Tuesday, February 27, 2007

UK: "Restricted" report urges Rx heroin

The government should consider providing free heroin to hard-core addicts through the National Health Service as a way to reduce crime, says a top-level report by the UK Home Office.

Marked "restricted" because of its controversial recommendations, the document was leaked to The Independent.

There is mounting evidence that trying to restrict the supply of drugs is impossible, says the document. Even if partially successful, supply restriction merely drives up the price of drugs and drives addicts to commit more crimes.

The report comes in a setting where cheap and potent Afghan heroin in unprecedented volume has been flooding into the UK from all ports of entry.

"There is a strong argument that prohibition has caused or created many of the problems associated with the use or misuse of drugs. One option for the future would be to regulate drugs differently, through either over-the-counter sales, licensed sales or doctor's prescription." Source.

For a historical review of similar policy recommendations, see the Transform Drug Policy web site.

Methadone abuse a growing killer

When given in small, controlled doses, methadone is a well-documented treatment for heroin addiction. But taken in larger doses, without adequate medical supervision, and in combination with other drugs, methadone can be a drug of abuse, addiction, and death.

A federal government study found that nationwide methadone-related deaths climbed to more than 3,800 in 2004 from about 780 in 1999. Among all narcotic-related deaths in 2004, only cocaine killed more people in the United States than methadone. More from the Baltimore Sun.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Canada Readers Digest publishes "12 Steps to Nowhere"

The Canada edition of Readers Digest has published an abbreviated version of award-winning journalist J. Timothy Hunt's article "Twelve Steps to Nowhere," which originally appeared in Toronto's Saturday Night magazine (offprint here). The piece is the author's personal story of recovery from severe alcoholism -- a recovery in which the author thoroughly investigated but strongly rejected the 12-step approach. Although some 60 per cent of successful recoveries from alcoholism occur outside of and without AA (Source), few and far between are the published personal narratives of non-AA recoveries. Readers Digest's publication of Hunt's compelling autobiographical essay hopefully signals a more evenhanded attitude toward all recovery pathways (at least north of the border). Read the piece in Readers Digest.

Drug dealers high on Bush pardon list

"George W. Bush Likes Those Drug Dealers When It Comes To Pardons," says the Eye on Washington blog. Citing a complete listing of pardons in Wikipedia, the blog says that 14 of 113 Bush presidential pardons were for convicted dealers of marijuana, hashish, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs. Source.

Monkeys demonstrate nicotine reward

Squirrel monkeys in cages will press a lever up to 600 times to get a shot of nicotine, researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have found. The study demonstrates that nicotine has the same rewarding effect in nonhuman primates as other drugs of addiction. Source.

Moderation group said to be booze industry front

The organization DrinkWise Australia, which was established to promote responsible drinking, claims to be independent, despite receiving millions of dollars from the alcohol industry whose representatives make up half its 12-member board.

The organisation received $5 million in Federal Government funding last year to raise awareness of alcohol misuse and "change the drinking culture in Australia". However, DrinkWise's credibility is now being questioned following the resignation of the chairman of its research advisory committee and accusations it is a front for the alcohol industry. More.

Nicotine, cocaine, heroin lead to similar brain damage

A study of the brain tissue of deceased former smokers has found chemical alterations similar to the brain damage that cocaine and opiates cause in laboratory rats, according to researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Abstract. Discussion.

U.S. docs more likely to warn minorities about drinking

American doctors are twice as likely to warn African-American and Hispanic patients about drinking and drug use than white patients, a study by Harvard professor Kenneth Mukamal, M.D. (photo) has found.

"Yet blacks are less likely to be binge drinkers than whites," he said.

"It would be naive to disregard the possibility of racial bias or stereotype toward blacks and Hispanics in medical settings and assume that the difference in who gets counseling about alcohol use is coincidental," said one commentator.

Doctors should be asking about alcohol use, but should be asking about it across the board, Mukamal said. Details.

Ban all booze ads, top UK doc says

London: A leading doctor says all advertising of alcohol must be banned in a bid to curb Britain's growing drink problem.

The comments by the head of the Royal College of Physicians come as latest data show alcohol-related deaths in the UK have doubled in the past 15 years.

Professor Ian Gilmore said the measure was necessary to protect children who were influenced by sporting heroes wearing branded clothing. -- More

Colombia: Minister resigns over drug gang scandal

The foreign minister of Colombia resigned Monday as the government of President Álvaro Uribe, the Bush administration's closest ally in South America, struggled with a scandal that has disclosed ties between paramilitary cocaine-trafficking squads and some of Mr. Uribe's most prominent political supporters.

The scandal (which surprised nobody) comes at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering extension of the so-called "free trade" agreement with the Colombian government. Blogger Jonathan Tasini (Huffington Post) writes that "free trade" has meant flooding Colombia with cheap imported grains from highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness corporations. This drives local farmers out of business and forces them to switch to growing coca for the well-connected drug gangs. Source.

Alcoholics have trouble reading facial expressions

Alcoholics are poor at reading facial expressions that signal emotions, and this deficit predicts relapse, researchers in Belgium have found.

The researchers presented alcoholics in a treatment program and a matched control group with a series of photographs showing emotional facial expressions (EFE) and asked them to identify the emotion displayed and its degree of intensity. Alcoholics consistently lagged on this test. Moreover, individuals who were at the bottom of the scale in this skill were very liable to drop out of treatment and relapse.

Skill at recognizing emotional expressions did not improve after only three months of abstinence, the researchers found.

Marie-Line Foisy, a researcher at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles and corresponding author for the study, said, "It may be that alcoholics with more severe difficulties in recognizing EFE also have more difficulties in dealing with the conventional detoxification process," said Foisy. "They may also benefit from specific training programs aimed at improving EFE recognition, or more general interpersonal skills." Source.

Comment: This research suggests that alcoholics may benefit from a support environment that provides peer feedback, a key element in improving recognition of other people's feelings and in raising one's interpersonal skills. Meetings that incorporate feedback ("crosstalk") appear to have a distinct clinical advantage along this dimension.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hotel chain goes smoke-free

SILVER SPRING, MD.—Choice Hotels International has announced that its 433 Comfort Suites hotels in the United States will go 100 percent nonsmoking as of May 1. The 433 properties represent 34,000 rooms. According to Kimberly Shells, Senior Director, Brand Strategy for Choice, the decision to go smoke free was driven by research.

