Saturday, September 29, 2007

Battling the Bottle

Acting U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu said he didn’t start drinking alcohol until after the age of 21 — and he credits his parents with setting a good example.

While growing up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, he remembers his father enjoyed an occasional beer and his mother a rare glass of wine.

“My parents were my role models,” the nation’s top health educator said in a telephone interview while on his way to the governor’s mansion Tuesday. “It’s exactly the message that we’re trying to get out into the community — that parents and adults need to model responsible drinking, when it is appropriate and when it is legal. But also be respectful of the fact that the science tells us increasingly that underage drinking is dangerous to our youth, (and) is also dangerous to our community.”

One of the dangers is death.

Across the nation, underage drinking contributes to the death of about 5,000 young people a year through automobile accidents, homicides, suicides, drownings, burns and falls.

“These are all totally preventable deaths,” Moritsugu said before his public address at The Lensic Performing Arts Center. “We really need to do something about it, and that’s the reason that I’m here.”

At the request of first lady Barbara Richardson, Moritsugu came to New Mexico this week to promote his Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. More research on adolescent alcohol use; careful coordination between parents, schools, communities and governments; and consistent policies are part of the national plan.

Binge drinking — consuming five or more drinks — is common among New Mexico students. In 2005, more than a third of high school freshmen and about half of juniors and seniors reported heavy drinking within the previous month.

“I would tend to say we have a big problem on our hands.” said Alice Sealy, who coordinates Teen Court in Santa Fe and urged offenders in the program to attend Moritsugu’s talk.

“The biggest deterrent is if parents would notice (that their children are drinking),” she said. Police who break up parties should call the parents of underage drinkers, she said, but don’t always do so.

You might not be able to keep your child from sampling alcohol before the legal drinking age — 70 percent of Americans have had at least one drink by age 18 — but you can teach your child what responsible drinking looks like and why it’s important.

Sealy agrees parental behavior is powerful. “If your kids see you drinking every night, they think it’s OK,” she said.

Though parents and guardians can legally serve alcohol to their underage children in their own home, Moritsugu said he discourages the practice. “I think that we send our kids a mixed message when we say on one hand, ‘No, you can’t drink; you shouldn’t drink.’ On the other hand we say, ‘You can drink at home,’ ” he said. “Our youth, our teenagers are looking for a clear and unequivocal message — and we need to be consistent if we’re going to get that message across.”

The societal norm of letting alcohol flow during holidays where children are present troubles Sealy, who stepped in to prevent an underage drinker from driving after a Passover Seder.

Age 21 isn’t just an arbitrary number. Science shows that brains continue to develop into the 20s.

“The earlier one starts drinking and exposes the developing brain to alcohol, the more risk ... that person is taking. If there is a risk, why take that risk?” Moritsugu said.

Those who start drinking before age 15 are five times more susceptible to alcohol problems in adulthood, studies show.

Frank Magourilos of the Santa Fe County DWI Program said the surgeon general’s prevention strategies are already in use here. The acclaimed Project Northland curriculum was implemented in Santa Fe middle schools last year and will start up next semester in Pojoaque middle schools.

Magourilos said New Mexico’s strong underage-sales law — which made it a fourth-degree felony in 2005 to sell or give alcohol to minors — seems to be an effective move. “That was a great thing that the governor did,” he said.

Statewide, the law led to 113 arrests in 2007 and 123 arrests in 2006, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said joint sting operations with the state produced six arrests here last year. However, there has been only one arrest this year because of the lack of grant funding to conduct sting operations.

“Research tells us that underage drinking is connected to higher rates of teenage pregnancy, suicide and failure in school,” Dr. Alfredo Vigil, the state health secretary, said in a statement. “We all need to work together to prevent our young people from drinking and putting their lives at risk.”

Moritsugu has been acting surgeon general for more than a year, since Dr. Richard Carmona resigned because he felt pressured by the Bush administration to present a political agenda. Moritsugu is scheduled to take the underage drinking tour to eight states.

Underage drinking: What you can do

Tobacco and illegal drug use are down among American teens, but heavy underage drinking continues.

What families can do about underage alcohol use:

* Support your teens and give them space to grow.
* Set clear rules about alcohol use and enforce those rules.
* Teach your children about the dangers of underage drinking and make clear your expectations.
* Help your teens make good decisions about alcohol.
* Tell teens that any alcohol in your home is off limits to them.
* Don’t let your teens attend parties where alcohol is served.
* Help your teens get professional help if you’re worried about their involvement with alcohol.
* Understand the risk of alcohol use goes up with social transitions (graduation, getting a driver’s license), depression, contact with peers involved in deviant activities and a family history of alcoholism.
* Be a positive role model: Don’t drink too much or too often. Get help if you think you have an alcohol-related problem.


* Alcohol dependence rates in the United States are highest among 18- to 20-year-olds.
* Teens drink less often than adults but drink a larger volume of alcohol on a single occasion.
* Underage drinking kills about 5,000 young people a year.
* Teens who choose to drink may have behavior problems; a strong desire for new experiences; or a history of family conflict, stress or alcohol problems.
* As early as age 9, children think alcohol use is OK.

source: The New Mexican

Monday, September 24, 2007

Substance addiction — a beatable scourge

Abusing alcohol and other drugs gives four choices for the addict: jails, institutions, death or recovery.

Addiction is a chronic disease and recovery is possible. September is designated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as Recovery Month.

Throughout the month, people across the United States, Nevada and in Elko are celebrating recovery from alcohol and other drug abuse. National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month recognizes the accomplishments of people in recovery, the contributions of treatment providers, and advances in substance abuse treatment. This year’s theme, “Saving Lives, Saving Dollars,” highlights the enormous benefits recovery offers to individuals, loved ones and society.

Addiction to alcohol or drugs is a primary disease of the brain. Prolonged alcohol and/or drug abuse produces a change in brain chemistry and function that often leads to compulsive use. Once substance use becomes compulsive, the individual almost always needs support and treatment to become clean and sober.

Substance abuse is both psychological and physical and a sustained recovery requires a continuum of treatment as well as an effective recovery support system once abstinence is achieved. Due to the physical changes in the brain, substance addiction to alcohol and/or drugs is diagnosed as a primary disease, like other chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure.

“Alcohol and drug addiction is treatable,” says Dorothy North, chief executive officer of Vitality Unlimited, “and help is available for those suffering from the disease.”

North should know. She has worked in the field of substance abuse treatment since 1974. Her expertise includes counseling, administration, treatment of criminal justice system offenders, and designing and developing successful treatment programs in California and Nevada. She is a nationally certified Level II addiction counselor, Nevada licensed alcohol and drug counselor, certified employee aassistance professional, certified professional consultant to management, substance abuse treatment professional, and certified program aadministrator.

Under her leadership since 1978, Vitality Unlimited has expanded services and now offers several treatment options, including intensive residential treatment programs in Elko for adults and adolescents. They also operate a residential treatment for adolescents in Washoe County. Outpatient counseling services are available in Elko, Battle Mountain, Winnemucca and Reno.

Nevada’s youth

Substance abuse and dependency among Nevada residents presents a problem. The trend among Nevada youth, in particular, is disturbing. Adolescents are starting to use alcohol, tobacco and substances of abuse at increasingly younger ages. Young adults who are just beginning to take on more mature responsibilities in Nevada communities are more likely than others to drink heavily, smoke cigarettes and use substances of abuse.

Why is this so disturbing? Because young people who report first using alcohol before age 15 are five times more likely to report past year alcohol dependence or abuse as adults than persons who first used at age 21 or older. This conclusion came from a special analysis of the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health published by SAMHSA.

Worse yet, it is not just the young adults who are abusing alcohol. Binge drinking, identified as drinking five or more drinks on an occasion, has been traditionally higher in Nevada than the national average. The 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey estimates that 17.6 percent of adult Nevadans participated in binge drinking during the past 30 days compared to the national average of 14.4 percent. Additionally, 7.4 percent of Nevada adults indicated heavy drinking in the past 30 days compared to the national average of 4.9 percent. Heavy drinking is defined as adult men having more than two drinks per day and adult women having more than one drink per day.

All this data can be boiled down to one statistic. According to the Nevada Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Agency, in 2006 there were 207,071 people in the state of Nevada suffering from substance use disorders.

Criminal connection

Drugs are directly related to crimes because they are illegal. Information from the “2004 Nevada Statewide Strategy for Drug Control, Violence Prevention and System Improvement,” published by the Nevada Department of Public Safety, Office of Criminal Justice Assistance indicates that during the 2005 calendar year, 10,608 adults were arrested for crimes in Nevada, and 15,744 were arrested for alcohol related crimes. Trends over the past four years indicate that drug and alcohol related crimes are on the rise in the state.

In addition to their relationship with crime, drug and alcohol addiction are also related to irresponsible sexual behavior, teen pregnancies, injuries, suicide attempts, HIV infections, school drop outs, fetal alcohol syndrome, gang affiliations, homicides and death. Let’s not forget to take into account the associated health care costs of drinking and drugging.

In the State of Nevada Department of Public Safety 2006 Annual Report, Sandra Mazy, administrator of the Department of Public Safety, Office of Criminal Justice Assistance, wrote in the executive summary: “While the full extent of substance abuse and crime can only be estimated, statistics reveal the crime and drug or alcohol problems in Nevada are rampant. Nevada is the nation’s fastest growing state and with those rapid changes come struggles with crime and other problems. They negatively impact our public health, social services, criminal justice system, work productivity and tourism.”

Educating yourself and others about treatment options can ensure the health and well-being of Nevada residents. One obvious solution for Nevada is to identify high risk and substance using individuals before they progress to abuse and dependence. This will reduce future chronic alcohol and drug abuse cases and can greatly reduce the fiscal impact on the criminal justice system, health care system, and drug abuse treatment programs. Early identification and intervention and referral for substance abuse can also reduce the tremendous psychological and financial burden on the individual, family and community.

“We owe it to ourselves, our families, friends and the community to support treatment and recovery,” North says. “The time has come to remove the moral stigma from addiction.”

source: Elko Daily Free Press
By JUDY ANDRESON — Correspondent

Sunday, September 23, 2007

OUR VIEW - Behind bars, away from bars

Victims and their families have long been aware of the wanton destruction caused by repeat drunken drivers. It was through their advocacy that legislators toughened the laws on those who continue to threaten the public by getting behind the wheel of a car after boozing it up.

