My response from Medicare/CMS

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/risk-is-stressful/

The above link is the letter I sent to Medicare/CMS and the Social Security Administration.  I checked my mail yesterday and found this undated postcard (see photo) with the following boxes checked:

CMS does not have jurisdiction over this matter.  We have referred your correspondence to the appropriate office.  For additional questions, please contact:

Social Security
4433 Jager Drive NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87144
Telephone: 1-800-772-1213

Referring my correspondence from March to the “appropriate office” tells me nothing and doesn’t provide any help or assistance.  Is the Social Security office in Rio Rancho required to respond to my correspondence from 3 months ago?  Are there any rules that say it has to respond at all?

I tried to contact you by telephone, but was unsuccessful.  If you still need assistance with a Medicare specific issue, please contact me at:  410-786-0525, Liza Dawkins

I wonder how many people on Medicare don’t have a phone, like me?  Seriously, trying to communicate with Medicare and Social Security is like trying to talk to a ghost.  Perhaps what I really need is a Ouija board.

If I still need assistance? Tell me, Medicare and Social Security, what do you know about intractable pain, the war against pain patients, medical cannabis refugees, poverty, suicidal ideation, and Unum? Can you assist me with any of those problems?

And can the Social Security office in Rio Rancho add TMJ to the federal Listing of Impairments? Does this office have the authority to change my Form SSA-831?  Can it pre-approve a visit to the doctor to certify me for the Medical Cannabis Program?  Does it have access to a pain specialist who can review my file?  Does it have the authority to request and pay for a Functional Capacity Examination?  Can the Rio Rancho office tell me if Medicare covers the medical services required under New Mexico’s right-to-die law?

To Medicare and Social Security:  How many people have died waiting for a response from your agencies?

Choosing and buying your bud

http://www.thecannabist.co/2015/05/07/marijuana-edibles-vs-smoking-pot/34486/

Smoking vs. eating pot — why is the high so different?

Shellene Suemori, director of science and R&D at Dixie Elixirs & Edibles suggests production methods may actually alter the sativa, indica and strain attributes. Suemori says, “Due to many processing techniques, most of the terpenes that people associate with strain-specific attributes are largely lost before the oil is incorporated into an edible. If not lost in processing, many will be lost during the making of the edible (especially if exposed to heat).” …

Suemori describes smoking and vaping effects as having a quick onset, and the overall effects are not as long-lasting as an edible…

As a medical cannabis patient who cannot tell the difference between a sativa, indica or hybrid, it was difficult to choose strains just by these labels.  When I was in the program, I was not really interested in the “kind” of high that is described between indica and sativa.  I was more interested in the strength of the effect, because so many of my purchases were not strong enough for chronic pain.

For a chronic pain patient, the strength of the plant is important, especially because the medicine is used on a daily basis.  If the bud you purchase isn’t strong enough, you’ll end up consuming a lot more each day, which is an expensive way to medicate.

My uneducated guess is that I need at least 20% THC to find the strength I need, but cannabis testing is a very new industry and it’s difficult to trust the labels used by dispensaries.  Heck, you can’t even trust the food labels in the grocery stores (the FDA allows for a 20% error rate).

The only way to determine if the medicine will work for you is to try it.  Unfortunately, that’s a very expensive way to medicate also, going from dispensary to dispensary, trying strain after strain. I think there is one dispensary in New Mexico that allows patients to try products onsite before purchasing, as long as you have a driver.  I don’t have access to a driver, so whenever I’m able to afford to renew in the program, I guess I’m stuck with the expensive ways in choosing and buying my medicine.

Really, it’s a crap shoot no matter where you purchase your bud, as the production of one batch of a good strain doesn’t guarantee the same quality with the next batch.  It’s so frustrating (and expensive) to purchase hundreds of dollars of what was a great strain a month ago, but is now just mediocre.  And not strong enough for your pain levels.

I spent a lot of money during the year I was in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program, experimenting and searching for the right medicine for me — mostly bud, with a small amount of edibles (I couldn’t afford both).  I was successful only about 20% of the time.  And now I’m broke (thanks also to Unum), and stuck in a beautiful state with a medical cannabis program for rich people.  Is there anyone out there who wants to fund my move to Colorado, where the medicine is more affordable and the quality is better?

