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Replacing Psychiatry with Pharmacologically Savvy Shamanism

The post that got me banned for life from the Reddit Psychiatry group

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

May 28, 2020

This essay got me banned for life in the Reddit Psychiatry group.

The decriminalization of drugs (or what I prefer to call the re-legalization of plants) must coincide with the de-medicalization of mood disorders. The current psychiatric system behaves under the patently absurd and scientistic illusion that every human being in the world is precisely the same when it comes to so-called illnesses like depression and anxiety, that there exists a sort of philosopher's stone in the realm of psychiatry, namely a psychiatric drug (or handful of drugs) that can cure every depressed person in the world, from a morose nonagenarian who is afraid of death to a home-coming queen who is upset about not "getting into Harvard."1

And so our highly paid psychiatrists of today don three-piece suits and sit down pompously in front of elaborately hand-carved desks, only to perform a job that could be easily performed by any nurse intern. Their job today is simply to write prescription refills, after making a pro-forma check, using an insulting and outdated 10-question personality test, to "ensure" that the would-be recipient of the prescription is not contemplating suicide -- which is important to check, no doubt, since the refill procedure is so disempowering to the patient that they might well consider suicide as a way of protesting the infantilization to which they are being subjected every three to six months of their lives.

This robotic paradigm for treating "patients" has resulted in a catastrophe so great that Big Pharma and their pill-peddling psychiatrists refuse to even acknowledge it: the fact that 1 in 8 American males and 1 in 4 American females are now addicted to modern antidepressants, many of which are harder to quit than heroin. This drugged-up dystopia might be at least partially excused if these medicines were found to truly end depression, but this is not the case. In fact, America is now the most depressed nation in the world in spite of this full-court press by Big Pharma to place the entire nation on their limited pharmacopoeia of highly addictive "meds."

All this in an age that claims to value "empowerment" above every other social goal. Yet what could be more disempowering than turning a depressed person into a patient for life, one who thus becomes a ward of the healthcare state and has to share his or her intimate feelings with a psychiatrist every three to six months of their life, all while paying dearly for doing so, both in time and money?

The alternative is clear: end the Drug War and replace psychiatrists with pharmacologically savvy shamans, physicians who thus profit from the best medical practices in both the west and the east. Of course, this idea will seem radical to so-called "free" Americans, who have gotten used over the last 100 years to having politicians and bureaucrats decide which plant medicines can be used by whom, and when.

The Drug Warrior lie is that he or she is merely interested in protecting Drug Warrior Junior from evil drugs. But the effect of their legislation is to turn the average American into an addict while blocking the therapeutic use of thousands of natural godsend medicines. ^{We all look back in shock at the way the Church impeded scientific activity in Galileo's day; but we have yet to be shocked by the way that the Drug War impedes scientific activity in ours.}{

Why then do we not even THINK about replacing psychiatry with pharmacologically informed shamanism? It's obvious: The pill-peddling paradigm ensures that psychiatrists have high-paying jobs for a lifetime. Why? Because their patients MUST visit them every three to six months in order to get their socially approved "fixes" of Big Pharma medicine.

The frustrating thing from a philosopher's point of view is that America is closing its ears to these obvious truths, and shouting in effect: "I'm not LISTENING!!!" whenever someone raises these concerns (which, to be fair, however, happens rarely enough). American opinion on these subjects has been bought and paid for (like any other commodity) by Big Pharma through the psychiatric talking heads that they have financially suborned to spread cozy-sounding antidepressant mythology on Oprah et al.

And so we continue to treat psychiatric patients AS patients, second-rate and infantilized citizens who are forced to demonstrate their worthiness, every three to six months of their life, to receive yet another expensive prescription from an already expensive doctor.

This won't change for the better until materialists renounce their scientistic project to find a one-size-fits-all cure for depression, a project that would seem absurd on its face to any society not so infatuated with science that they have developed a Spock-like ineptness at recognizing the human side of such an enormously variegated topic. Of course, this change will also require that Drug Warrior Americans stop behaving like the Church of Galileo's time and begin allowing full scientific access to and therapeutic use of the plants and fungi that grow at our very feet, the flora to which we were all once granted access by dint of merely being human, until 1914 that is, when racist Drug Warriors first violated natural law by claiming that the government had the right to tell us which plants we could access and which we must ignore and shun on pain of arrest -- and even death, should we dare to share the plant medicines that our politicians have decided to withhold from us.

The change I'm talking about is the transformation of modern pill-pushing psychiatry into pharmacologically savvy shamanism. This is the way forward in behavioral therapy, at least for a free country that is determined to take the best from both eastern and western medical traditions. Such a transformation would be in the true interest of patients, and would even free them from being called patients in the first place, which is a disempowering designation after all. The therapy in view here would identify its votaries merely as human beings: human beings, who, like all of us, are looking to find their place in the world and gain a better understanding of the strange miraculous thing called life, and how not simply to cope with it but to thrive in it as well.

