AuthorTopic: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers  (Read 587 times)

Offline RE

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https://www.globalresearch.ca/opioids-and-the-narcotic-fueled-genocide-of-american-workers/5633940

Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
By Prof. James Petras
Global Research, March 29, 2018
Region: USA
Theme: Poverty & Social Inequality, Science and Medicine

During his recent visit to New Hampshire on 3/20/18, President Trump declared once again that the US is facing a ‘drug epidemic’.  This time he advocated the death penalty for criminal drug dealers as the solution to a national crisis that has killed over 1 million Americans since the 1990’s (when the blockbuster prescription opiate Oxycontin was first released on the market).   

Trump promised that the Justice Department would develop the most severe penalties for criminal drug traffickers, by which he meant foreigners.  He argued that his proposed “Wall” (between the Mexican- US border) would cut the flow of drugs responsible for the ongoing addiction of millions of US citizens – as though the prescription opiate addiction epidemic resulted from a foreign invasion, and not corporate decisions from Big Pharma.

President Trump’s claim that 116 ‘drug deaths’ occur every day (42,000 a year) is a major underestimate.  In 2017, alone over 64,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in official statistics (with many unreported cases signed off as natural or undetermined, especially in counties too poor to afford autopsies and expensive forensic toxicology).  Another 4 million Americans, at least, are currently addicted to opioids and at risk for overdose.

In comparative terms, more American workers have been killed or devastated by narcotics (mostly via prescription) in 2017 alone, than in the entire decade of the Vietnam War with its 58,000 dead and 500,000 wounded. In 2017, 40,000 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents and another 39,000 by gun violence – and these statistics are not broken down to include vehicular accidents due to drug intoxication or gun violence over drugs.  Prescription or illegal opiates, alone or mixed with other sedative drugs, like Valium, or alcohol, are the most prominent and preventable cause of premature death in the United States today.

This pattern is unique to the United States, where the irresponsible medical prescription of highly addicting narcotics has been the primary portal of entry into the degrading life of addiction for millions.  Despite President Trump’s claims, the addiction crisis is not a product of urban Afro-American street dealers or Mexican narco-traffickers: This uniquely American crisis has been created and fueled by billionaire-owned US pharmaceutical corporations, which produced, distributed and wildly profited from legal narcotics.

They were aided by the irresponsible prescription practice of tens of thousands of doctors and other ‘providers’ who introduced millions of vulnerable patients to the world of narcotic dependency – including youngsters with sports injuries and workers with job-related pain.  These are physicians and medical providers who rarely stopped to examine their own responsibility, even when their otherwise healthy patients overdosed or were destroyed by addiction.  It is especially outrageous that doctors and ‘Big Pharma’ worked hand in hand for over 20 years to create this epidemic, enjoying wild profits and almost total legal immunity.  Few have dared to openly question their irresponsibility and greed.  In the poorest and most vulnerable areas of this country, the most irresponsible and unaccountable incompetence has replaced real medical care and created a health care apartheid.

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have protected the corporate drug traffickers and ensured the manicured and cultured narco-bosses the highest rates of return on their products.  These polished pushers have their names engraved on the walls of museums and opera houses around the country.

The majority of Presidential, Federal, State and municipal candidates from both major parties have received millions of dollars in electoral campaign funds from these huge legal narcotic manufacturers and distributors, as well as from physicians and other representative of the ‘pain-treatment industry’.  Over the past decades, politicians have openly or secretly opposed or weakened legislation designed to address this crisis.

Why not just ask President Trump to direct his Justice Department to impose the death penalty on the board of directors of the big corporate narcotic manufacturers or distributors or on the CEOs of major ‘pain clinics’ or on the owners of local rural ‘health centers’ that drove the villagers of West Virginia into their life-destroying downward spirals?

When will the DEA finally storm the medical centers to arrest the over-prescribing ‘providers’ of narcotics and benzodiazepine tranquilizers (a very common deadly combination)?

When will the SWAT teams seize the vacation homes of the CEOs of major US hospitals where the convenient and fake ideology of promising a ‘pain-free’ experience (‘make it Zero on the Pain Scale’) led to the generalized promotion of highly addicting narcotics for minor injuries, arthritic pain, or chronic back discomfort due to work or obesity?  Responsible alternatives existed and were used in the rest of the world – largely untouched by this prescription-fueled crisis.

No doubt what President Trump has in mind is something else: the expulsion of Latin American workers under the pretext of going after the drug dealers and the even more massive incarceration of petty street dealers in the African American community.

Trump will then turn to further monitoring and arresting small-scale American marijuana farmers, who earn a basic income from growing a product that many believe is safe, non-addicting, and significantly reduces demand for dangerous narcotics.

As ugly as this all seems, the complicity of the political, economic and the medical elite in exponentially spreading deadly narcotics among the poor, working class and downwardly mobile middle class, points to a deeper and more sinister policy goal:  the systematic elimination of millions of American workers made redundant in the new economy.  This is a ‘gentler genocide’, where millions of workers die prematurely seeking an escape from pain as they have been replaced by a new technology and a new ideology: Robots, artificial intelligence and digitalization have rendered them disposable, while the out-sourcing of work to low paid overseas laborers and immigrants have guaranteed unimaginable profits for the elite decision makers.

This highly profitable process, benefiting the political, pharmaceutical, financial, police and judicial elites, conveniently blames the victims, a significant proportion of whom come from the poor and working class in this country, including white rural and small town addicts, especially youth, stuck at minimum wage jobs with no prospects of a decent future – injured construction workers, 15% of whom abuse prescription narcotics for work-related injuries, as well as the marginalized petty drug dealers from the urban slums and desperate Latino immigrants forced to accommodate the cartels.  These people have little rights and are easily monitored, incarcerated, expelled and just written-off in one-line obituaries.

