Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Canada prof surprised by 12-step religious content

Prof. Larry Moran in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto (photo) wrote in his blog that he read the articles about Alcoholics Anonymous in the March issue of Readers Digest (Canada) and then read the text of the twelve steps, and was "surprised at how religious AA must be. They must think that most alcoholics are Christians." This led to a lively exchange of comments, which see.

Reviews Pan Bill W bio-drama

March 6, 2007, N.Y. Post:
Who would have guessed a drama about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous would be the laugh riot of the year? But that's the unfortunate result of "Bill W. and Dr. Bob," the well-intentioned but haplessly executed effort written by novelist Stephen Bergman and clinical psychologist Janet Surrey that opened last night.

What should have been a powerful and inspirational story plays instead like a drunken road-show version of "The Producers."
Read full review

Broadway World.Com's reviewer writes:
A program note for Stephen Bergman and Janet Surrey's Bill W. and Dr. Bob advises us that performance of the work does not imply affiliation with nor approval or endorsement from Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Smart move, A.A.

Doing for alcoholism what Reefer Madness did for drug abuse (or at least what its New World Stages neighbor Sealed For Freshness does for Tupperware), Bill W. and Dr. Bob is a frightfully melodramatic bio-drama which uses the same kind of character-probing sensitivity one might find in a driver ed movie to tell the story of two men who, in dealing with their own demons, developed the treatment techniques that would birth Alcoholics Anonymous.

... The authors turn their heroes and everyone around them into cardboard cutouts ... while I can't imagine anyone feeling inspired or enriched by this misdirected corn, I know a few more evenings like this could have me swearing off theatre for a while.

Belgium ups the ante with cig warnings

Cigarette packs sold in Belgium will soon have vivid pictures of the harm that smoking does, along with text warnings.

The pictures are not for the faint-hearted. One shows a man with a swollen-red tumour protruding from his neck. "Smoking can lead to a slow and painful death," reads the advice underneath. Another shows a smoker in a prison cell clutching bars made of cigarettes. The moral of the story? "Smoking is addictive. Don't start." Other pictures the Belgian government plans to rotate over the next three years show toothless gums, blackened lungs and open-heart surgery.

Canada already uses pictorial warnings along with text. Other European countries are expected to follow suit.

EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, introducing the new policy, said: "Pictorial warnings are a cost effective public health measure, which not only serve as a prominent source of health information, but are also likely to reduce tobacco use in the population." More.

Drug problem in Afghanistan getting worse, UN says

NEW YORK: Despite efforts by the Afghan government and the international community, the drug control situation in the country is worsening, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said in its annual report.

The production of illicit opium poppy in Afghanistan reached a record 6,100 tons in 2006, up almost 50 percent from the previous year, the report said.

Due to a rising level of Afghan opiate trafficking, the Vienna-based UN drug control watchdog added, the neighbouring countries are now faced with a wide range of problems, "such as organized crime, corruption and relatively high illicit demand for opiates."

Moreover, the drug abuse by injection is increasingly becoming one of the main factors behind the widely spread of HIV/AIDS in some areas of the region. Source.

Prisoners take hostage for nicotine

JOHNSON CITY, Tennessee -- Two inmates housed in a smoke-free prison took a guard hostage and then released him and returned to their cells when given cigarettes.

Billy Grubb, 32, and Bradley Johnson, 25, attacked the guard Monday night, said Howard Carlton, warden of the Northeast Correctional Complex. Both are in prison for murder.

Prisons across the state are instituting no-smoking policies after the Legislature passed a law banning smoking in state buildings. -- Source

Monday, March 12, 2007

Anonymity is only for the anonymous

Once again Alcoholics Anonymous has lent its name to the publicity thirst of another bratty celebrity. This time it's Britney Spears, whose publicist let the world know that she was given a pass from her upscale Malibu treatment program to attend an AA meeting. E.g. Source. Millions of 7-year old girls will now make a mental note to become alcoholics and get their names in the paper by going into rehab and to AA. It's great promotion for AA and for the celebs. But it reinforces the two-class system in AA. If you're in the celebrity class, your AA membership glitters like a glass pebble in a brightly lit goldfish bowl. If you're not a "name," you're in the dark. Anonymity is only for the anonymous. What would Bill W. say?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bhutan: South Asia's alcoholism capital

Bhutan has the highest per capital alcohol consumption of any country in South Asia, says a World Health Organization report, and alcoholism is becoming one of the leading causes of death there. Source.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

State Dept drug report plays politics

The U.S. State Department report on the worldwide illegal drugs trade issued March 1 reads like a political propaganda bulletin more than a real research report. Regimes that have Bush administration support, such as Colombia and Afghanistan, get patted on the head for their alleged drug control efforts, while heads of state that give Bush hell (as in Venezuela, Bolivia, and others) get blasted for alleged complicity in the dirty business.

