- Factory Mills Feed Ravenous NYC Heroin Market [AP]
- Fire Captain Pleads Guilty in DUI Hit-and-Run [LA Times]
- Vietnam's Addicts Produce "Blood Cashews" [Time]
- BDSI Producing New Opioid Addiction Drug Candidate [Med City]
- UCF Booze Ban Has Loopholes [Fox Orlando]
- Weatherman's Story of Alcoholism and Redemption [WGRZ]
- Seized Vodka Contained De-Icer [BBC]
“The most important thing is to force [heroin addicts] to quit and keep them clean a certain time,” Yevgeny Roizman, who founded City Without Drugs, told The New York Times. “If they behave, they can go home.” Last weekend, the Times ran an expose (complete with slide show) of Roizman's prisonlike detox center, where addicts spend 30 days in a packed “quarantine” room, sometimes handcuffed to their bunks, and fed bread, water and gruel—once clean, the inmate-clients are kept under lock and key for a year doing menial tasks like cooking and cleaning. Such brutal cold-turkey programs—which offer no medication, no therapy, no support group, no addiction education, no skills building, not even a 12-step meeting—are springing up across Russia, ignoring the protests of human rights groups. “We know we are skirting the edge of the law,” a staff member admitted. “We lock people up, but mostly we have a written request from their family. The police couldn’t do this, because it’s against the law.” Russia has the world's highest number of opiate addicts; estimates range from two to five million. They spent $17 billion on street-traded heroin last year, with 7 billion doses leading to at least 30,000 deaths by overdose, one third of the world’s total. The punitive approach to “rehabilitation” matches the government's own policies, which oppose harm-reduction programs or needle exchanges to protect addicts from HIV. (Recently Moscow even closed down its syringe-giveaway groups, which had long run on funds from foreign NGOs.) As a result, there may be as many as a million Russians with HIV, the vast majority the victims of used needles. Meanwhile methadone is illegal and widely viewed as a Western fad. Yevgeny Roizman claims that his “tough it out” approach has a 70% success rate. Yet the organization has never conducted a single follow-up study, so this boast has no backing. “It’s not treatment, it’s jail,” Sergei Polyatykin, medical head of Russian advocacy group Say No to Alcohol and Drugs, told the Times. “Imprisonment and torture can’t help drug addicts to kick the habit. Only a small percentage stay off drugs.” But Roizman is riding high, having earned stardom and election to parliament as a drug war crusader.
In some cities you couldn't even do this with tobacco: this weekend an event called the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo took place in by far its most prominent location yet—right under the nose of local government in Oakland, California. Occupying five blocks, the two-day party allowed anyone with medical approval to smoke cannabis in a designated area, just in front of City Hall—unmolested by "indifferent" cops. Some style the city the center of the Golden State's medical marijuana industry: "Oakland was the birthplace of Proposition 19," event representative Salwa Ibrahim told ABC [below], "and we have a school and a museum and a lot of these different businesses that really do cater to the cannabis industry." She emphasized, "We try to stress how to safely consume medicine." This medicine seemed pretty popular: many visitors without prior approval waited in long lines for interviews with on-site doctors, who provided temporary recommendations to smoke pot—for a $99 fee—for reported conditions ranging from migraines to bipolar disorder. But critics complained that the festival atmosphere and open smoking sent the wrong message to young people: "We don't want this in our neighborhood," said Charles O'Neil of the Coalition for a Drug Free California. As loud music played, products ranging from hemp massage oils to novelty bongs to "canna-bananas," dipped in THC-laced chocolate, were snapped up by enthusiasts. Beer-drinkers, who were herded into a separate tented area by wristband-checking security guards, may have felt like the more persecuted species for once. "You can smoke all you want and no one gets in fights," one smoker told OaklandNorth.net, "It's all peace and love. It's amazing."
