Drug addiction

Dill Testing

Pill testing. Yes, it is difficult to stop the youth of today popping drugs at rave concerts. If certain drugs like MDMA are illegal, why is it OK to turn a blind eye at the concert gate? If there is medical evidence to say taking MDMA is harmless then change the law. Sadly the tragic deaths of a handful of kids has shown this not to be the case. Overdoses and bad batches dispensed by nefarious actors.

Is the desire to resort to hallucinating narcotics so great that the government should back legislation to allow young kids to have their risky tablets tested?  Imagine if those asking for their pills to be tested were required to put their name down against the test? None would test! There would be outrage over a violation of privacy. Yet we the tax payer invariably foot the bill of the reckless behaviour should things go wrong. Perhaps attendees should be required to file their Medicare number alongside the pill test and pay higher premiums for willingly taking higher risks? Again, none would line up.

The arguments for pill testing surround removing the potentially deadly drugs off the market by creating a virtuous circle of warnings within the drug taking community. The idea is that they could make informed choices were pill testing made available and inform each other what to avoid. Research from Austria showed that 50% of those that got pill testing changed their consumption behaviours.  Sadly the other 50% did not. Other examples of positive outcomes from pill testing revolve around wider knowledge about what drug compounds are popular which helps medical and emergency services better prepare. There is a company in America which sells NARCAN which revives those that overdose from the dead. You can read more about that here.

The arguments for pill testing seem so strong that it is any wonder the government doesn’t go the whole hog and set up its own narcotic stall at these concerts to sell controlled substances directly to the public. Two MDMA tablets and a foil of heroin please. Are those bongs on special?

The stupidity with pill testing is in the word – “ILLEGAL”. If CM gets caught speeding, why shouldn’t I be as justified in saying I was acceleration testing my potentially lethal BMW to make sure the speedometer was accurate? No NSW Highway Patrol officer will grant clemency. I will be fined for breaking the law. Quite right too.

Then we get Greens MP Cate Faehrmann admitting she’s taken MDMA since her 20s. In her doing so we can now have an honest and open debate. Fantastic to have an elected official out herself as an illegal drug user. Is this the type of lived experience we should be basing policy off? How ironic she lambasts the zero tolerance policies of the NSW Government? It may well be costing lives but the measures to combat are proving ineffective.  That is the issue. Time to think outside the box.

Why not just have police controlled mandatory swab tests at exit, fully funded by the event organizer, who can impute that in the cost of the ticket? Those that show a positive sign to ‘illegal drugs’ are arrested and criminally charged. Simple. Make it clear well in advance that those caught for breaking the law go on a national register. Why shouldn’t employers be able to better screen their employees’ behaviours or and health insurers be able to more accurately assess their customers? If you are clean there is zero to worry about.

If we want to create a culture of stopping drugs, we won’t do it by applying soft measures. Rave concerts are a captive audience where drugs are smuggled in often unsavory ways to escape detection. Make it clear that the swabs are mandatory and one of two things will happen; the attendance will only be enjoyed by those prepared to be clean or the rave concerts will end.

Some will argue there will be a risk that rave concerts will go underground but in the day and age of cyber technology, it won’t be hard to track such events going forward. Make the penalties for organizers failing to register and apply for such concerts punishable by jail terms and multi million dollar fines.

If we truly don’t like the law, then let’s change it. Let’s not have two tier judicial systems that openly favour dangerous behaviour because it infringes on someone’s subjective right to listen to a rave concert completely off their rocker. Maybe that is the test – make these kids recall 50% of the music that were played. One can be rest assured most of them didn’t hear a thing.

2019 Golden Globe ratings down again

It is no surprise to learn that the initial ratings for the Golden Globes In 2019 were down on 2018 which were down on 2017…which were down on…Get the picture? It was the worst showing in a decade.

It seems the formula is so bust that even deliberately leaving Trump mocking out of the corny gag lines saw another 5% drop this year. Despite little competition in the time slot and following on straight after the Chicago Bears vs Philadelphia Eagles (38mn viewers), 20mn switched channels to something other than the Golden Globes.

Who actually took the time to watch The Oscars last year? Viewers voted with their eyes sending ratings down 16% on 2017 and 40% on 5 years ago. Perhaps The Oscars could take a lessson from 90 years ago and stick to silent movies!

