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For the Daily Prompt: churn.

This is not a churn. It’s a cat. This is Princess Mittens. Oh, I miss her, but she is gone. I was looking for a photograph of students with a churn. I have one, but I found this instead. It is from my old phone photos and I don’t think that I took it: my son, I suspect.

Churning the internet…. “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth”.

Big D, little d, what begins with D?

Happy things starting with D:

Discrimination, death, delight.

I am happy that slowly, slowly, it feels as if there is change in the world and a decrease in discrimination. It is NOT gone by any means, but I think it is slowly being eroded.

My parents had a party when I was two and they were both in college. The party was raided in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1963 and my father was taken to jail. My mother and I were left alone and she was afraid we would be lynched by the neighbors. The next morning the paper wrote about a MIXED RACE COLLEGE STUDENT PARTY possibly with orgies. My parents were both suspended from the University of Tennessee.

They were both reinstated after a hearing, because there were no drugs, no underage drinkers, and it was not illegal to have a mixed race party. My parents never touched marijuana ever and I think it was because of that party. I don’t remember it, but I still feel cautious at parties and in crowds. My mother refused to return to the U. of TN and eventually finished her undergraduate degree at Cornell. My parents were so notorious that we left Knoxville as soon as my father graduated.

I grew up learning protest songs and work songs and joke songs. My mother joked about the party and it was years before I found out how terrifying it was. My mother joked that they sat at the one liberal table at the University of Tennessee. I hate discrimination and I do not understand it.

Death: is death a happy thing? Death is as much a mystery as life, and we cannot have one without the other. How could we value life if it were eternal? And we’d also get awfully crowded. I have the privilege of caring for all ages in clinic, all genders, any race that comes in the door, age newborn to 104, what joy! I get to be present when someone is dying and try to help the person and the family. There is no single idea about death or about how to “do it right” and often families struggle with multiple opinions and ideas and feelings. Death is as intense as birth and I have had the privilege to attend both.

Delight: there are many things that I find difficult and depressing, but I find delight too! The latest morbidity and mortality report from the CDC on overdose deaths, up from 52K in the US in 2015 to 62K in the US in 2016: Overdose deaths involving opioids, cocaine and psychostimulents — United States, 2015-2016. We have to work harder to prevent addiction, why do we choose addictive substances, why do people think it won’t happen to THEM?

And yet, I still find delight, taking photographs of bird, seeing patients that I know well in clinic, we laugh often, finding joy walking outside, my family and friends.

D

The photograph is from Mauna Loa last week. It is not a giant dinosaur nest, it’s a cinder cone. At least, that’s what a geologist claims….

 

Croon

Blogging from A to Z, my theme is happy things.

Three happy things with C:

My daughter was home from college this weekend. Something came up about dealing with feeling tired or stressed. “I get cuddles when I feel that way, ” she says. I looked at her. “I’m not sure my office manager would go for that,” I say. “Oh,” says my daughter, “True. That might be sexual harassment.” “It would be a bit weird on a job description, wouldn’t it?” “Yes.”

At any rate, cuddles, appropriate cuddles, are certainly a happy thing for both me and my daughter. She is in college and has a great group of housemates and friends.

Second happy C word: cry.

How can crying be happy? The capacity to cry, I am grateful for that. I am grateful that I can feel love, feel vulnerable, feel loss, feel. How can we love without mourning and how can we mourn without crying? And tears release our grief. The worst grief for me is when I need to cry and feel locked, that I can’t cry, that it hurts so much the tears won’t come. I cry over patients, even expected deaths at 104. And I am glad that I am able to cry.

Third C word: croon.

I am not thinking of the “crooners”. I am thinking about lullabies and the poem Moon Song, by Mildred Plew Meigs:

Zoon, zoon, cuddle and croon–
Over the crinkling sea,
The moon man flings him a silvered net
Fashioned of moonbeams three.

The rest is here: http://wenaus.com/poetry/moonsong.html.

I am thinking of mothers and fathers crooning to babies as they slide into sleep….

The photograph is at 9000 feet up on Mauna Kea last week, the moon as night is falling.

C

 

 

Causes of death: which does your doctor treat?

What is the number one cause of death in the United States? The heart. You know that.

You might know the number two: all the cancer deaths put together.

Number three is lower respiratory disease: mostly caused by tobacco.

Number four. Can you guess? Number four is accidents. Unintentional deaths. In 2012 number four was stroke, but unintentional deaths have moved up the list, here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm. The CDC tracks unintentional deaths, here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/accidental-injury.htm. And what is the number one cause of unintentional death right now? It is not gun accidents. It is not car wrecks. It is not falls. It is unintentional overdose: usually opioids, legal or illegal, often combined with other sedating medicines or alcohol. Alcohol, sleep medicines, benzodiazepines, some muscle relaxants. No suicide note. Not on purpose. Or we don’t know if it is on purpose….

