Archive for October 2007
This is why I haven’t been posting much lately! This is Jasper, our new puppy. He’s eight weeks old and we bought him home with us on Friday. He’s an English working strain cocker spaniel. That means he won’t have the very long coat and ears and the domed head of the English or American show cocker spaniels, instead he’ll look more like a miniature springer spaniel when he grows up, with a pointier nose and a smaller forehead than the show strains. He’s chocolate with ginger points – eyebrows, inside ears, nose, and paws. He has very even markings and unusual olive coloured eyes. We think he’s going to be a bit of a ladykiller when he grows up. If you visit Hawcroft gundogs, you’ll see a picture of his paternal grandfather, Sandford Black Mamba. And if you visit Rytex gundogs, you’ll see a picture of his maternal grandfather, Danderw Druid, probably where he gets his looks! His mum was an absolute beauty – soft as muck, with a slender nose and sleek ginger fur, and it looks like this guy has sired a few similar to her.
We chose a working cocker because they are a relatively healthy breed. Apart from heart problems, show strain cockers can suffer from something called cocker rage, where they suddenly see a red mist and turn around and bite their owners for no apparent reason. It’s thought to be a form of epilepsy and has something to do with overbreeding to get the solid colours, particularly the gold and red colours. The roans, chocolates and blacks are usually rage free.
Cocker spaniels were originally bred to run with shooters and flush out woodcocks from the undergrowth, then fetch them back when they have been shot. In the 18th and 19th century, they weren’t really a distinct breed from springer spaniels, just classified by size: smaller spaniels were cockers, larger ones were springers. My grandparents owned a springer spaniel called Rhona, and she was an absolute nutter – she always had a ball in her mouth and ran around wagging the stump of her tail like a helicopter. She was once so excited she tried to climb through the cat flap and got stuck half way through!
Cockers and springers are bred to be unaffected by loud bangs and to be quite confident. Some breeds are a lot more sensitive to sounds, for example border collies are very sound sensitive to the point of hyperacusis. J., my partner had a border collie called Bruce who was very sound sensitive and constantly being startled by things that the family couldn’t hear. Bruce had a metal tag on his collar and a metal food bowl, and he hated it when his tag clanked on the bowl – J. says the sound used to go right through him! I suppose if there was a kind of dog with aspergers, it would be a border collie – very smart, bored easily, sensitive to noise, incredibly particular and fussy, and a bit clumsy and stupid socially. Bruce didn’t know that people were scared of him when he barked. He once tried to make friends with me by throwing the whole of his weight onto me on the sofa and winding me. Another time he managed to catch a rabbit and shook it to kill it. He was next to a canal, and he shook the rabbit and dropped it in the canal!
Jasper is remarkably good at fetching things. He doesn’t know how to sit and isn’t house trained, but he already responds to the command ‘fetch’! When we throw him toys he tries to take them onto his bed to chew, but he just can’t stop himself from bringing them back after about three seconds! It’s quite funny to watch as he wants to sit on his bed and be smug about winning his toy, but he can’t overcome the compulsion to return it to us! We think he is fighting his genes.
Puppies are hard work! It must be exhausting having a toddler. He’s already attached himself to me like a baby duckling and pads around after me, lying on my feet when I stand still. He seems to have a compulsion to chew anything remotely furry, including my long cardigan, and I can walk through the kitchen and he will attach himself to it by the teeth and trail along behind me, wanting to play. For the first couple of nights he woke up crying and had to be reassured, but he’s been very good really – his litter were raised outside in a shed, so he’s reasonably independent.
He doesn’t seem to respond that well to training with treats and isn’t particularly food-orientated, which is a good thing as we won’t end up with a fat dog. I think he prefers praise to treats. He makes a lot of eye contact and is very attuned to reading our body language – so he’s not an autistic puppy!
We’re fans of The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. Millan uses dog pack psychology to modify dog’s behaviour, unlike traditional animal behaviourists like Ian Dunbar that use reward/punishment training. There seems to be a bit of a debate online between the Millan enthusiasts and the Dunbar enthusiasts. A journalist has really distorted Millan’s teachings to try to make out that he is somehow ‘abusive’ to dogs. Anyone who has seen The Dog Whisperer knows that Millan loves dogs and is gentle but firm when dogs get out of hand. Millan works to pack psychology and the idea that packs have hierarchies and you have to teach your dog that you are pack leader. Millan answers the criticism here.
The journalist quotes someone who says this has put dog training back twenty years by detracting from behaviourists like Ian Dunbar. I thought this was rather a surprising comment, because I remember studying behaviourism in my psychology class at university. Behaviourism is really a very crude theory that was popular in the 1950s to understand animal and human behaviour in terms of basic reward/punishment association training. It’s a school that started with Pavlov’s dogs. I don’t see what is so advanced about this school. It is thought primitive and robotic compared to other forms of psychology.
