A recent alert from the CEnter for Substance Abuse Research presented a snippet of data from a survey on attitudes towards health care services for addiction. I tracked back to the original survey for some additional data and was pleasantly surprised to find majorities in favor of improving health care services for the drug addicted in the US.
Archive for the 'Science Politics' category
Abel Pharmboy has re-posted a blog entry he first published in Dec 2005 entitled Rave drug testing - public benefit?.
Sounds like a good thing to me: your kid is at a rave party and wants to experiment with some substance that you took blindly 30 years ago without thinking about twice. Fortunately, the party has a booth staffed by a staff of profs and grad students who are willing to anonymously run a sample of your stash through a Bio-Rad HPLC that has a library of comparative chromatograms for over 1000 psychoactive compounds.
I"ve been following the doings of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) off and on. First there was the announcement of Gil Kerlikowske as the new Drug Czar, which pointed to a considerably more relaxed, harm-reduction type of approach to drug policy from Obama. Next I cam to the realization that Obama had reduced the Drug Czar from a Cabinet level position to something much lesser.
Checking out the ONDCP site today, I noticed a link in their policy news section:
President Obama Addresses Marijuana Legalization during Virtual Town Hall Meeting
The trial run of Open for Questions at the White House wrapped up with more than 3,606,000 total votes, and the President answered several of the most popular questions. During the meeting the President addressed marijuana legalization:
The latest round of scientists being informed, rudely, that the political process does not march in lockstep with scientific analysis or information hails from the U.K. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was first established under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Under this Act drugs are to be classified as A, B or C category for harm with "A" being the most harmful category. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, "Ecstasy") is in the most harmful category.
The unfortunately named David Nutt, Ph.D., Professor of Psychopharmacology, Univ. of Bristol and current chair of the Advisory Council, believes that MDMA should be downgraded to a lesser harm category. He has issued opinion pieces comparing MDMA's propensity for causing harm favorably with alcohol and waxed enthusiastic about the current clinical trials. This was all well and good but what really got him into trouble was his attempt at the absurdist ploy.
During the early speculation (my brief pre-take) the name of Jim Ramsted (TierneyLab take) was raised as possbile head of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Ramsted, a Republican Congressman had a record of opposing needle-exchange programs and medical marijuana. Now Obama has apparently settled on R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Seattle Chief of Police.
President Barack Obama has selected Seattle's police chief to be the nation's next drug czar, an administration official said Thursday.
Gil Kerlikowske will lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position that has in past administrations been a Cabinet-level post, according to an official who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
The official did not know if the position would be a Cabinet post, but said its status would become clear when Kerlikowske was announced. The official did not know when the appointment would be announced.
It's been a rough patch over the past two or three years for many NIH-funded research programs. This is not news. The NIH budget flatlines, combined with inflation in the cost of doing biomedical research (BRDPI is a well understood acronym by now), resulted in a budget that undoubled the doubling period. The growth in the research infrastructure that was facilitated by the doubling of the NIH budget had to be pared back. Painfully.
In many ways we are starting to partially adjust. PIs have closed or slimmed their shops. Departed all-soft-money jobs for lower profile institutions with hard money. Left for industry. Decreased the size of their labs. The NIH grant pressure has (seemingly) slackened a bit. Whether because of the reduced demand, because NIH ICs finally got their houses in order and smoothed the payout stream or because some of the 5yr commitments from the end of the doubling finally started to subside I don't know. Things seem ever so slightly better in the past 6-9 mo.
And now, the other shoe is falling. The local Universities are going broke and putting another squeeze on the research scientists.
Congressmen serving on committees dealing with aspects of research...are often well disposed toward support of scientific research...they cannot afford...to become vulnerable. They must take into account tides of public opinion.
As a partisan document, the article is a triumph. Research is confused with development..downgraded by citation of examples likely to seem ridiculous to the reader and by skillful choice of guilt-connoting words--such phrases as ..."sprawling research program"..."lucrative contracts"...."getting fat at the public trough".
and it just gets worse...
With the announcement that Tom Daschle has been selected as the Obama administration's Secretary of Health and Human Services speculation about the down market appointments has accelerated. For this audience, of course, everyone is nattering on about the next Director of the NIH. My nattering sources are moving in the direction of Elizabeth Nabel, M.D. current Director of NHLBI, but that's just vague speculation.
One of my correspondents reminded me of a non-HHS appointment that is VERY important for NIDA funded scientists and indeed everyone interested in drug abuse issues.
Who will be the next Drug Czar?
Since many of our US readers are feeling jazzed about politics right about now, it is a good time to discuss Talking Points. You, DearReader, whether in the biomedical science biz or merely interested in some aspect of biomedical science, are the first line of attack in advocating for the continued health of our federally funded science enterprises. As we've all learned over the past 8 or even 16 years of US politics, crafting and honing messages to convey essential themes is critical to political success. Generating a mantra-chant and drumbeat of lemming feet on a consistent and limited set of bullet point topics is the way to cut through the noise and transmit the message. Call it framing or Talking Points or whatever you like.
I have a suggestion for how scientists may wish to approach their CongressCritters.