Cannabis plants produce cannabinoids, or chemicals that can induce an effect on the body. When cannabinoids are produced by a plant they are called phytocannabinoids. Humans produce their own cannabinoids, called endogenous cannabinoids. Laboratory or synthetically produced cannabinoids are called synthetic cannabinoids.
The human body has a very intricate endocannabinoid (endogenous cannabinoid) system, with receptors throughout our brain, organs, glands, and immune system. Hence a wide variety of physiological responses, occur when these receptors are stimulated by cannabinoids. These include responses to sleep, memory, appetite, pain, immune response, mood, and cell damage repair and death, Research is currently investigating what endogenous chemicals the human body produces, but the majority of medical discussions surrounding cannabinoids includes the phytocannabinoids.
Cannabis plants produce many phytocannabinoids, but the most well known and studied include CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). The latter is psychoactive, meaning it can give the user a feeling of euphoria. The former, CBD, in non-psychoactive and researched more than others for its medicinal benefits.
Now plants, just like animals, are classified from Kingdom (Plantae) down to Genus and species. Cannabis comes in a variety of species, including the major ones: C. sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis.
C. ruderalis is less popular as it has a lower THC content. However it has “autoflowering” qualities, making them useful to cultivators, and if bred with C. sativa or C. indica could enhance the new hybrid in its reproduction.
C. sativa has a higher THC/CBD ratio, hence can provide more euphoria. It reportedly helps decrease anxiety, treat depression and increase appetite. It’s been touted to increase energy and boost creativity. It's also used to help manage attention deficit disorder. Although not approved yet in the US, an oral spray, nabiximol, has been developed and sold in multiple countries to treat neuropathic cancer pain. Its brand name is sold, by prescription, as Sativex® .
C. indica has a higher CBD content and has been used for its sedative properties. It's also used to help anxiety and induce appetite, but will additionally be used to treat pain and muscle spasms.
Epidiolex has received FDA approval to treat some seizures. Its high CBD component is credited for its anti-seizure activity.
There are multiple other strains, each touted to have their own unique properties. 420medbook.com provides the below table.
The challenge, however, is the lack of medical research in each of the different strains. And when a study does come out discussing the medical advantages or disadvantages to using cannabis medicinally, the specific strain may not be mentioned or easily found in the report.
I believe that various strains do have unique properties and there is an art to the field of medical marijuana but more research needs to be done and quickly to avoid random use of cannabis products for treatment of medical conditions.
Millions of Americans have, at some point in their life, experienced shortness of breath, or dyspnea. Sometimes it’s a sign of being out of shape, sometimes it’s from being overly excited, but sometimes it’s due to a severe medical condition.
A study performed by the British Lung Foundation, found the following surprising statistics:
3 in 10 adults gasp for air after climbing a flight of stairs
4 in 10 gasp for air when trying to run to catch a bus
2 in 10 suffer from shortness of breath at some point during the day
25% have difficulty breathing during sex
Most adults experience shortness of breath at least 6 times a week
Study participants were given a survey asking about their activity and stamina, and 25% admitted to exercising less than once a week.
So are we out of shape? Or is shortness of breath a sign of significant disease?
Being “short of breath” is a response by both the heart and lungs to not enough oxygen getting circulated throughout the body. This could be due to a variety of factors:
Lung disease prevents blood from becoming oxygenated such as:
All of these may give the sensation of being “short of breath.” The body then detects the lungs can’t do their job so signals are sent to dilate bronchioles to increase oxygenation, increase respiratory rate and increase heart rate to rush more blood into the lungs.
Heart conditions that can cause shortness of breath include:
These above conditions could prevent the heart from doing its job, pumping blood, so if the body detects lack of oxygenated blood, signals get sent to increase heart rate and respiratory rate as well.
Anemia is a condition where the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells and/or hemoglobin responsible for bringing oxygen to organs and tissues. Suffering from anemia may result in shortness of breath.
If one is out of shape, as soon as the exercise, or climbing the flight of stairs, ceases, the respiratory rate will normalize within minutes. If it doesn’t or if other symptoms present with the shortness of breath, an underlying medical condition could be the cause.
Concerning co-symptoms include:
Although current guidelines recommend exercising with moderate intensity 150 minutes a week, any activity that induces shortness of breath or any of the above symptoms should be evaluated by a medical provider. If one has been inactive for years and wants to start becoming physically fit, its best to discuss a conditioning plan and current heart health with one’s medical provider with protocols on how to address shortness of breath during workouts.
If you’re a cannabis user living in one of the 42 states where cannabis is still illegal without a prescription, you’re probably planning to march down to your capitol building and lobby your representatives to end cannabis prohibition on April 20. To effectively lobby your representatives requires more than just the commitment to get off the couch one day a year to sit down with your representatives, or more likely, representatives of your representatives, and requesting they support legislation to legalize cannabis in your state.
