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Drugs are good, basically

August 11, 2010

With the recent boom of the medical marijuana industry in Colorado, I’ve taken a strong interest in this subject matter.  Growing up in Minnesota, a state with a more uptight culture surrounding the use of drugs and constantly being drilled in school with the notion that drugs are always bad, I was baffled when this industry came to the forefront of Denver culture and so many people began not only accepting, but praising the medical use of THC for issues all across the medical spectrum.

I know a lot of people with medical marijuana cards (when I say a lot, I do mean a lot).  There are many issues one can get it for – anything from broken bones to anorexia to insomnia to the more serious issues, such as chemotherapy recovery and MS. 

In the documentary The Union, (a very informative documentary as well as an entertaining film – I recommend everyone watch it, whether you’re for marijuana or against it or just plain indifferent) several interviews were done with patients with varying conditions. 

In one interview in particular, with an MS patient, the effects of taking his medicine was like the difference between night and day.  When Chris Bennett and his crew arrived, his symptoms were blatant.  He could barely control his movement, twitching spastically and could hardly form a complete a coherent sentence.  Bennett and his crew had to help him light the pipe, and only seconds after the medicine was inhaled, his body calmed down.  He gave an interview and for the most part, you could hardly tell there was anything wrong with him to begin with.

Does marijuana cure MS?  Absolutely not.  It won’t get rid of this man’s disease and probably won’t help him live any longer, but it improves his quality of life.  Because of this medicine, he is able to do things like sit still for an interview, and communicate coherently to others. 

There are things that marijuana perhaps does cure though.  On Drugs Inc., a show on the National Geographic Channel that portrays the realities of almost any drug, recently broadcasted an episode on marijuana.  Most of their episodes are on how heroine and meth destroy people’s lives (I will agree with that), but this episode dug into the medical marijuana industry, showing how it has drastically improved people’s lives across the country. 

One interview in particular stuck with me.  It was an AIDS patient, who, about ten years ago, was dying from malnutrition as a side effect of a drug he needed to take to live.  The drug took away his appetite, and any other drug to increase appetite would have cancelled out the effects of his AIDS medication.  He obtained a medical marijuana license in hopes that the medicine would increase his appetite while not reacting badly with other medications, and when it did, was able to regain his health.  His AIDS is still with him, but he no longer suffers from malnutrition.  He said specifically in that interview, “if it wasn’t for marijuana, I wouldn’t be alive right now.”

In my casual digging for information on medical marijuana, I came across studies of different drugs that have been used to treat other problems. 

One that stood out to me was the use of LSD to treat alcoholism.

Until 1966, LSD was not illegal in the United States.  Before it was outlawed, LSD was used to treat alcoholism and had an astonishing 65% success rate.  To many, that may not seem breathtakingly high, but compared to Alcoholics Anonymous’s 10% success rate and personal therapy’s 25% success rate, it was, by far, the highest success rate of any alcoholism treatment in history.

A single dose of the drug was given to people going through delirium tremens (or DTs), a severe form of alcohol withdrawal typically experienced after heavy abuse.  Doctors believed the LSD could trigger a turnaround for those experiencing DTs without the painful physical effects associated with DTs. 

Dr. Erica Dyck of the University of Alberta, a leading researcher of this topic, said, “The LSD somehow gave these people experiences that psychologically took them outside of themselves and allowed them to see their own unhealthy behavior more objectively, and then determine to change it.”

Some may say that’s foolish, but I think a 65% success rate says otherwise. (Click here for more information on the studies)

MDMA is also used in psychotherapy and is almost proven to relieve people of PTSD, and has also been used in individual, couples and family therapy before it was made illegal in 1985 because of its popularity at raves. (Just as a note, MDMA does not mean Ecstasy, Ecstasy doesn’t always contain MDMA and is a different drug entirely).  Laboratory studies have also proven that MDMA is not harmful to humans when taken in moderate doses a limited number of times.  (Click here for information on that).

