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kottke.org posts about drugs

The search for a blockbuster insomnia drug

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 03, 2013

Merck is working on a new insomnia drug that they claim has few of the sometimes nasty side effects of other drugs like Ambien. Ian Parker reports for the New Yorker.

If the Merck scientists succeeded at the F.D.A., they would be the first to bring an orexin-related drug to market. “It’s an amazing achievement,” Richard Hargreaves, the fourth colleague at the Hilton, said. “Everyone should be really proud.” But, he added, “my worry is that a new mechanism is being evaluated on the science of an old mechanism.”

“With Ambien, you’ve got a drug that’s got basically only onset,” Renger said, dismissively. That is, it sends you to sleep but might not keep you asleep. “Suvorexant has the onset, but it has the great maintenance, especially in the last third of the night, where other drugs fail.” And even though suvorexant keeps working longer than Ambien, suvorexant patients don’t feel groggier afterward, as you might expect. Impassioned, Renger imagined himself addressing the F.D.A.: “Why aren’t you giving this a chance?”

“Drugs usually have some side effects,” Schoepp said. “It’s all benefit-risk.” He added, “There is some dose where suvorexant will be ultimately safe-because nothing will happen. If you go low enough, it becomes homeopathic.”

They stood to go to their rooms. Schoepp murmured, “I’d love to take it right now.”

A junkie’s view of the Chicago drug trade

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2013

Fascinating article about what it’s like to buy heroin on the west side of Chicago. The ritual of buying is just as exciting as the shooting up.

The fact is, and I don’t care who tries to dispute this, that a majority of the people who make the daily migration to the West Side to cop blows are as addicted to the ritual of copping dope as they are to the dope itself. It is an adrenaline rush no different than those achieved by people who jump out of airplanes. And dope fiends get to experience it every day.

(via @torrez)

Silk Road fallout

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2013

With Silk Road kingpin Ross Ulbricht in custody, one imagines that a whole lot of his former customers are feeling a bit nervous right about now. And they should be. Buyers and sellers are starting to get arrested.

Charles Thompson might be a little nervous as well. As he explains:

In February of 2013, I decided to order one gram of MDMA from Silk Road because I wanted to write an essay on whether it really was that easy to click a few buttons and have a package of Schedule I substances arrive at your door a week later.

It was that easy. And that’s the bad news. From The Morning News: My Brief, Binding Road.

The myth of crack babies

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2013

In the 1980s, crack babies were all over the news. They were supposed to have severe mental and physical problems, overwhelm our schools and health care institutions, and cost us billions of dollars. None of this happened because the media latched onto some limited preliminary research and blew it all out of proportion.

Retro Report has gone back to look at the story of these children from the perspective of those in the eye of the storm — tracing the trajectory from the small 1985 study by Dr. Ira Chasnoff that first raised the alarm, through the drumbeat of media coverage that kept the story alive, to the present where a cocaine-exposed research subject tells her own surprising life story. Looking back, Crack Babies: A Tale from the Drug Wars shows the danger of prediction and the unexpected outcomes that result when closely-held convictions turn out to be wrong.

This video was produced by a new news organization called Retro Report, which revisits old news stories with a sober eye…”a smart, engaging and forward-looking review of these high-profile events”. In addition to the crack babies story, they’ve also explored the New York garbage barge and the Tailhook scandal.

How to prevent protests in China

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2013

Taking a page from Orwell, officials in Chengdu, China endeavored to prevent recent protests by moving the weekend and scheduling security exercises at the same time and place as the scheduled protest.

As text messages circulated calling for another protest, authorities decided to fiddle with the calendar: For many, Saturday became a workday, and the day of rest was moved to Monday, May 6. So as Saturday dawned, schoolchildren straggled reluctantly back to class, and employees at government-run work units discovered the day was taken up by urgent meetings.

See also how Georgia ended the country’s drug problem:

But the more radical steps involved brutalizing the addicts themselves. Saakashvili mandated as aggressive a drug policy as any country has attempted since Mao Zedong threatened to execute all Chinese opium fiends and “cured” about five million of them overnight. If you think New York’s stop-and-frisk rule is invasive, try Georgia’s: Cops can stop anyone at any time for no reason and force him to urinate into a cup. Fifty-three thousand people were stopped on the street in 2007, or about one in 20 of the young men in Georgia. About a third of those passed dirty urine; first-offenders were levied a fine of several hundred dollars. One more dirty test amounted to a criminal offense.

“There was such an unprecedented drug war,” Otiashvili says. “What was going on-and still goes on-in Georgia doesn’t happen anywhere. No country puts people in the prison for a positive urine test.”

(via @tylercowen)

Crouching government, hidden compartment

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2013

Alfred Anaya was really good at putting secret compartments into cars and he thought he was in the clear if he didn’t know what his customers were putting in these compartments. He was wrong.

Alfred Anaya took pride in his generous service guarantee. Though his stereo installation business, Valley Custom Audio Fanatics, was just a one-man operation based out of his San Fernando, California, home, he offered all of his clients a lifetime warranty: If there was ever any problem with his handiwork, he would fix it for the cost of parts alone-no questions asked.

Anaya’s customers typically took advantage of this deal when their fiendishly loud subwoofers blew out or their fiberglass speaker boxes developed hairline cracks. But in late January 2009, a man whom Anaya knew only as Esteban called for help with a more exotic product: a hidden compartment that Anaya had installed in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Over the years, these secret stash spots-or traps, as they’re known in automotive slang-have become a popular luxury item among the wealthy and shady alike. This particular compartment was located behind the truck’s backseat, which Anaya had rigged with a set of hydraulic cylinders linked to the vehicle’s electrical system. The only way to make the seat slide forward and reveal its secret was by pressing and holding four switches simultaneously: two for the power door locks and two for the windows.

Esteban said the seat was no longer responding to the switch combination and that no amount of jiggling could make it budge. He pleaded with Anaya to take a look.

Anaya was unsettled by this request, for he had suspicions about the nature of Esteban’s work. There is nothing intrinsically illegal about building traps, which are commonly used to hide everything from pricey jewelry to legal handguns. But the activity runs afoul of California law if an installer knows for certain that his compartment will be used to transport drugs. The maximum penalty is three years in prison. Anaya thus thought it wise to deviate from his standard no-questions-asked policy before agreeing to honor his warranty. “There’s nothing in there I shouldn’t know about, is there?” he asked. Esteban assured him that he needn’t worry.

Read all the way to the end for author Brendan Koerner’s conclusions about our government’s position of the moral neutrality of technology.

The professor and the bikini model

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 08, 2013

Paul Frampton is a 69-year-old theoretical particle physicist who has co-authored papers with Nobel laureates. In late 2011, the absentminded professor met a Czech bikini model online. Over email and Yahoo chat, they became romantically involved and she sent him a plane ticket to come meet her at a photo shoot in Bolivia. Then she asked him to bring a bag of hers with him on his flight.

While in Bolivia, Frampton corresponded with an old friend, John Dixon, a physicist and lawyer who lives in Ontario. When Frampton explained what he was up to, Dixon became alarmed. His warnings to Frampton were unequivocal, Dixon told me not long ago, still clearly upset: “I said: ‘Well, inside that suitcase sewn into the lining will be cocaine. You’re in big trouble.’ Paul said, ‘I’ll be careful, I’ll make sure there isn’t cocaine in there and if there is, I’ll ask them to remove it.’ I thought they were probably going to kidnap him and torture him to get his money. I didn’t know he didn’t have money. I said, ‘Well, you’re going to be killed, Paul, so whom should I contact when you disappear?’ And he said, ‘You can contact my brother and my former wife.’ ” Frampton later told me that he shrugged off Dixon’s warnings about drugs as melodramatic, adding that he rarely pays attention to the opinions of others.

