My Life on the Road — Staying Still

I've been back in Canada since May and I am certain I am losing my mind. It's a certainty that takes hold of me, every year.

We come home because we have to. As Canadians, we can only stay in the Untied States for a maximum of six months at a time. This past year, we stayed just shy of five months in the United States and, another two, down in Mexico. We drove back across the Canadian border with a few days left to spare. This dates-in-da-States wiggle room is important as I sometimes have to head south for work. I'd rather not get into dutch with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Being back in Canada for half the year is , a must if we want to hold on to our sweet-ass socialized medical care (which we totally do.) and for my wife to return to work. While she's a certified dive instructor, she also loves the land-locked gig she works for half of the year. We also come home because we want to. I have few friends and work remotely. Disappointment and distrust have left me happy in the small company of my partner, our pooch and a few well-chosen friends that I seldom see. My missus? Not so much. Community is important to her. Her sister's family—now my family—means the world to her. Reacquainting herself with her people, each year, brings her a happiness that I try hard to understand. I love to see her light up around her friends. Read the rest

Texas' new cannabis laws screw PTSD sufferers. Again.

Back in 2015, the great state of Texas passed The Compassionate Use Act, making the use of cannabis for medical purposes totally cool... in a small number of instances. Only those with epilepsy are allowed to use the plant's properties to ease their symptoms and the cannabis that they're allowed to use must contain minuscule amounts of THC. This left Texans who'd like to turn to cannabis to help ease their way out of opioid use or deal with chronic pain, to saddle up and move to a less restrictive state or risk being arrested. Recently, the state's lawmakers looked to reforming the restrictive act, Once again, too small a group of folks wound up being told that they're cool to roll with a bit of cannabis in their lives. One of the biggest groups excluded: individuals suffering from PTSD.

From The Texas Observer:

Activists say opposition to cannabis reform is partially based on fearmongering over alleged dangers of marijuana by Republicans and law enforcement officials, a powerful group at the Lege. False claims and junk science often go unchallenged in a vacuum created by the lack of research into cannabis. (Marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug is a significant barrier to studying the plant’s uses.) For three sessions, the Rural Sheriffs Association of Texas has peddled its report that falsely claims pot lowers IQ scores, is addictive and increases criminality. In March, Plano Police Sergeant Terence Holway told lawmakers in a committee hearing that “all drug addicts … started with marijuana.”

Brian Birdwell, a GOP state senator and Desert Storm Army veteran, spoke about his “highly guarded sense of danger” about marijuana for more than 20 minutes during the Senate debate of HB 3703.

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Service animal registries being built to root out fakes

The Air Carrier Access Act, written back in 1986, was kind of lazy in how it defined ‘what a service animals is, to the point where almost anything goes. As such, there’s been a whole lot of folks of late bringing their animals on board of airplanes claiming that they’re emotional support animals. This peacock is an example of that sort of thing. Maybe some help calm their owners on what would be a harrowing in-air experience, without them. But for individuals with verifiable medical conditions who have been given specially-trained psychiatric service animals to help them better navigate their lives, it’s a serious pain in the ass.

With travelers and airlines alike getting tired of people attempting to bring their ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ animals on flights with them, the idea of bringing along an animal for legitimate medical reasons, even one that comes with documentation from a doctor or mental health professional, can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. That’s not OK. It’s a problem that can be especially prevalent with veterans afflicted with PTSD. Many rely on their service dogs to ground them during a flashback, make them feel like someone is watching their back in public places or wake them from reoccurring nightmares. It's not the sort of tool that you want to leave at home when you travel.

Thanks to a pair of new registries currently in development, the epidemic of false service animals that’s cropped up in the news of late could come to an end while, at the same time, helping those with a legitimate medical need to have their prescribed pooches with them on a flight do so, with less hassle. Read the rest

Review: Bose's Noise-Masking Sleepbuds would be great if my brain would let me enjoy them

Even with the drugs I take for my PTSD, I'm still hyper alert than the average person--the car is always kept running, just in case I need it. This makes it hard for me to get to sleep, most nights. Small noises, like our home contracting as the night draws colder, animals outside and passing cars, all conspire to keep me awake. To get around this, I've been using a noise app called Rain Rain on my Android handset and iPhone, for years. But there's nights where even that doesn't work to drown out the aural stimulation keeping me awake. Things like my wife's snoring or my dog getting up for a drink of water are present enough that they cut through the noise. Next thing you know, I'm up until dawn, reading a book or playing video games.

Enter Bose's noise-masking Sleepbuds.

A few months back, Bose brought me to New York to check them out. During their PR team's presentation, it was explained to me that they had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to make an appliance that'd help people to get a good night's sleep. The Sleepbuds use a combination of passive noise cancellation (the block up your ear canals) and a selection of noise loops to block out sounds that might keep someone like me, awake. It was explained to me that the Sleepbuds can't be used for listening to music--they're not designed for that. Sending music to a set of cans, via Bluetooth, uses up a lot of battery power. Read the rest

MDMA can help treat PTSD, yet another study shows

The active ingredient in Ecstasy, MDMA, is safe and can help to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, a new clinical psychotherapy trial shows. Read the rest

Confession: You can't trust a junkie with a new laptop

There's still plenty of life left in my 2015 MacBook Pro. But sooner or later, I'll ditch my computer in favor something new.

