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Recreational drugs


Feb 7th

Smoking Marijuana Linked to Better Sperm Counts in Surprising Study

Men who smoke marijuana may have higher sperm counts than those who have never used the drug, a surprising new study suggests.

The findings are "not consistent" with previous research, which has suggested that marijuana has a harmful effect on men's testicular function, the researchers said.

However, the study, published in the Feb. 6 issue of the journal Human Reproduction, doesn't mean men should start smoking pot to up their sperm counts.

The findings are far from conclusive, and more research is needed to understand whether smoking marijuana could indeed, at certain levels, have a positive effect on sperm production.

But the study does highlight how little researchers know about the effects of marijuana on reproductive health, study senior author Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said in a statement. "We know a lot less than we think we know." [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

Marijuana and sperm

Previous studies had suggested that smoking marijuana may lower a man's sperm count, especially among heavy users. For example, in 2015, researchers from Denmark found that men who smoked marijuana more than once per week had sperm counts that were nearly 30 percent lower than those who didn't smoke marijuana, or those who used the drug less frequently.

However, the effects of more moderate marijuana use on sperm counts among men is less clear.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from 662 men who, along with their partners, were evaluated for infertility from 2000 to 2017 at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center. The men answered survey questions about how often they smoked marijuana or used other drugs, and they also provided sperm and blood samples.

Overall, a little over half of the men (55 percent) reported ever smoking marijuana in their lifetimes, and 11 percent said that they currently smoked marijuana.

The researchers found that men who reported ever having smoked marijuana had an average sperm concentration of 63 million sperm per milliliter of semen, compared with 45 million sperm per milliliter of semen among those who had never used marijuana. The findings held even after the researchers took into account some factors that could have affected sperm concentration, such as age, cigarette smoking and alcohol use.

What's more, only 5 percent of the marijuana smokers had lower-than-normal sperm concentrations — that is, lower than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Among men who never smoked marijuana, 12 percent had lower-than-normal sperm concentrations.

Among men who had ever smoked marijuana, those who used it more often had higher testosterone levels than those who used it less often.

Interestingly, each additional year that had passed since a man last used marijuana was tied to a slight increase in sperm count.

"Our findings were contrary to what we hypothesized at the start of the study," study lead author Feiby Nassan, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in the statement.

But the study can be interpreted in several ways. It may be that low or moderate levels of marijuana use have a beneficial effect on sperm production, but heavier use reverses this effect. Or, it could also be that men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in "risky" behaviors such as drug use; and the researchers found the link between marijuana and sperm count "because men with higher testosterone, within normal levels, have higher sperm counts and are more likely to smoke cannabis," Nassan said.

Jury still out

It's known that moderate- to heavy-use of tobacco or alcohol is tied to lower sperm counts, but whether marijuana has the same effect is up for debate, said Dr. Sarah Vij, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved with the study.

Vij said she applauded the study authors for looking at this question, since it is a topic that needs more research.

But the new study doesn't provide a conclusive answer. "Overall, the jury is still out on how marijuana impacts a man's fertility potential," Vij told Live Science.

Vij pointed out that both marijuana users and nonusers in the study had normal sperm counts, on average. So the study can't draw any conclusions about whether marijuana use is tied to better fertility.

In addition, it takes about three months for men to undergo a full cycle of sperm production to produce mature sperm. This means that using marijuana years ago "really should not have any impact at all on [a man's] current fertility state," Vij said.

And yet, the study still found that men who said they used marijuana at least a year ago had higher sperm counts than men who used it more recently. Vij said she wondered if "there's something that goes along with marijuana use" that's tied to better sperm production.

The researchers also noted that their study was conducted among men who visited a fertility clinic, and so the results may not necessarily apply to the general population. In addition, men in the study self-reported their marijuana use, and it's possible that some participants were not truthful about their marijuana use, due to the social stigma or illegal status of the drug in Massachusetts at the time the data was collected.


Jan 19th

Does Marijuana Use Cause Schizophrenia

Cannabis plants in a lab at Niagara College in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. As marijuana use becomes more widespread and varied, some people worry that its more potent versions can cause or exacerbate mental illness.

Nearly a century after the film “Reefer Madness” alarmed the nation, some policymakers and doctors are again becoming concerned about the dangers of marijuana, although the reefers are long gone.

Experts now distinguish between the “new cannabis” — legal, highly potent, available in tabs, edibles and vapes — and the old version, a far milder weed passed around in joints. Levels of T.H.C., the chemical that produces marijuana’s high, have been rising for at least three decades, and it’s now possible in some states to buy vape cartridges containing little but the active ingredient.

The concern is focused largely on the link between heavy usage and psychosis in young people. Doctors first suspected a link some 70 years ago, and the evidence has only accumulated since then. In a forthcoming book, “Tell Your Children,” Alex Berenson, a former Times reporter, argues that legalization is putting a generation at higher risk of schizophrenia and other psychotic syndromes. Critics, including leading researchers, have called the argument overblown, and unfaithful to the science.

Can cannabis use cause psychosis?

Yes, but so can overuse of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, stimulants and hallucinogens. Psychosis is a symptom: a temporary disorientation that resembles a waking dream, with odd, imagined sights and sounds, often accompanied by paranoia or an ominous sensation. The vast majority of people who have this kind of psychotic experience do not go on to develop a persistent condition such as schizophrenia, which is characterized by episodes of psychosis that recur for years, as well as cognitive problems and social withdrawal.

Can heavy use cause schizophrenia or other syndromes?

That is the big question, and so far the evidence is not strong enough to answer one way or the other. Even top scientists who specialize in marijuana research are divided, drawing opposite conclusions from the same data.

“I’ve been doing this research for 25 years, and it’s polarizing even among academics,” said Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center. “This is what the marijuana field is like.”

The debate centers on the distinction between correlation and causation. People with psychotic problems often use cannabis regularly; this is a solid correlation, backed by numerous studies. But it is unclear which came first, the cannabis habit or the psychoses. Children who later develop schizophrenia often seem to retreat into their own world, stalked periodically by bizarre fears and fantasies well outside the range of usual childhood imagination, and well before they are exposed to cannabis. Those who go on to become regular marijuana users often use other substances as well, including alcohol and cigarettes, making it more difficult for researchers to untangle causation.

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Consider cigarettes, the least mind-altering of these substances. In a 2015 study, a team led by Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler of Virginia Commonwealth University analyzed medical data on nearly two million people in Sweden. The data followed the individuals over time, from young adulthood, when most schizophrenia diagnoses occur, to middle age. Smoking was a predictor for later development of the disorder, and in what doctors call a dose-response relationship: the more a person smoked, the higher the risk.

Yet nicotine attracts nowhere near the concern that cannabis does, in part because the two drugs are so different in their everyday effects: mildly stimulated versus stoned. Indeed, some scientists have studied nicotine as a partial treatment for schizophrenia, to blunt the disorders effects on thinking and memory.

Is it biologically plausible that cannabis could cause a psychotic disorder?

Yes. Brain scientists know very little about the underlying biology of psychotic conditions, other than that hundreds of common gene variants are likely involved. Schizophrenia, for instance, is not a uniform disorder but an umbrella term for an array of unexplained problems involving recurrent psychosis, and other common symptoms.

Even so, there is circumstantial evidence for a biological mechanism. Psychotic disorders tend to emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood, during or after a period of rapid brain development. In the teenage years, the brain strips away unneeded or redundant connections between brain cells, in a process called synaptic pruning. This editing is concentrated in the prefrontal cortex, the region behind the forehead where thinking and planning occur — and the region that is perturbed in psychotic conditions.

The region is rich with so-called CB1 receptors, which are involved in the pruning, and are engaged by cannabis use. And alterations to the pruning process may well increase schizophrenia risk, according to recent research at the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard. In a 2016 analysis, scientists there found that people with the disorder often have a gene variant that appears to accelerate the pruning process.

What does this mean for me?

Experts may debate whether cannabis use can lead to psychotic disorders, but they mostly agree on how to minimize one’s risk.

Psychotic conditions tend to run in families, which suggests there is an inherited genetic vulnerability. Indeed, according to some studies, people prone to or at heightened risk of psychosis seem to experience the effects of cannabis differently than peers without such a history. The users experience a more vivid high, but they also are more likely to experience psychosis-like effects such as paranoia.

The evidence so far indicates that one’s familial risk for psychotic disorders outweighs any added effect of cannabis use. In a 2014 study, a team led by Ashley C. Proal and Dr. Lynn E. DeLisi of Harvard Medical School recruited cannabis users with and without a family history of schizophrenia, as well as non-users with and without such a history. The researchers made sure the cannabis users did not use other drugs in addition, a factor that muddied earlier studies. The result: there was a heightened schizophrenia risk among people with a family history, regardless of cannabis use.

“My study clearly shows that cannabis does not cause schizophrenia by itself,” said Dr. DeLisi. “Rather, a genetic predisposition is necessary. It is highly likely, based on the results of this study and others, that cannabis use during adolescence through to age 25, when the brain is maturing and at its peak of growth in a genetically vulnerable individual, can initiate the onset of schizophrenia.”

Because marijuana has been illegal for so long, research that could settle the question has been sorely lacking, although that has begun to change. The National Institutes of Health have launched a $300 million project that will track thousands of children from the age of 9 or 10 through adolescence, and might help clarify causation.

For the near future, expert opinions likely will be mixed. “Usually it is the research types who are doing ‘the sky is falling’ bit, but here it is switched,” said Dr. Jay Geidd, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. “The researchers are wary of overselling the dangers, as was clearly done in the past. However, clinicians overwhelmingly endorse seeing many more adolescents with ‘paranoia’” of some kind.

In short: Regularly using the new, high-potency cannabis may indeed be a risk for young people who are related to someone with a psychotic condition. On that warning, at least, most experts seem to agree.

Jan 8th

Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think

|A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery.

For example, smoking pot is widely supposed to diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But, the panel pointed out, “there are no good-quality randomized trials investigating this option.” We have 

evidence for marijuana as a treatment for pain, but “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” The caveats continue. Is it good for epilepsy? “Insufficient evidence.” Tourette’s syndrome? Limited evidence. A.L.S., Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s? Insufficient evidence. Irritable-bowel syndrome? Insufficient evidence. Dementia and glaucoma? Probably not. Anxiety? Maybe. Depression? Probably not.

