Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

Antidepressants may harm child’s brain in womb — Regulation of fear and anxiety by drugs is almost always harmful… and often addictive — This is NOT an article just for women

April 19, 2018

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Women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may be more likely to have children who suffer from anxiety. Picture: File

Women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may be more likely to have children who suffer from anxiety.Now a study has found babies born to these women have differences in their brains which may make them more susceptible to anxiety disorders in later life.

This could be because serotonin, the so-called “happy hormone”, affects the development of the child’s brain in the womb. Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are believed to increase levels of the hormone.

Led by Dr Claudia Lugo-Candelas at Columbia University, New York, the study of 98 babies looked at those born to women without depression; women with depression but not on pills; and women on SSRIs.

The researchers found babies born to women on these drugs had a larger amygdala and insular cortex – areas of the brain “critical to emotional processing”.

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Professor Andrew Whitelaw, of the University of Bristol, who was not involved in the research, said: “These regions of the brain are involved in the regulation of fear and anxiety. Other studies have shown that enlargement and activity in these regions are associated with anxiety disorders.

“However, infants in this study were examined at just a few weeks of age and the findings may be transient.”

Research from Finland has previously found children of women on SSRI pills in pregnancy are more likely to develop depression as teenagers.

The Columbia study showed babies whose mothers had taken these antidepressants while pregnant had more grey matter in their amygdala and insular cortex than those whose mothers were not depressed or depressed but not on pills.

MRI scans taken when they were three-and-a-half weeks old also showed greater connection between the two areas. This may affect how they process fear and whether they feel anxious in uncertain situations.

https://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/health/mind/antidepressants-may-harm-childs-brain-in-womb-14506103

Related:

 (People with a pile of money and the wrong treatment often fail…)

 

Learn more (at the search terms):

Lots of information on this site about what happens when we over-use medication instead of meditation:

,  

(Always see your doctor….)

 (Whenever everything else fails, God will take you Back)

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Billionaire banking heir Matthew Mellon dies in rehab facility

April 17, 2018

Banking heir and cryptocurrency bigwig Matthew Mellon has died, a representative for his family said in a statement.

Mellon, an early backer of global settlement network Ripple, was the ex-husband of Jimmy Choo guru Tamara Mellon and of designer Nicole Hanley, his second wife.

A rep said in a statement: “Billionaire Matthew Mellon, 53, died suddenly in Cancun, Mexico, where he was attending a drug rehabilitation facility. Mellon made his fortune in cryptocurrency, turning a $2 million investment into $1 billion. He is survived by his three children, Force, Olympia and Minty. The family asks that their privacy be respected at this very painful time.”

Mellon, a former chair of the New York Republican Party’s finance committee, had battled addiction.

In 2016, he told The Post, “OxyContin is like legal heroin. And it needs to be addressed,” while at a Malibu treatment center kicking a habit of $100,000 a month.

But he was in Forbes this year for his latest investments.

Tamara, who with Mellon had daughter Araminta, aka Minty, said in 2013, “He keeps fighting and coming back.”

Mellon and Nicole, parents of Force and Olympia, announced their split in 2015 after an attempted reconciliation.

https://pagesix.com/2018/04/16/banking-heir-matthew-mellon-dies-in-rehab-facility/?_ga=2.176044706.1290953022.1519666445-253902147.1519666445

Professor of Psychiatry explains the pleasure-seeking circuitry in your brain — Keys and dangers of addiction

April 16, 2018

Your brain’s emotional functional circuitry says to unlock the elation…. Addiction to computer games can kill you….

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The brain

You set up the game and begin. The first game points later, and your brain’s reward circuit is instantly fed. You don’t know when the next reward is coming, so you expectantly play on; the pleasure-seeking circuitry is turned on. You’re rewarded again, and it’s like a key is fit into your brain’s emotional functional circuitry to unlock the elation. Soon, you know you’re tired, but after a loss, you feel you must continue, to get back that ‘high’. You play on and the beginnings of a behavioural addiction set in.

The eyes

Your eyes are so focussed on the game, converging at a point for long durations, you don’t realise you’re blinking 60% less than required. Dry spots form in the eyes, cause irritation and watering. You’ve heard about digital eye strain, but you game on.

The digestive system

Your brain needs food, but can’t be bothered to get a plate of food. You order in French fries — they’re soft, easy to handle and barely need chewing. Under stress, digestion slows down, and you realise you’re uncomfortable. You haven’t moved in three hours.

Your liver

Insulin levels are yo-yoing with the stress of the game and junk food consumption. Over many months, your body is not able to process the insulin properly and it develops a resistance to it.

Your gut

Stress, no movement, hormones going out of whack all lead your gut to malfunction. Nutrient absorption goes down. In fact, the protective mechanism that prevents toxic minerals from entering our system goes for a toss, causing leaky gut. This means aluminium, barium, mercury, arsenic all sit in your system.

Your legs

Cramped in the same position hour upon hour, day after day, with no movement causes the legs to get painful and swell. Inside, blood clots in the veins, causing a condition called deep vein thrombosis.

Your wrists and hands

Your button-punching fingers are doing the same repetitive movements. You feel a mild burning sensation in the soft tissue between thumb and forefinger. This soon progresses to inflammation, tightness and numbness — carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes, the pain extends upwards, to your elbows. You choose to ignore it, icing it sometimes or taking short breaks, but the more you play, the worse it gets.

Experts: Dr Aleem Siddiqui, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Lucknow Medical College and Hospital; Manjari Chandra, Senior Consultant Nutritionist, Max Healthcare, Functional Medicine Consultant: Intelligent Ageing; Dr Sanjay Dhawan, Director – Ophthalmology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/what-happens-when-you-get-into-gaming-night-after-night/article23555657.ece?homepage=true

People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit

April 8, 2018
Victoria Toline needed nine months to taper off Zoloft. “I had to drop out of school,” she said. “My life’s been on hold.” Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Victoria Toline would hunch over the kitchen table, steady her hands and draw a bead of liquid from a vial with a small dropper. It was a delicate operation that had become a daily routine — extracting ever tinier doses of the antidepressant she had taken for three years, on and off, and was desperately trying to quit.

“Basically that’s all I have been doing — dealing with the dizziness, the confusion, the fatigue, all the symptoms of withdrawal,” said Ms. Toline, 27, of Tacoma, Wash. It took nine months to wean herself from the drug, Zoloft, by taking increasingly smaller doses.

“I couldn’t finish my college degree,” she said. “Only now am I feeling well enough to try to re-enter society and go back to work.”

Long-term use of antidepressants is surging in the United States, according to a new analysis of federal data by The New York Times. Some 15.5 million Americans have been taking the medications for at least five years. The rate has almost doubled since 2010, and more than tripled since 2000.

Nearly 25 million adults, like Ms. Toline, have been on antidepressants for at least two years, a 60 percent increase since 2010.

The drugs have helped millions of people ease depression and anxiety, and are widely regarded as milestones in psychiatric treatment. Many, perhaps most, people stop the medications without significant trouble. But the rise in longtime use is also the result of an unanticipated and growing problem: Many who try to quit say they cannot because of withdrawal symptoms they were never warned about.

Some scientists long ago anticipated that a few patients might experience withdrawal symptoms if they tried to stop — they called it “discontinuation syndrome.” Yet withdrawal has never been a focus of drug makers or government regulators, who felt antidepressants could not be addictive and did far more good than harm.

The drugs initially were approved for short-term use, following studies typically lasting about two months. Even today, there is little data about their effects on people taking them for years, although there are now millions of such users.

Expanding use of antidepressants is not just an issue in the United States. Across much of the developed world, long-term prescriptions are on the rise. Prescription rates have doubled over the past decade in Britain, where health officials in January began a nationwide review of prescription drug dependence and withdrawal.

In New Zealand, where prescriptions are also at historic highs, a survey of long-term users found that withdrawal was the most common complaint, cited by three-quarters of long-term users.

Yet the medical profession has no good answer for people struggling to stop taking the drugs — no scientifically backed guidelines, no means to determine who’s at highest risk, no way to tailor appropriate strategies to individuals.

“Some people are essentially being parked on these drugs for convenience’s sake because it’s difficult to tackle the issue of taking them off,” said Dr. Anthony Kendrick, a professor of primary care at the University of Southampton in Britain.

With government funding, he is developing online and telephone support to help practitioners and patients. “Should we really be putting so many people on antidepressants long-term when we don’t know if it’s good for them, or whether they’ll be able to come off?” he said.

Antidepressants were originally considered a short-term treatment for episodic mood problems, to be taken for six to nine months: enough to get through a crisis, and no more.

Later studies suggested that “maintenance therapy” — longer-term and often open-ended use — could prevent a return of depression in some patients, but those trials very rarely lasted more than two years.

Once a drug is approved, physicians in the United States have wide latitude to prescribe it as they see fit. The lack of long-term data did not prevent doctors from placing tens of millions of Americans on antidepressants indefinitely.

“Most people are put on these drugs in primary care, after a very brief visit and without clear symptoms of clinical depression,” said Dr. Allen Frances, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University. “Usually there’s improvement, and often it’s based on the passage of time or placebo effect.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/07/health/antidepressants-withdrawal-prozac-cymbalta.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

 

Related:

 

Learn more (at the search terms):

Lots of information on this site about what happens when we over-use medication instead of meditation:

,  

(Always see your doctor….)

 (Whenever everything else fails, God will take you Back)

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, April 4, 2018 — “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” — The Church does not bid us to end fornication, addiction, anger, greed and so forth by our flesh, but rather in the Name of Jesus Christ

April 3, 2018

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 263

“The key to overcoming grief and suffering is to make sense of what is happening in our lives.”

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Reading 1 ACTS 3:1-10

Peter and John were going up to the temple area
for the three o’clock hour of prayer.
And a man crippled from birth was carried
and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day
to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple,
he asked for alms.
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John,
and said, “Look at us.”
He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.
Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up,
and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.
He leaped up, stood, and walked around,
and went into the temple with them,
walking and jumping and praising God.
When all the people saw him walking and praising God,
they recognized him as the one
who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,
and they were filled with amazement and astonishment
at what had happened to him.
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Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9

R. (3b) Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generationsB
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord. 
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Jesus appears to his disciples after the Resurrection

Gospel  LK 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
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Reflection from 
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 It is right that the Church should feed the poor, help the sick, clothe the naked and engage in all the corporal works of mercy. But she has even more to offer, she has Christ himself. And we who are the crippled man learn to seek Christ, not just worldly improvements and consolations. And then Peter and John, the Church, do what the Church must always do, they (she) announce Jesus Christ. And in his name and by the power of his Word speaking through them, (a word that does not just inform but also performs and transforms), they say what the Church has always said to a fallen and crippled world: “Rise and Walk!” Rise, for you are dead in your sins, and walk, for though you have not had the strength to walk uprightly, now by God’s grace you do! The world is skeptical of the Church’s moral vision for they do not figure on grace and the power of God’s Word to transform. But the Church does not bid us to end fornication, addiction, anger, greed and so forth by our flesh, but rather in the Name of Jesus Christ. That is, by the power of his grace now present and available,  we have the capacity, the strength,  to rise and walk.
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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“God raised him up!”  “Were not our heats burning within us?”  The experiences of these early followers of Jesus was incredible.  They went through completely doubt, through denial, through sadness, through lack of hope—and then….  Jesus begins to show up in their lives again, not as a memory, but as a living, eating, sleeping and completely present person once more—but not seen by everyone.  What an odd experience and how challenging!

This experience of Peter and of others eventually was expressed in these words:  “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.”  Even to this day, many doubt and yet many are moved by this witness and believe.  Once we believe, our lives are changed because this world no longer is the end of life but only the beginning.  For sure, many of believers are not very people at many levels, just as many of the early believers were also weak and uneducated and sometimes social outcasts.  But when we believe, this life becomes so different and so full of possibilities of following Jesus.

Our faith and our hope are now in God and life is not a prison nor a place of competition, but simply a time to do the best we can in serving a God who loves us and invites us to strive to live out His love in this world, even if we fail over and over.  We always remember the words of Jesus:  I came for sinners, not for the righteous.

