Sunday, November 16, 2014

Q&A: Does Marijuana Really Cause Brain Shrinkage?


Hi mary!  Can you tell me more about this study?  I was under the impression that weed was a harmless plant but this is worrying.  I smoke daily for my MS and would rather my brain not shrink!!  I don't smoke to get high and never have.  Ive seen conflicting info.... ppl saying it is/isn't true.  Help!



Ah, yes.  That study.  If you read beyond the headlines (which many people don't), you'll see that the study is far from conclusive.  To quote the LA Times:

"...the authors of the study acknowledge that they cannot discern whether a pot smoker's smaller orbital frontal cortex is the cause or the result of chronic marijuana use."

Yeah.  Basically, we don't know if the shrunken brains were shrunken before cannabis use.  There's a real possibility that a pre-existing reduction in gray matter could make a person more prone to abuse cannabis, not the other way around.  Unfortunately, we just don't understand the relationship at this time.

Nailing down a singular cause of ANY brain malady is nearly impossible due to all the variables in a person's life.  Does the subject use other substances?  Did they experience childhood trauma?  Lead toxicity?  Head injury?  Drug exposure in the womb?  As with most studies of this kind, the results raise more questions than answers.

As for cannabis being a "harmless plant," not so fast.  Marijuana contains the powerful drug THC, which can have unpleasant side effects in large amounts or in naive users.  Plenty of plants and herbs can kill you, so the idea that natural = safe is deeply flawed.  Still, marijuana has never killed anyone directly, making it safer than the vast majority of drugs including aspirin (which kills about 1,000 people annually).  It's all about weighing the risks and benefits.  If pot helps control your MS, I'd say it's definitely the lesser of two evils. 

Also, try not to worry so much!  Stress can trigger flare-ups of autoimmune diseases like MS.


Mary Microgram

Saturday, November 1, 2014

ALKS-5461: A Novel Antidepressant

Opiates have long been known to alleviate anxiety and depression with one small caveat:  the risk of life-ruining addiction.  One theory of depression is that it's caused by a dysfunctional endorphin system.  Now that theory is being put to good use.  Enter ALKS-5461, the latest antidepressant in the pipeline.  ALKS-5461 contains buprenorphine--a component of the addiction drug Suboxone--and samidorphan, an opioid blocker.

Buprenorphine stimulates the mu opioid receptor--you know, the one that produces insane euphoria and drug-seeking behavior--while blocking the kappa receptor.  Drugs that agonize the kappa opioid receptor like salvia are known to trigger dysphoria and feelings of intense fear, so it makes sense that blocking this nasty receptor would alleviate those feelings for some people.  Meanwhile, samidorphan blocks buprenorphine's effect on the mu receptor, thus removing its addictive potential.

The drug was so effective in clinical trials that it was granted fast-track designation by the FDA.  Despite its potential, ALKS-5461 is not a cure and could carry side effects of its own.  It is intended as a second-line (or third-line) treatment for patients whose depression is not helped by mainstream medications.  And if you're looking for a cheap high, look elsewhere.  This is not a "fun" drug by a long shot.  However, those of us with treatment-resistant depression should rejoice at the possibility of a new treatment option on the horizon.

ALKS-5461 is expected to hit the market in 2016.         

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Crack Babies: A Tale From the Drug Wars

During the mid-1980s, reports of a new killer drug called "crack" took the public by storm.  In the beginning, crack was purely an inner city problem affecting a minority of low-income residents in LA, Chicago and other major cities.  By the time the media was finished, every child from Orange County to the hills of Appalachia knew about the $5 rock that could get you sky high.

Perhaps nothing tugged at our heartstrings more than crack babies.  Even the staunchest legalization proponents agreed that these babies were victims of something they did not sign up for.  These poor, underweight souls would shake violently and were expected to suffer extreme intellectual setbacks in the future.  In fact, an entire generation was dubbed "the generation lost to crack".

This 10-minute report puts the nail in the coffin of the crack baby myth.  Prepare to un-learn everything you thought you knew about "hard drugs".  

The crack baby scare is yet another example of lawmakers using "save the children" scare tactics to justify trampling the rights of consenting adult citizens.  It's Reefer Madness, '80s style. 

If you get nothing else from this report, remember this:  whether it's marijuana, crack or bath salts, the media cannot be trusted to tell the truth about drugs.    

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Q&A: Helping Vs. Enabling

QuestionMy son is in jail for repercussions of his opiate abuse. any suggestions on how I can help him when he gets out?  I personally Don't like the word 'enable'.  what's a mother to do?

~ Anonymous

Answer:  Let me begin by saying I'm not an addiction specialist, so please continue to seek advice from a professional in that arena.   

Addiction is a family disease.  Consider entering a rehab program for loved ones of addicts, such as the Betty Ford Center.  If that's not possible, try to attend some form of counseling regularly, preferably with an addiction-literate psychologist or counselor.  Talk therapy can help you form a more functional relationship with your son while providing emotional support for you.   

It's a very fine line between helping and enabling, especially for a parent.  The goal is to love him without loving him to death.  Here's a short list of Do's and Don'ts to get you started:

Listen and be there physically when he needs to talk.  "Listen" is the key word.  Avoid judgmental statements or unsolicited advice.  Sometimes people just need to vent and feel heard.  Physical affection is good too.  A gentle embrace or pat on the back goes a long way. 

Invade his privacy, make accusations or force your ideals/opinions on him.  He's an adult who must make his own decisions and deal with their consequences.  (Within reason, of course.  If he violates any of your major boundaries, you must follow through with swift consequences each time.  Only you can decide what those are). 

Be positive about his recovery and encourage healthy hobbies.  Support him in whatever rehabilitation program he chooses, even if it's just outpatient meetings or online support groups.

Provide financial help of any kind while he's still using.  Again, he's an adult who should be supporting himself financially, though it might take a while to get on his feet after prison.  Addicts have no motivation to stay sober if they're living comfortably on someone else's dime.  It has to be his decision to get clean, but you can influence it by removing the luxuries of the lifestyle.
Focus on your own health and happiness.  Make time for relaxing activities that don't involve your son.  You can't let his disease rob you of your life.  This is one of the hardest aspects of loving an addict, but remember:  you can't help anyone else if you're not healthy yourself.   

Lose hope if he relapses.  Relapse is a normal part of recovery for most addicts.  Just make sure he's educated on harm reduction practices to decrease his chances of dying.  (For instance: taking the same dose of drugs as before can lead to overdose after a period of abstinence). is a great place to start. 

Hope that helps!  Best of luck to you and your son.

~ Mary Microgram

Sunday, August 18, 2013

5 Herbal Highs That Actually Work

Plant drugs, also known as entheogens, have been used since the dawn of man to alter consciousness.  One major misconception is that plant drugs are somehow "weak" or "bunk" compared to synthetics.  The opposite belief--that plant drugs are "natural" and therefore "safe"--is equally flawed.

In truth, plant drugs can be powerful allies or toxic foes.  Or totally bunk.  You just have to know which ones are worth the effort.   Here's a list of herbal highs that definitely work:

Coca (Classification:  Stimulant)

     Erythroxylum, better known as the coca plant, is a tasty treat with a high nutritional content and numerous medicinal properties.  It also happens to be the source of a little drug known as cocaine.  In its natural state, the coca leaf provides a gentle energy burst similar to that of caffeine (only without the jitters and crash).  By comparison, it's less potent than yerba mate, espresso or any of the energy drinks in your grocer's freezer, yet it's a tightly controlled Schedule II substance.  Despite its dubious legal status, coca can be purchased online easily.  It may be consumed as a tea or chewed in a "quid" with a pinch of baking soda for its psychoactive effects. 

Kava (Classification:  Sedative)

     Kava is an exotic entheogen popular in Fiji and other Pacific islands.  It produces a state of intoxication somewhat similar to alcohol and is highly sedating at higher doses.  This makes it useful for anxiety, insomnia and other conditions involving over-stimulation of the mind.  There have been instances of severe liver damage with a few specific brands of kava.  While those appear to be isolated cases, there is some evidence that kava can be hard on the liver in general.  It's best to avoid it if you drink frequently, take acetaminophen regularly or have liver disease. 

Kratom (Classification:  Opiate)

     While not a true opiate, Mitragyna speciosa (a.k.a. kratom) is a leaf that works on opioid receptors in the brain to produce similar effects.  In low doses it acts as a stimulant while higher doses produce a sedative effect.  Kratom comes in many strains and forms, such as White-Vein Sumatra and Red-Vein Indo.  Its effects can be compared to codeine or hydrocodone in potency and duration.  Like other opiates, kratom can be physically addictive when overused. 

Salvia (Classification:  Hallucinogen)

     For anyone doubting the power of plant drugs, I have two words: salvia divinorum.  Youtube is teeming with freakout videos of people under its mighty influence.  Whether it's an enjoyable experience is up for debate.  When smoked in its whole leaf state, it produces powerful short-lasting visual hallucinations.  Many of the "freakouts" result from the more potent extracts (20x, 40x, 80x, etc).  Salvia can also be used orally like chewing tobacco for a milder experience. 

San Pedro cactus (Classification: Hallucinogen)

     Like its illegal cousin peyote, the San Pedro cactus contains mescaline, a powerful phenethylamine.  Its effects include powerful closed-eye visuals, physical stimulation and feelings of empathy/euphoria.  The main drawback is the preparation process, which can be time-consuming depending on which method you choose.  Also:  the taste and texture are gag-inducing, with a bitter/slimy quality akin to...well, nothing you've tasted before.  Nausea is a common side effect regardless of how it's prepared.  With effects lasting between 10 and 14 hours, San Pedro gives more bang for your buck than many other herbal highs.  It has several psychedelic cousins, including Peruvian Torch and Cardon Grande. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dirty Pictures (Shulgin Documentary)

Below is a link to Dirty Pictures, the new Ann & Sasha Shulgin documentary.  Please support these lovely people by donating or buying the DVD.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Walmart: The Walmart of Meth

World's Dumbest Criminals will have to fight for this one....

It's a chilly Sunday afternoon.  Like so many other Bible Belt dwellers, 45-year-old Wal-Mart shopper Alisha Halfmoon is milling through the aisles of her favorite hangout when she begins taking products from the shelves and building a makeshift meth lab...inside the fucking store.

According to KJRH:

"She's been arrested before for the manufacture of methamphetamine. While speaking with some of the firefighters on the scene she made statements that that's what she was doing that she was attempting to obtain these chemicals and was in the process of trying to manufacture methamphetamine. However she said that she was not very good at it," said police officer David Shelby.

You can say that again.

If this isn't proof positive that meth causes brain damage, nothing is.   Mary would run around Wal-Mart stark-ass naked with cowbells tied to her nipples before she would attempt to set up a meth lab in a public venue.  Not only is it illegal, it's downright tacky.  Was this lady raised in a BARN or something?! 


Reference: Woman Arrested After Trying to Make Meth Inside S. Tulsa Walmart