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legalization of marijuana

6/21/12 2:02pm

Uruguay Seeks to Sell Pot to Its Citizens

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Shopkeepers could soon be handling pot for
Uruguay's government instead. Photo via

The biggest supplier of marijuana in Uruguay could soon be the country's own government. A proposed bill would let the government sell marijuana to adult citizens who are registered on a database, making the South American country the world's first pot-dealing nation. It's an attempt to take profits out of the hands of organized crime and prevent users from graduating to harder drugs, thereby reducing social costs. "We're shifting toward a stricter state control of the distribution and production of this drug," says Minister of Defense Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro. "It's a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself." In addition, money on the taxes from government-sold marijuana would go towards rehabilitating addicts. But some medical experts in the country oppose the idea, claiming that marijuana is both dangerous and a gateway to harder drugs. "In the long-run, marijuana is still poison," argues Guillermo Castro, head of psychiatry at the Hospital Britanico in Montevideo. "If it's going to be openly legalized, something that is now in the hands of politics, it's important that they explain to people what it is and what it produces. I think it would much more effective to educate people about drugs instead of legalizing them." Possession of marijuana for personal use has never been a criminal offense in Uruguay.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Addiction on Stage

6/21/12 12:40pm

One-Woman Show Breaks Booze Taboos

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Handron's play shows alcoholism isn't a
black-and-white issue. Photo via

Tara Handron is the sole actor and playwright in the show Drunk With Hope in Chicagoand in one dizzying hour, she portrays 15 different alcoholic women in various stages of active addiction and recovery. The play, which she wrote as part of her Master's thesis for Georgetown University, aims to subvert social stigmas against alcoholics—particularly women. Although "it's gotten better," Handron tells The Fix, "for a long time it's been taboo to be an active alcoholic, which prevents many women from seeking recovery." The media often depicts addiction in "black and white extremes," she notes—when in reality, addiction takes "so many different forms." Handron, who also works at the Caron Foundation in DC, compiled her characters based on the many women she's met and spoken with in the course of her work and her personal life. She's so far performed the play, which is directed by Laura Brienza, at conferences and theater festivals across the US—including New York City and DC as well as her hometown, Chicago. And she hopes the show will help people to see addiction "as a disease, an illness, not a moral deficiency." Drunk With Hope in Chicago runs tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at LA's Theater of NOTE, as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. You can find tickets here.

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By May Wilkerson

prescription drug abuse

6/21/12 11:48am

Pill-Poppers Spur Maine's Crime Spike

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Maine Attorney General Mills addresses
prescription drug abuse in 2010 Photo via

Maine has just experienced its biggest jump in annual crime since 1975—and the state's Public Safety Commissioner John E. Morris blames prescription drugs for the problem. Overall crime in the state has increased 5.4% from 2010-2011. But the most noticeable trend is that pharmacy robberies have doubled during that time. There were 24 pharmacy robberies in 2010, compared with just two in 2008—and 23 pharmacies have been held up already this year. If that growth rate continues, 14% of all pharmacies in Maine will have been subject to a robbery by the end of the year. Home burglaries in the state also jumped 10%—and many of them are of a very specific kind. "I contend that prescription drug addicts, who are unfortunately sick with this addiction, are also the primary cause of the increase of burglaries throughout the state,” says Morris. “These aren’t traditional burglaries. These are people sick with addiction breaking into houses to get prescription drugs. Unfortunately, their targets are those infirm or the elderly who they think are on prescription drugs." Oxycodone is currently Maine's drug of choice.

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By McCarton Ackerman

quitting Smoking

6/21/12 10:53am

Video: Smoking Kids Help Adults Quit

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"If you smoke, you die faster" says this smoker.

A hard-hitting anti-smoking campaign in Thailand is pulling out the big guns—and small people—with a new PSA featuring kids approaching adult smokers to ask, "Do you have a light?" The Thai Health Promotion Foundation conducted a social experiment with the documentary-style commercial (below), Smoking Kid. None of the smokers agrees to give the kids a light; they remind them instead that smoking is harmful. One man lectures: “If you smoke, you die faster. Don’t you want to live and play?” The kids then turn the tables on the adults, asking "So why are you smoking?” and hand out a brochure for a smoking cessation helpline. Since airing the commercial, the foundation says calls to the helpline have increased by 40%. The ad also notes that after the children walked away, many adult smokers threw away their cigarettes—but none threw away the smoking cessation brochure.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

6/21/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: June 21, 2012

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Recovering alcoholic Edie Falco with her son
Anderson. Photo via

By Gabrielle Wuhl

teenage wasteland

6/20/12 5:29pm

More Teen Rx Addicts Switch to Smack

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Many young people don't realize the dangers
of heroin. Photo via

Many opioid painkiller addicts move on to use heroin—and that trend seems to be behind a current spike in teenage heroin addiction. Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, is rising fast among teens. And with the economy flat and the cost of Rx drugs on the rise, heroin—which now tends to be purer and cheaper on the street than before—is often seen as a more affordable, more accessible, alternative. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heroin use has increased 80% among 12 to 17-year-olds since 2002, and the rate of young adult deaths caused by heroin has more than doubled in the last decade. NBC News has conducted interviews with dozens of former young heroin addicts: most started with prescription drugs that cost $20-$60 a time, and then turned to heroin for a more intense, cheaper high at $3-$10 a bag. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that US deaths from prescription drugs tripled between 2000 and 2008, with 14,800 attributed deaths in 2008, and officials fear that a new rise in heroin addiction could cause a similar toll. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Mexican heroin production has rapidly increased in recent years—by more than 43 metric tons from 2002 to 2011—increasing access to the drug in metropolitan areas across the US.

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

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