Archive for July, 2017

Remember, we’re all animals

July 21st, 2017

Oh, my, I just read a very disturbing article published by the National Geographic about our pets. It was titled “Would your dog eat you if you died? Get the facts.”

This piece was a little like reading a Stephen King novel from the era when he was still using LSD. The title was a little misleading, however, because it was not limited to just your pet dog. It explored your feline friends as well. To save you the gory details, the answer was, yes. Yes, your pets will definitely eat you.

How is it possible that your loving, kind, beautiful, well-behaved pet would eat you? Well, let’s be honest, we’d probably do the same thing if the situation warranted it.

Remember the Uruguayan Air Force Chartered Flight 571 that was carrying 45 people, including a rugby union team, their friends, family, and associates? It was the basis of the movie “Alive.” The plane crashed in the Andes in 1972, and the survivors began eating those who did not make it, like the Donner Party on their trip through the Sierra Nevada Hasting Cutoff.

It was certainly a graphic depiction of anthropophagy, but the pet story reminded me that we are all animals, and we spend most of our human lives trying to not only suppress that fact, we spend our lives doing everything we can to hide from it. Dogs come from wolves, cats come from tigers, and hey, like them, the vast majority of us are carnivores.

It’s such an ironic evolution that we deal with every day. As a 10-year-old, I vividly remember our elementary school field trips. We would go to the Joseph Meat Packing Plant. They’d kill the cattle in front of us and then gut and butcher them. We absolutely knew where that hamburger came from for lunch. (I’m sure it would be considered child abuse now, but it was just a field trip for us.)

The book, “The Naked Ape,” by Desmond Morris takes a deep and long look at humans as animals. Morris was a practicing zoologist who dedicated this book to we humans as animals.

He very carefully outlined the numerous animal traits that we share, and then he illustrated how hard we work at making sure every day we aren’t seen as animals. Bathing, deodorant, shaving, and clothing are just a few examples.

If you think about the craziness of our world and equate it to packs, tribes, gangs, and such, things begin to make so much more sense.

It also explains some of our political, psychosocial, and personal decisions regarding tattoos, piercings, sports, and voting. We are pack animals. It’s why we run to wear our Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, and Under Armor clothing. We want to fit in with the rest of our gang, whatever that gang represents. It also explains our love of red meat, our sexuality, and what seems to be our madness. We’re animals disguising ourselves as humans.

Yes, we have spirituality and a more sophisticated brain, but smart people do some pretty dumb things. It actually gives me a little peace of mind when I’m trying to figure out why we’ve been at war forever or why we’re so hostile toward each other at political rallies. It’s our animal side.

So, the next time you look at Buddy, Chipper, or Miss Kitty, just understand that they’ll probably go for the soft tissue first, and it’s not because they didn’t like you or because there wasn’t food in their bowl.

Thank you, National Geographic, for absolutely terrifying me. I’m so glad I’m pet-less right now. Here kitty kitty.


Opioids and Capitalism

July 12th, 2017

When we first introduced Integrative Medicine practices at the hospital where I was the CEO, we basically embraced a code similar to the Statue of Liberty. It was, “Give us the patients you’re no longer able to help because if we are doing no harm and nothing else is working, why not?”

There have been more than 19,000 educational and scientific papers written on the efficacy of acupuncture, but there are still those hardline or uninformed who believe it’s somehow a fad or totally ineffective.

Of course, Integrative Medicine doesn’t always work for every individual, but goodness knows that traditional medicine has its challenges as well. The point is never to replace one with the other but to complement one another when possible or effective.

The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has just opened the door to at least considering some forms of Integrative Medicine when dealing with the Opioid crisis. As one of my very closest friends recently wrote, “The failure of Pharma in pain management is monumental, and it is apparent to me that we are at the tipping point.”

He went on to say, “The Joint Commission has endorsed the use of independent licensed practitioners in the pain management journey, and Integrative Medicine brings a philosophy and clinical approach which is not well understood but is being received with greater acceptance. Clearly, economics and power have driven the country into this opioid crisis and have greatly delayed a transformation process that is not Pharma oriented.”

Back in the early 2000s, I had an opportunity to interact with the lead scientist from a major pharmaceutical company. He had visited our research center where we were endorsing both personalized and integrative medicine. As I drove him to the airport to board his company’s private jet, he turned to me and said, “You don’t understand the pharmaceutical industry.” My response was, “Clearly, I don’t” to which he responded, “The pharmaceutical industry is like the movie industry. We are only looking for the blockbusters. We want to give you a pill from the time you’re 5 until you’re 85 that never cures you.”

