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Why doctors should prescribe opium for depression

how materialists collude with drug warriors to keep us from using godsend medicine

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

June 6, 2023

n my philosophical review of "Opium for the Masses" by Jim Hogshire, I took materialists to task for failing to recognize what we pedants would call the potential ontological significance of the opium dream experience -- which is to say the fact that opium dreams may tell us something about reality writ large. It's since occurred to me that the rap sheet for materialists is far longer than this seemingly isolated criticism might suggest. Materialists are, in fact, unindicted co-conspirators in the war on drugs.

Here's where Shakespeare's Mistress Quickly would blurt out: "Make that good!"

To which I say: "Peace, my lady, give ear and perpend!"

It is the materialist reductionist outlook that keeps us from recognizing the therapeutic value of all sorts of godsend medicines, and not just opium.

Consider the astonishing proposition that such medicines have no therapeutic value whatsoever. How could that be? No positive uses for a drug that Galen himself considered to be a panacea? That statement, if it's to have any truth value at all, has to presuppose the ideology of materialism.

You see, to the materialist, the proof of efficacy has to reside in molecules and chemicals, not in undeniable anecdotes and human history. You say millions have found opium wonderful and it has inspired great poetry? That means nothing to the materialist. He wants molecular proof that can be added to a PowerPoint presentation, figures that can be quoted in a grant application, objective numbers that can be added to a database. The materialist is deaf to any subjective evidence.

It's this myopic lack of common sense that causes otherwise brainy people like Dr. Robert Glatter to ask silly questions, like "Can laughing gas help people with treatment-resistant depression?", in an article of that title in the June 2021 edition of Forbes magazine. Of course laughing gas can help the depressed, by definition even! The reason Glatter doubts it is because he's a materialist and only accepts reductive explanations of efficacy.

This is why Descartes denied that animals could experience pain, because reductive evidence did not prove it. Sure, dogs will howl when you hurt them, but Descartes tells us that's just noise. Likewise laughing, for materialists like Glatter, is just noise.

The fact is, however, that common sense is not that problematic! Happiness -- drug induced or otherwise -- is happiness. What's more, happiness -- and the anticipation of happiness -- are health-producing.

For this reason, any drug in the world that provides a pleasant feeling can be valuable in treating depression. Any drug in the world. Even opium. Nor is the possibility of dependency a reason to ignore opium, for with opium, dependency might be called a bug, but for modern anti-depressants (upon which 1 in 4 American women are hooked for life), dependency is a feature. This is why doctors keep unabashedly telling such women to "keep taking your meds." We see then the outlawing of opium is based on an aesthetic judgment about what constitutes the good life, not on some scientific evidence that shows us what does and does not actually work for the "user."

Author's Follow-up: June 7, 2023

In "Opium for the Masses," Jim Hogshire includes a section entitled "the Role of Pain in Freedom." I hope Michael Pollan reads this part carefully and that it helps him reconsider his view expressed in "How to Change Your Mind" that outlawing Mother Nature makes any kind of sense in a free society. For if Pollan thinks outlawing marijuana makes sense, he's certainly onboard with outlawing the poppy.

The poppy's central and indispensable position in our civilization makes access to it important, and thus forbidding public access to the poppy is staggeringly cruel. Ceding control of opiates means ceding control of pain relief to the State... which has shown truly morbid interest in inflicting pain and denying its relief in order to effect social change and maintain social control. This is power that free people should never relinquish easily or without a fight.

Again, I call on Michael to repent. Outlawing Mother Nature is a violation of both common sense and natural law. It is a wrong way of looking at the world. The book of Genesis tells us that God's creation is good. The Drug War represents a religious view that mother nature is evil until proven otherwise. In orthodox Christianity, however, there are no evil things: only evil people and the evil policies that they create. When we think in terms of evil things, like evil drugs, we go astray and hence the endless downsides of prohibition, including inner-city shootings, civil wars overseas and the suppression and censorship (usually self-censorship) of scientific research. Substance demonization and prohibition is unbecoming of a free country, Michael. Please repent! Teach, don't punish.

Next essay: The Problem with Michael Pollan
Previous essay: I've got a bone to pick with Jim Hogshire

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Using Opium to Fight Depression
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Opium for the Masses by Jim Hogshire
I've got a bone to pick with Jim Hogshire
In Defense of Opium
The Truth About Opium by William H. Brereton
John Halpern's 'Opium': a pre-review
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