Saturday, April 25, 2020

Covid Consequences: Bad As the Disease?

I'm as sick of blogging about coronavirus as you are of reading about it.  But with no foreseeable end in sight, it's hard to imagine a future without it.  So this time I'll shift to the other concurrent epidemics ravaging our nation as a result of the virus.  Sound like fun?  No?  Okay.

Overeating...and Drinking

Stop the quarantine binge eating!

As much as people joke about how much they're day-drinking & overeating in quarantine, it's bound to become a serious problem for many.  Indeed, sales of salty snacks & alcohol have gone through the roof since lockdown started.  In a country where obesity & its resulting health problems are already a major problem, this is no bueno.  Fortunately there are things you can do right now to offset & reverse any weight gain you've experienced during this stressful time.  I've already written about the most basic, simple (not necessarily easy) & scientifically sound way of losing weight & keeping it off:  the CICO method.  So check that out.  It requires zero exercise, though I'd recommend it if you're serious about increasing your actual fitness--a good idea given the pulmonary & cardiovascular effects of Covid.  You don't need to give up any of the major food groups or macronutrients like carbs, fats or protein either, which means it's sustainable for the long-term like a healthy diet should be.  (CICO is the "secret" behind a number of fad diets like keto & Weight Watchers--they just achieve the same end through different means).

Alcoholism is no joke.  There are other options.

If boozing has crept in during quarantine, there are safer & healthier alternatives for that too.  Supplements like kratom, kava & phenibut when used in moderation can be a safer option to increase GABA activity in the brain & reduce stress in much the same way as alcohol (but without the cancer risk & toxicity of ethanol).  Mindfulness meditation is another thing we can all incorporate into our lives due to its safety profile & easy learning curve.  Here's a good starter article on that too.  A few benefits include increased focus, reduced anxiety & better ability to stay in the present moment.  (As they say, the depressed dwell in the past while the anxious worry about the future.  Those who are truly content live in the present).

Making the Personal Political

Some "epidemics" like domestic abuse, xenophobia, poverty & hunger that are growing out of the pandemic must be dealt with on a societal level.  However, they start at home with the individual.  You can always write your local or state representative & demand action on these issues.  While the government has consistently voted to bail out corporations, they've given working people only a meager $1,200 relief check--one which many of us still haven't even received yet.  Requesting Universal Basic Income for the duration of the pandemic (or maybe permanently) is a great use of your time right now.  Much more sensible than demanding to go back to work prematurely & risk your life.

Meanwhile, we've got mayors & governors saying "there are more important things than living" (Texas) and offering up their cities to be sacrificial "control groups" (Las Vegas) in giant imaginary studies where thousands will inevitably die for the Dow.  Landlords are abusing their power locally all over the country, attempting to coerce tenants into sex or evict them illegally.  Now is the time to channel your frustration & fear into organizing & fighting back.  Not on Facebook or Twitter but in petitions, letters to your representative, to the editor of your city's newspaper & in other ways that count.  Knock on doors at your apartment building & ask if anyone else is behind on rent & organize a rent strike.  (If it's a safe neighborhood, of course).

Big things are possible when we come together.

Donate blood or plasma at a local blood bank, or give a few dollars to one of the WHO-approved charities listed on their official website.  By making yourself useful, you reduce the anxiety that festers when you feel helpless.  Helplessness leads to hopelessness, aka depression.  Nobody wants that.  Most importantly, your voice matters & we need it now more than ever.

(By no means am I implying with the title of this article that the lockdown is responsible for more problems than the virus itself.  But it must be tempered with humane policies like relief payments, rent freezes, healthcare access & other social safety nets or it's not enough). 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Covid & Willful Ignorance: America's Dual Pandemics

We poor souls in America are battling two pandemics, both feeding off each other & making the other worse.  One is the same as all other nations are battling:  SARS-CoV-2.  The other is our broken economic & political system that refuses to give aid to the people struggling & instead incentivizes protests to "reopen America" prematurely, get back to work, etc.

