Althouse | category: drugs



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"An essay published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1897 refers to fatness as a 'crime' and a 'deformity'..."

"... and argues that a fat woman 'will not be a social success unless she burnt-cork herself, don beads, and then go to that burning clime where women, like pigs, are valued at so much a pound.' People have been pushing back against fat stigma since at least the nineteen-sixties, when activists staged a 'fat-in' at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. But the desire to achieve thinness by any means necessary—amphetamines, grapefruit diets, SlimFast—remains an almost foundational tenet of female socialization. When I was a preteen, in the heroin-chic nineties, pro-anorexia Web sites proliferated on the Internet; in the early two-thousands, teen girls puked or did obsessive sit-ups or took Hydroxycut in pursuit of abs like Britney Spears’s. In the twenty-tens, even as the Kardashians ostentatiously displayed their curves, they sold Flat Tummy Co. teas—laxatives—and waist trainers...."

"Before Ozempic, she’d hole up in her hotel on film shoots, juice-cleansing to fit into her costumes. Now, she says..."

"... 'you can eat one and a half meals a day and then you’re kind of hungry at night, but it’s not terrible. You can drink some tea with magnesium and maybe take a Xanax and get to sleep.'..."

When she was growing up, Allison says, in “my household, we lived to eat. Food was an excursion, food was a reward, food was everything. You’re eating one meal and talking about what you’re going to eat the next meal. I almost feel like this drug allows me to be casual about food in a way that always felt culturally alien to me. I can just have one bite, or two bites, or three.” 
A profound and possibly unprecedented change, in other words, might be taking place. Isn’t appetite, after all, what makes us us, for better or worse? 
“Subdue your appetites my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature,” as Dickens’s philosophical schoolmaster, Mr. Squeers, told young Nicholas Nickelby. Of course, his mouth was “very full of beef and toast” at the time....

"It was like flipping a switch. I would look at food and it wasn’t even appealing, and I am someone who loves food!"

"I almost had to remind myself to eat. It just took away all the cravings.... I remember looking in the mirror, and it was almost like I didn’t even recognize myself,” she said. “My body looked great, but my face looked exhausted and old."

It's crazy to lose weight by making food completely unappealing. Wouldn't you want to still get pleasure from the food that you do eat while eating in a way that reduces weight? And then on top of that, it makes your face look old — older, apparently, than just the usual way too much weight loss makes you look hollowed out and haggard.

And there's an additional problem: This off-label use is creating a shortage of a medicine that people with diabetes need. At least their moral failing is causing them to look bad. I know, it's also a moral failing to enjoy seeing people get their just deserts.

And, yes, it's "just deserts," not "just desserts" (though feel free to call your cake shop Just Desserts).

"Could the governor who is battling to turn a progressive state college into a 'Hillsdale of the South' really be a tedious Establishment Republican who wants to cut the Social Security checks of righteous churchgoing Republican retirees?"

Asks Ed Kilgore in "Could Trump Run to DeSantis’s Left in 2024?" (New York Magazine).

On a host of issues, Trump and his lieutenants are itching to portray DeSantis as the “establishment” figure — the one who is preferred by the supposedly squishy party bigwigs like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. One of Trump’s biggest impacts on the GOP was largely shelving the budget-slashing austerity economics of former Speaker Ryan and ushering in a free-spending, debt-ballooning era that combined tax cuts for the rich, with a rhetorical cease-fire on threats to the bennies of the masses — ranging from Social Security to Medicare.

I'm interested in that phrase "bennies of the masses." It's like "opium of the masses." That's got to be intentional — using "bennies" to mean benefits when "bennies" has been slang for benzedrine — i.e., amphetamine — since the 1950s.

From Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (1957): "There’s another photo of Joan simpering over a cookpot; her hair is long and unkempt; she’s high on benny and God knows what she’s saying as the camera is snapped…'Don’t point that nasty old thing at me.'"

"Opium of the people" — also translated as "opium of the masses" — has its own Wikipedia article:

The full sentence from Marx translates (including italics) as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."... 
In [Marx's] view, religion... reduced people's immediate suffering and provided them with pleasant illusions which gave them the strength to carry on.... [B]y focusing on the eternal rather than the temporal, religion turns the attention of the oppressed away from the exploitation and class structure that encompasses their everyday lives.... In Marx’s view, once workers finally overthrow capitalism, unequal social relations will no longer need legitimating and people’s alienation will dissolve, along with any need for religion. 

