#heroin

Political shots fired. Media misses the target as usual

Never put it past the media or the political class to maximize tragedy for their own personal gain. It is truly sick. Beto O’Rourke blamed the shootings in El Paso and Dayton to Trump’s hatred being on a par with the Third Reich. Seriously? Congresswoman & ‘The Squad” member Rashid Tlaib lashed out at Ivanka Trump for expressing sorrow for the attacks by making attacks on her father’s “hate agenda and racism“, which is a touch ironic coming from an anti-Semite and a minority that has somehow overcome this imaginary racism and hatred to be elected to represent America on a national level. Do Trump’s “thoughts and prayers” solve anything? No.

Sadly even if Trump were to ban guns, the liberal left would give him zero credit for it. So what does he stand to gain? That isn’t an excuse to do nothing either. How is that within several hours of these shootings we have full dossiers on the perpetrators – political affiliation, tweets of racist rhetoric and photos from their childhood? How quickly acquaintances of perpetrators all knew these people were capable of massacres…

One shooter had tweeted support for Trump. The other was a registered Democrat. What does this actually prove? Do all 63m Trump voters and all 66m odd Hillary Clinton voters to a man and woman share a certain slice of DNA with these abhorrent individuals? Does skin colour actually matter? To shoot up a Walmart or other public area requires a special kind of lunacy. These two represent 0.00000154% of those voters in the 2016 election.

If so much information can be garnered within such a short time, why don’t regulators clamp down on checks so the system has a higher chance of catching potential loonies?

Unfortunately these shootings will be forgotten in a few weeks as per usual and Americans will get on with their daily lives. This is nothing but a political football. The reality is that the people most affected (the murdered & their families) are ranked last as debate gets stifled by politicians looking to maximize exposure from the tragedy. Remember you’re a racist, bigoted Nazi if you want to protect 2A. Not a very good starting point to solve a problem.

Yet the media can’t move away from the “if it bleeds it leads” narrative. It jumps on the finger pointing blame game to recover decimated rankings.

Yet what of the stats of gun crime in America?

There are 50,000 (mostly individual) gun stores in the US. 95% of firearm related murders are committed with handguns. Statistically America would be better off banning sales of pistols rather than AR-15s. Say automatic rifles are banned from today. What will change? Handgun murders will move closer to 100%. Good luck buying back 300m+ guns in America.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, murders in US appear to be very concentrated: 54% of US counties (representing 11% of the population) in 2014 had zero murders, 2% of counties made up 51% of the murders, ironically in states with the strictest gun controls – Illinois, NY and California.

Yet America has had decades of periods where governments had majorities in both houses and nothing was done on gun control. We’ve experienced Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Parkland, Fort Hood, El Paso, Dayton, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech, Geneva County, Aurora…the list goes on.

Moves by sporting goods stores like Dick’s to ban AR sales and raise the age limit to 21yo looked sensible from the outside. However they had multiple massacres over decades to make that call. The current CEO has been in charge since 1984. Why the u-turn in his conscience? Indeed the company did temporarily suspend sales of ARs after Sandy Hook in 2012 but kept retailing them at the company’s Field & Stream outlets before selling them again at Dick’s. Inconsistent.

Recall the Parkland, Florida school shooting. At the time media outlets went all guns blazing on the National Rifle Association (NRA), CM warned that it most likely would cause a knee jerk reaction in the opposite direction. We speculated that the hike in membership fee likely reflected a surge in members. As tragic as the Parkland massacre was, CM said that ‘shaming’ NRA members en masse would only make them dig in deeper. As it turns out searches for NRA membership surged 4900% immediately after the tragedy. People are sick and tired of being bullied into feeling guilty about things they haven’t caused.

39,773 died from gun related death in America in 2018. The highest number in 20 years. Statistically speaking ‘massacres’ accounted for only 106 deaths in 2018 or 0.27% of the total. Yet media attention focuses on it.

To put it into perspective the total number of overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015 jumped 6.2-fold in the US. Automobiles killed around 32,000 people last year or a little over 2x that of heroin overdoses. When adding non-methadone opioids (illicit fentanyl) overdose that number surged to 20,000, a 33% YoY jump on 2014 and 5.9x 2002. Why is it happening? The problem for many prescription painkiller users is that once their bottle ends, the addiction doesn’t stop meaning many switch to heroin to get the same ‘opioid’ hit.

