Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tainted CBD Oil Kills 2 Army Personnel; Injures 60

Sad to report more synthetic cannabinoid deaths caused by products claimed to contain CBD (cannabidiol).  Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, NC, and the Naval Medical Center at Camp Lejeune, NC, have seen a combined total of approximately 60 patients with medical conditions related to vaping products marketed as containing CBD oil. Although pure CBD oil has not been associated with adverse health effects.  <--- (Hear that, FDA?)  

Symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, dilated pupils and dizziness as well as confusion, disorientation, agitation and seizures, all of which are consistent with synthetic cannabinoids. Complications from the seizures may have resulted in significant neurologic damage in one Soldier and falls/accidents resulting from seizures are blamed for the deaths of two Marines. Four additional public cases have been reported in North Carolina and 33 cases have been reported in Utah.

Although some vape oils claim to contain CBD oil, CBD, THC, and/or synthetic cannabinoids, many vape oils do not disclose that they may contain illegal and/or potentially hazardous substances to include synthetic cannabinoids.  More on this story can be found here.  

We reported earlier on Diamond CBD company's inclusion of dangerous adulterants such as 5f-ADP, but this appears to be a more widespread problem across the commercial CBD industry.  When buying CBD products, demand a third-party lab analysis that checks for the presence of synthetic cannabinoids, heavy metals & solvents.  Stick with trusted brands such as Bluebird Botanicals, CBDistillery, Receptra Naturals, Charlotte's Web, Alchemie CBD, Kanapinis, CBD Drip & Steve's Goods.  

Avoid multi-level marketing companies & those with shady names that evoke drug abuse, such as Hemp Bombs, Kannaway, Diamond CBD, RSHO, Just Chill, Medical Marijuana Inc & Omega Labs to name a few.  In general, if you have unanswered questions or bad feelings about a company, don't buy from them.  It could mean the difference between life & death.  Real CBD does not produce psychoactive effects like THC--no time distortion, red eyes, giggling, dry mouth & munchies.  If you're feeling "high" after using a CBD product, it's either because it contains more THC than is stated on the label or because it contains a synthetic THC mimic chemical.  CBD products are only allowed to contain--at most--0.03% THC.  That's not enough for most people to feel.  Perhaps if you took an enormous dose at once you might feel a hint of a headchange, but you're not going to feel stoned.  If you do, throw it out. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Yemen: Land of the Khat

Yemen might not be the first place you think of when it comes to drug tourism, but maybe it should be.  They literally shut their cities down after 1 p.m. & dedicate the entire afternoon & evening to chewing khat--a natural stimulant that grows in the area.  Khat (Catha edulis) contains cathinone: a short-lived stimulant with amphetamine-like effects.  In Yemen nearly everyone chews khat, from the women & men down to the little children.  While you may or may not agree with this "lifestyle choice," it's one of the few things that keeps the people happy & somewhat numb to their economic woes.

Khat is also native to Somali, Ethiopia & other Arabian/African regions.  It is banned in the U.S. as a Schedule I controlled substance despite its relative lack of health risks.  Constant khat chewing can increase one's risk of oral cancer, and some people have idiopathic liver reactions to khat similar to the way some react to kratom.  But compared to tobacco & alcohol it's small beans.

This short news piece offers a snooty outsider's perspective on Yemen's khat "problem":

So, really, the biggest issue with khat is that it is a thirsty plant that's drinking up too much water in a desert region already dying from lack of moisture.  And it's all anyone wants to grow.  But I'm sure this problem could be overcome with modern farming techniques & incentives to diversify crops, right?  Outsiders to the culture have no right to barge in & take away something that's been used for millennia...whether they're using it to "get stoned" or not.  Unless you'd be cool with another nation coming in and confiscating our Venti mocha lattes & Red Bull energy drinks, that is.

