Health Politics

Are “bath salts” a shot in the gut for drug legalization?

I think it is more an article of faith than a empirical  fact that liberalizing drug laws or legalizing certain drugs would cure a lot of our society’s ills. I say that as a person who very-much supports the idea of drug legalization, at least for pot and a few other limited drugs.

But as I watch the bath salts and fake weed controversies evolve, I wonder whether they don’t offer empirical evidence that our fantasy of legal drug Nirvana may be just that. Out of a list of reasons to legalize weed, two that jump out as the more common ones are that:

  1. Making drugs illegal doesn’t really stop people from doing them, and
  2. Illegal, unregulated drugs are inherently dangerous, because you don’t know what you’re buying

13WHAM’s Evan Dawson has a report up that shows that cracking down on the sale of synthetic, nominally legal intoxicants is having a significant impact in the Rochester area:

13WHAM News combined the number of local calls to poison control about bath salts with the number of emergency room visits related to bath salts. Here are the totals, month-by-month, which show a surge in bath salts, followed by a steep decline after the ban:

March 2012:  23
April 2012:  30
May 2012:  42
June 2012:  81
July 2012:  104
August 2012:  29
September 2012:  19
October 2012:  3

In a bubble, we had what seems to be a pretty significant problem by July, which seems to have been eliminated by October. It is impossible to tell whether this is just a fad that ran its course – perhaps sped by crackdowns – or a legitimate case for illegality as a preventative measure. Certainly, High Times and head shops have always been filled with “alternative” drugs. I can’t say I ever knew anyone who tried them. Certainly, things changed.

But the second argument – that legal drugs will be less harmful – is clearly in doubt as well. In fact, the only reason this story was ever a story is because people were getting hurt. Hurt by things sold over the counter, entirely legally.

American history prior to the passage of the 18th Amendment bares both these truths out: use of legal drugs from alcohol to cocaine and opiates was legion throughout the country. For a Rochester perspective on just how overrun our alcohol culture was in the mid-1800’s, read A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837. There is no credible measure by which our current levels of drug and alcohol abuse compare to those days. And because our 19th century drug and alcohol problem was as much as anything a manufacturing problem, there are numerous examples of less than ethical mixtures, including but not limited to using cocaine and opiates in just about every “curative” you could sell at the drug store.

Perhaps what this says is that “decriminalization” is less desirable than legalization – bringing illegal drugs under the same legal regime as alcohol. Anyway, just food for thought on a Thursday afternoon.


Not for human consumption: the scary truths behind synthetic marijuana

Synthetic marijuana – a recent trend popping up amongst drug users. This drug has grown in popularity thanks to its accessibility and scapegoat qualities. For those looking to get a high similar to marijuana, yet still be able to pass a drug test, synthetic marijuana is where they have turned. But smokers beware, synthetic marijuana is full of harmful chemicals, some of which may be toxic.

Labeled “not for human consumption” and sold as incense, synthetic marijuana, can be purchased at gas stations or adult stores. These so-called “incense” which can be known as ‘K2’, ‘Spice’ or various other street names contain a nasty mix of chemicals that when smoked, are said to produce similar sensations to THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. However, little testing has been done on these chemicals, and not much is known regarding long-term effects or the impact of their toxicity.

Two of the common chemicals that remain in most strains or brands of synthetic marijuana are JWH-018 and CP 47,497. While these chemicals mimic the effects of THC, they are said to be 4-100x stronger and definitely more dangerous. Although extensive research has been done regarding marijuana, an all-natural herbal substance, very little is known about its more dangerous synthetic imitator.

Karen Pelc, a Health Education Coordinator from Rochester Institute of Technology specializing in Substance Abuse explains that these chemicals are all made in a lab and that “no one really knows the effects of this stuff yet.” She does however say that what usage she has experienced has proved to be dangerous to students. “RIT has hospitalized several students that have smoked the stuff – it’s nothing that anyone should be smoking” she warns. Many students have become violently ill, and most commonly she has seen vomiting as a symptom of smoking it.

She was very persistent in explaining how little is known about the effects, and reiterated that something labeled as “not for human consumption” probably shouldn’t be consumed by humans. Especially with what little testing has been done. What scares her is that she sees students “being their own guinea pigs” and leaving the testing to themselves.

