Heroin use in the United States has grown over the past decade into a national epidemic. What was once viewed as a drug of abuse for indigent war veterans in the 1970s and Black urban males in the 1980s has revealed itself to be in all geographical regions, in both genders, and in all races; but primarily amongst Caucasians. While the current heroin epidemic is far from glorified, there was a time —not so long ago, when such addiction was trendy.
In the 1990’s the opioid narcotic heroin was glamorized by pop culture where it featured heavily in “drug movies” such as, The Basketball Diaries, Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction, and Requiem for a Dream, and adopted in the Fashion and Art as what came to be known as: “Heroin Chic”. Heroin Chic was blamed for the highest resurgence of heroin use for youths since the 1970’s.
The Heroin Chic look made haute-couture of, pale skin, dark circles under the eyes, slumped postures, and gaunt bodies with grimacing faces. The Heroin Chic trend was used in advertisements by Calvin Klein and Clinque. Model Kate Moss was its poster girl and photographer Davide Sorrenti its godfather (himself dying from heroin).The Goth, Punk, and Grunge look are said to have been influenced heavily by Heroin Chic aesthetic.
Young people who felt alienated from society were said to be drawn to the mystique of heroin use. They may have viewed it as stylish and attractive as its use represented a rebellious anti-authoritarian lifestyle. Subcultures developed around popular music forms such as alternative rock and hip-hop, which have a similar appeal helped to further the image. Kurt Cobain, was a popular musician who lived and died by heroin. Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose. Actor River Phoenix died from a drug overdose of cocaine and heroin. Death by heroin overdose came to be viewed as an elite way to die. Exemplifying a life of tragedy and loneliness, as admirable and courageous. It made it cool to be an outsider and to live a tragic life.
Heroin Chic itself was the artistic reflection of individuals who were already using the drug; in music, movies, magazines, and other media including graffiti and artwork. Art imitated life and life in turn imitated art; a manifestation stemming from the desire to depict the life of a user, resulted in young people embracing the drug and idolizing the addict.
President Bill Clinton denounced Heroin Chic and the Fashion Industry reluctantly responded after much campaigning by anti-drug organizations, and the death of David Sorrenti. A shift was made to using curvy models and depicting happier and healthier images. However, some shadows of Heroin Chic continue to linger on the runways today, like heroin itself, whether trending or not, never completely going away.
The price of Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) has drastically increased! At my university, we typically requested FBS from a large in-house supply purchased wholesale from an external source. One reason for this was to maintain consistency, as fetal bovine serum tends to vary from batch to batch. However, purchasing this way kept cost down – one half liter bottle of FBS could run around 500 dollars. Recently, the department sent out a notification that each lab would no longer be able to obtain a bottle of FBS, without it counting against its weekly budget. Going forward, 200 dollars will be deducted, reducing the overall funds available for the weekly purchase of other lab supplies.
Yesterday, I asked the Chairman’s secretary why this change had been made. She only knew that the price had gone up exponentially, but not why. So, I decided to do some investigatory work of my own. People often don’t understand that research is very expensive and time consuming work. An increase in the cost of supplies, means a decrease in how far the budget can be stretched, and an increase in the time it takes to get in essential supplies. Continue reading →
“Bath salts” may still be responsible for the zombie apocalypse. A Florida man ate another mans face, again! The first time it happened was in Miami, 2012. Most recently 19-year-old, Austin Harrouff attacked and stabbed to death a couple in their own garage, and then commenced to eat the face of the male victim. The last time designer drugs commonly referred to as “bath salts” were implicated in the cause of such heinous cannibalism. The toxicology reports however, did not find the drugs in his system, and now that it has happened again, people are hesitant to blame the incident on a drug induced psychosis, but are suspecting a mental health illness.
However, it is very likely that bath salts are the cause and I’m going to tell you why.
The use of “bath salts” became prevalent in the United States in the early 1990s and 2000s, particularly after around 2009 or their euphoric effect. They are said to increase alertness, sociability, and sexual arousal. They were once marketed as antidepressants and appetite-suppressants in the former Soviet Union, during the 1960s. Use of the drug for these purposes were discontinued due to the drugs undesirable side effects.
What are “bath salts” ?
“Bath salts” are designer drugs that are psychoactive and hallucinogenic. Bath salts are not related to Epsom bath salts, they are in fact phenylethylamine analogs similar to cocaine, MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or ecstasy), and amphetamines. Specifically they are synthetic cathinones.
Cathinone is a naturally occurring alkaloid found in the young leaves of the Catha edulis (khat) plant. Cathinone is an analogue of amphetamine, but it breaks down rapidly to a less potent compound, Cathine. Synthetic cathinones were synthesized to resolve this “problem”.
