Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Governor calls for more addiction treatment

Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas (photo) has asked the state legislature for an additional $4 million to provide addiction treatment for indigent persons.

People without resources currently may have to wait 60 days or longer to get a bed in a detox facility, the director of a Salina treatment program said.

Governor Sebelius' State of the State message also encouraged Kansans to take the Healthy Kansas Pledge and commit to making a few simple changes in their lives, namely: getting more physical activity, eating healthier and quitting smoking. Website. Source.

Monday, January 29, 2007

In the heartland: Powder heroin No. 1 drug

Powder heroin is the drug of choice in Shelby, Ohio, says police Capt. Lance Combs.

"We're seeing a lot more property crime, which I think we can attribute to heroin abuse," Combs said. "We see a lot of thefts of checks and forgeries and smash-and-grabs from vehicles. They just run out of money."

Death from overdose is not uncommon. Combs said Shelby, a town of 9,000 people, has had five fatal overdoses in the last two years.

"The availability of it is what kills us," Combs said. "We try to focus on the people who are selling it as much as we can."

But that's not easy. -- Read details in the Bucyrus Telegraph Forum.

India: Alcoholism fuels religious riots

People from the upper castes used alcohol and money to incite Hindus to launch riots against Muslims in Gujarat state, India, say members of a local community peace association.

The committee of 30 neighborhood volunteers, including both Hindus and Muslims, has set itself the mission of trying to stop more riots before they occur. Since a giant pogrom against Muslims in 2002 (photo), in which more than 1,000 lost their lives and hundreds of houses were looted, community tensions have been high.

The association's members say that most communal violence is “created” and is seldom the “spontaneous outburst” that it is touted to be. In their ward, fights usually start when drunkards come to buy the food sold at the laris (pushcarts), many of which are owned by Muslims.

“It will start with abuses, then they will fight, someone will get beaten up, and one group will organise a mob,” says Solanki, one of the members. Adds Shaikh, another member: “It is under the influence of liquor that people throw stones and fight — in our area, alcoholism is the biggest problem.”

Though prohibition is in force in Gujarat, illicit brewing and sale of liquor is widespread in the state. As one of its first initiatives, the association hopes to enlist the community’s help in stopping bootlegging in the locality. Details.

Kids in bad company -- their parents

A study of drinking among youths in Australia found that their most common source of alcohol was their parents.

Researchers say the relaxed attitude by parents is setting up their children as alcoholics with an 84 per cent rise over six years in the number of teens taken to hospital as psychiatric patients for alcohol dependence.


Improving the image of the alcoholic

Reigning Miss USA Tara Conner (photo) has emerged from a 31-day stint in rehab and declared "I am an alcoholic." Source.

This means:
  • Little girls who want to be beauty queens should become alcoholics
  • If she's an alcoholic, how bad can alcoholism be?
  • She did something really rotten and needs an excuse
  • Alcoholism strikes without regard to age, gender, or physical appearance

(Pick all that apply).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A-list stars, AA rank-and-file to Lohan: Go away

From the Sun Online celeb blog:
LINDSAY LOHAN is proving very unpopular in Hollywood at the moment.

Top stars including JACK NICHOLSON and MORGAN FREEMAN have all told their agents to turn down flat any movie with her name on it.

The old guard think she is just a stupid minor celeb who brings shame on their profession and hope that if they stick together she will get shut out.

Meanwhile, she’s just as unpopular at her Alcoholics Anonymous group. Their meetings are supposed to be secret — hence the name — but when Lindsay goes to her group she always has a string of snappers in tow.

Understandably, the other recovering boozers feel they are being compromised.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Afghan warlords won't spray poppies, Bush sends money, troops, good wishes

President Hamid Karzai of Kabul and suburbs has said no to proposals to spray Afghan poppy fields from the air with herbicide. In a statement issued Thursday, he cited concerns about possible harm to food crops, animals, inhabitants, and the environment.

Observers noted that powerful backers of Karzai's government, including the ministers of agriculture, defense, rural development, and counter-narcotics, among others, strongly opposed the spraying plan, as did governors of the big drug-producing provinces.

John Walters, the director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, visited Kabul last month and brought pressure for the spraying. Walters said Afghanistan could turn into a narco-state unless "giant steps" were made toward eliminating poppies.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul responded to Karzai's announcement with a conciliatory statement that spraying "is a decision for the Afghans to make."

This year's opium crop in Afghanistan is 6,700 tons, up 49 per cent from last year. That's enough to make 670 tons of heroin, 90 per cent of the world's production, and more than all the current heroin addicts in the world consume in a year.

U.S Ambassador Ronald Neuman said that last year, about 1,500 acres of poppies had been destroyed by non-chemical means. That's about three tenths of one per cent of the 407,000 acres in opium cultivation in Afghanistan last year. Source.

The New York Times editorialized Friday that
"the government of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, is rife with corruption, and the regional warlord allies it depends on to control outlying areas are even more thieving as well as shockingly brutal." Source.

The day after Karzai's statement defending the opium crop, Secy of State Condoleeza Rice announced that the U.S. was planning to spend an additional $10.6 billion to prop up Karzai's government, and will extend the tours of duty of U.S. troops stationed there. Source. Two days later, Pres. Bush called Karzai "to pass his and Mrs. Bush's congratulations to the Karzai family on the birth of their son." Source.

Cop drives drunk, injures woman, baby

JERSEY CITY — The off-duty police officer who crashed his Jeep into a car Tuesday, critically injuring a woman and her 2-year-old son, had a blood-alcohol level at least three times the legal limit, according to authorities.

Officer Kevin Freibott was suspended without pay and charged with driving while intoxicated and assault by auto in connection with the accident that occurred about 11 p.m. Tuesday on the Pulaski Skyway.

It left Ruth Zelaya, 37, and her son, Juan Carlos Zelaya, in critical condition at area hospitals. Source.

Suspended? Not fired?

New studies boost varenicline for smoking cessation

The smoking cessation drug varenicline, recently introduced in the U.S. under the brand name Chantix (Pfizer), has fared well in early studies reviewed by the Cochrane Library this month. Cochrane's authors write:
Varenicline increased the odds of successful long-term smoking cessation approximately threefold compared with pharmacologically unassisted quit attempts.

In trials reported so far, more participants quit successfully with varenicline than with bupropion. The effectiveness of varenicline as an aid to relapse prevention has not been clearly established. The main adverse effect of varenciline is nausea, but this is mostly at mild to moderate levels and tends to reduce with habituation.

There is a need for independent trials of varenicline versus placebo, to test the early findings. There is also a need for direct comparisons with nicotine replacement therapy, and for further trials with bupropion, to establish the relative efficacy of the treatments.
Source. Wikipedia article.

Student dies of alcohol OD, college clams up

York, PA: Victoria Hickman, an 18-year old freshman from Pennsauken NJ who was found dead in her dorm room, died of a massive alcohol overdose, medical examiners said Jan. 25. Her blood alcohol content was 0.33 per cent, more than four times the legal limit for driving in the state.

Contacted with the medical results, York College spokesman David Salter said "No comment."