In all seriousness, I would love to stay in Albuquerque.  I don’t want to move again.  But as a chronic pain refugee, there’s only a few states where I can afford medical cannabis, and New Mexico isn’t one of them.  An expensive lesson for me, but I hope other pain patients learn from my mistakes.

Be nice to your neighbors, or else

https://lindanee.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/invasions-of-privacy-while-on-claim-how-do-you-feel-about-it/

Most insureds are also not aware insurance companies can go knocking on their neighbors’ doors to obtain information about day-to-day activities. This is officially referred to as an “activities check” and can be quite disconcerting when “disability activities” are shared with neighbors. If a neighbor has an axe to grind with an insured, this is the time when it becomes apparent…

Does Cannabis Help Relieve Constipation?

http://medicalmarijuana.com/experts/expert/title.cfm?artID=136

Constipation of intestinal reflexes may be alleviated by the anti-emetic properties of cannabis. Relief of constipation was one of the original cannabis indications cited by Shen-Nung five thousand years ago…

http://www.theweedblog.com/marijuana-and-gastrointestinal-disorders/

http://www.leafscience.com/2013/10/23/10-ways-marijuana-can-help-cancer-patients/

Chemicals in marijuana help regulate the digestive system and have been suggested as a treatment for a wide range of bowel disorders. While marijuana seems to help by reducing bowel movements in inflammatory bowel disorders, it appears to have an opposite effect in constipation…

I’ve never had a lot of digestive problems, even when I was taking opioids.  But now that I don’t have access to cannabis, I’ve noticed that I’m having a little bit of difficulty with constipation issues — problems I didn’t have when I was able to smoke pot every day.  I’m guessing it’s due to all the stress of not being able to manage my pain (along with the stress caused by Unum). Bad enough that I’m too poor to be a member of New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program, but now I have to deal with this too.  I’m telling you, it’s hell to be poor.

Letter from Unum dated April 10, 2015

Dear Ms. Stahl:

We received your request for an appeal review of your Long Term Disability claim on April 09, 2015.

We may need to request additional information on appeal. Please sign and date the enclosed Authorization to Collect and Disclose Information, so we may obtain information on your behalf. Some facilities require a special authorization. We may need to ask for another authorization in the future.

The enclosed Optional Authorization to Disclose Information to Third Parties allows us to discuss your claim with the individuals you list on the form.

During the course of your appeal, we may need to speak to you. If you want us to communicate or share information about your claim with a third party (such as your spouse, child or sibling), we need written authorization from you prior to speaking with the third party.

Since Unum refuses to use email, the only way it can speak to me is through regular mail. Makes the process rather slow, doesn’t it? And why would I want Unum to bother any of my family members, none of whom live with me? So Unum can look into my past and find additional reasons to deny my appeal?

This form also gives you an option allowing Unum to leave messages about your claim on your voicemail or answering machine.

I have no phone, which means I have no voicemail or answering machine.

If you do not want us to discuss your claim with a third party, or allow us to leave messages on your voicemail/answering machine, you do not need to complete this form, and may discard it.

Of course I don’t want you to discuss my claim with any “third party,” including my family members. But if I refuse, I’m sure Unum will use this as one of its excuses to deny my appeal. What to do?

Additionally, the form asks me to list the names of the third parties, including my spouse (I don’t have one) and there’s one line for “Other Family Member” and one for “Other person.” Now, I have a big family, but since I haven’t spoken to most of them for quite some time, I can’t think of anyone I could list on this form. So, I won’t be signing and sending this form back to Unum.

Please send the completed forms to the address noted above or fax them to 207-575-2354. You may use the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope.

Faxing is expensive, so thanks for the return envelope. But as I said, it really slows this process down, doesn’t it?  If I thought this appeal process had any hope of reinstating my benefits, I would be both frustrated and angry at these kinds of delays.

We are committed to making an appeal decision within 45 days of receiving your written appeal. There may be special circumstances in which the review can take longer. We will notify you if more time is needed.

We both know that my appeal has already been denied, so please, Unum, feel free to take all the time you need before you make it official. In fact, I delayed opening this letter from Unum because I was sure it was the denial letter. And because anything to do with Unum just makes my pain worse, increasing my stress levels and making me angry, opening a letter from Unum is the very last thing I want to do.