I think this journalist is a liberal who had a kneejerk reaction against the idea that any kind of social structure could be innate. I’m a liberal too, but that kind of prejudice will inevitably lead you to promote behaviourist training and criticise dog psychology without making a fair assessment of them both. Dogs are not robots. Acknowledging that they live in a social structure does not mean that their social structure is exploitative or justify exploitative human social structures. Sometimes things just work better when there is one person steering the ship. I could draw an analogy here. This kind of prejudiced liberal thinking is also determined to deny that autism and fibromyalgia have a genetic aspect.
Jasper went to the vets today – we were unimpressed by the diet the vet recommended – she told us to feed him dried dog food and not give him any bones, but we just nodded along like we were going to do as we were told. I think Jasper would be unimpressed with her diet too. Whenever we add a bit of kibble to his dish, he picks out the meat and eggs and leaves the biscuits as best he can!
We plan to feed him a raw meaty bones/BARF style natural diet. He was raised on dry puppy mix and when we got him he seemed quite constipated and barrel shaped. He’s puppy shaped now! We’re introducing him to raw food slowly – mostly we’re feeding him gently home cooked meat and eggs at the moment, though we’ve tried him on some raw beef mince. He seems a bit suspicious of it, and it can cause stomach upset if you introduce it too fast, so we’re going slowly. We’ve tried to give him a beef shin marrow bone, but he’s scared and wants to play with it! I think it’s because when he pulls it across the kitchen tiles it sounds like it’s growling! He likes fish, he wolfed down our leftover fish skins the other day. I fed him a spoonful of my mince and potatoes, and it gave him hiccups. Which is interesting, because potatoes are the only thing on earth that give me hiccups.
Lots of people keep buying us puppy treats, but I’m keen that he shouldn’t get any additives. He doesn’t really seem to like treats and biscuits anyway, and I don’t want to encourage him to eat junk food. I bought a basic puppy advice book from a pet shop, and it says puppies can be hyperactive when they aren’t fed right – the book blamed “high protein diets or something else in the food.” I think puppies don’t tolerate additives, just like children and some adults.
I’ll start at the beginning.
I was born two weeks prematurely. My mum had a difficult birth. She was on gas and air and had no control of what was happening to her and was left a bit traumatised, especially after they kept taking me away without telling her. My mum is quite emotional and gets upset easily.
Reaction #1: She describes me as a fussy feeder because I refused milk often and I would only feed every four hours, so she was worried about my weight. I had colic. Colic is defined as lengthy, repeated periods of crying. Apparently I had to be held down in the cot or I wouldn’t sleep. These are traits regularly reported in food chemical sensitive babies. Colic has been linked to problems later in life like ADHD and IBS. That isn’t very surprising really, since they’re all genetic food chemical sensitivity problems. Apart from the colic, my mum describes me as a ‘good’ and ‘quiet’ baby. At least, I am described as ‘good’ in comparison to my hyperactive younger sister who screamed the house down every night.
Reaction #2: My very first memory is of sitting on the front doorstep with my mum and eating some chocolates with her out of a tin. I wanted some more, but my mum said they were gone. There then transpired a misunderstanding between Mum and me in which I thought she said there were more in the kitchen cupboard. I leaped up and raced into the kitchen. I couldn’t reach the cupboard as I was too small, and I couldn’t climb on the unit. So I turned around to run back out of the kitchen and I ran straight through the plate glass door that divided the kitchen and living room. This is in the era before safety glass. I cut up my face. I still have a scar just above my eyelid where I was cut by glass, and I was very lucky not to lose an eye. My mum was beside herself. She couldn’t understand why I did it, she thought it was very strange as I was always such a careful, quiet little girl and my recklessness had been very out of character.
Reaction #3: I have a few other flashbulb memories from under the age of three. In all of them I am anxious or distressed because I have seen something or met someone new. My second memory is of playing with brightly coloured play-dough at the nursery across the road. I started bawling my eyes out and had to be fetched home. I wonder whether the brightly coloured additives in the plasticine affected me as they affect other food chemical sensitive children.
Being left at playschool always made me cry. I felt like a misfit from the first day I went to nursery school. I was quite tearful and introverted, and I found it hard to get on with the other children. This is nothing compared to my little sister, who spent most of nursery school screaming to go home to mum! After we moved to Nottingham, on my first day at the new playschool I remember the other children being told off for climbing up the slide. In spite of hearing this very specific instruction I ignored it because I thought it didn’t apply to me. I pretended to be a cat. I didn’t talk to any of the other children. I remember many occasions when I heard instructions but didn’t think they applied to me because I wasn’t a part of the group.
I didn’t settle in school properly either and cried and cried. I found the transition hard. My mum was pregnant with my sister at the time and various relatives had to take over responsibility for me because she was quite ill. I felt very frightened. I was frightened of the other children and the teacher, who wasn’t very nice. One of my first days at school was spent colouring in a picture of a woman. I coloured the entire picture in black. The teacher told me off because I hadn’t been given permission to colour in. I was so upset all of the time that I was eventually sent off to my grandparents in Derbyshire for a while. I don’t know what I had been eating at home but I don’t think my mum was doing the cooking as she was ill in bed for a lot of the time. My grandparents were both ex-teachers and cooked all of their own food from scratch and ate in a very traditional, old fashioned way. I must have eaten home made custard every day of the week. Apparently I was an angel all week, and my parents were really peeved about that!
