Thursday, February 28, 2019

Legal Psychedelic Research Chemicals [General Review]

I've tried a butt-ton of research chemicals so I figured why not record some of my experiences & opinions for posterity?  The Golden Age of Research Chems is definitely over.  In the period between 2010-2013, I ingested a vast array of powders, pills & liquids that were technically legal if marked "Not For Human Consumption".  Some were amazing & life-changing...others were nightmarish.  Most were somewhere in the middle.

Let me preface this by saying that psychedelics are not a class of drugs that I respond well to in general.  That said, I did try a few RC hallucinogens in my day.  I also shared them with my circle of friends who enjoyed them far more than I.  Here's a round up of the ones I personally ingested.


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4-AcO-DMT ("Psilocetin")
4-AcO-DMT:  This is the most popular of all the RC tryptamines.  It is nearly identical to a shroom trip, as it is a prodrug of psilocin--one of the psychedelic compounds in mushrooms.  The trip lasts about 4 hours & comes to an abrupt but smooth halt once it's over.  It's easier to ingest than nasty fungi & also easier on the stomach in terms of nausea.  Some users find that the visual distortions produced by 4-AcO-DMT more closely resemble those produced by DMT than those produced by mushrooms.  I can't confirm or deny, as I've never tried DMT.  

I tripped in the hot tub on this one with my ex & then moved indoors where we listened to the radio & she danced wildly while I lay on the floor in the fetal position (my typical trip pose).  We suddenly heard president Obama's voice boom over the radio & both got a spooky feeling at the same time.  A shared psychedelic experience, perhaps.  That's what really stuck out from my 4-AcO trips.


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4-HO-MET ("Metocin")
4-HO-MET:  Known lovingly as the "Rainbow Tryptamine," 4-HO-MET is a long-acting shroom-like psychedelic that gives everything a glittery sheen with hints of fuchsia deep in your mind's eye.  A hefty dose can last 10 hours & tends to give a nice after-glow the following hours/days after a trip.  Lower doses are pretty mild compared to other psychedelics but don't underestimate this trippy compound or you could end up overwhelmed with doses upwards of 25mg.  I once spent an entire day in bed traveling the depths of my psyche on this substance, envisioning ancestors up to the present day & realizing they stopped with me since I'm not having kids.  When things started getting heavy, Will Ferrell broke in to fart a fuchsia cloud in my face in comedic fashion.  I giggled out loud.  It was intense to say the least.  Felt very rejuvenated afterward though.

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6-Apb ("Benzofury")
6-Apb:  People often compare this one to MDMA, but for me it's not even in the same universe.  6-Apb is far too psychedelic to be in the same category as Ecstasy or other empathogen stimulants like 4-FA or methylone.  To me, it felt more like a cross between mescaline & shrooms.  I've never done MDA but that might be a more apt comparison since MDA is trippier than MDMA.  I didn't particularly care for 6-Apb myself, but then again I was expecting a sociable "rolling" experience similar to MDMA.  Instead I got a 9-hour psychedelic trip that kicked in during a giant fashion show surrounded by hipsters.  Not ideal.  It felt kinda toxic too.  I looked very pale & sickly in the pics taken while on this drug.  I would not personally try it again but it was very popular on the grey market RC market, often sold under the brand name "Benzofury" in smoke shops despite not containing any benzodiazepine components. 

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MXE ("Roflcoptr")
MXE:  Methoxetamine (MXE) is more of a dissociative than a true psychedelic, but boy was it popular on the RC scene for a while.  As such, I obviously had to branch out & try it even though I've never experimented with other dissociatives like ketamine, PCP or DXM.  Sure enough, I hated it.  MXE had a dark head space & all I did was write a creepy essay & brood over whatever was bothering me at the time.  Perhaps it would've been more fun had I been in a good mood to start with?  Likely, but some drugs just don't agree with some people.  I've had to accept this with psychedelics & depressants such as the GABAergics. 

If you're a creative person looking to detach from your inhibitions, MXE might be a good place to look.  But the fun factor just wasn't there for me.  I often find myself wondering how it compares to ketamine since the latter is said to be so miraculous for depression.  MXE was a bummer in my case.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

[Review] - Suver Haze from Oregon Top Shelf CBD

Items:  High-CBD hemp buds; various strains
Location:  Oregon, USA
Price:  $7/gram
Website:  Oregontopshelfcbd.com
Rating:  0.5 of 5 stars


Suver Haze

I received an email from this vendor in my spam folder & cautiously opened it to find that I'd purchased from them before on eBay.  I've even written a review on their stuff before.  (See here). Turns out eBay is not allowing the perfectly legal sale of hemp flower even with the high-profile passage of the Farm Bill of 2018.  Bummer.

Being that I was quite pleased with them previously, I decided to go ahead with a 2nd order, this time a different strain from their website which displays more options & information than was available on eBay.  There were 5 yummy looking strains to choose from--all of which were "on sale."  Neato!  I went for the one with the highest CBD content--Suver Haze.  Suver Haze is described on the website as "an infusion that keeps its effects creative & inspiring yet physically calming & relaxing."  Nice.  Let's see if she lives up to that description, shall we?

No, we shan't.

Turns out my order was seized by law enforcement en route to my address.  USPS tracking told me as much.  This caused a great amount of distress for me, as I've NEVER had this happen in all my years of ordering things overseas & otherwise.  Now a domestic order of legal hemp flower has been seized?  And law enforcement is involved?!  Great.  Fucking great.  >>Insert anxiety attack here.<<

Status of order

I contacted the vendor & let him know immediately.  To his credit, he refunded me in full & apologized.  The package allegedly contained the lab review showing that the hemp was compliant (which I believe because my previous order from them contained this paperwork).  I don't know whether the packaging was insufficient & got ripped open in transit or if it could be smelled from outside.  I suspect it said something like "Top Shelf CBD" on the label somewhere, which tipped off the Postal Inspector.  They're probably on high alert for this sort of thing since it's Oregon--a legal cannabis state.  My Paypal statement also said "Top Shelf CBD" which is a problem because Paypal doesn't allow CBD or hemp sales.  Definitely not stealthy.