Then come Chapters 5 through 13, the heart of the report, which concern marijuana’s potential risks. The haze of uncertainty continues. Does the use of cannabis increase the likelihood of fatal car accidents? Yes. By how much? Unclear. Does it affect motivation and cognition? Hard to say, but probably. Does it affect employment prospects? Probably. Will it impair academic achievement? Limited evidence. This goes on for pages.

We need proper studies, the panel concluded, on the health effects of cannabis on children and teen-agers and pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers and “older populations” and “heavy cannabis users”; in other words, on everyone except the college student who smokes a joint once a month. The panel also called for investigation into “the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of cannabis, modes of delivery, different concentrations,

different concentrations, in various populations, including the dose-response relationships of cannabis and THC or other cannabinoids.”

Figuring out the “dose-response relationship” of a new compound is something a pharmaceutical company does from the start of trials in human subjects, as it prepares a new drug application for the F.D.A. Too little of a powerful drug means that it won’t work. Too much means that it might do more harm than good. The amount of active ingredient in a pill and the metabolic path that the ingredient takes after it enters your body—these are things that drugmakers will have painstakingly mapped out before the product comes on the market, with a tractor-trailer full of supporting documentation. With marijuana, apparently, we’re still waiting for this information. It’s hard to study a substance that until very recently has been almost universally illegal. And the few studies we do have were done mostly in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, when cannabis was not nearly as potent as it is now. Because of recent developments in plant breeding and growing techniques, the typical concentration of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, has gone from the low single digits to more than twenty per cent—from a swig of near-beer to a tequila shot.

Are users smoking less, to compensate for the drug’s new potency? Or simply getting more stoned, more quickly? Is high-potency cannabis more of a problem for younger users or for older ones? For some drugs, the dose-response curve is linear: twice the dose creates twice the effect. For other drugs, it’s nonlinear: twice the dose can increase the effect tenfold, or hardly at all. Which is true for cannabis? It also matters, of course, how cannabis is consumed. It can be smoked, vaped, eaten, or applied to the skin. How are absorption patterns affected?

Last May, not long before Canada legalized the recreational use of marijuana, Beau Kilmer, a drug-policy expert with the randCorporation, testified before the Canadian Parliament. He warned that the fastest-growing segment of the legal market in Washington State was extracts for inhalation, and that the mean THC concentration for those products was more than sixty-five per cent. “We know little about the health consequences—risks and benefits—of many of the cannabis products likely to be sold in nonmedical markets,” he said. Nor did we know how higher-potency products would affect THC consumption.

When it comes to cannabis, the best-case scenario is that we will muddle through, learning more about its true effects as we go along and adapting as needed—the way, say, the once extraordinarily lethal innovation of the automobile has been gradually tamed in the course of its history. For those curious about the worst-case scenario, Alex Berenson has written a short manifesto, “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.

erenson begins his book with an account of a conversation he had with his wife, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating mentally ill criminals. They were discussing one of the many grim cases that cross her desk—“the usual horror story, somebody who’d cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment.” Then his wife said something like “Of course, he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”

Of course? I said.

Yeah, they all smoke.

Well . . . other things too, right?

Sometimes. But they all smoke.

Berenson used to be an investigative reporter for the Times, where he covered, among other things, health care and the pharmaceutical industry. Then he left the paper to write a popular series of thrillers. At the time of his conversation with his wife, he had the typical layman’s view of cannabis, which is that it is largely benign. His wife’s remark alarmed him, and he set out to educate himself. Berenson is constrained by the same problem the National Academy of Medicine faced—that, when it comes to marijuana, we really don’t know very much. But he has a reporter’s tenacity, a novelist’s imagination, and an outsider’s knack for asking intemperate questions. The result is disturbing.

The first of Berenson’s questions concerns what has long been the most worrisome point about cannabis: its association with mental illness. Many people with serious psychiatric illness smoke lots of pot. The marijuana lobby typically responds to this fact by saying that pot-smoking is a response to mental illness, not the cause of it—that people with psychiatric issues use marijuana to self-medicate. That is only partly true. In some cases, heavy cannabis use does seem to cause mental illness. As the National Academy panel declared, in one of its few unequivocal conclusions, “Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

Berenson thinks that we are far too sanguine about this link. He wonders how large the risk is, and what might be behind it. In one of the most fascinating sections of “Tell Your Children,” he sits down with Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist who specializes in neuropharmacology and in the treatment of schizophrenia. Messamore reports that, following the recent rise in marijuana use in the U.S. (it has almost doubled in the past two decades, not necessarily as the result of legal reforms), he has begun to see a new kind of patient: older, and not from the marginalized communities that his patients usually come from. These are otherwise stable middle-class professionals. Berenson writes, “A surprising number of them seemed to have used only cannabis and no other drugs before their breaks. The disease they’d developed looked like schizophrenia, but it had developed later—and their prognosis seemed to be worse. Their delusions and paranoia hardly responded to antipsychotics.”

Messamore theorizes that THC may interfere with the brain’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms, resulting in damage to nerve cells and blood vessels. Is this the reason, Berenson wonders, for the rising incidence of schizophrenia in the developed world, where cannabis use has also increased? In the northern parts of Finland, incidence of the disease has nearly doubled since 1993. In Denmark, cases have risen twenty-five per cent since 2000. In the United States, hospital emergency rooms have seen a fifty-per-cent increase in schizophrenia admissions since 2006. If you include cases where schizophrenia was a secondary diagnosis, annual admissions in the past decade have increased from 1.26 million to 2.1 million.

Berenson’s second question derives from the first. The delusions and paranoia that often accompany psychoses can sometimes trigger violent behavior. If cannabis is implicated in a rise in psychoses, should we expect the increased use of marijuana to be accompanied by a rise in violent crime, as Berenson’s wife suggested? Once again, there is no definitive answer, so Berenson has collected bits and pieces of evidence. For example, in a 2013 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, researchers looked at the results of a survey of more than twelve thousand American high-school students. The authors assumed that alcohol use among students would be a predictor of violent behavior, and that marijuana use would predict the opposite. In fact, those who used only marijuana were three times more likely to be physically aggressive than abstainers were; those who used only alcohol were 2.7 times more likely to be aggressive. Observational studies like these don’t establish causation. But they invite the sort of research that could.

Berenson looks, too, at the early results from the state of Washington, which, in 2014, became the first U.S. jurisdiction to legalize recreational marijuana. Between 2013 and 2017, the state’s murder and aggravated-assault rates rose forty per cent—twice the national homicide increase and four times the national aggravated-assault increase. We don’t know that an increase in cannabis use was responsible for that surge in violence. Berenson, though, finds it strange that, at a time when Washington may have exposed its population to higher levels of what is widely assumed to be a calming substance, its citizens began turning on one another with increased aggression.

His third question is whether cannabis serves as a gateway drug. There are two possibilities. The first is that marijuana activates certain behavioral and neurological pathways that ease the onset of more serious addictions. The second possibility is that marijuana offers a safer alternative to other drugs: that if you start smoking pot to deal with chronic pain you never graduate to opioids.

Which is it? This is a very hard question to answer. We’re only a decade or so into the widespread recreational use of high-potency marijuana. Maybe cannabis opens the door to other drugs, but only after prolonged use. Or maybe the low-potency marijuana of years past wasn’t a gateway, but today’s high-potency marijuana is. Methodologically, Berenson points out, the issue is complicated by the fact that the first wave of marijuana legalization took place on the West Coast, while the first serious wave of opioid addiction took place in the middle of the country. So, if all you do is eyeball the numbers, it looks as if opioid overdoses are lowest in cannabis states and highest in non-cannabis states.

Not surprisingly, the data we have are messy. Berenson, in his role as devil’s advocate, emphasizes the research that sees cannabis as opening the door to opioid use. For example, two studies of identical twins—in the Netherlands and in Australia—show that, in cases where one twin used cannabis before the age of seventeen and the other didn’t, the cannabis user was several times more likely to develop an addiction to opioids. Berenson also enlists a statistician at N.Y.U. to help him sort through state-level overdose data, and what he finds is not encouraging: “States where more people used cannabis tended to have more overdoses.”

The National Academy panel is more judicious. Its conclusion is that we simply don’t know enough, because there haven’t been any “systematic” studies. But the panel’s uncertainty is scarcely more reassuring than Berenson’s alarmism. Seventy-two thousand Americans died in 2017 of drug overdoses. Should you embark on a pro-cannabis crusade without knowing whether it will add to or subtract from that number?

Drug policy is always clearest at the fringes. Illegal opioids are at one end. They are dangerous. Manufacturers and distributors belong in prison, and users belong in drug-treatment programs. The cannabis industry would have us believe that its product, like coffee, belongs at the other end of the continuum. “Flow Kana partners with independent multi-generational farmers who cultivate under full sun, sustainably, and in small batches,” the promotional literature for one California cannabis brand reads. “Using only organic methods, these stewards of the land have spent their lives balancing a unique and harmonious relationship between the farm, the genetics and the terroir.” But cannabis is not coffee. It’s somewhere in the middle. The experience of most users is relatively benign and predictable; the experience of a few, at the margins, is not. Products or behaviors that have that kind of muddled risk profile are confusing, because it is very difficult for those in the benign middle to appreciate the experiences of those at the statistical tails. Low-frequency risks also take longer and are far harder to quantify, and the lesson of “Tell Your Children” and the National Academy report is that we aren’t yet in a position to do so. For the moment, cannabis probably belongs in the category of substances that society permits but simultaneously discourages. Cigarettes are heavily taxed, and smoking is prohibited in most workplaces and public spaces. Alcohol can’t be sold without a license and is kept out of the hands of children. Prescription drugs have rules about dosages, labels that describe their risks, and policies that govern their availability. The advice that seasoned potheads sometimes give new users—“start low and go slow”—is probably good advice for society as a whole, at least until we better understand what we are dealing with.

