Without industry backing, pain patients are screwed

I can’t help but look at successful advocacy work and compare it to the fight of pain patients against the opioid war.

Marijuana advocacy is backed by its own industry and heavily-funded groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, so it’s no wonder that the movement has been successful. While I was surprised at the success of the Standing Rock protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline, I think it was when the veterans got involved that some success was reached. I’m also thinking about the long-term success of gun rights advocates, which also include a lot of veterans, as well as powerful industry backing.

And then there’s the recent success of kratom.

As an intractable pain survivor, I’ve kept up with the news on kratom. In fact, another pain patient even mailed some to me. I haven’t tried it yet because I’m afraid of the nausea, as I’ve read that this side effect can be severe, depending on dosage. And who knows the right dosage for me? Not me. And I don’t have the money to experiment.

When we look at the success that kratom advocates have achieved so far — against the DEA, of all foes — we have to wonder why. What have they done that pain patients have failed to do?

For one, even the kratom movement has industry backing. Which industries would back pain patients? Not the medical industry, that’s for sure. No, in fact, there are very large industries working against pain patients, including the addiction industry and the federal government.

There’s also the issue of who these advocate are — what positions they hold in this society. Most pain patients are disabled and poor. It’s hard to get anyone to listen to you when you’re disabled and poor, unless you’re supported by funding from… somewhere.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-12-12/is-kratom-a-deadly-drug-or-a-life-saving-medicine

Kratom gained popularity in the U.S. over the past decade or so, as its availability spread online and in head shops. Two or 3 grams of powdered extract steeped in hot water or whipped into a smoothie offers a mild, coffee-like buzz; doses double or triple that size can induce a euphoria that eases pain without some of the hazardous side effects of prescription analgesics. Preliminary survey data gathered recently by Oliver Grundmann, a pharmaceutical sciences professor at the University of Florida, found that American users are mostly male (57 percent), white (89 percent), educated (82 percent with some college), and employed (72 percent). More than 54 percent are 31 to 50 years old, and 47 percent earn at least $75,000 a year…

At the time, the DEA seemed less worried than the FDA. The DEA had listed kratom as a “drug of concern” for several years, but spokeswoman Barbara Carreno told the trade publication Natural Products Insider in March 2014 that kratom had “not been a big enough problem in the U.S. to control.” That posture changed several months later. On the afternoon of July 16, 2014, according to the Palm Beach Post, a 20-year-old Ian Mautner drove to an overpass in Boynton Beach, Fla., left his Isuzu Trooper, removed his sandals, and threw himself to his death on Interstate 95 below. Police found packets of kratom in his vehicle. Lab tests showed mitragynine, as well as prescription antidepressants, in his blood. He hadn’t left a suicide note.

Ian’s mother, Linda Mautner, blamed her son’s death on kratom addiction, telling the FDA that her son had ingested the leaf frequently, causing him to suffer from weight loss, vomiting, constipation, and hallucinations, among other problems. He had dropped out of college and entered rehab, but relapsed the month before he died.

Five weeks later, the DEA asked the FDA for a recommendation on whether to name kratom a controlled substance…

In the U.S., the kratom business consists mostly of retailers who buy raw leaf product from overseas farmers or a distributor. There are also wholesalers who package and encapsulate the stuff, though some retailers contract this out themselves. A recent survey by the Botanical Education Alliance, a business lobby group, counted about 10,000 vendors with annual revenue slightly over $1 billion…

The DEA issued its formal notice about kratom on Aug. 30, calling it “an increasingly popular drug of abuse readily available on the recreational drug market.” By law, the DEA’s final ruling wasn’t subject to court review. Nor did it require public comment…

Within a week, the Botanical Education Alliance and [Susan] Ash’s association hired a lobbyist, a public-relations company, and the Washington law firms Venable and Hogan Lovells, where Rosenberg had once been a partner…

More than 200 of the 660 kratom-related calls to poison centers had also involved alcohol, narcotics, or benzodiazepines, Hogan Lovells said. “Never before has DEA invoked its emergency scheduling authority to take action against a natural product with a long history of safe use in the community,” the letter read. It was signed by David Fox and Lynn Mehler, former lawyers in the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel. According to Ash, the letter cost her organization $180,000…

Can long-term pot use cause Alzheimer’s?

I don’t know much about Alzheimer’s, but I did have a grandmother who passed away from that disease. Am I worried about my pot use causing Alzheimer’s? No.

This research was published today in some Alzheimer’s magazine. It centers around a very expensive brain scan (not covered by insurance) which the author has been selling at his California clinic for almost a decade.