As stated in another post, law enforcement clearly does not know the difference between legal hemp flower & actual marijuana...nor do they appear to care.  I could choose to contact the Postal Inspector about this & try to get my stuff back, but for a gram of CBD buds I'm not about to enter that territory.  They can keep it.  At least I got my money back & am not in any real trouble.  But this experience was a pain in the ass.  I went on a frantic cleaning spree of my house to make sure there was nothing illegal or questionable in my possession and ended up throwing out all my excess hemp just to be safe.

Lab analysis allegedly included with my order

I'd say half the blame goes to the vendor & half to the law enforcement system that relies on feelings rather than facts & science.  If they were to actually read the Farm Bill & check the paperwork showing the THC levels in this hemp, which are within legal limits, they'd see that no crime has been committed (aside from them stealing my order).  I get the "it looks like pot so it's pot" argument, but actually the law says it's not pot.  And the law is what determines legality...not the taxonomy of the plant.  The THC levels are what count; not the look or smell of the stuff.  If their field testing equipment isn't precise enough to measure the actual levels of THC, how is that my fault?

Answer:  It's not.  And it's not the vendor's fault either.  Nevertheless, I won't order from this vendor again unless they tighten up their operation significantly.  The stress was more than I bargained for.  There are too many hemp & CBD vendors to bother with those who haven't mastered the art of stealth packaging.  The first order went flawlessly & the hemp was great quality, and they refunded me as soon as I contacted them about this, so I give this order a 0.5 star rating overall.  I think they could become a force to reckon with once they work out the kinks but for now I'm not impressed with the stealth of their billing or packaging.






Teens & Drugs: A Parent's Guide

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If you're reading this, you're probably an adult drug user or enthusiast.  Safe assumption?  Yeah.  Thought so.  And if you're like most people, you either have children or will have them one day.  (Childfree people are still a minority).  I've heard many parents & future parents discuss how they will address the issue of weed & other drugs with their children with a bit of trepidation & angst.  It's one thing to get high yourself & another to promote drug use to your underage kids.  Quite.

As much as we hear that you shouldn't experiment with drugs before your brain is developed around age 25, a majority of pot smokers do experiment in their teen years--some time between 16 & 18 usually.  Alcohol use often occurs even sooner.  What is it about the teen years that drives kids to want to try drugs like weed in the first place?  And what are the REAL effects on brain development & future addiction potential?

We've had plenty of studies showing a plethora of negative effects among weed smoking adolescents:  increased risk of mental illness, changes in gray & white matter integrity, impaired memory & even lowered IQ.  This is really indisputable in the scientific arena (sorry, kids).  I can tell you from personal experience that weed was like crack to me as a 16-year-old stoner.  I would skip class to smoke it--something I NEVER did before.  It caused me to overeat & gain a lot of weight due to the munchies; something else that was very out of character.  And I hung out with some very dangerous people just to get weed in my small town...something that could've gotten me killed & did cause me to get ripped off many a time.  But I didn't care because weed was priority #1.  I craved it.  My legs would start getting twitchy whenever I smelled fresh weed getting broken up.  Silly as it seems, it was a legit addiction for me at that time.

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Marijuana's effects on the teenage brain
However, as I got into my college years, weed lost its power over me.  I was better able to prioritize it--I no longer cut class to get high or hung out with literal gangsters to obtain it.  This was likely due to increasing maturity as my brain developed.  Plus, by college I'd gotten into experimenting with other drugs like shrooms & opioid pain pills; something I probably wouldn't have been as gung-ho about if not for the years of weed use in high school.  (Note: I'm NOT calling weed a gateway drug.  That theory has been disproved.  However, I am saying that my early use of weed before I was old enough to properly contextualize it primed me for trying other drugs sooner than I might have otherwise).  Overall it was my mental illnesses & general misery that underlie ALL my substance use, but the earlier you start playing with substances the more likely you are to escalate to harder stuff.

I do wish I would've waited a little longer to start using substances including cannabis.

There, I said it.  Not a lot of people are willing to admit that, particularly those who still use cannabis.  But enough about me.  Alcohol is quite certainly worse in terms of health risks to the developing brain, and isn't harm reduction better than nothing at all?  Teens are going to be curious, rebellious & prone to experimentation when in that groupthink mode.  It's a tale as old as time.  So what's a parent to do?  The solution isn't to lie about the risks of drugs.  When they try them for themselves, they will immediately see that you've exaggerated & assume you're lying about other more important things. And trust me--there are far worse things than a little pot.  Plus, teens are naturally rebellious & like to test authority whenever possible.  If you malign marijuana they're more likely to crave it due to the 'forbidden fruit' aspect too.

The best compromise is to arm your kids with accurate, balanced info that informs them about both the good & bad effects of drugs.  As bad as drug use is for the developing mind, and as detrimental as addiction is to every aspect of a person's life, there are still very legitimate reasons people use substances to begin with.  Denying that is counter-intuitive.  Weed makes you giggle.  It makes you feel happy, hungry & creative...at least for a while.  The comedown can cause drowsiness & mental dullness that makes a long day drag on forever.  While pot can be a communal bonding experience it can also cause shady friends to use you for your money or weed.  And in many places it can still get you arrested (it's always illegal for children, as it should be).  Some of these experiences must be felt first-hand by kids before they truly understand the weight of them.

