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deadly combo

9/12/14 8:30am

Drug Combo "Gumbo" Ravages Southeast Texas


Gumbo. Photo via

A new drug mixture called “Gumbo” is the latest way that users are combining marijuana with other illicit substances to create a potentially lethal high.

Gumbo is a marijuana cigar laced with other ingredients including ecstasy, cocaine, or PCP. Based on the combination of drugs, the effects can leave users frozen or have the opposite effect and make them combative and unable to feel pain. However, Gumbo can potentially lead to strokes, heart attacks, or organ failure.

It has become an increasing problem throughout Southeast Texas, where local police are reporting that it has been the cause of several overdose deaths and violent crimes that have ravaged local communities. "We've had guys breaking out car windows, we've had guys jump on top of cars, we've had guys take their families hostage," said Port Arthur Detective Marcelo Molfino.

Gumbo can also be laced with synthetic marijuana, which has been causing its own set of problems throughout the country. Last July, 19-year-old teenager Connor Eckhardt slipped into a coma and eventually passed away after smoking synthetic marijuana with friends.

Synthetic marijuana typically consists of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals that simulate marijuana's effects for a legal pot. It can also cause side effects such as irregular heartbeat and seizures.

“These substances are not benign,” said Dr Andrew Monte. “You can buy designer drugs of abuse at convenience stores and on the Internet. People may not realize how dangerous these drugs can be—up to 1,000 times stronger binding to cannabis receptors when compared to traditional marijuana.”

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By McCarton Ackerman


9/12/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Sept. 12, 2014



By Shawn Dwyer

effects of marijuana

9/11/14 7:30pm

Do Women Have More Tolerance for Weed Than Men?



According to new research from Washington State University, females who smoke pot can build up tolerance to THC faster than men, thanks to their estrogen levels.

Published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the study also concluded that females are more sensitive to the pain-relieving qualities of marijuana. Their sensitivity can also make them more prone to marijuana's negative side effects, including paranoia, anxiety, and addiction.

The study was the first to demonstrate that there is a difference in how the sexes respond to THC in their system. Researchers were interested in the drug's pain-relieving effects on male and female rats. Rats have a menstrual cycle like humans, albeit one that is much shorter, as well as similar hormonal fluctuations.

"We were looking at the pain-relieving effects," said Professor Rebecca Craft, chair of the psychology department at WSU and lead researcher of the study. "One of the things that is of concern if you're using any medication repeatedly is: Will it maintain its effectiveness over time?"

At the start of the study, female rats were showing a higher sensitivity to THC. After 10 days, however, the researchers found that the female rats needed higher doses than their male counterparts. And that was after Craft had adjusted female doses to be 30% lower than male doses, knowing already that females were more sensitive to THC.

“This is the lowest dose anyone has ever used to induce tolerance,” Craft said.

Because marijuana is far more potent today than it's ever been, with higher THC levels and lower amounts cannabidiol, Craft said that the negative effects, particularly in women, could be more pronounced with just a little bit of weed.

“We’re more likely to see negative side effects today like anxiety, confusion, panic attacks, hallucinations or extreme paranoia,” she said. “And women are at higher risk.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

lethal injection

9/11/14 5:30pm

Texas Man Killed By Allegedly Expired Execution Drugs


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Willie Tyrone Trottie was executed via lethal injection on Wednesday evening for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her brother. Trottie, who was 45 this week, was pronounced dead at 6:35 p.m. CDT in Huntsville, Texas.

Claiming that “factual discrepancies in the evidence against Trottie remain unresolved,” his attorneys had filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking to defer his execution.

Trottie’s attorneys also contended that the dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital in the lethal injection was past its effectiveness date and could cause him “tortuous” pain, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. The state responded that the drug’s expiration date was not until the end of the month and that tests showed proper potency.

Recent botched executions in Oklahoma and Arizona have raised concern about the drugs used for capital punishment. In these states, and others, midazolam is used in a two or three drug combination. The inmate who was executed in Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett, died of a heart attack more than 45 minutes after the lethal injection was administered. He reportedly writhed, moaned, and clenched his teeth before he was pronounced dead. In Texas, a single  lethal dose of pentobarbital is used for capital punishment.

