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A legal drug even a head shop owner won't sell because "It's too hard-core."


A Northeast Pennsylvania couple almost slash their 5-year-old daughter with knives as they attack "voices in the walls." A man caught burglarizing an upstate house tells police he was "chased by electricity." And two men die of exposure in Allegheny National Forest.

Those episodes - all in the last two weeks - are being attributed by authorities to a new and potentially lethal designer drug known as "bath salts."

And it's legal.

Use of the powerful party drug, first popularized in European clubs, has swept across the nation, alarming police, physicians, and parents and galvanizing legislators in Pennsylvania and other states to take action.

The drug methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a stimulant that can produce hallucinations, is marketed in small packets under names such as "Vanilla Sky" and "Ivory Wave." Multicolored wrappers promise "euphoria" and "invigoration."

But you don't soak in these bath salts. Users ingest, inject, snort, or smoke the product sold in powder or rock form that resemble the sodium-based crystals used for centuries to soothe aching muscles in the tub.

The "salts" can deliver a paranoia-filled, violent high that has landed some users - typically teenagers and young adults - in emergency rooms and sent loved ones scrambling to call poison hotlines.

Posted: 3/28/2011 11:21:00 AM

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Chemicals Linked to Early Menopause

From WebMD:

Women exposed to high levels of chemicals called perfluorocarbons (PFCs) may enter menopause earlier, new research suggests.

PFCs are man-made chemicals found in many household products such as food containers and stain-resistant clothing as well as in water, soil, and plants.

''Before this study, there was strong evidence from animal research that PFCs were endocrine disruptors," says researcher Sarah Knox, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown.

For the study, she evaluated the levels of two PFCs, called PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoate) in nearly 26,000 women, ages 18 to 65.

Overall, she found, ''the higher the perfluorocarbons, the earlier the menopause." Women between ages 42 and 64 with the highest blood levels of the PFCs were more likely to have experienced menopause than those with the lowest levels.

One of the chemicals, PFOS, affected levels of the hormone estradiol, a form of estrogen. "The higher the levels of PFOS, the lower the levels of estradiol," she says. As estradiol declines, menopause approaches.

The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Posted: 3/28/2011 11:17:00 AM

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Teen ER Visits Due to Ecstasy Are on the Rise

From WebMD:

Ecstasy use is rising among teens and young adults, causing a significant increase in emergency room visits by users of the street drug, a new federal study shows.

Hospital emergency department visits involving ecstasy increased from 10,222 in 2004 to 17,865 in 2008, a 74.8% increase.

Most of these emergency room visits (69.3%) involved patients between 18 and 29; 17.9% of those seeking help in ERs were between 12 and 17, according to the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Posted: 3/25/2011 8:48:00 AM

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Riddled With Metal by Mistake in a Study

From The New York Times:

Women participating in a study of patients with breast cancer have been inadvertently left with hundreds of tiny particles of the heavy metal tungsten in their breast tissue and chest muscles. The particles came from a device used during surgery. The device has since been recalled.

It is not known if the metal is dangerous to health because relatively little research has been done on its long-term effects in the body. But it shows up on mammograms, and may make them difficult to read, an especially troubling effect for women who have already had breast cancer and worry about recurrences. (The particles resemble calcium deposits, which can indicate cancer.)

About 30 women have been affected, according to the manufacturer of the device that caused the problem, the Axxent FlexiShield Mini. The women are in a quandary. At least one, fearing that the tungsten could cause cancer or another illness, is trying to decide whether to get rid of the particles by having her breast and its underlying tissue removed in a radical and disfiguring operation.

Twenty-seven of the cases occurred at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif. Eleven of those women have had mammograms, and all 11 showed tungsten. Hospital officials declined interviews, but issued a statement acknowledging that the problem had occurred.

Two other women were treated in a study at Karmanos-Crittenton Cancer Center in Rochester Hills, Mich. A hospital spokeswoman said that both patients had been informed of the recall and the potential problem but had not returned to the hospital.

Posted: 3/21/2011 12:46:00 PM

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New 'Legal' Drug Causes Hospitalization; Death

From Northland's News Center:

One person is dead and 10 more are hospitalized, including two in critical condition after a mass overdose, according to police.

Blaine Police responded to a residence on the 9500 block of Monroe Street NE, just after midnight on Thursday for a medical situation involving an alleged overdose of synthetic drugs. Police say the substance ingested was legal.

Authorities say several teens and young adults ingested what is thought to be the designer drug known as “2 C-E,” which is a reported hallucinogenic. There is a controlled hallucinogen called “2 C-B” and chemists reportedly alter it slightly to make it “2 C-E,” which also makes it legal.

The teens allegedly took the substance at a spring break party at the home of one of the boys, who is now hospitalized.

Posted: 3/18/2011 8:56:00 AM

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Minn. head shop owner says fake pot ban won't work

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

The owner of a Duluth head shop says a new federal ban on the sale of five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana won't make much difference -- he'll just stock brands that use other, still-legal substances.

Synthetic marijuana has been sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet under various brands including Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn. The Drug Enforcement Agency's ban affects only five chemicals used in the products.

Carlson said that with about 210 similar chemicals available, the manufacturers will try to keep one step ahead of the government

"Unfortunately he is correct," said Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington, who confirmed Tuesday that many suppliers are offering retailers products with new chemicals. "There are many of these substances and we chose five common ones because we don't have the resources to study all of them."

Posted: 3/17/2011 9:37:00 AM

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Lazy Cakes Leave You, Well, Lazy

From NPR:

Convenience stores are filled with energy-boosting products; it seems some companies would be happy if we never slept a wink.

But now there's a movement in the opposite direction: products with names such as Simmer, Unwind and Lazy Cakes. That last one, Lazy Cakes, is a particularly hot seller.

It's a reasonable suspicion for customers to be a little wary of the fudgy brownies with the psychedelic purple package for sale next to the cigarette lighters at gas stations. The label says Lazy Cakes are "The Original Relaxation Brownie." Even at $4 apiece, a clerk at a Charlotte, N.C., gas station says she sells about 36 a week.

They're packed with melatonin, which occurs naturally in the body and is a common sleep aid.

Rumors are rampant they contain the same synthetic marijuana compounds found in herbal incense products like Spice or K2.

Read the fine print and you'll also see Lazy Cakes are for adults only and should not be mixed with alcohol or eaten before driving. It's the usual FDA-required label you find on dietary supplements, and that makes them legal.

In large quantities, melatonin can lead the central nervous system to slow down and cause trouble breathing. More commonly, people just get really sleepy and maybe nauseated.

Children are at greater risk. There's been at least one report of a toddler in Tennessee eating a Lazy Cake and ending up in the hospital. National poison center data show melatonin prompts more calls than any other herb or supplement.

Posted: 3/14/2011 3:30:00 PM

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New Birth Defect Warning for Topamax

From WebMD:

Taking the epilepsy drug topiramate (Topamax) during pregnancy raises the risk of oral cleft birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate, according to a new warning issued by the FDA.

New drug registry data show that the risk of oral birth defects is up to 16 times higher among women who took topiramate or its generic equivalents during pregnancy.

Topiramate is approved by the FDA for treating seizures associated with epilepsy and to prevent migraines. But it is also sometimes used on an off-label basis to treat other conditions, such as obesity, bipolar disorder, and alcoholism.

Posted: 3/7/2011 8:56:00 AM

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FDA Warns GERD Drugs May Deplete Magnesium

From MedPage Today:

Use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) regularly for a year or longer may lead to low levels of circulating magnesium, which may increase the risk of leg spasms, arrhythmias, and seizures, according to an FDA warning.

The latest alert from the FDA says physicians "should consider obtaining serum magnesium levels prior to initiation of prescription PPI treatment in patients expected to be on these drugs for long periods of time."

Posted: 3/3/2011 10:06:00 AM

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DEA Bans Sale of K2, Synthetic Marijuana, and Five Chemicals Used to Make it

From ABC News:

The sale of K2, a once-legal but potentially dangerous form of synthetic marijuana, is now banned nationwide.

The ban, proposed in November 2010 amid increasing reports of seizures, hallucinations and dependency linked to the fake pot, was "necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It has now banned K2 and five chemicals used to make it.

K2 was sold openly in head shops and online as incense. It largely avoided regulation in the United States because it was sold in packages that stated it was not for human consumption.

Little is known about the long-term effects of the fake pot, also known as Spice, Demon, Genie, Zohai and a host of other names. But its short-term effects, which include soaring heart rates and paranoia, have landed some of those who smoked it in the hospital.

Posted: 3/1/2011 4:03:00 PM

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