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America's secret sickness exposed

From The New Zealand Herald:

Once it was cocaine, speed or heroin, but now the fashion is for legal pills, washed down by spirits.

The death of actor Heath Ledger from an accidental overdose of prescription tablets shed light on a startling trend - misuse of over-the-counter pills now kills more Americans than illegal drugs.

It is the fastest-growing type of drug abuse in the US. Even more worryingly, prescription drugs have made it on to the party scene as a legal, seemingly safe, way to recreate an illicit high.

Until last month this was a largely silent epidemic. But the death of Heath Ledger, a regular at Marquee and other nightclubs, thrust it into the spotlight. The 28-year-old actor died from "acute intoxication" caused by an accidental overdose of anti-anxiety medication and prescription painkillers.

The most commonly abused prescription medications fall into three categories: opiate-based painkillers; central nervous system depressants prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders; and stimulants, used to treat attention deficit disorders.

"The problem has been greatly worsened by the internet, and that affects all countries," says Susan Foster, of the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, New York.

"As long as you have a credit card, anyone can log on and have potentially lethal drugs delivered to their door. You don't even need a prescription. You have what's called an 'online consultation' where you are asked how old you are, how bad your pain is."

One of the most popular forms of recreation among high-school students is the "pharm party".

Teenagers raid their parents' medicine cabinets, then pool their resources.

"You throw your drugs into a bowl in the middle of the room, then people pick pills out and chase them with alcohol," says Susan Foster.

"We've seen these internet recipe sites where you go online to find out how to mix drugs for a certain effect. You can trade drugs online - in fact, at one college the students reported that they had a prescription drug trade forum on the university website."

Click here for a comprehensive list of drug testing performed at NMS Labs.

Posted: 2/15/2008 11:00:00 PM

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Police Use DNA to Solve Petty Crimes

From WSYR-TV in Syracuse, NY:

For years, police investigators have used DNA evidence to solve violent crimes.  In the last few years Onondaga County police departments have started using it to unravel petty crimes as well.
 
Posted: 2/15/2008 10:14:00 PM

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Overturning Wrongful Convictions

From the Dallas Morning News:

After serving nearly 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Charles Allen Chatman recently became the 30th Texan since 2001 whose conviction was overturned after DNA analysis.

Even one wrongful conviction should be a shocking aberration in our system of justice, which is based on the principle that "it is better that the guilty go free than the innocent be jailed."

Like scientists probing the causes of cancer, we should examine erroneous convictions to determine the probable sources of error and isolate common factors. The results of this inquiry would give state and local governments tools to improve our criminal justice system and extend the benefits DNA testing brings to cases where genetic evidence is unavailable.

NMS Labs Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Rieders, PhD, is a Member of the Pennsylvania Commission's Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions.  The Advisory Committee will study the underlying causes of wrongful convictions and develop recommendations to present to the Senate to reduce the possibility that innocent people will be wrongfully convicted in the future.

Posted: 2/13/2008 10:00:00 PM

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