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Drug dealing

7/20/12 11:34am

Man Who Traded Fish for Crack Must Clean Up

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Drug money? Photo via

It doesn't sound like a fair trade to us: a San Francisco man has received a three-year suspended prison sentence on the condition he enter drug treatment—after swapping $10,000 worth of fish for just $400 worth of crack cocaine. Byron Bates, 44, was working as a truck driver for a seafood distribution company in October 2011 when he was asked to make a round of deliveries in Sacramento. That afternoon, customers began calling to complain that no deliveries had been made, and the company was unable to reach Bates by phone. The truck was found abandoned in Oakland four days later, containing a few remaining, rotting pieces of fish, and Bates was ultimately arrested in South San Francisco. He'd performed the notable feat of persuading a drug dealer to accept payment in fish. The San Mateo Superior Court judge said she chose not to send him to prison because his crime was non-violent, he showed remorse and his "theft-related conduct was driven by addiction." Bates—who wept as he told the court, "I just feel a lot of guilt right now"—has been accepted into the Delancey Street Foundation's addiction recovery program in San Francisco, and vows to turn his life around.

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By McCarton Ackerman

gaming addiction

7/20/12 10:31am

Gaming Addiction Blamed for Another Death

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A dangerous obsession Photo via

The death of an extreme teen gamer is sparking concern over gaming addiction in Taiwan. An 18-year-old boy identified as Chuang died after reportedly engaging in a 40-hour online gaming marathon with no food or sleep. He had booked a room at an Internet cafe in order to play the highly anticipated game Diablo III. After a cafe employee checked on him when he seemed to be lying lifelessly on a table, Chuang apparently took a few steps, collapsed, and was rushed to the hospital. He was pronounced dead after arrival and health officials suspect that he suffered from blood clots. Deaths from gaming are rare, but can happen when obsessed players ignore the body’s need for food, sleep and movement. Asia seems to have particular problems: last year a 30-year-old Chinese man died after playing video games for three days straight with no sleep and only small amounts of food and water, and another gamer suffered a fatal heart attack while playing League of Legends in an internet cafe in Taipei this year. There have even been reports that some young men in China are turning to prostitution to support online gaming habits. Concerns for young players in South Korea led to the recent introduction of a law mandating built-in parental controls on video games.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

7/20/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: July 20, 2012

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Back to old habits? Photo via

By Gabrielle Wuhl

rehab rules

7/19/12 5:00pm

Utah Detoxes Lose Patients Over Smoking Ban

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There had better be coffee. Photo via

As if getting clean wasn’t tough enough already, recovery patients in Utah will soon not be allowed to smoke cigarettes in rehab. The state’s Recovery Plus initiative will require all substance abuse and mental health treatment facilities that receive public funding to be tobacco-free by next March. Some centers, like adult detoxification center Volunteers of America (VOA), have implemented the ban ahead of schedule, and they are finding a significant number of clients are having a more difficult time completing the program. "The cigarette thing almost made me walk out," says Dusti Benavidez, a patient at VOA. “I understand we have to climb a mountain to get clean. Can we climb one mountain at a time?" Patients who smoke prior to admittance are provided with nicotine replacement therapy and education. Even still, the impact of the ban will be felt by a significant amount of people; about 66% of those in substance abuse programs are smokers, according to Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Many clients have already left the detox prematurely, and therefore not receiving assessments for admission to treatment programs, according to VOA residential service director Andrew Johnston. “We’re waiting to see if our numbers rebound to previous levels,” he says. If the number of clients continues to drop, the center may ask the state to waive the ban.

Despite the struggle, research shows that kicking the habit during detox may be worth it, as people who give up smoking during treatment have a 25% better chance of long-term abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Treatment providers are especially eager to promote health and wellness in the state, as Utah clients with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues tend to have a life span that’s 29 years shorter than the general population. “We have a responsibility to view ourselves as health care providers," says Rick Hendy, program administrator of adult mental health for the state Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Utah clinics are not the only place to enforce smoking bans; a Texas rehab center voluntarily kicked out tobacco just a few months ago, and New York and New Jersey have made all rehab facilities entirely smoke-free.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Prescription Drugs

7/19/12 4:08pm

New Federal Bill Targets Rx Pill Abuse

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Can't crush this. Photo via

With the rate of Rx overdose deaths quadrupling in the last decade, the US federal government is mobilizing its best line of defense against a rising surge of painkiller abuse. Today, House lawmakers will introduce legislation that would require most pain drugs to adopt safeguards to deter abuse, such as making the pills more difficult to crush or inject. Rep. Bill Keating, lead sponsor of the bipartisan bill, says Congress considers painkiller abuse to be a "major public health epidemic," and any products that fail to meet these new safety features would be removed from the FDA’s list of approved generic drugs.

While Keating says the bill has "broad support" in the House, there are some concerns that it could do more harm than good. "The proposed legislation would be detrimental to patients and could potentially remove FDA-approved safe and effective generic medicines from those who rely on them," says Ralph G. Neas, president of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, an industry trade group. "Addressing prescription-drug abuse is of utmost importance to the generic pharmaceutical industry. Policy makers should let the medical evidence guide actions in addressing this critical issue." Recently, only a few drug brands have made tamper-resistant formulations, with mixed results; when OxyContin became harder to crush, its sales dropped in many locations, which seemed to suggest that the safeguards were working. However, many OxyContin users simply switched to crushable Opana or even heroin. Whatever happens, the abuse-deterrent formulations are generally priced the same, and there is no difference in medication quality, so patients taking the drugs as prescribed should notice no real difference if the drug companies do adopt these safeguards.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Ask Jane

7/19/12 3:13pm

Could You Have Taken a Different Path?

Q: As an alcoholic, could you have avoided using in the first place if you had known better? Or is it something you had to go through in order to get better?

[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

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