Singer and Disney Channel actress Demi Lovato says that her eating disorder might have been avoided, if she'd had role models to look up to who had gone through the same thing. The 20-year-old star hopes to pave the way for more open discussion of mental health issues. Lovato has spoken candidly about her struggles with bulimia and self-harm, her recovery, and her time in rehab. “I was about 12 or 13 when I developed my eating disorder, and at that time nobody in the public eye talked about their body issues," she says. "I feel that if someone had admitted they had a problem, then I wouldn’t have gone down that route myself." Moving forward, Lovato is determined to be a role model for other young people facing similar issues. "That’s my goal in talking about my problems. I want to be the person for other girls that I needed to admire when I was looking for help and strength,” she says. The star encourages anyone who is struggling to reach out and seek help. “It’s OK to love your body the way it is," she says, "and it’s OK to reach out for help if you have drug and alcohol problems, or if you’re self-harming or being bullied."
Did you catch #drugpol on Twitter, co-hosted by The Fix and Phoenix House? Participants from all over—recovering addicts, treatment specialists, addiction writers, opinionated netizens and even the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy—butted heads over the next moves our country should make regarding drugs and addiction. Should we legalize or decriminalize drug use? Most in the discussion leaned towards legalization and regulation, rather than just hands-off decriminalization—although plenty answered "neither." The House I Live In filmmakers tweeted: “We should 'tax and regulate' - just as we do with alcohol... which is, after all, more destructive.” The Office of National Drug Control Policy disagreed: “legalization leads to greater availability, greater use, and greater damage to public health.”
The discussion then focused Colorado and Washington's experiment with pot legalization, which met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner thinks it's important the US follows its own path, rather than relying on other countries' examples: “Some think Dutch experiment = failure, some success,” he tweeted. “What's the truth? Need to chart our own course.” Blogger and Fix contributor Dirk Hanson feels the wide insistence upon the relative harmlessness of pot is wrong: “We barely acknowledge the existence of marijuana addiction and withdrawal, let alone plan for treating it in CO, WA.” Former White House adviser Kevin Sabet agreed: "Good luck with treatment and prevention efforts if drugs are legalized, thus advertised, and normalized everywhere." Meanwhile Rafael Lemaitre, communication director of the Office on National Drug Control Policy, emphasized that legalization won't stop marijuana abuse: “Note that data show legal, taxed, and regulated prescription drugs now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.”
Later on, HLN host and Fix video columnist Jane Velez Mitchell argued, "Drug laws shouldnt penalize 1 segment of population based on race or socio-economic status which is what’s happening now." Meanwhile social worker and Fix columnist Jeff Deeney warned that legalization would have its downsides—ones that not everyone might imagine: "I work daily w young drug sellers. Will wipe out big economic lifeline for many," he tweeted. "Like it or not hustling pays a lot of rent, buys a lot of diapers, puts a lot of food on a lot of tables in poor neighborhoods." Almost everyone agreed, however, on the benefits of harm reduction. “We're in the business of saving lives,” tweeted New Futures, Inc. “Harm reductions are necessary AND they connect those who need help w/ those who can help.” But as for congress: “President Obama first President in history to lift Federal ban on needle exchange funding,” tweeted Lamaitre. “Congress reinstated :(“
Many thanks to Phoenix House and everyone who participated—and if you missed the debate yesterday, you can still search for #drugpol on Twitter to catch up.
The baseball program at the University of Miami is currently under investigation by Major League Baseball as a potential "nexus" of performance enhancing drugs, the New York Times reports. Three players and at least five other people with ties to the university have been cited in documents from a nearby anti-aging clinic that is currently suspect in providing illicit drugs to players. Baseball officials confirmed they have been looking into the university's ties to the clinic since last summer. According to documents under investigation, the strength and conditioning coach for Miami’s baseball team, Jimmy Goins, received banned substances from the clinic and several players received drugs from a clinic director. Last year, clinic director Anthony Bosch wrote in an entry that he has sold human growth hormone and testosterone to Goins, an accusation that he has since denied. The university said in a statement that they are “aware of media reports regarding one of our employees, and an intensive review is under way;” they have declined further comment. Washington Nationals star pitcher Gio Gonzalez has referred to Goins on Twitter as his "off-season strength coach," but he has since claimed to work with Goins for weight loss and denied using any performance-enhancing drugs. The University of Miami has had one of the nation’s most successful baseball programs, winning four national championships since 1982, qualifying for the NCAA championships for 40 consecutive seasons and producing over 100 pro players.
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.”