5/29/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: May 29, 2014 By Shawn Dwyer 05/29/14

One Direction fans shred tickets after pot video, mother arrested for drunk driving three times in one week, and Linkin Park narcs out Sublime With Rome.

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5/28/14 7:30pm

Medical Marijuana Moves Forward In New York By Shawn Dwyer 05/28/14

The state assembly passed a wide-ranging medical marijuana bill, but its future in the senate remains uncertain.

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On Tuesday, the Democratic-led assembly in New York state passed the Compassion Care Act 91-34. The bill will allow seriously ill patients certified by doctors, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners to possess and use up to two and a half ounces of medical marijuana.

“There are tens of thousands of New Yorkers with serious, debilitating, life-threatening conditions whose lives could be made more tolerable and longer by enacting this legislation,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill.

While the bill sailed through the assembly, its fate remains uncertain in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would have to clear the finance committee before being allowed to the floor for a vote. But Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) was optimistic after the bill squeaked through the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday, though she reminded colleagues that those suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases have little time to wait.

"Unfortunately, many of them may not live long enough to see implementation of this bill," Savino said.

Opposition from Republicans remains, however, even though its eventual passage seems assured. Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) said that while legalization was inevitable, “I don't believe it's now nor should it be now." The former NYPD officer deferred action to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an idea Savino flatly rejected.

The FDA "takes its own sweet time," Savino said. Meanwhile, "people suffer. Children suffer. People die."

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5/28/14 6:01pm

From Cold Turkey to Manorexia By Akil Wingate 05/28/14

Going "cold turkey" means ditching bad habits for a healthier lifestyle, but what if your addiction is achieving the perfect physique?

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Cold Turkey is what my father referred to as jumping the gap from a habit that rules your life into a new life without a parachute. He quit cigarettes. Some friends and distant relatives quit drinking. Some old clubbing acquaintances quit pills. They all did it without counseling, without any sort of medical aids, without blinking an eye. For my part I've seen what can be engendered from the whole cold turkey phenomenon. 

Manorexia refers to the eating disorder of anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia nervosa as it occurs in men. It’s never been an official medical term, but in 2006 the media latched on to it to refer to the ongoing battle men have with their body image and eating disorders. It is all about image control - the never-ending battle men have with their body image and the eating disorders that ensue.

Never heard of it? Neither has a huge percentage of the internet savvy population. Professor Alison Field of Boston Children’s Hospital published a study in last November's JAMA Pediatrics medical journal that says one in three young men have suffered from the disorder. Some take to abusing street drugs known for their purging effects. Others work out endlessly in the gym in hopes of achieving the same physique as their idols. 

According to The National Eating Disorders Collaboration, here are the warning signs:

  1.  Obsession with bodybuilding and weight-lifting; even lifting when injured
  2.  Adrenal fatigue brought on by over training
  3.  Low testosterone
  4.  Disinterest in intimacy and/or sex
  5.  Use of anabolic steroids, cutting aids, diuretics, and pre-workout energy supplements

I have had all of these symptoms. I was a waif of a young man in my mid 20's, six feet tall and 150 pounds. For my body type, I had been used to carrying several pounds of muscle. But quitting one addiction cold turkey led to manorexia. It's not unheard of. In fact look at pop star Aaron Carter's own fight with addiction, his cold turkey drive to fitness, then his descent into manorexia. The Hunger Games’ Sam Claiflin, who plays the muscular Finnick Odair, has recently spoken of his own body issues. He told ELLE UK that he is “seriously insecure” about his body and that his wife calls him “manorexic.” And fitness model, competitive eater and Youtube sensation Furious Pete details in his vlogs his own past with anorexia in his teens. His personal fight with the disorder led to hospitalization. 

The trend is that one addiction is “cured” and then following up by taking on a “healthy lifestyle.” The problem for sufferers is that the healthy lifestyle goes to the extreme of achieving a perfect physique. And most of the therapies for conquering anorexia nervosa, bulimia and body image issues are tailored to women. The perception has been that eating disorders are an obsession with being thin, and societal stereotypes dictate that only women want to be thin. And yet nothing could be further from the truth. The underlying issue is the quest for the perfect body, be it thin, svelte, or ripped.

According to prevalent studies, a lot of young men who obsess and fixate over body image take to bodybuilding. In their late teens they may go from one extreme of purging, abusing laxatives, starvation diets, and drugs to coupling maddening bodybuilding workouts with steroid supplementation in their 20's and 30's. Studies have shown that as a young man goes from late teens into mid 20's, the concentration on body image shifts. It goes from simply wanting to be thin to being an Alpha Male. No longer are they concerned about losing weight but about getting big. This trend becomes exacerbated in their early 30s. Cold turkey for our purposes means good-bye muscle wasting and starvation to hello steroid cycling and bulking.

In pop culture today there is only one male archetype for the adult male body: broad shoulders, bulging biceps and big barrel chests. No one wants to be the overweight guy with the beer belly. We’d rather look like Colin Kaepernick who at 6 feet 3 inches is ripped with muscles and tattoos or Tim Tebow whose baby face betrays his gladiator physique. These are the media darlings on the cover of men's magazines. And every article in between the covers features countless articles about getting the physique that gets the girl, gets the promotion, wins friends and influences others. 

What isn’t described is what it takes to achieve the football star’s physique: the training, nutritionists and coaches, and the physical toil and injuries that all play a part of a PAID athlete’s life. Muscle recovery time for any intense workout can be 24 to 72 hours depending on age and genetics. But the way these stars blast through their routines without blinking sends a message that these physiques must be attained at all costs. And not surprisingly, former athletes are most at risk of suffering an eating disorder for this very reason.

Enter steroids and growth hormones. Both enable the user to minimize muscle recovery time, maximize explosive performance in the gym or on the playing field, boost testosterone levels, and stimulate lean muscle mass. These are all the things men suffering from manorexia are after. The two most popular culprits are Anabol and Clenbuterol. Users cycle a steroid stack, coupling something like Clenbuterol with a testosterone supplement for several weeks. This is the “On-Cycle.” Then they come off the steroid stack for a number of weeks. This is the “Off-Cycle.” During a five and a half month cycle, users will cycle on one stack for eight weeks, quickly switch to another for eight weeks, then come off completely in a post-cycle phase. The results can be dramatic if nothing else. Body Mass Index can shift from the 20s in percentiles to single digits in a matter of weeks. It appears to the user that the fat is magically melting away and the muscle is growing over night. And for a man obsessed with body image, having a single digit BMI is the pinnacle of greatness. 

In my own case every time I looked in the mirror I was always too small or never as defined as I wanted to be. These are exactly the same symptoms men battling through manorexia encounter. To a sufferer, their self-perception is flawed almost to the degree of funhouse mirrors. Muscle dysmorphia creates the false sense in men that they are too small or too fat regardless of what the rest of the world actually sees.

One of the major trends is to cycle on a steroid to maximize muscle gains and then cut down to maximum muscle definition after a period of bulking on high protein foods. The cutting phase restricts the amount of calories consumed to the point that the body shrinks down to a more vascular look. After a vigorous workout, some males subject themselves to hot epsom salt baths for an hour on end; forcing themselves to sweat out liquid weight. If that doesn’t suffice, some will sit in a sauna for another extended period of time. But if push comes to shove, some resort to the most extreme measure to lose weight: purging through vomiting or laxatives. Look at how fighters in the UFC or boxers fighting for the world championship at the MGM Grand will cut down to make weight for weigh-ins before fighting events.

Nothing about this behavior of cycling and cutting says to the abuser that he has an eating disorder. In fact he thinks just the opposite. He believes that he has finally controlled his eating problem and has become disciplined in order to chase down his physical goals.

To get down to the bare essentials, here are the numbers:

  1. According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, up to 25% of eating disorder sufferers are male
  2. Males are typically at risk for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa in their late teens and early twenties
  3.  Males are typically at risk for binge eating disorders in their late twenties

Treatment is similar to that for female sufferers. Studies suggest that some sufferers may have been abused in their youth, suffer a clinical depression exacerbated by alcohol or drug use, or have been battling questions of their sexuality. Attending to these underlying causes and conditions is the first step towards recovery.

Akil Wingate is a writer, singer and activist based in Paris.

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5/28/14 5:40pm

Beyond Salvage: A Fresh Vision of Mental Health By Brian Donohue 05/28/14

Mental health is often thought of as a "salvage operation," where psychotherapists pull people out of the water downstream with no time to think about who is dumping them in upstream.

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Talk about an appropriate name.

I recently passed by the office of a man who is arguably the most aptly-named psychiatrist in the nation.

