The Connection Between Welfare and Substance Abuse

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under General Topics


In recent years there has been a large push from conservative state legislatures to implement drug testing for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Already 12 states have passed laws allowing for drug testing of TANF applicants, and 12 more have filed drug-testing proposals awaiting federal approval.

The effort undoubtedly centers upon the stereotypical notion that drug and alcohol abusers make up the most poverty-stricken demographics of the American population. Since it is largely assumed that they are already using drugs and alcohol, hence their current situations, citizens feel that they have the right to decide whom their tax dollars should be spent on.

In order to show the “supposed effectiveness” of this new push for drug and alcohol screening, Tennessee, which implemented their screening law in 2014, will be analyzed as a case study. Of the 16,017 total applicants, 37 applicants confirmed their own use of use of drugs and thus were ordered to take a drug test. All 37 were found to have drugs in their systems making them ineligible for benefits.

Just in case you’re wondering, 37 applicants testing positive for illegal substances out of 16,017 in total comes out to 0.23 percent. Not only do these numbers sufficiently prove the outrageousness of the laws premise, moreover it cost taxpayers nearly $6,000 to implement the program.

It is essential to understand that so far TANF has been the only program to be targeted for drug screening, since it is on the state level. Federally funded programs have yet to implement such laws, which would affect a vastly larger amount of citizens. Currently only 3.4 million American receive TANF on a yearly basis, compared to 46 million Americans who qualify for food stamp benefits.

While TANF is the first program to be hit, it will likely not be the last if conservative lawmakers are able to follow through with their aims. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has publically stated that he wants to expand drug tests to unemployment insurance and other state funded programs.

Texas is another state that has sought to broaden the scope of drug testing social welfare applicants. The Texas Legislative Budget Board estimates that the law expansion would cost the state around $30 million annually, due to a federal block of applicants being charged for their own drug tests. States are forced to pay for their own tests, which range from $25 to $75 per person.

When asked about the “successfulness” of Tennessee’s new testing policy Rep. Glen Casada told the Tennessean, “That’s 37 people who should not be receiving taxpayer subsidies, because they are not behaving as they are supposed to. If the taxpayers are going to support you there are certain criteria you need to adhere to. This is a good use of taxpayer money.”

It will be interesting to hear from Texas citizens if they too believe that a $30 million witch-hunt is a “good use of taxpayer money.”

CBS Denver recently published an article regarding El Paso County’s new law that will call for drug testing of TANF applicants. The article begins, “People who are on welfare in El Paso County and abuse alcohol or drugs need to be ready to get treatment.”

Although there is no cited author to the article, one might inquire where exactly the TANF applicant is going to get the money to pay for rehabilitation. Naturally, CBS Denver is unaware of the actual costs of admitting ones self into rehab. Additionally, one of the stipulations of receiving benefits is that the individual is required to participate in 30 hours per week of job training programs, which would be impossible if the individual is in rehab.

In short, the new legislative attempts to curve state tax dollars away from supposed drug abusers are straying off in the wrong direction. With little to no resources or options for rehabilitation, states are condemning drug abusers without offering any support or alternative measures.

While no one condones drug abuse, those who suffer from addiction should be offered help instead of condemnation by their elected officials. The new laws are completely backwards, focusing on punishment rather than recovery. If states want to require clean drug tests then also must offer affordable rehabilitation options for those who suffer from the disease.

Young Hollywood’s Struggle with Addiction and Mental Disorders

May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under General Topics, Health, People and Culture


celebrity-red-carpetOn any given weekend—or day for that matter—some of Hollywood’s most sought after young star paint the town in designer garb. They are young, rich, famous and no one is telling them “no.” But there is another side to all this glitz and glamour. What we don’t see is many young celebrities’ ongoing struggle with drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Just recently, Amanda Bynes, the former Nickelodeon kid who began her career at the age of 14, was arrested for allegedly throwing a marijuana bong out the window. Over the past several months, the 27-year-old had been displaying erratic behavior that has many speculating that a psychotic disorder is being compounded by drugs and alcohol, which seems to have finally come to a head.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 5.2 million adults who have a mental health disorder also have addiction problems. When you place a person with mental health or emotional issues in a high intensity environment, drugs and alcohol seem like a logical choice. They ease a person’s fears about their social environment, body image, limitations, skill level, and success. Substances help them “deal” with anxiety and stress.

Take singer and actress Demi Lovato, for example. The 20-year-old, who suffers from a bipolar disorder that has led to cutting and bulimia, admitted to Fabulous Magazine that she experimented with cocaine in 2010 due to emotional unrest that was triggered by peer pressure and loneliness. The product was all too easy to access, especially when hungry club promoters and dealers would supply the drug in exchange for her appearance or the opportunity to take comfort in her elite circle.

