Articles on Drugs

As the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the U.S., deaths from drug overdoses surged by nearly 30 percent, climbing to a record high. The drug crisis has diversified from an overwhelmingly white affliction to killing people of color with staggering speed. The death rate last year was highest among Native Americans, for whom COVID-19 piled yet more despair on communities already confronting generations of trauma, poverty, unemployment and underfunded health systems, the Associated Press reports. Beyond opioids, people are dying from deadly cocktails of many drugs. Deaths involving methamphetamine have nearly tripled in recent years, with Native Americans 12 times more likely to die from it. Drug dealers now cut nearly every drug on the street with fentanyl, a cheap...

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Monday, December 20, 2021

Drug and alcohol use among U.S. teens saw a record decline in 2021, according to a nationwide survey, reports USA Today. Researchers recorded the largest single-year drop in the use of substances such as alcohol, marijuana and vaped nicotine among teens since the annual survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse began in 1975. "We have never seen such dramatic decreases in drug use among teens in just a one-year period," said director Nora Volkow. While researchers say the reasons behind the decline in substance use are unclear, it may be "one unexpected potential consequence of the pandemic," said study director Richard Miech. Exploring reasons behind the drop in substance use may be helpful for future prevention...

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Mexican drug cartels are muscling in on the flourishing multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry , illegally growing large crops in the hills and valleys of Northern California.The state legalized marijuana in 2016 for adult recreational use, yet the black market continues to thrive with thousands of illegal grows. Criminal syndicates are cashing in across the U.S. on the "green gold rush," USA Today reports. Banks typically won't issue credit cards or provide banking services to permitted marijuana businesses because recreational marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. That makes it a cash-only industry, ripe for robbers. Mexican drug cartels are undercutting prices of legalized products offered by permitted farmers who follow the rules and pay taxes....

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A federal judge rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement of thousands of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic Thursday because of a provision that would protect members of the Sackler family from facing litigation of their own, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in New York said federal bankruptcy law does not give the bankruptcy judge who had accepted the plan the authority to grant that kind of release for people who are not declaring bankruptcy themselves. Purdue said the ruling will not hurt the company’s operations, but it will make it harder for company and Sackler money to be used to fight the opioid crisis as the legal fight continues.

Purdue sought...

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Thursday, December 16, 2021

Zachary Didier took what looked like a prescription pain pill just after Christmas last year. It contained an illicit form of the powerful opioid fentanyl, which they say killed the 17-year-old Californian. His death was one of a record 100,000 fatal overdoses in a year-long period through April that have demonstrated how the illegal drug supply is becoming more toxic and dangerous. A bootleg version of fentanyl made mainly by Mexican drug cartels is spreading to more corners of the U.S., increasingly inside fake pills taken by people who may believe they are consuming less-potent drugs, reports the Wall Street Journal. It robs you of any chance to get red...

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Thousands of towns across the nation are on the verge of receiving billions of dollars in the second-biggest legal settlement in U.S. history. The $26 billion from three drug distributors and a manufacturer would address damage wrought by opioids, which the federal government declared a public health emergency four years ago, the Associated Press reports. In Yamhill County, Or., the funds would expand counseling and treatment, including in jails, expand residential treatment and recovery facilities, said County Commissioner Casey Kulla. In the U.S., more than 500,000 deaths over the last two decades have been linked to opioids, both prescription drugs and illegal ones. The clock is ticking on the settlement, with a payout second only to the $200...

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A once-standout U.S. narcotics agent who used his badge to build a lavish lifestyle of expensive cars, parties on yachts and Tiffany jewels was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison Thursday for conspiring with a Colombian cartel to launder money, the Associated Press reports. As José Irizarry admitted to his crimes, he blamed former colleagues at the Drug Enforcement Administration for fostering a culture of corruption “When my client joined the DEA he was schooled in how to be corrupt, he was schooled in how to break the law,” his attorney, María Dominguez, said in court. “In this alternate universe it became easier and less suspect to accept money and gifts” from criminal informants...

