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unintended consequences

10/22/14 5:30pm

Can Parkinson’s Drugs Cause Addictive Behavior?

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A study published on the online journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that certain drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease may cause a host of impulse control behavior issues, from compulsive gambling to an obsessive interest in pornography and sex.

The medications are part of a class of drugs known as dopamine receptor agonists, which reproduce the effects of the brain chemical dopamine in patients with Parkinson’s and other conditions, including restless leg syndrome and hyperprolactinemia, that eliminate the chemical’s presence in their systems.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Institute of Safe Medication Practices, Harvard, and the University of Ottawa, examined 2.7 million reports of drug reactions submitted to a Food and Drug Administration database between 2003 and 2012. They uncovered approximately more than 1,500 reports that were identified by the researchers as involving “serious” impulse control issues, with nearly half linked directly to six different dopamine receptor agonist medications like Mirapex and Requip. Of these reports, 628 involved pathological gambling, 465 reported cases of hypersexuality, and 202 concerned compulsive shopping.

The study concluded that these side effects appear to cease after patients discontinue taking these medications, and that those patients who take a combination of carbidopa and levodopa drugs did not appear to experience these issues.

Taken as a whole, the number of cases involving behavioral changes while taking Parkinson’s medications is between 10% and 14%, though study author Thomas Moore of the Institute of Safe Medication Practices considers these numbers as a “striking example of a major problem in drug safety.” He added, “It’s an astronomical rate, in terms for drug adverse event risk. And frankly, I think I’m being conservative.”

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By Paul Gaita

unconscionable

10/22/14 3:30pm

Women Should Stop Worrying About Date Rape Drugs, Says Conservative Think Tank

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A new video released by conservative think tank The American Enterprise Institute says women at bars should stop worrying about date-rate drugs and start being more concerned about drinking less alcohol.

The video, which is part of AEI’s “Factual Feminist” blog, talks about the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee fraternity that was suspended last September for allegedly giving roofies to three women during a party. But AEI researcher Caroline Kitchens says there was no evidence to support the claim, and that women have grown overly paranoid of being drugged and sexually assaulted.

“Most commonly, victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault are severely intoxicated, often from their own volition,” Kitchens says. “Paranoia over the date-rape drug causes us to misplace our anxieties, and feminists should be concerned that women are modifying their behavior on their girls nights’ out in order to protect themselves from some vague, improbable threat. So why are we all so scared of roofies?”

In the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee incident, three women and one man were hospitalized after passing out in the fraternity house. The three women each had a red “X” on their hands, while other partygoers had a black “X.” This led to speculation of a premeditated plan to administer a date-rape drug to the women. But when police searched the premises they found no trace of Rohypnol, GHB, or any other form of date-rape drug. According to Kitchens, this lack of evidence is common in drug-related sexual assault allegations.

“Panic and questionable allegations about the date-rape drug are rampant,” Kitchens says. “Everything from lip gloss to nail polish to coasters has been invented to protect women from rapists armed with roofies. But the evidence doesn’t match the hype.”

But Kitchens isn’t alone in this viewpoint. TheFix.com earlier reported that others, like Slate columnist Emily Yoffe, have expressed a similar sentiment. Yoffee blamed college women for being sexually assaulted, saying they invited it by drinking too much alcohol.

Colby Bruno, a senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center, says alcohol, not roofies, is the most frequently used date-rate drug, but added that “saying the threat of date-rape drugs is overblown because women don’t want to take responsibility for having gotten too drunk is utterly preposterous.”

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By Brent McCluskey

international incident

10/22/14 1:00pm

Russian Investigators Blame Drunk Driver for Oil Exec’s Death

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On October 20, Christophe de Margerie, chief executive officer of Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil company, was killed in a collision between his private jet and a snowplow on the tarmac of Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport. Now, Russian and French investigators have placed the blame on the plow driver, Vladimir Martynenko, who is accused of operating the vehicle while intoxicated.

Investigators from the Interstate Aviation Committee, which examines all Russian air accidents, have included senior airport officials among the parties responsible for the crash, which claimed not only the life of the 63-year-old Margerie but also all three members of the plane’s crew. The Committee investigators cited “criminal negligence” through failure to ensure proper airport staff coordination as one of the causes of the accident, though they will also continue to investigate Martynenko’s state at the time of the crash and possible error by air traffic controllers.

Lawyers for Martynenko deny that their client was drunk at the time of the collision due to a chronic heart condition that prevents him from consuming alcohol. “[Martynenko] is in shock,” said legal representative Alexander Karabanov. “He considers himself guiltless, as he followed all the instructions from the dispatcher.” De Margerie, who had been CEO of Total since 2007, met with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev just hours before the accident to discuss investment opportunities.

A longtime critic of Western sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict, Margerie had been a key figure in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program in Iraq, which attempted to aid that country’s residents while under sanctions placed by the U.S. after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

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By Paul Gaita

synthetic drugs

10/22/14 10:30am

Synthetic 'Spice' Wreaking Havoc Across Russia

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Use of the synthetic drug known as Spice has been causing havoc throughout Russia, with more than 25 deaths and 700 others seeking medical help across the country in recent weeks.

Much of the Spice, a cannabis substitute made with herbs and lab-synthesized chemicals, has been imported into Russia from China. However, plenty of Russian labs are now making the drug themselves. The relative ease with which these labs can substitute banned chemicals with legal ones in order to avoid criminal consequences has led to the Russian Parliament considering passing a bill that would ban all synthetic smoking mixtures.

“The current system of fighting spice simply doesn’t work,” said Sultan Khamzayev, a member of Russia’s public chamber and an anti-drug campaigner. “Chemists need just three hours to change the formula, but all the necessary bureaucratic work to identify and then ban a particular drug takes five months. That means for the whole period, people can simply sell any old poison.”

One Spice addict, Valentina, even declared that coming down from the drug was worse than the heroin withdrawal she previously experienced. Spice withdrawal typically involves minor physical symptoms, but can also include intense depression.

“One day I stood up and I understood with absolute clarity that the only way for me to escape from the awful life I was in was to murder both of my children and then kill myself,” she said. “I was crystal clear that this was the only course of action open to me. Luckily, my husband stopped me and calmed me down. But what about people who don’t have that support?”

Drug use has been on the rise overall in Russia. A 2013 report from the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN) stated that an estimated 8.5 million Russian citizens are addicted to drugs, with 70,000 dying from them each year. With the handful of state-run centers already beyond capacity and private clinics priced far beyond the means of most residents, most of Russia’s addicts are left without a suitable option for treatment.

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By McCarton Ackerman

islam & drugs

10/22/14 8:30am

Islamic State Reportedly Using Drug Trade To Fund Operations

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The Islamic State has a reported $2 billion in assets from resources including oil revenue and black market trading, but a new report suggests that they’re also using the drug trade to bankroll their operations.

Spanish intelligence sources reported that European cells of jihadist groups within Spain and other countries are using drug smuggling routes to export both drug contraband and new recruits from European Union countries to Iraq and Syria. A significantly increased trade of both illegal weapons and drugs including “cocaine, heroin and hashish” has also been taking place. Most of the cocaine that has entered Europe through the Islamic State has been transported across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Spain.

However, the illegal trading isn’t a new practice for the Islamic State. “When you look at Al-Qaeda, which Islamic State took over from in Iraq, they used to smuggle heroin and diamonds,” said Haras Rafiq of the anti-radicalization think tank the Quilliam Foundation. “Islamic State have seized many assets since the summer, however they definitely made heavy use of illicit trade tactics before and it is probably quite difficult to stop.”

Approximately 20% of those detained in Spain under suspicion of working with Islamic State and other jihadist groups have been imprisoned for crimes including drug trafficking and document counterfeiting.

Although drug smuggling is clearly forbidden in Islam, Rafiq believes that “in times of war, they believe more is permitted to achieve their goals.” However, their actions are contradicted by publicly denouncing drug use and banning drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes in the areas which they have control of. Last month, members of the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video of the militant group destroying a marijuana field in Syria.

Despite the best efforts of ISIS, drug use has become a problem among Iraqi youth. A UNICEF representative claimed that 10% of all children in Iraq are addicts, with social scientist Abbas Fadhil reporting that most of these users “are from ‘fragmented’ poor families or unemployed.” Many of the addicts had also dropped out of school, with drug use reportedly less common among current students.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

10/22/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 22, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

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Last February, my oldest friend died of a heroin overdose at the age of 49. He beat me to recovery, and he beat me to death. He also gave a final, drug-alogue interview on my radio show 20 hours before he died.

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