Study: Alcoholics a minority of excessive drinkers

The public perception that most people who drink too much and cause harm are alcoholics may be far off the mark, a study published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests.

Researchers led by Sandra Woerle of the National Institute of Justice and Michael G. Landen of the New Mexico Department of Health analyzed results from an annual telephone poll of nearly 5,000 adults in New Mexico and found that about one in six was an "excessive drinker," defined as drinking five or more drinks in a sitting. But fewer than two per cent could be classified as "alcohol dependent" or "alcoholic."

Tim Naimi, a physician at the Centers for Disease Prevention, commented on the study:
"In order to prevent most alcohol-related problems, including alcoholism itself, we need to focus on excessive drinking, not just alcoholism. Focusing exclusively on alcoholism will identify only a small percentage of those at risk of causing or incurring alcohol-related harms, precludes the possibility of prevention, and is very costly, at least on a per-person basis."
Study Abstract. Press release. Science Daily rewrite of press release.

Comment: This research deserves repeating with larger populations and other methods. If it can be widely replicated -- as seems probable -- it has important policy implications. As Dr. Naimi and other commentators on this study point out, a public policy focusing exclusively on alcoholics (people with alcohol dependence) misses nine tenths of the iceberg. What are some of the policy implications?
  • Courts that routinely sentence intoxicated drivers to treatment programs and support groups designed for alcoholics are not fitting the solution to the problem.
  • Most people who are court-mandated into treatment programs and support groups designed for alcoholics are not alcoholics and don't belong there.
  • Treatment programs and support groups that require court-mandated clients/members to declare themselves alcoholics are frequently pushing a misdiagnosis.
  • Treatment programs and support groups that focus on alcoholism, even when they are effective in palliating that disorder, may have only a minimal impact on the over-all public damage that excessive alcohol consumption causes.
Note that the very name of an organization, if it requires participants to label themselves as alcoholics, can present policy problems. On the one hand, insofar as the organization includes large numbers of mandated participants, the "alcoholics" nomenclature misrepresents the diagnosis of large portion of its members. On the other hand, the "alcoholic" label in the organization's name virtually guarantees that its work, even when successful, will have only a minimal impact on public health and safety issues connected with alcohol.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Man convicted of tenth DUI

What's wrong with this picture?

SALEM, MA: An Arlington man will spend up to five years in prison after he was convicted of his tenth drunk driving offense.

According to prosecutors, John McNeil, 43, drove through a stop sign in Haverhill on Christmas Day in 2005 and crashed into an ambulance responding to a call with its lights flashing.

The crash injured two emergency medical technicians.

McNeil had been convicted of drunken driving eight times in Massachusetts and once in New York before this incident, according to court documents.

McNeil's lawyer said his client is "a decent guy who has a severe alcohol problem." Source.

Why are felonies committed with automobiles considered more excusable than those committed with bare fists or ax handles? If this man had done a string of any other crimes he would have been in prison long term after the second or third offense, severe alcohol problem or not. He's not to be blamed for his alcoholism. He is responsible, though, for his decision to drive. The laws that allowed him back on the road again and again and again are broken. They need to be fixed, or they're meaningless.

After stroke, he forgot to smoke

A heavy smoker who suffered a stroke and thereafter "forgot" to smoke provided researchers with an important clue to the brain anatomy of addictive cravings.

This stroke victim's brain was damaged in an area called the insula, a pair of regions deep within the folds of the brain that had been previously implicated in addiction. (Drawing) The insula of cocaine addicts "lights up" in brain imaging studies when shown enticing images of the drug.

Now a study of nearly 70 heavy smokers who had suffered various types of brain damage confirms that damage or destruction of the insula took away, or drastically reduced, nicotine cravings. Of the 19 subjects with insula damage, twelve stopped smoking immediately without experiencing cravings. Smokers with damage to other regions of the brain had a much more difficult time; only four of them quit smoking with relative ease.

The study, by Antoine Bechara (photo), a neuroscientist at the University Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues, is published in today's edition of Science. Although brain damage is hardly a recommended treatment for smokers who want to quit, researchers say the findings provide important insight into the biological basis of addictive behaviors. Details from Science online. Interesting discussion by Carl T. Hall, science writer of the San Francisco Chronicle, here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iraq, Afghan wars open gaps in U.S. drug defenses

The Iraq and Afghan wars have cannibalized the U.S. effort to defend the borders against drug imports, the L.A. Times wrote Jan. 22. Source.

The Pentagon has reduced by more than 62% its surveillance flight-hours over Caribbean and Pacific Ocean routes that are used to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and, increasingly, Colombian-produced heroin. At the same time, the Navy is deploying one-third fewer patrol boats in search of smugglers. Many other similar efforts have been cut back.

The L.A. Times deserves commendation for its stories digging into the Bush Administration's mounting official indifference, at best, to the growing floods of illegal drugs pouring into the U.S. from many quarters, not the least from Afghanistan, where U.S. forces installed and are protecting the druglords that now produce 90 per cent of the world's heroin.

Heroin abundant, diamorphine scarce

Two leading members of the British Medical Association went public yesterday with the suggestion that Afghan poppy fields be used to make diamorphine, the potent painkiller used in surgery and with the terminally ill. While the streets of Europe and increasingly the U.S. show a plentiful supply of illegal Afghan heroin, over the past year a serious shortage of the legitimate medication has developed.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care with the BMA, said: "Over the past year the availability of diamorphine has dramatically reduced. It has got to the stage where it is almost impossible in some hospitals to get hold of this drug for use outside very specific circumstances."

Unnamed authorities quoted by The Independent (London) claim that harvesting Afghan opium for legitimate medical uses would be impractical. Source. The most likely reason it would be impractical is that the opium fields are in the hands of the warlords who run the Kabul government under the protection of NATO forces. Heroin is much more lucrative than diamorphine.

Treating substance abuse in schizophrenics

Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia show higher rates of substance abuse than the general population. Because substance abuse, including smoking, may greatly complicate treatment of and recovery from schizophrenia, clinicians are looking for pharmacological tools that are effective with this population. This discussion in Psychiatric Times suggests that newer "atypical" anti-psychotic medications are more effective in combating substance abuse in schizophrenics than older, conventional anti-psychotics. Read details here.

U.S. market: hard liquor gains market share

Distillers of hard liquor celebrated a banner year in the U.S. in 2006 with an increase of 3.8 per cent by volume and an increase of 6.3 per cent in revenue, to $17 billion, an industry trade group reported.

Meanwhile U.S. sales of beer were also up slightly. But beer's share of the over-all alcoholic beverage market (distilled spirits, wine, and beer) dropped to 55 per cent, down from nearly 60 per cent in 1995. Beer manufacturers this year will be trying to go upscale to compete with distilled spirits among affluent drinkers. Details.

Recovering folks issue calendar with their faces

For the 35 years that Jim Fischer was addicted to alcohol and drugs, he committed a handful of nonviolent crimes to pay for his addictions.

"My face has been out there for years … in front of judges," said the 53-year-old Mount Clemens resident, who was 15 when he began drinking and doing heroin and cocaine.

"Now, it's out in a positive light. I'm not that guy anymore.

"I'm not afraid to stand up."

Fischer, who has been in recovery for three years, is among a dozen local recovering substance abusers featured in a new calendar aimed at de-stigmatizing their struggle.

The grass-roots recovery advocacy group Greater Macomb Project Vox teamed up with St. Joseph's Healthcare to distribute the 5,000 or so free Faces of Recovery calendars to area businesses and treatment centers to help shed the stigma of addiction.

Read the full story in the Detroit News.

Anonymity is history

More bloggers are noticing that the Lindsay Lohan affair has shredded what little remained of anonymity in Alcoholics "Anonymous." The FadedYouth blog runs a headline with "Anonymous" crossed out, "LINDSAY LOHAN GOES TO ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS MEETING" (source) with photos of the actress waiting in line to get in the door, and another asks,
Finally, the part that really sucks is that there are photographers all over the place. Doesn't "AA" stand for Alcoholics Anonymous? ANONYMOUS? Those poor people whose pictures are now online of them in line for an AA meeting.

Music that reassures about sobriety

From the Tiny Mix website (tinymixtapes.com):

I am a recovering addict and alcoholic, all my favorite music was composed by junkies and lushes, and my friends want me to go the pub for a drink. i need a mix that reassures me it’s good to be clean and sober.

Requested by: elleon713
Compiled by: Hannahrama

Note from Hannahrama: Side A is full of artists/band members that have managed to quit drug or alcohol abuse, legions of fans falling at their feet. Side B has artists/band members who died as a result of drug or alcohol abuse. You can’t really enjoy much, when you’re dead.

SIDE A: If they can do it, you can, too!
01. John Coltrane - "Aisha" (Ole Coltrane [Bonus Track])
02. David Bowie - "Heroes" (Best of Bowie)
03. Elvis Costello - "My Little Blue Window" (When I Was Cruel)
04. Velvet Revolver - "Fall to Pieces" (Contraband)
05. Tom Waits - "Anywhere I Lay My Head" (Rain Dogs)
06. Johnny Cash - "I Still Miss Someone" (Folsom Prison Blues)
07. Eric Clapton - "Tears in Heaven" (Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton)
08. Iggy Pop - "Private Hell" (Skull Ring)
09. The Used - "Yesterday’s Feelings" (In Love and Death)
10. The Cure - "Lost" (The Cure)

SIDE B: Cut down in their prime.
01. Nirvana - "Come As You Are" (Nevermind)
02. The Doors - "Touch Me" (Legacy: The Absolute Best)
03. Jimi Hendrix - "Castles Made of Sand" (Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix)
04. Blind Melon - "No Rain" (Blind Melon)
05. The Ruts - "Staring at the Rude Boys" (Something That I Said: The Best of the Ruts)
06. The Ramones - "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" (The Ramones)
07. Townes Van Zandt - "If I Needed You" (The Late Great Townes Van Zandt)
08. Elliott Smith - "Roman Candle" (Roman Candle)
09. Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water" (Machine Head)
10. Tim Buckley - "Chase the Blues Away" (Blue Afternoon)

Special plates for DUI drivers?

A Florida state senator has introduced a bill to require drivers convicted of DUI offenses (Driving Under the Influence) to show pink license plates with "DUI" in big letters.

"Maybe it will embarrass people and keep them from drinking and driving," said Mike Fasano (R). "Maybe they'll think twice." The bill also says police "may stop any vehicle that bears a DUI plate without probable cause to check the driver."

"Pink plates would hold out individuals for punishment as well as ridicule. We are very opposed to it," said Larry Spalding, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida.

About 840,000 of Florida's 15 million licensed drivers have an active DUI sanction on their driving records, said Frank Penela, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokesman. A small percentage of those have limited driving privileges, such as permission to drive only to and from work, Penela said. Source.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jail employee fired for lunchtime drink

McAllen, TX: Benny Layton, an employee of the county jail assigned to interview prisoners to see if they were eligible for a public defender, was fired this week after having had an unspecified alcoholic beverage during lunch time. Source.

There was no allegation that Layton was intoxicated, that his performance was impaired, or that he caused harm.

Compare this with cases where police officers are merely suspended after driving drunk and crashing their patrol cars. For example, this, or this. A little consistency in handling this type of case wouldn't hurt.

Rabbis must learn about addiction, expert says

Today's rabbis need to become knowledgeable about addiction in their congregations, a noted psychiatrist says.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, a psychiatrist and internationally recognized expert in alcoholism and chemical dependency, observed that the Jewish community still is in denial, clinging to the adage “Jews don’t drink.”

While drinking among Jews may be less than in the general population, he says, the same cannot be said of drugs, particularly mood-altering substances.“It is clear that chemical dependency has become a Jewish problem. This is one of the many problems the community does not want to recognize it has.”

Read more from the New Jersey Jewish News Online.

Tobacco companies have boosted nicotine content

Boston, MA--A reanalysis of nicotine yield from major brand name cigarettes sold in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2005 has confirmed that manufacturers have steadily increased the levels of this agent in cigarettes, a study by the Harvard School of Public Health reported Jan. 18.

Cigarette makers not only increased the level of nicotine an average of 1.6 per cent per year, they also redesigned cigarettes so that smokers would take more puffs. Nicotine is the primary addictive agent in cigarettes.

"Cigarettes are finely-tuned drug delivery devices, designed to perpetuate a tobacco pandemic," said former Massachusetts Health Commissioner Howard Koh, a lead author of the Harvard study. "Yet precise information about these products remains shrouded in secrecy, hidden from the public."

Prof. Gregory Connolly at HSPH and research director, said: "Our findings call into serious question whether the tobacco industry has changed at all in its pursuit of addicting smokers since signing the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 with the State Attorneys General. Our analysis shows that the companies have been subtly increasing the drug nicotine year by year in their cigarettes, without any warning to consumers, since the settlement."

Press release of the HSPH study. Full text of the report.

Under pressure, ad firm pulls booze ads near schools

San Francisco: Advertising firm CBS Outdoor has agreed to remove a series of alcohol ads from bus kiosks located near schools in San Francisco after protests led by the Marin Institute.

The ads for wines, beers, and hard liquors were placed within 500 feet of nine schools, a violation of CBS Outdoor's agreement with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA).

A survey by Marin found a total of 15 ads that violated the agreement. The head of the MTA said he is considering banning alcohol ads across the city.

"It's a shame that [CBS Outdoor] had to have a watchdog group tell them their ads were in obvious violation," said Marin Institute executive director Bruce Livingston. "It's obvious that they don't have a mechanism in place to monitor where they're placing their alcohol ads. They're either incapable or indifferent when it comes to monitoring their own actions." Source.

Twelve steps for bratty celebrities

From bestweekever.tv celebrity blog: "The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Not Anonymous"

Step One: Admitting That You Are Powerless Over the Paparazzi - and That Your Public Image Has Become Unmanagable.

Step Two: Came to Believe That a Power Greater Than Our Publicist Could Restore Our Image to Good-Standing.

