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meth addiction

11/28/12 5:15pm

The Tweakers Project Fights Meth Stigma

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Tweakers Project founder Jimmy Palmieri
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Recovering addicts often connect off the radar—in private basements or anonymous messaging boards. The Tweakers Project takes a different approach, by connecting addicts (and their allies) in a public forum. The nonprofit is devoted to helping people get clean from crystal meth. It relies largely on an online network of support for those seeking recovery, and also helps to educate addicts and their friends and families about addiction. There are no paid employees: volunteers, most of them recovering addicts themselves, do all the work. Over the past three and a half years, they've placed 39 people in rehab or recovery services, including hospitalizations. Volunteers take a hands-on approach, booking rehab beds themselves or driving people to the hospital. They don't endorse a single recovery method, and their sole purpose is to help people get and stay sober, by any means necessary. "We don't endorse anything but we endorse everything," founder Jimmy Palmieri tells The Fix. "Not one model will be a workable solution to each individual." Palmieri founded the group after losing someone close to him to addiction. "There wasn't enough peer-based support," he says. "[The project] works because people are sharing the same experience. It reminds people they're not alone."

The group has gone global, linking people on multiple continents via email and Facebook—which Palmieri calls a "miracle" for its ability to reach such a large audience. The Tweakers Project Facebook page is like a 24/7 recovery group, and currently has over 2,500 members. "It's an open group," he says, "which I did so everyone could join—not just addicts—so moms and dads, friends and family members could learn more about the disease of addiction." Palmieri knows the lack of anonymity might dissuade some potential members, but he feels passionately about changing public attitudes towards addiction—particularly meth addiction, which is the subject of heavy stigma and ignorance. "A lot of people are afraid people will find out they're addicts. They have a lot of shame-based fear," he says. "And it's true that not everyone will look at addiction like a disease, like diabetes or cancer. But we hope to educate people, to show that addiction shouldn't be shameful."

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By May Wilkerson

celebrity sobriety

11/28/12 4:30pm

Randy Travis Gives Up Booze

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Travis tells booze, "I Won't Need You
Anymore." Photo via

Country star Randy Travis is officially done with alcohol, says his lawyer. Some would say it's about time, as the six-time Grammy winner has been arrested twice for alcohol-related incidents this year: first in February for public drunkenness outside of a baptist church after celebrating the Super Bowl, then again in August for crashing his car while driving drunk (and nude). But now Larry Friedman, Travis’s lawyer, says the 53-year-old singer has “eliminated alcohol from his daily life” and is focused on getting healthy. “[Randy] works out three hours every day and is in the best shape of his life,” Friedman says. “He has a high protein diet and takes a lot of vitamins.” In addition to getting fit, Travis is also working on new music—he reportedly started recording tracks in the studio in Texas last week. His previous bouts of drunkenness could give him plenty of material for some classic country songs.

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By Chrisanne Grise

War on Drugs

11/28/12 3:37pm

Private Prison Co. Joins High School Drug Raids

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In it for the money: Corrections Corporation of
America Photo via

A private prison company conducting a high school raid in a search for the next generation of for-profit prison inmates may sound like an Orwellian nightmare—but that doesn't mean it's not true. The private prison business is booming in Arizona, where its growing influence and power saw a failed bid last year to privatize almost the entire state prison system. Now a disturbing PR Watch report lifts the lid on the industry’s latest unsavory practice: taking part in high school drug raids alongside local police, despite not having the training or the legal authority to do so. "To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the 'schools-to-prison pipeline' I've ever seen," says Caroline Isaacs, program director at the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker social justice organization.

The raid in question took place at 9 am on October 31, at Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande. Without warning, the school was “locked down”; students were confined to their classrooms and sniffer dogs were brought in. According to police, four agencies took part: the Casa Grande Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Gila River Indian Community Police Department...and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Sadly, drug sweeps like this aren't unusual these days. But the presence of a private company like CCA—which has a vested interest in locking people up—is a disturbing new development.

