problems with the 'no pain, no gain' school of de-tox therapy
The drug warrior holds many logic-challenged assumptions, but one of the worst in terms of its human consequences is the notion that withdrawal from illegal substances must necessarily be hell.
Really? How would we even know? No one with pharmacological savvy has ever been free to use psychoactive plants in America, shaman-like, with a specific addict in mind. Who knows what would be possible if every psychoactive plant were at hand to be employed advisedly in improving the mental outlook and resilience of a specific individual?
What exactly is addiction, anyway? Whence comes this hell of which we speak?
It is the result of the body screaming bloody murder for want of a substance to whose presence it has become accustomed.
Well, an answer to that problem readily suggests itself, albeit one that's sure to rub the Christian Scientists among us the wrong way: that of fighting fire with fire: treating the addict with psychoactive substances that push back against and obfuscate the hellish withdrawal symptoms as the user seeks to "get off of" his or her poison of choice, a plant substance that will attempt to shout "feel good!" every bit as loudly as the withdrawal symptoms are shouting "feel bad!" If such treatment cannot totally suppress the negative physiological symptoms of withdrawal, then it can at least render them psychologically bearable thanks to the positive attitudes induced by the ritual use of entheogens carefully chosen for that purpose according to the facts of the case.
That's right, your call is important to us -- unless it comes after business hours, of course, in which case you'll just have to suck it up and handle the withdrawal symptoms you get from suddenly not taking Big Pharma's highly addictive and ineffective meds.
Absent our prudish drug war assumptions, we could even find a variety of substances that positively ELATE the addict at set intervals, thus giving the patient something to look forward to during the most negative emotions of withdrawal, since I speak from experience in saying that the real hell of withdrawal is the feeling that the negative feelings will never end -- and we can palpably teach the patient otherwise with what we might call (at the risk of irritating the puritan) the occasional administration of "feel good" entheogens to remind them that happiness still exists in the world, that everything is not merely grey skies and drizzle, now and for all time.
This is the process of fighting bad drugs with more drugs (as Google purports to fight bad speech with more speech), a paradigm in which the pharmacological artist that I envision (the replacement for yesterday's pill-peddling psychiatrist) would drown the addict's negative physiological reactions to withdrawal in a sea of positive feelings engendered by yet other carefully chosen psychoactive substances, such that the entire withdrawal process can take place without the addict experiencing the intense psychological suffering that we have hitherto concluded was the addict's due.
Presumably the drugs used for detox would be non-addictive, either by nature or by dint of their carefully timed administration. That said, we have no right to denounce such a cure should it lead to a new addiction, provided that the new addiction is, as is to be expected, one with which the patient can live a productive life. Psychiatrists have for decades now administered pills that their patients are required to take daily for a lifetime, so psychiatry has no leg to stand on in denouncing medications for requiring daily or weekly administration (whether that medication be Effexor or opium). The question only is: is that addiction something that the patient is both willing and able to live with?
But the patient should be free of all "drugs," you say? Fine. That's your opinion, based on your philosophical assumptions about what constitutes the good life. The decision is up to the addict, based on their own metaphysics, thank you very much. But should the addicts themselves choose this "drug-free" course, more power to them, for there are an almost endless number of possible entheogen-assisted therapies that, singly or in aggregate, have every chance of achieving this hitherto improbable goal, given the strategic alignment of therapy with patient goals. But we can't make such therapies available until we renounce an unscientific and anti-patient drug war that stops us from merely even investigating such cures.
(Even the use of the term "addict" is a nod to drug war sensibilities, since it implies a character fault, whereas the early 19th-century term of "habitue" remains a far more objective descriptor for the unique human lives that we are discussing here. But then the drug war depends on the strategic use of words such that merely broaching them implies a politically correct viewpoint and thus the speaker's acceptance of a series of widely believed but fundamentally false premises. Thus Big Pharma pills require daily "administration," but drugs like cocaine and heroin require daily "fixes." It's not the actions that repel us - we can take Prozac and Effexor daily until the cows come home -- but the disdainful connotations that we selectively impose upon those actions through the politicized language of a drug war society.)
In short, there is a vast world of treatment options out there for the so-called "addict" once we envision a free world in which a highly trained empath can customize psychoactive protocols to meet the needs and goals of specific individuals. But until government gives that freedom back to the medical world, we have no business opining on the supposed intractability of the addiction problem, since the inadequacies of the current approaches can all be explained with reference to the drug warriors' ongoing efforts to drastically limit the pharmacological arsenal with which we might otherwise respond to this problem. The problem itself may well be solvable - should the government ever be so magnanimous as to give us renewed free and unrestricted access to the plants and fungi that grow at our very feet. (Funny. And I used to think that such access was my birth right as a resident of planet Earth, ensured via natural law, which, at least until the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, was supposed to trump common law in America.)
Yet many addiction specialists believe today that detox can't be detox if it doesn't include muscle spasms, cold sweats, fever, vomiting, paranoia, and insomnia.
What's the customary process for detox in anti-scientific America? Dump the patient on a cot, monitor them as they go through hell for three days, charge them through the roof, and then let them go.
