Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Len Bias and the War on Drugs

After watching the amazing ESPN documentary series' "30 for 30"'s latest episode, "Without Bias," I was struck by the impact Len Bias' death had on awareness of the dangers of cocaine, and on the drug laws. For those of you who don't know, Bias was a standout basketball player for the University of Maryland (check out highlight footage here). Bias was often compared to Michael Jordan, who we all know is the best basketball player that we've seen- his potential was through the roof. In fact,Celtics scout Ed Badger told the press at the time, "Len Bias is the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out in a long time." Bias was drafted number two overall by the Boston Celtics at the 1986 NBA draft, and the following day went and signed a 1.6 million dollar deal with Reebok shoe company for an endorsement. That evening, Bias returned to the Maryland campus to spend time with his former teammates- and started to use cocaine. Around 6 AM that following morning, Bias started to have trouble breathing and went into seizure. After paramedics were called, Bias eventually succumbed to a cocaine overdose.

A month later, a Maryland grand jury returned indictments against Bias's friend Brian Tribble for possession of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and Bias's Maryland teammates Terry Long (possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice) and David Gregg (possession of cocaine and obstruction of justice). All were found not guilty, although Tribble was later convicted of an unrelated cocaine trafficking charge.

The aftermath of Bias' death stretched out into the legal system. The Narcotics Penalties and Enforcement Act was supported by both parties and enforced stronger prison sentences for smaller amounts of drugs. From a Washington Post article: "From 1954 to 1976, it fluctuated between 20,000 and 24,000. By 1986 it had grown to 36,000. Today it exceeds 190,000 prisoners, up 527 percent in 20 years. More than half this population is made up of drug offenders, most of whom are serving sentences created in the weeks after Len Bias died. "

So is Bias to blame for our current terrible prison and "War on Drugs" situation? The laws that were passed in the wake of his death have bled into a terrible problem in their own right. PBS Frontline did a great timeline on the War on Drugs, talking in specifics about the consequences of Bias' death. We can only hope that the mandatory minimum sentences that were established can be replaced by addiction rehab options for people who are struggling with addiction. Bias also brought a new level of awareness to the dangers of cocaine- in a way, he may have saved some lives with his example. That, we can hope, will be his legacy.

Here's a preview of the 30 for 30 episode. Check your local listings for the full show.

Click here for something funny.

Sorry for the prolonged absence! But it's good to be back. Come and connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And we'll see you shortly.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A cocaine vaccine?

A Time Magazine article this past week spoke about the success of early trials of a cocaine vaccine. The results, although only mildly successful, seemed to point towards the idea that a vaccination against addiction could be something viable in the fight to get people well. ABC news posted a video talking with Dr. Marvin Seppela, medical director of Hazelden, about the potential effects of something like this happening. The vaccination is built to damper the "high" users obtain from using cocaine, and therefore, scale back the level of craving.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (or NIDA), has mentioned that vaccinations against addiction are one of the institutes " priorities." NIDA is also working on a similar vaccination towards nicotine addiction. However, an interesting fact in the article: "About 25% of the study participants did not produce cocaine antibodies when vaccinated. In about half of these cases, researchers think smoking crack was the problem." This seems interesting, since it looks as though the vaccination would only alter the affects of powder cocaine users. As is widely known, crack cocaine causes far more severe effects among addicts, so it will be interesting to see if they find a way to combat the effects of crack addiction.

One of the more interesting points, made near the end of the article, was that the vaccine would need a number of consistent "booster" shots to keep up the effects of the vaccination. Dr. Volkow says that more than likely, the best use for the vaccine would be as a mode of relapse prevention, as opposed to a new method of abstinence. Since most addicts do require a form of aftercare, such as a 12-step group, this can be used as an additional tool to help support recovery and sobriety. In the spirit of the blog, being named Addiction Tomorrow after all, we're looking forward to seeing additional research and options for addicts to get well. This is encouraging, and hopefully we can get another tool in the toolbox to fight this battle.

Here's a great video about the myths of addiction.

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bridge To Recovery

For those of you who are avid readers, I apologize for the lack of posting for the last couple of weeks. I've been on the road for work and haven't had access to wireless internet. Here's the first of a few updates.

I spent a long weekend in Bowling Green, KY doing a referent weekend at The Bridge to Recovery, a residential treatment center with a focus on codependency. With tracks starting a 14 days and going up through 90, The Bridge can do treatment like I've never seen, focusing almost solely on family members of addicts as well as addicts themselves. Carol Cannon, one of the founders and a pioneer in the field of codependence (and published a couple of books, most notably "Hooked on Unhappiness") provided one of the best definitions of codependence I've ever heard:

“Codependence is the pain in adulthood that comes from being wounded in childhood, which leads to a high probability of relationship problems and addictive disorders in later life.”

With a huge focus on trauma and codependency, I was really impressed with The Bridge. This was also an amazing weekend to be there, as it was both the 35th anniversary of The Bridge AND the retirement celebration for the founders, Paul and Carol Cannon. I got the opportunity to meet and speak with alumni from all the back in the late 80s, and really got a feel for the work that they were doing. In addition, Dr. Stephen Grinstead of Addiction Free Pain Management , who also works with Terry Gorski doing Relapse Prevention training, told his story and lead a workshop on "Identifying and Managing the Inner Saboteur." He took the clients through his workshop, as well as the visitors (like myself), staff, and alumni. A really powerful experience to do some difficult group work and look at how denial manifests in our daily lives. Also got the opportunity to hear stories from Josie Ramirez-Herndon and Dr. Jeff Seat over the weekend, a truly great experience.

Overall, a fantastic visit. I wouldn't hesitate to send a family member to treatment at the Bridge, and I'm looking forward to doing some work with them in the future. Such a diamond in the rough; it's weird to think that they've been around for 35 years and yet are not really known about on the West Coast. Hopefully we can spread the word; long term treatment for family members of addicts can only provide a healthier, more supportive network for people trying to maintain their recovery.

Here's a video about The Bridge to Recovery:

In the next blog: my trip to Nashville.