Meanwhile, actress Lindsay Lohan’s life and career continues to spiral out of control as she completes her sixth stint in rehab. It certainly will not be her last. No young celebrity has made more headlines—or had more court proceedings—for drug and alcohol abuse than this “it-girl.” It was revealed this week that the “Liz and Dick” star tried to score drugs in rehab by inviting a drug dealer to visit her at Betty Ford, and has had outrageous fits since her Adderall was confiscated.  Dr. Cheryl Pappas, in her 2010 blog for Huffington Post, took a leap back then by categorizing Lohan’s case as a mental illness.

It’s not hard to understand how so many young stars fall victim to addiction. If they didn’t have mental or emotional issues before they got famous, it’s easy to see how many are prone to develop such tendencies after constantly feeling the tremendous pressures of Tinseltown to succeed. And if the problems existed previously, well, one can only suspect that they will be exacerbated.

Hollywood is fickle. A rising star is constantly met with scrutiny, along with approval and disapproval. One week they may be on the call roster and the next their career is crashing and burning. As they take those dips, oftentimes it is cocaine, meth, crack, alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, prescription meds, or other substances that provide escapism from the pressures they feel.  Sadly, people like Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Brittany Murphy, and Chris Kelly will never know what their lives could have been if they had kicked their habit for good.

Drunkenland: A View Into Alcoholism

July 8, 2011 by  
Filed under People and Culture


I witnessed the evil for myself and the power of that evil with its shocking ability to destroy the lives of so many people. So it became my vision to bring the book Drunkenland to life. My name is Cheryl Shoquist and I am the author of Drunkenland. Drunkenland is a world of illusion depicting the horrors of alcoholism. This book is based on the lives of 8 different families and their journey of struggles and crippling dysfunction in the world of Drunkenland.


I know so many people who are alcoholics and no matter how many times; they got into trouble with the law, was a part of the criminal justice and prison system, or it played extreme financial or emotional havoc in their lives, or how many times alcohol destroyed the relationships that meant the most to them, they still could not get away from it. These people still allowed alcohol to have that power over their lives. It intrigued me into writing the book; a book where information and resources would become a life raft to those people reading it for themselves or someone that they love and wanting release from Drunkenland’s grasp. It would also be a tool of recognition and understanding to those people who cannot comprehend the weaknesses and the inability to stand up and fight the destructive evils within the boundaries of Drunkenland.

Each story depicts dysfunction succumbing to the illusion that alcohol will be its healing waters of regeneration, relief and solace. Each story tells a different horror in the infinite catalog of problems caused by alcoholism. Still today in every community, this is an ever growing problem that is continuously out of control. This book puts a completely different air of reality and understanding into this disease. It is a book that should be read by everyone that knows or loves someone that is an alcoholic. This book will provide that understanding and the life raft of help and hope.

Drunkenland the book coincides with the web site where you will find a forum for idea sharing and resources for help as well as support systems and friendships gained. My friend and partner John M was invaluable helping to get the book published and to get the web site up and running. It is still a work in progress. Please join us in this fight against alcoholism. My partner John M and I are here to help in any way that we can.

The 6 Most Addictive Substances on Earth

January 12, 2010 by  
Filed under General Topics


A number of studies have been made as to which substance on earth is the most addictive. The results vary a little, but most are in agreement as to which should occupy the top spot. And we believe you’d be surprised, because it’s not heroin, cocaine, or any other notorious substances. What’s more, half of the substances on this list are legal. Read on to find out which one is the most addictive of them all.

6. Marijuana


Often described as a “gateway” drug, marijuana or cannabis is the largest cash crop in the USA. While not addictive to many casual users, marijuana can make dependents out of 10 to 14 percent of regular users. Its active chemical compound, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), produce psychoactive effects, including increased appetite, feelings of relaxation, and a feeling of slowing of time. Impaired concentration, increased heart rate and lower blood pressure are some of its physiological and neurological effects.

5. Caffeine


Caffeine is everywhere. Often referred to as the world’s most widely used drug, caffeine is found in so many products it’s not easy to find one that doesn’t contain the substance. Classified as a stimulant, caffeine is most commonly consumed in the form of coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and energy drinks.  Those who can be classified as caffeine addicts often feel that without caffeine, they feel they can’t get through the day or they find it hard to concentrate. But regular consumption of caffeine often leads to dizziness, headaches, high blood pressure, increased respiration rate and insomnia.

4. Alcohol


Yet another legal addictive substance, alcohol is generally consumed in the form of beer, wine and spirits. As a relaxant, it lessens inhibitions and anxiety in the user, as well as generates feelings of cheerfulness. Eventually, however, erratic and unpredictable behavior would pop up and more often than not mess things up. Alcohol, when abused in the long term, also takes its toll on the liver, pancreas, and the heart. And it becomes downright dangerous when mixed with other drugs like heroin, cocaine or barbiturates.

