------------------------------------------------------------------- Let Adults Decide What To Ingest (A letter to the editor of the Oregonian dismisses the newspaper's recent editorial on the Institute of Medicine report by asserting the primacy of individual rights.) Date: 19 Apr 99 01:34:25 PDT From: Paul Freedom (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: "DRCTalk Reformers' Forum" (email@example.com) Subject: LTE!-LET ADULTS DECIDE WHAT TO INGEST-Published-Oregonian Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Sender: email@example.com published letter to the editor The Oregonian-4-17-99 by Floyd Ferris Landrath---- LET ADULTS DECIDE WHAT TO INGEST While "Putting pot in its place" (March 20 editorial), you continue to dance around any rational justification for government waging its deadly war against us adults who choose to use marijuana or some other controlled substance without government approval. As a competent adult, I don't think it's any of your or my government's business what I eat, drink, or smoke. It's certainly not newsworthy. But for government to regulate personal appetites to this degree is an insult to adults, a threat to liberty, a radical departure from rational policy and an invitation to corruption. We have institutionalized madness, along with nearly 1 million nonviolent, low-level drug offenders [who are] prisoners of war. Government is as addicted to the drug war as junkies are addicted to heroin, perhaps even more. None of this is really about "good medicine" or medical marijuana, it's much more a mind-set - a mind-set that's threatened with any minor deviation, such as medical marijuana, and growing public support for even more meaningful reform. Floyd F. Landrath, director American Antiprohibition League Southeast Portland
------------------------------------------------------------------- Strip club suit keeps beer flowing for free (The Oregonian says Scores, in Northeast Salem, wants to continue to give away beer without a liquor license and is asking a judge to declare the practice legal in a lawsuit filed Friday in Marion County Circuit Court. The flow of free beer resumed Friday after a day's halt for a special event.) Newshawk: Portland NORML (http://www.pdxnorml.org/) Pubdate: Sat, Apr 17 1999 Source: Oregonian, The (OR) Copyright: 1999 The Oregonian Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 1320 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201 Fax: 503-294-4193 Website: http://www.oregonlive.com/ Forum: http://forums.oregonlive.com/ Author: Cheryl Martinis, correspondent, the Oregonian Strip club suit keeps beer flowing for free * Scores' lawsuit asserts the promotional gimmick is legal because state law prohibits only the selling of beer without a liquor license SALEM -- A strip club that wants to continue to give away beer without a state liquor license is asking a judge to declare the practice legal. Scores, in a lawsuit filed Friday in Marion County Circuit Court, asserts that the beer promotion is legal and asks for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from pursuing any administrative or criminal action against the club. Scores resumed the flow of free beer Friday after a day's halt for a special event. The Northeast Salem business, described in court papers as an "exotic dancing club," on April 7 started offering customers ages 21 and older up to two glasses of free beer. "Our research shows that our policy is legal," said Michael Spiotti, a principal in Sports Entertainment, which operates Scores and was named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Spiotti made the comment in an affidavit attached to the suit. Oregon Liquor Control Commission officials have said they think it's illegal for Scores to serve the beer without a liquor license. But a Scores attorney, Kevin T. Lafky of Salem, said state law prohibits only the selling of beer without a liquor license. In this case, he said, Scores customers do not provide any financial consideration for the beer. Customers who accepted free beer were not asked to pay a cover charge, Scores Manager Dylan Salts previously said. Although they might choose to tip a dancer or buy a burger, they are not required to do so to obtain the beer, Lafky noted. Scores once started to apply for a liquor license but withdrew the application in the wake of strong neighborhood opposition and an unfavorable recommendation from the city of Salem. The lawsuit named the state of Oregon as the defendant.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Hayden hearings (A bulletin from California NORML says SB 1261, a bill sponsored by state senator Tom Hayden that would create a commission on drug policy and violence, was approved by the senate Public Safety Committee on a 6-0 vote now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Here's some swing votes to lobby.) From: email@example.com (Dale Gieringer) Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dale Gieringer) To: email@example.com Subject: Re: DPFCA: Hayden hearings Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 10:07:20 -0800 Good news! Sen. Hayden's bill SB 1261 to create a commission on drug policy and violence was approved by the State Senate Public Safety Committee on a 6-0 vote, with support from the committee's two Republicans. The one cloud on the horizon is that it had to be modified so as to explicitly fund the commission: this makes it an appropriations bill, requiring a 2/3 majority for passage. SB 1261 now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Swing votes include Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), David Kelley (R-Riverside/SD), Dede Alpert (D-Coronado), Richard Mountjoy (R-Monrovia). *** Dale Gieringer (415) 563-5858 // firstname.lastname@example.org 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114
