Arkansas Attorney Arrested on Methamphetamine Charges

An attorney from Berryville, Arkansas, was arrested Friday night on multiple drug charges after she allegedly sold methamphetamine to a confidential informant. Cindy Baker, 36, is facing several felony counts, including delivery of a controlled substance (meth) and possession of drugs and firearms, possession of a controlled substance, delivery of a controlled substance near certain facilities, possession of drug paraphernalia, and conspiracy.

A bond hearing was held Monday at the Carroll County jail with Judge Marianne McBeth setting Baker’s bond at $100,000. Baker is currently in Memphis, Tennessee, undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Baker made headlines in 2005 when the Berryville courthouse was evacuated after she introduced what was believed to be a bomb during the trial of Mike Koster of Green Forest. Baker stated that the device was a commercially-available firecracker, but Circuit Judge Alan Epley ordered it to be removed. In the meantime, law enforcement evacuated the building, resulting in a mistrial with Epley threatening to jail her for six months for contempt of court.

A different jury trial of Koster followed and Koster was convicted on some charges. Baker asked the state Supreme Court to throw out the case, claiming double jeopardy, but the court refused.

Baker landed in jail on Friday after authorities arrested her at her residence and office in Berryville. According to Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek, an arrest and search warrant were executed based on information gathered during an ongoing investigation.

Grudek said in a press release that on Oct. 28 a confidential informant made a controlled buy of one gram of a substance believed to be meth from Baker for $200 at her home and office.

Later that day, a “buy bust” was made by Mynor Jimmy Aleman-Gonzalez, 24, of Green Forest, who was suspected of being a meth supplier. Authorities seized $1,000 from him, which included bills that were paid to Baker for buying meth earlier in the day.

On Friday, the same confidential informant made a controlled buy of one-half gram of a substance believed to be meth for $50 from Baker, again at her home and office, with the informant giving Baker a $100 bill and receiving $50 in change.

Based on that information, Grudek said, the warrants were issued. At about 7 p.m. Baker was arrested, and confiscated from her person was the $100 bill used to purchase meth earlier in the day.

Confiscated from her home and office were additional substances believed to be meth, along with drug paraphernalia and weapons. The sheriff said additional charges are being considered. Arraignment on the charges is tentatively slated for Nov. 23.

Baker was a candidate for prosecuting attorney in 2006, losing the Democratic primary to current Prosecutor Tony Rogers by 53 votes. She has served on the boards of Carroll Regional Medical Center and Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, and was named Volunteer Attorney of the Year in 2005 by the Carroll County Bar Association. She also served on a committee to establish the 19th Judicial District Drug Court.

Meth and the Middle Class

Methamphetamine, or “meth” as it’s popularly known as, is a popular drug and a fast growing drug threat in America

Meth addiction first came to light as a problem that affected the vagrant, rural and underprivileged sections of the population in the western parts of the country. Over the last few years it has spread its tentacles and is now a serious problem all over the country. And it is no longer limited to a few specific sections of society. It has now become a middle class drug. That means when we talk of meth addiction as a problem, we are talking about a problem that is beginning to affect the majority of our population.

Meth first made its appearance in Oregon in the early 1980s. It has spread along the west coast and was linked to the I 5 corridor – Interstate 5 runs from Mexico to Oregon. Mexico is where the drug originated. However because of the ease with which it can be manufactured, home meth labs are commonplace. In 2003, a young Orange Country resident was arrested for running a meth lab out of her parents’ mansion without their knowledge. When she was arrested, the young woman had $1 million worth of meth ready for sale.

Campbell is a progressive middle class California community located near Silicon Valley. As early as 1999, the local hospital reported a growing number of cases of meth addicts coming in for treatment. These addicts were between the ages of 18 to 50 plus, and were from all walks of life and even included soccer moms who used the drug to stay slim and keep up with their hectic schedule. The one thing they all had in common was that they belonged to the middle class.