Now it appears the courts are taking the offenses seriously and meting out the kind of punishment many have been demanding to keep those hardcore, repeat offenders off the roads.

Several stories this week have brought home the severity with which the criminal justice system now responds to drunken drivers with multiple convictions.

Robert Scheller, a recidivist drunken driver with at least 12 convictions, who apparently has never gotten out of denial that he cannot drink and drive in safety, received a prison sentence of 6 to 8 years. That is hard time in a state correctional facility, not the looser constricts of a county jail.

A day later in the same building, Brian Johns of Abington was handed a 3½ -year jail sentence for vehicular homicide and third offense after pleading guilty to striking and killing Robert McCormick while the Rockland man was riding his bicycle. Judge John P. Connor Jr. had initially planned to sentence Johns to 2½ years in jail, but added the extra time after hearing details of the grisly accident from which Johns fled.

Few will disagree that alcoholism is a disease, one that requires treatment and compassion and an illness that has an effect on many people beyond the one who is afflicted with it.

But the problem is many who have this disease avoid appropriate treatment. The weekly box you see on this page proves that treatment is not effective if the patient refuses to participate and finds enablers at home and in the criminal justice system.

Scheller and Johns are two prime examples. When Scheller was arrested a year ago in Marshfield for drunken driving, it was discovered he was involved in a drunken driving accident in Pembroke a week earlier, where the police decided not to charge him but instead had Marshfield police take him home. Thankfully, a grand jury rectified that error.

When Johns pleaded guilty earlier this week, Connor asked, as required by law, where he had his last drink before the accident.

Johns apparently misunderstood the question and in an honest and quite revealing response said he was drinking at a picnic last Saturday, just five days before his court appearance.

There are far too many people constitutionally incapable of getting honest with themselves when it comes to the reality that they cannot have just one drink, because it leads to more and that leads to being impaired and then potentially turning a car into a two-ton killing machine.

New laws allow judges to ‘‘look back’’ at the entirety of a drunken driver’s record and that has resulted in many repeat convictions. But for far-too-many incorrigible drunks, ignition locks, loss of license, even the loss of their cars does not stop them from operating vehicles after drinking too much.

If a cancer patient or someone with diabetes refuses treatment, they, more than anyone, suffer the consequences. When an active, untreated alcoholic gets behind the wheel of a car, people like Robert McCormick pay the price.

We must stop those who become menaces on our roads when they cannot stop themselves. If putting them behind bars is the only solution, then safety has to trump compassion. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Your Views

Should people who can’t control their drinking be jailed? Tell us why or why not.

Write: Your Views, The Patriot Ledger, 400 Crown Colony Drive, Quincy, MA 02169

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Please include your home address and telephone number.

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger

Friday, September 21, 2007

Family history of alcoholism affects response to drug used to treat heavy drinking

New study in Biological Psychiatry

Philadelphia, PA, September 19, 2007 – Naltrexone is one of four oral medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcoholism. A recent large multicenter research study of alcohol dependence supported by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), the COMBINE Study, suggested that naltrexone produced a modest but significant benefit but another FDA-approved medication, acamprosate, was ineffective. Perhaps consistent with its modest effects in COMBINE, naltrexone is not widely prescribed in the treatment of alcoholism. Yet, clinicians report that naltrexone may have significant benefits for individual patients. To make naltrexone a more useful medication, it would be important to begin to identify groups of patients who might be more or less likely to show a significant clinical benefit from naltrexone prescription and to understand the causes of differential naltrexone efficacy. A new study that will appear in the September 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry suggests that alcohol dependent individuals with a family history of alcohol dependence may be more likely than alcohol dependent individuals without a family history of alcohol dependence to reduce their drinking in the laboratory when prescribed naltrexone.

Krishnan-Sarin and colleagues at the NIAAA Center for the Translational Neuroscience of Alcoholism studied alcohol consumption in the laboratory by alcohol-dependent individuals who were not seeking treatment. The participants were studied in the laboratory after 6 days of treatment with 0 mg (placebo), 50 mg, or 100 mg of naltrexone. The authors discovered that naltrexone decreased drinking in those with a family history of alcoholism and this effect was greatest with the highest naltrexone dose. However, it increased drinking in those without a family history of alcoholism and this effect was greatest at the highest naltrexone dose.

John H. Krystal, M.D., one of the authors, notes that “When studied in large groups, naltrexone appears to have a rather small effect upon the ability to reduce drinking or remain abstinent from alcohol. However, there is growing evidence that there are subgroups of patients who show substantial benefit from naltrexone, even when naltrexone fails to work in the overall trial (see Gueorguieva R et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Jun 1;61(11):1290-5).” According to Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D., the lead author, “The results suggest that family history of alcoholism may be an important predictor of clinical response to naltrexone and could potentially be used to guide clinical practice.” Dr. Krystal agrees, “These data suggest that family history might influence the optimal dosing of naltrexone and the nature of the clinical response.” Their hope is that these findings ultimately can contribute to a better treatment experience for some who are seeking to end their battle with alcohol.