Let’s see, should I take care of my own health or try to take care of this appeal? As if anything I say or do is going to make a difference.

Ms. Stahl, if you have questions about your claim or this process, please call our Contact Center at 1-800-858-6843, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. Any of our experienced representatives have access to your claim documentation and will be able to assist you.

If you prefer to speak with me personally, I can be reached at the same toll-free number at extension, 59657. We will identify your claim by your Social Security number of claim number, so please have one of these numbers available when you call.

Sincerely,
Katherine Durrell
Lead Appeals Specialist

cc: Beirne Maynard and Parsons/Jan Bright

———————————-

When Unum’s field investigator interviewed me earlier this year, he requested that I sign another Authorization, even though the one on file was current. So, I refused. I have also requested that Unum provide an Authorization that doesn’t violate my HIPAA rights. And although this new Authorization to Collect and Disclose Information states, right at the top, that it is “designed to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule,” it really doesn’t:

“I understand that once My Information is disclosed to Unum, any privacy protections established by HIPAA may not apply to the information, but other privacy laws continue to apply.”

Other privacy laws don’t exist, especially for electronic health records, which is why Unum doesn’t list them. Additionally, the form authorizes not only health care and related facilities to release information to Unum, it also authorizes:

“…rehabilitation professionals, vocational evaluators, health plans, insurance companies, third party administrators, insurance producers, insurance service providers, consumer reporting agencies including credit bureaus, GENEX Services, Inc., The Advocator Group and other Social Security advocacy vendors, professional licensing bodies, employers, attorneys, financial institutions and/or banks, and governmental entities;”

That’s a long list of places where Unum will not find any of my medical information. Of course, Unum isn’t interested in using my medical information to deny my appeal — no, it needs access to all of this other information so it can find every other possible reason. You know, because my medical information, which includes a 25-year history of intractable pain, is just not enough to satisfy Unum.

What else do ya’ll want, my fingerprints and DNA? When will Unum tell me that I have to take a lie detector test?

“To disclose information, whether from before, during or after the date of this authorization, about my health, including HIV, AIDS or other disorders of the immune system, use of drugs or alcohol, mental or physical history, condition, advice or treatment (except this authorization does not authorize release of psychotherapy notes), prescription drug history, earnings, financial or credit history, professional licenses, employment history, insurance claims and benefits, and all other claims and benefits, including Social Security claims and benefits (“My Information);”

Unum collected all this information when it approved my claim 7 years ago. But in order to deny my appeal, it needs updated information because the information it already possesses in my file is insufficient. Well, actually, it’s plenty, since Unum doesn’t need valid reasons for terminating disability benefits. 

“For such evaluation and administration of claims, this authorization is valid for two years, or the duration of my claim for benefits, whichever is shorter.”

Authorizations shouldn’t be valid for such a long time. I will be changing this language on the form to indicate that the Authorization is only good for one year.  The other language I will include is:  “Unum should bear all costs incurred by any person or entity which supplies My Information to Unum.”

“If I do not sign this authorization or if I alter or revoke it, except as specified above, Unum may not be able to evaluate or administer my claim(s), which may lead to my claim(s) being denied.”

Well, my claim has already been denied when Unum terminated my benefits after 7 years of paying the claim. And now, because I can’t afford to pay for doctors to complete Unum’s forms (including a Functional Capacity Evaluation), and Unum refuses to pay for these services, my appeal will be denied.

It doesn’t matter how I feel about this Authorization, I have no choice but to sign it.  That pisses me off, and since anger makes my head throb even more, I just want to thank Unum for this exercise in increased pain and futility.

(Wish I had some bud or ranch dressing, but it looks like an ice pack will have to do.)

Weird WordPress glitch

I just had the weirdest thing happen over at a blog I was checking out… I was scrolling through the posts, and in the place of what was supposed to be a video, I could see a list of my emails.  I had my email open on another tab, and there, on this person’s blog, was the same view as if I was looking at my email screen.  I refreshed and the video returned, but still… spooky.  I just don’t know how that could have happened, especially since my email is allegedly password protected and at an https address.

Hey, DEA, is that you?  Or is it Unum?  WTF?

