Kratom crap-shoot

Kratom’s back in the news and—big surprise—not in a positive light. While there’s no research to support what people claim it does, proponents of the plant say it can help with opioid addiction, relieve pain and increase energy. But this isn’t actually an article to debunk another junk medicine, because that’s not the reason the FDA’s mad about it (this time.) The agency has used their mandatory recall power for the first time to warn consumers about kratom products made by Triangle Pharmanaturals, which are apparently rife with salmonella. Multiple cases of infection have been traced back to consuming kratom in the past couple years, and apparently the FDA’s finally had enough. Figures that a company hawking a dubious product can’t even make it properly.

Naloxone for the people

The US Surgeon General has issued a nationwide advisory calling for more people to get training and access to the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone. The life-saving drug can be administered by shot or nasal spray, and blocks the brain’s response to opioids while allowing the patient to breathe again. So yeah, America’s doctor is saying this drug can save lives in a bad epidemic, what’s the big deal? Well one of the big points of the announcement is to loosen up restrictions for prescribing the drug to family and friends of opioid abusers. It also argues for wider application of ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, so that someone doesn’t worry about getting arrested for calling 911 when observing an overdose. You know what they say, no good deed…

Marijuana Mythbusting

This week, two studies in Addiction took aim at some arguments medical marijuana supporters and detractors use when fighting for and against that “dank chronic” (dope list of marijuana slang here.) Medical marijuana supporters argue that opioid abusers would substitute marijuana for pain relief, leading to fewer opioid overdoses. While studies do identify a correlation between a decline in overdose deaths and the passage of medical marijuana legislation, the first study determined that the evidence doesn’t support the laws causing the drop. On the flip side, detractors warn that one of the evils of passing this legislation is more adolescents picking up a pot habit. While that could be bad, the second study couldn’t identify that trend actually occurring in legal weed states.

Revenge for the Opium Wars?

In the 1800s, the Chinese Qing dynasty found itself on the defending end of two wars designed to open closed Chinese ports to foreign trade, and essentially get the Chinese people addicted to opium. Fast forward to 2018, and one of the aggressors in those wars—the US—finds its own population dangerously addicted to opium. Well, opium derivatives at least. A US Senate investigation reported last Wednesday that Chinese e-commerce sellers are a huge supplier for carfentanil, which is: 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, mainly used as an elephant tranquillizer, and considered for use as a chemical weapon. And it’s coming right through US ports via the US Postal Service, who haven’t fully implemented suspicious package detection systems. So that’s fun!

Unexpected life expectancy

For the 2nd straight year, life expectancy in the United States has declined. According to the National Center for Health Statistics data, the last time the US showed a multiyear decline in life expectancy was 1962-1963. And if 2017 completes the trend (remember from math class that it requires 3 data points to call it a trend), it will be the first time that’s happened since the Spanish flu did a number on the country over a hundred years ago—at least according to CNN. This writer wasn’t alive then. Much of the blame for the drop is being attributed to accidental overdose deaths—i.e., opioids. Accidental overdoses accounted for 63,600 deaths in 2016. Here’s wishing for a less-addicted new year.

Poppin’ Tylenol to take the edge off

If you stub your toe or have a headache, you might take acetaminophen to dull the pain. In fact, a recent study even showed acetaminophen can help manage acute pain as effectively as opioids. So it’s clear that acetaminophen has got physical pain down pat. But you may be surprised to learn that it can dull emotional pain as well. Yes, as in if your feelings hurt, you can take some Tylenol to feel better. It seems to work by blunting your emotional capacity, but this could be a double-edged sword (well, a blunt double-edged sword at least.) You may feel less pain, but you could also be less emotionally sensitive to your SO complaining about getting sacked or something boring like that.