This Way Up for Saturday 21 October 2017

This week, the US opioid epidemic shows no sign of letting up, will this become a local problem? Using bacteria to mine precious metals from e-waste, in Naked Science, skin memory cells that enable faster healing and plants that trick bees with the colour blue. Plus, what does the change of government mean for our local tech sector?

Opioid abuse - US crisis comes down under

 US Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) shows 20 mg pills of OxyCotin.

US Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) shows 20 mg pills of OxyCotin. Photo: AFP or licensors

The opium poppy has been relieving pain and getting people high for at least five thousand years, but today there's an epidemic of abuse in the US, and it could be heading down under.

President Trump announced in a tweet this week that congressman Tom Marino, nominated to lead the National Office of Drug Control Policy, would be withdrawing his name for consideration as drug czar. 

This follows an investigative report by the Washington Post and 60 minutes about his role in recent changes to drug laws that has made it more difficult for the DEA, the drug enforcement administration to fight the opioid epidemic.  

Meanwhile here in NZ, based on figures supplied to This Way Up from the Ministry of Health, it appears opioid prescriptions have increased by 11% over the last 5 years, and a decision will be made by Medsafe shortly on whether common over-the-counter painkillers will become prescription-only.

This would be in line with recent changes to the way painkillers are controlled in Australia. 

Kate Aubusson, health editor at The Sydney Morning Herald and Nick Miroff from the Washington Post speak with Simon Morton.


This Way Up: Codeine

Golden Bugs: mining e-waste for gold

There aren't too many options for recycling your old computers, laptops, phones and tablets here in NZ - most of it gets dumped in landfill or sent overseas.

But now a company in Auckland has developed a way to mine precious metals like gold, silver and palladium using bacteria.

Simon Morton gets a tour of Mint Innovation's Auckland headquarters with CEO Will Barker and chief scientist Dr Ollie Crush.

What does a new government mean for the tech sector?

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Photo: Flickr

Tech correspondent Peter Griffin looks at how the change in government will impact the local tech industry.

Science news: better faster?

Growing skin in the lab.

University of Auckland scientists have developed a revolutionary way to grow skin in the lab. Photo: RNZ / David Steemson

Scientists have discovered memory in skin cells enables faster healing, but could also cause malignancies like cancer.

Plus, how plants can trick pollinators like bumblebees by using the colour blue.