Caffeine of Ancient America

Elizabeth Norton In the 1600s, Europeans exploring the American southeast wrote of a purification ritual practiced by the native people, involving dancing, vomiting, and large amounts of what the travelers called black drink. Served from shell cups, the highly caffeinated tea was brewed from the shrub Ilex vomitoria, a species of holly. In a new … Continue reading

Marijuana’s Side Effects

Dave Mosher Marijuana’s memory-fogging, behavior-altering effects have been linked to out-of-sync communication between brain regions, but researchers had lacked direct evidence of the disruption. Now neuroscientists who gave rats a cannabis-like compound, loosed them in a maze and measured their brain waves have recorded unusually chaotic communication between brain regions linked to memory formation and … Continue reading

Generic Drugs vs. Brand Name Drugs

Generic drugs are considered “just as good” as their more expensive brand-name counterparts—but, as one writer experienced, in certain circumstances their effects can be dangerously different. By Michael Kennedy, Reader’s Digest Canada, September 2011 issue Back in 2009, when I was a graduate student, I was studying late at the University of Western Ontario and … Continue reading

Cannabis-like drugs could kill pain without the high

by Andy Coghlan An ingenious set of experiments has teased apart the mind-altering and pain-relieving effects of the main component of cannabis. This could open the way to cannabis-like drugs that provide pain relief without causing unwanted highs. Cannabis is taken as a painkiller – to dull pain in cancer for example – but it … Continue reading

The Afghan Drug Trade

Why cracking down on Afghanistan’s opium business won’t help stop the Taliban — or the United States’ own drug problems. BY JONATHAN P. CAULKINS, JONATHAN D. KULICK, AND MARK A.R. KLEIMAN "The Afghan Drug Industry Mostly Benefits the Taliban." Far from it. Today, Afghanistan essentially holds a monopoly on heroin exports to the Old World. … Continue reading

Recreational Drug Creates Out-of-Body Illusions

By Bruce Bower, Science News A popular “club drug” promises to open a scientific window on the strange world of out-of-body experiences, researchers say. Recreational users of a substance called ketamine often report having felt like they left their bodies or underwent other bizarre physical transformations, according to an online survey conducted by psychologist Todd … Continue reading

Is the Mexican Government Going Easy on the Sinaloa Drug Cartel?

Ted Galen Carpenter  One curious feature has emerged in the Mexican government’s four-year-old offensive against the country’s murderous drug cartels. Some trafficking organizations seem to be in the crosshairs of the authorities more than others. One gang in particular appears to have suffered far less damage than any of its competitors. David Shirk, the director … Continue reading

Cannabis May Influence Onset of Psychosis

Research to be published this summer finds that the use of cannabis is associated with the early onset of psychosis. Christie Nicholson reports Pot is one of those drugs that appears to maintain a fairly good rep, despite its growing bad rep. Consider this research that will be published this June in the Archives of … Continue reading

Opium Wars

A key step to securing peace will be to wean Afghan farmers off growing poppies. By Robert Draper The grim axiom defining today’s Afghanistan, 85 percent of whose citizens are farmers, is that its economy relies on two dueling revenue streams. One flows from Western aid, in the hopes that the country will renounce the … Continue reading

New Allegations: Lance Armstrong Doped With an Experimental Drug

Armstrong has always denied the doping charges, and he continues to in the wake of a major investigation published this week by Sports Illustrated. But this time around, reporters Selena Roberts and David Epstein allege something new: That Armstrong illegally acquired and took an experimental drug called HemAssist, which never got beyond clinical trials. So … Continue reading

Why America Should Ride the Anti-Drug-War Wave

John McWhorter   It’s one thing that the United States will soon be taking orders from China (or already is). But what about when we’re becoming less forward-thinking than England? That’s the only possible reading of the fact that there, the former top drug official Bob Ainsworth has addressed the House of Commons and argued … Continue reading

The Mexican Trickle-Down Effect

Ted Galen Carpenter  Guatemala’s government has just declared a “state of siege” to deal with the growing power of Mexican-based drug cartels in its territory. Indeed, officials argue that one northern province has been “overrun” by the traffickers. It is yet another indicator that the aggressive drug war that Washington and Mexico City have embraced … Continue reading

Mexico’s Forever War

Four years into Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s assault on the drug cartels, all his country has to show for it is skyrocketing violence. It’s time for a different strategy. BY KEVIN CASAS-ZAMORA December 16, 2009, was supposed to be a turning point in Mexico’s long and violent war on drugs. On that day, 200 Mexican … Continue reading