At first, I thought there might be something to this research. After all, we’re talking about a brain scan here. But I wondered how they can tell if a brain is acting abnormally when they don’t know what the brain looked like before the so-called long-term pot use.

How much did each person use every day? What kind? Was it homegrown or doused with chemicals from a dispensary? What were the ages and genders of the patients? Did any of them suffer from addiction, depression, PTSD, or chronic pain? Because you can’t blame pot when other medical conditions affect the brain.

In other words, I think this research is full of shit. Yes, we all know that pot can mess with your memory. But so can a bunch of other stuff, including pollution and old age.

So, here’s the information I found. You decide.

http://www.content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad160833

Conclusion: Multiple brain regions show low perfusion on SPECT in marijuana users. The most predictive region distinguishing marijuana users from healthy controls, the hippocampus, is a key target of Alzheimer’s disease pathology. This study raises the possibility of deleterious brain effects of marijuana use.

Authors: Amen, Daniel G.; Darmal, Borhana; Raji, Cyrus A.; Bao, Weining; Jorandby, Lantiea; Meysami, Somayeha; Raghavendra, Cauligi S.

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2015/dec/01/psychiatrists-couch-dr-daniel-amen-md/

The Washington Post wrote that by almost any measure Dr. Daniel Amen is the most popular psychiatrist in America. He is a double board certified psychiatrist, who has written 10 New York Times bestselling books, including the mega-bestseller “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.”

I’ve never heard of this doctor, but then I don’t buy self-help books.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/shame-on-pbs/

I used to have a high opinion of PBS. They ran excellent programs like Nova and Masterpiece Theatre and I felt I could count on finding good programming when I tuned into my local PBS channel. No more.

It was bad enough when they started featuring Deepak Chopra, self-help programs, and “create your own reality” New Age philosophy, but at least it was obvious what those programs were about. What is really frightening is that now they are running programs for fringe medical claims and they are allowing viewers to believe that they are hearing cutting edge science.

Neurologist Robert Burton has written excellent articles for salon.com pointing out the questionable science presented by doctors Daniel Amen and Mark Hyman in their PBS programs…

http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/2008/05/caution_that_program_may_not_b.html

“It’s 10 on a Saturday night and on my local PBS station a diminutive middle-aged doctor with a toothy smile and televangelical delivery is facing a rapt studio audience. ‘I will show you how to make your brain great, including how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,’ he declares. ‘And I’m not kidding.’

“Before the neurologist in me can voice an objection, the doctor, Daniel Amen, is being interviewed by on-air station (KQED) host Greg Sherwood. Sherwood is wildly enthusiastic. After reading Amen’s book, ‘Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,’ Sherwood says, ‘The first thing I wanted to do was to get a brain scan.’ He turns to Amen. ‘You could start taking care 10 years in advance of ever having a symptom and prevent Alzheimer’s disease,’ he says. ‘Yes, prevent Alzheimer’s disease,’ Amen chimes in.

“Wait a minute. Prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Is he kidding? But Sherwood is already holding up Amen’s package of DVDs on learning your risk factors for A.D., as well as his book with a section titled ‘Preventing Alzheimer’s.’ Then, as though offering a landmark insight into a tragic disease — and encouraging viewers to pledge money to the station — Sherwood beams and says, ‘This is the kind of program that you’ve come to expect from PBS.’

http://www.yelp.com/biz/amen-clinics-costa-mesa-4

Amen Clinics
Counseling & Mental Health; Psychiatrists

5/2/2015
Worst experience ever. Especially when you’re in a extremely depressed state of mind. I did all the tests and it came down to just an internist “reading” my results and pushing their vitamin supplements onto me. Ugh. Don’t go here. They’re no help.

3/3/2016
Beware – Amen Clinics preys on mentally ill people and the families who love them. The clinic will bleed you dry with “off label” treatments, nutrition classes, supplements, charges to fill out insurance paperwork, and routine services that cost 2x what regular providers charge. Amen Clinic’s pushes their expensive services even when they aren’t working…

11/20/2016
The cost associated with said process/treatment is staggering…

http://www.nextavenue.org/can-marijuana-save-aging-brain/

Cannabinoids, the active chemical components of marijuana, can regulate inflammation in the brain and promote neurogenesis — the growth of new neural pathways — even in cells damaged by age or trauma. As more research has indicated that brain inflammation appears to be a cause of several degenerative diseases, marijuana has been getting a closer look as a potential preventive medication.

In a 2006 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, a team of University of Connecticut researchers reported that THC, the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s high, “could be considerably better at suppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease than any currently approved prescription.”

