In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs

When you think about the New York Times, you usually think about some kind of quality reporting. Maybe even some fact-checking. I think of the NYT’s coverage of the drug war to be more of a mouthpiece for corporate and political America than real investigative reporting. But it’s always nice to know what the rich and influential are thinking:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html

While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white…

The Times states this as if it were fact, when it’s only based on “self-administered surveys to gather retrospective data on past drug use patterns among patients entering substance abuse treatment programs.”  I can’t imagine that too many people are honest about their past drug use, let alone those who suffer from addiction. And I imagine that the racial make-up of addiction treatment programs is unlike the racial make-up of America’s prison system. Like a lot of (psychiatric) research studies, this one doesn’t prove anything.

I don’t know what percentage of first-time heroin users have been white in the last decade, but heroin has always been a drug used more by white people than blacks (even if the media in the past portrayed it differently). It’s usually not good to generalize, but people use certain drugs because they have access to them — a $400/day heroin habit is not something most black people would have access to. (Another reason why pain patients, usually poor and disabled, aren’t really a part of this heroin “epidemic.” Even though the DEA says heroin is cheaper than pills, if you need to spend $400/day for the drug to be effective, that’s a choice most pain patients don’t have.)

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease.

“Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.”

Mr. Botticelli, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 26 years, speaks to some of these parents regularly.

Their efforts also include lobbying statehouses, holding rallies and starting nonprofit organizations, making these mothers and fathers part of a growing backlash against the harsh tactics of traditional drug enforcement…

These mothers and fathers are also part of the backlash against opioids. So, even though they’ve changed their thinking on how to treat addiction (no jail time for their families), that doesn’t mean they want to end the drug war. Far from it.

Heroin’s spread into the suburbs and small towns grew out of an earlier wave of addiction to prescription painkillers; together the two trends are ravaging the country…

I’d say the suicide epidemic is the trend ravaging our country, but then maybe my opinion differs from those over at the Times. But I get very tired of the media saying that prescription painkillers started this whole heroin epidemic, because that’s not true. Maybe in the media’s little white bubble, painkillers are to blame because that’s all they see — because white people are the ones with the most access to painkillers (and heroin).

This is what pain patients are up against — grieving, middle-class white people, with the time and money to make our lives miserable. Grieving parents writing anti-drug curriculum for schools, opening addiction “clinics,” and yelling in the ears of politicians and those with influence (like Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy). Do you think Mr. Botticelli would make time to talk to pain patients (who are disabled and poor)? Do you think an ex-alcoholic could even understand our position?

While it’s great that more (white) people are finally recognizing addiction as a disease, the problem remains:  What’s the best way to treat it? Obviously, what we’re doing isn’t working, and these parents know it because their family members usually spent time in rehab. So, we’re gonna send millions of new patients into treatment and treat them with… what? Bupe and Suboxone? Antidepressants? AA? Talk therapy? An addiction clinic on every corner?

It’s like creating a war against opioids, but not being prepared for the consequences. The plan to substitute alternative therapies for opioids isn’t working — as if there was even a small chance that it would. Now everyone wants to treat addiction with treatments that only work for a small number of people.

We know the results of the failed (white people’s) drug war.  What will be the consequences of the white people’s war against addiction and opioids?

“For some, meditation has become more curse than cure.”

https://noimnotok.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/why-cant-i-meditate/

Link provided by alexmoriah86 in the comment section:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-dark-knight-of-the-souls/372766/

After 100 years of research into psychotherapy, it’s obvious that scientists and clinicians have learned a lot about the benefits of therapy, but what do we know about the harms? According to Britton, a parallel process is happening in the field of meditation research…

Given the juggernaut—economic and otherwise—behind the mindfulness movement, there is a lot at stake in exploring a shadow side of meditation. Upton Sinclair once observed how difficult it is to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it…

Shinzen Young, a Buddhist meditation teacher popular with young scientists, has summarized his familiarity with dark night experiences…

Almost everyone who gets anywhere with meditation will pass through periods of negative emotion, confusion, [and] disorientation. …The same can happen in psychotherapy and other growth modalities. I would not refer to these types of experiences as ‘dark night.’ I would reserve the term for a somewhat rarer phenomenon. Within the Buddhist tradition, [this] is sometimes referred to as ‘falling into the Pit of the Void.’ It entails an authentic and irreversible insight into Emptiness and No Self. Instead of being empowering and fulfilling … it turns into the opposite. In a sense, it’s Enlightenment’s Evil Twin…

