December 25, 2009

A Real-Deal Sure-Fire Hangover Remedy that Works!

A Real-Deal Sure-Fire Hangover Remedy that Works!

Unless you are way too hungover, spend 3 minutes to watch the brief entertaining YouTube video below.

If you don't have the ability nor patience, then follow these instructions for a simple sure-fire hangover remedy that won't have you scrambling for exotic ingredients you most likely don't have on hand:


3-4 fresh oranges
One fresh Grade-A egg


Using the oranges, squeeze out one glass of juice. Store-bought juice is not considered an acceptable substitute.

Pour the juice into a tall glass but definitely not to the top of the glass.

Carefully break one fresh raw egg into the orange juice.

Stir vigorously with a fork; the juice should change color.

Drink at once.

How It Works

The orange juice provides both much-needed water, Vitamin C and sugars while the raw egg provides protein and also Cysteine which helps counteract Acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) - a byproduct of ethanol oxidation and responsible for most of the hangover.

December 13, 2009

I saw that crash on the Taconic last Sunday...

I saw that crash on the Taconic last Sunday...

Date: 2009-08-05, 1:46AM EDT

Driver in N.Y. wreck that killed 8 was intoxicated

Im sure other people on this board must have seen it as well. I was drvivng home from my summer house upstate. There was a 10 minute rain storm so everyone slowed down, then the rain stopped and everyone sped up again.... Suddenly about a mile from the turn to get on the sawmill, cars just stopped . Brake lights as far as I could see. Stopped in the middle of a three lane highway...There were trees in the median bewtween the north and southbound lanes, and behind the tress was a huge, black plume of smoke going up into the sky. I was on a motorcycle, so i could go between the cars and move up to see what happened. Once I came around the bend, off to the side of the southbound lane, a mini van was upside down, completly engufled in flames. I could feel the heat from the flames as I pulled by. Hundreds of people were running from both sides of the North and South lanes of the Taconic. I pulled over and got off my bike, and try to take in what was happening.

The burning mini van was popping and sparking every once in a while, I assume something inside was making small explosions as they caught fire. I pulled behind a white van on the side of the highway, a Chinese man got out and was talking to me but frankly i cant remember a word we said to each other. About 20 feet from the burning mini van, there were clusters of people kneeling around what I assumed were the crash victims. Every 10 feet or so, there was another cluster, kneeling down.
Each one had a person pumping the chest of the victims while the other people were helping any way the can. Everyone was running with they're cellphones screaming frantically.

I noticed what looked like a station wagon, across the median. The entire front was smashed to the point where you wondered where the hell the engine could have gone. it looked like the cars front began at the front seat. I noticed the cluster of people closest to me, probably 15 feet away, and I saw a pair of tiny blue shorts, and small legs sticking out from the group of people. I knew it was a child, and as the father of a 6 year old daughter, I knew it was a girl. I couldnt see her face, only her blue shorts and her legs. Nothing was moving. A man in a white shirt was pumping her chest, and screaming for help. I thought for a moment of walking over to see what i could do, but it was so chaotic, and there were so many people already. People just abandoned theyre cars on the highway and ran to help. I looked at her legs, and there wasnt a scratch on them. I looked at the man pumping her chest, with the white shirt on. Every so often he'd turn to scream something, and there was no blood on the front of his shirt.I thought about what she may have looked like from the waist up, and I'm really glad I never got to see her face.

There was one cop there when I arrived, and you could see on her face, that she was really freaking out. She must have just pulled up before I got there and was assesing the situation. I'll never forget the look of panic on her face. One man ran passed us and got a first aid kit out of his trunk. All this happened in probably 4 minutes. Now you could hear people screaming to get back in they're cars because the fire engines couldn't get through . The fire engine was stuck behind all the cars on the Northbound side. Sirens and lights wailing.. An EMS guy jumped from the fire truck and started running towords the scene, screaming into his walkie.

I noticed a man leaning against his car weeping. Total strangers were coming up to him and huggin him, and by his body language and his movements of what he was describing, I knew he was one of the people that pulled these kids out of that burning car. He was inconsolable. So were the people hugging him. I got back on my motorcycle, and turned on to the Sawmill, back to NY. I saw her legs and blue shorts over and over again. i could not get them out of my head. I pulled over a mile down the road, got of my bike and starting crying harder then I've cried in a long time. I've been a New Yorker for 23 years. It takes a lot to shock or disturb us, but holy shit , this disturbed me.

It was a horrible thing to see. It's effected me in a surprising way, still is a week later. I have a daughter, and the thought of course thats been running through my head, along with the never ending vision of those little blue shorts, and pale white legs, not moving, it could have been her. In my dreams when i see the man in the white shirt pumping her chest, i walk over and see my daughters face. Not a scratch on her, just eyes closed as if shes sleeping. I imagine thats what that little girl looked like while they were desperatly trying to get her to breathe.

I rode by the spot yesterday coming back from upstate again. Theres a big chunk of earth where the mini van rolled and scorched grass where it sat and burned. I thought I saw a cross with some flowers on it , but I wasnt sure.

As the facts come out about what really happened, and turns out this woman was drunk, and high, I'm torn between anger and incredible sadness. Anger as an adult and father, who's sole purpose in life is to protect, and teach my child right from wrong. Anger having seen a dead child laying in the middle of the median, knowing that child was probably singing or playing with her doll, having no concept she was going the wrong way on a fucking highway, trusting her mother. Completely innocent. My God, I hope 4 those girls died on impact. Never knowing what hit them. I can honestly say, having sene that wreckage, they must have.

Sadness as a husband and father. This man will now have to explain to his only living son, what happened to his mother and his sisters one day. Not to mention the aunts and uncles of the nieces she also killed.

If anyone from these shattered families do read this, you have my deepest sympathy . Its little help but try to take some solace in the fact that hundreds, and I mean hundreds of people ran to help as best they could. It was utter chaos, but these people had the instinct and bravery to jump out of theyre cars, and run to a burning car to pull everyone out. They did the best they could with the little they had. It was truly inspiring......

I will NEVER get the image of those little blue shorts, and legs out of my head......I don't have some big message to end on or a moral of any kind. I'm simply getting what I saw off my chest, though it will be with me for the rest of my life.

Thanks for listening.


December 12, 2009



Alcoholic ‘energy’ drinks could raise risks from intoxication

WASHINGTON, DC—People who drink may want to know that coffee won’t sober them up, according to new laboratory research. Instead, a cup of coffee may make it harder for people to realize they’re drunk.

What’s more, popular caffeinated “alcohol-energy” drinks don’t neutralize alcohol intoxication, suggest the findings from a mouse study reported in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

“The myth about coffee’s sobering powers is particularly important to debunk because the co-use of caffeine and alcohol could actually lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes,” said co-author Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University, in extending the research to what it means for humans.

“People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk,” he added. “Conversely, people who have consumed both alcohol and caffeine may feel awake and competent enough to handle potentially harmful situations, such as driving while intoxicated or placing themselves in dangerous social situations.”

In the laboratory, caffeine made mice more alert but did not reverse the learning problems caused by alcohol, including their ability to avoid things they should have known could hurt them, according to the study.

Scientists gave groups of young adult mice various doses, both separately and together, of caffeine and of ethanol (pure alcohol) at levels known to induce intoxication. The doses of caffeine were the equivalent of one up to six or eight cups of coffee for humans. Control mice were given saline solution.
Gould and co-author Danielle Gulick, PhD, then tested three key aspects of behavior: the ability to learn which part of a maze to avoid after exposure to a bright light or loud sound; anxiety, reflected by time spent exploring the maze’s open areas; and general locomotion.

Ethanol, as expected, increased locomotion and reduced anxiety and learning in proportion to the dose given. In other words, intoxicated animals were more relaxed and moved around more but learned significantly less well than control mice to avoid the part of the maze with the unpleasant stimuli.

By itself, caffeine increased anxiety and reduced both learning and locomotion. Compared to the control animals, mice given caffeine were significantly more inhibited, less mobile and less savvy about avoiding the unpleasant stimuli.

When the drugs were given together, ethanol blocked caffeine’s ability to make the mice more anxious. Conversely, caffeine did not reverse ethanol’s negative effect on learning. As a result, alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving an animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threats – a combination that the authors speculated could make people more likely to believe they are not drunk or not impaired enough to have problems functioning.

“The alcohol-energy drink combinations have skyrocketed in popularity,” Gould noted. He cited other evidence that these drinks produce deficits in general cognitive ability and raise the odds of alcohol-related problems such as drunken-driving citations, sexual misconduct, and needing medical assistance.

“The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations,” he concluded.

The Food and Drug Administration is looking into the safety and legality of combination alcohol-caffeine beverages. In November, it sent letters to 30 manufacturers asking for evidence that such drinks are safe and legal under FDA regulations. To date, the FDA has only approved caffeine as an additive in soft drinks at concentrations less than 200 parts per million and has not approved adding caffeine at any level to alcoholic beverages. Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food (such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages) is deemed unsafe and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation or is generally recognized as safe.

Article: “Effects of Ethanol and Caffeine on Behavior in C57BL/6 Mice in the Plus-Maze Discriminative Avoidance Task,” Danielle Gulick, PhD, and Thomas J. Gould, PhD, Temple University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 123, No. 6.
(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office)

Thomas Gould can be reached by e-mail or at (215) 204-7495.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

October 10, 2009

Alcoholism May Alter Sleep Long-Term

Study: Alcoholism May Leave Lasting Effect on Sleep Patterns, Even After Sobriety

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 1, 2009 -- Even if they quit drinking, alcoholics still have differences in their sleep when compared with other people, a new study shows.

The study, published in the Oct. 1 edition of the journal Sleep, included 42 alcoholics who had quit drinking and 42 people with no history of alcoholism. The alcoholics had been sober for anywhere from 30 days to more than two years.

All participants spent a night at a sleep lab, hooked up to monitors that showed their brain activity.

Compared with people with no history of alcoholism, the alcoholics had less slow-wave sleep and spent more of their sleep time in the early stage of sleep and in REM sleep. Those patterns were the same for male and female alcoholics.

The REM findings surprised the researchers, who included Ian Colrain, PhD, of SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

Colrain and colleagues note that increased REM sleep might be expected in people who had recently quit drinking to make up for the reduction that heavy drinking takes on REM sleep.

The fact that that difference persisted despite long-term sobriety suggests that alcoholism might have a lasting effect on sleep, Colrain's team notes.

The study doesn't prove that alcoholism caused those differences in sleep patterns.

But "self-reported sleep problems are ubiquitous in those suffering from alcohol abuse and dependence," Colrain's team writes.

September 9, 2009

Naltrexone aka "The Sinclair Method"

Click here to hear an interview with Dr. David Sinclair - the American researcher who developed a method of removing the cravings for alcohol using Naltrexone therapy. The method boasts a success rate between 78 to 85% in securing long-term control of alcohol consumption to abstinence or acceptable levels ("social").

