Does life in the spotlight make people more prone to addiction, or does addiction naturally accompany a drive for attention? Countless celebrities battle addiction under the paparazzi bulbs. Some—like Elton John, Demi Lovato and Samuel L. Jackson—speak about their recovery to the media. Others—like Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger and Whitney Houston—have become tragic public reminders of the toll the disease can take. But what effect does the media's portrayal of addiction have on the rest of us?
In our Twitter chat on September 12, from 3-4 pm EST—co-hosted by our friends at Phoenix House—we’ll discuss all this and more. Taking part is easy: just log on to Twitter on the day and search for our new chat-specific hashtag—#popchat. Tweet your answers to the questions posed by @_TheFix and @PhoenixHouse—if you don't follow them yet, do it now!—and make sure to include #popchat in every tweet you send.
Our guests will include psychiatrist and author Dr. John Sharp (click on any of these names to follow them on Twitter), former White House drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet, Fox entertainment reporter Courtney Friel and sober coach Patty Powers of Relapse—as well as Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner and Fix contributors like Nic Sheff, Amy Dresner, Jeff Deeney and Jennifer Matesa. They'll be joined by many other experts, journalists and representatives of organizations like the Partnership at DrugFree.org and VisionsTeen. Your ever-faithful Fix staff—including Mike Guy, Anna David, Will Godfrey, Hunter Slaton, May Wilkerson and Joe Schrank—will be chipping in too. See you there!
A Colorado dentist who admitted to reusing needles on his patients and prompted more than 8,000 people to be tested for HIV said his actions stemmed in part from a drug addiction. Dr. Stephen Stein had his dental practice save unused portions of medication—including Vicodin and Vicoprofen—and combine the medications into one syringe to be used on other patients, resulting in the reuse of syringes and needles. State health officials say three people may have been infected with HIV as a result. Stein signed a Stipulation and Final Agency Order in which he admitted to a long battle with drug dependency and voluntarily relinquished his license to practice dentistry in the state. Stein wrote patient prescriptions for Vicodin and Vicoprofen and told them to bring the medication to their appointments, but the drugs were then diverted for his own personal use. An anonymous complaint was sent to the Board of Dental Examiners in June 2011 that accused Stein of misusing controlled substances and stating that he was "disabled" by his addiction. Stein admitted to the board that he sought treatment for his chemical dependency in the summer of 1998. By voluntarily relinquishing his license, he will be able to apply for a new license to practice in two years.
Everyone has at least one or two—if not several dozen—booze stories to share. DrinkingDiaries.com was created as a judgement-free forum for women to discuss anything alcohol-related. It ended up being so successful that, as of this week, it's now also a book. It all started with just two women, Caren Osten Gerszberg and Leah Odze Epstein, each struggling to deal with her own mother’s dependence on alcohol. The two became friends, and leaned on each other during the hard times. “I would sit on her porch and we would talk and I would kind-of lament about my situation," Gerszberg tells The Fix. "I didn’t know how to handle it." Epstein wanted to suggest Al-Anon, but a couple of bad childhood experiences at meetings with her mother left her feeling pessimistic. "I just had this fantasy about sitting around with cool women, actually sitting at a bar or something, just talking and telling our drinking stories," Epstein tells us with a laugh. "I just wanted to have a free and open dialog."
One night over dinner, the two writers came up with the idea for Drinking Diaries. They ultimately wanted to publish a book, but decided to start online. “We were sitting at the table and we were like ‘Oh, let’s start a blog!'" Gerszberg says. "'Let’s see if there are other women that feel compelled to share their story or similar feelings that I was having, like where do you go? And what do you do? And how do you deal?'" The blog launched in 2009 and—despite the fact that both women knew nothing about blogging—rapidly developed a following, with new interviews and essays added every week. The two were busy editing, writing and high-fiving "like football players" whenever a high-profile writer like Julie Powell or Joyce Maynard agreed to contribute. "I was kind-of shocked that people were willing to be so honest," Epstein says. Author Ann Leary even came out as an alcoholic on the site.
Epstein and Gerszberg decided it was time to publish in print, and this week saw the release of Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up. The anthology contains experiences and anecdotes from women of myriad perspectives, cultures and ages. Of course, the blog continues. And Epstein hints that she'd love to work on a project involving teens in the future—or perhaps even some men. But for now, it's time to enjoy the success of Drinking Diaries so far: "I feel very gratified that we’ve put so much of our effort and brought together some amazing stories," Gerszberg says. "As much as it was a personal journey, the goal is really to bring this issue out into the open so that as many women as possible could feel like they too could open up and share their stories and not ever feel judged. That was really the crux of this project.”
The US War on Drugs is starting to look more and more like an actual war. Two-hundred US Marines have been employed to patrol the western coast of Guatemala starting this week in an attempt to beat drug traffickers in Central America. The Marines were deployed as part of Operation Martillo, an effort which started last January that is using troops from 13 countries across the globe and focuses exclusively on drug dealers in airplanes or boats throughout the region. Guatemelan authorities signed a treaty last month allowing the operations to take place and the commander of the operation gave the thumbs up last week to move full steam ahead. "This is the first Marine deployment that directly supports countering transnational crime in this area, and it's certainly the largest footprint we've had in that area in quite some time," said Marine Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes at the US Southern Command in Miami. This will be the first time in fifty years that the US has sent significant help into Guatemala. That most recent attempt to help Guatemala by establishing a base to support counter-insurgency efforts during a guerrilla uprising led to 36 years of war and more than 200,000 deaths before the US pulled out in 1978. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 80% of cocaine smoked, snorted and swallowed in the US passes through Central America.
In what could be a major step forward in understanding Internet addiction, scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany say they’ve found a genetic link to problematic web use. In a new study, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers examined 132 people displaying “problematic Internet use,” as defined by a daily obsession with going online, and feeling impaired or distressed when denied access to the web. The researchers then compared the genes of this Internet-addicted group with a non-addicted control group set, and found that the Internet addicts were likely to carry the gene mutation CHRNA4—which is also linked to nicotine addiction. “There are clear indications for genetic causes of Internet addiction,” said study researcher Christian Montag. “If such connections are better understood, this will also result in important indications for better therapies.” The CHRNA4 gene plays a role in activating the reward system in the brain, dispersing "feel-good" chemicals when an individual participates in activities such as sex, eating, and sleeping. Of those in the web-addicted group, the gene was notably more prevalent in women than men. “Within the group of subjects exhibiting problematic Internet behavior this variant occurs more frequently...in women,” said Montag. “The sex-specific genetic finding may result from a specific subgroup of Internet dependency, such as the use of social networks or such.” The researchers say that more studies need to be conducted to further validate these findings.
- Internet Addiction Is Real And Scientists Found A Gene Linked To It [Business Insider]
- Teen Smokers Show Early Signs of Heart Disease [WebMD]
- Marines vs. Zetas: U.S. Hunts Drug Cartels in Guatemala [Wired]
- Drinking, Overeating Pack on Pounds in College [USA Today]
- A Privacy-Friendly Way to Ban Gambling Addicts From Casinos [Business Week]
- Report: Cocaine Was Used at Harry's Nude Vegas Party [Daily Beast]