Monday, September 28, 2009

Addicts get text overdose advice

BBC News
September 15 2009

Drug users in Swansea are being asked to sign up to be sent mobile texts on what to do if they overdose and how to reduce their addiction risks.

Messages such as "Overdose: Don't panic. Put them in the recovery position, dial 999" will be sent out.

Project director Ifor Glyn said their ultimate goal for users was complete abstinence, but the texts were a way of keeping drug users engaged with them.

But Tory AM Alun Cairns said any texts should try to get people off drugs.

The Swansea Drugs Project is asking its 700 existing users to sign up to receive the texts.

SDPFAST - the Swansea Drugs Project Free Advice Support Texts - will be free and confidential, and available to any of the users who sign up for it.

Drinking by Young Teens May Set Stage for Addiction
September 25, 2009

Brain changes caused by drinking before age 15 could predispose adolescents to a lifetime of alcohol dependency, HealthDay News reported Sept. 18.

Researcher Arpana Agrawal of the Washington University School of Medicine, who studied alcohol use among twins, said that early drinking "may induce changes in the highly sensitive adolescent brain, which may also modify an individual's subsequent genetic vulnerability" to addiction.

Agrawal found that age of first alcohol use corresponded with a greater number of alcohol dependency symptoms. Those who started drinking later in life were less likely to be dependent even if they were genetically predisposed to addiction, the study found.

The research will be published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The Women's Therapy Centre Institute - 6 Week Eating and Body Image Groups Starting soon

Dear Colleague,

I want to tell you about some wonderful groups that The Women's Therapy Centre Institute runs on eating and body image problems. In a therapist led supportive environment, participants are introduced to the process of relating more comfortably to food and their bodies.

They look at the meanings of fat and thin, obsessive thinking, how to feed oneself when hungry and stop when full, as well as how to eliminate binge eating. Through our psychodynamic self attuned model, participants begin to identify the psychological issues that affect the woman's compulsive or restrictive eating and her troubled body image. These groups are a wonderful adjunct to ongoing therapy.

All of the groups are led by experienced clinicians, run for 6 weeks and cost $200. Please call me if you have any questions or would like to refer someone to a group. We have a group starting soon.


Wendy Miller PhD

For more information about the groups and other activities please visit the Women's Therapy Centre Institute at

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Benefit for Howard Lotsof – Ibogaine Pioneer and Activist

Please join us Saturday evening, September 26th, for a very special evening in honor of Howard Lotsof, ibogaine pioneer and activist (to be held at the Judson Memorial Church during the Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference –

Many of you are aware of the dedication and devotion Howard has brought to his work with ibogaine for over four decades. Working tirelessly in support of safe and effective treatment for those suffering under the yoke of opiate addiction, Howard has been a beacon of light and hope, and has had incalculable positive effect on innumerable lives. Known affectionately as “The Father of the Modern Ibogaine Movement,” Howard was the first to discover the addiction-interrupting effect of ibogaine. Since 1962, Howard's mission has been to make ibogaine legal, available, and safe - and to encourage further research into this remarkable substance. Howard and his muse, partner, and loving wife Norma have continued this important work for decades, making many personal sacrifices along the way.

As many of his friends know, Howard is quite ill with advanced stage liver cancer and now we want to give something back. With his innate fighting spirit, Howard continues his work on behalf of a growing and grateful ibogaine community. Yet his medical expenses are mounting and we are now asking you to help. Our benefit event in celebration of Howard and his life's work will be held 7-9PM at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, New York, NY (A, C, E, B, D, F, V to W. 4th St); a light dinner will be provided, followed by a discussion of the current state of ibogaine research and Howard's work by Rick Doblin, President and Founder of MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (, psychologist Neal Goldsmith, and others sharing anecdotes supporting ibogaine and celebrating Howard’s life. We are asking for a one-hundred dollar donation, but please feel free to give whatever you can to help ease the financial burden on this great man and his family. Howard's noble work has allayed so much pain and saved so many lives, we are honored to have this opportunity to be of service to him now.

Please RSVP to John Harrison at, as soon as possible, so we can gauge how much food to provide. Thank you for your support – we look forward to seeing you Saturday, September 26th!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Any Drinking Raises Risk of Traffic Accidents, Researchers Say
September 17 2009
Research Summary

Even one or two alcoholic drinks can increase the risk of getting into an automobile accident, even if it's not technically drunk driving, according to Italian researchers.

