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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quitting Smoking: Why Willpower Isn't Enough

In rain or snow, they are castigated to standing outdoors in designated smoking areas. Still, they are resilient. They puff and puff, in the face of their chronic cough. Ineligible for many jobs, and confronted with patronizing lectures every doctor visit, they smoke on, in spite of each mounting societal pressure to quit.
Smokers these days have every reason to stop. In fact, two-thirds of smokers want to quit, and more than half have tried before. So, why do smokers subject themselves to preventable forms of cancer and heart disease, and perpetuate such a terrible practice?
There’s a simple explanation for the smoker’s paradox: most smokers today light up because are addicts.
“Smoking is more than a habit. It is a true addiction and we need to acknowledge it as such,” said Veda Peters from the British Columbia Lung Association.
Public health campaigns labeling smoking as a choice or habit can be credited drastically cut cigarette use. In 1965, 42 percent of Americans smoked. In 2010, the CDC reported that more than half that number (about 20 percent) still smoked, after decades of insurmountable evidence that smoking kills.

Those who can quit easily have done so already, making federal and social policies to curb smoking (like higher taxes and further restrictions) less effective now. Research demonstrates that smokers are more likely to get treatment and stay tobacco-free once they view smoking as an addiction rather than a matter of willpower.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking Chances with Narcotic Painkillers

A recovering addict must avoid taking narcotic painkillers to treat chronic pain (if they wish to stay in recovery). However, what about the non-addict? Better yet, what about a person who is not an addict, but has the potential to become one?

For many recovering addicts, the idea of surgery causes a heightened sense of anxiety.

Aside from the slicing, bleeding and unique set of risks associated with any surgery, addicts have to wonder about the ensuing pain of going under the knife---and debate whether taking prescribed narcotic painkillers will affect their sobriety or bring about a relapse.

Narcotic painkillers serve a very useful purpose. A non-addict can and often should take narcotics like Oxycontin and Vicodin when they are prescribed by a doctor, especially if he or she will endure extreme pain following the procedure. Rather than lying in bed in misery, a person can pop a narcotic painkiller to make life bearable, even if it means sleeping or nursing banana popsicles until they can be semi-functional (and lucid again).
For the recovering addict, though, narcotics are rarely ever a viable option. Treatment centers (e.g. Ridgeview Institute) teach people that narcotics of any kind threaten an addict’s sobriety---and simply being prescribed something for pain is not reason enough to take it.
“Earth people” (as non-addicts are called in recovery circles) have the ability to take narcotics responsibly. After a knee surgery, many (if not most) people can simply take pills to relieve pain, as prescribed, and stop taking them when the medicine is rendered unnecessary. A non-addict will normally complain that the medicine makes them feel loopy or tired, and will stop taking them as soon as possible.

But for a recovering addict, pills like Oxycontin and Valium are the very drugs that threatened to bring them to premature deaths, prison, or suicide. An addict has difficulty comprehending why someone would complain about the buzz they might feel from a painkiller [Isn’t that the point?]. Narcotics can make an addict feel invincible, relaxed, and at peace again. Narcotics---while just another occasional drug for an Earth person to deal with---can get an addict high, and can compromise his or her very sanity and health.
After exhausting all other alternatives, some people in recovery will inevitably have to take a narcotic painkiller. Still, there are ways of managing the consumption to avoid relapse. A sponsor or trusted family member can secure the medicine, and administer it as prescribed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gambling Nun Condemned to Life of Solitary Confinement

Sister Marie Thornton had a serious gambling problem. So serious, she stole nearly $1 million from Iona College to fund her habit, where she served as a trusted financial officer.
A judge spared Sister Suzie (as she is known by the Order of St. Joseph) three years in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement. The church was not so lenient, though.  If she stays with the convent, Sister Suzie will likely spend the rest of her life in solitary confinement, rarely allowed out of her small Philadelphia dorm room.
According to court records, the church forbids her from leaving the convent to see family or friends or being seen in public whatsoever. She can only leave the convent to go to therapy. She can’t take meals with fellow sisters, nor can she work in the Mother house doing clerical jobs.
“She can’t even go the store and get milk,” a source told the New York Post. “My belief is she will never have contact with people again.” The source said that the order will never allow her to teach again. Thornton holds a doctorate in education and served as an assistant school superintendent for the Archdiocese of Newark. She served in the convent 48 years prior to the criminal conviction.
Thornton should be punished. To be honest, she ought to have gone to jail for several years. Her actions were inexcusable, notwithstanding her inability to control the urge to gamble. She stole from a small college that trusted her, and threw away valuable (and limited) funds that were meant to educate students.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

White Kids Really Like Drugs, Says Study

The nation’s racists were shocked this week to learn that white adolescents are more likely to use drugs or alcohol than their black or Asian counterparts.
The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 39% of white teens between the ages of 12 and 17 admitted to using substances in the past year, compared to just 32% of blacks and 24% of Asians. White kids were almost twice more likely to have substance abuse disorders than black participants.
The findings contradict prevailing public perceptions about drug and alcohol users.
Surely, this will put unfair stereotypes about drugs and alcohol to rest in America!
No, but seriously, if you’ve seen any PSAs lately, you’d probably think that drug and alcohol abuse is a much bigger problem for black than white youth. Take for example, this commercial:

Or, how about this one? Exhibit B:

With these findings, perhaps “Above the Influence” should target a new demographic? Maybe there’s a drug problem outside of major urban (and black) areas? Perhaps in rural and predominantly white places, like West Virginia
“There is certainly still a myth out there that black kids are more likely to have problems with drugs than white kids, and this documents as clearly as any study we’re aware of that the rate of…substance-related disorders among African-American youths is significantly lower,” said Dan Blazer of Duke’s Medical Center, a chief author of the study, to Raleigh News & Observer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Alcohol Killed Amy Winehouse

The London coroner confirmed today that Amy Winehouse died from alcohol intoxication. This is awful news. There’s not a lot more to say. After much speculation about her cause of death on July 23, rumors can finally be put to rest.
So, could the world please come to a collective agreement to stop coining jokes about how Amy Winehouse “should have gone to rehab”? The jokes are tired. This type of commentary does not make anyone edgy, original, or brutally honest. The jokes are as distasteful as they are trite.
Winehouse was an irreplaceable musical great. Her lyrics screamed of heartbreak and self-loathing that only a truly depressed person could express. Winehouse had the ability to harness crippling emotion into sultry and extraordinarily sung ballads, winning her five Grammy Awards.
She now joins the ranks of Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison to meet the same untimely death at age 27 due to drug and alcohol addiction.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

America’s Dirty Little Secret No More: Sex Addiction Goes Mainstream

When Tiger Woods first found himself in the media spotlight in 1996, he was America’s golden boy: prodigal golfer, Stanford-educated, and a welcome splash of color to the world of professional golf. Nearly 13 years later, the public was shocked to hear of his numerous extramarital affairs and lewd phone messages (with a porn star, no less). Did this make Tiger Woods a sex addict, if such a thing exists, or a wealthy athlete who indulged too much—and got caught?
Almost suddenly, America got a crash course in sexual addiction. But sex addiction has been part of the public consciousness for years—and the media illustrates the addiction at an increasing frequency. 

As humans, we love to love, and we love to be loved. It’s our evolutionary duty to conceive offspring, so we breed now, and breed often. Acting on our primal urges makes sex exciting—and can make for out-of-breath, out-of-body, can’t-believe-this-is-happening sex. Simply put, sex is healthy and normal.
But how exactly does a person become a sex addict, and how is that even treatable? People can abstain from drugs, but a married man or woman can’t be expected to give up sex forever. And why now, in 2011, do people claim to be sex addicts, when just 20 years ago they would be labeled libertines whose lifestyles caught up with them?
What makes sex addiction an addiction is the cyclical pattern of thinking and behavior that persists in spite of harmful consequences for the addict, and in some cases, other people. A sex addict uses sex as a coping mechanism for life’s stresses. Like other addictions, there’s a repetitive pattern of behavior, a feeling of euphoria from engaging in such behavior, a routine way of planning and acting out the behavior, followed by a period of withdrawal and repeated cravings.