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The War on Drugs and the Psychiatric Pill Mill

Why you can’t understand one without understanding the other

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

November 3, 2023

There is one priority that is greater for Americans than even fighting violence: and that is fighting "drugs."

In order to truly evaluate the propriety of modern antidepressants, one has to acknowledge the legal and philosophical environment in which they were created. You'll find that no one ever does this. And why not? Because the environment I'm speaking of here is nothing less than the war on drugs itself (and the ideology of substance demonization for which it stands), and almost all American non-fiction authors (even most who write about "drugs") "reckon without the Drug War." This is a problem, to put it mildly, because the drug-war ideology of substance demonization has real-world consequences in a host of widely diverse fields ranging from the study of consciousness to theories about ending school shootings and shapes our views about what solutions to modern problems are even conceivable in the fields of psychology, philosophy and religion.

What do I mean when I say that authors reckon without the Drug War?

Take a book on school shootings, for instance. The author may give you endless theories about ending the violence with a bibliography large enough to delight a pedant, but he or she is never - but never - going to point out that America has outlawed a wide variety of empathogens (natural and synthetic) whose therapeutic use could keep hotheads from shooting up a school in the first place. This is because there is one priority that is greater for Americans than even fighting violence: and that is fighting "drugs." To such authors, all prohibited psychoactive substances simply do not exist. Of course, mere scientific propriety would dictate that they add a disclaimer to their books announcing that they have written in the style of one who harbors such a prejudice against godsend medicines. But the authors never include such a disclaimer. And why not? Because they know that their readers are just as brainwashed as they are themselves and so will naturally assume that the author is writing from the usual drug-hating viewpoint, according to which illegal substances simply do not exist and therefore need not be mentioned in books these days, let alone evaluated for how their informed use might cast the author's politically correct thesis in doubt.

If you don't believe that such self-censorship exists, take a look at any issue of Psychology Today. Almost every pathology covered therein would be cast in a far different light if we simply considered the role that mind- and mood-affecting drugs could potentially play in alleviating them. But the magazine collaborates with the Drug War by pretending that such substances do not even exist.

Now that I've identified the problem -- namely, that most authors today reckon without the Drug War - let's buck the trend and see how antidepressants shape up, both practically and philosophically speaking, GIVEN the fact that they were created in the age of that unprecedented wholesale war on naturally occurring and synthetic godsends.

The first thing to notice is that the field of psychiatry, rather than protesting the war on mind medicine, sought to collaborate with it by promoting a patently false notion in their patients: namely, the presumptuous idea that outlawed godsend medicines could not have helped the mental sufferer anyway since the patient would simply be treating the "symptoms" of a problem with their use. Psychiatry's meds are said to treat "the real problem."

This mendacious boast is responsible for the psychiatric pill mill and it is the warped idea that continues to justify it today in the minds of science-worshipping Americans. This bogus notion also gives demagogues a veneer of scientific status when they promote prohibition of psychoactive substances.

The idea that psychiatry is treating the real problem by targeting brain chemicals is a materialist superstition...

The idea that psychiatry is treating the real problem by targeting brain chemicals is a materialist superstition, proselytized by those who think of human beings as a robotic widget, amenable to one-size-fits-all cures for everything that ails them. They think depression and all other mental shortcomings should be treated with pills that work like aspirin: substances that do all the work themselves thanks to chemical cause and effect while the human sits back and waits for them to work their magic.

This is a materialist fantasy! And not just because depression rates have skyrocketed since the introduction of these scientific silver bullets. There's also plenty of evidence that such drugs cause the chemical imbalances that they claim to fix. That might explain why "getting off" such meds (like the SNRI called Effexor) can be harder than attempting to quit heroin (source: Julie Holland).

Moreover, there is nothing objectively wrong with getting symptomatic relief for problems with mood and mentation. When one says otherwise, they are merely expressing their belief in the drug-hating theology of Mary Baker-Eddy.

And what would it mean to have one's depression "cured" by these drugs anyway? To put this another way: "What did the pill maker consider to be the optimum psychological state for me as a depressive?" Given the reign of Drug War ideology, you can bet your last Prozac tablet that the drug maker did not seek to give me an ecstatic state and a feeling of peace with the world.

It is hubristic folly on par with Dr. Frankenstein to seek to "cure" the human condition of depression, as opposed to treating its symptoms.

It is hubristic folly on par with Dr. Frankenstein to seek to "cure" the human condition of depression, as opposed to treating its symptoms. Treating its symptoms is actually the most probable way of curing the "patient," if by "curing" we mean achieving the psychological state that the USER (rather than the psychiatrist) would consider to be a cure.

To repeat: there is nothing wrong with seeking symptomatic relief from mental disquietude. In fact, symptomatic use of drugs can lead to cures for depression - at least to the extent that there can (or should) be a "cure" for such a normal condition as human sadness.

Take some nervous and self-conscious actors who are harassed by self-doubt and therefore depressed. Their livelihoods depend on them performing well and, above all, spontaneously. If a drug helps them to perform that way on a stage, that drug use can construct a virtuous circle for them. As obvious as this is, however, psychologically speaking, I had better spell it out since the Drug War ideology of substance demonization has deprived modern scientists of common sense. How else do we account for the fact that a materialist like Dr. Robert Glatter confessed in Forbes magazine in 2021 that he's not sure that laughing gas could help the depressed! That kind of bizarre perplexity about the obvious would be funny if it did not have tragic consequences, like denying a godsend therapy to depressed folk like myself.

The Drug War ideology of substance demonization has deprived modern scientists of common sense.

