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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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CVS: Tobacco Sale Ban Is Already Having A Major Impact

CVS: Tobacco Sale Ban Is Already Having A Major Impact

Author: Shernide Delva

A while back, CVS made the bold decision to cease the sale of tobacco products in their stores.   Now, new data reveals their decision to stop selling cigarettes contributed to a drop in tobacco purchases from all retailers.  Furthermore, CVS customers were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes, according to research from the American Journal of Public Health.

The analysis comes less than three years after the company stopped selling all tobacco products. The move garnered national attention from public health advocates, doctors, and even the white house.

“After CVS’s tobacco removal, household- and population-level cigarette purchasing declined significantly,” the study concluded.

CVS officially stopped selling tobacco products as of October 1, 2014, at its CVS/pharmacy stores. The decision had the greatest impact on customers who bought cigarettes only at CVS drugstores. Those particular customers were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether.

To gather those numbers, the study used household purchasing data to examine American households that stopped buying cigarettes for at least six months during the period of September 2014 to August 2015. The study, written by CVS executives and paid for by the company, was a peer-reviewed article, the journal disclosed.

“When we removed tobacco from our shelves, a significant number of our customers simply stopped buying and hopefully smoking cigarettes altogether instead of just altering their cigarette purchasing habits,” Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Health chief medical officer, said in a statement.

“This research proves that our decision had a powerful public health impact by disrupting access to cigarettes and helping more of our customers on their path to better health.”

The decision by CVS to cut off tobacco sales amounted to a loss of $2 billion in annual sales that existed when it sold cigarettes. Still, the drugstore’s overall sales have been increasing in the last three years thanks to new business from the Affordable Care Act which benefit the pharmacy. CVS is growing significantly as a medical service business.

As for its rivals, the CVS decision has not triggered a trend. None of the other stores such as Wal-Mart, Rite Aid or Walgreens Boots Alliance have followed suit with their own plans to stop selling cigarettes. The pressure from the public and some of their shareholders has not made enough of an impact to change their mind. Walgreens, for example, has instead decided to push more smoking cessation products alongside their tobacco products.

The response from customers in regards to the ban was mixed. Some commended the stand from CVS saying it was a step in the right direction. These days, smoking is banned in restaurants, schools, and even certain parks, so the move did seem to follow the ongoing trend.

On the other hands, many people were outraged at the decision. Some stated it was hypocritical because CVS continues to sell alcohol, candy, and sugary drinks, which can be equally as harmful to the health. Therefore, the argument was made that it is the choice of the customer, not CVS, to decide.

With these recent results, it is evident that CVS may have gotten the result they were hoping for. More outside studies are needed to fully determine the impact the ban had on smoking trends. Still, it sends a message loud and clear that CVS will no longer support tobacco products.

What do you think about the ban? Should other pharmacies follow? In recovery, it is important to take steps to living a healthy life. Perhaps quitting smoking is something you should consider. If you are struggling to quit smoking, or are struggling with any addiction, please call now. We want to help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Science Confirms the Best Way to Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Science Confirms the Best Way to Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Author: Shernide Delva

The answer has arrived. After decades of debates and controversy over the best way to quit smoking, scientists have finally confirmed the absolute best way to stop smoking. This method was found to be more successful than any other method out there; better than pills or e-cigarettes. What could it possibly be?

 

QUITTING COLD TURKEY!

Turns out, quitting cigarettes cold turkey is the most powerful method of dropping the habit. Now, before you get angry at me for luring you into this obvious solution, hang on a second! You have to admit; it is surprising that this method of quitting is the most effective. After all, each and every year, different cigarette alternatives hit the market. Everything from vaping to nicotine patches to gums is released to aid in quitting smoking. Evidently, these alternatives can be more of a distraction than a real solution to quitting in the long run.

This topic has raised controversy for years. On one side, people believe it is better to taper off smoking cigarettes. Others stand by quitting cold turkey. In some ways, it makes perfect sense why people want to taper off. When it comes to other addictions like substance dependencies, typically medical professionals wean people off those drugs. However, when it comes to cigarettes, immediately throwing those packs of cigarettes in the trash appears to be the best solution.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, and what they found was people who quit cold turkey were much less likely to start smoking again compared to individuals who didn’t. Quitting smoking cold turkey disproves previous theories on tapering:

“If you’re training for a marathon, you wouldn’t expect to turn up and just be able to run it. And I think people see that for smoking as well. They think, ‘Well, if I gradually reduce it’s almost practice,'” said the study’s author, Nicola Lindson-Hawley from the University of Oxford.

