Category : Drugs/Drug Addiction

(Economist) Most people on antidepressants don’t need them–Time to wean them off

Almost 35 years ago American drug regulators approved Prozac, the first in a series of blockbuster antidepressants known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (ssris). Prozac and its cousins were lauded by patients and doctors as miracle drugs. They lifted low moods quickly and seemed to have no drawbacks. Divorce, bereavement, problems at work—a daily pill was there to help with that, and anything else which made you sad. Many people have stayed on these drugs for life. In Western countries today between one person in seven and one in ten takes antidepressants.

The shine of ssris has worn off. A growing number of studies show that they are less effective than thought. Drug companies often publish the results of clinical trials selectively, withholding those in which the drugs turn out not to work well. When the results of all trials submitted to America’s medicines regulator between 1979 and 2016 were scrutinised by independent scientists, it turned out that antidepressants had a substantial benefit beyond a placebo effect in only 15% of patients.

Clinical guidelines have been revised accordingly in recent years. No longer are drugs the recommended first line of treatment for less severe cases of depression. For these, self-help guidance, behavioural therapy and recommendations for things like exercise and sleep are preferable. For work burnout, a sick note for time off may suffice. The drugs are to be reserved only for more severe depression, where they can be truly life-saving.

Read it all.

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

(ProPublica) How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels

Adm. Craig Faller, a senior U.S. military leader, told Congress last year that Chinese launderers had emerged as the “No. 1 underwriter” of drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. The Chinese government is “at least tacitly supporting” the laundering activity, testified Faller, who led the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military activity in Latin America.

In an interview with ProPublica, the now-retired Faller elaborated on his little-noticed testimony. He said China has “the world’s largest and most sophisticated state security apparatus. So there’s no doubt that they have the ability to stop things if they want to. They don’t have any desire to stop this. There’s a lot of theories as to why they don’t. But it is certainly aided and abetted by the attitude and way that the People’s Republic of China views the globe.”

Some U.S. officials go further, arguing that Chinese authorities have decided as a matter of policy to foster the drug trade in the Americas in order to destabilize the region and spread corruption, addiction and death here.

“We suspected a Chinese ideological and strategic motivation behind the drug and money activity,” said former senior FBI official Frank Montoya Jr., who served as a top counterintelligence official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “To fan the flames of hate and division. The Chinese have seen the advantages of the drug trade. If fentanyl helps them and hurts this country, why not?”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Mexico, Politics in General

(Gallup) Americans Not Convinced that Marijuana Benefits Society

Americans are evenly split in their views about marijuana’s effect on society, with 49% considering it positive and 50% negative. They are slightly more positive about the drug’s effect on people who use it, with 53% saying it’s positive and 45% negative.

People’s own experience with marijuana is highly related to their views on both questions.

Large majorities of adults who say they have ever tried marijuana — which is nearly half of Americans — think marijuana’s effects on users (70%) and society at large (66%) are positive.
Conversely, the majority of those who have never tried marijuana think its effects are negative: 72% say this about its effect on society and 62% about its effect on users.

Read it all.

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

(NYT front page) Overdose Deaths Continue Rising, With Fentanyl and Meth Key Culprits

After a catastrophic increase in 2020, deaths from drug overdoses rose again to record-breaking levels in 2021, nearing 108,000, the result of an ever-worsening fentanyl crisis, according to preliminary new data published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase of nearly 15 percent followed a much steeper rise of almost 30 percent in 2020, an unrelenting crisis that has consumed federal and state drug policy officials. Since the 1970s, the number of drug overdose deaths has increased every year except 2018.

A growing share of deaths continue to come from overdoses involving fentanyl, a class of potent synthetic opioids that are often mixed with other drugs, and methamphetamine, a synthetic stimulant. State health officials battling an influx of both drugs said many of the deaths appeared to be the result of combining the two.

Drug overdoses, which long ago surged above the country’s peak deaths from AIDS, car crashes and guns, killed about a quarter as many Americans last year as Covid-19.

Read it all.

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

(Economist) Black Americans have overtaken white victims in opioid death rates

Treatment for opioid use disorder (oud) is woefully inadequate across the country, but African-Americans often face extra barriers. Studies have found that medications for treating oud, as well as naloxone (a life-saving medication that reverses opioid overdoses), are doled out unevenly. A study of data from Medicaid, the government insurance programme for the poor, across several states with some of the highest opioid-overdose rates found that between 2014 and 2018 black people with oud were 28% less likely to use oud medications.

Studies in various cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, suggest that African-Americans have less access to naloxone, too. In Detroit between 2019 and 2020, white addicts received 28% of naloxone administrations, though they accounted for 17% of the city’s opioid overdoses; although 80% of overdoses were among black people, they received only 67% of naloxone administrations. This does not necessarily mean black addicts are being denied naloxone. Those who use opioids alone, are homeless or live in communities with little trust in first responders might be less likely to call for help.

Such disparities strengthen the case for local interventions that deal with the unique hurdles certain communities face. Other solutions are more sweeping, like expanding access to Medicaid and reducing red tape around oud medications. But underlying all these is a straightforward calculus that applies to all Americans, black or white: “It has to be easier to get treated than it is to continue using,” says Dr Kolodny. “You have to flip it.”

Read it all.

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

(Economist) How to tweak drug-design software to create chemical weapons

The story began in 2021, when Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, which uses computers to help its customers identify molecules that look like potential drugs, was invited to present a paper on how such drug-discovery technologies might be misused. The venue was a conference organised by the Spiez Laboratory, in Switzerland. This is a government-funded outfit that studies risks posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. To prepare for the presentation some of Collaborations’ researchers carried out what they describe as a “thought exercise” that turned into a computational proof of concept for making biochemical weapons.

Their method was disturbingly simple. They took a piece of drug-discovery software, called MegaSyn (a piece of artificial intelligence, ai, which the company has developed for the purpose of putting virtual molecules together and then assessing their potential as medicines), and turned one of its functions upside down. Instead of penalising probable toxicity, as makes sense if a molecule is to be used medically, the modified version of MegaSyn prized it.

The result was terrifying. Trained on the chemical structures of a set of drug-like molecules (defined as substances easily synthesised and likely to be absorbed by the body) taken from a publicly available database, together with those molecules’ known toxicities, the modified software required a mere six hours to generate 40,000 virtual molecules that fell within the researchers’ predefined parameters for possible use as chemical weapons.

The list included many known nerve agents, notably vx, one of the most toxic. But the software also came up with not-yet-synthesised substances predicted to be deadlier still.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

A Heartbreaking BBC report from Sierra Leone on the proliferatioin there of Kush – a cheap new illegal drug

The BBC has heard reports of young people killing themselves or harming themselves and others.

Medical staff in the capital Freetown say that 90% of the male admissions to the central psychiatric ward are due to Kush use.

Police are battling to win the war against the drug.

Read it all.

Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Sierra Leone

(NYT front page) No Shots, No Day Care: Parents of Kids Under 5 Stuck in Grueling Limbo

Twice last year, Margaret Schulte and her husband, Jason Abercrombie, traveled 11 hours round-trip to Louisiana from their home in Tulsa, Okla., in the hopes of vaccinating their children, who were 2 and 4, against the coronavirus.

The only way they could get shots for their children — among the more than 19 million Americans under 5 years old who are not yet eligible for vaccinations — was to take part in a clinical trial. So they signed up, hoping a successful vaccine would mean that by now, or at least sometime very soon, a semblance of prepandemic life would be on the horizon.

It has not worked out that way.

The Pfizer trial that their children participated in did not produce promising results, the company said last month. Nor have vaccines emerged from other corners. Moderna has yet to release results of its pediatric trials.

Now Ms. Schulte and Mr. Abercrombie are among the millions of parents stuck in an excruciating limbo during a surge of Omicron cases, forced to wrestle with day care closures and child care crises as the rest of the world appears eager to move on.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Psychology, Stress, Travel

(NYT) On Syria’s Ruins, a Drug Empire Flourishes

Built on the ashes of 10 years of war in Syria, an illegal drug industry run by powerful associates and relatives of President Bashar al-Assad has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation, eclipsing Syria’s legal exports and turning the country into the world’s newest narcostate.

Its flagship product is captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine popular in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. Its operations stretch across Syria, including workshops that manufacture the pills, packing plants where they are concealed for export and smuggling networks to spirit them to markets abroad.

An investigation by The New York Times found that much of the production and distribution is overseen by the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s younger brother and one of Syria’s most powerful men.

Major players also include businessmen with close ties to the government, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other members of the president’s extended family, whose last name ensures protection for illegal activities, according to The Times investigation, which is based on information from law enforcement officials in 10 countries and dozens of interviews with international and regional drug experts, Syrians with knowledge of the drug trade and current and former United States officials.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Syria

(FT) Alphabet launches AI company to discover new drugs

Google owner Alphabet has launched an artificial intelligence company to discover new drugs.

UK-registered Isomorphic Labs will use technology from its sister company DeepMind “to accelerate drug discovery, and ultimately, find cures for some of humanity’s most devastating diseases,” said Demis Hassabis, the head of DeepMind, in a blog post. He added that he would also become the chief executive of Isomorphic Labs.

Scientists around the world were awed in July when DeepMind unveiled how its AlphaFold2 technology could be used to predict the shape of every protein in the human body with almost perfect accuracy.

DeepMind’s model can solve one of the trickiest problems in biology by taking a sequence of amino acids and mapping the twists and turns of its shape. The algorithm could help replace or enhance painstaking laboratory work to identify the structures of proteins, which dictate how they behave.

Read it all.

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

(NPR) COVID19 Vaccine For Kids Ages 5 To 11 Is Safe And Effective, Pfizer Says

The first results from the highly anticipated trial studying the effectiveness and safety of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 showed promising results.

The pharmaceutical companies said early results of their trial indicate the vaccine is safe for children and establishes a strong antibody response against the virus.

Giving a two-dose regimen of 10 μg (micrograms) administered 21 days apart for children between 5 and 11 years old was well tolerated, according to Pfizer and BioNTech. Side effects were also generally comparable to those of people between the ages of 16 and 25 years old who received the vaccine.

This trial used a smaller vaccine dosage, 10 micrograms, rather than the 30 microgram dose used for people 12 and older. The dosage was selected as the preferred dose for safety and effectiveness in young children.

Read it all.

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

(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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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