Late last year, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, announced a federal crackdown on e-cigarettes. He had seen the data on soaring use among teen-agers, and, he said, “it shocked my conscience.” He announced that the F.D.A. would ban many kinds of flavored e-cigarettes, which are especially popular with teens, and would restrict the retail outlets where e-cigarettes were available.

In the dozen years since e-cigarettes were introduced into the marketplace, they have attracted an enormous amount of attention. There are scores of studies and papers on the subject in the medical and legal literature, grappling with the questions raised by the new technology. Vaping is clearly popular among kids. Is it a gateway to traditional tobacco use? Some public-health experts worry that we’re grooming a younger generation for a lifetime of dangerous addiction. Yet other people see e-cigarettes as a much safer alternative for adult smokers looking to satisfy their nicotine addiction. That’s the British perspective. Last year, a Parliamentary committee recommended cutting taxes on e-cigarettes and allowing vaping in areas where it had previously been banned. Since e-cigarettes are as much as ninety-five per cent less harmful than regular cigarettes, the committee argued, why not promote them? Gottlieb said that he was splitting the difference between the two positions—giving adults “opportunities to transition to non-combustible products,” while upholding the F.D.A.’s “solemn mandate to make nicotine products less accessible and less appealing to children.” He was immediately criticized.

“Somehow, we have completely lost all sense of public-health perspective,” Michael Siegel, a public-health researcher at Boston University, wrote after the F.D.A. announcement:

Every argument that the F.D.A. is making in justifying a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations applies even more strongly for real tobacco cigarettes: you know, the ones that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Something is terribly wrong with our sense of perspective when we take the e-cigarettes off the shelf but allow the old-fashioned ones to remain.

Among members of the public-health community, it is impossible to spend five minutes on the e-cigarette question without getting into an argument. And this is nicotine they are arguing about, a drug that has been exhaustively studied by generations of scientists. We don’t worry that e-cigarettes increase the number of fatal car accidents, diminish motivation and cognition, or impair academic achievement. The drugs through the gateway that we worry about with e-cigarettes are Marlboros, not opioids. There are no enormous scientific question marks over nicotine’s dosing and bio-availability. Yet we still proceed cautiously and carefully with nicotine, because it is a powerful drug, and when powerful drugs are consumed by lots of people in new and untested ways we have an obligation to try to figure out what will happen.

A week after Gottlieb announced his crackdown on e-cigarettes, on the ground that they are too enticing to children, Siegel visited the first recreational-marijuana facility in Massachusetts. Here is what he found on the menu, each offering laced with large amounts of a drug, THC, that no one knows much about:

Strawberry-flavored chewy bites
Large, citrus gummy bears
Delectable Belgian dark chocolate bars
Assorted fruit-flavored chews
Assorted fruit-flavored cubes
Raspberry flavored confection
Raspberry flavored lozenges
Chewy, cocoa caramel bite-sized treats
Raspberry & watermelon flavored lozenges

Chocolate-chip brownies.

He concludes, “This is public health in 2018?”

Jan 6th

Wound Botulism' Outbreak in San Diego Linked to Black Tar Heroin

Nine people in San Diego recently developed a rare but serious illness called wound botulism after using black tar heroin, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The outbreak has health officials warning doctors and the public to be aware of this condition, which is tied to injection drug use.

Wound botulism occurs when a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum— the same germ that causes botulism from contaminated food — gets into a wound and produces a toxin, according to the CDC. The toxin attacks the body's nerves and can cause breathing difficulties, muscle paralysis and death, the CDC says.

In the United States, there are only about 20 cases of wound botulism diagnosed each year, and in San Diego, only about one case is reported each year. So, when San Diego health officials saw that two people had contracted wound botulism in just one week in September 2017, they sent out an alert to doctors and launched an investigation to see if there were more cases. [10 Interesting Facts About Heroin]

Ultimately, health officials identified nine cases of wound botulism that occurred between September 2017 and April 2018, according to the new report, published in the Jan. 4 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. All of the patients injected drugs, and seven of the patients specifically reported injecting black tar heroin, a dark and sticky form of the drug that is crudely processed and often contaminated with other substances. Six patients reported having injected black tar heroin under their skin in a practice called "skin popping," which is linked with wound botulism infections.

The most common symptoms of the infection were muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing and blurred vision. Wound botulism can be treated with an antitoxin, but it's important to provide prompt treatment to prevent life-threatening complications.

All of the patients in the San Diego outbreak were admitted to intensive care units at nearby hospitals, but one patient ultimately died.

It's unclear exactly why black tar heroin increases the risk of wound botulism, the CDC says. But C. botulinum is found in soil and may get into black tar heroin when the drug is produced or transported. For example, the drug is sometimes transported inside car tires, where it might be contaminated with the bacteria, the report said.

As heroin use in the U.S. rises, along with that of other opioids that contribute to the opioid epidemic, there may be an increase in cases of wound botulism, the CDC said. As such, "there is a growing need for awareness of the risks and symptoms of wound botulism," the report said.

Diagnosing wound botulism can be challenging, in part because symptoms of the illness can overlap with signs of opioid intoxication or overdose. Indeed, in the San Diego outbreak, four of the nine patients initially had their symptoms attributed to drug intoxication, and two were treated with opioid overdose medication, the report said.

People who inject drugs should be aware that wound botulism is a risk, particularly if they use black tar heroin, and doctors who treat injection drug users should be on the lookout for symptoms of wound botulism in their patients, the report concluded.


Dec 31st 2018

Flesh-eating drug Krokodil has hit the UK – leaving addicts with rancid rotting flesh, open
pus-filled sores and scaly skin

The dangerous substance – which can be homemade from a deadly concoction of household products – costs just a few pounds and creates a high similar to that of heroin.

Krokodil — Russian for crocodile — turns the skin green and scaly around the area where it’s injected as blood vessels burst and the skin rots away.

Horrifyingly, the deadly substance — which originated in Russia around a decade ago as a cheap alternative to heroin — is now set to take hold here in the UK, with desperate users being able to make it for a tenth of the price.

A woman in her forties was unable to attend Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court in August after taking the Class A substance, which is ten times more powerful than heroin.

Her barrister told the court the unnamed woman was being treated for “horrific” open sores in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

Last year, Somerset’s Taunton Deane Borough Council also reported problems with the drug, with a housing officer admitting: “The effects of the drug are so severe that addicts’ behaviour is untenable in hostels.”

Doctors estimate that from the point an addict first takes Krokodil, their life expectancy is a little over two years.

But why is the drug on the rise?

A killer drug cooked up in the kitchen

Alarmingly, Krokodil is extremely quick and simple to make.

Chemistry lecturer Dr Simon Cotton from the University of Birmingham, says: “It’s very easy to make Krokodil.

“It’s a one step process that can be done on a stove and it can be stewed up in under an hour

“The problem is, it’s not been purified so the crude product is injected.

“That means people aren’t just injecting the drug and this is what seems to cause the side effects including thrombosis, gangrene, abscesses and scaly skin which goes green and black – much like a crocodile.”

Krokodil – also known as desomorphine and the “zombie drug”- has been compared to already established drug epidemics like spice and heroin – but experts say it’s even more dangerous.

Speaking to The Sun Online, Chemist Click pharmacist Abbas Kanani says: “Without any exaggeration, Krokodil is probably one of the worst drugs in the world.

“The high from Krokodil doesn’t last as long as the high from heroin, so users inject more frequently.

“Cost-wise, this won’t deter users as it’s around 10 times cheaper than heroin.

“It’s concerning when any drug is made at home as there are no quality control measures in place.

“This means that the non-sterile method used to prepare drugs can cause an infection, and sharing needles can increase the chances of transmitting infections such as HIV and hepatitis.”

Speaking about the physical effects of the drug, pharmacist Abbas adds: “Life expectancy of a regular user is usually two years from when they first started using the drug.

“Heroin usually exhibits withdrawal symptoms that can be managed for around 10 days after discontinuation, but Krokodil’s withdrawal symptoms last for a month.

Withdrawal usually requires the use of strong sedatives and tranquillisers to avoid passing out from the pain that comes with withdrawal.”

In just one week back in 2014 it was claimed Krokodil was responsible for the death of seven people, and 187 poisonings in the Siberian city of Surgut.

Strictly’s Stacey Dooley made a documentary about the danger of the drug the same year.

While these recent reports are an indication that the drug is becoming more high profile, they actually aren’t the first reports of Krokodil in the UK.

Gloucester-based doctor Allan Harris described in 2013 what he’d experienced first hand when treating a patient who’d taken Krokodil.

He told Vice: “It actually took out a huge crater of all the forearm muscle.

“When you took out the dead tissue you could actually see the tendons moving at the base of this crater and the bones as well.

“They put a free skin graft over the top, which all healed OK but it was horrendous.

“The muscles never grew back because they were completely gangrenous.”

There are thousands of reported deaths in other countries where its use is more prevalent, like Russia, and experts warn that this could become a serious threat here, as virtually anyone can make the drug

Perhaps the most worrying thing is the relative ease with which this can be made at home using readily available items over the counter medicines and household items like paint thinner.

“With such a potent drug – which is 10 times as strong as heroin – so relatively easy to produce by pretty much anyone, there’s a real risk to the vulnerable who are already battling drug addiction.”

Nov 26th 2018

Nearly 600 babies have been born "addicted" to drugs in Scotland since 2015, health boards have revealed.

The problem was worst in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, with 178 cases over the three years.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures using Freedom of Information, said they showed why Scotland needed a "more progressive" drug abuse policy.

The Scottish government said it was "committed to giving every child the best start in life".

Data from health boards showed 584 infants - the equivalent of almost four a week - were delivered suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) over the three-year period.

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "On average, a baby is born every other day in Scotland addicted to harmful substances.

"These are terrible circumstances under which to take your first breath."

'Uncontrollable trembling'

Babies born with NAS, which is caused by drugs passing from the mother to her unborn child during pregnancy, can suffer from a range of symptoms, including uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, and high-pitched crying.

The number of infants recorded as being affected by this fluctuated from 203 in 2015-16, to 190 in 2016-17 and 191 in 2017-18.

