It hasn't all been roses for Meredith Phillips, star of the second season of matrimonial reality show The Bachelorette. Choosing from 25 potential suitors and then breaking off her engagement shortly after the show ended in 2004 were the least of her troubles, as the 39-year-old former model now reveals her long battle with alcoholism. "For years I'd wake up every day feeling like I was hit by a truck," Phillips tells People. At rock bottom, she says she was a daily blackout drinker who went through more than 20 bottles of wine a week. Eventually, "I realized I was going to kill myself," she says. "There wasn't another path for me other than to stop." Now more than five months sober, Phillips says she wishes she hit the gym more often. "I should really be taking better care of myself," she says, "But I really can only focus on one thing at a time right now." But despite it getting in the way of her gym time, she seems grateful for her newfound sobriety, adding: "I'm finally starting to live my life again."
- Molecule May Be Able to Block Cocaine Addiction[CBS News]
- Mexico Cartel Dominates, Torches Western State of Michoacan [ABC]
- Addiction to Unhealthy Foods Could Help Explain the Global Obesity Epidemic [Medical Xpress]
- Murder Defendant Zimmerman Wants Trayvon Martin's Pot Use to Be Referenced at Trial [Fox]
- NYPD Data: Whites Much More Likely to be Carrying Drugs and Guns Than Minorities [Raw Story]
- New Jersey's "Operation Swill" Cracks Down On Alleged Liquor Substitution [CNN]
- Phoenix House and The Fix Host Chat on Prescription Drug Abuse [Phoenix House]
- Lil' Scrappy Goes to Rehab: I'm Addicted to Marijuana [TMZ]
More recent violent attacks in Iraq are thought to be part of a growing movement by religious fundamentalists to target behaviors contrary to the teachings of Islam. Twelve people, seven women and five men, were shot to death in a brothel in Baghdad today, in the same neighborhood where gunmen targeted liquor stores last week, killing ten people. Prostitution and alcohol consumption are both banned under Muslim religious law, but Agence France-Presse reported that in recent years, a number of brothels have opened up in the area and drinking alcohol is "quite popular." Brothels are illegal, but according to Lisa Nisan, the chief of Baghdad Women Organization, prostitution has flourished in Iraq since the US invasion of 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. Alcohol has been legal for years and is mainly sold by minority Christians or Yazidis, which fuels the zealotry of extremist groups, NBC reports. “Christians and Yazidis sell, and Muslims drink," a shopkeeper said. Although Iraq is considered less conservative than neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, some fear the recent attacks could signal that extremist sentiments in the region are intensifying. The selling of alcohol has long been a source of contention in the Middle East; a few months ago, Egypt's conservative president Mohammed Morsi restricted the sale of booze, sparking economic concerns, as the nation relies heavily on its thriving tourism industry.
As Americans cut back on smoking to save their lives, big tobacco companies have responded by ramping up aggressive marketing and giveaways, Reuters reports. Adult smokers are down from about 33% in 1980, to 19% in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported Tuesday that total marketing expenditures for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco increased from $8.49 billion in 2010 to $8.82 billion in 2011, even as the smoking population steadily shrinks. This means tobacco companies spend about $24 million a day—$1 million each hour—to market their products. And about 274 billion cigarettes were sold or given away in 2011. The bulk of promotional spending is allotted to giveaways, which range from coupons for free cigarettes to "buy two, get one free" deals. Discounts paid to retailers or wholesalers to stock certain brands of cigarettes also account for the spending increase. Conventional tobacco smoking is declining, but the value of smokeless tobacco (such as the electronic cigarette) rose from $2.78 billion in 2010 to $2.94 billion in 2011. Tobacco use remains is the country's leading cause of preventable death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year.
A man who has been directing traffic at a busy bus lot in midtown Manhattan, while wearing an agency vest, is found to be neither a transit employee, nor sober. A daily commuter called up NBC4 to report the situation, telling them "the guy is clearly intoxicated and can't pay attention to the appropriate signs." The news station went to the bus lot on 37th street and 10th ave, at the "height of rush [hour]" and "caught the unthinkable" on camera: the man, wearing a bright yellow vest and carrying a red flag, occasionally ducking behind a porto potty to drink vodka, and then leaving his post to visit the liquor store. When questioned on camera, the man identifies himself as a homeless alcoholic named Hector Santiago, admits to regularly drinking on the "job," and takes a swig from the bottle. When asked whether it's safe for him to drink while directing traffic, he says: "I don't care...because I watch them." He explains that the NJ Transit worker at the lot, his "supervisor" Max Caramas, has been paying him to cover the post while Caramas, who works two jobs, naps on a nearby bus. Caramas at first denied knowing Santiago, but later admits he only wanted to help him. New Jersey Transit says that Santiago is not an employee and that he would be "removed" from the post immediately.
People often dispute whether addiction is a disease or a choice; new research says it may be both. McGill University researcher Dr. Alain Dagher says that cravings for nicotine and other drugs can be viewed in specific brain regions that are also responsible for decision making. The research, which was presented at the 2013 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, builds on previous investigations into how people who are addicted to a substance make the choice to use. Previous studies have suggested addicted individuals place greater value on immediate rewards (like the pleasure of cigarette smoking) over delayed rewards (like health benefits). Dagher's research suggests that the "value" of the drug to an individual at a given time (i.e. the intensity of the craving) can be visualized in the brain using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRIs), and that these images can be used to predict subsequent drug use. A specific brain region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) regulates cigarette craving in response to drug cues like seeing people smoke, or smelling cigarettes; and the study suggests that addiction may result from a connection between the DLFPC and other parts of the brain. This information could lead to new treatments for cravings in people who are trying to quit, such as artificially stimulating the DLFPC. "Policy debates have often centred on whether addictive behaviour is a choice or a brain disease," said Dagher, "This research allows us to view addiction as a pathology of choice. Dysfunction in brain regions that assign value to possible options may lead to choosing harmful behaviours."