Was Demi Moore smoking synthetic marijuana?

My substance abuser writer and researcher friend DrugMonkey (@drugmonkeyblog) just tweeted a CNN story suggesting that actress Demi Moore may have suffered adverse reactions after smoking a synthetic cannabimimetic product: A woman called 911 soliciting help for actress Demi Moore, whom she said was “convulsing” and “burning up” after “smoking something,” according to a recording of the call obtained Friday from the Los Angeles Fire Department. [. . .] “She smoked something — it’s not marijuana, but it’s similar to incense. And she seems to be having convulsions of some sort.” Reports of tremors and seizures have been accumulating in association with synthetic marijuana products. These products are generally composed of an herbal material that is spiked with one or more synthetic compounds that act at cannabinoid CB1 receptors. The “burning up” described by the 911 caller in the story would be consistent with some reports of serotonin-like syndrome associated with synthetic marijuana use. The US Drug Enforcement Agency is currently regulating some of the psychoactive compounds as Schedule I substances, illegal for use or sale as they are deemed as having no medical value. Individual states have also issued bans on compounds containing even more related compounds in these products. However, marketers have been skirting laws by using compounds not expressly deemed illegal in state or federal statutes. Moreover, analytical crime laboratories across the nation have suffered extensive budget cuts making it difficult to keep up with the demands in determinig which products are illicit. On a personal note, the synthetic marijuana story that DrugMonkey, dr_leigh, and I have been writing about for two years is growing increasingly disturbing. I just received my second reader email in three months from a father whose son shot himself to death while allegedly addicted to synthetic marijuana products. We’ve been in touch with the US DEA to inquire as to whether similar cases are currently under investigation. Just as DrugMonkey wrote awhile back (I have to find the post), adverse drug effects with celebrities are usually required before aggressive government action is taken against illicit drugs (death of University of Maryland basketball player Len Bias from cocaine and a congenital cardiac...

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BASF moving plant science HQ to RTP
Jan17

BASF moving plant science HQ to RTP

Just a quick post about a local news item here in North Carolina. The environment in Europe toward genetically-modified foods, and other issues, is resulting in BASF relocating their plant sciences division from Limburgerhof, Germany, to Research Triangle Park. BASF already employs about 200 people in RTP. David Bracken notes in his article that the move will reduce European headcount by 140, so the RTP site will effectively double its current presence. This central region of North Carolina is steady increasing its prominence in commercial plant biosciences with large companies such as Syngenta (RTP) and Novozymes (Franklinton) to small companies such as Biolex Therapeutics (Pittsboro) and GrassRoots Bio (Durham). In September, Canadian biotherapeutics manufacturer Medicago opened their RTP facility for tobacco-based production of vaccines. You might say that business is growing. Let’s hope that jobs are as well....

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If academia and industry were ScienceOnline. . .
Jan14

If academia and industry were ScienceOnline. . .

Next week in the state capital of North Carolina, 450 science communicators of various flavors are meeting for three days at ScienceOnline2012 to learn from one another the most effective ways to, well, communicate science. I’m really excited because several of my C&EN and CENtral Science colleagues will be joining me from the DC HQ, including our benevolent overlord, sister in Gatorhood, and C&EN Online Editor, Rachel Pepling, and my Santa Fe science writing bud and fellow Ryan Adams enthusiast, Lauren Wolf. Even Sarah Everts – our beloved Canadian – will be joining us from post in Berlin. In fact, the attendees will include folks from over 25 US states and a dozen countries. As a wee blogger during the mid-noughts, I was fortunate to join the co-founders – Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic (with Brian Russell and Paul Jones) – to help lead sessions at what was then the 2007 NC Science Blogging Conference. This crowd-sourced meeting is now known as ScienceOnline and has grown to be one of the most highly-sought online meetups in the world, having spawned similar meetings such as Science Online London. Someone – I can’t recall who – called ScienceOnline the South-By-Southwest (SXSW) of science communication. Most readers know that I was originally a Jersey kid. We were raised (or forced by peers) to be full of self-important hubris and my undergrad education was a four-year battle of one-upsman(woman)ship. That piss and vinegar got diluted out of me – in a good way – during residencies in Gainesville, Florida, and Denver, followed by the middle-ground of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where I began writing a science blog. I realized that in these places, outside of the influence of the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia corridor, that one could be a solid, critical scientist, while also being a human being. (Although I realize it’s even been tougher in NC now with the harsh competition of workforce reductions, especially in pharma.) Co-founder of ScienceOnline and general BlogFather Bora Zivkovic, now blog community manager for Scientific American, wrote a characteristically long post about the nature of this unconference. Bora writes a lot – a real lot – but even his greatest admirers may often miss the richest of his gems. This was one that should be of particular focus to any nervous folks attending for the first time: The ScienceOnline Community ScienceOnline2012 is a community-organized, community-planned, community-funded, community-owned and community-run conference. The ethos of the meeting is that this is an egalitarian community. Nobody is VIP, nobody is a priori a superstar. One becomes a superstar by virtue of being here (including virtually, yes). Participating in ScienceOnline is a...

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