How dare we consign these sufferers to such hell when there are psychological balms out there by the thousands, all of which we have been intimidated into ignoring thanks to the drug war?
This will surely seem like the barbarous neglect that it is in some future enlightened era in America, when both drug and liability legislation is reformed to allow for the highly personalized treatment of drug addiction, wherein a pharmacologically savvy empath can choose freely from an entire world of therapeutic plant medicines to minister to the mind and soul of the addict, beginning with ibogaine, ayahuasca, psilocybin -- to encompass the thousands of psychoactive plants that seem custommade to reboot broken lives, psychologically speaking.
Another reason why detox doesn't work: Because psychology does not recognize the value of entheogenic transcendence. They therefore dismiss the phenomenon of "getting high" with the drug warrior conviction that it is mere hedonism. Instead, they should recognize the reality of a search for transcendence in all human beings (a search for "escape," if the therapist prefers that prejudicial and assumption-laden term) and provide that for the patient, through one of the many psychoactive plants that can provide that experience.
Instead, they assume that the whole challenge of detoxification is to stop the patient from "getting high," an approach that is all stick and no carrot. It ignores the fact that the addict's drug use had a purpose: namely, self-transcendence, rashly assuming that this spiritual quality can be safely dismissed as mere hedonism (which, admittedly, even the user may do, but only because they lack the self-awareness to linguistically parse their drug experience with any degree of nicety). And so the therapists wring their hands, wondering why there are so many relapses in the world.
Better yet, we can nip counterproductive addictions in the bud by abolishing the Drug Enforcement Agency altogether and replacing it with a Drug EDUCATION Agency, an organization which will report objectively on the specific addiction profile of every known psychoactive substance in the world, clearly indicating when and how such substances become addictive (based on real statistics, not politically-inspired guesstimates), so that those who decide to use the plants of Mother Nature for psychological healing are enabled to do so advisedly, without having to rely on the superstitious propaganda of so-called anti-drug organizations who do everything they can to paint illegal plants as substances from hell.
We must also abolish the naive drug warrior conviction that all addictions must be dead-ends. Benjamin Franklin was no doubt "addicted" to opium, at least according to the censorious and fastidious "medicalized morality" of 21st-century America, but no one of the man's own time would have viewed him as anything but a great man, for they had yet to develop the notion that a man was to be judged by something other than the way that he actually behaved every single day of his life, which is to say intelligently and with flair. But today's drug warrior treats the modern Ben Franklins of the world as threats to society and would gladly judge such a person's entire life based on the mere fact that they partook of a natural substance that politicians had taken such great pains to demonize.
AFTERTHOUGHTS: To see the folly of modern addiction therapy, consider the 12-step approach in which a small group of addicts sits around in a circle retailing morbid autobiographical stories, all under the problematic Western world presumption that cures come from merely talking about a problem and "understanding" it, as if understanding and feeling have ever been synonyms. Many a suicide understood their situation all too well before pulling the trigger or tightening the noose. Compare this with a group who meet together under a starlit sky to undergo psychedelic therapy that encourages them to confront their true self in relationship to the world at large. The latter approach actually has the possibility of changing lives, sometimes even overnight. The former has the depressing recidivism rate that we are already familiar with. Moreover, many of those who do not technically backslide in the 12-step approach do not go on to achieve anything approaching self-fulfillment, since that is not even the goal of therapy. Its goals are far more limited and pessimistic at heart: One day at a time, this too shall pass. Fine sentiments for a stoic, perhaps, but not for an ambitious American seeking to realize their full potential in 21st-century America, let alone one seeking to appreciate the wonder and diversity of the exquisite natural world that surrounds them.
AFTER AFTERTHOUGHTS: When we speak of withdrawal, everyone thinks of heroin and opiates. No one thinks of an attempt to get off of modern anti-depressants, many of which are harder to kick than heroin. 1 in 8 American males are addicted to such pills and 1 in 4 American women, pills that have long been known to actually cause the very chemical imbalances that they purport to cure. Yet no one cares as long as the big economic stake holders are getting their cut of the addiction pie. In fact, psychiatrists continue to prescribe these same uber-addictive pills to this very day, thus gaining business for life at the expense of their clientele, who are thus turned into patients for life and wards of the healthcare state. And so the professional world covers up America's huge addiction crisis under the philosophically shallow lie that habituation to heroin is evil while habituation to Big Pharma drugs is somehow good. With what hypocrisy do we thus protect all the great piles of wealth that are firmly invested in maintaining the drug war status quo.
Believe it or not, there are no addiction experts out there today. Why? Because almost all the godsend medicines that could treat addicts have been outlawed by the DEA. No surprise there. We'd have no aviation experts if the US government only allowed Americans to fly gliders. Ayahuasca, ibogaine, psilocybin, peyote, mescaline, specially processed ergot -- yes, even cocaine and opium could play a role in an addict's recovery were these substances to be employed advisedly by a pharmacologically savvy shaman. But American Drug warriors don't want to hear it. They have this superstition that says that any psychoactive substance is horrible once it's been demonized by politicians... and that is not science, but religion: specifically Christian Science religion.
For more on America's idiotic drug war and its role in aggravating addiction and complicating addiction recovery, check out the following broadsides against America's shameful drug war: