Essay date: May 28, 2020

Replacing Psychiatry with Pharmacologically Savvy Shamanism

The post that got me banned for life from the Reddit Psychiatry group

How the drug war addicts patients to Big Pharma meds while addicting psychiatrists to the pill-mill paradigm that promises them patients for life

This essay got me banned for life in the Reddit Psychiatry group.

The decriminalization of drugs (or what I prefer to call the re-legalization of plants) must coincide with the de-medicalization of mood disorders. The current psychiatric system behaves under the patently absurd and scientistic illusion that every human being in the world is precisely the same when it comes to so-called illnesses like depression and anxiety, that there exists a sort of philosopher's stone in the realm of psychiatry, namely a psychiatric drug (or handful of drugs) that can cure every depressed person in the world, from a morose nonagenarian who is afraid of death to a home-coming queen who is upset about not "getting into Harvard."

And so our highly paid psychiatrists of today don three-piece suits and sit down pompously in front of elaborately hand-carved desks, only to perform a job that could be easily performed by any nurse intern. Their job today is simply to write prescription refills, after making a pro-forma check, using an insulting and outdated 10-question personality test, to "ensure" that the would-be recipient of the prescription is not contemplating suicide -- which is important to check, no doubt, since the refill procedure is so disempowering to the patient that they might well consider suicide as a way of protesting the infantilization to which they are being subjected every three to six months of their lives.

This robotic paradigm for treating "patients" has resulted in a catastrophe so great that Big Pharma and their pill-peddling psychiatrists refuse to even acknowledge it: the fact that 1 in 8 American males and 1 in 4 American females are now addicted to modern antidepressants, many of which are harder to quit than heroin. This drugged-up dystopia might be at least partially excused if these medicines were found to truly end depression, but this is not the case. In fact, America is now the most depressed nation in the world in spite of this full-court press by Big Pharma to place the entire nation on their limited pharmacopoeia of highly addictive "meds."

All this in an age that claims to value "empowerment" above every other social goal. Yet what could be more disempowering than turning a depressed person into a patient for life, one who thus becomes a ward of the healthcare state and has to share his or her intimate feelings with a psychiatrist every three to six months of their life, all while paying dearly for doing so, both in time and money?

The alternative is clear: end the Drug War and replace psychiatrists with pharmacologically savvy shamans, physicians who thus profit from the best medical practices in both the west and the east. Of course, this idea will seem radical to so-called "free" Americans, who have gotten used over the last 100 years to having politicians and bureaucrats decide which plant medicines can be used by whom, and when.

The Drug Warrior lie is that he or she is merely interested in protecting Drug Warrior Junior from evil drugs. But the effect of their legislation is to turn the average American into an addict while blocking the therapeutic use of thousands of natural godsend medicines. ^{We all look back in shock at the way the Church impeded scientific activity in Galileo's day; but we have yet to be shocked by the way that the Drug War impedes scientific activity in ours.}{

Why then do we not even THINK about replacing psychiatry with pharmacologically informed shamanism? It's obvious: The pill-peddling paradigm ensures that psychiatrists have high-paying jobs for a lifetime. Why? Because their patients MUST visit them every three to six months in order to get their socially approved "fixes" of Big Pharma medicine.

The frustrating thing from a philosopher's point of view is that America is closing its ears to these obvious truths, and shouting in effect: "I'm not LISTENING!!!" whenever someone raises these concerns (which, to be fair, however, happens rarely enough). American opinion on these subjects has been bought and paid for (like any other commodity) by Big Pharma through the psychiatric talking heads that they have financially suborned to spread cozy-sounding antidepressant mythology on Oprah et al.

And so we continue to treat psychiatric patients AS patients, second-rate and infantilized citizens who are forced to demonstrate their worthiness, every three to six months of their life, to receive yet another expensive prescription from an already expensive doctor.

