Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Not So Secret Facts" About the Opiod Epidemic

Trump and Sessions Announce Their Plan For
"Totally Crushing the Opiod Epidemic"
Setting Ourselves Up
for Another "Clear Miss"
None of this worked before, so we should immediately repeat everything.
The definition of the fanatic is
 "when everything is failing, redouble your efforts!"

The immediate social/cultural acknowledgement of the shocking, new population of opiod addicts "suddenly" discovered amid the [self-described] "normal folks" has elicited a quite understandable reaction. This reaction is, well, understandable for three reasons. 

First, it is superficial. Far from being a criticism of modern western life and values, this superficiality is very much to be expected. The social culture of the west is very visibly dedicated to the reduction of shocks. The culture, itself, not only insulates the nation from such shocks, it also develops in individuals -- in their own psychology -- an ability to "insulate themselves" from the realities what they are seeing. Most of society remains quite convinced that both the problems the opiod addiction causes and the problems which have caused the opiod addiction are, somehow, comfortably distant from them as they pursue their lives.

"Those people have problems that I don't have. [The reasons behind this conclusion are truly unsettling.] All it has to do with me is the unfortunate possibility that one of those addicts will steal the radio out of my car."

Head for North Dakota! [chart/US Senate]
Second, it echoes a deeply held although largely un-examined, intuitive insistence that such matters are "issues of control" or, perhaps more accurately in the current crisis, lapses in the social exertion of appropriate control. Very predictably, as public discussion of the opiod crisis reached its current fervor, all the "usual suspects" [excluding the doctors, of course] were immediately selected for blame and controlling the bad behavior of them was touted as a possible means of controlling the "out of control" opiod use.

Law enforcement promised increasingly aggressive policies for "rounding up" drug dealers. The President immediately launched a public education "advertising" campaign to more "correctly" inform the young about opiod dangers. Laws were proposed and implemented to limit the production of the drugs by manufacturers. Voluntary campaigns to "clean out that medicine cabinet" were launched.

Third, Americans have been "contaminated" with the implied idea that "things will return to normal" if the matter is just given time. Granted, Americans have never really been particularly "sharp" when it has come to combating such challenges, and various ideas in previous efforts have never been particularly effective. The continuing attraction of this litany of "tried and true" methods is now presenting an even more destructive alternative to facing facts and getting to work on the "causes and conditions" which have ushered this latest challenge into the headlines.

It will be a "breathtaking step," indeed, if the US social culture actually "grabs this problem by the neck."

Happily, such a reassuring outcome is quite possible if the social response is a rational one. Step One will be to permanently disabuse ourselves of this troublesome, inertial collection of "mistaken certainties."

Such "solutions" are "inertial" because they continue to, seemingly, automatically present themselves as "suggestions" based on what we perceive as fundamentals of our social culture. 

So, the very first part of this is to be absolutely convinced that society's first impulse to solving the epidemic will be, essentially, useless. We must begin by scratching out all these unworkable, automatic solutions.

The list of "scratched out reasons:
[MeanMesa only offers seven, but if your favorite isn't here, don't be concerned. There are thousands -- probably just as many as there are opiod addicts.]

1. There are too many opiod pills being manufactured, and they're too profitable.
2. People lack the education needed to consider them dangerous.
3. People don't even know that the pills they have discovered to be so pleasant are addictive opiods.
4. Not enough people are in jail to frighten others from indulging.
5. Doctors continue to prescribe opiods for too many conditions.
6. Insurance companies continue to be too eager to pay for opiods.
7. We may as well throw in "peer pressure," because we always throw in "peer pressure."

However, not only will these typical "social responses" to the epidemic crisis be painfully ineffective, there are, still another two "flies in the ointment" -- temptingly expensive [and profitable] mass incarceration schemes and government support for elaborately expensive, yet barely effective treatment centers.

Trump has already made it clear that he will not be spending huge amounts of federal tax money on the matter. While the current "hue and cry" is that such expenditures for treatment facilities should be rapidly expanded, such expenses might under cut the President's "tax cut fantasies."

Further, although the "gnome-like" Attorney General will undoubtedly "drink deeply" from the chalice of a wide new variety of prosecutions and incarcerations [his own ugly addiction], most likely the final "accomplishment" of Session's bizarre obsessions will turn out to be a windfall of convicted citizens marching off to the corporate prisons.

Although private prison corporations are eerily generous with their "campaign contributions," treatment facilities are not. Both choices seem to produce roughly the same, sparse benefits.

So, Why Are So Many People Continuing
 to Become Opiod Addicts?
Clearly, we could make some real progress if folks quit getting addicted.
For this, we need to understand what the addicts
 are looking for or "finding" in the opiods.

The unsettling nature of the epidemic arises from two angles. First, there is the absolutely frustrating question of exactly what to do about it as an epidemic. Second, there is the equally -- for more or less, "normal" citizens, at least -- frustrating question of why it is "happening." Another academic "nature or nurture" debate probably won't help much. "More religion" and "more baseball teams" haven't  seemed to improve things, either.

This is individual. And, in fact, the very possibility that the "cause which causes" opiod addiction is such an individual matter is precisely why the epidemic is so unsettling. The addiction epidemic eludes any reasonable, generalized cause which might offer a convenient explanation in the same way the problem eludes any similarly generalized solutions.

Nonetheless, there is, actually, a body of thought which can answer the question -- "Why are so many people continuing to become opiod addicts?" posed above. These valuable ideas are to be found in an unlikely -- yet highly accessible -- place. Let's get more specific.

What AA's Basic Text Says About Addiction
The 1930's fundamentals about alcohol addiction
 can speak directly to the causes
 of the 2017 opiod  addiction epidemic.

The basic text which serves as the basis for the AA recovery program can be found in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, and is readily available -- in a searchable format -- at Alcoholics Anonymous/ANON Press. While this basic text includes a significant number of questionable [and often obnoxious...] deferential references to  the Dominionist Catholicism which was popular in the early 20th Century and so attractive to AA's founder, Bill Wilson, it also contains some very valuable and thoughtful conclusions about addiction which can be applied to the current opiod addiction crisis.

First, let's look at what AA's basic text says about the "spiritual malady" which so destructively distorts the thinking of an untreated alcoholic.

AA's "Spiritual Malady"

Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were "burned up."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 64]

With this in hand we can draw a few, useful conclusions about why people find opiods [Add any additions you like -- alcohol, heroin, cocaine, etc.] so attractive.

1. Most opiod addicts were already "set up" psychologically to become addicted before they ever indulged in opiods.
2. Whatever the "reason" was to begin taking opiods, a quite different "reason" then developed to continue taking opiods in an addictive pattern later.
3. The detrimental effect of having a "spiritual malady" becomes the on-going "thought" mechanism which  not only initially introduced but also continually reinforces the addiction.

How does this "spiritual malady" affect the thinking of an alcoholic or an addict? 

Perhaps the best way to consider the question is to imagine a "contaminant" which introduces destructive suggestions as the addict forms thoughts. The socially puzzling aspect of the epidemic lies with the fact that these "spiritual malady" contaminants actually have little to do an immediate, over night descent into substance abuse.

Instead, these contaminants groom one's experience [the experience of "being me"] into a painful, yet frightening, synthetic, collection of presumptions. Examples are in order.

"Spiritual Malady" Presumptions

1. I am not competitive. I simply don't have the capacity to function well. I will fail.
2. The reality around me is not fair. The decks are stacked against my ever succeeding.
3. Reality is dangerously unpredictable. Unseen dangers are lurking all around me.
4. The opinions people form about me are hopelessly bad. The best way I can deal with this is to lie or exaggerate. I need to try to "mold" what people are thinking about me into something I can survive. I need to constantly pretend that I am "better" than I am.
5. The people around me seem to have it all much easier than I do. Many of them are quietly working to make my life and unpleasant and empty as possible.

Of course, there can be many more such examples, but the point here is that with such presumptions "coloring" every thought so darkly, any relief which might accompany addictive substance abuse seems like an almost perfect opportunity to improve what "life feels like" for the potential addict.

None of these "ideas" are present in words. Further, MeanMesa sees no observable correlation between "more church" or "more Bible" and any remedy for the "spiritual malady." [Consider the use of the term: "spirit" in the following two examples. It was a very spirited horse. and The Arctic explorer lost his spirit after a time.] Predictably, these are the approach deeply embedded in the AA program of recovery, but the results seem to be very clearly, dangerously temporary.

"Feels like?" Addiction is almost entirely emotional. It has everything to do with "feeling bad" and then, "feeling better." All the "reasons" which are offered as a "good reason" to not use substances or become addicted are intellectual reasons which are being "pitted against" emotional "reasons."

People with the "spiritual malady" actively contaminating their minds are, almost always, quite unhappy. Their lives as they picture themselves in this way are miserable, although after the condition has continued for a long time, not even the sufferer may really notice. Addicts become completely identified both with the on-going "unpleasantness" of every moment spent being simply sober and the somewhat "more pleasantness" of every moment spent being loaded -- again, on anything.

It is important to note that the paragraph [above] describes an addiction while it is in its somewhat still successful, preliminary state. Addiction rarely remains this "workable" for long -- usually just long enough to convince the sufferer that it will remain "workable" for far longer than it will.

It actually might, but "that solution" will have nothing in common with all the ideas we "scratched out" earlier in the post. We must begin with the conclusion that addicts -- and potential addicts -- are afraid that they really aren't going to able to make it through life. Again, this fear doesn't manifest itself in an internal "discussion." It is emotional. The reason that it seems so mysterious is that it resides far from intellectual observation. 

It is not merely a fear of spiders, dentists and clowns. Even an addict quite willing to discuss such fear finds it quite beyond what can be said with words. Nonetheless, for alcohol and drug dependent mentalities the terror is real -- and dangerous. Interestingly, when the effect of the "spiritual malady" are unleashed on a human's thought process, the result is a person who actually finds a synthetic type of "relief" in substance abuse.

