by alcohol or cigarettes.

They concluded their editorial with the grim recognition that the federal government won't do much about the issue, at least in the short term. "We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues," the board wrote. "But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition."

Given the Republican-led Congress' inability to pass anything into law, regardless of how pressing the need, it would be a miracle indeed if prohibition at the federal level were to end.

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By Shawn Dwyer

ipain

7/28/14 1:00pm

4 Physical Side Effects of Being Addicted Your Smartphone

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If your best friend told you that your smartphone addiction has actual physical side effects that were affecting your health, you probably would laugh and shrug it off.

But according to doctors, perhaps you should be listening to that friend after all. Beyond the psychological problems and the resulting anxiety engendered by always needing to use a smartphone, there are actual physical side effects of such extreme behavior.

Doctors have been doing their best to keep up with the storm of smartphone addiction and the new physical difficulties that go hand-in-hand. Here is a list of four physical side effects of your smartphone addiction that are a lot more serious than you think and could have long-lasting consequences:

  1. iPosture: How often do you see people obsessively slouching over their phones for hours at a time? Slouching strains the neck and back muscles. According to a Simplyhealth study of young adults that was conducted in the United Kingdom, 84% experienced back or neck pain in 2013. This is likely the result of being hunched over modern technological devices. 
  2. Computer Vision Syndrome: Did you think that staring at that small screen for hours would actually help your eyes? Squinting to see the miniscule font in your texts as you read through the latest Facebook updates leads to eyestrain, blurred vision, dizziness, and dry eyes. When combined with the back pain caused by iPosture, the negative consequences can be headaches and even migraines.
  3. Text Claw: Although it is not a medical term, text claw describes all of the finger cramping and sore hand muscles that come from continuous scrolling, texting, and gaming on smartphones. Doctors believe that the constant use of smartphones can cause inflammation in tendons, and possibly lead to tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Phantom Smartphone Vibration Syndrome: What’s happening in my pocket? Is someone trying to text or call me? Is my ringer off? Isn’t that my smartphone vibrating? According to Dr. Michelle Drouin, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, 89% of the undergraduates in her study had experienced phantom smartphone vibrations when their phones were not actually vibrating or not even in their pockets. Students dependent on text messages and social media updates became anxious and upset because the phantom vibration was not real.

Although this article focuses on only four physical symptoms of smartphone addiction, the common experience of the psychological dependence—nomophobia—on a smartphone is quite problematic as well. Basically, at some point, human beings might be forced to choose between being 100% connected anywhere anytime and just being healthy.

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By John Lavitt

heroin epidemic

7/28/14 10:30am

Can Ibogaine Curb Afghanistan’s Heroin Problem?

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A former staff member with Doctors of the World is hoping that a unique and controversial treatment for heroin addiction will break the drug’s death grip on the people of Afghanistan.

The country has endured an epidemic of opiate addiction for more than a decade. According to the United Nations, 5.3% of the country’s population—an approximate 1.6 million people—use opiates, including heroin. Despite these horrific conditions, Afghanistan’s leadership does little to assist the victims of this epidemic. Drugs are considered haraam, or sinful, in this devoutly Islamic nation, which is reflected in the relatively small number of beds available in treatment centers across the country.

A new feature on VICE News revealed that an eclectic group of figures from the medical, entertainment, and drug reform worlds have teamed to present a method of heroin addiction treatment that has generated equal amounts of support and concern. Murtaza Majeed, a former Kabul resident and staffer with Doctors of the World’s harm reduction program, hopes to open the first rehab clinic in Afghanistan that specializes in ibogaine treatment.

Ibogaine is a psychotropic drug that has been used in coming-of-age ceremonies in Central America for centuries. More recently, it has enjoyed increasing support from elements of both the scientific and recovery communities as an alternative means of ending heroin addiction. Majeed has enlisted Dimitri “Mobengo” Mugianis, an ibogaine “shaman” who has performed ceremonies with the substance on recovering addicts in the U.S. and Costa Rica, as an adviser, and financial support from indie rapper Felipe Coronel, a.k.a. Immortal Technique, who was introduced to Majeed’s cause by medical marijuana supporter Dana Beal, who hopes to use the Afghan treatment center as a gateway for greater acceptance of ibogaine in America.

The problem with Majeed’s quest: while ibogaine can produce vivid dream imagery, it also has a number of debilitating side effects, including extreme nausea. It’s also been linked to 19 deaths, due largely to pre-existing medical conditions or harmful interaction with other drugs. As a result, ibogaine is considered a Schedule I drug in the United States, on par with heroin and marijuana. While the substance is neither banned nor legal in Afghanistan, American health officials hold sway over Afghan policy decisions on drug issues, which may present a roadblock to widespread acceptance.