Unum – The History of Roundtables

https://lindanee.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/unum-the-history-of-roundtables-the-development-of-an-important-risk-management-tool/

Interestingly, attendees at roundtables included all of Unum’s “business interests” in making sure claims were terminated including, in-house physicians, vocational reps, RNs, impairment managers and consultants, claims specialists and of course Unum attorneys. Unum counsel often attended roundtables causing the meeting to be “client privileged” which is why records and documentation of roundtables was rarely found in claim file copies…

Functional Capacity Evaluations

https://lindanee.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/friday-q-a-51/

Functional Capacities Evaluations (FCE) have the potential of causing further injury because of the lifting, kneeling, stooping, and stress test aspects it includes. In fact, the purpose of a FCE is to measure functional capacity and physical endurance. It is for this reason that most Physical Therapy facilities that perform FCEs require written prescriptions from physicians before they administer evaluations…

Ritual, Not Science, Keeps the Annual Physical Alive

http://www.medpagetoday.com/PrimaryCare/PreventiveCare

Vega is one of more than 44 million Americans who is taking part in a medical ritual: visiting the doctor for an annual physical exam. But there’s little evidence that those visits actually do any good for healthy adults…

Hey, Unum, are these annual physicals part of your definition of “Regular Care”?

But the evidence is not on their side. “I would argue that we should move forward with the elimination of the annual physical,” says Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a primary care physician and a professor of health policy at Harvard Medical School. Mehrotra says patients should really only go to the doctor if something is wrong, or if it’s time to have an important preventive test like a colonoscopy…

From what I’ve read, there’s no evidence that having an annual colonoscopy is beneficial, either.

The Society for General Internal Medicine even put annual physicals on a list of things doctors should avoid for healthy adults.

Perhaps included in that definition should be patients with chronic conditions for which the medical industry has no solution for.  I’m not sick, I’m disabled, and since doctors can’t help me, what’s the purpose of seeing one, except to throw away more money?

One problem, Mehrotra says, is the cost. Each visit usually costs insurers just $150, but that adds up fast. “We estimate that it’s about $10 billion a year, which is more than how much we spend as a society on breast cancer care,” Mehrotra says. “It’s all a lot of money.”  And then there’s the risk that a doctor will run a test and find a problem that’s not actually there. It’s called a false positive, and it can lead to a cascade of follow-up tests that can be expensive and could even cause real harm. 

Just like many of the treatments for pain that are expensive, and in the end, just cause more harm.

Final Appeal Letter by me

April 10, 2015

VIA FAX 800-447-2498

Mr. Donald Beaudette
Ms. Katherine Durrell
Unum
The Benefits Center
Post Office Box 100158
Columbia, SC 29202-3158

Unum Reference:  Claimant:  Johnna Stahl
Claim No. ***
Policy No. ***
Unum Life Insurance Company of America

Dear Unum:

I am in receipt of two letters dated March 5, 2015, one from Ms. Durrell and one from Mr. Beaudette. Mr. Beaudette’s letter mentions that a copy of my Social Security file was also sent to me, but I did not receive it.  However, I’m also having trouble receiving other mail, like monthly bills, so it’s not just mail from Unum that I haven’t received.

“We decline your request for a list of legally privileged communications and the remainder of your requests.”

So, Unum is making a claim of privileged communications. Tell me, are the photos that your field investigator took of the inside of my apartment considered privileged?  How about the reports on me mentioned in Unum’s notes in my file, but not included in the copy Unum sent me?  And if I could afford to retain an attorney, would that person be able to have access to Unum’s allegedly privileged communications?  In other words, do I have to sue Unum to get a complete copy of my file(s)?

“With respect to the remaining remarks in your letter, we believe we have fully explained our position in our prior communications and refer you to those letters.”

And I beg to differ.  As just one example, Unum still has not provided a definition of “Regular Care” specifically for a 30-year intractable pain patient.

“We refer you to www.unum.com/claimant, which will allow you to see certain communications pertaining to your claim online.”

It will also allow Unum the opportunity to put cookies on my computer and follow my every move on the internet.  Thanks, but no thanks.

“We understand from your November 29, 2014, letter that you have not yet requested an appeal.”

From that very same letter:

1. Response to Ms. Durrell’s letter dated 10/28/2014:

“You will need to submit a written letter of appeal outlining the basis of your disagreement.”