Sinclair Method wiki:

May 12, 2009
Primary Care for Alcoholics

In treating alcohol abuse and alcoholism, “we haven’t yet reached the Prozac moment,” says Dr. Mark Willenbring, referring to the drugs that radically changed the treatment of depression. But Dr. Willenbring, an expert on treating alcohol addiction, predicts that the day is not far off when giving a pill and five minutes of advice to an alcohol abuser will be all that is needed to keep drinking under control.

Two such medications are already available, though they are not as effective as modern antidepressants have been for depression.

“We’re at the same place with alcohol abuse that the treatment of depression was at 40 years ago, when only psychiatrists treated it and most people with depression were never treated at all,” said Dr. Willenbring, the director the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Then came Prozac, followed by similar antidepressants that took the treatment of depression out of mental hospitals and psychiatric offices and put it in homes and in the offices of primary care doctors.

“Now almost all of depression is treated in primary care,” Dr. Willenbring said, “and two-thirds to three-fourths of depression is getting treated.”

But with alcohol dependence, he said, only one person in eight receives professional treatment.

“Those who get into treatment programs are the most severe alcoholics,” Dr. Willenbring said. “But the bulk of alcohol abusers have a more moderate form, with a better prognosis. Most could get well in primary care settings and not have to wait until they are at the end of their rope and forced to go into a rehabilitation program, which can be so stigmatizing.”

What is needed for controlling alcohol abuse early in the disease, he said, are drugs like Prozac that can be easily prescribed by primary care physicians to help people with moderate alcohol abuse. Several such drugs are now in the pipeline, Dr. Willenbring said.

The two already available — naltrexone and Topamax — are not yet the equivalent of Prozac for depression, but they can help many alcohol abusers learn to drink more moderately or abstain altogether. Naltrexone, now a low-cost generic, was originally developed to control drug addiction but was found to be more effective at reducing cravings for alcohol. Topamax, an antiseizure drug not yet available as a generic, has also been used to treat alcohol dependence, among other conditions.

Taken an hour before consuming alcohol, naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that register “reward” and that reinforce a craving for alcohol. Within three to four months of starting treatment, naltrexone, when compared with a placebo, can reduce relapse to heavy drinking 20 to 40 percent, Dr. Willenbring said. Some European practitioners claim even greater effectiveness. By eliminating cravings for alcohol, the drug enables an abuser to drink more moderately or abstain entirely.

While naltrexone is not the final answer to alcohol abuse, it has been shown to be at least twice as effective as alcohol treatment programs and can avoid their stigmatizing consequences, which can include difficulty getting life insurance, jobs or security clearance.

Unfortunately, most primary care physicians know little or nothing about naltrexone, Dr. Willenbring said. He suggested that drinkers who need help controlling their intake ask their doctor for a prescription. More information about the drug can be found on the Web sites of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry ( and the American Society of Addiction Medicine ( JANE E. BRODY

A brief four-minute news clip on the Sinclair Method (Naltrexone):

You can read more about the Sinclair Method in this book by Roy D. Eskapa, PhD which also has a foreword by David Sinclair, PhD:

An online forum for those using the Sinclair Method can be found here:

August 29, 2009

The Japanese Invasion: 0.00% Alcohol-free Beer

Following Kirin's unexpected success with the world's first 0.00% alcohol-free beer (see ), other Japanese brewers have announced plans for their own versions.

Kirin Free

Suntory Fine Zero

Asahi Point Zero

Sapporo Super Clear

Suntory to debut nonalcoholic beer

Kyodo News

Suntory Liquors Ltd. said Tuesday it will launch a nonalcoholic drink that tastes similar to beer called Suntory Fine Zero in late September, adding to the already keen competition to sell such beverages.

The new drink will hit the market Sept. 29 to compete with Kirin Brewery Co.'s Kirin Free, launched in April, and Asahi Breweries Ltd.'s Asahi Point Zero, which will debut Sept. 1.

The Japan Times: Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009

August 6, 2009





August 5, 2009 --

A Long Island mom guzzled vodka and smoked pot in a minivan packed with young kids before speeding the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway, sparking the head-on collision that killed eight, authorities revealed yesterday.

Diane Schuler had knocked back the equivalent of 10 shots of 80-proof booze and smoked marijuana as recently as 15 minutes before the horrific July 26 smash-up, officials said.

Cops later found a broken 1.75-liter bottle of Absolut vodka inside Schuler's van, which burst into flames after the crash, said State Police Maj. William Carey.

The crash killed Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter and three young nieces, as well as three men in the car she hit. Her 5-year-old son miraculously survived the crash.

Schuler had a blood-alcohol content of .19 percent -- more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent, authorities said. She also had 6 grams of undigested booze in her stomach, they said.

In addition, the West Babylon resident had "a high number" -- 113 nanograms per milliliter -- of THC, the active component of marijuana, in her bloodstream, said Betsy Spratt, chief toxicologist with the Westchester DA's Office.

That indicated Schuler smoked pot 15 minutes to one hour before the crash, Spratt said.

With the alcohol alone, Schuler, 36, "would have had difficulty with perception, with her judgment, with her memory," Spratt said. "Around that level of alcohol, you also start to get tunnel vision."

When combined with marijuana, "those effects are intensified," she said.

Schuler's husband, Nassau County public-safety officer Daniel Schuler, has told police that his wife occasionally smoked pot and was a social drinker, WCBS-TV reported.