To be clear, most scientists investigating the link between cannabinoids and brain health are not advocating widespread casual marijuana smoking to ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Marijuana possession remains illegal and research has shown that long-term, frequent marijuana use can impair memory, focus and decision-making…

In 2007, Ohio State University researchers published a paper stating that medications which can stimulate cannabinoid receptors in the brain “may provide clinical benefits in age-related diseases that are associated with brain inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease.” In 2009, Italian and Israeli researchers found that cannabidiol (CBD), marijuana’s primary non-psychoactive cannabinoid, may also block the formation of the plaques in the brain believed to bring on Alzheimer’s.

Wenk believes that, in humans, “the equivalent of one puff a day” could help ward off dementia. “I have said to older people, ‘Try it,’” Wenk says. “They email me back to say it’s helping. It’s worked in every rat we’ve given it to. We have some happy, intelligent old rats.”

Mothers, teach your daughters about sexual abuse

https://mic.com/articles/160121/usa-gymnastics-physician-arrested-charged-with-sexual-assault-of-minor#.eGSMlLtYT

After dozens of people alleged sexual assault against a former physician for the USA Gymnastics team, he has been arrested and charged for his apparently habitual abuse of underage female patients, CNN reported.

Dr. Larry Nassar, 53, worked as a doctor for the Michigan State University gymnastics and crew teams, and for the United States national gymnastics team during four Olympic Games. After his arrest on Monday, he faces three counts of criminal sexual assault against minors under the age of 13.

USA Gymnastics also stands accused of ignoring and even covering up his behavior. Coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi face a lawsuit for having allowed the abuse to continue unchecked…

News of Nassar’s misconduct broke in mid-September, when the Indianapolis Star reported that two women — an Olympic medalist identified in her lawsuit as Jane Doe, and Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast Nassar treated at Michigan State University — had accused the doctor of having sexually abused them. After the Indianapolis Star published its story, the number of victims who came forward climbed to over 30.

Denhollander told the Indianapolis Star that she began seeing Nassar in 2000 as a 15-year-old. He treated her for lower back pain, his actions becoming more inappropriate over the course of five appointments, she said. He groped her breasts and her genitals, and also digitally penetrated her vagina and anus, according to Denhollander.

According to NBC, Nassar’s lawyers maintain that any vaginal penetration by Nassar was in line with osteopathic practice…

No, no, no. There is no pain treatment that includes vaginal or anal penetration. None. Zero. Zilch.

Mothers, please teach your daughters about inappropriate touching and what constitutes sexual abuse, even from a person in authority, like a doctor. I know my mother never talked to me about this subject, and I sure wish she would have.

What happened to middle-class America?

President Obama promised jobs and he delivered. But these were 21st-century jobs, like in a call center or an Amazon warehouse. Trump has promised jobs by negotiating better trade deals and building a wall to keep out job-stealing foreigners, but these are only pieces of the puzzle. It’s not the whole picture.

Obama saved part of the auto industry, but this year, I’ve seen lay-offs in just about every industry. Americans want good-paying jobs with adequate benefits, but they don’t really exist anymore. Corporations don’t have to pay good wages or supply benefits when they can go overseas for cheap labor, no benefits, and no environmental regulations. Even China is talking about raising prices so that wages can be increased. (China!) Many Americans haven’t yet realized that they’re competing for jobs with people from all over the world. This is the digital age, where concrete walls and borders don’t exist.

Republicans convinced Americans all over the country that unions were anti-business, so Americans destroyed the only power that could save middle-class jobs. Who else was gonna do it? American workers have had to fight for themselves, which obviously doesn’t work. Especially after Republicans destroyed the different ways Americans have used to fight back, like capping legal damages. Maybe some people think it’s a good thing that the legal industry has shrunk so much, but who’s left to fight?

If Trump is even able to bring back good-paying jobs, who will fight to keep them? (Many years ago, New Mexico paid Intel to open up a location in this state, but the relationship didn’t last. After many rounds of lay-offs, the city where most of the workers lived is now a ghost town.)

What kind of jobs will Trump help to create in this country? Could a President make Intel stay in New Mexico or is all of this going to be business that’s left up to the states? In other words, nothing will change.

This from Rudy Giuliani on CNN today:

“You’re forgetting his campaign promise of increasing dramatically the size of the military and doing away with the sequester. We’re going to go up to 550,000 troops… we were going down to 420,000… and we’re going to increase the size of the Marines… So he’s going to be facing Putin with a country that’s not diminishing it’s military, but a country that’s dramatically increasing it to Reagan-like levels, so that he can negotiate… he’s going to negotiate for peace, but with strength…”

I suppose dramatically increasing our military will put more Americans to work. (There are probably not very many foreigners or immigrants in our military taking jobs away from Americans, but since Bush’s wars, the military hasn’t had that high of a bar for admittance.) Are these the jobs that Trump supporters want, to work for the government, specifically the military?