In 2002, a middle class Ohio single mom received a 35 year prison sentence for selling meth. According to the New Jersey Dental Association, the use of meth is growing in the New Jersey area.

Obviously the use of meth has made a steady progress and it is now no longer a problem of just some parts of the country. In addition, it’s no longer a problem limited to any specific demographic – it covers the Great American Middle Class – from school kids to soccer moms to hard working fathers.

The Illinois Attorney General’s report mention earlier provides the following profile of a meth user:

  • He or she is a middle class white person in the 20s and 30s living in either a rural community or in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago etc. where meth is rapidly becoming a widely used “club drug.”
  • While most meth users are in their 20s or 30s, more and more cases of meth use are being reported among middle class teenagers as well as those in the 40 plus age bracket.
  • Meth use is now spreading from the middle class to the wealthy and affluent.

Meth addiction is not long something that happens to “other people.” It’s everyone’s problem and needs to be treated as such.

UK Installing Methadone Vending Machines in Prisons

The UK government is spending 4 million pounds on a program to install methadone “vending machines” in prisons to help drug-addicted offenders wean off of heroin.

An article in the Telegraph UK writes the machines allow prisoners to receive a personalized dose of methadone automatically by giving a fingerprint or iris scan. Phil Hope, a justice minister, said that vending machines have been installed in 57 prisons so far. The goal is to have the machines installed in 70 of the 140 prisons in England and Wales.

However, the program has been very controversial. Conservatives claim the figures show that Ministers were prepared to “manage offenders’ addiction” rather than tackle the problem. Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice secretary, said, “The public will be shocked that Ministers are spending more on methadone vending machines than the entire budget for abstinence-based treatments.”

He continued, “Getting prisoners clean of drugs is one of the keys to getting them to go straight. We need to get prisoners off all drug addiction—not substitute one dependency for another. The Government’s approach of trying to ‘manage’ addiction is an admission of failure.”

A spokesman from the Department of Health said that it spends about 240 million pounds on prisoners’ health each year, with 40 million pounds going to drug treatment programs.

“Methadone dispensers are a safe and secure method for providing a prescribed treatment,” he said. “They can only be accessed by the person who has been clinically assessed as needing methadone and that person is recognized by a biometric marker, such as their iris.”

Bipolar Disorder Linked With Pre-term Birth

There are many factors that can lead to a birth occurring before the pregnancy has reached term at 37 weeks. Common causes are dehydration or smoking by the mother. Complications associated with pre-term labor can be low birth weight and problems with the baby’s organs, which may not be completely formed before 37 weeks.

Studies have identified the use of medications used to treat bipolar disorder as a factor involved in pre-term deliveries. Medications for treating bipolar disorder include antipsychotics, anticonvulsants or lithium-based drugs. However, while treatments for the disorder have been linked to early deliveries, there has been no ability to distinguish what role medications play versus the disorder itself.

Now a study from researchers at Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet seeks to close the gap in the understanding of the role of bipolar disorder in pre-term deliveries. The findings released by the researchers have found that bipolar disorder is associated with an increased likelihood of delivering a baby early.

In addition, report the researchers, babies born to mothers with bipolar disorder may have an increased risk for other complications, including fetal growth restriction.

The researchers investigated deliveries among mothers with bipolar disorder, comparing the instances of both treated and untreated bipolar disorder.

The researchers accessed information from three separate national health registers and identified 320 mothers with bipolar disorder who had been treated with medication, as well as 554 with bipolar disorder who had not been treated.

The researchers also compared the results of delivery among both treated and untreated bipolar disorder patients and compared them with the results of 331,263 women who did not have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. All of the deliveries took place between July of 2005 and December of 2009.

The researchers also examined the deliveries in light of factors such as weight, maternal age, smoking, cohabitation and substance use disorders. The results revealed that mothers with a bipolar disorder diagnosis were more likely to be overweight, smokers and have a substance use disorder when compared with mothers who did not have bipolar disorder.

