Write Your Story, Improve Your Health

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Write Your Story, Improve Your Health

Studies have shown that writing about yourself and your personal experiences can improve mood disorders, improve health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory. Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.

In an early study on personal story editing, researchers gathered 40-college freshman who were struggling academically, were worried about grades and questioned whether they were intellectual equals to other students at their school. The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their first year and encourage thinking that they just needed more time to adjust.

The long-term intervention results were profound. Researchers found students prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no instructions. The control group received no advice about grades, and 20 percent of the students dropped out within a year. However, in the intervention group, only 1 student, or just 5 percent, dropped out.

Another study asked married couples to write about a conflict. Half of the couples were randomly assigned to receive reappraisal intervention and half were not. This effect of the reappraisal intervention on marital quality was mediated through reductions in conflict-related distress. Among 120 couples, those who explored their problems through writing showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not write about their problems. The study demonstrated that a 21-minute writing intervention in which the participants reappraised the conflict their marriage, over time protected them against declines in marital quality.

Getting people to come to terms with who they are and where they want to go is a result of expressive writing according to James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. He found that students who wrote for about 15 minutes every day about important personal issues, had fewer illnesses and visited the student health center less. He believes that expressive writing can help influence a positive “life course correction.”

Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the first study said:

“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself. Writing forces people to reconstruct whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.”

At a practical level, these findings provide a promising target for clinical interventions. At a methodological level, these findings add to the growing body of research demonstrating the power of brief, theory-based, social-psychological interventions to promote achievement, health, and well-being. There is compelling evidence that writing can benefit mental health and improve stressful situations with fresh ideals. Confronting the truth with what personally matters the most, creates the greatest opportunity for change.




It’s Harder for Women to Quit Smoking than It Is for Men

By Richard Taite • 2 min read
cigarette 2

It’s Harder for Women to Quit Smoking than It Is for Men

Women are at an increased risk of relapse after a smoking cessation attempt. Research indicates that both the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle and the negative symptomatology experienced while quitting play a role during smoking cessation and can influence outcomes.

Although more men than women smoke, women take less time to become dependent after initial use, report shorter and less frequent abstinence periods, smoke for longer periods in their lives, and have more difficulties quitting the habit than men.

The number of smokers is gradually decreasing in the Western world, but international and local epidemiological reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Quebec (Canada) Statistics Institute suggest that cigarette smoking is on the rise internationally among young women and teen girls. Therefore, understanding the biological differences between males and females that can affect recovery efforts is very important.

Published in Psychiatry Journal, a new study by Adrianna Mendrek of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institute Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal, indicates how the menstrual cycle appears to have an impact on nicotine cravings. Mendrek claims:

“Our data reveal that incontrollable urges to smoke are stronger at the beginning of the follicular phase that begins after menstruation. Hormonal decreases of estrogen and progesterone possibly deepen the withdrawal syndrome and increase activity of neural circuits associated with craving. Taking the menstrual cycle into consideration could help women to stop smoking.”

Fifteen tobacco-smoking men and 19 women underwent a functional MRI scan during presentation of neutral and smoking-related images known to elicit craving. The women were tested twice during their menstrual cycle, once during the early follicular phase and once during the mid-luteal phase. The researchers led their study with two specific objectives in mind. The first was to check if there are gender differences in the neuronal circuits linked to craving. The second was to determine if the electro-cortical changes associated with nicotine withdrawal fluctuate in tandem with hormone variations.

The main finding of the study suggests that brain function associated with craving for cigarettes fluctuates across the menstrual cycle in women smokers. Research emphasizes the need for gender-specific programs to quit smoking, as well as taking into consideration the menstrual cycle phase during addiction treatment in women. Women represent half the population and deserve to have researchers recognize their specific needs in future studies.

“A greater knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms governing addiction should enable us to better target treatment according to the smoker’s profile,” said Mendrek.

Attempting to quit smoking is difficult, as with any addiction. Talk to a professional for advice on the best possible recovery options and help in personal recovery. Long-term success is possible with the decision to quit and become healthier.








Alcohol and Cigarettes Use in Teens Declines

By Richard Taite • 1 min read
cigarette 2

Alcohol and Cigarettes Use in Teens Declines

A national survey of students in U.S. middle schools and high schools shows some important improvements in levels of substance use. The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study tracks trends in substance use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Each year the national study surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in about 400 secondary schools throughout the United States. Both alcohol and cigarette use in 2014 are at their lowest points since the study began in 1975.

All three grades showed a decline in the proportion of students reporting any alcohol use in the 12 months prior to the survey. Lloyd Johnston, the study’s principal investigator said:

“Since the recent peak rate of 61 percent in 1997, there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents. The proportion of teens reporting any alcohol use in the prior year has fallen by about a third.”

Of perhaps greater importance, the proportion of teens who report “binge drinking” in the two weeks preceding the survey, fell significantly to 12 percent for the three grades combined. This statistic is down from a recent high point of 22 percent in 1997. While this is an important improvement, roughly one in five (19 percent) 12th graders still reported binge drinking at least once in the prior two weeks.

For the three grades combined, 28 percent reported any smoking in the prior month in 1997, the recent peak year, but that rate was down to 8 percent in 2014. Furthermore, only 23 percent of students had ever tried tobacco cigarettes, as compared to 56 percent in 1998.

The importance of this major decline in smoking for the health and longevity of this generation of young people cannot be overstated,” Johnston said.

Of particular concern is the possibility that e-cigarettes may lead to tobacco cigarette smoking, and reverse this hard-won, long-term decline. More than twice as many 8th and 10th graders reported using e-cigarettes as reported using tobacco cigarettes.

Part of the reason for the popularity of e-cigarettes is the perception among teens that they do not harm health. Only 15 percent of 8th graders think there is a great risk of people harming themselves with regular use of e-cigarettes. This compares to 62 percent of 8th graders who think there is a great risk of people harming themselves by smoking one or more packs of tobacco cigarettes a day.

In recent years, the U.S. has experienced tremendous changes in public opinion toward alcohol and other drug use. Prevention through education has helped and needs to continue; declines in availability and the rise in costs may be contributing factors to the drops in teen substance use. This positive trend is one we hope will continue. The older individuals begin to use substances like tobacco and alcohol, the more likely they are to use them in moderation.





A Dangerous Trend: The Move Away from Abstinence Based Addiction Treatment

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

A Dangerous Trend: The Move Away from Abstinence Based Addiction Treatment

The face of addiction treatment is changing, and not for the better.

Betty Ford and Hazelden have long been beacons of hope in the addiction treatment community, two well-known and respected centers that used 12-step treatment and abstinence based recovery to help thousands of people recover from addiction for decades.

The Betty Ford Center and the Hazelden Foundation announced in 2013 that they were pursuing a “formal alliance” to become the nation’s largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider. Mainstream media outlets noticed the story but in general, the news did not gain the public’s attention. On the surface, why should it? However, to those of us who owe our lives to abstinence-based addiction recovery, the news was shocking.

Hazelden and now Betty Ford, may be minimizing or eliminating their emphasis on abstinence-based addiction recovery. In an abstinence-based recovery model, addicts are considered sober if they refrain from using mind-altering substances on a recreational basis. Some minor exceptions are made for painkillers for a short term, such as after a major surgery, but for the most part, addicts are suggested to live a life not taking substances for non-medical purposes or that affect them from “the neck up.”

Instead of an abstinence model, Betty Ford and Hazelden are embracing what is known as a harm-reduction form of treatment using pharmaceutical interventions. These medical based treatments use pharmaceuticals like methadone or Suboxone, and other drugs, to limit the “harm” or negative consequences of substance abuse, attempting to keep the individual using a pharmaceutical in smaller amounts than their drug of choice, less often, and staying addicted to the pharmaceutical substitute, but using enough of a substitute not to get dope sick. This is an “evidence-based” treatment, and one that pharmaceutical companies are pushing as they stand to make millions of dollars from the sale of harm-reduction pharmaceutical products.

Hazelden supports medication-based treatments for harm reduction, which is in truth only replacing one drug for another drug. Insurance companies are inclined to pay for this treatment as it can get people out of residential care rather quickly; residential care is more expensive than outpatient treatment and there is no guarantee that residential treatment, for which insurance only offers limited stays, will work, particularly if the care is cut short by insurance.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ensures that insurance will pay for a 30-day inpatient program for those who require it. Originally, practitioners within the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation had hope that access to treatment facilities would increase because of the law. In fact, just the opposite has occurred. The push is now to keep addicts addicted to pharmaceuticals instead of truly helping them get clean and rebuilding happy lives. The impetus is economic.