The nerd in me is wicked excited with the notion of using an ultra light laptop with an external graphics processor, for several reasons. I've always wanted to own a gaming laptop, but I could never justify the price, or the weight of one in my bag. Going with a computer that can connect to an external GPU means that I could invest in the laptop first, and then the GPU when I could afford it. And since the GPU for the rig is external, I wouldn't be forced to carry around a heavy bastard of a computer with me every time I needed to take off on assignment. That said, I was hesitant to buy one without seeing how it'd perform, first and foremost, as a work machine. I really like the look of the Razer Blade Stealth: the laptop's industrial design is what Apple might have come up with if their design department had a shred of edge or attitude. So, relying on the privilege of my position as a tech journalist, I asked Razer if I could borrow one.

They said yes.

I spent the past month working on Razer's insanely well-built ultrabook. It was pimped out with 16GB of dual channel RAM, and an Intel Core i7 2.70Ghz processor. It's zippy! But then, that's in comparison to my daily driver: a three year old Core i5 with 8GB of RAM. Read the rest

This special forces veteran is rowing across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness of PTS(D) and needs your help to do it

I've been transparent about it elsewhere online, but I'll say it again here: my last career left me with a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (you can drop the 'D' from that if it troubles you, I get it) diagnosis. I spent years, crippled by depression, flashbacks and alcoholism before finding the strength to reach out for help. Thanks to counseling, a few gnarly prescriptions and the support of a strong partner, I've been able to crawl back from the edge. It wasn't easy.

After entering counseling, I worked to be more open about my issues. Doing so caused me to lose a gig that I'd had for years, even though they were cool with my performance up until then. It left me feeling more alienated and alone than I had in years. But, a few years later, I'm now in a better head space than I have been in close to two decades. So, saying that, causes that promote awareness and understanding of Post Traumatic Stress and battlefield injuries are close to my heart.

This is one of those.

As a veteran of the Royal Marines, Tim Crockett's seen his share of combat and knows more than a few soldiers who have been kissed by Post Traumatic Stress during the course of their duties. This year, he'll be rowing a 20-foot long boat across the Atlantic Ocean to help raise awareness, understanding and helping those of us with PTS(D) to get the help we need. It's a 3,000 nautical mile trek that'll start in the Canary Islands and end in Antigua. Read the rest

Historic FDA approval granted for Ecstasy trial as PTSD treatment

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies announced that the FDA has granted MDMA (aka Ecstasy/Molly) a "Breakthrough Therapy" designation as part of a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From the journal Science:

One of the main targets in the war on drugs could well become a drug to treat the scars of war. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), better known as the illegal drug ecstasy, a "breakthrough therapy" for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a status that may lead to faster approval.

The agency has also approved the design for two phase III studies of MDMA for PTSD that would be funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit in Santa Cruz, California. MAPS announced the "breakthrough therapy" designation, made by FDA on 16 August, on its website today; if the group can find the money for the trials, which together could cost an estimated $25 million, they may start next spring and finish by 2021.

That an illegal dancefloor drug could become a promising pharmaceutical is another indication that the efforts of a dedicated group of researchers interested in the medicinal properties of mind-altering drugs is paying dividends. Stringent drug laws have stymied research on these compounds for decades. "This is not a big scientific step," says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London. "It’s been obvious for 40 years that these drugs are medicines. But it’s a huge step in acceptance."

Read the rest

Joe Biden's heartfelt answer to Trump's PTSD comments

Trump hit on something Joe Biden takes very, very seriously.

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Study confirms a physical correlate to PTSD: "brown dust" in the brain

Since WWI, doctors have speculated that PTSD's underlying cause was some sort of physical damage caused by blast-waves from bombs, which literally shook loose something important in the brains of sufferers. Read the rest

Real stories of psychiatric support dogs, and the people who rely on them

Hopes&Fears has a beautiful feature up today on the lives of service dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities and mental illnesses. Read the rest

Elephants get PTSD, too: orphans lack social knowledge they need to survive in the wild

A recent study investigated the impact of culling and relocation on elephant decision-making and cognition decades later. African elephants are highly intelligent and social creatures, and rely on their sophisticated communication skills to survive in the wild. How does the trauma of being separated from "loved ones" and their native terrain change how orphaned elephants think, and cope?

From a recent National Geographic article by Christy Ullrich Barcus: Read the rest

Army seeks to counteract PTSD nightmares with "real-life Inception"

Danger Room reports that an Army-backed R&D project called “Power Dreaming” at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington State promises to help troops battle their nightmares with digital "counter-dreams": virtual dream stimuli. The Army awarded about half a million dollars to a consulting company for help developing the experiment, which is scheduled to launch next year. Read the rest