Drug Me America

Have a headache? Here’s your daily dose of Motrin. Bad anxiety? Here’s some Xanax. Depression? Sinequan. Chronic pain? Oxycodone. Name a problem, and there’s a chemical cocktail waiting for you on some shelf somewhere.

This isn’t about disregarding the benefit that pharmaceuticals have had on people of all ages and backgrounds. Rather, it’s about shedding light on the evils of prescription drugs, and how we need to face this arising problem.

Nevertheless, pharmaceuticals have given the dying a fighting chance, helping many to overcome problems with anxiety, depression, or chronic pain, and even allowing the elderly to live a comfortable life.

Still, despite all this good, there is a downside. That downside is blatant fraud, loopholes, and a competitive market that, in many instances, has been hijacked. That combined with the fact there’s an epidemic of over-prescribed prescriptions running awry in the United States leaves a bad taste in the country.

To give perspective to how large the pharmaceutical market is, the average American spends $1,000 per year on pharmaceuticals, and seven out of 10 Americans are on at least one prescription. That is 70% of 325 million people, which, multiplied by 1,000 equals 227.5 billion dollars in annual revenue by Big Pharma JUST in the U.S.

This enormous market thrives on the United States’ shortage of price regulations and the unhealthy American lifestyle, which includes overeating, little exercise, and hours of anxiety-provoking work – for which pills then have to be the replacement.

Antibiotics make up 17% of all prescriptions, followed by anti-depressants (13%) and then highly addictive opioids (13%).

Once again, it is important to emphasize the importance of pharmaceuticals. Usually, common chronic issues like obesity would heavily affect the average life expectancy. However, the U.S. ranks 26 in life expectancy at an average of 80.1 years, possibly thanks to high rates of diagnoses.

With good new including the increasing life expectancy, there must also be bad news. As Americans’ use of pharmaceutical drugs has increased, so has drug abuse.

Prescriptions are being given out constantly –  67.2% of office physicians give out prescriptions, amassing to 2.3 billion drugs being provided/ordered. These tend to be the heavier, more dangerous drugs (like opioids) that doctors must order directly.

Photo Credit: http://www.livescience.com

Over-prescribing has become somewhat common, even when doctors use their best judgement. Doctors have little time to spend with patients, and many patients have been exposed to ads influencing them to request prescriptions from their doctors.

The abuse of prescriptions drugs isn’t a new phenomenon. However, the extent to which prescription drugs are being used is now becoming wider known. Also, the amount that is actually being reported might just be the tip of the iceberg.

For example, more people die from overdosing on prescription drugs than overdosing on all other illicit drugs combined.

That is absolutely insane, considering the war on drugs. Yes, the war on drugs is an attempt to curve the rise of crime rates that come hand-in-hand with illicit drugs, but it is also an attempt to stop the death of addicts. It’s as if the U.S. government sees the problem of legal drug abuse as perfectly fine to ignore as long as they get to heavily tax the billion-dollar market.

In 2008, 20% of Americans abused prescription drugs. Because this was a report from over seven years ago, it is likely that those statistics have gone up significantly, and have possibly even doubled.

Attempts by the U.S. federal government to curve this epidemic have been laughable. Only 1/10 citizens who are abusing prescriptions have being treated across the country.

Yes, there has been an increase of funding for prescription drugs in an attempt to fight the epidemic, but the effort was small and useless compared to the problem itself.

What statistics would persuade the U.S. to largely fund treatment for prescription abusers and safety belts to prevent so many deaths.

For instance, drug overdoses outnumber car accidents in 29 states. The U.S. made the law requiring a seatbelt illegal for people’s benefit. Yet today we still see a fairly weak safety belt around prescriptions, even though the deaths tied to them are only increasing. That doesn’t really make sense.

And still nothing has changed.

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Boys Rule, Girls Drool.

It’s a well know fact to all teachers that the average boy is behind in the industrial world, beginning in Pre-K, and lasting through to college.

Boys, simply put, haven’t been doing nearly as well as girls in school. Statistics have shown that, on average, boys’ grades consist of mainly C’s and D’s, while girls hold more college degrees.