I was addicted to Ribena blackcurrant cordial. I used to suck my thumb, so I went around everywhere with a bright purple thumb! I was a very, very fussy eater. I hated all vegetables. I hated foods that squeaked in my mouth or hurt my mouth when I chewed them. I hated fizzy drinks because they literally hurt my tongue. I hated strong flavours. Pies, fish, and chips all made me physically gag. I largely lived on mashed potato, lamb chops, and breakfast cereal. I would only eat the yolks of eggs and not the whites. I hated sandwiches. I loved plain sugary breakfast cereals like Rice Krispies with whole milk. I hated skimmed milk. I hated fruit. My mum spent a long time negotiating with me over food. My lunch was usually a very mild cheese sandwich or a marmite sandwich and a jam sandwich. My mum would cut the crusts off the sandwiches, but the bread would always have a hard edge where she had cut the crust close to the edge, so I would eat around the crusts anyway. Finding these remains in my lunchbox caused me to get told off, so I would try to break them up into a massive plate of crumbs or throw them under the table. One of the dinner ladies found me out and told the headmaster, who told my mum. I was distraught, because I just couldn’t bring myself to eat this awful food, it made me feel physically sick. I did most things very slowly and deliberately that it gave me the nickname ‘slow coach’ which really upset me. I ate so slowly that I frequently overstayed the lunch period and that got me into even more trouble. I would spin my meal out because I found food so disgusting. My mum was quite worried because I was underweight.
I had lots of problems with clothes. I couldn’t stand wool because it itched. I couldn’t stand lace, and I insisted on having labels cut out of clothes. I was ‘allergic’ to everything and had constant post nasal drip. I had asthma. One day at school I complained I felt ill and couldn’t breathe, so the teachers called my mum. When she got to the school she found I was having a full blown asthma attack, but in those days they were still so rare the teachers didn’t know what was wrong.
This was all in spite of eating a fairly good diet. We didn’t eat ready meals. Breakfast was cereal and whole milk. Lunch was sandwiches, a mini chocolate bar and some crisps. I drank a lot of whole milk. Tea was usually meat, potatoes and vegetables. I usually left the vegetables. The only thing we did that was really wrong was use margarine instead of butter. I didn’t eat any additives on a daily basis with perhaps the exception of some in the margarine. My diet wasn’t vitamin deficient.
I got a lot of earaches. I did catch chicken pox. I was often ill, sometimes seriously. I had several very nasty ear infections that made my ears hurt so much that I cried. My best friend had a perfect attendance record for every year which won her a prize. I couldn’t even imagine that. I seemed to be off ill at least once every term. There was no sudden ‘downturn’ in my development at the critical age of two! I was ill and different from birth.
I didn’t have a refrigerator mother. I was breast fed. My mum loved both my sister and I and spent a great deal of time stimulating us and teaching us in childhood. As I grew older, I found that my mum had problems understanding and getting on with me, because I was very stand-offish and ‘aloof’. Of course, I know I was not ‘aloof’ or ‘lacking in empathy’, I just didn’t like to be touched as it tickled. It hurt emotionally to be touched, and I didn’t really like interacting with people because I was afraid of social situations.
I was extremely shy and timid. I was afraid of boys and never spoke to them or made friends with them. I had a small group of girl friends and a best friend, who I stuck to like superglue though I never spoke much. I was already using her as a social crutch.
When I was seven, I was reading out loud to the teacher, and she suggested that I needed to go down a level. I was very bad at reading out loud because I was quite shaky and nervous. I stumbled and stammered, and I didn’t know how to pronounce some words even though I understood the meaning. Sometimes, because I was bad at catching nonverbal cues, I would just stop because I didn’t know whether I was supposed to continue. Although I was sent down a reading level at school, at home I was reading the full, unedited version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
A year later they noticed I was behind in maths. They discovered that the reason I was behind in maths was that no one had ever taught me to add up properly in my head, and I was still counting on my fingers. I wasn’t good at maths, all the way through school. Sometimes I lagged behind for weeks because a basic rule hadn’t been explained to me. I dreaded maths. I would finish one long, boring worksheet of long division and go for a next worksheet hoping for something different, and I would be confronted with the same thing again.
After our teacher told us about germs I became an obsessive hand washer. I always washed my hands thoroughly with soap after using the toilet. I hated the sensation of having anything sticky or greasy on my hands, so I would wash them. I would splash the taps to clean them too. If ever I was in a situation where I couldn’t wash my hands, I would become very anxious. I still wash my hands far too much. I can’t stand the feeling of grease or dirt on them, or the faintest smell, even that left by coins.
