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'Bath Salts': Evil Lurking at Your Corner Store

From TIME:

I checked my disguise in the mirror: a ski hat and sunglasses did a good job of concealing my identity, even if I did look absurd. Normally I would have shared a laugh with my staff about this, but what we were doing that day was hardly funny. A few blocks away, at a tobacco shop, I spent $80 to buy several packages of drugs that when snorted have a similar effect as ecstasy but are much more toxic. There was no back-alley drug dealer; there were no lowered voices or code words — just a small-business owner making a sale. I am telling you today, first as a father and then as a doctor, that the ease of that transaction chilled me. Kids everywhere are in danger from this substance, and the threat is legal, cheap and very deadly.

Bath salts (also nicknamed plant food) is slang for a group of products that contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) or mephedrone — stimulant hallucinogens that prevent the reuptake of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Keeping your brain drenched in these feel-good chemicals can lead to euphoria — but also to seizures, tachycardia, paranoia, hallucinations, violence and death. A precursor to MDPV was developed in the 1960s as an antifatigue medication, but it was too dangerous for widespread use. That didn't stop the formula from leaking — or kitchen chemists from figuring it out themselves. Today packages are sold under such names as Kush Blitz, Lovey Dovey, White Lightning and Euphoria. They are usually marked with the warning NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION, a labeling trick that's meant to sidestep government regulation.

In 2010 there were 302 calls to poison-control centers nationwide about bath salts. In just the first three months of 2011, there were 784. There were also roughly 1,500 bath-salt-related visits to emergency rooms in the first quarter of this year. A common cause of death from the drug is suicide; kids who survive often endure long-term psychiatric symptoms.

Posted: 5/31/2011 9:39:00 AM

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When Children’s Scribbles Hide a Prison Drug

From The New York Times:

Mike Barrett, a corrections officer, ripped open an envelope in the mail room at the Maine Correctional Center here and eyed something suspicious: a Father’s Day card, sent a month early. He carefully felt the card and slit it open, looking for a substance that has made mail call here a different experience of late.

Mr. Barrett and other prison officials nationwide are searching their facilities, mail and visitors for Suboxone, a drug used as a treatment for opiate addiction that has become coveted as contraband. Innovative smugglers have turned crushed Suboxone pills into a paste and spread it under stamps or over children’s artwork, including pages from a princess coloring book found in a New Jersey jail.

The drug also comes in thin strips, which dissolve under the tongue, that smugglers have tucked behind envelope seams and stamps.

Law enforcement officials say that Suboxone, which is prescribed to treat addiction to heroin and powerful painkillers like oxycodone, has become a drug of abuse in its own right, resulting in prison smuggling efforts from New Mexico to Maine. Addicts buy it on the street when they cannot find or afford their drug of choice, to stave off the sickness that comes with withdrawal. But some people are also taking it for the high they say it provides.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Suboxone in 2002 as the first narcotic that doctors could prescribe for addiction to opiates. Seen as a more convenient alternative to methadone, which can be dispensed only at federally licensed clinics, it blocks the effects of opiates while reducing cravings and easing withdrawal symptoms.

A spokeswoman for Reckitt Benckiser, the drug’s manufacturer, said in an e-mail that the company was “aware that a certain level of Suboxone diversion and abuse exists,” and that it had taken steps to counter it.

To deter abuse, Suboxone contains naloxone, a substance that precipitates withdrawal symptoms when the drug is injected. Suboxone also has a ceiling effect, with the effect leveling off after a certain dosage.

But users can experience euphoria, especially if they do not take it regularly, and Suboxone, whose main ingredient is buprenorphine, is increasingly sold on the street in New England and other regions where it is commonly prescribed.

Posted: 5/27/2011 9:09:00 AM

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Public Hearing, to Make Permanent the Ban on Designer Drugs Labeled as “Bath Salts”

From the Atlantic Highlands Herald:

Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, announced that a public hearing will be held Monday, July 11, a necessary step to make permanent New Jersey’s ban on designer drugs labeled as “bath salts.”

New Jersey is believed to be the third state in the nation to take expedited administrative action banning all six chemicals used in designer drugs labeled as “bath salts.” New Jersey’s ban took effect with an Order of the Acting Director, signed by Calcagni on Wednesday, April 27. The order classifies the six chemicals as Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances under New Jersey’s CDS Act, thereby subjecting them to the strictest level of state control. Manufacture, distribution, sale, or possession is now a third-degree crime, subject to fines of up to $25,000 and three- to five-years imprisonment.

The Order of the Acting Director lists the following chemicals as Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances in New Jersey:

3,4 – Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)
4 – Methylmethcathinone (Mephedrone, 4-MMC)
3,4 – Methylenedioxymethcathinone (Methylone, MDMC)
4 – Fluoromethcathinone (Flephedrone, 4-FMC)
3 – Fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC)
4 – Methoxymethcathinone (Methedrone, bk-PMMA, PMMC)

The contents of individual packets of designer drugs labeled as “bath salts” vary, but have been found to include at least one of these chemicals. The chemicals are synthetic derivatives of cathinone, which is a Schedule I CDS under Federal law.

Posted: 5/19/2011 11:08:00 AM

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Hope for chronic pain sufferers as new drug becomes available

From The Telegraph (UK):

Many people on opiate-based drugs for chronic pain suffer unpleasant side effects from them including constipation and vomiting.

A new drug called Palexia becomes available for doctors to prescribe today, which trials show could be tolerated by many more.

Pain management experts hope it will mean more patients sticking with their medication and getting the relief they need.

Palexia, the brand name of the drug tapentadol, works in two ways. First, it works as a traditional opioid, stopping pain signals getting through nerve junctions in the spinal cord called synapses, and reducing the perception of pain in the brain itself.

Secondly, it works to stop pain messages being transmitted by reducing levels of a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline.

It is the first such painkiller on the British market to work in both these ways.

Posted: 5/17/2011 8:32:00 AM

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Nassau Warns of New High for Teens


A prescription pain killer called Opana, which doctors say is twice as potent as OxyContin, is rapidly becoming popular among young people to get high, according to Nassau County authorities. Young people who are no longer crushing OxyContin are looking for a new drug to get high.

Blue Heaven, the O Bomb, Oranges, and Stop Signs are just a few street names for Opana, which costs about a dollar per milligram.

"It really hasn't made its presence known in the police world like OxyContin has, it's still in its early stages," Mary Ann Thompson of the Nassau Police said. "There were four arrests last year but we do expect an increase in that Opana is a dangerous narcotic… highly susceptible to abuse."

In fact 14 people have overdosed on the drug in Tennessee and Kentucky in just the past three months.

Posted: 5/10/2011 9:40:00 AM

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Afinitor Approved for Rare Pancreatic Cancer

From HealthDay News:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of Afinitor (everolimus) has been expanded to include people with progressive neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas (PNET) that have spread to other parts of the body or cannot be removed by surgery, the agency said Friday.

PNET is slow-growing and rare, affecting fewer than 1,000 new patients in the United States each year, the FDA said in a news release.

Afinitor was previously FDA-approved for advanced kidney cancer and certain brain tumors that cannot be treated surgically.

Posted: 5/6/2011 12:41:00 PM

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