03/17/13 Robert Newman

Dr. Robert Newman re opiod use by pregnant women, Mathew Pappas patient rights Atty re US Govt hypocrisy to deny cannabis use when it knows it fights cancer + Doug McVay report on Russia scrimping on treatment dollars

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Guest: 
Robert Newman
Organization: 
Doctor
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Century of Lies / March 17, 2013

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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DEAN BECKER: Hi this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies.

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ROBERT NEWMAN: This is Dr. Robert Newman. I’m the physician at the University of Rodchester in New York. I have a Master’s Degree in Public Health. My area of specialty I’m board certified in preventative medicine. I have spent the last 43 years very actively involved in establishing, operating and evaluating some of the largest addiction treatment programs in the world including in New York City where in the early 70s we created a methadone maintenance and an ambulatory detox program. In the course of each year of operation it served some 33,000 patients just in New York City with the New York City Health Department.

I’ve also been an advocate of addiction treatment programs and involved in programs literally around the world. Just for information my day job over the course of some 25+ years was as CEO of a very large hospital in New York City, Beth Israel Medical Center and am founding CEO of a parent corporation of several hospitals including Beth Israel Medical Center.

DEAN BECKER: You’re also currently a spokesman for a group of physicians and other medical experts in regards to this inaccurate reporting on prescription opiate use by pregnant women. Am I correct, sir?

ROBERT NEWMAN: That’s correct except I wouldn’t really call it a spokesman. I, with a lot of support from a lot of colleagues, prepared the statement taking exception to the mischaracterization and just totally inaccurate characterization of the mothers and the babies born to those mothers where either prescription opiate use or illicit opiate use such as heroin because the two are very much related in fact.

DEAN BECKER: It’s been my observation over the years that most of the fallout, the complications of this drug war have to do with bad journalism. Journalists have, once again, taken a situation and blown it way out of proportion in so far as the opiate use by pregnant women. Your response to that, sir.

ROBERT NEWMAN: I think your assessment of the situation is absolutely correct. Part of the problem and the reason it’s so difficult to address the problem is that the media misrepresentation has contributed to a very widespread misunderstanding in the general public regarding opiate use by pregnant women. I should say the opiate use problem in general.

The public misperception then feeds upon the frenzy of a lot of reporters to focus in on what they realize is a concern in the general community which, in turn, reinforces the stereotypes of the misinformation in the community. It’s a problem of reinforcing and helping to further misunderstanding on the part of the public and the part of the media. One feeds off the other.

DEAN BECKER: Some of the media reporting I’ve seen in this regard shows babies crying and somehow the nurses in attendance can tell by the pitch of the cry that somehow the child is suffering from withdrawal, the skin is modeled…somehow they’re able to interpret this. Is there any truth in that?

ROBERT NEWMAN: It happens and when it happens what it reflects is inappropriate or non-existing treatment of withdrawal. If you have this same sort of symptoms that allegedly are observed in babies if you observe that in adults who are dependent on prescription opiates or on heroin the immediate respons would be, “Why don’t they treat these people so they don’t have these symptoms?”

Withdrawal symptoms whether within an adult or a newborn are very readily treated. There is no magic. It doesn’t require brain science. It’s well established for decades how to treat adults and newborns who suffer opiate withdrawal. There is simply no excuse for nurses describing these horror situations of babies who certainly sound like they are suffering and very likely are but the reason they are suffering is not because of some evil deed on the part of the mother during pregnancy but rather an uninformed and misinformed medical management.

DEAN BECKER: Dr. Newman, as a novice, from my perspective I would have thought that the easy cure would be to just diminish the dosage by 10% per day and in a week or 10 days the problem is solved. What your response to that, sir?

ROBERT NEWMAN: That certainly is a simplistic view of a lot of people and I’m afraid a number of professionals. The fact is the highest drug treatment authorities in our country, the substance and abuse mental health administration including the National Institute on Drug Abuse have stated unequivocally that withdrawal of opiates in a dependent pregnant woman can kill the fetus. That is not hyperbole. I’m not exaggerating the words.

The federal government has had for years a pamphlet , 2 page flyer addressed to pregnant opiate dependent women on heroin and/or on prescription opiates. The message in this 2 page pamphlet is methadone can save your baby’s life. That’s what the federal government with all the information available to them has said. Methadone maintenance can save the baby.

