The shocking suicide of a popular figure in British soccer last weekend has prompted at least five other professional soccer players to contact Sporting Chance—a clinic that assists UK sportspeople with addiction and depression—in the last few days. Gary Speed, the 42-year-old rookie coach of the Wales national soccer team, was found hanging by his wife in the garage of their family home in Cheshire Sunday morning. Speed's playing career in top-level English soccer lasted over 20 years, and saw him playing midfield for Premier League clubs like Newcastle, Everton and Bolton and for his country; he moved into full-time coaching last year. He guested on a BBC soccer TV show the day before his death and had recently recorded three successive victories as Wales boss. He had no reported problems with addiction, depression or family life, and leaves two young sons. His death has stunned British soccer. Silences have been held before games and tributes have flooded in from politicians such as Prime Minister David Cameron, and soccer stars like Welsh wingers Ryan Giggs of Manchester Utd and Gareth Bale of Tottenham. The news that fellow pros have sought help since offers hope that the tragic death will encourage members of a notoriously macho culture to request treatment for more than just physical injuries. The Sporting Chance clinic was co-founded in 2000 by former Arsenal captain and recovering alcoholic Tony Adams.
According to those close to Tobey Maguire, friends of the Spiderman star are worried that he's a gambling addict.
These rumors come in the wake of the $80,000 settlement that Maguire paid toward the victims of Ponzi-schemer Bradley Ruderman, an ex-hedge funder who’s now serving a decade-long term for defrauding his clients. The back story is this: Maguire, who is evidently very skilled at Texas Hold'Em, supposedly won around $300,000 at secret poker games in New York and Los Angeles, while Ruderman lost five million in all. Maguire hasn’t broken any laws; the payment is his way out of a lawsuit that also targeted Gabe Kaplan of Welcome Back Kotter, The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes and 19 others. The actor was apparently unaware that Ruderman didn’t have the funds to cover his debts.
Maguire certainly isn’t the only bold-faced name to be accused of gambling too much. Ben Affleck, Michael Jordan, Bill Bennett, Charles Barkley, A-Rod, Gladys Knight, Artie Lange, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, and Brandon Davis, among many others, have also gathered ink for the same affliction.
Yet 36-year-old Maguire is the rare star who has done much of his gambling in public. After learning poker from professional player Daniel Negreanu, Maguire competed in and won the World Series of Poker. And professional poker player Phil Hellmuth once said on Poker After Dark that Maguire has won as much $10 million through poker alone.
“I’ve never treated anyone who didn’t have a dual addiction,” reveals Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in relationships and addiction.
But Dr. Timothy Fong, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and Co-Director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, cautions that the way the media treats celebrity gamblers confuses an extremely serious issue. “Just because someone loses $100,000 doesn’t mean that person is a gambling addict,” says Fong (who has never treated Maguire). “If you can afford to lose the money and it doesn’t damage your life, it is considered a hobby—or, at worst, a bad habit. The problem is when people continue to gamble despite horrible consequences.”
Still, Maguire has been public about the fact that he's been sober since the age of 19 and cross-addiction—which often means getting sober and then acting out addictively in other ways—is extremely common. “I’ve never treated anyone who didn’t have a dual addiction,” reveals Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in relationships and addiction. “And the primary disease has to be treated before the secondary disease can even be revealed.” Adds Fong, “A solid treatment program will address all addictions but oftentimes therapists will say things like, ‘Glad you stopped smoking crack’ and recommend that a patient take up something like poker, believing it’s benign.”
Yet gambling addiction is the furthest thing from benign. “It’s a disease that kills,” says Fong. “’Died of gambling addiction’ isn’t listed a death certificate when someone commits suicide and 25% of gamblers who have entered treatment have tried to kill themselves.” (The percentage of drug addicts and alcoholics who have attempted suicide, Fong says, is much lower: roughly 10-15%). Also, Fong adds, “Gambling addicts don’t just die from suicide: they also have heart attacks and strokes as a result of not taking care of themselves because of their obsession.”
While California—where Maguire lives—has a higher population of problem gamblers than the rest of the country (roughly four percent compared to a national average of one to two percent, according to Fong), Fong attributes that primarily to the fact that the state offers so many gambling opportunities (horse tracks, Indian casinos, et. Al) and not to any sort of wacky ideas about how if you put the country on its side and shook it, all the loose pieces would fall to California (full disclosure: that's my own theory). But where there's a problem, there's oftentimes a solution and since July, 2009, California has offered free state-funded treatment for gambling addiction. “We have five million dollars a year dedicated to it,” Fong explains. “That includes over 200 licensed therapists and eight free sessions for anyone suffering.” While roughly 32 states have state-funded treatment for gambling addiction—see this map for specific information—California's budget is the largest in total (though not the largest per capita).
