The hazards of being drunk aren't limited to those who get behind the wheel. Even walking while intoxicated can be lethal, experts warn. "Every movement ranging from driving a car to simply walking to the bathroom is compromised," says Thomas Esposito, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill. "Alcohol impairs your judgment, reflexes and coordination. Alcohol is nothing more than a socially acceptable, over-the-counter stimulant/depressant and, especially during the holidays, alcohol is frequently abused." In his line of work, Esposito has seen more than his fair share of injuries from people trying to walk home drunk and getting hit by cars: "From July 2009 to June 2010, 105 people were treated at Loyola after being struck by cars. Fifty-five had their blood alcohol content checked," he says. "Of those, 16 individuals, or 29 percent, were found to have had some level of alcohol in their system." And New Year's Day is the most dangerous day of the year for pedestrians—in 2008, 38% of pedestrians killed on New Year's Day had a BAC greater than 0.08. And that percentage rose to 53% between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. "It's not just walking outside. We often see people who have been drinking that have fallen down the stairs or tripped at home and injured themselves," Esposito warns. "Others have unwisely chosen to 'get into it' with guns, knives, bottles and fists."
On Christmas Eve, William Spengler, Jr., set fire to his house and car in the western New York State town of Webster. When the volunteer fire department responded to the blaze, he greeted them with a hail of bullets from a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, killing two and wounding two more before turning the gun on himself. While investigators have assembled elements of the hideous crime—including revelations that Spengler had served 18 years in prison for killing his grandmother, and stated in a suicide note that what he does best is "killing people"—locals have filled in gaps with some horrific details. Amy Warner tells the New York Times that when she first met Spengler, she was moving into the cottage next to his house, where he says he killed his grandmother in 1980: "He said, 'I was on drugs and I wanted money for drugs and my grandmother wouldn’t give it to me.’" She recalls not finding him threatening at the time. "He just seemed like a hippie,” Warner adds. “He had his ponytail. He wanted to help.” Because Spengler was a convicted felon, he was barred from owning firearms, and investigators are still determining how he got his hands on the Bushmaster and two other weapons he used in the attack, which came just ten days after the massacre of 27 first-graders and teachers in Newtown, CT. He has no previous arrests on drug charges.
Mexico's drug traffickers are continuing to expand their marijuana operations, by stepping up cultivation of the plant in national forests across the US. According to a report by USA Today's Judy Keen, traffickers are increasingly planting illicit crops on public land, at the detriment of the natural habitat, while creating risks for hunters and other parkgoers. The practice has been documented as far back as the mid-1990s, but it has now spread to 67 national forests in 20 states. David Ferrell, the Forest Service's law enforcement and investigations director, says that undocumented immigrants tended 1,607 cultivation sites in national forests between 2005-2010. "It's a growing problem—literally," says Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. "They're finding that it's easier and easier...to grow within this country." Federal officials are now starting to crack down on the problem. Last August, Operation Mountain Sweep targeted public lands in seven Western states including California, eradicating 578,000 marijuana plants with a street value of $1 billion. Benjamin Wagner, the US attorney for the Eastern District of California, confirms that most of those arrested were "illegal aliens from Mexico or people here of Mexican extraction." The problem isn't confined to the green West coast: a raid this past August of Wisconsin's Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest resulted in the seizure of more than 8,000 marijuana plants and seven arrests, at least six of which were tied to Mexico. Mass seizures of marijuana plants in national forests have also been reported in Ohio and Michigan.
Drinking away one's sorrows may sound like a recipe for a vicious cycle, but a new study suggests that, for some women, moderate drinking may actually reduce the risk of depression. Researchers at the University of Navarra's Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health in Spain followed 13,619 male and female university graduates around 38-years-old.They found that women who drank one or two glasses of wine per day had a 38% lower risk for depression. For men, however, depression was not impacted by drinking. Some researchers believe that this effect can be attributed to resveratrol, a compound found in red wines. Scientists at a recent conference at The University of Leicester, in England claimed that the compound could not only help prevent depression, but also lower the rate of bowel cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. "At the University of Leicester, we want to see how resveratrol might work to prevent cancer in humans," said conference organizer Karen Brown, Ph.D. "Having shown in our lab experiments that it can reduce tumor development, we are now concentrating on identifying the mechanisms of how resveratrol works in human cells." However, health officials urge women not to turn to the bottle for a happiness boost, since more research is needed to determine why and how moderate alcohol exactly may aid with depression prevention. The last time word spread about the anti-aging benefits of red wine, it turned out to be too good to be true.
- Mexican Traffickers Plant Pot Crop in American Forests [USA Today]
- Drugwar Dilemma: Fighting to Improve Security AND Boost Tourism in Acapulco, Mexico [Forbes]
- A Deposit on Cigarette Butts? NY Lawmaker Proposes Bottle-Bill-Style Law [Waste & Recycling News]
- Islamists Ban Smoking in Sinai [Gulf News]
- New Year's Resolution: Different Ways to Quit Smoking [Health India]
- Drug May Help Women Who Quit Smoking Avoid Weight Gain [US News]
- Miss Universe Says Medical Marijuana is Good, But Recreational Pot Will Slow People Down [Denver Westword]
In a recent interview, mumbly rock idol Ozzy Osbourne speaks with startling clarity about the battle with drugs and alcohol that spanned most of his four-decade musical career. The rocker who claims he's been "typecast" for his substance abuse and his music about the "dark forces," proves even the most notoriously drug-addled rock stars can get sober—and wiser. Osbourne rose to fame as lead singer of the band Black Sabbath, whose sound pioneered the heavy metal genre; but throughout their decades of musical success, the band members struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. "I got the rap of being stoned and drunk all the time," says Osbourne. "I wasn't the only one, man. I mean we were all in a bad way with drugs and alcohol. A very, very bad way." Osbourne blames drugs and alcohol, and a battle of egos, for his departure from Black Sabbath in 1979. "I didn't give a shit," he says. "I was full of cocaine and all the rest of the crap I used to do. That stuff makes you talk total horse crap." He went on to sell over 100 million albums as a solo artist, and began his rocky road to sobriety—some of which was documented on his family's reality show The Osbournes. "Alcoholism and drug dependency is a killer disease," says the 64-year-old musician. "I went to two rehab places and then I still went out again. And then I stopped again and then I started. I have accepted I have a problem with drugs and alcohol. That's a big stepping stone, you know. I'm very lucky that I'm still alive and I'm also very lucky I can still put two words together."
The now-sober rocker has addressed his struggles with addiction in his music, including the song "Suicide Solution," which includes the lyrics: "Wine is fine but whiskey's quicker. Suicide is slow with liquor." Osbourne says the song is a "warning about the dangers of alcohol," and he hopes it can offer a positive message for anyone who might be struggling with addiction. "It ain't so cool when you waking up shaking fearsome and wondering when your next drink's going to come," he says. "If anyone is out there and they have this problem, go find help because it's free."