drugs

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From Texas Standard : When Justice Louis Brandeis described the states as laboratories of democracy , he couldn't have foreseen election day 2016. As the New York Times noted Monday, the most popular illicit drug in the nation – marijuana – could be legalized for recreational use in five more states this November. That would bring the total number to 10, including Washington, D.C.

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From Texas Standard: “ Wolf Boys ” explores how a couple of Texas teenagers went from playing under the Friday night lights to working as assassins for Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels. The book reads like fiction, but it's a true story written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Slater.

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From Texas Standard: The Texas Attorney General’s office and the Harris County Attorney’s Office are going after shops selling the synthetic cannabinoid Kush. Instead of prosecuting users, the offices have jointly filed 10 lawsuits against Houston-area novelty stores , where up to 40 percent of sales come from the drug. One novelty store has agreed to a nearly $1.2 million settlement after an undercover sting operation.

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From Texas Standard: Editor's note: This story uses first names only because of an ongoing case with Child Protective Services. Since at least the 1970s, researchers in Texas have been calling substance use a "family affair." A study by the Texas Research Institute's Drug Abuse Clinic compared two groups of families similar to each other in every aspect – from socio-economic status to ethnic background. The only difference was that one group had at least one family member who was an addict. The study found fathers dealing with drugs were critical and arrogant, mothers were disenfranchised and children were bitter and resentful. That was in the '70s, but the story is not so different today.

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Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that an unregulated herbal supplement known as kratom will be added to the list of controlled substances, which would effectively ban it. The kratom plant has opioid-like effects and, as KUT reported last month , some Austinites are using it as a safer alternative to pills or heroin.

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From Texas Standard: Concerns are growing over something that's being called the "kill pill" – drugs laced with fentanyl, one of the most powerful prescription painkillers in the world. Pills laced with fentanyl were linked to Prince's death earlier this year. According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, incidents of law-enforcement officers finding drugs containing fentanyl have jumped 426 percent from 2013-2014, the latest figures available.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Last year more people died from drug overdose than from traffic accidents. The majority of these deaths involve opioids , whether that’s prescription medication or street drugs. In Austin, some addicts are replacing opioids with an herbal supplement, which has the potential to save lives. But across the country, opponents of the herb are mounting a drive to get it banned.

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Thousands of Texans would have qualified for Medicaid if state lawmakers expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act. A recent report from the Obama administration finds 23 percent of those in that gap are dealing with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder. Without Medicaid, they have fewer options when they are looking for treatment.

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From Texas Standard: I'm the child of an addict. However, it is a life I only know anecdotally. My father was cured before I was born. But the man in front of me is in the thick of it. "It is a horrible life – look at me – I'm homeless, I squeegee windows at the red light. I spend between $80 to $150 a day (on heroin)," the man tells me. He says he’s ashamed, and that's why he won't tell me his name. He says he's in his 30s but his parched skin and sunken cheeks make him look decades older.

Ashley Lopez for KUT News

As in most of the country , opioid abuse is a serious problem in Texas. A growing number of people in the state are becoming addicted to and even dying from the use of heroin and prescription pain medications. Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill aimed at curbing opioid overdoses, but some advocates say the state has been moving too slowly—especially since the problem doesn't seem to be getting any better.

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From Texas Standard: It's been called the checkpoint of the stars: Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Fiona Apple have all been snagged at the Sierra Blanca Border Patrol checkpoint. Musicians and other celebrities have been booked and charged for marijuana possession by Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West. But West now seems to be saying his days of cracking down on every joint and baggie may be over. NPR Southwest Correspondent John Burnett just returned to Austin from West Texas, where he checked out that checkpoint. "I wasn't holding. They passed me right through," Burnett says, for the record. But what if Burnett had been carrying a personal amount of marijuana?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

San Antonio native Nina Diaz first began performing at the age of 13. By the time she was 18, her all-girl, indie rock trio, Girl In a Coma, was signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records. Now, at age 26, Diaz embarks on a new path as a solo artist in addition to her Girl in a Coma duties – a project which will be released later this year. But, for the first time in her musical career, she is sober. Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with Diaz about her musical and personal journey, opening up on the moment she realized she needed to get clean, why she has chosen to let the public in on her struggles and how sobriety has affected her songwriting.

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One challenge many homeless people face is fighting addiction. And t hat battle could get tougher for some, as an Austin nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction has closed its detox facility – meaning new hurdles for the homeless and uninsured who need detox services. This month, nonprofit Austin Recovery closed its detox facility. The detox process isn't pretty – in fact, it can be rather dangerous. Patients needed to be monitored around-the-clock by highly trained medical staff, just as if they were in a hospital setting.

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It's a pretty uneventful morning at the corner of 12th and Chicon . Buses are running smoothly and on time. There's even a new art gallery in the area. But there was a time – not too long ago – when prostitution, drugs, and other illegal activities were going down in the open, in the middle of the day.

There were times a few years back when the emergency room at SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse looked like a scene from a zombie movie. Dr. Ross Sullivan, a physician there, recalls one afternoon when staff wheeled in a man with dilated pupils who was covered in sweat. "The patient was screaming obscenities, and anybody he would pass, he was threatening and saying he was going to kill them," Sullivan recalls. Police suspected the patient had taken "bath salts," the notorious...

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Can more than 1.5 million Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers opposed to legalizing medical marijuana? William Martin , director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, poses that question in the June issue of Texas Monthly . In his article “War Without End,” Martin talks with veterans using pot to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. "The story that’s most illustrative is a woman who uses the name Myst," Martin says.

Another month, another apocalyptic news report of some weird substance that kids are abusing in pursuit of a high. The most recent example is "beezin'," which supposedly involves smearing Burt's Bee's lip balm on one's eyelids. The tingling allegedly heightens the sensation of being drunk or high, according to the Oklahoma Fox News affiliate that first declared this a "viral trend." A quick scan of the Internet finds reports of teens supposedly smoking coffee grounds and snorting crushed...

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Addiction affects nearly 23 million Americans , according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration . Yet only about 10 percent of those affected are receiving treatment. Addiction comes at a high price to society. It's estimated that drug and alcohol abuse costs the United States around $500 billion a year in health care spending, lost productivity and crime. But perhaps the friends and families of those struggling with addiction can best attest to the emotional, psychological and social toll of the illness. One American family knows the struggle addiction brings all too well.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Obama administration is formulating new rules that would give it, and the president, far more latitude to pardon or reduce the sentences of thousands of drug offenders serving long federal prison sentences. The move comes amid a broad national reconsideration of mandatory minimum sentences approved by Congress in 1986, when America's big cities were in the grip of a crack cocaine-fueled crime wave. "The White House has indicated it wants...

DPS 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment

The Texas Department of Public Safety released its annual report on criminal gang activity in Texas this week. This year’s Texas Gang Threat Assessment found that gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety. Central Texas is home to some of the most established gangs in the state. The report estimates that with more than 4,600 gangs, overall gang membership in this state is more than 100,000. DPS says the gangs that present the greatest threat to public safety, ...

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