Essay date: October 26, 2020

Using Opium to Fight Depression

on replacing psychiatry with pharmacologically savvy shamanism

hey, here's an idea: let psychiatrists use any plant medicine that works! Replacing psychiatry with pharmacologically savvy empaths.

espite the so-called miracle drugs of psychiatry, America remains both the most depressed AND the most drug-using nation on Earth. Why? Because psychiatrists, motivated by physics envy (i.e. the desire to be part of a "hard science"), have adopted a scientistic approach to treating depression, whereby they insist that one must treat the supposed reductionist cause of the depression "illness" in order to help patients (never mind that the belief in the existence of a one-size fits all cure for the fundamental human condition of depression is about as philosophically sound as a search for the Holy Grail). Indeed, the miracle drugs "discovered" under the influence of this scientistic search have been shown to cause the very chemical imbalances that they were intended to correct, thereby resulting in recidivism rates worse than heroin for those who attempt to quit many SSRIs and SNRIs. Yet psychiatry clings to this scientistic party line (this myth of having found "miracle drugs" for depression) in the very face of the addictive dystopia that it has created (a kind of real-world Stepford Wives in which 1 in 4 American women are pacified by Big Pharma's emotion-tamping drugs).

It is this blind faith in their supposedly scientific approach to depression that has left psychiatrists impotent to treat depression effectively, causing them to scornfully reject far less addictive treatments that would have been psychologically obvious to them as godsends were they not in the thrall of their scientism combined with Drug Warrior hysteria and lies. I am referring here to the politically incorrect fact that mother nature's psychoactive plants could be used strategically by pharmacologically savvy empaths to bring about peace of mind and productivity (if not positive self-fulfillment in life) in patients with heretofore intractable depression.


Hearing these arguments, the psychiatrist instinctively cries out with the old canard, "Yes, but you're only treating the symptoms!" But that objection is just another way of claiming that there is a one-size-fits-all, reductionist cure for depression in the first place, and we see by the sadness and Big Pharma addiction all around us that this is just not so. Moreover, it is philosophically improbable (in the highest degree) that this SHOULD be so, that there WOULD be a meaningful one-size-fits-all cure for such a diverse phenomenon as human sadness. And even if someone claimed to find such a "cure," we would have to ask the question: how are they defining the word "cure"? Is a depressed patient "cured" when they stop complaining about their dull life and make their peace with mediocrity? Or are they "cured" when they start to achieve self-fulfillment in life and see the world around them with new focus and appreciation? If Big Pharma "wonder drugs" really cure the depressed, then it is surely only in the former sense that they do so, helping the user settle for second best in life, not by widening their world and showing them previously unthought-of ways to "live large," psychologically if not financially speaking.

Once we put aside psychiatry's selfish desire to be "scientific" (along with our drug-war-inspired Christian Science bias against mother nature's plant medicines) we can start imagining creative depression treatments such as the one that I've detailed below. I pick this particular treatment almost at random, reminding the reader as I do so that the ways to facilitate shamanic-style healing with psychoactive plants are limited only by the human imagination - and, alas, the anti-patient Drug War, which seeks to villainize mother nature's pharmacopoeia instead of employing it in the interests of human happiness, creativity and self-fulfillment.

Why use mother-nature's plant medicines in this way? Because unlike Big Pharma's numbing nostrums, psychoactive plants can inspire, teach, and console a human being - especially when administered by a pharmacologically savvy empath, the sort of cross-culturally conscious and cosmopolitan plant specialist who I hope one day will take the place of the pill-peddling psychiatrist.


Therapy: Weekly guided opium use administered in such a way as to promote creativity, thinking outside the box, and overall depression relief.

Method of Operation: This treatment obtains results (i.e., cheers the patient up "overall") by giving him or her something to look forward to, in the form of an opium-using afternoon, for individuals and/or groups of people with similar interests (which they might discuss when "under the influence"). For it is psychologically obvious (once we put scientism aside) that anticipation of a relaxing experience conduces to overall relaxation. The real hell of depression (and I write from 45 years of experience) is the feeling that the "down" times will drag on forever, and this feeling could be convincingly combatted with a weekly (and therefore non-addictive) use of opium. No matter how bad the week, the "patient" of this treatment has but to look at their calendar to dispel that fearful conviction of the depressed that their morose lethargy will endure forever.

Procedure: Subject would lie or sit in comfortable position, have access to the music of their choice, and a pen and paper to write down impressions.

Ideal Patient: Depressed patient (or indeed any would-be creative type) seeking to take a break from their default thought patterns and shake up the mental cobwebs in the hopes of thereby gaining inspiration and motivation for life in the "real world."


One problem with realizing this dream of opium therapy (and cocaine therapy, and psychedelic therapy) is the absurd way in which we punish demonized drugs for failure. A demonized drug need play a role in merely one single patient death and it might be withheld from an entire generation of the depressed - meanwhile alcohol and tobacco kill hundreds of thousands a year and no one bats an eyelash. This raises the question: why are the rights of the responsible beer guzzler so much more important than those of the responsible opium, cocaine or psychedelic user? Why is beer allowed to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths a year and remain on the market unscathed by bad publicity while a potentially godsend medicine like cocaine or opium must be withdrawn from everybody (in the entire world!) once it kills a mere handful of users? This absurd requirement, that villainized psychoactive substances be 100% safe and, as it were, idiotproof, only makes sense to us in the light of the Drug Warrior's Christian Science prejudice against the psychoactive healing and improvement of psychological conditions.

