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Friday, August 28, 2015

An Open Dialogue About Blackout Drinking

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to serious problems, both mentally and physically. Young adults, notably college aged, commonly consume vast quantities of booze in a short amount of time between Thursday and Saturday, what is known as binge drinking. The practice of binge drinking is associated with bad decision making, such as drunk driving. Making sound decisions is difficult when binge drinking, because at a certain point the lights are on but nobody’s home - commonly referred to as a “blackout.”

After 25 years of drinking to the point of blackout, a personal essays editor at Salon decided to write a memoir of her time as a blackout drinker, CNN reports. Sarah Hepola’s new memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, is candid look at what a life with memory gaps is like. She hopes the book will open the dialogue about blackouts and bring to light some of the consequences that can result from blackout drinking. Sarah Hepola has five years of sobriety.

Aaron White, PhD, senior adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) points out that it can be difficult to know if someone is in a blackout, according to the article. "They're very common, frighteningly so."

"So you could be talking to somebody and having a conversation with them about something that happened the day before or a month ago or a year ago and everything seems fine," White said, "but while you're having that conversation, the information about that conversation is falling into a void.

"Unless you give somebody a memory test, you're probably not going to know."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Can The Dark Web Be Stopped?

What is happening in the “Dark Web” and can it be stopped? The easy answer is no, at least not in the way that the government is going about it. For those who are unaware of the Dark Web, it is an all-encompassing term for the various websites that allow people to buy illicit products anonymously. The most notable of such sites being The Silk Road, whose founder, Ross Ulbricht, received a life sentence earlier this year after a being arrested in 2013. Since the original bust, copycat sites have sprung up like weeds, and new research indicates that business is better than ever, Wired reports.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that between $100-200 million in illegal drugs are being sold each year via the Dark Web. The researchers used automated software to “scrape” the visible contents of 35 Dark Web markets. The findings indicate that government take-downs have little impact on the market and may only serve to minimize the competition, according to the article.

“What we’ve seen is that, as a whole, the ecosystem is resilient to these adverse events,” says Nicolas Cristin, study author and long time Dark Web watcher. “That shows it’s going to be a lot harder to get rid of these marketplaces than one would have thought.”

“The market is relatively stable, with sales between 300,000 and 500,000 dollars a day,” says Christin. 

What’s more, the volume of sales may actually be higher that what was reported. A recent government crackdown known as Operation Onymous, took down several sites and essentially eliminated the competition, the article reports. The two major Dark Web sites still standing, Evolution and Agora, saw an exponential increase in sales. The researchers software could no longer reliably scrape the full content, forcing the researchers to conclude the study prematurely. The researchers urge policymakers to rethink their Dark Web approach.

“It is not clear that takedowns will be effective; at least we have found no evidence they were,” they write. 

The report, “Measuring the Longitudinal Evolution of the Online Anonymous Marketplace Ecosystem,” can be read in full here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Marijuana Meets The 21st Century

As the legal marijuana industry continues to flourish in the United States, those involved are bringing the gray world of marijuana into the 21st Century. Marijuana businesses in states that have adopted both medical and recreational use programs have begun incorporating technology into the industry, CBS News reports. Enhancements in marijuana testing available to distributors and the introduction of smartphone delivery apps may be the beginning of what the future of marijuana looks like.

It would seem that the development of standards, much like the alcohol industry, would legitimize the field - essentially bringing marijuana out of the dark. Delivery apps will allow consumers to rate their experience with a particular medical marijuana dispensary, according to the article. Arguably, advancements in marijuana testing would give users the feeling of consistency and shine a light on what they are actually consuming.

“As things have come above board and more financing has become available and companies become less threatened that they would be put out of business, they have been more willing to invest in technology that is making cannabis products safer and more effective,” said Donald P. Land, a University of California, Davis, professor who is the chief scientific consultant for the cannabis testing firm Steep Hill.

“The main result of introducing testing to cannabis has been a legitimization of cannabis as a medicine,” Land said. “Prior to that time, nobody knew what they were purchasing or using. Since that time, it’s widely recognized that there are many different types of cannabis that lead to very different medicinal effects. The differences can only be discovered by doing chemical or genetic testing.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states, as well as the District of Columbia - an industry that serves millions of “patients.” If the industry is going to survive, rules and regulations on what is safe is of the utmost importance.

You Can Watch a Short Video Below:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

It is important to remember the dangers that can accompany marijuana use with regard to addiction and driving under the influence. Minimizing the exposure of marijuana to minors is crucial; research suggests that the drug can impact developing brains.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Using Drones to Get Drugs Into Prison

It’s a sad fact that the majority of people serving time in federal and state correctional facilities are there for drug and alcohol related offenses. While many of those incarcerated find their way to recovery through NA and AA, the majority of people actively use while behind bars - creating a huge demand for drugs. In the past, most contraband narcotics found their way into correctional institution by way of the guards looking to make extra money. It turns out, today, that some drugs are being flown over jailhouse walls and are airdropped via drones, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

With $400 and an Amazon account, a drone can be purchased that is essentially a quad-copter - capable of carrying a payload. Over a million of such drones are expected to sell this year alone, according to the article. The cheap drones can be used to airdrop drugs, cell phones and weapons.

Last week, officials at Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio reported that a brawl between inmates on Wednesday was the result of a prison yard airdrop of more than 7 ounces of heroin, marijuana, and tobacco. Airdrops like the aforementioned, while brazen, are not isolated and officials are working to combat the growing problem.

In February, a bill was introduced by Washington State Senator Pam Roach (R) that would add an extra year of time to serve for prisoners found to be involved with drone airdrops, the article reports. South Carolina officials had towers built so that correctional officers can look out for incoming drones.

Naturally, limiting the amount of drugs that find their way into prison is important. Perhaps an even greater concern is weapons being flown into prison.

"You talk to prison officials, and it's easy to dismiss one or two weapons, but it's less easy to dismiss dozens of weapons," told Brian Hearing, the co-inventor of Drone Shield, to CBS News. "It can quickly turn from a hostage situation into a full-blown riot with multiple weapons.” 

Drone Shield is a drone detection device that alerts correctional facilities of incoming drones.
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