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Etta James

11/15/12 2:09pm

Etta James' Son Says Addiction Ruled Her Life

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The R&B icon at a concert in 2006. Photo via

Legendary singer Etta James' son Donto, now 44, has spoken about his mother's long battle with addiction before passing away last January at age 73. "Addiction was a part of her life. But the addiction is what made her," he says of the R&B icon, who once was forced to wear a diaper that said "I'm a brat" due to her unruly behavior in a drug rehab. Despite having a famous mother who recorded five major hits during the 1950's, his upbringing was far from privileged. James' addictions prevented her from working, her savings dried up quickly and Donto lived with his grandmother while she bounced in and out of rehab. “People tended to think that because my mother was Etta James, I must have had a great life with caviar and steaks every night, but it wasn’t like that,” he recalls. “We were poor and broke. We were lucky to get Spam sandwiches and Frosted Flakes for dessert...but we always had a roof over our heads." The singer eventually kicked her addiction to heroin and cocaine in the early 80's and revived her career; however, she continued to struggle with an addiction to overeating and subsequent weight issues. "For me, food is the killer," the singer wrote in her 1995 memoir. But despite his turbulent upbringing, "There was a lot of laughter and good times," Donto recalls. "I miss the conversations we had and I miss her attitude and the crazy things she would do. I miss playing [music] with her."

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By McCarton Ackerman

pregnant Drinkers

11/15/12 12:52pm

Drinking While Pregnant Can Lower Baby's IQ

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To booze, or not to booze? That is the
question. Photo via

Drinking in the third trimester of pregnancy—even just a glass or two of alcohol a week—may lower a baby's IQ by a few points, according to new research. The issue has been long debated by doctors, but a new study led by Ron Gray, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, suggests that light drinking does harm a baby's brain development. Researchers tested for slow metabolizing genes in thousands of pregnant women—some who abstained from alcohol during pregnancy, and others who drank the equivalent of a half pint to three pints of beer (or three small glasses of wine) a week. Eight years later, researchers examined the IQ's of 4,167 of these women's children; they found across the board that women who drank lightly or not at all during pregnancy gave birth to children with higher IQ's. "This is good evidence to implicate moderate drinking during pregnancy having an effect on childhood IQ at age 8," says Gray. "Some women are going to be genetically more vulnerable or resilient than others to the effects of alcohol on the fetus, but we don't know who those people are." 

However, the results are not entirely conclusive. The study's non-drinkers were richer, older and more educated than their drinking peers, which may have skewed the results. Also, research into the controversial issue of drinking during pregnancy has resulted in a dramatic range of findings over the past few years. One study has linked a glass of wine a day to premature births, while another claims light drinking does not in fact harm a baby's brain development. One study even found that women who drank lightly during pregnancy gave birth to children with higher vocabularies.

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By McCarton Ackerman

hurricane sandy

11/15/12 11:39am

Pot Dealer Donates Profits to Hurricane Relief

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Helping hands. Photo via

Today in adorable drug news: a Brooklyn dealer has been assisting victims of Hurricane Sandy by donating the proceeds from his weed business. In the wake of the devastation, a college-educated marijuana dealer (who asked to remain anonymous), alerted his clientele that he would be giving half of his proceeds to hurricane relief—provoking a sudden spike in business. "Look, there are probably some people down there [in the Rockaways] who want some marijuana—but that's not going to clothe and feed them," he says. "So in order for me to help, I needed to turn what I do into something concrete that I could give to them." In two days, the Robin Hood of pot claims to have made $1,400—meaning he will be contributing $700 to purchase formula, diapers, hot meals, and other supplies that are much-needed in the Rockaway Peninsula. "Yes, I made a little extra money for myself those two days," he admits. "But [my clients] are getting something they'd already get anyway. I was going to work regardless, and now I felt like I was doing it with purpose.” The drug salesman will also be transporting relief goods around south Brooklyn and Queens—claiming his actions are motivated by altruism, not greed. “I'm not doing what I do in order to get rich or create some super marijuana empire," he says: "I'm trying to help, and this is my job." 

