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gambling addiction

2/15/13 12:04pm

Brain Tumor Blamed for Mayor's Gambling Addiction

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O'Connor "never meant to hurt the city."
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A lawyer for former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor says the gambling addiction that caused her to wager $1 billion on video poker games throughout the 2000s could have been the result of a brain tumor. O'Connor, 66, admitted in court yesterday that she had stolen $2 million in 2008 and 2009 from the charity of her late husband Robert O. Peterson, who founded the Jack in the Box fast-food chain, in order to cover her gambling losses. Her lawyer Eugene Iredale said her brain tumor likely impaired her reasoning; he wrote that her declining medical condition "renders it highly improbable—if not impossible—that she could be brought to trial." Outside the courthouse yesterday, O'Connor tearfully said she "never meant to hurt the city" and promised to repay the foundation, which was driven into insolvency in 2009 by her misuse of the funds. Allegedly, the former mayor was once considered such a high roller that Las Vegas casinos would send a private jet to pick her up in San Diego. But despite being $1 billion ahead at one point, her net loss reportedly stands at $13 million. O'Connor acknowledged that she has a gambling addiction and is financially destitute, and prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution for two years. If she makes restitution, violates no further laws and receives treatment for her addiction, the charges may be dismissed. The crime could have carried a 10-year prison and a fine of up to $250,000. "This is a sad day for the city of San Diego," said Assistant US Atty. Phillip Halpern. "Maureen O'Connor was born and raised in this town. She rose from humble origins.... She dedicated much of her life, personal and professional, to improving this city." 

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

2/15/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: February 15, 2013

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Addicted to shoplifting? Photo via

By Bryan Le

sex addiction

2/14/13 6:00pm

Treating Sex and Drug Addictions All at Once

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Sex and drug addiction can become one.
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Promises Treatment Center, a famously glitzy rehab in Malibu, California, now offers a new program tailored to treat patients suffering from sex and drug addictions that have "fused" together into a single hybrid. Addicts who use crystal meth, cocaine or other "party drugs" in conjunction with sexual activity often become simultaneously dependent on both drugs and sex, Robert Weiss, who designed the program specifically for this situation, tells The Fix. The five-week residential program currently treats six to eight male clients at a time, with an average age of around 38. Weiss says the hybrid condition affects straight and gay men in fairly equal numbers—but in different ways. "The straight guys are typically holding up in a hotel suite for a few days with cocaine, Viagra and prostitutes/porn, while the gay clients struggle with meth/sex/bathhouses/sex clubs etc," he tells us. "They act out in different venues and with a different gender—but have the same paired sex/drug disorder." Weiss says other recovery models, like AA, offer a too-simple solution of "just get sober and everything will be fine," but that his program at Promises offers a more nuanced treatment model, combing psychiatry with an interdisciplinary approach. "90% of the patients I see in treatment have an underlying psych issue," he says. "Most drug and alcohol treatment doesn't deeply address any issue other than the using itself. In my field we call that 'old school.'"

Relapse poses a particularly huge threat to stimulant addicts, particularly those with concurrent sexual addiction, Weiss continues. His program aims to target the two issues that he says are most likely to cause relapse: shame over previous sexual activity and difficulties adjusting to sober sex. "This population will already have likely tried and failed at previous (well intended residential and outpatient) treatments that avoided or simply missed fully looking at the paired and powerful sexual issues surrounding their drug use," he says. "I suspect we will do better than most with this very high-relapse population [stimulant addicts] as we are giving them more tools toward sobriety and doing more shame reduction around their sexual behaviors—acted out when high."

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By Ben Feuerherd

prescription Drugs

2/14/13 4:20pm

Rx Drugs Make Fish Antisocial

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Is it something in the water?
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Anti-anxiety drugs may have widespread effects beyond helping people cope with depression or anxiety. Some drugs like Oxazepam, which are not filtered out by sewage systems, make their way to fish, a new study shows. Researchers in Sweden put wild perch into tanks full of water tainted with drug levels comparable to what they'd find in their natural habitats. The perch placed in the oxazepam laced tanks were less social than the fish in control tanks, and put more distance between themselves and other fish, scientists found. These fish also ate faster than normal, and were more likely to enter unfamiliar territory. "We were very surprised,” says Jonatan Klaminder, one of the study's authors. “The concentrations out in the environment are very low, but it’s still enough to generate effects that we know are relevant for ecological processes.” This is not the first time scientists have looked into the impact of pharmaceuticals on fish. In a second study, ecologist Rebecca Klaper studied minnows exposed to fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac. The chemical did not affect female minnows, but caused the males to exhibit obsessive compulsive behaviors; they spent unusually long periods of time building underwater nests while ignoring the female fish, and would actually kill females when doses were upped.

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By Ben Feuerherd

valentine's day

2/14/13 2:41pm

Love Affects the Brain Like Cocaine

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It's easy to get hooked. Photo via

Maybe Robert Palmer's assertions aren't so far off—according to AsapSCIENCE, love's effect on our minds is similar to cocaine's. Love and cocaine both lower the threshold at which the brain's pleasure centers fire, making it much easier to feel really good. Not only does this make the target of your affections seem that much lovelier, it also makes everything you experience in life seem just great. Pain and aversion centers also start firing less, which means stuff that usually gets you down doesn't bother you as much. Cocaine, orgasms or even just looking at a loved one can all flood the brain with dopamine and norepinephrine—the chemicals behind that racing heart feeling, sexual arousal and “motivation, craving and desire to be with the person more and more." But the similarities between cocaine and love end with serotonin, the chemical that suppresses obsessive thinking: In love (as in those with OCD), serotonin levels are low, resulting in an inability to think about anything except your special someone all day long. Cocaine, on the other hand, increases serotonin levels. Check out the video to see how love messes with your mind:

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By Bryan Le

War on drugs

2/14/13 1:35pm

Afghan Women Sold as "Opium Brides"

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Policy makers have yet to find solutions.
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Afghan and international forces have achieved some success in efforts to destroy opium crops throughout the country. But a sad side effect of this is that some farming families are reportedly then left with no way to pay off their debts except to sell their daughters to drug traffickers. PBS' award-winning Opium Brides reveals that families who refuse to give up their daughters face grave consequences—one father who resisted was beheaded with a pen knife. Traffickers are also known to take indebted farmers' children and hold them for ransom or taken neighboring Pakistan or Iran, where they may be made to transport drugs or sold into sex slavery. “At its core, the problem of ‘opium brides’ and other ‘loan brides’ is one of human trafficking and of the utter devaluing of women’s and girls’ lives,” says Una Moore, a Kabul-based development consultant. Trading women and girls into debt marriage is a centuries-old practice in Afghanistan, originating from the Pashtun practice of exchanging the bride for a dowry. But many Pashtun families now view these practices as a disgrace, and Afghan president Hamid Karzai spoke out against debt marriage in 2008. There's no official count of how many opium and debt brides there are in the country, but human rights advocates fear that many more will suffer this fate until Afghan policy makers can find a way both to end the opium trade and protect farmers’ families.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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