Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The negative stigma of addiction is hampering effective treatment

Our country faces some serious problems today, as it has throughout its history. One of the most serious, one that claims the lives of thousands of Americans each year, is death from opioid overdoses.

This comes as no surprise to most of us, but perhaps the scale of the problem and the difficulties faced in addressing it might surprise many of us.

Facts about opioid abuse:
** In 2016 opioid overdoses killed 13 of every 100,000 people across the nation.
** America makes up about 4 percent of the world’s population but accounts for 27 percent of the world’s drug overdose deaths.
** On average, 175 Americans die every day from overdoses.
** Someone dies every 8 minutes from an opioid addiction.
** Overdoses kill more people than gun violence or car crashes.
** In 2017, more people died of an unintended drug overdose than in the entire 20-year Vietnam War conflict.
** Opioid prescriptions dispensed in 2006 were about 213 million, but rose to a peak of more than 250 million in 2012, before returning to 2006 levels four years later.

Where do people get these dangerous drugs?  Most get them from friends or relatives, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that those at highest risk of overdose are as likely to get them from a prescription issued by a physician.

Illegal drugs sales are also an important element, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl and other super-potent opioids pour into the U.S. through international mail and private carriers, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports.

Obviously, better control of legally dispensed drugs is needed, and stronger enforcement of drug laws is a must. But the other side of this coin is the way drug addicts are treated medically, and much work needs to be done there, too.

Treatment of addictions is difficult, and made more so by obstacles to using treatments effectively. Not the least of these is that our healthcare system regards addiction as a mental health problem, not a physical health problem, and the two are treated differently. Mental health problems have a lower priority than physical health problems, and therefore are underfunded, under-treated and less actively researched.

Given the lower priority, it is not surprising that the treatment protocols are antiquated. While the recent frightening increase in addiction and addiction-related deaths has brought long-needed attention to the problem, there is much to do in using available methods and effective drugs to maximize effective treatment. Surprisingly, abstinence programs and programs similar to Alcoholics Anonymous do not work well with opioid addiction.

The reality is that most people with addictions are not receiving any medical treatment, and many or most of those who are being treated are not receiving the most effective care.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only about one in ten people with a substance use disorder receive any type of treatment.

In his most recent book, Trump’s America,Newt Gingrich, in a chapter titled “Let’s Trump Addiction,” explains that there is a better way to treat the drug addicted. “The research is unequivocal that behavioral therapy combined with recovery medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and Suboxone, is the most effective way to treat opioid addiction.” This type of treatment, studies show, can reduce the mortality rate of drug-addicted patients by half or more.

Strangely, despite the strong support for this type of treatment, fewer than 3 percent of treatment programs offer all three of the effective medications available to fight opioid addiction.

Gingrich comments, “This is a problem because each of the three recovery medications in the market has its own benefits and drawbacks. There is not a one-size-fits-all opioid addiction medication.”

He cites examples of the “simple bias” against mental health issues being applied to physical health problems, noting that these barriers would be “absurd, illegal and unethical” if applied to physical health problems. But they are somehow acceptable when applied to addiction and other mental health problems.

Both insurers and Medicaid have not yet realized that their current approach to treating addiction actually prevents the most effective treatments for these problems because they interfere with the use of the three medications. Or, if they have realized it, they have not yet removed those barriers.

Doing so would save thousands of lives – which is the most important outcome – but they would also save millions of dollars that are now spent on the drug addiction problem.

Citing the Surgeon General’s Report, Gingrich explained that every dollar we invest saves money, listing these findings:
** $1 for brief primary care addiction intervention saves $27 across the system;
** $1 for addiction intervening at a hospital saves over $36 or $9 in the emergency room;
** $1 for treating substance abuse saves $4 in overall health care costs, and $7 in criminal justice costs by preventing the cycle of recidivism that often accompanies addiction.