------------------------------------------------------------------- Cannabis Has Herbal Benefits Research Can Help Unlock (An op-ed by a professional herbalist in the Buffalo News, in New York, summarizes the pharmacological history of cannabis.) Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 23:34:29 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US NY: Cannabis Has Herbal Benefits Research Can Help Unlock Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: General Pulaski Pubdate: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 Source: Buffalo News (NY) Copyright: 1999 - The Buffalo News Fax: 716-856-5150 Website: http://www.buffnews.com/ Author: Patra A. Mangus, a professional herbalist for the past 27 years. She owns and operates Bi-Nutrients Herbal Information Center in Buffalo. CANNABIS HAS HERBAL BENEFITS RESEARCH CAN HELP UNLOCK As a child of the '60s, I was well aware of the recreational value of cannabis. (Yes, I inhaled, but as a non-smoker, I didn't do it very well.) Its virtues were extolled in music and films. The biggest joke was that you were using it for "medicinal purposes." Recently, there was an article in The News about an advisory panel that has concluded that compounds found in marijuana are effective for easing pain and relieving nausea. It turns out there are very real medicinal virtues to this forbidden herb. Cannabis has been used for centuries, by many cultures, as a drug to combat illness. It was officially listed in pharmaceutical repertoires in Europe and America. One of the first professionally prepared pharmaceuticals was a compound called Squire's Extract, used to treat typhus and rabies. There were dozens of cannabis-based remedies available by either prescription or over the counter, including Chlorodyne, a stomachic made by Squibb; Dr. Browns Sedative Tablets; One Day Cough Syrup; Syrup Tolou; Syrup Lobelia; and Corn Collodium. Parke-Davis manufactured several cannabis-based medications, including Casadein, Utroval and Veterinary Colic medicine. Some of the largest companies in the world were involved in their research and development. In time, the pharmaceutical companies stopped using cannabis because they were unable to standardize the levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabidiol and Cannabinol. Without standardization, there was no profit in developing a drug from it. As anecdotal evidence stimulates interest in the therapeutic applications of cannabis, "empirical" data accumulates. From this data, scientific interest centers on conditions that responded well to the use of cannabis, the most familiar being nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. As early as 1970, patients undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease and other cancers discovered that if they smoked cannabis before receiving chemotherapy, they suffered less nausea and vomiting. Research has demonstrated that cannabis has very beneficial effects on patients suffering from glaucoma. It reduces the symptoms caused by high ocular-fluid levels. It is a proven appetite stimulant, which can be valuable to AIDS patients suffering from "wasting away syndrome." It even has the potential to be used in cases of anorexia. Cannabis is a herb that needs to be heated to release the effects of the synergistic compounds and help the body assimilate it. That is why smoking pot or baking it into food is the preferred way to consume it. It is also effective when made into a hot tea and sipped slowly. This form also helps flush the body of toxins and keeps the body hydrated. If the pharmaceutical companies can find a more efficient delivery mechanism, such as an inhaler, it appears that medical marijuana may become a reality. The active compound in Cannabis, called THC, has been produced in synthetic form by Ely Lilly and marketed under the generic name Dronabinol, and the trade name Marinol. It has been prescribed for many of the same things that cannabis has been used to treat. More research is being done to determine the mechanisms that allow cannabis to affect the body's neurological system. Hopefully, this is an area where science and medicine can join the long historical uses of plant medicine to benefit people with serious illness and speed their recovery. And, like the poppy plant, which gave us morphine, marijuana can become a standard part of our