Repressive Legislation on Pain Killer Prescriptions is a Scam!!!

The proposed new restrictions on prescription pain killers, dishonestly touted as “saving lives”, do exactly the opposite.  All research and evidence establishes that when legally prescribed opioids are more difficult to acquire, those who need them turn to less expensive and more easily acquired alternatives – all of which are illegal.

Florida’s experience is the most blatant example of what happens when a “moral crises” of an “epidemic” leads to “death by legislation.”

The Florida legislature passed laws to curtail the largely unfettered prescription of opioids. The result: Deaths from prescription opioids dropped 69%, but heroin deaths more than doubled to a record 408.

Why? Simple.

Restricting access does not reduce need.

The most common prescription painkillers on the market, including hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), are actually opioid drugs, just like heroin. All of these drugs are derived from opium. One of the major derivatives of opium is morphine, from which heroin is derived, whereas the pharmaceutical painkillers are derived from the other major element, known as codeine. Heroin has similar effects to painkillers, making it an ideal substitute for those looking for a way to replace their painkillers.

Unable to get their usual prescription from doctors, those who were dependent upon them had to buy them from people who had them and would sell them at greatly inflated prices not covered by insurance.  With prescription opioids now difficult to find and terribly expensive, those who needed them sought an effective and less expensive opioid pain killer.  This is one readily available: Heroin.

Making prescription pain killers harder to get results in more deaths, more crime, more babies born addicted.

Who in their right mind wants more drug deaths, more addicted babies, and more heroin addicts?  Well, ask yourself who benefits from that situation? (1) Heroin dealers (2) law enforcement, who then requests funds to fight the growing crime caused by the increase in heroin addiction, (3) so-called “addiction treatment centers,” and (4) prisons, because the majority of people in America’s prisons are there on drug charges.

This is a well-established pattern in America’s “war on drugs,” and it is so predictable that there are entire sociology studies and even full-length books on the subject of “moral panic” over “drug epidemics” that lead to repressive harmful legislation.

Once patients move from legal prescription medications to illegally obtained medications, they are now “criminal drug addicts” who must be “treated,” or arrested and punished and locked up. So much for removing stigma from dependence and/or addiction.

We need only to look to other countries who solved these problems long ago by completely erasing the stigma of addiction by not making a medical condition a crime.  Taking it out of the shadows, taking away the secrecy and guilt, and providing the maintenance medication needed to live a normal and productive life has brought the deaths from heroin overdose in Sweden, for example, to ZERO.

Any organization that claims to have as  its goals to reduce stigma and reduce addiction but gives their endorsement to legislation and policies that are proven to increase heroin addiction and drug related crime is, in the most polite words possible, lying through their deceptive teeth.

In fact, all efforts to reduce the availability of drugs, be they legal or illegal, have the same effect: reduced safety, increased harm, and more danger to public health.

If you doubt this assertion, there are numerous studies internationally that validate it – from USA, CHINA, AUSTRALIA and elsewhere. The more you repress drugs – be it by increased police presence, police sweeps, or legislation, the more you make drug use difficult, the more you increase the stigma, push it deeper into the shadows, and make life more dangerous for everyone while not reducing the use of drugs at all. 

Let us resolve to deal with what is real, because reality is something you can live with.

 

 

SUZY SPENCER’S BREAKING POINT IS BETTER THAN EVER

breakingpointSuzy Spencer first came to my attention about seven years ago, and I was immediately impressed by the dynamic forward motion of her narratives coupled with her ability to set the scene of events without belaboring every physical nuance from outdoor environment to details of window shades — she knows how to capture your attention, and most importantly, tell the story. Her BREAKING POINT goes beyond the superficial coverage inherent in the limited word count of newspaper stories, or the soundbite analysis of infotainment disguised as news. Spencer gets into the heart and soul of every story she investigates, and brings, dare I say it, a “spiritual sensitivity” to the complexities of human existence. Mental illnesses are medical condition whether the result of in utero virus, injury or heredity. Sadly, recent research found that more Americans believe that evil acts are caused by invisible demons from hell than in medical diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions. Spencer has a perceptive eye, a kind heart

Mental illnesses are medical condition whether the result of in utero virus, injury or heredity. Sadly, recent research found that more Americans believe that evil acts are caused by invisible demons from hell than in medical diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions. Spencer has a perceptive eye, a kind heart and, if the atheists amongst us will pardon the phrase,God-given talent. Her literary abilities and personal sensitivity make her updated retelling of Andrea Yates’ “BREAKING POINT” a definite addition to everyone’s true crime non-fiction library.

Mental illnesses are medical condition whether the result of in utero virus, injury or heredity. Sadly, recent research found that more Americans believe that evil acts are caused by invisible demons from hell than in medical diagnosis and treatment for mental health conditions. Spencer has a perceptive eye, a kind heart and, if the atheists amongst us will pardon the phrase,God-given talent. Her literary abilities and personal sensitivity make her updated retelling of Andrea Yates’ “BREAKING POINT” a definite addition to everyone’s true crime non-fiction library.

The new expanded edition of BREAKING POINT has a 20,000 word update!

NYPD: SCANDAL , CORRUPTION and the 75th Precinct

I’m working on a new book with Frank C Girardot and Ken Eurell about the cocaine cops of the 75th Precinct in New York City — maybe you saw the documentary.  I was writing the introduction….and here is a rough draft of my opening remarks.

*****

There is one thing upon which we all agree.  None of us were brought by the stork. Planned or unplanned, we are all the product of the same process of biology and genetics. We are all influenced by what we inherit from our parents and our environment.

A child raised on a farm in the Midwest has a different perspective than one raised on the South side of Chicago or Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  We can argue nature vs nurture all day long, but it is an absolute fact that when it comes to our health and well being, we want to know our family’s medical history.  It is in our best interest to know what talents, strengths, weaknesses or illnesses exist in our DNA.

It’s the same with cities. The personality of Los Angeles is different from that of Boston, just as Boston’s unique charm is distinct from that of New York City. Each town has its origin, outlook, and character, all of which are the product of its history and citizenry. All the primary characters in this story  have what Billy Joel termed “A New York State of Mind.”  To appreciate a rose, you do not sniff the soil from which it grew; To understand a rose, you must know the soil that nourished it and gave it life.

Regaled as “The most shocking scandal of corruption in the history of the NYPD,” the criminality and corruption of Michael Dowd, Ken Eurell, and their crew of Cocaine Cops as a gang unto themselves in the 75th Precinct doesn’t smell like a rose.  To understand it, we must know the soil from which it grew, the culture and attitudes that gave it life, and, for the first time, experience it not only from the perspective of the ethically challenged participants, but also from the women who loved them and overlooked their faults – wives who first enjoyed the fruits of their husbands’ criminality, and then shared the suffering of public shame and ignominious humiliation.

Frank Girardot, Jr. and I are indeed lucky to tell you this story, and tell it the way we most enjoy – as if you were sitting right here with us, either leaning back in your chair or on the edge of your seat.

When writing this book, we started with the firm belief that you are our friend. You love true stories, and we have a true story to tell.  And we make you a promise: Everything we tell you in this book is there for a reason. Nothing is superfluous. Everything is important.  You have to trust us on this because sometimes it may seem that we are bringing up things that are not part of the story, but if you trust us, and stick with us, you will see how it all fits together.

One question I’m sure that comes to mind is, how did we get so lucky as to have this story to tell as it has never been told before, with cooperation from not only Ken Eurell, but also his wife whose perspective is fresh engaging and filled with emotion, plus inside information direct from former Dominican drug cartel kingpin, Adam Diaz?

Damn good question, and a fairly simple answer.  Ken Eurell sold the movie rights to his story to SONY Pictures, but kept the literary rights.  Ken knew he wasn’t an author any more than he was a movie maker.  He asked our mutual acquaintance, famed journalistPaul Guzzo, for advice. It was Paul who connected us.  I then turned to Frank Girardot, Jr, the brilliant award-winning journalist who co-wrote our best-selling true crime book, A TASTE FOR MURDER.  He was immediately on board with equal enthusiasm.

In our earliest conversations about how to tell this story, I mentioned that men communicate to share data; women communicate to share emotion.  The crime and corruption in the 75th Precinct of the NYPD is heavy on testosterone and data.  The #1` audience for true crime stories is primarily women, although men are starting to catch on to the importance of the genre.  The first thing I said was, “Can we get Ken’s wife to talk to us in depth. She is the true key to capturing the emotions behind the madness. It was 16 years ago that I coined the meme, “You can buy a Talking Barbie anywhere, but you can’t even special order Listening Ken”, make sure Ken’s wife knows we are ready to listen, and REALLY LISTEN.”

Our book doesn’t have an official title or cover art, and we are still writing it, but it should be available by September from WildBlue Press.

