Marijuana Prohibition and Law Enforcement Officers: Effective Medicine & Alternative to Alcohol As Stress Reliever, Denied.

There’s a raucous row in New York City right now about a police sergeant assigned to Gracie Mansion failing a drug test for pot and claiming that the sample was accidentally snipped from her weave and not her own locks. Later, a DNA test refuted this claim.

Sgt. Tracy Gittens emphatically stated, “I do not do drugs.” Could the test have shown a false positive if the sergeant had merely been around sufficient clouds of secondhand cannabis smoke? Do we even have the research to disprove her claim?

"Nubian Badassery" photo credit: carlos newsome

“Nubian Badassery” photo credit: carlos newsome

After all, in New York City, marijuana is decriminalized, and it is possible that the law enforcement officer in question had been at someone’s home, maybe a barbecue, out at a bar or elsewhere, where marijuana smoke was billowing in great pungent mini-cumulus clouds from those around her.

It’s not quite so uncommon a scent and scene, even among friends and family of police officers in New York City. Cannabis isn’t heroin, seriously.  Should law enforcement officers not socialize, for fear that marijuana may show up in a drug screening merely because they inhaled some secondhand smoke, far less than would even have a noticeable effect?

"Storm Approaching NYC" image credit: Andrew Dallos.

“Storm Approaching NYC” image credit: Andrew Dallos.

What if the officer had walked into an apartment where a suspect had just “puffed a blunt?” Or, if her mother, whom she provides care to, is a valid medical-marijuana recipient in New Jersey, where cannabis may be legally smoked as medicine? Those scenarios may also produce false positives in the future, for other LEOs. Beware!

Medical Marijuana is legal in New Jersey, New York, and in more than half of US states, while decriminalization is also fairly widespread, and growing steadily with time. Each state has its own rules and regulations, to be sure. While this is true, there’s an unlikely paradox, as the plant is still a Federally Controlled Substance, Schedule I, with no acknowledged medical use.

Of course, anecdotal accounts, as well as many recent studies, suggest otherwise. At this point in the evolution of our understanding of marijuana’s cannabinoid phytochemical activity, it’s highly likely that the US government will one day (soon) update this scheduling in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary. Keeping things as they are just empowers and enriches the cartels, and cooler heads will prevail and see this is a poor plan.

Is cannabis a healthier recreational choice than alcohol? Research suggests this may well be so, as cannabis is a neuroprotectant, rather than a neurotoxin, like alcohol. (Cannabis actually protects your brain cells, although it has a reputation for killing them!) And, it holds a myriad of other potential health benefits, rather than health hazards, like alcohol consumption does. Even so, the fact remains: it’s illegal. Of course, police officers are going to gravitate toward the legal alternatives when it concerns their own personal choice of mind alterants.

Medical Cannabis Growing Operation in Oakland, California. image credit: Rusty Blazenhoff

Medical Cannabis Growing Operation in Oakland, California. image credit: Rusty Blazenhoff

Policing is a high stress job. Many of my relatives have served in this profession since before I was born and I’ve witnessed firsthand the toll police work takes on the individual and the stress it can place on a family.  These are just some of the sacrifices made.

It’s normal to seek relaxation during off-hours; many cops enjoy drinking as a social activity among their friends and fellow police officers. However, alcoholism and “problem drinking” behaviors among police officers is high, attributable to the high-stress nature of the job, as well as social factors.  While alcohol is an effective social glue, it can also cause problems with health, personal relationships, and even job performance.

Communications Division, New York Police Department. image credit: André Gustavo Stumpf

Communications Division, New York Police Department.
image credit: André Gustavo Stumpf

What about the law enforcement officers who might rather try eating a cannabis-infused cookie than drinking whiskey after work? Realistically, the risks are just too numerous. However, we’re not talking at all about health risks. A positive random drug test could mean real problems for a police officer, like disciplinary action or worse. Therefore law enforcement officers cannot consume cannabis, even if it’s medically necessary.

Marijuana produces fat-soluble by-products that stay in the body for up to a month. This is, by far, longer than any other controlled substance, most of which filter out of the blood in mere days. At the very least, all municipal workers should be permitted to use medical marijuana if a physician prescribes it; of course, this still leaves alcohol as the only real choice, when it comes to non-medical social use.

Cookies. Oliver Laudmann

image credit: Oliver Laudmann

Is this a good thing? Would rates of alcoholism fall if drug testing for cannabis were abolished? Anyone old enough can tell tales of how the private sector, as well as many jobs serving the public, began drug testing in the 1980s. I’ve heard many such stories, from people who worked at all sorts of occupations.

Some more resourceful  people devised crazy schemes to pass the tests, from adulterating the sample with salt to render the test ineffective, to using prosthetic simulated body parts attached to a hidden bag of urine, substituting “clean” urine from their drug-averse sister taped to the abdomen to keep the fluid warm, once companies caught on and began making sure nothing shady was going on and started watching employees pee.

Many more people likely decided the risk-to-reward ratio was not worth the effort and shifted from consuming cannabis and alcohol to strictly using alcohol. While this surely helped the bottom line of liquor companies throughout the land, it’s doubtful that this had any tangible benefit to the worker or hiring body, as alcohol has worse degenerative effects on health and society than marijuana, by far. At the very least, alcohol can be lethal in sufficient quantity, while cannabis cannot ever be lethal, regardless of dose.

Whiskey. image credit: Scott

Whiskey. image credit: Scott

Presently, some companies in states where cannabis is now legal for medicinal and/or recreational use, are discontinuing drug testing for marijuana, with 66% testing for cannabiniods, down from 77% the prior year in Colorado, one such state.  Do we really care if a bureaucrat at some digital service company avoids smoking a joint every Friday night while watching TV and instead has a Michelob? Or, that the Customer Care manager at that big media concern on main street stops eating weed brownies before going out to the movies, instead bringing the good old flask of whiskey to get the job done?

Do you think in the short or the long term, this will help the employee or the company or the consumer, in any way? Not to mention, it seems weird to even care what employees do on their weekends, let alone have the employee undergo the demeaning and weird experience of not only having to submit a urine sample, but being watched the entire time, as well. Creepy!

In summary, what could be said now is what could be said always. While Sergeant Gittens stated that she did not use drugs, what she really meant was that she does not use illegal drugs. More than likely, she drinks alcohol socially, maybe even nurses a few cups of coffee each harrowing day. These other substances are, in fact, drugs. Some might even be inclined to include refined sugar in the group.

"Into The Back" image credit: Halahmoon

“Into The Back”
image credit: Halahmoon

Either way, our societal concepts of what constitutes a “drug” and what drugs should be permitted and forbidden, should reflect science, namely anthropology and sociology, as well as psychology, pharmacology, and real data from sound medical studies covering all medical aspects. Only then will we have a culture where we understand that not all drugs are illegal, and not all legal drugs as risk-free.

Of course, drugs classified as legal should include substances that pose little to no risk to the user or society, the decision whether to prohibit uninfluenced by historical innuendo, racism, or classism, as these have no place in America.  Nor should any sort of prohibition serve to benefit as a boon to alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical concerns, or any other financial entities, at the expense of our citizens’ free choices, as well as the sound judgement of their physicians.

Authored by D Alban. © Copyright 2018 D ALBAN, H MILLER.

Posted in Alternative Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Heroin Crisis, Medical Marijuana, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYC Mayor and New York State Governor Declare *WAR* On Single-Use Plastic Bags!

"Where Your Crap Goes"

“Where Your Crap Goes” photo credit: Alan Levine

In case you haven’t heard, the big issue sweeping NYC and the entire state of New York is whether plastic bags should be banned. According to Mayor DeBlasio, ““We need to ban plastic bags — the time for debate on this is over. They’re bad for the environment, they’re bad for the economy, they’re bad for New York.”

While all of us are undoubtedly aware of the damaging effects of negligent stewardship of the natural environment, not all of us agree that plastic bags are the scourge they’re presented as lately by our elected officials.

Single-use plastic bags are anything but. The intelligent and resourceful residents of New York, New Jersey, and likely well beyond, use these “throwaway” bags for everything from scooping up their dogs’ poop to placing their own kitchen and bathroom trash in.

Plastic bags can be doubled for strength and brought to work, the beach, anywhere really. True; it’s not the most elegant solution to toting your stuff around, but when you need a few bags to bring used books back to the paperback trader, single-use plastic bags work quite well.

Refuse at Landfill

Refuse at Landfill image credit: Dmitri_66

Most often, we hear environmental crusaders nudging us toward carrying a re-usable shopping bag. That may work for some single twentysomething urban dwellers who make frequent trips to the grocery store to get a few crucial items for the day, but what about Moms who shop once a week for a family of six?

Should they bring twelve re-usable shopping bags along? What if they need more groceries than they have re-usable bags to hold? Should they then be penalized with an economic sanction of a bag fee for store-supplied bags for the remainder of their purchased items? This seems unfair and unreasonable.

In 2011, a collaborative research effort between the Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona,  Loma Linda University School of Public health,  and the Department of Environmental Health of Loma Linda, California, conducted a study focusing on whether reusable bags pose any significant threat to consumers, in terms of cross-contamination potential for food.


image credit: Sbak Pksa

The results are indisputable; using a re-usable bag can be hazardous to your health, and the health of your loved ones. The researchers found that most people do not wash their re-usable grocery bags, and large bacterial colonies were cultured from almost every single bag! Escherichia coli (E. coli) was found in nearly ten percent of the bags, as well as “a wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens.”

Of course, the researchers also tested whether cleaning, either with a washing machine or by hand, would affect the rate of bacteria lurking in the re-usable shopping bags. In fact, cleaning removed >99.9% of bacteria from the bags. So the conclusion of this is, as practiced, that the environmentally-conscious habit of carrying one’s own re-usable shopping bag, without washing between uses, can actually be detrimental to one’s own personal environment and health, as well as the health of one’s family! Far too often, this trend predominates when it concerns efforts to make less of an impact on the environment.

E. coli Bacteria Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.

E. coli Bacteria
“Multi-Hue Colorized” scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.
image credit: AIAID, color enhanced by Dee Alban

One other such example of instances when environmentally-friendly meant no-so-personally-friendly was the replacement of ozone-killing room freshener sprays, so common in the 1980s, with plug-ins; while better for the environment, these next-generation scent bombs may not be so great for YOU.

And, another easily cited example could be the widespread use of fluorescent light bulbs. These could leak mercury into your personal environment, but they do not consume as much electricity to operate as incandescent bulbs, which did not contain the hazardous liquid metal.

Little Grocery Shop

Little Grocery Shop
image credit: 1sock

Measures to make life more ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable should be reasonable and well-considered. Single-use shopping bags are seldom used once; re-usable shopping bags may, in fact, spread disease. These are the true facts, unpoliticized.

A bag fee will burden the lowest economic classes, the working poor and those families struggling to make ends meet. Even if food program recipients are permitted to take and use disposable bags free of charge, there are still many citizens comprising the socio-economic classes just above those on public assistance,  struggling to save every dollar every week in order to feed their families. Bag fees would adversely affect the disadvantaged who may not have quite enough extra to ever purchase re-usable bags.

There are other considerations as well. One isn’t always going to the market as a planned event; there are such times that spontaneity arises and an unplanned trip happens, even on foot. Why penalize citizens monetarily for getting some exercise? No person is going to always carry a grocery bag on their person; it’s unreasonable to expect this.

A better solution is encouraging large chain stores to require plastic bags that are bio-degradable, or even better, compostable bags.  New York State, the State of New Jersey, or any city or town, anywhere in the US,  for that matter, could also impose fees on companies choosing to continue using non-environmentally-friendly bags.

EnviGreen Compostable Plastic Bags

Ashwath Hegde and his EnviGreen Compostable Plastic Bags

In India, plastic bags were banned in several cities. Ashwath Hegde, a Mangalore-born entrepreneur states, ““The Mangalore City Corporation implemented a ban on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of plastic bags in the year 2012. But the decision was taken without preparations for alternatives. People were concerned about how they would carry products from the market now. Everyone cannot afford a bag worth Rs. 5 or Rs. 15 to carry a kilogram of sugar. I decided to come up with alternatives after hearing about these problems in my hometown.”

The results of his efforts were the creation of 100% natural and organic plastic bags, free of any chemicals. The EnviGreen bags are, in fact, comprised of natural starch from potatoes and corn and vegetable oil derivatives, a total of twelve ingredients, also including  tapioca, banana, and flower oil. Sounds delicious!

These bags are, in fact,  edible (though not suggested); they dissolve in boiling water in under a minute; outdoors, they break down in half-a-year. And, the cost is only fifty percent higher than the standard single-use

Compostable Plastic Bag

Compostable Plastic Bag

plastic bags that were commonly used before the ban.

It’s time we look into alternatives, surely; however, leaving multiple options for businesses and consumers alike may be the best choice for all.  Imposing fines and fees on a necessity that most of us rely on is unfair and unnecessary; there are alternatives, clearly.

D Alban, Author. © Copyright 2018 D Alban, H Miller,

Posted in Alternative Health, Child Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drug Injection Sites: Communities Cry “NIMBY” While People OD and DIE on MY Block

Recently, the idea of state-approved injection centers where people addicted to heroin may “shoot up” in a safe environment was proposed for further review in New York City. While heroin use is not in any way a social good, such facilities might help tremendously in the war against opiate addiction and drug cartels, at the very least.

This issue is so important to contemporary American society that we must look beyond our personal politics to band together as a society to explore and fund research into viable solutions to the social health crisis, and the answer may well be a medley of ideas from diverse sources, including drug interdiction, medicalizing the opiate drug crisis, as well as enhancing border patrols.

In 2016, over 50,000 deaths were reported as having been caused by opiate overdose. And now, Naloxone,  a nasal spray that can reverse overdoses by blocking the drug’s effects, is certainly lowering the death toll, but also hiding the true cost of the epidemic, in many cases just postponing the inevitable for addicted persons.

Syringe by ZaldyImg

Safe Injection Zones Are Already Up and Running in Europe and Canada.
Image Credit: Syringe by ZaldyImg

While my community feigns shock at the idea of safe injection sites, needles line the gutters of most neighborhoods in my town of a half million people. Even the areas with smartly designed custom mega-homes with neatly manicured lawns and shrubbery on  quiet tree-lined streets  are suffering in this same exact way; it’s an epidemic that crosses socio-economic, ethnic, and racial lines.

Europe, the land many Americans can claim at least some ancestors hail from, (including many Black folks – these days genetic testing is revealing this for so many people) is no stranger to what are referred to on that side of the Atlantic drily as “drug consumption rooms.” There’s no way to get confused about what goes on in there; it’s about as unglamorous a name as could be devised, apparently.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug-Addiction, such facilities have been successfully operating in Europe for over three decades. The safe spaces aren’t there to let users consume drugs with abandon; rather, there are many important community-aiding functions, which may be quantified and tracked, in terms of results and success.  Harm-reduction policies are tested and the data is there: These systems, when carefully implemented, do work to bring down the death-tolls, at the very least.

Needles by Cat Branchman

Needles by Cat Branchman

Having sanctioned areas for addicts to use their drugs in a medical setting sends “the wrong message” to our youth, claim opponents. With supervised injection centers, society is actually medicalizing a longstanding, festering social ill that presently has no end in sight.

Past criminalization of opiate addicts’ behavior of buying and using drugs by our society decades ago was sensible, but had the additional side-effect of sending this population scurrying further underground. This, compounded with the very real fact that many drug addicts stole and committed other crimes to get cash to buy chemicals, and authorities could do little to help.

Today, I witnessed firsthand as the police raided and shut down a “heroin house” on my block. Sadly, in the last few years, two individuals died in that same house, only five doors down, both succumbing to heroin overdose.

Beyond that, the police and ambulances had been on the block regularly to administer “saves’ with Naloxone. Right now, kids (and people of all ages, if you check the obituaries) are using heroin all over my town. Why do the children living on my block have to see two bodies being brought out in bags? What message is this sending? Surely, kids see that drug use is ultimately fatal, and maybe such scary images are, in fact, a good reinforcement in the long-term, but consider the trauma such scenes could bring to the soul of a ten year old.

Heroin Graffiti by Duncan C

Heroin Graffiti by Duncan C

Intravenous opiate drug use, and its associated ills, belong in a medical setting, where addiction and overdose can be addressed by professionals there for this express purpose. There could even be opiate purity testing for drugs that addicts buy elsewhere and bring into the center to have tested. If the ultimate goal is harm reduction and lowering of death tolls, then there may be no other way.

Every time an addict enters a safe “shooting gallery” in a hospital or medical building, they

Protester with NIMBY Sign

Protester with NIMBY Sign

have the chance to get help with their addiction. If asked each and every time they got high if this would be the day they wanted to stop the horrible cycle, help would only be an affirmative response away, a simple nod of the head or meek uttering of a faint whisper, a monosyllabic, “Yes!” Communities are up in arms, with the “Not In My Backyard!” chant growing louder by the week. Are we also opposed to methadone clinics? If so, I have bad news for you: Chances are, they’re already in your backyard, have been for years, and you probably haven’t even noticed.

The complaints that legal safe spaces for opiate addicts will bring drug dealers to the area are likely unfounded, as methadone clinics, the best example we an use that exists today,  are probably not hot-spots for illicit drug activity in most places, though opponents may have a valid point because we just don’t know yet. However, remain mindful of the fact that the medical professionals at a legal heroin-use zone or methadone clinic would quickly call the authorities if anything illegal happens to be observed outside. If we’re unsure, why not assign police to the area? The “shooting areas” and methadone clinics will be the safest places in town, without a doubt.

Medical professionals are in no way there to foster or encourage drug abuse, only minimize it’s harmful effects on the individual and society. Another key role, besides being a fast route for addicted persons seeking immediate help, would be the dissemination of factual information. Pamphlets, business cards, and a small library pertaining strictly to all aspects of opiates, from law to health issues, would permit users a chance to learn more about the pharmacology of their addiction, as well as the bodily harms that eventually come with continual use of the drug.

Clean needles can also be provided; again, this is not to encourage drug use, but to rather decrease collateral damage to the individual and society, by keeping HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne pathogens that love needle-sharing at bay. Large cities across the US have already been doing this for decades, with positive results, in terms of helping keep disease from spreading among the IV-drug-using population.

Dave Conner Northern Constabulary

The police have the tools and training necessary to keep out public spaces safe. Image Credit: Dave Conner
Northern Constabulary

Today on my street, the brave police officers walked into a house that could have been a very unsafe experience for them. There’s always a place for interdiction, of course, but this may not solve the entirety of the problem as easily or quickly as dealing with this as a public health crisis, firstly, and crime scene, secondly.

The police, as our society is now structured, are often the last line an opiate addict crosses before death; carrying the lifesaver Naloxone, law enforcement officers have been saving individuals from death every day in almost every town and city in the US. But those same police resources are stretched thin, and are also needed to fight the War on Heroin and deal with law enforcement issues of all kinds as well.

And, Naloxone is not always going to help; the newer synthetics like Fentanyl and Carfentanyl are so powerful, Naloxone will not always bring back an overdose victim, or the patient will just go right back into an overdose state after only a few minutes of regained consciousness, requiring additional doses of Naloxone.

Our police should be fighting crime, including opiate-dealing, as well as keeping our public spaces safe, like our schools and libraries, as well as our private areas by supplementing private security in spots like malls and movie theatres. Right now, the police are doing noble work, but running around administering Naloxone might be a distraction from other important tasks that affect the safety and security of many more citizens.

There lately has been a debate about how to best keep our schools safe. Arming teachers is not viable in most areas; in some rural communities, where everyone is already armed and carries firearms, this is a great plan, easily put into action. But in cities like New York, Newark, and others, this is never gong to happen. Still, places where people gather must be protected.


