In recent years almost every methadone program in prison or jail has been terminated. "When I came to prison I was cool the first day," one heroin/methadone addict and current prisoner tells The Fix. "But then I had seizures and convulsions and they didn't do shit for me, just told me it was part of the detox. They left me in population. I was shitting my pants, had the shakes and was deathly ill and they didn't do anything for me or even give me a change of clothes," he continues. "But that's nothing new. I have seen dudes have epileptic seizures—your heart can stop. Dudes get taken out to the hospital, they have chest pains, get pale and sick. They should implement something in prison to help addicts detox instead of locking them in and letting them sweat it out. In county where I was at they don't give you nothing, only Ibuprofen, thats it, period. I didn't take that shit."
Recovery advocates have argued that cutting addicts off from methadone is akin to taking insulin from a diabetic. But most prisons still don't cater to prisoners who are already on methadone. "It's one of the gnarliest drugs ever," the prisoner says of methadone. "On the street they have detox places where you can go and pay like $30 a week, but in prison there's nothing. I've seen dudes go cold turkey in here and they have heart attacks. But the prison doesn't care. When you quit it you are supposed to gradually wean yourself down. Unless you want to have seizures and convulsions, you have to wean yourself down. But in here they let inmates sweat it out and get the shakes or whatever. No treatment. It's inhumane."
For decades, mental hospitals have allowed—or even encouraged—their patients to smoke, but no longer, the New York Times reports. Until recently, Louisiana law required mental health programs to accommodate smokers. “It’s mandatory to smoke,” said Annelle S., 64, a patient with paranoid schizophrenia at Southeast Louisiana Hospital. “It’s a mental institution, and we have to smoke by law.” But this was 18 months ago—and the law has since changed. A survey issued in 2012 by the State Mental Health Program Directors association found that nearly 80% of state hospitals are now smoke-free; and by the end of March, smoking will end in Louisiana's two remaining state psychiatric hospitals. The ban may be hard to enforce. The smoking rate among mentally ill adults in the US is 70% higher than in those without mental illness, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; despite making up just one-fifth of the adult population, they consume one-third of the cigarettes in the US. A report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors suggests that people with the most serious mental illnesses have a lifespan about 25 years shorter than the general population, often due to smoking-related conditions like heart and lung disease.
Still, many family members and advocates of people with mental illness endorse smoking for the relief it can provide, despite its health detriments. And some hospitals still use cigarettes as incentives or rewards for taking medicine, following rules or attending therapy. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says smoking can have antidepressant effects—and for those with schizophrenia, it can help reduce extraneous thoughts and voices. Smoking is also found to facilitate the effects of certain medications; in some cases, it may be more effective than the medication itself. “Whenever he runs out of cigarettes he becomes highly agitated to the point where he has seriously injured staff and other patients," wrote Dr. Elizabeth Roberson in 2000, then a psychiatrist at Hawaii State Hospital, while describing one of her patients. “Providing a cigarette is generally much more effective at decreasing agitation than most medications I can provide.”
Smoking pot increases risk of strokes in young adults, according to a new study from the University of Auckland; but concurrent tobacco smoking may also be to blame. Dr. P. Alan Barber and his colleagues studied 160 stroke patients between the ages of 18 to 55, against 160 control subjects who were admitted to the hospital for other medical reasons. Based on urine tests, 16% of the 160 stroke patients tested positive for marijuana, compared to 8.1% of the control subjects. The majority of the young stroke victims "didn’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and they were reasonably fit and well," says Barber. "They were clean from a risk factor point of view, but they had a stroke while smoking marijuana." He asserts that the study provides the strongest evidence to date linking cannabis with stroke. However, of the 16% of stroke patients who tested positive for pot, "all but one" had also smoked cigarettes. “We haven’t been able to tease apart the relationship between cannabis and stroke independent of smoking,” Barber admits. “So we can say cannabis smoking including tobacco smoking is associated with a higher risk of ischemic stroke.” Still, Barber insists that, based on the study's findings, marijuana users should be wary of potential risks. “There’s a perception by the public that cannabis is relatively benign and a natural high," he says, "but this study suggests it may not be benign as you think.”
- Lower Drinking Ages Lead to More Binge Drinking [MedicalXpress]
- Spain Makes Biggest Cocaine Bust Since 2001 [Fox News]
- Mexico's President Opposes Pot Legalization [The Washington Post]
- Can the Marijuana Industry Save Unions? [Reuters]
- Cold War Attitudes Hurt Russia's Anti-Drug Efforts [Eurasia Net]
Sober February was started six years ago by Brooklyn resident Greg Rutter and some pals, when they realized (over beers) that “the default suggestion was always to go to a bar for a drink." They decided to mix things up, by encouraging anyone who wants to participate to abstain from alcohol for the shortest month of the year. "On a whim, we decided that it would be a 'fun' challenge to maintain our social lives—really to ramp up and expand our social calendar—without having a drink,” Rutter, 30, tells The Fix. The challenge is not geared specifically towards those who identify as having a problem, but is for anyone who wants to try out sobriety for a fixed period of time. “Don’t get us wrong, alcohol is great. Super great. Maybe the greatest," says the website. "But it’s good every now and then to take a break.” Other "indulgences" (like pot) are approved, as long as they don't "replace" alcohol. Rutter, an ad executive, says the idea stemmed from his enjoyment of self-imposed challenges; he also does "Vegetarian January".
One participant, Ben, tells us he tried the challenge as a way of monitoring his own drinking habits, because he doesn't want to "get to the point where people are telling me to not drink" or to find himself thinking "I need a beer, not just want a beer." But people try it out for various reasons. “I’m positive that someone with a problem—though I understand that problems come in many shapes and sizes—could gain a lot from the SF experience,” Rutter tells us. “I’m hesitant to speculate why other people do it, but I have definitely heard health, money, and 'I want to prove to myself that I can do it' as the most common reasons.”
One of the benefits is helping people realize they don't need booze to have fun. Participants are mostly young folks from Brooklyn who spend lots of time at bars or shows—but that doesn't need to change just because they're sober. "I find it interesting how often I hear people say that they 'I could NEVER do that,' but I think that we are particularly wired to be social and energetic without any social lubricant,” says Rutter. For himself, the challenge offers a "new perspective" and also helps him expand his social scene. "Sober February definitely makes you seek out and suggest other venues and options, and I attend far more art shows or openings, concerts, talks, and other random events than any other month of the year." Saving money and avoiding hangovers doesn't hurt either, he adds: "You can go out every night and spend very little money and still wake up fine for work.”