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The Truth about GMO’s

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2 minute read

Each week journalist John Stossel releases another video debunking widely held but incorrect beliefs.  Here’s a big one.

We’ve all seen the growing Organic sections in our local grocery stores.  It’s a free country and that’s perfectly fine.

However as you’ll see in this entertaining and informative short video, this is one subject that really gets John Stossel’s goat.  Stossel is not happy that millions of people feel they’re letting their families down because they can’t afford to buy organic.  He’s also more than miffed that activists are preventing some of the world’s poorest people from getting the food they desperately need.  Watch as Stossel goes toe to toe with the ‘political director’ of the Organic Consumers Association.

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From StosselTV

“Natural” food activists say: Stop eating genetically-modified foods!

They’re wrong. GMO foods are safe. They don’t, as claimed, “cause cancer.” Over the last couple decades, cancer is down and lifespans are up.

In this video I debate the issue with Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association.

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To make sure you see the new weekly video from Stossel TV, sign up here: https://www.johnstossel.com/#subscribe

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John Stossel

Libertarian journalist John Stossel created Stossel TV to explain liberty and free markets to young people. Prior to Stossel TV he hosted a show on Fox Business and co-anchored ABC’s primetime newsmagazine show, 20/20. Stossel’s economic programs have been adapted into teaching kits by a non-profit organization, “Stossel in the Classroom.” High school teachers in American public schools now use the videos to help educate their students on economics and economic freedom. They are seen by more than 12 million students every year. Stossel has received 19 Emmy Awards and has been honored five times for excellence in consumer reporting by the National Press Club. Other honors include the George Polk Award for Outstanding Local Reporting and the George Foster Peabody Award.

 

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Brownstone Institute

WHO IHR Modifications Were Illegally Approved

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From the Brownstone Institute

By ROBERT MALONE   

The 77th meeting of the World Health Assembly concluded Saturday, June 01, 2024. This particular Assembly meeting, the first following the Covid crisis, failed to achieve agreement on the wording or passage of a proposed World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic “treaty,” also referred to as an “agreement.” In parallel to the treaty, the World Health Assembly (in close cooperation with the US HHS/Biden administration) has been working on “updating” the existing (2005) International Health Regulations (IHR) agreement, which historically functioned as a voluntary accord establishing international norms for reporting, managing, and cooperating in matters relating to infectious diseases and infectious disease outbreaks (including “pandemics”).

In blatant disregard for established protocol and procedures, sweeping IHR amendments were prepared behind closed doors, and then both were submitted for consideration and accepted by the World Health Assembly quite literally in the last moments of a meeting that stretched late into Saturday night, the last day of the meeting schedule.

Although the “Article 55” rules and regulations for amending the IHR explicitly require that “the text of any proposed amendment shall be communicated to all States Parties by the Director-General at least four months before the Health Assembly at which it is proposed for consideration,” the requirement of four months for review was disregarded in a rush to produce some tangible deliverable from the Assembly. This hasty and illegal action was taken in direct violation of its own charter, once again demonstrating an arbitrary and capricious disregard of established rules and precedent by the WHO under the leadership of the Director-General.

There was no actual vote to confirm and approve these amendments. According to the WHO, this was achieved by “consensus” among this unelected insider conclave rather than a vote; “Countries agreed by consensus to amend the International Health Regulations, which were last changed in 2005, such as by defining the term “pandemic emergency” and helping developing countries to gain better access to financing and medical products,” a WHO statement reported, continuing that “countries” agreed to complete negotiations on the pandemic accord with the year, “at the latest.”

Representatives from many WHO member nation-states were not in the room, and the ones that were there were encouraged to keep quiet. After the non-vote, there was giddy celebration of this achievement, clearly demonstrating the lack of somber maturity, commitment to both rules and careful diplomatic consensus, and absence of serious intent and purpose warranted by the topic.

This was clearly an insider clique acting unilaterally to circumvent normal process and mirrors a similar process used to confirm the re-appointment of Tedros Ghebreyesus to the Director-General position. This unelected WHO clique of “true believers” clearly signals that it believes itself above any requirements to comply with established international norms and standards, including its own. By their actions you will know them; the giddy arrogance of these actions predicts that WHO decision-making will continue to be arbitrary, capricious, and politicized, and will continue to reflect the will of various insider interest groups (and nation-states) rather than anything even approximating a broad-based international consensus.