“We conducted research among guests and franchisees,” Shells says. “The vast majority of them supported it. It really is for our guests. We found that the vast majority of guests prefer a smoke-free environment.”

Ten percent of U.S. Comfort Suites hotels already are 100 percent nonsmoking. The other properties will transition to that status by the end of April.

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to increase guest satisfaction,” Shells says. “It is an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and attract new guests to the brand.” Source.

The move follows similar decisions by Westin and Marriott. Source.

Denver pot advocate shot and killed in his home

CBS4) DENVER A Denver man well-known in Colorado's medical marijuana community was shot and killed Saturday night after his house was broken into.

Ken Gorman, an outspoken advocate for legalizing marijuana, grew pot in his home on the 1,000 block of South Decatur Street, and allowed reporters to film the plants.

Denver police said they are investigating the shooting, but were releasing few details Sunday afternoon. Family members told CBS4 Gorman was the victim in the crime. More.

Take alcoholic parents' kids away, Scot says

ALCOHOLIC parents should have their kids taken from them in the same way as heroin addicts, one of Scotland's top addiction experts has claimed.

Professor Neil McKeganey, a former government adviser, has accused social services of double standards when dealing with heroin and alcohol addiction.

The respected academic has said children of parents who refuse to give up drink are suffering neglect as serious as those of drug addicts.

McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow University, has warned the Scottish moralistic attitude to drugs means well-meaning social workers are failing thousands of Scots youngsters.

Social workers are often reluctant to remove children from the homes of alcoholics while the use of illegal drugs such as heroin is seen as far more serious. More.

Wyoming: More than half of arrests due to alcohol

Casper, WY: When the Wyoming Sheriffs and Chiefs Association surveyed jails in 2005, the results were astonishing: alcohol played a role in about 55 percent of arrests for all crimes, and people brought in for driving under the influence were more intoxicated than suspected.

But, reporting from detention centers was spotty enough to prompt a new round of data collection, with researchers hoping for a more solid picture of alcohol’s role.

The new findings presented to the Governor’s Substance Abuse and Violent Crime Advisory Board, showed that alcohol is a factor in 62 percent of all arrests. And, when alcohol is involved, people arrested for crimes ranging from domestic violence and underage drinking to assaults and warrants were far worse than legally intoxicated, with an average blood alcohol content of 0.159, nearly twice the legal limit of .08.

The new data was collected in every county during a six-month period in 2006 through survey forms completed by law enforcement officers in detention centers, said Ernie Johnson, a management consultant to the sheriffs and chiefs association and the study organizer.

“It really opened our eyes,” Johnson said, adding that the data clearly indicates alcohol is Wyoming’s top substance abuse issue. More.

Kids turn tables on parents

Hartford, CT: Every spring, when prom and graduation season arrives, parents and teachers warn teens about the dangers of using drugs or drinking alcohol. This spring, a group of civic-minded teens at Haddam-Killingworth High School is turning the tables on the adults.

The Youth In Action group is creating a 30-second television ad that urges parents to stop allowing children to hold drinking parties in their homes. The "Where do you draw the line?" ad will run on the local cable-access channel this spring.

"House parties are a big thing around here," senior Shalyn Carey said. "Where are the kids getting the alcohol? From their parents. Parents play just as big a role in their kids' partying as the kids do. We're saying, `Be a friend to your kid, but be a parent, as well.'" More.

Epidemic of child alcoholism in Britain

London: Children as young as 12 are being diagnosed as alcoholics amid growing concerns about binge-drinking in Britain, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday reveals today.

Record numbers of pre-teens and teenagers now require hospital treatment for drink-related disorders, the exclusive nationwide survey shows.

The findings prove there is a hidden epidemic of child alcoholism, resulting in thousands of youngsters being treated in hospital each year for alcohol poisoning, liver disease and drink-related psychiatric illnesses.

Doctors warn that conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver are now starting to appear in people who are still in their teens, prompting calls for special detoxification clinics to be set up around the country for teenage drinkers.

Dr Claire Casey, head of a new youth detox unit at the private Priory Group, said: "We have children presenting with all the adult symptoms of alcoholism. Some are so addicted that it is actually dangerous to get them to stop drinking straight away.''

New figures reveal that Britain's teenagers are drinking twice as much as they did a decade ago, with half of all 13-year-olds consuming more than 10 units a week. The amount being consumed by 11- to 13-year-olds has gone up almost threefold in the same period, with doctors citing the cultural shift towards 24-hour drinking.

They are also worried that the drinks industry is deliberately targeting the young, promoting alcopops - heavily sweetened, attractively packaged alcoholic drinks - and offering alcohol at historically low prices. Source.

Drunk dad lets boy, 11, drive car

Florence County, SC: A local man has been arrested on charges he allowed his 11-year-old son to drive the family car while the father was drunk in the passenger seat, sheriff’s Capt. Todd Tucker said.

The boy’s 9- and 4-year-old siblings were also in the car Friday morning, Tucker said. A deputy dropping his child off at Coward Elementary School said he saw the 11-year-old boy driving the car. The boy’s father, Joddy Deam Morris, was drunk in the vehicle, Tucker said. Source.

Girl sets drunk woman on fire

Saskatchewan, Canada: A 12-year old girl, part of a group of kids of similar age, set fire to a woman who had passed out drunk outside a bar. The victim required several weeks of treatment in a burn unit. The girl was found guilty of aggravated assault. At sentencing, she expressed regret. Source

New Mexico tries talking urinals

RIO RANCHO, New Mexico (AP) - New Mexico is hoping to keep drunks off the road by lecturing them at the last place they usually stop before getting behind the wheel: the urinal.

The state recently paid US$21 each for about 500 talking urinal-deodorizer cakes and put them in men's rooms in bars and restaurants. When a man steps up, the motion-sensitive plastic device says, in a woman's voice that is flirty, then stern: "Hey, big guy. Having a few drinks? Think you had one too many? Then it's time to call a cab or call a sobre friend for a ride home."

The recorded message ends: "Remember, your future is in your hand."

The talking urinal is the latest effort to fight drunken driving in New Mexico, which has long had one of the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths in the United States. (Men account for 78 per cent of all drunk-driving-related convictions in the state.)

