Posts Tagged ‘Social Justice’

I just think it is time we try something new,” said the doctor to his patient, “It’s called Abilify.”

But I’ve been doing well,” the patient pleaded, “I have had no problems for over six months and I am feeling fine.”

Well, you are on an involuntary (civil) commitment and I would hate to have to extend that 18 months,” said the doctor, “You understand that the court will always do what the doctor recommends, and I think that you are in need of a switch to Abilify.

This is a conversation that I overheard when I first started working at a county hospital. I was new and trying to learn from these wonderful doctors that I believed were there to help people. This facility saw the “sickest” patients in the county, and I thought this would give me an incredible opportunity to learn. As this was one of the first conversations I heard, I was certainly learning… and slowly discovering that the label of “sick” is being placed on the wrong individual in this context.

Eventually, I worked my way up to a role that included auditing the psychiatrist’s records along with the responsibility of meeting with pharmaceutical representatives who were pushing their free medication samples. The only means of distributing free promotional samples is by the reps being able to talk directly to the psychiatrist along with a signature, and I was like a modern-day gatekeeper. The different reps would visit and provide a pitch as to why they should be able to take the king (psychiatrist) on a date – and unfortunately describing it as a ”date” was far more literal than figurative.

The sales reps entertain psychiatrists with dinners at the finest restaurants in town and grant them access to luxury suites at sporting events in an effort to push their medications. But, they had to get by the guard (me) first. So they started to befriend me and offer similar gifts. They pulled out all the tricks in the book to try to gain access to psychiatrists, just like the Greeks trying to enter the city of Troy. In their finest efforts, the most beautiful women you have ever seen would show up as “sales reps” but they were really no more than a Trojan Horse posing as another false gift to gain access inside the gates. It really is only about one step away from prostitution, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in some cases these reps do take that ‘extra step’.

I had been officially introduced to the dark side of psychiatry, a field I had always believed was a “helping” industry. After battling my own lifelong struggles, I got into the field to help others only to find myself on the truly “sick” side of psychiatry – the side that is fueled by corruption, greed, back-scratching and dysfunction.

And this was just the tip of the iceberg!

Crossing a Line

I met a patient that I will call “Ronelle.” She was in the state hospital and preparing to be discharged after six months. She was assigned to my caseload for when she returns. Ronelle sent me a six-page letter describing herself and her situation. However, the doctor took this from me and informed me of her “delusional thinking patterns” and then coached me as to how to handle her care. He was still her psychiatrist and was ensuring I was aware of the extremity of her “sickness.” I was naïve, and had no reason to question this prominent psychiatrist.

Prior to my first encounter with Ronelle, it was already engrained in my mind that she was sick and delusional. While reviewing her medications, I noticed she was taking four different antipsychotics – one of which was 30mg of Abilify. There it is again, Abilify, the latest atypical antipsychotic. “I really do not need to be on all these medications,” she told me, “I really am not that sick.” Another delusion, I thought. So I blew her off, just as everyone had always done. I didn’t realize I was another cog in the psychiatric industrial machine.

As months went by, our talks were always the same and I was getting tired of hearing how she did not need her medications.

One night, while out on a date at a fancy restaurant – courtesy of the gift cards from the sales representatives – we headed upstairs to check out the view of the city and I recognized the same psychiatrist providing an educational talk to nurses and mental health workers about Abilify. He was sharing all the wonders of this drug and how more people need to be pushed towards this magical medication. As he took his seat, he was embraced and kissed by the same young Abilfy sales rep. I had to take a second-look as I was taken aback by the blatant corruption that sat before the entire crowd. Next day back at the office, I asked other sales reps about this encounter. They laughed and said, “Didn’t you know that? They are married.”

What!?

Shocked, upset, and in disbelief, I came to discover this prominent psychiatrist was pushing a medication on his colleagues that his wife was selling! Is this really about helping people? Or is it about expanding their personal portfolio?

Disease Mongering: The Selling of Sickness

After discovering this new information, I had to find out more about Abilify. Every single doctor I spoke with provided the same answer, “No, it doesnt really work.” One doctor even referred to it as “Vitamin A.” Abilify was introduced as a new atypical antipsychotic medication to treat schizophrenia but never gained the market-share they were expecting. A few years later it was approved to treat bipolar disorder. Later, the FDA approved its use in conjunction with other medications to treat severe depression – which is when it soared to become the top-selling drug in America.[1]

So, following the failed experiment of treating schizophrenia, the pharmaceutical company simply changed the “purpose” of the drug to treat other indications – specifically depression and anxiety – which is what you will see it marketed for today. In fact, you will find it marketed for just about everything.

“In the 12 months ending August 2011, more than [US]$453 million was spent promoting antipsychotics through physician details, direct-to-consumer advertising, and professional advertising. Abilify led with over $174 million, or 38% of the total market… Clearly, Abilify and Seroquel have performed well… in part because of the investments their marketers have made, both in promotion and acquiring expanded indications.” [2]

Yet, despite raking in more than seven billion dollars per year, both the USDI and FDA state the way Abilify works is “Unknown.” This is a very common practice in the pharmaceutical industry. It works like this:

  • Create a new disorder (identify a new market)
  • Hire a firm to spread awareness (disease branding/marketing)
  • Convince the normal person they have this disorder (creating a need)
  • Use a new drug to treat that disorder (solution)
  • The patent for the drug is good for 7 years; apply monopoly prices
  • Once patent expires, repeat step one
  • Repackage the “new” drug under a different name
  • Repeat steps two through five

Patents for new drugs are applicable for 7 years. Once it runs out, it allows the generic brand companies to make the same drug at reduced prices. To avoid this, the large pharmaceutical companies simply adjust a molecule of the drug and repackage it, allowing for a new patent. This process has been repeated throughout the past few decades as the psychiatric industry has abandoned psychotherapy in favor of drug management.

Valium was the highest prescribed drug in the world in 1978 and earned the nickname “Momma’s little helper” as it was marketed to stressed out housewives; and also referred to as “Executive Excedrin” for the overworked businessman. This was the turning point of America becoming a choose-your-mood society. As far as the pharmaceutical industry is concerned, there is a pill for everything, and the goal is to find the right pill for each person.

The 1980s saw the next “breakthrough” — the drug Prozac was released to treat symptoms of depression. And of course, the diagnoses of depression skyrocketed as public campaigns (funded by pharmaceuticals) let us all know that we, or someone we know, may be struggling with depression. Then in 1999 came “news” of the latest epidemic – Social Anxiety Disorder (ie. shyness). A coalition was created to help those suffering from this “disorder” and those targeted were told that there was a drug to alleviate their symptoms – Paxil. What is generally unknown to the public however, is that these coalitions to ‘spread awareness’ are funded by pharmaceutical companies, and psychiatrists are paid to give speeches about the newly devised “illnesses”, along with the accompanying medication.[3]

jonahjakcryan

The Legal Drug Cartels

Paxil was FDA approved in 1992, and to get approval status, the FDA appointed a board of psychiatrists – all of whom had financial ties with the pharmaceutical companies. In 2001, the infamous Paxil 329 study attempted to “prove” the effectiveness of their antidepressant in adolescents – another then-untapped market. Martin Keller ran this study on behalf of Glaxio Smith Kline and tested 100 children on the drug. There were 22 co-authors of this study, all ‘important’ psychiatrists, which concluded the effectiveness and safety of Paxil. The FDA granted their blessing to the faulty study and within a year, more than 55 million people were taking Paxil.[4][[5]

However, what was omitted from this “study” was that seven of children on which Paxil was tested were hospitalized and another 11 experienced serious side effects. Keller admitted no fault and simply did not count those individuals in the results of the study, and labelled them as either “noncompliant” or noted that they had “dropped out.” In 2004 he settled out of court for $2.5 million dollars for his role in the fraudulent study, but in 2012 the US Department of Justice brought a civil case against Glaxio Smith Kline which resulted in the company being fined US$3 billion dollars! [6] In that same year, however, Paxil brought in US$11.6 billion in sales for Glaxo Smith Kline which, from a business perspective, still made the fraudulent Paxil study a valuable corporate exercise. You can read the guilty plea in the case US vs Glaxo Smith Kline here.

In the book, “Sociology of Health and Illness” by Peter Conrad he writes:

“Marketing diseases, and then selling drugs to treat those diseases, is now common in the “post-Prozac” era. Since the FDA approved the use of Paxil for SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder] in 1999 and GAD [Generalized Anxiety Disorder] in 2001, GlaxoSmithKline has spent millions to raise the public visibility of SAD and GAD through sophisticated marketing campaigns. The advertisements mixed expert and patient voices, providing professional viability to the diagnoses and creating a perception that it could happen to anyone (Koerner 2002). The tag line was, “Imagine Being Allergic to People.” A later series of advertisements featured the ability of Paxil to help SAD sufferers brave dinner parties and public speaking occasions (Koerner 2002). Paxil Internet sites offer consumers self-tests to access the likelihood they have SAD and GAD (www.paxil.com). The campaign successfully defined these diagnostic categories as both common and abnormal, thus needing treatment.

