Does the US Secret Service have a bigger booze problem than we thought? A major scandal this past April—featuring prostitutes and fueled by alcohol—cast the culture of the agency in a pretty unflattering light. And now new reports of illicit behavior by personnel have surfaced—this time involving DUIs and other alcohol-related misconduct. The Department of Homeland Security has released a 229-page redacted document logging eight years' allegations—including over 40 incidents of off-duty arrests of agency personnel, around half of which involved booze. For example, one special agent was arrested in July 2006 for “resisting arrest, public intoxication and reckless damage.” And in 2007, an officer in the Secret Service’s White House branch was arrested for drunk driving. This past May, Secret Service director Mark Sullivan acknowledged that alcohol and environmental factors may have played a part in the recent sex scandal, while testifying before a Senate committee: "I can tell you that I do not think this is indicative of the overwhelming majority of our men and women…But I just think that between the alcohol, and I don’t know, the environment, these individuals did some really dumb things.” The new allegations will be investigated and handled in accordance with federal rules, with available sanctions ranging from a warning to suspension or dismissal, according to Max Millien, a spokesman for the Secret Service. As you might expect, he declines further comment.
Hands-on lessons on the dangers of drunk driving are one way of trying to do teens some good. But one unfortunate incident in Indiana suggests that learning-by-doing can get a little too real. Three teens and a sheriff's deputy taking part in a simulated drunk-driving accident were injured after their 14-year-old driver—who was sporting “drunk goggles”—lost control of their golf cart, tipping it on its side. Police say that the young, virtually-intoxicated driver over-corrected after taking a turn too hard, bringing a (hopefully) sobering end to the exercise on the asphalt of the Elkhart County Jail parking lot. Drunk goggles are designed to simulate intoxication, teaching kids the dangers of drunk driving by having them wobble and giggle through a gauntlet of activities that would otherwise be easy: catching a large foam ball, driving a golf cart around cones and a good old-fashioned sobriety test. The teens and their sheriff guide were treated at nearby hospitals for minor injuries and then released. The cart suffered a slightly worse fate: a cracked windshield and a damaged canopy. According to Undersheriff Sean Holmes, nothing "improper" occurred, and the incident was purely accidental. The takeaway? Perhaps drunk driving is so dangerous that even pretending to do it can hurt.
Patients who receive stomach surgery to lose weight are at higher risk for alcohol abuse, according to a new study—a conclusion that seemingly contradicts some previous research. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh surveyed 2,000 bariatric surgery patients about their drinking, both 30 days before surgery and once again up to two years after. Of those surveyed, 70% received gastric bypass surgery, 25% lap band surgery, and 5% other, less common weight-loss surgeries. Alcohol disorders among the gastric bypass patients were found to increase nearly 50% following the procedure, while lap band patients had little-to-no increase in alcohol abuse. “There have been several studies showing if you give gastric bypass patients a standard amount of alcohol, they reach a higher peak alcohol level, they reach the level more quickly, and they take longer to return to a sober state—they’re experiencing alcohol differently after surgery,” says lead researcher Mary King of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. “So we weren’t entirely surprised to find a significant increase. It could be a combination of the change in alcohol sensitivities coupled with higher levels of drinking.” As for this study's significance: “This is really something that needs to be a part of patients’ discussions with their surgeons—but as just one of the potential risks in the context of all potential risks and benefits of surgery,” King continues. “The study shouldn’t be used to suggest that gastric bypass surgery isn’t a good weight loss strategy, but it should be used to educate patients.” Another recent University of Cincinnati study found that patients who received gastric bypass surgery had reduced cravings for booze following the procedure, for hormonal reasons.
Mitch Winehouse blames his daughter’s former husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, for getting the singer into substance abuse in his new memoir Amy, My Daughter. Winehouse says he never understood why Amy fell in love with Fielder-Civil, and that he can't listen to his daughter's multi-million-selling album Back to Black because many of the songs are about Amy's ex. "It wasn't as if he brought much good into her life, or so it seemed to me," writes Mitch. The book comes out June 26, and also features handwritten notes by Amy to her father. Apart from some fond memories of Amy as a young girl, and the emergence of her talent, it's mostly about the endless cycle of addiction: her recovery attempts and relapses. Mitch notes that Amy was always very strong-willed, and that although this helped with her career, it didn’t help with her problems. "Long before Amy was an addict, no one could tell her what to do," he writes. "Once she became an addict, her stubbornness just got worse. There were times when she wanted to be clean, but the times when she didn't outnumbered them." Amy Winehouse died of accidental alcohol poisoning last July at the age of 27—and her father believes that the wide availability and social acceptability of her chosen drug were contributing factors. “She could drink wherever she liked, mostly without public criticism," writes Mitch, who worried back then that “her illness might end up killing us both.”
Reporter Sam Dolnick paints a chilling picture of sexual abuse, horrific violence and rampant drug use in part two of the New York Times’ expose of New Jersey’s privately run halfway houses—of the fresh-out-of-prison, rather than fresh-out-of-rehab variety—in particular at Trenton’s 900-bed Albert M. “Bo” Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center. Inmates here (they still are inmates, having been released early from state prisons into the care of Community Education Centers, which runs Bo Robinson) live in overcrowded conditions, with far less security than in prison. In fact, many inmates ask to return to the lock-up. Drugs make their way into the facility by the same trade routes that they enter prisons: smuggled in by visitors, or stuffed inside balls that are tossed over the walls from the shoulder of nearby Highway 1. As a result, county officials conducting surprise drug testing at Bo Robinson in 2009 found that 73% of inmates tested positive.
Community Education Centers is meant to rehabilitate its charges, but this happens in only the most rudimentary of ways. Low-wage workers, very few of whom have any training in drug and alcohol treatment, merely read out self-help literature to packed rooms of disinterested (at best) inmates. But the in-house Narcotics Anonymous meetings are perhaps the worst parody of care. A former deputy director of treatment for the facility named Derrick Watkins (who was dismissed after the 2009 drug-test debacle) relates how an older inmate once came to tell him how “the Bloods are running the NA meetings.” An incredulous Watkins asked, “Excuse me?” To which the inmate replied, “Instead of drug and alcohol talk, they were talking gang stuff.”