Rocks by Sandor Weisz

Kids learning to throw rocks at attackers. Why not? Image Credit: Rocks by Sandor Weisz

realistically, protection by a firearm and a licensed and trained operator is the best protection to be found. Training kids to throw rocks is a novel and possibly effective way to slow an emotionally disturbed gunner down; an armed police presence at a school will surely do far more in that regard.

There are even more stark and drastic options available, if we seek to end this culture of heroin addiction as quickly as possible, but I must warn that they’re even more controversial than even legal shooting galleries.

Straying further from the known, we can consider research into the benefits of  having a “heroin license” that addicted persons can trade for their driver’s/equipment operator’s license, permitting them to possess small amounts of heroin for personal use instead that cannot be traded or resold. If we seek fewer obstacles to success, pure medical-grade heroin powder and opiate pills would also be available to users, sold without profit at a small fee to the individual, supervised by the DEA, via physicians who are also drug-addiction specialists at the IV-drug users’ health centers.

DEA resources could grow to include managing socks of opiates for hospital supplies for addicts. Image Credit: Brett-Neilson

DEA resources could grow to include managing stocks of opiates for hospital supplies for addicts. Image Credit: Brett Neilson

This may seem like a 360 degree turnaround from current policy, but reducing trafficking would be the ultimate goal of such centers  focusing on opiate addiction . The way to drive the cartels and gangs away is to destroy the possibility for easy high profits; this worked with alcohol re-legalization, why can’t it work with the drug cartels now? Only the details change; the game remains the same. It’s worth at least a thought.

And, if addicts knew their heroin from the hospital was pure and standardized, there would be far less need for anyone to administer Naloxone, anywhere. Choosing the cheaper and purer substance might be an good alternative for someone who’s already ODed five times and lost ten friends to street heroin of unknown purity, often laced with Fentanyl and other substances many times more dangerous than heroin.

Brickfair 2011 - Southside Gangster with Tommy Gun prototype and BARShowcasing the Southside Gangster fig with his heavy weapons of choice!

Brickfair 2011 – Southside Gangster with Tommy Gun prototype Image Credit: enigmabadger

In the end, measures such as creating safe shooting spaces are of limited value, to be sure. The issue is, most addicts would not use such facilities, unless such facilities were also cheaply selling or freely sharing the drug. Co-locating on the campuses of mental health centers or hospitals would be most appropriate, in terms of having support systems only a few hundred feet away if there were to be an overdose or complication, as well as keeping the drugs further framed within a medical context for all, and keeping the whole worrisome matter out of the sight of the public.

Most addicts will likely continue to use intravenous opiate drugs in the privacy of their homes, regardless of what else society tries to do to accommodate them. There is simply a mistrust of authority within this sub-culture, and many would likely feel wary of participating.

In time, if such a program proved not to be a “sting” or “set-up”, word would get out and heroin users would know this is the way to both better and cleaner drugs, and the very real path back to society. It’s a means of leading people back to health, back to reality, away from the drug dealers and stigma and shame associated with the heroin drug culture.

Kristian Mollenborg FDNY - Ambulance

Kristian Mollenborg
FDNY – Ambulance

We need to think about a society that’s a lot safer for police to work in, and the average citizen to live in. A two-pronged approach, targeting both supply and demand, will bring America back from our dark days faster and with greater ease. Addicts have definitely made poor choices, there’s no contesting that; but it’s in all of our best interest that they survive and thrive. Some say that we should let addicts overdoes and be gone; that’s heartless, a really cold way of looking at people and the world.

The nature of physical addiction means it’s easier to want to stop than to actually do so, with heroin and opiate pills. Nicotine is NOT more addictive than heroin, contrary to urban legend and popular memes! If you’re a recovering alcoholic, only then do you know the grip a powerful physically-addictive substance can hold over your life, and many say heroin addiction is worse.

By the time a person is addicted to opiates, their continual use of a drug has temporarily changed the complex chemical profile of the brain, and depleted necessary stores of various neurotransmitters. The body eventually gets used to the poison (not that it’s now less harmful) and strong cravings seek to keep the user motivated to get the drugs once more, as a fresh blast of heroin will artificially raise the output of waning neurotransmitters again briefly, ceasing the otherwise rapid decline to dangerously low levels from past depletion caused by recent opiate use. And thus, the cycle of opiate addiction continues.

Education of the youth is the way to prevent demand. It is truly unbelievable, that with decades of history of its sordid killings and social harm, that heroin is even still abused, anywhere in the US or world, let alone the center of a modern day scourge. Kicking your morning cup of caffeine-laden coffee or your binge watching of old Simpsons episodes on Netflix just isn’t the same.

Sorry. I know you may have strongly believed that this was the case, but facts are facts, and physical addiction and psychological addiction are two different beasts, for sure. Giving up eating, fun habits, and sometimes even not-so-fun habits, can be tough. But imagine if a chemical were driving you, via severe discomfort and pain, to act counter to your choices to stop, motivating you to do the exact opposite and keep going? It would be worlds tougher to give up eating the buttered popcorn with those Nexflix shows, no?

Governor Tom Wolf Governor Wolf Announces Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf
Governor Wolf Announces Pennsylvania Capitol Police to Carry Naloxone

Having addicted people engaging with a medical team in a health care setting can only work to lessen their experience of isolation and shame, bringing many out of the shadows where they can far more easily get help, or at least re-assess their lives from a different viewpoint.

And, perspective is always good. Further, many addicts have become addicted because of emotional or mental pain that they found overwhelming; they took the drugs to cope. Perhaps social counseling services at the shooting gallery would do more to help individuals crawl out of their pain than anything else we could ever provide. Sometimes a caring listener is key.

And, still many more ended up on heroin either because their doctor ordered them to take opiate pills because of a work injury or because the pills were cheap and plentiful “kicks” before becoming far less accessible because of New York’s I-stop program, and similar programs in other states.

Again, an integrative approach is the only answer, using both traditional policing, as well as alternative health concepts borrowed from other cultures. Whether we go with legal heroin use zones or not, we must act quickly, and do something differently.

The number of overdoses cannot keep climbing, year after year. A whirlwind of socially disastrous consequences awaits, if we cannot take the helm and steer a clear course away from these known deadly hazards. Whatever we do, we have to act now.

Because our President, as well as governors and mayors are concerned and looking for answers, this problem will have a definite end, hopefully sooner rather than later, regardless of what methods and means we choose to end it.

The most significant issue seems to be the constant push and pull between lawmakers of opposing camps with different underlying social and economic philosophies; again I implore the reader to abandon such notions when considering this extremely urgent topic and just explore solutions that make sense, even if such answers seem counter-intuitive at first.

Authored by D Alban

Posted in Alternative Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Heroin Crisis, Non-Profit Foundations, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Decides When Medicine Is Quackery? Debunking The Alternative Medicine Debunkers With Scientific Fact

An article appeared on Forbes today wherein the author wrote disparagingly about alternative medicine treatments and research, entitled “$142 Million For Quack Medicine Buried Inside The New 2018 Budget.”    The article detailed how terrible the author felt about the current US federal budget including ANY funding whatsoever for the research and study of the effectiveness of alternative medicine treatments for chronic health conditions.

One has to wonder where the dismissiveness and vitriol comes from as regards this Forbes writer, Steven Salzberg, and his feelings toward alternative medicine. For a distinguished, disinterested researcher, he certainly has strong opinions on incompletely researched topics.  The central idea of the article is that the money spent by our government on “alternative medicine”  is a complete waste and nothing “alternative” has ever turned out


Alternative Treatments: A Serious Hazard NOT Worth Investigating. (this is the subtext of the Forbes piece)


to be useful.

This is where we would say, “Hold on, back up, please.”  This is simply not true.  Even though proponents of conventional medicine assert that alternative medicine is useless, and further, that we must all use ONLY conventional treatments because only these have been proven to work, this is actually not the case.  However, most Americans believe  inaccurate memes because of articles such as the Forbes piece and many others like it which they are barraged with on a continual basis.

Here are some facts about conventional medicine that you may not be aware of:  First, there is massive corruption concerning pharmaceutical companies and manipulation: manipulation of data in the drug studies (where the FDA takes them to court and wins, and then the drug company has to make a statement of ethics and promise never to do this



again….and they then get sued again later for the same offense with a different drug – according to researcher Peter Gøtzsche in Deadly Medicine and Organized Crime); manipulation of doctors with gifts, trips, money, and dinners (which has become so excessive that New Jersey has just made a law against it); and the incredible number of doctor-caused deaths in hospitals, making iatrogenic death (doctor-caused death) about the third-leading cause of death in this country.

This last statement comes from an article in the JAMA which was published on their website, but has since been removed.  You can still find the text of this article in a PDF on the Johns Hopkins website.

Some might make the argument that Dr. Starfield, the author of the JAMA article, is the only person to have made this assertion; a quick  look to the British Medical Journal disproves this notion.  U.S. News has shared the content of the BMJ article wherein two other researchers (lead author Dr. Marty Makary, also of Johns Hopkins!)  state that medical errors are responsible for 250,000 deaths per year in the US (the same number as Starfield concludes).

Syringe by ZaldyImg

Syringe by ZaldyImg

These are deaths tallied from medical errors inclusive of all classes of doctor or hospital-caused deaths, where Barbara Starfield further presents a breakdown of deaths due to correctly prescribed medications, infections in hospitals, other errors in hospitals, unnecessary surgeries, and medication errors. These are in descending order, from highest occurrence to lowest.

Since all of these can be classed together as medical errors, it is safe to say that doctors are the third-leading cause of death in this country.  Just to be clear, there is no similar track record among alternative medicine practitioners.  Whenever a patient dies while undergoing an alternative treatment, even if the death is not caused by the treatment itself, there is generally such bad press and backlash that the alternative health provider is driven out of business post-haste.  Yet hospitals continue causing unnecessary patient deaths, year after year, without much concern expressed by the public.

Wouter van Doorn Need some drugs?

Wouter van Doorn
Need some drugs?

It is also true that when persons die or experience life-altering complications outside of a hospital from a properly-prescribed and correctly taken medication, it is unlikely that their cause of death will be attributed to the medication that was actually responsible.  It is more likely that their death will be attributed to the secondary effect, such as when the medication causes a heart attack or a stroke.  Then, the cause of death would be listed as a stroke, rather than as a result of the medication (such as one of the leading NSAID drugs, its black-box warnings clearly state that they can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke).