Would you try khat?  I would.  I love chewing coca & would like to try something a bit "stronger".  Natural stimulants have always been of interest ever since I first discovered ephedra as a teen.  Nature can really pack a punch and we have no right to outlaw it for consenting adults.  Drug warriors are no different than ISIS in this regard, trying to ban things that grow out of the ground for foggy moral purposes.  Don't like it?  Don't use it.  Problem solved.


Monday, January 22, 2018

How To Survive an (Opioid) Epidemic

To hear the news tell it, opiates in all forms are dangerous & have no place in medicine or society.  A single use can get you hooked or kill you.  The government has restricted physicians' ability to prescribe pain meds long-term--for that, patients will have to attend a pain clinic (which are also being forced to cut back on opioid prescriptions dramatically).  Tramadol & hydrocodone were re-scheduled in the last few years.  Everywhere you look, opioids are being demonized as more middle and upper class white people die of overdoses.

But what's the REAL story behind these deaths?  Opioids have been on both the legal & illegal market for centuries and there's never been this level of death & destruction.  Pure heroin, manufactured by Bayer, was once prescribed as a remedy for morphine addiction.  Jazz musicians & grunge rockers have all indulged across various decades and walks of life.  Opioids are nothing new, but this level of death certainly is.  More people are dying of overdoses than from car wrecks & gun violence combined.  But why?  You probably won't hear these reasons on the news.

Heroin bad; Carfentanil worse

Reason #1:  Pharma Flood

While Big Pharma flooded the market with legal Rx opioids like OxyContin & Zohydro for the last 20 years telling us they weren't addictive, people became addicted en masse.  Pill mills popped up in every city & drowned entire populations in these euphoric drugs.  And then they were suddenly cut off.  It doesn't take a genius to know what happens when addicts are cut off from their supply abruptly.  They turn to street drugs. 

REASON #2:  Black Market Adulterants

Heroin is cheap & abundant on the street, but fentanyl and its synthetic relatives are even cheaper.  They require no poppies to be grown & refinement of opium into morphine.  No smuggling of tons of heroin across borders inside drug mules.  A small bag can supply an entire region due to the sheer potency.  The risk of transporting fentanyl--as well as the financial reward--is infinitely better for drug cartels & dealers.  It's not the junkies who are demanding these synthetics.  It's the criminals controlling the drug trade.  This is an important distinction. 

So fentanyl & its many relatives (carfentanil, butyr-fentanyl, acetylfentanyl, 0-desmethyltramadol, W-15, U-47700, etc) are the #1 cause of opioid overdoses.  They killed Prince and countless others.  And these substances are only found in heroin & pills because of drug prohibition.  Ever wonder why you don't find methanol & other moonshine impurities in your beer & liquor anymore?  Because alcohol is regulated for quality & purity.  Because alcohol is LEGAL.  It's still dangerous & unhealthy, but it's legal.  If heroin & pills were legal, they could be regulated for purity & sold to adults 21+ the way alcohol & cigarettes are.  Hell, if drugs were simply decriminalized it would allow for drug testing centers to exist so addicts could test their drugs for adulterants like fentanyl without fear of incarceration.  Because if there's one thing that DOESN'T work, it's forced drug treatment or prison. 

REASON #3:  Deadly Combos

The second leading cause of death among opioid users is combining opioids with benzodiazepines, alcohol & other downers--a mistake that could largely be prevented with proper drug education & harm reduction information.  Rock singer Tom Petty made this fatal mistake & it cost him his life.  Benzos are nearly impossible to overdose on by themselves, but when combined with opioids they become deadly, slowing respiration & heart rate to dangerous levels. Yet we aren't hearing news of a "benzodiazepine epidemic".  These drugs remain in Schedule IV, which is one step away from over-the-counter.

Drug purity test kit

So what's the solution?  As always, Americans are now demonizing an entire class of drugs and their users as doctors cut pain patients off their much-needed medications.  And with Sessions & Trump in office there will likely be a coming wave of incarceration for poor & minority drug users if we don't do something NOW.  The harsh reality is, as long as the drug war's Zero Tolerance policy stands, people will continue dying from adulterants like fentanyl & receiving faulty drug education like the "Just Say No" abstinence-only methods taught by D.A.R.E. that have been proven to not work.  This needn't be the case.  We can change course at any time.