The narcotic-fueled genocide had grown out of a calculated corporate strategy meant to cull and subdue a huge population of potentially restive marginalized workers and their families, blaming the overdosing victims for their own ‘irresponsible’ choices, their reliance on prescription opiates, their lack of access to competent medical care, and their untimely deaths as though this were all a collective suicide as the great nation marches forward.

The higher the death toll among marginalized Americans, the greater the reliance on political distractions and racist deceptions.  President Trump loudly blames street-level retail distributors, while ignoring the links between  tax-exempt mega-billionaires who have profited from the shortened life-expectancies of addicted workers (scores of billions of dollars already saved in future pension and health care expenses) and the millions fired for addiction and denied jobless benefits and treatment.  Trump has yet to even mention the actions of the legal pharma-medical industry that set this in motion.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party leaders denounce the worker-victims of addiction and their communities as ‘irresponsible and racist’, for having believed the populist rhetoric of candidate Trump.  Trump’s most intense rural areas of support coincided with areas of the worst opioid addiction and suicide rates.  Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton wrote off scores of millions of vulnerable Americans as ‘deplorables’ and never once addressed the addiction crisis that grew exponentially during her husband’s administration.

Since the implementation of NAFTA during the 1990’s, scores of millions of American workers have been relegated to unstable, low paid jobs, deprived of health benefits and subject to grueling work, prone to physical and mental injuries.  Workplace injuries set the stage for the prescription narcotic crisis.  Even worse, today workers are constantly distracted by electronic gadgets at the workplace, with their orders from above arriving digitally.  These highly profitable gadgets have created enormous distractions and contributed to workplace death and injuries. The plaything of choice for the masses, the I-phone, has added to the addiction crisis, by increasing the rate of injury.  This mind-numbing distraction, produced abroad at incredible profit, has played an unexplored role in the increase in premature death in the US.

 The corporate narcotic elites, like the ultra-cultured Sackler clan owners of Perdue Pharmaceuticals, and their allies in the finance sector, support the diverse ideological distractions fashioned by their politician pawns:  Eager to please her donor-owners, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats blame the working class for their backwardness and genetic propensity to addiction and degradation.  Meanwhile, President Trump and the Republicans blame ‘outside’ suppliers and distributors including Mexican narco-cartels, illegal immigrant traffickers, black urban street dealers and now point to overseas Chinese fentanyl labs – as though the entire crisis came from the outside.  Trump’s approach flies in the face of the unquestionable source of most narcotic addiction in the US: Irresponsible prescribing of highly addicting legal narcotics.

No other industrialized country is experiencing this scale of addiction and pre-mature death.  No other industrialized country relies on a private, for-profit, unregulated system of delivering medical care to its citizens.  Only the US.

Both elite political parties avoid the basic issue of the long-term, large-scale structural imperatives underlying the transformation of the US work places.  They refuse to address the marginalization of tens of millions of American workers and their families, made disposable by corporate economic and political decisions.

The US corporate elite are completely incapable of developing, let alone favoring, any policy that addresses the needs of millions of surplus office and factory workers and their family members replaced by new technology and ‘global’ economic policies.  The American financial and political elite is not about to support an economic, political and cultural ‘GI’ bill to save the scores of millions shoved to the wayside in their rush to obscene wealth and power.

The unstated, but clearly implemented, ‘final solution’ is a Social Darwinian policy of active and passive neglect, the unleashing of profitable prescription narcotics into the population of vulnerable disposable workers, offering them a convenient, painless way out – the opioid solution to the over-population problem of redundant rural and small town ‘Helots’.  The political elite’s willing complicity with Big Pharma, the medical profession, the financial oligarchs and the prison-industrial complex has transformed the country in many ways.  Shortened lives and depopulation of rural and small town communities translates into lower demand for public services, such as schools, health care, pensions and housing.  This is guaranteeing a greater concentration of national wealth in the hands of a tiny elite.  The financial press has openly celebrated the projected decrease in pension liabilities as a result of the drop in worker life expectancy.

The ongoing mass genocide by opioids may have started to arouse popular discontent among working people who do not want to continue dying young and miserable!  Social services and child protective services for the millions of orphaned or abandoned children of this crisis have been demanding real policies.  Unfortunately, the usual platitudes and failed policies prevail.  Drug education and ‘opioid addiction treatment’ programs (currently among the largest expense in some union health plans) are pointless Band-Aids when confronted by the larger policy decisions fuelling this crisis.  Nevertheless, thousands of health care professionals are beginning to resist corporate pressure to prescribe cheap opioids – and fight for more expensive, but less dangerous, alternative for addressing their patients’ pain.  Even if all medical providers stopped over-prescribing narcotics today, there are still millions of addicts already created by past practice, who seek the most deadly street drugs, like fentanyl, to feed their addiction.

Politicians now publicly denounce ‘Big Pharma’, while privately winking at the lobbyists and accepting millions from their ‘donor-owners’.

Public critics in the corporate media are quick to condemn the workers’ susceptibility to narcotic addiction but not the underlying causative imperatives of global capitalism.

Mainstream academics celebrate corporate technological advances with occasional neo-Malthusian warnings about the dangers of millions of redundant workers, while ignoring the profit-driven role of narcotics in reducing the social threat of excess workers!