Here in the United States, these unilateral actions, backed by an executive branch and bureaucracy that repeatedly demonstrates a deep disdain for the rule of law and the US Constitution, may require that individual States pass legislation to reject the WHO Amendments to IHR based on the illegality of the process and violation of Article 55. Similar discussions are occurring in the UK and across many WHO member states, adding momentum to the emerging WHO-exit movement.

For those not familiar, the current WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is neither a physician nor a trained public health or epidemiology specialist, but rather is an Ethiopian microbiologist, malaria researcher, and politician.

The hastily approved IHR consolidates virtually unchecked authority and power of the Director-General to declare public health emergencies and pandemics as he/she may choose to define them, and thereby to trigger and guide the allocation of global resources as well as a wide range of public health actions and guidances. These activities include recommendations relating to “persons, baggage, cargo, containers, conveyances, goods and postal parcels,” but based on earlier draft language of proposed IHR amendments and the WHO pandemic “accord” are likely to extend to both invasive national surveillance and mandated public health “interventions” such as vaccines and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing and lockdowns. Not to mention the continuing weaponization of public health messaging via censorship of dissenting voices and liberal use of the fear-based tactics known as information or psychological bioterrorism to mobilize public opinion in favor of WHO objectives.

The IHR amendments retain troubling language regarding censorship. These provisions have been buried in Annex 1,A.2.c., which requires State Parties to “develop, strengthen and maintain core capacities…in relation to…surveillance…and risk communication, including addressing misinformation and disinformation.”

The requirement that nations “address” “misinformation and disinformation” is fraught with opportunities for abuse. None of these terms is defined in the document. Does “addressing” it mean censoring it, and possibly punishing those who have offered divergent opinions? We have already seen how doctors and scientists who disagreed with the WHO narrative under Covid-19 were censored for their views – views that turned out to be true. Some who offered protocols not recommended by the WHO even had their licenses to practice medicine threatened or suspended. How much worse will this censorship be if it is baked in as a requirement of the International Health Regulations?

The “surveillance” requirement does not specify what is to be surveilled. The IHR amendments, however, should be read together with the proposed Pandemic Treaty, which the WHO is continuing to negotiate. Article 5 of the most recent draft of the Treaty sets forth the “One Health Approach,” which connects and balances human, animal, plant, and environmental health, giving a pretext for surveillance on all these fronts.

Meanwhile, Article 4: Pandemic Prevention and Public Health Surveillance, states:

The Parties recognize that environmental, climatic, social, anthropogenic [climate change caused by people], and economic factors increase the risk of pandemics and endeavor to identify these factors and take them into consideration in the development and implementation of relevant policies…” Through the “One Health” approach, the WHO is asserting its authority over all aspects of life on earth, all of which are apparently to be surveilled.

Regarding the IHR, Article 35 details the requirements of “Health Documents,” including those in digital format. The system of digital health documents is consistent with, and in my opinion a precursor to, the Digital IDs described by the World Economic Forum. According to the attached WEF Chart, people will need a Digital ID to:

  • Access healthcare insurance and treatment
  • Open bank accounts and carry out online transactions
  • Travel
  • Access Humanitarian Services
  • Shop and conduct business transactions
  • Participate in social media
  • Pay taxes, vote, collect government benefits
  • Own a communication device [such as a cell phone or a computer]

In other words, individuals will need Digital IDs to access almost every aspect of civilized society. All of our actions, taken with the use of Digital IDs, will be tracked and traced. If we step out of line, we can be punished by, for example, being severed from our bank accounts and credit cards – similar to what happened to the Canadian Truckers. Digital IDs are a form of mass surveillance and totalitarian control.

These Digital IDs are currently being rolled out by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the European Union. Most of us will agree that this is not the way forward to make the world safer but rather is a path leading towards a techno-totalitarian hellscape.

To support decision-making, the IHR authorizes the Director-General to appoint an “IHR Expert Roster,” an “Expert Committee” selected from the “IHR Expert Roster,” as well as a “Review Committee.” However, although the committees may make recommendations, the Director-General will have final decision authority in all relevant matters.

