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Addiction in the Military

9/17/12 3:00pm

Report: Military Must Deal With Substance Abuse

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Can the military do better with drugs and
booze? Photo via

Alcohol and prescription drug abuse is reportedly getting out of control in the US military, and a blue ribbon committee is today urging the Pentagon to acknowledge the crisis and take steps to deal with it. The report, produced by an Institute of Medicine panel, calls for stronger policing of underage drinking, restricting access to booze on bases and updating the treatment programs available—as many haven’t changed since the Vietnam War. And it coincides with The Fix's report today on the addiction problems that plague returning veterans, and what is and isn't being done about it. 

"I think they're ready to acknowledge that they can do better," says Dennis McCarty, a public health expert on the panel. The military is dealing with record numbers of suicides, which are often linked to drug or alcohol abuse. The rate of prescription drugs supplied by the military has also increased fivefold since the Afghanistan War began in 2001: Nearly 5 million prescriptions for pain medications, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, stimulants and barbiturates were issued last year. The problem is the worst in the Army, where one in four soldiers in 2008 admitted to abusing prescription drugs. Data also suggests that binge drinking—the consumption of five or more drinks in a sitting—is 50% higher among military members aged 18-35 than among civilians. 

Efforts to help include an experimental Army project that provides soldiers with confidential counseling; while successful, it only exists at 10% Army installations, so the panel urges its expansion to all bases and to the Navy, Marines and Air Force. (The Marines are also making efforts to curb their boozing.) For now, Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says military health officials are in the process of analyzing the report’s recommendations. "But most importantly, we want to do the right thing by the servicemember,” she says. “If there are areas in need of improvement, then we will work to improve those areas. The health and well-being of our service members is paramount."

 

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By Chrisanne Grise

Celebrity Busts

9/17/12 2:17pm

LiLo vs Bynes in Child-Star Drug War

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Don't hate, LiLo; hate is a jailbird trait.
Photo via

If it seems "totally ridic" to wish hard time on someone because you were once in the slammer yourself, well, that's because it is. But that's precisely how perennial hot mess Lindsay Lohan is responding to the continued car troubles and alleged drug use of former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes. Over the last several months, Bynes has had numerous hit-and-run mishaps, and has been pulled over by police several times, leading to a DUI charge—and many of those incidents happened when her license was already suspended. Then last week she was snapped behind the wheel, smoking what appeared to be a weed pipe, with remnants of marijuana scattered around her car's cup holder. But Bynes hasn't faced jail time yet, and doesn't seem in danger of getting sent upriver—which rubbed Lohan the wrong way. "Why did I get put in jail and a Nickelodeon star has had NO punishment(s) so far," she tweeted. “These are the moments that I appreciate my life experiences, living without regrets and Disney for supporting me as an actress.” LiLo herself was involved in several car accidents this summer—despite her movie project's production company hiring her a full-time driver and ordering her not to drive—including a major smash-up which totaled her Porsche. Bynes hasn't responded to the tweet, but maybe that's because she's got bigger worries: she's due back in court on September 27 on two hit-and-run charges, as well as her alleged drug use.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Sober Partying

9/17/12 12:48pm

Glittering Event Makes $500,000 for Recovery

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The Shapiros with Pat O'Reilly and Chris
Lawford Orly Halevy

On Saturday night, a glittering gathering of roughly 800—including Larry King, Nicole Richie, Kris Jenner, Buzz Aldrin and Robert Duvall—gathered at philanthropist Jeff Greene's palatial Beverly Hills estate to listen to X Factor finalist Chris Rene, dine on Wolfgang Puck's roasted chicken and red velvet cake and watch a Baracci of Beverly Hills fashion show. But they weren't doing this for nothing: $500,000 was raised for The Brent Shapiro Foundation, which was launched by the Shapiros (renowned defense attorney Robert Shapiro, his wife Linell and their son Grant) after they lost their beloved son and brother, Brent. He died in 2005 when he ingested half a hit of ecstasy with alcohol, having been sober for the previous 18 months. The completely dry event—which also featured a ferris wheel, photo booth and overflowing candy bowls—was MC'd by Pat O'Brien, who started things off by reciting the Serenity Prayer. "I didn't know I was a celebrity until Larry King did an hour on me," O'Brien joked, before praising the Shapiros for "turning a horrible tragedy into a positive." Robert, Linell and Grant also spoke movingly about the way this year's funds will be spent: plans include a pilot program in Boyle Heights called "Brent's Club," offering incentives to kids who stay clean and remain in school.

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By Anna David

tainted liquor

9/17/12 11:59am

Czech Republic Halts Liquor Sales

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A Czech Republic vendor and his off-limits
liquor. Photo via

Much like how Woodstock-goers in the '60s were warned not to eat the brown acid, residents of the Czech Republic are being told not to drink the brown liquor, with a ban on hard liquor sales imposed throughout the country. The ruling came down following a wave of methanol poisonings that have killed 19 people within the last few months, with dozens of others currently hospitalized. Bars and other places that sell the hard stuff will only be able to stock beer and wine until further notice. The ban originally was limited to spirits with more than 30% alcohol by volume, but the full prohibition was instated after cops determined that an "absolute majority" of the poisonings came from spirits purchased in restaurants, bars and stores. It's estimated that roughly 20 percent of the liquor sold in traditional outlets in the Czech Republic is produced on the black market. And, while methanol is traditionally used for industrial purposes, it's also a large part of the booze black market, because it's cheap and impossible to distinguish from real drinking-quality alcohol (until it starts killing people, that is). Thousands of liters of the illegal intoxicant have been seized and 20 people have been arrested thus far for making it. Although there's no expiration date on the ban, it's estimated that it will take at least several weeks before liquor sales resume. In the meantime, in an international effort to quarantine the damage, Poland also has instated a month-long ban on selling Czech liquor inside the country.

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By McCarton Ackerman

college drinking

9/17/12 10:56am

Should We Ban Frats to Cut College Drinking?

Q: The school year just started. Do you think that abolishing fraternities would go a long way to prevent problem drinking at a young age?

[Jane is now exclusively answering your questions about addiction, recovery and the like. Send your questions to janevelezmitchell@thefix.com.]

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By Jane Velez-Mitchell

Headlines

9/17/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: September 17, 2012

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Taking unorthodox orders Photo via

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