3. Cocaine


Extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, cocaine is one of the most profitable illicit drugs in the world, with revenues reaching billions upon billions of dollars annually. The second most popular illegal recreational drug in the U.S., which, incidentally, is also its biggest consumer, cocaine attacks the central nervous system and toys with its ability to reabsorb dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure. With this, cocaine makes the user euphoric, confident, alert and hyper-stimulated. These effects, however tend to be short lived, and withdrawal symptoms ranging from aching muscles and bones to diarrhea and vomiting may set in in as little as one to two hours from the last dose.

2. Heroin


While heroin only occupies the second spot, it’s definitely one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. Processed from morphine, heroin often looks like a white or brown powder. When ingested, it instantly gives the user a euphoric sensation, as it goes straight to the brain where it tinkers with your ability to feel pleasure. But the pleasure doesn’t last long. In as little as one to two hours from the last dose, users may experience withdrawal symptoms, ranging from muscle and bone pain to diarrhea and vomiting.

1. Nicotine

Nicotine gets the top spot in this list, and rightly so. The main reason why tobacco is so addictive, nicotine is widespread, readily available and worst of all, very legal. Smoking and chewing tobacco are the common ways of ingesting nicotine. Smokers, now numbering 1.2 billion worldwide, often pick up the habit during their teen years, and as years of smoking go by, they eventually become addicted and in most cases become smokers for life. And there’s no question about the deadly effects of long-term use: lung cancer, oral cancer, heart disease, strokes and emphysema are just some of the dire consequences of smoking.

10 Inventive But Ultimately Failed Drug Smuggling Methods

January 12, 2010 by  
Filed under General Topics


As drug trafficking laws in many countries get tougher than ever, drug dealers are finding more and more creative ways of smuggling their illicit merchandise past authorities. Unfortunately for them, they almost always get caught, however ingenious or even outrageous their efforts at concealment may be. On a sobering note, more and more drugs still do make it through, and that fact makes you wonder about the level of creativity those smugglers might have employed to successfully get their illicit merchandise past the most stringent of security measures.

1. Bugs

dead beetles
A total of 300 grams of cocaine were found stuffed inside 100 dead beetles, discovered by customs officials in Amsterdam inside a package from Peru.

2. Baby’s diapers

drug diapers
In Germany, a young mother was arrested for trying to smuggle 15 grams of amphetamines and 46 ecstasy pills into a local prison, stashing the drugs inside her daughter’s diaper.

3. Human hair extensions

hair extensions
Namibian authorities caught a 21-year-old Angolan student attempting to smuggle cocaine lightly spread over 76 packets of human hair extensions.

4. Vibrator

Svetlana Ivanyshka, a 26-year-old Ukrainian woman, never thought customs officers at Kiev Airport would thoroughly check the contents of her luggage, particularly a certain sex toy that she brought along. But they did, and eventually found a bag of hashish stuffed inside the battery compartment of her vibrator.

5. Holy water

holy ketamine
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials arrested 50-year-old Warren Maynard of Brooklyn, NY, for trying to smuggle 42 bottles of liquid ketamine into the United States from Canada. Maynard tried to pass the drugs off as “holy water”.

6. Statue of Jesus Christ

cocaine jesus
Stashing drugs inside religious statues is an old trick. Making religious statues out of drugs, however, is not. A statue of Jesus Christ made from plaster mixed with cocaine was intercepted by U.S. customs officials at the border crossing in Laredo, Texas in 2008. The woman who was carrying the 6.6 pound statue managed to escape back to Mexico, but a 61-year-old Mexican man suspected of paying the said woman to carry the statue was arrested.

7. Purebred puppies

Drugs smuggling has gone to the dogs, literally. The DEA arrested in 2006 members of a Colombian drug organization for smuggling heroin into the U.S. through various means, including cutting open purebred puppies and placing heroin packets inside them.

8. Leg cast

cocaine leg cast
A 66-year-old Chilean man was arrested by airport authorities in Barcelona, Spain after they discovered that the cast on his fractured left leg was made out of cocaine. Police also said the man may have intentionally fractured his left leg to make the use of the cocaine cast real. Now that’s dedication to one’s work.

9. Pringles

cocaine pringles
In 2006, Austin, Texas cops found 168 grams of cocaine inside a drug suspect’s can of Pringles. But the really creative part here is that the cocaine was made to look like actual Pringles crisps.

10. Suitcases

Nope, we’re not talking about drugs hidden in suitcases. In the case of a woman trying to fly from Chile to Spain, the suitcases were the drugs. Chilean airport police intercepted the woman carrying two suitcases which was later found out to be made of cocaine.  According to one of the officers, cocaine was combined with resin and glass fiber to make the suitcases, which aroused suspicion because they were heavier than their contents.

