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Murder

4/25/12 11:40am

Did Brother's Dealing Cause Hudson Murders?

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Jason and Jennifer Hudson. Photo via

The foray into drug dealing of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's brother may have led to his murder, during which two other family members were also killed. Jason Hudson was murdered along with his mother and his7-year-old nephew back in October 2008. Accused killer William Balfour—the ex-husband of Hudson’s sister—is now claiming that he and Jason Hudson were business partners in selling drugs. "He was involved in a dangerous business," says assistant public defender Amy Thompson, who is representing Balfour. "It brought danger to him and he lived in Englewood, probably the most dangerous neighborhood in the city of Chicago." Witness Lonnie Simpson testified in the trial that he did deal drugs with Jason Hudson, but claims he didn’t have any enemies in his neighborhood. “[Police] did nothing to determine if it might have been Jason Hudson’s violent business that led to him getting shot twice before, that led to these murders," says Thompson. “They did nothing to follow the trail other than the weak trail that leads to William Balfour.” An emotional Jennifer Hudson also took the stand, claiming she never liked or trusted her sister’s then-husband Balfour. “I tried to keep my distance with William any chance I got," she said. "Where he was, I tried not to be. So if I saw him, I separated myself.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

marijuana addiction

4/25/12 10:57am

Epilepsy Drug Could Help Pot Smokers Quit

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A drug to blunt your cravings. Photo via

The anticonvulsant drug gabapentinused to treat epilepsy and neuropathic painmay help pot smokers kick the habit. Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute tested 50 cannabis users who were seeking treatment, in a 12-week trial. The studypublished in the journal Neuropsychopharmacologyshowed that those who used gabapentin smoked less pot, and experienced fewer withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, drug cravings, and dysphoria. They also scored higher on tests of attention, impulse-control, and other cognitive skills, when compared to those given a placebo. Addiction research has shown that excessive drug use can weaken impulse control through over-activation of reward-circuitry in the brain; compounded by the stress of withdrawal, this can make it difficult for regular pot smokers to quit. "That weakening of self-control-related circuits makes it even harder for people to resist drug cravings when they're trying to quit, but gabapentin may help restore those circuits, by reducing stress and enabling patients to sleep better, so that they function better while awake," said study author Barbara J. Mason. If confirmed in later trials, gabapentin would be the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment of marijuana dependence. "A lot of other drugs have been tested for their ability to decrease cannabis use and withdrawal, but this is the first to show these key effects in a controlled treatment study," said Mason. "The other nice thing about gabapentin is that it is already widely prescribed, so its safety is less likely to be an issue." 

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

4/25/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 25, 2012

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"Every day is a full-on emotional roller coaster,"
says sober Gilbert. Photo via

By Bryan Le

workaholism

4/24/12 5:07pm

Are You a Workaholic?

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Where does work end, and life begin? Photo via

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy—or a workaholic. Growing numbers of people are succumbing to workaholism, as technology blurs the boundaries between our working and private lives. According to University of Bergen Psychology professor Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen, the effects can include: insomnia, health problems, burnout, stress, and tension in relationships. She and her colleagues have developed a tool to measure workaholism: "The Bergen Work Addiction Scale." In the process they asked 12,135 Norwegian employees from 25 different industries to answer "never, rarely, sometimes, often, or always" to different statements. The scalewhich draws on seven core elements of addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, relapse and problemsis claimed to reliably categorize participants as non-addicted, mildly addicted or workaholic. So has your work ethic crossed the line into addiction?

How often do these statements apply to you?

• You think of how you can free up more time to work.

• You spend much more time working than initially intended.

• You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.

• You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.

• You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.

• You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.

• You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

If you answer "often" or "always" to four or more of these statements, the scale suggests you may be a workaholic. The Bergen Work Addiction Scale will be used to address workaholism as a global problem, and to research recovery and treatment options. If you find you're addicted to not working, however, you may be on your own. 

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By Fionna Agomuoh

Bad Meds

4/24/12 4:00pm

Rehab Doc: Rx Painkillers Make More Pain

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Rx painkiller deaths and treatment admissions closely
follow sales. Photo via

Day two of the Foundations Recovery Network’s Freedom & Recovery conference in San Diego kicked off with a tag-team talk by Dr. Mel Pohl, FASAM, medical director of Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC), and Claudia Black, Ph.D., senior clinical and family services advisor for the same rehab. Pohl and Black spoke on the interplay between trauma and chronic pain, both of which feed into one another to create debilitating addictions—not to mention more pain. Trauma sufferers drink or use drugs to relieve emotional and physical pain, which works for a while; but then—due to a quirk of how opioids act on the brain, as well as to the biological need for a functioning pain response—the pain comes back stronger than before, requiring more booze or higher doses of meds to suppress it, kicking off a vicious cycle.

It’s worst for those who have been through a particularly harrowing experience, such as war or sex abuse (especially during childhood): “The greater the trauma experience, the more synergistic the relationship between trauma and pain,” Black said. She added that greater trauma leads to a greater likelihood of addiction. Unfortunately, many medical doctors—influenced by the “pharmaceutical-industrial complex,” as Pohl put it—are too quick to write prescriptions, often for opioids, which can cause more problems than they relieve. As a particularly jarring PowerPoint slide illustrated, from 1999 to 2010, rising painkiller sales have corresponded with remarkably similar, steadily increasing rates of overdose and treatment admission. It’s for this and other reasons that LVRC uses the term “pain recovery.” “I got tired of calling it ‘pain management,’ said Pohl. “And I don’t like using the term ‘painkillers’—we’re not going to ‘kill’ the pain.”

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By Hunter R. Slaton

cringe drinking

4/24/12 3:00pm

Teens Get Hammered on Hand Sanitizer

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An un-sanitary habit Photo via

Hand sanitizer apparently tastes like "vodka and bugspray," which hardly seems like an alluring cocktail. But it is the poison-of-choice for a growing number of teens. Most recently, six LA teens drank enough hand sanitizer to land themselves in the hospital, leaving officials worried that the drink is becoming trendy again. Using instructions easily found on the web—there's even a handy e-how!—teens are distilling liquid hand sanitizer with salt and cheese cloths to make cheap, accessible 120-proof hard liquor. "It is kind of scary that they go to that extent to get a shot of essentially hard liquor," says Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the county public health department. Just a few shots of the concoction can land a person in the emergency room. Worse, some sanitizers are made with isopropyl alcohol, which can be fatal if consumed. The trend causes flashbacks for experts like Helen Arbogast, injury prevention coordinator in the trauma program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, who has seen teens put away mouthwash, vanilla extract and, most famously, cough syrup (see: purple drank) to get drunk. “Cough syrup had reached a very sexy point where young people were using it... We want to be sure this doesn't take on the same trend,” she says. She advises parents to buy foaming hand sanitizer instead of the gel ones because foam is much harder to distill.

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By Bryan Le

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