Unhappily, addiction almost always goes "right off the cliff" once this "discovery" is made, and from there it always gets worse, never better. The addiction inevitably requires more and more of the abused substance, while the "relief" gained by using the substance diminishes daily.

So, How Do People Wind
 Up With the "Spiritual Malady?"
It would probably really help with the crisis
 if people were able to be a little "happier."
Unhappily, "being happy" may sometimes be even
 more difficult than "being addicted."

Because alcoholism and drug addiction have become such expensive problems for the social culture, no effort has been spared in the myriad of investigations and research programs seeking to reveal the cause. It is worth a moment to "size up" this massive expense. The economic impact of thousands of dead opiod addicts is already impressive, but there is much more damage than just the funerals. When considered as a grisly aggregate of all the addiction "going on" currently, all the missed work days, all the incipient health problems, all the misery imposed on families, friends and bosses and all the massive "economic activity" of addicts -- of all sorts -- seeking to purchase prohibited or regulated drugs in a crime ridden market completely detached from the general economy, the problem has, understandably, attracted plenty of very aggressive research efforts through the years.

However, these investigative efforts have yet to constructively answer the "cause question." In fact, MeanMesa has seen only one "explanation" which 1. seems to make sense, and 2. seems to offer any type of workable counter measure as a solution.

There is a great deal of research targeting the consequences that maternal drinking during pregnancy can have on the fetus. These investigations extend to both the physical and mental effects on fetal health. Here are a couple of excerpts from the reports describing these conclusions. [There are plenty more available on your GOOGLE.]

Fetal exposure to excessive stress hormones in the womb linked to adult mood disorders

[Excerpted. Visit the article National Institute of Health/gov]
Elevated levels of maternal pregnancy specific anxiety early in pregnancy were independently associated with lower scores on the BSID at 12 months. These associations could not be explained by postnatal maternal psychological stress, stress related to parenting, prenatal medical history, socioeconomic factors or child race, sex or birth order. These data suggest that maternal cortisol and pregnancy specific anxiety have programming influences on the developing fetus. Prenatal exposure to the same signal, cortisol, had opposite associations with infant development based on the timing of exposure.

The Timing of Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Cortisol and Psychosocial Stress is Associated with Human Infant Cognitive Development

[Excerpted. Visit the article here/SCIENCE Daily]
Adverse environments experienced while in the womb, such as in cases of stress, bereavement or abuse, will increase levels of glucocorticoids in the mother, which may harm the growing baby. Glucocorticoids are naturally produced hormones and they are also known as stress hormones because of their role in the stress response.

"The stress hormone cortisol may be a key factor in programming the fetus, baby or child to be at risk of disease in later life. Cortisol causes reduced growth and modifies the timing of tissue development as well as having long lasting effects on gene expression," she will say.

 A more fundamental model for the development of addiction. [MeanMesa]
A less scientific description of this "fetal cortisol syndrome" -- as it relates to potential addiction in later life -- may be helpful. This model is quite subjective, strictly representing a not particularly scientific or empirical, possible theory about how the "spiritual malady" might first be introduced into a person. It is, very likely, already present when a potential addict is first born.

While still in the womb, a fetus can "inquire" about the nature of the external world into which it will be born. Of course, this "inquiry" quite removed from being a "warm conversation" with one's mother. The entire affair is to be conducted chemically, and the "language" of the conversation will be relayed to the fetus through changes in the chemistry of the uterus.

If the mother is stressed, her hormonal cortisol levels will express this to her fetus. The "answer" to the fetus' question about the nature of the world will reflect the mother's view of that world. Further, the "mother's view" will be expressed to the fetus in her cortisol levels. The fetus will receive this "communication" through the mother's placental connection.

When communicated in this way, that is with a "high stress" hormonal cortisol level, the "answer" the fetus receives is that the world into which it will arrive once born, is a "stressful," "frustrating" or "threatening" place. At least, it may be clear that the fetus' pregnant mother might find it so.

This is curiously consistent with the false presumptions presented in the case of the "spiritual malady." There are no words, books, studies, conclusions or the like to which this child, once born, can attribute these depressing inner suspicions about the world. Nonetheless, they are well established as subtle "thought contaminants" as the child develops into maturity. 

They are far too subtle to be objectively contradicted by an adolescent who happens to be entirely prepared to experience the "relief" to be found in a whiskey bottle floating around a party or with something found in the family's medicine cabinet.

A "Solution" That Almost No One Will Like

It's hardly "rocket science." There are, indeed, factors and conditions which can lead to a satisfying and happy life. This idea applies across the field, certainly to both stressed, pregnant mothers and subsequently, to their opiod addicted children. However, rather than making the creation of these positive conditions a high priority, Americans seem obsessed with transforming the conditions of life into a coarse, frightening, brutal experience.

Of course, this strange approach seems to encompass almost everyone here, sooner or later. There are, certainly, very visible alternatives to this model. Here are some examples: World's Happiest Countries/CNN

With thousands of dead opiod addicts now strewn across the country, it is clearly time to question our fundamentals.

No comments:

Post a Comment