Baby Boomers and the Opioid Epidemic – Part 2

In my March 21, 2018, post, I wrote that the opioid epidemic knows no age – that baby boomers are affected as much as younger generations.

Center for Disease Control Statistics

The CDC has published information on just how much the opioid epidemic has affected lives. In its report, the CDC stated that from 1999-2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from prescription opioids. Deaths in 2016 were five times higher than in 1999. In 2016, more than 40% of all U.S. opioid deaths involved a prescription opioid. These are stunning numbers and makes you wonder how and when this got so out of hand.

The Dawn of the Opioid Crisis

In the mid 1990’s, the Sackler brothers and their company, Purdue Pharma, made the drug OxyContin and marketed it as a cure-all with no addictive tendencies. In my March post, I wrote about a great article in the New Yorker that went through the history of the Sackler brothers and how they turned OxyContin into a gold mine through their marketing efforts. When confronted with the possibility that OxyContin was addictive, they kept denying its abusive effects, all the while reaping in the cash. Well, the New York Times just published an article showing that Purdue Pharma knew about the abuse in the first few years after OxyContin was on the market and that the company hid the information. The Justice Department investigated Purdue Pharma for four years and recommended charges be brought against company executives. Rather than indict, in 2007, the US Government settled the matter with minor penalties and a big fine. The Justice Department thought that by charging executives and giving Purdue Pharma a hefty fine, that the penalties would deter other drug companies from flooding the market with prescription drugs.

They were wrong. The opioid markets were saturated with pills. And here we are today.

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Does Anyone Miss Old Fashion Telephones? Party Lines? Busy Signals? 411?

We live in an age of cell phones and smart phones. Far before the age of computers, big thick telephone directories along with various shapes, sizes and colors of telephones adorned our walls and countertops. Coiled phone cords could be as short as seven or eight inches or long enough to go from the kitchen to the living room. Now, all of your phone numbers are stored and carried in a device as large as your hand. Some of the younger generation have never experienced an actual telephone affixed to an area of their house or a telephone book so thick that it was sometimes used as a booster seat for dinner. So, here is some nostalgia about old school telephones that the elders can reminisce about and the youngers can be baffled about.

Party Lines

Party lines were local telephone circuits that were shared by more than one user. You could be in your house and on your telephone talking to a friend and someone else on your party line from another location could pick up his phone and listen to everything you are saying. Party lines didn’t allow for privacy. Also, if you needed to make a phone call and you picked up your phone and another person on your party line was talking, you couldn’t use the phone. You had to wait until they were done. There were laws on the books that required a party line to get off the phone in case of an emergency, but it wasn’t enforced very well. You could pay extra to get a private line, but back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, you just learned to deal with a party line.

Busy Signals

Back then, if you were on the telephone and someone tried to call you, he would get a busy signal. A bunch of short beeps.  No automatic voice mail, just a busy signal. If you were the person trying to call in, you would have to hang up and call back later. Until “call waiting” was invented, if you were the one on the telephone, you had no idea that someone was trying to call you, your sibling or your parent. One good thing about the busy signal was that if you didn’t want to talk to anyone, you would just take the phone off the hook. No messages. No incoming. No nothing. Peace and quiet. Well, peace and quiet until the dial tone timed out, then there would be a screeching alarm notifying you that your phone was off the hook. That’s when you would put the phone under your pillow or between your mattress. Now, for those who accidentally left the phone off the hook, once the screeching sound started, you would literally have to go to every phone that was in the house to figure out which one was off the hook. When you have a houseful of children and four or five telephones, this could be annoying to say the least.

Telephone Exchanges

Yes, telephone numbers used to have exchange names at the beginning. The first two letters of the exchange name matched the first two numbers of the telephone number. For instance, we had WARWICK, and the “W” matched the 9 on the telephone dial and the “A” matched the 2 on the dial. To this day, my mother recites the telephone number as “Warwick 8 . . . .” as our old telephone number.

Calling for the Time

The telephone companies always had a phone number you could call any time of the day or night to get the time. “At the tone, the time will be . . . .” said the recording. We used to call the time on New Year’s Eve every year.

Calling Information

If you were looking for a telephone number, dialing 411 would get you someone who worked at the local telephone company. You would give the operator the name and/or the address and the city, and the operator would give you his phone number.

Renting Telephones

Until the mid-1970’s, you could not own a phone. You could only rent, which was a couple dollars a month and added to your phone bill. When you were done with the phone, you had to turn it in to the phone company for credit. The phone company owned the phone so if you didn’t turn it in, the phone company would find you one way or the other. In addition to renting the phone, the telephone company back then had to come to your house to install special telephone jacks in order for your phone to work. If you wanted more than one phone in the house, the telephone company would have to install a jack in each room that you had a phone. What a racket!

Telephone Directories

White Pages and Yellow Pages. The White Pages had names, addresses and telephone numbers of residences and the Yellow Pages advertised businesses. They were both really thick books in our city, so thick that they were eventually chopped up into regional books. This was a poor decision by the telephone company because if I needed a number to a person or a business that was outside my region, I had to call 411. In addition, if I didn’t know the name of the business, but I was looking for, let’s say, a plumber, outside my region, there was no way to get a name or phone number unless I had the regional book. I think businesses lost a lot of money when the telephone company chopped up the Yellow Pages into regions.

Pay Telephone Booths

They used to be at just about every gas station and on every street corner. Not so much anymore.

We have come a long way in telecommunications, but thinking about the old technology takes me back to when the old technology was a fixture in the house, when I fought with my sisters over who was going to use the phone, when I agonized over the decision about whether I wanted a rotary dial or a touch tone phone for my birthday, and when I got excited each New Year’s Eve to call the time so we knew exactly when the New Year struck. Now, that’s nostalgia!

A New Career After 50? Not So Bad!

Do what you like and follow your dreams. This is exactly what is happening to my husband. An early retiree from a Fortune 500 company, his passion is music. Not pop music, rap, country, or any of those “putrid” (as he describes it) sounds, but Rock and Roll. And when I say rock and roll, I’m talking from the 1960’s and 1970’s, particularly the British Invasion. He knows concert dates, band members, love interests and just about everything else you need to know about music from the 1960’s and 1970’s. He is a virtual encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.  He is the “go to” person when someone has a question about Rock and Roll.

Opportunities for the Retirees are What you Make of Them

So, an opportunity came to him last year. If he would sell advertising for a local radio station, and in return, he would get his own radio show. He would become a disc jockey. Something he always wanted to do but never had the chance. He could have very easily said “No thank you, I’m retired” or “I do not have the experience to be a disc jockey,” but he didn’t. He followed his passion and in a couple of weeks he will be starting a new career promoting what he loves – music.  A new career after 50?  Not so bad!

New Careers are an Adventure for Baby Boomers

It’s never too late to try something different, to start a new life or to take on a new endeavor, as long as it is something you get excited about and look forward to every day. Although when you are younger it is scarier and riskier to take a hard right turn in your career, being over 50 gives you the life experience, patience, financial means and guts to begin a new chapter. So, I say – Sally forth Baby Boomers!

I’ll Always Be A Toys “R” Us Kid

Memories of a True Toy Store – Toys “R” Us

The sheer anticipation of walking up and down the aisles of Toys “R” Us and picking out the toy of my choice are some of my best childhood memories. Our family did not have a lot of money, so when my mom and dad told us we were going to Toys “R” Us, we knew dad got a good paycheck and they were going to share in the wealth. Oh . . . the waiting . . and the exhilaration the minute we got into the car dressed in our Sunday best to drive to the store where we each were allowed to pick out one item. My imagination went wild with the thought of traversing the aisles. Should I get a doll? A game? Or, maybe a puzzle? How about baseball bat? A paint set? Choices, choices, choices. But I could only pick one and it took time to make that kind of a decision. Up and down the aisles.  Then up and down the aisles again and again looking at every single item within my eyesight.  Fortunately, there were five of us kids, and it took a lot of time for everyone to zero in on their one item. When I finally did choose, I would act like it was something that was purchased at FAO Schwartz, delicately handling it and not letting anyone else touch it or play with it because it was, of course, from Toys “R” Us, which in my world, based on our income level, was a luxury store.

Unfortunately, on March 15, 2018, Toys “R” Us announced it was going away. The stores will liquidate and close their doors. The iconic giraffe Geoffrey (which I never really understood the connection between a toy store and a giraffe), we will see no more. The founder, Charles Lazarus, died just days after the announcement that the stores would be closing for good. A sad ending for an iconic brick and mortar specialty store.

I can’t imagine growing up without Toys “R” Us in my life and the joy I felt just walking through the front doors. I don’t know how kids these days can achieve the same level of excitement by their parents shopping on Amazon, or by walking down two or three aisles at Walmart or Target. I mean, Toys “R” Us was an entire store devoted only to kids. Kids ruled. The thought that our youth will not enjoy a similar life experience with a store of their own is heartbreaking.

