• J.A. Carter-Winward

THE DEMONS WE KNOW

The Consequences of Abdicating Personal Responsibility in Healthcare




I don't have many vices.


I eat clean (meaning, locally grown when possible, unprocessed food, no sugar, gluten, dairy), no restaurant or fast food, and I don't drink alcohol or use recreational drugs. I only have 8-10 oz. of coffee in the morning, no sugar, just cashew milk.


I'm unimpressed with social media and the zings of dopamine it gives regular users and I'm not much of a shopper anymore.


Now, I was a smoker back in the 80's as a rebellious teen, and then a tiny bit in my twenties (only in bars) and then, I stopped. Quit cold turkey. That was in the mid-90's, when I began to weight train and train seriously, because I was considering competing.


When you're 25, you can get away with partying all night then working out the next day and that's what I did. But one afternoon, after a particularly rambunctious night of drinking and smoking, I went for my usual run and I started coughing. I coughed and coughed and then spit out what can only be described as what I imagined a liquified ashtray would taste like. I almost threw up and that was it.


I kept a jar of Carmex in my car and whenever I'd get the urge to smoke thereafter, I'd simply put Carmex on my lips. I didn't miss the cigarettes, I missed the procedural routine while driving.


Anyone who remembers this era recalls the dire warnings of tobacco use and cigarettes. The cringe-y commercials of people speaking through a device on their throats because they had their voice boxes removed due to cancer. From smoking.


Yes. Smoking, baaaaad.


Hey, I'm not going to argue. It's not good for you. Tobacco and, specifically nicotine. But why is the latter so terrible? Because it's addictive.


You know, like how you crave your morning coffee, your afternoon latte, your mid-afternoon energy drink, your diet Cokes, your Red Bulls, like that. Because caffeine is addictive, too, right? But caffeine is okay to be addicted to.


Why is that? Because it's the demon we know.



DEMONIZING STRATEGIES


The truth about caffeine is that is can also cause high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease and heart attacks because it's a stimulant, plain and simple. But we're sort of okay with that.

Nicotine, however, isn't just a stimulant.


As my psychologist explained to me (when I was in therapy for depression as a teen) about my smoking habit, (again, as a teen), "I get why you smoke. Nicotine is a very pleasant drug. It stimulates the CNS, while at the same time, it calms the autonomic nervous system."


Wait.


My therapist wasn't demonizing nicotine?? Why? I mean, I was trying to rebel, for heaven's sake…


His strategy was effective. He knew that's why I smoked, and he took all of that "motivation" away from me. I eventually stopped smoking but then when I started back up (ironically for some of the same reasons I smoked in high school) I made my decision as an adult and based on the health impact it was having on me not based on the current cultural zeitgeist.


Interestingly, we've so thoroughly demonized nicotine because of its delivery method (tobacco products) and negative health impacts, the potential for it as a possible treatment for certain neurological disorders has been left flapping in the breeze.



DRUG WITHDRAWAL - Latuda


After being diagnosed with drug-induced akathisia, I was taken off Latuda too quickly. But I didn't know it was too fast and neither did my Doc. He just wanted to get me off the drug ASAP because I'd been suffering for so long.


I recall Googling "akathisia" and there was nothing. NOTHING. Nothing described what I was going through until….


Until I Googled "inner akathisia." It was then, I came across a blog called Akathisia Info. I read about her experience and I found myself bawling at her horrific experience but even more disturbing were n in the comments, all the people suffering gruesome bouts of akathisia begging her for help.


This woman, she wasn't a doctor. She didn't give medical advice but as I read through some of the strategies she used, and others told her about, to cope with withdrawal, I saw cigarettes listed and I messaged my husband because I instinctively knew.


"Bring me home a pack of cigarettes." He didn't even question me.


He came home and brought a lighter (great foresight, since I no longer smoked, so no lighters were around) and I shuffled to the back porch with him. I was terrified. I had no more room for "worse."