The 12-step program Gamblers Anonymous—which is in every major city in the United States—has also come to the aid of many sufferers. “I hear it’s actually an even more supportive program than AA,” Hokemeyer offers. “It’s supposed to be a very tightly knit community.” People who are concerned about their relationship with gambling should consider taking the GA test. As for Maguire, more—as they say—will be revealed.
Anna David is the Executive Editor of The Fix and the author of the books Party Girl, Bought, Reality Matters and Falling For Me. She's written about Tom Sizemore and Steve-O, among others, for The Fix.
The number of people showing up in emergency rooms for "adverse reactions" to nonalcoholic energy drinks like Amp and Red Bull has shot up tenfold over a four-year period, according to data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2005, DAWN logged just 1,128 emergency department visits involving nonalcoholic energy drinks like Monster, Full Throttle and Rockstar; by 2008 that number shot up to more than 16,000, and in 2009, the most recent year for which DAWN has data, it was 13,114. The problem? Caffeine—a lot of it. The average can or bottle contains up to 500 mg, compared with about 100 mg in a five-ounce cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12-ounce cola. “There are no safe levels of caffeine,” Dr. Albert Woodward, DAWN's director, tells The Fix. DAWN’s data also found that men are more likely to mix these drinks with alcohol or illegal drugs, while women are more likely to combine prescription drugs with highly caffeinated drinks. And Woodward said younger people have greater access to “central nervous system medications” such as Adderall and other stimulants whose risks are exacerbated when combined with excess caffeine.
- Secondhand Smoke Tied to Bad Heart Failure Outcomes [Reuters]
- After the DSK Affair, France Discovers Sex Addiction [Time]
- Meth Lab Search Causes School Lockdown [WoodTV]
- Citadel Sex Abuser Later Carjacked Cocaine Mule [ABC News]
- Is Sex Addiction Real? [Salon]
- Food Trends 2012: Grilled Cheese Infused Vodka [ABC News]
- Australia Intercepts Heroin Haul Hidden in Raisins [BBC]
George Harrison, the “quiet Beatle” known as the soul of the band, died 10 years ago today, aged 58. Among the tributes to his brilliant career, it’s worth noting that while the cause of his death is generally reported as cancer, what really killed the Beatles’ lead guitarist—as he freely admitted—was nicotine addiction. He smoked an average of three packs a day for three decades, starting when he was in his teens.
"I got it purely from smoking,” he said when he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997. “I gave up cigarettes many years ago, but had started again for a while and then stopped this year.” In 2001 he had surgery for lung cancer, but within months the tumors had metastasized in his brain. Told he might only have weeks to live, he desperately underwent a controversial—and very costly—experimental treatment to bombard the brain tumor with radiation. (The doctor involved, Gilbert Lederman, spent the next ten years promoting himself as “George Harrison’s doctor” and was eventually found guilty of malpractice in a sweeping lawsuit covering 20 wrongful death claims.) Harrison died a few months later.
In the decade since Harrison’s death, tobacco control and bans have cut US rates of cigarette smoking and lung cancer—but only by 2 or 3 percent, according to the CDC. Not surprisingly, the incidence of the disease mirrors rates of smoking state-by-state—which in turn closely shadow anti-smoking regs. Since the recession, however, funding to implement these laws has fallen to near zero in many states. The biggest change may be measured less in terms of public health than public attitudes. When George Harrison was dying of lung cancer, it was his smoking "habit” that was blamed. Now we understand smoking as an addiction—and nicotine as the hardest substance of all to quit.
Conrad Murray, most famously Michael Jackson’s "Dr. Feelgood," was sentenced today to four years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of the late King of Pop. The four-year term is the maximum allowed under state law and could be seen as a warning shot to scrip-happy docs. But some speculate the term may be cut in half due to California's prison overcrowding. Murray’s lawyers requested a probationary sentence, but were denied by the judge. The disgraced doctor said he prescribed Michael Jackson the powerful anesthetic Propofol to help him sleep, and was charged with causing his death. Defense attorneys were unable to convince jurors of their client’s innocence in the six-week trial. “The defendant has displayed a complete lack of remorse for causing Michael Jackson's death," prosecutors stated. Murray’s lawyers countered, "There is no question that the death of his patient, Mr. Jackson, was unintentional and an enormous tragedy for everyone affected." Jackson family members, who claimed Michael was not an addict and pressed for the maximum sentence, wrote, "We are not here to seek revenge. There is nothing you can do today that will bring Michael back."