Kristen Johnston, star of '90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun and films like Austin Powers Goldmember, introduced America's late-night TV audience to a new word on the Tonight show with David Letterman: Suboxone, the prescription drug taken by many addicts to get and stay clean of opiate-based painkillers and heroin. While discussing her new memoir about her Vicodin addiction Guts, Johnston typically pulled no punches in detailing how her abuse of the pain drug—along with booze ("because I'm from Wisconson," she quipped)—made her stomach burst, endangering her life even as she hit bottom and set off down the road to soberville. "Now I do say no," Johnston told Letterman to audience applause. Then her host showed off his big vocabulary by asking, as if on cue, “Did you take any sort of phar-ma-co-lo-gical medications to help you get off the, ah...” Johnston looked surprised for a moment—whether at the specificity of the question or at the fact that he pronounced the word correctly—but she proceeded to boldly go where no celebrity had gone before, at least in a public forum. “Yes, I did actually. I had Suboxone. It really helped me,” she said. The moment passed so nonchalantly that you would never have known that Suboxone, used effectively as detox and maintenance therapy, is the target of intense stigma in the recovery community, with abstinence-only stalwarts like A.A. and Dr. Drew flailing it (along with methadone and many other phar-ma-co-lo-gicals) as a "chemical crutch." Johnston's coming out about how Suboxone supports sobriety took—dare we say it?—guts.
It seems deadly drunk driver Diane Schuler was part of a trend. Arrests of women for drunk driving are up 36% in the last decade, according to a Traffic Injury Research Foundation report released today. Drunk driving is traditionally male-dominated: just 9% of those arrested for the crime back in the '80s were women. But by 2004, this percentage had risen to 20%. Speculated reasons for this include the changing roles of women in society, a relative drop in male drunk driving arrests, and changes in police practice that mean women are more likely to be detected and arrested. Female drunk drivers tend to be older and more highly educated—but lower paid—than their male counterparts: the average first-time female offender is 31. This fits women's tendency to develop substance abuse problems later in life than men, on average. (But once they begin, alcohol problems progress more rapidly in women, who require medical intervention a startling average four years sooner than men, the report notes.) Female drunk drivers are disproportionately likely to be single, separated or divorced—or living with a partner with an alcohol problem. Diagnoses of anxiety, depression and PTSD are common. The report notes that little research has been conducted on the specific effectiveness of drunk driving programs and interventions for women. Drunk female drivers were involved in 1,837 road deaths in 2008. But despite evidence of a narrowing gap, men still have the bigger problem.
In a twisted case of life imitating art, a 74-year-old math professor allegedly went all Breaking Bad. Irina Kristy, who teaches at both Boston University and Suffolk University, faces charges of distribution of meth, conspiracy to violate the drug law and drug violation in a school zone—the same charges faced by her 29-year-old son, Grigory Genkin. The alleged mother-and-son meth-makers live little more than a football field from a local elementary school in Somerville, Mass. A lengthy search of their house on November 7 turned up evidence of methamphetamine production, and haz-mat specialists removed dangerous chemical detritus. The Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad detonated other dangerous materials in a day-long operation, and the Middlesex District Attorney plans to arraign Kristy on December 21. Suffolk University has placed the Moscow University-educated professor on administrative leave following the charges, but she's still listed as an instructor at Boston University, where she's taught for 24 years.
Liver disease caused by alcohol abuse has rocketed in England in recent years; ad campaigns targeting children, cultural tolerance of binge drinking and easy access to cheap booze are all blamed. Brits start younger, drink more often and consume more than before. The greatest increase is among 25 to 29-year-olds. NHS data from 2009-2010 shows 291 men and 188 women in that age group were treated for alcohol related liver damage—up 60% and 88% respectively since 2002-2003. All this is prompting accusations that the media and advertising are fueling the drinking culture. "The earlier the age at which children drink, and the more they drink, the greater the chance of developing serious liver disease in adult life," says Newcastle University Hospital liver specialist Chris Record. "Many patients are now presenting with terminal liver disease in their late 20s and early 30s. Only a few years ago alcoholic liver disease was very unusual in this age group." Stats published by Balance, a health campaign group in northern England, show a 400% increase in liver disease in young adults. Balance is calling for a stop to children "swimming through 40% proof advertising." Government officials have pledged to strengthen laws governing alcohol advertising in cinemas and sponsorship of sporting events in the run-up to the London Olympics next year.
A dispute over a $40 pill prescription pill debt has resulted in a gruesome double murder. Craig Lede, 40, admits battering 28-year-old Dana Nelson and 29-year-old John Ketsemidis to death with a baseball bat in Spring Hill, Florida, because he was "tired of being screwed with." The young couple owed Lede $40 for prescription pills. All three were known addicts, and patients of the nearby Hope Pain Management Clinic; it was raided and shut down by HCSO deputies a month ago, with one employee cuffed and led away. The couple went to Lede's house Friday in order to discuss their debt—but he apparently became "enraged," pulled a bat on them and beat them to death, before taking photos of the dead bodies as a "trophy." Police found the corpses in Lede's garage, after pinpointing their location through the ankle monitoring bracelet that was attached to Ketsemidis on account of his probation. Nelson's body had been placed in Lede's trunk, and he apparently ran errands with her on board. "Although we cannot link this heinous and senseless crime directly to the abuse of prescription drugs," says Sheriff Al Nienhuis, "there is little doubt that it significantly contributed to the deaths of these two young people. This is a perfect example that prescription drug abuse is not a victimless or a non-violent crime."
- Recovering Addicts "In Crisis" After Doctor's Arrest Denies Them Vivitrol [Boston Herald]
- Smoking Can Make Your Nipples Fall Off [CNN]
- Does Medical Marijuana Really Reduce Alcohol Crash Fatalities? [Huffington Post]
- Some California Medical Marijuana Stores Forced Out of Business by Crackdowns [Sacramento Bee]
- Federal Aviation Authority Chief Arrested for Drunken Driving [Huffington Post]
- Seeking Help for Gambling Addiction [New York Times]
- John Rich Too Drunk to Fly Home, Gets Booted Off Plane [PerezHilton.com]