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2009 Celebrity Drug Related Deaths

January 12, 2010 by  
Filed under People and Culture


The year 2009 has just begun its final quarter and already the number of celebrity drug related deaths has reached seven. Judging by the prevalence of drug use and abuse in celebrity circles, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if that figure would reach or even surpass the number of 2008 celebrity drug related deaths.

So far, here are the celebrities whose deaths this year have something to do with drugs, both legal and illegal.

1. Michael Jackson, King of Pop


One of the most shocking celebrity deaths this year was that of Michael Jackson, who died on June 25, 2009 after being administered lethal doses of the powerful anesthetic Propofol by his personal physician, Conrad Murray. On top of the Propofol, Murray also gave Jackson valium, lorazepam, and midazolam the morning the singer died.

The Los Angeles coroner had decided to treat Jackson’s death as a homicide. Law enforcement officials are also currently conducting a manslaughter investigation of Murray.

2. DJ AM, American club DJ and musician


Adam Goldstein, more famously known as DJ AM, was found dead in his apartment on August 28, 2009. According to the medical examiner’s report, Goldstein died of acute intoxication due to the combined effects of cocaine and the prescription drugs OxyContin, Hydrocodone or Vicodin, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Benadryl and Levamisole, a drug that is apparently being used to cut cocaine.

Ironically, DJ AM’s drug-related death came a little over a month after he survived a deadly plane crash along with friend and Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker.

3. Billy Mays, TV Pitchman

billy mays

On the morning of June 28, 2009, TV pitchman extraordinaire Billy Mays was found dead by his wife in his home. An initial autopsy was conducted on Mays’ body the following day, where it was revealed that the salesman, who is widely-known for promoting OxiClean, Orange Glo, and other cleaning, home-based, and maintenance products, suffered from hypertensive heart disease and that likely caused his death.

But a toxicology report released August 7 by the Hillsborough County medical examiner’s office stated that while the “primary cause of death” was heart disease, cocaine was listed as a “contributory cause of death”. The report said that Mays was not under the influence of the drug at the time of his death, but last used cocaine a few days before he was found dead. Traces of tramadol, hydrocodone and oxycodone were also found in his body, according to the medical examiner.

The cocaine factor in Mays’ death, however, remains in dispute.

4. Danny Gans, American singer, comedian and vocal impressionist


Las Vegas Strip headliner Danny Gans, “The Man of Many Voices”, died on May 1, 2009 at his Henderson, Nevada home. His death was ruled as drug toxicity caused by the combination of the opiate hydromorphone and a pre-existing heart condition.

5. Filip Nikolic, French singer and actor

Filip Nikolic

A heart attack due to a cocktail of pills he used to get to sleep killed this French actor and singer on September 16, 2009. He was best known as the lead singer of the French boy-band 2Be3, and appeared in the US movie “Simon Sez” with Dennis Rodman in 1999. He was 35 when he died.

6. Jay Bennett, American musician


Jay Bennett of the alternative rock band Wilco died on May 24, 2009 of an overdose of the prescription painkiller fentanyl. The coroner said Bennett was wearing a Duragesic patch on his back when his body was found.

7. Andrew Martin, Canadian professional wrestler

andrew martin

Known in the world of professional wrestling as “Test” and “The Punisher”, Andrew Martin died of an Oxycodone overdose. Police searching the Tampa apartment where he was found dead also found steroids and painkillers.

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10 Huge Drug Busts Worth Billions

April 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Politics and Government


The War on Drugs has been waged for quite sometime now, but there seems to be no end to the illicit drug trade in sight. Not when drug lords dominate entire countries that produce most of the drugs in the world, or when demand remains frustratingly overwhelming. And even though authorities have scored really huge drug busts worth billions over the years, they’ve hardly made a dent on the drug trade in general. Here are 10 of the biggest drug busts.

Catch of the Day – 5 Tons of Coke

1. A joint U.S. Coast Guard, Customs Service and Drug Enforcement Agency operation intercepted a Panamanian freighter en route to Texas that yielded 9,500 pounds, or nearly five tons, of cocaine in 1999. According to the DEA, the cocaine was worth $186 million.

You Say Tomato, I Say Ecstasy – 4.4 Tons of MDMA Pills

2. Australian police and customs officials announced in 2008 that they have seized what is claimed to be the biggest haul—4.4 tons—of Ecstasy or MDMA pills in history. The drugs—hidden in 3,000 cans of tomatoes—were actually discovered in 2007, but the find worth £197 million, or $288 million, was kept secret, and was instead used as a means to track down and arrest the people behind the shipment.


There’s Hash in them Hills! – $300 Million of Hashish

3. Some £200 million or nearly $293 million worth of hashish were found in trenches and bunkers in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2008. The drug cache, which reportedly was meant for use by the Taliban to fuel their war against the West, is so huge it is estimated to have weighed roughly the same as 30 double-decker buses.