Here's something funny, Will Ferrell's video about health insurance.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you tomorrow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How are Mexico's drug laws affecting us?

As I mentioned in a recent post, drug violence in Mexico has been escalating to a disturbing degree, from affecting tourism numbers to actually seeing hitmen invade a Mexican treatment center and brutally kill people trying to get well. This does not bode well for the Mexican-American border, nor for the Mexican citizens as well. An article in the New York Times today talked about the new laws decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and harder drugs in Mexico. Good questions brought up here- will US citizens go across the border for easier access to drugs? How will the Obama administration react? And how will this policy affect the Mexican citizens?

A variety of experts chimed in on this. One, Tony Payan (a political science professor at University of Texas-El Paso) mentioned that the new law was designed simply to combat the rampant police corruption- i.e. police demanding bribes to let people off for small possession charges- and NOT to curb violence. However, I really liked his viewpoint on this, quoted here: "it is a solid first step to pave the way for 1) distinguishing between drug use and drug abuse 2) paving the way for fully medicalizing abuse, that is, reinforcing the idea that we should treat drug addicts much as alcoholics and offer them help instead of prison time, and 3) focusing state resources on the production, trafficking and distribution networks." This is what we, vocal opponents of the US drug war, have been saying for years- that we should be going after the big drug kingpins and allow users better, and more comprehensive, access to drug treatment as opposed to putting them in jail.

I was, however, disappointed to see the response from Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation. She states: "Drug users are not innocent. They support the vicious drug cartels. Without their demand for drugs, the supply side has no purpose." However, this has been the response of government entities for the last 30 years, and we've made almost no progress. This is like comparing abstinence only education vs. comprehensive sex education. There will ALWAYS be demand for drugs- addiction will not go away if we someone slam the channels of drugs shut. People will find something new to be mind-altering- maybe even the internet- to fill the void. So we should be focusing more on the education of "what-happens-if" instead of "just say no."

Here's a breakdown of the new decriminalization laws:

Here's something funny.

Be sure to check out Writers in Treatment, a great new nonprofit organization in Los Angeles looking to help struggling artists get well. They'll be hosting an event here in LA co-sponsored by Hazelden; as more details emerge I'll post them. A great cause, and we're glad to see someone supporting them.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Internet Addiction and Treatment

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about internet addiction and treatment. The Chicago Tribune posted an article this morning about reSTART, an internet addiction treatment center in Seattle. The website talks about different signs and symptoms associated with internet addiction, such as neglecting friends and family, obsessing over the computer and internet, and failed attempts to control behavior. Although internet addiction isn't classified in the DSM as of yet, there are well-chronicled tales of people with addiction to games such as World of Warcraft. In Chicago, Linda Lewaniak, director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Hoffman Estates, said that while research on the subject is scant, "we've had steady growth in this area. We're now seeing enough people to have its own group."

So what's the deal? Are people TRULY addicted to the internet? I think when we start to see consequences such as lack of social activity, lowered productivity in the workplace, and feelings of craving for the internet, we may actually have a real problem on our hands. I'm glad to see someone addressing this; Dr. Hilary Cash, the executive director at reSTART, has been doing research in this field for years, and sees a huge developing problem among our youth. She has helped lead the research and bringing about a 12-step program for internet gaming addicts. This will be an interesting field moving forward; I'm interested to see where this leads, as we're just at the beginning stages of research- and at the problem.

From the Tribune article:
At Rush University Medical Center, which also treats patients at its Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction, Dr. Louis Kraus said it's important to recognize that these activities are often intertwined with other underlying issues, such as depression and social anxiety.

"It's great that people are looking at this and the impact it's having," the child psychiatrist said, "but we still don't have clear scientific basis for what kind of treatment approach will offer the best outcome."

In other news, Pfizer, the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company, was recently slapped with a $2.3 billion fine for falsely advertising and marketing drugs for purposes they weren't intended for. They were slapped with the fine following a guilty plea towards one felony count to settle federal criminal and civil charges that it illegally promoted its Bextra painkiller and other drugs. What hasn't been brought to light is that this is Pfizer's FOURTH settlement over false advertising. We need to reign in these companies before they start to do more harm than good. Hopefully the health care reform will lay out some rules and regulations that will impose stiffer penalties on companies that promote products illegally.

Here's a video by Dr. Hilary Cash talking about internet addiction:

Here's a GREAT video from Robert Reich talking about health care reform. Please be sure to take the 2 minutes to watch this one:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hitmen Murder Rehab Patients

On Wednesday night, approximately a dozen hitmen swarmed into a drug rehab center in the city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Execution style, they lined up the patients and killed 17 of them. This treatment center, on the Mexican and U.S. border, seems to be an attempt to send a message to the two governments that the crackdown on Mexican drug trafficking isn't going to work. Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced in 2006 that he'd be going directly after the cartels- who haven't exactly responded well.

In a little-covered aspect of the story, the drug cartels have been specifically targeting drug treatment centers. The cartels seem to be hunting down their rivals, or looking for new recruits to join in the fray. Over a thousand people in Ciudad Juarez have died this year as a result of drug-related violence. Even with thousands of police and federal agents swarming the city, these cartels are obviously still able to function relatively successfully, albeit with a large amount of bloodshed.

Bottom line here: War on Drugs: FAILING. Need a new solution. We may not be able to fix Mexico's problem, but by putting more treatment resources in the hands of our citizens. Without creating a police state in Mexico, we can't really help them. So how do we help ourselves? By putting plans in place to help people struggling with drugs, and getting rid of laws that force non-violent drug offenders into jail instead of treatment, we can provide an on-the-ground solution here at home. I've posted this before, but Walter Kronkite posted a great article about the failure of the war on drugs here in the US. If we want to export help to other countries, it needs to be a message of help, not a punitive message. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Let's not forget that we're here to be a safe haven.

Drugs are a threat that make all borders meld together, a scourge that we can't take care of on our own. Latin America, and ESPECIALLY Mexico, absolutely need to develop some workable communication between themselves, the United States and the European Union. We need a workable solution to the war on drugs. As the lives of 17 drug addicts trying to get well can attest, the current strategy isn't working.

