FDA takes action after opioid addicts getting high off anti-diarrhea medicine

Who knew that people addicted to opioids have found a way to get high off of anti-diarrhea medication?

I sure didn’t.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has asked makers of loperamide, sold over the counter at Imodium AD, to change the way they package the product.

I did know that opioid use causes constipation. Have you seen the commercial with the good-looking middle-aged man at the construction site, happy his pain is gone but all bound up? Making jokes about it?

“Do you have OIC? Opioid? Induced? Constipation?”

The commercial has not set well with me for a long time. Now it sets even less well with me.

As an April 2017 article in The Atlantic put it, “If a drug that gets you high causes constipation, could a drug that causes constipation get you high?

Turns out, the answer is yes.

Doctors quoted in this CBS News story explain the phenomenon:

“It’s an opioid agent and it helps to bind receptors in the brain and cause a similar euphoria or high,” said Dr. Scott Krakower, a physician who specializes in addiction disorders at Northwell Health.

“Folks that are desperately addicted, folks that are looking to stave off withdrawal symptoms will do whatever it takes sometimes, really extreme things,” Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, of the Family and Children’s Association, said. “So, in the scheme of things, taking 300 pills is not unheard of.”

This is what has led to Gottlieb’s latest directives, which is a noble effort even if it’s like throwing a bucket of water on a burning house.

“The FDA is requesting that sponsors of OTC loperamide ‒ an FDA-approved product to help control short-term symptoms of diarrhea, including Travelers’ Diarrhea – change the way they label and package these drugs to stem abuse and misuse that leaves us deeply concerned,” Gottlieb announced Tuesday in a statement to the news media. 

“Abuse of loperamide has been increasing in the United States. When used at extremely high and dangerous doses, it’s seen by those suffering from opioid addiction as a potential alternative to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms or to achieve euphoric effects of opioid use. The maximum approved daily dose for adults is 8 milligrams per day for OTC use and 16 milligrams per day for prescription use. It’s sold under the OTC brand name Imodium A-D, as store brands, and as generics.

“Loperamide is safe at these approved doses. But when higher than recommended doses are taken we’ve received reports of serious heart problems and deaths with loperamide, particularly among people who are intentionally misusing or abusing high doses. The majority of reported serious heart problems occurred in individuals who were intentionally misusing and abusing high doses of loperamide.” 

These measures only work if people want to stop anyway

The FDA is asking – not requiring – loperamide manufacturers and online retailers to do the following:

We’re requesting that packages contain a limited amount of loperamide appropriate for use for short-term diarrhea according to the product label. One example is a single retail package containing eight 2-milligram capsules in blister packaging. We asked the manufacturers to take the necessary steps to implement these changes in a timely fashion to address these public health concerns.

I also plan to reach out to those who distribute loperamide online, through retail web sites, to ask them to take voluntary steps to help us address this abuse issue. The new packaging should help make limits on sales more easily achieved. The abuse of loperamide requires the purchase of extremely large quantities. Often this is done through the purchase of large bottles of loperamide, which is a common configuration in which the pill form of the medication is currently packaged. Today’s action is intended to change how the product is packaged, to eliminate these large volume containers. We know that many of the bulk purchases of these large volumes are being made online through major online web retailers.

In The Atlantic story written less than a year ago, the author reported, “Diarrhea-drug misuse is just a small, almost absurd part of the larger opioid epidemic.”

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And astutely pointed out that even more restrictive policies – requiring a photo ID to buy loperamide, for example – only works when people are discouraged by such measures to the point of seeking treatment.

“It only works if the restrictions drive people to treatment rather than to heroin,” The Atlantic reported.

Which sadly seems very unlikely. Similar measures on ephedrine have not seemed to stop the crystal meth epidemic.

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Alleged meth, ecstasy kingpin, son of previous owner of my home, captured

UPDATE: TO BE CLEAR, I SOLD MY HOUSE TO A BURMESE FAMILY AT $50K LOSS. I MOVED TO DENVER AM NO LONGER DESTITUTE AND WITHOUT TOILET PAPER BUT WANTED TO LEAVE THIS JANUARY BLOG UNTOUCHED. BEST. 

Editor’s note: Frank Fitzpatrick is serving four years in prison. You can check out the court record here. Sources tell me two dozen tattoo-necks are being held in federal custody on meth charges.

Copyright David Heitz, 2018

Alleged meth and ecstasy kingpin Frank Fitzpatrick, who lived in my childhood home prior to my dad purchasing it back in 2013, has been captured.

He is being held in Rock Island County Jail on $100,000 bond. He appeared in Rock Island County court Jan. 18, presumably the day of his capture.

According to Rock Island County court records, Fitzpatrick’s charges include:

  • Manufacturing more than 15 but less than 200 ecstasy pills, A class X felony
  • Delivery of more than 5 grams of meth, a class II felony
  • Other narcotics schedule I and II, a class II felony

Fitzpatrick, who just turned 30 this week, is friends with my cousin Bobby Heitz of Rock Island.