On the evening of Jan. 20, nine days after he arrived in Bolivia, a man Frampton describes as Hispanic but whom he didn’t get a good look at handed him a bag out on the dark street in front of his hotel. Frampton was expecting to be given an Hermès or a Louis Vuitton, but the bag was an utterly commonplace black cloth suitcase with wheels. Once he was back in his room, he opened it. It was empty. He wrote to Milani, asking why this particular suitcase was so important. She told him it had “sentimental value.” The next morning, he filled it with his dirty laundry and headed to the airport.

Crazy story. (via @stevenstrogatz)

The Making of The Blues Brothers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2013

Ned Zeman tells the story of how The Blues Brothers came to be made for Vanity Fair.

Aykroyd spends his free time speeding through outskirts and befriending coroners. Belushi, being Chicago’s favorite son, does anything he wants. Everything about him — his lunch-bucket charm, his utter lack of pretense — makes Belushi a figure of such resounding local popularity that Aykroyd calls him “the unofficial mayor of Chicago.”

A trip to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, boggles Landis. “Like being with Mussolini in Rome,” he remembers. Belushi, having entered one of the stadium’s crowded bathrooms, smiles and shouts, “O.K., stand back!” Everyone retreats from the urinals. Belushi does his business. Then, zipping his fly and beaming, he says, “O.K., back you go!”

“John would literally hail police cars like taxis,” Mitch Glazer says. “The cops would say, ‘Hey, Belushi!’ Then we’d fall into the backseat and the cops would drive us home.”

But the drug habit that would claim his life two years later also made Belushi a weight on the production.

One night at three, while filming on a deserted lot in Harvey, Illinois, Belushi disappears. He does this sometimes. On a hunch, Aykroyd follows a grassy path until he spies a house with a light on.

“Uh, we’re shooting a film over here,” Aykroyd tells the homeowner. “We’re looking for one of our actors.”

“Oh, you mean Belushi?” the man replies. “He came in here an hour ago and raided my fridge. He’s asleep on my couch.”

Only Belushi could pull this off. “America’s Guest,” Aykroyd calls him.

“John,” Aykroyd says, awakening Belushi, “we have to go back to work.”

Belushi nods and rises. They walk back to the set as if nothing happened.

Crooks are stealing Tide to trade it for drugs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2013

I had no idea that laundry detergent could be so interesting. Procter & Gamble has done such a good job positioning Tide as a luxury laundry detergent that they can charge a premium for it and people will still buy.

Shoppers have surprisingly strong feelings about laundry detergent. In a 2009 survey, Tide ranked in the top three brand names that consumers at all income levels were least likely to give up regardless of the recession, alongside Kraft and Coca-Cola. That loyalty has enabled its manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, to position the product in a way that defies economic trends. At upwards of $20 per 150-ounce bottle, Tide costs about 50 percent more than the average liquid detergent yet outsells Gain, the closest competitor by market share (and another P&G product), by more than two to one. According to research firm SymphonyIRI Group, Tide is now a $1.7 billion business representing more than 30 percent of the liquid-detergent market.

Because of this premium status and because laundry detergent is not usually well-guarded in grocery stores, Tide has become a large target for theft and subsequent resale, either for cash or crack on street corners across the nation.

What did thieves want with so much laundry soap? To find out, he and his unit pored over security recordings to identify prolific perpetrators, whom officers then tracked down and detained for questioning. “We never promised to go easy on them, but they were willing to talk about it,” Thompson says. “I guess they were bragging.” It turned out the detergent wasn’t being used as an ingredient in some new recipe for getting high, but instead to buy drugs themselves. Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: “Liquid gold.” The Tide people would never sanction that tag line, of course. But this unlikely black market would not have formed if they weren’t so good at pushing their product.

Please don’t let this be a hoax, it’s almost too good to be true. (via @mulegirl)

Opium paraphernalia collecting is a slippery slope

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 27, 2012

From Collectors Weekly, an interview with Steven Martin about his new book, Opium Fiend. Martin collects opium paraphernalia and got addicted to the stuff (the collectables and the opium) while living and collecting in SE Asia.

