Blaming “Big Pharma”…

So Johnson & Johnson just got bitch slapped by the State of Oklahoma for creating a pain reliever it turns out has some addictive qualities. A fair portion of the interwebs are cheering this development.

I’m a contrarian, though. There are some fine points that I don’t quite understand. I have questions.

Opioid pain relievers are, obviously, considered pretty good at what they were designed to do. Without deep diving into the science of how and why, my assumption is they were created principally to reduce / manage pain. It occurs to me, a guy with no medical degree or scientific training, that there are a lot of ways to get after that goal other than opioids depending on the severity of the pain in question.

So now, the question is, what, if anything, is available that’s just as effective at revealing pain as a standard opioid? Then, the question becomes, what role do doctors have in determining the most effective treatment? Finally, we get down to brass tacks and ask what responsibility does the general public have in terms of being informed about what these options are and what they are putting into their own bodies?

You see, I don’t blame the drug companies here – at least not to the level of holding them out as the ultimate bad guy. I suspect in developing bigger and better opioids they were simply responding to a demand signal in the marketplace. That is to say that when given an option, people tend to want to reduce the pain associated with medical conditions or procedures as much and as quickly as possible. I don’t blame them. I’m less than heroic under duress. I don’t want to be in pain any more than is strictly necessary. I wouldn’t do well if it came to holding up under torture. What can I say, I’m a man who knows his own limitations.

With that all said, I’m also a guy who makes his own decisions. I’ve been prescribed opioids on a couple of occasions. Fortunately, the level of pain involved was such that I could manage with a few hands full of 800mg ibuprofen and go on about my business. Even though it was readily available, I opted to bypass the higher powered pain killer because I didn’t really need it. A lot of other people would have made different assessments of their own needs under the exact same circumstance. But everything starts with that choice… and then consequences follow.

But, this is America in the 21st century, so we have to have someone to blame for every bad thing that happens. “Big Pharma” is an easy and tempting target when it comes to who caused the opioid problem. It is their product, after all… even if that product only exists because we collectively have demanded a better and faster painkiller. They gave us a hell of a product. Maybe in the future we we should be a bit more thoughtful about what we ask for and noggin through some of the second and third order effects it might have.

Yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen. Never as long as we have a convenient scapegoat to relieve us of the burden of our own responsibilities.

Hello Caitlyn…

Half my friends and family are probably appalled that the olympian formerly known as Bruce Jenner is now called Caitlyn. Abomination in the eyes of God, blah, blah, blah. The other half of my friends are celebrating Caitlyn as a hero for the 21st century. Such bravery in the face of certain criticism and hate, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Color me ambivalent. Disinterested. Nonplussed. If Bruce wants to be Caitlyn, as in all things that don’t infringe on the free exercise of my liberty, I say God bless and have a good life. It’s a short one – far too short to go about wringing your hands and gnashing your teeth because someone somewhere doesn’t live their lives the way you think they should.

Don’t like pornography? Don’t look at it. Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t have one. Don’t like booze? Don’t drink. Don’t like the way someone is talking to God? Don’t listen. Don’t like that Caitlyn Jenner is on the cover of a magazine? Don’t look. No one is forcing a damned thing down your throat. You’re free to take it or leave it – but when you fixate on it, when it becomes an all consuming irritant in your life, when you want to cram everyone else on the planet into your narrow minded mold, don’t be surprised when I think you’re a crate of AK-47s away from being the damned Taliban.

Go live your life. Let other people live theirs. Put on a dress. Put on a track suit. Get out there and allow your friends and neighbors to enjoy the same freedom of conscience you expect them to give you. You’ll save yourself a lot of angst and anguish that way.

Not a sermon, just a thought.

Choices…

“We make choices. I’m well aware there are forces beyond our control but even in the face of those forces we make choices, and then we live with them. And then we die with them.”

Gold star if you can pinpoint the source of that little pearl of wisdom without racing over to the Google. Here’s a hint: It’s from deep inside a television series that could have been great but met its end before being fully realized or appreciated. I came across it a few days ago and it’s stuck with me for whatever reason. It’s one of those rare quotes that’s really gotten inside my head and left me to ponder. Not that I mind pondering. As far as I’m concerned the ability to ponder and think deeply on a topic is one of the very few things that really separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Choices. Making them, giving their power up to others, changing our minds, and then choosing all over again. Knowing that we’re always making them without having all the facts and with an imperfect sense of how they will play out, still we make choices every day and live with their consequences – or die with them.

Is all that too dark for a Tuesday night?

Banned…

I saw a Facebook post yesterday morning from my alma mater proclaiming a smoke free campus. Personally it’s sort of a “whatever” moment for me as it doesn’t impact me one way or another. You can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been back on campus since I walked across the stage at the PE Center. Plus, there’s the whole quitting thing so I won’t be strolling campus jonesing for a fix any time soon. Still, it got me thinking about the old stomping grounds a bit.

I probably shouldn’t admit this here on the internet, but some of my best memories from college are the times sitting on the wall in front of Cambridge Hall smoking and joking with whoever happened to show up. Those were some great late night conversations and friendships that were bonded in the face or driving snow, wind, and rain. Of course it was always nice that if you jumped inside the wall, you could find a few feet of dry space and keep the conversation going? I could rattle off a few names, but for their sake a decade later I won’t. If you’re reading this, chances are you know them or might even be them. Standing in front of Dunkle? Yeah, I was there too. Or if I was lucky, I got one of the coveted benches at Guild Center between POSCI classes. It was a golden age… and as much as the anti’s would have me feel ashamed of it, I enjoyed every puff.

Look, I know the health risks of smoking. You’d be hard pressed to find a current or former smoker who doesn’t. We’ve lived them and will continue to live with the repercussions for the rest of our lives, but that’s the choice we made. I’ll direct you to the ill-fated experiments of Prohibition and our ongoing War on Drugs as an example of how “banned” substances come back and ruin your day with unintended consequences. The only thing this kind of ban does is force those intent on continuing an activity to find alternative ways and places to do it. They’ve moved the behavior across the street and declared victory because it isn’t happening “on campus.” That’s some victory they’ve got there.