From Nielsen:

The 8 p.m.-11 p.m. portion of ABC’s telecast averaged an 18.9 household rating and 32 share in Nielsen’s metered market overnight ratings, which cover about 70% of U.S. TV households. That’s down about 16% from the 22.5/37 rating generated by the 2017 Oscars.

Same with the Emmys.

Neilsen noted the 2018 Emmy awards show pulled in 10.172 million viewers (-4%) and a 2.4 rating among adults 18-49, it’s lowest ever. The 2000 Emmy’s drew in 21.8mn by comparison.

Some may talk to modern day luxuries of streaming which might flatline these dreadful numbers but the reality is Hollywood’s obsession with shaming its intended viewers is the more likely culprit.

Perhaps ABC & NBC need to host these events at a local Hollywood pensioners club from here on in. Save the millions lavished on sets and award movies based on a Bingo wheel. Celebrities can go in smart casual (Cate Blanchett insists on recycling clothes) and dine on a sumptuous smorgasbord with complimentary soft drinks at the beverage bar. Now that would be worth watching.

It costs HOW MUCH?

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The mind boggles. War is expensive to conduct. Once wars finish, the cost of looking after veterans is massive. In 2000, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in America spent $43.6bn to look after returned servicemen and women. In 2020 it is expected to exceed $212bn (c. 5x), the equivalent of what the Chinese currently spends on its military.  Digging deeper into the data reveals that the cost of the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) on veteran treatment keeps growing in a straight line.

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Total obligations for OIF/OEF/OND patients has grown 19-fold in the last 14 years to over $7bn. Total veterans from those campaigns now totals 965,000 and is expected to hit 1.1mn by 2020. Cost per veteran patient over the 2006-2020 period will virtually treble.

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Expenditure on prosthetic devices (e.g. limbs, hearing aids) has near as makes no difference quadrupled in that period.

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Spending on pharmaceutical products is up 1.9x since 2006.

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Drugs such as Oxycontin which contain opioids have found their way to creating problems in the US armed forces. 15% of Army troops admitted to taking illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana) and opioids back in 2008.

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Spending on programs to prevent substance abuse is up 1.8x since 2006.

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The VA notes key clinical metric trends from Quarter Four of 2012 to Quarter Four of 2017 show:

• 67% reduction in Veterans receiving opioid and benzodiazepine together;
• 44% reduction in Veterans on long-term opioid therapy (> to 90 days);
• 38% reduction in Veterans receiving opioids;• 56% reduction in Veterans receiving > 100 Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose;
• 51% increase in Veterans on long-term opioid therapy with a Urine Drug Screen
(UDS) completed within last year to help guide treatment decisions.

Spending on mental health programs is up almost 4x since 2006. The VA plans to promote the development of skills in VA providers to diagnose and assess PTSD
by developing a computer-based training using simulated virtual patient
technology that will allow clinicians to practice and receive customizable feedback
on giving CAPS-5 to a lifelike virtual patient.

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The 2019 VA Budget requests $8.6 billion for Veterans’ mental health services, an increase of 5.8% above the 2018 current estimate. It also includes $190 million for suicide
prevention outreach. VA recognizes that Veterans are at an increased risk for suicide and
implemented a national suicide prevention strategy to address this crisis. Veteran suicide in the US is at a 22/day clip.

The price of freedom. All said and told the US over the last 20 years will have spent the equivalent of $2.476 trillion with a “T” on veterans. That is the equivalent of one entire year of UK GDP.

Smart technologies are an absolute must for the VA. The cost of veteran health is the equivalent of 29% of what the US spends on defence, up from 14.8% two decades ago. Asking for yearly increases is a band aid solution.

Musk charged with securities violations

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been accused by the SEC of violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) [15 U.S.C. § 78j(b)] and Rule 10b-5 [17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5]. The SEC claimed,

“Musk’s false and misleading public statements and omissions caused significant confusion and disruption in the market for Tesla’s stock and resulting harm to investors…Musk knew or was reckless in not knowing that each of these statements was false and/or misleading because he did not have an adequate basis in fact for his assertions. When he made these statements, Musk knew that he had never discussed a going-private transaction at $420 per share with any potential funding source, had done nothing to investigate whether it would be possible for all current investors to remain with Tesla as a private company via a “special purpose fund,” and had not confirmed support of Tesla’s investors for a potential going private transaction. He also knew that he had not satisfied numerous additional contingencies, the resolution of which was highly uncertain, when he unequivocally declared, ‘Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote.’ Musk’s public statements and omissions created the misleading impression that taking Tesla private was subject only to Musk choosing to do so and a shareholder vote.”

