Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. If the state legislature has its way, Utah could soon raise its minimum smoking age from 19 to 21 years old in hopes of cutting down on underage smoking in the state.
Lawmakers recently voted 14 to 5 in favor of advancing the measure through committee, setting up a possible vote in the legislature next year. Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, one of the five voting against the measure, claimed such a ban would restrict personal liberty. "We have a responsibility to protect first and foremost the liberties of our citizens, not to protect them from harm that they may cause to themselves," said Greene. Despite opposition, there was overwhelming support for the bill, including from anti-smoking groups and local health departments who testified before the committee. "Ninety percent of legal adults that purchase tobacco for underage smokers are under age 21," said David Patton, executive director of the Utah Department of Health. Also according to health officials, most kid smokers under 18 in the state get their supply of smokes from people who are just above the current legal limit of 19. The law's proposers reason that underage smokers will have a harder time finding a 21-year-old friend willing to buy them cigarettes than a 19-year-old one. And in a state where the average resident tries his or her first cigarette at a little over 12 years old, blocking this means of obtaining smokes is critical.
Nationally, two-thirds of American smokers began smoking at age 18 or younger, according to the American Lung Association, so such policies could very well reduce the amount of future smokers over all. The town of Needham, MA raised their minimum smoking age to 21 in 2005 and saw high-school smoking rates drop by 50 percent since. Similar measures to the one moving through Utah are being considered in Hawaii, Texas, Colorado, and New Jersey.
A nine-year study conducted by the University of Buffalo Research Institute of Addictions has concluded that married couples with equal drinking habits – even if heavy – have had more successful marriages than couples who consume dissimilar amounts of alcohol.
Researchers followed 634 couples and classified them into four distinct groups: one where neither was a heavy drinker, one where the husband was a heavy drinker, one where the wife was a heavy drinker, and one where both drank like sailors. Their findings showed that 45 to 55 percent of marriages where either the husband or the wife drank more ended in divorce by the ninth year. But when both drank equally, the divorce rate dropped to 35 percent. "Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple's drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce," said Kenneth Leonard, director of the research institute and lead author of the study. Even more surprising, the research showed that the divorce rates for heavy-drinking couples – heavy drinking being defined as six or more drinks, or drinking to intoxication – were no worse than they were for non-drinking couples. Meanwhile, rates for divorce were higher for couples where the wife drank more than when the husband did.
Earlier this year, more comprehensive research was conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which examined almost 20,000 couples and reached a similar conclusion. Still, Leonard hoped that his research would spur further study. “The fact that this is something that is not typically explored or may not be viewed as being problematic is something that we hope will change,” he said.
According to the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), some 850 British citizens are currently locked behind bars in overseas prisons on various drug charges, with many of them facing harsh conditions and lengthy imprisonment without trial.
In conjunction with the charity Prisoners Abroad, the FOC has launched a campaign warning British nationals of the harsh penalties that await them in other countries for drug offenses that would earn them a slap on the wrist at home. "People continue to be astonished at some of the penalties handed down for certain crimes overseas,” said Consular Affairs Minister Mark Simmonds. “In some countries possessing small amounts of marijuana can lead to decades in prison.” Pauline Crowe, the chief executive of Prisoners Abroad, echoed concern about the often shocking treatment even minor drug offenders face. “In many countries, men and women find themselves without access to food, clean water and the most basic of medical care,” she said in The Guardian. “We urge people to consider the unsanitary conditions, overcrowded cells and the constant threat of disease before they get involved in drugs."
At the moment, Prisoners Abroad offers support to some 84 British nationals imprisoned for drugs in countries as varied as Spain, Peru, Thailand, and even the United States. In Spain, for example, offenders can be held for up to a year before trial or denied exit from the country even if out on bail. Sentences in Spain can be as long as 20 years for hard drugs and up to six for lesser drugs. Of the 84 detainees under Prisoners Abroad’s watch, 62 have yet to face trial.
Currently, there are 33 countries and territories across the world that use capital punishment for drug offenses, including Thailand, a popular hotspot for British students.