In addition, all reporting of adverse events, reactions, and deaths is performed by doctors.  There is no consumer reporting database collecting reports, where a family member of someone who died of a stroke could easily make a report to state that their medication was being taken prior to death or debilitation. Such anecdotal data could be useful in providing more complete data for aggregation and pattern tracking.

Abandoned Hospital by Gentleman of Decay

Abandoned Hospital by Gentleman of Decay

The American Journal Of Medical Quality  found in surveys at hospitals that the reporting systems in place are under-utilized by doctors, with only about 43% of physicians contributing to the database at all.  There is no Federal mandate, as of yet,  with regard to reporting systems, though over half the states now have such systems in place.

This likely means that the incidence of errors, including doctor-caused deaths, is likely higher than the present projected numbers could possibly indicate, since most doctors are not reporting possible or known issues.

The author of the Forbes piece, Steven Salzberg, is a respected researcher at the very same place that Barbara Starfield, now passed, once taught at, Johns Hopkins University.  Therefore, Mr. Salzberg  should be familiar with her past research and similar studies that have been conducted demonstrating that conventional medicine is actually the “dangerous” medicine, warranting caution, at the very least.

Yet, the premise of his article completely ignores this important fact.  Why provide more money for research to the NIH, as he suggests, when there may be less dangerous alternative medical treatments for the same conditions?  Considering that the facts are the converse of what he suggests, why would a researcher discourage alternatives to something that is among leading causes of death for Americans?

So, now we shall return to the main premise of the Forbes article: that there are no effective alternative treatments for any health condition that have been discovered through research.  This is an untrue statement that does not reflect the reality of present-day research.

PhotoAtelier - "Remedies"

North by Northwest Antiques & Books just south of Lincoln City, Oregon

We shall show the effects of two such “alternative health” discoveries that are now in the mainstream and have been researched extensively, one of them by the very same group lauded by Salzberg in the Forbes article, the National Eye Institute, part of the Federal government’s National Institutes of Health umbrella organization.

The other discovery was researched and discovered by the March of Dimes after many years dedicated to exploring all avenues that may help reduce suffering by preventing birth defects.  I choose to discuss only two here, for the sake of brevity.  This article would be exhaustively verbose if we discussed every alternative treatment with evidence supporting it.

Perhaps you are aware of the detrimental effect of macular degeneration on the quality of life in the aging population.  The authors would wonder if the reader is also aware of the AREDS study, and its results.

The AREDS study was conducted by the NEI of the NIH.  While unusual for the NIH to research an herbal formulation, this study was crucial, since macular degeneration has no real conventional treatment, and affects a large percentage of the aging population.  With America set to have record numbers of retirees as the Boomer generation gets older, this is especially significant.

OnCall team Nurses of the Holy Trinity Photo taken in Togo, West Africa, by Julius Cruickshank

OnCall team
Nurses of the Holy Trinity
Photo taken in Togo, West Africa, by Julius Cruickshank

It could just as easily and

appropriately have been conducted by the NCCIH, because this is an herb and vitamin combination and the NCCIH focuses on herbs and vitamins, among other relevant topics.


This study shows definitively, and in multiple follow-up studies, that the herbal and vitamin combination used in the trials prevented and, in many cases, reversed macular degeneration, especially where one eye with MD was compared with the other healthy eye of the same patient.  The risk of developing MD was reduced by about 25%, and the risk of complete vision loss caused by MD (in patients already suffering from macular degeneration) was reduced by about 19% with this anti-oxidant “alternative medicine” formula.  The combination consists of lutein and zeaxanthin (herbal extracts from marigolds), and high doses of zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

Many older adults have already been prescribed this alternative remedy.  A significant number have had excellent results, depending on their vision and level of degeneration when they started supplementation, as well as the quality and dosage of the supplement they received.

The second alternative medicine treatment that has been extensively researched and has entered into the mainstream is folic acid.  For many years, the March of Dimes had their annual walk, collected a lot of money, and conducted important research.

At least one amazing discovery came of all that research.  Neural tube defects, which were responsible for many cases of birth defects that affected survival rates among newborns, as well as adversely affecting intelligence and learning capabilities, could be prevented by taking a single vitamin, Folic Acid, also known as Vitamin B9.

It is this group, and this discovery, that has made it mandatory for every pregnant woman in the United States and in many other countries to take prenatal vitamin supplements.  The addition of folic acid prevents neural tube defects;this is now accepted medical fact.

Chris Potter Prescription Prices Ver5

Chris Potter
Prescription Prices Ver5

As a consequence, the rate of this particular type of birth defect has gone down significantly.  This supplement has been shown to be directly responsible for the decline in these birth defects in studies by the NIH in a South Carolina population, among other populations where similar studies have been carried out.

So before accepting without question what this Forbes article purports as a legitimate viewpoint, that funding the NCCIH is a waste of money, and that “alternative” treatments are dangerous, consider that the opposite is, in fact,  the case, and can be supported by evidence.

Wayne S. Grazio Old Medicine

Wayne S. Grazio
Old Medicine

There are very few adverse reactions to herbs, vitamins, supplements, and other alternative treatments, while the same cannot be said of conventional medical treatments.  This is despite the fact that it has been legally required for all adverse events possibly caused supplements to be meticulously recorded in a database.

Poison Control Center data also shows a similar disparity in the incidence of negative effects from vitamins and supplements, when compared to medications.  In fact, the National Poison Control Center reports the highest numbers of poisoning calls, year after year, from poisoning by medications, especially analgesics, sedatives, anti-depressants, and cardiovascular drugs;  these are their top four call types, in fact.

These medications actually lead the list of substances poisoning adults, according to the NPCC data.  It is interesting to note that there are no poisonings of adults from vitamins or supplements of any kind listed.

So,  before you go into your kitchen cupboard and toss all your supplements, do the research yourself!  You, as an intelligent consumer, should not be swayed by ad hominen attacks against alternative medicine, entire groups of practitioners of alternative therapies, misrepresentation, or ignorance of fact.  In our presentation, we relied strictly upon factual evidence, not biases toward or against any modality, whether allopathic or alternative. Such a disinterested attitude is crucial, when considering science.

We challenge Steven Salzberg to prove his claims that “alternative medicine” is harmful, and provide data demonstrating any statistically significant loss of life or harm to patients resulting directly from “alternative medicine” treatments, alone.  Even under such circumstances involving statistically significant death or permanent harm,  Mr. Salzberg’s assertions that research by the NCCIH be curtailed fall flat, as such issues certainly call for more research as well, in order that consumers not be harmed in future.

Authored by H Miller with D Alban © 2018 D Alban, H Miller

Posted in Alternative Health, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Pregnancy and Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unplug That Thing, Mom! Air Fresheners, Hazardous Chemicals, and Disease Potential

Nobody likes to come home to a musty-smelling living room. For reasons most of us can easily understand, it’s just not that hot a plan. Of course, it’s always best to be neat and clean, and keep the space moisture-controlled, but what about if you enjoy a pleasant, calming scent? Most people I meet would at this point tell me what brand of plug-in air freshener they use at home; these are so widespread, it’s difficult to not find a home without at least three, gracing the living room, bathroom, and bedroom, typically.

Plug In Air Freshener

Plug-In Air Freshener

These plug-in scent dispersers are environmentally-friendly, that is true. Plug-ins replaced the aerosol spray scent canisters used by most of us up until about the 1990s. But are there any hidden costs to using plug-in room deodorizers? It turns out, there certainly are concerns. The first, is that these units are risks for household fires. Of course, this is great cause for alarm, but according to the best set of facts we can find, it’s just not true.

This is only a lame meme, an Internet-email-spawned modern global urban legend, of sorts. According to Snopes , this is a false claim. Of course, I do not default to a website’s claims in my search for answers, but letters from the SC Johnson company verify that these units pose no real risk. Perhaps it’s really because of a product recall that happened all the way back in 2002, involving plug-in air fresheners. In any event, fire is definitely not a high risk.

Rusted Old Aerosol Can by Rob Swatski

Rusted Old Aerosol Can by Rob Swatski

According to a news story by WABC (NY)  at the time, the facts are slightly different, and there were, in fact, fires caused by these units, hence the recall. In any event, if there had been a fire hazard, it has long since been addressed by the manufacturers.

So is it all good, then? Should we buy an additional three plug-ins now, maybe one for the basement den, another for the kids’ bedroom, and a sixth for the pantry? Wait. One. Second. There’s unfortunately more data that we can find, suggesting that this may not be

the best idea. What if plug-ins were pollution-averting devices that save the ozone layer but actually pollute your personal space and environment?

Well, if you’re a big fan of plug-ins, I’ve got some sad news for you: There’s more to it. Far more, in fact.

WABC Channel 7 News Story, 2002, On Plug-In Air Fresheners and Home Fires

WABC Channel 7 News Story, 2002, On Plug-In Air Fresheners and Home Fires

While this may seem dramatic, perhaps I’m not expressing this in sufficiently dramatic terms. For starters, these are not “air fresheners”. In no way are they actually “freshening” anything. While your space may, in fact, smell quite nice, plug-in air fresheners are continuously pumping pollutants into the air, day and night.

Phthalates, a class of synthetic chemicals that can wreak havoc on health in myriad ways, comprises one of the ingredients in many brands, and include di-butyl phthalate (DBP), di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP), and di-methyl phthalate (DMP) (see Figure 3). Di-isohexyl phthalate (DIHP).

Lupus Erythematosus. Chromolithograph. c. 1878-1888 Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Lupus Erythematosus. Chromolithograph. c. 1878-1888
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Without the efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) , we wouldn’t know that nearly 90% of brands contain this class of chemicals. In, Hidden H

azards of Air Fresheners, the NRDC’s publication, we find that phthalates, “…can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems.” Suggestions include limiting exposure of pregnant women and children to these chemicals.