More photos of hashish here.

Row Row Row your Blow – 13.8 Tons of Cocaine

4. Colombian authorities claimed in May 2005 that they have confiscated 13.8 tons of cocaine worth $US350 million which were concealed near a jungle riverbank in southern Colombia.

The Deadliest Catch – 40,000lbs of Cocaine

5. In March 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard seized 40,000 pounds of cocaine worth at least $500 million from three ships in what is regarded as the biggest maritime bust in U.S. history.


21 Bump Street – 21 Tons of Cocaine Seized in LA

6. Some 21 tons of cocaine which purportedly belonged to Mexican drug lord Rafael Muñoz Talavera of the Juárez cartel were seized from a Los Angeles warehouse in 1989.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, 27 Tons Seized in Pizarro

7. The Colombian Navy made headlines in 2007 when it announced the seizure of 27 tons of cocaine, the biggest in the nation’s history. Buried in 919 packages of 55 pounds each near the coastal town of Pizarro, the drugs are estimated to have a wholesale value of more than $500 million.

Tranquilandia in the Jungle – 14 Tons of Sr. Pablo Escobar’s Stash

8. A tip from the DEA prompted the Colombian government to raid “Tranquilandia”, a laboratory built in the jungles of Colombia by Medellín Cartel boss Pablo Escobar for large-scale cocaine production. The 1984 operation yielded 14 tons of cocaine, a haul with a street value of more than $1 billion.

Either that or the World Eats Plain Bagels for a Year – 17.5 Tons of Poppy Seeds

9. An anti-drug operation in Afghanistan led by a British cop resulted in the seizure last year of 17.5 tons of poppy seeds from opium plants, which would have grown 30 tons of heroin worth £900 million or $1.3 billion.

Big Bust? Just 2 Doses of Heroin?

10. In what is regarded as the biggest heroin bust—and most valuable drug bust—ever, San Francisco, California authorities seized 1,080 pounds of heroin. Not much in size compared to those tons of cocaine busts, but drug war officials pegged the total street value of the cache at $2.7 billion to $4 billion. With an average dose of heroin being around 300mg that’s enough for every citizen of San Francisco to do heroin twice… all 808,000 people. Not Good.

Million Dollar Celebrity Endorsements Lost to Drug Use

April 14, 2009 by  
Filed under People and Culture


The world of celebrity endorsements is a fickle one. One minute, celebrities are up to their necks in sponsorship deals, the next minute brands dump them at the slightest hint of a scandal that could tarnish their own reputation.

That’s because most advertisers these days have written moral clauses into the contracts of their celebrity endorsers, just to make sure they could quickly distance themselves from celebrities who’ve done something, well, bad, and are no longer seen as role models for their respective brands.

One such endorsement deal-breaker is getting involved with drugs. Whether someone exposes them to be drug users or worse, have pictures of them published while taking a hit, they can kiss a fortune in endorsements goodbye, just like the celebrities listed below have done.

1. Kate Moss


Weeks after pictures showing Kate Moss snorting several lines of cocaine in 2005 were made public, clothing retailers H&M, Chanel, and Burberry dropped the hard-partying English supermodel like a hot potato. Surprisingly, after getting out of rehab less than a year later, Calvin Klein, Dior, David Yurman and Louis Vuitton, and even Burberry signed her up for even juicier endorsement deals, helping Moss reach the top of the modeling world once again.

2. Ben Curtis (The Dell Dude)


Actor Ben Curtis became a celebrity of sorts when he starred in those annoying “Dude, You’re Getting a Dell!” ads circa 2000 to 2003. He could have played the hyper-enthusiastic Dell Dude character a few years more had he not been busted for attempting to buy a bag of marijuana in New York City in 2003. Shortly after his arrest, the computer giant dumped Curtis and his ad campaign.

3. Floyd Landis


Floyd Landis was at the top of the world after winning the 2006 Tour de France. But it was all downhill from that point on for the American cyclist when he was found to have used performance enhancing steroids, synthetic testosterone to be exact, during the competition, and he subsequently lost the title, $3 million due to the termination of his contract with erstwhile sponsor Phonak, $2 million in lost endorsements, and nearly $4 million in prospective endorsements of equipment, bike manufacturers, clothing and lifestyle products as reigning Tour de France winner.

4. Michael Phelps


Less than a year after being crowned the greatest Olympian of all time with his 8 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, Michael Phelps was careless enough to get photographed smoking cannabis from a bong, and it’s a picture that British tabloid News of the World was only all-too-willing to publish earlier this year. Cereal and snack manufacturer Kellogg’s wasted no time and announced that it will not renew its sponsorship contract with Phelps. Many believe Phelps stands to lose more when other brands who have made deals with Phelps take their cue from Kellogg’s. Interestingly, Kellogg’s stock took a significant hit, no pun intended, after they dropped Phelps.