I was lucky enough to win a scholarship from Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) to lobby my representatives in Washington D.C. in June of 2013 to legalize cannabis federally. It was a most rewarding experience, and I picked up a few things at a lobbying training seminar led by then executive director of SSDP, Aaron Houston. So here’s the cannabis user’s guide to lobbying on 4/20.
You have to understand that your representative isn’t going to appreciate you wasting his or her time or the time of his or her staff with your drug-induced ramblings. Even if you are a capable orator under the influence, just the appearance or odor of being stoned can undo all your good work and that of your sober comrades.
Getting arrested for smoking a joint at your capitol doesn’t look good, either, so if you must smoke, stay at home on 4/20, where you can still submit a comment to the Food and Drug Administration to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs. The FDA is requesting interested persons to submit comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of five drug substances: the cannabis plant and resin, extracts and tinctures of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, stereoisomers of tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol. Comments are due by April 23.
If you wish to be treated as an equal by your representatives or their representatives, dressing as they do is a good place to start. You can’t expect your representatives to thoughtfully consider your recommendations if you’re wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes and look like you just rolled out of bed.
The dress code for members of state congress is business professional, which is exactly what you should be wearing while working in their arena. That’s either a suit or a collared shirt, slacks, a tie and dress shoes for men, and a business suit or an appropriate blouse and skirt or dress for women. “Appropriate,” in this case, refers to an appropriate amount of naked skin displayed, which should never be used as a means to your end. You want your representative to respect you, not covet you.
You’re not just selling your stance; you’re selling yourself. There’s hardly an instance you’re not selling yourself, but in this case, it’s especially important to approach the lobbying of your representatives as you would a job interview. Your interviewers should want to have you back when you leave.
Your representatives can’t dislike you and like your stance. They have to like you before they will even consider your stance. The old saying “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is never more true than when lobbying your representatives. Turn up the charm to 11. Smile, and if you can make your representative laugh, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your first goal in lobbying your representatives: being liked.
It might not seem like it at times, but politicians are people, too. They have family and friends they love just like you, and appealing to their feelings will force them to empathize with you. Tell them a personal story of why you use cannabis and how it has helped you. Make yourself the hero of your story and make it easily relatable.
For example: “I suffer from degenerative disc disease that causes chronic lower back pain. Upon being diagnosed at 23 years old, I was immediately prescribed opioids to manage the pain. The plan was to manage the pain until it became surgical, which is when the pain travels down the back of a leg and past the knee. It took a year for my pain to become surgical, and had I not applied for and received a medical marijuana prescription in Montana during that time, I’d either be addicted to opioids or dead.
Once I received my medical marijuana prescription I had no need for the opioids, the dosage of which had increased almost every time I needed a refill. Cannabis is a safer and healthier means of managing chronic pain than opioids, and research has shown that medical marijuana laws may reduce deaths from opioid overdoses.
But people are struggling with ailments and diseases for which medical marijuana prescriptions aren’t allowed, too. I am also an alcoholic, and I’ve been alcohol-free since October 4, 2017. But I couldn’t imagine kicking alcohol without cannabis, and I and thousands of other alcoholics don’t qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions to treat our disease. Instead, we’re called criminals for treating our disease in a safe and healthy manner. So cannabis, a drug that’s never killed a single soul, remains illegal while more than 1,000 Minnesotans die annually from alcohol.”
A cannabis prohibitionist needs a reason to change their mind on cannabis legalization. If they find out their alcoholic family member could quit drinking with the help of cannabis, they’d be more likely to adopt your stance than if you were to feed them a bunch of statistics about fewer fewer deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Your representatives are overwhelmed with legislation spanning a multitude of topics, so it’s unlikely they have a firm grasp on a specific topic unless it’s one of their campaign talking points. Given the reluctance of just about every politician to openly discuss cannabis, in almost every instance, you will know more about cannabis and the effects of cannabis prohibition than your representatives.
You are not lobbying your representatives because of your good looks. You’re lobbying your representatives because you know something they don’t that will help inform their eventual decisions on the matter. Deliver your message knowing you are an authority on the subject, and the confidence you exude will go a long way in persuading your representatives.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Drew Pearson Live, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Cannabis A to Z
Once hailed as a hero to curbing our deadly tobacco epidemic, vaping has now become more popular than smoking cigarettes among middle and high school students.
Last month the CDC reported that 4.3 percent of middle school students and 11.3 percent of high school students vape e-cigarettes. This week, results from a 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey cite a 900% jump in use among teens from the years 2011-2015, with half a million middle school students and 1.7 million high schoolers having vaped within the last 30 days.
As more studies finalize, we’re anticipating these numbers to rise even higher.
Although electronic cigarette products are not to be purchased or used by those under 18, teen use of Juul and other vaping products have gone viral.
“RJ,” who asked to remain anonymous, is a senior at a local Las Vegas high school and states, “Almost everyone vapes. No one smokes anymore due to the health risks. They think vaping is safer and cooler. Smoking’s out, vaping - definitely in.”
