Category : Drugs/Drug Addiction

(Wash Post) Drug overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year

Deaths from drug overdoses soared to more than 93,000 last year, a staggering record that reflects the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on efforts to quell the crisis and the continued spread of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in the illegal narcotic supply, the government reported Wednesday.

The death toll jumped by more than 21,000, or nearly 30 percent, from 2019, according to provisional data released by the National Center for Health Statistics, eclipsing the record set that year.

The increase came as no surprise to addiction specialists, drug counselors and policy experts who have watched the steady rise in deaths throughout the pandemic. But that did not make the statistics any less horrifying.

“Every one of those people, somebody loved them,” said Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University and an expert on addiction and drug policy. “It’s terrifying. It’s the biggest increase in overdose deaths in the history of the United States, it’s the worst overdose crisis in the history of the United States, and we’re not making progress. It’s really overwhelming.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(NYT) Jane Brody–The Health Benefits of Coffee

Americans sure love their coffee. Even last spring when the pandemic shut down New York, nearly every neighborhood shop that sold takeout coffee managed to stay open, and I was amazed at how many people ventured forth to start their stay-at-home days with a favorite store-made brew.

One elderly friend who prepandemic had traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan by subway to buy her preferred blend of ground coffee arranged to have it delivered. “Well worth the added cost,” she told me. I use machine-brewed coffee from pods, and last summer when it seemed reasonably safe for me to shop I stocked up on a year’s supply of the blends I like. (Happily, the pods are now recyclable.)

All of us should be happy to know that whatever it took to secure that favorite cup of Joe may actually have helped to keep us healthy. The latest assessments of the health effects of coffee and caffeine, its main active ingredient, are reassuring indeed. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

In fact, in numerous studies conducted throughout the world, consuming four or five eight-ounce cups of coffee (or about 400 milligrams of caffeine) a day has been associated with reduced death rates. In a study of more than 200,000 participants followed for up to 30 years, those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, were 15 percent less likely to die early from all causes than were people who shunned coffee. Perhaps most dramatic was a 50 percent reduction in the risk of suicide among both men and women who were moderate coffee drinkers, perhaps by boosting production of brain chemicals that have antidepressant effects.

Read it all.

Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(CNS) Catholic Bishops urge Mexicans to vote in elections, but some see warning signs

Ascencio’s diocese has been hit hard by drug cartel violence, something highlighted by a recent visit to the besieged town of Aguililla by Archbishop Franco Coppola, apostolic nuncio. The bishop expressed bewilderment at a mayoral candidate in Michoacán appearing on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s wanted list.

“In my diocese … it’s very likely there’s complicity between organized crime and those exercising political power,” Ascencio said. “They have told me that they’re overwhelmed by the crime situation and security is not their duty; it’s something for the federal government.”

In this election cycle, the bishop said more candidates have sought him out for meetings than in past years. He notices that “they haven’t taken reality into account.”

“What’s not seen is that power in not in the hands of legitimate rulers,” he said. “Power in many places is held by organized crime. It seems like the political sector is at the service of organized crime.”

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Law & Legal Issues, Mexico, Politics in General, Roman Catholic

(FT) New US Covid infections fall to lowest level in 11 months

New coronavirus infections in the US have fallen to the lowest level in 11 months, in a sign the country remains on track to regain a sense of normality by the summer.

States reported 24,080 new infections on May 9, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on Monday, the fewest since June. The US has averaged 38,678 new infections a day over the past week, the lowest since mid-September and an 85 per cent drop from a peak rate in early January of about 250,000 a day.

“We are in the verge of having Covid on the run in the US thanks to Americans getting vaccinated,” Andy Slavitt, a senior White House coronavirus adviser, tweeted on Monday.

The sharp decline in new infections has tracked a swift rise in vaccinations, as it has in other countries with successful mass inoculation programmes such as Israel and the UK.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(Washington Post) ‘It’s pretty marginal’: Experts say Biden’s vaccine waiver proposal unlikely to boost supply quickly

“There is no mRNA manufacturing capacity in the world — this is a new technology,” [Moderna CEO Stéphane] Bancel added. “You cannot go hire people who know how to make mRNA. Those people don’t exist. And then even if all those things were available, whoever wants to do mRNA vaccines will have to, you know, buy the machine, invent the manufacturing process, invent creation processes and ethical processes, and then they will have to go run a clinical trial, get the data, get the product approved and scale manufacturing. This doesn’t happen in six or 12 or 18 months.”