The eccentric and maverick CEO responded,

This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed. I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way.”

It is common knowledge to corporates that the exchange is the first port of call for all public releases to be openly documented for consistency and equal access. It is irrelevant whether a social media feed might be deemed as “in the spirit” of open disclosure to Musk’s personal opinions. The SEC rules are the rules. There aren’t soft interpretations. A listing requirement is to follow the rules of fair disclosure. Whether Musk was or wasn’t aware is irrelevant – as the CEO of a $50bn company he should know better or at least sought the advice from those that do.

In any event if he was true to the spirit of good corporate governance he would have the good sense to realise his position as CEO has become untenable. How the board can have confidence in him is beyond CM? The multiple senior resignations give an insight but for all of Musk’s instellar cosmic brilliance as a salesman, unfortunately laws are there to provide safety for investors. The shares are offered 13% lower in the aftermarket.

A court will ultimately decide his fate but the $420 a share with secured funding unraveled so quickly as to question his judgement.

Investors, even the die hard believers, don’t need a CEO already under the pump to be distracted anymore than he already is. It is a shame because he is undoubtedly a brilliant mind. Unfortunately that would seemingly make him feel he’s somewhat untouchable leading him to make knee jerk decisions such is what he’s been charged over.

Is Musk losing it?

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Is Tesla CEO Elon Musk losing it? More senior resignations from accounting and HR this week  reveal more cracks in the automaker. He emailed a journalist, calling him a “mother f*cker”. He went further to say he hoped the cave rescuer he called a “”pedo” sued him because a UK man who is single and spent so much time in Thailand must be a child rapist.

He rattled off he had “secured” funding of $420/share to go private and then all of a sudden he didn’t, prompting the SEC to investigate. He was then on radio with comedian Joe Rogan toking what is reportedly a mixture of tobacco and marijuana. Are these the actions of a man running a $50bn market cap company?

Clearly his board can’t control him.  With the shares collapsing and bond prices falling, refinancing will become problematic. Chief  Accounting Officer Dave Morton quit the company after revealing his concerns about the various obstacles Tesla faces.

Tesla’s Chief People Officer, Gabrielle Toledano, took leave in August and said she wouldn’t be returning to Tesla.

Musk has been a genius and visionary to get Tesla where it is today. Yet he is a direct victim of his own hubris. Sleeping under boxes with Tesla bankrupt written on them to living on the factory roof to rattling off about production hell while accusing families of drivers dead due to over reliance in a system he aggressively promoted.Tesla was technically asking for suppliers to refund a portion of the monies they were paid since 2016 to the EV maker so it could post a profit which is borderline accounting manipulation in an attempt to give the impression of an ongoing concern.

He also complained at the lack of support in the media despite being called out on this nonsense.

Musk’s compensation is also linked to a $650bn market cap, which is effectively saying to the market that his company will be worth more than Daimler, BMW, VW, GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Renault, Fiat-Chrysler, Ferrari and Porsche combined. Just read that last sentence again. Do investors honestly believe that Tesla which consistently misses and is going up against companies that have been in the game for decades, seen brutal cycles, invest multiples more in technology and forgotten more than they remembered will somehow all become slaves to a company which has no technological advantages whatsoever?

The Tesla story is on the ropes. Expect more mega-releases on new products to try to keep the dream alive and the disciples faithful. I guess ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ worked for The Beatles…

Cheikmate

Australian Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is clearly massively under pressure. Sporting the second worst win/loss record of any Australian rugby coach he hit out at journalists questioning whether it is time to pack it in by suggesting they take mental disorder suppressing “pills” for exposing his dreadful stats. His team was walloped by New Zealand 40-12. The All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 16th straight year.

Cheika talked of “passion” for the job but a great coach is one that extracts the best from the players by making them believe in themselves and achieve well beyond what they think they can. Australia need a Brian Clough type coach rather than the thuggish style of Cheika. Basic discipline is lacking in the Aussie team and that stems from the top. A coach that was confident in his ability to attain quality results wouldn’t resort to cheap shots. He’d merely let the scoreboard do the talking. Instead he shows the pressure is too much for him.  This press conference (especially from 5:30) confirms he is not right for the role. Time to replace him.

