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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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Should Marijuana Be Used in Addiction Treatment?

Should Marijuana Be Used in Addiction Treatment?

Author: Shernide Delva

A California rehab is under scrutiny after it was discovered that the rehab incorporates marijuana in their addiction treatment program. The different uses of medical marijuana continue to raise controversy, especially when it comes to addiction treatment.

Therefore, the question remains:

Does medical marijuana have a place in addiction treatment?

The mission of the California rehab states: to help addicts stop abusing substances that are most harmful to them.  The rehab says marijuana is a tool to help clients along the withdrawal process, and if needed, aid in long-term recovery. While the treatment center boasts positive results, their stance on marijuana use is at odds with many in the treatment and recovery community.

But they are far from the first. Other treatment centers are considering a similar treatment philosophy. So, is it wrong to do so?  Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist and the author of “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction,” agrees with the philosophy.

“This stuff that emphasizes this morality, we don’t have anything else like that in medicine,” said Szalavitz, a former heroin addict, and AA member. “And the 12-step thing talking about ‘defects of character,’ that’s not exactly helpful for someone who already has a lot of self-hatred.”

“This whole idea that total abstinence is the only route to recovery has been incredibly damaging to the addiction field,” she continues.

This idea of “non-abstinence” treatment relates to a program known as harm reduction which accepts that drug use is a part of life. Instead of trying to get people to stop doing drugs, harm reduction focuses on improving overall safety through reducing the negative consequences associated with using drug use.

An example of a harm reduction program is safe needle exchange programs. These programs focus on providing addicts with clean needles that overall, reduce the risk of infections like Hepatitis C. Another example would be methadone clinics or suboxone maintenance programs. While controversial, these programs help in reducing the number of overdose fatalities.

Does Marijuana Curb Addiction?

Despite treatment centers using marijuana in addiction treatment, there are not many studies that confirm its efficacy. Research exists that suggests cannabis may be a helpful tool for opioid addiction. Marijuana is used in some treatment facilities to aid with long-term pain relief and opioid withdrawals.

Still, a major report published in January by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said that “only one randomized trial assessing the role of cannabis in reducing the use of addictive substances” exists.

Furthermore, many of the studies suffered from at least one research error. Mostly, the sample size was too small to make a solid conclusion.

“I think ideally you’d study it before you just go and do it,” Szalavitz said. “I think it’s an intriguing idea that we need more research on.”

Many experts argue the use of cannabis to treat addiction is absurd.

“Marijuana has exactly no role in the treatment of any mental illness, especially substance-use disorders,” Thomas McLellan, who founded the Treatment Research Institute and served briefly as the deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama administration, told The Guardian.

Marijuana: A Gateway Drug?

Even if marijuana is not someone’s drug of choice, it is possible that cannabis use can trigger a relapse. Any mind-altering substance can lower a person’s ability to make rational decisions regarding their sobriety.

“People are more likely to seek their primary drug or alcohol when they are intoxicated or high,” says Anne Lewis, a clinical psychologist and licensed addictions counselor with Indiana University Health. “It lowers your inhibition, so you don’t care. We don’t make good decisions when we’re drunk or high.”

Therefore, even if a person does not have an issue with marijuana,  it may increase the temptation to use. Marijuana could make it harder to stay on the recovery path.

Chemicals in the Brain?

To explain further, one must understand brain chemicals. Cannabinoid receptors closely tie into the brain’s dopamine systems. These chemicals play a role in reward—motivated behavior. Blocking those receptors can assist people trying to give up smoking, alcohol, cocaine or heroin. However, the use of marijuana can trigger those receptors increasing the risk of a relapse.

While there are always success stories from clients who have used marijuana maintenance plans successfully, for the most part, the risks are great.