Scalia daughter arrested on DUI charge

WHEATON, Illinois (AP) -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's daughter was arrested this week and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and child endangerment, officials said Wednesday.

Ann S. Banaszewski (mug shot photo) 45, of Wheaton, was arrested Monday evening while driving away from a fast-food restaurant in the suburb 20 miles west of Chicago, police said.

Three children were inside Banaszewski's van when someone called police to report a suspected intoxicated driver, said Deputy Chief Tom Meloni. More.

Scalia, who has nine children, is a leader of the neoconservative wing on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Director: Restore treatment budget cuts

The Central Texas Treatment Center has gone from 60 to over a hundred beds. It's at its capacity right now, and there's a waiting list.

Several years ago, the state cut funding to drug treatment. Now directors say the state needs that back.

"If you want your folks working and paying taxes and raising their families, then by all means, they need to come to treatment," said Kay Baker, Director, Central Texas Treatment Center. "If you want them in prison watching TV, wasting taxpayer dollars, then don't send them to treatment." More.

Fed brief backs "sober houses"

Boca Raton, FL: Federal prosecutors here filed a brief opposing a city zoning rule that would bar "sober houses" from residential neighborhoods.

Filed on behalf of the owner of two large "sober house" apartment buildings, the brief says the facilities are housing for the disabled and therefore clearly exempt from the city's zoning jurisdiction.

Opponents argue that the facilities provide treatment and are commercial in nature, and therefore should be confined to commercial districts.

Read details here. Another angle on sober houses, here.

A likely story

Baton Rouge LA: After backing her car into a government vehicle in the Attorney General's parking lot, Assistant Attorney General Debbie Baer told police that she was driving a fellow Alcoholics Anonymous member who had begun drinking again and left a strong odor of alcohol in her car.

The Louisiana Attorney General's Office says Mrs. Baer has been placed on administrative leave while they investigate the matter.

Afghan war and suburban heroin deaths: Putting it all together

At least one blogger has begun to put the pieces together: Young suburban white kids in the Midwest dying of powder heroin overdoses and suburban Midwest Republican politicians -- more or less the parents of these same kids -- rabidly supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:
It seems almost scary, but is it possible that the wealthy in this country have in effect sold their children to the Afghanistan drug lords through their greed, blind patriotism and hatred?
See more reflections along this line in Crawford's Take.

Great success in war on drugs: Teens turning to Rx drugs instead

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy issued a report Feb. 15 citing great successes in the war to reduce teen use of illicit drugs ... but an alarming upswing in teen use of prescription drugs such as Oxycontin to get high. Details.

Congratulations Drug Czar John P. Walters on this great achievement in national drug policy.

New study confirms dopamine depletion

A researcher at the University of Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) has found a change in the brain that occurs after drug use and that may contribute to drug addiction.

The finding, reported in the January issue of Biological Psychiatry, demonstrates that repeated exposure to different types of drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, nicotine, amphetamine and alcohol, lead to a persistent or long-term reduction in the electrical activity of dopamine neurons in the brain.

Dopamine neurons are the origin of the reward pathway responsible for the "feel good" experience that is such a strong component of drug use and abuse.

"A persistent reduction in dopamine neuron electrical activity after repeated exposure to different types of drugs appears to be the result of excessive excitation of dopamine neurons," according to Roh-Yu Shen (photo), a neuroscientist and the lead investigator on the study. "This represents a new and potentially critical neural mechanism for addiction and provides a working model that suggests how the reward pathway function is altered and how these changes can be responsible for triggering intense craving and compulsive drug-seeking." Source.

Annapolis: New rules decimate drinking

Donny Bailey, manager of a bar and restaurant popular with students at the Naval Academy in Annapolis says "Drinking has declined so much, it's scary. They can't drink 20 shots like they used to. Ever since the rape last year, it's gone down. They just get in too much trouble."

Following a series of sexual crimes linked with alcohol last fall, the Academy adopted new rules that prohibit all underage drinking. Students over 21 are limited to one drink per hour and three drinks on any given evening, not to exceed 0.08 blood-alcohol content, the legal standard for drunken driving in Maryland and many other states.

Those who fail random breath tests are counseled the first time, but those caught twice, or with higher than a 0.15 blood-alcohol content, can be disciplined with restriction to the dorm, 5 a.m. marches and even expulsion. Academy authorities said that enforcement has been strict and effective.

In a recent memo, the student drug and alcohol coordinator warned of infractions and urged students to take the policy to heart. Source.

Parental ATOD use leads to behavior problems in children

Children whose parents used alcohol, tobacco or other drugs including cocaine while pregnant or in their infancy exhibit greater behavior problems through age 7 than other children, a study published in the February issue of Pediatrics has found.
"Our findings highlight not only a need for continued prevention and treatment programs that are directed toward illegal drug use but also a call for increased effort toward prevention of tobacco and alcohol use, which is a more prevalent problem and has as great an impact on childhood behavior problems as prenatal cocaine exposure," the study's authors write.

Two more go smoke-free

The Merritt-Peralta Institute (MPI), the oldest adult residential addiction treatment facility on the West Coast, went smoke-free in January, its clinical coordinator Terry Arnold announced.

The MPI program is located in the Alta Bates-Summit-Providence Hospital complex in midtown Oakland, CA. The smoking ban ends a long-standing anomaly where the only location in the block-long complex that permitted patients to smoke was the addiction treatment center.

Meanwhile the Kaiser hospital complex in Vallejo CA declared a smoke-free policy covering the entire campus, including parking lots and sidewalks. The "smokers' huts" that previously enabled smokers were dismantled. Source.

Afghanistan: Whole villages addicted

Elizabeth Bayer, formerly of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan, reports:
"There are villages in the north of Afghanistan where the entire population is addicted to opium. Mothers in carpet weaving districts take opium to ease muscle aches earned from spending long days at the loom, and give it to their children to keep them quiet."

Says Bayer: "There is no education, no awareness of the harm that opium causes. People here have been traumatized. If they can find something to relieve the pain, they will take it." From Time magazine 2/14/07.

South Carolina bill would require treatment for all DUI offenses

Durham, S.C.: Convicted drunken drivers would have to participate in alcohol treatment programs — even if they didn’t want their driver’s licenses reinstated — under a bill introduced Tuesday that would rewrite the state’s DUI laws.

