In the News December, 2016

Pillbox Fashion causes Outrage

Italian luxury fashion brand, Moschino has caused shock and outrage with its Spring 2017 line, taking what they have called a playful look at prescription drugs. Others have seen this more in terms of making light of a serious issue with Nordstrorm caving in to pressure and withdrawing the collection from their stores.

In the collection dubbed MoschiNO, taking off the famous 1980’s famous anti-drugs campaign, consumers can purchase a $950 prescription pill bottle shoulder bag and a $795 pill-strewn-print wool knit sweater. And the invitations to Moschino’s Milan Fashion Week show are equally as provocative, featuring a pill bottle filled with candy.

Randy Anderson, an alcohol and drug counsellor in Minneapolis, launched an online petition to convince Nordstrom and Saks to remove the Moschino capsule collection from their stores. In the petition he wrote: “It would appear that you are unaware that our country is in the midst of a severe epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.” Anderson, who is in long-term recovery himself, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Nordstrom’s reversal was a “victory.” He noted that most addictions to opioids originate with a legal prescription.

According to the leading national public health institute of the United States (CDC), both prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin, killed more than 28,000 people in 2014. That’s more than any year on record and at least half of all opioid deaths involved a prescription opioid.

“I’ve received hundreds of messages, people saying to me, ‘This isn’t causing anyone to become addicted or to try some prescription pill,’” Anderson said. “You know what, that may be the case. My goal is to help one person. If I’ve prevented one person from trying a drug or prescription pill ― if I’ve prevented one person from becoming addicted, I’ve done my part.”

A spokesman for the fashion brand, said: “The Moschino capsule collection was inspired by a play on the word ‘capsule’ translated literally as a collection of ‘capsule-themed’ products. There was never any intent to promote prescription drug abuse. We are disheartened to hear that there has been a misunderstanding of the underlying theme of the collection.”

Nordstorm, however, reversed their earlier decision to keep carrying the line and released a statement saying: “We appreciate all the constructive feedback we received from concerned customers and ultimately decided to remove the collection from our site and the three stores where we offered it,” said a Nordstrom spokeswoman.

Fashion has always had tenuous links with the drug world, just take for example the media storm created by the ‘heroin chic’ style of the mid 1990’s. And maybe, just maybe the old adage: ‘any publicity is good publicity’ rings as true here as is does anywhere else. Controversy provokes discussion and thought which in turn ultimately raises awareness and action. What do you think?

Cravings are still present in the Brain after Death

A new study conducted by the University of Vienna has discovered that ‘dependence memory’ can be identified in addicts post mortem for as long as 9 days and estimate that it could actually be present in the living for months. This research is to be followed by an even more exciting project which seeks to explore whether the activation of this ‘memory’ can be reversed.

A protein known as FosB in the reward centre of the brain alters in chronically ill people suffering from an addictive disorder. When exposed to a constant supply of drugs, it is genetically modified, split off and shortened morphing into a protein known as DeltaFosB. The original protein (FsoB) is involved, along with other molecules, in signal transduction meaning that it conveys genetic information to cells and determines which genes are activated or not. DeltaFosB can, in the cases of chronic use, influence growth factors and actually change the structure of the brain. It resides approximately in the area of the brain related to memory and is also more stable than FsoB remaining in the brain for up to several weeks after the withdrawal of the drug. This means that the cravings persist for the length of time the protein remains active.

Published by the Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy and led by Monika Seltenhammer of MedUni Vienna’s Department of Forensic Medicine, the new research involved studying tissue samples from the nucleus accumbens (an area of the brain associated with memory) of 15 deceased heroin addicts. Seltenhammer said: “Using highly sensitive detection methods, DeltaFosB was still detectable nine days after death.” The researchers are assuming that this period would be much longer in live subjects, probably even months.

These forensic experts are predicting that their results will impact the treatment of addicts, especially those with opiate problems, in the future. Seltenhammer explained: “If the addictive craving persists in the brain for months, it is very important to provide protracted after-care and corresponding psychological support.”

A follow-on project is planned in collaboration with MedUni Vienna’s Institute of Pharmacology and Centre for Addiction Research and Science (AddRess). This team, including drug and dopamine expert, Harald Sitte, seek to find out whether the activation of DeltaFosB can be prevented and if so, how this can be done. In the future this could really change how the early onset of addictive behaviour is treated.

A Sad Finish to 2016

The final week of 2016 has seen the untimely death of two celebrities, both known for their struggles with addiction. Namely, George Michael whose music defined the sound of the 1980’s and the actress, Carrie Fisher, notorious for her no-holds-barred portrayal of Princess Leia in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.

George Michael, 53, died in his sleep at his home in Goring upon Thames on Christmas Day. His manager Michael Lippman said that the singer is believed to have died from heart failure and that the circumstances were not considered suspicious by the police while his publicist, Gary Farrow, told The Sun that “easy access” to drugs was the cause of his problems. He said: “I thought George was too bright to get involved with illegal substances, but once this disease gets hold of you, it’s hard to fight it.”

Since then press speculation about the star’s drug use has been rife claiming the star had been struggling with addiction to heroin in the final year of his life. The UK’s Telegraph newspaper claimed that he was taken to hospital several times over the past year for suspected overdoses, attributing their information to an anonymous source.

In 2007, Michael was sentenced to community service and banned from driving for two years after he was found asleep at the wheel of his car under the influence of drugs and the following year, he was arrested in London on suspicion of possessing crack cocaine.

“I’ve done different things at different times that I shouldn’t have done, once or twice, you know,” Michael said in a 2009 interview in which he also discussed his struggles with sleeping pills, marijuana and crack. “People want to see me as tragic,” he said. “I don’t even see them as weaknesses anymore. It’s just who I am.”

Fisher died on Tuesday at the age of 60 after suffering a massive heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder have been well documented and she presented them to the world in both a book and a stand-up routine of the same name.

“There are a couple of reasons why I take comfort in being able to put all this in my own vernacular and present it to you,” she wrote in “Wishful Drinking,” after detailing her diagnosis and an overdose experience. “For one thing, because then I’m not completely alone with it. And for another, it gives me a sense of being in control of the craziness.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the largest grassroots support organisation for people living with mental illnesses, honoured Fisher in 2001 for “making a significant, national contribution to end discrimination” against people with mental illness. Ken Duckworth, medical director of NAMI, said Fisher approached dealing with mental illness the same way she approached playing feisty Princess Leia in Star Wars: Pro-active, honest and fearless.

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