Mexico’s drug war has brought pain and suffering upon countless thousands. It's also helped a few hundred participants find a new spiritual path. The death of one of the country’s most feared drug traffickers, Nazario Moreno—known as “El Mas Loco” or “The Craziest One”—has led to the creation of a strange cult-like group known as the "Knights Templar." Moreno’s cartel, formerly called “La Familia Michoacana,” is one of the biggest traffickers of crystal meth to the US, and boasts an army of around 1,200 gunmen. But its late leader still considered himself an evangelical Christian and was known for spreading the gospel. When he was shot dead by police in December 2010, he had been handing out washing machines and cars as Christmas presents at a festival.
His legacy lives on now through the Knights Templar. While the group’s exact religious beliefs are unclear, police have found plastic helmets used in initiation ceremonies as well as altars topped with three-foot high statues of Moreno, shown in golden medieval armor and carrying a sword. Meanwhile, the local “Prayer to Saint Nazario” portrays Moreno as a holy being: "Give me holy protection, through Saint Nazario, Protector of the poorest, Knights of the people, Saint Nazario, give us life," it goes. And members continue their idol's generous giving: "They help people out by giving them presents like bags of cement,” says an anonymous undercover military intelligence officer. Nevertheless, the Knights Templar are believed to be behind the majority of the 480 drug-related murders in Michoacan in the last year and a half—including dozens of decapitations and dismemberments.
After Moreno's death, Servando Gomez—one of the top lieutenants and a former rural school teacher—took over the gang and renamed it the Knights Templar, after the medieval military that protected Christians during the Crusades. But some members chose to stick with La Familia Michoacana and have now become the Knights’ rivals—10 people were killed this month in a shoot-out between them. The Knights apparently follow a strict code of 53 commandments, including instructions like: "The Knights Templar will establish an ideological battle and defend the values of a society based on ethics” and "Any knight who betrays the Templars will receive the maximum punishment, their properties will be taken and the same fate will befall their family.” Looks like president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto will be needing that new drug war plan when he takes office in December.
For those who smoke "socially" only while drinking, a cigarette is the cherry on top of the sundae of inebriation—giving just the right combo of stimulants and downers to hit that "sweet spot." But as cigarette taxes mount, rates of smoking have fallen—and a new study suggests that people may be drinking more booze to compensate. The study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, shows that higher cigarette taxes correlate with higher rates of alcohol consumption—especially among adults aged 21-29, who are increasingly likely to binge drink when cigarette prices rise. The same association was seen in people older than 65, although this demographic is far less likely to binge. However, the study also tracked smoking rates and found that while overall rates have dropped, the twenty-something category is not actually smoking less—just drinking more. Perhaps it's "to ease the lamentation of dropping $11 on a pack of cigarettes," as one source suggests. The report concludes: "Researchers, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers should work together to understand and prepare for these unintended consequences of tobacco taxation policy."
When all else fails, prisoners turn to guards to sneak drugs into them. It's a simple matter of manipulation—and prisoners have mastered this art. "I can tell right away if I can get a C/O to bring in drugs for me," one prisoner tells The Fix. "I start it out with something small, like getting them to let me use their microwave or something. When they get comfortable with that I advance it a little by getting them to give me some of their food from the street. If all that works I will ask them to bring me in some Pizza Hut or McDonald's, nothing major. If they do that I know I got them. They will bring me whatever I want."
Part of a new guard's orientation is meant to teach how prisoners may try to prey on staff members to gain favors or leverage. But despite the precautions, guards still fall victim. They can catch romantic feelings for prisoners too: "My man pushed up on this young rookie C/O. She was green as hell," the prisoner relates. "Pretty, but not too pretty. He laid it on her real smooth, had her bringing him food, chewing gum, jewelry and it wasn't two months later she was bringing in packages for him. He finessed that girl something fierce. She was in love with him."
Guards can bring drugs in easily because they aren't generally subject to searches. As trusted employees, their complicity in smuggling rings largely goes undiscovered—unless they get snitched out by a coworker, or a jealous and bitter prisoner who thinks the C/Os should be bringing stuff into them. They smuggle drugs in lunch boxes, back packs, pockets, or however. And with fees of $500 or more to bring in a package of drugs, some of them are strictly money-motivated. "I've seen a lot of greedy C/Os get busted," the prisoner says. "They just don't know when to stop and they start fucking with the wrong dudes on the pound. Dudes who can't hold their weight and will drop a dime on the C/Os to save their own asses." With all the avenues available—and all the conniving drug addicts incarcerated—prisons are clearly incapable of denying prisoners their drugs.
