A Safer Way to Control Pain

Several years ago, I wrote a blog about the DEADLIEST DRUGS in the US. It resulted from a question one of my readers had asked. This reader, an author, was contemplating what lethal chemical or sinister designer drug to use in one of his upcoming murder mysteries.

My initial thoughts were that the deadliest drugs in this country included the popular illegal ones—heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine—or some combination of those addictive drugs. It seemed an easy answer; but, as my readers know, I never make statements about drugs without first doing the research.

What I found astonished me! The deadliest drugs in the US—even several years ago—were prescription narcotic painkillers. In fact, I discovered that there was a three-fold increase in deaths from narcotic (opioid) prescription drugs in the past decade, even surpassing the psycho-pharmaceuticals often obtained illegally on the street.

More recently, studies have shown that opioid medications are prescribed by physicians far too often when other less addictive, and potentially less lethal, drugs might relieve a patient’s pain as effectively. In the decade between 2001 and 2010, emergency room-generated prescriptions for opioids rose nearly 50%.

The current epidemic of opiate addiction has left millions of Americans addicted to narcotic painkillers. It should be noted that not everyone who is prescribed narcotic pain medication will become addicted.

However, a report released in July by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that about eight to ten percent of patients will develop an addiction to a prescribed opiate, a so-called “opiate use disorder” and approximately 15% to 25% engage in problematic behaviors that suggest a dependence on the prescribed opiate drug. These patients often are still taking narcotic pain relievers a year later than expected.

This past July, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis published their findings and more recently declared opiate addiction as a “national emergency” with statistics that indicate almost 150 people die each day from a prescription opiate overdose.

An interesting study caught my eye the other day as I scanned my online news reports. It was conducted at the Montefiore Medical Center’s Emergency Department in the Bronx, New York. The study subjects were ER patients with bone fractures, sprained ankles, dislocated shoulders, traumas to the knee, and the like. From personal experience, I know that bone pain can be some of the worst to endure.

In this study, patients with bone injuries were evenly assigned into one of four groups: those receiving a non-narcotic combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen (Tylenol and Advil or Motrin, respectively, are brand names), those receiving Percocet (a drug containing the narcotic oxycodone), others receiving Vicodin (the narcotic hydrocodone), and some receiving Tylenol #3 (a codeine/acetaminophen combination).

The results indicated that the over-the-counter pain cocktail of Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) worked as well, if not better, than the narcotic alternatives. On a 10-point pain scale with 10 being the worst pain possible, patients receiving the non-narcotic combo rated their pain two hours after dosing as a 4.3 on the scale, while the other three groups of narcotic-dosed patients rated their pain reduction as 4.4, 3.5, and 3.9, respectively—a statistically insignificant difference.

This study suggests that there are much safer alternatives to narcotic prescription prescribing practices. This simple study comparison in a real-world setting could not only help shape pain relief practices profoundly, but also shape the future direction of narcotic addiction statistics and possibly reduce the overall lethal overdoses from narcotic pain relievers in the United States.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Alternatives to Opiate Painkillers, Blog Writers, Blogging, Deadliest Drugs in America, Deadliest Drugs in US, Deadly Drugs in America, Death From Prescription Painkillers, Drug Abuse, Drug Misadventures, Drug Poisoning, Epidemic of Narcotic Overdoses, Illegal Drug Trends, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Opiate Epidemic, Opioid Crisis, Opioid Therapy Alternatives, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription Drug Safety, Prescription For Murder Blog, Prescription Narcotic Deaths, Prescription Narcotic Overdoses, Prescription Painkiller Overdose, Prescription Prescribing Practices, President's Commission of Combating Drug Addiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Veterans Day in The USA and Around The World

In the United States, Veterans Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918.

Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11th to honor and thank all military personnel (soldiers, sailors and airmen) who served the United States in all wars.

Originally named Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the agreement that ended World War I at 11:00AM on November 11, 1918, this federal holiday’s name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

Each year, special ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, as well as various other celebrations and parades around the nation. My own city, San Antonio, will have a huge parade on Saturday along one of the main downtown streets.