Inn today’s Gospel from Saint Luke, we have the wonderful story of Jesus meeting some of those who had followed Him but were now discouraged by the crucifixion.  They did not yet believe in His Resurrection.  They even tell Jesus about the women who went to the tomb and did not find the body!  They tell Him about others who went to the tomb.  Yet, at this point, these people who had followed Him still do not believe!  They are like the Apostle Thomas:  Unless I myself see Him and touch Him and have an experience, I will not believe!

Lots of us are like these early followers:  discouraged when we ourselves do not have some immediate and strong experience of the Lord.

We are invited today to meet the Lord again, almost for the first time, when we see Him present in the breaking of the bread.  We are invited to look once more at the Holy Scriptures and discover how God has spoken through all the ages, inviting us to believe, little by little.  We are invited to listen to the testimony of those who already believe, and particularly to the testimony of the many saints and martyrs of our own time.  As we listen, then perhaps like these followers on the road to Emmaus, we might come to feel the warmth in our heart, perhaps even our hearts burning within us!

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen!  Alleluia!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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04 APRIL, 2018, Easter Wednesday

MAKING SENSE OF OUR GRIEFS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 3:1-10PS 105:1-4,6-9LUKE 24:13-35 ]

No one on this earth can avoid suffering.  This is the consequence of a fallen nature.  “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gn 3:17-19)  Instead of grumbling and lamenting why we have to suffer in life, it is more important, if we want to be happy, to learn how to deal with our sufferings, especially our griefs.   Indeed, whilst all of us suffer, some suffer happily and grow through their sufferings; others suffer negatively and fall into depression; others still, suffer like a stoic and become hardened to life and the people around them.

The key to overcoming grief and suffering is to make sense of what is happening in our lives, especially when they are negative events.  Of course, it would be better still if we also learn to discover the meaning of the good and positive events that happen to us.  “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them.”  (Eccl 7:14)

This was the case of the crippled man at the Temple of Jerusalem.  We read that “he was a cripple from birth; and they used to put him down every day near the Temple entrance called the Beautiful Gate so that he could beg from the people going in.”  Looking at others who were healthy and strong, he must have envied them and cursed God for his misfortune through no fault of his.  Why should he suffer disability from birth?  We can be sure that this question was constantly on his mind.  When we cannot make sense of our suffering, then we feel angry with God and with the world, or ourselves.

In the gospel, we read that the disciples of our Lord were also in grief after the heart-rending crucifixion.  They were losing hope in God and His love.  They were leaving Jerusalem, the supposed place of glory which became a tragedy.  “Two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.”

Why were they disheartened?  Because they were confused by what they saw.  How could Jesus their master, miracle worker and the presence of God in person end up crucified as a criminal on the cross?  They had high hopes in Jesus “who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.”  As if this heartbreaking event was not perplexed enough, they also heard reports of Jesus’ resurrection. They said, “some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.”

How can we make sense of our griefs in life?  When we learn to see our sufferings and the events of our lives as a whole and not out of context.  No single event in our lives stands alone but as part of a bigger picture.  When we see our life events in connection with what has gone before and what will come after, both in relation to ourselves and to the people around us and society at large, then we will learn to appreciate the meaning of both suffering and joy in our lives, the painful and the joyful events.

In other words, we must see the larger picture and our part in this whole mosaic or tapestry of life.  Unless we see beyond our suffering and connect it with the larger picture, we will not be able to understand the purpose of our suffering and our joys as well.  When that happens, we will just go through life, without learning from our sufferings and growing from our joys as well.  We become like animals, just absorbing and living with the events without understanding its purpose in life.  Nothing happens without the permission of God.  Everything happens for a reason.  This is what St Paul says, “We know that all things work together for good or those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

Precisely, the crippled man did not know that he was destined to be a sign of God’s power at work in the lives of many people, bringing them to conversion.   Because of his sickness, Peter and John could heal him and he became a messenger of the Good News to all those who were seeking meaning and purpose in life.  If he were not crippled, then the message of Peter and John would not have been preached.  Indeed, when Peter said to him, “‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk, and he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God”, it was also an occasion for the bystanders who saw the miracle to reflect on the goodness and the power of God.  “Everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.”

 

So too for the death of Jesus.  This was what the Lord explained to the apostles so that they could understand the plan of God for Him and for them.  He said, “You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.”   Indeed, the death of Jesus was part of God’s plan to bring about the salvation of humanity.  What humanity thought was tragic, God used that tragedy to bring about His glory and the manifestation of His power by destroying death, which is the cause of sin, through the death and resurrection of our Lord.

As for the disciples and apostles themselves, they had to go through this period of confusion so that they could become witnesses of our Lord as Peter and John did at the Temple of Jerusalem.  The greater the tragedy, the greater the grace of God at work in our lives.   Indeed, when we come to understand the place and purpose of our suffering in God’s plan, we will be grateful and thankful instead of being resentful.  This was the response of the psalmist.  “Give thanks to the Lord, tell his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. O sing to him, sing his praise; tell all his wonderful works!  Be proud of his holy name, let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice. Consider the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face. He remembers his covenant for ever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.”

Indeed, it was appropriate that the gospel concluded with the awakening experience through the celebration of the Eucharist.  “Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’”  The Eucharist is a memorial of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  By celebrating the Eucharist, we call to mind the plan of God in Christ’s paschal mystery, which we are called to participate as well and to connect our lives with the life of Christ.

