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CDC Director Steps Down after Conflict of Interest Controversy

CDC Director Steps Down after Conflict of Interest Controversy

The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resigned last week, only a day after a POLITICO report was released stating that she had purchased stock in the tobacco industry after taking the position. The move has garnered a lot of public attention recently, as many view it as a glaring conflict of interest for someone in such an important position.

Conflicting with CDC Mission

When Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald took the position as Director of the CDC, she should have known that tobacco is one of the very drugs she is supposed to be fighting against. The slogan of the CDC is:

“24/7: Saving Lives, Protecting People.”

To many, this is in direct opposition to the tobacco industry, with cigarette smoking being the leading cause of preventable death in America. This year alone cigarettes will result in the deaths of approximately half a million Americans. So how could someone in charge of an organization that is supposed to save people invest in something that kills so many?

Before taking office, Fitzgerald owned stock in tobacco companies:

According to the initial report that was released last Tuesday, Fitzgerald purchased “tens of thousands of dollars in new stock holdings in at least a dozen companies,” including one of the largest tobacco companies in the entire world, Japan Tobacco. So before getting rid of a lot of these assets in October, she had her hand in 4 out of the “Big Five” tobacco companies in the world.

As if that were not suspicious enough, the very next day after purchasing these stocks, Fitzgerald reportedly took a tour of the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory. This is the entity that researches the harms of tobacco’s chemicals on human health. Then, almost as if to add insult to injury, news outlets have looked back to Fitzgerald’s statement in November when she said,

“Too many Americans are harmed by cigarette smoking, which is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death and disease.”

She then vowed to “continue to use proven strategies to help smokers quit and to prevent children from using any tobacco products.”

For someone with such substantial monetary involvement in tobacco companies’ interests, it wouldn’t be very beneficial for her to follow through on her promise to fight the use of tobacco products, would it?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fitzgerald claims that she did not make the investments herself. She says the stocks were purchased by someone working for her investment manager, and that she directed them to sell the stocks when she did find out about the purchase.

Stocks and Scandals

Dr. Fitzgerald is definitely not the only official to be facing backlash for investments that seem to be in conflict with their official responsibilities. While executive branch employees are forbidden to work on issues in which they have a financial interest, members of Congress don’t play by the same rules.

Lawmakers are allowed to write and vote on bills that would impact themselves financially. They are required to disclose their financial positions and report when the assets are bought and sold. This includes holdings of their spouse and dependent children. But when you take a close look at some of these instances, it is kind of rattling.

Last month, Democratic Senator Patty Murray had claimed Fitzgerald’s ability to perform her role was hindered by conflicts of interest. And yet, when Murray was the top Democrat on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) her husband owned an account with a manager who bought and sold stock in Reynolds American, another tobacco company.

Aides to Senator Murray state,

“The disclosure form shows the liquidation of an account managed by a broker without guidance.”

Even the most senior Republican in the Senate, Orrin Hatch from Utah, who is also a member of the HELP committee, owned stock in Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris International. In late 2012 Hatch was a joint owner with between $15,001 and $50,000 of stock in Philip Morris.

Fitzgerald had also recently procured stocks in two Big Pharma giants, Merck and Bayer. While the CDC does not regulate the pharmaceutical industry, their recommendations and policies do have an impact on drug manufacturers.

To be fair, there is no evidence thus far that Fitzgerald has committed any wrongdoing; there is no indication her financial ties influenced her leadership, and she has denied she was aware of the purchases being made in her name. The same goes for Murray and Hatch.

However, the fact that this shake-up is making headlines for all the wrong reasons has some people wondering how many politicians involved in public health are using stocks to bet against healthcare getting better.

How could private investments indirectly impact other areas of healthcare, like pharmaceutical drugs or mental health and addiction treatment resources? How could the issues currently surrounding the CDC end up impacting the fight against addiction and the opioid crisis?

The CDC and other health agencies play a big part in helping fight the opioid epidemic and other serious issues pertaining to drug addiction. The more resources we have, the more chances we have of turning things around. The same goes for people trying to recover from drugs or alcohol. The more resources you have, the more chances to get better. Palm Partners Recovery Center offers personalized holistic treatment options to help you transform your life. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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Bill to End War on Drugs Full of Potential Pro-Pot Policies

Bill to End War on Drugs Full of Potential Pro-Pot Policies

For most, there is little doubt that the War on Drugs is an indisputable failure. It has taken an excessive amount of money, manpower, and lives with little to show for it besides one of the worst drug epidemics in the history of the country. Time has proven these policies to be ineffective and costly, so where do we go from here?

Perspective in our nation changes and the stigma attached to addiction is now being to be confronted. Along with it all comes waves of new proposals on how America’s drug policies can evolve. Which is the right way is still unclear.

Right now, while many are confused if Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration will be actively cracking down on marijuana in states with legalization laws, there are others on the federal level that are actively pushing in the opposite direction. Part of a new bill currently in the House is trying to do even more to end the War on Drugs, by directly pushing pro-pot politics.

The Marijuana Justice Act

Last August, Democratic Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced the “Marijuana Justice Act of 2017”. He was joined by Democratic Representative Barbara Lee from California in bringing the reform legislation to both chambers of Congress. Historically, this was the first time a companion legislation was introduced in both chambers to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). According to early reports, as a companion to Booker’s S. 1689 is the companion bill HR 4815. These efforts are to:

  1. Remove marijuana from CSA
  2. Incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests
  3. Expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession
  4. Allow individuals currently in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition for resentencing
  5. Create community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs

Currently, marijuana is in the same federal category as drugs like:

Even those who do not advocate for marijuana legalization at least see the fault in its scheduling. Trey Growdy, the Republican Representative from South Carolina has repeatedly questioned why marijuana is considered a schedule 1 drug. This schedule actually puts it above Cocaine and methamphetamines.

One of the big pieces of the bill is also that bit about expunging convictions. Justin Strekal, political director for NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) notes that this is “the first piece of legislation that addresses expungement issues,” to clean up former criminal records for cannabis use.

Now, a new version of the bill has been introduced to the House just last week. The goal is described as a campaign against the current federal drug policy and the failed War on Drugs.

Speaking with Sponsors of Bill

Last year, after introducing his version of the bill, Senator Cory Booker stated,

“Our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed.”

“They don’t make our communities any safer—instead they divert critical resources from fighting violent crimes, tear families apart, unfairly impact low-income communities and communities of color, and waste billions in taxpayer dollars each year.”

Booker also believes getting rid of old pot-policies of the War on Drugs would help to bolster the economy. He states,

“It’s estimated that legal cannabis in the U.S. would create $40 billion in revenue and nearly a million jobs.”

“But it’s about more than that $40 billion —it’s about equality, and getting rid of the legal past that is stifling individuals’ opportunity and their future.”

One co-sponsor for the bill is Representative Ro Khanna. He says that revenue from taxes on marijuana would then be allocated to funding the programs to reinvest in communities that were harmed by the anti-pot policies of the War on Drugs.

Representative Barbara Lee says,

“This legislation will end this destructive War on Drugs.”

This new bill to attack the War on Drugs also has the support of the Drug Policy Alliance. Kassandra Frederique, the New York States Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, states,

“This bill makes clear to state and local elected officials that they cannot move forward beyond prohibition without taking a serious look at the historical and ongoing impacts of drug war policies.”

Supporters of the bill continue to emphasize that this isn’t just about ending pot prohibition. They say it is also about putting forth resources to help communities recover.

Why are We Talking About This?

As a provider of innovative holistic treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, we pay attention to the way drug policy changes because we know how it impacts communities around the country. In order to provide help to those who need it, we have to be talking about these changes. If drug policies shift, we must talk about how they can affect those who struggle with substance use disorder.

It does not matter if a drug is an illicit black-market substance, or a popular legalized product, substance abuse and addiction are still possible. If marijuana reform is going to continue to grow, it is also our responsibility to bring attention to the possible risks and side effects for some who use marijuana.

If pro-pot politics are going to put marijuana in the mainstream, there should also be an effort to promote substance abuse treatment options. Looking back, if the War on Drugs taught us anything, it is that there should be a strong focus on providing treatment, not punishment. If we want to make things better, we have to offer every opportunity to help those who need it most.

Marijuana abuse can have a noticeable impact on some people’s lives, and often times it is accompanied by another form of substance abuse. Acknowledging the influence of drugs in your life and knowing when to get help can make the recovery process a life-changing journey. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Mother Using Billboard to Raise Awareness for Good Samaritan Laws

Mother Using Billboard to Raise Awareness for Good Samaritan Laws

No one loves harder than a mother, and the pain a mother feels when a child suffers one cannot even imagine. So when a mother loses a child, the hurt can do a lot of things. For some mothers, it pushes them to action, and that is exactly what happens to a grieving mom in Ohio who recently launched a battle against drug overdoses with a roadside billboard after the loss of her son.

Following the overdose death of her son, Lenora Lada paid to put up a billboard in the Marietta, Ohio to raise awareness about the Good Samaritan laws. She takes this action in hopes that other mothers may not have to grieve as she does.

Trey’s Life Mattered

The sign Lada bought shows a picture of her son, Trey Moats, and reads,

“His Life Mattered: No Excuse For Not Calling 911 or taking someone to a hospital,”

Trey’s mother had known about his struggles with addiction but had felt helpless as her 26-year-old child was unwilling to get the help he needed.

Then one day at 3:26 in the morning, she got a call from her son’s friends. Trey had been in a car with these friends when his lips turned blue as he overdosed, so they had driven him to another friend’s house to ask a mother there to perform CPR. But because they were too afraid to call 911, they called Trey’s mother instead and told her to come and get him. Lenora Lada states that by the time she arrived, her son was on the ground already gurgling.

By the time Lada arrived at her son’s side, it had already been 20-25 minutes. When she asked if someone had called 911, she was told by the other mother,

“No, I don’t want the squad and the sheriffs coming to my house again.”

Lada demanded that the daughter call 911, but Moats ultimately died at the hospital of multiple organ failures due to cardiac arrest and polysubstance abuse. Ever since that tragic and heartbreaking moment, Lenora Lada is determined to make sure people know that her son’s life mattered, as do the lives of other victims of overdose. The billboard also states:

“3/10 Mile could have saved Trey’s life.”

Lada believes a call to emergency responders could have saved her son. The sheriff’s report, however, states it is unclear if her son would have survived even if he was taken to the hospital. Local news reports that one coroner said Trey would have been brain dead, but another coroner did not seem so sure.

One thing is for sure though, Trey’s life did matter. And whether or not it was certain to make a difference, something more should have been done to try and save this young man’s life. That is why now Lada is also focused on raising awareness for Good Samaritan laws in Ohio.

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Good Samaritan Awareness 

According to the Good Samaritan law:

  • Authorities cannot prosecute anyone who calls 911 to report an overdose
  • Protects the person overdosing from prosecution
  • Immunity is only good two times
  • The law is not applicable to people on parole

Ohio’s Good Samaritan laws also require a survivor of an overdose to obtain a drug treatment referral within 30 days in order to avoid charges. This measure is in place with hopes to show more people who do suffer from addiction there are opportunities to seek help.

The intention of Good Samaritan laws is to reduce the hesitation to get help from bystanders who witness an overdose. These laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with different interactions with other legal principals. But in essence, they are meant to prevent unnecessary overdose deaths by trying to take the fear of punishment out of the situation.

Lada also believes she would like part of the law to be changed, stating,

“I am asking for people to be accountable for not getting them help,”

What exactly that would look like is unclear, but for a mom who lost her son, it is an understandable sentiment. In many cases, there have been voices of support for charging drug dealers who sell to overdose victims with murder. So if this were to happen, what kind of punishment should someone face for not reporting an overdose?

Good Samaritan laws exist to help prevent deaths due to drug use, and there should be more of an effort to encourage people to report overdoses. Far too many sons and daughters are lost every day to drug overdoses. We should be taking every action we can to avoid more of the same. To defeat drug-related death requires prevention, education, and effective addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, do not hesitate. Please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

What Resignation of ESPN President Reminds Us about Addiction 

What Resignation of ESPN President Reminds Us about Addiction 

The sports world was rattled yet again this week following the announcement from John Skipper, President of the world famous sports broadcasting network ESPN, of his resignation. Skipper cited his struggles with substance use and addiction as the reason for the statement, and it has brought to mind a few important factors that people often forget about addiction.

Skipper will also be resigning from the position of co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks.

Declaration from ESPN President  

In his statement on Monday, Skipper states:

“Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN. I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger.

Skipper went on to say,

I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem,”

According to Skipper, he and the company came to a mutual agreement that it was appropriate for him to resign. He went on to state:

“I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down. As I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding.”

Skipper has been the ESPN President since 2012, after joining the Disney-owned network back in 1997. According to Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Company, former ESPN President George Bodenheimer will serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for 90 days until a more permanent replacement has been found.

Bob Iger made his own statement supporting Skipper’s decision and showing his respect for Skipper. Bodenheimer also issued a statement, saying:

“I have great respect for John’s leadership, and I applaud the courage he’s demonstrating by addressing his challenge head on. The most important thing right now for John and his family is that he conquers his addiction, and the entire ESPN family is behind him.”

As the transition takes place, many seem to be supporting the ESPN President in his choice to step down and face his addiction. Thus far there haven’t been many specifics as to which substances Skipper struggles with, which is consistent with his request for privacy.

Addiction for Professionals

This is far from the first time we have seen an issue with substance abuse come up in the world of professional sports. Even with coaches and owners, substance abuse is not as uncommon as some might think. Back in October the video of Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Christ Forester snorting lines of white powder surfaced online and created an overnight viral controversy. While the story with John Skipper may be a bit different, they both remind us that even high-profile professionals struggle with substance use and addiction.

Too many people still have this idea that addiction is about moral failures, or lack of willpower, or simply the lack of character and ambition. Yet, time and time again we see stories of incredibly talented, successful, ambitious and influential people struggling with addiction. And it isn’t just rock stars and celebrity actors; we also see it in CEOs and high-ranking business people. We see it in star athletes and in politicians. Every level of success experiences the impact of addiction.

So it is sad to see Skipper say he is embarrassed to have to make this announcement. Even though he is brave to do it, it reminds us also of the stigma even he still might believe.

So we have to support those who are struggling and stop letting the stigma of addiction keep people from getting better by seeking the help that may ultimately save their lives.

The business owner or high earner might not seek help because of how they think people will see them. They might be afraid that being vulnerable will have others question their business. How will this reflect on my work? How will it reflect on my company? Will it destroy my professional reputation to get the help I need?

These are questions no one should ever have to ask.

Functioning Addicts Suffer

Many professionals might even consider themselves to be “functioning addicts,” meaning that even though they are in the grips of addiction physically, mentally and emotionally, they are still able to go on working, going to school or being active at home.

Again, this is a strong example that goes against the stigma people often associate with addiction. Too many people assume that for someone to be truly struggling with addiction, they have to lose their house, job, family, etc. But in reality, people with addiction can be fully-functioning members of society. Addicts can be excellent at their jobs, active in their families or communities, and even take good care of themselves in all respects other than using drugs or alcohol.

However, functioning addicts still suffer greatly. Often this manifests with internal suffering, mental and emotional. They don’t always “hit rock bottom” in the sense of their career, finances or home life. Sometimes it is everything going on inside that causes them the most turmoil.

Sadly, functioning addicts are also less likely to seek the help they need. They will believe that as long as they are working, taking care of the bills and not getting into much trouble, they are still in control. They are more likely to have people around them who do not understand addiction telling them their issues are not that serious. There is no telling how long ESPN President John Skipper was living as a functioning addict. The same goes for many professionals who have been struggling and are afraid that if they admit they need help, they will lose it all.

Addiction does not discriminate. It does not care what your net worth is. It never checks your credit score and it never asks for a resume.

 Times are Changing

Luckily, over the past few years, the perception of addiction has begun to experience a cultural shift. Those who struggle with substance use and addiction now have more options for getting help. There are a variety of personalized treatment programs that offer effective and supportive solutions while encouraging people across all demographics to stay informed and seek help.

These days we see more celebrities, athletes, and professionals reaching out, getting help and speaking up about the dangers of addiction. The ESPN President is one of many public figures this year who has spoken up about the problems they have faced and reminded us how important it is to find help.

It is great to be reminded that times are indeed changing and that the stigma of addiction doesn’t have as much power as it once did. While there are still plenty of people across the world who still rely on these old ideas about addiction, much more are learning to better understand addiction and helping support those who need help.

Hopefully, with professionals from such high platforms stepping up to talk about their struggles, we will continue to see more executives, officials and business owners get the help they need.

Addiction is not one-size-fits-all, and neither is recovery. Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in supporting each individual through a personalized recovery plan to help them find an effective path. We want to help people who suffer get back to what matters most. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Should Marijuana Get Same State-to-State Treatment as Guns?

Should Marijuana Get Same State-to-State Treatment as Guns?

You may remember last week we talked about how some states are pushing to take gun rights away from people prescribed medical marijuana. Of course, this topic has sparked a lot of conversation on how medical marijuana should be addressed. But a lot of the discussion has been on how 2nd amendment rights should be protected. The debate ranges from push-back for individual states, to argue that federal law still considers marijuana a schedule 1 drug, meaning people who use the drug are not allowed to own or possess firearms.

Well, since we have already jumped into the discussion comparing gun rights and medical marijuana, we might as well talk about another interesting story brought about by a Democratic congressman from California.

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

The whole conversation starts with the introduction of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which is currently being pushed by Republican lawmakers this week. This new piece of legislation would mandate that if someone is able to receive a concealed carry permit for a firearm in one state, that all other states would be required to honor that concealed carry permit. This means even if your state has much more strict requirements for concealing a gun, someone from a state with much more relaxed requirements is still allowed to travel into your state with a concealed weapon.

Now to be clear, there are many states that already honor concealed carry reciprocity. For example, if I were to get my concealed carry permit in my home state of Ohio, the vast majority of states would allow me to carry a concealed weapon.

Also, in the Buckeye State, they actually recognized the concealed carry permits of every other state already.

But Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna argues that it goes against the very idea of state’s rights and federalism. He argues that the Republican Party, which is often the champion for state’s rights, is forgetting that each state should be able to determine what laws are best for their own citizens and that this legislation will essentially federalize concealed carry permits.

The reason we wanted to talk about this is due to the argument used by Congressman Ro Khanna using marijuana to try and make his point.

Marijuana Reciprocity

Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley area, made a video that argues that if the GOP wants to move forward with making concealed carry permits a national movement, then the same protections should be required by all states to honor marijuana laws.

In the clip posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Khanna states:

“If one state allows the legalization of marijuana, does that mean every state needs to allow the legalization of marijuana?”

Going off of Khanna’s comparison, applying the logic of the H.R. 38 Concealed Carry Reciprocity policy to marijuana would mean someone in California who received a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana for anxiety should be able to legally use marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has more strict restrictions on their medical marijuana laws, with anxiety not being included as a qualifying medical condition.

While Khanna’s comparison is more tongue-in-cheek as part of his opposition to the H.R. 38 bill, it does present an interesting question; should medical marijuana be recognized with reciprocity? One should remember that gun ownership is an actual constitutional right, versus cannabis decriminalization being a recent movement.

Then again, does it make sense to argue “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” in a context like this? This brings us back to the argument of whether or not the federal government should be putting more effort into federal law against marijuana, or if the states have more a right to decide if they will allow cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.

It is still an interesting argument to make. Should states compare these two concepts in the debate on policy?

Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana reform remains a controversial topic. However, the legal status of any medication does not take away from the dangers of substance abuse. Plenty of prescription medications have a high risk of abuse and addiction, and marijuana abuse can be harmful to an individual’s life.

People often mistake marijuana for having no addictive properties. This misconception is because most people consider cannabis a ‘soft drug’ when compared to other ‘hard drugs’ such as crack-cocaine or heroin. While the chemical hooks may not be as drastic or apparent, the truth is that habitual use of any chemical can result in developing tolerance, which can also lead to withdrawal. Symptoms most commonly associated with marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Insomnia, nightmares, vivid dreams, using dreams
  • Drug craving
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss and weight gain
  • Digestion problems
  • Nausea
  • Night sweats
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Shakiness and dizziness

If you are struggling with cannabis abuse, do not hesitate to get help today. Often time’s people who use one substance develop a habit of abuse with many others.

Be careful not to underestimate the substances you are using. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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