pharmacopoeia. PATRA A. MANGUS has been a professional herbalist for the past 27 years. She owns and operates Bi-Nutrients Herbal Information Center in Buffalo. For writer guidelines for columns appearing in this space, send a self- addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drug And Alcohol Use Jump In Nation's Capitol (According to an Associated Press article in the Standard-Times, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which implies that alcohol is not a drug, District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams cited a new report by Drug Strategies that claimed adult cocaine and heroin use rates in the district were twice the national average in 1993, the latest figures available. The Drug Strategies report also showed heavy drinking was 50 percent more prevalent among adults in the capital than among their peers nationwide, and alcohol-related deaths in the district were double the national rate. Unfortunately, AP doesn't mention Drug Strategies' methodology or its agenda.) Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 16:06:41 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US DC: Drug And Alcohol Use Jump In Nation's Capitol Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: John Smith Pubdate: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 Source: Standard-Times (MA) Copyright: 1999 The Standard-Times Contact: YourView@S-T.com Website: http://www.s-t.com/ Author: Jennifer Andes, Associated Press writer DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE JUMP IN NATION'S CAPITOL WASHINGTON - Illicit use of drugs and alcohol has reached crisis proportions in the nation's capital and must be dealt with quickly, Mayor Anthony Williams said yesterday. "We have to act now," Williams said. "Left on autopilot ..., this is not a pretty picture." Drug and alcohol abuse costs the District of Columbia about $1.2 billion a year and accounts for most of the district's crime problems, Williams said. He cited a new report by Drug Strategies, a nonprofit research institute headquartered in the district, that said the district's annual per capita spending on the problem amounts to $42.50 on drug prevention and treatment and $1,257 on criminal justice. The report recommends the city spend a greater proportion of its drug-related funding on prevention and rehabilitation. Williams said he was willing to consider it but gave no specifics. According to the report, addicted prisoners are regularly released from the district's jails and halfway houses without getting necessary treatment. "We know we're not getting ahead of the problem," Assistant Police Chief Terrence Gainer said. "Just locking people up is simply not enough." The report found adult cocaine and heroin use rates in the district were twice the national average in 1993, the latest figures available. Current studies cited by the report show heavy drinking is 50 percent more prevalent among adults in the capital than among their peers nationwide, and alcohol-related deaths in the district are double the national rate.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Study Finds Drug Abuse At Heart Of City's Ills (The Washington Post version is similarly one-sided and uncritical.) Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 16:08:18 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US DC: Study Finds Drug Abuse At Heart Of City's Ills Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Jim Galasyn Pubdate: Apr 17, 1999 Source: Washington Post (DC) Copyright: 1999 The Washington Post Company Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071 Feedback: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Author: Sari Horwitz STUDY FINDS DRUG ABUSE AT HEART OF CITY'S ILLS Mayor Promises More Treatment Cocaine and heroin use rates among District residents are twice the national average. Heavy drinking is 50 percent more prevalent among D.C. adults than among adults nationwide. And alcohol-related mortality is double the national rate, as is the percentage of residents who need alcohol and other drug treatment, according to a report released yesterday. Continuing problems with drug and alcohol use -- particularly among youths -- present one of the biggest challenges to Mayor Anthony A. Williams's efforts to improve living conditions in the District, city officials said yesterday in announcing the study by the nonprofit group Drug Strategies. They said drug use is linked with much of what ails the city -- including joblessness, child abuse, domestic violence and crime -- and has been exacerbated by a lack of drug treatment and prevention programs. The two-year study, which officials called the most comprehensive of its kind to date, also found that marijuana use by D.C. teenagers is increasing. The city's drug-related arrests are going up, and the number of D.C. high school students who reported being offered, sold or given an illicit drug on school property more than doubled from 1993 to 1997. Williams said the study shows, in stark terms, why the District must dedicate more resources to keeping youths away from drugs and