The recent legalization of marijuana in two US states, and the continuing drug war in Latin America and beyond place drug policy at the forefront of national debate. Should we decriminalize or legalize marijuana more widely? And what about other illegal drugs, like heroin and cocaine? The growing popularity of synthetic drugs adds fuel to the flames. And many have spoken out against the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. And should addiction treatment ever be mandatory, rather than optional? Help us debate these issues, and more, by joining our Twitter chat tomorrow—co-hosted with national nonprofit addiction treatment organization Phoenix House.
We've invited policy experts, journalists and treatment professionals to take part, but everyone is encouraged to chime in! Just log on to Twitter today (February 6) at 3 pm EST and search for the hastag #drugpol. Follow @_TheFix and @PhoenixHouse, tweet your answers to the key questions between 3 and 4 pm, and be sure to include #drugpol in all your tweets.
The lineup of participants includes: HLN host and Fix video columnist @JVelezMitchell; @drugwarmovie of the acclaimed film The House I Live In; @HealthyLiving, Huffington Post Health; addiction therapist and interventionist @maevro; social worker, Fix columnist and Newsweek/Daily Beast writer @Jeff_Deeney; @AnchorWestRehab men's treatment centers; addiction science journalists @Dirk57 and @Guinevere64; @WatershedCares treatment centers, and the Phoenix House contingent, headed up by CEO @HMeitiner. And of course your Fix staff, including @AnnaDavid, @GodfreyWill, @HRSLaton and @ShutUpMay. Follow them all to get the most out of the debate!
- Smoking Rates Much Higher Among the Mentally Ill [US News]
- Diet Soda May Be the More Dangerous Alcohol Mixer [ABC News]
- Pediatricians Should Talk to Kids About Energy Drinks and Alcohol [LA Times]
- Democratic Lawmakers Seek to Decriminalize and Tax Pot [Reuters]
- Brain Shape Linked to Cocaine Addiction [New York Times]
- Alcoholic who Stabbed her Boyfriend Banned from Every Pub in England and Wales [This is Lincolnshire]
- Family Accused of Smoking on Plane Forces Emergency Landing, Gets Arrested [Time]
Portland, Oregon is saturated with strip clubs and breweries, offering limited options for the recovery crowd looking to hang out after hours. But that's changing: Since late 2012, Winston Murray, a 24-year-old entrepreneur in recovery, has been working to expand the sober social scene with a remarkable repurposed warehouse dubbed "Fourth Dimension." The club is open 24 hours, offering free entry and an assortment of booze-free activities for the younger sober set.
Complete with foosball, ping-pong, poker tables, a stockpile of energy drinks, and a room littered with thrifted couches and a Wii, the place "feels like the basement of your coolest middle school friend’s house," one club-goer tells The Fix. She adds that all ages are welcome, "but anyone 30-plus will probably feel out of place before the first A$AP Rocky song on the stereo in the corner has finished playing." Though the club houses a weekly young people’s AA meeting, it’s far from an Alano Club in nature. Emphasizing the importance of camaraderie, not just recovery, to a sober life, Murray tells us, “The club is intended to provide people with the same fellowship that kept me sober through so many hard times.”
Fourth Dimension’s accessibility relies on the help of attendees who volunteer to take supervisory shifts. Ultimately Murray hopes donations will fund a small staff once a nonprofit status is secured. The small but consistent crowd of club-goers are hopeful about the future of the venue. Dre, a 25-year old college student and one of Fourth Dimension’s regulars, recognizes the club's importance: “It’s safe and reliable, and most people don’t have access to something this cool.”
Josh Hamilton, the Los Angeles Angels' new right fielder and cleanup batter is a "high-risk, high-reward investment" for the major league baseball team, says the LA Times. In December, he signed a five-year, $125 million contract, with expectations that his strengths could save the Angels from a three-year playoff draught. But Hamilton brings a risk to the table as well, due to his long history with addiction that once got him banned from baseball for three full seasons. Just seven years ago, he had lost 50 pounds and squandered most of his $3.96-million signing bonus on booze and drugs. "Drugs had destroyed my body and my mind and my spirit. I could no longer experience happiness or surprise. I couldn't remember the last time I felt spontaneous joy. Why was I even alive?" the player recounts in his 2010 autobiography, Beyond Belief. Hamilton tells the Times he had his "moment of surrender" when his grandmother threatened to kick him out of the house. "Emotionally, spiritually, physically, I felt hopeless," he recalls. "But when you feel the most hopeless, you're the most willing to do whatever it takes." He would go on to become a five-time all-star and 2010 American League MVP with the Texas Rangers. And despite two alcohol relapses, one in 2009 and another in January 2012, Hamilton has remained committed to cleaning up his life. He is now tested for drugs three times per week and travels with an "accountability partner" whose sole job is to help him stay sober. A movie about his life is currently in the works, directed and written by Casey Affleck. "It's set up pretty good," says Hamilton. "And the story is not close to being over."
A passion for fiery foods could spell trouble down the line; a new study finds that people who love spicy food are more likely to have a problem with alcohol. This is because both spice and alcohol stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain’s reward system, releasing naturally occurring endorphins, says study lead Sung-Gon Kim, a psychiatry professor from Busan National University in South Korea. "In the people who prefer spicy food, the opioid system is easily activated by drink or spicy [foods]," he explains. But there is a silver lining for spice-lovers: The study found naltrexone, a medication used to treat alcohol problems, was more effective for those who like their food with a kick. “Naltrexone blocks the opioid system's activation [which is] initiated by drinking," says Kim. "They do not feel the pleasure any more if they keep taking the medication.” Spicy food could also help drinkers cut back, by acting as a substitute source of opioid stimulation. In a third part of the study, Kim found that rats that were bred to have alcohol problems drank less if they were injected with the active ingredient in chilli. These injections also appeared to boost reward activity in their brains—meaning that the rats were saying no to booze, because they were already getting enough stimulation from the chilli.
There are plenty of reasons not to drink and fly, but Russians may soon lose the privilege of bringing bottles on airplanes altogether. After a few too many of the nation's travelers have caused a public ruckus in the sky, the Russian government is considering a new bill to ban duty-free booze from airplanes. To shore up support for the bill, state television is broadcasting amateur footage from a recent flight from Russia to Thailand that was forced to land after a Russian man attacked other passengers. The ads also include footage of a man head butting a steward during a flight, a brawl among passengers in line for the bathroom, and the now-famous incident of a passenger who was so belligerent, he got tied to his seat with his mouth taped shut. "Changes are needed to end such uproar on planes," says Vitaly Yefimov, of Russian parliament's transport committee. "It's a direct threat to flight security." Russia has the fourth highest per-capita alcohol consumption in the world, according to a 2011 World Health organization report.