There are many different approaches to the treatment of alcohol and drug addiction, and studies show that a multi-modality approach is the best. Everyone recovers differently. All treatments should be available and the choice left to the individual and physician, not the insurance provider.

When choosing a treatment center, know what kind of life you want. If you want to be free from drugs and alcohol, find an abstinence-based treatment center that uses evidence-based, whole-health therapies and go for 90+ days. That’s what the science tells us provides the best opportunity for long-term recovery, and you deserve your best life.






Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also co-author with Constance Scharff of the book Ending Addiction for Good.

Think Before You Drink

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Think Before You Drink

Even though many of us are aware of the higher rates of alcohol-related traffic fatalities on New Year’s Eve, myths about drinking and driving persist. These myths are related to how quickly alcohol affects the body and how long these effects can last.

Scientific studies supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) on how alcohol affects our brains and bodies provide important information that challenges these commonly-held, but incorrect beliefs.

Many New Year’s revelers get into trouble because they generally do not recognize that critical driving-related skills and decision-making abilities are diminished long before the obvious physical signs of intoxication.

Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant and you may temporarily feel upbeat and excited. Inhibitions and judgment are affected first. Gradually fine motor skills and reaction time begin to suffer and behavior becomes poorly controlled and sometimes aggressive, compromising driving abilities even further. Continued drinking can lead to the slurred speech and loss of coordination and balance that we typically associate with being “drunk.”

At higher levels, alcohol acts as a depressant, which causes people to become sleepy and sometimes pass out. Large quantities of alcohol, particularly if consumed rapidly, can produce a blackout, an interval of time for which the intoxicated person cannot recall key details of events, or even entire events.  Research has shown that blackouts are common among social drinkers of college age.

During a night of drinking, it is easy to misjudge alcohol’s lasting effects. Many revelers believe that they can drive safely once they have stopped drinking for the night and have had a strong cup of coffee. The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been consumed. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body. As a result, judgment and coordination can be impaired for hours after drinking.

Driving home late at night is especially hazardous because natural drowsiness is magnified by the depressant action of alcohol. Driving abilities may even be impaired the next day when any alcohol remains in the system.

No one intends to harm anyone when they get behind the wheel on New Year’s Eve. Yet traffic fatalities persist from people with good intentions, but who choose to think they can drink then drive. There is no way to speed up the brain’s recovery from alcohol and no way to make good decisions when drinking too much, too fast. This is a fact.

So this New Year’s Eve, do not underestimate the effects of alcohol. Moreover, as you think about the consequences of an arrest or a potentially fatal traffic crash, make alternative plans to get home safely if you do plan to drink even a little. Pace yourself, set a specific limit and stick to that limit. If you have trouble keeping to your limit consider counseling for the New Year. The idea of welcoming the New Year completely sober is a good choice also.

Have a safe and Happy New Year.






Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also co-author with Constance Scharff of the book Ending Addiction for Good.

The War on Weed is Over

By Richard Taite • 1 min read

The War on Weed is Over

Congress provided a historic victory for the legal marijuana industry with the massive government-funding bill passed Saturday night, December 13. The bill will end the federal government’s ban on selling or using pot for health reasons in states where it’s legalized. Within the $1.1 trillion spending measure are protections for industrial hemp and medical marijuana companies in states where they are legal.

In addition, an amendment to the measure prohibits the Department of Justice from spending money to go after medical cannabis programs in legal-weed states. When signed into law, the bill brings the federal government closer to ending arrests of individuals in pot businesses allowed by state law, as well as raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

The war on weed pursued by countless law enforcement personnel since at least the 1960s is effectively over.

California Democratic Rep. Sam Farr told the Huffington Post:

“Today we made history. It is a great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients. The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws.”

Farr, who with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, co-sponsored the medical marijuana protections amendment.

Medical marijuana programs in 23 states that legalized medical marijuana, in addition to the 11 additional states authorizing types of CBD extracts, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana proven to provide relief in severe cases of epilepsy, are now under federal protection.

Marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies the drug as having “no currently accepted medical use,” on the same level as heroin and LSD. Since that designation will not change with the passage of the spending bill, how the new rules will play out in practice is unclear.

However Congress has not quietly laid down arms in its war against marijuana. It appears Congress has blocked the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington, D.C., after a vote with more than 70 percent of voters approving use. A few members of Congress oppose the bill’s wording, saying the law may still have a chance of moving forward next year.

The war on weed has finally ended and quietly laid to rest. Now more effort can be given to drug abuse prevention and recovery. That is where attention should have been given all along.






Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also co-author with Constance Scharff of the book Ending Addiction for Good.


NFL Injuries Leading to Medication Abuse

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

NFL Injuries Leading to Medication Abuse

Many people addicted to prescription medications do not think that they have a problem. These addictions often begin as an injury. Few realize how quickly dependency can spiral out of control.

NFL injuries are treated with pain medications by team doctors. Are the players being responsibly medicated? Are they treated in ways that are for their benefit or in the team’s best interest?  Are the ways they are being treated for pain creating problems with addiction for which the NFL will not take responsibility?

Former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley claims:

“When you’re done playing, you’re like a piece of meat. They treat you like, None of what you say is our fault. None of these injuries happened from playing football. They tell you whether or not you hurt. None of us playing this game is normal. To compare an NFL player’s pain threshold to the average person who’s never done it? They’re going to tell me I don’t hurt? But it’s just an unbelievable fight to deal with the pain.”

Due to accounts of irregularities in handling prescription painkillers, multiple NFL teams’ former players have entered into a class action lawsuit accusing NFL teams of misusing narcotics and other pain medications to keep players on the field despite injuries. Some blame the culture of football and the NFL.

According to law enforcement sources, investigators are focused less on individuals than on a broad range of alleged illegal dispensation practices in the NFL, which may facilitate addictions and pill trafficking. DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed NFL physicians were being looked into after agents surprised at least five teams with spot checks of medical staffs at stadiums and airports following their Nov. 16 games.

Former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita said he still has a pill bottle, nearly the size of a soda can.

 “It was the craziest big pill bottle you’ve ever seen,” he said.

It was given to him by an NFL team physician to treat a single knee injury, yet it contained, he estimates, somewhere between 125 and 150 pills of Percocet, the addictive oxycodone-based painkiller. Another claim was that an assistant trainer passed out narcotic painkillers in unlabeled small manila envelopes before games to whoever raised a hand.

Doctors in the past too frequently handed out pain pills for a quick fix. These included many college and high school athletes. Parents should be aware of how their children are treated.

Change can be slow. Recently the law changed to require opioid prescriptions to be written monthly because they are no longer refillable electronically or over the phone. Time will tell how effective this will be.

We live in a fast paced world and no longer take the time that we should to heal from injuries. This puts many competitive individuals such as CEOs, celebrities, business owners and other professionals at risk for drug use that could lead to misuse or even addiction. Good long term health requires time and effort, but is well worth the investment.








Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also co-author with Constance Scharff of the book Ending Addiction for Good.


Medicating When It Is not Needed

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Medicating When It Is not Needed                       

Creativity is a complex and vast construct that has been vital to the progress of human civilization and the development of human reasoning processes. Indeed, the immense array of creative endeavors encompasses the works of such disparate activities as those undertaken by painters, sculptors, nuclear engineers, landscape architects, graphic designers, and software developers.

Sadly, many of the brightest, most creative children are misdiagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders such as ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, Bipolar Disorder or OCD. As a result, many often receive medication needlessly along with inappropriate and ineffective counseling.

Behavioral descriptions of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), including higher levels of spontaneous idea generation, mind wandering, daydreaming, sensation seeking, high energy, and impulsivity overlap many traits of creative personalities. Physicians, psychologist, counselors and parents are often unaware of characteristics of gifted children and adults that can mimic pathological diagnoses.

Research has supported the notion that people with ADHD characteristics are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement than people are without these characteristics. Results indicated that adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking on the verbal task of tests and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD. In addition, comparison of creative styles found that preference for idea generation was higher among ADHD participants, whereas preference for problem clarification and idea development was greater among non-ADHD participants. These findings have implications for real-world application of the creative styles of adults with and without ADHD.

Nine percent of children aged 5-17 years old are labeled ADHD on average per year, and placed in special education programs. However, data from The National Center for Learning Disabilities shows:

•Only 1 percent of students who receive IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act) services are in gifted and talented education programs, compared to 7 percent of general education students.

•Students who receive IDEA services make up 12 percent of all high school students but are only 2 percent of students enrolled in an AP course.

The report concludes, students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.

Every student deserves the room, the space, the opportunity to excel, the metaphorical equivalent of a desk of his or her own. Assessments of creativity are notably absent from most gifted and talented programs in this country. Instead of automatically putting children with ADHD characteristics in special education, a broader assessment should be conducted. Some of these children are talented kids who need room to be creative in order to excel in their studies.