There were 120 such births in the Grampian region over this period and 63 in NHS Lothian between 2015 and 2017 - the board having only provided data for that period.

NHS Tayside gave figures for births in the calendar years 2015, 2016 and 2017, with the number of infants born addicted totalling 61 over this period.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said the problem could be avoided "with the right combination of policies and support to help those misusing drugs".

'Still in recovery'

He added: "If the Scottish government is committed to giving every Scottish child the best start in life, it needs to take a progressive approach to drug policy and tackle the horrendous levels of drug misuse, life-long addictions and unnecessary deaths.

"Alcohol and drug partnerships were set back massively by the Scottish government's brutal £20m funding cuts. It was rightly overturned two years later but the sector is still in recovery. It can't happen again.

"We also need a new national strategy that is finally focused on treating drug misuse as a health issue, supporting people instead of criminalising and penalising them."

The Scottish government said its new combined drug and alcohol strategy would focus on "how services can adapt to meet the needs of those most in need".

A spokesman said: "We have recently released further funding to reduce the harms caused by alcohol and drugs, bringing the total provided to more than £70m this financial year.

"This is in addition to the £746m we have invested to tackle alcohol and drug use since 2008."


Sept 12th 2018

Marijuana makes you want more sex, not less — and it might even make you enjoy it more

·       The stereotype of a weed smoker is that they are lazy and can't be bothered to do anything. ·       This includes sex. ·       However, according to recent research, this isn't true at all. ·       In fact, people who use cannabis reported having more sex.

A separate study found that women who used cannabis before sex found it more enjoyable.

A common stereotype is that smoking weed makes you lazy. The image of a "stoner" is often portrayed as someone who sits around, snacking on junk food, and is too languid to do anything — including have sex.

But scientific research has pushed back on this cliché. According to one study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine last year, marijuana use is associated with increased sexual frequency. In other words, people who used cannabis had more sex than those who didn't — as much as 20% more.

The team from Stanford University in California analysed data from over 28,000 women and 22,000 men who were surveyed by the Center for Disease Control. Results showed there was no basis in the idea that cannabis reduces your libido, as there was no link between its use and impaired sexual function.

"Frequent marijuana use doesn't seem to impair sexual motivation or performance. If anything, it's associated with increased coital frequency," said Michael Eisenberg, the senior author of the study and assistant professor of urology at Stanford, in a statement.

He continued to say the study doesn't establish a causal connection between marijuana and sex — that is, that smoking marijuana makes you want it more. But the results hint at it.

"The overall trend we saw applied to people of both sexes and all races, ages, education levels, income groups and religions, every health status, whether they were married or single and whether or not they had kids," he said.

Another study, published at the beginning of 2017, found that 68% of women who used cannabis before sex reported finding it more pleasurable.

According to the United Nations' World Drug Report, as many as 238 million people may use cannabis worldwide. In America, nine states and Washington, D.C have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21, while you can get medical marijuana in a further 30.

With the international conversation about the drug evolving, it may be more helpful to rely on the scientific evidence than the myths around what it does. For example, a study last year found that people who smoke cannabis may be among the most successful, dampening the idea that smokers lie around all day.

This is unsurprising considering some high profile people who have smoked in the past are Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, former US President Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey.

Cannabis is also being used more and more for medical purposes, but the regulation of it still needs to catch up before real progress is made.

But whatever happens in terms of legalisation where you live, you can be almost certain of one thing — smoking weed probably won't hurt your sex drive.

SEE ALSO: People use cannabis products for health problems like Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and acne — but misinformation and out-of-date regulations are stopping most from benefitting


April 17th 2018

The opioid crisis just keeps getting worse, in part because new types of drugs keep finding their way onto the streets. Fentanyl, heroin’s synthetic cousin, is among the worst offenders.

It’s deadly because it’s so much stronger than heroin, as shown by the photograph above, which was taken at the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory. On the left is a lethal dose of heroin, equivalent to about 30 milligrams; on the right is a 3-milligram dose of fentanyl, enough to kill an average-sized adult male.

Fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times that of heroin.

Drugs users generally don’t know when their heroin is laced with fentanyl, so when they inject their usual quantity of heroin, they can inadvertently take a deadly dose of the substance. In addition, while dealers try to include fentanyl to improve potency, their measuring equipment usually isn’t fine-tuned enough to ensure they stay below the levels that could cause users to overdose. Plus, the fentanyl sold on the street is almost always made in a clandestine lab; it is less pure than the pharmaceutical version and thus its effect on the body can be more unpredictable.

Heroin and fentanyl look identical, and with drugs purchased on the street, “you don’t know what you’re taking,” Tim Pifer, the director of the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory, told STAT in an interview. “You’re injecting yourself with a loaded gun.”

Related Story: 

Dope Sick: A harrowing story of best friends, addiction — and a stealth killer

New Hampshire, like the rest of New England, has been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic. The state saw a total of 439 drug overdoses in 2015; most were related to opioids, and about 70 percent of these opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl. The state has seen 200 deadly opioid overdoses this year so far, said Pifer.

Fentanyl was originally used as an anesthetic. Then doctors realized how effective it was at relieving pain in small quantities and started using it for that purpose. In the hands of trained professionals — and with laboratory-grade equipment — fentanyl actually has a pretty wide therapeutic index, or range within which the drug is both effective and safe.

The difference in strength between heroin and fentanyl arises from differences in their chemical structures. The chemicals in both bind to the mu opioid receptor in the brain. But fentanyl gets there faster than morphine — the almost-instantaneous byproduct when the body breaks down heroin — because it more easily passes through the fat that is plentiful in the brain. Fentanyl also hugs the receptor so tightly that a tiny amount is enough to start the molecular chain of events that instigates opioids’ effects on the body.

This tighter affinity for the opioid receptor also means more naloxone — or Narcan — may be needed to combat a fentanyl overdose than a heroin overdose.

“In a fentanyl overdose, you may not be able to totally revive the person with the Narcan dose you have,” said Scott Lukas, director of the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. “Naloxone easily knocks morphine off of the receptor, but does that less so to fentanyl.”


April 16th 2018

A drug to end addiction? Scientists are working on it

Scrambling for ways to contain America’s out-of-control opioid crisis, some experts in the field are convinced that one bit of good advice is to just say no to the enduring “just say no” antidrug message. Addiction, they say, is not a question of free will or a correctable character flaw, as a lot of people would like to believe. Rather, it is an affliction of the brain that needs to be treated as one would any chronic illness.

One possible approach, an experimental vaccine, draws attention in this offering from Retro Report, a series of short video documentaries exploring major news stories of the past and their lasting impact. This vaccine would be intended principally for men and women already hooked on heroin or related opioids like Oxycodone and fentanyl — people who would be at risk of death should they detoxify and then relapse, as all too many do.

If it works, the vaccine would stop opioids by effectively blocking them from reaching the brain by way of the circulatory system. At the same time, it would not interfere with other treatments for addicts, like methadone and buprenorphine, or with a compound like naloxone that reverses overdoses.

The vaccine is designed to create high levels of antibodies, said Dr. Gary Matyas, an immunologist who has been developing it at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in Silver Springs, Md. “You inject heroin, the antibodies basically grab all the heroin, bind it all up, and the heroin can’t cross the blood-brain barrier,” he told Retro Report. “And so there’s no high.” Presumably, in time, the heroin would be expelled from the body like any waste product.

“It would be part of their therapy for recovering,” Dr. Matyas said of addicts. “If they mess up and take a dose of heroin, the heroin won’t work.”

But will the vaccine itself work? It still must be tested on humans, and that is not a speedy process; it could take a decade or more, Dr. Matyas said, for there to be “a licensed product.” Among the questions are how large the dosages would have to be and how often they would need to be administered. Nonetheless, he is encouraged by the success he has had with lab mice and rats.

A lot is riding on his experiments. Coming to grips with the opioid epidemic is obviously a national imperative as overdoses soar and more than 52,000 Americans die of them each year, an average of one every 10 minutes. While President Trump has proclaimed it a public health emergency, he has yet to offer specific solutions other than to urge the death penalty for drug dealers.

His health and human services secretary, Alex M. Azar II, has gone further, endorsing an expansion of what is known as medication-assisted treatmentand saying he wished to “correct a misconception that patients must achieve total abstinence.” Speaking in February at a gathering of the National Governors Association, Mr. Azar said that addicts “need medicine to regain the dignity that comes with being in control of their lives.”

But that approach is not embraced by everyone in the Trump administration, and it is not clear where the White House will ultimately land on the matter of medicinal intervention. A notable advocate of abstinence is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who invokes language borrowed from the long-ago “war on drugs” in framing substance abuse as a moral failing. Echoing verbatim the phrase made famous in the 1980s by Nancy Reagan, then the first lady, Mr. Sessions said in October that “we’ve got to re-establish, first, a view that you should just say no. People should say no to drug use.”

That’s probably reasonable advice to an adolescent who has yet to so much as puff on a marijuana joint or take a swig of booze, said Thomas McLellan, who was deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration. But it’s another story with someone already on drugs. “If you’re talking about a person who’s addicted to opioids and is in a very bad situation, ‘just say no’ is perfectly ridiculous,” Mr. McLellan told Retro Report.

He was equally dismissive of those who regard methadone maintenance and other regimens as no more than crutches that substitute one form of dependency for another. “As a matter of fact, they are a crutch,” he said. But he added, “They make crutches for people who are having trouble standing on their own.” The treatments are no different from, say, insulin injections for diabetics, guiding people through troubled moments when they are “very vulnerable to relapse.”

“They’re an insurance policy,” Mr. McLellan said. More to the point, he said, “they reduce craving and, most importantly, they prevent overdoses.”

Along that line, the vaccine being developed by Dr. Matyas, which is intended to be effective as well against H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, would in theory block heroin from reaching the brain and binding to protein receptors there. Thus it would (a) eliminate, or at least appreciably minimize, the euphoria that the drug produces in users who relapse, and (b) end the risk of respiratory depression that accompanies an overdose, causing the addict to stop breathing.


