Lack of Team Spirit in Workplace Increases Depression and Use of Antidepressants

By Susan J. Campbell

The idea that stressful work can be unhealthy is coming into brighter light as new research finds that work environments that lack team spirit can increase depression. A new study by researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Turku, Finland, suggests that such an environment brought on by a lack of team spirit increases worker depression and the odds that employees will turn to antidepressants.

A report in Business Week noted that the workplace has become even more stressful as people worry about losing their jobs and are uncertain about the economic future. One expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham referred to the U.S. work environment as more tenuous and toxic than in recent history.

Marjo Sinokki, the study’s lead researcher, highlighted that depression is common in working populations and is associated with substantial work disability in terms of sick leave and disability pensions. Sinokki suggests that in order to combat this tendency in the workplace, even in the best of times, companies need to promote well-being and pay attention to team climate.

In completing this study, researchers found that a perception that a workplace was prejudiced or quarrelsome was not associated with alcohol abuse or anxiety, but instead with a lack of team spirit. Those who felt the team spirit was poor were 60 percent more likely to report being depressed and 50 percent more likely to take antidepressants.

Researchers believe that more attention to psychosocial factors at work can result in a healthier workforce. In addition, since people spend the majority of their day at work, the contribution of the work environment to their overall psychological well-being is substantial.

Russia Calls for Joint Action from US and NATO to Eradicate Heroin in Afghanistan

Russia’s counter-narcotics chief criticized U.S. and NATO anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan, calling them inadequate and asking for joint action against the Afghan heroin flooding into the former Soviet Union.

In an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday, Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s drug control agency, said he recently urged the Obama administration’s drug czar to begin a program of spraying herbicide from the air to eradicate Afghanistan’s fields of opium poppies.

“I hope that our open-minded dialogue will encourage the U.S. to take more adequate measures,” Ivanov said.

Russian-U.S. counter-drug efforts are considered a key area of cooperation as both countries try to improve relations following years of tensions.

The problem of drug abuse is of vital concern for Russia, where cheap Afghan heroin has helped fuel a surge in addiction rates and injection drug use has been a key factor in the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.

Authorities say that there are between 2 million and 2.5 million addicts in Russia, and that about 30,000 die each year of drug overdoses.

Afghanistan provides more than 90 percent of the heroin consumed in the world, and most of it flows through ex-Soviet Central Asia and Russia.

Ivanov voiced concern that the administration of President Barack Obama has abandoned the Bush-era policy of large-scale eradication of opium crops in Afghanistan.

Some U.S. officials have called the tactic ineffective in curbing cultivation and claimed that it boosted support for the Taliban. Instead, the Obama administration has focused on targeting drug labs and encouraging farmers to raise alternative crops.

Ivanov, a former KGB officer who served in Afghanistan during the Soviet war there in the 1980s, told the Associated Press that growing wheat and other legal crops isn’t practical in the midst of the escalating conflict.

“As long as the situation remains tense and the confrontation continues, no one will engage in agriculture,” he said. “They won’t be able to cultivate grain even if they want to.”

He insisted that the aerial spraying of herbicides is the only efficient way to stem the drug trade, and pointed out that the U.S. has used the tactic against the illicit coca crop—the source of cocaine—in Colombia.

Efforts to chop down and bulldoze poppy fields on the ground in Afghanistan have brought few results, he said. He also said the Western decision to leave the fight against drugs to the Afghan government was a mistake because local authorities lack the clout to accomplish the goal.

Ivanov said he met with Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, and State Department officials during a September visit to Washington, and both sides agreed to continue discussions on aerial spraying.

A recent U.N. report found that the amount of land planted with opium poppies in Afghanistan dropped 36 percent between 2007 and 2008. But the same report said the amount of opium produced fell by only 10 percent, due to improved growing techniques.

While Moscow is leery of the presence of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, Russia is counting on those troops to stem the flow of Muslim militants and Afghan heroin into the former Soviet Union.

Earlier this year, the Kremlin allowed the shipment of supplies for U.S. forces in Afghanistan across the Russian territory, a route that could become an increasingly important alternative to Pakistan, where supply convoys are sometimes attacked.

Ivanov said that the U.S. may not see Afghan heroin as an urgent problem because little of it finds its way into the United States. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says most heroin consumed in the U.S. comes from Mexico and South America.

Despite U.S.-Russian differences on how to solve the Afghan drug problem, Ivanov vowed to expand joint anti-narcotics efforts with Washington. “We are interested in cooperation,” Ivanov said.

