bird icon for twitter

My New Clinical Trial in the Sacred Valley of Peru

on replacing antidepressants with plant medicines

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

April 4, 2024

will be traveling to Peru next Monday for a weeklong stay in the Sacred Valley1. My goal is to use plant medicines there for personal healing and for philosophical exploration. That's right: philosophical exploration, bearing in mind that William James himself told us that we must explore altered states in order to fully understand the nature of consciousness and ultimate reality2. I also want to try out a sort of "dieta" of my own designed to free me from my dependence on Big Pharma meds: not by becoming a drug-free Christian Scientist (which is the stealth goal of western therapy), but with a view toward replacing said pharmaceuticals with the strategic use of various plant medicines, including San Pedro cactus, ayahuasca, and a variety of lesser known plant guides3. This will be my own clinical trial, since I have yet to hear of either shaman or doctor who specializes in working with SSRI and SNRI addicts. Such "addicts," in my view, are the most deserving of psychedelic therapy insofar as they were shunted off onto dependence-causing drugs thanks to America's disgraceful Drug War. And yet they are precisely the ones who are ineligible for psychedelic clinical trials in the west due to liability concerns over a poorly understood, rare but typically mild side effect known as "serotonin syndrome"4.

That's why I have decided to take matters into my own laboratory, so to speak, and do the clinical trials on my own, using myself as "guinea pig," while methodically documenting my attempts at slowly-but-surely replacing Big Pharma drugs with the help of plant guides. This may seem highly risky behavior from the point of view of a westerner, who values safety above all things, but I have always agreed with Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Besides, I'm 65 years old, and if I'm not going to take risks now, I'm never going to take them. Of course, this first trip to Peru is just my trial run, to verify that I will be able to follow through on this plan, both from a psychological and practical point of view. I certainly have the money for it, seeing that life in Peru is dirt cheap compared to the US. But I am so used to modern comforts that the westerner in me might rebel at the last moment and beat an ignominious retreat to all things holy in the west: such as Netflix and Starbucks - which, I fear, however, are all too eager to follow me to the Sacred Valley, assuming that they are not there already.

Stay tuned to this page for more on my psycho-philosophical quest in Peru and the outcome of my experiments with plant medicine. I have much to learn from actual pedigreed plant healers, of course, but my research so far indicates that the San Pedro cactus should serve as my introduction to this new world5. I also believe that the regular chewing of coca leaves might provide the boost that an introspective procrastinator like myself needs in order to get things done in life, and on a timely basis at that6! One finally realizes at age 65 that they do not have time to dally. So stay tuned for all the details on this new clinical trial, one that you will never see on the NIH website, but one which, if successful, should give new hope to the drug-dependent depressed around the world - whom the psychedelic researchers of today are shamelessly ignoring, at least when they're not telling them to "keep taking your meds!"

Author's Follow-up: April 6, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

When I first dreamed of traveling to Peru, I envisioned working with all sorts of plant medicine to get my head straight. I thought the shaman would have access to all sorts of psychoactive medicines, and not just the top three trending substances in the world today. This was quite naive of me, as it turns out. Peru is not some haven from idiotic and counterproductive drug law. They have simply made exceptions for Peruvian drugs that have a well-documented history of use in Peru. Yes, coca leaves (as opposed to cocaine) are legal in Peru, as are ayahuasca and San Pedro cactus, but MDMA can get you thrown in jail, as can LSD and psilocybin. I even read somewhere that it is criminal to have more than one of the legal substances on hand at a time -- but do not quote me on that. These anti-nature laws disgust me so much that I don't yet have the stomach to research this fully. Fortunately, however, San Pedro cactus sounds like it has a great potential benefit for me. As for coca leaves, I still have the theory that the continuous chewing of the same will give me just the motivation that I need to prevent the evaporation of initiative that too often afflicts a depressive of my stamp, one who so often ALMOST does things that are necessary and productive in life, but who often procrastinates and/or stops halfway.

I am very happy that Peru was so magnanimous as to permit the use of the cactus known to the locals as huachuma7 -- especially since I understand that there may be liver-related concerns with excessive use of certain formulations of ayahuasca, about which I hope to learn more during my upcoming trip. But if the accounts of the huachuma experience are true and I find that I can duplicate them for myself in a meaningful way, then I believe that my goal can be achieved, which, to repeat, is to "get off" of antidepressants with the moral and biochemical help of plant medicines: the approved list of which, for the nonce, consists of only coca and huachuma, for the reasons noted above.

I will be departing the United States of Fearmongering on Monday, which means that my clinical trials will begin in the latter half of the coming week, with results to be published on this page. Of course, I'm no doubt flattering myself to think that anybody cares about such deets (or this entire website, for that matter), but if the protocol that I envision works for me, there seems no reason that it could not work for the millions who find themselves dependent on antidepressants that are not doing the job. True, many think they're doing the job, but I maintain that no one would think that if they had experienced the transcendence provided by the godsend medicines that governments have outlawed following the hateful example of the Christian Science Republic known as the United States of America. Then they will be like myself as a young man, when I had my first psychedelic experience: amazed by the world of possibility that they suddenly see thanks to the lifting of a veil of gloom of which they were hitherto consciously unaware and realizing how hateful it is that a government should declare such experiences to be illegal.



1 The Sacred Valley: Peru, South America, Lonely Planet, (up)
2 James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Philosophical Library, New York, 1902 (up)
3 Tanner, Carlos, Ayahuasca Foundation Blog, Ayahuasca Foundation, (up)
4 Simon, Leslie V., Serotonin Syndrome, NIH National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2023 (up)
5 Seer, Balam, The Beginner’s Guide to Healing with Huachuma (San Pedro), 2019 (up)
6 Mortimer, W. Golden, Coca: Divine Plant of the Inca, Ronin Publishing, 1909 (up)
7 Though I am galled whenever I think about the presumption and the tyranny of governments that claim control over Mother Nature's botany, as if it were some private stash and not the birthright of every human being by virtue of their having been born on Planet Earth. (up)

Next essay: In Defense of Religious Drug Use
Previous essay: Getting Off of Big Pharma Meds Using Teacher Plants

More Essays Here

William James Tweets

William James knew that there were substances that could elate. However, it never occurred to him that we should use such substances to prevent suicide. It seems James was blinded to this possibility by his puritanical assumptions.
So he writes about the mindset of the deeply depressed, reifying the condition as if it were some great "type" inevitably to be encountered in humanity. No. It's the "type" to be found in a post-Christian society that has turned up its scientific nose at psychoactive medicine.

front cover of Drug War Comic Book

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

You have been reading an article entitled, My New Clinical Trial in the Sacred Valley of Peru: on replacing antidepressants with plant medicines, published on April 4, 2024 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)