The reason my letter indicated an “intent” to appeal instead of the actual appeal letter is because it was my initial response after my benefits were terminated. Since there seems to be a question of my not having submitted a basis for the numerous disagreements I have with Unum: At this time, I am requesting that Unum consider all of my correspondence, including my Notice of Intent to Appeal, as part of my final appeal letter, and I incorporate same herein for all intents and purposes. (Forever and ever, amen.)

I’m not sure how I can be more plain, but maybe Unum is waiting for my “final” appeal letter, which I guess is this one.  So, without further ado:

THIS IS A FORMAL REQUEST FOR AN APPEAL OF THE UNFAIR, ARBITRARY, AND CAPRICIOUS TERMINATION OF MY BENEFITS BY UNUM.

“You will need to submit a written letter of appeal outlining the basis of your disagreement.  Please include any additional information you would like considered with your letter of appeal.”

As indicated above, all of my letters to Unum should be considered part of my appeal and a part of the basis for every single one of my disagreements.  Also, this will notify Unum of the additional information I would like considered with my letters regarding my claim, including its current status in your Appeals Unit:

1. Every post I made under “painkills2” at nmcannabisreview.com.

2. All posts on my blog, All Things Chronic, at wordpress.painkills2.com.  (I suggest you start with the post entitled “This Is What Desperation Looks Like.”)

3. All posts on Linda Nee’s website, lindanee.wordpress.com, including language like this:

“Failure to evaluate the totality of the claimant’s medical condition; and an inappropriate burden placed on claimants to justify eligibility for benefits.”

“As indicated in our October 28, 2014 letter, enclosed, the appeal timeframe is mandated by ERISA. However, due to the delay in fully responding to the inquiries in your November 29, 2014 letter, we are granting you an additional 30 days beyond the current appeal timeframe to submit your appeal.”

Interesting.  So, the appeal timeframe is mandated by ERISA, but only when Unum wants it to be. Only when Unum hasn’t made any mistakes, like not responding to my November 29, 2014 letter until March 5, 2015.  I wonder how many other mistakes will be found that can negatively affect Unum’s position on the denial of my benefits?  Until I receive a full copy of my file from both Unum and Social Security, along with the agency’s answers to my questions and requests outlined in my March 2, 2015 letter, that question cannot be answered and I cannot fully represent myself in this matter.

This will formally notify Unum that within the copy of my claim file, it also sent copies of some of Eileen Lisker’s hospital bills from Frick Hospital.  I tried to reach out to Ms. Lisker through a relative and was told the message would be passed along, but I have not received any further communications from the Lisker family.  I believe it is Unum’s duty to notify its claimants of any HIPAA violations and ask that you do so.

“If we do not receive your formal written appeal and supporting documentation by April 10, 2015, we will be unable to complete an appeal review and the determination on your claim will be final.”

C’mon, who’s kidding who?  Unum has already decided that its termination of my claim is final.  It hopes that I won’t find an attorney to take my case, and since I can’t fight back, that will be that. It’s a very uneven fight:  Unum, a massive corporation, against one disabled and poor individual. Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

This letter is not meant to regurgitate every one of my questions to Unum that remain unanswered — it is not a full and complete account of all of my disagreements.  (For some reason, I feel like I have to add this language, as Unum appears to have difficulty understanding English, picking and choosing which words of mine it wants to use against me.)

Linda Nee says that I shouldn’t take Unum’s attack on me personally, but considering the additional pain and agony Unum has caused me, that’s very hard to do.  I have never wished a life of chronic pain on anyone, even DEA agents, as it’s something that no one should have to suffer from, even the employees of evil corporations.  And until I sat down to type this letter, I wouldn’t have considered myself a vengeful person…

But here I am, in the middle of a pain storm, trying to concentrate on what this letter should include, and I can’t help wishing that every Unum employee included in this attack against me suffer as I have suffered — and will continue to suffer at Unum’s hands.  If there is such a thing as an evil curse — kharma, if you will — then I hereby ask the powers that be to deliver some justice for me.   In the alternative, my blog and Linda Nee’s website will have to do.  Because no matter what happens, Unum will always be on my shit list.  I will not be satisfied — justice will not be served — until Unum is taken to task for every illegal thing that it does.  For every disabled person it has harmed.   A person cannot suffer as Unum has made me suffer and just leave those consequences to kharma.