Recently in New York, synthetic marijuana has been outlawed, and the other states are following the trend. While no definitive long-term research can prove the specific dangers of JWH-018 and CP 47,497 and other chemicals found in synthetic marijuana, it’s become pretty widely expected that none of it is exactly healthy. Pelc says in her experience most students will try it once or twice, and then not want to again after becoming ill.

Although the long-term effects are unknown, what we do know about synthetic marijuana is that it is not advisable to smoke. Just because something has so little research doesn’t mean the dangers aren’t there. More and more cases of users becoming ill are popping up, and it is likely when more research does come out it will tell us what we already know and what the label even tells us. Synthetic marijuana, it’s not for human consumption.

Rochester Technology

Rural Metro and the RPD to distribute First Check home drug tests. Does this help?

Starting the 19th of this month, Rural Metro ambulance services along with the Rochester Police Department will begin distributing First Check at-home drug tests. They will have five hundred of the units to pass out at any of the Rural Metro offices, all Rochester City School District high schools with Resource Officers, Rochester Neighborhood Service Centers and RPD headquarters.

The First Check drug test allows users to test a urine sample for the presence of 12 different chemicals, including both 5 prescription and 7 illicit drugs. The list of drugs the test claims to test for is available right on their home page. The test does not state that a chemical is definitely in the system of the tested individual, but rather, declares a result to be a “preliminary positive result,” meaning that the kit must then be sent into the First Check labs for additional testing to confirm the results.

We can certainly applaud the efforts of local businesses and law enforcement to try to curb teen drug use. But the fact is that the American Association of Pediatrics has made the case many times, very strongly, that they do not support the use of home drug test on kids – with or without their knowledge:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has strong reservations about testing adolescents at school or at home and believes that more research is needed on both safety and efficacy before school-based testing programs are implemented. The American Academy of Pediatrics also believes that more adolescent-specific substance abuse treatment resources are needed to ensure that testing leads to early rehabilitation rather than to punitive measures only.

Among the objections the AAP has concerning at-home drug testing are the lack of proper training, the potential contamination of samples and false-positive results, the many variables associated with a medical test and the potentially-abusive environment that might be caused when parents use the tests as a weapon.

I spoke with LaShay Harris of Rural Metro, who points out that the packet Rural Metro and the RPD plan to distribute includes literature that includes conversation-starters, FAQs and the list of drugs the test will check for. The tests, she says, are to start a conversation about drug use, not end it.

People interested in learning more about the program can check Rural Metro’s media page here.


Are Cannabinoids Painkillers?

Well, no. They aren’t. But that’s not to say that they’re not responsible for at least some placebo effects, including as one study found, painkilling effects.

The whole thing’s a bit complicated, but here’s the gist: science has long known that cannabinoid receptors – chemicals in the brain whose only seeming purpose is to receive and utilize cannabinoids, basically what gets you high in pot – exist in the body. But in studying why the Placebo Effect works in some cases but not others, scientists have stumbled upon the theory that certain cannabinoid receptors are being utilized when the brain is fooling itself into believing a drug works or doesn’t.

Check it out here:

Body May Use Cannabinoids to Make Placebos Work | Wired Science |


Never Enough

Sure, carrying a loaded rifle in the car brings with it some risks, especially if you get pulled over. But how would anyone know you have the rifle in your car? No, for the real thrill seeker, it’s better to have something less concealable, like a couple of pot plants in the back seat and some more pot in the “boot.” And the rifle, now we’re talking.

But why stop there? Just as cops are getting used to spotting the “Cell phone swerve,” now seems like a perfect time to employ the ultimate in thrill seeking activities and give them something new to look out for: driving down the highway with two pot plants in the back seat, pot in the trunk and a loaded rifle, all while filming yourself masturbating.

Dare to dream.


Oh, Hum? Interesting Articles on a Sunday

Just because I haven’t been posting to the blog and just because there are an abundance of interesting articles out there for a Sunday morning, I decided to do a quick bit of news link blogging for your reading pleasure.

It seems that the low price of gasoline we have right now is sparking some more discussion about raising the gas tax as much as a dollar or more. As much as it’s fairly proven that higher gas prices did indeed cause Americans to curb their gas consumption and even buy hybrid cars, I think this is bad for an entirely different reason. That reason is that such a high tax on gasoline would inevitably make gas tax policy the fail-safe topic of Republican discourse for years to come, even more so than the Great Society policies which have an immediate positive impact on lower-wage voters that make up their base.

