The year 2013 kept news outlets bustling. From the Boston Marathon bombings to the Syrian civil war to the selection of a new pope, each month brought major changes on a national and global scale. In addition to the usual political and pop culture news, there were numerous major drug stories that punctuated 2013.

Two U.S. States (and Uruguay) Say Yes to Legalized Marijuana

In November 2012, two states — Colorado and Washington — passed ballot measures designed to make recreational marijuana use legal. For Colorado, marijuana users will be able to purchase up to an ounce (one quarter of an ounce for non-Colorado residents) at licensed marijuana shops beginning January 1, 2014. In addition to Colorado and Washington, 19 additional U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana.
On the international stage, Uruguay became the first country in the world to make the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana legal. Although only Uruguay residents will be able to purchase the drug, lawmakers hope that the move will increase revenues and cut down on the dangerous, often violent actions taken by black market dealers.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Uses Crack Cocaine

Rob Ford Does Crack Cocaine

Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto since 2010, has always been known as a colorful personality. In 2013, however, he rose to international fame when embroiled in a drug scandal. A video was released showing Ford smoking crack cocaine. He later admitted publicly that he had used crack, “probably in one of my drunken stupors.”

Ford was stripped of his powers following additional allegations that he had held wild parties at City Hall, hired prostitutes, sexually harassed female staffers, and frequently smoked marijuana while in office. Ford has denied some of the allegations (although he admitted to smoking marijuana and crack cocaine) and plans to challenge the removal of his mayoral powers.

Glee Star Cory Monteith Dies from Drug Overdose

In July 2013, fans of the hit Fox show “Glee” were shocked to learn that star Cory Monteith — who played the character Finn Hudson — had suddenly died. Monteith struggled with drug and alcohol abuse during his teenage years but eventually entered recovery following an intervention made by his mother and friends. Following his fame on “Glee,” Monteith began using drugs again and entered rehab in early 2013. He was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room, and autopsy results revealed that he died from an overdose caused by heroin and alcohol.

Krokodil Enters the United States

Krokodil in the USA

Sometimes labeled “the world’s most deadly drug” or “the zombie drug,” desomorphine’s street name is krokodil. Although krokodil was first manufactured in the 1930s, it only became a popular street drug in Russia during the 2000s.

Part of the appeal of krokodil is its ease of production from over-the-counter medications containing codeine. The drug has similar effects to morphine and other opioids, but it is 8 to 10 times more potent than morphine. However, its severe side effects make it a dangerous threat to public health.

In 2013, the first cases of krokodil abuse arose in Chicago, with five individuals reporting to the emergency room with major damage to their veins. Many addicted people develop black or green scaly skin after injecting the drug. The long-term effects of the drug include rotting gums, ears, noses, and lips; serious skin sores or ulcers; bone infections; and decayed jaw and facial bones. Eventually, destruction of soft tissue, kidney problems, and liver disease kill affected individuals.