Several officials involved in the U.S. coronavirus response said they worried the decision would damage their relationship with the drug industry, noting the Biden administration is relying on it not just to boost vaccine supply but also to devise additional coronavirus treatments and vaccines, particularly given the risk of variants.

“We’re all counting on pharma to come up with vaccine booster shots, and what happens when we try to get to the front of the line?” said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly comment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Vaccines Appear to Be Slowing Spread of Covid-19 Infections

Vaccines appear to be starting to curb new Covid-19 infections in the U.S., a breakthrough that could help people return to more normal activities as infection worries fade, public-health officials say.

By Tuesday, 37.3% of U.S. adults were fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with about 2.7 million shots each day. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the seven-day average for new U.S. cases has fallen below the 14-day average for more than a week, which epidemiologists said is a strong signal that cases are starting to slide again after a recent upswing. When the seven-day average is higher than the 14-day average, it suggests new cases are accelerating.

With the U.S. recently averaging at least 50,000 new daily cases, the pandemic is far from over. But the U.S. is nearing a nationwide benchmark of having 40% of adults fully vaccinated, which many public-health experts call an important threshold where vaccinations gain an upper hand over the coronavirus, based on the experience from further-along nations such as Israel.

“When you get to somewhere between 40 and 50%, I believe you’re going to start seeing real change, the start of a precipitous drop in cases,” said Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, in an interview.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(WSJ) Prayer and Science Led Me to the Vaccine

As a father, grandfather, pastor and community leader, I grasped the importance of understanding the vaccine. That meant getting the facts early on from the most qualified scientists and doctors. A panel discussion I hosted early in January with several of the nation’s leading infectious-disease experts—including Anthony Fauci, Kizzmekia Corbett and Yale medical professor Onyema Ogbuagu —provided a thorough description of the vaccine-development process. Particularly helpful were the details supplied by Dr. Corbett, a young black woman and key scientist behind the development of Moderna’s novel mRNA vaccine.

I received invaluable advice from my longtime physician, a black woman and member of my church who has herself received the vaccine. Because I believe in the multitude of counsel, I also spoke with several leading infectious-disease specialists here in the Dallas area, a metropolis that is home to many globally renowned health-care facilities.

Eventually, it came down to common sense. I am a 63-year-old black man, a little overweight and with an underlying health condition. The vaccine has been proven to diminish chances of people like me getting the virus. To date, the vaccine’s side effects have been minimal or nonexistent. It’s true that no one knows anything about potential long-term side effects. But here’s what we do know: The virus has killed more than 500,000 people in this country alone, but the vaccine has yet to kill a single person. Moreover, there is a great deal of information about lingering debilitating symptoms among those who survive the virus.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Pfizer Vaccine Is Highly Effective After One Dose and Can Be Stored in Normal Freezers, Data Shows

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE generates robust immunity after one dose and can be stored in ordinary freezers instead of at ultracold temperatures, according to new research and data released by the companies.

The findings provide strong arguments in favor of delaying the second dose of the two-shot vaccine, as the U.K. has done. They could also have substantial implications on vaccine policy and distribution around the world, simplifying the logistics of distributing the vaccine.

A single shot of the vaccine is 85% effective in preventing symptomatic disease 15 to 28 days after being administered, according to a peer-reviewed study conducted by the Israeli government-owned Sheba Medical Center and published in the Lancet medical journal. Pfizer and BioNTech recommend that a second dose is administered 21 days after the first.

The finding is a vindication of the approach taken by the U.K. government to delay a second dose by up to 12 weeks so it could use limited supplies to deliver a single dose to more people, and could encourage others to follow suit. Almost one-third of the U.K.’s adult population has now received at least one vaccine shot. Other authorities in parts of Canada and Europe have prioritized an initial shot, hoping they will have enough doses for a booster when needed.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(NYT) After a Sluggish Start, the Vaccine Rollout Is Improving in Every State

On Jan. 1, just a quarter of vaccine doses delivered across the country had been used, compared to 68 percent of doses on Feb. 11. A handful of states have administered more than 80 percent of the doses they have received. And even states with slower vaccine uptake are making strides. Alabama, for example, where the share of doses used has consistently ranked among the country’s lowest, is in the process of opening new mass vaccination sites in eight cities.

“Every state is improving,” said Claire Hannan, the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “We still don’t have enough to vaccinate everyone over 75, so it doesn’t necessarily feel different for people who are trying to find the vaccine, but we are in a much better place now.”

Health officials acknowledge that it’s confusing to suggest that overall supply is limited, when federal data shows that many shots still seem to be sitting unused. But jurisdictions have said that they are working around the clock to close the gap between doses delivered and administered.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, State Government

(CNBC) Pfizer vaccine appears to neutralize a key mutation of Covid variants found in UK, South Africa

A coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to be effective against a key mutation in the more infectious variants of the virus discovered in the U.K. and South Africa, according to a study conducted by the U.S. pharmaceutical giant.

It comes as countries scramble to contain the variants that are significantly more transmissible, with public health experts anxious about the potential impact on inoculation efforts.

The research, published Thursday on preprint server bioRxiv and not yet peer-reviewed, suggested the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine worked to neutralize the so-called N501Y mutation.

The N501Y mutation has been reported in the more infectious variants. It is altering an amino acid within six key residues in the receptor-binding domain — a key part of the spike protein that the virus uses to gain entry into cells within the body.

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Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, South Africa

An alternative to Antiobiotics? SMART researchers use lysins to selectively target bacteria

Researchers from the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, have developed a method to produce customizable engineered lysins that can be used to selectively kill bacteria of interest while leaving others unharmed. The discovery presents a promising alternative to antibiotics for treating existing drug-resistant bacteria and bacterial infections without the risk of causing resistance.

Lysins are enzymes produced by bacteriophages to break open the bacteria cells while treating infections, and have demonstrated potential as a novel class of antimicrobials. A major advantage of lysins is that they allow fast and targeted killing against a specific bacterium of choice without inducing resistance.

The emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria has left even minor bacterial infections incurable by many existing antibiotics, with at least 700,000 deaths each year due to drug-resistant diseases, according to the World Health Organization.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Singapore

(AP) US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

A U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, in a major step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. The advisory group, in 17-4 vote with one abstention, concluded that the shot appears safe and effective against the coronavirus in people 16 and older.

A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government

A Forbes article on the tragic downfall and death of highly gifted Zappos leader Tony Hsieh

But while he directly (by the tens of thousands) and indirectly (by the millions) delivered on making other people smile, Hsieh was privately coping with issues of mental health and addiction. Forbes has interviewed more than 20 of his close friends and colleagues over the past few days, each trying to come to grips with how this brightest of lights had met such a dark and sudden end.

Reconciling their accounts, one word rises up: tragedy. According to his friends and family, Hsieh’s personal struggles took a dramatic turn south over the past year, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed the nonstop action that Hsieh seemingly craved. According to numerous sources with direct knowledge, Hsieh, always a heavy drinker, veered into frequent drug use, notably nitrous oxide. Friends also cited mental health battles, as Hsieh often struggled with sleep and feelings of loneliness—traits that drove his fervor for purpose and passion in life. By August, it was announced that he had “retired” from the company he built, and which Amazon had let him run largely autonomously since paying $1.2 billion for Zappos in 2009. Friends and family members, understanding the emerging crisis, attempted interventions over the past few months to try to get him sober.

Instead, these old friends say, Hsieh retreated to Park City, where he surrounded himself with yes-men, paying dearly for the privilege. With a net worth that Forbes recently estimated, conservatively, at $700 million, Hsieh’s offer was simple: He would double the amount of their highest-ever salary. All they had to do was move to Park City with him and “be happy,” according to two sources with personal knowledge of Hsieh’s months in Utah. “In the end, the king had no clothes, and the sycophants wouldn’t say a fucking word,” said a close friend who tried to stage one of the interventions, with the help of Hsieh’s family. “People took that deal from somebody who was obviously sick,” encouraging his drug use, either tacitly or actively.

“He fostered so much human connection and happiness, yet there was this void,” the close friend continued. “It was difficult for him to be alone.”

Ultimately, that may have been a fatal trait. “When you look around and realize that every single person around you is on your payroll, then you are in trouble,” Jewel wrote in that August letter (a representative for Jewel declined to comment). “You are in trouble, Tony.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(WSJ) Pfizer Could Apply for Emergency Use of Covid-19 Vaccine by Late November

Pfizer Inc.laid out a timetable for reaching key milestones in the development of its Covid-19 vaccine that could mean the shots start becoming available in the U.S. before year’s end.

Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Friday the company could start to see from a large study whether the vaccine works by the end of this month and would have data on its safety by the third week of November. If the preliminary results indicate the vaccine can work safely, Pfizer could ask U.S. health regulators to permit use by late November, Mr. Bourla said.

The timetable, which Mr. Bourla provided in a letter posted to Pfizer’s website, suggests the shots could start going into use in late November, or more likely in December, since regulators would probably need some time to review the study data as well as Pfizer’s manufacturing operations.

New York-based Pfizer is developing its vaccine candidate with German partner BioNTech SE.

It is far from certain the vaccine would prove to work safely in the trial now enrolling some 44,000 volunteers. And the timetable could be pushed back for a number of reasons, including if it takes longer than Pfizer expects for study subjects to get exposed to the virus.

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(CT) When a Christian Admits to Opioid Addiction

How is someone supposed to react when a brother or sister in Christ brings an addiction to light? There isn’t a flow chart to follow, and few resources exist, especially in the midst of a pandemic. From my experience, I’ve come to believe the answer is Christian friendship. I mean friendships based in a shared hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ, marked by faithful encouragement and mutual trust.

In my community in rural Appalachia, 65 percent of people say substance abuse is the top issue affecting their quality of life. In our three-year-old church plant, more than half of the congregation has been impacted by substance addiction. As my husband and I have ministered here, we’ve seen people in varying scenarios of substance misuse and every stage of recovery.

Recent reports say that misuse of opioids and overdoses have increased in more than 40 states during the pandemic. This isn’t surprising. Addiction is too often a lonely and isolating condition.

For people of the faith who battle against substance dependence, isolation from the Christian community can exacerbate feelings of despair, shame, and worthlessness. Yet many also avoid connection because they fear condemnation. They worry about being judged if they use again or if, during recovery, they use the legal, proven medications that can help with opioid addiction, like buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. These are frowned on by some faith communities.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(NPR) Health On Wheels: Tricked-Out RVs Deliver Addiction Treatment To Rural Colorado

Tonja Jimenez is far from the only person driving an RV down Colorado’s rural highways. But unlike the other rigs, her 34-foot-long motor home is equipped as an addiction treatment clinic on wheels, bringing lifesaving treatment to the northeastern corner of the state, where patients with substance use disorders are often left to fend for themselves.

As in many states, access to addiction treatment remains a challenge in Colorado, so a new state program has transformed six RVs into mobile clinics to reach isolated farming communities and remote mountain hamlets. In recent months, they’ve become even more crucial. During the coronavirus pandemic, even as brick-and-mortar addiction clinics have closed or stopped taking new patients, these six-wheeled clinics have pretty much kept going.

Their health teams perform in-person testing and counseling. And as broadband access isn’t always a given in these rural spots, the RVs also provide a telehealth bridge to the medical providers back in the big cities. Working from afar, these providers can prescribe medicine to fight addiction and the ever-present risk of overdose, an especially looming concern amid the isolation and stress of the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(Local Paper) How a James Island woman’s death illuminates South Carolina’s rising fentanyl problem

Collins said she hopes to one day open a center in Fisher’s name. After going through her daughter’s phone, she saw that she wanted to get help and was apparently only taking enough drugs to not go through withdrawal.

She wishes that her daughter would’ve told her about her addiction. She said she truly believes that through them working together and her love for her newborn baby, they could’ve gotten through it.

But she wants to make sure Fisher’s story gets out so that people don’t have to go through what she went through. Losing her daughter shattered her life, she said.

“I can’t stop going, but that pain will always be there with me,” she said. “You lose a child, you really do lose a piece of yourself.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(Globe+Mail) Dan Werb–How doctors discovered the true causes of drug addiction

With physicians more likely to become addicted to drugs, compared with the general population, it became a lot more difficult to argue that a drug-dependent person was a “classic psychopath” or inherently “immature and pseudo-aggressive.” The situation was particularly untenable given that, during the fifties and sixties, physicians were the people running most epidemiologic studies and authoring the scientific manuscripts about drug use. They were, unsurprisingly, loath to suggest that the high prevalence of drug addiction among members of their vocation was caused by the fact that doctors are all psychopaths.

And so, instead of blaming that same collective form of psychopathology that they had diagnosed as innate to African-Americans, Latinos and women, epidemiologic papers about addicted doctors quietly gravitated toward different language to talk about drug use and its effects.

In one study from 1966 that compared 100 physicians treated for addiction with 100 matched controls, the authors – physicians themselves, of course – wrote, with a level of subtlety absent in studies of drug use among black Americans, that they found “no correlation between psychiatric diagnosis and drug used” and the study’s participants. As far as the researchers were concerned, doctors couldn’t be crazy, even the ones that overindulged. In a lingering sign of the times, though, the factors the authors deemed most likely to increase the risk of drug use reflected myopic ideas about the root causes of addiction. These included whether participants were married, whether they were Protestant and whether they came from the American South.

Another study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1970, reported that after 20 years of following a group of college students, half of whom had gone into medicine, twice as many of the physicians had used drugs as the group of people who, one assumes, found less respectable careers. Here, the authors again included variables they assumed most relevant to addiction: having had a feeding problem in infancy, having had a private-school education and scoring badly on a math test. Today this kind of paper wouldn’t even make it to a scientific journal editor’s desk, let alone get published.

What these mid-century epidemiologists overlooked about substance use among doctors were the high levels of stress, anxiety and lack of sleep that characterize the medical profession. Coupled with ready access to highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs and a culture of intense competition, doctors were primed to self-medicate.

Having pragmatically turned themselves into their own guinea pigs, doctors had inadvertently revealed their own heightened drug use and, with it, the fatal flaw behind the racist and sexist addiction science they had popularized. This led to only one conclusion: If morally upstanding, intellectually sophisticated white men were succumbing to addiction in droves, then it could not be a disease of the mind. The upshot was that the kinds of variables included in addiction models expanded beyond an individual’s personality or upbringing.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, History, Psychology

(USA Today) Is marijuana linked to psychosis, schizophrenia? It’s contentious but doctors, feds say yes

Early one morning in March, Madison McIntosh showed up on his day off at the Scottsdale, Arizona, driving range and restaurant where he worked. The 24-year-old sat in his car until the place opened, then wandered around all day, alternating between gibberish and talk of suicide as co-workers tried to keep him away from customers.

When he was still there 12 hours later, the manager contacted McIntosh’s father in Las Vegas, who called police and rallied other family members states away to converge at the young man’s side.

They found a shell of the once-star baseball player. For months he’d been spending his days vaping a potent form of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes people feel high, and staying up all night. Now, he was wildly swinging between depression and euphoria.

The family rushed McIntosh to Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, where staff psychiatrist Dr. Divya Jot Singh diagnosed him with cannabis use disorder and a “psychotic disorder unspecified….”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(R and P) Timothy McMahan King–How Bad Theology Makes the Opioid Crisis Worse

Medically assisted treatment (MAT), which involves using drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine to both manage cravings and, in the case of buprenorphine, block the effects of other opioids, has shown been shown to reduce overdose deaths by nearly 50 percent. A study in Massachusetts found a 59 percent reduction in overdoses for those on methadone and a 38 percent reduction with the use of buprenorphine. However, their use is not allowed in many treatment facilities, prisons and abstinence-based recovery programs.

Why? MAT is effective in part because the medicine includes opioid agonists—meaning they interact with opioid receptors and are able to reduce withdrawal symptoms. They are, in effect, milder forms of the drugs themselves. In a view in which the drug, and not our relationship to it, is the matter of moral concern, this is anathema.

This belief, buttressed by Christian theological developments about substances, holds back progress on addressing addiction and overdoses. An addiction does not involve being taken over by an evil or demonic substance; it stems from a disordered relationship with one. Prohibition and punishment have failed. Approaching addiction as only an individual moral flaw—instead of a public health crisis—has only made things worse. And the eschewal of effective approaches like MAT means more needless deaths.

These beliefs have real consequences. If my doctor had used blame and shame to confront me and then immediately cut me off from pain medicine, I likely would have found myself in the position many others have: seeking them illicitly. Yes, addiction can be harmful but so can the way we have chosen to treat those with addictions as a society.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

(NYT) The Class of 2000 ‘Could Have Been Anything’ Until the Opioid Crisis Hit

The Minford High School Class of 2000, in rural Minford, Ohio, began its freshman year as a typical class. It had its jocks and its cheerleaders, its slackers and its overachievers.

But by the time the group entered its final year, its members said, painkillers were nearly ubiquitous, found in classrooms, school bathrooms and at weekend parties.

Over the next decade, Scioto County, which includes Minford, would become ground zero in the state’s fight against opioids. It would lead Ohio with its rates of fatal drug overdoses, drug-related incarcerations and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

To understand both the scope and the devastating consequences of what is now a public health crisis, we talked to dozens of members of the Class of 2000. Many opened up to us about struggles with addiction, whether their own or their relatives’. They told us about the years lost to getting high and in cycling in and out of jail, prison and rehab. They mourned the three classmates whose addictions killed them.

In all of the interviews, one thing was clear: Opioids have spared relatively no one in Scioto County; everyone appears to know someone whose life has been affected by addiction.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Education, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth

(CT) Half of Pastors Say the Opioid Epidemic Has Hit Their Church

Twenty years ago this month, Gallaty endured a near-fatal car accident. When he left the hospital, the club-bouncer-turned-church-leader took with him several prescriptions for painkillers.

“My descent into full-scale drug abuse was amazingly rapid,” he writes in his new book, Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, and Addiction Led Me to God. “In November of 1999, before the accident, I was selling cars, training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and thinking about business opportunities. By early the next year, I was looking for faster and better drug connections.”

After stealing $15,000 from his parents to feed his addiction, Gallaty found himself at his lowest point—kicked out of his parents’ home and told not to come back. “It was the hardest three months of their lives, and they’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it was the best thing for me. I knew that I couldn’t fix myself.”

This led Gallaty, now pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to what he calls a “radical, Paul-like conversion” on November 12, 2002.

Most pastors don’t have the intimate knowledge of addiction Gallaty has, but most say they’ve seen it face to face through people connected to their church and among members of their congregation.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CC) When the opioid crisis shows up at our church’s doorstep

The incarnation of God in Christ is God’s confirmation that the bodies of all people are holy. As Paul wrote, they are temples. Our congregation seeks to minister to people in a holistic way, in body, mind, and soul, by providing food and clothes as well as through community organizing, worship, and faith formation.

The challenge for all of us in this ministry comes in taking seriously Jesus’ model of reaching out to people we might fear to touch. People who are addicted to drugs certainly fit the category of modern lepers. It did give me pause during my training to learn that rescue breathing was part of the emergency response, and that if I did not use a rescue breathing mask or barrier mask, I would be at risk of absorbing some of the residue of the drugs.

Our Sunday morning worship services include people who live on the street. Our members are divided about whether or not that is a good thing. For various security reasons, police have recommended that we restrict entrance to people known to be part of the congregation. I can’t imagine doing that. It would be giving in to fear and effectively profiling those who come and worship with us. We choose not to lock our doors to keep anyone out.

