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9/26/12 11:01am

Bogotá's Mayor Wants Seized Drugs Given to Addicts


Is Petro's proposal irresponsible? Photo via

Ever wondered where drugs go once they've been seized by police? In Bogotá, they may end up going to addicts in treatment—at least that's what the city's mayor Gustavo Petro is gunning for with a new proposal that narcotics seized by police in raids would be given to residents of his proposed drug treatment centers. Petro's plan to reduce drug-related crime is to construct centers where drug addicts can consume illegal drugs that have passed laboratory tests to meet specific standards—provided that the addicts have a medical prescription and meet a strict set of criteria. The patients would simultaneously receive addiction treatment. However, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos calls the idea "irresponsible" and the director of the national police has said it isn't up to Petro to decide where the drugs end up. "The police can't give away the drugs. The police seize the drugs and give them to the judicial authorities, in this case the Prosecutor General," said the police director. Santos' comments are in notably sharp contrast to his approval last Friday for Petro's plan to prescribe illicit drugs to addicts in Bogota. "We will create physical spaces in the most violent zones of the city where the drug addicts, mostly youth, can get away from being illegal and dependent on the criminal gangs," said Petro. Santos ratified a law last month that called drug addiction a public health issue rather than a crime; Colombia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cocaine and pot earlier this year.

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By McCarton Ackerman


9/26/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: September 26, 2012


Snoop Dogg (er, "Lion") knows how to write a
hit about weed. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Big pharma

9/25/12 5:52pm

Reckitt Pulls Its Suboxone Tablets From the US Market


On their way out Photo via

Reckitt Benckiser—the British company that manufactures Suboxone—is taking its tablet formulation of the drug off the US market, it announced today. Reckitt says it notified the FDA last week of its plans to withdraw the pills, “due to increasing concerns with pediatric exposure.” Its announcement links the decision to a report the company received 10 days ago from the US Poison Control Centers that found Suboxone tablets—which are dispensed in bottles with child-proof caps, like most other prescription pills—were about eight times likelier to fall into kids' hands than the company's Suboxone films, which come in individual sealed envelopes. It’s unclear exactly how many pediatric exposures are involved, as the announcement cites only rates of exposure. Reckitt has yet to respond to The Fix's request for a copy of the report.

Reckitt’s global medical director, Tim Baxter, MD, told The Fix last month that the company knows of just four cases of children dying due to the accidental ingestion of Suboxone tablets. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that, in 2009 (the most recent year with available data), buprenorphine products in general were involved in 1.3% of ER visits. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which is used in short-term detox and longer-term medication assisted therapy. Its partial-agonist action makes it much less likely to cause fatal respiratory depression than full agonists—including popular painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone—which commonly come in pill form, not individually wrapped doses. Reckitt’s decision to pull the tablets coincides with imminent plans to introduce its new, patented higher-dose films—and comes in the wake of Reckitt losing its patent on the pills. The company notified shareholders last year that it could lose more than 80% of profits from Suboxone tablets if a cheaper generic alternative emerges. But a spokesman denies that this is the reason for the newly-announced decision.

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By Jennifer Matesa

eating disorders

9/25/12 4:46pm

Lady Gaga Launches "Body Revolution"


"Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15" reads
the caption. Photo via

After enduring recent media attacks over her perceived weight gain, Lady Gaga has responded by boldly opening up about her struggles with eating disorders, and rallying her fans with the launch of a "Body Revolution." Some allegedly altered photos were published of a fuller-framed Gaga earlier this month; tabloids described the singer as "meaty," and slammed her for "piling on the pounds." She responded earlier today by posting underwear-clad photos of herself on her website, with the caption: "Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15," and has since launched a subsection of her site entitled Body Revolution. "My mother and I created the BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION for one reason: 'to inspire bravery.' This profile is an extension of that dream," she writes on the site, "Be brave and celebrate with us your 'perceived flaws,' as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous." She also encouraged her fans to post photos of themselves: "Hey Guys its Gaga… Now that the body revolution has begun, be brave and post a photo of you that celebrates your triumph over insecurities." 

The singer has previously spoken about battling eating disorders as a teen, and coping with media pressure since becoming famous. "Weight is still a struggle," she said earlier this year. "Every video I’m in, every magazine cover, they stretch you—they make you perfect. It’s not real life." Within a few hours of its inception, Body Revolution seems to have generated the support of many fans (aka "little monsters"); the site already features a mosaic of photos and stories about people recovering from eating disorders, living with disability and surviving cancer. There's also a photo of Gaga's dad's stomach with the caption: "He's proud but has lost ten lbs and is working out too feel better, be healthy." Many fans thank the pop star for "making me feel brave." Under Gaga's original photo, one struggling anorexic writes: "i've been relapsing a lot lately and all i do iscry about my body and i feel like i wish i never did recover but this. looking at this is making me strong. You inspire me. If you can be strong, i can too."

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By May Wilkerson

Civil Liberties

9/25/12 3:54pm

Should Cops Need Warrants to Force DUI Tests?


The Supreme Court will decide on motorists'
rights in January. Photo via

The Supreme Court is considering whether or not police officers should be able to force a suspected drunk driver to take a breathalyzer test or have blood drawn at a hospital. Judges are split on whether compelling someone to take one of these tests counts as an “unreasonable search,” as prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Prosecutors in the test case argue that police need to act quickly because alcohol in the body rapidly disappears from the blood—but lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union say that police officers should have to obtain a search warrant before they can make someone take a test. It all started when a Missouri highway patrol officer stopped a driver named Tyler McNeely for speeding. The officer said McNeely smelled of alcohol, slurred his speech and failed roadside sobriety tests. But he refused to provide a breath sample—so the officer brought him to the hospital and forced him to give a blood sample. McNeely’s blood alcohol level was 0.154, nearly double the legal limit of .08%. But in March, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out that blood test evidence, saying that the police must obtain a warrant first. The US Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in January.

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By Chrisanne Grise


9/25/12 2:31pm

Treating Alcoholism Saves You Money


Strapped for cash? Might be time to quit.
Photo via

Alcoholics who receive treatment significantly reduce the financial burden of their addiction on their families, according to a new German study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers looked at 48 families with an alcoholic family member, and found that after 12 months of treatment, the costs directly related to that family member’s alcoholism fell from an average of $832 per month to $178 a month. This means that the average costs incurred by alcoholism decreased from about 20% to just over 4% of the total pre-tax family income. Even in the case of relapse, treatment reduced the costs by an average of $80 a month. And the families were saving more than just money—the average amount of time spent caring for the alcoholic member dropped from 32 hours a month to just 8 hours a month. "When [researchers] look at effects on families, addiction studies mainly focus on problems such as domestic violence and depression, not on the financial burden of caring for an alcoholic," says lead author Dr. Hans Joachim Salize, of the Central Institute of Mental Health. "But when health services and policymakers study the costs and benefits of treating alcoholism, they need to know that treatment has an immense financial effect not just on the alcoholic but also on his or her spouse, partner, children and parents. The benefits of treatment reach well beyond the individual patient."

As a caveat, the cost of addiction treatment may be much different in Germany than in countries like the US. But still, the average cost of residential treatment for alcohol or drug abuse was $3,840 per admission in 2002, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Compared with the amount of cash spent on alcohol along with the costs of the consequences and loss of productivity, it would seem likely that treatment would reduce the financial burden on an addict's family, no matter what country they live in.

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By Chrisanne Grise


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