EppsNet Archive: Drugs

A Keyword Search = Advanced Machine Learning?

1 Nov 2017 /

A team of researchers at UC San Diego has used “advanced machine learning” to develop technology that mines Twitter to identify entities illegally selling prescription opioids online.

Apologies to everyone involved if I’m misunderstanding the media release, but the advanced machine learning seems to consist of looking for tweets that contain any of the keywords codeine, Percocet, fentanyl, Vicodin, Oxycontin, oxycodone or hydrocodone and include a hyperlink.


Cocaine, Heroin, Ecsatsy

22 Jun 2017 /

In case you hadn’t noticed, being alive is difficult and probably overrated. Why not take all the drugs you can?

Just playing devil’s advocate here . . .


What Would You Charge for an EpiPen?

29 Aug 2016 /
EpiPen

I don’t mean hypothetically, I mean I literally want to buy an EpiPen from you right now. My kid got stung by a bee, his face is swelling up like a balloon and his lungs are about to shut down.

I see a lot of people are mad at Mylan for charging $600 for EpiPens but they don’t seem to be mad at everyone else in the world who won’t sell them an EpiPen at all.

Not to mention, $600 for a life-saving treatment seems like a pretty good bargain to me.

Hillary Clinton has called for reducing the price of EpiPens. Hillary Clinton has never lifted a finger in a productive enterprise in her life. She will not sell you an EpiPen no matter how much you want or need one.

If the amoral profiteers at Mylan have an obligation to sell cheap EpiPens, why doesn’t Hillary Clinton? Why don’t you?


Programmer or Parolee?

15 Mar 2016 /

Our office building is next door to a probation field office . . .

I have a game I play in the parking lot each morning: Programmer or Parolee. I spot someone, guess if he’s here for a programming challenge or a meeting with his parole officer, then wait to see if he shows up in our office.

If a methed-out skinhead comes in for a programming challenge, I lose today’s game.


Free Advice on Free Advice

5 Feb 2016 /
Shoulder pain

Today a colleague offered to fix the pain in my shoulder. “Sounds like a problem with the connective tissue,” he said. “I can push it back into place.”

“No,” I said. “No no no no no no no.”

“Why not? Are you homophobic?”

“Not wanting you to touch my shoulder is not homophobic.” Also this guy is not gay.

“You don’t trust me?”

“I was trying to think of a nice way to say that.”

“I have a gift for this. I’ve helped a lot of people.”

“You might be able to fix it. Probably you could. On the other hand, you might, just perhaps, push on it the wrong way and I lose the use of my left arm. Not worth the risk.”

He then recommended that I go to a health food store and buy some red something-or-other algae to use as an anti-inflammatory.

Which I’m not going to do . . . If someone recommends a movie I should see, I might check that out. Even if it turns out to be terrible, which it usually does, I’ve only lost a few bucks and a couple hours of time. Same with a restaurant. Or a book.

But on medical matters, when someone says “You should go to a health food store and buy some of this product and eat it,” I’m not going to do that because if I do that, and I die . . . because the recommender didn’t know anything about my health condition, medical history, medications I might be taking, didn’t know anything about chemistry, biology, pharmacology . . . I’m dead and the person who told me to do that is scratching his head going, “Hmmmm, that never happened before. Maybe I should have gone to medical school to actually learn something.”


A Couple of Random Thoughts on Gun Control

25 Nov 2015 /
  1. Laws don’t turn crazy people into good citizens.
  2. What reasons are there to think that gun laws would make it difficult for anyone to obtain a gun? We’ve had a War on Drugs for decades. How difficult is it to obtain illegal drugs?

25 Concepts to Facilitate Judicious Use of Psychiatric Drugs

20 Sep 2015 /

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night . . . I also took a Colgate University class on medicating for mental health and judicious use of psychiatric drugs.