Mental health is frequently a “salvage” operation, all right. I think it was the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr who compared the psychotherapist to someone who is pulling people out of the water downstream with no time to think about who is dumping them in upstream.

These days, in America at least, the stream overflows with the lost and the floundering, from every imaginable segment of society. The military with its insane suicide rate and PTSD population; corporate America and its shrinking, overburdened middle class work force; the working poor; the unemployed and long-term unemployed; women, minorities, immigrants; and of course the elderly as the baby boomers go well into their 60′s. Perhaps the most ominous social group affected by mental illness is children, who suffer at a roughly equal rate to the adult population.

No matter how you slice or spin the statistics, the story is deeply disturbing. Insurance companies effortlessly climb through loopholes in the law to avoid delivering coverage for mental illness, and that is not likely to change under Obamacare. Meanwhile, our culture’s general attitude merges that traditional shame-repression complex with pharmaceutical dependence. If it cannot be resolved with a prescription, then it is not illness. So just tough it out. The problem there, of course, is that with mental illness, more than with any other kind of human ailment, this mindset breeds suffering far beyond the single person with the disease. But if our culture has trained us in self-denial, we will extend that training to our own pathology, usually at the expense of those closest to us.

As the politicians say, we have to do better. But new and improved institutions or social services won’t do it by themselves. To the extent that they reflect a real commitment, then more funding (exponentially more) and reformed institutions will no doubt help; first, however, we need a fundamental change of attitude to ensure that public money and services are being used genuinely to create a more stable, healthy, and self-healing citizenry.

Money and pills alone can’t make inner healing happen; if that could be so, then Prozac could be added to the water supply (research on whether this is accidentally happening anyway is so far ambiguous as to both extent and effect). When it comes to mental health, our science is at an infantile or at best adolescent level of development. Our bible of pathology - the DSM-V, tells us again how many ways we can be sick, yet with no guide as to what mental health actually is or how it might be strengthened. That, it appears, must become a common effort - crowdsourced, if you will. One of the founding documents of our nation insists that government allows us the “unalienable right” to seek happiness; but no state or institution can actually deliver it.

In fact, we could use a fresh document - a Declaration of Inter-dependence, perhaps - that sets forth a common understanding and an acceptance of the critical challenge to our mental health as a people. In short, we need a plan; a plan that contains the outline of a common-sense view of the realities and the potential before us. What follows are a few suggestions for the major components of such an outline.

Mental illness is real, and its danger to the individual, family, and society at large can scarcely be overstated. We can no longer turn our backs on this vast and socially deadly problem. We can’t confine it to a coffin of myopic vision, which has but two sides: if it responds to a pill from a major pharma company, it counts as illness; if not, it’s “all in your head.” The more we insist on somaticizing, mechanizing, and reifying mental illness; the further will we be lost, and the more that stream of Anthony Storr’s will clot with drowning bodies. The mechanical model of mental illness, which is precisely what the pharmaceutical industry is selling us, is a fairy tale, a nebulous fantasy sold to the credulous - as infantile a pile of delusion as any 14th century yarn about the sale of indulgences for eternal salvation. The sooner we reject this pabulum, the sooner we make our first strident move toward health.

Treatment of mental illness is, and must be, multi-dimensional. This obviously follows from the first point, but needs to be reinforced in the public mind. I am not against pharmaceuticals: they are a part (though not even a major part) of a solution. When I was afflicted with depressive illness over a decade ago, I sought and obtained a prescription for an SSRI (“selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor” - Prozac-class drugs). The pills were really useful - they took the neurochemical edge off my suffering and gave me enough energy to keep pursuing my own course of self-treatment (the insurance I had at the time wouldn’t pay for the kind of counseling I needed, so I did that part of it myself). Before I had emptied the second bottle, though, I was ready to taper and then discontinue the medication, and I have not had need of it since. This points, by the way, to a more general problem in our society: we have become culturally dependent on medicine. It is too globally assumed that once you’re on a drug, you’re on it for life. Exceptions aside, the rule for medicine should remain: it exists to release the sufferer from illness, so that he may release himself from the need for the medicine. This should be especially true for the vast majority of mental illness. If someone needs to take pills for depression, an anxiety or personality disorder, and even for certain cases of psychosis for years or decades or for life, then there is something inherently and fatally flawed about the entire system in which that  person is diagnosed, treated, and managed medically. We may open a free and no doubt vigorous debate about what specific kinds of treatment are medically viable for different forms of mental illness, but there should be no debate about the need for a multi-dimensional approach to treatment. There is more - much more - to becoming healthy than taking pills.

