The Business of Addiction… 9 Surprising Reasons U.S. healthcare costs the most, yet delivers the least (part 3)

Treating addiction has become a huge business. Rehabs that actually work translate into customers that don’t need to return and a lot less revenue. Addiction takes many forms, such as:

  • Alcohol dependency
  • Drug abuse
  • Clinging to toxic relationships
  • Overeating or compulsive dieting
  • Compulsively using electronics

Until healthcare professionals are trained to recognize functional addiction, and our healthcare system adopts an integrative approach that includes vocational rehabilitation, the cost of treatment and insurance will continue to rise.

Technically, there is no cure for addiction, because it leaves one with an eternal vulnerability toward succumbing yet once more. However, it is possible to figure out its triggers, dynamics, and underlying causes, and to develop routines, alternate coping mechanisms, and tools that make using unappealing and unacceptable…. Or not!

Spiritual disconnection
At its core, addiction is a spiritual disconnection. It is life destroying, not life affirming. It is self, not community.

Lack of sleep, the rapid pace of communication and change, less exposure to nature, less working with one’s hands, and economic uncertainty can contribute to this disconnection and serve as triggers.

Addiction, the subconscious saboteur
Addiction, “cunning, baffling, and powerful,” stunts emotional and spiritual growth. Sometimes, addicts have not learned how to detect, let alone feel, their feelings, and addiction enables them to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Addiction can also stem from the subconscious desire to self-destruct. And sometimes, addictions develop as an attempt to:

  • Soothe symptoms from mental illness, such as depression
  • Cope with processing challenges such as attention deficit disorder
  • Numb the effects or after effects of trauma
  • Deal with the hopelessness of chronic poverty

Pain and denial
Addiction feeds on pain. The addict subconsciously creates pain, so that he or she has a need to feed that pain, soothe that pain, with the addiction.

Addicts live in denial and rationalize their addiction so that they don’t have to let go of it. There is no logic with an addict, and circumstances or others are always at fault.

Author John Bradshaw on compulsivity
Where there is disconnection, there is compulsivity.

  • “The common root of every addiction is compulsivity understood as addictiveness.”
  • “Addictiveness is the inner emptiness we try to fill up with any mood-altering behavior.”
  • “Healing the unresolved grief resulting from abandonment is the way to heal compulsivity.”

Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem

Alternate coping mechanisms
There are oodles of alternate coping mechanisms, but habit is everything, and establishing new routines takes time. Most addicts need a lot of support when attempting to switch from “using” to using alternate coping mechanisms, such as meditation, journaling, prayer, exercise, walking, deep breathing exercises, yoga, tai chi, seeking out a fellow recovering addict, or attending a support group.

Using healthy coping mechanisms can calm one down enough to identify feelings, which is the first step in learning how to process them. Learning how to feel one’s feelings takes time too. Once an addicts stops using and begins owning their actions, they become open to spiritual healing, self-knowledge, maturity, and grit.

Support systems
Establishing support systems helps recovering addicts too. The Internet makes it easy to find meet-ups, churches, temples, support groups, and more. And there’s always volunteering. You might not get paid to volunteer, but while volunteering, you don’t have a chance to spend money either!

Seriously, volunteering can enable you to:

  • Shift your focus away from yourself
  • Help out your community
  • Get involved in a cause you are passionate about
  • Help you polish skills, such as graphic design, professional writing, event planning, videography, and fund raising
  • Network

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Nine surprising reasons U.S. healthcare costs the most, yet delivers the least overall (part two)

Part one discusses three reasons for our costly, yet ineffective healthcare system that have little to do with legislation: our malpractice system, our culture of unhealth, and poor nutrition that creates chronic inflammation within our cells, which, in turn, manifests chronic diseases. Part two discusses the consequence for treatment that is doled out, the lack of functional medicine, and that it is nearly impossible to comparison shop for medical procedures.

Keep them coming back for treatment
Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, author of An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back lists 10 “economic rules of the dysfunctional medical market” in her book. Her rule number two is, “A lifetime of treatment is preferable to a cure.”

During an interview on NPR, Rosenthal, while referring to rule number two, said, “One expert in the book joked to me … that if we relied on the current medical market to deal with polio, we would never have a polio vaccine. Instead we would have iron lungs in seven colors with iPhone apps.” (How U.S. Healthcare Became Big Business, NPR, Fresh Air, Terry Gross, April 10, 2017).

Functional medicine
Functional medicine assesses everything a patient does in order to get the patient and doctor working together to address the root causes of illness and needed lifestyle modifications.

This functional, integrative, approach worked for me. I have a chronic health condition that was made much, much worse courtesy of ineffective treatment — I was hospitalized eight times between the ages of 18 and 26. I have since reached middle age without a trip back to the hospital save for two trips to the maternity ward.

What changed? I learned how to take care of myself. This took lots of research, including identifying triggers and a number of lifestyle accommodations, such as keeping my blood sugar steady, letting go of crash diets, and exercising nearly every day.

Change is tough. Most people don’t significantly change their routines without a lot of support. Health coaches can help patients trade their unhealthy habits for healthy ones.

