Dr. Devi Sridhar, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Oxford, England wants the World Health Organization to regulate global alcohol use. “About 2.5 million deaths a year, almost 4 percent of all deaths worldwide, are attributed to alcohol—more than the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria,” she writes in the journal Nature. “The WHO is the only body with the legitimacy and authority to proactively promote health through the use of international law.” Sridhar, who lectures on global health policies, believes that the WHO should view drinking as a global epidemic and wants it to treat alcohol use the same way it treats tobacco use. Back in 2010, the WHO published a document, WHO Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol, listing recommendations to forbid unlimited drinking promotions and put an age minimum on alcohol purchases. Sridhar believes these recommendations should become a legal requirement, and that there should be an international consensus on ways to reduce problematic drinking. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking costs the country billions of dollars in losses for alcohol-related illness, accidents and reductions in workplace productivity.
There are over 30 public sober high schools spread across the US, but not a single one in New York City. Last night, SLAM, a non-profit organization focused on righting that wrong, held its first annual benefit at The Triad on New York’s Upper West Side. SLAM—which stands for sobriety, learning and motivation—drew stars of the stage, screen and Internet in a special performance of Celebrity Autobiography to drum up support (and cash). The night included numerous raucous readings of celebrity writing at its most absurd. Hosted by SLAM founder and event organizer Kristen Johnston (Third Rock From the Sun)—whose recovery memoir, GUTS: The Tiny Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster, hits bookshelves March 13—the audience was in stitches from the very first reading, in which Bobby Cannavale (Third Watch, The Station Agent) brought the ridiculous ramblings of David Hasselhoff in Don’t Hassel The Hoff to life.
The hilarity never flagged, as Bravo’s Andy Cohen read New York Housewife Countess LuAnn de Lesseps’ Class With the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair. (The first tip? What to do with a toothpick at a party) America Ferrara (Ugly Betty) read Melissa Gilbert narrating sex with Rob Lowe on her mother’s couch; Santino Fontana bravely straight-faced it through Kenny Loggins’ The Unimaginable Life: Lessons Learned on the Way to Love; Kristen Johnston read Cindy Crawford’s diaries from the set of her movie Fair Game; Dayle Reyfel channeled Debbie Reynolds; and Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse) brought down the house with the poetry of Suzanne Somers.
A fun evening sobered up at the end, when Dillon Eaton, a 2009 graduate of the North Shore Recovery High School outside Boston, told the audience they were there in support of a truly meaningful cause. “If I hadn’t gone to recovery high school, I’d be dead,” he said. The Fix's co-founder Joe Schrank received SLAM’s first annual “Friend of SLAM” award for his work with addicts of all ages, including Eaton—a new resident of Schrank’s Brooklyn-based transitional living facility, Loft 107.
On this morning's Today show, host Matt Lauer traded jabs with guest Fox News attack dog Bill O'Reilly, who has voiced skepticism that addiction is a disease, and believes that "free will" is the way to overcome something like crack addiction. Lauer quoted O'Reilly's remarks, "Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself. The hard truth is that some people will always want to destroy themselves and there's nothing society can do about it." O'Reilly went on to explain that someone who thinks addiction is a disease "doesn't believe in free will. I don't believe anyone is a slave to addiction."
The recovery world generally doesn't hold with the idea that free will is the essential component to getting clean. In fact, the 12 Steps work toward replacing free will with a higher power. O'Reilly disagrees. "I do believe it's a disease—it's a mental disease, but you have free will and you can get through the disease. As millions of people do. You don’t have free will when you have lung cancer; you do have free will when you’re a crack addict."
Houston had publicly fought addiction for decades before her death on Saturday, February 11, including at least three visits to treatment centers. To Lauer's exasperation, O'Reilly went on to say that the media overlooked her problems for decades. “You know what we in the media do, Lauer?” O’Reilly asked. “We wink wink it, we Snoop Dogg it. We Willie Nelson it. Hey, oh yeah, they’re stoned. That’s fine. And what message does that send? It’s okay!”
Sir Paul McCartney is finally giving up marijuana for the sake of his 8-year-old daughter, Beatrice. The 69-year-old former Beatle tells Rolling Stone magazine that he finds caring for his daughter more important than smoking dope. “I did a lot, and it was enough... When you’re bringing up a youngster, your sense of responsibility does kick in, if you’re lucky, at some point,” he says. “Enough’s enough—you just don’t seem to think it’s necessary.” The 69-year-old was first introduced to marijuana in the mid-sixties by fellow songster Bob Dylan. From there, McCartney experimented with cocaine, heroin and LSD which is rumored to have inspired many of the Beatles hit songs. McCartney’s love for pot has also gotten him into some trouble with the law. Back in 1972, he was busted for possession in Scotland and in Sweden. Then in 1980, officials in Japan found marijuana in his luggage and McCartney was deported. Four years later, he was arrested again, along with his first wife Linda, after buying some pot at a beach in Barbados. Sir Paul’s ex-wife Heather Mills, the mother of Beatrice, claims the star “smoked marijuana as often as most people drink cups of tea” during the couple's divorce trials.
- Hazard of the Trade: Bankers' Health [Wall Street Journal]
- Multiple Disorders Leave Addicted Women MIA [Women's ENews]
- Whitney Houston's Doctors Told to Provide Drug Record [LA Times]
- MMJ Banking Bill Dies in Colorado [Denver Westword]
- Why Prescription Drug Addiction is Growing Among Teens [MyHealthNewsDaily]
- 30 Pounds of Cocaine Seized on Cruise Ship in San Francisco [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Attractive Undercover Cops Entraps Teens to "Sell" Her Marijuana [Huffington Post]
Rival budgets that have been approved by the Florida House and Senate—both Republican-controlled—would do very different things to funding for substance-abuse and mental-health treatment in the Sunshine State. The first would increase funding by $32 million. And the other? It would slash-and-burn state outlays to treatment programs by $87 million—40% below current levels. The reason for the cuts is simple: Florida is facing a budget shortfall of $2 billion, and that money’s got to be made up somewhere. The Senate would much rather take that cash from programs that help drug addicts and the mentally ill than from those serving children, disabled people and grandparents. (Could it be a coincidence that one of those groups—old folks—traditionally has super-high voter turnout?) “When it comes to funding, an 85-year-old woman in a nursing home matters more to me than a 45-year-old guy with a substance-abuse problem,” says Sen. Joe Negron, who's responsible for the health care portion of the Senate’s budget. “It’s all about priorities.”
But various interest groups in Florida think the Senate’s got its priorities backwards. The legislative chair of the Florida Sheriffs Association says that without funding, drug abusers and the mentally ill will terrorize the community and fill jails. And the executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association sums up the issue in fiscal terms: “It’s cheaper to treat somebody than it is to put them in a prison. It’s cheaper to treat somebody than it is to take their children away in child welfare. It’s cheaper to treat somebody than for them to show up at the emergency room."