Talk about scary. A drug derived from the borrachero tree in Colombia can wipe the memory of its victims and eliminate their free will, turning them into mindless "zombies." The drug, which is called scopolamine—known colloquially as "The Devil's Breath"—is surreptitiously added to drinks or blown into faces of victims. Its effects take hold in a matter of minutes and some victims report being raped, forced to empty their bank accounts and even coerced into giving up an organ. Worse still—scopolamine blocks memories from forming, so victims have no recollection of what happened even after the drug wears off. "You can guide them wherever you want. It's like they're a child," says Demencia Black, a drug dealer in the capital of Bogota. Black says that one gram of scopolamine is a similar to a gram of cocaine—but also calls the drug "worse than anthrax." It was given to the mistresses of dead leaders in ancient times; they would then be told to enter their dead lover's grave and be buried alive. In more modern times, the CIA used the drug during Cold War interrogations in the hopes that it would work as a truth serum. According to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, scopolamine—which has yet another alternate name: hyoscine—causes the same level of memory loss as diazepam. See Vice magazine's documentary on The Devil's Breath below.
A pill that stops you from getting drunk off alcohol? It sounds counter-intuitive, but researchers at Yale University believe the experimental drug iomazenil may help drinkers stay sober. Results from a pilot study showed that when taken before drinking, iomazenil may help counteract the effects of booze on the brain. "A medication that has the potential to block alcohol actions in the central nervous system could act as a unique medication in the treatment of alcohol intoxication and alcoholism," says psychiatrist and researcher Deepak D'Souza. "Alcohol is abused commonly but there is no remedy for alcohol intoxication." Research is still being conducted and the the study will next focus on how, and if, iomazenil will impact those who drink and drive. Dozens of study volunteers—aged 21 to 35—will be given the drug prior to ingesting alcohol and try driving on a simulator. Researchers hope the drug will indeed slow the effects of alcohol in drinkers, and if so, the pill could be a way to aid alcoholics and binge drinkers to retain clarity.
Recovering addicts in Albany County, New York, have been specifically targeted by drug dealers, it seems. Four suspects were arrested for selling drugs to recovering addicts who were receiving treatment at the Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Services Center. "They threw them the bait and some bit," says Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. "It's unfortunate. These people are trying to turn their lives around." Those arrested were said to be selling heroin, Xanax and methadone pills—and one suspect was even seen selling heroin while holding her two-month-old baby. This isn’t the first time drug dealers have taken advantage of addicts in recovery: back in 2010, undercover agents arrested three men in Arizona who were selling cocaine and heroin to addicts fresh out of treatment programs. The drug dealers would seek out users who had gone through rehab, and try and sell them drugs the same day that they exited treatment. "These people are going down there and taking advantage of the addicts—and they're addicts themselves," said Apple of the latest incident. "It's a horrible cycle."
- Marijuana May Ease Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms [Reuters]
- Britain Bedeviled by Binge Drinking Increase [USA Today]
- Yale Researchers Developing "Stay-Sober" Pill [CBS Local]
- Are We Teaching Our Kids to Binge Drink? [Huffington Post]
- Ted Williams: I’ve Been Sober a Year, "One Day at a Time" [MSNBC]
Slavery may be considered consigned to America's past, but a recent report suggests that several farms in the South are forcing addicts to work for free to fuel their drug habits. The details of the alleged underground labor trafficking came to light when LeRoy Smith—a former worker at Bulls-Hit Ranch and Farm in Hastings, Florida—filed a lawsuit claiming he was lured into working there by contractors who took advantage of his crack addiction. Smith says he experienced: "Slavery. Abuse. Overwork. Deplorable, unsanitary conditions. Drugs." He claims workers—often recruited from local homeless shelters—were given drugs, alcohol and prostitutes on credit rates of 100%, and money was taken from their wages to pay for living expenses. Due to the excessive amounts of debt accumulated, workers couldn't leave and lived in fear of their employers. "They'd intimidate people. If you owed them money, then one guy'd say, 'You owe me money. You can't leave.' He'd threaten you,' says Bennie Cooks, another former Bulls-Hit employee. The farm's labor contractor, Ronald Uzzle, denies the allegations, saying that he does not keep workers in debt and that they are free to leave whenever they want. "There's no drugs sold on this camp," he says. "I'm not going to tell you people don't do drugs, but if people want to do drugs, they do it. I can't stop them." Florida authorities have reportedly failed to stop the practice—despite the fact that Bulls-Hit was sued back in 2004 for similar labor law violations. Workers' advocates believe that between five and 10 other ranching families in Florida use similar practices.
Actress Kelly Preston gave up her excessive use of alcohol and drugs after the birth of her baby son, she disclosed on Lifetime's The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet. In the interview, the 49-year-old wife of John Travolta says she is "so much wiser" since giving birth in November 2010 and subsequently getting clean. "I'm so different, too. Now I don't drink anymore. I don't smoke anymore. I don't do drugs anymore," she says. "All of those come with an 'anymore.' I used to do everything and a lot of everything." Preston, who was once engaged to Charlie Sheen, explains, "with drinking, I just decided that I wasn't always at my best. There were times where I drank too much, for sure" and when she was drinking, she describes "not being myself with my kids, or just with my life 100 percent of the time." She and Travolta, 58, have been married since 1991 and also have a 12-year-old daughter; their son, Jett, died of a seizure in 2009. "Our kids are the center of our universe," she says, and she credits them—and a desire to be more present in their lives— with helping motivate her to get sober. "For me, I find that our kids came in half the time to teach me about myself and to help me with others, and they have helped me so extraordinarily."