Finally the role of an elite and respected profession must be re-evaluated in a historic context:  In the 1930’s German doctors helped develop an ideology of ‘racial hygiene’ and a technology to demonize and eliminate millions of human beings deemed redundant and inferior, through overwork in slave camps, starvation and active genocide – serving the ambitions of Nazi expansionism and deriving significant profit for select individuals and corporations.  US physicians and the broader medical community have less consciously assisted in the ongoing ‘culling of the herd’ of American laborers and rural residents rendered superfluous and undesirable by the decisions of a global oligarchy increasingly unwilling to share public wealth with its masses.  There are similarities.

Once prosperous, industrial cities and towns, as well as rural villages, in the US have seen marked declines in populations and a premature death crisis among those who remain.
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Offline Eddie

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2018, 08:27:51 AM »
Sorry, but people killing themselves with drugs is not exactly genocide.

It's a phenomenon worth examining, and it's complex, and doctors and (especially) Big Pharma have plenty of culpability. But genocide is not the word.

It's been my experience to see this phenomenon from a lot of different angles:

From the POV of a psychonaut (in my misspent youth) willing to try most any potentially mind-bending substance.

From the POV of someone who has (in my early middle age) suffered severe back pain and found Vicodin to be a godsend, although I never took it more than a few times, because I was well aware of the potential for addiction.

As a healthcare practitioner who performs difficult and complicated tooth extractions and has to shepherd patients through a difficult period of post-op pain that can last a week or more. And who has to deal with addicts who nurse a toothache for years as a means of getting either their drug of choice or (for some) a back-up drug to keep them from going into withdrawals.

As the close friend of someone with a chronic pain problem who has taken opiates for nearly 30 years, and somehow manages to still live a very normal life and has never fallen into the typical downward spiral that leads to criminal behavior and overdose and the things that characterize what we think of as typical addict behavior.

To start with, I have never and never will prescribe enough opiates to cause addiction, because two weeks is the longest I ever cover anyone, and the second week they get tapered off with half the strength of the first week. I have read (mostly in outraged articles like the one above) that many addicts say that their dentist got them hooked. Based on what I see patients being prescribed in my geographic area, I'm not buying it.

 In general, the dentists in my part of the world err far to the conservative side, and under-medicate. Many are too scared to even prescribe opiates at all these days. I think that fear is misplaced, and I'm worried that we will lose a whole group of highly effective pain control drugs, for the wrong reasons, because of a misconception on the part of the public, perpetuated by the Trumps and Sessions of the world, who are willing to exploit public fear for their own political purposes.

I have on a few occasions, seen evidence that some physician was prescribing more than 100 tabs of Vicodin for some non-existent problem, month in and month out for years. I've seen evidence that the VA docs in my area hand out opiates to old vets like candy, for the kind of aches and pains that I personally manage with an occasional 800mg of ibuprofen. There is a prescribing problem, but it's going away, as scrutiny increases, and that's good.

It appears to me that the ability of addicts to now obtain opiates over the internet, from international sources, is supplanting the Big Pharma/Physician caused chronic addiction that has been going on for my entire 30 plus year career. It was always there, but nothing like it is now.

With fentanyl analogs available to anyone who has the money and knows how to click a mouse, the game has fundamentally changed. US Big Pharma is becoming irrelevant. (To their chagrin, I might add. They don't like losing market share to cheap Chinese knock-offs any more than Ralph Lauren or Gucci).

At the same time we have a major cultural shift going on in this country. Once, anyone who wanted to get a job could do so, and if that one didn't work out, or if you got fired, you could always find another one. In the smokestack economy of my father's day, a worker literally could get by without being able to read and write, and could still manage to pay rent and put food on the table. It wasn't a life of abundance, but it was a life.

That day is now over. Jobs are fewer, and most require not just knowing the 3 R's, but basic computer literacy. Even waiting tables requires this now. Driving a truck requires it. Being a cashier. And cashiers and truck drivers are now on the verge of becoming extinct, as machines take over those jobs. It's the same in a lot of industries that use to make ordinary workers into middle-class consumers.

And the cost of living keeps going up, in spite of BLM stats to the contrary. And wages, for the jobs that are left, are stagnant. People in low wage jobs work harder and longer, for less and less. Techno-cornucopian news stories of a generation ago spoke about increasing leisure and how people could pursue their passions and dreams instead of punching a time-clock. But it just hasn't worked out according to plan. Instead the benefits of automation put more and more money into the hands of the few at the top, and leave those near the bottom out completely.

So why not shoot up some heroin and nod out?

I, mean, if you see that your future is a guaranteed dead-end.

If your soul is dying already. If you had this dream of a nice life and it hasn't worked out at all the way you were taught by your TV that it should.

They have a term for that. It's called cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is some powerful shit. Believe it. It can make a young man twist off and shoot up the local high school, or make bombs and put them on the doorstep of a total stranger.

Or...it can make you want to die, and that's what the opiate "problem" really is.

It's a wide-spread death wish sweeping the society. It has its roots in unspoken hopelessness and despair. Most people who suffer from this disease are probably not even completely aware of it on a conscious level. They go about their waking lives staring at the screens of weapons of mass distraction. But their souls are sick and dying. Attrition is setting in.

Here's the truth. This is going to get worse. Somebody is going to supply the kool-aid if somebody else wants to drink it. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are cartoon characters who couldn't fight their way out of a piss-soaked paper bag, much less win a drug war. The current  renaissance of Nancy Reagan's silly "Just Say No" campaign is doomed to failure. The Drug War was lost a long time ago.