The first Armistice Day was held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, hosted by King George V, on the morning of November 11, 1919. Simultaneously in 1919, President Wilson proclaimed that the day should be filled with solemn pride and gratitude for the victory and there were parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11:00AM in honor of the signing of the accord on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

The US Congress officially recognized the day in 1926 as a national day of remembrance and made it a legal holiday known as Armistice Day in 1938. In 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day.

Many allied nations around the world observe November 11th as a day of remembrance for their military veterans. In Canada, the day is known as Remembrance Day, honoring veterans who have died in service to their county. In England, France and Belgium the day remains known as Armistice Day, and in 2012 Serbia made the day an official holiday.

In many parts of the world, people observe a one-minute, and more often a two-minute, moment of silence at 11:00AM on November 11th as a sign of respect—the first minute for the roughly 20 million people who died in World War I and the second minute dedicated to the living (the wives, children and family left behind who were deeply affected by the conflict). In recent times, however, this ritual has evolved to include veterans and affected families of all wars.

On this day, take a moment at 11:00AM to remember those who have sacrificed to keep our respective nations free from tyranny. And if you see a veteran this week, take a moment to stop and shake his or her hand and say, “Thank You for your service!”

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A Veterans Day Reflection, About James J. Murray, Armistice Day, Blog Writers, Blogging, Celebrating Freedom, James J. Murray Blog, New Blog, Prescription For Murder Blog, Remembering Our Veterans, Remembrance Day, The Meaning of Veterans Day, The Price of Freedom, US National Holiday, Veterans Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Adrenaline Rush To Death!

Adrenaline is our friend! It’s one of those hormones that floods our bodies when we severely injure ourselves, feel afraid, or do strenuous exercise. It’s known as “the fight or flight hormone” (along with some help from norepinephrine and dopamine). It’s interchangeably referred to as adrenaline or epinephrine. In some literature, you will see it spelled adrenalin, and both spellings are considered correct.

So, what happens when too much pours into our bloodstream? We DIE! And that makes for a very interesting method of murder that can become the basis of a dramatic murder scene in writing.

We’ve all experienced an adrenaline rush in some form or another. From whatever cause, when our adrenal glands pump adrenaline (epinephrine) into our bloodstream, we experience: 1) a noticeable increase in strength, 2) no feeling of pain, 3) heightened senses, 4) a sudden burst of energy, and 5) our breathing and heart rate increases.

Such symptoms of extra adrenaline in our bodies may be in response to extreme fear, a life-threatening trauma (either to ourselves or others), or as a result of competitive sports participation. It helps us think clearly, react rapidly and appropriately, and dulls pain when needed. This experience is known as an “adrenergic storm” and is the basis of the fight or flight reaction.

Adrenaline, as an epinephrine drug, also treats severe allergic reactions since the drug narrows blood vessels to raise falling blood pressure. It also opens airway passages that may be constricted with associated wheezing. And there are auto-injectors available for people who may experience such allergic reactions.

The drug is readily available in an intramuscular auto-injector mechanism as an adult dose of 0.3mg (the 1:1000 strength). Since I have asthma, I carry around an injector. I’ve not used it for an asthmatic episode, but I did use it once while experiencing a rather dramatic reaction to an antibiotic.

An overdose of adrenaline (epinephrine) flooding into our bodies can be LETHAL. At times, we’ve seen news reports of medical professionals mistakenly administering a wrong dose of epinephrine and killing the patient.

There are also reports of people using epinephrine as a weapon of murder! And the consequences of an epinephrine overdose can lead to complete cardiac arrest.

Initially, there’s a rapid onset of agitation, blood pressure spikes, the heart beats fast and irregular, slurred speech and confusion ensue, sometimes a severe headache is experienced—and then the person cascades into either a cerebral hemorrhage or cardiac arrhythmias prior to death.

Treatments to prevent the fatal outcome include administration of benzodiazepines and beta-blocker drugs, but administration should be timely since epinephrine acts rapidly, especially if it is given intravenously.

So, with a readily available source, rapid onset and a deadly outcome, adrenaline could easily transition from friend to foe and provide an interesting murder weapon. And it should create a rather dramatic murder scene involving either your protagonist or antagonist.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Adrenaline Overdose, Adrenaline Rush, Adrenaline Used For Murder, Adrenoline and The Fight or Flight Response, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Chemicals Used For Murder, Designer Drug Deaths, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Misadventures, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, Epinephrine and The Fight or Flight Response, Epinephrine Overdose, Epinephrine Used for Murder, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Imperfect Murder The Novel, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Agents and Murder, Misuse of Drugs, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder With Drugs, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Story Development, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Using Adrenaline in a Murder Scene, Using Epinephrine in a Murder Scene, Writing Death Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FENTANYL – The Good and The Bad!

