Two lives were tragically cut short this week after a two-day techno rave in Connyland Marine Park: Switzerland's answer to Seaworld. Young dolphins Shadow and Chelmers died painfully of suspected drug overdoses. “The death went on for over an hour. It was horrendous. I have not been able to sleep since," says dolphin keeper Nadja Gasser of Shadow. Police initially blamed the blaring techno music for the deaths, but zoo vets suspect the creatures were fed narcotics, possibly ecstasy, by ravers flinging pills into their enclosure. "I do not think Chelmers or Shadow died of natural causes. I think our dolphins have been poisoned," says Glasser. A statement on the Connyland website seems ironic now: "Protect the ocean from pollution! Let’s do our share in saving these mammals and protecting our oceans.” Connyland gave permission for the rave, and though animal rights activists are holding them accountable, the park denies responsibility. Trans-species drug pushing has recently captured media attention. Last week dog handler Jessica Plourde was accused of doping her prize-winning Siberian Husky, Pixie, with Benadryl at the DuPage dog show in Illinois. And last month a British court spared a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Diesel which mauled a child, because it had earlier been given beer. Swiss cops currently have no suspects in the dolphins case and await confirmation of the cause of death.
The Prometa methamphetamine protocol—a controversial course of drugs and treatment reportedly costing addicts $12,000 a month in private clinics—works no better than a similar, but dummy regime replacing key Prometa drugs with sugar pills and salt solution, according to findings published today in the journal Addiction. The study, funded by Hythiam, the company that makes the drugs, found its own patented cocktail of drugs and psychotherapy to be no more effective than placebo at reducing meth use, keeping users in treatment, or reducing cravings. Prometa's meant to work by "normalizing" brain chemistry damaged by chronic psychostimulant use, and adding psychosocial counseling to support recovery and counter withdrawal symptoms. But although all the drugs it employs are licensed for medical use, they aren't licensed in combination specifically for the treatment of meth addiction. Prometa also claims to aid recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction. Lindsay Lohan was linked to the Prometa center in Santa Monica following her rehab in 2007. There's currently no proven treatment for meth addiction. Hythiam’s extensive marketing of Prometa offered hope—and later research seemed to back its effectiveness—but the extensive new study, led by Professor Walter Ling and his team at UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, found the opposite.
A truck recently delivered 45,000 cartons of cigarettes to a research company in North Carolina—but these were no ordinary cigarettes. At a time when 69% of US smokers want to quit—but their success rate is a pitiful 6.2%—the new hope is genetically-altered tobacco, with ultra-low nicotine levels to aid withdrawal. The lowest of the eight strengths of "Spectrum" cigarettes has 97% less nicotine than Marlboro's Gold brand. The modified tobacco is patented by the 22nd Century Group to preserve the tastes, smells and rituals of normal cigarettes, without being nearly as addictive. The special smokes will be used for several studies. One will monitor 500 smokers over six months to see if lowered nicotine levels help them quit and if so, how fast. A 2009 law gave the FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products: they can't ban nicotine completely, but could mandate a huge reduction if it's proven to benefit public health. Smoking in the US has flattened out at about 20% in recent years, after declining up until 2004. Patches, gums, and pills don't significantly dent the stats. But hopes are high for a method allowing smokers to retain treasured sensations, while requiring decreasing numbers of puffs to get the same nicotine hit. Dr. Gregory N. Connolly, an anti-smoking advocate and Harvard professor of public health, says: "After 50 years of knowing cigarettes cause cancer, it's nice to know we have a supply we can investigate. If we can put a man on the moon, we can get rid of nicotine."
Babies all around the country are increasingly being born already hooked on prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, after being exposed to their mothers' drug use in the womb, reports USA Today. Like the crack babies of the 1980s, these infants begin life suffering from withdrawal symptoms, like twitching, vomiting, breathing difficulties and scratching. Although national stats aren't available, figures from several states outline the pattern. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration recorded the number of infants suffering from withdrawal syndrome rose from 354 in 2006 to 1,374 in 2010, continuing a surge previously reported in Florida. Maine Medical Center in Portland treated 121 painkiller-dependent babies in 2010, compared to just 18 in 2001. And 106 addicted babies needed treatment at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in the last year—a number that's more than doubled since 2008. “It has just exploded. Narcotic use is just rampant in our society,” says John Buchheit, director of neonatology there. “Babies are caught in the middle.” It's a logical result of a nationwide epidemic that's seen painkiller OD deaths triple in ten years, but as Tampa General Hospital's director of newborn services Lewis Rubin says, it's no less shocking for that: "It's really horrible to see these kids. They look in so much pain."
- Teenage Girls Who Drink Alcohol are Ratcheting Up Breast Cancer Risk [LA Times]
- Chicago Moves to Ban Synthetic Marijuana After Mother's Plea [Chicago Sun Times]
- Europe Switches to Self-Extinguishing Cigarettes [AFP]
- Grandmother Killed by Heroin Addict in Search of Cash [Yorkshire Post]
- Buyer of Chrysler Minivan Finds $500 K of Cocaine Stashed in Door Panels [Washington Post]
- Half-Naked Climber, Possibly High on Mushrooms, Rescued in Colorado [Explorers Web]
- Gambling Addict Nun Stole $1 Million from Catholic School for Atlantic City Slot Machines [Daily Mail]
A partying college student and tennis player is suing Fordham University after he went to sleep drunk and fell four feet from his dorm room loft bed, hitting his head so hard that his spine fractured. Kei Usami, 20, woke up in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down, spent four months in rehab and is now using a wheelchair. "My goal is to attend graduation in 2013 and walk up and get my diploma," says the unfortunate underage drinker. His lawyers blame Fordham's failure to install guardrails on the high bed—and the failure of the university’s volunteer EMS team to use a neck brace when transporting Usami to the hospital—for his injuries. But Fordham contends that Usami's, “voluntary consumption of large amounts of alcohol,” that night was the key factor, court records show. Yet with Usami’s medical bills already having reached $1.1 million—with possible damages and legal fees to follow—the university is apparently hedging its bets. It's suing the two companies that supplied the beds.