Ataraxia’s potent, tasty Gold Leaf brand cultivates medical cannabis fit for royalty

There is no doubt in my mind that Ataraxia’s Gold Leaf, hands down, is the finest medical cannabis brand in Illinois.

Gold Leaf isn’t a brand I normally purchase, however. At least it wasn’t before last week.

I have tried some Gold Leaf high-CBD strains including ACDC and White Harmony and haven’t been terribly impressed. Not that it was bad, by any means! Just not bowled over one way or another. Probably because they were CBD strains, let’s face it. Effective isn’t always memorable when it doesn’t get you high. And that’s not always a bad thing!

However, I did buy a gram of Gold Leaf Green Crack a while back and wrote this review. I was impressed and shocked by how you can get so much energy out of marijuana.

I also had tried Grand Doggy Purps recently and found myself taken in by the delicious taste and generally euphoric feeling, which is followed by a nap every time you smoke it. It’s an easy way down from a PTSD trigger, into a nap, and on to moving past it all when you wake up.

So, when the dispensary had a “Gold Leaf Flower Flight” special that included a gram of five different Gold Leaf strains, including Green Crack and Grand Doggy Purps, I couldn’t say no for $70.

I’m so glad I didn’t. If I had, I never would have learned about Magnificent Mile.

Magnificent Mile

From the second I opened the bag, I knew it was going to be incredible stuff. It has a Middle Eastern smell. It actually is subtitled “Iranian Landrace.”

Another intoxicating strain that I ran across in Colorado that I also have purchased here is called Durban Poison. It also has Middle Eastern roots and literally makes my eyes roll up inside my head.

Magnificent Mile takes me even further.

Admittedly, it’s a recreational trip. Holy wow. Loads of profundity, problem-solving ideas, everything you might remember about the first time you smoked pot 30 years ago. That’s Magnificent Mile, LOL!

I definitely could never smoke this in a group unless I was with someone very, very special who was my best friend. I would get way too paranoid.

However, by myself I was laughing so hard I was rolling on the floor. When I would laugh, it literally would pop the joints in my back that had relaxed along with the muscles from the weed.

I seriously am that tense a person. When I smoke weed, my back relaxes enough that when I take a deep breath, my back will pop. It’s alarming to people who hear me do it, but to me it’s instant relief!

I found an extraordinarily heightened sense of smell and sound while smoking Magnificent Mile. When the air conditioning kicked on once I thought a jet plane was flying low over my house.

Again, like the first time you smoked pot. Oh, the stories we all have.

I was in a basement in Laguna Beach, Calif. in 1993 and I saw a head on a door. Yes, like The Cure song. I was lying in bed and I opened my eyes and saw a head on a door. I thought a human being was hanging from a hook on a door.

In fact, it was a hat, on a hook, on a door.

Magnificent Mile actually is an indica, although I found it very stimulating and wildly trippy. THC is 28.75 percent, which is pretty high.

Grand Doggy Purps

As powerful a strain as Magnificent Mile is, Grand Doggy Purps is the same, but different. Just total and complete relaxation, with scrumptious flower that truly makes your mouth water even after that first hit.

The terpene myrcene found in Grand Doggy Purps relaxes the muscles and induces sleep. Again, just what the doctor ordered for me.

G6

G6, also known as “Jet Fuel,” is some stimulating sativa. It has a powerful, unusual, sort of citrusy taste. The bud itself feels as soft as a kitty cat’s fur.

Although G6 motivated me to mow the lawn, the euphoric, energetic high was very smooth and not at all jittery.

Green Crack

It’s just as it sounds. It’s mental alertness, energy, and clarity.

Gelato

Gelato is an indica-dominant hybrid, yet it gives me plenty of energy. Like all the rest of the Gold Leaf cannabis, the taste is out of this world. It gave me a relaxing body high after I was done mowing, which led to a 30-minute cat nap after a refreshing shower.

The Gold Leaf Flower Flight variety pack is a must-buy. Go on, you deserve it!

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Why is the VA punishing veterans who are trying to get off hard drugs?

Photo courtesy Pixabay

I have something stuck in my craw as it pertains to opioids, cannabis, PTSD, booze, and our veterans.

Let’s face it. We have a crisis at hand with service members returning from deployments with PTSD. Why wouldn’t they be coming home with PTSD in today’s world.

If you don’t know what PTSD is, in a nutshell you are pissed off and on edge. All the time. You may think the best way to medicate yourself is by drinking, but you quickly learn that is like throwing gasoline on a fire and makes you even more explosive.

Still, the VA isn’t going to know if you are drinking or not unless you tell them. Also, the VA probably is going to prescribe you benzodiazepines for your PTSD if they feel it cannot be handled with talk therapy or some other means.

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax essentially are alcohol in a pill.

I’m sure veterans know the drill. I’m not a veteran, but I have met enough veterans with PTSD through my writing and during my travels earlier this year to know what I describe above is a common scenario.

Now, many veterans who are quick to realize the dangers of the booze decide to self-medicate with marijuana instead. However, since the VA now is drug testing apparently rather regularly, patients are being threatened to have their medications taken away unless they stop smoking pot.

I have talked to wives of service members who are fuming over this. They say the plant is the only thing that calms their husbands down.

I’m sure the same can be said of male spouses of female service members as well.

Of course, the opioid problem affects veterans too, because who other than men and women doing battle in war are going to need opioids more often for painful injuries? That problem runs so deep in the military it’s not even funny.

Veterans expected to meditate withdrawals away

In research published last month in Annals of Internal Medicine, a systematic review of 67 previous studies showed that life gets better for those who taper off opioids.

“Very low-quality evidence suggests that several types of interventions may be effective to reduce or discontinue LTOT and that pain, function, and quality of life may improve with opioid dose reduction,” the authors half-heartedly concluded.

The interventions that might be effective? Things like behavioral modifications, talk therapy and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is great for PTSD, too. It’s how I stayed sober when I wasn’t smoking the plant. But it doesn’t always work. And sometimes triggers can be so severe that some type of medication is warranted to keep from blowing a gasket.

That’s why so many people living with PTSD smoke weed.