Reuters reported Sept. 10 that individuals who consumed one or two drinks within 2-6 hours of driving more than doubled their risk of getting into an accident. Having more than two drinks tripled the risk of a crash.

Researcher Stefano Di Bartolomeo of the Università degli Studi di Udine and colleagues drew their conclusions from interviews of emergency-room patients who had been in car crashes; drivers were asked about their alcohol and food consumption prior to the crash, as well as how much sleep they had gotten.

The study also found that drinking combined with sleep depravation greatly increased the risk of a crash.

The study was published in the Sept. 1, 2009 issue of the journal BMC Public Health.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Impact of Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless People with High Use of Alcohol-Related Crisis Services
September 2009
Research Summary

Housing First supportive housing programs do not make admission contingent on sobriety or treatment attendance and target chronically homeless people who are high users of publicly funded health and criminal-justice resources. The goal of these programs is to reduce safety-net system costs while improving quality of life for chronically homeless individuals by reducing acute care visits, hospital admissions, length of stay, incarceration, and shelter use and providing housing. Researchers studied the use and cost of services before and after program admission among 95 participants in a Housing First program in Seattle, Washington, and compared them with 39 wait-listed participants. All had severe alcohol problems.

  • Monthly median costs among admitted participants decreased from $4066 in the year before admission to $1492 after 6 months in housing and $958 after 12 months in housing.
  • Even after accounting for housing program costs, total mean monthly spending on housed participants compared with wait-listed participants was $2449 lower at 6 months.
  • Both costs and crisis-services use decreased with longer time in housing.
  • The number of drinks per day among housed participants decreased from 15.7 prior to housing to 14.0 at 6 months, 12.5 at 9 months, and 10.6 at 12 months.

Comments by James Harrison, MHS, CADC
This study provides compelling evidence that supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals can substantially reduce the cost of and burden on health and criminal justice services. It is important to note that both costs and alcohol consumption further decreased the longer participants were in supportive housing. Counselors, recognizing the high mortality rate among homeless individuals who drink heavily, should not make sobriety a prerequisite for supportive housing or other services.

Larimer ME, Malone DK, Garner MD, et al. Health care and public service use and costs before and after provision of housing for chronically homeless persons with severe alcohol problems. JAMA. 2009;301(13):1349–1357.

Do Racial and Ethnic Minority Drinkers Have More Alcohol Consequences than White Drinkers?
Research Summary
September 2009

Researchers analyzed National Alcohol Survey data from 4080 current drinkers (69% white, 19% black, and 12% Hispanic) to assess racial differences in alcohol dependence symptoms and social consequences and to determine whether self-reported social disadvantages (e.g., poverty, unfair treatment, and racial/ethnic stigma) explained any observed racial differences. Heavy drinking* was stratified into the following categories: none/low (69%), moderate (21%), and high (10%).

  • More black (11%) and Hispanic (12%) than white (6%) participants had 2 or more alcohol dependence symptoms.
  • More black (13%) and Hispanic (15%) than white (9%) participants had 1 or more alcohol-related social consequences (accidents; arguments/fights; or health, legal, and workplace problems).
  • In separate adjusted analyses, black and Hispanic participants were significantly more likely than white participants to have 2 or more alcohol dependence symptoms (if they reported "none/low" or "moderate" heavy drinking), and to have 1 or more alcohol-related social consequences (the "none/low" category only).
  • Adding social disadvantages to the models did not change the results.

*In this study, a composite variable was used to define past-year heavy drinking based on 3 indicators: frequency of 5+ drinks in a single day, frequency of subjective drunkenness, and maximum number of standard drinks in a single day.

Comments by Tom Delaney, MSW, MPA
Those involved in program planning and clinical services for black and Hispanic populations will find this study a useful reference. The authors strongly suggest the need for additional investigations to support these results, but they are an important reminder of the need to factor in biological markers and sociologic and cultural factors in treatment.

Mulia N, Ye Y, Greenfield TK, et al. Disparities in alcohol-related problems among white, black, and Hispanic Americans. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009;33(4):654–662.