Schuler's relatives were informed of the toxicology results after the funerals for the family late last week.

The relatives of her other victims were outraged when they learned about them yesterday.

"We were victims the first time, but now we feel like we're being victims all over again because she made that choice," said Roseann Guzzo, whose 49-year-old brother, Guy Bastardi, and father, Michael Bastardi, 81, were killed when their SUV was hit by Schuler's van.

"It's horrendous," Guzzo said. "It's making it worse for us now.

"How do you put five children in a car when you're a mother who's a drunk?" she asked. "It's crazy."

Outside the Floral Park, LI, house of Schuler's brother, Warren Hance, whose three daughters died in the tragedy, a neighbor said, "She's gonna burn in hell."

Carey, of the State Police, said that before the toxicology results, "We simply had no evidence that drugs or alcohol [were] at play . . . We do not have much in the way of people that morning describing Diane Schuler, other than saying she was fine."

While police do not expect to criminally charge anyone in the case -- which has been classified as a homicide by the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office -- they plan to further investigate the events that lead to the horrific cash.

"At this point, we're getting limited information from the family," Carey said. "Obviously, the family is going through a grieving process. We've conducted some interviews with family members. We have not conducted as many interviews as we would like."

The disclosure that Schuler was heavily intoxicated cleared up some of the mystery that had surrounded the smashup, which occurred about four hours after she left an upstate campground with no apparent signs of intoxication.

The most perplexing question had been why Schuler, who was on her way home, would have entered the Taconic near Briarcliff Manor going the wrong way -- southbound in the northbound lane -- and continued on for nearly two miles before hitting the Bastardis' SUV.

For days, there had been speculation that the Cablevision executive had become disoriented because of a previously unknown medical condition or that she was suicidal.

Schuler had spent the weekend with Daniel, their 2-year-old daughter, Erin, 5-year-old son, Bryan, and three nieces -- the Hance girls Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and 5-year-old Katie -- at the Hunter Lake Campgrounds in upstate Parksville.

The Schulers had been regular visitors there for the past three years, according to campground owner Ann Scott, 76.

"They're an ordinary family like you or I or apple pie," Scott said. "I've never seen them have an argument, never seen them with a drink. All they did was relax on their site with their kids.

"I swear on my grandmother's Bible, I've never seen them with a drink in their hand."

The Schulers separately left the campgrounds at about 9:30 a.m. on July 26. Daniel was driving with the family dog in his Dodge pickup, while Diane was taking the children in her Ford Windstar minivan.

Daniel could not follow Diane onto any parkway because his truck has commercial plates.

"She was fine. She was the same old Diane she was every weekend," said Scott. "The last words I said were, 'Have a safe trip home.' "

But the trip soon went horribly wrong. Schuler stopped at a McDonald's on Route 17 in Liberty and then headed onto Interstate 87, where numerous witnesses saw her driving recklessly.

She then turned east onto the highway and was seen driving across a grass divider at the Ramapo service area.

At 1 p.m., she crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge heading east. Two minutes later, Schuler pulled over and called her brother, Hance, who was at home, and said she was having trouble seeing and was disoriented. During that eight-minute call, Hance also spoke with his daughter Emma.

It was unclear if Hance knew his sister had been drinking, but he told her to stay put and he would come get her. Schuler instead drove off, and bizarrely dropped the phone off at a rest stop.

Hance then called police to alert them about his sister's call, but they were unable to locate her in time.

Schuler was supposed to get on the Saw Mill River Parkway heading south but ended up getting on the Saw Mill north.

She then made her way to the Taconic -- where she entered via an exit ramp and headed south in the northbound lanes, terrifying other drivers who swerved across three lanes to avoid her.

It was on the Taconic at 1:35 p.m. -- after going 1.7 miles the wrong way -- that the minivan smashed head-on into the SUV carrying the Bastardis and their friend and fellow Yonkers resident, 74-year-old Daniel Longo.

An upstate couple, Angela and Dean Tallarico, also were injured when their SUV was hit by the Bastardi's vehicle after the initial crash.

When a reporter yesterday told Angela Tallarico of Schuler's intoxication, she burst into tears.

"Oh, no!" she cried before calling out to a co-worker, "She was drunk!"

Daniel Schuler ducked reporters yesterday after visiting Bryan at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, where the boy was in stable condition, a source said.

Michael Bastardi Jr., another son of Michael Sr., said "I'm just kind of in disbelief" and "numb."

"We want to figure out what happened." Scott, the campground owner, said, "This is the most shocking news that I've heard in my lifetime.

"If this is true, she'll be treated like a monster.

"Dear God, what's her brother thinking at this point? What's her husband thinking? You've lost [four] children, and there's no reason for it. Everyone's been turned upside down by this.

"When I learned it this morning, I dropped the phone. It's absolutely terrible."

Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley, Austin Fenner, Erin Calabrese, Andy Geller and Perry Chiaramonte

August 1, 2009

"THE HANGOVER" - The Movie

The Hangover is a 2009 comedy film directed by Todd Phillips, who also directed the films Road Trip, Old School, and Starsky & Hutch. The main plot follows four friends who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, only to wake up the next morning not remembering a thing and missing the groom, whose wedding is scheduled to occur the next day.

The plot was reportedly inspired by a real-life event that happened to Tripp Vinson, a producer friend of The Hangover executive producer Chris Bender. Vinson had gone missing from his own Las Vegas bachelor party, blacking out and waking up "in a strip club being threatened with a very, very large bill [he] was supposed to pay".

