Actor Joe Pantoliano, best known for his roles as Ralph Ciafretto in The Sopranos and Guido the Killer Pimp in Risky Business, is opening up about his addiction-filled past. His new memoir, Asylum: Hollywood Tales From My Great Depression: Mental Dis-Ease, Recovery and Being My Mother's Son, reveals his addictions to alcohol, prescription drugs, food and sex, as well as his "self-medication" behaviors he dubs the "Seven Deadly Symptoms": food, vanity, shopping and shoplifting, success, sex, alcohol and prescription drugs. "I became an alcoholic, an addict, a compulsive shopper, a kleptomaniac. And a maniac!" writes the 60-year-old actor. The memoir also talks about his difficult upbringing in a New Jersey household with gambling addictions, alcoholism and ties to organized crime. "The whole point of this is to use myself as an example in giving other people permission to be open and honest about their past," says Pantoliano. These days, Pantoliano has three children with his third wife and is almost entirely sober, save for taking 10 milligrams of an antidepressant and 10 milligrams of a statin for cholesterol. And while he's unable to live off his time on The Sopranos—"I get a $14 check every few months"—Pantoliano is set to star in a New York play with Mario Cantone, Moolah, about two con men who fall out of favor with the mob.
Sometimes rehab isn't a good thing. The United Nations is urging Thailand to end its program of mandatory drug rehabilitation for addicts, instead encouraging their own participation and community involvement in the recovery process. A recent UN report says that Thailand has forced drug rehabilitation on 65% of the 400,000 addicts in the country, while only 25% have undergone treatment voluntarily and 13% have taken it up. The UN has also condemned similar mandatory rehab programs in other southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, calling them "counterproductive" and claiming they violate the rights of drug users in some cases. A 2011 NGO Human Rights Watch report revealed how residents of some forced treatment centers are required to undertake hazardous and unpaid labor in agricultural production, garment making or construction and receive physical abuse if they do not comply. Earlier this month, 96 addicts escaped a compulsory drug rehab center in Vietnam, nearly half of the total residents being treated there.
British comedian and actor Russel Brand urged politicians to regard addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal matter, while speaking before Members of Parliament in a committee on UK drug policy. A recovering drug addict, 36-year-old Brand said it would be "a brilliant idea" if the money spent "nicking people for possession" could be instead channeled to treatment and recovery programs. Now sober for nine years, he appeared alongside the head of Focus 12, the detox center that helped him through his recovery. In his 2007 autobiography, My Bookie Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Stand-Up, Brand related how his own descent into drug and alcohol addiction wreaked havoc on his life. He told the committee he became addicted to drugs because of a mental and psychological condition and a "spiritual malady," adding that it's more effective to address these issues than to criminalize addicts.
Brand thinks decriminalization of drugs could prove "useful," but avoided taking a definitive stance, saying "as a drug addict, the legal status [of a drug] is an irrelevance." Instead, he emphasizes the importance of tackling the "disease" of addiction with an abstinence and recovery-based approach. "Addicts that get clean, one day at a time, through abstinence-based recovery, generally speaking stop committing crimes," he told MPs. "We need to change the laws in this country and have a more compassionate, altruistic, loving attitude to the people with the disease of addiction."
Booze has long been associated with breast cancer—rates are 40 to 50% higher for women who drink three drinks a day—but medical professionals have never been able to explain why. Now, one research team thinks they have the answer. The team, from the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico, tracked a protein called CYP2E1 in breast tissue samples from healthy women. This protein is where most breast cancers originate, and it's found in the "mammary epithelial" breast cells, to which researchers administered ethanol. The results? Cells that expressed low levels of CYP2E1 were almost immune to the ethanol, while cells with high levels of the protein began to produce carcinogenic free radicals. "Ethanol-treated human mammary cells had an increase in free radical production, oxidative stress and the activation of cellular mechanisms that cause cells to increase their proliferation rate," says Maria de Lourdes Rodriguez-Fragoso, professor of pharmacology and toxicology. "So if you are a woman who naturally expresses higher levels of CYP2E1 and you consume alcohol, you would be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer than a woman who expresses lower amounts of CYP2E1." Rodriguez-Fragoso believes that with these results they will be able to develop a better method of diagnosis for breast cancer: "If you know the risk probability of certain behaviors on your likelihood of developing cancer, then you can better understand what preventative measures you should be taking.”
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- World's Biggest Beer Drinkers are World's Worst Online Casino Players [Market Watch]
- Sex Addiction Film Banned in Singapore [AFP]
- Rodney King Discusses His Battle with Alcoholism in New Book [Huffington Post]
- Video: Celebrities and LSD; Jack Nicholson, John Lennon, Steve Jobs[Huffington Post]
A feisty exchange warmed up an overcast day in San Diego this morning. During the Freedom and Recovery conference on addiction treatment for service personnel, retired US Army general and former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey flatly rejected the idea that the US should follow Portugal's seemingly successful example of drug decriminalization. Fix co-founder and treatment specialist Joe Schrank asked the general during a Q&A, "Could Portugal's example of drug decriminalization work here?" Portugal decriminalized all drugs more than 10 years ago, a move that reportedly brought lower rates of drug use, drug-related deaths and HIV infections, and made people with addiction problems more likely to seek treatment.
But that wouldn't happen here, according to McCaffrey. He argued at length that "legalizing drugs would be an utter disaster," claiming that "low-level users" don't do time in the US, and concluding: "Portugal? Bullshit!" The remark drew some applause from the conference crowd at the Hotel Del Coronado, many of them treatment providers. McCaffrey, who was Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy for five years under Bill Clinton, is known as a scathing critic of the current administration's "anemic effort" to protect the southern border from the ravages of the Mexican drug war. Today he was speaking mainly about the increasing mental health and substance abuse problems that face returning veterans.