Just because it smells like alcohol doesn't mean it is alcohol. That's the standard to which Brooklyn judge Noach Dear is holding the NYPD to when it comes to writing summonses for drinking in public; he's told them they have to prove the beverage in question is alcoholic and that a "sniff test" will no longer cut it. Police in NYC wrote 124,498 summonses last year for drinking in public—far more than any other violation—but Dear feels they're issued disproportionately to black and hispanic drinkers. "“As hard as I try, I cannot recall ever arraigning a white defendant for such a violation,” he writes. “I am hereby recommending that the practices and policies of the NYPD. with respect to enforcement of the open container law be scrutinized and immediately stopped if found to be discriminatory.” Although the $25 fine doesn't bring in that much money for the city, police are often gung-ho about issuing these summonses because it gives them the chance to check people for warrants. However, Dear's alternative for proving that a drink's alcohol content exceeds 0.5%—the threshold under the city’s open-container law—seems hugely expensive: he suggests having the NYPD conduct lab tests on suspect drinks.
Seed oil from the flowering plant Nigella sativa has been used for its health-giving properties since ancient times, and is particularly popular in Islamic cultures. The prophet Muhammad is quoted as saying that Nigella seed oil can “remedy every disease except death." Today it's mainly used as a spice—better known as black cumin. But some opioid addicts take oral doses of the oil to wean themselves off drugs. They say it helps them to withdraw, and even to stay clean afterwards. “I never wanted to be on methadone. I had seen people detoxing from that and it was horrific," Dylan, a recovering heroin addict from Wales, tells The Fix. "I tried many different remedies but Nigella seed oil really works, it helped ease my withdrawal and now I am clean I find it has a calming and restorative effect.”
The University of Karachi in Pakistan has conducted two of the rare studies on these effects: one in 2004 and one in 2008 that found, “Nigella sativa showed a rapid improvement in signs and symptoms of acute opioid withdrawal. It was also observed that Nigella sativa prevented the development of significant craving and relapse." Saudi Arabia's King Saud University also found that Nigella seed oil has anti-inflammatory effects, “decreases blood pressure and increases respiration," and is rich in compounds that are effective in treating liver conditions like hepatitis—which affects many drug addicts. While more research would be welcome, anecdotal evidence is strong. One user of an online heroin forum reports that the oil “works well for sleep during withdrawals.” Another asserts that “taking the oil has vastly reduced all cravings for opiates."
- Betty White: Drug Jokes Are Off-Limits [The Huffington Post]
At the age of 90, Betty White has built an incredible career as one of the industry’s top comediennes, tackling frequently bawdy subject matter—but there’s one topic she won’t touch in her comedy. “I won't have anything to do with drugs,” she explains. “I don't find them funny, I don't find them cute, I don't find them to laugh at. I've seen too many people get in trouble with them, so I draw the line at that kind of thing.”
As if Orlando Bloom didn’t have enough to contend with as a target in the notorious drug-fueled Hollywood “bling ring,” the heartthrob recently found himself in another messy situation: a naked man screaming about being high on drugs was arrested in front of his home in the Hollywood hills. Next time, it might behoove the gentleman to pick a lower-profile neighborhood to go streaking in.
After a highly publicized series of legal battles, Teen Mom star Amber Portwood is finally in the big house: she checked into an Indiana prison early Thursday morning to begin serving out her 5-year sentence, which she chose over treatment, despite having several chances to complete a drug court. We’re hoping that prison turns out to be preferable to the alternative—but this reality star could well be in for a brutal reality check.
- Demi Moore’s Daughters Worry for Her Sobriety [RadarOnline]
Demi Moore’s stint in rehab may have done good things for her public image, but those closest to her—her daughters Rumer, Scout, and Talullah—remain concerned for her health. RadarOnline reports that the girls are “worried about everything she is doing lately and they’re getting mad at her. Demi has been doing things that make them worry that maybe she isn’t staying sober and they’re not happy about her behavior.” Rehab as a PR stunt rather than an earnest attempt at sobriety? That would be a first.
