South Korea is a country where 16 of the 17 legal casinos are currently off-limits to locals, reserved instead for big-spending tourists. But as some Korean politicians seek to abandon this rule—Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Choung Byoung-gug recently called it an "absurdity"—a report on the one exception released Wednesday gives pause for thought. It covers 52,317 gamblers who visited Kangwon Land—a casino that's open to Koreans, housed in some abandoned mines in remote Gangwon Province—more than 13 times last year. Poverty is no barrier: At least 578 of the regulars rely on government benefits—yet this group clocked up many thousands of visits between them, with one losing an impressive 600 million Won (about $553,000) in just over three years. His problems may be far from over—a rule of thumb is that the larger the loss an addict suffers, the harder the habit is to kick. In one illustration of the general impact of problem gambling, used car prices in American casino cities are often lower than elsewhere—gamblers who sell vehicles to feed their habit or settle debts flood the market. South Koreans who lack casino action still bet enthusiastically—sometimes too enthusiastically—on sports: 40 K-League soccer pros got lifetime bans for a betting-related match-fixing scandal last week. And problem gambling extends to expat populations: Numerous South Korean students in the US reportedly work in restaurants to pay college tuition, having gambled away tens of thousands of dollars intended for the purpose. Like substance use, gambling can prompt the brain to secrete the pleasure-inducing hormone dopamine. Addicts who quit get withdrawal symptoms as secretions decrease, with anxiety and trembling among the hazards.
A man in Naples, Florida, who tried some tough love to stop his alcoholic girlfriend drinking yet another beer has been thrown in jail for his pains. Jeffery Johnson, a 48-year-old cook, has been with his unnamed girlfriend for six years. She told deputies that she had recently moved in with her beau and was recovering from "a serious drinking problem," reports NaplesNews.com. But her recovery hit the rocks on Friday—as well as her relationship. She'd already downed several beers that evening and Johnson saw that she was about to open another. He tried to take the booze away from her, which led to a brief struggle that ended stickily: Johnson allegedly gained control of the beer and then "dumped it all over her." For dishing out this drenching, he was arrested on a charge of domestic battery. And when he got to jail, deputies apparently found that Johnson wasn't exactly Mr. Clean himself—he faces a second charge for possessing a steel wool pad that tested positive for cocaine.
In the wake of some new assessments of the nature of addiction, we may need to re-evaluate a range of behavioral addictions—such as shopping or sex—that were previously considered "less serious" than those causing physical dependency. Internet addiction is still under consideration to be granted Official Diagnosis status in the 2013 addiction specialists' "bible," DSM-5. Last year, researchers at the University of Maryland found that many students who were asked to give up Internet use for 24 hours exhibited classic signs of withdrawal, including craving and anxiety, particularly in regard to social media. The concept of Internet addiction remains controversial, and there's little consensus on how to diagnose or treat it. Still, Internet addiction treatment is a growing global industry: Centers have sprung up in the US, the government of South Korea has set up over 140 Internet addiction treatment facilities, while in China, intense militaristic boot camps are seen as the answer. But a review of eight Internet addiction treatment centers published last month found that they are plagued by inconsistent diagnostic criteria, methodologies and therapeutic responses. The problem of Internet addiction makes us ask ourselves challenging questions about what addiction is—Addiction therapist and Fix contributor Dr. Paul Hokeymeyer gave one response to such a question earlier this year. While many of us feel an increasing need to stay connected—both for work and to maintain our social lives—how can we tell when the need becomes pathological?
- Narcotics Wiretap Catches Voice that May Be Sheriff's Captain's[LA Times]
- Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Makes Big Move into Meth [AP]
- Tennessee Authorities Expect Surge in Heroin Use [Houston Chronicle]
- Quitting Even Tougher When Smokers Battle Other Addictions [US News]
- Why Do College Students Love Getting Wasted? [Salon]
- Tom Hardy Found Alcoholic Role "Cathartic" [Winnipeg Free Press]
- DUI Suspect Sends Malibu Deputies' Cruiser Over Cliff [LA Times]
- New South Wales Firefighters Blazing Over Drug Tests [ABC Sydney]
The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is stepping up its cross-border cooperation with Mexico in a series of unprecedented operations against the drug cartels. In what officials call “boomerang” raids, Mexican commandos are launching helicopter assaults from American soil on leading drug-traffickers in Mexico. The DEA and other US law enforcement agencies are providing logistical support, including staging areas for the raids. Launching such missions from the Yankee side of the border evades, as the Times put it, the “corrupting influences of criminal organizations." Previously CIA operatives had reportedly been posted at Mexican military bases—as officials considered embedding an American team in a Mexican counternarcotics police unit. Even more provocative to Mexican sensibilities, the US is operating unmanned surveillance drones in Mexico's airspace, a tactic also used by the military against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such actions seem to carefully skirt the niceties of international law, which prohibits the US from conducting military-style raids within Mexico and vice-versa. The Times also reports that top US military vets of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been recruited to draft anti-cartel strategies based on counterterrorism operations used against al-Qaeda and others. “The military is trying to take what it did in Afghanistan and do the same in Mexico,” one officer confirmed.
What the military did in Afghanistan included torture, illegal rendition, black sites and other breaches of the Geneva Convention. As the War on Drugs increasingly resembles the War on Terrorism, we have to ask: If the Mexican cartels are treated as terrorists, will they respond by acting like terrorists? These criminal organizations, in addition to terrorizing certain cities and towns in Mexico with extreme violence, are major players in the global black market in drugs and guns. In April, local police in Bronwnsville, Texas, found and defused an improvised roadside bomb—a tactic widely deployed against US troops in Afghanistan by Al Qaeda and the Taliban—set by Mexican cartels in a speculated retaliation for a DEA campaign to capture the leader of the Gulf Drug cartel, Ezequiel Cardenas. As Andrew Rice reminded us a few weeks ago, the Mexican people are paying the price for the US War on Drugs. So far the vast majority of the bloody fallout from the battle along the border has taken place on Mexican soil. But if the US counterterrorism complex continues to amp up its role, taking operations to “the dark side,” there’s always the risk that the drug cartels will respond in kind, adopting terrorist methods. WIll the boomerang raids boomerang on the US?
The Sunshine State is making a much-needed effort to reduce prescription drug abuse as it prepares for its second "Prescription Drug Take-Back Day" tomorrow, August 27. Attorney General Pam Bondi sponsored a measure 10 days ago that marked the 27th as the day where Floridians can safely return unused or expired medications—over 70 pharmacies, grocery stores and law enforcement centers statewide will be waiting to receive their drugs. The numbered of sites doubled this year, due to high participation in last year's event. 5,647 drug-related deaths in Florida in 2010 involved prescription pills, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission Report on Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons—and the rate is rising. Florida's Governor Rick Scott, whose reputation on pill mills is extremely mixed, claimed his state is winning the fight against them, citing almost 940 arrests—including 17 doctors—since he set up a strike force in March. Florida has also confiscated more than 252,000 pills and almost $1.7 million in assets since then. “This is what is possible when we target the source of the problem: bad doctors at the top of the pill mill supply chain,” Scott said. “Florida’s law enforcement officers have made a dramatic impact.”