Amy Wike is a mother of two from Kansas. She goes by @MonnieLV2019 on Twitter. Amy suffers from chronic pain due to severe stress on her back from working for several years in a beef processing plant. After being cut off by her doctors from conventional opioid pain medicine, she discovered kratom.
Amy devotes her space on social media to the #3E‘s: #Educate #Enlighten #Encourage. She wants people to understand the issues that Chronic Pain Patients (#CPP) have to deal with in trying to receive proper healthcare.
KratomScience: Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview.
Amy Wike: Thank you for asking.
KS: Can you describe the situation you’re in that led you to try kratom?
AW: Yeah. I started taking kratom in 2017. But my chronic pain started back in roughly 2005. I worked for a beef factory here in town for about seven years, and I started developing really bad lower back problems. I’m a very short person, very small stature, so wearing heavy equipment and throwing sides of beef wasn’t really something I should have been doing. I was working harder than I was supposed to be. After a couple of years I started telling the company I needed to go see a doctor, told them what was going on. Basically down the line it ended up I was seeing about a dozen doctors through the company. None of them had any idea what was going on. They did X-rays, they did MRIs, they did pretty much every kind of test you could think of and nobody had an answer for me.
So in 2006, that was when I ended up stopping working there because the pain got so bad. They told me, “There’s nothing we can do for you. So we’re gonna give you a settlement, send you on your way, and hope for the best.” It was basically their way of cleaning their hands of everything that was going on with me.
KS: So the problems continued after that?
AW: Oh yeah. They continued and got a lot worse. They still do today.
KS: So that led you to take prescription pain medication?
AW: That’s right.
KS: Did you have a problem getting access to pain meds? We had a period where doctors over-prescribed it. As a response to the opioid crisis it’s now being under-prescribed so people who really need pain meds can’t get them.
AW: It was kinda touch and go from about 2013 to the time I was cut off. They would reassess everybody who was on them. So any time you went into the doctor’s office you’d stay there for about an hour. You would have a consult with the company from New York City or Kansas City or somewhere like that to re-evaluate why you were on that medicine. And they would ask, “What’s the problem? Has it gotten worse? Are you taking more medication? Have you tried stopping the medication and tried something else?”
It was pretty simple. Everything that the doctors threw at me medicinally, therapeutically, or otherwise, I tried it. So it wasn’t like, “Give me the pills. I need them right now or I’m gonna die.” I went through physical therapy. I did walking – I walked two miles a day for a little over a year to make the pain stop. Then one day my doctor switched me, and she said, “Here I’m gonna give you this [pain medication], but I’m going to a different position, so you’re gonna go to a different doctor.” And the first day he [the new doctor] says I’m gonna piss-test you. And I told him it’s gonna come up, only one [pain medication] is gonna come up [positive]. He said, Well whatever happens, we’ll deal with it. And a week later I was told I was being tapered.
KS: Were they gonna put you on suboxone or something like that?
AW: See that was the thing, I’d never heard about that until this last year. I was taking methadone at the time, I don’t remember how many milligrams, and hydrocodone. They had pulled me back from morphine-extended release and percoset, two pretty high ones, to those two. The only one of those that really did anything for me was the hydrocodone. Methadone didn’t touch my pain.
KS: So when did you discover kratom?
AW: November 2017.
KS: Do you use it in place of pain medication?
KS: Does kratom work as good as pain medication for you?
AW: In my opinion, it works a lot better. For me on the pain medication, I felt drugged up 90% of the time. Even when I was taking less than what I was prescribed. You take it, and your body feels like you’re under enormous weight.
The first time I took kratom I took about 3 or 4 grams in a glass of tea. An hour later, I was up walking around. I didn’t feel doped up. It was straight-up pain relief, and I was like Holy crap! This stuff works. I was completely dumbfounded. I didn’t expect it to work.
KS: So since then you’ve been only taking kratom, and you don’t need anything else?
AW: Yeah. I came completely off all my pain medication. I had been tapered by that time. I do dabble in a few other herbs – not marijuana – but there are several other herbs that I do take for mood, energy, and kind of a boost to help the kratom last a little bit longer.
KS: What are those herbs?
AW: There’s ashwagandha , horse chestnut, coriolus… turmeric is a potentiator of kratom. There’s a whole laundry list of things that you can go online and start looking up. A lot of the communities on Facebook and Twitter talk about them.
KS: Are there strains of kratom you prefer?
AW: That’s kind of a difficult one to answer. I’ve gone through several different vendors over the last two years. One vendor will have Red Indo and you get another vendor that will have the same Red Indo but they are a completely different color, different effects. So I think it really depends on how it was processed, how it was dried, and the time that was put into getting it to that state.
Some people can take a white strain and it gives them lots of energy and they can get stuff done. A white puts me to sleep within a few minutes.
“They don’t care about who’s committing suicide and why. They just want to pull the pills out of the hands so they can show that they’re flexing. I would love to meet anybody within the FDA or the CDC who has anyone in their family or loved ones who happen to suffer from chronic pain.”
KS: Have you had any side effects with kratom at all?
AW: Yeah I’ve had mild constipation. I’ve had dehydration because I did not take the “drink water” part seriously for the first month or so. I paid dearly for that. Migraines are no fun. I’ve had to come off of it before. To me it’s not really that bad. My doses aren’t so high up that if I come off of it my body goes into shock. That’s not the way it is for me. My pain returns, and I’ve realized this is why I take it. My pain is really still there and the kratom really does what it’s supposed to do. So I have to take breaks every couple months, but as far as withdrawal or anything like that goes, it’s honestly not that severe compared to coming off pain meds.
KS: When you had to come off pain meds, did you go through some bad withdrawals?
AW: Yeah, it was horrible. The best way to describe that is, imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had. Imagine going down the highway at 50 mile an hour, jumping out of a car and just tumbling down the road. That’s how bad your body hurts coming off of any kind of opioid. It’s pretty bad coming off of those.
KS: Are you involved in kratom activism? Is there anything going on in Kansas with kratom laws?
AW: To my knowledge, knock on wood, it seems to be pretty quiet right now. Sheri Locascio lives about 40 miles North of me. She is really big activist. She goes out to the meetings. She was in Ohio. She’s really awesome at it. I’m better at doing the keyboard stuff, and talking through it like that. I’d like to be able to go to things like that and be active in it.
KS: Well it’s good that there’s nothing going on so far in Kansas.
AW: I’m praying, and if anything does come up, I’m gonna be right there to put my two cents’ worth in and talk to the people about it. Get them the education they need for it. Because there’s so much false information out there right now about it. People do really need to stop and read instead of just letting the FDA pull their strings.
KS: There’s a guy that you talk about on your Twitter feed, Andrew Kolodny. What is he doing to misinform the public about chronic pain and pain medication? There are a lot of misconceptions about chronic pain – that it’s all in your head, that it’s just addicts trying to get access to drugs. Explain why you disagree with them.
AW: He does not believe that chronic pain exists. He doesn’t think that people with chronic pain actually have chronic pain. Andrew Kolodny, Anna Lembke. Those two are both so close minded when it comes to the thought of someone being in pain all the time. For them, you get a headache, you take a Tylenol, you go to bed, and you’re fine. But with so many different kinds of chronic pain, autoimmune diseases, you get in a wreck, break your leg, something happens, and boom you’re stuck with chronic pain for the rest of your life. They don’t believe that actually exists. And when you go on Twitter and you type stuff in, all he has to do is block you or have his media people block you and he doesn’t have to listen to that. Both of those, Anna Lembke, Andrew Kolodny – they are not willing to listen to the fact that chronic pain exists and that there are millions of people who can successfully take opiates for years without becoming addicted to them and it does help them function daily. They are not willing to believe that.
