This Week in Addiction & Recovery: July 7, 2017

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Can Ecstasy Cure Alcoholism?

British scientists have been given the green light for a groundbreaking clinical trial to fight alcoholism—one that would use MDMA, the hallucinogen that’s popular among the warehouse-rave scene. Otherwise known as Ecstasy, MDMA will be used in a small trial of alcoholics this summer. A Huffington Post story on the study claims that “20 patients—all of whom are heavy drinkers whose previous treatments for alcoholism have failed—will undergo psychotherapy sessions while under the influence of 99.99 percent pure MDMA.” The results of a previous study were promising, hinting that MDMA may be a powerfully useful tool in combating anxiety and trauma. In fact, more than 80% of the 2010 study’s patients no longer reported suffering from PTSD. Those are encouraging figures, many experts argue, to try the same approach with alcoholics. “We know that MDMA works really well in helping people who have suffered trauma and it helps to build empathy,” one clinical psychologist said. “Many of my patients who are alcoholics have suffered some sort of trauma in their past and this plays a role in their addiction.” While treating alcoholism with psychedelics might sound counterintuitive, perhaps it will take losing control in a controlled environment to defeat alcoholism.

North Dakota Tribes Ask Officials For Addiction Help

The Washington Post reported that North Dakota tribes are proving the opioid epidemic truly knows no bounds. Tribe representatives are reaching out to their state’s officials to help curb the problem that is currently routing their reservations. According to the story, one tribe claims that they’re seeing opioid use as well as rampant methamphetamine use. Reps are not only seeking answers on what treatment funding is available to Native Americans, but how they can bolster a stronger relationship with the state overall. Many addiction specialists in North Dakota believe there needs to be a more focused plan of action. “We’re all doing something, and it’s all good work, but we’re doing it in separate places and different directions,” one treatment center specialist bemoaned, arguing that tribes and state officials need to lock-step with one another. Similarly, state officials believe the tribes have veered away from addiction treatment in recent years, failing to prepare for the epidemic that’s rocking the rest of the country. Even worse, the problem isn’t just affecting adults in the tribes: “We’re in an epidemic with our adolescents,” one tribe rep said. “From seventh grade on up, it’s a big problem.” With meetings scheduled between tribes and officials this summer, both sides are cautiously optimistic they’ll soon make progress in the fight against an epidemic that’s destroying their tribes.

California Considers “Safe” Injection Sites for Addicts

California may be taking bold new steps in its policy toward illegal drugs, as lawmakers are reportedly considering a measure that would bring legalized injection sites to the state. Based on a Canadian bill that purportedly lowered the number of daily drug overdoses and “saved more than 6,400 lives in the 13 years since its inception,” the measure is as controversial as it is unprecedented in the US. The new law calls for medical professionals to observe drug addicts as they smoke and shoot hard drugs in a secure environment. Many believe that the so-called “safe houses” help because most addicts run a higher risk of overdosing when they’re using alone. Still, while supporters believe that the measure will save lives and stem the tide of opioid addiction, not everyone is on board with the plan: “You are enabling the addict [and] deepening their addiction,” one pastor from Sacramento said, echoing the concerns of many others in communities all across California. Regardless, the bill is quickly gaining traction, having already passed the Assembly on its way to the Senate Health Committee. The current plan will see supervised injection sites piloted in several counties, including some in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Rumer Willis Announces Six Months of Sobriety

Actress Rumer Willis, the 28-year-old daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, announced via Instagram that she’s celebrating six months of sobriety. “It’s not something I planned on but after the long journey of getting here I can honestly say I have never been more proud of myself in my entire life,” she wrote in her post. It’s an announcement that’s as personal as it is affecting, given that her younger sister Tallulah checked into rehab in 2015. (“I was so removed from my body and from my mind that it was like I was living in a cardboard replica of what life should be,” Tallulah told Teen Vogue.) Rumer’s fresh-faced post was liked by nearly 20,000 people in less than a week, with a wave of supportive comments flooding her account. Rumer, who appears on the FOX drama Empire, seems as determined as her sister to rewrite the standard sad ending that seems to befall many children of Hollywood.

Three Steps for Avoiding Digital Addiction

This week, a USA Today column outlined several strategies for dealing with digital addiction. Smartphones and screens are “more than just an intrusion into our lives,” the columnist contended, arguing that digital devices are responsible for a dramatic spike in deaths, mainly related to checking text messages and Facebook notifications while driving. While it’s no secret that dopamine (the chemical that drives happiness) is released whenever people check social media, dopamine is also driving destructive, addictive behaviors that are impossible to ignore. The columnist listed three key ways to limit your addiction to smartphones and tablets. The first is by “creating physical barriers” between you and your device (putting it on the other side of the room, for example), as well as putting certain overused apps in inconvenient folders and screens. Shutting off “non-essential audio notifications” is also hugely helpful in reducing one’s anxiety around being constantly connected. Finally, picking places and times to routinely disconnect from the digital world helps to “create digital safe zones” where we can fully detox from the blue glow of our screens. “We are living in a world where barriers are blurred; our physical independence is no longer the only thing we have to protect,” the columnist warned. “Our minds are at war.”

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