Most people think a caffeinated cup of coffee in the morning helps boost their mental performance all day. But a new British study suggests that the pick-me-up power of a morning cup of Joe could be all in your head. A team from the University of London set out to investigate the power of the placebo effect in coffee drinkers, enlisting 88 students in the habit of downing at least two caffeinated cups every day. The researchers gave caffeinated coffee to two groups of volunteers and decaffeinated coffee to another two groups—but lied to half of them about the caffeine content in their coffee. Those who were truthfully told they had caffeinated coffee showed a significant improvement in performance—but not in reaction time. Those who were told they had caffeinated coffee—but didn't—performed better in both performance and reaction time. This suggests that attention and psychomotor function improved whether subjects really drank caffeinated coffee or simply thought they did. All volunteers reported feeling more depressed over the course of the testing, which doesn't say much for the researchers' conversational skills—but those who drank or thought they drank caffeine didn’t feel as glum as the others. There may be another reason for caffeine drinkers to cheer up: other researchers believe regular coffee intake might help prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Brits drink around 70 million cups of coffee a day, according to the British Coffee Association, while Americans take over 330 million cups daily—and counting. According to researchers, the University of London study suggests "the expectation of having consumer caffeine confers an enhancement on sustained attention that is at least comparable, and perhaps superior to, the effects of caffeine.” In other words, your morning mental boost may indeed be confined to your mind.
Indonesia is undoubtedly beautiful, but drug users beware: the world's most populous Muslim nation has some of the strictest drug laws on the planet. In 2009 its parliament voted in a series of draconian amendments like criminalizing parents who fail to report their drug using children to the authorities, and up to nine years' jail for possession of even tiny amounts of narcotics. In such an atmosphere, the victimization of drug users has become routine—a 2009 Inside Indonesia article exposed the Indonesian police’s routine sexual abuse of female drug users, often forced to choose between a prison sentence or sexually servicing the arresting officers. The “Bali Nine” case caused international consternation when nine Australians were arrested on suspicion of heroin smuggling, and several of them faced the firing squad as a result (appeals are pending, but clemency looks increasingly unlikely).
In such harsh conditions it's doubly encouraging to see a sliver of hope emerging, in the form of Yayasan Harapan Permata Hati Kita—“Yakita” for short—a non-profit recovery center in Bogor with 14 other locations throughout Indonesia. The name means “Hope Foundation for All Loved Ones,” and it sounds apt. The Jakarta Globe recently profiled this pioneering treatment center, where the lives of some of the world's most marginalized drug users are being transformed thanks to the dedication of psychologist David Gordon, and his wife Joyce Djaelani Gordon. When the husband and wife team founded Yakita in 1999 there was only one other treatment center in the country. Twelve years on, and still no other facilities offer the kind of holistic approach that Yakita borrows from US centers. Gordon theorizes that this stems from poor infrastructure, and a basic lack of understanding of drug addiction. “In Indonesia, there is no language for it,” Gordon explains. “They don’t understand the process. This is too new.” As in other countries, Indonesia's punitive approach has hardly been backed by results. Amphetamine abuse is at an all-time high, and overall drug use is spiraling. According to the National Narcotics Agency there were 3.6 million drug users in Indonesia in 2009, and that number is expected to pass five million in 2011. It may be time for the rest of the country to take note of Yakita's example.
Backed by the threatening slogan, "They'll see you before you see them," cops have been hunting down drunk drivers all across the country over the Labor Day weekend. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 11,000 Americans are killed by drunk drivers every year—other estimates are higher. And while the proportion of motor vehicle fatalities involving a driver at 0.08 BAC or more fell from 46% to 36% between 1985 and 1995, the figure has remained steady ever since. This led to a massive "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign from NHTSA, involving thousands of law enforcement agencies, and publicity including hard-hitting TV commercials aimed at men aged between 21 and 34—the biggest culprits. August 19 to September 5 was the designated "maximum enforcement period," running at a time traditionally known for getting behind the wheel when drunk. Many states and counties have been announcing tallies for DUI arrests during the period: Connecticut reported 44 DUI arrests over Labor Day weekend at press time, for example; in Denver more than 700 DUI arrests had been made since mid-August; Arizona topped 1,000 in the same period; 1399 Labor Day weekend DUI arrests by the California Highway Patrol narrowly surpassed last year, with three deaths reported in LA, and five DUI arrests made by one San Pedro checkpoint in a single hour on Sunday afternoon. Individual incidents include a dramatic minivan chase in Pittsburgh, while a woman in Chicago allegedly drank six vodkas before getting in a car and putting a cyclist in critical condition on Thursday. The maximum enforcement period ended at 11:59 last night. As the dust settles and the human cost of drunk driving in the Labor Day period is assessed, campaigners will hope for a national change of attitude, similar to the one that has seen a huge increase in seat belt use in the last two decades. “We’re taking the gloves off on drunk driving,’’ Nicole R. Nason, the NHTSA administrator, told the New York Times. “This country has made tremendous strides against drunk driving through the 1980s and into the early 1990s. But the numbers have been flat for the last decade.’’