The Science and tragedy of "Bath Salts"

At PBS NewsHour, Jenny Marder has a truly epic report on so-called "bath salts," a term commonly used to refer to a variable cocktail of drugs linked to a number of violent episodes throughout the US. Her investigative feauture is the most extensive and authoritative I've seen on the topic, a long read full of the stuff that makes great reporting great: nitty-gritty chemistry mysteries, personal stories about the people who use the drug, and big-picture questions about why the stuff is so widely available, and why it seems to be so destructive. Don't miss the slide shows and video that accompany the beautifully laid-out feature. There's even an instructional animated gif!

Users are often hyper-agitated, hot and sweating, she said. Their heart rate is dangerously high, their blood pressure is up, and seizures are common. Often even high doses of common sedatives don't help them. Doctors instead must turn to antipsychotics or other powerful medications.

Early on, doctors began noticing something else that was strange. Compared with other drugs, bath salts didn't follow a normal dose-response pattern. With cocaine or methamphetamine, the drug entered the bloodstream, and, within hours, began to wear off. Not so for bath salts. “Some patients were in the hospital for 5 days, 10 days, 14 days,” Ryan said. “In some cases, they were under heavy sedation. As you try to taper off the sedation, the paranoia came back and the delusions."

As Ryan was scrambling to grasp the scope of the problem in Louisiana, scientists 1,000 miles away were beginning to tease out the drug's chemistry. What was it about this substance, they wondered, that could make a man cut his own throat or a mother leave her 2-year-old in the middle of a highway?

Read: "Bath Salts: The Drug That Never Lets Go" (newshour.org)

(Disclosure: I've worked with Jenny before, on PBS Newshour stories with science correspondent Miles O'Brien).

Police chief in MA: “Illicit drug use is a form of domestic terrorism”

“Illicit drug use is a form of domestic terrorism to some extent,” Wilmington, Massachusetts Police Chief Michael Begonis said today. “It is preying on folks who are more susceptible and who need a better life. And it’s something that we need to deal with head on.” Like hell, writes Mike Riggs at Reason.com. (via @radleybalko)

Al-Jazeera report on the heart-breaking consequences of the drug war in Baltimore (Video)

The election of the first black US president offered hope to millions of African Americans across the country. But have four years of an Obama presidency seen positive change for black communities in the US’ inner cities? Fault Lines’ Sebastian Walker spends time with those on the front lines of the failed drug war to understand some fundamental dynamics of race, poverty, incarceration and economic truths in the US in an election year.
"Don't ever think it's a war on drugs. It's a war on the blacks. It started as a war on the blacks and it's now spread to Hispanics and poor whites… it was designed to take that energy coming out of the civil rights movement and destroy it," says Ed Burns, co creator of The Wire, who is interviewed in the program.

Fault Lines : Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City (Via The Agitator)

Video interview with Doug Fine, author of Too High to Fail, book about cannabis industry

Here's an interview with Doug Fine, author of Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution.

NewImage"How can you have 56 percent of Americans in support of fully ending the drug war, and zero senators in support of it?" asks Doug Fine, investigative journalist and author of new book, Too High To Fail.

Fine sat down with ReasonTV's Tracy Oppenheimer to discuss his time spent in the cannabis capital of California, Mendocino County, and why he thinks this drug can help save the American economy. And it's not just about collecting taxes.

"The industrial [uses] may one day dwarf the psychoactive ones. If we start using it for fermentation for our energy needs, it can produce great biofuels," says Fine, "already, cannabis is in the bumpers of Dodge Vipers."

I interviewed Doug in July about his book. Read it here.

How Cannabis Can Revolutionize Our Economy: Author Doug Fine on "Too High To Fail"

Syringe access programs save lives and money but US Congress voted to ban fed assistance

NewImage
Syringe

Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance says:

Millions of people have died of AIDS because of bad drug policy – and millions more lives hang in the balance.

The International AIDS Conference will be held in the U. S. for the first time in 22 years this July 22-27, in Washington DC. Activists, public health professionals, and distinguished world leaders are mobilizing in Washington with a clear message: the criminalization of people who use drugs – and especially backward government policies that restrict syringe access – are driving the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that drug criminalization forces people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risks become significantly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic, as inhumane conditions and lack of HIV prevention or treatment measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks and AIDS cases behind bars – and among families and communities once those imprisoned are released.

Yet in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. New HIV infections in countries such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland have been virtually eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child HIV transmission has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.

In the United States, however, the federal government has resisted evidence-based HIV prevention strategies – costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Congress re-instated a longstanding ban last December that prohibits using federal funds for syringe access programs – a move that will cost thousands of more lives in years to come.

Want to know more about the drug war and AIDS? Check out the infographic and take action by urging Congress to end the syringe access funding ban.

Ask Scott Horton Anything: Should We Get Rid Of The DEA?


