Timothy Leary would be proud.
A handful of researchers at academic, medical and mental health institutions in the United States, Russia, Brazil and Switzerland are testing LSD, peyote and other hallucinogenic drugs as possible treatments for mental illness and alcoholism.
One leader of this merry band of pranksters is David Nichols, a professor of pharmacology and medicinal chemistry at Purdue University and founder of the Heffner Research Institute in Santa Fe, N.M. The institute is funding, among other projects, a University of Arizona research team led by psychiatrist Francisco Moreno, M.D., to study treating obsessive-compulsive disorder in human subjects with psilocybin, a substance derived from hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Nichols explains that psychedelic drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain, heightening the senses. As Nichols recently told the New York Times: "It's like turning up the volume on your radio. Suddenly you can hear very weak stations."
Playing old Velvet Underground tunes, no doubt.
Can't trust it. House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Texas) thinks the now-suspended HIPAA privacy regulations should be permanently suspended because the federal government is incapable of protecting private patient information.
He sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson urging him to suspend the regulations. Because of concerns about whether Congress received the rules sent Dec. 27 by the Clinton administration, Thompson put the regulations on hold and opened them up to another 30-day comment period.
It's nerve-wracking to think policymakers don't think the government can handle sensitive information such as test results and medical histories. "Handing sensitive medical records to federal departments and agencies that are ill-equipped to protect that information is not a solution," Armey wrote to Thompson. "It is inviting abuse, errors, scandal and tragedy."
Sort of like allowing a spy to work unnoticed in the FBI for 10 years?
Then again, maybe not. Consultants and vendors can just taste the money that could pour into their businesses from medical organizations needing guidance to implement HIPAA regulations.
They've sent out press releases and samples and have stood on the highest hill to proclaim their software and systems the "best," the "first" and the "only" to be "completely HIPAA compliant." The total number of trees killed to promote their wares rivals the number needed to issue the regulations themselves.
Some vendors and consultants were sure they had products compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 even before the final regulations were issued. They either had a Deep Throat at HHS or a crystal ball. They promised to keep anyone from having to give Uncle Sam a single dime or spend any time in an orange jumpsuit.
Then along came the Bush administration. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson put a hold on HIPAA privacy regulations and opened them up to another 30-day comment period.
It's not known what impact any additional comments will have--other than to delay the effective date of the privacy regulations and open the possibility that they could change.
Which means that vendors and consultants will have to issue another round of marketing calls, sample packets and media kits. And you thought that the regulations themselves were burdensome . . .
Regis, revered. "I guess you can say Regis was my muse," says Kurt Warkenthein, M.D., of Naperville, Ill.
The general practitioner had longed for the days when medicine was more personal--when doctors made house calls, were immediately accessible by telephone and didn't make patients wait weeks for appointments. "We've all maintained a love for the old-fashioned family practices," Warkenthein says.
But, as the father of five children, he wasn't about to take the financial risk of leaving a group practice to chase his dream. Until he got the call from Regis Philbin.
Warkenthein made it all the way to the hot seat and won $32,000 on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in January 2000. Sure, he bought his kids a computer and gave some money to charity--and of course Uncle Sam took a sizeable cut--but he still had plenty of cash left over.
"What am I gonna do with it? Just pay more bills?" Warkenthein asked rhetorically. So he started Golden Rule Family Practice, what he describes as a "1950s-model family practice" with retro charm.
He makes house calls--which he says insurance companies "cover nicely"--and he gives out his cell phone number so his patients are always able to reach him.
Warkenthein now cares for 1,200 families, almost triple the number he had starting out nine months ago, just on word of mouth.
And it's all because of Reege.