Opioids are a plague?

http://www.statnews.com/2016/11/18/opioids-addiction-chronic-pain/

The opioid epidemic has rapidly emerged from the shadows and is now recognized as a plague that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status. In its destructive potential, it can be compared to the AIDS and polio epidemics…

A plague is contagious — addiction is not. And please, addiction is as destructive as AIDS? That’s what you would call a lie.

As for who this “epidemic” affects, it’s been shown that it mainly affects white, middle-class people. Those who enjoy a certain socioeconomic status are the ones with access to prescription medications like opioids.

But unlike AIDS and polio, the opioid epidemic continues to rage in large part because we, as a nation, have not yet resolved to attack it head on…

Really? Why don’t you tally up all the money that’s been spent in the war on drugs and the fight against addiction. Just like with every war, the more money you put into it, the more it takes on a life of its own, causing destruction to just about everyone.

As a pain expert, I had hoped the surgeon general’s report would have placed a greater emphasis on the need to develop alternatives to opioids that can be used for pain management, which would eliminate a key pathway to abuse…

Opioids are not a “key pathway to abuse,” just like marijuana is not a pathway to heroin abuse. And it’s extremely disturbing that a pain “expert” believes this to be true. Tens of millions of patients have taken opioids without any problems whatsoever.

And while a lot of people talk about alternatives to opioids, they don’t exist. Nothing works as well as opioids for pain. Nothing. How do I know? Because just like millions of other pain patients, I’ve tried everything. So, while this “expert” can hope for alternatives to opioids, that’s not the reality. And it won’t be for decades to come.

Here’s a more in depth analysis of the Surgeon General’s report:

http://www.reason.com/blog/2016/11/18/surgeon-generals-report-mistakenly-treat

The article from STAT reminded me of an article I saw months ago:

http://www.aol.com/article/2016/07/14/prolonged-drug-use-may-impact-moral-judgment/21432378/

Researchers from the University of New Mexico and the Mind Research Network have found yet another ill effect linked to prolonged drug use. According to the scientists, over time, both cocaine and methamphetamine can diminish activity in the brain’s moral and emotional centers, creating difficulty in determining right from wrong. The study’s subjects were inmates from prisons in New Mexico and Wisconsin. Roughly 130 of them had a history of methamphetamine and cocaine use, while the remaining 80 did not.

Whose morals are we talking about here? And with a sample size that was so small, using prison inmates, this “study” determines nothing. Also, you can’t determine what happens to a brain on drugs unless you have tests that show how that same brain worked before the drug use started. Recently, scientists have figured out how to “fingerprint” the brain. Turns out, everyone’s brain is unique:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/brain-connections-map_us_582b628be4b01d8a014adc56

As some scientists are discovering, each brain is wired in a completely unique way. In the same way that each of us has a specific fingerprint, we also have a distinct map of brain connections…”

This research by UNM is the only kind that’s been funded by anti-drug agencies, like the NIDA. Do you want to know why we spend so much money on the failed drug war? It’s partially because of wasteful research like this.

What I would like to see is a test that shows the activity in Trump’s “moral and emotional centers.” You know, the ones that determine “right from wrong.” Would it look similar to the prisoners’ test results?

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32 thoughts on “Opioids are a plague?

  1. If I weren’t already far too familiar with the egregious waivers of accepted research standards applied to any paper that purports to “prove” the connection between drugs and moral failings, I would fly into a rage and begin writing letters to the editor of the worthless rag that published this **worse than useless** paper.

    Going far beyond the usual standard of selection bias, this paper seeks to work backward from the convicted criminal, in a ridiculous attempt to “prove” that because some criminals take drugs, the cause of criminality is those very drugs. Furthermore, drugs will somehow pervert a ” normal” mind and cause it to become morally bankrupt, as we clearly see, because….what was I saying? Oh, drat! Now what was it we were trying to prove…hmm…oh yes. Being incarcerated causes drugs. No, no, Watson! It’s the criminal mind, I tell you! Oh, hang it all, I can’t remember.

    The frightening thing is that, judging from the comments on these pieces of shite, a very large majority of physicians reads them and uses them too bolster their bogus opinions.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s the drug war that creates criminals, not drug use. And doctors want the drug war to continue because without it, they’d be out of a job. I know I won’t live to see the decriminalization of all drugs, but won’t that be something? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, I think it would be wonderful. I’m a Libertarian, you know. I believe that informed, consenting adults should be able to do whatever they like, as long as no one else is harmed in the process. That includes the side effects of addiction, though. So I’m happy for people to use all they want, provided they have the legal means to get it.

