When An Illegal Party Drug Became My Saving Grace

When An Illegal Party Drug Became My Saving Grace

You see a drug, I see a treatment
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It was in October of 2014 that I dislocated my shoulder after falling down the stairs while working. I was a nanny to a sweet little girl who was just learning to walk, and in an attempt to prevent her from falling down the stairs I (fortunately) took the blow for her. After a trip to the emergency room, we concluded that my shoulder would not permanently relocate without surgery, so we scheduled a stabilization surgery for early 2015. Thankfully my surgery went seamlessly and aside from some complications with the nerve block and uncontrolled pain, my shoulder was back in its socket and I was ready to begin my 6-week healing process.

Two weeks after my surgery and discharge I noticed a red patch beginning around my incisions that came with a great deal of pain. That red patch kept growing and the pain intensified to the point of me being unable to touch the area without wanting to scream. After another trip to the emergency room, I was put on a 6-week course of antibiotics for a suspected infection. When said infection didn't respond to the antibiotics and there was no reduction in pain and sensitivity we knew we weren't dealing with an infection but the question remained as to what it was.

This uncertainty warranted a visit to a neurologist to investigate my nerves, I thought the worst I could face was irreversible nerve damage; I was wrong. I walked out of the office that day with a diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). CRPS is a progressive nerve condition that occurs after an injury, it tends to be localized to the site of injury but can spread throughout the body; it is considered to be the most painful disease known to science. CRPS occurs when the nerves at the site of the injury or trauma continue to fire signals that are processed as pain despite the healing or resolution of the issue. In my case, I am affected from my right elbow throughout my right shoulder, the right side of my face, and across the top of my back. This disease has a mind of its own. I have little to no control over the pain and it is a pain that I've only felt in nightmares. My arm turns shades of red and purple specifically around the areas where I'm sensitive, it can sweat while the rest of my body is shivering or get goosebumps when the rest of my body is sweating. A common symptom with CRPS/RSD is known as allodynia; which is when a painful response is interpreted as a result of non-painful stimulus. Because of the allodynia, simple things like wearing clothing, taking a shower, getting goosebumps, even wind blowing against my arm have become nothing short of torturous.

The pain CRPS caused me couldn't be dulled by even the strongest narcotic, even medications specifically designated for nerve pain couldn't touch the levels of pain I felt constantly. I was put on doses of narcotic medication that would have sedated someone three times my size but still left me crying in pain. The pain would become so severe that the muscles in my arm and hand would contract and tremor, and at times my entire right side would contract. To be honest with you, there are many nights that I lay in bed and cry until I fall asleep because I have no other option to soothe the pain. I worked with a pain clinic in one of the most coveted hospitals in Toronto to gain relief. But relief was a struggle that I wasn't sure we were able to attain until my doctor suggested I enter a study being held: a ketamine infusion.

Ketamine is a strong dissociative drug that was a popular party drug in the 1970s through the 1990s because of its mind-altering effects that can result in vivid dreams, hallucinations, and out of body experiences. Aside from its use in the club scene, it's main use is in sedation of animals and humans and fast acting pain relief. But the uses and potential it has in biomedicine is still being discovered. Research has revealed that ketamine's analgesic effects are specifically beneficial to patients with neuropathic pain, patients like myself with CRPS. It is given intravenously as that is the most effective route, but there are different practices and protocols depending on the doctor that is administering it. In Toronto, I received 5 days of high dose ketamine followed by 6 weeks of oral ketamine. I truthfully went into the experience terrified, I do not like the feeling of being "loopy" and I was terrified of hallucinating. Thankfully I expressed these concerns to my doctor who made sure I would be comfortable throughout the process. I arrived at the hospital at 7 am and would be done with my infusion for the day by 3 pm. My ketamine infusions were done outpatient so I had my infusions in the Post Anesthetic Care Unit with a one-to-one nurse; I would go home for the night and return the next morning from Monday to Friday. Each morning we would begin with medications to combat the side effects and the infusion was started. I had some vivid dreams and hallucinations the first day but was easily corrected with additional medication, and from there it was smooth sailing. I began on Monday, by Wednesday I noticed a drastic change in my pain and by the end of the week I was able to physically touch my arm—something I hadn’t been able to do for almost an entire year. As time passed I gained more and more relief, I was able to wear heavier clothing and take showers again which seems small to most people but were huge victories for me to gain back.

