February–April 2009 / Issue No. 46

Many loyal readers may be unaware of the fact that my primary income-producing activity is tax preparation and financial planning. I have been an Enrolled Agent and Certified Financial Planner for almost three decades. As in the field of addiction, I offer an alternative view of the tax and financial world. You are welcome to inquire about these services, which may be more important than ever in this era of financial challenges. Thanks to the telecommunication revolutions, we have clients in 26 states.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

1. Top Story of the month
2. Review of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.

There is something for everyone!

We attempt to post each report to the blog within a day of its arrival in your mailbox. Although we have posted little else, depending on time constraints and other factors, I may begin posting a weekly “Dear Doug” column. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.

By the way, call us (800-482-9424) for deals on books you won’t be able to refuse. (They are also available, of course, at www.amazon.com or www.galtpublishing.com.) They make a terrific gift to teens and anyone thinking about becoming professionally or romantically involved with someone else! (…including other drivers, landlords, tenants, employers, employees, neighbors...)

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Octomom’s confabulated thinking suggests addiction

Confabulation is described in Wikipedia as “the formation of false memories, perceptions, or beliefs about the self or the environment as a result of neurological or psychological dysfunction.” The source of most such dysfunction is psychotropic drug addiction, involving the repeated use of drugs capable of causing distortions of perception, memory and beliefs. Journalists usually look for addiction last. It should be first, particularly when “confabulation” is combined with bizarre behavior.

Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to octuplets in late January, has been in the headlines ever since. Most shake their heads and wonder, “What’s she thinking?” Many figure she’s simply irresponsible. Those who understand addiction might instead ask, “What is she on?” Addiction to psychotropic drugs, probably pain pills, best explains (but does not excuse) Suleman’s thinking, which manifests in irresponsible behaviors, including bringing eight innocent children into the world while utterly incapable of caring for them.

The 33-year-old single mother of 14 children, all under the age of seven, has no job. Even before having the octuplets, Suleman was receiving $490 monthly in food stamps and three of her children were receiving Social Security income totaling almost $2,400 per month due to various disabilities. She insists she can raise her huge family without welfare, apparently oblivious to the idea that the food stamps and Medicaid upon which she relies is welfare in principle if not in name. While she owes $50,000 in student loans, she intends to use more such loans to “make ends meet” until she finishes her masters degree in—get this—psychology. She thinks she’ll be able to support the children after she graduates. All of these qualify as false perceptions and beliefs about herself and her environment.

The delivery of her eight babies, a result of in-vitro fertilization requiring a team of 46 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, ran an estimated $1.3 million. The babies, residing in Kaiser Permanente hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, are running up an additional tab of an estimated $10,000 per day, expected to be paid by California’s taxpayers via Medicaid.

Suleman told NBC’s Ann Curry that she’s not seeking a public handout and said, “I’m not receiving help from the government.” Yet, since 1999, such handouts are all she has lived on. “I’m not living off any taxpayer money,” she said. What are food stamps? What is Medicaid? What are Social Security disability payments? What is government schooling? Regardless of whether one believes in the system, the idea that these are not government handouts flies in the face of reality and, therefore, qualifies as confabulated thinking.

Suleman suffered a back injury while working as a psychiatric technician at a state mental hospital in 1999. She received almost $170,000 in workers’ compensation between 2000 and 2008. Rather than using the funds to support her family, she paid for several in-vitro procedures, each of which is estimated to cost upwards of $10,000 to $30,000, and botched lip augmentation, which when done right can run a few thousand dollars. And that’s only what we know about—tummy tucks and breast augmentations would be less evident. Her parents, Ed and Angela Suleman, lent her money and paid the bills out of concern for their six grandchildren. As a result, she declared bankruptcy last year, already lost one home and is about to lose another. Angela says that Nadya promised she’d help with the mortgage payments, but never has.

Suleman’s response to comments that she is being irresponsible for bringing so many children into the world without adequate income is a classic in the annals of distorted perceptions. “No. I am not being selfish…If I were (sic) just sitting down watching TV and not being as determined as I am to succeed and provide a better future for my children, I believe that would be considered to a certain degree selfish.”

Suleman’s ex-husband, Marcos Gutierrez, said that Nadya “is a person with a great heart…She’s a nice person, with great love for her kids.” The real Nadya Suleman may well love her children. However, life is obviously all about her. She is the center of her universe and ours. The best explanation for the seeming contradiction is that Suleman’s perceptions are distorted due to psychotropic drug addiction—probably to pain medications such as Oxycontin or Vicodin for her back injury (how else could she have withstood multiple pregnancies, including one with octuplets?).

The idea that behaviors often provide the first and best clues to alcohol or other-drug addiction was proposed in my book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits. The premise that assuming addiction gives the benefit of the doubt, because if it’s not addiction the person under scrutiny is fundamentally rotten, was made clear in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics. As explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, while environment, circumstance and Psychological Type all have a play in determining the form that addiction takes, when inexplicable behaviors are evident addiction is usually the root cause. In this spirit, we should assume that Nadya Suleman’s confabulated thinking and beliefs, which have resulted in an extraordinary burden on society with potentially tragic results, are the result of psychotropic drug addiction.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

John C. Odom
, the minor league baseball player traded for 10 maple bats who died November 5 at age 26, only recently determined by a medical examiner to have died from an “accidental overdose.” The combination of drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, the stimulant benzylpiperazine and alcohol, suggest that the “accident” should be re-stated as "death contributed to or caused by distortions of perception from brain damage rooted in alcohol or other-drug addiction”)*. At the time, the former prospect in the San Francisco Giants’ chain seemed to handle the trade well, kidding that the kooky deal would make a great story if he ever reached the major leagues. Dan Shwam, who managed Odom last year, felt otherwise: “I guarantee this trade thing really bothered him. I really believe, knowing his background, that this drove him back to the bottle, that it put him on the road to drugs again.” However, he added, “But there’s no way to really know whether the trade did it, is there?” Indeed.

*Please see the top story on actor Heath Ledger’s death in the March 2008 issue of TAR, posted at, for my views on such ill-defined terms as “accidental overdose.”

Aaron Billington, the chef at the Brudenell Hotel on England’s Suffolk Coast, who trashed Jamiroquai front-man Jay Kay’s $1.4 million Ferrari Enzo after the rock star belittled the lesser vehicles of his drinking companions. This understandably angered Chef Billington, who was later seen throwing rocks at the Enzo, shattering the windscreen and smashing the driver’s side window. Billington later told the local court he committed the crime in a “moment of madness.” Kay, obviously oblivious to the role that alcoholism may have played in the behaviors, did nothing to expunge the myths of alcoholism when he remarked, “It’s disappointing. It says something about the British psyche.” Correction: it says something about alcoholism, British or otherwise. Interestingly, the Enzo is the same car Swedish playboy-convicted counterfeiter-failed businessman Stefan Eriksson slammed into a power pole in Malibu in February, 2006 at 162 mph, a story that made antic-of-the-month in the March 2006 TAR. Alcoholics, in an effort to inflate their egos, tend to have flashy vehicles in the early rocket-to-the-moon stage of their disease.

R&B singer Chris Brown, accused of punching, biting, threatening and choking his girlfriend Rihanna during an argument after a booze-filled evening and midnight ride in a sleek Lamborghini (there you go!) through the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles. The argument was over…well, it doesn’t matter. When there’s alcoholism, any excuse will do. She’s already forgiven him and they are, once again, a couple. Something tells me this will not end well.

