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]
As the eastern seaboard faces Hurricane Sandy's 85-mph winds and a predicted 11-foot storm surge, many addicts in recovery face an equally scary threat: isolation. For alcoholics who have put down the bottle, staying occupied and socializing with other people can be an essential tool for warding off the temptation to drink. But in the event of a severe weather event like a hurricane, many addicts find themselves left to their own devices—which, combined with the anxiety provoked by a media barrage of ominous weather warnings, can increase the desire to drink or use drugs. "I'm honestly more scared of being alone with my mind than of the storm," Alex, a sober alcoholic from NYC, tells The Fix. "As they say in 'the rooms' [of AA] it's a dangerous neighborhood in there." Recovery meetings like AA are closing down all over the New York area and well beyond as winds increase, leading many recovering addicts to seek out alternate ways to stay connected. Most 12-step programs offer meetings by phone, and the internet provides a host of resources for coping with addiction, with websites like intherooms.com providing social support online for alcoholics and addicts in recovery or getting sober.
Others find networking sites like Facebook helpful for warding off loneliness. But these sites can also be triggering, by serving as a reminder that many are turning to alcohol and drugs to counteract the boredom and isolation brought on by the storm. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel jealous of all the people posting about how they're stocking up on tons of booze to get through the next couple of days," says Heidi, who lives in Brooklyn and has one year sober. "Me, I've just got a lot of cookies and tea and movies to watch. And that's cool." Other people in recovery say the hurricane has increased their urge to drink or use, and it can be especially hard on those who are newly clean or sober. "I just want to get drunk and stoned and wake up when it's over," says John, an addict from Brooklyn who has two months clean, "but I know that won't help anything." Others rely heavily on the reminder of "what it was like" while they were drinking or using, to help them stay sober and weather out the storm. "For me, one drink leads to god-knows-what, and that could mean anything from prison to death," says Georgia, who has eight years clean. "No storm is worth throwing away my life for."
One person in the US is arrested for pot every 42 seconds, according to a report released today by the FBI—and 82% of these arrests are for possession only. A total of 1.5 million drug arrests were recorded in 2011, of which about 50% were for marijuana, according to the new report. These staggering numbers surface just a week before residents of three states—Oregon, Washington and Colorado—vote on whether or not to legalize and regulate small amounts of marijuana for adult use. According to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the statistics provide the latest evidence of the continuing failure of the 40-year War on Drugs, which has cost the country $545 million without substantially cutting drug use. "Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between one and a half to three billion dollars a year just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests," says Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who heads LEAP, and who gave an extensive interview to The Fix last year. "That’s a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs." Franklin claims the three state ballot measures could be the "first step" in ending the country's failing efforts to tackle drugs: "I hope [voters] take this opportunity to guide the nation to a more sensible approach to drug use.”
As Hurricane Sandy rages, New Yorkers have stocked up on all the essentials: water, batteries and of course, lots and lots of beer. "There were long lines at my local supermarket yesterday," one Brooklyn resident tells The Fix, typically. "The four areas of shelves that were severely depleted were bread, water, potato chips and beer." With public transportation shut down and many people stuck at home for a few days, some have decided to start drinking right away; a quick Instagram search for "#hurricanesupplies" almost exclusively turns up pictures of booze. If the storm turns out to be as bad as feared, beer may also become valuable for more than just personal intoxication. As Forbes contributor Seth Porges writes: “I remember an interview in which a survivor of Hurricane Ike told us that, with stores closed and money useless, beer became the best available currency for supplies or enticing folks to help clean up debris.”
For more foolhardy drinkers, some bars are staying open for the duration. In New Jersey, a group of six retirees—calling themselves “The Breakfast Club”—meets almost every morning for a few drinks at Scooters Bar and Grill. They were determined not to let Hurricane Sandy break their tradition this morning. The small bar is just a few blocks away from the Delaware River, and often fills up with about two feet of water during major storms, but that doesn't stop its thirsty patrons. Lynn Hofacker, the bartender for about 15 years, opened at 7 am this morning and says she’ll stay open as long as there's power—even if customers have to wade through water to get their drink on. "They are a rare breed here," she says. "I expect business to pick up today."