Tag Archives: addiction

Koko, the Gorilla Who Uses Sign-Language, Mourns the Death of Her Friend Robin Williams

In 2001, Robin Williams traveled to the headquarters of the Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, California after taking a personal interest in ape conservation.

While there, he met the famous gorilla Koko, who was taught American sign-language at a young age.

The two were made for each other. Koko quickly took a liking to Williams’ kind heart, and almost immediately he was one of the ape’s closest friends.

Koko kisses Williams’ hand during their first meeting. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the Gorilla Foundation)

When she met Williams, Koko had been going through a bout of depression following the death of another gorilla that had been her good friend.

At the same time, Williams was battling the issues of depression and addiction that plagued him throughout his life.

Williams made Koko laugh for the first time in six months, granting her requests to be tickled and letting her try on his glasses as the two unlikely friends bonded. It was obvious to anyone watching that Williams enjoyed the experience just as much as Koko did.

You can watch some video of the pair becoming friends below:

The meeting changed the lives of both man and ape alike:

“Not only did Robin cheer up Koko, the effect was mutual, and Robin seemed transformed,”

Koko’s caretaker Dr. Penny Patterson said while reflecting on the meeting.

So when staff at the Gorilla Foundation used sign language to tell Koko of Williams’ passing, it was no surprise that she was visibly upset.

She sat hunched over, her bottom lip quivering as she mourned the passing of her friend.

Koko was visibly upset by the news of Williams' passing. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the Gorilla Foundation)
Koko was visibly upset by the news of Williams’ passing. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the Gorilla Foundation)

Koko’s bond with Williams and her grief at his passing serve as a powerful reminder that a truly kind heart can transcend all differences. Even the differences between man and animal.

Read the original story from the Daily Mail here.

Fatal Drug Overdoses Have Tripled In Russia Since 2012, Reaching 100,000 Per Year

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service announced some chilling statistics on Russian drug use this past Monday.

The most frightening data was on the number of fatal drug overdoses per year in the country. Last year, that number climbed over 100,000, making it nearly three times higher than it was in 2012.

The Service also announced that of the 108,700 people convicted of drug-related crimes last year, 66% were between the ages of 19-29, and another 2% were minors.

Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service

Russia has the highest population of injecting drug users (IDUs) in the world at 1.8 million. A third of these IDUs are HIV positive and a whopping 90% have Hepatitis C.

To make the problem worse, Russia’s drug treatment programs are woefully inadequate. Many people open businesses masquerading as treatment center while using arcane “treatments” like flogging, starvation, and electric shock among others.

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service has also admitted that more than 90% of Russians who check into a treatment center are using drugs again within a year.

A large portion of the intravenous drug users are addicted to heroin or other opioids. These drugs are derived from the poppy plant.

One factor that has contributed to the increasing use of these drugs is an increase in poppy production in Afghanistan.

Poppy production in Afghanistan. Click to enlarge

Cultivating poppies that can be processed into opium or heroin has been a lucrative business in Afghanistan since the 90s. But when the Taliban took power in 2001, the militant group outlawed the growing of poppies, reducing production to almost zero.

Since the U.S. invasion however, there has been a rapid resurgence of opium production in Afghanistan. Last year saw the highest poppy production in Afghanistan in the past 20 years. The level of production was nearly 3 times higher than the average levels before the Taliban’s time in power.

This flood of poppies means cheaper prices for opium and heroin manufacturers and consequently cheaper prices for users, not to speak of the increase in availability.

About a quarter of the heroin manufactured in Afghanistan in 2010 ended up in Russia, and that percentage has only been rising in the past 3 years.

Click to enlarge

Though many people, like Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Drug Control Service, like to blame U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for Russia’s drug problems, this simply isn’t the full story.

Heroin use has actually been on the rise in Russia since the early 90s, when the fall of the Soviet Union left high levels of unemployment and poverty across the country.

In the decade between 1994 and 2004, the total number of drug users in Russia rose an astounding 900%. The war in Afghanistan and the subsequent boom in the poppy supply has only poured gasoline on a problem that was already burning out of control.

Read the original story from RBTH here. Read more about drug abuse in Russia from DrugWarFacts.org here.

From the Editor: My Battle With the World’s Most Dangerous and Powerful Drug

It’s a drug unlike any other known to man. It’s the most powerful and most widespread drug on the planet, but very few people know that it’s a drug and even fewer people know that they’re addicted.

It has existed for almost as long as our species has. It is responsible for more deaths than all of the wars of history combined. It’s been cut, chopped up and re-packaged millions of times, and most people have sub-consciously figured out ways to hide their addiction. But every once in a while, every single one of us comes up on a real good batch of it.

The high is intense. I mean seriously intense. It starts from the center of your forehead, ripping like a perpetually fragmenting lightning bolt through your brain and into your spine. Once it hits the spinal column it’s over. The drug courses like a hot wave through your body, with each consecutive beat of your accelerating heart pounding mind-numbing aftershocks through you from head to toe.

If it’s truly a batch with 100% purity, you black out. Sometimes just for a moment. Sometimes for a few minutes. Some times for a few days. Sometimes forever. Yet we continue to feed our addiction.

Why? I can’t say for sure. Maybe it’s because that numbing feeling it leaves behind helps us deal with pain that we don’t understand. The drug has destroyed both the relationships and the lives of loved ones in every family. We feel the pain of all this destruction, yet we choose to keep feeding the addiction responsible for the damage.

It can be similar to other drugs in many ways. Sometimes we do it because everybody else is doing it and we’re afraid of being left out. Sometimes we do it because our perception of those around us is making us question our own value. Sometimes we do it because the loss of someone close to us is making us face our own mortality. Sometimes we do it to avoid questioning our own sanity.

I’m no expert or anything… Hell, I’m just a lifelong addict who is trying his best to recover. And I’ll admit, I’m not very good at that either. I slip up all the time. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to avoid the drug completely for more than a week since I got hooked on it as a child. It’s so bad that sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it until after the deed is done.

Mom, Dad- if you’re reading this, please don’t blame yourselves. I know that the drug played a major role in your lives as well, though you have learned to control your urges for it better than most. You did a great job of teaching me not only why it’s so dangerous, but also how to recognize when you’re under the influence and how to come down off the euphoric yet painful high without crashing too hard.

I do my best to walk the straight path. I honestly believe that we all do our best to walk that path. Nobody wants to be addicted to this drug. It brings absolutely nothing but pain to all of us in the long run, but we live in the moment. Rather than face our addiction we opiate ourselves with more of the poison in calculated doses whenever we deem it necessary.

The drug is a ruthless overlord. Even though I am aware of its evils I too still bow to it from time to time. Sometimes it’s virtually impossible not to. But when I’m in the grips of the drug’s embrace, I remind myself that the pain I feel is the same pain that is felt within every other human being on this planet. And that the master I’m fighting is the same master that we all fight on a daily basis.

It doesn’t stop the effects of the drug completely, but it helps. And I guess that’s all you can really ask for. Anyways, I hope that this information can help you in some way in the future. I won’t take up anymore of your time…

Oh, what is the drug? It almost seems like a silly question after all these years. So obvious yet so opaque at the same time. The drug, my friend, is hate.

The Myth of the 12-Step Addiction Program: How It Actually Hurts Addicts

Dr. Lance Dodes is a psychiatrist and the author of the recently released book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

He sat down for an interview with NPR last Sunday to talk about his book and its critiques of AA programs and the 12-step method.

He started off by pointing to the extremely low success rate of 12-step programs. While the rehab industry constantly publicizes the success stories, it is also trying to draw attention away from the fact that AA has a success rate of only 5-10%.

Dodes points out that for the other 90%, AA is actually harmful. Since it is lauded as being the best treatment for addiction, the majority of people who don’t make it through see it as a personal failure, rather than a problem with the structure of the program. This perceived failure lowers the self-esteem of the addict even further, which may very well lead to more substance abuse.

So what about the success stories of the other 5-10%? Dodes argues that this success is much more a result of the camaraderie built between addicts in the meetings rather than because of the 12-step program itself. Having a support group of people going through the same things as you makes it easier to successfully beat addiction. In fact, AA actually describes itself as a brotherhood, rather than a treatment.

Dodes admits he doesn’t have all the answers as to the best treatment methods, but advocates a more psychological approach:

“When people are confronted with a feeling of being trapped, of being overwhelmingly helpless, they have to do something. It isn’t necessarily the “something” that actually deals with the problem. … Why addiction, though — why drink? Well, that’s the “something” that they do. In psychology we call it a displacement; you could call it a substitute …

When people can understand their addiction and what drives it, not only are they able to manage it but they can predict the next time the addictive urge will come up, because they know the kind of things that will make them feel overwhelmingly helpless. Given that forewarning, they can manage it much better.

But unlike AA, I would never claim that what I’ve suggested is right for everybody. But … let’s say I had nothing better to offer: It wouldn’t matter — we still need to change the system as it is because we are harming 90 percent of the people.”

Dr. Lance Dodes (Photo: Beacon Press)

You can listen to the full interview on NPR (it’s only 5 and a half minutes long) here.


Acacia Trees Turn Ants Into Addicts to Use Them for Protection

It was long thought that the relationship between ants and the acacia trees in Central America was simply a mutualistic one- the ants get food in the form of nectar and in exchange the trees get protection from harmful weeds and hungry animals. But a study led by Martin Heil of Cinvestav Unidad Irapuato in Mexico has discovered that the trees actually force the ants into servitude by chemically addicting them to the nectar and simultaneously making it impossible for the ants to digest other sugar sources.

Here’s how it works. Most of what ants consume is high in the sugar sucrose, but an enzyme known as invertase is necessary to break this sugar down during digestion. Heil was able to show in 2005 that all of the worker ants on the acacia tree lacked this key enzyme. Heil discovered that this was as a result of an enzyme released by the tree, known as chitinase, which completely blocks the invertase enzyme in the ants.

To make up for this lack of invertase in the ants, the acacia produces this digestive enzyme in its nectar. So, the ants who have lost their internal invertase can only digest nectar from the acacia tree because it is the only available food source with invertase in it. Pretty clever trees I’d say.

To read more, check out the link below:


Hormone Removes the Pleasure of Smoking


(click link above for full story)

The hormone GLP-1 is released in our body when we eat and gives us the feeling of being full or satisfied. It has also been shown to be activated in the parts of the brain associated with satisfaction and the feeling of reward, indicating that it is directly involved with the feeling of gratification.

Scientists at Sahlgrenska Academy of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden hypothesized that by blocking these GLP-1 hormone receptors, they could remove the feeling of satisfaction or gratification that regular cigarette smokers experience after smoking. By using a substance known as Ex4 that imitated GLP-1’s effect on receptors on mice, the researchers found that not only does GLP-1 regulate feelings of gratification, but also that the amount of dopamine (which is produced naturally when the mice are given nicotine) in the brains of the mice who were given Ex4 beforehand was not as high as the amount of dopamine in the brains of the mice who were not given Ex4.

The feeling of gratification that an addict gets from using any substance, from alcohol to cocaine and amphetamines, is still regulated by the GLP-1 hormone, meaning that this research could be groundbreaking for the treatment of addictions.