Synthetic Cathinone : “bath salts”
Methcathinone is the proper name for Bath salts. As Cathinone was altered to contain a N-Methyl group. Methcathinone was first synthesized in 1928.
Earlier I mentioned that Bath salts are phenylethylamine analogues and Synthetic cathinone, and that cathinone is an analogue of amphetamine. Simply put; these chemical compounds share the same pharmacophore. A pharmacophore is the part of a chemical structure that imparts the compounds activity. Amphetamine and MDMA have the same pharmacophore as phenethylamine, and are therefore chemically and pharmacologically similar in activity and effect in the body.
Sign & Symptoms and Adverse Effects
The white to brownish colored powder can be snorted, ingested in pill form, and because it is hydrophilic —dissolvable in water, it can be injected intravenously.
Signs that someone may have used bath salts are chest pains, hyperthermia, hypertension, tachycardia, and nausea and vomiting.
“Bath Salts” cause several adverse neurological symptoms with excessive or repeated use. In progressive order, the use of bath salts result in headache, agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychosis.
Hallucinations can be auditory and tactile. When psychosis is also present, the hallucinations can be persistent; lasting up to several days.
Without ever displaying signs or being diagnosed with mental illnesses, such as, psychosis or depression, many users of bath salts engage in bizarre behavior that causes harm to themselves. There is also a high incidence of people hanging, shooting, and stabbing themselves after using Bath salts. Slitting ones own throat and jumping off of bridges has also been reported.
Toxicity resulting from continued use can cause immediate death from: seizures, cardiovascular collapse, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Kidney and Liver damage are also possible.
Bath Salts and the Zombie Gait
If the above signs and symptoms have not convinced you as yet, that bath salts may indeed be responsible for zombie-like behavior, then listen to this:
When designers are making “bath salts”, sometimes the product is not properly purified, and the end product is left adulterated with potassium permanganate. Potassium permanganate is used in the chemical reaction that oxidizes pseudo-ephedrine to methcathinone (synthetic cathinone). Potassium permanganate interferes with dopamine production in the brain, and people who are intoxicated from the use of potassium permanganate tainted “bath salts” have uncontrolled muscle twitching, postural instability ( bad posture and poor balance), extreme drowsiness, and walk in a funny or weird manner. Any of this remind you of a zombie?
Why or How do Bath Salts Cause this ?
Mechanism of Action.
“Bath salts” mimic the endogenous catecholamines monoamines of the body: dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Having a higher affinity for monoamine transporters, they block the uptake of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine from the synapse, increasing the concentration of monoamines in the synaptic cleft between neurons. This increase is what results in the drugs stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Essentially Bath salts cause a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Detection and Treatment
“Bath salts” can be detected in the urine or blood of users, however routine drug screens do not always detect synthetic cathinones. There are a variety of structures in the chemical composition of what is sold as “bath salts” and do to chemical engineering, the drug can be altered and synthesized into new compounds that may not be included on current drug screening panels. Drugs are often adulterated with other substances, and this can complicate detection of the pure drug. Forensic laboratories that do not specialize in the detection of cathinone may render a false negative test result for the use of bath salts. Furthermore, at the time of the first incident there were few studies done on bath salts, and what was known of them, had to be extrapolated based on their structure-activity relationship to other drugs, such as MDMA.
Packaging and names of the drug also vary and change when sold over the internet or on the streets in novelty stores. The effects of bath salts combine the worst of both methamphetamine and MDMA. Toxicity is treated with benzodiazepines and antipsychotic drugs.
So, I was tagged in a users video on Facebook captioned “Look what happens when you pour boiling water over an apple! Is this wax? What do you think it is?”
As the water was poured over the apple, a filmy substance began to whiter away from the skin of the apple. Some people were genuinely shocked to discover that a wax was overlaid on the surface of the apple (in all actuality it did appear alarmingly gross and disconcerting). This wax is what is referred to in the food industry as edible surface coatings or biopolymers.
Why are fruits and vegetables coated?
To explain why fruits and vegetables are coated, it first needs to be explained why fruits spoil or decay. People often don’t think of it this way, but fruits and vegetables are alive. They are literally living tissue just like you and I, and they undergo respiration. Once fruits and vegetables are picked or harvested, they continue to respire. Apart from the “vine” they no longer have an external source of energy; they cannot eat or drink. Instead they used up their internal supply of stored starches and sugars. As they use up this supply they begin to age and decay. Essentially they die! Continue reading →
January 12, 2010 Haiti was hit with a massive and devastating earthquake. It’s expected that following such a natural disaster, homes, public buildings, and roads would be damaged, and many lives lost in the rubble. One can even imagine that people will be without lights, food, and housing for extended periods of time, but what is forgotten is that in the aftermath of an earthquake, there comes flooding. Flooding of rivers and land, and the flooding of humanitarian aid workers from afar. Tragically, this flooding has led to the introduction of a pathogen into Haiti that has claimed the lives of many and complicated the recovery from the 2010 earthquake, that leveled the country. The pathogen responsible is Vibrio Cholerae, which causes Cholera. Although pandemic, Cholera had not been seen in Haiti in over a century.
