Today, Sir Elton John is music royalty, as well as a husband, father and a passionate voice in the AIDS movement. But he says a portion of his life was "wasted" to addiction. With a new memoir coming out, the British singer-songwriter, 65, has been telling Today’s Matt Lauer about his epic battle with drugs and alcohol, and the challenges of getting clean—after losing some of his closest friends to the diseases of addiction and AIDS. “I wasted such a big part of my life. I was a drug addict and self-absorbed,” he says, confessing that he feels "guilty" for being “consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else” while the gay community was plagued in the '80s by the AIDS epidemic. "I apparently never got the memo that the me generation had ended," he says—but apparently the memo has been gotten now. Since getting sober, John has founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation and raised over $275 million to fight the disease, saying he's "making up for" his past, but "there is so much more to be done." He calls himself "the luckiest man in the world" for surviving years of reckless behavior and escaping HIV-free, because "when you take a drug and you take a drink and you mix those two together, you think you're invincible."
It's not the first time the singer has opened up about his addictions. In 2010, he told Piers Morgan that he nearly died from drug and alcohol abuse, suffering drug-induced seizures, and also struggling with bulimia. “This is how bleak it was," he recalled. "I'd stay up, I'd smoke joints, I'd drink a bottle of Johnnie Walker and then I'd stay up for three days. And then I'd go to sleep for a day and a half... That is how tragic my life was.” Now sober for years—and with over 250 million record sales making him one of the most successful artists of all time—he leads a relatively quite life, raising his first son with partner David Furnish.
When it comes to cocaine plantations, Bolivia is focusing less on quantity and more on quality these days. That's according to the US government, which says the country is producing more cocaine despite fewer coca plantations—because drug traffickers are now using the "Colombian method," a more efficient production process. Despite eradication efforts from 2009-2011, this process, coupled with the practice of resowing "eradicated" plantations, has meant the total amount of powder produced keeps rising. "That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there's more production of cocaine," says the outgoing chief of the US diplomatic mission in La Paz, charge d'affaires John Creamer. "They...can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves." Creamer's figures show that only one percent of cocaine seized in the US comes from Bolivia (95% still comes from Colombia). But Bolivia supplies about 60% of the cocaine that enters Brazil, which is suffering a crack epidemic. Creamer will experience that end of the problem when he takes up his next post: US consul in Rio de Janeiro.
Sage Moonblood Stallone—son of actor Sylvester Stallone—was found dead on Friday in his Hollywood home from an apparent prescription medication overdose. While early reports suggested that Stallone’s overdose was deliberate, new evidence is pointing towards the cause of death being accidental. According to Sage Stallone’s attorney, the 36-year-old was planning to marry his girlfriend in Vegas possibly as soon as next weekend. “The last conversation I had with him he was telling me about how he was getting married, and he was planning on some kind of exciting costume wedding in Las Vegas,” says his attorney and confidant George Braunstein. “He was up and positive about everything.” Officials from the LA County coroner’s office say they found no suicide note on the scene and there were no signs of foul play. Original reports claimed that Stallone was possibly dead for at least three days when officers discovered the body in his home, but Braunstein says Stallone uploaded pictures to Facebook just 17 hours before he was found dead. Other sources say Sage "lived like Howard Hughes" and often spent days in his room, which was littered with cigarette butts, beer and soda cans, and food. Amid the conflicting reports, one thing is certain—the Stallone family is heartbroken. Sylvester Stallone asked that the media stop "the speculation and questionable reporting" about his son's death: "Sage was our first child and the center of our universe and I am humbly begging for all to have my son's memory in full left in peace." The cause of death will not be officially known for another two months, as it normally takes about six weeks for toxicology tests to be completed.
- Mexican President Sees Anti-Drug Strategy Continuing Under PRI [Fox News]
- Medical Marijuana: Arizona Mulls Adding Qualifying Conditions [Arizona Republic]
- Sage Stallone: Lawyer's Story Doesn't Match Up With Cops [TMZ]
- Knicks' Kidd Charged With Drunken Driving [New York Times]
- After 21 Months Off Heroin, Life Is Still a Fragile Balance [HeraldNet]
- Jackpot Fueled Therapist's Gambling Addiction [Boston Globe]
- Kerry Kennedy Crash Raises Questions About Ambien Use [ABC]
Were Guantanamo Bay prisoners given mind-altering drugs in order to facilitate interrogations? A report was released this week based on an investigation conducted in 2008-2009, after a prisoner held at Guantanamo claimed he had been forcibly drugged. The findings show no evidence that prisoners were deliberately medicated—but they do reveal that a number of detainees were being prescribed anti-psychotic medications by prison doctors, to treat various diagnosed mental issues. Lawyers are arguing that the prisoners may have made incriminating statements while under the influence of these drugs, raising questions about the evidence that was used to keep them locked up. “If the government relied on statements by doped-up detainees, regardless of why they were doped up, the government has kept men locked up for more than a decade on the basis of evidence that can’t be trusted,” says David Remes, a human rights lawyer who represents 16 prisoners at the US base in Cuba.
The report also shows that "numerous" detainees have complained of being forcibly medicated, and that prison officials often used "chemical restraints" to subdue prisoners perceived to be threatening. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, says there's no evidence that any drugs were administered deliberately to pacify prisoners—who are mostly held on accusations of terrorism or alleged connections to Al-Qaida and the Taliban. "The detainees were not given drugs as a means to facilitate interrogation," says Breasseale. "Let me be clear about that." The Pentagon has declined to comment on the potential legal implications of prisoners being interviewed while under the influence of prescribed medications.
Hope Solo has been kicking around in the headlines a lot lately. Just days ago, the US women's soccer star was let off with only a warning after testing positive for a diuretic—over a prescription drug she says was for "pre-menstrual purposes." And now she's admitted in a recent interview with ESPN The Magazine that she was drunk on Today while being honored in 2008 for winning the Olympic gold medal. Far from copping to substance abuse issues, Hope says she simply partied a little too hard the night before over her big win. "When we were done partying, we got out of our nice dresses, got back into our stadium coats and, at 7 am with no sleep, went on the Today show drunk," she divulges, naming some of her high-profile drinking buddies. "Vince Vaughn partied with us. Steve Byrne, the comedian. And at some point we decided to take the party back to the village, so we started talking to the security guards, showed off our gold medals, got their attention and snuck our group through without credentials—which is absolutely unheard of." Solo chalks the night up to Olympic athletes being the type to work hard and party hard—giving their all to everything from sprint drills to pounding shots. "Athletes are extremists," says Solo. "When they're training, it's laser focus. When they go out for a drink, it's 20 drinks." Since she'll be representing the US in just a couple of weeks at the London Olympics, let's hope she's focusing on the former.