Anyway, after reading up on cases such as these and thinking about how doctors give out things like Oxycodon, a highly addictive drug that basically destroys your organs when marijuana can be used for the same conditions (and at a fraction of the cost), it really annoys me.  I’ve witnessed the toll an opiate-addiction will take on one’s life and the struggle it takes to get over it, and it saddens me to think it all could have been avoided with something that is completely natural.

If I really wanted to get into every aspect of this, I could talk about my friend from high school who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day bought one of those electronic cigarettes in which you basically smoke vaporized nicotine, and she hasn’t touched a cig since.  She’s even reduced how much she uses it, and is well on her way to quitting nicotine all together.  (And the FDA wants to ban that and rely on the not-very-effective nicotine patches?!)

I know drugs are a controversial topic, and there are many sides to it.  But after learning about cases such as these, it makes me wonder why people (and the government) waste tens of thousands of dollars on treatments that work only a fraction as well as these medications.


rich and strange

July 28, 2010

I saw this quote yesterday:

“I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there’s something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It’s the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part…” Nick Hornby, Songbook

Every now and then, I get this feeling when I read something that is particularly well explained that makes me think.  Reading this quote got me thinking about my own relationship with music.

I’ve always been fond of music, although I am not especially musically talented on anything except a drum kit, I’ve always been drawn to the feeling it gives me.  Since I was little and fawned over Backstreet Boys and Hanson (NOT N’Sync, they were just Backstreet Boy wannabes…pssch), to now when I’ll listen to almost anything and everything worth listening to, music has been something I constantly need, I listen to it every day like the air I breathe because when the rest of the world is chaotic and doesn’t make sense, it’s the only thing that seems to fit.  It calms me when I need to be calmed and excites me when I need to be pumped up.  No matter what I listen to, music always seems to give me exactly what I need, when I need it. 

It never fails, it never lets down, it never disappoints. 

 When I attend a concert, it always sucks me in so inexplicably.  Weather it be a long-anticipated show that I had been planning for months or a spur-of-the-moment trip to Cervantes, I can feel the music crawling under my skin and running through my veins.  If it’s not a band I know, it only takes a short time before I feel like I’ve known them my whole life.  No matter what I’m doing, who is with me, or where I am, the music takes over.  The show becomes part of me for that short period of time, and leaves a mark in me that never fades. 

Each memory of a show I have is distinct from the next, different pieces of my memory that create a whole piece of who I am.  Even back in high school, I remember attending endless Battle of the Bands, supporting various friends of mine and even getting the opportunity to judge here and there because of a teen center I was highly involved with.  Going backstage at Blink 182 in the ninth grade was, what I believed at the time, to be the pinnacle of my existence (I still don’t think I’ve washed the shirt Mark brushed against when we took a picture).  Seeing Children of Bodem was an experience I never thought I’d have, and, well, I think once is enough. 😉 

From those various memories to my first Red Rocks experience and the shows I have yet to look forward to, these milestones have created me.  Its hard to put into words exactly how this happened, but it is, as Hornby put it so well, the richest and strangest part of me.

Getting Cheesy

July 27, 2010

A few months ago, I began listening to a band called The String Cheese Incident.  I had a decent amount of friends who raved about them, and after they began counting down the days until “an incident on the rocks,” (a.k.a. a String Cheese Incident show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, which happened this past weekend) at about 200-something days, I decided I had to check them out.

They were nothing like I expected.  They were better.

Their music, a fusion of jam, jazz, experimental with a twist of pop-rock, all built upon a foundation of bluegrass with poetic lyrics that speak to the soul, I couldn’t help but become an instant fan. 

Not only is their music genius, they have a very unique image.  I once read they were one of the top “stoner bands” since the Grateful Dead, and the crowd they attract is very similar, although their sounds are nothing alike.  I’ve never gotten the opportunity to see an Incident yet, but I’ve seen pictures and read rave reviews.  Their light shows are colorful and epic, their known for dancers, fire poiiers, and hula hoops. 

A couple months ago when I was at a Disco Biscuits show at Red Rocks, a buddy of mine was telling me about how at the last Incident on the Rocks, fire poiing dancers were actually lifted on top of the rocks to perform during their sets.  This year, I read on a friend’s Facebook that skydivers flew from the sky and landed in the amphitheater during the show.

[Photo by Mitch Kline, from the Red Rocks show on 7/25/2010]

Hearing these stories makes me think that Cheese is very similar in their marketing tactics as the Grateful Dead were.  The Grateful Dead are, in many ways, marketing geniuses.  Through their branding, they were able to create not only a strong, loyal fan base, but an actual following.  Dead culture, I’ve come to realize, is almost like a religion.  Back before Jerry Garcia passed, there were people who would take off entire summers, or even years, to follow the band around, selling drugs or whatever they had to in order to get money for the next show.  They traveled in groups of makeshift “families” and lived and breathed for the Dead.  The shows, from what I’ve read and heard, were not only about the music, but about the experience.  They were able to, from song one to encore, take you on a journey that deviated your mind far from where you ever thought you’d go to experience something new, something great, and something you would never, as long as you live, forget.

Like I said, genius.

Phish have almost created the same thing for the next generation, many of their followers simply a younger generation of Dead fans, but still attracting bluegrass/jamband fans of all generations.

I’ve been to my fair share of bluegrass and jam shows, and I even saw Phish perform at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame induction, which I lucked into attending last spring.  But I’ve never been witness to anything like this.  I’m counting down the days until September 26th when Furthur will be playing Red Rocks and I’ve already got my ticket on lock. (For those of you who don’t know, Futhur, simply put, are kind of the Dead~ similar to the way Rhythm Devils are as well ~ Phil Lesh and Bob Weir touring with a few younger guys and jamming all the same jams the Dead used to play, creating a similar atmosphere and, as a real live Deadhead once told me, playing those same songs with even more intensity than the original group did back in the day).

As for The String Cheese Incident, I’m sad I won’t get to see them this summer, especially when I have friends who not only saw them all three nights at Red Rocks but are following them up to Hornings Hideout in Portland to see them again.  (And that 10,000 Lakes Music Festival was cancelled, another show Cheese has rocked in previous years).

I guess I’ll just have to hope they continue to grace my generation with their soul-shifting melodies and almost life-changing shows.


I can fly! I can fly!

July 27, 2010

This past weekend, Redbull Flugtag made its way to the Twin Cities.  I started hearing about it back in February, and with all the publicity, curiosity got the better of me so two of my high school buddies and I meandered downtown to check it out.  Between road construction and traffic, it took us two hours to drive from Plymouth to St. Paul (ugh..) but it was totally worth it.

Here are a couple photos.

They had initially expected around 50,000 to show up, and over 90,000 people crowded the shores of the Mississippi to witness the flights.

I hope they come back to the Twin Cities.  It would definitely be worth a weekend trip from Denver 😛



July 26, 2010

Here is my attempt at keeping a blog. 

I’ve considered doing this a lot, particularly because I am a communications major and my public relations/journalism professors always say blogs are great things to keep if you want to work in communications, which I am fairly certain I do.  (I also have a long-ass life bucket list, which includes like 6 or 7 different careers, most of which are TBD).

But despite what I do, I love writing and art and photography.  No matter where my career takes me, those three things will always be a constant in my life, so this blog will be a compilation of just that.  Writing.  Art.  Photography.  As well as anything else going on in my life.

Here’s a picture to get this thing started.

This is the sunrise over Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.  I had to be at Thomas Beach at 6:00 a.m. for a media event for the Aquatennial, a client of the PR agency I am interning for this summer.  I had my camera to take pictures of the event, and snapped this one while waiting around for everything to start. 

More to come eventually 😉