Jamie Lee Curtis made a frantic 911 call over the weekend after finding her friend unconscious in the back of her car due to a reported drug overdose. The unidentified friend reportedly had an accidental overdose after mixing alcohol with prescription pills. Curtis was driving her friend to the hospital before deciding to call 911 after her condition began to worsen. The woman was treated and released just hours later after appearing to make a full recovery.
It was a scary moment for the now-sober actress. Curtis is a volunteer counselor and public speaker for anti-drug campaigns after overcoming her own addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. Her prescription drug use reportedly began at the age of 35 after having cosmetic surgery on her eyes and quickly worsened. Curtis initially began using drugs and alcohol as a way to combat "loneliness," but her condition deteriorated to the point that she was stealing pills from her sister, Kelly.
She eventually wrote Kelly a letter that was never sent to her. “I’ve been harboring a bad secret,” read the letter. “I have found and taken many of your painkillers. I’ve betrayed you, and I know that you’re angry, and you have every right to be.”
Curtis has now been sober for over 14 years and called it the “single greatest accomplishment of my life because it broke the cycle of addiction in my family.” She credited staying sober with “being courageous enough to acknowledge it privately with my family and friends. Working really hard at solidifying it, getting support around it and being healthy. And then talking about it publicly.”
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On February 24, Devin Blowers, 24, and Katie Ray Christopherson, 29, were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide after shooting a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy searching their vehicle.
Just weeks before the shooting, the couple was arrested by West Fargo police after reporting a meth-fueled hallucination, where Christopherson claimed that “black males [were] pointing guns at the building” they occupied. When police found no such threat, they determined that Blowers was under the influence of methamphetamine because he looked “amped” up and had “extremely dilated pupils,” according to the police report.
“When a person has been binging on methamphetamine but is in the coming down phase, they are incredibly irritable, prone to mood swings, bursts of anger, all sorts of things like that that,” said Michael Kaspari, a registered nurse and agency director of First Step Recovery in Fargo. “It’s behavior that a person normally wouldn’t engage in.”
Blowers spent about a week in jail and was charged with a misdemeanor of ingesting a controlled substance, which led to one year of unsupervised probation and chemical dependency counseling. Christopherson had a felony possession charge filed against her and a warrant issued for her arrest.
The following week, Blowers and Christopherson were stopped by Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Alexander, who checked their IDs and was shot in the chest by Blowers. Alexander was wearing a bullet-proof vest and was not seriously injured. After failing to flee, Blowers shot and killed Christopherson before turning the gun on himself.
The couple leaves behind three young children, including a one-month-old daughter born prematurely and currently in the neonatal intensive care unit of Essentia Health in Fargo.
While advocates argue that marijuana is relatively harmless, studies show that smoking pot could have a detrimental effect on teenage brain development.
"[I]n childhood our brain is larger," said Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. "Then during the teenage years our brain is getting rid of those connections that weren't really used, and it prunes back. It actually makes the brain faster and more efficient."
Using marijuana during this time is a very bad idea. "It's the absolute worst time," Lisdahl said, and further explained that our teenage years are the "last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible."
Lisdahl cited a growing body of studies that suggests that regular pot use - just once a week or more - can affect the parts of the teenage brain that deal with problem solving and memory. One study showed that regular marijuana users have grades that, on average, are one point below their peers. Another study showed that marijuana users lost about eight IQ points between childhood and adulthood, while non-users did not lose any. And adults who use marijuana scored lower on memory tests than non-using adults.
But Dr. Gregory Tau said that these studies present a chicken-or-egg dilemma.
"It's very possible that there's something very different to begin with among teenagers who tend to get into trouble with marijuana or who become heavy users," Tau said, explaining why it could be these factors that drive people to marijuana use. "They could have subtle emotional differences, perhaps some cognitive functioning differences. It may be hard for them to 'fit in' with a peer group that's more achievement-oriented."
Though expressing doubts about the studies, Tau doesn't have any qualms with the idea that marijuana adversely affects the teenage brain. "It's not rocket science to think if you smoke weed when your brain is developing, that it can't be 'good' for you, just like any 'toxic' substance isn't good for you," he said.
Teenagers, however, don't seem to know about or care for such studies. In a recent federal survey, 60 percent of high school seniors believe marijuana is safe. Around 23 percent reporting using marijuana in the past month, more than alcohol and cigarettes. Six percent reported using pot every day, a number that has tripled over the past decade. Lisdahl said that more teenagers use pot in states where medical marijuana is legal and worries what will become of teenagers in states that legalize recreational pot.
The European Parliament is set to vote on a batch of regulations on Wednesday that will treat electronic cigarettes like regular tobacco products.
Starting in 2016, advertisements for e-cigs will be banned in all 28 nations of the European Union, just like tobacco ads. The packing must be childproof and have graphic health warning labels printed on them. Meanwhile, nicotine content will be limited to 20 milligrams per milliliter, same as tobacco cigarettes.
The European Union's large scale e-cigarette regulations could set a template for the rest of the world to follow. Many cities in the United States, such as Los Angeles, have taken it upon themselves to regulate electronic cigarettes - which heat nicotine-infused propylene gycol into vapor - instead of waiting on the FDA's decision.
The new e-regulations are part of a larger anti-smoking regulatory package, will which impose even more severe rules on tobacco cigarettes, including banning all kid-friendly flavors and requiring 65 percent of packaging to feature graphic health warnings and photos of diseased lungs. But the restrictions are not as tough on e-cigs as the parliament's original proposal, which would have treated the product as medicine.
“This is a victory,” said Linda McAvan, the British Labour Party member of the European Parliament. “The original proposal was stricter, and I would have voted for that, but the new law is anyway a huge step forward in tobacco control."
Tobacco and e-cigarette companies are of course unhappy about the measure. To Drago Azinovic, president of European operations for Phillip Morris International, the new regulation revamp “represents a worrying departure from the E.U.’s basic standards of proportionate, evidenced-based policy making, which will further erode intellectual property rights and undermine the E.U. charter where these rights are protected.”
While the new proposals do allow leeway for member states to classify e-cigarettes as quit-smoking products if they'd like, some members of the European parliament aren't happy with the outcome.
“This was a very bad agreement,” says Martin Callanan, a British Conservative Party politician who believes e-cigarettes could help people quit smoking. “It’s a massive loss for public health in Europe.”
Two days before the Academy Awards, Los Angeles-based street artist Plastic Jesus displayed an eight foot replica of an Oscar shooting heroin into its arm. Inspired by the overdose death of Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, the statue was placed on Hollywood Boulevard just blocks away from the Kodak Theater where the Oscars were to be held.
“Hard drugs are still seen as a taboo subject, with people using in the privacy of their own home or hotel room and afraid of the consequences if the world finds out about their addiction,” Plastic Jesus said in a statement. “My piece is intended to say ‘let’s be aware of the issue, remove the stigma and enable people to get help and support.'”
Heroin addiction and overdose has taken a personal toll on the artist, which also contributed to his inspiration. “My cousin and his wife both died from heroin addictions. They both got clean and actually met in rehab and got married and got [a] house," he said. "Sadly, one relapsed and caused the other to relapse.”
Reactions across the social media landscape were decidedly mixed, with some apparently "disgusted" by the display while others declared the statue to be "a powerful piece of commentary."
Last Friday, Hoffman's autopsy report was released and revealed that the actor died of a lethal mix of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. On Oscar night, Hoffman was prominently featured in the Academy's annual In Memoriam tribute during the telecast.
Watch the Oscars In Memoriam tribute: