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Drug War

9/07/12 4:04pm

"Caravan For Peace" Kicks Off in NYC

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Protestors on the steps of City Hall.

Cries of "No more drug war!" and "Alive they took them, alive we want them!" fill the air as the Caravan For Peace sets up in New York City today. The caravan—which launched August 12 in Tijuana and will wrap up next week in Washington D.C.—aims to raise awareness and provoke discussion about non-violent solutions to the Mexican drug war. With the death toll of the drug war rising as high as 71,000, protestors hope that these activities will help people see Mexico as a neighbor, rather than a threat. "Today, we are here to show the world that the US and Mexico are calling to end the war on drugs," says Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance at a press conference to kick off the day's events. Frederique, along with other speakers, are making the point that drug addiction is a health issue, rather than a criminal issue, and should be treated as such. Local groups including VOCAL New York and Occupy Wall Street join the caravan for the NYC events, which included a vigil for victims on Thursday night and marches and demonstrations throughout the city today; crowds of New Yorkers and some out-of-towners have come out to support the Caravan as well. "Of course I don't advocate drug use," says Monica James, a student who frequently volunteers with kids, to The Fix. "But the current policies are awful, and we need to speak up about them. We need more public education on this important matter." Many involved in the caravan say the funds gained by ending the drug war could go towards education and treatment of addiction, rather then towards more violence. The caravan's other events today include a demonstration in front of HSBC Bank, a march to Zuccotti Park and a film screening. 

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By Chrisanne Grise

detox drugs

9/07/12 3:03pm

This Fall in Drugs: Higher-Dose Suboxone Films

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The new Suboxone film goes under the
tongue. Photo via

Drug manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser has announced plans to bring to market this fall new, higher-dose versions (4mg and 12mg) of its Suboxone films—kind of like those dissolvable Listerine breath-freshener strips. Suboxone, a formulation of opioid-blocking buprenorphine that's used in short-term detox and longer-term medication-assisted therapy (MAT), was originally marketed in the US as 2mg and 8mg under-the-tongue tablets, which melt in the mouth, delivering meds through mucus membranes. "The films work similarly, except they adhere to the tongue," Tim Baxter, MD, Reckitt’s global medical director, tells The Fix. Reckitt's patent for the tablets expired in 2009, but the following year they rolled out individually wrapped, difficult-to-open 2mg and 8mg films. Since then, Baxter says, the company has had just four reports of deaths due to accidental ingestion by children. “The film is a child-resistant single dose,” he says. “Should it be opened, there’s only one film in there—there’s not 30 or 40. And it’s very hard to get into—I have to use a pair of scissors to get into the thing.”

The tablets and films are high-dose versions of Reckitt’s European buprenorphine preparation Temgesic, which comes in doses of a fraction of a milligram and which Continental types use as a painkiller. EU addicts commonly use Temgesic to gradually taper off of Suboxone, just as American addicts often cut up the films to provide themselves with tiny tapering-off doses. Reckitt does not endorse chopping up the films, Baxter says, and the company has no plans to come out with a Temgesic equivalent in the States. “We don’t promote detox,” he says. “We try to educate prescribers and payors that opioid dependence is a chronic disease and should be treated as such.” At present, the company is not offering a release date, profit projections or earnings figures for the films—but in 2010 The Guardian reported that Reckitt saw its pharma earnings increase by more than sixfold between 2004 and 2009, largely thanks to US sales of Suboxone.

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By Jennifer Matesa

Jane Says

9/07/12 2:02pm

Are You a "Dry Drunk"?

Q: Do you think that the term "dry drunk" can be fairly applied to some people? What does the term mean to you?

[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 The Fix staff

12 steps

9/07/12 1:01pm

Study Finds AA Works (If You Work It)

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AA emphasizes helping others through service.
Photo via

There's been plenty of debate over the effectiveness of 12-step programs in helping people recover from alcoholism, but a new study suggests that active participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous program does improve one's chances of long-term recovery. The “Helping Others” study was a 10-year, prospective investigation led by Maria Pagano, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Pagano and her colleagues evaluated the outcomes from a single site in Project MATCH, the largest multi-site randomized clinical trial on behavioral treatments of alcoholism sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They found that those in recovery who helped others through the AA program had better consideration of others, lower alcohol use and longer periods of sobriety than those who did not participate in AA. “The AAH findings suggest the importance of getting active in service, which can be in a committed 2-month AA service position or as simple as sharing one’s personal experience in recovery to another fellow sufferer,” said Pagano. “Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction."

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By McCarton Ackerman

chemistry lesson

9/07/12 12:13pm

Chem Prof Advises Breaking Bad on All Things Meth

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Professor Donna Nelson is the "Real Walter
White." Photo via

Ever wonder how the drug-making references and procedures on AMC's Breaking Bad are so convincing? The credibility doesn't come from the writer's previous drug history, but rather from Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma who has been an ongoing consultant to the Emmy-winning show since the second season. However, anyone trying to pick up meth-cooking tips from the show will be sorely disappointed with the end results. "They deliberately put in faulty steps. They’ll start with one method of synthesizing methamphetamine but then switch to another,” says Nelson. And the meth that appears on-screen? It's cotton candy flavored sugar crystals. Although Nelson doesn't have any personal experience with meth, she's more than qualified to be a consultant to the show from teaching organic chemistry to nearly 10,000 students since 1983 and racking up awards and honors from several institutions, including the National Science Foundation. She got the gig after reaching out to show creator Vince Gilligan via Chemical and Engineering News, who ran a feature story on Gilligan. “He said neither he nor his writer had a science background, and so they had to rely on Wikipedia and the Web,” said Nelson. “When I read that, I thought, ‘We scientists are always complaining about shows getting the science wrong. It’s like fingernails on a blackboard to us. This would be a great opportunity to work with one.’ When I saw what they had written, I thought, ‘Wow, they really need help.'" She's now hoping to leverage her Hollywood connections by making a public service announcement warning Oklahomans about the dangers of meth.

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By McCarton Ackerman

quitting Smoking

9/07/12 10:59am

Thinking About the Future Helps Smokers Quit

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I should quit smoking. Photo via

If you want to ditch your cigarette habit, you might want to stop living in the moment—and focus on the future. Those who dwell on the days-to-come are more likely to quit smoking, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers from Newcastle University in Britain looked at eight years of data from 7,000 households in Australia who are surveyed annually about family, well-being, and work. Through the survey, 1,817 people were identified as smokers when the survey began in 2001. The researchers then analyzed the participants saving and spending habits in the future years. Those who planned for a week or less were categorized as having a shorter horizon, and those who planned over three months ahead, were placed in the category of having a longer horizon. The researchers then examined if any of those 1,817 smokers surveyed quit smoking or attempted to quit before or in 2008. The results showed that 76% of those who quit smoking were in the longer horizon group. “It is possible that helping smokers to think about the future a bit more might be a useful way to help them quit,” said co-author Jean Adams. Researchers in other fields have also discovered that future planners were more likely to quit other addictions including cocaine.

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By Valerie Tejeda

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