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Nick Wing
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Senior Viral Editor at The Huffington Post.

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Entries by Nick Wing

Donald Trump Clearly Doesn't Understand How Dogs Work

(1) Comments | Posted February 9, 2016 | 2:50 AM


Billionaire real estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has never been known for his way with words. In campaign speeches, he often describes things as "bad,""so bad," or, if he's feeling especially adventurous, "very bad." And he promises to fix bad with good by "winning," "totally...

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Feds Try To Combat Teen Heroin Use, But Can't Stop Talking About Weed

(2) Comments | Posted February 5, 2016 | 5:37 PM

Last week, the FBI and DEA released "Chasing the Dragon," a documentary that paints an honest, unforgiving picture of opiate addiction's devastating, often deadly consequences. As the opioid epidemic continues to rip through communities across the U.S., it's part of a new effort by the sister law enforcement agencies to convince teens to steer clear of prescription painkillers and heroin at all costs.

The film is "aimed at youth," which may explain the awkward attempt to come up with a cool-sounding title, borrowed from Cantonese slang for smoking opium or heroin. By offering an intimate look at the lives of people who have struggled with opiate addiction, the movie quickly makes it clear that these drugs are incredibly serious.

As it should: Nearly 30,000 people died of heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. These numbers are rising at an especially frightening pace among heroin users, who are increasingly turning to cheaper and dirtier illicit drugs after starting with prescription pills. A third of Americans now say that they personally know someone who has been addicted to heroin or another opiate, according to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll.

But the FBI and DEA were apparently not satisfied just using the available fodder to both terrify and educate teens about the opioid epidemic and the ravages of addiction. Instead, the agencies quickly try to link these harder drugs to marijuana use.

Yes, marijuana. 

The tragedy of the DEA and FBI's obsession with pot is that it muddies an otherwise necessary message. There is plenty to be concerned about when it comes to marijuana policy. Are edibles being labeled properly? Are shops improperly marketing to teens? But one thing is sure: Marijuana is not annihilating an entire generation, it is not killing tens of thousands of people a year -- and it is not the cause of the heroin crisis. People have been smoking pot at more or less stable rates for decades now, but the opiate crisis only exploded after Big Pharma flooded the market with pills.  

"Chasing the Dragon" invokes weed at least seven times in the first 15 minutes. From the onset, it pushes the "gateway drug" theory, noting that many of the film's subjects used marijuana at some point before moving on to opiates.

What does marijuana have to do with Matt's opiate addiction? He says he got arrested at age 15 for drinking a beer at a concert, which got him put on probation and subjected to drug testing. Since he was unable to smoke pot, a friend told him he should take an oxycontin. He continued to steal prescription drugs from his friends' houses until he got addicted to opiates and eventually to heroin. (If anything, the DEA inadvertently makes the argument for legalization with this example. Had Matt had legal access to a less harmful substance, perhaps he would have been better off.)

According to the repeatedly debunked gateway drug theory, marijuana use drives people to experiment with harder and harder drugs. Eventually, they'll end up taking opiates or shooting up heroin. Despite the suggestion, that's not what happened to Matt.

Nor is it what happened to Cory.

Cory says nothing about how marijuana fit into his eventual opiate addiction. He says his experimentation with painkillers eventually led him to get addicted to heroin.

In other examples, "Chasing the Dragon" makes its initial focus on marijuana seem even more insignificant.

Melissa was 22 when she first used opiates, nine years after she first used marijuana. She had just given birth to her first child, and her doctor prescribed her oxycontin to manage the pain. When she couldn't get pain pills legally anymore, she began buying them on the street. She eventually turned to heroin, which was cheaper and more easily available.

Sarah tells a similar story, as do other subjects in the film.

Their opiate use began legally, setting them off on a downward spiral of addiction, which led to harder drugs and increasingly self-destructive behavior.

Weed paraphernalia and other imagery is also interspersed throughout "Chasing the Dragon," adding to the narrative that being around marijuana use -- or engaging in it yourself -- will necessarily expose you to the irresistible lure of opiates.

The focus on weed is a shame, because the FBI and DEA's attempt to make such a link doesn't mean the film is being dishonest about the severity of the opioid epidemic -- even if its fearmongering approach leaves little room for a nuanced discussion about addiction and its causes.