Pills
  1. A psychiatric medication is only one useful tool among a collection of useful tools. Remember to also consider non-drug options for therapy.
  2. The benefits of psychiatric medications are always accompanied by risk. Become familiar with the potential risk of your medication. Be alert to potential risks that might be intolerable to you.
  3. Establishing a diagnosis is a difficult and imperfect task, but it establishes the starting point for determining which treatments are appropriate.
  4. Engage your physician or a psychologist in a dialogue regarding the structure of your treatment program. Be an active participant in establishing the structure of that program. Having confidence that your treatment program will work is important for its success.
  5. Become familiar with the vocabulary of psychopharmacology and with some basic principles of psychopharmacology. It will improve your ability to communicate with your physician or therapist.
  6. Be forthcoming and candid with your physician or therapist when working to establish realistic goals for your use of psychiatric medication. These goals should include the meaningful improvement of symptoms and side effects that are acceptable to you.
  7. A treatment program should aim to not only produce meaningful improvement of symptoms but also should include a plan to prevent relapse.
  8. A psychiatric medication is limited in its effectiveness for improving a problem that has biological, psychological, and social characteristics.
  9. Ask whether the use of your recommended psychiatric medication is supported by published evidence or is an off-label prescription based upon educated guesswork. If your prescribing physician doesn’t know the answer to that question tell him or her to find out for you.
  10. Remind yourself that a psychiatric medication will alter the neurochemistry of your brain and that the effects of medication on the brain can persist and may be permanent.
  11. The ideal dosage of a psychiatric medication is the smallest dosage that is able to provide meaningful relief of symptoms.
  12. Fulfill your responsibilities for ensuring the success of your treatment program. Be fully cooperative regarding instructions for using medication and for taking the advice of the therapist.
  13. Remember that counseling, psychotherapy, or behavioral therapy may enhance the effectiveness of a psychiatric medication.
  14. Remember also that a psychiatric medication may enable counseling, psychotherapy, or behavioral therapy to be more effective.
  15. Newer psychiatric medications are often more expensive medications despite the fact that those newer drugs may not be more effective than older medications.
  16. Newer psychiatric medications have been used for a shorter period of time and by fewer people than older medications. This fact increases the likelihood that newer medications might bring unpleasant surprises.
  17. Herbal remedies and dietary supplements may or may not be effective or safe and very few of those remedies have been studied in well-designed experiments to evaluate their effectiveness and their relative safety.
  18. If possible, avoid using multiple medications in order to minimize the possibility of harmful drug interactions.
  19. Direct-to-consumer advertising of psychiatric medication is principally intended to get you to buy a product. That product may or may not be in the best interest of your own physiological, emotional and psychological well-being.
  20. Be aware that your health insurance provider may structure costs to you, the patient, in a way that provides some incentive to use one drug instead of some other drug or to use medication instead of psychotherapy. If possible, try to make the principal goal of your therapy to be the relief of symptoms, not the lowest cost of treatment.
  21. The elderly present special vulnerabilities for psychiatric medications — for example, enhanced sensitivity, likelihood of polypharmacy, or increased risk of falling.
  22. Exposing the young, still-developing brain of a child or adolescent to a potent psychiatric medication risks creating problems for those brains when they reach adulthood.
  23. The recent trend is to rely more upon psychiatric medication than upon non-drug therapies to treat psychopathology. Resist that trend when you are not convinced that medication is the best choice for you or for a member of your family.
  24. The study of brain and behavior is a frontier science. Thus the use of drugs that alter brain neurochemistry to treat psychopathology is based upon an incomplete understanding of brain and behavior.
  25. Because our current understanding of brain and behavior is incomplete, contemporary psychiatric medications are imperfect tools that are clinically useful until we learn enough to develop better tools.

Lose the Pastels and the Mopey Attitude

9 Jul 2015 /

Human of New York

  1. Americans love gay people. Since this photo has been posted, it has 60,000 shares, 60,000 comments (including presidential candidates) and 640,000 (that’s six hundred and forty thousand) likes. In the short time since the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling there’s been a national competition to see who can demonstrate the most elation about it. (OK, if you’re gay, a few bad apples will dislike you based on that alone but that’s true if you’re identifiable as a member of any group, which we all are.)
  2. I’m afraid about the future. I’m afraid people won’t like me. Leave out the part about being homosexual and you could post a picture of anyone. The percentage of Americans who can’t get through the day without medication — I’m including self-medication via alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, food, etc. — is a lot closer to 100 than it is to zero. Nobody’s life is a fairy tale, kid.
  3. How old is this boy? He looks about 10. Is he really old enough to have fully sussed out his own sexuality? Maybe he is but it seems far from certain.
  4. Find some role models, like Ellen and that Doogie Howser kid. Lose the pastels and the mopey attitude. Dress like a man and keep it peppy.

Doogie Howser   Ellen


Overheard

25 Feb 2015 /

Fraud


Teaching Computer Science: Collected Thoughts

10 Jan 2015 /

If you recognize the person on this next slide, please raise your hand. Don’t yell out the name, just raise your hand.

Derek Jeter

About two-thirds of you recognize Derek Jeter. I thought everyone would recognize him, but still a clear majority.

I’m not a Yankees fan or a Derek Jeter fan particularly but the Captain and I are on the same page on this topic. I have to admit I was pretty competitive as a student. I didn’t want anyone to do better than me and I especially didn’t want anyone to do better than me because they worked harder than me.

This Jeter quote reminded me of a quote from another notable sports figure . . .

Bob Knight

This is Bob Knight, college basketball coach, most notably at the University of Indiana. He won 902 games, three NCAA championships, and he coached the 1984 Olympic basketball team to a gold medal.

Notice that he says “everyone” and “no one.” He doesn’t say some people don’t want to come to practice. There’s a universal aspiration to accomplish great results without a corresponding level of effort. I recognize that in myself, definitely. As far as I can tell, this approach rarely if ever works, even for people we think of as prodigies.

Mozart used to say that anyone who thought composing music came easily to him was very much mistaken. While all the other kids were playing kickball, Mozart was in the house practicing his music lessons. In case you’re thinking that kickball wasn’t even a game at that time, you may be right. The point is that if there was kickball, Mozart wouldn’t have been playing it because he was practicing his music lessons.

One more on this topic . . .

Michelangelo's David

This is a quote from Michelangelo. Nothing great seems to happen without a lot of practice.

Once again, please raise your hand if you recognize the person on this next slide.

Anton Chekhov

He looks Russian.

Yes, he is Russian.

Dostoevsky? Tolstoy? Mendeleev? Pushkin? Boris Pasternak?

No . . . he’s known as an author of plays and short stories.

[A student sitting next to a smart but quiet young man from Russia points to the Russian boy and says, “He knows.”]

Who is it? Chekhov.

Right . . . this is Anton Chekhov. He wasn’t a programmer but his advice is relevant to many different endeavors.

Don’t overcomplicate things. A good heuristic – which is a fancy way of saying “rule of thumb” – is to do the simplest thing that could possibly work. Method A could work, Method B could work — which one should we try first? Try the simplest one first.

Note that the heuristic doesn’t say to do the simplest thing. If the simplest thing couldn’t possibly work, don’t do it. Do the simplest thing that might actually work.

One final slide. I don’t think anyone will know these people so I’m not asking for a show of hands.

2 days in a closet

I saw an article last week about a man and a woman who were “trapped” in a janitor’s closet at the Daytona State College Marine and Environmental Science Center for two days. They got themselves in the closet last Sunday and finally on Tuesday, the gentleman on the right got the idea to call 911. Why that idea took two days to incubate is unclear. Police showed up to let them out and found out the closet was not locked. They could have opened the door themselves.

Maybe the lock was meth’d up, like the woman. “Meth’d” up, get it?

Are they students at Daytona State College? The article doesn’t say. Do any of you have Daytona State College on your college wish list? If so, you may want to take it off. Or just keep it as a safety school in case Harvard and the Sorbonne don’t come through for you.

What can we learn from this story? I don’t want to say “don’t make assumptions” but don’t make unwarranted assumptions. Don’t make assumptions about things that you can easily verify. If you’re in a closet, don’t assume the door is locked. Try it and see. A lot of uncertainty can be dispelled by trying things out.

Assumptions can hurt you as a programmer. You might be stuck because you’re assuming some condition is true that isn’t true. Or you’re assuming that some condition can never be true when it really can be true. Don’t make unwarranted assumptions.

I couldn’t help noticing that a lot more people recognized Derek Jeter than recognized Anton Chekhov. If you want to achieve great renown, if you want to be part of the public consciousness, entertain people in a simple-minded way, like hitting a ball with a stick and running around in a park. People can be entertained by Derek Jeter without expending any effort.

Where Chekhov went wrong is that he failed to anticipate a world where nobody reads anymore. Furthermore, he believed that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them. His plays and stories don’t have a traditional structure where everything is tied up neatly at the end, so you not only have to put in the time to read them, you have to go into overtime to ponder the moral ambiguities. Who has time for that in their busy lives?


Can You See the Real Me, Doctor?

8 Aug 2014 /

I decided to get off meds for a while . . .

Fluoxetine (Prozac), an SSRI

Things That Are the Same

  • I start every morning thinking about how great it would be to just stay in bed the rest of the day. Repeatedly hitting the snooze alarm — does life get any better than that?
  • I live in fear of negative judgment.
  • I dread being around other people. (May be just a restatement of #2).

Things That Are Different

  • I don’t feel like I’m in as much of a fog all the time.
  • I feel sadder, angrier, happier, more scared, more alive for better or worse.

People Who Don’t Want Me to Know Things

12 Jul 2014 /

What I want to know is why there are so many people who don’t want me to know things . . .

Trudeau's book Natural Cures Updated Edition

And that doesn’t even include all the things that people “won’t tell me.”


More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of

6 Jul 2014 /

Riptide warning sign

The worst thing you can do to people, aside from physical injury, is give them the idea to blame their failures on vague impersonal forces or the actions of anybody but themselves. It doesn’t promote success or happiness. I don’t know any happy people who think like that.

For example, I read this in a New York Times article about an impoverished area of West Virginia:

John got caught up in the dark undertow of drugs that defines life for so many here in McDowell County.

That is just awful. I live in Southern California, not too far from the ocean . . . I’m familiar with undertows (although I’ve never heard of a “dark” undertow). First of all, sorry to be pedantic but undertows aren’t dangerous . . . they’re just after-effects of individual waves. What’s dangerous is a riptide . . . a concentrated flow of water that can jet you offshore in a matter of seconds.

Maybe John got caught in a riptide of drugs.

Some beaches post signs warning swimmers of riptides on high-risk days, but in general, getting caught in a riptide is an unfortunate but unavoidable event. Drug abuse is optional. It’s a decision you make about your life.

(I’m assuming here that no one sticks a funnel in your mouth and pours drugs into it against your will . . .)


The War on Poverty is 50 Years Old

6 May 2014 /
(Old) War Police Department & Jail

The New York Times has an update from McDowell County, West Virginia, on how the War on Poverty is going after 50 years . . .

Of West Virginia’s 55 counties, McDowell has the lowest median household income, $22,000; the worst childhood obesity rate; and the highest teenage birthrate.

It is also reeling from prescription drug abuse. The death rate from overdoses is more than eight times the national average. Of the 115 babies born in 2011 at Welch Community Hospital, over 40 had been exposed to drugs. . . .

Many in McDowell County acknowledge that depending on government benefits has become a way of life, passed from generation to generation. Nearly 47 percent of personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps and other federal programs. . . .

The poverty rate, 50 percent in 1960, declined – partly as a result of federal benefits – to 36 percent in 1970 and to 23.5 percent in 1980. But it soared to nearly 38 percent in 1990. For families with children, it now nears 41 percent.

“Worst childhood obesity rate.” Poverty is different in America. In most countries, poor people aren’t fat.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 9,176 households in McDowell County and the mean (not median) household income is $33,506. Multiply the two together and we get a total annual income for the county of $206 million.

If 47 percent of that income, as the Times article states, comes from federal programs, that’s almost $100 million per year. Since the War on Poverty has been waged for 50 years now, a crude approximation of the total amount of taxpayer money sent to McDowell County would be 50 times $100 million = $5 billion.

Possibly the annual federal contribution was less 50 years ago, even adjusted to 2014 dollars, but we’d also need to account for the fact that the county population at that time was five times higher than it is today. Taking even a small fraction — say, 20 percent — of $5 billion as our approximation, we can say that the War on Poverty has cost at least a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) just for one small county in West Virginia.

Oh, and the people are still living in poverty. Evidently you can’t eliminate poverty just by giving people money.

As David Mamet pointed out in The Secret Knowledge:

There’s a cost for everything. And the ultimate payer of every cost imposed by government is not only the individual member of the mass of taxpayers who does not benefit from the scheme; but likely, also, its intended beneficiaries.

In the case of McDowell County, the intended beneficiaries are being paid to continue making bad decisions with their lives, most notably to continue living in a place where there’s no work and no hope for improvement.


A Saddening Trip to the Vet

28 Apr 2014 /

Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.

— Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”
 

I’m picking up Lightning’s prescription at the vet . . . the new girl, Lauren, is at the desk.

I can hear a woman weeping loudly from back in the hospital area.

“That doesn’t sound good,” I say.

“A husky attacked her dog at the dog park,” Lauren says. “A little Yorkie. Broke its neck.”

“That’s awful.” I don’t even have the heart to ask her if she cut the pills on the lines.


Don’t Try to Be Funny at the Vet

30 Mar 2014 /
Veterinary Hospital Parking

(Photo credit: www.myparkingsign.com)

I’m picking up a prescription for Lightning at the vet . . . the new girl, Lauren, is at the desk.

“It’s a little different this time,” Lauren says. “We didn’t have the Prednisone 5mg, so we’re giving you Prednisone 10mg, and instead of giving him half a tablet, you’ll give him a quarter of a tablet. I already cut them.”

“Oh gosh, thanks! Did you cut them on the lines?” Lauren is new so she hasn’t heard this one yet.

“To the best of my ability.”

“That’s good. Lightning doesn’t like it when they’re not cut on the lines.”

She’s not getting the joke but that’s okay. I’ll help her out by taking it completely into the realm of the absurd.

