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Addicted veterans

11/12/12 4:16pm

Why Care for Veterans Benefits Us All

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Worth the time and money Photo via

Every dollar invested in evidence-based care for veterans with untreated mental health disorders results in $2.50 in savings over the following two years, according to a report released today by the National Council for Behavioral Health. It states that if all 210,000 untreated vets with PTSD and/or major depression received appropriate, evidence-based treatment, the $481 million investment would yield over $1.2 billion in eventual savings. Veterans are currently moving from DoD (Department of Defense)- and VA-provided services to community-based services—and if money isn't invested now, Medicaid, Medicare and public mental health agencies will bear huge costs later. Of course, as Jeannie Campbell, a veteran and executive vice president of the National Council, says, “providing effective, proven treatments for our veterans is not just about saving money, it’s about saving lives.” 

Currently 27% (657,000) veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan use community based care; by 2014, a projected 40% will benefit from these services. “We need a mandate and the funding to deliver the right care at the right time and in the right setting for the men and women who have risked their lives,” says Linda Rosenberg, the National Council’s president and CEO. Yet the public policy dialogue has so far framed the mental healthcare shortfall as the sole responsibility of the VA and Department of Defense.

Around 30% of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, depression, mental illness or another cognitive disability. Yet according to the National Council’s report, less than half of returning veterans who need it receive any treatment. And left untreated, these conditions wreak havoc on people's lives, often contributing to substance abuse, addiction, fatal ODs and suicide, as well as violations of the law. The unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is 40% higher than for the general population—and one in three homeless men is a vet. The men and women who have risked their lives deserve services to prevent or tackle addiction and safeguard their mental health. The report concludes: “There are effective, proven treatments that can save lives and costs. We must ensure that our veterans get the services we owe them.”

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By Sarah Beller

prohibition

11/12/12 3:09pm

American Spirits: A Wet 'n Wild Prohibition-Fest

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Don't mess with Carry A. Nation. Photo via

During Prohibition, a woman named Carry A. Nation (really) earned fame for marching into saloons with a hatchet and smashing everything in sight. She's one small piece of the story chronicled by “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition"—an exhibition at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center. It runs there through April and will then travel to Seattle; St. Paul, Minn.; St. Louis; Austin, Texas; and Grand Rapids, Mich. Its way of documenting 1920-1933 seems anything but dry. Visitors can learn 1920s slang in recreated speakeasyies where flappers once illegally slurped “foot juice” (cheap wine) and “jag juice” (hard liquor). Interactive video screens quiz you on your background, then inform you whether you'd likely have been a “wet” or a “dry.” In one room, you can even learn to dance the Charleston. The show charts how the temperance movement was prompted by a real national drinking problem: in 1830, Americans over age 15 drank about seven gallons of pure alcohol a year—the equivalent of four shots a day, or triple the current level. But Prohibition sure didn’t stop people from getting “zozzled;” legal ambiguities and loopholes were widely exploited. Sales of malt for home fermentation exploded; physicians prescribed alcohol to patients for various maladies; flasks were hidden inside walking sticks and cigar boxes, and criminals like Al Capone took over distribution and smuggling. The exhibition's curator Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call, the book that informed Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's 2011 documentary, Prohibition, says the era left an "indelible mark" on America. The show's final sections cover the 1933 repeal of Prohibition and its legacy, which includes the still-surviving (barely) Prohibition Party. The spirit of '33 may be re-emerging today, with the beginning of the end of another kind of prohibition—in two states at least.

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By Sarah Beller

Royal Lush

11/12/12 2:26pm

Could Camilla's Boozing Cost Charles the Throne?

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Charles and Camilla visit a whiskey distillery
in 2008. Photo via

Reports are surfacing that Camilla Parker-Bowles, the wife of Prince Charles, has been sent to a rehab in India for a drinking problem—and that Queen Elizabeth is so unamused by her behavior that she may offer the British throne to her grandson, Prince William, next instead of Charles. In addition to Camilla's alleged drunken outbursts, the Queen has also apparently taken exception to her daughter-in-law's supposed attempts to shame Kate Middleton during the nude photo scandal earlier this year. Kate herself is a prominent supporter of addiction causes. According to reports—which, we should stress, are far from officially confirmed—Prince Charles ordered his wife to attend the $5,000 per night Sukiyaki International Holistic Health Center in Bangalore, India, in an attempt to regain the Queen's approval.

"Officially she was there for a week of yoga sessions, meditation, massage with medicated oils, vegetarian foods and spiritual healing, but the truth is Camilla was being locked away to detox,” claims an anonymous source. “He bellowed that she was costing him the crown—and ordered her to clean up her act!” Camilla is said to have checked in under the pseudonym Audrey Parker, with a group of 10 friends and government minders who monitored her every move. She apparently attended the same center back in October 2010. Prince Charles already seems to accept that Camilla will never become Queen; the FAQ section on his website states: "it is intended that The Duchess will be known as HRH the Princess Consort when The Prince of Wales accedes to The Throne.” If the reports are true, Charles hardly seems to have discouraged his wife's alleged alcohol problem; in 2008, the pair visited the Islay distillery of his favorite Scotch whiskey, Laphroaig, on which he bestowed his Royal Warrant.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Sober Celebration