« Last Edit: March 30, 2018, 02:02:04 PM by Eddie »
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Offline Surly1

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2018, 10:40:03 AM »
Sorry, but people killing themselves with drugs is not exactly genocide.

It's a phenomenon worth examining, and it's complex, and doctors and (especially) Big Pharma have plenty of culpability. But genocide is not the word.

It's been my experience to see this phenomenon from a lot of different angles:

From the POV of a psychonaut (in my misspent youth) willing to try most any potentially mind-bending substance.

From the POV of someone who has (in my early middle age) suffered severe back pain and found Vicodin to be a godsend, although I never took it more than a few times, because I was well aware of the potential for addiction.

As a healthcare practitioner who performs difficult and complicated tooth extractions and has to shepherd patients through a difficult period of post-op pain that can last a week or more. And who has to deal with addicts who nurse a toothache for years as a means of getting either their drug of choice or (for some) a back-up drug to keep them from going into withdrawals. ...//

And the cost of living keeps going up, in spite of BLM stats to the contrary. And wages, for the jobs that are left, are stagnant. People in low wage jobs work harder and longer, for less and less. Techno-cornucopian news stories of a generation ago spoke about increasing leisure and how people could pursue their passions and dreams instead of punching a time-clock. But it just hasn't worked out according to plan. Instead the benefits of automation put more and more money into the hands of the few at the top, and leave those near the bottom out completely.

So why not shoot up some heroin and nod out?

I, mean, if you see that your future is a guaranteed dead-end.

If your soul is dying already. If you had this dream of a nice life and it hasn't worked out at all the way you were taught by your TV that it should.

They have a term for that. It's called cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is some powerful shit. Believe it. It can make a young man twist off and shoot up the local high school, or make bombs and put them on the doorstep of a total stranger.

Or...it can make you want to die, and that's what the opiate "problem" really is.

It's a wide-spread death wish sweeping the society. It has it's roots in unspoken hopelessness and despair. Most people who suffer from this disease are probably not even completely aware of it on a conscious level. They go about their waking lives staring at the screens of weapons of mass distraction. But their souls are sick and dying. Attrition is setting in.

Here's the truth. This is going to get worse. Somebody is going to supply the kool-aid if somebody else wants to drink it. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are cartoon characters who couldn't fight their way out of a piss-soaked paper bag, much less win a drug war. The current  renaissance of Nancy Reagan's silly "Just Say No" campaign is doomed to failure. The Drug War was lost a long time ago.

BLOG ARTICLE!!!

Really. This is impassioned, informed, and terrific.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2018, 10:46:58 AM »
Sorry, but people killing themselves with drugs is not exactly genocide.

It's a phenomenon worth examining, and it's complex, and doctors and (especially) Big Pharma have plenty of culpability. But genocide is not the word.

It's been my experience to see this phenomenon from a lot of different angles:

From the POV of a psychonaut (in my misspent youth) willing to try most any potentially mind-bending substance.

From the POV of someone who has (in my early middle age) suffered severe back pain and found Vicodin to be a godsend, although I never took it more than a few times, because I was well aware of the potential for addiction.

As a healthcare practitioner who performs difficult and complicated tooth extractions and has to shepherd patients through a difficult period of post-op pain that can last a week or more. And who has to deal with addicts who nurse a toothache for years as a means of getting either their drug of choice or (for some) a back-up drug to keep them from going into withdrawals. ...//

And the cost of living keeps going up, in spite of BLM stats to the contrary. And wages, for the jobs that are left, are stagnant. People in low wage jobs work harder and longer, for less and less. Techno-cornucopian news stories of a generation ago spoke about increasing leisure and how people could pursue their passions and dreams instead of punching a time-clock. But it just hasn't worked out according to plan. Instead the benefits of automation put more and more money into the hands of the few at the top, and leave those near the bottom out completely.

So why not shoot up some heroin and nod out?

I, mean, if you see that your future is a guaranteed dead-end.

If your soul is dying already. If you had this dream of a nice life and it hasn't worked out at all the way you were taught by your TV that it should.

They have a term for that. It's called cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is some powerful shit. Believe it. It can make a young man twist off and shoot up the local high school, or make bombs and put them on the doorstep of a total stranger.

Or...it can make you want to die, and that's what the opiate "problem" really is.

It's a wide-spread death wish sweeping the society. It has it's roots in unspoken hopelessness and despair. Most people who suffer from this disease are probably not even completely aware of it on a conscious level. They go about their waking lives staring at the screens of weapons of mass distraction. But their souls are sick and dying. Attrition is setting in.

Here's the truth. This is going to get worse. Somebody is going to supply the kool-aid if somebody else wants to drink it. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are cartoon characters who couldn't fight their way out of a piss-soaked paper bag, much less win a drug war. The current  renaissance of Nancy Reagan's silly "Just Say No" campaign is doomed to failure. The Drug War was lost a long time ago.

BLOG ARTICLE!!!

Really. This is impassioned, informed, and terrific.

Agreed.  A little expansion though I think would be good, and some tables and/or graphs for illustration.

RE
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Offline Eddie

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2018, 02:04:48 PM »
Gimme a couple of days. I'm on vacation. I'll see if I can flesh it out. Thanks, Surly. Means a lot to me for you to say that.
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Offline Eddie

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2018, 02:47:23 PM »
I started a new chapter of Collapsing in Paradise today. I brought my camera and I'll post real pics from here this time, since I now can do that. (And they said I couldn't learn computers.) Lots of missing roofs here by the Baths.

No snorkeling. Big fucking surf. Not normal at all.

Do you realize it's been nearly five years since I started that thread?

There were still boats washed up on the beach on Beef Island when we got off the plane. Still can't buy a cup of coffee in the Beef Island Airport with a credit card. Strictly cash. And it's been  seven months. Just sayin'. That's collapse.

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2018, 03:09:06 PM »
I started a new chapter of Collapsing in Paradise today. I brought my camera and I'll post real pics from here this time, since I now can do that. (And they said I couldn't learn computers.) Lots of missing roofs here by the Baths.

No snorkeling. Big fucking surf. Not normal at all.

Do you realize it's been nearly five years since I started that thread?

There were still boats washed up on the beach on Beef Island when we got off the plane. Still can't buy a cup of coffee in the Beef Island Airport with a credit card. Strictly cash. And it's been  seven months. Just sayin'. That's collapse.

There are lessons in what you are experiencing, for those who will hear them.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Re: 💊 Opioids and The Narcotic-fueled Genocide of American Workers
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2018, 04:49:23 PM »
I started a new chapter of Collapsing in Paradise today. I brought my camera and I'll post real pics from here this time, since I now can do that. (And they said I couldn't learn computers.) Lots of missing roofs here by the Baths.

No snorkeling. Big fucking surf. Not normal at all.

Do you realize it's been nearly five years since I started that thread?

There were still boats washed up on the beach on Beef Island when we got off the plane. Still can't buy a cup of coffee in the Beef Island Airport with a credit card. Strictly cash. And it's been  seven months. Just sayin'. That's collapse.

Can't wait to see the pics!  :icon_sunny:

Do a video interview with a local too!  You don't have to appear on camera if you're shy.  As the questions while you are shooting the vid.

RE
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Offline RE

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🍾 Worse than opioids: Alcohol deaths soar among the middle aged, women
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2018, 12:00:52 AM »
https://www.12news.com/article/news/nation-world/worse-than-opioids-alcohol-deaths-soar-among-the-middle-aged-women/75-615574973


NATION-WORLD
Worse than opioids: Alcohol deaths soar among the middle aged, women
Alcohol kills more people each year than overdoses through cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide, among other ways.
Author: Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY
Published: 6:34 PM MST November 17, 2018
Updated: 6:35 PM MST November 17, 2018

The last time lawyer Erika Byrd talked her way out of an alcohol rehab center, her father took her to lunch.

"Dad, I know what alcohol has done to me," she told him that day in January 2011. "I know what it has made me do to you and mom. But that wasn’t me."

By the time she died three months later, Byrd had blocked her parents' calls because they kept having her involuntarily committed. They once had a magistrate judge hold a hearing at her hospital bed. He ordered herto undergo a month of in-patient treatment.

Byrd, who died in April 2011 at the age of 42, is among the rising number of people in the United States who have been killed by alcohol in the last decade.

It's an increase that has been obscured by the opioid epidemic. But alcohol kills more people each year than overdoses – through cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide, among other ways.

From 2007 to 2017, the number of deaths attributable to alcohol increased 35 percent, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The death rate rose 24 percent.
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One alarming statistic: Deaths among women rose 67 percent. Women once drank far less than men, and their more moderate drinking helped prevent heart disease, offsetting some of the harm.

Deaths among men rose 29 percent.

While teen deaths from drinking were down about 16 percent during the same period, deaths among people aged 45 to 64 rose by about a quarter.

People's risk of dying, of course, increases as they age. What's new is that alcohol is increasingly the cause.

"The story is that no one has noticed this," says Max Griswold, who helped develop the alcohol estimates for the institute. "It hasn't really been researched before."

The District of Columbia, less than 10 miles away from the Venable law office where Byrd was a partner, had the highest rate of death from alcohol in the country, according to the institute's analysis. Georgia and Alabama came in second and third.

Alabama, in fact, ranked third among states with the strongest alcohol control policies, as rated by medical researchers in a 2014 report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

States can influence drinking – especially dangerous binge drinking – with policies such as taxes on alcohol and restrictions on where and when it can be sold.

Psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer at the nonprofit Well Being Trust, says the larger health challenges in the South are to blame for high alcohol death rates. Southern states typically rank near the bottom in national rankings in cancer, cardiovascular disease and overall health.

Oklahoma, Utah, Kansas and Tennessee rounded out the five states with the strongest alcohol control policies, the researchers reported. States with more stringent alcohol control policies had lower rates of binge drinking, they found.

Nevada, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming and Wisconsin had the weakest alcohol control policies.

David Jernigan, a professor at Boston University's school of public health who has specialized in alcohol research for 30 years, notes that the beer industry holds considerable sway in Wisconsin.

Binge drinking is sending far more people to the emergency room, a separate team of researchers reported in the February 2018 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The researchers, who looked at ER visits from 2006 to 2014,found the largest increases were among the middle aged – especially women. The number of teenage binge drinkers landing in the ER during that time actually declined.

Older, often lifelong drinkers don't need only to have their stomachs pumped. They frequently have multiple complications from their drinking.

Their often bulbous bellies need to be drained of fluid, which builds up from liver cirrhosis, and their lungs cleared of aspirated vomit, says Dr. Anthony Marchetti, an emergency room doctor at Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, Georgia.

They might also have brain hemorrhages or internal bleeding, because booze prevents their blood from clotting properly.

By middle age, Marchetti says, long-term drinking can also lead to heart failure, infections due to immune suppression, a type of dementia from alcohol-induced brain damage, stomach ulcers and a much higher risk of cancer.

As opioid overdoses, which kill about 72,000 people a year, grabbed America's attention, the slower moving epidemic of alcohol accelerated, especially in Southern states and the nation's capital. About 88,000 people die each year from alcohol.

Making matters worse, alcoholism is trickier to treat – and criticize – than opioid addiction.

"Culturally, we’ve made it acceptable to drink but not to go out and shoot up heroin," Miller says. "A lot of people will read this and say 'What's the problem?' "

It might be a more socially acceptable addiction, but alcoholism is at least three times costlier to treat than opioid addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's a far more complicated midlife crisis to address.

The proven approaches – taxes on alcohol and limits on where and when alcohol is sold – are often rejected because the liquor industry has considerable clout with policymakers.

Ron Byrd says his daughter Erika was "beautiful inside and out."

To him, there's no question about what caused her death.

That's despite the fact there was no alcohol in her system when she was found dead at home. She was so sick, Byrd says, she hadn't been able to eat or drink for days.

"The death certificate never says alcoholism," he says. "It said heart arrhythmia and heart valve disease. But nobody in our family had heart problems."

Attorney Lisa Smith has been in recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction for a decade. The New York City woman wrote the memoir "Girl Walks Out of a Bar" and co-hosts the podcast Recovery Rocks.

Smithspeaks at legal conferences and law firms such as Byrd's about the hazards of lawyers' high-stress days and booze-fueled dinners with clients. But she's fighting forces far larger than her profession.

"It is poison, and we’re treating it like it's something other than that because there‘s big corporate money behind it," she says. "A lot of people are getting really rich on something that is toxic to us."
Deaths of despair

In its Pain in the Nation report this year, the Well Being Trust called losses from drugs, alcohol and suicide "despair deaths."

The three are closely related. Suicide is the third leading cause of death from alcohol, after cancers anddigestive diseases. One in five individuals who die from opioid overdoses have alcohol in their system at the time of their death.

Drinking can lead to cancers all along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the colon. About 15 percent of U.S. breast cancer cases are considered to be caused by alcohol. A third of those cases affected women who drank 1.5 drinks or less a week, according to a 2013 report in the American Journal of Public Health.

The "direct toxicity" of alcohol damages the nervous system from the brain down to the spinal cord and to peripheral nerves, says Marchetti, the Georgia emergency physician. It's common for people in the late stages of alcoholism to have numbness in their feet and legs, which makes walking difficult even when they aren't impaired.

Emergency rooms are the most expensive place to treat problems. Between 2008 and 2014, the rate of ER visits involving acute alcohol consumption rose nearly 40 percent, according to the study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. For chronic alcohol use, the rate rose nearly 60 percent.

The increases for acute and chronic alcohol use were larger for women.

People who drink throughout their lifetime develop a tolerance for alcohol. But as they age, they lose muscle and gain fat and become less tolerant.

That leads to increased injuries and illnesses, says Rick Grucza, an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of the Alcoholism study.

But why are so many people drowning so many sorrows?

Brenda Padgett believes it was postpartum depression that led her daughter to take up the heavy drinking that ultimately killed her last year.

Ashley Hartshorn, who lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina, had already suffered the trauma of hearing her stepfather kill his girlfriend while she was on the phone.

Then Hartshorn testified against him in court, which helped send him to prison for life.

The depression came after the birth of her third child in February 2012.

"She wanted so badly to quit drinking, but the shame and the fear kept her from being able to allow herself to reach out for help," Padgett says. "Like many, we were ignorant to the effects that alcohol has on the body. I thought she had time, time to hit rock bottom and time to seek help.

"I never knew that only five years of alcohol abuse could take the life of someone so young."

Neither did Nancy Juracka. Her son Lance died in 2006 after just three years of heavy drinking. He was 36.

Lance Juracka, who grew up in Hermosa Beach, California, was intimately familiar with the scourge of alcoholism: He knew an uncle and aunt had drunk themselves to death before he was born. He even produced a short documentary about alcohol abuse while at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

He started drinking when he got a job in Las Vegas reviewing shows – and was continually offered free drinks.

"Once he got a taste for alcohol, it really did him in fast," his mother says. "I don’t understand how Lance’s liver went so quick."

He headed back to California and ultimately moved back in with his mother.

He started a painting business. But his workers told Juracka he would just drink vodka or sleep.

"I thought I was going to lose my mind, I was so frantic," she says. "I would sit up all night with him so he wouldn’t choke on this vomit."

Joseph Garbely, an internal and addiction medicine physician at Caron Treatment Centers in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, says research shows that 10 percent of parents think having two or more alcoholic drinks a day is reasonable to reduce their stress.

But why? It's not as if liquor is becoming more accepted.

Consider, however, the lack of public service announcements about the effect excessive alcohol has on health or families.

Ali Mokdad is a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. He notes that alcohol-related education focuses on drunk driving.

Miller and others point to the high level of workplace stress that began accelerating during the recession, loneliness linked to social media and increasing pressures on working mothers.

In fact, social isolation can be both a cause and the result of excessive drinking. Parents whose children drank themselves to death in their 20s and 30s often describe the drinking in isolation seen in elderly alcoholics.

Few who drink excessively while young will become alcoholics, much less drink themselves to death. Those who are in recovery for alcoholism say people who turn high school or college binge drinking into a nightly coping ritual are at the most risk.

Amy Durham came close to dying from alcohol six years ago, when she was 40. And she barely drank until she was in her 30s.

The child of an alcoholic father, Durham never thought she could or would lose control.

"I didn't even know what was happening to me," she says.

She attributes her plunge into alcoholism to unresolved trauma from growing up in an alcoholic home, the stress of her work as a school principal, a "toxic" romantic relationship and grief over an inability to get pregnant.

"I just needed to be numb," she says.

Ron Byrd says Erika, too, dreamed of having children. After two divorces and stage 3b breast cancer, however, the chance was slipping away.

"She wanted so desperately to have a baby," Byrd says.

Durham is now corporate director of alumni relations at Pennsylvania-based Caron Treatment Centers, where she was treated.

"I wasn’t able to see that my drinking was a problem until it was almost too late," she says. "I put limits on myself and would say that i'd only drink two glasses of wine in a social setting and then go home and drink a lot in isolation."

When her father died in July 2012 of esophageal cancer, Durham says, she began a "very bad downward spiral."

She remembers his funeral.

"i was trying to be nothing like my father, but I couldn’t wait to get out of that church and drink," she says. "The shame of what was happening to me was more than I could bear."

Like Hartshorn and Byrd, Durham started with white wine. But she ended up drinking copious amounts of vodka.

By the time her family got her to a hospital, Durham was in triple organ failure and wound up in a coma for 10 days.

That was followed by six weeks of dialysis.

When she arrived at in-patient rehab after the dialysis, Durham says, her body and eyes were still yellow and she was carrying 100 extra pounds of fluid – half of it in her legs.

She says fellow rehab residents – no strangers to the telltale signs of addiction – quickly looked away as she passed.
Men vs. women drinkers

When men crash and burn from alcohol, Mokdad says, the spectacle is often public. They get into bar fights, get cited by police for drunk driving or lose heir jobs.

A more typical trajectory for women starts with evening wine as a way to de-stress from the work day – either in a professional setting, or home with young children.

Author and podcast co-host Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, writer of "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay," believes this stems from stubborn gender roles and norms surrounding stress.

"Moms just aren't going to call home and say they're stopping for a couple drinks after work with friends or going to the gym to unwind," the Los Angeles woman says

Otherwise, they might feel like parenting failures as they compare themselves to other moms. So they drink wine while they make dinner, which can lead to a nightly pattern of excessive drinking.

That describes nurse practitioner Eileen O'Grady, who quit drinking 12 years ago.

O'Grady, who lives in McLean, Virginia, says her two sons, now in college, never really saw her drunk. But she couldn't bear the thought of continuing her destructive double life. She would drink continually from dinner until she went to sleep, she says, and then start again the next evening.

For O'Grady, the last straw came after a night of especially hard drinking with another mom in her neighborhood.

The other woman, a schoolteacher, vomited in O'Grady's car. She returned the next day to clean it up.

O'Grady hasn't taken another drink.

"I could see my life if I kept going," O'Grady says. She is now active in her local recovery community and working as a wellness coach.

Her schoolteacher friend taught classes until last fall. Within days of leaving the classroom, she was in a hospital with end-stage liver disease.

She died in hospice on Jan. 3.

At least 15 people at the woman's memorial service asked O'Grady how her friend had died. They were stunned to learn alcohol was the cause.

The woman was poisoning herself with a half-gallon of vodka a day, O'Grady says, yet no one knew beyond her immediate family, O'Grady and a mutual friend in the neighborhood.

"We're closeted," O'Grady says. "We're not in bars getting in fights."

As for Durham, she was on a liver transplant list for about five months in 2011 and 2012. Then she learned she no longer needed a new liver.

"Livers have a great capacity for recovery," says Dr. Michael Lucey, a professor and head of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Wisconsin medical school.

Durham was once in a sorority at University of Mississippi, where beauty was competitive and a popular saying was "pretty is as pretty does."

"But there was nothing pretty about my drinking," she says.

If she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, Durham says, she wouldn't think twice about getting treatment and talking about it.

Durham stopped drinking six years ago Thursday. She says she surprises people with how openly she shares the gritty details of her near-death experience.

"I want to show the world what recovery looks like, especially for women where stigma is still the way it is," Durham says. "I want people to know there is hope."

Erika Byrd called her father in hysterics on April 9, 2011. She had been fired after failing to turn in paperwork to continue getting disability coverage through her law firm.

"I don’t want to want it, but I want it," Byrd recalls her saying, sobbing.

"I said, 'If you can stop drinking you can do anything,' " Byrd says. "I told her, 'We love you, Erika,' and she hung up."

Byrd and his wife were getting ready to go to church the next day when there was a knock on the door. A pastor stood with a police officer. Erika was dead.

A doctor from the National Institute for Mental Health called to ask if the Byrds would consider donating Erika's brain for research.

They said yes.

"She had done everything she knew how to to beat this terrible disease," Ron Byrd says. "I would think she would want it."

If you are interested
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https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/29/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdose-deaths.html

‘The Numbers Are So Staggering.’
Overdose Deaths Set a Record Last Year.

By JOSH KATZ and MARGOT SANGER-KATZ NOV. 29, 2018


A class of synthetic drugs has replaced heroin in many major American drug markets, ushering in a more deadly phase of the opioid epidemic.

New numbers Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017, a record. Overdose deaths are higher than deaths from H.I.V., car crashes or gun violence at their peaks. The data also show that the increased deaths correspond strongly with the use of synthetic opioids known as fentanyls.

Since 2013, the number of overdose deaths associated with fentanyls and similar drugs has grown to more than 28,000, from 3,000. Deaths involving fentanyls increased more than 45 percent in 2017 alone.

Drug overdose deaths, 1980 to 2017
198019902000201010,00020,00030,00040,00050,00060,000Peak car crashdeaths (1972)Peak gundeaths (1993)Peak H.I.V.deaths (1995)
70,237 people70,237 peopledied from drugoverdoses in theU.S. in 2017died from drugoverdoses in theU.S. in 201728,466 deaths28,466 deathsinvolved fentanylor a similar druginvolved fentanylor a similar drug

“If we're talking about counting the bodies, where they lie, and the cause of death, we're talking about a fentanyls crisis,” said Jon Zibbell, a senior public health scientist at the research group RTI International.

The recent increases in drug overdose deaths have been so steep that they have contributed to reductions in the country’s life expectancy over the last three years, a pattern unprecedented since World War II. Life expectancy at birth has fallen by nearly four months, and drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for adults under 55.

“The idea that a developed wealthy nation like ours has declining life expectancy just doesn’t seem right,” said Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the C.D.C., who helped prepare the reports. “If you look at the other wealthy countries of the world, they're not seeing the same thing.”

In a separate report, the C.D.C. also documented a 3.7 percent increase in the suicide rate, another continuation of a recent trend. The increases were particularly concentrated in rural America, and among middle-aged women, though the suicide rate for men remains higher than that for women at every age.

Recent federal public policy responses to the opioid epidemic have focused on opioid prescriptions. But several public health researchers say that the rise of fentanyls requires different tools. Opioid prescriptions have been falling, even as the death rates from overdoses are rising.

“Fentanyl deaths are up, a 45 percent increase; that is not a success,” said Dr. Dan Ciccarone, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “We have a heroin and synthetic opioid epidemic that is out of control and needs to be addressed.”

Synthetic drugs tend to be more deadly than prescription pills and heroin for two main reasons. They are usually more potent, meaning small errors in measurement can lead to an overdose. The blends of synthetic drugs also tend to change frequently, making it easy for drug users to underestimate the strength of the drug they are injecting. In some parts of the country, drugs sold as heroin are exclusively fentanyls now.

The trends in overdose deaths vary widely across the country. The epidemic has been strongest in Northeast, Midwest and mid-Atlantic states. In the West, where heroin is much less likely to be mixed with fentanyls, overdose rates are far lower. Data from the C.D.C. indicate that a state’s overdose trend closely tracks the number of fentanyl-related deaths.

Fentanyl’s contribution to the overdose death rate in selected states, 2015 to 2017
1515overdosedeaths per100k residents
22involvingfentanyl orsimilar drugsWash.’15’17
18
10Va.
21
8S.C.
24
13N.C.
25
4N.M.
31
20Conn.
36
25Md.
37
30N.H.
58
38W.Va.

Despite the sharp recent increases in drug-related deaths, some early signs suggest that 2017 could be the peak of the overdose epidemic. Preliminary C.D.C. data show death rates leveling off nationally in the early months of this year, though there is still a lot of local variation. Several states and cities have embarked on ambitious public health programs to reduce the deadliness of drug use and connect more drug users with treatment, and some of those changes may be bearing fruit.

“What’s encouraging to me is that it’s sort of an all-hands-on-deck problem, and we’ve got all hands on deck,” said Anna Lembke, an associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford, and the author of a book on how medical practice contributed to the opioid epidemic.

But there is still a very long way to go. “The concept of a plateau doesn’t fill me with a lot of optimism, given how high the numbers are,” said Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the former secretary of health and mental hygiene in Maryland, where overdoses continue to rise. “The numbers are so staggering.”

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Re: 🍾 Worse than opioids: Alcohol deaths soar among the middle aged, women
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2018, 02:21:50 AM »
You're on a roll today with these articles today, bud.

We are well and truly fucked.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: 🍾 Worse than opioids: Alcohol deaths soar among the middle aged, women
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2018, 02:30:39 AM »
You're on a roll today with these articles today, bud.

We are well and truly fucked.

When you have as much time as I do to sit in front of the computer and research collapse storiez, it's not too hard to come up with good ones these days.  The hard part these days for me is figuring out how to do a rant with so much material to cover in a given week.  ::)  If I tried to cover all this shit, the rant would go an hour at least.  The audience trickles off at around the 6 minute mark.  Attention spans for audio are not that great.

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Offline Meshami

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Re: 🍾 Worse than opioids: Alcohol deaths soar among the middle aged, women
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2018, 06:21:23 AM »
That first article could have been written about me. 

I am a middle aged woman.  I never drank til near age 30.  Alcoholism ran in my family.  I was a closet drinker.  Started with wine while cooking in the evenings to relax a night or two a month, then became habitual.  So much stigma it remained closeted.  Years of nightly drinking.  Then a bit in the morning to calm shaking hands.  Then I planned my whole world around drinking, being able to drink, hiding it, making sure I had it.  My late hubby got cancer and my drinking became worse, it was the way I coped.  He fought stage IV for two years and passed.  I drank alone.  I rarely ate when drinking.

Two years ago was my breaking point.  I had already been let go of a job and left another resulting from drinking.  I had went through so many bouts of withdrawals and DT's and promising myself I could handle it I can't even count.  The last one my mom showed up at my house when I was trying to detox myself, refused to leave, made me go home with her, and I had a full blown withdrawal seizure right in front of mom and dad a few days later, they thought I died.  Almost did, ER doc told them he wasn't sure I'd make it, I was 45.  Four days in hospital, 11 days in detox, and 2 months in rehab, have not touched that poison since.  Two years, one month, and 13 days sober.

Legal poison.  I never thought it would be me.  Ever!

And yet, I live in a world where there is drinking every where.  I see the signs of addiction in friends and family, can recognize because it was once me.  There is a stigma and no one likes to talk about it, much less ask for help.  I didn't.  Epidemic for sure. 

Well, that's my story anyways.

 

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