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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Minnesota Automobile Ignition Interlocks

The roads are a dangerous place where a life is lost every 12 minutes and every 14 seconds a car accident results in an injured victim. Making the roads a safer place is the number one concern of state officials who work day and night trying to keep the roads safe. Authorities are always trying to stop drunk drivers and prohibit people from ever getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking. Alcohol is the enemy number one on the road, on average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes according to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). It is scary to think that someone dies from an alcohol related incident on the road every hour.

Police may not be able to stop someone from ever driving drunk, but, if they catch you once they can make it very difficult for you to ever drive drunk again. Back in March we talked about Automobile Ignition Interlocks in Maryland and how effective they can be in deterring chronic drunk drivers. Minnesota has now followed suit, with access to ignition interlocks they will be able to keep better control of those drivers who are known to have driven drunk in the past. Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed new DWI legislation on Tuesday with a "high-tech strategy"; however, the new law will not take effect until July 2011 so that all the details can be worked out and implemented properly.

Of those caught driving intoxicated in Minnesota, people more than twice the legal limit for alcohol and repeat drunken drivers will be have to pay for and install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle if they ever plan to drive again.
Ignition interlocks will require a breathalyzer to start the vehicle and will periodically require subsequent tests while driving from "A" to "B". It is a crime to tamper with the interlock device and it will only extend your punishment.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Social Media and Young Drinkers

"It's a completely Wild West environment" said Jeff Chester, report co-author.

The most important part of one's life is the developmental stages, which is when the building blocks that will be the foundation of who you become are set in mortar. All future experiences, both happiness and sorrow rest heavily upon one's influences and actions early on. There are many people who believe that alcoholism and addiction are something that people develop over long periods of time; sadly, there is no age limit on addiction and habits can appear over night without a child thinking anything of it. For that reason, it is crucial that we educate as well as shield our youth so that they can fully understand where their actions can take them; not to mention the more you talk about drugs and alcohol with you children, the more willing they will be to open up with you if they have a problem.

That being said, it makes you wonder why alcohol companies are able to use new social media tools to send messages to potential young drinkers who are easily influenced. There is a new report that was recently published that dealt with Alcohol Marketing in the Digital Age by Kathryn Montgomery a professor at American University. Health Day News reported that Montgomery said that alcohol is being sold through "a multiplicity of platforms throughout the day and night that includes online, offline, mobile, digital, music, video - a whole range of different ways that consumers interact with new digital marketing". Social media networks see dollar signs when it comes to advertising, which makes sense, but, when a significant amount of the user population are under 21 years of age it is wrong to bombard them with alcohol ads.

"There's a whole stealth world of marketing that occurs in social-media spaces," said study co-author Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. Heineken had a virtual online city developed, visitors can:

  • create digital apartments
  • get free storage
  • e-mail
  • earn points based on how long they stay on the site

The Distilled Spirits Council believes that the Internet is used, mostly, by adults, "which makes these platforms responsible and appropriate channels for spirits marketers". We all know that the Internet age caters to a much younger community, there are more people under 21 on social networks every day than there are people over 21. Alcohol companies should show restraint despite the obvious lack of regulation. Children have enough drug and alcohol influences every day without the help of MySpace and FaceBook!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 National Drug Control Strategy

2010 is underway and so is Obama, but the question has been lingering regarding Obama's plan for the drug problem in America. Obama, this year, plans to focus on prevention, prescription drug use, and "drugged driving" as the aspects of the overall problems to tackle. With regard to 2010 Obama said he is, "committed to restoring balance in our efforts to combat the drug problems that plague our communities", with release of the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy.

It appears that Obama's plan may be lacking in several departments, while he focuses heavily on putting forward a plan that has been proven in the past to work and working to encourage people to intervene earlier which would be more in line with the ideas of medical science. The relation between the demand for a particular product and the amount of money spent on cutting of the supply are not balanced which has been a major concern that seems to continually be un-addressed. Obama's plan focuses very little on the imbalance between the reduction in demand and supply reduction spending in the annual budget.

The U.S. drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, believes Obama's plan is comprised of "ambitious goals", goals that will be achieved over the next five years.