We armchair politicians can sit back and shake our heads at America. Yet until there is a will of the people to change the laws, expect more massacres to happen. Name an American politician that is willing to repeal 2A as a cornerstone election campaign policy. There is your answer. Will the Democrat nominees raise their hands for the repeal of 2A? Safer to raise hands at free healthcare for illegal immigrants. 2A is toxic to touch. Sadly innocent people are dying for no reason.

Gun makers or Drug makers? Who should we be more afraid of?

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One by one, more of Corporate America is shunning the National Rifle Association (NRA). There is a touch of irony, perhaps hypocrisy about these moves. For a long time it has served rental car agencies, United Airlines and credit card companies to show their support for the NRA as its membership base was credibly large that it was ‘good for business.’ Despite dozens of massacres after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 why did they not shun the NRA in the last 19 years? Why didn’t the 14 gun massacres under Obama where Democrats had a majority in the House and Senate cause them to ban guns or automatic rifles period? Now all of a sudden corporates have woken up from their wistful slumber to realize that supporting the NRA may no longer be appropriate “in moving with the times”, the very phrase which is used to silence debate. In the process these corporates pillory all members of an association that in the overwhelming majority of cases are law abiding citizens.

Let’s make it clear. CM is no fan of guns. CM is a fan of laws. A fan of democracy that lets people vote on issues such as this. Changing the constitution is in most countries a matter for the people to decide, not just the handful of politicians within the walls of law making. CM doesn’t need a gun. CM doesn’t want a gun. CM, like most reading this can’t understand why one would want to massacre innocent people with a gun. However we’ve stated clearly that banning guns won’t fix the problem in America. One could easily drive a car through a school campus and mow down dozens of kids during play time. Do we ban cars? The two students who carried out the Columbine massacre had handgrenades, pipe bombs and propane time bombs. While guns were the sole cause of the 15 deaths, these kids had intended to murder 100s in the commons area with the bombs (which were made from everyday off the shelf items).

Although when United Airlines starts taking the moral high ground with respect to the NRA after its own scandals of heavy handedly frog marching passengers off its aircraft it isn’t worth listening to. If these corporates could openly say that running NRA discounts was not worth it on economic grounds in terms of the administration in running such programs one could understand. If they made rational decisions that showed their business would fall of a cliff by supporting the NRA one could understand. It hasn’t happened in 20 years, so why now? If one chooses to fly United for whatever reason (convenience, price, family emergency) will they stop flying it in fear of association with the NRA might be bad for their image? Does the average American, where there are as many guns as people, think ill of the NRA? 32% of US households own guns. Are 32% of households unhinged lunatics? Granted the NRA does itself  little favors in the PR department after such tragedies.

As we’ve written in recent days, the growing incidence of broken homes and the surge in the dispensing of antidepressants to ‘tranquilize’ those who might be tempted into suicidal or homicidal tendencies is a worrying trend. Pharma companies are expected to mint $17bn in antidepressants by 2020.  Should we spurn Eli Lilly’s over-the-counter drugs because they are the evil corporates milking billions from Prozac?

To put it into perspective the total number of overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015 jumped 6.2-fold in the US. Automobiles killed around 32,000 people last year or a little over 2x that of heroin overdoses. When adding non-methadone opioids (illicit fentanyl) overdose that number surged to 20,000, a 33% YoY jump on 2014 and 5.9x 2002. Why is it happening? The problem for many prescription painkiller users is that once their bottle ends, the addiction doesn’t stop meaning many switch to heroin to get the same ‘opioid’ hit.

Excessive use of pain relievers make up a large proportion of illicit drug use. Oxycodone is one of the more common type of opiate pain killer and it is highly addictive. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the formulation of OxyContin be changed to make it harder to become addicted to. Talk about loading patients with too much ammunition.

As opioid overdoses rise, companies such as Adapt Pharma have seen sharp rises in the sales of products like Narcan (Naloxone) which basically revives victims from the dead. Narcan publicizes its price that is even insured meaning one can overdose and revive with a $10 co-payment.

94% of insured lives in the US have coverage for NARCAN® Nasal Spray*. According to IMS Health, nearly three quarters (74%) of prescriptions for NARCAN® Nasal Spray have a co-pay of $10 or less**. For those paying cash, ADAPT Pharma has partnered with retail pharmacies to reduce out of pocket costs (Retail is $62.50/dose)…To expand community access, NARCAN® Nasal Spray is available to all qualified group purchasers for $37.50 per 4mg dose ($75 per carton of 2 doses). This pricing is available for all Qualified Group Purchasers, such as first responders (EMS, Fire Department, Police), community organizations and Departments of Health, regardless of size. This pricing represents a 40% discount off the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of $125 per carton.”

Price hikes have been a feature of naloxene. As of January 2015, Amphastar’s version of naloxone was up to $41 a dose, according to Fierce Pharma, a pharmaceutical industry news website. That follows a price increase from $17 to $33 a dose back in October 2014, according to data provided by Truven Health Analytics. So not only is volume spiking, so is price. Walgreens has expanded the availability of prescription-free naloxone to 33 states.

West Virginia health officials are responding to opioid overdoses by distributing more than 8,000 kits with Naloxone that can get people breathing again if administered in time. Money for the kits comes from a $1 million federal grant to West Virginia, which has had the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 41.5/100,000 people.

Local emergency medical services agencies in West Virginia administered 4,186 doses of Naloxone in 2016, up from 3,351 the year before and 2,165 two years ago and that data doesn’t include uses by hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers, first responders and family members.

The gun industry in America is around $11 billion. 35,000 work in the manufacture of guns and ammo. There are 50,000 retailers in the US. 32% of American households possess a firearm. One-third. The federal government collects $132 million in taxes on guns. 17 million background checks for gun purchases are conducted annually.

By all means let’s have common sense debates on regulation surrounding guns. Sending memes of Republicans on the payroll of the NRA can be met with as many Democrats accepting fortunes from the pharmaceutical lobby so as to prevent price cuts being driven through Congress. While guns maybe noisy killers, pharmaceutical companies are  in a sense becoming (or already become) stealthy silent assassins. Their drugs causing patients to switch to harder substances. 13% of adolescents are on antidepressants. Thirteen percent. 68% of them have taken antidepressants for 2 years and a quarter for over a decade,

The tragedy of school shootings is awful in every conceivable way. How it tears families apart, destroys the lives of survivors who must cope with unspeakable trauma and creates a platform for such horrid knee jerk responses in all forms of media. How the loss of 17 lives takes a back seat to agendas which feed the very opposite of the intention they proclaim. Corporates joining the bandwagon only fuel mixed messaging. It is exactly the type of ‘shaming’ that was so prevalent at the time of the election.

Trying to get the NRA to come around to spreading the word amongst its members that banning bump stocks and certain weapons is feasible won’t occur when corporates and the media publicly kick them. It is never an easy discussion but it only makes members want to dig their trenches deeper. Do people honestly believe that all NRA members would reject common sense proposals about screening, age limits and certain weapons restrictions? Yet that is the picture that is painted. They’re lunatics to a man, woman and child. Let’s hope that United Airlines and others that have spurned the NRA now turn to the drugs list in the company health provider to ensure that those pharmaceutical companies behind so many of the deaths from the explosive concoctions they sell are dealt with in the same way. Here’s a prediction. That hasn’t crossed their minds. So much for pharma companies saving lives. They are cashing in as a growing number of patients check out.

Narconomics – illegal drugs and correlation to financial markets

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BBC published an interesting report suggesting the recent purity of drugs like cocaine was causing higher incidences (+150% on 2013) of overdoses causing problems for A&E wards. A while back I read all 300 odd pages of UNODC’s narcotics report and concluded that narcotics markets are good economic indicators. The inverse correlation of  price and purity is profound. As economic conditions worsen, prices decline and purity goes up. The value proposition is in full effect. Moreover the substitution effect of traditional narcotics has to cope with synthetic drugs like ice, crystal meth, krokodil and oxi which give 5x the bang for 1/5th the price with 100x the side effects.

I am working hard with an American listed company to get a drug – which stops drug addiction – approved and sold in Australia where the ice epidemic is out of control.  Exciting stuff.