Scott Horton of Harper's explains why the Drug Enforcement Agency does a lot of damage to society. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

Ninth Circuit to DEA: putting a gun to an 11-year-old's head is not OK

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the DEA that holding a gun to an 11-year-old girl's head constitutes “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” and they should stop doing it. No doubt the DEA will appeal the ruling.

At 7 a.m. on January 20, 2007, DEA agents battered down the door to Thomas and Rosalie Avina’s mobile home in Seeley, California, in search of suspected drug trafficker Louis Alvarez. Thomas Avina met the agents in his living room and told them they were making a mistake. Shouting “Don’t you fucking move,” the agents forced Thomas Avina to the floor at gunpoint, and handcuffed him and his wife, who had been lying on a couch in the living room. As the officers made their way to the back of the house, where the Avina’s 11-year-old and 14-year-old daughters were sleeping, Rosalie Avina screamed, “Don’t hurt my babies. Don’t hurt my babies.”

The agents entered the 14-year-old girl’s room first, shouting “Get down on the fucking ground.” The girl, who was lying on her bed, rolled onto the floor, where the agents handcuffed her. Next they went to the 11-year-old’s room. The girl was sleeping. Agents woke her up by shouting “Get down on the fucking ground.” The girl’s eyes shot open, but she was, according to her own testimony, “frozen in fear.” So the agents dragged her onto the floor. While one agent handcuffed her, another held a gun to her head.

Moments later the two daughters were carried into the living room and placed next to their parents on the floor while DEA agents ransacked their home. After 30 minutes, the agents removed the children’s handcuffs. After two hours, the agents realized they had the wrong house—the product of a sloppy license plate transcription --and left.

Reason -- Ninth Circuit to DEA: putting a gun to an 11-Year-Old's head is not OK

Did Bible study and anti-drug vow cause Miami cannibal attack?

The latest Narco Polo cartoon from Robert Arthur, You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos.

Videos of people fighting bogus pot busts in NYC


The Drug Policy Alliance is producing powerful videos about people who have been entrapped by the NYPD on pot possession charges using a "stop-and-frisk" stunt.

[Video Link] Andre was charged with criminal possession of marijuana burning in public view in December of 2011 after being illegally searched by the police while walking with his friend. While his friend possessed a small amount of marijuana in his shoe, Andre didn't have any marijuana but was still falsely charged and illegally arrested for burning marijuana in public. Andre, who has no prior record, took his case to trial and was found not guilty of smoking marijuana in public view. Although many people arrested for marijuana possession are charged with crimes they did not commit, most do not fight their charges in court because of the laborious process of navigating the criminal justice system.



[Video Link] Colyssa was charged with criminal possession marijuana burning in public view and child endangerment when the police falsely charged and arrested her for smoking marijuana in front of her house in December of 2011. Six months later, Colyssa is still fighting her cases in court has not regained custody of her baby. Collateral consequences such as getting evicted from public housing, losing access to financial aid for school, or losing or being denied a job, and even deportation are common occurrences that happen after the arrest takes place.

See also: Hakeem Jeffries - Sponsoring State Legislation to End Unlawful Marijuana Arrests in NY, and New York Governor asks to decriminalize possession of pot in public view.

New York Marijuana Arrests Campaign Videos

Penn Jillette's rant against Obama's drug policy


[Video Link] Penn's excellent rant against Obama's ruinous drug policy that keeps 750,000 non-violent people in prison. He points out that if Obama had been imprisoned for his admitted drug use, his life would suck right now. And yet, Obama supports a policy that make good people's lives suck, wastes billions of dollars, and nurtures a police state.

Obama vs. Marijuana: What is the deal?

Michael Scherer writes about President Obama's medical-marijuana policy and the increasing federal intervention on medical marijuana on TIME.com. For the online piece and a related magazine feature, Scherer spoke with "nearly a dozen people" in the medical marijuana industry, three U.S. Attorneys, White House officials and local officials who oppose the federal crackdown.

Snip:

Despite Obama’s promises during the 2008 campaign, federal prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is still illegal to grow, possess or sell under federal law. As a result, a once broad exemption from prosecution for medical marijuana providers in state where it’s legal has been narrowed to a tiny one.

Read the rest

Student abandoned in cell for 5 days by DEA gets apology but wants $20 million

Mark blogged yesterday about Daniel Chong, a 23-year-old college student in San Diego who was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration on "420 day" without charges, then abandoned in a holding cell for 5 days with no food or water. He drank his own urine in an effort to stave off fatal dehydration.

Today, he received an apology from the DEA. The Associated Press reports that "San Diego Acting Special Agent-In-Charge William R. Sherman said in a statement that he was troubled by the treatment of Daniel Chong and extended his 'deepest apologies' to him."

Chong's attorney says that's not enough. They intend to sue for $20 million. From the Los Angeles Times:

Read the rest