Bobby told me the last night I ever took a drink (before my brief relapse this spring) – the night he and some of his friends from this neighborhood assaulted me in my basement and nearly left me for dead in May 2014 – that Fitzpatrick was a “cool guy who could get any drug you want,” or something along those lines.

I asked Bobby if in all the years of partying at this “party house” if he ever told anyone this was the home his Uncle Benny and Aunt Barbara had worked very hard for.

He said he did not.

Fitzpatrick has been appointed a public defender. He is set to appear again in Rock Island County Court at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

Last week, Fitzpatrick filed a motion demanding a speedy trial.
Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos has assessed a $1,659 fee to Fitzpatrick. The fee is not explained.

That would almost pay the deductible for the damage Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos ‘ department did to my basement. Of course, State Farm is fighting the claim as it is. They’ll learn, too, that I don’t give up.

Bustos, by the way, is the appointed sheriff hubby of my former longtime friend US Rep Cheri Bustos.

Cheri and I have known each other for decades via the corrupt and filthy Quad-City Times. I have been a guest in Gerry and Cheri’s home.

A year after the assault, I was held, tortured and taunted in the Rock Island County Jail on no charges at all in May 2015. You can read about that here.

Meanwhile, police illegally searched my home and damaged the foundation of my basement.

I had taken two corrupt cops – one Rock Island city, one Rock Island county – to Mulkey’s on my dime for a Healthline story just days before.

I also was serving as an informant in the Alderman Bill Boom, town gay bar owner political corruption case.

I also was providing detailed information on what I believe to be a human trafficking ring in the Quad-Cities.

When I was released from the jail, where I thought sure I was going to be murdered, I was taken to UnityPoint Trinity crisis center.  There, the gaslighting continued.

I used to live in fear for my life every day due to what I heard in the jail, particularly a plan to load me onto a C17 and traffic me out of the Quad-Cities forever. Now I know that DOZENS are going to prison, many already have. I delight in sending even more to “Vandalia,” as my dad always fantasized in sending the Rock Island mobsters.

I remain unemployed, with PTSD, and I’m being completely honest when I say I have near ZERO FOOD and zero TOILETRIES and CLEANING SUPPLIES in this house.

Good people have been helping me for weeks now. I can’t ask the same people to help over and over again. I have applied for COUNTLESS JOBS. I have been selling my possessions to pay for toilet paper and other supplies, as well as my medical cannabis (I take no meds, tapered down from 4 mg Ativan per day…I am PROUD OF THAT!!)

But now I have nothing left to sell.

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Fitzpatrick, who eluded police for months, is the son of a well-connected Rock Island County Democrat, Todd Fitzpatrick, a Moline firefighter and head of the Milan Fire Department.

The judge admonished Fitzpatrick in court and warned him he may be tried in absentia.

Until next time.

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Why kratom isn’t the way out of opioid addiction (and may even lead to it)

Here’s why I tell people I care about to steer clear of Kratom:

Kratom binds to the same receptors in the brain as opioids. So, although it does not contain opiates, it works the same way on the brain. More on that (and a link to the research) below.

I admit: I never have tried Kratom.

And I never would, based on what I have read and heard about it from people I interview.

Here’s why.

Any herb can be incredibly dangerous. I say this admittedly being a proponent of medical cannabis.

But even medical cannabis, which is lacking research due to government restrictions, has plenty of research on the books demonstrating its relative safety.

Kratom does not.

Why? Most natural herbal supplements and the like have not undergone any sort of rigorous clinical trial on humans, so we don’t really know what’s good or what’s bad about them, or what’s the proper dose.

I once was assigned a series of “encyclopedia entries,” as I used to call them, by Healthline. My task was to research each herb then write largely positive reviews about how they can benefit your health.

For the first time I ever, I pulled out of the assignment. Indeed, it was the last paid assignment from Healthline I ever took.

I felt like I was being pushed to find the good in these herbs when all I really could find online was warnings about just how dangerous herbs can be because we know so little about them.

I did not feel comfortable with the assignment, particularly as it pertained to Chinese medicine for which there is so little research.

Kratom is a tree in Southeast Asia. There, its medicinal properties have been lauded and celebrated for centuries.

Indeed, just last year a review of existing research published in Human Psychopharmacology concluded, “Legal sanctions appear to have preceded serious scientific investigations into the claimed benefits of ketum (kratom). More objective-controlled trials and experiments on humans need to be conducted to validate self-report claims by kratom users in the community.”

The researcher reported, “Kratom has long been used by rural populations in Southeast Asia as a remedy for common ailments, to fight fatigue from hard manual work, as a drink during social interaction among men, and in village religious functions. Studies based on self-reports suggest that prolonged kratom use does not result in serious health risks or impair social functioning.

