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Recovery events

5/24/12 10:45am

Stars Speak to Honor Women's Recovery

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Judy Collins, sober 30 years, spoke of her
son's suicide after a relapse. Photo via

US Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and singer Judy Collins spoke about their own fights against addiction at Father Martin's Ashley's fifth annual Women in Recovery luncheon on Tuesday. Collins, who has been sober for 24 years, shared with the crowd how she copes with her daily struggle, saying "This disease breaks your hearts, but in recovery you have to live on life's terms. There are always going to be things you want to change in the world, but the only thing you can change is yourself." Collins has worked for years in recovery advocacy and and suicide prevention—a subject she is all too familiar with since her son, also an addict, took his own life after a relapse in 1992. "An alcohol survivor and a suicide survivor," she told a rapt audience, "they do the same thing to you. They ruin your life and they break your heart, and you have to learn to live with both." Congresswoman Mack was honored at the luncheon for her work in fighting prescription drug abuse and described herself to the crowd as a daughter, widow, and mother of addicts. Actress Lynda Carter and other supporters were present to help raise money for treatment programs for women. Peter Musser—the supervisor of the women’s program at Father Martin's Ashley treatment facility—has stated that addiction is different for women. "If [a woman] has addiction in her family history, it is more likely that the self-medication will become a full-blown addiction,” he said. “She may be drinking in secret. She may still be able to maintain. But it is insidious."

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

5/24/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 24, 2012

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Dreadful? Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

addiction and genetics

5/23/12 5:21pm

DNA Predicts Smoking Behavior (to a Point)

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Blame DNA? Photo via

One specific gene marker can help predict how much a person will smoke, a new meta-analysis finds. Researchers from 50 medical institutions nationwide analyzed the genetic material of over 32,000 smokers and non-smokers of African ancestry, to see if certain genes were linked to smoking activity. (Past research linking genetics and smoking behavior has focused primarily on populations of European descent, leaving a need for more research among other ethnic groups.) Data gathered included the age at which people began smoking, how many cigarettes they smoked per day, and how successful they were at quitting. The study found that a variant in a nicotine receptor gene is linked to smoking about one extra cigarette per day. This genetic marker is on the same gene—though in a different spot—as that implicated in smoking behavior among people of European ancestry. African Americans, on average, start smoking later and smoke fewer cigarettes per day, yet are less likely to successfully quit than people of European descent, and face a higher risk of smoking-related lung cancer than most other US populations. Sean David—MD, DPhil, a clinical associate professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the lead researcher of the study—hopes these findings will pave the way for improved treatments to help smokers quit, and for expanded preventative measures against lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases. He says the finding that this gene plays a role in “different ancestral groups” adds to the evidence of its significance, and “suggests it as a target for drug discovery and development.”

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By Sarah Beller

Celebrity Exhaustion

5/23/12 4:28pm

Ray J's Hospital Stay for "Exhaustion" Ends

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Why do celebrities get so exhausted?
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Going to the hospital for being really, really tired is catching. Celebrities like Rihanna have long used the "exhaustion" card to justify their emergency room visits, and now singer/reality star Ray J can be added to the list. The 31-year-old was released from a Las Vegas hospital earlier this morning, after being admitted on Monday for "exhaustion and jet lag" following the Billboard Music Awards. A friend entered Ray J's hotel room the morning after the show, found him "extremely disoriented" and unable to get out of bed, and called paramedics. But Ray J's rep said that the singer truly was exhausted after a 32-hour flight from China—where he performed a concert—and a four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas the next day to attend the awards show. The rep said that doctors gave Ray J the all-clear after he underwent a variety of tests “to make sure that he did not have a blood clot in his lungs, which is potentially a deadly condition that can occur following a long haul plane flight." Ray J dated Whitney Houston on-and-off for several years after her 2007 divorce from Bobby Brown and has reportedly been struggling to cope with the death of the music legend. But the Houston family hasn't taken kindly to the singer, feeling he was a bad influence on her. Houston's sister-in-law even reportedly threatened to call security after finding out she would be sitting next to him at the awards show.

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By McCarton Ackerman

welfare and addiction

5/23/12 3:22pm

UK Addicts Must Get Treatment or Lose Benefits

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Jobless addicts in the UK face tougher choices.
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British law is controversially set to demand that addicts receiving public assistance submit to treatment, or risk losing their unemployment benefits. Under a tougher new regime, reflecting the coalition government's austerity policy during the ongoing Euro crisis, those claiming Britain's relatively-generous unemployment pay will have to sign a contract agreeing to look for work while receiving public help. And local unemployment staff will be able report suspected addicts—if they refuse the addiction treatment offered, they'll lose their benefits. The reforms are due to take effect in October 2013. But many addiction organizations strongly oppose the plan, saying it discriminates against addicts. "In no other area of health would we see such an approach being taken," argues Niamh Eastwood, chief executive of the charity Release. "But again and again successive governments seek to stigmatize further those with addiction, who are often vulnerable and marginalized individuals." Others fear that the reform will make people hesitate to seek help, or that the loss of public support will cause addicts to spiral deeper into dependency. A group of charity bosses agrees that referrals to treatment can benefit addicts who may not otherwise have that lifeline, but that taking away their financial stability can be counterproductive. "Incentives are only part of the story," says Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern. "The real answer is to make sure that high quality treatment services are fully funded and available all over the country." 

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By Fionna Agomuoh

effects of caffeine

5/23/12 2:40pm

"Dangerous" Energy Drinks Attacked

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Just say no? Photo via

Dr. Kaayla Daniel, a certified clinical nutritionist seen on the Dr. Oz Show and NPR, has issued a strong warning of the dangers of caffeine-heavy energy drinks. She points out that energy drinks negatively impact our mental health, and have even been linked to deaths. “We have no way of knowing how much caffeine is in these drinks," says Daniel. "The labels don’t include this info.” The fact that energy drinks are marketed as supplements, rather than food, gives manufacturers a loophole to pump the drinks with caffeine, she claims: anything from “100 to a whopping 430 mg per 12 ounces,” compared with the 35 mg typically found in a can of Coke. Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster and Full Throttle are heavily marketed towards college students, who use them to study harder—or party longer. But mixing alcohol (a "downer") with energy drinks ("uppers") isn't safe, warns Daniel. She explains that the combination creates a “'push-pull'” effect on the body that can lead to heart arrhythmias and potential heart failure. And caffeine alone can cause clinically recognized intoxication, with an unpleasant range of symptoms including anxiety, arrhythmias in extreme cases, and stomach upsets. Daniel adds that energy drinks are “definitely not a case of Mother Nature’s traditional wisdom, but rather of Father Technology’s profit making and experimentation.” She's unsurprised about recent news stories linking teen suicides to energy drinks: "Caffeine intoxication keeps the body in 'fight or flight' mode. This can leave people feeling very frightened and threatened. People taking in too much caffeine feel the physical symptoms of increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and panic akin to an outside 'emergency.'” Finally, Daniel warns that energy drinks may prompt further drug abuse, calling caffeine out as a potential “gateway drug.” 

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By Reina Berger

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