It's worrying news for anyone going under the knife: surgeons are more likely than the rest of us to struggle with alcohol problems—and all the more so if they are female. Researchers have found that 15% of surgeons have alcohol abuse problems; among the general population, that figure is around 9%. And those surgeons who struggle with alcoholism had a 45% chance of recently making a major medical error. Among those surveyed, 14% of male surgeons and 25% of female surgeons showed signs of alcohol abuse. "Observations from previous studies show that the stress of being a surgeon, and balancing professional and personal obligations, is much more prevalent in female than male surgeons," says Dr. Michael Oreskovich at the University of Washington, who surveyed over 25,000 surgeons during his research. He adds that overall, "The nature of the beast is that the percent of emergencies, the percent of after hours work, and actual scheduled work itself all require an energy and concentration that is really different than a lot of the other specialties." Edward Livingston, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who wasn't involved in the study, agrees: "Surgery is a stressful business. There are people who turn to alcohol to help deal with their stress." And Oreskovich believes that his figures probably underestimate the number of surgeons with alcohol problems, due to the shame and guilt associated with alcoholism in the medical field.
- Painful Cutting Addiction Spreads to Urban Girls [KHou.com]
- Federal Panel Favors Approval for Weight-Loss Drug Qnexa [New York Times]
- One in Five Teens Drives While High [Baltimore Sun]
- Addiction Booming in Baby Boomers [KSDK.com]
- Russia Plans "Dealcoholization of the People" Program [Russia & India Report]
- Addiction Is Not Hopeless [CNN]
- 30 Boston Students Busted at Canadian Border [CBS News]
- Lindsay Lohan in the "Homestretch" of Probation, Judge Says [LA Times]
Legendary singer Chaka Khan has been open about her struggles with addiction, but recently revealed that an early encounter with fellow chanteuse Etta James prevented her from ever injecting drugs. The pair first met in the late 1970s, when Khan went to sign at Warner Bros. Records. "She said to me, 'Whatever you do, if you wanna be in this business…' showing me the tracks on her arm,… 'do not do this,' recalls the 58-year-old Queen of Funk. "I said, 'Oh my God! Don't worry, I won't.' And I didn't. I snorted heroin for a good 10 years and I did cocaine, but I never injected." Khan, who has since sold over eight million albums worldwide, is also now nearly eight years clean. She reached out to both Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse before their untimely drug- and alcohol-related deaths, and has expressed similar concerns for Lindsay Lohan. Recovering heroin addict Etta James passed away last month.
Researchers in Japan have found that a chemical in the region of the brain involved in sensory and reward systems is crucial to how people react to financial losses, which could lead to the possible development of drugs to treat problem gamblers. The experiment, conducted at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, studied 19 people after they gambled and showed that a chemical messenger called norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, is central to the response to losing money. Those with low levels of norepinephrine transporters had higher levels of the chemical in a crucial part of their brain, leading them to be less aroused by losing money and less sensitive to it. Those with higher levels of this chemical suffered from "loss aversion," or a more pronounced reaction to financial losses and gains. "We like to believe we all have free will and make whatever decisions we want to, but this shows it's not so easy," says Julio Licino, editor of Molecular Psychiatry, which published the study. "Many people have a predisposure to make certain kinds of decisions." Alexis Bailey, a lecturer in neuropharmacology at Britain's University of Surrey, says scientists now need to analyze known pathological gamblers to confirm whether they have higher levels of these brain chemical transporters than non-gamblers.
Actress Brooke Mueller has completed a three-month stint in rehab and returned to her Los Angeles home yesterday. The 34-year-old ex-wife of "eccentric" Hollywood addict Charlie Sheen entered the facility after being arrested for assault and cocaine possession in December. While vacationing and partying hard in Aspen, Colorado, she got into an altercation with a woman who alerted police and reported that Mueller had attacked her. Police who searched claim they found cocaine. Mueller is charged with a misdemeanor and a felony and faces up to six years in prison if found guilty. However, she's apparently now focusing on maintaining her sobriety; her reps say she's continuing treatment through an "aggressive" outpatient program that includes the services of a sober companion. Mueller reportedly thanked her ex-husband for caring for their twin sons, Max and Bob, while she was away.
Bob Ryan—the recovering alcoholic mayor of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, whose relapses in 2009, 2010 and 2011brought him national fame—was defeated last night in the second round of a recall election triggered by citizens who objected to his binge-drinking behavior. Unofficial totals show Ryan lost by a few hundred votes to opponent Terry Van Akkeren, who will now serve out the rest of Ryan's term until next spring. But speaking with The Fix today, Ryan says his defeat has "a silver lining," in that "a lot of the stresses in my life have suddenly been lifted away." He thinks three factors ultimately caused the election result: "myself, obviously, and my behavior," plus Van Akkeren's labor union affiliations, and the decision of local newspaper the Sheboygan Press to run front page allegations of improprieties in Ryan's casino negotiations with local tribes on election day.
Ryan has a long-running feud with the Sheboygan Press; he told The Fix that he has "zero respect" for the publication in a pre-election interview, when he also discussed his recovery, dealing with humiliation and why Wisconsin has such a big alcohol problem. And the ousted mayor tells us he threw the paper's representatives out of his post-election party at a bar/restaurant last night (at which he says he felt "absolutely no temptation" to drink.) "I just told them to get out. I know you're not supposed to take revenge in recovery, but that felt pretty good," he recalls. "They said, 'But look, all these camera crews are still here.' And I said, 'I don't care; they're not you!'" He then made a speech to his supporters about the media's treatment of him and others in recovery that he says brought tears to the eyes of some other reporters in attendance.
As for the future, 48-year-old Ryan now plans to write a book about his personal journey, with plenty of space devoted to the surreptitious filming and photography in Wisconsin bars that was ultimately his political undoing. Otherwise, he is "available for employment" and rules out running for office again. "I did everything to gain people's confidence back," he tells us, "but it wasn't enough. I've done what I could for this city. Now I'll have more time to devote to working my program."