Even though I haven’t slept in over 24 hours, the left side of my face is swollen, my current pain level is creeping up to a 9, and the light hurts my eyes, I’m now going to get into my car, drive to the UPS Store, and pay to have this fax sent.

Ya’ll have a nice day.

Johnna Stahl

This Is What Desperation Looks Like

Yes, this is my wrist, scarred by pain and desperation.  These scars represent days when my pain was at a level 10, not attempts at suicide.  See, I’ve read that cutting releases endorphins, and those endorphins can decrease pain.  (I also saw it on an episode of House, one of my favorite TV shows.)  And as I’ve tried almost every other way to manage my pain, I thought it was a good idea to try this one.  I mean, if I’m willing to try treatments like hypnosis, why not something like this?

Of course it didn’t work.  The cutting just left scars, which I used to be embarrassed about, but now I rarely even notice.  These scars are like my stretch marks from pregnancy — they show what this old body has been through.  They are like… badges of courage.

Today is a bad pain day for me, and I confess that I’ve thought about trying to release some of that pain by causing myself more pain — attempt to distract myself from the pain in my head by causing pain in another part of my body.  In theory, it should work.  But in practice, it doesn’t help — nothing could distract me from this level of pain.  I know that, but sometimes, desperation doesn’t make any sense.

What would decrease my pain levels are things I don’t currently have access to, like hydrocodone and medical cannabis.  I’m telling you, the drug war (and Unum) is slowly killing me, just like my constant pain.

So, if you read these words, please support your state’s medical cannabis program, if one exists. And if not, please support the creation of this kind of program in your state or country.

Because desperation is never pretty.

Latest AOL email scam

From:  myscreen.memberservi@outlook.com

Re:  Incoming Mail

Your two incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database, In order to receive the messages,Click Access Now to Login and wait for response from AOL Mail. We apologies for any inconveniences

Best Regards,
The AOL! Mail Team

Why does the “AOL Mail Team” have an email address on Microsoft Outlook?  Because they’re freaking scammers, that’s why.  (And if I was into conspiracy theories, I might think it was the DEA or Unum trying to access my laptop.)

It’s a good idea to “disable links in mail from unknown senders” in your email settings.  It’s a hassle to have to click on “enable link” every time I want to follow a link from an email, but it’s worth it.

Meet My First Underground Drug Dealer

When I mention to a New Mexican that I’m from Texas, many ask why I moved here. When I say the reason was marijuana or medical cannabis, the responses I get range from slightly curious to maybe a little giggle and a knowing grin.  (New Mexicans don’t think weed is that big of a deal, unlike in Texas.)

That’s how I met my first underground drug dealer in New Mexico, when I mentioned I was in the Medical Cannabis Program and the difficulties I was having finding quality medicine for an affordable price.  Of course, my first drug dealers in New Mexico were actually the legal dispensaries, as anyone who sells drugs is a drug dealer, legal or not.  My long-term drug dealers in Texas were doctors and Walgreens.

After I had performed my due diligence on my new treatment option; after six months in this state’s program; after I had figured out how to collect and analyze the information to assess the new treatment and my progress; after my money situation began to look rather concerning — after all this, I was feeling quite frantic.  My experiment was not turning out as I had hoped, and it was apparent at that point that I could not afford to be a member of the Medical Cannabis Program in New Mexico.  I could not believe that after all my research and hard work in moving to another state, I was faced with failure.

So, the next time my neighbor happened to mention his connections, I thought, well, I need to at least experiment with the alternatives.  Even though my long-term plan is to move to Colorado, I am going to be stuck in this beautiful state for quite some time.  I can think about suicide or I can think about alternative ways to purchase my preferred treatment for pain.

My neighbor — my first underground drug dealer in New Mexico — was in his early twenties.  He moved on many months ago, which is why I feel free to mention him now.  For the purposes of this story, let’s call him Dean.

Dean said he was a veteran, dishonorably discharged, but he said a lot of things that turned out to be untrue.  But he also said he suffered from drug addiction, which I believe was true.  Once in conversation, he mentioned he was having difficulty accessing methadone maintenance treatment, but he didn’t say why.

