Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 29th, 2014

Of Pot and Percocet

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Marcus Bachhuber and Colleen Barry write in the NY Times:

PRESCRIPTION opioid painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin have come under intense scrutiny in recent years because of the drastic rise in overdose deaths associated with their prolonged use. Meanwhile, access to medical marijuana has been expanding — 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its broad medical use — and chronic or severe pain is by far the most common condition reported among people using it.

Could the availability of medical marijuana reduce the hazards of prescription painkillers? If enough people opt to treat pain with medical marijuana instead of prescription painkillers in states where this is legal, it stands to reason that states with medical marijuana laws might experience an overall decrease in opioid painkiller overdoses and deaths.

To find out if this has actually happened, we and our colleagues Brendan Saloner and Chinazo Cunningham studied opioid overdose deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010. Our findings, which were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that this unexpected benefit of medical marijuana laws does exist.

Pinpointing the effect of laws on health is notoriously difficult. For one thing, states that have passed medical marijuana laws are no doubt different in important ways from states that have not passed such laws. Differences in, say, social attitudes about drug use or overall health trends might affect rates of opioid painkiller deaths, independent of whether medical marijuana is legal.

Furthermore, from 1999 to 2010 (the period of time we studied), states implemented various measures in response to the threat of opioid painkiller overdoses, including central registries of controlled substance prescriptions, laws allowing pharmacists to request identification before filling a prescription and laws increasing oversight of pain management clinics. These measures, too, might affect rates of opioid painkiller deaths, regardless of the legality of medical marijuana.

We designed our study to allow us to compare state-level rates of opioid painkiller overdose deaths before and after the passage of medical marijuana laws, while controlling for these and other concurrent state and national trends. . . .

Continue reading.

If legalizing marijuana could save hundreds or even thousands of lives, isn’t it a moral imperative to take that step? Do those lives mean nothing?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Drug laws

One amazing study of the impact of cultural memes: Baltimore kids growing up

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Quite an amazing article in the Washington Post by Emily Badger:

BALTIMORE — In the beginning, when they knew just where to find everyone, they pulled the children out of their classrooms.

They sat in any quiet corner of the schools they could claim: the sociologists from Johns Hopkins and, one at a time, the excitable first-graders. Monica Jaundoo, whose parents never made it past the eighth grade. Danté Washington, a boy with a temper and a dad who drank too much. Ed Klein, who came from a poor white part of town where his mother sold cocaine.

They talked with the sociologists about teachers and report cards, about growing up to become rock stars or police officers. For many of the children, this seldom happened in raucous classrooms or overwhelmed homes: a quiet, one-on-one conversation with an adult eager to hear just about them. “I have this special friend,” Jaundoo thought as a 6-year-old, “who’s only talking to me.”

Later, as the children grew and dispersed, some falling out of the school system and others leaving the city behind, the conversations took place in McDonald’s, in public libraries, in living rooms or lock-ups. The children — 790 of them, representative of the Baltimore public school system’s first-grade class in 1982 — grew harder to track as the patterns among them became clearer.

Over time, their lives were constrained — or cushioned — by the circumstances they were born into, by the employment and education prospects of their parents, by the addictions or job contacts that would become their economic inheritance. Johns Hopkins researchers Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle watched as less than half of the group graduated high school on time. Before they turned 18, 40 percent of the black girls from low-income homes had given birth to their own babies. At the time of the final interviews, when the children were now adults of 28, more than 10 percent of the black men in the study were incarcerated. Twenty-six of the children, among those they could find at last count, were no longer living.

A mere 4 percent of the first-graders Alexander and Entwisle had classified as the “urban disadvantaged” had by the end of the study completed the college degree that’s become more valuable than ever in the modern economy. A related reality: Just 33 of 314 had left the low-income socioeconomic status of their parents for the middle class by age 28.

Today, the “kids” — as Alexander still calls them — are 37 or 38. Alexander, now 68, retired from Johns Hopkins this summer just as the final, encompassing book from the 25-year study was published. . .

Continue reading.

And by all means, read the whole thing: it’s not just about these kids, it’s about the cultural landscape of the city: who lives on the good cultural clusters, who on the marginal, and the devastating effects of a bad cultural cluster.

But of course it can be interrupted in a generation were there the will. But those who occupied privileged niches will be loath to change.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 2:05 pm

Will the US be dragged into a war with Russia?!

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Read this and think about where it’s going. This is happening now. Russia has officially invaded the Ukraine.

I hope we don’t just blunder into catastrophe à la the Great War.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:50 pm

Isn’t this reminiscent of some bungling East-European country in the Soviet days?

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This is just exactly the sort of incompetence and bureaucratic bumbling to protect one’s job at all costs that you see in the early Moscow detective novels by Martin Cruz Smith. It’s the exact same thing, only different language, different time, different country. A translation, of sorts.

And if the deaths in that prison are so bad, I hate to think what their lives are like.

UPDATE: Soviet-style bungling seems to be fairly common. I suppose most of the time the cover-ups work.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:44 pm

The US human rights record domestically: Poor

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Joanna Rothkopf reports in Salon:

The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recently concluded its 85th Session during which time it considered seven state reports, including one on the United States.

The report praised many progressive steps the U.S. has taken to ensure equality, including the termination of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, the adoption of the Fair Sentencing Act and the adoption of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

However, the number of issues the report raises is pretty abominable. CERD expressed concern over the following problems:

  1. Lack of a national human rights institution
  2. Persistent racial profiling and illegal surveillance
  3. Prevalence and under-reporting of racist hate speech and hate crimes
  4. Disparate impact of environmental pollution in low income and minority communities
  5. Restrictive voter identification laws leading to unequal right to vote
  6. Criminalization of homelessness when homeless people are disproportionately minorities
  7. Discrimination and segregation in housing
  8. De facto racial segregation in education
  9. Unequal right to health and access to health care
  10. High number of gun-related deaths and “Stand Your Ground” laws, which disproportionately affect members of racial and ethnic minorities
  11. Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials
  12. Increasingly militarized approach to immigration law enforcement
  13. Violence against women occurs disproportionately more frequently for women from racial/ethnic minorities
  14. Criminal justice system disproportionately arrests, incarcerates and subjects to harsher sentences people from racial/ethnic minorities
  15. Youth from racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately prosecuted as adults, incarcerated in adult prisons, and sentenced to life without parole
  16. Non-citizens are arbitrarily detained in Guantanamo Bay without equal access to the criminal justice system, while at risk of being subjected to torture
  17. Unequal access to legal aid
  18. Lacking rights of indigenous peoples (the report lists numerous different concerns)
  19. Absence of a National Action Plan to combat racial discrimination

In a press conference convened Friday, CERD committee vice chairman Noureddine Amir highlighted the death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:34 pm

Two headlines asking (in effect), “Why not legalize marijuana now?”

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Why wait and let the toll rack up? Two headlines from NORML:

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
    Marijuana use by newly married couples is predictive of less frequent incidences of intimate partner violence perpetration, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Researchers reported: “[M]ore frequent marijuana use generally predicted less frequent IPV perpetration, for both men and women, over the first 9 years of marriage.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
    The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published online today by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws. … Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality.”

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Science

A meme to be stopped

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Stop that meme! Seriously. This quirk costs us all. And it can easily be interrupted because performance appraisals can be vetted and people retrained—“yes, this was the old way we did things here, but now we do things this way.” It will catch on because it can be monitored and reinforced. But that cultural shift is within the boundaries of the organization—it doesn’t transfer readily to other organizations. It’s not contagious, it seems.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 1:23 pm

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