It’s not realistic to expect tens of thousands of wounded veterans to just come home from war and taper off their opioids while meditating.

In an accompanying editorial to the Annals research, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn clinicians that “decisions to discontinue or reduce long-term opioid therapy should be made together with the patient. Clinicians have a responsibility to carefully manage opioid therapy and not abandon patients in chronic pain.”

Meanwhile, research published yesterday showed that cannabis is effective at treating neuropathic pain, even though the cannabis used pales in comparison to what’s commercially available. You can read my blog post here.

It’s one thing to require people to pay large sums of money to get the state-legal medication they need. Both the medical cannabis itself and the certification process is very expensive, at least in Illinois.

It’s another to then punish them beyond the pocketbook by making the transition from one medication to another as dangerous as possible.

Especially after they have served their country.

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BREAKING: Study says cannabis effective at treating nerve pain

Photo courtesy Pixabay

Research published today in Annals of Internal Medicine shows that cannabis is effective in combatting neuropathic pain, the type suffered by people with multiple sclerosis, HIV, diabetes and possibly some forms of fibromyalgia.

It’s a noteworthy conclusion given that cannabis is still scheduled as an illegal, class I controlled substance by the federal government, with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” to use the DEA’s own words.

Also today, Annals published research about cannabis and PTSD, although it essentially concluded nothing.

Despite the federal law, medical cannabis already is legal in more than half the states in America, with the above-mentioned conditions and chronic pain listed as qualifiers in many of those states.

“Investigators’ conclusion that there exists clinical evidence supportive of the efficacy of cannabis in the mitigation of neuropathic pain is consistent with both prior reviews and with the anecdotal reports of patients, many of whom are seeking a safer alternative to the use of deadly opioids, and it is inconsistent with federal government’s classification of the marijuana plant….” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a statement to DavidHeitz.com.

NORML is a Washington-based marijuana advocacy group.

The research was published as part of a three-article package on cannabis that went live on the medical journal’s site at 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday.

Annals of Internal Medicine is published by the American College of Physicians, a tenet of the mainstream medical establishment. I attended the American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting in San Diego in May, as a member of the credentialed news media.

The other articles published today in Annals concluded that there is not enough evidence to know whether cannabis is effective in treating PTSD (but that new information will be coming soon) and advised doctors that “the horse is out of the barn,” regardless.

Research cannabis looks like grass clippings

While the study found only “limited evidence” of cannabis’ efficacy on neuropathic pain, it’s important to understand that the cannabis being used for medical research is incredibly weak and not remotely representative of what’s available on the market to medical cannabis patients.

Because of the arcane federal law that classifies cannabis as being more dangerous than crystal meth or heroin, researchers at academic institutions studying the medicinal effects of cannabis on people must obtain the plant from the federal cannabis garden at the University of Mississippi.

This garden grows remarkably weak strains of weed with THC levels topping out at 8, 10, maybe 13 percent, depending on which reports you want to believe. Most cannabis available in medical dispensaries these days has THC levels of around 20 percent. Some have THC levels as high as 30 percent as far as flower goes and, with concentrates, THC levels can go into the 80 percent range and higher.

The weed out of the Mississippi garden is so vile that one researcher recently alerted the Washington Post. You can read here how PTSD researcher Sue Sisley got some nasty, moldy bud. After determining the mold levels would not be toxic to patients, she decided to use it anyway. It’s not like she has any other choice.

Read the Washington Post story for yourself and get a look at the nasty government “grass clippings” by clicking here.

I asked Armentano if he could fill me on the latest regarding the federal government’s ditch weed garden at the University of Mississippi. He sent me this link.

 To the federal government’s credit, the ditch weed garden is evolving to include high CBD strains. Once upon a time, it grew only one nasty strain instead of five nasty strains.

The link is hilarious. The feds charge researchers $10.96 for a “marijuana cigarette.”

It could be worse. A “placebo cigarette” will set you back $13.94!

“Obviously, these products do not represent the broad scope of actual cannabis-based products that patients are using in the real world — a point that has been raised frequently by critics,” Armentano wrote in an email to me. “You are correct that any cannabis administered as part of a FDA-approved trial must be provided by the University of Mississippi.”

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And yet, I bet when the 5 p.m. news reports the medical research coming out in Annals tonight they aren’t going to explain that the weed used in those studies is nothing like the medical cannabis available to people treating themselves for pain or PTSD.

The garden also completely ignores the science of terpenes, compounds in the plant that vary by strain and have medicinal qualities as well as an aromatic effect. You can learn more about terpenes by clicking here.

 One wonders where the government even gets the seeds to produce the funky cannabis like what they dispense to medical researchers.

The truth is in our stories: Cannabis is saving lives

The Annals pain study actually was a review of research already published. It analyzed 27 chronic pain trials.

Its official conclusion: “Limited evidence suggests that cannabis may alleviate neuropathic pain in some patients, but insufficient evidence exists for other types of chronic pain.”

It then adds the always scary-sounding, “Among general populations, limited evidence suggests that cannabis associated with an increased risk for adverse mental health effects.”

To the researcher’s credit, the flaw in the research that renders much of it null and void in my opinion is listed: “The cannabis formulations studies may not reflect commercially available products.”

We know anecdotally, overwhelmingly so, that millions of Americans are effectively treating their pain with cannabis. Opioid overdose deaths are down in states where medical cannabis is legal. Fewer painkillers are being dispensed.

As I left the dispensary this morning, a woman shared with me how she ended up being hooked on fentanyl after a surgery. Now, with her medical cannabis card, she is off opioids completely.

Just as I am completely off benzodiazepines for my PTSD. You can read about that here.

Last week I wrote this blog post about how cannabis should be used to treat addiction. I have pinned the post to the top of my Facebook page. The conversation is so lively I can’t even keep up with it. The number of new likes to my Facebook page just this week, since I have written that piece, is well in excess of 300.

I also have been inundated with emails of personal stories. Just this week, two veterans receiving VA medical care informed me they have been put on notice for their illicit cannabis use. Both have been told if they “drop” (the VA urine tests veterans) for cannabis again, their medications will be revoked. One is on benzodiazepines for anxiety; the other is on opioids for pain.