Dean had four different jobs at call centers in the time that I knew him (one of the few jobs available in this state), which was less than a year.  And Dean had an anger problem, which was periodically on display in my front yard, when he and his girlfriend would fight, or when he yelled at his dog.  (Ironically, he was one of only a few dog owners who pick up after their pet.) But Dean was always nice to me, and I was always nice to him (and his dog).  (His girlfriend usually didn’t give me the time of day, so I didn’t have to be nice to her, the snob.)

One irritating habit that Dean had was knocking on my door and asking to bum a cigarette.  He didn’t really smoke that much, but I noticed when he was a little manic, a cigarette was one of the ways he self-medicated.  The first handful of times, I said, sure, and gave him a couple at a time. One day he woke me up from a nap with this request, and I said sure, for 25 cents.  He knocked on my door one more time for a cigarette, but he only had 15 cents.  At least he was trying, so I said sure.  After that, he didn’t try to bum a cigarette again.

Eventually, Dean and I agreed to… let’s call them exchanges.  Dean didn’t sell drugs, he just had connections.  He was just a middleman.  The middleman usually doesn’t make much money in these deals, if any, but he gets to enjoy free samples, maintaining his habit for very little expense.

We started small, and the first exchange wasn’t bad. But I got ripped off the second time — that exchange was definitely uneven.  The next few times were good, which I can describe as including both quality and affordability.  At that point, the underground won the price battle against the legal dispensaries — by quite a wide margin.  Not that I stopped trying to make the legal program work for me.  You know, until I ran out of money.

The next and last time Dean I made an exchange, the rip off was quite apparent.  And I let him know about it.  He wasn’t happy and stormed out, later pounding on my door a few times.  After that, we never spoke again.  He moved out a few months later.

This was last year, months before my renewal was due, and months before my car needed a major repair.  And months before Unum would terminate my long term disability insurance benefits.  Maybe I thought I would leave some of my bad luck in Texas, but it appears I brought it with me.  I sure hope none of it rubbed off on Dean.

Before now, I’ve been very careful not to mention my activities in the underground whenever I post things on the internet.  It could be used against me by Unum, and who knows, maybe even Social Security.  But Unum can use anything against me, like the fact that I’m still breathing, or heck, maybe even that I’m Irish.  Another reason to keep quiet is for the safety of those who help out pain patients like me.  And of course, the police could be knocking on my door tomorrow… although why they would care is beyond me.

But I know how many pain patients are struggling in this state and all across this country.  I’ve read many comments from people my age who don’t know how to access the underground, even though that’s the only way to find medical cannabis in their state.  Not that I have the answers — just experiences.

Also, I want pain patients to understand that if you’re going to move to another state for medical cannabis, there are many problems that will arise — problems that may be unexpected. And for pain patients who are switching from prescription drugs to medical cannabis, you need to be aware of the costs involved.  Compared to Oxy and Vicodin, marijuana is not cheap.

I don’t know if this story and all the information I post will help others, but that’s what I’m hoping for.  And if the police don’t come and get me for trying to stay alive through constant pain, I’ll try to continue the stories of my underground drug dealers in the hope that it will help a pain patient, somewhere, navigate access to cannabis… maybe even in Texas.

Sanctions and the human rights prohibition on torture

https://makingsenseofcrazy.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/sanctions-and-the-human-rights-prohibition-on-torture/

https://creatorsnotconsumers.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/sanctions-and-the-human-rights-prohibition-on-torture/

A sanction means that benefits are stopped, thus denying claimants the means of survival, a sentence no court in the land would ever dish out and yet benefit claimants are subject to such sanctions without trial or representation…

Is suffering from constant pain considered torture?  Is it considered torture to deny pain patients the options for treatments that work?  Is the DEA torturing pain patients by closing clinics and restricting the supply of certain drugs?  Do insurance companies torture patients by refusing to cover or limiting certain medications?  Does the healthcare system torture people who can’t afford it and/or go bankrupt because of it?

Do the state and federal governments torture their citizens when they refuse to legalize medical cannabis?  Is being put in jail for marijuana considered torture?  Is having cancer but not having access to cannabis considered torture?

Is it considered torture to put those who suffer from addiction in jail?

Is the drug war a torture program?