Baby Boomers and the Opioid Epidemic

Addiction Perils from the 1960’s and 1970’s

For those of us growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we were lucky if we made it through our teens and 20’s without experiencing any kind of addiction. Back then, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, mescaline, Quaaludes and the like were easy to obtain and gave baby boomers a sense of freedom and camaraderie when experimenting with friends. None of the drugs typically used back then were prescription, and as we ventured forward in life, marriage, children and responsibility crept up on us. For those not addicted, the drugs went by the wayside, either used infrequently or not at all.  But there is a new concern about drugs and it is Baby Boomers and the Opioid Epidemic.

World – Meet the Sackler Brothers

Meanwhile, during the 1960’s, the prescription drug world was fast taking over our parents. The New Yorker has a wonderful article about the Sackler brothers, Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond, of Purdue Pharma. The brothers were inventors and master marketers. Millions were made off of marketing to lonely housewives and anxiety-ridden fathers. Not content with their existing wealth, in 1995 the Sackler brothers were able to get OxyContin, an opioid, approved by the FDA without having submitted any studies as to the addictive aspects of the drug. Then, the hyper-marketing of OxyContin began.

Baby Boomer Opioid Addiction is Real

Fast forward to today. Opioid prescription drug addiction has become an epidemic in this country. The addiction knows no age. However, for those over 50, who already average four prescription drugs per day, getting a prescription pain killer with an opioid, and the interaction with the other prescription drugs they take, can cause serious consequences. Addiction may be easier or overdose may be easier, depending on the other prescription drugs in their system. Baby boomers have to be careful not to fall victim to this scheme. Even though some of the symptoms of prescription drug addiction is similar to the natural aging process, discerning between whether you are truly going through the aging process or becoming a slave to prescription drugs can be hard if you are trying to self-diagnose. Friends and family have to be aware of signs and symptoms of addiction when they know a loved one is taking prescription medicine that involves opioids and narcotics. Forgetfulness, isolation, off-balance, irritability, personal appearance issues, etc., are all signs of both aging and addiction. Getting to the bottom of the behavior is key.

Even though we are over 50, we have many good years ahead of us. Our evolution from experimenting with non-prescription drugs during the 1960’s and 1970’s is completely different than the dangers the prescription drug industry has gotten us into today. Let’s hope that the lessons we have learned throughout our life will serve to help us recognize when we may be going down a path of self-destruction, and the strength to stop it. And for those that have not recognized their addiction, let’s hope that friends and family will step in and help them.

Shorts, Black Socks and Dress Shoes

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, the one dress style that I hated the most was when my dad or his male friends, or even our male neighbors, would mow the lawn or do yard work wearing shorts, black socks and black dress shoes. I could never understand the fashion statement and I would cringe when I saw my dad wearing such an outfit. He wasn’t a nerd or anything, but boy when I saw him dressed like that, I just wanted to hide from the embarrassment of it all. Well, fast forward to 2018. A few months ago, my husband comes out of the bedroom because he’s going to mow the lawn and do some yard work. What is he wearing? You guessed it. Shorts, black socks and black shoes. My first thought was “I married my dad.” I of course shrieked with disdain and said “You’re not going out in public dressed like that are you?” He said “Of course I am.” I was just as embarrassed a few months ago as I was years ago.
I’m sure everyone has that one fashion combination that, when seen, causes cringes. One only hopes that it is just a fad and it will go away. For me, what my father started, my husband carried forward. I’m doomed to either learn to like the style, ignore it or cherish it as a worthy characteristic in the two loves of my life.

What Happened to Face to Face Talk?

Number 9 Number 9 Number 9 – Before the Internet

The Beatles, or the Fab Four as I so affectionately remember them, has their entire remastered catalog out in the public and it went on sale in 2009.  I remember playing Revolution 9 when the whole “Paul is dead” theory was rampant throughout the US. We played the song backward at “Number 9 Number 9 Number 9” and absolutely and positively thought we heard “turn me on dead man” and that this was a clue to Paul McCartney’s premature death. We sleuths were putting two and two together and were convinced between the Number 9 clue and the Abbey Road album, where Paul is walking across the street barefoot, that our idol was truly dead, and that an imposter was playing Paul. Conspiracy theories ran rampant back then. My friends and I would sit around camp fires, sit in our pajamas in each other’s basements at pj parties and just debate about the whole death theory (Why would someone make it up? How could they get the album to play backward? What about the license plate on Abbey Road? Didn’t you hear the car crash on that song?)

Wondering How We Would Debate it Now

That was before the internet. Face-to-face discussions about issues that affected our lives. I just wonder what it would be like if the whole “Paul McCartney is dead” theory happened now, with the internet, rather than back in the 1960’s.