Starting this week, people in parts of North West England can now have their nightcaps delivered straight to their doorsteps. A new 24-hour "dial-a-drink" delivery service has been granted a trading license, despite pushback from district council and public health officials. "Booze Bury" was initially rejected—twice—due to public health concerns, and told that their chances of approval were "slim to none." But Bury Council finally gave them the green light, on the grounds that 24-hour supermarkets are permitted to sell alcohol at all times. Dr. Peter Elton, Director of Public Health at NHS Bury, calls the new business "dangerous" and says it will drive up booze consumption and related health issues. "There is no doubt that increasing access in this way will increase problem drinking and lead to more hospital admissions and eventually to more people dying from alcohol-related disease," he says. "Public health is not against the enjoyment of alcohol in moderation, but making it easier for people to drink to excess both damages themselves and increases the risk of violence in others."
But Booze Bury maintains that they are committed to promoting "responsible" drinking. "We have agreed to a wide range of conditions that promote responsible drinking and driver safety," says a spokesman. "Our website contains a video about responsible drinking and the full list of conditions which customers must stick to in order for us to deliver. We will work with the council and other authorities to ensure this is a worthwhile venture for us and safe for everybody." Drinking contributed to an estimated 1,220,300 hospitalizations in England last year—double the number in 2002-03. And in 2011, World Health Organization categorized the country as one of the booziest in the world.
Bill W. and Dr. Bob, a play about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, opens tonight at the Soho Playhouse in NYC (click here for tickets.) The play, co-written and produced by Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey and directed by Seth Gordon, focuses on the meeting, friendship and recovery of AA's co-founders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, as well as their wives, Lois Wilson and Ann Smith, who co-founded Al-Anon. Broadway veteran Patrick Boll plays stockbroker-turned-12-step-founder Bill W., and though Boll is a newcomer to the story of AA, his character's struggles are familiar to him. "My father was a major alcoholic before he passed," Boll tells The Fix, adding that the script "really rang true for me."
The play has been staged more than 100 times in 35 states, as well as Australia, Canada and England. But this production is unique in that all proceeds will go to the Hazelden Foundation, who will put the donations towards a planned college tour of the play, to combat campus binge drinking. "This is the first time that we are doing it the way we want to do it," Shem tells us. The play's mission is threefold, the producers explain: to celebrate recovery, to educate about alcoholism and to reduce stigma. It also seeks to highlight the power of relationships and community in recovery—and not just in recovery from alcoholism. Shem says it's relatable to anyone who has experienced any form of suffering or isolation: "You don't have to know anything about alcoholism or drug abuse to love this play."
Like AA, the play has evolved with some help from group participation. At a talkback session after the first reading of the script, an audience member who had met Bill Wilson described the AA co-founder as "the kind of guy who could talk a dog off a meat wagon"—a line which later made its way into the script.
If you've ever tried to quit smoking, you may be able to relate to a man from Turkey who has created a special wire helmet to prevent a cigarette from entering his mouth. Ibrahim Yucel, a 42-year-old technician from Kütahya, Turkey, says he wanted to kick his 26-year-long two-pack-a-day habit for the sake of his family. But after multiple past attempts to quit on his own birthday every year, his three children's birthdays, and his wedding anniversary, he couldn't manage to stay smoke-free for more than a few days. So he invented and built a wire head cage, inspired by motorcycle helmets, which he locks on to his head. And he has given the only two sets of keys to his wife and teenage daughter. He says the shame of wearing a large wire helmet on his head in public is an additional factor motivating him to quit. Yucel lost his own father to lung cancer from smoking, and he is determined not to leave his family in the same situation. He's been wearing the helmet, and has been smoke-free, since the beginning of this month.
Former LA Ink star Kat Von D celebrated six years clean and sober this weekend with a post on Instagram. "Today, marks my 6th year of sobriety! Yay for not being a drunken a**hole!! :)" she tweeted, with a photo of her holding up six fingers. The 31-year-old professional tattoo artist, whose celebrity clientele includes Lady Gaga and Beyonce, finally decided to get sober after her drinking started to threaten her work. "When I realized that drinking was getting in the way [of my tattoo'ing], I woke up one day and said I don't want to drink anymore and I stopped," she told Rosie O'Donnell last year. After quitting substances she realized, "My friends aren't really my friends, I'm just a party favor." But since getting sober, she hangs out with people who are "on the same frequency." Von D has been romantically linked to several sober dudes, including Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx (who also recently celebrated a sober anniversary), and Jesse James, to whom she was briefly engaged in 2011. After James was accused of cheating on his ex-wife Sandra Bullock in 2010, Von D urged others to show compassion. "I think we’re all human and we’re all capable of making mistakes," she said in his defense, "I think if I were to be crucified for my drug addiction three years ago now, it would be harder to live with that. I’m sober now, I’ve made mistakes too."
Myanmar-based Lo Hsing Han, dubbed the "Godfather of Heroin" by the US government, died over the weekend of a stroke at the age of 80. Mr. Lo was considered to be one of the biggest heroin traffickers in the world for decades while also allegedly engaging in illegal business dealings that helped prop up Myanmar's former oppressive military junta. During the 1960s and 70s, Mr. Lo commanded a militia of 3,000 men who oversaw the cultivation of opium and heroin that was then trafficked from Myanmar (then known as Burma) to Europe and the US. He was reportedly given permission to traffic drugs in exchange for supporting the army's crackdown on Communist forces, but he then switched sides and was arrested for treason in 1973 and given life in prison. He was released in 1980 as part of a general amnesty. Described as the “kingpin of the heroin traffic in Southeast Asia" by President Richard Nixon, Mr. Lo later used his drug profits in the 1990s to build a corporate empire called "Asia World," which was believed to be a cover for drug trafficking. Asia World remains a powerful business conglomerate that is now run by Lo's son, Stephen Law. The father-son duo were placed on the US Department of Treasury financial sanctions list in 2008.
Drinking just three pints of beer or three medium glasses of wine a week can slow your brain permanently, according to a new study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. Researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain compared 26 binge-drinker students—those who drank at least six units of alcohol in one sitting once a week—with 31 students who abstained from alcohol. After consuming the booze, the participants were asked to react to different flashing symbols. While there was no noticeable difference in speed or accuracy of responses between the two groups, the binge drinkers had to use 20% more brain power to achieve the same results. Researchers say this proves that drinkers “experience anomalies in neural activity” which can impact their working memory and their ability to pay attention. “This shows why we need to change the culture where it’s seen as the norm to drink excessively at university,” says Emily Robinson, director of the campaign group Alcohol Concern. “Binge-drinking carries lots of risks in terms of the immediate safety of students, but also in terms of their future health and the likelihood of developing an alcohol problem later in life.” In fact, the culture on campus may already be changing: A 2012 report found that college drinking is currently at an all-time low.