Mother Hiding Heroin in Her Body Is Spared Jail

A 23-year-old Wales mother who was caught with heroin hidden inside her body avoided jail yesterday when the judge gave her a chance to change her ways. Samantha Davies faced up to four years in jail.

Prosecutor Tony Trigg said police had told Davies they were going to search her when they stopped her car last April. “She volunteered to them that she had one wrap of heroin hidden in her bra and another eight wraps in a money bag concealed inside her body,” Trigg told the court.

“When she was interviewed she said she had been supplying heroin for about five weeks because she heavily addicted and needed as much as eight bags a day for herself,” he continued. Davies said her boyfriend was buying the drugs and sharing them with her.

Of every 20 bags she made out of her share, she sold on five or six because it was the only way she could afford her next purchase. Last year she was in court for drug possession and shoplifting.

Meirion Davies, defending, said, “Her situation is a cliché. This is what happens when you become hooked on a class A drug. It destroys your life and could ultimately end it.”

He said Davies’ mother and stepfather were still standing by her and that she had promised to cut herself off from her former boyfriend. The court was told she was now living away from her former boyfriend in a place where he couldn’t find her and was doing her best to recover from her addiction.

Judge Christopher Llewellyn-Jones QC gave her a two-year community order with drug rehabilitation, adding that she has a family who loves her and a little boy who needs her. He added, “We don’t expect miracles but we will expect you to become drug free.”

Popular Obesity Medication Alli May Be Linked to Organ Damage

At first, orlistat (often called Alli) may have seemed like the cream of the crop for weight loss medications – accessible, affordable, and providing results to thousands. However, recent research suggests that individuals taking orlistat, one of the best-selling medications for weight loss – also known as Zenical or Alli – may be at serious risk for damage to the kidney or liver.

Experts in a National Institutes of Health study believe even low levels of the drug – officially known as orlistat – may cause organ damage and may also negatively impact the ways cancer treatment drugs function. The findings are especially important given the rise in use of Alli during the past ten years for patients seeking help with obesity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been made aware of the research, published by Bingfang Yan of the University of Rhode Island. Patients taking orlistat have been reported to experience failure of the pancreas or liver, as well as kidney failure. The problem is believed to be linked to the way the drug is absorbed by the body, thus exposing various organs to it – contrary to prior belief that it may not be absorbed by the body. The drug is also believed to affect the way key enzymes work in the body, which may prevent cancer drugs from functioning properly.

Alli is available over-the-counter to people who are older than 18, although previously the drug was administered by prescription. Like other weight loss medications, individuals are encouraged to use the medication as only one part of a weight loss program that includes healthy lifestyle changes, exercise and even professional counseling to determine the underlying factors related to chronic overeating. Side effects of orlistat include yellowing of skin or eye color, itching, appetite problems and discolored urine.

Strongest Influences on Eating Disorders are Closest to Home

In a culture where Victoria Secret models fill store windows and television and magazines are graced by only the picture-perfect, it can be hard for women to accept that not every female is meant to share the same body type. The not-so-subtle message is that in order to be considered beautiful a woman must be thin. These images are hard to escape making the message seemingly ubiquitous. This cultural emphasis on idealized beauty can lead some women into the psychological danger of eating disorders. Yet, since the message goes out to all while only some wind up obsessing over weight, the question arises as to what determines why one woman falls prey to the disorder while another woman does not?

recent report described research on female twins that attempted to answer that question. The study of 300 twins between the ages of 12-22 years looked at cultural, environmental and genetic factors which might influence women to become weight obsessive. As part of the study, each woman was asked to gauge her own desire to look like female cultural icons.

The study found that genetic similarities mirrored answers about desired thinness. In other words, identical twins scored more closely on their desire to be thin than less genetically matched twins. This could mean that genetics strongly influences our desires. According to the report, the desire for thinness is a 43 percent heritable trait.

What about the influence of media images? While not discounting the strength of visual cues, the research found that after genetics, the woman’s immediate environment played the most decisive role in her attitudes toward thinness and beauty. A woman’s close environment did more to form her views of beauty than did broad cultural influences.

The study suggests that while Victoria Secret models may make most of us feel inadequate, the strongest influences on whether or not a woman will develop an eating disorder are her own genes and environment.

Drug Czar Looks to Baltimore’s Drug Court for Inspiration

Gil Kerlikowske, America’s drug czar, is looking to Baltimore’s 15-year-old drug treatment court to help set the nation’s strategy of emphasizing treatment over incarceration. The Baltimore Sun reports that Kerlikowske met with legislators and a drug court judge to discuss the program and collaborate efforts between city, state, and federal agencies.

During a news conference, Kerlikowske noted that released prisoners “almost invariably go back to the neighborhood from whence they came,” and that without treatment, “all we’re doing is recycling people throughout the system.”

It’s been suggested that the Obama administration will focus on drugs as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement problem, and in Baltimore, drug addiction is “the most significant public health crisis” there is, according to Greg Warren, president of the Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc, which sets the city’s drug strategy.

Every year, 9,000 convicts are returned to Baltimore streets, and many of them return to the drug abuse that led them to incarceration. Most of the city’s criminal activity is drug-related, with 80 percent (or four out of five people) failing their initial drug tests.

The first drug treatment court was developed in Florida in 1989 when crack cocaine addiction was labeled an epidemic. The idea behind drug courts is to lessen the burden on courts and jails by attempting to treat drug-addicted individuals before imprisoning them.

Today there are more than 1,000 drug courts across the country, according to a 2005 University of Maryland report that studied the effects of Baltimore’s drug court, which was created in 1994 in response to a city Bar Association claim that 85 percent of Baltimore crimes were drug related.

In Baltimore, participants must live in the city and be at least 18, and they can’t have committed a violent offense. They are supervised and regularly drug tested during their treatment. However, Baltimore’s intensive probation supervision and the significant participation of the Division of Parole and Probation are atypical.

Baltimore’s drug court participants are about three times more likely to be employed after the program as other convicts, and are a third as likely to use drugs during treatment, according to Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who added, “We want Baltimore to be a model.”

Cummings stressed the need for more resources and the role the federal government has in providing them, which is the main reason he wanted Kerlikowske to become familiar with Baltimore’s system. “You want the federal government to be sensitive to things that are working,” Cummings said, to ensure that “the city has a better chance at getting the resources it needs.”

Kerlikowske said he “absolutely” plans to incorporate Baltimore’s efforts into the country’s policy.

The History Behind Red Ribbon Week

Every year America’s schools celebrate Red Ribbon Week during the last week of October. Students know that Red Ribbon Week is about raising awareness of the dangers of substance abuse, but many students might not know the story behind the red ribbons.

“Kiki” Camarena was born on July 26, 1947. He was a Mexican immigrant to California, and he joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. After he was discharged, Kiki worked as a fireman, a police investigator, and a narcotics investigator in California.

As a result of his concern over the growing drug problem in the United States, he became a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1974. In July of 1981, Kiki was assigned to a DEA office in Mexico. His mission was to find those who were dealing illegal substances and help stop the drug trade across the Mexican border into the United States. During his work, Kiki discovered leads into a multi-billion dollar drug pipeline.

On February 7, 1985, Kiki was on his way to meet his wife for lunch when he was kidnapped in broad daylight, then brutally tortured and murdered. His body was not found until March 5, 1985. Many organized crime figures from Mexico were arrested for his torture and murder.

Reflecting on his life and work, his family remembers something Kiki once said: “Even if I’m only one person, I can make a difference.”

Not long after Kiki’s death, a congressman and one of Kiki’s friends from high school established a club in Kiki’s hometown where the members promised to lead a drug-free life and wore a red ribbon to honor those who have been lost in the war against drugs.

This program gained popularity and in 1988, the grass roots campaign went national with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons. Since then, the Red Ribbon campaign has grown and is now celebrated in most American schools.

When you see a student wearing a red ribbon, ask if they know Kiki’s story and the reasons behind Red Ribbon Week.

Rape in Your Social Circle: Not as Uncommon as One Might Think

Although this article has been written in the second person, it is a true story. It is the story of a young woman (who is now a freshman in college) who when she was a senior in high school, had to endure what she described as torture knowing that a boy in her clique had raped one of her best friends. This is their story.

In thousands of high schools across the country, there is a girl whose close friend was sexually assaulted by a mutual acquaintance. Someone on the same sports team, school publication, or honor roll. The impact of rape within a social group can be severe, especially if the survivor of sexual assault chooses to share her story with only one individual. If the survivor chooses not to report the rape to a counselor, police office, coach, or parent, it is imperative that the other members of her social group respect that choice and protect her privacy.

The reality is that once you have the knowledge that you know a rapist, you will see your friend’s attacker each day on campus, and you will be largely unable to change your daily interactions with the attacker. While you may be able to find a reasonable excuse to cut ties with your friend’s rapist, you may have to maintain the same friendly, easy-going interactions that were typical of your relationship simply to protect your friend’s privacy. It can be incredibly stressful to sit in the same room with someone you know beyond all doubt committed the sexual assault of one of your closest friends, and be unable to act in any way. If she chooses to share her story with other friends, it will become easier to interact with the rapist, because the overall climate of your social group will likely change. Rather than being one of two people who knew but could do nothing, you and your close friend will be surrounded by people with the same knowledge and no desire to continue a relationship with the attacker.

Normal Reactions

It’s completely natural to be angry – livid even – after someone you trust assaults one of your friends. This does not mean just being angry at him: often, you will be angry with yourself and those around you for failing to realize the kind of person that he really was. Not only that, people often begin to question whether or not they can trust other of the members of the group. Did the guys know? Had they known all along what type of man he was, and simply neglected to say anything? Or, even worse, had they encouraged him in some way? It can be tough to rebuild your faith in a group of people if you are unsure of their involvement.

If someone in your social circle is victimized by another friend, it can be extremely difficult to adjust your conception of your social group to this new reality. You have to keep in mind that no matter how differently you feel about the others in your social group (whether they’re aware of events or not), your response to the situation is largely limited based on what your friend – the survivor – wants to do. If she chooses not to report the rape, you have to be extremely careful about the way you act around others in your friend group, so that you don’t accidentally reveal private information.

Often, when you come into the knowledge that someone you know is a rapist, you think that it can’t possibly be true. He’s so nice, and charming, and funny! Whether that’s true or not, that charming guy is completely capable of committing a rape. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a misunderstanding or a joke in poor taste: no matter how he portrays himself when he’s interacting with you, he has raped someone you care about. Nothing else that he does can (or should) excuse this behavior – especially if he has received no counseling or treatment. You should do everything that you can to remove yourself from his social circle, and you should do it unapologetically. Whether those around you make the same choices or are ignorant of his past, you have no obligation to look beyond something as horrendous as a rapist who smiles at you at lunch every day.

Dealing With the Guilt

No matter what others in your social circle might say – and certainly, some of them may attempt to blame you for not predicting his behavior – you didn’t cause the rape. A lot of things change after a rape, especially in a close social group. The uncertainty, tension, and even fear that can permeate the group is not your fault; it is his. Victims often blame themselves for their attacks, and sometimes those close to them assume that blame as well. Talking to someone you trust, whether it be your parents, a teacher, counselor, or close friend, is an important step to take in terms of being able to move forward, and hopefully moving past the attack.

17 Killed in Shooting at Mexico Drug Rehab Center

Gunmen shot and killed 17 patients and wounded two others at a drug rehabilitation center in northern Mexico, the mayor of Ciudad Juarez announced. Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said authorities believe a rival drug gang attacked the men at the El Aviane rehab facility.

“At the very least, it was one organized crime group thinking that another group was operating in that place,” Reyes told CNN.

Wednesday night’s shootings, he said, are similar to an attack at a drug facility in March that left 20 patients dead. A Mexican civic group said last week that Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, had the most slayings per capita in 2008 of any city in the world.

More than 1,420 people have been killed in Juarez this year, Reyes told CNN on Monday. About 1,600 people were killed in Juarez in 2008, he added.

Since President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug cartels shortly after coming into office in December 2006, violence in Mexico has greatly increased. More than 11,000 people have died, about 1,000 of them police.

In Juarez, much of the violence is being committed by the rival Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels, which are fighting for lucrative routes into the United States as well as local street sales, Reyes said.

According to a report released last week by the Mexican Citizens Council for Public Security watchdog group, Juarez had an estimated rate of 130 killings per 100,000 people. The city has a population of around 1.5 million.

In comparison, the homicide rate in New Orleans, Louisiana, the deadliest city in the United States in 2008, was 64 homicides per 100,000 residents, based on preliminary FBI figures.

Anna Nicole Smith’s Bodyguard Reveals Details About Her Drug Use

More details are surfacing regarding the role Howard K. Stern played in Anna Nicole Smith’s drug use, including an incident where Howard cooked a crushed Valium pill on a spoon and injected Anna with the drug.

According to celebrity website, Smith’s former bodyguard, Maurice Brighthaupt, testified yesterday in the case against Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, and revealed a shocking story about Smith’s time in the Bahamas with Stern.

Brighthaupt unveiled an incident in which Smith began “begging” for drugs to help her deal with the loss of her son Daniel. (He also overdosed.) Brighthaupt watched Smith lie naked in an adjoining bedroom while Stern provided her what whatever drugs she wanted.

“I saw him drawing up liquid from the spoon that was being cooked. She couldn’t swallow. Anna and Howard felt if they put it in the blood system that it would get into her system quicker.”

Brighthaupt said that he saw Stern do this for Smith “four or five” times between then and the day of her death, and also saw Dr. Eroshevich deliver chloral hydrate to the Bahamas to inject Smith at least once.