As far as I know, it’s mostly corporations that outsource contractors from other countries, not the military. Thing is, the military relies on contractors from the private sector quite a bit. I guess it will be poor Americans who fight on the ground, while the “elite” work at their desks from around the world — the type of job that pays well and has good benefits. (The recession caused a lot of job loss in state and local governments — but not so much in Washington.)

I recently saw a billboard advertising for the Marines. It talked about honor. There may be honor in serving this country, but I can find no honor in war. (And just because I’m anti-war, that doesn’t mean I’m anti-military.)

Every day is veteran’s day because America can’t stop fighting wars. Trump wants to increase our military when we haven’t even financially recovered from Bush’s wars. How many women and men will he send into danger? How many will come back broken beyond repair?

There are men and women who will suffer for the rest of their lives with medical conditions caused by their military service. It would be one thing if the healthcare system took care of our veterans, but that’s not always the case.

This country has been cutting back on spending for services we depend on just so we could pay for Bush’s wars, like infrastructure and education. Americans have been cutting back to pay for 9/11 for the last 15 years.

Here in New Mexico (as reported on 11/4/16 by the right-leaning and financially-in-trouble Albuquerque Journal):

“With New Mexico in the middle of a budget crisis, cities and counties around the state are going to have to look for new ways to boost behavioral health services and fight the effects of opioid abuse. Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins made the comments while visiting Washington, D.C., for a meeting hosted by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Hart Stebbins and other officials on Thursday talked about the potential of pay-for-success programs in which local governments make payments to contractors and other service providers only if they meet certain milestones and outcomes…”

It appears that government has embraced the idea of corporations proving success before they get paid. But is this a good idea in the healthcare industry? What kind of successes are they expecting in addiction programs? What will clinics do — how far will they go — to make their patients “succeed”?

The drug war costs billions of dollars. States can’t afford to provide adequate healthcare. We’re in a gigantic financial hole from Bush’s wars — wars that Obama has continued, albeit at a much smaller pace. Military spending was out of control for so long. Americans have given their military a blank check, with very little accountability. Obama reigned in the spending, but just in how fast it was growing. Military spending has always included an annual increase. Can’t say the same for Social Security. In fact, presidents have stolen money from Social Security to fund the military.

And now Trump wants to make our military even bigger. We already have the biggest military on planet Earth. Maybe even in the whole galaxy. Our military is everywhere. Why do we need to make it bigger? As a show of force? Does Trump need a gigantic military at his back so he can negotiate with other countries? Well, guess what? He already has one.

Let’s hear from Trump’s new national security “guru”:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/11/opinions/trumps-national-security-guru-general-flynn-bergen/

Luckily, there are some answers to Flynn’s views in a book he published in July, “Field of Fight: How We Can Win the War Against Radical Islam”. Flynn claims that the United States is in a “world war” with radical Islam, a war that “we’re losing” that could last ‘several generations.” He also asserts that “political correctness forbids us to denounce radical Islamists.”

American Islamists, Flynn claims, are trying to create “an Islamic state right here at home” by pushing to “gain legal standing for Sharia.” Flynn cited no evidence for this claim.

In particular, Flynn portrays Iran as the source of many of America’s national security problems…

Flynn advocates going after the “violent Islamists wherever they are,” which doesn’t sound much different than what the Obama administration is already doing, given that it is conducting various forms of warfare in seven Muslim countries…

Looks like Trump and his cronies are gonna pick a fight with Iran. Will we never stop fighting over oil? Hey, Trump supporters, if we had more solar and wind power, we wouldn’t have to depend on other countries to supply our oil addiction. Or do all you gun-lovers enjoy wars that last forever? As Trump’s new cabinet member says, we’ll be fighting radical Islam for “several generations.”

Trump, the New Face of War. How appropriate. I guess the best we can hope for is that he doesn’t push the button.

My Pledge

As an old woman who happens to be white, I’m not proud of what other members of my race (and the electoral college) have done in electing Trump. What can I do?

I pledge to stand up with every group that Trump has denigrated. I pledge to be vocal about my support for the LGBTQ community, people of color, women, veterans, the disabled, those who suffer from mental health conditions, the homeless, and of course, pain patients.

If you want to be a racist or a bigot, you cannot do so if I’m around. This has nothing to do with political correctness. This is about being a human being.

On the internet or out in public, at Walmart or in Walgreens, if you behave like a racist, sexist, or homophobe, be warned that I will call you out on it. I’m not afraid of you. You think Trump has given you the freedom to act like an asshole and a bully? Think again.

This is my country, too. I may not love it, but I’m not leaving.

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