The country’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics has been notoriously slow to accept any treatment for heroin—methadone took years to gain even a modest foothold in Afghanistan—and there is also the issue of how Islamic leaders will view a drug with intense psychoactive properties. Majeed hopes to establish a pilot program before approaching the Ministries of Public Health and Justice, but expects that the road to acceptance of ibogaine in Afghanistan will be a long and rocky one.

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By Paul Gaita

another painkiller

7/28/14 8:30am

FDA Approves New Painkiller From Oxy Maker Purdue Pharma

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Purdue Pharma, the infamous pharmaceutical company behind OxyContin, has just received approval for Targiniq ER, a new oxycodone-based narcotic painkiller. Called Targiniq ER, the pill is a combination of the narcotic oxycodone and naloxone, a drug that blocks the euphoric effects of oxycodone. Trying to change its tarnished image, the company is promoting the safety of the new formulation after pleading guilty in 2007 to misleading the public about the risk of Oxycontin addiction.

The Naloxone only takes effect, however, when the pill is crushed. The goal of the new drug is to prevent Targiniq ER from being crushed so it can be snorted or dissolved and injected. A problem with this approach is the majority of people who now abuse previously approved oxycodone derivatives do not abuse the painkillers in this fashion. They actually abuse prescription oxycodone derivatives like OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan by simply taking too many pills.

After the disastrous approval of Zohydro and all the resulting bad press, the FDA is trying to change its own image. Nevertheless, the experts do not agree with this approach. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer of the Phoenix House, an alcohol and drug abuse treatment provider, told CNN, “When the pills are swallowed they are as addictive and dangerous as pure oxycodone."

Nevertheless, upon approving Targiniq ER, the FDA declared a victory. In an agency press release, Dr. Sharon Hertz, deputy director of the division of anesthesia, analgesia, and addiction products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, declared, "Encouraging the development of opioids with abuse-deterrent properties is just one component of a broader approach to reducing abuse and misuse."

A problem with such early claims in regards to a new drug is Targiniq ER is an extended release formula. When addicts get their hands on such pills, they will pop them until they feel the high. This same problem happened with the extended release formula of OxyContin, resulting in thousands of overdoses from addicts taking too many pills. When the extended release formulas all hit at once, the extreme consequence was overdose and often death.

The FDA did warn that Targiniq could still be abused by taking too many pills. “Targiniq ER has properties that are expected to deter, but not totally prevent, abuse of the drug by snorting and injection,” the press release said. They went on to illuminate future policy by stating, “The FDA is requiring postmarketing studies of Targiniq ER, to assess the serious risks of misuse, abuse, increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia), addiction, overdose, and death associated with long term use beyond 12 weeks.”

As someone on the front lines of the prescription painkiller battle, Kolodny disagreed with this approach. “If we really want to turn this epidemic around, the most important thing is to stop creating new cases of addiction," Kolodny said. "Coming up with new gimmicks isn’t going to help."

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By John Lavitt

headlines

7/28/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: July 28, 2014

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Four more years? Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

progress

7/25/14 7:30pm

Drug Users Welcomed For First Time at Global AIDS Confab

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After decades of being left out, intravenous drug users had their voices heard last week at the 20th annual International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

A small group of drug users were permitted to enter the conference this year and a small booth in the conference hall had a sign which read: “People Who Use Drugs.” One of the participants at the booth, a heroin user named Ruth, said the medical community needed to be more inclusive with drug users and not flatly condemn them.

“I think it’s becoming more and more difficult for the international HIV and AIDS community to exclude drug users,” she said. “If we’re going to tackle this epidemic, we need to be looking at the environments that allow HIV to flourish, and certainly criminalization of both sex work and drug use are the best friends of HIV.”

Susie McLean, a senior adviser on HIV and drug use at the International HIV/AIDS Alliances, said that 30% of all new HIV infections worldwide come from intravenous drug users if you exclude sub-Saharan Africa. “They’re not a marginal group in terms of the HIV dynamics. They’re a primary group,” she said. “We think that a lot of the problem that goes on in public policy is what I tend to call 'othering'—in which we say that people who use drugs are other people over there, and that they’re bad.”

The World Health Organization has publicly supported naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of heroin and methadone overdoses. But despite this, Ruth believes that drug users are still marginalized or outright removed from discussions about their health and elevated risk of obtaining HIV.

“People who use drugs aren’t aliens. They aren’t bent on self-destruction or interested in punching your grandmother for her TV,” she said. “We’re just all making our way in this world as best we can, and some people find that drugs help them do that, and some people don’t. And I really don’t think it should be the business of those who don’t to mess with the business of those who do.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

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