Search results: overdose

Life Expectancy and Drug Overdose Deaths Don’t Fit the Identity Politics Narrative

The headline that the Providence Journal gave to a Washington Post story, “Fueled by drug crisis, US life expectancy declines for a second straight year,” hides the key point:

Overall, life expectancy dropped by a tenth of a year, from 78.7 to 78.6. It fell two-tenths of a year for men, who have much higher overdose death rates, from 76.3 to 76.1 years. Women’s life expectancy held steady at 81.1 years.

American women now have five full years of additional life, on average, than American men.  You better believe that if the sexes were reversed that would be not only the headline, but a theme for national coverage everywhere for a week.

Looking at a leading cause of the change only amplifies the point:

Men of all ages (26 deaths per 100,000) are twice as likely to die of a drug overdose as women (13 per 100,000).

In Rhode Island, where female Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo hosts an annual student contest that discriminates against boys, the number of overdose deaths among men is almost three times that of women:



The most important antidote to drug use and overdose isn’t a government program, it’s hope.  Unfortunately, that’s only a word on our flag in Rhode Island.


Encouraging Bad Behavior by Curing a Consequence

Sometimes the legislation flowing through the Rhode Island General Assembly each year takes the form of series, with tweaks and additions to particular areas of law building on each other.  One such series involves opioid abuse and overdose, with a subset for increasing (even mandating) the availability of emergency drugs to save people from overdoses.  Unfortunately, Robert VerBruggen reports for National Review that this trend may have an undesired outcome:

Are Anti-Overdose Drugs Backfiring?

Yes, says an incredibly depressing new study. It suggests that opioid abuse rises when overdose-reversing drugs are easily accessible.

This could happen through two different mechanisms: “(1) saving the lives of active drug users, who survive to continue abusing opioids, and (2) reducing the risk of death per use, thereby making riskier opioid use more appealing.” (1) isn’t a bad thing, even though we would obviously prefer that addicts quit after nearly dying. But (2) is a serious problem, as it could mean that overdose-reversing drugs don’t actually save lives on balance.

Obviously, this finding (if further study validates it) doesn’t prove that we shouldn’t strive to save lives, but it should lead us to be humble as we attempt to use government to fix society’s problems.  I mean, think of the choices that pile on each other:  We decide that we’re going to use government to make anti-overdose drugs more readily available, and that increases drug abuse.  This can get very expensive for other people very quickly, whether through taxes or health insurance premiums.  Those resources necessarily have to come from elsewhere.

Perhaps to mitigate the financial and human cost, somebody will propose that anybody whose life is thus saved must be committed to a facility for recovery.  Now, suddenly, we’re saving lives only to institutionalize people who may relapse once they’re let out, and when they do, they’ll have incentive to take their drugs in a more concealed environment.  What then?  Further erode their privacy?  Or create safe places in which they can do their drugs, thus increasing the ease of drug usage?

Frankly, I’m not sure where I land on this series of questions, but it wouldn’t be irrational or inhumane to go back to the start of it and suggest keeping government out altogether.  At least that would focus our attention on the social arena in which the solution to the problem ultimately lies.


The Obvious Solution That’s Just Too Much for the Elite

Mark Meckler highlights on Patheos an important commonality among school shooters:

Fatherlessness is a serious problem.  America’s boys have been under stress for decades.  It’s not toxic masculinity hurting them, it’s the fact that when they come home there are no fathers there.  Plain and simple.  Add that to a bunch of horrible cultural trends telling them that everything bad is good (gang culture, drugs, misogyny, etc.), and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. 

Venker goes on to explain that of CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History, only one was raised by his biological father since childhood.

This is definitely in keeping with my related suggestion that attempting to make boys respond to stressors more like girls do is the wrong direction.  Boys need to learn how to channel their masculinity, not suppress it or replace it with femininity.  And one needn’t be credentialed in psychology to propose that the habits and attitudes of doing so are best learned by observing one’s father.  These nuances are subtle.

Of course, school shootings are just one extreme manifestation of our society’s problem.  On National Review, Roger Clegg points to another:

… any intelligent analysis of continuing racial disparities has to come to grips with the fact that the out-of-wedlock birthrate among African Americans has tripled since the 1960s, so that now seven out of ten African Americans are born out of wedlock. And being born out-of-wedlock correlates strongly with all those other numbers: education, employment, income, and so forth.

As Clegg intimates, mainstream conversation about this obvious observation seems all but verboten.  Again, one needn’t be credentialed in sociology to propose the explanation that those who set the mainstream conversation find it easier to locate the problem with other people.  Admitting the role that our move away from traditional expectations for relationships has played in the most vexing of our social problems would require them to reevaluate their own behavior and ideology, and that would simply be asking too much, even in the face of shootings, suicides, overdoses, and the maintenance of a racial underclass.