July 28, 2009

COULD YOU BE AN ADDICT? (LA TIMES),0,6020182,full.column

Could you be an addict?

k Boster / Los Angeles Times We know Michael Jackson was dependent on sedatives and painkillers, but our reliance also needs examining.

It's not just the Michael Jacksons and Anna Nicole Smiths who pop pills. Society's reliance on painkillers and sleeping aids has us walking a fine line.

Sandy Banks
July 11, 2009

Subpoenas have gone out, the DEA has been brought in, and every doctor who has ever come within a prescription pad of Michael Jackson can probably expect a phone call soon.

But even absent the results of the inquiries and toxicological reports, it seems obvious that prescription drugs played a role in the pop star's sudden death.

In fact, what we already know about Jackson's reliance on sedatives and painkillers is enough to prompt the kind of public discussion we have sidestepped too many times before -- when Anna Nicole Smith died from "combined drug intoxication" two years ago after mixing sleeping pills and sedatives; or when Heath Ledger was found dead last year with six different legal medications for pain, anxiety and insomnia in his blood.

Instead of simply dismissing them as celebrity drug addicts or pitiable tragedies, it's time we take a look at our own lives -- and the contents of our medicine cabinets.

It's no secret that the use of pharmaceutical drugs is on the rise. Prescriptions for painkillers climbed from 40 million to 180 million in the last 15 years. More than 56 million prescriptions were written for sleeping medications in 2008, up 54% since 2004. And 7 million Americans admit to "non-medical" use of drugs prescribed for pain or mental disorders.

Even the nation's new drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has called Jackson's death "a wake-up call." More Americans die from overdoses of legal drugs each year than from gunshot wounds, he told CNN on Thursday.

It's a complicated problem. There is no bright line separating use from misuse. And a constellation of circumstances is nudging us toward chemical solutions to the struggles of everyday living.

An ever-expanding list of mental illnesses means almost anyone can be diagnosed with a treatable malady. Pharmaceutical ads -- with butterflies flitting through bedroom windows and happy, prosperous families -- promise pills that can make you happier or more social; help you stop hurting and get to sleep. And doctors have been pressed by patients, plied by drug reps and squeezed by insurance companies until a 10-minute visit gets you a refillable prescription.

Yet pharmaceutical advances have allowed schizophrenics to hold down jobs, insomniacs to get a good night's sleep, and people with depression to go about their lives.

Substance abuse recovery programs have long relied on a simple nostrum: You're an addict if "your life has become unmanageable due to drugs or alcohol."

But what if your life is only manageable because you're taking drugs? How do you recognize addiction then?

I took my questions to Vickie Mays, a nurse and professor of psychology at UCLA.

"We think about addiction as 'Your life is out of control,' " Mays said. "But it's the medication that gives you a sense of control when you've got so many balls in the air . . . with so many demands from the job, the kids."

Sounds a lot like the lives that us non-rock stars live.

"It's the demands on us that are out of control," Mays said. "You yearn for just a little bit of peacefulness, a way to try to shut things off. . . . It's the normal, average, very busy, high-achieving person" who is most vulnerable to reliance on prescription drugs.

We're not trying to get high, just trying to get some sleep, blunt the pain from that old sports injury, keep from screaming at the kids.

But pill-popping can move almost imperceptibly, she said, from habit to ritual to need.

"When there's no other way in your mind to relieve the pain, and you start taking it more frequently and in higher doses. . . . When it's become too automatic. You can't sleep and you don't wait; you just reach over for the bottle on your bedside table.

"It's a slippery slope," she said. But that's when you ought to ask, "Am I becoming an addict?"

Her answer gave me pause this week, when I tossed and turned through a sleepless night.

I rolled over and reached for the bottle of pills my doctor prescribed last year, when chest pains that sent me to UCLA's emergency room turned out to be anxiety, not a heart attack.

Is this, I wondered, how Michael Jackson's problems with drugs began?

A pain pill when your hair catches fire and you end up mainlining Demerol? A tranquilizer when you're stressed out by the paparazzi and soon you're throwing back 10 Xanax pills at a time?

OK . . . so those were middle-of-the-night thoughts. But I can't blame Jackson for wanting a break from the cacophony in his head; relief for a 50-year-old body, called on to perform for hours every day onstage.

His manner of death was a tragedy with implications for all of us.

Have I started down the slippery slope if I have refilled that year-old prescription twice? If I can tell you exactly how many of those pills I have left?

Or was I wise not to take the sedative that night, even though I stumbled through work the next day? Instead I watched the sun come up, with "Man in the Mirror" playing in my head.

July 27, 2009

The Alcoholic Child's Story

The alcoholic child's story

The Guardian, Saturday 25 July 2009

"I got my first taste of alcohol when I was a tot – my mum used to give me whisky in warm milk to help me sleep. She was a big drinker, a binge drinker. At the age of 11 I had my first proper drink. I found a bottle of advocat in the bathroom cupboard, and I had some. I was incredibly ill, but I guess I must have liked the sensation because after that, I went on looking for more.

"I had a difficult childhood. My mum was on her own, but then when I was nine she remarried. It was an abusive relationship and I was abused, too. I desperately wanted to be normal and to cope, despite everything that was happening to me. Alcohol helped. I'd steal money from my mum's purse, and borrow from friends, to buy booze.

"At 15, I remember thinking for the first time that I really needed a drink. I was up against it and alcohol calmed me. I felt I couldn't get through the day without it. I remember searching for 10ps down the sofa so I could buy sherry. And I turned to spirits, because I got my hit faster.

