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!
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.
Medical cannabis and opioids:
Source: PLOS ONE
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.
The rise of the opioid crisis has also coincided with a rise in trying to treat chronic pain without opioids. An interesting newcomer to this field is VR. Yes, that VR. There have already been studies showing that VR devices can be used to distract patients from acute pain and anxiety, but can they be used for chronic pain as well? The idea is that VR could be used to enhance current alternative pain management strategies, like meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. For instance, instead of being told to go home and meditate, you could be prescribed a headset and guided through breathing exercises on a virtual beach. Hook us up with some non-virtual drinks and we’re down.
Early last week, the founder of Insys Therapeutics resigned from his company’s board after being hit with racketeering and fraud charges. Essentially, the feds are alleging he and other Insys execs participated in a bribe scheme to get doctors to prescribe more of their synthetic opioid Subsys. This comes after President Trump did finally follow through on his declaration of an impending declaration of a state of emergency for the crisis. That means the US government is getting serious about a crackdown—here are some ways that could take shape. The FDA certainly didn’t mince words about getting serious either, with Commissioner Scott Gottlieb saying it would be taking actions that could be “disruptive” and “uncomfortable” for drug makers.
Remember when Michael Scott declared bankruptcy, only to learn that just shouting the word “bankruptcy” doesn’t make it official? That’s what people are telling President Trump right about now about his August “declaration” that the U.S. opioid crises is a national emergency. More than 2 months later this is yet to be made official. This writer has no idea how easy or difficult it is to make an official emergency declaration, but time is of the essence. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 33,000 Americans die each year—91 per day—from opioid overdoses. For context, about 41,000 American soldiers were KIA in all the years of the Vietnam War. Sure, POTUS has some big fish to fry but it’s probably time to jump on some paperwork.