Prevalence estimates vary widely, from 3 to 13 percent of the population, large enough to be a very profitable pharmaceutical market. The marketing campaign for Paxil has been extremely successful. Paxil is one of the three most widely recognized drugs, after Viagra and Claritin (Marino 2002), and is currently ranked the number six prescription drug, with 2001 U.S. sales approximately $2.1 billion and global sales of $2.7 billion. How much Paxil was prescribed for GAD or SAD is impossible to discern, but by now both Paxil and SAD are everyday terms. While there have been some concerns raised about Paxil recently (Marshall 2004), it is clear that GlaxoSmithKline’s campaign for Paxil increased the medicalization of anxiety, inferring that shyness and worrying may be medical problems, with Paxil as the proper treatment”. [page 484]

Then there was the Cymbalta clinical testing that resulted in five suicides, which somehow still managed to pass through the FDA approval process. 19 year old Traci Johnson had no history of depression, suicidal ideation, or any mental illness. Yet, after being involved in this clinical study she ended her life – one of five suicides resulting from the in clinical testing of Cymbalta. After her death, 20% of the volunteers withdrew from the study, and these ‘dropout’ numbers (again) were simply not accounted for in the final data analysis.[7] In 2013, Cymbalta delivered more than $5.1 billion in sales.

This unsavoury marriage between pharmaceutical companies and psychiatry goes back over 100 years. While it was highly publicised that Sigmund Freud touted the use of cocaine – both recreationally and therapeutically – what is not widely known is that his well publicized passion for this ”magical drug” was actually the result of hefty payments he received from the newly-formed pharmaceutical companies, Merck and Park Davies, for his professional endorsement for their drugs. [8]

Drug Pushers in White Coats

The story I related earlier about the psychiatrist with the penchant for Abilify, is one of possibly hundreds of thousand of other examples of this sort of prescribing within this industry. Drug companies are profiting by more than US$80 billion each year as a result of ‘mental disease mongering’, as well as ludicrous mark-up pricing. These medications are incredibly cheap to manufacture – i.e. the cost to produce 100 Xanax pills is about $0.025 (yes that is 2.5 cents) yet they sell for $136 at the pharmacy – a 500,000% profit margin. [9]

With these kind of profits, the pharmaceutical companies are able to pay enormous settlement fees which hardly crack their bank account. In 2007, Abilify paid a $515 million settlement for illegally marketing their drug in nursing homes, despite knowing that it commonly caused death for patients with dementia.[10]

In April of 2015, Abilify’s patent expired for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and generics can now be purchased at discounted prices. So, in turn, in May of 2015 its maker the Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. attempted to sue the FDA, claiming that the drug was now an orphan-drug in treating pediatric Tourette’s syndrome and thereby extending its exclusivity period.

So why do we keep prescribing people these medications?

Simply, it is because we have created a gravy train that is producing a lot of money for a lot of powerful people – drug companies, doctors, pharmacies, and investors. In creating a new disorder, it is marketed as a lifelong and incurable disease, creating a customer for life. The first problem for the drug companies in marketing their pharmaceutical ”solutions” is if it kills a person; the second problem is if they actually cured someone – imagine the financial hit they would take. Their aim, therefore, is to create addictive drugs that don’t kill but also don’t cure.

Upon learning more about this dark side of psychiatry, I literally grew nauseous. I started to examine this psychiatrist’s charts to find that nearly every one of his patients was prescribed Abilify. In comparison, other providers prescribed Abilify an average of 4% of the time… compared to his rate of 75%. Then, of course, he is also married to the pharmacy representative for this company. For each prescription he writes, she gets paid a commission. She also gets paid for talking to doctors because of her free pass into the clinic. He also is funded by the same company to give speeches on this drug, and for signing off on peer-reviewed articles and studies on these drugs – again 100% funded by drug companies. They are making exuberant amounts of money by medicating people with a drug that in their own words ”doesn’t really work.”

I was reeling over how it is possible that this level of corruption is happening right before our eyes. But the chief of psychiatry didn’t seem at all concerned — he was busy playing golf with the Risperdal sales representative! Upon hearing this, I was prompted to look into the Risperdal Consta injections that were administered at our facility, only to discover that more than half of our one-thousand patients were being given this drug — a procedure that runs a bill of more than $1,000 per injection. This has all been given the ‘green light’ by our “Chief of Psychiatry” — our facility’s ‘pillar of respectability’ who has been featured in studies in medical journals and other publications and studies for the past fifty years.

This kind of corruption is, unfortunately, not uncommon in the psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry. Peter C Gøtzsche, a physician, researcher and professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis at the University of Copenhagen, has firsthand experience with the criminal workings of the pharmaceutical industry, which he exposed in his book “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.” Gøtzsche detailed the corruption behind exorbitant prices for branded drugs, and outlines that clinical drug trials are often fraudulent, with pharmaceutical companies selecting populations and comparison groups that will support the preferred outcome of the study, controlling and filtering data in-house, cherry picking the results to suit their marketing needs, and hiring professional writers to document their “findings”. He also claims it is not uncommon for academics who were not involved in studies to be paid to be listed as contributors, to give the study credibility despite its “shamelessly biased data.”

A number of other prominent scientists — including 2 former editors-in-chief of major scientific journals — have also publicly stated that up to half of published research is biased or simply untrue. Says Dr. Marcia Angell, physician and longtime editor-in-chief of the New England Medical Journal:

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Recent Headlines

Recently Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals made the headlines after he increased the price of the AIDS medication Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 — a 5000% increase. Yet, the drug companies are adding these huge mark-ups all the time. According to a recent article from LiveStrong.com:

“Insight Journal” reports that many of the active ingredients in prescription drugs are manufactured overseas, and that the pharmaceutical industry earns from 2,809 percent markup of the cost of active ingredient in Zestril, to as much as 570,000 percent markup in Xanax; the markup for Xanax is based on a consumer price of $137.79 for 100 tablets and $0.024 for the cost of the active ingredients.

Now, a startling new development comes from the manufacturers of Abilify, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. The corporation intends to turn Abilify into a “digital drug”, and are seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to insert a chip into each capsule that can measure whether a patient is taking their medications as prescribed. If approved, this move would give doctors and courts the power to monitor whether people prescribed these drugs are complying with the dictates of their financially-motivated prescriptions. [11]

While the moral and legal implications of this proposal are staggering, the ludicrous insensitivity of such a proposal was highlighted by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert who joked:

“Nothing is more reassuring to a schizophrenic than a corporation inserting sensors into your body and feeding information to all those people watching your every move.”

You can read about this development here.

So, who are the sick ones in this industry?

Eventually, I started listening more to what ”Ronelle” had to say about her ‘drugging’ — I felt it only right to hear her out. With some collaborative efforts and a bit of manipulating, we were able to switch doctors. Her new doctor met with the legal drug cartel sales representatives but didn’t ‘buy into’ the shiny objects they tried to use to bribe him. “None of these meds really work,” he told one of the drug dealers, “Maybe 15% of the time at best, so we really shouldn’t use them unless it is absolutely necessary. They are only to be used as a last resort.”

Imagine that?! A doctor who still cared for patients, stands by his morals and ethics, and could not be bought-out. Of course, he often was shunned by his colleagues for his ethical tactics that made waves and exposed their corruption.

However, once he began working with Ronelle, he gradually got her off her medications to see how she would function without being doped up 24 hours a day. Eventually, she was reduced from 4 antipsychotics to a more suitable anxiety medication and an antidepressant. She was doing fine and never returned to the hospital again; she was happy, excited, and managed to lose a lot of the weight she had gained from the ‘doping’ her previous psychiatrist had forced on her to line his own pockets.

Unfortunately, the patient that I described in the beginning of this article was not so lucky. He did not get to switch doctors and was forced to continue taking Abilify since he was on civil commitment. He ended up fleeing for two years, taking a flight to Africa, and doing himself serious damage in the process. From what I have heard from others since, he eventually returned to the United States but his life has been destroyed.

Ironically, this doctor we have been discussing prescribed a cocktail of drugs that literally drove a troubled man to desperation, fleeing to Africa as a last ditch effort to escape his mental torture. Yet at the same time, the doctor responsible for this poor man’s state-enforced over-medication — the ‘professional’ who earned enormous sums of money pairing patients with his preferred drugs — used his ill gotten gains to funds his own vacation to Africa later that year, an expedition to escape the stress of “dealing with the mentally ill.”

In Conclusion…

In rounding out this article, it would be remiss of us to not point out the fact that more people die from overdose deaths from taking ‘properly prescribed’ prescription drugs each year than from illegal street drugs. Writes Scott Bonn, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University, in a 2014 article for Psychology Today [12]:

Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. At least 100 people die from drug overdoses every day in the U.S. More than 36,000 people die from drug overdoses annually and most of these deaths are caused by prescription drugs…

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of antidepressant use in the United States rose by 400 percent between 1988 and 2008…

The problem is getting worse and, frequently, medical doctors enable their drug addicted patients by frivolously filling prescriptions.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

Reference (1) CDC. Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers—United States, 1999-2008. MMWR 2011; 60: 1-6.

hugclub

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

Every Wednesday morning for the past few months I have seen the same patient around 7:00 a.m. I would bring her a sausage and egg McMuffin every morning and sometimes a fish sandwich in the afternoon – a violation of company rules.

The “rules” also tell me that I am not supposed to pick up her medications, not to disclose personal information, and to never give hugs to patients. But we all face moments in life in which we realize that rules no longer apply to present circumstances.

Nearly sixty years ago, on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to follow the rules and orders of a bus driver demanding she gives up her seat to a white person. The rules no longer applied to Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement began. A couple decades prior in Germany, Oskar Schindler and Karl Plagge were members of the Nazi Party who saw the “rules” of the time meant systematic extermination of people. They saw the rules no longer applied, with each of them finding a way to save thousands of lives along the way.

Parks, Schindler, and Plagge shared one thing in common. They recognized injustice, deliberately refused to follow the “rules” of their time, and put their personal life at risk in an effort to do the right thing. While these are all extreme examples, they all also started with one simple act which catapulted a movement.

Today, let’s start our own revolution. As they say it will not be televised. That is because only hate and corruption is televised. The real revolution is a return to love.

This woman that I would visit had just lost her only son about three years ago to suicide. She was devastated and never recovered. When I stopped by, we would just talk about life, my kids and family, politics, and the world we live in. It was the highlight of her day. She always asked me for hugs every time I came, and against staff advice, I obliged.

She was incredibly lonely and her depression had reached the point in which it was physically debilitating. She was in so much emotional pain that it was a struggle to get out of bed each day. I would help her get up and walk around outside for a few minutes to help boost her mood.

Then our Wednesday meetings always ended with a simple hug.

I find it ironic that these things violate rules. This has been scientifically / biologically proven that hugging actually releases a hormone called Oxytocin, which is a natural antidote to stress and naturally lifts ones mood. Oxytocin is also released by looking into another’s eyes, a simple holding of the hand, patting on the back, petting an animal, etc.

In fact, studies have shown that teachers that give a warm pat on the back to students will typically fare better in testing and that sports teams that make more personal contact (i.e. high fives, exuberant hugs) are more successful. It has more of a scientific backing than that of antidepressants.

Today, as I was walking towards her door, something felt different. I knocked on the door and waited as I felt something turning in my stomach.

There was no answer. She was dead.

I am not sure the cause of death, but likely will find out in the coming days once the coroner can run an autopsy. But she is gone, she has passed away and will be reunited with her son. Ask me if I regret breaking these rules for the past three months?
On her answering machine, you hear my voice saying, “I can’t come this morning. I have to bring my kids to school. But I promise I’ll be there tomorrow with the egg McMuffin.”
Before I headed to her house this morning, I was feeling very depressed about some other things going on in my personal life. I wasn’t going to bring her food today and my plan was to let her know that I could no longer keep doing this for her. As these thoughts were going through my mind, I was able to slow myself down and remind myself “just because I am depressed does not mean I should add to her pain.”

Last week, I blew her off during our visit. I was short, rushed, and didn’t want to be “bothered.”  She pleaded me to stay longer, but my occupied mind would not allow me to be present that day.

“I promise we will chat more next week,” I told her. Without knowing, that next meeting never came.

And that is what I regret. I was too busy with things going on in my own world, that I missed out on an opportunity to make another person’s day brighter.

Every interaction matters, every hug matters, every moment matters. Being a man does not mean who is the most productive, busy, finishing paperwork on time, or rising to the top. No, being a man has to do with going beyond our ego and making true, meaningful connection with another soul. Give someone a hug, someone in need.

I am starting a hug club. I’m going to hug people openly just the way we did when we were children before society scared us away from loving our neighbor and fellow man. If I see someone walk in the room that I am happy to see, I am going to hug them. If I see someone distressed, I will hug them and allow their body to naturally heal the way we were created to do so.
This is my vow and I encourage others to do the same.

I know we will get weird looks, laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed. But so did Rosa Parks. A real man does not concern himself over the opinions of those still living behind their mask, because a real man understands that that hug may be saving a life.

richevil

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

By Irwin Ozborne

“Susie is dead.”

I still remember the text message on that fateful morning.

Susie is a 24-years-old, hard-working, good-looking girl without an enemy in the world. She is the type of person who naturally connects to everyone and genuinely cares about others. How could she be dead?

“She died from a heroin overdose.”

I heard these words and it literally floored me. We hear the figurative expression of being brought to your knees – well this is where it comes from. It literally occurs when you cannot physically stand and the pain and anguish is so unbearable that you involuntarily sink closer to the earth.

Who does heroin? That was my instinctive reaction.

It must have been engrained in our culture and generation that if you touch the stuff, you instantly die. But, in a way, that is not too far from the truth. Heroin is back and stronger and cheaper than ever previously known. And what comes with that is a desensitized public attention and understanding of our nation’s most recent drug epidemic – Heroin 3.0.

Beginning of the Epidemic:

In 2013, an average of 23 people in America died from a Heroin overdose each day.

Heroin is a drug on the other side of the gateway, with preceding drug abuse swinging the gate open. According to a 2013 SAMSHA study, nearly 80-percent of new heroin users had previously abused opiates.

The United States is home to just five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume 80-percent of the world’s prescription drugs – primarily opioid pain killers.

And this is where our epidemic begins.

Eighty-five percent of households in America have prescription medication in their house. Most of this medication is not locked up, typically found in the bathroom medicine cabinet. The ease of obtaining prescription drugs legally is a joke, but perhaps more disturbing is that fact that it is easier to get them illegally.

This is called supply. When supply is up, prices are cheap. When prices are cheap, new customers are found. With new customers, it increases demand. If this sounds like I am describing how to operate a for-profit business, I am. This is the for-profit business of legal drug dealing.

In the 1990’s there was a shift in the way pain was treated in hospitals. They used to only use morphine-based substances for major surgeries. But the hospitals were in agreement that they had been doing a terrible job treating pain and the consensus was that pain needs to be addressed with each client and monitored as a vital sign. Then this trickled down into primary clinics and it became our God-given right to have our pain needs met immediately.

Side Effects May Include…

We know the names of these drugs – Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin – because we have been bombarded with advertisements for the past 20 years. It started with the 1997 FDA Modernization Act, allowing drug companies to advertise directly to consumers.

The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow this ridiculousness. The laws previously stated that all side effects must be included, but that is not possible with the number of side effects of drugs toppling the thousands. Instead, they are only required to list a few of the side-effects “that may include…”

This led to pharmaceutical marketing blitz of the late 90’s. Patients flooded clinics demanding new drugs and doctors felt pressured to take out the prescription pad. Because, if doctors were to “just say no” to the patient, they lose business. The inmates were running the asylum.

In 2012, more than 41,000 Americans died from a drug overdose – including 16,000 from an opioid analgesic (300-percent increase since 1999). Meanwhile, sales on painkillers alone have topped $1.3 billion in 2013 – preventing any desire for the legal drug cartels to pull back the reins on this gravy train that is destroying a generation.

With an astonishing number of overdose deaths reported each year over the past 20 years, eventually congress had to act on this self-induced epidemic. Programs were put into place to discover who was overprescribing medications – known as “pill mills.” While well-intended to put an end to the unexpected surge in overdose deaths, this system also became available to the legal cartels. Pharmaceutical companies used this information to help increase sales by finding patterns in physician’s prescribing tendencies and knew which doctors to target. Top salespeople were sent to clinics utilizing the finest tricks in the book – free gifts, vacations, sporting events, and free samples.

Laws were finally put into place to reduce prescription practices to risky clients, along with mandating education programs to health providers on how many prescriptions they were signing.

Slowly, the supply in the general public is shrinking but the problem is we already created record-high demands for these drugs. And, when the demand is strong enough in any industry – people will find an alternate supply.

Enter Heroin.

It is more potent than any pain killer on the market. In many cases it is easier to obtain and oftentimes cheaper. Basically, we created a demand for a product and then increased supply to fill that demand. Then the new laws took the away the supply, leaving a huge unmet demand for a product.

History of Heroin

Around 10,000 years ago in ancient China, the indigenous poppy plant was sliced open and they discovered a white-milky substance. When ingested, this substance gave intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure.

