Rapper Kanye West contributed a guest verse to the new Travis Scott song “Watch,” which details the 40-year-old’s recently revealed personal addiction to opioids. The track provides insights into his prescription painkiller abuse: “Wanna know how pain feels? I got off my main pills / Bet my wifey stay close, she know I’m on my Bezos / Opioid addiction, pharmacy’s the real trap / Sometimes I feel trapped, Jordan with no Phil Jack.” The song quickly follows West’s admission that he had become addicted to prescription painkillers after a liposuction procedure in 2016. West claimed that he was regularly taking seven painkillers a day as opposed to the two per day that were prescribed at the hospital. He added that he hasn’t yet sought professional treatment for his addiction.
First Lady Melania Trump Announces Awareness Campaign for Kids
On Monday, First Lady Melania Trump announced an ambitious, multi-faceted public awareness campaign to help bolster children’s overall wellbeing. Called “Be Best,” the initiative focuses on teaching children “how to be good citizens, including being kind, not bullying on social media or anywhere else, staying away from drugs and taking care of themselves,” the Associated Press reported. “As a mother and as first lady, it concerns me that in today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and often times turn to forms of destructive or addictive behavior such as bullying, drug addiction or even suicide,” Trump remarked on Monday. The AP observed that “Be Best” echoes previous first ladies’ campaigns, including Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug effort “Just Say No” as well as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program against childhood obesity.
NYC Mayor Proposes to Introduce Safe Injection Sites
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to make his city a “pioneer” with supervised injection sites for drug users, according to The New York Times. His controversial plan would follow in the footsteps of Canada and Europe, where such sites already exist. The Times piece noted that San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia have all separately sought to introduce similar places, but have yet to do so—mainly because federal laws prohibit them. De Blasio, however, hopes that NYC’s size will give the proposal to open “Overdose Prevention Centers” some leverage and momentum. “For the sites to open, New York City must still clear some significant hurdles. At minimum, the plan calls for the support of several district attorneys, and, more critically, the State Department of Health, which answers to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo,” the story observed, adding that NYC saw nearly 1,500 overdose deaths last year. Each Overdose Prevention Center would be independently run by a non-profit group, with social workers on hand 24/7. The mayor’s office is currently targeting four areas: Washington Heights and Midtown West in Manhattan, the Bronx’s Longwood section, and Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Artificial Intelligence Can Help with Sobriety
An intriguing piece at The Daily Beast details how artificial intelligence could be used to predict relapses and help people stay sober. Some apps currently connect people “who live in rural areas far from resources and can be an easier ‘way in’ to oft-stigmatized mental health care,” while others search “for changes in the user’s voice—in pitch, inflection and other factors” as well as tracking how often someone talks. Apps like these, The Daily Beast suggests, can collect data on “when, how often and what people communicated before a relapse” in order to create an algorithm that predicts relapses as efficiently as music services determine music preferences. One popular social-media app, Sober Grid, now boasts over 120,000 users and looks to personalize addiction treatment. “The words people use reflect who they are (e.g. their personality) and how they feel (e.g. happy, depressed, stressed, relaxed). People using Sober Grid post messages and indicate the number of days they have been sober. We then build statistical models to predict sobriety or relapse from the frequencies with which words are used,” Lyle Unger, a professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania said. Unger hopes that the data, in conjunction with Sober Grid, will help not only predict relapses but also prevent them from happening in the first place.
Los Angeles Sues Opioid Makers
The city of Los Angeles is suing several opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Mallinckrodt, over what they call “fraudulent and negligent business practices.” L.A. follows many other cities nationwide that have already filed civil lawsuits against drugmakers, which require the companies to cover the costs, damages and losses incurred as a result of combating the opioid epidemic. City Attorney Mike Feuer said that the drugmakers “intentionally misled doctors and patients about the appropriate uses, safety and efficacy of their products.” Wholesale distributors have also been named in the lawsuit. None of the firms have yet commented on the lawsuit.