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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Drug Busts

3/20/12 2:10pm

SMUGGLER License Plates Expose... Smuggler


The Smuggler's Inn is 30 feet from the
Canadian border. Photo via

If you're smuggling cocaine across the Canadian border, you might be ill-advised to book a room at a hotel called Smuggler's Inn, but that's exactly what 20-year-old Jasmin Klair did, according to Homeland Security. Even worse, she was picked up at a nearby Pizza Hut by the inn's owner, in a car with vanity license plates reading "SMUGGLER." Investigators followed the SUV back to the inn where they questioned Klair and found a box with nine bricks of cocaine weighing 24 pounds. Klair admitted to police that she was paid $4,000 by Gurjit Singh Sandhu to move the drugs from Bellingham, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia. Following her own arrest, Sandhu still tried to convince Klair to run the drugs across the border—which was a mere 30 feet from her room. When she refused, Sandhu and Narminder Kaler drove over to pick up the box in person where, after a brief foot chase, they were arrested. All three remain jailed pending trial, which is scheduled to begin this summer.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Drug Testing

3/20/12 1:00pm

Florida Becomes First State to Drug Test Public Workers


Taxpayer money shouldn't be paid to anyone
who hasn't proven themselves drug-free—
except elected officials like himself. Photo via

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has been determined to drug test his state's residents by any means necessary. After endorsing legislation that calls for drug testing of welfare recipients—a controversial act with critics including the Daily Show—he signed a bill into law this week allowing random drug testing for public workers, making Florida the first ever state to endorse such a bill. Agency heads will now be allowed (but not required) to randomly test up to 10% of their workforce every three months for prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol. Supporters of the Republican-backed measure say the bill will give workers with drug problems a chance to get clean as well as the general public from impaired public servants—though elected officials like Gov. Scott will be exempt from the testing. "Despite our constitutional legal traditions, there's always a lot to be reaped from the argument that if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about," says Colin Gordon, a labor historian at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. "But it's always surprising to me how little weight the civil liberties argument has." However, there are legal hurdles that the law still has to clear, such as whether individuals can be tested in the absence of any evidence or suspicion of drug use. Although state workers in Florida are not known to have greater substance abuse problems than workers in other states, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 19 million Americans—about 15% of the total workforce—have drug or alcohol problems

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By McCarton Ackerman

Child Smokers

3/20/12 12:05pm

8-Year-Old Chain Smoker Sent to Rehab


25% of Indonesian children smoke before
age 15. Photo via

An Indonesian boy has been admitted to rehab for smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day. The eight-year-old has been smoking cigarettes habitually for four years, and plans to spend at least a month in the treatment facility. The boy’s addiction had reached “alert level” as he was said to be smoking around 25 cigarettes a day and needed emergency help. “You can see a dramatic change of behavior when he doesn't have a cigarette for a while. He becomes emotionally aggressive and uncontrollable. He acts like he's possessed by evil spirits," says Indonesia's Child Protection Commission chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Indonesia has the world’s highest percentage of child smokers, with 25% of children trying cigarettes between three and 15 years old. Agan Umar, the boy’s father, hopes his son can curb his addiction and experience a normal childhood. "I hope the therapy works so my son can go back to school and live a normal life like the other kids," he says. "We'll give him a medical check-up to examine the impact his smoking has had on his health, and he'll be given psycho-social therapy to divert his attention from smoking to playing.” Other than increasing excise taxes, the Indonesian government has taken minimal steps to regulate tobacco use. However, cigarette prices remain relatively low, at just over a dollar for a 20 pack.

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By Valerie Tejeda

College Drinking

3/20/12 10:15am

Excessive Drinking Costs US Colleges Millions


Binge drinking lands many students in the ER
each year. Thinkstock

Alcohol-induced injuries among college students can cost a university more than half a million a year, according to a new study. The University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study involving 954 college students who were considered “heavy drinkers.” In the 28 days prior to the study, male participants drank an average of 81.8 drinks, while female participants drank 58.7 drinks. The two-year study, published April issue of Health Affairs, found that 30% of males and 27% of females reported visiting an emergency department at least once with injuries ranging from broken bones to head injuries. The students who experienced alcohol-induced blackouts were 70% more likely to be treated at an emergency room than those who drank the same amount but did not blackout. The ER visits by those students cost from $469,000-$546,000 per university, and the priced varied depending on the location. "College alcohol abusers susceptible to blackouts put a heavy burden on the medical care system," say study authors Marlon Mundt and Larissa Zakletskaia. "Given limited campus resources, the study results support targeting efforts at preventing alcohol-related injury [among] students with a history of blackouts," they add. "In our cost estimate, close to a half-million dollars could be saved in emergency-department utilization costs on a large university campus each year if interventions targeting blackout sufferers were successful."

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By Valerie Tejeda


3/20/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: March 20, 2012


Thirstier? Thinkstock

By May Wilkerson

Star Treatment

3/19/12 5:05pm

Cocaine Let-Off for Brooke Mueller


Mueller will return to CA to reclaim her kids
from ex-husband, Sheen. Photo via

While it’s been a tough year for Brooke Mueller, the troubled ex-wife of hard-partying actor Charlie Sheen just caught a big break in her much-publicized cocaine case. After completing three months of aggressive outpatient treatment, the judge came down easy on 34-year-old Mueller when she struck a plea deal earlier today at the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen, Colorado. The judge will dismiss the felony cocaine possession with intent to distribute charges and the misdemeanor assault, leaving the actress to plead guilty only to cocaine possession—a considerably lesser charge. And if Mueller complies with the terms of her 12-month probation, even that charge will be expunged altogether. Initially, she could have faced up to 10 years in prison; now all she has to do is continue her substance abuse treatment and maintain her “Step 2” program in Los Angeles, serving no jail time and paying no fines other than court costs. Sweet deal. As she was leaving the courthouse, Mueller told reporters that she's glad to be returning home to California to be with her kids. Given that they’ve been under the care of Charlie Sheen, we imagine they're glad, too.

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By Sam Lansky


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