This won't change for the better until materialists renounce their scientistic project to find a one-size-fits-all cure for depression, a project that would seem absurd on its face to any society not so infatuated with science that they have developed a Spock-like ineptness at recognizing the human side of such an enormously variegated topic. Of course, this change will also require that Drug Warrior Americans stop behaving like the Church of Galileo's time and begin allowing full scientific access to and therapeutic use of the plants and fungi that grow at our very feet, the flora to which we were all once granted access by dint of merely being human, until 1914 that is, when racist Drug Warriors first violated natural law by claiming that the government had the right to tell us which plants we could access and which we must ignore and shun on pain of arrest -- and even death, should we dare to share the plant medicines that our politicians have decided to withhold from us.

The change I'm talking about is the transformation of modern pill-pushing psychiatry into pharmacologically savvy shamanism. This is the way forward in behavioral therapy, at least for a free country that is determined to take the best from both eastern and western medical traditions. Such a transformation would be in the true interest of patients, and would even free them from being called patients in the first place, which is a disempowering designation after all. The therapy in view here would identify its votaries merely as human beings: human beings, who, like all of us, are looking to find their place in the world and gain a better understanding of the strange miraculous thing called life, and how not simply to cope with it but to thrive in it as well.

Author's Follow-up: February 9, 2023

It's always nice to re-read one of my old posts like this one and find that I agree with everything I said back in the day, now that I've grown old and grizzled. I would, however, modify this post slightly to avoid the impression that I am "psychiatrist bashing." I know there are some great psychiatrists out there, but they are great because of their empathy, not because of their ability to constantly write prescriptions.

I must recognize also that there are some professionals of good will (including, alas, Rick Doblin and DJ Nutt) who really believe that Big Pharma meds do have a role to play in the modern treatment of depression. I can only say that if this is so, it is only because of the Drug War, for otherwise nothing would justify psychiatrists in prescribing pills that tranquilize the depressed. The job of the psychiatrist should be to help their clients live large, not to dull their minds so that they can better accept mediocrity,, especially when the pills in question have been shown to change personalities, making folk less spontaneous and creative (which I can vouch for, after 40 years of legal pill popping).

We've also got to realize that tranquilization can "solve" any problem, provided only that we use a large enough dose. Remember Henny Penny, the obsessive-compulsive chicken who was always telling us that the sky was caving in? We could have "solved" her problem easily by simply shutting her down. How? By tranquilizing her so thoroughly that she couldn't even open her beak, much less prophesy doomsday at the top of her voice. But that would not be solving Henny's problems, only hiding them.

The irony here is that psychiatry is always telling us that illegal drugs are not treating the "real" problem, when it is actually psychiatry itself which is hiding the problems, covering them up by tranquilizing the "patient" to the point that they do not -- or cannot -- complain. We might rack this up as a victory for the psychiatrist, but it is actually a loss for the depressed: a loss of spontaneity and creativity, among other things.

The best thing I can say about antidepressants based on my 40 years of use is that they are probably better than nothing for the severely depressed -- like, say, those who really are considering suicide or are so "down" that they can't get out of bed in the morning. But they should be avoided whenever possible, since they come with the price of turning the user into a ward of the healthcare state while subtly changing their personalities in unpredictable ways. They also hide issues rather than providing the user with insights about them.

But antidepressants make sense for no one at all the moment that we have re-legalized psychoactive medicines and left it up to shamans and users to choose among them freely. At that point, no one in their right mind -- or even in their wrong mind, for that matter -- would knowingly choose a drug that's going to tranquilize them rather than bring them euphoria and help them live large and feel close to people and the world around them, especially when the use of the drug in question will make them a ward of the health care state and turn them into the Wedding Guest of the Coleridge poem, sailing into a psychiatrists office ever three months to tell their life story to strangers.

That's why psychiatrists fear drug re-legalization -- or at least they should fear it if they know what is good for them financially speaking.

Author's Follow-up: April 18, 2023

I just read a Tweet in which a moderately popular clinician compared marijuana to the soma used for mind control in Huxley's Brave New World. This is ironic, since the psychiatric pill mill is the mother of all mind control -- the more so in that nobody notices it: it is stealth zombification. 1 in 4 American women take a tranquilizing Big Pharma med every day of their life -- that's a real life Stepford Wives, the greatest pharmacological dystopia in human history -- and yet no one sees it because Big Pharma meds flatter us that we're being "scientific." And so, far from asking women to desist, we urge them to "take their meds."

And yet this is pseudoscience. These pills seem to cause a chemical imbalance, not fix one. (Richard Whitaker, Irving Kirsch and Julie Holland).

In any case, the whole concept of SSRIs is philosophically flawed. In order to cure MY depression, you have to first decide what depression is. Is it an inability to live large -- as Avicenna would have maintained (albeit in slightly different language) or is it the inability to get out of bed?

Moreover, SSRIs would be horrible if they DID work: It is absurdity to "cure sadness." It is the goal of a madman. And yet thanks to materialism, physics envy and reductionism, we're told that we can and should do just that.

Marijuana inspired the Jazz Age. SSRIs inspire nothing at all -- indeed, they are anecdotally associated with a lack of creativity. I say "anecdotally" because no one's going to spend money proving this allegation in a capitalist society, least of all one in which government drug trials are paid for by Big Pharma itself.

And I'm an expert in the field -- having been on the receiving end of Big Pharma's tranquilizing and dependency causing meds for 40 years.

Where are the conspiracy theorists when you need them? The psychiatric pill mill has every sign of being society's way of keeping folks happy with the spiritually dead world of unbridled capitalism. What a coup for conservatives. Medicate all the dissenters and keep them obsessed about which pill they should try next -- lest they should otherwise write tracts against the absurdly lopsided distribution of wealth in America and the government's failure to provide top-quality schooling for all kids.

Author's Follow-up: May 18, 2023

I thought it would be easy to find like minds in the fight to end prohibition. Unfortunately, I'm finding some of the big-name advocates of pushback are also firm believers in the power of antidepressants to treat depression. I personally do not think that anyone completely understands the Drug War if they do not realize that the psychiatric pill mill is a creation of that war, for prohibition gives psychiatry a monopoly on mind medicine. The supporters will tell you that some users say the meds are useful -- but if I've learned anything after 40 years of poorly treated depression, it's that a depressed person is the last person qualified to report on their own condition. I used to think I was not depressed -- until I stopped and looked at all the goals I had not accomplished in the past in spite of what I had considered to be my firm commitment to that end. Moreover, when I took a psychedelic in my early 20s, I was exposed to a world of such potential that I suddenly considered the ambition of psychiatry to be shabby. Their pills did not motivate by comparison, they tranquilized.

But the real problem is this: 1 in 4 American women are dependent on Big Pharma for life. That's a scandal! And a profitable one, apparently, because I'm one of the few who even mentions that it exists. (See Julie Holland for some more honesty on this score.)

Now, you're not going to tell me that 25% of American females are depressed enough to warrant turning them into wards of the healthcare state? Well, if they really ARE that depressed, then something is wrong with America, not with its female population.

Finally, there are two ways to view psychiatry today: one is the typical way, in which we ignore the Drug War, in which we might say that pill-popping is the only game in town. The other way to look at psychiatry today is realistically, by taking into account the war on drugs by which we outlaw almost all psychoactive medicines. If psychiatrists saw their field in this true light -- as the expensive and demoralizing default option only because of tyrannical law that outlaws mother nature -- then they would (or at least they should) be the first to protest on behalf of patients and say to government: "We demand the right to prescribe anything that will work for our patients!"

Instead, psychiatrists have gone along with this game, pretending that antidepressants are good in and of themselves, telling patients to "take their meds," when the best one can say about those meds is that they're the only medicine the government will let people have for depression. That's a poor endorsement, indeed, especially since lifelong users like myself have been infantilized by these drugs, turned into a ward of the healthcare state and denied the meds that truly work, many of which grow at my very feet, the drugs that inspire rather than tranquilize.

So if they wish to ignore me, fine: But I'm not going to behave like Polonius and switch my opinions to suit the self-interested zeitgeist, even if it might encourage folks like Rick Doblin and DJ Nutt to respond to my letters.

Who are these apologists for antidepressants? They're easy to identify. Just look for folks who use the term "treatment-resistant depression," for the use of that term implies that there is a legal treatment for depression that works -- namely, SSRIs and SNRIs -- and that those who do not profit from them are the oddballs with the quirky body chemistry that does not know a cure when it sees one.

The irony is that, even if SSRIs worked for me, their positive effect would be negated by the fact that psychiatry has turned me into a patient for life, with the demoralizing trips to the doctor every three months to see an LPN that is half my age (at best), to answer questions about my predilection for suicide and how much sleep I'm getting.

LPN: Have you considered suicide in the last three months?
ME: Only when I think about the fact that psychiatry has turned me into an eternal patient.

Buy the Drug War Comic Book by Brian Quass, featuring 150 hilarious op-ed pics about America's disgraceful war on Americans


In his book "Salvia Divinorum: The Sage of the Seers," Ross Heaven explains how "salvinorin A" is the strongest hallucinogen in the world and could treat Alzheimer's, AIDS, and various addictions. But America would prefer to demonize and outlaw the drug.
But materialist puritans do not want to create any drug that elates. So they go on a fool's errand to find reductionist cures for "depression itself," as if the vast array of human sadness could (or should) be treated with a one-size-fits-all readjustment of brain chemicals.
There are endless drugs that could help with depression. Any drug that inspires and elates is an antidepressant, partly by the effect itself and partly by the mood-elevation caused by anticipation of use (facts which are far too obvious for drug warriors to understand).
Rather than protesting prohibition as a crackdown on academic freedom, today's scientists are collaborating with the drug war by promoting shock therapy and SSRIs, thereby profiting from the monopoly that the drug war gives them in selling mind and mood medicine.
Here's one problem that supporters of the psychiatric pill mill never address: the fact that Big Pharma antidepressants demoralize users by turning them into patients for life.
America's "health" system was always screaming at me about the threat of addiction from drugs. Then what did it do? It put me on the most dependence-causing meds of all time: SSRIs and SNRIs.
Antidepressants in the time of the drug war are like cars in a time when combustion engines are outlawed. Such "cars" may bounce you from point A to point B somehow, but we wouldn't be taking them seriously except for the prohibition on combustion engines. Re-legalize NATURE!

The search for SSRIs has always been based on a flawed materialist premise that human consciousness is nothing but a mix of brain chemicals and so depression can be treated medically like any other physical condition.

Imagine the Vedic people shortly after they have discovered soma. Everyone's ecstatic -- except for one oddball. "I'm not sure about these experiences," says he. "I think we need to start dissecting the brains of our departed adherents to see what's REALLY going on in there."
The search for SSRIs has always been based on a flawed materialist premise that human consciousness is nothing but a mix of brain chemicals and so depression can be treated medically like any other physical condition.
"I can take this drug that inspires me and makes me compassionate and teaches me to love nature in its byzantine complexity, or I can take Prozac which makes me unable to cry at my parents' funeral. Hmm. Which shall it be?" Only a mad person in a mad world would choose SSRIs.
We don't need people to get "clean." We need people to start living a fulfilling life. The two things are different.
Next essay: So, Your Faith Votes?
Previous essay: In Praise of Doctor Feelgood

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America's biggest drug pusher: The American Psychiatric Association:
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In Praise of Doctor Feelgood
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MDMA for Psychotherapy
The Drug War and Electroshock Therapy
The Myth of the Addictive Personality
The Prozac Code
Time to Replace Psychiatrists with Shamans
Doctor Feel Bad
Psychedelics and Depression
Drug Use as Self-Medication
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Depression is real, says the APA, and they should know: they cause it!
The Mental Health Survey that psychiatrists don't want you to take
The Depressing Truth About SSRIs
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America's Great Anti-Depressant Scam
The Origins of Modern Psychiatry
Modern Addiction Treatment as Puritan Indoctrination
Why Rick Doblin is Ghosting Me
Lord Save us from 'Real' Cures
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What Jim Hogshire Got Wrong about Drugs
Tapering for Jesus
America's Anti-scientific Standards for Psychotherapeutic Medicine
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(seemingly useful organizations)

Sana Collective
Group committed to making psychedelic therapy available to all regardless of income.

You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.

A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.

The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. (For proof of that latter charge, check out how the US and UK have criminalized the substances that William James himself told us to study in order to understand reality.) It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions (like the Vedic), Nazifies the English language (referring to folks who emulate drug-loving Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin as "scumbags") and militarizes police forces nationwide (resulting in gestapo SWAT teams breaking into houses of peaceable Americans and shouting "GO GO GO!").