What are your thoughts? What do you think about treatment centers incorporating marijuana in the treatment process? Addiction is an epidemic of great proportions. The first step is seeking treatment.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Texas Considering Religious Marijuana Rights

Texas Considering Religious Marijuana Rights

Author: Justin Mckibben

Marijuana is just one drug that has been used throughout history as a substance of religious sacrament, and the concept of using a mind altering drug in relation to religion has been debated for as far back as there has been laws prohibiting drug use. But it seems in some states there are citizens who are fighting for the ability to use their faith as a means to access marijuana legally, even in states where the drug is still outlawed.

Texas is historically a conservative state. State law thus far has not made any kind of drastic change to the pot policy in the area regarding recreational use of marijuana, but now one elected official is voicing the opinion that opening the doors for marijuana use does not mean Texas is compromising its conservative values, and the question of marijuana use for religious reasoning has now become part of the debate.

Simpsons Synopsis

Recently headlines in Texas have been plastered with a proposal seeking full legalization of marijuana, not for medical access, but on the grounds of religious freedom. The surprise in the latest news is that the bill has actually cleared an unlikely legislative hurdle.

A conservative straight from the Republican party has been one of the public figures standing in support of this initiative. State Representative David Simpson of Longview, who introduced House Bill 2156,  has expressed a sentiment that many have pushed over the years, stating that marijuana comes from God and therefore shouldn’t be banned by government. The tea party stalwart has repeatedly championed what he calls the “Christian case” for legalization, and says,

“God didn’t make a mistake the government needs to fix when he made marijuana. The present approach to the abuse of drugs, abuse of marijuana, or anything, is not working. It has been very ineffectual. We’re spending billions of dollars at the federal level and at the state level,”

It seems what makes this unique from similar situations, such as the situation in Indiana, is that the proposal doesn’t mean only one church is permitted to practice new pot rights, but this as it stands would be all inclusive under the authority of religious freedom.

The state of Indiana’s highly controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed back at the end of March as one unintended consequence of Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law that was eventually “clarified” by the legislature after a massive backlash.

Opponents of this innovation said RFRA was primarily intended to allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBT citizens who aren’t protected under Indiana’s broader civil rights statutes, and it seems that the idea has come back to bite some conservatives in the proverbial behind. Especially considering that marijuana is still illegal in the state for both recreational and medicinal use.

The Progress of the Proposed Policy

The bill in question was toiled over for weeks before the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, until in a surprising turn of events where there were 3 committee Democrats and 2 Republicans who voted to support it Wednesday, letting it pass with a 5-2 victory.

That isn’t the end of the road for Simpson’s bill just yet. This recent approval just made it one step closer to completion by making it eligible for consideration to reach the House floor. The legislative session ends June 1, and now the bill has the opportunity to make it onto the to-do list, although some still suspect it is still highly unlikely to do so.

Outright legalization is still pretty unthinkable when you take into account that Texas state law currently makes no exceptions even for medical marijuana. But regardless of the adversity that the bill still faces, the advocates for marijuana legalization hailed the committee vote as “unprecedented progress” for Texas marijuana rights.

So is this the future tactic of states trying to push for their rights to legalized weed programs? Are we going to see more citizens and churches sprouting up across the country trying to claim spiritual relevance and religious beliefs in order to circumvent the law as it stands on marijuana as a controlled substance? Will religious leaders speak in support of these claims, or will they denounce them?

While ancient rituals can be linked to using substances the law in most states still sees as illicit and harmful drugs, it could be dangerous to excuse recreational use which could lead to addiction. Addiction claims far too many lives every day, and too many people don’t know there is help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


Vapers: You Might Be Fooling Yourselves

Vapers: You Might Be Fooling Yourselves

By Cheryl Steinberg

I know a lot of people who are into the vaping scene and therefore, I know a lot of people aren’t going to be happy to hear that e-cigarettes and vapes are not without health risk.

Touted as a ‘healthy alternative’ to traditional combustible cigarettes, electronic vaporizers caught on like wildfire. But, it’s too soon to say just how much better – if at all – vapes are when compared to their old-school smokable version.