Nearly impossible to compare prices
Story after story abounds of patients futilely attempting to research prices for necessary surgery or medical equipment in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reports that it is getting a tad better (How to Research Health Care Prices, guides.wsj.com ). However, the trickier the research at hand, the longer it takes, and most consumers are becoming more and more time challenged by workplace, commuting, educational, fund raising, and other demands.

(end of part two of three parts)

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Nine surprising reasons U.S. healthcare costs the most, yet delivers the least (part one)

What’s lost in all this discussion about repealing the Affordable Care Act is that U.S. healthcare costs more than every other industrialized nation, yet delivers some of the worst returns. United States Comes in Last Again on Health, Compared to Other Countries (Maggie Fox, nbcnews.com, Nov. 16, 2016), “Americans still pay far more for medical care than people in other rich Western nations but have little to show for all that spending.”

Other countries handle their healthcare differently — they create less expense, but produce healthier, more productive citizens. The way our malpractice insurance system is structured, a culture that promotes unhealthy practices, processed food leading to chronic inflammation, which triggers chronic illnesses, overuse of pharmaceuticals, ignorance as to the role addiction plays, lack of functional medicine, and that it is nearly impossible to compare prices for medical treatment are some of the surprising reasons the entire U.S. economy is held hostage to its healthcare system.

Malpractice not the same in Europe
In single-payer systems such as Germany’s, doctors are not independent operators, they are employees of hospitals, and the hospitals are held accountable and the ones sued. Malpractice therefore is less onerous and less costly. “In the other countries, where doctors working in a hospital are employees, there is internal quality control,” Professor Uwe Reinhardt, Health Economist Princeton University (Frontline, Sick Around the World, How Does it Work for Doctors in These Five Countries?, pbs.org).

The Library of Congress explains further, “The causes of liability for medical malpractice under German law are similar to those encountered under the laws in the United States. German damage awards, however, are still much lower than those awarded in the United States, even though the German awards have increased in recent years.

“The German health care system provides universal access and coverage for the entire population. It is, however, a decentralized and diversified system that consists of more than 200 insurers that compete with each other to some extent,” (Library of Congress: Medical Malpractice Liability: Germany, loc.gov).

Culture of unhealth
Much of our culture subtly promotes and rewards illness and injury, which, in turn enriches pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and law firms. Some examples:

  • Apartment buildings inches from freeways – asthma anyone?
  • Sleep treated as optional – Alzheimer’s, obesity, auto accidents… (The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington showcases the research regarding the consequences of sleep deprivation.)
  • Sugar on every corner – eating too much sugar and processed food leads to chronic inflammation of the arteries
  • Sitting nearly all waking hours — Too much sitting linked to heart disease, diabetes, premature death (Julie Corliss, Harvard Health Blog, January 22, 2015, health.harvard.edu)
  • Nutrition treated as a nice to have as opposed to disease prevention
  • Financial stress — post-2008 Sharing Economy…
  • Lack of exercise

And then there’s the job juggle. The more jobs, the more hours, the more commuting the average citizen has to endure, the more the health risk factors pile up.

Poor nutrition creates markets for high-priced pharmaceuticals
Recurrent miscarriages and the ticking of my biological clock prompted me to improve my nutrition. I have, at times, struggled with extreme eating habits since childhood. I found the help I needed to change in a support group that practiced a spiritual discipline. I knew I was an emotional eater, but I discovered that I was sugar sensitive and had an addictive response to sugar and white flour. I learned tools such as planning meals, meditation, outreach calls, and journaling that provided alternatives to overeating and helped me to change my habits.

Hundreds of individuals passed through those meetings. Some had lost 100 pounds or more and had kept the weight off for years. Many had lost 30 to 50 pounds. I used to think that the only consequence from eating too much processed food was gaining weight, but I repeatedly witnessed members sharing significant health improvements with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and more. Many no longer needed pharmaceuticals to treat their chronic conditions. Not only had they changed their nutrition, but they had changed their attitudes and their lifestyles to make the changes stick.

Preventing heart disease with nutrition
Several cardiologists explain why magnesium and healthy eating are generally the answer to heart disease, not statin drugs.

“We know that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease. Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol can accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes. Without sufficient magnesium in the body inflammation results and it is the inflammation that causes cholesterol to become trapped. Quote?” (“Inflammation and Pain Management with Magnesium,” last modified on Feb. 9, 2017, drsircus.com).

“There is no escaping the fact that the more we consume prepared and processed foods, the more we cause inflammation in the body. The human body cannot process, nor was it designed to consume, foods packed with sugars and soaked in omega-6 oils. Treat the inflammation and not the cholesterol (“Treat the inflammation and not the cholesterol,” July 16, 2015, drsircus.com)

I only touched on the link between how eating an abundance of processed food year after year helps to manifest chronic illnesses.

(end of part one of three parts)

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SNL took a cheap shot at Kellyanne Conway

The skit is gut-splitting hilarious — Kate McKinnon portraying Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President of the United States, as a Fatal Attraction nympho coming on to CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper (portrayed by Beck Bennett).

