A Miami man arrested for driving under the influence and speeding on Thursday attempted to bribe the police; but when that tactic failed, he attempted to intimidate them by claiming he once worked as a hit man for Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar. John Chaney, 64, was pulled over early Thursday morning for going 110mph in a 35mph zone. He told police that he was in a hurry to get home to his nine cats. After failing roadside sobriety tests and hitting .149 on a breathalyzer—almost double Florida's limit—he offered an officer $30,000 to change the results of his blood alcohol level. He also regaled the officers with details from his criminal past, saying that in addition to working for Escobar, he had smuggled cocaine in to the US from Colombia and had murdered people. Officers also found a prescription bottle for Endocet in his car, containing multiple kinds of pills. Chaney is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing and eluding police, bribery and possession of a controlled substance.
Why does marijuana make some people mellow, while inducing psychotic episodes in others? According to a new article in Biological Psychiatry, scientists have pinpointed a genetic marker associated with an increased risk of cannabis-induced psychosis in certain individuals. Led by Dr. Marta Di Forti, a team of psychiatrists studied a variation in the AKT1 gene, which is involved in dopamine signaling and known to be abnormal in instances of psychosis. The team performed genotyping and assessed cannabis use for 489 patients who had experienced an episode of psychosis and 278 who had not. Their results show that people with the genetic marker who use cannabis are twice as likely to experience psychosis compared with those who use the drug but don’t have the genetic marker; and for people who light up every day, the risk for psychosis increases sevenfold for those who have the genetic marker. "Our findings help to explain why one cannabis user develops psychosis while his friends continue smoking without problems," says Di Forti. Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, hopes that research into the genetic underpinnings of “cannabis psychosis” may lead to the development of therapies for the condition, as well as biological tests that could be used to inform marijuana-prescribing physicians of their patients' risks. The drug's potential to induce psychosis is considered a greater public health concern now that the drug is legal for recreational use in Washington and Colorado, and for medical use in a growing number of states.
To combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug addiction in Maine, doctors are now asking patients to sign a controlled substances agreement. The statement includes a stipulation that doctors may randomly drug test their patients at any time in order to ensure they are taking their pills (rather than selling them), and are not taking a higher-than-prescribed dosage; patients who don't sign will likely be denied the prescriptions. "These are good doctors, but they're trained to believe their patients," says Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association. He says doctors often overlook red flags: "It's just because they've got 30 patients in front of them a day and they're just trying to do the best they can and some of them have unfortunately not paid as much attention to the risks." Right now, it will be up to each hospital and medical practice to create their own agreement, decide who must sign it and determine what happens if a patient refuses. "Everybody is under pressure to have policies that do everything they can to tighten up the prescribing of opiates," says Smith. Maine doctors wrote two million prescriptions for controlled substances in 2011 and the state has the highest per-capita rate of opiate addiction in the nation. In 2009, 262 newborns were born with opiate withdrawal symptoms, up from 13 in 2000. In addition, the state has already endured its 50th pharmacy robbery this year, compared to just half that in 2011.
In the wake of the chaos and devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, 150 drug-addicted criminals were released from the Daytop Village substance abuse treatment center in Far Rockaway in New York, and the CEO is blaming the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) for not approving a transfer to two safer facilities upstate. “I tried to get state officials at OASAS to simply check some boxes and give us official approval to transfer our court-mandated clients to one of two upstate Daytop facilities,” says CEO Mike Dailey. OASAS had placed a cap on the number of people allowed to live in those facilities, but Dailey was hoping it could be lifted temporarily in the emergency situation. “We were told the request was on the commissioner’s desk but that, like everyone else, she was busy with the storm emergencies,” Dailey says. With no response from the agency the day after the hurricane, Daytop was forced to release 150 court-mandated clients who’d pleaded guilty to drug-related crimes. “We had to sign every one of them out before they were ready,” Dailey says. “The facility was uninhabitable. And OASAS wouldn’t let us transport them in our own vans to our upstate facilities.”
Disaster awaited those who were released out into the hurricane-distraught section of Queens. “Most of them wandered aimlessly,” Dailey says. “Many had burned bridges at home. Their only friends were active drug abusers. They had no jobs, no money, no shelter, no meds.” On Thursday afternoon, Daytop turned an outreach center on Staten Island into a shelter, but it was not until Friday—four days after the storm—that OASAS issued a temporary operating certificate for one of Daytop’s other facilities. The agency, however, says that Daytop did not need its permission to evacuate. “Daytop as a licensed treatment provider is responsible for the care of their clients, especially during an evacuation due to a natural disaster,” OASAS said in statement. “On November 1, Daytop sought necessary licensing approvals from OASAS to both reopen a closed facility, Millbrook, and to increase the treatment capacity at another facility, Swan Lake. Both requests were approved within 24 hours." Dailey claims the request was made earlier and it took the agency four days to grant the approvals.
Growing frustrations with the ineffectiveness of the US War on Drugs has compelled a growing faction of Latin American countries to turn to Europe for lessons in shaping narcotics laws. To date, most Latin American countries have adopted the US's Prohibition-style approach to drugs, but increasing evidence reveals this approach to be costly and ineffective, as American consumers continue to fuel Mexico's drug war to the tune of $20 billion per year. The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, in defiance of US federal laws, seems to be the last straw for Latin American leaders. "While in our countries a peasant is persecuted and jailed for growing half a hectare, in those two U.S. states now you can simply grow industrial amounts of marijuana and sell them with complete liberty. We cannot turn a blind eye to this huge imbalance," said Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "We have to ask what alternatives there are. Perhaps less money and less appetite would be generated if there was another way to regulate drugs."
Uruguay's congress moved a step closer last week to putting the state in charge of distributing legal marijuana, and initiative inspired by Catalonia and the Basque Country, in northern Spain, where the courts tolerate marijuana cultivation for personal use by members of social clubs. Meanwhile, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday it was worth exploring the Portuguese model, which decriminalized all drug use in 2001 and saw consumption levels drop below the EU average as a result. Guatemalan President Otto Perez has openly proposed decriminalizing certain drugs; and Mexico also presented a bill last week to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana, although it appears unlikely that it will pass. Colombia, Peru and Bolivia produce the bulk of the world's cocaine, much of which enters through Europe via Spain. Mexico and Paraguay are the two biggest marijuana producers in the world, with the latter largely supplying its neighbors Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
Comedian and actor Russell Brand has kicked drugs and alcohol with the help of yoga, and now plans to open his own yoga studio geared towards helping those who struggle with addiction. Brand, who recently celebrated a decade clean, has talked about his past battles with alcoholism, heroin and sex addiction—and has often credited yoga, and his instructor Tej Kau, with helping him maintain sobriety and peace of mind. “Russ has always wanted to set up his own yoga studio and has decided to make it his new project,” a source says. “He has this idea of an all-giving studio where teachers work for their own fulfillment and those in need such as the homeless and addicts in need of finding their spiritual soul. He wants to create his own mantra and take his teachings round the world like other renowned teachers he’s learned from in the past.” In addition to opening a studio, the 37-year-old plans on teaching yoga classes himself after going through instructor training. ''Once he's finished his course next spring, he'll set up his own studio in Los Angeles,'' the source adds. “It’s all part of his dream of building his own community and he would like to offer free classes to those in need. It would also include meditations, cooking classes, lectures and aromatherapy classes.”