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I'll See Your Antidepressants and Raise You One Huachuma Cactus

an open letter to Austin from the Huachuma Project

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

April 30, 2024

i again, Austin1.

Just to update you: Now that I have retired at age 65, I am planning to "get off" SNRIs in the course of one year. It is my hope that during that time, I will be able to incrementally replace SNRIs with the occasional use of the Huachuma cactus2 3, in order to inspire me to stay the course. Unfortunately, I cannot expect help from retreat centers because of the rare side effect called "serotonin syndrome,4" but my understanding is that the condition is usually mild and can be easily treated. But since I can't expect retreat centers to assume the liability and PR concerns, it looks like I'll be on my own in this trial of mine.

I have, I should add, also written to psychedelic researchers in the States and in Canada5, trying to encourage them to perform trials to see how psychedelics, properly monitored, can help antidepressant "addicts" get off their "meds." No one seems interested, so it looks like I'm going to have to be a pioneer in this area. That said, I wish I could get help from some Peruvian shamans, because I just cannot believe that a dependence on Big Pharma meds is the one problem in the world that plant medicine cannot treat. Sure, there are risks, but no one seems to be balancing these risks against the potential benefits, nor looking at the downsides of doing nothing, starting with the utterly demoralizing knowledge that antidepressants make the user a ward of the healthcare state and an eternal patient.

Besides, the key ingredient to a good huachuma experience seems to be motivation, and I cannot imagine someone more motivated to change than myself, or the millions like me who have been demoralized by their dependence on Big Pharma meds6.

For now, I'm working on my Spanish, in preparation for another trip to Cusco7 in a month or two. While there, I will seek out long-term housing, practice my Spanish, and make preparations of huachuma cactus (starting with smaller doses) to see if and how they might help me cope with the psychological downsides of antidepressant withdrawal. Thanks for your interest in my situation, and I wish you luck in your adventures as a western shaman. Your journeys look very interesting to me. Hopefully I can take advantage of them in a year or so when I've gotten off of Big Pharma meds entirely.


1 Austin, The Huachuma Project,, 2023 (up)
2 Journeying with Huachuma, the Sacred Andean Cactus, Vounteer Latin America, 2020 (up)
3 Heaven, Ross, Shamanic Plant Medicine - San Pedro: The Gateway to Wisdom, everand, 2016 (up)
4 Simon, Leslie V., Serotonin Syndrome, NIH National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2023 (up)
5 Quass, Brian, Getting Off of Big Pharma Meds Using Teacher Plants, 2024 (up)
6 Quass, Brian, How Psychiatry and the Drug War turned me into an eternal patient, 2021 (up)
7 20 Best Things to Do in Cusco (Chosen by Experts!), Peru for Less, 2024 (up)

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