- Ying Yang Twins Rapper Arrested for DUI [The Houston Chronicle]
Rapper De’Angelo Holmes, one-half of the hip-hop duo Ying Yang Twins (who memorably announced, “We finta go to the club and get crunk with Britney, hey!” on Britney Spears’ 2003 album In the Zone), is facing DUI and child endangerment charges stemming from an arrest in Georgia last week, where he failed a field sobriety test after being pulled over with his two young children in the car. Yikes. Maybe a little less “getting crunk in the club” and a little more “parenting” would be advisable going forward.
Since losing his 14-year-old daughter Mariah in a drunk driving accident five years ago, Leo McCarthy has taken an unusual step to protect other Montana teens: paying them to stay safe. At his daughter's memorial service, he promised her peers: "If you stick with me for four years, don't use alcohol, don't use illicit drugs but give back to your community, work with your parents and talk to your parents, I'll be there with a bunch of other people to give you money." He's kept his word by setting up a scholarship fund called "Mariah's Challenge." To be eligible, teens must sign a pledge to not drink until they're 21, and never to get in a car with a drunk driver. "I wanted to give them encouragement and to tell them that...you can be better and always be greater in the situation," says McCarthy. So far, over 140 high-school grads have received $1,000 scholarships from private donations after signing up. About 8,000 teens in the community have accepted the challenge—as well as an increasing number of adults, who've taken the pledge as a show of support. Drinking and driving is a huge problem in Montana; the state regularly ranks in the top five per capita for drunk-driving deaths. "Montana finally has had enough," says the state's attorney general Steve Bullock. "We're addressing [the issue] both through law enforcement, through legislation and through awareness. One of the great things about Mariah's Challenge is changing people's behavior and the positive awareness of it."
Some people chew gum while they're quitting smoking, but Cosmopolis star Robert Pattinson has taken to chewing on toothpicks while he kicks the habit. And Pattinson says that even though he's only just quit smoking, his fans have already picked up on his new "hobby"—and given him more toothpicks than he knows what to do with. "I've been chewing these fucking toothpicks all the time," he complains. "Someone noticed in Cannes and literally the next day in Lisbon, then in Paris and in Berlin there were about 20 people on the red carpet giving me huge amounts of toothpicks. Thousands of them." But for the 26-year-old Twilight actor's legions of swooning admirers, there could be other, scarier ways to catch his attention as he kick-starts his healthy new lifestyle. "There was this one girl waiting outside my apartment every day for about three weeks," he relates. "There was one day when I was just so chronically bored I said to her, 'Do you want to just go to dinner or something? No one else wants to hang out with me.' Her parents had a restaurant, she took me there and I complained about everything in my life for about two hours, then she gave me the bill to pay and was never back outside my apartment ever again." That took care of her bad habit.
Painkiller abuse on campus is increasingly linked with depression and suicide risk among college students, a new study reveals. Western Illinois University Department of Health Sciences Assistant Professor Amanda Divin and her colleague Keith Zullig surveyed 26,600 randomly-selected college students from 40 US campuses. They found that 13% of the students who used non-medical prescription drugs also had feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts, and that female students were particularly vulnerable. The study—which will be published in the Addictive Behaviors journal in August—suggests that students may be self-medicating distress caused by study pressures or new-found independence with painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin. “I first got into taking painkillers after I got depressed when I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with my life and felt like I had no direction,” one female college student tells The Fix. “Those pills were the only thing that got me through some hard times, and they were very easy to find.”
“I saw many of my friends taking painkillers like me, and I’ll be honest, those were some dark times,” she continues. “I think that if depression and things like that were more openly talked about, it could help students seek help instead of taking drugs.” Many college campuses do offer counseling for depression, and some are even starting to offer rehabilitation and “sober houses” for addicts. But despite such resources, many students continue to self-medicate."Considering how common prescription sharing is on college campuses and the prevalence of mental health issues during the college years, more investigation in this area is definitely warranted," says Divin. "Our study is just one of the many first steps in exploring the relationship between non-medical prescription drug use and mental health." Our student source is now in better shape: “I’m glad I’m not taking Vicodin every day to deal with my depression like I used to,” she says. “Now, I’m on antidepressants...but I know many other students that aren’t that should be.”