Since Haiti had not been touched by this disease in a century, then where did the Cholera come from?
The first victims lived near a base housing 454 United Nations peacekeepers freshly arrived from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, and waste from the base often leaked into the river. Numerous scientists have since argued that the base was the only plausible source of the outbreak…New York Times
Heroin has regained the attention of the media, as its use is now reported to be of epidemic proportions. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the amount of deaths related to opioids including heroin has quadrupled since 1999 to 2014. Today the incidence of heroin abuse is seen primarily in White males, in young people —both male and female, ages 18-25, and in states occupying the Midwest region of the United States. The reason for this recent epidemic has been associated with the use of prescription opioid painkillers. In fact, non-medical use of prescription opioids is a major risk factor for heroin use. In addition, the cost of heroin has decreased, its purity increased, and its availability is still readily attainable.
With so many people currently dying from heroin, government officials and policy makers are struggling with how to cope with an epidemic that is neither air-borne, vector-borne, or food-borne, but born out of the psychology of pain. Recently, media attention and public debate has surrounded the establishment of heroin clinics as a solution to the death crisis. Addicts may go to heroin clinics to receive injections of heroin, and in case of overdose, the antidote Naloxone (Narcan). Astonishing as it may seem, this is not the first time there has been a heroin epidemic, and neither is the idea of giving heroin to addicts at heroin clinics novel. Continue reading →
Today’s consumers are concerned with the dietary and nutritional value of their foods. They want to know the sources of the ingredients in their food, if the ingredients are organic or GMO (genetically modified organisms), natural or synthetic, and how those ingredients compare to other alternatives. So manufacturer’s find the best way to appeal to buyers, and to compete with other products on the market. One way in which they do this is by using terms that agree with consumer ethos like “healthy” and “natural”. Consumers need to be careful not be confused or misled by clever labeling tactics, for example; “gluten-free” is sometimes placed on items that are inherently gluten-free or on which the gluten-free status is irrelevant. As such, the use of “Evaporated Cane Juice” as an ingredient name has been controversial for some time now. There have even been lawsuit’s againts Wholefoods and Chobani because of it. Continue reading →
Who doesn’t love honey? Even if you don’t LOVE honey, you must acknowledge that the Honey bee is the most important pollinator insect contributing to our food supply. In case you didn’t know, one-third of our diet is derived from plants that have been pollinated by insects, and Honey bees are responsible for 80% of that work. Not only do Honey bees pollinate crops and wild plants, and produce honey, but beeswax, royal jelly, and propolis are also derived from their labor. These products have been used in food, cosmetics, and medicine.
As economically valuable as they are, unfortunately the Honey bee has been vanishing in a mysterious phenomenon that leaves hives full of honey, but devoid of all adult worker bees. What’s more astonishing is that there are no dead bees found in or around the hive.
The situation has gotten so dire, that even the bee from General Mills produced Honey Nut Cheerios cereal box has gone missing. Continue reading →
Marijuana was listed as a Schedule 1 drug in 1970, at the time it was considered to have no medicinal purpose, as the discovery of the first cannabinoid receptor wouldn’t occur until the 1980’s. Due to governmental suppression of illicit marijuana use, its medicinal use was discontinued. Recent debates over legalizing marijuana coupled with new understanding of the cannabinoid receptor system in the human body, has renewed investigations into the development of pharmaceutical therapeutic alternatives. The alternatives include receptor-based drugs, inhibitors of enzymes that break down endogenous cannabinoids, and synthetic compounds that can modulate how cannabinoids bind to their receptors. Alternatives should have improved efficacy, potency, duration of action, safety, and the beneficial properties of marijuana without the harmful side effects. Continue reading →
Recently I was given the great opportunity to write for this awesome journal…
LabAnimal is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes editorial material relating to animal research. It is a subsidiary of the well-known Nature journal. LabAnimal is geared towards professionals, but is easy to digest; for anyone interested in information and methods involving the use of animals in research.
The journal can be accessed online. You can read the latest issue that I am in here. My article is entitled A Novel Adjuvant Promises Improved Rabies Vaccines.
Subscriptions for monthly issues are available free for individuals involved in lab animal science. Others, as well as institutions are required to pay, but the price is reasonable. You can subscribe at www.labanimal.com.