Tuesday, February 23, 2021

[Review] - Kratom Powder: Smiley Time Herbals - Premium Red Vein MD

 



So this is the second in a trilogy of Smiley Time Herbal kratom reviews.  The first can be found here.  To recap, all 3 strains I received were supposed to be of the red-vein variety but appear bright green in color and the same exact shade of green at that.  The effects of the Pure Red Glow were extremely stimulating the way a green or white-vein strain would typically feel.  I'm trying to go into this review with a clear head and open mind but can't rule out personal bias, unfortunately.  

The color of kratom powder actually reflects the drying method and therefore its effects.  Certain drying methods produce more 7-hydroxymitragynine for a "slower" (more sedating) effect while others contain more mitragynine and other alkaloids.  In any case, so-called red-vein strains should appear light to dark brown rather than bright green.  This tells me I was sold a green (or white) as a red which is not cool.  The question is whether I was sold ONE green packaged as 3 different strains or 3 different greens.  This will be almost impossible to discern from effects alone as too many other factors come into play with my own body chemistry.  So I'll just focus on reviewing the effects of the kratom as much as possible on its merits.  


Smiley Time Herbals Premium Red Vein MD


This is gonna be hard.  I wasn't expecting to be sold a lie lol.  

So the Premium Red Vein MD is quite euphoric and slightly more mellow than the Pure Red Glow, though I used a much lower dose in this bottle of tea.  I was also feeling extremely fatigued when I drank it so I wasn't able to get a good read on its overall effects, but from what I could tell it was not nearly as "fast" as the Red Glow.  It didn't interfere with my codeine high which was also nice but leads me to believe it's not a true red strain, as they always render opiates ineffective for hours after dosing.    

The problem here is not knowing if you're gonna get what you order.  For some people, kratom colors and strains don't matter--they all affect them basically the same way.  But for me that's never been the case.  I stick to reds exclusively because whites and greens are entirely too stimulating and not in a good way.  They feel like an overdose of an adrenergic stimulant like caffeine or Ritalin that makes my heart race and my blood pressure shoot through the roof.  I can tolerate only the tiniest dose of them compared to genuine red strains, which I can gulp down by the spoonful in my tea.  That part is NOT placebo effect.  So selling me a green or white as a red is not acceptable.  Selling me three greens/whites as 3 different reds is just plain fraudulent.  

To be fair, I haven't contacted the vendor as I find all this too awkward to even bring up.  Kratom is technically not for human consumption so I can't discuss how it made me feel anyway.  I don't want my money back or a discount--I just want vendors to be honest about what they're peddling.  If you don't have a given strain in stock, take it off your website.  And know what you're selling.  But this doesn't look like an instance of ignorance, it appears more like someone running low on kratom around the holidays and possibly selling the last of their stock (one strain) as three different strains.  If I'm wrong, I apologize.  It's not my intention to slander anyone.  I'm just glad I didn't drop a bigger amount of money on this order.  



Premium Red Vein MD close-up


To conclude, I give Premium Red Vein MD a 4.7 of 5 stars for effects, potency and price.  It was a solid strain on its own merits that lasts a long time and produces a moderately uplifting effect that doesn't cancel out my daily codeine.  It wasn't overwhelmingly euphoric or "warm" the way I like my kratom to be which is why I didn't give it a higher score.  The Pure Red Glow was slightly more euphoric, or else I was just feeling better when I consumed it.  It's impossible to tell whether these are the same strain or not so I won't try.  In the future I'll be sure to order from vendors who offer photos or descriptions of their products to avoid this kind of uncertainty.  




Friday, February 19, 2021

Fred Hampton, American Hero



I've always admired people who transcend the limits of their physical body and place in the social hierarchy to stand up for the rights of all oppressed people.  Jane Elliott comes to mind.  If you're not familiar, she's the teacher known for the "blue eyes/brown eyes" exercise in 1968 who has dedicated her life to battling racial injustice as a white woman.  Fred Hampton fit this mold from the other end of the spectrum--a Black man who fought for the rights of poor people from inner city Blacks to Latinos to white Appalachians and oppressed people internationally.  Unfortunately due to his strong socialist views and growing following, he was seen as a threat to the establishment and was snuffed out violently by Chicago police in a late-night raid while he slept.  

