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recovering celebrities

11/11/14 10:30am

'Transparent' Actor Jeffrey Tambor Raises Awareness About Mental Health and Alcoholism

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Hot on the heels of his successful internet show Transparent, actor Jeffrey Tambor told his personal story of recovery from alcoholism, as well as relaying his family history of mental health issues to benefit The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston.

At The Waggoners Foundation Speaker Series' 2014 Fall Luncheon, Tambor opened up about his own struggles in order to highlight co-occurring disorders and the intricate links between alcoholism and mental health challenges. Recovering from alcoholism, Tambor inspired his audience to donate in order to make other such success stories a reality.

A true Hollywood veteran, Tambor has been a regular on stage and screen since the 1970s.  With famed supporting roles on The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development, the television accomplishments of the actor are truly impressive. What remains truly inspiring is that Jeffrey Tambor considers his greatest honor to be his ability to walk a path of long-term recovery from alcoholism.

Tambor’s latest achievement is starring in the critically acclaimed Transparent, Amazon.com’s most successful original series to date. In Transparent, the actor plays Mort, a man who late in life, is finally ready to embrace the reality of being a transgender woman named Maura.

When asked about the challenge of playing such a role, Tambor said: “The basic question of the whole pith of what we're doing is: Will you still love me if I changed? Will you still be there for me? And I think those are the questions that we all have and ask all the time. Around that dinner table, everybody has a secret. We can all relate to this family. Secrets are very powerful and very dangerous.”

The danger of secrets is a threat that Tambor understands intimately. Growing up, Tambor watched the disease of alcoholism claim the life of his older brother. For the actor, managing his recovery is like managing his life as a creative entity; a never-ending journey that succeeds through the love, support, and inspiration from everyone else on the road.

"We are fortunate when someone like Jeffrey Tambor opens up about the realities—and tragedies—that go along with co-occurring mental health issues and alcoholism," said Mel Taylor, President and CEO of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. "The more we talk about it, the more we can reduce the stigma, which will empower more people to seek the help they need for themselves and their loved ones."

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By John Lavitt

medical marijuana

11/11/14 8:30am

Medical Marijuana Company Could Address NFL Head Injury Issues With New Drug

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A new drug that could protect the brains of NFL players is currently in the research stages, but it’s coming from an unlikely source in the form of a medical marijuana company.

KannaLife Sciences, a New York-based company led by CEO Dean Petkanas, obtained a license from the National Institutes of Health Office of Technology to commercialize a medical marijuana patent that would bring a neuroprotective drug to the market. The drug would focus specifically on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive generative disease of the brain often found in athletes who have a history of repeated brain trauma.

“We've found in some clinical research that cannabidiol, CBD, acts as a neuroprotectant,” said Petkanas. “In the parlance of pharmaceutical sciences, we could be using that as a prophylaxis against repetitive concussive injury.”

KannaLife even teamed up with former NFL defensive lineman Marvin Washington to help raise awareness about the medicinal benefits of CBD. Washington, who currently suffers from CTE stemming from his playing days, said that benefits of a marijuana-based treatment for CTE would outweigh any of the negatives. He also argued that even though a CBD-based drug would still result in a positive drug for an NFL player, it wouldn’t have any psychoactive effects that would allow them to get high.

“Everybody calls football a contact sport—it's a collision sport…this is not going away, because the players are getting bigger and faster and stronger, and so they need something to protect the head,” said Washington. "[The NFL] is saying they need to follow the signs—we want them to lead the signs, because they're the biggest fish in the water out there.”

More than 4,500 former NFL players have filed a lawsuit against the league by claiming that they downplayed and even covered up the long-term effects of repeated concussions. Washington acknowledged that the NFL has done more to address this issue in the last two years, but could be doing even more.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this year that he would consider using medical marijuana as a neuroprotectant if sufficient research could justify it, but he is against approving recreational marijuana use even for NFL players competing in states where it is legal. However, the NFL Players Union accepted a revised drug policy last September that increased the threshold for a positive marijuana test from 15 nanograms per milliliter of urine to 35 ng/ml.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

11/11/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Nov. 11, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

musicians & addiction

11/10/14 7:30pm

Grateful Dead's Bob Weir Hints at Painkiller Addiction

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While it's no secret the members of the Grateful Dead have taken their share of drugs, it was something of a revelation when rhythm guitarist Bob Weir hinted at a painkiller addiction in a recent interview with Common Ground magazine.

In August, fans were taken aback when Weir suddenly canceled tour dates for his solo band, Ratdog, well into the next year. Many feared that he might be suffering some serious medical issue, but it turns out that he may be trying to clean up his act.