Mothers diagnosed with bipolar disorder who were treated and untreated were at an increased risk for instrumental delivery involving a forceps or vacuum procedure, caesarean delivery or a non-spontaneous initiation of delivery.

The researchers found that among those with bipolar disorder, there was a 50 percent increased chance of pre-term birth when examined alongside mothers who did not have a diagnosis for bipolar disorder.

Women who were untreated were at an increased risk for delivering a baby with a small head (microephaly) and with low blood sugar when compared with the general population of mothers.

The researchers note that the treatments used to stabilize mood in bipolar disorder patients is likely not the sole cause of pre-term labor among mothers diagnosed with the disorder.

The results are published in the British Medical Journal.

Lack of Team Spirit in Workplace Increases Depression and Use of Antidepressants

By Susan J. Campbell

The idea that stressful work can be unhealthy is coming into brighter light as new research finds that work environments that lack team spirit can increase depression. A new study by researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Turku, Finland, suggests that such an environment brought on by a lack of team spirit increases worker depression and the odds that employees will turn to antidepressants.

A report in Business Week noted that the workplace has become even more stressful as people worry about losing their jobs and are uncertain about the economic future. One expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham referred to the U.S. work environment as more tenuous and toxic than in recent history.

Marjo Sinokki, the study’s lead researcher, highlighted that depression is common in working populations and is associated with substantial work disability in terms of sick leave and disability pensions. Sinokki suggests that in order to combat this tendency in the workplace, even in the best of times, companies need to promote well-being and pay attention to team climate.

In completing this study, researchers found that a perception that a workplace was prejudiced or quarrelsome was not associated with alcohol abuse or anxiety, but instead with a lack of team spirit. Those who felt the team spirit was poor were 60 percent more likely to report being depressed and 50 percent more likely to take antidepressants.

Researchers believe that more attention to psychosocial factors at work can result in a healthier workforce. In addition, since people spend the majority of their day at work, the contribution of the work environment to their overall psychological well-being is substantial.

Russia Calls for Joint Action from US and NATO to Eradicate Heroin in Afghanistan

Russia’s counter-narcotics chief criticized U.S. and NATO anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan, calling them inadequate and asking for joint action against the Afghan heroin flooding into the former Soviet Union.

In an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday, Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s drug control agency, said he recently urged the Obama administration’s drug czar to begin a program of spraying herbicide from the air to eradicate Afghanistan’s fields of opium poppies.

“I hope that our open-minded dialogue will encourage the U.S. to take more adequate measures,” Ivanov said.

Russian-U.S. counter-drug efforts are considered a key area of cooperation as both countries try to improve relations following years of tensions.

The problem of drug abuse is of vital concern for Russia, where cheap Afghan heroin has helped fuel a surge in addiction rates and injection drug use has been a key factor in the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.

Authorities say that there are between 2 million and 2.5 million addicts in Russia, and that about 30,000 die each year of drug overdoses.

Afghanistan provides more than 90 percent of the heroin consumed in the world, and most of it flows through ex-Soviet Central Asia and Russia.

Ivanov voiced concern that the administration of President Barack Obama has abandoned the Bush-era policy of large-scale eradication of opium crops in Afghanistan.

Some U.S. officials have called the tactic ineffective in curbing cultivation and claimed that it boosted support for the Taliban. Instead, the Obama administration has focused on targeting drug labs and encouraging farmers to raise alternative crops.

Ivanov, a former KGB officer who served in Afghanistan during the Soviet war there in the 1980s, told the Associated Press that growing wheat and other legal crops isn’t practical in the midst of the escalating conflict.

“As long as the situation remains tense and the confrontation continues, no one will engage in agriculture,” he said. “They won’t be able to cultivate grain even if they want to.”

He insisted that the aerial spraying of herbicides is the only efficient way to stem the drug trade, and pointed out that the U.S. has used the tactic against the illicit coca crop—the source of cocaine—in Colombia.

