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druggy science

10/26/12 3:26pm

How to Crowdsource a Meth Lab

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Not this kind of meth lab Photo via

Ethan O. Perlstein, an evolutionary pharmacologist at Princeton, wants people like you to fund his meth lab. No, not the Breaking Bad kind—though Perlstein is a fan and uses the motif to pitch his project—but the science kind, to research how amphetamines, including meth, really work. Chasing government grants to undertake research takes a long time, and can also create a separation between science and the general public, Perlstein believes. “I actually think the antiquated and inefficient government grant funding model is the root cause of a lot of problems in basic biomedical research,” he tells The Fix. “Raising money on the Internet via social media or networks is an antidote because this open, interactive model forces scientists from the outset to make their ideas and hypotheses understandable in plain English," he continues," which then sets the stage for a sustainable 'inquiry, discovery, new inquiry' cycle.”

He hopes he can hit his fundraising target of $25,000, so he can figure out where in the brain these drugs mess around—which could then help us to to map out the brain's wiring and create new addiction treatments. “If our project gets fully funded, we will be able to perform experiments that have been long overdue in basic psychopharmacology research. Namely: where do amphetamines accumulate inside brain cells?” he tells us. “In the past, maps of where psychoactive drugs go in the brain have allowed scientists to develop models that connect molecular interactions to cellular responses to macroscopic behaviors.” Anyone interested in supporting his vision for amphetamine research and open science can check out his project page, Crowdsourcing Discovery, or watch his video pitch:

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By Bryan Le

Jane Says

10/26/12 1:50pm

How Can We Educate Against Addiction?

Reader's question: Have you heard of any outstanding ways of educating young people about the dangers of 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

legalization of marijuana

10/26/12 12:47pm

Colorado's Pot Laws Target Blacks and Latinos

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NAACP leader Rosemary Harris Lytle at a
Colorado conference Photo via

Marijuana law enforcement in Colorado, which has resulted in over 210,000 arrests in the past 25 years, disproportionately targets the state's black and Latino communities, as a new report illustrates. According to the Marijuana Possession Arrests In Colorado, 1986-2010 report, compiled from over two decades of FBI data, latinos have a 1.5 higher chance of being arrested for marijuana, and blacks have a 3.1 higher chance—even though whites are found to use pot more. The report was the first breakdown to include stats from the Latino community, even though, “discrimination against Latinos has gone hand in hand with marijuana prohibition since its establishment," says Denise Maes, director of public policy for the ACLU of Colorado. 

The report was presented at a conference held by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the pro-legalization group behind Colorado's Amendment 64—a November ballot measure seeking to legalize pot and regulate recreational use of the drug for adults. "Marijuana prohibition is taking a toll on all Coloradans, and it is our communities of color that are paying the biggest price," says Rosemary Harris Lytle, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, which voiced its support for Amendment 64 earlier this year. The measure, which Coloradans will vote on in two weeks, is drawing attention to an ongoing, nationwide problem. African Americans across the US are 13 times more likely to go to jail for the same drug-related offenses as white people, and make up 53.5% of all imprisoned drug offenders, according to a 2011 statement by the NAACP. "Law enforcement resources should be used to address violent and otherwise harmful crimes," says Lytle. "They should not be directed toward the enforcement of irrational marijuana laws that disproportionately impact African-Americans and other people of color. It is time for a more sensible approach.” 

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By May Wilkerson

Problem shopping

10/26/12 11:54am

SUI: Shopping Under the Influence

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Step away from the computer. Photo via

To drunk texting, add another activity that's best delayed till morning, for fear of remorse: a survey from Kelkoo, a UK shopping habits site, shows that people shopping under the influence (SUI) online spend more than they would if sober, and are more likely to regret their purchases. And 20% of those surveyed admit they can't always remember what they've bought the morning after; others have packages show up at their door that come as a total surprise. The biggest SUI offenders are people over the age of 50, who are spending more time online and may be experiencing their children moving out or the loss of a spouse. "I think we all know people who shop when they are lonely or bored. [In my practice] I've seen ample evidence of how the loss of a mate or friends triggers compulsive shopping, and certainly older people have more experience with loss," says April Lane Benson, a counselor to shopping addicts and the author of To Buy Or Not To Buy: Why We Overshop and How to StopSusan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, adds that midlifers are especially at risk because they often mix booze with sleep aids or other prescription meds, not realizing "how intoxicated they are when they sit in front of the computer." Opportunistic online retailers are well aware that their peak shopping hours arrive after work when people start drinking, and often create "limited time only" specials to take advantage. Whitbourne says treatment for people who compulsively shop while drinking often involves addressing symptoms of depression and loneliness, after which the urge to shop drunk often goes away.

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By McCarton Ackerman

drunk driving

10/26/12 10:46am

Can Pancakes Prevent Drunk Driving?

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One way to stop a drunk. Photo via

Cholesterol count aside, pancakes and bacon could be a lifesaver. This is the hope of Great Adventure Ministries, a non-profit religious organization in Omaha, Nebraska that offers up free breakfasts in exchange for car keys at a popular bar. The aim is to sober up inebriated patrons before they get on the road during Halloween weekend—a time of year that usually sees a spike in boozing and subsequent auto-accidents. The free food tends to elicit skepticism at first, with many asking "What's the catch?" says Chad Peterson, the non-prof's director. But then “they walk down into this basement and they start making some friends and they see it’s really just pancakes and bacon.” He explains that the hearty meals—dished out between midnight and 3 am—stop people getting on the road right away, and so offer "a chance to help people make wise decisions.” Last year, nearly 167 people stopped for the free breakfast. “I haven't heard of anything like this in the city so far,” says Katilynn Kotcka, who serves on the leadership team. “So I think it's pretty awesome we're doing this.” The organization believes the efforts are worthwhile, whether they save one life or 100. Peterson adds, “I know that they might not make it home if they didn't have a few minutes to take a break.” 

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

10/26/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 26, 2012

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Bobbi Kristina's family is worried. Photo via

By Bryan Le

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