And does your physician try to prevent accidental death? Do they talk to you about seatbelts, about wearing bicycle helmets, about smoke alarms, about falls in the elderly, about domestic violence, about locking up guns? About not driving when under the influence? Do they talk about addiction and do they treat addiction?I think that every primary care physician should treat the top ten causes of death. I am a family medicine physician and I try to work with any age, any person. I treat addiction as well as chronic pain. I have always tried to talk about the risk of opiates when I prescribe them. I treat addictions including alcoholism, methamphetamines, cocaine, tobacco and opioids. Legal, illegal and iv opioids, from oxcodone and hydrocodone to heroin. That doesn’t mean I can safely treat every patient outpatient. People with multi drug addiction, or complex mental health with addiction, or severe withdrawal must be treated inpatient. But I have taken the buprenorphine training to get my second DEA number to learn how to safely treat opiate overuse. I took the course in 2011. I was the only physician in my county of 27,000 people who was a prescriber for two years. Now we have more, but still the vast majority of physicians in the United States have not taken the training even when it is offered free.

I don’t understand why more physicians, primary care doctors, are NOT taking the buprenorphine and recognition and treatment of opiate overuse course. Most are not trained. Why not take the training? Even if they are not prescribers, they will be much better informed for the options for patients. People are dying from opioids daily. Physicians have a DEA number to prescribe controlled substances: I think that every physician who prescribes opioids also has a duty and obligation to train to recognized and intervene and be informed about treating opioid overuse.

A large clinic group in Portland, Oregon made the decision last year that every primary care provider was required to train in buprenorphine. One provider disagreed and chose to leave. However, everyone else is now trained.

We as a country and as physicians need to get past fear, past stigma, past discrimination and past our fixed ideas and step up to take care of patients. If a physician treats alcoholism as part of primary care, they should also be knowledgeable and trained in treatment of opiate overuse.

Ask YOUR physician and YOUR local clinics: Do the providers prescribe opiates? Are their providers trained in preventing, recognizing and treating opiate addiction? Do they treat opiate overuse? Do they understand how buprenorphine can save lives and return people to work and to their families? Are they part of the solution?

For the Daily Prompt: provoke.

Reducing recidivism: Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Human Services Program

The last two days have been at the 20th Annual Fundamentals of Addiction Medicine Conference in Washington State, 15 lectures. Everything from science trying to understand addiction via studying dopamine in ratbrains to the last presentation: Snohomish County started a program two years ago that pairs a social worker with a county sheriff or deputy to work with the homeless.

The county is trying to stop the revolving door of homeless to arrested to jail to homeless. 95% of the county homeless are addicted to heroin and some to methamphetamines. They don’t access services when they are “dope sick”. They describe heroin as being 10x worse than the worst influenza. I think of withdrawal from opioids as having all the pain receptors turned as high as they can go and screaming at once.

The sheriff and social worker go to the camps. They get to know people and offer services. They have helped over 100 people get their identification replaced. When someone is arrested, their homeless encampment is often stolen. No honor among thieves, you say? The rat studies address that: in addiction the brain puts the drug first, in front of food, water, sex. Some rats will access the drug until they die, just like people. I think of it as the person losing their boundaries to the drug. The conference used the phrase “incentive salience” — dopamine is released when the person or rat is cued that the drug is now available and again when the drug arrives. More on that in another write up.

At any rate, the clients do not get to appointments. So the deputy and social work start at the beginning: they make the appointment, go knock on the tent that morning, remind the person to get dressed, take them to get food and coffee and then take them to the appointment. Then they return them to their camp.

After two months, the first sheriff and social worker were so successful that the program was expanded.

They have 206 chemical dependency evaluations.
232 have gone to detox. The detox is 3-5 days. They are taken straight from there to inpatient treatment, 30 day minimum, but ranging from 30-90 days. After treatment, clients are taken straight to sober housing, with a 6 month supported stay and intensive outpatient treatment.
85% get through the detox.
59% graduate from the treatment
50% go on to sober housing and intensive outpatient.
Their first clean and sober client is two years out.

50% of the homeless who agree to the program getting to sober housing is huge. Recidivism and incarceration drop, so it is making a true difference.

The program is expanding. They have a Community Court set up, much like Juvenile Drug Court, modeled after a program in Spokane. If the person agrees to drug treatment, they can do that instead of jail. This is for minor offenders. The sheriff says that once the homeless person is incarcerated, everything is stolen. They then steal food and supplies for a new camp when released and it happens again. If the client completes the program, low level charges may be dropped. They are setting up a service center right by the court where the clients are sent immediately to talk to a chemical dependency person, to get medical treatment, dental emergencies, centralized services because these people do not have transportation.

The social worker is in kevlar and heavy clothes as well and is never to go in the encampments without the law enforcement officers: it’s usually private land so it would be trespassing anyway.

This was an absolutely inspiring presentation. It starts with outreach and intervention, and gives people choices. They will soon be opening a temporary site, up to 15 days with medical support and beds, for when a client is ready but the social worker needs to arrange the detox, the treatment, the housing. Sometimes when a client is finally ready, there are no beds. And they don’t want to send them to detox and then back to the streets. The sheriff says that he was “volutold” for the program, but he, the deputy and the social worker are all clearly inspired by the program and enjoy their work and that it is making a difference.

 

Any write up on addiction fits today’s Daily Prompt: messy.