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Dilemmas of a broken substance abuse system

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Leonard Jason and Ed Stevens write in the OUP blog:

With rising health care expenses, we are all trying to solve the paradoxical dilemma of finding ways to develop better, more comprehensive health care systems at an affordable cost. To be successful, we need to tackle one of the most expensive health problems we face, alcohol and drug abuse, which costs us approximately $428 billion annually. Comparatively, the expenses of health care services, medications, and lost productivity for heart disease costs $316 billion per year. In addition to economic costs, none of us are spared the ravages of this disease, due to addictions among our friends, family, workers or co-workers. Addictions are the most prevalent mental health disorders, afflicting about 8-9% of the US population. Yet the vast majority—an estimated 90% of those with a substance use disorder—do not receive any formal treatment services. In addition, the majority of those 10% who do receive formal services for substance abuse have been treated previously, and therefore, even those who do get treated for their addiction often do not attain recovery. Something has to change, as our current substance abuse health care system is both expensive and ineffective.

The fact is that millions of Americans are not receiving help for their substance use problems, nor are the current treatment programs consistently producing long term successes. We as a nation need to overcome our denial of our country’s high levels of problematic alcohol and drug use. Simplistic solutions of just saying “no” have been unsuccessful and unwittingly wrecked havoc on our citizens. Rather, we endorse a comprehensive campaign to highlight the extent of our nations’ addiction to mind altering substances, a movement to develop norms that increase an awareness when self-management of occasional use fails, an undertaking to overcome barriers in seeking the help that is needed, and critical efforts to increase the effectiveness of treatment and after-care programs.

Bold new initiatives will be needed to solve these problems on a more systemic and sustainable basis, and below are a few of our thoughts for change.

Aligned with more universal efforts of facilitating self-awareness of problem behaviors, efforts should be made to identify and reduce risks with settings that promote use. This especially includes settings that perpetuate self-defeating and destructive influences on our youth and young adults, for example, college freshman binge drinking.

As a universal prevention effort, all citizens can be responsible for helping those at risk for substance use disorders. The majority of people who use legal substances like alcohol and prescription drugs do so without endangering their health or that of their family members and friends. Early prevention efforts should focus on the trajectory of problematic use and building awareness for self-screening and use management. For some individuals, however, self-management fails, and their alcohol and drug use can become harmful. Collectively, we should promote acting early to prevent addictions, and begin a dialogue with loved ones when such patterns are observed. Family members, friends, and work associates must recognize and change often unconscious subtle actions that unwittingly promote and enable harmful use of substances by their loved ones. Rather than condoning or even encouraging reckless drinking or drugging, and waiting until problems are more entrenched and less resistant to change, loved ones have a responsibility to take action (e.g., changing social activities from bar hopping to art gallery hopping) before a more formal treatment is necessary. Other activities might involve attending self-help groups, making referrals, and searching for appropriate resources in a proactive way.

We all have a role in abolishing barriers for someone seeking help and this includes reducing the stigma of substance use disorder. Taking the first recovery step is emotionally difficult for those troubled with addictions. Often, those who have recognized the need to refrain from patterns of damaging addictive behaviors all too frequently have encountered insurmountable obstacles to obtaining help, such as risk to employment, lack of resources, needs of dependents, etc. We should be promoting personal change rather than erecting barriers, like stigma, against it. Like promoting help-seeking, all of us can help re-integrate those with addictions back into our communities. Rather than stigmatizing those coming out of the criminal justice system or addiction treatment programs, we need to welcome them back into our society following treatment, with needed housing, jobs, supports, and resources.

To achieve lower total costs and greater effectiveness, we as a society are responsible for ensuring adequate funding that provides appropriate and timely access to a choice of addiction treatments. . .

Continue reading.

The authors:

Leonard A. Jason is a professor of clinical and community psychology at DePaul University, director of the Center for Community Research, and the author of Principles of Social Change and co-editor of the Handbook of Methodological Approaches to Community-Based Research: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods.

Ed Stevens is the Project Director of a federally funded social network analysis of Oxford House recovery homes, at the Center for Community Research, and a graduate of the doctoral program in Community Psychology at DePaul University.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 December 2016 at 1:27 pm

My God! They really DID improve that site.

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Just read your way down this page. Terrific introduction that really does give you a balanced take on the language. In the first lesson, hover the mouse over the Esperanto to get the translation. Click a specific word for a translation.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 December 2016 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Esperanto

Much improved and updated site for learning Esperanto

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If you don’t know any foreign language but are interested in learning one, it turns out that if you first learn Esperanto as your first foreign language, the learning of your target language is facilitated and improved—see this Wikipedia article.

At first blush it might seem that the time studying Esperanto would be better spent in studying the target language, but note the following from the Wikipedia article on Esperanto:

The Institute of Cybernetic Pedagogy at Paderborn (Germany) has compared the length of study time it takes natively French-speaking high-school students to obtain comparable ‘standard’ levels in Esperanto, English, German, and Italian.[68] The results were:

2000 hours studying German = 1500 hours studying English = 1000 hours studying Italian (or any other Romance language) = 150 hours studying Esperanto.

So the time it takes to learn Esperanto is a fraction of the time it takes to learn a national language. The same article notes:

Third-language acquisition

(Main article: Propaedeutic value of Esperanto)

Four primary schools in Britain, with some 230 pupils, are currently following a course in “propaedeutic Esperanto”—that is, instruction in Esperanto to raise language awareness and accelerate subsequent learning of foreign languages—under the supervision of the University of Manchester. As they put it,

Many schools used to teach children the recorder, not to produce a nation of recorder players, but as a preparation for learning other instruments. [We teach] Esperanto, not to produce a nation of Esperanto-speakers, but as a preparation for learning other languages.[69]

Studies have been conducted in New Zealand,[70]United States,[71][72][73]Germany,[74]Italy[75] and Australia.[76] The results of these studies were favorable and demonstrated that studying Esperanto before another foreign language expedites the acquisition of the other, natural language. This appears to be because learning subsequent foreign languages is easier than learning one’s first foreign language, whereas the use of a grammatically simple and culturally flexible auxiliary language like Esperanto lessens the first-language learning hurdle. In one study,[77] a group of European secondary school students studied Esperanto for one year, then French for three years, and ended up with a significantly better command of French than a control group, who studied French for all four years.

The reason I bring up this notion now, is that the on-line Esperanto study site,, has been revamped and significantly improved. From an email I received:

In July 2016, the site was completely rebuilt from scratch. The work on the new site took several years: it was necessary to create the course with many exercises, design hundreds of illustrations, write a new grammar guide, find a variety of texts for the library, voice and comprehensibly translate the texts, and lay out and program everything. The new site now looks and works better on modern computers and mobile phones, and is also easier to navigate. The changes go far beyond the appearance of the site; the entire contents of the site were redesigned as well. The site now has a comprehensive and interesting course, a rich library, and a completely new forum. We warmly invite you to visit the new site, if you haven’t yet done so.

“Lernu” is the imperative of the verb “lerni” (to learn).

Take a look at the site, and consider using Esperanto as an introduction to foreign-language learning.

UPDATE: Read the first section of this page for some good examples of how Esperanto vocabulary is quite rapidly and easily acquired. Click the speaker icon by each word to hear it said aloud.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 December 2016 at 10:55 am

Posted in Education, Esperanto

How America fails to learn from its racist history, in 2 paragraphs

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German Lopez writes in Vox:

Both the US and Germany have committed horrific racist atrocities in the past. But Americans learn about their own cruelties differently than Germans do, writes Megan Carpentier for the Baffler:

In America, we learn that Hitler and the Nazis committed the Holocaust; in Germany, German children learn that they all participated in it, because the Germans came to believe that acknowledging their collective culpability as individuals was the only way to prevent it from ever happening again.

Americans, meanwhile, continue to debate whether the Civil War was fought to preserve the institution of slavery, as stated by actual Confederates at the time, or to settle a far more abstract and nebulous quarrel over the less morally indefensible concept of “states rights.” History isn’t always written by the victors, especially if there’s a version that makes everyone feel a little less guilty.

Obviously, this is to some extent simplifying the cultural and political differences between the US and Germany. (For one, Germany hasn’t wholly avoided the rise of right-wing extremism since the Nazis.)

But as Carpentier explains in her piece, America tends to take individualistic views of its history, focusing on heroes like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln and villains like Adolf Hitler. Germany has instead made a conscious effort to look at its role during World War II not through individuals but through a collective view — hence the focus not on how Hitler himself went wrong, but on how the nation that supported him and the Nazis did.

The impact of these distinct approaches sticks with us today. Germany still atones for World War II in its schools. Americans learn of slavery and other racist acts as largely the mistakes of their individual ancestors, and sometimes even refuse to admit what the mistakes were at all.

Just last year, there was a big debate about the Confederate flag after the Charleston church shooting, in which a gunman — who donned the flag and describes himself as a white supremacist — shot and killed nine black parishioners.

The flag is a racist symbol of a racist institution that defended slavery, based on the direct admissions of the Confederate states at the time. But some Americans refuse to see the flag in this way, terrified of what that would say about ancestors who once supported the Confederate cause. So there was a national conversation about the issue, mostly focused on if the flag should come down at the South Carolina Capitol.

It seemed ridiculous to be having this debate 150 years after the Civil War, but that’s emblematic of how much of the country has never truly atoned for America’s racist past. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2016 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Education

Tagged with ,

Make your brain happy: Learn to play a musical instrument

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Just in time for New Year’s resolutions:

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2016 at 7:57 am

Introduction to Psychology: A Free Course from Yale University

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Dan Colman points out a free introductory psychology course from Yale:

What do your dreams mean? Do men and women differ in the nature and intensity of their sexual desires? Can apes learn sign language? Why can’t we tickle ourselves? This course tries to answer these questions and many others, providing a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior. It explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction, and dreams. We will look at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired-up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury.

It’s worth a look. And at the link he has more—for example:

Related Content:

A Crash Course on Psychology: A 30-Part Video Series from Hank Green

The Neuroscience & Psychology of Procrastination, and How to Overcome It

How To Think Like a Psychologist: A Free Online Course from Stanford

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2016 at 10:48 am

Posted in Education, Science, Video

What if simply doing your job and being honest triggered death threats?

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Climate scientists know what that’s like. And think about it: you are doing nothing wrong, you are just doing research on the climate, and you’re being honest about what you’re finding, and as a result of that, you get death threats. That’s astonishing, and also peculiar. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s hard to do better than that. What more can you do?

Michael Mann writes in the Washington Post:

Michael E. Mann is a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. He co-authored, with Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.”

My Penn State colleagues looked with horror at the police tape across my office door.

I had been opening mail at my desk that afternoon in August 2010 when a dusting of white powder fell from the folds of a letter. I dropped the letter, held my breath and slipped out the door as swiftly as I could, shutting it behind me. First I went to the bathroom to scrub my hands. Then I called the police.

It turned out to be cornstarch, not anthrax. And it was just one in a long series of threats I’ve received since the late 1990s, when my research illustrated the unprecedented nature of global warming, producing an upward-trending temperature curve whose shape has been likened to a hockey stick.

I’ve faced hostile investigations by politicians, demands for me to be fired from my job, threats against my life and even threats against my family. Those threats have diminished in recent years, as man-made climate change has become recognized as the overwhelming scientific consensus and as climate science has received the support of the federal government. But with the coming Trump administration, my colleagues and I are steeling ourselves for a renewed onslaught of intimidation, from inside and outside government. It would be bad for our work and bad for our planet.

Donald Trump, of course, famously dismissed global warming as a Chinese hoaxand “a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.” This month, he framed his position on climate change as “nobody really knows — it’s not something that’s so hard and fast.” He has vowed to cancel U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement and threatened to block the Clean Power Plan, a measure to reduce carbon emissions in the power sector.

The strong anti-science bent of his advisers is similarly ominous. Among the members of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team are some of the most notorious climate change deniers. One adviser has threatened to cut NASA’s entire climate research program , disparaging it, with no apparent sense of irony, as “heavily politicized.”

Trump’s nominee for energy secretary, Rick Perry, wrote in his 2010 book that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend” (in reality, 2016 will go down as the third consecutive record-breaking year for global temperatures), and when he was governor of Texas, his administration removed all references to climate changefrom a report on rising sea levels. Trump’s proposed interior secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), plays down climate change as “not proven science” and has a dismal record on the environment, voting again and again in favor of the fossil fuel industry. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state, represents those interests even more directly as the chief executive of ExxonMobil.

And then there’s Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma and Trump’s pick for EPA administrator. When it comes to fossil fuel advocacy and climate inaction, Pruitt checks all the boxes. He has received substantial campaign funding from the oil and gas industry and is a self-professed “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Among the various lawsuits he has brought against the agency is his current suit against the Clean Power Plan. Fox, meet henhouse.

But it is the disrespect Pruitt displays for science that my colleagues and I find most distressing. Consider this statement from a commentary he published this year in National Review: . . .

Continue reading.

I have to confess that I just do not understand people like Pruitt.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2016 at 3:33 pm

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