I lit the cigarette and inhaled. My first feeling—nausea. I felt so nauseated by the smell, the taste, but after the first drag, then the second, the blood-curdling abyss of pain in my solar plexus was turned down to "6" instead of "11." My husband went in the house and brought me some juice to sip so I could get through the cigarette, which I couldn't, and didn't finish.


The moment it felt like the symptoms were under control, I stubbed it out.


The fine tremor and shaking stopped throughout my body stopped. The 24/7 migraine, nausea stopped. I couldn't believe it.


Every day during that summer, my husband had to practically drag my by the leg to the porch to smoke. I hated it so much, but some days it was "have a few cigarette puffs and survive" or…not.


What happened over the course of the following fall in ad winter was that as my withdrawal symptoms changed, worsened, cigarettes no longer had any therapeutic benefit for me, so I simply stopped smoking them.


Long before that, I started vaping. During withdrawals, I found I couldn't vape at all. But when I began vaping again, it has been at roughly .12% nicotine. See, I get the juice in two bottles, but one with 0% nicotine, the other, the lowest they sell, .25%.


That's my vice. I vape in the a.m. and sometimes early afternoon, but not after around 2 or 3 pm because my body and brain don't like it later in the day.


The thing is my body and brain really didn't like Latuda or Zoloft or Pristiq or Prozac or Abilify, Wellbutrin


But it took a hell of a lot more than Carmex to stop all those, and no one congratulated me for "kicking" them.



COUNTING on the SHEEPLE


This morning I went online to buy more coils for my rather homeopathic nicotine habit, and it turns out Utah won't allow anything "vape-related" to be shipped into its pristine borders.


My vape unit, no idea what it's called, is old and they don't make it anymore, so I had to get creative to find replacement atomizers. But they're not only "out of stock" everywhere, I can't order them because remember? Nicotine, baaaaaaad.


It's interesting because Utah has a thriving pharmaceutical industry, specifically research and paid clinical trials, places with almost MLM-style complexity that requires deep-dive exploration into the many ways drug companies can fast-track their drugs into the unsuspecting population. Utah is a drug-hub of stimulants, SSRIs, SNRIs, AAPs, and benzos, oooh, don't forget the benzos. I went to see a new shrink a while back and he told me that he never prescribed one, single benzo while in practice back east in Maryland.


But here, he said, he refills benzo scripts "every day," several times a day. Smart move. Job security.


Now, in case you don't know, what's notorious about Utah are "the Mormons." Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.


They're known for their strict adherence to the "Word of Wisdom." No alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and black/green tea, but fruits, veggies, wholesome herbs (cough cough) and grains are gooooood. Yes, apparently "gluten" and "carbs" are not addressed in the holy scripture.


The WoW also says meat is okay to eat but "sparingly."


In other words, many current members like to say, "moderation in all things" is good health advice and they still love to crow about how prescient the whole "alcohol, tobacco, coffee" thing was in terms of not being healthy.


Except… the Church prides itself on "continuing revelation."


So I've been waiting for some time for the Church leaders to talk to members about sugar consumption and prescription medications. Odd. Not a peep.


Coffee isn't okay, but a 64-oz diet Coke on the way to work? Just fine. Vaping? Not okay, but the line around Fiiz Drinks at lunchtime all the way until 3PM is usually wrapped around the mini-mall twice.


If you want to open a franchise selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts or a Crumbl Cookie operation, do it in Utah. I Googled the former and found this:


"Get vaccinated, get a free Krispy Kreme doughnut."


Yes because it's all about healthy Utah, kids.



UTAH, a PRETTY DRUGGED STATE





Especially here in Utah, we've proclaimed certain drugs bad, not because they really are, but because we follow and believe whoever's doing the loudest talking. Utahans talk about their bodies being temples, at least in church they do, but every strip mall has a food or dessert choice that will make you diabetic in 5 visits or less.


Utah, in particular, is filled with a certain "follower" mentality—they're very big on authority figures.


