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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Alcohol Causes Cancer and Premature Aging

It is possible that alcohol can affect you on a cellular level, changing the telomeres inside your DNA. What are telomeres? They are found at the region of DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome and they are crucial to the genetic stability of cells. Throughout life telomeres shorten naturally, alcohol induces unnatural shortening which, a new study says, could cause cancer and premature aging as well as many of the health ailments that that accompany. "Heavy alcohol users tend to look haggard, and it is commonly thought heavy drinking leads to premature aging and earlier onset of diseases of aging. In particular, heavy alcohol drinking has been associated with cancer at multiple sites," said lead researcher Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D. Advances in our ability to study DNA and map the human genome is giving us insight into the effects of alcohol on the human body on the most important level.

Researchers using real-time polymerase chain reaction, measured serum DNA among:

  • 59 participants who abused alcohol (22 percent consumed four or more alcoholic drinks per day)
  • 197 participants with variable alcohol consumption habits (4 percent consumed four or more alcoholic drinks per day)

Those who consumed heavy amounts of alcohol had much shorter telomeres, about half the length of non-abusers (0.41 vs. 0.79 relative units). That is pretty long when you consider that this is all on a microscopic level and it makes you wonder what alcohol really does to the human body. Interestingly, those carriers of the variant genotype ADH1B were found to be more likely to abuse alcohol and congruently had shorter telomere length, according to Baccarelli. These facts bring to light the idea that one day we will be able to identify with accuracy people who carry the gene of alcoholism.

"All the cells in our body have a biological clock in telomeres," noted Baccarelli, who is head of the Center of Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology, Ca' Granda Hospital Foundation, University of Milan, Italy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"When Love Is Not Enough"

Winona Ryder plays Lois Wilson in When Love Is Not Enough, The Lois Wilson Story.
Photo: Erik Heinila

There is a new film out that covers the field of alcohol and drug addiction in a new way. If you are familiar with the film "My Name is Bill W.", then you know that it was about the life of perhaps the most well known alcoholic to ever live, Bill Wilson - co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. "My Name is Bill W.", in a gentle way attempts to give a historical picture of Bill Wilson's life, right on through the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is very difficult to make an A.A. sanctioned film because of the principals that have been practiced for almost 75 years. Film is generally associated with Hollywood, and the business of making a lot of money, A.A. is to be fully self-supporting and according to their sixth tradition an "A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose". It is easy to see why Alcoholics Anonymous would be hesitant to endorse movies made about Alcoholics Anonymous; not to mention, it is very easy for an inaccurate picture of the program to be painted in a film.

The new film titled "When Love is Not Enough" covers the hard life and miraculous perseverance of Lois (Winona Ryder) as well the alcoholic escapades of Bill (Barry Pepper). There are a lot of people who do not realize that Alcoholism is a monster with two heads; the alcoholic controls one and the loved one, generally the spouse, controls the other. Both heads play an equal role in the progression of the disease, so then, it would make sense that a program would be necessary for the other half of the problem. Lois Wilson, even after her husband Bill got sober, struggled with a lot of shame and a lot of untreated emotional injuries from years of marriage consumed by addiction. It is fair to say that she was equally as sick as Bill; therefore, requiring a support network of her own to reach out for.

Lois Wilson founded Al-Anon, a program which has helped the families of alcoholics for over 55 years. Just like A.A. meetings, Al-Anon has daily meetings and their own texts to read from for guidance and strength. Al-Anon is a crucial aspect to the recovery process because it allows those who have been voiceless for years a forum to speak their mind without fear of judgment or reprisal. The more spiritually sound a household is, the smoother the recovery process will go.

I encourage you to watch both "My Name is Bill W." and "When Love is Not Enough"*, if nothing else they will be historical films about perhaps some of the most important people of the twentieth century.

