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bath salts

7/16/12 3:47pm

Bath Salts Testers Play Cat-and-Mouse


Street chemists mix it up to keep it legal.
Photo via

How do you test for a drug with an ever-changing chemical composition? That's what Dr. Harry Leider, Chief Medical Officer of testing company Ameritox, is trying to figure out. His target? “Bath salts”—the drug type that made a big splash with the story of Florida's "causeway cannibal." (Although we've since learnt that the face-eater wasn't on bath salts, the task remains tricky.) “Legal highs” are sold in little packets labeled “bath salts” or “plant food,” but don't try to use it as either of those—the only active ingredients are synthetic cathinones, chemically synthesized drugs meant to mimic the effects of methamphetamine.

Testing (and making laws) for bath salts is a game of chemical cat-and-mouse. The problem is, according to Dr. Leider, that they aren't that difficult to synthesize or modify for anyone who has some knowledge of chemistry, and these “street chemists” stay one step ahead of lawmakers and enforcers simple by shifting the elements in the compounds a little. Despite the challenge, Dr. Leider is fighting to keep bath salt detection on pace with street chemists' modifications via a two-pronged approach: “We have a couple different methods—actually buy the substances and develop technology to detect them as they emerge, which is a hard thing to do,” he explains to The Fix, “and another way is our specialty lab where, with the size and scope of Ameritox, we test thousands of specimens a day from doctors.”

“It's like a battle,” Dr. Leider tells us. But it's a battle he thinks can be won with a “concerted effort on multiple levels”: the DEA, doctors and insurance companies. The DEA, he says, needs a faster way to outlaw drugs by class, rather than by substance. As of now the agency is behind Dr. Leider's labs—Ameritox tests for eight different strains of bath salts, but the DEA has only declared three of them illegal. Doctors must also be trained to identify patients suffering from bath salts' side effects and be able to report if there's an outbreak in the area. And insurance companies must also be encouraged to foot the bill for drug screenings. Last, but not least, is educating the public about the dangers of bath salts. “It's a real dangerous category of drugs—potency varies from packet to packet and it's not regulated in any way,” says Dr. Leider. “Many people think because something is legal, it's safer.”

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By Bryan Le

Rehab Review

7/16/12 2:52pm

Fix Rehab Review Adds Four New Treatment Centers


Burning Tree's Ranch rehab location,
in Kaufman, Texas. Photo via

The Fix’s unique-in-the-industry Rehab Review added reviews of four new treatment centers today, including an Internet-, video-game- and tech-addiction rehab in Washington state called reSTART—a first for The Fix in this emerging treatment category. The other three newly reviewed facilities are The Florida House Experience (FHE), in Deerfield Beach, Fla., a “non-enabling” rehab where residents live with roommates in their own apartments, cooking meals for themselves and keeping house; Burning Tree, a two-location Texas facility which specializes in treating chronic relapsers for an average of eight months to one year at a stretch; and The Treatment Center, in Lake Worth, Fla., a four-star facility which offers a standard 12-step program in addition to their optional “Road Less Traveled” Christian rehab track.

The Fix’s Rehab Reviews are written using the real-life experiences of individuals who have gotten clean and sober at these facilities. Dozens of alumni shared their experiences, good and bad, at the centers in question, allowing us to write our substantive insider reviews. And these four new treatment centers, all of which garnered three or four “overall” stars, provide a good mix of options. Most importantly, they work—according to graduates of each. “Burning Tree was one of the hardest things I've ever completed and certainly the most rewarding,” says one alumnus of that facility. An FHE grad tells us, “I would not be who I am today—mentally, physically and spiritually—without the experiences and knowledge I gained at the Florida House.”

Have you been to rehab? The Fix wants to know how it went. Click here to complete a Rehab Review survey for the treatment center you attended.

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By Hunter R. Slaton

Bad Sports

7/16/12 1:57pm

NBA Star Jason Kidd Pleads Not Guilty to DWI


Kidd's unfortunate mugshot.
Photo via

Jason Kidd has probably seen better weekends. The NBA star was arrested for DWI yesterday morning after crashing his car into a telephone pole in Southampton, NY. No one else was in the car at the time. Kidd was reported as being visibly intoxicated when he was taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries. After being released, he was transported to the local police station for processing and later released on his recognizance after being arranged for his misdemeanor charge. His attorney, Ed Burke Jr., said that Kidd was returning from a charity function and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Although DWI charges carry a potential one-year jail sentence, it's highly unlikely he will serve any jail time. However, this isn't the first time Kidd has been in trouble with the lawin 2001, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge after admitting that he hit his former wife. There's no word as to how the recent arrest will affect his three-year, $9.5 million contract with the New York Knicks, signed just two weeks ago. Just before his arrest Kidd publicly spoke about how he looks forward to mentoring the Knicks' star point guard, Jeremy Lin. "My job is to make Jeremy better," he said. Whether Lin stays with the Knicks is open to doubt, however—as is Kidd's suitability for the mentor role.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Sober stars

7/16/12 12:31pm

Elton John "Wasted" His Druggy Past


Elton John: "the luckiest man in the world."
Photo via

Today, Sir Elton John is music royalty, as well as a husband, father and a passionate voice in the AIDS movement. But he says a portion of his life was "wasted" to addiction. With a new memoir coming out, the British singer-songwriter, 65, has been telling Today’s Matt Lauer about his epic battle with drugs and alcohol, and the challenges of getting clean—after losing some of his closest friends to the diseases of addiction and AIDS. “I wasted such a big part of my life. I was a drug addict and self-absorbed,” he says, confessing that he feels "guilty" for being “consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else” while the gay community was plagued in the '80s by the AIDS epidemic. "I apparently never got the memo that the me generation had ended," he says—but apparently the memo has been gotten now. Since getting sober, John has founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation and raised over $275 million to fight the disease, saying he's "making up for" his past, but "there is so much more to be done." He calls himself "the luckiest man in the world" for surviving years of reckless behavior and escaping HIV-free, because "when you take a drug and you take a drink and you mix those two together, you think you're invincible."

It's not the first time the singer has opened up about his addictions. In 2010, he told Piers Morgan that he nearly died from drug and alcohol abuse, suffering drug-induced seizures, and also struggling with bulimia. “This is how bleak it was," he recalled. "I'd stay up, I'd smoke joints, I'd drink a bottle of Johnnie Walker and then I'd stay up for three days. And then I'd go to sleep for a day and a half... That is how tragic my life was.” Now sober for years—and with over 250 million record sales making him one of the most successful artists of all time—he leads a relatively quite life, raising his first son with partner David Furnish.

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By Valerie Tejeda

cocaine production

7/16/12 11:59am

Bolivia Now Makes More Coke From Fewer Plantations


A woman gathering coca leaves in Chimoré,
Bolivia. Photo via

When it comes to cocaine plantations, Bolivia is focusing less on quantity and more on quality these days. That's according to the US government, which says the country is producing more cocaine despite fewer coca plantations—because drug traffickers are now using the "Colombian method," a more efficient production process. Despite eradication efforts from 2009-2011, this process, coupled with the practice of resowing "eradicated" plantations, has meant the total amount of powder produced keeps rising. "That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there's more production of cocaine," says the outgoing chief of the US diplomatic mission in La Paz, charge d'affaires John Creamer. "They...can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves." Creamer's figures show that only one percent of cocaine seized in the US comes from Bolivia (95% still comes from Colombia). But Bolivia supplies about 60% of the cocaine that enters Brazil, which is suffering a crack epidemic. Creamer will experience that end of the problem when he takes up his next post: US consul in Rio de Janeiro.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Prescription drug ODs

7/16/12 10:57am

Sage Stallone Likely Died of Rx Drug OD


Conflicting reports abound about Stallone's
death. Photo via

Sage Moonblood Stallone—son of actor Sylvester Stallone—was found dead on Friday in his Hollywood home from an apparent prescription medication overdose. While early reports suggested that Stallone’s overdose was deliberate, new evidence is pointing towards the cause of death being accidental. According to Sage Stallone’s attorney, the 36-year-old was planning to marry his girlfriend in Vegas possibly as soon as next weekend. “The last conversation I had with him he was telling me about how he was getting married, and he was planning on some kind of exciting costume wedding in Las Vegas,” says his attorney and confidant George Braunstein. “He was up and positive about everything.” Officials from the LA County coroner’s office say they found no suicide note on the scene and there were no signs of foul play. Original reports claimed that Stallone was possibly dead for at least three days when officers discovered the body in his home, but Braunstein says Stallone uploaded pictures to Facebook just 17 hours before he was found dead. Other sources say Sage "lived like Howard Hughes" and often spent days in his room, which was littered with cigarette butts, beer and soda cans, and food. Amid the conflicting reports, one thing is certain—the Stallone family is heartbroken. Sylvester Stallone asked that the media stop "the speculation and questionable reporting" about his son's death: "Sage was our first child and the center of our universe and I am humbly begging for all to have my son's memory in full left in peace." The cause of death will not be officially known for another two months, as it normally takes about six weeks for toxicology tests to be completed.

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By Valerie Tejeda


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