Here's a video of the story:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 31, 2009


Seems like addiction is in the news quite a bit lately. With the loss of DJ AM, who's real name is Adam Goldstein, we unfortunately see another death in the face of addiction. Found in his New York apartment "wearing only sweatpants, face down on his bed with a crack pipe and unspecified prescription drugs" nearby, Goldstein obviously was struggling with a relapse. A tragic ending for someone who had been sober for a number of years- a reminder that addiction is a chronic, progressive and fatal disease. The sad part is, less than a year ago, Goldstein survived a horrid plane crash, only to end his life at a too-young age with drug use. The thing to remember here- he was in the grips of a disease. Keep away from judgment- at this point, Goldstein's decision making was so far from the norm that going to far could only be expected. THIS is what addiction does.

Dr. Drew Pinsky brought up an interesting point- that pain medication likely led Goldstein down a path away from his recovery. We know that pain medication can be addictive and dangerous- we just saw Michael Jackson perish from an overdose as well. So Pinksy probably isn't that far off. We'll never truly know what caused DJ AM to go on a final drug run...but we can learn from this. It's sad that it sometimes takes a tragic loss for people to get a wake up call, but maybe some of our friends and families that are struggling with addiction, or asking for help, will see this as a warning for their own behavior.

In October, The Associated Press reported, MTV was to begin his new reality show, “Gone Too Far,” in which he and concerned families staged interventions for drug abusers. As a legacy, I hope they continue with the broadcast. In the end, DJ AM was reaching out to try and help young addicts. Struggling with relapse or not, he still was able to encourage individuals to see help. That, in its own way, is heroic. So Adam, we'll miss you.

Here's DJ AM performing in Las Vegas:

And here's AM talking about his in-progress MTV show about addiction:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Problems at the Clean Plate Club

I don't know about any of you, but I was raised in the Midwest and had "clean your plate" drilled into my head from a young age. Ever since World War II, when Harry S Truman introduced a campaign in schools to "clean your plate" because resources were scarce, that notion of a clean plate has stuck with us. With portions in restaurants rising at alarming rates, and the idea that one can very easily "super size" a meal, we have an impending obesity crisis on our hands- one that is already surfacing. According to the latest statistics from the Center For Disease Control, more than 66 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. These are INCREDIBLY troubling numbers- and the real question is, how do we change this culture?

As I've written before, we're seeing more and more eating disorders surfacing from all sorts of different areas. The other "eating disorder" is the one we, across America, face every day- the fast food nation. With portions becoming out of control and people hurrying to eat and finish meals, we've seen a large increase in obesity across the nation. The Food and Drug Administration is even trying to crack down on portion sizes in restaurants.According to the FDA report, the annual healthcare cost for obesity is right around $93 billion. This is (sorry about the pun) a HUGE problem.

An interesting solution was proposed by various pundits- perhaps a "fat tax" would create some change? According to a study released in July of this year by the Urban Institute and the University of Virginia, unless diet and consumption changes drastically, in 2015 a whopping FORTY PERCENT of Americans will be considered obese. Additionally, the study brings up the option of a "fat tax," or a tax on unhealthy foods like chips and soda, and here are the stats. A 10% excise or sales tax on fattening foods could raise $522 billion over the next 10 years. A 20% tax could raise $937 billion. These are impressive numbers, to say the least. Nearly a trillion dollars because Americans can't stop eating unhealthy food? What's the deal?

Are we dealing with an addiction to fats, salts and sugars? Dr. David Kessler, author of "The End of Overeating" seems to think so. According to research for his book, Dr. Kessler found the dopamine receptors in our brains are stimulated by unhealthy foods, so, much the same as a drug addict starts to crave the rush of an illicit substance, we start to crave unhealthy food. And, according to both his book and the billions of dollars in ad campaigns every year, the market has adapted to our cravings. With fast food on every corner and unhealthy options at every restaurants, we have to diligently fight to eat intelligently and healthfully. A battle on many fronts, to say the least.

So here's a call for drastic change- shop local, organic food, and eat smaller portions. Learn to recognize what "full" means and don't eat past the threshold. Ignore those pesky McDonalds signs- at least most of the time. Without some clear thinking, we truly will have an epidemic on our hands. I'm not advocating for complete and total change- but you CAN change yourself. Start there, and others will follow.

Here's a link to a video from Katie Couric on CBS News talking about the obesity epidemic.

Here's a video from Thomas Frieden, the Commissioner of New York City Department of Health, talking about combating obesity:

We got a great shout-out from the Sober Living Blog about Addiction Tomorrow! Thanks guys!

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Bookmark and Share

Michael Jackson, back in the news.

This afternoon, CNN reported that Michael Jackson died of a propofol overdose. Taken directly from that article, here are the doses administered to Jackson during those final hours:

-- At about 1:30 a.m., Murray gave Jackson 10 mg of Valium.

-- At about 2 a.m., he injected Jackson with 2 mg of the anti-anxiety drug Ativan.

-- At about 3 a.m., Murray then administered 2 mg of the sedative Versed.

-- At about 5 a.m., he administered another 2 mg of Ativan.

-- At about 7:30 a.m., Murray gave Jackson yet another 2 mg of Versed while monitoring him with a device that measured the oxygen saturation of a his blood.

-- At about 10:40 a.m., "after repeated demands/requests from Jackson," Murray administered 25 mg of propofol.

If this isn't gross negligence, I don't know what is. Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson's personal doctor, administered the doses himself. Now, being a doctor, he should've recognized that all of these are dangerous doses and that a "normal" person wouldn't have been able to survive even 1/5th of these. Regardless- if Jackson, as reported, was receiving prescriptions from multiple doctors, then shame on them as well. However, if Dr. Murray was Jackson's personal physician, he had a RESPONSIBILITY to insure Jackson's health. I hope, at the very least, that his license to practice is pulled, and at the most, he and the other prescribing doctors are charged with gross negligence, if not homicide. If the doctors knew this was going on, they should've done something, like refuse to prescribe or practice with Jackson. A gross abuse of power and money seems to be the what's behind this.