We must employ harm reduction services immediately for those addicts who wish to continue using and affordable rehabilitation services for those who wish to stop.  If we let one more person die of a fentanyl overdose, we've failed.  Our government has failed.  Our public health services have failed.  We pay taxes so we can have these services & they're not being used to help the most vulnerable among us.  Until we stop treating addiction as a crime & start treating it as a disorder, we will keep losing bright, talented human beings to senseless and avoidable causes.

We need Naloxone available over-the-counter with no questions asked in all pharmacies.  Needle exchange centers in every city; drug purity testing sites in all major cities.  Hotlines for users to call anonymously & ask questions pertaining to drugs, such as dose & interaction information.  Safe injection rooms for IV drug users.  And there's so much more that could be done if we simply loosened our drug laws.  Contrary to popular belief, it's possible to use opiates & hold down a job, maintain a family & go to school, but not when all your time is spent stealing, panhandling, prostituting or trying to figure out ways to finance your habit & obtain your next hit.  Addicts CAN be productive members of society if given the chance.  They're called "functioning addicts" and they're everywhere.  You probably have one in your family or peer group.

While we can't save everyone, a majority of these deaths can be prevented with common sense policies.  We have to wake up & start handling our drug problem the way Portugal, the Netherlands & other countries with reasonable drug laws do.  Our leaders have the data; they know what works & what doesn't.  If it doesn't piss you off that they're CHOOSING to continue killing people with the same old ineffective methods after 80+ years of drug prohibition, you're not paying attention. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Peruvian Coca Leaves

Erythroxylum novogranatense var. truxillense

Around Christmas I ordered some fresh coca leaves from a vendor on eBay with my spare dough.  I used to chew them when I had to work at a gas station back in the day, but those were Bolivian leaves & it was a long time ago.  I wanted to revisit the substance Evo Morales calls "...the leaf that represents the culture of indigenous people of the Andean region".  There are apparently 4 different "strains" of coca that grow in different regions:  Bolivian, Colombian, Peruvian & Ecuadorian.  Mine are the "truxillense" variety from Peru.

Peruvian mail can move at a snail's pace (especially during the holidays), which I learned many years ago.  But Serpost was on point this time & got my leaves into the country in about 3 weeks.  They sat in customs for a few days & then shook loose before arriving at my house in mid-January.  Not quite a month after ordering.  Believe it or not, that's great timing for Serpost.  The leaves were packaged with several other items like this:

50 grams of fresh leaf only cost $18, but the shipping doubled the price.  Ah well, it was the holidays & I wanted to splurge.  Upon opening the package I am hit with a fresh green tea smell.  Mmmm...chlorophyll.  The leaves ARE fresh, or at least fresher than the dried leaves & teas I used to purchase from Mysterious Bolivian (who has doubled & tripled their prices, by the way.  Not cool).

I run the leaves under some water in a sieve to wash off any germs that might've clung on during harvest or transit before popping a few in my cheek sans baking soda.  (Baking soda supposedly helps absorb the desirable alkaloids but I've never found it necessary, plus it hurts my stomach).  When chewing coca leaves, it's best to strip the main stem out so it doesn't poke your cheeks but these leaves are really small & soft so I just eat the whole thing. 

Within minutes, I feel the familiar relaxed stimulation of the coca plant.  Combined with some high-CBD hemp, I feel chill & clear-headed for the first time in a week.  I always become more sensitive to sound while chewing coca, but this variety seems to be less intense in that regard.  Don't know if it's because it's a different strain or the fact that they're fresher & greener and contain different alkaloids than dry leaves. These fresh leaves are something special that most of us in North America don't get to experience, as coca doesn't grow well up here.  I much prefer them to the dry crispy ones.

