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Jane Says

11/16/12 11:49am

Can a Vaccine "Cure" Addiction?

Reader's Question: Are you enthusiastic or skeptical about the "vaccines" that are currently in development to prevent different types of substance addiction?

[Jane is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to janevelezmitchell@thefix.com.]

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By Jane Velez-Mitchell

energy drinks

11/16/12 11:02am

5-Hour Energy Blamed for 13 Deaths

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"For energy that lasts" Photo via

The ubiquitous energy drink "shot" Five-Hour Energy has been linked to 13 deaths in the past four years, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The mini-bevarage, advertised as a replacement for coffee, is currently under investigation for containing dangerous amounts of caffeine, after being linked to 92 adverse event reports—including 32 hospitalizations, as well as 13 possible deaths. "If someone is to use multiple cans, now is when we start to see some of the side effects," says Dr. Sean Patrick Nord, USC Director of the Section of Toxicology. "You're getting astronomical amounts, 30 to 40 cups of coffee." Living Essentials—the company that manufactures 5-Hour Energy—claims one shot contains the same amount of caffeine as a 12-ounce cup of coffee, and recommends that individuals consume no more that two bottles per day. The company is “unaware of any deaths proven to have been caused by the consumption of 5-Hour Energy," it stated recently. "It is important to note that submitting a serious adverse event report to the FDA, according the agency itself, is not construed by FDA as an admission that the dietary supplement was involved, caused or contributed to the adverse event being reported.” Even in light of the alarming reports, many experts agree that it's nearly impossible for an adult to fatally overdose on caffeine. However, energy drinks are thought to pose a serious risk for children and teens—especially those with underlying heart conditions.

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By Valerie Tejeda

headlines

11/16/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: November 16, 2012

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Stephanie Bongiovi is recovering. Photo via

By The Fix staff

music and sobriety

11/15/12 5:00pm

Phish Frontman Jams Out Sober

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Happy, joyous and Phree! Photo via

Psychedelic rock band Phish may have a loyal following among stoners, but lead singer Trey Anastasio ended his extended jam with drugs in 2006. "There was always drinking, pot, psychedelics. I'm sure there was a lot of self-medicating, self-discovery going on," Anastasio tells Rolling Stone. Eventually his descent into substance abuse began to take its toll and shortly before the band broke up in 2004, he was hitting bottom. "Once that line was crossed, it sucked all the life out of the music and relationships," he recalls. "I'd let everyone down, which was my worst nightmare ever." It wasn't until two years later that he finally got help, after he was busted for "erratic driving" and possession of prescription drugs, including Percocet and Xanax, that were not in his name. He was ordered to complete 14 months of limited-mobility treatment and community service duties that included scrubbing toilets, and has been in recovery ever since. "I fucking hate drugs," he says now. "I really do." Since mending things with his bandmates and reuniting with Phish in 2009, the singer and guitarist also released a solo album last month. "Trey's work ethic is unbelievable," says drummer Jon Fishman. "He's not dabbling. He's pushing himself hard." Anastasio isn't the only Phish-head to abstain from substances: a group of sober fans have formed a "Phellowship" group, offering support and information for "anyone who wishes to remain clean and sober at shows."

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By May Wilkerson

Drug treatment in prison

11/15/12 4:04pm

Drug Treatment in Prison: Moving on Out

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Helpful or futile? Photo via

A prisoner who completes Phase III—the final phase—of the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) should have obtained employability skills that will assist him in re-entry to society. He's expected to be able to distinguish realistic from unrealistic expectations, and to identify strategies for coping with thoughts, emotions and situations that increase his risk for recidivism and relapse. "Phase III is about transitions. It deals with job interview skills, creating a safety net, which is a support system of people to assist you from relapsing," one prisoner tells The Fix. "You learn a lot of stuff: like how to tie a tie, how to shake hands properly, how to conduct an interview and how to maneuver through the fact that you were incarcerated." Alongside such practical skills, self-analysis remains important: "You also write a paper to evaluate yourself to see if you are institutionalized."

A Phase III participant is expected to actively apply prosocial skills and develop his own realistic plans for exiting the program, and prison. He has to demonstrate understanding of what a balanced life means, an appreciation of the value of job satisfaction, and the need to make positive life-adjustments to achieve that. His understanding should also extend to elements of physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as the difference between positive and negative relationships, and the importance of positive community involvement. But despite all these lofty and ambitious objectives, "You don't really learn anything that would be beneficial to your re-entry to the world," the prisoner tells us. "I felt it's condescending in nature." One of his complaints is that "the interviews that are conducted aren't valid for what job we might really be getting or be interested in. They have you apply for positions in mock interviews and job fairs that you wouldn't really have the ability or chance to get. Because for real, coming out of prison and being a drug addict, you are just going to have to get a shitty job to appease the halfway house and your probation officer. So to me, it's all a facade."

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By Seth Ferranti

Drug laws

11/15/12 3:01pm

Legalization Debate Turns to Other Drugs

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Next up? Cuffs via Shutterstock

Legalization is in the air right now, and an unusually constructive debate was waged in Manhattan last night on whether the US should end its prohibition on all currently illegal drugs. Hosted by the Intelligence Squared foundation, to be broadcast on NPR and Channel 13, it featured what debater Nick Gillespie (editor-in-chief at Reason.com, for the motion) characterized as four sometime participants in the drug war: a soldier (Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University and former federal prosecutor, also for legalization); a general (Asa Hutchinson, former DEA administrator and Congressman, against); a medic (Theodore Dalrymple, former prison doctor and psychiatrist, against); and a "conscientious objector" (Gillespie himself).

Butler kicked off with a passionate plea to end America's mass incarceration, in which he used to collaborate. Noting that "No country has ever found a way to stop people using drugs," he drew attention to the grotesque racial disparities in drug-law enforcement in a country where black people use drugs no more than white people, but are far likelier to be imprisoned for it. Doubting that Hutchinson would call the cops if he caught his own daughter using cocaine, Butler concluded that "What is good enough for our children and friends is also good enough for African Americans." Hutchinson admitted that many changes are needed in the way US drug laws are enforced, but said that this doesn't mean the drug laws themselves should disappear. Stating that a $2.5 trillion total drug-war expenditure has helped to halve illegal drug use in the last 30 years, he argued, "The idea that prohibition isn't working may appeal to the popular culture, but does not pass muster on closer examination."

Gillespie made the libertarian case for "pharmacological freedom": granting adults the right to decide what they put into their own bodies. "If we don't have the right to change our minds [by using drugs]," he asked, "then what rights do we really have that are worth a damn?" A drug user who no longer boozes ("because I'm a bad drinker: I tried and tried, but..."), he raised laughs with his sense of the ludicrous—at one point imagining "fair-trade methamphetamine." But he predicted that full legalization would change little, except to jail fewer people, give us "a couple more options" in our bathroom cabinets, and "Monday mornings would be a lot easier to face." Dalrymple responded by focusing on the harm drugs can do—noting the huge addiction and overdose toll of opioid painkillers in the US, "all created perfectly legally." Citing examples like buprenorphine use in France, he argued that making drugs legal increases their availability, and that "Supply can produce a large and disastrous demand." He conceded Butler and Gillespie's point that most people who take drugs don't become addicted, adding, "but then 99% of drunk drivers get home perfectly safely—I know, because I've done it myself."

Audience votes were recorded before and after the debate, with a swing towards legalization seeing Butler and Gillespie declared the winners. But it felt more like a beginning than an end. With marijuana now legal in Colorado and Washington, America's drug-legalization debate is going to expand both in geography and scope. It will rarely remain this civil.

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By Will Godfrey

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