Author's Follow-up: February 9, 2023

It's always nice to re-read one of my old posts like this one and find that I agree with everything I said back in the day, now that I've grown old and grizzled. I would, however, modify this post slightly to avoid the impression that I am "psychiatrist bashing." I know there are some great psychiatrists out there, but they are great because of their empathy, not because of their ability to constantly write prescriptions.

I must recognize also that there are some professionals of good will (including, alas, Rick Doblin and DJ Nutt) who really believe that Big Pharma meds do have a role to play in the modern treatment of depression. I can only say that if this is so, it is only because of the Drug War, for otherwise nothing would justify psychiatrists in prescribing pills that tranquilize the depressed. The job of the psychiatrist should be to help their clients live large, not to dull their minds so that they can better accept mediocrity,, especially when the pills in question have been shown to change personalities, making folk less spontaneous and creative (which I can vouch for, after 40 years of legal pill popping).

We've also got to realize that tranquilization can "solve" any problem, provided only that we use a large enough dose. Remember Henny Penny, the obsessive-compulsive chicken who was always telling us that the sky was caving in? We could have "solved" her problem easily by simply shutting her down. How? By tranquilizing her so thoroughly that she couldn't even open her beak, much less prophesy doomsday at the top of her voice. But that would not be solving Henny's problems, only hiding them.

The irony here is that psychiatry is always telling us that illegal drugs are not treating the "real" problem, when it is actually psychiatry itself which is hiding the problems, covering them up by tranquilizing the "patient" to the point that they do not -- or cannot -- complain. We might rack this up as a victory for the psychiatrist, but it is actually a loss for the depressed: a loss of spontaneity and creativity, among other things.

The best thing I can say about antidepressants based on my 40 years of use is that they are probably better than nothing for the severely depressed -- like, say, those who really are considering suicide or are so "down" that they can't get out of bed in the morning. But they should be avoided whenever possible, since they come with the price of turning the user into a ward of the healthcare state while subtly changing their personalities in unpredictable ways. They also hide issues rather than providing the user with insights about them.

But antidepressants make sense for no one at all the moment that we have re-legalized psychoactive medicines and left it up to shamans and users to choose among them freely. At that point, no one in their right mind -- or even in their wrong mind, for that matter -- would knowingly choose a drug that's going to tranquilize them rather than bring them euphoria and help them live large and feel close to people and the world around them, especially when the use of the drug in question will make them a ward of the health care state and turn them into the Wedding Guest of the Coleridge poem, sailing into a psychiatrists office ever three months to tell their life story to strangers.

That's why psychiatrists fear drug re-legalization -- or at least they should fear it if they know what is good for them financially speaking.

Author's Follow-up: April 18, 2023

I just read a Tweet in which a moderately popular clinician compared marijuana to the soma used for mind control in Huxley's Brave New World. This is ironic, since the psychiatric pill mill is the mother of all mind control -- the more so in that nobody notices it: it is stealth zombification. 1 in 4 American women take a tranquilizing Big Pharma med every day of their life -- that's a real life Stepford Wives, the greatest pharmacological dystopia in human history -- and yet no one sees it because Big Pharma meds flatter us that we're being "scientific." And so, far from asking women to desist, we urge them to "take their meds."

And yet this is pseudoscience. These pills seem to cause a chemical imbalance, not fix one. (Richard Whitaker, Irving Kirsch and Julie Holland).

In any case, the whole concept of SSRIs is philosophically flawed. In order to cure MY depression, you have to first decide what depression is. Is it an inability to live large -- as Avicenna would have maintained (albeit in slightly different language) or is it the inability to get out of bed?

Moreover, SSRIs would be horrible if they DID work: It is absurdity to "cure sadness." It is the goal of a madman. And yet thanks to materialism, physics envy and reductionism, we're told that we can and should do just that.

Marijuana inspired the Jazz Age. SSRIs inspire nothing at all -- indeed, they are anecdotally associated with a lack of creativity. I say "anecdotally" because no one's going to spend money proving this allegation in a capitalist society, least of all one in which government drug trials are paid for by Big Pharma itself.

And I'm an expert in the field -- having been on the receiving end of Big Pharma's tranquilizing and dependency causing meds for 40 years.

Where are the conspiracy theorists when you need them? The psychiatric pill mill has every sign of being society's way of keeping folks happy with the spiritually dead world of unbridled capitalism. What a coup for conservatives. Medicate all the dissenters and keep them obsessed about which pill they should try next -- lest they should otherwise write tracts against the absurdly lopsided distribution of wealth in America and the government's failure to provide top-quality schooling for all kids.