But the next morning I had remorse. I see Kellyanne as a working mom, a relentless competitor, and a brilliant campaign strategist. She also strikes me as someone who could pose as the poster child for the sheltered class — lacking empathy yet swimming in stock options.

I’d like to see Kellyanne and those like her take a sabbatical like the journalist who authored Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Barbara Ehrenreich documented what it’s like to survive on the salary from jobs slightly above minimum wage — almost impossible to maintain one’s health and all discretionary time disappearing in the struggle to survive.

Alternative facts
We are becoming a society that can’t tell a news story from an editorial. We have citizens who would not have voted for Donald Trump had they known that Obamacare was another name for the Affordable Care Act.

In three short weeks, Kellyanne defended the misrepresentation of facts regarding attendance at the Inauguration by calling them “alternative facts,” referred to a non-existent Bowling Green massacre, and used her presidential platform to sell shoes.

Why couldn’t the show have made fun of her cluelessness?

Cheap shot
I doubt Kellyanne is a member of the DJT School of Christianity, whose First Commandment must be, “Do unto others to benefit only yourself, and your corporation.”

When Saturday Night Live takes a cheap shot at Kellyanne, they give the greedies, the dehumanizers, the opportunity to turn themselves into victims.

Saturday Night Real
For many Americans, the economy has never been the same post-2008 Recession. Since the last presidential election, many in the U.S. live in fear. Civil rights are at stake, the planet is in danger of dying, and hostility is replacing diplomacy.

We need skits that address the farce that we are living. For example, there is a campaign to allow resident doctors to work 24-hour shifts. Are they supposed to piss in coffee cups as they monitor patients?

Does Trump not care about destroying planet earth, because he is investing in condos on Mars?

Will Saturday Night Live get real, or will another show fill the void?

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It’s time to listen hard

“I think we’re going to be OK.” President Barack Obama.

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Dalai Lama

Actions speak louder than words, and listening involves not only the five senses, but the sixth one too — intuition.

I listened to Standing Rock, and what I heard is love of the earth and so much more.

I listened to Senator Bernie Sanders and voted for him in the Democratic primary, because he has integrity, has the ability to imagine humanistic solutions and realize them, and knows how to compromise. He shows respect for his fellow Senators and Congressmen. He shows respect for everyone.

I voted for Hilary Clinton in the general election, because I think she is sane. And compassionate. I had many reservations though… the Wall Street speeches, the Clinton Foundation (couldn’t they have fund raised for other foundations), that Glass-Steagell disappeared under her husband’s watch, which led to the Great Recession, that her husband never owned his mistreatment of women…

Every time I listen to President-elect Donald Trump or hear of his Cabinet choices, my chest tightens, my heart beats rapidly, and I imagine more and more working poor, more real jobs being outsourced, more beneath-subsistence jobs created in the U.S.  (who needs slavery when you can work for Wal-Mart), more denial in regards to climate change and environmental abuse (lead-poisoned and lung-damaged children for example), civil rights abuses, and even worse outcomes….

I pray to keep hearing President Obama’s words and those of my favorite president…

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

 

 

 

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Courage requires a thick skin

If you want everyone to like you, then you shouldn’t be a writer Steven King noted in his masterpiece on writing, On Writing.

Sensitivity often goes hand in hand with having a “thin skin,” keenly sensing others’ emotions. This election year has driven home to me that courageous individuals willing to fight for what they believe in are somehow able to withstand intense criticism, bullying, and sometimes even sabotage and hatred.

Today’s Los Angeles Times article, Soldier for the climate change cause, about scientist Ben Santer who is willing to get way out of his comfort zone, articulate the extreme significance of climate change, and subject himself to decades of intense criticism made my day.

There have been so many others. Michael Moore’s 5 Point Plan for 2017 is hilarious and practical.

 

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Purple pain: President Elect Donald Trump

I am not through mourning witnessing the free-flow expression of contempt for fellow human beings, the disengagement, and the effect of disinformation that became apparent the morning of November 9.

Trump changed everything. Now everything counts, an article by Barbara Kingsolver in The Guardian lists the potential loss of human rights and dignity, “Losses are coming at us in these areas: freedom of speech and the press; women’s reproductive rights; affordable healthcare; security for immigrants and Muslims; racial and LGBTQ civil rights; environmental protection; scientific research and education; international cooperation on limiting climate change; international cooperation on anything; any restraints on who may possess firearms; restraint on the upper-class wealth accumulation that’s gutting our middle class; limits on corporate influence over our laws.”

I am so sick of hearing “the media.” As if celebrity gossip outlets, every variation of television news, newspapers that strive for objective reporting, National Public Radio (NPR), and every blogger and Internet site are equivalent. And fake news…

Without objective reporting, I would feel hopeless. I found this LA Times news feature helpful, A primer on executive power: Trump can’t end same-sex marriages, but he could speed up deportations.

This election made me realize how incredibly hard life had become for a lot of Americans. Through NPR, newspapers, magazines, and legitimate Internet sites, I also see a lot of Americans willing to stand up for human rights and dignity, and for this I am very grateful.

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