New IHME study finds health risks for any level of alcohol consumption

A new scientific study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation concludes there is no safe level of drinking alcohol.

This conclusion is due to the study team’s findings of clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer and cardiovascular problems.

The study, which is part of the annual Global Burden of Disease, showed that nearly three million deaths around the world were attributed to alcohol use in 2016.

3 million deaths in 2016 attributed to alcohol; ‘Massive health risks’

SEATTLE – A new scientific study concludes there is no safe level of drinking alcohol.

The study, published today in the international medical journal The Lancet, shows that in 2016, nearly 3 million deaths globally were attributed to alcohol use, including 12 percent of deaths in males between the ages of 15 and 49.

“The health risks associated with alcohol are massive,” said Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and the senior author of the study. “Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Zero alcohol consumption minimizes the overall risk of health loss.”

The study does not distinguish between beer, wine, and liquor due to a lack of evidence when estimating the disease burden, Gakidou said. However, researchers used data on all alcohol-related deaths generally and related health outcomes to determine their conclusions.

Alcohol use patterns vary widely by country and by sex, the average consumption per drinker, and the attributable disease burden. Globally, more than 2 billion people were current drinkers in 2016; 63% were male.

“Average consumption” refers to a standard drink, defined in the study as 10 grams of pure alcohol, consumed by a person daily, about the equivalent of:

  • A small glass of red wine (100 ml or 3.4 fluid ounces) at 13% alcohol by volume;
  • A can or bottle of beer (375 ml or 12 fluid ounces) at 3.5% alcohol by volume; or
  • A shot of whiskey or other spirits (30 ml or 1.0 fluid ounces) at 40% alcohol by volume.

“Standard drinks” are different by country. For example, in the UK a standard drink is 8 grams of alcohol, whereas in Australia, the US, and Japan, it is 10 grams, 14 grams, and 20 grams, respectively.

The study, part of the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD), assesses alcohol-related health outcomes and patterns between 1990 and 2016 for 195 countries and territories and by age and sex.

It provides findings on prevalence of current drinking, prevalence of abstention, alcohol consumption among current drinkers, and deaths and overall poor health attributable to alcohol for 23 health outcomes, such as communicable and non-communicable diseases and injuries, including:

  • Cardiovascular diseases: atrial fibrillation and flutter, hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, hypertensive heart disease, ischemic heart disease, and alcoholic cardiomyopathy;
  • Cancers: breast, colorectal, liver, esophageal, larynx, lip and oral cavity, and nasal;
  • Other non-communicable diseases: cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol use, diabetes, epilepsy, pancreatitis, and alcohol use disorders;
  • Communicable diseases: lower respiratory infections and tuberculosis;
  • Intentional injuries: interpersonal violence and self-harm;
  • Unintentional injuries: exposure to mechanical forces; poisonings; fire, heat, and hot substances; drowning; and other unintentional injuries; and
  • Transportation-related injuries.

“We now understand that alcohol is one of the major causes of death in the world today,” said Lancet Editor Richard Horton. “We need to act now. We need to act urgently to prevent these millions of deaths. And we can.”

This study used 694 data sources on individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use. More than 500 GBD collaborators, such as researchers, academics, and others from more than 40 nations contributed to the study, according to Max Griswold, senior researcher and lead author.

“With the largest collected evidence base to date, our study makes the relationship between health and alcohol clear – drinking causes substantial health loss, in myriad ways, all over the world,” Griswold said.

In 2016, eight of the leading 10 countries with lowest death rates attributable to alcohol use among 15- to 49-year-olds were in the Middle East: Kuwait, Iran, Palestine, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria. The other two were Maldives and Singapore.

Conversely, seven of the leading 10 countries with highest death rates were in the Baltic, Eastern European, or Central Asian regions, specifically Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Mongolia, Latvia, and Kazakhstan. The other three were Lesotho, Burundi, and Central African Republic.

Health officials in those nations, Gakidou said, would be well served by examining the study’s findings to inform their policies and programs to improve the health and well-being of their constituents.

“There is a compelling and urgent need to overhaul policies to encourage either lowering people’s levels of alcohol consumption or abstaining entirely,” she said. “The myth that one or two drinks a day are good for you is just that – a myth. This study shatters that myth.”