This is shocking. Abrupt discontinuation of these highly addictive medications may result in death. And again, medical cannabis is legal in more than half the states.

You can read the VA’s medical marijuana policy here.

Medical establishment’s blessing would expedite cannabis availability

The medical cannabis blessing from the mainstream medical establishment would be an important first step toward getting insurance companies to pay for the treatment. That would make it more widely available.

But the establishment isn’t going to do that without further, more rigorous clinical trials. Expensive trials…where researchers are required to use government grass clippings.

“While more rigorous clinical trials of longer durations are arguably warranted, call for such trials should not overshadow the reality that tens of thousands of patients in the US are presently using therapeutic cannabis to safely and effectively address various hard-to-treat conditions, including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress — which is why well-respected advocacy groups like the American Legion and AMVETS are lobbying in support of greater patient access to marijuana,” Armentano said.

“Further, it must be acknowledged that the longstanding politicization of the cannabis plant, and its ongoing schedule I status, has greatly impeded researchers’ ability to conduct the sort of robust, large-scale, prolonged clinical trials that are typically associated with eventual FDA drug approval. Such trials are typically funded by private pharmaceutical companies seeking market approval, whereas cannabis research must be funded by academic institutions. These institutions possess limited funds and they are not in a position to — nor are they seeking to — attempt to bring the drug to market.”

In the Annals editorial accompanying the research meta-analyses, Dr. Sachin Patel of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in Nashville writes, “Although several well-designed trials are under way to address (treating pain and PTSD with cannabis), to some degree the horse is out of the barn – and unlikely to return. Even if future studies reveal a clear lack of substantial benefit of cannabis for pain or PTSD, legislation is unlikely to remove these conditions from the lists of indications for medical cannabis.”

Any medical cannabis patient with PTSD or chronic pain – and I suspect those two conditions make up most of us in many states, if not nationally – will tell you not only is it effective, it’s highly effective.

The Pharma medications for those conditions – benzodiazepines and opioids — churn out addicts and alcoholics (benzos are booze in a pill) every day. In the midst of a national opioid crisis, why aren’t the feds declaring pot legal as part of a national addiction emergency?

I bet that would solve Trump’s popularity problems quick. An executive order legalizing cannabis!

I’m going to end with a final quote from the Vandy doctor who wrote the editorial. I’ll warn you…it’s insulting. But I’m using it, and I’m ending with it, because it’s so incredibly ridiculous and out of touch with the realities of people suffering from pain and addiction that I hope it gets blasted around social media far and wide.

“As Nugent and colleagues note, patient characteristics associated with clinical response to cannabis products for pain are unknown,” Patel writes. “Another, more controversial explanation may be the complexity of chronic pain, with interrelated behavioral, emotional, and cognitive domains.

“Perhaps cannabis decreases the clinical effect of chronic pain in some way not readily operationalized by traditional pain rating scales. Of course, it’s also possible that cannabis’ effects on perceived pain are simply not robust, and such catch-all diagnoses as pain to justify legal access to cannabis may be overused.”

At the end of the day, the people of this country are only going to tolerate the mainstream medical establishment’s delusional “reefer madness,” to use the words of Berkeley medical researcher Amanda Reiman, for so long.

Grass clippings, folks.

Follow David Heitz on Facebook at @DavidHeitzHealth and on Twitter @DavidHeitz

Navigating the workplace as a medical cannabis patient with PTSD

The sun’ll come out, to-mor-row!

You bet your medical cannabis dollar it will.

But the sunshine doesn’t come cheap! I’m doing better after yet another expensive trip to the dispensary, deemed necessary after a night of flashing lights three doors down.

But I need the income I’m accustomed-to to maintain this level of medicine! So, think about that a second. Think about people with PTSD who are not writers, or who cannot otherwise work from home (no need to interact with others aside from occasional interview).

Many people with PTSD cannot work. I certainly cannot envision myself working ANYWHERE publicly, meaning in a public place, in my town. There are too many people who I could offer a slice of my mind to, at any time.

I am blessed in what I do, so long as the work keeps coming. Self-employed. Work from home. I create pretty much in a vacuum, and it’s awesome.

Think of the stigma (heck, the drug test! how do you get past that as a medical cannabis patient, especially if it’s random?) a medical cannabis patient seeking employment faces. I understand this scrutiny for some jobs, but not others.

On top of it, let me tell you something. This stuff costs a fortune. People who are buying it on the street gasp when I tell them what it costs. But that’s fine. My stuff is tailor-made for my medical condition, made in a controlled, regulated greenhouse, and not purchased from a dealer who might go psycho and lace my shee-ot, thank you very much.

Last night was rough: Too many flashing lights

I won’t dwell about what happened last night, because I have no idea what actually happened. I just know the flashing lights, the location of the incident three doors down from me…it all added up to a huge and massive trigger.

But here’s the thing. I never once called the police department last night. And that is really, really huge, given what the whole thing looked like to me regardless of whatever happened. People have asked today if I am going to call down to the RIPD and ask what happened, or play reporter and go ask to look at the police report.

No. That’s the worst thing I could do. It doesn’t matter what happened. I need to try to forget about it. It was after the police left that I began to trigger. At least while they were there I felt safe.

For me, work isn’t just about income. It’s about staying busy. I have a lot of energy. That said, if I am overwhelmed with work, it becomes too much. Then, that can be a problem. It’s why I let Vital Updates go. It’s a fine line.

My point is, any idle time I have means I might look at QCTimes.com, or the Scott County Sheriff inmate listing…all things I just need to not even look at. Ever. It’s too much right now. I had stopped doing all of these things (and also stopped watching local news on TV) and was doing much better.

Had I not seen the Quad-Cities Most Wanted story and noticed the son of the former owner of this house on it, I would have not even begun the PTSD freak-out cycle that actually started last week. Then, for last night to happen…let’s just say I reported two years ago – correct? – when I first learned that “yeah, Uncle Benny’s house was the big party house!”

It’s all sickening and chilling and disgusting in the context of EV-ER-Y-THING that has happened to me. I hope my house is not contaminated with meth-making materials. My brother made the joke about “under the crawl space” and “under the floor of the shed,” after all, upon learning Frank Fitzpatrick is on the QC Most Wanted list.