CM has made the argument multiple times – if money was taken away from the game all current All Blacks would still play proudly for their country. For the Aussies it is likely only a handful that might feel the same. Cheika is not building a team steeped in history, but making excuses for his dreadful deficiencies. He may accuse journalists of being clueless by stating they’ve never coached before, but should he possess an enviable success ratio the press wouldn’t ask for reasons why the Wallabies were road kill.

Cheikmate- time to go gracefully. The fans aren’t buying it.

Monkey Dust

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Monkey Dust is the latest drug to hit the streets in the UK turning users into zombies. Monkey Dust is the street name for Methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinohexiophenone or MDPHP. It is a synthetic drug made from bath salts which contain MDPHP. The off-white powder can be swallowed, injected or snorted, and can cost as little as two pounds. Effects of the drug can last several days and only requires doses as little as 3 milligrams to get a hit.

The drug makes users feel empowered, super human, paranoid and subject to eating their own flesh or throwing themselves in front of cars or off buildings. Users give off a sweat smell close to prawns and vinegar and feel no pain. Monkey Dust is also addictive.

Staffordshire Police said it had 950 reports in three months or roughly 10 a day. Ambulance crews reveal a lot of call outs are to revive users from heart attacks or strokes. For drug companies these addictions can be big business.

Across the pond, the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving heroin from 2002 to 2015 show a 6.2-fold increase in the total number of deaths over the period. Automobiles killed around 32,000 people last year or a little over 2x that of heroin overdoses. When adding non-methadone opioids (illicit fentanyl) overdose that number surged to 20,000, a 33% YoY jump on 2014 and 5.9x 2002.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Suicide rates in the military were traditionally lower than among civilians in the same age range, but in 2004 the suicide rate in the U.S. Army began to climb, surpassing the civilian rate in 2008. Substance use is involved in many of these suicides. The 2010 report of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force found that 29 percent of active duty Army suicides from fiscal year (FY) 2005 to FY 2009 involved alcohol or drug use; and in 2009, prescription drugs were involved in almost one third of them.”

As opioid overdoses rise, companies such as Adapt Pharma have seen sharp rises in the sales of products like Narcan (Naloxone) which basically revives victims from the dead. Narcan publicizes its price that is even insured meaning one can overdose and revive with a $10 co-payment.

“94% of insured lives in the US have coverage for NARCAN® Nasal Spray*. According to IMS Health, nearly three quarters (74%) of prescriptions for NARCAN® Nasal Spray have a co-pay of $10 or less**. For those paying cash, ADAPT Pharma has partnered with retail pharmacies to reduce out of pocket costs (Retail is $62.50/dose)…To expand community access, NARCAN® Nasal Spray is available to all qualified group purchasers for $37.50 per 4mg dose ($75 per carton of 2 doses). This pricing is available for all Qualified Group Purchasers, such as first responders (EMS, Fire Department, Police), community organizations and Departments of Health, regardless of size. This pricing represents a 40% discount off the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of $125 per carton.”

Price hikes have been a feature of naloxene. As of January 2015, Amphastar’s version of naloxone was up to $41 a dose, according to Fierce Pharma, a pharmaceutical industry news website. That follows a price increase from $17 to $33 a dose back in October 2014, according to data provided by Truven Health Analytics. So not only is volume spiking, so is price. Walgreens has expanded the availability of prescription-free naloxone to 33 states.

West Virginia health officials are responding to opioid overdoses by distributing more than 8,000 kits with Naloxone that can get people breathing again if administered in time. Money for the kits comes from a $1 million federal grant to West Virginia, which has had the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths at 41.5/100,000 people.

Local emergency medical services agencies in West Virginia administered 4,186 doses of Naloxone in 2016, up from 3,351 the year before and 2,165 two years ago and that data doesn’t include uses by hospital emergency departments, urgent care centers, first responders and family members.

There is a conundrum for narcotics suppliers as such synthetic drugs cause new markets enabling bigger highs from cheaper DIY ingredients. On the flip side, pharma companies stand to cash in  from our ability to poison ourselves with designer drugs. Monkey magic from monkey dust.