As US health officials bombard American media with anti-obesity campaigns, their strategy may actually backfire by triggering binge eating. Although these ads intend to educate about the health dangers of being overweight, many people are receiving the message that their weight makes them victims of self-inflicted disease, poor role models for their families and a drag on the economy. This message can cause obese Americans (about 78 million adults and 12.5 million children) to feel depressed, defeated and ashamed—feelings that can lead to self-harming behavior, such as binge-eating. A research team from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity asked 1,014 volunteers to evaluate 30 public service announcements from several countries aimed at curbing obesity. The least stigmatizing messages included "Eat well. Move more. Live longer," part of a British campaign called Change4Life. The most stigmatizing messages included "Childhood obesity is child abuse," taken from an Australian campaign, as well as "Chubby kids many not outlive their parents," from Georgia's Strong4Life campaign. According to the study findings, the messages that were most effective in encouraging behavior change didn't actually mention obesity at all. "When children or adults are made to feel stigmatized, shamed or teased about their weight, they're likely to engage in binge eating and unhealthy weight-control practices, and to avoid physical activity. We find that people actually cope with stigma by eating more food," says Rebecca Puhl, the Rudd Center's research director and leader of the study. "It reinforces the problem and makes the situation worse."
Today The Fix adds five new addiction-treatment facilities to its ever-growing Rehab Review, in a diverse range of locales including Marin County, Calif.; near Delray Beach, Fla., aka “the recovery capital of America”; Fredericksburg, Texas; Olalla, Wash.; and even South Dakota, marking our first reviewed rehab in the Mount Rushmore State. These five new rehabs represent a wide variety of philosophies and pricing—from $225 a day with shared bedrooms and cafeteria-style tacos and burgers at the more affordable end (Olalla Guest Lodge) to luxurious private bedrooms and meals crafted by an executive chef at the high end, for $32,500 a month at Reflections, in Novato, Calif.
More important, though, is the treatment itself. Tallgrass, in Sioux Falls, SD, relies on mentors from the local 12-step community to take its residents through the first seven steps while in treatment, while Wellness Resource Center, in Boca Raton, Fla., specializes in helping dual-diagnosis clients. As you might expect in Texas, rehab is by-the-Big-Book at Fredericksburg’s Serenity House, while Reflections gives its residents choices, including SMART Recovery and LifeRing, in addition to 12-step meetings. Last but not least, Olalla Guest Lodge incorporates Native American spiritual elements into its program.
If you’ve been to rehab—these five or any others—The Fix wants to hear about it. Click here to complete a quick, anonymous and confidential survey about your treatment experience. We will use this feedback to write new insider reviews of rehabs across the country (and the world!).
Would legalizing pot ultimately help—or harm—children? That's the question being raised in Washington as prominent advocacy groups take sides on the state's Initiative 502, which seeks to legalize recreational marijuana. Seattle-based advocacy group Children's Alliance has now voted to come out in favor, due to its belief that racial bias in the enforcement of marijuana laws is damaging to children in minority households. "The status quo is not working for children, particularly children of color," says the group's director Jon Gould. "Public policy ought to move us further toward racial equity and justice, and Initiative 502 is one step forward to that." Although marijuana is used at similar rates by whites and blacks in the US, black people are three times as likely to be arrested, charged and convicted of pot-related crimes, with about 90% of these charges for possession. Children "end up paying a terrible price for the disproportionate enforcement," says Gould; in addition to losing family members to prison, parents' criminal records can impact their ability to get jobs, public housing or federal student aid.
On the other side of the argument are those who believe that more young people will use marijuana if the initiative—which would allow people over 21 to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at state-licensed "pot stores"—is passed. In a statement opposing I-502, the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention notes that marijuana was the top reason for kids in Washington to enter drug treatment, and also linked to poorer performance in school. A spokesman for the group, Derek Franklin, claims the current rates—about 26% of the state's high-school students using pot in the previous 30 days—could double under I-502. "It's really a bad trade-off to experiment with legalizing an addictive substance when we see the problems it will cause," he says.
Barack and Michelle Obama reportedly shell out $70,000 a year to send daughters Malia and Sasha to private school, but they're reportedly growing concerned about their investment. Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC—where Malia is a freshman and Sasha is in sixth grade—is under fire after a report in the school newspaper revealed that 71% of students there admit going to parties with drugs and alcohol, and 25% of the senior boys admitted to boozing. “I have seen kids snorting coke, smoking pot, getting high and boozing,” says one former student about the rumors. “There's huge money at the school and the older kids host parties at their private residences. Many of them live in big mansions in Washington, or in affluent suburbs where drugs and booze are common.” A graduate of the school was recently arrested for possession of cocaine and ecstasy with intent to supply.
Sidwell isn't the only private school dealing with increasing drug use. A recent report from the National Center on Addiction and Substances Abuse at Columbia University found that 54% of private school students say drugs are rampant at their schools—that figure's up from just 36% in 2011. In addition, Sidwell is also currently facing a $10 million lawsuit over staff psychologist James Huntington, who allegedly had an affair with the married mother of a 5-year-old student he was counseling. “Certainly the trouble at the school has upset both Barack and Michelle,” an Obama family insider says. “Some friends have suggested the girls be tutored privately at the White House, but the Obamas are keen to have the girls' educational experience be as normal as possible. They don’t want them home-schooled.”
How can the media do better in its portrayal of addiction and recovery? Some celebrities set great examples and some don't—but how much should we care? How damaging is the glamorized image of the addicted "tortured artist"?
These are just a few of the questions we'll be addressing in our Twitter chat today (September 12), from 3-4 pm EST—co-hosted by our friends at Phoenix House. Taking part is easy: just log on to Twitter on the day and search for our new chat-specific hashtag—#popchat. Tweet your answers to the questions posed by @_TheFix and @PhoenixHouse—if you don't follow them yet, do it now!—and make sure to include #popchat in every tweet you send.
Our guests will include psychiatrist and author Dr. John Sharp (click on any of these names to follow them on Twitter), former White House drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet, Fox entertainment reporter Courtney Friel and sober coach Patty Powers of Relapse—as well as Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner and Fix contributors like Nic Sheff, Amy Dresner, Jeff Deeney and Jennifer Matesa. They'll be joined by many other experts, journalists and representatives of organizations like the Partnership at DrugFree.org and VisionsTeen. Your ever-faithful Fix staff—including Mike Guy, Anna David, Will Godfrey, Hunter Slaton, May Wilkerson and Joe Schrank—will be chipping in too. See you there!
Indonesia and Malaysia are uniting to end drug trafficking in Southeast Asia after holding talks on the region's growing problem. An agreement was signed yesterday to increase cooperation and intensify border patrol in an effort to combat the frequent drug trades that occur between the two countries, which have a combined population of around 370 million. “Indonesia has thousands of entry ways, be it legal ports or illegal, in the north, west, south and east. They are open for illegal culprits to enter Indonesia," says Indonesian National Police chief Comr. Gen. Sutarman. The bilateral talks mainly focused on strategic, tactical and operational aspects of drug-smuggling eradication. The nations plan to conduct joint operations, and to increase e-mails and calls between staffers on either side. The majority of the drugs to pass between the two countries, many of which are manufactured in the Netherlands, are shipped from Malaysia to Indonesia—so Indonesian officials have asked Malaysian authorities to step it up on this issue. In recent months, the Malaysian police narcotics team found 500,000 ecstasy pills of a new type known as "Yaba" waiting to be shipped to Indonesia, as well as as 25 kilograms of amphetamine to be shipped by sea.