Thursday, January 28, 2021

Exclusive: A Look At the Kratom Industry's Secrets

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

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

Strains & Vein Colors: Not What They Seem

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

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

Here is a photo demonstrating the 6 different drying methods:

Photo credit:  gumbyke1 of DoubleMHerbal forums

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

Safety & Contamination

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

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

Excerpt from local Indonesian publication (via DoubleMHerbals forum)

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

Mmm...earthy. 😨


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

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

Young kratom trees with leaves of suitable size for harvesting

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

What Now?

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

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

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

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Friday, January 22, 2021

My Years of 4-FA Abuse: An Anecdotal Report

I figured I'd share this for anyone who currently takes fluoroamphetamines and wonders what might happen to their health in the long-term.  There's a worrying lack of research/information on this class of drugs so adding one more anecdote to the pile can't hurt.  Take it for what it is:  one person's story.  

During the years that research chemicals flooded into America from China unabated, I made a veritable guinea pig of myself, ingesting every amphetamine derivative that hit the market.  But one stood out:  4-fluoroamphetamine4-FA for short.  This sparkly pinkish powder was like a perfect mix of MDMA and Adderall, causing a long-lasting "roll" without the ungodly Suicide Tuesday crash of Ecstasy.  (However, it wasn't without its mood-altering lows entirely).  These serotonin-heavy stims aren't supposed to be addictive in the typical sense but boy, I couldn't stop myself from taking this one daily.  For years.  Yes, this was VERY stupid with everything we know about neurotoxicity of MDA and MDMA, and there's no telling how much damage I did to my brain, not to mention my heart.  Serotonin releasers that behave like fenfluramine can cause serious heart valve problems which worries me more than brain problems tbh.

Anyway, I continued dosing daily for probably 3 years with some breaks off and on.  But mostly on.  I even snorted it sometimes.  It was hands-down the most painful, nosehair-searing substance I've ever snorted in my life.  Meth is like cotton candy by comparison.  (Only tried that once but to hear people complain about how "painful" it is makes me giggle).  I lost huge amounts of weight on the stuff.  4-FA is a thermogenic substance, meaning it raises body temperature in addition to suppressing appetite.  I found myself overheating a LOT.  It was miserable.  My heart rate would be 120 at rest after using 4-FA which is... not ideal.  Nightmares and sleep paralysis were a frequent companion, which tells me something was depleted in my brain... probably serotonin & dopamine.  

I have no idea what doses I took at one time, though I tried to be as conservative as possible while re-dosing throughout the day or night.  I tended to lick random amounts of the powder off my hand without measuring rather than taking it in a capsule.  I like microdoses and feel that they're easier on the body.  

At the tail end of my 4-FA journey I started using etizolam, which ruined my life and health.  It was at this point I officially lost the magic with 4-FA.  But not before abusing the absolute hell out of both substances for about 9 months straight.  It was all a blur really.  I got fat on etizolam (while still abusing 4-FA) and even fatter during withdrawal, gaining about 40 lbs overall.  I would fall asleep watching porn, hallucinating from lack of sleep.  Open-eye hallucinations were a regular thing in those days due to lack of sleep plus the combo of a toxic benzo and stim.  Whatever happened to my body during that 9 months caused permanent damage as I still haven't regained my sex drive and still suffer some degree of depression/anhedonia 8 years later.  After recovering somewhat from the acute phase of etizolam withdrawal (which took over 2.5 years), I attempted to use 4-FA about 2 more times for "old time's sake" and that's how I found out the magic was gone.  All it did was cause an uncomfortable stimulation... absolutely no "loved-up" magic.  Just like the MDMA abusers describe.  

I now take Prozac and couldn't roll if I wanted to, which I'm fine with.  I'll be 40 soon so that chapter is firmly closed.  But I have plenty of sparkly memories of my days on 4-FA, methylone and their even more addictive cousin mephedrone to look back on.  Nobody can take those away.  

