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The past two posts have explored the possible adverse effects of two drugs, Eszoplicone (a sleeping tablet) and Nortriptyline (an antidepressant sometimes prescribed for smoking cessation).

Both of these — as are countless others — strong medications which need to be administered and taken with care.

A third medication, the subject of today’s post, is Zolpidem which caught my attention when I read this comment from one of Karl ‘Market Ticker’ Denninger’s posts on gun control and psychotropic drugs.

The man discusses Halcion, a popular sleeping aid available on prescription. Although its active ingredient is Triazolam, a benzodiazepine, it got me looking for a few other sleeping tablet descriptions.  It’s odd how different active ingredients can produce similar results.

Erbo, Denninger’s commenter, says (emphases in the original):

My ex-wife told me a story about a bad experience she had before we met. She had (and continues to have) really bad insomnia. A doctor prescribed Halcion. While she was on this medicine, she beat the crap out of her then-husband, and afterwards, had no memory of having done so. The only way she knew about it was that her husband, bruised and with a bloody nose, told her what had happened. (Also note: She was decidedly older than 24 at the time of this incident.)

I’m staying away from any and all psychotropic drugs, thank you. (And that includes marijuana, Colorado law notwithstanding.)

The reference to ‘older than 24’ at the time refers to the popular idea in pharma and medical circles that any adverse effects are much less severe in adults over that age.

If you or your loved ones are contemplating psychotropic drugs, please ensure that you or they ask the doctor all possible questions about side effects. Reading the advisory with the tablets or an online search is also indispensable. The symptoms can be physical as well as psychological.

Having read the following, as with Eszoplicone, I do wonder whether a mug of Horlicks wouldn’t be a better remedy for insomnia.

The following excerpted information on Zolpidem comes from Drugs.com (emphases mine):

Zolpidem may cause a severe allergic reaction. Stop taking zolpidem and Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction while taking zolpidem: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: depression, anxiety, aggression, agitation, confusion, unusual thoughts, hallucinations, memory problems, changes in personality, risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger, or thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself.

Stop using zolpidem and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effects:

  • chest pain, fast or irregular heartbeat, feeling short of breath;
  • trouble breathing or swallowing; or
  • feeling like you might pass out …

General

In general, zolpidem is well-tolerated and causes little or no residual daytime effects in most young adult volunteers. Additionally, zolpidem does not significantly alter sleep architecture at recommended doses …

Nervous system

Chronic use in high doses and subsequent withdrawal may induce grand mal seizures. Cases of falls have been reported in elderly patients.

Nervous system side effects most frequently have included visual disturbances, ataxia, and dizziness. Headache, drugged feeling, confusion, anterograde amnesia, excessive sedation, lightheadedness, delirium, nightmares, hallucinations, nervousness, and agitation have also been reported.

Other

Other side effects including tolerance to the pharmacologic effects of zolpidem have been reported rarely. Withdrawal symptoms after either abrupt cessation or fast tapering may occur. Withdrawal symptoms may include agitation, restlessness, anxiety, depression, insomnia, tremor, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and sweating.

Other side effects associated with the oral spray have included dry mouth.

A case of sleep driving has also been reported.

Psychiatric

Psychiatric side effects including cases of psychotic reactions have been reported in association with zolpidem therapy ...

There is more information at the link.

After reading this, I’d rather be sleepless than run the risk of causing harm to myself or others — especially if I couldn’t remember the incident afterward.

Prescription drugs are far from foolproof and a variety of reactions are possible. Always be aware of what you are taking and what the side effects are.

More on prescription drugs and gun control next week.

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Over the years, I’ve come across several women who ask their doctor to prescribe them sleeping tablets.

None of them was happy with the result. Admittedly, my number in question is infinitesimal to those whom Big Pharma have studied and on whom they tested their medication.

Nonetheless, wouldn’t you have thought I’d have found a majority of friends and ex-colleagues who were happy with the results?

None of these ladies ever said how rested or relaxed they were. Most said they’d felt they’d been hit with a sledgehammer the night before or couldn’t wake up or had problems driving into work because they were so … sleepy.

Today’s side effect listing is for eszoplicone, which is the active ingredient in one prescription sleeping tablet, Lunesta. N.B.: Not all of the following apply specifically to Lunesta, although they do to eszoplicone.

Emphases mine in the excerpts below:

Lunesta is a sedative, also called a hypnotic. It affects chemicals in your brain that may become unbalanced and cause sleep problems (insomnia) …

Lunesta may cause a severe allergic reaction. Stop taking Lunesta and get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Lunesta will make you fall asleep. Never take this medication during your normal waking hours, unless you have at least 8 hours to dedicate to sleeping.

Some people using this medicine have engaged in activity such as driving, eating, or making phone calls and later having no memory of the activity. If this happens to you, stop taking Lunesta and talk with your doctor about another treatment for your sleep disorder.

Lunesta can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking the medication. Until you know how this medication will affect you during waking hours, be careful if you drive, operate machinery, pilot an airplane, or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert. Do not drink alcohol while you are taking this medication. It can increase some of the side effects of Lunesta, including drowsiness. Lunesta may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Lunesta should never be shared with another person, especially someone who has a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

You may have withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking this medication after taking it over several days in a row. Do not stop taking Lunesta suddenly without first talking to your doctor. You may need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely.

Now onto the eszoplicone side effects page, not all of which pertain to Lunesta:

Applies to eszopiclone: oral tablet

Eszopiclone may cause a severe allergic reaction. Stop taking eszopiclone (the active ingredient contained in Lunesta) and Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction while taking eszopiclone: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using eszopiclone and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • aggression, agitation, changes in behavior;
  • thoughts of hurting yourself; or
  • hallucinations (hearing or seeing things).

Less serious side effects of eszopiclone may include:

  • day-time drowsiness, dizziness, “hangover” feeling;
  • problems with memory or concentration;
  • anxiety, depression, nervous feeling;
  • headache;
  • nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, constipation;
  • dry mouth;
  • unusual or unpleasant taste in your mouth; or
  • mild skin rash.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect …

Agitation, apathy, emotional lability, hostility, hypertonia, hypesthesia, incoordination, insomnia, memory impairment, neurosis, nystagmus, paresthesia, decreased reflexes, abnormal thinking (mainly difficulty concentrating), and vertigo have been reported infrequently. Abnormal gait, euphoria, hyperesthesia, hypokinesia, neuritis, neuropathy, stupor and tremor have been reported rarely.

My advice? Buy tablets over the counter (mind over matter). Better yet, get plenty of water during the day (hydration helps to aid sleep) and, if necessary, have a small amount of carbohydrate (e.g. biscuit) with a cup of warm milk or similar bedtime drink (e.g. Horlicks).

I’m no doctor, but anything that’s going to raise the emotions, distort your functions or put you into a stupor during the day cannot be safe for you or other people. Take this medication at your own risk.

Furthermore, sleeping tablets will not resolve underlying issues, be they relationships or financial matters.

Nortriptyline is an antidepressant which is being trialled in prisons in order to reduce the number of inmates who smoke tobacco.

It appears that Nortriptyline was not originally intended as a smoking cessation drug, although studies are being conducted for that indication (purpose).

From my fellow blogger, Belinda at Freedom-2-Choose Scotland (emphases mine):

Who is surprised? What struck me about this story was that the drug in question, Nortryptiline, ‘is not FDA-approved for smoking cessation but often is used for that purpose’. That it does not work for smoking cessation is not terribly surprising, as no interventions seem to have a long term success rate of more than about 5 per cent.

We know that the prison population is given drugs for smoking cessation that are not approved for this purpose. Are the prisoners informed that the drugs they are on are not licensed for this purpose?

Following the link to the Nortriptyline warnings, which Belinda included in her post, we find this drug does much that ordinary cigarettes do not — what a great substitute (sarcasm alert):

Nortriptyline is in a group of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants. It affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced.

Nortriptyline is used to treat symptoms of depression.

Nortriptyline may also be used for other purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Do not use nortriptyline if you have recently had a heart attack, or if you have used an MAO inhibitor such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), rasagiline (Azilect), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam), or tranylcypromine (Parnate) within the past 14 days.

You may have thoughts about suicide when you first start taking an antidepressant such as nortriptyline, especially if you are younger than 24 years old. Your doctor will need to check you at regular visits for at least the first 12 weeks of treatment.

Call your doctor at once if you have any new or worsening symptoms such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself …

Before taking nortriptyline, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have:

  • heart disease;
  • a history of heart attack, stroke, or seizures;
  • bipolar disorder (manic-depression);
  • schizophrenia or other mental illness;
  • diabetes (nortriptyline may raise or lower blood sugar);
  • overactive thyroid;
  • glaucoma; or
  • problems with urination.

This medication may be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. It is not known whether nortriptyline passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Older adults may be more likely to have side effects from this medication.

Do not give this medication to anyone under 18 years old without the advice of a doctor …

Do not stop using nortriptyline without first talking to your doctor. You may need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely. Stopping this medication suddenly could cause you to have unpleasant side effects. It may take a few weeks of using this medicine before your symptoms improve. For best results, keep using the medication as directed. Talk with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve during treatment with nortriptyline …

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of this medicine. An overdose of nortriptyline can be fatal.

Overdose symptoms may include extreme drowsiness, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, blurred vision, vomiting, muscle stiffness, feeling hot or cold, fainting, seizure (convulsions), or coma.

Avoid drinking alcohol. It can cause dangerous side effects when taken together with nortriptyline.

Avoid using other medicines that make you sleepy (such as cold medicine, pain medication, muscle relaxers, medicine for seizures, or other antidepressants)

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice may interact with nortriptyline. Discuss the use of grapefruit products with your doctor before increasing or decreasing the amount of grapefruit products in your diet.

Nortriptyline can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert. Avoid exposure to sunlight

Wow, all that for smoking cessation in prison? I’d hope that prison governors would punt on greater health with a pack of 20 cigarettes for their inmates instead.

I’d categorize Nortriptyline with Champix/Chantix and Zyban, both of which have many of the same side effects.

Last week I mentioned that I’d been closely reading Karl Denninger’s Market Ticker for the latest news.

After the Connecticut killings in December, Denninger featured several anti-gun control posts which have generated much debate amongst his readership.  He and his readers would like the debate opened up to understanding what role psychotropic drugs play in these mass murders.

Much of what is in my posts this week comes from Denninger and his readers. As we are venturing into the dark art of psychotropic drugs, it seems only fair to begin with an account of how drug trials are conducted in the United States.