“Two recent trends have also emerged: (a) Kratom is reportedly being used to ease withdrawal from opioid dependence in rural settings; whereas (b) in urban areas, adulterated kratom cocktails are being consumed by younger people to induce euphoria.”

Kratom might actually LEAD to opioid addiction

In the context of the opioid epidemic, many people are experimenting with kratom in a well-intentioned effort to get off opioids.

But when it’s being used by someone already prone to addictive behavior, taking too much kratom could spell disaster.

And in fact, kratom may even LEAD to opioid dependence. More on that in a second.

And can I speak addict to addict? Even when we are of the mindset of getting off drugs, let’s be honest. “Well, if one kratom doesn’t do anything for me, I’ll take two. If two doesn’t do anything, I’ll take three.”

And the next thing you know you’re dizzy and throwing up. Maybe your heart is beating really fast.

Maybe somewhere in the mix you threw an opioid down the hatch on top of the kratom because you weren’t feeling relief from the kratom.

DON’T!

Kratom binds to the same receptors in the brain as opioids. So, although it does not contain opiates, it works the same way on the brain. You can read more about how kratom works on the brain in this Scientific American piece.

So, a person trying to get off opioids with kratom likely isn’t going to see much success. In fact, they may end up craving “the real thing” even more.

It’s sort of like giving a recovering alcoholic like myself benzodiazepines (valium, Xanax, Ativan) for anxiety…they work on the brain the same way as alcohol, so it’s just a really bad idea.

You can read about my personal experience with benzodiazepines by clicking here.

Here’s what FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said about Kratom in a statement to the news media in November:

The FDA knows people are using kratom to treat conditions like pain, anxiety and depression, which are serious medical conditions that require proper diagnosis and oversight from a licensed health care provider. We also know that this substance is being actively marketed and distributed for these purposes. Importantly, evidence shows that kratom has similar effects to narcotics like opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction and in some cases, death. Thus, it’s not surprising that often kratom is taken recreationally by users for its euphoric effects. At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic, the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning. 

Read more: FDA blasts unproven opioid detox methods

It’s very troubling to the FDA that patients believe they can use kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms. The FDA is devoted to expanding the development and use of medical therapy to assist in the treatment of opioid use disorder. However, an important part of our commitment to this effort means making sure patients have access to treatments that are proven to be safe and effective. There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder. Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs. 

There’s clear data on the increasing harms associated with kratom. Calls to U.S. poison control centers regarding kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, with hundreds of calls made each year. The FDA is aware of reports of 36 deaths associated with the use of kratom-containing products. There have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone. The use of kratom is also associated with serious side effects like seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms. 

Given all these considerations, we must ask ourselves whether the use of kratom – for recreation, pain or other reasons – could expand the opioid epidemic. Alternatively, if proponents are right and kratom can be used to help treat opioid addiction, patients deserve to have clear, reliable evidence of these benefits.

 I understand that there’s a lot of interest in the possibility for kratom to be used as a potential therapy for a range of disorders. But the FDA has a science-based obligation that supersedes popular trends and relies on evidence. The FDA has a well-developed process for evaluating botanical drug products where parties seek to make therapeutic claims and is committed to facilitating development of botanical products than can help improve people’s health. We have issued guidance on the proper development of botanical drug products. The agency also has a team of medical reviewers in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research that’s dedicated to the proper development of drug applications for botanicals. To date, no marketer has sought to properly develop a drug that includes kratom.

So, what makes medical cannabis any better?

In states where it’s legal, especially Illinois, it’s regulated.

It’s heavily regulated in Illinois, in fact. No state is stricter. You know what you’re getting, where it came from, and what’s in it.

EVERYTHING is labeled, right down to THC and CBD percentages per harvest. What you’re about to consume has been tested, guaranteed to be all-natural, and even pesticide-free. It has been followed from seed to dispensary sack.

Kratom in its varying online forms is dangerous. There’s no regulation. It’s potentially addictive.

Stay away from it.

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Who are the opioid addicts? Open your eyes and look around you

Why is the nation’s war against opioids aimed mostly at helping people who repeatedly fail in recovery?

It sounds like a terribly stigmatizing question, and yet it’s not intended to be.

Federally funded dollars aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic are being funneled toward injection drug users, not your neighbor next door silently suffering, their life crumbling around them.

Not one addicted person deserves treatment more than the other; all need treatment. And their treatment choices as a consumer should be respected.

Beyond the severely addicted dying from heroin laced with fentanyl, what about all those millions and millions of Americans legally popping pills from an Rx?

They’re doctors, teachers, pharmacists, police officers, politicians, wives, mothers, sons, fathers.

When they can’t get their pills anymore, they turn to the street.

Then they can get help from federally funded programs.

In my town, Sheriff Gerry Bustos recently announced the launch of the Safe Passage program.

While I am a victim of heinous drug-related crimes, and indeed have taken a hardline approach view to the most brazen drug and sex crime criminals, I do think Bustos’ Safe Passage plan is a good one.

