June 09, 2005

My right arm aches constantly, is that because I am (was) a cellist?

By this first post I have lived through more than a couple of years of chronic pain. Most of the time it's not been terrible, just annoying. But I'm balancing on the edge of falling into these eye-aches that are nasty. There is where eternity exists: when it hurts blindingly and there is no sense of it ending because all of time is in that pain moment.

But why go there? All I have is a bit of headache, dizzyness and right arm ache. It's time to party. Happy days are here.

Now-a-days, to me, this kind of looks like a world that is a party to join, even including Don Quixote-ism (a special kind of party), as long as you are not prohibitively suffering.

Am I a bad citizen when I'm so busy suffering? Maybe this is yet another basis of arguments for more medical research on pain relief. There are whole categories of pain that opiods, epileptic, and anti-depressant drugs, not to mention aspirin and NSAIDs, don't touch. I don't know if my aching arm isn't more like phantom limb pain than it is "spasticity" which I guess is a muscle pulling against itself and known as a "typical" symptom of M.S.

It intrigues me that pharmacology is held in such high esteem. One of the best drugs around (aspirin) developed from "folk usage" of willow bark. When I worked at the Institute of Medicine it was always held up for example that aspirin would never be approved by the FDA according to present rules. Why do we so much trust that the drugs that get approved are any good?

Have you noticed how many commercials currently solicit users of various drugs for "substantial cash awards" if you have had certain negative developments in your health? Don't we all know that there are real risks in any drug treatments? What is this particular economy of litigation? (Or are we truly observing a major correction in the incompetence of the FDA?)

Musings will diverge, depending on personal experience of pain, regarding yesterday's negative Supreme Court opinion on marijiana. Somebody must have put a voodoo curse on the weed to make it give certain people heebie jeebies whenever it's even mentioned. I love the write up in the book "Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World". Michael Pollan has the idea that the plant latched on to humans creating a certain evolutionary success. In my mind the thousands-of-years relationship between people and weed puts its neuroprotective properties into the category of much-better-tested-than-the-FDA-could-ever-test. Did you know that there is an entire system of cannabinoid receptors in the brain along with dopamine and seratonin and all of the other chemical signals between nerves? Cannabinoid receptors probably are a neuroprotective system. It's under-studied (imagine that).

Too bad we are so busy being spooked by our fears on this topic. Once we start suffering from pain a lot, it's usually too late to go out there and do the research. It's like having a leaky roof that doesn't need to be fixed if it's not raining and that you can't fix if it is raining. Brilliant, huh?

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