Assessment could also allow students with ADHD characteristics to display their creative strengths, including divergent thinking, imagination, and hyperfocus (when interested). People with ADHD often are able to focus better when they are deeply engaged in an activity that is personally meaningful to them. This too would allow those who have ADHD to excel in particular areas, a chance to be the “smart one,” instead of being labeled as in need of special services.

Medicating a child is a serious matter with far reaching consequences. Our contemporary society often wants a quick fix, which is not necessarily the best choice for a children, but an easier solution for an overburdened school system and frustrated parents. Talk to a health care professional about concerns you may have about your child’s health. Never hesitate to get a second opinion when it comes to a diagnosis of ADHD in children.







Alcohol Abuse during the Holidays

By Richard Taite • 1 min read
Can you have just one drink?

Alcohol Abuse during the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us and alcohol is frequently more visible and free flowing during this time.  Exactly where the line is between heavy drinking and clinical alcoholism can be vague.

new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a distinction between drinking too much and being alcohol dependent. The researchers say 9 in 10 Americans who drink too much should not be classified as alcoholics, but this does not mean they are not doing real damage to themselves both physically and socially. In recent years binge drinking has been a growing concern, especially among young adults. Researchers say it is important to distinguish between binge drinking and alcoholism, the latter being a chronic disorder.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks on an occasion for women, five or more drinks on an occasion for men. Consuming eight or more drinks a week for women or 15 or more drinks a week for men also falls within the binge drinking definition. It turns out millions of Americans fall into the category of binge drinkers. The study found that nearly 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker, and most of them binge drink, usually on multiple occasions.

The researchers say excessive drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year; 3,700 of those deaths were linked to alcohol dependence. There were also serious health effects from drinking too much in a short time period, such as violence, alcohol poisoning, and car accidents.

Here is some practical advice for the holidays. Think about how much alcohol you will consume before arriving at a party, then stick to your decision. If you find it difficult or uncomfortable to stick to your alcohol consumption plan, that is a red flag of a potentially more serious alcohol issue. If you are the host, offer a wide selection of non-alcohol beverages along with a variety of food to snack on. Never push someone to have a drink. Furthermore, if someone is intoxicated, try to discourage him or her from another drink or trying to drive by offering an alternative. The inconvenience of driving a friend home is better than living with only a memory during the holiday season.



Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also coauthor with Constance Scharff of the book Ending Addiction for Good.


Who’s Smoking Marijuana and How Much?

By Richard Taite • 1 min read

Who’s Smoking Marijuana and How Much?

Statistics on cannabis users skew perceptions of cannabis use. Most statistical surveys of marijuana focus on a single quantitative measurement, “How many people are using?” However, there is a problem; more marijuana use does not necessarily translate into more marijuana users. The greatest amount of marijuana consumption comes from the heaviest smokers. How many people are using does not give us a clear picture of levels of misuse or abuse.

Examining frequency of use over time provides a picture of not only changes in who is using, but also how individuals are using. Researchers were able to draw some conclusions about the growth in marijuana usage from 2002 through 2011, based on data gathered. After exploring the demographics of this 10-year record of use, they found that “consumption grew primarily because of an increase in the average frequency of use, not just because of an increase in the overall number of users.” The driver of consumption turns out to be greater consumption, and that increased consumption is coming from older adults. Those older adults, it turns out, are smoking more pot.

There is also concern over a rise in the concentration of active ingredients in available drugs. In 2012, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 15 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s, according to the data from police records. For a new user, this may mean exposure to higher concentrations of THC, with a greater chance of an adverse or unpredictable reaction. For frequent users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis.

However, the full range of consequences associated with marijuana’s higher potency is not well understood. For example, experienced users may adjust their intake in accordance with the potency or they may be exposing their brains to higher levels overall, or both. Increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use.

Although the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance and it is therefore illegal on a federal level, several states have already legalized medical marijuana or allowed social use. Regardless of public opinion, research shows marijuana may cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health and more relationship problems compared to non-marijuana-using peers.

If you smoke marijuana, perhaps it is time to considering quitting and looking at replacing marijuana use with healthier life choices. The amount of money and time wasted on this habit could probably be better used doing more productive activities. Consider seeking professional advice on private treatments available for substance abuse and help developing a personal plan to quit. Success is possible with a little effort and help.





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