Well, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams with the opioid crisis. One of my emergency room physicians once told me that as little as one prescription of an opioid can cause addiction. Obviously, it depends on the pharmacogenomic profile of the patient, but some of us are addiction prone and our reactions to pain meds are dramatic.

One of the very sad examples of the savage capitalism involved in getting hundreds of thousands of patients addicted to these meds is that opioids also contribute to constipation. Consequently, pharma has come out with a new drug to sell the addicted that helps them with that drug caused problem as well.”Heal with a pill?”

I recently read a set of statistics that seemed not only overwhelming but also disconcerting and pathetic. The use of Vicodin has grown from 112 million doses in 2006 to 131 million in 2017. Per an ABC News report, the United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population but consumes 80 percent of its opioids and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, and now that heroin is less expensive than Vicodin or other opioids, we have rampant drug addiction in our country.

More people are dying of overdoses in our country now than auto accidents, and, according to a quote from public health and law enforcement officials, painkillers are now responsible for more deaths than crack and black tar heroin in the 1970’s and 80’s combined.

So, the issue isn’t one of pain. We know that people have pain. The issue is how to treat that pain. The opioids were originally created to deal only with terminal patients.

When will the system recognize that mindfulness, acupuncture, visual imaging, controlled stretching, and other integrative modalities may be part of the answer? How about now?


On Being Alive

July 5th, 2017

We’ve all seen those articles where some geezer like me prints something about growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s and expresses his astonishment about the fact he is still with us. Well, this geezer is planning to take that to an entirely new level. I’m going to document some of the things that my body has withstood up to this point, and it is amazing.

Let’s first start with the medical field. Penicillin began being used widely after World War II, and my generation was the first to both enjoy its benefits and then to confirm its costs. As a little guy, my dad, and practically everyone else’s dad smoked like chimneys. Apparently, that somehow contributed to ear, as well as tonsil, infections. To say that I had plenty of penicillin shots would be like saying I ate plenty of Frosted Flakes. Counting the number of times that needle filled with white fluid entered my butt or my arm would be like trying to count the number of flakes in a lifetime worth of sugary cereal consumption.

At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry had convinced the farming industry to give its animals antibiotics because it made them get fatter faster. In fact, their salesmen used to take antibiotics and stand on the feed scales week after week to show their enormous weight gains. I’m not saying that my 36 plus inch waste came from childhood consumption of antibiotics, but what other reason could there be? Oh, and let’s not forget that the over use of antibiotics also contributes to the death and destruction of the good microbes in our guts which contributes to yeast belly. (I think beer does, too, but I’m no doctor.)

The Buster Brown store in Connellsville had a machine that I could put my foot into and with the flip of a switch see my foot bones. It was supposed to be for better fitting of my Ked canvas tennis shoes, but really?

Oh, and our local doc purchased a fluoroscope. You could bet that every time you developed a cough before you got your penicillin shot, you would stand behind that fluoroscope and doc would peek inside your chest. (Are you counting rads yet?)

Let’s not forget that, when I was a young teacher, the X-ray van would pull up behind the school each year and we would parade through that van to have a chest X-ray to make sure we didn’t have tuberculosis. Then, when I went for my regular physical from my internist, I got zapped again for 20 years.

Oh, and let’s talk about the 25,000 dental X-rays I’ve gotten over the centuries. Of course, they are low dose, but not low enough to keep the tech from running out of the room screaming before she pulls the trigger.

Then there were the pneumonia X-rays, the PET/CT scans, the regular CAT scans, the four heart caths with more fluoroscopy, and six dermatology radiation treatments by Dr. Jacob in Shadyside for a pimple on my lip in the 1960s. But let’s move on to my diet. Margarine was the food of choice. It was concluded by some ad agency to be so much better for you than butter. This stuff would sit out on the table for weeks at a time pulsating with hydrogenated fats, and we sucked it down like milkshakes.

Oh, and my aunt owned a candy store and paid me with candy for doing work around her shop. Yep, thousands of dollars of candy went into my mouth over my lifetime. And there was that raw milk that we drank straight from the cows, and don’t forget the thousands of eggs and dozens and dozens of triple cheese pizzas.

Throw in the no seat belt law, the no drunk driving laws, and the other “it’s OK” things, and I’m a MIRACLE! Case closed!