If you were looking for a reason to get off the couch, a new study suggests a that lack of exercise kills as many people across the world as smoking. It's recommended that adults take at least 150 minutes of "moderate exercise" a week, which includes activities like walking, biking or gardening. But about a third of adults worldwide don't meet this quota, the report estimates—and the global death toll reaches 5.3 million a year. This encompasses roughly one in ten deaths from heart disease, breast and colon cancer and diabetes. (Comparatively, smoking causes about five million deaths a year.) The report, published in The Lancet medical journal in the lead-up to the Olympics, calls the problem a "pandemic" and hopes to push physical inactivity into the spotlight as a public health issue. Pedro Hallal, one of the lead researchers, says: "The global challenge is clear—make physical activity a public health priority throughout the world to improve health and reduce the burden of disease." However, despite similar death tolls, people should be aware that rates of smoking are much lower than rates of physical activity—so smoking remains more dangerous to individuals. As Dr. Claire Knight of Cancer Research UK says, "When it comes to preventing cancer, stopping smoking is by far the most important thing you can do."
It seems rehab can't tame Pete Doherty.The troubled singer has been thrown out a posh drug clinic in Chiang Mai, Thailand for his disruptive behavior and bad influence on fellow patients. Doherty arrived at the facility three weeks ago, ditching a string of festival gigs in an attempt to kick his long-standing crack cocaine and heroin addiction, which have seen him drop in and out of rehabs since 2004. But he was asked to leave halfway through treatment—almost unheard of at this facility—and is now heading back to London. Program Director Alistair Mordey, who is a recovering addict himself, cites "therapeutic reasons" for discharging Doherty. "It is important to maintain the integrity of the treatment program for the other clients to have a good chance of recovery," says Mordey. "Pete understands this and therefore the reasons behind why we have asked him to leave. We hope some of the things he has learned here will help him in the future and look forward to the day when Pete decides to consider recovery again." Doherty has plenty of company when it comes to famous hell-raisers in rehab: former wrestling champ Matt Hardy was kicked out of court-ordered rehab last year for failing a breathalyzer test. And ex-Miss Russia Anna Malova was caught hoarding and binging on prescription meds earlier this year during her court-ordered rehab stay—at one point her behavior saw her forbidden from speaking with any other patients.
Eric Lapp—founder and CEO of Raleigh House Treatment Center in Denver, Colorado—knows what it's like to hit rock bottom, having been hooked on meth, cocaine, alcohol and Oxy for years. “I had been in and out of rehab 14 times, lost everything I had, and watched my weight drop from 190 to 135 pounds,” he tells The Fix. “I was depressed and suicidal, but I still couldn’t stop taking drugs.” Lapp is now four years sober—and he believes he owes it to amino acid therapy. “My withdrawals were reduced by 80-90%,” he says. “That was the turning point for me. I finally felt good—without drugs—and have been sober ever since.”
This relatively new form of addiction treatment, which comes in the form of powders that are made into drinks, is being used by a growing number of rehabs—including, of course, Raleigh House. “We use targeted amino acids,” says Lapp, who claims, “We are seeing people on day three and four of withdrawal and feeling great!” The idea behind using amino acids, the body's "building blocks," is that they're responsible for keeping the chemistry in our brain balanced; drugs changes the chemistry in the brain—so using supplements such as L-Tyrosine is meant to help create new neurotransmitters in the brain and redress this imbalance. Lapp says his facility steers clear of maintenance drugs like suboxone and methadone. “You have to remove the drug in its entirety,” he says. “If not that behavior is still there, and there is still that drug-seeking mentality.” In addition to starting his own treatment center, Lapp and his team have developed a recovery supplement called ModeraXL, which contains an amino acid blend to promote healthy brain function. “Using amino acid therapy to treat addiction, in my opinion, is the closest thing to a cure for addiction,” he says. “It makes everything else fall into place a little bit easier.”