A Minneapolis woman who was vilified by CNN host Nancy Grace on national television has died after setting herself on fire in her mother's backyard. Toni Medrano, 29, accidentally killed her three-week old son last November, when she drunkenly rolled onto him while sleeping on the couch and crushed him. The woman, who became known as "Vodka Mom," admitted to drinking a fifth of vodka before going to sleep—her blood alcohol level was at .11 (.08 is the limit for driving). Medrano had reportedly been suicidal over personal issues, but had been seeking help for alcoholism and parenting counseling. However, when Grace got hold of the story after Medrano was charged last month with two counts of manslaughter, she lambasted the woman on her show and theorized that the baby had been "crushed" for hours. "There was a long period of time that baby’s life could have been saved," Grace said, before claiming there should be murder one charges for premeditated murder. Grace also held up a fifth of cheap vodka and said she was going to see how many glasses she could get out of the bottle, pouring at least nine in the segment as the words "vodka mom" appeared on the screen. Nancy Grace and CNN haven't responded to requests for comment.
Just when drug enforcement officials were starting to get a handle on the US scourge of OxyContin abuse, along comes another major threat. Opana—which first became "small town America's new favorite drug" earlier this year—has now replaced OxyContin as the most widely abused prescription painkiller in the country, with several states reporting huge spikes in use of the drug. The main difference is that while OxyContin pills have become impossible to crush since 2010, there are still plenty of crushable Opana ER pills on the market, since the crush-resistant version of Opana didn't get approved until late last year. Opana users are willing to shell out big bucks for the pills as well—when a national shortage of the drug took hold earlier this year due to a production snafu, the price in Louisville, KY, soared from $65 for a 40 mg pill to $185.
"When OxyContin changed, the drug abusers looked for a different thing. Opana emerged immediately," says Sgt. Jerry Goodin of the Indiana State Police. "Seems like every time we get a handle on something, another evil pops its head up." Kentucky is reporting that oxymorphone, the primary ingredient in Opana, was present in 23% of overdose victims in 2011, while medicaid data in Nassau County, NY, showed a 45% increase in prescriptions for Opana during the first six months of the year. However, many people believe that when the harder-to-abuse Opana dominates the drug market, addicts will simply turn to a more familiar name to satisfy their craving: "They will adapt the same way drug traffickers or criminals will adapt to a new law. They are going to find a way to satisfy their addiction," says DEA Special Agent Gary Boggs of the Office of Diversion Control. "When they either can't get those particular pharmaceuticals or can't afford them, they now gravitate to heroin."
X Factor judge Demi Lovato has kicked out two contestants on the Fox show for rapping about bath salts. At the Greensboro, North Carolina auditions, two amateur rappers hoping for a chance at stardom got the boot instead—after their performance included the line “I’m high on bath salts.” A visibly angry Lovato responded: "It's really inappropriate to rap about drugs in front of kids" and ordered them to leave the stage. "She wasn't having any of it," a source tells E! News. “They tried to make excuses and Demi said, 'You talked about bath salts, I heard you.'" The designer drug has been in the hot seat lately, rousing media attention ever since it was initially blamed for the infamous cannibal attack in Miami—although it later turned out the face-eater was only high on marijuana. Even President Obama has bath salts on the brain (figuratively, of course): he signed a bill on Monday banning the two chemical compounds used to make the "demon drug." Lovato—who is now sober—has been open about her rocky past and rehab stint nearly two years ago. Back in February, the 19-year-old actress and musician wrote a letter to Seventeen magazine saying: “‘Sober Is Sexy’ is my new motto, and it couldn't be more true! All you need to have fun in life is a great attitude and good friends. I've made a commitment to myself to live a happy healthy life the best way I know how and I want to spread the message that you don't need to do drink or do drugs to have fun.”
- Mitt Romney Would Face Tough Road Trying to Repeal Obamacare [Washington Post]
- On Drug Reform, Chris Christie Shows Gentler Side [ABC]
- Medical Marijuana on the Ballot in Massachusetts [Think Progress]
- Fake Cigarette Triggers Terrorism Scare in UK [Boston]
- Concern Over Drive-Through Alcohol Sales Spurs Efforts At Ban [USA Today]
- Michael Phelps: Pot Shot Was A "Learning Experience" [E! News London]
- Gene Simmons: I've Never Been Drunk, High [ABC 7 News]
If the terms “drug-testing" or "police" strike terror into your heart, you can relax. It's your dodgy drugs—not you—that the Bunk Police are cracking down on. They're a group of volunteers who attend music festivals armed with substance testing kits, and check the purity of the illicit substances being passed around. Checking drugs to ensure purity and then moving on may be a controversial way to protect festival-goers—but the Bunk Police claim their intentions are to reduce harm, rather than condone drug use. “We do not feel that we are encouraging substance use by distributing test kits,” an anonymous member of the group tells The Fix. “We provide a service along the same lines as Planned Parenthood does in distributing condoms: reducing the harms of risky behavior.”
From Woodstock to the Electric Daisy Carnival, music festivals have long been druggy affairs—often stirring public outcry. Just recently, Rihanna was photographed at Coachella Festival messing with an unidentified drug, and the 420 Festival is one that's been accused of dangerously encouraging a mix of marijuana and "rave" drugs like MDMA. But many of the drugs circulating at music festivals can be "bunk": fake or untested compounds, or cut with chemicals with potentially lethal side-effects. According to the Bunk Police website, "MDMA" is sometimes actually "bath salts" in disguise—and just about anything dropped on a tab can be sold as LSD (although, reportedly, most LSD "tabs" are actually just plain pieces of paper).
Despite their flashy branding, and the warm welcome they receive at many druggy venues, the Bunk Police insist they're not "professional partiers" and say their mission is not about making drugs seem cool. Instead, they claim to deter drug use by revealing just how contaminated illicit drugs are: amazingly, over half of their tested samples are research chemicals, not recreational drugs. “Our mission consists entirely of raising awareness and increasing safety,” they tell us. “We have no intention of making substance use 'fun,' however we must skirt this edge in order to appeal to our audience. Preaching safety alone to many individuals in this circle will only yield eye-rolls and scoffs rather than attention and action.”
The Seattle Times has won a prestigious Associated Press Media Editors (APME) award for its wide-ranging, heart-breaking—and, ultimately, public-policy affecting—three-part series about how the state of Washington had been directing Medicaid patients to “cheap and unpredictable” methadone, resulting in nearly 2,200 overdose deaths from 2003 to Dec. 2011, when the series was published. According to the award announcement, after the series hit the streets, “state Medicaid officials sent out an emergency advisory warning of the risk of methadone.” The release also noted that Washington officials told doctors not to prescribe the narcotic except as a last resort. “It opened eyes and prompted swift action,” said the APME judges. “This is public service journalism at its best.” The archived series, titled “Methadone and the Politics of Pain,” is available on the newspaper’s website, including illuminating charts, such as this one, which illustrates how methadone disproportionately impacted poor populations in the Seattle area.