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Music and Addiction

6/20/12 4:59pm

Adele Was Rolling in the Drink


Adele at the 2012 Grammies. Photo via

British singer-songwriter Adele can move even the most cynical listeners with her powerful pipes and heart-rending songs. So perhaps it's not surprising that a new biography of the 24-year-old chart-topper suggests she's had her struggles—not only with unavailable men, as chronicled by her lyrics, but with booze. According to the unofficial bio Adele: The Biography, by Marc Shapiro, Adele was haunted by an alcoholic father—and has struggled with substance abuse herself, using booze to cope with heartbreak and career pressure. Her father, who left when Adele was three, once said, "I barely knew my own name, let alone my responsibilities. I was a rotten dad." He was apparently the first of many men to hurt her—and Shapiro says that Adele turned to alcohol "to salve the heartbreak." He also claims the songstress was overwhelmed by her early success, and developed a drinking problem during her first tour. Often compared to Amy Winehouse for her songwriting, her vocals and her record-setting sales, Adele invites less-welcome comparisons when she admits that she once blacked out and fell off a stool during her set: "I got so drunk by the time I went on at 2am I had forgotten the words to my own songs," she said in an interview. "It was the worst thing ever.” Despite such issues, Adele's career to date has been far from heartbreaking. She cleaned up at the 2012 Grammies—the first female artist to take home six awards in one night—and also became the first artist to sell over three million copies of an album in a year in the UK. Time Magazine recently named her one of the most influential people in the world.

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By May Wilkerson

Prison drug smuggling

6/20/12 3:57pm

Prison Drug Smuggling: Over the Fence


Over the fence and under staff noses
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Visitors may be the main source of the illicit drugs that flow into US prisons every day, but several other methods exist. And one of them is surprisingly simple: literally throwing the drugs over the perimeter fence. With all the security measures in place, this shouldn't be happening—still, it does on a daily basis. "At FCI Gilmer [in Glenville, West Virginia] there's a cliff above a stripped-out coal mine that hovers 15 feet away from the fence in the yard," one prisoner tells The Fix. "When my homeboy got out he used to throw footballs, soccer balls and handballs from the cliff top, over the fence and into the yard for me." The ex-prisoner who threw the balls knew the routine of the trucks that patrol the perimeter well, and was able to get the job done after a clandestine hike through some neighboring woods. Beforehand, he would cut the balls open and fill them with marijuana, heroin or tobacco, before gluing or stitching them back together. He would then carefully lob them right into the recreation yard—landing them in the outfield of the softball diamond.

"I worked in recreation, so on the days the balls were supposed to be there, I would make sure I was out on the softball field early, working on the infield," says the prisoner who received the goods. "I would have all the equipment—wheelbarrow, rakes, shovels—that I needed to make it look good, and I'd stay busy, just steadily working, and act like I came upon the footballs or handballs that had apparently been left out there from the day before." After retrieving the drug-filled balls, he would cut them open in the recreation tool cage, take out the drugs and send them back to the units for sale. These specific events happened years ago—but moves just like this occur every day in prisons across the nation, with different geographical scenarios and multiple variations on the same ploy. The success rate is high enough to make it worthwhile.

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By Seth Ferranti

Effects of Alcohol

6/20/12 3:02pm

Is Drinking While Pregnant Safer Than We Thought?


Still not recommended Photo via

Drinking low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy may not have any developmental effects on children five years later, according to a new Danish study. Researchers tested the children of 1,600 women with different drinking habits during pregnancy: either no booze at all, or one-to-four, five-to-eight, or nine-plus drinks per week. The kids whose moms drank up to eight drinks weekly performed no worse on tests for IQ, attention span and executive functions like organization and planning. But the kids whose moms drank nine drinks plus per week did have lower attention spans. Despite these results, the study's authors—and doctors—still advise that women abstain from alcohol completely during pregnancy. Other studies still show that women who drink heavily during pregnancy increase their chances of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: a baby's body takes longer to break down alcohol, which therefore lingers in the bloodstream. And there's still inadequate evidence on the effects of low-to-moderate drinking on a fetus: "No one study takes into account the myriad of relevant factors such as maternal drinking pattern, differences in maternal metabolism, differences in genetic susceptibility, timing of the alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and variation in the vulnerability of different brain regions," says Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. "Furthermore, this study addresses outcomes at age five, but not later in childhood, and it's possible that effects may be identifiable later on but not noticed by age five." The best advice? Better safe than sorry.

