Opioid Crisis Is a ‘National Emergency’: What Happens Now?


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Opioid Crisis Is a ‘National Emergency’: What Happens Now?

Credit: Steve Heap/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a “national emergency,” but what happens now, and could this declaration really help address the crisis?

On Thursday (Aug. 10), Trump told reporters that the opioid epidemic is a national emergency. “We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” he said.

In a statement, the White House said Trump had ” instructed his administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

The declaration follows a recommendation from Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis, which urged the president to declare a national emergency over the issue.

Experts said that the declaration was encouraging, but it’s uncertain how big of an impact it will have on the opioid crisis.

“To me it’s an important step, [but] there need to be many steps after this,” said Dr. Bradley Stein, a psychiatrist and senior physician policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization. Stein noted that the opioid epidemic has evolved over decades and is not something that can be solved overnight. “There’s not really a silver bullet here — there’s not really a single policy that’s going to solve this. We as a country need to attack it at multiple fronts,” Stein told Live Science. [America’s Opioid-Use Epidemic: 5 Startling Facts]

Since 1999, the number of people who have died from overdoses of eitherprescription opioids or heroin has nearly quadrupled in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, about 1,000 Americans die per week from drug overdose (not just from opioids), according to a statement from Trump’s opioid commission. And in 2015, opioids (prescription and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people, more than in any other year on record, according to the CDC.

Declaring a national emergency does bring attention to the issue, Stein said. “It certainly sends a signal about the level of federal commitment to addressing this crisis,” he said.

The declaration could also open up more resources for addressing the epidemic. But exactly which resources become available will depend upon which path the administration takes for this emergency declaration.

The administration can declare an emergency in two ways: through the Stafford Act or through the Public Health Service Act, and each of these laws could help in different ways, Stein said.

A declaration through the Stafford Act would trigger the same type of aid that is available to areas after a natural disaster. This means money from the federal disaster-relief fund could be used to bolster efforts to treat opioid addiction or prevent misuse of these drugs, Stein said.

However, money from the disaster-relief fund would be limited; in total, there is currently $1.4 billion available through the fund for aiding disasters over the rest of the year. This could be enough to get some efforts started in the short term, but ultimately, a more long-term investment would be needed, Stein said.

A declaration through the Public Health Service Act could help increase access to opioid treatment in underserved areas by making it easier for doctors to practice medicine in different states, Stein said. Rather than having to go through a lengthy process to obtain a medical license in a different state, a doctor moving to an underserved area would have some of these requirements waived.

A particularly promising benefit of the “national emergency” declaration (regardless of which act is invoked) could be to allow states more flexibility in using funds from Medicaid for treating opioid disorders. For example, currently, Medicaid can’t be used to reimburse treatments at psychiatric facilities, where some people with opioid disorder receive treatment, Stein said. But this barrier could be waived using either the Stafford Act or the Public Health Service Act.

“That would open up more resources [and] more facilities to be able to treat opioid disorders,” Stein said.

As for next steps, Stein said there should be a focus on not only increasing access to treatment for opioid disorders, but also making sure the treatment is of high quality. In addition, more efforts are needed to reduce access to these powerful drugs, through both prescriptions and illegal markets, he said.

“Neither of those things happen[s] overnight … but we can make progress” over the long term, Stein said.

Finally, when new policies are put into place to address the opioid epidemic, it’s important to revisit these policies from time to time to make sure they are working and not having unintended consequences, Stein said. For example, in recent years, the Food and Drug Administration approved newer formulations of opioids that were harder to abuse, but as a result, some people shifted to using heroin instead, Stein said.

“We can’t put things in place and walk away,” Stein said. “We may need to modify some of our responses” to the epidemic.

Original article on Live Science.

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Why Does a Total Solar Eclipse Move from West to East?


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Why Does a Total Solar Eclipse Move from West to East?

The moon’s shadow, projected on Earth during a total solar eclipse, as seen from space. While the moon normally rises in the east and sets in the west, a total solar eclipse moves from west to east.

Credit: NASA/DSCOVR-EPIC Team

Paul Sutter is an astrophysicist at The Ohio State University and the chief scientist at COSI Science Center. Sutter leads science-themed tours around the world at AstroTouring.com

Every day, the same routine. The sun rises in the east. Breakfast. Off to work. Work. Home from work. Dinner. The sun sets in the west. Repeat. It’s a pattern familiar to everyone on Earth. For countless generations, we’ve relied on the regular cycles of the heavens to help demarcate our days.

But a total solar eclipse, like the big one coming to the continental United States on Aug. 21, will break the routine. In addition to the moon completely covering the face of the sun — which, let’s admit, is alreadypretty spectacular — the event will move in an unfamiliar and possibly disquieting direction: from west to east.  [Total Solar Eclipse 2017: When, Where and How to See It (Safely)]

The normal, daily rising and setting of celestial objects isn’t due to their own movement, but rather the rotation of Earth. As our planet spins on its axis, the heavens appear to rise up from the east, arch their way across the sky, and settle into the west.

It’s hard to blame our ancestors for assuming that Earth — which seemed very large and strong — was incapable of movement, with the ethereal denizens of the heavens gliding along their nested crystal spheres, giving humans our familiar, clockwork celestial movements.

After centuries of serious work, people realized that Earth does indeed spin, and the motion of the sun, moon and stars is only apparent. But when it comes to solar eclipses we’re faced with a new incongruity: why does the path of a solar eclipse start in the west and end in the east?

