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  • leo - 1 year ago
    "When you are making illicit purchases from anonymous sources, you can't depend on purity or that what you think you are buying is what you actually get," Strahm says. "You really don't know what you are purchasing. It's like going on a vacation without knowing your destination."

    I like how the final part was a DEA official unintentionally making a strong case for legalising drugs - as always the difficulty and illegality didn't put off the woman who died (she even generated a PGP key! that's some effort you have to go to do that stuff), but if she'd known what she was taking and what was a safe level it might have saved her life.

    Conversely - does the Len Bias conviction apply to execs at tobacco companies when people die of lung cancer from their products? Just pointing out the hypocrisy here, I think it's a ludicrous rule. If person A sells a less dangerous drug than person B but someone misuses it and dies from it it doesn't suddenly make that drug inherently more dangerous, only more dangerous in this one limited circumstance that they couldn't have foreseen. It makes the law weirdly anecdotal.
    • bill - 1 year ago
      Thanks for your comment, Leo!

      I've been thinking and reading a lot about the opioid problem and drug legalization in the last few weeks. I live in New Hampshire and work at a small general store/gas station. It's well known (especially after Trump called our state a "drug infested den") that we have major opioid problems up here and I personally know and even work side-by-side with people who are having problems with these horrible drugs.

      The more that this issue becomes personal for me, the more I'm convinced that it makes no sense to criminalize this activity - *no matter how harmful the drug.*

      People need help and are willing to accept it when it's offered. When they are forced to live in hiding, it accomplishes nothing - it just adds a layer of danger and fear to the situation which, naturally, exacerbates things. Plus, jailing people, or, at the very least, dragging them through the court system, is extraordinarily expensive and - as far as I can tell - not helpful.

      Maybe I'm naively under-appreciating the "punishment as deterrent" aspect of the whole situation, but it just seems so outrageously obvious that it's not working; it's time for a totally new approach.
      • leo - 1 year ago
        Russell Brand did an interesting podcast about addiction (I know he can come across as annoying but if you stick with him it's a really great podcast).

        He's been through several forms of addiction (including crack/heroin) and he says it's ridiculous to look at addicts as criminals - he says they're unwell, and need to be treated as such. Pretty much all the literature agrees with him, and a lot of high ranking law enforcement officials do too, there's just this weird disconnect, a lot to do with because politicians are scared of speaking out. I think there's two reasons behind this, one the depressing fact that lack of education on the subject means general public opinion (particularly amongst the swing voters) tends to side on keeping it illegal, and secondly the fear of legalising it and then the inevitable anecdotal stories emerge about people then dying off legally bought drugs - as if they're less likely to die from drugs when it's made illegal.

        Russell Brand also goes a bit conspiratorially about how it's also used as a method of power controlling the poor. I can see where he's going with this - it's very interesting seeing the history of drug control and how it only became a problem for the authorities once it reached the undesirable elements of society, but I think as with most conspiracies it gives too much credit to those in power. If they were really that devious, I think they could come up with a better system of control than something as expensive and messed up as the War on Drugs/mass incarceration.

  • jlcipriani - 1 year ago
    I thought the article (allowing for boosterism and a amateurish repetitiveness) was well done. There is little I understand about the dark web and synthetic opioids, but this article did inch me forward.

    The Len Bias rule debate is essentially the difficulty of distinguishing but-for causation (X would not have died in the car accident but for the fact that the man in front of her at 7-11 had not bought 30 lottery tickets) and proximate causation (X would not have died in the car accident if the guy who hit her had not run a red light). Foreseeability is the distinguishing factor. Some of the comments on the article itself (which were on the whole distasteful n a wide variety of ways) posit that Aisha's voluntary ingestion of a substance she knew to be potentially lethal negates any legal responsibility that "Tedalicus" (which itself should be a felony) has for the foreseeable consequences of selling that substance. There are many, many things which are sold which can foreseeably cause death if misused (guns, alcohol, rat poison, cars) but this seems different to me in that this substance (at least as presented in the article) foreseeably causes death when used in the amount and manner intended by the seller. I would not hold the gun manufacturer or dealer responsible if Aisha really had died playing Russian roulette because the use of holding the gun to one's head is not an intended use - but if there was a one in six chance of a fatal backfire every time one shot a gun, I would feel differently.
    • ericadu - 1 year ago
      Hm, I almost had the opposite reaction to the article.