Notes to Editors:

This article is “Family History of Alcoholism Influences Naltrexone-Induced Reduction in Alcohol Drinking” by Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, John H. Krystal, Julia Shi, Brian Pittman and Stephanie S. O'Malley. All authors are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. Dr. Krystal is also affiliated with the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Connecticut and he serves as the Editor of Biological Psychiatry. This article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 62, Issue 6 (September 15, 2007), published by Elsevier.

The other referenced article is R. Gueorguieva, R. Wu, B. Pittman, J. Cramer, R.A. Rosenheck, S.S. O’Malley and J.H. Krystal. New Insights into the Efficacy of Naltrexone Based on Trajectory-Based Reanalyses of Two Negative Clinical Trials. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Jun 1;61(11):1290-5.

Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Jayne M. Dawkins at (215) 239-3674 or to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.

About Biological Psychiatry

This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

Biological Psychiatry ( is ranked 4th out of the 95 Psychiatry titles and 16th out of 199 Neurosciences titles on the 2006 ISI Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Scientific.a

Monday, September 17, 2007

NIH Wins Two Emmy Awards For The Addiction Project

Two Institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have been honored with the prestigious Governors Award by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their work with HBO on the Addiction Project. "Addiction" is a 14-part documentary television series and multimedia initiative revealing the science of addiction, its treatment, recovery, and its costs to families and society. A diverse group of people who were battling alcohol or drug addiction were featured, as well as addiction experts from around the country.

The celebrated Governors Award is the Television Academy's highest honor and is given to individuals or organizations committed to important social causes. HBO developed the series, which includes the documentary, independent films, and a Website, in partnership with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"This honor reflects our commitment to effectively communicate research results to the public," said NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. "The multimedia nature of this project gave us the opportunity to reach out to millions of Americans with a message of hope." HBO worked closely with NIH scientists to ensure the scientific accuracy of the documentary.

More than 13 million people saw the documentary when it aired in March 2007. Millions more have seen it through HBO, DVDs sold in bookstores and online, podcasts, Web streams, a companion book, local and national outreach parties and screenings, and prominent local and national media coverage. Much of the outreach was coordinated by addiction and recovery advocacy groups, including Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Join Together, and Faces and Voices of Recovery, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The award was presented during the September 8th Creative Arts Emmy ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. In acceptance remarks, NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow said, "I want to thank the Academy for its recognition, and HBO for its vision in developing this project, which has allowed us to reach millions with our message-that addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease. It does not care if you are rich or poor, famous or unknown, a man or woman, or even a child. If science-based treatment principles are followed, addiction treatment can work, and people can reclaim their lives." Dr. Volkow was featured prominently in the documentary, as was Dr. Mark Willenbring, NIAAA's director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, and NIH grantees from across the country.

Currently, addiction affects 23.2 million Americans-of whom only about 10 percent are receiving the treatment they need. "HBO's Addiction Project afforded us the opportunity to directly acquaint viewers with available evidence-based medical and behavioral treatments," said NIAAA Director Dr. Ting-Kai Li. "This is especially important for disorders that for many years were treated outside the medical mainstream."

Each Institute has received an Emmy statuette. The Creative Arts Emmy ceremony will be televised on the E! Network on Saturday September 15th at 8:00 p.m. EST/PST. The centerpiece documentary can still be seen on HBO's Web site, , where the DVD and book are also available.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems and disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
source: Medical News Today

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Waiting for an alcoholic's last drink

I have a friend. Let's call him B. He is like a brother to me.

He is drinking himself to death. And I am watching.

I am not the only one, of course. His wife is watching. His teenage son is watching. They've tried to stop him, tried everything they could think of, and his response was to move out. That's how he is.

If only he got really scared, you think. But he did. He nearly died a few years ago from a hidden heart defect made worse by his weight, his inactivity, his drinking. It was only because he got to the right hospital in time, had a great doctor and I think some help from God that he survived. This is my second chance, he said then. I'm not going to blow it.

But he is.

The doctor told him he'd be dead in two years if he didn't change his "lifestyle." Changing his lifestyle means losing weight, getting exercise and getting off the booze.

That was two years ago. He is 30 pounds heavier now - and hitting the bottle with the new woman in his life, who encourages him to have just one, knowing (she has to know) that never in his life has he had just one.

I've always helped him, but I told him I wouldn't, not anymore, unless he quit drinking. He told me he didn't want my help. He didn't talk to me for months.

I used to drink with him, and so did his wife. But we both quit drinking because it's hard to enjoy a drink when someone you care about is drinking himself to death. Maybe we thought the example would show him something. She feels better. I feel better. He feels terrible.

But it doesn't matter. He drinks when he feels terrible. He drinks when he feels better. He drinks alone if no one will drink with him.

You can't do an intervention when someone has made clear that they'd rather lose everyone than their best friend the bottle. I lie in bed at night sometimes and imagine how I will sue the new woman in his life on his son's behalf, saying she fed him booze, enabled his drinking, contributed to his death and owes the son he will leave behind for it. But she doesn't have any money, and besides, what good would it do?

When there is even a glimmer of hope, when he says maybe he's ready to get help, we spring into action. We do all the research: find the best places, check to make sure they take his insurance, take notes about the procedures for admission. But that's not how it works. He has to do it. He has to make the call. He has to ask for help, go to the emergency room, look in the mirror.