While Fred was a proud Black man, he didn't let race act as a barrier to helping people in need.  Here's a direct quote from one of his speeches:  "White power to white people, Black power to Black people, brown power to brown people, yellow power to yellow people, red power to red people, ALL POWER TO ALL THE PEOPLE."  Now if someone said this today, they would be torn apart by liberals and the Twitter language police, most of whom belong to Generation Z and aren't used to the concept of class unity.  (To be fair, "white power" has been abused and dragged through the mud by actual white supremacists and neo-Nazis who have given it the hideous image it has today).  But the proof is in the pudding:  What Fred actually accomplished in the segregated '60s was exactly what this divided country needs now more than ever.  Another timely quote from the docudrama Judas and the Black Messiah:

"Let me ask y’all something. If this building caught fire right now, what would y’all worry about? Water and escape.  If somebody were to ask you, “What’s your culture during this fire, brother?” “Water, that’s my culture.” “Well, how about your politics?” “Water and escape.” Well, guess what, America is on fire right now.  And until that fire is extinguished, don’t nothing else mean a goddamn thing."

And that's where we're at right now.  We can get back to quibbling over wedge issues like gay marriage, abortion, gun rights and transgender people in bathrooms (all issues I care about, by the way) when we're not literally on fire.  When we aren't in an active pandemic that's killed 450,000+ Americans in under a year & triggered the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, causing 1 in 6 children to go hungry.  Bread lines for miles, empty store shelves like Venezuela, hospitals full to capacity with dying COVID patients.  Electrical grids crashing due to greedy corporations and climate change.  Riots & uprisings every few months.  We can't even afford to be proper Republicans, Democrats, Christians, atheists, or individuals right now.  BECAUSE WE'RE ON FIRE.  All of us.  Your suburbs, liberal arts degrees and gated communities aren't going to save you forever, nor are your beloved gun and ammo collections.    


Original Rainbow Coalition


The only remedy is class unity.  That means getting in the streets with other Americans, some of whom you don't like.  Some of whom you may even hate or fear.  That means Trump + Biden supporters working together.  Scientists + flat-earthers.  MRA's + feminists.  Bloods + Crips.  BLM members + Proud Boys.   And it has to be peaceful, organized and focused on a common goal.  The goal is not to befriend them or change their personal views but to achieve a common outcome:  getting what the establishment owes you, whether it's your boss, landlord, the police, city council, local politician or whoever.  All the way up to the President.  

Sound impossible?  Think again.  This is what Fred Hampton did when he united rival gangs and was able to bring together the Black Panthers, Young Lords and Young Patriots--three culturally divergent groups from far-flung regions of the country--to work for a common cause.  The Rainbow Coalition, he called it.  Jesse Jackson later appropriated the term for his 1988 presidential run.  And Fred did it all by age 21.  He didn't have a fancy Ivy League education or special training in psychology.  He just knew who his real enemies were & had the patience to work with people who were unlike himself.  At least superficially.  The hard part is getting people to truly accept who their enemy is.  It's not the person "offending" you but truly fucking you over and making your material living conditions worse.  For this purpose, your enemy is the one with political power or privilege and excessive wealth while you work your ass off or go without; not the other poor/working person up the street.  Whatever their personal beliefs or identity.  

Do you think the Panthers ENJOYED looking at the giant Confederate flags sported by the Young Patriots?  Really think about it for a second.  It was revolting enough to drive some Panthers away, and for good reason.  I can't say I wouldn't have gone too.  But Fred saw the bigger picture and allowed them to keep their piece of cloth if it meant getting more bodies in the seats to fight the actual fascists with real power.  Eventually many of them shed the rebel flag once they learned the real meaning of it, which is the natural order of things when people are allowed time to learn and grow on their own.  Below is a wonderful documentary on the remaining Rainbow Coalition members and how their lives played out before and after Fred's assassination.  


Chairman Fred Hamptons Rainbow Coalition First History


Most importantly, what Hampton was doing in uniting all these diverse groups scared the establishment so much that simply sending him to prison wasn't enough--they set up an elaborate plan to drug and execute him while he slept.  Herbert Hoover himself, head of the FBI, had his hand in the plot to "neutralize" Hampton.  If this doesn't prove to you that class unity is the solution to this nation's problems, I should probably hang up my blogging hat now because it's pointless.  I'll refer you to my short article on the January 6th insurrection and let you put the pieces together yourself.  

