There’s nothing wrong or sinful about feeling good

I believe we should have access to any and all treatments for pain, including cannabis. But I don’t want pain patients to think that if they switch to cannabis, it will be the only drug or treatment they’ll need to manage their pain. (Any drug is just one part of an overall pain management program.)

I’ve been very lucky to have access to a quality strain of cannabis in the last couple of months — one of those strains that are very hard to find. I’ve wondered if daily use of a good strain would be enough to manage my high pain levels (averaging about a 7 out of 10), but I think that’s about false hope. Cannabis is great, but it’s not a wonder drug. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, but I think I’ve had enough experience throughout the past 3+ years to reach some conclusions.

If I had a choice (which I do not), I would probably choose a combination of cannabis and a painkiller to treat my pain. The addition of a painkiller would allow me to smoke less cannabis, and the cannabis would allow me to keep my painkiller usage to a minimum. I might even add a muscle relaxer at night, because the muscles in my face deserve more rest than I’m able to provide.

If I was able to add a painkiller to my pain management program, I might be able to take a walk every other day, instead of once or twice a week. I might be able to lose some weight. With a little extra pain relief, I might not think about death so much. I might think that I have some kind of survivable future. There’s even a possibility that I’d be able to regularly clean my toilet. (Okay, maybe not.)

When I was taking a bucket full of prescription medications, I relied on them to manage my pain. Maybe I relied on them too much, but that’s only because, out of all the treatments I’ve tried, prescription medications worked the best. I think that’s true for most people. I think it’s true that a lot of acute and chronic pain is best controlled with painkillers. (Patients aren’t given high doses of antidepressants before surgery.) Maybe the opioid war advocates would agree with me on that, but would disagree about how long we should be allowed to use opioids to manage pain. After all, according to the other side, anyone who swallows a pain pill has a high risk of becoming a drug addict. (And what’s worse than being a drug addict? Maybe a murderer?)

I read an article recently about how cannabis affects the part of the brain that deals with your sense of time. I’ve been thinking about that…

I know that being in constant pain makes time go by very slowly. Twenty-four hours feels like a week, not one day. And then I thought about the occasions that I’ve felt “high” from a drug. You know, the shameful high that almost all pain patients deny they experience with painkillers. The high that drug addicts chase on a daily basis. The high that makes you feel good artificially because it’s from a drug. The feel-good high that is really what the drug war is all about.

Within that high — a possible side effect of some drugs — is a distortion of time. That relief allows time to float, almost fly by, as if you lost 10 pounds and your feet had wings. As if a heavy burden had been lifted just a little, allowing a tiny taste of freedom inside your prison of pain. (Everyone’s prison of pain is different, caused by mental and/or physical pain.)

Does it feel good to get high? You betchya. However, it’s not like that good feeling lasts very long. But it can last long enough to, say, take a walk (or scrub your toilet). Or the high can work as an incentive — a reward for doing the painful thing that you really don’t want to do.

I suppose it’s all about what you do with the high. Those who suffer from addiction will always be chasing the high, and because of the drug war, will always be shamed and criminalized. Looked down on for suffering from a medical condition that most people think is a choice.

Those who suffer from constant pain will always be chasing after relief, and because of the drug war, we are now treated like those who suffer from addiction.

I’d just like to point out that the high I’ve been talking about gives relief to both pain patients and drug addicts. Look down on that high if you will, but it serves a purpose. The pleasure centers in our brains are there for a reason. They’re activated not only by drugs (including caffeine and chocolate), but also by things like friendship, caring, sex, love, risk, and winning.

Good feelings are part of being human. Unfortunately, so is pain. But just like humans are not meant to feel constant pleasure, we’re also not meant to be in constant pain. We’re not meant to feel depressed every single day, and if we do, that means our brains are out of balance. We’re not meant to feel constant fear and anxiety, and if we do, that means our brains need help.

Being human means we have to suffer, but when pain reaches a level where death is preferable to life, then our brains need help. Not help for a couple of weeks or months, but constant help. The pain is constant. The help has to be constant, too.

Sometimes the help we need will include the high from drugs. Let’s stop looking down on the high. There’s nothing wrong or sinful about feeling good.

What does ringing in the ears sound like?

http://www.ata.org/understanding-facts

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. In some rare cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music. Tinnitus can be both an acute (temporary) condition or a chronic (ongoing) health malady.

