Over the past year, three people have died at a Scientology-affiliated rehab, Narconon Arrowhead, near the town of Canadian, Oklahoma. The treatment facility employs controversial "Purification Rundown" techniques, including high doses of vitamins (including niacin) and intensive sauna sessions. Until now, Narconon leadership has refused to speak to the press. But an Oklahoma TV news station recently landed an exclusive interview with Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith, who said that the Narconon program helped him break his own addiction (he wouldn't say to what) 36 years ago.
"I've had it personally, I've helped people, I've seen what it does," Smith said. "Yes, it's very serious." He added that nearly three quarters of staff members at Narconon Arrowhead are program alumni—not an uncommon occurrence in the rehab industry. According to Smith, the exercise-and-sauna program begins with a half-hour of light calisthenics, followed by four and a half hours "in a low, dry-heat sauna, with cool-down and hydration breaks." The mother of one of the deceased, Gabriel Graves, said that her son suffered from intense headaches following the sauna sessions, but was denied pain meds, and was unable to see a doctor. Smith claims that Narconon tries to treat its patients "nutritionally" at first, but will allow OTC medications as needed. As for the deaths themselves, Smith evaded comment, telling the news station, "It's a tough job. There's people that die from addiction every day." He added, "Unfortunately, death is part of addiction. It's an ugly part, and it happens in rehab and out of rehab, and nobody wants it to happen." Citing patient confidentiality, Smith declined to comment specifically on the three deaths that have occurred at his facility.
Both school bullies and their victims are more likely to turn to alcohol following an incident of bullying, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati examined trends in bullying, recent alcohol use and heavy drinking episodes among over 54,000 7th-12th grade students in schools across greater Cincinnati, including the tri-state regions of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. They found that 38% of students had taken part in violent victimization at school, ranging from verbal intimidation to the use of a weapon. Victims of bullying—who were found more likely to be males, non-whites and junior high school students—were 1.5 times more likely to abuse alcohol than their peers. And interestingly, the bullies themselves reported similar drinking patterns. “The overall effect of victimization and alcohol use did not differ based on sex, age or race. It has an overall impact on their drinking rates and level of intoxication across all categories,” says Dr. Keith King, one of the lead researchers. “Also, bullies and their victims are reporting similar types of activity in relation to their drinking patterns. We believe the alcohol abuse may often be an effort to escape problems and to self-medicate.” Both bullies and their victims were also found to be less likely to engage in extracurricular school clubs or community organizations.
Prisoners who qualify for the Bureau of Prisons' Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) can get up to a year off their sentence for completing the 500-hour, 10 month-long course. Upon admission, each prisoner is given an orientation handbook to introduce the rules, expectations and concepts of RDAP. To successfully complete Phase 1, a prisoner must cooperate and participate fully, building rapport with others, and demonstrating a positive attitude and a willingness to accept feedback. The idea is for him to learn to recognize self-defeating thoughts and attitudes that will stunt his development; by understanding the damaging consequences of addictive and criminal behavior, he can mentally prepare himself for successful re-entry into society.
But it doesn't always go exactly to plan: "What we actually do is different than what is supposed to happen," one current RDAP participant tells The Fix. "We are supposed to have class five days a week, and usually we only had it once or twice a week. When we did go to class, the DTS [drug treatment specialist] would repeat the same stuff over and over again, giving the equivalent of a halftime speech and telling us how we hit the lottery [by being admitted to the program]." He continues, "We watched some movies and wrote papers on them, and we had to write a 15-page autobiography detailing our drug use and criminal behavior, which we had to turn in."
"Ideally what we were supposed to learn was the eight attitudes of change, which go from honesty to willingness and the roadblocks to change, which can stop us from changing," the prisoner says. RDAP teaches residents how to perform an attitude check and at a minimum, expects a participant to prepare a readiness statement and develop a realistic individual treatment plan. "Phase 1 is to pretty much get us to see how in our lives what we were doing wasn't working," says the prisoner. "That is the first step: realization. It's kind of like in the 12-step NA program where we realize we are powerless over our addictions. The same philosophy, but we are in prison."
Chaz Bono's lifelong struggle with gender identity isn't the only major battle he has overcome. The reality star and son of pop icon Cher also developed a severe addiction to prescription pain meds, which he kicked eight years ago with the help of treatment. Bono says the pressures of coping with a gender transition while growing up in the public eye, which included receiving numerous hate threats from strangers, contributed to his addiction. "I was trying to escape my feelings and pain. All I cared about was being high," he says. "I've been sober now for more than eight years. I still go to 12-step meetings." Bono admits that once he began the process of transitioning into life as a man, many of the issues that led to his addiction ultimately subsided on their own. "If I hadn't done that and dealt with my issues I wouldn't have been able to live the life I have today," he says. "I'm extremely grateful for how things have turned out." In recent months, Bono has become a vocal activist for transgender issues, and released the documentary Becoming Chaz and the New York Times bestseller Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be.
Banning smoking in your workplace may save even more lives than you thought. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota saw a massive 33% decrease in heart attack rates after public smoking bans were put into place in one Minnesota county. While the bans caused some smokers to quit, the significant drop in cardiac arrests suggests that secondhand smoke may be a greater risk factor for heart disease than previously thought. “I think the bottom line is this should turn the page on the chapter discussing whether or not secondhand smoke is a risk factor for heart attacks,” says Dr. Richard D. Hurt, author of the study and a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic. Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the study examined medical data from Olmsted County (population 144,000) over two time periods: the 18 months before the smoking ban was put into place for just restaurants in 2002, and the 18 months after the ban was extended to all workplaces and all bars bars back in 2007. “Smoking rates declined in Minnesota between 2000 and 2010, from about 20% to 15%, but that change alone was not enough to explain the 33% drop in heart attacks,” says Dr. Hurt . Still, the ban did not eliminate health risks entirely, as the researchers found that the rates of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity remained the same.
- Vets More Likely to Seek Help for Alcohol Than Civilians [Stars and Stripes]
- Will US Supreme Court Turn Up its Nose at Drug-Sniffing Dogs? [Thomson Reuters]
- Aid for Addicted Doctors is Faulted in Massachusetts [The Boston Globe]
- New Mexico Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths Way Up This Year [Daily Times]
- Australian Man Asks for Longer Jail Sentence For Growing Weed [Complex]
- Toni Braxton: "'You're Makin' Me High' was All About Marijuana" [The New Age]
- Drunken Man Accidentally Mistakes Tom Cruise's House For His Own [TMZ]