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It’s what’s working in other communities, so long as it is done legitimately.

But I don’t know that mutual acquaintances of Gerry and I and others will bring in their prescription pills, “Hi! I’m going to go into your program today and quit or lose my job and be stigmatized and go hang out at Robert Young Center for 30 days so I can be given more opioids in a ‘substitution therapy’ format.”

Or will they? Perhaps they want Suboxone as much as the addicts who ended up on, or a step away from, the street — that Suboxone largely is not working for.

Suboxone doesn’t work

More on that in a moment. It is important to state up front that Suboxone may not be working because it’s not being used properly, and differently as appropriate, among varying populations.

Not everyone got into the opioid epidemic the same way. Some DID just start injecting heroin. Some got in with criminal intent. Some come from a long line of addiction within their families, and even organized crime, perhaps.

Some slipped on the ice and have been screwed in pain for 15 years now.

And they. Are. Angry!

Enter The Butterfly Protocol and some conversations I have been brought into on Twitter about the opioid epidemic.

I have been asked to be on a national panel regarding the opioid epidemic, chaired by The Butterfly Protocol.

My understanding is that it will be a rather large panel and that I will be the ONLY pro-cannabis member.

I’m salivating!

So, who and what is The Butterfly Protocol?

“TheButterflyProtocol™ was originally designed for use with the NONaddicted Rx Opioid Patient; however, it can be ADAPTED to meet the requirements for the SUD-afflicted Patient population,” wrote program director Therese LeDantec-Boswel in a Twitter message to me.

“invisABILITY™, the 501(c)(3) parent NPO behind the development of TheButterflyProtocol™ receives absolutely $0 from its participation in this effort.

“TheButterflyProtocol™ itself has $0 financial affiliation with ANY of its Adjunct Therapeutic Collaborative Partners who have been selected for integration in the Protocol”

She also made clear:

“We invited you to be a Panelist in our capacity as Chair of the 360˚ DxTx RTP Working Group that is organizing this event,”

She said The Butterfly Protocol appreciates my voice as a victim of an opioid-related crime (and I appreciate THAT).

To learn more about the assault in my basement in May 2014 (and consequently a rape I survived seven years before that) click here.

Then, a year later, my house was illegally searched and my home damaged by police. Click to learn more.

This all transpired as I was being held in the Rock Island County Jail on no charges at all. Click to learn more about that chapter of my upcoming book, due out this summer.

All while I was serving as an informant in a criminal investigation. Be careful when you take old friends turned cops to Mulkey’s while nosing on a story.

How bad is the opioid problem where I live?

 Check out this very well-done story by Tara Becker of the Quad-City Times on Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos’ Safe Passage Program.

Directly from Becker’s story:

“Heroin and opioid users can voluntarily bring in their drugs and paraphernalia to law enforcement without arrest. Law enforcement will destroy the drugs and will get users to a participating treatment or detox facility.

“However, participants who are wanted on an active warrant must deal with those charges first, he said. Those who are currently under arrest are not eligible.”

  • PLUS …

“Nineteen people – 14 men and five women – in Rock Island County have died from an opioid overdose from Jan. 1 to Dec. 20, according to data provided by Rock Island County Brian Gustafson. 

They range in age from 23 to 69. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid played a role in several of the deaths.

“It is an emergency and it is epidemic proportions, not only nationally and at the state level, but clearly at the county level,” Gustafson said.

Since 2011, the county has seen 65 fatal overdoses.”

Saving lives is great, and as I said, the Bustos plan works in other places. But here’s what I’m confused about: Who are the pre-selected volunteers? I also don’t believe Robert Young Center is suited for providing these important services.

From Becker’s excellent story:

“The program is similar to one launched in Dixon, Illinois [birthplace of President Ronald Reagan, incidentally], two years ago, but is tailored to fit Rock Island County…..

“A group of 10-12 volunteers have been identified to help get participants to the treatment facilities and the county has some funding to help facilitate that process, Bustos said. [More nepotism in Rock Island County? Quite dangerous if so on a project like this] ….

“On the treatment side, the county is partnering with the Robert Young Center, Rosecrance Adult and Rosecrance Child & Teen in Rockford, Illinois; Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington, Illinois; and Gateway Foundation Centers in the Chicago-area.

Bustos said one of his goals behind the program is to keep opioid users out of the jail, which can create a problem for corrections and medical staff, and get them into treatment instead.”

Not your average addict

Many people suffering from pain, and who have therefore become dependent on opioid analgesics, are furious that they are being dubbed addicts when fentanyl off the street is what’s really killing people.

They’re angry because now they’re being forced to detox or seek the black market themselves as the federal government cracks down on the doctors who arguably helped create the opioid epidemic.

(From The Butterfly Protocol’s Indiegogo page. Click here to check it out for yourself. I do think what they are doing makes good sense, at least at first glance):

“100% of all prescription opioid patients to whom opioid analgesics are legitimately administered in a sustained therapy will succumb to the state of Iatrogenic Dependence [IOD]absent any history of abuse, deviation, diversion or misuse.