In 2001, I was working as a fixer and translator for a good friend of mine, Karl Taro Greenfeld, a journalist for the Asian edition of Time. He wanted to do a story about the remnants of opium smoking in Laos, which, at the time, was the only country in the world where you could see opium smoking in the traditional Chinese manner-that is, with a pipe that’s designed to vaporize the drug and a lamp as a source of heat and all the crazy, little tools and accoutrements. Through some weird quirk of history, this sort of opium smoking was eradicated every place else, but Laos still had the traditional public opium den that anybody could walk into, recline, and have an attendant prepare opium for them to smoke.

Actually, Karl’s story was more about the backpackers who were coming to Southeast Asia and causing a resurgence of opium smoking, especially in Vang Vieng, just north of the capital, Vientiane. This one little town was a must-stop on the backpackers’ circuit. Karl, who had at one time been addicted to heroin when he was living in New York City, wanted to do the story, but he didn’t want to get anywhere near the opium, obviously. While I was hired to translate and set up interviews, he asked me to smoke the drug so he could observe and write the details into his story.

It wasn’t the first time I had smoked opium. When I was traveling in the Southeast Asia mountains, the villagers would often invite me to smoke opium with them. But I had never really given it much thought until I did this story. Unlike the tribal kind of paraphernalia I had seen in the mountains, these Laotian dens were using the traditional Chinese accoutrements. After we visited the den, we went back down to the capital. I told Karl, “Hey, why don’t I take you to an antiques shop I know about that has opium pipes? It might be an interesting souvenir.” He ended up buying one, and I thought, “Why don’t I get one, too?”

This is your self-portrait on drugs

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2012

Artist Bryan Lewis Saunders has been making self-portraits of himself every day since 1995. For one particularly interesting sub-series, Saunders drew himself under the influence of all kinds of different drugs (adderall, coke, meth, huffing lighter fluid, etc.). Here he is on absinthe and mushrooms respectively:

Bryan Lewis Saunders

Melky Cabrera’s fake website

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 19, 2012

San Francisco Giant Melky Cabrera recently tested positive for a banned substance and received a 50 game penalty per MLB’s rules. Prior to receiving the suspension, Cabrera made an attempt, new at least in the world of sports, to get off without punishment.

The New York Daily News has discovered that in an effort to beat the rap on his 50-game suspension, Melky and his “associates” devised a scheme that included purchasing a website for $10,000, making this website appear to sell a fake product and pretending Melky purchased and used the product, unaware that it contained a banned substance. Ohh, this close.

Cabrera offered the website as evidence during his appeal and the scheme devolved into comedy in short order.

The most boring culture on Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2012

The Baining, an indiginous group of Papua New Guinea, shun play and basically don’t do anything but work.

According to Fajans, the Baining eschew everything that they see as “natural” and value activities and products that come from “work,” which they view as the opposite of play. Work, to them, is effort expended to overcome or resist the natural. To behave naturally is to them tantamount to behaving as an animal. The Baining say, “We are human because we work.” The tasks that make them human, in their view, are those of turning natural products (plants, animals, and babies) into human products (crops, livestock, and civilized human beings) through effortful work (cultivation, domestication, and disciplined childrearing).

The Baining believe, quite correctly, that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it. They refer to children’s play as “splashing in the mud,” an activity of pigs, not appropriate for humans. They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it. Beyond infancy, children are encouraged or coerced to spend their days working and are often punished — sometimes by such harsh means as shoving the child’s hand into the fire — for playing. On those occasions when Fajans did get an adult to talk about his or her childhood, the narrative was typically about the challenge of embracing work and overcoming the shameful desire to play. Part of the reason the Baining are reluctant to talk about themselves, apparently, derives from their strong sense of shame about their natural drives and desires.

But maybe Americans are becoming more boring as our children’s freedom to explore is curtailed:

In some ways, I fear, we today are trying to emulate the Baining as we increasingly deprive children of opportunities to play and explore freely and, instead, force them to spend ever more time working in school and participating in adult-directed activities outside of school.