The word “Eucharist” is also  thanksgiving.  We are called to give thanks to God for the wondrous salvation He effected in Christ through His death and resurrection and ours as well.  Only when we are able to give thanks for all that happens to us, good and bad, then we can truly say that we are healed and are enlightened.  Unless we can thank God for all our trials in life, we are still not healed.  St Paul could testify without shame when he wrote, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,  and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Tim 1:12-14)

Finally, to make sense of our suffering, we must continue to recount these events so that as we recount them, our understanding of the plan of God in our lives will deepen.  This is why the Eucharist, which is celebrated by the community, is the place where deep sharing of the Word of God takes place and as a result, we are inspired by each other.  Indeed, we read, “They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.”  Christian fellowship and sharing of how God works in our lives will help each one of us to see our place in God’s plan.  We must find a community where we can share the Word of God regularly if we are to grow in faith and understanding of God’s plan in our lives.  By so doing, we will remain grateful and positive even when we suffer, because we know it is for the greater good of all, including ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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“With him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed”
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Who in our world today is not disturbed? Who would want to be less disturbed?
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Our spirituality provides us, every one of us, an inner power of peace over disturbance.
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Perhaps the very reason God dwells in each and every one of us is this: we need some higher power to fight off all the disturbances of this earth.
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Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” But more than that, he gives us the peace we need when we need it and when we ask for it.
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“Knock and the door will open.”
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“Do not be afraid.”
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These are the constantly repeated messages of Jesus.
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He must be perplexed at how few of us listen, and knock, and find peace.
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From Peace and Freedom
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From The Book “Twenty Four Hours a Day” for April 30
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Each one of us is a child of God, and, as such, we are full of the promise of spiritual growth…. There is a spark of the Divine in every one of us. Each has some of god’s spirit that can be developed by spiritual exercise. Know that your life is full of glad promise. Such blessings can be yours, such joys, such wonders, as long as you develop in the sunshine of God’s love.
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Strangers in a Strange Land, Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World — By Charles J. Chaput
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In his book, Charles Chaput writes from his unique position to examine the interface between Catholic faith and morals, on the one hand, and today’s aggressively secular American society on the other.

From Michael J. Miller

Christians have always been “Resident Aliens,” the title of the first chapter of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s new book, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. But “we [Americans] live in a country very different from that of the past. … People who hold a classic understanding of sexuality, marriage, and family have gone in just twenty years from pillars of mainstream conviction to the media equivalent of racists and bigots.” How are Christians to cope with this “sea change in American public life”?

Since the publication of his previous, widely acclaimed book on faith and American society, Render Unto Caesar (2008, second revised edition 2012), the archbishop of Philadelphia hosted the 2015 World Meeting of Families and participated in both Synods on the Family. He is in a unique position to examine the interface between Catholic faith and morals, on the one hand, and today’s aggressively secular American society on the other.

The book’s second chapter “revisits the America we thought we knew…, along with the ideals and virtues it embodied.” The Founding Fathers of the United States of America drew “from the Enlightenment’s trust in man’s ability to create good institutions. And they built on a biblical sense of justice in rejecting oppression.” Alexis de Tocqueville, whose insights as a Frenchman visiting early-19th century America are quoted often, noted that the new nation was “the product of two perfectly distinct elements…the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom.” Chaput identifies various components in the American system of government (republicanism, constitutionalism, natural law, and cultural tradition) and chronicles the stages by which Catholic immigrants to the United States gained full acceptance in American society.

After this short historical review, the author explains in Chapters 3 through 7 where the American experiment is now in the 21st century and how it got there. With striking examples he shows that the social trust of less than two generations ago is irretrievably gone. He points to early factors that started to undermine the successful and seemingly monolithic national culture of post-World-War-II America: rapid technological advances—especially in communication—the Vietnam War, the development of the birth control pill (and the resulting sexual revolution), radical feminism. Members of the most privileged generation in history, the Baby Boomers, became cultural revolutionaries, and now their grandchildren are growing up. “And that those new young adults and teens think and do will make the next America,” Chaput writes.

Chapter 4 tellingly contrasts the Judeo-Christian belief in the goodness and purposefulness of creation with the secular belief in progress. Chapter 5 looks at American customs of marriage and cohabitation, childrearing and divorce, sexual identity and gender ideology. “As the scholar Augusto Del Noce observed decades ago, the sexual revolution, for all its talk of freedom, has a distinctly totalitarian undercurrent,” the archbishop points out. He adds this indictment: “The crime of the modern sexual regime is that it robs Eros of its meaning and love of its grandeur. It’s a lie. It’s a theft. It makes us small and ignoble.” True personal fulfillment and the survival of society depend on taming and channeling Eros to serve the purpose for which it was created; “Our wholeness, our integrity, depends on the health of our friendship with God.”

Chapter 6 charts the malaise that has spread through society along with the politically correct notion that truth is merely personal and relative. The religion of the marketplace (the almighty dollar), corrosive political correctness, the numbing of consciences, and the decline of trusted institutions are some of the results. Chapter 7 draws on the book After Virtue by the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre to demonstrate how moral confusion asserts itself, gradually but inexorably, as the Western world becomes post-Christian.

Yet there is hope (Chapter 8)—not the slogan, but the supernatural virtue. Chaput defines it and describes its practical effects with the help of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclical Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI. Detailed discussions of the Beatitudes (Chapter 9), scriptural images and parables (Chapter 10), and the second-century Letter to Diognetus (Chapter 11) on the position of the early Christians in a pagan society help the reader to understand how a life of faith is possible and beneficial, even in a hostile environment.

The final chapter highlights the beauty of creation and the nobility of the human person. It ends on the encouraging note that every individual life matters and that personal Christian witness can be simple and still effective.

Strangers in a Strange Land is a thought-provoking depiction of a complex contemporary scene. As he fills in his canvas, the author cites a wide variety of sources: magisterial documents and Church Fathers (especially Augustine), historical figures, contemporary ethicists and social scientists, and even poets. Yet throughout the book Chaput is much more than a cultural commentator; he is a pastor instructing souls. Although his message is challenging, the tone is always civil, conversational rather than controversial, and never preachy. In a non-academic way, with remarkable clarity and gentle wit, the author offers remedial lessons in Catholic morality and social doctrine for generations of poorly catechized Americans.

In a February 2 interview, Archbishop Chaput observed:

We’re living through a time of transition. It’s painful. Many people are angry and confused. That’s obvious both nationally and globally. I think the Obama years brought to fruition some cultural trends in the United States that were brewing for a long time. Some of them are distinctly unfriendly to the way Christians live their faith. … It’s a special shock for Catholics because we spent the last century or so trying to fit into a social environment that was skeptical of the Roman Church from the start. Now that we’ve finally arrived, the rules of the game have changed.

As though to remind readers that the rules of Catholicism have not changed, the author dedicated this book to his Capuchin confrere, “mentor and friend,” the late Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap., who taught moral theology for years and published books and articles on that subject.