According to the document, air freshener products are listed by the State of California as chemicals “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm….and has also been associated with allergic symptoms and asthma.” A 2005 European Consumers Union study also found these products loaded with VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, certainly not a class of substances you’d want to intentionally load your home’s air with.

There are even more grave concerns, that phthalates may cause cancer or trigger autoimmune disease as an epigenetic-triggering factor. According to the study entitled, Autoimmune Disease: Phthalate Linked to Lupus in Mice by Carol Potera, “researchers at

Indiana State

University may have strengthened the environmental evidence by discovering that phthalates trigger lupus antibodies in a mouse model.”


Houseplants by FarOutFlora

Houseplants by FarOutFlora

While mouse models aren’t always completely applicable to humans, this should be a serious cause for concern, especially if you or a family member are suffering from an autoimmune condition, and your family uses these air scenting devices.

So, what do we do? Sit around all day smelling the dogs and old couches? No; certainly not. Plants can actually clean the air of pollutants, including VOCs, so get some plants, and grow them large!  First of all, fresh air is always beneficial, except if you live in certain parts of New Jersey along what’s known as the “Chemical Coast“. You can open windows more, or freshen the air with an utrasonic aromatherapy scent diffuser.

Ultrasonic Air Freshener

Ultrasonic Air Freshener

These devices can deliver 100% organic essential oils into the air, without

addition of any phthalates. An additional benefit is that you can collect essential oils and have a different scent every day, or blend various oils to get a custom scent that matches your home and personal vibe.

Simplers Botanicals and Nature's Alchemy are my preferred brands after over a decade of testing. (I do not get paid to say this!)

Simplers Botanicals and Nature’s Alchemy are my preferred brands after over a decade of testing. (I do not get paid to say this!)

Just be sure you are not getting “fragrance oils”, but rather only 100% natural, or organic, essential oils.  (Two brands I’ve found to be amazing are Nature’s Alchemy and Simplers Botanicals.)  And, be forewarned, every company puts out a vastly different product, even for the same plant oil.

Some of the inexpensive brands may also seem

Nells the Couch Potato by Heather Morrison

Nells the Couch Potato by Heather Morrison

diluted, or less highly scented, so it isn’t quite a steal of a deal. Experiment, and see what you find. Be especially careful with overseas sellers hawking wares without branding.

In any event, it’s worth reconsidering all your habits, especially if you’re suffering with autoimmune conditions. Many of the ideas that we must challenge on our journey toward health are long-held ideas and may seem strange, or just downright silly.

Even so, it’s worth looking into any and all sources of unintended environmental pollution that may be plaguing your home, family, and pets. Alternative health does not refer to anything outside of science, but rather examining an alternative set of scientific and anecdotal evidential data that may be presently ignored or overlooked.

Authored by D Alban (C) Copyright 2018 D Alban, H Miller

Posted in Alternative Health, At-Home Massage Articles, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment | Leave a comment

Postpartum Massage, Progesterone, and Oxytocin, the “Cuddle Hormone”: Hugs, The Missing Link to Rapid and Comfortable Recovery After Delivery

Pregnancy is truly a special time in a woman’s life, and any woman who’s been pregnant will tell you that the experience, subjectively, feels different somehow. If you thought that this was, perhaps, just romanticizing your past in retrospect, or caused by the (very real!) excitement about your pregnancy, you may be shocked to learn it wasn’t at all in your head.

Well, it was in your head, but that’s not to say it was imaginary; rather, there is a strong and solid neuro-hormonal basis for what you experienced. And, of course, you can

37 Weeks Pregnant by Mark Couvilion

37 Weeks Pregnant by Mark Couvillion

now rest assured: You DID, in fact, experience many, many odd things during your strange, yet fantastically beautiful trip to motherhood.

During this time, a woman’s body changes in many ways. One particular adjustment that the body makes to accommodate all the myriad changes is re-adjusting hormone levels.

Progesterone swings higher, then plateaus at some point. This hormone helps make the body more flexible and able to adapt to physical change.

Higher progesterone also potentiates a distinct shift in the mood and perception in the postpartum patient after delivery, often inducing a sensation of increased sensitivity, a feeling of breast tenderness, and even mild cough and nausea. If you felt this, it was your hormones, not a cold.

If your wife told you it was “really happening”, and you condescendingly suggested it was imaginary, or the result of her thoughts, it’s time you know the plain truth: You were 100% wrong; as strange as it sounds, your wife really could feel the trucks vibrating the house on the highway a mile away and had breast pain from her body’s chemistry, not “depression”.

Conversely, if levels of progesterone taper, severe depression, body pain, and digestive and sleep disturbance may occur. Even with its potential side-effects at the highest end, the goal should be to keep progesterone levels on the higher side, but within range. It may seem as though there’s no way to win, but that’s not entirely true.

New Mom Holding Baby.

New Mom Holding Baby.
by Steven H.

Higher progesterone levels are associated with bonding with others, and specifically, the new baby. After the pregnancy, hormone levels fluctuate, and progesterone rapidly drops.

The new mother should definitely hold her baby many hours, whether she is breastfeeding or not. Breastfeeding will induce higher levels of oxytocin, as will regularly scheduled sessions of therapeutic massage.

Stress, a significant dampener when considering its disastrous effects on a mother’s milk production, cannot be avoided, but may be ameliorated with therapeutic massage.  This will increase the amount of milk-flow, if breastfeeding. In Indonesia, clinical trials spoken of during an oral presentation at the 2014 Riau International Conference by Stephanie Dwi Guna have demonstrated that specific “Oxytocin Massage” techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nerves can help increase milk flow measurably, in the word of the speaker, “significantly”.

Skin-to-skin contact, whether therapeutic, or the loving contact between the new Mom and her baby, both keep oxytocin levels at their peak. Breastfeeding probably raises levels highest, as the new mom and baby bond and experience profound closeness that goes back to time immemorial.

Oxytocin also dulls pain, both during labour and also during the month-long recovery from strenuously using muscles all over the body to push the baby out with more force than a woman probably thought was possible, in the case of a natural birth. It also effects tonal change on the uterine tissue, which must also slowly return to its usual state.

Oxytocin, otherwise known as the “cuddle hormone”, is naturally released during pregnancy, as well as during the birthing process. “Is it really released when you hug?” you’re surely wondering. It isn’t named as it is without reason! Hugs do, in fact, heal! It’s not just all hemp-granola and hippie talk! Studies show it’s now a proven fact. So ask your husband and kids for a well-deserved hug to help you with healing~!

"OXYTOCIN and Pregnancy"

“OXYTOCIN and Pregnancy”
Digital Work by D Alban.
Chemical formula by flippy rice

During the last trimester, levels of oxytocin soar. Many women report feeling somehow different at this time. It is true that oxytocin can alter perception. It’s associated with trust, empathy, and openness. This bonding hormone must be kept high in the new mother, else a cascade of effects may be experienced, including depression. Therapeutic Massage also increases both serotonin and dopamine, while reducing cortisol levels. Cortisol is associated with stress response. Dopamine and serotonin also both help make a person “feel good”.

7 Months Pregnant

7 Months Pregnant
Phyllis Buchanan

There is evidence that oxytocin also stimulates progesterone release. And so, nurturing time spend holding the baby is crucial for the hormonal well-being of the new mother. In order to keep hormonal levels in check, breastfeeding is encouraged, and holding the baby as much as possible, whether feeding or not, is an absolute necessity. While high progesterone inhibited lactation during pregnancy, progesterone should also not fall too low during breastfeeding, either.

While the American Association of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the World Health Organization support encouraging women to breastfeed, other authorities, a few random academians disagree, suggesting that telling women that breastfeeding is “natural” and has health benefits is not good practice, because it may make some women feel badly that they cannot produce enough milk, and may not want vaccines or GMO food products for their child, as a logical extension of thinking that more natural options are best. We feel staying informed is most important, and researchers having such concerns, is itself dubious.

Certainly, Therapeutic Postpartum Massage may again play a helpful role; in India, the

Pregnant Mom with Daughter

Pregnant Mom with Daughter
Mario Emiliano Fernandez

practice of Jaapa by a Maalishwali (मालिशवाली), or massage therapist specializing in working on newborn babies and mothers, can be traced back millenia. Like all things new, ancient and revered tradition have roots in observation and experience. In the twentieth century, we began re-discovering ancient cultures with a new respect in America.

Rather than holding a condescending attitude toward what were once erroneously regarded as “primitive” ancient civilizations by Westerners in previous centuries, we began to respect that maybe these various indigenous peoples were on to something, and had developed various sciences worth looking into. Upon further scientific inquiry, this turns out to have actually been the case, as for example, many phytochemicals found in plant remedies, have been discovered and cataloged.

"Everybody Has Lunch"

New Mom Breastfeeding
“Everybody Has Lunch”
by Webchicken

Many other traditional cultures across the human landscape rely on regularly scheduled massage therapy for the new mother and baby. This idea is common in both India and throughout Asia, but perhaps not surprisingly, is also found in other traditional cultures on every continent. It seems that long ago, before “scientific method” had been coined as a phrase, people were learning and advancing from shared anecdotal experience, alone.

In the case with postnatal massage therapy, it seems almost unanimous among cultural groups, that a new mother receive massage therapy with more of an urgency than any other person at any other stage in their life, among people in each cultural group. Now we see, there is ample biochemistry to back up this time-tested practice. Again, the lesson from this is to regard the science of other civilizations that existed and/or may still exist as anything less than parallel and alternative, rather than lesser or without merit.

Authored by D Alban

Copyright 2018 H Miller, D Alban

Resources For Further Reading:

Massage Increases Oxytocin and Reduces Adrenocorticotropin Hormone in Humans

Posted in Alternative Health, At-Home Massage Articles, Child Health, Personal Growth, Post-Natal Massage, Pre-Natal Massage, Therapeutic Massage and Society | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Synthetic Marijuana, From Spurious To Authentic: K2, Spice, Marinol, And Sativex In Review

K2, Spice, and Others

K2, Spice, and Others

Headlines tell a frightful story: Again and again, we read about synthetic marijuana causing users to experience side-effects that range from debilitating stupor and psychosis, to coma and death.  To be sure, this is no media hoax.  According to Newsweek’s June 11th, 2015 article entitled “Synthetic Marijuana Deaths Tripled This Year”, author Max Kutner explicates on this headline.  The details are saddening.

Emergency Room.  Credit: Scoot & White Health Care.

Emergency Room. Credit: Scoot & White Health Care.

By now, we all know that synthetic marijuana is harmful and can be deadly in some instances.  However, most of us don’t really know what synthetic marijuana even is.  First, what it is not.  Synthetic marijuana is not hydroponically grown weed.  In fact, it’s not marijuana at all.  It contains chemicals that are not ever found in any type of marijuana, in any form.  While marijuana is essentially nonlethal, “synthetic marijuana” is definitely a dangerous, potentially deadly intoxicant.

K2 Drug Packet.

K2 Drug Packet.

What is commonly referred to as “synthetic marijuana” is actually plant matter, not cannabis to be sure, sprayed or soaked in a chemical stew.  These chemicals vary from brand to brand, and even batch to batch.

Although these chemicals are not found in marijuana, such experimental chemicals affect the same anandamide receptors in the brain as THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids found in cannabis. Anandamide was the first endogenous ligand found, and early on these receptors were sometimes referred to as “Anandamide receptors.”  At this point in time, this is a disused term.

Now more commonly referred to as cannabinoid receptors, binding sites for our endocannabinoids (Anandamine/AEA, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), and other ligands), these are a type of cell membrane receptors, classed among the G protein-coupled receptor superfamily, and both marijuana-derived cannabinoids, as well as lab-created synthetics bind to these receptors.

There, most similarities end between the synthetics and natural cannabinoids.  Our endocannabinoid system is found throughout our brain and other tissues, and it’s why marijuana affects us in so many ways.  It’s also why these other chemicals affect us.

Spice, The Synthetic Anandamide-Receptor Drug

Spice, The Synthetic Anandamide-Receptor Drug

Some more well known known brands of “synthetic marijuana” include “K2” and “Spice”.  These are somewhat generic terms referring to these products, not a trademarked product like Pepsi or Coke, and may be produced by any of various labs.  There’s also 8-Ball, Baby J, Kush, Joker, Black Mamba, Kronic, Black Majic Smoke, Cloud 9, Funky Green Stuff,  and many others.

These drugs are crudely manufactured, with no controls as to the dosage, and no indication on the package as to which particular synthetics are ingredients.  Often  sold in small, colorful foil packets usually marked as “incense”, appearing much like single-serving  vitamin powder packets, K2 and Spice are produced all around the world for consumption where this blend is still legal.  In many places, these substances are now forbidden by law.

Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC. Structural formula.

Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC. Structural formula.

HU-210. A synthetic anandamide receptor chemical. Note the similarities to THC, an actual cannabis-derived cannabinoid.

HU-210. A synthetic anandamide receptor chemical. Note the similarities to THC, an actual cannabis-derived cannabinoid.

These drugs should rightly be referred to as “anandamide” drugs,  possibly “synthetic cannabinoids”, but certainly not “synthetic marijuana”. Why is this so?

It’s because anandamide  receptors are what these chemicals affect in the body and brain and also because these are not true synthetic cannabinoids, if by “cannabinoid” we mean chemicals identical to those naturally found in the cannabis plant, but rather lab synthesized novel creations.

After decades of research,  the terminology has evolved, and the ligands our bodies make that work with these receptor sites are termed “endocannabinoids”.  It seems that while murky, defining lab-created chemicals that bind to these receptors as “synthetic cannabinoids” is now, technically, correct.

These other chemicals sprayed onto K2 and Spice leaves (mint or other herbs)  such as HU-210, JWH-018, and JWH-073, just to name a few, are structurally similar in some ways to naturally-occurring cannabinoids, but never found in nature.  Therefore, to refer to them a “synthetic marijuana”   is a misnomer, as marijuana definitely refers to the cannabis plant and its products.  This disambiguation clears up quite a bit.

These new lab-made chemicals possess adverse effects attributable to the fact that such are full agonists to the cannabinoid receptors, CB1R and CB2R, while THC is only  a partial agonist.   Further, some synthetics degrade into other metabolites that are also full agonists. What this means is that no matter how much marijuana or THC-based product is consumed, THC will never be able to saturate, and therefore activate, all of the receptor population as the synthetics have the potential to do.

Marinol Bottle by UsualRedAnt.

Marinol Bottle by UsualRedAnt.

Interestingly enough, there are “real” synthetic cannabinoids (what an oxymoron!), literally identical to those found in cannabis.   These chemicals have not yet been isolated from any other plant. Cannabinoids are the novel class of chemicals founds only in marijuana and hemp, including THC and CBD.

So far, we’ve discovered many, many more than that.  Each type of marijuana has a unique cannabinoid profile.  And each cannabinoid modulates the total effects of the plant, even as many are not psychoactive.

There do exist cannabiniods that are actually identical synthetic analogs of the naturally occurring substances, THC and CBD, unlike K2 and Spice, which contain synthetics often  resembling marijuana-derived cannabinoids, but always having significant  differences in chemical structure.

One such product is called “Marinol®“, or dronabinol, first approved by the FDA in 1981, and again for other conditions in 1985.  Synthetic THC was once produced using sesame oil in a highly complex process.  This drug is, in fact, FDA-approved to treat loss of appetite associated with AIDS, as well as nausea associated with chemotherapy.  While this drug is not derived from marijuana or hemp, it is, in fact, a true analog of THC, the most well-known cannabinoid found in marijuana.  It is not found in hemp, save in trace amounts.

Sativex. Cannabis Extract with THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

Sativex. Cannabis Extract with THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

Sativex® is another medical cannabis product making the news.  Many think that it is just another drug company’s brand of THC, Marinol with a different name.  However, Sativex isn’t synthetic marijuana at all; rather, it’s a cannabis extract containing both THC and CBD, as well as other minor cannabinoids.  Many users of Marinol complained of symptoms not often observed in marijuana users.  Isolated THC was the culprit.



When THC is consumed alone, side-effects can be many and varied.  When ingested, or otherwise consumed with other cannabinoids, these other substances like CBD tend to eliminate such issues.  Therefore, whether synthetic or natural, Sativex promises to be a better product.  It was approved in 2001 in the UK for neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other debilitating symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Bud.  Credit:  Eggrole

Bud. Credit: Eggrole

In summary, it’s clear that the language used in the media these days regarding synthetic marijuana is anything but clear.  There’s marijuana, it’s extracts, and other preparations.  Then there’s Sativex, a standardized cannabis plant extract.  We also have Marinol, a completely synthetic THC drug that is not collected from the cannabis plant, but rather manufactured.  And finally, we have K2 and Spice, “synthetic marijuana” as news outlets would have us believe.

It’s important to have our terminology and basic knowledge correct when discussing any issue or topic.  Therefore, it is imperative that the population begin becoming acquainted with which drugs are

Yummy Bud. Credit: Tanjil Ahmad

Yummy Bud. Credit: Tanjil Ahmad

which, or we risk mis-educating our youth, as well as adults.  The risk associated with K2 and Spice are leagues higher than the risks of marijuana, the worst hazard being arrest, as consuming and possessing its flowers and extracts derived therefrom  is illegal, but not ever deadly.


Authored by D Alban

Copyright 2017 H Miller, D Alban

Posted in Alternative Health, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Medical Marijuana | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ’80s Era “Just-Say-No-To-Drugs” Philosophy and Evidence-Based Smoking Cessation Education: Two Divergent Approaches, Only One Success

The 1980s approach to drug addiction could easily be summed up in three epic  words: Just. Say. No.  Our then-First Lady, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, along with D.A.R.E. (Drug Addiction Resistance Education), took a hard line on drug addiction.

DARE logo - Drug Abuse Resistance Education

Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Logo

The approach was simply and clear: Keep kids from ever touching drugs. Teach them to shun drugs, to say no, even to the possibility.  For years, drug war crusaders reciting this mantra tried their hardest to stem the rising tide of drug addition.

This approach relied heavily on emotion-laden appeals, a fear-based approach that was supposed to scare kids straight.  Except it didn’t.  As much as we tried to keep our youth drug-free, the number of addicts kept rising.  An idea, in principle, may work.  In practice, it may fail miserably.  Here, such was so.

Cocaine By Valero Everett

Cocaine by Valero Everett

According to a mathematical review of the data about teens, Wei Pan, researching at the University of Cincinnati, along with Haiyan Bai of the University of Central Florida, found that D.A.R.E. was statistically insignificant in reducing teen drug addiction.  Why weren’t kids listening to the police officers’ advice not to take drugs?  What was happening?  How is it that the kids were missing the point?

Effectively communicating the hazards of drug abuse to adolescents was the primary goal.  If we ask why the “Just Say No” approach failed in America in the 80s, we must consider what we are really saying when we tell kids this.  “Just say no!” means say no, without reservation, without due consideration.

Homeless by SEO Jester

Homeless Person by SEO Jester

Close your mind to the very possibility of taking drugs.  Drugs are bad and will mess up your life.  While all this is true, unfortunately kids learn by challenging ideas, not by being told how to think.

Saying to a child, “Just do this!” doesn’t leave much room for a teaching moment.  After all, how can one learn under compulsion?  And, sometimes kids even do what we don’t want them to do in response.  Sometimes they are even downright defiant.

Compound this with the fact that in many instances, information on drugs was not completely accurate.  For instance, claims that marijuana is “slightly less dangerous” than heroin or amphetamines were common in the 80s in America.  (How many of you 80s kids out there remember this?)  Here’s where the issues begin accumulating quickly.

Satan's Furnace by torbakhopper - Crack Pipe

Satans’ Furnace (Crack Pipe) by torbakhopper

Adolescents were often told marijuana stunts growth,  can grow a man breasts like a woman, and damages the brain.  Users were depicted as violent.  They stole to buy their drugs, we were told.  The information was not based in evidence, but rather a viewpoint that drugs are bad, and kids must be kept away at all costs.

