PS I'm one of psychiatry's millions of "eternal patients" in these days of the addictive pill paradigm, and so I have 40+ years of experience on the receiving end of psychiatric nostrums for fighting depression and anxiety. Given this vast experience, I hope you'll consider it worthwhile to read a criticism that I have of the scientific method when it comes to seeking out and justifying cures for depression.
The reductionist approach is always looking for "mechanisms of action," but it is my belief that this focus blinds researchers to common sense in many cases. Take MDMA, for instance. Given my secondhand knowledge of the effects of MDMA (as described both by "ravers" and by your study participants), I have sufficient information to know that MDMA would be an effective psychotherapeutic adjunct when used, say, between once a week and once a month in a psychiatrist's office. My conclusion, however, is based on a knowledge of human nature to which reductionist science gives little attention: the fact that a human being looks forward to positive experiences, and that this very anticipation can improve the quality of one's mental life.
If I were to propose such therapy, the reductionist might instinctively object: "But we want to know the mechanism of action before we proceed: namely, how does MDMA decrease depression in this case: what are the chemical mechanisms involved?" This statement, however, merely indicates that the scientist "just doesn't get it." The scientist wants to go in search of a phantom. The MDMA does not have to decrease depression directly in order to decrease depression. Its use simply constitutes an extremely positive experience, and anticipation of use does the rest of the work in decreasing the user's overall depression.
This is why drugs like cocaine and opium can be successfully vilified by Drug Warriors: they can (perhaps correctly) say that there is no direct chemical link between use and self-fulfillment or happiness in life. What they fail to realize, however, is that there need not be a direct link between drug and effect if the drug use provides anticipation. The mere knowledge that there is "a port in the storm" of internal mental life (whether it be provided through cocaine, opium, MDMA, marijuana, or prayer) can provide one with happiness indirectly. Again, this is a psychological truism that reductionists seem always to ignore, constantly asking: "Yes, but how exactly does drug x, y or z decrease depression? What are the chemicals involved?"
The answer is, of course, that the drugs do not, strictly speaking, decrease depression at all: rather, they provide the user with anticipation of upcoming mental relief through use of said substances - and that mere anticipation does all the heavy lifting: anticipation does all the positive psychological work that the reductionist wants to ascribe scientifically to the drug itself.
And so the approval of MDMA as a drug to treat depression becomes unnecessarily problematic, as reductionist science scrambles to show chemical pathways whereby the MDMA can bring about the increased happiness with which it's associated, completely ignoring the powerful role that anticipation of regular MDMA therapy can play in boosting mood and one's own patience with the downsides of daily experience. (At least I fear that this could happen. I have no specific knowledge of the actual state of affairs viz. such research.)
I'm not saying that MDMA cannot have a direct and positive effect on the brain. I'm saying that this is not the only way that we can justify the use of such a substance in a psychotherapeutic setting. We need not downplay and ignore the simple fact that occasional scheduled MDMA use can improve a user's life through mere anticipation of the psychological relief and insights that the drug can supply in a positive setting.
Speaking personally, I would definitely look forward to such a psychiatric appointment and be happier simply in knowing that this appointment loomed on the horizon. What a contrast to the depression I currently feel knowing that a pro forma office visit is coming up: a visit that I'm forced to make every 3 to 6 months of my life in order to obtain re-authorization for my purchase of yet another expensive set of prescription drugs. (That's the problem with the DEA: they fetishize drugs, making them so "awesome" that even a user of 40 years cannot be trusted to use his medicine wisely without constant bureaucratic oversight, approval and reapproval.)
PPS I hope you don't mind, but this email will also appear on my website, where I hope my thoughts on this topic will inspire thinkers to unravel the tangled web of superstition and pseudoscience that currently constitutes America's anti-scientific attitude toward this fetishized scapegoat for social problems that we call "drugs." I trust that it "goes without saying" that these are simply general philosophical observations, not criticisms directed toward you personally. So thank you for your patience and attention, and I wish you best of luck in your important work with MDMA as a psychotherapeutic tool.
The Links Police
Do you know why I stopped you? That's right, because the Drug War has given me carte blanche to be a noxious busybody. That, and I wanted to give you a few more links showing how drugs can help us stop mass shootings, as soon as we drop the drug-war ideology of substance demonization, that is.
Michael has not yet quite seen his way clear to get back to me, but then this was written three years ago when I was still a kid -- scarcely 62 years old if I was a day! What I was trying to say above is that the use of drugs like coca and opium can create a virtuous circle of effects -- by giving someone something to look forward, taking one's mind off of negative thoughts, thereby improving performance, thereby making one happy, thereby taking one's mind off negative thoughts, thereby improving performance, etc.
That's a virtuous circle to which modern scientistic psychology is blind! And so they do not want to give drugs that will merely help: no, they want to "cure" me with drugs that work based on what one can see under a microscope. The result of such scientism, of course, is today's psychiatric pill mill, thanks to which 1 in 4 American women are hooked on Big Pharma meds that purport (wrongly, as it turns out) to treat depression and anxiety on a "scientific" basis. I'm something of an expert on this topic, as I have been on the receiving end of such nostrums for 40+ years, and the one thing I can say about tricyclics, benzodiazepines, SSRIs and SNRIs is that they are and have been all about TRANQUILIZING ME, not about making me happy or giving me a feeling of success or giving me something to look forward to in this life.
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. 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. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.
It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it 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.
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.
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)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company