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synthetic drugs

11/16/12 3:04pm

Synthetic Drug Use Hits All-Time High in EU

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Dangerous mixtures? Photo via

Although people in the European Union still prefer coke and pot to other drugs (not to mention boozing more than any other continent), synthetic drugs use there has soared to an all-time high. Roughly one new synthetic drug per week has hit the market over the last two years: 49 new synthetic drugs were detected by law enforcement in 2011, and over 50 so far this year. The substances are typically sold on the illegal drug market, but also on the internet as "legal highs." Many contain "obscure" chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that have led to emergency room visits and deaths. "Data from emergency rooms, toxicology reports and drug treatment centers indicate that the associated risks are not always well known by the users," states the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). "Consumers of those products are likely to be both unaware of what they are consuming and ignorant of the health and legal implications." The EMCDDA also reports that heroin and cocaine use have steadily declined—European cocaine use reached its peak in 2008 and 2009. Nearly 1.4 million EU citizens are "problem" users of opiates such as heroin, while four million people have used cocaine within the last year.

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By McCarton Ackerman

drug smuggling

11/16/12 2:08pm

Israel Trains Mice to Sniff Out Drugs

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Drug dogs could soon face unemployment.
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International drug warriors could soon be recruiting legions of tiny, furry counter-narcotic agents: mice. The creatures often get a bum rap, but possess a powerful sense of smell that may soon be used to detect drugs, explosives and other hazardous items at airports, docks and border-crossings. Eran Lumbroso, founder and chief technology officer of Israeli firm BioExplorers, devised this strategy in 2000 after a string of suicide bombings on Israeli buses. “I was in the army at the time, and the idea emerged to use small animals instead of dogs in detecting suicide bombers,” he says. After experimenting with various animals, Lumbroso chose mice because they're less intrusive and intimidating than dogs, and have a stronger sense of smell; they're also easy to train and can be deployed in larger numbers. Lumbroso's screening system involves a traveler passing through a booth containing three microwave-like mouse chambers. A burst of air passes over the traveler and into one of the chambers; if the furry agents pick up a problem scent, they set off an alert by scurrying into a separate compartment. During a 2010 test of the system outside a Tel Aviv mall, 1,200 people passed through the booth: the critters detected suspicious material on all 20 test subjects—with only one false alarm. Lumbroso believes the system could eventually be used to scout out more than just smugglers: ”People in the early stages of breast and lung cancer exhale certain particles,” he said. “The mice could be trained to sniff them out.”

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By May Wilkerson

Alcohol Sales

11/16/12 1:00pm

Facebook: Now Liking Booze

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What's not to like? Photo via

Here's one Facebook notice likely to be more popular than the millionth request to join FarmVille: users of the social networking site will soon be able to send each other bottles of wine through a new "Gifts" feature. Two winemakers, Robert Mondavi Winery and Chandon, have signed on as partners. Sober Facebook users will be able to join in the giving: other major brands that have signed on include Brookstone, Baby Gap and Pandora. Facebook was able to maneuver past the often tricky process of selling booze online because “we aren’t the merchant of record,” says Lee Linden, who heads up Gifts. "In effect, we're acting as a marketing agent." For each transaction, a third-party service must verify that both buyer and seller are over 21. If the recipient lives in a state that prohibits online alcohol sales, they'll be given the option to choose a different gift. And residents of Colorado and Washington shouldn't expect to be able to gift each other a half-ounce of weed any time soon. Linden says Facebook will only include products seen as universally acceptable: "I don't think we're going to be offering cigarettes."

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By McCarton Ackerman

Jane Says

11/16/12 11:49am

Can a Vaccine "Cure" Addiction?

Reader's Question: Are you enthusiastic or skeptical about the "vaccines" that are currently in development to prevent different types of substance addiction?

[Jane is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to janevelezmitchell@thefix.com.]

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By Jane Velez-Mitchell

energy drinks

11/16/12 11:02am

5-Hour Energy Blamed for 13 Deaths

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"For energy that lasts" Photo via

The ubiquitous energy drink "shot" Five-Hour Energy has been linked to 13 deaths in the past four years, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The mini-bevarage, advertised as a replacement for coffee, is currently under investigation for containing dangerous amounts of caffeine, after being linked to 92 adverse event reports—including 32 hospitalizations, as well as 13 possible deaths. "If someone is to use multiple cans, now is when we start to see some of the side effects," says Dr. Sean Patrick Nord, USC Director of the Section of Toxicology. "You're getting astronomical amounts, 30 to 40 cups of coffee." Living Essentials—the company that manufactures 5-Hour Energy—claims one shot contains the same amount of caffeine as a 12-ounce cup of coffee, and recommends that individuals consume no more that two bottles per day. The company is “unaware of any deaths proven to have been caused by the consumption of 5-Hour Energy," it stated recently. "It is important to note that submitting a serious adverse event report to the FDA, according the agency itself, is not construed by FDA as an admission that the dietary supplement was involved, caused or contributed to the adverse event being reported.” Even in light of the alarming reports, many experts agree that it's nearly impossible for an adult to fatally overdose on caffeine. However, energy drinks are thought to pose a serious risk for children and teens—especially those with underlying heart conditions.

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By Valerie Tejeda

headlines

11/16/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: November 16, 2012

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Stephanie Bongiovi is recovering. Photo via

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