US heroin deaths up 6x since 2002! Why?

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The chart above shows the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015 with a 6.2-fold increase in the total number of deaths over the period. Automobiles killed around 32,000 people last year or a little over 2x that of heroin overdoses. When adding non-methadone opioids (illicit fentanyl) overdose that number surged to 20,000, a 33% YoY jump on 2014 and 5.9x 2002. Why is it happening? The problem is that for many prescription painkiller users is that once their bottle ends, the addiction doesn’t stop meaning many switch to heroin to get the same ‘opioid’ hit.

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Looking at deaths caused by all illicit drugs, we are looking at 50,000, more than double the level of 2002. So illicit drugs killed almost as many as car accidents and gun murders combined in 2015.

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Overdose deaths from taking pain relievers has also been shockingly high. Drugs such as OxyContin which contain opioids have also found their way to creating problems in the US armed forces.

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The US Government has recorded stats on the use of illicit drugs by active duty military personnel. While still off the highs (no pun intended) of the 1980s, since the 1990s the trend has been climbing. The chart above shows the usage as a % of total active personnel. The USAF has the lowest incidence of drug abuse. Illicit drug use includes marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, methamphetamine, inhalants, GHB/GBL and prescription drug misuse.

Excessive use of pain relievers make up a large proportion of illicit drug use. Oxycodone is one of the more common type of opiate pain killer and it is highly addictive. In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the formulation of OxyContin be changed to make it harder to become addicted to.

A policy of zero tolerance for drug use among DoD personnel is likely one reason why illicit drug use has remained at a low level in the military for 2 decades. The policy was instituted in 1982 and is currently enforced by frequent random drug testing; service members face dishonorable discharge and even criminal prosecution for a positive drug test.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Suicide rates in the military were traditionally lower than among civilians in the same age range, but in 2004 the suicide rate in the U.S. Army began to climb, surpassing the civilian rate in 2008. Substance use is involved in many of these suicides. The 2010 report of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force found that 29 percent of active duty Army suicides from fiscal year (FY) 2005 to FY 2009 involved alcohol or drug use; and in 2009, prescription drugs were involved in almost one third of them.”

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As opioid overdoses rise, companies such as Adapt Pharma have seen sharp rises in the sales of products like Narcan (Naloxone) which basically revives victims from the dead. Narcan publicizes its price that is even insured meaning one can overdose and revive with a $10 co-payment.

“94% of insured lives in the US have coverage for NARCAN® Nasal Spray*. According to IMS Health, nearly three quarters (74%) of prescriptions for NARCAN® Nasal Spray have a co-pay of $10 or less**. For those paying cash, ADAPT Pharma has partnered with retail pharmacies to reduce out of pocket costs (Retail is $62.50/dose)…To expand community access, NARCAN® Nasal Spray is available to all qualified group purchasers for $37.50 per 4mg dose ($75 per carton of 2 doses). This pricing is available for all Qualified Group Purchasers, such as first responders (EMS, Fire Department, Police), community organizations and Departments of Health, regardless of size. This pricing represents a 40% discount off the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of $125 per carton.”

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Price hikes have been a feature of naloxene. As of January 2015, Amphastar’s version of naloxone was up to $41 a dose, according to Fierce Pharma, a pharmaceutical industry news website. That follows a price increase from $17 to $33 a dose back in October 2014, according to data provided by Truven Health Analytics. So not only is volume spiking, so is price. Walgreens has expanded the availability of prescription-free naloxone to 33 states.

West Virginia health officials are responding to opioid overdoses by distributing more than 8,000 kits with Naloxone that can get people breathing again if administered in time. Money for the kits comes from a $1 million federal grant to West Virginia, which has had the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 41.5/100,000 people.

Local emergency medical services agencies in West Virginia administered 4,186 doses of Naloxone in 2016, up from 3,351 the year before and 2,165 two years ago and that data doesn’t include uses by hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers, first responders and family members.

So layered on top of poverty, food stamps and deteriorating employment we now seem to have an America that is increasingly becoming high on opioids. I am working closely with a company which is developing the antidote and progress is good. It will knock out the addiction even including ice in Australia. Tests are promising.