      I didn't really enjoy reading it and thought it was awfully sensationalist. More than that the author painted the dark web in a pretty negative light without actually being that descriptive - I don't really think the author understands what the Dark Web is, just one use case, which is illicit drug deals. That being said, the context in which I understand the "Dark Web" is very academic as I'm a software engineer by trade.
      • jlcipriani - 1 year ago
        I fully accept that the author has no clue about the dark web and that I was duped into thinking otherwise by my own complete ignorance. There is no context within which I understand the "Dark Web," as I am a lawyer by trade. The name makes me think of a cross between "Labyrinth," and "John Wick."
    • jeff - 1 year ago
      > ...but this seems different to me in that this substance (at least as presented in the article) foreseeably causes death when used in the amount and manner intended by the seller.

      I don't feel that the article provided enough information to support this conclusion. We don't know if the content/purity of the product matched the seller's description or if the seller provided the buyer with dosage or usage instructions. We do know, however, that Khleborod was a prolific seller on a marketplace that had a seller-rating system so there is some reason to believe he operated in a professional manner. I don't see how the quantity of the product should have any bearing at all.

      There is no question that U-47700 is a dangerous product, but as you pointed out there are also many legal products that are dangerous. As long as the product is as-advertised and the seller was operating in good faith I don't agree that they should be held liable for a customer's death as a result of using the product.

      I feel that the Len Bias law will actually result in more overdose deaths since the most conscientious sellers, those who care about establishing a reputation on these marketplaces, could be dissuaded from selling the most dangerous drugs, resulting in fly-by-night sellers without a feedback history filling the void in the market.
  • lsweeney1988 - 1 year ago
    I found the portrayal of the drug dealer to be interesting. There seemed to be the pull of a Walter White narrative (totally possible I'm imposing that myself): quiet white man, putting himself through school, doesn't do his own drugs, a secret side gig as a successful drug dealer. I was surprised the reporter didn't explore the irony of selling lethal synthetic opiates to fund med school. He cared for the people physically proximate to him and sold drugs anonymously to those farther away. The physical and emotional distance afforded by the dark web may make it easier for someone to live with that kind of contradiction compared to having to interact with dealers and users in person.
    • emily - 1 year ago
      That, and he was having his girlfriend do the mailing!
    • camila - 1 year ago
      Very much agreed as to the problematic distancing between dealer and buyer created/allowed by online sale of drugs.

      I do think the facts the journalist included about the dealer push the reader away from envisioning him as a Walter White-type, perhaps on purpose to try to preempt that reaction. As an initial matter, it sounds like he is making much more than the minimum he would need to pay for med school. And rather than emphasize that the dealer is in med school as a way to rehabilitate him in the reader's mind, the author puts in tidbits such as that Klheborod drives a BMW with an obnoxious license plate, which paint a picture of lavish spending and discourage any sympathy from the reader.
    • erica - 1 year ago
      I found this to be the creepiest line in the article, by far: "They also found a book, written for prospective doctors, called Kill as Few Patients as Possible."
    • bill - 1 year ago
      Totally. I want to know how he convinced his girlfriend (with the dozens of parcels) to play along.
  • krunde - 1 year ago
    Interesting local take on this topic. I feel like I learned something about how local law enforcement deal with a constantly changing, complex problem of where these synthetic drugs come from, and about the specifics of how potent specific synthetics are. The quotes from the girl's mom and the story of how they reconnected/what their relationship was as 99% of the back story on who this girl was sat a little weird with me... can't exactly put my finger on what it was about that part of the article, but it was a strange contrast to the tone of the law enforcement/dark web/synthetic drugs half of the story. Good choice for the really read it project!
    • bill - 1 year ago
      Totally. So many fabricated stories begin with "the pair decided to head west to begin new lives." Something did seem a little weird about that part. Too many details glossed over, maybe.

      >>"It was hard for Aisha to be without the internet," Collins says.

      That line struck a chord with me. I don't know why. Just seemed really authentic. I imagine some mother/daughter fights about screen-time and phone usage. Who can't relate to that!?
      • leo - 1 year ago
        Also a bit frightening the idea that the thing she struggled most from being away from was the internet - shows the internet has its own addictive quality, even if thankfully it's not as dangerous as the drugs shown here
        • emily - 1 year ago
          I read this more about loneliness rather than internet addiction, though it is interesting that her mom says that at all.
        • joanne - 1 year ago
          i think the internet can be as addictive as heroin....the mother/daughter "fights"
          are futile and only serve to break down their relationship....
        • bill - 1 year ago
          Totally. I've had this debate with friends about use of the word "addiction" when referring to overuse & dependence on the internet. I think that internet addiction is a real thing, a medical and societal problem.
  • turtlebubble - 1 year ago
    I am happy to hear Portland is taking initiative in overdoses.

    >>"Our policy here is different from other jurisdictions'," the detective says. "Before, we just walked away and let the medical examiner handle it.

