- US Drug War Expands to Africa, a Newer Hub for Cartels [New York Times]
- Washington Hosts 19th International AIDS Conference [Washington Post]
- FDA Approves Two New Diet Drugs, But Doctors May Hesitate to Prescribe [Examiner.com]
- More Powerful, User-Friendly Heroin Moving to the Suburbs [Chicago Sun-Times]
- "The Situation" Sued for Hiding Rx Addiction [TMZ]
- Boozing Hamsters Don't Develop Beer Guts or Fight Hangovers [Alaska Dispatch]
According to a new Gallup poll, 81% of Americans feel that obesity is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem in society—significantly more than those who worry to the same degree about smoking (67%) or alcohol (47%). Gallup has conducted the same poll three times since 2003, with concern over obesity shooting up markedly over the other two. In 2003, 56% of respondents described obesity as extremely or very serious; the cigarette score was 57%. But by 2005, alarm over obesity hit 69%, surpassing smoking's 66%. Anxiety about alcohol’s ill effects has meanwhile held fairly steady: at 46% in 2003, 53% in 2005, and 47% this year.
These numbers track with government data on obesity rates, binge drinking and smoking. While the percentage of US adults who engage in binge or heavy drinking has hovered at 14–16% since the early '90s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity rates have nearly doubled—from 19.4% of the adult population in 1997 to 35.7% in 2010. (Meanwhile, smoking rates have declined from 25.5% in 1990 to 19.3% in 2010.) Another reason for the growing concern over obesity could be the increasing media and government attention, from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s war on jumbo sodas to First Lady Michelle Obama’s crusade against childhood obesity.
One issue not addressed by the Gallup poll, however, is the surge in prescription-drug abuse and attendant OD deaths: the toll reached 15,000 in 2008, more than three times the number of OD deaths (4,000) reported in 1999. At what point will this Rx pill epidemic be worrying enough to warrant inclusion in future health-threat surveys?
This table from the Gallup poll shows the increase in concern over obesity, compared with relatively steady anxiety over cigarettes and alcohol:
Whiteclay is a small town bordering the Pine Ridge Reservation in Nebraska, where some estimate 85% of the population is affected by alcoholism. The reservation is dry, so its residents flock to Whiteclay to purchase alcohol from the town's four liquor stores—which sell about four million cans of beer each year. Earlier this year, the Oglala Sioux tribe sued the relevant beer manufacturers for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for their contribution to the reservation's misery. Tom Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, says the state of Nebraska has turned its back on Pine Ridge because of the millions in tax revenue it makes from selling booze to the reservation's many addicts. "A lot of the issues that Whiteclay has created, and harm that is done to our people, Nebraska looks the other way and sweeps it under the rug," he says. “With this lawsuit that our tribe filed…maybe that will make this all go away." If the lawsuit is won, Pine Ridge—where about half the residents reportedly live below the poverty line—could receive millions of dollars. But many people will still be addicted, and it's argued that more than money is needed to solve the reservation's alcohol crisis.
Gayle Kocer and Suzy Dennis run an addiction treatment center in nearby Martin, South Dakota, that serves the Pine Ridge community, one individual at a time. "You’re choosing not to be the victim,” says Kocer, of addicts who come to the center to get clean. "It’s not Whiteclay’s problem and fault; it’s not the state of Nebraska’s fault. We as people have to make this choice to get in there and do something.” The small staff work long hours, some working pro bono due to a lack of funding, and regularly make home visits. “I always believe that love and faith can conquer it all,” says Dennis, a recovering alcoholic with 25 years sober. “That’s where it’s got to begin.” The center won't turn anyone away—even though most can't afford to pay. But no matter the outcome of the multi-million dollar lawsuit, Dennis says: “I always believe there’s hope. Or I would not do this for sure.”