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By Ariel Nagi

bad sports

6/20/12 1:55pm

"Frog Juice" Powers Race-Horse Cheating


This frog has a lot to answer for.
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All it takes is a gentle squeeze to the latero-dorsal portion of the South American waxy monkey tree frog and out comes a painkiller 40 times stronger than morphine. It's called dermorphin and it's showing up in the systems of race horses across the South. The powerful drug is used to dull the chronic pain that so often accompanies life as a race horse, and allows the animals to run harder and faster. A lab in Denver recently produced the first positive tests for the previously undetectable drug after tweaking its substance testing. More than 30 horses from four states had the substance in their systems. Given the difficulty in obtaining dermorphin from frogs, Craig W. Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University, tells the New York Times that the stuff showing up in horses is probably artificial: "There’s a lot out there, and that would be an awful lot of frogs that would have to be squeezed," he says. The development of a working test for dermorphin makes it possible to demonstrate how well the stuff works. Among the four thoroughbreds that tested positive in Louisiana, three won races in May—and the fourth came in second. "A lot of money’s got to be given back," says Charles A. Gardiner III, executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission.

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By Adam K. Raymond

drugs and welfare

6/20/12 12:50pm

NY Seeks to Block Welfare "Sin Spending"


Perhaps not for much longer. Photo via

Welfare in New York could soon go vice-free. The state senate has voted overwhelmingly in favor of prohibiting welfare recipients from spending their tax-funded benefits on alcohol, cigarettes, strip clubs and gambling—joining 10 other states which have adopted similar measures. The "Public Assistance Integrity Act," put forward by Republican Sen. Thomas Libous, specifically targets the purchase of tobacco, alcohol and lottery tickets, but also proposes a ban on cash withdrawals from the Electronic Benefits Transfer card at ATMs in liquor stores, casinos, and adult entertainment bars and clubs. Part of the bill also involves conforming to federal law: President Obama signed a law last February that threatens states with losing five percent of their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families funding if they don't restrict how the cash portion of social services is spent—New York could lose $125 million in total. "I understand that people need food stamps," says Libous. "What I don't understand is why they need to go to strip clubs, buy lottery tickets, go to a 'racino' or buy alcohol." Indeed. However, critics accuse the bill of spreading stereotypical notions of irresponsible food-stamp users. "It's a prejudice, I think, about poor people that we are seeing represented more than any statistical study of behavior," says Sen. Bill Perkins, who voted against the measure. "If they have evidence that there's a rash of that, I'd like to see it."

<a href="http://www.sodahead.com/living/should-welfare-recipients-be-banned-from-spending-their-benefits-on-alcohol-cigarettes-and-strip-c/question-2741531/" title="Should welfare recipients be banned from spending their benefits on alcohol, cigarettes, and strip clubs?">Should welfare recipients be banned from spending their benefits on alcohol, cigarettes, and strip clubs?</a>

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By McCarton Ackerman

Bad Sports

6/20/12 11:49am

Ryan Leaf Faces Lock-Down Drug Treatment


Leaf has a long road ahead of him.
Photo via

Troubled former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf has just been given a seven-year sentence. He violated the terms of a 10-year probation sentence he received in 2010, when he stole prescription pain meds from a player's home while he was a coach at West Texas A&M. At least the first 15 months of his stay with the Department of Corrections will be spent locked down in Montana—nine of them at a drug treatment facility in Lewistown that he will be unable to leave, followed by six at a pre-release treatment center. If all goes well, Leaf could be eligible for monitored release for the remainder of his term. But his attorney argues that he relapsed while undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumor. Last April, Leaf was convicted of breaking into a Montana home and admitted a few days earlier to possession unprescribed oxycodone. At his sentencing, he told the judge that he was embarrassed for his actions and that prison had become a "sanctuary" for him. ''I have enjoyed my time in there more than my previous 15 years,'' he said. There are examples of the prison-drug treatment combination being successful with NFL athletes though: former defensive end Johnny Jolly has been winning his struggle with cocaine addiction over the last eight months, and is now applying for reinstatement to the NFL, after being suspended indefinitely for his own drug charges.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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