Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Prometa Effect

To combat the alarming increase of methamphetamine addiction in our nation, a pilot program called Prometa has been launched in several states, including Washington. While it may also be used to treat alcohol and cocaine abuse, its primary use has been directed at bringing relief to meth users. Prometa is not recommended for the treatment of opiate dependence. The program consists of a cocktail mixture of FDA approved drugs, manufactured by the California based Hythiam Corporation, and nutritional supplements administered both orally and intravenously for three consecutive days. Three weeks later, treatment is administered again, this time for two consecutive days. Afterward, the patient will be given prescription medication as well as nutritional supplements for one month. Behavioral therapy is also a vital part of the program.

Hythiam claims that Prometa works by repairing damage done by drugs or alcohol to neurotransmitters contained within the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. This is the area that controls inhibitions and also creates a feeling of calmness. The desired effect is to reduce the cravings, as well as withdrawal symptoms and anxiety. By eliminating these obstacles, the patient is more able to focus on dealing with other life aspects, such as controlling stress and emotions, holding down a job, and taking care of children. These are the areas aided by behavior therapy, including counseling and guidance.

According to Hythium and clinics including Pierce County Alliance that are currently utilizing Prometa in their practices, the success rate has been stunning. It has been reported that after six months in the program, 95% of the participants were still producing negative urine screenings, 80% have maintained court compliance, and 75% are gainfully employed. As this is a relatively new study, the statistics may alter somewhat with the passing of time.

The Prometa program is not cheap. A one-month outpatient treatment program can cost $12,000 to $15,000 in a private practice clinic. However, some states, such as Washington, have financially subsidized the program, therefore making it more accessible. In fact, the Pierce County Council (WA state) recently allotted $400,000 in the budget for Prometa assistance. Council members cited the growing epidemic of meth use, with Pierce County as being among the highest in the nation, as a problem too big to not seek alternative solutions. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, the cost of cleaning up one meth lab can run upwards of $150,000. The numbers of drug labs have skyrocketed; having reached over 100 seized each year since 2001. In 2004, an estimated $50 million dollars was spent in Washington state alone to deal with the clean-up of meth labs, enforcement, treatment, prison costs, health and dental costs, and foster care. The numbers can not be determined regarding costs involving property damage, insurance costs, burglaries, robberies, hospital costs, and other injuries sustained by victims of crime that the meth epidemic has created.

Then there are the environmental effects and health dangers caused by meth. Seven pounds of toxic waste are produced for every pound produced of meth. The production, or cooking, of meth involves using a number of dangerous solvents that can be absorbed simply by breathing or contacting the skin. The effects can include shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, lack of coordination, nausea, and even death. Exposure to these chemicals can cause damage to the skin, respiratory tract, mucous membranes, and central nervous system. Toxins can remain in the carpeting and walls of a building even after the production of meth has ceased.

While it could be argued that the most effective way of combating the problem is to remove pseudoephedrine, which is a common ingredient found in decongestants and the single most important element in the making of meth, from everyday over the counter cold medicines. When ephedra, a naturally growing herb that was the model for the synthetic pseudoephedrine, was shown to increase heart rates and subsequently lead to heart attacks, it was pulled off health food store shelves nationwide. But this action would come at the possible expense of huge
profit losses to the giant pharmaceutical companies. Given the track record of the current members that sit on the board of the Food and Drug Administration, the enforcement of such action seems unlikely anytime soon.

In the meantime, Hythiam's claims that all of the aforementioned symptoms can be relieved, if not eliminated, by curing the addict's desire for the drug, thus changing the behavior of the user, remains to be seen. Ongoing studies and evaluations will determine Prometa's true value, monetary or otherwise.

For more information on the Prometa program, please see:

To hear interviews and discussions about Prometa on Equal Time Radio, check the links below:

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Secret That Was Victoria

While America sits in debate over the possibility of her first female president, all but written out of the history books is the chapter containing that of the first female presidential candidate, Victoria Claflin Woodhul. Her 1872 campaign against Ulysses S. Grant was a brazen endeavor indeed, considering that women were not given the right to vote until 1920. Running on the appropriately named Equal Rights Party ticket, her nominee for vice president was Frederick Douglass, who never publicly acknowledged his nomination. Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, opened the first brokerage firm that was owned and operated by women in 1870. While never shying away from controversy, she was founder and editor of the Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly which championed feminism, socialism, sex education, and the labor movement. The first English translation of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto was published in an 1872 issue. She denounced the hypocrisy of the expectations of monogamy for women while married men commonly kept mistresses. She later moved to England and established the magazine, The Hmanitarian which was published from 1892 to 1901. She would reside in England until her death in 1927.

For a more in depth look at Victorial Claflin Woodhull and her many achievements, please see: