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drug war

10/25/12 4:11pm

US Spending Isn't Winning the War on Drugs

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Green line: money. Blue line: US drug use.
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Despite total federal spending of approximately $545 billion to stop drugs in their tracks, the rate of US drug use has changed relatively little over the past 40 years, according to a chart crafted by documentarian Matt Groff. Using data pulled from the Census and the government's National Drug Control Surveys, Groff finds that while anti-drug spending has increased massively since Richard Nixon declared a "War on Drugs" in the early '70s, it's made relatively little impact on the proportion of Americans using illicit drugs. In the '70s, the government was spending less than $1,000 per 100 citizens on preventing drug abuse (all values are measured in 2012 dollars). By 2000, spending hit $9,000 per 100 people—and it's remained near that level over the past decade. Meanwhile the number of drug users per 100 people in any given month hit a peak at just under 20 in 1979, before declining to just over five for most of the '90s. The last decade, however, despite the sustained high level of anti-drug spending, has seen a gradual increase in the proportion of drug users to around 10 out of every 100 people. As the US government loses money, an estimated 60,000 people have lost their lives to violence fueled by drug trafficking in Mexico, in addition to countless others around the world who have died from overdose and addiction.

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By Bryan Le

lawsuits

10/25/12 3:20pm

Cocaine Whistleblower Wins Big Bucks

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MacDonald wouldn't keep the blow on the
low. Photo via

A Hollywood visual effects specialist who was fired from his job after reporting a co-worker's cocaine habit has won a wrongful termination case in the amount of $450,000. Andrew MacDonald sued his employers, special effects firm Ascent Media Group (AMG), in September 2010 for wrongful termination. After catching his co-worker doing coke in the company restroom in 2009, he had reported his co-worker's "open and notorious drug abuse at the office during working hours" to his bosses, who demanded proof. MacDonald "jokingly" asked if he would have to resort to video-taping the man inhaling lines of blow; he was fired the next day for "lying" and for trying to film someone in the bathroom. Los Angeles jurors decided on Wednesday that AMG had fired him in “malice,” resulting in MacDonald losing health benefits for his pregnant wife, awarding him two years' worth of salary for wrongful termination. The cocaine-using co-worker has since left AMG.

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By Bryan Le

legalization of marijuana

10/25/12 2:13pm

Record 59% Now Want Pot to Be Legalized

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Weed gets a green light from the polls.
Photo via

Support for the legalization of marijuana movement has just hit a record high, with a whopping 59% in favor, according to a recent poll by YouGov for the Huffington Post. This latest hike builds on the 55% who supported legalization, according to a poll taken last year. The numbers included 51% who want weed to be taxed and regulated like alcohol, and another 8% who believe it should be legalized, but not taxed and regulated. Only 26% of respondents said that marijuana shouldn't be legalized, with another 15% unsure. Support for medical marijuana is even higher: 64% of respondents favor permitting doctors to prescribe small amounts of pot, with 23% opposed. Support for medical marijuana is highest among people between 45 and 64 years of age— 74% of whom were in favor, compared with 56% of younger adults. Other polls from the likes of Gallup and the Pew Research Center reveal lower numbers in support of legalization—at 50% and below. But HuffPost claims the difference is accounted for by its methodology: instead of polling by phone, the YouGov poll was carried out online and offered a third—and most popular—option of legalize and tax and regulate.

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By Bryan Le

Recovery in Prison

10/25/12 1:11pm

Drug Treatment in Prison: A Harsh Regime

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Play by the rules—or else. Photo via

In a federal prison's RDAP unit, the residents are expected to aspire to high standards of living. Adhering to all the usual institutional rules and regulations isn't enough; participants are given an additional set of dictates on personal behavior, appearance and cleanliness. "You have to wear you khaki prison-issued uniform all day, from 7:30 am to 4 pm, and it has to be pressed, ironed and neat," one prisoner tells The Fix. "Your cell has to be inspection-ready when you get up, and you can't lie down at all during the day until after the 4 pm count. During programming hours [8-11 a.m] you can't leave the unit or use the phone or email. No commissary, no work, no nothing. Only treatment and recovery. They're preparing you for the streets and everything is restricted." He continues, "Little things that you get away with in other units are big things in the drug unit. RDAP can be vicious if you aren't on point. You're held in constant fear of losing your release date. They even say, when you make a decision, consider whether it will affect your earliest projected release date."

If RDAP participants break the rules, disciplinary actions apply. Sanctions can include behavioral contracts that target problematic attitudes or behaviors—as well as just about any other remedy the staff decides is relevant. "I had to write 150 sentences once because I went to take a piss during community without asking permission," the prisoner says. "You have to comply to their every whim. If you violate the rules, they can make you write sentences or stand up in community and humble and humiliate yourself. If you really piss them off they will set your release date back or kick you out of the program. It pays not to make any enemies—staff or prisoner—because they will just jack off your date." The RDAP coordinator may remove a participant for disruptive behavior or unsatisfactory progress. A resident normally gets a formal warning first. But this becomes unnecessary if his lack of compliance is serious enough for his continued presence to create an immediate or ongoing problem for staff and other prisoners.

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By Seth Ferranti

celebrity addicts

10/25/12 12:12pm

007 Is a "Borderline Alcoholic," Says Daniel Craig

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Daniel Craig as 007 in Skyfall Photo via

If James Bond always appears angry and with a vodka martini in hand, Bond star Daniel Craig says you need to simply put one and one together. In the lead-up to the latest installment of the franchise, Skyfall, which hits US theaters November 9, the current face of 007 hypothesizes that his character is "a borderline alcoholic, he always was!" The actor notes that many of Bond's traits are similar to those of the character's creator Ian Fleming. The writer "fought a lot of pain through his life. He anaesthetised himself with alcohol and painkillers," says Craig. "Skyfall however is about how Bond recovers and finds his way back into the game." It looks like sobriety may not be on the horizon for Bond anytime soon, but he is mixing up his usual hard liquor with beer—at a price of $45 million. Thanks to a controversial new product-placement deal, the screen icon, who has been drinking martinis "shaken, not stirred" since 1956, sips Heineken both in Skyfall and a new commercial for the beer, although he does still drink his martini-of-choice too. The latest 007 film was reportedly been delayed for two years due to funding problems. "The simple fact is that without [Heineken], we couldn't do it," says Craig. "It's unfortunate but that's how it is. This movie costs a lot of money to make, it costs nearly as much again if not more to promote, so we go where we can." 

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By McCarton Ackerman

cancer killer

10/25/12 11:08am

Antabuse May Also Beat Brain Tumors

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The brain's got a friend in disulfiram.
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A drug that's been used for decades to help alcoholics dry out may also help eradicate deadly brain tumors, researchers say. The drug disulfiram (branded under the name: Antabuse) enhances the body's sensitivity to alcohol—which makes drinking physically unpleasant—and it has been used for over 60 years to help wean alcoholics off the sauce. But British researchers have now discovered another life-saving use for the drug: it could be used to fight glioblastoma—a common, and deadly, form of brain cancer. In lab tests, the drug was found to kill glioblastoma cells, especially when combined with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. The research—published in the British Journal of Cancer—is promising, especially since the drug has been safely used on alcoholics for decades. “One of the big challenges in cancer treatment is how to successfully kill tumour cells without harming the surrounding tissues," says Dr Julie Sharp, from Cancer Research UK, which owns the journal. “Drugs like this one, which can both penetrate the blood brain barrier and increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy, could play an important role in overcoming the problem of resistance to help improve the outlook for people with brain tumours.”

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