*"When Love Is Not Enough" was produced by Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cameron Douglas Gets 5 Years

Cameron Douglas (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello File)
The Douglas family has been in the news a lot lately because of Cameron Douglas' addiction and subsequently his most recent arrest. Cameron Douglas, 31, the son of film icon Michael Douglas, has struggled with drugs since he was thirteen years old; as his addiction progressed over the years and he began using heroin his family finally had to draw a line and cut off Cameron financially when he refused to go to treatment, as so many families have to do. Unfortunately, a family's love can end up being an addict's number one support line, which only aids in the progression of the disease. In 2006, Cameron began dealing methamphetamine in order to feed his addiction; only four years later he was looking at 10 years in prison.

Last July, Cameron Douglas was arrested at a Manhattan hotel and in January he admitted to dealing methamphetamine and cocaine. Douglas pleaded guilty to a serious crime, a drug charge that carried a mandatory 10 years in prison. Naturally, Cameron Douglas is not looking to sit in prison for 10 years and his family is doing everything in their power to support him. Michael Douglas wrote a 5-page elegantly scripted letter to the judge trying to expound on his son's life and his family's history, one riddled with drug addiction and alcoholism; letters were also sent forth by Cameron's grandfather Kirk Douglas, stepmother Catherine Zeta-Jones, and NBA executive Pat Riley.

"I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father," wrote the "Wall Street" Oscar winning actor Michael Douglas, the son of Kirk Douglas the star of "Spartacus". "I'm not sure I can comprehend it with two generations to deal with". "He is an adult and responsible for his own actions," Douglas wrote. "We do know, however, that genes, family and peer pressure are a strong influence on a substance abuser".

Cameron Douglas was sentenced yesterday, despite his family's pleas he was ordered to serve five years.

Here is Cameron's full statement:

"Firstly, I would like to apologize to my family and my loved ones for putting them through this nightmare of my making -- and for my behaviors that have caused a rift between us in the past.

I would also like to apologize to the Court for my decisions and my actions that put me in front of you here today, your Honor.

But, I would like to ask you for an opportunity to be a productive family member and a good role model to my brothers and sisters during this time in their life when they're maturing from small children to young men and women so I can be there for them for whatever may occur in their lives; for advice, guidance, support, or just somebody to talk to and maybe be able to steer them in the right direction.

Nothing, your Honor, is more important to me than my family and the goals that I have set for myself and I feel adamant that I will not let myself be led astray by my warped thinking and false pretenses due to my long heroin addiction. I envelope my mind, instead, with the idea that I want to take the right path, the true path and the path that I know is well within my reach. And I know this because I was presented with some opportunities earlier in my life and at the time I didn't -- I wasn't able to see how valuable they were and how rare they were. As a result, I squandered a lot of them which was, you know, probably started, you know, where I am today; a lot of mistakes and missed opportunities, you know?

I miss, so dearly, being involved in my true passion in life which brings me true happiness and fulfillment which is being an entertainer and putting a smile on people's faces or stirring some sort of emotion inside of them; ultimately trying to inspire people in some way whether it was through dancing as a youngster or hopefully music and acting in the future.

I believe, your Honor, that things will be different this time because, number one, most importantly, I feel that I have the full support of my family and the people that are important in my life; number two, because obviously I know where this life can go and if I should be so fortunate to have another chance, I would never squander that opportunity because I know how fruitful my life can be; and thirdly, I will never settle for anything less than what I know myself to be capable of. I feel like it is my duty. And that's all I have to say."

The statement apparently worked. The judge gave Cameron Douglas 5 years in prison - half the minimum required sentence."

His statement was obtained by The New York Post.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Drunk Granny Crashes Car With Kids In Backseat

I am sure we all have not forgotten the Taconic Parkway tragedy that happened last summer; unfortunately there are some people who didn't learn anything from Diane Schuler's mistakes. Since Schuler's catastrophic wreck, there have been several instances where parents have chosen to put their children's lives at risk with their drinking. Drinking can be risky business when you are not behind the wheel, driving drunk is always a recipe for disaster; we can only hope that people who choose to drink and drive will be pulled over before something regrettable happens. Such was the case last week with a Memphis grandmother who got drunk and crashed her car with her three grandchildren in the backseat.