The power, apparently, laid in Jackson's hands, as he requested that Dr. Murray give him the injection. Murray, however, HAS a conscious. He should've been aware of the problem- and yet, he refused to do anything about it. A shame. Enabling behavior by family, staff, and healthcare providers contributed to the loss of yet another life.

In other news, it appears as though Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley has entered drug rehab.Beasley was fined $50,000 by the NBA last September after security officers at the league's rookie symposium detected the scent of marijuana in his hotel room. Too bad it took some consequences to get him in the doors, but we are glad he's getting the help he needs. As I touched on a couple of weeks ago, drug use is becoming more and more of a prevalent story. We can only hope that this awareness leads to more people seeking the help that they need.

Here's a video of Dr. Sanjay Gupta talking about the effects of Propofol:

Here's something funny.

I'll be posting another blog entry tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back in. In the meantime, as per usual, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Really, California? Really??

I opened the paper yesterday to see a disturbing headline: "California might act to jail more drug offenders." Great. We really need more criminals, and less people in recovery. The question here, you bureaucratic imbeciles, is who does this make the world better for? Is prison somehow better at rehabilitating drug addicts than drug addiction treatment? How does this make sense?!? We already have 3.2 percent of our population in prison; do we need more? Two weeks ago, federal regulators ordered California to cut their prison population; so, oh government of ours, what the hell?

"While one side of the government is addressing prison overcrowding, another side seems to be acting directly counter to that goal," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director of the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance. Here's a fun fact- the mere $120 million for California government funded drug treatment has been cut in half from 2006. Last month, legislators here in California decided to cut 1.2 BILLION from the prison budgets. Why not full, oh, say, 1/10th of that money into drug treatment and help cut down recidivism rates? Why not focus and develop better treatment programming and staff so that the people you have turned into criminals can have a shot at a better life? I mean seriously, people, COME ON. Open your eyes. Prison is not rehabilitation when one is dealing with drug addiction. Addiction treatment will create change. Develop better programming- and laws- and we won't need nearly as many prisons. But will special interest groups be upset? Who cares?? It will be better for our entire population.

Here's a quick excerpt from a New York Times article from a couple of weeks ago:

"R. Gil Kerlikowske, who in May was sworn in as the Obama administration’s director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is a supporter of drug courts as an alternative to mandatory drug sentencing. The new drug czar and the man nominated as his deputy, A. Thomas McLellan, are viewed by many addiction experts as representative of a sea change in thinking about treatment: away from the punitive, toward more acceptance of nuances and complications of addiction.

“Ten years ago, if you would have asked me this question about addiction, I would have said it’s obviously a moral failure and I don’t know why people can’t pull themselves up from their bootstraps and handle this and get themselves totally clean,” Mr. Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle, said in an interview. 'But we can be going in a different direction. We can look at this from different viewpoints now.'"

So let's build out our drug courts if we can't change the laws. But if we change the laws, we'll have less need for punishment- divert people with possession charges to treatment and allow them a chance to get better. Legal consequences can be a GREAT motivator for people to get well. Allow them that option. Please. We beg you.

So California? I say, get it together. Make us better. Stop creating problems for yourself.

Here's a video on Prop 5, the drug treatment bill that failed to pass in 2008:

A special thanks goes out to Adi Jaffe with the All About Addiction blog for his guest post on Take Part which got me fired up about this.

My friend Jane Mintz of Real Life Interventions recently started an online school for intervention training- check it out here. Pretty cool option, and helps with accountability. This is a training available for her newly designed intervention model, the Field Model of Intervention. Great user interface as well.

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. Support my advertisers! And see you this week.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Wire- a unique viewpoint on the war on drugs

I've been wanting to write about this for a couple of months now, but with all the addiction in the news I just haven't gotten around to it. The Wire, the recently-ended HBO series, is one of the best shows ever to make it on TV (in my humble opinion). If you haven't watched it, you can rent it or buy it on Amazon here. The show is infinitely rewatchable, so definitely a good investment.

David Simon, the creator of the show, worked for the Baltimore Sun (newspaper politics and policies are featured in-depth in the show's final season) for a time before writing a couple of books and eventually Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. There's a great article talking about Simon's background in The Atlantic; I'll touch on some of the points there, but the article is definitely worth a read. What's great about the show is the humanizing aspect- that both cops and drug dealers have their flaws-- and their good parts. I haven't ever felt a lot of empathy for drug dealers, at least until I saw The Wire.

Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, talks quite a bit about the dichotomy of drug dealing, and why many of the dealers on the street stay poor. Since drug dealing is like a pyramid scheme (those on top make a ton of money, but those on the low outposts can barely make as much as working at a McDonald's), it's difficult to break the poverty cycle in a drug-centered community. The Wire covers all of this throughout their various seasons, portraying all sides of the drug trade.

I love this show for a variety of reasons- a) it shows the ins and outs of battling drugs on the ground level from a police perspective; b) it talks directly about the effects of drug use and dealing on individual families; c) it shows an honest portrayal of people trying to make it out of the ghetto via the drug trade; d) the character Bugs is a great example of an addict trying to get well; and e) takes risks in dealing with the relationship of drugs and the police force. Many different opinions are expressed here, and David Simon's voice is a clear bell against the war.

If you want an inside scoop on the war on drugs, definitely check out The Wire- my favorite show ever. Never got great ratings, so I'll excuse you if you have yet to see it. But make sure you do.

Here's a great clip:

Oh and a quick note on the ongoing healthcare debate (I'll write a separate blog on this on a later date), we here at Addiction Tomorrow are in favor of an optional government sponsored healthcare plan- after all, having an option is better than not having one, and will be beneficial for the greater good. We need to make sure the private sector will be held accountable to standards of practice, but not snuffed out by a government healthcare plan. Ok, I'm off my soapbox for the day.

