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Psychiatrists Tell Me That It's Wrong to Criticize Antidepressants

Here's why that's nonsense

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

December 7, 2023

Author's Follow-up: February 22, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

I keep getting slammed on Twitter by folks who want to read my essays as medical advice rather than philosophy. Yes, I understand that SSRIs cannot be stopped at will -- indeed, it's not clear if they can be stopped at all for some people, at least in a world in which we have outlawed all the effective alternatives -- and nothing I write should be interpreted as promoting such an attempt. Nor do I mean to criticize psychiatrists for prescribing SSRIs to those who are already dependent upon them. That would be like saying: "In an ideal world, SSRIs would not exist, therefore in THIS world, depressed patients A, B & C must suddenly go cold turkey." I have never said such a thing and anyone who has concluded otherwise, with due respect, needs to improve their reading skills. That said, I refuse to be bullied into silence by psychiatrists who claim that any criticism of such drugs causes some people to stop using them and hence should be stifled in the name of patient safety.

This criticism (which is nothing less than the self-interested militarizing of ignorance) is based on the logical fallacy that a human being makes decisions about important matters like healthcare based on one single input: in this case, my own personal criticisms of SSRIs. The truth, however, is that people are influenced by a wide variety of inputs, genetic, biochemical, and environmental. Indeed, the very fact that they have decided to read my criticisms suggests that they already have been given a reason to believe that I might be onto something. And if they do not seek an adequate number and variety of inputs on a given topic or fail to understand the nuances of my arguments, this itself is due to previous factors, such as an inadequate education and/or an impulsive nature, etc., and not the supposed evil nature of the free and open debate of which I am apparently "guilty." We might just as well go back and blame a parent or a teacher for the faulty decisions that such people might make in the here and now. But if we start holding free and open debate responsible for specific negative outcomes, it will be the end of freedom of speech in America. And who will benefit in such a case? Big Pharma and the Drug Warriors. And as the Church Lady used to say on Saturday Night Live: "How convenient!"

While we're on the subject of poorly educated readers and their inability to discern nuance, let me add another caveat: viz. that when I refer to "psychiatrists" below in a disapproving tone, I mean specifically those doctors who hold the belief that SSRIs and SNRIs are somehow good in and of themselves, and not just thanks to the all-too-convenient fact that we have outlawed almost every other depression-busting drug in the entire world. Psychiatrists as such can be great people -- but only to the extent that they are empathic. The problem is that their job is nearly impossible in the age of the Drug War, which has outlawed all the psychoactive tools that could make interpersonal communication both pertinent and free-flowing. Indeed, a list of the positive effects of many outlawed drugs reads just like a psychiatrist's wish list for therapeutic outcomes!

Finally, I claim that psychiatrists are hypocritical when they insist that SSRIs help and yet do not (by their very silence) maintain that outlawed drugs help. An angry guy tweeted back in upper case that psychiatrists are NOT hypocritical, that SSRIs cause dependence and cannot be stopped without supervision! He apparently read something that I never wrote. Of course SSRIs cannot be stopped easily: that's the whole problem. Psychiatrists become hypocritical when they promote the daily use of SSRIs while claiming (if only by their ongoing silence about prohibition and hence their complicity in that program) that it's wrong -- indeed criminal -- to use most other drugs on a daily basis. That's where the hypocrisy arises. It has nothing to do with the ideal withdrawal process for those on SSRIs. In fact, there can be no satisfactory withdrawal process from such drugs until we learn to use drugs to fight drugs.

But that's a topic for which I'll wait to be misunderstood on another occasion ;) So now back to the "essay proper"...

I keep encountering psychiatrists who tell me that it is wrong to denounce antidepressants because it causes folks to give them up prematurely, presumably leading to potential suicides.

This argument is rich coming from psychiatrists. It is precisely their failure to promote the therapeutic use of substances like MDMA and laughing gas that makes suicide likely.

Moreover, this bizarre logical fallacy - that a subject is too "fraught" to even be discussed - is just another product of Drug War ideology, which tells us that ANY talk about the positive effects of "drugs" is wrong. We need more talk, not less, and we need to discuss all drugs freely and without favoritism - and not be told that SSRIs are exempt from criticism because it's just too dangerous to speak truthfully about them.

In fact, I have never counseled anyone to give up SSRIs, period, full stop. My argument has always been that SSRIs should be replaced with far more inspiring medicines that do not turn the user into an eternal patient. Speaking as an SSRI junkie myself, I find them very dispiriting because they have turned me into a ward of the healthcare state. But I have yet to hear any psychiatrist in the world denounce this aspect of use - and yet all of them, by their silence, continue to support the outlawing of drugs like coca and opium. And why? Because they might render the user dependent.

What? For the latter drugs, dependency is a "bug" and can, if desired, be avoided with careful use. But for SSRIs, dependency is an actual feature. That is how they work. They are drugs that are meant to be taken for life.

This was not originally the case, of course. When they were introduced, they were intended for moderate-term use at most. We only started hearing the mantra "keep taking your meds" after it became apparent to psychiatrists that these antidepressants were damn hard to quit. Rather than apologizing for this pharmacological dystopia that they had foisted on one out of four American women, however, psychiatrists made a virtue of necessity and announced that - "Oh, by the way, the drug you're taking may very well have to be taken for a lifetime in order to keep depression at bay."

As Richard Whitaker points out, these drugs seem to cause the chemical imbalances that they purport to fix. The body comes to accept this new chemical soup as "normal" biochemistry, hence the user discomfort when the drugs are withdrawn. But I will not go into detail here about my many issues with antidepressants. My views on this topic may be found in the depression-related essays listed below. My argument here is against the absurd modern practice on the part of psychiatrists of basically charging the critics of the pill mill with murder.

The idea that we should not even discuss these topics is outrageous and yet par for the course in a drug-war society in which all talk about drugs is full of hypocritical assumptions and biases. If we're going to argue nastily like that, then I hereby charge psychiatrists with murder for their failure to provide laughing gas to their suicidal patients. We provide EPI pens for the allergic, but no "feel-good" drugs for the depressed. This is puritanism with a vengeance. This is Mary Baker Eddy on steroids. "Let them die: as long as they remain spiritually pure by foreswearing drug use!"

I mention laughing gas in particular here, because psychiatrists cannot tell me that the drug was illegal during their "watch." But I would add here that if psychiatrists were really interested in their patient's welfare (rather than in white-washing their use of SSRIs), they would be clamoring for the repeal of laws that keep their suicidal clients from using drugs like MDMA and coca as needed to cheer themselves whenever a suicidal fit comes upon them.

I can appreciate that veteran psychiatrists in particular are touchy on this topic. After all, who wants to admit that they have spent their career contributing to the creation of the biggest pharmacological dystopia in human history, the fact that 1 in 4 American women are dependent on Big Pharma meds for life (source: Julie Holland). But my goal is not to blame anyone for the past but to guide them to a brighter future. Psychiatrists are not responsible for the milieu in which they live, in which purblind materialism was the very air that they breathed (the materialism that leads prominent drug researchers like Robert Glatter to ask amazingly naive questions like, "Can laughing gas help those with treatment resistant depression" - answer: of course it can help!) . Besides, it is the empathy of the psychiatrist that makes them a real professional, not their ability to wield a politically correct prescribing pen.

All I'm doing is trying to "call out" the philosophical problems connected with their current prescribing method and to remind them that the antidepressant pill mill only makes sense in a world in which mother nature's godsends have been rendered invisible by the drug-war orthodoxy of substance demonization. If psychiatrists refuse to listen to that message, the least they can do is to refrain from shooting the messenger.

Author's Follow-up: December 7, 2023

The whole problem with the Drug War is that it is leading to suicide and needless suffering. It outlaws medicines that would definitely stop a suicidal individual from killing themselves, provided we taught safe use and gave them access to such drugs. So it's pretty damn disconcerting when a psychiatrist tries to flip the script and claim that critics of the status quo are encouraging suicide. The whole drug-hating system is set up to encourage suicide and suffering, under the puritanical notion that it is better to die and/or suffer than to use "drugs." It is only thanks to this "philosophy" that the pill mill even exists. No one in their right mind would choose to become a ward of the healthcare state if America had not criminalized godsend medicines and taught us to fear rather than to understand them.

Author's Follow-up: December 29, 2023

It's a strange criticism, one that can only be imagined in the Janus-faced age of the Drug War, to be told that you're a murderer for being honest about drugs. But then that's the whole problem with America: our leaders, from Clinton, to Obama, TO Biden, all believe that it is wrong to talk honestly about drugs. Let's say that again so that the absurdity can sink in: they all believe that it is WRONG to talk honestly about drugs. In that statement we see what a sorry pass we've come to as a nation by following the warped fearmongering logic of the Drug War to its natural absurd conclusion: namely that we should pretend that ignorance is the best policy for a free and supposedly scientific country. It certainly dampens my esteem for Rhodes Scholars when I reflect that Bill Clinton holds such a view. As far as antidepressants, it's a little convenient that we should be told to refrain from criticizing the very drugs involved in the great psychiatric pill mill -- drugs which have created nothing less than the greatest mass dependency of all time, not to mention the fact that it's the most demoralizing treatment protocol imaginable to turn one's client into a patient for life. I wonder how many psychiatric patients have killed themselves for that reason alone, the fact that they have to show up every three months at a clinic to be treated like a sick child by a clinician who might be half or even one-third their age.

