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10/16/12 10:52am

"Love Hormone" Oxytocin May Relieve Alcohol Withdrawal


Oxytocin is released during moments of
bonding. Photo via

Oxytocin—the “love hormone,” not the opioid pain reliever—can relieve withdrawal symptoms in people with alcoholism, a new study finds. Researchers found that the need for benzodiazepines to ease withdrawal symptoms was five times lower in people given oxytocin, compared to a placebo. However, an extremely small sample size—just 11 participants—means that the research must be considered extremely preliminary. Still, its implications are fascinating. Oxytocin is a complex character: its levels peak at orgasm and during labor and breastfeeding—all times when social bonds are being formed. Research on rodents shows that it's involved in creating monogamous relationships and that essentially, it helps link your partner to your pleasure system. So togetherness is bliss, while rejection or distance means withdrawal. Could oxytocin similarly bind you to a drug? The fact that it relieves withdrawal suggests it may be making similar links: it’s not addictive in itself, but it connects the brain’s addiction-related pleasure areas to specific people, or, perhaps, drug-related cues.

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By Maia Szalavitz


10/16/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 16, 2012


The "Jesse's Girl" singer faced his share of
troubles Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Compulsive shopping

10/15/12 5:32pm

My Shopping Addiction: A Survivor's Tale


Sarah Downey's prognosis is "really

Tonight brings the first episode of My Shopping Addiction—a TV show from Oxygen that follows compulsive shoppers as they seek help. One of the shopping "addicts" featured is 32-year-old LA resident Sarah Downey (her episode airs on October 29). Until about six years ago, Downey was an "extremely wealthy" married woman, she tells The Fix, and enjoyed a lifestyle of private jets and vacation homes. But then, "My husband had an affair, and I walked out, never to return. I don't agree with infidelity."

Her shopping problem followed her divorce; she now "absolutely" considers that her breakup prompted it. She started visiting thrift stores as part of a new career: styling rock bands and artists, like Marilyn Manson's drummer, by sourcing interesting clothing. "I'd go in there to find a leather jacket for someone else," she says, "and end up getting it for myself." She developed skill and pride in being able to find, for example, "a pair of Jimmy Choos, never yet worn, for 30 bucks." Her habit exploded when she started dating a man who frequented goodwill stores: "We were just like two junkies together," she recalls. That relationship, which she considers to have been harmful, ended six months ago. At the height of her problem, she was often spending hundreds of dollars a day on clothing, and behaving in some "very illogical" ways: "I have very large feet, size 10, but I would find myself buying size six-and-a-half shoes anyway." Looking back, "I just didn't realize that I was that out of control."

Of her portrayal on the show, Downey insists, "We're really not prepared for anything that happens each day; we're totally blindsided." She accepts that on screen, "You're seeing me at my worst, but that's ok." She credits the experience with "totally" changing her lifestyle, partly by helping her learn to shop normally once again. "I'm a stronger person now," she says. "I feel like I'm back to where I was before this whole thing started."

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is Professor of Psychology at California State University and one of the experts featured on My Shopping Addiction—she's credited by Downey with "hitting me the hardest" about the reality of her problem. She tells The Fix that shopping can can become an "an addictive mode of behavior that can cause financial and relationship problems." What's more, out-of-control spending often accompanies other compulsions: "If you can't regulate one area, you often can't regulate another." Shopping, she continues, is "a funny kind of animal," because most addictions manifest themselves in ways that are unpleasant to others, while "the response to the results of somebody's shopping addiction will often be, 'Oh, you look fabulous!'" She recommends a cognitive behavioral treatment approach that "tries to figure out the thoughts and emotions that drive the behavior." Very often, says Dr. Durvasula, compulsive shopping is "a control issue"—a "defining event," like Sarah Downey's traumatic breakup, is also "not at all unusual." Buying things, she says, "would make Sarah feel rejuvenated, but of course it was only a temporary fix." The good news is that "the prognosis for Sarah is really excellent. She did a great job because she was really motivated to make a change." However, her shopping "is something that will always have to be monitored," because there's always the risk that "when she comes up against a stressful situation again, shopping could be her go-to habit."

The first episode of My Shopping Addiction airs tonight (October 15) at 11pm EST.

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By Will Godfrey

Rx Drugs

10/15/12 4:46pm

Kids With ADHD Want Their Meds


Kids say ADHD meds help them focus.
Photo via

The debate on giving children ADHD medication is fiercely contested on both sides, but the kids themselves seem to be largely in favor of taking the meds. Researchers interviewed 151 American and British kids taking either Adderall or Concerta (a longer-acting version of the same drug). Most of them said that the meds helped them do better in school, and to manage their impulsivity. And most of them disagreed with the claim—made by many who oppose such prescriptions—that the drugs make them feel like "robots." "With medication, it's not that you're a different person. You're still the same person, but you just act a little better," says Angie, an 11-year-old from the US. The research was led by Ilina Singh, a biomedical ethicist from King's College London, who believes that children on the medication are often left out of the debate. "ADHD is a very emotive subject which inspires passionate debate," she says. "Everyone seems to have an opinion about the condition, what causes it, how to deal with children with ADHD, but the voices of these children are rarely listened to. Who better to tell us what ADHD is like and how medication affects them than the children themselves?" An estimated 5 million US kids are diagnosed with ADHD, according to recent FDA figures—a number that has skyrocketed in the last decade.

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By McCarton Ackerman


10/15/12 4:01pm

Will Gary Johnson's Pot Policy Hurt Romney?


Johnson wants a "rational drug policy."
Photo via

Throughout all the election hoopla so far, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson—whose poll numbers are relatively tiny—has largely been forgotten. But mainstream politicians, particularly Republicans, are reportedly starting to get a little nervous about him as election day looms. The former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico advocates for something that's supported by the majority of Americans, but not by the two leading candidates: the legalization of marijuana. The GOP worries that Johnson will whittle off more of their votes in this tight race, much as Ralph Nader cut into Al Gore’s support in the 2000 election, helping to hand the election to George W. Bush. “As we all learned in Florida, when something’s close enough, even small numbers can make a difference,” says Charlie Cook, the publisher of the Cook Political Report, which monitors electoral trends. So Republicans in a few states are now attempting to hinder Johnson any way they can; party officials in Michigan blocked him from the ballot for filing his paperwork three minutes after deadline. In Iowa, one of Romney’s aides provided witnesses to testify in an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit to block Johnson. And in Pennsylvania, Republicans hired a private detective to investigate Johnson's Philadelphia ballot drive. 

Johnson says he has no problem being a potential spoiler in the election, as he sees it as “a debate between Coke and Pepsi.” He's happy to keep talking about the issues most important to him, as a fiscal conservative and social liberal. "Nowhere in the constitution does it say what we can or cannot put in our own bodies by our own choice," he told The Fix last November. "I suggest that if we legalize marijuana, this country will take giant steps to what I would call rational drug policy, which starts with looking at drugs first as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue."

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By Chrisanne Grise

Underage Drinking

10/15/12 3:17pm

One Direction Members Raid Hotel Mini Bars


Mini band-mates on a mini-bar mission
Photo via

It ain’t easy being in one of the world’s most popular boy bands—just ask the members of One Direction, the British quintet behind this summer's eternal hit, "What Makes You Beautiful." The young stars, aged between 18 and 20, have been hit with a “no booze, smoking or sex” order from their management, to help keep up their squeaky-clean, kid-friendly image. But they don't seem to be taking it too seriously. While they're of legal drinking age at home in England, they're still underage in the US—not that that's prevented them from drinking on tour. "We have to get it out of the mini bar at the hotel,” reveals 19-year-old member Niall Horan. “That's the only way!" They admit to craving a few pints of beer while they’re on the road. They'll have to choose between conquering those blossoming cravings and plundering more hotel supplies as they continue to tour the US to promote their second album, which is due out next month.

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By Chrisanne Grise


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