Terra Sig In the News (Hi, Mom!)
Apologies for the quick note of narcissism but, hey, Mom will be proud of this.
Our continued examination of the legal highs industry brought us attention from the online arms of TIME and Nature Chemistry.
First, science writer and author, Maia Szalavitz, wrote last week at TIME Healthland about the bans by US states being placed on synthetic cannabimimetics and stimulants (think Spice herbal incense and bath salts, respectively). Early in our days here at CENtral Science, Maia interviewed us for her article and photogallery on natural products and the unusual origins of drugs. She's since revisited with us for the legal highs story.
I had a chance to meet her in person at the recent ScienceOnline meeting in Research Triangle Park and have been really impressed with her science writing on topics ranging from human relationships to substance abuse treatment myths. Before her time at TIME, she was one of the very few writers of high scientific rigor at The Huffington Post. Keep an eye on her at TIME Healthland and Twitter (@maiasz) as the Charlie Sheen trainwreck unfolds. Szalavitz is also the co-author - with Bruce Perry, MD, PhD - of the 2010 book, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential -- and Endangered (Amazon link).
Our second mention of the last week just popped up this morning on The Sceptical Chymist, the Nature Chemistry blog run by Associate Editor, Dr Neil Withers - most certainly a fine chap but who I have yet to meet in person. However, one could stretch an association between us: Neil earned his MSc and PhD degrees in chemistry at the University of Durham, the British sister city of my Research Triangle Park area home.
For their March Blogroll post, Mind-Altering Blogs, Neil asks, "What responsibilities are borne by the creators of compounds that end up as 'legal highs'?" The catalyst was a 5th January editorial in Nature Chemistry Nature from Purdue chemist and pharmacologist, Dr David Nichols on the use of his science by recreational chemists and the indirect contribution of this work to loss of human life. Therein, he quotes from two of our posts (1, 2) together with that of Derek Lowe at In The Pipeline, and an excellent BBC radio program (okay, "programme," Neil) with guest British chemist Andrea Sella. Andrea wrote his own blogpost questioning how Nichols might be "a bit disingenuous" about his concerns given his relationship with chemist, Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin.
Slightly off-topic, Neil also refers readers to a lovely series of posts from KJHaxton asking readers to deduce the chemical identity of a common household product. I had the pleasure of meeting Haxton on this side of the pond at my ScienceOnline2009 wine-tasting session. I just love how this blogging community, much like the academic science community, makes this big world seem much smaller.
And just when you thought that we would leave the topic of legal highs behind, I cannot escape it. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the US Drug Enforcement Agency is going to post today to The Federal Register its final rule that temporarily assigns five synthetic cannabimimetics to Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act. This final rule outlaws these compounds for a year (with a potential six-month extension) while studies are conducted to determine the real public health risks of these agents. We'll be watching for responses today from trade orgs representing retailers.
For Mom: The author and his best friend, circa 1967