The answer is simple, but it’s not something we’re accustomed to thinking about: the moon itself orbits Earth from west to east. In other words, if you could rocket up high above the North Pole, the moon would trace out a counterclockwise circle. But Earth rotates about 30 times for a single lunar orbit, so it’s not something we normally notice. During a solar eclipse, the path of the moon’s shadow must follow the motion of the moon itself — to the east.

The solar eclipse is a wonderful opportunity to experience astronomy at its most basic: understanding the intricate dance of heavenly objects.

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Ancient Pueblo Rock Art Depicts a ‘Celebratory’ Solar Eclipse


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Ancient Pueblo Rock Art Depicts a ‘Celebratory’ Solar Eclipse

The rock art depicting a solar eclipse, possibly from A.D. 1097, looked “more celebratory than frightening,” said a University of Colorado archaeoastronomer.

Credit: J Mckim Malville/University of Colorado

Millions of people will gaze at the Great American Eclipse on Aug. 21, shooting photographs and taking selfies. A thousand years ago, early Pueblo people, called Chacoans, captured their experiences of a total solar eclipse by carving it into a rock — a circle with looping streamers that resemble the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona.

Not only does this rock art, or petroglyph, depict a solar eclipse with a gigantic eruption of plasma called a coronal mass ejection (CME), its looping lines may have evoked a wondrous, inspirational experience, said solar astronomer J. McKim Malville, a University of Colorado Boulder professor emeritus, who is an expert in archaeoastronomy.

“The petroglyph looks more celebratory than frightening,” Malville told Live Science. “If our interpretation is correct, they tried to depict theextraordinary sight of the corona, like nothing seen before — associated [it] with a deity that was even more mysterious and powerful than they imagined.” [See Photos of the Petroglyph of the Solar Eclipse]

Malville discovered the petroglyph in 1992, while on a scientific excursion into Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, with W. James Judge, then a professor of anthropology at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. They found the petroglyph among others pecked into a large boulder called Piedra del Sol, near the ruins of a cultural hub for the Chacoans, who thrived there between A.D. 900 and 1150.

A petroglyph found in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico depicts a solar eclipse with a huge coronal mass ejection (an eruption of plasma from the sun).

A petroglyph found in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico depicts a solar eclipse with a huge coronal mass ejection (an eruption of plasma from the sun).

Credit: J Mckim Malville/University of Colorado

When he saw it, Malville immediately recognized something familiar.

“Some people might see it as a bug or a tick or a spider,” he said. “But it struck me as very similar to photographs of coronal mass ejections that I’d seen, and drawings.”

In 2014, Malville and professor José Vaquero of the University of Extremadura in Cáceres, Spain, published a study in the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry describing the discovery. They knew that an eclipse had occurred in the region on July 11, 1097, and that the sun’s corona and even CMEs are visible to the naked eye during totality (when the moon’s shadow completely blocks the sun’s light from reaching Earth). But they needed evidence that the sun was in a period of heightened activity, known as solar maximum, when such ejections are most common. It occurs about every 11 years or so, with some variation in the intensity, Malville said.

He and his colleague consulted several sources to determine the level of activity around the time of the eclipse. They looked at data from ancient tree rings, which store traces of atmospheric carbon from photosynthesis and also provide a natural calendar of annual growth. During periods of high solar activity, the sun’s more intense magnetic fields deflect cosmic rays from reaching Earth, reducing the amount of radioactive carbon, found as isotope carbon-14, in tree rings. For the period around 1097, the carbon-14 isotopes were low.

Naked-eye observations of sunspots recorded in ancient Chinese texts also indicated higher solar activity, as did historical data from northern Europeans on the annual number of so-called “auroral nights.” The evidence pointed to high levels of activity on the sun during the 1097 eclipse. [The 8 Most Famous Solar Eclipses in History]

“It turns out, the sun was in a period of very high solar activity at that time, consistent with an active corona and CMEs,” Malville said in news statement.

The depiction itself, a circle with looping streamers radiating from the edge, struck Malville as something jubilant, not frightening.

There are cultures that consider eclipses as dangerous and fearsome omens during the moments when the day turns into “night,” Malville said.

But not all.

He recalled viewing the June 30, 1972, eclipse in Kenya, camped at the eastern edge of Lake Turkana among Turkana, Samburu and El Molo tribes. During the eclipse, the El Molo went into their huts, as they do every evening, remaining there until light returned; they didn’t seem influenced at all by the event, he said. But the other tribes came to the campsite to view the eclipse.

This particular event lasted 7 minutes, an unusually long time, and the people there had a chance to see the beauty of the corona during totality.

“The brightness of the corona is about the brightness of the full moon, so it’s easily seen with the naked eye,” Malville said. (REMEMBER, never look directly at the sun or a solar eclipse without special protective viewers, though you can look at the eclipse without glasses ONLY during the couple of minutes of totality.)

Afterward, the people performed dances to celebrate the eclipse and thank the astronomers for the chance to see it.

Malville thinks that the 1097 eclipse in Chaco Canyon may have stirred a similar sense of wonder in the early Pueblo people. After 1100, the people built 10 large houses, called the Great Houses in Chaco, all of which are in areas that provide dramatic views of the rising or setting sun at the winter or summer solstices, he said.

“There is the possibility that the glory of that experience for the people living in Chaco in 1097 was transformed to an increased reverence for or an increased appreciation of the sun,” Malville said.

He has a theory about why some modern people might claim that ancient civilizations were terrified by eclipses.

“They have never seen the full glory of an eclipse themselves,” he said.

Originally published on Live Science.