    This is how I always imagined cops arriving at an overdose to behave. And while I am personally terrified of and have no confidence in police as individuals or an institution, those feelings are largely based upon their inability to self criticize and correct. The fact that the police department of one of our nations most alternative and progressive cities is proudly reporting how they're actually making an effort to help people seems like a great example to the rest of the country.

    >>And Oxman's successor, Lewis, pushed large metro-area medical systems to decrease the number of opioid pain pills prescribed to patients. That number has decreased each of the past five quarters.

    Again, as a person who has a hard time imagining bureaucracies working together for the benefit of human life as opposed to profit this point was also hugely inspiring to me. These are small but proven steps that lead to less overdose deaths. That was the main idea I got and I hope people will be inspired by this article to try to see the same steps taken in their cities.
    • bill - 1 year ago
      yup. i think you nailed it re: "inability to self criticize and correct." it's both an individual and collective problem. people with ego- and power-issues become cops. then, bureaucracy and secrecy amplify the problem.
      • bill - 1 year ago
        same could be said for politics. the kind of people who want political positions often aren't the ones we want in those roles.
  • swizco - 1 year ago
    hit enter too soon lol...This article was incredibly disappointing. It felt like a showcase to how great our police force is for catching the guy that sold this woman drugs vs. being a thoughtful piece on WHY people do these things. Why she was doing these drugs in the first place? I am so not interested in the police finding the dealer when the real problem is what was going on with this woman. She needed someone to ask her what was going on, and even now we are still not asking.
    • lolobishop - 1 year ago
      I agree. I didn't care for the article... Would've stopped reading if not for being a part of the beta group. It went on about details I don't care to know about, and neglected to explore the human story.
      • bill - 1 year ago
        Makes sense. Good journalism should be educational AND enjoyable. Often, the cost of being fact-filled is boring and the cost of being enjoyable is non-educational. Bit of a catch-22.

        And, on the internet, when anything is less than perfect, we've already clicked away.
    • joanne - 1 year ago
      i agree.....we need to get to the root of the pain
  • adww89 - 1 year ago
    @erica, RE your point about Len Bias is interesting. Yes, 'Peter the Great' shouldn't have been shipping out drugs, but he shouldn't take full culpability for Aisha's overdose. I think it's curious that the author completely Aisha, and paints her as a victim.

    I wish the author had also done more research on this Peter the Great character - I'm curious how he fell into this lifestlye, and to you point Bill, how he convinced his girlfriend to be his accomplice. Also, what was the deal with the pregnancy tests?

    I read a piece in VF a year or so ago about Silk Road, and I still find it staggering that about 5% of the web is visible. This is an interesting story that would benefit from a more in-depth examination.

    Also, the minor aside about 'Kill as Few Patients as Possible' was utterly chilling. In my opinion, that makes Peter the Great sound like a Mengele-esque mad scientist.
  • ericadu - 1 year ago
    This really reminded me of one of those dateline specials that are meant to make the audience emote and scare middle aged moms into lecturing their teenage daughters about drugs.

    Especially with the inline photos and details about Aisha.

    IMO the author was too busy trying to make this a chapter in a mystery novel than providing helpful information or analysis.
    • ericadu - 1 year ago
      If it wasn't obvious, I do not like news like this.
      • ericadu - 1 year ago
        Written like this, specifically.
  • karishma079 - 1 year ago
    As heartbreaking as this is, I have to commend Portland's approach to the opioid crisis. They seem to be successfully bucking the national trend of increased YoY opioid overdoses. Law enforcement seems to understand the limits of arresting drug users while still trying to save lives by cutting off the source to the most lethal substances.
  • Darko - 1 year ago
    TLDR: The Multnomah County Health Officer has an innovative approach to stemming the growth in opioid overdoses.

    I would love to have talked to Aisha Zughbieh-Collins and hear about her life. She was only 18 but she must have an interesting perspective about school, goals, etc., at least a perspective I've never heard.
  • tomcfad - 1 year ago
    I was not aware of this factoid: "Experts say less than 5 percent of websites are visible using typical browsers such as Safari, Firefox or Chrome."
  • jamie - 1 year ago
    Very sad, unfortunately I believe she would most likely have overdosed eventually even without the synthetic drug issue. What a shame. Very informative article, I did not realize drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental death.
    • joanne - 1 year ago
      heart breaking...because this is not the least bit unique, there are so many stories like this. I personally have been to two funerals for young heroin addicts. I think we have to look at the root causes for this (as well as making narcan easily available). The world is hurting, the planet is warming, flooding, storming, cracking and on fire. Our water supply is in danger and our food source is being contaminated. People are living in fear, scary news sells and spews 24/7. We are living in a virtual world where we look at a screen most of the day. Since we are all connected to the earth and each other our collective vibe is really low. The search to escape or feel good or ease the pain is all around us. We need to connect to each other, the world, nature, and those who are different, unplug, go outside, eat real food....
  • PRHughes - 1 year ago
    I agree with many of the points about the journalistic integrity. Definitely glossed over the committing a felony by kidnapping a minor aspect.