Immediately after reading about the Baining, I read this article by Trent Wolbe about his use of Adderall and was struck by a similar theme of a lack of playful creativity.

A subtler but probably much more profound effect permeates my cycle of Adderall use. I’d stopped eating. I’d stopped sleeping. I’d stopped getting horny. I’d stopped getting distracted by habits that I normally reveled in, which all seemed good. One day, about five months in, I noticed that I had stopped paying attention to music. My pleasure receptors, which in their normal state constantly cry out for sex, french fries, naps, and Katy Perry, had all become blunted. As a DJ that last thirst was something that sustained me not only spiritually but financially, and its void scared me almost as much as my flaccid penis. If I wasn’t the California Gurl-obsessed snack addict I knew, then what the fuck was I?

(via @juliandibbell/)

Business lessons from a Mexican drug cartel

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2012

The Sinaloa drug cartel is headed by a man who goes by El Chapo. That Chapo is 55 years old and still around tells you something about well he runs his business.

The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.

“Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is,” one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.

The Xbox version of Dock Ellis’ LSD-fueled no-hitter

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2011

In 1970, professional baseballer Dock Ellis, who was good at pitching baseballs, threw a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. In 2011, professional blogger A.J. Daulerio, who isn’t so good at video game baseball, attempted to throw a no-hitter while on LSD…playing a customized Dock Ellis in MLB 2K11 on Xbox.

But by the fourth game I started to pick up tendencies in all the batters. Jason Bartlett swung at first-pitch changeups. Will Venable couldn’t hit the palm ball. In fact, most of these free-swinging Padres couldn’t hit Dock’s funky palm ball. I threw it often. But by then, also, the first acid distractions entered: the TV flickered; the cracks in the wall started to move; the hand soap started to breathe — those sorts of things. Plus I was drawn to the outdoor garden between innings. Rain was near, I sensed.

Snoop from The Wire arrested in drug raid

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2011

Felicia Pearson, who played Snoop on The Wire, was arrested today on drug charges.

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson had served a prison sentence for murder and returned to drug dealing on the streets of East Baltimore, before a visit to the set of “The Wire” led to a star turn on the show and offered a new chance to change her life.

But her past kept creeping back - she was a witness to a murder and was arrested after she refused to testify — and subsequent film and television offers were hard to come by.

Now, Pearson, 30, has been accused of playing a part in a large-scale drug organization, whose members were arrested in raids Thursday throughout Baltimore and surrounding counties, as well as in three other states.

(via df)

Portugal’s drug experimentation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2011

In 2000, Portugal passed a law decriminalizing the possession of drugs, continued to vigorously pursue drug traffickers and distributors, and improved access to treatment. What happened?

But nearly a decade later, there’s evidence that Portugal’s great drug experiment not only didn’t blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon’s troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized — indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.

High on ecommerce

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2010

One of the fun things about having an Amazon Associates account for kottke.org is that I can see what my readers are ordering on the site. (Amazon only shows the items ordered, not the associated names or anything like that. I have no idea who ordered what.) As one might expect, you folks buy lots of cameras and books and hard drives and movies but also paper towels, sweatpants, soap, and guitar strings.

So anyway, I was browsing around the other day when I noticed that someone had bought a bunch of Whip-It! whipped cream chargers. Four 50-packs for around $115. “Whoa!” I exclaimed to my wife, “Someone out there really likes whipped cream!”

Readers, I could almost hear the eyeroll as my wife explained to this naive bumpkin that people use these canisters of compressed nitrous oxide to get high. So whoever you are, thank you for the novel experience of learning a new Urban Dictionary term from my wife.

Greatest movie drug scenes

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2010

Without even looking, you could probably guess that scenes from Pulp Fiction and Requiem for a Dream would make a list of film’s greatest drug scenes. But there are 28 other worthy scenes on there as well.

What’s prison like?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2010

This is a fascinating post made by a man who has just gotten out of prison after serving two years for armed robbery. This is a bit rough in spots, so reader beware.