This is known as Iatrogenic Opioid Dependence, a state that is caused by the strict, lawful adherence to a legitimate prescription Opioid therapy, and is not related to the disease of Addiction, or an Opioid Use Disorder [OUD], both of which occur in a completely different area of the brain.

They add:

“Delivering a viable treatment option to the majority of non-addicted opioid patients [The 98%] who are contemplating the life-altering challenges associated with Opioid Cessation and the inevitability of Opioid Withdrawal is vital to achieving what should be the nation’s target objective: ZERO incidents of sustained Iatrogenic Opioid Dependence. [i.e., targetZERO™]

The associated multimedia Information & Educational Platform [IEP], deployed in advance of The Butterfly Protocol™ Project, empowers members of the medical community, the non-addictive patient and their caregivers with detailed information about effective, humane therapeutic options in the non-opioid treatment of post-acute chronic pain, serving as a national model for a turn-key Opioid Cessation Plan.”

I see the point of so many of my suffering friends past and present now. But I also see many others.

There are so many different paths to opioid addiction, there is no one size fits all solution to solving it. But those who are suffering in pain and NOT being offered help…that’s just inhumane.

I’m sure as I respectfully say this that the sheriff understands what I’m talking about. Hopefully, because if we want to fight the scourge the epidemic has made on our community we’ve got to help everybody.

That means people like myself have got to admit I can be a sh$#hole about my friends’ dependency problems just as they had been about mine in the past.

We all. Must. END THE STIGMA.

I think our meth problem is as bad as our opioid problem in the Quad-Cities, but there isn’t massive amounts of federal money for that.

Never ask me to see my story before I publish it. Never.

“I want to reassure you that this is a PRIVATE DM chatroom, with a well-known Moderator,” nurtured program director Therese LeDantec-Boswel.

in a Twitter message exchange where I laid every shocking detail of my trauma.  “If at any time you feel that your safety is challenged, please feel free to hold off on participation. This is a monthly event.”

Unfortunately, she lost a lot of credibility with me when she requested this:

We would request a right to review be extended as a courtesy prior to any publication.

It’s such a no-no. Silly Pharma does it to established reporters all the time.

So, since Pharma is the only place I generally see such modern-day arrogance toward a respected journalist, I’m turned off now.

So, I blocked them. And I don’t know whether I’m going to participate on their panel or not.

But I’m glad they opened my eyes to a whole new world of opioid addiction sufferers that is right under my nose, and yet I have been stigmatizing myself.

And blocking is just the modern-day way of taking the phone off the hook. You can always decide to call again later.

And they can always decide to block you, too. So, it’s all fair.

Until next time.

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FDA blasts companies offering unproven detox remedies, cautions opioid users

There’s something just as filthy going on as Congress colluding with Pharma to create the opioid epidemic.

At least in the eyes of FDA: Companies trying to make money off the addicted by peddling them dangerous snake oil for withdrawals.

The FDA dropped the hammer Wednesday on a dozen companies claiming to offer products that will ease the sting of opioids evacuating the system. While some opioid dependent people say the severity of the withdrawals are exaggerated, dead bodies tell a different story.

Detox should not be taken lightly. That’s not to say it cannot be done at home. But it always should be done in consultation with a health care professional if at all possible.

The FDA fingered the following companies and products:

Opiate Freedom Center(“Opiate Freedom 5-Pack”), U4Life, LLC (“Mitadone”), CalmSupport, LLC (“CalmSupport”), TaperAid(“TaperAid” & “TaperAid Complete”), Medicus Holistic Alternatives LLC (“Natracet”), NutraCore Health Products, LLC (“Opiate Detox Pro”), Healthy Healing, LLC (“Withdrawal Support”), Soothedrawal, Inc.(“Soothedrawal”), Choice Detox Center, Inc. (“Nofeel”), GUNA, Inc. (“GUNA-ADDICT 1”), and King Bio, Inc.(“AddictaPlex”).

The federal agency also said the above companies made “illegal” claims, including the following:

  • “#1 Selling Opiate Withdrawal Brand”
  • “Imagine a life without the irritability, cravings, restlessness, excitability, exhaustion and discomfort associated with the nightmare of addiction and withdrawal symptoms”
  • “Safe and effective natural supplements that work to ease many physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal”
  • “Break the pain killer habit”
  • “Relieve Your Symptoms…addiction, withdrawal, cravings.”

They did not attack medical cannabis.

In a statement to the news media, acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said, “Opioid addiction is a serious health epidemic that affects millions of Americans. Individuals and their loved ones who struggle with this disease need real help, not unproven treatments. We will continue to work together with the FDA to address this important issue.”

The Federal Trade Commission urges those suffering from opioid dependence and those who care for them to read this fact sheet about such products.

I would be curious what all my social media friends have to say about this.

Until next time.

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Why do 10 million additional Americans suddenly have high blood pressure?

For the first time in 15 years, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have changed the definition of high blood pressure.

Now, millions more Americans have the diagnosis. If your BP is 130-139 over 80-89, you have hypertension under the new guidelines. A reading of 140 over 90 or higher is considered stage II hypertension.

Previous guidelines were about 10 points lower.

The CDC estimates 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. The new guidelines are expected to bump that number up by almost 14 percent, or 10 million people.

Annals of Internal Medicine published a paper Monday by Drs. Robert Carey and Paul Whelton of University of Virginia Health System reacting to the changes.

In the paper, they explain that more and more research points to elevated cardiovascular risks with readings of 130 over 80 and higher. High blood pressure, also known as “The Silent Killer,” is dangerous for the very moniker given it. Many people are unaware of their high BP until a dangerous or even deadly cardiovascular event.

However, regardless of whether doctors use medications to treat a patient’s high blood pressure, the guidelines say that lifestyle changes need to be the first line of attack.

Those lifestyle changes include:

Giving up cigarettes and minimizing or eliminating alcohol use 

Being checked regularly for diabetes 

Exercising often 

Eating healthy foods including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Exercise can be a double-edge sword. For those suffering from anxiety who partake in intense cardiovascular activity, blood pressure actually can go up due to cortisol production.

Some docs believe changes aren’t necessary

In an accompanying editorial in Annals, three doctors take issue with the new guidelines, including two doctors from VA systems.

“Are the harms, costs, and complexity of care associated with this new target justified by the presumed benefits of labeling nearly half the U.S. population as unwell and subjecting them to treatment? We think not and believe that many primary care providers and patients would agree,” they write.

They believe that even though lifestyle changes might be encouraged, in reality the end result could be patients being needlessly put on high blood pressure medications.

“We agree with the ACC/AHA guideline about the importance of a healthy lifestyle; however, this is important for everyone, regardless of BP. Whether categorizing a person as hypertensive per this new definition will improve adherence to lifestyle changes is unknown, but it may shift attention from a healthy lifestyle to pharmacologic therapy. It is important to consider the ramifications of labeling asymptomatic persons as unwell before expanding a disease definition.”

The authors of the editorial believe benefits of lowering the threshold for blood pressure treatment often are overestimated, and harms often underestimated. “Trials mostly enrolled patients with hypertension who were tolerating treatment and used run-in periods to weed out non-adherent persons, including those experiencing harms.

“In addition, the assumption that data from trials in patients with established hypertension applies to newly diagnosed patients is flawed. A trial involving primarily untreated persons with borderline elevated BP found no reduction in cardiovascular events with treatment.”

The important thing to remember is to always listen to your body. But with high blood pressure often having no symptoms, you need to get your blood pressure checked regularly. So-called “white coat” syndrome, where patients become nervous having their blood pressure taken by a doctor, is very real. This can result in a false elevated reading.

For that reason, a blood pressure cuff is a good investment for your home.

Until next time.

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Annals study: No proof smoking cannabis leads to overeating and heart disease

5 Ways to Refresh a Kitchen by changing the Cabinet Jewelry

 Copyright 2018, DavidHeitz.com 

I bet you never have given much respect to the handles on your kitchen cabinets, have you?

In fact, they’re not handles. They’re called jewelry. And just like someone freshening their look with new bling, your cabinets will shine bright like a diamond with new jewelry.

  1. With the right wood, turn 1970s gaud into contemporary grand. Many homebuyers may find themselves landing in a home that had great cabinets “back in the day.” Before tossing those cabinets, consider changing the jewelry.

Contemporary nickel tubes against older cabinets of darker wood can dramatically change a kitchen for just pennies on the dollar of a total kitchen redo.

  1. Turn fine cabinets into grand cabinets. Those home sellers and buyers downsizing due to retirement or other reasons may find themselves in smaller spaces. The smaller spaces may be new, with good appointments, but just not as grand. Bling it up with high-end cabinet jewelry to make the cabinets pop. In a smaller space, costs remain low but impact high.
  2. Get crazy contemporary. Have you even seen cabinet handles that are discs instead of handles? They make ‘em. Roam online for just the right cabinet jewelry for you. They come shaped like leaves, made of glass, in the form of shocking multicolored knobs, and much more. Buy a roll of Starburst, brew some tea and peruse cabinet jewelry online.
  3. Make mom or grandma’s room just as she likes it. Changing jewelry can go beyond cabinets, of course. Perhaps your mom or dad has moved in with your family and has their own space. However, it may be a bit too contemporary for their taste.

You can go online and find the same sort of glass doorknobs mom had in the old World War II bungalow you grew up in. While you may appreciate your home’s contemporary appointments, nothing will make you feel better than making mom or dad feel at home.

  1. Paint over dated wood cabinets and start with a clean slate. Go crazy dreaming up color and jewelry schemes. Maybe those old 1970s cabinets were not of great quality, and the wood just looks heinous. Paint them! Go white with red handles. Or red with white handles.

Paint ‘em green and splash on yellow knobs. Awash them with yellow paint and adorn chrome knobs.

The possibilities are endless, and great fun to think about.

Bonus tip: Buy an old house with a 1970s pass-through? Consider removing the cabinets altogether and just creating an open space. The shelves exposed by removing the cabinets also can be removed. The slots suspending the structure can stay if you choose, and the frame of the pass-through can be used to display a variety of niceties.

Consider placing fresh flowers in the pass-through. This not only beautifies both sides of the structure, but also provides a vehicle for fragrant flowers to fill your house with freshness.

You may want to display antique dolls, Isabel Bloom statues, or even a Pez collection.

Pez Pass Through

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I bummed them and ‘looked like a woman’ smoking. What do cigs cost you?

New WalletHub report reveals nasty truth about how your wallet is burning up like a nasty stogie when you puff cigs

North Dakotans get by cheapest, spending about $84,000 over the course of their lifetime on a pack-a-day habit.

Ooh, but in New York: It’s about $200,000.

Wow.

You can read how WalletHub came up with those statistics by clicking here. In fact, this will take you to a super cool, easy-to-read and navigate web page with smokin’ hot statistics, state by state.

You’re going to feel your wallet burn as you read it if you’re a smoker. Maybe just the motivation you need to quit.

I once had a Foxy man tell me I “looked like a woman” when I smoked cigarettes. I bummed them and was shameless about it. Oh, yes, I was that person EVERYONE dreaded walking out to the smoking pit.

But that’s in the past. Here’s an excerpt from a blog I wrote on the second anniversary of stopping smoking:

You can read the full piece I wrote on my second anniversary of stopping smoking by clicking here. But here’s how it started out:

You could find me there every night, at the corner of 69th and Mary streets. Beer in one hand, cigarette in the other. On the weekends, sometimes you could find me there 12 hours a day, “pulling double shifts,” as I used to tell the bar owner.

Definitely NOT the corner of happy and healthy, at least not for me.

I remember being very flattered that legendary Quad-City television newswoman Chris Minor had commented “Great piece, on your newfound peace” on the original version that lived on Healthline Contributors. I thought that was clever and nice of Chris.

Healthline dismantled that original Contributors site, pictured with this piece, but very graciously gave me several weeks heads-up notice and permission to reprint on my site.

I have said it many times, and maybe I got crosswise with one regime at Healthine (we all align with certain personalities…or not!), but the marketing department is, was, and always has been, pure gold at Healthline.

Note to Healthline: Thanks for how you handled the Contributors content, and thanks for that platform. I think that enriched me even more than the tens of thousands of dollars I made writing for your editorial department over the course of two years. That, too, was enjoyable, fun work.

When I gave up cigarettes five years ago in February, it wasn’t a triumph in a way I felt cocky about (which is difficult for me to control).

It was a HUGE triumph, though, that I never had felt before in terms of knowing what I truly am capable of. It gave me the confidence I needed to do everything else I needed to do, and have done.

Set yourself a goal for a triumph. It doesn’t have to be huge.

You can even make it that pile of dishes in the sink.

Own that victory when those dishes on done, and build on it!

Until next time.

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Neuroplasticity: Is it possible with traumatic brain injury, MS or PTSD?

A really big word that I like to use a lot is neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to repair itself, to even find new routes around damaged synapses to execute functions and tasks.

I find this to be an incredibly hopeful reality. A book called “The Brain’s Way of Healing” by Dr. Norman Doidge explains how the brain makes these miraculous rebounds.

A publicist for Dr. Doidge sent me this book more than three years ago when I was covering neurology for Healthline.com.

Since becoming unemployed a few months back, I have been catching up on books I have been meaning to read.

Why do I find this book so fascinating? Because it illustrates what I already know to be true: No matter how damaged the brain might be, it can and will repair itself.

I am proof of that.

When I moved back to the Quad-Cities from Los Angeles in 2002, my brain was so fried from crystal meth I truly did not think it ever would work again. Sure, I seemed to be functioning OK, and I even landed a job as an editor at The Rock Island Argus and Moline Dispatch upon my return.

But I was FAR from OK, and anybody who knows me now knows that. My writing was terrible, and I could not sit still for five minutes, let alone long enough to watch a TV show.

Later, when I crashed from years of using drugs, I plunged into depression. Crying, curled up in a ball…nobody ever thought I would work again. Thus began the heavy doping period perpetuated by the Robert Young Center. My father was urging me to apply for disability.

But my brain got over that depression, and the next thing you knew I was a full-time reporter at the Quad-City Times by day, cokehead party boy by night.

And again, my brain repaired itself, after getting TOTALLY sober in 2013. And here I am today.

I may be unemployed and struggling, but it has nothing to do with a broken brain.

Ha! Quite the opposite.

A traumatized brain, though? Yes.

My fellow medical cannabis patients will find the book interesting

Another reason why I wanted to read this book is because it talks about helping people with traumatic brain injury.

Through the years, particularly since I have been writing about health, but even before then, many people with traumatic brain injury have reached out to me. They have done so as people wanting to share their story with a journalist.

People with traumatic brain injury face incredible frustration. They still are who they always were inside a part of their brains, and yet they cannot function exactly as before. It creates incredible frustration.

Only now can I fully understand that frustration. I say that because I also feel like I am an eagle ready to fly, but cannot, due to the trauma inside my brain – the anger – that prevents me from carrying on each day in a happy and well manner.

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So here are some interesting findings in the book about traumatic brain injury. There also are, as I suspected, some interesting references to post-traumatic stress as well, and some unconventional ways of treating it. The same goes for multiple sclerosis.

What else do PTSD, MS, and TBI have in common? They all are qualifying conditions for medical cannabis cards in Illinois.

Treating TBI, MS, Parkinson’s, PTSD unconventionally

In Dr. Doidge’s book, he speaks of two forms of therapy that can help a damaged brain rewire itself, so to speak.

The first is called Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (PoNS) therapy.
It may sound a bit scary, but here’s how it works. Something that resembles a piece of gum goes inside the patient’s mouth. Resting on the tongue, it begins to send out electrical impulses (the patient can’t feel it).

“Scientists have discovered that the tongue is an information superhighway leading straight to the brain stem, which is closely connected to the brain’s processing areas for movement, sensation, mood, cognition, and balance,” according to a news release that accompanied the book.

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The idea is that the impulses disrupt the brain’s matrix and allow stimulation to find new ways of reaching the hippocampus. The program was developed by doctors at the University of Wisconsin’s Tactile Communication and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory.

After treating 200 patients over 12 years, the team – Drs. Yuri Danilov, Mitch Tyler, and Kurt Kaczmarek – found no side effects, according to the press release. “They either see positive results or no changes in the patient.”

Patients have been treated for TBI, stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.

Regarding TBI, the book describes a treatment by “an extremely creative Canadian clinician” named Dr. George Roth called “matrix repatterning.”

In setting up what matrix repatterning is, Dr. Doidge explains, “All head blows involve an energy transfer into the body. When the blow occurs, the force will dissipate through the body, the brain, and the skill. The person needn’t even have direct contact with an object for an energy transfer to occur.”

He continues, “Shock waves from a bomb blast will transfer energy to damage the heart and brain. In car accidents, these energy transfers affect not only the skin and bones, but the fluid-filled organs of the body as well.”

I think about all the horrible car accidents I have had, including one that could have killed my dad and I both.  I had just moved back from Los Angeles and dad was in pretty bad shape. I had a seizure while driving and lost consciousness; dad grabbed the wheel and steered us into a ravine to avoid a head-on collision.

I hit my head hard enough to break my nose and deploy the airbag; dad ended up in a nursing home for a couple of months after we were roommates in the hospital at UnityPoint Trinity for about a week.

At any rate, Roth performs his TBI therapy by touching a broken bone or spot on the skull with his hand to conduct electricity. Since the 1840s, according to Doidge, doctors have known that apply electricity to broken bones facilitates their healing.

Dr. Doidge writes:

“Since the hand also has been shown to be a source of measurable electrical fields because of its nerves and muscle fibers, Roth uses it as a magnetic field. Or he increasingly uses an electromagnetic pulse generator near the injured tissue, while applying gentle pressure on it with his hands, to speed this process. 

Read more: Scientists place cause of fibromyalgia pain in the palm of the patient’s hand

Over the years I have followed a number of TBI patients on whom these techniques were applied: often, their long-standing headaches, mental fog, dizziness, sleep or multitasking problems, and other TBI symptoms were resolved partially or completely.”

Neurofeedback useful for identifying PTSD triggers

Finally, another non-invasive brain therapy discussed in Dr. Doidge’s book is called neurofeedback. My dad actually had this done many years ago.

Dr. Doidge describes it this way:

“Brain waves, which have been measurable since the early to mid-twentieth century, are measured in waves per second. Different brain waves correlate with levels of conscious arousal and types of conscious experience.”

In a person with PTSD, for example, memories that trigger trauma will make brain waves that go very, very fast on an EEG. A psychologist may be able to help a person in this manner to better recognize triggers and to control them.

This would be particularly useful for a person who may not fully understand where their trauma is coming from.

There is nothing like a good book about the brain to get me excited about health reporting. I highly recommend “The Brain’s Way of Healing” by Dr. Norman Doidge.

One chapter in this book even describes how walking – and you all know I’m a huge fan of walking – can assist in repairing the most broken of brains.

Take it from someone who at one time many, many years ago thought life was not worth living, and that it never would improve – you don’t always need Pharma to “get better.”

This books makes incredibly compelling arguments for that.

Until next time.

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