“I had to take painkillers for a shoulder issue for a number of years, and that’s something I’m still dealing with," he told Common Ground.

The interview touched upon many subjects, including another recent revelation that Weir used to carry Jerry Garcia's heroin around while the band was on tour.

"I used to be his bagman. At the beginning of the tour, he would tell me, 'Okay, no matter what I say, no matter what I do, just give me this amount,'" Weir said. "Every now and again he would invite me to join him, and I would. But I never got into it."

"It was fun to go into his world on a given evening after a show, but it’s not a place I found I wanted to stay—or at least that part of his world," Weir continued "It was fun going into that little corner of his world where he didn’t let other folks in. A place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there."

Weir first suffered his shoulder injury in April 2013 while performing at a Furthur concert with Grateful Dead bassist, Phil Lesh. He collapsed mid-song and continued to perform in a chair, but canceled the next day's concert.

Whether or not Weir has sought professional treatment remains unclear, but he did offer advice to today's youth about drugs."Bottom line: you’re better off straight. Stay the hell away from heroin; it’ll take you out. It’ll ruin your life. Meth, the same thing. Cocaine—stay away from cocaine and any of the addictive drugs. Try not to take sleeping pills in your life. If you have a chronic pain issue, better to figure out how to deal with it other than with pain medication."

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By Shawn Dwyer

marijuana biz

11/10/14 5:30pm

Marijuana Industry: Big Money or Big Risk?

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Election Day wins for marijuana legalization initiatives in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. appear to have stoked investor interest in the cannabis industry.

More than 200 high net worth investors converged in Las Vegas on November 11 to submit pitches to a forum by the ArcView Investor Network, which brings together legal cannabis-related businesses, and investors seeking to profit from this growing sector. But is now the right time to put funds into marijuana businesses?

According to a cross-section of media and investment observers, the answer is yes and no. Forbes contributor Mark Fidelman recently helped to conduct a survey of investors to BioTech to gauge their interest in the cannabis industry and found that nearly 75% of the respondents believe that it’s a financially sound idea. And while Fidelman is quick to point out the single biggest obstacle facing potential investors—that pot is only legal for sale by in-state companies, and remains a Schedule I substance—Fidelman and the investors he surveyed believe that it is only a matter of time before marijuana is made legal at the federal level.

Investors who get into the cannabis industry at this early stage may be poised to follow in the footsteps of Joseph Kennedy; as Chet Billingsley, CEO of Mentor Capital, Inc., explains, “He amassed a stock position before the lifting of prohibition and made a fortune from the re-legalization of alcohol. Many public companies are copying this model. They are positioning to have market share and established market presences when marijuana prohibition lifts.”

But Matt Egan at CNN’s Money desk takes a more bearish view of the pot market. Publicly-traded marijuana companies are fueled by penny stocks, which are less regulated and more speculative than large cap stocks maintained by major companies. He cites the example of Medbox, which makes automated dispensing systems for both medication and marijuana.

Rabid investor interest in December 2013 sent stocks up from $8 to $93.50 less than a month later. But within two days, the stock plunged back to $33, and remains around $11, which is not much further from where it began a year ago. Medbox is one of the bigger marijuana stocks, with a market value of around $350 million, yet remains a risk because the industry is so limited.

For investors waiting for federal legalization, Egan quotes Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergeEx: “If you begin to get a feeling that marijuana will become legal in our lives at a federal level, you should probably look at tobacco companies, because they already have the manufacturing and distribution facilities.”

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By Paul Gaita

robin williams

11/10/14 3:30pm

No Alcohol or Drugs In Robin Williams' System During Suicide

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No alcohol or illegal drugs were detected in Robin Williams’ body when he died in August, according to the results of the late actor’s autopsy released by the Marin County Sheriff’s office on Friday. The coroner ruled Williams’ death a suicide that resulted from asphyxia due to hanging.

The actor and comedian, famed for his roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting, had been struggling with depression, anxiety, and a recent Parkinson’s diagnosis, according to his wife, Susan Schneider.

Over the years, Williams had publicly acknowledged his struggle with substance abuse. “It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK,’” he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a 2006 interview. This past June, he had returned to rehab, not because he fell off the wagon, but to stay sober, according to People magazine. Schneider had said he was sober at the time of his suicide.

On the morning of August 11, Williams was found dead in his Northern California home by his personal assistant, who became concerned when the actor did not respond to his knocking on the door, according to authorities. When the assistant entered the room, he found that the 63-year-old Williams had hanged himself with a belt.

"As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions," Schneider said.

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By Victoria Kim

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