January 15, 2020
Decriminalizing Mother Nature: the end gameby Ballard Quass
A serious reader of this website might be asking themselves, what is the author's end game? What would his ideal world look like after the anti-patient drug war mentality has been renounced once and for all.
What we call psychiatry today - which is really just the institutionalization of a Big Pharma pill mill - will transform into a shamanic-like practice, in which highly empathic professionals, well versed in the pharmacology and usage history of every psychoactive substance on earth, would match each sufferer individually with the natural substance(s) necessary to lead them to self-knowledge and in the direction of ultimate self-fulfillment in life. Having identified the promising plant-assisted therapies, treatment would commence, reverently and with specific pre-identified goals.
It's really that simple. The amazing thing is that such a common sense approach to mental suffering should strike Americans as somehow daring or outrageous. (Only imagine, psychiatrists being free to choose the medicine most likely to assist his or her patient!) This outrage no doubt comes from the fact that we expect psychiatry to function like the medical world, given the misleading metaphor according to which psychological pathology is "just another illness." This metaphor was originally embraced to prevent the stigmatization of psychological illness (Johnny's not a lunatic, he's just "sick"), but when we take it literally, we are led astray. We then objectify the psychiatric patient as an impersonal human body (one of billions of interchangeable units) who is ready to be given a specific medicine in order to obtain a specific result.
Alas, human beings are far less predictable than that, when it comes to emotions. Unfortunately, Big Pharma has long since taken up that metaphor and run with it, creating a small addictive pharmacy of one-size-fits-all antidepressants that are meant to kill an underlying "illness" that is not really there. It's not there because the term "illness" was a metaphor all along. Big Pharma made trillions by creating drugs that were meant to take the metaphor seriously, and so they alleged that their nostrums were fixing a chemical imbalance that caused depression, when subsequent research revealed that the imbalance in question was being caused by the Big Pharma drugs themselves.
Yet folks stubbornly hold to this urban legend about a chemical imbalance, thus their willingness to continue popping those pills - many of which cause such chemical dependence that long-term users find them impossible to quit. Indeed, one such drug, Effexor, has a 95% recidivism rate for those who attempt to get off of it, and this according to the NIH itself. If any of the new potential therapies (MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine...) had a similar addiction rate, they would be blacklisted for all time, yet another instance of the breathtaking hypocrisy of the drug war. To the contrary, the new psychedelic therapies are almost entirely non-addictive, and yet they are the bad guys according to the DEA, not the substances to which 1 in 10 Americans are already addicted even as I type.
There are still more road blocks to the institutionalization of my pro-patient end game.
First and foremost, the drug war has led to a superstitious fear of substances in and of themselves, without regard for how they are used. Thus when we see photographs of cocaine online, we're likely to see blood-soaked dollar bills nearby, and a hypodermic needle for good measure. We are thereby propagandized into believing that substances like cocaine are bad in themselves, regardless of how they are used and for what purpose. This is an anti-scientific point of view, which has devastating effects for those who can benefit from the wise use of substances, and until Americans realize how they are being snookered by government propaganda, they will refrain from demanding back their God-given right to the plants and fungi that grow at our very feet. (Hollywood does all it can to disseminate this propaganda by creating a whole genre of movies in which cocaine is the bad guy, while the good guys are the DEA agents who invade other countries to torture and murder drug suspects.)
We must spurn the silly drug-war conviction that a substance can be justly banned simply because it can be abused - for this anti-scientific outlook ignores the millions, even billions, of sufferers who could potentially make WISE use of such a substance. If the Drug War criterion for legality were in force when it comes to driving automobiles, there would not be one single car on the road. Some people will drive recklessly, so the drug warrior would cry, and so no one must ever be allowed to drive!
There will be additional conceptual difficulties in bringing back freedom.
The system I propose assumes a reverent (or at least serious) approach to the use of powerful substances in a private therapeutic setting. But this reverent attitude might be impossible to maintain if natural substances, particularly entheogens, are allowed to be marketed commercially, particularly in a cynical society that has been taught by the drug warriors to snicker and nod knowingly about substances that have been labeled illegal in the past, assuming that all such drugs are used for the tawdry purposes of "getting high." The ultimate purpose of the use of entheogens is to gain access to a more fundamental reality and to learn from that experience -- and we must resist the drug-warrior temptation to deride that lofty goal with the dismissive label of "hedonism." This means that the market in entheogens may need to be state-controlled.
Our goal, after all, is to get rid of anti-drug propaganda, according to which certain substances are bad in and of themselves. The last thing we want to do is replace that anti-scientific viewpoint with pro-drug propaganda, according to which certain substances are just plain good. For our problem with the drug war has always been this, that substances are neither good NOR bad, that such judgments can only be made with respect to the WAY in which such substances are used. Frivolous, uninformed use: bad; reverent, informed use: good. (Dear Mr. or Mrs. Drug Warrior, this is not rocket science, after all!)
There you have it, my end game for the use of Mother Nature's uncensored pharmacy to treat psychological conditions, along with an effort to at least begin addressing the issues that may arise in our attempts to empower these new freedoms in the cynical capitalist world of our times.