The mandated treatment is needed because many convicted offenders choose to drive on suspended licenses rather than pay to go through treatment programs to get their licenses back, supporters say.

Such drivers conservatively total in the thousands annually, said Lee Dutton, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. Source.

No mention so far in the coverage of this controversial bill whether the mandated treatment will be secular, or include a secular option, as required by federal appellate decisions.

Friday, February 23, 2007

NET for heroin gets boost in Scotland

Jack McConnell, Scotland's First Minister, has called for a radical shake-up in Scotland's drug rehabilitation policy after witnessing a controversial new heroin addiction treatment in action.

He said that Scotland must seek to abandon the methadone programme and look instead for new, drug-free methods of kicking heroin.

His comments came after he visited a trial of neuro-electric therapy (Net, promo photo from website), a drug-free addiction treatment, invented by a Scottish neurosurgeon, Dr Meg Patterson.

At the trial, Mr McConnell met six female heroin users who are undergoing a seven-day course of Net. The treatment involves a weak electric current being applied to the brain.

Laura, 28, a mother of two, has been a heroin user for seven years, but has failed to quit using methadone. She told the First Minister she had been "amazed" by how quickly her cravings for heroin had disappeared while undergoing Net.

Afterwards the First Minister spoke of his desire to see Net given a full clinical trial, with a view to making it available on the NHS.

He said, "I'm very keen that we find a way of progressing to a proper research proposal so that Net can be tested in the conditions that will meet the standards of the National Health Service.

"If this is successful, then this treatment could operate on a scale that can make a huge difference to people's lives." Source.

New "Science of Addiction" booklet by NIDA

The "Science of Addiction" booklet published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on Feb. 13 breaks new ground. It's the first government publication that tries to summarize current scientific knowledge about addiction and addiction treatment in a format accessible to the literate lay person.

The 36-page booklet can be downloaded as a web file here or as a PDF file here. Free paper copies can be ordered online. It should be quite useful to persons trying to get a grip on their own experience with addictive substances, to persons in relationships where addiction is an issue, and to educators, people in the media, and treatment professionals.

Mom sues frat, college over boy's alcohol death

Boulder, CO: The mother of Gordy Bailey (photo), a Colorado University freshman who died of alcohol poisoning at a fraternity initiation in 2004, is suing the fraternity and the university for negligence and reckless misconduct.

A superior court judge has ruled that the lawsuit can go ahead and has set a March 2008 trial date. Source.

A coroner revealed that after Bailey had passed out, his fraternity brothers marked up his arms, legs and trunk with racial and sexual slurs, said the young man's father, Lynn Gordon Bailey.

"This reinforces the nearly unbearable pain of the whole thing," Bailey said. "Was he dying while they were writing that?"

When it became apparent that the 18-year-old was not breathing, and police were going to be called in to investigate, someone tried to wipe off the slurs that were written on his face with a felt-tip marker, police said. Source.

Bailey's death has similarities to the fate of Phanta "Jack" Phoumarrath at the University of Texas, Austin. Link.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

People underestimate power of addictive cravings

People systematically underestimate the power of cravings for addictive drugs, says a new study sponsored by the Carnegie-Mellon Institute. The study measured what people addicted to heroin would give for a dose of the medication buprenorphine, a heroin blocker, when their cravings were highest v. when they had just received the drug and their cravings were at their lowest.

People play around with addictive drugs because they don't believe that they will become hooked, says Professor George Loewenstein, lead author of the study. Similarly, people without personal experience of addiction have no clue to the compelling force of the addict's craving, once addiction is established. Source.

Even low levels of second-hand smoke cause heart risk

Even low-level indirect exposure to cigarette smoke is associated with a significant rise in heart disease risk in new research conducted by researchers from the U.K.'s University of Nottingham.

The study is the first to directly measure secondhand smoke exposure through levels of a nicotine byproduct in the blood. Previous studies have relied on participants' recall of exposure.

Compared with people in the study with no detectable exposures to nicotine, those with low- and high exposure levels also had significantly higher levels of two important markers of heart disease risk.

"These findings suggest that secondhand smoke exposure has a clinically important effect on susceptibility to heart disease, even at relatively low levels of exposure, and they highlight the importance of minimizing the public's exposure to secondhand smoke," researcher Andrea Venn, PhD, stated. Source.

Catch-22 for mandated treatment in UK

Britain's drugs problem should be treated predominantly as a medical rather than a criminal issue, says a major upcoming report by a group of law enforcement and medical authorities.

The report says that drug users are typically sent to treatment only after they have been caught for committing a crime, a time when they are frequently not ready for treatment and do not benefit from it. Meanwhile drug users who have not committed crimes but wish to have treatment for their addiction are unable to get it because the programs are full. Details.

Full Nelson: Teacher snorts coke in front of class

A retired elementary school teacher working as a substitute snorted cocaine through a pen cap in front of her 4th-grade class -- and some of the students (aged 10) recognized what she was doing and reported her. Joan M. Donatelli, 59, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Details.

UK soldiers snorting cocaine on video

GLASGOW, Scotland (UPI) -- The British military is conducting an internal investigation over video of troops in Scotland allegedly snorting cocaine in their Glasgow barracks.

The video was taken by a soldier in the Royal Regiment of Scotland with a cell phone, and given to The Daily Record newspaper, which contacted military authorities. Source.

Afghanistan: "The poppy will eradicate us"

From a World Politics Watch article by freelancer Jason Motlagh:
As the Taliban makes headway in the south and east, the largest-ever opinion survey shows one-fifth fewer Afghans believe the country is moving in the right direction compared to the eve of 2004 elections. Contempt mounts each day against President Hamid Karzai for failing to hold members of his government accountable. According to Crisis Group, his Anti-Corruption and Bribery Office has a staff of some 140 and has been operating for over two years but has yet to obtain a conviction. U.S. Defense Department and European officials say at least half of all Western aid does not reach those who need it. Drug-related corruption is most problematic at the local-regional level, though a number of state employees told me the trail leads all the way back to Kabul, where suspiciously lavish homes interrupt otherwise drab neighborhoods. Perhaps no one has defined the situation better than the embattled president himself: "If we fail to eradicate poppy, the poppy will eradicate us."
Read the full article.