To further illustrate the point, the revised IHR directs that “The Director-General shall invite Member States, the United Nations and its specialized agencies and other relevant intergovernmental organizations or nongovernmental organizations in official relations with WHO to designate representatives to attend the Committee sessions. Such representatives may submit memoranda and, with the consent of the Chairperson, make statements on the subjects under discussionThey shall not have the right to vote.”

The approved amendments redefine the definition of a “Pandemic Emergency;” include a newly added emphasis on “equity and solidarity;” direct that independent Nations (“States Parties”) shall assist each other to support local production capacity for research, development, and manufacturing of health products; that equitable access to relevant health products for public health emergencies including pandemics shall be facilitated; and that developed nations shall make available “relevant terms of their research and development agreements for relevant health products related to promoting equitable access to such products during a public health emergency of international concern, including a pandemic emergency.”

The amended IHR also directs that each nation (“States Parties”) shall “develop, strengthen and maintain core capacities” for “preventing, preparing for and responding to public health risks and events,” including in relation to:

  • Surveillance
  • On-site Investigations
  • Laboratory diagnostics, including referral of samples
  • Implementation of control measures
  • Access to health services and health products needed for the response
  • Risk communication, including addressing misinformation and disinformation
  • Logistical assistance

The amended IHR also includes copious new language, terms, and conditions relating to the responsibilities of “States Parties” to perform surveillance and transparent timely reporting of information relating to infectious disease outbreaks. This includes multiple references to information gathering, sharing, and distribution, including the need to counter the distribution of “misinformation and disinformation”.

There is the appearance that some of this new text may be informed by the recent failure of China (PRC/CCP) to provide timely and complete reporting of events and information relating to the initial SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Unfortunately, this failure to inform in a timely manner was not unique. There is a long history of repeated, chronic problems with transparent national reporting of infectious disease outbreaks. A variety of adverse economic and political impacts are associated with infectious disease outbreaks, and this creates a strong incentive for both local politicians and public health officials to minimize initial reporting of unusual infectious disease signals or findings.

The amended IHR frequently refers to “scientific principles as well as the available scientific evidence and other relevant information” as a key factor in guiding decision-making. However, the IHR does not acknowledge the diversity of opinion surrounding what are considered sound and valid “scientific principles” or “scientific evidence,” and there is no indication that the World Health Assembly or the WHO recognizes how readily “scientific principles” and “scientific evidence” were manipulated or otherwise biased during prior public health crises, and the likelihood that this will continue to happen on a regular basis unless reforms designed to respect diversity of opinion and interpretation are implemented. There seems to be a complete lack of self-awareness of the rampant groupthink that chronically characterizes WHO decision-making during both the Covid crisis as well as prior public health events of concern.

Although many of these revisions are generally reasonable and aligned with good and practical international public health norms and actions, and in some cases are greatly improved relative to prior draft language, the recent history of WHO mismanagement and actual WHO spreading and amplification of mis- and disinformation regarding SARS-CoV-2 virology, immunology, and pathophysiology, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions for SARS-CoV-2 raise legitimate concerns about how these words will be interpreted and implemented.

Furthermore, the pattern of repeated arbitrary, capricious, and scientifically unjustifiable decisions regarding Covid and monkeypox suggests that expanding the authority of either the Director-General or the WHO is unwise at this time. Rather, more mature, thoughtful, and prudent evaluation of that recent experience argues for reduced rather than expanded authority, and for a more decentralized, multilateral model for the management of global and regional public health risks and events. The world does not need more condescending authoritarianism from those entrusted to facilitate international cooperation in public health.

Just speaking in terms of best practices, it is clearly inappropriate to rely on administrators with such a vested personal interest in the outcome to be so intimately involved in crafting sweeping international policy changes. This revision process should have been managed by an independent commission of seasoned, objective experts who were carefully vetted to minimize potential conflict of interest.

The hasty willingness to bypass its own charter by unilaterally and arbitrarily jamming these changes through on extremely short notice raises further concerns regarding the reliability, maturity, and competency of the WHO, the World Health Assembly, and the Director-General to provide the calm, steady hand so sorely needed after the mismanaged major public health catastrophe and global trauma which all have experienced over the last four years.