But such politically correct ignorance on this topic delights the prohibitionists who are currently doing everything they can to outlaw nitrous oxide, the drug whose use inspired the philosophy of William James, in the age before psychology became a maidservant of the war on drugs. You see, it works like this: The drug helps them perform better by "forgetting themselves" to the extent necessary in their given psychological case. Their performances get better reviews. They make more money. Their self-esteem is boosted. A host of additional positive knock-on effects improve their lives.

Nor need the drug use continue forever. A virtuous circle of drug-aided success in an endeavor will eventually create a habit in the person performing the tasks in question. In the case of the actors, they become increasingly self-assured - to the point where eventually they may even no longer feel like they even need to use the drug to perform. Why not? Because the daily experience of drug-aided success has turned spontaneous action into a habit for them, overriding the self-consciousness that had previously hounded them. The psychiatrist, meanwhile, libels such drug use as a "copout" and seeks to enroll the actor in a futile, expensive and often lifetime quest to find out why he or she lacked confidence in the first place. That's a waste not only of time but of a human being's entire life - of their vocational life, and as a result, of their personal life as well.

This reminds one of what Quanah Parker said regarding the ritual use of peyote:

"The White Man goes into church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus." -- Quanah Parker, Native American Church

In the same spirit, we may say that:

"The drug hater goes into a psychiatrist's office and talks about self-transcendence. The drug user stays at home and experiences self-transcendence." -- Ballard Quass,

Here, of course, is where the prohibitionists haul out what they consider to be their trump card: namely, the claim that the actor will thereby become an addict!

The Drug War thrives by confronting Americans with the specter of all-mighty and all-powerful ADDICTION!

BOO! BOO! Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Where to begin in destroying this perennial canard?

Firstly, believe it or not, there is something worse than addiction, folks, that is the inability to succeed in life according to one's own definition of success. Secondly, it is absurd to describe dependence on heroin as the ultimate evil while at the same time telling 1 in 4 American women that they have a medical duty to take multiple Big Pharma meds every single day of their lives. Thirdly, addiction does not have to be hell. The only reason it's hell today is because we have outlawed all drugs that could make it otherwise, simply because our drug-hating ideology makes us despise the idea of fighting drugs with other drugs. Fourthly, there are sleep cures for getting off of opiates that can already remove much gnashing of teeth, and these therapies could be perfected if we spent billions on doing so rather than billions on caging users. Fifthly, a psychological dependence on any one drug would be far less likely in a world in which all substances were (once again) legal and where we actively learned about drugs and developed best-use practices for just such situations.

The very idea of fixing brain chemicals in order to "cure" human sadness would never even occur to a society in which nature was considered a goddess rather than a drug kingpin.

Finally, I would maintain that the very idea of fixing brain chemicals in order to "cure" human sadness would never even occur to a society in which nature was considered a goddess rather than a drug kingpin. The scientist who pursued such a course in such a society would be considered an ungrateful Frankenstein rather than a candidate for a Nobel Prize. "Let's see," the villager would say to this tribal oddball, "we have drugs that inspire and teach and remove sadness in a strangely uplifting way that seems almost to unify us with mother nature..." And then a second villager continues, saying: "But you want to go inside our brains and change the arrangement of microscopic chemicals so that we excise sadness itself from the human condition, and without generating any ethereal feelings into the bargain!"

Then the chief would turn to the tribe and say: "What do you say, gang, should we give this presumptuous materialist the boot?"

And their answer would be a resounding YES!

November 4, 2023

Brian (God love him) is not an enemy of "talk therapy." If folks have the time and money, he invites them to knock themselves out. His point is that people have to live their lives NOW -- and not in some vague hope that eventually conscious understanding of their situation will bring release therefrom -- which, incidentally, is a problematic assumption, in any case, but one that psychotherapy simply takes for granted, i.e., that problems will somehow disappear to the extent that they are rationally understood. Indeed, the anti-hero of Poe's psychologically perceptive tract, "The Imp of the Perverse," was lost precisely because he "too well understood" his psychological situation.

The fact, however, is that talk therapy can have no greater opportunity to shine than in a world in which all drugs are legal (again) and can be matched with the occasion to inspire insight in those who typically censor their every word in public (consciously or not).

Also, bear in mind that Brian wants the entire psychiatric field to drop its physics envy, which has compelled it to field pseudo-scientific drugs that have created the greatest dystopia of mass drug dependence in human history, and to become pharmaceutically savvy shamanism instead. After such a change, the very idea of "mental patient" would disappear, since the same shaman whom a depressed person might consult to seek happiness would also tend to those who self-identify as "normal" but who wish to thrive in life rather than to just get by -- who want, perhaps, to see nature with sublime clarity or hear music more deeply than is either possible or conceivable with the sober mind.

Nor is Brian calling for these newly re-legalized drugs to be exclusively in the hands of such "shamans." His point is just that those who lack an empathic support network to achieve truly "wise and informed" use should be persuaded by healthy social norms (which one trusts would gradually "obtain" in such a pharmacologically liberated society) to seek out such helpers at least at the beginning of their attempts to use certain substances wisely in their life.

Right now society pretends that doctors deserve the role of prescribing psychoactive drugs, but that is a non-sequitur. It confuses the field of human aspiration with the world of physical medicine. Yes, wise use requires some basic scientific information to avoid overdoses, etc., but the main expertise called for in those facilitating the wise use of psychoactive drugs is empathy, and that is not a field over which medicine can claim any monopoly.

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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.
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You have been reading an article entitled, The War on Drugs and the Psychiatric Pill Mill: Why you can’t understand one without understanding the other, published on November 3, 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)