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How the US Preventive Services Task Force Drums Up Business for Big Pharma

an open letter to Task Force member David Chelmow MD

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

June 21, 2023

ood morning, Dr. Chelmow.

I am a VCU philosophy graduate from 1989.

I just noticed your affiliation with the US Preventive Services Task Force and wanted to share my views with you about Task Force recommendations. With all due respect, I think that the Task Force is reckoning without the Drug War. When the Task Force tells Congress that there is a need to fight anxiety, they fail to point out that we have outlawed almost all the substances that could help with that condition. Seen in this light, the report amounts to little more than a sales pitch for Big Pharma's addictive pills.

The use of MDMA fights anxiety. Coca wine and the chewing of the coca leaf fights anxiety. The use of ayahuasca fights anxiety. So does the intermittent use of laughing gas. Even the use of opium fights anxiety -- although fearmongers have been telling us for 100+ years now that humankind cannot use such drugs wisely.

I realize that the Task Force has to work within the limits of existing law, but that does not mean that you need to pretend that the Drug War does not exist, especially when its prohibitions so drastically limit the suggestions that you can pass on to Congress.

You would be doing a great service to the country and the memory of Thomas Jefferson (who rolled in his grave when the DEA confiscated his poppy plants in 1987) by adding at least a footnote to all your recommendations about mental health, pointing out that prohibition has outlawed (not only in America but now worldwide) almost all the substances that are known to combat the conditions against which you are calling for action.

Sincerely Yours,
Class of 1989

David Chelmow is the head of the VCU School of Medicine and a member of the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Members of the US Preventive Services Task Force

Author's Follow-up: June 22, 2023

I shared the above thoughts with the Task Force itself. Below you can read the response that I received from an anonymous "USPSTF Coordinator." As you'll notice, he or she completely ignores the point I made, but sticks by the Task Force's implication that the world is fine, that there is no Drug War, and that we have wonderful treatments for anxiety without the hundreds that we have outlawed. [sigh]

Thank you for your email and interest in the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force). The role of the Task Force is to improve people's health by making evidence-based recommendations about the benefits and harms of specific preventive services.

The Task Force does not make recommendations on how to treat conditions once diagnosed. However, several treatment options were reviewed to help inform whether screening is beneficial. The Task Force found that there are multiple treatment options available that can be effective, including medications, counseling, or desensitization therapies (which combine relaxation techniques with gradual exposure to help someone slowly overcome a phobia). We recommend that adults diagnosed with anxiety disorders decide together with their healthcare professional what treatment is right for them.

Thank you again for your email.
USPSTF Coordinator

Related tweet: June 22, 2023

Here's my response to the Preventive Services Task Force: "You guys are scared of even mentioning the Drug War, aren't you? This is self-censorship at work."

The outlawing of hundreds of substances that could fight anxiety is HUGELY relevant to your work. The fact that you do not even mention this makes your work political and anti-scientific.

Next essay: Helping the Elderly with Drugs
Previous essay: Why Science is the Handmaiden of the Drug War

More Essays Here

Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

More materialist nonsense. "We" are the only reason that the universe exists as a universe rather than as inchoate particles.
We need to start thinking of drug-related deaths like we do about car accidents: They're terrible, and yet they should move us to make driving safer, not to outlaw driving. To think otherwise is to swallow the drug war lie that "drugs" can have no positive uses.
The DEA outlawed MDMA in 1985, thereby depriving soldiers of a godsend treatment for PTSD. Apparently, the DEA staff slept well at night in the early 2000s as American soldiers were having their lives destroyed by IEDs.
Cop and detective shows are loaded with subtle drug war propaganda, including lines like, "She had a history of drug use, so..." The implication being that anyone who uses substances that politicians hate cannot be trusted.
Only a pathological puritan would say that there's no place in the world for substances that lift your mood, give you endurance, and make you get along with your fellow human being. Drugs may not be everything, but it's masochistic madness to claim that they are nothing at all.
LA Police Chief Daryl Gates said drug users should be summarily executed. William Bennett said drug dealers should be beheaded. These are the attitudes that the drug war inculcates. This racist and brutal ideology must be wiped out.
Prohibition is a crime against humanity. It forces us to use shock therapy on the severely depressed since we've outlawed all viable alternatives. It denies medicines that could combat Alzheimer's and/or render it psychologically bearable.
Imagine someone starting their book about antibiotics by saying that he's not trying to suggest that we actually use them. We should not have to apologize for being honest about drugs. If prohibitionists think that honesty is wrong, that's their problem.
And where did politicians get the idea that irresponsible white American young people are the only stakeholders when it comes to the question of re-legalizing drugs??? There are hundreds of millions of other stakeholders: philosophers, pain patients, the depressed.
For those who want to understand what's going on with the drug war from a philosophical point of view, I recommend chapter six of "Eugenics and Other Evils" by GK Chesterton.
More Tweets

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front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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You have been reading an article entitled, How the US Preventive Services Task Force Drums Up Business for Big Pharma: an open letter to Task Force member David Chelmow MD, published on June 21, 2023 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)