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is utilized in medical practice as a powerful pain reliever. It’s most commonly used in clinical settings either prior to surgery to induce sedation before administering longer-lasting sedation or in the recovery room following surgery for immediate pain relief. Fentanyl is very potent and effective to relieve pain, but it has a short duration of action—one to two hours at most, and often less than one hour.

The drug is also used to relieve extreme pain outside of the clinical setting via a drug patch applied to the skin. This transdermal patch slowly releases fentanyl over a 72-hour period. When I practiced pharmacy in an out-patient setting, a significant number of patients came to my homecare services sporting fentanyl patches as part of their overall pain relief plan while our nursing support administered intravenous medications for a variety of ailments that caused the extreme pain.

As commonly as fentanyl is in both the clinical and non-clinical settings, its reputation has taken on a more ominous one as a “filler” to “cut” heroin as well as other opioid and some non-opioid drugs. Over the last few years, fentanyl has been found as a filler in the party drug cocaine, and this is considered by drug law enforcement as a “game-changer.”

Courtesy of the New Hampshire State Police Forensics Lab

The reason for this enhanced apprehensiveness is somewhat complex, but a central concern is why people abuse heroin vs cocaine and the type of users who abuse these drugs. Heroin, an opioid from the poppy flower plant, is a depressant drug. Heroin is the type of drug that gives a sustained “buzz” and a heroin abuser often has a greater tolerance to opioid drugs. Although fentanyl-laced heroin is an extremely dangerous combination, drug overdoses have not been as extreme as in cases of fentanyl being added to cocaine.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug, a non-opiate from the coca plant, that gives a short-term euphoric effect—thus, its popularity as a party drug. When fentanyl is mixed into cocaine, that becomes the “game-changer,” as law enforcement agencies suggest. Cocaine users are more casual drug abusers, with a lesser chance of long-term addiction. The addition of fentanyl changes those dynamics, and that becomes a lethal combination.

Now it appears that drug-using party animals who use cocaine casually and occasionally have become unsuspecting victims with the progression of fentanyl into street drug mixes.

A 2016 study of overdose deaths in New York City revealed that 44% of the 1,300 overdose deaths involved fentanyl and 37% of those OVERALL overdose deaths involved a fentanyl-cocaine mix—that’s 84% of the lethal overdoses that involved fentanyl and that represents an increase of 11% over the previous year.

Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are cheap to make, are easily available on the dark web and become extraordinarily profitable for illicit drug distributers. Heroin-fentanyl on the street costs a fraction of what prescription painkillers cost on the street. Although much focus has been given recently in news broadcasts regarding prescription opiate abuse and overdoses, most of the deaths are seen with illicit opiate abuse—as with the synthetic opioid fentanyl and fentanyl-laced street drugs.

Fentanyl is an extremely potent and dangerous drug when not used properly. Although heroin is about three times more potent than morphine (the so-called “standard” used for pain-relieving drug potency), fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

The initial symptoms of an overdose include pinpoint pupils, muscle weakness, dizziness and confusion. The symptoms progress to a profound decrease in heart rate and very low blood pressure, with eventual loss of consciousness. Extreme respiratory depression and a dangerously slow heart beat lead to lack of oxygen to the brain (and potentially lethal hypoxia) that can exhibit as permanent brain damage.

If your next storyline involves a drug overdose, a fentanyl-laced drug might be an interesting and timely addition to consider.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, A New Drug Abuse Threat, A New Street Drug, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Deadliest Drugs in America, Deadliest Drugs in US, Deadly Drugs in America, Death From Prescription Painkillers, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Designer Street Drugs, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Abuse, Drug Misadventures, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, Euphoric Party Drugs, Fentanyl as a Street Drug, Fentanyl Street Drugs and Overdose Deaths, Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine, Fentanyl-Laced Heroin, Fentanyl-Laced Street Drugs, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Illegal Drug Trends, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Misuse of Drugs, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Drugs, Murder With Party Drugs, New Blog, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, New Street Drug Trends, Party Drugs, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Street Drug Abuse Substances, Street Drug Overdosing, Street Drugs, Street Drugs and Murder, The Science of Murder, The Writings of James J. Murray, Thrill-Seeker Drugs, Unique Murder Plots, Writing Death Scenes, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Peyote and My Short Story

Years ago, I contributed a short story to a Christmas anthology that a friend was publishing. My piece was named “Santa’s Secret Helper” and it was a rather hilarious (and irreverent) take on what can go wrong when a curmudgeon drinks the wrong kind of tea and has a personality change for the better during the Christmas season. As you can imagine, the central premise involved a drug misadventure. I may re-publish it as a series of blogs closer to Christmas for your entertainment.

Recently, I pulled that short story out of my writing archives and attempted to revive it with a fresh plot twist and with a more South Texas theme. The story is in the editing phase now, is much longer than the original, and I use San Antonio’s Fiesta events as the central backdrop setting. Even the drug misadventure has a more South Texas twist, and the drug of choice I’m using is peyote.

Peyote is a small cactus plant that commonly grows wherever the ground is rich in limestone. It can be found predominantly in the southwest areas of Texas and Mexico. The flowered “buttons” of the plant contain a psychoactive alkaloid called mescaline that produces a wide range of psychological effects, including deep insight into one’s spiritual side, when crushed and made into a tea.

Native Americans and indigenous people of Northern Mexico used the plant in tribal rituals dating back almost 6,000 years. As part of the assimilation programs run by the US government up to the early 1900s, peyote was made illegal among Native American tribes. However, after winning a series of religious freedom cases and the restoration of the Religious Freedom Act of 1993, peyote use for religious practices was made legal again—in all 50 states. It should be noted, though, that present state laws may vary regarding the plant’s legality for use in tribal religious rituals.

Currently, peyote is considered an endangered plant, and selling illegally poached plants are on the rise. For that reason, this plant made a perfect drug component for the misadventure in my updated short story.

I needed a drug that produced an evolving personality change in the character, caused a moderate amount of physiological distress when too much was used, and I wanted the drug disguised enough in a tea that the misuse would not be noticed until it was too late. Peyote was the perfect choice.

Traditional peyote used in tribal ceremonies is said to restore balance among the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of an individual—when used in minute amounts under relatively controlled conditions, that is.

The immediate effects include emotional changes that increase self-awareness, encourage honest communication with others and produce profound introspection. The drug’s hallucinogenic qualities are reported to enhance interconnectedness with nature, oneself and with other people.

Like many drugs that have entered the spotlight for recreational abuse, peyote (or more specifically, its psychoactive component mescaline) has been used therapeutically. Peyote was used in the past for treating fevers, joint pain, skin wounds and snakebites.

A full dose (about six peyote buttons) produces somewhere between 200 to 400mgs of mescaline. Peak hallucinogenic effects occur about two to four hours after ingestion and they last for eight to twelve hours.

Many experience some nausea and other gastrointestinal discomfort within 30 minutes after ingestion. Sweating and/or chills have been reported as well. After about one or two hours, however, the physiological distress is replaced by a sense of calm and openness.

Peyote was the perfect drug for my story! I’m developing a series of such short stories, when I need a break from novel writing, and I hope to publish that collection sometime next year.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A Mystery Short Story, A Non-Murder Plot, About Ancient Forgotten Cures, About Medications/Pharmacy, Ancient Curing Potions, Blog Writers, Blogging, Chemical Poisons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Christmas Anthology, Christmas Short Stories, Deadly Plant Poisons, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Story Arcs, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drug Abuse, Drug Misadventures, Drug Poisoning, Drugs and Amnesia, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, Growing As A Writer, Hallucinogenic Drugs, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Lethal Botanicals, Medical Research on Psychedelic Drugs, Mescaline, Misuse of Drugs, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Drugs, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Uses for Old Drugs, Peyote, Peyote and Tribal Rituals, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Plants, Prescription For Murder Blog, Psychedelic Drugs, Psychoactive Designer Drugs, Psychotropic Botanicals, Santa's Secret Helper, Short Stories of Suspense and Mystery, Short Story Development, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ricin – A Most Lethal Weapon

I was shopping with a friend recently and she had castor oil on her grocery list. That gave me pause. From my early days as a retail pharmacist, I remembered that castor oil was sold over the counter as a laxative. Today, there are more effective and safer laxatives on the market.

As I questioned her about her choice, she said that she used castor oil on her skin to remove blemishes that crop up from time to time. That reminded me that castor oil was used long ago to soften dry skin and to moisturize hair, also uses that have gone out of favor for more effective and safer products.

At any rate, I went in search of castor oil, but found it difficult to find. Even the pharmacist on duty scratched his head at my request, “In what aisle would I find castor oil?” It was indeed stocked in his store—in a section that should have been labeled “and everything else that no one knows what to do with.”

Since becoming a murder mystery writer, I’ve learned that the castor bean is the primary source of the chemical ricin and have done research about using this chemical in a storyline as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ricin is one of the most poisonous chemicals on Earth. It’s a highly lethal poison found naturally in castor beans and there is no known antidote.

The chemical ricin is a naturally occurring protein from the castor oil plant. It’s extracted from the waste matter (called the “mash”) left over from processing castor beans into castor oil. FORTUNATELY (for my friend at least), the toxic protein is denatured and deactivated during the heating process to extract the oil.

Ricin can be removed from castor beans, however, and made into a powder, a mist, a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water.

It’s important to point out that commercial castor oil contains NONE of the toxic proteins from the mash and is a safe product to use.

The only uses that I found for ricin extracted from the waste mash were as an experimental drug to kill cancer cells (still only experimental) and for use as a chemical weapon!

The medium lethal oral dose of ricin is a little over 3mg. That means a dose of pure ricin about the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. If the chemical is injected or inhaled, the dose is even lower, about 1.5mg to kill a 150-lb adult. It’s been said that a lethal dose of castor seeds for adults is about four to eight seeds.

As with most chemicals, various factors determine how sick a person will become when exposed, and if it will be fatal. These include how much ricin a person is exposed to, how long the exposure lasts, and what exposure method is used. For instance, inhalation and injection are almost always fatal, but ingestion may only make a person extremely sick, especially if medical support is rapidly provided.

The purity of ricin can also significantly affect how lethal a dose is. When the chemical is purified by special, technically advanced processes, the substance is deadlier than “back kitchen” processing.

Ricin kills by infecting our cellular structures and blocking their ability to synthesize their own proteins. When a cell cannot make protein, key bodily functions shut down and progressive organ failure usually results in death. Even when a person survives ricin poisoning, permanent organ damage often results.

The progression to death is extremely unpleasant. Usually, humans exposed to a lethal oral dose will experience severe vomiting and diarrhea within six hours of exposure and this results in serious dehydration. Eventually, the kidneys, liver and pancreas fail. Death follows soon after.

Inhalation of ricin, on the other hand, produces different effects since the poison interacts with other body parts. Inhaled ricin causes a vicious, bloody cough and the lungs fill with fluid. Eventually, the lungs become so fluid filled that the victim loses the ability to breathe. In effect, the person drowns in the body’s own fluids.

Lethal doses of ricin that are injected usually result in intense flu-like symptoms, swelling around the injection site, and eventual progressive organ failure as the poison circulates throughout the body.

Death from inhalation or injection occurs in about three to five days after contact, but it could be as rapid as 36 to 72 hours. And the death is an agonizing one.

Unfortunately, various techniques for making this poison are readily available on the Internet, and periodically this method of murder is used in terror plots against government or corporate personnel. Therefore, murder by ricin can be categorized as a murder “ripped from the headlines,” making it an interesting and often used lethal weapon on TV, in the movies and in novels.

Of course, if you’ve been reading my past blogs, you’ll realize that there are much more imaginative methods for killing off characters in your novels, and I’ll discuss more of them in future blogs.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Biological Weapons, Bioterrorism, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Botanical Murder Weapons, Botanicals That Kill, Breaking Bad Poisons, Castor Oil and Ricin, Chemical Poisons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Deadly Plant Poisons, Deadly Poisons Discussed, Death by Ricin Poisoning, Designer Drug Deaths, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used to Murder, Forgotten Cures, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, James J. Murray Blog, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Botanicals, Lethal Castor Beans, Lethal Chemicals in Murder Mysteries, Lethal Poisons, Methods of Murder, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Poisonous Plants, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plants That Kill, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Plants, Poisons and Murder, Poisons Used For Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, Ricin, Ricin as a Deadly Poison, Ricin as a Weapon of Terror, Ricin From Castor Beans, Scariest Drug in the World, The Art of Writing, The Writings of James J. Murray, Tools of Murder, Toxic Chemical Warfare Agents, Unique Lethal Compounds, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

INFLAMMATION – A Healer or A Killer?

We’ve all experienced inflammation in our bodies. We get a paper cut and a finger becomes inflamed at that spot—it seems for days on end—before healing. We twist an ankle and the area becomes red and swollen (inflamed); but a little ice, rest, elevation and over time the area is as good as new.

In this sense, inflammation is a good thing. It’s the body’s natural defense and indicates a healthy immune system response when injuries or infections occur.

But what happens when our WHOLE BODY becomes inflamed? I’m not talking about an autoimmune disease that exhibits itself in specific areas of the body—such as psoriasis, celiac disease, or rheumatoid arthritis—and makes itself known for all to see, a sort of medical shout out that says, “Look here! This is runaway inflammation.”

I’m talking about a silent killer—chronic inflammation. Recently, I had a routine medical check-up with my primary care physician and, as part of the process, blood was drawn and specific lab results were reported. One of the things my doctor looked at was my C-reactive protein lab result. He was happy to see it within normal limits and made sure to comment on that since that’s an indicator of chronic infection and one of the indicators for heart disease.

For many years, cardiologists have focused on heart disease as a plumbing repair issue—clogged arteries due to cholesterol build-up that narrows and then blocks those arteries near the heart must be cleared. In the early years of modern cardiac disease management, it was believed that the cholesterol we eat caused the build-up in our arteries.

In later years, it was discovered that certain fats we eat (saturated fats and trans fats, specifically) caused the body to make much more cholesterol than necessary. Hence, the popularity of cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor and the advancement of procedures to unblock clogged arteries. In this sense, cardiologists became sophisticated “Roto-Rooter” plumbers.

Recently, a series of interesting articles reported an evolving science that indicates there is much more involved regarding cardiac disease than the idea of clogged pipes (arteries).

The studies that shed light on this evolving science indicate that a possible primary cause of coronary artery disease is chronic inflammation—a so-called systemic inflammation that causes scar tissue in our arteries that begin to trap fatty particles (cholesterol) from our blood. That’s why my physician was happy to see my C-reactive protein lab result within normal limits.

Presently, there is a clinical trial of a new drug called Canakinumab, a drug that reduces systemic—or low-grade, total body—inflammation. The clinical trial is called the Canakinumab Anti-Inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study (CANTOS). The study results indicate that this drug lowers heart attack risks independent of cholesterol-lowering medications, like the statin drug Lipitor.

Patients on Canakinumab experienced an astounding 30% decrease in the need for invasive and expensive bypass surgeries and angioplasty procedures. This represents a whole new level of cardiac disease prevention and brings in a third tier of heart attack prevention (the first two measures being the importance of diet and exercise, and then the additional layer of protection with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs).

An interesting additional benefit of this drug was a documented decrease in cancer risk by 50%. Researchers now question if the idea of reducing systemic inflammation throughout the body may not only prevent the onset of cardiac disease but also become a cancer prevention measure. This has stimulated a whole new area of cancer research, but it’s too early to get excited about that possibility at this point.

It should be noted that since Canakinumab lowers the body’s immune system response, this drug may have a detrimental effect by increasing the risk of common infections becoming more serious, and even fatal, events. So, the benefits of this new therapy will have to outweigh the possible disadvantages, and further research may discover ways to minimize the infection-related risks.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Advances in Cardiac Medicine, Blog Writers, Blogging, Canakinumab, Developing Technologies, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Drug Discoveries, New Drug Research, New Research Technology, New Treatment for Chronic Inflammation, Non-Compliance to Prescription Therapies, Pharmacy/Pharmaceuticals, Prescription For Murder Blog, Systemic Inflammation Treatments, The Practice of Pharmacy, Whole Body Inflammation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments