A New Kind Of Brain Scan Can See Your Pain, Literally



The good news, finally, is that scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston have unveiled a new brain-scanning method that allows doctors to see chronic pain in exquisite detail for the first time. The technique, a merger of PET (posi­tron emission tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), clearly identifies that a patient is hurting, and offers a significantly better way to diagnose chronic pain. In trials, patients’ scans lit up in brain areas corresponding to where in the body they ached…

When will the test be available, how much does it cost, and will it be covered by insurance?

As Marijuana Attitudes Ease, Workplace Drug Testing Companies Brace for Fight


“No one is following the marijuana issue more closely,” according to the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association’s website. The association has assembled pamphlets to assist businesses in defending their drug testing programs, complete with talking points that bust “the top 10 marijuana myths.”

It has also aggregated all U.S. state bills attempting to change marijuana’s legal status and is soliciting donations to fund its own research to help businesses understand the risk of abandoning drug testing programs…

Experts and researchers have disagreed on the effectiveness of drug testing since the 1980s, when it began in earnest after President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, signed an executive order requiring it for federal employees. A separate U.S. Department of Transportation rule shortly thereafter added certain safety-sensitive jobs, such as truck drivers, railroad operators, pilots and pipeline workers.

The standard test collected urine samples and flagged those that showed use of any one of five drugs: marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines and methamphetamines; opiates; and phencyclidine or PCP.

Private sector employers outside of those requirements soon followed suit. In a 1987 survey, the American Management Association found 21 percent of major U.S. firms had testing programs. By 1996, that had risen to 81 percent…

The number of failed drug tests has fallen nearly every year from a rate of 13.6 percent in 1988 to 3.9 percent in 2014, according to Quest. Most of that decline happened in the early years of drug testing; in the past decade, the rate has stayed mostly flat…

Dave Daquelente, director of labor management & operations at Mobile Medical Corp., a Bethel Park drug testing service, said Pittsburgh-area businesses are demanding the tests more than ever and asking for expanded tests for opiates and amphetamines to counter a trend of prescription drug abuse involving substances such as Vicodin and Oxycontin…




ALEC bullying pot businesses


A Colorado pot shop recently closed after a Washington-based group opposed to legal marijuana sued not just the pot shop but a laundry list of firms doing business with it — from its landlord and accountant to the Iowa bonding company guaranteeing its tax payments. One by one, many of the plaintiffs agreed to stop doing business with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, until the mountain shop closed its doors and had to sell off its pot at fire-sale prices.

With another lawsuit pending in southern Colorado, the cases represent a new approach to fighting marijuana. If the federal government won’t stop its expansion, pot opponents say, federal racketeering lawsuits could. Marijuana may be legal under state law, but federal drug law still considers any marijuana business organized crime.

“It is still illegal to cultivate, sell or possess marijuana under federal law,” said Brian Barnes, lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, a Washington-based anti-crime group that brought the lawsuits on behalf of neighbors of the two Colorado pot businesses…

Filed in February, the Colorado lawsuits have yet to go before a judge. But one has already had the intended effect.

In April, three months after the RICO lawsuit was filed, Medical Marijuana of the Rockies closed. Owner Jerry Olson liquidated his inventory by selling marijuana for $120 an ounce, far below average retail prices.

“I am being buried in legal procedure,” Olson wrote on a fundraising Web page he created to fight the lawsuit. The effort so far has brought in just $674.

The closure came after the pot shop’s bank, Bank of the West, closed the shop’s account and was dismissed as a plaintiff…

The case of the mountain pot shop shows that racketeering lawsuits can affect the marijuana industry even if the lawsuits never make it to a hearing.

“This lawsuit is meant more to have a chilling effect on others than it is to benefit the plaintiffs,” said Adam Wolf, Olson’s lawyer…

“We’re putting a bounty on the heads of anyone doing business with the marijuana industry,” Barnes said. “Just because you see what appears to be this unstoppable growth of marijuana, we disagree. We’re starting to change the economics of the marijuana industry.”


Brian Barnes, the lawyer for Safe Streets Alliance, works at the law firm of Cooper & Kirk. This law firm represents groups like the NRA and corporations like Bank of America and Cash Advance Centers.  Charles Cooper, the founding member of the firm, defended California Proposition 8 (which banned same-sex marriage in the state) before the Supreme Court, and is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association.  Mr. Cooper is on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, “a state-based think tank that describes its mission as being to ‘lay the intellectual foundation for a society dedicated to individual liberty, free enterprise, private property, the rule of law, and constitutionally limited government.'”