Step Three: Made a Decision To Turn Our Lives Over to the Will of A Luxury Rehabilitation Facility as We Understand It.

Step Four: Made a Fearless and Searching Inventory of the Pills In Our Purse.

Step Five: Admitted to the Press, and Our Fans, the Least Embarassing Aspects of Our Problems.

Step Six: Made Ourselves Ready to Have the Media Remove These Defects of Character.

Step Seven: Humbly Asked Oprah to Overlook Our Shortcomings.

Step Eight: Made a List of All Those We Had Harmed, and Became Willing To Let Them Have a Second Chance.

Step Nine: Sent Nice Text Messages to Such People Wherever Possible, Except When to do so Would Let Those Bitches Think They Won.

Step Ten: Continued to Keep A Low Profile and Relegate All the Partying to Private Locations.

Step Eleven: Sought Through Beggary and Prostitution to Improve Our Relationship With Movie Studios, Imploring only for Another Chance to Be a Famous Actress and Roles to Make That Happen.

Step Twelve: Having Had a Professional Comeback as the Result of These Steps, We Tried to Stay Away From Other Alcoholics, and to Not Party So Much We That We Have To Do All of This Again.

Comment: this satire looks at the issue from the viewpoint of the publicity-hungry celebrity, who is using her or his substance abuse, support groups, rehab, and recovery as so many hooks to get media coverage. But what about AA itself? AA doesn't protest very loudly or effectively when a lovable celebrity ignores anonymity and gets worldwide headlines for herself and for AA. It seems that some of the organizations twelve Traditions also need an update. For example:
11. Our public relations policy is based on promotion rather than results; we need always maintain the names of celebrity recruits together with our organization's name in headlines at the level of press, radio, and films, unless the celebrity is one of our famous long-time members who has had an ugly relapse, in which case we need to cloak their membership in anonymity.
That, in so many words, is the real-life policy that emerges from AA's recent handling of newcomer Lindsey Lohan and the case of its 15-year member Mel Gibson.

After a year of AA, Lohan enters rehab

From the zapit.com celebwatch website:
Alcoholics Anonymous didn't appear to help Lindsay Lohan after all.

Amidst a non-stop schedule of partying, the "Mean Girls" actress has decided to take a break and seek help at a rehab facility, TMZ reports.

"I have made a proactive decision to take care of my personal health," says Lohan in a statement. "I appreciate your well wishes and ask that you please respect my privacy at this time."
Lohan's publicist announced last month that she had been attending AA for a year. The announcement got AA and the actress into headlines worldwide. But it didn't get her into stable sobriety.

She reportedly pulled an all-night drinking binge at the Golden Globes on Monday Jan. 15. The 20-year-old continued drinking after the awards at Prince's after-party at the Beverly Wilshire hotel until 6am on Tuesday when she was found passed out in a hotel corridor. Source.

Says another celeb site: "Her previous course of treatment obviously failed to keep the notorious party girl away from booze, as she was found passed out in a corridor of the exclusive Beverley Wilshire hotel at 6 am Tuesday morning." Source.

(The photo, from the tmz.com website, shows Lohan shopping for clothes the afternoon before entering rehab.)

Lohan's choice of rehabs is Wonderland in the hills above Hollywood. Wonderland's website is a strange mix.

On the one hand, it contains depressing and ungrammatical stupidities such as "Alcoholism is where the organized history of recovery truly begins with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob." Source. Whoever wrote this obviously never read William L. White's Slaying the Dragon, showing that the organized history of recovery "truly" begins nearly two hundred years before AA.

On the other hand, the clinical director is one Bruce Turner, described as having "advanced training and experience using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution Focused Therapy." Source. So there's hope for the 20-year old actress; maybe she'll find tools that work better for her than the ones she's been taught so far.

World's fastest-growing agricultural land use: opium

On the heels of the study showing marijuana as the most valuable agricultural crop in the United States comes the finding that the opium poppy, not soybeans, is the world's most rapidly increasing agricultural land use.

The increased acreage planted to the opium poppy in Afghanistan since the U.S. occupation outraces all other acreage shifts in the world's agricultural economy, according to the Real Estate Economy blog. Source. The author writes:
The most telling part of the story is that heroin production was practically eliminated by the Taliban, and this born again boom of the illicit crop has taken place under America's post-9/11 watch. ...

Hardly a surprise that we've failed to locate bin Laden. Hell, we apparently can't even find almost half a million acres of opium.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Schwarzenegger budget terminates treatment

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a severe funding cut to Proposition 36, the state's landmark, voter-approved, treatment-instead-of-jail program. The recommendation, part of the governor's budget proposal released last week, would cut $23 million from the money- and life-saving program.

Data consistently show that Prop. 36 is a success--over 12,000 people have successfully completed substance treatment during each year of the program's existence, putting the program on track to graduate 72,000 Californians in its first six years. In just its first five years, Prop. 36 saved taxpayers $1.3 billion, according to figures from the Justice Policy Institute.

Read more from the California Drug Policy Alliance website.

France clears air in offices, public buildings

The haze of smoke in France will begin to clear this month as France adopts a nationwide smoking ban in offices and public buildings. By the end of this year, smoking will also be banned in cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, and casinos.

The clean-air legislation follows the lead of Spain, Italy, and Ireland. More than 65,000 French people die each year from smoking-related illness or effects of second-hand smoke.

The move follows a steep decline in the popularity of smoking in France. In the 1950s, about three quarters of French males smoked. Today, about three quarters do not smoke.

Government policy had a hand in the change. Federal taxes raised the price of cigarettes by more than half in the past three years. They now cost about $6.66 a pack.

Starting in February, the ministry will give would-be quitters $66 coupons redeemable for the purchase of nicotine patches, chewing gum or lozenges. Read more.

In the heartland: Not enough heroin detox beds

Peoria, IL: About three years ago, White Oaks treatment center staff began noticing a new population of young people coming in for heroin detox.

It is a predominantly white, middle-class group between the ages of 18 and 25, though there have been clients younger than that. They come from Peoria and also from smaller towns and more rural areas.

Unfortunately, there just aren't enough beds to accommodate the recent surge in heroin use. Entry to the detox unit is generally on a first-come, first-served basis with some restrictions.

Last year at White Oaks, 269 patients - 14 percent of all those admitted - listed heroin as their primary or secondary addiction. Just as many, if not more, were turned away because there just wasn't the room.

There were times when six or seven of the 12 beds were filled with heroin users, and staff had to turn away those with other addictions like alcoholism that also carry serious, and possibly deadly, health issues.

For that reason, the center now tries to limit it to just two or three heroin users admitted at a time.

"Honestly, I feel that if we had 50 beds, we could fill them," said nurse Carol Leckrone, manager of the detox unit. "We have this great need, but this facility is only so big, and we're turning them away." Read full story from the Greater Paramus News.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gulf editorial: Binge eating, drinking, drug use make U.S. troops "a sorry lot."

The stress of the Iraq war is taking its toll on U.S. troops in the form of overeating, binge drinking, and illicit drug use, says a provocative editorial in the Gulf News (United Arab Emirates). The editorialist writes:
When former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld spoke of lighter, more mobile troops going into battle, it was accepted he was talking about units, not individuals.

