Monthly Archives: May 2015

There’s an App for That: Hysteria Over Technology-Fueled STDs?

I am pretty sure some people – who either ought to know better, or should keep their mouths shut – do not understand the difference between “correlation” and “causation”.  And they use this to stir-up hysteria over one thing or another.

This crossed my mind due to 2 articles I read: one was about the DEA’s claim that heroin use is on the rise, and that this is caused by pain medication availability; and the other is an article about Rhode Island’s increase in STDs that are supposedly due to the increase in “hookup” apps like Tinder.

Aside #1: I really don’t understand how my dad could have been the assistant director of the DEA, knowing how opposed he was to the war on drugs.  I guess he thought he could change things from the inside.  He believed that, basically, all drugs should be legal.  And the difference between he and I? He never got fired – a fact that I find astounding even to this day.

So… the first article was called “National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary”It begins by reporting that deaths due to heroin overdoses tripled from 2010 to 2013 – a total of 8,260 people.

I think it’s horrible and devastating when anyone dies, but let’s put this in perspective.  8,260 people out of how many people in the US?   324,892,909 and counting (“Worldometers Population Live Counter”, 5/27/2015 5:57 PM EST).  Although tragic and painfully meaningful to the families and friends of those who passed, this does not indicate an epidemic by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s the first thing that jumped out at me.  I wondered how it was that conservatives freak out over this.  But, let’s read on…

Aside #2: The DEA report PDF file keeps timing out and resetting.  I hope this isn’t a problem for you, too.  But now, as I write this and it has timed out for the 3rd time, I have to go to a secondary source, which I hate to do.  Sorry.

I am switching to a Rhode Island source, which will dovetail nicely into the article on STDs.  Rhode Island seems to have a lot of problems these days!

According the the Providence Journal

“The higher demand for heroin is partly driven by an increase in controlled prescription-drug abuse over the past decade. A recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that four out of five recent new heroin users had previously abused prescription pain relievers.” (“DEA Report: Heroin Use, Availability is Climbing”, Lynn Arditi, Providence Journal, 5/22/2015).

First of all, SAMHSA is widely used by rehabs, psych hospitals, and other mental health institutions for material on drugs – it’s a federal agency.  They do not have a vested interest in anything but a total ban on drugs, and they make that very clear in the literature they hawk to therapists and others.  They oppose legalization of marijuana and they also want to include “marijuana addiction” as a legitimate addiction for which people need treatment.

Because there is a lot of money in drug rehab facilities, and the more people you can diagnose as “addicts”, the more people you can get into rehab (using not only conventional tactics but also the drug diversion programs).

Anyway, I have a few issues with this “pain medication leads to heroin abuse” idea.  For one thing, the report often referenced by the good ol’ DEA is a self-report…by heroin users.

This is one study that makes such claims, and it is cited on the webpage National Pain Report (a site that purports to be pro-pain patient but isn’t really):

“Cicero and his colleagues analyzed data gathered from more than 150 drug treatment centers across the United States. More than 9,000 patients dependent on narcotic painkillers, or opioids, completed the surveys from 2010 to 2013. Of those, almost 2,800 reported heroin as their primary drug of abuse.” (“Study Finds Most Heroin Users Start with Painkillers”, Pat Anson, National Pain Report, 5/28/2014).

So, addicts who use heroin are saying they started with painkillers?  No, even their own quote which I just cited doesn’t say that.  If anything, it says that of the 9,000 opiate addicts (and it doesn’t say which opiates), 2,800 prefer heroin.

That’s all.  It does not say that heroin users started with painkillers.  Don’t people read??

But yes, I have heard that many, many times as a drug counselor, and I have already written about this in this blog.  The “prescriptions lead to heroin” trope.  And I have seen no real evidence of it, not in the way the anti-drug people mean, anyway.

“I had a back problem and the doctor prescribed narcotics, then cut me off so I had to turn to heroin.”

“A friend gave me pills and I got addicted.”

And so on and so on.  These reports are not reliable, and the reason?  Addicts lie.  A lot.  They will never say, “I love to party and figured I could get high on pills, but they got too expensive so I switched to heroin.”

Or, “I wanted to get high and another addict turned me on to some heroin.”

Many have had no history of pain medication abuse.  Many, particularly here in Central PA, have multi-generational heroin addicts in their families.   They start, and stay with, heroin.