Today, Fred Hampton's headstone in Bethel Cemetery, Louisiana is full of holes where an unknown person or persons have fired shots through it.  His son Chairman Fred Jr. has been trying for years to raise money to save his childhood home and turn it into a museum (his GoFundMe goal was only recently reached in February 2021 after the movie came out).  While Fred Hampton himself never would've wanted to be idolized or considered a celebrity, he's been one of my personal heroes for a long time.  The best way I can think of to honor his memory, aside from making sure his family is taken care of, is by focusing on class unity and the power of The People.  Anyone willing to work toward the common goal of bettering the material conditions of The People--ALL OF US--can stand beside me in the struggle.  



Fred Jr. stands near his father's bullet-riddled grave


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

On Parental Favoritism



It's usually hard for me to read or write about things that are too close to my heart, but I'll try.  I know a lot of people have dealt with this but it's not talked about too much:  Favoritism.  The kind parents exhibit toward their children--or more accurately, one particular child--for reasons known only to them.  It can happen in any family where there's more than 1 kid and the damage it does is often severe.  

Karen Carpenter is a great example of what can happen when a mother showers one child with praise and gives the other the cold shoulder all their life.  They grow up feeling inadequate, trying to be perfect and gain their parent's affection only to tear themselves apart in the process.  I see shades of this in myself and have worked on it in therapy for a long time.  I have OCD and freak out about my appearance frequently, trying to calm the overthinking and hypersensitivity with drugs.  My mom has a strong preference for my brother and always has.  I don't know to what degree sexism is involved but it's deeply entrenched where I live.  She's spineless when it comes to standing up to men in general, be it my dad (who she despises but refuses to divorce) or my brother.  It's actually depressing.  

But my sympathy quickly turns to rage when I remember that she has no problem spitting bile at me with no hesitation, particularly if I point out any of my brother's faults.  Or even legitimate concern for his future/well-being.  She's even hit me during one of these "discussions".  No other topic will get her as heated as my brother.  It's as if he's perfect; beyond criticism.  He's not so much a human but an angel walking among us mere mortals in her eyes.  She helps him "find" food in the kitchen, does his taxes, makes his phone calls, makes his bed, does his laundry/dishes and pays for his groceries as well as providing a roof over his 30-something head yet claims he "doesn't need to clean his room" because he "works a part-time job" and "helps around the house".  The other behaviors she excuses are so heinous I won't even write about them here, but you get the picture.  Meanwhile she reminds me frequently that I'm a worthless drug addict and then wonders aloud why my self-esteem is in the gutter.  

It's been this way our whole lives.  I was always the "bad kid" long before drugs.  She's always needed a scapegoat.  And by no means am I saying I wasn't a hyperactive brat or that I don't do drugs; but as a parent it's your job to love and treat your kids the same no matter what.  It's called unconditional love.  And as for my brother?  The enabling has resulted in him being a helpless adult flailing in a sea of confusion.  When my parents are gone he will not know where to turn and it will be their fault.  And they give not one iota of a fuck.  Nobody is served by this setup, but I'm the bad guy for daring to bring it up.  Classic narcissistic parent/Golden Child dynamic.  

If you can't love all your kids equally, don't have kids.  Favoritism is emotional abuse.  It causes a lifetime of problems with self-esteem, depression and sometimes things like eating disorders, self harm or addiction.  It sets siblings up for a lifetime of sibling rivalry that's actually the fault of the parent but the kids often lack the insight to even realize that, which is a shame.  It's a mindfuck that should be snuffed out at the source--in the heart of the selfish, immature parent who can't be arsed to at least pretend to love all their kids equally.  


Were you raised by a parent who favored one kid over another?  Would love to hear you thoughts in the comments.  This is a hard thing to work through even as an adult with many months/years of therapy under my belt.  

