Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett dropped the social programming equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the addiction recovery community in Philadelphia earlier this month, when he eliminated the welfare funding that pays for the vast majority of recovery housing in the city. General Assistance—a small monthly welfare cash payment of $205 for temporarily disabled single adults with no dependents—has for decades provided some relief to Pennsylvania's poorest of the poor. Philadelphia’s recovery houses—sober living spaces for homeless addicts coming off the streets—have long used GA payments coupled with food stamps (now called SNAP) to provide room and board for people whose only alternatives are homeless shelters and abandoned buildings. As The Fix reported, Philly recovery houses aren’t exactly posh, and their strict enforcement of abstinence and heavy 12-step regimens might rankle with some. But they provide a crucial service of last resort to many desperate people who would otherwise be out on the street. Except that now they are out on the street. Because with the elimination of General Assistance, this vast network of roughly 400 sober houses just blinked out of existence.
Social workers, legal aid attorneys and city human service agency staff have been meeting frantically for months in anticipation of this day, pregaming the possible outcomes of a massive hemorrhage of unstable, newly-recovering addicts back onto the streets. Does this blow up the city’s homeless shelter system? Does it spike crime during an already violent and chaotic summer? Maybe that's why the Philly Police Department has begun sweeps through Kensington—the neighborhood with the city's highest concentration of IV drug users—arresting addicts en masse? It's hard not to wonder cynically if this transfer of poor addicts from recovery house cots to jail cell bunks is really something Corbett is doing by accident.
Killing GA was at least unproductive, if not inhumane. It saves very little money in the short term, and will have huge mid-term costs: once spat out of recovery housing, addicts in early recovery will utilize far more expensive resources like homeless shelters, emergency rooms, hospital beds, detox beds and psych units, as well as prisons. Right now the situation is in flux, and it's unclear just how bad the outcome will be. But Philly's addiction professionals, who now have nowhere to send their clients who are coming out of detox, fear the worst.
Fans seem to consume the show Breaking Bad almost as voraciously as its characters make, sell and smoke meth—and America's addiction to the show already may be lending itself to some bad decision-making. The owner of an Albuquerque candy store has started selling blue-tinted sugar rock candy that resembles crystal, an idea she got after watching the show's star Bryan Cranston show off a bag of "candy meth" on The Late Show With David Letterman. "Crystal meth … yeah isn't the best thing in the world, it's not the best thing to replicate,” admits Debbie Hall, owner of The Candy Lady, where customers can purchase the meth-inspired treats for $1 a bag. But even if it's not the "best thing" to sell in a store geared towards children, the rock candy is a huge hit. And just like in the real meth trade, the bottom line wins. “We’ve gone through probably several hundred bags,” says Hall.
British glam rock band The Darkness has been resurrected, after cocaine and drug-induced paranoia drove them apart, according to bassist Frankie Poullain. "We had too much fun really," he says. "No one can have that much fun for that long. Everyone was on coke and paranoid, suspicious.'' Lead singer Justin Hawkins adds: ''Our career was built on the ridiculous and it fell apart in the same way.'' The band's dramatic separation in 2006 ended with Hawkins in rehab, and drummer Ed Graham battling a serious illness brought on by alcoholism. But the "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" hit-makers, who claim they "play better sober," seem to have made amends for the past and are making a comeback. The Darkness will be opening for Lady Gaga on her world tour later this year and their new album, Hot Cakes, is out today.
Binge drinking makes college students feel rich and powerful—regardless of background or social status—which translates to feeling "happier," according to a report released at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver. The report was based on a study of the social standing and boozing habits of over 1,595 students at a small, predominantly white liberal arts college. They found that the "higher status" students (wealthy, white, male, heterosexual and/or participating in Greek life) were reportedly happier than their lower-income, female, non-white, homosexual and/or non-Greek-affiliated classmates. But when the "lower status" students engaged in binge drinking (four drinks at once for female and five drinks for males) they reported feelings of "social satisfaction" more similar to those of the "higher status" students. “Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for higher social status in college and is correspondingly related to greater social satisfaction,” concludes Carolyn Hsu, the lead study author. Dr. Mark Jaffe, a psychiatrist at Cliffside Malibu Drug Detox Program, agrees: “For the price of a six-pack or two of beer, a minority or poorer student can feel as if they have become a member of the Beverly Hills Country Club.” He says that knowing this will help experts develop “better ways to change the social and cultural pressures that exist in colleges that cause binge drinking to occur.”
Still, some doctors have reservations about the accuracy of the study's findings. “Since [the study] is descriptive and not experimental, the two end points may not be linked,” says Dr. Fulton T. Crews, director of Alcohol Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Dr. Richard Saitz, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University is also skeptical: “This does not mean that the alcohol is what leads to the satisfaction,” he points out. “Imagine a school where it is the norm to wear a T-shirt with the sports team’s logo and most students report doing so. Would it be a surprise to find out that those who wore the shirt were more socially satisfied? I don’t think so. Would the shirt be causing social satisfaction? Probably not.”
Earlier this month, star LSU cornerback Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu was dismissed from his football team for violations of the school’s drug policy—and over the weekend, it came out via Honey Badger’s father that the young man had checked into Right Step rehab, in Houston, to get a handle on his pot problem (including synthetic mary jane). Mathieu is being helped in his recovery by former Houston Rockets basketball player and NBA head coach John Lucas, who battled cocaine and alcohol addictions himself before getting sober. LSU head coach Les Miles, who took the Tigers to the BCS National Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide last season—only to lose 21-0 to ‘Bama’s suffocating defense—sounded rueful but optimistic when discussing Mathieu’s case. “We have a simple policy here of behavior,” said Miles. “Consequences are pretty spelled out and defined... For Ty, it’s an opportunity for him to redirect. He’s still got a bright future. I think he can really accomplish all the goals he set for himself. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be doable.” One thing that’s now less doable, however—at least for Coach Miles and the remaining Tigers—is winning a national championship this year. Prior to Honey Badger getting the boot, LSU ranked No. 1 in pre-season polls. But after news hit that Mathieu was out, the AP did a do-over on the voting—and results released on Saturday revealed LSU at No. 3, trailing USC and Alabama.
Married couples often joke that their spouses drive them to drink, but a new study suggests that—for women—the claim is true. Sociologists from the University of Cincinnati, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University and the University of Texas found that marriage does often drive women to increase their alcohol intake—not because they’re necessarily unhappy, but because they’re influenced by their husbands' drinking, and men typically booze more than women. For a similar reason, men who are married drink less, because they spend more time with their less-boozy wives, rather than their drinking buddies. The opposite is true of divorced men, who are at a particularly high risk for alcohol abuse, the study found: three-quarters of divorced men said they drank more to cope with the pain of their marriage ending. But alcohol consumption among women decreased sharply post-divorce. The researchers examined large Wisconsin surveys from 1993 and 2004 about monthly alcohol intake, while also conducting 120 qualitative in-depth interviews over the past decade. "Some research suggests that men are more likely to cope with stressors in 'externalizing' ways (i.e., alcohol use)," writes lead researcher Corinne Reczek, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, "while women are more likely to cope in 'internalizing' ways (e.g., depression)."