Parents who allow their underage kids to have booze in order to "teach" safe drinking may actually pave the way for unsafe drinking habits later on, according to a new study from Yale University. Researchers studied 1,160 first year college students who had data compiled about their drinking habits from the previous four years and found that teens who had started getting drunk at 15 were far more likely to develop problems than those who waited until they were 17. Although the findings don't necessarily indicate that drinking at a young age is the cause of heavy drinking later in life, they do show that "beginning to use alcohol at an earlier age was associated with heavier drinking and the experience of more negative consequences during senior year of college," according to corresponding author Meghan Morean, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Morean says there's also evidence that drinking at an early age can lead to more immediate problems such as compromised brain damage during adolescence, poor performance in school and the use of other substances, such as marijuana and cocaine. Despite this, some feel that the decision to introduce kids to alcohol needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. "Ultimately parents know their children and will need to make a judgement call about when and if to introduce their child to alcohol," says Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of the charity Family Lives. "Equipping parents with the tools to ensure they can talk effectively with their children is the best way of preventing children excessively experimenting and can prevent later problems in teenage and adult life."
Just like the mid-2000s Saturday Night Live sketch, “Appalachian Emergency Room,” wherein country folk get admitted to the hospital for reasons far different from their citified counterparts—such as a nasty ferret bite or getting one’s hand stuck in a tampon machine—it turns out that urban and rural substance abusers also have significantly different drugs of choice, as well as using habits and characteristics, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Based on data from 2009, the report reveals that rural substance-abuse treatment admissions are far more likely to be court-mandated, at a rate of 51.6% (rural) to 28.4% (urban). Rural treatment clients also report primary abuse of alcohol at a much higher rate—49.5%—than do their city cousins (36.1%), in addition to non-heroin opiates (10.6% country vs. 4% city).
As you might imagine, primary abuse of traditional street drugs like heroin and cocaine score more highly in urban areas, with 21.8% of city treatment admissions citing heroin as their main poison (vs. 3.1% in the country), and 11.9% cocaine (5.6% out in the sticks). Other differences include: rural substance abusers are less likely to hit the bottle or the pipe on a daily basis (23.5% do so, as opposed to 43.1% in the city)—perhaps because they are more likely to be employed full- or part-time than those in urban areas—and more likely to have first used their drug of choice prior to turning 18 (32.1% versus 26.7% on the mean streets).
Prisoners are constantly coming up with new and ingenious hiding places—or "stash spots"—to conceal contraband items, such as drugs, homemade hooch and shanks. "There's so many places I can stash stuff in prison," one convict tells The Fix. "It's unbelievable." Hiding stuff effectively is part of a never-ending battle with prison guards and administrators, who are always seeking to find and confiscate contraband. In most prisons, guards spend a lot of their working hours shaking down cells, along with the common areas and work places. Sometimes they luck upon some drugs, but mostly they don't—prisoners' hiding places are often just too good.
"I can use a homemade screwdriver to unfasten the safety screws on the electronic outlet cover and stash stuff back there, it only takes a minute," the prisoner says. "Another good spot is taping stuff under the bunks, tables, phone stations, or even on the bottom of a fire extinguisher." Purchased items can also be put to this use: "They sell jugs on the commissary, half-gallon coolers. I can buy one, rip the inside sleeve out, take out the insulation that coats the shell on the inside and stash stuff there, around the inner sleeve, which I can reinsert." And so can clothing: "Your shoes and boots are always good to hide stuff in. You can put stuff under the insoles. They never check shoes for some reason—especially if you got an old, stinky pair." He continues, "They got these big dust mops with long tube handles; you can take the plastic fastener off the top and tape stuff down in the tube handle. If you work in recreation, the kitchen or facilities you have even more options: in the ceilings or vents—that's where dudes let their hooch cook up; in the ceramic molds or in instruments, especially drum sets; in the food cartons in the warehouse or the walk-in freezer. Like I said, it's unreal."
A new video game, Papo & Yo, may resonate for children of addicts, and even help them navigate their own real-life struggles. In the game, a boy named Quico and his inseparable pal Monster traipse through a lush fantasy world. But Monster is often confused and destructive and, after eating too many frogs, he sometimes transforms into a real monster who beats Quico. Game creator Vander Caballero has admitted he based the characters on his own experience growing up in South America with an alcoholic and drug-addicted father, and he hopes the game will help kids who share similar struggles. "The only way you can create empathy in video games is through interaction." says Caballero. "I want players to feel what I felt as a kid and the only way I could achieve that was by creating game mechanics that let you interact and develop relationships as you play." The question at the heart of the game becomes how to handle Monster, and even more difficult, how to handle the memories of the damage Monster inflicts—even long after the harm has been done. Caballero says his goal with the game is to create player empathy with the interactions between the characters, such as showing Quico how to carry coconuts around to guide Monster along. The atmosphere of the game is also intended to be comforting—depicting dilapidated, yet beautifully sunlit favela-scapes accompanied by trance-like tunes. In a far less comforting portrayal of addiction, another video game on the market, Max Payne, guides players from the perspective of an addict himself.
Simultaneous treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction may be more effective than previously thought, as Fix columnist Maia Szalavitz explains for Time Healthland. Many people suffer from both PTSD and addiction. But most experts have previously thought that PTSD treatment shouldn't take place until the addict is sober—largely due to the belief that trauma treatment may trigger relapse. However, a new study from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, suggests that PTSD treatment may be effective even without a period of abstinence. Researchers examined 103 people with both conditions as they underwent exposure therapy (in which a patient is exposed to traumatic memories) and found the therapy to be effective, regardless of a patient's continued drug use. “These findings challenge the widely held view that patients need to be abstinent before any trauma work, let alone prolonged exposure therapy, is commenced,” the authors write. “Findings from the present study demonstrate that abstinence is not required.” The study also found that despite exposure therapy requiring patients to face past traumas, it didn't cause them to increase their drug use or drop out of treatment. Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales, says of the study: "The exciting thing in my view is that it supports people with drug and alcohol problems having access to other forms of psychological interventions, rather than being fobbed off and told to sort out their alcohol or drug problem first."
- How PTSD and Addiction Can Be Safely Treated Together [Time]
- Maine's Proposed Prescription Pot Rules Criticized by Many [Village Voice]
- Grandmas Grow Marijuana in Swaziland [New York Times]
- Is Alcohol Apartheid Coming to Istanbul? [EurasiaNet]
- Pot May Improve Cognitive Functioning in Bipolar Disorder [The Atlantic]
- Fake ID Website Shut Down After Senators Take Action [WUSA 9]
- Mila Kunis Reportedly Begged Macaulay Culkin to Enter Rehab [Perez Hilton]
- Bobby Brown Back in Rehab? [ABC News]