And one can hardly speak of gasoline these days without invoking the familiar of Sarah Palin. On that topic, she’s busy once again keeping herself in the spotlight by attacking journalism and making an ass out of herself. Sily Old Governor Grand-MILF! Everybody knows that you can’t attack the media when they’re attacking you.

But there’s another story that may keep her in the news, this one about her (allegedly) drug-dealing in-laws, the Johnson family. It seems that there are investigators and police union people now starting to grumble about political interference in the investigation of Sherry Johnson – mother of Levi, who begat Li’l Redneck, Bristol Palin’s child. Johnson was eventually caught in possession of a Crystal Meth lab. Given Palin’s history, I think we can all safely say that allegations of political interference are just plain crazy-talk.

Meanwhile, Exile on Erickson St has an interesting post up about the political machinations surrounding one highly-unpopular Governor Patterson and the appointment of a new Senator to hill Hillary Clinton’s seat for New York. It seems rather obvious that CK endorsed Obama specifically to make enough of a name for herself to get some juice in New York politics, one way or the other.

But I’m not sure I agree with Rotten in the comments section that putting her into the Senate seat will almost guarantee a Republican in that seat come the next election. That’s one option. The other option is to trade a junior Senator with lots of power for a junior Senator with really only the appearance of power but lots of money and rich friends that will make her a permanent fixture – to our enduring distress – for years to come. If you think Senator Clinton accomplished jack-shit in the Senate (and let’s face it, she did that and less), just wait for Senator Kennedy of New York.


Karzai: Playing Both Sides?

In a country like Afghanistan, where the chief export has for decades been poppies and opium, it should not be at all surprising to find that there are entrenched interests that force a president of that country to walk some fairly tight lines.  That’s especially true when the country that put said president into power hasn’t been paying much attention lately.  Still, an op-ed by a former State Department official accusing Hamid Karzai of “playing the US like a song” is bound to raise some concerns. . . if not here, than elsewhere in the world where the media pays attention.


Do Shrooms: They’re Good for Ya

Scientists are starting to look at hallucinogens again as a means of therapy and guess what?  They work.  No shit.  They’re starting to look deeper into psilocybin, the active hallucinogen found in mushrooms, which makes sense: that monster of a drug Tim Leary invented – LSD – lasts upwards of fourteen hours, which is a bit much for a single session. . .  unless you’re being indoctrinated into an order of Incan priests. Then maybe.

On a side note, I don’t know who the chick is that they interviewed for this piece, but she’s got some seriously weird issues if you ask me.  I’ve done a ton of shrooms in my time, but I’ve never felt as though my heart was ripping open.

Seriously, you might want to have a doctor look into that. . .


Weekend at Bernie’s Was Never Like This

Christ-a-mighty, kids! Just use a fucking potato if you’re hard up for a piece. . . like a normal person!

3 accused of using Humble corpse’s head to smoke pot | – Houston Chronicle

The Kingwood teenager’s story of decapitating a corpse and using the head to smoke marijuana was so outlandish that at first Houston Police Department senior police officer Jim Adkins did not believe it.

Yet, Kevin Wade Jones Jr., 17, appeared almost indifferent as he relayed the bizarre description of his and two friends’ activities at an Humble area graveyard, Adkins said.


There’s So Much to Talk About. . .

John Sacheli turns in a great – if highly verbose – rant, filled with observations on daily life.  But hands-down, this one’s my favourite:

» An observation of our society » Pissin in the Wind

They’re even pushing drugs on your kids now. If your kid acts out at school a few times they immediately jump to the conclusion that they need psycho-analysis and the need to be on temperament medication. Little kids shouldn’t be depressed enough to need a pill. Acting out on occasion doesn’t justify giving a kid Ritalin. Maybe some kids need that stuff but there’s a whole lot of them that really don’t. We are creating a society of numbed out legal drug addicts.

You know, maybe they should invent a pill for making you a good parent. Then your kids will turn out fine and maybe all the world’s problems would start to turn around. (Who am I kidding, there’s no money in that anyway.)

I guess goofballs and Ripple Wine don’t count as a drug that makes you a better parent. There goes my master plan. . .