I look forward to chewing as I'm doing garden work this Summer or going on my yearly roadtrip with mom.  If you're wondering about the legality of this plant in the U.S., I'd advise you to do your research before ordering.  While the tea is widely available on sites like Amazon, the whole leaves are a bit more sketchy looking to law enforcement.  And coca in all forms is technically a Schedule II controlled substance, so if it is confiscated by customs, you're likely to get a warning letter from them instead of your leaves.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Terpene Time: Choosing Weed By Smell

What makes a Sativa a Sativa and an Indica an Indica?  I mean besides the leaf shape & plant height?  What gives each its uniquely Sativa or Indica effects?  We know THC & CBD are the major players, but what else? 

It's been proven that strain names can't be trusted--that a batch of Strawberry Cough at Dispensary A can have a totally different amount & combination of cannabinoids & terpenes from the Strawberry Cough at Dispensary B.  Even the Holy Grail designations of "Sativa" and "Indica" have been called into question by cannabis experts.  What's more, the strains we refer to as "Sativa"are actually just "Sativa dominant in the vast majority of cases (likewise for Indicas).  There are very few 100% pure cultivars on the commercial market anymore.

So how can you really determine which strains are right for you?  One word:  terpenes.  These smelly chemicals are what give each strain its unique scent & can range from citrusy, astringent Pinesol smells at one end of the spectrum to skunky, earthy & berry at the other end.  These aromas can tell you more about a given strain than whether the strain is Sativa, Indica or Hybrid.  Here's a breakdown of what a few common terps do:

Limonene - As the name implies, this terp smells strongly of lemon & other citrus fruits.  Its effects are generally cerebral & uplifting, making it great for stress & mood elevation. 

Pinene - Pinene smells strongly of pine a giant Christmas tree in your livingroom.  It improves mental functioning & alertness while reducing inflammation. 

Caryophyllene - Here we have a terpene with a potent smell profile that has no detectable mental effects & a number of beneficial physical effects.  It's found in pepper & acts as an anti-inflammatory antiseptic agent that reduces pain & muscle spasms.  The smell is spicy & woody. 

Linalool - This floral-scented terp is what gives lavender its yummy smell.  It has a mild calming & sedating effect, making it best suited for conditions like insomnia, anxiety & pain.

Myrcene - Myrcene is one of the most relaxing of the terps.  It has a musky, herbal scent & enhances THC's effects as well as being great for stress & anxiety or sleeping issues. 

Once you determine which terpenes you favor, it's much easier to pick strains that are right for you at the dispensary or wherever you shop.  Budtenders will ramble on about this or that strain, but just cut to the chase & ask to smell it.  I've never cared for weed that's got a lemony/citrus scent for some reason--the stinky stuff that smells of earth & skunk agrees with me more.  It took me YEARS to figure this out.  Once I did, I stopped wasting money on bud that made me paranoid & anxious for hours and began to actually enjoy cannabis again. 

It can be difficult to discern between the different terpenes at first, as they're all blended together & hit your face at once.  But by simply paying attention to what your weed looks & smells like, you can learn a lot. 

I look forward to the day when complete cannabinoid profiles are listed on every product & strain in every dispensary.  But until then, we've got to smell our way to the best weed.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Aether Naturals CBD Shatter

"Skywalker" variety

Aether Naturals (which leads to the website "" when you type in the web address on the package) makes a variety of CBD products such as shatter, capsules full of clear oil & vape pens.  Oddly, they don't appear to have any reviews or fanfare on the web based on numerous searches but I guess no news is good news?  Again, wanting to splurge with my Christmas money I chose to pick up 0.5g of the $24 shatter to give it a try.  I'm a CBD fan who's only tried a few methods so I wanted to branch out.  They post lab results on the website for most of their stuff, so why not? 

The shatter/wax is a translucent white chunk that smells of gasoline & citrus.  It contains 90% CBD isolate & 10% terpenes derived from hemp, as well as undisclosed "natural flavors".  They offer 15 varieties, a few of which include: Blueberry Kush, Sour Diesel, Pineapple Express, Girl Scout Cookie, Tangie, Grand Daddy Purple & Bubble Gum.  I chose the Sour Diesel because it's one of my all-time favorite cannabis strains.  I also picked up a cheap wax atomizer globe to vape with.  I already have a 510-threaded battery so I'm hoping this works out.  I'm no vaping pro.  My plan is to try vaping with a Snoop Dogg G-Pen for dry herbs.  If that doesn't work, I'll put the Snoop battery on a wax atomizer & try that.  If that fails, we'll move on to smoking the shatter on top of some herbs in a bowl.

Makeshift vape piece.

Shatter can be used in a number of ways:  vaped, sublingual & orally.  You can add it to a warm beverage or put it in a joint of herb as long as you don't apply fire directly to it.  If you don't mind the taste, you can just eat it plain.  I'm gonna try all three. 

The smell is not really true to the Sour Diesel strain of cannabis--it's more like an astringent lemon/lime scent.  It's about the right strength:  not overwhelming or too weak.  It's missing the "diesel" stench of the strain, but no matter.  I'm here for the medicinal effects. 

My first attempt with the G-Pen is a wash, so I'm moving on to the G-Pen battery + the wax globe atomizer shown in the photo above.  The biggest challenge is loading the crumbly, waxy shatter onto the vape coils without it falling beneath them.  Jeez.  It's a perfect balancing act.  Hold the pen perfectly upright while you're taking your draw or it will likely need to be readjusted.  While the battery is a little weak, I managed to get a decent hit and am feeling the calm/happy clarity that CBD produces.  The taste?  Not great.  Reminiscent of burnt limes.'ll know it when you taste it.

Now on to sublingual.  Despite the gross vape flavor, the taste of the shatter itself is not that bad.  I let it sit under my tongue for about 20 minutes until it's mushy before swallowing.  Hmmm.  Okay.  To finish this experiment off, I'll add a few crumbs of this shatter to a bowl of legal hemp buds (Cherry Wine & ACDC strains). Trying not to directly burn the wax, I lightly hit the bowl & hold it in.  Rinse, repeat.  The smoke is noticeably thicker than usual & I'm getting that distinct burnt lime taste again.  Definitely feeling "it" now.  I get the feeling this product is a tad more "full-spectrum" than I'm used to, as I do feel a bit buzzed.  But my tolerance to THC is near zero.  It could easily be placebo effect.
My actual sample

I know the line goes that CBD is not psychoactive, and for the most part it's least not in the mind-bending way THC is.  But there is a subtle feeling of quiet that fills your head; a slight numbness in your limbs & a well-being if you're tuned in to your body's signals.  That is, if you don't already have a giant weed tolerance or unrealistic expectations.  I'd recommend Aether Naturals/Alchemie CBD to anyone who likes to vape or dab and enjoys a taste of terps with their medicine. Though I might go with a different "strain" next time if I'm gonna ingest it...this Sour D is a bit much for my taste buds. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What's the Deal With: Phenibut?

Phenibut, the supplement with the funny name, is a nootropic ("smart drug") with effects similar to benzodiazepines.  It acts on GABA and is used as a prescription anxiety medication in Latvia & Russia.  But you can also buy it on the U.S. supplement market. 

Phenibut 250mg tablets

Reports on phenibut are mixed.  For every user who reports an amazing experience, there's one warning of horrific withdrawals, vomiting or other side effects.  The withdrawal warnings make sense, as phenibut affects both GABA-A like benzos & GABA-B like GHB & Baclofen.  Doses above 7 grams have been linked to fatty liver degeneration.  That's no small thing. Anyone taking phenibut long-term should have their blood drawn regularly to monitor liver health.

I suppose if you have an easy time with moderation & responsible use, phenibut could be a good supplement for occasional severe anxiety or as a social lubricant.  But if you tend to abuse things or have a history of addiction, don't be fooled by its "supplement" or unscheduled status--phenibut can cause painful & dangerous withdrawals.  Like alcohol or benzodiazepines, phenibut shouldn't be used daily for this reason.  Combining it with opioids or alcohol can magnify its effects, increasing the likelihood of respiratory depression & death. 