While it will take years for his discovery to be tested thoroughly and approved by the federal authorities, Dr., Matyas has faith in the potential to help turn this crisis around. In that vein, he invoked a famous addict, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in 2014 having succumbed to what was believed to be a lethal mixture of heroin and other drugs.

The vaccine would not end an addict’s craving for opioids, the immunologist said. As with Mr. Hoffman, relapses are to be expected, and the vaccine would have to be re-administered at regular intervals. But by keeping users from getting high, the medication would greatly reduce the risk of overdoses. That’s the “true vision” of the vaccine, Dr. Matyas said: to ward off the pattern of relapse and overdose that killed Mr. Hoffman and ended a great stage and film talent.


Feb 15th 2018

Alcohol is more harmful to your brain than marijuana, new study suggests

A new study suggests alcohol consumption is more detrimental to people’s brains than marijuana. 

Researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder looked at more than 850 adults and 430 teenagers to find that alcohol, but not marijuana, led to lower brain volumes of grey and white brain tissue.

Grey matter controls brain function and white matter controls communication between the nerves in the brain.

Any reduction in volume could lead to impaired function but that decreased volume was not observed in participants who only consumed the drug. 

“While marijuana may also have some negative consequences, it definitely is nowhere near the negative consequences of alcohol,” study co-author Kent Hutchison told Medical News Today.

However, study author Rachel Thayer warned that there is still a lot scientists do not know about how marijuana affects the human brain as opposed to numerous studies showing the same results about brain health and consuming alcohol. 

The researchers also made note that studies published on how the brain and marijuana interact have contradicted each other often.

“When you look at these studies going back years, you see that one study will report that marijuana use is related to a reduction in the volume of the hippocampus [a region of the brain associated with memory and emotions]...The next study then comes around, and they say that marijuana use is related to changes in the cerebellum or the whatever,” Mr Hutchinson said.

Another recent study showed that cannabis use coupled with alcohol consumption could lead to a lower risk of liver disease.

Cannabis as also been used to treat cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, epilepsy, and migraines as well.

In the US, Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, California, and Alaska have legalised its use for medical or recreational use and have placed tight controls on production and sale.

Oct 14th 2017

The bodies turn up in public restrooms, in parks and under bridges, skin tone ashen or shades of blue. The deceased can go undiscovered, sometimes for hours, or days if they were alone when they injected heroin and overdosed.

Terrell Jones, a longtime resident of the Bronx, was pointing to the locations where overdoses occurred as he drove through the East Tremont neighborhood, the car passing small convenience stores, rowhouses and schools.

“This is sometimes where people are being found, in their houses, dead,” said Mr. Jones, 61, looking toward a housing project along 180th Street. “Especially in the South Bronx, you have so many people in housing who overdose. To actually sit there and witness this whole thing? You’re watching this person turn all different colors. You know what I’m saying?”

The dramatic rise in opioid-related deaths has devastated communities around the United States in recent years, and has stirred concern among law enforcement and public health officials alike in New York City.

Here, the reports about the epidemic and its ravages have mostly centered on Staten Island, where the rate of deaths per person is the highest of the five boroughs. But perhaps nowhere in the city has the trajectory of opioid addiction been as complex as in the Bronx, where overdose deaths were declining until a new surge began at the turn of the decade, and where more residents are lost to overdoses than anywhere else in the city. On Bronx streets, the epidemic’s devastation is next door, down the street, all around.

Continue reading the main story




In the Bronx, Heroin Woes Never Went Away MARCH 23, 2017



On Staten Island, Rising Tide of Heroin Takes Hold MAY 4, 2014



Heroin Takes Over a House, and Mom, on New York’s Staten Island NOV. 29, 2014




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Unless and until opioid addiction is treated like a potential health abuse medical problem akin to alcohol and tobacco all opioid addicts...


 22 hours ago

"The ensuing rise in opioid-related deaths among white, middle-class men and women has helped change popular conceptions about who is...


 22 hours ago

I came of age in the punk 80s and remember heroin being something glamorous, something for artistic musicians living dark, edgy lives we...



Continue reading the main story

The increase in deaths — now at the highest levels since the city began collecting the data in 2000 — has been fueled by social forces that have left some Bronx residents especially vulnerable: a history of high drug use in the area; a growing supply of cheap heroin on the streets; and the proliferation of a deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

Mr. Jones said he never leaves his apartment in Hunts Point without a dose of naloxone, a medication that can be used to reverse opioid overdoses. The antidote — whose brand name is Narcan — has become a necessary stopgap to prevent deaths that happen in public spaces. Mr. Jones, who has himself struggled with drug addiction in the past, now works with New York Harm Reduction Educators to help drug users.

“Regardless of how they died, it wasn’t an intentional death. Nobody woke up and said, ‘Today I want to die of an overdose,’” he said. “People have issues and reasons they’re using drugs, and it’s not for us to judge.”

In 2016, 1,374 people died from overdoses in New York City, up from 937 in 2015, according to the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. The vast majority of those lethal overdoses involved opioids, a drug classification comprising prescription painkillers like Oxycodone and Percocet, morphine, and the illegal street counterpart, heroin. An additional 344 overdose deaths were reported across the city from January to March of this year, according to preliminary data made available by the New York City Health Department.

More Bronx residents died of drug overdoses in 2016 than any other New York City borough — 308. That’s more than double the number in 2010, 128. Fatal overdoses in the borough are now at their highest rates since at least 2000, as far back as official data is available. Eighty-five percent of those deaths involved opioids, and about 76 percent involved heroin or fentanyl specifically.

Of the five neighborhoods with the highest opioid-related overdose rates in 2015 and 2016, four were in the Bronx — Hunts Point-Mott Haven, Crotona-Tremont, High Bridge-Morrisania and Fordham-Bronx Park — and one was in Staten Island, South Beach/Tottenville.

The crisis in the Bronx stems, at least in part, from a surge of opioids in a place where some residents have long struggled with addiction. Heroin has become much cheaper in recent years as the supply in the United States has grown, according to the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, and individuals with histories of drug abuse are particularly vulnerable to relapse amid a surge of cheap drugs. It has also become significantly more potent.

The cheaper, stronger heroin has been made even more dangerous by the proliferation of fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. Interviews with nearly 200 drug users conducted by the city health department suggest that most users are not directly seeking fentanyl; narcotics experts say the drug is likely being mixed into heroin batches, often without the dealers themselves knowing, let alone users. As effective as naloxone can be in reversing overdoses and restoring breathing, fentanyl overdoses are often too extreme for the antidote to work. And naloxone is ultimately a Band-Aid to a broader, systemic addiction crisis across the city.

“In a place like the Bronx, where there was a long term underlying addiction issue, all of a sudden you saturate the area with cheap accessible heroin, and you’re going to start to see the spike,” the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, said in an interview.

The recent surge of illegal heroin in the Bronx in many ways mirrors the surge of prescription painkillers that fueled the opioid epidemic in suburban and rural communities. In the Bronx, as elsewhere, accessibility is related to spikes in consumption and addiction.

An illegal prescription painkiller market also thrived in the Bronx. In one high-profile case, a physician who owned several medical clinics in the Bronx was convicted of illegally distributing millions of prescription painkillers between 2011 and 2014. (Oxycodone from that “pill mill” was likely distributed in the Bronx, northern parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, officials have said.)

In Staten Island, the proliferation of prescription painkillers — often acquired illicitly through friends or dealers — led to an explosion in overdose deaths earlier this decade. Eventually Staten Island itself developed a market for heroin dealers. 

“This group of people in Staten Island, who might have been put off by the illegality of heroin, they’re already addicted” to opioids, Ms. Brennan said, and were therefore more willing to try it. The ensuing rise in opioid-related deaths among white, middle-class men and women has helped change popular conceptions about who is susceptible to drug addiction.

“The impact plays out differently in different parts of the city, and different parts of the country, depending on the historical arch. But it’s got a huge impact wherever it hits. It’s so cheap, so accessible, so pure,” explained Ms. Brennan.

Given the significantly larger overall numbers of deaths in the Bronx, Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, a primary care physician affiliated with Montefiore Medical Center who has worked in the Bronx for decades, lamented that opioid-related deaths in the borough have not received more attention. She said the interest in Staten Island likely stems from its relatively new addiction crisis and the fact that white middle-class residents are being affected.

“Really, the reason we care about the opioid epidemic is because it’s affecting populations that are white and affluent,” she said. “The way that we got to this is bittersweet, that this is what it has taken to shift the conversation to this way we’re talking about it.”

Dr. Cunningham, who is certified in addiction medicine, said it is important to balance medical data against stereotypes “portraying everyone in the Bronx as a drug user, or suggesting that all brown people are drug users.” Such assumptions are partially to blame for apathy in the overdose death crisis in the borough, she said.

In fact, in 2016, the highest rate of overdose deaths in the Bronx was among white residents, followed by Hispanics, and then African-Americans. Just 9 percent of Bronx residents are classified as non-Hispanic white.

City Hall has acknowledged the high death count in the Bronx, and has pledged a broad, citywide program to drive down fatalities. In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio chose Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx to announce the new effort. Calling the 2016 fatalities “shocking” and “a wake up call,” Mr. de Blasio committed $38 million a year to an initiative aimed at reducing fatal drug overdoses by 35 percent over five years; he vowed to dramatically expand government-funded naloxone distribution throughout the city, while expanding treatment options and reducing the supply of opioids.

But community organizations on the ground and law enforcement are still struggling to curb the number of fentanyl- and heroin-related deaths.

On a Wednesday afternoon in September, a plain gray van was parked across the street from Tremont Park, on the corner of Arthur and Tremont Avenues, and a blue tarp was erected next to it. The arrangement was a perhaps modest, but nonetheless crucial, outpost in the fight against opioid-related overdose deaths in the Bronx. Throughout the year, from this makeshift bureau and several others in the borough, Mr. Jones and his colleagues at New York Harm Reduction Educators hand out information about opioid deaths, offer free naloxone, and operate a syringe exchange program. (The program is funded largely through government grants.)

