This Week's Addiction and Recovery News Roundup

Affleck’s Dad Talks Alcoholism and Hollywood, and Can Harm-Reduction Be More Effective Than Abstinence Based Treatment? This Week in Addiction and Recovery News

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FDA Declares War on Kratom

The US Food Drug and Administration (FDA) declared on Tuesday that the herbal supplement kratom is a deadly opioid. According to CNN, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use” and warned off its producers and users. The drug, which is native to Malaysia, has traditionally been used to treat pain as well as assisting in heroin and morphine dependence. Kratom entered the FDA’s crosshairs thanks to a “tenfold increase in calls about kratom to poison centers over a five-year period,” the CNN piece said. Kratom is currently sold as powders, pills, capsules and energy-drink shots. “The model shows us that kratom compounds are predicted to affect the body just like opioids,” Gottlieb said in the statement. “Based on the scientific information in the literature and further supported by our computational modeling and the reports of its adverse effects in humans, we feel confident in calling compounds found in kratom, opioids.” For the moment, however, most online vendors of kratom remain open for business as the FDA evaluates how to proceed in addressing the situation.

Senator Cracks Down on Sober Homes

Senator Marco Rubio on Tuesday demanded that feds crack down on the many corrupt treatment centers and sober homes throughout Florida, according to NBC News. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rubio implored federal agencies to “investigate claims of kickbacks and false statements associated with federal health plans,” including private health plans. Rubio also asked that disreputable centers and homes be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the devastation they have caused.” He cited the widely-reported “Florida Shuffle” story wherein several young women bounced between “multiple treatment centers, excessive laboratory tests, and questionable treatments that resulted in insurance companies being billed upwards of $1.2 million.” The NBC News piece noted that the state is rife with corruption due to broad insurance coverage for addiction treatment and a lack of regulatory oversight.

Ben Affleck’s Father Blames Celebrityhood for Alcoholism

On screen, actor Ben Affleck has battled gangsters, otherworldly threats and even Superman, but his off-screen battles with alcoholism have loomed just as large. That’s because of superstardom, Affleck’s father Timothy said this week. “It has taken a toll on both my sons. Hollywood is a disgusting place. I think that’s been a major factor in Ben’s drinking,” the elder Affleck said. “You’re kind of forced to develop a persona that is hard to shed and go home to your family. It affects your whole life.” Affleck even revealed that he himself was a “chronic, severe alcoholic for several years” who finally found sobriety. Ben has always been serious about getting sober. There is no question about that. He wants a balanced life and he is working at it.”

Royal Congratulations at Recovery Center

The Duchess of Cambridge unveiled a plaque on Wednesday in Wickford, Essex to commemorate the opening of an addiction treatment facility. “It seems like a long time ago since I first got involved with [the charity organization]Action on Addiction, I think it’s about six years ago, but they have a very special place for me and were really the starting of my learning particularly with now the development into mental health,” Kate said at the event. “So you are very special to me, it’s great to be here and actually seeing the development of where the charity’s gone in the years gone past. Huge congratulations—I believe so passionately in community projects so I wish it all the best of success in the future.” The center offers a revolving series of self-help recovery programs every nine weeks, the story added, which help the charity to expand its services.

Do Harm-Reduction Programs Work?

A story at Pacific Standard contends that managed alcohol programs (MAPs), where homeless alcoholic patients are monitored and given measured amounts of alcohol, are gaining traction. “Despite the Hollywood images of glitzy rehab vacations and tight-knit Alcoholics Anonymous communities, a growing body of evidence indicates that traditional addiction treatments might not be very effective,” the piece said. “Proving this in an ironclad way is difficult, as the vast majority of alcoholism studies don’t have control groups, because leaving alcoholics untreated is unethical.” The story argues that while providing alcoholics access to alcohol is admittedly “counterintuitive,” it works, showing that there were fewer hospital visits, withdrawal issues and problems with law enforcement. And while they’re also cost-effective, one researcher said MAPs are about more than the money: “People were telling us, ‘Not only do I have housing, and I’m experiencing less harms related to my drinking, but I actually feel like I have a home, I feel like I can reconnect with my family, I feel like I have some hope for the future,’ and that’s pretty huge.”

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Paul Fuhr

Paul Fuhr is a writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats named Dr. No and Vesper. He's hard at work writing a novel and putting his life back together.