Trauma-Focused Group Therapy Reduces HIV Sexual Risk Behaviors in Women with PTSD and Substance Use Disorders
Research Summary
September 2009

Studies indicate the frequent co-occurrence of trauma histories and substance use disorders in women, which may increase HIV sexual risk behaviors. Researchers studied the impact of 2 group therapy interventions to reduce unprotected sexual occasions (USO) among women with co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders: Seeking Safety (SS), a cognitive behavioral intervention addressing substance use and PTSD symptoms, and Women's Health Education (WHE), a psycho-educational intervention focused on health, nutrition, and sexual behavior including sessions on HIV risk and transmission. A total of 346 women from 6 community-based drug treatment programs participating in the NIDA Clinical Trials Network were randomized to receive 1 of the 2 interventions. Forty-six percent of the total sample reported at least one USO in the 30 days prior to intake. Most had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime (94% and 90%, respectively), and all met DSM-IV criteria for either full (80%) or subthreshold (20%) PTSD.

  • Women in the SS group with the highest sexual risk at baseline (at least 12 USO per month) had significantly fewer USO at 12-month follow-up compared with women with the highest baseline sexual risk in the WHE group (4.97 versus 8.60 USO per month, respectively).
  • There was no difference in USO between groups at 12 months among women with the lowest baseline sexual risk (≤2 USO per month).

Comments by Norma Finkelstein, PhD
Findings from this randomized controlled trial show that SS, which emphasizes coping skills and reducing unsafe behavior and treats PTSD and substance misuse concurrently, may be more effective than traditional sexual risk reduction interventions in high-risk women with co-occurring PTSD and addictive disorders. Addressing trauma and improving women's coping and behavior skills may also prove effective in HIV education services. It would be interesting to know whether SS combined with HIV-specific education would have further reduced USO among high-risk women in this study.

Hien DA, Campbell AN, Killeen T, et al. The impact of trauma-focused group therapy upon HIV sexual risk behaviors in the NIDA Clinical Trials Network "Women and Trauma" multi-site study. AIDS Behav. May 19, 2009 (Epub ahead of print).

MDMA/PTSD Research Goes to Vancouver - MAPS News: September 2009

Dear MAPS’ Supporters and Friends,

We are gearing up for our newest study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Vancouver. On October 24, we will be hosting a benefit dinner in downtown Vancouver and we hope that if you are in the area you will join us and that you will encourage your friends to be there too. MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D. and our Vancouver research team will give presentations about the project over a light tapas dinner. More information about the benefit dinner is below.

We have more news below about Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century, the conference we are hosting in San Jose, California, from April 15-18, 2010. We have opened a call for proposals for presentations at the conference. In the coming weeks we will be sending you an email about ticket sales and hotel registration.

This is a robust newsletter this month with an abundance of information about our research projects. You will also find lots of opportunities for you to get involved with MAPS and our sister organizations. Don’t forget, we rely on your support in order to conduct our research and to perform our educational objectives.


Randolph Hencken, M.A.
Director of Marketing and Communication


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Problem Schools Make Little Progress Against Student Drinking
September 16 2009

Frequent binge drinking has increased over the last decade at colleges with the biggest drinking problems, demonstrating the lack of progress these schools have made in addressing underage and excessive alcohol use, Science Daily reported Sept. 11.

Researchers focused on 18 colleges identified in 1993 as having especially bad problems with student drinking. A 2005 followup found that frequent binge drinking at the schools rose from 28 percent of students in 1993 to 32 percent in 2005. Overall binge-drinking rates declined over the decade, but only slightly -- from 58 percent to 56 percent.

In both 1993 and 2005, the overwhelming majority of students said they drank alcohol, and rates of consumption, drunk driving, unprotected sex after drinking, and alcohol-related injuries barely budged over the study period.

The findings appear in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Multiple factors impact adolescent smoking risk

Sepetember 11 2009
By Joene Hendry

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - There is no one-size-fits-all explanation for why teenagers take up smoking, hint findings of a Canadian study.

Therefore, focusing on one single risk factor is not likely to help adolescents resist peer pressure to smoke, or help advance the understanding of why young people smoke, Dr. Jennifer O'Loughlin and colleagues report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

O'Loughlin, at the University of Montreal in Quebec, therefore suggests that efforts to prevent smoking should take into account "individual-level factors such as age, self-esteem, alcohol use, and academic success." Those involved should also bear in mind "contextual factors such as smoking in parents and friends, and school smoking policies," she told Reuters Health in email correspondence.

Her group investigated how numerous factors altered smoking initiation among 877 students (half male), who were pushing 13 years of age at the start of the study and had never smoked.

Every 3 months for the next 5 years, the researchers surveyed students' smoking habits and other factors potentially linked with starting to smoke. During this period, 421 (48 percent) of the students started smoking, and 87 (21% of these) took up daily smoking.

Living in a single-parent family and poor academic performance in school all increased smoking risk. Using alcohol and other tobacco products upped risk nearly 3- and 5-fold.

Having siblings and friends who smoked raised an adolescent's risk for smoking about 2- and 3-fold. Having a parent or teachers and school staff who smoked increased the risk of beginning to smoke by about half or more.

Feeling the need for a cigarette raised smoking risk 6-fold. Adolescents who felt stressed, acted impulsively, and showed susceptibility to tobacco advertising were also more likely to begin smoking.

By contrast, gender, parents' education, feelings of depression, worry about weight or being overweight, seeking novel experiences, physical activity or playing sports, and television watching were some of the factors not linked with increased risk.

Prevention and cessation programs that target social, home, and school smoking, as well as tobacco advertising, may have a positive impact on adolescent smoking, O'Loughlin and colleagues surmise. They call for further investigations into factors linking alcohol use and smoking, and genetic variables tied to smoking risk.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, September 1, 2009.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Half of U.S. Prisons Fail to Adequately Treat Opiate Addiction
September 11 2009

Opiate-replacement therapy (ORT) such as methadone and buprenorphine are available in only about half of all federal and state prison systems, and just 23 states provide referrals to addiction treatment upon release from prison, according to new research.

Medical News Today reported Sept. 9 that researchers from Miriam Hospital, Brown University and the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights said that both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that prisoners be offered ORT, which the study authors described as a proven and cost-effective intervention.

"Improving correctional policies for addiction treatment could dramatically improve prisoner and community health as well as reduce both taxpayer burden and reincarceration rates," said lead study author Amy Nunn of Brown University.

Researchers surveyed the medical directors of all 50 state corrections systems as well as the District of Columbia and their counterparts in the federal prison system. They found that 55 percent of systems offer methadone to some degree, although only to certain populations in some cases, and 45 percent offer post-release linkages to community-based methadone programs. Only 14 percent of prison systems provide buprenorphine, while 29 percent link to post-release buprenorphine treatment.

Most health officials at prison systems that didn't offer ORT said they preferred drug-free detoxification, while others cited security concerns. Significant numbers also admitted ignorance about the efficacy of methadone and buprenorphine. "Our interviews with prison medical directors suggest that changing these policies may require an enormous cultural shift within correctional systems," said Nunn.

The report was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Announcement from Purple Ribbons for Overdose Prevention

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Please read and support the following announcement regarding a documentary film being made about the importance of passing the Good Samaritan 9-1-1 laws. These laws provide legal protection for people who call for medical help in the event of a drug overdose. They save lives! The filmmaker is looking for family members in Southern California who have lost a loved one to overdose and would be willing to speak about the experience in the film.

This is just one other way that we can use our experience and relationships to support the paradigm shift taking place toward a more humane, just, compassionate social response to the problems associated with drug use in the country. Please be an active part in moving the paradigm forward.

Thank you for all that you do.

Andrew Tatarsky, PhD
Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates
303 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1403
New York, NY 10016


Announcement from Purple Ribbons for Overdose Prevention

Dear Friends,

I know many of you have lost children and spouses to accidental drug overdose, and I know many of you believe that a call to 911 or a shot of naloxone could have saved your loved one. A documentary filmmaker approached me, asking if I could help him locate a family member in Southern California to interview for his upcoming film about international drug policies.

He would like to interview a family member who believes that the US needs uniform Good Samaritan 9-1-1 laws, to protect & encourage people to call for help if they witness someone overdosing. We know that many people hesitate or fail to call for help because of fear of arrest for drug possession and that Good Samaritan 9-1-1 laws would put an end to that.

If you lost your son, daughter or spouse to overdose and believe that no one should ever be punished or penalized for calling 911 to save a life--and that naloxone should be made readily available to people at risk of opiate overdose--and you are willing to be interviewed for this important new film, please contact me immediately. This is an incredible project, involving some of the most important political voices from around the world!

If you aren't available to be interviewed for the film, but would be interested in telling your story to other members of the press, please let me know.

Email me: mralston@drugpolicy or send a message to me on Facebook. Visit to learn more about the issues & get involved. Thank you!

Meghan Ralston
Cause Creator

Friday, September 11, 2009

New Developments in Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy (IHRP)

Talk Presented to The Harm Reduction and Mental Health Project
By Andrew Tatarsky, PhD

September 25, 2009
3:00-4:30 PM

New York University
6 Washington Place
Room 551, NYC

Since my last writing I have been doing an increased amount of training around the US and overseas in Poland, Austria, Chile and Ukraine. These experiences have facilitated the evolution of my thinking about IHRP and well as introduced me to some amazing like-minded colleagues around the world.

In this meeting I will share some of these experiences to give participants an update on the state of harm reduction therapy around the world. I will also share with you recent developments in my own thinking and work.

This workshop will outline my approach to Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy. IHRD is based on a multifaceted view of problem substance use as reflecting the interplay of biology, personal and interpersonal dynamics and social context. IHRD integrates a relational psychoanalytic approach with
active skills building to support positive changes in substance use and related issues.

We will explore:

  • A psychobiosocial process view of addiction
  • The multiple meanings of substance use as points of engagement
  • How to use these ideas to create a collaborative, negotiated therapeutic alliance
  • IHRD’s 7 therapeutic tasks with emphasis on process and technique

I look forward to a spirited sharing of experiences….

Dr. Andrew Tatarsky has specialized in the field of substance use treatment for over 25 years as supervisor, program director, trainer and author. He holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the City University of New York and is a candidate in New York University’s Post-doctoral program. Co-Director of Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates; founding board member, Division on Addictions of NYSPA, and founding board member, Association for Harm Reduction Therapy. His book, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems, has been published in the United States and Poland. Dr. Tatarsky is in private practice in New York City and trains nationally and internationally.

When: September 25, 2009; 3:00-4:30 PM

Where: New York University, 6 Washington Place, Room 551, NYC

The members of the Harm Reduction and Mental Health Project organizing committee are: Michele Stocknoff, LMSW (, Kathryn Grooms, LMSW
(, and Scott Kellogg, PhD (

Scott Kellogg, PhD
Department of Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
New York University
6 Washington Place, Room 403
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Smoking Three Cigarettes a Day Can Kill You
September 9, 2009

A new study from the American Heart Association finds that smoking as few as three cigarettes daily raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by 65 percent, WVNS-TV reported Sept. 1.

Secondhand-smoke exposure raises the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease 20-30 percent, the study also found.

Researchers from Brigham Young University also looked at the risk of illness from other forms of air pollution, WebMD reported Sept. 1.

"It doesn't require extreme exposure to have significant cardiovascular effects. Even passive exposures to ambient air pollution and secondhand smoke contribute to significant increases in cardiovascular mortality," said study author C. Arden Pope III, Ph.D. "A critical finding of our study is that smoking is unhealthy even at small amounts. Reducing the amount one smokes does some good, but the biggest benefits come from stopping completely."

Smoking half a pack of cigarettes raised the risk of dying from heart disease by 79 percent, the researchers found, while smoking a pack a day increased the risk 100 percent.

The study appears in the August 2009 issue of the journal Circulation.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Teens' Stories Show How Accessible Drugs Are
September 8, 2009

A new survey finds that 23 percent of teens say they can get marijuana within an hour and that prescription drugs are easier to obtain than beer -- findings echoed in stories from young drug users themselves.

In an Aug. 26 article, CNN interviewed youths whose experiences mirrored the major findings in the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University's 14th annual Teen Survey. While looking for Pop Tarts at a friend's house, Jessi Danner, then only 10, found a bag of cocaine in a drawer. "There's this little baggie and she's like, 'I have seen this in movies. You shove it up your nose' – and so that's what we did," recalled Danner.

Danner, who became addicted, is now in the final stage of treatment at Vanguard Services in Virginia.

Similarly, Daniel Buruca was only 9 when he started using LSD. Devon Kennedy was in the 9th grade when she started using amphetamines and then quickly progressed to using cocaine and heroin.

Kennedy, who grew up in a Washington suburb, said she had no problems finding drugs at a young age.

"Every time I went to someone's house, the first thing I said was I had to go to the bathroom and I went to the bathroom cabinets and there would always be something in there. Everywhere you went, somebody had a parent who had something," said Kennedy.

The CASA survey found that the number of teens who say it is easier to buy marijuana than cigarettes or beer has increased by 37 percent since 2007, and two-thirds of teens surveyed said drugs are used, kept or sold in their high school.

Debbie Taylor, Vanguard's president and CEO, said parents should ask pediatricians to give their kids drug tests during their yearly physicals so any problems can be spotted right away. "Children go so quickly into an adaptive and addictive phase that it's very difficult to reel them back at that point," said Taylor.

Binge Drinking, Not Necessarily Beer, Expands Waistlines, Study Finds
September 8, 2009

A study from Europe finds that the much-lamented "beer belly" isn't necessarily from drinking beer per se, but rather a consequence of binge drinking regardless of alcohol type.

WebMD reported Sept. 2 that a study of more than 28,000 middle-aged men and women found that those who were monthly binge drinkers (defined as consuming 80 grams of alcohol at a sitting, the equivalent of a six pack of beer) had average waistlines a half-inch bigger than those who drank the same amount of alcohol during the course of an entire week.

Beer drinkers weren't any more apt to sport a "beer belly" than consumers of other types of alcohol, according to researcher Martin Bobak of University College London and colleagues. Bingers had more body fat than non-bingers even if their overall weight was the same.

"Abdominal obesity is an important risk factor for diabetes and for cardiovascular disease," Bobak noted. "The finding that binge drinking is related to abdominal obesity is therefore important for our understanding of the link between heavy drinking and these diseases."

The findings were reported at the recent annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

Water Pipes Favored Over Cigarettes by Many College Athletes
September 4 2009

About 30 percent of college students have smoked tobacco from a hookah, or water pipe, and some college athletes are more likely than non-athletes to smoke a hookah despite the fact that athletes are typically less likely to smoke cigarettes.

Medical News Today reported Aug. 27 that researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that while varsity athletes were 22 percent less likely than non-athletes to smoke a water pipe, club and intramural athletes were 15 percent more likely to do so than their non-athlete peers.

"Varsity athletes may be particularly cautious with any type of substance use because of the demands of their sport and the seriousness of their athletic commitment," said study author Brian Primack, M.D., of the Pitt School of Medicine. "But club and intramural athletes clearly perceive this as a safer form of tobacco use. We in public health need to impress upon them that it is not."

The study was published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Parents, Friends Influence Teen Smoking
September 4, 2009

Occasional teen smokers whose parents smoke and provide minimal supervision have a 71-percent chance of becoming daily smokers, while children of nonsmokers who are closely supervised face just a 31-percent chance of becoming addicted to cigarettes, according to a new study.

Reuters reported Aug. 26 that researchers who tracked 270 teens who smoked occasionally before high school found that 58 percent of the study subjects became daily smokers by their senior year. The smoking habits of parents and friends had a strong influence on whether the teens kept smoking or not, the authors said.

Lead researcher Min Jung Kim of the University of Washington said that parents can break their teens' progression from occasional to addicted smoker by quitting themselves and engaging in "effective supervision and appropriate punishment or rewards for children's behavior."

The study was published in the September 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Supervision and Training in Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy, Fall 2009MONTHLY SUPERVISION GROUP ON INTEGRATIVE HARM REDUCTION PSYCHOTHERAPY (


This group provides training and case supervision in my approach to Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy for people with drug and alcohol concerns. Substance use problems are understood as being intertwined with the unique complexity of the person in context. IHRP is based on an integration of relational psychoanalytic and cognitive-behavioral theory and technique. IHRP blends a skills building focus on cognitive and behavioral change with an exploration of the multiple meanings and functions of substance use and other risk behaviors in the context of a therapeutic relationship that anchors the process and is also an agent of change.

The harm reduction principles that inform this approach are: meeting the patient as a unique individual, the primacy of the therapeutic alliance, abandoning the abstinence requirement and any other preconceived agenda for the patient, special attention to social, personal and induced countertransference, working collaboratively to assess and identify problems, clarify goals and strategies that best suit the patient's needs, recognizing small incremental positive change as success and meeting the patient with empathy, respect, acceptance and flexibility. In this spirit the form, structure and timing of the therapy emerge out of the therapeutic process rather than being predetermined.
The group will combine topical presentations, case presentation with selected readings as appropriate to the members.

Fee: $60.00 The group meets currently on a monthly basis on Mondays, 12-1:30 PM. It may meet more frequently if there is interest.