Teach mental health with a focus on self-healing. I could make a very strong argument that teaching mental health is more important than teaching math or science. If your emotional life is not balanced and vibrant, then your intellectual life will also suffer. The neurotic mind rarely makes sound judgments or calculations. So we need to make some commitments as a society, such as: children should spend at least double their time at school studying and exploring mental health as they do preparing for standardized tests. This fresh emphasis on teaching mental health needs to be comprehensive, crossing every socio-economic and professional stratum and being tailored to every demographic it touches. For when it comes to mental health, we have a unique window of opportunity wide open before us: when you increase understanding of this stuff, you increase the very kind of self-awareness that supports self-healing and self-maintenance. Imagine soldiers, students, church parishioners, prisoners, and corporate professionals who are taught to recognize signs and symptoms of illness in themselves and their colleagues and peers; how many tragedies of suicide, domestic abuse, perversion, violence, and even homicide might be prevented? But there’s more to it than that: it is not merely a matter of forestalling decadence but of promoting and nurturing health through simple awareness. Thus, we’re not talking here about a complex regime of technical or medical knowledge. The DSM is not the textbook here; life is. There are already a number of good models to follow in this context; I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s approach, which teaches not mental health or physical health, but just health. This perspective is given a fresh approach in the work of Carol Anthony and Hanna Moog - note how they weave nature and nurture into a “carpet of consciousness.” This leads directly to the next point…

Destroy the division of body and mind. This is a rare point on which science and genuine spirituality can agree. I am neither a scientist nor a doctor, yet I can see that body and mind are not two. When necessary as a matter of clarity, yes, we have to speak of them separately; yet if we experience them as divided, we soon become lost. We have to make this a matter of both teaching and treatment. The science here is virtually unassailable: meta-analyses and other broad-based studies clearly show a relationship between factors such as stress and immune dysfunction; anxiety disorders and heart disease; depression and an array of physical ailments. Those of us who teach and practice a non-ideological, non-sectarian form of self-development and psycho-spiritual self-healing are right in line with the direction of that research. If we can agree as a society on the importance of breaking down the wall of prejudice that separates body and mind, to the same extent and with the same consensus as we’ve reached (or are approaching) on topics like smoking and heart/lung disease or global warming and environmental awareness - I think this will be nothing short of a quantum leap in human and societal evolution.

Promoting and teaching mental health in a society has more than the obvious and manifest benefits (a more productive work force; better students with higher graduation rates; decreased incidence of workplace and domestic violence; exponentially lower rates of both mental and physical illness accompanied by better recovery rates and lower medical expenses; etc., etc.). What we are talking about here is similar to the promise of repairing and renewing our nation’s physical infrastructure of roads, bridges, public transport, etc. But when it comes to making mental health a focus of society’s total energy, we are talking about the repair and renewal of our human infrastructure. A society that is healthy within will be far more likely to make sound political and electoral decisions; to develop a healthier and more balanced economy; and to treat its international neighbors and the planet at large with intelligence, vision, and wisdom. When we are healthy and aware within, all those things that we typically fight and argue about lose their poisonous edges. Judgment improves; common ground and consensus are more easily achieved; relationships form and even break within a web of respect and understanding; conflict finds resolution; and the air above Storr’s stream is no longer thickened with the black bile of hatred and prejudice.

Mental health is one of those rare phenomena, one of those few issues, that permit and invite everyone’s involvement. There is no possible perspective from which you can be disinterested. Whether you’re the CEO or the janitor; the President or the village dog-catcher; the accountant or the poet; the geek or the guru - you have a stake in this ground; mental health matters to you. So now we have to work at regenerating our society so that mental health is no longer a salvage operation but a comprehensive, interactive, and enduring creation.

Brian Donohue has an MA degree from Long Island University in clinical psychology, and has worked in private practice as a therapist with a loosely Jungian perspective. He has worked with depressed people, anxious people, and people undergoing major life changes, challenges, and crises. Read more at briandonohue.org.

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5/28/14 5:30pm

Need to Deliver Drugs to Prison? Use A Mini-Drone By John Lavitt 05/28/14

Twenty-first century technology is changing the way dealers do business.