5. Lindsay Lohan


Lindsay Lohan was the face of Jill Stuart, but eventually, the fashion line smartened up and dropped Lohan in favor of Oscar-winning actress Hillary Swank. Officially, Swank was hired to replace Lohan in line with Jill Stuart’s decision to go for an “older” star to represent the fashion line. But Lindsay Lohan’s wild partying ways, multiple repeated stints at expensive rehabs and reputation for being a drug user, capped by a published picture purportedly of Lohan doing drugs may have had a hand in Jill Stuart’s decision to dump her.

6. Barry Bonds


Surprisingly for an athlete who shuns media and fans, homerun king Barry Bonds nevertheless snagged endorsement deals worth millions from such corporate giants as MasterCard and KFC, among others. But his popularity with advertisers crashed when he got involved in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) steroid scandal in 2003. In 2007, he was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying while under oath about his alleged use of steroids.

7. Jason Giambi

Along with Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi was one of the major league baseball players who got embroiled in the 2003 BALCO steroid scandal. But unlike Bonds, who has adamantly denied ever using performance enhancing drugs, Giambi has admitted and publicly apologized for taking steroids. Nevertheless, he still lost lucrative deals, valued at around $3 million annually, with Nike, deodorant brand Arm & Hammer, and soft drink giant Pepsi after coming clean about his steroid use.

8. Justin Gatlin


Sprinter Justin Gatlin has, among other things, won the 100-meter gold medal winner in the 2004 Summer Olympics. As an Olympic and world champion, he stood to earn an estimated $2-4 million in annual endorsements and sponsorships. But in 2006, he tested positive for a banned substance, believed to be testosterone, and was subsequently meted a four-year ban from track and field competitions. Needless to say, Nike, Gatlin’s main sponsor, dropped him from its sponsorship stable a mere three weeks after his doping results came out positive, and prospective advertisers naturally shied away.

Find more on famous drug addicts throughout history, celebs who beat drug addiction, or those who sadly succumbed to the ultimate danger of drugs… overdose.

7 Countries Where Drug Lords Lord It Over

April 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Politics and Government


With a value currently estimated at $400 billion, drug trafficking is perhaps the most profitable illegal trade of all time. It’s also the most serious organized crime problem in the world today. Governments have spent billions upon billions of dollars, not to mention thousands of lives, combating the illegal drug business, but the results of this worldwide war on drugs remain mixed.

Despite the successful dismantling of the biggest drug cartels, the killing or arrest of the most powerful drug lords and drug busts worth billions, the drug business continues to thrive. This is partly because demand never waned, and partly due to the fact that drug lords continue to produce and transport their merchandise in certain countries with near-impunity. Unlike in some countries where you don’t want to get caught with drugs in, drug lords have practically made these countries their playground, applying a deadly mix of seemingly inexhaustible funds, corruption at the highest levels of government and an unflinching willingness to use brutal violence to tighten their grip on the drug trade and their respective countries.

1. Afghanistan

With the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the drug lords of Afghanistan have slowly worked their way towards becoming the world’s top producer of opium today. More than 90% of the world’s opium is produced in the country, a major part of The Golden Crescent, the name given to Asia’s principal area of illicit opium production covering Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

opium-poppies-afghanistanIt is believed that the opium trade flourishes in Afghanistan because Afghan government officials are said to be involved in at least 70 percent of opium trafficking in the country. Experts even say that more than a dozen provincial governors have a direct hand in the production and distribution of opium. But one of the most serious allegations of Afghan government complicity in the country’s drug trade was made by Thomas Schweich, former U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

In a New York Times article dated July 27, 2007, Schweich alleges that the government of President Hamid Karzai is protecting opium production. As serious as these allegations are, the US military, in Schweich’s opinion, look the other way and treat the drug trade as not being central to its anti-terrorism operations.

2. Burma (Myanmar)

Burma or Myanmar is a pillar of the so-called Golden Triangle, one of Asia’s two main areas of illicit opium production which also include Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. It is the world’s second largest producer of illicit opium. Run by a military junta, Burma’s government has been on paper trying to eradicate opium production, but its senior officials have been persistently reported to be involved in the drugs trade, and that drug money continues to pour into government coffers.

Historically, the country has been dominated by larger-than life drug lords, the most infamous of them Khun Sa, aka “The Opium King”. Khun Sa produced as much as three quarters of the world’s heroin supply at one point, and was known for his ruthlessness that earned him the DEA sobriquet “Prince of Death”. Although he surrendered to the Burmese government in 1996 after decades at the top of the illegal opium trade, Khun Sa was never extradited to the United States to face drug charges, and reportedly lived a life of luxury in Rangoon until his death in 2007.

