Drug Has Taken Deadly Toll, And Left Health And Law Enforcement Officials Scrambling

first_imgVials of a confiscated synthetic amphetamine called flakka that killed 61 people in Broward County in a little more than a year. States have been reworking drug laws to make it easier to classify synthetic drugs as illegal.It’s been four months since anyone in Broward County, Florida, has died from an overdose of alpha-PVP, known as flakka, a crystal-like synthetic drug meant to imitate cocaine or methamphetamine. But the drug has already taken a deadly toll, and left health and law enforcement officials scrambling to stem a new public health crisis.In small doses, flakka elicits euphoria. But just a little too much sends body temperatures rocketing to 105 degrees, causing a sense of delirium that often leads users to strip down and flee from paranoid hallucinations as their innards, quite literally, melt. If someone survives an overdose, they are often left with kidney failure and a life of dialysis.Flakka is among a growing number of addictive and dangerous synthetic drugs being produced easily and cheaply with man-made chemicals in clandestine labs in China. But because the drugs were largely unregulated when they first hit the market, some states have struggled to combat them. Now legislators, health professionals and police are trying to eradicate the drugs by making it easier to qualify them as illegal and ramping up the criminal penalties for selling them.Since 2010, when synthetic drugs started becoming popular in the U.S., 32 states have passed laws to make it easier to classify synthetic drugs as illegal. This year, the District of Columbia and Florida passed similar measures, and in at least 10 other states, changes to controlled substance laws took effect, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL).Among the most popular synthetic drugs in the U.S. are synthetic cathinones, known commonly as bath salts, and synthetic cannabinoids, essentially smokable imitation marijuana products, which are sold in stores using kid-friendly branding like Scooby Snax.It had been difficult for states to classify synthetic drugs as illegal, a process known as scheduling, because drugs are typically banned based on the compounds they contain. Under that system, manufacturers can change a molecule of an illegal synthetic drug, essentially rendering it legal.“It does seem to some extent that everybody’s a step behind what’s being produced,” said Jonathan Woodruff, an attorney with NAMSDL.While the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is working to permanently add 10 synthetic cathinones, including alpha-PVP, to its list of scheduled drugs, some states have also been moving to modify how they schedule drugs.This year, Florida and the District of Columbia enacted laws that change the way they schedule synthetic drugs. Rather than making the drugs unlawful based on their chemical makeup, the new laws classify drugs based on the type of drug and the reaction it causes.The approach means that any drug that mimics an already illicit substance will automatically be illegal. The change will enable Florida to quickly prosecute drug cases and stomp outbreaks of new drugs, said James Hall, an epidemiologist with Nova Southeastern University.“It bans substances before they appear or before we even know about them,” Hall said. “So it breaks this vicious cycle of a new drug appearing, finally getting it scheduled or banned and then another one rushing in to takes its place.”These laws alone won’t stop the spread of synthetic drugs. But public health advocates are hopeful the Florida law will help prevent another flakka, from which 61 people in Broward County died between September 2014 and mid-December 2015.In the District of Columbia, where in September 603 people were taken to the hospital after ingesting synthetic cannabinoids, the new law, which went into effect this month, is also expected to make it easier for police and prosecutors to charge and convict drug dealers.Chasing SyntheticsIn DeKalb, Illinois, one of the first places to adopt a similar law in 2012, City Attorney Dean Frieders said flakka and other synthetic cathinones like bath salts haven’t taken hold there. (A statewide law in the same vein was passed in 2015.)But the city of almost 44,000 people, which is home to Northern Illinois University, did face a growing problem with retail sales of synthetic marijuana products, which are said to elevate mood and relax the user but have also been known to cause extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations, as well as rapid heart rate, vomiting and violent behavior.The ordinance not only banned the synthetic substances, but allowed city officials to suspend or revoke the tobacco and liquor licenses of businesses that sold the drugs, which Frieders said was effective.“A business just can’t relocate to a different corner,” he said.States are also sanctioning businesses for the sale of synthetic drugs to cut down on sales and adverse health reactions, Woodruff said.The District of Columbia has shut down four stores that sold the fake marijuana products, which has led to a substantial decline in people needing medical attention after injecting them, said Robert Marcus, communications director for the District attorney general. The number of people transported to hospitals in the city after consuming synthetic marijuana dropped to 110 in February, down 82 percent in five months.What’s Next?Broward County officials say they expect the new scheduling of synthetic drugs to be helpful, but they relied on a different approach to largely eliminate flakka: working with the DEA to pressure the Chinese government, which last fall made it illegal to produce it and 115 other synthetic substances.Heather Davidson, a prevention specialist for the United Way in Broward County, said officials in South Florida are at a “resting point” with flakka-related emergencies. But, she said, some dealers are passing off real methamphetamine and cocaine as the synthetic drug, even though those drugs are more expensive and have been around longer, because flakka has become so popular.Broward’s flakka problem came to a head last year when county hospitals saw 360 cases related to the drug in one month. By December that number had dropped to 54, an 85 percent drop in five months.“We still hear anecdotally that people are searching for flakka, that users are still wanting to find it,” Davidson said. “And I believe that another synthetic drug or synthetic compound will take its place.”One of those compounds might be synthetic opioids, which are gaining popularity as it becomes more difficult to get prescription opioids like oxycodone and morphine in the wake of the nation’s painkiller- and heroin-addiction crisis. Those drugs, largely produced in Mexican labs, are made with fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is a hundred times more powerful than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Davidson and others worry they will be behind the next epidemic.Already nine people have died from fentanyl-based drugs this year in Pinellas County, Florida.“Heroin you need to cultivate. You need fields, you need workers, you need labor,” Davidson said. “With something like a synthetic drug, you just need a laboratory and chemical compound and a base and you’re able to create it very cheaply.”FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