Obama plans to reduce:

  • the rate of youth drug use by 15 percent
  • drug use among young adults by 10 percent
  • the number of chronic drug users by 15 percent
  • the incidence of drug-induced deaths by 15 percent
  • the prevalence of drugged driving by 10 percent

Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, believes that policy is not so dissimilar from past plans that were put into action, "an imperfect solution". While Obama's plan may tackle problems in a different way than past Presidents, Nadelmann believes that new plan does not deal with the "fundamental issues of budget and drug policy paradigm, retaining the overwhelming emphasis on law enforcement and supply control strategies that doomed the policies of its predecessors".

Are you are interested in reading the 2010 National Drug Control Strategey? Here is the plan

Monday, May 17, 2010

British Soldiers PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

War is a life changing experience for all who serve in the armed forces; every soldier is faced with varying forms of trials and trauma. Just like each person's experience is different, the way each service person responds to the stress varies as well. Our own history has shown us that people who come back from conflicts around the world are more likely to have endured more pain in their mind and spirit than physically. Soldiers have often found comfort in a bottle of alcohol to ease their troubled minds - to the point of misuse and even abuse. Post-traumatic stress is a major contributing factor towards the progression of alcoholism; drinking to fill a void only creates a larger chasm, one much harder to fill. Veterans of the Great War, Korea, and Vietnam suffered from PTSD; now, those returning from the Middle East are showing the same signs and not just American soldiers.

Reuters recently reported that British troops suffering from PTSD have been abusing alcohol to cope with anxiety and depression. "Researchers from King's College London found that PTSD rates among U.K. troops are relatively stable, quelling fears of an epidemic of combat stress problems similar to that experienced by U.S. troops. However, rates of alcohol abuse, anxiety and depression were elevated among British soldiers, according to study leader Simon Wesserly". The study found that 13 percent of British soldiers, as a whole (veterans and non-), were misusing alcohol, which is not that much in the scheme of things. When compared to the percentage of soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan the number more than doubles. 36 percent of British troops were misusing (abusing) alcohol on a regular basis:

  • About 4 percent of troops suffered from PTSD
  • 20 percent suffered from less severe mental disorders, i.e. Anxiety

Overall, there are more cases of U.S. soldiers with PTSD than British and there are a couple reasons that could account for that. British troops serve six-month tours, no more than 12 months in every 36. In the U.S., depending, American troops might serve more than 12 months at a time with only a year between deployments. It is easy to see how the extended time might have an effect on one's mind. PTSD is a major problem and a leading factor in addiction and suicide rates, long bouts of treatment are usually necessary to learn how to cope with the debilitating effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; if addiction has already taken hold when treatment begins the recovery process can be very difficult.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Healthcare Reform Law - Big Impact On Addiction Treatment

Health care in America has had a rocky past and has almost imploded on itself several times. On March 23, President Obama, signed a new health care bill with the hopes of revolutionizing the system. The plan will take years to fully implement, there are many details that require fine tuning as to be expected. This new bill is a big deal and it impacts everyone in America more than they might realize currently. In the future, one's ability to get health insurance and keep it will be drastically improved. Eventually, everyone who desires to be insured will have an equal opportunity - or at least that is the hope.

The impact the new bill will have on addiction treatment and mental health is profound; so often are drug addicts and alcoholics left behind in the current health care system. An analysis from the Legal Action Center (LAC), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590) requires a basic benefit package for all health plans in the individual market and small-group markets. "All such plans will be required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services," according to the LAC. Mental health is as equally important as physical health, denying policy holders coverage for mental health problems is unethical and soon will be criminal. Health insurance policies should not be the deciding factor as to whether or not a person goes into treatment

"When the law is fully implemented, 32 million Americans who are uninsured today will have access to health insurance coverage, including for addiction", reported Faces and Voices for Recovery. "The new law builds on the principle of equity for addiction with other health conditions in the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and marks significant progress in making it possible for many more Americans to get the help they need to recover from addiction".