Monday, February 8, 2021

Fred Rogers: Straight Edge King



I just finished watching the touching "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" documentary (late, I know) and one thought kept floating through my mind.  (Okay, several but since this is a drug blog I'll stick to the relevant one).  Was Fred Rogers really as straight-laced and tee-totaling as he appeared?  For his ENTIRE life?  He lived to the ripe age of 74 and didn't appear to have any vices whatsoever.  Wasn't overweight, didn't drink, cheat on his wife (that we know of), gamble, smoke cigs, do illegal drugs or have any other addictions or even recreational vices that he indulged in.  At all, ever.  

Now, a LOT of people try to portray themselves as what Fred actually was:  puritanical, abstaining from vice and the like.  Religious people mostly.  Mr. Rogers was certainly on the religious side:  he was a Presbyterian preacher but never a zealot or fanatic, choosing instead to use TV as his medium to spread the message of love and acceptance to children rather than standing on a pulpit and preaching at people.  Not really comparable to today's typical Christian though.  Most of those types have skeletons stacked high in their closets.  See:  televangelists and megachurch pastors such as Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart & countless others who have been swamped in scandals ranging from illicit sex to drugs to embezzlement.  Even the typical everyday Christian at your local church is more likely to fall into this latter category than the Christ-like one Fred Rogers occupied.  


Promoting integration with a (gay Black) friend


But Rogers was, by all accounts, "really like that".  Which is hard for me to grasp.  What kind of grown man is that interested in children but not for nefarious reasons?  What's with the creepy puppet voices?  Was he secretly gay?  The mind tends to fill in the vacuums of information with our own creations.  But as the movie wore on it became clear he was genuine and, most importantly, there have been zero allegations of wrongdoing in all these years that would give one reason to suspect unspeakable motivations.  (Yes, I've been jaded by LIVING ON EARTH.  Don't judge me).  Nor anything about being a closeted gay man or drug user.  What does one do if not engaging in pleasure-seeking, dopamine boosting endeavors?  At least some of the time?  How do you even unwind or celebrate?  And remain so cheerful and optimistic?  

Thus is the mystery and wonder of Mr. Rogers.  A true gem in a world of turds.  One does have to wonder how he would've tackled issues in the post-9/11, divided nation we've become.  A lifelong Republican, would he have remained in the party with Trump's rise?  Addressed QAnon and COVID disinformation on his show?  Almost no one has escaped the partisan brainwashing in the years since 9/11, so it's hard to say with certainty that he wouldn't have fallen victim to some extent.  He was visibly shaken by 9/11 in a way he hadn't been with other national tragedies, that much is clear from the documentary.  This happened near the end of his life at a time when FOX News pundits were attacking him for telling kids they were "special" and thus blaming him for a generation's perceived failures.  Who knows--maybe he would've seen the rot in the Republican party and exited at some point?  

I suppose it's pointless to speculate as he left this mortal coil in 2003 after a bout with stomach cancer.  While we need a Mr. Rogers now more than ever, perhaps he could've only existed in the time he did--that Golden Age of TV from the 1960s through the late '90s before viral internet clips took over and attention spans shortened to that of a goldfish.  Along with Reading Rainbow and Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was one of the three formative shows in my toddler years that I still remember vividly and credit with helping me form an inclusive, open view of the world.  Being raised where I was (middle of nowhere with no contact with other kids/races at the time), I credit these shows with teaching me tolerance at a vital developmental period... a tolerance that my family did NOT share, unfortunately.  It was never pushed in a preachy or obnoxious way but was totally natural unlike today's programming.  A product of the times I suppose.  

Then again, we need quality kids' programming now more than ever to give children a chance at healthy development in this crumbling society.  If we relegate all such programming to a bygone era, we're doomed to deprive our kids of the same quality shows we grew up with.  In a time when parents are out of work and struggling like never before, TV plays an even bigger role in early childhood development--particularly for underprivileged kids.

Where is this generation's Mr. Rogers?  Won't someone step up to fill the role of patient, neighborly, reassuring mentor to today's kids without expecting stardom and hero worship in return?  




Thursday, February 4, 2021

In Praise of Dr. Carl Hart

Dr. Carl Hart

First of all, if you haven't read his book Drug Use for Grown Ups:  Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear go pick it up right now.  If you enjoy this blog you will love the book even more.  You've probably seen Dr. Hart's warm, dreadlocked countenance in many a drug documentary discussing the harms of the drug war, the disparities of the crack and cocaine laws and the generally exaggerated response to the negative effects of various drugs.  But the info he drops about himself in this book is nothing short of a bombshell.  (Spoilers ahead).  