By the way, those who start blaming deaths on free and open debate are creating a new form of argumentum ad hominem that deserves its own name as a brand-new logical fallacy -- argumentum ad homicida, perhaps?

Strange. Not only can such psychiatrists IGNORE the mass chemical dependency that they themselves have created, thanks to which 1 in 4 American women take a Big Pharma med every day of their life, but now these same doctors are telling us that we're committing the moral equivalent of murder if we suggest that this wholesale doping has been a mistake.

Mind you, I'm not saying that SSRIs don't have a place. What I'm saying is that if they DO have a place, it is only because prohibition has outlawed all the common sense approaches to improving mood and mentation. Otherwise there would never have been any call to create drugs inspired by reductive science to try to fight the supposed "real" cause of human sadness -- for the last thing we need is a cure for human sadness -- especially since the definition of happiness -- of the proper default mindset for the human being -- should not be decided by a drug manufacturer! We NEED to treat the symptoms -- because its the height of hubris to say that we know how folks SHOULD feel and that we can make a drug to ensure that everyone feels that way. That's Stepford Wives. That's the doping of America to make us consumer friendly -- or the type of personality that Wall Street can live with. Certainly I've never heard a long-term SSRI or SNRI user complain of the mental freedom and inspiration that they derive from their constant pill taking.

And it does make one mildly nauseous to see the contempt that Americans hold for drug users -- knowing that most of these same Americans think that it's actually the duty of chronic depressives like myself to "keep taking my meds." It reminds one that science is a religion in America and it can do no wrong. That's why even otherwise sane individuals like Carl Hart tell me that folks like myself should keep taking their meds and that his book is not for the depressed or anxious.

He's got this interesting idea that science has got depression well in hand -- which I find surprising, having spent the last 40 years of my life on one mind-numbing Big Pharma med after another, always depressed, and wondering for the life of me why I'm not allowed to reach down and use the uplifting medicine that grows at my very feet. It's bad enough when demagogue politicians tell me to refrain, but when Carl Hart himself tells me that they're right, that I should indeed shut up and take my meds, I can't help feeling just the slightest bit teed off. It puts me in mind of a curious line from "The Castle" by Franz Kafka, in the Mark Harman translation:

"Calls for a slight attack of despair."

Next essay: Drug War Agitprop
Previous essay: The Book of the Damned continued

More Essays Here

Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

That's my real problem with SSRIs: If daily drug use and dependency are okay, then there's no logical or truly scientific reason why I can't smoke a nightly opium pipe.
I might as well say that no one can ever be taught to ride a horse safely. I would argue as follows: "Look at Christopher Reeves. He was a responsible and knowledgeable equestrian. But he couldn't handle horses. The fact is, NO ONE can handle horses!"
What prohibitionists forget is that every popular but dangerous activity, from horseback riding to drug use, will have its victims. You cannot save everybody, and when you try to do so by law, you kill far more than you save, meanwhile destroying democracy in the process.
Peyote advocates should be drug legalization advocates. Otherwise, they're involved in special pleading which is bound to result in absurd laws, such as "Plant A can be used in a religion but not plant B," or "Person A can belong to such a religion but person B cannot."
Philip Jenkins reports that Rophynol had positive uses for treating mental disorders until the media called it the "date rape drug." We thus punished those who were benefitting from the drug, tho' the biggest drug culprit in date rape is alcohol. Oprah spread the fear virally.
In the 19th century, author Richard Middleton wrote how poets would get together to use opium "in a series of magnificent quarterly carouses."
Most prohibitionists think that they merely have to use the word "drugs" to win an argument. Like: "Oh, so you're in favor of DRUGS then, are you?" You can just see them sneering as they type. That's because the word "drugs" is like the word "scab": it's a loaded political term.
I don't believe in the materialist paradigm upon which SSRIs were created, according to which humans are interchangeable chemical robots amenable to the same treatment for human sadness. Let me use laughing gas and MDMA and coca and let the materialists use SSRIs.
The worst form of government is not communism, socialism or even unbridled capitalism. The worst form of government is a Christian Science Theocracy, in which the government controls how much you are allowed to think and feel in life.
If any master's candidates are looking for a thesis topic, consider the following: "The Drug War versus Religion: how the policy of substance prohibition outlaws the attainment of spiritual states described by William James in 'The Varieties of Religious Experience.'"
More Tweets

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You have been reading an article entitled, Psychiatrists Tell Me That It's Wrong to Criticize Antidepressants: Here's why that's nonsense, published on December 7, 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)