Here is how the bill will help addicts in need:
  • Requires all group and individual plans to comply with the Wellstone/Domenici Parity Act, which requires that addiction and mental-health benefits be provided in the same way as all other covered medical and surgical benefits.
  • Expands Medicaid eligibility to all Americans up to 133 percent of federal poverty, and requires that all newly eligible parents and childless adults receive basic benefits, including parity addiction and mental-health services.
  • Creates a national prevention council with the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a member and alcohol and other drug addictions listed as a national priority for that council's report to Congress.
  • Names behavioral - healthcare workers as a high priority in the bill's National Workforce Strategy section.
  • Lists addiction and mental-health providers as eligible for community health-team grants.

It will take many years to get where we want to be with this, but, at least the ball is rolling and people will begin receiving the health care that they personally require - as opposed to what the insurance companies decide you need. Health care decisions should belong to doctors and not insurance companies trying to save a dollar and make a dollar at the same time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Women Who Had Abortions Report More Drug Abuse and Depression

Every day, countless children are born into a world of addiction and ultimate despair. The odds of a child's success when born into an unhealthy environment of drugs and alcohol are low; knowing this, there are some women who decide to abort their pregnancy. Obviously, not all decisions to abort are made because of addiction, but, there is a clearly a large number. Researchers in Canada have been looking at the relationship between addiction and pregnancy. According to a study done at the University of Manitoba in Canada, about one in four U.S. women who have had an abortion reported having alcohol or other drug problems as opposed to the 7 percent of women who had not had abortions. In addition, women who have had abortions were found to have higher rates of depression, mood, and anxiety disorders although the relation is weaker and less consistent.

The study makes clear to point out, that even though there are correlations between abortion and behavioral-health problems, that doesn't mean that abortion leads to addiction or depression - nor the opposite. The study did not look at whether abortions were medically necessary or elective, or whether the women's addiction and mental-health problems were present before or after their abortions. The study authors recommended that doctors screen women with addiction or mental-health problems to determine if they had a history of abortion. "You absolutely cannot say from this data that an abortion causes mental illness. There's an association present, but whether the mental illness comes before or after needs to be further examined", said Natalie Mota, a U of M graduate student who was the study's primary author.

Mota believes a reason for a strong connection between substance abuse and abortion was that women might self-medicate with drugs and alcohol following an abortion, but the study did not follow up on this idea. Depression and substance abuse affect nearly half of American women who reported having had an abortion, according to the study; doctors should screen patients for a history of abortion in women who present symptoms of anxiety, mood disorders and substance abuse to provide adequate care.

The research was published in the April 2010 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Los Angeles Based Blogger Mom Comes Clean About Drinking

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, the Los Angeles based blogger mom, had become well known for drinking moms everywhere decided to come clean and announced that she may have a problem. Her comical books "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay", and "Naptime Is the New Happy Hour", and her blog, "Babyonbored", advocated a little alcohol to get a mother through a long day. Taylor started to realize that her alcohol use was becoming a little out of control about a year ago and she decided to sober up. "I wasn't saying, you know, go out and just get trashed every night, and who cares if you have kids", Wilder-Taylor, 43, said. "It was just about having fun and still maybe maintaining a little edginess to your personality".

Last year, Stefanie saw that her drinking was no longer for good times as much as it was a coping mechanism for dealing with her daily stresses. With three children, two of which being baby twins Sadie and Matilda, her anxiety increased as well as her drinking. "My life went crazy. ... I had the hormones; I had three kids now at home. Well, I started drinking again with a vengeance," she said. "It spiraled really fast for me. I realized very quickly I'd gone from not drinking at all to drinking a lot, every night". Taylor was always concerned that she was doing enough, constantly worried that she wasn't being a responsible mother; she would drink after the kids were in bed just to manage.

Taylor's case is not much different than countless other mothers around the world who find the stresses of life to be too much at times. They turn to drinking which ultimately develops into an addiction, often times it takes years before the problem is noticed by friends and families. Drinking often takes place while the kids are at school and the husband is at work, when they get home and see mom drinking a glass of wine they assume it is the first of the day. This behavior can go on for years before the problem is detected and an intervention takes place. It is wonderful when alcoholics don't have to take a hard road to recovery, recognizing early on that they have a problem and need help.

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is now approaching her one year anniversary for being free from drugs and alcohol and she decided to write about what sobriety has taught her. It is clear that she is on a better path now than she was a year ago and we encourage you to read her story "If Sobriety Has Taught Me Anything".