Opiates destroyed the life of each subject in "Chasing the Dragon" in one way or another. Some lost their children, friends or significant others. Others went to horrific lengths to feed their addiction, subjecting their bodies to unimaginable pain and punishment. Almost everyone ended up in prison because of their drug use.

In an attempt to further scare its viewers, the film suggests this is an inevitable result of opiate addiction, while at the same time proving that incarcerating people is an ineffective way to treat addiction itself. A number of subjects were released from prison, only to get locked up again after returning to opiate use. Some were able to find success in recovery only after entering treatment, an option that the film only covers in passing.

It's perhaps not shocking that the FBI and DEA would make an effort to link marijuana and the opioid epidemic. After all, according to federal law, weed and heroin are both Schedule I drugs, considered the most dangerous of all substances. DEA chiefs haven't always even been completely clear on whether heroin is more dangerous than marijuana. And for years, federal agencies have used a variety of tactics, often based on fear and misinformation, in hopes of keeping teens from using pot.

They have, for the most part, been unsuccessful. Marijuana use has remained steady among high schoolers over the past five years, while the perceived risks have only decreased. In 2015, nearly 35 percent of 12th-graders said they'd used marijuana in the past year. Around 32 percent of respondents said regular marijuana use puts users at great risk of harming themselves physically or otherwise, compared to 78.6 percent in 1991.

These failures speak to the need for a new approach to drug education, and, in the case of opiates in particular, one that doesn't conflate the message about harm or gateways to use. Linking these risks in any way to marijuana, a drug that many teens now believe has been unduly demonized by adults, will only make them skeptical of the important underlying message: That opiate addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their personal background or prior drug use.

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Phoenix City Council Votes To End Prayer Rather Than Let Satanists Lead It

(4) Comments | Posted February 5, 2016 | 12:58 PM


For decades, the Phoenix City Council has begun each meeting with an opening prayer. While those invocations were typically Christian, the tradition was technically multi-denominational, with Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, among others, participating in the past. But when two members of the Satanic Temple, a group of nontheists...

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Bernie Sanders Refuses To Police His Eyeballs During Democratic Debate

(1) Comments | Posted February 4, 2016 | 11:22 PM

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders traded jabs Thursday night at the final Democratic debate before next week's New Hampshire primary. They scrapped over a pair of labels -- "progressive" and "establishment" -- as well as health care reform, Wall Street and a variety of other topics.

While the two...

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The 9 Most Punchable Martin Shkreli Faces (Just From Today)

(2) Comments | Posted February 4, 2016 | 12:22 PM


Martin Shkreli, the former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO who notoriously jacked up the price of an antiparasitic drug used to treat infections in HIV patients, appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday to field questions about his dubious business practices.


Instead of answering, he smirked and squirmed while...

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Panel Says LAPD Killing Of Homeless Man Was OK. You'll Just Have To Trust Them.

(2) Comments | Posted February 3, 2016 | 5:29 PM


LOS ANGELES -- When police killed Charly Keunang, a homeless man, last March, it sparked protests and ignited another round of debate about the Los Angeles Police Department's use of deadly force. A video recorded by a witness to the fatal...

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Donald Trump Must Be Regretting These Tweets After His Loser Finish In Iowa

(5) Comments | Posted February 1, 2016 | 11:26 PM

If you haven't heard, billionaire real estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump likes to win. For months, he's made the promise of winning a focal point of his campaign, saying that a President Trump would win...

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Governor Wants To Reform Bail System That Pushes Poor, Innocent People Into Jail

(0) Comments | Posted January 29, 2016 | 9:49 AM


The principle that defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty stands at the core of the U.S. criminal justice system. Yet in jails around the country, hundreds of thousands of people whose guilt has yet to be determined in a court of law are behind bars, many of...

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There Was Something Missing From The GOP's 'Debate' On Criminal Justice Reform

(1) Comments | Posted January 28, 2016 | 10:17 PM


The first YouTube question at the GOP debate Thursday night went to Mark Watson, an Army veteran who typically video-blogs about technology. He pressed the candidates on police accountability, specifically wondering why body camera technology continues to lag so far behind the basic capabilities of...

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Why Some Atheists Say Bernie Sanders Gets Them When He Talks About Religion

(4) Comments | Posted January 27, 2016 | 3:28 PM


If you ask Bernie Sanders if he believes in God, he'll tell you he does.


"Yeah, I do. I do," the independent senator from Vermont told Rolling Stone in response to that question last year, before going on to say that he was not involved in organized...

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Overdose Reversal Drug Now Available To Every U.S. High School Free Of Charge

(3) Comments | Posted January 25, 2016 | 3:45 PM


Any high school in the U.S. that wants to carry an emergency opioid overdose reversal kit will now be able to get one free of charge, thanks to a new initiative announced Monday by the Clinton Foundation and the drug's manufacturer.


Adapt Pharma, manufacturers of a nasal-spray...

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Bernie Sanders Doesn't Support Reparations. Why Is That So Surprising?

(35) Comments | Posted January 22, 2016 | 9:01 AM


"Why Precisely Is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations?" asked Ta-Nehisi Coates this week in an article for The Atlantic.


Days before, Sanders had claimed that compensating the descendants of slaves, a proposal that Coates has written about at...

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DEA Hired A TSA Informant To Help Take Cash From People's Luggage

(5) Comments | Posted January 20, 2016 | 9:46 AM


A Department of Justice watchdog officially condemned the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration this month, following a report that the agency had recruited a Transportation Security Administration security screener to search bags for cash that the DEA could confiscate.


The very existence of such a partnership highlights much...

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12 Things Sarah Palin Just Said, In What We Can Only Assume Is Real Life

(20) Comments | Posted January 19, 2016 | 7:24 PM


Former Alaska governor and onetime GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared alongside Donald Trump on Tuesday at an Iowa campaign event, just hours after officially endorsing the billionaire real estate mogul for president. She had a lot to say, so we'll just go ahead and let it speak...

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Ben Carson Becomes First GOP Candidate To Weigh In On Flint Water Crisis

(1) Comments | Posted January 19, 2016 | 2:23 PM


Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on Tuesday became the first GOP presidential candidate to speak out on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, blaming local leadership and federal authorities for failing to address the high levels of lead that have left the city's tap water largely unusable.

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Donald Trump Says 'Police Are The Most Mistreated People' In America

(23) Comments | Posted January 14, 2016 | 10:38 PM

Donald Trump took a moment's pause from demonizing Muslims on Thursday in order to praise U.S. law enforcement...

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Hey Trump, You Know Who Else Held Rallies Where Kids Sang About Crushing Their Enemies?

(7) Comments | Posted January 14, 2016 | 3:02 PM

A trio of patriotically clad little girls danced and sang about American might at a Donald Trump campaign rally on Wednesday night, tossing out lyrics that were both bewildering and remarkably on-brand for the billionaire real estate mogul and his supporters. 

"Enemies ... of freedom ... face the music ... c'mon boys, take them down ... President Donald Trump knows how ... to make America great ... deal from strength or get crushed every time," their voices rang out, seemingly lip-synced, from the PA system.

Moments later, the girls used the word "Ameritude," which as far as Google is concerned had never been used before. History in the making.

After another verse and a few awkwardly choreographed dance moves, the troop, all members of the aptly named USA Freedom Kids, finished their act. Then Trump took the stage, where he bragged about his position atop the GOP primary polls and called a sound technician a "son of a bitch" and a "bastard." Hopefully the kids were gone by then.

Some viewers, however, couldn't get over the opening act, which they thought seemed eerily familiar.

And in all fairness, these comparisons aren't totally unwarranted.

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Here’s How Many Cops Got Convicted Of Murder Last Year For On-Duty Shootings

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2016 | 7:13 PM


Many people viewed 2015 as a year of reckoning for police, with continued scrutiny of the use of deadly force spurring momentum for reform. In reality, however, the road to accountability remains a long one.


That point is clearly reflected in the number...

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Here's Why We Shouldn't Immediately Freak Out When A Shooter Mentions ISIS

(0) Comments | Posted January 11, 2016 | 6:18 PM


Law enforcement officials reported last week that the man who allegedly ambushed a Philadelphia police officer had declared his allegiance to the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State, saying he'd committed the crime "in the name of Islam."


...

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Here's How The Nation Responded When A Black Militia Group Occupied A Government Building

(11) Comments | Posted January 4, 2016 | 2:50 PM


When armed militants seized a government building in Burns, Oregon, on Saturday, stating their willingness to "kill and be killed" and promising to stay for "years," the official response was cautious and restrained. Many onlookers wondered whether this would still be the case...

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