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11/18/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Nov. 18, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

drugs in the workplace

11/17/14 7:30pm

Positive Marijuana Tests In Workplace On The Rise

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Marijuana use and employment drug testing are leading to blurred lines in states where the drug is legal for recreational use, while positive tests for marijuana have also spiked overall across the country.

Recent figures from Quest Diagnostics show that positive tests for marijuana in employment drug screenings jumped 6.2% nationally from 2012-2013. Since marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, positive tests increased by 20% in Colorado and 23% in Washington.

"We will be very interested to see how our data evolves over the next year or two in these two states, relative to those that have not legalized so-called 'recreational' marijuana," said Barry Sample, Quest's Director of Science and Technology.

Perhaps surprisingly, positive tests for prescription painkillers declined for the second straight year. Positive tests for opiates such as heroin remained fairly steady compared to the previous year.

Quest Diagnostics also confirmed last September that marijuana was the most common drug to turn up in Quest tests, with 44% of all positive tests coming back positive for pot. Amphetamines came in second at 20.4%, followed by opiates at 9.8%, benzodiazepines at 9.3%, and cocaine at 4.6%.

The high numbers for positive marijuana tests aren’t particularly surprising since a new government report found that marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the US. Using data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Abuse, the report showed that more than 20 million Americans over the age of 12 used marijuana in the last year. Non-medical prescription drug use was a distant second at 4.5 million users in the last year, followed by cocaine at 1.5 million.

Positive drug tests are also up overall for the first time in a decade. Out of the 7.6 million drug tests that Quest gave in 2013, 3.7% of them came back positive, a slight increase from the 3.5% of positive tests in 2012. However, these numbers remain historically low compared to the peak of 13.6% in 1988.

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By McCarton Ackerman

heroin addiction

11/17/14 5:30pm

'Hell's Kitchen' Star Opens Up About Brother's Heroin Addiction

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Gordon Ramsay, the fiery host of the popular cooking reality series Hell's Kitchen, has opened up about his brother's long battle with heroin addiction.

Ramsey, 48, recently told the Sunday People that Ronnie's addiction has been tearing his family apart. “I have tried to help many times. It’s hard. Every time you see him, God bless him, it reopens a wound for everybody," Ramsay said.

He said that he and his mother have been trying to help Ronnie for years, but to no avail. “Sometimes you have got to be a little bit stronger than the previous time and introduce tough love," Ramsey said. "They have got to hit rock bottom before they want to get out of that scenario so I think it is more painful from the outside for mum."

Ramsay also talked about Ronnie's 15-month imprisonment in Indonesia after being arrested in 2007 for heroin possession. Whether or not his brother will get sober remains to be seen and Ramsey doesn't seem sure that it will ever happen.

"I am looking at a dreadful disease like cancer, once you get diagnosed you have a choice but you do have a choice when you use drugs,” he said. "We always clash and it is hard to get back to that ground zero. We had bunk beds and we grew up together, so to see him now is tougher."

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By Shawn Dwyer

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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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

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