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Relapse and Addiction in the news

Lots of addiction and drug use in the news as of late: of course the biggest story was Michael Jackson; his death, and the long history of addiction, will rival Elvis's in history I imagine. And if it doesn't, then we should make sure we as a people and a media are looking at it honestly. That, of course, was a huge splash and brought about a new wave of awareness about prescription pain medication.

A couple of months ago, the "Shamwow guy," Vince Shlomi, was arrested for being in a drunk fight with a hooker. And this past Friday, news about Billy Mays (pictured above) and a history of cocaine use breaks across the wire. Then over the weekend, Josh Hamilton, a darling of the media for his miraculous comeback from drug addiction (see a great article on his comeback from ESPN the Magazine here and I mentioned his comeback in my blog earlier this year), had pictures posted on, a sports media blog, of an obvious relapse during spring training in January.

A couple of thoughts here: first and foremost, it's hard to be in the public eye. We've seen tortured artists, athletes, and successful people for centuries-- some of the most powerful people in the world have been the most troubled (see Howard Hughes, Elvis, Michael Jackson, etc. etc.). The list goes on and on. And when people who have any sort of issue- a drug problem, depression, anger management issues and the like- get into the public eye, the odds of a slip being exposed to the media are increased tenfold. For someone like Mays, whose persona was one of an over-the-top pitchman for various products on late night television, cocaine seems like a natural fit. For Hamilton, who had completely lost everything and built it back up, a relapse (for someone not as popular) may have been a tiny setback. However, in Hamilton's case, his entire season is being scrutinized for evidence of drinking or drug use, and whether or not his lack of performance this season is tied into that.

As we know, addiction is a chronic and fatal disease, as we've seen with Jackson and Mays. What we also need to remember is that sometimes people slip, like Hamilton did in January. Instead of making snarky remarks and making life more difficult, we as a group need to support Hamilton and his recovery. One can only hope that the Rangers will allow him time to find his way back to a recovery program-- and that Hamilton will make that decision as well.

Here's a video of the Josh Hamilton story, previous to his last relapse:

Hope: The Josh Hamilton Story - More amazing video clips are a click away

Here's a clip of Hamilton talking about his relapse:

Blitzcorner | Josh Hamilton Speaks about Relapse Video

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Addiction in Mexico and the War on Drugs

In a recent "Wealth of Nations" blog post on the Newsweek website, the issue of addiction in Mexico has been brought to light. With so much focus on the American drug problem- and don't get me wrong, it's a big one- we sometimes lose sight that other countries are battling the same demons. With our miserably-failing "War on Drugs," we've created a mess here and abroad, but at least we have some good private resources available for people seeking help. Walter Cronkite wrote, in 2006, about the failing war on drugs and included this quote: "People who do genuinely have a problem with drugs, meanwhile, are being imprisoned when what they really need is treatment." To that, Mr. Cronkite, I say thank you. Thank you for stating the obvious, and for being a trusted voice to say it.

And I'm off on a tangent. Meanwhile, the article about drug use in Mexico had some interesting insights and facts. An estimated 4.5 million Mexicans now use drugs, up some thirty percent in the last five years, and the number of actual addicts is up 100% since 2002. These are astounding figures. We often view Mexico as the place where drugs come from, a highway from South American drug production to American drug consumption, but how often do we see the direct effect of addiction on that country? Mexico is also in the process of decriminalizing possession, and that could have considerable effects on the addicted population. This could be a true epidemic should they not develop more than the 100 treatment centers they have operating within their borders. More will be revealed, that's for sure.

I encourage everyone to check out the Drug Policy Alliance, a groundswell working to end the war on drugs and create a better plan to battle addiction in this country.

Here's a great video on crystal meth use in Mexico City:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. Support my advertisers! And see you later this week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Visit to ATCPCC

I spent 3 days last week in Santa Barbara at the Addiction Treatment Centers & Professionals Consortium of California listening to treatment centers from all over the country talk about what they are doing. This conference was pretty interesting; it's always nice to keep a finger on the pulse of what people are doing across the country. A good chunk of providers were there, about 60 from around the country.

I was really impressed with a few people there (and of course I presented and thought I did well, talking about Sober Living By The Sea) and I thought I'd talk about the others doing good work around the country.
Hero House, with homes in Atlanta and San Juan Capistrano, CA, has a specific focus on college students, providing them a safe environment following treatment (like the TEACH program) complete with educational support. Randy Haveson, the founder and executive director, has a great passion for helping students recover and I'm looking forward to doing some work with him.

Jane Eigner Mintz of Real Life Interventions
, from the Cleveland area, rolled out her new model of intervention, the Field Model. This is based more on a clinical aspect rather than the Johnson or Systemic model. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this looks like. She also is developing a school for interventionists, which will be helpful in providing families with qualified professionals.

And of course, Jaywalker Lodge was impressive, bringing two of their therapists out from Carbondale, CO. They talked about the men's relapse prevention program, as well as their longer-term outpatient/sober living option. They have a wonderful small town feel and treat the client who is looking to hit the "reset" button and get a fresh start.

There are others out there also doing good work- these three stood out to me. We'll see what pops out in the next year or so.

Here's a video on opioids and the brain from HBO's "Addiction" special:

In other news, if you haven't checked out my favorite sports columnist, Bill Simmons, today is a good day. Here's a link to his ESPN website.

And for something hilarious click here.

As usual, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And be sure to support my advertisers! See you this week.

Make sure to check out my podcast on The Afflicted and Affected starting today at 4 PM Pacific, and read my abridged life story on the Equinox Fitness website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quick Post

Hey guys,

Just wanted to let everyone know a couple of PR things:

A very short version of my recovery journey is on the Equinox Fitness website as one of their featured "Life Stories," click here to see it!

And on Monday, July 27th, I'll be appearing on the Afflicted and Affected podcast, talking about my personal experience in recovery as well as my experience working in the field. Check it out here.

I'll be at the Santa Barbara Addiction Treatment Consortium this week, stay tuned for details as I'll be live blogging and Twittering from the event.

Here's a good video from the National Geographic Channel on heroin addicts:

As always, follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn and become a fan of the blog on Facebook. See you this week.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marijuana- a gateway drug?

An article in the New York Times this week talks about a couple of individual stories of people who are dependent on marijuana. One of the people interviewed, Joyce, had this to say about pot: Smoking pot, she said, “was a slow form of suicide.” The article touches on the stigma of marijuana addicts- mainly that people who were addicted to substances like heroin or crack cocaine looked down on people who had problems with marijuana. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the marijuana of today is up to five times more potent than the marijuana of the 1970s.

“We need to be very mindful of what we are unleashing out of a Pandora’s Box here,” said Dr. Richard N. Rosenthal, chairman of psychiatry at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. “The people who become chronic users don’t have the same lives and the same achievements as people who don’t use chronically.” However, you can say this about EVERY drug. I mean, if someone had the ability to drink one glass of wine a week as opposed to someone who drank a bottle of wine a night, the person who drank less would have less adverse consequences, right? And you can repeat that with ANY drug.

More adults are now admitted to treatment centers for primary marijuana and hashish addictions than for primary addictions to heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, according to the latest government data, a 2007 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. However, those numbers are a little skewed, as 57 percent of those people were admitted due to court requirements- so they may not have been a complete addict.

So the question that defines this- are there consequences from marijuana use? Are lives made unmanageable as a result of smoking pot? The answer, of course, is yes- and with the genetic link for addiction a proven fact, then obviously any psychoactive substance can activate that addiction. So- marijuana, like any other substance, can be addictive when it's used by a person prone to addiction.

About legalization- my view is this: If alcohol and tobacco are legal and cause as many negative health consequences as they do, then we really need to review our policies on marijuana. If controlled and managed well (at least as regulated as alcohol and tobacco), then we'll see a safer, more controlled version of the drug that's out there now. But we'll see what happens.

Here's a great article by Freakonomics author Stephen J. Dubner from the New York Times about the economics of legalization.

Stephen Baldwin vs. Ron Paul on legalization:

And here's the trailer from "Reefer Madness," the overblown movie from 1936 against marijuana:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. Support our advertisers! And see you later this week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When eating disorders strike in mid-life

Eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia, are generally classified as a young woman's disease. Now, according to a recent New York Times article, more and more women in their 30s and 40s are developing eating disorders.

“I think the degree of despair we are seeing among adult women about their bodies is unrivaled,” said Margo Maine, co-author of “The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect” (Wiley, 2005). “Eating disorders creep up during periods of developmental transitions, so the peak had been 13 to 15 and 17 to 19 — moving into adolescence and moving into college. Now, we are seeing them again during or after pregnancy and as women hit other life phases, such as empty nesting.”

“A problem is that friends, and even doctors, get used to seeing someone in their overly skinny state and may not recognize their habits and physique as dangerously unhealthy,” said Dr. David Herzog, the director of the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also the endowed professor in the field of eating disorders at Harvard Medical School.

WebMD even has a specific section of their website geared towards older women and eating disorders. This is an awareness that is growing among addictions- that these kind of things can strike anyone, anywhere, whether it's drug addiction, eating disorders or other compulsive behaviors. Money, success, fame (see Michael Jackson) or any other factor can't completely shield someone from these terrible diseases. The best we can ask for is awareness and the ability to get help.

What Dr. Herzog said above, about doctors not being able to recognize the behavior, is one of the biggest problems in America. Doctors receive little education around recognizing and treating eating disorders and addiction unless they really ask for it or specialize in it. This leaves an entire generation of doctors on their own, trying to help people in a general practice where these things may go unnoticed for long periods of time. Once again- educate, educate, educate and raise awareness! If you think there's a problem- if you're asking yourself if you drink too much, smoke too much pot, or aren't eating enough, ask for help! There is no shame in getting better. I think that's the biggest stigma in our culture- that somehow living with a huge problem and not getting help, attempting to pull oneself up by the bootstraps if you will, is a better option than asking for help with a major problem. This is something each individual can change for themselves. If you need help, you won't get it if you don't ask.

Miss America Kristen Haglund is involved in eating disorder awareness:

And here's a video on older women and eating disorders from CBS:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you later this week.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Michael Jackson and his pill problem- more is revealed

Not shocking- it turns out that Michael Jackson's pill problem was more serious than we all thought. As I talked about in a previous blog post, Jackson had some major problems dealing with a childhood filled with trauma, the fame he was dealt, and all of his familial and personal issues which eventually lead to his too-early demise. Now CNN is reporting that Jackson, in 2004, was taking more than 10 Xanax a night. He also had his security guards picking up prescriptions in their own names for him, as well as prescriptions from doctors as far away as New York.

The amount of Xanax that Jackson alleged took surprised CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.In addiction cases, people develop a tolerance to drugs and have to take more and more pills, Gupta said. "No matter how you cut it, this is an extremely high dosage of Xanax," Gupta said. "It is a huge red flag, even with the tolerance that I was talking about. This dosage is exceedingly high for any human being."

According to the website, who cite a number of reliable resources and studies, said this: Taking prescription drugs without a prescription, not taking them as directed, or mixing them with alcohol are all unsafe and potentially deadly. A 2008 study based on 224,355 U.S. death certificates for which people died from medication errors showed that there was a 3,196 percent increase between 1983 and 2004 in deaths at home from combining prescription drugs with alcohol and/or street drugs.

In 2006, Jackson was trying to jumpstart his career with a series of concerts in Las Vegas. According to Jack Wishna, a promoter who was helping Jackson secure the series of concerts in Vegas, Jackson had to pull out of the concerts due to his weakened condition. According to Wishna, Jackson appeared emaciated and incoherent, and often had to use a wheelchair to get around.

According to other sources, around this time Janet Jackson was planning an intervention for Michael. According to the report, Janet recruited her brothers to help stage the intervention, however Michael told his bodyguards to prevent his family from entering his property and refused to accept phone calls from his mother Katherine, CNN reports.

