How Psychiatry and the Drug War turned me into an eternal patient (and what we should do about that)
Tomorrow morning, I have to meet yet again with a “doctor” who is half my age and explain to him or her for the thousandth time why I deserve to receive yet another expensive refill on an SNRI antidepressant that the NIH has found to be as hard to kick as heroin. As a 62-year-old, I find such appointments to be the most disempowering and humiliating form of healthcare imaginable. It has made me a ward of the healthcare state and an eternal patient. Even if the Effexor that I’ve been taking now for 25 years had cured my depression (which it did not), I would be depressed by the fact that I had to visit Healthcare Harbor every three months of my life as a sort of Ancient Mariner, to tell my life story over and over again to a series of complete strangers. How am I supposed to feel “normal” and “well” when the psychiatric profession keeps reminding me that I am a “patient” by forcing me to jump through all the time-consuming and expensive hoops that come with that label?
Despite my dissatisfaction with the psychiatric pill mill, however, it is the Drug War which I really blame for my eternal patient status, since Drug Warriors long ago outlawed all the far-less-addictive medicines that were facilitating fantastic psychological breakthroughs in the early ’60s, including psychedelic meds which, when administered by a pharmacologically savvy empath, could have helped me re-imagine my life and lift my mind out of the mental ruts that it was carving for itself. But I guess I was destined to go without psychoactive godsends, having been born in the late ’50s, at the very time when racist politicians were just beginning to demonize and outlaw the non-addictive medicines that were already racking up victories in treating the “mentally ill,” including many hardcore alcoholics. Indeed Bill Wilson of AA was successfully treating alcoholics with psychedelic therapy when I was born, a treatment that would soon be shut down, however, by politicians who associated psychedelics with their political enemies of the time (you know, those dreadful hippies).
My goal now in life is to show the world how the psychiatric pill mill is the natural result of a Drug War in a capitalist society. For, from a strictly capitalist perspective, there is no money in curing “mental illness.” The money lies in establishing a therapy that will go on for ever, till death do we patients part. And what better way to accomplish that goal than to outlaw Mother Nature’s far less addictive meds and then hook patients on synthetic drugs that simply cannot be stopped (and which, according to Robert Whitaker, actually cause and reinforce the very chemical imbalances that they claim to “fix”)?
The answer to this unjust set-up may not come in my lifetime, unfortunately, but I believe that I know what the answer would look like, at least in broad strokes: The answer is for America to end the Drug War and for the psychiatric profession to morph into a kind of “pharmacologically savvy shamanism,” an holistic approach to mental health that combines the best of western, eastern and mesoAmerican therapies, using ANY PLANT IN THE WORLD that is found to help a person think and act productively in their life. Such a therapy would get rid of the idea of “mental patient” altogether, since anyone could visit such a shaman: from the severely depressed to a relatively happy soul who simply wants to get beyond the mental blocks that stand in the way of his or her self-actualization in life.
The answer, to repeat, is to exchange psychiatry for PSS: “pharmacologically savvy shamanism,” a new non-addictive paradigm in which deeply caring medical professionals could guide their “clients” to self-knowledge through the historically informed used of natural entheogenic substances, plant medicines that conduce to self-insight and compassionate love of one’s fellows. Imagine that: America could stop demonizing plant medicine and actually learn how to use it safely and wisely for the benefit of humankind, just like all societies were prepared to do until corrupt stateside politicians began demonizing substances in order to remove the minorities who used them from the voting rolls. Then Ancient Mariners like myself could finally renounce Big Pharma and the demoralizing label of “patient,” sailing into their home port at long last as just another human being seeking to achieve self-fulfillment in life.