Now I’ll stop.

If I hadn’t had medical cannabis this past week, hard telling how I would have handled all of this (or not). Not to mention some severe financial stress after losing a massive client of two years.

But the truth is, the client was a gem and even is offering to give me a reference. Why I have not focused on that I do not know. I feel like an outcast in my local community.

Thank God I have worked almost exclusively for national clients the past two years. The dishonest evildoers in my community told lies and fervently tried to make me look bad just as I totally pulled it all together, was fiercely watching over my dad, walking everywhere with no vehicle…for a year. I had sustained this for a year. Everything was fine, until I was poisoned, or whatever the hell happened.

Give. Me. A. Break. They threw me in jail on no charges at all after I reported something that has become quite scandalous. In fact, I called them about something else, then was questioned about what has turned out to be a big local story.

I keep hearing I might get a logical explanation. That would be fine. I doubt any logical explanation is coming, however. An explanation may be coming, that’s for sure.

It’s just becomingly increasingly obvious every day how crooked a lot of people in Rock Island County governance are and it is making me even antsier for the justice I may never see.

There are people in powerful positions in this county who are quite sick.

NOW that I have that out, and took 300 words to do it, oy, I want to say that I have landed a very good paying assignment for a huge healthcare company. It occurs to me nobody needs to even know who my clients are on content I produce that’s not bylined. (Update: The gig did not work out, and it was an extremely poor fit anyhow)

So, there’s a workaround for any client who doesn’t want to affiliate with the medical pot guy!

It also is an incredibly important assignment as it pertains to improving patient outcomes for the elderly.  We all know that’s something I can get passionate about.

My gig is unusual and incredible, and probably about as good as it gets for a medical cannabis patient. And yet, I still struggle during transitions of client to client.

What about all the military people with PTSD with a cannabis card? They are paying these prices too, and if they have PTSD and were in the service, chances are employment is extraordinarily difficult for them. What are they supposed to do?

Check out the VA’s disgraceful medical cannabis policy.

What about victims of violent crime – rape, attempted murder – who are angry and cannot function properly in the workplace? And then, to make the only effective treatment for some of them so pricey it’s out of reach? I am NOT complaining about the price of medical cannabis. I’m saying insurance should help pay for it.

The only people laughing at that are completely healthy, judgmental people who never have smoked medical cannabis. I assure you.

Outrageous.

No health plan on earth (or at least in the U.S.) that I know of is going to pay for your medical cannabis at this time, even if you have the best health plan on earth.

It’s wrong.

Medical cannabis reviews are fun, fun, fun

I am having a nice day watching concerts on AXSTV. And this is all happening the day after a difficult night.

Tomorrow I hope to wake up fresh and spend the entire day on my paid assignment, for which I am excited about and extremely grateful.

But today I’m enjoying my NTI bounty: Brownie Scout, Cuvee, Brazil Amazonia, Ghost x Flo, and Shangri-la.

To think all I went in for was the “Smoke Sessions” special – free joint with purchase of eighths of certain strains.

I bought an eighth of Bio Jesus, which is awesome. You can check out my review of Bio Jesus right here. I’m not a joint person, but since it’s pre-rolled and I don’t have to do it, I’m going to spark up my free joint in a minute.

And heck yeah, I’m going to review every single one of those other above-mentioned strains I purchased today. I never have tried them before.

Check them out right here, at DavidHeitz.com.

Recovery and mental wellness through medical cannabis. Every day.

You won’t want to miss my fun little reviews!

My first year as a publishing tycoon: 26,234 hits and growing

(Cake courtesy Jewel, Cityline Plaza, Moline)

DavidHeitz.com turns a year old today! As a gift to myself, I’ve turned the ads on.

I have to pay the Internet bill somehow.

I love the “Live Mas” Taco Bell ones flickering on the cannabis content the best. I’ve seen one for Hyundai, too…even one for LEGOLAND!

And then there’s the matter of the above-pictured pastry. I told the gals at Jewel to check out DavidHeitz.com and come up with something fitting for its first anniversary.

I think they did an incredible job. The scales of justice are, well…the icing on the cake.

Let me tell you how much fun my website has been for a 47-year-old who landed his first paid newspaper job three decades ago. The internet has created an almost completely level playing field in the world of publishing.

My “printing press” is this website, which costs about $400 per year. My “circulation department” is Facebook – a much, much, much, much bigger annual cost. But worth it.

Sometimes I get a remarkable algorithm on my stories on my Facebook page without ever even spending a penny. With almost 4,600 Facebook followers alone, it happens now and then.

And, I have a message that people find interesting.  Sharing it has paid dividends already. Often, writing about what happened to me is a way of simply feeling like I have done something regarding all the nonsense I’ve endured the past three years. The word “dirty” doesn’t even begin to explain it.

The truth is coming out now. Anyone who pays one iota of attention should be picking up on a few things and connecting some dots.

Had I not had this site and my Facebook page, I don’t know my claims of abuse ever would have been investigated. But I’m pretty sure they have. Honestly though, I have no idea where things stand. Nobody in their right mind would ever tell me something they don’t want reported.

I know how things are beginning to look, however.

At the end of the day, a member of the Rock Island County Board told me to take my story of what happened in the jail to the local news media and scream it at the top of my lungs. I knew that wouldn’t get me anywhere.

But this site has. I think.

A worldwide media presence

Do young journalists still dream of owning their own newspaper? I never did, but only because I never even fathomed it a reality.

I never could have guessed that by middle age, I’d be a bonafide publisher cranking out copy from the comfort of my own home. Delivering it, in fact, to consumers of my content on their phones, tablets and laptops. Even being able to decide who, where, and what interests I want to target with each post. I have followers (quite a few in fact) in several African nations due to all the HIV reporting I used to do, as well as a few in the Netherlands, and bunches in the UK.

I also have followers of my blog in Albania, Qatar, South Korea and Germany. And Australia. How could I forget Australia?

This is a dream newspaper on steroids!

Working on my book, writing about issues nobody else wants to touch…it gives me tremendous purpose. Purpose is key to my happiness in life. As long as I have purpose, I really don’t need much else.

