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10/31/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 31, 2012

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The Octomom leaves her kids behind to go
to rehab. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

drug cartels

10/30/12 5:27pm

Are Mexican Cartels in Cahoots With Hezbollah?

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah Photo via

Middle Eastern terrorist group Hezbollah may be collaborating with Mexican drug cartels, and even using their trafficking routes to infiltrate the US, according to at least one US lawmaker. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Republican from North Carolina, says there's evidence that the Lebanese militants have been working with drug cartels to sneak across the border since as far back as 2009—and she claims that the federal government is choosing to ignore the problem. "I don't have a lot of faith in the Department of Homeland Security," says Myrick. "They should be looking at these groups in Mexico much more closely." Other recent links have been drawn between drug gangs and Islamic terrorists: about a year ago, an alleged Iranian operative plotted to assassinate a Saudi diplomat with gunmen from the Zetas cartel—except the gunmen were actually undercover FBI agents. Now, Myrick has requested that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) create a task force to monitor Islamic extremist groups in Mexico. But DHS secretary Janet Napolitano remains adamant that current intelligence resources are adequate, and denies there's any credible evidence of Middle Eastern terrorists operating south of the border. More than 200,000 people of Lebanese and Syrian descent live in Mexico, but US officials have not identified any ties to Hezbollah.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Designer Drugs

10/30/12 4:38pm

New Drug "25i" Haunts New Orleans

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Don't judge a drug by its Spongebob cover.
Photo via

The latest in a succession of scary "designer drugs" blamed for landing kids in the hospital is a liquid hallucinogen, known on the street as "25i". It can be dropped on the tongue, and mimics the effects of LSD. Authorities say 25i can lead to seizures and multi-organ system failure; this past weekend, three people were hospitalized in New Orleans after reportedly using it at the Voodoo Music Experience festival. "[25i] is a drug that both myself and my colleagues haven't seen before in the city," says Dr. Joseph Lasky, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Tulane University Hospital. "There's been some reports of it throughout the United States, causing severe injury and even death." Doctors can't currently predict the 25i's effects with much accuracy, however. "The drug binds to a receptor in the brain, a 5HT receptor, and the amount of this receptor is highly variable from person to person," says Lasky, "so there's no predicting the effect or the magnitude of the effect that this drug is gonna have, which makes it particularly dangerous.” New designer drugs—which pop up faster than authorities can crack down on them—leading to their implication in a string of hospitalizations and deaths. Recently, another "legal high" known as "Annihilation" was banned in the UK after landing nine people in the hospital; in the US, a substance called "Smiles" was banned for its involvement in two teen deaths, after apparently causing one user to "smash his head against the ground" and act "possessed."

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By Chrisanne Grise

rehab deaths

10/30/12 3:01pm

Narconon Arrowhead CEO Breaks His Silence

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Deadly, or just standard-issue rehab
tragedies? Photo via

Over the past year, three people have died at a Scientology-affiliated rehab, Narconon Arrowhead, near the town of Canadian, Oklahoma. The treatment facility employs controversial "Purification Rundown" techniques, including high doses of vitamins (including niacin) and intensive sauna sessions. Until now, Narconon leadership has refused to speak to the press. But an Oklahoma TV news station recently landed an exclusive interview with Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith, who said that the Narconon program helped him break his own addiction (he wouldn't say to what) 36 years ago.

"I've had it personally, I've helped people, I've seen what it does," Smith said. "Yes, it's very serious." He added that nearly three quarters of staff members at Narconon Arrowhead are program alumni—not an uncommon occurrence in the rehab industry. According to Smith, the exercise-and-sauna program begins with a half-hour of light calisthenics, followed by four and a half hours "in a low, dry-heat sauna, with cool-down and hydration breaks." The mother of one of the deceased, Gabriel Graves, said that her son suffered from intense headaches following the sauna sessions, but was denied pain meds, and was unable to see a doctor. Smith claims that Narconon tries to treat its patients "nutritionally" at first, but will allow OTC medications as needed. As for the deaths themselves, Smith evaded comment, telling the news station, "It's a tough job. There's people that die from addiction every day." He added, "Unfortunately, death is part of addiction. It's an ugly part, and it happens in rehab and out of rehab, and nobody wants it to happen." Citing patient confidentiality, Smith declined to comment specifically on the three deaths that have occurred at his facility.

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By Hunter R. Slaton

Bullying

10/30/12 2:08pm

Bullies and Their Victims Abuse Booze More

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Do bullying and booze go hand in hand?
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Both school bullies and their victims are more likely to turn to alcohol following an incident of bullying, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati examined trends in bullying, recent alcohol use and heavy drinking episodes among over 54,000 7th-12th grade students in schools across greater Cincinnati, including the tri-state regions of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. They found that 38% of students had taken part in violent victimization at school, ranging from verbal intimidation to the use of a weapon. Victims of bullying—who were found more likely to be males, non-whites and junior high school students—were 1.5 times more likely to abuse alcohol than their peers. And interestingly, the bullies themselves reported similar drinking patterns. “The overall effect of victimization and alcohol use did not differ based on sex, age or race. It has an overall impact on their drinking rates and level of intoxication across all categories,” says Dr. Keith King, one of the lead researchers. “Also, bullies and their victims are reporting similar types of activity in relation to their drinking patterns. We believe the alcohol abuse may often be an effort to escape problems and to self-medicate.” Both bullies and their victims were also found to be less likely to engage in extracurricular school clubs or community organizations.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Drug treatment in prison

10/30/12 1:13pm

Drug Treatment in Prison: Orientation

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Learning to change. Photo via

Prisoners who qualify for the Bureau of Prisons' Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) can get up to a year off their sentence for completing the 500-hour, 10 month-long course. Upon admission, each prisoner is given an orientation handbook to introduce the rules, expectations and concepts of RDAP. To successfully complete Phase 1, a prisoner must cooperate and participate fully, building rapport with others, and demonstrating a positive attitude and a willingness to accept feedback. The idea is for him to learn to recognize self-defeating thoughts and attitudes that will stunt his development; by understanding the damaging consequences of addictive and criminal behavior, he can mentally prepare himself for successful re-entry into society.

But it doesn't always go exactly to plan: "What we actually do is different than what is supposed to happen," one current RDAP participant tells The Fix. "We are supposed to have class five days a week, and usually we only had it once or twice a week. When we did go to class, the DTS [drug treatment specialist] would repeat the same stuff over and over again, giving the equivalent of a halftime speech and telling us how we hit the lottery [by being admitted to the program]." He continues, "We watched some movies and wrote papers on them, and we had to write a 15-page autobiography detailing our drug use and criminal behavior, which we had to turn in."

"Ideally what we were supposed to learn was the eight attitudes of change, which go from honesty to willingness and the roadblocks to change, which can stop us from changing," the prisoner says. RDAP teaches residents how to perform an attitude check and at a minimum, expects a participant to prepare a readiness statement and develop a realistic individual treatment plan. "Phase 1 is to pretty much get us to see how in our lives what we were doing wasn't working," says the prisoner. "That is the first step: realization. It's kind of like in the 12-step NA program where we realize we are powerless over our addictions. The same philosophy, but we are in prison."

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By Seth Ferranti

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