Women and Alcohol The Hidden Risks of Drinking

Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol’s effects, even after drinking smaller amounts. Heavy drinking can lead to increased risk of health problems such as liver disease, brain damage, and breast cancer. Women are as likely as men to recover from alcohol dependence, but women may have more difficulty gaining access to treatment.

Women and Alcohol Particular alcohol risks in women

Women in many different cultures enjoy drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons—to celebrate a special occasion, help them feel more sociable, or simply to unwind with family and friends. While many are able to drink responsibly, alcohol use does pose unique risks to all women. While men are more likely to drink alcohol than women, and to develop problems because of their drinking, women are much more vulnerable to alcohol’s harmful effects.

Women tend to develop alcohol-related diseases and other consequences of drinking sooner than men, and after drinking smaller cumulative amounts of alcohol. Women are also more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances in order to self-medicate problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress, or to cope with emotional difficulties.

Women who drink more than light to moderate amounts of alcohol (more than about 7 drinks a week) are at increased risk of car accidents and other traumatic injuries, cancer, hypertension, stroke, and suicide. In addition, drinking at an elevated rate increases the likelihood that a woman will go on to abuse or become dependent on alcohol.

The health consequences of alcohol abuse in women

Women who abuse or are dependent on alcohol are more vulnerable than men to:

Liver disease. Women are more likely to contract alcoholic liver disease, such as hepatitis (an inflammation of the liver), and are more likely to die from liver cirrhosis (a chronic disease that progressively destroys the liver’s ability to aid in digestion and detoxification).

Brain damage. Women are more likely than men to suffer alcohol-induced brain damage, such as loss of mental function and reduced brain size.

Compared with women who don’t drink or who drink in moderation, women who drink heavily also have an increased risk of: osteoporosis (a thinning of the bones), falls and hip fractures, premature menopause, infertility and miscarriages, and high blood pressure and heart disease.

Alcohol and breast cancer

Alcohol may also raise a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Each additional 10 grams of alcohol (the amount in about one 4-oz glass of wine) per day raises the relative risk of developing breast cancer over a lifetime by about 10%.

To put this in perspective: A woman’s overall lifetime risk of breast cancer is almost 9 in 100 if she drinks no alcohol. Two drinks per day increases the risk to just over 10 in 100, while six drinks a day ups her risk to about 13 in 100.

Women—and girls—are drinking more

According to a 2009 survey, approximately 47% of women ages 12 and over in the United States reported being current drinkers, defined as having had a drink in the past 30 days.

Trends suggest that white, employed women are drinking greater amounts of alcohol and with greater frequency. Some of this increase may reflect a greater comfort on the part of women to discuss their drinking.

Social stigmas are starting to fade

Historically, women have tended to feel a greater sense of shame about drinking and getting drunk than men, but it appears that among younger women, this stigma may be fading. While men are still more likely to drink—and to binge—women are drinking more, and more often, than they did in the past.

According to data from a survey of almost 18,000 college students across the U.S., about one in three female students engages in binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks in a row, often in quick succession).

Furthermore, while more college men are dependent on alcohol, women constitute more than half of alcohol abusers among college students. The rate of binge drinking in all-female colleges more than doubled between 1993 and 2001.

These trends are disturbing, given that binge drinking not only carries health risks for both men and women but also increases the chance of unwanted and unplanned sexual activity. Women risk becoming pregnant, and both men and women risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

It’s easy to cross the line into risky drinking

A standard drink is:

  • One 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits

Remember: alcohol content of different beers, wines, and distilled spirits can vary and a single mixed drink may actually contain nearly two standard drinks.

For women in particular, there is a very fine line between healthful and harmful drinking—one that is easy to cross. While moderate drinking is defined as no more than seven drinks a week and no more than three on any given day, those levels aren’t set in stone.

The amount a woman can safely drink depends on: her weight and health, personal genetic makeup and family history, the time since eating, and her age

Some experts believe that women who drink even one alcoholic drink per day may be putting themselves at increased risk for health problems. For pregnant women, no amount of alcohol is deemed safe.