Japan’s now ex-finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, apologizing for slurring his speech and repeatedly appearing to doze off at a meeting of finance ministers focusing on the world’s economic mess. He claimed he drank less than a glass of wine at a luncheon toast and took too much medicine, including a cold remedy, on the day of the news conference. If you see his performance, you may agree he must have forgotten the gallon of sake he drank that morning. You might also find that it sheds light on the world’s financial travails, particularly if he is any example of those who determine economic policy. Further (for me) incontrovertible evidence of alcoholism can be found in the Wikipedia description of his behaviors following the meeting: “Approximately 15 minutes after the end of the press conference, Nakagawa visited the Vatican Museums using public funds. He touched various exhibits, even though touching the exhibits is prohibited. Additionally, he climbed over a protective barrier surrounding the [extraordinary sculpture known as Laocoon], setting off an alarm, and then proceeded to sit on the exhibit. Nakagawa's office admits that he entered an off-limits area and that he set off the alarm, and apologized for ‘causing inconvenience’.” (Can you imagine how drunk you’d have to be to cross barriers and sit on an exhibit at a museum containing a 500-year-old collection of priceless works of art—especially containing something that looks like this?) His staff would have shed more light by apologizing for his alcoholism, but he’s the one who needs to apologize—not his codependent enablers.

David Paradiso was on trial for stabbing his girlfriend in the neck while riding in the back seat of a car driven by his mother and dumping the body near a road. He was shot and killed by a Lodi police officer in a Stockton, California courtroom after he lunged at Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox with a crude cutting instrument. Paradiso, 29, had been testifying on his own behalf that he was suffering from paranoia after taking methamphetamine when he killed his girlfriend of two weeks in December 2006. He said he believed she was going to kill him that night if he didn’t kill her first. His mother testified that she heard no argument before the stabbing and that her son forced her to drive to a neighboring county to dump the body. The Lodi News-Sentinel reported that her family had tried to warn jailers that her son had a weapon, which he had been bringing into the courtroom. Defendants are not bound and hog-tied over fears that this might sway jurors to convict based on appearance. For the same reason, defendants are allowed to hide tattoos and dress in suit and tie. Hmmm.

Under watch:

Ervin Lupoe, who killed his wife Ana and their five children in Wilmington, California, after both he and his wife had been fired from their hospital jobs for falsifying income records so they could qualify for a low-income child care program. The Lupoe’s each made over $40 per hour as radiological technicians for Kaiser Permanente in West Los Angeles, but made it appear they were earning less than $10 per hour. They were behind in their mortgage payments and had recently bounced checks for $15,000 and $2,000 to reportedly pay for back property taxes and penalties. Although there was nothing in Lupoe’s military record indicating any problems, he had applied for but was rejected by several police agencies before becoming an X-ray technician. Court records show he sought a restraining order after a confrontation with a neighbor. Often, such confrontations involve alcoholism on both sides. As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, financial misbehaviors are often the first clue to hidden alcoholism.

Annette Yeomans, 51, booked for investigation of grand theft and embezzlement of $9.9 million from Quality Woodworks, Inc., a cabinetry company in San Marcos, California. She managed to pull this off as chief financial officer for the company while the economy was riding high from 2001 through 2007. Her husband was one of the company’s cabinet installers but, according to Sgt. Mark Varnau of the sheriff’s Financial Crimes Unit, was “not suspected” of any crime, despite the fact that Annette spent $25,000 weekly on her credit card and paid off the balance the following Monday with company funds. She also kept $240,000 worth of shoes, $300,000 in designer clothing and 160 purses valued at $320,000 in her home, which included a bedroom that had been remodeled into a closet with a crystal chandelier and a 32-inch plasma TV. Such extravagance by itself is a clue to alcoholism. While it’s true that failure to ask questions of your wife isn’t a “crime,” the IRS may view things a bit differently.

Texas financier R. Allen Stanford of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, accused of bilking investors out of $8 billion and, in a seemingly unrelated case, philanthropist-businessman Bruce Friedman of Sherman Oaks, California, accused of stealing $17 million from investors. Stanford promised investors unusually (meaning: unsustainable) high yields of 6% to 10% annually on certificates of deposit and Friedman, a previously convicted felon, began offering “safe, guaranteed, solid secured investment notes” in 2004, yielding 9% to 12% (meaning: too-good-to-be-true) per annum, largely to people whom the SEC described as “older Americans.” Stanford and his top executives contributed at least $2 million to political candidates, including House Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel (D., NY), and additional thousands of dollars on jets and resorts for such politicians. Friedman, who the SEC says “diverted” investors’ money to himself and to a charity he founded and operates, is accused of having spent much of the loot on luxuries that included a $6.5 million Malibu home, vacations, cars, jewelry and designer clothing. The allegations come 28 years after Friedman was convicted of stealing $300,000 from Avery International Corp., for which he was sentenced to 40 months in state prison. The charity, the Friedman Charitable Foundation, founded in 2006, quickly became a well-known Los Angeles Dodgers sponsor. The ostentatious living style and conspicuous consumption on the part of both indicates a need to inflate the ego, symptomatic of alcoholism. The allegedly criminal acts are also superb marks of addiction. We must always keep in mind that Charles Ponzi was an alcoholic.

Enablers of the month:

One of the sources reporting on the Chris Brown-Rihanna entanglement
, explaining they are “both pretty stubborn.” No, Mr. Source, while we can’t yet be sure about her, Brown is an addict. Dr. Jay Carter, a psychologist and “world-renowned expert on anger and abuse,” says “both need therapy, and Chris needs anger-management classes….If they do get back together…they need to attend joint counseling.” No, Mr. Carter, while she may need counseling he needs AA. (I’d say “Mr. Carter, you idiot,” but that would unfairly denigrate idiots.)

Heidi, the proprietor of a bar in Berlin. In order to increase sales, she decided to allow her loyal customers - most of whom were unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later. She kept track of the drinks consumed. Not surprisingly, increasing numbers of customers flooded into Heidi’s bar. Taking advantage of her customers’ freedom from immediate payment constraints, Heidi increased her prices. Her sales volume increased massively. A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognized these customer debts as valuable future assets and increased Heidi’s borrowing limit.

He saw no reason for undue concern since the debts of the alcoholics served as collateral. At the bank’s corporate headquarters, creative bankers transformed these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS, which were sold on markets worldwide. No one asked how the securities will ever be paid or who their guarantors were. Nevertheless, the security prices climbed and became top sellers.

One day, although the prices were still climbing, a (sober) bank risk manager (subsequently fired) decided to demand payment before additional credit would be extended. When Heidi discovered that the alcoholics could not pay back their debts, she told the bank she couldn’t pay her loans and was forced into bankruptcy.

DRINKBOND and ALKBOND dropped in price by 95%. PUKEBOND performed better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80%.

The suppliers of Heidi’s bar, having invested in the securities that were now practically worthless, found their cash flow greatly reduced. Her wine supplier went bankrupt and her beer supplier was taken over by a liquor company.

The bank, however, was saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders of both political parties. The funds required for this purpose were obtained by a tax levied on the non-drinkers.

Finally, an explanation we can all understand.

Source: Unknown; re-edited for the Thorburn Addiction Report.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Baseball great Dock Ellis
, the former major league pitcher who threw a no-hitter while on LSD and who had no memory of his performance that day in June, 1970, dead from cirrhosis of the liver at age 63. Near the end of compiling a 138-119 career record from 1968 through 1979, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ellis began counseling addicts at a prison in Pittsburgh. He began his drinking and using career by the time he was in high school and didn’t get permanently sober until after he retired from the game in 1980. He managed to pitch for the triumphant 1971 World Series team and was named to the All-Star team that year. He was known for his erratic behavior, once showing up in the dugout wearing hair curlers after Ebony magazine published a story on his hairstyles and, in one 1974 game, angry that his Pirates were intimidated by the Cincinnati Reds, hit Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen in succession. After aiming for Johnny Bench’s head twice, he was pulled.

