The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released its annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health today; the study surveys 70,000 Americans over age 12 each year. And there are some very positive aspects to the data from 2011: first, the number of people between 18 and 25 who used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes declined 14%—from 2 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011. Second, rates of underage drinking continued their decline since 2002—and the rate of binge drinking (five or more drinks in a single occasion at least once in the past 30 days) dropped from 19.3% in 2002 to 15.8% in 2011. "These findings show that national efforts to address the problem of prescription drug misuse may be beginning to bear fruit and we must continue to apply this pressure to drive down this and other forms of substance use," says SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "Behind each of these statistics are individuals, families and communities suffering from the consequences of abuse and addiction. We must continue to promote robust prevention, treatment and recovery programs throughout our country."
Not all substance use is declining, however; the use of illicit drugs remained stable at 8.7% of the population. Marijuana is still the most commonly used illicit drug, with 7% of Americans partaking—up from 5.8% in 2007. The number of people using heroin in the past year dropped just a fraction, from 621,000 in 2010 to 620,000 in 2011—but the 2007 figure was just 373,000. Sadly, the report also found that of the 21.6 million Americans who needed treatment for drug or alcohol problems last year, only 2.3 million actually received it in a specialized treatment setting. "Drug use in this country creates too many obstacles to opportunity—especially for young people," says Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. "The good news is that we are not powerless against this problem. By emphasizing prevention and treatment, as well as smart law enforcement efforts that break the cycle of drug use, crime and incarceration, we know we can reduce drug use and its consequences in America."
In her first novel post-Harry Potter, author J.K. Rowling moves from wizards and Hogwarts to drug addiction. The New Yorker has provided the first mini-review of The Casual Vacancy, describing it as "a story of class warfare set amid semi-rural poverty, heroin addiction, and teen-age perplexity and sexuality." The tale is set in the comfortable middle-class town of "Pagford," England, which has a drug-treatment clinic that serves both the town and a neighboring area, The Fields—a neighborhood of public housing and poverty on the edge of a larger town nearby. Right-wing residents of the community seek to rid themselves of the obligation to help the struggling Fields. One of the central characters, the prostitute and drug addict Terri Weedon, is mother to a three-year-old child. The novel draws from Rowling's personal experiences of being surrounded by poverty; she says she now feels free to write "whatever the hell I like." "I am the freest author in the world," she says. "My bills are paid—we all know I can pay my bills—I was under contract to no one, and the feeling of having all of these characters in my head and knowing that no one else knew a damned thing about them was amazing… Pagford was mine, just mine, for five years. I wrote this novel as exactly what I wanted to write."
Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong is seeking treatment for substance abuse after an outburst at the iHeartRadio festival in Las Vegas. During the band's Friday night performance, the singer began shouting on stage after the band was told it was time to finish their set. “I'm not fucking Justin Bieber, you motherfuckers! You've got to be fucking joking...I got one minute left,” he yelled. “Let me show you what one...minute means.” The band then went into a guitar-smashing rage before leaving the stage. Then yesterday, the band announced on their Facebook page that Armstrong is headed for rehab. “Billie Joe is seeking treatment for substance abuse,” the statement reads. “We would like everyone to know that our set was not cut short by Clear Channel and to apologize to those we offended at the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas. We regretfully must postpone some of our upcoming promotional appearances.” About three weeks ago, Armstrong was hospitalized in Italy for severe dehydration, forcing the band to cancel their concert. But Armstrong recovered in time to perform at the MTV Music Video Awards on September 6. He was previously arrested for drinking and driving back in 2003. No details have been released about his addiction or how long he's planning to be in treatment. The band releases a new album tomorrow, but plans to postpone all public appearances until Armstrong returns.
- Middle Schools Add a Team Rule: Get a Drug Test [New York Times]
- Opponents of Legalizing Marijuana Focus on Risk to Teens [Reuters]
- Czech Republic Alcohol Ban: Homemade Booze Gains Popularity [Huffington Post]
- Program Creates Shared Homes for LA's Homeless, Addicts [LA Times]
- Recovering Addict Helps Those Who Struggle [Dallas Morning News]
- Police: Woman Was Injecting Heroin While Driving [WHIOTV]
- Lindsay Lohan to Sue Cook Who Claims She Was Drunk Driving [New York Daily News]
In the Internet age, life remains easy for teens who want to get their drink on without waiting to turn 21. They can just go online, order it and get it delivered right to their doorstep. It's so easy, even a 13-year-old can do it, as shown on ABC's 20/20: just barely a teenager, Xander hit eBay to score some liquor. One seller refused to deal with him when he couldn't produce any ID—but two other vendors hawked their high-proof goods with no qualms. "All I had to do was type in 'vodka' on the search bar, click one button and it can send it to my house," Xander says. Five bottles were delivered to his doorstep, no questions asked. Ebay says it's taken action against the irresponsible vendors: "Sellers are required to take all appropriate steps to ensure that the buyer is of lawful age," the company states. "We prohibit the general sale of alcohol and we have zero tolerance for anyone who violates our policies. When violations occur, we take appropriate action as we have done in this case." A few months ago, eight underage volunteers found they could buy booze online with a 45% success rate in a study conducted by the University of North Carolina—it seems little has changed since then.
Scientists still disagree over whether you can officially become addicted to eating, but several studies indicate that certain foods can consume you by messing with your brain's pleasure and self-control centers, similarly to drugs. Researchers at Princeton and the University of Florida watched sugar-addicted rats get the shakes and chattering teeth when they couldn't get a fix of the sweet stuff—and when they were allowed a hit two weeks later, they binged 23% more than before. And the Oregon Research Institute found that young ice cream-abusers need larger and larger doses over time in order to satisfy the reward centers of their brains. In case you're wondering whether you have a food problem too, you can take this quick quiz, published in the New York Times and produced by Yale researchers who have devised a Food Addiction Scale:
Do the following statements apply to you: Never; Once a month; Two to four times a month; Two or three times a week, or Four or more times a week?
- I find myself consuming certain foods even though I am no longer hungry.
- I feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
- I have had physical withdrawal symptoms like agitation and anxiety when I cut down on certain foods (not including caffeinated drinks).
- My behavior with respect to food and eating causes me significant distress. Issues related to food and eating decrease my ability to function effectively (interfering with work, school, family, recreation or health).
Do these statements apply to you?
- I keep consuming the same types or amounts of food despite significant emotional and/or physical problems related to my eating.
- Eating the same amount of food does not reduce negative emotions or increase pleasurable feelings the way it used to.
If you've taken the quiz and didn't like your answers, ways to fight back include a regimen of meditation and exercise, and seeking healthier and more natural alternatives to bad food habits—try soothing your ice cream itch with fruit smoothies for example. “We don’t abuse lettuce, turnips and oranges,” says Dr. Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. “But when a highly processed food is eaten, the body may go haywire. Nobody abuses corn as far as I know, but when you process it into Cheetos, what happens?”