My purpose is to shed light on the truth regarding certain topics. Those topics include medical cannabis, elder care, mental health, sober living, and public corruption.

I wrote my very first blog post on Aug. 9, 2016. You can read it right here.

Things are better now than they were a year ago. I always said to my therapist, “Imagine how things are going to be when everyone finds out that everything I have said happened to me are proven true. It will be like living it all over again, but maybe worse, because there may be even more to all of this that I don’t remember.”

It’s a real and frightening thought, given it took a year to remember the initial assault in my basement. When I did remember it, it was in an extremely disturbing manner.

And now everything is adding up. I’m still holding out faith in law enforcement and the justice system.

And I’m glad I turned the ads on.

Keep circling back, and thanks so much for playing a part in making my site successful!

Testimony supporting Strategic’s plan to build Bettendorf psychiatric hospital

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(Image courtesy Pixabay)

The Iowa Health Facilities Council will consider the application of Strategic Behavioral Health of Memphis, Tenn. to build a psychiatric hospital in Bettendorf during a public hearing Thursday in Ankeny. Here is my submitted testimony to the council in support of the hospital.

June 16, 2017

Health Facilities Council

c/o Becky Swift

Iowa Department of Public Health

Lucas State Office Building

321 E. 12th St.

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

I submit this letter in support of Strategic Behavioral Health today as a former patient of the Robert Young Center, an advocate for the mentally ill, a person in recovery, and a health care journalist and branded content writer.

I even was offered the corporate writer job at UnityPoint (then Trinity) in 2002. I had many wonderful meetings and interviews through the years with David Deopere and Bob Lundin, who I both admired. I worked at the Quad-City Times from 1986 to 1992 and again from 2002 until 2010, when I quit to care for my elderly father. He died of behavioral-variant frontotemporal degeneration almost two years ago. BvFTD is a disease that takes a staggering toll over time not only on the patient, but also on the people around them. My dad received disability Social Security in 1984 at the age of 46 and lived until almost 78.

He also was a patient at Robert Young Center for many years and never made it secret how he felt about them either, but I won’t repeat the words he used.

Today I need to share my story, and we need to address the broken mental health care system in the Quad-Cities once and for all. Why we are even debating this is extremely disturbing in the light of the mental health care crisis here. That hospital could have been built by now and would already be helping people.

On May 6, 2015, I was “arrested” at Amber Ridge Memory Care in Moline, where my father lived, on no charges at all. I never was charged with anything, but they told me my offense was raising my voice.

When they booked me, I refused to sign something regarding an assault charge, as I did not assault anyone. They therefore threw me in the “suicide” cell for two days. By law, you can keep someone two days if they are suicidal.

Not more than two hours later that day a nice young woman from Robert Young Center showed up at the cell window. She was wearing proper identification and such. She asked me what happened. I explained I was involved in a criminal investigation (that indeed has produced fruit) and that I was frightened because I thought I saw a “bad guy.”

Ironically, I had just been diagnosed by an RYC clinician with PTSD a few days before. But my PTSD has been chronic and lifelong due to growing up in a violent home. It’s not just the result of the events of the past several years.

To make a long story short, the RYC clinician who showed up at the jail said she would get me released, repeatedly affirming, “You clearly are not suicidal.”

I would love for someone to ask that woman about her visit with me. RYC told me no record exists of her visit.

My understanding is that RYC does not create a medical record unless there is a bill attached. That’s why the record does not exist. How can this be legal? Especially when the mental health professional says you don’t belong in the jail, so they are holding you in violation of a “suicide” statute that allows them to keep you without charges.

Add the layer of being an informant in a criminal investigation, and boy does it stink. Stinks bad.

I plan to write a book about all of this soon and already have heard from interested publishers/documentary filmmakers.

When I was released, I was taken to the crisis center at UnityPoint in Rock Island. There, I was treated horribly by the emergency room doctor. I filed several written complaints about the entire incident. UnityPoint ended up forgiving the portion of my bill that Blue Cross Blue Shield did not pay, and not for financial reasons.

I actually was readmitted to the hospital a second day, taken by ambulance from the grocery store when I suddenly had a horrible panic attack and literally felt like I was going to have a heart attack. The bill was $1,800 total that BCBS did not pick up. I am very grateful that they forgave the bill.

My records from the stay are wildly inaccurate. For a day, they were “missing.” The patient advocate helped me get them. When I went to pick them up, they only wanted to give me the top page. I said that was not acceptable and laid down a credit card to pay for the whole thing. The clerk said, “Just give me what’s in your pocket” and discounted the rest and gave me the entire file.

The form letter regarding the bill forgiveness was slightly different from others, I have been told by former RYC employees. The first sentence said they certainly try to treat everyone with dignity and respect, or something along those lines.

Today, I am writing stories about addiction and recovery and improving outcomes for the elderly for two Fortune 500 healthcare companies. I am indeed a very blessed man; thanks to the excellent mental health care I receive twice a week at Southpark Psychology. I also am on a medication regimen I have been prescribed by a GP, as quite frankly I do not trust any of the psychiatrists here. Even if they are qualified they don’t have enough time to make a good diagnosis anyway. At either hospital/mental health center on either side of the river.

I attended my first American College of Physicians conference this year in San Diego. It was extremely exciting. Despite all that life has thrown me, today I am successful and healing.

I should have been taken to a psychiatric hospital May 6, 2015, like the one Strategic Behavioral Health wants to build. I never should have been jailed on no charges at all.

Many thanks,

David Heitz

Rock Island, IL 61201

What is EMDR and why am I undergoing this unusual mental health treatment?

Editor’s note: I dropped out of EMDR after only a few sessions. I did not trust the therapist, who seemed to be trying to put words into my mouth. She also wanted me to abstain from medical cannabis two days before each session, which I deemed a wholly unreasonable request. Finally, if you are the victim of a violent crime, they will throw out your testimony if your memories vis a vis the crime are tampered with via EMDR. We never got past my childhood Florida trip, when my morbidly drunk dad threw the empties into the flatbed of his truck with no AC as we barreled down the interstate.

This was going to be the blog that “kicked butt and named names,” so to speak.