As for my general health, I have whitecoat hypertension which means my heart races and I get high blood pressure around doctors due to anxiety.  But after wearing a heart monitor at home for 48 hours after a doctor was worried about my fast heart rate, they ruled out serious heart problems like arrhythmia so it looks like I'm in the clear.  For now.  (I made sure to take Benzedrex and work out furiously like I normally would while wearing the monitor to get an accurate reading).  I could grow an arm out of my forehead in the next few years for all we know but I'm cautiously optimistic.  😝

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

From Obama Supporter To Insurrectionist: A Tale of Two Extremists

Ex-presidents react to capitol riot (without acknowledging their historical role)

What happened at our nation's capitol on January 6th shocked and disgusted the world.  There can be no question that it resulted directly from Trump's baseless claims of election fraud as well as months of associated conspiracy peddling on the alt-right in the form of QAnon's rambling about child trafficking, Pizzagate and more.  Many Republican congressmen and Senators also went along with the #StoptheSteal rhetoric until it was clearly a threat to their careers and must be held accountable. 

However, in our rush to condemn these obvious targets (which are absolutely worthy of condemnation), we risk missing the bigger picture--everything that lead to "President Trump" in the first place.  If you're like me, you'll be surprised to learn that some of the most infamous insurrectionists at the capitol were originally Obama supporters with relatively moderate or liberal views.  Over time they spiraled into a world of conspiracy, paranoia & misplaced rage that ultimately ended in their premature deaths.  But why?  As someone interested in psychology, I think it would be a deadly mistake to ignore the social and psychological factors behind these dramatic transformations.  Primarily because there are sure to be many more like them out there who followed a similar path and didn't die.  

This isn't about drumming up sympathy for the insurrectionists or making excuses for their boorish, dangerous behavior.  It's about understanding a movement so it doesn't escalate into something even worse.  

First we have Ashli Babbitt who was shot on site by capitol police while climbing through a door to the Speaker's Lobby--the only rioter to be shot that day.  Babbitt was a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from San Diego.  According to her own Twitter posts she voted for Obama and supported him openly, stating that he "did great a time where we needed him," though she couldn't bring herself to vote for Clinton after 8 years of Obama.  So she went down the all-too-familiar dark path of Trumpism, which lead to libertarianism and then full-on QAnon delusion by 2019.  Her last tweet was sent on January 5th, 2021 and referred to "the storm" descending upon the capitol, stating that "nothing can stop us".  Awkward.

Excerpt from Ashli Babbitt's Twitter page

Then there's Kevin Greeson who died of a heart attack preceded by a history of hypertension and triggered by too much "excitement" (though internet rumors claim he tasered himself in the testicles).  According to ProPublica, Greeson began his journey as vice president of his North Alabama union and an Obama supporter who eventually switched to team Trump due to Trump's more "business-minded" personality and claims of economic improvement.  As factories closed in his area and jobs moved overseas, support for the Democratic party fell away among his peers.  Greeson worked at a Goodyear plant in Alabama for over 20 years and was not the only worker frustrated with the state of things--others in his vicinity took part in the insurrection as well.  All voiced support for Trump and anger at the state of the local economy after the Obama administration.  

Kevin Greeson

Obama's Broken Promises

So why does this matter?  The spiral of these two Trump "martyrs" represents the dashed dreams of millions who voted for Obama's "Hope" and "Change" in 2008 and 2012 only to receive a giant helping of elitist neoliberalism in disguise.  I could list all of Obama's betrayals but here are a few that really stick out:

- Renewal of the most controversial parts of the Patriot the middle of the night with an "autopen".
- More medical marijuana raids in his first 4 years than George W. Bush conducted in 8 years.  After calling the drug war an "utter failure".  
- Bailing out Wall Street after the 2008 financial crash.
- Signing the NDAA into law.
- Expansion of domestic spying via the NSA to unprecedented levels.
- Drone warfare resulting in thousands of civilian deaths in multiple countries.  
- Holding a press conference in Flint, Michigan during which he fake coughed for the cameras and pretended to drink a glass of water for the purpose of reassuring residents the lead-laced water was safe.  It wasn't, and the water remained poisoned for years.  
- Approving the Dakota Access Pipeline/abhorrent treatment of DAPL protesters on his watch.
- Passage of the Affordable Care Act, which actually just forced people to buy private health insurance with the penalty being a fine if they couldn't afford it.  
- Failure to close Guantanamo Bay after calling it a "Day 1 priority" in his 2008 campaign.
- Building the border fences and cages that would later be blamed entirely on the Trump administration.  
- Abhorrent treatment of the Occupy Wall Street protesters on his watch.  Their tents were bulldozed in the middle of the night on orders of Michael Bloomberg, future Democratic Party presidential candidate. 
- Obama also supported Bloomberg's racist "stop and frisk" policy which unfairly targeted minorities, not just in word but in deed by involving his administration in a lawsuit against the NYPD in 2013.  