Dr. Hart--government researcher, neuroscientist with a military background, Ivy League professor, father, author and volunteer, is a poly drug user with an affinity for heroin.  He's been a smoker of it for over 5 years.  And claims his life is better for it.

I actually cried when I read this revelation because I never in my wildest dreams imagined heroin was his drug of choice.  Weed?  Sure.  Adderall or even a little meth?  The way he talked so positively about them in documentaries made me think he might have a soft spot for stimulants.  But heroin?  

This hit home because I'm a long-term opioid user who considers myself a conscious self-medicator rather than an "addict".  I don't have a doctor's blessing or prescription yet I've never overdosed, been to jail, stolen/pawned anything, sold my body or increased my dose in the 17 years I've been using.  And I've taken breaks of just over a year without so much as a craving.  It's just that my life feels more whole and meaningful with opiates than without.  I've never put an opiate in my veins or up my nose and don't intend to.  I use solely to feel normal and good, not to "escape reality" or be numb.  That distinction is vital when it comes to drawing a line between healthy use and hardcore addiction.  

Am I physically or even psychologically dependent?  Probably.  But that's a price I'm willing to pay in exchange for the benefits I get.  It's not unlike getting on a psychiatric medicine long-term:  You know that quitting is going to cause withdrawals and thus continue using it to prevent them, knowing that one day you may be forced to taper down or switch to something else.  But for now, it's working.  And I'm not hurting anyone.  I don't have kids, don't drive impaired, don't treat loved ones poorly or do other harmful things as a result of my substance use.  I use opiates in lieu of alcohol, tobacco or pot (except for microdoses) because those drugs don't agree with me.  At all.  I've often wished they did because that would be much easier to explain to people due to their social acceptability.  


Cover of Hart's book


And that's what Hart's book is focusing on:  the overwhelming majority of drug users--even those who dabble in "hard" drugs like meth, coke or heroin--who don't go on to become addicts or die of overdoses.  The ones who get zero media attention because it's not politically correct to tell the truth on this issue.  Only 1 in 4 heroin users becomes addicted.  Sharing that fact does NOT mean he's telling anyone to gamble with taking the drug; it does mean facts matter.  And lying about heroin is just as harmful as lying to kids about marijuana.  Here's why.

Even though we're in the midst of an opioid crisis that's very real, you'll see that the statistics have been twisted and given the Reefer Madness treatment if you look closer.  This is unforgivable.  Illicit fentanyl--a product of drug prohibition--is the sole cause of most opiate overdoses since about 2016 (when the FDA tightened opiate prescription laws) while the remainder of overdose deaths involve other depressants like benzos or alcohol in addition to opioids like heroin.  That means it's much less common for a single, unadulterated opioid to cause overdose though it's certainly possible.  But the media would have us believe all opioids are alike and equally dangerous, i.e. codeine is as deadly as carfentanil.  Their fear mongering headlines make no distinction.  Proper harm reduction education could greatly decrease opioid overdose deaths, as could legalizing and regulating the drug supply for purity.  But it's easier to just scream into the void about another drug scare than to take action to reduce death.  People are dying unnecessarily because it's not politically correct to do the right thing.  

THIS is why Dr. Hart's approach to truth-telling is so important, even if it's a bit jarring.  It's not about disrespecting families who have lost someone to drugs.  And it's got nothing to do with denying the reality of addiction.  What it does address is the population--a majority of drug users--who never go on to become addicts or die of overdoses and go completely unacknowledged by the media, the medical profession and society as a whole.  They matter too.  We matter.  

It's hard to overcome a lifetime of propaganda and brainwashing, especially while we're still in the midst of it.  We all like to think of ourselves as enlightened about drugs.  And for the most part we are... at least when it comes to cannabis, psychedelics and ketamine.  But harder drugs are still given the cold shoulder even in these enlightened circles.  And that needs to change.  Not for just moral reasons but scientific ones.  

