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How the way we talk about addiction can make it harder for people to recover

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Amanda Dick, who’s being treated for drug use, says she might have got help sooner if not for the stigma of being labelled an “addict.”

“It makes you feel like a stereotype … stealing, crime, lying — all sorts of things,” said Dick, 36, of Brampton, Ont.

Many medical professionals agree that the language around addiction can affect a person’s recovery, and there is a push to adopt terms that are less dismissive and more human.

Dick was in her mid-20s, working full-time as a medical administrator and living with her mother, when she began experimenting with cocaine and heroin. She became ill and thought she had the flu, until a friend told her she was experiencing symptoms of withdrawal.

“At that point I was absolutely terrified that anyone would ever find out,” she said.

“It’s still very shameful, and I think a lot of people are very hesitant to seek help and treatments because there’s this perception that you’re a bad person.”

Language changes perception

A recent U.S. study found that terms like “opioid addict” and “substance abuser” were strongly associated with “negative explicit bias,” and concluded they should not be used by either the medical community or the general public.

Language is an important purveyor of social stigma, said Kenneth Tupper, of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

“The term ‘addict’ represents people who have lost control, who are morally blameworthy for the problems they are suffering from … and perhaps don’t deserve the full compassion of our health-care system.”

Kenneth Tupper, of the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, doesn’t like the term ‘addict’ because it suggests people are ‘morally blameworthy’ for their problems. (CBC)

Tupper said terms such as “drug abuse” or “drug abuser” dehumanize people who are suffering.

“Child abuse, spousal abuse, animal abuse, elder abuse — in each case the thing in front of the word abuse is who or what is being harmed. But when it comes to drug abuse, who or what is being harmed? Certainly not the drugs. They are inanimate objects.”

Tupper said shifting language can help alter people’s perceptions of marginalized groups, citing as examples how our terminology has changed with respect to Indigenous people, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ2 community.

“It is entirely possible that in the future our children or grandchildren are going to look back and be aghast at how we have treated people who use drugs,” he said.

Medical professionals are trying to lead the way with language that puts the emphasis on people.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto said most physicians and nurses no longer use words like “addict,” “abuser” and “clean.” Instead, they’re treating “patients” with “a substance use disorder” and informing them of “positive or negative” toxicology test results. 

Health Canada, too, supports changing the language of substance use.

“When people who use drugs meet stigma in the health system, it reduces the quality of care they receive. It also makes the person less likely to follow through on a treatment program, out of fear they will face stigma again,” the federal health agency says on its website.

“Stigma prevents people who use drugs from receiving the help they need. It can also prevent the people who use drugs and their loved ones from seeking the help they need.”

But changing the larger conversation around addiction is much harder.

Sandee, who asked that CBC News not use her last name, said people judge one another — and themselves — when it comes to substance use disorders. She said she started using drugs at age 13 and attempted suicide at 20, which landed her in a psychiatric hospital.

“I had no self-worth. I had no self-respect and I had no self-love. So those were some of the tools that I learned how to acquire.”

Treat addiction as an illness

Now in her 50s, Sandee says she hasn’t touched alcohol or any illegal substance in more than 30 years.

She said addiction is a disease that chemically alters the brain, but someone who is diagnosed with addiction isn’t treated the same way as someone diagnosed with cancer, especially if they relapse.

“People see it as: What did you do wrong? What have you not done right?” she said. “Whereas somebody with cancer, we put the pink T-shirts back on or we would do the walkathons…. I find that very demoralizing.”

Sandee feels there can only be real change for people struggling with a substance use disorder if there is widespread acceptance that addiction and relapsing are part of the illness and not just a bad choice.

“I think that society needs to recognize that the people that they’re stigmatizing could be their neighbour, could be their co-worker and could be their child. If we want people to find recovery, if we really buy into the belief that this is an illness, then we need to treat it as such.”

Dick said it has taken her years, but she is nearing the end of her treatments for addiction.

Her advice to anyone who feels they may be suffering from addiction: “Focus on getting better and just ignore what any other person said, or what you imagined they could be saying, because your health and your life is the most important thing.”

She said she hopes her speaking openly might inspire one person to reach out and get help sooner than she did.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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