Street gangs, crime serve as deviant leisure activities for youths

Although at-risk youths may have a variety of reasons for joining street gangs, a new study suggests that gang membership and criminal acts often serve as deviant leisure activities, fulfilling young people’s needs for excitement, a sense of belonging and social support.

Based on interviews with 30 former street gang members in Illinois, the study is one of the first to explore gang involvement as leisure activity. The paper was co-written by Liza Berdychevsky, Monika Stodolska and Kim Shinew, all professors of recreation, sport and tourism at the University of Illinois.

“Studies like this are particularly important right now, given the incidence of gun violence in cities such as Chicago and the renewed attention to gang crime nationwide,” Berdychevsky said. “Developing an in-depth understanding of what drives delinquent and criminal activities — and ways that sports and other leisure activities can be used for prosocial purposes — can help create more effective prevention, intervention and rehabilitation programs for at-risk youths and young offenders.”

Full story of deviant leisure activities for youths at Science Daily

Jeff Sessions Directs Federal Prosecutors to Pursue Tougher Penalties for Drug Crimes

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced he is directing federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible for drug crimes.

Civil rights groups and Republican legislators oppose the sentencing changes, The Washington Post reports.

Sessions sent a memo to prosecutors that overturned former Attorney General Eric Holder’s instructions to avoid charging certain defendants with the most serious crimes that carried the longest sentences.

Full story of Jeff Sessions on penalties for drug crimes at drugfree.org

The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems

The startle response, often recorded as an eye-blink reflex, is a defensive measure believed to reflect emotional processing. Patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) show abnormal startle-reflex responses to alcohol-related stimuli. This study examined startle-reflex responses to various visual stimuli among heavy drinkers, and assessed whether certain patterns predict the development of AUDs four years later.

Researchers measured the startle-reflex responses of 287 men recruited from public health-care centers in Spain: 239 non-dependent, heavy-drinking men and 48 healthy men who comprised the control group. All participants were exposed to four types of pictures: alcohol-related, aversive, appetitive, and neutral. The participants were subsequently examined four years later to determine the predictive value of their startle response on drinking status.

Full story of eye-blink reflex and AUDs at Science Daily

Bullying’s lasting impact

A new study led by the University of Delaware found that kids who are bullied in fifth grade often suffer from depression and begin using alcohol and other substances a few years after the incidents.

“Students who experienced more frequent peer victimization in fifth grade were more likely to have greater symptoms of depression in seventh grade, and a greater likelihood of using alcohol, marijuana or tobacco in tenth grade,” said the study’s leader, Valerie Earnshaw, a social psychologist and assistant professor in UD’s College of Education and Human Development.

The study involved researchers from universities and hospitals in six states, who analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2011 from 4,297 students on their journey from fifth through tenth grade. The findings were published online in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Full story of bullying’s lasting impact at Science Daily

Fentanyl can sicken first responders: Possible solution?

Dan Kallen, a detective in southern New Jersey, was searching a home with fellow officers in August 2015, when they found a bag of white powder. Kallen removed a scoop of powder for testing. When he was done, he closed the bag, and a bit of air escaped, carrying a puff of powder with it. It was enough to send Kallen and a fellow officer to the emergency room.

The drugs in the bag had been spiked with fentanyl, a synthetic drug that, like heroin, is an opioid. But it is 50 times more potent than heroin — even a tiny amount inhaled or absorbed through the skin can be extremely dangerous or deadly. Kallen described his experience in a Drug Enforcement Agency video that warns first responders of the dangers of handling unknown powders.

Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are working to address this hazard. In a paper published in Forensic Chemistry, they report that two technologies, Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS) and Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS), can detect trace amounts of fentanyl even when mixed with heroin and other substances.

Full story of Fentanyl danger to first responders at Science Daily