The year 2016 demonstrated conclusively that America is not about to stop getting stranger anytime soon. All the more reason, then, to read, ponder and enjoy Strangers in a Strange Land.

 

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017), hardback, xiv + 273 pp.

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U.S. studies link legal marijuana with fewer opioid prescriptions, fatal overdoses

April 3, 2018

The Associated Press

Can legalizing marijuana fight the problem of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses? Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

Pot can relieve chronic pain in adults, so advocates for liberalizing marijuana laws have proposed it as a lower-risk alternative to opioids. But some research suggests marijuana may encourage opioid use, and so might make the epidemic worse.

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A woman holds the prescribed medical marijuana product used to treat her daughter’s epilepsy after making a purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary in Butler, Pennsylvania, in February. | AP

The new studies don’t directly assess the effect of legalizing marijuana on opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Instead, they find evidence that legalization may reduce the prescribing of opioids. Over-prescribing is considered a key factor in the opioid epidemic.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

One looked at trends in opioid prescribing in the U.S. under Medicaid, which covers low-income adults, between 2011 and 2016. It compared the states where marijuana laws took effect versus states without such laws. The comparison was done each quarter, so a given state without a law at one point could join the other category once a law kicked in.

Results showed that laws that let people use marijuana to treat specific medical conditions were associated with about a 6 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing for pain. That’s about 39 fewer prescriptions per 1,000 people using Medicaid.

And when states with such a law went on to also allow recreational marijuana use by adults, there was an additional drop averaging about 6 percent. That suggests the medical marijuana laws didn’t reach some people who could benefit from using marijuana instead of opioids, said Hefei Wen of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, one of the study authors.

The other study looked at opioid prescribing nationwide for people using Medicare, which covers people 65 years or older and those with disabilities. Every year from 2010 through 2015, researchers compared states with a medical marijuana law in effect to those without one. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia had such a law from the beginning of that time; nine other states joined them during the years the study covered.

Researchers found that Medicare patients in states with marijuana dispensaries filled prescriptions for about 14 percent fewer daily doses of opioids than those in other states. Patients in states that only allowed them to grow pot at home showed about 7 percent fewer doses.

W. David Bradford, an economist at the University of Georgia in Athens who’s an author of the second study, said the results add to other findings that suggest to experts that marijuana is a viable alternative to opioids. The weight of that evidence is “now hard to ignore,” said Bradford, who said he thinks federal regulations should be changed to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for pain treatment.

The two studies have some limitations, Dr. Kevin Hill of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Andrew Saxon of the University of Washington in Seattle wrote in an accompanying editorial.

For one thing, they don’t reveal whether individual patients actually reduced or avoided using opioids because of the increased access to marijuana. The findings in Medicaid and Medicare patients may not apply to other people. And the results may have been skewed by some characteristics of the state populations studied, they wrote.

They called for states and the federal government to pay for more studies to clarify the effect of marijuana use on opioid use, saying such research is needed for science to guide policymaking.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/04/03/world/science-health-world/u-s-studies-link-legal-marijuana-fewer-opioid-prescriptions/#.WsMWNojwaUk

Philippines: Is There A Hollywood Ending for Duterte’s Drug War?

March 25, 2018

 The bloody national campaign may be popular with the public, but there are some people getting addicts off the streets without firing a shot

BY BENJAMIN O’ROURKE

SCMP

If American director Brian De Palma’s Scarface taught viewers anything more than a few great lines of dialogue to spice up pub chatter, it was that the illegal drugs business is a violent one and even successful careers can unexpectedly end in gruesome death – often carried out by colleagues.

If much of the world’s media is to be believed, there’s a modern version of the flawed masterpiece being played out right now in the Philippines that rivals the excessive violence of the 1983 film. But as with many reboots, the roles have been flipped.

Al Pacino’s ferocious anti-hero Tony Montana, who stops at nothing to rise from Cuban immigrant to powerful drug lord, is now foul-mouthed Rodrigo Duterte, a president seemingly stopping at nothing – mowing down human-rights charters and racking up a body count in the thousands – to free his country from the scourge of “shabu”, the popular name for methamphetamine.

At the advice of Filipino politicians, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has begun investigating whether Duterte’s crackdown involves crimes against humanity. A common complaint about The Hague is why it seems to focus on leaders who have fallen foul of the West and not the likes of former US president George W Bush and ex-British prime minister Tony Blair, whose invasion of Iraq based on spurious information led to the deaths of about a million people. Duterte agrees and has told the ICC the Philippines is leaving.

The flaw in the sensational drug war coverage is that rarely is it suggested that the gangs might be doing some of the killing.

Father Luciano Felloni at a meeting of the Community Assisted Rehabilitation and Recovery of Outpatient Training System (Carrots), a programme that mixes psychology, counselling and spiritual guidance to get people off drugs. Photo: Carrots

“You cannot attribute all the killings to the police – it’s very infantile. Drug syndicates everywhere operate in a violent way,” said Luciano Felloni, a priest in Metro Manila. “You were given a kilo of shabu and then you did not remit that money and so the syndicates will kill you … that makes perfect sense.”

Felloni, from Argentina, trained at a seminary in Buenos Aires where Pope Francis taught – he even confessed to him several times. He has been in the Philippines more than 20 years and works in Caloocan city’s Barangay 174, which has seen dozens of drug-related deaths since Duterte’s crackdown began, some at the hands of police.

Still life in Barangay 174. Photo: SCMP

The son of Rolando dela Cruz was killed by unidentified gunmen. Rolando earned money from an illegal “video karera” horse racing machine and spent the profits on drugs. One night in April 2017, masked men burst into his home and shot his son in the head, killing him on the spot. If Rolando hadn’t nipped out for five minutes to get change for the machine, he might also be dead.

Rolando dela Cruz’s son was killed in drug violence. Photo: GaniX Photography and Films

The police told Barangay Chairman Enrique Bunag to make a list of local dealers and users. Knowing that writing down their names may be sentencing them to death, he refused. Instead, he approached Felloni to try to find a better way.

After two months, they created the Community Assisted Rehabilitation and Recovery of Outpatient Training System (Carrots), a programme that mixes psychology, counselling and spiritual guidance to get people off drugs, give them skills, keep them mentally and physically fit and put them back in the community without a shot being fired or anyone going to jail.

Barangay Chairman Enrique Bunag. Friends call him Eric. Photo: SCMP

“At the beginning we had a lot of threats,” Felloni recalls. “A lookout car was like for two months always there [on the street outside]. Then people with masks would come asking for me. It’s a good thing many times I was out. I think … the police were suspicious of us, the government was suspicious, the syndicates … I don’t think they would be very happy about us.”

The drug syndicates may be more careful due to the crackdown but they haven’t stopped operating and shabu is still widely available, just more expensive.

“We are under budget, we are undermanned, we are under-equipped,” complained Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino. Photo: SCMP

“We just have about 1,251 agents distributed nationwide and it’s quite difficult to address the problem. In Nueva Ecija alone, for example, with about 32 municipalities and cities, we have only three personnel assigned there to address the problem of illegal drugs with about 2 million people. So, it’s actually next to impossible.”

Unbroken: the Philippine senator opposing Duterte’s drug war

Aquino said PDEA has a “private eye” programme with a budget of 5 million pesos (HK$750,000) per quarter to reward informants whose tips lead to “successful operations”. “For example, there are clandestine drug laboratories that were dismantled and these were brought about by the information given to us by these action agents. They are cooking drugs here.”

One of the labs was in Cauayan, Isabela province, in the far north of the country. PDEA agents picked me up from the airport in a rickety estate car with a broken driver’s seat and faulty knobs to wind down the windows – a vehicle that could definitely benefit from a little bit of “reward money”.

Like Nueva Ecija, there are only a handful of agents in the province, but they make do with what they have to get their jobs done.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has about 1,200 agents distributed nationwide. Photo: SCMP

The meth lab I was taken to was set up by Chinese operators and capable of making more than a tonne of raw shabu every month. They rented the warehouse from a local official and pretended to run a business selling appliances and plastic products. No arrests have been made in connection with the bust. The two Chinese men in the warehouse were killed trying to defend the place with machine guns. “Some of the drug dealers that manufacture in other countries came here to the Philippines to manufacture because here there is no death penalty,” PDEA agent Gaudia said.

PDEA chemist Jhomar Concepcion. Photo: SCMP

Duterte’s proposal to bring back the death penalty for drug crimes has given his critics more ammunition for their assertion that he is a bloodthirsty dictator. But the move would only put the Philippines in line with much of Asia. “More drugs are being brought to the Philippines [than made here] … either through airports or seaports,” Aquino said. “Others are bringing drugs … they call it shipside smuggling, where the drugs are being thrown on high seas and then a couple of small ships get the drugs, bring them to the shore, and bury it there. After a few days, they get the drugs and put it in a warehouse.”

The Philippine Coast Guard is cooperating with its counterpart from China – where most of the drugs come from – to intercept smugglers and pirates.

Riders sleep by their bikes at a tricycle pickup spot in Quezon City. Photo: SCMP

It’s thought that mainland Chinese and Filipino fishing boats get the drugs to shore in northern provinces, like Isabela and Pangasinan. From there, syndicates redistribute the shabu until it ends up in the hands of people like Jay Bilos in Barangay 174.

He twitches and fidgets constantly as he recalls his rise from being a poor tricycle driver to a successful shabu dealer, feared in the neighbourhood.

WATCH: Soaring death tolls, broken families: a close-up view of Duterte’s war on drugs

Fed up with driving people around all day for a few hundred pesos, Jay began selling drugs. He was paying 200 pesos (HK$30) for 300 pesos worth of meth. His friends would buy it and even share it with him.

Jay was living it up, he thought at the time, earning around 1,500 pesos a night – more than he could earn battling traffic and breathing toxic fumes all day on his motorbike. He became known in the barangay as the guy you could score from. But his decadent new lifestyle didn’t last.

He was constantly high and gambled away everything he earned, leaving nothing for his family.

Former drug dealer Jay Bilos arrives for a meeting of the Community Assisted Rehabilitation and Recovery of Outpatient Training System (Carrots). Photo: GaniX Photography and Films

Neighbours still joked with him, but there was fear behind their smiles. They would even move their slippers indoors in case he stole them.

His wife left him and within the space of a year or so his mother, father and grandmother all died, leaving him alone to look after his two-year-old son. In desperation, he turned to the church for help. “I cannot live like this forever. I’m already old. Do I have to be this way?” he remembers asking Father Felloni.

Philippines’ Duterte: from war on drugs to war on media?

Just last year, Jay says, he would have “run like a rat” when he saw a policeman. Now he’s joined Carrots and, along with Rolando dela Cruz, is no longer worried about getting caught or shot because he knows he’s doing the right thing. He’s been ostracised by his former drug-user friends, but that won’t stop him from trying to convince them to go straight because he believes “change is in their hearts”.

“The thing that I can do to continue the changes in my life … is to also be the one to help,” said Jay. “We will also do the same thing.”

Father Felloni interrupting a Carrots meeting. Photo: SCMP

While law enforcers may be struggling to get a grip on the national drug problem, Bunag and Felloni’s home-grown solution to clean up their neighbourhood has been a success. So much so that the programme has spread to more than 35 barangays without any help from the government, which has taken notice, as it puts more of an emphasis on localised anti-drug programmes.

The pair met officials in Malacanang Palace to discuss Carrots and where it’s going. There was a lot of hope before the meeting that the government might adopt the programme, making it policy and sharing the burden.

“We have a good partnership with the barangay, a good partnership with the city of Caloocan, but almost nothing with the national government,” Felloni said after the meeting.

“We believe it will be better for the whole community if we work with as many people as we can together.”

“This was the first time I heard from Malacanang a holistic approach … [They had] a beautiful whiteboard full of charts and projects and areas. I asked, are you piloting any of this? ‘Not yet’ [they said].”

From left, Barangay 174 Chairman Eric Bunag, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Ramon Cualoping, Glenda Pua, Father Luciano Felloni and PCOO Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy. Photo: Rose Novenario

In a few months, Duterte’s drug war will be two years old and its effectiveness is debatable. With the drug pushers seemingly unstoppable in their quest for money and power at the expense of Filipino lives, families and communities, the president could be seen as being the underdog. But as we have seen time and again, Hollywood loves underdogs.

In the climax of Scarface, Tony Montana makes a last stand in his mansion against a drug lord’s invading army. He grabs a machine gun with a grenade launcher and makes his way to the front door. “Say hello to my little friend,” he growls in his cocaine-fuelled rage before wiping out a few henchmen. Ultimately though, he is outnumbered and outgunned and dies in a pool of blood, a victim of his own greed. If he’d had a few more friends though, things might have been different. 

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2138255/say-hello-my-little-friend-there-hollywood-ending-dutertes-drug

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All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?

The University of Denial — Aggressive suppression of the truth is a central feature of American higher education

March 24, 2018
The University of Denial
PHOTO: CHAD CROWE

By  Amy L. Wax
The Wall Street Journal

March 22, 2018 7:08 p.m. ET

‘Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away,” observed― Philip K. Dick in “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon.”

Somewhere deep in a file drawer, or on a computer server humming away in a basement, are thousands upon thousands of numbers, with names and identities attached. They’re called grades. They represent an objective reality, which exists independent of what people want reality to be. They sit silently, completely indifferent to indignation, angry petitions, irritable gestures, teachers’ removal from classrooms—all the furor and clamor of institutional politics.

Those numbers are now solely within the control of the individual students who earn them and the educational institutions that generate them—powerful entities ruled by bureaucracies that serve as gatekeepers to privileged positions in our society. They are jealously guarded, protected by cloaks of confidentiality and secrecy. But they are what they are. Hiding facts is not the same as changing them.

Of course the numbers can be ignored. When it comes to grades—which measure students’ knowledge, proficiency and achievement—we can declare they don’t matter and that complete nondisclosure is therefore a wise course.

The problem is that students, including law students, go out into the real world. They are hired, paid and expected to perform, and their actions have real consequences for others. Whether we like it or not, grades help predict future performance. Some social actors acknowledge this, implicitly or overtly. As a law professor, I observe, for example, that federal judges unapologetically select clerks based on academic record and rank, and that elite law firms are also highly grade-conscious.

Another reason measures of academic performance are hard to ignore is that students often expect equality of results and—especially in our identity-conscious world—issue loud demands for equality in group outcomes. When that doesn’t happen, frustration and disappointment ensue, followed by charges of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

Those accusations are bound to provoke concern from the accused, especially those who deny that bigotry is the chief cause of certain inequalities by pointing to possible alternatives—including group disparities in qualifications, skills, performance or life choices. Keeping key documentation about the sources of disparities out of view does not prevent people from discussing them and their consequences. They are a regular topic of conversation behind closed doors, in offices and hallways, around kitchen tables, in living rooms and in private correspondence.

But what everyone currently understands, and recent events reinforce, is that these conversations may not take place publicly or even be acknowledged openly. My students know that. So do working lawyers and judges, and everyone else trying to run institutions, decide cases, serve clients, and make a buck. So do employers and other citizens, including many people, young and old, from around the country who have deluged me with letters, phone calls, and emails setting out forthright, common-sense observations, such as this one: “The facts about the comparative performance of the different groups on [for example] the bar, medical boards, SATs, MCATs, LSATs etc. are well-established. Viewing these facts as offensive will not make them go away.”

The mindset that values openness understands that the truth can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, doesn’t always respect our wishes, and sometimes hurts. Good feelings and reality don’t always mix. But there is a price to be paid for putting the quest for psychological comfort over openness on matters central to how our society is organized. While some people benefit from the favored view, others lose out. People accused of bigotry and discrimination—claims that are more pervasive than ever—are understandably unhappy about being deprived of the ability to defend themselves by pointing to alternative reasons for group differences. Hoarding and hiding information relevant to such differences, which amounts to predetermining a verdict of “guilty as charged,” violates basic principles of fair play and gives rise to justified resentment.

Universities, like other institutions, scheme relentlessly to keep such facts from view. Yet although the culture war is now tilted against those accused of discrimination, politics persists, and frustration tells at the ballot box. The deeper price is that people come to believe that truth yields to power, and that political pressure should be brought to bear to avoid inconvenient realities.

Some in this camp claim benign motives. They seek to safeguard the feelings of those who might be distressed by public knowledge. One can argue about when, how and in what form the disclosure will best balance personal privacy and our society’s need to know. But when facts are concealed, they do not change. They have consequences whether or not we are prepared to face them.

That belief that political force determines objective reality has characterized totalitarian regimes world-wide and throughout history—regimes that are responsible for untold amounts of human misery. That mindset is dangerously inconsistent with the kind of free society Americans have painstakingly built and defended over many centuries, at the cost of blood and treasure. Perhaps we no longer want such a society. But we relinquish it at our peril.

Ms. Wax is the Robert Mundheim Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-university-of-denial-1521760098

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We just recently became interested on Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” after a professor we know said, “His is the inconvenient truth. Three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle believed he proved the existence of God using logic from his teacher Plato. College students today don’t want to think — even though they cast out religion. Therefore, Aristotle is usually overlooked these days….”

Can’t make truth, ideas or monuments go away by refusing to accept them!

Trump’s pick for economic adviser opened up about addiction recovery

March 15, 2018
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Larry Kudlow — President Trump’s pick to replace Gary Cohn as chief economic adviser — is an inspiration to millions of recovering addicts.

The CNBC host has been sober for 23 years after losing his job as chief economist at Bear Stearns, and nearly losing his life.

Kudlow spent five months in Hazelden after his wife Judith sued for divorce and sought a court order to prevent him from raiding his retirement account to buy cocaine.

The couple reconciled when he got out, and will celebrate their 32nd anniversary this year.

“This was the end of the line. I was unemployable. My wonderful wife had stopped enabling me,” Kudlow, now 70, told 500 guests at a Silver Hill Hospital gala in 2013.

Kudlow — who reinvented himself as a TV commentator, author and newspaper columnist — regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He is a forceful advocate for increased spending on rehabilitation to help those who can’t afford it.

“I needed long-term care, and I didn’t have any money. I’d spent it on my addiction,” he told the audience.

His honesty and willingness to talk about his struggle has lessened the stigma of addiction.

“Larry has been so upfront about the issue, so public about it, and sober for decades, it’s a nonissue,” one fellow conservative said.

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Do Antidepressants Work? Or are they just a way to get you to take more drugs? More people in the United States are on antidepressants, as a percentage of the population, than any other country in the world

March 13, 2018

The most comprehensive study on them has recently been published, showing mostly modest effects.

Antidepressants are widely used, but there are still so many unanswered questions about them. Credit Jonathan Nourok/Getty Images

More people in the United States are on antidepressants, as a percentage of the population, than any other country in the world. And yet the drugs’ efficacy has been hotly debated.

Some believe that the short-term benefits are much more modest than widely thought, and that harms may outweigh benefits in the long run. Others believe that they work, and that they can be life-changing.

Settling this debate has been much harder than you might think.

It’s not that we lack research. Many, many studies of antidepressants can be found in the peer-reviewed literature. The problem is that this has been a prime example of publication bias: Positive studies are likely to be released, with negative ones more likely to be buried in a drawer.

In 2008, a group of researchers made this point by doing a meta-analysis of antidepressant trials that were registered with the Food and Drug Administration as evidence in support of approvals for marketing or changes in labeling. Companies had to submit the results of registered trials to the F.D.A. regardless of the result. These trials also tend to have less data massaging — such as the cherry-picking of outcomes — than might be possible in journals.

The researchers found 74 studies, with more than 12,500 patients, for drugs approved between 1987 and 2004. About half of these trials had “positive” results, in that the antidepressant performed better than a placebo; the other half were “negative.” But if you looked only in the published literature, you’d get a much different picture. Nearly all of the positive studies are there. Only three of the negative studies appear in the literature as negative. Twenty-two were never published, and 11 were published but repackaged so that they appeared positive.

A second meta-analysis published that year also used F.D.A. data instead of the peer-reviewed literature, but asked a different question. Researchers wondered if the effectiveness of a study was related to the baseline levels of depression of its participants. The results suggested yes. The effectiveness of antidepressants was limited for those with moderate depression, and small for those with severe depression.

The take-home message from these two studies was that the effectiveness of antidepressants had been overstated, and that the benefit might be limited to far fewer patients than were actually using the drugs.

These points, and more, were made in a paper written by John Ioannidis in the journal Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine in 2008. He argued that the study designs and populations selected, especially the short length of many studies, biased them to positive results. He argued that while many studies achieved statistical significance, they failed to achieve clinical significance. He argued that we knew too little about long-term harms, and that we were being presented with biased information by looking only at published data.

This paper — “Effectiveness of Antidepressants: An Evidence Myth Constructed From a Thousand Randomized Trials?” — sowed lingering doubts about the use of antidepressants and the conduct of medical research. But recently, the most comprehensive antidepressants study to date was published, and it appears to be a thorough effort to overcome the hurdles of the past.

Researchers, including Dr. Ioannidis this time, searched the medical literature, regulatory agency websites and international registers for both published and unpublished double-blind randomized controlled trials, all the way till the beginning of 2016.

They looked for both placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials of 21 antidepressants used to treat adults for major depressive disorder. They used a “network meta-analysis technique,” which allows multiple treatments to be compared both within individual trials directly and across trials indirectly to a common comparator. They examined not only how well the drugs worked, but also how tolerated the treatment was — what they called acceptability.

They found 522 trials that included more than 116,000 participants. Of those, 86 were unpublished studies found on trial registries and company websites. An additional 15 were discovered through personal communication or by hand-searching review articles. The authors went an extra step and asked for unpublished data on the studies they found, getting it for more than half of the included trials.

The reassuring news is that all of the antidepressants were more effective than placebos. They varied modestly in terms of efficacy and acceptability, so each patient and doctor should discuss potential benefits and harms of individual drugs.

Further good news is that smaller trials did not have substantially different results from larger trials.

It also did not appear that industry sponsoring of trials correlated with significant differences in response or dropout rates. But — and this is a big “but” — the vast majority of trials are funded by industry. As a result, this meta-analysis may not have had enough data on non-industry trials to accurately determine if a difference exists.

There were also signs of “novelty” bias: Antidepressants seemed to perform better when they were newly released in the market but seemed to lose efficacy and acceptability in later years.

The bad news is that even though there were statistically significant differences, the effect sizes were still mostly modest. The benefits also applied only to people who were suffering from major depression, specifically in the short term. In other words, this study provides evidence that when people are found to have acute major depression, treatment with antidepressants works to improve outcomes in the first two months of therapy.

Because we lack good data, we still do not know how well antidepressants work for those with milder symptoms that fall short of major depression, especially if patients have been on the drugs for months or even years. Many people probably fall into that category, yet are still regularly prescribed antidepressants for extended periods. We don’t know how much of the benefit received from such use is a placebo effect versus a biological one.

I asked Dr. Ioannidis if the results of this new study were as radical as many news articles had suggested. He confirmed that this was a much-larger meta-analysis — with about 10 times more information — than the ones from a decade ago, with more unpublished data and more antidepressants covered. He’s also hopeful that future studies will be even better at informing individual-level responses, which might help to see if some patients benefit substantially even when others don’t seem to benefit at all.

But he thought that some of the exuberance in the news media might be a little overblown. “I am afraid that some news stories gave very crude interpretations that may be misleading, especially when their titles were too absolute, like ‘the drugs work’‘the debate is over’ and so forth,” he said. “The clinical (as opposed to statistical) significance of the treatment effects that we detected will continue to be contested, and it is still important to find ways that one can identify the specific patients who get the maximum benefit.”

Even with so much research on antidepressants, there are still many unanswered questions. It’s unclear if drug companies would be interested in the results, or indeed why they would be. The drugs are already being widely used, and no regulatory agency is requiring more data. If patients want answers, they will need to demand the research themselves.

Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist and makes videos at Healthcare Triage. He is the author of The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. @aaronecarroll

Related:

Unless you become like little children

Perhaps the most used phase in the Bible is: “Do not be afraid.”

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Lots of information on this site about what happens when we over-use medication instead of meditation:

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(Always see your doctor….)

 (Whenever everything else fails, God will take you Back)