Essay date: July 16, 2022

How the Drug War Screws the Depressed

an open letter to Dr. Alan I. Leshner

ear Dr. Leshner,

I was reading a book in which Thomas Szasz quoted you as saying (in 1998, I believe) that physicians should be jailed if they refused to prescribe SSRI antidepressants. With all due respect, I have a very different opinion as a 63-year-old depressed man who has been on Big Pharma's dependence-causing meds for his entire adult life. I don't really want to throw anyone in jail, but if I had to choose, I would incarcerate those physicians who prescribed SSRIs for me without even mentioning the fact that they cause fierce chemical dependence, thereby turning me into an eternal patient. Of course, the dependence-causing nature of these drugs was not apparent to physicians at first, which would have been some excuse for them, were it not for the fact that they never subsequently apologized to me for having prescribed me drugs on false pretenses. Instead, when they learned of this problematic side effect, they made a virtue of necessity and began telling me that I had a duty to myself to "take my meds" every single day for the rest of my life. For it had suddenly developed that my "condition" was a chronic one, requiring daily medicine. (As Szasz would ask at this point: cui bono?)

I do not believe the myth of a chemical imbalance causing such a variegated and subjective condition as depression, but even if I did, the idea of what constitutes a "cure" for such a condition is not a medical matter but a philosophical one. I personally value living a wide awake life and investigating my physical and mental world for truths beyond those offered by prosaic materialism, but the creator of the SSRIs that I've been taking now for decades had a very different definition of "cure." For I have received no measure of self-actualization from these drugs but rather have felt an ever-growing feeling of tranquilization, anhedonia -- and even increased depression in these latter years -- all while taking the very miracle drugs that you wanted to jail physicians for withholding from the world.

If I had to jail someone for withholding drugs from me, I would immediately arrest those who are, even now, denying depressed folks like myself the use of godsend medicines like laughing gas, MDMA and psilocybin. But then the materialist healthcare field puts no stock in drugs like this which merely "work" according to the patient's subjective definition of that term. The patients' role is to sit back and be cured by modern science, which presumably will tell them when they are finally no longer depressed, objectively speaking.

If the medical community wanted to do something about depression, they would end the war on drugs which keeps people like me from reaching down and using the botanical godsends that grow at their very feet. Benjamin Franklin and Marcus Aurelius enjoyed opium. HG Wells and Jules Verne wrote their stories "on" coca wine. Plato got his views of the afterlife from the psychedelic Eleusinian Mysteries. And the entire Vedic Religion was inspired by the psychoactive effect of botanical medicine. And yet America puts these off-limits and turns me into a ward of the healthcare state. Yes, America's got a drug problem, all right, and the problem is this: we are completely anti-scientific about substances and we demonize politically unpopular ones through demagoguery rather than teaching how to use them safely and wisely.

Instead of working to secure me this bounty of mother nature -- which should be mine by birth under natural law -- your profession has leveraged the Drug War for personal profit by gladly accepting the monopoly on mood medicine that was thrust into your laps thanks to substance prohibition. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that SSRIs were not INTENDED to cause chemical dependency when first developed, yet the fact is that SSRIs have led to the biggest drug dystopia in human history, with 1 in 4 American women dependent on Big Pharma meds for life -- and this in a country that says it's determined to keep people from using "drugs." That's a nation of Stepford Wives, completely off the radar of the modern Drug Warrior, no doubt thanks to spokespeople financed by Big Pharma on shows like Oprah who are reminding us to "keep taking our meds!"

The fact is that I could be happy almost overnight, were drugs like MDMA, psilocybin and laughing gas suddenly available for the depressed -- but the moneyed stakeholders in the Drug War game (including health care, Big Pharma and police forces) are not about to kill the golden goose by acting in the interest of the depressed and anxious in the world, much less on behalf of those who merely want to "be all they can be" in life and do not feel any Christian Science duty to abstain from using medicine to achieve this goal. And so the drug approval process is politicized. The FDA doesn't care that millions could benefit immediately from such substances becoming legal. Instead, they're worried about a relative handful of young people whose well-publicized misuse of these substances could be leveraged by demagogue politicians into a huge scandal. That kind of anti-scientific reasoning, so massively skewed by political concerns, is why I have gone my whole life without the freedom to reach down and use the plant medicines that grow at my very feet.

The irony is that the Drug War did this to protect me, or so I'm told -- and yet what's the result? They addicted me to SSRIs for life (caused a chemical dependency, if you prefer) and turned me into a ward of the healthcare state and an eternal patient, with all of the demoralizing baggage that implies -- including the trimonthly trip to see a nurse half my age who has to decide if I'm still trustworthy enough to keep receiving the drugs that psychiatry has basically addicted me to. So it is that the current system conspires to turn Americans into children when it comes to drugs, even legal ones. In a Kafkaesque world like this in which the healthcare system collaborates with the Drug Warriors to addict me to Big Pharma meds, I can perfectly understand why folks buy "drugs" on the black market, and would do so myself if I had the courage. But then the Drug Warriors -- eager to maintain the various monopolies -- would jail me, probably for a longer term than that meted out to most murderers, thereby showing how determined the powers-that-be are to maintain their monopoly on mind medicine.

This is why I regret the day that I ever allowed the psychiatric industry to turn me into an eternal patient, a situation which grows more intolerable every day as I read more books about the wonderful powers of the psychoactive medicines that anti-scientific America has demonized. And why? To save us all from dependency on medications? Not hardly. No, it turns out that the goal of the Drug War is not to get people off drugs, but to get them ON the RIGHT drugs, namely those that benefit the enormous healthcare state and Wall Street.

So if I had to toss anyone in jail, it would be those who deprived me of the plant medicine that grows at my very feet. I believe Thomas Jefferson would have felt the same. For the garden-loving Founding Father was surely rolling in his grave when the DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated his poppy plants, in violation of the natural law upon which Jefferson had founded America.

Author's Follow-up: July 16, 2022

There's a simple reason why I do not believe in the myth that SSRIs fix a chemical imbalance that causes depression (besides the obvious ones adduced by Thomas Szasz and Richard Whitaker). That's because the very term "depression" is subjective. What is depression, according to the drug makers? Is it simply an excessive level of sorrow? Or is it a state of mind that keeps one from realizing self-actualization in life? Personally, I define "depression" in the latter way, as a state of mind that keeps me from being all that I want to be in life and from accomplishing all that I want to accomplish. But if the drug maker considers their job done when they keep me from committing suicide, then our definitions of "depression" differ widely. This is a philosophical difference between us when it comes to what constitutes "the good life."

Drug war propaganda aside, the fact is that substances like opium, coca, psychedelics, and even morphine can be used in a strategic, non-addictive fashion to help one truly thrive as the person that they want to be in life (although materialists will arbitrarily slander such non-reductionist cures as "crutches"). Why then should I be content to become chemically addicted for life to medications whose only boast is that they can reduce my risk of killing myself? Plato said the unexamined life is not worth living -- but the Drug Warrior materialist tells us: "you will live just such an unfulfilled life -- and to make sure that you can endure such a drab existence, we'll give you our anti-suicide pills-- Oh, sorry, I mean our anti-depressants!"

Related tweet: January 13, 2023

The use of laughing gas changed William James' ideas about the very nature of reality. To outlaw such substances is to outlaw human advancement.

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

Next essay: Science Fiction and the Drug War
Previous essay: Depression is real, says the APA, and they should know: they cause it!

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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