Is public discourse on drug overdoses improving?

This article today in the Washington Post caught my attention:

Drug overdoses deaths soared to a record 93,000 last year

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.

Disturbing news, but what caught my attention was how the article approached this problem. Not once was the notion of harsher enforcement mentioned as a possible solution or need.

Instead, here were some of the reflections in the article:

“Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in an interview that fentanyl has so thoroughly infiltrated the illegal drug supply that 70 percent of cocaine overdose deaths and 50 percent of methamphetamine overdose deaths also involved fentanyl. In many cases, she said, users are unaware that their drugs are laced with the powerful painkiller, which can halt breathing even if a minute amount is ingested.” […]

But unlike past years, 2020 brought the added complications of a worldwide viral pandemic. Health-care resources were stretched and redirected toward the emergency. Anti-addiction medication was more difficult to obtain. Stress increased dramatically. Users were more isolated, leading to additional overdoses because other people were not nearby to summon first responders or administer the opioid antidote naloxone, experts said.

“The pandemic has led to increased substance use across the board, as people have sought to manage stress, isolation, boredom, anxiety, depression, unemployment, relationship and child care issues, and housing instability,” Kimberly Sue, medical director of the National Harm Reduction Coalition, an advocacy group that tries to prevent overdose deaths, said in an email.

It’s time for the government to “provide medications for opioid use disorder for everyone who needs them, with no restrictions on cost or availability,” Volkow said.

There was a time when an article like this would be half enforcement-related, with a push for stricter laws and tough cracking down. This really seems like a long-overdue change in the discourse, at least. Recognition that drug illegality results in the more dangerous lacing with fentanyl, and that stress, depression, and instability (etc.) are factors leading to addiction and overdose as opposed to it being a thing you can just arrest your way out of (or “just say no” to).

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18 Responses to Is public discourse on drug overdoses improving?

  1. Servetus says:

    San Francisco 2020 OD deaths doubled. From Capradio:

    …Data from the San Francisco medical examiner’s office report show 697 accidental drug overdose deaths from January through December 2020.

    That’s more than twice San Francisco’s 257 deaths due to COVID-19, according to figures from the city’s public health department.
    Health officials say the isolation caused by the pandemic led to an increase in fentanyl overdoses in the city.

    Notably, San Francisco had one of the lowest per-capita COVID-19 death rates of any major city in the country last year. […]

  2. Son of Sam Walton says:

    Some funny youtube dude likes to do shows on states, dividing them by region, politics, and economics. Come to find out, meth is really popular in a lot of these really poor parts. But Oklahoma having the same issues as many of these states, was no longer in the top ten for meth use, while previously holding the record for being in the Top 5 for decades on out. And they are all believing cannabis is responsible for Okies being in the top 10%. In fact, Oklahoma made medical marijuana more affordable and easier to obtain during the pandemic . . . the Pandemic was a good time to open up a new store. And we have drive-in stores, where you drive your car through the middle of the store if you don’t feel like getting out of your car.

    On a not-so-high note: my 60something older gentleman I help to take care of when it comes to being his friend and getting him his meds had all his vapes and pens confiscated by the nursing staff on Monday at his State ran VA home. And his meds were helping and giving him vigor and appetite. Now he cannot eat and he just looks so horrible. It’s not like he was smoking flower and having lighters (prohibited to all due to oxygen) on him. The state says we are allowed to have it, but the administration says that we cannot because we are partially funded by the VA and not just the State. But none of the elderly vets smoking pot causes problems or sensations or pisses off the staff; it’s when Covid-19 causes admin to act dumb and hypocritical or when they keep two old people in a hot tub all day, later to find out they boiled to death in temperatures not suited for any human of any age for longer than a second.

  3. Servetus says:

    Depressed LGB youths use more cannabis, study:

    19-JUL-2021…Participants were followed from the age of five months and the study was based on their responses to questionnaires collected at ages 13, 15 and 17. Although there was an association between depressive symptoms at age 15 and increased cannabis use at age 17 in the general sample, the association was five times stronger among LGB youth.

    According to London-Nadeau, this relationship may signal a practice of LGB youth self-medicating with cannabis to cope with depressive symptoms. The use of cannabis for these purposes could also indicate that other sources of support for depressive symptoms are lacking or inadequate for the realities of LGB youth.