I have only had one client tell me that the reason she used heroin was that it was fun, and she was also the most successful at getting and staying clean.  She was honest, which is the first step an addict needs to take before he/she can stop.

So the DEA trots out that tired old chestnut about painkillers and heroin in order to support its war against pain clinics and pharmacies.  And who are the real victims?

The pain patients.  Because it is getting harder and harder to get pain medication now.

What people fail to understand, besides that addicts lie, is that just because someone used pain meds earlier in life, and now uses heroin, does not mean one caused the other.

They used to say that about marijuana not too long ago, remember?  Heck, they still say that about marijuana here in Central Pa, because there is a heroin problem here and they don’t understand why, or how to treat it.  Their solution is to just toss everyone in jail.  And then let many plead out to go to rehab.  Cha-ching!

The DEA reminds me of a desperate, spurned lover who will do anything to achieve his/her ends.  Even when most critically thinking adults read the DEA report, and conclude that the DEA is grasping at straws, it still doesn’t deter them from proclaiming that prescription pain meds are evil and lead to heroin addiction.

Advertisements

Sudden Falls, Parasols, Walking in Malls: Fitness Challenges for Those Over 50

No ranting today, I think.  This is the fitness program part of my blog.  Because I figure if I write it down, I will be more likely to stick to a program – and can also come back and read my posts for motivation.

My goal is to lose a certain amount of weight by December, 2015.  Since it is May, I think that’s doable.  Not saying how much, but suffice to say I am now a size 16.   I am a lot more comfortable going by dress sizes than weight, because it isn’t so embarrassing to me.

So, by December, the goal is also to get to size 10.

I don’t remember when I was a size 10.  I was a size 8 at age 18, and can you believe I thought I was fat?!  I weighed 120 lbs at 5’4″.  That’s only fat by modeling standards.

Yes, the skinny standard has really not changed much since 1974, sad to say.  Women still think they are fat, pretty much no matter what size they are.

If it isn’t fat, it’s wrinkles/sagging/grey hair/arm flaps (don’t ask if you don’t know, but even Madonna has them, and she works out!).  Women are not really allowed to grow old gracefully.

But I digress…size 10 by December, ok.  That’s really only 3 dress sizes, and I think I can manage that.  If I drop more, my goodness I will be over the moon!

My plan is simple: Walk 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days/week.  And since my Oster “MyBlend” blender arrived today, it’s smoothie time!!

1-2 smoothies per day in place of meals.  I am aware of the calorie trap smoothies can be, so I bought whey powder, 1% organic milk, nonfat yogurt, and frozen fruit.  Protein and carbs.

No green smoothies for me!  Sorry, but I think that green smoothies are the most disgusting-looking drinks on the face of the planet!  I do not like green drinks to slam, I do not like them Sam I Am!

Plus, kale is notorious for having oxalates – and if you get kidney stones, oxalates are a huge no-no.  That includes nuts and nut butters (awww), rhubarb (yuck), potato chips/french fries (awww again), and beets (awww x 3!).

Of course, health websites also say that large amounts of protein can help kidney stones develop.  Damn!  Can’t win!  I’ll take my chances with that one.

What kind of monster would tell someone to give up cheese??  Ain’t happening.  I love love love cheese of all kinds.

So, that’s the plan.  Since I now eat almost nothing but fruit and vegetables – and cheese! – it should be easy.  Oh yeah and the beans and rice thing, too, got to get back to that.  Increasing fiber to a goal of 20-30 grams/day.

If I am still hungry after that (and I’m usually not, fiber is filling!), I tell myself I can eat whatever I want.  Since that is mainly whatever is in my apt, it’s limited.  If I want sugary yummy goodness, I have to either walk to the store, or pick it up once a month when I go food shopping.  That limits it quite a bit.

And even if I just HAVE TO HAVE A DONUT, the donut shop is nearly a mile away so I reckon I would walk off those calories in no time.   The fact that it is so far away, though, deters me from going there (that, and the fact that they replaced the Dunkin’ Donuts with a local, not-as-good donut shop).

The gas station that sells junk food is not far, but they don’t have the kind of junk food I like, so….the local Sheetz, however, does.  It’s half a mile from my apt.  I might actually walk there some time, but since I am so tired most days, it won’t be often.