At home, I had a variety of interesting stims. I had little rituals and ways of doing things. I always ate in the same ritualised way. I don’t know what my parents thought of my behaviour, but they didn’t seem to recognise it as unusual. I loved to climb on the climbing frame in the back garden. It was round with four ladders. I would climb onto the bottom rung and jump off. Then I would climb on to the next to bottom rung and jump off. Then the third rung and jump off. This would go on until I got all the way to the top and jumped off. Then I would move on to the next ladder and do the same. The climbing frame had horizontal bars. I would loop over them. I had to loop over them all, one after the other, always five or ten times. If I was in the middle of the climbing frame on the swing, if I touched the ground with one hand, I had to touch the ground ten times with that hand, then ten times with the other hand. If my mum or dad called me inside half way through this compulsion, I had to finish it, no matter how much trouble I got into. My sister shared this trait with me, though hers was not nearly so extreme – she just seemed to have to keep her ground touching even – one on each hand. She also had a habit of repeating things that were said to her under her breath. By this time she was thoroughly hyperactive and most days wired up on coca-cola.
I became a target for bullies quite early on. I didn’t understand why they always zeroed in on me. It was always the same. I had no problems with the girls in my year, but the lowest performing, most aggressive little boys always saw me as a target for abuse. I was called a witch. I had a very bad year with a strict teacher who shouted a lot. He terrified me. I had to sit at a table with some intimidating classmates. Every day I dreaded going to school. Everyone seemed to be in on a secret I didn’t know. I finally asked my mum how babies were made – something it took me days to pluck up the courage to do – I went bright crimson just asking the question. I was so embarrassed. But at least I realised what all of my classmates had been talking about.
Sometimes I felt like my friends weren’t really my friends and I was the butt of jokes behind my back. They once tried to arrange for me to be the new best friend of an unpleasant little girl with bad breath to try and get rid of me. The problem was, though we had been best friends since we were very small, my friend was very popular, and I wasn’t popular at all.
I understand now that I was bullied because I didn’t know how to dissipate aggression. When other kids are bullied they will make like they don’t care and make a joke, sometimes at their own expense, as if to say “yeah, I’m an idiot and you’re the boss,” or they’ll find some way of changing the subject. When I was bullied I responded with defiance or confusion and showed that I was hurt. I was labelled ‘a snob’. Bullying is all about the social pecking order, and I didn’t know I was supposed to submit and be small, and be friendly to these morons who were being horrible to me.
There was another episode of Ray Mears’ Wild Food on television last night. It’s one of the repeat run of a series that was on last year that I mentioned with respect to native people removing the oxalates from foods before eating them.
I was rather smug about seeing that particular episode at the time as members of the Weston A. Price “we know everything about native food and you are just vitamin deficient that’s why you can’t eat these glorious natural wholefoods” Foundation had busily been telling me, well, exactly that.
Last night’s episode of Ray Mears’ was one I’d missed last year. This episode included information on making biscuits out of grains and seeds, digging up burdock roots to bake, picking wild berries with special combs, and actually hunting deer. My partner and I have mocked Mears in the past for all the effort and hard work he puts into gathering small amounts of carbohydrates to eat when he could go out and spear something calorific and then take a nap in the sun – so we gave a cheer when he actually went out and uh – got someone to shoot a deer with a shotgun for him. Perhaps we aren’t being fair to Mears – he has always emphasised the importance of meat to the native diet, but there are only so many programs you can make about hunting and cooking meat compared to foraging around for carbohydrates.
Mears’ portrayal of the meat eating process was rather different than that given me by members of WAPF, who last year rather clung on to the bizarre idea that we all ate our meat ‘well hung’ in paeleolithic times. Mears immediately gutted the meat and removed the liver, which he cooked directly on the campfire.
There are two things that are often done. A lot of the cultures in Northern Europe will when they’ve got the animal, will bleed it and drink the blood straight away and there’s carbohydrate in that [blood glucose] and it gives them energy. And then the other thing they do is they take the liver and they cook the liver […] as a hunter’s cut and of course you inspect a liver to make sure that there are no signs of disease […] and the way that’s cooked is straight on the fire. – Ray Mears
Mears described this as the hunter’s prize. He does not describe it as something given to pregnant mothers.
It makes good sense that they start with the liver as their first food doesn’t it because liver is full of glycogen and […] vitamins – Gordon Hillman
This is very true, because as rigor mortis sets in the glycogen is used up in anaerobic respiration and converted to lactic acid. ATP hydrolyses and this stiffens the muscles which causes the rigor. Then over the next twelve to forty eight hours proteolytic enzymes degrade the proteins to the extent that the body becomes soft again – this is known as autolysis. When liver is eaten so freshly on a kill site, it has not had chance to autolyse and does not contain amines.
At moments like this I think back to what I’ve seen elsewhere. In the Kalahari I’ve seen young boys come out to join the men at the kill site when they cook the liver just so they can taste the liver because it’s a special thing because they are hunters and for the bushmen hunting is everything. And amongst the Hadza in Africa I’ve seen them kill a small deer with bows, make a fire and cook everything, cook the liver like this, cook the whole animal, and everyone sits around and they take even the rib bones and they cook them and they crunch them in their teeth to get the marrow out. – Ray Mears
After eating the liver, the hunters would take the meat back to camp. Under normal circumstances one could imagine a camp of thirty or so people getting through most of a carcass. When Maasai eat meat, they can get through a couple of pounds in one go. But there will always be spare meat. At this point Mears describes getting the carcass into the shade and away from flies – something that must be hard to do in Africa.
Mears describes air-drying the meat – he created a wigwam of leaves and set up a small smoky fire beneath it, then butterflied the meat up into long thin strips and hung them on sticks inside this wigwam. When the wind blew it contributed to the drying process, but when the wind stopped blowing, the smoke helped to preserve the meat. Obviously despite this kind of preservation, the finished jerky would still have been eaten quite quickly in comparison to the six-months-to-two-years range that is tradition for today’s Parma ham. Once dried, of course, jerky can be stored relatively indefinitely without degrading.
When I had my amine argument with WAPF last year, they were insistent that meat was hung and that it was “even fermented to make it more nutritious”. Mears has yet to describe any fermenting process of any fruits, vegetables or meats done by any native people – probably because fermenting with the exception of milk is relatively rare. He describes how some berries like cowberries are kept and used as preservatives for meat however.
It should be obvious that there is a notion of priority here – native people did not go out of their way to ferment foods and dry meats (and thus increase the amine content) just for the hell of it, they did it as a matter of survival. Most meat was eaten extremely fresh, not three weeks old like we eat it, and what was not eaten fresh was preserved for relatively short periods until the next batch of fresh meat came along. When foods were fermented they were not fermented to make them more nutritious (it has to be said the amount of nutrition gained from fermenting is really quite small), they were fermented to preserve the food, and were usually eaten in the early winter when the autumn glut was over.
Mears finished the program by cooking what was left of his venison, which must have been hanging for all of twenty four hours, underground in a fire pit of hot stones. He added some burdock roots and that was it – just deer and burdock roots, no fancy herbs, no berries, no green vegetables.
Helena Bonham Carter, to play Jacqui Jackson in TV drama, claims Tim Burton has autistic tendencies.
Bonham Carter feels her partner, the film director Tim Burton, may have autistic tendancies.
“I bet lots of animators are Asperger’s,” she told the Evening Standard. “Tim will kill me, but while making this drama, I realised he has a bit of Asperger’s in him. You start recognising the signs. We were watching a documentary about autism and he said that was how he felt as a child.
“But that quality also makes him a fantastic father; he has an amazing sense of humour and imagination. He sees things other people don’t see. Billy is enchanted by him.
“Jacqui’s Luke said that, without any Asperger’s, the world wouldn’t go around: they have application and dedication.” AutismConnect
Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton’s home life is unconventional to say the least – they live in Hampstead in two adjoining townhouses with a shared hallway, each house decorated and styled to suit their own personalities, because they felt they couldn’t live ‘together’ but didn’t want to live apart. Their son Billy sleeps in Tim’s side but spends most of his days in Helen’s side, which has a cosy kitchen.
Edward Scissorhands is also something of a cult film. His unique and recognizable visual art and tendency to sympathize with the outsider has led some to see Burton as an auteur. The singularity of his movies may have less to do with Burton as auteur, and more to do with the people commonly involved in his films; musician Danny Elfman, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and actress Winona Ryder are a few examples of some Burton collaborators involved with Burton projects aside from Edward Scissorhands. Nevertheless, this film seems to aptly support the notion of Burton as an auteur, as the allegorical structure of the film is supported by its cinematography, and its message is in keeping with the common theme of disability and the well-meaning outsider often explored by Burton in both films and books; here, it seems as though Burton has, either accidentally or intentionally, constructed a near-perfect allegory of a man afflicted with the autistic spectrum disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome.
The most puzzling question this allegorical reading raises is this: why would Tim Burton, who seems to have had no knowledge of autism or Asperger’s syndrome have written such a precise allegory for the disorder? I would guess that the only way Tim Burton could have written this story, with all its implications, both subtle and overt, is if he himself is an individual with a disorder on the autistic spectrum, or was very close to a person similarly afflicted. Burton himself is described as an “introverted, unassuming person” (Jackson, McDermott). In his own biography, Burton on Burton, he says, about his childhood, that he was often alone, and had trouble retaining friendships. “I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why. It was as if I was exuding some kind of aura that said ‘Leave Me The Fuck Alone (sic)'” Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands as a Psychological Allegory
Can you think of a film of Tim Burton’s that doesn’t explore the theme of the outsider? Edward Scissorhands is one of my favourite films. I remember seeing that alien pastel coloured neighbourhood through Edward’s eyes and feeling a strong empathy for him.
Being of that era, Heathers and Pump Up the Volume spring to mind as other classic ‘outsider’ allegories I remember from my school days.
I was entranced by Burton’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The main character was again played by Johnny Depp, who is suspiciously good at playing eccentric characters. During that film I kept thinking of Michael Jackson.
I’ve always had the perpetual feeling that I’m one of the few sane people on the planet and the rest of the world has gone mad. There are some authors that I read that I get this same sense from – that they’re constantly exploring life as an outsider in a weird world without even being consciously aware of it. Roald Dahl, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett to name a few. They’re writing the stories of their lives.