More ex-smokers than smokers in US now

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Last year marked the tipping point in the fight against tobacco addiction according to Free & Clear®, a national leader in coaching-based tobacco dependence treatment. The United States now has more former smokers than current smokers. Further, over half of Americans now live in a city or state that is smoke-free. In 2006, seven states and 116 cities, including Washington, DC, enacted local smoke-free laws, bringing the total up to 22 states and 577 municipalities.

Still, the struggle to quit remains a formidable challenge. Recent studies demonstrated nicotine levels in cigarettes actually increased over the past ten years. Even more troubling, recently published surveys indicate the decline in smoking prevalence in the United States leveled out in 2004 at 21%. While the vast majority of smokers want to quit, over 45 million adults still use tobacco in the United States despite significant adverse consequences to themselves and their family members, friends, and employers. Source.

Chinese herbs better than nicotine patches?

Darlington, UK: A patch containing Chinese herbs is more effective at helping smokers quit than the conventional nicotine patches, according to Dr Philip Cheung, former director of Durham University's Centre for Comparative Public Health. Dr. Cheung says the herbal treatment has helped six million Chinese quit, and works more quickly at less cost than the nicotine patches. Source.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Upscale treatment centers chafing at 12-step

The Betty Ford treatment center, once the very icon of celebrity rehab, is being upstaged by a slew of newer and tonier facilities, many of them dumping Ford's you-can-have-any-program-you-want-so-long-as-it's-12-step model.

So says a survey of upscale inpatient facilities in the Feb. 19 Newsweek. Ford, which at last report charges $38,000 for a 28-day stay, is now on the low margin of the upmarket segment. There are programs that charge up to $100,000 for the same stretch. They include Malibu sunsets, equine encounters, Native American talk circles, gourmet cuisine, and -- more important -- elements of cognitive behavioral therapy, Motivational Interviewing, pharmacological treatments and other modern therapeutic approaches.

Newsweek's article quotes Chris Prentiss of Passages Malibu, an upscale facility that has dumped AA altogether. Prentiss says that AA's "emphasis on helplessness in the face of addiction makes people feel stupid and ashamed." Other providers talk in more guarded terms, but the trend away from exclusive reliance on the 12-step model is remarkable. What the high-priced celebrity showcases offer today, the K-mart treatment shops will be trying to copy tomorrow. Without the hot tubs, the sunsets, or the horses.

For a listing of non-step or steps-plus treatment facilities, click here.

Half of sexual assault victims had been drinking

According to national statistics, about 50 percent of all women were under the influence of alcohol when they were victims of a sexual assault. Source.

Stores sell liquor to white teen using black ID

Carson City, NV: A 16-year-old white boy using the identification of a 31-year-old black man was served alcohol by two out of 15 businesses visited during an alcohol compliance check conducted by the Carson City Sheriff's Department recently. Source.

Australia: Alcohol kills indigenous person every 38 hours

ALCOHOL kills one indigenous Australian every 38 hours, landmark research has found.

The average age of those dying from alcohol-attributable causes - mostly suicide for men, or alcoholic liver cirrhosis for women - is about 35 years.

National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) Indigenous Australian Research team leader Dennis Gray said these were conservative estimates from a first-of-its-kind study of the problem which showed alcohol killed 1145 indigenous Australians between 2000 and 2004.

"If we are serious about addressing this disparity and reducing death rates among indigenous Australians, we need to focus on the underlying social causes of that ill health," Professor Gray said. "For instance, suicide is the most frequent alcohol-caused death among indigenous men, which reflects the despair that many indigenous people feel."

Senior Research Fellow Tanya Chikritzhs said she was shocked to discover indigenous women as young as 25 years were dying of haemorrhagic stroke due to heavy drinking. Source.

Addiction has many subtypes

"Dr. Peter Banys, head of the addiction treatment program at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said addiction needs to be considered a disease of many subtypes, similar to leukemia, each linked to a different set of genes or environmental factors. Some people may be hardwired thrill-seekers, he said, while others may fall prey because of depression or 'cognitive processing' disorders. Each subtype might respond to a different medication or counseling approach.

'You've got to be thinking about it as multiple disorders that look the same but are not,' Banys said. 'They're not genetically the same. We already know that there are at least six different chromosomal locations heavily implicated, and many more are turning up.' -- From a San Francisco Chronicle addiction story by its science writer Carl T. Hall, Feb. 11. Source.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Forced naltrexone implant for opiate addicts?

A proposal to implant persons arrested on opiate abuse charges with a timed-release naltrexone device has raised a medical ethics debate. A critical comment by R.G. Newman MD, MPH, appears in this blog.

From one narco-state to another

President Bush has nominated William Wood, the current U.S. ambassador to Colombia, to the same post in Afghanistan. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the press that the President's intent was to transfer the Colombian model to Afghanistan.

Among the numerous voices questioning the wisdom of this judgment was the New York Times, which editorialized on Feb. 6:
The limited gains Colombia has achieved in recent years have been offset by an overly generous amnesty program for right-wing paramilitary leaders and drug traffickers, which has seriously compromised the rule of law. And American aid has been disproportionately directed into military and police programs, leaving far too little to promote alternative livelihoods for Colombia’s farmers. Despite all the money spent, the amount of land planted with coca crops has risen and the net harvest has been reduced only slightly. Afghanistan’s problems will not be solved by copying these mistakes.
Source. It sounds like, apart from the language barrier, Wood will feel right at home in Colombistan.

A long, insightful piece on the Colombia/Afghanistan parallel by Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times (London) makes a similar point. In Afghanistan, he says:
Here, too, the West is intervening in a narco-economy that is destabilising a pro-western government. Here, too, quantities of aid have been dedicated to security yet have fed corruption. Here, too, intervention has boosted drug production and stacked the cards against law and order. This year’s Afghan poppy crop is predicted to be the largest on record. European demand has boosted the price paid for Afghan poppies to nine times that of wheat. At this differential a policy of crop substitution is absurd. ...
Some 40,000 Nato troops from more than 30 different countries are gathered in Kabul. Since many of them refuse to fight, the city has become a holiday camp for the world’s military elite. Outside the capital, military occupation acts as a recruiting sergeant for insurgency, leaving Nato bases constantly on the defensive. ...
Jenkins' piece, titled "America is doped up in Colombia for a bad trip in Afghanistan," observes that in Helmand province, a major poppy area, "drug lords are the only counterweight to the Taliban." Source.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Citizen: Alcohol industry runs Texas legislature

AUSTIN — A citizen member of the state's Sunset Advisory Commission wants the Legislature to dismantle what he calls the "corrupt system" of alcoholic beverage regulation that he says protects wholesale distributors at the expense of retailers and consumers, and blocks any effort to raise taxes on liquor.

