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Three Problems With Rick Doblin's MAPS

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

September 26, 2023

ick Doblin conceived of MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) as an end run around stubborn drug law. Since the DEA was so intent on keeping drugs illegal, Rick figured he would work WITH them in order to eventually achieve his legalization goal for psychedelics. Although the goal was worthy and Rick brave (if not downright mad, given the Herculean and time-consuming labor involved in such a task), there are downsides to his approach to drug re-legalization, at least one of which has never been mentioned before (see item number 2 in the following list).

1) By working with the government to legalize psychedelic medicine (and conceptually related meds like MDMA), Rick has contributed to the creation of what Julian Buchanan calls a Drug War apartheid. The good guys, according to the current Drug War apartheid, are caffeine, nicotine, Big Pharma pills, and alcohol. The bad guys, what we deride as "drugs" today, are psychedelics, coca, opium, iboga, ayahuasca. Rick's approach does not seek to change this political and ideological framework, but merely to shove psychedelics from the bad guy to the good guy side of the equation.

This ignores the real problem of the Drug War and prohibition: namely, its anti-scientific (and indeed anti-Christian) propensity to blame evil on inanimate substances (naturally occurring ones at that) rather than on people and the laws and societies that they create. The MAPS organization is therefore, however unintentionally, collaborating with the DEA to take America's eyes off the prize and to continue referring all social problems to the big bad evil American boogieman called "drugs." (And so when the wildly overfunded DEA says "BOO!", Americans leap to attention and ask: "What shall we outlaw NEXT?!")

No schools need to be fixed, no health care reform is needed, despite the overwhelming popular support for all such social goals. No, we need to crack down ever harder on the scapegoat of drugs. Such counsel seems highly convenient coming from a right-wing Congress full of hypocritical skinflints, whose motto seems to be: "Billions for law enforcement, not one cent for social problems." Have Americans never stopped to ask if the goal here might be the militarization of local police forces, not the protection of our white suburban teens whom we have refused to educate about "drugs"?

But there's an additional problem that literally nobody has mentioned but myself (well, credit where credit's due, I suppose, right?).

2) If America is going to launch a sort of Manhattan Project to promote the use of therapeutic psychedelic drugs, the first beneficiary of that project should be the tens of millions of depressed Americans who have become dependent on mind-numbing big pharma meds for life. It is prohibition, after all, that shunted 1 in 4 Stateside women off onto those meds in the first place. Surely they should be the first candidates to benefit from the liberating power of psychedelics. *

To the contrary. The MAPS organization still touts the party line, namely that we pill users should keep "taking our meds," that the psychedelic breakthrough is only for those with no SSRIs in their body chemistry (for fear of a poorly studied and - as far as I can tell - overhyped fear of the so-called Serotonin Toxicity Syndrome). In other words, they will never let poor Rudolphs like myself join in any psychedelic reindeer games. The vast majority of the depressed in America, therefore, have nothing to gain from the MAPS organization, except perhaps the privilege of seeing their own children grow up with options that their parents never had.

Sadly, Dr. Carl Hart believes in this exclusionary setup as well. In "Drug Use for Grown-Ups," he makes it clear to his readers that the depressed should keep taking their meds, that his problem-free use of other drugs is only to be emulated by emotionally healthy individuals. I found this very disappointing, since I have been waiting all my life to be allowed to use the medicines that grow at my feet, and now even a proponent of legalization is telling me that such medicines are not for me: that materialist science has the answer instead, in the form of pills that I have to take every day of my life, thus turning me into an eternal patient.

But if 40-plus years of pill popping means anything, then these pills do not work.** But they have turned me into a modern Ancient Mariner, who has to hove into HealthCare Port every three months to share his innermost thoughts with a stranger half (or even one-third) his own age. That's not exactly empowerment, Carl and Rick. Besides, do we really believe that 1 in 4 women are so badly depressed that they need to take Big Pharma pills every single day of their life? If that is the case, then I would suggest that there is something wrong with America, not with American women.