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Some harm reduction ideas
However, there's a huge difference between getting high or drunk & driving while high or drunk.  A world of difference between having consensual sex and raping someone while you're both under the influence.  These differences need to be made crystal clear to your kids so they don't make a deadly mistake or end up in real trouble.  Teach your kids consent as well as respecting the rights & safety of others long before they're teenagers.  Part of your job is making sure they don't automatically get a car when they turn 16 or an iPhone when they demand one.  They must show true maturity first. And even then, there must be limitations.  Supervision & monitoring on your part.

But the real work is in teaching kids empathy & strong morals so they can be trusted to do right when you're not around.  Don't let them get their values from friends, celebrities, violent video games or hardcore music.  Those things can have a strong influence on kids if their home life isn't stable.  And do your best to keep them away from internet porn, which is far more dehumanizing & brutal than the porn mags of yesteryear.  Kids are going to snoop & seek out sexual material but again, you don't have to let them have free reign of an internet device without any oversight or safety mechanisms in place.  Cybersafety is absolutely vital for preventing the acquisition of dangerous drugs, being sexually exploited, cyber bullied, phished or having your identity stolen online.

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Empathy, Consent, Respect: the fundamentals

Erowid.org is one of the oldest & most comprehensive sources of drug info on the internet.  Refer your kid there if they want additional info about a substance.  It's a treasure trove of virtually every rare & obscure drug in existence and shows the good, bad & ugly sides of them all.  You don't have to know everything about every drug to provide quality info.

Parents have to pick their battles.  In a perfect world, kids wouldn't be curious about drugs at all & would wait until age 25 to begin experimenting.  But think back to your own teen years.  Really think about how you felt at 14, 15, 16 years old... Were you interested in altering your consciousness & having a good time?  Most likely you were, and that's normal.  In my opinion & experience, it's not the worst thing in the world if a teenager makes an informed decision to try weed or small amounts of alcohol or even psychedelics.  As long as they're in a safe environment with people they trust, these experiences can be enriching at best or difficult learning lessons at worst (think hangovers & embarrassing incidents in front of friends while intoxicated).

What's NOT okay is letting kids have access to hours of free time alone with friends & the internet where they can acquire all kinds of drugs & view all manner of violent porn, which will then warp their views about sex & drugs.  THESE are the hills you should die on as a parent.  Teach them that using substances doesn't absolve them of responsibility for any other bad choices they make.  If you drive drunk & kill a family of 4, you are still a murderer.  If you have "drunk sex" with a person who's also impaired & they feel violated afterward, you've committed rape.  If you cut class to get high too often & flunk out, you'll be staying behind to repeat the grade.

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Use the internet to educate teens, but with limits
Of course these lessons & consequences must start in the toddler years if they're to be truly effective.  Don't wait until your child is a teen to start cracking down & enforcing rules or you're going to have a bad time.  It all ties in together.  The drug issue is not a standalone subject.  Some things--drugs, porn, violent entertainment, drinking & others--are intended for adults.  Yet many of them are all too accessible to kids.  The only way your child will be able to make good decisions about these things is if they get well-balanced info about them from their #1 influence: you.

Oh and P.S. - Don't get high or drunk with your kids.  You could be put in prison & it sends a terrible message about the boundaries between adult & child activities.  You are their parent...not their friend.  That's not how respect is earned.  Have those difficult discussions & place limitations on their access to adult material instead.  Then trust them to go out in the world & make good decisions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Drug Snobs: An Open Letter

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Dear All Drinkers, Pot Smokers & Others Who Look Down on Other Substance Users;

You are not special.  Your drug of choice--be it beer, marijuana or whatever--is a drug with its own set of benefits & drawbacks just like any other.  No substance is free of risk...not even oxygen or water.  When you say 'weed is a plant; not a drug' or other idiotic statements, you're only hurting the cause of your credibility & whatever community you're speaking for.

It's pathetic how much drug snobbery there is in the drug community.  Like, really?  We should all know how it feels to have the mainstream culture look down on us, to be made into outlaws by unjust drug laws & have our heads filled with a lifetime of anti-drug propaganda.  What on Earth would possess you to think you're better than someone who happens to prefer another substance over the one you like?  You realize it's not a choice which drugs agree with one's biochemistry, right?

I would much prefer that weed & psychedelics made me feel good, but they don't.  Believe me; I've tried every dose & setting imaginable.  They cause me immense discomfort--particularly in social situations where I most need a 'social lubricant'.  So I must avoid them & opt for other things.  It just so happens that opioids & stimulants in low doses give me the comfort & confidence I lack while allowing me to enjoy myself like everyone else.  I don't drink alcohol or smoke tobacco; no gambling or shopping or casual sex.  I'm a rather boring & safe human overall.  What's it to you if I take half an OxyContin and an Adderall before hanging out at a party?  You'll probably be blacked out drunk or having anonymous sex with some Tinder stranger to get your dopamine fix.  Kidding.  Kinda.

We all have our vices.  As long as a person doesn't act like a dick, it shouldn't matter what substance gets them up & moving.  Yet I see so many in the cannabis community refusing to support kratom users when we ask for help with our petitions or other legal battles to keep this PLANT from being unfairly banned & demonized.  Sound like a familiar fight?  Many in the CBD community are quick to fear-monger about kratom too, or even to denounce THC/marijuana as a whole plant!  How puritanical can you get?  And then there's the medical marijuana crowd who claims to have the moral high ground over all other cannabis users who "just" want to get high.  Mmmkay.  There are also those who use terms like "medicate" as a cloak to hide the fact that they're blazing a fat doob like the rest of us for the same reasons because it sounds better. 

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Nobody likes a weed snob

Then you have the opposite kind of d-bags who dicksize & try to one-up your drug experiences like it's a competition.  These are the saddest individuals of all as they tend to be lonely bitter addicts who keep a scorecard of their drug exploits handy.  If you share a trip report, they're the first to jump in & put you down, claiming you "don't even KNOW what fucked up is until you've guzzled liquid etizolam after a night of parachuting phenazepam & boofing MDMA pills whole."  Or something equally stupid.  It's not hard to see why these folks have failed in life as they're generally rude & aggressive for no good reason.  Bragging about how cheap they get their shit also falls into this category.   

