Illegal ass enhancements may be America’s next health epidemic. Find our more in our new documentary Buttloads of Pain.
The Make-A-Kush Foundation: Kids, Cancer, and Medical Marijuana
The way Frankie Wallace tells it, his calling revealed itself in his sleep.
“I had a dream [that] cannabis would cure cancer and many other diseases,” he recalled as his wife, Erin, stood beside him on the back porch of their house.
A few minutes before, the three of us had ducked into the basement of Frankie and Erin’s suburban split-ranch house near Portland, Oregon. We went down there to sample something called Absolute Amber, a potent concentrate Frankie concocted by soaking a batch of his latest crop of medical marijuana in butane and isopropyl alcohol, boiling those liquids away, after which the oily residue was frozen and double-filtered. The resulting product was as close to a pure distillation of THC as a mortal was likely to get.
Frankie lit a blowtorch and held it to a small piece of metal attached to a glass water pipe until it was red-hot. He touched the matchstick-size shard of burnt-sienna-colored hash oil to the metal, and it released dense white smoke that the pipe caught, filtered, and delivered into my body. On exhaling, I felt an astringent tingle pass through my lungs. I sat down and quietly counted to 30. The urge to speak would be great, Frankie had warned, but to do so might send my body into a fit of convulsive coughing. As I looked at Frankie and Erin, their soft smiles appeared to curl up like arabesques in an illuminated manuscript.
Frankie is more than a weed aficionado—he’s a marijuana evangelist, a THC high priest. After his fateful dream, he sold all of the couple’s belongings and moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Erin’s cousin’s garage in Portland, where medical marijuana is legal. They partnered up with another grower and found a house in a nearby suburb, where they now live alongside the two dozen marijuana plants in their garage. They have 12 patients and keep their modest grow operation afloat through donations.
This kind of small business isn’t uncommon in the statured legal-marijuana market of the Pacific Northwest, especially now that “dabbing” is becoming a luxurious but increasingly popular form of ingesting THC and its cohorts. What sets Frankie and Erin apart is that they believe pot can literally cure cancer. And ever since the dream they have been testing their theory on an eight-year-old named Mykayla Comstock.
Your ADHD Meds Might Give You a Life-Threatening Erection
The FDA issued a warning today that a small number of the 5 percent of young boys who have been diagnosed with ADHD are at risk for priapism, aka: boners that won’t go away. Medications that contain methylphenidate can trap blood in the penises of men, and even more distressingly, young boys, who already suffer from the “terrible affliction" of hyperbonerism, which is funny, except when it’s not.
Priapism, named after Priapus, the Greek fertility god pictured above, is most often caused by scarier and more painful conditions like––prepare to wince––kidney stones, hernias, or twisting of the spermatic cord, which can overshadow the severity of a persistent erection. Priapism on it’s own, however, has to be treated or it can cause fertility problems, and, in the worst of cases,gangrene of the penis, which necessitates amputation.
Should the FDA Regulate Sex Toys?
It’s the most wonderful time of year—the time when we jam a bunch of random crap in an oversized sock in hopes that the person we love will sleep with us. Family members aside, nothing quite says I care like sex toys, right? Whether it’s a vibrator for your eternally single roommate or a cock ring for the dude you pork on the reg, sex toys stuff stockings (and other things) in all the right ways.
Except when they’re toxic. Nobody wants anaphylactic shock for Christmas, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates an average of 2,100 sex toy-related emergency room visits a year. Getting off just became pretty high stakes.
On the whole, sex toys hang out in regulatory limbo. The FDA only pays attention to them if they fall under the category of medical devices, which means the tiny handful of vibrators that are presented as therapeutic massagers. It’s the manufacturer’s decision to classify their toys as therapeutic or not, so the majority of vibrators—not to mention all other sex toys—elude the FDA’s gaze.
I Got My Personal Genome Mapped and It Was Bullshit
Last Friday, the FDA forced personal genomics company 23andMe to stop marketing its tests to the public in their current form. Before the order came in, customers would send a spit sample to the firm, who would sequence the DNA and look for genes indicating a risk of up to 254 diseases and conditions, providing a breakdown of any issues.
The FDA cited a lack of supporting evidence for some of the claims made and expressed particularly serious concern over their assessment of the BRCA gene, which is linked to breast cancer, suggesting 23andMe’s tests might result in false positives that could lead to women undergoing traumatic and unnecessary surgery. The FDA’s actions have led to an explosion of opinion across the science blogosphere, but in all of that commentary a big question remains unanswered: What exactly is the point of personal genomics?
My first experience with the industry came about three years ago, when I was offered the chance to have a test done with Navigenics, a firm since taken over by a biotech firm called Life Technologies. Being a curious sort of guy, I jumped at the chance. A sample tube arrived via Fedex a few days later, which I duly spat into and sent back for analysis.
The results came back in the form of a sort of “wall of death”—a breakdown of all the things that might harm or kill me over the coming decades, detailing how likely I am to have each condition. Drilling into the figures, I can see that I have a higher risk of prostate cancer than 95 percent of the population and a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s—twice the average risk. So I’ll probably get cancer, but on the plus side I’ll be too forgetful to care about it.
More and More Veterans Are Smoking Weed to Cure Their PTSD
In America, the relationship between doctors and the hegemonic pharmaceutical industry is fraught with painful, mind-numbing contradiction. There’s no better example of this than in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among US veterans and others around the country. Drugs like Risperdal, an antipsychotic, are said to be no more effective in the treatment of PTSD than a placebo. These drugs are widely distributed to treat the symptoms of PTSD, despite allegations that they’re ineffectual in treatment of the condition.
PTSD is a disorder, characterized by extreme emotional or mental anxiety, often the result of a physical or psychological injury. When confronted with a potentially deadly situation, it’s natural for humans to feel afraid—we’ve developed pretty sophisticated fight-or-flight responses to deal with real or perceived danger. PTSD arises when that response is damaged, and the patient feels stressed or frightened even when he or she is no longer in danger. The disease disproportionately affects soldiers deployed in war zones. Very often they are in situations so dangerous that they develop the condition, and return home as shell-shocked emotional cripples. Veteran’s Affairs claims that today, almost 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, although the number is likely much higher due to lack of diagnosis.
Doctors in British Columbia Can Now Prescribe Heroin
British Columbia, Canada, has had a heroin problem for years. Statistics are hard to come by, but in 2008, a former user described use of the drug in the province as an “epidemic,” and a 2010 BBC story called Vancouver, BC’s largest city, the “Drug Central of North America.” But a new strategy in the fight against addiction and the host of societal problems that come with it is emerging: let doctors prescribe addicts heroin so they get the drug they need without resorting to crime. Studies have shown this approach can help many longtime users, but the Canadian gonvernment wants it shut down.
Prescription heroin is used in some European countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, but it’s been a long time coming to North America. The first Canadian study that tested the effectiveness of giving addicts heroin under the supervision of doctors was the North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI), which started in 2005. It eventually recruited 251 addicts in Vancouver and Montreal who had unsuccessfully attempted to kick smack numerous times. A control group was given methadone, which is commonly prescribed to heroin addicts so they can wean themselves off hard drugs.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, showed that injectable heroin—known in medical-speak as diacetylmorphine—was a far more effective and efficient treatment than methadone in getting users out of the vicious and costly cycle of crime, infection, overdoses, and hospital visits that are a way of life for those in the grips of long-term, hardcore addiction. Compared to those trying to kick heroin using methadone, participants used street drugs less often, committed fewer crimes, and were employed more often, more connected to their families, and straight-up happier. A “cost of illness” analysis from 2000 found that severely addicted individuals can cost society over $43,000 per year, so getting addicts off the streets and into roles as members of productive society is good for all of Canada.
The Confusing, Controversial World of Lyme Disease
Meghan Hilliard didn’t even think about Lyme disease until she was diagnosed with it. Her doctors didn’t mention it either. All the athletic 26-year-old knew was that she felt physically sick and mentally drained. In early 2012, her knee started swelling; by April it was so big it was unrecognizable. She couldn’t use stairs. Busses had to lower their front steps for her to struggle onboard. Any joint movement sent her into what she called a “panic.” Whatever she had affecting her brain, too—she could no longer do basic math, had constant headaches, and couldn’t hold onto objects properly.
Meghan went to her urgent care doctor four times in addition to seeing an orthopedic doctor and a rheumatologist. Despite all of them telling her that her swollen knee was indicative of some sort of infection, nobody knew exactly what was wrong. She found all the doctors to be cold and dismissive. One thought she was looking to get prescription drugs. All of this was made worse by the fact that Meghan doesn’t have health insurance. Five months after her first doctor’s visit, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease and given antibiotics—the rheumatologist discovered it while testing her for lupus.
Lyme is an infectious disease that spreads to humans through tick bites. An early symptom is a bulls-eye-shaped temporary rash that appears around the area of the bite. Not everybody who gets Lyme notices the rash, and some of the other signs of the disease resemble the flu: fatigue, joint pain, chills, and mental confusion.
Drinking Camel Urine in Yemen
People have been consuming camel piss on the Arabian Peninsula for a long, long time. It’s been used by the Bedouin people as a shampoo and medicine for centuries, and it’s part of Muslim tradition as well; the Prophet Mohammed is said to have once told some of his sick followers to drink camel milk and pee “till their bodies became healthy.”
Since the seventh century, Yemenis have been following his advice. Statistics about camel urine use are rare, but if you spend any time in Yemen you’ll find some people, mostly in the countryside, who drink urine as a cure for whatever ails them. Some salons use it as a remedy for hair loss, and it’s even occasionally prescribed by some doctors.
The Government Is Retiring Hundreds of Chimps from Biochemical Research
I hate to paint with a broad brush here, but primates in America have horrible lives. Sure, there are your One Percenters like Koko and Bubbles the Chimp, but by and large, the US is essentially one big Bergen-Belsen for our oldest living ancestors. Some are forced to do parlor tricks for street performers and others are stuck in cages for pasty-skinned families to gawk at, but perhaps the most unlucky of the lot are used as research subjects by the government.
Chimpanzees share about 96 percent of our DNA. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the government is quite partial to that particular primate when looking for test subjects. Recently, the National Institute of Health issued a statement saying that it “plans to substantially reduce the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded biomedical research,” effectively retiring 310 chimpanzees from the system. “Where are all the newly freed chimpanzees going to go?” You might be asking as thoughts of Bedtime for Bonzo dance through your head. Many will be heading to Chimp Haven, a wildlife sanctuary about 20 miles southwest of Shreveport, Louisiana.
At the risk of sounding like a PETA spokesperson, let me quickly give you the CliffsNotes on how Chimp Haven came into being.
As mentioned above, the US is fond of experimenting on chimpanzees, but because they are endangered, the government had to resort to breeding them in captivity beginning in the 1980s in order to produce more live subjects for the study of diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
By the 1990s, technological advancements in the biomedical field spawned new research models that didn’t require chimps. That eventually left the US government with a lot of sick, unwanted great apes on its hands. To help chimpanzees make the transition from working in experimental medicine to retirement, a league of primatologists and other professionals established Chimp Haven in 1995.