Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rolling Stone Keith Richards Gives Up Alcohol

Telegraph UK
Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist and wild man of rock-and-roll, has given up alcohol, it has been reported.

The 66-year-old finally quit after getting strict orders from his doctor and watching fellow Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's life unravel through alcoholism, it has been reported. Richards has apparently not touched a drop in four months.

Doctors have been telling Richards to stop drinking for years. He once famously claimed that he would never stop because he had outlived several doctors who advised him to give up.

But four years ago he suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling out of a palm tree during an alcohol-fuelled trip to Fiji with Wood. And he has been told that his hedonistic lifestyle is finally taking its toll.

A source close to the guitarist told The Sun: "He has always quite enjoyed the fact that he seemed to be able to carry on drinking as much as he liked with no real negative impact on his health.

"But he has watched Ronnie fall well and truly off the wagon last year and he doesn't like what he sees. Plus he has started to feel for the first time like it might do him some good to give up the booze for a while."

It was not known as of press time if Richards had enrolled in a treatment program such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

China's Drug Rehab Program: A Punishing Ordeal

NY Times

BEIJING — Fu Lixin, emotionally exhausted from caring for her sick mother, needed a little pick-me-up. A friend offered her a “special cigarette” — one laced with methamphetamine — and Ms. Fu happily inhaled.

The next day, three policemen showed up at her door.

“They asked me to urinate in a cup,” she said. “My friend had been arrested and turned me in. It was a drug test. I failed on the spot.”

Although she said it was her first time smoking meth, Ms. Fu, 41, was promptly sent to one of China’s compulsory drug rehabilitation centers. The minimum stay is two years, and life is an unremitting gantlet of physical abuse and forced labor without any drug treatment, according to former inmates and substance abuse professionals.

“It was a hell I’m still trying to recover from,” she said.

According to the United Nations, as many as a half million Chinese citizens are held at these centers at any given time. Detentions are meted out by the police without trials, judges or appeals. Created in 2008 as part of a reform effort to grapple with the country’s growing narcotics problem, the centers, lawyers and drug experts say, have become de facto penal colonies where inmates are sent to factories and farms, fed substandard food and denied basic medical care.

“They call them detoxification centers, but everyone knows that detox takes a few days, not two years,” said Joseph Amon, an epidemiologist with Human Rights Watch in New York. “The basic concept is inhumane and flawed.”

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued a report on the drug rehabilitation system that replaced the Communist Party’s previous approach of sending addicts to labor camps, where they would toil alongside thieves, prostitutes and political dissidents.

The report, titled “Where Darkness Knows No Limits,” calls on the government to immediately shut down the detention centers.

Under the Anti-Drug Law of 2008, drug offenders were to be sent to professionally staffed detox facilities and then released to community-based rehabilitation centers for up to four years of therapeutic follow-up.

But addiction treatment experts say the legislation, part of a stated “people centered” approach to dealing with addiction, has simply given the old system a new name. What is worse, they say, is that it expands the six-month compulsory detentions of old into two-year periods that the authorities can extend by five years.

The “community-based rehabilitation” centers, treatment experts add, have yet to be established.

Wang Xiaoguang, the vice director of Daytop, an American-affiliated drug-treatment residence in Yunnan Province, said the government detox centers were little more than business ventures run by the police. Detainees, he said, spend their days working at chicken farms or shoe factories that have contracts with the local police; drug treatment, counseling and vocational training are almost nonexistent.

“I don’t think this is the ideal situation for people trying to recover from addiction,” Mr. Wang said in a phone interview.

In its report, Human Rights Watch, which largely focused on Yunnan, says the abuses at some of the province’s 114 detention centers are even more troubling. Those with serious illnesses, including tuberculosis and AIDS, are often denied medical treatment. Many inmates reported beatings, some of them fatal.

The Office of National Narcotics Control Commission, which administers China’s drug rehab policy, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Han Wei, 38, a recovering heroin addict who was released from a Beijing detention center in October, said the guards would use electric prods on the recalcitrant. “At least they’d give us helmets so we wouldn’t injure our heads during convulsions,” he said.

Meals consisted of steamed buns and, occasionally, cabbage-based swill. Showers were allowed once a month. And the remedy for heroin withdrawal symptoms was a pail of cold water in the face. “They didn’t give me a single pill or a bit of counseling,” Mr. Han said.

Despite the deprivations, Mr. Han, a former nightclub owner, said his two-year sentence achieved the desired goal: it persuaded him to kick a habit he began in 1998. “I’m never going back,” he said.

Zhang Wenjun, who runs Guiding Star, an organization that helps recovering addicts, said such determination was most often fleeting. At least 98 percent of those who leave the drug detention system relapse within a few years, he said.

Mr. Zhang knows something about falling off the wagon. His own heroin addiction has landed him in detox centers and labor camps six times since the mid-1990s.

“What the government doesn’t realize is that this is a disease that needs to be treated, not punished,” said Mr. Zhang, 42, a tattooed man who speaks in a growl.

In some ways, he said, the stigma of addiction is as crippling as the lure of the next fix. Those arrested for drug offenses are branded addicts on their national identification cards, which makes applying for jobs and welfare benefits acts of futility. And because the local police are automatically notified when former offenders check into hotels, traveling often involves impromptu urine tests and the possibility of humiliation in front of colleagues.

“In China, to be a drug addict is to be an enemy of the government,” Mr. Zhang said.

Still, he and other substance abuse treatment workers are quick to acknowledge the progress that China has made in recent years. There are now eight methadone clinics in Beijing, serving 2,000 people, and more than 1,000 needle-exchange programs have opened across the country since 2004.

Yu Jingtao, whose organization, Beijing Harm Reduction Group, distributes 30,000 clean needles a month, said the government was slowly moving toward the drug treatment model common in much of the developed world. “We’re just caught in a transition period,” said Mr. Yu, himself a recovering addict. “Transition periods are never very pretty.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stephanie Pratt Sentenced to Three Years Probation

People Magazine

Stephanie Pratt reached a plea deal with Los Angeles prosecutors in her DUI case Thursday.

The Hills star, 23, was sentenced to three years informal probation, completion of a 12-week alcohol education program, as well as three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week for eight weeks, and will pay a fine.

DUI charges were dropped in exchange for a no contest plea to one count of misdemeanor "exhibition of speed."

On the issue of whether she attended rehab, "Ms. Pratt voluntarily sought help from a doctor regarding substance issues but the doctor recommended that she didn't need rehab," Pratt's lawyer Jon Bryant Artz tells PEOPLE.

Following her Oct. 18 arrest, in which she was pulled over after attending Holly Montag's birthday party, Pratt said the incident "was the worst thing to happen to me and, at the same time, it was the biggest blessing" as a life lesson.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eminem Turns To Elton John For Substance Abuse Help

Detroit Examiner

Legendary singer/pianist Elton John is an unlikely confidant for oft troubled Detroit rapper Eminem, but Elton John says he's been helping Eminem kick drugs.

"I've been helping Eminem over the last 18 months and he's doing brilliantly," John told BBC Radio, without divulging details. The interview was taped over the holidays and broadcast today.

While John didn't discuss details, and host Danny Baker, did not pry, Eminem's drug problems are common knowledge.

"It's no secret I had a drug problem," Eminem told Vibe magazine, after he entered rehab in 2005 for addiction to sleeping pills before taking a three-year sabbatical.

    If I was to give you a number of Vicodin I would actually take in a day? Anywhere between 10 to 20. Valium, Ambien ... the numbers got so high I don't even know what I was taking.

When the rapper decided it was time to get help, he called Elton for support.

    He had a substance-abuse problem in the past. So when I first wanted to get sober, I called him, because he's somebody in the business who can relate to the lifestyle and how hectic things can be. He understands, like, the pressure and any other reasons that you wanna come up with for doing drugs.

Sir Elton John is no stranger to drug and alcohol abuse after his own battle with drugs and booze earlier in his legendary career. "To be honest with you, I don't know how I survived," John confessed. He acknowledges the problem is as rampant as it ever was.

    When you give it up, you tend to think everybody else has given it up, but of course it is just as prevalent as it ever was. And nowadays pills, such as downers, are even more damaging.

John has counseled other celebrity friends concerning substance abuse treatment over the years, including the late Michael Jackson, but says he doesn't force his advice on anyone. "I'm there if people want my help,"

"If people ask for help, you tell them where to go, but there's no point advising people if they don't want to do it."

Not everybody is interested in help or counsel. John has tried to help singer George Michael in the past only to be rebuffed. Elton holds no ill will though saying, "People used to tell me 'Oh, for Godsake, clean your act up." And I didn't want to know. I didn't want anyone's help. I used to get annoyed."

You can watch the entire interview here. (The Eminem conversation is at approximately 18-19 minutes in).

At the 2001 Grammy Awards, John and Eminem performed a memorable duet of the hip-hop star's hit song, "Stan." At the time, Eminem was under fire from gay rights groups because of his lyrics, but he later said he didn't know John was gay when he asked him to sing with him.