The US War on Drugs is starting to look more and more like an actual war. Two-hundred US Marines have been employed to patrol the western coast of Guatemala starting this week in an attempt to beat drug traffickers in Central America. The Marines were deployed as part of Operation Martillo, an effort which started last January that is using troops from 13 countries across the globe and focuses exclusively on drug dealers in airplanes or boats throughout the region. Guatemelan authorities signed a treaty last month allowing the operations to take place and the commander of the operation gave the thumbs up last week to move full steam ahead. "This is the first Marine deployment that directly supports countering transnational crime in this area, and it's certainly the largest footprint we've had in that area in quite some time," said Marine Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes at the US Southern Command in Miami. This will be the first time in fifty years that the US has sent significant help into Guatemala. That most recent attempt to help Guatemala by establishing a base to support counter-insurgency efforts during a guerrilla uprising led to 36 years of war and more than 200,000 deaths before the US pulled out in 1978. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 80% of cocaine smoked, snorted and swallowed in the US passes through Central America.
In what could be a major step forward in understanding Internet addiction, scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany say they’ve found a genetic link to problematic web use. In a new study, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers examined 132 people displaying “problematic Internet use,” as defined by a daily obsession with going online, and feeling impaired or distressed when denied access to the web. The researchers then compared the genes of this Internet-addicted group with a non-addicted control group set, and found that the Internet addicts were likely to carry the gene mutation CHRNA4—which is also linked to nicotine addiction. “There are clear indications for genetic causes of Internet addiction,” said study researcher Christian Montag. “If such connections are better understood, this will also result in important indications for better therapies.” The CHRNA4 gene plays a role in activating the reward system in the brain, dispersing "feel-good" chemicals when an individual participates in activities such as sex, eating, and sleeping. Of those in the web-addicted group, the gene was notably more prevalent in women than men. “Within the group of subjects exhibiting problematic Internet behavior this variant occurs more frequently...in women,” said Montag. “The sex-specific genetic finding may result from a specific subgroup of Internet dependency, such as the use of social networks or such.” The researchers say that more studies need to be conducted to further validate these findings.
- Internet Addiction Is Real And Scientists Found A Gene Linked To It [Business Insider]
- Teen Smokers Show Early Signs of Heart Disease [WebMD]
- Marines vs. Zetas: U.S. Hunts Drug Cartels in Guatemala [Wired]
- Drinking, Overeating Pack on Pounds in College [USA Today]
- A Privacy-Friendly Way to Ban Gambling Addicts From Casinos [Business Week]
- Report: Cocaine Was Used at Harry's Nude Vegas Party [Daily Beast]
It seems like Philly rapper Beanie Sigel hasn’t been able to catch a break since that murder rap he beat back in 2005. He violated probation in 2008 when he got busted giving a fake urine sample to his probation officer, after repeatedly testing positive for pills, and was recently convicted for dodging the Tax Man. Now, Sigel’s been popped again—this time for possessing a gun, pills and codeine cough syrup after a late-night traffic stop just outside Philadelphia. Sigel has rapped about his love of pharmaceuticals—particularly Percocet and the hustler-beloved “pancakes and syrup” combination of Xanax and codeine cough medicine. The Fix previously reported on the dealer’s drugs of choice: Biggie’s admonition to "never get high on your own supply” holds true for those selling “hard drugs” like crack and heroin, but benzos, pain pills, codeine syrup, PCP and mega-powered specialty weed are seen as fair game. Beanie’s new album just dropped yesterday, so it’s unclear whether he was out partying to celebrate, or just preparing to surrender himself to the Feds on September 12 to do two years in prison for tax evasion.
Two CIA agents were wounded when Mexican police opened fire on a US embassy car outside Mexico City last week, it's been revealed. And Mexican politicians are holding a hearing today, demanding clarification of the shadowy role of US intelligence in the country's drug war. "The Mexican government must give a complete report on what the CIA is doing here, with whom it is working and what is the extent of its work," says Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, telling reporters that "everything is in the dark." Since President Felipe Calderon took office six years ago, his administration has worked closely with Washington to combat drug trafficking; at least 50,000 have meanwhile been killed during the war with the cartels. Calderon has expressed regret over the latest incident and promised an investigation. Analysts claim the presence of US agents in Mexico has surged, but Calderon has refused to disclose details; it's against Mexican law for foreign operatives to take arms in the country. The DEA has been linked to excessive violence in Latin America—and the involvement of the military, and now the CIA, is also suspected. "Of course many of these operations are taking place, and of course they are bypassing the legal framework in doing so," says Columbia University security expert Edgardo Buscaglia. "The expansion of the US presence within Mexican soil is unprecedented. We are reaching levels—not in terms of soldiers but in terms of American intelligence—that are close to Afghanistan."
A drug currently undergoing clinical trials may represent a vital breakthrough against major depression and anxiety disorders like PTSD and OCD. Crucially, "ALKS 5461" could offer the mood-enhancing and anxiety-lowering effects of opiates without leading to addiction. It's a combination of two molecules: buprenorphine and ALKS 33—which is there specifically to interfere with bupe’s ability to bind to receptors in the brain and make people feel euphoric and crave more. In a placebo-controlled study, ALKS 5461 was given to 32 patients with major depression; all of them responded positively within a week. The combo reportedly even worked for patients who'd had no luck with traditional antidepressants like Prozac and Effexor. “If ALKS 5461 comes to market (and I believe it will), then that scourge we call major depression will be dealt a massive blow,” writes psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, who wasn't involved in the study. "It will still be imperative to use insight-oriented psychotherapy to get to the bottom of what unique psychological issues have fueled each person’s depression, but that should be easier—not harder—when folks aren’t struggling just to get out of bed and over to their psychiatrists’ offices.” It's not the first time scientists have tried to block the brain's addiction-related receptors; US and Australian researchers recently discovered how to block one specific receptor using plus-naloxone, while still allowing pain relief. ALKS 5461 is being developed by Alkermes Pharmaceuticals, the company behind anti-addiction drug Vivitrol.