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Why veterans are twice as likely to die from overdoses

Reuters

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REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

Opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, and U.S. veterans and advocates are focusing on how to help victims of the crisis.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

U.S. government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in the 12 months ending last January alone, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 65,000 Americans died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump named opioids a national public health emergency and a White House commission last week recommended establishing a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain.

“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president’s opioid commission.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.

One effort to address the issue has stalled in Congress – the proposed Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator John McCain. That measure is aimed at researching ways to help Veterans Administration doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain.

“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” McCain, one of the nation’s most visible veterans, said in an e-mail on Thursday. He noted that 20 veterans take their lives each day, a suicide rate 21 percent higher than for other U.S. adults.

The VA system has stepped up its efforts to address the crisis, having treated some 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, said Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Curtis Cashour.

The department’s Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has also begun testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on the drugs, the VA said.

A delay in naming a Trump administration “drug czar” to head the effort, however, has fueled doubts about immediate action on the opioid crisis. Last month the White House nominee, Representative Tom Marino, withdrew from consideration following a report he spearheaded a bill that hurt the government’s ability to crack down on opioid makers.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Dan Grebler

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Dilly-Dilly, There’s Going to Be a Freakin’ Pickle Festival in Philly

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Sunday, September 9. 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Write that down.

Not to get all spiritual, but people who are obsessed with pickles are about to get a glimpse of what heaven might look like, at least in their minds, when the first-ever Pickledelphia Pickle Festival hits the City of Brotherly Love at The Piazza at Schmidt’s Commons.

Michael Wink, c0-founder of Digital Force Agency, is the man pickle addicts can send thank-you notes to for getting this to happen.

“I’m always trying to find things people are passionate about and build events around that,” Wink, who’s also responsible for The Philadelphia Beard Festival, told Better than the Weekend. “People love pickles. There’s always a new pickle recipe going viral. My family could have the biggest spread at Thanksgiving and my sisters and cousins will still go to the fridge for a pickle.”

Creating a festival centered around vinegar-preserved cucumbers and the unending options to enjoy them was an idea Wink had on the back-burner for a few years. He knew people would be interested, but was unsure if an entire festival would take off in Philly. Once Wink decided to just go for it, he realized he underestimated the power of the pickle. Now, more than 45,000 people on Facebook have declared their interest in attending.

Sorry in advance for provoking anxiety without first offering half a xan bar, but when you find out what to expect at Pickledelphia, you’re likely to get a serious case of FOMO. Pickle fam, you might want to sit down for this.

More than a dozen food vendors, plus 15 pickle companies, will be selling themed edibles such as pickle-flavored ice cream, pickle creme brûlée, and pickle pizza.

Urban Village Brewing Company will have 10 kegs of pickle-flavored beer.

Pickledelphia even partnered with Jameson for a pickle back bar. Yeah, they’re not fucking around. Pickle Bloody Mary’s. Pickle margaritas. This is not a drill.

Pickle lovers get access to Pickledelphia for $10. Limited VIP admission for $25. VIP get early access to the event, free pickle samples and a bag of Herr’s chips that taste like, well, you get the trend here.

Okay, we’ve teased you enough. Go tell that friend of yours who you know is going to go APESHIT. And if you’re one of those people who hate pickles, why did you read this far? You must be pickle-curious. Just take a bite. As the saying goes, ‘When in Pickledelphia…’

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Vintage Frat is the life of the party on Instagram right now, possibly forever

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Gone are the days of moms and dads knocking on wood that social media didn’t exist when they were young, dumb and figuring out the world. Remnants of debauchery from past generations are resurfacing on @vintagefrat, an Instagram account paying homage to legendary fraternity throwbacks.

Here’s some of the of the most lit pics from Vintage Fraternity. (Warning: You may see your mom or dad.)

“Hello Ladies, welcome to pledgeship. I’ll be your guide.”

Saturday’s are for the Brothers. 

Take a moment to respect the most legendary composite of all time. 

Daytona Beach ’89 was wild. #AskYourDad

There was always that one Brother who understood the meaning of life. 

Here’s why your dad’s friends call him Superman. 

And here’s when your dad met your mom. 

Reminding the children of the future that House Hounds need to be the focus of every fraternity house.

And here’s a reminder that Benny the Beaver was probably with your girl. 

Tribute to the Brother who didn’t even attend one class all semester.

Classic Spring Break transportation. 

Sure, Greek Life has it’s fair share of wild times.  

But @vintagefrat is a solid reminder that Greek Life is also a resume builder, putting students in positions that prepare them for the future. 

Mainly, Greek Life is about togetherness. #NeverForget #AskYourDad

Go follow @vintagefrat on Instagram and then follow @betterthantheweekend.