Four months after my first ketamine infusion, my CRPS relapsed and spread further into the right side of my body. Since my first infusion in January of 2016, I have had two additional treatments. These ketamine infusions are the only thing relieving my pain short and long term, and allowing my life to continue as an independent young adult. I never expected that my relief would be held within the realm of a medication that people use as contraband outside of a medical setting. Regardless of the opinions of the rest of the world, these infusions are bringing me relief from the incessant pain I face every day and that’s a wonderful reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may not understand my pain, my disease, or my medicine, but at the end of the day I am the one living in this body and if I can start and end my days in less pain… well, that’s more than enough for me

Cover Image Credit: Sabrina C

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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.
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Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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Doing Drugs Isn't Cool, Period

This so-called "cool" epidemic needs to stop, especially in the college atmosphere.

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Adderall, Ritalin, LSD, Ecstasy, Xanax, Valium, Alcohol; the list can go on and on. The point is, they all can be addictive and they all are promoted in college. No matter what university you attend, you will likely come across someone using at least one of these or overhearing a conversation about them.

For you frat party-goers, you are blind. You are risking yourself to eventually use at least one addictive drug. You may think that you'll never get into drugs, but that's what they all say when they're presenting their story to a crowd of millennials while being handcuffed to a chair.

Be honest with yourself.

If you're questioning if something is safe or not, most of the time, it's not. Studies have shown that college students involved in sororities, fraternities, and athletic organizations are at higher risk of abusing dangerous substances. That doesn't mean don't join these clubs, but it's more of a warning to what could happen if you aren't making smart decisions.

It has been reported that 80% of U.S. college students have abused alcohol.

Your weekly Thursday Instagram post captioned "Thirsty Thursday" while holding a White Claw isn't cool. Please ditch the trend of taking pictures in front of a tapestry in the basement of a frat house. I hate to break it to you, but it really doesn't go with your feed, Brittany. Just because it is Thursday, doesn't mean it's an excuse to feed your alcohol addiction and whatever else you may be doing at frat parties.

Attending weekly parties held by frats is increasing your risk of using addictive substances. Picture this: you had a really tough day of classes on Thursday. Your "Thirsty Thursday girls club" group chat just texted you and said they are going to multiple frat parties tonight. They plan on pre-gaming in your dorm room then walking to the frat party nearby.

If that party is lame, they plan on walking to another one down the street. You immediately express how tough your day was and that you're excited for the later hours of the night. You plan your best outfit, do your makeup and hair, and they come over.

You're having fun during the pre-game, so you invite some more people. You now have close to 10 people in your 130-square-foot dorm room. Someone reported a noise complaint to your RA. Your RA knocks on the door and you scatter to hide all the alcohol and be quiet. They say to keep the noise down because someone made a complaint.

After that, it's time to head out.

You're walking, or shall I say stumbling, to the first party. You get stopped by campus police and they write everyone a ticket for being intoxicated in public and underage drinking. You brush it off and still go to the party. You get blacked out drunk and there's a group of guys pestering you to try LSD. They explained it to be "another world".

You buy a single pill and try it. You convince your friends to try it and you all love the feeling of "tripping". You buy more and take it back to your dorm with you.

As you're walking to your dorm, you collapse. A cop happens to ride by and see you on the ground, and they take you to the hospital. You wake up having no idea where you are and your parents standing next to you. You are presented with multiple tickets and now you're being interrogated so the police can figure out who has possession of the drugs.

Approximately 110,000 students between ages 18 and 24 are arrested every year for an alcohol-related violation, such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence.

Yes, that may seem extreme, but doing drugs because someone convinced you to is not cool! It can lead to addiction, legal issues, hospitalization, and even death. Don't make decisions based on people's ability to convince you. Although that was a made up story, it happens in real life!

If you're prescribed Adderall for ADHD purposes, use it wisely. Don't tell people you have a prescription. Don't sell it.

My point is, be smart and don't do drugs to seem cool to others or to fit in with the crowd.

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