LOS ANGELES TIMES — SHAME ON YOU FOR YOUR “ADDICT” HEADLINE

The Los Angeles Times left me drop jawed with incredulity by their July 10th 1930’s style headline about “Criminals and Addicts.” as if they were naturally connected.  NEWS FLASH: it is not a crime to have the medical condition of addiction — a disorder of the limbic system that is over 60% genetic — just as it is not a crime to have the medical condition of diabetes, heart disease or asthma.  The Supreme Court ruled in the 1950’s that to regard someone with addiction as a criminal, and punish them for having the condition, is unconstitutional as it is cruel and unusual to punish someone for their medical state. You can’t pass laws against a disease, and addiction is known to be a treatable, yet chronic brain disorder.

When the Times says that more than a million Oxycontin pills ended up in the hands of “criminals and addicts,” what that means is that chronic pain sufferers were being cut off from their medication by physicians worried of “over prescribing” in the current fear-based climate of moral panic, and those former patients, now either dependent on or addicted to their needed medication, had no choice but to buy on  the street what they were being denied at the doctor’s office.

Hospitals in Colorado are even denying pain pills to people suffering from acute pain from broken teeth or excruciating gum infections because they are “dental” not medical conditions!  Wait — there is more.  Research has shown that the STIGMA of being “an addict” is more harmful to the person than the illness! It causes more  life threatening stress accompanied by social exclusion and humiliation

The Los Angeles Times, adding further insult, follows their enormous headline with another story “OneTown’s Descent into Crime, Addiction and Heartbreak”  Sadly, they don’t know or care that they are perpetuating misperceptions that only increase the heartbreak.

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (joined by Justices Black, Warren, and Brennan,) in combination with Douglas’s concurring opinion, recognized that drug addiction is a disease, and that it is unconstitutional to impose punishment for having a disease. PS: If you want to understand this topic better, imagine if diabetics were stigmatized, and insulin was horribly difficult to get from your doctor, and you were compelled to buy insulin on the street. Now, that would be one hell of a “crime wave” resulting from the Diabetes Epidemic!

JUNE 21st: Lee Goldberg, Burl Barer and Tod Goldberg celebrate new releases!!

the pursuitOn June 21st, the latest collaboration between Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg becomes available. You can advance order The Pursuit right now!

On that same date, the first ever e-book version of my New York Times Best Seller, Murder in the Family, becomes mifavailable as well. Advance order them both today, and receive them both June 21st!

Yes, Tod Goldberg has a new collaboration with the great Brad Meltzer, House of Secrets, that you must own under penalty of being the center of some horrid conspiracy

hos brad and tod

EASTSIDE HEARTBEATS – Rock n Roll Musical at CASA 0101 — SEE IT!

Thanks to the kind generosity of director S.E. Feinberg, Barbara Creme and I had front row seats to the Sunday evening performance of EASTSIDE HEARTBEATS,  the captivating and vastly entertaining musical stage production inspired by the true story of Cannibal and the Headhunters, but fictionalized to embrace all East L.A. bands and vocalists of 1965,

It is well known that I cry in color cartoons and newsreels. Anything with even a dollop of sentimentality or that tugs even gently at my heartstrings will reduce me to tears. Thirty seconds into EASTSIDE HEARTBEATS, my cheeks were soaked around the edges of my non-stop grin. I couldn’t stop smiling, admiring, tapping my foot and enjoying every minute of the first act of this upbeat engaging and culturally relevant rock n roll musical about East L A  Americans of Mexican heritage reaching for music business success.

eastside jheartbeats

With spectacular original songs evocative of everything from Motown, Stax-Volt, Beatles and the L.A. Rock scene of 1965, EASTSIDE HEARTBEATS has moments of absolute brilliance. Incredibly powerful was a soulful, Motown-worthy duet by the parents of the Eastside Hearbeats’ lead singer in which they bemoan the influence of “Negro music” on their son.  The juxtaposition of  heritage defensive lyrics and intense soulful vocal stylings with call and response verses and a musical arrangement referencing famed Temptations’ hits Ball of Confusion and Papa Was A Rolling Stone said more about commonality in diversity than hours of speeches or a compendium of social science research.  That song alone was more than  enough to thrill anyone who remembers America in general, and L.A. in specific, in the mid 1960’s.

Performances and choreography were excellent all around, the sound was clean and clear, and the musicianship was perfection.

Act two loses some momentum by the inclusion of a nonetheless entertaining and amusing scene in the Whisky A Go G9, the song, unlike the previous tunes, doesn’t play upon the established emotional investment the audience has with the inner dialog of the primary characters. This upbeat diversion is followed by more than one scene/song dealing with the depressive aspect of having your dreams dashed by prejudice. Audiences are hip enough to not have to be told three times that four kids from East L.A. had about as much chance of being stars as did a bar band from Liverpool playing for prostitutes in Hamburg, Germany’s red light district.  In other words, you’re more likely to be hit by lightning.

And then, on stage as in real life,  lightning strikes! The Beatles reach out across the ocean and ask the Eastside Heartbeats to open for them at the Hollywood Bowl.  Yes, in real life this is what happened to Cannibal and the Headhunters, the East L.A. band famed for ‘Land of 1,000 Dances”

The scene and song that gives us the fun tune, “Thank you Mr. Epstein,” puts the play back on track 100%, and from there we have a glorious upbeat celebration of family unity, cultural diversity and dreams coming to fabulous fruition.

Director S.E. Feinberg, writer Tom Waldman, and composers  James Holvay, David Reyes, and Rudy Salas debated whether or not to use the actual hit, Land of 1000 Dances in the show.  They decided  instead to pen an original in a similar style.  “Eastside Heartbeats is a fictional group, so we need a fictional hit song.” was the agreed upon reasoning.

What do I think?    I say have it both ways !  Use the fictional song in the fictional play, and then after the cast takes their final bow, acknowledge the original inspiration by going into Land of 1000 Dances.

Either way, Eastside Heartbeats is an absolute delight and a great night at the theater.  There is also a wonderful nostalgic display of authentic 1955-1965 show posters and 45 rpm records by Eastside bands.

Eastside Heartbeats will be presented Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 5 p.m. until May 29, 2016. Tickets are $30 per person / $25 for students, seniors, and Boyle Heights residents. The show is suitable for all ages and is 141 minutes long. Tickets are available HERE or by calling (323)263-7684.

CASA0101 is located at 2102 East First Street (at Louis St. across from the Hollenbeck Police Station), Boyle Heights CA 90033.

PS: In the opening number, and before we consulted the playbook, Barbara Creme leaned over and pointed subtly to one of the dancers, Katie Kitan, and said “I bet she’s dance captain, I can tell”    She was correct.  Kudos to Katie and choreographers Ubani Lucero ( and originally Corky Dominguez) for your contributions to an enjoyable evening.

The Secret of Happiness; The Secret of Success

The Secret of Happiness is no big secret. It is simply this: Live your life in harmony with what you believe.  If you don’t, you are living a life of perpetual internal conflict.

We all understand that disharmony and conflict in the world bring us to the Eve of Destruction. My dearly departed pal, PF Sloan, wrote a song by that title back when he was 19 years old.

When we have conflict within a nation, we risk  civil war.

When we have conflict in the family….disunity and divorce.

When we have conflict within ourselves — a disconnect between what we believe and how we live, we make ourselves ill.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. We are the house. We are the family. We are the nation in miniature. Who wants the house divided?  There is no “them,” there is only “us.”

We are one.

Dazed and Confused — Headlock, Obama and Sewer Rats

DAZED AND CONFUSED:  I don’t get it, and neither does         any author/publisher.  Some books, despite rave reviews           and lovely covers, just…well… lie there, underappreciated,         with pages still stuck together as if they were German Go0-       Girls after a 12-hour Bukkake Marathon.

Lee Goldberg and I were discussing this the other night —         the books, not the Goo-Girls — and we each had stories to         share of  excellent books that didn’t reach their target                 audience.  We also had stories of books that failed to                   perform on initial release, but inexplicably caught fire years     later upon re-release.

    Lee’s THE WALK, a disaster novel that lived up to that description, became a highly praised best-seller when he brought it back first as an ebook, then as a paperback.  Lee tells the story best…

    My PI novel HEADLOCK, first released 15 years ago, garnered  rave reviews internationally, but because it was “print on demand” technology before that process caught on, the book was nearly impossible to buy, and I netted approx. $56.75 before the original publisher, Deadly Alibi Press, closed shop.   Wild Blue Press recently re-released HEADLOCK with snazzy new cover, more readable font, and they even fixed all the typos.

 

 Will HEADLOCK catch fire now, or is it doomed despite rave reviews?  My suggestion is for you to buy HEADLOCK by Burl Barer, read it and then let me know your opinion by posting a review on your favorite book site.

HEADLOCK_concept2_Revised1_Kindle

The only reason I mentioned Obama and Sewer Rats is because any blog post containing that phrase gets massive hits.

You can change fiction, rewrite reality.

Memory is a tricky thing. There are things I don’t remember, and there are things I can never forget.   I wrote a short story last year that I called,”The Girl I Don’t Remember”  It is a fictionalized version of a true memory of mine from late 1960’s or early 70’s — I don’t really remember what decade — and I didn’t like the ending in real life, or in the story. The other day, I rewrote the ending. Tell me what you think.

©2015/2016 Burl Barer. All Rights Reserved

THE GIRL I DON’T REMEMBER

by

Burl Barer

I once met a girl about whom I remember absolutely nothing except this story.  There is no image of her in my mind, no recollection of her scent, her smile, her laugh or the long tender kiss we shared before we parted.  I’m sure there must have been a kiss, or several kisses and perhaps some type of intimacy, but it is lost to me now after so many years.

All I know is that we met one gloriously romantic night in Seattle, and shared the evening together until just past 2 am.  I imagine we laughed a lot, or at least smiled until our cheeks hurt.  Whatever we did, I know we had a wonderful time. If not, I wouldn’t remember this story.

Our time together was joyous, stimulating and so blatantly rewarding that the idea of not seeing each other again was so absurd that we laughed about it. That much I recall.  It is only the ending events of the story that remain remarkably clear.

We were in her car, and she was dropping me off at my car.

“Now I suppose I’ll never see you again,” she said, and we both laughed. “You are one of those men who never calls the next day, or the next week, or ever .”

“I’ll call you before you’re home, just to hear it ring,” I said. “In fact, when you get home, the phone will be ringing as you open the door”

“You’ll need my number then. You can’t just dial at random and expect to get me.”


She found a napkin, dug a Schaefer cartridge pen out of her purse, and wrote down her number.

“I promise to stare at the number until it is embedded in my brain,” I said, “and I’ll save this napkin the rest of my days.”

“Okay, then,” she said, and I would like to think that she kissed me again. I pulled on the door handle, stepped out of the car, shut the door and waved goodbye as she drove off in the rain.

Rain.

White napkin.

Blue cartridge ink.

No ringing phone awaited her at home. Not that night, not the next day. Not ever..

As  Seattle rain smeared the number from the napkin,  it also erased every detail of our encounter from my memory.

She is the girl I don’t remember. The Forgotten Woman.

The napkin, the rain and the dissolving bluish streaks are forever embedded in my brain, and true to my word, I saved the napkin.

I hope that if she remains alive, and by fate providence or literary curiosity she reads this story, I pray she forgives me.

Then again, the rain washing away her number possibly saved me from the devastating heartbreak of a disastrous affair climaxed by her murdering me, dismembering my lifeless body, running my remains through a meat grinder, then donating the lean ground author to the local senior center.

The Holy Book says, “every drop of rain is accompanied by an angel of the Lord.”

The angels of the Lord get credit for saving me from that vicious bitch.

I hope she died in a flood. 

Wait. What if she were saved from me?

Remind me to toss out this damn napkin.

I don’t even remember why I saved it in the first place.

The Literati love me in Pakistan.

“Inspiration inspires inspiration.”

My dear friend Allen Goldblatt penned that line on behalf of Mike Curb who, supposedly,wrote liner notes for “Music from 2001: A Space Odyssey Vol 2.”  This was inspired by inspirational music heard on the original film soundtrack  Well, of course. If vol 2 didn’t exist, it would prove that the first LP was not inspirational. What has this to do with Pakistan, or people loving me there?  Plenty, my book reading fan base, plenty.

The #1 hot-shot author, media master and marketing expert in Pakistan is Mian Moshin Zia.  I don’t know how Mian found my work, my books or this blog, but we know he did, and he found inspiration for his own career while reading about my life and my career — most especially a blog post I wrote, entitled The Day my Father Apologized.

He went so far as to contact me from Pakistan, and ask my sage advice on writing, reaching the international market, and other topics on which I was more than willing to pontificate as if I knew what I was talking about.  Also, I could easily see that Mian had incredible drive, talent, imagination and the proven chops in  marketing to make his dreams become a reality — and damn if he didn’t follow my advice to the letter! Wow, if I had known I gave such good advice I wouldn’t have been ignoring me all these years.

Today, Milan Moshin Zia is an internationally respected and admired author of suspense, mystery, and true love romance novels that pluck at your heartstrings until your ventricles collapse!

Here is his latest book and the book trailer….notice how Mian has mastered the cinematic presentation — the book cover looks like a movie one-sheet, not a book cover.

Obviously I am proud of Mian’s success, and he’s just getting warmed up. He is a quick study, a dedicated artist, and a bit of a visionary. Nice guy, too.  Plus, in interviews, he always says nice things about me. Hey, can’t beat that!