But after seeing Dr. Lash at Southpark Psychology a couple of times, I don’t feel the need to do that.

Besides, if I gave everything away now, nobody would buy my book. So maybe I will only give away a little bit.

I have begun a mental health treatment known as EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It took me a long time to decide whether to do this. Because my trauma involves being the victim of multiple crimes – at least I considered them crimes and reported them to authorities – I wasn’t sure whether it would be a good idea to tamper with my memories.

In a nutshell, once you have this done, if you ever are called to testify about a crime, they essentially declare your testimony null and void.

That’s fine with me. I’m never going to be called to testify about anything anyway because the people who hurt me clearly are untouchable.

What is EMDR?

What is EMDR, you ask?

It’s different. Click here to get the full explanation from the EMDR International Association.

From the website:

“Processing does not mean talking about it. Processing means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be digested and stored appropriately in your brain.

“That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded.

“Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.”

Can you see why I signed up?

The treatment, I think, is more important than the process, which is intense and a bit unusual. It’s difficult for people like myself not to rant, but that’s not how this works.

The process involves following LED lights in such a way that it literally frees your brain so that you can look at things differently.

It may sound strange, but scientific research has proven the efficacy of this treatment.

Dr. Lash speaks passionately about how she got into EMDR. She was at the APA Convention in New York City and EMDR founder Francine Shapiro was giving a presentation that had spilled outside of the ballroom.

This was back in the 1980s, and Dr. Lash pushed her way inside as opposed to being content to just listen in the overflow, where a monitor and speaker also had been set up.

I am incredibly grateful to have access to this kind of treatment, especially in the Quad-Cities, where mental health services are abysmal for most people.

Check out my portfolio of paid articles about mental health

Story about jail heat gets me steaming

The trigger that pushed me over the edge and caused me to see Dr. Lash is the story making the rounds lately about the Rock Island County Jail’s broken air-conditioning system. Check out Chris Minor’s report for WQAD-TV 8.

These worthless politicians for decades have been irresponsible and corrupt with taxpayer funds. Now the county is broke. There are still almost 30 members on that board and they have repeatedly demonstrated their incompetence to the taxpayers.

All of them, as far as I’m concerned.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for them that they have opened themselves to litigation? They’ve done it repeatedly. It would be interesting to know just how much they’ve paid out in settlements in just the past 10 years, actually. I chose not to go that route and share my story instead.

I was held two years ago in that jail, stripped naked in solitary confinement, on no charges at all. My story never has changed one bit.

You can read about it here.

And here.

Despite GPS evidence and phone calls by pastor, no justice

I essentially want to re-process what happened inside the jail to create a different reality. It’s so haunting I need it wiped from my memory.

While my story of what happened inside the jail is extremely complex, several damning facts have emerged that those close to the case understand adds much credibility to my entire story.

If anyone in authority cared about what happened to me in the Rock Island County Jail, they would have called my pastor by now to confirm what we know to be true: She called my phone at least twice while I was held in the jail on no charges at all, and a Spanish-speaking person answered.

Check out my paid portfolio of addiction/recovery reporting

We also know from the GPS history of my phone that it left the jail. You can see it for yourself in my blog post regarding what happened in the jail.

Why was the phone on, why wasn’t it in a locker, and how can anyone think anything about my story doesn’t ring true with these two pieces of evidence alone?

I don’t mean to put the pastor in a bad situation, but look what I have been put through. To say or do nothing is not the right thing to do.

Check out my paid portfolio of reporting on matters of public health

She ministers to pillars of the Rock Island County establishment, including a Rock Island County board member who I also have known quite well for many, many years.  The board member not calling to apologize to me on behalf of the county is wacked as far as I am concerned.

But again, all of them are worthless as far as I am concerned. The entire county government is a systemically corrupt malaise from the view I have.

Disgraceful county owes me, pastor apology

The pastor has been a wonderful person to my entire family, a faithful spiritual adviser, and trusted friend. The entire county board should apologize to her, too, as far as I’m concerned. For multiple reasons.

To the best of my knowledge, they have done absolutely nothing about any of this but stick their heads in the sand.

Some people actually say I should take personal accountability for what led to me being taken to that jail.

To them – and there really are only a handful of dishonest people who still are trying to play that card – I suggest they take care of the heaping pile of stink on their own side of the street, and not worry about people who have finally challenged their rapidly crumbling influence.

I could play the victim and succumb to the terror of what happened the two days I was held inside that filthy, incredibly unprofessional, God-forsaken jail. Some would say I have, but I don’t buy that. Someone playing the victim would have done just that and kept their mouth shut.

I’ve shared my story with the proper authorities. Now, I’m doing EMDR.

And I have faith it’s going to help me rewrite the history of how the trauma I experienced inside that jail affects my life from this day forward.

Besides, my story already has a happy ending.

Here’s why we need education, not misinformation, about medical cannabis

(Photo courtesy Pixabay)

Why aren’t we treating cannabis like the medicine it is?

I have written an awful lot about marijuana during the past few years. The beauty of it, however, is that I have reported the gamut of research about cannabis, which is what I have decided to call the plant from here on out.

Admittedly someone long fond of bud, I have chosen to abstain from it during periods of a year or longer. That’s not my choice now, as I am finding great relief from my PTSD-related anxiety, nightmares and tendency to withdraw since receiving my Illinois Medical Cannabis card.

In this new era of getting our information on social media, some experts call what I do “Wisdom Journalism.” Wisdom Journalism is when you know the topic you’re writing about so well that even though it may contain nuance that other reports leave out, it is considered acceptable by your audience.

Of course, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or if you don’t walk the walk, your audience will abandon you.

I’m in a funny position having made a pretty good living the past couple of years writing branded content as a freelancer for some of the finest drug and alcohol treatment centers in America.

In general, addiction specialists traditionally have considered marijuana use a bad thing. The model of abstinence remains predominant in inpatient treatment covered by insurance companies.

Beyond that, true abstinence from all substances really is an ideal foundation for true recovery from drugs and alcohol. That said, it’s not always possible.

My views about marijuana or any topic in no way reflect the views of any of my clients.

Addiction, mental health interwoven

The reason the treatment centers I write for are so good is because they specialize in treating the co-occurring mental disorder as well.

