The 2013 Year in Drugs 'Hot List'

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December 27, 2013 - By Meghan Ralston

Another year, another endless number of white-hot, uber-hyped stories about drugs.  We saw pop stars getting creamed in the media for slurring words that may have been drug-related; we saw a black neuroscientist telling the world that everything we know about drugs is wrong; and who can forget the breathless, overblown Great U.S. Krokodil Panic? It’s been a lively year for drug stories in pop culture. Here are ten stories that raised eyebrows and got people talking this year:

10. Navy Zombies on Bath Salts

The mind-altering, not-intended-for-human-consumption (wink!) drug crystals collectively known as “bath salts” emerged again this year as a popular topic , this time courtesy of the US Navy. Their heavy-handed cautionary-tale video of nice kids getting freaky went viral and won awards. Bowling on drugs never looked trippier!

9.  OD’s at Music Festivals

Over-doing it on drugs at massive concerts is hardly a new story, but it was a breakout year for reports about fatal overdoses occurring at popular music festivals. Will 2014 be the tipping point, when major festivals like Coachella and Burning Man finally include basic drug safety information, like overdose prevention and response, on their websites and at their events?

8.  ONDCP’s “Drug Policy Reform” conference

What if they gave a drug policy reform conference and no drug policy reformers came? Notably absent speakers at this Office of National Drug Control Policy “drug policy reform” conference: anyone leading the actual drug policy reform movement. I guess we were all getting our hair done that day?

7.  Digital Currency for Drugs

Digital currency BitCoin became a media darling this year, hot on the heels of the world discovering that it was being used to make on-line drug transactions at “dark web” drug marketplace websites. It went from being a wonky interest of libertarians to reaching stratospheric heights on altcurrency exchanges in a matter of months.

6.  Cops Carrying Naloxone

Accidental fatal drug overdose remains a real problem, despite numerous media outlets helping to bring more attention to the issue. One low-threshold solution seems to have finally found its footing this year — cops carrying (and using) the opiate overdose reversal medicine, naloxone. 2014 could be the breakout year for naloxone, seeing it made more widely available in pharmacies and in the hands of first responders.

5. Carl Hart

If Ethan Nadelmann is the Mick Jagger of drug policy reform, then Dr. Carl Hart is without a doubt its Keith Richards. That a black neuroscientist with dreadlocks emerged as a rockstar in the drug policy reform movement this year is awesome, to say the least.  His pull-no-punches approach to drug education gained a new following after the publication of his book, “High Price: a Neuroscientists Journey of Self-Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society” At the recent International Drug Policy Reform conference in Denver, CO, Carl was constantly surrounded by his swelling group of supporters and fans. It’s probably only a matter of time before CNN offers him his own show.

4.  Krokodil

Oh, dear. Remember this one? The flesh-eating zombie gasoline drug? Remember how all of those doctors came forward to report krokodil cases showing up in emergency rooms, and then the DEA came out and said that they haven’t actually confirmed a single case of krokodil use in the US yet? And then the retractions, corrections and apologies? And the media loving the the ick factor? Yeah, that.

3. The Drug War as the Darling of Indie Docs

What did they put in the water this year? Out of nowhere, suddenly everyone had a hot documentary about the war on drugs. The House I Live In, Breaking the Taboo, Code of the West, How to Make Money Selling Drugs, America’s Longest War. And that’s not even the full list.

2. Silk Road

The internet’s wild west! EBay for Drugs! Dread Pirate Roberts Busted! The spectacular rise and fall of the first version of Silk Road made headlines around the world. Silk Road made drugs available for purchase from the comfort and safety of your own home, eliminating the risks of undesirable shenanigans during the drug transaction, such as assault, theft or gun violence. Books and screenplays are already in the works.

1. Molly

A banner year for an old drug--reimagined, cut with other random chemicals and reintroduced as a new drug. Goodbye, Ecstasy, hello Molly! Molly was everywhere this year.  When Miley Cyrus had reporters around the world listening to her song “We Can’t Stop” through headphones, trying to figure out if she really DID say “dancing with Molly,” you knew Molly was really having a moment.

So, thank you mass media, you high profile outlets, and you low ones, too. This is a cheeky look back at some big stories, but the drug war is deadly serious business; these stories helped humanize these important issues. For good or ill, they got us talking and thinking about how we feel about drugs.

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