"After school I got a job in a department store, but I was coming in with a hangover then drinking at work, so I got sacked. I've had jobs since, but I've often only barely managed to function.

"Eventually I got so bad that I'd be sleeping in pubs, not cleaning my teeth, plastering make-up on over make-up I'd put on yesterday … I was going downhill fast. I'd tried Alcoholics Anonymous before, and at 31 I tried it again. It was a struggle but it's now eight years since I had a drink. The legacy of my drinking years is that I've got a terrible memory and nerve damage in one hand, but it could be so much worse.

"I've gone back to university now, and it's strange being with all these young people who drink themselves silly. Sometimes I wonder if I should say something, but I never do. People have to make their own mistakes. The trouble is when you drink you're only thinking of now, never the long term."

"Sarah" is a pseudonym

What Drives a Child to Drink?

What drives a child to drink?

By the time Madeline Hanshaw's son Gary Reinbach was 13 he was drinking heavily. This week, aged just 22, he died of liver failure. Here, she defends herself – and her son's memory – against those who have been quick to pass judgment

Joanna Moorhead The Guardian, Saturday 25 July 2009

Madeleine Hanshaw, with sons Luke and Tyler, said she hopes Gary's story will be a lesson to others. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi

Madeline Hanshaw is standing in her kitchen. The washing is whirling around the machine, there are coffee cups in the sink, and outside kids are playing noisily in the sunshine. It could be an ordinary day: but Hanshaw is wondering how life will ever be ordinary again. "My baby is dead," she says. "That's going to be in my heart every day for the rest of my life."

Hanshaw, 44, is crying now. A week ago, she is saying, she still hoped that Gary – "Gal", she calls him – would pull through. "I believed in the doctors," she says. "I thought they'd find a liver for him somehow. I thought he'd make it."

Gary Reinbach was denied a transplant because, under guidelines drawn up by the Liver Advisory Group, patients who are likely to return to a damaging pattern of alcohol consumption aren't deemed suitable candidates.

So Gal didn't make it: last Sunday, a day after Hanshaw had gone public with her plea to doctors to make a liver available to him, her 22-year-old alcoholic son died at London's University College hospital (UCH). His last hours, she says, were truly terrible. "He didn't want to die. He kept saying that. I really think that if they'd given him a second chance, he'd have changed his ways.

Gary Reinbach had shown promise as a young boy. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi

"He was talking about going back to college, training, making a new life for himself." She pauses. "That isn't going to happen now."

Talking to Hanshaw you get the feeling that – though Gary was desperately ill in hospital for 10 weeks before he died – neither she, nor he, believed it would come to this. She still seems unable to believe that drink could have made his liver pack up while he was so young. She is adamant she didn't realise he was drinking at 13 – "don't you think I'd have done something about it if I'd known?" – and says that, when she did realise he was drinking heavily from the age of about 16, she did all she could to persuade him to stop. "But he was a young lad, and what young lad listens to his mum? I thought it was just a phase. I thought he'd come to his senses, stop drinking and move on."

What neither she nor Gary was prepared for was the suddenness, and severity, of liver failure. "One moment he was just a heavy drinker, the next he was losing weight and being sick every morning. Then one day I noticed a yellow tint in his eyes, and I told him to get to the doctor." He did – and a few days later he was in hospital, first at Queen's hospital near his home in Dagenham, Essex, then at UCH. "By then he knew it was bad, but he still thought he could get through. He was asking me to call Alcoholics Anonymous so he could start to turn his life around," says Hanshaw.

As she shows me the death certificate – Gary died, it says, of "multi-organ failure" caused by "alcoholic hepatitis" – one of Hanshaw's two younger sons, Luke, 18, arrives. Luke, too, says he never for a second thought Gary would die. "Everyone round here is shocked," he says. "What I keep asking myself is, how come alcohol isn't illegal, when it killed my brother?

"My mates used to drink, but they're not drinking now. They've had enough – no one else wants to die like Gary died."

What Luke and his mates have discovered the hard way is what liver specialists like Dr Nick Sheron, of Southampton General hospital, have been saying for some time: that young people who abuse alcohol heavily will suffer the same consequences that older people who've been abusing it for many years do; in other words, their livers will fail.

"I became a liver specialist 15 years ago, and I remember how shocked I was when I first saw a man of 23 with liver failure. But this year already I've seen five people with it in their early 20s. Gary isn't going to be the last death. We're going to see a lot more young people in this state over the next few years.

"The mistake people are making is to think this problem can't get much worse. It can. We're already seeing heavier drinking in very young people and that can lead, as it did in the case of Gary Reinbach, to early liver failure."

But Sheron says even he is shocked by figures out this week which show that, among 11-15-year-olds who drink (ie, who have had alcohol in the past week), consumption has gone up from 5.3 units a week in 1990 to 12.7 in 2007 and 14.6 last year – an almost threefold increase in consumption in under two decades.

"We're aware of a trend towards greater consumption in youngsters who drink," he says. "It escalates – what you see is someone who starts having alcohol in their early teens, and then they start to drink more and more on more and more days of the week. It starts with the weekend binge, and then it spreads to Thursday nights and then Wednesday nights. And then they're drinking heavily on a daily basis – a recipe for liver disease."

From talking to Hanshaw, that seems very much to have been how Gary's drinking progressed. But the big question is, why? What makes a child who's doing reasonably well (Hanshaw says her boy more than held his own at primary school, though his secondary school career was inevitably blighted by his alcohol use) descend into an alcoholic daze?

