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Addiction Treatment

1/07/13 1:10pm

Siberian Psychologists Whip Addicts Clean


Natasha receives her "treatment."
Photo via

Siberian psychologists are taking a hardline approach to helping people with addiction: literally beating it out of them. The practitioners claim that lashing addicts on the buttocks with a willow cane can help those for whom more conventional methods have failed. Practitioners Dr. German Pilipenko and Professor Marina Chukhrova say that their treatment is grounded in science: "We cane the patients on the buttocks with a clear and definite medical purpose—it is not some warped sado-masochistic activity," insists Professor Chukhrova. The pair say that addicts suffer from a lack of endorphins, and that pain can stimulate the brain to release the feel-good chemicals, "making patients feel happier in their own skins." Mainstream doctors dismiss the practice, saying that exercise, acupuncture, massage, chocolate or sex are all better at stimulating endorphin secretion. Dr. Pilipenko admits, "we get a lot of skepticism...but so do all pioneers." The Siberian Times reports that "the reaction of most people is predictable: to snigger, scoff or make jokes loaded with sexual innuendo." And one recipient of the treatment, 41-year-old recovering alcoholic Yuri, says his girlfriend accused him of simply visiting a dominatrix. But he adds that although "the first strike was sickening...Somehow I got through all 30 lashes. The next day I got up with a stinging backside but no desire at all to touch the vodka in the fridge. The bottle has stayed there now for a year."  

Natasha, a 22-year-old recovering heroin addict with several months clean, says, "I am the proof that this controversial treatment works, and I recommend it to anyone suffering from an addiction or depression. It hurts like crazy—but it's given me back my life." She receives 60 strokes of the cane per session (drug addicts get double the dose of alcoholics), at a cost of about $100. Her "therapy" is hardly for the faint-hearted: "With each lash," says Natasha, "I scream and grip tight to the end of the surgical table. It's a stinging pain, real agony, and my whole body jolts." But she also insists, "I'm not a masochist. My parents never beat me or even slapped me, so this was my first real physical pain and it was truly shocking. If people think there's anything sexual about it, then it's nonsense." Professor Chukhrova stresses that care is taken to ensure clients' safety: "The beating is really the end of the treatment. We do a lot of psychological counseling first, and also use detox. It is only after all the counseling, and heart and pain resistance checks, that we start with the beating." The doctor adds that the willow branches used are "flexible and can't be broken nor cause bleeding." And the practitioners are also at pains to deny any ulterior motives: "If any patients get sexual pleasure from the beatings, we stop immediately," says Professor Chukhrova. "This is not what our treatment is about. If they're looking for that, there are plenty of other places to go." 

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By Sarah Beller

Prison Rehab

1/07/13 12:04pm

Outcry Over Jail's Plan to Cut Methadone Program


Many inmates fear they will relapse if
the methadone program is cut. Photo via

An Albuquerque jail is attempting to get rid of its methadone program for addicted inmates, prompting concern among recovery advocates and the inmates who believe they will relapse without it, reports The New York Times. The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), New Mexico's largest jail, has been administering methadone for the last six years to the roughly 100 inmates enrolled at a methadone clinic prior to their arrests; methadone is also given to pregnant inmates with opiate addictions. The jail’s warden, Ramon Rustin, now says the program is too expensive to maintain; it currently costs Bernadillo County $10,000 a month and relies on $200,000 annually in state financing. Rustin also claims there's little evidence of a drop in recidivism—one of the program’s main selling points. “My concern is that the courts and other authorities think that jail has become a treatment program, that it has become the community provider,” he says. “But jail is not the answer. Methadone programs belong in the community, not here.” Recovery advocates believe the high cost of methadone treatment is still much cheaper than the costs of incarcerating drug addicts. “Addiction needs to be treated like any other health issue,” says Maggie Hart Stebbins, a county commissioner who backs the program. “If we can treat addiction at the jail to the point where they stay clean and don’t reoffend, that saves us the cost of reincarcerating that person.” Due to a lack of hard data about the correlation between methadone treatment and successful recovery, the Bernalillo County Commission has ordered Rustin to extend the program for another two months until its results can be studied further.