Millions of Americans experience tinnitus, often to a debilitating degree, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 15% of the general public — over 50 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus. Roughly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases…

I’m sure that everyone who suffers from tinnitus hears a different sound in their ears. And it’s not like the sound always stays the same. But I was watching this video where the quarterback suffers a concussion, and the sound in the video (at 0:48) sounds just like the constant ringing in my ears.

It’s not like tinnitus is painful — more like uncomfortable. But it can also be quite maddening. Which is why I can’t fall asleep unless there’s music playing. And why I’m so thankful for music therapy.

Bridges

It’s important to build bridges.

I’ve tried to build bridges between pain patients and those who suffer from addiction, with little, if any, success.

I’ve tried to build bridges between pain patients and the cannabis industry, spreading the truth about using pot to treat pain.

I find it difficult to build bridges between atheists and religious people. I don’t understand the worship of some supernatural being, and I don’t understand why religious people follow my atheist blog.

Because I visit everyone who visits me, I found myself reading about the sin of masturbation today. Did you know that if you masturbate, it proves you have no self control? Please.

Humans are able to pleasure themselves in a myriad of ways, including with food, sex, and drugs. Just like with the drug war, religious people have a problem with the notion of pleasure. Ironically, researchers have shown that prayer can elicit the very same pleasure responses in the brain as sex and drugs.

Some people on the internet think we should build bridges between Democrats and Republicans. That’s a given. But, build bridges with white-pride Nazis? No, I don’t think so.

Build bridges with people like this?

I watched this video, and I’m like, isn’t anyone going to stand up to this bully?

Here’s a warning to bullies: Don’t pull this shit when I’m standing there. I can also cuss like a sailor and I’m not afraid of you.

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.”

Opioids are a plague?

http://www.statnews.com/2016/11/18/opioids-addiction-chronic-pain/

The opioid epidemic has rapidly emerged from the shadows and is now recognized as a plague that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status. In its destructive potential, it can be compared to the AIDS and polio epidemics…

A plague is contagious — addiction is not. And please, addiction is as destructive as AIDS? That’s what you would call a lie.

As for who this “epidemic” affects, it’s been shown that it mainly affects white, middle-class people. Those who enjoy a certain socioeconomic status are the ones with access to prescription medications like opioids.

But unlike AIDS and polio, the opioid epidemic continues to rage in large part because we, as a nation, have not yet resolved to attack it head on…

Really? Why don’t you tally up all the money that’s been spent in the war on drugs and the fight against addiction. Just like with every war, the more money you put into it, the more it takes on a life of its own, causing destruction to just about everyone.

As a pain expert, I had hoped the surgeon general’s report would have placed a greater emphasis on the need to develop alternatives to opioids that can be used for pain management, which would eliminate a key pathway to abuse…

Opioids are not a “key pathway to abuse,” just like marijuana is not a pathway to heroin abuse. And it’s extremely disturbing that a pain “expert” believes this to be true. Tens of millions of patients have taken opioids without any problems whatsoever.

And while a lot of people talk about alternatives to opioids, they don’t exist. Nothing works as well as opioids for pain. Nothing. How do I know? Because just like millions of other pain patients, I’ve tried everything. So, while this “expert” can hope for alternatives to opioids, that’s not the reality. And it won’t be for decades to come.

Here’s a more in depth analysis of the Surgeon General’s report:

http://www.reason.com/blog/2016/11/18/surgeon-generals-report-mistakenly-treat

The article from STAT reminded me of an article I saw months ago:

http://www.aol.com/article/2016/07/14/prolonged-drug-use-may-impact-moral-judgment/21432378/

Researchers from the University of New Mexico and the Mind Research Network have found yet another ill effect linked to prolonged drug use. According to the scientists, over time, both cocaine and methamphetamine can diminish activity in the brain’s moral and emotional centers, creating difficulty in determining right from wrong. The study’s subjects were inmates from prisons in New Mexico and Wisconsin. Roughly 130 of them had a history of methamphetamine and cocaine use, while the remaining 80 did not.

Whose morals are we talking about here? And with a sample size that was so small, using prison inmates, this “study” determines nothing. Also, you can’t determine what happens to a brain on drugs unless you have tests that show how that same brain worked before the drug use started. Recently, scientists have figured out how to “fingerprint” the brain. Turns out, everyone’s brain is unique:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/brain-connections-map_us_582b628be4b01d8a014adc56

As some scientists are discovering, each brain is wired in a completely unique way. In the same way that each of us has a specific fingerprint, we also have a distinct map of brain connections…”

This research by UNM is the only kind that’s been funded by anti-drug agencies, like the NIDA. Do you want to know why we spend so much money on the failed drug war? It’s partially because of wasteful research like this.

