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secondhand smoke

11/17/14 3:30pm

Is Secondhand Pot Smoke Harmful?

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According to preliminary research, secondhand marijuana smoke can potentially be as harmful as secondhand cigarette smoke.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that the blood vessel function in lab rats dropped by 70% after exposure to marijuana smoke, which resembles the same effect of cigarette smoke.

"Smoke is smoke. Both tobacco and marijuana smoke impair blood vessel function similarly," said the study's senior author, Matthew Springer, a cardiovascular researcher and Associate Professor at the UCSF. "People should avoid both, and governments who are protecting people against secondhand smoke exposure should include marijuana in those rules."

Because both medical and recreational marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states, researchers have amped up their studies of the drug in order to understand the effects of a drug that has, up until now, remained somewhat benign.

"Marijuana for a long time was viewed as a relatively innocuous drug, but a lot of that came from a lack of information," said Dr. Stephen Thornton, a toxicologist and Medical Director of the Poison Control Center at the University of Kansas Hospital. "Now, as more and more people are using it, we're finding more and more detrimental effects. People just need to be cautious."

For the study, researchers measured blood vessel dilation 10 minutes before and 40 minutes after exposure to marijuana smoke. While rats in previous studies showed that their blood vessel dilation returned to normal after being exposed to cigarette smoke, the blood vessels in the rats exposed to weed had not returned to normal even after 40 minutes, leading researchers to conclude that secondhand marijuana smoke might even have more detrimental effects than tobacco smoke.

"Tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke both contain thousands of chemicals, many of which are toxic," said Springer. "Some of [the new] laws might be written very narrowly [with this in mind]."

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By Shawn Dwyer

flying high

11/17/14 1:00pm

Goldman Sachs Accused Plying Libyan Government With Alcohol and Sex

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Goldman Sachs employees have been accused of having an "improper" relationship with the Libyan sovereign wealth fund during the dictatorial reign of Muammar al-Gaddafi, according to a recent British court filing.

The case brought by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) claims that Goldman Sachs abused the financial illiteracy and trust of the Libyans, earning $350 million in profits as the Sovereign Wealth Fund was left with losses of over $1 billion. According to filing, the accusations recount a lavish trip to Morocco that involved "heavy drinking and girls."

In a lawsuit by the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), the allegations claim the global investment bank deliberately misled the Sovereign Wealth Fund in order to make "substantial" profits. Goldman Sachs naturally denies the allegations, but the evidence against the Wall Street giant is impressive. New details of the allegations were contained in witness statements filed at London's High Court in October 2014.

Assigned by an American law firm to the Libyan Investment Authority, Attorney Catherine McDougall claimed the relationship between Goldman Sachs and the Sovereign Wealth Fund was abusive, it led directly to the bank’s employees taking unfair advantage of the LIA's lack of financial knowledge. The outcome were the sales of derivative products that the Libyans did not understand.

Carrying a high degree of risk, the disputed derivative trades in early 2008 cost $1 billion. They lost a substantial amount of value by the end of the first year and actually were worthless upon their expiration in 2011. This was the same year the dictatorial Gaddafi was assassinated by rebel leaders.

A Goldman Sachs representative told CNBC that the bank considers the case to be entirely without merit and intends to vigorously contest it. Starting her assignment in Libya shortly after the trades, McDougall was surprised at the Libyan’s lack of knowledge and experience with derivatives. She recalls in her witness statement, "They did not appreciate that the trades did not involve share purchases and they were completely synthetic products," McDougall said. "They completely trusted Goldman.”

LIA employees supposedly had full confidence in Goldman Executive Director Youssef Kabbaj, who left the company in 2009, and is accused of using sex and alcohol to violate business boundaries.

"They told me about their lavish trip to Morocco and that there was heavy drinking and girls involved and that the trip was paid for by Youssef Kabbaj mostly on his Goldman corporate credit card," McDougal said. "They also told me how Mr. Kabbaj would take them out in London for expensive nights out, again paid for on his Goldman Sachs credit card."

The relationship between the LIA and Goldman Sachs broke down in July 2008 after a meeting between the two parties. McDougall's statement said that former LIA executive Mustafa Zarti confronted the bank's employees about the transactions. The Libyan angrily accused the traders, stating that he thought Goldman Sachs had "screwed" the LIA.

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By John Lavitt

heroin addiction

11/17/14 10:30am

Heroin Sisters Featured on Dr. Phil Are Now 60 Days Clean

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The sisters high on the show. Photo via

An episode of Dr. Phil that showed three heroin-addicted sisters generated plenty of controversy earlier this month, but a recent update show found all three girls in rehab and on the path to sobriety.