        Certainly the prices are enormously inflated due to prohibition. People do get disabled with severe addiction, and turn to theft etc to fund their habits. I can’t blame the industry for that. It’s truly a problem for those who have fallen in over their heads and for one reason or another can’t get out. You probably know people who’ve had that happen. I certainly do.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I wonder, if alcohol was as expensive and hard to get as some drugs, would alcoholics turn to theft to fund their habit? If drugs were as cheap and as easy to get as alcohol, would addicts have to resort to theft to treat their medical condition? Would drug addicts fall in over their heads if they could afford treatment that works? For those who suffer from medical conditions like cancer, death is the result of being unable to afford treatment. It appears that the same can apply to addiction.

          I don’t paint every person who is addicted to drugs as a saint, but neither are they monsters. They need help, although just like with chronic pain, treatments that currently exist don’t really do a very good job.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. While I believe addiction is a disease to a certain extent, I cannot believe it was compared to AIDS and polio. Your post was very informative and gave me a lot to think about in regards to further research into opoid use for pain management, as that is what I’m currently using without issue.

    Thank you for your post πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • I advocate for any treatment that can help pain patients, including opioids, which I no longer take. But I have to say that the best advice I ever got from a doctor was about the power of distraction. Distraction therapy is not easy, especially for pain patients, but it’s worth pursuing. Your brain does not want to be distracted from the pain, so it’s hard work. Although the pain will often win, there will be times when the distraction will win. And when you’re fighting a war, it’s best to concentrate on the small victories. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    • The problem with the drug war is that it blames drugs for all of society’s problems. If domestic abuse, rape, violence, and war did not exist, I’m sure everyone would take fewer drugs.

      But you’re right, the drug war is very hypocritical. Both heroin and weed are Schedule 1 drugs, while meth, morphine, and opium are rated less dangerous at Schedule 2. It doesn’t make any sense. Just like taking pain medications away from pain patients doesn’t make sense.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Half my immediate family lives in a little town in the middle of Kansas. This town gives birth to the stereotypes of redneck tweakers. Meth fried a third of my friends’ brain. It literally made them unrecognizable. They aged twenty years in two or three … it was insane and heartbreaking and infuriating to see.

    Within the past five years, pain pills have replaced the pervasive harm once dealt by methanphetamines. People who are very, very unhappy with themselves are no longer turning to speed, they are popping pills. It’s a totally different breed of zombie. They are shells of their former selves.

    Not to mention, and this will sound cold and as though I am focusing on the wrong thing, but this is more of a side-note: Little towns where a majority of the population is poor could better afford meth. They could not keep jobs -true, and yeah, they would turn to theft, but speed stretches out a long way. You might hear of so-and-so ripping someone off, stealing someones shit maybe once or twice a month.

    But now, in order for people to maintain a numb escape, their pocketbooks battle their tolerance level. Five bucks a pill, two barely phase you anymore, you eat at *least* six just to make it through the day and your walls are bare as hell. You have sold everything. Decorations mean nothing. No one trusts anyone enough to leave their purse on the kitchen table. These expensive little tablets have become a tragic form of barter.

    People that have never had much more than a couple of hundred bucks in their savings account to begin with are overdrawn consistently, they cannot cash thier paychecks at the bank, they owe the bank too much. They have to go to the grocery store. And groceries have become a total luxury because it’s hard as hell to wake up in the mornings. They are in a fog from the pilled-out night before. They miss too much work, lose hours, eventually get fired.

    They aren’t ashamed because it’s the same with their peers, family, and neighbors. Instead of, “how’s it going?” you are more apt to hear, “found a new job yet?”

    It *does* seem viral sometimes because you watch the ones that used to try so hard to keep the addicts on track, to get them help, to love them more, you watch them eventually give up and say, “what the hell,” and they start popping pills because they cannot stand it either, the dismal grey everything that has shadowed half the town.

    It makes me angry to hear we need to find an alternative to the ONLY relief people with legitimate dehabilitating pain struggle with, and siphon form them what is putting their agony on pause for a minute. Sometimes not even that- but making it tolerable.

    while I do have a family full of drug-addicts, I also have a step-father on the other side of my family who had an aiccident and hurt his back over 15 years ago. To watch in person someone you love so much, cry out in agony over the simple act of getting out of a goddamn chair- that shit is hard.

    What I want is focus on rehabilitation for those that are numbing themselves due to dissatifcation or depression. I want the drug addicts to get better because once thier mind clears they will realize they are making it so much harder for those that need them to get their vital pain pills. They will revitalize. And they are lucky to have that as a possibilty because people with legit chronic physical pain do not have that option, that is a very, very rare unicorn possibility. They need pain relief to damn near breathe. They *need* it.