If Wisconsin Senate candidate Mark Neumann is going to lose his race against his fellow Republicans, he's going out swinging. Currently running third in a four-way Republican race, he's resorted to a touch of drug-related humor in a new campaign ad. "We do need something to catch their attention," he admits. The ad features a "scientist" who says, "I have just administered one gram of cocaine to this quail." Neumann then asks, "Can you believe our federal government spent $400,000 to study the effect of cocaine on the sex habits of Japanese quail? Barack Obama's spending is killing our economy." The politician used humor to go after government spending before, albeit unsuccessfully, during his 1998 Senate run. "It's all part of government study on cow gas," Neumann said in that ad. "You know the kind of gas that comes from a... [sound of cow flatulence]." His 2012 ad arguably falls flat because neither President Obama nor Congress signed off on funding the quail/cocaine/sex research—it was actually approved by the National Institutes of Health.
The "drinking for two" phenomenon may be more prevalent than previously thought. One in 13 pregnant women drink booze, with one out of five of these women admitting to binge drinking, according to a study released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers examined data from 345,076 women aged 18-44 from a behavioral survey conducted between 2006 and 2010. Of the women studied, 4% were pregnant, and 7% of these women drank alcohol. A prior study from Sweden revealed a slightly higher percentage of women who drink while pregnant, at 12%, but in more moderate amounts—mind you, that study concerned women in Europe, the world's booziest continent. This study suggests one in five pregnant drinkers in the US consumes up to six drinks per session. "These results indicate that binge drinking during pregnancy continues to be a concern," write the researchers, led by the CDC's Claire M. Marchetta. The women who admitted to binge drinking while pregnant were mostly aged 18-24, and mostly did so three times per month or more. Unmarried women were also more likely to drink excessively. Back in June, five different Danish studies reported that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol while pregnant may be safe. However, the CDC contends that drinking any amount of alcohol while pregnant is dangerous, and can lead to conditions including fetal alcohol syndrome and birth defects.
Chalk it up to semantics, but either way, everyone’s mad after a cover story in GQ about Joseph Gordon-Levitt briefly mentioned the actor’s brother’s 2010 death as being the result of “an alleged drug overdose.” Gordon-Levitt quickly took to Tumblr to call the language “factually inaccurate.” The magazine responded that that the story “sought to be respectful—and brief—in the way it described his death” and that the publication “stands by its reporting, the facts of which are fully supported.” Either way, don’t expect to see JGL on any more GQ covers anytime soon.
Just because Jodie Sweetin is sober doesn’t mean she’s having an easy run. The actress, best-known for her role in Full House, has had her issues with drugs and alcohol well-documented—both by the press and by the star herself in her 2009 memoir unSweetined. She was in a serious car crash in Los Angeles in March 2011, and is now suing the other driver for $25,000, claiming that she suffered damage to her vehicle as well as loss of "earning capacity."
When Kerry Kennedy, the ex-wife of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, was arrested for DUI after a car accident last week, she initially claimed that she’d accidentally taken an Ambien instead of her thyroid medication that morning. Later, when her drug tests came back clean, she claimed that she’d likely had a seizure as a result of earlier neurological damage. Either way, she’s pleading not guilty to the charges—and she’ll probably check which pills she’s taking more carefully from now on.
Eighties rock stars doing coke? Hard to believe, but it’s true, according to Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor, who shares intimate stories of the band’s hard-partying antics in an excerpt from his upcoming book. Now clean and sober, he says sobriety is an ongoing battle: “The addictions are still there, and keeping them at bay requires work.”
The media frenzy following Michael Jackson’s death made Dr. Arnold Klein a well-known name for all the wrong reasons, but he’s not disappearing from the headlines quietly. New reports have emerged claiming that the Medical Board of California has put the doc under investigation over his participation in Michael Jackson’s declining health, and they’ve now ordered him to see a therapist and undergo drug testing. The doctor is suing to find out why—but given that he’s filed for bankruptcy and had to auction off memorabilia to pay his debts, talking to a mental health professional might not be such a bad thing.