The raid resulted in three marijuana arrests: two 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old. While charges have yet to be filed, the 17-year-old was in possession of enough marijuana to see her tried as an adult, if a smart prosecutor were to get a distribution charge to stick. So it's no surprise that the private prison industry ranks among the top special interest groups lobbying to keep pot illegal and drug sentences harsh (alongside police unions, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol companies and prison guard unions). Republic reporter Matt Stoller revealed last year how CCA’s regulatory filings show that keeping the War on Drugs going is actually part of their business model. To this end, they've spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians, and routinely use front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council to sponsor laws. No longer content with such efforts, they've now resorted to going into high schools and dragging out teenage drug "offenders” themselves. What better way to get these kids started on the path to for-profit recidivism?

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By Tony O'Neill

Bad Reactions

11/28/12 2:27pm

Mixing Grapefruit Juice With Pills Could Kill

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More dangerous than it seems Photo via

Scientists have long thought that grapefruit juice can cause harmful reactions when mixed with certain medications. Now a study has found that the number of drugs on the market with that risk—including opioid painkillers like oxycodone—has greatly increased since 2008. "Many of the drugs that interact with grapefruit are highly prescribed and are essential for the treatment of important or common medical conditions," write the authors in the study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Recently, however, a disturbing trend has been seen." Researchers found that from 2008-2012, the number of meds with the potential for serious negative reactions with grapefruit rose from 17 to 43. "This increase is a result of the introduction of new chemical entities and formulations," they write. There are at least 85 drugs in total that can cause reactions with grapefruit juice.

Grapefruit—along with the Seville orange used to make marmalade, pomelos and limes—carries risks because it contains a chemical called furanocoumarins, which can change the way a drug is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, causing more of the drug to enter the bloodstream. With certain drugs, this can cause kidney damage, GI tract bleeding, respiratory failure, bone-marrow suppression and death. And the juice can have this effect even if the pills are taken hours later—so eating just one grapefruit a day while on these meds can be harmful. "Taking one tablet with a glass of grapefruit juice is like taking 20 tablets with a glass of water," says author David Bailey. "This is unintentional overdosing. So it's not surprising that these levels go from what we call therapeutic to toxic." Aside from oxycodone, other drugs that carry this risk include Zocor, Lipitor, Nifediac and some anti-infective, cardiovascular and urinary tract infection medications. Experts recommend checking with your doctor or pharmacist, along with reading information included with the medication, to find out whether ingesting grapefruit is safe.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Bad Sports

11/28/12 1:21pm

NHL-er Busted Driving Drunk in Teletubby Costume

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Uh-oh. Photo via

Riley Sheahan is going to have a lot of explaining to do at his next hockey practice. The Detroit Red Wings prospect was nabbed driving with a blood alcohol content of .30—nearly quadruple the legal limit. But it's his choice of outfit that's garnering the most attention. When he was pulled over for driving the wrong way, Grand Rapids cops reported him as being "super drunk," carrying teammate Brendan Smith's Michigan driver's license, and wearing a purple Teletubby costume. Smith wasn't at the scene of the crime, but the 23-year-old admitted he had been letting 20-year-old Sheahan use his ID to get into bars. The team's assistant general manager Jim Nill says Sheahan is "getting help right now and will continue to get help." The penalty under Michigan's new "super drunk" charge of driving with a blood alcohol content of .17 or higher is 180 days in jail; since Sheahan is Canadian, deportation is also a possibility. The Teletubby outfit has been identified as that of Tinky Winky.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Tobacco companies

11/28/12 12:05pm

Tobacco Giants Ordered to Admit Their Past Deceit

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A confession unwillingly given
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Tobacco companies are still choking on the "Smoking Kills" warnings they've been forced to place on cigarette packaging, but it's about to get worse for them. US District Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered tobacco firms to pay for a public campaign that lays out "past deception" over smoking risks. A series of humiliating "corrective statements" must be made by the companies over a period of up to two years; each statement must be prefaced by the admission that the tobacco companies "deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking." One statement says: "Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day." Another reads: "Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive." The campaign was first ordered by Kessler in 2006 after she determined that tobacco companies hid the risk of smoking for decades—but a legal battle over the details ensued. Tobacco firms objected in particular to the use of the word "deceived" in the statements. They claim the ruling amounts to "forced public confessions." But Kessler wrote that all of the corrective statements were based on findings of fact made by the court. The firms may appeal and are currently studying the ruling. The Justice Department is set to meet the companies next month to discuss how to run the statements on cigarette packs, websites, on TV or in newspapers. "Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," says Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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