The world, its inhabitants, those who work to provide medical care, and the overall world health enterprise deserve better.

Author

Robert W. Malone is a physician and biochemist. His work focuses on mRNA technology, pharmaceuticals, and drug repurposing research. You can find him at Substack and Gettr

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Addictions

Alberta and opioids III: You can’t always just stop

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Monty Ghosh at Highlevel Diner, May 30.                                                                            Photo: Paul Wells

This is the concluding installment in a series on drugs in Alberta. Previously:

i. “Worse Than I’ve Ever Seen,” June 4

ii. “Alberta’s System Builder,” June 7


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A matter of expectations

Street family

My tour guide for much of my visit to Edmonton was Dr. Monty Ghosh, a clinician who’s on faculty at the University of Calgary and the University of Edmonton. He seems to talk to everybody who works with substance users in Alberta, from his own patients to front-line clinicians to the Alberta government. His relations with the latter go up and down, but he urged me to talk to Marshall Smith, the chief of staff to premier Danielle Smith.

On my first night in Edmonton Ghosh walked me around a neighbourhood that included the George Spady Society  supervised-consumption site, the Hope Mission’s Herb Jamieson Centre, and the Royal Alexandra Hospital, which has a supervised-consumption service on its premises.

A lot of people use the services these places provide. Other people don’t. Shelters in particular are tricky: they’re usually for single people who arrive alone. “The Hope, the Herb, the Navigation Centre, offering the world,” one Edmonton Police Service officer told me. “But all these places have one thing in common: rules.” If you have a spouse or a pet, you want to keep your drug supply or you want to stay close to your “street family” — the community spirit in neighbourhoods like this is striking, and might be surprising to people who prefer to stay away — a shelter’s probably not for you.

Several of the places we visited weren’t ready to welcome us when we showed up unannounced. To say the least, they’re busy. That was the case at Radius Community Health and Healing, an institutional building in a more residential part of the neighbourhood. Radius is a drop-in clinic and, as we’ll see, quite a bit more.

On a sunny weekday afternoon, more than a dozen people stood, sat or lay on the building’s front steps and truncated lawn. One lay on his back, shirtless, not moving visibly. Ghosh asked the man whether he was all right, asked again, finally nudged him. The man stirred, looked around. Ghosh apologized mildly for bothering him, then checked in on two other people who also weren’t moving. They turned out to be all right too.

Francesco Mosaico, Radius’s medical director, was on his way home for the day when we arrived, but we made plans to talk the next day. When I returned, I met Mosaico and Radius’s executive director, Tricia Smith, in her office.

I think it’s important to hear them out, because when drug use becomes the object of political debate, it’s natural to talk as though policy decisions are the main thing keeping people from getting well. This can lead to a lot of blame on one hand, and to excessive optimism on the other. In fact the biggest thing that keeps people from getting well is often the entire sum of their lives until now, compounded by the influence of drugs that are more potent than anything earlier generations had to deal with.


The most complex patients

Radius offers primary care to people “experiencing multiple barriers,” Smith said. That can include homelessness, addiction, severe mental health problems, criminal records. The centre’s team includes 12 family physicians and three psychiatrists. They currently see about 3,000 patients.

Radius has Western Canada’s only non-profit dental clinic. The centre runs a respite program for people who are not sick enough to be in acute care but are too sick to be managing independently on their own. It has a program for pregnant women experiencing homelessness. It runs on a harm-reduction model, so they don’t need to be drug-free to go into the program. It has an interdisciplinary Assertive Community Treatment team to help people with mental-health and substance problems find and stay in market apartments, with frequent assistance. There’s a supervised consumption site in the basement.

“In fact,” Smith said, “we actually have an exemption from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to filter out and keep the most complex patients. The least complex, we refer elsewhere.” I couldn’t get care in Radius if I tried; they’d politely refer me elsewhere. They’re for the people who need the most help.

After my visit, Smith wrote to me to add another program to the list: Kindred House, which for more than 25 yearss has supported women and Trans women sex workers. “The women we see are from age 18 to 50, predominantly Indigenous, have intergenerational trauma, past/current trauma, substance use issues, often houseless or couch surfing,” Smith wrote.

Smith has been at Radius for three and a half years. While I was there, I asked her how work at Radius is going. “It’s going fabulously, honestly,” she said. She arrived early in the COVID pandemic, after eight years in Alberta government departments — which in turn followed 20 years as a Canadian Forces army nurse, including in combat zones. “I’m in the right place,” she said of Radius. “It felt like coming home.”

How come? “The staff, the team, the work, the dedication. It just feels like family. I missed that. Being in the military was a big thing. This work that this group does is just really amazing. The team is amazing and it’s hard, but it’s good work.”

And how’s the workload evolving? “Unfortunately, for this population, the struggles are only increasing, and the number of individuals that are experiencing those challenges is not getting less,” she said. “The workload isn’t going anywhere. It’s getting more difficult.”

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“Especially in the last couple years, I don’t think things have ever been worse for the vulnerable population,” Mosaico, Radius’s medical director, added. The same housing crunch that has made homes less affordable for everyone has put thousands of the most vulnerable on the street. Results: more frequent frostbite or burns from lamps lit to keep from freezing. Body lice. Trauma from watching friends die. And to Mosaico’s astonishment, frequent shigella outbreaks.

“Shigella’s a bacteria that causes torrential bloody diarrhea. It can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics. But if you’re homeless and you don’t have a place to take care of yourself… 70 percent of the cases have had to be hospitalized in the last two years…. I mean, they’re talking about potentially calling it an endemic disease, and it’s a disease of destitution. You see it in refugee camps in developing countries, not in the capital of Alberta, you know?”

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Ten thousand times deadlier

Radius also works closely with the Alberta government to integrate its services with the “recovery-oriented system of care” that I told you about last week. There are two Radius staffers working at the Integrated Care Centre the police set up to replace the old, passive holding cells for overnight detention. There are two more at the Navigation Centre, which steers people toward social and government services. If there’s an Alberta model, they’re part of it. So I was fascinated by the response when I asked my hosts the basic question that sent me to Alberta: Why are so many people dying?

“I think it’s the nature of the drugs,” Mosaico said. “You know, people used to overdose and die. But I’ve been here 17 years. I think in the first 10 or 11 years it wasn’t very common to hear about overdoses by opioids. Every once in a while you’d hear about it, but it wasn’t a daily thing. Whereas now with fentanyl and carfentanil, it’s really dangerous.”

Carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine, 100 times more than fentanyl. The Edmonton Police won’t return stolen cars they recover until they’ve scrubbed them thoroughly, because even trace amounts of these drugs are too dangerous. “We’re finding clients who use methamphetamines and swear up and down they’re not taking opioids,” Mosaico said. “And then we do urine tests and it’s there. We think their dealers are lacing methamphetamine with fentanyl because it increases the addiction.”

The other big thing on his mind, Mosaico said, is that any program to guide users into recovery will bump up against the fact that different people have often lived starkly different lives.


93% 4+

“I don’t know if you’re familiar with Adverse Childhood Experiences — the ACEs study,” Mosaico said. I was, barely, but I needed a refresher.

The original study began in 1985 in San Diego, under Vincent Felitti, who ran an obesity clinic, and Rob Anda from the Centres for Disease Control. (If you want to learn more about the study, this article and this speech on Youtube are good places to start.)

“They surveyed 17,000 people,” Mosaico said. “They found, you know, if people had developmental trauma — so, trauma between the ages of 0 and 18 — and there are 10 different forms of trauma that the study bore out as being detrimental. Things like physical, emotional, sexual abuse; physical, emotional neglect; substance use in the family; untreated mental illness in the family; separation from biological parents; maternal figure being treated violently; and a household member going to jail.

“If those things occurred, you would just tally up the number of types of trauma and you’d get a score out of 10. What they found was, if you scored four or greater, that there seem to be adverse health effects in adulthood. And it wasn’t just the presence of addictions or mental illness. It was lung disease, heart disease, liver disease, certain forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity.” This is almost folk wisdom today, but at the time, Felitti and Anda were amazed at the strength of the correlations between childhood trauma and adult physical and mental health.

The original test has been widely replicated, and it usually finds that the proportion of people in a sample who’ve had four or more adverse childhood experiences is about 12%. So something like every eighth person you meet had a really difficult childhood, and while you can’t predict for individuals from statistical trends, there’s a good chance they’re still living with the fallout.