    Unexpectedly, the study also found that anxiety symptoms among LGBs at age 15 predicted reduced cannabis use at age 17. This finding thus seems to run counter to the finding of an association between depression and cannabis use in the LGB group.

    “The difference between the depression-cannabis relationship and the anxiety-cannabis relationship could indicate different realities that LGB youth would experience, particularly with respect to their public display of their minority sexual orientation,” said London-Nadeau. […]

    AAAS Public Science News Release: Cannabis: sexually diverse youths with depression use more

    Related journal article: Longitudinal associations of cannabis, depression, and anxiety in heterosexual and LGB adolescents

  4. Servetus says:

    Mouth ulcers successfully treated using CBD:

    22-JUL-2021…The oral ulcer is a common oral inflammatory lesion with severe pain but little effective treatment is currently available. Cannabidiol (CBD) is recently emerging as a therapeutic agent for inflammatory diseases. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully elucidated. Qi and colleagues sought to investigate whether and how CBD could play a therapeutic role in the oral ulcer. Oral ulcer models were performed in the tongue of C57BL/6 mice by acid etching or mechanical trauma, followed by CBD local administration. Samples were harvested for macroscopic and histological evaluation.

    CBD oral spray on acid- or trauma-induced oral ulcers on mice tongues inhibited inflammation, relieved pain and accelerated lesions closure in a dose-dependent manner. The results show that CBD accelerates oral ulcer healing by inhibiting CMPK2-mediated NLRP3 inflammasome activation and pyroptosis, which is mediated mostly by PPARγ in nucleus and partially by CB1 in plasma membrane. This data may shed light on the development of new therapeutic strategies for oral ulcers. […]

    AAAS Public Science News Release: Cannabidiol promotes oral ulcer healing by inactivating CMPK2-mediated NLRP3 inflammasome


  5. Servetus says:

    A time when doctors took cocaine injections in the name of science, produced by Rohin Francis, MBBS:

  6. Servetus says:

    German physics students determine why beer mats make bad trajectory vehicles:

    27-JUL-2021 — Beer mats protect tables from unsightly condensation rings. However, they are sometimes also misused as projectiles. Usually with little success: after just a short time, the cardboard coaster leaves its path, spins off to the side, and falls to the ground. But why is that so?

    Physicists at the Helmholtz Institute of Radiation and Nuclear Physics and the Argelander Institute for Astronomy at the University of Bonn have now investigated this question. According to them, the behavior of the beer mat is inevitable, at least when employing the usual throwing technique: it unavoidably begins to drift off after 0.45 seconds at most. Playing cards go awry after just 0.24 seconds, CDs after 0.8 seconds.

    The reason for this is the interaction between gravity, lift, and the conservation of angular momentum: the mat tips backwards shortly after being thrown due to gravity. This gives it an angle of attack, similar to a landing aircraft. This angle creates lift in the airflow. “However, the lifting force is not applied in the center of the mat, but rather in the front third,” explains PhD student Johann Ostmeyer, who came up with the idea for the study.

    This would normally soon make the round cardboard flip over. And it actually does – but only if it is thrown in a rather unconventional manner. “A beer mat is usually rotated when thrown, similar to a frisbee,” says Ostmeyer’s colleague Christoph Schürmann from the Argelander Institute for Astronomy at the University of Bonn. “This turns it into a kind of spinning top.” This rotation stabilizes the flight and prevents flipping over. Instead, the lifting force causes the mat to drift off to the side – to the right, if it is rotated counterclockwise; otherwise to the left. […]

    AAAS Public Science News Releases: Study shows why beer mats do not fly in a straight line–Physicists analyzed an as-yet barely researched phenomenon

    The study was supported with funds from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

    Johann Ostmeyer, Christoph Schürmann & Carsten Urbach: Beer Mats make bad Frisbees; The European Physical Journal Plus.

    Original Publication: Ostmeyer, J., Schürmann, C. & Urbach, C.; “Beer mats make bad frisbees.” Eur. Phys. J. Plus 136, 769 (2021):

  7. Servetus says:

    Is there anything weed doesn’t get blamed for? Not according to
    the spyware industry.