Because women become addicted to alcohol more easily than men, drinking even moderately can be a slippery slope. This is especially true for older women. In fact, about half of all cases of alcoholism in women begin after age 59.

Certainly, no one should feel obliged to start drinking for the health benefits. There are plenty of other ways to safeguard your health, such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, keeping your weight under control, and not smoking. But for women who enjoy alcoholic beverages, it’s important to know where to draw the line, and to be prepared to redraw it as you get older.

Alcohol affects women in unique ways

A woman’s body processes alcohol more slowly than a man’s. One drink for a woman has about twice the effect of one for a man. Plus, women have a “telescoping,” or accelerated, course of alcohol dependence, meaning that they generally advance from their first drink to their first alcohol-related problem to the need for treatment more quickly than men.

Why are women more sensitive to the effects of alcohol?

Several biological factors make women more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men.

Body fat. Women tend to weigh less than men, and—pound for pound—a woman’s body contains less water and more fatty tissue than a man’s. Because fat retains alcohol while water dilutes it, alcohol remains at higher concentrations for longer periods of time in a woman’s body, exposing her brain and other organs to more alcohol.

Enzymes. Women have lower levels of two enzymes—alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase—that metabolize (break down) alcohol in the stomach and liver. As a result, women absorb more alcohol into their bloodstreams than men.

Hormones. Changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle may also affect how a woman metabolizes alcohol.

These biological factors explain why women become intoxicated after drinking less and are more likely to suffer adverse consequences after drinking smaller quantities and for fewer years than men.

Sexual and physical abuse increases risk

Evidence suggests that sexual or physical abuse during childhood may predispose both men and women to alcohol and drug problems in adulthood. Since women are more likely to have been victims of childhood sexual abuse, they are disproportionately affected. Research shows that:

  • Women who have been physically or sexually abused as children are far more likely to drink, have alcohol-related problems, or become dependent on alcohol.
  • Physical abuse during adulthood, which is suffered more by women than men, seems to raise a woman’s risk of using and abusing alcohol.
  • Alcohol is a major factor in violence against women, playing a role in as many as three of every four rapes and nearly the same percentage of domestic violence incidents.
  • Women with a family history of alcohol abuse are more likely than men with the same background to abuse alcohol.

Drinking during pregnancy–Never a good idea

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause an array of physical and mental birth defects, and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation in the United States. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol passes through the placenta to her fetus. In the fetus’s developing digestive system, alcohol breaks down much more slowly than it does in an adult body, meaning that the fetus’s blood alcohol level can remain high for longer periods.

Any kind of alcohol in any amount can harm a developing fetus, especially during the first and second trimester. Physicians and public health officials recommend that women avoid drinking any alcohol during pregnancy.

Risks to offspring

Each year in the U.S. alone, about 40,000 babies—or one in every 100—are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (a term that encompasses fetal alcohol syndrome and several related disorders).

Babies with these problems usually:

  • Have a low birth weight
  • Have facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheek bones, and an underdeveloped groove between the nose and the upper lip
  • Have problems eating and sleeping
  • Develop learning disabilities
  • Develop behavioral problems
  • Need special education
  • Need special medical care through much of their lives

Overcoming barriers to treatment and recovery

Not only are women less able to tolerate the effects of alcohol than men, they are also less likely to seek specific help to overcome any drinking problems they develop. Men who abuse alcohol are more likely to enter alcohol-treatment programs, whereas women are more inclined to seek help from primary care practitioners and mental health counselors.

Women with drinking problems:

  • Are particularly reluctant to be labeled alcoholics
  • Are more likely to ascribe their problems to depression, anxiety, or family trouble
  • May tend to shy away from treatment programs specifically designed to deal with alcohol problems because of the social stigma about women drinking

As a result, women may seek treatment in general medical or mental health settings. Even brief counseling in this type of setting, though, has been shown to lower a woman’s use of alcohol by nearly one-third.

Women and men are equally capable of recovery

For a long time, professionals believed that women with substance abuse problems were less likely than men to recover from them. Yet limited evidence on the matter was available, because many studies on the outcome of substance abuse treatment conducted before the 1990s enrolled only men. The few studies that enrolled both men and women did not examine the impact of gender differences.

The situation changed in the early 1990s after the FDA and the National Institutes of Health issued guidelines aimed at increasing the representation of women and minorities in research studies. A review in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that women are equally able to recover as men. Still, women face some unique challenges.

Women may have difficulty gaining access to treatment

A number of studies conclude that women are less likely than men to enter treatment programs for substance abuse problems, including those involving alcohol. Although it remains unclear why this is so, particular barriers to treatment seem to affect women more often than men. These include:

Access to childcare. Women with young children need access to appropriate childcare services before they can undergo treatment. They may be concerned about losing custody of their children if they reveal that they have an alcohol problem.

Economic challenges. Women are more likely to face economic challenges such as lower-paying jobs with little flexibility in scheduling or paid time off.

Mental health disorders. Women are more likely than men to suffer from mood, anxiety, and eating disorders that may benefit from being treated at the same time as the substance abuse disorder. However, few substance abuse treatment programs provide adequate treatment of psychiatric disorders.

Need for women-only treatment programs. These may be more helpful than mixed-gender programs for some women, such as those who have suffered sexual or physical abuse.

There is hope

Even if women remain reluctant to enter traditional alcohol-treatment programs, it’s important to seek medical and emotional support from other sources. Psychotherapy, self-help groups, and medications are all available to help women stop or reduce their drinking.

Anyone who has struggled to overcome alcohol dependence or an alcohol abuse problem knows how difficult a process recovery can be. But the evidence suggests that women are just as likely to recover as men once they begin treatment—a glimmer of hope that may make the journey to recovery worth trying.

Who’s responsible for the opioid epidemic? Doctors or pharmaceutical companies?

Dr. Barry Schultz is serving 157 years in prison after he prescribed enough opioids for a prosecutor to call him one of Florida’s, “most notorious drug dealers.” In his only interview, Schultz says he’s a scapegoat.

In the annals of 60 Minutes, we have rarely come across a doctor like Florida physician Barry Schultz. Prosecutors say he wantonly prescribed and sold massive quantities of highly addictive opioids. In July, Schultz was sentenced to 157 years for his role in fueling the most devastating public health crisis of the 21 century. Last year more Americans died of drug overdoses than in the entire Vietnam War. While Schultz ended up in jail, Mallinckrodt, the pharmaceutical company that flooded Florida with hundreds of millions of oxycodone pills, paid a relatively small penalty. The question now being debated in Congress and in federal court is: who is responsible for the opioid epidemic? The doctors who prescribed the pills or the opioid manufacturers and distributors who supplied them?

Dr. Barry Schultz is an inmate at Florida State Prison, where he will likely be incarcerated until the day he dies.

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta on how alcohol affects memory

The question of whether alcohol affects memory hangs over the current Supreme Court confirmation battle. Here with some answers is Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

I love the brain. It’s one of the reasons I became a neurosurgeon. One of the most fascinating functions of the brain is how it creates memories. We spend a lot of time talking about doing things that can improve our memory, but probably not enough time discussing the things that make our memory worse.

For example, alcohol.

Truth is: When it comes to alcohol and memory, people assume a lot of things – and a lot of those assumptions are wrong.

Much of the research comes from eyewitnesses to crime who are then questioned shortly after. One study last year showed that in this situation mild- to moderately-intoxicated people had very similar recall as sober people.

Now, there is a thing known as “blackout drunk.” That is not the same as “passed out drunk.” Someone who is blacked-out drunk may still be talking and walking. But they might be totally amnestic to the event, meaning they have no memory of it.

The biggest culprit is not necessarily how much you drank, but how quickly they drank it – the binge drinker.

With memory and alcohol you also have to consider how much time has passed. While a mild- to moderately-intoxicated person can remember things pretty well in the short term, their long term memories are much more difficult to retrieve.

And to understand why, it helps to understand how memory works. You take in sensory information – see, hear, feel – and that almost immediately gets transferred to short-term memory. From there, short-term memories get encoded into long-term memory.

It’s this last phase where alcohol seems to have the most impact. For someone who’s intoxicated, that encoding into long-term memory often doesn’t occur very well, or at all. And that is why days later someone may have a hard time remembering something that was so vivid earlier, but can’t retrieve the memory from the long-term stores, because the memories were never there in the first place.

If you want to improve your memory, the best things you can really do: pay attention when something is happening; that helps a lot. And don’t forget sleep, because it’s when you sleep that your body consolidates and transfers your short-term memories to long-term memoriesm the kind you’ll have for the rest of your life.

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No One Is Immune to Addiction

Addiction touches nearly every family. It’s time to talk about it openly and without fear.

Nothing safeguards you against addiction — not a loving family, not wealth, not faith, not age, not intelligence, wisdom nor willpower. Addiction can overcome anybody and, once it has you in its steely grip, it can cost you your health, your family, your home, your livelihood and even your life.

Jamie Daniels paid that ultimate price, dead at 23 from an opiate overdose while he was in the midst of a recovery program. His mother, Lisa Daniels of West Bloomfield, has been left “broken,” she says, “and the only thing that will partially repair me is to know that people like Jamie, young people struggling with addiction, get the help they need. They’ve got to be able to speak up and get help without being shunned, without fear of being labeled an addict for the rest of their lives.”

The alternative — silence — only exacerbates the problem. “I didn’t tell anybody,” Daniels says. “None of my friends knew what was going on. None of my family knew. We didn’t share what Jamie was going through. Now it’s time to stop that. If we had, maybe Jamie would be alive today.”

JAMIE’S STORY

Jamie had struggled with an addiction to prescription medication. With great effort, his family worked tirelessly to get him help, but it was always “one step forward, three steps back,” Daniels says.

Lisa Daniels

She and former husband, Detroit Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels, who will be speaking about Jamie at an event March 7 at Temple Israel didn’t learn about his problem with addiction until December of his senior year at Michigan State University. A friend told his sister that Jamie was getting into stronger prescription drugs.

“He didn’t want people to know what he was going through. He was afraid if people knew, they would use it against him, even his peers,” Daniels says.

Unlike the majority of families with an addict, there was no predisposition to the disease in Daniels’ family. “I didn’t know what the signs were but, in hindsight, I realized that from the time he was young, he was often alone and said he felt like he never fit in. Maybe he was depressed. I do know that he suffered from depression for a while before his death.”

She does know that at age16, Jamie gave a self-diagnosis to a therapist as having ADD and asked for Adderall. “He did not have ADD,” Daniels says. “He eventually told me he intentionally answered the questions wrong on the ADD test. It was that easy. He was struggling with something at 16, but Adderall was not the answer; it may have been the beginning of something terrible.”

Jamie continued to take Adderall through college. His family doesn’t know when he turned to opiates. “They were easily obtainable on campus and, by the time he graduated, he couldn’t stop,” she says.

She watched him try to detox himself several times. On three occasions, he was taken to the emergency room during an acute crisis, only to be discharged hours later with no long-term plan. They finally found a therapist Jamie liked, who guided him toward getting the medical help he needed.

During his most difficult crisis to date, Jamie called his therapist who recommended he go directly to the emergency room to be admitted to a 12-day detox program.

The hospital let him out two days early. “From there, they wanted Jamie to move into a sober living facility here in Michigan, but after speaking with Jamie’s therapist, we agreed to send him to a private rehab center in Florida.”

Jamie, still under his father’s health insurance, went to Palm Beach County, Fla., for treatment. He first spent a month at the Beachway Therapy Center, then moved on to a sober living house with a strong reputation in Delray.

He was sober, attended outpatient treatment meetings and eventually got a job working as a law clerk. “At work he was doing well, but, at home on his own, he was depressed,” Daniels says.

Florida has become the nation’s recovery capital with more than 400 sober living homes in Palm Beach County alone. These homes are linked with outpatient treatment programs, doctors and labs. Some owners, realizing there is more money to be made from a relapsed individual with insurance, pay “body brokers” to lure individuals in recovery into specific sober homes with offers of gifts, or in Jamie’s case, rent covered completely by insurance. Jamie had become the victim of “patient brokering.”

Nine days after transferring to this new sober home, Jamie died of a drug overdose.

The Daniels family tried to piece together the last week of Jamie’s life. They learned the doctor this home sent him to had prescribed a new medication for his anxiety, the highly addictive Xanax. “They set him up to fail,” Daniels says.

On. Dec. 7, 2016, just four days after he was prescribed the Xanax, Jamie ingested heroin laced with fentanyl (a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin). It shocked his heart and killed him. “We don’t know how or when he got the drugs,” Daniels says. “No medications or drugs were found at the scene.”

The Daniels didn’t find out about the corrupt nature of the home Jamie was in until months after his death. However, after speaking with the insurance company and the drug task force detectives, it was determined that most of the charges from two of the three sober homes Jamie lived in were fraudulent.

Daniels estimates that the fraudulent charges to the insurance company were between $55,000 and $60,000. Approximately two weeks after Jamie’s death, they learned the owner of the last house Jamie lived in had been under investigation. Eventually, he was convicted and is now serving 27 years in prison.

Daniels wants others to be aware of this danger in the billion-dollar industry of addiction and let them know it’s not just happening in Florida. “Jamie’s ability for successfully beating his addiction was taken away from him because he was manipulated,” she says.

She adds that addiction did not define the life of her son, however. “He was a beautiful soul: loving, caring and compassionate. He loved and protected his sister, Arlyn. They were the best of friends. He called his Bubbie just to chat and always ended each phone call with ‘love you.’ He would have helped anyone at any time.”

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Clean, Sober and $41,000 Deep in Out-of-Pocket Addiction Recovery Costs

Tess Henry with her rescue dogs, in a photo taken by her mother. Ms. Henry was the subject of a recent Sunday Review essay, which generated over 400 reader comments.
Credit Patricia Mehrmann

People recovering from opioid addiction and their families discuss the financial and emotional costs of treatment.

Tess Henry’s family paid $12,000 for 30 days of rehab from opioid addiction. She had done two more cycles of treatment without achieving sobriety. So her family agreed to pay $20,000 for 28 days of more rehab. But they never got the chance.

A few days after assuring her mother that she planned to fly to Virginia to resume treatment, Ms. Henry was murdered.

The tragic end of Ms. Henry’s six-year struggle to recover from an opioid addiction that began with a prescription for cough syrup was chronicled last week in The New York Times by Beth Macy, a journalist who covers the opioid crisis.

It takes eight years, and four to five attempts at treatment, for the average person addicted to opioids to achieve one year of remission, according to John Kelly, a researcher and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, whom Ms. Macy cited in her Sunday Review essay.

Some people manage to achieve recovery through free 12-step programs, while others spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ms. Henry’s story prompted readers to share with us in our comments section their own struggles with recovery or the struggles of their family members.

Here is a selection of the comments that cite costs — in out-of-pocket expenses, as well as in time, insurance payouts and human patience — of recovery. They are condensed and lightly edited.

‘I’m lucky it didn’t cost me more’

$25,000 for Suboxone, $16,000 of doctor appointments, $200,000 paid by insurance

I abused opiates for four years. I quit one-time and have been sober for five years. I’ve been on Suboxone [a drug that helps prevent opioid withdrawal symptoms] for five years as well. Luckily I make enough money to spend $400/month on Suboxone. I also moved 1,500 miles away from where I bought OxyContin when I quit, went to a $100,000 rehab on private insurance, and then stayed for 10 more months working as a nighttime janitor and going to A.A. like 10 times a week.

Recovering from opiates has cost me over $25,000 for Suboxone, $16,000 of doctor appointments, and it’s cost my insurance about $200,000. It cost me five years of my life. I’m lucky it didn’t cost me more.

Demi Lovato is Awake, With Family Following Apparent Drug Overdose

Pop star Demi Lovato is recovering in a hospital Wednesday following an apparent drug overdose at her Hollywood Hills home. The 25-year-old has been open about her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, hinting recently of a relapse in her song “Sober.” A representative for Lovato says she is “awake and with her family.” NBC’s Natalie Morales reports for TODAY.

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Investigation Shows How Florida Sparked U.S. Heroin Crisis

A Palm Beach Post investigation has uncovered Florida’s role in igniting the country’s heroin epidemic in 2011.

The Palm Beach Post traced the origins of the heroin crisis, driving down the “Oxy Express” highways, which users and dealers used to load up on oxycodone pills.

