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How the Drug War Screws the Depressed

an open letter to Dr. Alan I. Leshner

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

July 16, 2022

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.

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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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

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.
Immanuel Kant wrote that scientists are scornful about metaphysics yet they rely on it themselves without realizing it. This is a case in point, for the idea that euphoria and visions are unhelpful in life is a metaphysical viewpoint, not a scientific one.
The Drug War is based on a huge number of misconceptions and prejudices. Obviously it's about power and racism too. It's all of the above. But every time I don't mention one specifically, someone makes out that I'm a moron. Gotta love Twitter.
I think many scientists are so used to ignoring "drugs" that they don't even realize they're doing it. Yet almost all books about consciousness and depression (etc.) are nonsense these days because they ignore what drugs could tell us about those topics.
If we let "science" decide about drugs, i.e. base freedom on health concerns, then tea can be as easily outlawed as beer. The fact that horses are not illegal shows that prohibition is not about health. It's about the power to outlaw certain "ways of being in the world."
David Chalmers says almost everything in the world can be reductively explained. Maybe so. But science's mistake is to think that everything can therefore be reductively UNDERSTOOD. That kind of thinking blinds researchers to the positive effects of laughing gas and MDMA, etc.
In "The Book of the Damned," Charles Fort shows how science damns (i.e. excludes) facts that it cannot assimilate into a system of knowledge. Fort could never have guessed, however, how thoroughly science would eventually "damn" all positive facts about "drugs."
Alcohol is a drug in liquid form. If drug warriors want to punish people who use drugs, they should start punishing themselves.
In "The Book of the Damned," Charles Fort writes about the data that science has damned, by which he means "excluded." The fact that drugs can inspire and elate is one such fact, although when Fort wrote his anti-materialist broadside, drug prohibition was in its infancy.
What bothers me about AI is that everyone's so excited to see what computers can do, while no one's excited to see what the human mind can do, since we refuse to improve it with mind-enhancing drugs.
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You have been reading an article entitled, How the Drug War Screws the Depressed: an open letter to Dr. Alan I. Leshner, published on July 16, 2022 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)