I joked to my cell mate on the first day that at least the GFC [global financial crisis] couldn’t fuck us inside. He’d been done for assaulting a cop when his house got taken by the bank. But within months ‘GFC Nigger’ became the standard reply to any query as to how black market prices were suddenly going through the roof. The price of a deck of smokes tripled. There was an actual economic reason about this. I went away in Michigan, where a lot of people lost their houses, mostly poor people already. When they had to move away from the prison, it meant they couldn’t bring their loved ones as much contraband group, which meant the price of what there was sky rocketed. And the worse things got, the more the people who worked in the store would wonk and take home with them, which meant stocks ran low which fucked us even further.

Bet you didn’t read about that one in the Wall Street Journal.

Some over at MetaFilter think this is fake, so grain of salt and all that. (via waxy)

Social media for pot smokers

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2010

Leaf.ly is a social media site for pot smokers. You can keep track of all the types of bud you smoke (like Cork’d does for wine), check out the likely effects of smoking a new cannabis strain (these are good if you want to just play video games), and earn Foursquare-style badges. What, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.de wasn’t available?

Opium Made Easy

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 16, 2010

From a 1997 issue of Harper’s, a Michael Pollan piece called Opium Made Easy. Written before even The Botany of Desire (and his later well-known books on food), the article explores the seeming illegality of growing poppies in one’s personal garden coupled with the relative ease of procuring poppies for growing and making them into a sort of opium tea once grown. A long but interesting read.

The language of the statute was distressingly clear. Not only opium but “opium poppy and poppy straw” are defined as Schedule II controlled substances, right alongside PCP and cocaine. The prohibited poppy is defined as a “plant of the species Papaver somniferum L., except the seed thereof,” and poppy straw is defined as “all parts, except the seeds, of the opium poppy, after mowing.” In other words, dried poppies.

Section 841 of the act reads, “[I]t shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally … to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense” opium poppies. The definition of “manufacturing” includes propagating — i.e., growing. Three things struck me as noteworthy about the language of the statute. The first was that it goes out of its way to state that opium poppy seeds are, in fact, legal, presumably because of their legitimate culinary uses. There seems to be a chicken-and-egg paradox here, however, in which illegal poppy plants produce legal poppy seeds from which grow illegal poppy plants.

The second thing that struck me about the statute’s language was the fact that, in order for growing opium poppies to be a crime, it must be done “knowingly or intentionally.” Opium poppies are commonly sold under more than one botanical name, only one of which — Papaver somniferum — is specifically mentioned in the law, so it is entirely possible that a gardener could be growing opium poppies without knowing it. There would therefore appear to be an “innocent gardener” defense. Not that it would do me any good: at least some of the poppies I’d planted had been clearly labeled Papaver somniferum, a fact that I have — perhaps foolishly — confessed in these very pages to knowing. The third thing that struck me was the most stunning of all: the penalty for knowingly growing Papaver somniferum is a prison term of five to twenty years and a maximum fine of $1 million.

Kids getting high on digital drugs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2010

No, this is not a story from The Onion or about a new Facebook game called Pharmaville. The state of Oklahoma is concerned about kids listening to audio files “designed to induce drug-like effects” because that might be a gateway to actual drug use.

“Kids are going to flock to these sites just to see what it is about and it can lead them to other places,” said OBNDD spokesperson Mark Woodward. The digital drugs use binaural or two-toned technology to alter your brainwaves and mental state. “Well it’s just scary, definitely scary. Just one more thing to look out for,” said parent Kelly Johnson.

I just got so wasted on this and then did a whole kilo of pure heroin; stuffed it right into my ears:

Look at that, I’m a drug dealer now! Now you’ll all be pounding on my door in the middle of the night looking to score some tunes. (via clusterflock)

Popeye admits to spinach use

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2010

Some breaking news that I missed the other day: Popeye admits to spinach use.

Popeye finally came clean Monday, admitting he used spinach when he delivered a savage and unlikely beating to romantic rival Bluto in 1998. Popeye said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Monday that he used spinach on and off for nearly a decade. “I wish I had never touched spinach,” Popeye said in a statement. “It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never sailed during the spinach era.”

A-gah-gah-gah-gah-gah-gah-a-skinnamarino-ahhh.

The last opium den in the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2009

In 2000, Nick Tosches went in search of something that he was told didn’t exist anymore: the opium den.

In the early decades of the 20th century, as the drug trade was taken over by the Judeo-Christian coalition that came to control crime, Jewish and Italian names became almost as common as Chinese names in the reports of those arrested for smuggling, selling, and den-running. While the old Chinese opium smokers died off, the new drug lords actively cultivated a market for the opium derivatives, first morphine and then heroin, two 19th-century inventions that offered far greater profit margins than opium itself.

The last known opium den in New York was a second-floor tenement apartment at 295 Broome Street, between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets, at the northeastern edge of Chinatown. It was run by the apartment’s tenant, a Chinese immigrant named Lau, who was 57 when the joint got raided and his ass got hauled away. There were a few old pipes and lamps, 10 ounces of opium. And 40 ounces of heroin. The date was June 28, 1957. That was it. The end of the final relic of a bygone day.

The mighty placebo effect

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2009

To the alarm of the big pharmaceutical companies, the placebo effect appears to be getting stronger. The reasons are many and interesting.

It’s not only trials of new drugs that are crossing the futility boundary. Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent follow-up tests. In many cases, these are the compounds that, in the late ’90s, made Big Pharma more profitable than Big Oil. But if these same drugs were vetted now, the FDA might not approve some of them. Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time.

From Taco Bell to drug kingpin

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2009

In the late 90s, it was easy to get good pot in Idaho…just drive across the border to Canada and pick some up. Nate Norman decided to take advantage of that situation and became an unlikely drug kingpin.

Having doubled their initial investment in roughly a day, Nate and Topher quickly planned a second run. This time, they bought two pounds. Before they knew it, they had gone from struggling to put gas in their cars to running a major pot enterprise that was bringing in thousands of dollars a day. “Within a few weeks I went from selling eighths to quarter pounds,” says Scuzz, who could pass for a pro snowboarder with his goatee and wraparound shades. “Our plan was to make 3 million and get out. When you crunch the numbers, that’s nothing. We figured out we could do it in fourteen months. But when you’re making twenty or thirty grand a week, why the fuck would you stop?”

It doesn’t even spoil the story to tell you that it all came crashing down, as these things inevitably do.

I’ll have a rum and Coke and coke

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2009

Route 36 is a cocaine bar located in La Paz, Bolivia and is understandably popular.

The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. […] Behind the bar, he goes back to casually slicing straws into neat 8cm lengths.

Oxytocin != oxycontin

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2009

I recently learned that oxytocin and oxycontin are not the same thing. Oh, the strange assumptions I made based on that little bit of ignorance.

The short rise and deep fall of Todd Marinovich

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2009

Todd Marinovich was supposed to be the best quarterback of all time. Instead, his life got derailed by drugs and alcohol and even more drugs. His dad has to be the all-time worst sports parent in the history of horrible sports parents…it was difficult to get through page 2 without wanting to FedEx Marinovich Sr. a punch in the face.

For the nine months prior to Todd’s birth on July 4, 1969, Trudi used no salt, sugar, alcohol, or tobacco. As a baby, Todd was fed only fresh vegetables, fruits, and raw milk; when he was teething, he was given frozen kidneys to gnaw. As a child, he was allowed no junk food; Trudi sent Todd off to birthday parties with carrot sticks and carob muffins. By age three, Marv had the boy throwing with both hands, kicking with both feet, doing sit-ups and pull-ups, and lifting light hand weights. On his fourth birthday, Todd ran four miles along the ocean’s edge in thirty-two minutes, an eight-minute-mile pace. Marv was with him every step of the way.

Update: In 1988 Sports Illustrated ran an article about Marinovich while he was still in high school: Bred To Be A Superstar. (via josh)