Adriana Pericchi sat in the blue tent, training passers-by how to administer naloxone to someone suffering an overdose. Slipping back and forth between conversational Spanish and English with a man seeking naloxone and fentanyl test strips, she moved methodically step-by-step, beginning with an overview of the physical symptoms of overdose: blue nails or lips, skin discoloration and shallow breaths. She jammed naloxone into a test dummy’s nose before playacting chest compressions and rescue breathing.

“First the breathing stops, then the brain, then the heart,” Ms. Pericchi reminded the man, a heroin user, who nodded along.

Later, sitting in a nearby McDonald’s, Ms. Pericchi opened up about the emotional toll felt by her colleagues at Washington Heights Corner Project and other organizations in the field.

“A lot of us are doing our best, but it’s just not enough, it’s not enough,” she said. “You’re mourning for one particular person who you knew and loved. And really quickly that avalanches into mourning for the state of the city, the state, the country.”

Mr. Jones said the Bronx needs more resources to combat heroin deaths, and blamed racial politics for insufficient resources. He said policies from the War on Drugs have also made community members distrustful of the police. Speaking softly and slowly, he disclosed that he sold drugs during the 1980s to support his crack habit, eventually serving more than two years in prison.

Now, decades later, as he devotes himself to helping drug users who need help, Mr. Jones sees a continued double standard for Bronx residents, who are stripped of compassion and dignity amid an epidemic that has engendered sympathy and panic in other communities.

From his vantage point, the attitude toward the opioid deaths today is still influenced by racialized attitudes about the crack and heroin epidemics before.

“It’s just color. It’s like we’re part of a third-world country because we’re not part of the so-called privileged people,” Mr. Jones said. “I could be wrong, but I’m saying that it’s because of our color. It’s a big issue.”



A prescription drug described as the “new valium” is to be classified as a class C controlled substance after it was linked to a growing number of UK deaths.

Pregabalin – a substance used to treat nerve pain, epilepsy and anxiety – is increasingly being handed out too readily and being used recreationally, according to doctors and pharmacists. They say that when it is mixed with other substances it can lead to overdose. Deaths connected to pregabalin have risen from four in 2012 to 111 last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Data provided by NHS Digital shows that prescriptions for pregabalin have shot up more than 11-fold in the last decade, from 476,102 in 2006 to 5,547,560 last year. The government has now accepted in principle that pregabalin should be reclassified as a class C controlled substance, which would mean patients could not obtain a repeat prescription.

“Doctors need to be cautious about who they are giving it to and be aware of the potential of the drug to be misused and the fact it could be addictive because there is not much information at the moment. The drug was approved for medical use in 2004 and we need more robust evidence,” Abbasi said.Yasir Abbasi, a consultant psychiatrist and clinical director for addiction services at Mersey Care NHS foundation trust, said the rising prescription numbers were worrying as, if used inappropriately, pregabalin could be hazardous.

Addaction, the largest drug and alcohol charity, is calling for GPs to be given guidance about how to prescribe pregabalin, particularly to people with substance misuse history. The charity noted that deaths linked to the drug had risen more quickly than those linked to new psychoactive substances.

Rachel Britton, Addaction’s lead pharmacist, said: “The deaths linked to it – that will be people taking a cocktail of substances that affect the central nervous system eg heroin, pregabalin and benzodiazepines. It eventually depresses respiration, controlled by the brain, and people who take these cocktails die.”

Those who use pregabalin recreationally call it “Budweiser” because it induces a state similar to drunkenness. It makes users feel relaxed and euphoric in a similar way to tranquilisers. It can also enhance the euphoric effects of other drugs, such as opiates, and is likely to increase the risks when taken in this way.

Abbasi said that those misusing pregabalin included people who took it on top of other drugs but also those who were prescribed it who, without talking to their doctor, then started taking a higher dose.

Testimony from doctors, pharmacists and drug counsellors, who were responding to a Guardian callout, suggests abuse of the drug is widespread. 

One emergency medicine nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, said her department had seen five cases a month since summer 2016, when someone had overdosed. She said: “Most people who are affected are those with other addiction problems, and ‘pregabs’ is taken along with other substances.”

A family doctor working in Scotland, who also asked for anonymity, said: “Pregabalin is overprescribed by GPs and other doctors for all types of pain despite it only being licensed for neuropathic pain and generalised anxiety disorder. Others easily access it off the internet. It is used by drug users in order to enhance the effects of other drugs they are taking … This is only going to increase as the prescription of both continues to increase.”

Another anonymous respondent, who works in a hostel, said: “Pregabalin has been the cause of several residents overdosing after using this with other substances. In this environment we suspect residents who are prescribed Pregabalin for anxiety and pain of dealing it to other residents … Over the last six months paramedics have been called out over half a dozen times due to these incidents and it is only through pure luck no one has died and feels only a matter of time before this happens.”

Pharmacists were originally advised not to accept requests for cheaper, generic versions of the drug, but this changed in July, when Pfizer’s patent expired. There are concerns that this has prompted a further rise in the drug’s misuse.

A statement from Pfizer said: “When prescribed and administered appropriately, pregabalin is an important and effective treatment option for many adults living with chronic neuropathic pain, generalised anxiety disorder and epilepsy.”

Earlier this year the British Medical Association (BMA) called for the drug to be made a controlled substance in the UK in the same class as steroids and valium. Last year the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs wrote a letter to the government making the same recommendation. It would mean the drug could not be repeat-dispensed and prescriptions would only be valid for one month. The letter warned of the risk of addiction for both pregabalin and a similar drug called gabapentin.

The minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, Sarah Newton, said: “Any death related to misuse of drugs is a tragedy and that is why we have published a comprehensive new drugs strategy to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.

“We have accepted the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs advice to control pregabalin and gabapentin as class C drugs in principle, subject to the outcome of a public consultation to assess the impact on the healthcare sector. We will launch the consultation shortly.”

Aug 26th 2017

Sugar has the same effect on the brain as powerful drugs like cocaine, the British Journal of Sports Medicine has said.

Scientists claimed that sugar can be just as addictive as powerful illegal drugs and can cause cravings, binges and withdrawal symptoms.

Cutting out sugar can cause symptoms similar to a drug addict going cold turkey and could even lead to depression and behavioural disorders such as ADHD, according to the medical journal.

It said sugar could act as a gateway to alcohol and other addictive substances, adding that like cocaine and opium, sugar is refined from plants to yield pure crystals which they say “adds to the addictive properties.”

The article was written by cardiovascular research scientist James J DiNicolantonio and cardiologist James H O’Keefe, from the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas.

They wrote: “Consuming sugar produces effects similar to that of cocaine, altering mood, possibly through its ability to induce reward and pleasure.”

The researchers cited experiments on rats which showed sugar was more addictive than opioid drugs and that the same was likely to be true for humans.

But Hisham Ziauddeen, a psychiatrist at Cambridge University, said the rodent studies had been misunderstood.

He told the Guardian: “The rodent studies show that you only get addiction-like behaviours if you restrict the animals to having [sugar] for two hours every day. If you allow them to have it whenever they want it – which is really how we consume it – they don’t show these addiction-like behaviours.

“What this means is that it is the combination of that particular kind of intermittent access and sugar that produces those behaviours. Further you get the same kind of effect if you use saccharin … so it seems to be about sweet taste rather than sugar.”

Aug 13th 2017

People who smoke weed are three times more likely to die from high blood pressure than those who do not, new research suggests.

Scientists in the US analysed data from marijuana users against non-users to determine the risk of death from hypertension (high blood pressure).

They found that compared to non-users, marijuana users had a 3.42-times higher risk of death from hypertension.

The researchers also found that the amount of time a person has spent smoking weed makes a difference, with a 1.04-times greater risk for each year of use.

However, Dr Willie Lawrence, an interventional cardiologist and spokesperson for the American Heart Association, has called the research “flawed”.

Lead author Barbara Yankey, a PhD student at Georgia State University, Atlanta, investigated the subject due to ongoing debate about the legalisation of marijuana in the US.

The study concluded that marijuana users had a three times higher risk of dying from hypertension. There was no link between marijuana use and death from heart disease or cerebrovascular disease.

The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

May 22nd 2017

Citing what he called "the tsunami of death," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele on Wednesday released a rare grand-jury report on the “once in-a-generation” opioid epidemic that calls for mandatory minimum jail terms for heroin dealers.

“There is no place in Montgomery County that is immune to this,” said Steele, referring to the drug problem that has swept the nation. "We can’t arrest our way out of this. ... This is a public health issue."

At a news conference in Norristown, Steele said he was releasing the report, assembled by a 23-member grand jury over 13 months, in an effort to “slow down the tsunami of death that these drugs are creating.”

A grand jury rarely is convened for such an investigation, Steele said.

It heard testimony from addicts and parents of addicts, as well as law enforcement officials, treatment centers, and members of the medical community.

In Montgomery County, 249 drug-related deaths were recorded in 2016, a steep rise from the 177 of 2015.

Of the 249, 108 were found with traces of fentanyl, which often is mixed with heroin and is 60 times stronger. That number is up from 35 in 2015.

In addition to mandatory minimum sentences for those involved in significant heroin transactions, the report listed five other recommendations, including a call for a statewide online system to identify the availability of treatment beds, a recurring problem for addicts seeking rehabilitation.

Montgomery County already has taken steps to deal with the increase in overdoses.

Every police department in the county is equipped with naloxone, a prescription antidote for an opioid overdose, or is training officers on how to use it. In the last 20 months, naloxone has been used in 134 rescues in the county, officials said.

months, naloxone has been used in 134 rescues in the county, officials said.

Marissa Wadsworth of Norristown, who had testified before the grand jury, spoke at the news conference about her son. He was introduced to prescription drugs at a high school party during his senior year, and three years later died of a heroin overdose.

“It’s a living hell. ... I think of all the things I could have differently,” Wadsworth said.

John Becker was a detective sergeant with the Hatboro Police Department before his addiction to opioids cost him his career. He spent 15 days in jail in connection with drug-related weapons counts.

“We judge the behavior, and not what's causing it,” Becker said.

The report concluded that to overcome the crisis, strategies must “cross political lines."

“We have no other choice. We have to act. And we have to act now.”​


May 13th 2017

Spice use

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “I think the fact that it was criminalised is the cause of the problem we’ve got now.

“When it was sold in ‘head’ shops, we never heard about it because it was weaker, it was safer.”

Spice is hugely popular with the homeless community, many of whom have swapped to it from the much more expensive heroin and crack cocaine.

Experts fear the drug’s long-term effects could be even worse than heroin.

In recent weeks the Daily Star has published shocking images of zombified Spice users out of their heads in town centres across the north.

It is now a common sight in cities and towns including Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool, Wigan and Wrexham.

April 15th 2017

The unexplained deaths of four people in less than 24 hours may be related to heroin, police believe.

Three of the deaths were reported on Friday morning and a fourth was reported on Friday evening, all in South Yorkshire.

Two men, 33 and 40, were found dead at two different addresses in Barnsley and a 47-year-old woman was found at a house in Grimethorpe.

On Friday evening, a 31-year-old man was found dead in Barnsley.

Police said: "An early line of inquiry is to establish if the deaths are linked to heroin use, although the results of post-mortem examinations and toxicology tests are awaited."

While officers are not formally linking the deaths, they have warned users of heroin or its derivatives to be cautious.

Temporary Chief Inspector Ian Proffitt said the force was "very concerned" by the deaths.

"For four deaths to occur in similar circumstances in a small time period and in a relatively small geographical area is unusual.

"We are currently exploring to establish if they are linked to the strength or content of heroin being used locally.

"The public should exercise caution if they come into contact with controlled drugs, particularly heroin, or heroin derivatives.

"If you experience any unusual symptoms after taking drugs, seek medical attention immediately."

Two men, 37 and 42, have been arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs but they have been released pending further inquiries.

Anyone with information about the deaths or the illegal supply of drugs can contact South Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting incident number 164 of 14 April or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Anyone concerned about their heroin use should seek advice from a medical professional or contact the NHS to get help with their addiction.

April 9th 2017

Police have warned people against taking a synthetic form of cannabis known as 'Black Mamba' after a man's body was found near Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre.

The homeless man was found on Sunday morning just a few hundred metres from the entrance to the building.

Two other people in Birmingham are also ill after taking the drug, which replicates the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis.

West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Thomas Hadley said: "It is extremely concerning that users of this substance are putting their lives at risk, even more so because we believe there is a potentially lethal batch of the substance currently being distributed in Birmingham.

"Those involved in the production and supply of these drugs will continue to face robust action to disrupt their activity as we seek to shut down the manufacture and supply chains across the region."

The death came as Greater Manchester Police said they received 31 calls on Saturday about the use of Spice - a generic name for synthetic cannabinoids like 'Black Mamba'.

Fourteen of the calls over the 24 hours were about people who had collapsed.

The drug has been said to leave people like "zombies" as it can cause hallucinations, psychosis, muscle weakness and paranoia.

The Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into effect in 2016, made it illegal to produce, supply or import such substances - but it is not illegal to possess them.

Synthetic cannabinoids react more strongly with the brain's cannabinoid receptors and so can be more potent than natural cannabis, making it easier to use too much and experience unpleasant and harmful effects.

I repeat this with no excuses, March 31 2017

I am going to venture into the minefield of giving advice on recreational drugs.

The best advice I can give you is a well-known saying,     Just say no.

And that is fine when you're able to make your own decision but let us consider the situation where you are at a party or a dance you have been offered ecstasy and very sensibly refused.

You have to be very careful what you were drinking it is very easy for someone to slip some drugs into your glass when you were distracted.

If you are drinking a soft drink from a can make sure you open the can and that you hold that can until it is empty.

If you are drinking from a bottle do not put the bottle down, hold on to it with the cap replaced.

It all sounds a little tedious but it is the only way to protect yourself from the date rape drug which has been the undoing of so many party goers.

You can only do this if you limit your consumption of alcohol and keep control of your senses.

Excessive drinking is covered on another page.

I know little or nothing about street drugs but there are many places on the Internet where you can get plenty of good advice, and if you are taking or thinking about taking Street drugs you need some counseling straight away, altering the way your brain works has got to be one of the worst things you could possibly do.

I want to put you off so

read on

I could write a whole book on the subject but there is plenty of information on the Internet that is readily available, it is necessary however to inform you of a relatively new and deadly menace, it's an alternative to injecting heroin and it is estimated that there are already 10,000 addicts in Russia.

The street name of this drug is Krocodil it is more addictive than heroin and it is a killer, users find that after using for a short while they suffer rotting and disintegration of their flesh all over their bodies, as you can imagine they do not live long when suffering this effect.

You can google it and see something horrific pictures.

The first confirmed case of Krokodil in the United States was observed a year ago, according to a new report.

In September, at least two possible cases of the drug were reported by Banner Good Samaritan Poison Control Center in Phoenix.

Other potential cases have appeared in Illinois, Ohio and Oklahoma, though, as Daily beast notes confirmed cases are much harder to come by.

Physicians who spoke with the online news outlet said the more likely culprit for the flesh rotting symptoms are dirty needles that infect heroin users with HIV, Hepatitis and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This can lead to "gangrenous skin, deep abscesses, and loss of limbs."

But, asRaw story, reported this week two doctors from Missouri told the American Journal of Medicine that they treated a patient last year "whose skin was rotted away from using krokodil." That report marks the first official case of the drug making its way to America,

“We saw that his finger fell off and we saw a severe looking ulcer and sores on his thigh and it did really fit the picture of krokodil,” Doctor Dany Thekkemuriyil said. “Our case is the first case that’s been published in a recognized medical journal  ...

March 30th 2017

Drug addiction is a terrible thing; not only causing a person's health to deteriorate significantly but also often causing them to make regrettable decisions in order to fund their next fix. But when someone finally manages to conquer their addiction, it can be the most incredible thing.

And that's the experience former America's Next Top Model star Jael Strauss has had. After appearing on series 8 of the popular show hosted by Tyra Banks in 2007, Jael fell into a nightmarish cycle of drug taking that led her to become addicted to meth and eventually to become homeless.

Jael's addiction to methamphetamine got so bad that in 2012, 5 years after she became a finalist in ANTM, her family turned to American show host Dr. Phil in a last-ditch attempt to help her.


At the time, Jael was living on the streets of her hometown, and her brother Brandon and mother Debbie had to go out looking for her to convince her to travel to LA to meet with Dr. Phil. The former model eventually agreed, but she then refused to take part in the show and was seen running away from the television show set.

During the 2007 series of America's Next Top Model that Jael starred in, viewers witnessed her learning that her friend had died of an overdose. Despite the emotional trauma, Jael decided to persevere with the competition, dedicating that week's photo to her late friend, and she continued alongside the season's eventual winner, Jaslene Gonzalez.

Regardless of what had happened to her friend, however, Jael was still unable to stay away from drugs, and ended up with an addiction of her own which took a toll on the striking looks she'd previously been scouted for on MySpace ahead of her appearance on ANTM. On the Dr Phil Show, Jael's skin had been visibly damaged as a result of her meth addiction, and according to the Daily Mail her teeth also began to rot.

But all that is history now, as Jael's Instagram account reveals she is happy, healthy, and most importantly drug free. Speaking to Too Fab about having come through the other side of her ordeal, the now-32-year-old is living a happy life in Austin, Texas alongside her girlfriend, and is apparently working for a rehab centre.


March 10th 2017

Professor Green is raising awareness of the synthetic drug 'Spice' after saying he witnessed the horrifying effects first hand while filming a new documentary.

Last week frightening footage revealed how the 'fake weed' was turning homeless people in Manchester into 'the walking dead'.

The rapper was joined on Good Morning Britain by Dr Hilary Jones as they discussed the effects of the illegal drug that has been leaving users 'frozen' like statues.

Speaking to hosts Ben Shephard and Susanna Reid, Pro Green said: "Its called synthetic cannabis, its nothing like cannabis.

After a clip from the documentary aired, Pro Green said: "What that lady just said, I actually met her in the documentary and what she said about it being harder to come off 'Spice' than it is off heroin - that's exactly what we were told by the people using it.

"And it's a really weird drug, not that it does something different to different people, I saw it do something different to the same person, it's so unpredictable."

The musician, who made the Hidden and Homeless documentary for BBC Three last year, spent his days with 'Spice' users on the streets of Britain.

"You don’t know what you're buying.

"It doesn’t seem to have done any good by making it illegal, it just seems to have just pushed it underground.

"In saying that though, shops that we knew that were selling it when we were doing the documentary, you couldn't go into a shop and pay by card. You had to give them cash and the money went in a separate box."

Dr Hilary explained that the drug is made in a lab and is based on cannabis but can be much more powerful as you don't know what you are going is inside.

'Spice' is rife in prisons and among the homeless community, with a packet costing around £2, while the effects include paranoia, suicidal thoughts, seizures and strokes.

Pro Green added: "If you imagine being homeless you would take anything to escape that reality

"I think a lot of people have a misconception that you end up homeless because of drugs, when in fact a lot of people end up on drugs because they are homeless.

Dec 12th 2016

A teenager found dead in a city centre hotel room after taking ecstasy had been to the popular Warehouse Project that same night.

The 19-year-old, named locally as Lauren Atkinson, was discovered at The City Warehouse ApartHotel in Great Ancoats Street at around 6am on Saturday morning.

Police say she had taken the drug, known as MDMA, but it is not known where she got it from.

It is believed Lauren, from Ulverston, Cumbria, had travelled to the city with friends for the weekend.

She had come to Manchester to attend Warehouse Project’s Heldeep event on Friday night at the Warehouse Project's Store Street venue, near Piccadilly station.

She had posted on her Facebook page on Thursday: “So excited roll on tomorrow” alongside a setlist for the night.

Club bosses say they have been made aware of the death, and reiterated their message for revellers to act responsibly, especially leading up to Christmas.

A spokesman for The Warehouse Project said: “We have been made aware that sadly a 19 year old girl from Cumbria passed away at around 6am in the early hours of Saturday morning at an after party.

“We would like to continue strengthening our message, especially in the lead up to Christmas for party goers in Manchester and all over the country to act responsibly and look after each other.”