I've never personally experimented with phenibut because downers depress me (quite literally), but I've talked to a lot of users who swear it's the bees' knees.  Erowid has a nice collection of user reports for your viewing pleasure.  Have you tried phenibut?  I'd love to hear your experiences.  Sound off in the comments.       

Friday, January 12, 2018

Demystifying the Opium Poppy

Dorothy of Oz succumbs to the poppy's narcotic effects

Ahhh...the opium poppy.  Source of so much joy & pain all over the world.  Raw material from which heroin is made.  Much maligned & mythologized.  But aside from the political, economical & medical downsides of the plant, is it really the demon drug it's made out to be? 

As usual, the answer is no.  Opium is nature's gift to man for treating pain that no other substance will touch.  It contains the perfect combination of morphine, codeine & other opioids like thebaine, which discourages overdose by causing unpleasant effects like vomiting in high doses.  When you isolate the morphine, overdose becomes far more likely.  But opium itself is quite a chill drug.  It can be smoked, eaten or made into a tea.  As long as you use it in moderation, the risk of addiction or death is quite low. 

Soldiers in Vietnam used it for both physical & emotional pain during the war.  Semi-synthetic opioids such as hydrocodone & oxycodone are made from the opium poppy today.  For a while, you could purchase pounds of dried pods on eBay for under a dollar per pod.  (This came to an abrupt end circa 2011, resulting in a lot of desperately sick poppy tea drinkers).  The flowers themselves come in a variety of brilliant colors ranging from white to deep blue or purple, as do the seeds.  They are a popular ornamental flower grown in gardens all over the world, despite their Schedule II designation. 

So what does opium feel like?  Very, very sedating compared to most pain pills.  The effects last many hours when taken orally and your sleep is riddled with vivid technicolor dreams.  You often itch & crave sweet foods.  The desire to lie on your side is strong.  I've not smoked opium but was a pod tea drinker for several years.  The withdrawal is similar to that of methadone due to the long-acting nature of opium alkaloids, making it excruciatingly rough.  And the taste of the tea is somewhere between warm, sweaty genitals & musty socks.  I doubt I'll ever touch a poppy pod again unless it's a one-off occasion, but it was fun while it lasted. 

Government Tyranny in 2018

By now you've all heard about Jeff Sessions' attempt to undo the progress on states' rights to legalize & regulate marijuana.  Even among Republicans, this move has been roundly criticized but no matter--Sessions is dead set on ignoring the will of the People & doing whatever the hell he wants.

At the same time, the FDA is waging war on kratom, a safe & natural herb that has helped thousands treat their pain & quit drugs like opiates.  Scott Gottlieb, head of the FDA's kratom crusade, once sat on the board of Cephalon, the company that manufactures the fentanyl lollipop.  You can't make this stuff up, folks.  One has to wonder why he's even allowed to work for the FDA with these blatant conflicts of interest.  With a little help from corrupt coroners & the media, he's managed to scare the public into believing kratom has caused 36 deaths, which is unequivocally false.  See for yourself :

*These were just the ones we could dig up.  Further requests were rejected on the grounds that this is "private medical information".

If all that wasn't enough, now the DEA is arguing that hemp-derived CBD is a Schedule I drug.  These are the products that contain NO THC or only trace amounts as laid out by the 2014 Farm Bill, which federally legalized the possession, sale & use of products containing 0.03% or less THC.  In other words, they're not psychoactive in any dose.  CBD has no major drug interactions or health risks and is impossible to overdose on, so there's no medical justification for banning it.  None.  Hemp has a wide variety of uses ranging from fiber to seed oil to medicinal CBD production with absolutely NO psychoactive potential.  Thankfully, 28 sane Congresspeople are standing up to this tyranny.  Let's hope sanity wins.

That Time I Tried: 4-HO-MET

I first tried 4-HO-MET around 2012 during the absolute pinnacle of the research chemical Golden Era (2010-2015).  It was the 2nd psychedelic...