Many people view addiction as something other than a disease, but Gingrich summarizes this chapter by saying, “Addiction is not a moral failing or a lack of strong will. It is not a choice, it is a disease.” That negative stigma plays a significant role in hampering effective treatment.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Left’s behavior of late is unworthy of elected officials

Many Democrats and liberals are driving themselves, and everyone else, crazy over Donald Trump, not because he’s so bad, but because they simply don’t like him, and as president good things have been accomplished.

Sure, he’s far out of the mainstream of recent presidents, although there is history on his side of presidents behaving ungentlemanly. And he is objectionably crass, at times, in his public comments on Twitter. His thin-skinned responses are often brattish.

This behavior greatly aggravates what seems the likely basis for the Left’s historic hysterics: Trump, whose candidacy was laughed at and roundly ridiculed, won the election, beating 16 Republican hopefuls as well as the person whose turn it was to be POTUS and the first of her gender to hold that office. They haven’t been able to muster the character needed to accept the decision of the American people.

This reaction to Trump has resulted in at least one dramatic turnaround: Once a major source of fun and comedy – with folks like Johnny Carson, Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield, Robin Williams and others – TV, particularly late night TV, has become dismal “one-trick pony” dreck, and humor these days comes instead from a former president who thinks he was the greatest.

The worst thing on this Earth, for the Left, is for Trump to succeed by doing almost the exact opposite of what they want for the country. The economy is good, jobs are being created, worker satisfaction is up, unemployment is down, and people like those “crummy” tax cuts, to name a few things.

And then there is the Neil Gorsuch confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court and now the Brett Kavanaugh nomination.

The horror of merely imagining what might happen with two new justices who understand and follow the language and meaning of the U.S. Constitution and our laws is great, indeed, for the Left. This judicial philosophy is a substantial barrier to their desire to transform America into a virtual opposite of its original design, the greatness and originality of which are unmatched in history.

And so, the Left designed methods to disrupt the hearing and delay the process of confirmation.

They scripted disruptive questions by committee members in the first minute of the formal hearing, and then screaming protests from employed protesters, as well as demands for even more than the huge number of documents on Kavanaugh’s past judicial performance already provided to satisfy the Democrat Committee members who, before he had even been chosen, pledged to vote against the nominee. They asked foolish questions and falsely bragged of an “I am Spartacus” moment.

The number of documents “demanded” compared to other nominees: 2.5 times the number for any other nominee had been provided as of Sept. 4. But, of course, if Democrats can’t see everything related to him, he’s not qualified. Conceivably, they would like to see Kavanaugh’s elementary school notes passed to classmates.

Committee Democrats and the hired hands did themselves proud, were perfect clowns in the confirmation hearing, sans the floppy shoes and bulbous noses, behaving like fifth graders (with apologies to actual fifth graders).

But even with the self-satisfaction they experienced, the best was yet to come. There was another trick up their sleeve – the September Surprise – which was needed since their previous plan failed to convince the Republican majority to ditch the nomination, or to delay the process while new obstructions were developed.

Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, delivered the prize. She had a letter accusing Kavanaugh of some sort of improper relationship with a girl in high school more than three decades back. Initially, the accuser insisted on remaining anonymous, and details were not provided. The letter had been in Feinstein’s possession for about three months. Then suddenly, at almost the last possible moment, the accuser agrees to go public.

Feinstein turned it over to the FBI for investigation, and the Committee Democrats, having been given a heart transplant to prolong the life of their desperate attempt, want delays or, better yet, a withdrawal from the nominee.

It is possible there is truth behind this accusation. But this last-minute development raises several questions. If Kavanaugh’s alleged behavior actually happened, why wasn’t it important enough to report it 36 years ago? If it was actually a valid complaint, why provide the letter but not allow its use during the hearing when the Committee was looking for the good and bad things about Kavanaugh? After six FBI background checks on Kavanaugh for federal positions, why did this never come up?

At best, this event looks bad It’s a case of she said, he said, and there seems to be no actual evidence. It supports the idea that the Democrats are in desperation mode. Even Feinstein’s home-state newspaper, theSan Francisco Chronicle, criticized her. 

Before this accusation came along, two of Kavanaugh’s former law clerks enthusiastically supported the way he treated them. And since the accusation sixty-five women from his past have signed a letter of support for his treatment of females.

Whether Kavanaugh is confirmed or not, let us hope that this is the last episode of this circus-like behavior that Americans are subjected to.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Corporate deep pockets attract attention in legal actions

Millions of Americans hate big corporations, suspect them of acting in their own best interest, to the detriment of the rest of us, and delight in corporations being put in their place. Sometimes they have good reasons for this; sometimes not. But let’s face it: legal actions against these corporate giants are sometimes justified, and give people harmed by a product or action of a corporation deserved monetary compensation.

With that in mind, this item from tells about “Lee Johnson, a former school groundskeeper whose doctors didn’t think he’d live long enough learn the verdict, prevailed Friday in San Francisco state court after jurors deliberated for three days” on his damage suit.

The story went on to say that the “trial was an important test of the evidence against Monsanto and will serve as a template for litigating thousands of other claims” over Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

Johnson got less than he was asking; being awarded only $39 million of the $412 million he sought in damages. An additional $250 million was added to punish Monsanto after finding it liable for a design defect and failing to warn consumers of Roundup’s risks. Monsanto has said it will appeal the award in this the first trial over claims that the Roundup weed killer causes cancer.

Roundup is the world’s most popular and widely used herbicide, and its main ingredient – glyphosate – was approved for use way back in 1974. Monsanto defends the ingredient as perfectly safe, however, a cadre of opponents of glyphosate that includes environmentalists, regulators, researchers, and lawyers, hotly challenge that claim.

The Wall Street Journaladded some important information to this story. An editorial described the plaintiff’s attorneys’ approach to persuading the jury of Monsanto’s responsibility in Johnson’s cancer, as “junk science.”

The Journalwent on to explain that “the problem … is that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that glyphosate does not cause cancer,” and quoted the Journal of National Cancer Institute study of 45,000 licensed pesticide applicators exposed to glyphosate which found “no evidence of an association between glyphosate use and risk of any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies including non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

The editorial further cited the Environmental Protection Agency as concluding that glyphosate is safe. “In December 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency released the draft human health risk assessment for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup,” according to North Carolina State University’s Patrick Maxwell, M.S. and Travis Gannon, Ph.D. “The human health assessment concluded that ‘glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans’ and found ‘no other meaningful risks to human health’ when used in accordance with label instructions,” they wrote.

This seems to be a classic case of “he said, he said.” Both sides have advocates with solid credentials who advocate each position.

Sometimes, however, emotions trump factual evidence. And who isn’t sympathetic to Lee Johnson, whose cancer may end his life early. And there is also the factor of which legal team did its job best.

But then there’s the very real factor that big companies have deep pockets, and therefore are prime targets. A good example of this is the current rampant overuse of drugs, and the blame often being laid at the feet of Big Pharma.

Pharmaceutical companies’ business is identifying serious medical problems affecting lots of people, and working to develop drugs to help them, not to hurt them, and our government has implemented a long, slow process to require drugs to meet strict Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards before they are approved for use.

Even the government, however, cannot prevent the misuse of items for sale, and virtually everything can be dangerous under the right circumstances. Step ladders, baseballs, automobiles are all sometimes dangerous.

It also cannot guarantee that drugs might not end up in the hands of someone who is allergic to one or more of them. People are allergic to milk, vitamin C and sunshine, and nearly everything else.

A single drug getting to market on average results from100 or more formulas developed for testing. Promising formulas must get through a process that takes on average 12 to 15 years, and costs one-to-two billion dollars. And they only get patent protection for a maximum of 20 years from the time it is applied for, which frequently occurs early in the testing process.

This leaves a relatively short time to recoup the sky-high research costs, so that the company has money to invest in finding the next needed drug.

Why would companies send out millions of doses of an expensive product, as they are accused of, without someone ordering and paying for it? Yet, state attorneys general and other attorneys are suing drug companies, blaming them for the drug epidemic.

It seems more reasonable to look at prescribing physicians, drug distributors, and outright criminal conduct for how and why these drugs are available to people to use them improperly, resulting in much suffering and needless death.

All of which is not to say that large companies don’t sometimes do things wrong. And when that happens, they should be punished.

But they should not be an automatic target of lawsuits, as they often are.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Many on the left are cheating; tipping the scales in their favor

Why is it that those on the left feel it’s necessary to put their fingers on the scale to tip it in their favor, or will work to change the rules to achieve their purposes, and have little or no hesitation in doing so?

We saw this when the Obama IRS punished conservative applicants for non-profit status with a grossly slow and difficult application process.

Activist judges often reinterpret the Constitution and laws to mean something more to their liking than what was originally intended.

We are now learning how the Department of Justice misused procedures in an effort to influence the 2016 election.

We have seen how so much of the media ignores positive stories about President Donald Trump and the good things that are happening, and instead favors stories that benefit Democrats, ignoring their duty for balance and objectivity.

This accusation is one that many dispute, of course, not wishing to give any credence to such complaints. Trump angers Democrats and a large portion of the news media by labeling the practice “Fake News.”

The Media Research Center provides some detail to illustrate this behavior with three examples.

First up: “On Aug. 8, Republican congressman Chris Collins of the Buffalo, New York, suburbs was indicted for insider trading and lying to the FBI. ABC, CBS and NBC played this story to the hilt, with 18 minutes and 24 seconds of coverage in just the first 24 hours.” 

Then, on Aug. 21, “prosecutors indicted California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter on charges of wire fraud and campaign finance violations. The morning and evening newscasts on ABC and CBS spent a total of 4 minutes and 44 seconds covering the story in the first 36 hours. In contrast with Collins, Hunter was ‘lucky’ that there was breaking anti-Trump news – the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of former longtime Trump confidante and lawyer Michael Cohen to charges of campaign finance violations.”

But then, “These very same three networks, these champions of public integrity, were bored to tears by the indictment and trial of former Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia. During the year and a half between his 2015 indictment and 2016 conviction and sentencing for misappropriating hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening programs offered a measly 68 seconds of ‘news.’”

An actual conviction of a Democrat got barely more than a minute combined among the three networks over 18 months, while unproven charges brought against two Republicans earned more than 23 minutes of air time in just 36 hours, roughly 22 times more, not counting the differences in the time frames of the cases. And Collins by himself received 16 times the attention that Fattah got.

Facebook and Twitter control posts and tweets and of people who express ideas their employees disagree with, mostly conservative ideas, although they cloak this by saying these items do not comport with their community standards. Google searches produce results that reflect the left’s positions at the top, rather than a non-political set of results.

These things occur because those in charge disagree with conservative ideas and values, and work to keep people from seeing and discussing them.

America, being the Land of the Free, is a place where contradictory ideas exist and are encouraged, and where they are freely debated. Persuasion is the method by which ideas and values achieve dominance; force and coercion are against the rules. Or they used to be.

But when the Left can’t win the debate or gain support for its ideas through civil debate and discussion, and then won’t accept that its positions failed to gain traction with a huge number of people, it then resorts to other means.

Their ultimate goal is control, therefore no method is off limits: the ends justify the means. Cheating and unfair practices is now the preferred methodology of the increasingly socialist left.

And if they gain control of the Congress, the presidency, and the courts, they will be in the position to impose all manner of control over the people.

The left has already proposed some wild ideas, one of which would have made Trump’s victory impossible, had it been in effect. It wants the presidency determined by the popular vote, not through the Electoral College, which has been the process since the early days of the country, and for good reason. “It didn’t work for us in 2016,” they say, “so let’s change the process.”

Even more absurdly, they say, since this guy we really don’t like named Trump won, let’s do away with the presidency.

Other unworkable ideas include: A college education for all is no longer an option; it is now a right. Free health care, which is so expensive it would bankrupt the country, must become reality. People with no skills or training who work in the lowest level jobs must be paid $15 an hour.

This is the type of thinking that produced those wondrous and desirable places like Castro’s Cuba and today’s Venezuela, the antithesis of what America was created to be.