What I would like to see is a test that shows the activity in Trump’s “moral and emotional centers.” You know, the ones that determine “right from wrong.” Would it look similar to the prisoners’ test results?

Dear Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/vivek-murthy-report-on-drugs-and-alcohol_us_582dce19e4b099512f812e9c

“Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it’s one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency,” he added.

If addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, how does the surgeon general describe chronic and intractable pain? Is intractable pain also a chronic disease of the brain? I’m curious, does the surgeon general believe that addiction and chronic pain are the same medical condition?

“Many people didn’t want to talk to the surgeon general if the press was around, because they were afraid of losing their jobs and friends if anyone found out about their substance use disorder, Murthy explained. They also worried that doctors might treat them differently. The numbers bear out that fear of stigma.”

Those who suffer from chronic pain are now learning what it feels like to be treated like a drug addict — afraid of losing jobs and friends, facing abandonment and stigma by the medical industry, being told their pain doesn’t matter, and being denied insurance coverage for many prescription medications. Since the surgeon general is partially responsible for the stigma faced by pain patients every day, what is he going to do about it?

Why does the surgeon general think that treating addiction is more important than treating chronic pain, especially since millions more people suffer from chronic pain than from addiction?

“The overarching theme of the new report is that substance use disorders are medical problems, and the logical next step is integrating substance use disorder care into mainstream health care.”

Isn’t it just as important to integrate the adequate treatment of pain into mainstream health care? You know, pain — the main reason people go to the doctor? Why are expensive specialists needed to treat addiction and chronic pain, especially since the government has pretty much mandated specific standards for the treatment of both medical conditions?

“What’s really at stake here are our family and friends,” he said. “Addiction is not a disease that discriminates and it has now risen to a level that it is impacting nearly everyone.”

Everything the surgeon general has said about addiction holds true for chronic pain, too. But there’s more than one difference between the two conditions.

For the treatment of addiction, it is necessary to find and treat any underlying trauma or mental conditions that may have triggered the addiction. The mental conditions may be chronic, but the addiction doesn’t have to be. But without treating the main condition — like depression, PTSD, or bipolar — trying to treat the addiction is just a waste of time. Why doesn’t the surgeon general mention this very important part of treatment?

Intractable pain is always a chronic condition. The underlying condition has already been treated (again and again) and is sometimes caused by the very medical treatment that was supposed to help. Does the surgeon general believe there is some benefit to untreated pain and constant suffering?

“A few specific recommendations include adding addiction screenings in primary health care settings and hospitals…”

If you’re a doctor, go ahead, ask me if I’m addicted to drugs. I dare you. Just another reason to avoid the doctor, so all your personal medical information doesn’t end up in some government database. And do I have the right to ask the doctor the same question? Isn’t the addiction rate higher in the medical profession than in the general public?

The surgeon general is trying to help those who suffer from addiction, but how is he going to help pain patients? Just with the letter asking doctors to disregard and belittle their patients’ reports of pain?

Do babies deserve pain relief?

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/tips-on-soothing-teething-pain-without-pain-relievers-111516.html

Recently, the FDA warned against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels. These products, the agency said, can pose a health risk to children. Consumers were told to seek medical care if their child experienced seizures, difficulty breathing, or other adverse effects after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels.

Since then, the FDA has announced that doctors should offer safe alternatives to homeopathic teething tablets and gels. “Teething can be managed without prescription or over-the-counter remedies,” Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement…

My comment:

Johnna Stahl · Albuquerque, New Mexico
Like the CDC, the FDA believes in suffering. How much pain are we talking about here? Bone growing and pushing through the gum line. Dental pain, some of the worst pain that can be felt. Torturers use it.

Do babies deserve pain relief? Doctors used to believe that babies don’t remember pain, so why treat it? (Who remembers the pain of teething?) Turns out, that’s not really true. When you’re a baby, your brain is growing and creating new synapses, including those involved with pain. You might not remember the pain you experienced as a baby, but I can guarantee that your brain remembers.

Not every baby will experience a high level of pain with teething, but if that happens, it should be adequately treated with a mixture of baby aspirin and the other non-drug treatments mentioned in this article. There is no purpose to suffering from untreated pain.