The state’s repeated failure to control its own prescription drug problem would eventually lead to more addicts turning to heroin not only on Florida, but in other states around the country.

WLRN’s Christine DiMattei fills in for Tom Hudson as host of The Florida Roundup. She sat down with Pat Beall, investigative reporter at The Palm Beach Post, to explore the so-called “Oxy Express.”

WLRN: To connect the dots, you and your team traveled to what’s become known as the “Oxy Express.” What is that and where is it exactly?

PAT BEALL: The Oxy Express was the nickname given to a stretch of roadways from South Florida – specifically Palm Beach and Broward Counties – all through the Appalachians. It was an area where people would drive down, van loads of people, load up on drugs here in Palm Beach County through our pill mills and then drive back to the Appalachians and sell or use the same drugs.

There were plenty of people along the way who told you flatly that this story is unprovable. Epidemiologists particularly who were among those that said that available data alone could never definitively prove this oxycodone-to-heroin transition. Much less Florida’s role in this. What was the first tip you got that launched this whole thing? And what was your reaction to that tip?

P.B.: I really wasn’t paying attention. I think that pretty much sums it up. It was in early 2012, and I had been doing a story about online drug sales. In speaking to a couple of treatment counselors locally in Palm Beach County, I was told, Listen the crack down on prescription pills and pill mills isn’t driving people to online drug sales; it’s driving them to heroin. I really couldn’t buy that. I couldn’t buy it because I think I had at that time something of the same skewed perception that people had about who a heroin user would be. And why would anybody who was using pills jump to a street drug? So it took a little time for me to wrap my head around that.

Let’s go back to the pill mill crisis. You’ve traced the beginnings of this problem to the rogue pain management clinics in Florida – back when the pill mills were a thriving business in South Florida. How did they get the prescription meds in the first place?

P.B.: Florida failed to regulate pill mills, and it really went back many years. There was a problem in Florida that was pretty obvious starting in 2002-2003 with prescription pills. Florida just did nothing. Other states adopted prescription-monitoring programs. Other states cracked down on their own pill mill activity and rogue doctors. We didn’t. So that allowed not only pill mills to thrive and illicit opioids to be transported across state lines, it also provided this incredible window of time that gave addiction time to take root and grow.

David Cassidy claimed he didn’t have dementia — he just lied about getting sober

A few weeks before his death in November, David Cassidy confessed that the sudden decline in his health was brought on by alcohol abuse — not dementia, as he previously claimed.

The revelation comes courtesy of A&E Networks, which is airing a two-hour documentary next week originally intended to chronicle the onetime teen idol as he recorded a tribute record to his late father, Jack Cassidy. Instead, David Cassidy fell gravely ill and struggled with what he first said was the onset of dementia.

The truth was just as bad. After becoming ill and being hospitalized during production, Cassidy was told that he had liver disease, which would ultimately become multiple organ failure.

“The head doctor at the hospital, she said, ‘I believe that your dementia was directly related to your alcoholism,’” Cassidy told A&E producer Saralena Weinfield in a taped phone call from a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hospital.

“I did it to myself, man. I did it to myself, to cover up the sadness and the emptiness,” he said.

Cassidy explained that after a few days where he was unconscious and near death, his memory came back.

“That’s such a blessing,” he told the producer, beginning to laugh as if he were telling a wry joke. “That means I’m cognizant of my surroundings, that I’m alive and it’s daytime and I know what day of the week it is. There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning. And the fact is, I lied about my drinking.”

After he was arrested for DUI in 2014 — his wife filed for divorce the next week — Cassidy was sentenced to rehab and put on probation. In early February 2017, he told People that he was suffering from dementia and would stop touring to focus on his private life.

The former star of “The Partridge Family” died soon after at age 67 from organ failure, including his liver and kidneys.

The Controlled Substances Bill is Florida’s response to opioid abuse.

This website provides basic information pertaining to CS/CS/HB 21, the Controlled Substances Bill, and the upcoming changes for prescribers and dispensers. Signed by the Governor on March 19, 2018 with an effective date of July 1, 2018, the law addresses opioid abuse by establishing prescribing limits, requiring continuing education on controlled substance prescribing, expanding required use of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, EFORCSE, and more.

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