A stellar time at Bellarmine


On Thursday, September 24, 2015, I had the pleasure of serving as a guest “professor” for about sixty or so students at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY. I promised them I would post some of the major points discussed along with some links for reference.

Here we go…

(1) We have a big problem in this country with drug abuse. To illustrate, a recent 2014 government survey found that about 1 in 10 Americans (12 years or older) have used an illicit drug in the past thirty days! About two-thirds of the abuse drugs are pharmaceuticals.

Ref: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf

(2) Drug overdose deaths continue to increase and are now the leading cause of deaths from injury in the United States, even outpacing deaths due to motor vehicle accidents.

Ref: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/846636

(3) While drug overdose deaths have been on the rise for the past two decades, the number of drug overdose deaths from heroin use has skyrocketed recently – up by 39% over the past 3 years.

Ref: http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/14/health/heroin-deaths-increase

(4) Obviously, prescription drugs help many people. Take for example the most abused class of drugs – opioids (i.e., morphine-like drugs). Opioids are powerful painkillers that many suffering people need to have any quality of life. Pain is a big problem in this country too. Here are some pain facts, courtesy of our government:

-Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

-Pain is cited as the most common reason Americans access the health care system.

-One in every four Americans, have suffered from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours and millions more suffer from acute pain.

-Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability.

Ref: http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=57

Note: There is evidence to suggest treating previously drug-naïve chronic pain patients with opioids is associated with a very low risk of addiction. The presence of ongoing pain appears to lower rather than increase the risk of opiate addiction.

Ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3073133

(5) The majority of individuals abusing opioids (usually young people) are getting “high” taking grandma’s Oxycontin, stealing it or buying it from their friends or relatives and do not get them from their physician.

Ref: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3073133

(6) Words matter. Here are some important words to understand:

Tolerance– the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect

Physical dependence– the body adapts to the drug, eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). This can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction.

Ref: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence

Addiction—or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences—is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal.

ADDICTION: a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.






Ref: http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction

(7) Risk factors of developing addiction:

Genetics: Addiction tends to run in families. Heredity is a major risk factor for addiction. In fact, scientists estimate that 40 to 60 percent of a person’s risk for addiction is based on genetics.

Age: The younger the user is, the more likely he or she is to become addicted.

Environment: Where one lives, works, and plays can be factors.

Mental health: Underlying mental health issues can increase the risk of addiction.

Drug of choice: The object of the addiction can play a role.

Speed to reach the brain: Drugs that are smoked or injected into the body tend to be more addictive than those that you swallow.

Ref: http://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/risk-factors#Overview1

These are just some of the major points that were covered. The class was engaged, attentive, and focused. I am certain I was speaking to future leaders and policymakers as well. I truly believe that the world in which I will soon live belongs to them. I feel this group now better understands the complexity of balancing preventive and therapeutic drug control with the necessity to allow effective pain care for the suffering.

I humbly thank the students for their earnest attention and their professor, Dr. Marylee Jamesfor the invitation.

I look forward to their thoughts and actions.

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And thanks for the Bellarmine swag!






8 thoughts on “A stellar time at Bellarmine

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to come speak to our class. Your lecture provided a lot of great and relevant information in a way that was very easy to take in. I appreciate you coming out to talk to us and sharing your knowledge!

  2. Dr. Murphy, Thank you so much for taking the time to come talk to us about this vital information! It really is helpful to have a general knowledge about this subject, especially when it might be a sore area for some to talk about. Also, it was a tremendous help for the test! haha

  3. Thank you so much Dr. Murphy for coming! The information you presented was very insightful and will be helpful in the years to come.

  4. Dr. Murphy, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to come and speak with us. I have been learning a lot about drug abuse in my Social Problems class, because it is, indeed a huge problem in our society. Fortunately, I did not grow up around drug abuse. However, this means that I am probably not as familiar with this as others may be. I am glad that you were able to come and go in-depth about this issue. As a Sociology minor, I feel that this is something with which I personally should be familiarizing myself. I really learned a lot, and thanks again!

  5. Thank you Dr. Murphy for taking time out of your day to come speak to our class. You had some really interesting information that I was not aware of. Thanks again.

  6. Dr. Murphy’s presentation was the culminating input on our study of the social problems of alcohol and other drugs. A test was given the following week, and I was looking forward to seeing how the students would respond to what they had learned in their required essay, which was to present a proposal for a better understanding and treatment of our drug problems. I was not disappointed. Not only is Dr. Murphy’s input evident in their responses, but their own ability to think through the different perspectives on the situation and arrive at socially responsible efforts to resolve the problems supports Dr. Murphy’s suggestion that he was speaking to future leaders and policymakers who would make a difference in their world.

    Here are a few excerpts from their proposals, illustrating the trend of the thoughts of these young people. Each student has given written permission to post these statements.

    1. In Dr. Murphy’s presentation, something that really resonated with me was the idea that people who want to get high will find a way to do so. This was also discussed in class when we thought about why people use drugs….typically it is a way to distort reality. Drugs in and of themselves are neither good nor bad; they are inanimate…The most effective way to deal with the drug problem is two-fold. The first is to get to the root of why Americans so desire to distort their reality…That being said…it is imperative that we change the way we educate young people about drug use. Scare tactics and yelling “no” at children is highly ineffective and ultimately dangerous. Providing education about how drugs work and what they could do to you could provide a more realistic illustration for young people.
    2. The United States is taking a “get tough” approach to our current drug problem…Death rates for drugs and alcohol users are still high, our get tough approach is extremely overcrowding prisons, and it is clearly not stopping people from using illegal drugs….drug education would cost lots of money…that could be covered by the tax that we place on the marijuana that is now legal.
    3. The most important aspect of this policy proposal by Dr. Murphy, I believe, is creating a program to understand and treat addicts. Our current social policy created by the War on Drugs only punishes drug addicts/users. Upon release from jail, most go right back to the same environment…and end up right back in jail….There is no middle program (for) reintegration into society. As mentioned by Dr. Murphy, the addiction problem cannot be solved unless social policies are created to eliminate/minimize risk factors…and create a program where addicts are understood and have a reliable support system.
    4. The amount of people they put in jail for minor drug problems…is not helping. With just releasing them, they just go back to what they were doing before. If they send them to programs that would help them get off of the drug….a place where addicts can go to get treatment…they have meetings every day, therapy, doctors there to help with medication…having a class that would teach them…how to live a life sober.
    5. Rehabilitating drug offenders and preparing them for life without drugs is much more beneficial not only to the individual but to society as a whole in terms of people being able to live a productive life and contribute their skills to better the society. Education goes a long way, and taking what Dr. Murphy said, “addiction is a mental ailment that needs to be addressed in a medical manner because of the nature of the disease”…none of these issues are addressed in a prison setting.
    6. Having a good support system is key to treating addiction…addiction is not physical, it is mental. Dr. Murphy mentioned the 4 C’s of addiction… (it) can be treated, but it has to be done the right way. You have to consider the…drug user the drug user’s environment and the drug itself…a consequence of making a drug illegal is that it opens up the black market which can be dangerous.
    7. Rehab must prepare its patients for the realities of the home they’ll be returning to, as well as provide resources to become productive members of society. Education programs…another effort used…despite many efforts…prove to not be very effective. Rather…by focusing on educating individuals on the real scientific evidence of the drugs, they could show the realities…(the drug) would be seen as what it is
    8. Too much emphasis on punishment. Not enough on rehabilitation…if we…were to rise together to alleviate “why” people do drugs in the first place it would decrease demand.
    9. The effectiveness of a policy is based on community support and…there cannot be a divide of “us vs. them” and there is no universal program or fix for all drug use. As Dr. Murphy said “we are what the chemicals in our brain say we are” therefore we must not categorize all drug problems into one, but focus on the culture of the target group and gear it toward the specifics of the group (age, race, gender, social status)…
    10. Education is a major component in designing the proper policy to revise the current policies…identifying the components of proper drug use (medication) and detriment of drug abuse. Being that NSAIDS (OTC) have killed the most individuals in drug use, it is clear that education isn’t nearly as strong as it needs to be.

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