Crystal meth, or methamphetamine is the notorious drug of choice for troubled young Hollywood starlets these days.
A certain young pop singer whose career is taking a tumble down hill was rumoured to have shaved off her hair earlier this year due to a bout of crystal meth psychosis. Meth can induce crawling and itching sensations and hallucinations of bugs – one source reported that said the girl complained that lice or bugs were ‘eating her hair extensions’ and driving her crazy and making her head itch and skin crawl. There are much less radical solutions to a bout of head lice than shaving one’s head – any good hairdresser could have taken out her extensions and treated the problem properly. But crystal meth can also cause you to lose your inhibitions and do strange things – like sitting next to a swimming pool shaving your legs in public, or going to the toilet with the door open, or flashing your wares to the paparazzi, to name but a few of this poor lass’s recent antics. This is also the kind of experience someone would have if they were, say, bipolar, and were having an episode of delusional mania.
Methamphetamine (methylamphetamine or desoxyephedrine), popularly shortened to meth or ice, is a psychostimulant and sympathomimetic drug. The dextrorotatory isomer dextromethamphetamine can be prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, though unmethylated amphetamine is more commonly prescribed.
Methamphetamine enters the brain and triggers a cascading release of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. To a lesser extent methamphetamine acts as a dopaminergic and adrenergic reuptake inhibitor and in high concentrations as a monamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). Since it stimulates the mesolimbic reward pathway, causing euphoria and excitement, it is prone to abuse and addiction. Users may become obsessed or perform repetitive tasks such as cleaning, hand-washing, or assembling and disassembling objects. Withdrawal is characterized by excessive sleeping, eating and depression-like symptoms, often accompanied by anxiety and drug-craving. Users of methamphetamine often take one or more benzodiazepines as a means of “coming down”.
Because of its social stigma, Desoxyn is not generally prescribed for ADHD unless other stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin®), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®) or mixed amphetamines (Adderall®) have failed.
Range of Effects
- Increased energy and attentiveness
- Diarrhea, nausea
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of appetite, insomnia, tremor, jaw-clenching (Bruxism)
- Agitation, compulsive fascination with repetitive tasks (Punding)
- Talkativeness, irritability, panic attacks
- Increased libido
Side effects associated with chronic use:
- Drug craving
- Weight loss
- Withdrawal-related depression and anhedonia
- Rapid tooth decay (“meth mouth”)
- Amphetamine psychosis
Side effects associated with overdose:
- Brain damage/ Meningitis caused by lead poisoning(Neurotoxicity)
- Formication (sensation of flesh crawling with bugs, with possible associated compulsive picking and infecting sores)
- Paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, which may trigger a tension headache.
- Rhabdomyolysis (Muscle breakdown) which leads to kidney failure
Death from overdose is usually due to stroke, heart failure, but can also be caused by cardiac arrest (sudden death) or hyperthermia. Methamphetamine Wiki
As well as disturbing the levels of catecholamines in the brain, crystal meth appears to be a methyl donor as it raises blood levels of SAMe. In light of both of these effects, it’s not surprising that it causes the symptoms listed above.
These symptoms overlap with some of the symptoms – albeit much milder – that I experienced during my recent methyl donor experiment. Though the experiment finished three weeks ago, I’m still paying for it with rebound depression and very slow skin healing. Caffeine and folate have the same side effects.
Physical illnesses that can underly secondary organic delusional parasitosis include: hypothyroidism, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, tuberculosis, neurological disorders, vitamin B12 deficiency, and diabetes mellitus. Any illness of medication of which formication is a symptom or side effect can become a trigger or underlying cause of delusional parasitosis.
Other physiological factors which can contribute to the condition include menopause; allergies; drug abuse, including but not limited to cocaine and methamphetamine (as in amphetamine psychosis); certain medical conditions; and poor nutrition. It appears that many of these physiological factors, as well as environmental factors such as airborne irritants, are capable of inducing the “crawling” sensation in otherwise healthy individuals, but that some people become fixated on the sensation, and this fixation may then develop into delusional parasitosis.
Details of delusional parasitosis vary among sufferers, but is most commonly described as involving perceived parasites crawling upon or burrowing into the skin, sometimes accompanied by an actual physical sensation (known as formication). Individuals suffering from this condition may injure themselves in attempts to be rid of the “parasites”, and sometimes are able to induce the condition in others through suggestion (a phenomenon dubbed folie à deux). Nearly any marking upon the skin, or small object or particle found on the person or their clothing, can be interpreted as evidence for the parasitic infestation, and sufferers commonly compulsively gather such “evidence” and then present it to medical professionals when seeking help. The condition is seen most commonly in women, and the frequency is much higher past the age of 40. Delusional parasitosis
And here we enter the weird world of ‘Morgellon’s disease’.