KS: There’s a misconception that if someone takes any opiate they’ll automatically end up in the gutter with a needle sticking out of their arm. In fact most people who take any drug don’t become addicted to it. Do you think addiction is based on a mentality rather than the drug? And what’s the difference between a chronic pain patient who takes opiates and an addict?
AW: The biggest difference is, unless an addict has chronic pain, they won’t be able to put that needle down because they’re expecting that rush every single time. And when they don’t get it, they’re gonna go to a higher dose or a worse drug that does produce that. When it comes to a chronic pain patient, they come off of whatever it is that’s stopping their pain, their pain returns. Now people need to realize, that’s not the pain from withdrawal from the drug. That is the pain that they deal with every single day no matter what happens.
The one thing I want to add about myself is, addiction runs through my family. My mom and dad were both addicted to alcohol, not drugs. But I was able to successfully come off opiates after 10 years. Didn’t even think about it, I just thought, OK I’ve got to figure out a way to get this pain to stop. I stopped the pain pills, I went straight to kratom. I did not look back. I didn’t go out to the street and try to find someone who could get me something stronger. Because I knew that was not gonna be a good thing for me. So, I have it in my genes, in my genetic pool to be addicted to pretty much anything. But I made a choice, and it doesn’t make me any better or worse than anybody else out there, that I was gonna treat my chronic pain this way and be more productive about it. Addiction and dependence are two completely different things. Your body becomes dependent on the medication but you don’t necessarily want to have to have it, but you want and need that pain relief. Addicts don’t care, they just wanna feel that rush. I’ve known a lot of those too. It’s hard to say that without making them think I’m bashing them, because I’m really not.
KS: Why do you think they want to under-prescribe opiates now? Is the CDC or the FDA just cracking down on doctors?
AW: Right now I think it’s a suicide thing. I’m not trying to say they’re gonna kill us all. They want to take pills away from certain people who need them to survive day to day. They want to see who can handle it the best. If you take pills away from a hundred people, how many of those people are gonna go out and find something stronger? How many of those people are going to suffer through their pain and deal with it? And how many people are going to say, To hell with it, I’m done, I’m gonna blow my head off? They don’t care about who’s committing suicide and why. They just want to pull the pills out of the hands so they can show that they’re flexing. I would love to meet anybody within the FDA or the CDC who has anyone in their family or loved ones who happens to suffer from chronic pain.
KS: It’s kinda horrifying. And when you said “flexing” that reminded me of the ongoing attempt to ban flavored vapes. Scott Gottlieb was interviewed on CNBC and said in the same breath that flavored vapes needed to be banned, but in the places with bans, teenagers are now obtaining them illegally. So the ban created the black market. It seems things are safer when they’re out in the open. Do you support kratom regulation?
AW: Yes, absolutely. Most head shops, gas stations, backwater stuff like that.. I’ve bought from those before. I think I spent $40 on 30 capsules, and it said that it was “green maeng da”. So I took those, because I had no other way to get my kratom [at that time], but I just didn’t get as much out of it.
When finding a vendor, do your research. Make sure you know exactly when that company started, what their record is, what their lab results are, know that you can trust them. Talk to people online who you know are real, not bots. The more we allow adulterated crap, dirty stuff to get out there, the worse it’s gonna be for this community. We have got to keep this stuff pure and we’ve got to keep the people safe. I do firmly believe in that.
KS: It’d be nice if we had an FDA that did that job for the public instead of working for whoever is currently paying them money.
AW: Scott Gottlieb has a big mouth. I don’t like his opinions on kratom and I don’t like his opinions on vaping because he’s just there for the money. They kicked him out of the FDA so now he’s gonna go work for a private company…
KS: He’s on the board of Pfizer now, the drug company. All that stuff we were saying must have been a big conspiracy theory. He goes right to big pharma.
AW: Yeah let’s show the people that they’re right. And he knows exactly how many people’s lives he’s messing with.
KS: I don’t know how he sleeps at night.
AW: He doesn’t have a soul. It’s not hard to sleep at night when you have no soul.
AW: If you’re in it for the money, you don’t care about who dies and who lives.