The two most powerful drug gangs in El Salvador, Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18, called a truce earlier this month and violence has dramatically decreased in the country. An official announcement has been made that last Saturday was El Salvador's first murder-free day in three years. This is the first day without killings since President Mauricio Funes took office in June 2009, when the country had an average of 12 murders per day. "After years where the number of murders reached alarming levels of up to 18 per day (in early 2012), we saw not one homicide in the country," said Fumes in a statement. Much of the violence in El Salvador is blamed on Mexican drug cartels that use the country as a transit point. According to United Nations data, El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world at 66 per 100,000 people.
"Tramp stamps," tiger-clad-biceps and other tattoo art may be indicators of substance abuse, according to a new study from France. Researchers asked nearly 3,000 young men and women exiting bars on a Saturday night if they'd take a breathalyzer—of those who complied, people with body art were found to have consumed more alcohol than their unadorned brethren. "A host of previous studies have routinely shown that individuals with body piercings or tattoos are more likely to engage in risky behavior than non-pierced or non-tattooed people," writes Nicolas Gueguen, a professor of social behavior at the University of Southern Brittany. This "risky behavior" includes fighting, unprotected sex, as well as boozing. Gueguen suggests that tattoos and piercings may serve as "markers" for doctors and parents, opening up a discussion on potentially harmful correlating behaviors. Texas Tech University School of Nursing professor Myrna Armstrong conducted a study in 2009 that also showed a link between the number of tattoos and the likelihood of abusing substances. Those with one or two tattoos were only as likely to drink or act out as people with none at all, but people with seven or more tattoos or piercings were more likely to engage in "high risk" behaviors. Regardless, we shouldn't make assumptions about people based on their body art, say researchers. Armstrong is concerned about "the tendency to see a tattoo or piercing and automatically profile or stereotype that individual as a 'high-risk person' as this may or may not be conducive for helping them."
New Jersey has just granted its first medical marijuana permit to the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, allowing the facility to begin growing the plant immediately. The state passed a law permitting medical marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses more than two years ago, but red tape has delayed progress ever since. A second permit is still needed for the facility to operate as an alternative treatment center. So first it must pass a state inspection—after that, marijuana could finally be available to New Jersey residents with chronic diseases by midsummer. "The Department is committed to ensuring that medicinal marijuana is safely and securely available to patients as quickly as possible," department Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said in a statement. While this is a significant milestone for medical marijuana, those involved are still keeping their fingers crossed. Greenleaf’s CEO Joe Stevens is concerned about the delays and said planting won't begin until Governor Chris Christie guarantees the program’s future, as he doesn't want to start growing only to find that the health department still isn't ready to issue the final permit to dispense. Back in November, New Jersey Department of Health spokeswoman Donna Leusner explained the delays and red tape to The Fix by saying “The timetable for when each Alternative Treatment Center will meet all of the state requirements and obtain permits has many variables.” Ken Wolski, director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, described local resistance in the Garden State as "townsfolk with torches and pitchforks chasing them out of town."
"Reach for the sky!" Five people were arrested yesterday in a money laundering scheme that channeled at least $6 million in Colombian and Mexican drug money through an LA-based toy company. The owners of Woody Toys, Jia Hui Zhou and Dan Xin Li, and three company employees were arrested on charges of evading federal reporting requirements for financial transactions. The money funneling had occurred between 2005 and 2011, where Mexican toy dealers bought US dollars made off drug sales from currency brokers in a “black market peso exchange,” enabling the traffickers to get rid of drug money—and the toy dealers a more favorable exchange rate to purchase toys in the US. Woody Toys would receive the money from the dealers via courier or bank deposits, but authorities say they never filed paperwork when receiving deposits of more than $10,000, and intentionally structured bank deposits in smaller increments to avoid doing so. The defendants now face up to five years in prison on evading federal reporting requirements and 20 years on money laundering charges. But just in case they feel like working with drug traffickers again, ICE homeland security has some advice: “They can’t walk up with duffel bags of money and continue with their business,” says Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE homeland security investigations in Los Angeles. “They have to find creative ways to convert that money into pesos and launder it so it doesn’t look like illegal proceeds.”
Though it's not the kind of click they'd normally hang out with, teenagers with substance abuse issues may benefit from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), according to researchers. The new study—published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research—involved 127 teens (95 males, 32 females, aged 14 to 19), who were put in outpatient treatment for substance abuse. The youngsters were assessed when they began treatment at three, six, and then 12 months later. "We found that about one-quarter to one-third of the youth attended AA/NA throughout the year-long study period following treatment, and that more meeting attendance was associated with significantly better substance use outcomes—particularly attending meetings at least once per week or more," said John F. Kelly, associate director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Many 12-step programs are easily available but research had never looked at how successful they are for teens in particular. According to Kelly, counselors, doctors, and health professionals can encourage teens to attend and participate in AA/NA early in their substance abuse treatment to maximize the benefits. "Starting an on-site NA or AA young persons' meeting is another good idea. Not all youth will be motivated to attend, but the more severely substance-involved ones will be more likely to give meetings a try and these are the ones most likely to benefit."
- 15 Arrests in International Online Drug Probe [Associated Press]
- States Uncork New Booze Bills [Politico]
- Alcoholism Harms Short-Term Memory Functioning [Medical XPress]
- Quebec's 21 and Under Booze Driving Ban Starts Sunday [CTV]
- Mobile technology May Help Curb Nicotine Addiction [Orlando Sentinel]
- Alcohol Advertisers Launch Self-Regulation Pact in Europe [Ad Age]
- Taylor Armstrong's Friends Concerned About Her Drinking, Urging Her To Go To Rehab [RadarOnline]
- Bobby Brown Pleads Not Guilty to Driving Under Influence [Washington Post]