Author Archives: Zyp Czyk

About Zyp Czyk

Until I was disabled by the progressive pain and fatigue from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, I was a high tech IT maven at Apple and Yahoo. I live in a rustic cabin in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains just up the hill from Silicon Valley with my wonderfully supportive husband and two 4-legged kids. I use my remaining energy to run an informational blog about "Living with Chronic Pain from EDS & Fibromyalgia". I publish daily updates with selected excerpts of news, research, treatments, tips, support, and personal stories along with my own notes.

Patients Vulnerable to Limits on Opioid Rx

Limits on Opioid Prescribing Leave Patients With Chronic Pain Vulnerable – from Jama – Rita Rubin, MAApril 29, 2019

Thomas Kline, MD, PhD, refers to 22 of his patients as “pain refugees.”

Stable for years taking opioid therapy for chronic pain, these patients sought out Kline—well-known for his advocacy on their behalf on Twitter and elsewhere—because their physicians had abruptly cut their dose or refused to refill a prescription.

They had appealed to multiple physicians for treatment with no success before contacting him, said Kline. Continue reading

The Subtle Arrogance of Good Health

The Subtle Arrogance of Good Health – by Angelika Byczkowski (repost)

Until my physical ailments began worsening rapidly in my late 40’s, I was a high achiever, proud of my “kick ass” attitude, thinking I was so competent I could surmount any challenge life threw at me. Life appeared to be straightforward and I didn’t understand why this didn’t seem to be the case for so many other less fortunate folks.

Though I worked hard for my accomplishments and sometimes struggled, there was never a question of ability, never a doubt I’d prevail if I made enough effort. Looking back now, I can see the consistent achievements that came so easily and so early in life instilled in me a subtle subconscious arrogance.   Continue reading

The Many (Surprising) Health Benefits of Meth

The Many (Surprising) Health Benefits of Methhttps://psmag.com – by Troy Farah – May 2019

Before fentanyl was the demon drug du jour, meth was seen as the worst, most destructive, most evil chemical you could find on the streets.

we’re constantly warned never to try meth—”not even once,” goes the refrain—or it will instantly cause addiction and ruin your life.

Here’s a secret: Meth is an incredible medicine. Some preliminary research suggests that meth can be neuroprotective against stroke and traumatic brain injury, even stimulating the growth of brain cells.

Stimulant-related deaths are indeed on the rise in North America—in some regions, meth is even more prevalent than heroin

Other Americans are prescribed actual, pure meth by their doctors.

It happens less frequently these days, but in ADHD, obesity, or narcolepsy cases where nothing else has worked, a drug called Desoxyn (methamphetamine hydrochloride) can sometimes help. It can even be prescribed to children as young as seven.

Meth didn’t make a “comeback”; it never left.

It can’t return with a “vengeance” and it can’t be “evil” because we’re talking about a chemical compound here. It has no personality, no feelings, no intentions.

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Thus it does a disservice to science and to medicine, as well as to the people who use these drugs responsibly, to treat a molecule with dualistic properties purely as a poison.

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‘It’s Just a Stimulant, Like Any Other Stimulant’

For Jordan*, the meth he’s prescribed works better against his ADHD with fewer side effects than the Adderall he’d been on for 20 years.

Jordan, a middle-aged man from North Carolina who works in clinical research, now switches every three months between Adderall and Desoxyn to prevent building a tolerance to either stimulant.

Jordan says. “I’ve been on the medications for years, but I can take Adderall or methamphetamine and take a nap afterwards. I don’t have any noticeable side effects.”

So can I! I have ADHD and am prescribed a relatively low dose of Adderall. I’ve noticed that I can take a full dose and it seems to make me less frazzled, to the point that I also can fall asleep with it in my system.

Jordan also doesn’t feel “high” from the doses he takes—approximately 10 to 15 milligrams of meth per day.

When I read articles and books by people who have grappled with an addiction to methamphetamine, I’ve always heard about the euphoria and the ability to stay up for days, be super productive and energized.

Not so for me.

I suppose mine is a “paradoxical reaction” (like I have to antihistamines), where it feels like it’s slowing my brain to a speed I can actually follow instead of zipping all over crazily (like a BB in a boxcar).

Part of the reason Jordan asked to try Desoxyn in the first place was to see if he’d develop any of the “stereotypical meth addict problems,” as he puts it. He hasn’t.

For Joan*, a 66-year-old grandmother living off the grid in northern Georgia, Desoxyn makes her feel normal. “Not high, not hyped up, just normal,” she tells me.

But Desoxyn has not only helped her socialize, manage bills, and finish her master’s degree in social work; it’s also helped with Joan’s depression and self-esteem.

“The only downside is the cost,” she says. “It’s one of the oldest drugs on the market, but even generic, it is outrageously expensive.”

How Meth Can Treat Brain Injury—and Much More

Street doses of meth can be extremely damaging to your health. The purity of such drugs is often unknown, and repeated, high doses of meth have been proven to be neurotoxic.

But in low, pharmaceutical-grade doses, meth may actually repair and protect the brain in certain circumstances.

This was first discovered in 2008, when researchers at Queen’s Medical Center Neuroscience Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii, unexpectedly found that patients who tested positive for methamphetamine were significantly less likely to die from the injuries.

To learn more, in 2011, a different team from the University of Montana applied meth to slices of rat brain that had been damaged to resemble the brains of stroke victims

  • At low doses, the meth gave better behavioral outcomes and even reduced brain-cell death.
  • At high doses, the meth made outcomes worse.

Because meth stimulates the flow of important neurotransmitters

  • dopamine,
  • serotonin, and
  • norepinephrine

—the Montana researchers theorized that methamphetamine may provide neuroprotection through multiple pathways.

To test the proposition, Poulsen and colleagues gave TBI to rats. The rats given meth performed better at a task called the Morris water maze,

But the team also found that low doses of meth were protecting immature neurons, while also promoting the birth of new brain cells that are important for learning and memory. The same was also true for rats that were given meth, but not injured.

a wide variety of stimulant therapies for TBI is being explored, with positive results. These include trials with

  • modafinil, a narcolepsy drug;
  • amantadine, a Parkinson’s drug; and
  • dextroamphetamine, one of the components of Adderall.

Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, seems to be the stimulant most popular in these trials. For example, in 2004, researchers at Drucker Brain Injury Center at MossRehab Hospital in Pennsylvania gave methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin, to 34 patients with moderate to severe TBI. They reported significant improvements in information processing and attention.

Twelve years later, in Gothenburg, Sweden, another 30 patients suffering from prolonged fatigue following TBI were given methylphenidate and observed for six months. They also showed improved cognitive function and reduced fatigue.

But the reason meth isn’t studied more rigorously—for TBI, for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for stroke—could also come down to money. Methamphetamine is off-patent, meaning there may be less financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to explore the drug’s potential uses.

While Methamphetamine may not be widely recognized as medicine, it clearly has potential to heal as well as harm.

Recognizing the duality of meth is arguably all the more essential in the face of a rising stimulant overdose crisis.

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“Stigma regarding any substance use or substance use disorder is counterproductive,” says Dan Ciccarone, professor of family medicine at the University of California–San Francisco

“Everything will kill you, if you take enough of it,”

Yes, this is even true of water: Hyponatremia

Poulsen says. “Some things don’t require a lot to do that. Meth is one of those things. But just like any drug, the difference between a poison and a cure is the dose.

Can Pain Be Used to Treat Pain?

Can Pain Be Used to Treat Pain? — Pain News Network – By Jeanne McArdle – Apr 2019

“Can you cure pain with more pain?” was the provocative question posed last month by National Public Radio’s Invisibilia podcast, “The Fifth Vital Sign.”

The show features the story of Devyn, a 16-year old former gymnast living with chronic pain.

Devyn broke the end of her thighbone and required surgery, but the injury never fully healed and her pain was spreading.   Continue reading

Scientists Partially Revive Disembodied Pig Brains

Scientists Partially Revive Disembodied Pig Brains, Raising Huge Questions – gizmodo.comby George Dvorsky – Apr 2019

Researchers from Yale have developed a system capable of restoring some functionality to the brains of decapitated pigs for at least 10 hours after death.

Developed by neuroscientist Nenad Sestan and his colleagues from Yale University, the system was shown to restore circulation and some cellular functionality to intact pig brains removed from the skull.

The brains were hooked up to the system, known as BrainEx, four hours after death was declared and after severe oxygen starvation, or anoxia, had set in.   Continue reading

Not All Pain Is the Same: Extent of High-Impact Chronic Pain

Not All Pain Is the Same: Characterizing the Extent of High-Impact Chronic Painpainresearchforum.org – Epidemiological findings highlight the need for patient-centered care –  by Stephani Sutherland – Apr 2019

Chronic pain exacts a huge toll on patients, healthcare systems, and the economy. But the way that chronic pain is typically defined—by how long it lasts—provides little information about

  1. the people suffering from chronic pain,
  2. the degree to which they are affected, and
  3. how to best treat them.

These days, chronic pain seems defined mostly by how many milligrams of an opioid need to be taken to make it bearable. The patient’s specific condition is considered irrelevant.

This is a sad side effect of medical pain: because it is only perceptible to the patient suffering from it, the easily accessible numerical measure of medication is used instead (scientific laziness, bordering on fraud).  Continue reading

Opioid Treatment Programs to Provide Suicide Care

Opioid Treatment Programs Gear Up to Provide Suicide Careby Christine Vestal– Apr 2019

It’s long been suspected that the nation’s unprecedented drug overdose epidemic and sharply rising suicide rates are linked.

Now health researchers are finding concrete evidence that the two preventable causes of death — which are among the top 10 in the United States — are intrinsically related:

  • People with an opioid addiction are at much higher risk for suicide than the rest of the population; and
  • opioid use was a contributing factor in more than 40% of all suicide and overdose deaths in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Note: this identifies opioids only as *contributing* to overdose deaths]    Continue reading

Is the DEA Overreaching Its Authority?

Is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Overreaching Its Authority? – 4th May, 2019 – By Lynn Webster, M.D. – (This article, in a slightly edited form, first appeared on Pain News Network on May 5, 2019.)

Why Is the DOJ Conducting Criminal Investigations?

This is an excellent question because:

Medical practice is regulated by the states,
not the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) does not have the authority to determine which health care activities constitute a “legitimate medical purpose under Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations.   Continue reading

Neurobiology and Neurophysiology of Breath

Neurobiology and Neurophysiology of Breath Practices in Psychiatric Care | Psychiatric Times – by Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD and Richard P. Brown, MD – Nov 30, 2016

Because the physical act of breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, it has a powerful effect on our whole nervous system.

Autonomic nervous system dysfunction is associated with most disorders seen in pediatric and adult psychiatric practice, including anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, hostility and aggression, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorder.

Increasing the underactivity of the parasympathetic branch and correcting the erratic or overactivity of the sympathetic branch can improve stress resilience and ameliorate psychological and physical symptoms.    Continue reading

Opioid Overreaction

Opioid OverreactionNYTimes.com – By David Leonhardt –  Mar 2019

I’m encouraged to see this very reasonable article in the New York Times, which has previously published some anti-opioid pieces of questionable accuracy. 

Some Americans suffering from chronic pain have recently lost access to medicines that helped them live normal lives.

Other patients have had to turn to invasive and dangerous treatments, like spinal injections. Continue reading