AA Is Alive and Well in Country Where Alcohol Is Illegal

AA Is Alive and Well in Country Where Alcohol Is Illegal: This Week in Addiction and Recovery News

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While alcohol is banned in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Alcoholics Anonymous is alive and well in a country where the consequences for drinking are severe. In fact, many Iranians are starting to believe the true cost of alcohol—everything from brutal lashings to the death penalty—simply isn’t worth it. At least, that’s the message suggested in a fascinating new episode of the PBS documentary series Frontline. “I was arrested [with alcohol]and got 77 lashes,” an AA member related in the episode. “They use leather whips, just like with a horse. That’ll hurt, yeah. My skin was all torn apart.” He’s not alone, Frontline reveals, as the episode explores how AA has increasingly taken root in the country. In fact, the country’s Ministry of Information has allowed the AA Big Book (where co-founded Bill Wilson outlined the 12-step program) to be printed and shared, with meeting groups rising all over Tehran. The results are telling, as one AA group member says he’s celebrated eight years of sobriety while another has another four under his belt. And while AA meetings reveal that some Iranians are seeking help they desperately need, Iran itself remains a country in denial about its larger alcohol problem. The Daily Beast published a feature that considered why “cruel penalties [have]not managed to reduce the popularity of drinking alcohol, particularly among young people, or its dramatic abuse by a stunning number of alcoholics.” Put into context, Iran ranks 166 in alcohol consumption per capita, but that statistic isn’t telling the whole story. If you look at the World Health Organization estimates for people who consume 35 liters or more of alcohol over a year, the country actually ranks 19thin the entire world. “In other words, the number of alcoholics per capita puts Iran ahead of Russia (ranked 30), Germany (83), Britain (95), the United States (104) and Saudi Arabia (184),” The Daily Beast said.

Pet Owners Using Animals to Get Opioids, FDA Says

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that people might use their pets to get access to opioids. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb released a statement Wednesday that raised yet another red flag in the nation’s ever-worsening opioid crisis. “We recognize that opioids and other pain medications have a legitimate and important role in treating pain in animals—just as they do for people,” Gottlieb wrote. “But just like the opioid medications used in humans, these drugs have potentially serious risks, not just for the animal patients, but also because of their potential to lead to addiction, abuse and overdose in humans who may divert them for their own use.” The FDA has created a resource guide on what veterinarians need to know, listing information on state and federal regulations, alternatives to opioids, how to properly safeguard and store opioids, and how to recognize clients who may be abusing opioids. Veterinarians are currently required to be licensed by the DEA to prescribe opioids to animal patients, which Gottlieb says is vital in the epidemic. “These measures are in place to help ensure the critical balance between making sure animals can be humanely treated for their pain, while also addressing the realities of the epidemic of misuse, abuse and overdose when these drugs are diverted and used illegally by humans,” he said.

New Chris Cornell Doc Suggests Alcoholism, Depression As Factors Behind Death

The documentary Autopsy: The Last Hours of Chris Cornell, which premiered this week on the Reelz Channel, tracks the Soundgarden frontman’s life until his shocking suicide in 2017. Many of the interviews focus on Cornell’s struggles with alcohol. “One thing that really surprised me interviewing Chris Cornell, is he literally drank more than any other human being I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” journalist Matt Diehl shared in the doc. “I think we talked for about four or five hours, and I think he drank about a bottle of champagne per hour.” A physician also claimed that Cornell’s parents were alcoholics, which meant he may have grown up thinking that was an appropriate way of coping with life. Near the end of the special, Dr. Michael Hunter charges a combination of prescription drugs and depression with Cornell’s untimely death: “His successful rehabilitation in 2002 and commitment to his family are testaments to his strength of spirit, and desire to live a full and happy life,” he said. “While Chris bravely faced a number of psychological challenges throughout his life, I cannot completely rule out his history of depression, along with the role of prescription medications, as being one of a number of factors which could have affected Chris’ though process and decision making. While it’s hard to know what exactly caused Chris Cornell to tragically take his own life, there is a chance his judgment may have been impaired, which increased the likelihood of self-harm.”

Will These New Features Curb Smartphone Addiction?

It seems that the concept of being completely disconnected from technology is almost as sci-fi as the increasingly powerful devices themselves. In a new Wall Street Journal piece, less people are undergoing “digital detoxes” and instead opting for a far more restrictive diet of digital content.“There’s been a shift from being completely shut off to trying to limit online time,” said Michelle Evans, a consumer data analyst at the London-based research firm Euromonitor. Now Apple, Google and Facebook are being tasked to shift direction in an attempt to help foster something called “digital well-being.” Apple’s new operating system, iOS 12, has built-in tools to limit screen time, not to mention a Do Not Disturb function, which lets users hide push notifications for set periods of time. It also has a tracker that shows how much time a user has spent on social media as well as how often they’ve checked their phone. Facebook improved its Newsfeed algorithm, the story reported, in order to personalize users’ experiences in order to filter out the number of posts from brands and stores. And Google has launched Google Wellbeing, currently in beta for Android, “is arguably the best addiction counselor of the bunch,” the story said. Its features include an overview of daily habits, “including a tally of how many times you unlocked your smartphone.” It also allows users to disconnect from an app whenever they want to, alongside other time-awareness features.

Fentanyl Likely Responsible for Demi Lovato’s Overdose

New details emerged this week in regards to Demi Lovato’s July 24 drug overdose. The site Consequence of Sound reported that her overdose was triggered by Oxycodone that was laced with fentanyl. Of course, fentanyl is well-known for being 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It was also partially responsible for the recent deaths of Prince and Tom Petty. In Lovato’s case, after she was found unconscious, she was revived with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan. The 25-year-old singer then spent the next two weeks at Cedars-Sinai before traveling to a rehab facility somewhere in Arizona for treatment.

New Study: Marijuana Dispensaries Don’t Increase Teen Use

Despite the increased number of marijuana dispensaries available to teens, they aren’t any more likely to smoke weed, a new study revealed. According to High Timesresearchers from the University of California San Diego Department of Family and Public Health explored how factors like proximity, price and product variety might influence adolescents to use marijuana. “There was no evidence supporting the associations of medical marijuana availability, price, or product variety around school with adolescents’ marijuana use and susceptibility to use,” the study’s authors wrote. The number of dispensaries in any given neighborhood, nor a dispensary’s proximity to a school appeared to be contributing factors to teen marijuana use, the report indicated. “Neither the product price nor the product variety in the dispensary nearest to school was associated with marijuana use or susceptibility to use,” the report added. “The results were robust to different specifications of medical marijuana measures.” Little to no research has been conducted on the possible connection between marijuana dispensaries and cannabis use, the researchers said, which makes their study as necessary as it is unique. Still, there exists a significant amount of research in regards to the link between drug and alcohol availability, and teenagers’ choice to smoke or drink. “Despite the strong relationship between retail outlets and alcohol and tobacco use documented by a number of studies, examination of the associations of medical marijuana dispensaries with marijuana use remains limited,” they wrote.

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About Author

Paul Fuhr is an addiction recovery writer whose work has appeared in The Literary Review, The Live Oak Review, The Sobriety Collective and InRecovery Magazine, among others. He is the author of the alcoholism memoir “Bottleneck.” He's also the creator and co-host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and recovery. Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and their cats, Dr. No and Goldeneye.