He was also known for his outspoken views against racism in baseball and his fight for players’ rights to free agency. Jackie Robinson commended his honesty, but cautioned he talked too much for the comfort of management. Sometimes, the seemingly reckless behaviors of addicts are necessary to foment needed change.

Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts
which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and, where possible, proactively intervene.

“Rachel Getting Married”

Some critics describe Jonathan Demme’s (“Silence of the Lambs”) “Rachel Getting Married” as a movie about a marriage and how a multi-cultural and multi-racial society is getting comfortable with itself. One notes that Anne Hathaway’s Kym, out of rehab for the weekend, is quick to condemn everyone else at her sister Rachel’s wedding—but he (seemingly) has no idea why. Some mention that the younger brother drowned, but forget why (she lost control of the car she was driving while stoned out of her mind). Some claim it’s a movie you’d want to immediately see again. I doubt it, even if it’s worth seeing once.

There is decent AA dialogue, in which the “one drink is too many and 50 are not enough” and “I’m tired of having to start over again, everything I’d built up with my family had to be rebuilt—again” truisms are uttered. But this is a hard movie for many. Kym, who acts more like she’s spent one month in rehab rather than nine months, is impatient, nasty, hyper-emotional and excitable. She gives a “toast,” which is supposed to be about the bride and groom but is instead, in typical alcoholic fashion, all about her. Even when she proposes a 9th step of amends to her sister, played by Rosemarie DeWitt, for having passed out in the bathroom, flooded the house and passed bad checks, it’s all about her. Rachel points out that she had never received amends before from her—and now there’s a blanket apology in front of a bunch of (to her) strangers at Rachel’s wedding. It’s all about her, even in “recovery.”

Other reviewers completely miss the idea that this is the best movie about early recovery since “When a Man Loves a Woman.” “I can feel the judgment, mistrust and paranoia—it feels like the Salem Witch Trials around here!” She’s engaging in the time-honored alcoholic tradition of one finger pointed out and three pointed back. It’s a classic portrayal of what relapse prevention expert Terence Gorski refers to as PAWS—Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. This includes an inability to think clearly or concentrate, memory problems, learning difficulties, and emotional overreactions and numbness—all of which can lead to diminished self-esteem. PAWS can take months or even years to get past, while the brain slowly heals.

Rachel repeats some of her sister’s classic alcoholic lies that she told in her attempts to control others, especially their parents—“I lost my wallet,” “You’ll never believe this, but…,” “my landlord hates me,” “I’m pregnant,” and she became anorexic because “our uncle abused me.”

Numerous reviewers called Kym a narcissist. Yes, but she is an alcohol and other-drug addict first. Without this, her character makes no sense. As an addict—in fitful early recovery—she makes perfect sense. Most critics loved the movie. None of the group of four others with whom I attended gave it more than two and a half stars out of five. We all agreed that the film makers missed a terrific opportunity to contrast Kym with the best man, who was a long-time recovering addict with far healthier recovery. I’ll give it three—but only because of the excellent portrayal of early recovery, the painfully-evident emotional toll on the family, the professional “home-made” feel of the film and excellent acting, especially Anne Hathaway’s.


Dear Doug

A litany of suspects

Dear Doug:

My boyfriend and I have a 6-month baby boy. Although Jake was a serious drug addict when we met two years ago, he stopped doing drugs and even got his first job. We moved in together a year ago and I fell prey to his controlling nature. I used to have friends and now have none, because Jake doesn’t like them. I can’t leave the apartment unless he goes with me. I can’t have any money unless he gives it to me, and then he demands to know how I spent it.

Before he goes to work he takes our son’s car seat so I can’t leave. He calls ten times a day to “check” on me. He also kicks and pushes me and, after a particularly nasty fight, I found a knife under the sofa where he sits. I love Jake, but need to leave. How do I do it?