NOVEMBER 21, 2009


A one-day introductory training at:

The Training Institute for Mental Health
115 W. 27th Street
New York, NY
To Register: 212-627-8181

DECEMBER 11, 2009


A one-day training at:

The Albert Ellis Institute
45 East 65th Street
New York, NY
To register call: 212-535-0822 and tell them Andrew Tatarsky told you about the training…


Over the last several years I have been offering workshops and trainings in the U.S. and internationally for groups that wish to get a deeper immersion in harm reduction philosophy, it’s epidemiological and outcome research support, theoretical basis and applications to psychotherapy and counseling. This approach integrates a skills building focus to cognitive and behavioral change with an exploration of the multiple meanings and functions of substance use and other risk behaviors in the context of a therapeutic relationship the anchors the process and is also an agent of change. There is an emphasis on group participation and learning both theory and technique. Trainings are delivered in the collaborative spirit of harm reduction. These trainings can be delivered from half day to five full day formats depending on the needs of the group. Trainings can be tailored to the specific needs of the agency and client population.
Modules include:
  • History and Evolution of Harm Reduction Philosophy and History

  • Clinical Challenges and Limitations of Traditional Treatment

  • Clinical and Epidemiological Rationales for Harm Reduction Psychotherapy

  • Theoretical Basis of Harm Reduction Psychotherapy

    • Biopsychosocial Process Model of Addiction

    • Multiple Meanings of Drug Use

    • Motivational Stages of Change

  • Clinical Philosophy of Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: The New Paradigm

  • Overview of Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy

  • Building Alliances with Drug Using Patients for Physicians

  • Therapeutic Tasks

    • Managing the Therapeutic Alliance

    • Therapeutic Relationship as Agent of Change

    • Facilitating Self-management Skills for Change: awareness and affect tolerance

    • Assessment as Treatment

    • Embracing Ambivalence

    • Harm Reduction Goal Setting

    • Active Strategies for Facilitating Positive Change

All activities will be led by Andrew Tatarsky, PhD. and colleagues at 303 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1403, NE corner at 31st Street. For more information call 212-633-8157. More information can be found at:

Andrew Tatarsky is the author of Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems, Jason Aronson, 2007.

Central Europe’s Misguided War on Drugs

Project Syndicate
by Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch

WARSAW – It was two decades ago this summer that communist rule began to implode from Tallinn in the Baltic to Tirana in the Adriatic, ushering in free elections, market reforms, and expanded civil liberties. Since then, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have come a long way. Many are now members of the European Union. My homeland, Poland, has a steady economy and a thriving media.

Yet Poland, like many of the other new democracies in our region, remains stuck in the past when it comes to the humane treatment of drug users. Indeed, throughout the former Soviet bloc, there is a disturbing trend in using outdated, conservative, and heavy-handed policies to address drug abuse.

For example, Gdansk – the birthplace of the Solidarity movement – does not have a single methadone treatment center. People must travel for three hours to get the medicine that is proven to control cravings and reduce the harms of drug use. And they are the lucky ones. Only 5% of opiate users in Poland have access to methadone at all, compared to 40% in Germany.

Instead of focusing on treatment that works, the Polish government chooses to give priority to long-term rehabilitation centers located in the depths of the countryside that have little, if anything, to do with evidence-based medicine. Poland also chooses to treat possession of even the smallest quantities of drugs as criminal, as evidenced by the fact that 60% of people sentenced for drug possession in Poland are marijuana smokers.

Addressing drug use through criminalization and rehabilitation centers does nothing to curb demand, however, and usage rates have failed to decline. By driving users underground, criminalization contributes to a deepening public-health crisis.

This pattern persists across Central and Eastern Europe, where governments have also opted to imprison drug users. In Hungary, for example, the penal code calls for two years imprisonment for personal possession by a drug-dependent person. In neighboring Slovakia, the penalty for personal possession is, as in Poland, up to three years.

This approach is not only inhumane, but also economically untenable: leaders in these countries should be encouraged to redirect scarce law enforcement, court, and prison resources towards more pressing causes. Simply put, governments can no longer afford to drain precious time and money that could be better spent elsewhere by locking up people for drug-related offenses.

If Poland and its neighbors are to chart a new way forward, at least three things must happen. First, these countries should look West for alternative, and more humane, drug policies. A report released recently by the United Kingdom’s Drug Policy Commission correctly calls for a “smarter” drug policy that focuses on addressing associated violence rather than simply making arrests.

Officials in Central and Eastern Europe should pay heed to recent comments by the UK’s Home Office, which said that “harm reduction underpins every element of our approach to tackling this complex issue.”

Portugal recently went a step further in voting to decriminalize recreational drugs, including heroin and cocaine – a move that has led to a significant decline in drug-related deaths and a fall in new HIV infections.

Second, law-makers should listen to their constituents: a recent public awareness campaign by Gazeta Wyborcza , a leading Polish daily newspaper, collected more than 23,000 signatures in five days for a petition calling for changes to the current drug law. The changes, modeled after Germany’s progressive policies, would stop punishing people for possessing small amounts of drugs for their own use, impose stricter penalties for dealers and provide more effective treatment for drug-dependent people.

