- Report on Medicare Cites Prescription Drug Abuse [New York Times]
- 18 Mexican Police Officers with "Cartel Links" Arrested [BBC]
- Drunk Driving Down But Still a Factor in a Third of Crash Deaths [LA Times]
- Debate on Meth Restrictions Continues at Oklahoma Senate [Fox]
- Heroin User Crashes Head-On into Metro Bus [The Capital Times]
- Local Cocaine Dealers Testify Against Oral Surgeon [Billings Gazette]
- Pink to Make Acting Debut as Sex Addict [CNN]
- More Beer, Fewer Brawls at Germany's Oktoberfest [Reuters]
Four Loko, the controversial "energy beer" that was forced to drop the stimulants caffeine, taurine and guarana from its product by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year, has come under fire from the Feds again. This time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has pressurized Phusion Projects, which makes the drink, into labeling its super-size cans to spell out their high alcohol content. What's more, the company has announced that it will start selling resealable cans, to counter accusations that its brew is packaged very much as a single serving. Customers who were wondering why Four Loko—which was originally named for its alcohol, caffeine, taurine and guarana quadruple whammy—hasn't now become "One Loko" may find their answer in the informative new labels: each monster can contains as much alcohol as four (or even five) regular beers. The FTC claims Four Loko misrepresented this as only the equivalent of one-to-two regular 12-ounce beers' worth of alcohol—and while Phusion denies any wrongdoing, it's agreed to change the labeling, as well as making its cans resealable. “Even though we reached an agreement, we don’t share the FTC’s perspective and we disagree with their allegations,” stressed Phusion co-founder Jaisen Freeman. The FDA originally insisted that stimulants were removed from Four Loko due to safety concerns—passing out is one of the body's defenses against drinking too much, but stimulants work against this, which may have been a factor in the death of 15-year-old Four Loko drinker Bo Rupp last year. When Freeman and his co-founders Jeff Wright and Chris Hunter spoke exclusively to The Fix earlier this year, they lamented the damaging effects some bad press had had on their company—a consideration that prompted them to jump before they were pushed this time around. “Unfortunately we were pegged as the bad guys,” said Wright then. “We tried to keep a low profile, but we couldn’t stay out of the headlines." It seems they still can't.
The beer goggle effect goes way beyond the human practice of sitting at the bar ogling suddenly-stunning fellow-drinkers. It applies to bugs too—and the phrase carries extra relevance to certain male buprestid beetles. University of Toronto biology professor Darryl Gwynne just snagged an "Ig Nobel" prize—parodies of the more renowned Scandinavian awards—for his research on jewel beetles' habit of hitting on stubby beer bottles when intoxicated. He and his Aussie colleague David Rentz finally won recognition for their 1983 paper Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbies for Females. "I'm honored, I think," Gwynne responded: "David and I have been waiting by the phone for two decades... and it finally happened." Gwynne and Rentz were conducting fieldwork in Western Australia about 23 years ago when they noticed the unnatural sex: "We were walking along a dirt road with the usual scattering of beer cans and bottles when we saw about six bottles with beetles on top or crawling up the side. It was clear the beetles were trying to mate with the bottles." The males mounted the beer bottles determinedly, completely ignoring the nearby females. Such is their ardor that their mating attempts often end in death, as they pump away until they either fry in the heat, or get eaten by visiting ants. So here's the theory: these particular bottles, known as "stubbies," resemble a super-alluring, big and orangey-brown female jewel beetle, with an irresistible dimpled surface near the bottom—and they reflect light in a similar way to the females' wings. To any who doubt the value of these revelations to science, Gwynne insists the research has a serious message, as the shunning of the female beetles could really impact the natural world. It supports the more broadly-held theory that due to their overwhelming eagerness to copulate, many males—especially the drunken ones—are prone to making mating mistakes.
Cocaine can be a serious threat to sight, according to a study showing that current and former cocaine users have a 45% increased risk of glaucoma. The drug can cause open-angle glaucoma—the most common type of glaucoma and the second most common cause of blindness in the US—found the survey of 5.3 million men and women in Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics over a one-year period, which is published in the Journal of Glaucoma. Men with open-angle glaucoma were also associated with a high exposure to pot and amphetamines—though less so than cocaine. These patients also picked up the condition significantly younger than drug-free glaucoma patients—a disturbing 20 years younger than average. Of the 5.3 million vets who used VA outpatient clinics in 2009, about 83,000—1.5%—had glaucoma, of whom nearly 91% were male. About 178,000—3.3%—of all those seen in the outpatient clinics had a diagnosis of cocaine abuse or dependency. The study's first author, Dustin French, a research scientist at the Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development Service in Indianapolis concluded: "The association of illegal drug use with open-angle glaucoma requires further study, but if the relationship is confirmed, this understanding could lead to new strategies to prevent vision loss,"
- An Addiction Vaccine, Tantalizingly Close [New York Times]
- Conrad Murray Trial: Doc Says Propofol Used Only in Hospital [LA Times]
- Risks: Alcohol Deaths and the Solo Life [New York Times]
- Facebook Drunkenness Could Indicate Problems [Reuters]
- Two Caribbean Busts Net $35 Million of Cocaine, Coastguard Says [The Palm Beach Post]
- Maastricht Bans Marijuana Sales to Most Foreign Tourists [Huffington Post]
- Utah Movie Theater Fined for Serving Booze in Hangover Part II [Yahoo News]
Anyone with an interest in addiction would be well-advised to skip the reality TV shows tonight and tomorrow night in favor of a three-part PBS documentary series by Ken Burns called Prohibition. Using rare archival footage from the era of the "noble experiment"—which lasted from 1920 to 1933—along with smart and witty talking heads like writer Pete Hamill, who has three decades of sobriety. Critics agree with us that Burns has come up with a remarkably entertaining and informative take on one of the most bizarre periods of American history. Burns (The Civil War and Baseball) makes the most of Prohibition's large cast of colorful characters, like abstinence evangelist Carrie Nation and big-time bootlegger Roy Olmstead, even if his re-creations are, in his typical style, heavy on the schmaltz. Prohibition is well worth your time for its sharp social analysis of the many interests that combined to persuade the American people to go to the polls and vote away one of their most valued pleasures. Its approach is rich with humor, but the message is serious, and draws striking parallels with our current national politics. Tune in tonight and Tuesday at 8 pm EST on PBS.