  8. Servetus says:

    Phillippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte is getting heat from the U.S. State Dept: ‘U.S. drug war no cleaner than ours’, exclaims Duterte,

  9. Servetus says:

    Cancer patients are not using marijuana medicinally at the same rate of increase as people with no medical history of the disease:

    13-AUG-2021…analyzed data from nearly 20,000 people over a span of four years … found that reports of marijuana use peaked at 9% for cancer patients, compared to 14% among people with no cancer history. […]

    “Because of law enforcement changing, we expect to see changes in attitudes and perceived benefits and harms,” said study co-author Sunny Jung Kim, Ph.D., Harrison Scholar at VCU Massey Cancer Center and assistant professor of health behavior and policy at the VCU School of Medicine. “This work gives us perspective on prevalence of cannabis use among cancer patients and how it has changed over time.”

    But why aren’t cancer patients following the same trend as the rest of the population? The odds of a cancer patient using marijuana in the past year were essentially flat between 2013 and 2018.

    “There is that element of a life-changing moment when you have cancer,” said Fuemmeler, who is also a professor of health behavior and policy in the VCU School of Medicine and holds the Gordon D. Ginder, M.D., Chair in Cancer Research at Massey. “You have to be mindful of your health and contemplate whether something like cannabis is helpful or hurtful.”

    Regardless of cancer history, this latest analysis revealed that people who reported higher levels of pain were more likely to use marijuana, whereas lower rates of marijuana use were seen among women, older people and those with higher incomes, medical insurance or better mental health.

    AAAS Public Science News Release: Cancer patients use less marijuana than general public —
    Study shows that between 2013-2018, as many states were legalizing recreational marijuana, cancer patients continued to abstain in large numbers

    Original Publication: Cannabis use among cancer survivors in the United States: Analysis of a nationally representative sample: Elizabeth K. Do PhD, MPH, Albert J. Ksinan PhD, Sunny Jung Kim PhD, Egidio G. Del Fabbro MD, Bernard F. Fuemmeler PhD, MPH

    • NorCalNative says:

      Servetus, I find this news troubling as cannabis has anticancer properties. The question of whether cannabis is helpful or hurtful for cancer is an easy one.

      Cannabis is antiproliferative, i.e., it kills cancer cells. It’s anti-angiogenic, i.e., it cuts off a tumor’s blood supply. It’s anti-metastatic, i.e., it keeps the tumor contained so it doesn’t spread to other body parts. And it performs a cellular housekeeping function called apoptosis which removes damaged cells that have the potential to become cancer.

      I believe a lack of education by physicians is the biggest problem and reason for this. Full extract cannabis oils are better than combustion for treating cancer.

      • Servetus says:

        It may be a lack of education, or the health system’s medical policies. Hospital protocol is ironclad and defying it any level can land an employee in a lot of trouble. Increasing the information overload doctors meet in keeping up with their professional tasks needs to be measured according to priorities, and until someone decides marijuana is a priority, it’s not likely to happen.

        And doctors aren’t researchers. For the most part, they’re physicians whose daily work schedules in a big city hospital can be grueling for any number of reasons. They don’t necessarily follow research. It’s not their job.

        On top of everything else doctors need to learn, they’re being called on to unlearn more than 80 years of government propaganda designed to demonize a weed whose anti-cancer properties were known by researchers in 1974.

        There’s also the possibility that cannabis could lead to medical specializations. We might someday see a hospital that features a Cannabis Medicine Department (CMD) with trained cannabis doctors, or a psilocybin clinic.

  10. Servetus says:

    The strange effects of the COVID pandemic on illicit drug consumption in Australia—cannabis use rises, meth decreases…

    17-AUG-2021–Western Australia recorded the largest drop in ice [meth] loads, falling more than 50 per cent between April and June 2020, attributed to border closures restricting imports of the popular drug. Cannabis is largely produced locally so national supplies were still plentiful, and wastewater samples reflected this, with all states except the Northern Territory showing large increases in cannabis use. […]

    According to the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, approximately half of Australia’s cocaine users stopped using the party drug – or cut down drastically – during the lockdown when global supply lines were disrupted. This was reflected in the wastewater loads but once restrictions were eased, cocaine use returned to pre-pandemic levels. A similar pattern was seen with ecstasy use. […]

    The results also showed that alcohol consumption – albeit lower in total – was evenly spread over the whole week during the three-month lockdown, with the closure of bars, hotels, nightclubs and social gatherings curtailing the normal weekend spike.