11/12/12 1:06pm

Recovery Fair Rocks

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Samuels, Pinsky and McCulley Wireimage

Saturday's first-ever Recovery Fair at The Hills gathered a happy and far-less-rambunctious-than-they-used-to-be crowd to talk, taste and trade stories. While Dr. Drew Pinsky and his wife Susan chatted with Recovery Media chairman Paul McCulley and Hills owner Howard Samuels, yoga guru Tommy Rosen led attendees through some vinyasas and Intervention's Candy Finnigan checked out the recovery literature offered by Book Soup. Treat lovers were in luck: although the Baby's Burgers truck sold out early on, guests could still chill with a selection of beverages that were kind of the opposite of energy drinks—Just Chill and Dream Water among them—while The Velvet Rope Bake Shop booth, with its samples of Red Velvet truffles and salt-and-chocolate chip cookies, drew a devoted crowd. Those with healthier cravings gathered around the GIVE Superfoods table and BioK+ probiotics booth. My 12-Step Store owner RJ Holguin, Friendly House proprietress Peggy Albrecht, bestselling author (and Fix contributor) Nic Sheff, Laurie Hermann from ShopLHerman all-natural skincare, Allison Pescosolido from Divorce Detox counseling services, Isai Cortez from Bismark Tax and Douglas Evans from The Center for Healthy Sex were all among the vibrant crowd.

As kids tore around getting their faces painted and jumping on the bouncy house, and older guests cut a rug to the tunes of DJ Thrill, it was easy to forget that attendees were gathered because many of them suffered from a seemingly hopeless disease. "Being here has actually been a healing experience for me because my grandfather was an alcoholic and I never really understood what he was grappling with," Benjamin Atkinson tells The Fix. He isn't an alcoholic himself, but flew out from Ohio to introduce fair-goers to Dry Gourmet, his non-alcoholic cooking wine powder. "I'm so grateful to have been introduced to this incredibly welcoming community that I otherwise wouldn't have met." Of all the feedback Atkinson got at the fair, the comment that struck him the most came from a woman who loves to cook for family and friends. "She said, 'The Dry Gourmet would make me feel normal again. Now I can cook the dishes I've wanted to for a long time.'"

[Check out the Recovery Fair photo gallery here.]

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By Benjamin Fairway

drug war

11/12/12 12:11pm

Paraguay: The Forgotten Drug Hub

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The biggest cocaine seizure in Paraguay's
history Photo via

A massive cocaine bust in Paraguay is directing rare media attention towards one of the world's most isolated and least documented drug hubs. The landlocked nation borders Bolivia, one of South America's main cocaine producers, and Brazil, which has become one of the world's top consumers of illegal drugs. Authorities yesterday seized 1,700 kilos of cocaine near Paraguay's northeast Brazilian border and arrested 19 suspects, including the country's most wanted man, Ezequiel de Souza. “This is possibly the largest shipment ever seized up to now,” says the head of the country's counternarcotics force, Francisco de Vargas. “There may be more.” Poverty, corruption and porous borders make the country easy for traffickers to exploit, but most of its rampant corruption and drug violence goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, even as the death toll steadily climbs. Journalists who attempt to break the silence often face threats to their lives—similar to those in Mexico. Paraguay is known across South America for its corruption and complicity in the global drug trade, but President Federico Franco says this recent bust signals that the country is finally finding success in stepping up anti-drug efforts. "Paraguay is committed to fight drug-trafficking," he says. "It will become known abroad as a sovereign nation, not as a drug-trafficking country."

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By May Wilkerson

Prescription Drug Abuse

11/12/12 11:02am

Investigation Spotlights Pill-Prescribing Docs

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More oversight needed? Photo via

A major new investigation from the LA Times shows just how many prescription drug-related deaths in Southern California are linked with a relatively small number of doctors. Reporters identified 3,733 Rx drug-related deaths in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties from 2006-2011; an examination of coroners' records found that in 47% of these cases, drugs for which the deceased had a prescription were the sole or contributing cause of death. And just 71 doctors—a mere 0.1% of those practicing within the four counties—contributed their prescriptions to 298 of the total deaths, with each being linked to at least three overdoses.

Huntington Beach pain specialist Dr. Van H. Vu led the count with 16 deaths—but he still has a spotless record with the Medical Board of California, which licenses and oversees physicians. Vu says that he follows recommended practices to deter drug abuse, such as requiring patients to sign "pain management contracts"—in which they agree to take medications as directed and not to obtain more from other doctors—and conducting routine urine tests to make sure meds aren't being abused. "Every single day, I try to do the best I can for every single patient," he tells the LA Times. "I can't control what they do once they leave my office."

The use of painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, with doctors writing about 300 million prescriptions for these drugs each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that's enough for every adult American to be medicated round the clock for a month. The CDC also reports that narcotic pain relievers now cause or contribute to nearly 75% of prescription drug ODs and about 15,500 deaths annually. And for every death, there are roughly 32 emergency room visits for non-fatal ODs. Despite these already-alarming findings, medical experts believe the new LA Times investigation could lead to changes in how doctors are allowed to prescribe painkillers. "Do I think this has the potential to change the game in the way it's being looked at and being addressed, both at the state and federal level? Yes, I do," says President Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske.

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By McCarton Ackerman

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