Friday, June 04, 2010

The Lindsay Lohan Deathwatch and her Mystery Kombucha Tea

With the recent onslaught of celebrity deaths over the past year, there has become a virtual cottage industry of websites, e-zines, and street paparazzi to watch a celebrities every move. Everywhere they go and everything they do is photographed , captured and logged for our endless consumption. The “new look” for the cult of celebrity worship isn't looking for a new hair style or who has a date to the Oscars. The “new look” is how that celebrity will look in a coffin.

I must also admit I follow with a grim morbid fascination the lives and deaths of the Hollywood elite. I am signed up to the Rotten Deadpool, where you are allowed to choose ten famous people you think will die over the next year. The only rule is you can't kill any of the people on your list. I currently have a score of 1 thanks to Gary Coleman (RIP). I also frequent for my death hag fix.

The fascination with the deaths of the rich and powerful, especially if they are in sorted detail, interests us all. Ever since the inception of the Hollywood system in the early part of the 20th century, there have been glamorous stars dropping dead like flies. The first major Hollywood scandal was that of silent movie screen goddess, Olive Thomas, and her mysterious death from mercury poisoning while her husband, Jack Pickford, was in the next room. [1] To John Belushi and River Phoenix overdosing on speedballs, injected combinations of heroin and cocaine in our more contemporary era. You might think the Hollywood system would clamp down and put their stars in check to try and stop these kinds of things, but Hollywood is a meat grinder that can consume a person and spit them out. The sad truth is that a star is probably worth more dead than alive.

Lindsay Lohan is just the latest example in this 24/7 deathwatch. We've seen pictures and stories of her drinking, taking drugs, and engaging in all sorts of other reckless behavior. Now, in fairness to Ms. Lohan, she has never attempted to pass herself off as a role model for anyone. What she wants to do with her life, no matter how short she expects it to be, is up to her – so long as she doesn't endanger anyone else along the way. Which is far too often the case, unfortunately.

Lindsay Lohan has come up from the proverbial hard knock life of the child star into drug addled adolescence and adulthood with not a lot to show for it. But, this isn't Variety, so I'll get to what the readers of my blog are interested in with regard to this story. Both sources of this information come from As it is well known, Lindsay does a lot of partying. She goes to clubs and bars basically every night and gets drunk. What other substances besides alcohol she might obtain and ingest would be up for speculation. However, we do know she has been spotted in and around white powder on several occasions. This could either be powder cocaine or methamphetamine. She admitted in a previous interview to The Sun that she has experimented with cocaine. She also tested positive for cocaine in a urine test found by  Both cocaine and amphetamines increase dopamine output and give the user a feeling of invincibility and incredible euphoria. [2]

We also know she has prescriptions for both Adderall and Ambien. A combination of drugs most doctors probably would be hesitant to prescribe. Adderall is a drug of the amphetamine class and is prescribed for treatment of ADHD. It comes as a mixture of the L and D (right and left) isomers of various amphetamine salts which increase oral bioavailability and prolong the halflife of the drug to last throughout the day. Generally, the L isomer of amphetamine has been used for bronchial dilation to help with symptoms of asthma and congestion. The D isomer, dextroamphetamine, is much more potent in terms of brain action and is responsible for the euphoria which makes it a highly sought after drug. The amphetamines also block the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, which gives it its stimulant properties and its user a feeling of well being. [3] Dextroamphetamine and its other amphetamine counterparts were originally sold as diet aids and antidepressants in the 1950s and 60s.

In an advertisement for Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) for doctors circa the 1960s the following prescribing recommendations are made (click the link to see the picture).

Why is this woman tired?
Because she is physically overworked.  If this is the case, you prescribe rest, because rest is the only cure for this kind of physical tiredness
Because she is mentally "done in".  Many of your patients -- particularly housewives -- are crushed under a load of dull, routine duties that leave them in a state of mental and emotional fatigue.  For these patients, you may find "Dexedrine" an ideal prescription.  "Dexedrine" will give them a feeling of energy and well-being, renewing their interest in life and living.  Dexedrine (dextro-amphetamine sulfate, S.K.F.) is available as tablets, elixir, and Spansule capsules (sustained release capsules, S.K.F.) and as manufactured by Smith Kline & French Labortories, Philadelphia.