Most Utahans I know get their health advice and information off of billboards. I've asked people if they know what the #1-leading cause of death in Utah among children ages 10-17 and adults 18-34 is, and almost invariably, they say, "Um, oh, is it…opiates?"


Oh yes, the Utah Opidemic. No, the opioid "epidemic" is not what's killing Utah's kids and young adults but that's what allll the billboards tell them. "Heroin, pills, it all kills."


How many lives do opiates save a day? Hm. No idea.


So when I enlighten them, telling them that SUICIDE is the #1 leading cause, I make sure to add, "but not opiate-related suicide" because we don't know why people are killing themselves, only that they are.


There is the matter of suicide being a side effect of certain medications that Utahans lead the country in taking. But that's the Mormon's fault. Or is it "the gays?" Oh, is it the vape shops?! It's gotta be, with a ban on all vape products coming into Utah.


LOOK.


A side effect is an unintended consequence of taking a medication. Patients have no control over whether side effects will occur or not and no control over how they present.


Suicide is an intentional act of self-harm.


So if suicide is a side effect, that means the act of self-harm while someone's taking a drug that lists "suicide" as a side effect is no longer an intentional act, but an act provoked by a medication's stated side effect.


Do I need to use smaller words?




Recently, my husband came across a study done clear back in 1997. In an inpatient setting, meaning mental patients—you know, people we don't care about—nicotine patches were administered to 16 patients with drug-induced akathisia from antipsychotics. Their findings?


"On single-blind ratings, akathisia appeared significantly reduced on days when patients were wearing the patches as compared to the baseline day. These findings, if confirmed, may help to explain the high rates of tobacco use among psychotic patients, and may suggest avenues for the treatment of akathisia."

No further research was ever done to suggest further avenues because no one cares about the mentally ill. Not then, not now. Except… based on how many Utahans are on psychiatric medications, I'd say it's time to start caring, Utah.


Additionally, nicotine has been shown to have therapeutic benefits for Parkinson's patients, and yet there has been a huge push to cast doubt or disprove that nicotine can benefit Parkinson's patients. Why is that??


Especially for the elderly who are in homes, why not try nicotine patches for the Parkinson's patients? More often than not, despite the antitherapeutic benefits of antipsychotic medications and contraindications on the boxed warnings, the elderly are routinely medicated with psych meds in and out of care facilities, and families are just fine with that because the in-house medical staff wants their patients sedated while their families are happy to visit on Sundays.


It's so nice when Grandma's all calm and dopey, huh?


Kind of like mental patients.


We just want them to sit there and drool and stop reminding us that they're our responsibilities now, despite the fact that once upon a time, we were theirs.



THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY TRUTH



My husband played rugby for BYU back in the 1980s. He and the football team shared a locker room. A good friend of ours who played football for BYU became, like many BYU football players, addicted to opiates. The reason so many became addicted was because BYU had bowls of Percocet in the locker rooms for the taking.


Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. There was no doctor, no need for a 'script. Take as many as you need to keep going.


So BYU allowed their athletes to self-medicate while they played rugby or football. But hey guys, don't you dare have some coffee before class.


Back then, my husband was lucky and in his arrogance, he refused to take anything for pain from the bowls. I say 'arrogance' because he was a firm believer that he should feel his pretend-war wounds. I think he also knew how dangerous and powerful opiates were on some level, but he was a 20-year-old kid. Without a medical degree, I might add.


Our friend, and too many like him, was not so lucky. His life was destroyed by opiate addiction but like many former players who are either dead or addicts or in recovery, he's held hostage by an unspoken threat: the loss of his family in the afterlife.


Because if you speak out against the LDS Church, you lose your membership. No, I'm not Googling that for you. Feel free to research it yourself, though. Maybe start in the middle of its history with the "September Six."


Today, while our friend is in recovery, a daily battle he's barely surviving, he's never once considered speaking out. His entire life was stolen from him by, not just the pills, but the depraved indifference of the BYU athletics department and the Mormon Church. And while it continues to claim plausible deniability on one hand (the perks of lay-clergy, among others) on the other, what about doing the right thing?


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Brigham Young University have never been held accountable for this flagrant, reckless practice and their immoral apathy toward the lives and families they've devastated and frankly, I'd like to know why former athletes and victims of BYU and the LDS Church continue to protect them.


Oh, that's right. The whole "losing my family in Heaven"- thing. If you believe that, it's the worst form of blackmail.


"I was exposed to opiates in my athletic career" says Alema Harrington, a former BYU football player who um, courageously (?) speaks of his battle with addiction, and who speaks out against opiate addiction. He's a prominent figure in the battle for Utah's soul because he made it. He's kicked it. Well, so did my friend, but not as spectacularly as Alema.


In another video, Alema says he'd never taken narcotics until his Freshman year at BYU, where he took pain killers in his dorm room. What he doesn't say is that he got them from the BYU locker room.


BOWLS of Percocet in the locker room.


Feels more like a battle of magicians, see who can distract our eyes better.


Now, if he was injured and given a 'script, that's fine. But not what he said. And if he did get it from a doctor, tell me, Alema, did you NOT notice the BOWLS in the locker room? (Remember, Jesus can hear you.)


My husband was there. Our good friend, a guy who saved my life, was there.


He was here in our home while I was going through the worst of withdrawal from Latuda, and he knew withdrawal. Opiate w/d was a cakewalk, comparatively. His words, not mine.


And while I'm no longer a practicing Mormon, I was taught that there isn't a lie you can tell yourself that won't be exposed in the hereafter.


Members of the Church are taught that in order to repent of their sins, you must first recognize and admit you sinned. Second, feel sorrow. Third, vow to never sin like that again, and then confess, repent to the Lord, sincerely and with a broken, contrite spirit, and if you do that, your sins will be forgiven.


Oh, and make restitution as much as possible: "…we must make right any wrong that we have done." -churchofjesuschrist.org


The LDS Church is a billion-dollar corporation with non-profit status, and they haven't ever admitted any wrong-doing. They shove the blame on the lay-clergy and on individual responsibility but that doesn't fly, here. Everyone knows "willpower" isn't what addiction is about. If the good folks at BYU say it's safe and okay to take Percs before the game, then who are the players to question it?


I wonder. If my friend went and knocked on the Church office doors and asked them to please give him enough money to make up for his lost potential, do you think they'd hear him out or… cite the statute of limitations?


Neither one. They'd threaten his family via his membership. And my friend, see, he wouldn't ask for some huge amount of money. I know him. He'd just ask for a chance to live his life from this point forward.


I have a feeling their answer would be the same.


So much for repentance.



In the meantime, I'm not too concerned about my vape atomizers.


Worse case scenario, I'll buy nicotine patches to control the essential tremors of Parkinsonism I have thanks to the poly-drugging my Utah doctors did, without caring about my long-term wellbeing, just their dogma, their pocketbooks, their worldviews.


I'll just have to cut the patches really, really small and take them off after lunch. But it would be nice if I could vape my melon-mint gum vape juice. Oh well.


Meanwhile, as I go through withdrawal cycles from Latuda, Abilify, and all the other evil medications I should have never, ever come close to being prescribed, I still have an old, stagnant pack of Marlboro Silver 100's in my glovebox somewhere, just in case I feel like I need to pitch myself from the highest building.


Not because of "the Mormons" or the LGBTQ community or the Utah Opidemic or vape shops.


No, it's because as a society, we abdicated our personal responsibility to our health long ago and had someone given me the information, my quality of life would have been much different.


However, as patients back then, we only had the information that was available - our doctors and whatever was covered in the news and in magazines.


WHAT is the excuse now?


Sadly, the "statute of limitations" for going back and revisiting what we put in our bodies isn't moot, but rather, uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unwanted. So "obey and have faith."


See how far that gets you.



Do you know your Black Box Warnings?






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