Am I afraid that someone might come in and harm us? I’d be lying if I said I was not. We’ve seen people become belligerent at our Sunday dinners, often under the influence of drugs. News reports regularly remind us that the worship hour of any faith is not guaranteed to be sanctuary. Our goal is to be as prepared as we can be, and at the same time as emotionally, spiritually, and physically open as we can be—for all our neighbors. Christ calls us to operate more out of preposterous love than destructive fear. Jim or someone like him will come back one of these nights. We want to be ready to help.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care

(EF) Britons no longer see euthanasia, pornography, drugs as “immoral”

Abortion, pornography, drugs, homosexual relationships – these are some of the issues which most British people no longer consider to be “immoral”.

Kings’ College in London compared figures of 1989 with opinion polls conducted this year on a range of moral issues. In the last 30 years later, there has been a significant fall in the number of people who see gay relationships as morally wrong, down from 40% then to 13% today. The percentage of citizens who believe having children outside marriage is not moral is now 13%, down from 24% in 1989. On the issue of pornography, adult sex magazines were seen as immoral by 38% of the population 30 years ago, a figure that falls down to 22% (the biggest shift happening in the female population).

The number of people who perceive taking soft drugs such as cannabis as morally wrong has also collapsed. In 1989, it was 60%, now it is 29%. Even the consumption of heroin is now seen as acceptable by 33% of the population.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pornography, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Choosing between God and the gang in El Salvador

A church deep in La Dina, San Salvador is holding a service with a difference: many of the men here used to be in a gang.

Eben-ezer is a functioning church but also runs a rehabilitation project for men who repent their past gang life.

Watch it all (about 3 3/4 minutes).

Posted in --El Salvador, Death / Burial / Funerals, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Soteriology, Violence

(USA Today) Seth Ginsburg–Doctors and patients are flying blind as medical marijuana use rises, research lags

Marijuana’s role in the health care universe has grown exponentially over the past few years. Currently, 33 U.S. states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and more and more states are considering making it legal for recreational purposes as well. As cannabis becomes more accessible, many people are turning to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat health issues like rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease (the aches and pains of arthritis).

Unfortunately, because cannabis remains illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 drugunder federal law (defined as being of no medical use), there has been a troublinglack of scientific and medical research on the effectiveness of cannabis treatments. This dearth of evidence-based data has left many health care providers unable to counsel their patients on everything from whether a cannabis treatment could be effective for their condition, to what dosages are appropriate, to how cannabis might interact with their other medications or health conditions.

This lack of information hasn’t stopped patients from exploring the use of cannabis treatments on their own, as marijuana becomes available, if not ubiquitous, in more states. The online arthritis patient community CreakyJoints, which I co-founded, recently conducted a studyof its ArthritisPower registry and found that more than half of arthritis patients have tried marijuana or cannabidiol products for medical purposes. However, the study also found that only two-thirds of these patients reported telling their health care provider about their use. So many patients are flying completely blind while trying cannabis related treatments without any awareness by, or input from, their doctor.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine

(ESPN) Megan Rapinoe’s brother Brian–her greatest heartbreak, and hope

“I want to make a difference,” he says. “I want to be like Megan.”

He had “a really fricking deep conversation” with her about two months ago. They talked about racial profiling; they talked about police brutality; they talked about what Megan’s kneeling meant to both of them. Megan saw that in spite of their very different paths, they’d arrived at similar conclusions.

“My brother is special,” Megan says. “He has so much to offer. It would be such a shame if he left this world with nothing but prison sentences behind him. To be able to have him out, and to play for him, and to have him healthy, with this different perspective that he has now: This is like the best thing ever.”

While Megan is in France, she and Brian text daily — with game thoughts, encouragement and shared excitement.

“This is one of the most exciting things I can even remember … just everything really, you, the school, the program,” Brian texts.

She replies: “People always ask me what got me into soccer … your wild ass of course.”

“Luckily I played a cool sport. What if I’d been into arm-wrestling or something.”

“Oh lawd, yea you really set me up.”

“Get some sleep — love you.”

“Lovee you Bri! Let’s f—ing go!”

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Prison/Prison Ministry, Sports

(NYT Op-ed) Kenneth L. Davis and Mary Jeanne Kreek–Marijuana Damages Young Brains

Recent efforts to legalize marijuana in New York and New Jersey have been stalled — but not killed — by disputes over how exactly to divvy up the revenues from marijuana sales and by worries about drugged driving. Those are both important issues. But another concern should be at the center of this debate: the medical implications of legalizing marijuana, particularly for young people.

It’s tempting to think marijuana is a harmless substance that poses no threat to teens and young adults. The medical facts, however, reveal a different reality.

Numerous studies show that marijuana can have a deleterious impact on cognitive development in adolescents, impairing executive function, processing speed, memory, attention span and concentration. The damage is measurable with an I.Q. test. Researchers who tracked subjects from childhood through age 38found a consequential I.Q. decline over the 25-year period among adolescents who consistently used marijuana every week. In addition, studies have shown that substantial adolescent exposure to marijuana may be a predictor of opioid use disorders.

The reason the adolescent brain is so vulnerable to the effect of drugs is that the brain — especially the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision making, judgment and impulsivity — is still developing in adolescents and young adults until age 25.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

([London] Times) Church of England blesses medicinal use of marijuana

The Church of England has given its backing to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and said it is happy to invest in the sector.

The Church Commissioners for England, who handle £8.2 billion of church assets, ban investment in companies that profit from recreational drugs but said for the first time that they would consider investing in companies that work with medicinal marijuana now that it is legal in the UK.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners, told the Financial Times: “We make a distinction between recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis. We are content with it being used for proper medicinal purposes.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Stock Market, Theology

(1st Things) Peter Hitchens–Reefer Sadness

The smoking of marijuana, with its careful preparation of the elements and the solemn passing around of the shared joint, was the unholy communion of the counterculture in the late 1960s, when our present elite formed its opinions. Many of them allowed their children to follow their bad examples, and resent that this exposes their young to a (tiny) risk of persecution and career damage. As a result, those who still disapprove of marijuana are much disliked. The book I wrote on the subject six years ago, The War We Never Fought, received a chilly reception and remains so obscure that I don’t think Alex ­Berenson, whose book has received much friendlier coverage, even knows it exists. As a writer who naturally covets readers and sales, I find this mildly infuriating.

But let me say through clenched teeth that it is of course very good news that a fashionable young metropolitan person such as Mr. ­Berenson is at last prepared to say openly that marijuana is a dangerous drug whose use should be severely discouraged. For, as ­Berenson candidly admits, he was until recently one of the great complacent mass of bourgeois bohemians who are pretty relaxed about it. He confesses in the most important passage in the book that he once believed what most of such people believed. He encapsulates this near-universal fantasy thus:

Marijuana is safe. Way safer than alcohol. Barack Obama smoked it. Bill Clinton smoked it too, even if he didn’t inhale. Might as well say it causes presidencies. I’ve smoked it myself, I liked it fine. Maybe I got a little paranoid, but it didn’t last. Nobody ever died from smoking too much pot.

These words are a more or less perfect summary of the lazy, ignorant, self-serving beliefs of highly educated, rather stupid middle-class metropolitans all over the Western world in such places as, let’s just say for example, the editorial offices of the New York Times. Thirty years from now (when it’s too late), they will look as crass and irresponsible as those magazine advertisements from the 1950s in which pink-faced doctors wearing white coats recommended certain brands of cigarettes. But just now, we are in that foggy zone of consciousness where the truth is known to almost nobody except those with a certain kind of direct experience, and can be ignored by everyone else.

One of the experienced ones, thank heaven, is Alex ­Berenson’s wife Jacqueline. She is a psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating mentally ill criminals. One evening, the Berensons were discussing one of her cases, a patient who had committed a terrible, violent act. Casually, Jacqueline remarked, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.” Alex doubtfully interjected, “Of course?,” and she replied, “Yeah, they all smoke.” (She didn’t mean tobacco.) And she is right. They all do. You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to know this. You just have to be able to do simple Internet searches.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Books, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine