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4/26/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 26, 2013

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Another day, another Bieber bust. Photo via

By Ben Feuerherd

Wolf Therapy

4/25/13 5:40pm

Introducing... Wolf Therapy for Addicts

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Connection on a "primal level" Photo via

Promises Malibu, a swanky rehab center in West LA, has teamed up with Wolf Connection, an animal rescue center, to introduce "wolf therapy" to the addiction treatment world. Recovering addicts in the program are encouraged to connect "wolfdogs" (wolves that have been bred with dogs as pets) as part of their comprehensive treatment. The therapy is designed especially to help young adults with a range of mental health issues, including drug and alcohol addiction and PTSD, and to target behavioral patterns like aggression and peer rivalry. “What we do is bring people into the world of the wolf,” says Wolf Connection founder Teo Alfero. “What that means is you cease to be a human with all of your beliefs and past experiences and get to connect with an animal that takes you to a very primal level."  

Integrating animals into treatment helps people to "connect in a way that is different than talk therapy," Promises program director Kelly M. Seidlitz tells The Fix. The rehab also offers activities like art therapy, rock climbing and nature trips, so the wolf therapy exercise "seemed like not an unreasonable stretch," he explains. On a typical day of wolf therapy, the participants will go on a walk or hike along with the—leashed—animals, completing various exercises designed to help them move through feelings like anger, shame and sadness. "Wolves will be able to come up with dramatic feedback with how the clients are doing," says Seidlitz. "If they are angry the wolves will avoid them."

Every member of the Wolf Connection pack is a rescued animal, typically with a background of abuse or neglect—and the program is intended to benefit its four-legged participants too. The wolves undergo intense behavioral training, and are encouraged to interact with other animals and humans without aggression. (But just in case, trainers are on hand to keep things safe.) "Getting out into nature and working with wolfdogs allows our young adult clients to let down their defenses and be present in the moment,” says Seidlitz. “In that moment, they are more open to trusting others and listening to what they have to say and, just like the wolfdogs, making the most of the second chance they’ve been given.”

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By Ben Feuerherd

psychedelic medicine

4/25/13 4:00pm

HIV/AIDS Drug Produces Effects Like LSD

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Will efavirenz send patients on a trip?
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A drug commonly used to treat the effects of HIV and AIDS could have the same psychedelic effects as LSD, according to researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Efavirenz is a popular antiretroviral drug (marketed as Sustiva) that is often used in conjunction with other drugs as a cocktail to fight type one HIV. Researchers say some of its side effects include paranoia, psychosis and delusional hallucinations—all similar side effects to LSD. Although both LSD and efavirenz produced similar behavior (such as uncontrollable twitching) when tested on mice, lead researcher John Schetz says it's impossible to determine whether similar effects would take place in humans. "We expect there would be some similarities, [however] controlled studies in humans simulating the practice of those who abuse efavirenz have not yet been performed," he says, "Further, most drugs have multiple sites of action leading to multiple, mixed effects, which might influence the overall subjective effect experienced by a user." Schetz said he strongly recommends not using the efavirenz for anything other than its prescribed use, but even those who take the drug as medically prescribed are subject to its hallucinatory effects. In a 2004 issue of HIV/AIDS magazine POV, Joe Westmoreland writes: "My usual nightcap of five meds includes Sustiva, which often makes me hallucinate before I drift off—my bedside radio once morphed into a dollhouse—and gives me disruptive dreams."

Efavirenz has been used recreationally for years in South Africa, where users will crush the pills and mix them with marijuana or other drugs and then smoke the mixture, known as "whoonga." Abuse of whoonga has led to a deficit of the essential drug for HIV patients (18% of adults in the country are HIV+), as well as created immunity in many users who may need the drug for treatment. To prevent the drug from being abused in the US, Schetz says his team is now "devising ways to prevent both adverse neuropsychiatric side effects and abuse potential for a very efficacious HIV antiretroviral drug".

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By McCarton Ackerman

boozy boaters

4/25/13 3:03pm

Noble Volunteers Get Smashed to Help Cops Train

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Police hope to sink this kind of behavior.
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What does a drunken sailor look like? With boating season bearing down on us fast, police in New York's Suffolk County are mixing cocktails for paid volunteers in order to learn just that. “We really need the real live intoxicated people so we can do the standardized field sobriety testing in a real life atmosphere,” explains Officer Charles Boyle. And they got 'em: “Oh my God, I am so drunk it's not even funny,” says one volunteer (below). After an in-the-line-of-duty cocktail hour, officers attempt to gauge physiological signs of drunkenness and guess the volunteers' BAC, before seeing how their estimates match up against breathalyzer results. Suffolk County's finest saw too many drunk boaters take to the waters last year and are determined to crack down on the dangerous practice. Their self-sacrificing volunteers were driven home afterwards to sleep it off.

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By Bryan Le

binge eating

4/25/13 12:57pm

Can Brain Stimulation Curb Binge Eating?

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Binge eating is a big problem.

Researchers hope deep brain stimulation (DBS) might be a tool in the fight against obesity, since it was found to help curb binge eating in mice, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience. By stimulating a region in the brain where dopamine is produced, scientists were able to reduce caloric intake in obese mice, leading to weight loss. “Based on this research, DBS may provide therapeutic relief to binge eating, a behavior commonly seen in obese humans, and frequently unresponsive to other approaches,” says study author and neuroscience researcher Tracy Bale. “These results are our best evidence yet that targeting the nucleus accumbens with DBS may be able to modify specific feeding behaviors linked to body weight changes and obesity.” Researchers hope the findings may offer hope for treating binge eating, a behavior attributed to more than half of people who are unhealthily overweight. “Once replicated in human clinical trials, DBS could rapidly become a treatment for people with obesity due to the extensive groundwork already established in other disease areas,” says lead author Casey Halpern, of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Up until now, DBS has been used in humans to treat Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, and past studies have suggested that it may be effective in helping treat drug addiction.

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By Bryan Le

addiction counseling

4/25/13 12:07pm

Do Recovering Addicts Make the Best Counselors?

Reader's Question: Do people in recovery make better addiction counselors and therapists?

[Jane Velez-Mitchell is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to janevelezmitchell@thefix.com]

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By Jane Velez-Mitchell

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