I have been walking for a week now.  Down to Basin Park, then twice around the trails that go by the Juniata River and the band shell.  It’s a really nice park.  I will show pictures when I actually take good ones (didn’t know Moto had a zoom function, so all the pictures I have taken thus far are teeny tiny).

I have to admit, up until today, I hated my walks.

It wasn’t always that way – any time in the past when I did the walking-for-fitness thing, I enjoyed it for the most part.  But this last go-round, it’s different.

For one thing, I have to get up early so it isn’t hot by the time I get walking.  This is no easy feat, as I have two extremely annoying cats who seem to think it is their life’s purpose to wait about 3 minutes after I have closed my eyes…

Crash! A lamp, a glass, some books?  One cat on the dresser, looking pleased with himself.

I have a floor lamp that has shelves.  One of the cats likes to pull it down.  It’s fun to see all that stuff go flying, I guess.

Or…they could be sleeping on my bed, but a few minutes after I turn off the light to go to sleep myself, one gets up.  Taps me with his paw, on my arm or my face.  The other one finds a box and starts hitting the flap, over and over and OVER again (ok, got to get rid of boxes, I know, but I have no storage space).

So, there’s that issue – getting enough sleep so I can wake up decently at 8 am.  So far, I am dragging my ass outta bed with 4 hours of sleep.  I know it’s just a matter of time before I decide to walk later in the day.  But for now, I am cranky when I get up.

Aside: I can’t kick the cats out of the bedroom and close the door, because I only have one window a/c unit, and that’s in the bedroom.  They would get way too hot – I live upstairs and so it can get mighty hot in my small apt.

Pay to Naysay: Fining Consumers for Bad Reviews

Before I begin today’s post, I want to add a personal note.  Skip it if it doesn’t interest you.

I woke up today feeling crappier than I have in a very long time – oh, I still get the nightly fevers and what-not, but today it was fever and nausea.  So…I just have had enough.  I know I have been telling friends I was going to go out and walk, etc, but I kept putting it off.   Since I seem to be getting worse again, it scared me.

So today I put on my new sweatpants, t-shirt, hoodie (it’s 56 degrees outside today), and old running shoes (yep, long ago I did actually run and do aerobics and all that stuff), and off I went.  I took my cane and a bottle of water, along with Moto.

I walked 10 minutes down to a park I am ashamed to say I have never been to in the 5 years I have lived here.  It’s a lot bigger than I thought – has a dog run, playground, a path by the Juniata River, and a band shell (hmm, that’s where that music comes from every summer…Hollidaysburg is not big on advertising these kinds of events, everyone “just knows”).

I walked for 25 minutes, stopping occasionally to take pics (which I will publish when I get one of those cord thingies that go from Moto to my laptop, or email them to myself maybe).  It has a lot of interesting signs, and even has a replica of part of the lock system they used around here long ago.  Beautiful park.

I didn’t walk fast.  That will come later.  I sat down on a bench for 5 minutes before I set off for the 10 minute walk back home.  I am tired but glad I did it.   I still feel crappy but not any more crappy than I did before, so that’s a good thing.  My first goal is to walk without stopping, for 30 minutes each day.

After that, we’ll see…hey, gotta start somewhere, right?

My lovely daughter sent me an Amazon e-card for Mother’s Day, so I bought a grinder for the flax seed in my fridge, and a personal smoothie maker.   Bought fruits and lots of vegetables, and protein powder and yogurt yesterday at the grocery store, so I am all set for when that stuff arrives.  I figure on substituting at least one meal with a low-cal smoothie.  Then go from there.

Oh, and I got my hair all chopped off a week ago, and there will be a new pic of me on FB and on here at some point.  I hate having my picture taken, so after taking a million selfies I will probably find one that doesn’t make me cringe.  Because….vanity and silly reasons.

***End of personal info***

I was reading email from the PC Magazine website, and ran across an article entitled “U.S. Reps Go After Businesses That Fine for Bad Reviews” (David Murphy, PCMag.com, 5/9/2015).  Since I often write reviews on Yelp and even sometimes on a company’s website, and sometimes they are less than stellar, this caught my attention.

It seems that some businesses are adding clauses to their agreements with consumers – and who ever reads all that fine print? – that state that, if you write a bad review, they can fine you.  So, some members of the House of Representatives are sponsoring something called “The Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015”, which makes it illegal for companies to do this.

The sponsors are Eric Swalwell, Brad Sherman (both Democrats from California), Darrell Issa (Republican from California, and Blake Farenthold (Republican from Texas).  Yay, bipartisanship!

Not only were businesses fining consumers for bad reviews, if the consumers didn’t pay it the businesses then turned it over to collections, thereby wrecking the consumer’s credit.  Grrr.

The most oft-cited examples of this are a B&B in New York state, and a company called KlearGear in Grandville, MI (or in France, apparently).

Some Justice, Some Peace

First up, a couple of corrections, and an update.

The Baltimore Sun, from which I got some of my information regarding Freddie Gray, was wrong on at least 2 counts.

The first one is, the deceased was in possession of a common pocket knife, NOT a switchblade as was initially reported.

Secondly, the deceased did NOT just get out of the hospital with injuries from a car accident.  How they came to this conclusion is even stranger – someone found paperwork about a claim paid to the deceased.  But it wasn’t for a car accident, it was for damages the deceased suffered as a result of lead paint poisoning in his childhood home.

That means that the horrific injuries this man suffered were due to the treatment he received at the hands (fists? feet?) of the Baltimore Police.  In case you don’t recall, he had a crushed larynx and a severed spinal cord (“Could Freddie Gray Have Severed His Own Spine in a Baltimore Police Van? It’s Highly Unlikely”, Dr. David Samadi, New York Daily News, 4/30/2015).

Now the good news: The 6 police officers involved have all been charged.  The most serious charge – “second-degree depraved heart murder” – was leveled against the driver of the van.  He was also charged with voluntary manslaughter (“6 Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Death”, Alan Blinder & Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times website, 5/1/2015).

Here is the rundown:

Office Caesar R, Goodson, Jr – Second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, gross negligent manslaughter by vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter, misconduct in office,

Officer William G. Porter – Involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

Lt. Brian W. Rice – Involuntary manslaughter, 2 counts of second-degree assault, 2 counts of misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Officer Edward M. Nero – 2 counts second-degree assault, 2 counts of misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Officer Garrett E. Miller – 2 counts of second-degree assault, 2 counts of misconduct in office, false imprisonment.

Sgt. Alicia D. White – Involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office.

(“List of Charges for 6 Officers in Freddie Gray’s Death”, Greg Toppo, USA Today website, 5/1/2015)

3 of the officers are white, and 3 are African-American.  This was a straight-up case of police brutality, an “us against them” siege mentality that many police officers have.

That is not to say that police do not target African-American males.  They do.

But the Baltimore police traditionally have a reputation for violence.

I have seen it first-hand.

I went to a Rolling Stones concert in 1969 at the Baltimore Civic Center.  As I was walking to the restrooms, I saw 2 Baltimore policemen beating the heck out of someone (a long-haired male).

So that was what? 46 years ago?  And nothing’s changed.

Now take what I just told you and extrapolate that to living in a Baltimore low-income neighborhood.   What a nightmare to have to live in.   Add profiling to that, and it’s a wonder anyone would ever leave their house.

For now, the streets of Baltimore are quiet, and the rebuilding will be slow and painful, I’m sure.  It would be a tough position for any business that was looted and/or burned to be in, trying to decide whether or not it was worth it to rebuild.

But I really hope they do.  Especially large corporations such as Rite Aid.  And if they’re smart, they’ll initiate some programs in that community to help the residents, especially the young people.  Even if they have very little compassion, it would make business sense to do so.  And, unfortunately, it’s usually the bottom line that determines what a company does or doesn’t do.

The media – most online newspapers – never seem to want to try to understand why this stuff happens.  They slant things, of course, and leave things out, like the sources who showed pictures of young people holding up the items they stole, and pictures of signs stating “black-owned business” (presumably to protect some business owners from having their shops looted).  Then they leave everyone to read the comments section for the “analysis”.

Racists conclude that it proves African-Americans are violent criminals.  Conventional liberals (by that I mean those who think voting Democrat is the only solution to anything) either ignore what’s being said, or focus on endless statistics regarding which races do what and how often “blah blah blah our side is right!”

Both are wrong.  Neither side will address the issues.

I would suspect some of the reason they don’t is, they’ve never been poor.  Not truly poor.