Lauren has been described by friends as a ‘lovely, bubbly girl’ who was a ‘treasured daughter, sister and amazing friend’.

Tributes have poured in on social media, and an appeal to raise money for her funeral has hit £9,000 in less than 24 hours.

Lauren Millington wrote: “R.I.P Lauren Atkinson x you are such a bright and bubbly person and will missed by every person who had the pleasure of meeting you.”

Police confirmed four people – all from Cumbria – have been arrested in connection with the death.

Two men, aged 24 and 26, have been arrested for possession with intent to supply class A drugs. And two women, aged 24 and 26 were arrested on suspicion of drug possession.

Supt Stephen Howard from GMP said: “This is a tragic situation. The death of a young person is always devastating, but in these circumstances, it is all the more heart breaking.

"My thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.”

Anyone with information is asked call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Dec 2nd 2016

A single dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, can lift the anxiety and depression experienced by people with advanced cancer for six months or even longer, two new studies show.

Researchers involved in the two trials in the United States say the results are remarkable. The volunteers had “profoundly meaningful and spiritual experiences” which made most of them rethink life and death, ended their despair and brought about lasting improvement in the quality of their lives.

The results of the research are published in the Journal of Psychopharmacologytogether with no less than ten commentaries from leading scientists in the fields of psychiatry and palliative care, who all back further research. While the effects of magic mushrooms have been of interest to psychiatry since the 1950s, the classification of all psychedelics in the US as schedule 1 drugs in the 1970s, in the wake of the Vietnam war and the rise of recreational drug use in the hippy counter-culture, has erected daunting legal and financial obstacles to running trials.

“I think it is a big deal both in terms of the findings and in terms of the history and what it represents. It was part of psychiatry and vanished and now it’s been brought back,” said Dr Stephen Ross, director of addiction psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center and lead investigator of the study that was based there.

Around 40-50% of newly diagnosed cancer patients suffer some sort of depression or anxiety. Antidepressants have little effect, particularly on the “existential” depression that can lead some to feel their lives are meaningless and contemplate suicide.

The main findings of the NYU study, which involved 29 patients, and the larger one from Johns Hopkins University with 51 patients, that a single dose of the medication can lead to immediate reduction in the depression and anxiety caused by cancer and that the effect can last up to eight months, “is unprecedented,” said Ross. “We don’t have anything like it.”

The results of the studies were very similar, with around 80% of the patients attributing moderately or greatly improved wellbeing or life satisfaction to a single high dose of the drug, given with psychotherapy support.

Professor Roland Griffiths, of the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience who led the study at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, said he did not expect the findings, which he described as remarkable. “I am bred as a sceptic. I was sceptical at the outset that this drug could produce long-lasting changes,” he said. These were people “facing the deepest existential questions that humans can encounter - what is the nature of life and death, the meaning of life.”

But the results were similar to those they had found in earlier studies in healthy volunteers. “In spite of their unique vulnerability and the mood disruption that the illness and contemplation of their death has prompted, these participants have the same kind of experiences, that are deeply meaningful, spiritually significant and producing enduring positive changes in life and mood and behaviour,” he said.

Patients describe the experiences as “re-organisational”, said Griffiths. Some in the field had used the term “mystical”, which he thought was unfortunate. “It sounds unscientific. It sounds like we’re postulating mechanisms other than neuroscience and I’m certainly not making that claim.”

Ross said psilocybin activates a sub-type of serotonin receptor in the brain. “Our brains are hard-wired to have these kinds of experiences - these alterations of consciousness. We have endogenous chemicals in our brain. We have a little system that, when you tickle it, it produces these altered states that have been described as spiritual states, mystical states in different religious branches.

“They are defined by a sense of oneness – people feel that their separation between the personal ego and the outside world is sort of dissolved and they feel that they are part of some continuous energy or consciousness in the universe. Patients can feel sort of transported to a different dimension of reality, sort of like a waking dream.”

Some patients describe seeing images from their childhood and very commonly, scenes or images from a confrontation with cancer, he said. The doctors warn patients that it may happen and not to be scared, but to embrace it and pass through it, he said.

The commentators writing in the journal include two past presidents of the American Psychiatric Association, the past president of the European 

College of Neuropsychopharmacology, a previous deputy director of the Office of USA National Drug Control Policy and a previous head of the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority.

The journal editor, Professor David Nutt, was himself involved in a small trial of psilocybin in a dozen people with severe depression in the UK in May. The ten commentators in the journal, he writes in an editorial, “all essentially say the same thing: it’s time to take psychedelic treatments in psychiatry and oncology seriously, as we did in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Much more research needs to be done, he writes. “But the key point is that all agree we are now in an exciting new phase of psychedelic psychopharmacology that needs to be encouraged not impeded.”

The studies were funded by the Heffter Research Institute in the USA. “These findings, the most profound to date in the medical use of psilocybin, indicate it could be more effective at treating serious psychiatric diseases than traditional pharmaceutical approaches, and without having to take a medication every day,” said its medical director George Greer.

Sept 13th 2016

An alliance of medical experts, MPs and peers are to call for cannabis to be legalised for medical use.

Campaigners say it is ‘irrational’ the drug is still banned when evidence shows it helps sufferers of arthritis and chronic pain.

A survey by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform found 90% of patients who use cannabis reported some improvement in their condition, while 86% said it provided ‘great relief’.

The group noted that access to medical cannabis is legal in 25 US states and in Canada, Australia, Israel, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, Malta, Czech Republic, Jamaica and Croatia.

But in the UK it remains a Schedule 1 substance and is classified as having medical value.

If enacted such a plan could open the door to cannabis eventually being used on the NHS - but the Home Office has shot down the group's report.

The group commissioned neurologist Professor Mike Barnes (pictured above) to review evidence from the around the world.

His report concludes there is good evidence that medical cannabis helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain, spasticity - often associated with multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting, particularly in the context of chemotherapy - and in the management of anxiety.

Prof Barnes said: “We analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports.

“The results are clear. Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions.

“I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions.

“But this research is being stifled by the Government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit.”

A Populus survey for the End Our Pain campaign, which is fighting for a change in the law, found public support for reform.

Some 68% supported allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis where they considered it would help their patients, with 11% opposed, 17% neither opposing nor supporting and 4% saying they did not know.

Labour MP Frank Field (pictured above) said: “Britain is lagging behind much of the developed world by failing to grant very sick patients legal access to cannabis to help ease their chronic pain or other severe symptoms.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in our country are forced to decide between putting up with unbearable pain, spasticity or chronic nausea or alternatively, breaking the law.

“Compassion demands that we grant those people legal access to prescribed cannabis if their doctor feels it will make life more bearable.”

Crossbench peers Baroness Molly Meacher, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group said: “The findings of our inquiry and review of evidence from across the world are clear.

“Cannabis works as a medicine for a number of medical conditions. “The evidence has been strong enough to persuade a growing number of countries and US states to legalise access to medical cannabis.

“Against this background, the UK scheduling of cannabis as a substance that has no medical value is irrational.”

Campaign director of End Our Pain, Peter Carroll, said: “We estimate that over 1 million people in the UK take cannabis for medical reasons.

“All these people are at risk of police and court action. The poll shows that the British public understand that these people are patients, not criminals.

We urge the government to respond positively to the results of this poll, to today’s Parliamentary report, and the review of global evidence published alongside it.

But a Home Office spokesperson said: "This Government has no plans to legalise cannabis. There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people's mental and physical health.

 "It is important that medicines are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards before being placed on the market. There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products regulatory Agency to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, to be developed.”

May 26th

Legal Highs not legal any more in UK

Do not fall foul of the law you will not like it.

I am going to venture into the minefield of giving advice on recreational drugs.

The best advice I can give you is a well-known saying,     Just say no.

And that is fine when you're able to make your own decision but let us consider the situation where you are at a party or a dance you have been offered ecstasy and very sensibly refused.

You have to be very careful what you were drinking it is very easy for someone to slip some drugs into your glass when you were distracted.

If you are drinking a soft drink from a can make sure you open the can and that you hold that can until it is empty.

If you are drinking from a bottle do not put the bottle down, hold on to it with the cap replaced.

It all sounds a little tedious but it is the only way to protect yourself from the date rape drug which has been the undoing of so many party goers.

You can only do this if you limit your consumption of alcohol and keep control of your senses.

Excessive drinking is covered on another page.

I know little or nothing about street drugs but there are many places on the Internet where you can get plenty of good advice, and if you are taking or thinking about taking Street drugs you need some counseling straight away, altering the way your brain works has got to be one of the worst things you could possibly do.

I want to put you off so

read on

I could write a whole book on the subject but there is plenty of information on the Internet that is readily available, it is necessary however to inform you of a relatively new and deadly menace, it's an alternative to injecting heroin and it is estimated that there are already 10,000 addicts in Russia.

The street name of this drug is Krocodil it is more addictive than heroin and it is a killer, users find that after using for a short while they suffer rotting and disintegration of their flesh all over their bodies, as you can imagine they do not live long when suffering this effect.

You can google it and see something horrific pictures.

The first confirmed case of Krokodil in the United States was observed a year ago, according to a new report.

In September, at least two possible cases of the drug were reported by Banner Good Samaritan Poison Control Center in Phoenix.

Other potential cases have appeared in Illinois, Ohio and Oklahoma, though, as the Daily Beast notes, confirmed cases are much harder to come by.

Physicians who spoke with the online news outlet said the more likely culprit for the flesh rotting symptoms are dirty needles that infect heroin users with HIV, Hepatitis and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This can lead to "gangrenous skin, deep abscesses, and loss of limbs."

But, as Raw Story reported this week, two doctors from Missouri told the American Journal of Medicine that they treated a patient last year "whose skin was rotted away from using krokodil." That report marks the first official case of the drug making its way to America, according to KTVI.

“We saw that his finger fell off and we saw a severe looking ulcer and sores on his thigh and it did really fit the picture of krokodil,” Doctor Dany Thekkemuriyil said. “Our case is the first case that’s been published in a recognized medical journal  ...

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