...shall I continue?  

Obviously, Republican presidents have done things of this magnitude and worse.  But it shouldn't be a fucking race to the bottom.  Perhaps these things hurt more when they come from someone who looks, talks and acts like you.  Someone who promises things that you actually believe *might* happen because their party's platform is tailored to people like you--poor, female, working class, LGBT, minority, disabled, whatever.  I didn't vote for Obama in either 2008 or 2012 but many Americans did only to have their hopes dashed.  Kevin Greeson and Ashli Babbitt were two of those people.  

While they were 100% responsible for their own actions at the capitol, it would be short-sighted to overlook the material conditions that lead to their (misdirected) rage.  They knew getting shot by police, contracting COVID in the crowd or being locked in federal prison for trespassing on capitol grounds was a possibility and they did it anyway.  That is very telling.  You don't put your life and freedom on the line unless you have nothing to lose (or feel that you don't).  It's not unlike a jihadist who claims to be blowing himself up for Allah but is actually desperate to escape his real-life hell in a land destroyed by war, poverty and hopelessness.  As the saying goes, "People won't behave if they have nothing to lose," and Americans are at the breaking point.  How we got here can't be overlooked anymore.

Americans are in a state of crisis not just because of COVID but from decades of stagnating wages, rising cost of living, police brutality, declining healthcare and education, crumbling infrastructure in our cities and towns; slow death of the arts, the written word and journalism; an ever-expanding prison system and a growing climate crisis that's causing ever-worsening weather patterns and plagues like seasonal allergies, tick- and mosquito-borne diseases.  (The latter of which they may not even realize is climate-related).  Our only solution has been to self-medicate with opioids, alcohol, porn, gambling, food (obesity-related diseases are the #1 killer by far) and other vices, leading to "deaths of despair" as journalist Chris Hedges calls them.  The solution?  Lock up, berate or further medicate our addicts into oblivion.  Rinse, repeat.  

Obama's not the sole cause of these problems but his role is constantly glossed over by the media in favor of inane stories about Trump.  Yes, Trump is a psychopathic dictator but part of the reason for the 24 hour coverage is that he just brings in ratings due to his polarizing nature and "big" personality.  It's hard to even imagine what CNN, MSNBC or their affiliates will talk about with him out of office.  Or FOX News for that matter.  They're all complicit.  For every vapid Trump story, there's a real newsworthy one going unreported.  And that's no accident.  

Trump's Successor

The real threat is that we haven't learned anything from the Obama years and that a more competent version of Trump will surface after Biden leaves office, capitalizing on the rage of millions of disenfranchised voters looking for ANY alternative to the Democrat establishment.  Someone who doesn't tweet their every inner thought and who is well-versed in the ways of Washington, the military-industrial complex and mobilizing the Christian right, which Trump was pretty sucky at.  Even the most devout Christians admitted Trump was "flawed".  But if we get someone like Pence or another "true believer" with Trump's narcissistic charisma?  We're fucked.  

The right is already primed for another cult leader.  They believe Trump's run was "interrupted" unfairly and that he's owed a 2nd term, which does not bode well for our fragile democracy (I use that word very loosely).  Especially if the intervening years contain more of the same shit that produced Trump in the first place.  If he runs again, he'll be back with a vengeance.  And if someone more competent but equally evil runs in his stead, we're in for another Civil War.  Either way the future does not look bright.  And many of us won't survive without healthcare to see it anyway.  

Biden's set to tee us up for exactly that situation.  He's already floating a tax break for the wealthiest Americans before he's even been inaugurated.  We have every reason to believe it'll be Obama Season 2--he WAS Obama's Vice President, after all.  In this "democracy", the presidency gets passed around like a joint between family members, spouses and those with seniority in the White House.  It's more like a family business where nepotism rules and only octogenarian dinosaurs who have proven their loyalty to corporate billionaires for an entire lifetime have a shot at the throne.  Not very democratic at all.  

