TIME Research

Growing Number of Babies Have Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Study Shows

It's called neonatal abstinence syndrome

The number of infants born in the U.S. with drug withdrawal symptoms is growing rapidly, a new study shows.

The percentage of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which has been linked to illegal drug or prescription opioid use in pregnant women, nearly doubled between 2009 and 2012, according to a Vanderbilt study published in the Journal of Perinatology.

By 2012, one infant was born every 25 minutes with the syndrome, leading to $1.5 billion in yearly health care charges, the study found.

Through examining data from the Kids’ Inpatient Database and the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the study found that the occurrence of NAS in the U.S. rose from 3.4 births per 1,000 to 5.8 births per 1,000 between 2009 and 2012.

The study also found that NAS rates varied across the country. “The rise in neonatal abstinence syndrome mirrors the rise we have seen in opioid pain reliever use across the nation. Our study finds that communities hardest hit by opioid use and their complications, like overdose death, have the highest rates of the NAS,” lead author Stephen Patrick, assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, said in a press release. The area with the highest rate of NAS in 2012, 16.2 births per 1,000, was the region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

William Cooper, Cornelius Vanderbilt professor of pediatrics and health policy and the senior author for the study, called the rise of NAS “a growing public health problem.”

Being born with NAS makes infants more likely to have respiratory problems, difficulty feeding, seizures and low birth weight.

TIME Drugs

Emerging Drug Flakka Causing More Naked Rage and Paranoia Incidents

The new drug causes body temperature to spike dangerously

Flakka, a new designer drug popular in Florida, is continuing to generate bizarre incidents of naked rage and paranoia among users — but officials say it’s no laughing matter.

The synthetic drug has spawned a number of tales including how one Florida man believed he was Thor, and ran naked through a neighborhood and then tried to have sex with a tree, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Another flakka user ran nude down a busy city street, convinced he was being chased by a pack of German shepherds.

Flakka, which is similar to bath salts and usually smoked via electronic cigarettes, causes the naked incidents because it causes a spike in body temperature of up to 106 degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Like amphetamines, flakka users seek the high of the drug’s stimulation but may also become prone to violent outbursts, paranoia and hallucinations.

“I’ve had one addict describe it as $5 insanity,” Don Maines, a drug treatment counselor in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told AP. “They still want to try it because it’s so cheap.”

Flakka has spread to other states besides Florida, where most incidents have been reported, including Ohio, Texas and Tennessee, according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read next: See Which State Has the Highest Daily Use of Mood-Altering Drugs

[AP]

TIME indonesia

Man Executed in Indonesia Did Not Know He Was About to Die

People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia on April 29, 2015.
Himawan Nugraha People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia on April 29, 2015.

He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Indonesia executed eight people Wednesday for drug smuggling, but one of them, a paranoid schizophrenic who also suffered from bipolar disorder, wasn’t aware he was about to be killed.

The priest who had been ministering to Rodrigo Gularte said the Brazilian inmate was “lost because he’s a schizophrenic,” the Guardian reports.

“He was hearing voices all the time,” Father Charlie Burrows said. “I talked to him for about an hour and a half, trying to prepare him for the execution. I said to him, ‘I’m 72 years old, I’ll be heading to heaven in the near future, so you find out where my house is and prepare a garden for me.’

But when Gularte was taken from his cell and put in chains, Burrows said he asked, “Am I being executed?”

Burrows explained, “I said, ‘Yes, I thought I explained that you.’ He didn’t get excited – he’s a quiet sort of a guy – but he said, ‘This is not right.’

Eight people were executed by a firing squad in Indonesia Wednesday for smuggling drugs into the country. One other was granted a stay of execution while her case is investigated further.

TIME indonesia

How Indonesia’s Migrant Workers Helped Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso

Indonesia Executions
Tatan Syuflana—AP Marites Veloso, front center, sister of Filipina migrant worker on death row for drug offenses Mary Jane Veloso, is surrounded by media at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia, after visiting her sister on April 29, 2015

The Filipina maid was walking toward the execution ground when she was told she was granted a temporary reprieve

Some minutes after the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, eight men walked to the execution ground on the Indonesian island of Nusakambangan. The prisoners, who belonged to different faiths, all chose not to be blindfolded and reportedly sang the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” until the executioners’ bullets were fired, killing them.