The team at Radius surveyed a large sample of the population under their care. The prevalence of high-risk ACE scores was about 93 percent, compared to 12 in the general population,” Mosaico said.

“Harvard has a center on the developing child, which has pulled together a lot of the science that explains the neurobiological link between the adverse trauma and the adverse health effects. They talk about limitations in the development of executive function, of decision-making, emotional regulation. Impulse control is underdeveloped, neuroanatomically in the brain. And instead what over-develops is the fight-or-flight response.

“So you’re dealing with a population that, because of their experiences, isn’t the same as the general population . And then that’s compounded by the fact that a high percentage of those clients who have high ACE scores also have traumatic brain injuries from living rough on the street. They also have adult trauma that compounds the childhood trauma. They have [fetal alcohol spectrum disorder], which impairs executive function even further.

“I hear these success stories and I think they’re wonderful, when you hear about people who have a difficult life and then they straighten up. And then, you know, they go back to their jobs and their families and they become leaders in their communities. But this is a population which is over-represented in every aspect of society, negatively as it were. In the prisons and child family welfare services. In the health system, you know, prevalence of HIV, tuberculosis, Hepatitis C, STIs, all that.

“And you look at them and you think, even if they managed to wait, you know, six months to get into an addiction recovery bed, after waiting for weeks to get into detox and they go through the program, what do they go back to? Most of them had to drop out of school. They have criminal records, which makes it hard to get a job. They’re disconnected and estranged from their families. They haven’t learned social skills.

“I had a client who lived in dumpsters for two and a half years. The fact that he just stayed housed — on income support — for the rest of his life was a huge win, right? It was important for his dignity, his quality of life. It’s just a matter of adjusting your expectations of what might actually be realistic.”

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Dr. Larson writes

The idea for these stories goes back to February, when it first became clear to me that 2023 would be Alberta’s worst year for overdose fatalities. I asked the communications team at the University of Calgary for names of people to talk to. Many weeks went by, because sometimes it’s ridiculous how hard it is to extract myself from Ottawa routine. After I published the second article in this series, the one where Marshall Smith showed me all the stuff Alberta is building, I received an email from Dr. Bonnie R. Larson, who’s on faculty at the University of Calgary. She thought I should have talked to her, and she thought I was too credulous in reporting the Alberta government’s side. I asked if I could publish part of her email. Here it is.

What cannot be taken for granted is Mr. Smith’s view that his goals are different, somehow nobler, than those of us on the front line.  Smith paints a picture that front line providers’ priorities are at odds with his own.  His perspective is at once undemocratic, insulting, and arrogant, belittling those who are doing the hard work of keeping people alive every day.  

I will not have Smith speak for me in his suggestion that front liners lack system knowledge and that is why we support harm reduction. This ignores the excellent evidence supporting harm reduction interventions at the population level.  Smith seems to think he knows from whence I “enter this conversation”.  If so, why does he not engage me and my expert colleagues?  Where I “enter this conversation” is at 20 years of working with the affected community and 13 years of post-secondary education.  The only reason I am what Smith likes to dismiss as a “radical harm reduction activist”, is because the UCP, immediately upon taking office, set out to destroy harm reduction in Alberta.  Nobody would have ever needed to fight this soul-destroying battle in the first place if Smith hadn’t put Alberta squarely on its current path of destruction. Yes, we should hope for a better tomorrow but that doesn’t excuse ignoring the past and present.  

I would ask you to think about several additional factors that your analysis appears to ignore, including who actually benefits, in power and wealth, from Smiths’ system of so-called care?  DId you consider the other ways that the UCP policy direction is moving the entire publicly-funded system steadily towards profit?  Gunn (McCullough Centre) was a wonderful non-profit facility that helped many of my patients find their way to recovery from substance use disorders. While I agree that people should not have to pay for treatment, the question remains:  in whose pockets do those tax dollars ultimately land?

You report that Smith indicates that they are “monitoring” the entire system.  Where is the data from that monitoring?  They have had five years now to show some outcomes, but who am I, just a lowly street doctor, to ask for population data?  What I do know is that if deaths begin to decline, it is because so many are already gone.  You should ask to see the data about which Smith so proudly boasts.    