The identities of Britton’s subjects are kept secret and coded anonymously. To find interviewees, however, her team contacted well-known and highly esteemed teachers, such as Jack Kornfield at California’s Spirit Rock and Joseph Goldstein at the Insight Meditation Center in Massachusetts. Like many other experienced teachers they spoke to, Goldstein and Kornfield recalled instances during past meditation retreats where students became psychologically incapacitated. Some were hospitalized. Says Britton, “there was one person Jack told me about [who] never recovered.” …

This is addiction

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm470073.htm

While progress has been made in reducing the burden of tobacco use on the nation, each day in the U.S. more than 2,600 youth under age 18 smoke their first cigarette, and nearly 600 become daily cigarette smokers…

That’s about a 23% addiction rate. If 2,600 kids tried any other drug, would there be such a high rate of addiction?  I’m only guessing here, but alcohol must have a similar addiction rate.

During walks around my neighborhood, I find (and photograph) a lot of empty alcohol bottles. Yesterday, I was in an area near the school where a lot of kids hang out, and I noticed how many of the empty bottles were from flavored alcohol:

00DSC06454 (2)

Cinnamon

Watermelon

Watermelon

Of course, beer is another favorite, no doubt because it’s cheap:

0DSC06466

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Did you know there was flavored beer, too?

0DSC06497.0

Raspberry and lime beer… Seriously, does that really improve the taste of beer?

More ER visits for anti-anxiety and insomnia medications than opioids

https://edsinfo.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/good-bad-and-ugly-of-cdc-proposed-opioid-guidelines/

http://paindr.com/good-bad-and-ugly-of-cdc-proposed-opioid-guidelines/

Under comments:

Mary Maston
MSK Advocate
October 23, 2015 at 1:16 PM

When you’re this sick every single day, it’s exhausting to jump through all of the hoops just to feel decent for 30 days and then worry that your doctor’s attitude or opinion may have changed in that 30 days, or that he or she is being pressured to prescribe less and will cut you back drastically or drop you altogether, or he or she will be investigated by the powers that be and that you may not be able to get them the next month. While I still believe in our rights to pain control and the medications that help, and I will continue to fight for that until my last breath, I do it while I’m personally suffering. If marijuana were legal in my state, I’d use it in a heartbeat, but it isn’t. So I just suffer with rocks in both kidneys and chronic cystitis that nobody can do anything about. I think this is exactly what PROP, the CDC, the FDA, and the DEA want, and it’s exactly what they’re getting…

Ironically, there were more ER visits for anti-anxiety and insomnia medications in 2013 than there were opioids, according to their own reports, but we’re just going to sweep that little fact under the rug and ignore it, because the war is on opioids right now…

http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/overdose.html

Drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department (ED) visits in 2011. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to prescription drugs. Among those ED visits, 501,207 visits were related to anti-anxiety and insomnia medications, and 420,040 visits were related to opioid analgesics…

And how many were “related” to the combination of prescriptions drugs and alcohol? Now compare all of these to how many were “related” to cannabis. Prescription drugs and alcohol are legal, while cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug — which is why the DEA should change it’s name to the Hypocrisy Enforcement Agency.

Doctors Blamed This Model’s Pain on Her Weight But She Actually Had Cancer

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/health-fitness/news/a48115/doctors-blamed-this-models-pain-on-her-weight-but-she-actually-had-cancer/

It is no joke that doctors take women’s pain less seriously. It happens. A lot. Really. One model lived this horrifying truth about our medical system firsthand…

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/emergency-room-wait-times-sexism/410515/

“Women are likely to be treated less aggressively until they prove that they are as sick as male patients.”

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainNews/women-chronic-pain/story?id=15598143

(2011) Women’s Chronic Pain Misdiagnosed, Undertreated, Dismissed

Women make up the vast majority of the nation’s 116 million chronic pain sufferers, yet doctors frequently dismiss their complaints as all in their heads, sending them on years-long searches for relief, a patient told senators today.

Although studies have observed women’s chronic pain is more frequent, more severe and longer-lasting than men’s, many women still are told “their problem isn’t real. Your pain doesn’t exist, you must be imagining this,” Christin Veasley testified…

She was among five witnesses appearing at a Capitol Hill hearing on “Pain in America: Exploring Challenges to Relief,” called by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The hearing followed publication last year of an Institute of Medicine report that included recommendations for improving diagnosis, treatment and research into chronic pain, as well as boosting health professionals’ recognition of both the problem and its toll.

Worse still, treatments don’t “fully alleviate Americans’ pain,” said Dr. Philip A. Pizzo, dean of Stanford University medical school and chairman of the IOM committee that released its chronic pain report last year. Among its findings: “pain management is a moral imperative,” and “chronic pain can be a disease in itself.”

Pizzo also noted that the figure of 116 million U.S. chronic pain sufferers is an underestimate, because it excludes children, the military, and residents of nursing homes and chronic care institutions…

The IOM’s estimate of 116 million chronic pain sufferers has been revised down, I believe by the IOM committee itself. Considering it was an underestimate to begin with, I’m guessing the IOM was pressured into revising its conclusions. I’ve seen new estimates at 40 or 50 million, but no one can come up with an accurate number.

Part of the problem is how chronic pain is defined — as any pain lasting for over 3 months. Well, there are so many things than can cause pain lasting longer than 3 months, from an ear infection to a broken bone. From year-round allergies to headaches caused by wearing glasses or dentures. Are all of these examples of chronic pain?

If you suffer from any of these causes of pain, then it’s likely that the pain will be an ongoing issue lasting longer than 3 months. Even a broken bone can ache for the rest of your life, but that kind of pain is usually not constant.

Is chronic pain always constant? Or can it also be defined as daily or weekly?

It’s been almost 6 six years since the “Pain in America” senate hearing, and it’s very sad to see that no progress has been made. In fact, the drug war has just made everything worse. We’re on our own, people.

Thinking of you, Patti Stevens

http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football-news/4659346-wife-of-jogger-killed-by-former-texas-am-receiver-commits-suicide

The wife of the jogger hacked to death at random earlier this month committed suicide Sunday, authorities said Monday. The suspect in the killing is former Texas A&M receiver Thomas Johnson, who was arrested Oct. 13 after police said he admitted to the crime.

Patti Stevens, 54, a physical therapist, was found dead of suspected suicide at her home in the 200 block of Brazos Lane in Sunnyvale, Raul Reyna, a spokesman for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, told the Dallas Morning News. Stevens and her husband, Dave, were married for 25 years after moving to the Dallas area in 1989…

http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football-news/4659640-dallas-jogger-murder-texas-am-player-thomas-johnson-machete-dave-stevens-wife-patti-suicide

Is football partially to blame for brutal slaying of Dallas jogger?

It should scare everybody that a kid who only three years ago was catching passes from Manziel to help A&M upset Alabama is now sitting in a jail cell after the most brutal of crimes.

Johnson’s story always had been slightly confusing, strange. He disappeared not long after that game, literally walked away from campus. He was declared missing for three days and then ended up in Dallas never to return to or play another down for A&M…  What happened in those three days he went missing in 2012? Why did he leave at all? Was it pressure? Or drugs? Or was the guy just mentally ill?

And if this was the case — and a relative told The Dallas Morning News he had been diagnosed schizophrenic — how does he slip through crack after crack after crack, plow through warning sign after warning sign after warning sign without intervention?

How is a kid like this not ordered into a mental health facility? Listening to so many around him talk in this aftermath, big red flags were flying that this kid needed help long before he used a cell phone to call police and say he had committed capital murder, you know the kind where people do not wake up.

If he had used a gun, we’d focus on the weapon.

He used a machete, and it should force us to look at the obvious gaps in mental health coverage in our country. Is the system too hard to navigate? Did his mom try? Do we get to ask?

Parenting is hard. I know this; anybody with a kid knows this. But about year ago, Johnson’s mom told The Houston Chronicle that her son was readying for a comeback at another college. Was this a mom protecting her son? Or in denial?

He was hearing voices. People around him knew.

If he is mentally ill, can we wipe our hands of this mess? Or is there responsibility for those who knew? Because whether this is an unavoidable tragedy or negligence probably depends on if you know the man Johnson killed as a jogger or as Dave Stevens.

It took police more than a day to identify him because he had been so badly butchered. How do you live with that? His wife ultimately could not.

Who is responsible for this? Is anybody? Is everybody? …