Can't we all just get a'bong?

The reality is, NOBODY should be arrested & have their lives ruined over possession of a drug.  Any drug.  It doesn't matter if they're using it to get high, to treat a medical condition or to commit suicide.  It's their body & their choice.  Of course we should aim to spread harm reduction information but judging & name-calling are not a part of that program.  The only time you'll hear me chide anyone over drug use is if they get behind the wheel intoxicated, abuse/neglect their kids or pets while high or do other things that could put others in danger.

We need to come together & support the legalization of ALL currently illegal substances.  As radical as that sounds, it's really not.  Drug prohibition is a relatively new concept.  Heroin, cocaine, weed & more were totally legal up until a few hundred years ago.  The drug war is rooted in racism & for-profit incarceration/forced labor, aka slavery.  Legalization doesn't equal condoning a drug's use; it simply means we'll be taking control of it back from violent cartels & gangsters so we can control the purity, put age limits on its sale & use the tax money for society's benefit instead of its destruction.  If the prisons were emptied of non-violent drug offenders, our police & courts could fill them with violent criminals like sex offenders, child and animal abusers, environmental polluters, white collar criminals and killers.  Everyone is safer & happier.  Don't believe me?  See:  Portugal, the Netherlands or other countries with more lenient drug laws than America.  Their rates of overdose & addiction are far lower.   

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Legal heroin circa 1901
You don't have to be a "political person" to make a difference.  Correct people kindly but firmly when they misspeak about drugs.  Don't be afraid to sign those petitions & write those letters to your representatives.  It's your right as a taxpaying American citizen.  Voting is great but it only accomplishes so much.  Protest is also a vital part of our democracy, particularly when our rights are being trampled.  Channel your rage at the people who are actually harming you rather than your psychonaut sisters & bros.

---- Sincerely,

Former Drug Snob Turned Advocate 😊💗

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Panadeine: Cold Water Extraction Tek

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Panadeine is a low-dose codeine medicine containing 500mg acetaminophen + 8mg codeine per tablet.  They come in boxes of 120 pills, which are pretty lame on their own but work well for cold water extractions.  Panadeine is available over-the-counter in countries such as Sri Lanka & Australia & can be purchased online from a few sources.  Occasionally it pops up on eBay.

The legality of importing this low-dose codeine medicine into the U.S. is sketchy so I won't give up my vendor's name, but a Google Image search for "Panadeine" should take you to some photos of the product where you can then buy it.  To do a cold water extraction, I do the following:

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Mortar & pestle

- Use mortar & pestle to pulverize Panadeine tablets into fine powder.  I use about 15 tabs, or 120mg codeine.  But you can use more or less if you please.

- Dump powder into a sturdy glass or cup.  Fill with cold water.

- Stir vigorously for about 3 minutes.

- Place cup in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Cover w/ a lid to prevent spillage if necessary.

- Remove from freezer & strain into a 2nd cup through a coffee filter or micron filter.  Repeat a couple times by pouring back & forth to each cup through a filter to ensure all the APAP is removed.

That's it!  After your solution sits in the freezer for 30 minutes, you'll see the acetaminophen chunks settled on the bottom.  Try not to disturb them too much when moving your cups as they can clog your filters pretty badly.  Wet your coffee filter a bit first so it will not wick away your solution too much.  I like to run my solution through 4 separate coffee filters to make sure I'm not OD'ing on acetaminophen.  This can take a few hours if I don't sit there & actively squeeze the filters to help it along.  This part takes patience as the filters can break.  If you pierce one of the filters while using it, discard & replace it with a new one.

Don't use boiling water in your extraction.  It causes acetaminophen to dissolve with the codeine, which can be dangerous.  The goal is to separate the two substances by stirring & using the cold water so the bad stuff can be filtered out.  Too much acetaminophen (APAP) can cause death by liver failure, which occurs over the course of several days.  If you believe you've ingested too much acetaminophen (more than 4g in a day), head to the emergency room immediately.  The poisoning can be reversed but only for a short window of time.  After that, it's a slow & painful death.  This is why it's vital to remove the APAP from pills such as these.

Don't attempt a cold water extraction on pills that contain caffeine or other additional ingredients.  This method only works to remove acetaminophen from opiates like codeine, and it's possible to overdose on caffeine, ibuprofen or whatever else might be included in your pills.  It can however be done on other brands besides Panadeine, such as Rapidene or Empacod.  Just check the ingredients.

The resulting solution should look clear or cloudy without any white chunks.  Depending on what fillers are in your pills, it can also end up orange or various other colors too.  The important thing is making sure the solid sludge is removed.  That's the APAP.  Using filters with many microns helps ensure a quality strain.  Do not use one like this as it's sure to tear at the seams:

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Go for one like this instead:

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A codeine high is probably the most bland of all opioids except for maybe tramadol or Imodium (don't try the latter).  But it's still worth it for some of us who would rather not mess with street drugs containing fentanyl at this time & those who can't get a doctor's prescription to save our lives.  Literally.  For me, codeine is more of a "body high" opiate that provides warmth & muscle relaxation without the euphoric rush I get from oxycodone or stronger pills.  It's far too drowsy for daytime use but makes a good nightcap after a long shitty day.  It's essentially the opposite of tianeptine, which is a "mental opiate" that lacks any of the body high/relaxation of other opioids for me.  Not my first pick but beggars can't be choosers.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Kratom Starter Guide

Learning about kratom can be a bit overwhelming for new users but it doesn't have to be.  Common questions arise:  How addictive is kratom?  Can I take it with my medication?  What's a good starter dose?  Keep reading if you want answers to these & other burning kratom questions.

