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War on Drugs Has Done Far More Harm Than Illegal Drugs, Major Report Finds

Many illegal drugs are less harmful than tobacco or alcohol yet seen as more dangerous due to biases.

Elias Marat

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Illegal Drugs

(TMU) — Illegal drugs including cocaine, ecstasy and opiates can potentially be less harmful than tobacco or alcohol yet are seen as dangerous narcotics due to cultural biases and politics rather than actual science, according to a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Calling for a comprehensive review of the international system that classifies drugs, the commission—comprised of 14 former heads of states from countries including Mexico, Colombia, Portugal and New Zealand—blasted the “incoherence and inconsistencies” of laws that cherry-pick the harmful effects of certain substances using “unreliable and scientifically dubious” methods.

The group also described how the scheduling system has propped up a global drug control regime that imposes major costs on society in the form of “collateral damage,” with some substances facing strict controls and others allowed for medical purposes. This has entailed patients in low-to-middle income countries facing surgery without anesthetics, a lack of crucial medicines, and excruciating and painful deaths that were wholly unnecessary and a result of a ban on opioid pain treatment.

In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 83 percent of the global population resides in countries where access to opioid pain relief is either inadequate or nonexistent.

Michel Kazatchkine, a French physician and former head of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said that 75 to 80 percent of the global population lacks access to medicines and “all of the reasons are linked to repression and prohibition-based control systems,” according to the Guardian.

Other consequences include the spread of infectious diseases, higher mortality rates and prisons around the globe that are filled to the brim with drug users.

The group wrote:

“Such drug control policies have resulted in social and economic problems not only for people who use drugs but also for the general population, including health epidemics, prison overcrowding and arbitrary enforcement of drug laws.”

Continuing to criticize the arbitrary and biased application of drug laws, the group wrote:

“This de facto prohibition is arbitrary. the current distinction between legal and illegal substances is not unequivocally based on pharmacological research but in large part on historical and cultural precedents.

It is also distorted by and feeds into morally charged perceptions about a presumed ‘good and evil’ distinction between legal and illegal drugs.”

Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and commission chair, blasted the classification while calling for a “critical review” that centers the WHO, modern scientific research and a criteria that sufficiently takes into account the harm and benefit of substances. Dreifuss said:

“The international system to classify drugs is at the core of the drug control regime – and unfortunately the core is rotten.” 

Dreifuss also noted how some illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis and hashish haven’t been seriously evaluated in 30 years or weren’t evaluated at all, seriously undercutting the legitimacy of prohibitionist approaches.

Former president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos similarly affirmed that drugs should be reclassified. Speaking to journalists in an online briefing on the report, Santos noted that “the scientific basis [of classification] is non-existent.”

Continuing, the former president explained:

“It was a political decision. According to the studies we’ve seen over past years, substances like cannabis are less harmful than alcohol … I come from Colombia, probably the country that has paid the highest price for the war on drugs.”

Instead, the country has been saddled for over 50 years with an unwinnable drug war that causes “more damage, more harm” to the world than practical approaches to regulating the sale and consumption of drugs in a “good way,” he added.

The Global Commission added the “only responsible answer to this complex topic is to regulate the market of illegal drugs, starting by establishing regulations and a new scheduling system adapted to the dangerousness of each drug and based on solid scientific assessments,” in line with the same criteria used for food, medications, and other products that could potentially pose risks to consumer health.

The group added:

“While the international community continues to struggle to find a new consensus, countries should move forward with designing and implementing a more rational policy of scheduling, controlling and regulating psychoactive drugs.”

The group also recommended that milder and less harmful drugs should have restrictions loosened, especially to include “other legitimate uses” such as traditional, religious or social use.

Anand Grover, the former special U.N. rapporteur for health, India, said:

“We need to think of these things with a fresh outlook. We can’t go with the cultural biases of the west.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

Health

Humans May Have Found a Way To Not Only Stop Aging – But To Reverse It as Well

Elias Marat

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Humans have long to reverse the effects of aging and prolong their lives. Whether this was due to a love of power, a love of wealth or simple human anxiety about the loss of youth, tales about immortality can be found in the folk tales of countless cultures.

And while aging is a wholly natural process, humans have always struggled to fight against it – be it through science and medicine or through the search for supposed cures such as the mythical Fountain of Youth.

And now, Israeli scientists have claimed to have figured out a solution not only to the process of biological aging – but to reverse it as well, simply by administering pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.

In a study published Nov. 18 in the peer-reviewed journal Aging, the scientists claim to have showed how aging could be reversed in two key biological clocks in humans related to aging and illness by administering high-pressure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.

When humans grow olders and their cells divide, the sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes – known as telomeres – grow shorter with time. After the telomeres become too short, the cell is unable to replicate and eventually dies.

While telomere shortening can keep rogue cancerous cells from multiplying rapidly, this also results in genetic aging. As a result, geriatric cells that aren’t able to divide –  also known as senescent cells – accumulate throughout our lives, and are one of the key causes of aging.

In the clinical study, 35 people aged 64 or older were given hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOT) for 90 minutes a day, five times a week over the course of three months. Blood samples were collected from subjects prior to the treatment, after after the first and second months of the trial, and two weeks after the trial ended.

The patients didn’t have any lifestyle, diet, or medication changes during the study. However, their blood revealed major increases in the telomere length of their cells and a decrease in the number of their senescent cells.

For the researchers, the results of the study offered proof that the process of aging is reversible.

