Monthly Archive for March, 2009

Here & Now

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I’ve been interviewed on some great radio programs in the last few months to talk about my book, but rarely have I enjoyed one more than Robin Young’s Here & Now on NPR. The segment is only fifteen minutes, but Robin asked great questions and fostered a fascinating dialogue. Joining us on the show was Jody Pegram, one of the eight addicts I write about in the book. I hope you’ll have a listen.

Recession Drives Bankers to Drink (and Rehab)

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Reuters reports today that increasing numbers of bankers and business executives—stressed and traumatized by the financial collapse—are seeking treatment for addiction.  

“We absolutely do see more people coming in naming either a job loss or huge financial reversals or big investments with Bernie Madoff,” said Sigurd Ackerman, medical director at Silver Hill Hospital rehabilitation facility in New Canaan, Connecticut. “They’re being admitted with depression or increases in substance abuse, or both.”

Robert Curry, founder of Turning Point for Leaders, a coaching and consulting firm in New Canaan that creates treatment programs for senior executives, told Reuters that the financial crisis was clearly a factor in more drink and drug use. ”We’ve got more than fifty homes in foreclosure in this town and that’s unheard of,” Curry said. “Domestic violence incidents have spiked, and that is very closely tied to substance abuse.”

(And in a related story, it’s not only alcohol and drug use that’s on the rise during this crisis. Americans are also eating more sugar, which should only further cement our position as the world’s most overweight people.)

Needling Their Way Toward Sobriety

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There’s an interesting piece in the Baltimore Sun today about how acupuncture is helping some inmates in the Baltimore City Detention Center get and stay sober. ”I’ve done buprenorphine and methadone, but neither one of them could compare to those needles,” said Derrick Brooks, 42, who’s battled heroin his entire adult life. “Those needles put you in touch with stuff that’s within you that no pill or nothing else could do.”

District Judge Jamey H. Hueston thinks every addict should try it. “I am a huge fan of acupuncture,” said Hueston, who presides over the city’s drug court. “I have sent people in there kicking and screaming, resentful and scowling at me. And later they say, ‘Judge, thank you.’”

In a Yale University study published in the August 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, cocaine addicts who received auricular acupuncture—needles inserted into specific parts of the outer ear—were significantly more likely to have cocaine-negative urine screens over the course of the study compared to those in control groups. Still, like just about every other tool to combat addiction, acupuncture doesn’t appear to work for everyone.

(Since I don’t get to write a post about acupuncture every day, I’ll take this time to plug the work of my stepmother, a terrific acupuncturist in Scottsdale, Arizona.) =)

The Boston Globe: “America Anonymous Makes for Addictive Reading.”

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The Boston Globe runs its review of my book, America Anonymous, today. Reviewer Johnny Diaz says the stories of the addicts I follow serve as the “illuminating narrative,” and, unlike some other reviewers, he points out that the book is more than just about eight addicts–it’s also packed with “historical and sociological context” about the history of addiction, the science of addiction, and our cultures of addiction and recovery. 

Diaz writes that he’s particularly drawn to the stories of Janice, the crack-addicted grandmother, and Todd, the bisexual bodybuilder. (Janice’s chapters “crackle with street dialogue,” Diaz says.) He ends the review with this: “Where are the millions of addicts in this country who are sober and have turned around their lives? They need to be on the front-lines of this war,” Denizet Lewis writes, daring other recovering addicts to share their stories on a larger scale. And in writing this book, he has done just that.

Baseball Player Once Traded for 10 Bats Dies in Drug Overdose

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John Odom, the minor-league pitcher who became a national punchline when he was traded for ten baseball bats last May, died recently at the age of 26 from an accidental overdose of heroin, methamphetamine, the stimulant benzylpiperazine, and alcohol. As is often the case with “accidental overdoses,” it may not have been all that accidental. A drug addict who had gotten sober for a time, the trade, which he had tried to laugh off, seems to have sent him spiraling back into active addiction.

“I really believe, knowing his background, that (the trade) drove him back to the bottle, that it put him on the road to drugs again,” said Dan Shwam, who managed Odom last year on the Laredo Broncos of the United League. “There were some demons chasing him, they’d been after him for a long time.”

Three months after the trade, Odom quit baseball. Three months later, he died alone in Georgia. According to an Associated Press story, the medical examiner’s office figured out Odom’s fame when they saw a tattoo on his right elbow over suture marks that read “Poena Par Sapientia” — a rough Latin translation of “Pain equals wisdom” — and did a Google search.