Latin American leaders from Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala, among other countries, met at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday and unanimously called for alternatives to the current war on drugs. Mexican President Felipe Calderon was among the first to speak at the event, held at UN headquarters in New York, and said the fact that developed countries use "tons and tons of drugs"—yet cannot reduce consumption—is a telling sign that leaders need to adopt different tactics. He urged drug-consuming nations to "evaluate with all sincerity, and honesty, if they have the will to reduce the consumption of drugs in a substantive manner. If this consumption cannot be reduced, it is urgent that decisive actions be taken." Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for a "global" discussion on ways to move past the current war on drugs and create more effective approaches. "It is our duty to determine—on objective scientific bases—if we are doing the best we can or if there are better options to combat the scourge," he said. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina also emphasized the importance of countries uniting on this issue and said that his government would like to establish "an international group of countries that are well disposed to reforming global policies on drugs." Although he was expected to address legalization of all drugs in his address, as he has done at various speeches in the past, he did not mention it during this hearing.
Former Mickey Mouse Clubber Justin Timberlake has made quite the name for himself in the acting world these days. The jack-of-all-trades has most recently landed a leading role as a food critic who struggles with alcoholism. In the movie—directed by Peter Sollett—Timberlake's character falls for a young woman and realizes he must overcome his self-destructive addiction if he wants to save the relationship. Playing an alcoholic will be a first for the 31-year-old, and while he has never struggled with alcoholism himself (to our knowledge), he has admitted to enjoying pot every now and then. Back in 2011, the pop star spoke openly to Playboy about his love for marijuana. “The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking,” he said when asked if the drug helps boost his creativity. “Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off. Some people are just better high.” Timberlake also confessed to being high during an episode of MTV’s Punk’d where he was seen freaking out on camera. The star admitted to being “so stoned” during the episode that it prompted him to quit smoking mary jane for a year. No word on who will be staring opposite Timberlake in The Last Drop, and a theater release date has yet to be announced.
- Egypt Seizes Marijuana in Sinai in its Biggest Ever Drug Haul [Haaretz]
- Feds Target LA in Medical Marijuana Crackdown [Sacramento Bee]
- Chemist in Mass. Drug Lab Scandal: "I Messed Up Bad" [Boston Globe]
- DC Police to Resume Blood Alcohol Testing After Two Year Suspension [Washington Post]
- Czechs Seek Ways to Ease Ban of 20 Million Liquor Bottles [Businessweek]
- Dr. Griffith Edwards, Addiction Specialist, Dies at 83 [New York Times]
- How Drug Dealers Might Have Targeted Walgreens Supply Chain [Wall Street Journal]
Tonight on British TV, volunteers are taking MDMA live on air as part of a study of the drug's effects on the brain, for the documentary series Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial. "The programs aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding the issue and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA," says the website for Channel 4, which will air the two-part live series. Some argue that the use of illicit substances on TV trivializes and condones drug use; but others consider it a welcome way of publicizing vital scientific research—preliminary studies suggest MDMA (the pure form of ecstasy) may be useful in treating depression and PTSD. This trial could "pave the way to further research into potential therapeutic uses of MDMA, such as in the treatment of PTSD" says former member of parliament Evan Harris, who is participating in the trial. Other volunteers will include British actor Keith Allen, a novelist, a vicar and an ex-soldier. The trials are a continuation of an earlier study by Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London into the potential of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to alleviate depression.
Nearly half a million Brits are estimated to take ecstasy every year, helping the UK earn the title of the "drug-taking capital of Europe," according to a recent EU Drugs Agency report. Use of the drug carries risks, including dehydration and possible heart failure, memory loss, and possible long-term brain damage; but in its pure form, it may have healing properties too. Researchers suggest that MDMA may allow PTSD sufferers to access negative memories without feeling threatened and overwhelmed—a step that is thought to be crucial for recovery. And its psychedelic properties—much like psilocybin—might be useful in treating depression, by breaking down rigid and self-destructive thinking patterns, and helping individuals access memories of happier times. Although using MDMA as part of a scientific study is technically legal, "the prohibitionist policies towards psychoactive substances create a strong taboo, which makes many scientists, universities and funding bodies unwilling to become involved" writes Amanda Feilding, a drug policy reformer who is a strong proponent of investigating the therapeutic properties of illicit drugs, in The Guardian. "Let us hope that before too long, the stain of the taboo will be washed away, and scientific evidence will prevail."
An operator in the reactor control room of a nuclear power plant in a small American town has been caught working under the influence of booze—and his name isn't Homer Simpson. A random urine test conducted on July 14 at Exelon Nuclear's facility in Limerick Township, PA found that Roger T. Devlin had alcohol in his system, and he hasn't challenged the result, reports the Pottsdown Mercury. Devlin's control room operator license has been terminated; the use of a urine test rather than a breathalyzer means that while alcohol was detected, his level of drunkenness isn't known. Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which carries out both random and targeted drug and alcohol testing of employees, writes in an email to The Mercury that Devlin "was never the sole control room operator on duty; all activities the individual was involved with that day were reviewed and no errors identified; and action was taken against the individual, including prompt removal from operator duties." Sheehan states that Devlin's drinking "occurred off-site," and that he was issued with a Severity Level III violation—meaning one that “resulted in or could have resulted in moderate safety or security consequences.”
Group therapy for cell phone "addiction" is now available at at least one drug and alcohol rehab. Numerous surveys have shown "nomophobia"—the fear of being away from your phone—to be a growing problem. Noting the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Elizabeth Waterman of the somewhat embattled Morningside Recovery Center in California has founded the first recovery group for nomophobes. The program aims to help people recognize the symptoms of their dependence, examine the psychological reasons for it and acquire the techniques to overcome it. Psychiatrist Keith Albow, writing for Fox News, would like to see other treatment centers follow: "Hopefully, Morningside Recovery Center’s program will motivate others to take its lead in actually putting an addiction to mobile technology—including cell phone messages and Facebook updates—on par with tobacco and alcohol dependence." He continues: “While it is clearly not as toxic to one’s lungs or liver as drugs or alcohol, it can be just as toxic to one’s self-determination and relationships and may actually make people more vulnerable to other addictions. It seems possible, in fact, that mobile technology could be a 'gateway drug' that fuels the search for self-defeating, counterproductive anti-anxiety strategies—like using marijuana or alcohol to keep uncomfortable feelings at bay."