This becomes a difficult situation- what happens when someone has procured so much power that they seem to be untouchable? Why didn't the security guards step in? They must have known there was a problem- the guards couldn't have thought his pill consumption was normal, especially since they were filling prescriptions in their own names for him. Were they blinded by loyalty to Jackson? Or money? It's hard to believe that no one ever stepped in- people had to know something was wrong. Perhaps with a family intervention and treatment, Jackson would've had a chance to get better. The world will never know.

Here's Sanjay Gupta from CNN talking about Jackson's death:

And here's Dr. Gupta talking about Michael Jackson's final rehearsal:

Here's a breakdown of recent statistics on pill abuse:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. Support my advertisers. And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Exercise and Substance Abuse Prevention

Don't know how I missed this in my previous post about exercise and recovery, but there have been some articles published about the effectiveness of exercise and sports as actual deterrents to substance abuse. About a year ago, the Associated Press posted an article about exercise as a prevention tool. The National Institute on Drug Abuse received a $4 million grant to explore this further. "Exercise has been shown to be beneficial in so many areas of physical and mental health," said Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA Director. "This cross-disciplinary meeting is designed to get scientists thinking creatively about its potential role in substance abuse prevention."

There has been other research: Brown University took smokers to the gym three times a week and found adding the exercise to a smoking-cessation program doubled women's chances of successfully kicking the habit. The quitters who worked out got an extra benefit: They gained half as much weight as women who managed to quit without exercising, says lead researcher Dr. Bess Marcus.

''Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, it helps the body detoxify, it puts you on a better cycle of physical behavior, and it leads to decreased stress. It also improves thinking and mental function and decreases your tendency toward addiction,'' said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist at New York University Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

For example, ''there's evidence that exercise is maybe the best non-pharmacological antidepressant we have - studies have shown that it works better than some drugs. It's also a great anti-anxiety intervention,'' said James Maddux, a professor of psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and an expert on the mind-body health connection.

I know when I was in treatment, I used exercise as a type of coping tool- gaining a "runner's high" and creating a challenge to complete. I still work out today as a way of keeping my cravings (especially around nicotine!) at bay. Not to mention the fact that working out creates chemical changes in our mind and body to make us feel better and happier. I know my mood has improved since I started working out more often. For now, let's list exercise as a tool in a toolkit for fighting addiction- it's not the end-all/be-all, but it's another way to encourage this next generation to avoid the pitfalls of addiction.

If you're looking for a great blog about exercise, staying in shape and diet advice, check out Move Ur Body- great content and advice here. Be sure to check out Phoenix Multisport, a group in Boulder, CO who uses exercise as a recovery tool. And Sober Living By The Sea, where I work, provides physical activity to their patients as an ongoing part of treatment.

Here's a great video about Todd Crandell of Racing For Recovery, an individual who used triathlons to help defeat his own addiction:

And Jaywalker Lodge, an extended care program for men who have been through multiple addiction treatments, does expeditions every year. Here's a video of their winter expedition:

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you later.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Drugs and the Tour de France

I've written about athletes and performance-enhancing drugs before, but I for some reason forgot to touch on cycling. With the Tour de France starting this 4th of July weekend, the question of doping in the peloton has started to run rampant again. The Tour has a long and illustrious history of performance-enhancing drug use (you can see the full history on Wikipedia here) and it's finally starting to get better- we think. More stringent testing for EPO (or Erthropoietin) and steroids have at least created a shield for the Tour to protect them from the scandals of the past. Floyd Landis, the last American to win the Tour in 2006, was tested and reported positive the day after his win- and was stripped of the title. He just made his comeback this past year after a two-year suspension.

The 2007 Tour was especially marked by rampant doping violations. The Tour winner, Alberto Contador, was not allowed to participate in the 2006 Tour de France due to his possible involvement with Operacion Puerto, a doping sting against doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and a number of accomplices, started in May 2006. He is accused of administering prohibited doping products to 200 professional athletes, to enhance their performance.

American cyclist Tyler Hamilton announced his retirement from cycling this past April, after multiple positive doping results. He had been battling depression for years and years, and stated that his doping and taking of supplements were taken in an unstable state of mind. An article in VeloNews, a cycling news organization, touched on depression in cyclists after the death of Marco Pantani.

It's well known that exercise can help combat depression and anxiety; that a healthful lifestyle will contribute to a better state of mind. Newsweek wrote about Phoenix Multisport, a group in Boulder, CO that I've written about before who use outdoor activities as part of a therapeutic lifestyle change.

However, when it comes to high-end, competitive athletics, doping has become a huge problem. We've seen it in major league baseball, as up to 103 athletes were named in the Mitchell Report of 2007. And now, with the Tour in the spotlight, we can look back in 2004 where 8 young cyclists died of doping-related heart attacks. In order to help these athletes, we need to provide a comprehensive education and accountability program. There will always be people who cheat, who seek the best edge, and who want every advantage available to them no matter the consequences; the best we can hope for is a level of accountability that provides stringent guidelines and punishments to those who violate the sanctity of sport.

Here's Greg LeMond, a very famous cyclist, talking about steroids and how they've changed sports:

And here's Lance Armstrong, talking about how to prevent doping:

Here's something funny.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you later this week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pain Relievers- Too Dangerous?

A federal advisory panel finalized a close vote on Tuesday to recommend a ban on Percocet and Vicodin, two of the most popular prescription painkillers in the world, because of their effects on the liver. Since people who take these pain medications for long periods of time often need a stronger dose, the odds of liver damage increase drastically. Acetaminophen, a chief ingredient in these medications (and also in Tylenol and Excedrin), can cause liver damage when taken at high doses for a long period of time.

Vicodin (and its generic equivalent) is prescribed over 100 million times a year in the US alone- so this is a huge business decision. In a statement, Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s maker, said it “strongly disagrees” with the proposed restrictions on acetaminophen, adding that they would be likely to “lead to more serious adverse events as consumers shift to other over-the-counter products,” like Advil and aspirin.

However, without abuse or overmedicating, the odds of actual overdose or severe liver damage goes down. “If you keep track of what you’re taking, none of this is an issue for you,” Dr. Jan Engle, a panel member and head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said in an interview after the meeting.