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crazy Heart Update Prism Award Winner

Prism Award Winners Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in “Crazy Heart.”

In the last year there have been a couple of award winning movies that have dealt with addiction as well as mental disabilities. It is very difficult to accurately portray addiction in films for a number of reasons. If you do not know an alcoholic or an addict then it would be difficult to gauge whether or not a movie is an accurate depiction of the disease. Sadly, there probably is not one person on the planet who has not been touched in one way or another by the fallout of another's addiction. As Hollywood moves into the future, the subjects that they are tackling are hitting closer to home for many families in America.

In March we recognized the movie "Crazy Heart" starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal, portrayed the struggles of one alcoholic musician (Jeff Bridges) as he attempts to get sober. The film won two Oscars as well as many other significant awards that endorse the films achievements. "Crazy Heart" was just honored in the annual Prism Awards for its accurate portrayal of the disease of addiction, the Hollywood Reporter reported April 22. The "Soloist", starring Jamie Fox as a mentally disabled musician who is trying to find his way back into society, also received a Prism award for its accurate depiction of mental illness.

Here are all the Prism Award winners:

Feature Film - Substance Use

Crazy Heart
(Fox Searchlight Pictures / Informant Media / Butcher's Run Films)

Feature Film - Mental Health

The Soloist
(Paramount Pictures / DreamWorks Pictures / Working Title Films)

Performance in a Feature Film

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
(Fox Searchlight Pictures / Informant Media / Butcher's Run Films)

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
(Fox Searchlight Pictures / Informant Media / Butcher's Run Films)

Comedy Series

How I Met Your Mother - "Last Cigarette Ever"
(CBS Entertainment / 20th Century Fox Television / Bays-Thomas)

Performance in a Comedy Series

Hector Elizondo, Monk
(USA Network / Mandeville Films / ABC Studios)

Tony Shalhoub, Monk
(USA Network / Mandeville Films / ABC Studios)

Drama Series Episode - Substance Use

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit - "Hammered"
(NBC Entertainment / Universal Media Studios / Wolf Films)

Drama Series Episode - Mental Health

Law and Order - "Exchange"
(NBC Entertainment / Universal Media Studios / Wolf Films)

Performance in a Drama Episode

Timothy Hutton, Leverage
(TNT / Electric Entertainment)

Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline

Breaking Bad: Season 2
(AMC / Sony Pictures Television)

Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline

Kevin McKidd, Grey's Anatomy
(ABC Entertainment / ABC Studios / Shondaland / Mark Gordon Co.)

TV Movie or Miniseries

Natalee Holloway
(Lifetime Television / Von Zerneck Sertner Films / Sony Pictures Television)

Prayers for Bobby
(Lifetime Television / Sladek Taaffe Productions / Once Upon a Time films / Permut Presentations)

Performance in a TV Movie or Miniseries

Rosie O'Donnell, America
(Lifetime Television / The Sanitsky Company / Sony Pictures Television)

Daytime Drama Series

One Life to Live: Cole Thornhart: Breaking Point
(ABC Daytime)

Talk Show Episode

Dr. Phil - "OCD"
(CBS Television Distribution / Peteski Productions)

News Magazine Segment

ESPN Outside the Lines - "Tony Mandarich"

Teen or Children's Program

Nick News with Linda Ellerbee - "Kids in Rehab"
(Nickelodeon / Lucky Duck Productions)

Documentary Program - Substance Use

Vanguard - "The OxyContin Express"
(Current TV)

Documentary Program - Mental Health

The Alzheimer's Project
(HBO Documentary Films / Planet Grande Pictures)

Biographical Program

Betty Ford: The Real Deal
(PBS / MacNeil Lehrer Productions)

Unscripted Non-Fiction Program

The Celebrity Apprentice - "Episode 805"
(NBC Entertainment / Mark Burnett Productions)

Music or Music Video

Half of Us: When I Can't Take It - "La Di Da"

Public Service Project

The Recovery Project
(A&E Network)

Comic Book or Graphic Novel

New Avengers: The Reunion
(Marvel Entertainment)

Luna Park
(Vertigo Comics/ DC Comics)

The Prism awards are given annually by the Entertainment Industries Council and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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