I'm a daily long-term (3+ years) user of kratom & have spent many hours reading studies & user discussions about the plant.  By no means am I an expert but have plenty of experience under my belt to help newbies looking for advice.  If you have any questions about what's written here, Google it.  I'm too lazy to provide links but have a pretty photographic memory despite my years of substance use.  👻


STRAINS & EFFECTS


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Here's how I classify the various types of kratom and their effects:

White & Green Vein Strains:  Stimulating, energizing, uplifting.  Coffee-like.  These strains tend to be more potent & require smaller doses than red strains & produce energizing effects that are somewhat like caffeine or yohimbe.  I put these in a totally separate category from red veins as they don't even feel like the same substance to me.  The stimulation of whites is generally more potent than greens, but it just depends on the strain, vendor & batch.  "Yellow" strains can consist of specially dried green or mixed color strains.  A few health benefits of this category include: appetite suppression, mood lift, increased alertness & focus, improved stamina & physical endurance. 

Red & Gold Strains.  Warm, analgesic, relaxing.  Opiate-like.  These strains require bigger doses & produce more sedating effects that are similar in nature to opiates like codeine or hydrocodone.  These are the strains you'll likely want if you're quitting opioids, alcohol or other depressant drugs.  "Gold" strains tend to consist of red-vein plants that are dried in a special manner, but check with the vendor to make sure.  Health benefits of red-vein & gold strains include:  pain relief, muscle relaxation, anxiety relief, reduced insomnia & depression management.

The vein color means a lot more than the strain name (i.e. Bali, Sumatra, Borneo or Maeng Da).  These names really don't mean much and are just used to identify a batch of a given strain sold by a vendor.  In general, Maeng Da & Thai strains are said to be more uplifting while Bali & Sumatra are supposed to be more chill, but it totally depends on the vendor & batch.  The best advice for new users is to get a sample pack or split kilo to see what you like best.

For me, red veins are where it's at.  As a former opioid user I have no interest in the racing heart stimulation provided by white or green-vein strains as they don't provide the warmth or relaxation that I'm seeking.  However, a tiny dose of white vein powder in the morning can help get me going if I'm feeling extra foggy & tired.  I find that I eat less & have more energy when I eat a little bit of stimulating strains throughout the day in addition to my regular larger doses of red-vein tea.  I make a new batch of red-vein tea every other day.

What about extracts & enhanced blends?  Generally speaking, they're not worth the extra price & the increased tolerance they create.  You will likely feel withdrawal symptoms much more strongly when using these forms of kratom without getting a better euphoria or pain relief.  There's definitely a "ceiling" on the positive effects with kratom, unlike oxycodone or other true opioids.  So stick to plain powder for the best balance of benefits & side effects.

And when possible, buy your leaf from a trusted online vendor instead of a smoke shop or gas station.  Why?  Because online vendors price their products more fairly & are less likely to spike them with unknown adulterants.  Brick-and-mortar sales of "bath salts" & "Spice" products are what lead to the banning of numerous research chemicals that were sold safely online in their pure form.  While kratom is a natural plant rather than a chemical, it's also safer to buy online than in these stores that market to kids looking for a high.  CBD products have also been spiked with deadly drugs in smoke shops across the country & are best purchased from trusted online vendors.  To summarize:  Don't buy any herb or supplement in a gas station or smoke shop if you can help it.


METHODS OF INGESTION


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Kratom tea (strained)
Kratom tastes pretty bitter.  There's no getting past that.  Most users choose the toss & wash method, which consists of putting the dry powder in their mouths & chasing it with a drink like water or juice.  This method can result in choking or gagging however.  Brewing it into tea is my chosen method.  This offers the benefit of killing any bacteria or other pathogens that might be present.  I boil my water in the microwave for 6 minutes before pouring it over my kratom powder in a styrofoam cup & then into my metal thermos to cool, where I drink the whole concoction--powder & all.  Irie!  If taste is truly an issue, capsules might be your best option.  You can also mix kratom in foods like pudding or yogurt, but beware of calories & sugar when choosing food & drinks to chase your kratom down with.  You don't wanna get fat & rot out your teeth along the way.  Kratom can cause sugar cravings for some people anyway, so don't let yourself get out of control.

Start with a low dose & work your way up slowly to see how it affects you.  Taking too much kratom can result in stomach pain, nausea, itching & vomiting just like a big dose of an opioid pain medication which is no bueno.  If you have no opioid tolerance whatsoever, start with .5 grams.  Wait 20 minutes & increase your dose by 1 gram every 20 minutes until you start to feel it.  Some people use teaspoons to take their doses instead of gram measurements.  If you do this, make sure to level off your teaspoons rather than using a heaping mound of powder.

I prefer to dose on a semi-full stomach so there's something to buffer the kratom; otherwise it burns & causes reflux.  But I'm sure it's more potent on an empty stomach.  Always drink PLENTY of water to wash it down so it doesn't get stuck in your esophagus or stomach.  This can cause a feeling similar to an ulcer--a gnawing, aching pain that doesn't go away until you've stopped taking kratom & drank enough water for a few days.  If this happens you might need to take a 14-day course of Prilosec to heal your stomach.  But it can largely be prevented by watching your dose & drinking enough water.  If you develop ulcer symptoms that don't resolve in a few days, such as vomiting black material or severe stomach pain, see a doctor immediately.