We need to be on the lookout for the long term affects of misusing pain management drugs. With the new recommendations on banning pain meds such as Vicodin and Percocet, people may be looking for something stronger, or at least something different. SAMHSA has publish some disturbing trends around prescription drug abuse:

* Over the past decade-and-a-half, the number of teen and young adult (ages 12 to 25) new abusers of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) or hydrocodone (Vicodin) has grown five-fold (from 400,000 in the mid-eighties to 2 million in 2000).
* New misusers of tranquilizers such as diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax, called "zanies" by youth)-medicine normally used to treat anxiety or tension-went up nearly 50 percent in one year (700,000 in 1999 to 1 million in 2000).
* More than 17 percent of adults over 60, wittingly or not, abuse prescription drugs.
* In 2000, more than 19 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs were filled, a 72 percent increase since 1995. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of school-age children have ADHD. A study of students in Wisconsin and Minnesota showed 34 percent of ADHD youth age 11 to 18 report being approached to sell or trade their medicines, such as Ritalin.
* Among 12- to 17-year-olds, girls are more likely than boys to use psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically.

And the Office of National Drug Control Policy has some good facts on prescription abuse and awareness as well. Check that out here.

As we hear more and more about Michael Jackson and his prescription drug abuse, the need for awareness and prevention continues to rise. The medicine cabinet can be just as dangerous as the guy on the street corner. Doctors can be drug dealers too.

Here's video about the rise of prescription drug abuse:

And here's another one:

And here's something funny.

As always, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson's Tragic End

On June 25th, we lost one of the marvels of the entertainment world, a truly talented and tortured artist, Michael Jackson. With his meteoric rise to fame as the centerpiece of the Jackson 5 and then an amazing solo career, in total selling over 750 million records worldwide. However, this fame came at an amazing price.

Having been in the spotlight since the age of 5 or 6, Jackson seemed to struggle with his place in the world. Naming his home the "Neverland Ranch" lead us to believe he wanted to be a child who never grew up (which, of course, led to the infamous sleepovers on the Ranch and the molestation accusations). A documented addiction to painkillers, two failed marriages, and numerous lawsuits for pedophilia dominated Jackson's last 20 years, causing him to become a late-night joke mainstay and most of us to forget his talent.

The question remains- do we remember him for the art he produced? Has there ever been a more polarizing, successful individual? His death caused delays and nearly shut down numerous websites. He had become the centerpiece of a media storm- mostly negative in the last 20 years.

In 1993, Jackson abruptly canceled the remainder of his "Dangerous" tour after admitting on an audiotape that pain from a burn injury while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984 as well as allegations of sexual abuse have caused him to become addicted to painkillers. As of yesterday, June 29th, various news and entertainment outlets were reporting that Jackson had received a Demerol injection the morning of his death- but we'll only find out for sure after the autopsy is published. Lisa Marie Presley, Jackson's wife for a few short years, posted a blog entry on her Myspace page talking about his drug use. She talks about how she and Jackson had conversations about how he would end up with the same fate as Elvis- and it's looking more and more like he did.

Either way, we've lost the most tortured and talented artist we've seen in a long time. There will never be another like him, good or bad. Here are some of the telling articles from a series of Vanity Fair interviews. It will be interesting to see what unfolds from the autopsy results- but it seems as though we've lost another soul to the disease of addiction. Would it have been possible for Jackson to get help? Had anyone offered treatment? Had he BEEN to treatment? Was there support for him to get well, or just to prop him up and keep him out in the public eye? We may never know, but these are questions we can answer as we move forward to help other artists in the future. He was not a commodity- he was a person. And it's hard to remember that sometimes.

Here's a tribute to Michael Jackson:

In health news, here's a great video by Lance Armstrong's organization, Livestrong:

Here's something funny.

As always, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. See you this week.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama Signs Anti-Smoking Bill Into Law

In keeping up with his progressive health care reform policies, President Obama today signed a bill that puts tobacco under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration. With the new bill, the FDA will be able to monitor, regulate, and mandate lower nicotine levels in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new regular, daily smokers, and almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday," Mr. Obama said before signing the legislation. "I know; I was one of these teenagers. And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time."

"Kids today don't just start smoking for no reason," the president said Monday. "They're aggressively targeted as customers by the tobacco industry. They're exposed to a constant and insidious barrage of advertising where they live, where they learn, and where they play. Most insidiously, they are offered products with flavorings that mask the taste of tobacco and make it even more tempting."

"Today, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, health care and consumer advocates, the decades-long effort to protect our children from the harmful effects of tobacco has emerged victorious," he added. "Today, change has come to Washington."

The goal here is not to ban tobacco products, but to allow adults to make a choice, much like alcohol. With the progressive legislation being passed, we hopefully can see some change in our junior highs and high schools allowing kids to make it to 18 before choosing to smoke. We've seen stronger legislation passed to enforce the "no selling under 18" methodology, but I know from my own experience and the experience of others that it's still easy to obtain cigarettes under the age of 18. Hopefully we can further educate our kids to be able to make the right choices around tobacco, and, of course, around other drugs.

Like anything else, however, starting smoking is a choice, just like starting to drink or smoke pot is a choice. The best thing we can do isn't legislation- the best we can do is let our kids and smokers and addicts know that help is available when they need it. And that it's not a weakness to ask for help- that asking for help is a strength. We in America have this "pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps" type of mentality, and that can prove fatal when dealing with addictions. It's imperative, at least around addiction, to instill in our youth that asking for help is ok. Because, as President Obama put it, "If current trends continue, 1 billion people will die from tobacco-related illnesses this century." 1 billion is 1/6th of our total population today, just to put it into perspective.

Educate, educate, EDUCATE!

Here's a video of the bill being signed:

Watch CBS Videos Online

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And please support my advertisers!

If you have a couple of extra dollars, feel free to support me in my efforts to end Leukemia and Lymphoma via the Team In Training Program. I'm riding a century (100 miles) on August 15th in Ventura, CA to raise money and awareness. Please donate here if you can. Thanks!