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.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Should States Require Drug Tests for Benefits Recipients?

Nariah, age 3, eats a fruit cup for dinner
 without electricity. Her mother may soon have to pass
a drug test to receive aid in Missouri. [NY Times]

Dozens of states are proposing mandatory drug tests for applicants to qualify for state benefits, making it tougher for people to receive welfare, unemployment assistance, and job training. Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Missouri have already passed such laws.

Drug testing would ensure that tax dollars are not used to subsidize a person’s drug use. If the state is giving out money that is ultimately being spent on drugs, the state is, albeit indirectly, enabling the recipients. However, there are holes in this line of thinking.

This type of law will unfairly harm dependents (most of whom are children) who can’t stop other people from abusing drugs. Simply cutting a drug-user off will only exacerbate the problem, especially if people have to turn to crime (e.g. drug dealing) to survive. If a person tests positive, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to receive free or state-subsidized treatment? Drug testing, without any plan of action to get off drugs, seems pointless.
Florida has already passed a law requiring drug tests to qualify for state assistance. Only 1-2 percent of applicants tested positive, which is quite a bit less than about 8 percent of the general population. While the results are still to be determined, data show that applications have dropped since the law passed.

Film Festival Showcases Horrors of Addiction, Gift of Recovery

Recovery is getting “reel” this weekend, or real that is, as the Los Angeles-based group, Writers in Treatment, hosts the annual Reel Recovery Film Festival.
The festival aims to bring recovery out of the closet in Hollywood. This year’s films include the “The Secret World of Recovery,” the 2011 documentary that follows novelist Leslie Glass and her screenwriter daughter Lindsey as they travel the country reporting on changes in addiction treatment.
The film will also feature a film made at the 2010 AA World Convention in Austin, the 1996 film “Trainspotting,” 2004’s “Down to the Bone” and the 1956 film “On the Bowery.” Robert Downey Sr. will discuss the making of “Bowery.” The event closes with “A Musical Journey through the Steps” and a “schmooze without booze” party.
Too bad I’m stuck on the east coast, at least for now. Art is not only an outlet for the artist; it also makes addiction part of the public consciousness. Luckily, I can still check out many of the films at home or in local indie cinemas.
Learn more about the festival, and the different films here (scroll down the home page of WIT):

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Alternatives to Methadone Maintenance Likely

A man takes his daily dose of methadone to taper off opiates.
Heroin addicts might soon have an alternative to conventional methadone or abstinence-based treatments, if a clinical trial in Vancouver proves to be effective.
The Canadian federal government recently approved the study that will test the effectiveness of the prescription pain reliever Dilaudid or injectable heroin on the treatment of 322 heroin addicts.
An earlier study showed that hard-to-treat heroin addicts responded much better to medically prescribed heroin than methadone. After 12 months, 88 percent of the subjects prescribed heroin were still in treatment, as opposed to 54 percent who received methadone. Researchers were surprised to see that a small group prescribed Dilaudid was just as likely to stay in treatment as the heroin group, though the Dilaudid group was not large enough to present significant scientific conclusions.
The new study might open a new door for treatment if it shows Dilaudid to be as effective on hardcore addicts as prescribed heroin. If successful, Dilaudid could be used as a second line of treatment for addicts, if methadone maintenance fails.
In America, medical providers would probably experience less regulatory hurdles and political baggage in prescribing Delaudid than heroin as a methadone alternative.  In the U.S. and Canada, providers cannot administer heroin to addicts who benefit from the therapy. Delaudid might be the best substitute for heroin, if this clinical trial is effective.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Real Housewives or Real Train Wrecks? Alcoholism Rears its Ugly Head on Reality TV

Take several bored rich ladies, give them a sense of entitlement, the glimmer of celebrity, and mix with alcohol. Pick a city. Repeat.
This, in all its trashy glory, essentially sums up Bravo’s hit reality franchise, the Real Housewives. Each series focuses on the “housewives” of Orange County, New York, D.C., Atlanta, Beverly Hills, and Miami. For many Americans, it’s a glance at the bizarre life of a former homecoming queen or quasi-socialite. Entertaining, trivial, and ridiculous, the series center around arguments fueled by alcohol, resentment, and jealousy.
Similar models for reality television have existed for decades. Before her tragic death by overdose in 2007, Anna Nicole Smith was just your quirky girl-next-door on the Anna Nicole Show, who obsessed over pickles and whined about her sex life (or lack thereof). MTV casted Jason Wahler as a womanizing bad boy, who played Lauren Conrad’s love interest on Laguna Beach and the Hills from 2005-2007. Seven stays in rehab and six alcohol-related arrests later, Wahler blames his bout with alcoholism on the pressures of being on reality television.
While watching reality television, it’s easy to forget that these are actual people. Often cast as eccentric, neurotic, or wild, many of these “stars” really suffer from mental illness. Although entertaining, reality television often seems to target, and subsequently exploits, those suffering or prone to addiction.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Scientist Closer to Creating Addiction Vaccine

Dr. Kim Janda, pictured, is a visionary in addictionology.
A shot to stop measles, the flu, Chicken Pox, HPV, Hepatitis B, Tetanus…and drug addiction?

Twenty-five years of intensive research and over 200 million dollars in clinical studies later, Dr. Kim Janda is slightly closer to having a vaccine to curb drug addiction.
Although it’s uncertain if or when a vaccine will be a viable option for addicts, Janda, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute, has made considerable breakthroughs in helping people stay clean off illicit drugs. This July, Dr. Janda’s lab announced that it produced a vaccine that dulled the effects of heroin on rats. Rodents given the vaccine didn’t get high from heroin, so they stopped using the drug, in contrast to the rats that helped themselves to heroin after experiencing its pain-deadening effects.
Still, Dr. Janda has a long way to go before the vaccine becomes a reality in the fight against drug addiction. Janda’s phase 2 trial for a nicotine vaccine was declared a failure after people who were administered the vaccine stopped smoking no faster than those given a placebo. Dr. Janda’s vaccines have yet to meet approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Alcoholism: No Longer a Disease?

Well, not exactly.
The American Medical Association (AMA) calls alcoholism a disease, and people have been framing alcoholism as a disease for more than a 100 years. Now, one psychologist argues that the disease model can impede the diagnosis, treatment, and understanding of alcoholism.
Lance Brendan Young is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Comprehensive Access & Delivery Research and Evaluation in Iowa City, Iowa. He claims that thinking of alcoholism as a disease increases the stigma of abnormality (of being permanently deviant in body and mind).

Substance Abuse among Seniors to Worsen

The need for drug and alcohol treatment for older Americans is expected to double by 2020, experts estimate.
With more people living longer, more people are abusing drugs (including prescription medicine) and alcohol later in life. Nearly 35 million people in the United States are 65 years or older. Approximately 17 percent of this population abuse substances.
Baby boomers have had more exposure to alcohol and illegal drugs than their parents, and they are more prone to use substances to alleviate with medical problems. Leading addiction treatment providers, like the Hanley Center, expect a much higher number of older adults in treatment in the future.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Famous Surfer Fights Jail Time for Meth Charges

Should significant clean time and good behavior prevent a person from going to prison for selling drugs?

Anthony Ruffo, former pro-surfer, thinks so.
Mr. Ruffo has been clean from methamphetamines for nearly a year. He continues to participate in drug rehabilitation. He now works with other recovering addicts, even hosting a weekly support meeting in the house where he once dealt drugs for one of California’s most violent street gangs.
Former professional surfer and legend of the Santa Cruz surfing community, Ruffo had the life many surfers only dream of: lucrative corporate sponsorships, photo shoots, beautiful women, and opportunities to surf around the globe. Yet, his accomplishments as a professional surfer have been marred by a 15-year addiction to meth and numerous run-ins with the law.