Not all opiate, stimulant or other "hard" drug users need treatment or would be better off if they quit.  I know because I have quit for extended periods and was not better off.  Just as I've quit Prozac for long periods and my mental health just wasn't up to par.  (My motto is:  Life is gonna fuck you either way but going through it without drugs is like being fucked without lube).  Maybe one day I'll change my tune but for now that's where I stand.  And I shouldn't have to fear prison, social reprisal, judgment by the medical profession leading to sub-par treatment & other unfair consequences for being upfront about it.  Nor should any self-respecting adult.  

Yet despite my own long-term, responsible use of opioids and dedication to de-stigmatizing drugs on this blog, I still recoiled and gasped at Dr. Hart's admission of heroin use.  This just proves that nobody is immune to a lifetime of anti-drug propaganda.  So thank you Dr. Hart for kicking down the closet door on the drug issue.  Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to do the same using my real name even though I'm not a public figure like you.  Or a Black man in America, which is already a precarious spot to be in.  You deserve all the respect.  


Monday, February 1, 2021

Future So Dark We Need a Searchlight


Think this sounds melodramatic?  Keep reading.  And follow the links.  


Souped Up Storage Units:  We've got our own 'tiny home' trend here in the States but things are even more bleak in Hong Kong.  If you haven't seen their coffin homes, well... have a look at this article right now.  Here's a quick excerpt:  "But coffin homes aren't the worst of it.  Some residents, predominantly elderly men, stay in public housing that swap bunk beds for stackable cages.  Typically, up to 12 men live in one room."  

Killer Robots:  This "dog" named "Spot" will give you nightmares.  No, really.  Its purpose is to enforce social distancing in a park in Singapore but it foreshadows a dark future in which robot police are used for more nefarious purposes.  Let your imagination run wild.  

Paying Corporate Lords for Water & Oxygen:  As I wrote about last year, water was added to the stock market as a commodity to be traded for the first time as fears of scarcity escalated.  And now we've got companies selling literal air to people living in places with poor air quality.  Small personal units, of course.  Great for the environment.  


Sadly this meme barely touches on capitalism's harms.  Here in America during the worst pandemic since 1918 in the midst of worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, there are more million dollar homes selling than ever (to the wealthy, of course).  And renters aren't any better off--corporations are now buying up apartment complexes in cities around the country, driving prices up and making life a living hell for tenants.  Gentrification is coming no matter where you reside.  And Democrats are "pushing" for a $15 minimum wage as if that's radical when it was actually first proposed around 2008.  It would likely need to be closer to $25-$27 to keep pace with the cost of living in 2021.  Maybe higher in some places.  

In "1984" news, we're being tracked and monitored by our smart devices day and night as the NSA gathers all our emails and communications in bulk.  Meanwhile, facial recognition software is implemented in more public places CCTV style without our awareness or consent.  Yet despite all this surveillance, they can't even stop the spread of a deadly pandemic, catch terrorists hiding in plain sight or stop the flow of deadly fentanyl analogues pouring into the country by the kilogram.  The FBI needed the public's help to track down insurrectionists whose faces were CLEAR on surveillance cameras and who most definitely had posted on social media in the weeks leading up to the capitol riots, ffs!  

The human race keeps multiplying as if everything is fine (the dog in hell meme comes to mind) with Americans exporting our over-consumption habits worldwide at a breakneck pace as if the party can continue forever.  Infinite growth on a finite planet seems to be our mantra, though it's also the motto of a cancer cell.  Governments do next to nothing to address the issues of climate change, pollution, extinction of species and weather pattern changes that are happening RIGHT NOW--not in some distant future scenario.  Where I live (tornado alley), there aren't even any public tornado shelters in schools for children, let alone adults in the community.  If you can't afford to build a cellar or basement, you're shit out of luck when--not if--an EF4 or EF5 tornado hits...an event that's becoming ever more frequent due to climate change.  


Where's the Lifeboat?

So where are all the free market solutions and innovation?  We're not living in a pure capitalist free market like we've been told; it's a dystopian corporate fascist hellscape wherein corporations and the government have joined forces to fuck over individuals while bailing themselves out every time they fail.  Wages haven't kept pace with the cost of living so the average person can't afford any half-assed solutions offered anyway.  We're all one paycheck or emergency away from ruin.  When social emergencies like COVID or the 2008 housing crash happen, the rich get richer at our expense.  