This phenomenon is a growing epidemic in all countries, and all cultures. 70 to 80 percent of the students accepted to Advanced Placement (AP) classes are girls. This increasingly large gap doesn’t pertain only to inner-city boys, it includes boys from each and every corner of American Society, and beyond.

Photo Credit: heartbreakhypnotist.com

This education crisis has been the focus of large schools, which are actively trying to curve the problem. Some blame ethics and how the social dynamic of school affects young male students, who see athletics as their way to shine. Others blame the school system as a whole for failing to provide boys with a system that adequately suits them, and demand a larger outcry for boys, just as there was for girls thirty years ago.

Jefferson Academy in Long beach C.A. has taken a different approach, by putting students into gender-separated classes. For boys, they have placed a larger emphasis on academics as opposed to sports. So far, the school has seen a large success rate in test scores and overall effort.

Though schools across the country are hesitant to apply this practice, this agenda has been proved so far to be beneficial. As a boy with coed classes, I don’t believe I would want to have my class suddenly split.

If this were the only way to resolve this issue, it should happen with a new generation, rather than the current generation enjoys the luxury of mixed classes and would be opposed to anything but.

Research also points out how an emphasis on academic success may be just as beneficial in the long run. With similar intelligence rates among boys and girls, the academic gap could be eliminated through better parenting, and a greater emphasis on boys in class.

To what extremes would the school system go in order to help young boys succeed? That is the ethical question that the next generation, and America as a whole, may have to face.

Polarized America

It’s no secret that the United States is a nation with a political gap between its parties – one that has only gotten worse with the recent controversial election. This division within the nation has shown its ugly face through protests, fighting, and through media outlets.

Photo Credit: people-press.org

The media paints a picture of one side versus the other, leaving very little wiggle room for any moderates. In other words, moderates in media are not found, and any voice of reason must have backing from a political party, or else it will simply fall on deaf ears. There will likely never be a rise of a moderate party, leaving the United States in a rough two-party system.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, forewarned the rising of political parties, telling, “they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

Whether or not this is happening today through either candidate is up to the reader, but the fact remains that political parties have far too much power. They are far more interested in pushing their agendas than the good of the nation they are supposed to serve. Polarized America, land of the indifferent, ruled by the Donkey and Elephant.

Laziness is in my genes

Looking around school, a workplace, or on the street, you may find some people who are incredibly lazy, some seemingly addicted to exercise, and others addicted to food. For certain people there is a strong correlation between genes and how active, lazy, or addicted to food they are. These people may have one or more genes that are deactivated, causing some practices to be less entertaining than others.

Healthy practices release dopamine within the brain, which makes the individual happy. This release dramatically changes the mood of the individual, often making them feel good. This great feeling can be addictive – if one feels good when eating food, (which everyone does) over time they may eat more food than they should, due to the feeling released by dopamine.

It’s not rocket science, just addiction.

These deactivated genes make it harder to get out of bed early, keep up a healthy diet, or hit the gym. This doesn’t mean you should use the excuse: “laziness is in my genes,” instead you should try a little harder, and make positive habits that help you break you bad habits. Drive makes you, not just your genes.

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Virus Found

In the 21st century, digital security has been one of the weakest points in countries and companies worldwide. Digital security has been emphasized during this Presidential race, with Hillary Clinton’s emails being leaked. But just how far can the U.S. implement digital security? The answer is bleak, with billions of devices connected to the Internet constantly, and with little to no security being applied to the majority of these DVRs and routers. This mass of technology with no security has been the worry of many computer experts.

 
These worries were fulfilled on October 21st, when a massive attack brought down a large company that monitors and routes Internet traffic called Dyn. With the fall of Dyn came the fall of Netflix, Twitter, and Etsy as well, for a few hours.

 
This attack was coordinated by using thousands of hijacked devices that spewed millions of nonsensical, invalid messages on the servers overloading them. This attack is known as DDoSing. These attacks will only become more often and voracious with a new software that’s becoming global.

Photo Credit: welivsecurity.com

(Here are the regions of the U.S. most heavily impacted.)

A botnet-creating software called Mirai was used to create this massive attack. Mirai first infects the home computer through emails, and from there spreads throughout all devices connected to the router, and these viruses remain in the hijacked devices. Even if the virus is deleted from your computer, there may still be dormant viruses across the house, waiting for a command.

Now, major websites have crashed, and there seems to be very little stopping this new charge of infection and DDoSing. Major companies have already recalled some devices that have minimum security, but there still remains many more devices defenseless. The rush to keep up with technology and stay ahead of viruses and attacks will be the largest struggle this coming century. This may just be the start of more problems demanding new solutions.

Shattered State

Syria has been the centerpiece of an ISIS invasion, revolution, Russian aggression, and Western Concerns. With Aleppo as the prime example of what has befallen of Syria, entire populations have disappeared.

Photo Credit: Independent.co.uk

Sections where thousands walked daily are now ghost towns, filled with rebels, daily Russian bombings, and the desperate ones who don’t want to leave their homes. The country once filled with tourism and stability has taken a sudden turn into total chaos, chaos originating from an Arab Spring pro-democracy protest opposing the torture of a group of students in 2011.

Following the mass demonstration, dozens of people were killed, between protesters and the aggressive police, prompting protesters to gain weapons to defend themselves, then eventually rid government forces altogether in cities.

Five years later and millions have run from the country, with the majority landing in Turkey and surrounding Islamic Nations. A small percentage migrated into Europe, prompting anti-Islamic protests within such Nations.

Russia takes lead in defending Syria’s failing government with aggressive bombardment on civilians and rebels alike. The UN has stopped sending aid to civilians due to attacks on their convoys, and the U.S. arms Democratic Revolutionaries throughout Syria while the Islamic State advances. This Nation has fallen apart, and now third parties stroke the flames instead of leaving the situation alone between the revolutionaries and the government.

So where does it end?

So far, there is no ending from a diplomatic viewpoint; the Geneva talks have only been another platform over which the U.S. and Russia disagree. There’s no clear sign over the future of the Nation, or whose hands it will fall into. Whether it’s Western powers, Russia, or radicals, the nation and it’s structure will remain shattered for year to come.

Religion is a Diminishing Variable

Imagine a world with no religion, no set of laws and morals set by a religious sect, set in place to give people a path in life to help themselves or others, and to achieve happiness.

Would the world burn without this path?

Probably not. In fact, religious influence may be diminishing across the western world, including the surprisingly Christian United States.

Yet many fight this fall in religion, by stating rising statistics of incarceration due to the lack of Christian belief and a strong belief in the “rise of drug use.”

The evidence says otherwise – usage of drugs with the exception of marijuana (due to legalization) has steadily declined since the 1970s. However, the large jump of incarcerated people did have a major and steady increase between 1980s and 2000. That increase suddenly halted, remaining the same until 2010, and then slightly dropping the last six years.

So, is the drop in the number of believers due to the rise of criminals? In a graph, the conclusion would be most definitely not. Other variables had far more influence on the rise of incarceration, such as longer jail time, better criminal investigation, and stricter laws. The infamous drug war also had an effect on drug use, though only for a proportion of the population. Today it’s become a black hole of federal spending which will be touched on in another blog.

Photo Credit: prisonpolicy.org

Actually, it is just a coincidence – just because there’s a drop in religion doesn’t mean it’s directly affecting the safety of the world. Funny enough, nuclear weapons have a far larger statistical influence on world peace.

George Carlin famously said, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.” This popular quote used across the world is completely untrue, only 7% of all war has been caused by religion and only 2% of all casualties were because of religion. In fact, religion plays as big of a role in our lives as the average person or government. The lack or abundance of faith has little to no influence – bad people are still bad, and good people stay good, with or without religion.

Statistically, religion is an independent variable with little influence except to the ones who preserve it and try to broaden its influence. So whether god is real or not, should all people of the planet were to lose their faith, there’s little evidence of any possible retaliation from the big man himself. Instead, maybe a few more progressive laws could be passed and there will be a drop in hate crimes. Or maybe numbers be damned, and tomorrow the second coming will happen.