Substance.com

Meet the Hip, Young Talking Head Trying to Stop Legal Pot

“Alcohol [is] legal because of its cultural significance. However, I think if you surveyed every public health researcher and asked if they could go back in time and prevent alcohol from being normalized 10 centuries ago… you might be surprised at how many would want to do that.”

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The NYPD Arrest Slowdown: A Model to Be Lauded?

“Why are you still there?” I get asked all the time. Sometimes I wonder the same thing.

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There's A Better Way for American Doctors to Deal With Painkiller Misuse

When a patient recently came into the St. Paul, Minn., office of Dr. Mark Willenbring, the doctor already knew his history. Diagnosed in his 20s with a chronically painful disorder, James (not his real name) had done well on opioid painkiller Oxycontin for almost a decade.

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Humiliating People With Addiction Is Not Treatment

When I walked into a certain tin warehouse in North Miami Beach in 2006, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d gotten myself into. I was new to Florida, needed a job and this one paid well. So I figured it was a start.

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The Highs of Journalism: 5 News Reporters Who Got Buzzed on Camera

TV news reporters typically do their best to act like they are serious people doing a serious job, at least when on camera. But sometimes the mask drops a bit, or the make-up is too thick, revealing—to the sadistic amusement of the viewer—the person behind the persona. This may occur when reporters are reporting on drugs or when reporters on drugs are reporting. Or, best of all, both.

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Lose That "Addict" Identity--There Are Better Options

Last year Meghan Ralston, of the Drug Policy Alliance, memorably wrote—in a piece titled, “I’m Breaking Up With the Word ‘Addict’…”—about her former, heavy substance-using self and her new, sober self. (“Sober,” of course, doesn’t mean “abstinent.”) Only, she pointed out, that’s the same self and she’s the same person, for better or worse:

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Will 2015 Be the Year of Harm Reduction?

The past couple of years have been game-changers for harm reduction. The movement to reclaim the health and dignity of people who use drugs has celebrated the rapid passage of overdose prevention and syringe decriminalization laws, expanded access to the life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone, and welcomed endorsements from such prominent, previously skeptical agencies as the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control.

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5 Addictions You Are Permitted to Have Among Polite Society in America

Do you have an addiction? It’s not unlikely. Human beings are wired to seek pleasure. And most of us—if not all of us—are hooked on something. For some of us, it’s drugs or alcohol. Scary! If so, you’re probably pretty familiar with shame, secrecy or guilt, what with the media shrieking about Lindsay Lohan’s coke problem and celebrity DUIs and the latest designer drug to shield your kids from, at all costs.

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10 Big Ways the War on Drugs Lost Some Steam in 2014

2014 was an eventful year for the international drug war. Given that it consists mainly of violence, corruption, impoverishment, incarceration, addiction and other social harms, that is hardly good news, although a cynic might say that it makes for good drama.

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Islamic World Takes Same Drugs We Do: It Just Has Different Rules About Them

Every society has its own views about drugs. For example, there once was a land—and not in a fairytale—where you could take all the narcotics you wanted but drinking a cup of coffee or smoking a cigarette carried the death penalty. That’s hard for us to conceive of in the US, where many Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are fueled by coffee and cigarettes—neither nicotine nor caffeine is considered a relapse, even though they are drugs. The reality is that throughout history, substances have been demonized not due to any inherent property, intoxicating or otherwise, but, rather, due to social values. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Islamic societies—we’ll look at the Arab Nation, Turkey and Iran—and their richly diverse views of intoxicants over the centuries.

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10 Instructive Celebrity Drug Stories of 2014

The war on drugs seems to be reaching its endgame, thanks to shifting public opinion, rapidly changing laws and a political class finally tiring of throwing good money after bad. But prohibition, criminalization and stigmatization were still common and unnecessary ways to ruin lives in 2014—adding greatly to those harms that can be directly attributed to drugs or addiction. The rich and famous provide some cases in point, so Substance.com casts a jaundiced eye over this year’s most shocking, silly or plain sad celebrity drug stories.

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After Legalization, The Fight to Make People's Prior Pot Convictions Go Away

Marijuana won in November’s midterm elections, with Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia joining Colorado and Washington in legalizing it. But it’s a bittersweet victory for people who have a prior cannabis conviction for doing something that is now legal in their state. For now, efforts to clear pot marks from people’s records in states that have legalized the drug are facing uphill battles.

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7 Ways to Drink More Safely This Holiday Season

Let the fun begin! December is a month full of parties—and for many people, booze. Great. But if you are going out, it’s important to be smart about your drinking. There’s nothing merry about a hangover, after all, especially if you did something you regret…whether or not you remember it the next day. So how can we celebrate the season with alcohol, if that’s our choice, and still stay safe?

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How to Run a Drug Dealing Network in Prison

At every single correctional facility in the US, a drug network something like the one I’m about to outline operates and prospers. Take it from me—I was recently released from federal prison after spending 21 years of my life inside.

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The New York Times Is Hooked on “Drug du Jour” Journalism

The stories we tell ourselves matter: As Joan Didion memorably put it, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” But journalists have a special responsibility because the way we frame our narratives doesn’t only affect us—it can influence readers and public policy. And the story we are telling about drugs isn’t working.

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10 Surprising Facts About the History of Hallucinogens

“Don’t stop here!” yells Raoul Duke as he swats at invisible flying creatures in Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. “This is bat country!”

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10 of America's Strangest Drug Laws

When it comes to drug laws, like many things in life, you’ve got the good, the bad…and the just plain weird. And the US boasts plenty of examples of all three.

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10 Reasons Why New York City Is the Best Place to Get Sober

Maybe you were born here. Or maybe you arrived in the Big Apple with a suitcase full of dreams. But either way—whoops!—you developed a raging drug and alcohol problem that took you to places your mama never told you about.

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Forget What They Tell You: Denial Can Help You to Recover From Addiction

Chris drank recklessly throughout his 20s, often getting black-out drunk several times a week. One morning, in his mid-20s, he awoke after a particularly bad bout, horrified by what he could remember and how he felt, and terrified at the thought of what else he might have said or done. He started searching online for a local AA chapter—but then halted. “What am I doing?” he thought. “I’m no alcoholic.”

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10 of America's Least Boozy States

Americans love their booze. In 2012, 71% of US residents reported having consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past year, and about half of people over the age of 18 identified as regular drinkers, according to a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Only 13% said they were infrequent drinkers, consuming less than 11 drinks in the past year.

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11 Frightfully Delicious Marijuana Strains to Go With Your Favorite Halloween Movies

Halloween is upon us again, and thanks to the seemingly unstoppable momentum of the marijuana legalization movement, more Americans than ever will be celebrating this holiday as our founding fathers doubtless intended: legally stoned.

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Inside the Big, Bold, Practical Movement to Reduce the Harms of Drug Use

Arriving in Baltimore the night before the 10th National Harm Reduction Conference last week, I walked out of the hotel to get my bearings and buy a sandwich. Downtown was a desert, with banks and other businesses closed for the night. Turning a corner, I suddenly came upon a brightly lit cluster of exotic dance clubs and sex shops, guarded by intimidating bouncers, with people milling around with their hoods up, some intoxicated, the young women tottering on heels. There was a Subway open.

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Why the World's Poorest People Aren't Getting Basic Pain Relief

The following first appeared on Substance.com:

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Marijuana Addiction Is (Almost) All in Your Head

The following first appeared in Substance.com

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Meet the CIA’s 10 Favorite Drug Traffickers

Attacking drug cartels. Dismantling organized crime. US officials argue that these are two of the core objectives driving Washington’s foreign policy. But the record of US conduct abroad since World War II tells a different story. Around the world, Washington has consistently backed prolific drug smugglers, provided these groups advance US governmental interests. Justifications for this support have morphed over the years—it was anti-Communism during the Cold War, anti-terrorism today—but these rationalizations mask a consistent set of policy outcomes.

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10 Romantic Comedies That Will Drive Sex and Love Addicts Crazy

A man on a bus passes a billboard for the Holiday Edition gift bottle of Chivas Regal. It’s the most beautiful bottle of booze he’s ever seen…and this guy knows his booze. He jumps off the bus and runs to a liquor store, only to discover that the Chivas is way out of his price range.

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10 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About the History of Pot

What do Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Maya Angelou and well over 100 million Americans all have in common? They’ve all smoked pot. Throughout its history, marijuana has attracted plenty of unexpected users and proponents. And much of the history of greenery is now familiar to us—thanks to History Channel specials, the burgeoning legalization movement and the popularity of anti-pot propaganda films like Reefer Madness. But even if you’re intimately familiar with the plant in all its forms, we’re willing to wager that some of these facts will surprise you.

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I Nearly Lost My Freedom Because I Couldn’t Pee in a Cup

A few days ago at 6:30 am, just as I was getting ready to go to work, I got called down to the front desk of my halfway house in St. Louis. I have lived here for the past two months since being released from federal prison after doing 21 years of a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for a drug conspiracy.

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