Students who were never destined to pick up a stick of tobacco have become new recruits to the inhaling industry, being duped by the flavors and image of a “safe way to look cool.”
The Juul casing is particularly attractive. It looks like a flash drive so it/s sleek, smooth and easy to hide.
The flavored nicotine & e-juices, are a huge draw to those who would never tolerate the smoky taste of tobacco. These can include almost any taste preference such as chocolate, vanilla custard, strawberry, bananas foster and even margarita flavor.
At the start of the year a landmark study found teens who start vaping were 2.5 times likely to become tobacco smokers within a year, suggesting vaping is a gateway drug to later smoking cigarettes. The nicotine introduced in the e-cig can get children hooked fairly quickly such that they may be drawn to unfiltered cigarettes when vaping isn’t enough.
Vaping is not without its risks. Last month a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health revealed toxic levels of lead from the heating coil element leak into the vaporized fluid that is inhaled. The month before, a study from New York University found vaping to increase risk of heart disease and cancer. In 2015 a University of Minnesota study found e-cig vapor to include chemicals such as formaldehyde and various metals that are linked to bladder cancer. For more on these studies read here.
Even handling the e-juice has its risks. In March, John Conway, Assistant Principal of Jamestown High School in North Dakota, fell ill after confiscating a device and it’s juice from two high school students. He became nauseous, dizzy, had huge emotional swings and suffered from an intense headache, highlighting the danger e-juice could pose to young kids and pets.
As parents and schools try to combat the growing vaping epidemic, care needs to be taken with the handling and disposing of the concentrated nicotine liquid.
June 1st marks the official start of Hurricane season and runs until November 30th. September is usually the most active month. Hurricanes are categorized by their wind speed as designated as the following:
Category I have sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph
Category II have sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph
Category III have sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph
Category IV have sustained winds of 131 to 155 mph
Category V have sustained winds of over 155 mph.
In a given year, the Atlantic Ocean averages 12 hurricanes with 2 becoming “major” meaning a Category III or greater. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was at one point a Category V and when it hit landfall it was a Category 3-4 (depending on the source), tragically killing over 1800 people and causing $108 billion in damage. The deadliest hurricane to ever hit US soil was the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 in which over 10,000 people died.
According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, The Weather Company and Colorado State University, the 2018 Hurricane season will be above average in activity, with possibly 14 named storms, 7 of which are expected to become hurricanes, 3 of which could become major hurricanes.
2017 was a particularly active hurricane season with three major hurricanes hitting the US. Dr. Phil Klotzbach, of the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorological Project, stated in 2017, “While the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal, the far North Atlantic remains colder than normal, potentially indicative of a negative phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Negative phases of the AMO tend to be associated with overall less conducive conditions for Atlantic hurricane activity due to higher tropical Atlantic surface pressures, drier middle levels of the atmosphere and increased levels of sinking motion.”
This year he states, “Last season had near-record warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic.” He continues, “If El Niño were to suddenly develop, that would certainly knock down our forecast.”
El Nino is refers to a ocean-atmospheric interaction where sea surface temperatures rise near the equatorial Pacific, causing increase wind shear in the Atlantic equatorial region and has been linked to highly active hurricane seasons.
This year’s names for the 2018 Hurricane Season are the following
If I was going to predict on names alone, I’d forecast Helene, Isaac and Kirk to be doozies.
Preparation means starting early.
Make sure you keep informed of the latest alerts and official recommendations.
Evacuate when told to do so by city officials.
Many people will try to tough it out and unfortunately get walled up in their homes. So make sure you have adequate water (1 gallon per day/person for at least three days) and 1/4 – 1/2 gallon/water/ per pet, except the fish obviously.
Canned foods, flashlights, medical supply kit, batteries, blankets, cash, medications in water proof containers should be set aside for disasters, and put important papers in waterproof/fireproof casings.
According to ready.gov, its recommended to do the following:
Always have an emergency plan, practice it with family members, discuss with distantly located relatives how you will notify each other of your safety, and stay tuned to your radio, TV, wireless emergency alerts encase evacuations are ordered.
The EpiPen® auto-injector contains epinephrine, used during an emergency to treat severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis.
If one is allergic to an insect or food, a severe allergic reaction may ensue upon exposure, in which the immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can cause throat tightness, hives, lip and facial swelling, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, cardiac arrest and possibly death.
Epinephrine stimulates the heart to increase cardiac muscle contractility, cardiac output, subsequently raising the blood pressure. Additionally it relaxes the muscles surrounding the airways, allowing one to breathe easier and take in more oxygen. Moreover it helps to stop the release of additional immune chemicals.
The EpiPen® is manufactured by Mylan. Its cost made headlines when the EpiPen two-pack recently stickered for close to $600. Now generic forms are available costing anywhere from $109-$300 for a dual pack.