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Drug smuggling into prisons has taken a worldwide technological leap as mini-helicopter drones are being used to carry illicit packages over the wall. A mini-helicopter drone recently dropped a half pound of cocaine onto a local prison on the outskirts of São Paulo. Yet, Brazil is not the first such country to be plagued by the mini-helicopter smuggling scheme. Both Australian and Canadian prisons have been victimized. Once someone comes up with a good way to do bad, it tends to spread.

In Brazil at about 10 a.m. on March 7, 2014, the mini-helicopter drone was seen hovering above prison grounds while inmates hung out on the prison patio. According to the Brazilian newspaper Estadão, once the mini-helicopter had dropped its cargo, inmates acting in concert prevented the guards from reaching it. Brazilian authorities believe the inventive hustle is the work of local drug gangs.

Brazil, however, is just the latest in a wave of such attempts to smuggle drugs into prisons. In Australia, a young man was arrested after trying to use a mini-helicopter to smuggle illegal drugs into a Melbourne prison. The first recorded episode was in November 2013 in Canada when guards spotted a mini-helicopter drone rising above the prison walls. A couple was later arrested with both a remote controlled mini-helicopter and a small amount of undisclosed drugs.

Later in 2013, four people were arrested after trying to use a remote-controlled mini-helicopter to fly a bunch of tobacco into a state prison in Calhoun, Georgia. Sheriff Josh Hilton said his deputies pulled over a suspicious black dodge near the prison and described what happened next. "After we gained consent to search the car we found the helicopter and I don't know exactly how much it was but probably about one or two pounds of tobacco rolled up…. People try different things but the helicopter was something new.” 

Apparently, the new technology is being used by both high-level drug gangs wanting to turn a profit and small-time hoods trying to help out their imprisoned buddies. As the smaller mini-helicopter drones get cheaper and capable of carrying heavier payloads, this new outlandish innovation in prison drug smuggling could become a regular challenge.

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5/28/14 3:30pm

The Surprising Truth About Pre-Natal Cocaine Exposure By John Lavitt 05/28/14

How a long-term study into so-called 'crack babies' ended with unexpected results.

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One of the pervasive claims in the war on drugs is that crack cocaine has caused permanent brain damage to a whole generation of inner city babies born addicted to crack. But according to the results of a 20-year study by Dr. Hallam Hurt, babies exposed in utero to cocaine – so-called crack babies – showed no significant differences when compared to the control group. In terms of learning disabilities and mental deficiencies, the two study groups from low-income families came out exactly the same.

Dr. Hallam Hurt began studying the problem of crack babies in 1988 by enlisting 224 near-term mothers living in poverty, half of whom used cocaine during pregnancy and half who did not. After birth, the babies were evaluated every six to 12 months until they were young adults. The study received almost $8 million in federal funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As one of the largest and longest-running studies on children exposed to cocaine in utero, the results of the study have been highly anticipated.

Now, 25 years later, the results are somewhat surprising. Dr. Hurt said the research team consistently found no significant differences between the cocaine-exposed children and the controls, and that the babies did not suffer long-term effects. What is quite disturbing, however, is the study found that children in both the control and test groups had lower-than-expected IQs. Although pre-natal cocaine exposure is not the smoking gun, poverty causes serious developmental delays in children across the board.

The statistics were grim. Among the children studied who had all been exposed to cocaine in the womb, 81 percent had seen an arrest, 35 percent had seen someone get shot, and 19 percent had seen a dead body, all before the age of seven. Poverty and the resulting lack of opportunity arising from socio-economic status is the real threat.

"Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine,” Hurt said.

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5/28/14 1:00pm

How Alcoholism Leads To Muscle Weakness By John Lavitt 05/28/14

A new study shows for the first time why alcoholics suffer muscle deterioration.

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According to a study led by Dr. Gyorgy Hajnoczky, M.D., Ph.D., muscle weakness from long-term alcoholism may stem from an inability of mitochondria to self-repair. Mitochondria are literally the powerhouses of cells. Well-known as a common symptom of long-time alcoholism, the exact reasons behind the muscle weakness experienced by alcoholics, although speculated on often, have never been medically understood until now.

Together with Veronica Eisner, a postdoctoral fellow at Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. Hajnoczky guided a research team that discovered a common link between alcoholics and patients with mitochondrial disease. Both groups have mitochondria that are unable to self-repair, fostering long-term muscular damage. Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which funded the study, explained that “[t]he finding gives insight into why chronic heavy drinking often saps muscle strength and it could also lead to new targets for medication development.”

Published online in The Journal of Cell Biology, the article highlighted how the inability of the body to self-repair leads to a heightened sense of weakness. The organelles that produce the energy needed for every cell in the body, mitochondria repair themselves by fusing with other mitochondria and exchanging their contents. Damaged parts are removed for recycling, then replaced with functioning proteins from healthy mitochondria.

Alcoholism reduces the ability of the mitochondria to fuse together and exchange such contents, creating a weakened physical condition over time." “[A]lcohol can have a specific effect on this one gene involved in mitochondrial fusion," said Dr. Hajnoczky, who serves as the Director of Jefferson’s MitoCare Center and is a professor in the department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology.

The researchers showed that the mitochondrial abundance went down as much as 50 percent in rats on a regular alcohol diet. Such a loss of mitochondria and the subsequent lack of mitochondrial fusion led directly to increased muscle fatigue. Alcoholics are weakened not only by the drinking, but directly by the sustained affects of alcohol on the body’s natural system of self-repair.

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5/28/14 11:00am

Christian Youth Theater Pushed Out By Legal Marijuana Business By McCarton Ackerman 05/28/14

Despite being pushed out by legal pot growers, the theater's operators took the sudden change in stride.

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The Christian Youth Theater in Spokane Valley, Wash., is being shepherded out and replaced with a marijuana business, raising debate within the larger community.

The youth theater has been operating out of a converted warehouse for the last seven years and put on a production this past weekend called Beauty and the Beast Jr., However, potential marijuana growers are about to set up shop in the same complex. Because Washington law requires pot growers to operate at least 1,000 feet from a school or other places where children congregate, the theater now has to move.

"It was funny and scary all at the same time, because you're thinking youth theater and marijuana," said Kristine Lyons with the Christian Youth Theater. “You just never think it affects you, so it was one of those types of surprises. What we're looking for is a new place to call home, and hopefully home for a very long time.”

The property owner said they had worked with the theater for seven years to offer reduced rent, but had no choice in offering up the space to a business willing to pay top dollar for the 32,000 square foot facility. The Christian Youth Theater will be required to move by June 30, but several landlords have already contacted them about setting up shop in one of their spaces. And despite the abrupt move, those associated with the theater seem to be taking it in stride.

"My 14-year-old was a little confused just why a children's theater company would be displaced,” said CYT parent Amy Kells. “But on the other hand, change and growth is a great thing for her to be able to understand and grow.”

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5/28/14 8:30am

Shocking Prescription Drug Statistics Highlight Severity of Epidemic By McCarton Ackerman 05/28/14

With over 100 overdose deaths per day, prescription drugs have become more deadly than car accidents, guns, and suicides.

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Shocking statistics about the prescription drug addiction epidemic are raising plenty of eyebrows, with Rx drugs claiming more lives than car accidents, guns, or suicide.

More than 100 people in the United States die each day as a result of prescription drug overdoses, according to new figures from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Despite holding just five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is responsible for 75 percent of all global drug use. More than five million Americans abuse painkillers each year, while 2.2 million are abusing tranquilizers and another 1.1 million are recklessly using stimulants. Enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult every four hours for a month.

The epidemic is even affecting senior citizens. Over 300,000 seniors are reportedly misusing their medication, while emergency room visits related to this misuse more than doubled between 2007-2011 for those over the age of 55. “There's this growing group of seniors, they have pain, they have anxiety … and a lot of (doctors) have one thing in their tool box—a prescription pad,” said Mel Pohl, director of the Las Vegas Recovery Center. "The doctor wants to make their life better, so they start on the meds.”

Faced with a burgeoning problem that shows no signs of slowing down, two counties in California have filed a lawsuit over drug companies allegedly misleading doctors and the public. Santa Clara and Orange counties have begun legal proceedings against five of the country’s biggest manufacturers of narcotics, accusing them of waging a ‘campaign of deception’ against patients and doctors. The court document accuses these companies of adopting deceptive tactics, manipulating doctors into prescribing medications despite being aware of the health risks, and pushing patients to ask for painkillers for relatively minor afflictions such as headaches.

University of San Diego School of Law professor and former deputy district attorney Robert Fellmeth supported the lawsuit, stating that "California is suffering disproportionately from this problem, so it is appropriate for this state to take up this hammer.”

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