Austin attorney Howard Wolf (photo), in a scathing position paper, criticized the relationships among lawmakers, wholesale distributors and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Wolf, who also served on the Tax Reform Commission, said that the alcoholic beverage industry has a controlling influence with the Legislature, and has blocked any moves to increase the tax on liquor, which has not been raised since 1984. Source.

Woman drives SUV into church

CLAYMONT, DE. Dawn Johnson, 36, drove her Chevy Trailblazer at speed across oncoming traffic, off the road, and through the wall of the Discipleship of Christ Baptist Church at 1:15 a.m. Her SUV went about 25 feet into the church. Police arrested her and charged her with driving under the influence. Source.

Driver ed teacher busted on DUI

Williamsport, PA: Stanley E. Burke 3rd, the driver education teacher at Montoursville Area High School, has been charged with drunk driving after he crashed his mini van into a parked pickup truck on Broad Street in Montoursville, according to borough police.

Burke, who also is the school’s health instructor and the girls’ varsity track coach, had a blood-alcohol content level of .28 when his van hit the truck in the 300 block of Broad Street about 11:15 p.m. on Jan. 26, Patrolman Jason Scott Bentley said in an affidavit. Source.

Star USC kicker falls off cliff drunk

Los Angeles: University of Southern California star field goal kicker Mario Danelo was drunk when he plunged over a cliff to his death, the coroner's office said Jan. 9. His blood-alcohol level was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit in California.

Danelo, 21, was found Jan. 6 more than 100 feet down a rocky cliff in San Pedro.

Danelo made 15 of 16 field goals this season and led the Trojans in scoring with 89 points. He made two field goals in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day to help USC beat Michigan 32-18. Source.

Captain Al Cohol: Arctic superhero

A 1973 comic featuring Captain Al Cohol, a superhero of the Arctic north who had one fatal weakness -- guess -- has been republished, complete, on the web. Source. The comic shows alcoholism as something that even the strongest men can fall into, and it makes an effort to localize its message to the Inuit culture.

All quiet on the Walters front

John P. Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), told the press last December 9 that Afghanistan would become a "narco-state" unless a major campaign of spraying the poppy fields with herbicide were initiated. Walters, in fact, announced that such a campaign had been decided on. Source.

Six weeks later, the Karzai regime in Kabul announced that spraying the poppy fields would not happen, either from the air or from the ground. See earlier blog item here. Instead of expressing dismay, the White House pledged additional funds and troops, and Pres. Bush sent personal well-wishes to Karzai.

The effect was to hang Walters out to dry. The "giant steps" toward poppy eradication that he said were needed to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a narco-state are not going to happen. The "scourge of corruption" that troubles Afghanistan's institutions, according to his Dec. 9 statement, is unchecked and reinforced, with the blessings of the Bush administration.

If Walters had any backbone, he'd resign.

$1.2 billion later: National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign ineffective, harmful

The biggest national anti-drug media campaign ever launched in the U.S. spent more than $1.2 billion from 1998 through 2004 without measurable effect on youth drug use, according to a report to Congress by the Government Accounting Office (GAO). Source.

In some subgroups, notably young teens (12-13 year olds) and girls of any age who had not been using drugs, the campaign appears to have increased the initiation of drug use because it made drug use by peers seem more familiar and acceptable, the GAO concluded.

A major aim of the campaign, motivating parents to monitor their children's drug use, the GAO found, met with no significant results, and even when the campaign affected parental behavior, there was no evidence of corresponding changes in the attitudes or behavior of children.

Although alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among teens has been declining, the GAO report found no causal relationship between the decline and the media campaign.

The campaign is conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a branch of the Bush White House. Despite (or because?) of the campaign's negative results, President Bush has asked Congress for $120 million for the campaign for 2007, an increase of $21 million over last year. ONDCP criticized the GAO report's methods and conclusions.

(Thanks for the lead to this item to the Kujan blog.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Obama trying to quit smoking

WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama is trying to snuff out a habit before it hurts his run for president: He's trying to quit smoking.

The Illinois Democrat, who will formally launch his campaign Saturday, said his wife, Michelle (photo), persuaded him to quit.

"My wife wisely indicated that this is a potentially stressful situation, running for president," he said Tuesday. "She wanted to lay down a very clear marker that she wants me healthy."

The stakes are high for Obama not just because of the health hazards but because voters might be wary of a presidential candidate hooked on cigarettes. More.

Nursing mom kills baby with cocaine in breast milk

A nursing mother in West Branch MI killed her 5-month old baby with breast milk containing cocaine, medical examiners ruled. The mother had been using cocaine two or three times a day while nursing the infant girl, Karie Lee Bowman. The woman was sentenced to nine months in prison. Source.

Man steals AA basket money

Everett, WA: An unidentified man stole an envelope containing $37 in dues collected at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in the 1700 block of Baker Avenue. Members unsuccessfully chased the thief. Source.

Drinking dulls sense of humor

You suspected this all along? Heavy drinking dulls the sense of humor. It's official. A study in the journal Addiction found that people with an alcohol problem had a harder time matching punch lines with their jokes than a sober control group. Jokes with more complex or subtle humor especially escaped the alcoholic group. Source.

Actor Ben Affleck quits smoking

Ben Affleck's new film 'Smokin' Aces' made him quit smoking.

The actor plays chain-smoking bondsman Jack Dupree in the new action film and admits the amount of cigarettes he had to puff on for the role have put him off nicotine for good.

He told People magazine: "The whole week that I shot, I smoked, like, five packs a day. By the time the movie was over, I was so sick of smoking, I just didn't want to do it anymore, and I quit." Source.

