Category Archives: Science

Reiki Don’t Lose That Number

Oh boy, just when I thought things could not get any stranger…

I went to the pain management clinic yesterday, with the intent of discussing tapering off meds, because frankly I am tired of having to schedule my life around my prescriptions (especially since I had to decline a trip to Memphis last Christmas, due to the clinic not understanding how to handle things).

I want to try, because I’m pretty sure my back isn’t getting better – I mean, disks don’t regenerate, unless you’re Dr. Who – and unless and until the DEA stops being so stupid and people are able once again to get meds from chain pharmacies while they are on vacation, I don’t want to be chained to my medication.

This would not be a problem if Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, CVS, and so on would just refill out-of-state prescriptions.  But instead of figuring out a way to do this, and putting practices into place that can prevent fake scripts and so on, they are just cracking down and treating everyone like drug addicts.

As I have written previously, even the DEA misinterprets their own data, which indicate that this “most heroin addicts started on pain medication” idea isn’t true (or is at least suspect, considering it is based on interviewing addicts).

What I mean by this is, when one does admissions interviews for rehab, the question is asked, “How did you become addicted?”

Most people will not state that they became addicted because their family members and friends already do heroin and they felt pressured to try it (surprisingly common in PA, to have entire families addicted).

Most people will not state that they thought heroin would be a decent escape from boredom, or something to do at a party.

No, what most people state is that they had pain, became addicted to pain medication, got cut off by the doctor, and then switched to heroin.

Because they are ashamed, or they don’t want to appear “weak”, or any number of reasons mostly related to saving face.

Yes, even in a rehab setting, there is still this fear of being stigmatized – and, as many of you know, this isn’t an irrational fear.  I have written about the contempt with which many counselors hold their clients/patients.

So, ok…that is my take on why the data are so skewed, and why everyone is freaking out over “pill mills”, opiate addiction, and pain management.

But I digress, sort of.

I went to the pain clinic yesterday, and the first thing I noticed was that there were very few cars in the parking lot.  And very few patients in the waiting room.

And new staff.

As I was signing the monthly “yes-you-can-drug-test-me” form, I noticed at the top that the physician’s assistant in charge was a name familiar to me – he ran an urgent care clinic years ago, and I was a patient of his.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like this guy.  He’s personable, he’s smart, and likeable.

But he’s a walking advertisement for the Skeptical Enquirer, under the heading of “quack cures and woo-woo science”.  He is someone I would never have thought I would see dispensing pain medication in a clinic.

This guy wears many hats – he’s a Reiki master, a hypnotherapist, and a proponent of “energy healing at a distance”.

I said to him, “Hey, I know you!  You wrote the letter to the unemployment people when I got fired, telling them that I really did have a bad back and that the methadone clinic doctor had brought me in that day.”

Aside #1: The excuse for firing me was that I hadn’t called in to say I was being treated for a disk problem that occured WHEN I WAS AT WORK.  They got me on a technicality, stating that sending the clinic doctor back to pass the word that I wasn’t coming in the next day “wasn’t proper procedure”, and that they had had NO idea where I was.)

I had a hearing with the unemployment people, and my former supervisor lied stated that she had tried to call me numerous times but I wasn’t answering.  I had phone records to disprove this but the guy in charge of the hearing wouldn’t look at them.

I asked him what he had been doing, and what he was doing working in a pain management clinic?

Aside #2: I kinda knew what he was doing, as he’s all over the internet giving lectures on podcasts and at UFO/Paranormal conferences and such, but I wanted to hear about what brought him to this clinic.

He stated he had been living in New Mexico for 3 years.

Of course, probably Taos or some other new age community.

He didn’t say what brought him back here, but he did say that if anyone had told him years ago he would end up working in a pain management clinic, he wouldn’t have believed it.

I agree.  I was rather gobsmacked myself at seeing him there.

I told him I was thinking of tapering off, due to the whole vacation thing.

His suggestion?  “Just don’t take any more.  Detox and get it over with.”

What??

I mean, the guy used to work as a consultant to the rehab company I worked for (which actually gets him a lot of points with me, as he did stick up for me at my hearing).

But he ought to know that one does not just stop taking 60 mg of morphine, cold-turkey.  Yet that was his advice to me, and he added that tapering off is a “form of torture”.

What??

Hey, I don’t even go off antidepressants without tapering.  I don’t need my blood pressure skyrocketing like that, and whether it’s “withdrawal” or “discontinuation syndrome” (withdrawal off “nice” drugs like antidepressants), it’s damn unpleasant.

But he was nice enough to let me decide how to do it, so I went with tapering.

Um…his idea of tapering is cutting the dose in half, right away, and adding a stronger shorter duration opiate like oxycodone “for break-through pain”.

That’s not my idea of tapering but I figured I would give it a shot.

Marijuana Update: February, 2015

Haven’t had an update since I wrote the first post about marijuana, so here ’tis.

Here is the state of legislation/laws in the US…

Pennsylvania – After letting the last piece of legislation die, nothing’s coming up for PA.  The legislation that was proposed was so watered-down, however, that I’m not all that mad that it didn’t pass.  Now that we have a reasonable governor, though, if anything ever does pass, he won’t veto it.

Alaska – Became the third state to legalize small amounts of pot for recreational use (“Alaska Allows Recreational Marijuana as Legalization Campaign Spreads”, Reuters website, 2/24/2015).  The other 2 states are Colorado and Washington.   In July, 2015, recreational marijuana becomes legal in Oregon.

My daughter lives in Washington.  Hmmm.  Maybe I need to move out there.

States with medical marijuana (only) laws: (From Wikipedia)

Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New Mexico.

States that have decriminalized marijuana (recreational):

California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi*, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

*Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves, Pennsylvania?  Always making fun of Mississippi and their pot laws are more liberal there!

States where marijuana (recreational) is a misdemeanor:

Alabama (first offense is a misdemeanor, after that it’s a felony), Arkansas, Florida (20g or less), Georgia (1 oz or less), Idaho (3 oz. or less), Indiana (up to 6 months, $1000 fine), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky (less than 8 oz), Missouri, Nevada (but only for people under 21, for those over 21 it’s decriminalized!), North Dakota, Pennsylvania**, South Dakota, Tennessee (less than 1/2 oz., first or 2nd offense only), Utah, Virginia, W.Virginia, and Wyoming.

Straight-up illegal/felony: Alabama (after 1st offense), Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.

**What they don’t tell you is, in Pennsylvania, when they bust you, they charge you with criminal use of an electronic device (cell phone) and a bunch of other stuff so that, by the time it gets to court, you’re facing multiple charges.  Pennsylvania has a rampant heroin/oxycontin problem, and the legislators here cannot tell the difference between those drugs and marijuana.  They still believe in gateway drugs etc.

Some interesting articles:

“Comparative Risk Assessment of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Other Illicit Drugs Using the Margin of Exposure Approach” (Sci Rep. 2015; 5:8126, 1/30/2015).  Basically, this report states what we already knew – that there really is no ‘lethal’ dose for pot.  Alcohol is the most lethal.  Everyone’s making a huge deal out of it, but I don’t know why.  To stick it to the drinkers who oppose marijuana legalization, I guess.

The last issue of “Toke of the Town” was published online in December, 2014, but the site is still up and it has interesting articles such as:

“Study Shows Marijuana Helps Shrink Certain Severe Brain Cancers”, 11/19/2014.

“Big Pharma is Working on Medical Marijuana Gum”, 12/4/2014.

“Take a Cooking Lesson from Vice’s Grandma of Ganja”, 12/19/2014.  Damn, I would love to be known as “the grandma of ganja”!

So, that’s the latest.  More as things develop oh, say, in 2020 when they finally legalize the gum form of pot, for people over 80 with rare disorders, in Pennsylvania.  Screw the kids with seizures.

 

 

 

 

Reefer Madness, Mostly In Pennsylvania

Most of you who are my age or older know about the 1938 film “Reefer Madness”, a ridiculous movie that portrayed pot smoking as something that would make people immoral and stupid.

It was a big hit in the 1960s/early 70s, mostly in midnight shows at alternative theaters like The Biograph in Washington, DC (alternative as in, “I just spent almost 5 hours watching “Scenes from a Marriage” by Ingmar Bergman because I wanted to impress my upper-class friends”…..that kind of theater).

Anyway, people often refer to it when talking about the reactionary, hysterical anti-marijuana lobby, which this week has suffered a major setback:

“Tucked deep inside (a) 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.

Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.”  (“Congress Quietly Ends Federal Government’s Ban on Medical Marijuana”, Los Angeles Times website, 12/16/2014)

No more arresting people in the 32 states that have approved marijuana for medical use.

Unfortunately (for moi), that does not include Pennsylvania.  Because in Pennsylvania, illegal drugs mean big bucks for the ‘recovery industry’.  And they were all ready to add “marijuana addiction” to the list of things you could get treatment for – now tell me that wouldn’t result in a huge increase in admissions (money) for treatment centers?

Here in Pennsylvania, a cursory look at “Psychology Today” listings of treatment centers reveals 20 pages of them…run by everyone from medical conglomerates such as “behavioral health corporations” to ‘former addicts’ who create a social service agency and think they are the end-all and be-all of substance abuse counselors because they’ve “been there”.

“Poverty pimps” we used to call those people – people who had no other skills but the ability to con people out of money so they could sit in an office, go to seminars and conferences, and collect a decent salary.  No training, just a cult-like belief in AA (for which there is no scientific evidence), a good sob story, and the ability to bullshit other addicts.

The point is, Pennsylvania has a lot of treatment centers, and they generate revenue for the courts, doctors, social workers, former addicts, and wealthy benefactors who fund them.  When I “left” my last job at a treatment clinic, the powers-that-be were talking about expanding their treatment of heroin/oxycodone addicts to include “marijuana addicts”.

Which, when you think about it, could include just about everyone.

The other part of the equation in Pennsylvania is the conservative, ignorant legislators.  These are people who do not see any difference between marijuana and heroin. They still use phrases like “gateway drug” – no, really, they do.  I have talked to a few who think that way.

In the last attempt to pass a decent bill legalizing medical marijuana, legislators (inexplicably to me) – Democrats – agreed to continue the ban on smoking or vaporizing marijuana, and to delete several ailments that people could get medical marijuana for – including severe pain, AIDS patients, and glaucoma!  (“Politics Eclipses Needs of Cannabis Patients: SB1182 Passes Senate”, Philly NORML website, 10/1/2014) I thought glaucoma was one of the very first things they discovered marijuana actually did help??

According to NORML:

“Only processed forms of cannabis products would be legal for patients to posses under the latest version of SB1182. These include cannabis-infused edibles, oil-based extracts, tinctures, and salves. Whole plant cannabis (the dried, cured raw flowers) would remain illegal and available only underground. Patients who use raw cannabis would still be at risk of arrest and prosecution.” (Ibid)

So…no tea.  Just brownies. Or you could put it on your skin, like a lotion – which doesn’t do a damn thing.  Hey, you can get hemp lotion in Walmart now, you morons!

NORML goes on to add:

“Other problems with the new SB1182 include: Extremely high licensing fees and overly excessive background check requirements for providers; limiting patients to a 30-day supply of cannabis products but not defining what amounts constitute that supply; and forbidding patients from altering their medicine. This means patients cannot utilize any whole plant material to make their own oil extracts, concentrates, or edibles – all of which are perfectly safe to do.”

Whoops! Ok, brownies are still in, but only if the patient doesn’t make them.  Geez.

They also cut the list of qualifying illnesses from 47 to just 10:

“The ten qualifying conditions under the version of SB 1182 that passed the Senate are: cancer, epilepsy and seizures, ALS, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, MS, Spinocerebellara Ataxia (SCA), PTSD, and severe fibromyalgia.” (“Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Bill Gutted and Passed by Senate 42-7”, National Marijuana Info.Org website, 10/2/2014)

PTSD would be a nod to the large veterans’ lobby here, ‘wasting syndrome’ is a “see? we didn’t forget AIDS patients” PR move, and…fibromyalgia?  You’re kidding, right?  I have no idea why that’s in there, unless it’s to shut up politicians’ relatives who bitch about it all the time, maybe?

Fibromyalgia is more painful than AIDS?  I don’t think so.  Is it more painful than lupus or other autoimmune diseases?  I don’t think so.  ALS and Parkinson’s are included but not MS?

Is this the old ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ thing, and people with these diseases just happen to push a little harder and yell a little louder?  Or is it maybe that the people who wrote the bill have relatives with these diseases?  Whatever the case, it ignores science and is really unfair.

Take neuropathic pain, for example.  That’s ‘nerve pain’.  Anyone who has ever had sciatica knows that burning, sharp pain that seems to come and go at will,  It’s common in diabetes and AIDS, too.  It usually isn’t helped by gabapentin (hello, fibromyalgia patients, this drug works for you).  There is a lot of research indicating that marijuana eases neuropathic pain:

“Cannabis for Treatment of HIV-Related Peripheral Neuropathy”, University of California, San Franciso, 2007, study published in Neurology, and reported by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.

“Low-Dose Vaporized Cannabis Significantly Improves Neuropathic Pain”. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institute of Health (yes, folks, that’s our gov’t agency) website, 2/14/2013.

Those are just 2.  There are many, many others, and not just in the US but in Canada and the UK also.  You can Google “Cannabis and Pain” and find many examples of studies.  So why isn’t it included?

This is why, I think, it’s best to let someone’s doctor decide if medical marijuana is appropriate for his/her patient, not legislators.  I can tell just by this list that those decisions by legislators are not based on science, but maybe some emotional appeals and/or cronyism and/or PR moves.

Medical treatment should not be based on that.  Nor should it be successfully opposed by a bunch of profit-driven, unproven businesses (ie, treatment centers), whose only interest, again, is not in patient care but in money.  If marijuana is legalized, treatment centers won’t be able to expand, unless they actually want to push the “caffeine addiction” and “tobacco addiction” diagnoses just added to the DSM-V.

I don’t doubt that, when they find an ad agency that can manipulate the public into thinking that people need treatment programs to quit coffee and cigarettes, they will expand into those areas.   Bad news for another unproven sacred cow – AA.  Those folks live off coffee and cigarettes.

I hope 2015 brings a more successful year for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.  So that everyone who can benefit from this drug is allowed to.  By the way, I do fall under one of the 10 categories in that bill, so my rant is not completely self-serving.  I just don’t think it’s fair that all these other people have to suffer for, what to me, seems like not very good reasons.

Medical update:  Got more tests yesterday.  Mammogram was normal.  I did not test positive for HIV.  Metabolic panel revealed a sodium problem (not high, but low).  Hep C test not in yet.

I emailed my doctor to ask if the sodium could be a problem, and he emailed back this morning to say he didn’t think so but we could re-test when next I see him (Dec.26).  Is there any limit to this doctor’s wonderfulness? Not only can patients email him, but he even takes the time to email back!!

My completely layperson guess is adrenal issues.  We’ll see.  I am back to feeling crappy and lightheaded even when I am sitting down.  And fatigue, fatigue, fatigue…lack of appetite is back, along with the nausea.  Meh.

Today’s weirdness…well, I didn’t find any truly weird stuff but I did find something in San Francisco…a giant gingerbread house!!  Oh I miss San Francisco at Christmas-time!  I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories of City of Paris, Macy’s, and the restaurant at the St, Francis Hotel.

Anyway, here’s the link and pic: The Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread House.

As for films….anything on Hallmark Channel (which I can’t get but used to love during holidays)..and classics such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas” (or “Holiday Inn”, pretty much the same movie), and any of the “The Santa Clause” movies with Tim Allen.  And of course, Muppets!  Anything with Muppets is sure to cheer up even the meanest of Scrooges.

Be good, be safe, be kind.  Do as my good friend Charlie did, and brighten up somebody’s life who really needs it.  No matter what religion you are (or not), that’s the true spirit of the holidays.  And there’s no shortage of people who need a kind word or gesture, so you have NO excuse.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Slouch, and Have Another Brownie!

Science Notes for October 2014:

Science Daily (“Change Your Walking Style, Change Your Mood”, 10/15/2014) reports that The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research conducted a study on mood and walking style and found that how you walk affects your mood.

We all know that when we’re sad, for example, we tend to walk a little slumped-over, but this study found that the opposite applies also. If you deliberately walk as if you were sad, you actually begin to feel that way.

This is something therapists have known for awhile, otherwise known as “fake it ’til you make it”. Often when treating someone with depression, it’s not a matter of waiting until the person feels better to assign them a task of some kind (like get out of bed), it’s really effective to encourage them to do something – anything – in order for them to start feeling better.

For example, if someone is in the hospital for depression, it’s helpful for the therapist to ask the patient to “just get out of bed for 5 minutes” the following day. That’s it, just 5 minutes “then you can go back to bed”. That next day, the patient is instructed to “just get out of bed and take a shower, then you can go back to bed” and so on, each day, adding more tasks each day, one by one, until the patient is up and about and interacting.

It works. They start to feel better.

This article seems to back that up, though it deals with walking styles. It can be used therapeutically, I would think, perhaps maybe in a group exercise (so the patients won’t feel silly doing this on their own). “Everyone get up and let’s go!” the therapist could say, then lead the group, encouraging them to walk as if they were actually in a good mood.

I bet that would work.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article, so check it out.

And, from the “too much information, just pass me the cookies” file…

“Buzz Feed:The Science of the Munchies”, (Scientific American, 10/22/2014) is an article about an experiment in France where scientists studied stoned mice in order to see what sets off the munchies…

It’s smell. That’s right, the olfactory bulb, which is responsible for smell and appetite, is the culprit that makes those cookies smell-amazing-lets-eat-2-dozen! Pot heightens sense of smell, big time, which can lead to an increase in appetite.

One scientist, Dr. Obvious, stated “It’s not like we found a new effect of marijuana.”

I love the French and their understated humor.