Assuming Rolling Stone intended to refer to Marx's analogy of religion to opium, we're prodded to think about whether government benefits are like amphetamine. Do things like Social Security and Medicare give us "euphoria, change in desire for sex, increased wakefulness, and improved cognitive control"? If we get too much, do we experience "psychosis (e.g., delusions and paranoia)"?

If they cut our "bennies," what do we do? Without "opium," in Marx's view, we'd have more clarity and energy, and maybe we'd revolt, but without "bennies," we have less energy and are less excited about crazy things.

In which case, what? What would we do in that newly dulled, enervated condition? Choose DeSantis over Trump? 

"Yes, ban the office cakes. Obviously.... I have been campaigning [against obesity] for more than 20 years...."

"And all I have met is anger, abuse and accusations of 'fat-shaming.' From the right, because I seem to be after restricting people’s right to choose how they live; and from the left because, since obesity disproportionately affects the poor, I must be motivated by class hatred and snobbery.... I have moved on from any notion I might once have had about personal culpability and now hold the government and 'big sugar' (which pulled a nefarious con on the public by repositioning sugar as 'energy' when it is, in fact, sloth, weakness and depression) entirely responsible. Which is why I am with [ chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, Professor Susan Jebb] all the way in calling on people to stop buying this poisonous shite in pretty packaging and forcing it into their ailing colleagues like corn down the diseased gullet of a Perigord goose. An unrelated story in The Times on Wednesday celebrated a new wonder-drug proven to prolong the lives of mice, inspiring the dream... that it might work on humans. But do you know what is also proven to prolong the life of mice? Severe calorie restriction. Cut their intake by a third and they live up to 40 per cent longer. Before we plough billions into yet more drugs, shouldn’t we at least give that a go?"

Writes Giles Coren in "Cake debate is no laughing matter — seriously/Snigger at comparisons with passive smoking if you must, but only if you’re blind to the scale of our obesity crisis" (London Times). 

And here's the relevant episode of his podcast "Giles Coren Has No Idea": "Giles and [his wife] Esther burn through this week's papers looking for a column idea; from Clarkson's apology and the death of electric cars, to evil office cake and changing perceptions of Henry VIII. Giles if off to exchange his infamous electric Jaguar and Esther counts the amount of times the burglar alarm goes off during the recording." 

He chose the cake!

The passed-over Henry VIII topic was based on "Henry VIII was disabled, National Trust decides" (London Times):

While jousting in January 1536, Henry’s fully armoured horse landed on him and crushed his legs, which were then plagued with ulcers. The accident forever hampered his mobility, while apparently affecting his mental health and triggering his obesity.
Henry’s waist went from 32 to 52 inches and he might have weighed over 28 stone (397lbs) at his death in 1547. He required sticks, wheelchairs and pulley systems to move. These facts about Henry have been hiding in plain sight but the nature of his disability is often overlooked, partly because he suppressed it in his public image....

Mulling this topic in the podcast, Coren considers making a string of jokes about the physical ailments of autocrats and their connection to the evil they did. How funny is that? I guess I enjoyed hearing him spin out what the column would need to be, which, in retrospect revealed why he didn't choose this topic. There was a line about Hitler — did his... what?... cause him to murder 6 million Jews?

What ailment of Hitler's did Coren discuss in his podcast? Instead of searching through the podcast, I looked on Wikipedia, where there's a long article "Health of Adolf Hitler."

During World War I, Hitler served as a dispatch runner for the List Regiment of the Bavarian Army. On the night of 13–14 October 1918, he and his comrades were victims of an Allied mustard gas attack near Ypres, Belgium. They had been leaving their dug-out to retreat when the attack occurred, and were partially blinded by it.... 

As a result of the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler – in which he survived a bomb explosion at his Wolf's Lair headquarters – both of his eardrums were punctured, and he had numerous superficial wounds, including blisters, burns and 200 wood splinters on his hands and legs, cuts on his forehead, abrasions and swelling on his left arm, and a right arm that was swollen, painful and difficult to raise, causing him to use his left hand to greet Benito Mussolini, who arrived that day for a previously scheduled summit meeting. 

The punctured eardrums were the most serious of these injuries. Weeks later, blood was still seeping through Hitler's bandages, and he suffered sharp pain in the right ear, as well as hearing loss. The eardrums took several weeks to heal, during which Hitler suffered from dizziness and a loss of balance which made him hew to the right when walking.... 

I'm skipping the speculation about syphilis, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, mental illness, and inbreeding. And then there's the drug use: "He regularly consumed methamphetamine, barbiturates, opiates, and cocaine, as well as potassium bromide and atropa belladonna...."