    Erica makes a great point. The photography associated with the article reminded me of the #iftheygunnedmedown movement after Michael Brown's death. She's portrayed as a person in these photos, not an addict; white women, in general, are given an impressive amount of empathy in stories such as these. I care for a primarily black, urban underserved population on the west side of Chicago. None of my patients who die of overdoses --even those related to Opana-- have or would be treated this way.

    I'm interested in the limited treatment the article gives to more complicated topics such as the use of Narcan and the quality of available heroin. I disagree that the quality and potency of available heroin is standard, but there's no way to objectively defend that one way or the other.
  • erica - 1 year ago
    I haven't heard of Willamette Week, but I could immediately tell it was a local publication based on the strange attempt to portray Oregon in a positive light. The article makes the point several times that Oregon has responded to drug overdoses more effectively than any other state. Seems totally inappropriate and irrelevant, as Oregon officials were clearly ineffective in the case of Aisha.

    I'm curious to hear what people think about Len Bias and the attempt to "establish a chain of custody," a.k.a. blame drug dealers for fatal overdoses. I haven't decided how much I think drug dealers should be punished. I know I disagree with the detective who said Ted Khleborod was "sending out the equivalent of bombs." I don't consider drug dealers murderers, even though they are responsible in a way...
    • tylerbc - 1 year ago
      It seems like the same thought process (from a legal standpoint) as faulting bartenders for drunk driving accidents. It makes sense to try to establish penalties for irresponsibly distributing intoxicants (drugs or alcohol), and even more so in an unregulated market. Since illegal drugs aren't regulated, there's no way to guarantee their safety, so in theory the Len Bias law would make drug dealers act as sort of proxy regulators - only buying from trusted sources to hopefully avoid selling tainted drugs. That said, I tend to doubt that it actually has that effect. If people are selling drugs at that level, they already know there will be penalties if they're caught.
    • alex_r - 1 year ago
      While generally against the criminalization of drugs I'm actually a fan of the Len Bias rule, less on principle (I wouldn't generally consider drug dealers criminals) but more as a way to confer a level of responsibility on everyone involved given the high stakes. While an individual dealer may not be "at fault" (e.g the manufacturer may have made a mistake, their upstream source may have given them faulty information, a dealer downstream may have misrepresented the product or cut it with something dangerous), I still think they have a responsibility for drugs they distribute. Furthermore, establishing a severe penalty hopefully heightens the collective scrutiny, driving out bad/untrustworthy dealers.
  • swizco - 1 year ago
    This article was incredibly disappointing.

    "Addiction is a treatable disease," he says, "and we're facing an epidemic. We can't arrest our way out of it."
    • bill - 1 year ago
      What was disappointing?
      • erica - 1 year ago
        @swizco, I was going to quote that part as well. Not sure if this is what you were getting at, but it's interesting that the opioid problem is referred to as an "epidemic." We don't talk about drugs primarily used by white people the same way we talk about drugs primarily used by black people. When they affect white people, we label it a disease, but drug problems that affect black people haven't aroused the same rhetorical response.
        • swizco - 1 year ago
          @erica exactly what i was getting at!
        • bill - 1 year ago
          very strong point.

          bright eyes! nirvana! those details made Aisha relatable to me. they're white bands and i'm a white guy. so, yeah - i guess that's both natural and problematic.
    • lolobishop - 1 year ago
      That was my exact same pull quote. Great minds.
      • swizco - 1 year ago
  • bhoover - 1 year ago
    Sad. Tangentially related to this is that the Oregon Legislature just passed a bill that would de-felonize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs (heroin, cocaine, meth, etc.) and expands drug treatment availability to those without prior convictions or felonies.
  • jamie - 1 year ago
  • jamie - 1 year ago
  • djrockss2000 - 1 year ago
    I like the Article it gave a lot of insight in how things have changed from going down the street to the local drug dealer back in my day to now you just get on the internet and can order some and have it shipped to your doorstep.
    • bill - 1 year ago
      In Washington DC, where I live, you can order marijuana to your door and it's about as easy as dialing up an Uber. Obviously pot & synthetics are totally different, but still...