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New Mexico Judge Jason Lidyard held his drug court sessions outdoors early in the pandemic after courthouses closed. At 40, he is among the state's youngest judges in the state, presiding over a district stretching from the capital of Santa Fe north to Colorado, an area of nearly 8,000 square miles. Most of his criminal docket is linked to substance abuse: Rio Arriba County has for decades reported overdose rates that are among the nation's highest. Drug and alcohol treatment courts have existed for more than 30 years and are heralded as the single most successful intervention for diverting people with addictions away from the criminal justice system. Nationwide, 150,000 people are enrolled in them. Participants are typically allowed to...

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In Syria, an illegal drug industry run by powerful associates and relatives of President Bashar al-Assad has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation, eclipsing the country's legal exports and turning it into the world's newest narcostate. Its main product is captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine popular in Arab states. Operations stretch across Syria, including workshops that manufacture the pills, packing plants where they are concealed for export and smuggling networks to send them to markets abroad. An investigation by The New York Times found that much of the production and distribution is overseen by the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president's younger brother and one of Syria's most powerful...

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Tens of thousands of Chicagoans — mostly Black men — have been jailed in the past two decades on drug charges everyone knew from the beginning were never going to stick, an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association (BGA) found . Police, prosecutors and judges knew, but no one has put a stop to it. Many of those arrested have lost jobs, homes and relationships. They've had to pay thousands of dollars to get their cars out of the city's impound lot, and they often struggle to pay bills while fighting their addictions. "I can't pay the phone bill," said a cook who was arrested for possessing small amounts of heroin. "I'm two months behind...

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Two years after the Mexican drug lord "El Chapo" began serving a life prison term, his wife, who admitted taking part in his multibillion-dollar smuggling operation and aiding his notorious 2015 tunnel escape from a Mexican prison, was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison, the Washington Post reports. Emma Coronel Aispuro, whose husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, reigned for years as boss of Mexico's murderous Sinaloa Cartel, pleaded guilty in June to three charges, including conspiracy to distribute 100 tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. Advisory sentencing guidelines called for prison time between 51 and 71 months. A prosecutor recommended only 48 months, noting that Coronel was a small "cog in a very large wheel of a...

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Sam Quinones's new book, "The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth," explores ­recent shifts in drug markets: from poppy-based heroin to the much stronger laboratory-based fentanyl, and from ephedrine-based methamphetamine to a mass-producible P2P version, says a Washington Post review. More efficient production made supply chains simpler and cheaper. Selling large quantities of drugs no longer required acres of opium poppies or major operations to get ephedrine-based decongestant pills. It no longer required a cartel. Anyone with a laptop could order large quantities of pure, highly potent fentanyl from what were essentially mom-and-pop oper­ations in China and in Mexico. "With a minuscule investment of learning and money," Quinones...

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A federal jury in Cleveland on Tuesday found that three large pharmacy chains — CVS Health, Walmart and Walgreens — substantially contributed to the crisis of opioid overdoses and deaths in two Ohio counties. It was the first time the retail segment of the drug industry has been held accountable in the decades-long epidemic. After hearings next spring, a judge will determine how much each company should pay the counties, reports the New York Times. The verdict, the first from a jury in an opioid case, was encouraging to plaintiffs in thousands of lawsuits nationwide because they are relying on the same legal strategy: that pharmaceutical companies contributed to a “public

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The synthetic opioid fentanyl, a legal prescription pain medication, is now a black market commodity plentiful in the street drug marketplace. Cheap and as many as 100 times more powerful than naturally derived opioids, it is lethal. In the year ending in April, more than 100,000 in the U.S., a record number, died from overdoses, a majority linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. In New York City, the majority of autopsies of overdose deaths say fentanyl was involved, reports the New York Times . It is spliced into party drugs and can be consumed unwittingly, as it was by six people killed by a batch of laced cocaine on Long Island this summer. It is not widely understood why...

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The Biden administration’s plan to prevent drug overdoses faces significant barriers, as treatment specialists fear state policies and funding restraints will make the plan’s execution difficult, Bloomberg Law reports. “You can’t just make the announcement,” said Bradley Stein, director of the RAND Corporation’s Opioid Policy Center. “It’s critically important that the funding is behind these things, that the additional attention to regulations or other policies that may serve as barriers are addressed.”

Just one day before the Senate confirmed Rahul Gupta as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the overdose prevention strategy. Gupta will have authority over dozens of agencies that deal with drug...

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