June 5, 2019
This is your brain on Effexorby Ballard Quass
In response to the article entitled Psychedelic drugs: would you accept a prescription? It depends if you've tried them before by Adam Winstock and Rupert McShane.
1) Let's not rush to dismiss the dissociative state as a mere "side effect" of ketamine. Recent research suggests that it is precisely this dissociative state that helps the user rise above the so-called "default mode network" in their brain, thus enabling them to see their problems in a new, more creative light.
Let's not let today's materialist bias in science bring us to rashly assume that the psychedelic aspect of the ketamine experience is something that we should try to dispense with. It may be the goose that lays the golden therapeutic eggs.
2) The negative attitudes toward psychedelics that you reference are a mere artifact of the Drug War, during which the Drug Warrior has considered hyperbole and lies to be fair game in their fanatical efforts to denounce all illegal psychoactive substances. The Partnership for a Drug Free America bamboozled a whole generation of Americans with their ad which featured an egg sizzling on a frying pan while the deep-throated voice-over warned the viewer that "This is your brain on drugs."
This was an outright lie when it comes to psychedelics. Far from frying your brain, drugs like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and even ketamine have been shown to grow new neural pathways, new neural connections, and even new neurons.
Ironically, the "frying pan ad" would make sense if its purpose were to warn us about Effexor, a standard SSRI anti-depressant which has turned out to cause chemical dependency and anhedonia in long-term users. As a long-term user myself, I actually do have the feeling that Effexor is, slowly but surely, frying my brain. It's certainly not providing me with any creative insights into my condition here on planet earth, as psychedelics have been shown to do.
3) As for those in the survey who "wouldn't touch psychedelics," let's ask them again when they are considering psychedelic therapy as an alternative to committing suicide. Hopefully at that time, they won't be so bamboozled by our Drug War superstitions as to opt for the latter of those two choices.
4) Like most articles about treating depression, this one downplays the problems with the status quo. Commonly prescribed SSRIs such as Effexor create such a chemical dependence that users literally cannot kick the habit (according to a recent report by the NIH, which shows a relapse rate of 95% in those who attempt to "kick" Effexor after long-term use). It's amazing that I have to actually point out that this is a problem, so convinced are most Americans that the drug-war status quo is some kind of rationally considered baseline that we must accept without analysis.
Once America has a level playing field in which all drugs are legal, the doctor's goal will no longer be for a treatment to help a patient "get by" in life, but for a treatment will help them THRIVE.
As for Prozac, the question in the new age of psychedelic therapy will no longer be: does Prozac "work," but does Prozac help you "be all that you can be"? The answer, from my experience, is a definitive no. To the contrary, Prozac seems to help you be all that SOMEONE ELSE can be, by actually changing one's personality for the worse. Perhaps you've heard the story of the news reporter who was at first optimistic because Prozac made him happy, only to realize that it also made him shockingly unemotional at his own parent's funeral.
5) Finally, the price point for legal ketamine treatment is an outrage and points to a fundamental problem with the current healthcare system in America, if not the world. A depressed person of modest means might scrape together the 3,000 required for an initial two-week session of ketamine infusions, but only a depressed fat-cat will be able to afford the biweekly follow-ups of ketamine spray at $600 a pop. Meanwhile a street dose of the drug costs a mere $8.
Given that outrageous price disparity, can we really blame the depressed for violating our superstitious drug laws in order to access crucial treatment? It is not the safe route, of course, but it is the one that we are encouraging with our current Nixonian drug policies and their disastrous effects on drug availability and pricing.