Archive for July, 2008

Pennsylvania Voices of Addiction: Remembering Theodore Roethke

July 17, 2008
Theodore Huebner Roethke (1908–1963)

Theodore Huebner Roethke (1908–1963)

The American writer and poet Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) taught at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) from 1936 to 1943, and was known for three things: being a poet, a tennis coach, and falling down drunk—perhaps most for the latter. Roethke was a brilliant and tortured man, who knew well the seduction of alcohol and the agony of addiction.

Journey into the Interior

by Theodore Huebner Roethke

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.


Theodore Huebner Roethke on Wikipedia

Image courtesy


FDA Suspects Fentanyl Patches in 3,500 Deaths

July 17, 2008
Friday’s advisory reinforced an FDA alert from 2005

Friday’s advisory reinforced an FDA earlier alert from 2005

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new warning on Friday regarding the popular painkiller fentanyl, basically a re-issue of its 2005 warning. The FDA estimates that the patch version of the potent painkiller may have been involved in more than 3,500 deaths.

Fentanyl patches (brand name Duragesic) are typically prescribed to patients with chronic pain, or to those who have trouble swallowing pills. The patch’s transdermal system releases a uniform dosage of the drug over the course of three days.

I think there is more that needs to be done, or else we’re just going to see this [warning] happen again another two years from now… the deaths are going to continue.”

-Michael Cohen, Institute for Safe Medication Practices (PA)

The FDA also warns that heat and exercise can cause the patches to release the drug at a faster and potentially lethal rate. Patients who experience breathing problems while using fentanyl should call their doctors immediately, because high doses of the drug can cause the patients respiratory system to fail.


PA Booze Sales Up Amidst Economic Slowdown

July 15, 2008
PA Booze Sales Up Amidst Economic Slowdown

PA liquor sales up 4.8 percent

Gas prices are up, inflation is up, hell the cost of nearly everything is going up—while the value of our dollars are steadily going down… so how do PA residents respond? Why, we buy more booze of course!

“For our year-to-date sales through the end of May, sales were up 4.8 percent from a year ago.”

– Nick Hays, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman

There are many theories as to why this is so: That the slowing economy encourages home-based “entertaining”; or that costly trips out to restaurants and bars are being sacrificed; or even that in times of austerity, alcohol represents an “affordable luxury”…

Your humble blogger would posit a simpler theory… that in bad times (much like good times and all those times in between) many people turn to alcohol to cope.


Story: Bottoms up! Alcohol sales outdo economy

Visit the Alcoholics Anonymous Official Web site.

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Painkiller Epidemic Update: “You’ve Got Drugs!”

July 10, 2008

A new white paper released by Columbia University’s CASA (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) reveals that the vast majority of Websites selling narcotic painkillers (OxyContin, Vicodin, etc.) do so without requiring a prescription.

While this does not surprise me, it is somewhat startling to see it printed in black and white by a major research university. What I’ve been calling the Painkiller Epidemic is essentially a rising tide of patients developing powerful addictions to prescribed opiate-based painkillers. Like it or not, these illegal web merchants are simply responding to a very real surge in demand.

If the failed “War on Drugs” has taught us anything, we should know that shutting down these Websites will not fix the problem. Fundamental changes in the way narcotic painkillers are used and prescribed are needed to combat this problem in the future. As for the present, the needs of these addicts will be addressed one way or another—either through treatment, or through the criminal—and often violent—machinations of the black market.

It’s up to us to choose.


CASA’s Website:

Download the CASA White Paper: “You’ve Got Drugs!” V: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet

Painkiller Epidemic Update: Wyoming Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Painkiller “Conspiracy”

July 9, 2008

It appears that some in the judicial community are starting to take the Painkiller Epidemic seriously. The AP reports today that Casper, Wyoming U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson sentenced Leonard George Page to life in prison as a result of Mr. Page’s conviction in April on charges of conspiring to distribute the painkiller fentanyl.

Author’s Note: Fentanyl is a powerful opioid analgesic with a potency approximately 81 times that of morphine. The drug was first synthesized by Janssen Pharmaceutica (Belgium) in 1959. In the U.S. fentanyl is commonly sold in the form of transdermal patches under the brand name Duragesic.

Directly related to the conspiracy charge, prosecutors alleged that a woman who bought a fentanyl patch from Mr. Page died from an overdose of the drug.


Story: Man gets life sentence on drug conviction