Sharon Kimbrough faces nine separate charges after the accident, a crash that put the lives of three small children at risk. What's more is that Kimbrough's relatives are defending her, saying that what happened was an isolated incident - she learned her lesson. "She had been drinking, but she just still had the bottle in there", says her son Brell Kimbrough to CBS. "She wasn't drinking while she was driving. I know that for a fact". But, when police got to the crash they smelled a "strong odor" of alcohol on the grandmother's breath, she had "soiled her clothing with urine" and noticed she was "swaying while standing". There was an empty cup that smelled of alcohol inside the vehicle and there was a half empty bottle of Canadian Mist Whiskey as well. The children, ages three, two, and one did not have seat belts on when the crash happened.

There is nothing isolated about letting anyone drive intoxicated with children in the car, that behavior is insane and it is not normal behavior to be diving around with a half empty bottle of Canadian Mist Whiskey. Kimbrough needs help and it would appear that her family could use some as well. Excusing this kind of behavior is inexcusable. It would be nice if people, especially families, would remember Diane Schuler and just how bad things can get.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Canada Reevaluates Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

In the last few years there has been a lot of talk about dual diagnosis treatment, or as it is called now - co-occurring disorders. Mental conditions that accompany addiction make recovery more difficult, most of the time one or the other is neglected which increases the chance of relapse. If only the addiction is addressed, the mental disorders like depression or anxiety will still be controlling one's life. Drugs and alcohol use are a symptom of a much bigger problem which resides inside the mind; proper treatment of mental afflictions is ever so crucial for a successful recovery to take place. Thankfully the majority of drug and alcohol treatment facilities in the United States offer co-occurring disorder treatment. The disease of addiction is an all encompassing problem, one which needs to be treated in its entirety; leaving just one aspect of the addict's life alone or untreated can be tragic to one's recovery.

Researchers from the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse (CCSA), said that half of individuals with addictions also have mental illnesses, while up to 20 percent of people with mental-health problems also have addictions, Canwest News Service reported. Canada is now realizing that they need to reevaluate their addiction and mental health treatment practices throughout the nation. Canada's health care system does not integrate addiction and mental-health treatment very well; the result is ineffective treatment all around. Treatment programs often require that one or the other disorder be designated as the primary problem, they fail to accept that both problems are one in the same and should be treated congruently, the report claimed. Canadian addicts are, and have, been denied treatment at mental-health programs, and vice-versa.

"These people are not getting the effective treatment that they need and deserve and therefore will come back to the health system seeking help over and over again," said Rita Notarandrea, deputy CEO of CCSA.

The CCSA is working to have the health care system transformed in order to effectively treat those co-occurring disorder patients; addiction treatment and mental health services need to coordinate and join forces in order for successful treatment to take place. With addiction, every aspect, every demon needs to be addressed equally; allowing unchecked mental problems to fester is devastating to one's recovery, in many cases it was the mental disorder that caused the addict to use drugs and alcohol with hope of some relief. "We need a unified national approach for the treatment and care of those that are suffering from concurrent disorders and, for example, integrated clinical practice guidelines," Notarandrea said.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Corey Haim Doctor Shopping

Last month the child star Corey Haim died while on prescription drugs after years of battling addiction. Corey Haim was the ultimate "doctor shopper", seeing as many as seven doctors a month to keep his drug habit supplied. The California Attorney General Jerry Brown said, "Investigators found that the former child actor was supplied with prescriptions for five controlled substances by seven doctors in the last 10 weeks of his life". The coroner has yet to rule on what exactly killed Haim after he collapsed in his Mom's apartment in March, but, the toxicology lab reports for Corey should be released this month.

We do know that Corey had prescriptions for Vicodin, Valium, Soma, Oxycontin and Xanax, according to the attorney general. Those drugs are powerful by themselves; however, they are lethal when they are mixed together. Every year lives are lost when people mix opiate pain killers with benzodiazepine sedatives in order to get high - a deadly cocktail. Los Angeles County Deputy Coroner, Ed Winter, stated that Haim obtained drugs using prescriptions written/signed with the names of 20 Los Angeles doctors in the past year; Haim also had his own prescription pad that he used to write his own scripts according to Brown. Haim's primary care physician had tried to curb Corey's drug use by only writing daily prescriptions so that Corey couldn't take more than he needed. However, Corey would go to Urgent Cares all over the city to get more drugs, his primary care doctor would follow up with urgent care centers that he believed were writing prescriptions for Haim. It is clear that Haim's primary care physician actually cared about his health and was not just trying to appease a celebrity like so many doctors do.