Which is fortunate as a recent Pentagon survey shows more than 60 per cent of troops were overweight, an increase in the 2002 figure of 56 per cent.

The Pentagon puts it all down to stress: service members are eating and drinking more because of the Iraq war.

Combined with binge drinking, overeating and illicit drugs use, it makes for what would appear to be a sorry lot of soldiers America now has to rely on.

The Pentagon says it has the best fighting force in the world. Maybe, but a lean, mean fighting machine it obviously is not.
Reuters' report on the Pentagon study adds that Iraq-exposed troops also have higher incidences of depression, anxiety and other symptoms of mental illness, as well as increased work and family stresses. But, says the Pentagon, the soldiers' physical condition is still superior to that of the average American civilian. Source.

Research: Effects of prenatal exposure to cocaine

A study on rabbits has found that prenatal exposure to low doses of cocaine causes an unusual, long-lasting change in the functioning of dopamine (D1) receptors in the brain, resulting in developmental and behavioral consequences. The study is published in the current Journal of Neuroscience. Abstract. Lead author Greg Stanwood says that the results are significant because they concern the relatively low levels of cocaine typical of recreational users. Children of these mothers appear to be normal at birth, but Stanwood suggests that they will have cognitive and behavioral deficits later on. Press release.

Heroin deaths on the rise in Boston suburbs

Reports of fatal heroin overdoses, especially among young people, have made local headlines and sent shockwaves through cities and towns south of Boston, the Boston Globe reports.

"We've seen a steady increase in fatal and nonfatal overdoses since the late 1990s, and we've seen a dramatic shift in use patterns -- younger and younger kids using stronger and stronger drugs," said Michael Botticelli, a substance abuse specialist of the Department of Public Health. "This is part of the trend we've seen. It's not confined to the South Shore."

The US Drug Enforcement Agency reports that Massachusetts is flooded with heroin that's cheap and potent, and the overdoses are often linked to heroin that is up to 60 percent pure, and sometimes even stronger.

In 1990, the state health department recorded 87 fatal opioid-related overdoses in Massachusetts. Thirteen years later, the toll had increased more than six fold to 549 fatal overdoses for the year. More.

Giant owl attacks drinkers

Middlesbrough, U.K.: A giant owl is terrorizing drinkers in this Yorkshire town.

It launches itself off high roofs and swoops on passers-by with talons outstretched.

Late-night revellers hurriedly take taxis to avoid falling “prey” to the eagle owl, which has a 5ft wingspan.

Craig Smith told how the bird swooped on him from behind as he ran through the station car park to catch a train from the Teesside town.

He recalled: “I heard a loud woo-woo noise and looked over my shoulder to see this creature with silver wings, claws stretched out.

“I ran as fast as I could on to the platform and it flew away.

“On Christmas Eve I saw it go for a man coming out of a pub and chase him down the street.” Source.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hand gel promises to kill cigarette craving

Nicogel, a new product just introduced in the UK, is a gel that promises to eliminate cigarette cravings by rubbing a dab of it into the skin. The maker claims it contains only trace amounts of nicotine and works on aromatherapy principles. Website. The product is not sold as a medication and there have been no trials of its effectiveness or safety. Anti-smoking advocates are cool and underwhelmed. Details. User reports are still scanty.

Campaign knocks drinking games off shelves

Three of the nation's larger retailers -- Kohl's, Target, and Linen's & Things -- have removed board games that encouraged binge drinking, following a coordinated public opinion campaign aimed at curbing underage alcohol consumption.

The games, with names such as Shots 'n Ladders, Drinko, and Keg Pong, are takeoffs on popular children's board games, but players take drinks instead of accumulating points. Details.

Spearheading the public opinion campaign were local groups such as the Oregon Partnership with coordination by national groups like Join Together, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).

More on the campaign.

Rehnquist's addiction didn't enlighten his opinions

During the height of former Chief Justice Rehnquist's addiction to sleeping pills -- he was taking three times the prescribed dose each night -- Rehnquist took a hard line toward other addicted persons, denying them basic constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure, an analysis on the LawFuel.com website asserts.

In Robbins v. California (453 U.S. 950, decided July 1, 1981, at the height of Rehnquist's addiction), police had opened Robbin's suitcase without probable cause and without his permission. The court majority held that the marijuana found in the suitcase could not be used as evidence. Rehnquist -- at a time when a search of his medicine cabinet could have led to a felony conviction -- dissented and dismissed the majority's holding as "engrafting subtleties on the Fourth Amendment." Details.

Heroin No. 2 threat in Chicago suburbs

Lombard police Deputy Chief Dane Cuny said the increase in heroin use in the last five years in the suburbs has been significant.

"Next to alcohol and driving, drugs are the single-most threat to our youth-particularly heroin," Cuny said, adding that heroin is very accessible in open-air markets in Chicago.

"You don't have to look any further than the drug-related deaths," the deputy chief explained. "Because of the nature of heroin, it claims quite a few lives in DuPage County." Source.

Father shoots daughter's boyfriend over her addiction

Yorkton, Sask. A father distraught over his daughter's drug addiction allegedly shot and killed her boyfriend, jurors in this northern Canada city were told. According to testimony, the father went to the boyfriend's apartment where the daughter was living and ordered her to leave. When she would not, he shot the boyfriend dead. Witnesses said the boyfriend was a known drug user.

Kenya: Writer calls for regulation of alcohol business

"Regulation of the alcohol business can't wait" is the title of an op-ed in the East African Standard (Nairobi) by David Ndetei, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Nairobi. Ndetei observes that a number of African countries have taken measures to control the alcohol industry:
Gambia and Eritrea have banned advertising on national television and radio. Mauritius and Gabon have restricted it. Mauritius has also banned sponsorship of sports and youth events by the alcohol business. On the advertisements, however, there is a health warning. Seychelles has restricted advertising on national television, but banned it on radio and billboards. In Benin, alcohol advertisements must be accompanied by health warnings.
"But Kenya's response to the challenges of alcohol is one of the worst in the world," says Ndetei. He advocates controls on alcohol advertising and increased alcohol taxes to limit the harmful consequences of alcohol consumption. Read the whole piece.

Ney asks for alcohol treatment (and time off)

Former Rep. Bob Ney (R.-Ohio), caught and convicted as part of the Jack Abramoff pay-for-play Congressional lobbying scandal, claimed that alcohol contributed to his misdeeds and asked for referral to an addiction treatment program in prison.

Hint: Completion of the treatment program would shave a year off his sentence. Source.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

China huge drug market, chemical exporter

China's official statistics vastly understate the country's drug addiction problem, says an academic study group, and the problem is getting worse. China's growing number of new rich want not only Volvos, Rolexes and premium liquors, they want heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and all the rest -- and suppliers are finding ways to serve them.

Chinese chemical factories are also leading export suppliers of ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine. Read more.

Frat brothers defaced dead boy with magic markers

His lifeless body was defaced with offensive remarks from head to toe.

