Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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The Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU has produced an important documentary about Arizona’s opioid addiction crisis. I live in Tucson where an obvious uptick in junkies all over the place has everyone concerned. From the petty theft to the mental illness caused by addiction to opioids destroys neighborhoods, families, and individuals. The routine overprescribing of pain killers began as a marketing strategy for drug makers. They promoted studies that concluded their products were not addictive, and provide a needed level of pain control. Now we know they are highly addictive, and even a short time on this hard prescribed stuff can lead the patient to seek out heroin as a cheaper alternative.
Pain is a relative thing, so anyone who wants to stay high on opiates can go to a medical doctor and say they are in pain, and easily score drugs. There is also a huge black market in these pills. Many hop on the addiction train by taking pills from the parents’ medicine cabinet as teens. Since the drugs are socially acceptable and widely discussed and well known, there seems to be no stigma for taking pills for any reason. The idea is that no person should ever feel pain, anxiety, confusion, social pressure, or discomfort of any kind. There are pills to insure that real life does not intrude into the self medication. I have never been into pills so this phenomena is really bizarre to me. I understand wanting to get high, but not wanting to feel nothing. So, what is the gateway drug for feeling nothing? A visit to the doctor? This has gone south in the worst possible way.
The death rate in the US has risen in 2015 for some alarming reasons. The new statistics for Alzheimer’s disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis show that our population suffers from toxic overload. The liver disease is normally caused by alcohol consumption, and Alzheimer’s is still a mystery. I took care of both of my demented parents until death. My own suspicion about their memory loss issues is that they were primarily caused by alcohol consumption that continued for more than 65 years. My parents were not seriously into drugs like people are today, but they did like to drink. Their diet choices and alcohol consumption worsened as they aged. I often wondered if could have been reversed if they had reformed rather then slipped into worsening habits. We will never know. For myself I am making different choices. I don’t think I have a genetic risk from my parents, as much as I cultural one, from being raised at a cocktail party.
Now the middle aged white population is into opioids. There is an increase in suicide by drug overdose happening in this group. Heroin is often a cheaper option for those who begin their use of opioids with a doctor’s referral. I don’t use any prescription drugs, but I know very few people of any age like me. Almost everyone is on something. The idea of taking meds for everything, real or imagined, has become so common that doctors have basically become drug dealers. Now Americans are killing themselves willfully and accidentally with these dangerous substances. I am concerned about our society. These are not social drugs, but drugs designed to kill pain. Have we no skills to deal with pain? I am afraid of this trend. I watch the evening news that is punctuated with drug commercials that must quickly mention the side effects. Often the side effects mentioned in the commercials include increased possibility of death. In my mind the whole country is on one dangerous drug or another with increased risk of death as a general side effect. I have no solution, gentle reader. I will close with the words of Prince, our recently deceased rock royalty:
You can be the president. I’d rather be the Pope.
You can be the side effect. I’d rather be the dope.
It is assumed that Prince’s death involved a drug overdose of pain killer.
Drugs have won the war we have waged against them. Heroin is growing in popularity because it is a cheap substitute for the prescription drugs that are now the gateway. The profits are massive, and the corruption that accompanies the trade makes a joke of law enforcement. The name heroin was chosen by Bayer, the original marketers of the product, because it made the user feel like a hero. The company stopped manufacturing and selling heroin in 1913, and it was outlawed in the US in 1920. The Viet Nam war increased American use when 10-15% of our troops started using it while in Asia on deployment.
In the US today heroin use is on the rise . Young people between 18-25 are the fastest growing addict group. Mexican black tar heroin is smuggled in great quantity across the Arizona border. This corrupts our law enforcement and endangers our youth as it passes through on the way to it’s eventual market. The smuggling business includes all kinds of illicit drugs. It is organized by cartels run by very nasty individuals. The only way to pull the profit plug on the cartels is to reduce and eliminate demand on our side of the border. This is much easier said than done. From miracle cure to the ruin of our society, heroin has come a long way, baby.
Zues has a son able to enter and leave underworld unharmed. His name is Hermes. He carries a staff with two snakes signifying his role in commerce and negotiation. The Caduceus with two snakes and wings is used by the AMA today as a symbol of medicine. It is a very apt symbol for the medical professionals tied to drug company profits. They used to get into the Hippocratic oath by swearing to Aesclepius that they would would first do no harm. Now they borrow the winged staff of Mercury and make a deal with pharmaceutical companies to produce as many ills as there are pills.
What harm could this little mix up do? If they forgot the meaning of the the symbol for medicine and both the healing and the negotiating staffs have snakes, what is the big deal? A snake is a snake, right? When they lurk in the tall grass of Medicare and Medicaid those snakes can and do major damage putting profit before wellness. Maybe we don’t have to be concerned that they no longer understand Latin. We are probably better off seeing only an assistant rather than the Wizard of Oz himself when we go to a doctor’s office. It costs significantly more to be harmed by a real doc, whose harm comes at a premium price. The intent from the get go is warped, so we are diagnosed at warp speed and matched with one or more drugs, faster than you can say Jack’s you’re uncle. They thought “Primum non nocerum. (First do no harm)” meant first push drugs. Hippocrates would plotz. They are an insult to Hermes as well. He protects shepherds, smugglers and thieves with cunning.
If Mr. McMurphy doesn’t want to take his medication orally, I’m sure we can arrange that he can have it some other way. But I don’t think that he would like it.-Nurse Ratched
The shadow America does not want to face is our mental health system. Mental health treatment has been a barbaric system of emergency drug administration with no hope for cure. My parents could afford the best available when they needed help in their last years. The problem was finding any ethical and effective treatment for them. Everyone was ready to charge big bucks, but nobody had any real therapy (or even care) for the patient. They had unlimited access to all drugs, but no access to careful diagnosis or medical ethics. When I volunteered for the VA my Vet was long-term suicidal, and there was no available help for him either. I am sure there are some quality programs somewhere, but before going out and spending twice as much money giving people twice as many drugs, why not evaluate the efficacy of the treatments used now? I am going out on a limb and say our neighborhood system of mental health treatment is damaging to all concerned. Random pharmaceutical drug use is not healthy, mentally or physically.
In my neighborhood, here in central Tucson, where you can virtually buy drugs in the middle of the street and there is probably a weapons concierge who will bring a selection of guns to your house for purchase, a 6-year-old was found with a loaded gun in has backpack at school. His dad was arrested for an old felony charge so the kid who said he did not know how the gun got into his backpack is now probably a foster kid while his father serves time. This is the reality for the youth here, and they may or may not know how the gun got there, but they know it will not be the last gun they will see. This deep, sociological, complex problem will be resolved by government programs with an arsenal of pills. Is that, in any way, believable?
We also have a very large mental health center available to the public and funded by Medicare. It is close to a public bus stop with a convenience store on the corner. People from all over the city can come, buy enough alcohol to be over the limit, and be admitted for the night to the mental health clinic. If they are not at the limit, they simply walk back to the store and buy another pint of liquor. They will be given prescription drugs as a result of the entry to the clinic which they can sell right there in my neighborhood. The clinic is supposed to make sure that the patients leave the area, but of course there is no way to enforce that rule. So the patients are released to repeat the cycle. Spending twice as much money on this will create at least twice the insanity and grow creepy petty crime around here. It is a risk to continue to pretend we are treating mental illness or Vet suicide. Money spent on this denial while asking for more funding is running from the reality that systems profit from status quo, and not from change. We need fundamental change, comprehensive. Stopping the madness will involve stopping the flow of drugs as a substitute for therapy. This is a war on drugs worth fighting and well within our power.