The research follows 700 smokers in England who were planning to quit smoking. At the time, all the participants were smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Four weeks later, the researchers checked in. They found that smokers who quit cold turkey were more successful with a 49% quit rate compared to 39% in the gradual group.  At six months, things start to get interesting. Only 15% of people who quit smoking were able to maintain it. On the other hand, 22% of the cold turkey groups were able to stay cigarette-free.

If you cannot see yourself quitting cold turkey anytime soon, good news: future research plans to understand how alternatives could be more effective in helping people stop.

Lindson-Hawley added, “If there are individuals who feel they can’t quit abruptly, and they want to stop gradually—otherwise they won’t try to quit at all—we still need to support them to do that.”

Furthermore, while the cold turkey group had a higher success rate, those who quit gradually preferred that method over quitting cold turkey.  The important thing is for people to commit to dropping the habit for good.  The more dedicated you are to quitting, the more likely you are to stop smoking cigarettes.

“I think that’s the piece that’s so convincing, which is that regardless of your stated preference, if you’re ready to quit, quitting abruptly is more effective,” said Dr. Gabriela Ferreira, of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey. “That’s a compelling number, and I think that translates to the patient. It gives them the encouragement, I think, to go for it.”

Those in the medical field believe studies like these are an excellent way to start a conversation and give doctors tools to help patients eager to quit more efficiently. Regardless of what you believe in, taking a step to quit is a good way of improving your health overall.

Quitting smoking can be one of the healthiest changes you make for yourself. While quitting smoking can be challenging, it is not impossible. Most of all, it is worth it. If you are well into your recovery and ready to quit, try doing it cold turkey first before looking into alternatives. If your or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Why Some Keep Smoking Cigarettes after the First Try and Others Don’t

Why Some People Keep Smoking Cigs after the First Try and Others Don’t

Author: Shernide Delva

There’s a new study that explains why people continue to smoke cigarettes after their first try. As a non-smoker, this researched sparked my interest. I’ve been known to ask my friends that smoke why they picked up the habit of smoking cigarettes. Usually, I tend to get a variety of answers. Some say it was due to social pressure, others are influenced by their family and a few are unable to come up with a clear answer to why they started smoking. It just sort of happened.

Cigarette smoking is a habit that usually takes a few tries to acquire a liking to. For many, the first time is not enjoyable at all. It can result in a coughing fit and the taste can be quite an adjustment. The act of smoking is not like other drugs that are instantly enjoyable. The mind has to produce a craving for nicotine before cigarettes become as addictive as they are.

The study examined and characterized the body’s reaction to the first tiniest hits of nicotine. Researchers believe the study will lay the groundwork for future revelations about genetic and biological factors that make people vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

Essentially the study explored the idea of nicotine “reinforcement” and explained how some people are more vulnerable to nicotine addiction than others. Addiction researcher Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had this to say about the study:

“From an addiction point of view, nicotine is a very unusual drug. When you give people nicotine for the first time, most people don’t like it. It’s different from many other addictive drugs, for which most people say they enjoy the first experience and would try it again.”

Griffith’s explained in the article how he wondered why some people are nicotine avoiders while others are nicotine choosers. He theorized that there might be a genetic or metabolic vulnerability that makes people fall into one category over the other.

This is not the first time this idea has been explored. For decades, scientists have struggled to understand why so many people still become addicted to cigarettes. Personally, I do not hold anything against someone’s personal choice to smoke cigarettes. However, with so much attention on the dangers of cigarette smoking, why is it still fairly popular? The reason this interests me more than other addictions is because cigarettes usually are not enjoyable the first time someone tries. So why the second and third attempt? Why the commitment?

In an attempt to solve the mystery, Griffiths and his team explored the conditions under which nicotine reinforcement properties take hold of someone who had never smoked prior. Rather than use the same  dose of nicotine equivalent to what’s in a cigarette, nicotine patch or gum— the team decided to use doses that were ten times lower, barely of what is needed to notice nicotine effects such as relaxation, energy, better focus and change sin mood.

The researchers developed a double-blind study in which volunteers would either be given nicotine or a placebo. The goal was to find out what conditions would people become familiar to the mood altering effect of very low doses of nicotine.

“We attempted to develop conditions in which people could learn to become familiar with the subtle mood-altering effects of very low doses of nicotine, with the goal of uncovering the reinforcing effects of nicotine,” he says.

For the study, 18 healthy men and women who had never or barely ever smoked were given two identical-looking pills labeled A and B each day for several weeks. The volunteers were told the pills could contain any number of substances ranging from caffeine, sugar, chamomile, ginseng, kava or nicotine.

Each volunteer was given one very-low dose nicotine pill at random intervals throughout the day. Every two hours, the volunteers were given different pills without being told what they were. They were to report changes in energy levels, concentration, drowsiness and jitters after each pill.

