Drugs

Treating Addiction

This week, two separate drugs are showing promise in the treatment of cocaine and heroin addiction; and a New Jersey marijuana activist provides an alternative model for DNA retrieval.
January 6- Canada's Medical Post reports: Baclofen, used for years to treat spasticity, has produced surprising results in cocaine abusers seeking to overcome their addiction. Baclofen may help cocaine addicts by inhibiting the release of dopamine in the brain, reducing the high associated with use of the narcotic, according to researchers here who conducted a randomized, double-blind study of 70 cocaine-addicted outpatients.

The results were especially favorable for those with chronic, heavy rates of crack cocaine use at the beginning of the study.

Heavy users were defined as those who provided three or more urine samples positive for cocaine metabolites during the two-week baseline-screening period.

"I was surprised by the results of our study," said principal investigator Dr. Steve Shoptaw (PhD), a psychologist at the University of California Neuropsychiatry Institute here. Until now, he said, "no medications have shown efficacy in placebo-controlled trials for treating cocaine dependence."

January 7- Canada's Globe and Mail reports: Six Toronto police officers are expected to turn themselves in today on a total of 22 criminal charges that range from conspiracy to obstruct justice to extortion, perjury, theft over $5,000 and assault.

Four others are to be named as unindicted co-conspirators. All 10 are former members of the force's notorious and now-disbanded central drug squad.

The arrests are the culmination of an investigation that began in a small way four years ago within the Toronto force itself. The investigation was turned over by Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about two years ago and morphed into an enormous corruption probe; the Crown brief is reportedly more than 550,000 pages long.

January 8- The Australian reports: A Single injection could be all it takes to halt heroin addiction, after a trial showed the potential new treatment prevented addicts' withdrawal symptoms for six weeks.

Psychiatrists at Johns Hopkins University in the United States said the finding could make treatment much cheaper and more accessible to users.

Heroin abusers who volunteered for the trial had their supply of narcotics abruptly cut off and were instead given a single injection of a slow-release form of buprenorphine -- a drug that plugs into the same receptors in the brain as heroin and other opiates.

Buprenorphine is already used as a daily pill to treat heroin addiction along with psychiatric counseling, but has not before been tested as a one-time injection, or in the absence of counseling.

Study leader George Bigelow reported in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence that the volunteers were assessed for signs and symptoms of heroin withdrawal, and given weekly injections of an opiate.

"The results were promising both for prevention of the opioid withdrawal syndrome and for blockade of the opioid high from the ... challenge injections," Dr Bigelow wrote.

No withdrawal symptoms were observed and the effect of the weekly opiate injections appeared to be greatly reduced, the scientists said.

January 11- The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: An outspoken advocate for the legalization of marijuana was indicted Thursday on charges of refusing to submit a DNA sample for a statewide data bank, authorities said.

Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion, 39, was charged by a grand jury in Camden County with one count of criminal contempt, said Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi. A state law requires most convicted criminals and parolees to submit to DNA tests. Forchion, a former truck driver from Pemberton Township, was convicted in December 2000 for his role in attempting to distribute 40 pounds of marijuana. Last fall, Forchion wrote Gov. McGreevey, inviting him to kiss his behind and "retrieve the DNA from your lips."

A hearing is scheduled in state Superior Court in Camden tomorrow before Judge Robert G. Millenky. If convicted, Forchion faces up to 18 months in prison.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson drugwarbriefs@yahoo.com.