    Once restrictions were eased, alcohol use spiked, particularly in the Northern Territory which came out of lockdown earlier than the other states.

    While ice use fell drastically in WA and other parts of the country, falls in South Australia and Victoria were more moderate and delayed, suggesting that both capital cities in these states had residual supplies of the drug. […]

    “Job cuts and loss of income could have contributed to the lower usage nationally, […]

    AAAS Public Science News Release: Cannabis use rises during Australian COVID lockdown, but less meth on the streets: Wastewater study one of a ‘handful’ worldwide to study drug trends

    Original Publication: Impact of COVID-19 controls on the use of illicit drugs and alcohol in Australia

  11. NorCalNative says:

    S-man, loan me that freakishly large brain of yours, will ya?

    In 1910 the Flexner Report on the status of US medicine established the Pharma dominated, Western, evidence-based system we have today.

    The great points you made on how protocol protects and guides modern docs is based on that century-old work.

    In 1910 cannabis and other herbs were considered “injun medicine” and the laboratory medicine of the day wasn’t able to correctly identify the evidence-base behind cannabinoids.

    Today’s labs are more sophisticated and the evidence is there for anyone willing to look.

    The Flexner Report handed the keys to the kingdom to Big Pharma.

    I am convinced a NEW Flexner Report that took a fresh look at cannabinoids would require Medical Schools to teach the truth! Actually I’m convinced it should cause a paradigm shift. The reality isn’t pro-cannabis.

    Allopathic or so-called evidence-based medicine that refuses to acknowledge a new reality based on lab testing is “for-profit” and not for-people OR Health Care in any sense of the word.

    How do we get Congress to initiate a NEW Flexner Report which honors our family members, but at the expense of Big Pharma?

    Right now most docs are too worried about mortgages and careers RATHER than the well-being of patients. A NEW Flexner Report would require NEW medical school curriculum and hopefully better treatment for cancer.

    How do we demand a paradigm shift through modern laboratory science and education?

    • Servetus says:

      A neo-Flexner Report would be a great idea. The new report would need to address some strange phenomena.

      The US has a capitalist economy and universal health care is not provided, so the medical profession wants to go where the money is, which might exclude weed and psychedelics even though the drugs can make doctoring a lot simpler. Pharmaceuticals are typically easier and cheaper to produce and more profitable to sell.

      At least the money generated by former illicit drugs won’t be going to Big Pharma, which is all set to take a Big Loss due to cheaper and more easily available botanicals that threaten its market.

      It’s always been complicated. The physical therapy business that was created as a treatment for victims of polio dissolved all due to Dr Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine discovery. Many good and competent people, those in the medical professions, were forced to learn new disciplines and move on. Someday we may see a big part of the psychology profession splintered simply because people need little more than three pills to straighten out their heads. Addiction might be treatable using a single pill. The mysteries of schizophrenia may be solved. Unlike corporations, the solutions won’t put molecular psychiatrists or other scientists out of business. Science self corrects, and it does so in real time, unlike corporations, governments or cults. Scientific solutions will be needed for many decades forward whether bureaucrats or anyone else likes it.

      Change brought about by a solution is always difficult for bureaucracies. Kafka wrote about it. Emil Durkheim predicted that industrialization would lead to bureaucratization and to decreasing social solidarity, just as we’ve seen with the FDA and Congress.

      The medical profession is in the beginning of adopting significant genetic therapies such as CRISPR Cas-9 to address medical problems such as Huntington’s disease. It faces opposition in some cases due to a public anti-GMO attitude that fails to acknowledge and understand genetics, or what actually happened in India with regard to Monsanto and its GMO seeds. In this case, it’s the public education system that needs reevaluation and redirection, not just medical schools.

      The profession is understandably paranoid. US medical malpractice lawsuits are a hassle. Medical professionals don’t want to make a move until they can be absolutely indemnified. Doctors can sometimes worship the FDA and not the Hippocratic Oath. The last thing the profession wants is to be tagged with something like Big Pharma’s thalidomide nightmare that caused babies to be born without limbs. The current opioid crisis is another black eye for modern medicine.

      So it’s conceivable that cannabinoids and psilocybin could be rejected or demonized for the foreseeable future, although by fewer numbers of people. And nothing about Schedule I drugs will ever make sense as long as the information originates directly from medical bureaucrats.

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