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drugs on TV

9/26/12 5:09pm

Live TV MDMA Study Airs in the UK

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A street drug gets its own reality show.
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Tonight on British TV, volunteers are taking MDMA live on air as part of a study of the drug's effects on the brain, for the documentary series Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial. "The programs aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding the issue and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA," says the website for Channel 4, which will air the two-part live series. Some argue that the use of illicit substances on TV trivializes and condones drug use; but others consider it a welcome way of publicizing vital scientific research—preliminary studies suggest MDMA (the pure form of ecstasy) may be useful in treating depression and PTSD. This trial could "pave the way to further research into potential therapeutic uses of MDMA, such as in the treatment of PTSD" says former member of parliament Evan Harris, who is participating in the trial. Other volunteers will include British actor Keith Allen, a novelist, a vicar and an ex-soldier. The trials are a continuation of an earlier study by Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London into the potential of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to alleviate depression.

Nearly half a million Brits are estimated to take ecstasy every year, helping the UK earn the title of the "drug-taking capital of Europe," according to a recent EU Drugs Agency report. Use of the drug carries risks, including dehydration and possible heart failure, memory loss, and possible long-term brain damage; but in its pure form, it may have healing properties too. Researchers suggest that MDMA may allow PTSD sufferers to access negative memories without feeling threatened and overwhelmed—a step that is thought to be crucial for recovery. And its psychedelic properties—much like psilocybin—might be useful in treating depression, by breaking down rigid and self-destructive thinking patterns, and helping individuals access memories of happier times. Although using MDMA as part of a scientific study is technically legal, "the prohibitionist policies towards psychoactive substances create a strong taboo, which makes many scientists, universities and funding bodies unwilling to become involved" writes Amanda Feilding, a drug policy reformer who is a strong proponent of investigating the therapeutic properties of illicit drugs, in The Guardian. "Let us hope that before too long, the stain of the taboo will be washed away, and scientific evidence will prevail." 

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By May Wilkerson

workplace testing

9/26/12 4:28pm

Boozy Nuclear Power Plant Operator Busted

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Was this idyllic scene under threat? Photo via

An operator in the reactor control room of a nuclear power plant in a small American town has been caught working under the influence of booze—and his name isn't Homer Simpson. A random urine test conducted on July 14 at Exelon Nuclear's facility in Limerick Township, PA found that Roger T. Devlin had alcohol in his system, and he hasn't challenged the result, reports the Pottsdown Mercury. Devlin's control room operator license has been terminated; the use of a urine test rather than a breathalyzer means that while alcohol was detected, his level of drunkenness isn't known. Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which carries out both random and targeted drug and alcohol testing of employees, writes in an email to The Mercury that Devlin "was never the sole control room operator on duty; all activities the individual was involved with that day were reviewed and no errors identified; and action was taken against the individual, including prompt removal from operator duties." Sheehan states that Devlin's drinking "occurred off-site," and that he was issued with a Severity Level III violation—meaning one that “resulted in or could have resulted in moderate safety or security consequences.”

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By Will Godfrey

Cell Phone Addiction

9/26/12 3:46pm

Rehab for Cell Phone Addicts?

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Just say nomophobia. Photo via

Group therapy for cell phone "addiction" is now available at at least one drug and alcohol rehab. Numerous surveys have shown "nomophobia"—the fear of being away from your phone—to be a growing problem. Noting the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Elizabeth Waterman of the somewhat embattled Morningside Recovery Center in California has founded the first recovery group for nomophobes. The program aims to help people recognize the symptoms of their dependence, examine the psychological reasons for it and acquire the techniques to overcome it. Psychiatrist Keith Albow, writing for Fox News, would like to see other treatment centers follow: "Hopefully, Morningside Recovery Center’s program will motivate others to take its lead in actually putting an addiction to mobile technology—including cell phone messages and Facebook updates—on par with tobacco and alcohol dependence." He continues: “While it is clearly not as toxic to one’s lungs or liver as drugs or alcohol, it can be just as toxic to one’s self-determination and relationships and may actually make people more vulnerable to other addictions. It seems possible, in fact, that mobile technology could be a 'gateway drug' that fuels the search for self-defeating, counterproductive anti-anxiety strategies—like using marijuana or alcohol to keep uncomfortable feelings at bay."

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By Valerie Tejeda

Bad Sports

9/26/12 2:25pm

"80%" of the Dodgers Were on Drugs

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Eric Gagne: Larger than life Photo via

In 2003 Eric Gagne was the most dominate pitcher in baseball. In 82 innings that year, the Dodgers' corpulent closer struck out 137 batters while giving up just 11 earned runs. Statistically, Gagne was more than human. That's partially because he was on human growth hormone, as he admitted several years ago. But as Gagne reveals in a his new book, Game Over: The Story of Eric Gagne, he was in good company in the Dodger clubhouse. "I would say that 80% of the Dodgers players were consuming them," Gagne writes in the book. That's a much higher percentage of juiced-up players than others have proposed. There's also reason to believe that the Dodgers were using less than other teams: after all, they haven't made it to the World Series since 1988.

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By Adam K. Raymond

Drunk Driving

9/26/12 1:14pm

"Four Strikes and You're Out" for NY Drunk Drivers

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Gov. Cuomo takes a stand against repeat
offenders. Photo via

New regulations will make it tougher for people with multiple DUI convictions to get their licenses back in New York. Under current law, drivers convicted of multiple alcohol- or drug-related offenses only lose their licenses permanently if they also have two convictions involving accidents that caused injury or death. But under the new rules, the DMV will be able to deny a license reinstatement request if someone has five or more alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions—or three convictions plus another serious driving offense within the past 25 years. They can also require that a breathalyzer-like device be installed in the driver's car. “We are saying enough is enough to those who have chronically abused their driving privileges and threatened the safety of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” says Governor Andrew Cuomo. According to the DMV, more than 300 people are killed and over 6,000 are injured each year on New York highways by alcohol-related crashes—and 25% of those crashes involve a driver with three or more drunk driving convictions. The new rules will impact a lot of New Yorkers: state data suggests that over 50,000 drivers with valid or suspended licenses have three or more alcohol-related convictions in their lifetimes. 

While many New Yorkers approve of the plan, some argue the new regulations don't go far enough. Frank Harris, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), says that focusing on license revocations is a “1990s solution” that doesn’t necessarily work, as studies have shown that up to 75% of convicted drunk drivers still drive with a suspended license. MADD would also like to see more done to crack down on first and second-time offenders. Still, Harris does credit Cuomo for addressing the issue.

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By Chrisanne Grise

effects of cocaine

9/26/12 12:06pm

Millionaire's Nose Collapses From Cocaine Use

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Need proof of the damaging effects of cocaine? Look no further than the face of British millionaire James Brown. Brown was such a success as a property developer that he was able to retire to Portugal at the age of 36. Nine years later, his nose collapsed from excessive cocaine use and he's been sentenced to five years in prison, after a haul of the drug worth over $286,000 was found hidden in the air vents and folding roof of his luxury Bentley. Police also discovered a cache of illegal weapons and ammunition in his hotel room. In retirement, the London native's cocaine habit led to heart problems, as well as the severe deformity of his nose, caused by the drug eating away at the cartilage of his septum. It also led to extreme paranoia about his personal safety—hence the acquirement of the illegal guns. Brown's attorney John Hipkin says the money for his drug use came from "legitimate means" but clarified that "he'll never return to that form of lifestyle again."

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