Before Facebook existed, those in search of adventure were known to strike out for the South Pole—but their carry-on bags may have included some items not unfamiliar to a modern-day drug user, according to Gavin Francis, a modern Antarctic enthusiast and writer. In his piece in the most recent issue of Granta, Francis writes that the men of Ernest Shackleton's 1907–1909 Nimrod expedition brought along an array of now-illicit drugs—not for recreational purposes, but for first aid. They cleared “snowblindness” by dripping cocaine into their eyes, stopped diarrhea with “chalk ground up with opium,” and cured colic (better known today as gallstones) with a “tincture of cannabis” mixed with a “tincture of chili pepper.”
Unsurprisingly, the effectiveness of these remedies was limited. Whisky, which they brought along for warmth, didn't protect the explorers from the harsh weather; one injured adventurer even went to his death by walking outside so his handicap wouldn't slow down his team. And when scientific curiosity alone wasn't enough to keep them trudging through the snow, they'd pop a “Forced March”—a pill made of blended cocaine and caffeine taken hourly. The only antidotes they stowed that are considered remotely medical today were aspirin and morphine. But despite carrying a smorgasbord of substances, documentation suggests they were rarely tempted to overdo it—in fact, they erred on the side of abstinence, even when it proved painful. In 1912, Robert Falcon Scott, commander of the doomed British expedition to the South Pole, refused morphine before starving and freezing to death in his tent. “[M]ust be near the end,” he wrote in his journal shortly before he died. “Have decided it shall be natural.”
Comedian and former sitcom star Roseanne Barr is running for president on the California-based Peace and Freedom Party ticket—and, unlike her higher-profile opponents, President Obama and Governor Romney, she's not waffling on drug policy. "Marijuana should be totally legal," the 59-year-old Barr said during an impassioned speech at Oaksterdam University, in Oakland, Calif., last night. She added, "We live in a free country, so it should be legal to smoke marijuana and drink." Currently working as a macadamia-nut farmer in Hawaii, Barr said she has a medical pot prescription for glaucoma, and has smoked pot for most of her life. During her speech, she allied herself with medical-marijuana advocates who have criticized the Obama administration's crackdown on pot dispensaries in states where they are legal; she also called legalizing marijuana the "way to end the drug wars and stop the monopoly of the subsidized prison systems." As the crowd chanted her name, some wielding posters with slogans like "Yes We Cannabis," Barr thanked them for "breaking through" the two-party system's "mind-control programming," and credited weed for encouraging free thought and helping people to "remember what is important."
If you’re itching for a cultural “moment” in sobriety, or if you’re merely a drooling fan of the sometimes haunting, sometimes vile, sometimes exhilarating genre of “Addiction Cinema," the New York edition of the Reel Recovery Film Festival starts today and it’s loaded with great movies. Kicking off with screenings of a documentary about troubled poet and musician Gil-Scott Heron and the drunkard’s classic, On The Bowery, the festival will then feature a discussion of the film with Robert Downey Sr.
Founded in Los Angeles four years ago by native Leonard Buschel, the brains behind Writers in Treatment, the Reel Recovery Film Festival comes to New York for the first time this year, and the screenings all take place at the Quad Cinemas on 13th Street in Manhattan. Every screening will be followed by a talk with a filmmaker or a clinician.
“The purpose of this festival, besides showing great films,” says Buschel, "is to help remove the stigma of addiction, but also to bring treatment professionals together. You look at the clientele and there’s a lot of clinicians, a lot of sober people, and about 10 or 20% are just attracted to these films. I call them 'on the cusp.' In psychology, it’s hard to look directly at your problem, but if you look at a reflection of it you can actually process it.”
The highlights from the seven-day festival include the documentary, Death of an Addict; the Danish english-language film, Love Addict, about co-dependency and, naturally, love addiction; a whole day devoted to women and addiction (Lipstick and Liquor, My Name Was Bess). There will also be a host of high-profile films, such as the cocaine classic Less Than Zero and last year’s demonic cult hit, Shame.
There will also be an evening of sober comedians and a round-table discussing trying to be creative after you get sober, hosted by William Cope Moyers, and including the New York Times’ David Carr, Fix columnist Maia Szalavitz, Laurie Dhue, Maer Roshan and others.
For tickets and more information, visit reelrecoveryfilmfestival.org.
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Parents everywhere may soon have Vince Gilligan to thank for a new type of crystal meth hitting the streets. The executive producer of AMC's Breaking Bad stopped by The Colbert Report last night to talk about the show and its final eight episodes, which will air this summer. As of now, Gilligan has no idea how the last season of the show—which has inspired some controversial "meth candy"—will pan out for the characters. "It's probably not gonna end well," he says with a laugh. "My writers, as we speak, are back in Los Angeles now. Hopefully they haven't left for the day and are working on answering that very question now." Gilligan also speaks about the crash course in meth culture and street names for the drug he needed to learn for the show—prompting a hilarious "meth-off" between him and Colbert. The host concludes by asking the question on everyone's mind: is there really blue crystal meth on the market? "Well, there is now," says Gilligan.
Marijuana-like chemicals in the brain may help reduce some of the behavioral issues related to autism, a new study suggests. Researchers led by Daniele Piomelli of UC Irvine and Olivier Manzoni of INSERM, the French national research agency, treated mice that exhibited symptoms of fragile X syndrome, the most common known genetic cause of autism. The mice were given a class of chemicals called endocannabinoid transmitters, which occur naturally in the brain. These transmitters facilitate the efficient transport of electrical signals at synapses, which is severely limited in people with fragile X syndrome. According to Piomelli, this is the first study to identify the role of naturally-occuring endocannabinoids, which share a similar chemical structure with THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana: "What we hope is to one day increase the ability of people with fragile X syndrome to socialize and engage in normal cognitive functions," he says. The researchers involved don't advocate giving marijuana to children with autism, but are rather focusing on ways to boost levels of this marijuana-like chemical that occurs naturally in the brain. "It would be either an oral or injected drug but that’s at the very end stage of drug discovery, and we are at the very early stage of drug discovery," says Kwang Mook Jung, another professor at UC Irvine involved in the study. But some parents have already spoken out about the benefits of giving actual marijuana to their autistic offspring, claiming it improves their sociability while lowering anxiety and negative behaviors. Research on the effects of marijuana on autistic children is limited.