SAFETY & INTERACTIONS


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Are there any dangerous drug interactions with kratom?  Maybe.  It's not easy (or even possible?) to overdose on kratom itself, as it doesn't cause respiratory depression like regular opioids.  However, it might have some serotonergic activity that's poorly understood, which could make it interact dangerously with drugs like tramadol, SNRI antidepressants (Cymbalta, Effexor), 5-HTP or wakefulness agents such as modafinil.  It doesn't appear to cause problems for the vast majority of SSRI users, of which I am one.  If you take high doses of any Rx or OTC medications daily or suffer from a serious health problem such as heart or liver disease, proceed with caution when trying kratom.  It has caused rare liver reaction in a few users.  Common sense will get you far in life & with kratom.

Is kratom addictive?  If used daily, you will probably notice a physical dependence similar to what you'd experience if you took codeine or another low-potency opioid daily.  The symptoms of kratom withdrawal for me are indistinguishable from SSRI or opioid withdrawal:  severe anxiety, racing heart, fatigue, insomnia, cold sweats, low mood & loose bowels lasting for about a week.  If used responsibly, kratom can be a healthy indulgence similar to any other activity or treat.  Maximum 'safe' use would probably be three times weekly to prevent both physical dependence & mental cravings, but it differs for everyone.  Kratom is most effective when used in a non-daily manner--the pain relief & euphoria is just far more potent that way.

I wouldn't recommend anyone try kratom who is under 18 or doesn't have a good reason.  Those reasons would be health issues such as chronic pain, a treatment-resistant mental illness or an addiction they just can't kick.  If you've only smoked pot or dabbled in other minor substances up to this point, kratom could be a rude awakening when you realize the withdrawals are more 'real' than the cravings for weed or whatever.  There's no need to open that Pandora's box.  But kratom has a ton of medical potential for addicts & those with severe or persistent pain--physical or emotional.  Just go into it with an informed head so you don't end up stuck between a rock & a hard place. 

Kratom shouldn't be used as a substitute for prescription psych meds without talking to your doctor, as quitting these can cause dangerous rebound effects in addition to a return of your original mental illness.  The same goes for other medications.  Don't quit without asking a doctor first.  Kratom isn't a panacea & shouldn't be used irresponsibly.  If the medicine you're taking is working or serves an important function in keeping you healthy, please keep taking it.  The exception would be using kratom to wean off opioids, alcohol*, tobacco or street drugs.  We know this can be done safely as these drugs are inherently more dangerous than kratom for most people.  *Alcohol & benzodiazepine withdrawal can be fatal if done incorrectly.  Do not attempt without medical supervision.

As long as you are aware of the risks & benefits, you can make an informed decision as a consenting adult which is the way it should be.  Everyone should have access to something stronger than Tylenol for their pain without having to sit in the Emergency Room for hours & pay for something they often can't afford.  Kratom is that stop-gap between OTC painkillers & prescription meds and if used responsibly it can remain legal for all to enjoy.



Did I leave anything out?  What advice would you give a first-time kratom user?  Have any questions yourself?  Leave them in the comments!


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Bradley Nowell & the Dark Side of Untreated ADHD






















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When you hear the name Bradley James Nowell, you may not instantly recognize it.  If you do, there's a good chance you don't place him in the same category as music legends like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Karen Carpenter, John Lennon, Miles Davis or Elvis.  But maybe you should.

Bradley was always a misfit.  Unlike many other music legends who were members of the "27 Club," Brad died at the ripe old age of 28 of a heroin overdose.  One year late.  He was chubby & often performed shirtless.  He made his Dalmatian Louie an official member of his band.  His music with Sublime can't be pigeonholed into any single genre, as it included a bit of everything:  reggae, alternative rock, hip hop, ska & punk.  Sublime were strongly influenced by the 2nd wave ska revival that had overtaken the U.K. in the early '80s (Americans were about a decade late to catch on) with bands like The Specials, The Selecter, Madness & The Bodysnatchers.  But he was equally infatuated with hardcore punk, conscious rap like that of his idol KRS-ONE & the laid-back roots reggae of Peter Tosh & Bob Marley.

Sublime were Long Beach natives who represented everything Californian:  beaches, sunshine (this was their logo), surfing, swimming & West Coast skate culture.  Their music came to be associated with annoying frat bro culture, but that was no fault of their own.  Well, mostly anyway.  They were known to play almost exclusively at house parties & other drunken shindigs that would routinely get shut down by police for disturbing the peace.  They'd often play in exchange for alcohol or pot instead of money early in their career.  They sold 60,000 copies of their album "40 oz. to Freedom" from the trunk of their car before landing a record deal with a major label. Tragically, Brad would die of an overdose shortly before the release of the band's biggest album so he never got to see the fruits of his years of labor.

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Sublime: Forever shirtless
To the casual listener, there are no hints of Brad's inner turmoil in the band's breezy island sound, yet he spent much of Sublime's career addicted to heroin & other drugs.  Heroin isn't a 'fun party drug'--everyone knows the consequences of putting a needle in their arm, so you need to be in a pretty low place to even consider trying it.  So what ultimately turned him on to heroin & other hard drugs like crack?  I can find nothing in his childhood that points to severe trauma.  His parents divorced when he was 10 but he had a fulfilling childhood surfing & traveling with his dad.  Both parents were music buffs & helped him learn to play guitar.  There's no mention of abuse or neglect in his younger years.  He was the kind of kid who got good grades but would finesse his kid sister into doing his homework--an intelligent slacker.

From an early age Bradley showed signs of hyperactivity, eventually getting a diagnosis of ADHD.  His mom actually relinquished custody to his dad by the time he was 12 due to his bad behavior.  But beyond that there were no major psychiatric illnesses noted.  At the time of his death, the band had just completed what would become their most successful album to date, the eponymous "Sublime".  He'd also married the lovely Troy Dendekker a week prior & had a son named Jacob that he loved dearly.  He'd also managed to abstain from dope for about a month, which cruelly makes relapse even more dangerous due to reduced tolerance.  The rest is history.  But I can't help wondering why he turned to such an ugly drug when he had everything to live for.