Today, the Burmese drug market is dominated by the United Wa State Army. Made up of ethnic fighters who control areas along the country’s eastern border with Thailand, it is said to be the largest drug-producing organization in Southeast Asia, and is believed to be an ally of the country’s ruling military junta.

3. Mexico

joaquin_guzmanYou know a country has a very serious drug trade problem when one of its most-wanted drug traffickers makes it to the Forbes list of the richest persons in the world. Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, was just recently listed by Forbes as the 701st richest person in the world with a net worth estimated at $1 billion.

The Guzman-led Sinaloa cartel is just one of the four major drug cartels wreaking havoc in Mexico, the major transit point for over 90% of America’s cocaine supply. With the dismantling of Colombia’s Medellín and Cali cartels, Mexico’s Sinaloa, Juarez, Tijuana and the Gulf cartels have become the predominant smugglers and wholesale distributors of South American cocaine and Mexico-produced marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin. These cartels have grown increasingly wealthy and powerful over the years, and if their ongoing war against the Mexican and US government is any indication, have become increasingly violent as well.

Since the beginning of 2008, more than 7,000 people have been killed in the drug-fueled violence that has practically turned some parts of Mexico into a virtual war zone. Killing civilians and beheading rivals from other cartels, policemen and soldiers have become commonplace, and the efforts of the US and Mexican governments to put them down hasn’t yielded any significant results just yet. Equipped with grenade launchers, automatic weapons, body armor, Kevlar helmets, these cartels are some of the most sophisticated and dangerous organized criminal groups ever faced by the US government.

4. Colombia

The Medellin and Cali cartels, which have come close to making Colombia a narco-state in the 1990s, may no longer exist, but Colombia remains the world’s top producer of cocaine, with 70% of the world’s coca leaf grown there, and approximately 90% of the world’s cocaine processing market.

For all the successes of Plan Colombia, the US-led counter narcotics operation in the country, Colombia continues its reign at the top of the cocaine trade due to the fact that smaller and more nimble organizations have sprung in the Medellin and Cali cartels’ place, most notably the Norte del Valle Cartel, or North Valley Cartel. Widely considered as one of the most powerful organizations in the illegal drugs trade, it is said to be employing the services of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary organization, to protect its cartel’s drug routes, laboratories and its members and associates.

Other existing players in Colombia’s drug trade include the smaller North Coast Cartel and the Marxist guerrilla group FARC, which has become increasingly involved in the drug trade, controlling farming, production and exportation of cocaine in those areas of Colombia under their control.

5. Peru

Peru is the second biggest producer of cocaine in the world, next only to Colombia. Historically, Peruvian farmers have been growing coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine, since before Spain colonized the country centuries ago. They continue to do so, considering that coca itself is legal, but making cocaine from it is not. Nevertheless, studies show that as much as 90 percent of that coca goes to the production of cocaine, a fact which contributes greatly to the growth of a multibillion-dollar shadow economy in Peru.

Further complicating Peru’s drug problems is the resurgence of a supposedly inactive Shining Path, a Maoist organization whose guerilla war with the government has claimed the lives of more than 70,000, as a major force in the Peruvian drug trade. Taking their cue from Colombia’s FARC and AUC, the group has now fully evolved into an illicit drug enterprise, protecting drug smugglers, extorting taxes from farmers and operating its own cocaine laboratories with an efficiency and ruthlessness that is the unmistakable trademark of an elite drug trafficking organization.

6. Bolivia

Ranking third behind Colombia and Peru in cocaine production is Bolivia, which, according to a recent United Nations report, has allocated 28,900 hectares of its land to coca production in 2007, a figure that is more than double than what Bolivian law allows. This leniency towards coca growing, however, is hardly surprising, considering that the sitting president, Evo Morales, did not only farm coca himself during his youth, but was also head of Bolivia’s coca growers association before he became president.

bolivia-cocaLast year, Bolivia under Morales has been blacklisted by the United States as a country which resists “international cooperation” on the drug trade, along with Burma and Venezuela. While this move by the US is largely perceived as a retaliatory political move after Morales kicked out the US Ambassador and agents of the DEA from the country, it is not entirely baseless. The production of coca in the country has grown steadily since Morales took office. And while coca itself is legal and an essential component of Bolivian culture, the legal market for the stimulant just could not absorb the ballooning production, resulting in the diversion of a large percentage of the crop to the production of cocaine.

Adding more to Bolivia’s drug woes is the fact that Bolivian drug lords have become more sophisticated and ultimately violent, churning out the illegal drug faster through state of the art laboratories, as well as starting violent turf battles that threaten to turn the country into another Mexico.

Apart from being a top cocaine producer, Bolivia is steadily assuming the role of a major transit point for cocaine shipments from Peru to Brazil.

