Solvent abuse as a worldwide epidemic may have slipped largely under the radar. While practices like "glue-sniffing" or "huffing" are often overshadowed by other drug stories, they're a widespread method of getting high—particularly in economically depressed areas of the world. Millions inhale volatile chemical solvents such as those found in paint thinner, tire glue, nail polish, hairspray and Wite-Out. In small doses, these solvents create a euphoric high; in higher concentrations, they can cause hallucinations, slurred speech, unconsciousness and even death. Solvents appeal to a very specific audience; male users outnumber females five to one, and some estimates say that 15% of the world's teenage boys have experimented with solvents. In Ireland, as many as 22% of 15 to 16-year-olds are solvent abusers, and in the UK, butane—the country’s most commonly misused solvent—caused 52% of solvent-related deaths in 2000. The ready availability of solvents endears them to kids—children in many areas of the developing world can buy a small tube of inner tube repair glue for the equivalent of 10 cents. But children's bodies and brains are particularly susceptible to long-term damage. As if that weren’t bad enough, a large number of first-time users end up dying—in 2006, 40% of solvent abuse deaths were attributed to first-time experimentation. Despite the relatively low profile of glue-sniffing in the US, 2.1 million Americans aged 12 or older abused inhalants in 2009, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Snoop Dogg: Banned from Norway Over Marijuana Incident [Huffington Post]
The artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg (it’s Snoop Lion now, y’all!) may be popular in the States, but don’t expect to see him playing sold-out stadiums in Oslo anytime soon: after trying to enter the country holding marijuana last month, he’s been banned from the Scandinavian nation for two years. Although his fine was only about $8,600, his Norwegian fans will pay a heavier price.
- Dennis Hopper’s Son Accused of Drugging, Raping Teenage Girl [New York Daily News]
Actor Henry Hopper, whose father is the late, legendary actor Dennis Hopper, is the subject of some disturbing allegations: the mother of a 15-year-old girl is accusing him of “luring her into his home with promises of alcohol and illegal drugs” and then engaging in “sexually offensive conduct with her.” The girl, referred to only as Jane Doe, reportedly suffered emotional damage as a result. Hopper has yet to speak out regarding the allegations.
- Jenna Jameson Pleads Not Guilty to DUI [E! Online]
Adult film star-turned-mainstream actress, author and TV personality Jenna Jameson may have transformed her career, but her reputation took a hit when she was arrested for DUI in Orange County in May. Last week, Jameson pleaded not guilty to the three misdemeanor counts with which she was charged, although prosecutors say that her BAC was .05% above the legal limit. No word yet on whether the follow-up to her 2004 autobiography, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, will be called How to Drink and Drive Like One.
Celebrity Rehab alum and Crazy Town frontman Shifty Shellshock (born Seth Binzer), whose struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism attracted much public scrutiny, apologized for his bad behavior via TMZ, saying that he feels “very bad for those who I have offended” throughout his addiction, which featured an arrest for assaulting his ex-girlfriend at a Ross store while carrying rock cocaine. (Yikes.) Sources report that he’s been in treatment since April and is doing better than in any of his previous attempts at sobriety.
- Jersey Shore’s The Unit Agrees to Plea Deal to Avoid Drug Charge [The Daily Mail]
Jersey Shore star Jonathan “The Unit” Manfre may not be an official cast member on the MTV hit, but he sure partied like one. He was arrested last summer for ketamine possession outside the Shore house in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. But this week, he struck a plea deal with prosecutors resulting in a $125 fine for disorderly conduct, and all drug-related charges were dropped. The last thing Snooki needs around her baby is more bad influences.
A medical study on heroin users, partially funded by the US government, was conducted at Chinese detention centers that have been accused of severe human rights violations. The study, published in the April 13 issue of Science, tested an experimental treatment called "memory retrieval-extinction" on 66 former heroin users confined at two facilities in Beijing. Addicts in both facilities are "detained without due process" and were being "held in a closed institution where monitoring of human rights abuses is not allowed," says Joseph Amon, director of the health and human rights division at Human Rights Watch. It's unclear whether the subjects themselves were voluntary patients, or were being held against their will, he adds. Bioethicist Karen Maschke of the Hastings Center, a New York think tank, says that under American law, federally-funded research on inmates must be approved by a panel including at least one prisoner who volunteers to serve. Eight of the scientists from Peking University involved in the research said they "saw no indication of the abuses," while the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which provided financial support in the form of salaries to two co-authors, says its scientists were only "involved in the data analyses and the preparation of the manuscript."
China's drug treatment centers have a long history of alleged human rights violations. A 2010 New York Times report said drug users are confined to the facilities by police without trials or the hope of appeal, while enduring "an unremitting gantlet of physical abuse and forced labor without any drug treatment." A 2010 article in China Daily said drug users at Ankang Hospital are typically confined involuntarily for two years and engage in therapies such as boxing and playing in sand, which have not been shown to be effective against addiction. An estimated 200,000 people are currently housed in compulsory drug detention centers in China.
Teens in rural areas of Canada are trading sex for drugs and alcohol, according to research published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. The study was based on a survey of 2,300 students in grades 7-12 at 28 schools in British Colombia, collected back in 2009. Two percent of those teens who said they had used alcohol or marijuana had also exchanged sex for these substances. Both boys and girls had engaged in sex-trading—and 98% of them were living with their families at the time. “This isn't just happening in the East Kootenays," says study co-author Dean Nicholson, executive director of East Kootenay Addiction Services Society. "Other research has documented this among students in Quebec, in the US, and in Oslo, Norway, at similar rates. So it's probably an issue in other schools across BC, but school surveys aren't asking about this.” The study also highlighted regular binge drinking, which previous research has linked to depression and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents. "Several health issues can be linked to trading sex for alcohol or drugs,” says Elizabeth Saewyc, a professor of nursing and adolescent medicine at University of British Columbia and senior author of the study. “We need to talk frankly with young people about this issue, both at home and in school.”
- Defiance, Not Hyperactivity, Linked to Drug Dependence [Psych Central]
- Colombian Cocaine Contradictions [Los Angeles Times]
- How Childhood Trauma May Make the Brain Vulnerable to Addiction, Depression [TIME]
- Teens Are Trading Sex for Drugs, Alcohol, Marijuana [Medical Daily]
- Scout Willis Gets Community Service After Alcohol and Fake-ID Arrest [Los Angeles Times]
- Aussie Rower Detained By Police For Allegedly Damaging Storefront in Alcohol-Related Incident [CBS]
- Tatum O'Neal Back in Rehab
"Sober companions" are often paid big bucks to escort affluent, newly-sober addicts through the difficult period of early recovery. Until now, there's been no real training program for those in the profession, leaving newbies to figure the process out as they go. “It was trial by fire,” Tim Harrington, co-founder of Sustainable Recovery and a sober companion since 2002, tells The Fix. “The person I worked for basically called and said ‘Okay, be ready on Thursday. You’re going to Wyoming for two weeks. Talk to you later.’ There wasn’t a lot of conversation. I didn’t talk to the counselor. Nothing came up on how to be more support than just a warm body.” But the industry's Wild West days could be about to end, with the launch of the Institute for Recovery Companions (IRC) in Los Angeles, which will open its doors to potential trainees this September. Founded by author and addiction expert Dr. Allen Berger, the training center should also prove useful for those interested in working in other areas of the recovery industry, such as treatment centers and sober living facilities. Harrington, who will be one of the program’s trainers, says the curriculum will cover all aspects of the job—so companions will better prepared to serve their clients diverse and often demanding needs. He promises, “It will be a good training service that will support them overall on their track working in the industry.”
A sober companion comes with a hefty price-tag, keeping them well out of most addicts' reach. But Harrington hopes that a more structured industry will prove that the service is worth the cost. “We want people to see this as something that invests in and protects the treatment investment,” he tells us. “Relapse has its consequences and those consequences can be expensive—so you’re just adding that on to the cost anyway. This is a service that can extend recovery and address those things in a more positive and thoughtful way so we can hopefully avoid treatment re-entry.” The IRC anticipates that other training certification programs will spring up in its wake—so their plan is to set the bar high from the start. “We want to change the perception of recovery companions,” Harrington declares.