Cops and DEA agents raided dozens of businesses suspected of selling drugs like K2 and Spice in almost 100 cities recently, as part of the first-ever nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs. They might have done better to focus on our country's correctional facilities: K2 use is rampant on the inside, where its properties help users avoid detection. "K2 is cheaper and easier to get than marijuana and you smuggle it in the same way," one prisoner tells The Fix. "The thing about it is, when you smoke it you won't get a dirty and the guards don't know what the fuck the smell is. They think it's incense or something. The homies have been beating the urine tests and we smoke K2 everyday."
In prison the C/Os carry out random drug testing and urinalysis. If a prisoner gets a dirty, he can go to the hole for 60 days—as well as losing phone, commissary, visiting and email privileges for up to six months, and getting 41 good-time credit days taken away. That's some pretty steep sanctions, giving some prisoners second thoughts about smoking marijuana. But they still want to get stoned, so they smoke K2: the "consequence-free" high. "I've been smoking K2 like crazy," the prisoner says. "This is fun for me. This is how I do my time. I spend all my money on K2. I want to stay stoned. But going to the hole for dirties is some bullshit. Ain't nobody trying to go the hole for that. It's like going to jail when you're already in prison."
The Special Housing Unit or SHU—known as the hole or the bucket—is where prisoners are housed when they're found guilty of disciplinary infractions like dirty urine, getting drunk or smuggling in drugs. It's basically 24-hour lockdown in a cell. Smoking K2 enables prisoners to get high and still avoid that. But the prison administrators will catch on soon—if they haven't already. "My homie told me they got new cups for the tests that register for K2," the prisoner says. "But that's a rumor. I'll know for sure when they piss me, because I've been burning that K2 up."
Whether or not this is a sin, it's definitely weird: a Michigan pastor has been arrested for driving drunk while in the nude. He was subsequently suspended from his duties at the Sacred Heart parish in Dearborn, after the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit learned of his unusual preparations for Mass. Rev. Peter Petroske, 57, has been placed on administrative leave after being pulled over—one block away from his church—in a vehicle which also contained a laptop. His blood-alcohol level was only just over the limit, raising the alarming possibility that he didn't need to get that drunk in order to decide to go for a naked spin. The arrest took place last Friday, but Petroske conducted Mass as normal the following Sunday. The Archdiocese learned of his arrest that night—and Petroske then reportedly "fully cooperated" with them. Petroske has served in the Detroit area for over 20 years, and has been head of Sacred Heart Parish, which also operates a school, since 2008. "He's been just a fantastic pastor, an inspiring speaker," says Dearborn resident Ned Nikodem. "Obviously something very strange must have occurred." He's not wrong. Petroske can console himself that he joins a distinguished list of religious leaders whose relationships with substances have led to spectacular falls from grace. His leave from his parish is indefinite.
Brain scans of teenagers could help predict problem drinking later in life, according to a new study. Using MRI scans, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, examined the brains of 40 teens before they started drinking, and then again three years later—when about half of the participants had started drinking alcohol. The subjects who displayed less activity in the areas of the brain used for higher-order decision-making (called "working memory") were more likely to become heavy drinkers over the next three years. "It suggests there might be some pre-existing vulnerability," says lead researcher Lindsay M. Squeglia, adding that teens with a less active working memory might have more trouble weighing risks—which could lend itself to a proclivity towards substance abuse. The study also revealed the impact of drinking on the teens' brain development. After three years, the brains of participants who had begun drinking heavily (four or more drinks for females and five or more for males) had to work harder harder than before to complete the same tasks. "That's the opposite of what you'd expect, because their brains should be getting more efficient as they get older," says Squeglia, suggesting that heavy drinking may negatively impact developing brains during an especially crucial time in a person's life. "You're learning to drive, you're getting ready for college. This is a really important time of your life for cognitive development," Squeglia says.
“Make no mistake about it: We are At War now—with somebody—and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives,” Hunter S. Thompson famously said in the aftermath of 9/11. He could easily have been talking about the War on Drugs, a relatively recent target of which is Rx pill abuse. Amid the charge to crack down on people taking addictive prescription pills without permission, people who are neither addicts nor dealers risk becoming collateral damage. Over at the Reason blog they've uncovered the Kafka-esque story of “James.” He was pulled over by police in Florida—ground zero for the pill epidemic—back in 2006. Both a full-time graduate student at the University of North Florida and a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch, James hardly fit the “menace to society” stereotype. A random traffic stop led to a search, after an officer claimed he could “smell marijuana” (there was none in the car). That search revealed a single OxyContin pill, which led to James's arrest for possession of an illicit narcotic—he says the pill was given to him at a concert he'd just attended and that he'd never used the drug before.
His arrest sparked a two-year nightmare. His lawyer advised him to plead no-contest, saying he would likely get probation and then have his record expunged, but "After being assured that the penalty would be light," James tells Reason, "it turned into a bigger ordeal than I could ever imagine." As soon as James pleaded no-contest, the judge started “piling on the penalties.” Despite not being an addict, he was made to attend two NA meetings a week for a year, plus 15 weekend-long, state-run drug classes (which he had to pay for). On top of this, a year-long curfew stopped him from attending school, and he had to report his arrest to his employer—and was therefore fired. Finding another job was hard, and James ended up working as a short-order cook. That’s the nutshell version; the full story is more extraordinary still.
As “James” puts it: "I could really see how someone could get caught 'in the system' and have a stigma attached to them, and, for people with, say, a high school diploma, why they would just resort to drug dealing, or worse, because the government prevented their ability to find a job due to this…It's sad that the government creates this group of 'drug offenders' who are not harming anyone, be it pot smokers or pill poppers, and then indirectly prevents them from getting jobs. Once you get something like this on your record, it is either start your own business or become under-employed."
As part of a two-week operation to fight drug crime, Brazil is deploying 9,000 troops to secure its borders with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. According to the Defense Ministry, the operation, which began on Monday, is intended to block an influx of drugs and arms into the country. "This mobilization along the border is a matter of self-defense," says David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "Brazil is invaded by drugs and clandestine arms shipments from the neighboring countries, mostly from Bolivia and Paraguay." Bolivia is the world's third biggest producer of cocaine—and officials estimate that 92% of that produce heads to Brazil. In the past two years, more than two tons of drugs and 59 weapons have been seized in four similar operations. However, in order for such operations to be effective against the overwhelming tide of illegal imports, they would have to employ at least 50,000 troops, Fleischer estimates, "but the country does not have the resources for that."
Country superstar Randy Travis has been arrested for driving drunk—his second drunkenness bust this year—after crashing his car in Texas late last night. Officers reportedly found Travis cut, bruised and for some reason completely in the nude. He'd reportedly gotten into a fight with his girlfriend earlier. Sources tell TMZ that the "No Holdin' Back" singer refused to take a breathalyzer test, so cops ultimately drew blood to test his BAC. They also charged him with "retaliation and obstruction"—a felony—for verbally threatening a police officer during the bust. The six-time Grammy-winner was last arrested just six months ago, also in Texas, when he was cuffed for public drunkenness outside of a baptist church after "an evening of celebrating the Super Bowl." At the time of that arrest, officers described Travis as "cooperative but smelling of booze"—but it doesn't sound like he was so obliging last night. After February's drunken incident, Travis stated: "I'm committed to being responsible and accountable, and apologize for my actions." It remains to be seen whether he'll top that this time around.