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

In Defense of Hedonism

"Find your purpose."  

How many times do we hear variations of this phrase in our daily life?  It's rather vague and has become something of a cliche, sort of like "well life is unfair" or "it is what it is".  It's meant to be inspirational but also has a hidden dark side, pushing us toward a life of unquestioning servitude of capitalism.  Hold up.  Maybe it ain't that deep.  Aren't we meant to have a purpose in life?  What even IS life without a purpose?  Why bother getting up in the morning if not to fulfill some mission, whether it be helping people in some social profession or making a shitton of sales at a business?  

No doubt about it:  Checking things off the to-do list feels GOOD.  It reflects success & feeds our confidence by proving that we're competent at something.  And it's necessary to feed ourselves and our families.  There's a lot to be said for productivity and getting things done in the short-term as well as finding a purpose in life in the larger sense.  But that simple idea has been twisted and weaponized by our corporate hustle culture in service of capitalism to make us feel worthless if we're not constantly working and "fulfilling our purpose".  Often to our detriment.  

And is it really OUR purpose at that point?  

In America, we're taught from birth that wanting a life of leisure makes you a bad person, practically on par with a common criminal.  That seeking pleasure outside the 2-day weekend is wrong, lazy, bad.  That using substances other than the legal ones--caffeine and tobacco in the daytime and alcohol at night--makes you a junkie loser who belongs in jail.  That seeking love outside a monogamous heterosexual relationship makes you unethical and shady even if you're upfront about what you want in the beginning.  Ditto for the "excessive" chasing of any hobbies that people view as childish or self-indulgent, be they video games, ATV-riding, playing music or what have you.  If we do allow people to "indulge" in drugs and wild sex, they're expected to "mature" out of these things by a certain age and "settle down" by 35 or 40 at the very latest.  For women the cutoff age is even younger.  In every comment section you can find trolls imploring someone to "get a job" as if it's the ultimate diss--usually while they're exercising their right to free assembly against our shady government or corporations.  

The question becomes, who set these standards for us and whose lives are we really living?  And what's in it for US?  We only get one life as far as we know.  We will all die at some point--possibly much sooner than we would like.  Allowing social norms put in place by ancient Type A capitalists to dictate our behavior in the hopes of fitting in or impressing others is a futile endeavor.  And potentially a huge regret while laying on our deathbed.  Only then will the true value and meaning of life snap into focus for many of us.  But it will be too late.  

The 5 days work-week is relatively new in the history of humanity.  For ages, luxury and leisure were given top billing with work being an afterthought.  The point of technology and industrial innovation is to reduce the need for human labor, yet we keep working people to death.  We talk about the elusive "work/life balance" as if ALL OF LIFE is supposed to be equal to that single element of work.  Family, romantic relationships, hobbies, travel, learning/education, self-care, relaxation and all the rest are to be condensed and balanced against... "work".  Does that seem reasonable?  What if we talked just as seriously about an "orgy/life balance"?  Would THAT seem reasonable or like some obsessed creep invented it for his own shady purposes?  

Why should work be given as much weight as all of "life"?

Maybe for some of us the central purpose of life IS hedonism.  As long as you treat others well, helping them when you're able, isn't that what really matters?  I'd rather have a world of happy hedonists than greedy, road-ragey, burnt out Jeff Bezos wannabes.  I don't personally subscribe to polyamory or some of the other lifestyles mentioned in this article, but much of my life is about feeling good and having fun.  And learning/spreading knowledge.  As somebody with depression, anxiety and many other struggles, just surviving feels like an accomplishment.  Everything else is a bonus.  The bottom line is, everyone has to define what their life is about for themselves and revise the definition as needed...not fit into some identical mold.  If you have looked everywhere for a 'purpose' and come up empty, maybe there's a reason.  Maybe simply being is enough.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

[Review] - Cannabis Edibles: Simple Cure THC/CBD Gummies (Indica Dominant)

Back of (opened) package

This is the second installation in this series.  I loved the sativa 3:1 gummies so much I made a special trip to the dispo to pick up some more of these particular CBD-laced edibles, this time hoping to give the indicas a try too.  But I wasn't really expecting them to be quantifiably different because, let's be honest:  cannabis strains aren't always that distinct even when smoked, let alone in an edible.  But boy was I glad to be proven wrong.  

The Simple Cure THC/CBD Gummies of the indica variety are even BETTER!  Absolutely no racing heart and a body that feels like Jell-O.  I guess it's the indica stone on top of the added CBD that does it.  And the munchies are less intense with the indica ones, which is a bonus for me as I don't want to put on weight.  They truly are as calming as a low dose of Valium and would be great for sleep if indicas help you sleep.  I'll definitely be using them for my menstrual cramps too.  They go great with codeine but I found myself 'forgetting' to breathe in the night which was startling.  Yikes.  They really are that sedating.  

Simple Cure 3:1 Gummy

As with the sativa ones, the only drawback is the taste but by now I've grown accustomed to it.  The gummies are fresh and soft, though they tend to get a bit hard after re-opening the bag repeatedly.  Each gummy has 15 calories and they come in orange, blue and red.  Maybe green too but I'm not seeing any in this particular bag.  Each $28.95 bag contains 10 gummies, each containing 10mg THC and 30mg CBD.

After a couple trials, I give Simple Cure THC/CBD Gummies (Indica Dominant) a 4.9 of 5 stars for effects, price and quality.  This brand truly does what they claim:  uses sativa and indica-specific cannabis in their edibles and you can feel it in every bite.  There are no "hot spots" or weak spots and the price isn't terrible.  I've seen better but also worse.  As for the the effects of this particular product, they are worth writing home about and would be amazing for anyone with severe pain, anxiety, panic, insomnia, spasticity/seizure disorders or other conditions that CBD is helpful with.  These gummies are like an indica edible on steroids, so to speak.  If you want something you can enjoy during the daytime, opt for the sativas.  Even though indicas generally don't make me as drowsy, the 3:1 indica gummies are definitely better suited for evening/nighttime use.  These will put you ALL the way in-da-couch.  You've been warned.  

(P.S. - I don't know how many experiments it will take for me to accept that I truly am an Indica girl despite how much I want to be a Sativa).  👸

Thursday, January 7, 2021

[Review] - Kratom Powder: Smiley Time Herbals - Pure Red Glow

After running out of codeine for the first time in ages, I was forced to fall back on my trusty friend kratom to avert the worst of withdrawals.  Problem is, my kratom stash is all from a season in which every vendor had what can only be termed weak to mediocre leaf at best.  I was guzzling bottle after bottle of thick kratom sludge and still shivering my ass off, fighting off withdrawals while praying I didn't give myself an ulcer by drinking too much kratom too fast.  I nearly failed but that's another story for another article.

During my misery I sought out a new vendor.  I decided on Smiley Time Herbals, a somewhat exclusive vendor who requires you to be approved manually via email before ordering.  Apparently I'd already applied long ago and didn't remember, so ordering was a breeze.  His selection is extensive and contains strains I've never heard of, such as Blood Moon and various Sibau strains.  I decided to try 125g each of the Pure Red Glow and Premium Red Vein MD for $32 (free shipping).  

Smiley Time Herbals Red Glow

There are no pictures of the product on the page which is a bit of a bummer.  Kratom's effects are determined more by its actual color and how it's dried than anything else, a fact I recently learned on the Double M Forums.  Therefore seeing whether a "red-veined" strain is actually light brown in color is important; ditto for green-veined strains which should be green and so on.  I may do a longer post on this subject another time, but for now let's just say it's preferable for vendors to take photos of their recent batches when possible.  If not, they should offer a brief description: is the strain fermented?  Coarse or finely ground?  What color is the actual powder?  Etc.

I paid with credit card and waited about a week for the package to arrive, which was not bad considering the major delays due to COVID and the holidays.  I was stoked to find a sample of Red Kali (free!) that came with my order.  Very cool.  Less cool was the fact that all 3 kratom samples were the exact same color--bright green.  As stated above, red-vein strains should be light to dark brown as this reflects the fact that they were dried in a way that produces "red-vein" effects.  (The vast majority of kratom is actually red-veined, and vein color doesn't account for the color or effects of the final powder--drying method does).  Anyway, I'll have to give it a try before judging but this is a bit of a bummer, particularly since they're all the exact same shade of green which could indicate they're the same batch/strain.

Pure Red Glow up close (notice green color)

I start with the Pure Red Glow at a very low dose since my gastritis is acting up from my latest kratom foray.  Even after a day of pill-popping I'm getting some decent euphoria on my first test.  And a night of insomnia.  This definitely feels more 'green' than 'red', though I'm digging the vibes it's giving me.  The next day I finish off the small dose in the water bottle and get more of the same effects.  This is most certainly not a red-vein strain because a small dose makes me tweak out too much.  Bummer.  But I like how it makes me feel overall so that's not a bad thing.  I just don't like mislabeled product.  

I'm giving the Pure Red Glow a 4.7 of 5 stars for effects and potency.  Points must be deducted for the fact that it's a green strain labeled as a "pure" red, and it appears to be the exact same strain as the other two I received from Smiley Time Herbals.  I've yet to try them so I'm trying to withhold my judgment but based on appearances alone, I'm leery. 

Stay tuned for the Premium Red Vein MD review which will be coming soon.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

December 37, 2020

We're 6 days into the new year and already I'm writing a shitty article about how shitty the fucking new year is.  The United States is making history in the most embarrassing of ways as I'm sure you've heard.  Hoardes of Proud Boys, MAGA geniuses and QAnon protesters stormed the nation's capital to contest the election results for the umpteenth time and things turned violent, but far less violent than they would have if they had been of a darker skin tone.  Police went offensively soft on them, even appearing to usher them into the gates and inside the halls of the building itself, with some guards even taking selfies with the rioters.  One woman was killed by police at this event in total and 13 were arrested.  Contrast this with the hail of rubber bullets, mass arrests and killings that took place at the George Floyd protests over the summer.  

Arkansas protester occupies Nancy Pelosi's desk

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with storming the capitol or even engaging in armed protest as long as the firearms/weapons are legal and used for self-defense exclusively.   How cool would it have been if the guy kicking his feet up on Pelosi's desk was part of a Rainbow Coalition like the one created by Fred Hampton that brought together members of the Puerto Rican, white Appalachian and Black inner city communities to demand fair treatment by landlords and the police?  Or if the woman who gave her life had done so for the cause of, say, demanding Medicare For All during this pandemic that's killed more Americans in a single year than the Vietnam War, the first 10 years of AIDS & the 9/11 attacks combined?

Again, there's nothing wrong with storming the capitol, but doing so without any organization or demands as foot soldiers for a billionaire plutocrat politician is pathetic.  What we saw in DC was a case of misdirected anger, white privilege, machismo and yet another sign of a crumbling nation in decline.  Instead of demanding what they owe us as taxpaying workers, we're doing the dirty work of the rich and powerful who wouldn't piss on us if we were on fire.  And we are on fire, make no mistake.  

But if a class-based insurrection DID attempt to overtake the capitol or anywhere else, they wouldn't make it past the doggie gates, let alone inside the bowels of the Senate.  That's how you know who is actually a threat to the powers that be:  it's all in the police response.  Or lack thereof.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Embrace Withdrawal

The What

Embrace withdrawal?  Is this bitch nuts?

If you've made the decision to become dependent on opioids or other drugs knowing full well that they can cause physical or psychological withdrawal, you have no right to act a fool when the inevitable happens:  you run out of meds, money or otherwise have to face the beast.  Even if it wasn't a conscious "choice" in the typical sense, you're here now and must deal with what's laid out in front of you.  As a consenting adult you can't simply scream at mommy/daddy/grandma for money, forge a prescription or go steal shit to finance your habit.  That behavior gives all of us a bad name and puts you at risk for consequences like prison or even violence, none of which needs to be part of a drug-using lifestyle simply because you get high.  If addicts want to be treated as humans worthy of respect and compassion, that's a two-way street.  We have to be respectful of others and not violate their safety or property because of a situation that has nothing to do with them. 

I can't tell you how many times I've had to take cold turkey "breaks" from my opiate of choice in my almost 17 years of daily use.  It's miserable:  cold sweats, irritability, palpitations, diarrhea, every orifice in your body running like you've got some kind of snot-producing disease.  And the nightmares.  They could qualify as a mental illness all their own.  So vivid and terrifying.  Time slows down, everything feels surreal.  It's like the veil is peeled back and months or years of suppressed feelings come to the surface at once.  Some people also vomit.  Your body aches like you've been beaten by a gang of baseball-bat wielding maniacs.  I could go on but you get the picture.  

I recently ran out of codeine for the first time since starting this particular opiate.  Poor planning + the mail slowdown due to COVID, weather and the holidays = a VERY unpleasant time for this blogger.  It was the highest dose of opiates I've withdrawn from in a long time (in the neighborhood of 730 mg per day) and I didn't have much chance to taper.  Oopsie.  

You may be saying "codeine is NOTHING compared to heroin/fentanyl/insert other potent opioid here".  And you're right.  It's not.  But that's exactly why I've made the decision to avoid injecting or otherwise using super-potent drugs.  I don't want to face the withdrawal.  Plus, I have used stronger things like OxyContin in the past but currently this is what I have access to, so shove it.  This isn't a pissing contest.  It's about choices.  Even addicts have them.  

The How

If you're currently stuck between a rock and hard place using a potent drug and want to quit or move to something weaker, there are options.  If you're an opiate user without access to methadone or Suboxone, go online and buy kratom now.  It's legal in most states and very affordable.  It will not get you "high" like dope but will take the edge off the worst withdrawals if taken in sufficient quantities.  You will likely have to experiment with different strains and maybe even different vendors, but don't give up.  This is far and away your best option for DIY withdrawal management or tapering if you can't get professional help.  Here's a starter guide with everything you need to know if you're a beginner.  

If for some reason you can't get kratom, Imodium (loperamide) in recommended doses of 1-4 tablets will stop the worst withdrawal symptoms like diarrhea and cramping.  But don't take high doses as it can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias and death.  Some people recommend DXM as an opiate withdrawal treatment option but I've never tried it myself.  Avoid driving or doing other dangerous activities if you ingest it, as it's a dissociative.  Cannabis can help with the nausea while taking the edge off pain and insomnia, as can ginger root--a powerful anti-inflammatory and nausea remedy.  Ditto for older sedating antihistamines like Benadryl and doxylamine in normal recommended doses.  

Bottom line:  these solutions address the physical aspects of addiction only.  You'll need therapy and/or counseling to work through the root causes of your drug problem and the psychological addiction, which is often the hardest part to overcome.  There are sliding-scale and affordable treatment options in most states but it may take some time to access them.  Be persistent and don't give up.  In the meantime, implement harm reduction into your daily life when you use drugs so you don't die or irreversibly harm yourself.  Physical dependence and withdrawal are taxing but not life-threatening.*  Not as long as you take care of yourself.  You deserve it.  

If you're facing withdrawal, embrace it as part of the journey.  Because at the end of the day, that's all it is.  Use it as a time to reflect on your drug use and your life in general.  (Just remember that the massive dip in endorphins/dopamine is coloring your perception and this isn't how sobriety truly feels in the long term).  You can't have the highs without the lows, and there are some deep truths and insights to be gained during those lows... plus they make the highs feel SO much better by comparison, be they drug-induced or otherwise.  

--- Written during codeine withdrawal with the aid of kratom.

*Warning:  If you're withdrawing from depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines or Ambien, seek medical help immediately as this can cause dangerous or fatal withdrawals.  Never attempt to quit these substances cold turkey or without the help of a medical professional.  

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Saturday, January 2, 2021

KAANI A Film on Opium


This beautiful piece of cinematography explores the customs of the Wancho people of the Patkai Hills in India, who still live traditional lives but have been plagued by opium addiction.  It's a harrowing and surreal clashing of worlds:  a remote tribe deal with the familiar symptoms of opiate addiction in realtime is unlike anything you've seen before.  And their government's response is admirable as well.  Definitely worth the watch.  (Bonus points if you can guess who introduced them to the opium poppy).  

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