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6/01/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: June 1, 2012

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Trish Paytas, a self-confessed tanning addict.
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By Gabrielle Wuhl

Legalize Psychedelics

5/31/12 5:31pm

Does Banning Psychedelics Hinder Science?

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Prohibition of drugs such as ecstasy may
be hurting the scientific community. Photo via

International prohibition of psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy and marijuana has hindered research on the brain and slowed the progress of medicine—just like George W. Bush's ban on stem cell research, according to high-profile UK neuroscientist David Nutt. "We lose sight of the fact that these drugs may well give us insights into areas of science which need to be explored and they also may give us new opportunities for treatment," he says. "Almost all the drugs which are of interest in terms of brain phenomena like consciousness, perception, mood, psychosis—drugs like psychedelics, ketamine, cannabis, magic mushrooms, MDMA—are currently illegal. So there's almost no [scientific] work in this field." These drugs are banned because most are thought to cause more harm than good, but some may have untapped benefits as well. For example, Nutt's previous study on the effects of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) found that it suppresses brain activity linked to depression. But due to bans, Nutt has said he had to "jump through hundreds of hoops" to conduct his research—an issue that most scientists don't want to deal with.

Nutt is known for his history of going against government regulations; in 2009 he was dismissed from his position as a senior drug adviser to the UK government after complaining about drugs not being classified according to the actual level of harm they cause, and the "obscenity" of prosecuting cannabis users. His latest book, Drugs—Without The Hot Air, aims to clarify understanding of legal and illegal drugs—both recreational as well as medicinal. "If we understand drugs more, and have a more rational approach to them, we will actually end up knowing more about how to deal with drug harms," he says. "It's arbitrary whether we choose to keep alcohol legal and ban cannabis, or make tobacco legal and ban ecstasy. Those are not scientific decisions; they are political, moral and maybe even religious decisions."

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By Ariel Nagi

medical marijuana

5/31/12 4:52pm

Scientists Breed Sober Weed

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Does the "high" help the medicine go down?
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In a piece of sobering news for medical pot smokers: a strand of marijuana has been developed that can cure your physical ills, without getting you stoned. Israeli scientists, seeking to "help" those smoking marijuana for medical purposes, have cultivated a marijuana plant that is identical to normal pot, minus the plant's illustrious after-effects. "It has the same scent, shape and taste as the original plant—it's all the same—but the numbing sensation that users are accustomed to has disappeared," says Tzahi Klein, head of development at the firm where the strand was developed. The new strand of weed also does not cause users to get the munchies. Scientists developing the sober species sought to neutralize the effects of THC—the element of cannabis that gets you "numb" (or high)—and to increase the effects of cannabidiol, or "CBD", which has been shown to relieve convulsion, anxiety, inflammation and nausea, as well as inhibit cancer cell growth. CBD may also be used to treat various psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. Medical marijuana, which is legal in Israel, has been approved for use by about 6,000 Israelis with a range of illnesses. In the US, where medical pot is only legal in certain states, it remains to be seen how pro-medical marijuana activists will respond to news of sober weed. With joy? Grief? Hysterical laughter? All of the above?

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By May Wilkerson

alcohol bans

5/31/12 4:14pm

Idaho Bans Polygamy-Themed Vodka

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Is the label deameaning towards Mormon
housewives? Photo via

"Five Wives" vodka gets big love in Utah, but no love in Idaho—it has been banned by Idaho's state liquor board, presumably for fear of offending Mormons. "We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried," an Idaho official explains. "We can only presume he means Mormons," says Steve Conlin, VP of Ogden's Own Distillery, which bottles Five Wives. "Though that makes little sense as they allow Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Beers of Utah to be sold. We're a little dumbfounded by it all." For the uninitiated, Polygamy Porter is a beer with such tag lines as “Why just have one?” and “Bring some home for the wives.” The Salt Lake City Tribune suggested that the cause for the ban may have been the images of "19th century women in petticoats holding kittens near their lady parts." Conlin shot back, "but they have a Hooters [Restaurant] in Boise!” He claims that "Five Wives" title actually has nothing to do with polygamy, and in fact commemorates the first wagon train of 66 men and five women to roll through Utah. Either way, the distillery is still making money off its label in Idaho by selling “Free the Five Wives” t-shirts, which Conlin reports are flying off the racks.

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By Bryan Le

Distracted Driving

5/31/12 3:10pm

Don't Sleep-Deprive and Drive

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Friends don't let friends drive sleepy.
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An all-night TV marathon may have your friends pouncing on your car keys, now that several studies have revealed that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving while drunk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US, approximately 100,000 crashes that are reported to the police each year are the direct result of fatigue and sleepiness—a number that might be greater since there is no way to pinpoint exactly how many people drive without enough sleep. Research from various parts of the world confirms the results of the study. A French study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine surveyed 679 people hospitalized because of car accidents between 2007 and 2009 found that driving without enough sleep doubles the risk of a car accident—the same as the risk of driving while drunk. This study also revealed that men and younger adults were more likely to drive while sleepy. Research from the Netherlands concluded that night-driving for two hours is as dangerous as driving while tipsy, and three hours of night driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. Similarly to alcohol or drugs, sleep deprivation can impact coordination, judgement and reaction time. Drunk driving has been stigmatized over the years because of its high accident and death toll—perhaps as more is revealed about drowsy driving, it may become equally frowned upon.

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By Fionna Agomuoh

Celebrity Rehab

5/31/12 2:10pm

Tila Tequila on the Mend After Rehab

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Here's to a paparazzi-free recovery. Photo via

Tila Tequila, who is perhaps best known for her two seasons in MTV's A Shot at Love, is now taking a shot at recovery. The reality star is reportedly doing well after leaving a 30-day rehab stint for drug addiction and an eating disorder that saw her weight drop to dangerously low levels. Sources say that Tequila began to fear for her life when she noticed her bones were protruding from her body, but she has managed to return to a relatively healthy weight while in rehab. "It's still an everyday battle for her, but at least she's sober and healthy," says a source. The 30-year-old went straight to rehab from her hospitalization earlier this year due to a drug overdose, when she suffered a brain aneurysm that nearly killed her. Tequila's roommate told police that the overdose was not accidental and that she had been trying to kill herself for a week. However, a close friend of Tequila has said that the rehab stint has changed her for the better both physically and mentally. "She's a fighter and has been through a lot, but is not giving up," said the source. "She's changed so much since returning from rehab. She's much happier these days and more like the old Tila we all loved. We're proud of her."

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