After ten days, they were given the same pills again, this time unlabeled. Eventually the volunteers could differentiate between the pills. Then they were asked if they would choose to take either pill A or pill B and to explain their decision.

The results were surprising. Half of the users chose the nicotine pill saying it improved their concentration, alertness, stimulation and better mood. The other half chose the placebo saying the nicotine pill—although they did not know it contained nicotine—made them feel light-headed dizzy or sick. The volunteers either had a good or bad reaction to the nicotine.

The study could be one of the few to show that people who have never used will either be “avoiders” or “choosers” after beginning to smoke. Just like some people are prone to falling into addiction because of natural physiological factors.

 “I hope our findings will point the way toward future interventions that prevent or treat nicotine addiction, a topic of increasing importance in light of the expanding marketing of electronic nicotine delivery devices — e-cigarettes — to youthful nicotine nonusers.”

Personally, I think I fell into that “avoider” category because the after first time I smoked cigarettes, I never touched them again. Smoking was not my cup of tea however many of my friend really enjoy the habit. Just like any addiction, people respond in different ways.

Learning about how other people are more vulnerable to addition allows for a better understanding of human behavior. Please seek help if you find yourself falling into substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-95-6135

Movies Depicting Alcohol May Put Teens at Risk for Drinking Problems

Movies Depicting Alcohol May Put Teens at Risk for Drinking Problems

 By Cheryl Steinberg

The last thing I quit was cigarettes. And boy, that was hard. As some have said, it’s harder to kick a smoking addiction than an addiction to heroin and, after several attempts before finally doing it, I’d have to agree (being a former heroin addict, I can weigh in on this).

And, even though I’m pretty much ‘over’ cigarettes, there are times when I’m watching a movie and the actors are smoking and it just looks…so…damn…good. I admit it! I’m tempted!

When I think back to the times when I was actively using other drugs, watching TV or a movie in which the characters are doing drugs would always tempt me. And, without recovery in my life then, it was a matter of when – not if – that I’d get my hands on a drink or drug.

Well, there’s definitely something to that – a phenomenon in which seeing others, especially those on the silver screen – using just looks so good. And sexy.

A new study in the U.K. has found that the movie industry could be having a very real and serious impact on teen drinking habits.

Researchers concluded that the more they witness alcohol consumption in films, the more likely adolescents are to ty alcohol. As an aside: Over 70% of movies released in the U.K. over the past 20 years depicted alcohol abuse.

The study involved data from over 5,000 adolescents with an average age of 15 years. All of the teenaged participants are from a “Children of the 90s” study conducted in Bristol in the U.K. The findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Movies Depicting Alcohol May Put Teens at Risk for Drinking Problems

Lead researcher Dr. Andrea Waylen, along with her research team, found that the teenagers with the most exposure to movie-use alcohol were 1.2 times more likely to have tried alcohol and were a whopping 1.7 times more likely to binge drink when compared to those who were least exposed. The first group of teens – the ones exposed to booze-on-film – was also twice as likely to have problems with alcohol in adulthood and they were 2.4 times more likely to drink weekly than those less exposed.

In the U.K. between 1989 and 2008, about 72% of the most popular box office movies depicted alcohol use, but only 6% of those were categorized as “adult only.” Waylen recommends that reviewing film-rating categories and giving alcohol ratings for all films could work to reduce the percentage of teen alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Issues and Sleep Problems

An entirely separate study conducted by Maria M. Wong, professor and director of experimental training in the department of psychology at Idaho State University, was published last February in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study also found that teen sleep issues could lead to problems with alcohol later in life. Wong’s study was impressive; looking at data from 6,504 adolescents—52% boys and 48% girls—that was collected at three intervals, 1994-95, 1996, and 2001-02.

Wong concluded that those with sleep difficulties in the 1994-95 wave had much higher instances of “alcohol-related interpersonal problems, binge drinking…driving under the influence, getting into a sexual situation one later regretted due to drinking … and drug-related problems at the second wave.”

In normal adults, having sleep problems increased their risk of alcohol use in the span of one year and, within 3.5 years, they were likely to also develop a drug problem. People who suffer with insomnia and who were currently receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder were also more likely to experience relapse.

If you suspect that your teen is struggling with alcohol or other drugs, there are signs to look for. It can be difficult to figure out whether a teen’s alcohol use is within normal limits as far as whether it’s social or experimentation. Many teens who drink might not consume alcohol on a daily basis, however, they tend to binge drink on the weekends. Binge drinking is a serious matter that can lead to health risks as well as risk for tolerance and dependence. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We can talk to you about signs to be concerned about as well as resources and options.

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