Ambien (zolpidem) is a hypnotic sleep inducing drug, not a barbiturate nor a benzodiazepine, although it acts similar to them. It is prescribed for short term relief of insomnia for around 14 to 30 days to get the users bodies circadian rhythm back in order on a regular pattern of sleeping during the night and being awake during the day. Using it beyond that period can cause addiction, as can Adderall, if abused or taken improperly. Both of these drugs have a fairly high abuse potential and users have been known to exceed the therapeutic dosages for these drugs and ingest them through other routes, such as snorting them nasally to increase the high that comes from the drug. Unfortunately, as with most any other drugs that effect neurotransmitters, both compounds will lead to tachyphylaxis, where the user most constantly increase the dose of the drug to receive the same pleasurable benefits. It is also interesting to note that the US Air Force uses this combination of amphetamine and Ambien for their long distance fliers. Adderall is known as the “go pill” while Ambien is known as the “no go pill”. Its used in this way to keep fliers awake and alert for long flights, and then back down to sleep from the use of amphetamine. [4] If it's good enough for the US military, surely its good enough for our Hollywood starlets!

Luckily for Ms. Lohan, Ambien will not show up in a standard NIDA-5 drug test, but her amphetamines will. The NIDA-5 is the most common drug test used today. It tests for the metabolites of some of the most commonly abused drugs: marijuana, cocaine, barbiturates, amphetamines, opioids (from codeine, heroin and morphine), and PCP. Since Ms. Lohan has a prescription for the Adderall, this would be overlooked on the test. [2] [3] [6]

So what about the tea?

Lindsay Lohan has been recently sighted drinking Kombucha tea. Kombucha is a mixture of bacteria and yeast that, after fermenting, becomes a sort of "elixir" with all sorts of acidic components that can possibly aid in increasing liver enzymes and increasing breakdown and removal of certain drugs and chemicals.  Although no studies have been performed on humans with kombucha, one study done with rats [7] demonstrated that it helped protect the liver from carbon tetrachloride, a now banned chemical with previous uses in fire extinguishers and as a CFC.

But, there are no human studies on kombucha tea, so its health effects are somewhat dubious, but it probably can't hurt so long as it's made in a legitimate facility and not homebrewed. One problem Ms. Lohan may have is that a byproduct created during the fermentation of kombucha tea is alcohol. Ms. Lohan is required to wear a SCRAM bracelet, which checks if the user has been consuming alcohol by testing if it has been excreted in their sweat. It does this using a process called continuous transdermal alcohol monitoring. Any ethanol that is consumed will come through the sweat pores at a certain measurable rate. The SCRAM bracelet can detect this at a consistent time frame and send the results back to monitoring stations via wireless internet. [8] So, then a question of whether or not the amount of alcohol in kombucha tea could trigger the SCRAM. It would probably depend on batch to batch and there would more than likely be an insignificant amount in commercially brewed preparations.  An article from the Mayo Clinic has more information on kombucha its sketchy benefits.

Overall, kombucha tea seems like one of those oh too common detox products sold which often times claim to clean built up toxins from the body and be high in antioxidants and other nonsense. That isn't to say that it isn't beneficial in some way, but for a person who might have a physiological substance addiction, she'll need more than this tea to help her.  Probably a more suitable compound with proven antioxidant and liver detoxifying properties like NAC would be better suited for her purposes.

[1] Anger, Kenneth.  Hollywood Babylon.  Simon and Schuster, 1975.
[2] Gahlinger, Paul.  Illegal Drugs.  Penguin Group, 2004.
[3] Adderall: Clinical Pharmacology.  Retrieved 6/4/10
[4] BonnĂ©, Jon. ‘Go pills’: A war on drugs? 1/9/03
[5] Lindsay Lohan -- Sobriety Down to a Tea. 5/26/10
[6] Drug Testing May Not Solve Lindsay's Problem. 5/25/10
[7] Murugesan GS, et al.  Hepatoprotective and curative properties of Kombucha tea against carbon tetrachloride-induced toxicity. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Apr;19(4):397-402
[8] Wigler, Josh.  Lindsay Lohan's SCRAM Bracelet: How Does It Work? 5/24/10

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