Persons who suffer from this unexplained condition report crawling, biting, and stinging sensations; finding fibers on or under the skin; and persistent skin lesions (e.g. rashes or sores). In addition to skin manifestations, some also report fatigue, mental confusion, short term memory loss, joint pain, and changes in vision. It is not known at present whether the condition represents a new disease entity, or whether persons who identify themselves as having Morgellons have a common cause for their symptoms, share common risk factors, or are contagious. A majority of health professionals, including most dermatologists, regard Morgellons as a manifestation of other known medical conditions, including delusional parasitosis. The Morgellons Research Foundation, a non-profit advocacy organization, believes that it is a new infectious disease that will be confirmed by future research. Morgellons
“I am an ex-methamphetamine addict. I am also an ex-morgie.” Writes a man who goes by the pseudonym Tall Cotton.
My nightmare began when a hole developed in my right lower jawline, beneath my ear. A sticky, oil-like material oozed from the hole. I’m not certain that the two events were directly related, but in retrospect I came to believe that that was about the same time that I had begun using methamphetamines. As I sat, peeling away a skin-like layer of material that had dried around that weeping hole, I realized there was no material lying where I had dropped it, not a single strip of this skin-like material. I thought that seemed very strange, because I knew I had dropped it, so I went to a mirror in the bathroom, and in the bright light projected by the bulbs that bordered the mirror, I peel away another strip of material as one might peel away sunburned skin. But the instant that material broke free from the skin on my face, it shot into the tip of my finger and disappeared from sight. I thought to myself, “Whatever it is, it doesn’t want to leave!” I came to a quick, but false hypothesis, the first of many false conclusions, that the material had a mind of its own.
On several occasions, after flicking the material off of my fingertips, it would take the shape of a tiny clam. I’ve chased these across my floors on many occasions. I quickly learned that these objects could turn on the heat. It would come suddenly, and it would be extremely intense. It burned into my flesh and into any object it seemingly “chose” to. I learned to run them down and snag them with my locking tweezers. Two of these objects exploded in a small cardboard box where I housed them. The explosions yielded a multitude of multi-colored rocks, a half dozen white hairs, a half dozen black hairs, and one green hair. These hairs were about 2 inches in length. But there was one large, jet black hair, about 3 inches in length, and obviously motile. There was also half a portion of one of the clam shells. Inside it had compartments, and stored inside there were coils of cottony white fiber.
On another occasion, I found a wax-like drop of goo, inside the lid of my dishwasher. As I stared at the droplet it exploded with a pop. My forearms were instantly penetrated with sharp shrapnel. These pieces of material were burning my skin and working their way deeper. I grabbed my tweezers and I pulled long, needles of material out of my skin. I also pull out a portion of white fiber, but it seemed to be holding on with a million tiny tentacles, and it was impossible for me to retrieve it all. When two of friends came into my kitchen and saw what I was doing, they thought I had gone crazy. There were splats of blood, all down my countertop, where I had slapped the needle-like spines out of my tweezers and quickly returned to my flesh for more. The craziest thing was this. When I tried to show them the needles, just as I began clamping onto them with my tweezers, they melted before my eyes. The Lie of Morgellons
Methylation disorders and catecholamine imbalances are connected not only to ADHD, autism and fibromyalgia, but also to bipolar delusional mania and schizophrenia. Hallucinating bugs and things coming out of or going into the body is very common in schizophrenia. One of my friends at university was a schizophrenic who had bug hallucinations. She also had many symptoms of B12 deficiency including goiter – her first ‘episode’ began, unusually, after menopause, only two years after she became a vegetarian. I suspect she has a number of genes that left her very vulnerable after her change in diet. These are the consequences of screwing around with methylation vitamins like B12, zinc, B6, folate, SAMe, choline and betaine/TMG. Be careful.
It looks like all that evidence of increased lifespan due to calorie/carbohydrate restriction goes down the pan when you start taking antioxidants:
A new study in the October issue of Cell Metabolism, a publication of Cell Press, reveals that worms live to an older age when they are unable to process the simple sugar glucose. Glucose is a primary source of energy for the body and can be found in all major dietary carbohydrates as a component of starches and other forms of sugar, including sucrose (table sugar) and lactose.
“In the US and Europe, added sugar accounts for 15 to 20 percent of daily calories, and the breakdown of that sugar always generates glucose,” said Michael Ristow of the University of Jena in Germany and the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke. If the findings in worms hold for humans, it “suggests that, in healthy people, glucose may have negative effects on life span.” The findings may also cast some doubt on the prevailing treatments for type 2 diabetes, all of which are aimed at lowering blood levels of glucose by increasing the amount of sugar taken up by body tissues, Ristow said.
What’s more, Ristow’s group further demonstrated in their report that antioxidants and vitamins given to the worms erased the life-extending benefits of sugar deprivation, raising questions about the widespread use of antioxidant supplements, according to the researchers.
In westernized countries, glucose represents a key dietary component since the most commonly ingested sugar, sucrose, contains equal amounts of glucose and fructose, the researchers noted. Nevertheless, it is a matter of debate whether glucose and other carbohydrates have a relevant effect on disease burden and mortality in humans, they said.