View from Pakistan: Afghanistan is narco-state

Afghanistan has become a narco-state, says Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of Political Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, in a commentary in the Pakistan Daily Times.
The twin strategy of war and reconstruction in Afghanistan has failed to achieve any remarkable success. The country is sliding fast into chaos and disorder, particularly on its southern and eastern periphery. If other areas are calm, it is not because the state has extended its writ to them, but because it has surrendered its authority to the local warlords. There is general despondency and frustration among the population.

Their grief and anger is widely shared by the international community and by friends of Afghanistan throughout the world. After three bouts of deadly war, the Afghans thought they would have a better, peaceful future and economic opportunities to reconstruct their individual and collective lives.

The Taliban have re-emerged as a formidable force, against the hope that international intervention and political reconstruction would end the war. The warlords continue to stay put and strong, forcing President Hamid Karzai to make compromises. The Pashtun regions remain unstable and out of the government’s control.

Local farmers and international drug-traffickers have found the absence of the Afghan state and weak political and security arrangements auspicious for reviving poppy cultivation on a scale never known before in the history of the country. Afghanistan unfortunately has become a narcotics state — a development that has taken place in the presence of NATO, ISAF and US forces.
The U.S. under the Bush administration has allied itself with the warlords, the worst and least popular elements of Afghan society:
The warlords humiliated, coerced and murdered tens of thousands of Afghans, and most of them had a narrow support base in their immediate ethnic or tribal communities. The United States, by co-opting them as allies against the Taliban, rehabilitated them, empowered them with money and weapons and gave them a dignified space in the new political structure.

Most of them have committed untellable atrocities against their political and ethnic rivals and could be put before an international criminal tribunal for their crimes against humanity. All of them have been spared for the ‘good’ work they have done for the US and ISAF forces.
Read the full commentary.

Charity says spike in abortions due to drink binges

London: The family planning service Marie Stopes International said today that it performed a record number of UK abortions last month.

The charity carried out nearly 6,000 abortions at its nine centres across the UK in January, the highest number in its 32-year history. This was a rise of 13% on January last year.

The charity's UK director, Liz Davies, blamed the surge in abortions on excess drinking over the Christmas season. Source.

(Thanks, Owen P., for this item.)

Recovering folks face "Sober House" scams

Recovering folks just emerging from residential treatment may find themselves vulnerable to unscrupulous "Sober House" operators, according to recent stories in the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune by staff writers Tony Kennedy and Terry Fiedler.

Julie Coverdale was steered to a sober house by her counselor after a month at a 12-step treatment program. The house was billed as "Phase II" of her recovery, but there was no therapeutic component to it, other than the requirement that she attend two outside AA meetings a week. She was turned out of the house without legal process when she was found smoking cigarettes in her room. She had to fight to get her deposit and her personal belongings back. She said most clients who get evicted just walk away. Source.

Sober house operators in Minnesota get around the state's tenant protection laws by classifying the facility as "disabled housing." Clients are made to sign waivers of tenant rights and are called "guests" or "program participants" paying "program fees" instead of rent. Many find that they can be evicted on 15 minutes' notice. Some operators profit from frequent evictions of their vulnerable clients, too insecure to demand return of their deposits or belongings. Says the paper:

HEART, a Minneapolis nonprofit, spent about half of its $275,000 grant budget last year to cover the first month's rent for financially needy clients who moved into sober houses. More than a year ago, however, the agency stopped paying security deposits because so many landlords failed to return the money.

"It's hard to tell who is starting in it for an honest reason and who is starting it as a quick way to make a buck," said Anne Germain Beauclaire, HEART's executive director.

Despite abuses, sober houses are proliferating in Minnesota due to cutbacks in public funding for treatment and tougher insurance regulations. They can be highly profitable for the owners. Says the paper:
Sober houses exist in a legal netherworld: Landlords say they are exempt from local tenant laws because their clients are disabled. Yet the owners don't have to provide tenants with counseling or other services because the homes are not licensed treatment centers. The program is whatever the landlord says it is, and tenants who violate the rules are often immediately thrown out.
Read the full story.

Myth: Small-town girl goes bad in Big City

Media mogul Donald Trump's explanation for beauty queen Tara Conner's tale of addiction -- small-town girl goes bad in Big City -- didn't wash with the editors of the Lexington (KY) Leader-Journal.

Alcoholism and drugs are big time problems all over the small towns of eastern Kentucky, write the editors. Conner was drinking and doing drugs long before she hit the Big Apple.

What Conner's story really shows, says the paper, is the big gap between celebrities and ordinary folks in access to treatment. Conner got into an upscale residential 30-day program the day she asked for help. In the drug-saturated small towns where the newspaper's readers live, there's one treatment bed for every ten people who need it, and the average wait is four to six weeks -- if you can afford it at all. Source.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Newsom: Another Politico Pleads Alcohol

The parade of public figures "taking the fifth" -- pleading alcohol abuse -- swelled last week with the addition of Mayor Gavin Newsom (photo right) of San Francisco.

After admitting to a sexual affair two years ago with his former appointments secretary, (photo middle) a woman married to his campaign manager (photo left), Newsom said that although "my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment," he had stopped drinking and wanted professional help staying sober.

"Upon reflection with friends and family this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life," Newsom said in a statement.

Newsom said Monday that he would get treatment from Mimi Silbert, the founder and director of the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and that it would not affect his duties as mayor.

Delancey Street provides a residential program for hard-core addicts, including ex-convicts and prostitutes. Although the mayor plans to work with her on an outpatient basis, the program will not be easy, said Silbert, who met with Newsom over the weekend.

"The good thing, to me, is that he came and asked for help from a place he knows would not be light," Silbert said.

Delancey Street, which she founded in 1971, does not rely on the 12-step philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous but works to address the underlying reasons for excessive drinking, she said.

Citing privacy reasons, Silbert would not elaborate on how specifically she planned to help Newsom, whom she described as "very serious" about getting help. More.

Sources said that Ruby Rippey-Tourk, 34, Newsom's partner in the 2005 affair, has an alcohol issue of her own and revealed the affair to her husband as part of the ninth step of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, which requires the person to "make amends." Source. Discussion. Her husband, Alex Tourk, then confronted Newsom with the affair and resigned his post as campaign manager.

Newsom is up for re-election in November. Commentators say that Tourk commands a loyal following of volunteers who won't be working for Newsom this fall. More.