    This need was not born from a desire . Like the desire that transformed into a drug addict’s “need.” A need that is no joke, as they are consumed, absolutely. But they CAN exist without the pills IF there is adequate help. Yeah, yeah, they have to want to kick the habit first but look how hard it is for them to seek help when they do. It’s hard. It’s stressful, and guess what you want when you are stressed? The drug you are attempting to get away from.

    … ugh.
    Dude. I am so sorry. I wrote a novel. I am very passionate about the pain pill problem that is bulldozing through personalities and priorities and families. And I became enraged reading that some asshole thinks to fix this we need to take away what alleviates those that are truly suffering daily. Or rather, focus on alternatives to what works for them instead of providing adequate help for what is ruining those that don’t need pain pill help. Those who need rehab help, quality rehab options. Again, I apologize. I just, the pain pill addiction debate fucks with me, I guess. It is conflicting as I see addicts suffering while they cause suffering for those that have a harder and harder time acquring what the addicts abuse has made taboo.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wonder how much difference there is between need and desire. Maybe those addicted to drugs don’t have a switch in their brain that changes from need to desire. There’s just one setting: desire. That’s not only due to their DNA, of course, but also the side effects of the drugs. There are safer drugs to treat addiction, but I know a large percentage of patients don’t have access to them. And there’s so much shame and stigma attached to asking for help.

      I also wonder what would constitute adequate help for those who suffer from drug addiction. Even the harm reduction drugs like bupe don’t help everyone. But it seems to me that rehabs only focus on addiction, not all the reasons for that addiction. And I don’t think rehabs are set up to really treat mental health conditions.

      I think there are many reasons for the rise in drug addiction and overdoses, but it does seem to be centered around the loss of good jobs in this country. I don’t know how anyone can fix that. There’s also been a massive loss of social services and people are really stressed.

      I don’t think we can place the blame for all of this mess on those who suffer from addiction. There are both good and bad people who suffer from addiction, but this is more about the drug war. I don’t really understand why people switched from meth to painkillers, but maybe it has to do with what meth does to your looks.

      Yes, painkillers can turn you into a zombie, but when you suffer from constant pain, being a zombie isn’t that bad. πŸ™‚

      Thanks so much for your in-depth comment. You know, I read about what’s going on in small cities and towns, but your words really brought another dimension to this issue. You write so well. πŸ™‚

      I know people are suffering. There are no easy answers. I don’t know if we’re headed in the right direction or not, but I suppose it’s better than standing still. It’s just very sad that pain patients have to suffer more, while those who suffer from addiction get more help. It’s not fair. Not fair at all.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I definitely think the first thing that encompasses my raging demands of adequate help is lessening the stigma! I feel like fleshing out what rehab offers, very much what you were saying- what makes people want to go numb? What issues lurk beneath the surface? Digging them out and addressing them- that is the direction of adequate help. A therapy that delves into the mind to work out what they are trying to escape with the drug use, not just therapy that seems to mainly focus on teaching the ability to refrain from the drug use.

        This drug war is sucking up money that could be used to make these social services more substantial. More available location-wise. The more physically present, the easier it is to access rehabilitation centers -funding more to exist, I think that might dramatically lessen the stigma.

        In times of duress people tend to collectively band together. If you see someone crying you want to know what is wrong. You want to help.

        In those moments where an addict decides they want to get clean, if they could be at a clinic within half an hour they may be more likely to ride that urge to be clean long enough to have a bigger impact. If you have to drive hours to the next big city, which doesn’t even house enough clinics, they have too much time to get antsy, fiend, or change their mind even.

        And to account for their absence they make feel more compelled to lie about where they are going because, “It must be reallyyyyyy bad if he has to drive hours to get help” is a prevelant perspective in a small town. A lack of exposure to options is a likely cause. Perhaps a facility that’s local, where you see people you know going lessens the dread of being alone in your battle. Maybe alleviate feelings of there being something wrong with you for not being able to keep it under control on your own- since someone you know is going through the same struggle. You see them doing what you are trying to do and band together. Now there are two of you and a third addict sees the both of you and he knows you, too, and well, there is less pressure on him fearing he will be seen because he isn’t alone. Now there are three and it might be a domino effect that makes people step out of the shadows and say, “Hey! Me too, can I come with y’all?”

        (This is my perfect world scenario suggestion, of course. My main point is just suspecting that rehab facilities being so elusive makes them more taboo, and not focusing on more “Why do you want to?” therapy makes them less effective… maybe?)

        And I guess people switched from meth to painkillers is because of the problem of doctors being paid to promote certain drugs so they were passing out prescriptions liberally. Then people are sneaking into medicine cabinets and finding their own reason to need to “go to the dr.” They give a few to their friend, and another sort of domino effect happens? It was just too easy for a while for anyone to get pain pills, then when a problem is spotted they buckle down and the ones left to truly suffer are the ones that need it, people like my step-father who cannot sit in a chair too long, get in and out of a care easily, etc. By then it’s prevalent on the street, someone has an “in” so it’s still easy enough to get them “recreationally” while those in chronic pain are arguing with their doctors for a prescription. The same doctors who highly contributed to the addiction mess.

        I just think it’s unfair to pull an effective pain reliever from peoples lives because it has become such a problem for others. I think those others should have readily available help to try and kick their habit. Leaving those who cannot find reprieve without them to suffer is bullshit.

        So I totally don’t mean to sound like I am blaming this pervasive problem on the drug addicts. I know they are also good people because my family was and still have inside of them, that good people/person. I want them to be treated for a dependency that is keeping those who have legit constant pain from being able to acquire pain medications that work.

        *Those* were the zombies I was referencing. People who eat ten a day just for the high. I don’t wish to put the blame on the addicts, but I do have resentment towards the addiction, absolutely. It destroyed my family. I cannot trust them. The thieving has put me in some serious financial pickles (speaking of tuna fish- do you add pickles?) and they are abusive in ways that makes my mania froth too frequently. Then when I look at my stepdad, on the other side of my family and see how hard it is for him to get help, it makes me mad as hell.

        I completely agree with you- whether or not it’s the right direction, totally superior to standing still.

        (People in the South put fucking apples in their tuna. Grosses me out.)

        Liked by 2 people

        • I took pills for 10 years. I did many (many) things that I’m not proud of, chasing that pain relief. Desperate things. My family believed I was addicted, and maybe I was. But I haven’t taken pills for about 5 years, so if I really was addicted, wouldn’t I still be craving them? I was given painkillers after a major surgery and then when I broke my foot. It wasn’t hard to stop taking them, except for the increase in pain. It took months for those injuries to heal, yet I was only given about a week’s worth each time.

          I have addiction in my family. Doesn’t everyone? I’ve spent time analyzing my own addictions. Being treated like a drug addict made me wonder if I really was one. My conclusion was that I’m addicted to pain relief. I can’t live without it. And drugs are the best treatment for the relief of pain. That’s just a fact. Nothing I can do to change it.

          I think one of the hardest parts of addiction is the withdrawal. It’s torture. Who would want to go through that? How much money would you pay, what would you do, to avoid that? I’d have to say that one of the reasons I don’t crave pills is because I would never want to go through that again. It was worse than 36 hours of labor. It may be the worst thing I’ve ever been through.

          And yet drug addicts go through this torture all the time. I can understand their need to get their drug of choice at all costs. I know the damage it does to family and friends. But if drugs were legal and easily accessible, a lot of this bad behavior wouldn’t need to exist. Keep in mind that even legalizing alcohol didn’t make all this bad behavior go away. People will be experimental and irresponsible, especially kids. Nothing you can do about that except educate. And telling kids that their brain on drugs is like a fried egg is not what I call education.

          What do you think about parents sending kids to out-of-state rehabs? You know, to get away from all their druggie friends. As if you can’t find people who take drugs wherever you go.

          I’m not that fond of pickles. Just something extra for my poor jaw joints to chew. Celery is worth it, if cut up finely enough. Can’t live without onions. No, apples don’t belong with tuna or mayo. But I suppose you could eat around them. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 2 people

        • My son lied and faked his way through not one but FIVE rehab programs. It was only when I put him in a therapeutic boarding school that focused on self-knowledge, honesty, and empathy, and respecting self and others, that he grew out of needing to be an addict.

          He was one of those kids who took opiates that other kids stole from their grandparents who had cancer. Made me absolutely furious. This was around 1999-2002. He learned to use drugs when his father put him in a day school for rich kids.

          Now his former rich kid school is filled with heroin addicts. I doubt that any of them started out taking Percocet for injuries out surgery. Just regular bored teenagers getting into trouble…but reliably deadly trouble, not just alcohol and fast cars.

          This current heroin epidemic is driven by hopelessness in a world that is filled with screens and consumerism. The poor kids are desperate, the rich kids are bored, the adults are unemployed and worn down. It’s a social disease. It’s an indicator of a society in decline. It has nothing to do with physical pain: it’s existential angst.