The Links Police

Relax, I just stopped you to give you some link suggestions about the psychology of substance use, of which American psychology is shamefully ignorant, by the way. You might check out, for instance, Using Opium to Fight Depression and how about America's Puritan Obsession with Sobriety or better yet The Philosophy of Drug Use. Oh, and check out your left rear tail light when you get a chance, would ya? It doesn't seem to be illuminating when you tap on the brake. Oh, yeah, here's one more of Brian's essays that we're calling 'a link of interest': Puritanical Assumptions about Drug Use in the Entertainment Field. Get it? 'A link of interest'? Oh, I'm hot tonight.

August 2, 2022

Still believe that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance? You may wish to read "The Emperor's New Drugs" by Irving Kirsch or "Anatomy of an Epidemic" by Robert Whitaker.

Meanwhile, here's a philosophical reason why the idea is bogus: If drug-makers have really 'cured' depression, then they should be able to tell us what they mean by 'cured'? Am I cured from depression when I no longer consider suicide and live a sleepy uneventful life? Or am I cured when I thrive in life and see 'a world in a grain of sand' a la Carl Sandburg? From my experience with antidepressants, the drug-maker's definition of 'cured' is the former -- while my definition of 'cured' is the latter.

Therefore Big Pharma anti-depressants may fix SOMETHING, but they certainly do not fix 'depression' as I define it, as something that keeps me from 'living large.'

Meanwhile, drugs like psilocybin, coca, opium and MDMA -- when used advisedly -- can help me live the way I wish to live in life -- firing on all burners, for my goal is to be one of Jack Kerouac's kind of people:

"The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn burn like fabulous yellow roman candles."

Sure, you can lobotomize me or tranquilize me instead, but let's be clear: that 'cure' works for the psychiatrist only, not for the 'patient' (or rather the 'victim').

Author's Follow-up: August 29, 2022

Modern psychology completely ignores the power of anticipation to brighten one's day. They have to ignore the power of anticipation in the age of the Drug War. Why? Because the moment one recognizes the therapeutic value of anticipation, it becomes obvious that drugs like coca and opium and laughing gas can be godsends for the depressed when used wisely. For not only do their active ingredients help elevate mood, but the mere anticipation of such use elevates mood as well. So why don't we allow and teach wise use?

Because the Drug War is all about persuading the world that wise use of these substances impossible, that no amount of education, research or teaching can let us use these substances wisely,

For the Drug War defines drugs as follows: substances for which there is no beneficial use: not now, not ever; not for me, not for you, not for anyone anywhere in the entire world.

Of course, the plain unvarnished truth is that there are no such substances in the world. Even the super-toxic Botox can be used wisely for the good of human beings.

But the Drug Warrior has convinced the world of their unscientific (or rather anti-scientific) thesis. That's why most scientists today ignore the fact that their research opportunities are censored by drug prohibition, for they themselves have swallowed the anti-scientific lie that almost all psychoactive medicines lack any therapeutic benefits whatsoever.

And so Americans blithely go about their day, urinating on demand for their employers while the police continue arresting their compatriots for using naturally occurring medicines that have inspired entire religions.

All because we'd rather arrest people for using medical godsends instead of teaching them how to use them wisely.

Americans do not want to be honest about drugs, because the moment they are truly honest, they will have to admit the inconvenient fact that 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life on Big Pharma meds thanks to the Drug War which outlaws freely occurring psychoactive medicines; they will have to admit that tobacco and liquor together kill half a million Americans a year; they will have to admit that opium can be used non-addictively and that heroin and morphine can be used for a lifetime without problem -- if the Drug Warrior would allow such use; they would have to admit that withdrawal is hell only because the Drug Warrior has outlawed the use of all substances that might otherwise make it bearable.

Once we jettison the slough of Drug War lies, it becomes psychological common sense that we can work wonders if we would only start using psychoactive substances creatively to help the troubled or rudderless -- not by getting them to take Big Pharma pills every day of their life but rather by giving them now one godsend medicine, now another, such that they obfuscate the withdrawal symptoms and place the seeker on a more sustainable path to self-enlightenment.

This utopia will only come about when American lawmakers stop being chicken-little fearmongers about inanimate substances and start educating Americans about them instead in the painfully honest way cited above -- which may never happen until the 1% stop bribing politicians to vote against any change to the corrupt status quo.

Author's Follow-up: November 9, 2022

Want to cure the depression crisis: re-legalize the coca leaf. Re-legalize the chewing of the same. Re-legalize the Coca wine favored by HG Wells, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Henrik Ibsen, and Charles Gounod. Not only would this end most depression, but it would go a long way toward ending the mass killings in Mexico that is a direct result of Drug War prohibition.

Related tweet: June 2, 2023

"Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing toward death. To smoke opium is to get out of the train while it is still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life or death." -Jean Cocteau

John Halpern wrote a book about opium, subtitled "the ancient flower that poisoned our world." What nonsense! Bad laws and ignorance poison our world, NOT FLOWERS!
Next essay: Electroshock Therapy and the Drug War
Previous essay: How the Atlantic Supports the Drug War

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old time radio playing Drug War comedy sketches

You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.

A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.

The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.

It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)

If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.

Brian Quass
The Drug War Philosopher

PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.

Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)

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  • Smith, Wolfgang "Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology"2022
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    • Szasz, Thomas "Ceremonial Chemistry: the ritual persecution of drugs, addicts, and pushers" 1974 Anchor Press/Doubleday
  • Szasz, Thomas "Interview With Thomas Szasz: by Randall C. Wyatt"0
    • Szasz, Thomas "Our Right to Drugs: The case for a free market" 1992 Praeger
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  • Wedel, Janine "Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom and Politics and Created an Outsider Class"2014 Pegasus Books
  • Weil, Andrew "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs"2004 Open Road Integrated Media
    • Whitaker, Robert "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America " 2010 Crown
    • Zinn, Howard "A People's History of the United States: 1492 - present" 2009
    • Zuboff , Shoshana "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power" 2019 Public Affairs
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