That's what an autopsy released Tuesday Jan. 9 2007 shows happened to Phanta "Jack" Phoumarrath, the University of Texas (Austin) fraternity member who died of alcohol poisoning in 2005.

It also shows his blood alcohol content was five times the legal limit.

Some members of Lambda Phi Epsilon have been indicted in his death.

The family's attorney says the suspects seem to have spent a considerable amount of time drawing on Jack, when they could have been helping him instead.

"They wrote a variety of things, most of which would be considered juvenile. Some of which were lewd. It was disappointing and certainly discouraging to the family that people who hold themselves out as fraternity brothers would do something like this," Phoummarath family attorney Randy Sorrels said.

UT suspended Lambda Phi Epsilon as a registered student organization until 2011, after determining that hazing had occurred. Source.

Many of the epithets scrawled on Jack's body were homophobic. Source.

More alcoholics 'coming out' despite stigma, traditions

A march by more than 2,500 recovering alcoholics and addicts in Hartford CT has spurred a movement to end discrimination and drum up moral and financial support by urging more people to tell their recovery stories publicly. A lengthy report appears in the North County Times (Riverside, CA).

The movement models its efforts after the public awareness campaigns that pushed breast cancer and AIDS onto the country's radar screen and pushed back the walls of stigma and discrimination against gays and lesbians.

"I still don't think the general public believes that an addict or alcoholic ever gets well," says Phillip Valentine, executive director of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, a state-based advocacy and support group that organized the first Recovery Walk six years ago. "Many, many people have long-term, sustained sobriety and you may not know about it. We need to put a face on recovery so people won't be so afraid or fearful or angry at it. It's not a hopeless condition."

People in recovery routinely encounter public and private policies that were created as a deterrent or punishment to alcohol and drug abuse. On paper, the penalties might make sense; in practice, they often are counterproductive to people trying to put their addictions behind them.

Those with alcohol or other drug diseases pay higher insurance deductibles and co-payments for treatment, get fewer visits and days of coverage, and have more restrictions on the amount they can spend, even when their insurance benefits cover treatment ---- if they are insured at all, according to Join Together, a project of Boston University School of Public Health that formed a national policy panel in 2002 to address the discrimination issues. The panel found that the Americans with Disabilities Act is applied very narrowly in these cases and that employees who seek treatment are frequently fired before they can get help.

Another barrier is the tradition of anonymity in the 12-step organizations. Author William Cope Moyers, an advocate for greater openness, says:

"This is a very contentious issue and I respect both sides of the debate, but I will tell you that I believe this misunderstanding of the traditions has made it very difficult for those of us in advocacy to mount a sustained and successful effort."

"This whole business of anonymity is where the thorn is," says Robyn Leary, who hosts a weekly radio show called "Recovery Talk" on WDFH-FM in New York's Hudson Valley. Leary gives her guests the option of using their names.

"It's not a matter of insisting that everyone go public," says Leary, who has organized an "Under the Influence" film festival. "It's a voluntary calling. I do think anonymity is going to keep people in recovery in the basement of churches. It's going to prevent more and more people from getting treatment." -- Read the whole report in the N.C. Times.

Patients feel OK discussing alcoholism with dentist

More than ninety per cent of dental patients feel OK discussing their drinking with their dentist, a survey by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has found.

Authors of the study urged dentists to raise the subject with patients and to advise drinking less or quitting if excessive drinking were found.

The fact that heavy drinking causes cancer of the larynx gives dentists grounds to raise the subject.

This kind of "brief intervention" by doctors has proved to be a highly effective motivator to get people to cut down or stop drinking. Details.

Eton uses fingerprint ID system to stop binge drinking

Eton, the exclusive private high school attended by British princes William and Harry, has introduced a fingerprint ID system at its campus pub to prevent binge drinking. Students must swipe their fingers on a scanner; the computer then determines whether they are 16, whether their parents have deposited money into an account at the pub, and whether they have reached the two-drink limit.

The new system marks a major turnaround at the school, previously infamous for scenes of drunken, vomiting boys. Details.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Drug education in China tries to combat rising addiction rate

Drug addiction has increased by 54 per cent nationwide in the last seven years but China has achieved some success where it counts most, among primary and middle school students, a senior anti-drug official said on Monday.

According to Chen Xufu, secretary-general of China Anti-narcotics Foundation, drug education in primary and middle schools nationwide has made students more capable of identifying and refusing narcotics.

A recent questionnaire-based survey conducted in several major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, showed that 99 percent of the 3,000 interviewed students in primary and middle schools were aware of the dangers of drug addiction, and 87 percent said that if somebody offered them drugs, such as ecstasy, they would refuse and report the incident to teachers or police.

There are now more than 1 million registered drug users in China and more than 200 million primary and middle school students. Drug education for schoolkids is seen as a key component in the fight against drugs, Chen said.

Primary and middle schools nationwide have made drug awareness part of the regular school curriculum.

According to official statistics, 758,100 of the 1,050,000 registered drug addicts -- 72.2 per cent -- in the country are under 35 years of age. The proportion is down from 77 percent in 2001. -- From Xinhua.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bush's cocaine issue resurfaces

A Fox news discussion of undeclared presidential candidate Barack Obama's admission that he used cocaine as a youth has resurfaced the issue of whether the sitting president had made a similar admission. Details. According to political science prof John Seery, there have been persistent and numerous reports of Bush's own past cocaine use -- and the press has not been diligent in digging into them. Bush has danced around the issue, refusing to either confirm or squarely deny his use. Blog, blog.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Minorities face treatment gap

Hispanics and African-Americans with severe alcohol problems are significantly less likely to obtain treatment than whites with the same problem severity, a study by San Francisco researcher Laura Schmidt and colleagues has found. Cost and logistic were cited most frequently as barriers to obtaining treatment. Abstract. Press Release.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Alcohol regulator crosses over to industry

SACRAMENTO — California's former top alcohol regulator has taken a job advising lawyers for the industry he regulated until his retirement in August.

Jerry Jolly, a 31-year veteran of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, began work this week as a consultant to the wine, beer and spirits-industry practice of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a San Francisco law firm with offices worldwide, including Sacramento.

Watchdogs who monitor the industry called Jolly's career move common for alcohol regulators — and regrettable.

"This is the usual practice and it's really unfortunate, this revolving door between regulators and the alcohol industry," said James Mosher, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Enforcement in Felton, which tracks alcohol industry marketing and sales practices. "It certainly creates the impression that the industry has additional ways of influencing the regulators." More.

Alcoholism a "disinhibitory disorder"

Alcohol dependence is linked with impaired impulse control, as are several psychiatric disorders, a study led by Bernice Porjesz, professor and director of the Henri Begleiter Neurodynamics Laboratory at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has found. The study is said to be the first that strongly links alcoholism to malfunctions in the frontal lobe of the brain. Older studies typically locate factors associated with alcoholism in the more primitive lower brain regions. Discussion. Abstract.

Art: Father comes home drunk

A simple watercolor by U.K. Artist Peter McPartlin captures in a few strokes one of the greatest wounds that alcoholism inflicts: the child's loss of confidence in the father. It's on Artabus, an online art gallery, under the title "Father Coming Home Drunk."

Kids and alcohol: the later the better

A joint Australian-US study has found evidence that parents who give children small sips or diluted drinks of alcohol early in life, on the theory of teaching them moderation, may actually be paving the way for binge drinking. Details.

There's no hiding any more

In the old days, a drunk used to be able to crawl across a busy street in the rain, and if drivers took pity on him, no wider audience would ever know. Now, thanks to cell phone videos and web sites, that humiliating journey may have a million witnesses, and not very sympathetic ones at that. Here's a 1-minute video clip of a very inebriated man crawling on all fours across a wet road, under the heading "Your Daily Ha-Ha," with an obnoxious musical sound track added. If you've ever crawled home in a similar condition, as I did many years ago, you may experience intense mixed feelings as you watch.

Police chief drunk, witnesses say

Ekurhuleni, South Africa. Five witnesses say that Police Chief Robert McBride was drunk at the time of his car accident, and that McBride's deputies assaulted bystanders to cover up for their besotted boss. The five have filed statements with the police review commission, but higher authorities are siding with McBride. Source.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Motivational Interviewing helps with bingeing, unsafe sex

As few as four sessions of the Motivational Interviewing (MI) technique have proved effective in substantially reducing binge drinking and unsafe sex in high-risk women, according to a study by Karen Ingersoll Ph.D. (photo) of the University of Virginia, and colleagues. Source.

Counselors using MI are trained to express empathy with the individuals who come for counseling, manage resistance without confrontation, and support the self-confidence of the individual. For parallels between MI and basic tenets of LifeRing, see this book review.

Toyota developing sober car

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota is developing a fail-safe system for cars that detects drunken drivers and automatically shuts the vehicle down if sensors pick up signs of excessive alcohol consumption, a news report said Wednesday.

Cars fitted with the detection system will not start if sweat sensors in the driving wheel detect high levels of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream, according to a report carried by the mass-circulation daily, Asahi Shimbun. More.

Or drunks will have to wear gloves.

Obama: You can recover from the stupid things you did as a teen

Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) 12-year old revelations that he used marijuana and cocaine as a student are in the headlines this week, thanks to a Washington Post story speculating whether the admissions will hurt his not-yet-announced presidential campaign. Source. No previous presidential candidate has admitted to ever using cocaine. President Clinton said he smoked marijuana "but didn't inhale." Pres. Bush has admitted to past abuse of alcohol.

Says the Post:

Obama has not expressed any regrets for his candor. In a preface to the new edition, he says that he would tell the same story today "even if certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically."

In the book, Obama acknowledges that he used cocaine as a high school student but rejected heroin. "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though," he says.

In an interview during his Senate race two years ago, Obama said he admitted using drugs because he thought it was important for "young people who are already in circumstances that are far more difficult than mine to know that you can make mistakes and still recover.

"I think that, at this stage, my life is an open book, literally and figuratively," he said. "Voters can make a judgment as to whether dumb things that I did when I was a teenager are relevant to the work that I've done since that time."

Possibly much more relevant to Obama's campaign than these old revelations of youthful drug use is the senator's current support for the Byrne program on methamphetamine. Read Maya Szalavitz as she rips him a new one over that issue.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Study: Teens and binge drinking

Binge drinking -- defined as five or more drinks in a session -- is a serious problem in the nation's high schools, says a survey report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Based on questionnaires filled out by more than 15,000 teens, the study found that
Binge drinkers were more than five times as likely as non-drinkers to be sexually active; more than 18 times as likely to smoke cigarettes; and more than four times as likely to have been in a physical fight. The likelihood of engaging in these and other risky behaviors, including marijuana use and suicide attempts, increased with the frequency of binge drinking. Binge drinking was also strongly associated with poor school performance.
The study estimated the percentage of teens who binge drink at about 29 per cent. Forty-five per cent of teens said they had used alcohol in the past month, and nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of these reported at least one episode of binge drinking. Source. CBS News story.

Kentucky teens dumping smokes

From an editorial in the Elizabethtown KY News-Enterprise:

A state report that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved during the Christmas holiday hustle and bustle was full of good news for those who understand the value of preventing teenagers from getting hooked on the deadly addiction of cigarette smoking.

The 2006 Kentucky Youth Tobacco Survey of 3,000 students in 65 high schools and 3,700 in 74 middle schools found that decline in youth smoking rates in the state continues despite the obvious efforts of tobacco companies to make smoking appealing to young minds.

That’s good news. The decline has been attributed to the efforts of the state’s public health programs and other organizations to reduce youth smoking, the state’s first hike in the tobacco tax in decades that increased the cost of tobacco products for normally cash-strapped teens and the adoption of smoke-free policies in schools.

In addition, the growing number of bans on smoking in public places that has produced documented influence on adults quitting should get some of the credit for discouraging teens from taking up the dirty, stinky habit, too. Full text.

Gates, Negroponte: Dirty hands in drug traffic

The recent appointment of Robert Gates Sr. as Secretary of Defense, and today's announcement that John Negroponte will move from head of national intelligence to become No. 2 at the State Department, offer no hope of a cleanup in the Afghan heroin scandal.

Both Gates and Negroponte were involved in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair. Source. Part of that sordid scheme was reported CIA support of cocaine gangs in Honduras and Nicaragua to finance the anti-government "Contra" death squads. Wikipedia currently says:

Senator John Kerry's 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concluded that "senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras' funding problems."[37] Kerry was suspicious of North's connection with Manuel Noriega, Panama's drug baron. According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Noriega and had met him personally.

In 1992 U.S. President George H.W. Bush pardoned persons involved in the scandal.[38]

The allegations resurfaced in 1996 when journalist Gary Webb published reports in the San Jose Mercury News[39], and later in his book Dark Alliance[40], detailing how Contras had distributed crack cocaine into Los Angeles to fund weapons purchases. These reports were initially attacked by various other newspapers, which attempted to debunk the link, citing official reports that apparently cleared the CIA.

In 1998, CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz published a two-volume report[41] that substantiated many of Webb's claims, and described how 50 Contras and drug traffickers had been protected from law enforcement activity by the Reagan-Bush administration, and documented a cover-up of evidence relating to these activities. The report also showed that Oliver North and the NSC were aware of these activities. A report later that same year by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich also came to similar conclusions.

In 2004, Gary Webb allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head. Source, and more.

The current Afghan heroin scandal -- with high-potency low-priced heroin produced in Afghanistan under U.S. and British protection flooding the European and U.S. markets -- calls for a thorough house cleaning at the top of the U.S. intelligence, military, diplomatic, and political establishments. The appointments of Gates and Negroponte say: don't hold your breath.

Chief justice was addicted and delusional

Former chief justice William Rehnquist was addicted to what the Associated Press described as a "powerful prescription pain-relief medication" for at least ten years and suffered from paranoid delusions, FBI files released today under a Freedom of Information Act request show.