When our economy does finally bite the dust permanently, it will be the result of unchecked wealth-hoarding at the top, not "communism" or any other outside force.  No matter how much money the 1% have, there are a only so many pillows, chandeliers, cars, barbecues and other products they can buy.  That money needs to be distributed to the many so we can continue supporting the demand side of the supply-and-demand side of the equation.  This is why stimulus checks are so important during the pandemic and, in the longer term, why universal basic income will become absolutely vital as AI/robotics take over more of our jobs.  Aside from the moral human reasons, of course.  

Unfortunately our government is run by septuagenarian sociopaths whose brains are addled by decades of lead poisoning, ranting TV and radio news pundits, widespread diabetes and its eventual end result:  dementia (also known in the medical community as "Type III diabetes").  They give not one shit about the long-term or even the mid-term as they'll all be dead by then, their looting and plundering scam complete.  As long as social security holds up for them, that's all that matters.  The Baby Boomers are the "Me" Generation, after all.  But assuming that a younger government will automatically solve our problems is dangerously misguided because the same corporate forces still remain in power behind the scenes.  Nancy Pelosi started out as radical as AOC and even advocated for universal healthcare back in 1994; she's since changed her tune.  The lure of wealth, taxpayer funded healthcare and vacations, Twitter fame and all the other perks that go along with being in congress or senate mean one thing:  the Democrats and Republicans change YOU, not the other way around.  Intentions don't count for a hill of beans on The Hill.  


Pelosi argues for single-payer healthcare floor vote in 1994

I wish I could wrap this up with a neat conclusion section full of helpful solutions but sadly I can't.  The psychopaths at the helm aren't going to relinquish control peacefully--why would they?  They didn't gain their power peacefully either.  Many millions have suffered and died in the name of upward wealth transfer and many more will die before the pyramid scheme is complete.  Our only course of action is a prolonged #generalstrike and other coordinated actions that will bring this shitshow to a halt.  We must start speaking their language:  money.  It's the only thing they understand.  Boycotts and strikes are the most effective weapon we've got in this profit-driven corporatocracy.






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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Exclusive: A Look At the Kratom Industry's Secrets



If you're even remotely interested in kratom, keep reading.  This article contains some bombshells that most users (and many vendors) aren't privy to.  I recently spent some time on the Double M Herbal forums, where I gained a whole new understanding of how the kratom industry really works behind the scenes.  And lemme tell ya, it was an eye-opener.  


Everything you'll read below is courtesy of poster gumbyke1, owner of Texas Family Harvest.  He has so generously chosen to share his knowledge for all us regular consumers which he didn't have to do.  I've linked to the original thread at the bottom of this post.  It's extremely long and well-documented--I've only covered the basics here.  I feel that all kratom consumers should read it as it challenges everything we've been told about the product we're ingesting.  


Strains & Vein Colors: Not What They Seem

We've been told that the color of the vein running through a kratom leaf's center determines its effects forever.  Turns out that's not true.  (I know, I was shocked too).  The vast majority of leaves are red-veined:  only 1-3% of leaves contain white or green veins.  They are referred to as "pucuk" in Indonesia and are younger leaves usually harvested near the canopy.  The effects are not measurably different than those of red-veined leaves, which are preferred by locals for chewing.  And in any case, the color of the veins wouldn't account for the dramatically different colors of the finished powder you receive anyway.  That makes no sense.  As for "yellow" veins and other colors, they don't exist in any real quantity outside a few freak examples.  

So where do the different kratom powder colors come from?  Drying method.  So-called red strains are dried outdoors in the sun, with darker reds being semi-fermented in plastic bags for a couple days and then finished in the sun.  Green strains are dried indoors or in the shade while whites are made in the warehouse by mixing crushed green + red leaf OR by partially drying indoors and then finishing in the sun.  The most common method for making whites is to dry leaves indoors for a longer period.  Bentuangies are fully fermented and dried outdoors.  These drying methods do alter the psychoactive effects by changing the amounts of alkaloids slightly.  Kratom drying is comparable to the way tea (Camellia sinensis) is dried to produce white, green and black tea with varying levels of caffeine.

Here is a photo demonstrating the 6 different drying methods:


Photo credit:  gumbyke1 of DoubleMHerbal forums

The "strains" in the photo come from just 2 different trees, btw.  Point taken.  As for strain names like Bali, Thai, Maeng Da and Hulu Kapuas, they're even more bogus than vein colors.  Totally meaningless.  In the early days of online kratom vending, they had some vague meaning but have now lost any semblance of meaning and are entirely based on marketing.  They may have some value in labeling different batches but even then, several batches of the same "strain" are unlikely to be the same material due to continuity issues.  


Safety & Contamination

Now for the more worrying bit--the part we've all feared but pushed to the back of our minds as we gulped down endless doses of kratom dust over time, trusting that what we're getting is as clean as possible.  The reality is less rosy.  

Kratom leaves are not treated like a food or supplement in their native Indonesia and are usually dried in bulk on the ground, often on giant tarps that stretch out as far as the eye can see.  Children, chickens, dogs & other various and sundry living things walk through and over the leaves as they dry, carrying all manner of potential contaminants.  Sometimes they are even crushed by hand or FOOT.  Don't believe me?  See for yourself:


Excerpt from local Indonesian publication (via DoubleMHerbals forum)


Some leaves are dried directly on the ground--no tarp--and raked into a giant dirt pile before packaging.  When you stop to realize how much demand there is for kratom powder in the States and how much work goes into harvesting, drying and packaging to ship it here, you start to get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.  It becomes clear that a majority of our leaf is likely processed like this before it arrives in the hands of U.S. vendors... and they have no clue.  Willful ignorance perhaps.  Yet there are still people who rail against the kratom lobby's attempts to put safety standards in place because it might raise prices.  Pffft.  


Mmm...earthy. 😨



Potency

Now we get to the third issue that's never talked about too earnestly in the industry:  potency.  It's clear to long-time users that overall potency has kinda dropped off since about 2017.  But why?  After the FDA tried to ban kratom in late 2016, the demand for it skyrocketed.  That's when things went to shit.  Well, it turns out that we likely exhausted Indo's supply of quality leaf and are now getting flooded with corner-cutting shit.  And the reason is that it takes years for trees to mature enough to produce quality leaves with high alkaloid content.  What we're getting now is largely from young plants.  Yes, age of the tree is the #1 determinant of potency.  

Back in the "good old days," there were fewer Indo farmers in the industry overall because it wasn't lucrative enough to go into the kratom business, but now everybody's getting in on the action.  Planting new kratom trees & harvesting young leaves is a breeze but climbing to the top of old trees in the forest and picking old leaves is not nearly as easy.  Small plants produce big leaves that can be harvested without harming the plant itself, as you can see in the picture below:


Young kratom trees with leaves of suitable size for harvesting


Adding to the problem is that Indonesians themselves are not kratom consumers, so they haven't a clue about what constitutes "quality" kratom.  The amount that's exported is so massive there's no way to quality check all of it even if they did.  We're talking thousands of kilos a week.  Truckloads.  Many of the lab reports passed off to domestic vendors are photoshopped or fraudulent as well, further obscuring the actual quality of the leaf being sold.  


What Now?

So what does all of this mean for consumers?  It's a lot to digest, that's for sure.  For me it means that I'll be boiling the HECK out of my kratom from here on out to neutralize any pathogens that might be present.  I also plan to seek out vendors who are more knowledgeable about their product, whether domestic or Indo-based.  Supporting the American Kratom Association is imperative for implementing farm-to-table quality and purity standards and tracing of how the plant is processed.  Don't hesitate to send any and all questions you have about these issues directly to them via email as they should have no problem answering them since they accept public donations.  Ditto for the Botanical Education Alliance (BEA).  They're our best--and maybe only--chance of improving the situation of quality, potency and safety.  

And just let me say, there are exceptions.  Not all kratom is processed in this unsanitary way, nor are all Indo growers and vendors shady.  Please don't take this as a condemnation of the entire industry.  But it should be a wake-up call about the risks of leaving it entirely unregulated and without oversight.  While we don't want the government involved, we definitely need more checks and balances within the industry itself.  

Thanks again to gumbyke1 and Double M forums for shining a light on this.  Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and concerns in the comments!







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