In a step forward, a debate in the Polish parliament on the proposed drug law is set to start in September. Young people should not start their working lives with criminal records because of personal possession.

Finally, at the European level, EU policymakers can help by encouraging member states to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs. By freeing up resources devoted to enforcing policies against low-level users, countries can better tackle serious drug-supply issues and provide people with the effective treatment that they need and deserve.

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch is the director of the Global Drug Policy Program at the Open Society Institute.

Friday, September 4, 2009

When Getting Drunk Is Cheap

Matthew Staver for The New York TimesDo bargain drink specials affect college drinking patterns?

Anyone who has spent time around a college campus knows that the local bars offer drink specials to entice the party crowd.

Alcohol researchers from the University of Florida and San Diego State University decided to gauge how the drink specials influence the quantity of alcohol consumed. The findings will be published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Bar owners claim bargain drinks simply attract customers to the establishment, but that the low prices don’t spur patrons to drink more. But alcohol researchers believe many drinkers, particularly young drinkers, are sensitive to price. If they have $10 to spend they will buy two, $5-dollar drinks or five, $2-dollar drinks, depending on what the drink special is.

In the latest study, the researchers examined the relationship between price and drinking level by collecting data on 495 men and 309 women leaving seven bars near a university campus. The bar patrons were given breath alcohol concentration tests and also told researchers what they drank and spent during their time at the bar.

Beer, wine and spirits all have different levels of ethanol, so the researchers calculated the cost per gram of pure alcohol. So a man in the study who spent $5 for five 12-ounce bottles of 4.2 percent beer ended up consuming about 56 grams of ethanol — at a cost of 9 cents per gram.

The researchers found that the higher the cost per gram of ethanol, the less intoxicated bar patrons were upon leaving the establishment. The study showed that the least intoxicated bar patrons paid, on average, $4.44 for 14 grams of ethanol. Patrons with the highest level of intoxication had paid $1.81 for the same amount of pure alcohol.

The association between cost of the drink and amount consumed was strong. For every $1.40 hike in drink price, the bar goer was 30 percent less likely to leave the bar legally drunk.

The data show that drink specials likely do entice college students to drink more than they would consume if prices were higher. Researchers noted that college students are more sensitive to price reductions than older drinkers, who typically have more disposable income.

In the college bar district where the study was conducted, the bars typically offered “all-you-can-drink” deals for $5 to $7.The data suggest that the bar patrons studied were drinking on a limited budget. The vast majority of drinkers (87%) spent less than $20 on alcohol for themselves at bars. The median amount spent was $9 ($10 for males, $7 for females). Over 25% of men and women in the study spent exactly $5 for all of their alcohol that evening.

“These findings do warrant a discussion about the unintended consequences of cheap alcohol, especially among the price-sensitive college student population, which has a well-documented history of alcohol-related problems,” said Ryan J. O’Mara, graduate research fellow at the University of Florida.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Upcoming Training Activities by Dr. Andrew Tatarsky 

  • SEPTEMBER 16TH 2009
    Integrative Harm Reduction Process: An Overview of an Exciting New Philosophy and Strategy for Positive Change - A workshop for members and staff of Fountain House, New York, NY

  • OCTOBER 1ST 2009
    Effective Psychotherapy for Drug and Alcohol Users Across the Spectrum: Theory and Technique of Integrative Harm Reduction Psychotherapy, Grand Rounds - The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences- Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers and New York Medical - 11:00 AM in the sixth floor Large Conference Room of the O’Toole Building - 203 West 12th Street, between Greenwich and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan.

Cocaine Cutting Agent Leads to Illness
September 2 2009

Drug users who ingested cocaine cut with a substance called levamisole have contracted a blood disease known as agranulocytosis in Massachusetts and other states, the Boston Globe reported Sept. 1.

Massachusetts doctors recently treated their first patient known to have contracted the disease from cocaine cut with levamisole, a drug that has been used as an antibiotic and to treat roundworm in livestock and fish. Cocaine cut with levamisole also has been blamed for illnesses and deaths in Washington and other states.

Health officials in Massachusetts and Washington have sent out warnings about levamisole and the risk of agranulocytosis, a disease that causes a drop in white blood-cell count and carries symptoms including high fever, chills, weakness, swollen glands, and painful sores. "This can be very serious," said Al DeMaria, the chief epidemiologist in Massachusetts. "Why someone would be using this in cocaine, no one really knows."