The disposable auto-injector, for an adult, delivers 0.3 mg of epinephrine, while the EpiPen Jr., used in pediatric populations, delivers 0.15mg of the medication. It can be self-administered, through clothing if necessary, into the thigh muscle in one smooth movement once the safety release is removed.
After 0.3 ml is administered during the single adult dose, the EpiPen® unit is discarded.
However many are not aware that 1.7 ml of solution remains within the cartridge. This could, in theory, be used for an additional 5 doses if in a remote, “wilderness” setting.
Dr. Arthur (Tony) Islas, Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and professor at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine, demonstrated how to extract the remaining doses from the autoinjector at the January Nevada Academy of Family Physicians meeting in Lake Tahoe.
Although it's recommended that all users follow the manufacturer’s labels, those trained in emergency and wilderness medicine may take the used cartridge, cut off the top plastic, and extract the syringe with the remaining fluid.
Dr. Islas states the initial 0.3 mg dose of epinephrine lasts for 20 minutes. For most people this allows plenty of time for emergency responders to come to the site of the victim. However, in a “wilderness” or remote setting, another dose may need to be administered during a very severe case of anaphylaxis.
I recently scored a Fitbit Alta for $40 and have been making the transition from using the MyPlate app by Livestrong to using the Fitbit app. I mostly purchased a Fitbit because I suspected I was underestimating my daily caloric exertion in the MyPlate app. What made me suspect that? Well, I set a MyPlate goal of losing a half pound per week and shed six pounds in three weeks.
It only took one day for my Fitbit to prove my hypothesis true. I had been underestimating my caloric exertion by a lot because I don’t carry my phone with me everywhere I go. I was shocked by how many steps the Fitbit monitored and was immediately pleased with my purchase. But over the next few days, I discovered things I miss about the MyPlate app and things I like about the Fitbit app.
I really like the burn I got from the 10-minute abs workout and seven-minute cardio sculpting workout. I can still do the workouts, but logging the calories burned isn’t as easy as wearing my Fitbit while I exercise.
I noticed after completing my abs workout that my Fitbit didn’t come close to logging the 74 calories burned the MyPlate abs workout says it burns. That’s probably because most abs exercises involve very few steps, and the Fitbit Alta doesn’t monitor heart rate. I ended up adding my calories burned manually, using “Calisthenics” as my exercise in the Fitbit app. I have to do the same for the cardio sculpting workout. This is a minor inconvenience.
The MyPlate app also has a more vast database of exercises you can add manually, including cooking, baking, bathing, and even sexual activity. My Fitbit might be splashproof, but it’s not meant to be worn in the shower, which means it doesn’t log the calories you burn while bathing (roughly 140 calories per hour).
In the Fitbit app, I had to substitute the “cleaning” exercise for the baking I did while my Fitbit charged. Had I been wearing my Fitbit, however, my movements would have been monitored and calories burned registered.
The MyPlate app also does a better job breaking down your macronutrient consumption with pie charts indicating the percentage of calories consumed from carbohydrates, fat and protein. It also breaks down your macronutrient consumption for each food and meal. The Fitbit app fails to do so, only offering a macronutrient breakdown of your daily consumption.
The Fitbit Coach app provides a slew of workouts for Fitbit users, some of which are free for all users. You can even pick your trainer and whether you want to hear their encouragement and tips during your workout. The free catalog of exercise options is vast and diverse when compared to that of the MyPlate app, and calories burned are automatically registered in the Fitbit app.
The Fitbit app displays your caloric intake right next to your caloric exertion to give you an idea of how far you are under or over your caloric goal. It takes into account your weight loss goal, so if you are looking to lose weight half a pound each week like me, your caloric deficit will be 250 calories per day. That means you’ll be “in the zone” if your caloric consumption is 250 calories less than your caloric exertion.
Your caloric consumption and exertion graph will indicate your success with a green graph when you’re “in the zone.” If you’re over your caloric deficit, your graph will be pink. If you still have room to consume calories given your caloric exertion, your graph will be blue. This graph makes it easier to meet your weight loss goals.
The most frustrating thing about the MyPlate app is its barcode reader, which takes considerably longer than the Fitbit app does to recognize the barcodes of particular foods. Not only does it take longer to recognize the barcodes, but MyPlate’s database of barcodes is not as vast as Fitbit’s. The Fitbit barcode reader recognizes barcodes, even in low light, almost immediately, and is more likely than the MyPlate reader to find the food you’re eating.
Overall, the Fitbit app is slightly better than the MyPlate app, but only when linked to a Fitbit. If not for purchasing my Fitbit Alta, I’d probably still be using the MyPlate app. I say that because of the macronutrient breakdown of foods and meals MyPlate provides. I really like to see how everything I eat breaks down into carbohydrates, fat and protein before I eat it. I plan my meals days in advance at times, and now I have to estimate those macronutrient breakdowns based on the nutrition facts of each food. It’s a modest inconvenience I can tolerate as long as my caloric exertion is more accurately monitored.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Free Talk Live
Canadian neuroscientists suggest taking Ibuprofen daily may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.
IMAGE FROM ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
Researchers from the University of British Columbia believe those who take daily ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), can decrease inflammation of the brain caused by the abnormal proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.
In 2004, Dokmeci et al suggested ibuprofen could delay Alzheimer’s onset as it protects neurons (nerve cells) and decreases inflammation of the brain.
In this study, Dr. Patrick McGreer and his team believe they can identify those early on who could benefit from the inexpensive, over the counter treatment.
McGreer is President and CEO of Vancouver-based Aurin Biotech. He and his team developed a saliva test that measures the protein Abeta42 (amyloid beta protein 42). In patients at risk of Alzheimer’s, they found levels of Abeta42 to be two to three times higher than normal. Abeta42 accumulates in the brain, causing inflammation and destroying nerve cells. Though previously believed Abeta42 is made exclusively in the brain, the saliva test suggests Abeta42 is made elsewhere in the body and can be detected years earlier. If the protein/peptide is found earlier and known to cause inflammation, McGreer and his team believe preventing the inflammation with ibuprofen could essentially prevent Alzheimer’s onset.
He states, “What we’ve learned through our research is that people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s exhibit the same elevated Abeta42 levels as people who already have it; moreover, they exhibit those elevated levels throughout their lifetime so, theoretically, they could get tested anytime. Knowing that the prevalence of clinical Alzheimer’s Disease commences at age 65, we recommend that people get tested ten years before, at age 55, when the onset of Alzheimer’s would typically begin. If they exhibit elevated Abeta42 levels then, that is the time to begin taking daily ibuprofen to ward off the disease.”
Daily ibuprofen would not, however, be without its risks. Gastric upset, ulcers, kidney disease and heart disease could occur with excessive NSAID use. The authors suggest a “low dose” but did not specify an exact milligram quantity.
Advances in Alzheimer’s treatment have met multiple obstacles as the neurodegenerative disease is difficult to detect early and the few treatments we do have are not very effective at slowing and reversing pathology. If protein deposition in the brain can be prevented early, we could potentially save the millions of people destined to get the disease. Currently 5.5 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s, and 44 million people are affected worldwide.
For more on the study read here.
Although flu cases have started to decrease since its peak early this winter, flu season may continue well into late Spring. The CDC warns a second wave of flu may be upon us as Influenza B is making the rounds.
Although first bombarded with H3N2 “A” strain influenza, Americans appear to be reporting more “B” flu cases this time of year, comprising more than 58% of cases lab-identified.
And young children are especially susceptible to B strain viruses.
5 pediatric flu-related deaths have been reported this week. The CDC cites 133 influenza-related pediatric deaths for the current 2017-2018 season.
According to the CDC:
Overall, influenza A(H3) viruses have predominated this season. However, in recent weeks the proportion of influenza A viruses has declined, and during week 11, influenza B viruses were more frequently reported than influenza A viruses.
Week 11 (March 11-17, 2018) has seen the following:
The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was 2.7%, which is above the national baseline of 2.2%. Nine of 10 regions reported ILI at or above region-specific baseline levels. Six states experienced high ILI activity; nine states experienced moderate ILI activity; New York City, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and 17 states experienced low ILI activity; and 18 states experienced minimal ILI activity.
The trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccines both protected against Influenza B as well as the A strains of H1N1 and H3N2 this year. However, flu shot efficacy proved poor for the 2017-18 season, being approximately 30% effective. Moreover, flu viruses can mutate as the season progresses.
It is not uncommon for one to be infected with the flu twice by two different strains circulating during the season.
What’s concerning is allergy season is beginning to overlap with flu season. Those with allergies may have a temporary weakness in their immune system, making them more susceptible to catching a cold or flu.
Donald Trump has repeatedly said he wants drug dealers to face the death penalty for their crimes, but hasn’t gone into any detail as to what sort of drug crimes would warrant capital punishment if he and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had their way.
Are we only talking about the leaders of drug cartels? Are we talking about the drug “mules” who move the drugs into the country? Are we talking about the people who cut up and deliver the drugs? Are we talking about the doctors prescribing the drugs? What about the manufacturers of opioids?
Trump’s death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan is what he thinks will reign in the opioid epidemic. But opioid addicts don’t go straight to fentanyl and overdose. They start on Vicodin prescribed by their doctor, one in 12 of whom has received money from drug companies marketing prescription opioid medications, according to a recent study by Boston Medical Center. These doctors are just as responsible for opioid overdose deaths as other drug dealers.
More than 40,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016, 40 percent of which involved prescription opioids. So putting drug dealers and drug lords to death for trafficking heroin and fentanyl only addresses part of the problem. If opioid addicts don’t have access to the cheaper, stronger heroin and fentanyl, that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop using opioids. They’re just going to use more prescription opioids, whether their doctor prescribes them or not. And they can still overdose on prescription opioids.
The death penalty has been and continues to be reserved almost exclusively for murderers. In fact, of the 31 states still sentencing people to death, only Texas kills people convicted of “criminal homicide” and those suffering from mental illness. Even now, a bill filed by Democratic State Rep. Toni Rose of Dallas to bar the death penalty for the mentally ill is unlikely to pass in the Lone Star State. The state would likely be the first to embrace Trump’s death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan given the border it shares with Mexico, from where 90 percent or more of America’s heroin supply originates.
Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera was scheduled to stand trial in April, but the federal judge in Brooklyn presiding over the case postponed the trial until September. It gives the prosecutors ample time to prepare their case against the most wanted drug dealer in the world, but they won’t likely need it. They have access to over 300,000 pages of documents and thousands of secretly recorded conversations to help make their case.
The real question isn’t whether “El Chapo” is guilty, but whether he actually has the $14 billion in cash from narcotic sales U.S. authorities want to seize. Most experts think this figure is too high, but the point is the man made billions of dollars selling opium around the world, and especially to Americans.
While “El Chapo” is charged with federal crimes that would subject him to the death penalty, the Mexican government wanted assurance the death penalty would not be sought when negotiating the terms of his extradition. So “El Chapo” won’t be the first drug dealer Trump gets to put to death. International drug lords are already subject to capital punishment, though, because they’d be charged with federal crimes. Drug lords like “El Chapo” certainly deserve the death penalty, but Trump isn’t just talking about killing drug lords. I’d hope he knows we can already do that.
“El Chapo” had a 30-year career dealing illegal drugs because of his “security” detail. Not only did they keep him alive and out of jail all those years (and broke him out of jail twice), but they left no witnesses and eliminated troublemakers for the cartel.
These killers fulfill the “murder prerequisite” required by 30 of the 31 states still sentencing criminals to death, and are deserving of the death penalty. But murder charges would have to be brought in the country where the murder occurred. If no blood is shed on American soil, they are not subject to American law.
Trump’s death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan seems to be targeted at the people who don’t deserve it. Sessions did his best to implement Trump’s plan by sending a memo to federal prosecutor’s requesting they pursue the death penalty in cases “dealing with extremely large quantities of drugs.” But the people found in possession of those “extremely large quantities of drugs” are the least deserving of the death penalty. Some aren’t even aware they’re trafficking drugs.
Most drug mules are only guilty of being desperate. They’re just trying to find a better life for themselves and their family and might not have another means to do so or, frankly, a choice. I dare Jeff Sessions to refuse a drug lord’s order to traffic heroin across the border. The thought that you could be sentenced to death if arrested isn’t as bad as being killed where you stand. Plus, what if you get away with it?
Many of these people are looking to move to America just to do a job an American is unwilling to do. Drug lords “help” them realize that dream -- for a price. There are over 55 million poor people in Mexico and 15 millionaires who amass roughly 13 percent of the Mexican economy’s total value. So 45 percent of Mexico’s population is impoverished and for every millionaire in the country, there are roughly 3,660,000 poor people. Now you know why so many Mexicans are eager to move to America and work a shitty job you wouldn’t do for double or triple what they’re paid.
Put yourself in the shoes of a poor Mexican with a family to support. Even if you don’t have kids, you still have mouths to feed in Mexico. Mexicans take care of their familial elders, and not just their parents. Aunts, uncles and other immediate family members living under one roof with their nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters is common in Mexico. So a working-aged couple could have no children but still be expected to support a family of five or more. And when it comes to feeding the family, the oldest and youngest are the first priorities. Those who provided the meal are most likely to eat the least.
Despite a 3.8-percent unemployment rate in 2017 and a 17-percent increase in the number of Mexican workers gaining access to social security in the first half of 2017, 57.2 percent of Mexican workers still have jobs in the “informal economy.” This means more than half of the country’s laborers aren’t receiving health insurance or earning retirement benefits nor are they protected in the workplace. Their wages are not collectively bargained; they are dictated. The hours they work per day are not subject to Mexican law, and neither is the condition of their workplace nor the treatment they receive from their superiors.
Even worse, the informal economy accounts for roughly a quarter of Mexico’s gross domestic product, so programs meant to help impoverished Mexicans are severely underfunded because the government is raising revenue from just 75 percent of its economy. It’s something that’s taken a long time to correct. Mexico’s congress eased restrictions on hiring and firing back in 2012, and over the next five years, participation in the informal economy fell just 2.2 percent.
And in a country where drug lords earn more than CEOs and have not only assassins but cops on the payroll, you can bet that Mexico’s informal economy will never disappear. Every country has an informal economy. It doesn’t matter where you go, there will be jobs there that pay cash under the table. Governments can’t monitor every dollar that changes hands, but countries where large amounts of illicit drugs are produced will always have larger informal economies. Since we mostly just consume drugs in America and not produce them, the informal economy created from drug trafficking in the United States is modest when compared to that of Mexico, Colombia or Afghanistan, the leading provider of opium to the world.
So when a Mexican laborer struggles to find work in the formal economy, the informal economy awaits to prey and profit on his or her desperation. At some point, any type of work for any amount of money will look a lot better than the starving, disappointed faces of your family at home. Scrape by long enough working 16-hour days for barely enough money to feed your family and trafficking a little heroin across the border to a dealer in the states sounds like an opportunity instead of a risk. And when your employer, the drug lord, a surprisingly amiable fellow, promises to send your family to join you upon your successful completion of this most simple task, you too would turn mule for a chance at the American Dream.
Just deliver a package across the border, and you’ll be working an American farm and earning more money than you ever thought was possible, even though it’s less than what most American, fast food employees earn. You’ll send some of the money from your first paycheck back to your family with a letter telling them how long it will be until you can afford a foreclosed fixer-upper you can renovate together and turn into a home. But your family won’t likely receive that letter or the enclosed American money because the cartel probably has a murderous goon holding your family captive in their own home who reviews and censors all incoming mail and pockets any money he discovers. Getting you out of Mexico allowed the cartel to “recruit” your family.
Members of your family would likely be forced to take your place working for the cartel, regardless of their health or ability. The cartel doesn’t care if they die on the job, and neither do the police. That’s the risk that comes with working in the informal economy: you are treated like slave labor. The cartel needs its laborers to be so uncomfortable that they welcome the work because it means they will eat. Threats aren’t as effective a form of persuasion as a person’s instinct to survive. Threaten your workforce with death, and they’ll soon welcome it; provide just enough for your workforce to survive, and they’ll do just that -- survive.
Those who do survive will ride off into “retirement” as a drug mule when the cartel has no use for them anymore. Everyone becomes a liability eventually, and processing heroin, from planting to harvesting the opium poppies to splitting and scraping the poppies to extract the opium, is not work suited for the arthritic. Your former employer, the drug lord, provided them with no knowledge of your whereabouts despite reviewing your mail. His only interest is in his product reaching its destination, and he doesn’t want his drug mule thinking about his brother, the American mule. The drug lord wants his mule’s mind on the job.
Unfortunately, your family member is probably better off being caught at the border and locked up in an American prison than they’d be having delivered their drugs successfully. Unlike you, they aren’t fit for the type of work available to them in the states, or anywhere else for that matter, and will likely resort to working for the cartel’s drug dealer in the states, hoping to put away enough money to try and find you and the rest of the family. That hope dissipates upon discovering the cost of living in America, eventually giving way to those survival instincts once again.
There’s no room for hope in drug cartels. Families can’t discover their escaped, American dreamer is actually living the American Dream and saving to buy a house for the family. Slave owners didn’t want their slaves learning how to read for a reason. That reason is reason -- the ability to think, understand, and form judgements logically. Your family receiving a letter from America saying how well you’re doing, how much money you’re making and, most importantly, your return address, will have them escaping north the first chance they get, consequences be damned. Hope makes people risk their lives, not because of the potential payoff, but because of the realization that they aren’t actually living. The hopeless are simply surviving, and hope makes people risk survival for the chance to truly live.
Drug mules don’t deserve the death penalty because despite being responsible for trafficking the drugs into the country, they’re usually doing so to preserve their own life or the lives of their family. To hold them responsible for deaths that result from the drugs they traffic is asinine, unless, of course, your goal all along was to limit immigration.
The people Trump and Sessions seem to be targeting are the cartel’s lowest-level, nonviolent laborers. Putting these people to death is not going to solve anything. There are plenty of mules drug lords can recruit or force across the border. You don’t think a drug lord would kidnap a man’s wife or child to persuade him to traffic some drugs?
Drug mules are not drug dealers; they’re drug movers, and when drug movers are caught, no harm has yet come to anyone in this country because the drugs haven’t reached the drug dealer. And even the drug dealers aren’t all bad.
Drug dealers provide a service in high demand, especially in America, where roughly a trillion dollars was spent on illegal drugs from 2000 to 2010. If there’s one thing the Drug War has proved, it’s that you can’t stop people from using drugs. The opioid epidemic in this country is a perfect example of how drug users find a way to abuse drugs. Even in places where illegal drugs are hard to find like West Virginia and Indiana, Americans find a way.
Is cocaine too expensive and too stepped-on where you live? Is good heroin hard to find? No worries. Just make an appointment with your doctor and tell him or her you’re suffering from intense pain that’s keeping you up at night. You’ll have a prescription for opioids the same day, and less than a month later, you can tell your doctor the dosage isn’t working anymore and get something stronger. Within a few months, you’ll have access to the strongest opium legally available.
Drug users use drugs, regardless of accessibility or legality. In fact, the illegality of drugs makes them more desirable because of the coolness that comes with being forbidden. Illegal drugs are also more dangerous than legal ones because the people in charge of regulating the purity and dosage are the drug dealers, who do not have their customers’ interests or lives in mind.
Drug prohibition is also responsible for the violence associated with drug trafficking. Since drug dealers and traffickers risk imprisonment, the cost associated with that risk goes into the price of the drug. Every time a drug dealer is arrested, drug prices increase. Every time a drug mule is caught at the border and product is seized, drug prices increase. And every time an “El Chapo” is arrested, drug prices increase.
These inflated prices as a result of illegality make drugs less affordable, forcing drug users to come up with more money. Unlike most products, the demand for drugs doesn’t drop considerably when supply is low and prices high. Casual drug users might be turned off by high prices, but addicts care little about cost and will do just about anything to acquire the extra cash they need except wait for their next paycheck. Unfortunately, methods for acquiring money quickly tend to be illegal.
The illegality of drugs causes more illegal activity in order to obtain those drugs. It’s responsible for convenience stores, homes and cars being robbed and purses being snatched. It results in violence, death and increased costs to the judicial and prison systems. Oh, and then there’s the costs of enforcing drug laws, which came to roughly $76 billion in 2015. That’s almost half of what the federal government spends to fund public schools.
Legalizing drugs and making them available for purchase at pharmacies that ensure purity and safe dosage for human consumption would make drugs and access to those drugs safer, cheaper, and result in less violent crime and fewer overdose deaths. Daily purchases would be limited to a safe dosage determined by health professionals, and users would be getting a pure, uncut substance that won’t kill them because the “dealer” would have their interests in mind instead of trying to maximize profit.
Drug dealers are looking to make a buck any way they can, which includes cutting up drugs with synthetic additives designed to offer a similar effect as the actual drug but at a cheaper price for the drug dealer. This is why methamphetamine ends up in Ecstasy and fentanyl ends up in cocaine and heroin: it’s cheaper. Of all drug dealers, the dealers of bad drugs are the only ones who deserve the death penalty.
Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colo. on a platform that included the legalization of recreational drugs, but also a plan for punishing drug dealers who sold bad drugs. He thought such dealers should be put in stocks and displayed in public places so locals could mock them and even molest them. Thompson was concerned with buying ineffective drugs, though, not dying from heroin cut with fentanyl. I think drug dealers who sell bad drugs that result in an overdose death should be tried for murder and sentenced to death if so ruled by a jury of their peers in states where capital punishment is still enacted.
If Trump sees his death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan as a way to further limit immigration of Mexicans he thinks are “bringing drugs, crime and rapists” to the U.S., he’s going to be disappointed in its ineffectiveness. Sentencing every drug mule to death might send a message, but do you think “El Chapo” or any drug lord will have a sudden shortage of available mules because they’re scared of receiving the death penalty if arrested in America? No, they’ll be scared of the gun the drug lord is holding to their head.
But if Trump sees his death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan as a way to hold drug dealers responsible for deaths that are a direct result of their greed and help ensure drug users get what they order and not a surprise overdose, his plan would sound less crazy.
If he sees his plan applying to doctors who blatantly overprescribe opioids resulting in the deaths of patients all while taking money from the manufacturers of those opioids, I’d have no objection. If those doctors are practicing in a state where the death penalty is still enacted, and their carelessness resulted in one of their patients becoming addicted to opioids and eventually dying from that addiction, a jury should consider the death penalty as a possible sentence for the doctor.
Hell, if by “drug dealers” Trump means the producers of prescription opioids, like Purdue Pharma, Teva, Cephalon, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Endo, Allergan and Watson, I wouldn’t find his plan crazy at all. The executives who created this crisis are most responsible for the resulting deaths. Whether their drugs were specifically responsible for the deaths is irrelevant. You don’t have to wield the knife to be guilty of murder.
These pharmaceutical companies not only downplayed the addictive effects of opioids in the late 1990s, but rewarded salespeople with luxury trips and $20,000 scratch tickets for getting doctors to switch patients to opioids and also paid doctors to prescribe them. The pharmaceutical CEOs and executives who made OxyContin into a billion-dollar revenue stream annually are just as guilty of murder as “El Chapo,” and perhaps more so. “El Chapo” didn’t get Americans hooked on opioids; big pharma did that by providing the “gateway” to heroin and fentanyl. Without $30 billion in OxyContin sales, “El Chapo” doesn’t become “El Chapo” -- the drug dealer worth $14 billion.
Since Trump won’t likely enact his death-penalty-for-drug-dealers plan for his rich, pharma friends who paid for his campaign, at least someone is doing something to hold big pharma accountable. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is suing the opioid manufacturers previously listed to recoup some of what the United States has lost to the opioid epidemic big pharma created. A recent report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that the opioid epidemic cost America more than $500 billion in 2015. That’s in one year!
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Free Talk Live