Many people who suffer from various forms of mental illness find great relief from marijuana. But it has to be monitored, and the patient needs to know what they are doing.

Because not only can treatment with marijuana be ineffective for people with mental illness, what’s worse is that it could really screw them up.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do your research, try to make educated choices in consultation with your doctor and therapist, and then try alternative treatments. We can’t stop flat out lying about the benefits of cannabis any more than we can pretend it’s not addictive or that it doesn’t induce psychosis in some people.

Have you taken anything made by pharma lately? By no means are these perfect alternatives. Some of us, including myself, have determined some chemical treatments to be far worse than any side effects the proper dosing of the correct strains of cannabis might induce.

I am proud to say I am one month benzodiazepine free, but it hasn’t been easy. You can read about that here. It would have been impossible without the cannabis; at least right now given the dose I had been on of Xanax and Ativan before that.

So, we need to be fair and honest about medical cannabis.

And we need to be honest about how it interplays with addiction. While I have written extensively about marijuana having a dangerous role in recovery, the truth is I am finding more and more people – particularly those with PTSD – who have quit or drastically reduced their alcohol intake post medical cannabis card.

That is never a bad thing. Everyone deserves to feel better and break free from substances that are destroying their life. The “addiction” argument as it pertains to marijuana always falls flat with most users because they don’t feel marijuana is destroying their life. In fact, many marijuana users do know what that feels like, which is one of the reasons they smoke marijuana now instead of using other substances.

University of Mississippi garden provides research cannabis

Remove the mental health issue, and medical cannabis has broad, safe applications for an endless number of ailments. The most obvious: Helping the sick to get over nausea and to eat, and easing pain.

Then there are the headlines that tug at the heart strings – epileptic children finally seizure-free after cannabis treatment.

As is so often the case, I first broke into reporting about medical cannabis for my friend Josh Robbins. While I have written for Fortune 500 healthcare companies, major health news sites, and everything in between, Josh runs a little ol’ website like me.

Josh’s site isn’t really little, and it is HON certified. The point is, we have had tons of huge journalistic “firsts” together in the healthcare reporting space, particularly as it pertains to HIV, while working as a team.

I wrote this piece for Josh’s site. It was then that I learned that all the cannabis used for medical research in the United States comes out of a ditch weed garden at the University of Mississippi.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re wondering how medical cannabis is legal in more than half the states, with hundreds of strains, and yet our government only studies a decades-old ditch weed and lumps it into research for all marijuana.

That is just crazy. And it’s a fact. There is no disputing it, even though it is finally changing – after half the states have made medical marijuana legal. In 2014, shortly after I wrote my story, the program expanded. You can check it out for yourself right here on the official University of Mississippi cannabis garden page.

Do you realize that would be like the FDA using only one type of pill as a catch all for all medical research?

Can you imagine the industry backlash!

Writing about cannabis from an informed point of view

From the dangers of making your own dabs to why smoking marijuana is risky for people trying to get off opioids, I’ve written about it from many different angles. And the lens I view all of this through has become much clearer.

People are dying of opioid overdose. People also are sharing their story en masse of how they not only got off opioids via cannabis, but also opioid maintenance therapy. The sad reality is that opioid maintenance therapy also is being abused and people being treated with it still are dying.

Even the tamper-proof opioid maintenance therapy isn’t working because addicts have figured out how to crush it, snort it, inject it and everything else.

We can’t keep lying about cannabis when it’s helping people. I certainly don’t intend to.

The truth is, the Colorado program is more about tourism than medicine, and cannabis detractors are having a ball with that. I wrote this story about Colorado cannabis for Healthline a couple of years ago. I visited Denver in May and did the full-blown Colorado Cannabis Tour.

It still doesn’t seem to have much of a legitimate medical program, from what I could tell, at least not in terms of high CBD levels and THC-CBD ratios. However, for people who had the medical card the cannabis they could get cost next to nothing compared to Illinois prices.

I can get 1:1 ratios at my medical cannabis dispensary in Illinois, for example. The CBD is what brings me relief from my chronic PTSD-related anxiety. I could not work as a medical writer orbiting my house on THC all day!

And I hope to start adding some clients from the cannabis world to my portfolio.

See you soon.

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Medicine cabinet shakeup: Bye-bye benzodiazepines, hello Mother Nature

As I was sitting in my front room this morning, I realized a level of contentment perhaps never before experienced.

I could hear all the birds singing in my maple tree, and nothing but the sound of the wind blowing through the neighborhood’s lush, winding cul de sacs. The air smelled the kind of familiar that brings instant relief.

And I remembered once, being alone in Los Angeles, strung out on crystal meth in the late 1990s. I remembered I was so far gone from who I once was that I could not even smell anything anymore. I could not think, I could not experience joy of any kind.

I remembered I wished I was 5 years old again. I wanted to just skip down the sidewalk like I used to on the way to school, smelling the air after a gentle rain and watching the earthworms slither down the sidewalk. I would hop over both the earthworms and the sidewalk cracks.

And this morning I realized I have all that, and that is my life today. I am proud of who I am and how I live my life. And I thought how insanely profound it is that I live in this house, and that sometimes you really do need to just listen to the universe.

I realized too what a difference a week makes. My outlook was not so rosy on Monday morning.

It’s important not to overdo yourself, and I need to remind myself of that this week and cut back on my workload a bit. But leaving a client behind never is easy, and I wish everyone the best of luck at Vital Updates.

But beyond that, it has been a rough few weeks because I chose to quit my benzodiazepine prescription (Xanax, Ativan) cold turkey. I am now managing breakthrough symptoms of PTSD-related anxiety with Pre 98 Bubba Kush legally purchased at a cannabis dispensary with my Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient card.

Xanax withdrawals include shakes, sweats, irritability

I had heard that quitting benzodiazepines was rough. Boy, I had no idea.

Two years ago, I was on 4 mg of Ativan a day. That’s a pretty massive dose, but anyone who knows me (and who matters) knows my anxiety was off the chains, in large part for very good reasons. The doctor really was left with no choice.

