,-.- The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 30, 1998
NEW YORK (AP) -- The White
House's drug policy chief yesterday
proposed making methadone more
Teadily available to drug addicts by
allowing doctors for the first time to
dispense the synthetic heroin substi-
tute in their offices.
Currently, methadone is available
only at special clinics, making it dif-
ficult for some addicts to hold down
jobs and receive their daily dose of
the liquid narcotic. Some states bar
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White
House national drug policy director,
said study after study has shown that
methadone not only eliminates the
misery of heroin addiction but also
makes it possible for addicts to lead
productive lives and stay out of trou-
"Methadone treatment is simply
not available for Americans in all
parts of the country in a manner
called for by rational drug policy.
-We've got to do better," McCaffrey
told the American Methadone
Treatment Association in New York.
At the same time, McCaffrey
announced no additional money for
the policy and acknowledged that
state and local governments must
endorse the changes to make
methadone more readily available.
"This is a local decision for city
councils, county government and
state legislatures," he said.
McCaffrey's office set a goal of
"adequate methadone treatment
capacity for all of America's opiate
Eventually, McCaffrey said, indi-
vidual doctors would be licensed to
dispense methadone outside of clin-
ics. The policy for the first time
would also establish an accreditation
process for methadone clinics and
set standards for effective dosages,
counseling and care.
There are an estimated 810,000
chronic heroin users in the United
States, but only about 115,000 are
At least five states have barred
methadone altogether: Mississippi,
Montana, South Dakota, Vermont
and West Virginia.
New York City has an estimated
32,000 addicts on methadone -
more than any other U.S. city - but
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opposes its
use, saying it simply swaps one
addiction for another.
He recently announced a plan to
get methadone patients at city-run
hospitals off methadone, despite
warnings from some drug abuse
experts that the addicts will wind up
back on heroin.
Yesterday, Giuliani said: "I think
that morally, philosophically and
practically it:s a bad question for
America to say, 'Let's double the
number of people on methadone.'
Let's try to make America drug-
McCaffrey refused to criticize
Giuliani directly, saying only:
"We've got a problem based on
ignorance. Methadone is the only
cheap, effective tool."
About 900 clinics in the country
dispense methadone, which was
popularized some 30 years ago. It
blunts the craving for heroin.
Sheryl Massaro, a spokesperson
for the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, said McCaffrey's policy was
based on recommendations made by
a panel of specialists at the National
Academy of Sciences who called
methadone "more likely to work
than any other therapy" for heroin
Dr. David Lewis, project director
of the new Physician Leadership on
National Drug Policy, composed of
prominent doctors and public health
leaders, said: "Yes, McCaffrey's
totally right on this one. Yes, medi-
cine and science are behind
McCaffrey on this one."
WASHINGTON (AP) - A burst
of radiation from a distant star
smashed into the Earth's upper
atmosphere last month with enough
energy to power civilization for 4
billion years, astronomers say.
The immense wave of energy, the
most powerful ever recorded from
beyond the sun, caused at least t
satellites to shut down briefly, buW
reached the Earth's surface at a
strength equal only to a typical, sin-
gle dental X-ray.
"We've been monitoring things
like this for 30 years and we've
never seen anything like this
before," Kevin Hurley, a research
physicist at the University of
California, Berkeley, said yesterday
at a NASA news conference.
The burst of gamma and X-M
radiation struck the Earth over the
Pacific Ocean at night on Aug. 27
and was so powerful that it tem-
porarily ionized the upper atmos-
phere just as the sun does in the
APPHOTO daytime, said Hurley.
Seven scientific satellites, five in
rday. orbit of the Earth, one approaching
an asteroid far beyond, and one near
- the orbit of Jupiter, all detected the
massive eruption. Hurley said
burst was so intense that two of t
satellites were forced to shut down
to protect their electronics.
However, the energy was largely
absorbed by the upper atmosphere
and only a minuscule amount of
radiation reached the Earth's sur-
face. It posed no hazard to life,
The eruption came from a ne
tron star, called SGR1900+14 in t
constellation Aquila some 20,000
light years away.
A neutron star is the collapsed
core left after a massive star
United States Drug Policy Chief General Barry McCaffrey speaks during the
American Methadone Treatment Association Conference in New York yestei
t t ;}
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A light year is about 6 trillion
Astronomers said it is extremely
rare for such a distant stellar explo-
sion to have any effect on Earth,
attesting to the immensity of O
They estimated that the energy, if
captured and put to use, could
power all of the Earth's energy
needs for a billion billion years -
that is one billion periods of one
"In this five-minute long flash we
saw as much energy as there will be
coming from the sun for the next
300 years." said Hurley. 0
"If we could harness this energy
we would have enough power te
power every city, every village,
every light bulb until the end of the
universe and far beyond."
The source star already was being
studied because it is one of four
known members of a class of stellar
objects called "soft gamma ray
These are neutron stars that put
out steady flashes of gamma ra ,
But the extreme energy burst last
month also suggests the object is a
magnetar, a weird type of star first
suggested by astrophysicists Robert
Duncan of the University of Texas,
Austin, and Christopher Thompson
of the University of North Carolina,
The dramatic proof of the star's
existence, said Cornell Univer k
astronomer Jim Cordes, "is a
umph for theoretical astrophysics.
"This is the Sammy Sosa and
Mark McGwire of astrophysics,"
Cordes added. "It is that big a deal."
"It (the discovery) is that big."'
Duncan said at the news confer-
ence that magnetars are rapidly
spinning neutron stars that have
created a magnetic field far greater
than any other known.
He said the magnetic field aroun
the star is so powerful that f .
more than 100,000 miles away "it
could erase the magnetic strip on
your credit card and suck the keys
out of your pocket."
Duncan said the energy burst
probably occurred when the mag-
netic field ripped apart the one-
mile thick metal crust of the star,
releasing an immense eruption df
X-rays and gamma rays.
This radiation is not optically vis-
ible, but it can be detected by
instruments on satellites.
Magnetars are extremely dente
objects, containing one and a half
times the mass of the sun in an area
iust 12 miles across, he said.
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