I’ve never understood people’s fascination with pharmaceutical drugs. I’ve been prescribed narcotic pain meds, and found their effects nearly as unpleasant as the pain they were meant to relieve. The only pharmaceutical drug I ever remember enjoying was something called a “pink lemon stat.” At the time, roughly 30 years ago, I played bass in a hard working rock band.
We played two or three gigs a week, and I waited tables at a restaurant to pay the bills. Our guitar player had an overweight girlfriend who had a prescription for 90 of these beans every month, to help her lose weight. She shared them with her boyfriend, and he shared them with the band. Half of one of those pills would keep me energized all night.
One weekend, however, after playing gigs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, plus an after hours jam after the gig on Saturday, and then working the Sunday Brunch shift at the restaurant, I remember walking home after work. The whole world seemed impossibly gray, bleak and depressing. I knew I couldn’t bear to feel that way for long, and I never, ever want to feel that way again. I never took any more of those little pink pills after that.
At the other end of the spectrum, I discovered cannabis and psychedelics as a teenager, and my relationship with these mostly plant and fungus-based compounds has been entirely positive. Although I am not a doctor, I recommend them to everyone, despite the fact that you cannot get any of them from a pharmacist and your insurance will not cover the cost.
This is how I see the world of drugs in America: All of the good drugs are listed under “Schedule 1” and prohibited to everyone, including doctors and scientists. You can buy all of the bad drugs you want, at the pharmacy, so long as you have a note from your doctor, and the worst drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and sugar are heavily advertised, ubiquitous, and all but crammed down our throats. As cruel and perverse as it seems, the logic behind our nation’s drug policy is impeccable, in that it maximizes the potential for harm and the profitability of all drugs.
Other people might see it differently, and apparently I’m in the minority here in Humboldt County. It seems that here in Humboldt, our enthusiasm for prescription drugs nearly eclipses our passion for cannabis. We don’t have big colorful festivals to celebrate our love for prescription drugs, but according to a great piece by Ryan Burns at LoCO, we consume the equivalent of 14 Vicodin tablets per day for every man woman and child in Humboldt County, “including babies and people in comas.”
At that level of consumption, it’s a wonder we’re not all in comas. I also read recently that we have more active prescriptions for pain meds in Humboldt County that we have people, by about 20 percent! I guess Oxycontin alone doesn’t cut it anymore. Does it really hurt that much to live here? Or, do local doctors nurture our enthusiasm for narcotics by prescribing them as freely as I recommend weed?
Recently, my doctor, at least the last real doctor I saw at Redwoods Rural Health Clinic here in Redway, made the news because of her enthusiasm for prescription drugs. Dr. Wendi Joiner pleaded “no contest” to DUI and drugs charges, and had her license to practice medicine suspended. A state medical board disciplinary investigation determined that Dr. Joiner had written 33 prescriptions, for a wide range of drugs, to a fictitious patient.
A few years ago Dr Wendi Joiner left Redwoods Rural to take a job in Marin County, but in December of 2014, a State Trooper pulled her car over in Sonoma County, and that’s when things began to fall apart for her. When the cops pulled her over, she appeared intoxicated and failed a sobriety test. In her car, they found two full, and one mostly empty bottles of booze, a whipped cream dispenser, charged with nitrous oxide, along with nine casesof nitrous oxide cartridges, or “whip-its,” and over 100 prescription pills, ranging from Norco and Xanax, to Ritalin. Apparently, perhaps ironically, she had no weed on her.
The article I read, suggested our good doctor was using the nitrous oxide to inhale the other drugs. I still cannot imagine how that would work, but maybe she knows something I don’t. She is, or at least was, a doctor, after all. Either way, she had enough drugs to get a lot of people really fucked-up, even without the novel delivery system.
The Whip-its surprised me. First, because, being a doctor, you’d think she could get her hands on one of those nice refillable nitrous tanks, rather than waste all of those stupid disposable metal cartridges. Second, I remember seeing lots of those spent whip-it cartridges on the side of the road, all over SoHum, back when she worked here, and not so many since. I would have never guessed that she dumped them.
I remember noticing a Burning Man sticker on the back of her Subaru in the parking lot, which told me a little about her, but for all of her now famous enthusiasm for prescription drugs, she did not seem particularly interested in practicing medicine. I recall she spent most of our time together in the exam room looking at her cell phone. I also recall that she did not look well.
She was relatively young and slender, without any major deformities. She should have been attractive, but her hair looked particularly dull, and her skin had no glow. I attributed it to overwork, because I assume all doctors work too much, but everyone else I know who looks that way, has health problems. I hope she gets the help she needs, but unfortunately, doctors seem to be much better at creating these kinds of problems than solving them.