This viewpoint, and the good intentions behind it, failed miserably.  Parents, teachers, and counselors wanted kids away from drugs at all costs.  The strategy that they chose was probably not best, but this is what they themselves encountered as youths.  However, it was a different time, a different social idiom.

Then, there were the kids in college and high school involved in extra-curricular activities, sports, and academically successful.  All this while maintaining a high school A-list social life.  Some of these kids smoked weed.  Many drank socially. And, many didn’t hide these facts.  This surely had many other kids thinking and wondering.

Also, many kids invariably knew elders from past generations, some only slightly older, both family and neighbors, who casually smoked marijuana and had amazing careers or longtime steady jobs, great families, and beautiful, well-maintained  homes.  None seemed particularly brain damaged. Some were even quite intelligent and funny.

There Is No Food At The Fair by Kenneth Konica littlebiglens

Mr. Smith Loves His Cheeseburgers and Strawberry Shakes Twice Daily. Image:”There Is No Food At The Fair” by Kenneth Konica littlebiglens

And, as far as most could tell, no man partaking of the herb ever grew any sizable breasts.  Sure, all the kids in the neighborhood agreed that Mr. Smith, from the local cart race place,  looked…unusual…but he never smoked weed, only ate and ate at the local burger joint every single day and night and yelled at the kids smoking weed in his amusement park, telling them it’s grown by the  devil himself.  If anything, eating burgers and shakes with abandon like Mr. Smith will do that to your figure, not marijuana!

Once kids saw one claim about drugs as inaccurate or dubious, their trust in other well-established facts dissipates. If a joint doesn’t make anyone at school violent as claimed, then maybe heroin isn’t so bad.  This may not be the clearest of thinking, but it’s what occurs once a trusted source of information is spurned.

Super Grape Ape by Shadowhound

Super Grape Ape Marijuana Flower Macro. Image by Shadowhound

There’s no telling what may happen next.  Therefore, keeping kids trusting parents and teachers and drug education officers is essential.  Their words may save many future kids’ lives.  The conclusion from this is that we should always present verifiable facts about drugs, backed by medical research and health science.

“Reefer Madness” and other comical notions from the distant past have little place in our information-driven society where we, and our society’s adolescents,  place a premium on accuracy of data. Back in the “good old days”, there was no Internet or instant fact checking via phone. There was radio, which left a lot to the imagination, as well as movies and films, and maybe a few had TVs.  Kids then were a lot more gullible, growing up in a very narrow world, exposed to a lot less information.  They had images about the world, not facts.  It was a different time.

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos DRUGS

Heroin Needle and Powdered Heroin by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Sure, there were always the “burnout” kids at school, gobbling up any and all drugs available, often including marijuana.  But they also were the kids who started drinking in fifth grade on a regular basis, smoked cigarette and weed in middle school, and by the time they were in high school taking anything that could be ingested, snorted, or injected.  Many engaged in petty crimes from an early age.

These kids served as an example of what not to be.  And, we all knew who they were from even elementary school.

Looking at these kids, the lesson  wasn’t so much about not taking drugs, but more about being responsible, not hanging out with the “wrong crowd”, and keeping school as a high priority.  Kids did not want to end up like the “wastoid” kids who cut classes to smoke weed and drink 40s  by the train tracks.

These were the drug “misusers”, having a cold Budweiser at 9 AM on a Monday morning, instead of being in school, dealing with each day, waiting eagerly for Friday night  to do their thing, as the successful students who used marijuana or drank did.

As illegal as it may have been due to age restriction of alcohol and prohibition of marijuana, this was still a better choice than a Monday morning chaser followed by three joints.  Even better, many kids chose to avoid drugs and alcohol altogether, realizing such have no place in the life of a serious student.

"Track Marks" by Travis Leach. The Kids By The Train Tracks.

The Kids by the Tracks Were Lost. Image: “Track Marks” by Travis Leach.

The example kids by the tracks set left a frightful vision in the minds of many, indelibly scarring us with images of peers we both felt sorry for and were extremely vexed by.

In fairness, most of those kids had rather challenging backgrounds.  Violence at home, parental neglect, poverty, a poor attitude toward scholastic achievement attributable to a lack of good role models, were all factors.

These were the kids “running wild.”  Many ended up as heroin addicts, criminals, or alcoholics.  Some were the very children of addicts and alcoholics.  They were disadvantaged from the start, with too much time alone, too much freedom, and too little guidance and direction in life.

The majority of kids didn’t fit into this small group, whose members were rather special: oddly antisocial individuals clearly suffering from life’s pains, even at the age of fifteen.  They didn’t belong, and their story goes well beyond drug addiction or alcoholism, though these substances were often catalysts for disaster in their lives.  These kids were doomed from the start.  The Drug War was never going to save them.  But what about everyone else?

Kids were  told, essentially, don’t think about it.  Don’t weight the evidence.  Just say no, reflexively!  Unfortunately for Drug Warriors, but wonderful for the human race, we are an inquisitive lot, always trying to find answers.  The answers we provided to kids during the 80s Drug War were incomplete,  even rife with misinformation.

Further, kids never like being commanded without explanation.  Telling kids, “because I said so” may establish your authority as parent or teacher, but leaves little room for kids to gain any understanding from the situation.

When cigarettes and smoking became the focus of health advocates, the approach was as different as any could be from the War on Drugs.  Cigarettes were legal.  Kids even bought packs at local delis with little hassle.  That changed. Laws made it so.

Party Drinks by Flyover

Keg Parties Down by the River. Image: Party Drinks by Flyover

It would be more challenging, even still, to steer kids away from a legal, socially sanctioned substance that  a sympathetic  older friend or sibling could still buy for them, than would be the case with illegal drugs.  The stigma of illegality acts as a real deterrent, at least in some instances.  For the kids not already committing crimes, illegality is a real deterrent.

Most significantly,  the health effects of cigarettes were presented honestly.  Cigarettes were not conflated with arsenic, mothballs, or crack cocaine; the public service ads  aimed at presenting truthful, well-researched information, and powerfully.  Here, the mission to extinguish cigarettes diverged from the War on Drugs only a decade or so  before.

Relying on gruesome, but real, blunt imagery, commercials graphically depicting victims  of health conditions that developed from years of cigarette smoking, from yellow teeth to amputated digits, and a subsequent frank discussion on health effects managed to strongly curb interest in cigarette smoking among our nation’s youth.

They weren’t stupid.  Presented with the facts in all their truth, boldness, and vivid imagery, kids learned to say no to cigarettes.  We do teach critical thinking skills to our students; here was a chance to exercise such skills.

Image by Zach Petersen. Keg Party 50 Friends.

Keg Party 50 Friends by Zach Petersen

Health is now a significant part of most  adolescents’ concerns.  Kids do yoga, meditate, count their steps, go to the gym, and try to stay healthy because they have been taught that wellness is one of life’s greatest gifts.  This is true, and our culture’s present focus on self-help, improving habits and diet, and exercising and keeping active are incredible developments in our society.

Kids are not dumb.  If you lie to them , or mislead them, or tell them what to do without explaining why they should make such a choice, they will not listen.  Good intentions are not sufficient to save America’s youth from the current scourge of opiates, both pills and heroin, or from the creeping methamphetamine epidemic in some parts of our country.

Or, from “synthetic marijuana”, actually plants having nothing at all to do with marijuana, sprayed with noxious chemicals also not ever found naturally occurring in marijuana, and potentially lethal, at that.  (True Synthetic  marijuana, known as Marinol®,  is actually an FDA-approved drug for chemotherapy nausea.) The confusion continues…

Reefer Madness Film Poster

Reefer Madness Film Poster

Education is key.  Education entails learning, not reciting declarations to make a decision or promise without due consideration.  Kid should not be taking  any drugs, including alcohol and marijuana.  Kids should not smoke cigarettes.  They must learn WHY this is the case, if we mean to succeed with efforts to accomplish this.

The only means we have for attaining such goals, as recent history has shown, is by an honest, fact-filled presentation, framed objectively and dispassionately.  Seeing the man on the respirator in the anti-smoking PSA was chilling. And still is.

There is no arguing with effectiveness; time has proven that the approach we must take to substance abuse among adolescents must respect their right to make their own choices, yet keep the information flow high, so that such choices are informed by fact, and not fiction.  If we do anything else, we risk alienating our kids, and worse, causing them to lose trust in anything we say.

At this point, D.A.R.E. focuses more on teen empowerment and assertiveness than it had in the 1980s, which is key.  Role playing and more informed methods of teaching are utilized.  Kids need to become aware that the choice is theirs to make, and they can choose for themselves.  Assertiveness skills are crucial in life in so many ways, and can help steer a kid forward in life, avoiding the distractions along the path that can pull them away from their goals.

We’re learning.  As long as we avoid repeating past errors and build on prior successes, kids will gradually begin thinking of drug and alcohol abuse in terms adults would wish to see them thinking in.  Until that time, we must constantly refine even our noblest efforts.

(C) Copyright 2017 D Alban, H Miller. Authored by D Alban

Posted in Child Health, Current Events in NJ, Evidence-Based Health Care, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pregnant Women’s Massage: Why Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong

D Carlier Pregnant Woman and Child

Pregnant Woman and Child by D Carlier

Practically everyone in North America today knows who Oprah is.  And New Jersey’s own

Shira Gal Miss Pupik. Pregnant Belly.

Pregnant Woman’s Belly by Shira Gal Miss Pupik.

Dr. Oz.  “How exactly is this relevant?”, you’re surely wondering aloud by now. With the introduction of these familiar household names, we associate yoga, alternative medicine, and learning about self empowerment by taking control of one’s health, mental emotional, and physical.

By now, we are all in the category that only thirty years ago labeled one a tree-hugging oddity.  Most of us use soy, maybe as a creamer in our coffee, maybe as a substitute for cow’s milk.  Others of us do not use soy, having found other non-dairy alternatives that better suit us.  We all know the value of meditation, exercise, and stretching to keep fit with yoga.


Pregnant Woman by Jaimee

We even know about Massage Therapy.  Another native of the Jersey Shore, Bridget Turnbauch, was on Dr. Oz years ago, extolling the many benefits of Therapeutic Massage.  By now, we are all far more savvy than we were just a generation ago, understanding that lifestyle and habits influence epigenetics, and overall health, in innumerable ways.

But we still carry the notion that Therapeutic Massage during pregnancy is an extreme hazard, a dangerous practice that can cause more harm than help.  We carry a number of preconceived misconceptions about Pregnant Women’s Massage. Here, the most common misconceptions shall be addressed. Thus article will empower the reader to know that Pregnancy Massage is safe, helpful, and even beneficial.

Pregnant Woman In Light And Shadow

Pregnant Woman In Light and Shadow

Can a Pregnant Woman Receive  A Massage During The First Trimester?

The short answer is “yes”; the long answer is also “yes.”  Prenatal Massage is considered safe and effective.  Even in the first trimester.  Your obstetrician doesn’t even have to sign off on this.  The only time that is necessary is when a woman is experiencing complications.  In that case, of course your doctor should be alerted to everything you’re planning to do, and her approval should determine your course of action.

Can Prenatal Massage hurt the baby?

Dennis Natrayon's Image Laura During Pregnancy

Laura During Pregnancy by Dennis Natrayon

A carefully executed Therapeutic Massage session will not ever involve anything that could hurt the fetus.  Trained prenatal Massage Therapists know how to position a woman’s body so that blood flow is not impeded, nor are nerves painfully impinged.  This knowledge is likely not something the patient even possesses.  Learning about body positioning is a useful added benefit to receiving body work while pregnant.

Is it possible for pregnancy massage to cause a miscarriage?

This is also not based in any kind of evidence.  Even the commonly referred to reflexology points that have been shunned because they were purported to cause uterine contractions, have been studied and found not quite the hazard they were once thought to be.  In fact, there was no hazard found with such points.  The baby  benefits from the Mom having a massage.  Her blood chemistry and body function metric change for the better, and that affects the baby directly, in real time.

Is Pregnant Women’s Massage dangerous for women?

Newborn Baby By SeattleEye

Newborn Baby by Seattle Eye

The only time Massage For Pregnant Women is conta-indicated, is when there are complications.  In these instances, a doctor must approve of this, and prescribe Massage Therapy.  If your therapist doesn’t ask you if you have complications, and you are having issues, please find a more qualified LMT.  Even with complications, Therapeutic Massage is often approvedby the physician.  As with massage for the general population, there are times when Massage Therapy is not an appropriate course of treatment.  This includes while a patient is experiencing fever, or while an injury is in its acute phase.

Not only is a massage not hazardous  for women and the unborn fetus, but it’s been proven to actually be beneficial.  Health studies have demonstrated that prenatal massage hold many benefits.  It’s precisely the opposite of what’s commonly believed.

In time, these ideas and attitudes will shift to conceptions rooted in fact and truth.  It’s just a matter of “Alternative Medicine”, including Therapeutic Massage, becoming increasingly mainstreamed into American society.  It will happen naturally, just as out shift to soy-based products and Earth-friendly toilet paper have.  It only takes time.

Consider how herbal remedies were regarded in the 1980s.  Proponents were deemed overzealous quacks.  Now studying phytochemicals and plant-based solutions to health is far more common, with vast amounts of university research pouring out every year.

It’s the results of that research that propels more funding and interest in alternative plant-based healing.  The same is slowly happening with Massage Therapy, as the topic begins to receive more of a focus, with regard to health studies.

Posted in At-Home Massage Articles, Evidence-Based Health Care, Evidence-Based Massage Therapy, Massage and Health, Massage Research, Massage Studies, Post-Natal Massage, Pre-Natal Massage, Therapeutic Massage and Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe Touch, Unsafe Touch, and Confusion: Why Children May Be Receiving The Wrong Signals

Kids benefit from positive touch Pediatric Massage Therapists must be  more aware of personal boundaries than  LMTs practicing on most other client populations.  Of course, working on babies, kids, and adolescents, is challenging.     Compound that with the real specter of child abuse, and you can see why such a concern exists.

Children of all ages benefit from Massage Therapy in so many ways.  Touch is essential to the proper development of kids, socially, mentally, and emotionally. Along with this is the idea that there is “safe touch” and “unsafe touch” (formerly referred to as”good” and “bad”, however these terms can be misleading), and Massage Therapy can help kids strengthen their personal boundaries, helping them to differentiate.  Kids learn that safe touch is therapeutic.  It is never imposing.  The child is in control of the session, and has the power to ask for a certain area to be worked more, less, or not at all.

This is a key concept I try to get kids to understand, even before we begin the first session.  I tell them that it is their session, and they should be comfortable at all times.  Of course, I then ask numerous times if the pressure is OK, if the technique is helpful, and whether they’re comfortable.

Children of all ages like having this power and enjoy exercising it.  There are so many times kids are powerless in the face of authority: Teachers, parents, elders, religious leaders, and even older siblings can all keep kids from feeling autonomous and in control of situations.

Pediatric Massage and Good Touch“Unsafe Touch” is something kids already know about.  It refers to (inappropriate) touch that is in violation of their personal boundaries and comfort.  We teach our kids to be fearful of strangers and that no one should be touching them in any way in their private area.  This is a good thing.  Children must be empowered to understand that their body is their own and no one else’s.

This also helps later in life, as kids become young adults.  By the time kids are dating, they must know this, and know it well.  They must trust and respect their own feelings and intuition about a situation.

Aiding  kids in becoming more assertive about enforcing their boundaries is key.  This one lesson can prevent your child from being abused in so many ways, now and as an adult. Assertiveness is a quality every child must develop, and will help them throughout their lives.

Learning that they have the right to say, “No!” to anyone, in any position, violating, or attempting to violate, their boundaries may be one of life’s most vital lessons.  Kids must further know that it’s not only perfectly acceptable to tell parents about any boundary violations, but that it may save their lives.

Child With GrandmaKids learn that  “safe touch”, or “good touch”, includes Grandma holding them and kissing their cheek, Mom or Dad hugging them close, and other socially acceptable, normal modes of tactile communication.  Essentially, that’s what touch is: Another way we communicate with one another, sometimes more deeply than words.  “Safe Touch” also may include Massage Therapy, chiropractic care, or even a visit to the physician.  However, kids need to understand – and clearly – that even trusted loved ones, or even health care professionals, still do not have the right to touch them in places that are off limits.

Pediatrician Examining Child  As An Example of Positive Touch

I think we do a good job of teaching our kids about abuse and sexual exploitation.  Even if make them overly cautious, in no way is this a hazard to their development.  We do live in a touch-averse culture here in America.  This may be a reaction to child exploitation, but parents must know that they can be affectionate with their kids.  All touch is not bad, and without differentiating good from bad touch, kids will end up confused.  This lesson must be explained carefully and clearly. Good touch must be demonstrated, or else kids will be starved for touch.

Helping A Child In The WaterIf you are so touch-averse that you would not save a child struggling in the waves because you are afraid to hold her hand and pull her out of the waves, that is not good.  Believe it or not, this was my own experience, long before a becoming a CPMT.  While respecting boundaries is wonderful, understanding that “Safe Touch” exists prevents such confusion.  “Safe Touch” is helpful, respectful, and kind.  “Safe Touch” may be an expression of love by parents.  It may also be Therapeutic or life-saving, as when a lifeguard pulls a child from the water, or when a doctor performs an examination.

Children At The Airport When traveling by air, kids may be subject to screening at airports.  It is imperative that this situation is explained fully  beforehand, during, and after.  Let kids ask questions.  This is serious.  We train our kids to enforce their personal  boundaries, but then, a person in authority, a stranger that they do not know, is permitted to touch them, even where we tell them, repeatedly, no one should ever touch them.  This creates confusion, and may actually prime kids for abuse by authority figures.  We learn by situations and by life.  John Dewey, the famed American educator, fully understood the value of real-life experience and how it affects the learning process.

This situation has an extremely high potential to befuddle kids. They may even come away from this all thinking that any authority figure improperly touching them  may do so at will.  You must be clear; you must explain why the screenings are done, how it protects our safety, and how this is very different than exploitative situations.  You may try role playing with your kids, helping them to learn by play.

Children at the airportChildren must come away with the full comprehension  that this is a unique situation, and Mom and Dad are right there.  The same should be done at the doctor’s when an exam requires the doctor to examine the child’s private area.  Kids must know these are unique situations, and that when Mom or Dad aren’t present, it is never acceptable.  Otherwise, a few stress-filled minutes at an airport can undo your painstaking efforts to raise your kids with an appreciation of their autonomy and right to enforce their physical boundaries.

Respecting  one’s own physical boundaries is just the first step for children’s empowerment.  Kids must also understand that they have mental, emotional, and spiritual boundaries, that they are a unique individual entitled to control their own destiny.  Without such an understanding, your child may end up emotionally, physically, or even sexually abused.  Further, kids must learn HOW to enforce their boundaries.

US Coast Guard families and service members march in New York City's Veterans Day Parade

It begins with leaning to say, “No!” to anyone, and ends with knowing telling parents of any attempted boundary violations, by anyone, even peers, is something that is important.  Raising assertive kids should be the goal of all parents. Sadly, many do not even know this is important, simply because they have no familiarity with the concept.

This is a lifelong lesson that will help us forge a nation of leaders, boys and girls who will grow into tomorrow’s men and women, Americans who are fearless, and know their rights.  It also helps kids to grow up respecting the boundaries of others.  All in all, I can think of no more important lesson.  As a former educator, I know that mastery of subject matter, development of analytical thinking skills, and memorization are secondary to these goals.

Because I saw the need to teach kids about assertiveness, I am forming Assertive Kids , a nonprofit foundation tasked with empowering kids by assertiveness education. Please visit our web site for details or to donate.

(C) 2017 H Miller, D Alban. Authored by D Alban.

Posted in At-Home Massage Articles, Child Health, Evidence-Based Health Care, Massage and Assertiveness, Massage and Culture, Massage and Health, Massage For Children, Non-Profit Foundations, Personal Growth, Stopping Kids Bullying | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment