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FOT #23 – First Responders on the frontlines of the opioid crisis, integrating post-traumatic growth, and recognizing compassion fatigue

After experiencing some burnout and my first needle-stick injury, I am back on track and ready to share what I have learned.  Harm Reduction and other frontline workers of the opioid crisis are a section of first responders that are often forgotten about.  Harm Reduction Workers, Overdose Response Workers, and Community Mental Health Workers are underpaid and overworked because there is a lack of support and funding that other essential services are otherwise afforded.   Just how paramedics used to be misfit first responders, cast aside as mere “ambulance drivers”, frontline overdose prevention and mental health workers are not yet recognized for their effectiveness in our society.
In this episode I talk about what some of the busier days have been like in a Safe Injection Site, some of the skills and expertise Harm Reduction Workers have, and some improvements that would make them more effective if given more resources.  I share how I recognized that I was having signs of burnout and how an injury at work caused me to re-evaluate how I monitor my balance between work and self care.  My goal is to remind listeners that its easy to neglect your own wellbeing when stress builds up, how important it is to maintain strong support structures, and what signs you can look for to self monitor for compassion fatigue or “burnout”.  Practice mindfulness and reaching out to friends/family for help monitoring your mental health continuum.  Aside from practicing what I’ve learned to overcome these struggles, exercising with maintaining good nutrition and sleep habits has helped me bounce back faster than I would ever have thought possible.
FOT #22 – Shifting perspectives on death, exploring societal structures and the crisis of meaning

Before embarking on an adventure to India to explore and film, Sébastien Clérmont joins me in a coffee shop to discuss the various ways that our society copes with death and dying.  We talk about how other cultures view death and how we may shift ours to a healthier and more effective way to cope.  Society has structures embedded within that harm effective addiction and mental health care which can be overcome when exposed by artists and filmmakers.  We talk about these structures and stigmas that we must overcome to effectively address addiction and mental health issues, and improve our quality of life.  Throughout the conversation we touch on the crisis of meaning that human beings face.  Sebastien shares what he has learned about human behaviour and what his experiences show him about growth.  He has been on the show a couple other times where we go more into his previous projects and perspectives on psychedelics.

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Sébastien Clérmont is an experimental filmmaker who has done a lot of work that pushes boundaries and enahnces empathy.  Check out his work at his YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Moutonrondouillard

FOT #21 – Supervised Consumption Sites, avoiding burnout, and addressing stigma in neurodiversity

There will be more episodes on drugs, substance-use, and supervised consumption sites in the near future, but this one introduces the topic since I started working at one.  This episode summarizes some of what I’ve noticed in my first run of shifts doing harm reduction and overdose response.  I also talk about stigma in cannabis users and other populations of drug-users.  Many first responders (and most other Canadians) are afraid to come forward about how cannabis is helping them because they fear discrimination from their workplace.

This episode introduces this topic that will be explored with future guests!  I bring up neurodiversity, a concept I hope to explore more as well.  Self-care and avoiding burnout is another area that I hope to address with other guests that I have on soon, but I talk about the rules that I am trying to put in place for my own self-care.  If you have a high-stress profession (or kids) then you need to learn to recognize when you are failing to care for yourself and what works for you.  Everyone is different in what activities or techniques work for them!


FOT #19 – How to Manage a Difficult Psychedelic Experience, Raising Harm Reduction Awareness in Downtown Toronto

Flight Of Thoughts Episode 19 was recorded at Balsam Lake camp ground in Ontario, Canada. I share the most updated advice and information on preparing set/setting/intention, and managing a difficult psychedelic experience. These techniques also work on de-escalating emotional crisis or working through emotional trauma.
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First, I talk about how to prepare for an effective psychedelic experience with proper set, setting, and intention behind it. I then go into how to manage the energy or “the fear” that comes on during the onset of psychedelic energy. If you can work through the difficult energy, it allows you to heal and re-process emotional trauma that usually takes years of therapy to relieve. Do your research and follow this harm reduction advice!
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The second part of this episode discusses what it is like promoting psychedelic healing and research in downtown Toronto; despite the stigma and push back from some of the public. I recap my day at Kensington Market promoting the Psychedelic Society Of First Responders and Emergency Workers at a major market and breaking stigma through conversation.  Follow The Psychedelic Society of First Responders and Emergency Workers on Facebook to join the conversation, network, or exchange information on these topics!

FOT #18 – Overcoming the War On Drugs, Respecting Psychedelics, and Healing With Ayahuasca
Sébastien Clermont joins me to talk about his new short documentary on the rise of psychedelic medicines and the war against drugs; called Forbidden Fruits.  We discuss how we are overcoming the war against psychedelics and gaining the right to heal with these alternative medicines.  Why have psychedelics been demonized for so long?  What can they do for psychotherapy and spirituality?  
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Sébastien shares what he has learned researching the human history of psychedelic use, various cultural perspectives, as well as his own experiences with Ayahuasca and DMT. We also discuss how we must respect these powerful substances and avoid the harm that may come from going into them without proper education.
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Our conversation goes into how healthcare workers and first responders are using psychedelics to relieve trauma and compassion fatigue; including the police officers who seek Ayahuasca underground. Many psychedelic communities are sprouting up networking and connecting various psychedelic healers with enthusiasts and others.  Look for a psychedelic community in your area to learn more about psychedelic initiatives!
Watch the new short documentary Forbidden Fruits:  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHJAR-oxE0Y&t=383s
Visit Sébastien’s YouTube channel to see his other work: 
Sébastien C

FOT #17 – Opioid Crisis, Addiction, and Overdose Prevention

Vito (@papaviitz ) joins me to discuss the opioid crisis in North America.  We cover the history of opioid use in our culture, both medically and recreationally. This includes the factors that caused this epidemic to get worse over the last 30 years.  The complexity of addiction and how opioids work on the brain are also discussed to help educate those who are curious. This includes how to recognize and respond to an overdose, using naloxone/narcan.


Overdose and suicide are the leading causes of death in North America, higher than car accidents and heart disease.  Opioid overdoses are on the rise due to many complex factors, such as over-prescription of pharmaceutical painkillers and synthetic versions being laced into street heroin. In the 1960s 80% of heroin users started with heroin.  In 2019, 80% of heroin users started because of a prescription painkiller.  Therefore, physicians are now limited in prescribing painkillers in Canada and many states. 


*When opioids overwhelm the receptors in the brain, they suppress the central nervous system. They can fully lose consciousness, pupils may constrict to pinpoint size, breathing stops or becomes ineffective, the skin goes very pale or blue/purple.  This will lead to death if it is not reversed immediately!
Play video of opioid overdose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RL4-Umip_Cc

Overdose First-Aid
Signs/symptoms of an overdose:
-Blue/purple colour around face and lips
-gurgling or loud snoring sounds
-Unresponsive to shouting and shaking or aggressively rubbing sternum with knuckles
-Ineffective breathing or not breathing at all
First-Aid:
Shout their name and shake their shoulders if the scene is safe
Call 9-1-1 if they are unresponsive
Give Narcan/naloxone (one dose of nasal spray or muscular injection)
Perform rescue breathing by pocket mask and/or chest compressions
If there is no improvement after 2-3 minutes, repeat steps 3 and 4. Stay with them.
If the person begins breathing on their own, or if you have to leave them on their own, put them in the recovery position.  There is a high chance of vomiting and withdrawal, monitor ABCs.
*Healthcare Providers (HCP): Airway management and ventilation by Bag Valve Mask with oxygen; only beginning chest compressions if NO pulse!

The “Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act” provides some legal protection for people who experience or witness an overdose and call 9-1-1 for help:
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/problematic-prescription-drug-use/opioids/about-good-samaritan-drug-overdose-act.html#a2 

FOT #16 – Psychedelic experiences, surreal moments in film, and finding meaning in life
Filmmaker, Luke Montgomery (Montgomery Picture) joins me to talk about how psychedelics have influenced our mental health, along with the current research and mental health benefits.  We discuss how to avoid abusing psychedelics or causing harm, how to hold space for an experience, and the proper integration of set/setting/intention to avoid negative consequences.  
Luke also walks me through some surreal moments in classic films that shaped how he views the art and his life.  Great films have the ability to either recreate or project a sense of uneasy reality that can spark inspiration and emotion.  He also talks about his views on their relation to mental health.
Another area that we discuss is how struggling with depression can in some cases come from a loss of meaning and negative framing of circumstances.  This can be affected by various biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Follow Luke Montgomery @montgomery.picture on Instagram to view his photography and information on his films.  View a beautiful short film that documents his trip to Columbia on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UHd9aiCglI 
(The Montgomery Picture)

FOT #15 – Suicide, mental health emergencies, and where we can improve in healthcare
Derek (Advanced Care Paramedic) and I discuss the topic of suicide and how to effectively provide suicide intervention. This includes talking about the stigma, the importance of building connection through listening, and how to have a conversation about suicide.  Suicide and Overdose are the leading causes of death in North America, above heart attacks and car accidents; yet most people do not understand these issues or how to properly save the life of someone who is struggling with it.  I have managed many suicide-related emergencies as a paramedic and mental health worker and would like to share what I have learned through my experience and recent training.  Derek provides great insight on this issue with his 15 years of experience as a paramedic.
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We go into how healthcare workers can be more effective during mental health emergencies to causing harm to our patients.  Many healthcare workers feel that they are not comfortable with mental health emergencies due to a lack of training and comfort around the subject.  During my last 7 years in the field I have grown a passion for understanding and assisting mental health emergencies.  There is a major amount of research emerging in this field which allows us to understand mental health more each year.  
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The suicide rates among first responders are the highest of any profession due to accumulating trauma, hopelessness, sadness, fear, and confusion that go unresolved. This is the first of many episodes where we talk openly about mental health, suicide, and how we can make our workplaces and communities safer. Being honest and anti-stigmatic about suicide will reduce the rates of death and empower more people to find their “life voice” again.
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Boots On The Ground is a crisis support service for First Responders.  Reach out and call if you are ever in crisis or feeling suicidal to connect with fellow first responders who are volunteering to provide peer support, by phone or by meeting you in person.  You may simply talk to us about your struggles or ask about how we can connect you with appropriate services, or even emergency if needed.  This takes away the fear of stigma at your workplace and provides a safety net for the long wait periods to see a professional counselor or psychologist. https://www.bootsontheground.ca/
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Anyone who is having a mental health crisis or is feeling suicidal can call their local crisis line or mobile crisis team, where available, if you do not want 9-1-1.


FOT #14 – Recognizing signs of psychological trauma in yourself, healthy ways to cope with trauma, breaking the stigma around PTSD in Emergency Services, and the mental health benefits of essential oils and terpenes
Episode 14 features Derek Davis, an Advanced Care Paramedic who is hitting 15 years of experience in EMS. He takes us through several topics that all connect to mental & physical health and wellness.
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Derek elaborates on the struggles he has faced as a paramedic and his journey to overcoming them; which many listeners will empathize with and learn a lot about themselves from.  We shed more light on how common mental health problems are among first responders and why we tend to hide them. More paramedics die by suicide than in any other profession in Canada and very few effective supports are available. Workplaces still discriminate against workers who are struggling from a condition that we are all statistically expected to have.
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He has now been a major advocate of mental health care and education, self-care, and increased peer-support. It is important to be aware of our emotions and identify when we are feeling fear, confusion, hopelessness, or sadness from our experiences before they come out at anger and pain. We go into the signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress that can range on a complex spectrum. We share self-care techniques and how to raise more awareness and supports among first responders and emergency workers.
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Charlie Bronson (from past episodes) also joins us to add insight, as Derek was Charlie’s preceptor when he was a student paramedic! 
This is a conversation that many first responders and mental health advocates should listen to!

FOT #13 – Mental Health First-Aid for the workplace, laughing at Old Settler’s Remedies, how using comedy facilitates healing
My friend Charlie (Paramedic/911 call-taker) joins me to share some mental health first aid tips that you can use in the workplace when noticing a co-Worker is struggling or needs support
We discuss the different symptoms and peer-support interventions for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and trauma-related disorders, substance use disorders, and disorders of psychosis.  We explain the neurological processes of each disorder and how to react to assist someone experiencing a crisis related to them.  I also share the latest research on how psychedelics can be used to heal addictions and mental health disorders!
Dark comedy is an amazing tool to process trauma and are effective measures to tell if you have healed or have processed passed traumatic experiences.  We explain the neurological processes that make being “offended” a choice we just overcome unless our immediate life is threatened.  Being offended at jokes or words people use will ruin your sense of true threat and danger by confusing your fight or flight circuits.  Overcoming negative emotions and working to process them make us stronger.
We also look at a book of Old Settler’s Remedies and laugh at how they used to treat medical problems and emergencies hundreds of years ago!

FOT # 12 – Exploring the complexity of addiction, various forms of recovery goals, and risk factors for addiction
On this episode @papaviitz joins me to explore the complexity of addictions and the biological, psychological, sociological, spiritual factors that can protect us or put us at risk.

Vito is studying addictions and mental health with me at Centennial College and grew up in the Riverdale community in Toronto, giving him a lot of experience seeing the effects of different socioeconomic levels on addictions and mental health around the city. We also discuss the various recovery goals that individuals may have (harm reduction VS abstinence VS reducing frequency). The “stages of change” are broken down with which strategies work best for supporting someone in each stage of their goals. We also explore the neuroscience of addiction and what risk factors we can and can’t control.

Many topics are covered from how trauma and mental health disorders relate to addiction, various forms of addiction, why certain substances are more addictive than others; even breaking down why substance misuse is often a form of relief from various symptoms of suffering or trauma.

At the end I also add a small bit about the “Bell Let’s Talk” camping summarizing the pros and cons while adding in a few ways they can be less ignorant and more effective at opening the dialogue around the realities and darkness of various mental health struggles. We will be doing another episode diving deeper into these topics soon as one hour is not enough to cover the complexity of addiction!

FOT #11 – Self-care for preventing PTSD, how to re-process traumatic experiences with cannabis, and discussing our most intense moments in the field
This is an exciting episode where I introduce my good friend Charlie, who worked with me as a Paramedic and as a 9-1-1 call taker.  We share some of our most intense experiences working in emergency services, how we use cannabis for self care to prevent PTSD as first responders, healthy VS unhealthy coping strategies, and more surreal framing of how we view life and death.  We also talk about a few calls we have done that caused an acute stress response and what measures we took to re-process and overcome them, before they manifested as trauma.  Enjoy this ride through life and death moments, using psychedelics and cannabis for self care, while integrating our dark sense of humor!  Cannabis can be an effective self-care tool for the overall benefit to the mental health of first responders and emergency workers when used responsibly with education!  

Strains that are high in Myrcene, CBD, and Linalool are best for combating the acute stress reaction that you may have 24-48 hour after a stressful emergency call.  Avoid high levels of THC (above 12%) when experiencing distressing emotions or anxiety, as CBD-dominant indica and hybrids are much better for managing those symptoms.  Sativa strains high in THC can exacerbate rumination and distressing emotions, so stick to strains that promote a healthy balance of terpenes and CBD when possible!

FOT #10 – Analyzing Black Christmas and how horror movies portray deaths unrealistically
Horror movies are notorious for showing death as either glamorous or completely unrealistic.  Many first responders and emergency workers sit through these kinds of movies, just buzzing with corrections we wish we could make.  In real life death can be both disturbing and artistic in a surreal context, yet horror movies rarely tap into the art of realism.

  Chris Kinsella joins me to analyze the holiday-horror-classic Black Christmas!  We discuss how this movie paved the way for future horror slashers like Halloween and Friday the 13th, as well as how each death WOULD have looked in real life based on my paramedic experience and calls that I have responded to with similar injuries.  Enjoy this holiday episode with a nice sativa-dominant hybrid and plenty of trigger warnings!

*Watch the YouTube version of this episode and our episode analyzing The Shining for video clips that accompany each scene that we are discussing to follow along with:                             

Black Christmas Analysis (YouTube): https://youtu.be/YSGxmJWXFvo

The Shining Analysis (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InQ8qXBb9EQ&t=995s


FOT #9- The complexity of ADD/ADHD, the various symptoms between males and females, and optimizing cognitive functioning
For this episode I am joined by my friend Maggie Grainger to talk about ADD/ADHD and cognitive functioning. Maggie has a BSc in Biological Anthropology and Psychology, now expanding her expertise into Addictions and Mental Health Work. Maggie helps me take apart the different symptoms of ADD/ADHD in both men and women, the complexity and importance of proper of diagnosis and treatment, how the ADD/ADHD brain is wired, as well as exploring the idea of optimal cognitive functioning.

Why does the THC in cannabis compliment the ADHD brain so well? We also explain what is happening in the ADD/ADHD brain to cause the various symptoms. It has been confirmed by Electro-Encephalography (EEG) studies that the right prefrontal cortex falls asleep when symptoms are present, causing theta wave deep-sleep. This is why those with ADD/ADHD require extra dopaminergic stimulation and often seek high-risk behaviours or careers to compliment this!  I personally feel that I chose to work in emergency services because of how my brain is wired, and I feel many others in high-risk fields may feel similar. 

Enjoy this episode and feel free to leave comments on how you cope with symptoms of ADD or ADHD for others to learn from!


FOT #8 – Analyzing themes of addiction, PTSD, and pediatric epilepsy in The Shining
This is a special segment of Flight of Thoughts that analyzes classic movies to explore themes that are related to mental health, trauma, psychedelics, and other surreal themes that may have been missed by audiences. This time we look at Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”.  I am joined by my good friend Chris Kinsella, a horror movie connoisseur and lover of the darkly comedic, artistically surreal, and disturbing aspects of the genre.  Our goal is to combine our passions to break down these ideas; integrating them into our views of mental health and human behaviour. 

There are many rabbit holes to dive into with The Shining, but we pick out messages about overcoming addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as discussing Danny’s “shining” from the perspective of pediatric epilepsy (seizures). 

This will be an ongoing segment that is integrated with the rest of the Flight of Thoughts podcast.  Stay tuned for more movie break downs with Chris and myself!

FOT #7 – Scott discusses his near-death experience, we re-frame psychosis, and patient advocacy during an overdose
Scott Mason from the Toronto Psychedelic Society joins me again to explore some incredibly surreal topics.  Scott shares with us the story of his near-death experience where he had to be resuscitated by paramedics; as we breakdown the best way to hold space and comfort someone who is dying.  There are very strong parallels between near-death and psychedelic experiences that we draw correlations to as well. 

We also explore how to harness your emotional response to overcome fear and perform in life or death situations, recognizing human suffering in modern societies, re-framing psychosis, and more harm reduction/prevention tips!  Enjoy this episode with a smooth hybrid or indica strain…you may need it for this one!


FOT#6 – Daniel Greig discusses the neurobiological processes of addiction, trauma, psychedelic therapies, and thought processes of human beings

This was a very intense, engaging conversation about the human brain and it’s processes. Why do some people thrive in chaos and others fall apart? Why do psychedelics help heal trauma? Daniel Greig has been studying cognitive science and philosophy at the University of Toronto with a growing passion about psychedelic science, advocacy, and education. He volunteers with the Canadian Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) and runs a psychedelic seminar series. We talk about what happens in the human brain when we experience traumatic events, addictive impulses, psychedelic healing, near-death experiences, and other important neurological processes! We also explain the five default human responses to a life-threatening moment or crisis; as well as how to recognize which one you are prone to when you enter a situation that is “do or die”.



FOT #5 – Sebastian Clermont talks film making, mental health, and substances in our society

Sébastien Clermont is a filmmaker and student at York University, with his film-making style ranging from experimental to documentary style.  Recently, he has been exploring major Canadian issues that have been emerging in mental healthcare.  The documentary he is currently working on covers the emerging psychedelic-assisted therapies, the opioid crisis, and other major trends that branch out of intergenerational trauma and addictions in Canada.  This conversation was very effective in communicating the complexity of the roots of the addiction and mental health crisis in Canada, as well where we must shift our focus to overcome them.

Check out Sébastien Clermont’s work at
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Moutonrondouillard
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/absentinsomniac/



FOT #4 – Harm Reduction for Medical and Recreational Cannabis

I recorded this a week or so before cannabis was legalized here in Canada.  I chose to release this episode a few days after to give everyone access to some useful harm reduction tips for recreational cannabis use, as well as how to be more effective with using it for medical purposes.  This episode includes how to avoid any negative effects, information on various strains and terpenes, and how first responders can navigate cannabis as a medicine more effectively!


FOT #3 – Joe Moore from Psychedelics Today

On this episode, I am joined by Joe Moore to talk about what we can expect with cannabis legalization based on what they have seen in Colorado (since their legalization).  We also address psychedelic harm reduction, and other ideas in the realm of psychedelics and human behavior!  Joe Moore is one of the heads of Psychedelics Today (find their podcast on iTunes as well). 

He and Kyle Buller have created the Navigating Psychedelics online course to educate everyone on the responsible and spiritual uses of these substances, recreational VS medicinal use, the history surrounding psychedelics, and ongoing updated research.  

Follow Joe and Kyle’s work with Psychedelics Today at : https://psychedelicstoday.com/
*Their website also has information on available courses and upcoming events!


FOT #2 – Scott Mason from the Toronto Psychedelic Society

Scott Mason is one of the leaders of the Toronto Psychedelic Society.  He is a Cognitive and Behavioral Sciences student at York University.  Scott is a psychonaut with a rich background in psychedelic science and knowledge.  This includes first-hand experiences that highlight the importance of using harm reduction practices, as well as seeking out proper guidance and education. He currently work in the growing cannabis industry, growing his expertise surrounding the ins and outs of medical and recreational cannabis.  

FOT #1 – Introduction to Flight of Thoughts

This episode is an introduction to the Flight of Thoughts podcast. Jake shares some ideas of what to expect with upcoming episodes, elaborates on his experiences with addictions and mental health as a paramedic and harm reductionist, as well as some safety advice for the pending legalization of cannabis in Canada. 

Instagram:
@jake_flightofthoughts
 
Facebook page:
The Psychedelic Society of First Responders and Emergency Workers

This podcast is uncensored and covers many topics considered “taboo” or difficult for some individuals. We do not condone any illegal activities, as this is a platform for harm reduction and open-dialogue.  Although the ideas are mostly evidence-based and honest, the lines of reality and comedy may be blurred at times…this is your trigger warning!
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