COCAINE AND HEROIN AREN’T GOOD FOR YOU! — a Golden Fleece Award
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/06/13
My generation of scientists was familiar with the Golden Fleece Awards bestowed by Senator William Proxmire on federally funded research to find answers that were already known or on topics of no importance. Proxmire would certainly have given an award for the work described by the headline,
HIV-positive illicit drug users have increased risk for opportunistic infections, death, study says (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8 March 2006)
When Google Alerts delivered me this headline, I naturally inferred that the study had found that “HIV”-positive drug users had a poorer prognosis than HIV-negative drug users. That would have made this just another study showing that if you were “HIV”-positive you were more likely to be ill than if you were HIV-negative, given that testing “HIV”-positive is a sign of physiological stress, albeit not necessarily serious enough to worry about unless your physician decided that you needed to take antiretroviral drugs. Moreover it would have been consistent with several reports that “HIV”-positive drug addicts reverted to HIV-negative, as well as to better health, upon conquering the addiction.
Imagine my delight, not to say surprise, on finding that my inference was dead wrong:
“HIV-positive users of cocaine and heroine have an increased risk for opportunistic infections and death compared with HIV-positive nonusers, according to a study published in the January 4 on-line edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, Reuters reports. Gregory Lucas of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues surveyed a total of 1,851 HIV-positive individuals every six months starting in 1998. Researchers grouped the participants into different categories: 1,028 ‘nonusers’; 588 ‘intermittent users,’ who had used illicit drugs an average of 14 days in the last six months; and 235 ‘persistent users,’ who had used illicit drugs an average of 27 days in the last six months. After three years, researchers found that the approximate survival rates were 87% for nonusers, 80% for intermittent users and 68% for persistent users. After adjusting for various factors — including age, race, gender and CD4+ T-cell counts — researchers found that the risk of death was almost double in intermittent users and almost triple in persistent users. During periods when users abstained from illicit drug use, the risk of opportunistic infections decreased to the level associated with nonusers, according to the study.”
Congress, The National Drug Enforcement Agency, indeed all law enforcement entities, as well as the NGOs that preach “Just say NO to drugs”, will be greatly relieved at this proof that their work has actually had a genuinely substantive basis. No longer need they worry, whether they have an objective basis for their animus against cocaine, crack, crystal, heroin, etc., etc.—now it’s been scientifically proven at last that those substances are health-threatening.
“The observed increase in risk might be attributed to the effect illicit drugs have on the immune system…”
Well. Yes, that seems plausible enough.
But let us not overlook that this whole study involved “HIV”-positive people. So the really major question is, how do cocaine and heroin interfere with treating HIV? So, as Jon Stewart of the Daily Show would say, “Here’s your moment of Zen”:
“The observed increase in risk might be attributed to … failure to adhere to antiretroviral therapy”.
“Effectively targeting and treating active substance abuse in HIV treatment settings may provide a mechanism to improve clinical outcomes”.
Would anyone disagree?
Would anyone have disagreed before this study was ever done??
This entry was posted on 2008/06/13 at 9:09 am and is filed under antiretroviral drugs, clinical trials, HIV absurdities, HIV as stress, HIV risk groups. Tagged: cocaine, drug abuse and death, Golden Fleece Awards; drug abuse and illness, heroin, HIV and drug abuse, Senator William Proxmire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.