A new risk assessment report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health says that there are health risks associated with vapes, and not just for those who partake in vaping; bystanders – much like those who inhale secondhand cigarette smoke – may be at risk from secondhand vape smoke.

Now, just to be clear, what we’re talking about in this article are the vapes and e-cigs that contain nicotine, like cigarettes. The report has only considered e-cigarettes with nicotine since there has been very little research about nicotine-free e-cigs. But the report was clear in its conclusions that e-cigarettes are not without health risks for people who vape or for bystanders.

Vapers: You Might Be Fooling Yourselves

Because vapes and e-cigarettes deliver the same amount of nicotine to users as cigarettes do to smokers, it’s safe to say that the same harmful effects from nicotine can be expected in people who vape.

Furthermore, the vapor from e-cigs and vaporizers contains so much nicotine that people who are nearby can also inhale the same amount as with secondhand tobacco smoke. This can be a trigger for addiction to nicotine.

As far as we know, however, e-cigs are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, with regards to cancer but the health risks of long-term use of vapes and e-cigs use are unknown.

“In Norway, it is mainly smokers and former smokers who use e-cigarettes. The question is if this will still be the case if e-cigarettes become more accessible. It is important to avoid e-cigarettes becoming a trend among adolescents and young adults, or to introduce non-smokers to nicotine addiction and tobacco use,” says Dr. Camilla Stoltenberg, Director-General at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).

Caveats of the Research

  • Admittedly, e-cigs and vapes simply have not been around long enough in order for researchers to really get a good idea on the potential risks and the extent to which these risks can go.
  • The NIPH’s risk assessment is mainly based on evaluation of the individual components of e-cigarettes. There is a wide range of e-cigarette types, with varying content of nicotine and other ingredients.
  • Differing types and usage patterns will influence potential health damage. If e-cigarettes are allowed to be sold in Norway, their use and possible adverse effects should be monitored by research.

Banning Vaping in Public

In Portland, Maine’s largest city, they’re not taking this sort of news lightly. Currently, the city is considering imposing a ban on the use of e-cigarettes and vapes in public spaces.

The Portland City Council will hold a meeting next week in order to discuss and make its consideration of whether to place e-cigarettes and other devices that allow the user to inhale vapors on its list of tobacco products that are banned in public areas.

Last month, the city’s Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee unanimously supported the ban.

There have been some recent stories discussing the concern of the unknown risks of vape smoke and, perhaps as a safeguard to those who choose not to vape – just like with traditional smokers and non-smokers – towns and cities have begun to consider bans on public vaping.

In fact, dozens of places have established restrictions on e-cigarettes and vaping in public and The World Health Organization issued a report calling for restrictions on the indoor use of e-cigs and vapes.

Electronic cigarettes and vapes can be a pathway to breaking the chains of your nicotine addiction. However, there’s still some debate whether they serve more as a tool for those who are already addicted to cigarettes or as products that could undermine efforts to discourage tobacco use. If you abuse other substances, we can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and get on the road to recovery. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Save the Hipsters: The Anti-Smoking Campaign

Save the Hipsters: The Anti-Smoking Campaign

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Quitting smoking is now cool, or maybe it already was and you didn’t know… either way some people will go out of their way to let you know they quit cigarettes prior to it even being a thing. They may be wearing a thrift store fedora, colorfully patterned suspenders, or a beard of epic proportions… but that’s neither here nor there.

While anti-smoking has come a long way as far as getting tobacco put on new restrictions in (or being completely taken out of) several forms of media for advertising, it seemed for a while that the battle was changing hands to those fighting for the right to vape.

Now one campaign has been deliberately aimed at those who are just too cool to smoke anymore; Hipsters. And yes, your nifty vintage corn-cob pipe counts! So park your fixed-geared bikes and put on your Buddy Holly glasses (even though you read just fine without them) because this is for YOU, guy so cool you don’t even want to be the cool guy!

The ‘Commune’ Campaign

In the past few years this emergent trend has formed as the federal government has spent millions of dollars on an anti-smoking campaign that has apparently been designed to hone in on the indie-art-loving, abstract-instrument-playing, different-than-anyone-being hipster! The project defines the ever so alpha-trendy “hipster” as young adults who are:

“Focused on the alternative music scene, local artists and designers, and eclectic self-expression.”

These people know what they’re doing too, as they have intended to target the hipster exactly where it hurts, developing ads that recommend alternatives to using tobacco like:

  • Styling your sweet mustache
  • Listening to music no one else has heard of

The project is called Commune, which is described as a “social brand” created by a former MTV Real World cast member, Pamela Ling with the help of Rescue Social Change Group. Ling is a bit more than a former reality TV hipster, but has actually become a medical professor at the University of California San Francisco. The Commune project works by employing tactics focused where hipsters are most vulnerable, such as:

  • Hosting smoke-free live music concerts
  • Paying local artists to create anti-smoking merchandise
  • Encouraging social leaders (DJs and bartenders) to document their progress with quitting smoking on blogs

The Commune campaign has been granted more than $5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2011. All that funding has been used for social events, ads, social media posters, and t-shirts.

If hipsters love anything more than vintage cameras or sarcasm, it is free music, ironic local band T-shirts (preferably with cat pictures), or writing about it all on their blog to document the fact they were doing things before the masses caught on.

Commune also has an area on their website dedicated to uniting the hipsters! In the segment about ‘Quit Groups’ they describe how 15 locals meet up for 10 weeks hoping to decrease their smoking rates and eventually quit using. In these support groups smoking rates are measured using a smokerlyzer, which is a device that measures the carbon monoxide levels in their lungs.

Each week a participant’s smoking rate decreases they’re awarded a cash incentive.  At certain intervals, smoking is also measured using a saliva test strip. Through this process a local smoking counselor is also available at some weekly meetings to answer any questions. Warning, he may or may not be cooler than you.

Pointing Out Hipster Politics

The hipster-inspired anti-smoking movement doesn’t just stop its infiltration of the hipster psyche with music and fashion. Commune also has close connections to the ideas of progressive politics, criticizing “neoconservative political candidates” for taking donations from Big Tobacco. The Commune’s website doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to blaming Big Tobacco for contributions to some of the world’s biggest issues, stating that the tobacco industry is involved in:

“things like world hunger, deforestation and neoconservative policies.”

However there has been some blow-back from Commune making these kinds of claims, some even calling it hypocritical since in 2004 there was a NIH study which determined that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have accepted contributions from the tobacco industry. Apparently some hipsters are willing to do their homework.

Why even get involved in the debate? Well according to Pamela Ling, hipsters are more likely to respond to political concerns than health concerns. In 2010 she said in an article that,

“Saying ‘Smoking is bad for you’ isn’t relevant to them. But they do care about self-expression and social justice.”

Regardless of the hiccup with politics, the NIH has recently defended this strategy. To them, the project is about more than immediate results, but also about developing a method of social marketing intervention to hinder Big Tobacco from catering to young adults, and to further promote prevention of smoking related diseases in America. Not just for the here-and-now hipsters, but for future generations of vegan-loving, mustache-curling, arts-and-crafts-making cool kids.

It can’t be a bad thing that they have started this whole movement that feels almost like it should be called ‘save the hipsters’ in an effort to try and ensure that vinyl albums and oversized scarfs will be sold for years to come. This shows that the people fighting Big Tobacco are willing to be innovative and open-minded to unique ideas, and that they have made the younger population are primary target for tobacco related disease prevention.

For now… for just one repost of this blog… you can help save the hipsters.

Disease prevention and raising awareness about the health risks associated with drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, is increasing important. Fighting the disease of addiction is probably more important than ever, so what are you willing to do to inspire change for yourself and others. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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