Why and how does it save the baby’s life? Because we know unequivocally that withdrawing opiates from someone who’s dependent on it – the mother who’s dependent on it – can have fatal consequences to the fetus.

What might seem reasonable to lay people and even to professionals in fact we know can kill the fetus. Withdrawal can have fatal consequences and as our U.S. government which God knows ain’t soft on drugs or drug users but our federal government has determined that treatment with methadone - more recently there are other medications – can save the baby’s life.

In light of these unequivocal facts (and these are not by people who are advocating their own treatment approaches for their own personal interest) this is the federal government – in light of that that the media can continue to vilify women and label incorrectly the babies is just terribly frustrating.

It’s having, I believe, a lethal impact on some mothers and on some babies.

DEAN BECKER: Why interpret from the media is another attempt to create paranoia, hysteria for the poor addict baby but this parallels very much what they were doing 10 and 20 years ago to the alleged crack baby. There’s a great parallel there. Is there not?

ROBERT NEWMAN: There certainly is a great parallel between the horror stories of the so-called and grossly and tragically mislabeled crack babies and the hysteria in the media that exists today with regard to babies born who have been exposed to opiates during pregnancy – whether legally and appropriately prescribed or misused.

What’s fascinating is that just in the last few years the misinformation that was so prevalent with regard to the so called crack babies has been acknowledged with extraordinary candor, with unusual candor if I may say so by, for instance, the New York Times which not so long ago had an article headlined “Crack babies the epidemic that wasn’t.”

One would think that the recognition of the wrong reporting that the New York Times and virtually every other major paper in the country had with regard with babies from mothers exposed to cocaine – you would have think that they would have been chastised to the point of being more careful in reporting on the situation about babies born to mothers who during pregnancy had used whether prescription drugs, whether appropriately prescribed, or misused illicit opiates. Apparently the media has learned nothing from its own acknowledged mistakes in the past.

DEAN BECKER: It is something, isn’t it? It’s like the tide – it drags back in the same old sludge each time.

We’re speaking with Dr. Robert Newman. He’s based at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Doctor, you are aligned with a rather prestigious group of other doctors and scientists who are objecting to this failure of the news reporters. Am I correct, sir?

ROBERT NEWMAN: That’s correct. The open letter that we prepared and just released really reflects the frustration and I really have to say the anger that we had treatable condition – treatable for the mother and when there’s need for evidence in the baby we had a condition that could be treated very, very well with life-saving results and that is not hyperbole – I’m talking about saving lives of mothers and saving lives of babies and because of misinformation conveyed by the media and wrong impressions reinforced by the media the barriers to getting treatment are raised higher and higher because nothing in my experience and estimation is a greater barrier to women that need help and could be helped than this type of stigmatization.

The women know that there is so much hostility directed at them for having what people in authority know is a medical condition – not a bad habit. But knowing how they are vilified is one of the major reasons that women who are pregnant and opiate dependent are very reluctant to seek care. They know they are going to be stigmatized by neighbors, by society, by the media and by child protective agencies and by prosecutors.

The misinformation is a major issue because it likely increases the problem and the consequences of the problem of drug use and drug dependency. The irony is this is a problem that can be treated and treated very well.

If I may just add one other thing. You mentioned the tide coming and the tide going out. I’m afraid the tide has been coming in more than it’s been going out. Just to underscore that this misreported and fanning the flames of misinformation…this is not new and it goes far beyond the cocaine and the so called crack babies.

In 1973, exactly 40 years ago, there was a Geraldo Rivera special TV show with the title, “The littlest junkie – drug addicted infants.” That power story which was just a total misrepresentation and fabrication was shown 35 years later in 2008. And where was it shown?! It was shown at the 11 th National Mother/Baby Nurses Conference.

So what this grossly inaccurate film vilified mothers, labeling babies totally incorrectly as continued to fan this fire of misinformation right up to the present time. I just happened to have been online today and I checked out “The littlest junkie” and for a lousy $40 you can buy this God awful film today.

So this is not new. This is a major, major problem of misinformation, false reporting with great, great harm that’s been going on for decades.

DEAN BECKER: As you say this “Littlest junkie” story has been recycled and positioned, once again, in the mind of that nurses’ organization and allowed to recycle and create this new wave of hysteria again, right?

