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?”
Addiction will be highlighted on tonight's episode of 20-20, which focuses on Emmy award-winning actress, recovery advocate and Fix contributor Kristen Johnston. "Initially, they approached me to do a brief segment at the end of the show, which was at that time called 'Wasted,'" Johnston tells The Fix. "However, after the producer and Elizabeth Vargas read [her addiction memoir] Guts, they decided it should be a much more prominent part of the show. Because of this, I asked them to kindly consider changing the title because 'Wasted' isn't really appropriate. So they changed it to 'Intoxication Nation,' which I thought much better. It's really a show about the state of addiction and recovery in America today." Johnston, whose interview is being described as "revealing and often hilarious," confesses during the special, "I thought [drinking] was cool… you know, I could outdrink the basketball team." The show will also feature our columnist Nic Sheff—producers reached out to him after reading his piece on working at a high-end rehab in The Fix. "The producers really tried to get all angles of the issue," says Johnston. Tune into 20/20: Intoxication Nation tonight at 7 pm PST/10 pm EST.
Director Oliver Stone's opinions on the US drug war pack as much of a punch as some of his work. His latest movie, Savages, hits theaters today and is based on Don Winslow's best-selling novel—the story of two Southern California youngsters who run a lucrative business raising some of the best marijuana ever developed until a Mexican drug cartel moves in. Stone produced the movie and co-wrote the screenplay, making some major changes from the book. And although he was always opposed to the US approach to drugs, his work on Savages only reinforced his position. “It’s a total disaster,” he says. “President Nixon called it the War on Drugs in 1969 and it has completely backfired. There are more people using drugs in high school today than ever before, so we haven’t solved the problem through prohibition. There’s a huge amount of money at stake and there’s no way the drug war can end because too many people are benefiting. It will never, never be won."
Stone enlisted the help of retired drug enforcement agents, drug growers and "some very interesting high-level people with a lot of money in Mexico" while preparing to write the script. He even made one of his actors, Aaron Johnson, meet real-life ex-cartel members to get a crash course in the politics of the marijuana industry. "It was in my interest that they meet real people involved in the industry and feel them out, because actors relate to people better than they do to words on a page,” says Stone. Of course, as a marijuana user for almost the whole of his adult life, Stone also has a well-researched opinion on where the best pot in the world can be found. “The best weed in the world is here in California,” he declares. “I’ve been doing it for 40 years as you know, and there’s better stuff here than in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Jamaica, South Sudan—and I’ve been to all those places. The Facebook generation, if that’s what you call them, are very smart kids and they make good stuff.”
Life expectancy for the least-educated white people in the US is falling—and drug abuse and smoking are among the leading suspected causes. White women without a high school diploma lost an average of five years of life expectancy from 1990-2008, to 73.5 years, shows a study published in Health Affairs magazine that was led by S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois. White men in the same category lost an average three years' life expectancy, to 67.5 years, during the same period. Life expectancy rates for black and hispanic people in the same category meanwhile increased; by 2008, that of black women without high school diplomas surpassed white women of the same education level for the first time.
“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” says John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who wasn't involved in the study. The reasons behind the decline in life span of this section of the population aren't yet known for certain, but James Jackson, director of the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan and an author of the study, says that white women with low education levels may exhibit more risky behavior than previous generations. Overdoses from prescription drugs amongst whites have rocketed since 1990—the biggest change among this population in decades—while smoking rates among white and black women without high school diplomas have also increased. The proportion of working-age adults without high school diplomas who have no health insurance also rose to 43% in 2006—up from 35% in 1993. These numbers are a stark contrast to the mere 10% of college graduates without insurance.
Dax Shepard discusses his former love for cocaine and Jack Daniel's, and some damaging drunken escapades, in a new interview with Playboy magazine. Shepard, 37, and his fiancee Kristen Bell were apparently quite the odd couple at the beginning of their relationship. “Kristen's a good girl. She grew up very Christian, went straight to college, did great in school and started work immediately. She's charitable and philanthropic and rescues dogs. So when we met, our backgrounds were opposites,” says Shepard. “All the things I'd done were terrifying to her.” His life pre-Bell was out of control: “I just loved to get fucked-up—drinking, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, diet pills, pain pills, everything. Mostly my love was Jack Daniel's and cocaine,” he recalls. “I lived for going down the rabbit hole of meeting weird people. Of course, come Monday I would be tallying up all the different situations, and each one was progressively more dangerous. I got lucky in that I didn’t go to jail.” The Punk'd star acquired some injuries during his hard-living years: “My nose is completely sideways from a drunken altercation. I’m missing a knuckle because of a drunken altercation,” he explains. “I ended up in a car accident with a [Hawaii] local on the way to get coke, which didn’t stop us from going to get coke. Then it wasn’t coke, it was crystal meth, but I did it anyway.” Shepard has now been clean and sober for eight years. “I think I have a pretty good handle on my 'isms,' but it takes a long time,” he says. “Each third or fourth bad thing you give up, you still have to hold on to one. I’m still on nicotine. I pound about a dozen of those Commit throat lozenges a day. I still drink gallons of coffee.”