January 24, 2020
The Therapeutic Value of Anticipationby Ballard Quass
towards a realistic psychology of substance use
The use of the term "recreational" to describe substance use is misleading. Those who use the term are ignoring the fact that enjoyable or interesting drug-induced experiences often provide a psychological respite from the dullness and difficulties of so-called sober life. And thus, although a drug experience may be defined as "recreational," that does not imply that the substance use was ONLY recreational (which is generally the way in which drug warriors intend the term).
To the contrary, such use is often psychologically therapeutic, and in two ways, the second of which psychology has yet to recognize: 1) It is therapeutic thanks to the relaxation and/or diversion that the actual drug experience affords, and, 2) It is therapeutic thanks to the relaxation induced by the MERE ANTICIPATION of the upcoming relaxation. DeQuincey wrote of this latter benefit of drug use when he praised the therapeutic value of anticipation in connection with his use of opium (this was before he began his ill-advised daily use of opium for the relief of physical pain, after which he necessarily lost the anticipatory benefits of his substance use).
Not only were the author's weekend experiences at the opera enhanced by opium, but his "sober" weekdays were rendered more bearable as well, not directly by the drug, but thanks to the author's sure and certain knowledge of the upcoming intellectual ecstasies that were awaiting him. It is this "something to look forward to" of which modern psychiatry stubbornly refuses to take cognizance in estimating the value of occasional substance use, preferring instead to categorically demonize substances such as opium and cocaine as having no therapeutic value whatsoever, in slavish deference to the politically inspired laws against such drugs. Such substances are then held to health and safety standards that no one would ever think of applying to alcohol and tobacco, let alone to the Big Pharma antidepressants to which 1 in 4 women are addicted, in a scandal that has yet to make the hypocritical and purblind drug warriors lose a minute of sleep.
(One can only conclude that addiction is not the real bugaboo for the anti-drug fanatics, that what really alarms them is the marketing of substances for which big business is not getting its fair share of the profits.)
Thus, the bi-monthly use, say, of psychedelics cannot be dismissed as "recreational" merely because the user has assigned no nobler purpose to the use, for the anticipatory aspect of any positive experience -- drug-induced or otherwise -- can itself conduce to relaxation and a happier life. Thus such use can be psychologically therapeutic even if the user fails to explicitly note that fact.