And he won't.

"How can you do this to your son?" I rail. He lost his own father as a teenager. He was devastated, maybe still is. And now he's doing the same thing to the person he loves most in the world.

"Do what?" he says, and spouts the alcoholic's BS: He'd rather do it himself. He's going to try to cut back. He can't afford the time off. He'll get it under control.

He can cure the cancer on his own.

I know alcoholism is a disease, not a choice. I know no one can help a person who doesn't want help and no one can make a person want help. I know in the end we are each responsible for ourselves. We are not our brothers' keepers.

But sometimes doing nothing is the hardest thing in the world to do.

I keep a black suit clean for when the phone rings, as I know it will, to tell me he's had his last drink.

Susan Estrich is a law professor at the University of Southern California, an author and commentator for Fox News and USA Today. She also was the campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential run.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Thoughts on Celebrity Rehab

By Steve Wilemon

Two things I’d much love to discuss in this article tonight have to do with something that most people at this day and age would not be combining in an article of this type. One has to do with a person. A very famous person in the early 50’s. A writer name Truman Capote. Who has of late has had some new found excitement brought to his name by the release of a major motion picture of the same name. The other matter that I will be discussing is that of a show that appears on the cable channel A & E. The show is most appropriately titled “Intervention”. Appropriately titled because the show deals only in the area of addiction. The show deals with every type of addiction from alcoholism to drug addiction to eating disorders and so on and so forth.

The reason that I am placing these two most powerful topics in the same article is to compare how back then from the early 50’s and late 60’s that the topic of addiction and fame has changed so much compared to the late 90’s and early zero’s and now into the later zero’s. That’s the only way that I’ve come to be able to describe our years in the 21st century. You see Truman Capote was and still is one of the most renowned, and rightfully respected writers of the 20th century. Some of his works include “Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, and “In Cold Blood’. But you must also see that Truman Capote was also an alcoholic, and in fact alcoholism was linked to his death at the age of 59. But note that addictions including alcoholism were not so much out rightly discussed back then in any kind of public way much less in the media. If you had a problem with drugs or alcohol and you weren’t willing to get help you had to just fight your “demons” on your own. Even in your own spare time as it was kind of looked at. Fight it when it’s convenient for everyone else. So you just had to keep your little secret under your hat as much as you could without letting the hat tip too much for people to talk about your little secret. Another fact from those days is there were not nearly as many places to receive treatment for addiction.

So in other words if you indeed had a problem in those days you either dealt with it accordingly in secret or you didn’t deal with it at all. Now let’s fast forward to today’s standards of addiction and how one should go about taking care of the problem. Of course now you have all of the twelve step programs, and of course the almost glamorous, lavish, hotel suite like places that place servants around you and clamor up beside you to give you the most wonderful drying out experience that one may have. Today addiction for a celebrity means that you’ve got to face your worst fears inside a bubble. At least that’s how I see it. The bubble starts as a small breath. A slow breathing that comes in an almost distraught state of being. Then the whole world, the whole universe starts to blow the deepest breath it can conjure up and then proceeds to shove the air in your direction, until it fills your lungs and begins to choke you down until you can’t breath. Then your vision becomes even more blurred along with your thoughts, until the only safe thing to stare at is the floor, and the only safe thoughts are the ones that let you give it all up and go far away from it all.

I think that’s why some of the high dollar rehabs are failing at their jobs. When a celebrity decides to announce publicly that he or she is entering a rehab it’s not exactly a sigh of relief for them. At least from the publics point of view. A normal person, deep down inside, really does not care about the chosen celebrity. It’s not a matter of being rude, or not wanting them to find help. In all actuality we don’t want to see them succeed. We want to see them fail to return over and over again until they’ve ended up doing public service on the highway so that we can drive by them and scream, Good Luck!, from no less than five feet away. But it’s only human nature. They aren’t our true family members. There’s no blood relation. We might even shed a tear if they died, but we wouldn’t attend the funeral, however we might watch the Biography Channel’s special on them in the following months. If I were a celebrity and I truly wanted help with my demons I would have to choose to do it alone in seclusion with no less than my family and close friends. Not tell anyone that I was entering rehab or even having problems with my life. I’d go to the most secluded rehab in the world because I’m a rich celebrity and get the real treatment I need.

In conclusion to my article I’d like to say that I know some celebrities out there try and lead a much more “normal” style of living outside of their work. Some celebs are not in any way interested in making a circus out of having true addiction problems. They don’t try to feed off of the media and make themselves more popular by popularizing drug use or alcoholism. That’s all that these celebs do that do that. They’re just popularizing the problem. Making it look like, “Hey it’s me! I’ve screwed up and I’m getting the star treatment for it!” It’s sickening. I’m sick about it literally. Those people need mental help more than help for addiction. Well maybe they’re just addicted to being a celebrity and they’re probably scared to death of ever losing that. I hope that someday all people will treat life threatening addictions like life threatening illnesses such as cancer, or aids. I promise you that you’ll never see someone having a press conference to say yes I have genital warts and I’m checking myself into this clinic to try and get rid of them. Hope everyone will understand and I’ll be back at work soon. Or will we? That’s a thought I’m leaving with you tonight. Thanks.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Concrete steps to address addiction

Alcoholism and drug addiction afflict approximately 10 percent of the American population. For every one person afflicted, eight are affected.