Inevitably, there isn't one single reason: as Sheron points out, the reasons for alcohol misuse are always multifactorial. But availability is crucial: what a lot of people don't realise, says Sheron, is how much easier it is for kids today to not only get their hands on alcohol, but to get their hands on stronger alcohol. "Compared with 1980, beer is 170% more affordable," he says. "But wine is 280% more affordable … and spirits are 350% more affordable. It's not just that it's got cheaper: the strongest stuff has got more affordable than the weaker stuff."

So how did Gary, who reportedly got through three bottles of vodka a day at the height of his addiction, get his alcohol? "What happens is that an older kid buys them their first booze or they get it from girls who've got adult men to buy it for them," says Hanshaw. "Then they get a taste for it, and they're away – and they find ways to get it, of course they do."

But availability is only part of the jigsaw: drinking yourself into a daily stupor requires a fairly heavy dissatisfaction with life as well. Hanshaw says Gary was bored – "there's nothing for them to do round here, I think he drank to help him get through the boredom". But she feels, too, that he was deeply affected by her marriage break-up when he was 11, and that alcohol provided some solace. "I think the fact that his dad and I broke up had a lot to do with it," she says. "But then again, plenty of kids have parents that break up." She also points to the fact that Gary was a hot shot at tae kwon do, and might even have become one of the youngest black belts in the country.

"But when we split up we moved away from where the classes were held, and it was too difficult for him to get to them. I think that was a big disappointment, yes: when we had arguments, he'd always throw that one back at me."

It's pretty heartbreaking, this idea of an 11-year-old lad suddenly wrenched from the life he knew and deposited in this ground-floor flat on a rundown estate, his dream stolen from him and the world suddenly seeming to offer only disappointment.

Hanshaw says she feels both she and her dead son have been unjustly vilified in the press over the last few days. For the first time during our chat, there is an edge of anger in her voice. "I know people are blaming me and I know people are blaming him, but what I say is – you don't know me, and you didn't know my son. I did my best for him, just like any other mother. Yes, his dad and I split up, but we're still friends, he's been down here this week. It wasn't the worst break-up."

One of the things that has hurt her most has been that some people have said that it was right that her son wasn't deemed eligible for the liver transplant that might have saved his life. "I've heard people have said that reading about Gal makes them feel like ripping up their donor cards. Well, rip them up! We wouldn't want a liver from anyone like them anyway." She pauses.

"At the end of the day, I'm just a mum who was trying to keep her child alive. You'd do anything … I'd do anything …"

She had heard that a transplant would have given Gary a 75% chance of recovery. She did all she could for him in what turned out to be his final weeks. "I was at the hospital every day."

Now, she says, she'd just like other mothers, and other young people like Gary, to know the reality of heavy drinking. "If they could have seen my Gary lying there, so ill and so swollen … if they could have heard how much he wanted to live. If I'd known then what I know now I'd have done something, anything, to stop him drinking but I didn't know it could turn out this bad. And I didn't know how to stop it."

How to stop young alcoholism is the $64,000 question: and according to Sheron the answer, like the problem, is multifactorial. "There isn't one single reason for it, and there isn't one single solution to it," he says.

One thing he will be pinned down on is cheap alcohol marketed directly at young people. "We've got to look at the fact that there are almost no controls on this," he says. "It's being pushed through the internet, through mobile phones, through all channels."

But for Gary Reinbach, there was to be no second chance. "I'm not saying he was the perfect son," says his mother. "But I'll tell you this: he didn't deserve to die like that, at 22. No one does. And I hope to goodness others learn from it, because I don't want any other mother to go through what I'm going through."

The Paramedic's Story

The paramedic's story

The Guardian, Saturday 25 July 2009

Steve Evans has been a paramedic for 38 years with the North West Ambulance Service.

"I remember the moment I realised what a big problem underage drinking had become. It was a Friday night in Widnes and we were called out to two 11-year-old boys and a 13-year-old girl who were unconscious due to alcohol.

"If they'd all been at the same party it wouldn't have been so bad, but what frightened me was that they were all from different callouts. One had nicked the alcohol, another had got an older brother to buy it, the third had bought it from a white-van man who'd gone to France, stacked up his car with vodka, and didn't care who he sold it to.

"That was bad enough … and then, a few weeks later, I was called out to a 12-year-old lad who was unconscious in a field all on his own. Fortunately, a woman out walking her dog saw him and called for an ambulance, or he'd probably have choked on his own vomit or died of hypothermia.

"It made me realise that the problem is out of control and that kids aren't equipped for helping one another when the worst happens. So I decided to set up a campaign called Don't Walk Away. We publish posters and we put them up in places where kids will see them, and what we're telling them is not to abandon a friend who collapses because of drinking too much. What we say is: your intervention could save your mate's life.

"Alcohol abuse in the very young is a timebomb, and it's starting to go off. Alder Hey children's hospital in Liverpool runs an alcohol referral unit, and has children of 10 among its patients!

"I've got a 13-year-old son. How will I stop him drinking? Well, I don't drink myself and that's important in terms of role-modelling.

"But beyond that, I just want to demystify alcohol. I want him to realise that it can wreck your life, and I definitely don't want it to wreck his."

Advice from Paramedic Steve Evans of the NORTHWEST AMBULANCE SERVICE (NHS) (UK)

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes a drinking session gets out of hand. Young people can become intoxicated quite quickly, even to the point of slipping into unconsciousness. Their friends may feel frightened about the situation, but there are some basic steps you should take.

Here is some first aid advice for young people. Steve says:-

1. Don't panic, the Ambulance Service is there to help you in this situation.

2. Clear the casualty's airway of vomit by finger sweeping if necessary.

3. Make sure the casualty is breathing by looking, listening and feeling for movement of the chest or abdomen, if they are not breathing then you need to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

4. If the casualty is breathing then you need to clear the area of broken glass so that you do not roll them on to it.

5. Having done this you need to roll the casualty into the recovery position, that is on to their side so that they can still breathe. If you roll them right over then they will not be able to breathe properly, as their own body weight will stop them from breathing.

6. This is the time to send or phone for the Ambulance by dialling 999, giving the exact location of the casualty. It will help the Ambulance crew if you send somebody to meet them and guide them to the casualty.

7. You should try and keep the casualty warm as a side effect of too much alcohol is hypothermia.

8. Keep checking that the casualty has a clear airway and is still breathing properly until the Ambulance arrives.

By following these simple steps you may save the life of a friend. Do not worry about getting into trouble by getting involved, because we are more interested in saving lives than telling people off.

July 26, 2009

Kirin Beer's Surprise Hit Product: Alcohol-free Beer...


Aside from uncomfortable psychological triggers, another reason why most former drinkers generally don't like to discuss "alcohol-free" beer is that it's not really free of alcohol. Surprised? In the US, "non-alcoholic" is defined as anything with less than 0.5% ABV and in the UK, "no alcohol/alcohol free" is defined as not more than 0.05% ABV. That's definitely NOT "non-alcoholic" in most people's books.

We now have a case with 0.00% alcohol-free beer having less alcohol than a glass of orange juice...which often has small negligible amounts of naturally-occurring alcohol.

Many inside Japanese brewing company, Kirin, were actually very skeptical that such a product would have any future in a country like Japan, where drinking alcoholic beverages seems very ingrained into the culture. So, they were taken aback when sales soared and they actually sold out of product.

This is probably not a good product recommendation for any recovering alcoholic who is not yet 100% comfortable in their sobriety especially if the taste of beer might provide a psychological trigger for relapse.

Those who think they might have a drinking problem and want to take a stab at controlled drinking and/or moderation, might find this useful however.

Alcohol-free brew surprise hit in beer-loving Japan
Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:01pm EDT
By Taiga Uranaka

TOKYO (Reuters Life!)
- Japanese thirsting for a beer, but not the buzz, are quaffing an alcohol-free brew that is a first in a country with a strong drinking tradition.

There are many beers on the market from all over the world that are labeled as non-alcoholic, but brewer Kirin Holdings, which makes "Kirin Free," claims its brew is the only one with 0.00 percent alcohol.

In Japan, alcoholic drinks are defined as those that are 1 percent or more proof.
"Those drinks, albeit in very small amounts, contain alcohol," said Kirin spokesman Kuniaki Tamai, referring to the drink's competitors. "Restaurants and shops had not been able to loudly tout them as non-alcoholic drinks either."

Non-alcoholic beer is a niche product in Japan, home to several brewers such as Asahi and Sapporo whose drinks are as popular at home as abroad.
Japanese businessmen and executives regularly go out for drinks after work, and beer has long been one of the country's most popular alcoholic drinks.
But Kirin, one of Japan's biggest brewers, said demand for its drink, which it advertises as a soda with a beer-like taste, has been overwhelming.

Earlier this week, it ran adverts in newspaper apologizing for the shortage of "Kirin Free" due to stouter-than-expected demand.

Kirin said demand was especially strong among drivers and pregnant women who did not want to take in alcohol. A few years ago, the government introduced stiffer penalties for drunk driving.

"We are hearing from pregnant customers who say they like it because it has no alcohol content," said Kirin's Tamai.

A 350ml can of Kirin Free costs around 150 yen ($1.5), while regular beer is priced at about 220 yen ($2.2).

The popularity of the new product is a rare bright spot for Japan's beer industry, which faces sober reality at its main market. The country's beer market shrank by 15 percent in volume in the past decade amid aging demography and diversifying taste. ($1=98.30 Yen)

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Craig Ferguson Speaks from the Heart

The Late Late Show host, Craig Ferguson speaks on his past problems as an alcoholic...
(the total video is 12 minutes... give him about 4 minutes until the serious part of his monologue kicks in - it'll be worth it. Guaranteed.)

To get a free (legal) online copy of the AA "Big Book", go to this post.

Alcoholics Anonymous BIG BOOK (The Anonymous Press PDF Edition)

Before reading the post below, first, take a look at the excellent Youtube monologue by The Late Late Show host, Craig Ferguson:

"A recovering alcoholic, Ferguson has been sober since February 18, 1992. He said he had considered committing suicide on Christmas Day 1991, but when offered a drink by a friend, Tommy the Irishman, for celebrating the holiday, he forgot to jump off Tower Bridge in London as he had planned."

I promise that it won't be a waste of your time....
(The video is about 12 minutes ... give it about 4 minutes until he starts getting into the serious part of the monologue)

Alcoholics Anonymous BIG BOOK
(The Anonymous Press PDF Edition)

For many people, one of the first organizations they turn to advice when they are deciding whether to quit drinking is Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). The "Big Book" as it is known contains the stories of recovery gathered from all types of alcoholics.

f you think you have a drinking problem and would like to learn more about AA, this is the next best solution to attending a meeting: read the book...

Alcoholics Anonymous BIG BOOK (The Anonymous Press PDF Edition): The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism -