The addiction-book business is a lucrative but competitive one, even—perhaps especially—for serious researchers at prestigious universities with something original to report. Few stops on a writer’s new-book tour pay off like an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times, but you need a gimmick to score. David Linden, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University and the author of The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good, came up with a winner: His Times opinion piece on Sunday bore the title “Addictive Personality? You Might Be a Leader.” It argued that addicts, conventionally viewed as “weak-willed losers,” and business leaders, who are seen as society’s winners, have—according to cutting-edge addiction science—very similar psychological profiles: obsessive-compulsive, risk-taking, novelty-seeking.
Linden claims that addicts and leaders share a basic fault in the pleasure-reward region of their brains, blunting their experience of feel-good stimulation. As a result, “they must seek high levels of stimulation to reach the same level of pleasure that others can achieve with more moderate indulgence”—therefore they are uniquely vulnerable to addictions and compulsions. Of course, the fine line between Steve Jobs and the homeless crack addict on the corner is that Jobs’ drug of choice is success. But both share the dysfunctional hard-wiring to “want their pleasures more but like them less.” This pithy phrase will no doubt serve as Linden’s soundbite as he promotes his new book on radio and TV. But just in case he needs a backup angle, he has compiled a slew of famous figures—winners all—with substance abuse problems, from “the obvious creative types like Charles Baudelaire (hashish and opium) and Aldous Huxley (alcohol and the nonaddictive hallucinogens, mescaline and LSD), and scientists like Sigmund Freud (cocaine) to statesmen... such as Otto von Bismarck, the unifier of Germany, who typically drank two bottles of wine with lunch and topped them off with a little morphine in the evening." It's a fine line, indeed.
"Alcoholic? Don't despair—ViaGrow will have you fully energized and pumping that rod in a flash..." So reads the online ad that ViaGrow—the self-proclaimed "world's best male enhancement"—is targeting at alcoholics. Unfortunately, a lost erection is not always at the root of an alcoholic's “despair.” In 2008 the Network Advertising Initiative decided that it would not aim ads at people with certain medical or health conditions, or certain personal life information. NAI does not track Internet users who may have erectile disfunction (ED) for example, or one of a list of psychiatric conditions. However, one condition excluded from the list is alcoholism. As a result people who check out websites owned by rehabs, say, or news sites reporting on alcoholism, ahem, may be targeted and tracked. As a result, Google and Microsoft won’t market ViaGrow to someone who actually has ED, but they would leap to do so to an alcoholic—whose ED is only a side effect of his supposedly "non-psychiatric" condition. The Fix contacted NAI’s Andrew Weinstein to ask why addiction is not on the list of medical conditions exempted from tracking, but at press time he had not responded. We'd love to provide a link to the ViaGrow ad—but "threats detected" keeps popping up when we go there.
Not to be outdone by the host of celebrities responding online to the death of Amy Winehouse, rookie Republican Congressman Billy Long chipped in with a dubious Twitter contribution yesterday, comparing the spending habits of Congress with the habits of the late British singer: "No one could reach #AmyWinehouse before it was too late. Can anyone reach Washington before it's too late? Both addicted - same fate???"
Not literally, one hopes. The representative for Missouri's 7th congressional district, a former auctioneer, is well-acquainted with controversy. He has advocated a "crying towel" for those unfortunate enough to lack health insurance and previously used his Twitter handle to mock the necessity for tornado drills. He represents Joplin, Missouri, which suffered a major tornado in May. The US risks defaulting on its debts if Congress doesn't agree to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, with Republicans pushing to slash spending.
Meanwhile, Amy Winehouse's autopsy proved inconclusive, as family and fans mourned.
- Does Rehab Work as a Treatment for Addictions? [Scientific American]
- Canadian Sports Doctor's Aide Gets Probation in Doping Case [Reuters]
- Anti-Addiction Drugs Face More than Medical Issues [New Scientist]
- Recovery Film Festival Seeking Entries [Writersintreatment.org]
- Buffalo Bill Accused of DWI after Car Hits Cop [Buffalonews.com]
- SRI's Adolf Pfefferbaum Wins 2011 Award for Alcoholism Research [PRNewswire]
The same neural networks in the brain that regulate hunger for salt also control drug addiction, claims a study published this month that could have major implications for future treatment. "Salt appetite uses pathways that also have been taken advantage of by cocaine and opiate addiction," said Dr. Wolfgang Liedtke, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at Duke and a lead author of the study. "That helps us understand why the lust to gratify salt appetite has such a powerful influence on human behavior." Or as Texas Biomed geneticist Laura Almasy put it, "What this paper suggests is that the mechanism for why it feels good is that cocaine and opioids are hitting the pathways that were laid down to help us regulate salt intake." There's good reason for us to have a pre-programmed salt craving. Salt is necessary to maintain healthy fluid levels and helps muscle and nerve function. It's also used as a natural preservative (think beef jerky).
Experts say our ingrained desire for salt helps explain why it's so hard to overcome certain drug addictions. "Our findings imply that abstinence-aimed therapies are up against reward systems that have evolved over hundreds of millions of years, thus conferring a powerful survival advantage," said Liedtke. As that time-scale suggests, the natural urge for salt pre-dates human existence—animals share it and most of the team's experiments were carried out on rats. Herbivores, unable to derive salt from meat, are willing to go to particular lengths: One herd of elephants observed in Kenya has learned to march a mile into a pitch-dark cave just to reach a salt lick, a single-mindedness not unfamiliar to drug addicts.
The city of Conroe, Texas, is no stranger to serial drunk-driving felons—and doesn't skimp on retribution for the worst offenders. Gliddon William Davis, a 73-year-old from the city, is one pensioner with a long rap sheet. Davis was convicted last week by a Montgomery County jury for his latest DUI episode back in 2009—his 8th in total. He was sentenced to 55 years of prison time, meaning he will, minus a miracle, die behind bars. But the dubious honor of most DUIs in Conroe goes to James Steven Corley, who has racked up a whopping 16 of them. He received his last in March, leaving him with an astonishing 100-year prison term.