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Drug Headlines across the U.S. November 11 Edition

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS                                                                                                                         
Hit men, pistols tucked in their pants and walkie-talkies strapped to their belts, move freely in this city of sorghum farmers and cattle ranchers, dropping off their ostrich-skin boots with shoeshine boys in the city’s plaza and stopping at local bars for a beer.
The openness with which they operate - in Miguel Aleman and countless other towns across Mexico - reflects the drug cartels’ grip on this nation of nearly 100 million people, and the power they have gained as the top supplier for Americans’ $65 billion illegal drug habit.

Mexico’s drug gangs have been highly successful in the past two decades, gradually replacing Colombian gangs in the United States to control the profitable distribution of cocaine from coast-to-coast. Colombia remains the world’s largest producer, but Larry Holifield, the DEA’s director for Mexico and Central America, told The Associated Press that Mexican cartels are now the most powerful in the world.http://www.chieftain.com/national/1131294461/1

Gov. Phil Bredesen joined district attorneys general from across the state yesterday to announce a new campaign aimed at educating people about the dangers of using methamphetamine. The "Meth Destroys" campaign, which is mostly directed at young people, grew out of a recommendation from the Governor's Task Force on Meth Abuse.
"Tennessee has one of the worst meth problems in the United States," Bredesen said. "It is a critical time to educate Tennesseans about the effects of the drug — not just on individuals, but also on their families, neighborhoods and communities." The yearlong campaign will focus on middle school and high school students. Information will be distributed at schools, health departments and law enforcement agencies.
District Attorney General Dan Alsobrooks, who is spearheading the prosecutors' statewide involvement in the campaign, said better educating people would drastically affect the prosecution of meth cases.

Congress is following the lead of Minnesota and more than 29 states in considering legislation to restrict sales of pseudoephedrine. A Minnesota law restricting pseudoephedrine began July 1. It placed pseudoephedrine products behind pharmacy counters, limited the amount people could buy and required buyers to be older than 18, produce identification and sign a log book.
Under the congressional proposals, pills containing pseudoephedrine would be kept behind pharmacy counters, and buyers would have to show identification and sign a form each time they bought the pills. Buying more than 7.5 grams per month would be banned. That's about two boxes of full-strength Sudafed.
The Senate already has approved the legislation. The House is considering a measure that wouldn't restrict domestic pseudoephedrine sales. The two chambers are working to settle the differences. The state law has added 20 to 30 seconds to transactions involving pseudoephedrine at CentraCare Health Plaza's pharmacy.
"It's just something we have to do," said Keith Karsky, pharmacy manager of the pharmacy at CentraCare Health Plaza. 
The extra time comes mostly from the buyer having to record his or her information in the pharmacy's log book.

FORT WAYNE JOURNAL GAZETTE                                                                                                           
A member of President Bush’s Cabinet blocked a plan for dealing with the country’s meth epidemic by dragging his feet, Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, said Friday. He accused Michael Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, of behind-the-scenes maneuvering to slow or stop congressional action on a bill to restrict the sale of an ingredient used to make methamphetamine.

A spokeswoman for Leavitt strongly denied Souder’s accusations and said he has wrong information. Souder said Leavitt “is of the soft-on-drugs cluster” and said journalists should “ask if he’s tied in with the pharmaceutical industry so close that he won’t let us get a pseudoephedrine bill.” He did not offer any evidence about a linkage between Leavitt and the pharmaceutical industry.

Leavitt is “not soft on drugs,” HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson said. “Under him, we have been promoting a balanced approach emphasizing prevention, treatment, supply reduction.” 

Rather than wait to be sued for refusing to follow state medical marijuana laws, the county Board of Supervisors is going to force the issue by suing the state first.
The supervisors voted in closed session Tuesday to challenge the law that requires counties to provide identification cards to medical marijuana users exempting them from criminal prosecution.

Senior House Republicans said Tuesday that they plan to press ahead today with a two-pronged approach to regulating pseudoephedrine, hoping to bridge differences with the Senate and allow passage by year's end. The measure is expected to clear the House Judiciary Committee this morning at the urging of Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and head to a floor vote before Thanksgiving.
Blunt did not provide details of the plan. But a copy obtained by The Oregonian shows that it merges House and Senate bills aimed at controlling sales of pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in methamphetamine. The Senate plan deals with domestic regulation of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine. The House bill would control the international trade of the chemical.
Negotiators for the two chambers of Congress attempted to combine the legislation last week and attach it to a spending bill. But they couldn't reach agreement before the bill was voted on. Marc Wheat, staff director and general counsel to the main House committee on drug policy, said the House bill up for a vote today includes provisions that both chambers tentatively agreed to last week.
An attorney for Columbia Forest Products Inc. argued before the Oregon Supreme Court that voters who approved the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act never intended to force companies to let employees come to work with the drug in their systems.

But Philip Lebenbaum, an attorney representing a mill worker who was fired after failing several drug tests, told the justices Monday that his client's medical condition left him legally disabled, requiring his employer to make reasonable accommodations for him in the workplace under the Oregonians with Disabilities Law.

The case pits an employer's right to ensure a safe workplace against a worker's right in Oregon to use marijuana at home to treat pain. It started in 2001, when Robert Washburn was fired from the company's mill in Klamath Falls after several failed urine tests.

WASHINGTON POST                                                                                                                                     METH COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET
Chad Upham had  been the kind of kid any parent would be proud of -- an Eagle Scout, a good child who didn't cause problems in his fundamentalist Christian family. He didn't touch a beer until he was 21. Jump forward to an early Monday morning this past July. Upham, now 27, had been up all night after another weekend of drugs and sexual hookups with strangers he met online.But instead of pushing his limits for indulgence again, he made a different choice. Around 3 a.m., Upham sent an e-mail to his friends and family with some unexpected news.

"Over the past four months," he wrote, "I have become a regular user of crystal methamphetamine." He added, "I acknowledge, without shame, a concern for my mental, physical and emotional health." While meth abuse is well-established in the U.S. heartland and increasing in New York and Los Angeles, it has had a low profile in the Washington area, where crack cocaine and marijuana are still the targets of most anti-drug programs run by law enforcement and public health agencies.

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE                                                                                                                                NEW RESTRICTIONS ON SELLING COLD MEDICINES                                                                              Pauline Cole, 10, of Jeannette, walked up to the Wal-Mart pharmacy counter in Greensburg, stood on her tiptoes and waved a card showing a box of Sudafed at the pharmacist. "Where is this?" she asked, peering over the counter. "If we have it, it would be on the shelf over there," the pharmacist said, pointing to a shelf located next to the pharmacy.

The freckle-faced girl walked over to the shopper-friendly "Cough and Cold Express" station and picked up a box of Sudafed   Pennsylvania pharmacies do not have to restrict sales of medicines that contain pseudoephedrine -- such as Sudafed, Tylenol Flu and Aleve Sinus & Headache -- but many are doing it on their own. The ingredient can be illegally used to make the highly addictive street drug, methamphetamine.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill in September that would limit how much cold medicine people can buy and require them to show photo identification and sign a log. But for this cold season, at least, the potential for a consumer nightmare has proven to be not so much of a hassle at Pittsburgh pharmacies.                                                                                                                                                http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/tribpm/s_390768.html

SPEED CONTROL              
Prosecutors and federal drug-enforcement agents Monday talked about putting the brakes on Lancaster County's "speed" problem. Prosecutors and federal drug-enforcement agents Monday talked about putting the brakes on Lancaster County's "speed" problem.

About 60 people attended an educational program at Manor Middle School titled "Methamphetamine: Not Just a Big City Problem," hosted by Patrick L. Meehan, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District; county District Attorney Donald Totaro; and representatives of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

The proliferation of methamphetamine, also known as speed, is a major problem in rural areas of the Midwest and is beginning to appear in Pennsylvania, Meehan said."We have a dramatic problem that is working its way into our community, and our challenge is to do something about it," he said.

Methamphetamine was cited as the No. 1 problem for law-enforcement agencies around the country last year, Meehan said. "As imposing as this problem is, we can do something about it," Meehan said. "Education is what we need as the first line of defense." Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that gives users a feeling of alertness and increased motivation. The drug is highly addictive and has destructive physical and mental side effects, Meehan said.

Most methamphetamine is still manufactured in labs in the western United States and Mexico, but hometown labs have sprouted up across the country, and two were recently discovered in Lancaster County. "Methamphetamine is more prevalent in the west, but it is moving our way," Totaro said.
Prosecutors and federal drug-enforcement agents Monday talked about putting the brakes on Lancaster County's "speed" problem.

Alex Stalcup has helped people battle addictions to virtually all types of drugs for 18 years. But none of these drugs poses a greater challenge to conquer than methamphetamine, he says.That's why before meth users can get sober, they need certain things that other drug users do not, said Stalcup, the medical director of the New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette, Calif., and former director of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco.

They immediately need anti-psychotic medication to counter the mood-crashing low that follows the euphoric high. And they need sleep. It's not uncommon to see users who have been awake for an entire month, Stalcup says. They're cranky and aggressive. "It's very hard to learn when you haven't slept," Stalcup said at a training session last week in Godfrey for people who work with meth addicts.

Meth chemically alters the brains of users, and its effects linger even when they stop using the drug. Most people who enter drug-treatment centers have stopped using. That's not so with meth addicts, Stalcup said. Assume that they'll begin using again at least three times during treatment, he said.
THE WASHINGTON TIMES                                                                                                                      
Christopher Kennedy Lawford had just flown in from Boston to Washington for the second stop on the promotional tour for his first book, "Symptoms of Withdrawal."  Tall and slim in a navy-blue suit and open-necked white shirt, the author sat with ease in a high-backed chair in a quiet corner of a hotel on Massachusetts Avenue. With a head of thick dark hair flecked with gray at the temples, clear gray eyes and smooth skin, he looks nowhere near his 50 years. 

He is feeling good. With positive advance reviews -- including jacket blurbs from Norman Mailer and Frank McCourt -- his memoir quickly hit the New York Times best-seller list. As an actor, Mr. Lawford has a strong role in "The World's Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins. The film received warm reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival.

He is proud of the resonance of his middle name -- prominently displayed on the book's dust jacket -- though as the actor, he is billed as Chris Lawford. He earned a law degree, but never practiced as a lawyer, and turned to acting in the 1990s, when he became a star on the ABC soap opera "All My Children."  His father was English actor Peter Lawford, a member of Frank Sinatra's high-living "Rat Pack." Mr. Lawford looks a veritable clone of his father, who died in 1984. His mother is Patricia Kennedy, sister of former President John F. Kennedy. The glamour of it all is difficult to match.  Mr. Lawford fills many pages with recollections of his youth. His mother seems to have kept every note he ever wrote to her, which proved fortunate for his book. 
PUEBLO CHIEFTIAN                                                                                                                                   
The number of mothers delivering babies with illegal drugs in their systems - most notably methamphetamine and cocaine - has increased locally in recent years, according to Parkview Medical Center officials.  Susan Williams, Parkview's director of women's services and Kidsville, said she didn't immediately have exact numbers of the drug-related births.
But from her experience, Williams said the number of women with drug problems has grown in the past three years. More than one woman a month delivers with complications caused by illegal drugs, she said.Williams said the ages of the women giving birth generally ranges from age 15 or 16, to those in their late 30s.

Most often, she said, the scenarios plays out medically with placenta separation and excessive bleeding during the births. Williams said the growing number of occurrences is memorable because many are high-risk deliveries - when both the mother's and baby's lives are in jeopardy. "You see complications, placenta separation and bleeding, which are definitely a risk for the baby," she said. "You see pre-term labor. You can actually see pre-term births because if the placenta separates, that's a complete emergency delivery because (the placenta) is how the baby gets its oxygen."

In about half of the cases when the women go into labor and are ready to deliver, Pueblo County Social Services officials already are aware and involved in the situation, according to Williams http://www.chieftain.com/metro/1131185317/8                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Congressional staff are currently discussing the final levels of funding for alcohol and drug prevention, treatment, research and education programs in the LHHS (Labor, Health and Human Services and Education) spending bill.  The House is still discussing the possibility of doing an across-the-board spending cut for all non-defense programs.  This means that our programs that are being level funded, including the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant are in jeopardy.   The Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities State Grants Program is also still at risk of losing a significant portion, if not all, of its funding.    

Please fax and call your Senators and House Representatives and ask them to support the attached field recommendations for alcohol and drug programs. If you live in a State or District with a member on the Conference Committee that will be working out the differences between the Senate and House passed bills, it is extremely important that they hear from as many constituents as possible today about the importance of protecting funding for these programs.   

House Members on the Conference Committee (Conferees):

Regula (R-OH), Istook (R-OK), Wicker (R-MS), Northup (R-KY), Cunningham (R-CA), Granger (R-TX), Peterson (R-PA), Sherwood (R-PA), Weldon (R-FL), Walsh (R-NY), Lewis (R-CA), Obey (D-WI), Hoyer (D-MD), Lowey (D-NY), DeLauro (D-CT), Jackson (D-IL), Kennedy (D-RI), and Roybal-Allard (D-CA)

Senate Members on the Conference Committee (Conferees):
Arlen Specter (R-PA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Larry Craig (R-ID), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Robert Byrd (D-WV). 
The field requested funding levels are:

 $1.7756 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, the foundation of the publicly supported prevention and treatment system in this country.

  • $422.3 million for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), including $100 million for the Access to Recovery drug treatment voucher program.
  • $202.3 million for the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP).
  • $400 million for the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities State Grants program.
  • $452.3 million for research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  • $1.035 billion for research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Questions? Please feel free to call Alexa Eggleston or Gabrielle de la Gueronniere at the Legal Action Center 202-544-5478 .
Thank You for Your Efforts!
Alexa Eggleston, J.D.
Director of National Policy
Legal Action Center
236 Massachusetts Ave. NE Suite 505
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 544-5478 ex.11
(202) 544-5712 (Fax)
Robert Charles                                                                                                                                                       

Big victories in the drug war are seldom big news. Good news violates the old adage that "what bleeds leads," especially in competitive nightly news. But there is good news and it needs airing. It also leads to next steps.

You know, drug war stories are like castor oil. They might be good for you, but they are no fun to read. Yes, drug overdoses ended 20,000 young lives in 2003, crushing dreams, leaving gaping holes in families, schools and communities. But that stuff hurts to read. Don't you flip past that to the far away news?

Yes, drugs fund terrorism from Colombia to Afghanistan, but we are on that, aren't we? Surely that stuff is being handled by state and federal law enforcement. Do we have to be reminded -- again -- that we live in the midst of hidden dangers? Who needs that? Where's the sports page?

Slow down. Here are some facts for parents, grandparents, teachers, policy makers and the newsroom -- and then some good news. First, talking with kids -- even if it's a bit awkward -- about what you are about to read could save them -- or a friend. 

 Second, drug purities are outrageously high. Not long ago, heroin was 7 percent pure across the country. Today, it is between 70 and 90 percent -- everywhere. Emergency rooms are awash. A teen caught unaware and convinced to try it may not get a second chance. No kidding. Heroin can be popped, smoked, snorted or injected. They call it opium and other seductive names.

Ask your son or daughter if they know it can kill with one use. Have they seen it on school grounds, going, coming? Ever seen ecstasy, E, or butterfly? How about cocaine, or prescription drugs like oxycontin? Ask if they know marijuana is often laced with PCP. Know who the sellers are? You'll be surprised what they know. At some point, most kids are approached. The number one reason most say no -- is you.

Ok, so what about methamphetamine, or meth? You know about meth, right? If
you don't, you are behind the times. One in 20 kids has tried it. Addiction rates are rising. In 16 states, there are now more kids in treatment for meth than either cocaine or heroin.

The East Coast is getting hit by a major wave of trafficking that started in California a decade ago, led by Mexican "super labs" and cheap ingredients. Those are (you knew this) over-the-counter pseudo-ephedrine and ephedrine. Rapid increases in use are being recorded in Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia, but Virginia, Maryland and the District of Colombia are vulnerable.

Meth purities doubled over the past decade. It is now 70 percent in many cities. Not many second chances there. A few dollars will buy enough meth for addiction; $25 dollars will buy several "rocks." Like the heroin, meth takes over, masked by increasing secrecy, kicking the unwitting teen into an abyss from which climbing out is often harder than escaping heroin addiction.

Down with that user goes her family -- parents and siblings, or children of the addict. From there radiate widening circles of pain. Yes, even "good kids" from "good families" get caught -- by the thousands. In major cities, between a quarter and a third of all arrestees test positive for meth.

Simple use induces unparalleled violence and depravity, as previous values get left curbside. Brain damage -- ugly stuff -- accompanies chronic use. That condition looks like Alzheimer's. Half of all states now consider meth the number one drug threat to kids. So, ask your son or daughter if they have ever heard talk of ice, speed, chalk, crystal, crank, glass, fire or poor man's cocaine. That's all meth.

So where's the good news? Well, this summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally approved -- with administration support -- a thorough-going anti-methamphetamine bill. This is more than talk.

While leaving tough state drug laws in place, the bill puts meth's primary ingredients -- pseudo-ephedrine and ephedrine -- behind the counter. It takes away easy access to these ingredients for those who were using them, and that is a big, good news story for kids, parents and families, not to mention law enforcement.

The next step is simple. If we apply international pressure to the ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine producers in India, China, the Czech Republic and Germany -- there are only nine -- we might be able to stop at the source a major scourge. Of course, that's another good news story you won't hear. But it is worth trying all the same. Now, back to the sports page.
Robert Charles, former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, 2003-2005, is currently president of The Charles Group, Gaithersburg, Md