Pastor Karina de Vega, who was with the condemned drug convicts until the last moment, told the Sydney Morning Herald, “They bonded together. Brotherhood.”

The world had joined together in pleading to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who vows not to grant clemency to drug convicts on death row, to spare the prisoners’ lives. Their pleas fell onto deaf ears: the Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Bali Nine pair who had outwardly repented during the decade they spent at a Bali prison; the four Nigerians who included the so-called Death-Row Gospel Singer; one poor Indonesian laborer; and one mentally ill Brazilian died at around 12:25 a.m. local time on Wednesday. Some of them still had ongoing legal appeals.

Jokowi decided to spare the life of the ninth drug convict, however. At literally the last minute, as Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina migrant worker, was walking out from her cell to the execution ground, she was told she was granted a temporary reprieve.

The delay came after a woman who allegedly recruited Veloso surrendered to the Philippine authorities on Tuesday afternoon. (Veloso maintains she was a victim of human trafficking and duped into carrying 2.6 kg of heroin into Indonesia.) Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who had met Jokowi on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, made another appeal to his Indonesian counterpart to spare the 30-year-old Filipina the next day, saying she could be a key witness in prosecuting drug syndicates.

“The execution of Mary Jane has been postponed because there was a request from the Philippine President related to a perpetrator who surrendered herself in the Philippines,” Tony Spontana, spokesman for the Indonesian Attorney General’s Office, told reporters on Wednesday morning. “Mary Jane has been asked to testify.”

Manila’s diplomatic pressures aside, Indonesian migrant activists and women’s-rights activists also played a big role in actively lobbying on behalf of Veloso and helped spark a social-media campaign in Indonesia. The National Commission on Violence Against Women says Veloso was a victim of domestic abuse who, driven by poverty, went to work as a helper in Dubai to support her two sons, but returned home after she was nearly raped by her employer. Driven by desperation, she accepted a job offer in Kuala Lumpur, which led to her arrest in Yogyakarta in 2010. It’s a story that resonates in Indonesia, where millions of women seek work abroad as domestic helpers to support their families, frequently falling victim to ill treatment, exploitation and abuse.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a former Indonesian helper whose severe abuse in the hands of her Hong Kong employer made international headlines, called Veloso a “friend” and, just hours before the scheduled execution, joined other Indonesian citizens in pleading to Jokowi to save Veloso’s life. Sringatin, a migrant worker and activist in Hong Kong, took part in rallies in Jakarta; her fellow worker-activist Eni Lestari led protests in front of the Indonesian consulate general in Hong Kong. Two female legislators from Jokowi’s party, Eva Sundari and Rieke Diah Pitaloka, also voiced their support to the Filipina prisoner.

Anis Hidayah, executive director of Jakarta-based Migrant Care, is among workers’-rights activists who have been campaigning for Veloso. When she attended Jokowi’s emergency meeting to discuss Veloso’s case on Tuesday afternoon, she tells TIME, “I told the President that [Indonesian] migrant workers on death row overseas are in the same position like Mary Jane, they are all victims. As I spoke, I couldn’t help crying.”

Six million Indonesian migrant workers remitted $8.55 billion to their families last year — a record high — according to the World Bank (in contrast, the Philippines’ 12 million workers remitted $28.4 billion back home last year, the biggest in Southeast Asia). But there’s a grim fact: there are hundreds of Indonesians currently on death row overseas (the Indonesian government says there are 229, but Migrant Care puts the number at 290). Jokowi has vowed to fight for their lives, despite his hard-line approach to drug convicts on death row back home.

The latest executions “will have a big impact,” says Anis, whose organization opposes the death penalty. “It will create an obstacle and narrow down the Indonesian government’s room for diplomacy to free migrant workers from death row overseas.”

It isn’t clear yet what will happen to Veloso: if her alleged recruiter is found guilty, whether she would have a new trial. On Wednesday, Jokowi said Veloso’s execution “is only delayed, not canceled.” But Anis vows that migrant-workers’-rights groups from Indonesia and the Philippines will keep on fighting for Veloso.

