It no longer comes as any surprise that prescription painkiller use is surging in the US, but new figures from the DEA are still staggering to read. In 2010, pharmacies nationwide received and dispensed 69 tons of pure oxycodone (the key ingredient in Oxycontin, Percocet and Percodan) and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone (the key ingredient in Vicodin, Norco and Lortab). That's enough to give 40 five-milligram Percocets and 24 five-milligram Vicodins to every single person in the US. An aging national population accounts for some of the increase—but far from all of it. Some regional figures are astonishing: oxycodone sales in Staten Island climbed 1,200% between 2000 and 2010, for example. Parts of Eastern California saw 500% increases during that time, while in most of Tennessee per capita oxycodone sales became five or six times higher. And in areas of New Mexico, hydrocodone sales are five times higher per capita and oxycodone sales 10 times what they were in 2000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone were responsible for 14,800 deaths in 2008, and that number has continued to rise. "Prescription medications can provide enormous health and quality-of-life benefits to patients," Gil Kerlikowske, the US drug czar, told Congress in March. "However, we all now recognize that these drugs can be just as dangerous and deadly as illicit substances when misused or abused." Forty states currently have prescription drug monitoring systems aimed at tracking patients, but there's no monitoring at the federal level.
Facebook and Myspace addiction has earned a sex offender from Arizona 10 years in the slammer. William Hall—convicted of “attempted sexual exploitation of a minor” and “surreptitious photographing” in October 2010—was initially sentenced to 10 years' probation. One of his conditions was that he must not use or possess computer equipment, or access the Internet without written approval from a probation officer. Hall—a Web designer—needed to use the internet for work, but was closely supervised through spyware. When he was caught using Facebook and Myspace, his probation officer blocked those sites. But Hall worked around this by using a desktop he hadn't handed over. When his probation officer busted him, the court was alerted to Hall's probation violation and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Social media addiction has gotten a lot of attention lately, with some reports claiming sites like Facebook are just as additive as drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Having to stay offline is becoming a common probation condition for sex offenders, to prevent them from seeking out new prey.
Whitney Houston may have suffered a seizure brought on by cocaine use, according to the the final autopsy report released yesterday. On March 22, the Los Angeles County coroner initially ruled the singer’s death as accidental drowning, with heart disease and cocaine use as contributing factors. After examining the autopsy report, TV addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky suggests that a cocaine-induced seizure may have been combined with withdrawal from alcohol and Xanax. "To me, a sudden drop off in the Xanax level, a drop off in your alcohol consumption, add cocaine, that's a recipe for a seizure," he says. "Somebody who's now upside down in a bathtub could easily seize and drown." Empty beer bottles as well as an empty bottle of Xanax were found in Houston's room, but the level of sedative found in her blood was low. Also found in her room were "a small spoon with a white crystal like substance in it and a rolled up piece of white paper.” Coroner's investigator Kristy McCracken wrote, "I also collected remnants of a white powdery substance from out of a drawer and from the bottom of a mirror in the same drawer in the bathroom counter." The final coroner's report notes that the 48-year-old had several small scald burns on her face at the time of her death, and drowned face down in a tub of "extremely hot water" about 12 inches deep.
- San Francisco Marijuana Activists Ask US to End Crackdown [Huffington Post]
- Cocaine Found in Whitney Houston's Bathroom [New York Times]
- Addicts Embody Cocaine Boom in Brazil's "Cracklands" [Reuters]
- University of Colorado Vows to Crack Down on 4/20 Smokeout [Daily Chronic]
- Detroit Lions' Nick Fairley in Marijuana Arrest [ESPN]
- Think Drunk Driving Rules Are Tough Here? Try Sweden [Wall Street Journal]
- Kazakhstan's Muslims Angry at Vodka-Maker's Inclusion of "Allah" on Bottles [Washington Post]
Despite the Chinese government limiting gaming time and access for its citizens, online gaming addiction is still a serious problem in the nascent superpower. And according to Chinese media, that's leading to an even bigger problem among "second generation farmers"—the children of current rural farmers and countryside workers, who typically migrate to nearby cities. The Chinese newspaper Southern Rural reports that a lack of education and "discipline," coupled with a desire for quick money, causes these young men to turn to prostitution to support their gaming addictions. Male prostitutes—or "ducks" as they're often known in China—can make the equivalent of nearly $250 for an overnight visit. But these second generation farmers are apparently already starting to feel the taxing physical effects of marathon online gaming sessions and frequent "pick-ups." One of them, 20-year-old Xiao Guan, says he fled from his home to nearby Guangzhou after dropping out of school at age 13, and eventually turned to prostitution at age 17. After finishing his work for the night, he heads directly to a net cafe to play online games until the afternoon, before repeating the cycle.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has recently been advocating that non-violent drug offenders get mandatory treatment, rather than jail time. Now another, similar proposal, championed by Senator Raymond Lesniak (D.), is moving through the state legislature. Lesniak—in a riposte to the old joke that a Republican is a Democrat who’s been mugged—actually came to believe in treatment instead of jail time after suffering a home invasion at the hands of two men in 2009. He realized then that it made no sense for his attackers to be sentenced to jail without getting treatment for their addiction—and testified to that effect at the trials of both men, one of whom did end up being remanded to treatment, rather than prison. The bill now proceeding through the state senate differs from Christie’s in a couple key points, most notably scale and roll-out. The governor’s proposal would make treatment mandatory for all non-violent drug offenders in New Jersey, while Lesniak’s bill is more cautious and less costly: it would introduce a pilot program in two counties, while allowing a larger number of offenders statewide to volunteer to participate. “We don't know that mandatory treatment is effective," Lesniak tells the Associated Press. He adds: “We don't want to deny someone who volunteers for treatment because someone else was forced into treatment.”