Valeen, 27; Amanda, 25; and Tiffany, 22, have shot up over 36,000 times, traded sex for drug money and used money their parents gave them in order to buy drugs. They used heroin on-camera and even admitted to being high when they walked on set for the episode. “When we wake up in the morning, the first thing on our minds is to get high. It’s like I’m married to it,” said Valeen. “I think the needle itself is a certain addiction. I don’t want to do it unless I can do it with a needle."

Their parents, Linda and Rich, were in total denial of their daughters’ addiction. Despite most of their drug use taking place in their own home, Rich said he had never seen any of them use heroin and Linda refused to kick them out. “If you continue to do what you’re doing, these girls are going to be dead,” said Dr. Phil. “Would it be easy for me to put my kids out on the street? Hell no. I get that, but I also understand that it comes down to [whether] I want them to have a chance of surviving or not.”

He offered rehab to all three sisters on the condition that they attend separate facilities and never live in their parents’ house again. Ten days after the original episode aired, he revealed on an update show last Thursday that all three of them had accepted his terms and were now clean for 60 days.

“It was such relief when I realized I was getting the help I needed and my family was getting the help they needed. The relationship with my parents has gotten so much better. They’re both in a 12-step program and my mom is getting counseling,” said Valeen. “We all have the same sobriety date and I hope we can keep that, but I’m in this for the long haul. I’m here to stay sober this time.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

drugs on campus

11/17/14 8:30am

College Campus Allows Vending Machine That Will Dole Out Prescription Drugs

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Vending machines aren’t just for soda and candy anymore. After the drug store at the health services building in Arizona State University was closed last September, school officials are set to replace it with a vending machine that will dispense prescription medication.

The InstyMeds vending machine will be available for students and university employees with approved prescription to use next month. Customers will be given a voucher with unique ID information and a 24-hour-only code that can transfer over a secure connection from the prescription doctor to the machine. Instymeds also addressed drug abuse concerns in saying that their equipment is alarmed and alerts authority whenever a tampering incident takes place.

ASU is now the second university to install the machine, with Florida State University being the first to take the plunge. Although ASU officials wouldn’t specify which drugs the vending machine will dispense, they confirmed the 50 medications most commonly prescribed to college students will be available. "Serving the health-care needs of our students is still our highest priority,” said Allan Markus, Director of ASU Health Services, in a statement. "We believe the measures we have taken will help our students with their prescription needs.”

Of course, the concerns of drug abuse are warranted as the last 10 years have seen a huge spike in college students taking ADHD drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. Studies have found that up to 35% of college students take non-prescribed stimulants to help them maximize study time. A 2009 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health also found that full-time college students were twice as likely to take ADHD medications without a prescription than students who went to school part-time.

"When we look at upperclassmen, the number really begins to jump," said Alan DeSantis, a professor at the University of Kentucky. "The more time you stay on campus, the more likely you are to use."

Some colleges have taken steps to address this issue. Marist College and Fresno State now require students who are prescribed ADHD meds to sign contracts promising not to misuse pills or share them. Some colleges, including George Mason and William and Mary, forbid school clinicians from prescribing stimulants entirely, instead referring students to off-campus providers.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

11/17/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Nov. 17, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

war on women

11/14/14 7:30pm

Alabama Prosecutor Targeting Pregnant Women Who Test Positive for Drugs

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Alabama prosecutors are now pursuing criminal cases against women testing positive for drug use while pregnant.

District Attorney Brian McVeigh explained that the move reflects changes in case law. Prosecutors are taking a tough page from colleagues in other parts of Alabama, like Etowah County. In Etowah County, authorities announced a tougher stance against pregnant women abusing drugs. From a legal perspective, taking drugs while pregnant is known as chemical endangerment of a child.

Rather than imprisoning a mother-to-be and taking the child away once the baby is born, McVeigh said prosecutors will allow the women to work their way back to sobriety. In Etowah County's chemical endangerment cases, women who are charged attempt to find the path of long-term recovery by working with Alethia House, a Birmingham-based facility that treats pregnant mothers with drug problems.

"If they are willing to get the prenatal care and stay off the drugs, we can work to reduce or dismiss the charges…We just want to make sure the child gets as much time in the womb without being exposed to these toxins," said McVeigh. "(What was happening) was terrible. We would have the mother show up in an ER, and both her and the child would test positive for cocaine, meth, or something else.”

Over the past two years, McVeigh’s office has charged nine women with chemical endangerment following the birth of children who tested positive for drugs. The district attorney’s ultimate goal is to protect children while they are in the womb and sharing the blood supply of the mother. At this point, the level of danger when a mother chooses to abuse drugs is beyond consideration and must be prevented.

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By John Lavitt

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