Some of this information will be new, some of it won’t be. Archerymom, one of Denninger’s readers, has worked in this field for a quarter-century. She describes the process (emphases mine below):

For anyone who might be interested and doesn’t already know how the clinical trial process works – I have worked in the area of clinical trials – through project management, monitoring and report writing, for the past 24 years. And knowing how the process works – I diligently research on my own before I agree to take any “newly marketed” medication or even give my children medications.A pharmaceutical company that has a drug that has been tested through bench research and is believed to show clinical benefit can request approval through the FDA to begin human clinical trials. These human clinical trials are done in 4 phases:

Phase I: This is the first time the drug is introduced to man. It is almost without fail conducted in a very small sampling of healthy, male volunteers, usually at an Inpatient Phase I facility. Many of these facilities are located in college towns, because volunteers are paid for agreeing to participate in these trials. These trials can often require the volunteer to stay full-time at the facility for a month or more – the purpose of this Phase I trial is to try to find out all they can about the side effects, half-life and elimination profile, etc. of the drug using the dosages they assume will be effective once in the actual patient population. Sometimes the drug is compared to placebo during these trials. Blood draws are often completed on these volunteers hourly to establish how the drug is metabolized. Urinalysis is frequently done, food and drink is monitored, etc. to try to get a complete picture of how the drug “acts” in a “normal, healthy person”.

Phase II: If Phase I shows promise of relative safety, they then move on to Phase II trials. This is still conducted in only a small sampling – but in actual patients for whom the drug is intended this time. Again, the primary purpose of this trial is to get a picture of the side effect profile, how the drug is metabolized, and to determine the optimal dose ranges.

Phase III: If Phase II shows promise and is continuing to show relative safety, they move on to Phase III trials. These are usually large-scale trials, conducted across the US and sometimes internationally, to get a larger sampling of how the drug behaves in the patients who will be taking it. Large-scale usually means several hundred to a few thousand or so patients actually taking the drug. They usually know what side effects they “expect to see” and are tweaking the dose-ranges for efficacy. Many of these trials are placebo-controlled to attempt to show their particular drug is better than placebo at causing a desired outcome.

Phase IV: These are “post-marketing” trials completed once the drug is on the market to continue to collect data about how the drug is performing in patients and to perhaps compare the drug in combination with other drugs.

Once the pharmaceutical company finishes all of their Phase I-III trials, they file their final application with the FDA to get their drug “approved” for marketing. The FDA reviews all of the clinical trial data that is submitted with this application to see if the data supports the risk / benefit analysis the the company has claimed and to ensure the proposed “labeling” that will go on the drug actually conforms to what the clinical trials “prove” the drug can do and what the side effect profiles are.

This process from Phase I – III can take years – 5-10 years or more, not counting time spent on bench research, depending on the drug. As you can see, with a 20 year patent life – all this research and clinical trial time eats into the time they have once the drug goes to market to make their money back before generic equivalents can take away market share. The push to make money once the drug is on the market and recoup research costs is HUGE.

As you can also see, even though a medication is tested in “large scale clinical trials”, a few hundred to a few thousand patients is really only a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of thousands of patients who will probably end up actually taking the medication. This is a big reason why we see some drugs that they “thought” would have a relatively safe profile have to be re-evaluated once massive numbers of patients start taking it and side effects show up they didn’t anticipate.

Now a fact many people aren’t aware of: Many drugs, both over the counter and prescription, given to pediatric patients today have never, ever even been tested in pediatric patients. Pediatric patients are classified as those from birth to usually age 18 – age 21 for certain sub-specialties.

Think about it. How many parents do you know that would willing want to include their child in a clinical trial for a new drug not knowing what the side effect profile might be? Not many. I’m not talking about drugs for pediatric cancer patients whose parents will desperately try new drugs at the hope of saving their child. I’m talking about run of the mill antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory meds – the whole long list. Many drugs given to pediatric patients on a daily basis are given with a “best guess” of dosage and risk/benefit not having any pediatric clinical trial data to know if they are right or not or what side effects might show up.

Paxil’s own website says it is not intended for pediatric patients. But that doesn’t stop medications from being prescribed “off label” – this happens every day. And just last year Glaxo agreed to pay a $3 billion fine for promoting its best-selling anti-depressants for unapproved uses http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/busine….

Clinical trials have their place and medications certainly have their place, but most people have no clue how this process actually works in this country and assume that if a medication is on the market, it must be safe or it wouldn’t be there. Just another example of an overwhelming number of people in the country who don’t think for themselves, don’t research anything on their own, and assume those in “authority” must be there to protect them.

As a mom, I have seen first-hand something as innocent as an over-the-counter allergy medicine cause a dramatic personality change in my girls. Being in tune with these things, I tested a couple of times to see if it was just my imagination or if they really were acting differently when that particular medication was administered – that one is now forbidden in our home.

But how many parents out there are really that in-tune with their children? Would they put the two together? All the medicating over ADHD today – how much of that is really just kids being kids? Or kids with an allergy to something else in their environment? Look into the research done by the Feingold Association http://www.feingold.org/ about the effect petroleum-based products and food colorings can have on children. About the eczema-like rashes children can get from something as simple as an allergy to foods with high salicylate content – but how many children do you personally know who have unexplained eczema who are taking routine steroids – definitely not something we’d really want our children to have to be taking all the time.

Our country has a crisis of independent thinking – and I’m not sure what it is going to take to wake them up.

She adds:

… 3) Most clinical trials are “sponsored” by the pharmaceutical company that is doing the research and planning to manufacture and sell them. Occasionally one company will do the bench research and then sell it to another company to do the clinical trials. There are large private and government institutions that run some of their own trials – St. Jude for example, here in Memphis, is always working on developing therapies and treatments for various cancers they are treating. Some of this is in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies, some isn’t.

Karl is right – they are showing statistical significance. The ongoing saying when I was working the “corporate” side of clinical trials and not the consulting side as I do now, was that the FDA was really just approving the labeling, nothing else. In other words, the label supported what the company said they found in their research.

A clinical trial plan is submitted to the FDA to give them an overview of the protocols they plan to develop in the different phases and the FDA can require or request changes to the protocols; many studies are stopped, sometimes all the way into Phase III, because the company just can’t prove enough statistically to get the drug to market and don’t want to spend any more research dollars.

The trials are only as good as the people writing the protocols for the trials, the physicians who are supposed to be enrolling qualified patients into the trials that meet all the inclusion / exclusion criteria without exceptions, and the clinical trial monitors who then go out and review all the data collected compared to the patient’s medical records to ensure the data captured and submitted for the trial is correct, the patients are real, etc. Then it is up to the data managers who capture the collected data and the statisticians to accurately interpret the data that was collected – all this then becomes the report that goes to the FDA when they seek marketing approval. It can take the FDA 10 months, sometimes more, to review all the data once the final reports are submitted before they make their decision. There are exceptions for some classes of drugs and these are “fast-tracked”.

When I worked in pharmaceuticals, one of the senior managers told me that a lorry load of final trial-related paperwork used to be sent to the FDA — multiple copies all in one go. With the advent of email and attachments, I do not know if this is still the case, however, there is much which needs to be submitted for approval.

This is by no means saying that people working in the pharmaceutical industry are inattentive or unconcerned. They are highly intelligent and very professional. I enjoyed my many years working with them.

That said, even during my time in the industry — the 1980s — every pharma firm could see the end of the gravy train was coming. Development of and research financing for new drugs was starting to run out.

It is this situation which concerns me and many other Westerners. Are the old-fashioned ethics still a part of Big Pharma?

I found it interesting to read how Archerymom actually tested allergy medicine on her daughters and dumped one product.

Perhaps it is time more parents followed her example.

This does make me think twice about the increase in asthma, allergy and aggression complaints. Maybe these are simply related to certain drugs, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

hiding thebreakthroughorgI have two longstanding offline friends in their mid-60s who were both diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago.

Since then, one of them has had ECT — the 21st century version of the lobotomy — and the other has been on various sleeping pills or antidepressants which have left her groggy or physically ill.

It does beg the question, since Big Pharma has been spending its money carefully over the past two decades on new drugs and associated R&D, whether their desire to aggressively market drugs is an attempt to quickly recoup their losses on research and development.

Thankfully, we do not receive these in the UK, but almost every American channel relies on Big Pharma for advertising. Even after a week in the US, my ears ring with the nasal ‘Ask your doctor!’

When I was growing up in the second half of the 20th century, it was a big deal for people to get prescriptions. Around the 1970s, this began to change. By the 1980s, it seemed, people of all ages were ‘on something’ for heart, cancer or mental conditions. In the 1990s, behavioural medication for youngsters became the rage. Some schools would not accept pupils or students unless they were medicated (e.g. Ritalin), based on physicians’ reports on their mental health.

Excitable? Take a pill. Depressed? Take a pill. ADHD? Take a pill.

As my friends are pleasantly reserved individuals with a good network of friends (family is dying off), I don’t know what their issues are. One is an atheist, the other a Protestant clergyperson. It could be that the answers to life which they thought they had are no longer as valid as they once were. Perhaps the intimation of mortality is creeping up on both, neither of whom knows each other. Sadly, one has lost some of her memory from the ECT and the other is having serious physical health problems which I privately attribute to her medication.

Both had a relative who was clinically depressed. This seems to be the only common denominator. I find this automatic, almost mediaeval, association from the medical world to them somewhat off-putting: ‘Because your ancestor was depressed, you will be, too’. That sounds so superstitious. Everyone’s life is different. They are certainly not living out their parents’ lives. Yet, one of my neighbours also has had some ‘depression’, for which she sought medication: ‘It runs in my family. They told me I would get it, too. Our son is similarly affected’. Sadly, the young man is also taking some sort of pill.

What a load of rubbish. I’m not discounting that depression runs in families, although I would be very sceptical if anyone pulled that line on me then pushed a prescription under my nose. (Depression does not run in my family, by the way.) We’re all a combination of two different families with different genes, backgrounds and experiences.

I wrote in a comment on this blog a few weeks ago that no one fully knows what each of us has been through in life. Anyone reading this right now could have been molested or abused as a child, suicidal or clinically depressed (properly diagnosed). With God’s grace, many can pull through. I pray that they do.

Others have moved from one continent to another — half a world away — when they were youngsters. That, too, can be traumatic. Different mores, cultures, attire and habits can require some acclimation.

I lived and travelled through most of the US because of my father’s job transfers within the same company. I’ve known others who did the same internationally because their fathers were in the military. Whilst a whole world opens up to children like us — as we were at the time — it can also cause reactions which people who live within a 15-mile radius of where they grew up don’t have and will never understand. We sometimes lack the coping mechanisms to deal with certain situations, although, with His grace, we learn to acquire them gradually, even as adults.

A large part of dealing with rejection and isolation as a youngster — e.g. ‘the new kid in class’ — involves these coping mechanisms. I couldn’t expect my parents, both of whom had grown up in the same city and knew many of the same families, to help me with that. They would not have known how. It would be a lie to say that I was never lonely or that I never dreaded the first day in a new school where everyone else already knew each other. There are times even today when I really have to talk myself up for certain situations involving strangers, especially if they have lived in my neighbourhood for many years. Do we — will we — understand each other after several months or a year, even if it’s only working together on a committee? For me, it is a gamble. Always. Normally, it has a 50-50 result. Maybe everyone else has the same result. I don’t know. I’ve never dared ask.

So it makes me think that as parents, extended family, teachers and mentors — wherever we find ourselves — it would be a good thing to help the younger generation find their feet and give some solid advice.  Sometimes people who lack coping mechanisms get defensive — I’m finding this with the aforementioned friends. Maybe someone in close proximity to them might want to say, ‘Hey, this person is really concerned about you. You don’t need to reveal everything, but check in a bit more often and let them know how you’re really doing. They can handle it. You might feel better, too.’

It’s a bit like the way someone could have said in my childhood, ‘Just relax a bit. Yes, it’s intimidating being the new kid on the block, but you’ll get through it. You always do.’ Happily, our generation wasn’t so pill-crazy in those days. Situations resolved themselves, eventually.

It just seems to me that our common sense is failing us in the West. Perhaps we are looking for quick results. Perhaps we should be seeking patience and prayer. We look for solace in a pill or another type of brain rewiring instead (e.g. ECT). In the worst cases, it’s suicide, sadly. I cannot help but feel that our search for answers in psychiatry and pharmacology, barring everything else, isn’t doing us much good as a society. This isn’t to say that certain people really need medication; some do, but many probably do not. Cognitive behavioural therapy or even encouraging oneself to adapt to life changes would suffice; yes, they take time. There is no easy fix. For the Christian, faith, prayer and solid Bible study (no revisionism!) can help a lot.

I’ll have more on this in the next few days. First, however, to pharmacology.

As we go on, you’ll see the links with these mass murders, many of which are related to behavioural disorders and psychotropic medication which could have been nipped in the bud in childhood with proper adult support and grounding in faith.

Bible read me 2Continuing with a study of passages from St Mark’s Gospel which have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, this week’s post explores another episode of Jesus’s last life on earth.

As these do not appear in the Lectionary, they form part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential for understanding Scripture.

Today’s verses come from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Mark 13:1-2

Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

—————————————————————————

The longer I continue this series of Forbidden Bible Verses, the more dismaying it is to see the many Bible passages which the Lectionary compilers have excluded.

Whilst churchgoers attending Catholic or mainline Protestant churches are ‘getting more Bible’ from the Lectionary with a three-year set of readings, many important passages are left out entirely. Today’s and the next upcoming post are two cases in point.

Understanding the relationship of the Jewish people in Jesus’s day to their temple is essential in comprehending the dichotomy between their idea of salvation with His.

As Mark 13 opens, we are in the middle of what we call Holy Week, or Jesus’s Passion, just before His death.

This post recounts the history of the three Temples in Jerusalem. The Babylonians destroyed the first, a judgment from God on apostate Israel. Some conservative American Christians today believe that a similar judgment could come upon the United States (e.g. destruction of the Republic), just as Jeremiah prophesied the temple’s destruction to the Jews. (Who knows? Perhaps, perhaps not.) They built a second one, much more modest than the first (Solomon’s) but that was desecrated by a pagan ruler, Antiochus. Although Judas Maccabees attempted to revive worship there, the Jewish people were still unfaithful to the Lord in their apostasy.

This brings us to the magnificent structure of Mark 13, which Herod had erected over a period of 84 years. Although it was already magnificent and sumptuous in Christ’s time, construction continued after His death. It was completed in 64 AD, just six years before the Romans destroyed it.

John MacArthur tells us (emphases mine):

it was overlaid with gold, it was a massive building. It had been being built for literally decades. By the time it was destroyed, it had been under construction for eighty years. It was a massive monument to the architectural brilliance and genius of Herod, as well as to his desire to demonstrate how wealthy he was. Coated with gold and covered with votive offerings of all kinds that demonstrated the rich gifts that had been given to add to the beauty of the building.

In the morning when you came over the top of the Mount of Olives, you couldn’t even look at the building because the morning sun reflected off the gold would blind one. In the evening its glory was only slightly diminished, perhaps the most strikingly beautiful building in the ancient world. They’re impressed. What wonderful stones and what a wonderful set of buildings.

It is no wonder then that, after Jesus’s run-ins with the Sanhedrin — Jewish leadership — in the Temple grounds (Mark 12:1-12, 18-27, 35-37), one of His disciples remarks on the Temple’s splendour (verse 1).

However, outward beauty signifies little. As a pastor counsels about marriage and family — ‘Many beautiful houses are not homes’ — the same principle can be applied to a place of worship and the love of God (or absence thereof) by those within.

Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary:

How apt many of Christ’s own disciples are to idolize things that look great, and have been long looked upon as sacred. They had heard Christ complain of those who had made the temple a den of thieves; and yet, when he quitted it, for the wickedness that remained in it, they court him to be as much in love as they were with the stately structure and adorning of it.

There is another element of the disciples’ awe at play, which is the notion of Messiah, Israel and salvation that the Jews had learned since the time of the Old Testament. MacArthur unpacks this for us:

They are convinced Jesus is the Son of God, that He is the Messiah and that He is the One who will establish His Kingdom. They believe that they are about to experience the establishment of that glorious Kingdom. They are familiar, for example, with Isaiah 9, that the government shall be on His shoulders, that He will literally take over the rule not only of Israel but of the world. They are familiar with Zechariah 14 which lays out in detail how the coming Messiah establishes His rule in the world. They’re familiar with every Old Testament promise that looked forward to that Kingdom. Messiah is to come, establish the Kingdom, destroy all the enemies of God, destroy all the enemies of Israel, restore the glory of Jerusalem gather the Jews into the land, set up His Kingdom there, and from that vantage point rule the world.

Israel then would be the favored nation on the planet. Righteousness and peace and knowledge and truth would fill the earth. And life the way it was would be no more. Jesus clearly is the Messiah, announced by John the Baptist, validated by miracles, and truth teaching. He entered Jerusalem on that Monday of the very week that we’re looking at now and He was given an appropriate messianic welcome. Everything looked like it was on schedule.

Imagine their surprise and bewilderment then at Jesus’s reply when He says that not one stone will be left standing (verse 2).

Henry develops this further:

His disciples knew not how to digest this doctrine of the ruin of the temple, which they thought must be their Master’s royal palace, and in which they expected their preferment, and to have the posts of honour; and therefore they were in pain till they got him alone, and got more out of him concerning this matter.

So, the afternoon of that last Wednesday before the Crucifixion carried a shock for the disciples. Jesus’s plan for salvation was entirely different to what the Jews had taught for countless generations. He was concerned about spiritual, not temporal, salvation.

Henry says:

How little Christ values external pomp, where there is not real purity; “Seest thou these great buildings” (saith Christ), “and admirest thou them? I tell thee, the time is at hand when there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down,” v. 2. And the sumptuousness of the fabric shall be no security to it, no nor move any compassion in the Lord Jesus towards it. He looks with pity upon the ruin of precious souls, and weeps over them, for on them he has put great value; but we do not find him look with any pity upon the ruin of a magnificent house, when he is driven out of it by sin, for that is of small value with him. With what little concern doth he say, Not one stone shall be left on another! Much of the strength of the temple lay in the largeness of the stones, and if these be thrown down, no footstep, no remembrance, of it will remain. While any part remained standing, there might be some hopes of the repair of it; but what hope is there, when not one stone is left upon another?

On our Lord’s prediction of the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in 70 AD by the Romans, MacArthur expands on the event to warn us about the veracity of Scripture with regard to other real-life events through the ages up through the present day:

This is another evidence of our Lord’s deity because the things that He said would be true are in fact true. He predicted the destruction of the temple in verses 1 and 2 and it was destroyed in 70 A.D. He predicted that not one stone would be on another, and that’s exactly what happened in 70 A.D. and it’s never been rebuilt. He predicted the nature of life on a corrupt cursed planet, and everything He said is true. And if you want to get all that He said, you put Matthew and Mark and Luke’s account together and you get the full picture of what life is like on this planet. All the things that He said would come to pass, have come to pass and they are very familiar to all of us.

We conclude from that, and this is an important thing to hear, the Bible always perfectly corresponds to reality. When the Bible says something will be a certain way, that is exactly how it will be. It will be what Scripture says it will be, both in general terms as well as in absolutely specific terms

These are far from ‘fairy tales’ or ‘allegories’, friends!

For those who are unconvinced, especially if they have fallen away from the Church, please read the Gospels carefully and pray for God’s grace that you return to the truth.

The next post will explore this further. What Jesus went on to say must have shocked His disciples.

Next time: Mark 13:3-13

In recent months, I’ve had quite a few hits on my posts about synthetic marijuana (‘potpourri’) and smoking ‘wet’.

My thanks to all those who have clicked, read and digested their content.

Following on from these — which can be found on my Recipes / Health page under ‘Illicit and Synthetic Drugs’ — is this warning from a physician in the US Navy.

Lt George Loeffler, a Psychiatry Resident stationed at the US Naval Base in San Diego, California, warns us that a) there is no cure for the after-effects of bath salts and b) relapses can occur days, if not weeks, afterward.

In other words, this substance which can be snorted, injected and taken anally (!), can cause any number of unpredictable reactions in the user.

This six-and-a-half minute film, featuring Dr Loeffler’s concise explanation of this synthetic drug, shows how and what a person experiences on bath salts. Their loved ones turn into demons, and the user may lash out violently in order to defend himself. They can also lose control of their physical functions in a severe delirium which is far from pleasant.

The only thing medical staff can do is to react by strapping the user down and injecting him with a sedative. Even then, as the film shows, it is highly possible that the user will come to as violently as before.

Dr Loeffler explains that many youths begin taking bath salts — a non-regulated designer drug comprised of a synthetic cathinone, or amphetamine — to escape stressful situations at home. Yet, the bath salts can aggravate these problems.

I would encourage all parents and teens to please take the time to watch this short video.

This should also be a warning to teens and university students about getting out of it whilst being out with one’s mates. Stay conscious and sober; avoid the possibility that someone in the group might find smoking ‘wet’ or bath salts a great idea.  Both can produce heart palpitations, loss of or erratic muscle control (to the extreme), shortness of breath along with the hallucinations.

Furthermore, every batch may produce different effects. These can result in psychosis and paranoia which last long afterward. Long-term hospitalisation may be required in the worst cases.

Even as I watched the video, I thought that my reactions to teens playing up in public will probably be tempered going forward. Say something to kids, even nicely, and they could well attack, depending what they’re on. Note what happens to the girlfriend and the roommate in the video.

I realise that some who support full legalisation of drugs will find this yet another case of 21st century Reefer Madness.

However, with the strange mass shootings going on, a discussion should be had concurrently about the state of mind of those who commit these killings. Whilst no bath salts have been implicated thus far, there’s always a first.

I’ll have more next week about mind-altering substances, namely, prescription drugs which can cause adverse effects on both the brain and the body.

Recently, I spent many hours reading Karl Denninger’s insightful Market Ticker (see my ‘UK Libertarian and Other Sites of Interest’ in the left hand column), catching up on this year’s posts and comments.

I’ll go into some of Denninger’s insights on gun control at some point in the future. However, first, a post of his about the dramatic increase in disability benefits among Americans, especially those who are unemployed or have dubious chronic conditions:

The program blew $124 billion last year, with more than 10 million “beneficiaries.”

Many honest people find that, when it comes to claiming disability, the procedures and interviews are arduous. This is not restricted to the United States; it occurs in the UK, France and other Western countries.

Please note that this is in addition to standard welfare and family assistance benefit claimants, such as (a European example):

America is turning into France, welfare wise…

… women in France are paid welfare the moment they are pregnant and they can even get free government houses… so a lot of immigrants come in France and just have babies and are making 50 000+ euro a year with a free house.

That’s very true. There are frequent articles in the press and in French fora about dole claimants. The family assistance offices are normally near the city centres. I’ve seen the one in Cannes and was shocked. There were very few French (ancestrally speaking) people milling around outside. All the rest were relatively recent arrivals.

However, back to the United States and the problem of disability claims. One of Denninger’s readers said that it was very difficult to receive disability benefit for a legitimate illness. Another reader, Flaps10, replied about welfare in general (emphases mine):

You obviously tried to get in through the front door.

In my early 20’s I lived in an inner city area of Portland, OR with my kid’s mom (prior to having kids). We were dirt poor. We met some neighbors who had four kids and were straight up FSA crowd.

They knew the ins and outs of getting welfare, WIC, section 8 housing – the works. “It’s damn near a full time job” they’d say. They knew what to say to the social workers (e.g. the father of the kids didn’t live there) and what to declare and what to deny.

They were good friends but that was my first exposure to FSA mentality. 15 years later I was divorced and single father of my three boys, and their mom went full on FSA just like she’d been taught by our neighbors. She even had the fire department bring toys at Christmas. I was disgusted.

Another reader, Killersdad, explained more about this mentality when involving disability claims:

They keep going to different MDs until they find one that will sign off.

Or they network with other FSA members to find the “right” Doctor.

Have ex friends that pulled the mental bull****. I could not believe how easy it was. They learn which buttons to push.

The stories I could tell …

However, it is relatively straightforward for people to claim disability for the following —

Depression:

Aztrader: The issue of what is a disability has become the scam. Being depressed is the easiest one to fake. Once a person has been approved for disability, then they qualify for medicare after 1 year. Add in minor children and the payments increase substatially. Each kid under the age of 18 gets between 50% and 80% of mom or dad’s payment. They basically copied the same benefits from the death of a parent and this can really kick up the money received for the family.

Asthma:

Banditfist: I was talking with my girlfriend this weekend. She is an allergist, so she sees a lot of asthma patients. She told me that you would be amazed at how fast the disablility paperwork comes in when a kid is diagnosed with asthma. The mom claims that she cannot work because she needs to take care of the kid. My gf has yet to sign off on the form. She is one who believes that asthma is treatable and controllable.

Going to be interesting when Obamacare goes in full swing. There is a big push for pharmacists to prescribe some asthma medicines….and there would be no liablity on the pharmacists.

Obesity:

Killersdad: Had a tenant, young girl about 25 years old got full disability because she was fat and had mobility problems.

Snowman: It appears the SSA looks very favorably [on] “obesity” being a condition for SS disability. At least according this this lawyer http://www.smithdickey.com/obesity.php

The Smith, Dickey, Dempster, Carpenter & Harris law practice site (Snowman’s link) tells us that disability claims for obesity became more widespread after 2002 (G W Bush administration):

In September 2002 the SSA issued a new policy on obesity which it now follows to consider the effect of being overweight in a person’s disability claim. The remainder of this column will look at this new ruling on obesity and disability benefits. The SSA defines obesity as “a complex, chronic disease characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat. Obesity is generally the result of a combination of factors – genetic, environmental and behavioral.” The SSA uses a scale called the Body Mass Index (BMI) which was developed by the National Institute of Health to classify obesity in adults …

The SSA has three levels of obesity. Level I is for people with a BMI of 30-34.9; Level II is for people with a BMI of 35.0 -39.9, Level III is for people with a BMI of above 40. Joe’s BMI of 35 puts him at Level II. People at the Level III of BMI are described as having “extreme” obesity with the greatest risk of developing obesity related health problems

The SSA generally accepts the opinion of the claimant’s treating physician to establish a diagnosis of obesity. Obesity is considered by the SSA over a period of time. Temporary weight losses are not considered a cure for obesity. Even though obesity no longer has its own Listing to determine disability, the SSA can find that a person equals another listing as a result of health related problems due to obesity. Obesity is determined to be a “severe impairment” when either alone or in combination with another “medically determinable impairment, it significantly limits an individual’s physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” The SSA does not have a specific weight or BMI rating that equals a “severe impairment”. The issue is whether the person’s obesity is so severe that it limits his abilities to do basic work activities.

As there is no specific Listing for obesity, the SSA can find a person “meets” the requirements of a Listing if he has another impairment that alone meets the requirement of a Listing. The example used by the SSA cites a case where “obesity may increase the severity of a co-existing or related impairment to the extent that the combination of impairments meets the requirements of a Listing.” The SSA finds this combination to be “especially true” when the obesity is combined with “musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular impairments.” For example, there is an Orthopaedic Listing under which a claimant can be found disabled if he is “unable to ambulate effectively”, this is typically as a result of some sort of bone injury or illness such as arthritis, but obesity can be of such a degree that it can “substitute for the major dysfunction of a weight bearing joint.” Such a finding could allow the SSA to pay the disability claim of the person with arthritis and obesity.