And, after all the controversy surrounding the latest round of executions, the activist says, “I hope it can be a valuable lesson for the law enforcement that death-penalty decisions should not be made carelessly.”

TIME Football

Projected NFL 1st-Round Draft Pick Shane Ray Cited For Marijuana Possession

Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game for a late hit against Alabama quarterback Blake Sims during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta
Brynn Anderson—AP Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game for a late hit against Alabama quarterback Blake Sims during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta

The standout defensive player will appear in court on June 30

Former Missouri Tiger football player Shane Ray, projected to be drafted in the early-mid first round of the 2015 NFL draft, was cited on Monday for possession of marijuana and a traffic violation.

According to ESPN, the pass rushing linebacker was pulled over for speeding on a Missouri highway and when the officer smelled fresh (unsmoked) marijuana he searched the vehicle — finding a “personal amount” in the car.

The officer said Ray was cooperative and did not appear impaired during the procedure. He was given a misdemeanor for having 35 grams or less of pot in his possession and was not detained. The maximum sentence for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Missouri is one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

He will appear in court on June 30.

Ray is also dealing with a toe injury and there is speculation that he may need to undergo surgery, but he told ESPN that he will “take it easy through rookie camp and continue to focus on rehab and healing.”

He started every game for Missouri last season and recorded 61 tackles and 14 sacks. The NFL draft starts on Thursday.

[ESPN]

TIME indonesia

Indonesian Media Says 8 Foreign Drug Smugglers Executed

PHILIPPINES-INDONESIA-CRIME-DRUGS-EXECUTION
Ted Aljibe—AFP/Getty Images Activists hold candles and placards with portraits of Mary Jane Veloso in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2015.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected clemency appeals

Eight drug convicts, all foreigners, were reportedly executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday, after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected pleas from foreign governments and thousands of his own citizens to halt the executions.

The inmates, four Nigerians, two Australians, one Brazilian and one Indonesian, were killed on the Nusakambangan prison island early Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reports. But another condemned prisoner, Filipina domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso, was spared at least temporarily after new evidence came to light confirming her claim she was tricked into smuggling drugs.

The executed inmates included Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Australians who were part of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group. Their former lawyer, Mohammad Irfan, has alleged to the Sydney Morning Herald that judges asked for more than $77,000 in bribes to give the pair a lighter sentence, and he also accuses Jakarta of political interference — once again putting a spotlight on Indonesia’s judicial system, which is largely seen as corrupt.

A Frenchman, Serge Atlaoui, was earlier given a temporary reprieve pending a legal appeal, which was granted after French President François Hollande warned: “If he is executed, there will be consequences with France and Europe.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and former East Timorese President) José Ramos-Horta, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, British tycoon and adventurer Richard Branson and iconic hard-rock guitarist Tony Iommi were among the chorus of foreign leaders, fellow celebrities, local and overseas activists and ordinary people asking that the convicts’ lives be spared.

Families of the condemned came to Nusakambangan to spend the last hours with their loved ones, as police and military stepped up security there and in Cilacap. Chan, who was ordained as minister in the decade he spent at a Bali prison, asked to go to church with his family during his last days, said his brother Michael. As his last wish, Sukumaran, who began painting while incarcerated in Bali, has asked “to paint as long and as much as possible,” his brother Chinthu said. One of his latest self-portraits shown to journalists depicts a harrowing image of the artist shot through the heart.

Read next: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Boarding School for Transgender People

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME indonesia

The Internet Is Begging the Indonesian Government to Spare a Filipina Single Mother’s Life

A protester holds a placard urging the Philippine and Indonesian government to save Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia, during a protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Makati city
Romeo Ranoco—Reuters A protester holds a placard urging the Philippine and Indonesian governments to save Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia, during a protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila on April 24, 2015

"Is my President a murderer?”

As the executions of 10 drug convicts loom in Indonesia, a massive social-media campaign has kicked off in support of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina maid set to face the firing squad.

The hashtag #MaryJane was the No. 2 trending topic on Indonesia’s Twittersphere on Friday morning, hours after Veloso was transferred to the execution island of Nusakambangan. As her family flew to the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where Veloso was held, Indonesians rallied to urge President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, to spare the life of the 30-year-old migrant worker.

Indonesian celebrity chef Rahung Nasution launched a tweet storm on Friday morning, detailing how Veloso ended up in an Indonesian prison and how the Indonesian government handled her case. “Jokowi is not battling drugs. He is executing poor women, like the migrant workers in Saudi Arabia!! #MaryJane,” Rahung tweeted, referring to the two Indonesian domestic workers executed in the Middle East country last week.

Dewi Candraningrum, the chief editor of feminist magazine Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal), uploaded her charcoal-on-paper drawing Mary Jane and tweeted, “She is a victim of trafficking. Is my President a murderer?” The National Commission on Violence Against Women also posted a series of tweets on why the government should not execute Veloso.

One Twitter user wrote, “I agree with death penalty for drug cases, as long as it’s for big-time drug dealers, not couriers or duped victims like #MaryJane.”

Another tweeted, “Sorry for #MaryJane how is it possible for a victim of a drug dealer is sentenced to death. As if people’s life is a plaything.”

While local support for other foreign drug convicts has been muted, there is a wider sympathy toward Veloso, a single mother of two, who said she was not a drug dealer but a victim of trafficking and was duped into carrying narcotics into the country. She was initially promised a job in Malaysia, but upon arrival there, she was told her job was in Indonesia. While in Malaysia, the drugs were secretly sewn into a suitcase she was lent, her family said. She was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in April 2010 after authorities found 2.6 kg of heroin in her suitcase. She was found guilty and sentenced to death later that year.

Veloso launched her first appeal in March, questioning the competence of the translator provided to her during the trial, but it was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court. She was transferred from Yogyakarta’s prison to Nusakambangan execution island at 1 a.m. on Friday.

On Friday, the Philippine government filed a second appeal for judicial review on behalf of Veloso in another attempt to save her life.

TIME Marijuana

Marijuana Reform Activists Push for Change with DEA Head

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.
James Lawler Duggan—Reuters DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington on April 14, 2015.

And the resignation of Chief of Administration Michele Leonhart offers the chance for change

Marijuana legalization advocates are excited about the departure of Michele Leonhart, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, whom they long considered an obstruction in their goal of reforming the nation’s drug laws.

“We are happy to see her go,” says Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “She’s a career drug warrior at a time when we’ve decided the ‘War on Drugs’ is an abject failure.”

Leonhart has been at the DEA for 35 years and served as the top dog since 2007. Though the recent scandal involving agents soliciting sex from prostitutes is what will likely most clearly tarnish her reputation, her position on drug policy has led marijuana reform activists to call for her resignation, says says Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Franklin, a veteran of the Maryland state police, calls her position on marijuana reform “archaic.”

Leonhart has been a major hurdle in the effort to reconsider marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which could pave the way for more research into the health benefits of the drug. In 2011, the agency again rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the agency spent about $100 million in 2012 alone on enforcement regarding medical marijuana laws.

“Leonhart opposed medical marijuana, she opposed sentencing reform, she opposed pretty much everything that Obama was doing and for that matter everything Congress was doing,” says Bill Piper, the director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of several drug and marijuana policy organizations that have previously called for Leonhart’s removal. Following a speech in which Leonhart was critical of Obama’s assertion that smoking marijuana was no more harmful that drinking alcohol, the Marijuana Policy Project and over 47,000 citizens called for her to resign. A Drug Policy Alliance petition called for her removal following revelations that the DEA had been tracking citizens’ phone calls for decades. Organizations including Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws have also called for her resignation.

Though who will be filling in for Leonhart isn’t yet clear, activists say her replacement should be more supportive of ongoing reform initiatives, including reducing mass incarceration and taking the health impact of drugs into consideration when formulating policy. What’s more, Piper says, her removal could lead the Obama administration to reschedule marijuana before the President leaves office.

“This offers a good opportunity for marijuana reform to move forward quicker than it has been moving,” Piper says.

More than that, though, it could signal and even steeper change to policy regarding the enforcement of drug laws. As more states consider legalizing marijuana in some form—23 states have legalized medical use and four have given the green light to toking up recreationally. Six additional states could consider legalization during the 2016 election. As the nation’s stance on that shifts, so too should its approach to drug enforcement, advocates say.

“Within the next 10 years, I see massive drug policy reform and therefore really an end to the DEA,” Franklin says. The new leader, he says, should approach the role as if he or she is “dismantling a decommissioned battleship and selling the pieces for scrap metal.”

“For most part, the DEA exists because they’re enforcing prohibition,” he adds. “I believe we’re moving away from prohibition and more toward health.”

MONEY Leisure

Legal Pot Prices Keep Getting Cheaper

A view of the screen of a ZaZZZ vending machine that contains cannabis flower, hemp-oil energy drinks, and other merchandise at Seattle Caregivers, a medical marijuana dispensary, in Seattle, Washington February 3, 2015. Vending machines selling medical marijuana opened for business in Seattle on Tuesday, in what the company providing them billed as a first-in-the-state innovation that it expects to expand to other cities and states where pot is legal as medicine.
David Ryder—Reuters A view of the screen of a ZaZZZ vending machine that contains cannabis flower, hemp-oil energy drinks, and other merchandise at Seattle Caregivers, a medical marijuana dispensary, in Seattle, Washington February 3, 2015.

The price of legal recreational marijuana is down to an average of $12 per gram in Washington state lately. Last summer, it was as high as $30 per gram.

One justification for making recreational marijuana legal in Colorado, Washington, and perhaps elsewhere soon is the hope that it will help put an end to the black market, which is unregulated and untaxed and has been known to involve gangs, drug cartels, and crime far beyond the low-level dealing of weed. But it’ll be all but impossible to stop the black market if its prices are substantially cheaper than rates on the up-and-up.

Last year, when recreational marijuana sales opened in Washington, prices were often $400 or more per ounce, typically breaking down to $25 and even as much as $30 per gram. The cost of taxes and regulation were partly responsible for the high price of Washington weed last summer. But an even larger factor was simply that supply was too low; sellers couldn’t get their hands on enough legal marijuana from licensed growers to keep up with marketplace demand.

By the start of 2015, however, the state’s marijuana’s shortages were a thing of the past. Bloomberg News reported in January that average prices were down to $15 per gram in Washington pot shops.

And prices keep getting cheaper. This week, the Seattle Times pointed to new data from the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) that indicated the average per-gram retail price for pot in Washington had dropped to $12 in early April. “The agency was charged with creating a recreational system competitive with the gray and illicit markets,” a Washington LCB spokesperson explained. “We thought if we could get it to 12 dollars a gram, we would be competitive, and we got there in a matter of months.”

Legal marijuana prices in Washington are not cheaper than the black market, at least not yet. But legal prices are certainly in the same ballpark. While black market prices for pot vary widely, $10 per gram is a commonly cited figure. According to the website, PriceofWeed.com, which allows anyone to submit sample marijuana prices where they live, the average price for medium-quality product throughout the U.S. is $257 per ounce, which breaks down to $16 per gram. In Washington and Oregon, the average of prices submitted by users comes to around $11 to $12 per gram. This is hardly scientific data, but gives some indication that legal prices are fairly competitive with that of the black market.

This may seem surprising. After all, black market operators do business under the table. They aren’t taxed or subject to the costly regulations of legal growers and vendors. And yet, as Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, explained to my colleague Jake Davidson last summer, black market sellers must cope with a multitude of factors that make doing business costly and full of hassles: “If you have to hide, you have to pay premium wages because people risk going to prison,” said Kleiman. “You can’t invest in expensive fixed tech because you’re worried about a raid.”

Legal vendors, of course, have no such concerns, and therefore have a competitive advantage over their black market counterparts.

TIME India

India Detains 8 Pakistanis on Boat Containing Heroin Worth $95 Million

Authorities believe the 232 packets of drugs seized are heroin worth more than $95 million

(NEW DELHI) — India’s navy and coast guard seized a suspicious boat from international waters off the western coast and detained eight Pakistanis after finding a huge drug shipment aboard, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

Authorities believe the 232 packets of drugs found aboard the boat are heroin worth more than $95 million, the ministry said in a statement.

Satellite phones and a GPS system were also seized in the joint operation Monday involving two navy ships and one coast guard vessel.

The ministry said the eight people detained would likely be interrogated by intelligence officials as well as authorities from the navy and coast guard.

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