Author's Follow-up: May 18, 2023

I thought it would be easy to find like minds in the fight to end prohibition. Unfortunately, I'm finding some of the big-name advocates of pushback are also firm believers in the power of antidepressants to treat depression. I personally do not think that anyone completely understands the Drug War if they do not realize that the psychiatric pill mill is a creation of that war, for prohibition gives psychiatry a monopoly on mind medicine. The supporters will tell you that some users say the meds are useful -- but if I've learned anything after 40 years of poorly treated depression, it's that a depressed person is the last person qualified to report on their own condition. I used to think I was not depressed -- until I stopped and looked at all the goals I had not accomplished in the past in spite of what I had considered to be my firm commitment to that end. Moreover, when I took a psychedelic in my early 20s, I was exposed to a world of such potential that I suddenly considered the ambition of psychiatry to be shabby. Their pills did not motivate by comparison, they tranquilized.

But the real problem is this: 1 in 4 American women are dependent on Big Pharma for life. That's a scandal! And a profitable one, apparently, because I'm one of the few who even mentions that it exists. (See Julie Holland for some more honesty on this score.)

Now, you're not going to tell me that 25% of American females are depressed enough to warrant turning them into wards of the healthcare state? Well, if they really ARE that depressed, then something is wrong with America, not with its female population.

Finally, there are two ways to view psychiatry today: one is the typical way, in which we ignore the Drug War, in which we might say that pill-popping is the only game in town. The other way to look at psychiatry today is realistically, by taking into account the war on drugs by which we outlaw almost all psychoactive medicines. If psychiatrists saw their field in this true light -- as the expensive and demoralizing default option only because of tyrannical law that outlaws mother nature -- then they would (or at least they should) be the first to protest on behalf of patients and say to government: "We demand the right to prescribe anything that will work for our patients!"

Instead, psychiatrists have gone along with this game, pretending that antidepressants are good in and of themselves, telling patients to "take their meds," when the best one can say about those meds is that they're the only medicine the government will let people have for depression. That's a poor endorsement, indeed, especially since lifelong users like myself have been infantilized by these drugs, turned into a ward of the healthcare state and denied the meds that truly work, many of which grow at my very feet, the drugs that inspire rather than tranquilize.

So if they wish to ignore me, fine: But I'm not going to behave like Polonius and switch my opinions to suit the self-interested zeitgeist, even if it might encourage folks like Rick Doblin and DJ Nutt to respond to my letters.

Who are these apologists for antidepressants? They're easy to identify. Just look for folks who use the term "treatment-resistant depression," for the use of that term implies that there is a legal treatment for depression that works -- namely, SSRIs and SNRIs -- and that those who do not profit from them are the oddballs with the quirky body chemistry that does not know a cure when it sees one.

The irony is that, even if SSRIs worked for me, their positive effect would be negated by the fact that psychiatry has turned me into a patient for life, with the demoralizing trips to the doctor every three months to see an LPN that is half my age (at best), to answer questions about my predilection for suicide and how much sleep I'm getting.

LPN: Have you considered suicide in the last three months?
ME: Only when I think about the fact that psychiatry has turned me into an eternal patient.


1 American health professionals will pounce on this tobacco use as dangerous. Their temptation is to judge the use in the abstract, but health is a question of a balance of factors. If a certain usage pattern improves psychological and spiritual health, this must be taken into account as well, for the response of the organism to a substance is influenced by a wide array of factors, including cultural beliefs. Human beings are not mice for whom a psychoactive substance can be deemed to have the same effect for every individual. (up)

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

Prohibitionists have nothing to say about all other dangerous activities: nothing about hunting, free climbing, hang-gliding, sword swallowing, free diving, skateboarding, sky-diving, chug-a-lug competitions, chain-smoking. Their "logic" is incoherent.
Alcohol makes me sleepy. But NOT coca wine. The wine gives you an upbeat feeling of controlled energy, without the jitters of coffee and without the fury of steroids. It increases rather than dulls mental focus.
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Someone tweeted that fears about a Christian Science theocracy are "baseless." Tell that to my uncle who was lobotomized because they outlawed meds that could cheer him up -- tell that to myself, a chronic depressive who could be cheered up in an instant with outlawed meds.
In an article about Mazatec mushroom use, the author says: "Mushrooms should not be considered a drug." He misses the point: NOTHING should be considered a drug: every substance has potential good uses.
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You have been reading an article entitled, Replacing Psychiatry with Pharmacologically Savvy Shamanism: The post that got me banned for life from the Reddit Psychiatry group, published on May 28, 2020 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)