Cocaine trumps food for female rats

Study may help explain addiction differences between males and females By Laura Sanders  SAN DIEGO — Presented with a choice between cocaine and food, female rats choose the drug while male rats go for the grub, a new study finds. The result may help clarify differences in addiction between men and women, scientists reported November … Continue reading

Check Out This Joint

How WeedMaps turned marijuana reviews into big business. By Farhad Manjoo There are several theories for why voters in California rejected a measure to legalize marijuana this week. One argument is that proponents of Proposition 19 didn’t spend enough money on the effort—thanks to Meg Whitman saturating every channel with $100 million in ads for … Continue reading

Female Viagra just isn’t sexy

Distrust of big pharma is stifling research into the real problem of female sexual dysfunction Suzi Godson  I’ve got a headache: women’s sexual problems shouldn’t be dismissed Female sexual dysfunction (FSD)—a condition which can involve physical pain during sex, loss of desire or failure to reach orgasm—is a disorder invented by pharmaceutical companies intent on … Continue reading

Viktor Ivanov

Putin’s drug czar gets heated over California pot and Afghan poppies. BY JOSHUA E. KEATING Russia’s top drug official warned in an interview with Foreign Policy on Friday of what he called the "catastrophic" consequences of marijuana legalization measures like California’s upcoming ballot initiative, saying darkly that widespread legal drug use would produce "psychiatric deviations" … Continue reading

The Closing of the Marijuana Frontier

California is not just deciding whether pot should be legal. It’s determining the shape of a major new American industry. By John Gravois  Into the unknown: A marijuana grower walks in his field in Mendocino County, where as much as two-thirds of the local economy depends on pot. Photo: Lauren Lancaster hen my wife and … Continue reading

It’s Not Dementia, It’s Your Heart Medication: Cholestrol Drugs and Memory

Why cholesterol drugs might affect memory By Melinda Wenner Moyer Image: ISTOCK PHOTO/kickstand One day in 1999 Duane Graveline, then a 68-year-old former NASA astronaut, returned home from his morning walk in Merritt Island, Fla., and could not remember where he was. His wife stepped outside, and he greeted her as a stranger. When Graveline’s … Continue reading

Your love is my drug: How passion sparks the same painkilling pathways as drugs

By Katherine Harmon Who says love hurts? New research shows that strong romantic feelings actually ease physical pain via the same neural pathways as powerful drugs. By simply gazing at a picture of their beloved, undergraduates in a recent study were able to substantially reduce their experience of pain. The effect occurs thanks to a … Continue reading

Would legal California marijuana really hurt the cartels?

By Joshua Keating White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowke is hailing the release of a new Rand report which finds that if Californians vote to legalize marijuana on Nov. 2, it won’t put much of a dent in the profits of Mexican drug cartels: "This report shows that despite the millions spent on marketing the … Continue reading

Implants May Help Heroin Addiction

By Nathan Seppa, Science News People addicted to heroin or prescription opiates might have a hands-free device for getting through the rigors of drug withdrawal. The medication buprenorphine implanted under the skin and released over 24 weeks can ease drug cravings and helps some patients stay clean, researchers report in the Oct. 13 Journal of … Continue reading

U.S. Can’t Stop Afghanistan’s Opium Economy

Ted Galen Carpenter  The 2010 Afghanistan Opium Survey, which the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released, is a classic case of bad news and illusory good news. The principal piece of faux good news was that the production of opium (the raw ingredient for heroin) had declined a whopping 48 percent over … Continue reading

Why Are the Effects of Marijuana So Unpredictable?

By Jonah Lehrer Alcohol is mostly predictable. When we drink a beer (or three), we usually have a pretty good sense of what it’s going to feel like. We can anticipate the buzz, the slackening of self-control, the impaired motor movements and the increased mind-wandering. In part, this is because alcohol is a tightly regulated … Continue reading

Drugs in Sports

Michael Shermer The choice of drugs for “performance enhancement” that now confronts the athlete is a bewildering array of highly specialized products for various desired effects. In virtually every case, however, the doping athlete runs the risk of side effects that range from the merely inconvenient to the life-threatening. This table is only illustrative; no … Continue reading

Doping in Sports

At the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, the East German women’s swim team won eleven of thirteen events. This would have been an astonishing feat for any country; it was all the more so for a small nation. Publicly, the press celebrated this notable event. But behind the scenes, a number of organizations began quietly investigating. … Continue reading

Desperation Drives Parents to Dubious Autism Treatments

Diagnoses have soared, but valid treatments are few. Parents have turned instead to dubious, and often risky, alternative therapies By Nancy Shute When Jim Laidler’s oldest son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with autism, he and his wife started looking for help. “The neurologists were saying, ‘We don’t know what causes autism, and we don’t know what … Continue reading

