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10/23/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 23, 2012


Before the Black Eyed Peas, Fergie struggled
with addiction. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Sex Addiction

10/22/12 5:44pm

Researchers Road-Test New "Sex Addiction" Criteria


Will hypersexual disorder make it? Photo via

Experts have long debated whether "sex addiction" is real. But a new study moves one interpretation of it closer to inclusion in the American Psychiatric Association's upcoming DSM-5 diagnostic manual. A team of UCLA psychologists has tested criteria to define “hypersexual disorder” as a mental health condition. Symptoms compiled by a DSM work group include: recurring sexual fantasies, a pattern of sexual activity in response to depression, using sex to cope with stress, and urges and behaviors lasting at least six months that aren't caused by other issues, like substance abuse or other medical conditions.

Researchers conducted psychological tests and interviews with 207 patients around the US, all of whom were seeking help for out-of-control sexual behavior, a substance-abuse disorder, or another psychiatric condition like depression. The results, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, indicate that the proposed criteria accurately fit 88% of hypersexual patients, and identified negative results 93% of the time. “Our study showed increased hypersexual behavior was related to greater emotional disturbance, impulsivity and an inability to manage stress,” says lead researcher Professor Rory Reid, a research psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA. “The criteria for hypersexual disorder that have been proposed, and now tested, will allow researchers and clinicians to study, treat and develop prevention strategies for individuals at risk for developing hypersexual behavior.”

Despite the study's small sample size, other experts feel it's a good place to start. Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage and family therapist specializing in relationships and addictions, likes that the study emphasizes the "disorder" aspect of the issue. "I think that particularly with self-destructive pathological behaviors, moving away from the description of them as an 'addiction,' defining them as 'disorders,' is a more realistic and beneficial way to go," he tells The Fix. Hokemeyer says that whether or not this study helps get hypersexual disorder in the DSM-5, it will still help doctors to start dialogues with their patients about troublesome sexual behaviors. "Everybody wants to quantify. They want to know 'How many drinks do I have to have a day before I’m an alcoholic?" he says. "Or how many sexual partners do I need to have? How many hours do I need to spend on the Internet to determine whether or not I have an addiction? They want to quantify it but it’s really a qualitative issue. What impact is it having on your life? How is it effecting your quality of life? What control does it have over you?"

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By Chrisanne Grise

energy drinks

10/22/12 5:16pm

Monster Energy Could Be a Killer


Pretty scary indeed. Photo via

The highly-caffeinated beverage "Monster Energy" may have been responsible for five deaths in recent years, according to reports released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last week, a woman from Maryland, whose teenage daughter died after drinking Monster over two days, sued Monster Beverages for failing to warn about the dangers of its products. Her daughter died in December of “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity,” exacerbating a pre-existing heart condition, states the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the company, Judy Lin Sfetcu, has claimed that the products didn't cause the girl's death and that Monster Beverages was “unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks.” A typical 24-ounce can of Monster Energy, like those consumed by the late teenager, contains 240 milligrams of caffeine—what you'd find in about two and a half cups of coffee. The stimulant, although safe for adults in moderate doses, can pose a risk to those with underlying conditions such as heart disorders. The release of death filings related to Monster Energy may increase pressure on Congress for better regulation of the energy drink industry—which tends to market to young people through flashy, colorfully-named products like Red Bull, Rock Star, and “shots” like 5-hour Energy. According to a 2011 SAMHSA report, energy drink-related hospitalizations are on the rise—with energy overdoses landing a reported 16,000 people in the ER in 2008.

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By May Wilkerson


10/22/12 3:52pm

George McGovern's Addiction Legacy


George McGovern died Sunday, at age 90.
Photo via

George McGovern, pioneer of "modern liberalism," died this weekend at the age of 90. The former US Representative and US Senator was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, who memorably ran for President in 1972 and lost, by a landslide, to Richard Nixon. Dedicating his life to causes such as anti-war activism, democratized health care and eliminating poverty, McGovern was much admired for a blazing commitment to his liberal ideals—even at the expense of political gain. President Obama has called him “a champion for peace” and a “statesman of great conscience and conviction.”

Less high-profile than his contributions to progressive causes was McGovern's impact on the recovery community—inspired by his own family's quiet struggle with addiction. What he called "the big tragedy of my life" was the loss of his daughter, Teresa J. McGovern, in 1994. An alcoholic who'd been in and out of treatment centers for decades, she froze to death in a snowbank, aged 45. George McGovern detailed his daughter's harrowing battle with addiction, and the impact of the disease on the entire family, in Terry: My Daughter's Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism, published in 1996. In the book, he described the family's many unsuccessful attempts to help, and expressed guilt over feeling that he failed his daughter due to the demands of his political career. “That just about killed me,” he told the New York Times in 2005. “I had always had a very demanding schedule. I didn’t do everything I could as a father.” McGovern used the proceeds from book sales to found a treatment center in his daughter's memory, the Teresa McGovern Center in Madison. "The only redemptive part of this is maybe it will save somebody else," he said, shortly after his daughter's death. He also lost his only son, Steve McGovern, to alcoholism at age 60, this past July.

McGovern's belief that the family should be deeply involved in treating a child's addiction was a far cry from the no-contact methods upheld in contemporary TV shows like Intervention. "If I could just pass along a word of advice to other people who have this dilemma about what to do with an alcoholic in the family," he said in a 1996 NPR interview. "I think if you are going to follow that course of putting some distance between you and the alcoholic, you should accompany that by frequent calls, at least once a week, just to see how they're doing, to tell them you love them."

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By May Wilkerson

Legalization of Marijuana

10/22/12 1:50pm

Website Unveils Unlikely Legal Pot "Advocates"


Rick Perry is one of several surprising legal
pot advocates. Photo via

As the push to legalize marijuana picks up steam in Colorado, Washington and Oregon and support for legalization becomes increasingly mainstream, an interesting site called Marijuana Majority has recently gone live. It aims to show visitors “just how mainstream this debate has become by viewing and sharing visually appealing lists of elected officials, actors, medical organizations and business leaders who support solutions like decriminalizing marijuana possession, allowing medical marijuana or legalizing and regulating marijuana sales for adult use.”

The result is arresting, with a broad cross section of pro-legalization voices. Of course the usual anti-prohibition stalwarts are there: Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Richard Branson, Vincente Fox, and Brad Pitt. But a few of the faces are sure to make anyone who's been watching this issue do a huge double take. Like Bill O’Reilly. On the site he's quoted as saying, “My philosophy is if you want to smoke marijuana in your basement, I don't care. I'm not going to get a search warrant and kick your door in. I think that's foolish... But...if you get behind the wheel of a car, if you sell the dope to my kid, if my kid sees you smoking...I then will demand that the authorities protect me and my family from you, the marijuana smoker in public. Am I wrong?” (Well, Bill, many would say that you are). It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of ending prohibition, and even this is rather at odds with most of his public statements on the matter.

Other eye-popping names include failed Republican nominee Rick Perry: “[If] you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that,” he says. But under his watch, 68,758 Texans were imprisoned for marijuana possession in 2007 alone. Then there's New Jersey governor Chris Christie. As NJ slowly rolls out some MMJ reforms passed three years ago, Christie has done everything in his power to block them, some tepid pro-legalization overtures notwithstanding (“I don't believe that the only weapon we use against the drug problem is incarceration. I just don't think it's worked, and I think we see it over and over again that there's evidence that it hasn't.”)

Efforts to mobilize potential voters on this crucial issue should be applauded. But it'll strike anti-prohibitionists as strange that anyone in the movement would lie down with the likes of O’Reilly or Perry, when they're so clearly on the other side of the fence. Still, many of the site's other advocates for change in US drug laws will be much more effective. People may try to paint this as a “liberal” issue, or about “right vs. left”—but in truth, it’s neither. It’s about human rights, the economy and common sense. As they say in the rooms, "Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results."

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By Tony O'Neill

Addiction and the Brain

10/22/12 11:54am

Stroke Cures Coke Addict


Cured at a stroke Photo via

It's hardly a recommended treatment method, but a near-fatal stroke suffered by a man from Montreal has rid him of a longtime cocaine addiction. The 45-year-old had been injecting or snorting up to seven grams or more of the drug daily since the age of 24. Nearly two years ago, he experienced a stroke affecting the basal ganglia—some large clusters of nerve cells deep in the brain that receive dopamine, the brain's pleasure chemical. Doctors say the man "reported no further craving for cocaine following stroke onset." Researchers note that before the stroke he scored nine out of 10 on a drug-abuse screening test, "indicating a severe level of problems related to drug use." Post-stroke, he scored zero on the same test. Dr. Sylvain Lanthier, an associate professor at the University of Montreal and director of the neurovascular program at Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, believes the findings may show that deep brain stimulation, an experimental treatment using electrical currents to "reset" the brain, could treat cocaine addiction. "It highlights the fact that certain areas of the brain are very important for the experience of the 'high' that comes from cocaine and substance use," says Dr. Mark Bayley, medical director of the brain and spinal cord rehabilitation program at the UHN-Toronto Rehab Institute. "It tells us that these neurotransmitters that are triggered by cocaine can be blocked." Apart from some initial temporary paralysis on his right side and the development of abnormally small hand writing, or "micrographia," the man appears set to make a full recovery from both his stroke and his addiction.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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