In an uncharitable mood, one might say that the MAPS program is really designed to let well-to-do ex-hippies use psychedelics legally and even take up a lucrative practice to help others use - meanwhile ignoring the human roadkill that prohibition has left behind by shunting the depressed off onto substances whose long-term use of SSRIs and SNRIs disqualifies them even for psychedelic trials, let alone psychedelic therapy.

3) Finally, there is something wrong with any right-thinking agency collaborating with the DEA. This lends legitimacy to an organization that has lied about psychoactive medicines for 40-plus years now and knowingly poisoned Americans with paraquat and other chemicals, in the same way that past governments poisoned drinkers with liver-destroying "rotgut" during prohibition. The DEA, as Rick well knows, also went against the advice of its own counsel when it outlawed MDMA in 1985, thus throwing hundreds of thousands of PTSD victims, many of them soldiers, under the bus, in order to protect DEA jobs.

Finally, if I want to use the kind of drugs that have inspired entire religions, fight depression, or follow up on the research of William James into altered states, I should not have to live in fear of the DEA crashing down my door and shouting: "GO! GO! GO!"

And until the DEA renounces that mindset entirely, the MAPS collaboration with the DEA will indeed seem to me like collaboration in the sinister sense of that term.

*The more so given that the meds in question have not cured depression as promised, but have led instead to the greatest mass drug dependency in American history. That habituation level is many times greater than the 1 in 10 Americans who smoked opium regularly (according to Jim Hogshire) prior to 1914. In other words, the Drug War is not about ending drug use: it's about making sure that Americans are using what the politicians considered to be the RIGHT drugs.

**For more on this topic, see Why SSRIs are Crap.

Note that I do not say that such antidepressants are completely useless. They may even keep someone from committing suicide. But then any pill that sufficiently addles or fogs the brain might do that. They purportedly work according to materialist criteria that turned out to be false: they do not fix a chemical imbalance, they cause one instead (Robert Whitaker). Whatever good they do is therefore gratuitous. And they muck around with serotonin in such a way that makes the use of many other substances problematic. This has the look of a puritan conspiracy almost: You give me a drug that will not make me TOO happy but will make it impossible for me to use drugs that TRULY make me happy. These drugs bring with them a lot of materialist and puritanical baggage and capitalist baggage. These are drugs that one has to take every day of their lives, after all -- which is obviously in the interests of big pharma, who handsomely pay off politicians to keep the Drug War status quo. (See Billionaire Democracy by George R. Tyler)

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

In "The Book of the Damned," Charles Fort writes about the data that science has damned, by which he means "excluded." The fact that drugs can inspire and elate is one such fact, although when Fort wrote his anti-materialist broadside, drug prohibition was in its infancy.
This, by the way, is why we can't just "follow the science." The "acceptable risk" for psychoactive drugs can only be decided by the user, based on what they prioritize in life. Science just assumes that all users should want to live forever, self-fulfilled or not.
Drug warriors do not seem to see any irony in the fact that their outlawing of opium eventually resulted in an "opioid crisis." The message is clear: people want transcendence. If we don't let them find it safely, they will find it dangerously.
Drugs like opium and psychedelics should come with the following warning: "Outlawing of this product may result in inner-city gunfire, civil wars overseas, and rigged elections in which drug warriors win office by throwing minorities in jail."
Did the Vedic People have a substance disorder because they wanted to drink enough soma to see religious realities?
If drug war logic made sense, we would outlaw endless things in addition to drugs. Because the drug war says that it's all worth it if we can save just one life -- which is generally the life of a white suburban young person, btw.
This is why we would rather have a depressed person commit suicide than to use "drugs" -- because drugs, after all, are not dealing with the "real" problem. The patient may SAY that drugs make them feel good, but we need microscopes to find out if they REALLY feel good.
In a sane world, we'd package laughing gas for safe use and give it to the suicidal -- saying, "Use before attempting to kill yourself." But drug warriors would rather have suicide than drug use.
"Drugs" is imperialist terminology. In the smug self-righteousness of those who use it, I hear Columbus's disdain for the shroom use of the Taino people and the Spanish disdain for the coca use of the Peruvian Indians.
Cop and detective shows are loaded with subtle drug war propaganda, including lines like, "She had a history of drug use, so..." The implication being that anyone who uses substances that politicians hate cannot be trusted.
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