Increasing the body’s (but not brain’s) cannabinoids dulls pain

By Diana Gitig Just as the discovery of the opiate receptors hijacked by cocaine gave us insight into the presence and roles of endogenous opiates, the cannabinoid receptors acted upon by the THC in marijuana have helped identify endocannabinoids, the substances produced by our own body that normally trigger these receptors. Outside of the brain, … Continue reading

Key ingredient staves off marijuana memory loss

Cannabis composition determines effects on the brain. By Arran Frood Smoking cannabis has long been associated with poor short-term memory, but a study now suggests that the strain of cannabis makes all the difference. In a test of short-term memory skills, only users of "skunk"-type strains exhibited impaired recall when intoxicated, whereas people who smoked … Continue reading

Drugs, Blights, and Markets in Afghanistan

By Paul R. Pillar  The release on Thursday of the annual survey by the United Nations of opium production in Afghanistan briefly renews attention to a topic that hasn’t seemed to have gotten much of it lately: the role of Afghanistan–producer of 90 percent of the world’s opium–in the global narcotics trade.  Too many other … Continue reading

Women’s Brains on Steroids

Birth control pills appear to remodel brain structure By Craig H. Kinsley and Elizabeth A. Meyer Image: fotografstockholm It seems that weekly we hear about some professional athlete who sullies himself and his sport through abuse of steroids. The melodrama unfolds, careers and statistics are brought low and asterisked, and everyone bemoans another fallen competitor.  … Continue reading

Common Adolesense: Even Teenagers Won’t Believe What Drugs They Are Allegedly Abusing

by Juli Weiner  The Los Angeles Times, our very favorite chronicler of teenagers and their vices, has the details on “cabinet parties,” a shocking trend among America’s young people. “Pills have become increasing popular among teens, and many are raiding the medicine cabinets of their friends and family for prescription drugs,” the paper reports. Teens … Continue reading

Ecstasy Triumphs over Agony: MDMA Helps with Recovery from Trauma

An illicit drug shows promise as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder By David Jay Brown  In dance clubs the drug called “ecstasy” is known as a potent (and illegal) way of enhancing your senses and boosting your mood. Now a study published online in July in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that when coupled … Continue reading

This Week at War: If Mexico Is at War, Does America Have to Win It?

What Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the drug war mean for U.S. strategy. BY ROBERT HADDICK The insurgency next door While answering a question on Mexico this week at the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We face an increasing threat from a well-organized network, drug-trafficking threat that is, in some … Continue reading

Prescription for a Healthier Brain: Coffee and Cigarettes?

Discovering why even bad habits can protect the brain By Michele Solis Inspired by human studies showing that avid coffee drinkers and smokers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, scientists at the University of Washington decided to see what java and cigarettes do to fruit flies. The tremors and other movement impairments of … Continue reading

Psilocybin found to ease end-of-life anxiety in small study of patients with fatal cancer

By David Biello Can the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms" help those with terminal cancer cope with their fate? That was the question asked by researchers, who published the results of their investigation September 6 in Archives of General Psychiatry. After all, impending death wreaks havoc on the psyche of not only the terminally ill … Continue reading

‘Medical marijuana’ hits the small screen

Catherine de Lange, reporter This week, a television commercial advertising cannabis for medical use was aired in California – the first time such an ad has been broadcast, says the network responsible. The controversial advert is being screened on the Fox network’s Sacramento affiliate KTXL and has been met with a mixed reaction, according to … Continue reading

Gangs and drugs prevalent in public schools, survey finds

A national report says a quarter of middle and high school students say both are present on their campuses, a vast difference from the scene at private and religious schools. By Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau Reporting from Washington — More than a quarter of public middle and high school students say both gangs and … Continue reading

This Week at War: Is Mexico’s Drug War Doomed?

Learning to live with drug cartels — and killer robots. BY ROBERT HADDICK What happens if Mexico settles with the cartels? The U.S. Department of Defense defines irregular warfare as "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations." By this definition, Mexico is fighting an irregular war. … Continue reading

How Mexico’s Drug War Is Killing Guatemala

Overrun with Mexican drug gangs, troubled by a staggering murder rate, and plagued with endemic corruption, Guatemala is in serious trouble. And now the nation’s "Supercop" has called it quits. Can anyone stop the country from going down the tubes? BY STEVEN S. DUDLEY. Before he resigned in exasperation from his job as the top … Continue reading

Russia’s dangerous fix

By Richard Weitz. Today the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released an alarming report, finding that since 2005 the number of Afghans addicted to opiate drugs like heroin and opium has doubled and that nearly million Afghans are steady users. But the problem of opiate addiction spreads far beyond Afghanistan. Last October, … Continue reading