VICE News journalist Nilo Tabrizy (https://twitter.com/ntabrizy) and VICE staff writer Alli Conti (https://twitter.com/Allie_Conti) joined On The Line to discuss “The Dangerous Rise of K2: America’s Cheapest High.” – http://bit.ly/1MvOpO3
K2 — the street name for plant matter sprayed with synthetic chemicals, designed to mimic the effects of marijuana’s active ingredient — is currently America’s cheapest way to get high. But the drug’s dangerous side effects have taken a toll on a wide variety of communities, particularly in New York City.
In “The Dangerous Rise of K2: America’s Cheapest High,” VICE News gets a glimpse of the challenges New York City is facing with K2 through the lens of volunteer ambulance corps and harm reduction specialists in its outer boroughs.
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As voters in numerous states express increasing concern over the rise in drug abuse, current Republican presidential front-runner, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, said the problem can be traced back to an over-emphasis on “political correctness.”
John Dickerson asked Carson about the “human side” of addiction on Face the Nation Sunday after mentioning that 25 percent of New Hampshire voters said drug abuse was the most serious problem in New Hampshire, according to a WMUR poll.
Carson answered that a lack of values and principles were responsible for serious drug abuse:
There are all kinds of addictions and addictions occur in people who are vulnerable who are lacking something in their lives, so we really have to start asking ourselves what have we taken outside of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached, and why are we throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?
Watch the response here:
Carson continued by saying the proliferation of heroin use specifically is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by not giving up on the War on Drugs.
Carson’s comments come shortly after two Princeton economists released findings that the rising death rates for middle-aged white people, especially those were less educated, may stem from substance abuse problems. In comparison, the death rates for middle-aged black and Hispanic people are going down. Although there was a sharp rise in the suicide rate for middle-aged white people, drug abuse was most responsible for pushing up the death rate, the New York Times reported.
The alarming rise in heroin-related overdose and deaths across the U.S. has become an issue of national importance. Last month, President Obama traveled to West Virginia, a state hit particularly hard by the crisis, to unveil a series of public and private sector initiatives designed to combat addiction to heroin and other opioids.
Hillary Clinton on Saturday called for marijuana to be reclassified from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II, citing medical research.
“I do support the use of medical marijuana,” Clinton said to a predominantly African American audience at a town hall meeting at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. “And I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.
“I want to move from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 so researchers can research what’s the best way to use it, dosage, how does it work with other medications,” she added.
The 2016 Democratic frontrunner declined to offer a position on marijuana during CNN’s Democratic presidential debate in October.
Bernie Sanders, her closest opponent in the polls, said at the debate that he would support state legalization of marijuana. The comments were a prelude to his announcement later in October calling for the federal government to take marijuana off its schedule entirely.
Democratic hopeful Martin O’Malley has also called for the drug’s reclassification.
Rescheduling marijuana would allow researchers to investigate the drug’s medicinal properties without seeking clearance from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
In Florida, law enforcement officials said the drug led a man to run naked through a neighborhood, try to have sex with a tree, and claim to be the mythical god Thor. In New York State, a local agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration called the drug “rat poison.” That drug is flakka, the synthetic drug reportedly linked to deranged behavior in several states around the country — and at the center of the latest drug hysteria.
“It actually starts to rewire the brain chemistry. They have no control over their thoughts. They can’t control their actions,” Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale, told the Associated Press. “It seems to be universal that they think someone is chasing them. It’s just a dangerous, dangerous drug.”
But these assertions are unfounded to the people who study new psychoactive drugs, which have been increasingly synthesized by chemists in secretive labs over the past few years. Bryce Pardo, a drug policy expert at the University of Maryland (UMD), said, “I scratch my head at these [claims]. … How do you figure? Because no one has actually established the harms.”
Peter Reuter, another UMD drug policy expert who’s co-writing a paper on synthetic drugs with Pardo, said the media often exaggerates the risks of new drugs. “It is well-known that every new drug is the most dangerous drug that ever came along,” he joked. “This is a fear of the unknown. I’m sure a lot of these are nasty drugs, but nastier than methamphetamine? That’s a high standard.” He added, “These tend to be niche drugs that fade away pretty quickly.”
Warranted or not, the public concern is very real. It seems like six months no longer go by without the media highlighting new fears about an exotic drug that could make us all crazy. Just a couple of years ago, the media drummed up concerns about new psychoactive substances when a man, who turned out to not be on synthetic drugs, allegedly tried to eat someone’s face while on bath salts. And synthetic marijuana — also known as “spice” — has reportedly contributed to a rise in emergency room visits and poisonings, according to the New York Times’s Alan Schwarz.
Part of that is rooted in the fact that different synthetic drugs are coming out more often as chemists use new techniques and sophisticated computer models to craft substances. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, which tracks these drugs, has found a steady rise in new psychoactive substances over the past decade:
Dozens of new substances are introduced into the market every year. Most of them come and go without any media attention. But when a drug like flakka, which is apparently cheap and easily attainable, allegedly leads to some erratic behavior in a state like Florida or New York, the media quickly jumps on it.
VICE News traveled around the world speaking to people about what they think about the war on drugs.
Find out what people from Washington, DC to Bangkok, Thailand had to say about about the global approach to narcotics.
Watch the People Speak on immigration – http://bit.ly/1OdnuwP