Primarily used as a spiritual ritual and then as medicine for pain in ancient Greece, opium eventually made its way into the public realm and was used recreationally. This led to early preaching against the drug and efforts to encourage recreational use in moderation as early as 160 AD.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus brought tobacco back to Europe which introduced a new method of administration. In smoking any substance, it is in direct contact with your lungs and then rapidly enters the bloodstream, bypassing the liver and gives a much more intense high at a quicker rate.

This helped fuel the opium epidemic in China in the 1800s. The British Empire grew opium in India and sold to their Chinese neighbors to the east. China had an alarmingly high rate of opium addiction at this time and the emperor attempted to ban the substance on multiple occasions.

But state-sponsored drug dealing is lucrative business. Drugs are ridiculously cheap to make and the mark-up is astronomically high. Some estimates report as high as 17,000-percent profit margins! And when we are talking that kind of money, fines and legal expenditures can never alter the way these products are pushed to the public. Two wars were fought between Britain and China over the opium trade, but with an advanced military the Brits won both wars and were allowed to continue to sell opium to a nation that saw over one-third of its total population addicted.

Technology continued to evolve the drug in Germany as scientists discovered the curing molecule of Opium – Morphine. This became the world’s new “magic drug.” It became a popular medication in the United States during the Civil War for the ailing soldiers in the battle field. However, even the strongest pain killer in the world was not acting fast enough to ease the pain and shock of wounded soldiers.  Leading to another technology shift – the hypodermic needle; the newest method of administration to quickly get the drug into the bloodstream.

This led to the “Army Disease,” referring to civil war veterans that came home addicted to Morphine and a drug epidemic was rampant throughout the country. It turns out, not only is morphine addictive, but is the most addictive drug known to man.

Then the Bayer Company in Germany synthesized morphine further – developing the world’s newest “magic drug.” Heroin was introduced in 1898, and made available to the public while being deemed non-addictive, a cure for morphine addiction, and no side effects.

In less than a decade the negative effects of heroin were glaringly obvious. In1914, the Harrison Tax Act placed major restrictions and by 1925 heroin was forever banned – just 27 years after celebrating the title of “magic drug.”

The demand for heroin slowly faded along with the supply. Mandatory sentencing laws also turned the public off to the drug and it stayed that way for about 50 years. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the next wave of heroin use arrived in America.

The War on Drugs

It was an interesting time in America. The country was divided by the war in Vietnam, kids were being drafted to serve in the military and fight a war they knew nothing about. People stopped believing the government, and with good reason, as we were fighting secret wars in Laos, Burma, and Thailand – an area known as the “Golden Triangle.”

The Golden Triangle produced 90-percent of the world’s opium during the time of American occupation from 1954-1974. A secret war, with a secret army, needed a secret airline. Air America is the name of the CIA’s owned and operated airline in which its fleet supplied arms and ammunition to the rebels and insurgents of the Golden Triangle to help fight the war in Vietnam. In exchange, Air America transported opium grew by the Hmong farmers to the area and made its way to South Vietnam and sold to American Soldiers.

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared the “War on Drugs.” The war is still active today, making it the longest war in the history of America. While much is to be said about this complete failure, its beginnings stemmed from the soldier’s addiction to heroin in Vietnam.

The Nixon campaign launched “Operation Golden Flow” before ending the war in Vietnam. This was an effort to get the soldiers clean before coming home. Just like the civil war, this was a generation of soldiers addicted to a derivative from opium.

This newfound control of the world’s opium production gave Americans a peak in supply, and as history repeats itself, a demand would surely follow back home with Heroin Epidemic 2.0 coinciding with the Vietnam War and military occupation in the Golden Triangle.

American withdrawal from the Golden Triangle subsequently slowed the heroin epidemic of the 70s. And the “War on Drugs” found a new target in South America, in which the CIA empowered dictators that favored American corporations. Drug trafficking, and the huge profit-margins, ran under the cover of “War on Drugs,” led to an increased supply in cocaine and crack during the 1980s.

At the same time, there was also a new switch in the world’s leader in opium production – the “Golden Crescent.” This is an area is Central, South, and Western Asia defined by three countries – Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – with Afghanistan being the world-leader in opium production since 1991. During the 80s, the CIA funded a group of rebels – involved in the opium trade – to fight off Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. One of those rebel groups funded by the CIA is known as “The Taliban.”

Dr. David Musto, a member of the Carter administration’s drug advisory board, issued a prescient warning that the United States was moving “into Afghanistan to support the opium growers in their rebellion against the Soviets. Shouldn’t we try,” Dr. Musto asked, “to avoid what we had done in Laos?”

In 1979, the DEA agreed with Musto and already anticipated huge shipments from Afghanistan to reach eastern shore of the United States. To give perspective on how supply/demand work in the drug industry along with profit margins, during the Soviet-Afghan War, annual heroin sales in Pakistan peaked at $8-$10 billion – about one-fourth of the country’s total GDP. At the same time, the rates of addiction increased by 26,000-percent! Just 5,000 reported cases of opium addiction in 1980 up to 1.3 million in 1988.

The CIA’s control of the Golden Crescent put America in control of the world’s opium production again. The formula stays the same – increased supply precedes an increase in demand. But this time, corporations found their way into the world’s most profitable business. Remember this is only years before the healthcare industry decided that pain management is needed at every level of care, new laws allowed for direct- consumer advertising, and customers were literally demanding opium (pain medication).

Opium is grown in four places in the world today; Southwestern Asia (Golden Crescent), Southeastern Asia (Golden Triangle), Columbia, and Mexico. The majority of illegal heroin in the United States comes from the Western Hemisphere, but prices remain at an all-time low because the world’s supply has created competition. Lower prices will encourage more people to use and with the astronomically high profit-margins, the loss is minimal to the cartels – both legal and illegal.

The Business Plan

The 1997 North American Free Trade Act passed by the Clinton Administration also had substantial indirect consequences to the current epidemic. This act allowed free trade between Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico, which flooded the borders with traffic and customs agents were unable to stop the increased flow of illegal drugs.

While well-intended, this law led to an increase in black tar heroin in America and put the control of the supply in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. And while the Cold War ended in 1990, Afghanistan became the largest producer of opium, and Americans no longer had a reason to occupy the Golden Crescent – Until September 11, 2011, and the “War on Terror” was created.

The Taliban had controlled 90-percent of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, but was quickly eliminated following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01.  Since the fall of the Taliban, opium production has actually risen each year since American occupation.

The terrorist attacks also changed things back home. President Bush created the NSA and Homeland Security which put tighter restrictions on the Mexican border. This meant we cut off the largest supplier of illegal drugs in America (Mexico), but we already have established a new demand. With such large demand and our hands in the world’s new largest supplier of opium, a need surely will be met to feed addictions.

President Bush had the answer with the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003. This act was a handout from the United States taxpayers to the Drug and Health Care Corporations of $800 billion. This bill gave pharmaceutical companies freedom to charge whatever they wish, healthcare as the middleman, and the consumer as a life-long customer (also called a drug-addict).

Now we have a need for drugs (literally addicted), the supply in Afghanistan, and cut off supply from the biggest competitors from Mexico, and free reign to the corporations (the same corporations that lobbied billions of dollars to congress to pass this bill).

The industry known as “health care,” does absolutely nothing to care about our health. The for-profit system is a business, just like any other major corporation, with intents on minimizing costs and increasing revenue.

And Now Comes the Sick Part…

Corporations are making huge profits by getting people addicted to drugs (pharmaceutical industry), by creating diseases to justify drugging them (psychiatry industry), and then denying them the help they need for this addiction we created (health insurance industry).

In sharing Susie’s story, it is clear that the sick ones are not those addicted to heroin, but those in offices deciding the fate of those in need.

Susie had completed residential treatment months earlier and had a chance to clear her mind and work on skills to avoid further harm. While working on building support, Susie had a relapse by injecting heroin over the weekend.

Heroin relapse is often fatal because after abstaining from using for a period of time, your tolerance significantly drops and your body can no longer handle the effects. Furthermore, heroin is at an all-time high as far as lethality. Back in the 1970s it was about 10-15 percent purity and now the numbers are closer to 70 percent pure heroin. Dealers have typically mixed alternative products in heroin to maintain greater quantities of their product, but with supplies and competition escalating, dealers need to provide higher quality for repeat business.

Susie survived the relapse but was in need of further treatment.

But her fate is handed off to a “clinical specialist” at the insurance company that lacks education, experience, or licensure. Instead, it is just a young kid in their mid 20’s that has been trained to “JUST SAY NO!”

Literally, they are told to deny claims. In the medical industry, a claim is referred to as a “medical loss.” Think about it; if you deny care, it saves the company money. If you save the company money, they have more profits.

How did such a corrupt system begin? President Nixon passed the HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) Act of 1973, which eventually gained many federal subsidies and virtually eliminated affordable individual health care plans.

In a meeting at the White House between President Nixon and John Erlichman (speaking for Edgar Kaiser) in promoting HMOs, Ehrlichman quotes Kaiser stating, “All the incentives are toward less medical care, because—the less care they give them, the more money they make.”Mr. Ehrlichman quoting Edgar Kaiser to President Nixon on February 17, 1971

The Story of Susie…

Susie’s insurance company offered to cover four days of treatment following her relapse. The “specialist” performs a role of reverse-salesman in justifying reasons for denying coverage. They ask questions such as “Wasn’t she just in treatment?” “Where is she getting these drugs?”

After four days, the insurance provider comes back and says that since Susie is doing well she no longer needs residential services.  They view the client as a number and a bottom line and have become desensitized to the word ‘heroin’ because the epidemic has normalized its use.

“This is too serious and I am terrified that if we do not authorize services, that we both might be attending a funeral,” said Susie’s counselor, “Actually, only one of us will, because papers and numbers don’t have funerals. But I’m dealing with a human life, unlike you.”

Two weeks later, Susie died from a heroin overdose.

United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley is paid a salary of 3.2 million dollars (with a total compensation package of $34 million) and owns a $10 million home in Wayzata, Minnesota. Every day in 2009 he earned $819, 363.10.

The best treatment center in Hemsley’s home state is Hazelden-Betty Ford Center. A 28-day residential treatment program at the world’s finest facility costs $30,000.

Hemsley’s hourly wage was around $102,741.68 in 2009. At this rate, if Mr. Hemsley were to not pay himself for 17 minutes of one day in 2009, he could have paid for full services at the world’s best treatment center for this kid for 28-days.

But let’s not single him out, the top ten health insurance companies CEO averaged a salary of $13 million per year, with their average worker making $35,000.

With all that money, imagine all the services and care people could receive, instead of increasing the wealth of one person? We could create an entire industry and call it “health care.”

americandream

“They call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” –George Carlin

The Washington post reported that there was 462 people shot to death by police in the first half of 2015. The author also stated on NPR that all this information is normally something that is voluntarily reported. Police are not required to report these things. The reason the number is so high this year is because the Washington Post is keeping track.

We then see the communities blame each other, the riots, and the protests. We all want a victim and a villain. We all want change. By that, we mean we want the other side to change.

In my over 20 years as a patient and staff member, I have met some interesting, amazing people. These 2 people’s stories who I am about to share had a great impact on me. I became close to both of them. They told me their stories and I learned of them through the chart, family, and getting to know them.

They grew up 45 minutes apart. You would never know it by their stories. Read their stories, and tell me which one is the

“bad guy.”

Jerry was born a few months earlier. His height and weight for a newborn was normal. He had no physical difficulties. He passes all the tests needed. He is cleared as a healthy newborn baby. He is allowed to go home with his parents and his 2 older siblings.

The young couple is unsure of how they will handle this financially. The father did not have a job or an education. The mother worked as a secretary for little money. She worked long hours and she was not home often. When she was home, she was tired and not in the mood to cook for 2 kids and her husband.

The marriage was not well either. Neither of Jerry’s parents had a normal childhood growing up. There was alcohol, and at times there was drugs in the house. The father did not have the skills to be a father, as he was never taught himself. So while the mother was away, Jerry and his brothers were left to fend for themselves.

The first stage in a child’s life, age’s birth to 18 months, is important. It is when the child develops a trust or mistrust of the world. They decide if it is safe, or if it is unsafe.

Jerry was left in his crib most of the first year of his life. He was held and fed. He was given enough to survive. He was changed 2-3 times per day. The family needed to save on diapers and food. The mother was resentful of the father for not working, and she was tired from work. She held Jerry when she had the energy and did the very best she could.

The father was around, but he was beaten severely as a child and did not know how to care for an infant. However, he was the one home. He stayed outside and worked on the car most of the day and drank.

The older siblings, ages 3 and 5, tried to take care of Jerry. But they had no idea how to do this. They were rough with Jerry. They were kids unsupervised, so accidents happened.

Jerry developed severe rashes from not being changed. At one time his brother broke Jerry’s arm at age 1.

The family went to the hospital and the social worker examined Jerry and concluded it was an accident. The second time, she called it in to child protection.

Child protection came out and did a family assessment. The mother was working, the father was attempting to get on social security, and the house was clean. The children were not in “imminent danger.”

The social worker has 45 cases with loads of paperwork on each case because the county cannot afford more social workers. So she gives her card and closes the case.

The siblings were beaten harshly for Jerry’s injury.

At about the same time, in another part of the city, another child is born. His name is Ashton. He is born at a normal weight and height. He passes all the tests and is sent home with his parents as well.

His father was in the army for 10 years and was now working at the Airport as a mechanic. He had served in the War. He was considered a hero to most. Ashton’s mother was a Dentist and she had her own practice in town. They were very involved in the community and a well-respected family by all in the town. Ashton was the only child born to his parents.

Ashton grew up in a home that believed in performance and image. His mother was at work often. Ashton’s father was excited to teach him everything he could. He did not give many hugs or much affection. Ashton was taken to the best day care, and he was placed in the most expensive classes for kids. He was given the best food and the best clothes.

Ashton’s mother loved him, but she really never wanted children. She had grown up in a dysfunctional home and her way of escaping that was by performing. She was very unsure of herself even though she was smart and excelled at everything she did. She was a great mother, but she did not believe herself to be. So she stayed away, almost in fear of ruining her child.

That is where Ashton’s father came in, he took charge. He set the rules and the way things would be. He was the general. This comforted Ashton’s mother and made her feel safe. It also made Ashton’s father feel very important and powerful.

Ashton did not get much more hugs and affection than Jerry. However, it appeared on the outside that he did. In fact, he may have gotten less. He was always with some “expert” on some sort of child care. Jerry at least had his misguided siblings holding him.

Now they are toddlers. They are both learning to build self-esteem and autonomy. Learning new skills and right from wrong. When a child fails here, they can feel shame and develop low self-esteem. A child can also start to gain confidence at this point.

Jerry is growing up in the same home. It has gotten worse. He is older now, he can walk and talk. His brothers often use him as a toy. His father has gotten on disability so he has money. It is being spent on alcohol as he sits with his friends and drinks all day. There is rotten food in the refrigerator that the children eat during the day. They often only eat once per day. They go outside on their own and come dangerously close to accidents all the time. It somehow never happens.

Jerry follows his brothers around and is beaten a lot. He is teased, and no one is really there to protect him. No one is there to encourage him to try new things or to teach him. He sometimes watches TV, but often his father is watching a sporting event. Jerry watches sports. His dad will at times reach over and hug him when his father’s team is winning. Jerry loves this.

Jerry’s mother will come home and the fighting will start. It is getting pretty bad. The father beats the mother in front of the children when she argues or complains that nothing is done. The children run and scream. If they are too loud, they get hit as well. They learn to hide downstairs in the filth and dog feces.

The kids get sick but are not taken to the doctor, there is no health insurance. Now there is an added fear of the social services being involved. The older kids are in school and Jerry’s mother gets them off in the morning. They look decent enough that it is not worth it to the teachers to do anything. The teachers in Jerry’s school have 40 kids in a classroom. Many are worse off than Jerry’s family. There is nowhere to put these children if social services takes them away. Jerry’s brothers slip under the radar. No visible unexplainable bruises, they are clean, and not starving. So no one pays attention.

Jerry sits at home with his father. Jerry has accidents and his father will hit him very hard at times. Jerry is 3 and has no idea what he did wrong. Or what he should do. He learns to stay away and not speak up.

Around the same time, Ashton’s life has continued. His father is teaching him right from wrong and he is pounding his beliefs into Ashton. “We” are the “good” guys. “They” are the “bad” guys. He tells Ashton when they watch the news. He points to criminals on TV and tells Ashton “they are the bad guys. We have to protect people.”

He buys Ashton his army toys and his police uniform and toy guns. When Ashton plays along, he gets hugs and high fives from his dad. He is accepted, so Ashton now knows this is what he does to get attention. So he does it. He is rewarded for this.

When Ashton’s mother sees him crying, she will go to give him love. Ashton’s father steps in and ridicules her. She is insecure and does not believe in herself. So she listens and stays away. She hears Ashton’s dad spanking him extra hard for things that Ashton knows nothing about, but she sits off to the side. She goes to work and performs. That is how she has always coped.

Ashton’s parents are well regarded. Ashton is beginning soccer and tee ball. He gets special coaches and teachers to make him the best. He is taught all the time how to succeed. He must keep up the family image. When he does well, it is fun times. If he fails, not so much. If he cries about failing, that is worse. Then there is punishment.

The children continue to grow up. Now in preschool and kindergarten. This is the time children begin to copy adults and start to create play. They begin to experiment with what they think it means to be an adult. This is when the exploring begins and the “why” questions happen. The child may start to feel guilt over natural desires and goals.

Jerry goes to preschool and kindergarten and is a very rough kid. He is very sensitive as well. His feelings are hurt easily. But he knows not to show that by crying or speaking up.

However, it is acceptable to show anger in his family. His dad shows it often. So Jerry hits and kicks. It is what has happened to him his whole life, and so when he punches back he is sometimes rewarded. His dad has the boys have boxing matches for his own entertainment.

Jerry’s mother is withdrawn and depressed at this point. It is a complete disaster in their house. She does not care. Once every so often, she still stands up to Jerry’s dad. She will get the wrench, the belt, and it is getting worse.

Jerry and his brothers have learned to hit and kick their mom when she does not serve them as well. It is what they do now. “Get me my pop.” If she does not get it for the boys, she is hit and punched by her own son’s. This increases her withdrawal. She gets them to school and that is about all they see of her.

They get good enough grades to pass and fly under the radar. At conferences, the kids will get a beating if there is a bad report. The teacher knows that if she tells the parents, that these kids settle down for a while and that makes it easier on her. She has bigger problems in her classroom. So she threatens to tell Jerry’s parents if he is “bad.” Jerry learns to hide even more.

Ashton goes to the best preschools and kindergarten. He stands out and performs well. He is advanced, not because of his intellect, but because of all the training his parents have put him through so it appears that way. Ashton is told he is the best now by the teachers, the parents, and everyone. He is the star. He begins to tell the other kids how to act if they want to be “the good guys.”

He no longer does it for affection, he knows it as his truth. He does cry for his mother at times, but that is fading. She comes less and less. She will sneak him an Ice Cream and some hugs at times. She is spending more time at work.

Ashton’s father does not allow tears. Or talk of emotion. He studies and takes his classes and the family does their public appearances. They see family for a while, but never too often. You cannot keep up this image for too long before it cracks, so they make quick exits.

They prefer to send out emails and cards speaking of accomplishments and vacations. We “don’t have problems.” They say. “It is great. “

They have the image. Truthfully, there is not fighting in their house. Ashton’s mother is not home enough to fight, and she is too fearful and insecure to fight. So there is not fighting, but there also is no love.

The children begin to grow. They are now school age. They are learning new skills and knowledge. This is when the friends begin to have a major influence. A child can develop inferiority at this stage and low self-esteem if they have unresolved feelings of inadequacy.

Jerry is not allowed to have friends over at his house. He does not want them over either. Jerry goes over to his friends’ houses all the time. He is avoiding beatings by his father and his brothers. Jerry being gone gives his family one less mouth to feed and less problem.

Jerry’s mom eventually leaves in the middle of the night and no one knows where she went. Jerry gets the brunt of this for a couple years. He is the most caring, so he is the target. He begins to stay at friends’ houses more and more. There is older kids at his friends and they begin to introduce drinking, sex, and drugs to Jerry. He loves it. He feels at peace for the first time in his life. He finally is free. He begins to do this every day. He is bright enough to pass his classes.

Ashton is going to a private school. He has a little more competition than he or his father would like. His father gets on all the school boards and makes sure Ashton makes all the sports teams. Ashton starts to have a hard time, and other children are able to beat him at academics and sports. His father becomes angry. He demands Ashton practices more, and they hire more coaches. Ashton’s mother is told to work more in order to pay for the extra training. Ashton is starting to learn how to cheat to win. As if he wins, his father is happy.

He performs well and learns to cheat well. His father gives him accolades. “It doesn’t matter how you do it, you have to beat the bad guys for the good of the world. And we are the good guys.”

His father teaches him about the “scum bags” and the “losers,” and how they need to be locked up and put away. Ashton is ridiculed by his father if he does not have friends.

Ashton goes to all the family events to hear his father and mother talk about how amazing he is. This gives him purpose. Ashton sees another kid cheating on a test and reports him. He is awarded at school and at home for stopping this awful behavior. He is told he is a hero for stopping it.

The kids go to high school. They are developing their own identity.

Jerry is a full blown drug addict. He skips school and eventually drops out. He is sensitive so the girls like him, until he hits them of course. That is what he does. He drinks and uses for that peaceful feeling. Jerry cannot find a job. His drug issues land him in court a few times.

Jerry moves from place to place. Eventually he is placed on social security like his father was. He has a girl that stays with him for a while. She becomes pregnant.

They have a child and Jerry changes. Jerry loves his little boy with all of his heart. He hugs him and kisses him and he doesn’t care what people think.

He cannot beat his addiction on his own. Jerry still gets frustrated and has no idea how to deal with things. He hits his girlfriend often. She stays for the child, and because she sees how much love is still in Jerry’s heart. They are on support. They live in a subsidy. A one bedroom apartment.

Jerry starts seeking help, he goes to psychiatrist and although he misses appointments much of the time. He is trying. He has some brain injuries from his childhood that make things harder for him.

One night, Jerry comes home and his girlfriend is crying holding their child. Someone broke in to the house and stole the food stamps and money. Jerrys son is crying uncontrollably. Jerry does not know what to do. He screams at his son and his girlfriend to stop crying. She yells at him that if he wasn’t out partying and had a job this wouldn’t happen. Jerry is about to cry. All the shame and inadequacy comes back. He doesn’t want to hit anyone. He leaves the apartment. He is scared, he feels like a failure. He has no confidence or self-esteem, and he has no idea how to deal with emotions. He leaves in anger, he has to find out what happened. He has to provide for his son. He has to make this right.

As Ashton goes to high school, he fades as the academic all-star and sports star. He begins to lose his whole identity. He knows that when he serves a “justice to the community,” he is applauded and rewarded and at least not ridiculed. He sees kids having fun, partying, and skipping class and he makes sure they are found out. He begins to tell on his own friends.

Ashton will go to the parties, go to the events and fit in. Then he goes right to his father and the principal. This gives Ashton accolades and self-worth. He starts to get excited, and feel superior, as if he is above them and is able to deceive them. He is motivated to catch anyone who crosses him or anyone who makes him look bad.

Ashton graduated high school with a 3.4. He got decent ACT scores. He did not get accepted in to the best colleges so his father was greatly disappointed. So Ashton stopped applying out of fear. He told his father he was applying, but he wasn’t.

When Ashton’s father finds this out he tells him to leave and that he is on his own. He needs to find his own way and learn to struggle and to be a man. Ashton is heartbroken. His mother tries to hug him, Ashton’s father stops it. At this point, Ashton resents his mother so much for not helping him, he doesn’t care. Ashton has no idea where to go or what to do.

Eventually he is sleeping in his car, and surviving eating ramen noodles. He has no money. Eventually Ashton goes in to community college and it is easy for him. He is drawn to becoming the law, because that is “who he is.”

He is a child that has been taught this. In his mind he is sure who is right and who is wrong, who is bad and who is good. This is for him. He thrives and graduates in 3 years with a degree in criminal justice.

After he is in the program, his father begins to help him out again. Ashton is now waiting to become a police officer. His father uses his influence to get Ashton a job right away, which is rare for police. Usually they want people with life experience. Ashton, at age 21 is now a police officer.

Now in reality, their lives never crossed. However, this is a very likely scenario if they ever did:

On this night that Jerry has gone out after he has been robbed, Ashton is working the street.

Jerry sees a pizza man walking alone. Jerry runs after the pizza man and demands he hands it over to him. Jerry steals the pizza and in his anger he kicks and punches the pizza man. He is bringing this back to his family.

Ashton gets the call. He arrives on the scene and talks to the pizza man and knows he has to bust this “creep.”

He spots Jerry and chases him down. Jerry has the pizza in one hand and his pants are falling off. He has to get home. He reaches down in his pants to pull them up, as it’s the only pair of pants he owns.

Ashton knows this is his chance. Jerry is not going to get away. BAM!

Jerry is dead. Ashton has killed him.

This is how a police shooting happens.

Now Jerry is dead and his community is enraged. They are protesting, they are against the police force and riots ensue. They set fires. Eventually police are being attacked.

Ashton’s community is giving each other high fives, saying “no one steals in our neighborhoods. No one. We got him.”

They think it’s great that a “bad” guy was caught. Over a pizza.

There is a tape of the incident. Ashton is arrested and charged with murder. His community is outraged. His father is embarrassed and his mother is devastated.

Ashton is found guilty and is sentenced to 25 years in prison.

His family abandons him. He is alone. He is an embarrassment, and he has a very hard time in jail. He is beaten and attacked routinely. He spends most of his life in jail.

Jerry is dead. His girlfriend becomes involved in drugs and Jerry’s son grows up in a worse environment than he did.

What happened to the real Jerry is he did rob a pizza man and beat him that night. That is a part of his record. He now is in prison, for multiple drug offenses and never sees or speaks to his son.

What happened to the real Ashton is he has been to treatment multiple times, he is no longer on the police force. He lives alone and drinks daily with no contact with his family.

Both destroyed. It does not always end happy. There are many others like them out there suffering.

The crisis divides us by race. But what if I told you Jerry was white, and Ashton was black? Would that change your mind on who is the victim here?

What if I told you they both were black? Or they both were white?

Would that change your mind?

I do not need to tell you what race they were, because it doesn’t matter. This is more than a race issue.

This is an inequality, poverty, abuse, and a mask issue.

What happens is the system tells you how to behave, who to like, and what is acceptable. They tell you to get married and have certain cars and houses. They tell you what you need to be, they create many masks.

Then you do all the stuff the mask makers tell you to do, and we are all walking around depressed and don’t know why.

It is because it is their dream, not ours.

Then when a crisis happens, it creates an “us vs them” issue, when it is in fact a “we” issue.

Those that are profiting off the mask sit by, keep making money, keep creating masks, and are slipping away while we all fight against each other.

You know how to stop them? Stop fighting each other and start loving and accepting each other. Then the mask makers will go away.

But we need a villain, a “bad” guy. We have to take “sides.” There has to be a “right” and a “wrong.”

We are taught that as kids. It is all over the cartoons. Batman punching the “bad” guys.

What if there is no such thing as “good” guys, or “bad” guys? What if we were all in this together?

This is one story, but behind each crisis there is a story that holds the truth.

However, we choose not to look behind the mask, we choose not to look at the real issues, and we choose not to look in the mirror.

That is partially because of the images shown to us over and over again. The images enrage us and creates a false story that gets us to take sides. The same people showing us these images are profiting off of our masks. How do they profit? Well they get higher ratings, and they can charge more for commercial time then.

Until we start to love and accept each other, this will never change.

We all are responsible for Jerry and for Ashton. How many times a day do we see a child struggling, or a family hurting, and look the other way? How many kids are starving throughout the world while we eat double cheeseburgers in excess?

Then a crisis happens and we react and blame each other. Which only breeds more hate, more violence.

Maybe they both were victims. Of all of us. Of society. Of the masks.

There is a solution.

It is simply to look in the mirror, and remember who you truly are, and dedicate yourself to love that day.

It is not just up to the families. How many people came across these kids and had the chance to be the one to love them in their lives? We cannot fix these broken systems over night, but we can give love to someone who needs it.

One person giving either of them unconditional love and acceptance, would have changed this whole story.

They both were chasing love their whole lives. Jerry to get rid of the shame and pain and feel like he is a good dad. Ashton was chasing love by getting the “bad” guys. It was not even real love they were chasing. They had that within them, no one ever showed either of them. They chased the false love and masks passed on to them.

It is time to stop making people chase after false love, and give them real love.

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“Sometimes our inability to control our instincts gives us a level of courage we don’t normally have.” -Jason Whitlock

We all try to hide ourselves with the mask, even if we do not know we are doing it. However, there are times that we cannot hide our true nature. It is usually in a crisis or a moment when our instincts take over. The true self bursts out despite our best efforts. Usually, it is a beautiful thing to witness. It is like seeing a picture of love. It is a rare occurrence. I was thinking of this example the other day and decided it might be a good moment in my life to share.

The courtroom was full. The custody battle has been long and complicated. Judge Harrington has heard this go on in his courtroom for months. Everyone was finally done presenting their cases and the evidence. It was full of emotion but silent. Judge Harrington is to address the court and the hundreds of people that are there with an emotional, vested interest.

He stands up and says “Tom, you are the mother’s father, you have been here for every single event in the courtroom. You have come to all the conferences and meetings. You have missed work for this, you are a dedicated man. What is your opinion on what should happen with the child?”

What? He is asking Tom what he thinks. He is the Judge and he is asking Tom what Tom thinks? Tom was the father of “Ally” who is the mother. “Ally” was his only daughter. He has one grandchild, and that was Kayla. He has been a large part of Kayla’s life up to this point. Kayla is the child in question here, she is 5 years old. Kayla and “Ally” live close to Tom, Kayla goes fishing with him, and she knows him so well. She hugs Grandpa Tom every time she sees him. He loves having Kayla around, she brings life to everyplace she is, like most 5 year old little girls.

Tom and his daughter “Ally,” have a great relationship. She has gotten involved in drugs recently, and he is trying to help her. He has always been a loving father. When “Ally” was young, she was emotionally abandoned by her mother, who never wanted children. So Tom raised her most of his life and was a loving, caring man. He was not perfect, as none of us are, but his heart was pure.

Is this why the Judge was asking him? I didn’t know. I did not like it. I was the one on the other side. I wanted my daughter and had been waiting my whole life for this moment. Her mother, “Ally,” was a full blown drug addict, and had been failing drug test after drug test. This should be a slam dunk. I was very upset that the Judge was asking Tom this.

I yelled at the Judge, “What the hell is this Bull****, why is it up to him? Why are you even asking him?” My heart was trembling in fear. I was shaking, I was sweating and nervous. I looked back at my mother and her lower lip was quivering. My father was standing in silence. All my siblings were looking. We were all so young. Ages from 16-24. No one had been in a situation like this.

Judge Harrington said “I suggest you settle down or you will be held in contempt of court, do you even know what that is young man?”

My lawyer had me leave the room. He said, “It may be best if you are not here for this, you are too emotional and you will be perceived in a poor manner.”

I am thinking to myself, “What the heck is going on here. I am not the one addicted to drugs. I am the one trying to go to school, I am recovering for my daughter.” My daughter was gone for years in Florida, then she had come back. I had started to get better and prepare for this. Now it seemed everything was falling apart right before my eyes. “I am going to lose this thing now,” is all I could think.

After doing the right thing, after going through the pain of losing Kayla, then getting her back in my life. Then I dedicate myself to bettering myself to become a good father. I tried to help her mother “Ally,” get into treatment, and still after this I am still going to lose her again? My heart was broken and I was in distress. The anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, embarrassment, and everything from my past was all coming up, and making me look to Judge Harrington like an out of control emotional kid. I had already lost her, my child, once, and I had thought forever. Now this second chance was being taken from me is what I felt.

Why was I so afraid of him asking Tom? Well in the beginning, I was good friends with Tom. But I was also a 17 year old punk that got his 16 year old daughter pregnant. We then fought for years. I said some horrible things to him and was rude and a jerk to him. He was the same to me. He did not like me and it was clear. Now he was going to decide my fate? How is this justice?

When “Ally” came back to the Midwest, and was getting involved in drugs. I was not trying to take the child away. This got Tom to respect me a little bit and earn a little trust. I was trying to get her in to treatment. I was trying to help. However, when you are not healthy yourself, and you are trying to help someone it is much like if a surgeon is bleeding while they are doing surgery. You are trying to help, but really you end up just injecting your own poison into that person.

I had no idea about addiction, mental health or anything. Yet here I was trying to understand it all and help someone who was a full blown meth addict and shooting up daily. I couldn’t understand why someone would leave their child for weeks at a time. I couldn’t understand why someone would say they wanted treatment then ditch out when they realized the cops were not after them anymore. I didn’t understand why someone would keep using after all the consequences. I didn’t know who this person was that was neglecting, and abusing my daughter.

The “Ally” I knew was a caring, and loving person who had been abandoned basically by her mother emotionally her whole life. Then her mother left for Florida when she found out her 16 year old daughter, “Ally” was pregnant. “Ally” was abused in many ways as a child, physically, emotionally, and sexually. But her heart was pure. I could not understand this person she had become. I was trying to help her. We all were. However it was not going well, and speaking for myself only, I was making it worse and I did not realize it at the time.

Tom was surprised that I was not coming down and just trying to get custody. We started to talk, we bonded as we tried to help “Ally” together for the child. Tom loved his daughter “Ally” and was a great father. We were so frustrated, she was calling everyone names, bringing up everyone else’s dirty laundry. We didn’t understand. Tom saw me prevent her from being arrested. Eventually, I had given up and we were now in this long drawn out custody dispute.

It got to a point that I bailed “Ally” out of jail once, and Tom had become mad at me for helping her too much. Everyone really was doing their best but we were all brining our own stuff into this situation and the years of mistrust and fear and anger were all present.

As I look back now, I realize we were all fighting because we all wanted to love this child. If you take away the fear, anger, anxiety and other negative emotions, we could have solved this ourselves. But here we were in a recess at court after my blowup in the courtroom with the Judge asking Tom of all people what he thinks. This was it, I was the crazy one. This was all going to be taken away and I knew it.

I sat alone in a room at the courthouse. I refused to talk to everyone. I was alone. This was one of those points in my life that I realized I really have no control over anything what so ever. It was not a painful thing. Well, at first it was frustrating, I could not talk my way out of anything, I could not throw a fit and get my way, and I could not manipulate. I could not take Kayla and run, I would be in jail then. This was completely out of my hands, I had no control. The funny thing is, we never do. We only think we do. Control is a human illusion.

This was one of my first forced third steps. Forced to surrender. I would forget it later, but also go back to it throughout my life when it was needed. I was receiving a painful gift. I got on my knees and I cried, first about how unfair it was, then about how mad I was, then about what I was going to do if things didn’t go my way. Then when all the garbage was out, it was just tears. Crying and hoping for the best. I was hoping that the best happens and just trusting that if I am a good guy and my intentions are pure and I do it with love in my heart that it will turn out ok. I surrendered that day. I was not mad, instead all the anxiety, fear and negative emotions were gone. What I felt was a freedom I had not felt before. I realized that I was allowed to love my daughter regardless of where I was or who she was with. No one could take that from me. This was not going to be the end. No one can take my heart or my soul. I felt an immense freedom.

I was calm and came back to the courtroom. I apologized to the Judge. The Judge continued, “Before we were interrupted by the outburst, I had asked Tom what he thought. Tom, where do you think Kayla should be. With you, with the uncles, or the mother or the father, what is your opinion?”

Tom stood up, everyone was looking at him, He had tears in his eyes, and his voice was shaking. This was a large man, he works on the railroads and has his whole life and loved life. His voice trembling as the courtroom was in silence, he said, “She should be with her father.”

Whoa, that was me. This man could have said his daughter “Ally”, and believed he could get her help. He could have said his son, the uncle, or himself. He did not. To stand up in a courtroom and say something like that when it held so much weight was one of the most amazing acts of unselfishness I have ever seen. This was true love. He had no idea if I would ever let them see Kayla again if I had custody. We had a rough history which was getting better. He knew this could be the end of his family and ever seeing his only grandchild. He still said what he thought was best for her.

Because of this I was granted custody. There are times that we cannot hide our true nature, we all try to hide ourselves with the mask, but at times, the true self bursts out despite our best efforts. Tom’s true character is that of one of the best most amazing people in the world. He is pure. He is real.

Why did the Judge care about what Tom thought so much? I was told this story after the fact. When Tom and the Judge were 6 years old. The judge was drowning in a lake. No one was around. Tom was the kid that pulled him out of the water and saved him. Tom had shown his true character before to this judge, so he knew he would get the truth. It was a small town, they grew up together.

Kayla still to this day, goes and sees Grandpa Tom all the time. He has been a major part of her life since that day. Tom and I used to talk a lot until “Ally” got out of prison. When ”Ally” went to prison, Tom saw Kayla every other weekend and summers and talked all the time. He was able to keep their family involved for when “Ally” eventually got out of prison.

The rest of the story is for another day.

Thank you Tom for showing me what love and unselfishness looks like.

Thank you Judge Harrington for showing me to treat everyone with kindness at all times, you never know when the tide will turn. To love each other always.

Thank you that day for forcing me to surrender my will for a moment, so I would have that to go back on later in my life when it was needed.

Thank you crisis. You helped awaken me.

On this day, I saw what real love was.

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“I do not like that man, I must get to know him better.” -Abraham Lincoln

I often hear people wonder out loud why there is such a high rate of recidivism, why do our patients come back, and why is there a high rate of repeat “offenders” in the Mental Health System. We can’t fix Mental Illness they say. We can’t “cure” it. The problem is we are trying to cure the wrong people. It is the staff that needs to be “cured,” or fixed. Not the patients. The patients are not the problem. The staff members and the stigma of society is the problem. I can give many examples of my over 20 years as a staff and patient to describe it. This is one that really sticks out to me.

She walks in she is wearing and old dress, it has stains on it. It may be the only dress she owns. It is green, with tan. She has hair that is getting gray, but it is still brown. She has attempted to put it in a nice pony tail. It is off to the side, the left side. The hair is still very frizzy and sticking up. She is trying so hard. This is a big day for her. She is interviewing to get into this program that will likely get her into an apartment.

That has been her dream, this is the way to accomplishing her ultimate dream, her own apartment. She enters the room with the “team”, she comes to the interview.

She farts, and farts loud. She laughs, it is a loud loud laugh. She says she is sorry that it keeps happening. It happens throughout the interview. She answers all the questions, she seems very nervous. She is trying hard to look her best and be on her best behavior. She has a whiny screechy voice. I watch and I see the “team” roll their eyes and shake their heads in disgust.

After she leaves, the team of Doctors, psychologists, OT workers, Social workers then are to evaluate her and decide if she is a “fit” for their program.

They all are dressed up in their fancy clothes, and they all laugh. They all grab the hand sanitizer and clean their hands, because “she touched my hand.” They laugh and tease her. They mock her hair, they laugh about her dress. They say “ick” and shake their bodies like they just touched a rat.

They are really feeling good about themselves. Remember, these are the so called healthy ones that need to “fix” and “stabilize” this patient. They are all getting paid over 100 dollars an hour, each of them, to analyze this woman. If they accept her, their program gets 8500 dollars a month to “treat” her.

The owner is there, she teases the patient as well. The owner goes to France 3 times a year. They all tease her. I know, I was in the room. I was new, I was watching. They accept her to their program, only because they had 3 open beds and they needed the money to pay for their vacations, they said this. Then they mocked her. Money, Money, Money, Money.

After her admission, I got to know her. She had a screeching type whiny voice that sounded like fingernails against the chalkboard. That loud laugh, then the farting, the gas was nonstop. It was a big joke to the staff and the patients.

Everyone blew her off, and no one wanted to talk to her. She annoyed everyone. So she isolated. She was crying uncontrollably one day and came into my office and sat down.

I wanted to say I was busy, but for some reason I didn’t. She said, “Please help, just listen to me.”

She told me about her dream and how nice she thought she looked that day of the interview. She told me that was the best dress and she saved it for so long for her big day. She wanted to impress these guys so much. She practiced for hours about what she wanted to say. She did practice interviews. She told me how she would do whatever staff wanted. She wanted that apartment so bad.

The thing is, they didn’t really care. They didn’t listen to her. They rushed it, it didn’t matter what she said, and they were focused on how “icky” she was.

They were feeling superior. They took her because they had open beds, they wanted money. This was the biggest day of her life, and the “team” they didn’t really care not one bit. What they cared about was getting her out in the hour, so they could admit her and leave on time.

She heard the mocking, the teasing. She had to take it. She wanted the apartment. The counselors never really met with her, the groups only lasted 10 minutes, and no one really asked her about her medications or what was going on.

They didn’t want to deal with her. They were annoyed. She was a thorn in the side of their day in which they did nothing and collected pay for it.

She made them pay attention and that bothered people.

I sat down and talked to her. She cried. She knew, she heard. Why was she always farting? Was it a medication?

N0.

When she was 4. She was raped by her father continually. Then he beat her when she told. He slammed the kitchen table against her stomach, over and over and pinned her against the wall with the table. This all crushed her insides.

He jumped on top of her and beat her. She was age 4. Around the same time that the doctors at the same age were worried about what was for dinner and where they were going on vacation that year. This was happening. This is happening somewhere near us every day. It is happening to someone right now.

She had to have most of her insides removed. This created the farting. But no one cared. The staff were “annoyed” The doctors and psychologists were worried about filling the bed. They don’t want staff to: “feed into this attention seeking behavior.” They said “use your boundaries.” “We don’t need to talk to her when she is doing this for attention.”

This is how they guide treatment. Well, I didn’t listen. This story was then confirmed by records we were able to get.

This is why the mental health system is broken, not because of medications, not because it is untreatable. Not because of people that were institutionalized. Not because they are so “violent” and “dangerous.” In fact mentally ill people have less occurrences of violence than the general public.

The term Mentally Ill is a terrible term. Mental Illness in this culture, in America, is considered this bad thing.

In other cultures it is a healer waiting to be born, in other cultures mentally ill is a term used for those that live in excess.

The reason the system is broken is because of 75% of the people that work in the system are like this. This is changing, I want it to change more, it is coming, and the revolution is coming.

This is why I will keep writing about these things. I have sat in team meetings for the last 18 years hearing stuff like this.

This won’t be over, and I will not be done until we have stopped the feeling of superiority and labels and trying to find what’s “wrong” with people.

Until we stop treating people like this it will never change. Sure we will react when there is a school shooting, or some tragedy happens. We love to react. To over react after the crisis. When we do that, we completely screw it up. We are having an emotional reaction to an event so we overdo it.

We can prevent that by dealing with it right now, everyday. Simply by engaging people and talking to them and showing them that we have love.

Next time you see someone that annoys you, or that you just seem to not like for no reason. Maybe it’s time to get to know them better.

That is how we change things. Sometimes people do whatever they can to “get attention.” A whine, a cry, a yell, a fart.

Either way, it is just that, a cry for attention.

When we see that, it is not time to “put up our boundaries,” as the so called professionals will say, it is the opposite, it is time to let our guard down and remember we are all in this together.

Boundaries create division. Money creates division.

Love brings us back to humanity.

Fight on.

Til the end.