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Synthetic marijuana interview by Dirk Hanson, The Chemical Carousel

Five stars on Amazon, also available for your Kindle!

A hearty welcome to readers arriving via referrals from Dr. Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks and Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. We’ve been writing about synthetic marijuana science and regulation for almost two years and have been impressed by the widespread interest. For more information, click here for a handy compilation of our writing on the subject.


I’m always tickled to death to be asked to talk about natural products pharmacology and chemistry whether anyone wants to hear about it or not.

So, when I was approached for an interview by science writer and author, Dirk Hanson, I couldn’t help but say, “YES!”

Dirk is perhaps best known as author of the outstanding book on substance dependence, The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. I’ve come to know him through the blogosphere at his blog, The Addiction Inbox. As readers here know, working in natural products invariably brings one to the topic of drugs of abuse since many such compounds are used recreationally for their activity in the central nervous system.

Dirk has also been doing a terrific job as writer and editor for a new webzine directed toward the recovery community called The Fix (“Addiction and Recovery, Straight Up”). He’s been wonderfully kind to list us here at Terra Sig on their bloglist as a source of nonjudgmental, scientifically-based information on substances of potential abuse.

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News & Observer tweet-up: my newspaper groks it

Rocking the yellow with print and TV journalist, social media maven, @Cree PIO, and all-around awesomesauce, Ginny Skalski (@GinnySkal). Credit: David Kroll/CENtral Science

For those of you social media butterflies, how does your local newspaper interact with you?

Call me a dinosaur but I love my local newspaper. We at Terra Sig World Headquarters still get the dead-tree version on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and you’ll occasionally see me blog here and elsewhere about pharma stories I first learn from the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. Part of the reason is because it is the main newspaper of the Research Triangle region. (The Durham Herald-Sun is another, with about 1/5th the circulation, and few people know that almost all of Research Triangle Park is located within Durham County.) I like the smell and feel of a newspaper and I immensely respect those of my friends who write for the paper.

As much as I get excited on days when we get over 500 visitors here, the N&O has a print circulation of 134,470 daily and 190,514 on Sunday. But in these latest numbers from May, a new print/web metric was reported by the auditing firm who compiles these numbers. The N&O reaches a combined number of 797,346 unduplicated readers as determined from the last seven days of print and last 30 days of the online version. Like most papers around the world, the online readership far outnumbers those who access the paper in print.

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DrugMonkey in New York Times profile of NIDA director, Nora Volkow

Hearty congratulations to my neuroscience of drug abuse colleague, DrugMonkey, on his kinda-sorta quote in The New York Times on Monday (see bottom of first online page here).

The profile is on Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and one of the top scientists in the field of addiction who has the rare gift of being widely-respected by both scientists and science administrators. Her staff even engages the scientific blogosphere and I wrote up a lengthy email interview I had with her in 2009 back at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sig.

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CENtral Science, represent!

The 202 and the 919 stomping terra in the 505. Dr. Lauren Wolf, C&EN Associate Editor and Newscripts blog and print writer, with yours truly and his CENtral Science T-shirt at Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, NM, during a break from the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop. The large ceremonial kiva above us is accessed by a series of four ladders that rise 160 feet from the canyon floor. Credit: Some nice guy who used Lauren’s camera but whose name we forgot to ask.

Yes, I’ve tagged this post in my category, “I Can’t Believe My Life Happens to Me.”

During the week of May 30th, I had the pleasure of participating in the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop, a 15-year labor of love run by New Mexico-based science writers, Sandra Blakeslee and George Johnson. This year, about 50 “students” were in attendance, ranging from professional writers like Dr. Wolf at C&EN and Newscripts above to freelancers, public information officers, and other academics like me who are working on improving our skills to communicate science to non-technical audiences.

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Terra Sig In the News (Hi, Mom!)

For Mom: The author and his best friend, circa 1967

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).

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Synthetic marijuana for pharmacists

As a former pharmacy professor, I’m honored that a couple of our old and new blogposts have been picked up by colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. Clinical Assistant Professor and drug information specialist, Jennifer Seltzer, PharmD, and her intern, Tiffany LaDow, PharmD, included us in their online durg information alert entitled, “‘Spice’ It Up – A New Way to Get High: What Pharmacists Need to Know.”

This type of distillation by LaDow and Seltzer is representative of exactly the kinds of briefs I used to enjoy writing for the Colorado Pharmacists’ Society and are what motivated my establishment of this blog when I was out of academia. I always found that practicing pharmacists appreciated these kinds of timely alerts complete with the basic science underlying these developments.

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