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January 2004
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March 2004

Sixty Percent of U.S. Adults Drink, 23 Percent Smoke

"Sixty percent of U.S. adults drink alcohol and up to 20 percent are binge drinkers, according to a new comprehensive report of American habits and vices released on Wednesday.

About 23 percent are smokers, and half have never touched a cigarette, according to the survey from the National Center for Health Statistics."

My son accused me yesterday in a friendly argument, of being a prohibitionist.

I am not a prohibitionist. My argument is based on the public health observation with the incidence and prevalence of negative health behaviors is associated with access. In other words the harder it is to obtain the toxic substance/circumstance whether it be alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, promiscuous sex, etc. the lower the incidence and prevalence of the problem in large populations. The old argument that "Where's there a will, there's a way" doesn't hold. Make it harder for people to get stuff and the less they will use it or do it.

While 23% of the population smokes, this is down from 45% 25 years ago, because of the clean air legislation around the country that makes it harder for people to smoke in certain areas, etc. In California, the smoking rate is only 17%, one of the lowest in the country.

It probably would be a good thing if the smoking rate was 0%, and the drinking rate was lower, but hey, as I said, I am not a prohibitionist. As Aristotle said, "Everything in moderation."

MedlinePlus: Sixty Percent of U.S. Adults Drink, 23 Percent Smoke

Oral Sex Shown to Be Linked to Mouth Cancer

"Although the risk is small and it is more likely to result from heavy drinking and smoking, scientists have uncovered evidence that oral sex can cause mouth cancer.

Researchers had suspected that a sexually transmitted infection, human papillomavirus, that is linked to cervical cancer could also be associated with tumours in the mouth. Now a study by researchers working for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France seems to have confirmed it."

I don't know of any data that tells us that oral sex is more prevalent now than previously, but there is some evidence that young people engage in oral sex because they don't believe that it is "sex." I am wondering what other STD's can be transmitted orally? I know one woman, a client of mine, who told me that she had esophogeal warts which she had contracted from oral sex with her partner who, unbeknown to her at the time, had genital warts. I had never heard of this before, but apparently, it is possible. There were certain times when it would flare up and become quite painful for her.

The moral of the story is that oral sex is not necessarily disease free safe sex.

MedlinePlus: Oral Sex Shown to Be Linked to Mouth Cancer

Quote of the day

"Mel Gibson's film, The Passion Of The Christ, is a sado machistic chain saw massacre type flick that has little to do with the real message of Jesus of Nazareth. Had Mel wanted to communicate to the world what Jesus was really about, he should have done a film on Jesus' Sermon On The Mount."

David G. Markham

Government sponsored drug abuse research biased?

In this week's issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education there is an interesting article questioning some Ecstacy research which came to negative conclusions about the drug which had to be retracted because it was wrong. It's unclear to me whether this was just sloppy research, or the researcher purposefully told the feds want they wanted to hear because they were paying him to do the research.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies do this all the time.

Remember the old saying "He who pays the fiddler calls the tune"?

I have a new saying which goes "Don't believe everything you read, and don't read everything you believe."

Probably the best policy would be to be careful what you ingest.

The Chronicle: 2/27/2004: Ecstasy Agonistes

Black history month


I am a white guy.

I am a white guy who celebrates Black History Month.

Last evening, February 25th, I went to a dinner sponsored by the United Memorial Medical Center’s Hope Haven Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Unit. There must have been about 125 people there. Many people in recovery, and their families, including a lot of kids, many staff people, and other people like myself from community agencies and groups.

We ate a magnificent spread of soul food including the greens, the ribs, rice and beans, the whole nine yards. It was terrific.

Dr. Deborah Heath Thornton, a professor in sociology and criminal justice, from Roberts Wesleyan College, gave a motivational talk based on Martin Luther King, Jr.s “I have a dream” speech which he gave on August 28th, 1963, when Dr. Thornton said she was age 4. I was 18. It seems strange to be a witness to living history, because I remember it.

Then there was a black gospel music group from one of our local black churches which performed a few numbers and involved a lot of hand clapping and hip rolls.

I had a great time, and it stimulated me to think again, and say a prayer of gratitude, for the racial and ethnic richness that makes America the vibrant and strong country that it is.

I share Martin’s dream that a day will come when a person will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Amen!

Half of Young Americans Will Get An STD


This report may be misleading when the headline says that "Half of Young Americans Will Get An STD". The report defines young american as between 15 and 25. It bashes the abstinence based sex education program that has been promugated by the federal government over the last couple of years.

"The University of North Carolina report attacked federal policies that encourage abstinence-only education.

"Abstinence is, of course, the only 100 percent effective prevention strategy," Shawn Carney, a 17-year-old member of the UNC youth panel, said in a statement.

"But with 70 percent of young people having sex by the age of 18, we need to hear about more than abstinence. We need to know how to prevent STDs when we do have sex later in life."

What we aren't being told is that teen pregnancy rates are down, and the abstinence based policies do seem to be working. The liklihood that a young person will get an STD depends on how many sexual partners that person has. Using condoms of course, may not be a bad idea if you are having sex with someone who has sex with a lot of different partners, but people can't get STDs in monogomous sexual relationships. So perhaps the education campaign should be about promiscuity.

MedlinePlus: Half of Young Americans Will Get An STD - Reports

Quote of the day

"It is ironic that as heterosexuals abandon marriage in record numbers, homosexuals clamor and demand entrance into the institution, and the President calls for a consitutional amendment reserving marriage only for heterosexuals who no longer want it."

David G. Markham

Stigma can be a barrier to recovery

"I have been profoundly moved by the added burden that stigma imposes on the struggle to recover. Several topics arise in group discussions, including how to explain gaps in one's resume, how to obtain medical care without being labeled a "psychiatric patient," how to explain one's depression to family members who oppose the use of medications and insist that one is simply "not trying hard enough," how to manage side effects such as tremor and weight gain that are difficult to conceal, and how to cope with loneliness and isolation from the mainstream culture."

Sue Matorin does a good job in a letter to the editor of the May, 2002, Psychiatric Services journal pointing out how stigma impedes the recovery from psychiatric disorders by people who struggle with these types of illnesses. She points out that the failure of congress in the fall of 2001 to pass the parity legislation making it the law for health insurance companies to reimburse for the treatment of behavioral health disorders at the same level as physical disorders adds to the level of stigma by making it seem that the behavioral health disorders aren't quite "real" or quite as deserving of treatment.

Is it time to push for parity again? Would parity decrease the sense of stigma?

Psychiatric Services -- Matorin 53 (5): 629-a