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eating disorders

7/17/14 5:30pm

Coroner’s Ruling May Be First to Link Suicide with Anorexia

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Alana Goldsmith. Photo via

A coroner in New South Wales, Australia, declared the cause of death for a 23-year-old woman as suicide while suffering from anorexia nervosa, which has been declared by authorities as the first time the disease has been officially mentioned in regard to a death certificate for suicide.

In 2011, Sydney resident Alana Goldsmith was receiving treatment for the eating disorder when she disappeared from the hospital; her body was found a few hours later on July 22 of that year. Goldsmith’s family had hoped that the coroner’s report would help to raise awareness of the lethal aspects of the disease, which has death rates estimated at 17%—the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

Coroner Mark Douglass presented his conclusion at the inquest into Goldsmith’s death at the New South Wales coroner’s court in Sydney. The reasons for his findings have not been released, but are expected in the coming weeks.

Christine Morgan, chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation, an eating disorder awareness group, underscored the significance of the situation by stating, “Recognizing suicide risk is heightened for someone suffering from anorexia nervosa, this finding can jolt a seismic shift in the way governments resource communities to address eating disorders.” Data collected in 2012 shows more than 900,000 Australians suffer from an eating disorder, while an estimated eight million Americans contend with anorexia or bulimia.

In both countries, access to treatment is limited—only 20% of American women who receive treatment for eating disorders get the full three to six months of inpatient care doctors and health specialists say is required to stay in recovery from the disease. Many are sent home weeks earlier, or cannot afford the cost, which is estimated at $30,000 a month for inpatient treatment; New South Wales’ Fed Up campaign reports that only two public adult inpatient eating disorder beds are available in the state, while public outpatient treatment is relegated to four hours a week.

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By Paul Gaita

sex & drugs

7/17/14 3:30pm

Brain Activity in Sex Addicts Similar to Drug Addicts

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Does compulsive sexual behavior, commonly known as sex addiction, alter brain activity similar to drug addiction? Why yes, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The University of Cambridge research team, lead by neuropsychiatrist Dr. Valerie Voon, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe the brain’s response to videos depicting explicit sex. They compared the brain activity of 19 men affected by compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) with the brain activity of the same number of healthy volunteers, or the control group.

In a detailed questionnaire and psychiatric interview to determine those with CSB, the men in the CSB group reported spending 25% of their time online viewing porn, more than five times that of the control group. “The patients in our trial were all people who had substantial difficulties controlling their sexual behavior and this was having significant consequences for them, affecting their lives and relationships,” said Voon in a press release. “In many ways, they show similarities in their behavior to patients with drug addictions. We wanted to see if these similarities were reflected in brain activity, too.”

The researchers found that certain brain regions that are also activated in drug addicts responding to drug stimuli were more active in the brains of the men in the CSB group compared with the control group. “There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviors and healthy volunteers,” Voon said. “These differences mirror those of drug addicts.”

The study suggests there could be a shared brain network associated with many compulsive disorders, whether they involve drugs or sex.

However, Voon emphasized that the study’s results do not necessarily mean that pornography is inherently addictive. “Much more research is required to understand this relationship between compulsive sexual behavior and drug addiction,” Voon said.

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By Victoria Kim

one eighty

7/17/14 1:00pm

Former Republican Congressman Advocates for Prison Reform

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Wiki Commons

It took seven years in prison for former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) to have a change of heart. Last month, the California Republican completed one of the longest prison sentences ever given to a member of Congress. Now, he is an advocate for criminal justice reform.

In a phone interview with The Huffington Post, Cunningham said he has done a “180 turn” on criminal justice and regrets many of the votes he made as a member of Congress. “My Democrat colleagues would support the lawyers,” he said. “We’d support the prosecutors. I think I’d vote more with my Democrat colleagues today.”

Cunningham, who served in Congress from 1991 to 2005, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison in March 2006 for accepting bribes from defense contractors. After spending seven years behind bars, he was granted an early release by a federal judge.

Now a free man, he told HuffPost that he has made time to discuss his ideas on criminal justice reform with his colleagues in Washington D.C.

While incarcerated, Cunningham had a first hand look at the U.S. prison system. “I saw kids in there who are 19 to 30,” he recalled. “They go into prison, maybe they got caught with cocaine or rock or something like that, and they give them 10 years minimum. What do they do when they get out? There’s a lot of very nice guys that got caught up.”

Cunningham was referring to mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes that take discretion away from federal judges. “We have taken out of the judge’s hands the ability to be merciful in some reasons or to do the right thing,” he said. “I’ve heard case after case where the judges have said, ‘I wish I could help you, but my hands are tied.’ I want to untie the hands of our judges.”

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By Victoria Kim

giving back

7/17/14 10:30am

R&B Singer Kem Talks Beating Drug Addiction, Homelessness

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R&B singer Kem overcame homelessness and drug addiction to become a top recording artist and he’s now trying to help others beat the odds.

Kem, who is releasing his fourth album Promise to Love on August 26th, is hosting a free concert two days before the album release to help the homeless in his hometown of Detroit. The third annual installment of the concert, Mack and Third, is free to the public.

The singer struggled after high school and found himself at rehab facilities, homeless shelters, and prisons throughout Detroit. He used music as comfort and played the piano at the shelter every night, but was eventually kicked out after breaking rules at the facility. After being left with no choice but to sleep outside, he became determined to change his life.

“I came to a place where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “I gave up on trying to do things my way and started to listen to some people who had better ideas about what I should be doing than I did. I’ve had some difficult patches in my life, as we all do, and I think that when we are allowed to come through the other side of turmoil, we have an opportunity and a privilege to talk about it and let people know about it, so that they too can overcome.”

In recent years, Kem has become an advocate of drug courts and has even spoken at conferences in support of them. “As a recovering addict, I've been given a lot in my life, and it is important for me to give back anytime I'm asked,” he said in 2011. “Until recently, I was unfamiliar with drug courts, but...I have a lot of appreciation and gratitude for the work drug courts do. My recovery is what has allowed me to enjoy living in my gifting. My recovery is my foundation - my music is secondary.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

crack is whack

7/17/14 8:30am

Former Drug Informant Sues DEA For Paying Him In Crack

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A former crack cocaine addict has filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that they approached him to assist in a drug investigation and paid him in crack.

Aaron Romero, 38, took part in an undercover investigation called “Operation Smack City” that looked into drug rings in the Las Vegas and New Mexico area. He named five DEA agents in the lawsuit that was filed this week in Albuquerque and is seeking $8.5 million in damages for the impact that his reignited crack cocaine addiction had on his personal relationships. However, his attorney confirmed that Romero is now drug-free.

The lawsuit alleges that “the United States government and the defendants affirmatively and intentionally established a pattern of distribution of crack cocaine to (Romero) in order to utilize his addiction to crack cocaine to further the investigation and to 'stack drug related charges' against him.” Romero was later charged with drug distribution, but those charges were dropped last January.

Despite this, Romero’s attorney claims he's still afraid that “the government will try to restart his addiction again. He was targeted because he is a known drug addict. He is trying to get his life back together.”

Elizabeth Martinez, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, declined to comment on the case.

This isn’t the only time that DEA officials have been accused of questionable behavior in recent months. Last January, several agents were accused of holding secret meetings with members of several drug cartels in Mexico in order to get information about rival drug organizations. Mexican authorities were not notified beforehand by the DEA that these meetings would be taking place, per the stipulations of the bilateral agreements between the two nations.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

7/17/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: July 17, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

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