“Researchers around the world are trying to develop pharmacological and environmental interventions that enable telomere elongation,” Prof. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University told the Jerusalem Post. “Our HBOT protocol was able to achieve this, proving that the aging process can in fact be reversed at the basic cellular-molecular level.”

The groundbreak study, he added, “gives hope and opens the door for a lot of young scientists to target aging as a reversible disease.”

The oxygen treatment also improved subjects’ attention, ability to process information, as well as subjects’ executive functions, the researchers said.

While attempts to halt aging through modifying one’s lifestyle or intensively exercising can provide “some inhibiting effect on telomere shortening”, the hyperbaric oxygen treatment is more effective, said Efrati’s partner at the Shamir Medical Center, Chief Medical Research Officer Amir Hadanny.

“In our study, only three months of HBOT were able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any currently available interventions or lifestyle modifications,” Hadanny said.

The study could open the door to a radical new approach to medical problems and medicine in general.

“Today telomere shortening is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of the biology of aging,” Prof. Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University told the Jerusalem Post. “We are not [just] slowing the decline – we are going backwards in time.”

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‘We Are Going To Have Famines of Biblical Proportions in 2021,’ UN Food Agency Warns

Elias Marat

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The head of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has delivered a stark message to the world: huge populations across the globe are facing severe “famines of biblical proportions” in the near future due to the coronavirus pandemic.

WFP head David Beasley has warned for the past several months that due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and accompanying lockdowns, nations in the developing world are faced with devastating famine and mass starvation unless action is finally taken.

However, with countries in the developed Global North facing their own budget crises and sharp economic downturns due to the ongoing health emergency, funding for the WFP that was previously available to help alleviate hunger and avert global famine won’t be available in 2021.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Beasley noted that his agency’s staffers regularly risk their lives feeding millions of hungry people in refugee camps, conflict zones, and the sites of natural disasters, but the current global crisis makes it important for him  to send “a message to the world that it’s getting worse out there … (and) that our hardest work is yet to come.”

In April, Beasley delivered a similarly urgent message to the U.N. Security Council, where he remarked that despite the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic, the world also stood  “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could see “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within months if critical action wasn’t taken.

And with the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 being awarded to the World Food Program last month for its vital work providing alleviating mass hunger and boosting food security in conflict zones, Beasley has been struggling to use the win to break through the news cycle and remind people of “the travesty that we’re facing around the world.”

“We were able to avert [famine] in 2020,” Beasley said, adding that the WFP needs further funding or “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.” 

The agency is currently hoping that it can get an additional $15 billion for the next year to deal with the growing scope of the crisis.

“If I could get that coupled with our normal money, then we avert famine around the world,” he said. 

World leaders must be prepared for the looming disaster as well as the critical role the WFP plays. As the organization says: “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

In April, Beasley warned that about 135 million people faced “crisis levels of hunger or worse” in 2020 and that the number could rise by 130 million may be pushed to the brink of starvation by next year. However, on Wednesday he told AP that the number of people facing severe, crisis-level hunger had already risen to 270 million.

He added that three dozen countries could experience critical levels of hunger or famine if the WFP isn’t given the funding it requires.

According to a joint analysis by WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, these countries include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Lebanon, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somali, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and Yemen.

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Researchers: Microbots Will Soon Enter Human Colons to Deliver Medical Payloads

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Calling it “rough terrain,” a team of researchers at Purdue University is exploring the insides of a living colon like never before, using microscopic robots the width of a few follicles of hair. Perhaps most incredibly, the anal bots require no batteries and are powered via an external electromagnetic field.

Scientists have long believed the use of microbots (and perhaps someday even nanotechnology) inside the human body could bring about a revolution in medical diagnostic abilities and drug delivery. Mechanical engineers at Purdue believe they have passed a critical first test in this journey by creating tiny robots that are controlled remotely and can efficiently deliver a payload without inflaming any tissue reactions in the notoriously sensitive colonic region.

Biomeedical engineer Luis Solorio described one of the challenges the team faced:

“Moving a robot around the colon is like using the people-walker at an airport to get to a terminal faster. Not only is the floor moving, but also the people around you. In the colon, you have all these fluids and materials that are following along the path, but the robot is moving in the opposite direction. It’s just not an easy voyage.”

Mechanical engineer David Cappelleri, also from Purdue, says the tiny robot is controlled magnetically while being monitored through ultrasound imaging.

“When we apply a rotating external magnetic field to these robots, they rotate just like a car tire would to go over rough terrain. The magnetic field also safely penetrates different types of mediums, which is important for using these robots in the human body.”

So far, the team has experimented only on live anesthetized mice and pig colons. Scaling up could be a challenge, says associate professor Craig Goergen, who points out that while the colon is a good entry point for this type of microscopic robotic research, the terrain can present some tough sledding.

“Moving up to large animals or humans may require dozens of robots, but that also means you can target multiple sites with multiple drug payloads.”

As outlined in the team’s paper, which was published in Micromachines, tests on payload delivery involved the microbots being marked with fluorescein dye in a saline vial; they imitated drug delivery mechanisms by steadily dispatching the dye over a period of time. These tests were conducted outside of the mice and pig colons.

The researchers say the tiny robots are expelled from the body via regular waste elimination. While the research is promising, scientists say coordinating multiple microbots for use inside a human body is still years off. However, the implications for such a procedure are huge.

“From a diagnostic perspective, these microrobots might prevent the need for minimally invasive colonoscopies by helping to collect tissue,” adds Goergen. “Or they could deliver payloads without having to do the prep work that’s needed for traditional colonoscopies.”

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