This year's National Prevention Week, organized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is here—and there are many ways to get involved. The new annual observance celebrates people and organizations who work year-round to prevent substance abuse and promote mental and emotional health, and organizations across the country are hosting events to raise awareness about their work and to show people how to get involved in preventing substance abuse in their communities. Some of the central issues to be addressed include the prevention of underage drinking, prescription drug abuse and suicide. As for the timing, spring is a crucial time for drug abuse education, since first-time marijuana, cigarette and alcohol use among youth tends to rise between April and July, partly due to graduations and outdoor events and parties, which often involve alcohol and drugs.
To get involved, check out this map to find an event in your area, and sign the prevention pledge to commit to a substance abuse-free lifestyle. You can also download the National Prevention Week Toolkit to help you plan an event in your own community. The theme of this year's National Prevention Week is: "We are the ones. How are you taking action?" It's an idea that "recognizes that small, every day actions contribute to healthier, more vibrant communities," says SAMHSA director Fran Harding. The theme was introduced last year as part of SAMHSA's PSA Video Contest; below is the winning entry: "I Am More Than Meets The Eye."
Ninety-three Iranians died of alcohol-related causes in the past year, according to official statistics—despite a strict nationwide ban on the distribution and sale of alcohol. While the death rate is slightly down on the year before, health officials are concerned about a rise in alcohol consumption in Tehran; 18 of the 86 men and seven women who died were in and around the capital. “We sometimes get reports from hospitals and doctors on the consumption of alcohol from neighborhoods in the south of Tehran which are worrying,” says Deputy Health Minister Baqer Larijani. In addition, the official stats are likely to be an underestimate in a country with such strict laws, so the real number of deaths may be significantly higher. The report doesn't specify the extent to which poisoning from homemade brews like Arak—a drink made from raisins—was to blame. But police chief Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam claims there are 200,000 alcoholics in Iran, with 60-80 million liters of alcohol smuggled into the country each year, mainly from Iraqi Kurdistan. “The extent of alcohol use in the Islamic Republic of Iran is considerable," said the World Health Organization in a report back in 2003. Alcohol smuggling into Iran is now said to be a $730 million-a-year business, despite the risks of clashes with border guards, prison or the death penalty.
The upcoming Prohibition-era drama Lawless—starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce—is being widely interpreted as a parable for the drug war of today. “There are a lot of parallels to today, with the economic crisis, the political crisis, the war on drugs," says director John Hillcoat. "At one point we even had a montage at the beginning with what was happening now with the Mexican cartels, and that wound back to the '80s cocaine wars in Cuba and heroin in New York...until we landed on Prohibition. That was the birth of serious crime, and it feeds into everything that's going on today." Lawless is set in Franklin County, Virginia in the 1920s, and centers on a family bootlegging business that becomes threatened by rivals. It's set for released in August, and heavy violence and lots of intense gun battles are guaranteed. Prohibition is often blamed for the widespread mob violence of the '20s, so naturally reporters asked Hardy and LaBeouf for their opinions while they were promoting their movie at the Cannes Film Festival. "Next question, next question,” stonewalled LaBeouf. But Hardy was a little more forthcoming. "As the professional—in retirement," he said, "I don't want to make any political statements. There's a good argument to say 'legalize drugs' and a good argument to say [don't]...That's my stand—whatever floats your boat. Just don't get caught.”
Loud music isn't just bad for your hearing, a new study suggests—young people who listen to it regularly are more likely to smoke marijuna, binge drink and have unprotected sex. Researchers at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in the Netherlands surveyed 944 students aged 15-25. Participants that were exposed to one hour per day or more of music at 89 decibels—about as loud as a lawnmower—were ruled as being in the "risky" category. The one-third of the students who regularly listened to loud music on MP3 players were twice as likely to have used pot in the last month compared to the non-risky listeners. Those who were frequently exposed to music at clubs and concerts, on the other hand—close to half of the participants—were six times more likely to binge drink and twice as likely to have sex without a condom. "I think they've really shown that sex and drugs go with rock and roll," says Dr. Sharon Levy, head of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children's Hospital, who wasn't involved in the study. But this doesn't mean parents should panic about their kids' music habits; there's no proof that one type of "risky" behavior leads to the other. "It's really an important reminder that these risk behaviors, they really go together," says Levy. But, "I don't think that we're at the point that we should say, 'Boy, you should really cut down MP3 player use'—we should because of the hearing loss, but I don't think there's any evidence that's going to affect other risky behaviors at this point."
The Terminator curse continues—but the latest news is much better than it might have been. Nick Stahl—who played John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines—was reported missing by his estranged wife last week, after friends and family were unable to make contact with him for a full week. But the actor has reportedly now told her that he checked into rehab to address ongoing substance abuse issues. His wife, Rose Murphy, double-checked and confirmed with the rehab facility that he was still there. Stahl had already e-mailed friends on May 18, but didn't include Murphy; he apologized for being out of touch completely since May 9, explaining that he was getting treatment and would be out of contact for 30 days. Murphy had previously voiced her concern that drugs were involved in his disappearance; he'd reportedly been frequenting LA's Skid Row lately. Court documents also show that Stahl's visitations with their two-year-old daughter were monitored by a professional, and he was forced to submit to drug testing to prove he hadn't used within 24 hours of any visit.
Stahl's career spans 20 years of roles in movies like The Thin Red Line and Sin City. His rehab stay continues the "John Connor" curse; Edward Furlong, who played the role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was arrested for a DUI in 2001 and rushed to the hospital for a heroin overdose that same year, while Thomas Dekker of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was charged with two counts of felony DUI after striking a 17-year-old cyclist on a freeway ramp. And Christian Bale, who played Connor in 2009's Terminator Salvation, went on a profanity-laced tirade at the director of photography that eventually went viral.
The recent overdose deaths of two Dallas high school students aged 14 and 17 were reportedly the result of "cheese" heroin—a drug mix that's strangely almost unknown outside of North Texas but has done considerable damage to youth in the region. It's a combination of black tar heroin and over-the-counter cold medicines containing acetaminophen, and it's snorted rather than injected. Cheese heroin first made headlines in 1998, when no fewer than 20 teenagers died of overdoses in the town of Plano; the 29 people indicted for being in the heroin ring which provided the drugs were almost all the same age as the overdose victims. Last year in the town of Flower Mound, 17 people under the age of 21 were indicted for drug crimes after three teenagers overdosed on "cheese" and died. "Unfortunately, drug abuse is marked by 'generational forgetting,'" says Jane Maxwell, a drug researcher at the University of Texas-Austin. "And over time, new users emerge who know nothing about the dangers and they start using. It's sad and discouraging." Craig Nuckles of Timberlawn Mental Health Services in Dallas reports seeing two to three young heroin detox patients there per week. Between 1996 and 2010, the proportion of users who reported snorting heroin increased from 4% to 16%.