The facts remain -- and the report admits -- that Colombia produces 90 per cent of the world supply of cocaine, and Afghanistan supplies more than 90 per cent of the heroin, and both are close allies of the Bush administration. Neither Colombia nor Afghanistan could achieve anything remotely near this kind of market domination without at least the active benevolence of their respective governments.

The report, which runs to 9 megabytes in PDF online (Vol. 1 here and Vol. 2 here), shows its political bias most transparently in the summary on Afghanistan. While admitting that Afghan opium production increased 25 per cent last year, the report claims that heroin stemming from Afghan opium is distributed almost exclusively in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia. It claims that most of the heroin sold in the U.S. comes from poppies grown in Colombia and Mexico, which together account for only four per cent of the world supply.

The State Department strains credulity when it asks us to believe that the huge U.S. heroin demand is fed by this relative trickle of supply. The report says in one passing sentence that "Heroin produced from Afghan opium also finds its way to the United States" (Vol. 1, p. 19) but makes no effort to quantify this grudging admission.

The presence of Afghan heroin in the United States is a political landmine for the Bush administration. The bumper crops of opium recorded in Afghanistan since the invasion are unmistakably the administration's baby. To protect the administration, the State Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy all repeat the fairy tale that Afghan heroin in the U.S. is insignificant. But local police and treatment staff in many parts of the U.S. know better. Search this blog under "Afghanistan" for a selection of local news stories, many of them from the heartland, about heroin addiction and overdose deaths due to the high-potency white powder heroin made in Afghanistan under the protection of American troops by a regime propped up with American taxpayer dollars.

WHAT war on drugs?" As Gandhi reportedly said about Western civilization, "I think it would be a good idea."

Friday, March 09, 2007

New drug turns meth to almond extract

A newly discovered drug with the catchy name YX1-40H10 can convert methamphetamine to benzaldehyde, a common food additive with an almond flavor, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in California claim. If it passes a series of safety and efficacy tests, the new compound could be administered to people who have taken methamphetamine to neutralize the drug in the body. Source.

Research: impulsive rats quicker to do cocaine

Rats who rank high in impulsivity -- the abstract doesn't make clear how that was measured -- are more likely to self-administer intravenous cocaine than their less impulsive peers, a group of scientists at Cambridge University has found. The study, led by Jeffrey W. Dalley, is significant because it found that the impulsive rats had a substandard set of dopamine receptors before being exposed to cocaine, thus supporting the hypothesis that dopamine receptor deficiency is a precondition, rather than a result, of chronic stimulant consumption. The study appears in the March 2 issue of Science. Abstract.

While the study sheds light on stimulant use, this model will not transfer so easily to other drug use profiles, particularly opiates and depressants such as alcohol.

IndyCar racer busted for DUI

IndyCar Series driver A.J. Foyt is facing charges for driving under the influence of alcohol in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

The 22-year-old, who lives in Huntersville, N.C., was arrested on December 10 after running a stop light. He was released after posting a $1,000 bond, and will have to appear in court on April 9 to answer to the DUI charges. Source.

New Recovery blog reader Taylor M., who contributed this item, writes:
It will be interesting to see how the IRL handles this- especially given how backwards they are about tobacco and how much alcohol sponsorship is worth to the racing industry in general. It is interesting to note that drinking alcohol at all is generally considered a no-no in pro racing, most drivers only drink on the podium. There are some notable exceptions (Kimi Raikkonen ) but mostly it's frowned upon even if alcohol sponsorship isn't.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Brief skills training is effective to curb college drinking

A study in Swedish colleges, where over-use of alcohol is widespread, showed that a Brief Skills Training Program was effective in reducing alcohol consumption over a two-year period.

Students were randomly assigned to a brief skills training program (BSTP) with interactive lectures and discussions, a twelve-step–influenced (TSI) program with didactic lectures by therapists trained in the 12-step approach, and a control group. More than three quarters of the students were rated "high risk" on an alcohol consumption score.

At follow-up two years later, the high-risk students who had received the BSTP program showed significantly better outcomes than high-risk students who had undergone TSI. The TSI students did no better than the control group.

The study results are in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Abstract.