Neuroengineering program is focus

first_imgHarvard Medical School (HMS) and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have established a joint research and education program thanks to a contribution from the Bertarelli Foundation. The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering is a collaborative exchange aimed at improving quality of life for people with neurological disabilities.The agreement was presented today (Oct. 29) by Bertarelli Foundation Co-President Ernesto Bertarelli, Dean of Harvard Medical School Jeffrey S. Flier, and EPFL President Patrick Aebischer, in the presence of Didier Burkhalter, the head of Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs and minister of health, science and culture.The initial $9 million donation also includes an endowment of the Bertarelli Professorship in Translational Medical Science. The inaugural incumbent will be William Chin, currently executive dean for research at Harvard Medical School. Chin will oversee the development of the new joint program, which creates a pathway from device design at EPFL to clinical testing at HMS and builds a bidirectional exchange for students and researchers from the two institutions.Flier applauded this new partnership: “Thanks to the Bertarelli family’s tremendous generosity and vision, we will be exploring an area of cutting-edge science that will lead to exciting discoveries, particularly in the field of neurotechnology, for both our institutions. I look forward to working with the Bertarelli Foundation and our Swiss partners in this new venture.”EPFL and HMS already collaborate on translational neurobiological research, notably on the visualization and simulation of the brain, headed by the EPFL Signal Processing Laboratory. In collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard and EPFL have recently published results in a joint paper in PNAS about the structure of the brain in children between 2 and 18 years of age.“This is a great scientific opportunity to translate our bioengineering advances in neuroprosthetics into clinical studies,” said Aebischer.Bertarelli, who is a Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist and two-time winner of America’s Cup with his team Alinghi, has already funded significant research in translational neurosciences at EPFL’s Neuroprosthetics Center within the Institute of Bioengineering. There, research in cortical and spinal implants is envisioned, while noninvasive man-machine interfaces and neural coding devices to aid in movement and machine control are already under way. EPFL scientists also hope to explore optogenetics — the use of light as a biological switch for gene expression — to create second-generation implants for the hearing-impaired.To further future collaboration, a Bertarelli Grant program will be established in 2011 for research projects at the forefront of neuroscience and neuroengineering by students and scientists from the two faculties. Results from novel coursework and research will be shared at a joint symposium to be held annually in Boston and Lausanne, alternatively.“Since studying at Harvard, I have remained involved with the School and I also have close ties with EPFL,” said Bertarelli. “I thought it would be an interesting idea to bring both faculties together to join forces in common projects, where each entity could contribute with its own core competences, the neuroengineering developments for EPFL and the experience in medical application to patients for HMS. This project once again shows that Europe and America can collaborate to have a very competitive impact in the advancement of science,” he added.last_img read more

Plea change hearing scheduled for Worth County woman accused of driving drunk with five kids in car

first_imgOSAGE — A plea change hearing has been scheduled for a Kensett woman charged with child endangerment after allegedly driving drunk with children in her vehicle.The Mitchell County Sheriff’s Department said they received a 9-1-1 call at about 3:10 on the afternoon of August 19th of last year after a report of a vehicle that was driving all over the road on State Highway 9 near the Mitchell and Worth county line. The person calling in the complaint stated they had been forced off the road by the vehicle.The Sheriff’s Department says they stopped 24-year-old Rebecca Golden on the west side of Osage. Authorities say Golden’s speech was slurred and that she had a blood alcohol content of .225, almost three times over the legal limit. They say the five children found in the vehicle ranged in age from under three to nine years old. Besides being charged with five counts of child endangerment, Golden was also charged with operating while intoxicated first offense.Golden was scheduled to have her trial start on February 27th, but online court records show a plea change hearing has been scheduled for March 26th in Mitchell County District Court.last_img read more


first_imgThe Shandon Hotel.The former owner of the Shandon Hotel has objected to the granting of a license for the hotel.Mr Dermot McGlade appeared at Falcarragh District Court this morning when a license application by the new owners of the Portnablagh-based hotel was heard.The hotel was recently purchased at an All-Sops Auction in Dublin for approximately €800,0000 but was once value at almost €6M. New owner Mr Warren McCarthy appeared in court to give evidence of his plans for the hotel.His solicitor Mr Brendan Twomey said he was aware that the hotel’s former owner Mr Dermot McGlade was objecting to the granting of the license.However he said that the court was no provision to hear Mr Glade’s objection during the court sitting.Donegal Daily understands the objection relates to a right-of-way at the hotel but no reference was made to this in court. Mr McCarthy gave evidence that although he had no experience in the bar trade, he had acquainted himself with the alcohol laws.He said he planned to move a management team in to run the hotel and they would operate it under him.He said the hotel needed some renovation but no structural works but rather works to address some damp and leaking roofs.He said that he did not envisage the hotel will open in the summer but may be open before Christmas.Judge Paul Kelly explained to the former owner Mr McGlade that he did not have the right to object at the current court but could do so during the annual licensing court in September. Judge Kelly also advised solicitor Mr Twomey to inform his client of the situation with regard to Mr McGlade’s objection to the hotel.FORMER OWNER OBJECTS TO LICENSE FOR SHANDON HOTEL was last modified: May 20th, 2015 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:donegalobjectionPortnablaghshandon hotellast_img read more