At the end of the day, Haim was one example of doctor shopping in the United States. Patients have, in a way, found out how to control what their doctor prescribes them. Now-a-days it seems like the patient does most of the diagnosing and then tells the doctor what they need. "I have pain, give me pain medicine", "I have anxiety, give me sedatives", and so on; we tell the doctor what is wrong and they take your word for it. If patients knew what was wrong with themselves, then they would be doctors.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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More Deaths Are Caused By Addiction In Alaska

The colder parts of the country have always been plagued by alcoholism and addiction. Long winters and very little work is the perfect recipe for heavy drinking. In many parts of America there is no authority present to control drunk driving, which means that in a place like Alaska a person can drink for many years without seeing many consequences, if any, from the law. More deaths are caused by addiction in Alaska than any other one thing. In fact, "nine of the 10 leading causes of death in Alaska - all but Alzheimer's disease - include alcohol, tobacco or other drug addiction as an underlying cause", the Juneau Empire reported March 15.

David Driscoll of the University of Alaska Anchorage and colleagues examined seven underlying causes of death in communities in the north polar region of the globe. They determined that many deaths in Alaska are preventable with the aid of community programs and education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Smoking is a leading cause of many health problems including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Alcohol use, aside from being highly addictive, can contribute to serious liver and pancreas problems, as well as, influence the onset of diabetes. There are many cases of people committing suicide while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Cold, dark and depressing climates in conjunction with drugs and alcohol can be a recipe for disaster - many people simply lose the will to continue living.

Unfortunately, places like Alaska, Montana, and northern Maine have very limited education due to the lack of funding. It is very difficult getting teachers out to the middle of nowhere to teach a few kids. Many kids are home schooled and are influenced heavily by the actions of their parents. If a child is around a parent all the time who happens to have a drinking problem, the child will without a doubt adopt some of that parent's behavior. Without community outreach programs and better schools in rural areas it is unlikely this pattern of addiction related death will change.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blood Test Could Identify Heavy Drinkers

Testing for drugs and alcohol has been a controversial subject for some time now. Employers have been drug testing employees to determine whether or not someone who works for them has a drug problem. What about people who strictly have an alcohol problem? Up until now there was no way to tell if someone had been up all night drinking whiskey. Not only does that affect places of employment determining whether or not someone has a problem, but, also drug treatment facilities that let their clients go about the town without supervision had no way to determine, short of a breathalyzer, whether or not clients had been drinking. Breathalyzers will tell you if someone is drunk, but it will not tell you if someone had been drunk recently. A blood test that could identify heavy drinkers could greatly help start the process of recovery much sooner.

Penn State University recently has been experimenting with alcohol and ways of identifying if someone is a heavy drinker. Researchers claim that by measuring a set of protein changes in the blood linked to alcohol use could help create a more precise test for identifying an alcohol problem."Unlike routine testing for illicit drugs, you can't just look for a trace of alcohol because many people enjoy a drink in a responsible manner and alcohol is very quickly metabolized. Discriminating between excessive and responsible levels of drinking makes this a greater challenge", said Willard M. Freeman, department of pharmacology and lead investigator, reported ANI.

17 proteins were identified by researchers at Penn State, which accurately predicted the amount of alcohol used 90 percent of the time, with non-human primates. The amount of alcohol consumed, directly affected the way protein levels would rise or fall in the subjects.

Researchers separated usage into three categories:

  • no alcohol use
  • drinking up to two drinks per day
  • drinking at least six drinks per day

"We observed that the levels of some proteins increased or decreased with as little as one or two drinks a day. These same changes occurred with heavier levels of drinking. We also found other proteins that responded only to heavy levels of drinking. Combined, these proteins allow us to classify subjects into non-drinking, alcohol-using, and alcohol-abusing groups," Freeman said.

The research was published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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