          My two shekelsπŸ˜†

          Liked by 1 person

        • I 100% believe all drugs should be legalized. You are put in shady situations to acquire them and that in itself makes it a slightly safer world (were they legalized and you had safer options of distribution to choose, I mean.)

          People are always going to look for ways to relax, escape, get in touch with their third eye, or simply party. I don’t necessarily think using drugs is an inherently irresponsible thing at all.

          As far as sending kids off … man, unless they were heavily bullied and needed to get away for a while, I think it’s better to be near them during anything healing-related. And those parents with this concept of “escaping from the bad seeds” mean well, obviously, but yeah, it seems naive. Would it not be easier to ween away from naughty friends rather than be pulled apart cold turkey? Eventually you return home and you are curious about them, or they want to know where you have been, “Let’s hang out, catch up…” Or they get confrontational because they are insulted if you completely ignore them.

          All these what if scenarios.

          I was a naughty kid and a willing participant. My parents thought I had a few bad friends but they were off by many years. They were great friends when I was young and I got a lot out of those friendships for over 15 years. Then they became bad friends.

          Now I am hungry and my only viable option is cereal.

          Liked by 1 person

        • It’s a matter of degree. If the kid has pushed through every imaginable limit, been thrown out of school, living on the street eating out of dumpsters, into vicious crimes, awaiting trial, still underage, there is a golden opportunity to save his ass. And I did. I worked a plea bargain for him to go to residential long term therapy. I went bankrupt to do it, but I had to do whatever I could to save his life. The school was wonderful. They reached him. We had 5 days per month intensive family therapy. His disgusting rich father refused to pay a dime, and I had to pay for him and his disgusting wife to attend therapy.

          Many, many times I’ve thought of the hundreds of thousands, millions of kids whose parents couldn’t afford to save them. Instead they ended up where my son was headed–in jail, dead, or both. This wasn’t just “rebellious teenager” stuff.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Do you think every person is capable of learning and practicing empathy? Considering the number of people who voted for Donald Trump, methinks not. And is empathy something you learn or something you’re born with?

          From Urban Dictionary: Existential Angst is the relation to one being aware of the possibility that life lacks meaning, causing an extreme form of anxiety, and a feeling of despair or hopelessness.

          I’m not sure I understand this term. Of course life lacks meaning. Everyone has to choose their own definition of what life means. For most people, it’s family. And religion too, I guess.

          I suppose Republicans would blame all this on the decline of the family. Of course, there’s also other ways to look at it. Since divorce became fairly common, without the associated stigma, the suicide rate for women substantially decreased. When families are split up, some men have stepped up and become better fathers. And then there are the fathers who have used women’s independence as a way to run away from their responsibilities.

          Like

        • Well, we know psychopaths cannot feel empathy… So not everyone is capable of it, but aren’t they the ones that can mine it? I am one of those people who confuses them with sociopaths.

          I know some pretty cool republicans… It’s more a fiscal preference than the other conservative business. I also know some goddamn narrow-minded liberals. Had to throw that in there…

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m hungry, too. I’m thinking about making a box of Mexican rice from Rice-A-Roni. I splurged on some cherry tomatoes that I can put on top. Thanks for the interesting conversation. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

        • That therapy must have been hard for everyone. I come from a family that doesn’t talk about stuff. I can’t imagine being in a room with them, having to discuss personal issues like addiction. So, is your son, like, cured?

          Like

        • My family talks never went very smoothly. That is a very powerfully love and self control to be able to sit in a room with a shit ex-husband along with his shit wife, in a therapy session you had to pay on your own.

          Liked by 1 person

        • He’s still an addict at heart. He’s managed to become very successful, just earned his Ph.D in Chemical Biology (!). He’s into brewing, makes very high-test beers, drinks a lot, works compulsively, has the same anger issues he’s always had. Blames everything on me. But he’s not in jail or dead, so there’s still time for him to grow up. I do believe that the school gave him the tools to pull himself out of his rut and devote his obsessive energy to work and school. Relapse is part of recovery. I hope he is able to climb out of the hole he’s in now. He was on lithium for a few years, which helped immensely. I’m certain that his recent (starting a couple of years ago) relapse is due to untreated bipolar I. Great for getting work done, bad for feeling agitated and generally dysphoric…alcohol is the preferred sedative. And cigarettes. Of course I’m a bad person for suggesting that he see a psychiatrist…it’s an ongoing story.

          Liked by 1 person

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