Celebrity Drug Overdoses Teach Important Lessons

Whitney Houston was 48 years old when she died in February of this year.
Amy Winehouse was 27 when she died from alcohol poisoning in 2011.
Michael Jackson was 50 years old when he died from prescription drug overdose in 2009.

ImageAll three of these artists were gripped by alcohol and/or drug abuse throughout their adult lives, the tragedies of which were a constant source of ridicule for the tabloid press and late-night comedians. The official causes of Whitney Houston’s death have only recently been released, and the LA coroner’s office reported that the official cause of death was drowning and the effects of heart disease and cocaine use. The amount of cocaine found in the singer’s system indicates that she used the substance shortly before her death. The prescription bottles of Xanax and Valium that were found in her hotel room are anti-anxiety medications that are also used during substance abuse treatment programs. Houston went through several cycles of rehab and relapse, most recently in May 2011. Other substances found in her system included Benadryl, marijuana, and Flexiril.

A source claims that some members of Houston’s family blame ex-husband Bobby Brown for turning her into a heavy drug user. In an interview, Houston “admitted she made habitual use of marijuana and crack and specified that Brown’s highs of choice were alcohol and marijuana laced with cocaine.” Sadly, Houston’s daughter, age 18, has also struggled with substance abuse for the past 3 years and her family’s attention has turned to her in the wake of their loss.

Without going into the specifics surrounding the deaths of Winehouse and Jackson, I will summarize some of the themes that come out of these tragic stories.

  • Prescription medications can be just as risky as illegal drugs when it comes to the possibility of dependence and accidental overdose.
  • Alcohol should not be used in combination with prescription medications due to interactive effects that can amplify drug reactions.
  • Past drug use has long-term consequences on a person’s physical health that don’t disappear after quitting.
  • Substance abuse often coincides with untreated mental illness, as in the cases of Winehouse and Jackson.
  • Susceptibility to substance abuse is influenced by an individual’s genetics and environment. The people that surround a substance abuser can enable self-destructive behaviors or they can choose to be positive influences.

With their histories of drug abuse, was it inevitable that these celebrities would die from overdoses or do you believe that they could have turned things around at any time? Looking at yourself, your friends, and your family, would you know how to spot the signs of substance abuse and would you know what to do?

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

Michael Nagle / Getty Images file
Shopping for holiday gifts for your friends and family can be expensive and time-consuming. It requires some thoughtfulness and planning to find the right gift for the right person at the right price range for you. Healthy gifts are well-received during the holidays because people feel guilty about overeating and start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Consider some of these ideas for the people you know that appreciate novel, practical gifts. As always, be tactful when sending health-related gifts so you’re not sending the message that “I think you’re NOT healthy and could benefit from this…”

Farmers’ Markets and Whole Foods Gift Cards
Instead of gift cards to retail outlets for electronics and clothing, consider the Farmers Market and Whole Foods, where you can get fresh, local produce and healthy prepared food. Unfortunately, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market no longer sells Truck Bucks but check your local farmers’ markets.

Healthy Cookbooks
For people that are beginning to learn how to cook, find cookbooks with recipes that require simple ingredients and instruction that are easy to follow. People that aren’t used to cooking all the time often do not have fresh ingredients so they may find it useful to have recipes for ingredients that keep well and don’t need to be prepared right away. You can also cook with the recipient once or twice using the cookbook to encourage the person to use the cookbook and build their cooking confidence.

Massage / Spa Treatment
For the special ladies in your life and also the dudes that enjoy the finer things in life, treat them to a massage or day at the spa. Groupon and Living Social often have discounted massage packages for $40 or less. If that’s too expensive, get some scented massage oils, watch a Youtube video, and do it yourself.

Water Purifer / Water Bottle
To encourage friends to stay hydrated with water instead of sugary soft drinks, give them handheld water purifiers with some spare filters. Although choosing a water bottle can be a personal decision for some people, a classic Nalgene or stainless steel bottle are always appreciated. Check out Laura’s blog post Hydration Station for more info.

Electronic Toothbrush
I’ve only met one kind of electronic toothbrush owner – the kind that swears by them and will try to convince you to buy one if you ever ask about it. Literature reviews show that electronic toothbrushes reduce more plaque, gingivitis, and stains than manual brushing. Spend a little more and get a rechargeable toothbrush that will last for years.

For their feet.

Making the Best of Your Roommate Relationships

Thousands of first-year students moved to Chapel Hill this fall, brimming with optimism and hoping to realize their vision of college life. Many students were anxious to meet their randomly assigned roommate for the first time. No one could anticipate what it would be like to live with a total stranger that may have different perspectives when it comes to hygiene, noise, sleeping habits, alcohol and drug use, and sexual activities. By this time of year, some first-year students should have a pretty good sense of how they are getting along with their roommates based on the number of times they’ve have had to tiptoe around piles of garbage on the floor or been sexiled from their rooms without warning. Having a bad relationship with your roommate may negatively impact your academic performance and personal well-being if you don’t take steps to remedy the situation. On the other hand, a freshman year roommate may end up being one of your best friends throughout college, like what happened to me.

Many good roommate relationship begin by setting down ground rules at the beginning. This is worthwhile even if you’re rooming with a longtime friend because many issues come up when two people live together that you wouldn’t know about otherwise. Here are some common topics to cover when setting ground rules. You can also start off on the right foot by treating your roommate with respect when it comes to their space, their property, and their preferences. This can set a positive example that your roommate may feel obliged to follow. For example, let your roommate know when you want to have people over so that they can plan ahead.

If you’re one of those students that spends a lot of time longing for the privacy and comfort of your own room, you probably can’t wait for this first-year experiment to end. But the end of the year is still 7 months away. Students that have issues with their roommates should try to talk early when the problem’s small. Be careful to avoid pointing the finger and being overly confrontational but don’t be passive aggressive either. You can also go to your RA and talk about your concerns. They are your best allies in these situations. If you’ve tried these approaches without success, you may also consider spending less time in the room and finding other places on campus to hang out.

Although you should try to make your best effort to make things work with your roommate, maintaining a good relationship depends on both individuals. Don’t think that you’re a bad roommate if things don’t work out. In the rare instance that your roommate is actually just a terrible person, more drastic steps may need to be taken. This is especially important when your roommate is engaging in activities that may be putting you at risk and when you find yourself having to cover up for them. You shouldn’t have to compromise your principles to have a good relationship with your roommate.

The most important thing in any relationship is to communicate openly before small problems get out of control. Before you write off your roommate, ask yourself whether you dislike some of their behaviors or you dislike them as a person. Have they made an effort to change? Also remember to consider ways in which you may have contributed to the problem from your end. If nothing else, just treat your first year roommate experience as a lesson in conflict resolution.

Bad Alcohol Calories

You may be surprised by the number of empty calories you consume through alcoholic beverages. You get the same number of calories with a beer as you do with a glass of orange juice or 1% milk, with none of the nutrition. Did you know that the difference between a Budweiser and Bud Light is only 35 calories? As consider that pint glasses hold 16 ounces of beer, which means that you’re looking at 1.33 servings in each drink from the bar.

It looks even worse for mixed drinks. A 1.5oz shot of 100-proof alcohol has the same caloric value as a beer. Add in mixers, and your margarita or Long Island Iced Tea could be the equivalent of 2 beers. In addition, studies have shown that alcohol stimulates the appetite during dinner, resulting in increased caloric intake, which is on top of the amount of calories in the alcohol itself. Just think about how often you indulge in unhealthy fried foods, takeout, and pizza under the influence of alcohol. Furthermore, diet quality has been shown to be poorest among the highest quantity, least frequent drinkers. The Freshman Fifteen is due in no small part to the increased consumption of alcohol. Go the Booze Calculatorto convert your drinks to their food equivalents.

To avoid the calories associated with heavy alcohol use, you can begin by counting the number of drinks you have in a typical evening and how many calories that translates into. From here, you may know to avoid certain types of beverages that are high in calories (hint: it’s the sugary ones). You can also set limits on the number of drinks you will have before going out. Finally, if you don’t have a hangover the next day, you’ll have the time and energy to make the most of the fall weather and get some exercise!

Stay safe,
P. Tang

Ignorantia Iuris Neminem Excusat (Ignorance of the Law Excuses No One)

Courtesy of dui.com

When I moved to North Carolina from New York a little over a year ago, I assumed that alcohol laws were generally the same from state to state. Imagine my shock when I realized that I couldn’t buy alcohol between 2 am and noon on Sundays, forcing me to prepare in advance for Sunday afternoon football games. Some folks from out-of-state may be unaware about the specifics of drinking laws, but ignorance of the law is not a valid defense in court. Even if you’re a Carolina native, it’s always helpful to know the know the law and know your rights. Below are some interesting laws that may be new information to you. As a disclaimer, this is not meant to be taken as legal advice so if you have questions, please consult a lawyer or Student Legal Services.


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How to Make Healthy Choices Concerning Alcohol and Other Drugs

Enjoying alcohol responsibly can be a healthy part of your college life. When it comes to alcohol and other drugs, the first step in making healthy choices is to understand what you’re putting into your body, what the substance’s effect on your body will be and the potential risks involved. These guides can help you. The second step is to recognize how you personally react to specific substances in various doses. According to the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, most of the harmful effects of alcohol come from drinking too much. For example, it may be important to know that you should avoid tequila because things get out of control when you start taking shots. The third step is to recognize the situations in which you find it difficult to control yourself or in which you make decisions that you later regret. Do you always end up drinking more than you originally planned when you go out with certain friends? Have you not remembered a single Halloween since you started college except through embarrassing Facebook photos the next day?

The following tips may be helpful if you want to pay more attention to your drinking habits.

Before going out. Let your friends know how much you’re planning to drink before you go out. You can watch out for each other and step in before a friend has had too much. This also requires that you count the number of drinks that you have over the course of an evening, which is always a good thing. You count how many tacos you eat at the food truck, don’t you? Speaking from purely anecdotal evidence, people seem to draw the line at 4 tacos in one sitting.

When you’re out. Don’t accept alcohol or other drugs unless you know what’s in it. Are you really going to drink whatever is in that red cup from that sketchy guy that’s been hitting on you all night? If you don’t know what kind of alcohol, how much alcohol, and what else might be in your drink, politely decline and ask for a Zima. That way they’ll know you’re a person of impeccable taste.

Throughout the night. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water. Alcohol causes dehydration because it’s a diuretic and effects the balance of vitamins and minerals in the body. The liver also requires water to process alcohol, leading to further dehydration. Drinking lots of water throughout the night slows down your drinking, gives your body a chance to process the alcohol, and prevents next-day hangovers.

When school gets stressful. Some students may turn to alcohol and other drugs as a way to cope with stress, which may gradually turn into dependence – and that’s a high price to pay for the temporary respite you might gain. If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug habits, write us an email. We are here to help.

Stay safe,

P. Tang