To begin to address the issue in the current study, the researchers exposed the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to a chemical that blocked the worms’ ability to process glucose, producing a metabolic state the researchers said resembles that of dietary glucose restriction. That treatment extended the worms’ life span up to 20 percent, Ristow reported, noting that the observed gain extrapolated to humans would mean an additional 15 years of life.
Unable to depend on glucose for energy, the long-lived worms ramped up the activity of cellular powerhouses known as mitochondria to fuel their bodies, Ristow said. That mitochondrial activity led to the increased production of reactive oxygen species, sometimes referred to as free radicals. In turn, the worms’ defenses against “oxidative stress” increased, the researchers found.
Free radicals are usually considered harmful, Ristow said, and scientists have generally thought that exposure to them would shorten life span. The new findings suggest that, at least in some cases, the opposite may be true.
Indeed, even when the researchers returned the worms to their normal environment, allowing them to again use glucose for energy, the worms’ increased defenses and longevity persisted, Ristow said. In contrast, treatment with antioxidant vitamins prevented the oxidative stress and the defenses against it, eliminating the life-boosting effects. Ristow called the result “scary” because it means that, rather than being protective, antioxidant pills may actually leave the body more vulnerable by thwarting those natural defenses.
Ristow doesn’t recommend that people toss out their multivitamins just yet, however, cautioning that his findings were made in worms. He also noted that antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, contain thousands of substances—many of which have yet to be identified. While scientists don’t yet know what all those ingredients do, it’s clear that such natural foods support “healthy pathways,” Ristow said. Avoiding sweets may spell a longer life, study in worms suggests
After scientists discover – shock horror – that oxidation is as important as reduction, and the body self-regulates its defences against free radicals, note again the concilliatory “well antioxidants must be good in some way” paragraph concluding this article!
Of course, we are not worms. We have exactly the same mitochondria behaving in the same kind of way, but we’re couldn’t possibly be like worms…
Thanks to Chris again for this article too!
Another fantastic news article courtesy of Chris!
Researchers in California are reporting development of a fast, inexpensive test suitable for home use that could help millions of people avoid those ‘out of the blue’ headaches that may follow consumption of certain red wines, cheese, chocolate, and other aged or fermented foods.
The test is designed to detect the presence of so-called biogenic amines, naturally occurring toxins that can trigger a wide range of symptoms in sensitive individuals —from nasty headaches to life-threatening episodes of high-blood pressure.
Existing tests for biogenic amines can take several hours, are cumbersome and require large, expensive instruments found only in laboratories, the researchers say. The new test, based on lab-on-a-chip technology, could produce results within five minutes, they state. It will be described in the Nov. 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
“These toxins can be a serious health problem and are more common than people think,” says study leader Richard A. Mathies, Ph.D., a chemist with the University of California, Berkeley. “They are hidden in a wide variety of foods. Having a quick, convenient way to identify them will help consumers avoid them or at least limit their intake.”
Biogenic amines include tyramine, histamine, and phenylethylamine, which have been known to cause nausea, headaches, and respiratory disorders. These toxins can be particularly dangerous in people with reduced monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity or those taking MAO inhibitors, an older class of antidepressant medications, because they can potentially interact and cause dangerously high blood pressure. Having a quick testing kit could ultimately save lives in these individuals, Mathies suggests.
The new technique, called portable microchip capillary electrophoresis, involves labeling the sample with a fluorescent dye, separating the components by applying an electric field on a special microchip, and analyzing the pattern of light produced by the sample upon exposure to a laser beam. In the study, Mathies and colleagues used a prototype device to analyze tyramine and histamine concentrations in a variety of wines (both red and white), beer and sake. They found that the device accurately measured the biogenic amines present in the beverages in less than five minutes.
The highest levels of tyramine were found in red wine, and the highest levels of histidine were found in sake, the researchers note. The beer tested contained only small amounts of these biogenic amines, they say.
“Some foods have more biogenic amines than others, but you can’t tell because they aren’t listed on the food labels,” Mathies says. Even a single glass of wine has been known to trigger elevated blood pressure, heart rate and headaches in some people, he notes. “I think that certain foods, especially wines, should indicate their biogenic amine content.”
Besides beverages, the test can be used for a wide range of food products, including cheese, chocolate, fish and even sauerkraut. In addition to being used by consumers in the home, the device could be used by industry as a quick method to monitor or limit the biogenic amine content of foods and beverages, according to the researchers. It can also be used to screen foods that have been deliberately contaminated, they say.
Mathies envisions that the test will eventually be engineered into a PDA or other handheld device that consumers can use at home or in a restaurant to instantly screen a food or beverage sample for the presence of these toxins. More research is needed before this occurs, he says.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The analyzer was originally developed to look for organic molecules, particularly amino acids, on future explorations of Mars. A version of the sensor has been developed for use in the European Space Agency’s 2013 ExoMars mission, Mathies says. New test could help consumers avoid surprise headaches from chocolate, wine
This is great news for amine sufferers! Put me on the waiting list! I can’t think of anything I’d rather have for Christmas! This would take all of the risk out of eating foods like yoghurt and soft cheeses – and perhaps allow me a few indulgences now and then like the occasional piece of chocolate!