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synthetic drugs

10/18/12 5:07pm

Souped-Up Designer Drugs Flood Chicago O'Hare

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Here to take our illicit substances' jobs?
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American consumers' prodigious appetite for legal highs increasingly emboldens synthetic drug vendors in China and Europe to slap their wares in boxes and send them as plain old mail. Chicago O'Hare airport's international mail facility is one major entry point for these ever-more potent designer drugs. Packages recently seized there have contained substances such as a new strain of the synthetic cannabinoid "AKB48"—named in honor of a 64-member all-girl Japanese pop sensation—and a mystery beige powder designed to mimic ecstasy. The strength of some of these drugs is terrifying: “In some cases, the chemical compound that arrives in the overseas packet is 100 to 800 times more potent than its natural counterpart,” warns William Wagner, a Chicago Customs and Border Protection (CBP) scientist. “Upon ingestion, side effects can include elevated heart rates, paranoia, vomiting, severe agitation and hallucinations. It is simply unsafe to take these unknown drugs.” Despite these risks, legal thrill-seekers continue to play a substance Russian roulette with temptingly-monikered compounds like "Annihilation" and "Smiles," as authorities trip over themselves in the rush to ban every minor variation of each new high. “These unpredictable chemical combinations are sending some users to the hospital," says Steven Artino, CBP Chicago's acting director of field operations, "and others to the grave.”

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By Bryan Le

overdose deaths

10/18/12 3:59pm

Garrett Reid Died From Heroin OD, Coroner Confirms

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Garrett Reid and his father. Photo via

The August 5th death of Garrett Reid, son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, is confirmed to have been the result of an accidental heroin overdose. The coroner's report, released today, found that the 29-year-old died of “acute opiate (heroin) toxicity” and that his “manner of death is classified as accidental.” Reid, who went into recovery for heroin addiction after a 2007 arrest and imprisonment, had been staying at Lehigh University to help train his dad's team. At the time of his death, he was found in his dorm room with a used syringe, a spoon and 19 vials on an “unknown liquid” near him, and many more unused needles and syringes around his quarters.  “This is a very difficult situation for us all to deal with," said quarterback Michael Vick in August. “Coach has always been a rock for us. We're going to lean on him, be there for him and stay strong for him until he can come back to lead us on."

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By Bryan Le

drug busts

10/18/12 3:03pm

Pot Farmers Use Profits to Support Kenyan Village

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Two drug dealers you just may want to hug.
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And the award for the world's most charitable drug dealers goes to: a couple in England, who have been using the proceeds from their pot farm to help support a small village in Kenya. Susan Cooper and Michael Foster, a couple in their early 60's, were found to be piloting a massive-scale marijuana operation that raked in approximately £400,000 ($645,000) in profits over the past six years. “The evidence demonstrates much of the money was put to charitable and good use,” said the couple's attorney. “While in Kenya they bought a computer for a local eye hospital, paid for children to be put through school and paid for a lifesaving operation on a man's gangrenous leg.” The philanthropical grow-op remained under-the-radar until officers, while chasing a burglar through the couple's yard, noticed a peculiar smell coming from their Lincolnshire farmhouse. A subsequent raid uncovered 159 plants worth approximately £20,000 ($32,000), and the equivalent amount more in cash. But while being do-gooders may have compelled the judge to call them a “respectable couple of positive good character,” they were nonetheless given three years in jail on charges of production of cannabis and possession of criminal money. "You were growing it on a significant scale, jetting off to Kenya on it," said the judge. "I am sure you were doing good things in Kenya with your drugs money, whether that was to appease your consciences, I can only speculate."

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By Bryan Le

Presidential Election

10/18/12 2:19pm

Why No One Goes to Rehab During Election Season

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Michelle Bachmann doesn't know who
will win, either. Photo via

Every four years, Americans of all political persuasions threaten to quit the country if their party loses the Presidential election. It’s become so commonplace, in fact, that JetBlue this year is even running an “Election Protection” promotion: You can win a free flight out of the country if your guy loses. But there’s another way in which Presidential uncertainty affects future plans—and that’s in rehab admissions. Authentic Recovery Center (ARC) founder Cassidy Cousens tells The Fix that, over his 12 years in the rehab biz—three top-office election cycles, in other words—he’s noticed a “significant drop” in treatment admissions from September through early November. But it’s not across the board. “We do a bunch of charity treatment, and the free [rehab] sector, the programs that are sponsored by the state or federal grants, don’t typically see a reduction,” says Cousens. “Where there seems to be a slowdown is in the boutique, mid- to high-end programs.”

Why should price make a difference? Cousens believes: “When people are talking about spending $25,000 to $80,000 [on treatment], uncertainty about their tax rates or what’s happening next April tends to cause people to delay a little bit, if it's not completely crisis-driven.” On top of that, the general economic bad vibes surrounding both this and the 2008 election have only amplified the phenomenon, which also has been observed in the retail world. Even though it’s just a theory, Cousens has asked around in the treatment industry, and, he says, "Everybody I know is fairly slow." It’s worth nothing that rehab-admission downturns aren’t evident in conjunction with state-level or midterm election seasons, or specific legislation. It’s pretty much strictly a Presidential-contest thing. 

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By Hunter R. Slaton

Jane Says

10/18/12 1:13pm

Do Reality Shows Exploit Addicts?

Reader's Question: Is the portrayal of alcohol abuse on reality shows like Jersey Shore helpful, in that it puts the subject in the public eye? Or is it just exploitation?

[Jane is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to janevelezmitchell@thefix.com.]

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By Jane Velez-Mitchell

celebrity rehab

10/18/12 12:07pm

Rehab Was Right for Gerard Butler

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Butler has made a "shitload of wrong
decisions," and some right ones. Photo via

Gerard Butler is finally talking about his rehab experience after checking out of the Betty Ford Center eight months ago, and slashing rumors that he was being treated for alcohol abuse. The actor checked into a pain-management program for three weeks after being injured in a surfing accident while shooting the film Chasing Mavericks, which hits theaters tomorrow. "Maybe a stronger person wouldn't have needed to go," he says. "When you hear the word rehab, you think, ‘He's a mess, he's fucked up.' But I'm glad I did it. I've made a shitload of wrong decisions in my life. But I know I've made some right ones as well." Initial media reports were that Butler was in treatment for alcoholism, but the actor contends he has been booze-free for 15 years. He says he's had pain problems ever since filming war flick 300 in 2006, but that the issue got worse after filming Of Men and Mavericks. It reached a boiling point when a surfing accident left him trapped underwater for nearly a minute, and he began experiencing "visceral" flashbacks of the incident. "I was actually taking a minimal amount [of pills] when I went in," he says. "It was more about becoming a mental warrior and not letting pain bother you. The [instructor] would say, ‘I don't want to hear about your fucking MRIs or your fucking X-rays...Let's learn how to say to the pain, 'Fuck you.'"

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