When Dr. Douglas Deiterich contracted Hepatitis C as a med student—he accidentally pricked himself with a contaminated needle—the disease didn’t even have a name; they just called it “Non-A, Non-B Hepatitis.” For the next 20 years, he struggled with a poorly understood and highly stigmatized disease. “Death definitely did not escape my mind,” he said of 1980s, when he was most sick. But ten years ago, Dr. Dieterich cured himself with one of the treatments he helped to develop. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through,” he said. Hepatitis C is often transmitted via unsafe intravenous drug use. The disease can be cured, but for a long time the only available drugs caused severe side-effects and were very expensive. The biggest barrier to treating Hep C is recognizing it: a carrier can have no symptoms for years. Most of the estimated 3.2 million Americans with the disease don’t know they have it. But even in the absence of symptoms, the longer they wait before getting tested and treated, the more difficult the disease will be to cure—ironically, the patients who have severe symptoms right away are better off, because they get treatment at an earlier stage. Rates of Hepatitis C have been falling since the 1980s, in part due to vigilant screening by doctors, but also due to preventive measures. Areas that allow harm reduction programs for intravenous drug use—from needle exchanges to more controversial measures like the Insite clinic in Vancouver, where drug users can inject in a safe environment—have significantly lower rates of Hepatitis C infections: more studies need to be done, but many show at least a 20% reduction in new Hepatitis C infections due to harm reduction programs. Meanwhile, treatment has gotten more advanced—though it remains expensive—and the disease can be cured in 40-80% of cases. Two new medicines have been approved, and Dr. Dieterich reports that 200 more are in the approval process: “Now that we have the tools, we have to start kicking some viral butt!”
An Indiana couple, Brandon and Anne Marie Riggs, deny that they gave their then 4-month-old son to a drug-dealing husband and wife in exchange for $13,000 in cash, a used Lincoln car, and fifty OxyContin tablets, as well as Xanax, methadone and morphine sulfate. Brandon, who is currently in prison on unrelated drug charges, and Anne Marie were trying to cope with a baby born addicted to methadone back in October 2009. The couple apparently gave their son, Brandon, Jr., to two accused drug dealers, Stephen and Melissa Lynch, and only tried to make the adoption official months later. Brandon Riggs wrote from prison that, “At the time, we were in no way capable of caring for a newborn, let alone a newborn with medical complications.” He called the Lynches “good people, good parents.” Nonetheless, San Diego authorities arrested 26-year-old Anna Marie on October 13th, and court documents show that she admitted to receiving the money and drugs in exchange for the child. The boy, who is now two years old, has been taken into protective care.
- Chicago's Young Heroin Users Don't Realize Risks [Chicago Sun-Times]
- Colombian Beauty Queen in Drugs Trial [BBC]
- Conrad Murray Jurors See Video on "Drug that Killed Jackson" [LA Times]
- Mexico Drug War: Inside Veracruz [BBC]
- Ask Andrew Sullivan: When Will Pot Be Legalized? [The Daily Beast]
- Dwight Gooden was Too High on Cocaine for World Series Parade [ESPN]
- Lindsay Lohan Spends Less than an Hour in Jail [LA Times]
If you’re a pagan or a wikkan voting in the GOP primaries next year, Gary Johnson wants your vote. The former Republican governor of New Mexico—and proud moderate-libertarian—is running for president but, facing hardship attracting the gaze of the mainstream media, he has begun to appeal to the Occult vote, giving interviews to the “Pagan Media." Johnson, whose iconoclastic positions include support for legalizing marijuana, said, “I don’t expect the social conservative vote"—and he might have added the Tea Party–controlled GOP base. Speaking to representatives of Patheos.com, Pagan Newswire Collective, and ModernWitch Podcast, he ventured to suggest that “I think the world looks down on Republicans for their socially conservative views, which includes religion in government,” Johnson said. “I think that should not play a role in any of this. When Republicans talk about values—you know what? I bet you and I have the same values.” He explained his message witchery in this way: “This whole campaign is about talking to anyone who will listen.” Johnson has struggled to stay in the primary process, having difficulty meeting the minimum level of popular support to be included in the debates. Speaking about marijuana legalization, Gary Johnson said, “This may be the only issue on the political scene where half the American people support something, but zero percent…of elected politicians will publicly agree with them.”
China has just passed a new law protecting the human rights of drug addicts in rehabilitation centers. The move comes a year after the nation's rehabs endured an international firestorm from human rights advocates and the recovery movement for its cruel and unusual punishment of recovering addicts, including unpaid forced labor amounting to slavery. The new law specifically prohibits forced labor, while providing general protections for patient privacy and freedom of communication. Opportunities to work are still on offer, but no more than six hours a day, and earnings must be kept in a private bank account. The new regulation also requires rehab centers to institute 24-hour video monitoring systems. Although this seemingly contradicts the new privacy protection, authorities say that it will prevent abuse and avoid treatable deaths.
After prolonged resistance by Tea Party favorite, multimillionaire Gov. Rick Perry, the state of Florida will see its statewide database that logs all prescriptions finally go live. The Sunshine State has, in recent years, become known as the national "pill mill" capital as doctors and quacks alike set up pain centers and storefronts to dispense vast quantities of prescription painkillers like OxyContin—all highly restricted Scheduled II or III drugs—to dealers and addicts, but rarely to any patient seeking legit pain management. Millions of black market pills are then smuggled north to supply the Eastern U.S. with the nation's no. 1 substance addiction. The online system will allow doctors and pharmacists to check a patient’s prescription history before prescribing or dispensing, allowing them to identify and deny "treatment" to tens of thousands of "doctor shoppers," who go from doctor to doctor collecting prescriptions for controlled substances. However, a loophole will not require doctors to check the database before they issue a new prescription. Although a vast majority of Floridians supported the software surveillance of prescription abuse, which has proved effective in combating the rising tide of prescription drug abuse in the 35 other states that have implemented equivalent databases, newly elected governor Rick Scott staunchly opposed the measure, repeatedly seeking to repeal the law and preventing it from taking effect, tossing out budget challenges, privacy concerns, "big government" and other random rationales for has his primary objection. Scott backed down only when the public, the media, and many members of the state Republican Party and his own health department stood up to him.