Tragically, our brainwashed populace hasn't even had the realization that maybe we should be protesting for relief checks, universal healthcare, rent freezes, unemployment & all the things other nations are getting without asking during this crisis.  And those at the top want to keep it that way.  Indeed, these protests started popping up shortly after Bernie Sanders brought up the idea of sending out $2,000 stimulus checks in the coming months.  And the protests are anything but grassroots.  They have ties to Betsey DeVos & the Michigan Conservative Coalition.  DeVos was a billionaire before joining the Trump administration, which makes all those conspiracy theories about George Soros funding protests pretty laughable.

"Anything I don't like = Communism"

We've now gone so far in the dangerous direction of corporate fascism that Attorney General Barr is threatening to sue state governors who prevent businesses from opening in a timely fashion.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, you must realize how dangerous that is.  Public health policy is being made by capitalists, not health professionals.  We've seen this movie before with drug policy, reproductive rights, sex ed in schools, AIDS-related legislation & much more and it didn't end well.  In fact, it hasn't ended at all.  We're still leaving public health policy up to politicians instead of medical professionals & scientists which has put us far behind other nations in many respects.

In all these cries to "reopen" & get back to normal, very few mentions of Covid testing, contact tracing, ventilators, PPE & other absolute necessities have been mentioned.  You know, the reasons for the lockdown in the first place.  They just want to get workers back out the door so their money will start flowing in, health & safety be damned.  This is a huge FUCK YOU to all the healthcare, food service, janitorial, grocery store, mass transit & other essential workers who have literally risked & sacrificed their lives for no additional benefit to themselves during this largely preventable disaster.  (Yes, if the pandemic response team hadn't been replaced with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner in 2018 & our leader had taken the threat seriously in Jan/Feb instead of poo-poohing it & golfing until March, things could've been different).  If that offends you, I implore you to get over it & keep reading.  This isn't about "bashing" your precious president.  It's about learning from this shitshow so we don't repeat it.

2020 Vision:  What Lies Ahead

Here's my humble prediction of what's likely to happen if we continue down this path:  like most viruses, Covid will likely ease up a bit during the Summer months when everyone is outside & active.  We will grow tired of our social distancing protocols like they did during the Summer of 1918 & enjoy the sun & fun with the virus a distant memory.  Then when the Fall rolls around & brings with it seasonal flu, colds & stomach bugs, Covid will make its grand re-entrance...possibly in an even hardier form.  As with these other viruses, previously infected people may have no immunity after a year has passed & may be reinfected, which is bad news for hospitals which will be absolutely overloaded during the height of cold & flu season.  Bottom line:  Covid in the Winter of 2020 will look much, much worse than Covid in the Spring of 2020.  And it IS expected to be a seasonal disease.  Most coronaviruses are.

That's to say nothing of the possibility that it could mutate from something that kills 2% of its victims to 50-60% like avian flu, SARS or MERS.  The fact that it's so contagious as a brand new disease in humans is a bad sign, in my opinion, of its ability to develop other scary qualities down the line.  And that's another thing:  this is a completely novel disease!  We seem to be forgetting that in our rush to make psychic predictions & claims of certainty that this or that will happen.  Nobody knows, therefore a "better safe than sorry" approach is warranted.  It's almost as if, because the virus is invisible to the eye, people are incapable of comprehending the danger.  We didn't have this problem on 9/11, did we?  No, we banded together to do what had to be done even if it meant an unnecessary war in Iraq, unprecedented expansion of domestic spying by the NSA, rampant Islamophobia in the States & other major downsides.  Because the enemy was visible & didn't look like us.  Well, sometimes an invisible enemy can be even more dangerous.

The hypocrisy of the reactions I'm seeing is overwhelming.  The whining about the oil industry bust is almost laughable when these same people showed callous disregard bordering on hatred when Black men were killed by police officers & hard-working undocumented immigrants were rounded up by ICE & deported from their places of business.  If the virus has shown us anything, it's that empathy is in short supply in this nation.  People seem to only care about things that affect them directly--everyone else be damned.  And if the shoe was on the other foot & a blue president had bungled this so badly, these same zombies would be calling for his or her head.  (And I say that as a third party voter who has no love for the donkey OR the elephant).

I guess I should include a paragraph about our broken education system & resulting lack of critical thinking/fact-checking ability somewhere in this screed.  The only reason our government is able to get away with this brutal endangerment of its populace is because so many don't know the difference between facts & bullshit.  People honestly think you can just choose between two totally opposite sources of information making opposite claims & pick the one that best suits your worldview--and that both are equally fucking valid.  They confuse fact with opinion & wouldn't know a legitimate source if it bit them in the balls.  This is a problem.

When you're out there protesting, just remember that you're really protesting against a virus.  Reopening your business sooner won't make it go away any faster--quite the opposite.  People with a brain will continue staying at home and those who dare come in will be wearing a mask, which isn't exactly reassuring to your customer base.  Things don't magically go "back to normal" because you stomp your feet & yell.  We'd all be better served by uniting against this invisible enemy instead of splitting along party lines (for the millionth time) & cooking up wild conspiracy theories about China & Bill Gates.  In the words of Aldous Huxley, "Facts don't cease to exist because you ignore them."

And like that creepy poster at Jonestown said:  "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Lessons Of History: Jonestown
Jonestown, Guyana (1978)

The 1918 Spanish Flu Beats all Pandemics Since the Black Plague ...
Spanish Flu 1918

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

[Review] - Tydol-Codein Forte

Vendor:  trthith95
Location:  Hau Giang, Vietnam
Items:  Medicines, skin creams, supplements.
Rating:  4.9 of 5 stars

This is a continuation of my "codeine on the internets" series, heh.  If you follow my blog you'll know I'm a connoisseur of high-dose codeine pills.  Tydol Forte is the latest to cross my path.  It contains 30 mg codeine & 500 mg acetaminophen per pill, which makes for an effective & convenient pain reliever (and safe as long as you don't overdo it on the acetaminophen).  I take N-acetylcysteine daily to help my liver pick up the slack with the Tylenol but try to do cold water extraction as much as possible too.  My codeine dose is somewhere in the 350 mg per day range.

I ordered the Tydol from a vendor called trthith95 on eBay who sells a variety of other meds from Vietnam.  I paid $60.00 for a 100-count box + shipping, which isn't too terrible.  ($15 for standard shipping is a bit much, especially considering the wait).  But I like that this brand has 100 pills instead of just 80 like the Tatanol so I went for it.  I ordered on February 16th & received it on March 12th--almost a month, which isn't awful for international shipping.  It came in a nondescript box with the expected contents.

(Blurry) pic of tablet

The Tydol pills themselves are slightly classier looking than the Panactol tabs, which are completely unmarked.  They contain little black stamps that say "Tydol-Codein Forte" on both sides & are super compact compared to the Tatanol tablets which break apart into fine dust easier.  That makes them harder to use in cold water extractions as they plug up the coffee filters, so I use the Tatanol for that & take the Tydol as they are.  All three brands get the job done equally well in terms of pure effectiveness.

Overall, I give Tydol from trthith95 a 4.9 of 5 stars for quality, ease of use & rarity/uniqueness of the product.  Switching from daily kratom use to codeine has allowed my gastritis to heal a great deal & given my mood a much-needed boost.  Eventually this train will stop & I'll have to switch back, but for now I'm digging the ride.  As I've said before, please be discreet & humble if you order these meds online.  If something goes wrong with your order, contact the vendors via email before filing a dispute through your payment processor & don't go telling the world about your source on public forums.  Don't spend more money than you can afford to lose & don't order more than one or two boxes at a time, tops. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine: Hope or Hype?

Of all the potential treatments for the novel coronavirus plaguing the world, hydroxychloroquine (brand name: Plaquenil) seems an unlikely candidate.  For starters, it's approved to treat malaria which is a parasitic infection.  COVID-19 is a virus.  It's also used off-label in the chronic management of autoimmune diseases like lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome & rheumatoid arthritis.  To be fair, nobody quite understands how it works for those conditions, so there may be things we don't quite "get" about its ability to treat COVID too.  This was the case for the old cancer drug AZT which made a big comeback during the AIDS crisis, and for Thalidomide, which caused awful birth defects but is now being used (cautiously) in leprosy & multiple myeloma treatment.  

But where do the claims of Plaquenil's effectiveness for COVID even come from?  Reports from China found that chloroquine--the harsher brother of hydroxychloroquine--could inhibit SARS in vitro and showed apparent efficacy in treating COVID-19 in humans.  It's thought to work by decreasing acidity in endosomes, possibly preventing the endosome from releasing the virus into the cytoplasm.  A small non-randomised trial in France also found hydroxychloroquine to be a promising potential treatment.  That's great and all, but many things kill viruses in a petri dish including soap & an uzi.  We still don't know if it's effective in vivo (in the human body).  Plaquenil showed no human benefit against influenza and other viruses in randomized studies previously, so the results are mixed & preliminary at best.

SPECIAL REPORT: Forget Donald Trump's foolish tweets - malaria ...
Tweet from the president's official Twitter account promoting "H".

But the potential adverse effects are all too real:  retinal damage, cardiac arrest & neurological side effects like seizures or confusion.  While less common, these are all possible with chloroquine & hydroxychloroquine.  That's what makes President Trump's ringing endorsement & claims that it "can't hurt to try them" so dangerous.  Patients hospitalized on an emergency basis for COVID are not likely to disclose all other medications & supplements they're taking or inform their doctors of existing health conditions due to the dire state they arrive in, thus the risk of administering an experimental drug in this setting goes up.  One man already died from ingesting chloroquine in the form of fish tank cleaner; his wife was left in serious condition.  As naive & unrelated as that may sound, it illustrates the danger of a powerful figure going on national television & promoting an unproven substance without giving the proper precautions & warnings.  Time will tell if lawsuits against the president will follow these tragedies.  

Another problem with the public jumping the gun & hoarding these drugs is the shortage they're creating for patients who rely on them already to function.  Doctors & even dentists have been caught prescribing Plaquenil & chloroquine for their families since Trump announced he was hopeful about its use as a COVID treatment.  If patients with autoimmune disease--who make up a huge chunk of the chronically ill population--run out of their meds & have a flare-up that requires hospitalization during this pandemic, that will increase the burden on the healthcare profession exponentially & expose them to the virus unnecessarily.  Sjogren's Syndrome alone affects between 400,000 and 3.1 million adults in the U.S, with about half of those also having lupus, RA or another autoimmune disease in addition.  (And Sjogren's is only 1 of over 100 autoimmune diseases that exist).  Plaquenil is the only drug routinely prescribed to treat Sjogren's Syndrome, so running out is not an option for patients.  

All things considered, hydroxychloroquine is more hype than hope for treating COVID-19 at this point.  It's important to have hope but we must temper that with realism & caution.  Our best bet is to maintain the current social distancing & hygiene protocols until adequate testing & PPE are developed along with a vaccine and treatments that work.  Even then, we'll need to ease back into public life gradually & avoid giant gatherings like stadium events (ball games, concerts, etc) for a while.  Shutting down the illicit wildlife markets in China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Mexico & the Philippines should be an immediate priority to prevent future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.  

As bad as this pandemic is, there could be worse things in our future if these viruses keep hopping the species barrier & adapting to the human body over time.  We didn't get the message with SARS, MERS or bird flu...will we learn from COVID-19?  

Warning!  Do not ingest fish tank cleaner.

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...