Legalization advocates, and a number of stoners, have long claimed that weed isn't physically addictive like cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs—but a new study may contradict this notion, revealing that quitting marijuana can cause withdrawal symptoms as severe as withdrawal from nicotine. Australian researchers rounded up more than 50 regular pot users and asked them to abstain from the drug for two weeks; they found that many experienced withdrawal symptoms that interfered with their daily lives. "It's very similar to what people experience with tobacco," says study co-author Alan J. Budney. "It makes you irritable. It makes you restless. It makes it hard to sleep." Although withdrawal symptoms were not found to be life-threatening, they were worse among heavy users, many of whom ended up using more marijuana after the abstinence period was over. "There is a common belief among the public that marijuana is not very addictive and so it is not a big problem," says Scott E. Lukas, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology. "It is not enough to simply say, 'I want to quit,' but, instead, the person must be able to withstand the turmoil of going through withdrawal." Nearly 7% of Americans over the age of 12 use marijuana, according to a 2009 report by the CDC. And while the debate continues as to whether the drug is dangerous or benign, it has been linked to increased bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer and testicular cancer.
Mexican authorities claim to have caught Iván Velázquez Caballero, known as “El Talibán,” one of the leaders of the infamous Zetas drug cartel. "A person who is presumed to be, and acknowledges being, Iván Velázquez Caballero, was captured in the state of San Luis Potosi" reads a statement by the Mexican navy. The drug boss had a 30 million peso ($2.25 million) reward on his head; with his capture, Mexican authorities hope for an end to the inhumane violence the cartel is known for, which included decapitating 49 people and leaving their headless bodies by a highway earlier this year. El Talibán is believed to be responsible for recent infighting with rival Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano and his right-hand man Miguel Trevino Morales, which has left bullet-ridden bodies stuffed in vans and hanging from bridges in multiple cities. If the reign of El Talibán is in fact over, this could signal an end to one brutal chapter of Mexico's drug war—but new rumors have surfaced of tensions between Lazcano and Trevino Morales, suggesting that the violence may be far from over. Enrique Pena Nieto, who will replace Felipe Calderón as president of Mexico on December 1, faces the daunting task of how to handle the ongoing threat posed by violence between rival drug gangs.
Britney Spears won't be allowed to testify in a jury trial starting October 1—a lawsuit in which her former manager, Sam Lutfi, accuses her family of defamation, libel, violence and breach of contract. But legal documents obtained by The Fix indicate what she might have been expected to tell the jury—points that the Lutfi camp won't be slow to make once the trial begins.
Sam Lutfi became Spears' manager from June 2007, months before the troubled pop star lost custody of her children—due to her being a "habitual, frequent and continuous" user of alcohol and controlled substances, court documents stated back then—following her divorce from Kevin Federline. Spears can't currently be called to testify due to her being placed under a conservatorship for her protection in 2008; the judge overseeing that conservatorship has ruled that putting her on the stand would cause her "irreparable harm and immediate danger."
The documents now obtained by The Fix indicate that Lutfi was set to retain 15% of Spears' gross earnings while he was her manager—some $120,000 per month. They state that Lutfi tried to prevent Spears' drug use, allegedly including Adderall abuse, and that after she relapsed in September 2007 he "threw his hands up and walked away." He then moved into her home that October, they continue—the month she lost custody of her children—but only under the condition she stop taking drugs. Overall, the documents claim that the conservators are blocking Britney Spears' testimony not for her own protection, as they say, but because she would refute her family’s claims, including that Lutfi drugged her food and removed her car’s batteries. If Britney Spears could appear in court, they note, she might testify that Lutfi didn't cut off her phones—as was claimed by Britney’s mother, Lynne Spears, in her 2008 book, Through the Storm, as well as in a damning temporary restraining order against Lutfi filed by the Spears family in early 2008.
Britney Spears is represented on this trial by her co-conservators: Jamie Spears (her father) and attorney Andrew Wallet. Their lawyer, Joel Boxer, tells The Fix that he won’t comment while in litigation. The Spears team submitted an argument to the judge last week that, "[Lutfi] will have ample opportunity to fashion his story to the jury to exploit Britney's absence as a witness at trial: the co-conservators' hands are tied in that regard." They propose that Lutfi's team should not be able to sway the jury by implying that Britney Spears' absence is voluntary or improper.
Meanwhile Lutfi’s lawyer, Joseph Schleimer, who also refused comment, is insisting that if Britney Spears were able to appear in court, she'd say that far from being a divisive presence, Sam Lutfi actually tried to end her estrangement from her parents in 2007. Lutfi's representatives are claiming that the Spears family showed malice towards their client, citing a text message sent from Jamie Spears to Sam Lutfi on December 17, 2007: “If and when I met u one thing is going to happen I am going to jail and you are going to the hospital.” Britney Spears allegedly then told Lutfi: “I told you so.”
While drug use and addiction are rampant among our nation's prison population, far too often the avenues for treatment are minimal. One option that is available in federal prisons is the Residential Drug Abuse Program, commonly referred to as RDAP. The aim of this intensive treatment program is clearly to reduce relapse and recidivism. As part of a modified therapeutic community, all participants are expected to contribute to the creation of a social organization to facilitate positive psychological and lifestyle change.
"It's a good program," one prisoner tells The Fix. "It's not a disgrace to be wrong, but it is a disgrace to stay wrong. Therein lies the success of RDAP. Utilized correctly, this program can incite change in one's life. It's elevated my thinking by allowing me to challenge my thinking. Ultimately it's put me on a better path." RDAP emphasizes pro-social thinking and behaviors intended to improve functioning both inside and outside prison. It focuses heavily on each RDAP participant's behavior, thoughts, emotions, perceptions and interactions—and this leads to some intense moments in therapy. "You have to be cautious and use your own good judgment in this program," says one veteran. "It's designed to cause controversy within the unit, which functions as a mini-community. I try to keep my strong opinions to myself. I don't want to make waves or say things that will spiral out of control. I don't trust the drug counselors here—they try to stir shit up." To entice prisoners to enroll in the program and fulfill the strict behavior codes, the Bureau of Prisons offers prisoners up to a year off their sentences for completion of the 500-hour, 10 month-long program. "Sometimes it can be a hassle," the second prisoner says. "But 12 months off my sentence is worth the bullshit I have to endure in this program. I try to get what I can out of it because I'm not trying to come back to prison—and if I take drugs, that's where I'll end up."
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.