New Yorkers will now be able to booze-while-they-watch in movie theaters all over the state. Ever since the end of prohibition, all New York theaters have allowed alcoholic drinks to be served—except for those showing movies. Now a new state law will allow cinema-goers to bring alcohol to their seats, so long as the theater has a licensed restaurant on premise and tables at each seat. The law has come about in part due to the lobbying efforts of Matthew Viragh, who recently opened the Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which features a full-service restaurant. Viragh previously had a movie theater in Virginia and has been working to bring a similar concept to New York. A spokesman for national chain AMC Theaters indicates that they're intending to muscle in on the action, as the New York Post reports that the AMC Angelika Film Center in Manhattan is considering adding restaurants that serve alcohol: "We're excited about the possibility of bringing AMC Dine-in Theaters to our guests in New York." Cathy Peake, spokeswoman for Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who sponsored the recent bill, asserted that, "Adults aren't enjoying going to the movies [which cater to] adolescents." Of course, those adults who are in recovery may not agree—New York's movie theaters have long been a place to seek refuge from America's alcohol culture.
- Smugglers Making Hand-Offs Through Bars of Border Fence [Nogales International]
- Wives of Sex Addicts Seek Support After Suffering in Silence [ABC News]
- Alcohol: Not a Friend to Sleep [Huffington Post]
- Dollar Store Chain's New Discount Item: Beer [Reuters]
- Husband's Murder Trial for Death of Alcoholic Wife [Vancouver Sun]
- St. Louis Police Make City's Biggest Ever Heroin Bust [Reuters]
- Cocaine Worth $1.25 Washes Ashore at Cape Canaveral Air Station [Florida Today]
Phony DEA agents have been targeting people who purchase prescription drugs online. Scammers have been calling buyers, saying that they're from the DEA. They then threaten them with prosecution for purchasing prescription drugs illegally overseas—before ordering them to pay a fine to drop the case, reports TMZ. But one Hollywood producer who was on the hit-list refused to become a victim. A DEA "agent" called him about a bottle of Xanax he had bought from a website registered in the Dominican Republic five years previously, claiming he had been indicted in that country. The producer called his lawyer, and once the so-called DEA agent said he could pay a civil penalty to drop the case, the lawyer recorded the following conversation with the suspected fraudster. You can hear the recording of the initial voicemail here. A DEA official told TMZ that it's believed numerous people have fallen for the scam, hurriedly dropping the cash to keep out of trouble. The real DEA is investigating.
Stocks may plummet, jobs may go, but one surefire sign of economic woe is when large numbers of people—in New York, of all places—feel the pinch badly enough to put their coke habits on hold. According to indicators obtained by the New York Post, this has happened right on cue over the last few years. Accidental deaths in the Big Apple in which cocaine was a factor fell from 478 in 2006 to 274 in 2010. Emergency room admissions have also fallen, and only 7,693 people sought treatment for cocaine addiction in New York last year—down from 9,654 in 2008—according to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. "It is sort of on a slight but steady downward trend," said Dr. Stephen Ross, director of NYU’s Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, to the Post. "Many cocaine addicts tell me stories they don’t have enough money to buy it anymore." The idea that cocaine's decline is economy-driven and cyclical, rather than a long-term social trend, was supported by one incarcerated drug dealer who spoke to The Fix: "When the economy goes down, people stay in more and smoke more weed, so I always sold a lot more of that," he told us. "When it goes up, people go out and do coke." So we can expect NYC's cash-strapped coke-heads to hit the powder again as soon as the economy springs to life—always assuming, of course, that it does.
Yet another industry is being outsourced to the developing world: drug safety trials. A new investigative report published in The Nation shows that pharmaceutical companies are sending untested drugs all over the world, but especially to Central and South America, where impoverished and poorly-educated test subjects are rarely given the choice about whether or not to offer their bodies to experimental science. Although the data gained in the course of these trials is used to get FDA approval for new drugs, the FDA is unable to inspect them and hold them accountable to scientific and ethical standards. In 2010, a report by the Department of Health and Human Services report found that 40-65% of drug trials took place overseas. In many of these trials, the subjects are led to believe that they are merely being provided with cheap medical care, rather than submitting their health to experimentation. The FDA inspected less than 1% of these trials—instead, oversight is outsourced to voluntary institutional review boards (IRBs) which are “vulnerable to unethical manipulation,” according to an official with the Government Accountability Office. Not only are studies conducted overseas more likely to exploit subjects, they can also result in faulty data that allows unsafe drugs on to the US market. In 2000, Sanofi-Adventis conducted a series of trials for an antibiotic drug both in America and abroad. One Alabama doctor—who was paid $400 a head for signing up subjects—turned out to have falsified data in 91% of her cases; but Sanofi-Adventis was still allowed to submit replacement data from foreign trials which had not been subject to the same oversight. The drug entered the US market in 2004, but dozens of deaths from liver failure caused the FDA to recommend restricting its use in 2007, a day before Congress was to investigate. Miguel Kottow, a Chilean bioethicist, said “drug companies come to Latin America because they think that IRBs will be less strict and knowledgeable.”
A small but important treatment center called the Club Drug Clinic—the first in the UK specifically for people who have problems with substances such as mephedrone, ecstasy and ketamine—launched yesterday in west London. Funded by Britain's National Health Service for an initial two years, the clinic is based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and staffed by doctors, nurses, psychologists and drug and HIV workers. It's thought that traditional treatment centers' focus on crack, heroin or alcohol may deter users of club drugs from seeking help, and a five-month pilot scheme received over 70 referrals. The news comes as club drug use among young Brits soars—last year an estimated 300,000 aged 16-24 took the stimulant mephedrone, known in the UK as "meow-meow." This trend mirrors a worldwide rise in use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) that was recently reported by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Authorities around the world struggle to keep pace with the rapid development of synthetic ATS drugs—the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction recorded 20 new compounds in the first four months of this year. The founder of the Club Drug Clinic, Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones, told the BBC, "The health risks associated with excessive use of club drugs are underestimated by many people. Little is known about the potential problems of the newer drugs."