Colorado lecturer dies drunk in snow

A University of Northern Colorado sociology lecturer who was found dead in a snow bank at the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins died of hypothermia due to acute alcohol intoxication, the Larimer County Coroner’s Office ruled today.

She was reported missing on Jan. 2 by her husband after having last been seen New Year’s Eve.

Four children playing at the church before services almost a month later saw her body partially covered by snow. They called a parent, who notified police.

Family members said Wilkins-Wells was believed to have been headed to church the day she went missing. The family belongs to Foothills Unitarian, which is about two miles from their home.

Wilkins-Wells had been a sociology lecturer at UNC since August 1992, specializing in minority relations and community planning.

Katie Wilkins-Wells said that her mother had started having problems with alcoholism two years ago and had joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Source.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

UK: Labour MP Fiona Jones dead of alcoholism

London: Fiona Jones, until recently a rising star in the Labour Party mentioned as a possible cabinet minister, died from liver disease due to alcoholism last week. She was 49. Her husband, a local radio DJ, was quick to point to a culture of heavy drinking at the House of Commons and an extraordinary court battle over her election expenses as being to blame. Details.

Man charged with stalking actress at AA meeting (not Lohan)

A Brooklyn man has been charged with stalking an actress at an AA meeting, putting flyers about her under car windshields in the parking lot outside the meeting, and yelling at her in the meeting lobby. Source. The actress is NOT Lindsey Lohan.

Boston: Politicos dragging feet on heroin problem

"Our public officials and elected representatives continue to drag their feet on increased funding for, and accessibility to, aggressive rehabilitation and educational programs" to meet the heroin problem, says a letter to the Boston Globe by Jody Price of Brockton.

Ms. Price is one of the parents in the suburban Boston area whose family has been hit by heroin addiction.

She says of the local politicos: "Their inaction abandons families to be destroyed by the gut-wrenching fear and life-changing grief they suffer, struggling to save their children, then losing them to overdose. " More.

Restore drink taxes to former levels, medical chief urges

Taxes on alcohol should be increased in order to protect public health, a leading medical expert has said.

Professor Ian Gilmore (photo), president of the Royal College of Physicians, said higher taxes were particularly needed on strong cider and other high strength drinks aimed at young people such as alcopops.

But he warned the alcohol industry operated a powerful lobby which argued against future tax hikes.

"We should try to return the cost of alcoholic beverages in real terms to what they were 20 years ago over a period of time."

Prof Gilmore said the issue of raising taxes on alcohol was an "uncomfortable" one for the Government.

"The Government is anxious about the nanny state, but I think the harm done by alcohol is such that nannying would be in order," he added. Source.

Study: Meth use in U.S. declining

Methamphetamine use in the U.S. declined between 2002 and 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, says a study published by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency (SAMHSA).

In 2005, methamphetamine accounted for 8 per cent of admissions to treatment facilities. Forty-five per cent of these treatment admissions were women. Details. Original.

Vietnam: Eight more face death for heroin trade

Hanoi (dpa) - In one of northern Vietnam's largest drug cases in years, a court on Tuesday sentenced to death eight people convicted of running a heroin ring, a drug enforcement official said.

The People's Court of Son La province, which borders Laos, found 31 people guilty of either transporting opium or producing heroin, said Le Minh Loan, head of the province's anti-narcotics' force.

In addition to the death sentences, 13 defendants were given life sentences. Nine others received lengthy prison terms, and one was sentenced to time served.

The ring was accused of producing 44 kilograms of heroin and trafficking 216 kilograms of heroin and 199 kilograms of opium in the period between 2000 and 2004.

Under Vietnamese law, trading more than 600 grams of heroin is punishable by death.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, Vietnam now has 160,226 drug addicts, more than 70% of which are between 18 and 35 years old.

Afghanistan: No programs to replace poppy crop

Dutch Minister of Development Agnes van Ardenne told a television audience last week that Dutch soldiers serving in the NATO force in Afghanistan will not take part in any efforts to destroy the poppy crop because no comprehensive plan exists to help farmers grow and market other crops.

Afghanistan currently produces enough poppies to make 90 per cent of the world's heroin. Source.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Molly Ivins, fighter against Big Tobacco, succumbs to cancer

Syndicated columnist and author Molly Ivins, a fighter against political hypocrisy and economic greed wherever she saw it, succumbed to cancer this week, at age 62. She kept writing her scathing and often hilarious political columns until the end.

Among Ivins' numerous credits is her insightful expose of the tobacco industry. In one of her columns, she wrote:
06.26.01 - AUSTIN, Texas -- Look at it this way: The good news is there's at least one thing about which George W. Bush is consistent. George W. Bush does not believe in doing anything to hurt big business.

He especially doesn't believe in letting anyone sue business. He is opposed to a patients' bill of rights for that reason; he tried to keep the lawyers who won a $17 billion case for the state of Texas from getting their fees for that reason; and tort reform, which is another way of saying you can't sue corporations that injure or kill you or your family, is a burning passion with him.

So it should come as no surprise that the federal government has decided to settle its case against the tobacco companies. According to anti-smoking groups, in the 2000 elections the tobacco companies gave $8 million in campaign contributions, 80 percent of it to Republicans. Bush certainly knew when he appointed John Ashcroft attorney general that Ashcroft was one of the leading senators in stopping anti-smoking legislation in 1998 that would have toughened regulations and increased prices.

Administration officials have been saying they don't think they can win the case, even though one state after another has won, which means the tobacco companies go into settlement negotiations with little reason to pony up. The government was claiming $20 billion in damages for money it has spent on health care for its employees, veterans and those on Medicare with illnesses caused by smoking.

Knowingly making and marketing a poisonous, addictive product could be considered of dubious legality. I fail to see the difference between that and Murder, Inc. (As one who has quit smoking many, many times, I speak with some feeling on the issue.) The idea that smokers have a "choice" about the habit seems to me a legitimate argument: I can't imagine suing a tobacco company because I was stupid enough to start smoking. But an addiction you already have is not a problem that can be solved by just saying no.

The government was suing to recover the cost to everybody else of treating smoking illnesses and would then have used much of the money to educate young people about why they shouldn't smoke. Given the amount the tobacco companies spend on marketing their poison, it makes some sense to have a counter-force out there, unless we all want to continue paying these staggering health costs, while the tobacco companies make billions. Source.
Good-bye, Molly. You will be missed.