drugs

Some Latin Leaders Want New Approach To Drug War

Apr 12, 2012

When President Obama travels to Colombia this weekend for the Summit of the Americas, he'll be stepping into a vigorous debate about the drug war that could be awkward for the United States.

Some Latin American leaders, who also happen to be strong U.S. allies, say the American-sponsored war on drugs is failing and that new options need to be considered.

One proposal they want to discuss is legalizing some drugs — a move the U.S. strongly opposes.

Colombia was once associated with cocaine trafficking and powerful drug lords, but today's reality is different: It's stable, a magnet for foreign investment and diplomatically engaged — and this weekend hosts the Summit of the Americas. Increasingly, Colombia is seen as South America's rising star.

Photo by Beast of Traal via Flickr Creative Commons

Part 1:

Users, Unite!

This is the one union that will kick you out if you pass a drug test. Jesse McKinley wrote about the evolution and demands of the San Francisco drug users union for The New York Time.

New York Times Article  

Part 2:

The Cow Clause

This is the one union that will kick you out if you pass a drug test. Jesse McKinley wrote about the evolution and demands of the San Francisco drug users union for The New York Time.

New York Times Article  

Over the past few years, authorities have arrested more than 200 gang members in an unexpected place: the tree-lined suburbs along the Hudson River in New York.

Drug traffickers with ties to the Bloods, the Latin Kings and other gangs have put down roots there. Authorities say they brought shootings and stabbings with them.

Middletown, N.Y., is 90 minutes northwest of the city. On West Main Street, you can find tidy brick buildings from the 1800s, a brew pub, and a restaurant that sells fresh mussels and escargot.

Australia is a huge island, with stretches of lonely, rocky coastline that extend for thousands of miles. What's more, there are lots of harbors and airports.

In short, opportunities are plentiful for an enterprising Mexican drug trafficker to move his product 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to service the vibrant new market Down Under.

One such drug lord is Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel. He's a cunning, small-statured, exceedingly dangerous outlaw recently dubbed "the world's most powerful drug trafficker" by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Officials in Mexico are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in the northern state of Nuevo Leon on Sunday.

The governor says the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape.

It was a jail break that epitomized the Mexican drug war: Rival gang members brutally killed each other, corrupt public officials looked the other way, and dangerous criminals went free.

Dennis Potter says he started doing meth when he was 16. Two years later, he learned how to make it.

"It's so easy," he says. "Any person can do it. You can go to Walgreens, Home Depot and Wal-Mart, and they sell every bit of the ingredients."

Federal prosecutors say they have dropped its doping case against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. For two years, prosecutors looked into allegations that Armstrong and his United States Postal squad used performance-enhancing drugs.

The AP reports:

"In a press release, United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. says the case has been closed but didn't disclose the reason for the decision.

Flikr Creative Commons / Dvortygirl

A governor’s commission has released a report detailing surprising levels of prescription drug abuse in New Hampshire. The commission’s findings give weight to a push to create a prescription drug monitoring program in the state.

According to the report, almost 17 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds in New Hampshire say they have abused prescription drugs in the past year. That’s the second highest rate in the country.

Rachel Gotbaum / NHPR

New Hampshire has one of the worst prescription drug abuse problems in the country. The state now ranks 5th in the nation for percentage of residents who abuse medications such as percocet, vicodin, and oxycodone, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control. The problem is especially alarming among young people. New Hampshire has the second highest rate of 18-25 year olds who abuse prescription drugs in the nation.

Danielle Fiore , 24, says she was addicted to painkillers for most of her childhood.

"I had fractured my ankle and I was prescribed vicodin and it felt good. I was ten or eleven," she says. "As time went on I would get something else hurt or a toothache or something and I would get more painkillers. I have a bunch of teeth missing because I would complain and get them pulled so I would get pain killers."

Currently New Hampshire has no prescription drug monitoring program. The program, which is up and running in 48 other states, is initially funded through federal grants. The proposal to create a centralized prescription database that doctors and law enforcement could check to track so called "doctor shoppers" has been defeated several times in the state Legislature. A new bill is now being considered this session and its sponsor Senator Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, is hopeful that there is enough support for a statewide prescription monitoring program this time. He cites the growing number of overdose deaths in the state from prescription drugs. In the last decade overdose deaths from these medications have more than tripled.

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Data source: NH Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

"There are more people dying because of abuse of prescription drugs that are legal than automobile accidents, he says. "We ought to have a tool to try to sort out the legal use of these drugs and the appropriate use and those that aren’t."

For those who oppose a statewide prescription drug database privacy is a major issue. Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, says such a program goes against the Granite State's core philosophy.

 "This is New Hampshire, this is the 'Live Free or Die' state, " says Kurk.  "One of the major reasons this bill has not been adopted is because most people feel it’s the independent philosophy,  personal responsibility philosophy that prevails and that government should be small and not interfere with people’s lives."

Many of the state's independent pharmacists are also against a monitoring program because they worry they will end up footing the bill. The database would be drawn from pharmacy records. Rick Newman, a lobbyist for the New Hampshire Independent Pharmacy Association, says the small business people he represents will be end up carrying the burden of the costs of such a database.

"I can’t sit here as anyone with any kind of intelligence and disagree that’s there's a problem with people abusing prescription drugs in this country, of course there is," says Newman. "The question becomes whose burden is that? We can’t pass laws to put the burden on the small business person because they happen to be one part of the pipeline."

Emergency room doctors and those that treat pain say they are often confronted by patients who may be faking symptoms to get narcotics for their addiction or to sell on the street.

"I want people who have legitimate pain to get the proper pain medications that they need," say Dr. David Heller, an emergency room physician at Portsmouth Hospital.  "But I don’t want to feed somebody’s addiction and I don’t want to write a prescription for drugs that are going to be sold to my kids or my kid's friends."

New numbers show the Granite State is near the top when it comes to abusing painkillers. Also, New Hampshire is  one of only two states that does not monitor the purchases of these medications.  We’ll explore that latest on this issue, and what some are in New Hampshire are doing to reverse these sobering numbers.

Guests 

A secret online black market exposed. And a Connecticut High School's controversial, Columbine-style ruse to clear the hallways for a drug sweep.  

Photo by Vaporizers, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Our guest Sabrina Rubin Erdely describes her journey down the Silk Road, an underground website where hack-savvy browsers can buy virtually anything, assuming it's illegal.

LINKS

Sabrina's article about the Silk Road

Sabrina's website about other stuff

Late last month, students at Wolcott High School in Connecticut were on lockdown. An announcement on the intercom warned of a threatening intruder. Doors were locked and police swooped in with dogs…drug-sniffing dogs as it turned out. But there was no gun-toting maniac roaming the halls. It was a “lockdown intervention drill”… a ruse to clear the halls for a school-wide drug search.

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