Efforts to chop down and bulldoze poppy fields on the ground in Afghanistan have brought few results, he said. He also said the Western decision to leave the fight against drugs to the Afghan government was a mistake because local authorities lack the clout to accomplish the goal.

Ivanov said he met with Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, and State Department officials during a September visit to Washington, and both sides agreed to continue discussions on aerial spraying.

A recent U.N. report found that the amount of land planted with opium poppies in Afghanistan dropped 36 percent between 2007 and 2008. But the same report said the amount of opium produced fell by only 10 percent, due to improved growing techniques.

While Moscow is leery of the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, Russia is counting on those troops to stem the flow of Muslim militants and Afghan heroin into the former Soviet Union.

Earlier this year, the Kremlin allowed the shipment of supplies for U.S. forces in Afghanistan across the Russian territory, a route that could become an increasingly important alternative to Pakistan, where supply convoys are sometimes attacked.

Ivanov said that the U.S. may not see Afghan heroin as an urgent problem because little of it finds its way into the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says most heroin consumed in the U.S. comes from Mexico and South America.

Despite U.S.-Russian differences on how to solve the Afghan drug problem, Ivanov vowed to expand joint anti-narcotics efforts with Washington. “We are interested in cooperation,” Ivanov said.

Mother Hiding Heroin in Her Body Is Spared Jail

A 23-year-old Wales mother who was caught with heroin hidden inside her body avoided jail yesterday when the judge gave her a chance to change her ways. Samantha Davies faced up to four years in jail.

Prosecutor Tony Trigg said police had told Davies they were going to search her when they stopped her car last April. “She volunteered to them that she had one wrap of heroin hidden in her bra and another eight wraps in a money bag concealed inside her body,” Trigg told the court.

“When she was interviewed she said she had been supplying heroin for about five weeks because she heavily addicted and needed as much as eight bags a day for herself,” he continued. Davies said her boyfriend was buying the drugs and sharing them with her.

Of every 20 bags she made out of her share, she sold on five or six because it was the only way she could afford her next purchase. Last year she was in court for drug possession and shoplifting.

Meirion Davies, defending, said, “Her situation is a cliché. This is what happens when you become hooked on a class A drug. It destroys your life and could ultimately end it.”

He said Davies’ mother and stepfather were still standing by her and that she had promised to cut herself off from her former boyfriend. The court was told she was now living away from her former boyfriend in a place where he couldn’t find her and was doing her best to recover from her addiction.

Judge Christopher Llewellyn-Jones QC gave her a two-year community order with drug rehabilitation, adding that she has a family who loves her and a little boy who needs her. He added, “We don’t expect miracles but we will expect you to become drug free.”

Popular Obesity Medication Alli May Be Linked to Organ Damage

At first, orlistat (often called Alli) may have seemed like the cream of the crop for weight loss medications – accessible, affordable, and providing results to thousands. However, recent research suggests that individuals taking orlistat, one of the best-selling medications for weight loss – also known as Zenical or Alli – may be at serious risk for damage to the kidney or liver.

Experts in a National Institutes of Health study believe even low levels of the drug – officially known as orlistat – may cause organ damage and may also negatively impact the ways cancer treatment drugs function. The findings are especially important given the rise in use of Alli during the past ten years for patients seeking help with obesity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been made aware of the research, published by Bingfang Yan of the University of Rhode Island. Patients taking orlistat have been reported to experience failure of the pancreas or liver, as well as kidney failure. The problem is believed to be linked to the way the drug is absorbed by the body, thus exposing various organs to it – contrary to prior belief that it may not be absorbed by the body. The drug is also believed to affect the way key enzymes work in the body, which may prevent cancer drugs from functioning properly.

Alli is available over-the-counter to people who are older than 18, although previously the drug was administered by prescription. Like other weight loss medications, individuals are encouraged to use the medication as only one part of a weight loss program that includes healthy lifestyle changes, exercise and even professional counseling to determine the underlying factors related to chronic overeating. Side effects of orlistat include yellowing of skin or eye color, itching, appetite problems and discolored urine.

Strongest Influences on Eating Disorders are Closest to Home

In a culture where Victoria Secret models fill store windows and television and magazines are graced by only the picture-perfect, it can be hard for women to accept that not every female is meant to share the same body type. The not-so-subtle message is that in order to be considered beautiful a woman must be thin. These images are hard to escape making the message seemingly ubiquitous. This cultural emphasis on idealized beauty can lead some women into the psychological danger of eating disorders. Yet, since the message goes out to all while only some wind up obsessing over weight, the question arises as to what determines why one woman falls prey to the disorder while another woman does not?

recent report described research on female twins that attempted to answer that question. The study of 300 twins between the ages of 12-22 years looked at cultural, environmental and genetic factors which might influence women to become weight obsessive. As part of the study, each woman was asked to gauge her own desire to look like female cultural icons.

The study found that genetic similarities mirrored answers about desired thinness. In other words, identical twins scored more closely on their desire to be thin than less genetically matched twins. This could mean that genetics strongly influences our desires. According to the report, the desire for thinness is a 43 percent heritable trait.

What about the influence of media images? While not discounting the strength of visual cues, the research found that after genetics, the woman’s immediate environment played the most decisive role in her attitudes toward thinness and beauty. A woman’s close environment did more to form her views of beauty than did broad cultural influences.

The study suggests that while Victoria Secret models may make most of us feel inadequate, the strongest influences on whether or not a woman will develop an eating disorder are her own genes and environment.

Drug Czar Looks to Baltimore’s Drug Court for Inspiration

Gil Kerlikowske, America’s drug czar, is looking to Baltimore’s 15-year-old drug treatment court to help set the nation’s strategy of emphasizing treatment over incarceration. The Baltimore Sun reports that Kerlikowske met with legislators and a drug court judge to discuss the program and collaborate efforts between city, state, and federal agencies.

During a news conference, Kerlikowske noted that released prisoners “almost invariably go back to the neighborhood from whence they came,” and that without treatment, “all we’re doing is recycling people throughout the system.”

It’s been suggested that the Obama administration will focus on drugs as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement problem, and in Baltimore, drug addiction is “the most significant public health crisis” there is, according to Greg Warren, president of the Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc, which sets the city’s drug strategy.

Every year, 9,000 convicts are returned to Baltimore streets, and many of them return to the drug abuse that led them to incarceration. Most of the city’s criminal activity is drug-related, with 80 percent (or four out of five people) failing their initial drug tests.

The first drug treatment court was developed in Florida in 1989 when crack cocaine addiction was labeled an epidemic. The idea behind drug courts is to lessen the burden on courts and jails by attempting to treat drug-addicted individuals before imprisoning them.

Today there are more than 1,000 drug courts across the country, according to a 2005 University of Maryland report that studied the effects of Baltimore’s drug court, which was created in 1994 in response to a city Bar Association claim that 85 percent of Baltimore crimes were drug related.

In Baltimore, participants must live in the city and be at least 18, and they can’t have committed a violent offense. They are supervised and regularly drug tested during their treatment. However, Baltimore’s intensive probation supervision and the significant participation of the Division of Parole and Probation are atypical.

Baltimore’s drug court participants are about three times more likely to be employed after the program as other convicts, and are a third as likely to use drugs during treatment, according to Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who added, “We want Baltimore to be a model.”

Cummings stressed the need for more resources and the role the federal government has in providing them, which is the main reason he wanted Kerlikowske to become familiar with Baltimore’s system. “You want the federal government to be sensitive to things that are working,” Cummings said, to ensure that “the city has a better chance at getting the resources it needs.”

Kerlikowske said he “absolutely” plans to incorporate Baltimore’s efforts into the country’s policy.