If a person has a variety of health problems, none of which meet the level of severity that is required by the SSA for disability, the SSA can consider the impact of the person’s obesity with the other problems and find that he meets the Listing. The example used by the SSA is “obesity affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems because of the increased workload the additional body mass places on these systems. Obesity makes it harder for the lungs to expand. This means that the respiratory system must work harder to provide needed oxygen. This in turn makes the heart work harder to pump blood to carry oxygen to the body” …

It seems as if the Cloward-Piven Theory — ‘bankrupt the system’ — has been working since its inception in the late 1960s, first tried among welfare claimants in New York State. (For more on the theory, read here and here.)

We have the same disability claims problems in the UK, some of which are occasionally outed in the press.

By no means should we automatically consider a depressive, an obese person or the parent of an asthmatic child as qualifying for disability. That said, this is a serious problem. Both leftists and conservatives are to blame. As are we, in part. It seems as if our sense of self-responsibility is flying out the window.

Wedding bands ehowcomYesterday, I featured excerpts from a post by the Revd Timothy V Shockley Sr of the Midwestern Bible Institute.

Today, I would like to share another of Pastor Shockley’s posts with you. The topic is marriage seen through a lens of preparation and planning. It is entitled ‘A Happy Marriage Is No Accident’.

Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

If we are so careful about planning for career success, why aren’t we just as careful about planning for success in marriage? After all, we spend years preparing for a career that may change at any time, yet devote very little time preparing for a relationship that is supposed to last a lifetime. If we are not careful we can end up spending too much time preparing for the wrong things. There is nothing wrong with going to school and getting an education or deliberately planning for success in meeting career “goals”. The problem is that there are many people who have successful careers but failed marriages because they spent much time learning how to get along with their boss and no time learning how to get along with their spouse. We invest more in preparation to make a living than to live life effectively.

As with any other endeavor in life, success in marriage depends on information and planning. Marriage is an investment, and success is directly proportional to the amount of knowledge and time invested in it. Success is not a gift, but the result of careful and deliberate preparation. Success is directly related to investment: when you invest in time and passion, you will more-likely succeed. “No one who hopes to build a new house approaches the project haphazardly. Success in such a venture means buying the right piece of property, securing the services of a qualified architect, and making certain that sufficient financing is available “to bring the whole project to completion. It is important to plan for the end before beginning, to count the cost up front, and try to anticipate the pitfalls and difficulties that will occur along the way.

Jesus emphasized the importance of this kind of advance planning when He said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’” (Lk. 14:28-30). Although Jesus was speaking here specifically of counting the cost of following Him as a disciple, His words provide wise counsel for us with regard to any endeavor we undertake. We must plan for success. We must give the same attention to building a home as we do to building the house. Many beautiful houses are not homes.

Wise counsel to keep in mind. Yes, many careerists neglect their home life for glory and success in the business world.

I read some years ago of an actress who, after a period of box office success, decided to marry and start a family. One day she recalled the words of her father who had told her during her childhood, ‘A job won’t keep its arms around you at night’.

Yes, it is possible to work and maintain a proper home life with a spouse and family. However, as Pastor Shockley reminds us, it requires the same careful attention and planning that we put into our careers.

As he concludes:

Many beautiful houses are not homes.

Pastor Timothy V Shockley Sr of the Midwestern Bible Institute has a site with good advice about the Christian life.

I wanted to share two of his recent posts with you. The first is entitled ‘Sex is not love’, particularly pertinent since most of us have grown up with an onslaught, if not overdose, of what used to be known as ‘free love’ 40-odd years ago.

Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

How often do we encounter this scenario in books or on film: A man meets a woman and they hit it off “well. The next thing we know, they are in bed together. This is our “tip off” that they are “in love.” They must be in love; they’re having sex, aren’t they? It may be an adulterous relationship with one or both of them married to someone else, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they are in love. They go to bed, have their fling, get up the next morning, and everything is fine.

That’s the picture the world paints. What these books and films rarely if ever reveal is the negative side to these kinds of encounters. In real life, sexual liaisons of this type produce in most people feelings of guilt, shame, and a sense of being dirty, not to mention a deep absence of fulfillment. It may be “fun” for a moment, but it leaves them feeling empty, and often they don’t know why.

The idea of sex as love is one of the biggest lies with which the world has perverted God’s original design for sexual expression, enjoyment, and fulfillment. Love—true love—is spiritual in nature. Sex is not. Sex is 100 percent physical and chemical. That is why we run into problems whenever we try to equate love with sex. Love is a spiritual union between two people—a joining of spirit to spirit. Sex is a physical coupling of two people—a joining of flesh to flesh. In its proper use, sex is a beautiful and fulfilling physical expression of the spiritual joining that is true love. Understanding this distinction will help us guard against falling prey to a lot of the weird ideas floating around out there that try to convince us that sex is (or can be) some fantastic kind of “spiritual bonding” or getting in touch with the spiritual realities of life. It is nothing of the sort. Sex is an exhilarating physical experience, but in and of itself there is nothing spiritual about it. Sexual activity never bonds us spirit to spirit with another person. Nowhere does the Bible teach that a sexual experience will cause us to see God or be brought close to Him. Sex is a product of the human part of our makeup and has nothing to do with our spirit.

Tomorrow: ‘A Happy Marriage Is No Accident’

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