boosting programs for adults whose lives have been sidetracked by substance abuse. The mayor is currently proposing to spend $26 million on drug prevention and treatment programs. He vowed to increase the amount of money in his budget for such programs, but did not say by how much. "We hear you, and we will overlook this problem no longer," said Williams, who received a copy of the report during the news conference at Covenant House Washington, a nonprofit in Southeast Washington that helps troubled youths. "Left on autopilot with these statistics, this is not a pretty picture. We cannot allow this to happen." The newest statistics on the lack of treatment programs indicate that while drug use is going up, the number of outpatient slots and inpatient beds available has dropped by 50.3 percent over the last five years. "We need to find a lot of money here," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "The drug treatment budget has been cut by $15 million since 1994. I'm encouraged by the mayor's willingness to consider increases in funding, but we've got to identify specific dollars in significant amounts to make a difference." Among the city's 2,500 child protective cases, 85 percent involve a parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs, the report found, and parental drug abuse is a factor in 75 percent of the foster-care cases. Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said that the D.C. police department makes one drug arrest an hour. Recently, Gainer said, he was at a crime scene when a woman approached him. "I'm a junkie," he recalled her saying. "Can you get me a [drug treatment] bed?" He couldn't; there weren't any available. "At that moment, a person was reaching out for help, and the city wasn't able to provide it," Gainer said. The health care costs of alcohol and drug use to the District exceed $1.2 billion, according to the 40-page study, which was supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Bonderman Family Foundation and the Fannie Mae Foundation. In low-income, predominantly black communities east of the Anacostia River, "you can always find a liquor store without going far," said Vincent Gray, former director of the District's Department of Human Services. Gray is now executive director of Covenant House Washington and a member of the advisory panel of Drug Strategies. Although the District spends more per capita on law enforcement than any other city in the nation, D.C. officials have not spent all of the funding available to fight drug abuse in recent years, the report concluded. The city spends $43 per capita on drug prevention and treatment, compared with $1,257 per capita on criminal justice. Nearly 70 percent of all arrestees test positive for drugs, while fewer than 10 percent receive drug treatment, and two-thirds of D.C. homicides appear related to alcohol or drug use, the study found. "Drug arrests are basically driving the criminal justice system," said Mathea Falco, president of Drug Strategies. In 1997, 617 young people were arrested for drug offenses, a 37 percent increase over 1992. Cocaine and heroin arrests (mostly for possession) made up 52 percent of juvenile drug arrests, with 47 percent of the arrests for marijuana. Males, ages 14 to 19, make up just 3 percent of the District's population but account for 19 percent of all drug arrests in the city. The District also has the nation's third-highest alcohol consumption rate per capita -- equivalent to nearly three six-packs of beer per person every week, the report said. And most alcohol outlets licensed for off-premise sales are in city neighborhoods with predominantly African American residents. The District's alcohol excise tax rates are among the lowest in the country, and revenue is not earmarked for prevention, treatment or law enforcement efforts to reduce alcohol-related problems, the report said, adding that the city's tobacco licensing agency also lacks the authority to impose fines and suspend or revoke a license because of sales to minors. "The gateway to substance abuse is wide open," said D.C. financial control board member Eugene Kinlow. "But the exits are dimly lit and poorly marked. We have to reverse this."
------------------------------------------------------------------- 'Crisis' Of Black Males Gets High-Profile Look (The Washington Post says nationally, one in three young black men is under the supervision of the criminal justice system, and the rate approaches 50 percent in some states. In all, 12 states and the District of Columbia imprison blacks at rates 10 times those of whites, according to the latest government figures. The composite picture has become so alarming that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights made it the subject of an unusual two-day conference this week in Washington, D.C.) Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 00:16:06 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US: 'Crisis' Of Black Males Gets High-Profile Look Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Jo-D Harrison Dunbar Pubdate: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 Source: Washington Post (DC) Copyright: 1999 The Washington Post Company Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071 Feedback: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm Website: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Author: Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post Staff Writer 'CRISIS' OF BLACK MALES GETS HIGH-PROFILE LOOK Rights Panel Probes Crime, Joblessness, Other Ills The problems confronting young black males are staggering: They are far more likely than whites to be sent to prison, to fall victim to homicide, to suffer serious illness, to fail at school and to be unemployed. Nationally, one in three young black men is under the supervision of the criminal justice system, and the rates approach 50 percent in some states. In all, 12 states and the District of Columbia imprison blacks at rates 10 times those of whites, according to the latest government figures. Overall, black males have a life expectancy of 66.1 years, compared with 73.9 for white men. About 74 percent of black men graduate from high school, compared with 86 percent of whites. In some areas, unemployment among black men is three times that of whites. The composite picture has become so alarming that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights made it the subject of an unusual two-day conference here this week. "This is a very real and serious and difficult issue," said Mary Frances Berry, head of the commission. "This crisis has broad implications for the future of the race." But unlike many topics explored by the commission, which usually probes issues that are seen as direct results of racial bias, there is no consensus on the main cause of the crisis afflicting black males. Is it social pathology? Racial discrimination? Or both? Experts told the commission that much of the problem is related to the breakdown of families, the prevalence of drugs and the lack of economic opportunity in many poor, black communities. For years, civil rights groups have urged the government to redouble its efforts to help troubled families by increasing spending for Head Start, education and job training programs and by providing additional counseling and crisis intervention. Beyond that, however, the experts said there is a need to fill the voids in the lives of many young black men. "One-on-one interaction. Small group instruction, small group counseling. Those are the things that make the difference," said Bill Highsmith, an aide to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who volunteers as a youth mentor. Witnesses also told the commission that black youth suffer because they are targeted as potential criminals by police, frequently receive poor legal representation if they are arrested and typically receive more and longer prison sentences than whites. In a speech Thursday, Attorney General Janet Reno condemned the use of racial profiling--which assumes that black males are apt to commit crimes--as a law enforcement tool. Surveys have found that African Americans constitute 15 percent of the nation's drug users but make up a third of those arrested on drug charges and 57 percent of those convicted on drug charges. Once convicted on drug charges, studies have found, blacks receive on average one year more in prison than whites, which some see as evidence of discrimination. But others argue that black men are sent to prison at higher rates and for longer periods of time only because they are more likely than others to be involved in serious crime. Whatever the reason, the high rates of incarceration have consequences that extend deep into black communities. Not only are neighborhoods stripped of many men who might otherwise be part of the social fabric--doing things like coaching recreation league teams and providing stability for their families--but the loss of population also reduces the many forms of government aid linked to the number of people who live in a specific community. Ironically, convicted blacks are frequently shifted to rural white areas, where many prisons and inmates are counted as part of the population. "What happens really amounts to a transfer of wealth from one community to another," said Tracy Huling, a consultant who presented a paper to the commission. In education, black males are typically the lowest achievers and the most likely to be suspended or expelled from school. Some experts blame that on the absence of black male role models, teaching styles that don't make allowances for the high energy levels of black boys, and low teacher expectations. But there are also studies that say teacher expectations grow from firsthand experience. Also, experts have found that some black boys mistakenly believe that to do well in school is somehow a betrayal of their race. When it comes to health issues, black men are more likely than others to die violently or as the result of chronic illnesses including AIDS, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Berry said that beyond early childhood, many black men have little contact with doctors outside of emergency situations. In all, 14 expert consultants and 11 government, religious and other leaders were to address the commission's conference. The commission has no legislative or judicial power, but Berry said it will use the information gathered at the conference to advocate policy changes to address the problems.