The MDC is one of just a handful of prisons in the country to offer methadone treatment, although previous studies have revealed similar programs to be a success in helping inmates stay clean. A 2009 study in The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that male inmates in Baltimore who were treated with methadone were more likely to be free of opioids and cocaine, as well as to continue their treatment in the community, compared to those who only received counseling. Inmates currently being treated with methadone at MDC believe that the program is saving their life. “It’s the only thing that allows me to live a normal life,” says Betty Jo Lopez, 59. “These nurses that give it to me, they’re like my guardian angels.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

justin bieber

1/07/13 11:07am

Justin Bieber Snapped With "Smoldering Blunt"


Pot star? Photo via

Justin Bieber has kicked off 2013 with his first drug scandal, since photos surfaced on TMZ of the pop superstar smoking a "smoldering blunt" in a Newport Beach hotel room. In one of the photos, the 18-year-old singer is holding what appears to be a joint, while surrounded by pals drinking beer. Sources claim Bieber and his friends, including rapper Lil Twist, were passing around cannabis cigarettes, resulting in “a lot of pot smoke." On Saturday, Bieber responded to the photos, tweeting: “Everyday growing and learning. trying to be better. u get knocked down, u get up. back on tour tomorrow. ready to see u all smile. time to do what im supposed to be doing. performing.” The "Baby" singer later wrote: ”i see all of u. i hear all of u. i never want to let any of you down. i love u. and..thank u. #beliebers. like i said…2013…new challenges. new doubters…Im ready. We are ready. see u all tomorrow and everyday after that.” Just a day before the photos were taken, a paparazzo named Chris Guerra was accidentally killed while pursuing the singer’s car on New Year's Day. Unconfirmed reports have claimed that Guerra saw the pop star smoking marijuana from a pipe in his white Ferrari, which prompted the photographer to chase his car in the first place. Just a few months ago, Bieber told Oprah Winfrey he would never let his stardom drag him into "the mistake of getting into drugs or alcohol."

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By Valerie Tejeda


1/07/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: January 7, 2013


Mea culpa? Photo via

By The Fix staff

plane drunk

1/04/13 5:22pm

Vigilantes Tape Groping Drunk to His Airplane Seat


His fellow flyers reached breaking point.
Photo via

There's something about getting on a plane that brings out the worst in the world's drunks—like French film star Gerard Depardieu, South African MP Dirk Feldman and Dutch rehab boss Bas de Bont. But vigilante justice seems to have prevailed aboard one Icelandair flight: A photo has appeared online of an unnamed drunk man bound, gagged and taped to his airplane seat. According to a post by Mezane, a Reddit user who claims to have snapped the viral photo, the man pictured downed a bottle of liquor (27% licorice-flavored vodka, say Icelandic news sites) and began causing a severe ruckus. “He drank an entire bottle of some duty free alcohol. Then he tried grabbing the women who were sitting next him screaming that we're going to crash,” Mezane recounts. “Finally he started choking a guy next to him and that's when a huge crowd restrained him and tied him up. This was two hours into a six-hour flight. Did I mention that he was spitting on random people on the plane!” Another Reddit user on the same flight posted a close-up of the offender. How the zip ties and green duct tape were sourced on board the plane remains a mystery, but Icelandair spokesperson Guðjón Arngrímsson says the bound binger was well looked after by flight crew—before being poured into the hands of waiting New York cops.

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By Bryan Le

Mexican drug cartels

1/04/13 5:00pm

Mexican Cartels Go Underground—to Mine Coal


Coal miners in Coahuila. Photo via

Mexican drug cartels seem to be getting their hands dirty in a new trade: illegal coal mining. Evidence of criminal mining activity has been traced to the State of Coahuila in Mexico, which produces 95% of the country's coal—mostly from small, unregulated roadside mines that can easily be exploited. Humberto Moreira, Coahuila's ex-governor, tells Al Jazeera that the power-hungry Los Zetas have been taking advantage of this chance to diversify. "They discover a mine, extract the coal, sell it at $30, pay the miners a miserable salary," says Moreira. "It's more lucrative than selling drugs." Although many have contested Moreira's claims, the federal government has found evidence of organized crime activity in the mines, and they've dispatched 200 government inspectors to the region to investigate. Samuel Gonzalez, former chief of Mexico's Anti-Organized Crime Unit, says that Los Zetas—now seen as Mexico's most powerful cartel—will seek out any opportunity to turn a profit. "The Zetas are interested in any type of illegal business, from prostitution to extorting business, to mining coal," says Gonzalez. "They’re capable of analysing where they can earn money from any type of illicit dealings." Coal miners in Coahuila reportedly confirm that organized criminals have infiltrated their industry, but refuse to comment on the record. Mexico's federal human rights agency has said that criminal involvement in the mines poses a threat to miners' lives, by stripping them of basic safety protocols.

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By May Wilkerson


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