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Jane Says

11/09/12 1:20pm

Is Drug Testing an Invasion of Privacy?

Reader's Question: Do you support the increased use of drug testing in our society, in the workplace and elsewhere? Is it helpful or an invasion of privacy?

[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

Drug treatment in prison

11/09/12 12:02pm

Drug Treatment in Prison: Core Treatment

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The man in the mirror Photo via

After navigating Phase I: Orientation, Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) participants are expected to continue building positive relationships with other prisoners and staff. Phase II consists of two segments of 11 weeks each. "2A is about rational thinking and learning how to do an RSA (Rational Self Analysis)," one RDAP prisoner tells The Fix. "An RSA is a tool you can use when you don't feel the way you want to feel and you aren't doing the things you want to do. It challenges those beliefs so that you start thinking more rationally." Each prisoner is required to demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between his thoughts, feelings and behaviors. By understanding his habit formation and his roadblocks to positive attitudes, the idea is that he'll then comprehend the harmful effects of manipulation and grandiosity, the advantages and disadvantages of criminal behavior, and the effects of his criminal behavior on others.

"It also deals with criminal lifestyles which focuses on the criminal thinking errors," the prisoner says. "I realized in 2A that I'm not just here for the time off [a sentence reduction of up to a year], that I have a problem with the way I think and my beliefs. It made me realize that if I want to change my life, I need to change my beliefs." By practicing RSAs and actively applying them to criminal thinking, participants develop effective communication strategies. "2B deals with costs and payoffs of criminal behavior and drug use," the prisoner says. "It also covers living with others, which teaches you to see the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships and it opens your eyes to what roles you play—like dominator, neglector or manipulator. I learned I am a manipulator and dominator, and that people won't change until the costs outweigh the payoffs."

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By Seth Ferranti

Effects of alcohol

11/09/12 10:52am

Why Alcoholic Men Lack Empathy—and Irony

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Get it?
Ironic via Shutterstock

If you’re looking for empathy from an alcoholic man, don’t count on getting much. New research shows male chronic heavy drinkers lack empathy, and also have trouble grasping irony. This may indicate that excessive alcohol use damages parts of the brain responsible for processing humor and emotions. European researchers studied 22 men in their third week of an alcohol detox program, and compared them to 22 non-alcohol-dependent men. The 44 volunteers were required to read stories that ended with either an ironic sentence or a straightforward sentence; they were then asked to complete a questionnaire about the emotional states of the characters. The study—published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research—found that alcoholic men were not only worse at detecting emotions, but also at detecting irony: the alcoholics identified the ironic sentences correctly just 63% of the time, compared to 90% of the non-alcoholics. The results may shed light on why problem drinkers get into bar fights. “Chronic alcohol abuse seems to have effects on the perception and decoding of emotional expressions,” says Simona Amenta, a post-doctoral researcher at Italy’s University of Milano-Bicocca. “It has been associated with…deficits in emotion recognition and verbalization, leading to difficulties in distinguishing and comprehending people’s emotional states.” Past studies have also shown that alcoholics can misidentify the emotions of those around them—mistaking sadness for anger, or happiness for a negative emotion. 

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By Valerie Tejeda

headlines

11/09/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: November 9, 2012

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A wasted Aussie goes down under.
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By The Fix staff

celebrity rehab

11/08/12 5:13pm

Sober Steve-O is Still Fearless

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Steve-O performing stand-up. Photo via

Steve-O, the daredevil who rose to fame with his fearless on-screen stunts in MTV's Jackass, says his sobriety has helped him with his latest adventure: a stand-up comedy tour. "I’m just more present and observant," he says. "I’ve really blossomed and found my voice. I’m just generally sharper and funnier than I was before." The thrill-seeker was an active addict during the filming of his TV show and the first two Jackass movies, and filmed the third in 2010, shortly after getting sober. During an exclusive interview with The Fix in June 2011, he said doing stunts without the influence of drugs or booze scared him at first, but he bounced back. Now with over four years of clean time, he says sobriety hasn't put a damper on his adventurous nature. "I think that drugs and alcohol were never really a reason or benefit to the process," he explains. "I’ve always done this kind of thing because I’m an attention whore, and becoming clean and sober doesn’t change the fact I’m an attention whore." More dangerous than stunts is the temptation to use, which he says is triggered by watching on-screen footage of himself from before he got clean. "You would imagine that [watching] it would have totally deterred me from doing drugs, but I came away from it really craving drugs," he says. So he sticks to moving forward, instead of looking back: "I just couldn’t fuck with that shit, man."

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By May Wilkerson

drug laws

11/08/12 4:31pm

California Votes to Reform "Three Strikes"

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69% voted in favor of Prop 36 Photo via

Yesterday California voted overwhelmingly to soften the “Three Strikes” law, which imposed 25-to-life sentences for minor drug law violations and other nonviolent crimes if they were third “strikes” after two “serious or violent” offenses. The reform measure, Proposition 36, will ensure that life sentences can now only be inflicted when the third felony is also “serious or violent.” The original law has frequently been challenged as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. “Locking up people for life whose only recent offense was a minor violation of the state’s drug laws never made sense in terms of public safety, finance or morality," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "California at last is rejoining the civilized world.”

For incarcerated third-strikers and their families, the reform measure is "a dream come true," Geri Silva, executive director of Families to Amend California's Three Strikes (FACTS) tells The Fix. “A lot of people stand a chance to get out, some who have been in prison since 1994, when the original law passed." The process of petitioning courts to re-examine old sentences, which may take as long as two years, could benefit roughly 3,000 prisoners—about a third of the people incarcerated under Three strikes. But Silva cautions that the battle is far from over: “There is the other side, people who won’t qualify to get out [those whose third offenses, such as residential burglary, still count as “serious”]...They won’t be eligible for resentencing, which is heartbreaking." Silva also expresses concern that “there will be sensitivity to welcome these people coming home,” especially since the law disproportionately affects people of color, the mentally ill, and the poor. “Many [addicts] go to prison because not everyone is a famous actor and gets to go to a really good rehab program to help them,” says Silva. “We need to make sure we centralize substance abuse resources so these people are not coming home to nothing.”

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By Sarah Beller

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“Listen,” you tell the cop. “I know I passed the fucking test, and you know I passed the fucking test, so can I get back into my truck and drive home now?”

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