During his younger days, Hitler's health was generally good, despite his lack of exercise and a poor diet, which he later replaced with a mostly vegetarian one. Even then, though, Hitler had a very strong sweet tooth, and would often eat multiple cream cakes at a sitting.

Oh, no! There's an office cake joke there to be made, but how can we make Hitler jokes?

"Brooke Peder’s leg was amputated after an infection from a tranq wound bore into the bone. She hopes to save her arm, although she reluctantly injects tranq in it."

So reads a photo caption in "Tranq Dope: Animal Sedative Mixed With Fentanyl Brings Fresh Horror to U.S. Drug Zones/A veterinary tranquilizer called xylazine is infiltrating street drugs, deepening addiction, baffling law enforcement and causing wounds so severe that some result in amputation" by Jan Hoffman (NYT).

Xylazine causes wounds that erupt with a scaly dead tissue called eschar; untreated, they can lead to amputation. It induces a blackout stupor for hours, rendering users vulnerable to rape and robbery. When people come to, the high from the fentanyl has long since faded and they immediately crave more. Because xylazine is a sedative and not an opioid, it resists standard opioid overdose reversal treatments....

Doctors are perplexed by how xylazine causes wounds so extreme that they initially resemble chemical burns. They may not even appear at injection sites, but often on shins and forearms....

People who use drugs often feel too mortified by their wounds to come in from the shadows to get help at emergency rooms. That shame can be perpetuated by health care workers, who may dismiss these patients’ agonizing withdrawal as mere drug-seeking behavior. “Stigma is so deeply entrenched within hospital culture,” said Sara Wallace-Keeshen, a Prevention Point nurse who wears casual clothes rather than medical scrubs, hoping to appear nonjudgmental and welcoming.....

"I changed the door panels on an old 56 Chevy, and replaced some old floor tiles, made some landscape paintings, wrote a song called 'You Don’t Say.'"

"I listened to Peggy Lee records. Things like that. I reread 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' a few times over. What a story that is. What a poem. If there’d been any opium laying around, I probably would have been down for a while. I listened to The Mothers of Invention record Freak Out!, that I hadn’t heard in a long, long time. What an eloquent record. 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy,' and the other one, 'Who Are the Brain Police,' perfect songs for the pandemic."

That is what Bob Dylan (says he) did during the lockdown.

Let's all read "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" for Bob.

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow. 

As for Zappa, he was alerting us to "The emptiness that's you inside" ("Hungry Freaks, Daddy") and raising the question whether the people we know are melted plastic and soft chrome ("Who Are the Brain Police?").

The perfection for the pandemic of "Brain Police" must have to do with the long middle section repeating "I think I'm gonna die" and "I'm gonna die." It's interesting to picture Bob grooving on that and thinking How eloquent... perhaps while laying floor tiles.

"I was trying to be respectful.... They made it in front of us, squeezing the juice out of these massive tree roots... I was OK for 10 to 15 minutes and then I thought, 'ooooh, OK.' ... I went cross-eyed."

Said Michael McCormack, quoted in "'I went cross-eyed': Australia’s former deputy PM taken to hospital after drinking entire bowl of kava/Michael McCormack paid a high price for downing, not sipping, the sakau during a Pacific tour, later stating: 'I was trying to be respectful'" (The Guardian).

In Pohnpeian folklore, sakau was a gift from the gods... [I]t is usually served in a coconut shell, the state symbol of Pohnpei. It is made by pounding on the root of the kava plant and then straining it through the bark of the sea hibiscus tree. It’s known for being one of the stronger kavas – hence the sipping recommendation – as there is very little water added to the roots when making the drink.... McCormack said next time he would 'absolutely' sip and not down the drink in one go.

There are different ways of making kava, and McCormack had just had "five shells of kava in Vanuatu the day before" he arrived in Pohnpei.

I wonder how funny it was to the people he was "trying to be respectful" to.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for Pohnpei (which used to be called Ascension Island). Excerpt:
Pohnpei "upon (pohn) a stone altar (pei)"... is an island of the Senyavin Islands which are part of the larger Caroline Islands group. It belongs to Pohnpei State, one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)... the most populous with 36,832 people, and the most developed single island in the FSM.

Pohnpei is home to the megaliths and ruined city of Nan Madol, built of artificial islands off the island's eastern shore beginning in the 8th or 9th century....
Pohnpei (as Ponape) plays a role in several stories of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft and others....

This is well-animated, but should be viewed as what not to do.

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