ROBERT NEWMAN: Let me just say I have to correct a bit. It is currently being sold for $40 under the title, “The littlest junkie – drug addicted infants.” When this film first came out in 1973 (and it’s won all kinds of awards) the title by Geraldo Rivera was “The littlest junkie: a children’s story.”

It’s just shameful.

DEAN BECKER: And this is representative of how the drug war just continues to roll along.

Dr. Newman, is there a website you would like to share with the listeners?

ROBERT NEWMAN: The easiest thing is to refer them to the real authority of this field as it relates to pregnancy and babies born from whatever circumstance have had exposure to drugs. That agency is National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). They are a superb organization that champions the cause of mother and baby and I want to stress (unlike what you would surmise from the news reporting) this is not a problem where the mother’s interest are pitted against the baby’s interest.

In fact, what is good for the mother is good for the baby. What is good for the baby is good for the mother. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women champions the causes of both. They can be Googled and anybody who is interested will find the contact information. They really are a wonderful group – very, very knowledgeable in this field and willing to provide information and help to anyone who requests it.

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DOUG McVAY: Careful what you ask for.

Russia's drug control service recently announced that its plans for that nation's drug treatment system are going to cost about 25 billion rubles a year. That's just over 800 million US dollars for a nation of 141 million people.

The gap between need and capacity – the so-called treatment gap – is wide in Russia. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the annual prevalence of heroin use there is 1.4 percent. In contrast the US, a nation of nearly 314 million people, has a past-year prevalence of heroin use of 0.2 percent, and our federal government alone spends some 9 billion dollars a year on treatment.

According to a State Department report issued in early March of this year, quote:

“At present, there exist only four state-run and 70 non-governmental organization (NGO) centers for rehabilitation of drug addicts. The few government-supported drug addiction treatment programs that do exist are generally ineffective, with high rates of recidivism.”

End quote. In addition, the State report notes that there are 40 faith-based treatment centers run by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Awful numbers, and they aren't the worst part. The State Department report goes on to say, quote:

“Most drug replacement therapies, such as methadone, are illegal in Russia, although treatment centers in St. Petersburg and Orenburg are implementing a few new models of cognitive therapy which expand the breadth of substance abuse programs and rehabilitation.”

End quote.

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Ruth Dreifuss of the Global Commission on Drug Policy wrote, quote:

“Late last year, despite the evidence before it, the U.N. Committee against Torture failed to condemn the widespread abuse of people who use drugs in the Russian Federation. In Russia, drug users are routinely cramped into large numbers in one room in woeful conditions, with inadequate food, often tied to beds for periods of up to 24 hours. Those singled out as troublemakers are injected with haloperidol, which causes muscular spasms and spinal pain, and often are tortured and beaten to force confessions. Requests for medical assistance often results in more beatings.”

End quote.

In the US, drug policy reformers often repeat the mantra “Treatment on demand.” Yet in much of the world, that is not something for which anyone would wish. All treatment is not created equal. Substance abuse treatment is a science. Policies should be based on data and research, not bias and prejudice.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

This has been a production of the Drug Truth Network, online at drug truth dot net.

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DEAN BECKER: In a recent report the National Cancer Institute, part of the federal government’s National Institute of Health (NIH), stated that marijuana “inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cell lines.”

The same report shows marijuana slows or stops the growth of certain lung cancer cells and suggested that marijuana may provide risk reduction and treatment of colo-rectal cancer.

With that I want to introduce our guest. He’s the patient’s rights attorney, Mathew Pappas. Your response to that, sir?

MATHEW PAPPAS: I think that the fact that we have got a federal government entity, an agency that’s funded by the federal government finding that there are anti-cancer and anti-tumor qualities to cannabis is an important step in providing that these patients in the United States, 19 jurisdictions, who have medical marijuana laws should be able to, without federal interference, have access to that medication.

DEAN BECKER: You know this report was issued by the Globe and now it’s up there by NBC.com. I think this kind of shows a recognition, at last, of much of this truth as it’s being brought forward. Your response, Mr. Pappas.