The son of an abusive, alcoholic mother, Trottie died 22 minutes after the lethal dose was administered. His is the eighth execution in Texas this year and the 29th in the country. He is the 516th person to be executed in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. Texas has been responsible for almost 40 percent of all executions in the U.S. since 1976.

Trottie fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, Barbara Canada, and her brother, Titus Canada, in 1993 after Ms. Canada left him and moved in with her family. Prosecutors said Trottie threatened to kill Ms. Canada if she didn’t return to him. He was acting on this threat when he forced his way into Ms. Canada’s parents’ house and opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol, also wounding Ms. Canada's mother and sister. Trottie had claimed the shootings were in self defense, and therefore not worthy of a death sentence.

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By Victoria Kim

movie puffs

9/11/14 3:30pm

Kevin Smith's New Movie Promoted with Tie-In Marijuana


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Kevin Smith is directing a new movie, and indie film studio A24 is using branded pot to promote it.

A Los Angeles-based medical marijuana dispensary is stocking two strains, Mr. Tusk and White Walrus, to create buzz for Tusk, Smith's new horror-comedy which stars Justin Long as a podcaster who starts slowly turning into a Walrus.

“White Walrus, I’m told, is more mellow and uplifting,” said Graham Retzik, an A24 marketing strategist. Mr. Tusk is supposedly more intense. “The two are surprisingly complex, in keeping with the spirit of the film."

The film company, which has been involved in other films about youthful, drug-fueled debauchery like The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers, hopes that the ploy can help Tusk stand out from the 400 or so films that will also be premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday.

Using marijuana to promote a work of Kevin Smith is also a good move, considering his fans have loved his films featuring Jay and Silent Bob, a pair of low-grade pot dealers. Not to mention Smith's own public love for the sweet leaf.

Retzik said that while movie names have been used to sell cannabis, like Pineapple Express, this is the first time he's aware of that pot has been used to sell a movie. However, Tusk itself does not feature any scenes of pot smoking.

Smith said that he himself has not been able to try his movie's weed, as he's been busy in California prepping to bring his movie to the Toronto International Film Festival. He reportedly he is "dying" to get his hands on it.

“This movie was born in a blaze, and will be released in a blaze,” he said.

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By Bryan Le

the brain & addiction

9/11/14 1:00pm

Neural Plasticity Highlighted By Brain’s Response to Addiction



Although addiction has genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences, it cannot be solely defined by any of these approaches. A new research article has showed how addiction is best described as an example of neural plasticity in the form of the brain’s ability to change and adapt to external stimuli. In other words, addiction is not just a patterned response; instead, the very process of becoming addicted actually rewires and changes the neural patterns of the addict’s brain.

Neuroscientist George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, illustrated the concept well. “A lot of people think addiction is what happens when someone finds a drug to be the most rewarding thing they’ve ever experienced," Koob said. "But drug abuse is not just feeling good about drugs. Your brain is changed when you misuse drugs. It is changed in ways that perpetuate the problem.”

Such changes occur on both a physical and a mental level. Triggers are a neural response to sense stimuli. When an addict smells an odor associated with the addiction, they begin craving. Many addicts mention how the act of scoring would result in a need to go to the bathroom. By knowing the drug was coming, the brain reacted by fostering an almost physical purge of the body to clear the way.

Addiction also changes how the brain processes other rewards like money or sweets or sex, decreasing their relative value when compared to the power of the addiction. The neural plasticity adjusts and creates a hierarchy in terms of what is needed.

Once addiction takes over, connections between brain cells and between different areas of the brain strengthen and weaken.  The very act of taking the drug results in an immediate shift in the brain through neural plasticity.

“[There is] a whole series of plastic changes to those receptors, to the brain cells that connect with them," Koob said. "The more you do it, the more it becomes ingrained and permanent.”

The best explanation for addiction is that the brain is adapting to a new environment through neural plasticity. Such an adaptation takes place on many levels and impacts many behaviors, whether it is learning, reward, or emotional processing. As a result, in order to treat addiction effectively, it must be addressed from a multitude of angles and perspectives.

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By John Lavitt


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