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Medical Marijuana

8/07/12 5:00pm

Is Pot a Safer Alternative to Painkillers?


Is pot the "exit drug"? Photo via

Marijuana may be an effective treatment for chronic pain and a safer alternative than pharmaceutical painkillers, according to new research from the Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria. Researcher Phillippe Lucas reviewed numerous studies carried out from 1975 onwards, in which patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain were treated with a combination of cannabis and opiates. He writes in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, “Research suggests that when used in conjunction with opiates, cannabinoids can lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain, which may in turn result in a reduction in the use of opiates (and associated side effects) by patients in a clinical setting.” Lucas says this would not only have a positive impact on pain levels and quality of life for paitients, but also help reduce the soaring painkiller addiction rates in both the US and Canada. He even believes marijuana could help treat other addictions to stimulants and alcohol, and could therefore help reduce alcohol-related problems like drunk driving and domestic violence.

“So what we’re really talking about in a nutshell," Lucas tells The Fix, "is cannabis as an exit drug to addiction, rather than a gateway drug as it is often suggested it might be. Overall, the more doctors know about the medical use of cannabis, the better potential health outcomes for the patients.”

Of course, other studies have shown that marijuana has its own negative side effects—one just out says pot can cause long-term anxiety in people who smoke it as teenagers, for example. But Lucas says society needs to fully evaluate its prejudices towards marijuana: “As a society, we’re going up against 70 years of reinforcement that this substance is altogether negative... That prevents us from looking at this substance and all its potential benefits," he argues. “I think the current harms of prohibition, particularly cannabis prohibition, far outweigh any potential harm from the individuals and society that legalizing cannabis may have. If we were to discover cannabis in this day and age in a jungle in South America, I think we would consider it almost as a miracle drug.”  

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By Chrisanne Grise

Mass Murder

8/07/12 3:58pm

Sikh Massacre Shooter Had a Drinking Problem


Page at a white power concert

Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist who burst into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on Sunday and killed six worshippers before being shot dead by a police officer, reportedly battled an alcohol problem that led to his 2006 discharge from the Army, a DWI and the loss of a job at a trucking company in 2010.

The mass-murderer, who was described by his step-mother today as a "gentle" person, was a prominent figure in local white power rock scene. He was also struggling financially, and faced home foreclosure. During an interview last night with CNN's Piers Morgan, one of Page's self-described "close friends" described him as "a very kind, very smart individual—loved his friends. One of those guys with a soft spot," but that he was also “the loner type of person. Even in a group of people, he would be off alone.” According to the friend, Page was awaiting the "holy war."

Page served in the Army from 1992 to 1998, and worked as a technician on missile systems, and later as a psychological operations specialist. He was discharged by what Army officials describe as a “pattern of misconduct” linked to being intoxicated on duty. The following year, Wade was arrested in Colorado on DWI charges. He later took a job at an Iowa-based trucking company, which he managed to hold onto for four years—until he was pulled over in North Carolina and cited for driving while impaired by alcohol or “some other chemical substance,” according to the Washington Post.

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By Mike Guy

drugs online

8/07/12 3:10pm

Silk Road Goes From Strength to Strength


A package from Silk Road. Photo via

Silk Road is essentially the of drugs and paraphernalia—and one and a half years since it began, business seems to be booming. A recent study of the anonymous black marketplace found that the site makes an estimated $22 million in annual sales, and its operators now generate more than $6,000 a day in commissions for themselves—up from $2,500 a day in February. And the total number of sellers has climbed from around 300 to over 550 in the last six months. The site uses shadowy techniques to hide its location, making it pretty much impossible to identify customers or track their movements. But despite—or perhaps partly because of—this elusiveness, customers have a high level of satisfaction, with 97.8% giving positive reviews. “On a site like Silk Road, where…most of the goods sold are illicit, one would expect a certain amount of deception to occur,” says Nicolas Christin, a Carnegie Mellon computer security professor who conducted the study. “Indeed, a buyer choosing, for instance, to purchase heroin from an anonymous seller would have very little recourse if the goods promised are not delivered. Surprisingly, though, most transactions on Silk Road seem to generate excellent feedback from buyers.” Purchases are made with “Bitcoin,” an Internet-only currency that bypasses the traditional banking system, further reducing detectability.

Silk Road isn't for luddites: some technical know-how is required to get on the site. But despite this, and not despite not advertising at all, it has managed to generate roughly as much revenue as illegal online pharmacies that use spam emails to lure in customers. “If you imagine them selling paperclips and buttons, they’re a stable business that’s growing without advertising or being in the news, just by word of mouth,” says Christin. He cautions that his study only examined a six month period, and that the highly volatile Bitcoin has increased nearly 70% in value over that time period. But however you crunch them, “It’s very bursty and spikey, but overall the numbers are moving up,” says Christin. “It’s a stable marketplace, and overall it’s growing steadily.”

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By Chrisanne Grise

Drug War

8/07/12 2:08pm

Fear and Drug Cartels in Las Vegas


Is Vegas welcoming some of the wrong
visitors? Photo via

They call it "Sin City" for a reason. Law enforcement officials claim that Mexican drug cartels are now working to establish a direct foothold in Vegas and are using it as a stepping stone to sell mass quantities of drugs to the East. Although the majority of drugs entering the US still come through Phoenix or Southern California, there has been a marked increase in drugs coming through Vegas. Kent Bitsko, executive director of a Nevada-based interagency drug task force, says within the last 18 months there were five instances of direct contact between the region's drug traffickers and Mexican cartels—indicating a step rise in the last several years of cartel-related drug activity. “The only time we will say cartel involvement is when they have the ability to call directly to Mexico and arrange their narcotics to come up here,” he said. Last year, task forces seized more than $66 million in drugs in Southern Nevada—more than double the amount seized in 2010, according to authorities. Most of the confiscated drugs consisted of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and meth. “We’ve done search warrants on homes and found (more than) 100 pounds of meth,” said Lt. Laz Chavez of Metro Police's narcotics section. “There’s no way that much can be sold just in Las Vegas.” Vegas police hope to avoid any cartel violence from occurring in their city, with Bitsko claiming that other US cities, including Phoenix and San Diego, have seen a recent increase in cartel-related kidnappings. “We just want to do whatever we can to keep that from happening,” said Chavez.

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By McCarton Ackerman

European Drugs

8/07/12 12:55pm

Sewage Tests Show Swiss Aren't Squeaky-Clean


Covered in snow Photo via

The Swiss reputation for sparkling cleanliness is being challenged by a new report that shows the cities of Bern, Geneva, Lucerne and Zurich are amongst the highest for cocaine use in Europe. Published in Science of the Total Environment, the findings were based on tests of the sewage water of 15 million people in 19 European cities. The quantity of cocaine in Swiss city sewers was found to be amongst the highest in all of Europe—even climbing up to four times higher during events such as the Zurich Street Parade and music festivals. The research also found that Europeans consume approximately 356 kilos of cocaine every day—or 10-15% of the global production—according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. "The amounts of cocaine...were in the same range as those European cities with the highest consumption," said Christoph Ort of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Swiss cities consume, on average, 1.5 grams per day per 1,000 people. Barcelona, London, Milan and Paris aren't far behind, however, with residents of these cities registering average use of 0.5-1 gram of the drug, followed by Scandinavian cities like Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki. The research also indicated that the drug is used most widely in central and western Europe, as opposed to eastern and northern regions.

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By Gabrielle Wuhl

crappy hour

8/07/12 11:40am

Ground Zero Has a Booze Problem


"Vodka and steel beams don't mix."
Photo via

It would seem obvious that you should never drink while operating heavy machinery, but the Port Authority in NYC apparently needed to address that exact issue. In light of several incidents of construction accidents at the Ground Zero site and daytime drinking among workers, the agency is cracking down on workday drinking by upping the budget for its inspector general and adding undercover investigators to the unit. More than 20 workers have already lost their credentials, and it won't stop there. “Look, vodka and steel beams and a construction site don’t mix,” says Port Authority chief Pat Foye. “We are not going to tolerate it. This has been a longtime problem in the construction industry. But this is the most complicated construction project anywhere.” In February, 40 tons of steel crashed 40 stories to the ground, followed by an incident last June where a worker was impaled on a length of steel after falling five feet. Just one day after that, glass rained down on the street after a beam crashed into windows 46 stories up. All of the incidents occurred at 4 WTC, one of the towers being built alongside 1 WTC, nicknamed "The Freedom Tower." It's unclear if the incidents were drinking related, but the Port Authority is refusing to take any chances. “There is no place at the World Trade Center for risky or irresponsible behavior of any kind,” says Bud Perrone, a spokesman for the developer, Silverstein Properties.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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