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This College Dropout Is Schooling Influencers and Startups on How to Get a Next Level Social Media Following

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Ryan Hertel, Founder of Socialocca

College isn’t for everyone. Ryan Hertel can vouch. He spent three semesters studying mass communications at King’s College, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, after surrendering to pressure from his parents to follow the traditional pathway to money and happiness. Now, the 24-year-old is running his own business — a creative branding agency called Socialocca — in the same field in which many of his degree-holding peers are struggling to stay afloat or even secure entry-level jobs.

As influencers and startups are waking up each day to grind and shine and stand out, Ryan has his finger on the pulse of what works in marketing, what doesn’t and where social media is going. He recently spoke to Better than the Weekend to share some insights.

You’re an unlikely choice to be administering marketing advice to companies. You don’t have a college degree. What makes you an expert? I’m helping people build their brand online. In order to do that, I don’t necessarily need a marketing degree. I just need to have the experience of building a brand. The reason I can even contend when it comes to being in the know about branding and social media and marketing is because I built a DJ’ing business and was successful at building that business by utilizing social media to spread the word and get more than 13,000 followers on Instagram alone. Most people with a marketing degree say, ‘Hey, I know what I’m doing. I was taught what to do.’ I can say, ‘Hey, I know what I’m doing. I used social media to make money for my own business. I can do it for you.’ A lot of people have the knowledge of what to do, but they don’t actually have the track record to prove they can grow a brand’s following. 

Photographed by Lisa Petz

Influencers and newer companies may feel their credibility lies in numbers. Some buy followers to build their credibility. What are the pros and cons to focusing on the amount of followers you have in the beginning by paying for them? People who don’t know what they’re doing who want to be social media influencers do this too often when they’re starting out. There aren’t any pros to buying followers anymore. There were when people were easily fooled and buying followers weren’t a common practice. You can’t fake the following anymore. It’s easy to spot a fake audience today. Plus, fake followers will actually hurt your algorithms on Instagram or Facebook. Less of your real following will see your content. A bunch of fake accounts will see your content and your level of engagement will make you look far less popular than you should be. 

Some services promote buying real followers. Are there any services you know of that do this which you’d recommend? That’s not a real thing. They’re scams. Don’t fall for it. I’d recommend any service that acknowledges they can’t grow your service overnight and one that focuses on goals and not guaranteeing a certain amount of followers. Anybody who says they guarantee results is lying to you. Organic marketing cannot be guaranteed. It all depends on how good the marketing campaign is and how good the content is. 

How important are hashtags in connecting with new followers? They’re not important any more. Plain and simple, anyone who knows what they’re doing on social media doesn’t care about hashtags. They were cool like four years ago. Now, we’re just at the point where some of these hashtags are used by 56 million other people. Hashtags are way too oversaturated. No-one is sitting on their phone and looking up hashtags. It might get a couple more likes, but they’re usually from auto-generated services, anyway. Instagram is now doing something called shadow banning, where they’re even hiding many of these hashtags because they’re trying to slow down the feed. So your hashtag might not even be seen. If you’re relying on hashtags, you have to get way more creative with your marketing.

What is important when marketing your posts? What’s most important, above everything, is the quality of the post. Posting too frequently hurts your feed. Posting quality pics and videos less frequently will be more beneficial, because those posts can circulate for a couple of days if they’re quality posts. People are on social media to listen to what you have to say. It’s now a popularity contest, not a contest as to who posts the most.

Then is consistency still important, or has consistency evolved in terms of marketing on social media? The consistency of the quality of your post is better than the consistency of when you post. While being consistent is important, people get a little too carried away with it, thinking they have to post twice a day at the same time every day. That’s too much for people to take in. They need to be more consistent with the quality of what they’re putting out there and not the time.

Ryan Hertel, Founder of Socialocca

Any tips for influencers and brands when it comes to engaging with their audience? It’s important to actually engage with others and not just post content. Like posts. Comment. Not just on your feed, but there’s too. Even as a business, you want to Like posts and engage on other accounts. Tag people you’re working with. If you’re just sitting there doing nothing, nobody is going to remember you or think about you. If they constantly see you tagging and interacting with others like a regular person, they’re going to take you more seriously.

Where is social media headed? Everything is starting to turn into people asking, ‘What are they doing right now?’ Look at Snapchat and Instagram stories and Facebook Live. You can really cast your entire day on social media for people to see and people will watch. They’re interested in seeing what you’re doing in real-time, they respond to it, and they rush to see it before it usually disappears in 24 hours. When it comes to structure and systems and processes, it’s important to know rules don’t apply. No one rule applies to the same two people or company. Influencers and brands need to start living in the moment and capturing that. The future of social media is immediacy.

And there you have it. Now make like Missy Elliot, put your thing down, flip it, and reverse it onto your own social media branding agenda. Good luck!

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