The Damage of Gender Bias

While I’m on the topic of honest, mature conversations, is it a step too far to mention this, from Roger Clegg on National Review Online?

There’s an interesting new paper discussed here by Mark Perry at AEI about an international phenomenon called the “educational-gender-equality paradox — the greater the degree of gender equality among 67 countries studied . . . the lower the female share of STEM college graduates.” As The Atlantic puts it, “In countries that empower women, they are less likely to choose math and science professions.” It’s about choice, then, not discrimination.

For a broader point, mix in Jazz Shaw’s commentary, “Marines Quietly Lower Combat Training Requirements To Help Female Officers“:

… the fact is, there were a few women completing the CET. In the first year of trials, three women made it through, though they didn’t finish the entire IOC. And wasn’t that always the expectation? We supposedly weren’t guaranteeing any particular number of women roles as combat officers in the Marine Corps. We were just giving them the opportunity to try and prove they have what it takes.

But now, some aspiring officers (presumably of both genders) who fail to complete the CET will still make it through and lead Marines into combat. You can say that you’re “not lowering the standards” until you’re blue in the face, but it sure looks that way from the outside.

In the first case, our society apparently takes the view that it must increase incentives for women to do work that of which they may be entirely capable, but in which they have less interest than men.  In the second case, we appear to be lowering standards in order, perhaps, to get to the point that same point.

All of these identity politics dances will only lower our civilization’s ability to advance and to defend itself, while arguably contributing to an epidemic of male suicide and drug overdoses.  At some point we have to take seriously the possibility that lowering our civilization’s ability to advance and to defend itself is the objective.


The Coincidence of Medicaid Expansion with Opioid Abuse

The Wall Street Journal recently put a spotlight on a matter that deserves more consideration:

A recent study by Express Scripts Holding found that about a quarter of Medicaid patients were prescribed an opioid in 2015. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson presents intriguing evidence that the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare may be contributing to the rise in opioid abuse. According to a federal Health and Human Services analysis requested by the Senator, overdose deaths per million residents rose twice as fast in the 29 Medicaid expansion states—those that increased eligibility to 138% from 100% of the poverty line—than in the 21 non-expansion states between 2013 and 2015.

There were also marked disparities between neighboring states based on whether they opted into ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. Deaths increased twice as much in New Hampshire (108%) and Maryland (44%)—expansion states—than in Maine (55%) and Virginia (22%). Drug fatalities shot up by 41% in Ohio while climbing 3% in non-expansion Wisconsin.

A quick look around the Internet didn’t produce Senator Johnson’s evidence, so I’m not able to say how Rhode Island fits into the picture.  Still, data from the Family Prosperity Index (FPI) shows that Rhode Island’s illicit drug use (other than marijuana) as a percentage of population matches that of New Hampshire, with Maine well below.  Recall that Rhode Island’s government jumped right into the Medicaid expansion with scarcely any discussion.


Marijuana and the Inevitable Pin-Hole Burns

The headline for this post derives from the Pink Floyd song, “Nobody Home,” from the concept album turned movie, The Wall.  As our rock star protagonist slips into loneliness and insanity, he’s looking around his hotel room and at himself, and he sees “the inevitable pinhole burns all down the front of my favorite satin shirt.”  The holes are from the embers of his cigarettes, which presumably he’s chain smoking.

Of course, neither smoking nor the indolent burning of holes in your shirt are inevitable.

Anyway, the lyric came to mind when I read the reaction of RI’s leading lobbyist for the legalization of marijuana upon hearing that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo backs a study commission for the related bill, not the actual policy:

… legalization advocates say the commission would only delay the inevitable.

“The public is behind it. Massachusetts is moving forward. We don’t think a study commission is necessary because we already have the data,” Jared Moffat, of Regulate RI, said. …

Massachusetts retail shops will begin selling marijuana in July 2018. Moffat said delaying legalization in the Ocean State will result in sending jobs and revenue to the Bay State.

So speaks the pusher:  “Hey kid, your friends are all doing it.  You’re going to buy some eventually.  You might as well buy it from me, now.  Why be the last?”

Pink Floyd rhymes “inevitable pin-hole burns” with “the obligatory Hendrix perm.”  Hendrix’s death from a drug overdose wasn’t inevitable.  As a carpenter, I worked on a few projects with a painter who railed against anti-drug laws on the grounds that Hendrix died because his girlfriend was afraid to call for help out of fear of being busted for possession.  The first day I worked with that painter, by the way, he mentioned that he wasn’t quite himself because his friend had just died.  Another overdose.

Legalization is not inevitable.  If states that have made the leap find, for example, an explosion of hard-drug use (which is still in the cards), opinions will change quickly.  Haste is the imperative of those who fear a gamble will go sour.


Reversing a Deadly Cultural Cliché

Betsy McKay raises a central puzzle for America in a Wall Street Journal article about death rates among white adults:

The increase in mortality rate for working-class whites can’t be explained by declining income prospects alone. Blacks and Hispanics face many of the same income struggles but have experienced declines in mortality over the same period, the two economists argued, though their findings reveal more recent troubles for blacks, with gains stagnating the past couple of years amid an increase in drug overdoses and stalling progress against heart disease.

“This doesn’t seem to be about current income,” Ms. Case said in a call with reporters. “It seems to be about accumulating despair.”

It’s about demoralization.  This trend results from the combination of economic hardship, the elites’ undermining of traditional family structures, and, as a final assault, the handling in the popular culture of white men as always the ultimate source of evil.  Dysfunctional families are easier to survive when there’s money in the equation, and cultural opprobrium is easier to laugh off when you’re advantaged.

To some extent, the problem is the inertia of cultural clichés.  It takes a while for the message that circumstances have changed to filter throughout those who make decisions throughout our institutions, arts, and media (often requiring the change of entire generations at the helm).  And the Left pushed this particular cliché unreasonably hard, because they liked the pose and the political upside.

In the meantime, our society will continue to fail in its role of uplifting its disadvantaged members.


UPDATED: A School Musical and Pushing the Envelope with Your Children

The focal story in this week’s Sakonnet Times begins by noting that Tiverton High School’s now-running student musical marks the first time any high school in the entire state has performed Hair in the half century since it was released.  There’s a reason for that, and it’s the same reason the school felt the need to put a disclaimer on its fliers, warning in bolded all caps: “FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.”

Younger brothers and sisters of the performers… sorry, you’re out of luck.  The public high school is apparently no place for children in Tiverton.

Drama director Gloria Crist notes that she modified the nudity scene, replacing the potential child pornography with something involving glow sticks.  She also notes that there won’t be any depictions of drug use actually on the stage.  As for the script’s profanity, Crist says she took some out, but “kept the rest in, with taste of course.”

Those familiar with the musical — and I had the soundtrack memorized at one point — might question the judgment of taste by somebody who would choose this play for a school production involving children as young as 14 or 15.  I’ve requested from the district a song list and the libretto but have not yet received any reply.

According to Crist, Tams-Witmark Music Library, which owns the rights to Hair, refused to let the school cut the nudity scene, but allowed the glow-stick creativity.  One wonders whether the school was permitted to cut some of the songs, like “Sodomy” (“Masturbation can be fun/Join the holy orgy Kama Sutra everyone”); “Initials,” in which LBJ takes the IRT and sees “the youth of America on LSD,” or “The Bed.”  If individual parents want to validate this sort of content for their own children, that’s one thing, but for a public high school to be giving it a seal of approval is wholly inappropriate.

No doubt much of the most objectionable content has been removed or softened, but even so, “clever work-arounds,” as the article puts it, for content that goes too far even for radicals have a tendency to invite curiosity, especially among children with access to the Internet wherever they go, carrying the implied approval of the public school system.

Even edited, there’s simply no way to tease out the glorification of sex and drug culture in Hair.  Rhode Island is the sixth-highest state in the nation for drug overdose deaths, according to the CDC.  Addressing the counterculture of the ’60s in an academic setting is appropriate, to be sure, but Hair revels in it, promotes it.  Indeed, Crist seems to intend the explicit propagandizing of the town’s children: “It has been so powerful to watch them get it. But they do. They understand what freedom of choice is, social justice…”

This sort of decision by the school department certainly affirms the decisions of many parents who choose private schools for their children, but parents who lack the resources are stuck.  Frankly, if public school is now about pushing the envelope in this way, the case is even stronger for allowing parents to use the funds set aside for their children to make better decisions.

UPDATE (5/19/16; 8:11 a.m.)

Given a resurgence of attention to this post, I should note that the school administration did send me a song list, and I have watched the performance (although the video on YouTube has since been switched to private).  Busy days and other priorities combined with indecision about whether it would be appropriate to publicize an unofficial video of the performance led to the delay of this update.

The songs “Sodomy” and “The Bed,” described above, were removed from the script, but “Initials” was kept, as were other inappropriate songs, like “Hashish,” which lists drugs and ends with “s-e-x, y-o-u” and a euphoric “wow.”  Much of the sexual content of the musical remained, the anti-Catholic parts were actually more aggressive than I would have expected.