Scared for me and my son

. . . . .

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would get it right in stating emphatically that you are in a dangerously abusive relationship. They would even suggest that you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

I called the Hotline and asked what they would tell this young woman. They’d tell her to quietly, without arousing suspicion, gather important papers such as her drivers’ license and arrange for her to be taken to a shelter. They would suggest that she get a restraining order. They might even tell her Jake is either lying or is a dry drunk.

This is excellent advice. Since you want to get her to talk to a live human being who can tell her this and thereby increase the odds that she’ll act, maybe it’s ok that you skip the explanation. However, this doesn’t help us to understand the root cause of abusive behavior.

(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, February 17, 2009.)

Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month

“The more unpopular your name, the more likely you are to land in juvenile hall.”

So found a new study conducted by Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania, researchers purporting to show a link between a name and the likelihood of getting into trouble.

The researchers ascribed a popularity score to boys’ names based on how often they showed up in birth records in an undisclosed state from 1987 to 1991. They compared the scores with the odds of landing in the juvenile justice system and found that “a 10% increase in the popularity of a name is associated with a 3.7% decrease in the number of juvenile delinquents who have that name.” In other words, there’s a proven correlation between less popular names and an increased likelihood of landing in jail.

The researchers readily admitted that name alone doesn’t affect a child’s outcome. They acknowledged that a child’s circumstances are behind the name, which can be a symptom of a larger problem such as parental narcissism and immaturity. They fail to state that the usual source of such problems in adults is alcoholism.

Recovering alcoholics admit to having stunted their emotional growth. Narcissism, discussed in both How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics and Alcoholism Myths and Realities, cannot be distinguished from alcoholism. An article in the Winter ’07-’08 issue of Wealth Creation Strategies explains that alcoholics are far more likely to think and act outside the norm. Because they are willing to take extraordinary risks and know how to appeal to the lower brain centers in others, they are more likely to create revolutionary change in fields such as art, writing and music than are non-addicts. There is good evidence they were more likely to engage in body art (tattoos) and reconstructive surgery such as breast augmentation before they became culturally acceptable. The idea they are more likely to give children unusual names adds to the evidence.

Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month

Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”

”WE'RE HERE TO HELP YOU: A teenaged girl flagged down a Myrtle Beach, S.C., police car to complain a nightclub bouncer had thrown her out and took her identification away from her because it was fake. Officers checked, and sure enough, it was. Officers asked the girl for her name, and she gave several different names and birth dates before they told her she was being arrested. At that point she turned and ran -- and tripped over a parking lot speed bump. The unidentified 15-year-old was charged with resisting arrest, possession of tobacco products, being a runaway, perjury, possession of fake identification and public intoxication. (Myrtle Beach Sun News) ...I was waiting for that last one.”

Randy gets it. Unfortunately, too often there is either no arrest for or mention of public intoxication when behaviors indicate its likelihood. And, too, it’s usually listed last, when it should be first. The report would have been more educational had it said, “The unidentified 15-year old was arrested for public intoxication. The fact that she was high impelled her to resist being arrested. The likelihood of long-standing addiction to alcohol and other drugs explains her illegal possession of tobacco, being a runaway, perjury and possession of fake identification.” It might also have commented on the improbability of tripping over a speed bump unless one is really drunk or stoned.

(Story and tagline from This is True, copyright 2008 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)


To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at PrevenTragedy.com.

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"My father died of alcoholism. His father died of alcoholism. Three generations of alcoholism is enough. Now is the time to abandon superstition and pseudoscience, to debunk the myths surrounding alcoholism, and to apply science to solving this problem. Doug Thorburn's book is a model example of how this should be done. Read it and be prepared to change your thinking on this important topic. When enough of us understand what is really going on with alcoholism, society can make the shift from treatment to prevention and intervention."
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