Smith’s entire premise that he is fixing the ‘addiction crisis’ is a fallacy.  Addictions are not increasing.  Deaths by drug poisonings are, however, and Smith’s circus is only making that worse.  Allow me to spell it out for you:  harm reduction addresses the drug poisoning crisis that is, no question, taking a horrific toll in Alberta and nationally.  Smith’s ROSC, in contrast, addresses a figmentary addictions crisis.    

One last tip. Medications used for opioid agonist treatment are not harm reduction, they are treatment.  Nobody here is against treatment or recovery.  But Marshall Smith is against harm reduction.  Why can’t we just have the full spectrum of care???  Polarization is created by politicians to benefit politicians.   

I don’t endorse everything Dr. Larson writes here. The data, or a lot of it, seems to me to be publicly available on the province’s impressive dashboard website. Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate. And indeed, the story the dashboard tells is alarming, which, as I explained in this series’ first instalment, is why I flew west. But Larson’s years of front-line work has earned her, at the very least, a right of rebuttal.


Synthesis

On my last day in Edmonton, I met Monty Ghosh at Highlevel Diner, at the outer edge of the hip Strathcona neighbourhood on the south of the North Saskatchewan River. Highlevel is famous for its cinnamon buns, which, if I’m going to be honest, are noteworthy mostly for being large.

If the Alberta government and its most vociferous critics are thesis and antithesis, Ghosh tries to provide synthesis. He helped design the National Overdose Response Service, or NORS, which provides some of the emergency-response capability supervised consumption sites offer to people who aren’t near such a site or can’t use it for other reasons. He’s been critical of the Alberta government, but both sides keep lines of communication open.

I asked him about diverted safe supply — the idea that pharmaceutical opioids used in safe-supply programs in BC, principally hydromorphone tablets, are being sold or distributed away from their intended use. “I know it happens,” Ghosh said. “We sometimes get clients from British Columbia who come to Alberta to try to escape BC, because they’re looking for a fresh start. They’re looking for support and they’ll tell me themselves that they’ve diverted their safe supply.”

But what are the quantities? Trivial so far, Ghosh maintains. “Have I seen hydromorphone come into our province? Not at all, not yet.” This is the same thing I heard from Warren Driechel, the Edmonton deputy police chief.

Why do people divert their prescribed safe supply anyway? The answer Ghosh gave me was the answer I heard from everyone I asked. “They never used it. It just was not effective. The potency of the hydromorphone that they’re getting was nowhere near touching the fentanyl that they were using. It wasn’t dealing with the cravings, it wasn’t dealing with withdrawals, they felt it was useless. So what did they do? They sold it. They’re incredibly poor, they cannot afford their substance-use concerns and so therefore they supplement with revenue from hydromorphone.”

Before I flew to Edmonton, when Ghosh and I were trying to gauge on the phone what each of us thought of this infernal crisis, he figured out that I was interested in the differences between government policy in British Columbia and Alberta. “I’m not sure you want to hear this,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be bad everywhere.” I said that’s what I think too. Perhaps I surprised him.

I don’t know what happens next. Maybe things just stop getting worse everywhere on their own, for big complex reasons that resist easy analysis. Overdose deaths were lower last year in the United States, the capital of this hellscape, than the year before.

If not… well, we shall see. I wonder what happens in year six or seven of the effort the Alberta government is building. Is there resentment among people in ordinary hospitals and correctional facilities, who don’t have access to bespoke programs and personal attention? Does the ROSC system become bureaucratized after the first generation of administrators moves on?

Or does it start to win converts? David Eby, the NDP premier of British Columbia, has started putting distance between himself and his public-health advisors on legalization and safe supply. A new appointment in BC is being closely watched in Edmonton.

Or, conversely, does the Alberta recovery effort bump up against the limits imposed by the substances involved and by human nature? Reported recovery rates from addiction vary widely, depending in part on how you measure them. This paper puts the rate at less than 30%. If you even manage to double it, that still leaves a large cohort who aren’t getting better. Would their neighbours see them as people who “failed recovery” or “blew their chance?”

I won’t claim to know. I do hope that in the year ahead, more Canadians check their assumptions and stow their cheap certainties. Especially those who aspire to positions of leadership.

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