There's been plenty of debate over the effectiveness of 12-step programs in helping people recover from alcoholism, but a new study suggests that active participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous program does improve one's chances of long-term recovery. The “Helping Others” study was a 10-year, prospective investigation led by Maria Pagano, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Pagano and her colleagues evaluated the outcomes from a single site in Project MATCH, the largest multi-site randomized clinical trial on behavioral treatments of alcoholism sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They found that those in recovery who helped others through the AA program had better consideration of others, lower alcohol use and longer periods of sobriety than those who did not participate in AA. “The AAH findings suggest the importance of getting active in service, which can be in a committed 2-month AA service position or as simple as sharing one’s personal experience in recovery to another fellow sufferer,” said Pagano. “Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction."
Ever wonder how the drug-making references and procedures on AMC's Breaking Bad are so convincing? The credibility doesn't come from the writer's previous drug history, but rather from Donna Nelson, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma who has been an ongoing consultant to the Emmy-winning show since the second season. However, anyone trying to pick up meth-cooking tips from the show will be sorely disappointed with the end results. "They deliberately put in faulty steps. They’ll start with one method of synthesizing methamphetamine but then switch to another,” says Nelson. And the meth that appears on-screen? It's cotton candy flavored sugar crystals. Although Nelson doesn't have any personal experience with meth, she's more than qualified to be a consultant to the show from teaching organic chemistry to nearly 10,000 students since 1983 and racking up awards and honors from several institutions, including the National Science Foundation. She got the gig after reaching out to show creator Vince Gilligan via Chemical and Engineering News, who ran a feature story on Gilligan. “He said neither he nor his writer had a science background, and so they had to rely on Wikipedia and the Web,” said Nelson. “When I read that, I thought, ‘We scientists are always complaining about shows getting the science wrong. It’s like fingernails on a blackboard to us. This would be a great opportunity to work with one.’ When I saw what they had written, I thought, ‘Wow, they really need help.'" She's now hoping to leverage her Hollywood connections by making a public service announcement warning Oklahomans about the dangers of meth.
If you want to ditch your cigarette habit, you might want to stop living in the moment—and focus on the future. Those who dwell on the days-to-come are more likely to quit smoking, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction. Researchers from Newcastle University in Britain looked at eight years of data from 7,000 households in Australia who are surveyed annually about family, well-being, and work. Through the survey, 1,817 people were identified as smokers when the survey began in 2001. The researchers then analyzed the participants saving and spending habits in the future years. Those who planned for a week or less were categorized as having a shorter horizon, and those who planned over three months ahead, were placed in the category of having a longer horizon. The researchers then examined if any of those 1,817 smokers surveyed quit smoking or attempted to quit before or in 2008. The results showed that 76% of those who quit smoking were in the longer horizon group. “It is possible that helping smokers to think about the future a bit more might be a useful way to help them quit,” said co-author Jean Adams. Researchers in other fields have also discovered that future planners were more likely to quit other addictions including cocaine.
- Gambling Addiction: Blame Biology, Not the Individual [Herald Online]
- Analysis: Zetas Cartel Augurs More Blood, Fear in Mexico [Reuters]
- Will Smoking Ever Be Safe? [The Telegraph]
- Alcohol, Drugs Common in Fatal Crashes [Reuters]
- L.A.'s Ban On Marijuana Dispensaries Halted For Now [NPR]
- Think About the Future. Does It Include Smoking?: Study [LA Times]
- Nadia Lockyer, Former Alameda County Supervisor, Arrested On Drug Charges [Huffington Post]
- Thais Say Red Bull Heir Was Beyond Blood-Alcohol Limit [Beatrice Daily Sun]
Stress—that overwhelming force that seems to drive America—is a mixed bag. Stress has been found to increase our risk of cancer and other diseases, yet it can also "boost our focus, energy and even our powers of intuition," according to Time. Addictions are known to both relieve, and cause, stress—and now scientists have discovered that stress itself may actually be addictive. “By activating our arousal and attention systems,” says Jim Pfaus, a neuroscientist and addiction specialist, “stressors can also wake up the neural circuitry underlying wanting and craving—just like drugs do.” Stress management specialist Debbie Mandel says Type A and Type D personalities—competitive, anxious and depressive types—are most prone to getting high off stress. “[Stress] addicts may also be using endless to-do lists to avoid less-easy-to-itemize problems—feelings of inadequacy, family conflicts, or other unresolved personal issues,” says Mandel. And because they tend to be preoccupied with tomorrow's problems, “stress junkies” can have a hard time listening to others, concentrating and even sleeping. If you test positive for stress addiction, Time has a nice bullet list of suggestions to help you keep your cool:
• Seek professional help if you’re verging on burnout. (Not only can hashing it out with a therapist take a load off your mind—some studies suggest it also boosts physical fitness.)
• Do something creative. Mandel recommends carving out a once-weekly time not to think about tomorrow’s agenda by painting, cooking, writing, dancing, or anything else that’ll take you off the clock temporarily.
• Take it outside. Numerous studies show spending time in nature improves general well-being, lowers anxiety, stress and depression, and even boosts self-confidence. Especially for women. (As it turns out, most addiction recovery centers offer outdoor-immersion programs.)
• Calm down quickly. If you really don’t have time for any of the above, these 40 tricks to chill take five minutes or less.
Celebrities: They're (sober) just like us! Bradley Cooper and Jamie Lee Curtis are the latest celebs to open up about their long-term sobriety, joining ranks with a long line of stars who have spoken about giving up booze and drugs, including Elton John, Demi "Sober is Sexy" Lovato and Samuel L. Jackson. Do these stories of celebrity sobriety help us average Joes and Janes get—and stay—sober, too? Are our struggles as addicts universal, or is it difficult—or easier—to battle addiction when you're famous?
We'd love to know what you think! Please join our Twitter chat NEXT week on September 12, from 3–4 pm EST—co-hosted by our friends at Phoenix House. Taking part is easy: Just log on to Twitter at that time 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. And your ever-faithful Fix staff—including Mike Guy, Anna David, Will Godfrey, Hunter Slaton, May Wilkerson and Joe Schrank—will be chipping in, too. We hope to see you there!