------------------------------------------------------------------- New Drugs For Old Habits (The Economist, in Britain, says advances in the understanding of how alcohol, cocaine, heroin and nicotine affect the brain at the cellular and molecular level are leading to new approaches to treating substance abuse. A few companies such as Merck and DuPont have already taken the plunge, at least for alcohol abuse.) Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 17:22:38 -0700 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: UK: New Drugs For Old Habits Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: D. Paul Stanford http://www.crrh.org/ Pubdate: Sat., 17 April 1999 Source: Economist, The (UK) Copyright: 1999. The Economist Newspaper Limited. Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.economist.com/ Note: The Economist includes related web links below on it's website. They may not appear in the print edition. NEW DRUGS FOR OLD HABITS Advances In Both Science And Social Attitudes Could Lead To Novel Treatments For Drug And Alcohol Addiction IN THE world of addiction, ingenuity knows few bounds. People have always had a knack for getting high, and sometimes hooked, on the most unlikely substances, from mushrooms to poppies. But though modern pharmacology has created hundreds of new drugs, both legal and illicit, for would-be junkies, it has offered few that can deal with the problem of addiction itself. Until now. Advances in the understanding of how alcohol, cocaine, heroin and nicotine affect the brain at the cellular and molecular level are leading to new approaches to treating substance abuse. The challenge, say addiction experts, is to persuade drug companies to develop these bright ideas into marketable products with the same enthusiasm they have for drugs to treat cancer, say, or depression. A few companies have taken the plunge, at least for alcohol abuse. Consider acamprosate, a new drug made by Merck Lipha, a company based in Lyons, France. The compound, which helps reformed alcoholics stay off the bottle after detoxification, is finishing late-stage clinical trials in America, and has been on the market in Europe since 1995. How it works is still uncertain. Acamprosate is known to bind to a protein on nerve cells in the brain called the NMDA receptor, which is normally involved in relaying excitatory signals between nerve cells. Alcohol withdrawal boosts the receptor's activity and reduces the effects of other inhibitory proteins, sending the brain into a twitter, and the drinker in search of liquor. Joseph Volpicelli, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, reckons that acamprosate may act by dampening the hyperactive NMDA receptor, restoring the balance between excitation and inhibition in the brain, so keeping reformed alcoholics on the wagon. At any rate, in large-scale clinical trials in Europe, twice as many alcoholics taking acamprosate stayed dry after a year of daily dosing compared with those receiving a placebo. Acamprosate may prove a good partner for naltrexone, another anti-alcoholism drug launched by America's DuPont in 1995. Naltrexone has been found to lower the high associated with drinking and to diminish craving. It is not a new drug: it was approved 15 years ago to treat heroin addiction. But old drugs, often developed for quite different disorders, tend to find new uses in addiction medicine, largely because of the lack of drugs tailor-made to deal with substance abuse. Another difficulty, says Dr Volpicelli, is that most alcoholics and doctors are largely unaware of these new medical treatments. And many Americans believe that, unlike other diseases such as cancer, addiction is a moral rather than a medical problem. Even such long-established drugs as methadone, for treating heroin addiction, are controversial in America, and new drugs take much longer to be accepted than in Europe. There is also plenty of room for improvement in administering the drugs. One big problem with naltrexone is that users often forget, deliberately or otherwise, to take their pills. One solution, now being tested by Drug Abuse Sciences, a biotechnology company in Menlo Park, California, is to repackage naltrexone from pill form into microspheres that can be implanted under the skin. In animal tests, this slow-release system sustained steady levels of the compound for one month. Drug Abuse Sciences is hoping to try it on human volunteers in clinical trials later this month. Similarly, experts are hoping for a technical fix to one of the most offputting aspects of methadone treatment for middle-class heroin addicts, namely the nuisance and humiliation of queuing up at a down-at-heel clinic in the inner city. Drug experts like Westley Clark, director of the Centre for Substance Abuse Treatment in Rockville, Maryland, are hoping to introduce more amenable means of distributing newer, potentially more effective drugs for heroin treatment (such as buprenorphine, now in clinical trials in America) to these addicts. These drugs could, he suggests, be prescribed to some patients by their own doctors. Kicking the habit The urge to drink or take drugs is, neurochemically speaking, linked to endorphins (natural morphine-like molecules) or dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in bits of the brain that control reward behaviour. A better grasp of how such reward pathways work is leading to new drugs to treat even the enfant terrible of narcotics, cocaine. According to Frank Vocci, a director of medications development at America's National Institute of Drug Abuse, several drugs are on the way that block the drug-induced craving associated with cocaine. And the range of drug therapies will grow, he believes, as new genes associated with drug and alcohol addiction are found. Among the new approaches is a cocaine-like molecule now in clinical safety trials from Neurosearch, a Copenhagen-based biotechnology firm. This drug attaches itself to a protein that is responsible for pumping dopamine back into nerve cells after its release. This same pump is targeted by cocaine, which rapidly blocks it and so boosts dopamine levels, causing an intense high. Neurosearch's compound stops cocaine from binding to the receptor by getting in the way and gradually brings dopamine levels back to normal. Cocaine-addicted baboons treated with the molecule stopped injecting themselves, with no sign of becoming hooked on the treatment instead. An even more intriguing approach to cocaine addiction uses the immune system--which can be coaxed into producing antibodies to just about anything--to attack drugs. Drug Abuse Sciences has been generating antibodies to cocaine in horses and using them to mop up cocaine in the bloodstream of other experimental animals before it reaches the brain and heart. The company believes that these antibodies might one day be useful for treating cocaine overdoses. Donald Landry and his team at Columbia University in New York have also developed antibodies to cocaine, but with a twist. As well as sticking to cocaine, their antibodies also break it up into bits, which more thoroughly removes it from the system. Cocaine-addicted rats lost their appetite for the drug after receiving a few doses of Dr Landry's catalytic antibodies. And Cantab Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-based biotechnology firm, has almost finished safety trials with its anti-cocaine vaccine designed to stimulate an addict's own immune system to fight off the drug, just as it might a bacterial infection. The company plans to try a similar approach for nicotine addiction. Weaning smokers from their weed is an alluring prospect for large pharmaceutical companies interested in millions of customers and billions of dollars in sales. But developing drugs for other addictions is a riskier commercial proposition, largely because so many addicts are poor and, in America at least, their health insurance will not always pay the bill. Yet every dollar spent on drug-abuse treatment could save as much as seven times that in medical and social costs. With such a prize at stake, all it may take to get more drug companies into the business of addiction, according to Dr Volpicelli, is one success story, such as Prozac. Until that happens, though, academics and biotechnology firms will remain busy trying to lift addiction drug development out of depression. LINKS Acamprosate, the compound which helps reformed alcoholics stay off the bottle after detoxification, is produced by Merck Lipha. DuPont is the manufacturer of naltrexone, another anti-alcoholism drug. The issues surrounding addiction medicine can be found at the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Information on the issues of drug-dependence can be found at the Lindesmith Center and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. More general substance abuse information is available at the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is here. The White House website on drugs policy is here. A web links resource on addiction related topics is here. Additional information can be found at the Addiction Resource Guide. Merck Lipha: http://www.lipha.com/ Dupont: http://www.dupont.com/ American Society of Addiction Medicine: http://www.asam.org/ Lindesmith Center: http://www.lindesmith.org/ National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.nida.nih.gov/ Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration: http://www.samhsa.gov/ The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/ The White House website on drugs policy: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/ A web links resource on addiction related topics: http://www.well.com/user/woa/aodsites.htm Addiction Resource Guide: http://www.hubplace.com/addictions/ -------------------------------------------------------------------
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