(Speaking of Nazification, L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates thought that drug users should be shot. What a softie! The real hardliners are the William Bennetts of the world who want drug users to be beheaded instead. That will teach them to use time-honored plant medicine of which politicians disapprove! Mary Baker Eddy must be ecstatic in her drug-free heaven, as she looks down and sees this modern inquisition on behalf of the drug-hating principles that she herself maintained. I bet she never dared hope that her religion would become the viciously enforced religion of America, let alone of the entire freakin' world!)

In short, the drug war causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)

If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.

PPS Drugs like opium and psychedelics should come with the following warning: "Outlawing of this product may result in inner-city gunfire, civil wars overseas, and rigged elections in which drug warriors win office by throwing minorities in jail."

Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)

Selected Bibliography

  • Bandow, Doug "From Fighting The Drug War To Protecting The Right To Use Drugs"2018
  • Barrett, Damon "Children of the Drug War: Perspectives on the Impact of Drug Polices on Young People"2011 IDEBATE Press
  • Bernays, Edward "Propaganda"1928 Public Domain
  • Bilton, Anton "DMT Entity Encounters: Dialogues on the Spirit Molecule"2021 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Boullosa , Carmen "A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the 'Mexican Drug War'"2016 OR Books
  • Brereton, William "The Truth about Opium / Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade"2017 Anna Ruggieri
  • Burns, Eric "1920: The year that made the decade roar"2015 Pegasus Books
  • Carpenter, Ted Galen "The Fire Next Door: Mexico's Drug Violence and the Danger to America"2012 Cato Institute
  • Chesterton, GK "Saint Thomas Acquinas"2014 BookBaby
  • Filan, Kenaz "The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature's Most Dangerous Plant Ally"2011 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Gianluca, Toro "Drugs of the Dreaming: Oneirogens"2007 Simon and Schuster
  • Griffiths, William "Psilocybin: A Trip into the World of Magic Mushrooms"2021 William Griffiths
  • Grof, Stanislav "The transpersonal vision: the healing potential of nonordinary states of consciousness"1998 Sounds True
  • Head, Simon "Mindless: Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans"2012 Basic Books
  • Hofmann, Albert "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications"2005 Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Illich, Ivan "Medical nemesis : the expropriation of health"1975 Calder & Boyars
  • Irwin-Rogers, Keir "Illicit Drug Markets, Consumer Capitalism and the Rise of Social Media: A Toxic Trap for Young People"2019
  • James, William "The Varieties of Religious Experience"1902 Philosophical Library
  • Lindstrom, Martin "Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy"2011 Crown Business
  • Mariani, Angelo "Coca and its Therapeutic Application, Third Edition"1896
  • Miller, Richard Lawrence "Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State"1966 Bloomsbury Academic
  • Mortimer MD, W. Golden "Coca: Divine Plant of the Incas"2017 Ronin Publishing
  • Nagel, Thomas "Mind and Cosmos: why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false"2012 Oxford University press
  • Newcombe, Russell "Intoxiphobia: discrimination toward people who use drugs"2014
  • Partridge, Chiristopher "Alistair Crowley on Drugs"2021 uploaded by Misael Hernandez
  • Rosenblum, Bruce "Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness"2006 Oxford University Press
  • Rudgley, Richard "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances"2014 Macmillan Publishers
  • Shulgin, Alexander "PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story"1991 Transform Press
  • Shulgin, Alexander "The Nature of Drugs Vol. 1: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact"2021 Transform Press
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Cosmos and Transcendence: Breaking Through the Barrier of Scientistic Belief"0
  • Smith, Wolfgang "Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology"2022
  • St John, Graham "Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT"2021
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
  • Wedel, Janine "Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class"2014 Pegasus Books
  • Weil, Andrew "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs"2004 Open Road Integrated Media
  • Whitaker, Robert "Mad in America"2002 Perseus Publishing
  • Site and its contents copyright 2023, by Brian B. Quass, the drug war philosopher at For more information, contact Brian at