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Prison Drug Smuggling

7/11/12 2:05pm

Prison Drug Smuggling: The Warehouse Move

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Warehouses are a major smuggling route
into prisons. Photo via

Prisoners use every ounce of their creativity to invent new ways to support the thriving drug markets inside; the methods used are as wide-ranging as the substances that are brought in. "At some prisons they bring in drugs and tobacco through the warehouse," one prisoner tells The Fix. "If everything goes right, it's a hell of a move." This is a multi-person, highly coordinated scheme that groups of prisoners or gangs use to launch drug-dealing ventures behind prison walls. "The warehouse move is complicated. You need the right people in place at the camp and on the inside," says our source. "Your guys have to be in the right jobs: food service, commissary, laundry, Unicor. Any place where stuff is coming in on a daily basis." 

Outside warehouses—which accept the incoming goods and materials that institutions need to operate—are a necessity. And most institutions have an adjacent minimum-security camp outside their fences, which supplies the prisoners that staff the warehouse. Getting these minimum-security prisoners to coordinate with the guys behind the fence isn't hard—although a cell phone or other means of exchanging information is vital. Then it's just a question of hiding a package of drugs in a box bound for the inside. "The guy at the camp notifies the point man inside of the specifics like when, where and how the drugs are coming," the prisoner explains. "He in turn tells the guys who work at the critical spots, and boom—they get the package, distribute it and count the money all the way to the bank, taking care of their homie on the outside who made it happen." It's an intricate process, but one that prisoners pull off daily.

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By Seth Ferranti

alcoholic moms

7/11/12 1:01pm

"Vodka Mom" Kills Herself After TV Shaming

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Was Nancy Grace too harsh? Photo via

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.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Prescription Drugs

7/11/12 12:05pm

Opana Abuse Overtakes Oxy

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Opana crushes the competition. Photo via

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."

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By McCarton Ackerman

bad rap

7/11/12 10:52am

Demi Lovato Vetoes Drug Rap

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Lovato was not amused by drug lyrics.
Photo via

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.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

7/11/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: July 11, 2012

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Terrorists? No, just an e-cigarette. Photo via

By Bryan Le

Harm reduction

7/10/12 5:20pm

"Bunk Police" Test Festival Drugs for Purity

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The "Bunk Police" badge. Photo via

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.”

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By Bryan Le

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