Ricky's Riffs:

Random Thoughts on Travel, Education, Health, and the World in General


Some Early Thoughts on a Global Pandemic

March 23rd, 2020

We have suddenly been thrust into a global pandemic. Seemingly overnight, our lives have changed. Many of us are on lockdown, prohibited from leaving our homes except to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the doctor. We must now maintain “social distance” to prevent infection, staying at least six feet from others.

There were already signs, back in December 2019, of a strange viral disease originating in the filthy live animal markets of China’s Wuhan province. Then it was seen in South Korea, and Japan. Somehow it jumped to Italy, and spread throughout Europe. All the while, from our “distant” perch–despite alarms being sounded by infectious disease and public health experts–our leaders looked on, and did nothing.Read the rest of this entry »


The Democratization of Health and Healing

January 26th, 2020

I’d like to start a movement called “Humans for the Democratization of Health and Healing.” The movement will include many stakeholders: patient/consumers, healthcare practitioners, industry, and government. It will question the traditional relationships among all of these entities. And it will demand change from them all–including myself!Read the rest of this entry »


Cannabis: Medicine of the Future?

January 6th, 2020

The cultivation of cannabis is a science and an art. As medicine, it can be used for relief of pain and the enhancing of pleasure; to relax and to sleep. It can stimulate the creative mind, and the spiritual one as well.

The Emerald Cup, an annual event held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, is the “Academy Awards” of cannabis.  Named for Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle”–the center of the state’s cannabis cultivation industry—it is now in its sixteenth year. Awards are given in a variety of categories: from Best Tinctures, Topicals, and Edibles to Best Marijuana Plant Photography.Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: “The Digital Health Revolution” by Kevin Pereau

September 28th, 2019

In The Digital Health Revolution, Kevin Pereau describes a new world of medicine: a digitized world. He takes us from electronic health records (EHRs) to new self-monitoring devices that provide continuous feedback about blood pressure, heart rate, and how many steps we take each day.

Knowing the number and type of calories we have taken in, how active we have been (or not), and our blood sugar levels, can be very helpful.  This information provides a pathway to prevention, and often reversal, of many of the chronic diseases that plague us today.  Eighty per cent of all illnesses we suffer from fall into this category.Read the rest of this entry »


The War on Health Care

July 10th, 2019

Our health care system is in crisis. Everyone feels it. Premiums and deductibles keep rising, provider networks are narrowing, and the bite out of the average American paycheck gets bigger and bigger. Health care has taken center stage in the run-up to the 2020 election.

The Democrat arguments swing from elimination of the private health insurance industry and Medicare-For-All to a public option to buy into the Medicare system.  The Republicans have no plan, beyond destroying the ACA (Obamacare) and crying “socialism!”Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: “Decisive Intuition” by Rick Snyder

May 21st, 2019

Condition is a health news and information website.  So why am I reviewing a book about business coaching?  Rick Snyder’s Decisive Intuition: Use Your Gut Instincts to Make Smart Business Decisions would seem to belong squarely in the business section of the bookstore. But this book is about much more than business.Read the rest of this entry »


In Guatemala with the Integrative Health Project

April 2nd, 2019

I just returned from a week in Guatemala, where I worked with the Integrative Health Project.  The project was started by a few acupuncturists about eight years ago.  They wanted to work with the underserved, indigenous population living around Lake Atitlan, a beautiful, fertile and impoverished region in the Guatemalan highlands.Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: “The United States Of Opioids” by Harry Nelson, JD

January 17th, 2019

There is a growing canon of work on the opioid epidemic. The best of these books include “Dreamland” by Sam Quinones, “Dopesick” by Beth Macy, and “Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari. Each tells the story from a different angle.  Together, they describe the confluence of heroin, Oxycontin, and fentanyl, the complicity of Big Pharma, and the failed “war on drugs.”

There is a new book to add to the list: “The United States of Opioids,” by Harry Nelson, JD.  As a practicing health care attorney, Harry brings a legal eye—as well as a deep heart of compassion—to this very complex subject.Read the rest of this entry »


Pain, the Opioid Crisis, and Alternative Care

November 19th, 2018

Drug overdoses killed approximately 72,000 people in in the United States in 2017. This was an increase of 10% from 2016. The two reasons cited are (1) Americans continue to use opioids in increasing numbers, and (2) there are more powerful, deadlier, synthetic opioids available in the underground marketplace—mainly fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.  While the latter is the primary cause of fatalities, there is a connection between the two explanations.

It is established that of those who die of opioid overdoses, 80% started their use/abuse of these drugs with a prescription for pharmaceutical painkillers: for football injuries, work injuries, post-surgical pain, dental issues. Too many medical doctors prescribe these drugs routinely.Read the rest of this entry »


On the Opioid and Gun Violence Epidemics: Rationales in Common

September 19th, 2018

We are currently in the midst of the most lethal drug epidemic in our country’s history. One of the shocking things about this crisis is that it has been going on for the past 20 years without showing any signs of letting up.  In 2016, overdoses involving opioids killed more than 42,000 people.  Of those deaths, 40% were from prescription opioids.   (Statistics are still being finalized for 2017.)

Several recent books describe the evolution of this epidemic, each from a slightly different perspective.*  I’ll focus on just one of them here.Read the rest of this entry »