7. The Bahamas

For such a tiny island nation like The Bahamas, it sure has a thriving illegal drugs trade. A recently released United States narcotics report has revealed that more than a dozen drug-trafficking organizations are operating in this Commonwealth territory. This underlies the central role in drug smuggling that it has assumed over the last two decades, starting with Medellin Cartel cofounder Carlos Lehder’s initiative to use The Bahamas as a transit point for drugs from Colombia into the United States. Lehder, who is currently incarcerated in the US, even went to the extent of commandeering an entire Bahamian island, called Norman’s Cay, and made it his own drug fortress, where 300 kilograms of cocaine would arrive every hour.

While the current Bahamian government is closely cooperating with the US on its war against drugs, it is interesting to note that the island nation was once rocked by serious allegations that involvement in the drug trade reached the highest levels of government, with no less than the late former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling allegedly receiving more than $57 million in drug money in the mid-1980s. Although a royal commission formed to investigate the accusations found no conclusive evidence to implicate Pindling, the scandal further perpetuated the idea that an entire government can be paid off, something that most drug cartels and syndicates around the world have done, and will continue doing, as long as they are in business.

5 of the World’s Most Expensive Drug Rehabs

March 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


Undergoing drug or alcohol rehabilitation in a private rehabilitation facility isn’t a cheap proposition. But the amounts the rehab centers listed below charge their clientele are just plain stratospheric.

In a way, however, the sky-high price tags for enrollment in their programs can be justified; and for those with the financial means, why not get the best money can buy? These rehabs, after all, are a far cry from the minimalist, hospital-like blandness of previous generations of rehab facilities, where patients trying to recover from their addiction to cocaine, heroin, marijuana or other drugs are even made to do chores as part of the rehabilitation process. Now, they throw in gourmet chefs, luxurious quarters, spas, gorgeous views, yoga and Pilates sessions on top of an extensive and well-paid medical staff, as part of a therapeutic approach that totally spoils the soul, mind and body of a recovering addict and/or alcoholic. Here are five of the most expensive drug rehabs in the world.

1. Promises


Promises is a rehab facility located in an estate in Malibu, California that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The quintessential California rehab center, it is a favorite destination among celebrities who want to clean up. Established in 1997, Promises promises a private haven for its clients, as only 24 patients are accommodated at any one time. Clients are made to stay in one of three luxurious houses, treated to gourmet meals, given ample gym time, as well as a chance to engage in various activities such as rock climbing and hiking. A month-long stay here costs $33,000, but could go up to $49,000 depending on the services required. Tara Reid, Diana Ross, Ben Affleck, and Robert Downey Jr. are just some of the many celebs who have had stints here.

2. Harmony Place


Located above the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, California, Harmony Place is a rehab facility that charges its clients $40,000 per month for a program that involves living in a campus that looks like an elegant ranch, “Equine Assisted Psychotherapy” sessions, sleeping in bedrooms with fluffy white duvets, hardwood floors and fireplaces, and lots of time in the gym.

3. Passages


Founded in 2001, the Passages rehabilitation center is yet another upscale rehabilitation center located in Malibu. Catering only to a wealthy clientele, Passages only accommodates 12 patients at a time. But for $40,000 to $50,000 a month, guests have their own private chef, use of a juice bar, library and media room with flat screen TVs, as well as one-on-one, non-12-step AA type recovery program therapy sessions, and a team of medical doctors, psychotherapists, acupuncturists, hypnotherapists, masseuses, and spiritual counselors at their disposal.

4. The Sanctuary


Nestled on the most easterly end of Australia is The Sanctuary, a luxurious rehab facility which specializes in the treatment of substance abuse and psychological disorders such as depression, stress, and trauma. At $18,500 a week, clients get to stay in beachfront bungalows, treated to a private chauffeured limousine, and are assigned their own private chef, acupuncturist, personal fitness instructor, a yoga and meditation teacher, as well as gain access to a round-the-clock medical staff. It is also known for its unique alcoholism treatment program, which is a mix of yoga, meditation, shiatsu and Western therapy methods.

5. Beau Monde


Beau Monde is a chain of ultra-posh rehab facilities with locations in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and the Hollywood Hills. It offers a very private setting for wealthy recovering addicts or alcoholics to clean themselves up, as Beau Monde entertains no more than five people at a time. Guests are housed in luxurious private houses, and are treated to gourmet meals, twice-weekly massages, a gourmet cook and whale watching and shopping opportunities. Signing up for a program here is more like checking into a luxury hotel. And the price tag isn’t that far off, a month-long stay here could cost $96,000 or more.

Image/Info sources

MSN Forbes TheLuxist NYT TheSanctuary

Check out more treatment facilities here. Know of another super high end addiction treatment facility or service? We’d love to hear about it, just add your comments below!

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