There is a solution.

The economic costs of addiction in terms of lost productivity are approximately $375 billion annually.

There is a solution.

The solution is recovery. September is National Recovery Month -- an opportunity for us to recognize and celebrate that there is a way to address what is probably humanity's oldest disease -- addiction.

For more than 50 years, the American Medical Association has labeled alcoholism and addiction as a disease, yet many doctors and much of the American population see it as a choice -- and a moral failing. Addiction is a physical, emotional, and spiritual disease. It is a chronic, fatal, frequently genetic, and often relapsing illness -- much like various forms of cancer. But like cancer, it is treatable; recovery is the solution.

In our community, there are many organizations and institutions that offer recovery from addiction, and The Healing Place is privileged to be one of them. Nearly every form of addressing addiction works to some degree.

Millions of people are in long-term recovery from alcoholism and addiction. For example, The Healing Place has more than 2,300 alumni. The recovery program works -- 65 per cent of our alumni stay sober for at least one year (the national benchmark) and most much longer. That's five times the national average. And recovery need not be expensive. Our program costs $25 per client, per day vs. $250 or more in many treatment programs. Clients pay nothing; they are supported by generous gifts from private and public sources.

How does recovery work?

The only requirement for recovery is the willingness to ask for help. It's a turning point. Individuals face the fact that they are unable to stop using alcohol and drugs. Asking for help is the beginning of change for people who want to change but don't know how. People stop living for themselves and their own gratification and submit to "a power greater than themselves," what many call God.

Like some recovery programs, The Healing Place program is based on two, seemingly contradictory principles: unconditional love and personal accountability.

Alcoholics and addicts cannot love themselves and cannot believe that anyone can love them; they believe that God is vindictive and punitive and responsible for their plight.

They are irresponsible; they have given up caring for themselves and frequently their own families.

How do alcoholics and addicts change? By learning that others love them, God loves them, and they are responsible for what they have done and who they will become. They recover a spiritual way of living.

How do they learn that?

From other alcoholics and addicts.

Bill Wilson and the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous discovered the simple yet profoundly powerful principle that therapy and healing can come from those who are similarly afflicted. Like some programs, our recovery model is led by our alumni. The healing of The Healing Place is done by those who have been healed or, more accurately, by those who are healing.

When they discover healing, they find a joy that can be witnessed but not described. When they leave, they say two things:

You saved my life.

Before I arrived, I had no relationship with God but now I do.

When they leave, they find jobs or pursue educational opportunities. They are often reunited with their families. They become productive citizens.

So, in behalf of all those who are healing and those who need healing, I invite you to celebrate recovery this month. Tell a loved one; tell a friend:



The Healing Place of Louisville

Louisville 40202

Thursday, September 6, 2007

In Search of the Neurobiology of Addiction Recovery:

In 1997, Dr Alan Leshner, then Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published a seminal article, “Addiction is a Brain Disease, and It Matters,” in one of the world’s leading scientific journals (Leshner, 1997). That event was the opening salvo in a decade-long research and public education campaign to re-educate the public about the nature of addiction. The focus of this campaign has been to move “addiction is a disease” from the status of an ideological proclamation by policy activists and an organizing metaphor for individuals seeking to resolve alcohol and other drug problems to a science-grounded conclusion. The involvement of scientists was, in part, a response to earlier and continuing anti-disease polemics, e.g., Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (Fingarette, 1989), The Diseasing of America (Peele, 1989), The Myth of Addiction (Davies, 1992) and Addiction is a Choice (Schaler, 2000). In the 1990s, the prolonged debate over disease conceptualizations of alcoholism and drug dependency moved from the philosophy departments to the scientific laboratories with the greatest financial investment in history in genetic and neurobiological studies of addiction. The fruits of that research triggered a campaign to re-educate the public and policy makers about the nature of addiction.

The “addiction is a brain disease” campaign has gained momentum in recent years. In a 2005 special issue of Nature entitled Focus on the Neurobiology of Addiction, a distinguished group of scientists assembled the latest evidence that addiction at its most fundamental essence is a neurobiological disorder. This was followed in May 2007, by Dr. Nora Volkov’s1 historic lecture, “The Neurobiology of Free Will,” at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual conference. This lecture signaled a maturing of the research community’s understanding of addiction as a brain disease. Dr. Volkov described the most complex picture to date of how drugs compromise multiple regions of the brain and how these discrete effects collectively elevate continued AOD use as the supreme priority in personal decision-making—a priority that transcends other needs of the individual, his or her family, and society.
These findings have been communicated to the public via the metaphor of the “hijacked brain” in major media outlets--from Bill Moyers 1998 PBS special Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home to the 2007 HBO special Addiction: Why Can’t They Just Stop?--and through popular magazines--Time Magazine’s July 16, 2007 cover story, “How We Get Addicted”). The National Institute on Drug Abuse has attempted to explain this brain hijacking process to the public as follows:

The initial decision to take drugs is mostly voluntary. However, when drug abuse takes over, a person’s ability to exert self control can become seriously impaired. Brain imaging studies from drug-addicted individuals show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decisionmaking, learning and memory, and behavioral control. Scientists believe these changes alter the way the brain works, and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction. (NIDA, 2007, p. 7.)
Many recovery advocates have celebrated these scientific discoveries and have helped promote programs like the HBO special that interpret this science to the public and policy makers. The purpose of this brief commentary is to talk about a crucial missing component in the addiction science agenda and in these public awareness programs. Put simply, what is missing is recovery.

I would suggest the following hypotheses:
1) communicating the neuroscience of addiction without simultaneously communicating the neuroscience of recovery and the prevalence of long-term recovery will increase the stigma facing individuals and families experiencing severe alcohol and other drug problems, and
2) the longer addiction science is communicated to the public without conveying the corresponding recovery science, the greater the burden of that stigma will be.

Shifting the public view of the etiology of addiction from one of volitional misconduct to a brain disease may not alter social distance between alcohol and drug dependent individuals and the larger citizenry. Campaigns that sought to reduce the stigma of mental illness by educating the public that mental illness was a brain disease inadvertently invoked perceptions that the mentally ill were less than human and invoked harsher behavior toward the mentally ill (Mehta & Farina, 1997; Corrigan & Watson, 2004). While such research has not been directly replicated in the addictions field, Crawford and colleagues (1989) did find that humanitarian attitudes toward the alcoholic (e.g., a sympathetic attitude and belief that treatment should be supported by public funds) were not directly related to whether alcoholism was or was not viewed as a disease.

The vivid brain scan images of the addicted person may make that person’s behavior more understandable, but they do not make the person whose brain is being scanned more desirable as a friend, lover, spouse, neighbor, or employee. In fact, in the public’s eye, there is short distance between the perceptual categories of brain diseased, deranged and dangerous. We should not forget that a century ago biological models of addiction provided the policy rationale for prolonged sequestration of addicted persons and their inclusion in mandatory sterilization laws (White, 1998). Further, christening addiction a CHRONIC brain disease—as I have done in innumerable presentations and publications, may, without accompanying recovery messages, inadvertently contribute to social stigma from a public that interprets “chronic” in terms of forever and hopeless (“once an addict, always an addict”)(See Brown, 1998 for an extended discussion of this danger).

Conveying that persons addicted to alcohol and drugs have a brain disease that alters emotional affect, compromises judgment, impairs memory, inhibits one’s capacity for new learning, and erodes behavioral impulse control are not communications likely to reduce the stigma attached to alcohol and other drug problems, UNLESS there are two companion communications: 1) With abstinence and proper care, addiction-induced brain impairments rapidly reverse themselves, and 2) millions of individuals have achieved complete long-term recovery from addiction and have gone on to experience healthy, meaningful, and productive lives. Conveying these latter statements may not be as important to changing stigma as personally knowing one or more people in long-term recovery who have achieved such success, but such statements would establish a social climate in which addiction recovery could flourish and recovered and recovering people would have access to the opportunities and relationships available to other citizens.
So why don’t the leading addiction scientists communicate findings related to the neurobiology of addiction recovery and the prevalence of long-term recovery? The reason would appear to be that the answers to these questions are not yet known—at least not at the same depth and certainty with which we are unraveling the neurobiology of addiction. There has been no guiding recovery research agenda to answer such questions. Preliminary studies on brain recovery from addiction following abstinence are very promising (e.g., Bartsch, Homola, Biller, et al, 2007) and recovery prevalence studies reveal rates of sustained remission higher than the public or treatment professionals would expect (Dawson, Grant, Stinson, et al, 2005; de Bruijn, van den Brink, Graaf, et al, 2006), but the neurobiology of recovery and the prevalence, pathways, styles and stages of long-term recovery remain the new frontiers of addiction research.
It is time to enter those frontiers. In the neurobiology arena, there are basic questions to be answered, including:

• To what degree does neurobiology influence who recovers from addiction and who does not achieve such recovery?
• What is the extent to which addiction-related brain pathology can be reversed through the long-term recovery process?
• What is the time period over which such pathologies are reversed in recovery—days, months, years?
• What role can pharmacological adjuncts, social support and other services play in extending and speeding this process of brain recovery?
• Are there critical differences in the extent and timing of neurobiological recovery related to age of onset of use, duration of addiction career, problem severity and complexity, age of onset of recovery, gender, genetic load for addiction, developmental trauma, ethnicity, primary drug choice, and other potentially critical factors?

We need a comprehensive recovery research agenda, and that agenda needs a strong component focused on the neurobiology of addiction recovery. The financial investment in a recovery research agenda is unlikely to be forthcoming without concerted advocacy. Every time an addiction scientist presents brain scans illustrating the neurobiology of addiction, a recovery advocate needs to be present to request the brain scans that illustrate the neurobiology of recovery.

About the Author: William L. White is a Senior Research Consultant at Chestnut Health Systems and author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America.

source: Daily Dose

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal

Top ten reasons to do so, according to High Times.

10. Prohibition has failed to control the use and domestic production of marijuana. The government has tried to use criminal penalties to prevent marijuana use for over 75 years and yet: marijuana is now used by over 25 million people annually, cannabis is currently the largest cash crop in the United States, and marijuana is grown all over the planet. Claims that marijuana prohibition is a successful policy are ludicrous and unsupported by the facts, and the idea that marijuana will soon be eliminated from America and the rest of the world is a ridiculous fantasy.

