Category Archives: Drugs

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

How many times have you heard that sugar makes kids hyperactive, or that caffeine will keep you up all night, or that cigarettes make you jittery? Well, research now shows that this is not true for everyone. In fact, it can have the opposite effect on some people and in moderate amounts. No, you’re not necessarily crazy, you’re just different.

There have been at least twelve trials of various diets investigating different levels of sugar in children’s diets. That’s more studies than are often done on new drugs coming to market. None of these studies detected any differences in behavior between children who had eaten sugar and those who had not. These studies included sugar from candy, chocolate, and natural sources. Some of them focused on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some only included children who were considered “sensitive” to sugar. In all of them, the children behaved the same after eating something full of sugar or something sugar-free. Yet, the myth that sugar makes people hyperactive defies scientific evidence.

Sugar can actually calm kids down. When sugar enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain, it temporarily increases calming neuro chemicals like Serotonin. But sugar isn’t good for you, and corn syrup is even worse, so you have to choose your poison carefully. Dark chocolate is a lot healthier than milk chocolate and can help reduce cortisol levels as well as lower the levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which make kids (and adults) anxious and nervous. Chocolate is also rich in Tryptophan, which is a biochemical precursor that helps with the production of Serotonin. So, the next time your kid is bouncing off the walls, why not try giving him a little chocolate to calm him down?

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Other good sources of Tryptophan include milk, eggs, Cod and spirulina, but unless your kids are a bit odd, I suggest you just stick with the milk and eggs. So, to get even more bang for the buck, get your kid to eat a real egg before he gets the chocolate egg. Wait, can’t you get milk, eggs and chocolate all together in a piece of dark chocolate cake? I think I’ve found the perfect food!

Like sugar, caffeine and nicotine can also relax some people. Central nervous system stimulant drugs like methylphenidate are used to treat children who suffer from ADHD. Caffeine is also a central nervous system stimulant and thus is being studied as a potential aid for this condition. Some folk medicine treatments for ADHD even recommend combining caffeine and sugar.

Cup of Caffeine

Cup of Caffeine

According to an article in the June 2001 issue of “Monitor on Psychology,” caffeine seems to calm hyperactivity and reduce aggressiveness in kids with ADHD. In one analysis of studies reported in the article, caffeine didn’t work as well as traditional ADHD stimulant drugs, but it helped calm hyperactivity better than no treatment at all. Additionally, a 2003 Canadian review of studies published in the journal “Food Additives and Contaminants” noted that caffeine has been used successfully to treat ADHD and has been shown to increase performance by ADHD children in attention tests.

So, to summarize, for those with a fabulous genetic predisposition, the perfect relaxing meal could be either of the following:

  1. a couple of eggs, a cup of coffee with milk, and a bit of chocolate or
  2. a piece of dark chocolate cake with a cappuccino

This might even work well for some people at night. Caffeine works by blocking the receptors in the brain that make you feel sleepy, but some people are resistant to that effect. I happen to be one of them. If your brain is resistant to caffeine, then a warm drink of any kind, including coffee, will help relax you and ease you into sleep.

Nicotine is not just a stimulant. It is also a known relaxant, primarily because it increases levels of Dopamine in the brain, a hormone / neurotransmitter that causes sensations of pleasure. Nicotine produces pleasure by attaching to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor found on certain nerve cells. In response to nicotine, these nerve cells release a chemical signal called glutamate, which tells connected neurons to release dopamine. The more these nerve cells are excited, the more Dopamine is released and the more pleasant the feeling.  Unfortunately, Nicotine doesn’t come by itself–and you really don’t want the side effects that come with smoking. Too bad we can’t brew a relaxing cup of nicotine-laced coffee before bedtime.

Evidence like this makes me skeptical of any medical advice the “experts” give that is supposed to apply to everyone. Much of what we are led to believe, even if it is scientific, only applies in some cases or sometimes doesn’t even apply at all to some individuals. Not everyone responds the same way to the same chemicals, hormones, foods, or other environmental factors. So, if something doesn’t feel or seem right, it just might not be right for you. Maybe we should all just listen to Professor Lupin. Eat some chocolate. It’s good for you.

“The mood-enhancing properties of chocolate are well known in both the Muggle and wizard worlds. Chocolate is the perfect antidote for anyone who has been overcome in the presence of Dementors, which suck hope and happiness out of their surroundings. Chocolate can only be a short-term remedy, however. Finding ways to fight off Dementors – or depression – are essential if one is to become permanently happier. Excessive chocolate consumption cannot benefit either Muggle or wizard.”

Professor Lupin - Eat Chocolate

Professor Lupin – Eat Chocolate

Advertisements

Family Prison

The Risk of Strong Government

The Risk of Strong Government

Should family members be imprisoned for the crimes of their relatives? Of course not! That kind of crap happens in North Korea and other dictatorships, but not in the good old USA.

Should family members be forced to pay fees or have their property seized for the crimes of a family member, or even when nobody is charged with a crime? Of course not! What if it helped to win the War on Drugs? Not even then. Most Americans oppose the seizure of property without a conviction, but I’m sorry to tell you that is exactly what has been happening. Oh, and by the way, many Americans also believe that the war on drugs has been a failure that has done nothing but cost us $1 trillion, resulted in 45 million drug-related arrests, and left 2.3 million citizens in prison.

Failure of War on Drugs

Failure of War on Drugs

For years, the families of prison inmates have had to pay exorbitant rates for phone calls with their loved ones in jail. I can hear some of you now—tough luck. “If you do the crime, you have to do the time.” Sure, but this isn’t about crime and punishment. This is about the people who didn’t do the crime, but are still paying a needless price for that crime. It is about mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands and wives, among others. In other words, it is about ordinary Americans who did nothing wrong and just want to have some kind of contact with their incarcerated relative. But our government has treated this as an opportunity to generate a profit.

For years, phone companies were allowed to charge over a dollar a minute in a country where the cost of phone calls has plummeted to nearly nothing. In the case of Internet phone calls, the cost really is nothing. Finally, in early 2014, the FCC imposed rate caps of $.25 per minute for debit calls and $.21 for collect calls. It is still probably too much, but is a huge victory for what was, in essence, a financial penalty imposed on the families of prisoners.

Why did these rates ever exist in the first place? I’m sure you can guess the answer. The correctional institutions chose telephone service providers that offered commissions, aka kickbacks. Yes, they shared in the profit and used it as part of their budget. So, the prison system helped to finance itself by charging the families of the inmates. Sounds like a minor issue, but it isn’t to the families involved, who often cannot afford the phone calls. But it is more than just the cost that bothers me. It’s the principle of how we treat our citizens, whether they are in jail or not.

The phone companies and the prison system colluded to make this happen, over years of objections from the families. Why didn’t Congress do anything to stop this? What politician wants to stick up for the rights of prisoners? Apparently, few to none. Sure, our founding fathers thought enough about the issue of crime and punishment to include a prohibition on excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, but apparently no current politician was willing to face this issue. So, my hat is off to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the unelected Chair of the FCC, for listening to the families and finally changing the regulations, even though they had to fight the telecommunications companies in court when they tried to block the new rules. Congress should be ashamed of itself, once again, for ignoring an issue affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens. This case shows that Congress cannot be relied upon to stand up for the rights of all citizens.

Asset Forfeiture

Asset Forfeiture

But there’s more. In just two years, Philadelphia law enforcement authorities have seized the homes or cars of almost 500 families. The law allows them to seize property that is connected to the sale of illegal drugs. If anyone within the house is charged with the sale of illegal drugs, including a child or a visitor, the government is legally able to seize the house, even if the owners had no knowledge of the illegal activity. They can even seize a car that a person drove away in after committing the crime of shoplifting.

In some states, the property owner has to be convicted of a crime before the assets can be seized, but this is not the case in all states. Pennsylvania has been very aggressive when it comes to seizing the assets of innocent citizens.

A 2014 Washington Post investigation has found that thousands of motorists and others have also had property seized. Some have even had property seized even though they were not charged with crimes, and have been forced to go to fight in court to get it back.

The Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing civil asset forfeiture program allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired. That’s right, it sounds a lot like a complete disregard of our Fifth Amendment rights. It is like search and seizure of property without due process of law.

Fifth Amendment to the Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights):

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Cost of War on Drugs

Cost of War on Drugs

As you might imagine, most Americans strongly believe that someone needs to be convicted of a crime before their property can be seized. They also don’t like to pay taxes to fund an unwinnable war that is partly being financed by violations of our constitutional rights.

I’m afraid I don’t have any good news to end this post. The government can seize your stuff even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Sounds like another reason to try and roll back the growth of government and end the war on drugs.

Who Wants to End the War on Drugs?

Who Wants to End the War on Drugs?

NOTE: This post was originally a guest post on the Nonsense & Shenanigans blog. I’m including this copy so that it can be edited, as needed, in the future.

The War on Pleasure

Make Money Like a Porn Star

Make Money Like a Porn Star

What is the difference between a prostitute and a pornographic movie star? One gets paid for sexual services while the other gets paid for sexual services that third parties get to watch. One constitutes illegal prostitution and the other is considered entertainment.

What is the difference between a “john” who solicits a prostitute and someone who promotes and sells porn videos? One sells physical sexual stimulation of the body and the other sells sexual stimulation of the mind, usually to enhance the effectiveness of his own sexual activity. What really is the difference and why is one illegal, but not the other?

If prostitutes were smart, they would all move into the entertainment business by offering acting services for people who want to star in their own porn video. As long as their business is oriented towards the production of resale-quality porn, or even just audition-quality porn, which is a legitimate business activity, it should be completely legal. Not only would this keep the “performers” out of jail, it would certainly increase their income due to the added value of the services provided, the elimination of all fear of prosecution, and the ability to maintain a safe place of business. They would no longer need abusive pimps to protect them, and could rely upon video surveillance and hired security guards to do the job. As a business, they could be sued if they passed on sexually transmitted diseases to their customers, thus increasing the incentive to engage in safe sex.

Of course, all this is just an artificial way of getting around a law that makes no sense, since all that it does is to restrict business activity between consenting adults. This activity has always existed and will always exist as long as there is an imbalance between the supply and demand for sex. In the case of heterosexual sex, there will always be a shortage of females willing to engage in sex and there will always be a high demand on the part of males to buy what they cannot get in sufficient quantity or quality elsewhere. What makes sex for money wrong?

Alcohol Prohibition Propaganda

Alcohol Prohibition Propaganda

What is the difference between drinking alcohol and taking drugs? One is a liquid substance made from natural products that impairs one’s mental faculties, while the other can be a liquid, solid or gaseous substance made from natural products that impairs one’s mental faculties. What really is the difference? The nation gladly reversed the prohibition of alcohol once it became evident that most people opposed it and that it spawned criminal activities that required a costly war to suppress. So, it isn’t a matter of whether or not alcohol is bad for you. It is simply a matter of social choice to live with the benefits as well as the costs of alcoholism and drunken behavior. Obviously, the many benefits of alcohol (Girls Gone Wild Videos is at the top of the list) outweigh the many costs (such as waking up next to a very disappointing stranger).

Why then do we persist in the war on drugs without making a similar assessment of the risks versus benefit of alcohol prohibition? Certainly, not all drugs have the same risks and some are more beneficial or damaging than others. Besides, where would we get some of our most innovative and popular artists if it were not for drugs? Regardless, why do we think it is the responsibility of the government to protect people from their own conscious behavior? If it is the job of the government to do so, then when will we start to make the factors leading to obesity, heart disease, and cancer a crime, such as eating too much junk food and smoking?

Sugar Danger

Sugar Danger

I’d love to see an episode of Miami Vice where some donut-eating fat boy cops pose as johns (junk food solicitors) in order to roll up an imported junk food smuggling ring. Or maybe an episode of Crime Scene Investigation where they determine that the victim was overdosed over a period of 35 years with Twinkies and candy bars that originated from an illicit processed sugar factory in Iowa.

Wouldn’t it be great if legalized drugs could actually be used to combat obesity? Since the war on drugs hasn’t slowed demand, it isn’t as if there would be more addicts running around anyway. However, we would now be able to use some drugs to slow the country’s increasing addiction to sugar and fat. A little speed and the pounds will start to go away, along with the diabetes, hip and knee problems, and other ailments typical of fatties. A little pot, with plenty of munchies on hand, and those anorexics will start putting on weight until they are back to normal. Imagine what a few weeks or months on heroin could do to those morbidly obese whales who can’t leave their houses due to excessive fatness. The pounds would start falling off. Then, they could be put into detox programs until they stabilize. Hey, it might sound drastic, but it’s better than letting them eat themselves to death or use up expensive medical resources trying to treat their many medical problems.

Drugs do not have to be illegal to be controlled. Prescription drugs are controlled now, even though it is ridiculously easy to obtain them anyway. Why is it illegal for sick people to obtain and use medical drugs not approved by the FDA but available overseas? Just because the FDA hasn’t approved a medication, doesn’t mean that it isn’t safe and effective (and from past experience, the opposite is also true). Should we prosecute people for saving or greatly improving the quality of their own lives by using unapproved medications? If I was in great pain or in imminent danger of death and needed something illegal to make it better, you can be sure I’d say to hell with the FDA, give me the drugs.

If alcoholism and drug addiction are real diseases that only affect certain people, then why isn’t someone working on a vaccine of some sort to prevent or reduce their effects when ingested? The answer, of course, is because people like to get drunk and stoned! That’s the whole point. It is a personal choice. But some choices are arbitrarily declared to be illegal because they are a supposed threat to society. If that is so, then it only makes sense to do a real evaluation of the risks to society and rank order them by danger that they pose to others, but only ban those behaviors that threaten the rest of us. A scientific study from the UK does just this and suggests that alcohol is more harmful to society than heroin or crack. 

Harm Caused by Drugs

Harm Caused by Drugs

I’ve got a better proposition. Let’s think of addiction in a different way. The problem is only triggered when the substance is available. So, it really isn’t a medical issue at all. It is a willpower and access issue. You wouldn’t see any addicts on a deserted island. Sure, maybe on Lost, but what is the chance that anyone would really be lost on an island that just happened to have a plane full of cocaine and an enormous supply of junk food?

Anyway, with today’s technology, it is possible to monitor and control access to substances to a certain extent. Why not create a national database where we could list the names of addicts, such as the Voluntary Exclusion Program for gambling addicts? Potential addicts could put their name in voluntarily or, if convicted of a crime such as drunk driving or morbid obesity, could be put on it involuntarily. Sellers would have to check their identity against the database before providing access to the controlled substances. I know, it sounds like another step towards big brother, but it is better than punishing the many for the problems caused by the few. Of course, we would have to get much better at verification of identity through the use of biometrics such as fingerprint or iris scanners tied to a live database.

Here’s how it would work. Let’s say you are addicted to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes or sugar and fat and, in a brief moment of strength, you decide you want to quit. You have your fingerprint and iris scanned and put into the database and select from the list of substances from which you want to be denied access and the period of time. Maybe you just want to try it for a month or maybe you have to comply with a court order banning you for life. Then, when you go to a bar, the bartender scans your finger and finds out he can’t sell you anything but a Shirley Temple. When you go to the grocery store and scan your finger along with the items you are buying, the computer checks the database and alerts the clerk to pull out everything that is listed as high in saturated fat or sugar. With improved, barcoded nutrition labels, this information will be easy to track.

So, we just solved much of our substance abuse problems by using technology to supplement the feeble willpower of most addicts. How much would this system cost? I suspect it wouldn’t be that much compared to the savings in medical costs and reduction in losses to crimes normally perpetrated by addicts. We could probably even pay for it by defrauding Medicare like everybody else. We’ll just bill them for each database check by calling it a medical consultation. So, your health insurance costs should go down, although I’m sure your politicians will never let the taxes go down.

There will still be a black market to deal with, but it won’t be that big since most people would be able to get all their stuff legally. If prices rise too high and the black market gets out of hand, the government can just take it over and use the windfall profits to subsidize the increased medical and legal costs. So what if we sell them substances that are supposed to be illegal? Just think of it as a tax on bad behavior, just like today’s high cigarette taxes. On the other hand, we could just forget about this whole scheme and simply legalize everything. Then, if people commit crimes related to substance abuse, we can put a tracking device on them and confine them to their home, where they could telecommute, work for a call center, or process rebate checks.