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By Valerie Tejeda

eating Disorders

11/15/12 10:45am

Deadly Eating Disorder Defies Definition

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Not anorexic or bulimic, but dying to be thin.
Photo via

Although anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known eating disorders, they aren't actually the most common—or the most dangerous. Of the 24 million people in the US with eating disorders (according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), up to 70% have EDNOS, which stands for "eating disorder not otherwise specified." EDNOS is a disorder that doesn't fully meet the criteria of anorexia or bulimia—although many of the symptoms are the same. The condition can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms tend to vary from one person to the next, and many sufferers look healthy—but EDNOS has a 5.2% mortality rate, which is higher than anorexia or bulimia. "It's still a misperception out there that these are relatively benign sorts of disorders or diets gone bad," says Dr. Douglas Bunnell, a clinical psychologist and vice president of The Renfrew Center. "These are life-threatening, serious illnesses. They have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis."

Many with EDNOS experience damaging health effects, such as loss of menstruation, fainting and arrhythmia. But misperceptions about the disorder can make it difficult for those who are diagnosed. Taylor is a 20-year-old who has struggled with an eating disorder since she was 12—and although calorie restriction has damaged her health, she doesn't meet the weight criteria for anorexia. "Because you only hear about bulimia and anorexia," she says, "A lot of people don't think—just because you don't meet the weight criteria, 'Oh, you don't have an eating disorder.'" For 23-year-old Ali, a combination of compulsive exercise and calorie restriction caused her to experience frequent fainting spells—but she resisted getting help, since her condition didn't fit the "mold" of conventional eating disorders. "I was just scared," she said, of her deteriorating health. "I didn't know what was happening." Both Ali and Taylor are in treatment for EDNOS, which is similar to treatment for bulimia or anorexia: the first step is to restore physical health, and the second is to focus on the psychological issues underlying the disorder.

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By May Wilkerson

Headlines

11/15/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: November 15, 2012

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Hinder's Austin Winkler went on a "really,
really dark drug binge." Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

rehab duds

11/14/12 5:01pm

Passages Launches "Luxury" Clothing Line

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Backing Passages Photo via

Passages, one of the country's most controversial rehabs, has just announced the launch of its own clothing line. Those wishing to display their Passages "pride" can now sport the Malibu rehab's logo and brand slogan—"It's Perfect"—on tees, tanks, hoodies, fleeces and yoga pants, available online at the Passages Wellness Store. “We’ve created well-fitting, high quality pieces that proudly showcase the luxury image of our brand,” announces Pax Prentiss, Passages' CEO and co-founder. His father, LA businessman Chris Prentiss, set up the high-end treatment center in 2001 to help Pax recover from a decade of addiction to alcohol, heroin and cocaine. Unlike most US rehabs, Passages is not based on a 12-step model of recovery and rejects the "disease concept" of addiction entirely. Instead, the center promotes the idea that people abuse drugs and alcohol because of “diverse ailments in the mind and body," and that addiction is "a behavioral problem that can be cured by a diverse regimen of individualized therapies." 

The notion that Passages has found a "cure" for addiction riles numerous experts. The facility boasts an 80% "cure rate" on its website—but several former clients and ex-staff dispute this number, with one claiming it's more like 10%. While the treatment model may invite skepticism, the business model is an indisputable success. One of the costliest rehabs out there—charging $80,000 a month or more at its flagship location—Passages has reportedly also earned millions from sales of its founders' heavily-criticized book, The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure. Pax Prentiss is confident the new clothing line will see similar success. “We continue to reaffirm ourselves as the undisputable leader in this industry by using high-end materials and chic designs," he says. "We’re extremely excited to see the Passages Malibu clothing take flight.”

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By May Wilkerson

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