For an entire year, I gave up marijuana after a bad experience. How do bad experiences happen? When people don’t know what they’re getting. This is why it makes perfect sense to regulate medical marijuana and make it legal for those who use it for the medicine it is.

Medical marijuana, or even smoking marijuana casually on the street, is not to be entered into lightly. In the modern cannabis era, there are an endless number of strains available by the sheer method in which they grow it now. You would never walk into a pharmacy and start choosing pills willy-nilly.

Thankfully, Illinois law is very, very strict. The product is fully labeled with THC/CBD percentages. The cannabis consultants at the dispensaries are extremely knowledgeable.

That said, anyone with a card can get anything at the dispensary. It truly helps to understand the potency of the plant and respect it. And I do on both counts!

For me, the relief comes in the form of CBD. CBD is considered a plant’s “medicine,” although THC also has some therapeutic properties. For me, however, too much THC is a really bad thing, as is too much of a Sativa-dominant strain.

I really need to better explain all of this to readers who I am sure are curious. I plan to write more about medical cannabis in the future.

The power of Protandim

At any rate, I am now feeling very, very good after a rough stretch. The withdrawals from quitting the benzodiazepines included sweating, irritability, anxiety, hot flashes…all of it.

One woman in my medical cannabis support group said when she quit the benzos prescribed her for her PTSD, she felt like she was coming off heroin. I told her I looked in the mirror a few times and thought I looked like I was in meth withdrawals.

Not only do I feel good, no doubt the result of finally getting lots of rest, but I’m losing weight. And here’s where I want to mention Protandim.

Protandim, made by LifeVantage, is an Nrf2 activator. Essentially, Nrf2 is a pathway that allows important proteins to get where they need to go in the cells of our bodies. As we get older, these pathways don’t work as well.

I am not one to get into nutritional supplements unless I really believe in them. You might recall I am a fan of turmeric and wrote about that last year. Not surprisingly, Protandim has turmeric in it.

Protandim markets itself as an anti-aging supplement. All I can tell you is that after being on it three weeks I have lost weight, my skin is glowing, I feel good, people say I look good…not sure if it’s the pot or Protandim! Both started the same day, as did total abstinence from the benzodiazepines.

My friend Lori Freemire, who you might remember from her Bettendorf, Iowa days, along with her husband Mike, the former mayor, has been encouraging me to try Protandim. Finally, she sent me a bottle.

Poisonous prescription finally in the past

I used to joke that I was going to become a marijuana activist. Little did I know that the day might come that there never would be a need for that.

We’re not there yet, that’s for sure. And by no means would I call myself an activist.

It cannot be emphasized enough that marijuana must be used responsibly, like all medications. For myself, I cannot smoke anything with high levels of THC and that is sativa dominant. It will make me bounce off the walls.

Marijuana with extremely low levels of THC and high levels of CBD, that are Indica dominant or a hybrid, calm me down and bring me feelings of contentment.

The cannabis card isn’t just about buying weed. There also are edibles available. I have found that one Cresco cherry gummy before bedtime offers a wonderful night of nightmare-free rest.

I’m not sure why I’m feeling so much better, but I’m not going to doubt it, particularly after some major shake-ups in terms of what I’ve been putting into my body.

I like to refer to the benzodiazepines as “the poison.” The only good thing about the benzos was that my insurance company did not even require a co-payment for them. Medical cannabis in Illinois, on the other hand, is not cheap.

Unlike the toxic, addictive benzodiazepines, Protandim, meanwhile, is all natural. In addition to turmeric, which I already am a fan of and wrote about last year, Protandim contains milk thistle (liver health), bacopa (boosts thinking), green tea (powers up metabolism, melts fat) and ashwogandha (used in Indian medicine and catching on in the West).

I’ll buy Protandim for at least another month and let you know how it all goes. Do you have any herbal remedies you think are effective? If so, leave a comment and share it with us!

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Finding fierce banana kush at the corner of Fox and Warner

Fox Cannabis

It has been the talk of my PTSD and Illinois Medical Cannabis Card groups on Facebook: Has anyone tried Banana Kush?

Wouldn’t you know, nobody could find it. But I did! At the corner of Fox and Warner.

The budtender at Fox Cannabis dispensary was delightful. She explained that Banana Kush is quite popular right now among people with PTSD and is of the indica strain, commonly remembered as the “in da couch” strain. You wind up calm, relaxed, and asleep after smoking it.

At any rate, I’m doing backflips over scoring that at the corner of Fox and Warner, just one block from the Quality Inn Cannabis Plaza here in Central Denver.

20170502_152842

I woke up this morning irritated, as often is the case. Right now I seriously could not care less, but this morning I got an email that said a I had a “Google Voice message from a prisoner in the … “ and then it cuts off.

I used the Google Voice account once for a project I was doing for John Deere that required interviewing people in Germany. Who would have that number. I don’t even know what the number is.

I realize these things just happen. But they happen to me all the time. Every day. Internet, phone, nothing ever works. It’s a daily non-stop occurrence for which nobody ever has any explanation.

But to have the Google Voice prisoner thing happen the day after a tour of Sweden was booked on my bank card, lol, well…I was ready for some of that delightful banana kush this morning.

The banana cream pie I just ate was delightful too. I was going to take a picture of it but I forgot and I ate it.

Fox dispensary has PTSD-specific cannabis

So, the dispensary thing is a racket. Some of the ones that look really fancy…the product is nothing special. I am very excited about the Banana Kush I purchased from Fox cannabis center.

Another strain I purchased is called “Hell’s Fire,” which, like “Hell’s Angel,” is used for PTSD breakthrough symptoms. I have been feeling really good and am not sure why I have not yet had a little dance party in my room. I am very disappointed that I forgot to pack my Braven Balance.

So, after I devoured my banana cream pie, I just ordered sirloin tips with mashed and gravy and green beans. Then I’m getting a piece of coconut cream pie to go.

Oh, here it is, just delivered to the table. Marvel:

20170502_194444

So yeah, it’s pretty much Village Inn, pipe hits, blog posts, sleep, etc. this week. Not a bad life, for sure.

My life is so cool it’s ridiculous. Sometimes I don’t even know how to begin to thank God, to tell you the truth. I try to my best each day.