February 2, 2020
Is Rick Doblin Running with the Devil?by Ballard Quass
The drawbacks of collaborating with a corrupt system
I'm a big fan of Rick Doblin and his attempts to mainstream the therapeutic use of psychedelics through MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Rick is obviously a courageous man with the patience of a saint, given the slow-and-steady mindset that his ambitious project calls for. That said, I'm beginning to wonder if his strategy of compromise does not entail a Faustian pact with the devil - or rather with two devils, as noted below.
DEVIL 1: THE DEA
Take the DEA, for instance. I realize that Rick is teaming with the DEA for practical reasons, in order to make legal research possible, but I fear that such cooperation tends to legitimize the agency's role as the rightful gatekeeper for scientific drug research, as if the government should be playing such a politicized role in the first place when it comes to scientific investigation. This is the same DEA, after all, that has deprived depressive folks like myself of thousands of potential rain forest godsends for the last four decades, making our lives a shadow of what they might have been, psychologically speaking, in terms of self-fulfillment, self-realization, and the simple, humble appreciation of the wonderful world of nature that grows at our very feet.
Had researchers been given mere scientific freedom to follow up on the breathtaking therapeutic results of the work of Strassman, Fadiman, Grof et al., America would surely no longer be the most depressed country in the world, where a tenth of the population is yet addicted to the handful of mind-fogging antidepressants dealt out by modern psychiatry - an institution for which pill-peddling is unabashedly promoted as the new therapeutic paradigm. But the DEA has long said no to the mere scientific research of psychedelics, classifying them unscientifically as "schedule 1," thereby ensuring the agency's own law-enforcement workload for decades to come, all at the expense of the health, happiness and sheer human potential of the American people.
As one of the countless victims of the DEA's politically motivated crackdown on psychoactive substances (part of an eclectic victims list that runs the gamut from imprisoned minorities to morose nonagenarians wasting away in a nursing home), I can't help but think that our role as freedom-loving Americans is to loudly protest the injustice being perpetrated here, not to play by the rigged handbook of a political institution designed to strictly limit conscious awareness and keep effective medicines out of public hands.
When Americans aren't busy submitting sheepishly to drug tests, they are watching drug war propaganda movies in which the DEA tortures and murders South Americans who are suspected of selling Mother Nature's plants: especially those that American politicians have gone to such trouble to demonize.
DEVIL 2: THE SCIENTIZATION OF PSYCHEDELICS
This points to a second problem with the MAPS back-door approach to psychedelic legalization: it seeks to destigmatize psychedelics by professionalizing their use, by putting them in the hands of materialist scientists who will analyze such substances "every which way to Sunday" in order to find the exact chemical interactions associated with their efficacy. Even if this reductionist analysis prompts the scientific community to "sign off" on the efficacy of psychedelics for treating various illnesses, the folks who will be empowered are not suffering individuals, but rather large pharmaceutical companies. If not otherwise constrained, Big Pharma will soon strip the psychedelics of all consciously noticeable effects, especially those unscientific "hallucinations" that they seem to cause, in an attempt to derive therefrom a socially acceptable "one-size-fits-all" cure for depression, yet another daily pill regimen that they can market aggressively to the statistically over-depressed American people by running slick but ethereal advertisements during commercial breaks for "Dateline NBC" and "48 Hours."
This is why leaders of the Native American Church are, I believe, justifiably leery of the new psychedelic revolution, because it is being advanced under the banner of materialist medicine, not under the banner of human freedom, personal humility, and a sincere desire to learn about oneself and one's place in the universe. To put it another way, it's one thing to destigmatize psychedelics, it's quite another to denude them of all their awe-inspiring qualities, and that's what happens when psychedelics are wrenched from the hands of a shaman and placed under the microscope of a clinician.
Don't get me wrong: I congratulate Rick Doblin on his so far successful, if frustratingly slow, approach to legalizing psychedelic therapy in America, an approach which might be described here as "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As for the concerns that I've highlighted above, I'm sure that MAPS is aware of them all and that they are working to obviate them wherever and whenever possible. I write this, not in order to play Sunday morning quarterback, but to remind Rick's fan club (to which I myself belong) that there is another way to address the intertwined problems of unjust drug laws and the lack of effective psychotherapy in America today. This alternative to Rick's strategy of compromise can be easily outlined as the following two-step process:
1) Reclaim the human being's right to naturally occurring substances via appealing to natural law (which, as John Locke writes, gives us unfettered access to "the earth, and all that is therein").
Then, once this basic human right has been reclaimed from power-hungry politicians...
2) Replace psychiatrists with empathic and pharmacologically savvy shamans who will improve their "patients'" psychological well-being with plant-assisted therapy, using ANY PLANT IN THE WORLD that said shaman deems propitious for achieving the goal(s) of the patient in question.
Then again, maybe I am a Sunday morning quarterback, for I see my approach to drug legalization as a kind of "hail Mary" pass, denying the right of politicians to outlaw plants in the first place, whereas Rick's strategy involves gaining a series of fiercely contested first downs by exploiting the various minor weaknesses of his opponent.
Despite our different strategies, however, we're both headed toward the same goal line, i.e. the legalization of psychedelic substances for the psychological benefit of humankind, and I'll be the first to congratulate Team MAPS should they reach the end zone before me.