MATHEW PAPPAS: I would agree. The fact that for years the federal government has claimed there’s no medical value to marijuana that position has now clearly been wrong. Had there been appropriate research conducted prior to just the last few years I think there would have been a number of benefits realized a long time ago and people may have been able to forgo the deaths of individuals or slow those deaths from cancer and other diseases had the government instead of simply making the conclusion that marijuana has no medical value looked into the medication.

Now it’s not just only breast cancer and those cells and the potential protection against colorectal cancer but there are other head and neck squamous cell carcinoma – another study indicating that there is reduction in tumor size when treated with cannabis.

It really is a time in which, finally, the truth is being made available to people - amazingly enough by the federal government not by some third party or foreign country but by our own Cancer Institute here in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: I don’t have it in front of me but one government agency has actually patented certain properties contained in the marijuana plant I guess on our behalf though they have failed to release it to the public. Your response there…the hypocrisy involved.

MATHEW PAPPAS: Cancer affects so many people in this country and not just cancer but there are other conditions in which cannabis is effective. The hypocrisy is that to have the federal government in a position where it can say to the American people, American companies that it can’t conduct research which has been their status quo for 30 or 40 years since the Federal Controlled Substance Act was enacted is difficult to rectify that them now going out based on their research and patenting these properties of cannabis and cannabinoids that are found in the plant. It’s very disturbing.

DEAN BECKER: Much of this information has been available for decades if people were permitted to do further investigation. I guess what I’d like to point out is that it’s being brought home. It’s being brought to every neighborhood, to every family the recognition that cannabis does, indeed, help certain people.

I want to read again from that report that’s up there on NBC.com:

“Cities that ban dispensaries are denying patients the ability to obtain the medicine the federal government’s National Institute of Health says fights cancer and they are doing it with the Obama administration’s help.

“Recently the city of Los Angeles repealed its ban of medical marijuana collectives after Bill Rosendal, a member of its city council diagnosed with cancer and prescribed medical marijuana, said to fellow council members about the ban ‘You want to kill me?! You want to throw me under the bus?!’”

It is being brought home, isn’t it?

MATHEW PAPPAS: It certainly is. It is sad that there remains stereotypes about marijuana that have been proffered through what I would call the “Reefer Madness” propaganda that was out there for such a long time. It’s sad that that continues to plague patients who are suffering from cancer, AIDS, even insomnia…

Interestingly I had heard somebody similar to Mr. Rosendal’s comments to his fellow city council members in Los Angeles. It’s probably comments made after him as to why they’re having a ban but comments made that some people have doctor prescriptions for cannabis for insomnia. You know the fact is insomnia is a big problem for those people who have it in our country. There are several drugs prescribed for that which have severe negative side effects.

The fact that cannabis which has never led to a recorded death by an individual by overdose in its 3,000 year of being used medicinally - that is something the Obama administration profers as only available for cancer or AIDS. It’s statement on the website comments on how only a certain percentage of cannabis patients are using it for cancer is ludicrous because these other more dangerous drugs that have been prescribed by doctors – these chemical drugs – are regularly leading to deaths and physical and mental harm to people where if folks knew the reality – like Bill Rosendal – they would much rather, I think, have cannabis available instead of those other drugs.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Mr. Mathew Pappas. He’s a patient right’s attorney.

Sir, we’re going to close this out but what have I left out? What would you like to inform the public about?

MATHEW PAPPAS: I don’t want to caution the public but I think in any of these issues that arise where there are stereotypes made on late night TV about the munchies and decades ago recreational use of cannabis – it is, for the patients, for the folks like Marla James, people in wheelchairs that suffer and even for those who don’t appear to have a condition or appear to be disabled but who are – it is inappropriate to lump them into the category of people who are using a drug illegally.

There are substantial benefits which we see through the NCI report and other reports that I referenced in my other talks with people that show there is significant value to medical cannabis. I think that is important for the public to recognize and to think outside the box if there is a family member or somebody who is suffering that not to look down on them or make it negative in regards of their use of medical cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Is there a website you would like to point folks toward?

MATHEW PAPPAS: Reviewing that report by the National Cancer Institute is quite insightful because it is clear in that report that there are number of positive benefits. That report is objective done by health care professionals. I think it shows that there is a benefit.

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DEAN BECKER: The drug war is a scam, has no basis in reality. Please do your part to end this madness. Prohibido istac evilesco!

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For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org