“He feels like it doesn’t show attention to detail,” I say.

“I’ll make a note of that for next time.”

“Yes, you should do that. Go ahead and write it on his chart.”

Pet owners — I know this from spending a lot of time at dog parks — are likely to attribute all sorts of human thoughts and emotions to their animals, so I guess if you work in a veterinary clinic, you can’t assume that customers are joking just because what they’re saying is totally irrational . . .


Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014

2 Feb 2014 /
Philip Seymour Hoffman

Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday of an apparent drug overdose at his Manhattan apartment.

Police responded to the 46-year-old’s apartment in the West Village shortly after 11 a.m., police sources told FoxNews.com.

A friend found his body in the apartment and phoned police. Hoffman was alone in his bathroom when he was discovered with a heroin-filled needle in his arm, law enforcement sources said.

I am really shocked to hear that. People are shooting up heroin first thing in the morning?! To me, a shot of heroin — like a nice, warm bath — is best enjoyed in the evening, to unwind after the travails of the day.

This is yet another blow to a theory that most Americans believe, which is that wealth is synonymous with happiness.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s in every movie, it seems like. He’s a Top 1 Percent wage-earner for sure. We hate the Top 1 Percent! They’re so rich and smug and happy.

“Oh,” people think, “if only I had a lot of money and I could do anything I want. Then at last I could be happy too.”

Wrong. Not only would you not be happy, you’d be even less happy than you are now, because you’d no longer have lack of money to blame for your unhappiness.

Frankly, I’m surprised that more actors aren’t overdosing themselves on a daily basis. It’s such a minor art form. Someone writes things down for them to say and they say those things. Sometimes a bit of business is written down for them to perform while they say the things that were written down for them to say.

The adulation that actors receive is so wildly out of proportion to the triviality of what they do. Some, like Hoffman, have the limited amount of self-awareness required to recognize this, to their eternal detriment.

P.S. I just saw this:

Fearless in his choice of roles

The “fearless choice of roles” meme with reference to actors has always stuck in my craw.

“So let me get this straight . . . if I take this role, I’ll have to read the script, learn my lines and pick up a check? Nope, sorry. Too scary.”

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.


How the Willis Tower Got Its Name

17 Aug 2013 /

When the Sears Tower opened in 1973, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was the biggest retailing company in the world. The annual Sears Christmas catalog was like amphetamines for American schoolchildren. (This was before half of America’s schoolchildren were already on amphetamines.)

Sadly, as time passed, the fortunes of Sears & Roebuck declined. Sears moved its offices out of the tower and sold it to some guy named Willis, who was so sick and tired of listening to people say “What you talkin bout, Willis?” that he renamed it to the Willis Tower.

Now when people say “What you talkin bout, Willis?” he says “You want to know what I’m talkin bout?! I’m talkin bout THE TALLEST BUILDING IN NORTH AMERICA! That’s what I’m talkin bout, you pricks.”

Looking down from Willis Tower skydeck, 103rd floor

Looking down from Willis Tower skydeck, 103rd floor (Photo credit: Paul Epps)


Is the Medication Working?

17 Aug 2013 /

Fluoxetine (Prozac), an SSRI

“How is your new medication working?”

“I can’t tell yet . . . I’m going to read for a few minutes then I’m going to bed.”

“How is your new medication working?”

“You just asked me that 10 seconds ago.”

“You didn’t answer me.”

“I DID answer you. I said I CAN’T TELL YET.”

“I don’t think it’s working.”


Berkeley Voters Leave Something to be Desired as Parents

29 Nov 2012 /

According to a new survey, just over 10 percent of Berkeley High ninth and 11th graders reported carrying a weapon onto school property, while about 35 percent of 11th graders reported attending class drunk or high.

If I had a kid at Berkeley High, I’d be moving out of town yesterday, but I’m reading in the Daily Californian that this news has been “met with surprise and joy from administrators,” the reason being that a similar survey two years ago reported about 17 percent of ninth graders and 16 percent of 11th graders carrying weapons onto campus, and 48 percent of 11th graders attending class drunk or high.

Progress!

“We’re very pleased with the survey results all around,” said Director of Student Services Susan Craig, “and at the same time we’re not at all complacent.”

If by “pleased” she means “horrified,” I couldn’t agree more.

In other news, Barack Obama got more than 90 percent of the Berkeley vote in the recent presidential election, while Mitt Romney got 4.6 percent and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, got 3.2 percent.

The liberal voter looks to government to solve problems that many people prefer to take on themselves, like raising their children.

Berkeley High School


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