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Upon closer examination of his lyrics, it DOES become apparent that they're not quite as carefree as the sweet reggae beat suggests.  Take this one from Pool Shark:

"Now I've got the needle
And I can shake, but I can't breathe
Take it away but I want more and more
One day I'm gonna lose the war"

There are tons of casual addiction references in songs like "Badfish," "Garden Grove" and many others.  Were these cries for help?  Attention?  An attempt to look/feel "cool" like other rockstars?  It's been said that Brad claimed he felt pressure to try hard drugs because he was the leader of a band & thought it'd increase his creativity & cool factor.  One short documentary claims he was on a "one year plan" to try dope as an experiment but was never able to stop.  If true, that's the most massive bad decision of all time.  Sounds like a half-truth to me though.  Maybe the weed & booze just got boring & his impulsivity took over.  Untreated ADHD has been shown to put people at risk for drug addiction.  The band's 2nd album was recorded in a crack house & featured the ramblings of a schizophrenic man.  For a fuller picture of the chaos that was Sublime in its heyday, check out this article from a firsthand witness.  Brad was definitely no stranger to wild impulses & dangerous decisions.


  


It's rumored that Bradley mocked Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon who had died of a cocaine overdose, calling him "weak" and "stupid".  Unfortunately no drug user sets out to become an addict, and no addict believes they're going to actually die.  But Brad was almost proud of the fact that he shot dope & would talk about it to anyone who'd listen, comparing the rush to the high he got from surfing.  The other band members also did crack & other drugs but have managed to survive somehow.  It was all part of the early-to-mid '90s scene in Southern California. Bradley's death actually prompted them to increase their drug abuse for many years.  They've continued putting on shows under the name "Sublime With Rome" but all agree it's not the same without their original lead singer.  A documentary on the band's struggles after Brad died is set to come out in 2019.  Even his son Jacob, who now fronts his own band called LAW, has struggled with drug problems.  



Last photo of Brad (right).


I do see a certain solemness when I view his photos--even ones from his pre-heroin days.  Depression can take many forms & isn't always as noticeable as, say, Kurt Cobain's glaring mood issues.  Perhaps Brad was just a master of hiding behind a smile & substances.  And music.  It's tragic that we know so little about his early life & backstory compared to other artists who died young.  Any time a famous lead singer dies early, their pretty corpses are picked clean by the media within a year or two.  But Brad remains a question mark.  Did he ever sustain head injuries?  Was he sexually abused as a kid?  Bullied?  Did he have some other secret that was keeping him isolated & ashamed?  Or was it just a case of endogenous depression & untreated ADHD that brought him down?  

Some might be tempted to say, "Who cares? He's dead!" but it's important to understand why people turn to self-destruction in the first place.  It's far too easy to blame laziness, selfishness or stupidity which only adds to the stigma against drug users.  I'm not a believer in life-ruining addictions randomly developing in happy, stable humans.  People who wake up feeling decent every day don't NEED or want hard drugs because they already feel fine.  The reward doesn't outweigh the risk for them.  Heroin is a "last stop before suicide" kind of substance.  Unless you switched to it from prescription pain pills for financial reasons, there has to be a deeper reason for trying it in the first place.  Brad seemed like the type who wasn't comfortable spending time alone & needed to be social 24/7.  But he also sang about not being able to get out of bed some days, which is typical of depression.  



Mental health awareness has improved by leaps & bounds since Bradley Nowell died in May of 1996, but we still have a long way to go.  Covert or high-functioning anxiety/depression can be just as dangerous as more obvious manifestations.  More importantly, addiction always has an underlying cause that goes beyond "enjoying being high".  If your neurochemistry is healthy, drugs are redundant.  Not treating ADHD in adults is dangerous because it affects judgment, impulse control & other executive functions that help you make good decisions (like not experimenting with heroin).  Bradley could've had it all:  a bright career as a musician, a wife, children, friends, adoring fans & wealth.  But he chose self-medicating instead of getting help for his problems.  And that sucks.



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(I don't know what's up with the formatting of this article, y'all.  I can't seem to correct it.  All apologies).  



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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Springtime Fatigue & Depression: A Silent Epidemic

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When most people think of "Seasonal Depression," the frigid winter months automatically come to mind.  And rightfully so:  the holidays can be lonely for those without close family, and the miserable weather prevents us from getting outdoors in the sun & fresh air for months at a time.  But what if I told you that spring is actually the peak time for suicides around the world?  Whether your "Spring" happens in April or November (Northern vs. Southern hemisphere), suicide rates spike at that time.  It's true:  April really is "the cruelest month" (thanks, T.S. Elliot).  But why?  What's not to love about nature's rebirth...the longer days & shorter nights...birds chirping, flowers blooming, the promise of summer's bountiful sunshine around the corner?

Well, nothing really.  The problem isn't aesthetics so much as biology.  Springtime brings with it a number of subtle but sinister changes, one of which is seasonal allergies.  Even if you're not sneezing & wheezing, allergens in the air can cause an increase in inflammatory cytokines which have a bummer effect on mood.  The crazy springtime wind stirring up pollen/mold spores/dust only helps propel it into your body's cavities that much easier too.  If that's not bad enough, many of the oral antihistamines used to control allergy symptoms ALSO are capable of affecting mood & energy levels as a side effect.  Even the newer meds.  So there's no escaping it for some unlucky folks.

Defining problematic fatigue

Secondly, the switch to Daylight Savings time along with the increasingly long days can funk with your circadian rhythm in a negative way.  For those with tiredness as a primary symptom, it's believed this is caused by a lack of serotonin & an excess of melatonin due to a deficit of sun exposure during the winter.  There may also be hormonal & blood flow issues at play that aggravate tiredness in the spring as the temperature rises.  You may be used to eating a lot of "comfort foods" (i.e. carbs) over the winter & now find that they are dragging you down as your body is trying to wake up out of its hibernation mode.

So what can be done about this silent menace?  Not much info exists about springtime SAD or fatigue, unfortunately.  A lot of it focuses on common sense stuff like eating a healthy diet & sticking to a regular sleep schedule.  If you have seasonal allergies, try a nasal allergy medicine like Fluticasone or Nasacort instead of the systemic ones you take by mouth, as these are less likely to cause fatigue & mood problems.  Vacuum your house & wash your bedding regularly, especially if you have pets, as they can shed dander or track allergens in from outside.  Use your air conditioner in the house & car rather than opening windows to avoid letting in allergens, & consider getting a HEPA air cleaner for your house to keep the air free of airborne offenders.

If you find yourself experiencing visible symptoms of inflammation such as itchy or red eyes/nose, swelling of the these areas or stuffy nose, you can try taking 1 aspirin per day to help fight inflammation.  Of course you should consult your doctor first if you take other medications or have bleeding disorders.  Aspirin can be harsh on the stomach so always take it with food & choose the buffered kind.  Other anti-inflammatories include:  ginger root, turmeric & ibuprofen.  Avoid all of these if you take warfarin (Coumadin) or other blood thinners.  Avoid taking sleep aids like melatonin since it tends to be present in excess during the spring, and go easy on all other sedatives & depressants including alcohol during this time.


Make Ginger Last Longer With This Easy Hack - Rachael Ray In Season
Ginger root

If fatigue is your #1 symptom, try installing a daylight-colored bulb in your room to offset any light-related circadian problems.  Go for a 6500k spectrum CFL bulb with no less than 42-watts of power (150-watt equivalent) & use it for 2-3 hours per day at the same time every day, preferably in the morning or afternoon.  (Talk to your doctor first if you have bipolar disorder as these bulbs can sometimes cause mania or sleep problems in some people).  Real sunlight exposure is fine too as long as you don't overdo it.  For some people it can make them feel worse--I fall into this category.  Make sure to put on sunscreen when exposed for more than 10 minutes.  If sunlight makes you feel better, open your blinds & let it in all over your house!  Free light therapy!

Daylight Spectrum CFL Bulb

Support your diet with a high-quality prenatal multivitamin and extra Vitamin D, especially if you don't get a lot of sunlight.  And make sure you're drinking enough water every day to stay hydrated.  Alcohol & caffeinated drinks don't count as water since they have a diuretic effect.  Eat smaller meals & snacks more frequently to avoid 'food hangovers'--this one is extremely important for me.  A big greasy mid-day meal is sure to knock you out if you suffer fatigue already.  High-protein snacks like nuts, edamame, Greek yogurt & boiled eggs are much less likely to cause post-meal exhaustion than high carb foods like pasta or bread.  And portion size is everything.  Save your calories for the evening or night while keeping things light during the day.

I chose to write about this topic because it affects me personally.  I often sleep up to 15 hours per day during the spring months, which results in horrific nightmares & a feeling of deep depression.  If you are affected by this, just know that it's not all in your head & is a very real phenomenon.  If all else fails, remind yourself that it's temporary & will pass soon.  "Unto everything there is a season"...literally...

Do you have experience with springtime depression or fatigue?  What have you found helpful or harmful?  Please share in the comments below!  I'd love to add it to my list of do's & don'ts.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Weekend Reading: DEA Microgram Bulletin

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For those not in the know, the DEA Microgram Bulletin is the most interesting drug publication that exists, mainly because it's published by the DEA itself.  That means it contains some of the most obscure drugs from around the country as well as the most innovative smuggling methods.  Most of the issues were private & not available to everyday readers, but for a time (between 2003-2013 precisely) the bulletin was published on the DEA website for public viewing.  While it's now been erased from the official website, some good Samaritan has taken the time to create a PDF of every issue available to the public, which can be viewed here:



This stuff makes for some great rainy day or weekend reading if you want to see what the most tweaked-out minds in drug smuggling are up to in the U.S.  Highlights I've come across so far include:  TNT sold as methamphetamine; black cocaine smuggled inside the wooden bar of a hammock; 40-year-old psilocybin & methaqualone tablets; a deodorant container filled with meth; a cocaine-impregnated silicone baseball cap; fake kidney beans full of heroin; blankets "starched" with opium(?), SweeTart candies soaked in 5-MeO-AMT; black crack cocaine (what's with all the black coke?) in Virginia & fire extinguishers full of cocaine.  

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Funny & bizarre stories are also dotted throughout the bulletin.  In one instance, a backpack full of cash & illicit pills ranging from 2C-B to meth & MDMA was confiscated during a car accident...and the owner actually called the police station afterward to claim that the money was his but not the drugs.  Can't make this stuff up.

But it's not all sunshine & cheer.  Other parts of the bulletin just show how ridiculous its existence really is, such as a photo of a "cuddle puddle" (below) at a rave in Idaho that's apparently intended to show the detrimental effects of MDMA.  Ooh, spooky.  They also have a special section dedicated to the plant drug khat, which is mainly used by Muslims from Yemen & surrounding geographical regions.  It's chewed for its mild stimulant effects & must be obtained fresh or it becomes worthless.  So the abuse potential is low, yet they still found it necessary to include a multi-page spread about it.  

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Ecstasy scare piece
Oh, and they also made a big "oopsie" when they identified a legitimate oxycodone pill as a counterfeit methylphenidate pill.  In actuality, both pills just happen to look alike with a capital "M" inside a square on a white tablet.  Took 'em a few issues to figure that one out & it was a reader who set it straight.  🙈

All I can think while reading this is that some of these shady DEA agents must be pretty tempted to take a few samples of these rare drugs home for themselves...especially after purity testing has been completed.  I know I would be.  Particularly those Lemmon 714 Quaaludes.  

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...