Heroin abuse is on the rise in the Washington city of Olympia, but state and federal funding has been slashed by nearly 25 percent, making it difficult for treatment centers to provide services to those who need help.
Chris Johnson, a case manager for the Northwest Resources chemical dependency treatment center, said the problem of heroin use in the Olympia area has been growing since 2010. However, funding for the program which covers Thurston and Mason counties dropped from $4.33 million annually in 2009 to its current funding of $3.42 million. Johnson described the situation as “fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun” and said additional resources were badly needed. “There is a supply of substances of abuse that meets or exceeds its demand,” he said. “But the demand for treatment exceeds the ability to provide it.” Program manager Joe Avalos said the funding cuts have “directly impacted our publicly funded infrastructure, leading to the closure of major treatment providers in our two-county area.”
Olympia has one facility which provides heroin users with medically assisted methadone called the South Sound Clinic, which currently serves 375 patients. Executive director Molly Carney said they have permission to serve 400 patients, but aren’t able to because they lack adequate staff. Johnson has even taken to walking the streets of Olympia, passing out his business card to those he feels may need help. “I’ll say it over and over again, ‘When you’re ready, call me,’ he said. “Eventually, addicts come around, because it doesn’t get better. It always gets worse."
While dad’s cocaine use might not win him any Father of the Year awards, it might actually lead his son to become more resistant to addiction.
A study conducted on male lab rats by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that the male offspring of using fathers showed reduced signs of addicted behavior as compared to rats sired by non-using fathers. Male rats born from fathers that received two months worth of self-administered cocaine did not show an escalation of frenzied movements – which has been seen as a sign of addiction – when drugged themselves. But the offspring of non-using fathers did display frenzied movements, leading to the conclusion that fathers that did use cocaine passed along a resistance to their sons. The findings did not apply to female offspring.
What does this mean for humans? Not much at the moment. But because the rat offspring of using fathers did not display a remodeling of AMPA receptors – which is necessary for developing addiction and cravings – the findings may prompt further examination into whether or not we can actually shape another generation’s physiology through our own activities.
The study was presented by Mathieu Wimmer and R. Christopher Pierce on November 11, 2013 at the Society for Neuroscience’s Annual Meeting in San Diego, California.
Despite reports over the past few months of Krokodil sightings from Arizona to Ohio, the Drug Enforcement Agency has gone on record to debunk claims that addicts in the United States are using the notorious Russian drug. But that hasn’t stopped physicians and other law enforcement officers from making the claim that the so-called zombie drug has reached American shores. Just a couple of weeks ago, Brian Brady, an interim police chief in Dillon, CO, claimed to see an increase in drug-related arrests for LSD, heroin, and yes, Krokodil. “We’re seeing a trend big time and that’s what worries me about the marijuana thing,” Brady said. “I’m not necessarily opposed to [retail marijuana], but when people want a bigger high they tend to mix it with something,” Brady said. Meanwhile, two doctors in Missouri amplified the hysteria by claiming that they logged the first official Krokodil case in the U.S.
A synthetic heroin-like drug originating in Russia, Krokodil is the street name of desomorphine, a cheap homemade derivative of codeine mixed with a smorgasbord of chemicals like gasoline, lighter fluid, iodine, hydrochloric acid, and red phosphorous from matchbooks. When injected, the user feels a heroin-like high, but also experiences scaly green skin that resembles gangrene. Some users have had the gruesome misfortune of seeing their flesh rot to the bone. Because of the hysteria being generated by the reports, the DEA has moved in to squash the rumors that the lethal drug has arrived in the U.S. “DEA is investigating the matter by acquiring samples alleged to contain desomorphine, interviewing drug abusers, and monitoring intelligence reports. To date, none of our forensic laboratories has analyzed an exhibit found to contain desomorphine,” said spokesman Rusty Payne.
So what has been rotting away the flesh of intravenous drug users? According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical adviser at the non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center Phoenix House, the cause is more common than people think. “This is not a new problem. Drug users are prone to skin infections and blood infections. There are serious medical infections that come from injecting drugs,” Kolodny said.