Mr. Cooper is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):

Click to access 4200.pdf

We know that ALEC is funding this legal bullying, but who is funding ALEC to continue the drug war against pot?  I’d say that would probably be the prison industrial complex:


Delores The Pill

“Become a worry-slapper. Treat frets like mosquitoes. Do you procrastinate when a bloodsucking bug lights on your skin? ‘I’ll take care of it in a moment.’ Of course you don’t! You give the critter the slap it deserves. Be equally decisive with anxiety.”  Max Lucado

(Photo taken 7/3/2015.)

Addiction is just a symptom of a larger problem

It’s very sad that it has taken all these deaths for middle-class America to open its eyes to drug abuse and addiction. While this article and the survivors mentioned in it are focusing on one drug — heroin — the truth is that drug addicts are rarely using just one drug. The media talks about drugs like opioids and heroin, while rarely mentioning the other drugs involved, which usually include alcohol.

Alcohol is legal, cheap, and easy to obtain, which is why so many people abuse it. Compared to other drugs, it is the most lethal for the user’s brain and body, and acts like poison in large doses and with long-term use. But there will never be another war against alcohol, like the current war against pain patients and illegal drugs. The fact is that prohibition has never worked, as history has shown. Which is why making only certain drugs illegal doesn’t work either — because drugs are not the main problem with addiction.

And while it’s important to bring these stories of addiction into public view, I’m not sure this is helping to reduce stigma. Part of the stigma and shame is when family members and treatment centers force drug users into abstinence, as if that’s the only way to manage and treat drug addiction. And when drug addicts believe this to be true, the inevitable relapse just makes them feel worse about themselves. When a patient loses hope for recovery, it’s a recipe for disaster, tragically ending in overdoses and suicide.

Part of reducing the stigma is looking at the causes of drug addiction, which include things like mental illness, violence, rape, and PTSD, along with DNA and a sensitivity to specific drugs. Instead of just looking at the addiction itself, we must also look at why someone begins using drugs and why they continue. Is it an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness? Is it untreated or under-treated pain?  Is it low self-esteem, insecurity, self-hate, or overwhelming anxiety? But I have a feeling that former middle-class America doesn’t want to talk about the family and social issues that contribute to drug addiction.

Only talking about and treating the drug addiction doesn’t work.  Addiction is just a symptom of a larger problem.



WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — When George P. Gauthier died of an opiate overdose in May at 44, his sister, Cindy Gauthier-Rivera, wrote an obituary that was more like a cry from the heart.

His destructive addictions to heroin, painkillers and alcohol had cost him his marriage, his children, his job and eventually his life, she wrote from her home here in western Massachusetts. An outgoing man who dressed well and loved music and poetry, he had wanted to become a drug counselor, saving others from the abyss. Instead, he plunged further into it; he was found dead at their mother’s house, just a few miles from his sister…

Over the same period, heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, with more than 8,200 reported in 2013…

Jack Pond was also called Son, Daddy, Brother and Friend and Jack was an addict,” began Jack Pond Ringler’s obituary in The Gazette in Colorado Springs in November. He was 26.

After Wade B. Pickett Sr., 34, was found dead of a heroin overdose in early May in the bathroom of the metal shop where he was a welder, his wife, Tiffany, wrote of his addiction in The Express-Times in Easton, Pa. “I am sorry if this obituary offends, hurts or shames some people,” she wrote. “I hope that it might help save some people from the incredible heartache we are experiencing.”

In the obituary for Daniel Joseph Wolanski, 24, of Avon Lake, Ohio, who fell victim to heroin in April, his family wrote, “Someone you know is battling addiction; if your ‘gut instinct’ says something is wrong, it most likely is.” …

Kurt Byrne, who says he has been clean for 17 months, encouraged his mother to go public and said the candid obituaries seemed like a necessary step. “It’s a healthy step toward taking away the stigma,” he said. “And if it’s Johnny from next door, it opens people’s eyes that this isn’t just people on the street corners.”

Tracey Marino, whose 23-year-old son, James, recently died from a heroin overdose at home in Stratford, Conn., omitted that detail from his obituary. “People who knew and loved him knew what killed him,” she said in an email. “But to people who I knew were judgmental, I tell them he died of cardiac arrest. Because I did not want his legacy to be he was a drug addict by people who have NO clue about addiction.” …

Richard Vachon, 69, a retired cook in Manchester, found his son, Cody, 21, on the floor of their home in May, dead of a heroin overdose, which he wrote in his son’s obituary. Once he feels “less shaky,” the heartbroken father said, he wants to “speak my mind and see if I can reach someone through my experience.”

One woman, Elizabeth Sue Sleasman, 37, of Bellingham, Wash., took the extraordinary step of writing her own brutally frank obituary, which her parents published after she died; she realized her death was inevitable and wanted to warn other addicts about what lay ahead…


I entered the Methadone treatment and stopped using, but unfortunately my drinking habit kept on and I started using again…