The Future of a Planet on Opioids: Who Guards the Guardians?

Recently I’ve been reading about the reported meteoric rise across Western nations in the prevalence and incidence of non-prescription drug use and trafficking, human trafficking, and the similar stats about arrests for alcohol addiction. Distinct from but related to these dire trends, are the overarching prevailing factors of climate change and pollution. I will treat those latter two topics in a later post.

My focus here is on the whys, whos, and hows of physical and mental abuse from drugs and alcohol overuse. 

Opioids and crystal-meth are the street drugs of choice for most junkies today, and alcohol continues as well to shatter the lives of its victims. That is the chemical tapestry upon which thousands upon thousands of lives each year are ensnared by addiction and snuffed-out by overdosing. A recent drug bust here in Thunder Bay, Ontario, netted the police over $275,000 in drugs, including cocaine, $100,000 in cash, and 1,000 fake pills actually made of fentanyl. Street gangs from Southern Ontario were in town selling mostly to northern reserves. Addicts also are reported missing just about every week, or found dead in town at the rate of 1-2 per month. And that’s only one city in Canada.

The reasons for taking illicit drugs are many and varied, but the majority are traced to;

  • high unemployment
  • a culture of poverty and school drop-out
  • domestic violence
  • easy access to drugs
  • a fatalistic view of life

Vulnerable people are the victims and targets of the drug trade. Their ages range mostly from mid-teens to late 30s. 60% are male; 40% are female. Many have children of their own. Many are homeless, in a shelter, or living in the downtown cores with 3-4 people per dwelling (room or apartment). Many are treated in hospital for addiction, anxiety, and psychosis. Some are treated or counseled through community support organizations but many of those treated are repeat offenders. Some end up in jail from inflicting violence on others.

This situational summary is not new. These issues have been around for decades in cities across the country, but the point is that the incidences have increased over the past decade at an alarming rate. Local police do not have the resources to be effective in controlling this social corruption. The courts and jails are overwhelmed, and recidivism is high. And opioid addiction for example, has reached into the middle class as well, to include professional and sports groups. The recent legalization of the sale of marijuana in city outlets has brought more focus on drug use generally, leaving people with the impression that taking drugs – like alcohol – is okay. Time will tell how society will cope with the ramifications of alcohol and now hard drug use as ‘normal’, and with the normalization of high powered illicit drug use. We can only hope that the guardians of society’s victims do not themselves become victims.


In the Waiting Room – for my car (not a baby)

Today is my new car’s first check-up in the car hospital…the dealership’s garage.

The service desk said it would take up to one and a half hours! So I’ve plied myself with ample amounts of coffee and an old banana from home. And my iPhone.

On the ‘to do’ list are: grease and oil, inspect electrical systems, brakes, all engine fluids, rotate tires, check wipers, exhaust, and doors. The service desk guy is polite but in a hurry. There are 5-6 people in line behind me. The showroom is full of new vehicle models and salespeople are everywhere. So far so good.

About two and half hours later, after struggling to finish their now old, stale coffee with powdered cream,  and after reading two more out of date magazines, I was summoned to the service desk by a very attractive young woman, only to be told by the ugly guy behind the counter that the car was ready but the bill was $175.00. For what?? It took two and a half hours to do what I could have done with my ’56 Chevy in 30 minutes! Really. And with all the modern technology they have these days. When I questioned the time and price he mumbled something about union wages, the price of oil, and being short staffed today.

I left the dealership not smiling but thinking my car better run like a Ferrari on the way home. As I was leaving, he yelled “See you after 5,000 miles!” Yeah, right. With the price of cars these days I should get free oil for 50,000 miles.

Moving on: Selling Your Home That You Built

Well it’s getting close to that time. Keeping a 4,000 sq ft custom built home that you built 25 years ago, on 100 acres 35 miles from Thunder Bay, with 2 acres of lawn, large garden, huge deck, 4 bathrooms, 5 bedrooms, trout stream and hiking trails – is not easy. Especially when you and your wife are over 70 and 60 respectively. Facing a new life elsewhere is taxing on one’s emotions. The wonderful memories will be hard to leave behind.

Yet, the kids have all left, friends are dying around us, and the winters seem longer, and relatives are 900 miles away or more. So why not give it up and ‘minimalize’ into a much smaller apartment/condo/house that is easier to manage, somewhere in Southwestern Ontario? It makes perfect sense, after months of agonizing about it.

So that’s the plan. And we have 8 months to prepare for it, which includes doing a lot of painting, renovating, cleaning out of the sheds, barn and basememt, and tidy-up landscaping. We also have to find a place to stay after we sell. Wish us luck!  Any advice would be appreciated. Cheers!

Schizophrenia: Disorganized Type

As one of the sub-types of schizophrenia disorders which affect emotional, social, and perceptual processes, the disorganized type is described as follows:

“In DISORGANIZED SCHIZOPHRENIA, a particularly severe deterioration of adaptive behaviour is seen. Prominent symptoms include emotional indifference, frequent incoherence, and virtually complete social withdrawal. Aimless babbling and giggling are common. Delusions often centre on bodily functions (‘My brain is melting out my ears’).”
W. Weiten.2000. p.428

Twenty years or so ago, one of my sociology undergrad students presented some of these symptoms in class, and on many occasions I had to stop my lecture to determine the sensibility of his questions. He sat at the back of a 75+ class, and I rarely saw him enter or leave the class unless just by himself. I imagined him to be about 21 years old. About fifty present of the time his questions, often spontaneous, were quite surprisingly cogent and informed. It was clear he was “quite bright”, as they say, in some regards.

But on the other occasions his questions were unrelated to the content of the lecture, and he seemed very confused, similar to being ‘high’ on something or other.  It was clear to me that he had a ‘mind altering’ issue, probably (I thought then) from a drug of some kind.

I raise this subject-matter because I sense that this syndrome is more prevalent in society than we are willing to disclose, or know about. From my other experiences in life for example (travel, shopping, family, social events) disorganized schizophrenia manifested itself I’m sure, but was misinterpreted by me as something else. In order for it to be correctly diagnosed, it has to be observable over months.

Treatment options, as with other similar disorders, suggest a combination of medication and cognitive therapy works best.

October 6, 2014

DRONES- NOT of the male Bumblebee variety! nor the idle person variety!

Look up. Look up. Way up!

No, it’s not Superman, Jack’s beanstalk, nor the Jolly Green Giant. It’s a flying drone, and it may be filming you. Or your property. Or car license plate number. Or it may be delivering your mail, or your groceries. Does any of this scare you?

You might think about how this revolution in mostly unregulated celestial browsing, could affect you, your family, your community and country. How might your privacy be compromised? What about drone noise and visual pollution if every one could operate one? What about pedophiles using them? Or thieves? Or political parties? Or the police? Or researchers? Or private investigators? and so on. You get the picture.

Sociologically, morally, legally, and environmentally – there are issues. Drones of the consumer type cost anywhere from about $250 to $3,000 and more. This means that I can readily go to my nearest hobby shop and within a few hours see what my neighbour is cooking on his Bar-B-Q, doing in his living-room, or wearing in his swimming pool. In the country, I could perform an aerial survey of how many cows my neighbour’s farm contains, and check out his feed-troughs and waste disposal system. In the city, off my balcony, I could film, and look into the windows of, hundreds of apartments and condos, including the penthouses. I could deliver illegal drugs very surreptitiously to anyone, just about anywhere, within up to five miles or more.

On the other hand, if I kept a drone in the trunk of my car, I could use it for rescue mission purposes such as delivering gasoline or food to stranded snow-storm or flood victims. I could film shots of a local baseball or soccer game my son or daughter is playing in. Perhaps the fun of drone ‘pylon racing’ might fascinate me. Or filming our foursome’s golf game. This list is endless.

There are some government regulations in place in Canada that govern the deployment of powered unmanned private and military aircraft. The problem is that sales are outpacing regulations in the consumerist-private sector. Controls fall short of all the possible criminal uses applicable to drones. Municipal, provincial and federal by-laws and legislative bills are definitely in a catch-up position. Meanwhile, fun-lovers and hobbyists will have a great time with these, while Rome burns from subterranean acts of the criminal kind.

Technology innovation always precedes cultural adaptation. Drones are an example. So whether it’s the electric or gas powered, three or seven bladed, camera or laser equipped models – drones are here to stay. So we better get used to it.

A Cornucopia: The New Job Description

Have you paid close attention to the length of job descriptions these days? Especially institutional, financial and government job descriptions?

Have you tried to read all the way through them and understand what they are really describing and expecting?

At one time, not to long ago, a job description (JD) clearly indicated what it wanted you to do on one page. You filled in the rest on the job because the employer trusted you to grasp and learn, based on initiative and trial and error.

Not today. I read another JD today for a managerial position in a large Canadian corporation, and the JD had 41 distinct company accountables listed, and 19 applicant requirements. One accountability phrase was something like “You will leverage the product characteristics, with third party interventions based on conventional expectations of tactful negotiations and client respect”. What the hell does that mean? And there were 40 more just like it!

Qualifications needed were (and remember this was for a job that paid $62,000 to start): undergraduate degree , but preferably a MBA or equivalent; 5-7 years directly related experience;  ability to direct a team of 7-12 people, and so forth.

So we have to ask ourselves, Why are job descriptions becoming so inclusive, intimidating, and unrealistic in terms of time in any typical day or even week, to do all these things? The answer lies with the assumptions that a) extremely detailed profiles of work activity will cause only the best candidates to step forward, b) the organization will therefore save on unnecessary training costs, and c) the company’s public image will be enhanced by pretense to superiority. The most predictable reaction after reading these impossible lists is to recoil, have another sip, and go for a re-read. Even then, once the task lists are understood in their fullness, a potential applicant most likely wonders “How can I do all this? Especially when realistically makes up 2,3 or 4 job descriptions?”

My Dad was hired as a Superintendent of a tube mill in a large manufacturing company, after he applied from a two paragraph job description. He lasted 38 years.