9. Arrests for marijuana possession disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics and reinforce the perception that law enforcement is biased and prejudiced against minorities. African-Americans account for approximately 13% of the population of the United States and about 13.5% of annual marijuana users, however, blacks also account for 26% of all marijuana arrests. Recent studies have demonstrated that blacks and Hispanics account for the majority of marijuana possession arrests in New York City, primarily for smoking marijuana in public view. Law enforcement has failed to demonstrate that marijuana laws can be enforced fairly without regard to race; far too often minorities are arrested for marijuana use while white/non-Hispanic Americans face a much lower risk of arrest.

8. A regulated, legal market in marijuana would reduce marijuana sales and use among teenagers, as well as reduce their exposure to other drugs in the illegal market. The illegality of marijuana makes it more valuable than if it were legal, providing opportunities for teenagers to make easy money selling it to their friends. If the excessive profits for marijuana sales were ended through legalization there would be less incentive for teens to sell it to one another. Teenage use of alcohol and tobacco remain serious public health problems even though those drugs are legal for adults, however, the availability of alcohol and tobacco is not made even more widespread by providing kids with economic incentives to sell either one to their friends and peers.

7. Legalized marijuana would reduce the flow of money from the American economy to international criminal gangs. Marijuana's illegality makes foreign cultivation and smuggling to the United States extremely profitable, sending billions of dollars overseas in an underground economy while diverting funds from productive economic development.

6. Marijuana's legalization would simplify the development of hemp as a valuable and diverse agricultural crop in the United States, including its development as a new bio-fuel to reduce carbon emissions. Canada and European countries have managed to support legal hemp cultivation without legalizing marijuana, but in the United States opposition to legal marijuana remains the biggest obstacle to development of industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. As US energy policy continues to embrace and promote the development of bio-fuels as an alternative to oil dependency and a way to reduce carbon emissions, it is all the more important to develop industrial hemp as a bio-fuel source - especially since use of hemp stalks as a fuel source will not increase demand and prices for food, such as corn. Legalization of marijuana will greatly simplify the regulatory burden on prospective hemp cultivation in the United States.

5. Prohibition is based on lies and disinformation. Justification of marijuana's illegality increasingly requires distortions and selective uses of the scientific record, causing harm to the credibility of teachers, law enforcement officials, and scientists throughout the country. The dangers of marijuana use have been exaggerated for almost a century and the modern scientific record does not support the reefer madness predictions of the past and present. Many claims of marijuana's danger are based on old 20th century prejudices that originated in a time when science was uncertain how marijuana produced its characteristic effects. Since the cannabinoid receptor system was discovered in the late 1980s these hysterical concerns about marijuana's dangerousness have not been confirmed with modern research. Everyone agrees that marijuana, or any other drug use such as alcohol or tobacco use, is not for children. Nonetheless, adults have demonstrated over the last several decades that marijuana can be used moderately without harmful impacts to the individual or society.

4. Marijuana is not a lethal drug and is safer than alcohol. It is established scientific fact that marijuana is not toxic to humans; marijuana overdoses are nearly impossible, and marijuana is not nearly as addictive as alcohol or tobacco. It is unfair and unjust to treat marijuana users more harshly under the law than the users of alcohol or tobacco.

3. Marijuana is too expensive for our justice system and should instead be taxed to support beneficial government programs. Law enforcement has more important responsibilities than arresting 750,000 individuals a year for marijuana possession, especially given the additional justice costs of disposing of each of these cases. Marijuana arrests make justice more expensive and less efficient in the United States, wasting jail space, clogging up court systems, and diverting time of police, attorneys, judges, and corrections officials away from violent crime, the sexual abuse of children, and terrorism. Furthermore, taxation of marijuana can provide needed and generous funding of many important criminal justice and social programs.

2. Marijuana use has positive attributes, such as its medical value and use as a recreational drug with relatively mild side effects. Many people use marijuana because they have made an informed decision that it is good for them, especially Americans suffering from a variety of serious ailments. Marijuana provides relief from pain, nausea, spasticity, and other symptoms for many individuals who have not been treated successfully with conventional medications. Many American adults prefer marijuana to the use of alcohol as a mild and moderate way to relax. Americans use marijuana because they choose to, and one of the reasons for that choice is their personal observation that the drug has a relatively low dependence liability and easy-to-manage side effects. Most marijuana users develop tolerance to many of marijuana's side effects, and those who do not, choose to stop using the drug. Marijuana use is the result of informed consent in which individuals have decided that the benefits of use outweigh the risks, especially since, for most Americans, the greatest risk of using marijuana is the relatively low risk of arrest.

1. Marijuana users are determined to stand up to the injustice of marijuana probation and accomplish legalization, no matter how long or what it takes to succeed. Despite the threat of arrests and a variety of other punishments and sanctions marijuana users have persisted in their support for legalization for over a generation. They refuse to give up their long quest for justice because they believe in the fundamental values of American society. Prohibition has failed to silence marijuana users despite its best attempts over the last generation. The issue of marijuana's legalization is a persistent issue that, like marijuana, will simply not go away. Marijuana will be legalized because marijuana users will continue to fight for it until they succeed.