Rehnquist was on a prescription for Placidyl from 1970 to 1981, the files show. Placidyl (ethchlorvynol), known on the street as "jelly bellies," was an addictive drug having slurred speech (a Rehnquist trademark on the bench) among its side effects. Withdrawal from Placidyl can bring psychotic episodes. It was yanked from the U.S. market in 1999.

The FBI file, citing one of his physicians, said Rehnquist experienced withdrawal symptoms that included going to the hospital lobby in his pajamas in a bid to escape. He imagined that there was a Central Intelligence Agency plot against him, and he also seemed to discern changes in the patterns on the hospital curtains. Rehnquist thought he heard voices outside his room discussing various plots against him. Source.

P.S. As pointed out in comment No. 1, below, Placidyl was in fact not prescribed for pain but for insomnia. It is a sedative and a hypnotic. Source.

Cop who busted Gibson getting blowback

James Mee (photo), the Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy who arrested Mel Gibson last July 28 -- and witnessed Gibson's anti-Semitic, sexist and arrogant tirade -- is being harassed by his superiors, his lawyer says.

One of Gibson's drunken boasts when arrested was that he "owned Malibu" and would "f**k the officers" who busted him. Review. Is that what's happening now? Mee has been abruptly transferred off the tony Malibu beat to the much more proley town of Agoura Hills, infamous for the Brandon Hein drug murder case of ten years ago. TMZ, the web site that broke open the story of Gibson's tirade, says that the Sheriff's department suspects Mee of leaking the story to TMZ, and has put him under special scrutiny, but no formal charges have been brought. Source.

What's the message of the Sheriff's department's action here? Don't mess with celebrities?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"Kitten" poses in patches to aid quit smoking effort

Pop singer Natasha Hamilton, formerly of the Atomic Kittens, has posed wearing only nicotine patches for a poster to aid the quit-smoking effort in the U.K.

She recreated the poster from the movie American Beauty with a quantity of patches for the U.K. drugstore chain Boots.

Her costume represents the million smokers Boots hope to help kick the habit in their Change One Thing campaign.

They will provide expert advice in their shops and send a "battle bus" around the country.

As Boots launched the drive, a survey found kids want their parents to kick the habit.

The poll on behalf of charity ChildLine found giving up smoking was children's favorite New Year resolution for their parents. Source. Another.

Afghan heroin hits U.S. Midwest

"For the first time, we have more people addicted to heroin than alcohol in my clinic, and these are suburban kids from St. Louis County. More and more Afghan heroin is coming in," says Percy Menzies, president of Assisted Recovery Centers in St. Louis.

Newly elected Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., plans to use his recently acquired seat on the House International Relations Committee to propose setting up a legal market for Afghan opium for manufacturing pain relief medications.

"You can't just cut off the poppies because that's the livelihood of the people who live there," Carnahan says. "But providing them with alternative legal markets for pain-relief medication is a way to help cut back on that heroin supply." Details from the San Jose Mercury News.

Let's buy up Afghan heroin, British MP says

London: The UK government should buy up the heroin crop in Afghanistan and use it around the world for pain relief, according to Member of Parliament Andrew Selous.

Speaking in the House of Commons he said to fellow MPs: "Why, given that heroin can have legitimate medical uses, cannot we buy up the Afghan heroin crop and use it around the world for pain relief? That would stop it flooding into this country illegally. We need much serious thought on that issue."
"Given that we know that 90 per cent of the heroin on UK streets comes from Afghanistan and that we have a major military presence there, it is extraordinary that we cannot do more to stop the poppy crop ending up here."
Details from the Dunstable News.

Man busted in nicotine withdrawal rage

Braunschweig, Germany: A smoker in nicotine withdrawal called police to complain he was going mad. He then took a hammer to a cigarette vending machine. He was arrested shortly afterward. Details.

Colorado: New law lets buyers, tenants test premises for meth

A new law went into effect Jan. 1 in Colorado that lets home buyers and tenants test the premises for evidence of having been used as a meth lab. Details.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Study: Mothers who drink have babies who stress

Mothers who were drinking before they knew they were pregnant tend to have babies with damaged responses to stress, according to a study published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study suggests that mothers stop drinking before there is a possibility they may become pregnant; by the time they know they are pregnant, the damage is done. Abstract. Discussion from the Amazing Pregnancy Secrets blog.

Smokers more likely to become alcoholics

Teens who smoke and drink are more likely to become alcoholics than teens who drink the same amount but don't smoke, according to a study of more than 74,000 young people, published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Abstract.

Alcohol wrecking soldiers' morale: Angola

Excessive consumption of alcohol is wrecking morale among troops and causing soldiers to die in fights and accidents, the commander of Angola's Armed Forces (FAA) said in a year-end speech. Details.

Drunk freshman kills campus cop

Robert Langley was an Iraq vet who came home alive to work as a campus cop at the University of Mississippi. He died of head injuries inflicted by a pickup truck with Ole Miss freshman Daniel Cummings at the wheel. Cummings tested positive for alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, according to a year-end story in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Responding to the death, University authorities deplored a "culture of alcohol" and called for a study group to come up with recommendations. The local Baptist church called for prayers and condemned a climate of "moral indecency." Translation: after the handwringing, nothing will change.

Aggressive enforcement reduces drunk driving deaths

Aggressive enforcement of DUI laws has brought major reductions in alcohol-related fatalities and injuries in the suburbs of Washington DC, police say. Details from the Washington Post here.

Iran said to resist Afghan opium tide

Iran has spent nearly one billion dollars building trenches, watch towers and other fortifications along its wilderness border with Afghanistan (photo), and its seizures of opium account for 60 per cent of all opium seizures in the world, according to writer David Fiderer in the Huffington Post. Nevertheless, opium and heroin "is devastating Iran's youth the way World War I devastated France."

Ignoring Iranian requests for cooperation in battling the Afghan drug traffic, U.S. and Afghan authorities have "looked the other way" while major drug processing and trafficking operations go on in plain view in Afghanistan, Fiderer says. He cites a report in the Dec. 6 Los Angeles Times:
Military units in Afghanistan largely overlook drug bazaars, rebuff some requests to take U.S. drug agents on raids and do little to counter the organized crime syndicates shipping the drug to Europe, Asia and, increasingly, the United States, according to officials and documents.

In many cases the Pentagon has balked at drug interdiction efforts even when it had the resources, said a former senior U.S. anti-drug official, who declined to give details of what he said were classified operations.

"There were [drug] convoys where military people looked the other way, and situations where DEA sought [Pentagon] intelligence and it wasn't given to them," the former official said.

"DEA would identify a lab to go hit or a storage facility and [the Pentagon] would find a reason to ground the helicopters," the former official added. "They would say we don't want you to create a disturbance in an area where we're trying to chase down terrorists and the Taliban."
More from the L.A. Times.

Cincinnati warns firefighters after DUI killing

Cincinnati authorities delivered a new directive to firefighters today: if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, do not show up at your firehouse.

The order comes two days after six-year firefighter Joseph Dance allegedly drove his vehicle head-on into Lisa Kreutzer, 25, killing her, while under the influence of alcohol. Dance was indicted Thursday for aggravated vehicular homicide. He was believed to be on his way to the firehouse to sleep it off. Details.